IFAQ: The Inspired

I’m still working on my Riedra article—which will now be split into multiple articles, though I’ll post both this week—but I thought I’d start the week off with an IFAQ on a related topic raised by my Patreon supporters: The Inspired.

Rising From The Last War has this to say about the Inspired.

Any humanoid who can dream can volunteer to serve as a quori vessel. But the Inspired of Sarlona are humans bred to be such vessels. They have no choice in this destiny, since they can’t resist quori possession. Physically, Inspired resemble the kalashtar, possessing an almost supernatural beauty.

Rising from the last war, page 294

This is concrete and clear. The quori can possess any dreaming humanoid that agrees to the possession. The Inspired are members of a subspecies of humanity—known as the Chosen in Riedra—bred to be possessed. What Rising doesn’t call out is that in the original canon, Chosen are bred to be possessed by a specific quori spirit; you’re not simply a generic Chosen available to all quori, you’re Chosen of Lord Sulatesh. Chosen can volunteer to be possessed by another quori (and most would be happy to do so), but only one spirit has unlimited access. In Riedra, GENERALLY “Inspired” means Chosen-who-is-actively-being-possessed, but if the spirit leaves an Inspired host because of important business in another host, the “empty” Inspired still maintains their position and will carry on in the spirit’s absence.

Now, Rising muddies the water a little with this subsequent paragraph.

Most of the people of the Five Nations have heard of the Inspired lords of Riedra—never realizing that Inspired are spread throughout Khorvaire as well. Beggars and generals, merchants and mayors might all be secret servants of the Dreaming Dark. Such Inspired have to willingly accept quori possession, but the Dreaming Dark has long experience in weaving dreams that can convince mortals to surrender their bodies.

RISING FROM THE LAST WAR, PAGE 294

The main point here is that the section is using “Inspired” as a general term for any creature possessed by a quori spirit. Which is fine, because you can use the STAT BLOCK for any such creature. But it’s important to understand that this second class of people—humanoids who have ALLOWED a quori to possess them—will not CALL themselves “Inspired” and they would not be recognized as Inspired by the people of Riedra. Likewise, it is the CHOSEN who “resemble the kalashtar, having an almost supernatural beauty.” There’s no change to the appearance of people who willingly allow themselves to become possessed, and again, these voluntary hosts can be of any humanoid species that can dream. The stat block in Rising presumes a Chosen host, but you could have a dwarf, an ogre, or even a shifter infected with lycanthropy as a voluntary host.

Quori possession is entirely different from the relationship between a kalashtar and their quori spirit. With the kalashtar, the quori is a passive presence that simultaneously guides many kalashtar. With the Inspired (voluntary or otherwise) the quori is an active presence that controls a single body at a time, and it fully dominates the host. What we’ve said is that while possessed by a quori, it feels like you are making your own decisions, but you have no control; because of this, people who are possessed by a quori for long periods of time often find that their personality shifts to mirror that of the quori, because it feels natural. This is why the Inspired are trusted even when they aren’t inhabited; even without the quori presence, they tend to think like the quori. However, this sort of shift requires years of possession. Someone who is tricked into accepting quori possession and quickly freed—either because the quori voluntarily leaves or because it is driven out—remembers what happened while they were possessed and can refuse to let the quori return.

So: a quori working with Chosen hosts can move between its vessels at will. It could have Chosen vessels on three different continents and coordinate international schemes involving all three hosts. However, if the quori is working with someone who was voluntarily possessed, they may not have this option; it could be that the moment they leave the host it will turn against them, raising the alarm and undoing their schemes. Note that such a freed host may not KNOW much about the quori’s grand schemes. Usually quori trick victims into accepting possession with clever lies—claiming to be an angel, or the spirit of a heroic ancestor, or something like that. The victim may quickly realize that’s true, but they don’t know what the quori actually is or what it wants. The quori gets access to the memories of the victim, but the victim doesn’t learn the secrets of the quori. So again, freeing a host can be a major snag in the plans of the Dreaming Dark, but it doesn’t provide access to all their secrets.

So just to sum up: The Inspired is the title used for the rulers of Riedra. These rulers are raised up from the Chosen—a magebred form of humanity who cannot resist being possessed by the patron quori of their line. Quori can also possess any willing humanoid capable of dreaming, but the once they leave that host they will have to be granted permission to return to it. 

The humans found in the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes are supposed to be descended from refugees from Sarlona. Could some of these refugees have been people who were part of the Chosen magebreeding program? It seems wonderfully tragic for them to flee Sarlona to avoid being possessed only to end up in a land of fiends. Could this mean that there is a bloodline of Carrion Tribe barbarians optimized for fiendish possession?

Sure! We don’t know what was involved in creating the Chosen. It’s quite possible that the Inspired experimented with existing possessing fiends to perfect their hosts, and began with a vessel that was broadly vulnerable to any form of possession. The main point is that they’d have to have been failures as CHOSEN, because the defining feature of the Chosen is that they can be possessed ANYWHERE. Again, a quori of the Dreaming Dark can have Chosen vessels on every continent and move between them at will; their physical location is irrelevant. So a Chosen vessel can’t simply RUN from its patron quori; it will need to have some form of supernatural protection to avoid possession. But sure, you could have a bloodline in the Demon Wastes whose members are descended from early failures in the programs that created the Chosen.

The ECS notes the Chosen/Empty Vessels have slight fiendish and elven qualities (pg 290). With Sarlona and Aerenal being quite separate, is this elven quality a result of some magebreeding, selective breeding with traders, or just a way to describe their grace and etherealness?

Largely the latter. Rising is clearer about this, simply stating “Inspired resemble the kalashtar, possessing an almost supernatural beauty.” Actual elves would be a weird options since they’re very uncommon on Sarlona and because they don’t dream, which makes them a strange choice for a dream-host; I’d actually think that part of what defines the Chosen is that on one level they are ALWAYS dreaming, that their innate connection to Dal Quor is stronger than that of most creatures. The quori may have worked with tieflings from Ohr Kaluun as part of their program (giving that fiendish touch); another possible vector for an elf aspect is something that will come up in the upcoming articles, namely that one of the sorcerer-lines of Corvagura drew its power from Thelanis and had fey features.

What’s the story with mind seeds?

Mind seed is a psionic discipline from the 3.5 psionics rules that replaces the consciousness of the victim with a copy of the consciousness of the caster. In 3.5 the kalaraq quori had a specialized version of this—focused mind seed—that replaced the PERSONALITY of the victim while keeping their memories and skills intact, which is a pretty important detail if you want to to replace a top spy and not have them lose all the skills they need to perform their job.

Mind seed is a perfect example of an ability that is, ultimately, a plot device and doesn’t actually require psionics rules to be used in a story. It’s not intended to be used on player characters; it’s a tool that allows the Dreaming Dark to infiltrate other organizations, seeding people in their dreams. Seeds are the ultimate moles, because they aren’t possessed and thus can’t be exorcised; once the seed personality has taken hold, the only way to recover the original personality is with the equivalent of a wish. So again, it doesn’t really NEED mechanics; all that matters is that the Dreaming Dark has the capability to replace a victim’s personality with the personality of a Kalaraq quori, which allows them to have moles almost anywhere.

Of course, it’s reasonable to wonder: why doesn’t the Dreaming Dark have hundreds of mind seeds? Why aren’t all the rulers of Khorvaire mind seeded? There’s a few factors. The kalaraq generally plant seeds in dreams, so there’s the basic idea that they can only affect mortal humanoids that dream; they can’t mind seed elves or warforged. It’s also the case that mind seed is a slow process that can be stopped if it’s identified along the way (in the 5E version, you have about 6 days in which the effect can be removed by remove curse). So, for example, in Adar people know what to look for and will generally nip potential mind seeds in the bud. But people in Khorvaire are less familiar with this… so, why don’t they mind seed ALL the important people in Khorvaire? The answer is called out in Secrets of Sarlona: The quori don’t CONTROL mind seeds. Someone who’s possessed is entirely dominated by the possessing spirit. A mind seed is a copy of the quori in a humanoid body. The driving cause that unites the quori is the fear that the turning age of Dal Quor could destroy them all… but a mind seed ISN’T a quori and isn’t actually threatened by this. And worse still, the kalaraq quori are spirits of ambition. So it’s rare, but kalaraq mind seeds have cut ties with the Dreaming Dark to pursue their own ambitions… and as they have the cunning and knowledge of one of the leaders of the Dreaming Dark, these rogue seeds can be serious threats. As a result, the quori are very careful about not relying too heavily on mind seeds. The ideal mind seed has an interesting challenge that will keep the seed from becoming bored, while not having so much power that it will collapse the quori plans if the seed does rebel.

With that said, Rising From The Last War presents a simpler version of this that states that the victim “becomes a thrall under the quori’s control.” And you can certain take this approach, perhaps just limiting the number of thralls each kalaraq can have. But I prefer the original concept, which is that the mind seeds AREN’T under quori control. They serve solely because of inherited loyalty; but they have the potential, however rare, to evolve and rebel.

That’s all for now! More on Riedra will be coming this week. Thanks to my Patreon backers for keeping this site going!

43 thoughts on “IFAQ: The Inspired

    • Would it just be the Dreaming Dark manipulating the dream to further their agenda, or something else entirely?

    • This is essentially addressed in the linked article.

      The Masvirik’uala are driven by dreams. Those dreams are shaped by a divine force and thus, in theory, immune to manipulation by, say, Quori. But what if they aren’t? What if the Dreaming Dark has been manipulating the shared dream to create conflict? In Sarlona, the Dreaming Dark created a terrible war so that their Inspired vessels could emerge as the heroes of that conflict. They could do the same thing here — escalate the conflict, and have their new chosen vessels (who could be a noble family in Newthrone, a dragonmarked house, followers of some religion, etc…) take the spotlight as the people who will defend against this threat. Because the player character also dreams the dreams, they know why the lizardfolk are fighting; but because they are among the colonists, they know that what the dreams claim is untrue. Can they uncover the Quori manipulation and find a way to stop it before the conflict goes too far?

      Essentially, a DM COULD rule that the Masvirik’uala aren’t actually dreaming—that what the couatl did was to SEVER them from Dal Quor and to give them a replacement for it, which is essentially what happens with the Kalashtar. This would make them entirely immune to quori manipulation and possession; they would be “humanoids who don’t dream.” Or the DM could decide that this lizardfolk dream is a region in Dal Quor that the quori can manipulate.

      PERSONALLY I’d say that it’s separate and that they are immune to quori manipulation, because the dream is OLDER THAN THE CURRENT AGE OF DAL QUOR and yet has apparently remained unchanged. To me that suggests that it is actually separate from Dal Quor. But it’s really a question of what story the DM wants to tell!

  1. As beings fundamentally alien to the Prime Material Plane, that don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep in their home plane, what kind of ambitions do rogue kalaraq quori exhibit? In Secrets of Sarlona, most non-DD aligned quori simply disagree on the best way to prevent the Turning of the Age; is this the only thing they’re concerned with?

    • As beings fundamentally alien to the Prime Material Plane, that don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep in their home plane, what kind of ambitions do rogue kalaraq quori exhibit?

      But that’s my point. What I’m talking about AREN’T rogue kalaraq quori, alien creatures that don’t eat or drink. I’m talking about mortal humanoids with the personality and memories of kalaraq quori, who realize that they AREN’T bound to the goals of the Dreaming Dark, and who do have all the needs and frailties of mortals. The quori are immortals, and as such, even the ambitious quori lack the same free will and ability to change and evolve that characterizes mortals. They are pure children of il-Lashtavar and bound to its purpose, and they know the turn of the age will end them. But once a mind seed is planted, the new being isn’t an immortal.

      A example of this in recent media is the most recent season of Westworld, though I’ll say no more because spoilers and all. Mind seeds start exactly the same, all loyal to their shared cause. But over time, their varying circumstances cause them to evolve. Mind seeds are pretending to be someone else, and they could develop attachments to people in their lives, or their nation, or their religion. Again, the main idea is that immortals don’t evolve — but mortals do, and a mind seed is just a mortal that remembers being an immortal.

      WITH THAT SAID: The general idea is that most mind seeds ARE reliable. I think we’ve only mentioned one rogue mind seed in all of canon. But the fact remains that it’s a risk, and that it’s why we don’t see them used more often.

  2. With the quori able to possess and mind seed non-Chosen, is Lord Zoratesh’s ambition to bring the Harmonious Shield to conquer Adar, Tashana, Syrkarn and Khorvaire beyond more limited by lack of cooperation from the rest of Riedra, sheer difficulty of pacifying the rest of Sarlona, or is Zoratesh reasonably able to put his dream into motion within his current Chosen’s lifetime?

    I must say the idea of the kalaraq being so ambitious that their mind seeds (fearing nothing) are a dangerous commodity that has to be regulated and minded is kind of amazing and inspires some plot hooks.

    • With the quori able to possess and mind seed non-Chosen, is Lord Zoratesh’s ambition to bring the Harmonious Shield to conquer Adar, Tashana, Syrkarn and Khorvaire beyond more limited by lack of cooperation from the rest of Riedra, sheer difficulty of pacifying the rest of Sarlona, or is Zoratesh reasonably able to put his dream into motion within his current Chosen’s lifetime?

      There’s a few factors. While it’s not called out clearly, I would say that the Shroud of Adar actually blocks quori from possessing or mind seeded people within the radius of the shroud; possession is a form of dimensional travel, and the Shroud is directly designed to protect against Inspired attacks. Beyond that, mind seed is a slow process. Once the seed “germinates” it can only be removed with a wish, but before that it simply takes an effect such as Remove Curse. So it’s a matter of people recognizing the warning signs and knowing how to treat it… and in Adar, they definitely do. So it’s considerably less effective in places where people KNOW it’s a threat and understand how to treat it; Khorvaire simply has little experience with it. Possession, meanwhile requires voluntary consent—so again, it’s trickier when people are wary for fiends trying to seize their bodies.

      Also, you might be mixing up your quori. Sharadhuna wants to secure all of Sarlona; Zoratesh advocates conquering Khorvaire, but is opposed in this by both Sharadhuna and the Devourer. It’s certainly POSSIBLE that Sharadhuna could unite Sarlona in her vessel’s lifetime; but it will take finding a way to destroy the Shroud of Adar.

      • I definitely combined the two quori! How embarrassing as a huge Sarlona fan. Oh well, twice the fun now

        Mind seeds certainly provide useful weapons against the complex problem of Syrkarn and Tashana, and another way to distinguish Adar’s defenses, I love it!

  3. You’ve mentioned some empty vessels are actually “unmanned” and in administrative positions. Do you think this is widespread enough to make Riedra not [i]instantly[/i] collapse if/when the age turns and (mostly?) wipes out the Dreaming Dark?

    • Correct, I don’t think Riedra would instantly collapse if the quori are removed. Many administrative positions are held by unoccupied Chosen, and even occupied Inspired won’t automatically fall to pieces if the spirit departs. The main issue is it will suffer lack of direction as the quori are the PLANNERS, and it won’t be able to maintain and operate infrastructure elements that rely on quori powers (such as the Voice). So I would expect a slow avalanche, not instant chaos.

      • A thought has just crossed my mind: if the Age turns, what happens to Quori currently busy in the material plane? In one of your novels, we’ve got an instance of a Quori from the previous age having “survived” within a docent in Xen’Drik. So, by analogy, one would think that a substantial amount of evil Quoris could survive a Turn of the Age just by possessing a material host. In fact, we could even fathom a sort of Quori rush into exodus if the Turn becomes imminent and they’re aware of it.

        • NO ONE KNOWS. That’s the point; the quori won’t KNOW what will happen until it happens. We don’t KNOW if the kalashtar quori, for example, would survive the turn or not; they are resigned to the idea that they won’t survive. The general assumption is that simply possessing a mortal host is insufficent to ensure survival. And bear in mind that the quori of the present age know nothing about the quori of the previous age, so THEY know nothing about docents or what the prior quori were trying to do.

  4. Hello, Keith!

    My question today is more about storyteller and Inspired. One of the aspects that I think more difficult of use them is how introduce Inspired as a enemy without use a convenient “Deus ex machina” npc. Do you have thoughts about how in a campaign give informations about them in a gradual way? I know that there is some institutions that can help players about they in the books, but I would like hear you about which you think are best for it.

    After read this article, I have two others questions too.

    I remember that in Dragonmarked book says that one of the possible reasons of shadow schism can be because some discover about a plain that involved Inspired. How this could happen if they cannot control a Elf? It not work anymore in current lore, or there is something here I not seeing right? I ask this because I really like the idea of shadow schism and Inspired are related, but just now I notice that a elf cannot be control by them.

    So, if just humanoids can be victims of Inspired’s mind control, undead would be safe? This would make Karrnath a excellent place for a Dreaming Dark campaign, no? We have there a religion with undead in some powerful positions, we have a king that wants peace and cannot be influenced by them (if you use King Kaius lll is Kaius l), we have warlords that want war, Karrnath make deals for food with Riedra and we have a dragonmarked house with some parts control by Inspired. And, of course, Vol can always make chaos in all this too. But still I have doubts about how much rullers of Khorvaire could know about this. Ok, I know that most is just nothing, but no one have any idea sounds to me difficult for the players. So, you think that some of the countries would have some idea about this? Or better, what nation you think that would be more interesting have some afraid and suspicion about Riedra and Inspired? I always think about Kaius (as vampire) because he wants peace and for almost 100 years desapair (and next time that we have some article about Karrnath or Kaius I will ask what you think that Kaius could do in all this time). Usually the first thought is “he wants peace because Vol or for unified Karrnath”, but Inspired and Riedra seems to me a good arc too. But I would like to hear which nation you prefer for it.

    • I remember that in Dragonmarked book says that one of the possible reasons of shadow schism can be because some discover about a plain that involved Inspired.

      I’m not sure where this idea comes from. The section about the Shadow Schism in Dragonmarked is on pages 82-83, and it doesn’t mention the Dreaming Dark or the Quori; I’ve run a search, and the only mention I found of the Dreaming Dark in Dragonmarked is in the section on House Medani. Because the Dreaming Dark relies on dream manipulation, the Shadow Houses are definitely difficult for them to manipulate.

      So, if just humanoids can be victims of Inspired’s mind control, undead would be safe?

      That’s correct.

      But I would like to hear which nation you prefer for it.

      I’ll discuss this in the upcoming articles about Riedra.

      • Oh, my mistake. I look in a lot of places and that idea just appears on The Forge of War (page 72, Phiarlan and Thuranni Today). Sad, I really liked the idea of Shadow Schism be because infiltration of Inspired and never noticed problems in this before because 5e talk about elven heritage of Inspired (and now I understand what this means after the article, I really understood before this as “there is a way of Inspired control a elf too”). I’m sorry, I really thought that this was on Dragonmarked. Probably just another lore mistake from there.

        • Oh, and a important point that I noticed now. The text not talks about Dreaming Dark too. So maybe Paelion could not be about this. So, it is my mistake interpretate both as Dreaming Dark for know in other books that Deneith have some problems with this. So, just correct my self, it’s not a error of FOW, just mine. Besides I really think that the way of it was written makes easy think this.

  5. Beyond needing to dream, is there any limit on who can be targeted with Mind Seed? I’m curious why the quori wouldn’t just mind seed any adventuring party they recognized as working against them.

    Is there any way to protect oneself from Mind Seed? A kalashtar-made dreamcatcher, perhaps?

    • Two points. The first is to look at the description of Mind Seed on the Kalaraq Quori in Rising From The Last War. It takes at least six days to take full effect, and during that time it can be negated with Remove Curse; most adventurers worth Quori notice can deal with that. The second is that whole point that rare mind seeds rebel. Player characters are by definition remarkable—exactly the sort of people who WOULD evolve and rebel, potentially becoming even greater threats to the Dreaming Dark than before!

  6. Do Eberron’s outsider dream (making them vulnerable to Quori)? I remember Planescape: Torment mentioned that “even fiends and devas dream”, but I have no idea if this is true in Eberron.

    • Only mortals on Eberron dream in the sense of spiritual projection to Dal Quor. What makes the Material Plane special is that it is where the planes intersect, and all the concepts have a place there. If any outsiders do sleep (most don’t) it would be more like elf trance than human dreaming.

  7. Another neat article! Question 1: You mention in passing that a shifter lycanthrope could voluntarily be possessed. Can a Quori in possession of a lycanthrope override the influence of the Wild Heart curse when there’s one or more full moons? Or does the possessed lycanthrope still become a ravening monster? If the former, I can imagine that a Quori might, in a dream, make the following offer to a lycanthrope who hassn’t had their personality completely overwritten yet: “Let me in, and I can guarantee the safety of your loved ones when the moon rises. I cannot free you from the curse, but I can mitigate the damage.” A GM who wanted the Dreaming Dark to have had a hand in the Lycanthropic Purge could make use of that.
    Question 2: In your opinion, if organizations like the King’s Citadel or their counterparts were sufficiently aware of the threat of possession or mind seedss, would they try to hire kalashtar agents to monitor the royal courts (or the Twelve, or the Aurum) in odder to detect Quori influence and nip it in the bud? Is such awareness of the Dreaming Dark threat likely, unlikely, or”Gm’s call”?
    Question 3: Where do the docents fit into the picture? My interpretation is that they are devices designed to house Quori spirits so that they can effectively use warforged bodies. Is it true that the docents antedate the last Turning of the Age? My private theory is that the Quori designed the ancient warforged (Quorforged, if you will) to safely house their spiriits, since the Giants proved unwilling hosts, in hopes of preventing the Turrning, but the suspicious Giants declared war, and the subsequent disaster caused a Turning – the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

    • You mention in passing that a shifter lycanthrope could voluntarily be possessed. Can a Quori in possession of a lycanthrope override the influence of the Wild Heart curse when there’s one or more full moons?

      This is 100% a DM decision. I can see the argument for both ways. Personally, I would likely say that the possessing spirit (whether it’s a quori, a ghost, or some other possessing entity) overrides the curse. But I could see the idea of playing up the impact of multiple moons — that if there’s THREE moons at once, even the possessing spirit can’t fight it.

      In your opinion, if organizations like the King’s Citadel or their counterparts were sufficiently aware of the threat of possession or mind seeds, would they try to hire kalashtar agents to monitor the royal courts (or the Twelve, or the Aurum) in odder to detect Quori influence and nip it in the bud? Is such awareness of the Dreaming Dark threat likely, unlikely, or”Gm’s call”?

      I’ve gone into detail about why the Five Nations don’t see Riedra as a threat in responses to other comments. WE know the kalashtar are the good guys, but why should the Five Nations believe that? Kalashtar are essentially refugees spouting crazy conspiracy theories, obviously biased against Riedra… and Riedra is a valuable ally. If you’re Kaius, are you going to trust the crazy kalashtar or the Inspired ambassador offering thousands of tons of pomow grain to help with your latest famine? The Five Nations have REAL threats to deal with—first and foremost the other Five Nations, but then add the Emerald Claw, the Lord of Blades, Droaam. These things are REAL and CONCRETE. by contrast, if Riedra is such a world-conquering threat, why hasn’t it ever attacked Khorvaire? Sure, the kalashtar can SAY “They probably caused the Last War by giving Jarot crazy dreams!” but does that SOUND logical?

      So ultimately it’s the DM’s call. But the basic question is what makes a better story? Having the player characters uncover a threat no one is taking seriously and having to find a way to deal with it? Or having NPCs already well aware of the problem and having already developed effective counters to it? With that said, if you don’t WANT to use the Dreaming Dark as a serious threat in your campaign, then go ahead and say all the nations have anti-quori security in place, and that explains WHY it’s not a threat.

      Where do the docents fit into the picture?

      Where do you WANT them to fit in? Like warforged souls, docents don’t have an absolute explanation. The novel The Shattered Land presents a docent that contains the spirit of a pre-Lashtavar quori, and stats for that docent are included in Secrets of Xen’drik; but Shira is an UNUSUAL docent, and the fact that she is an ancient quori doesn’t necessarily mean that ALL docents do. The theory you suggest is 100% viable, and ties with Shira’s statement (Secrets of Xen’drik page 154) “Believe what you will, but the quori came to this world in search of salvation, not conquest.” But it’s one of those things that’s been intentionally left as a mystery.

  8. Thanks as always for making and growing that wonderful world of yours.

    One thing that often bugged me regarding the Inspired: I love to see and use them as an insidious octopus working its way through Khorvaire’s social fabric and especially elite circles, all under a charming, helpful, exotic guise. The problem is…. There’s no shortage of divination or abjuration magic in Khorvaire. How comes no one noticed something was off? That at this point, after several decades of contact, there aren’t enough dark rumors to elicit suspicion on the part of intelligence and security services from governments and houses?

    Plus, Riedra being a very closed society with very closed external enclaves should also ring a few bells. They clearly have no intent of reciprocity when it comes to the various agreements they reach with Khorvairian powers; as in, Riedran are allowed deeper into Khorvaire, their ambassadors are invited to various events, they have immigrant communities… and there’s none of that on the other side of the ocean.

    So, overall, even abstracting away our “meta-knowledge” of the setting, we’d expect Khorvairian leaders, who usually aren’t that naive, to be a little bit more cautious with such a distant power.

    • Also, a point I forgot: how do Inspired ambassadors communicate about their religion to Khorvairian elites? How much do they say? Do they tell what they teach to Riedrans, aka the “be good and you’ll be reborn as a vessel to a benevolent spirit” pitch? Even when not currently possessed, it’s obvious that Chosens aren’t mere humans. How comes they haven’t attracted curiosity from academics, or arcane investigators? Not necessarily suspicion at first, just plain curiosity. I know I would feel curious, personally… What are these people, and what about those benevolent spirits they talk about?

      • “Not human” is a very odd qualifier when you have dwarves wearing symbiotic armour, elves who dessicate their flesh while alive, a woman over there changing her hair and skin colour to match her dance partners, and a man with steel horns from being planetouched as a child.

        The Inspired aren’t that odd in-universe.

        • My point isn’t that the Inspired look odd in a fantasy universe roamed by the equally weird kind of people you describe. It’s what people in Khorvaire know about them.

          Look at it this way: Aereni Elves may have odd customs, but an interested scholar can find sound, extensive documentation that makes sense of their fascination for death. Aereni aren’t hiding anything in that regard.

          By contrast, what could you learn about the Inspired? They claim be vessels for benevolent spirits… Of what kind, then? As for the “not human” part, maybe it was a poor choice of words and you could substitute “unheard of” to “not human”… Still, it makes sense if you consider that Sarlona is humanity’s birthplace (something everyone knows, everyone has heard about Lhazaar after all) and predominantly populated by humans. How comes, then, that the ruling caste is… something else, something that doesn’t exist in Khorvaire?

          Besides, Eberron isn’t Star Wars. Yes you can find very different cultures and races in Khorvaire, but their number isn’t that huge that people would simply not pay attention to some yet-unencountered humanoid species.

          • Ah but see, the Inspired ARE humans. They’re as alien as the kalashtar, less so actually. It would likely be that scholars would look at the Inspired and their claims of benevolent spirit channeling and link it to Khalesh, or to the more modern Silver Flame, and say “oh that’s just a weird way of saying they’re planetouched”, a misconception that Inspired would gladly not disabuse anyone of (despite their culture’s own vehement hunting of planar corruption). It might even be convenient for them to link up the missing data for academics, providing a sanitized version of the fall of Khalesh that notes old Sarlona’s extra-human bloodlines in positions of power.

            As for the question of “why would Khorvaire agree to an uneven alliance” the answer is of course that Riedra offers much more to Khorvaire than they can expect from the Five Nations. Food and military aid in Q’Barra, new established shipping deals for the maritime trade of nations, and exclusive access to the Foreign Quarter of Dar Jin, an unprecedented new port that’s JUST been opened to the outside world. Do you think the Five Nations want to protest how meager their portion is and lose out on even that?

      • The Inspired make no effort to convert foreigners to the Path of Inspiration, but they don’t hide what they are: Chosen guided by the benevolent il-Altas, the spirits of their ascended ancestors.

        Does this seem weird? Sure! But remember that this is a world where the Tairnadal elves have an entire culture based around this same basic concept — people who gain power and skill from channeling the spirits of ancestors. It’s a world where the kalashtar are known to be tied to spirits, and as will be called out in Exploring Eberron, a world where Aasimar exist—exotic and often unnaturally beautiful humanoids advised by celestial spirits. And hey, the Tairnadal have been doing it for tens of thousands of years! While we’re at it, Tira Miron channeled the spirit of a couatl to save Thrane. It’s weird and exotic, but it’s not SO weird and exotic as to demand investigation; it’s one more example of spiritual channeling in a world that’s seen several.

    • I love to see and use them as an insidious octopus working its way through Khorvaire’s social fabric and especially elite circles, all under a charming, helpful, exotic guise. The problem is…. There’s no shortage of divination or abjuration magic in Khorvaire. How comes no one noticed something was off? That at this point, after several decades of contact, there aren’t enough dark rumors to elicit suspicion on the part of intelligence and security services from governments and houses?

      Dark rumors of WHAT, exactly? The strangest thing about the Riedrans is that they don’t WANT anything from Khorvaire. Throughout the Last War they’ve provided vital humanitarian aid. True, they don’t let the people of Khorvaire into Riedra, but the main point is that Khorvaire needs what they have to offer and that Riedra isn’t making any unreasonable demands. The security agents aren’t catching Riedran spies, because Riedra doesn’t USE Riedran spies. Key points…

      1) All covert operations are conducted by the Dreaming Dark. The Inspired ambassador ISN’T up to anything suspicious and truly has no idea what the Dreaming Dark is doing. The Riedran diplomatic foothold is a distraction and a way to identify potential targets for manipulation and such, BUT…

      2) … The people of Khorvaire have never caught Riedran spies because Riedra doesn’t NEED to use Riedran spies, when it can possess or mind seed agents on Khorvaire. Through dreams, they can potentially gain access to ANYONE. And the Dark Lantern who’s possessed by a quori and eventually caught has no idea what the spirit was that possessed it; they remember what they did while possessed, but they don’t know WHY they were doing it.

      3) The Dreaming Dark isn’t trying to conquer Khorvaire using Riedran forces or to impose Riedran culture on Khorvaire. I’ll talk more about this in the next article, but basically, Riedra is just what the Inspired need it to be. The diplomatic connections with Khorvaire are useful, but they don’t NEED to engage in any sort of espionage… because that’s the job of the Dreaming Dark. Essentially, the Brelish won’t catch a Riedran spy; they’ll catch an AUNDAIRIAN spy who, as it turns out, was furthering the quori agenda.

      So it all comes back to: Why haven’t the people of Khorvaire caught the Inspired doing something underhanded? Because the Inspired haven’t DONE anything underhanded. They are WEIRD, sure. In some ways they seem too good to be true. But they have provided assistance that the Five Nations desperately need—and so far, they haven’t been caught doing anything untoward, and the actions of the Dreaming Dark haven’t been linked to them (though player characters could always change this…).

      • Thanks for the detailed answer! Kalashtar do know the connection between Riedra and the Dark. Although they tend to keep to themselves thinking their battle is theirs to fight, surely they must have warned people on occasions about Riedrans? So what are they, weirdo monks spreading conspiracy theories? At the very least they’re refugees from a nation under relentless Riedran siege. That’s the kind of believable information which should be of interest to foreign policy pundits across Khorvaire.

        • So what are they, weirdo monks spreading conspiracy theories? At the very least they’re refugees from a nation under relentless Riedran siege.

          But that’s exactly the point. They ARE weirdo monks. And they ARE at war with Riedra, so they obviously have a bias. WE know “Kalashtar are good and trustworthy!” but why should anyone in Khorvaire believe that? The Riedran ambassador has a concrete explanation for their conflict with Adar — and after all, all of the Five Nations have been at war for a century. It would be immensely hypocritical of them to say “Any nation that’s at war with another nation can’t be trusted.”

          Ultimately, the principle of Riedra is simple: it provided assistance the Five Nations needed when they needed it. It’s only because of Riedra that Karrnath wasn’t laid low by its famines. What do the kalashtar OFFER aside from conspiracy theories? There is concrete, practical VALUE in an alliance with Riedra. They’ve provided food, medical supplies, and other vital support. So maybe you DON’T trust them… but again, we’ve never actually CAUGHT them engaging in espionage, while we’ve caught spies from half the other nations in Khorvaire. And we are actively worried about one of the other Five Nations launching a sneak attack against us.

          And seriously, stop and think about the weight of those kalashtar rumors for a moment. If the Inspired are such a great threat, why haven’t they taken any aggressive action against Khorvaire in their thousand-year history? Oh, it’s because they’ve been attacking us by manipulating our dreams? Oh, they probably started the last war by telepathically amplifying the ambitions of the five heirs? Sure, THAT makes sense. And the Aundairian spy we just caught was probably actually working for this “Dreaming Dark” and NOT just, you know, a spy for the nation we’ve been fighting off and on for a century?

          But ultimately, there’s a simple answer to all of this. You’re the DM. What’s the story you want to tell? If you WANT the Five Nations to take the Inspired threat seriously, make it so. But the default is that the people of the Five Nations are concerned with the nations they have been ACTIVELY fighting: the nations that ARE provably spying on them, not to mention the nations that have risen up through violent rebellion (Valenar, Eldeen Reaches, Darguun, Droaam). They’re working about the warrior elves that ARE raiding their neighbors. They’re worried about Thaliost, worried about the Emerald Claw and the Lord of Blades. They’re NOT particularly worried about the weirdos from across the sea who’ve NEVER launched an attack against Khorvaire and who have provided significant humanitarian aid throughout the war. It’s not that they trust the Inspired without reservations; but it’s the fact that when you consider all the concrete, obvious threats (Emerald Claw, Lord of Blades, Valenar raiders, Droaam and Darguun, all the Five Nations, the rising power of the Dragonmarked Houses) it’s hard to put a lot of weight in some kalashtar monk’s theory that the Inspired are AN ANCIENT EVIL THAT WANTS TO CONTROL ALL HUMAN THOUGHT. And part of the point of this is because from a narrative perspective, it makes the player characters the ones who have to convince people of the threat—as opposed to NPCs just having solved the problem long ago.

          But again, ultimately this comes down to telling the story you want to tell. If the canon approach doesn’t make sense to you, change it!

          • Actually, suppose your players don’t know enough about Eberron to be aware of the connection between Riedra and the Dark. How, then, would you make it so that Riedra doesn’t look any more suspicious than any other great political power? How do you preserve the element of surprise about it? Especially if PCs encounter Kalashtars for some reason in their dealings with Riedra.

            By metagame fantasy canons, very serious folks like the Kalashtars are usually right; there don’t look like goofy prophecy generators. Maybe have Kalashtars attack PCs on sight, assuming they’re agents of the Dark, and hence setting a bad precedent? Like in your novel where an Inspired poses as a Kalashtar and the actual Kalashtar attacks the party… Yet, this would still show Kalashtars in a good light as opposed to evil Inspired, you’d just need to be aware of who’s who.

  9. When it comes to Inspired with class levels, who chooses them?
    Like does the natural talent of the Vessel mean anything – like say you’ve got one that is intelligent, good with words and a natural people pleaser. Might make a good bard. Or one that starts manifesting blessings, clearly a cleric or paladin of some sort. Is this a choice they made? Or is it all the result of the Quori?

    Right like Quori Murklgorn is distinctively cunning and more magically potent, so their Inspired tend to be inquisitor rogues hunting down subtle threats to Inspired control or warlocks pushing the boundaries of magic.

    • When it comes to Inspired with class levels, who chooses them?

      What’s been clearly called out is that the Chosen undergo extensive training in order to be useful hosts for the Inspired. By basic 3.5 rules, the possessing quori added skill ranks and psi-like abilities to their vessels but did not change their classes or grant class levels; a 4th-level psion Inspired is a psion regardless of whether they are inhabited, they just gain ADDITIONAL psi-like abilities while inhabited. Having said that, in my opinion there are two factors.

      1) While actively possessed, the host uses the mental statistics of the quori, but again, the remain conscious. Essentially, this allows the host to potentially learn skills they could never learn on their own. So let’s look at Lord Zoratesh, a level 20 Kalaraq kineticist. The skill levels are tied to the host. What I’m saying is that the host trained as a kineticist before ever being possessed by Zoratesh; but they likely could never have reached such heights of skill without Zoratesh’s presence.

      2) In the case of these most powerful Inspired—especially those possessed by kalaraq quori—I’m inclined to say that the presence of the Quori does grant a bump, much like Jaela Daran gains levels in Flamekeep. So going back to Zoratesh, I might say that he adds 6 levels to his host, to a maximum of level 20. So his current host is level 20 when possessed, but drops to level 14 when the quori spirit leaves him. Likewise, if Zoratesh inhabits a level 4 Chosen host, it will immediately jump up to 10th level.

      The upshot of this is that losing an epic-level host is significant to the Inspired; if Zoratesh loses his level 20 host, it will take a little time to build his next-best host up to that skill level. It also emphasizes the point that Most Dreaming Dark agents are capable even when not inhabited… though they are usually MORE powerful when guided by the spirit.

      • How does that square with the radical faith you mention underlies divine magic?

        Presumably, the quori or their mind seeds, while acknowledging the existence of various things that grant divine power like the Silver Flame, do not have that radical faith themselves.

        Similarly, would e.g. Warlock Pacts still hold when the being who made the pact has arguably changed? Neither a quori or a mind seed would really seem to qualify as having any non-corporeal tie to a Valenar ancestor.

        Alternatively, if these various connections do persist, does that open a back door of some kind for the entity to influence the quori or mind seed? If a quori possessed the False Keeper can the Shadow in the Flame now whisper to them?

        • These are all corner cases; I’m not sure we’ve actually presented an Inspired with cleric levels, for example. Even the Sovereign Swords PRESENT themselves as being followers of the Sovereign Host, but they actually wield psionic powers, not divine. In Riedra, you DON’T find Chosen being trained as warlocks or clerics.

          I think it’s quite reasonable to say that a quori who possesses a divine character can’t wield their divine powers. On the other hand, one could make the counter argument that the HOST still possesses that faith, and that the quori has access to the memories of the host; it’s not that the quori NEEDS to have the faith themselves, they just trigger the subconscious/emotional paths the host would normally use to cast the spell. So I could see it either way. Likewise, I could argue either side of the Valenar argument. On the one hand, the quori has no tie to the ancestral spirit. On the other had, the mortal Tairnadal is STILL THERE. They AGREED to let the quori possess them. If the quori continues to act as the elf would act, I could see the patron ancestor continuing to guide the ELF; it’s just that the elf is in turn being controlled by the quori. If you dominate a Tairnadal with a spell, or if an aboleth enslaves them, they don’t instantly lose all their skill! (though it’s a slightly moot point since elves can’t dream and thus can’t be possessed by quori.)

          Looking to warlocks, I’ll point out that warlock paths vary dramatically, and most interpretations I’ve seen don’t actually threaten the warlock with loss of power if they disobey the patron; the patron teaches the warlock or grants them a gift, but those things don’t fall away the moment the patron loses interest. So the quori-possessed warlock might not be able to advance in level as a warlock, but they could use the powers the warlock already possesses.

          • You could always rule that the possessing quori channel their faith in il-Lashtavar through the possessed cleric to mimic the cleric’s faith since your chapter in Faiths of Eberron says the Dreaming Dark is essentially their religion even if the quori would deny it. Same spells, different flavoring with something being subtly off about the spells for those who notice it.

          • Sure! That’s the same principle as the Whispering Flame cultists who pose as Silver Flame even though they are drawing power from their faith in Bel Shalor.

  10. Another reason why the Five nations aren’t afraid of Riedran spies is the motivation of these spies. The Quori aren’t after land or money or the things that mortals are traditionally concerned with. They are immortals looking to manipulate the collective unconscious. Even if they are found out, most mortals wouldn’t understand their plans.

    I suspect that this is one reason why the Kalashtar are considered crazy people. In cases where the Dreaming Dark can’t act openly, they start whispering campaigns.

  11. If you wanted to play a character who has grown up in the faith of The path of Inspiration And draws on it how would you represent that? A cleric drawing on Il Altas. A sorcerer to represent the mage breeding or a warlock making a pact with a quori? Or something entirely different with a psionic source?

    • Are you trying to represent a human who’s grown up following the Path of Inspiration, or create a character who’s a renegade Chosen?

      A human could certainly be a cleric following the Path of Inspiration. In 3.5 this was a lawful neutral divine power source that granted access to the Community, Law, and Meditation domains. in 5E I’d probably use the Knowledge and Order domains for it. I’ll talk more about how I’d represent a psionic character in the next article.

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