Lightning Round: Obyriths, Dhakaani Cruelty, and the Chamber

As time permits, I like to answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few questions that came up last month and didn’t make it into previous articles.

Currently, the Keeper of the Flame with the longest historical reign was Saren Rellek, who lead the church for 88 years. Would you say this is because they were a non-human Keeper? Is the tiefling sanctuary of Rellekor named after them?

Yes, on both counts. While it is tempting to suggest that Rellek was a tiefling, if there was a tiefling Keeper in power for nearly a century, I feel that tieflings would have a better reputation than they do. In my Eberron, Saren was a Khoravar. Half-elves make up a tenth of the population of Thrane, so it’s not a shocking shift; nonetheless, it may be due to their Khoravar heritage that they were especially concerned with oppressed minorities and helped establish the tiefling sanctuary that bears their name.

What are one or two examples of a major Chamber dragon operation currently operating in Sharn? The 3.5 Sharn: City of Towers book is very sparse on the Chamber.

The general idea of both the Chamber and the Lords of Dust is that they typically work through pawns—that any operation could be tied to the Chamber. Adventurers aren’t expected to run into a force they would recognize as the Chamber at 4th level. But they could get involved with the Boromar Clan / Daask conflict, and at a late stage discover that one of Saiden Boromar’s chief advisors is actually a shapechanged dragon. In the novella “Principles of Fire”, there’s a Chamber dragon on board the Lyrandar patriarch’s airship. What are they DOING? Likely, observing, and perhaps subtly pushing the patriarch in a particular direction. Essentially, my common approach with the Chamber isn’t that you run into a bunch of “Chamber goons” on a Chamber mission—it’s about running into people following what seems to be an entirely personal agenda (Boromar-Daask Gang War) and then discovering that it’s tied to the Chamber, because the Chamber has a Prophetic interest in a particular outcome of the war. This ties to the fact that the Chamber isn’t interested in wealth or power for their own sake; what they care about is ensuring that specific Prophetic events come to pass, which means that they can be working with ANY organization if it makes your story more interesting. A Chamber agent could be supporting the Daask/Boromar war. They could be posing as a member of the Aurum. They could be staging a terrorist attack on the Tain Gala this month and making sure the adventurers are in a position to stop an attack at the Gala the following month. The key for the adventurers is reaching a point where they have enough information to understand their motives—the Prophetic paths they are working to fulfill.

I’m running the Savage Tide adventure path, and what I’m most curious about are the obyriths. Obox-ob, Dagon, Pazuzu, Pale Night, etc. – how would you fit them into Eberron?

There’s a few ways you could go about it, depending which aspects of the STORY of the Obyriths are most important to you.

  • The simplest option would be to introduce the obyriths as the lords of shadow demiplanes, as described in this article. The main question would be what is drawing their attention to Eberron, as shadow fiends usually don’t and can’t leave their demiplanes. With that said, this is a fairly generic approach that doesn’t especially capture any of the existing lore that defines the obyriths and doesn’t give them a strong motive
  • Obyriths are described as being exceptionally ALIEN; their appearance alone could drive mortals insane. Both of these suggest that they are creatures from Xoriat. The daelkyr aren’t the only powerful entities from Xoriat. Perhaps the obyriths came to Wberron from Xoriat in the Age of Demons and fought with the overlords, and were imprisoned by the overlords long ago.
  • A third option—and the one I’d personally use—would be to combine these. Exploring Eberron presents the idea that the current incarnation of reality may not be the first one… that the meddling of the daelkyr can lead to a full reseting of reality. Exploring suggests that the Gith may be refugees from a previous incarnation of Eberron. An exotic option for the obyriths would be to say that they are fiends from a previous iteration of Khyber… That somehow they escaped into Xoriat and ultimately came to the current incarnation of reality, most likely finding shelter in a shadow demiplane. This preserves the idea that they are ALIEN—fiends from another version of reality, further altered by their time in Xoriat—and that they are ANCIENT, as they literally predate reality itself. It also means that their agenda is entirely separate from that of the overlords and the Prophecy itself. Is their goal to overthrow and replace the overlords? Is that even possible? Or are they just bitterly trying to survive? A side note is that since they don’t belong in this reality they wouldn’t have heart demiplanes, and while they are physically immortal, if they are destroyed they won’t return—which gives them a clear motive for laying low despite their vast power.

Were ancient Dhakaani really ruthless? Take torture and Grieving tree for example, how many of them were constructed? Were they seen as a horrible invention or as a useful and necessary tool? How are they seen by modern Kech Volaar, will they want to use/preserve or destroy them?

The Dhakaani were and are quite ruthless. Consider this section of Exploring Eberron:

The Dhakaani idea of ‘honor in victory’ is quite different from that of Dol Arrah and the people of the Five Nations. The Dhakaani prize victory and efficiency, both on and off the battlefield. Atcha comes from standing your ground against seemingly impossible odds and from displaying skill and discipline. There is honor in using cunning to defeat a superior foe, so guerilla warfare, ambushing a foe, and even assassination are acceptable tactics, if this is what muut requires. Dar must be ready to die for the empire—but when possible, it’s always better to kill for the empire.

What you call ruthless, Dhakaani might call efficient. A second note from Exploring Eberron:

The Dhakaani don’t practice slavery—but not because of compassion. Rather, they consider it inefficient to try to force their values and traditions on creatures who have no concept of muut and who don’t share the Uul Dhakaan. Thus, Dhakaani tradition has always been to drive enemies out of their territories, or if such exile is impossible, to kill them.

The Kech Volaar are the most flexible of the Keepers. Exploring Eberron notes:

Perhaps because of this, the Kech Volaar are also the most conciliatory of the Keeper clans. They are the most willing to interact with the gath’dar, both because they recognize the need to understand these possible enemies, and in the hopes that some form of coexistence may be possible. Like the Kech Uul, Volaar leader Tuura Dhakaan wonders if the Uul Dhakaan can expand to incorporate other creatures—if the empire can unite gath’dar as it does the dar. Despite these hopes, the Kech Volaar are devoted to the dar above all else. They are the Keepers of History, and they know the sacrifices their ancestors had to make and the bitter wars against the chaat’or and the taarn (elves). They are wise and willing to seek all paths to prosperity, but will never surrender the dream of the eternal empire.

Ultimately, the point is that the Dhakaani have no use for petty cruelty. They value EFFICIENCY above all. The Grieving Trees were a creation of a specific (albeit legendary) daashor and aren’t commonplace, but the point of the trees was to serve as a SYMBOL and as a warning. As to whether the Volaar would embrace them, I think it’s a simple calculus as to whether they feel use of the trees would strength their position among the Dar—using them is an assertion of power, as they were originally the tools of the Marhu—or whether they would horrify the chaat’oor and the gath’dar and interfere with their future plans.

The Dhakaani are a very alien culture, shaped by the Uul Dhakaan and thousands of years of martial discipline. They don’t see the world in the same way as humans of the Five Nations, and yes, their behavior will generally come across as ruthless; but ultimately, the best way to describe it is inhuman.

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

24 thoughts on “Lightning Round: Obyriths, Dhakaani Cruelty, and the Chamber

  1. One of the old WotC Dragonshard articles you wrote on Monastic Orders talks about the shaarat’khesh adopting other goblins and even changelings into their clan. With the addition of the Uul Dhakaan do you still see adopting outsiders—particularly a non-dar like the changelings—as being a thing?

    • The crucial point of this discussion is that it’s the SHAARAT’KHESH, who always stand in the shadows of the empire. Beyond this, the crucial issue is how you interpret “adopted.” The Shaarat’khesh recognize the value of using city goblins and changelings as TOOLS. Look at ANY spy agency that recruits native agents in another country. Those agents may be trained in Khesh’dar techniques, they may be valuable tools and granted a chance to earn atcha, but you can be sure the Khesh’dar never forget that they AREN’T DAR. In all likelihood they will never be fully trusted or expected to truly understand what it is to be Dar—and the Shaarat’khesh will always be ready to sacrifice them for the greater good.

      So again, the Shaarat’khesh RECRUIT AGENTS among the city goblins and changelings. They teach them the silent arts and to be sure, TRY to teach them muut. But it would be truly remarkable for such an agent to ever be truly trusted and thought of as a Dar. (Of course, player characters ARE remarkable, and if anyone could earn such trust it would be a PC!)

      • Does the goblin language having a word for changelings (roughly translating to “wax baby”) suggest they had a presence on Khorvaire during the Age of Monsters (perhaps brought by the Venomous Demesne?) or is it a word which came up in the time between the fall of the empires and present day?

        • The Goblin language has a word for humans, and we know they weren’t around during the Dhakaani empire. Languages evolve. I personally support the idea that the changelings are in some way a product of Ohr Kaluun, and that they didn’t exist when the empire was at its height.

          • Makes sense, I was pretty sure it was that but couldn’t shake the feeling I was maybe underestimating how long ago Ohr Kaluun made them

            Thanks for the clarification!

  2. Thanks, Keith. Interesting insights as always.

    Speaking of dragons and the Dhakaani, what sort of relationship did Jhazaal have with the red dragon that lent its horn to her artifact? Was she so powerful a duur’kaala to bend a dragon to her will, or did it see prophetic promise in the Empire of Dhakaan?

    • Not every dragon cares about the Prophecy, and I never thought the horn of Ghaal’duur was given freely. Jhazaal was able to create artifacts and create a permanent island in Dal Quor, so yes, I’m sure she could bend a rogue dragon to her will; but it’s also likely she led a band of Dhakaani champions — perhaps the Six Kings themselves — to defeat they wyrm.

  3. On the subject of obyriths I had a similar problem with demodands. Demons and devils and yugoloths (daemons of old) all have roles, but when looking to answer where the slimy gaolers of Carceri fit in Eberron I was coming up blank. So I looked it up and you answered that YEARS ago concerning Shackled City (the adventure path before the adventure path before Savage Tide)

    “If you are playing with the idea that Cauldron’s tunnels into the Underdark lead into Khyber, I can see the logic to tying it to Xoriat. One of the named Daelkyr is Kyrzin the Prince of Slime (I did a piece on him for Eye on Eberron); who better to create fiends you can pour out of bottles of ooze? However, the question to me is the tone you want from them. For me, the defining feature of creatures from the Plane of Madness is that we don’t understand them. Outsiders essentially embody concepts, and with Xoriat’s spirits they are concepts we have no analogues for. So if I was having them come from Xoriat, I would want to emphasize this alien nature and mindset. While the Kyrzin article is subscriber only, here’s something I wrote on Daelkyr in general about a year ago:

    http://keith-baker.com/dragonmarks-the-daelkyr-and-their-cults/

    Personally, I think I would make demodands native outsiders like the rakshasa: children of Khyber herself, as opposed to strangers from madness. Legends say that the dragons were formed when drops of Siberys’ blood struck Eberron (while the couatl formed from drops in midair, which is why they are outsiders and the dragons are mortal). I’d flip that to say that the demodands were formed from the blood of wounded Khyber, and perhaps give their liquid forms a crimson sheen. The activities of the Cagewrights could be intended to release a particular Overlord connected to the demodands… or if you wanted to take it even farther, they could be seeking to shatter the world and release Khyber herself.”

    I personally love both the “Khyber’s blood” and Kryzin corrupted fiends angle, and as with many things (aboleths, thri-kreen, hill giants) multiple monsters could use the same statblocks.

    Not really a question, just something I loved when I came across it

  4. “Perhaps the obyriths came to Xoriat in the Age of Demons and fought with the overlords”

    Do you mean came from Xoriat?

    In your suggestions for the origins of obyriths, why would some strike up relationships with the lords of shadow demiplanes, like Dagon towards Demogorgon?

    In your conversion for Savage Tide, you suggest that Malcanthet could be either the lord of a shadow demiplane, or Thelestes. If she is Thelestes, then what becomes of Shendilavri, a major set piece in Savage Tide?

    • Regarding the first question, yes, I meant “came to Eberron from Xoriat.”

      Regarding the next two questions, the simple fact is that I haven’t read the adventure path in a decade. I don’t know what Shendilavri is, and I definitely don’t have time to dig it up now to come up with a suggestion. You are familiar with all of the elements involved; what would you do with it?

    • re: alliances

      Power. They’re stuck there, they might as well have allies and alliances.

      re: Shendilavri

      It could be a location in Kashtarhak’s Heart Plane or the shadow plane that surrounds it. Might be a location in Khyber that exists on its own, perhaps as a fusion of Dis and other fiendish cities. Could substitute in the Brass City of Fierna and simply give Thelestes a pleasure palace there which she commands (as the Shendilavri portion of the adventure only really requires the party to walk through her palace)

  5. 1. So in a way your 3rd suggestion is to describe the Obyriths as Demon Overlords from a Previous version of eberron or even just from the “First World” so to speak?

    2. So from what I can tell the description of the Dhakaani is that they are reminiscent of the Star Trek Klingons or Stargate Jaffa correct? Given their seemingly endless drive toward victory would they have consorted with Trolls, Oni, and Hags at their height? or would they have been ostracized for not being Goblinoids despite their seemingly Admirable Traits?

    • 1. In a way, though they’re weaker than overlords (at least using 3.5 stats), perhaps because they don’t have a connection to the world. They also may be immune to age and disease, but since they aren’t part of the structure of this reality they aren’t immortal in the same way as the overlords.

      2. Sort of? The Dhakaani are described in considerably more detail in Exploring Eberron.

    • Either because they don’t consider her a threat; because she’s a direct agent of the Prophecy and they don’t dare interfere with her; because her oracular powers allow her to anticipate and avoid threats; or because both factions consider her a valuable asset. Which answer works best for your story?

      • The one I’m currently thinking about is why the Mosaic Committee don’t try and bump her off. My current theory is that they would love to do so, but not only is she personally dangerous and able to escape easily, she has her own little warlock circle who are her main agents. Maybe they almost killed her once, but she escaped to a hidden lair and turned back time to organise a rescue.

        • My point is that she’s an oracle and it can be difficult to outthink an oracle. Imagine that it’s the first time the Mosaic Committee meets to discuss the idea, and an Orien courier knocks on the door of their secret meeting place with a message. “I strongly suggest you abandon this course of action. Also, member X, your husband is sleeping with member Y; and member Y, your dog knocked over a lantern and your house is on fire. If you leave now you might be able to save it.”

  6. What stops obyriths from more closely cleaving to their original mythology? Could they not have been the true firstborn fiends of Khyber, only to have been overthrown by the overlords and other newborn fiends, and imprisoned in a weaker state?

    • If that’s what you want to do, do it. Personally, the idea that the overlords are a second generation doesn’t fit with the fact that they are so deeply integrated into the metaphysical architecture of reality; I prefer to say that they are cornerstone of creation, which is why they can’t be destroyed. Under my view, my third option encompasses this idea: they are the defining spirits of a previous version of reality, and are therefore “older” than the overlords. But there was also never a point in this iteration of reality where the overlords weren’t a cornerstone of it.

      Beyond this, from a story perspective I like option 3 because it gives a clear motive for why, if they are unbound, they don’t cause more trouble than they do. Since they are alien to this reality, they don’t have heart demiplanes and won’t return if destroyed. So they are immensely powerful but don’t want to get into a fight with creatures who are their equals… and they are fiends that player characters COULD permanently destroy.

      I also like the prior-reality oberyths because it emphasizes the idea that they are incredibly alien, which seems to be a core element of their story; they don’t fit this reality.

  7. You mention in Exploring Eberron that Kech Nassar is cut off from the Uul Dhakaan presumably because they are undead. Does this mean that everyone in Nassar are undead and if so how have they survived in isolation for so long with nothing to feed on? Do they go into long states of slumber or possibly leave their domain to go “hunting” when necessary or do they just not need to feed?

    Side night I now have to constantly fight the urge to start planning a Loki TVA inspired eberron game heavily featuring Xoriat, alternate realities and the daelkyr, so thank you immensely for that.

    • Maybe the Kech is positioned around a manifest zone or near a demiplane that is abundant with food options, if they are undead that need to feed.

    • You mention in Exploring Eberron that Kech Nassar is cut off from the Uul Dhakaan presumably because they are undead.
      Not exactly. ExE says: “the dead are severed from the Uul Dhakaan and cannot draw on the wisdom of the past or see Jhazaal’s dream. The Nasaar could have fallen into true darkness in their isolation, and now seek to seize power for themselves. On the other hand, despite being cut off from the Uul Dhakaan, Iraala and Muurat remember the actual glory of the fallen empire…

      This is semantic confusion. The first sentence is the key: only the un/dead are cut off from the dream. The leaders of the Kech Nasaar are undead, and are therefore cut off from the dream. However, in the following sentence, “in their isolation” refers not to being cut off from the Uul Dhakaan, but the PHYSICAL isolation of all Dhakaani kechs. So to clarify, that sentence could read “During the long period in which the Dhakaani keepers were isolated from one another, Iraala and Muurat—as undead beings with no connection to the Uul Dhakaan—could have led their followers astray and pursued personal power.” While there are undead among the Kech Nasaar—the idea of vampire commando squads are mentioned—the majority of the members of the clan are living goblins with the standard connection to the Uul Dhakaan; as noted, vampires need a living population to sustain them!

      So many of the LEADERS of the Nasaar are undead and lack a connection to the Uul, and this could have affected the course of the Kech but has not. But a living necromancer of the Kech has a standard connection.

      WITH THAT SAID—I could definitely see the idea that the Kech Nasaar have developed a basic form of undead that retains sentience but doesn’t have the bloody appetites (or supernatural pwoers) of a vampire… and use the Reborn legacy from VRGtR to represent this “common” Nasaar undead.

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