IFAQ: Mummies and the BoV

I’ve got a lot going on at the moment. This Friday I’ll be playing my new Adventure Zone game with Justin McElroy, Hrishikesh Hirway, and Becca Scott on the Twogether Studios Twitch channel. I’m working on a secret Eberron project and I’ll be doing my first post about Threshold later this week. But as time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. So…

What’s the role of mummies in the Blood of Vol?

The traditions of necromancy practiced by the Blood of Vol and the Bloodsail Principalities are known to be able to produce three forms of sentient undead: mummies, vampires, and liches. Note that I don’t include the Karrnathi undead in this list, because while they are seemingly sentient, they don’t have the personality or memories of a living person. If you want to extend your own existence, these are your three options.

Of these, liches are the rarest and most difficult to produce. Setting aside the notable example of Minara Vol and Lady Illmarrow—which is an extremely unusual situation involving one of the greatest necromancers of the last 20,000 years—the general idea is that a necromancer can’t just make you into a lich: YOU have to perform the ritual yourself, and it requires both tremendous will and a deep understanding of necromancy and arcane science. This is why all liches are powerful spellcasters: because you have to be a powerful spellcaster to become a lich. And again, in my campaign, becoming a lich also requires the most iron will imaginable: not merely mystical knowledge, but an absolute will not to die, defying the pull of Dolurrh with your sheer conviction.

On the other end of the spectrum, vampires are the easiest sentient undead to produce, because if you have one vampire, they can produce more vampires. So an obvious question is why don’t they? Yes, the Blood of Vol generally believes that undeath is an inferior state that severs your connection to the Divinity Within. But still, it is trivially easy for a vampire to create more vampires. Why aren’t all of the leaders of the Emerald Claw vampires? We know that the Emerald Claw ISN’T flooded with vampires, so this is a simple logic problem: If you could turn an ally into a vampire, why wouldn’t you? In my campaign, the answer is that being a vampire isn’t easy. Of the lich, mummy, and vampire, the vampire is a PREDATOR. It is a conduit to Mabar, and Mabar is HUNGRY. The vampire needs to drain the blood and life force of other creatures, not simply in the practical way that a human needs food and water, but as a consuming drive that is always burning. This is a critical reason most vampires are evil: because the hunger of Mabar hollows them out, eroding their empathy and transforming them into pure predators. So, why doesn’t the Emerald Claw turn everyone into vampires? Because most people can’t take it. Just as it takes a powerful will to become a lich, to endlessly defy the draw of Dolurrh, it takes a powerful will to retain your own identity as a vampire. Most vampires degrade into inhuman creatures driven purely by their hunger—creatures with the statistics of Vampire Spawn, but without true human sentience. So you don’t want to just turn all of your friends into vampires because you don’t know if they will survive the experience. Their bodies will survive—but they may no longer be the people they were, or even people at all.

Malevanor by James Austin, from Exploring Eberron

Which brings us to the original question: what’s the role of mummies? First of all, let’s consider that word. Mummies are indeed produced by rituals that include, among many other factors, ritualized embalming and mummification. But that’s just a physical aspect and not what Seekers see as their defining principles. Thus, Seekers and Bloodsails call them oathbound, for reasons that will soon become clear. Anyone can become oathbound; it involves a conduit to Mabar, an expert necromancer, a series of rituals including the embalming process, and a number of rare and expensive components… Which are the major limiting factor on the number of mummies in existence. But there is a second, critical component to creating a mummy: its oaths. The 5E Monster Manual says that a mummy “obeys the conditions and parameters laid down by the rituals that created it.” These conditions aren’t an extra piece added onto the ritual; they are an integral part of it. A mummy is bound by a set of oaths that it must obey, and it is these oaths that bind its essence to its body and prevent it being dragged to Dolurrh. This is how you end up with a mummy bound to protect a specific tomb; even if it’s intelligent, it CAN’T just choose to leave the tomb and forget about it; that role of tomb guardian is what defines it and preserves it. Most mummies are bound by restrictive oaths; many Bloodsail mummies are bound to their ships. The looser these oaths, the more power and components are required for the ritual. So Malevanor, the High Priest of Atur, has far fewer restrictions than most oathbound; but it’s not a simple matter to create mummies with such freedom. Of liches, vampires, and mummies, the oathbound are the most common form of undead within the Blood of Vol, but many of the oathbound are never SEEN; mummies are often bound to temples or villages. There are hundreds of mummies in Atur, but most dwell in the vaults and temples of the City of Night, tirelessly performing their duties.

OK, but… The default mummy in the Monster Manual has an Intelligence of 6. That doesn’t SEEM like it’s an ideal alternative to, say, a vampire. In my Eberron, that base MM Mummy is a classic tomb guardian. As the lore suggests, it’s someone bound to be a mummy as a sort of course, forced by their oaths to battle intruders; they haven’t tried to retain their humanity. However, oathbound such as Malevanor retain their mental ability scores, their proficiencies, and some of their class abilities; Malevanor is the high priest of Atur and can perform divine magic. The Monster Manual mummy is created to be a physical powerhouse, but I think there are oathbound who aren’t as physically powerful but are sustained by the same rituals and power; I’m posting a stat block for an oathbound priest for my Patreon supporters.

Now: oathbound aren’t driven by the hunger of the vampire. They don’t need to consume to survive. However, they are sustained by and suffused with the power of Mabar. This is why the touch of the mummy causes flesh to rot and why its gaze causes dread; it is a vessel for Mabar, which embodies the death of all that lives and the end of all hope. While it’s not as dramatic as the vampire, the influence of Mabar still does erode the compassion and the empathy of the oathbound. This is why most mummies have an evil alignment. As is always the case in Eberron, they can have an evil alignment and still be driven to DO GOOD—but because of that lack of empathy, they may do good deeds in an evil way. A mummy forgets pain, and so it doesn’t care about causing pain to others. You can have a good or neutral mummy, but there’s a reason that they are rare… and why mummies tend to be crueler than the deathless of Aerenal, who are sustained by positive energy. The rotting touch of the mummy is something the Aereni point to in asserting that the oathbound do consume the life force of the world—that even though they don’t actively feed on others as vampires do, they are still slowly destroying the world merely by existing.

So within the Emerald Claw and the broader Blood of Vol, liches are rare and remarkable. Vampires aren’t very common, but they are often found as active agents in the field because they have freedom of movement and need to find new prey. Oathbound are the most common sentient undead, and if adventurers encounter an undead priest of the Blood of Vol, it’s most likely a mummy; however, it may be bound to its temple or its village (and it may be a lesser oathbound, weaker than the default mummy). In creating one of the oathbound, the critical question is what are the oaths that bind it? What are the restrictions on its actions and choices? Who was it in life, and what key skills has it retained in its undeath? Has it retained its sense of mercy and empathy, or has this been worn away?

How do wights figure into this?

I prefer not to lump all undead into a single basket. There are different sources of undead—Qabalrin traditions, Katashka the Gatekeeper, the raw power of Mabar—and to me, a story is more interesting if those different traditions produce different undead, rather than the only difference being CR. With this in mind, the basic lore of 5E notes that wights are mortals transformed by a dark power with the goal of making eternal war on the living. With this in mind, I say that wights AREN’T created by mortal necromancers; they can be created either by Katashka the Gatekeeper or by one of the Dark Powers of Mabar, and they directly serve the agenda of the force that created them (even if they don’t know what that agenda is).

What do you think happens if an oath is broken? Would the mummy just cease to function or would it be compelled magically to restore its oath?

It’s a matter of will. I think that most oathbound simply cannot violate their oaths, and if they are somehow forced to (a guardian removed from its tomb by force) it must attempt to rectify the situation immediately. If it can’t, this will weaken the bonds that sustain its undead existence, and it would ultimately disintegrate. Having said that, there can always be exceptions. A mummy with the strength of will to break its oath might become something else—finding a new way to sustain itself—potentially becoming something like a death knight or a wight, depending on the power of the spirit and its personal story.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

68 thoughts on “IFAQ: Mummies and the BoV

  1. While rare, would you consider there to be any liches running about associated with the Blood of Vol, or is their spellcasting power too great for that to be something the BoV reasonably have access to?

    • This will come up later in the month, when I address the question of the Crimson Covenant. The are exceptionally rare, but it’s not impossible.

    • There’s the lich Saeria, but she’s more associated with Farlnen and Lady Illmarrow than with the BoV.

      Also she is less running around and more chained up in the deepest part of Dreadhold. She’s from the Dreadhold article.

    • I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Empire of the Ghouls. I could definitely do another article dealing with ghouls and ghasts. I see them as tied to Mabar and Katashka, but that the Emerald Claw can create them and uses them to sow terror.

      • How are they made and are they considered sentient undead like vampires or are they closer to a powerful intelligent undead with paladinlike powers?

        Possibly are they akin to how deathlocks are animated through their eldritch pack but with their paladin oath?

        • I see Death Knights as being entirely unique, not something created by a standardized ritual. Part of the nature of a death knight is its personal tragedy and fall. So they are sentient undead, but they aren’t something you can just decide to create, which is why I left them off the list. I could go into more detail, but it would need to be in a separate article!

        • As a side note, if Ghost Stories of Eberron wins the poll, I’d expect to talk about a death knight in that article…

  2. Are there any non-Galifaran cultures that were/are known for the rituals associated with creating mummies? Are there any obvious differences between those and the oathbound?

  3. Do you think different planar energies could fuel different undead? For example, the cold of Risia could produce a skeleton who brings the CHILL of death (bad example, but the question still stands).

    • Certainly, but I’d be inclined to say that a creature like the Risian cold wight might only be viable in a Risian manifest zone. Having said that, I’ve presented Dral Khatuur as using a sort of ice zombie and ghoul.

      • Your comments on planar alignments & manifest zones informed my answer to the question of why Khorvaire might not seem to have megafauna mammals.

        A Lamannian manifest zone under a full Dravagan moon both freed & sustained the last great mammal herds previously fossilized & trapped in stone until some characters, who’d never seen a Brendan Fraser movie, grave-robbed the wrong dragonshard and released about a 1,000 fossilized wolves, cave bears, sabre tooth cats, giant sloths, mammoths & mastodons onto Talenta, all led by a fossilized, oathbound talenta druid all-ready for Round-2 against the dino-riders. The marauding perimeter of the herd acted as mobile lair for the oathbound lord. After about 18 months of slaughter, the characters finally negotiated peace by assisting the herd through the Lamannian manifest zone. In Lammania, MAMMOTH never went extinct, so the Lamannian undead regained their whole form as they crossed over.

  4. Okay, that is SUPER interesting. I love that idea, and will 100% be incorporating it into my campaign – especially the limits of an oathbound’s oath and what can happen when there are conflicts between it and the needs of members of the BoV.
    On a side note, what about incorporeal undead? Can those be created intentionally, or do they more show up from the influence of other planes, like Dolurrh shades or Shavarath sword wraiths?

    • Generally they’re tied to planar influence. Ghosts are more typically tied to Dolurrh, while specters and shadows are essentially extensions of Mabar. It’s definitely a case by case thing.

  5. Hey, Keith!

    After reading this text, I was thinking about the lich part…a Boneclaw would be the result of someone with weak will of living or someone not so powerfully in magical terms?

    • Yes, I think you could present a boneclaw as someone who aspired to be a lich but who lacked sufficient willpower. It could even be something that can happen over time; a lich starts out strong, but when their body is destroyed they are reborn as a boneclaw.

      • I’m having Dura ir’Matellon become a Boneclaw after repeated attempts to capture the PCs failed. First, she went from being am Undying Patron Warlock to a Revenant. After a few attempts at that, and with Dura placing personal vendetta above the orders of Lady Illmarrow, Lady Illmarow made her a Boneclaw. Stripped of her beauty that she held so dear to her, she is now nothing more than muscle for her Lady and Dura’s role in the Lhazzar has been given over to a Death Cleric who is now trying to re-establish the uneasy peace with High Prince ir’Wynarn after Dura threw a wrench into all of that in her drive to capture the party.

  6. Would you make greater oathbounds to have more restrictive or les restrictive oaths than the lesser ones?
    For example, a lesser oathbound might be bound to guard a place. But Malevanor could be bound to something harder: like eternal service to Vol herself or protecting his own family line, but if we take the other we could choose something which allowed him a wider freedom like: “the inner sanctum of Atur’s main Blood of Vol temple must always be undefiled”.

    Also, what do you think happens if an oath is broken. Would the mummy just cease to function or would it be compelled magically to restore it’s oath?

    • I don’t think the restrictiveness of the oath has to directly relate to the power of the oathbound; I think it’s a factor in how difficult it is to create it (more restrictive oaths mean easier ritual). So you could have a mummy lord with a very restrictive oath, but have another with greater freedom. I agree with you that the oath can definitely be more abstracted: that Malevanor may have his oath to the FAITH rather than being bound to a BUILDING.

      Also, what do you think happens if an oath is broken. Would the mummy just cease to function or would it be compelled magically to restore its oath?
      It’s a matter of will. I think that most oathbound simply cannot violate their oaths, and if they are somehow forced to (a guardian removed from its tomb by force) it must attempt to rectify the situation immediately. If it can’t, this will weaken the bonds that sustain its undead existence, and it would ultimately disintegrate. HOWEVER, having said that, there can always be exceptions. A mummy with the strength of will to break its oath might become something else—finding a new way to sustain itself—potentially becoming something like a death knight or a wight (depending on its power and story).

      • Thanks Keith! The first part was really interesting and I really like complex variables, and the story of a Mummy surviving it’s oath would be great for a recurring villlain, even a PC.

      • So would it be the will of a given oathbound that determines their power or would the rituals and resources used to create it also factor into the inherent power, like an upgrade?

        • It’s a combination. The ritual and resources definitely determine the base foundation of the creature’s power. However, the oathbound still maintains skills and abilities from its life. So looking at the Mummy Lord, its Rejuvenation and Magic Resistance abilities reflect the more powerful rituals used to create it; while its spellcasting abilities reflect the fact that it WAS a powerful priest in life and retains those powers in undeath.

  7. For my eberron the dreadwood isle is definitely going to have a bloodsail vampire that degraded there.

    Also that one of the Dark Powers of Mabar is called The Bloat (name in progress). The supposed origin of the drowned undead (GoS).

  8. I like the idea of wights (and ghouls) being connected to sources other than the Blood of Vol, certainly changes the flavour of the monsters significantly (and allows for sprinkling in wights as enemies among the Emerald Claw to MEAN something)

    Would rogue elements of the Emerald Claw (and other Seeker chivalric orders) ever have considered allying with cultists of the Dragon Below during the Last War to supplement their armies with darker more voracious undead, or would that have offended the Karrn martial spirit?

    Am I correct in assuming the necromancy of Karrnath’s Blood of Vol also comes from Nulakesh, and not just their martial spirit? Would that kingdom have had mummy, vampire and lich warlords?

    Are Seekers generally aware of the negative effects of some of these undead? The dread gaze of the mummy, the voracious mind erosion of the vampire, etc? Do they accept it as an unwanted side effect or is it rationalized away as a manifestation of some more desirable aspect that’s in line with their faith?

    • Would rogue elements of the Emerald Claw (and other Seeker chivalric orders) ever have considered allying with cultists of the Dragon Below during the Last War to supplement their armies with darker more voracious undead, or would that have offended the Karrn martial spirit?

      Anything’s possible. A point to consider with any Cult of the Dragon Below is that its members often don’t choose to become part of it; so the question I might have is if a Seeker order in the Last War BECAME a cult of Katashka.

      Am I correct in assuming the necromancy of Karrnath’s Blood of Vol also comes from Nulakesh, and not just their martial spirit? Would that kingdom have had mummy, vampire and lich warlords?

      I don’t think so. I’ve called out Nulakhesh as primarily having ties to Daanvi and Shavarath. It has a few strong zones to Dolurrh, but they don’t produce these sorts of undead. Exploring Eberron says: These (elf) exiles brought the knowledge of necromancy along with stories of how the heroic family of Vol had sought to attain godhood, only to be destroyed by the jealous gods. The people of the region knew nothing of Aereni traditions or dragonmarks, and they blended this story with their own experience of life in a harsh land, local tyrants, and the empty promises of Sovereign priests. And in the process, they somehow discovered something real.
      The traditions of necromancy largely came from the elves, but in interacting with the people of Khorvaire they EVOLVED into something else, which is why and how the Seekers diverge from the Bloodsails.

      Are Seekers generally aware of the negative effects of some of these undead? The dread gaze of the mummy, the voracious mind erosion of the vampire, etc?
      Certainly. The fact that they understand the threat of vampire mind erosion is why they don’t all want to be vampires; they view their undead champions as martyrs, who are making dangerous sacrifices to protect them. And you can be sure that experienced priests watch newly spawned vampires closely, to see if they can handle the transition. Again, in my view, the Blood of Vol doesn’t romanticize undeath. They see it as a TOOL that allows someone to be avoid being consumed by Dolurrh and that can grant great power. But they also recognize it as an often tormented form of existence that severs you from your divine spark; again, not everyone WANTS to be a mummy or a vampire. What they dismiss is the Aereni assertion that undead such as liches, mummies, or zombies somehow innately destroy the lifeforce of the world simply by existing. They are well away that the touch of the oathbound rots flesh, and that this is a deeply unnatural form of existence; but they believe that as long as the mummy DOESN’T TOUCH FLESH we’re all good.

  9. I am definitely curious about a large amount of other undead creatures as well. Many of which have not yet been printed to 5th edition. Specific Undead that I would ask about:
    Bone/Corpse creature from Book of Vile Darkness are essentially skeletons/zombies that kept their sentience, however their alignment is also evil.
    Necropolitan from Libris Mortis, a creature that has voluntarily and ritualistically ended their own life to become undead. I don’t see this as something that would be a normal event, but someone that has incurable ailments or are in continuous pain may undergo the process.
    The Quell from Libris Mortis seems like it would either hate the BoV just like other religions, or may get along with the BoV, and I’d like to see how the BoV handles these creatures.
    The Slaymate from Libris Mortis, is a child that died from neglect, abuse, or betrayal. I wonder how the BoV would treat the Slaymate.
    Ghouls and Ghasts are definitely something I’d like to know more about.

    • All good topics, but outside the scope of this article — as I said, I have a lot of deadlines at the moment. But I will address them in the future if time allows.

    • On that subject, are monsters described as “vampires” like Nosferatu (Various early supplements for Mystara and a few Ravenloft), Jiangshi (OA3E 169 as “Hopping Vampire” ), or Penanggalan (190 as Pennaggolan) just variant vampire bloodlines in Eberron?

      • The hunger to consume life is a defining aspect of Mabar. I’d say that the plethora of variant vampires reflects different manifestations of this basic aspect of Mabar — that a Penanggalan and a jiangshi are different manifestations of this concept that could have very different origins, as opposed to having some sort of direct relationship to one another.

  10. Hi, Keith! How would you tell an Eberronian version of the classic Mummy movie story? That is, someone who is consumed with love for the ojbect of their passion, but is turned into a mummy and sealed away, but when awakened is fired by the desire to find the reincarnation (or at least the lookalike) of the True Love. Since thee isn’t (much) natural reincarnation in Eberron, I suppose one would go with the many generations distant descendant of the True Love who happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to the ancestor. But what would drive the Mummy? Could part of their oath be to “wait until True Love returns.” Or would you play this as another retelling of one of the fairy tales from Thelanis of someone separated from True Love, driven to despair by it, and waiting with little hope for True Love to somehow return?

    • It’s a good question, because I would be strongly tempted to say that this would actually be a THELANIAN undead as opposed to Mabaran; they what they are sustained by is their STORY. However, if you went traditional Mabaran, yes, I’d say that it is part of their oath. Which oaths are often associated with locations, they don’t have to be; an oath to “Protect your true love” could cause the oathbound to fall dormant while the true love is dead, and then suddenly be restored and driven to find their beloved when the beloved’s spirit returns.

      While there’s not a lot of reincarnation in Eberron, I’d definitely point out the tales of the Keeper and the Restful Watch: the idea that the Keeper may snatch souls before they reach Dolurrh so they can be returned the Eberron when the time is right.

      • The notion of Thelanian undead is way cool. You could have almost any type of undead, possibly cursed to remain undead until their story is complete. And I really like the notion of the Keeper having the True Love’s soul until the time is right. The Lover returns…and the Mummy stalks the Earth to recover them, but the reincarnated Lover is a PC…or the betrothed of one of the PCs. The story practically tells itself! Paging Mr. Karloff, paging Mr. Karloff – you’re needed in makeup!

  11. How do Mabaran undead of the Blood of Vol and the Bloodsails interact with more naturally-occurring Mabaran undead, such as wraiths? Do Vol-type Mabaran undead have a sort of kinship with naturally-occurring Mabaran undead, or do they somehow recognize one another as being entities from entirely different cultures, despite being cut from the same metaphorical cloth and being powered by the exact same planar energies?

    • Mammals are cut from the same metaphorical cloth and powered by similar energies, but at the base, humans don’t have some sort of innate kinship with one another, let alone with, say, bears. Different undead have their own origins, stories, and drives. Barring the use of a supernatural effect such as Rebuke Undead, those take precedence. A wraith has no innate opinion about a vampire; it may be less inclined to attack it because the vampire has no life-force to consume, but it won’t recognize the vampire as an ally unless the vampire has some sort of artifact or ability that causes that (again, Rebuke Undead). And looking to the sentient undead, a Bloodsail vampire feels no innate kinship to a Karrnathi mummy; their culture and their own aspirations take precedence over the fact that they are both undead.

      There are certain undead that are innately bound together (like a vampire and its spawn), and there are undead that can ENFORCE dominion over other undead regardless of their origin; an agent of Katashka might be able to take control of a group of Karrnathi undead. But there’s no universal undead alliance. In Ohr Kaluun you surely saw feuding necromancers pitting their undead creations against one another, and priests of the Blood of Vol will be the first to defend their communities against predatory ghouls. You could definitely see a gruesome struggle between a cult of Katashka and a Seeker congregation.

    • Same principle, just more powerful and harder to make — and like a lich, part of the power of the mummy lord is a reflection of the power of the individual in life. There are definitely a few mummy lords among the Grim Lords of Farlnen, and at least one Qabalrin mummy lord entombed in Xen’drik. Among the Blood of Vol they’d be rare, but I’d likely use the Mummy Lord statblock as a base for Malevanor, and I’d say there’s at least one more on the Crimson Covenant. They are deeply bound by oaths, which ties to the Rejuvenation trait. I’d note that a Mummy Lord can’t CHOOSE to die; its oath rejuvenates it and compels it to rise again.

  12. “So, why doesn’t the Emerald Claw turn everyone into vampires? Because most people can’t take it. […] Most vampires degrade into inhuman creatures driven purely by their hunger—creatures with the statistics of Vampire Spawn, but without true human sentience.”

    In VtM the Sabbat are known to embrace people purely to use the new fledglings as cannon fodder. Could the Emerald Claw do something similar, turning non-claw into vampires knowing they’ll be consumed with hunger and attack those meddling adventurers who are hot on the Claw’s trail?

    • Could the Emerald Claw do something similar, turning non-claw into vampires knowing they’ll be consumed with hunger and attack those meddling adventurers who are hot on the Claw’s trail?
      Absolutely! Sounds like an awesome scene to me.

  13. How do the Undying Court (or rather, the Aereni Deathguard) and the Blood of Vol perceive one another? Is there any chance at all for peaceful contact between, say, a Deathguard and an undead Seeker? Would undead Seekers be allowed to set foot onto Aerenal in the slightest? How does the Blood of Vol respond to the Undying Court’s allegations that Mabaran undead slowly flood the world with entropy?

    • Most of the people of the Five Nations have never heard of the Aereni Deathguard; the Aereni are reclusive and culturally arrogant. With that said, individual deathguard agents can potentially find common ground with Mabaran undead if it serves a greater good; in my Eberron, Queen Etrigani of Karrnath is a Deathguard operative. An openly Mabaran undead creature — whether Seeker, Bloodsail, or anything else — would likely only be permitted to enter Aerenal if it was accompanied by a Deathguard or other influential Aereni who vouched for it. And followers of the Blood of Vol generally dismiss Aereni claims that zombies and mummies flood the world with entropy as unproven hysteria that would cost them a proven, valuable tool. Pretty much look at climate change in our world, and consider the arguments used on both sides.

      With that in mind, consider again that for an Aereni, a skeleton is like a gas-powered car in our world. It’s a bad thing that is contributing to the destruction of the environment. But someone can believe that and still ride in a gas-powered car; it’s not like the Aereni believe THAT ONE SKELETON is personally going to destroy the world. So again, the Aereni want to stop the WIDESCALE use of Mabaran necromancy, but they can be willing to work with individual undead or necromancers if it serves a greater good.

  14. Has the Blood of Vol ever actually succeeded in its goal of elevating someone to divinity? What would a plot hook related to the Blood of Vol’s first successful apotheosis look like?

    • The general idea is that any divine spellcaster (paladin, cleric, etc) tied to the Blood of Vol believes that their divine powers come from their own divinity within—so they may not have become full godlike entities, but they believe that the powers they wield show that they’re on the path and that it’s possible.

      As for whether anyone has ascended or what would happen if they do: the first question is what that ascension means. One possibility is that it elevates them BEYOND the known planes, to the higher realms the Sovereigns are thought to inhabit — essentially removing them from existence. Another is that it makes them into beings more like the Sovereigns are said to be — omnipresent, but affecting mortals by guiding them and inspiring them. Or they could be etheral but more finite, like an Ascendant Councilor. If I was to use it in a campaign, I’d probably start by introducing the Seeker early on, whether as friend or foe… and then once they have ascended, have them act as essentially a “small god”, a personal divine patron for the party of adventurers, who provides them with visions and knowledge to try to fight some grave threats. The Seekers ultimately want to fight death and to protect their people — so I could see the ascended Seeker aiding the adventurers as long as that quest protects mortal Seekers.

      • This sounds loosely similar to the Tairnadal patron ancestors. What do Seekers of the Blood of Vol view the Tairnadal patron ancestors as?

        • Consider our world: it’s common for people to dismiss the beliefs of religions that they don’t share. There’s no absolute proof that the Tairnadal ancestors are what the Tairnadal believe them to be. A Seeker MIGHT feel a kinship with a revenant blade and look to the Tairnadal ancestors as an example of the Divinity Within. Or they might say “If the ancestor is dependent on the living, it’s not ascended; you’re devoting your life to preserving a ghost instead of trying to find your OWN divinity within.”

  15. Why do vampires consider sunlight anathema in this setting? Does it apply to the suns of other planes, or even the Inner Sun in Khyber?

    • From the “Reaching For The Stars” article.
      “In the Progenitor Myth, the three Progenitors rested in the Material Plane after creating the planes. They created the sun, Arrah, much as mortals might kindle a campfire. This fire remained even after their battle, and continues to provide light, heat, and comfort to the world. Arrah is rarely mentioned because it functions much like the sun we’re used to; it’s good that it’s there, but you definitely wouldn’t want to visit it. In the Sovereign Host, Dol Arrah is the Sovereign of Sun and Sacrifice; her name is, essentially, “The Warrior Sun.””

      I’d imagine its generally ascribed to religious implications, since D&D Vamps were weak to holy symbols when Eberron was created.

  16. In sharn there is a adept/lich of The Keeper. Neutral, not evil. It a little bit weird: one of the most powerful characters in sharn and he looks ok just wandering through tombs. Where he takes his willpower from?

    I love this oathbound idea. How are oathbound considered in Karrnsth by non-vol people? If an oathbound kills somebody, how will karrnathi guards act?

    At least in 3.5 a bard can become a lich. Do you see any lich tradition in daakani empire? Or they are not individualistic enough?

    Thanks as always for your writing, Keith.

    • In sharn there is a adept/lich of The Keeper. Neutral, not evil. It a little bit weird: one of the most powerful characters in sharn and he looks ok just wandering through tombs. Where he takes his willpower from?
      This is an article about mummies, not liches. But a few things: Check again, Gath is neutral evil. Second, Gath is a cleric of the Keeper, and THAT is the cornerstone of his faith; his devotion to the Keeper. He’s not just “wandering through tombs”; he is “mentoring other would-be
      necromancers and clerics of the Keeper and practicing his dark rites in other mausoleum-temples
      .” In other words, he’s acting as a priest. For more ideas about what things he might do, I’d look at my article about the Keeper, which discusses the activities of its priests.

      How are oathbound considered in Karrnsth by non-vol people? If an oathbound kills somebody, how will karrnathi guards act?
      The Blood of Vol is out of favor in Karrnath, and unless they are acting in the service of Karrnath, oathbound will be treated like any other creature if they commit crimes.

      Do you see any lich tradition in daakani empire?
      Becoming a lich isn’t just about will; it’s about SCIENCE — or in the case of a lich like Gath, faith and a tie to a dark power of necromancy. But normally becoming an arcane lich involves extremely complex and dangerous necromantic rituals. The Dhakaani had bards, but they were NOT as advanced in arcane matters as the Five Nations or the Aereni and had no tradition of necromancy. The one exception to this is the Kech Nasaar, who are mentioned in Exploring Eberron and specifically had vampires. If you wanted to make a Dhakaani lich, the Kech Nasaar would be the place. But in my opinion, the lich represents the apex of necromancy and the Dhakaani aren’t that advanced.

    • Never mentioned. In general I see Argonnessen as disapproving of necromancy due to their clashes with Katashka (who was called out as the source of the first dracoliches). Personally, I’d prefer to see dragons exploring more exotic paths to immortality. I’ve talked about the draconic eidolon in Dal Qour, and I could definitely see using the chardalyn dragon as a dragon who’s transferred its essence into a construct body (raising the question of whether the warforged are using this same technique).

      But if YOU want an oathbound dragon, go for it!

      • Would the shadow dragon be the result of such a endeavor? To draw from Mabar but not succumb to undeath and remain a dragon? Like a aasimar dragon?

        It’s also possible that the cardalyn becomes something like a kalashtar between the dragonforged and dragonsoul. If made in a similar way or by Cannith.

        An oathbound dragon might be a impressive tomb guardian for Argonnessens area 52. To keep a eternal vigilance on things not even all dragons know exists. And probably a subject of revulsion that they need the oathbound for it. Though Zenobaal might want something inside there… I am getting rather of track.

  17. Excellent article as always!

    Out of curiosity, what would happen if a Mabaran undead did receive prayer and the like from the living in a similar way to the deathless?

    Eberron isn’t Egypt, but traditions like making ritual offerings of food and drink or expressions of gratitude for their sacrifice and service could existing within a BoV community. Would the connection to Mabar suffer from all this positivity? Might it lessen the hollowing out by being consumed instead? Something else?

    • The Blood of Vol explicitly DOES encourage its followers to be grateful to their undead champions. One of the most important rituals of the faith is the giving of blood — which is then collected and used to sustain oathbound and vampires. Given this, I’m inclined to say that such devotion doesn’t HURT the undead.

      Personally, I’m inclined to say that while mass devotion is a source of positive energy, most creatures — living or dead — aren’t capable of HARNESSING that power. Creatures have differing methods of gaining sustenance; a plant can survive on sunlight, but a mammal can’t. A vampire can drain the life-force from a mortal with its touch; a deathless can’t do that. I’d say the same is true in reverse; a deathless can draw strength from devotion, but a vampire can’t harness that same power (for better or for worse). If ANY creature could harness the positive energy of devotion, I’d think mass-prayer-healings would be a major thing, and we’ve never mentioned them.

      What I could see is that saying that while positive devotion has no impact on Mabaran undead, that NEGATIVE devotion could actually strengthen them — that is to say that there’s a reason for a vampire lord to rule by terror, because the fear of its subjects strengthens it in some way (Mabar is noted as consuming hope, after all).

      But it’s certainly an interesting idea to explore.

  18. It sounds like vampires are as reliably evil as anything but an outsider gets, liches don’t have a particularly strong pull toward evil except that they generally need to be quite ruthless in their will to defy death, and mummies are somewhere in between. Is that a fair characterization? (In your campaign, obviously.)

    • It’s covered in the article:
      While it’s not as dramatic as the vampire, the influence of Mabar still does erode the compassion and the empathy of the oathbound. This is why most mummies have an evil alignment. As is always the case in Eberron, they can have an evil alignment and still be driven to DO GOOD—but because of that lack of empathy, they may do good deeds in an evil way. A mummy forgets pain, and so it doesn’t care about causing pain to others. You can have a good or neutral mummy, but there’s a reason that they are rare… and why mummies tend to be crueler than the deathless of Aerenal, who are sustained by positive energy.

      • …That’s the part I was summarizing. Was “it sounds like…” not clear? I thought that was a fairly explicit way of noting that I was trying to summarize.

        This page also doesn’t mention lich alignment. So I was checking both that my summary was accurate, and that the absence of explicit mention of liches meant that they were like other humanoid-ish people and free to be just about any alignment.

          • The basic principle also applies to liches. All three of the undead described in this article are animated by the energy of Mabar. The vampire is the most direct conduit, which is what makes it a predator. But both liches and oathbound suffer a general erosion of compassion and empathy due to the fact that they are sustained by the energy of Mabar. The touch of the lich chills and paralyzes, and depending on the lore you’re using, liches may need to consume souls to sustain themselves. The positive energy of life has been replaced with the negative energy of Mabar.

            As noted, this is a fundamental difference between Mabaran undead and the deathless of Aerenal, who are sustained by positive energy. But liches and oathbound are the same: they don’t have the constant hunger of the vampire, but they are still sustained by the energy of Mabar, and that makes it difficult — though not impossible — to sustain a good alignment.

          • An important element of this conversation is what it means to be evil. I recommend this article:
            http://keith-baker.com/eberron-flashback-good-and-evil/

            Evil people can DO good things. Evil people aren’t necessarily villains. In Eberron, I tie good and evil to compassion and empathy. The evil person has neither; they CAN inflict harm without remorse, and are willing to harm others to get what they want; but that doesn’t mean that the things that they want are bad things. Crucially, in 3.5 Eberron lord, King Kaius of Karrnath is a lawful evil vampire… and also one of the primary proponents of peace. Queen Aurala of Aundair is a good person and keen to restart the war. Kaius’s GOAL is good, while Aurala’s goal is, on the whole, evil; it will cause unnecessary death. But Kaius will lie, murder, and torture in pursuit of peace. He will use EVIL METHODS to gain his noble goal, and feel no remorse about it. Aurala wants war, but she wants a JUST war and will refuse to condone murder, torture, etc. So we have an evil person doing a good thing and a good person who may enact a great evil.

            This is the point with the lich and the oathbound. They tend to be evil because the connection to Mabar erodes empathy and mercy. But the fact that they are evil in alignment doesn’t mean that they are doing bad things. Most members of the Crimson Covenant are evil, but they are devoted to protecting the innocent Seekers. The point is that they feel no remorse if they torture and kill anyone who gets in the way of that goal—they are willing to do evil in the cause of good and do so without remorse.

            So if the question is “Can you have a lich who’s not a villain?” the answer is ABSOLUTELY. But that lich is still likely to lack EMPATHY for the living. It acts without mercy or compassion, because it literally can’t feel those things any more. But it could still ACT in the cause of a greater good.

Leave a Reply to Chuck Huber Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.