IFAQ: Lightning Round!

Every month I ask my Patreon supporters for short questions. Normally I’d spread these out over a lot of short articles, but September kept me busy and I didn’t have a chance. So, here’s an assortment of infrequently asked questions, dealing with dwarves, Dar, the Dark Six, numerology, electrum, and much too much more!

Are the Dark six truly evil? Or are they just misunderstood by the civilized people?

There’s no absolute answer, because the Sovereigns and Six can’t be judged independently of their followers. The Sovereigns and Six are IDEAS. To people who follow the Pyrinean Creed, the Dark Six are literally symbols of evil. The Devourer is the source of the destructive powers of nature. The Shadow creates monsters and lures people down dark paths. While to someone who follows the Cazhaak traditions, the Devourer tests us and weeds out the weak, and the Shadow helps us unlock our true potential. But the whole point of religion in Eberron is that there is no absolute proof that one of these beliefs is right and that the other is wrong. The question is which YOU believe to be true, and what you will do because of those beliefs. So, are the Dark Six truly evil? It depends who you ask. I’ve written a number of articles that talk about how different groups view the Dark Six; these include articles on the Shadow, the Keeper, the Fury, and the Traveler.

How well known is the commonality of the 13-1 in Eberron? Is it common numerology? Does it cause issues with there being 15 member of the Sovereign Host?

People within the setting are aware of the patterns that link certain phenomena. The ones most people know about are the moons, the planes, and the Dragonmarks. Most people believe that this is because there is a relationship between these things—that the moons are linked to the planes or to the dragonmarks in some meaningful way. Most people don’t believe that EVERYTHING is somehow tied to a baker’s dozen, so no one things it’s strange that there’s 15 deities in the Sovereign Host or that there’s only eight beasts in the Race of Eight Winds. And while most people do believe that the numerology of moons, marks, and planes is significant, MOST will say that some of the other baker’s dozens—the number of Mror Holds for example—are surely just a bizarre coincidence, though others will claim that it’s tied to the Prophecy. So people are AWARE of it, but they don’t believe that it does or should apply to every aspect of the world.

You once said “Antus ir’Soldorak recently began minting electrum coins called “Eyes” (due to the stylized eye on one face).” What are the public/private reasons for that eye and what has been the public reaction(s)?

So setting aside the IN-WORD explanation, there’s two explanations for why *I* made those decisions. Electrum pieces have been a weird outlier since AD&D; 4E dropped them completely. I wanted to give them an actual concrete role in the setting, along with a reason why they WEREN’T used in 4E — that they are actually new in the world. As for “Eye”, the MAIN reason for this is to fit the pattern of the coin name matching the letter of the metal: copper crowns, silver sovereigns, gold galifars, electrum eyes. Of course, I chose “Eyes” —rather than, say, “Elephants”—because I liked the idea that perhaps there IS a greater significance to it. The Player’s Guide to Eberron introduces an enchantment spell created by the Aurum that uses a platinum piece as a component; it seemed very in line with Soldorak’s ambitions to create a coin that could be used, perhaps, as a specialized scrying target… that in spreading this new currency across the Five Nations, he’s actually laying the groundwork for a vast spying network.

Is that true? That’s up to you to decide, based on the role of the Aurum in your campaign. Likewise on the reaction to the coins themselves. Personally, I think the reaction would vary from indifference to disdain—with some people seeing it as a publicity stunt and others seeing it as unnecessary. On the other hand, Soldorak could create a publicity campaign suggesting that his electrum coins are more reliable than others—especially if this was combine with a surge in counterfeiting of traditional currencies with base metals.

What’s Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax like? Do the kobolds and goblins have the same culture, or are kobolds as described in Volo’s?

In brief: This article discusses the most widespread kobold culture in Eberron. Droaam in particular has a number of micro-cultures created by the interactions between kobolds, goblins, and the other inhabitants of the regions, so there are isolated kobold clans and bands of goblins that have entirely unique traditions. However, most of the kobolds and goblins of the region have a shared history of being oppressed and dominated by other creatures, which has established a strong bond between the two species and a number of common traditions. This is the foundation of Shaarat Kol: it is a dominion formed from the ground up by kobolds and goblins freed from subjugation and working together to CREATE their own culture. It blends together a number of different micro-cultures, and it’s still finding its identity. Full details on Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax could be a topic for a future Dragonmark article.

Do magebred flowers and plants exist and what uses could they have?

Eberron possesses a host of flora not seen on our world. The most common source of such unusual plant-life is the influence of manifest zones. We’ve already talked about many such plants over time: livewood, Araam’s crown, dawn’s glory. The pommow plant of Riedra is specifically called out as being actively magebred—not merely “naturally” occurring in a manifest zone, but developed by the Inspired. A more detailed exploration of magebred and supernatural plants could be a subject for a future Dragonmark article.

What is the path to citizenship in the Five Nations?

Galifar is based on feudal principles, and most nations retain that basic foundation. To become a citizen of such a nation requires an audience with a local noble. The applicant swears fealty to the nation and its ruler, and also direct allegiance to that local noble; the noble in turn formally accepts them as a subject. This means that the noble is accepting responsibility for that individual, and the individual is promising to obey that noble, pay taxes, and answer any call for conscription, as well as to respect the laws of the land. The noble doesn’t HAVE to accept an offer of fealty, and most won’t unless the potential subject intends to reside within their domain. So it’s entirely valid for a Brelish noble to refuse to accept the fealty of an ogre from Droaam because either they don’t believe the ogre will uphold the laws or they don’t believe that the ogre intends to remain within their domain. Likewise, back before Droaam, the Barrens were considered to be part of Breland but the inhabitants of the region weren’t Brelish citizens, because they’d never sworn fealty to any Brelish lord; legally (from the perspective of Galifar) they were outlaws squatting in Brelish land.

In the modern age, much of this process is handled by bureaucracy, especially in the case of children of existing citizens. In some regions there are annual ceremonies where each child swears an oath to the local lord before being recognized as an adult. But in a populous region like Sharn, the parents will file paperwork when the child is born, and when the child becomes an adult they’ll file their own statement. But the underlying principle remains the same: someone needs to make a decision on behalf of the local lord as to whether to accept the offer of fealty, and this will be based on the applicant’s residence, reputation, family, and other factors.

How do governance and taxation work in the biggest principalities in Lhazaar? Are there any established checks on the princes’ powers, or are they all like little autocracies?

Every principality is unique, and the laws of a principality can dramatically change from prince to prince. As shown by the recent article on Lorghalen, the culture and traditions of the gnome islanders have nothing in common with the Bloodsails. The idea of the Principalities as a truly formalized alliance with a single leader and a more unified set of laws is a very new concept; Ryger ir’Wynarn is striving to bring the Principalities together, but that’s very much a work in progress.

What makes the dwarves of the Realm Below concretely different from the dar of Dhakaan? They’re both subterranean empires. If I want to have adventurers have to deal with daelkyr forces massing in a subterranean ruin, why would I use one instead of the other?

One reason to use one culture instead of the other is the location of the story. Sol Udar occupies a small region, primarily just the land under the Ironroot Mountains. Under most of Khorvaire, the Dhakaani were the only advanced subterranean nation. In Xen’drik you don’t have Dhakaani or Udar; instead you might find the Umbragen drow or Giant ruins. As for cosmetic differences, the appearance of the Realm Below is discussed on page 119 of Exploring Eberron. The civilization of Sol Udar was a highly magical civilization that incorporated cantrip effects into daily life. An Udar ruin will have magical lighting, illustrate music, climate control. The Dhakaani are primarily a martial society: their forge adepts created magical weapons, but they didn’t have arcane air conditioners or magical jukeboxes. Dhakaani structures are stark and brutalist in design, though extremely durable; from the ground up, they were designed for WAR. The Udar weren’t so warlike, and their homes have a lot more cosmetic comforts. The second aspect is the degree to which the Udar specialized in working with demiplanes—meaning that for any Udar ruin you want to establish what demiplane it’s attached to and how those effects manifest in the ruin.

In Exploring Eberron, Jhazaal Dhakaan is said to have created the Ghaal’duur horn, but she’s also described as a bard. How does this fit with the fact that the Dhakaani have a strong tradition of artificers?

It’s not just Exploring Eberron; the Ghaal’duur is first mentioned as a creation of Jhazaal in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. It’s always been assumed that the duur’klala create magic items, but they create magic items associated with bardic magic. Duur’kala create items associated with enchantment, inspiration, and healing, while the daashor generally create armor and weapons of war. Now, the daashor CAN create any sort of item. Jhazaal created the First Crown, which is an artifact tied to inspiration; but it was a daashor who created the Rod of Kings. Still, the general principle is that the forge adepts create the tools of war, while the dirge singers create items associated with peace.

Do the Dragonmark houses view The Twelve as an authority or an advisory body?

The Twelve is technically a RESOURCE. It’s an arcane institute devoted to developing tools and techniques that benefit all of the dragonmarked houses. Dragonmarked heirs learn the arcane arts from the Twelve, and many important tools—such as the Kundarak vault network and most dragonmark focus items—were developed by the Twelve. The Council of the Twelve discusses issues of interest to all houses and helps to mediate disputes, but it has no AUTHORITY… though because its work is of great value to all of the houses, no house would want to take actions that would cause it to be cut off from the institute.

What stands out about Eberron’s transitive planes? Or are they just part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality, and a shortcut to the other planes in the Deep Ethereal and the Astral?

They’re primarily a part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality. In the 3.5 ECS the transitive planes were called out as functioning normally, and we’ve never suggested that they were created by the progenitors; instead, they are part of the basic metaphysical framework that the progenitors built upon. So they are largely supposed to fill the same function as they do in other settings.

What was the family of Mordain Fleshweaver inside House Phiarlan?

This is the sort of question I prefer not to answer. The answer has no significance for me. I could make a D6 table of named Phiarlan families and randomly say “Shol”, because hey, that’s a Phiarlan family. But that doesn’t make anyone’s story BETTER. The question is what do you WANT his family to be? If one of your player characters is a Thuranni, you might say that Mordain is also Thuranni, and might take an interest in the character because of that. Or you could say he was Paelion and will have a vendetta against the PC for that reason. But perhaps you’ve got a character who’s a Shol from Phiarlan… well, maybe Mordain is a Shol! Essentially, Mordain’s specific lineage isn’t an important part of his story, so I don’t want to make a choice that has no meaning for me but might get in the way of YOUR story. Since you’re asking the question, you presumably have a situation where it’s going to matter; so what do you WANT the answer to be? What will be the most interesting answer for your campaign?

That’s all for now! I’ll be asking my Patreon supporters for October questions soon, and I have a new Patreon experiment I’ll discuss next week!

27 thoughts on “IFAQ: Lightning Round!

  1. Loving the fluff for electrum eyes, is there any relation between that and the Cyran silver throne (which I now realize might be a fan creation as I can’t find a source)? They have the same value and are both likely to be limited in use and circulation

    • I think the silver throne was first mentioned in the glossary of City of Towers; it’s called out in Rising From The Last War, along with the Brelish double crown. And no, no relation; I introduced both simply as a way to suggest that there are national quirks, and that even though a gold piece is a universal currency you can add a little color to your coins.

  2. House family D6 table sounds actually fun in the creation of a character. Though I can only recall the five Elorrenthi, Shol, Thuranni, Paelion and Tialaen? Am I missing a family, or would the sixth be a hidden one to represent the serpentine table or a foundling?

    On a similar note is there a difference in the families? Location or demesne? And is it similar for the families of the other houses?

    • Significance and origin of families is touched on somewhat in this article. Originally it was tied to location, but when you consider that was over a thousand years ago, the houses are well integrated by now; but most dragonmarked families have a stronghold in the region where they began. Looking back to 3.5 where each mark granted a choice of spell-like abilities, there was also the very loose concept that certain bloodlines were known for different aspects of the mark; so within Cannith, the Vown might tend to develop Minor Creation while the Juran would usually develop Mending, Make Whole, and similar feats—thus leading to a general sense of the Juran as tinkers and the Vown as builders.

      But these things have never been developed in detail, and we’ve never compiled a COMPLETE list of the families of any house.

      • Thank you for the reply Keith, I’ll read through the article. Also that’s a neat concept that the families had that difference in the days of old.

        And if such a list would be developed it’d be a interesting read, big if as it sounds like material for a dragonmarked II book.

  3. I’ve been thinking recently that House Lyrandar probably have some relation to agriculture, in that they can control local climates for better farming. I’ve also been envisioning magical greenhouses where dragonmarked heirs can fine-tune the conditions to suit the plants they grow in there. (Perhaps explaining why some Karrnathi nobles can have locally grown coffee or how Sharn Magewrights got their Risian Frostweed to maintain local tavern’s ice boxes.)

    This still leaves mage-bred plants up in the air so I’ll be interested to see where you go with it.

  4. ” it seemed very in line with Soldorak’s ambitions to create a coin that could be used, perhaps, as a specialized scrying target…laying the groundwork for a vast spying network.” Bwah-ha-ha-ha-I just lost a bet! I was so sure it was a sign that a sect of Belashyrran Vigilant Eyes were attempting to outflank the Dyrrn flesh-mongers who’ve been helping Soldorakhold ‘transcend’ their rivals all the way down. Antus is torn between using them against each other to free his clan, and being revealed as the quisling for two different cults of the Dragon Below. Thank you, now it can be both!

    • It’s murky. Cyre wasn’t recognized as a nation by the Treaty of Thronehold. Therefore, LEGALLY, a Cyran refugee who refuses to renounce Cyre and swear fealty to a new nation is indeed a citizen of no nation and not protected by the Code of Galifar. Some people choose to ignore this out of sympathy and a romantic vision of Galifar united. There’s also the possibility that in granting the land of New Cyre to Prince Oargev, Boranel effectively made Oargev a Brelish count and his subjects Brelish citizens. While many Cyrans would vehemently deny this, it’s a path a Cyran could choose to take in court, if you’ve got Cyran adventurers and you’re looking for some legal drama.

  5. I’ve recently decided that my game’s kobold PC is a rather embarrassing nephew of Kethelrax’s. Any more information about him and his territory would be much appreciated!

  6. Do noble families have their own heraldic symbols, are is such iconography largely reserved for the Dragonmarked Houses? What do you think the heraldry of the Wynarn family would look like?

    • Noble families, like nations, definitely have their own crests. I don’t have an answer off the top of my head, as I’d want to think about the unique aspects of the heraldry of Galifar more closely before making a decision on what the Wynarns use. I’d point to the crest of Cyre (as depicted in Exploring Eberron) as a good precedent.

      • Do you think that pre-war Galifar had a College of Heraldry (or equivalent), say, an organization of bards who set up heraldic standards and formally recorded the crests of noble houses? Or might this have been offered as a service (for a price, of course!) of House Sivis?

    • The names of the seas are the names used by the people of the Five Nations, which like the Common tongue have been adopted by the general population of Khorvaire. So they aren’t universal and they’ve definitely changed over time, especially the Lhazaar Sea.

  7. Hi Keith! Big fan!
    Since this is a general question thread, might I ask something about airships?
    I read e.g. in the Explorer’s Handbook that airships are naturally buoyant because of the soarwood, and that the elemental is only used for propulsion and steering. But your novel “City of Towers” literally begins with a crash of an airship and the description that without the freed elemental, nothing kept the ship in the air.

    Which is your position? Do airships crash if their elemental is banished? Or do they just float about, wherever the winds take them?

    • I didn’t work on the Explorer’s Handbook, and in my opinion the danger of an airship crash adds a lot to the tension of any scenario involving an airship; saying “Oh, no, it will just peacefully float in the air if anything goes wrong” detracts from that drama. In my opinion soarwood is BOUYANT, but not so much so that won’t sink without the elemental. Among other things, there’s lots of things on the airship that AREN’T MADE OF SOARWOOD; if you establish the soarwood as a net zero, it’s still weighed down by the rest of its crew, cargo, and other accoutrements. So it’s the only material light enough to make the airship POSSIBLE, but in my Eberron the ship won’t remain airborne without the elemental sustaining it.

  8. Question inspired (pun intended) by the recent Manifest Zone on Riedra: This may have been touched on in SoS, but if so, I’ve forgotten. Does a visitor from Khorvaire who sleeps within the boundaries of Riedra also dream the common Dream of the Unity? Immediately, or do they slip into it over time? Maybe earch night the PC makes a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw, with the difficulty increasing by 1 for each long rest spent in Riedra?
    And, related, is it more difficult for the non-sleeping races (elves, warforged, etc.) to get permission to conduct business in Riedra? Or is it simply more likely that a member of the Thousand Eyes would be assigned to accompany their party?

    • This is covered on page 48 of Secrets of Sarlona:
      A far more insidious dream conditioning occurs over a wide area. Effectively, the network of monoliths projects a constant, low-level dream effect across Riedra. Anyone who falls asleep must attempt a DC 17 Will save. Those who fail have the dream that is currently being projected. The typical Riedran dream is soothing and vague, blending images to project the wonder of Riedra, the joys of being part of a greater whole, and the celestial benevolence of the Inspired.

      My Manifest Zone co-host Imogen Gingell has just released an adventure on the DM’s Guild—Escape From Riedra—that may present an alternative approach to this.

      Personally, I wouldn’t bother putting special restrictions on elves or warforged. If it’s AN ENTIRE PARTY of warforged, sure, that is likely to get a chaperone (or denied entry). But the quori don’t care if they can’t peek at the dreams of everyone in the group, especially since they’ll all be DREAMING THE SAME DREAM anyway.

  9. In the Great Wheel cosmology, one significant difference between the Ethereal and Astral planes is that the Ethereal covers the inner planes while the Astral forms the space between the outer planes. With no distinction between inner and outer planes, what does this mean for the two transitive planes in Eberron? For instance, do the borders of the Ethereal Plane reach all 13 planes around Eberron?

  10. Thank you for very interesting topics.
    I have a few questions about citizenship.
    According to the page 5 of Eberron RftLW,
    the members of the dragonmarked houses are not citizens of any nation.
    So, they are citizens of their specific dragonmarked house, right?
    If so, the dragonmarked houses can also grant citizenship to people who have entered their guilds?
    And is it possible for dragonmarked characters to have national citizenship
    by swearing fealty to a noble or by filing paperwork for citizenship,
    or the Korth Edicts prevent from having multiple citizenships?

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