Exploring Eberron: Dhakaan

Illustration by Kristof Koteles

In Exploring Eberron, I delve into topics I’ve been wanting to exploring in more detail for over a decade. One of these is the Kech Dhakaan, the goblinoids who still maintain the traditions of the Empire of Dhakaan. This section examines Dhakaani history, the active clans, and provides support for playing characters from the Kech Dhakaan—as well as a glossary if you’re worried about keeping track of all those dar words!

I don’t want to give a release date for Exploring Eberron until I’m sure of it; I am still wrapping up the final pieces now. But we’re getting very close, and I can’t wait to share it with the world!

As always, thanks to my Patreon supporters: I’ll be posting the requested Dolurrh article tomorrow!

IFAQ: Houses and Politics

I’m still busy working on Exploring Eberron, but I like to take time to answer questions from my Patreon supporters when I can. Today’s question comes from Reighndragon:

How far do the dragonmarked houses involve themselves in national politics? How do they view the restrictions imposed on them by the Korth Edicts? In specific: Is it possible for a dragonmarked gnome of House Sivis to take a seat in the advisory council of the king of Q’Barra? Would House Lyrandar be inclined to send an airship for the Aundairian army to perform a paratrooper invasion of Thaliost?

First of all, I suggest reviewing this article for a deeper look at the houses overall, including a discussion of the Korth Edicts. Let’s look at the basic points.

  • The houses are first and foremost BUSINESSES. They are interesting in making a profit.
  • They do business with and have holdings in most of the nations of Khorvaire.
  • In many cases—especially Sivis and Kundarak—their business depends on their customers believing that they are neutral, reliable forces. If it was revealed that House Sivis was sharing all its data with the Royal Eyes of Aundair, it would be a disaster for the house.

So this is a simple equation: What does a house gain from getting involved in politics, and what does it have to lose? In the long run, will this help its profits, or hurt them? Let’s look at the two examples.

Can a Sivis gnome take a seat on the advisory council of the King of Q’barra?

Certainly. This doesn’t even violate the Korth Edicts, which prevent a member of a dragonmarked house from owning land, holding a noble title, or maintaining an army. If a King wants ADVICE, where’s the harm in that? Corporations in our world hire lobbyists and get included on advisory boards all the time. The only reason it would be a problem is if word got out that this advisor was sharing Sivis customer secrets; if that were to happen, I would expect the advisor to be very publicly excoriated from the house, and possibly be faced with more severe punishments for scarring the reputation of the house.

A quick point of comparison is Valenar. House Lyrandar essentially runs the administration of the nation on behalf of the Tairnadal. But they don’t actually hold noble titles or own the land; it’s a simple arrangement where they do work the Tairnadal don’t want to do, while allowing them to create opportunities for Khoravar immigrants. But here’s the big thing: they don’t give the Tairnadal free shipping. Their administrative work is a separate business transaction; but if the Tairnadal want to use Lyrandar airships, they pay just like anyone else. Which brings us to the next question…

Would House Lyrandar be inclined to send an airship for the Aundairian army to perform a paratrooper invasion of Thaliost?

House Lyrandar is a BUSINESS. They can and did provide transport services to ALL nations during the war. The opening of my novel City of Towers involves a Cyran force defending against an airship attack. But that isn’t a political move on the part of Lyrandar, because they serve anyone who can pay for the service. So sure, they’d allow Aundair to charter an airship for their paratroops, and then they’d let Thrane charter a ship for its counter attack. They aren’t choosing a side; they’re selling their services to anyone with the gold.

Now, COULD they decide to take sides and offer their services to Aundair for free? Sure, they could, but WHY? How does this help their bottom line, when it invites distrust and possible retaliation from the rest of the Five Nations? Their neutrality is their shield and maximizes their profits; once they choose sides, they are narrowing their markets. Why is this a sound business decision? What is Aundair offering that’s worth risking their business? We’ve called out that Aurala is friends with the Matriarch of the house, and Aurala could offer them a second grant like Stormhome (which ALSO violates the Edicts…). But essentially, why wouldn’t they just ask Aundair to PAY for the ship? Aurala can definitely afford it, and that’s what Lyrandar does.

So: at the end of the day, houses are going to make their choices driven by profit. At the moment, they work with anyone willing to pay for their services. They definitely can and will do favors for allies—see House Jorasco’s ties to the Boromar Clan in Sharn—but that is always measured on the balance of will this help our hurt our profits? Now let’s hit one more part of the question…

How do they view the restrictions imposed on them by the Korth Edicts?

Again, check out this article for a deeper look at this question. One of the key story elements of Eberron is the idea that it may no longer be possible to enforce the Korth Edicts. If Breland makes a Deneith heir a duke, who’s actually going to do something about it? Queen Aurala’s consort is a Vadalis heir, and though he holds no title it’s pretty sketchy. The Korth Edicts worked when Galifar was united; now, it’s possible no single nation can enforce them, and we’ve called out examples of houses that ARE pushing against them. One concrete example is House Tharashk; in brokering the services of Droaamite services, they are likely breaking the “no armies” clause. But who’s going to try to stop them… especially when everyone wants to hire their monster mercenaries? So again, it’s all about will this help or hurt their profits?

The other big thing people often forget about the Korth Edicts is that they weren’t simply a burden on the houses; they were an opportunity. Essentially, they were a deal with Galifar: If the houses agreed not to challenge him politically (no titles of nobility) or militarily (no land, no armies) he wouldn’t challenge them economically. The houses hold monopolies on a scale that’s illegal in the US today, and under the Edicts they regulate their own industries. So they don’t particularly want to throw out the Edicts, because for House Sivis, the lack of antitrust laws is far more important to their bottom line than being able to have a noble title. This ties to one last question that came up in another discussion. Paraphrased…

My character was hired by House Cannith to do a job that involved me being locked in a room with no way to leave. While I was doing this job, a bunch of cultists teleported in and because I couldn’t leave, my friends and I were nearly killed. Can I sue Cannith for negligence? And if I do, would they be more likely to settle or to do something dramatic like assassinate me?

The good news is that they probably wouldn’t assassinate you. The bad news it that it’s because you don’t have a case. There’s no worker protection laws in Eberron. The Korth Edicts specifically protect the nobility—the houses can’t raise armies against them or create rival kingdoms—but they aren’t about protecting the commoners. On the contrary, the Edicts specifically lay the foundation for the house monopolies. This is far more like The Jungle than the world we live in today. Having said that, this isn’t to say that they houses are intentionally careless with the lives of their employees, especially heirs of their own house; part of being family businesses is that they don’t want their own children to die. If a Lyrandar heir is injured on the job, they likely will be taken care of. But this is driven by their own self-interest, not the law; and if a random “adventurer” is hurt while working for them… isn’t that why they call them adventurers?

Now: I said they wouldn’t assassinate you… which is BECAUSE you have no case. If you did, or at least were posing some other sort of threat to them? Then it’s at least on the table. We’re back to that original question: how will this affect their bottom line? Are you a hero whose actions matter and whose death would be noticed? Do they NEED to assassinate you, or can they just threaten you? Slander you? Buy your company and have you fired? We’ve said before that the houses will do terrible things to maintain their power. The question is always back to the balance sheet; how much are you going to cost them, and what’s the best way to minimize that number? It’s also definitely the case that some houses are worse than others, and that ultimately it will come to who’s in charge of the region. I think the majority of Lyrandar heirs would be horrified at the idea of their house sanctioning assassination. But Calynden d’Lyrandar, the Kraken of Stormreach? That dude has Thuranni on speed dial.

To be clear: this is a terrible terrible situation… and that’s the point. Overall, the houses are amoral corporate entities driven by profit and possessing potentially unchecked power. Because one of the other core principles of Eberron is that it’s a world that needs heroes. Some heroes fight demons; others battle corrupt corporations. Which story do you want to explore? Note that if it’s a story you DON’T want to explore, you can push a more positive view of the houses. But the current situation is intentionally imperfect.

Why did the Twelve permit Cannith to agree to the shutting down of the creation forges in the Treaty of Thronehold? Beyond producing warforged it seems like that is a huge hit to their ability to produce goods on a massive scale.

Excellent question, and also discussed in the other linked article. Here’s the factors.

  • The Treaty of Thronehold represented a rare moment of unity. The reason the Korth Edicts are difficult to enforce is because no one nation can enforce them alone. This was a demand made by ALL THE NATIONS.
  • House Cannith’s leadership and its major operations were lost in the Mourning, and the house is STILL reeling from that blow. Starrin d’Cannith, the patriarch lost in the Mourning, might well have found a way to counter the demand. But as of the Treaty of Thronehold, Cannith doesn’t even HAVE a patriarch.
  • The warforged are seen as weapons. Most nations were uncomfortable with Cannith having the capability of producing its own private army of constructs, given that the war was now over. The recognition of warforged as sentient, free beings was a further nail in this coffin: It could be seen as violating both the Korth Edicts (no house armies) AND the Code of Galifar (no slaves).
  • Last but not least: Cannith had always dominated the Twelve. Many of the other houses were HAPPY to see Cannith taken down a peg. So they weren’t fighting as fiercely as they might have against other restrictions.

Bear in mind, the creation forges are NOT the primary tool that Cannith uses for mass production of mundane goods; they have other eldritch machines and focus items that assist general mass production. Rising From The Last War specifically identifies the forges as producing warforged (page 280) while the Eberron Campaign Guide says “These enormous contraptions… are designed to churn out mechanized soldiers.” They were also used to produce titans and homunculi, but again, they WEREN’T the be-all end-all of Cannith’s production facilities, and there are “Forgeholds” that don’t have creation forges.

So this article paints the Dragonmark Houses in a bleaker and more corporate light than most… but they’re definitely not monolithic. So I’m curious as to which of the Houses you think is more willing to incidentally hurt people on their way to profit (aka less empathy), versus those with more empathy involved in their methods.

This is a good question. I am presenting the houses in a harsh light here, because the point is that they could do terrible things if they chose. The theme we wanted to explore with them from the start is that in the wake of the Last War, are the houses more powerful than nations? But the fact that there are few checks on their power isn’t supposed to make them monsters. The idea is that over centuries, most people have come to trust and rely on the houses, because they’ve been reliable. You believe that Sivis will keep your secrets safe, that Kundarak protects your goods, that you’ll get the best sword at a smith with the Cannith seal and you won’t get food poisoning at the Ghallanda inn. I call out that they regulate their own industries as a sign of the power they possess; but the twist is that they actually DO regulate their own industries. There’s tremendous potential for abuse, but that doesn’t mean it’s common. In general, MOST PEOPLE view the houses as reliable businesses, not as terrifying corporate tyrants. It’s just that, again, they DO have unchecked power and COULD abuse it… and what happens if and when they do?

So the question is: What houses are willing to hurt people in the name of profit? Which generally lack empathy? As the question notes, houses aren’t monolithic. So I’ll call out that I think Cannith is near the top of the “low empathy” list. During the war they manufactured weapons for all sides, and they essentially created a slave race that they threw onto the front lines of that war. On the other hand, I’ll note that Aaren d’Cannith—the creator of the modern warforged—left the house in protest of the treatment of the warforged. Of the current Cannith contenders I’d say that Jorlanna is probably the best of them; both Zoraln and Merrix are pretty ruthless.

So Cannith is up there. Thuranni surely is as well; it’s a house who’s specialty IS assassination. Calynden may make the order, but it will be a Thuranni heir who actually fires the crossbow. Phiarlan is somewhat better, and again, there are a significant number of Phiarlan heirs who truly believe in the ARTISTIC mission of the house and don’t work with the Serpentine Table.

I’d put Vadalis on the low-empathy side, as well. They are essentially about manipulating animals for the benefit of humanity, and I don’t think PETA would approve of their methods. Sivis is tricky because they definitely place the APPEARANCE of neutrality as paramount… but they’re also Zil gnomes, so they live in a society that embraces the idea of assassination as an acceptable tool in pursuit of the greater good. I tend to think of Sivis as one of the nicer houses, but in part that’s because they DON’T have a lot of competition; if something came up, we’d likely see a darker side pretty quickly.

So which are the nicest houses? I think Kundarak is pretty much what it says on the can: they are honest folk who want to keep your stuff safe for you. Ghallanda is literally in the business of hospitality, and their name means “The Helpful Hound That Appears Where Needed The Most”; i think they are the most inclined to offer empathy and even charity when called for; at the end of the day, I think Ghallanda likes people. I think Medani is a reasonably empathetic house and tries to do what it feels is right, which is also why they’re one of the less influential houses. I tend to think that Orien is another house that basically just tries to provide a useful service; they haven’t tried to destroy Lyrandar’s airship business…. yet.

The others all fall in the middle. I think Lyrandar is generally a friendly house. But if someone started developing airships anyone can fly? People like Calynden would go to great extremes to eliminate that threat. Individual Tharashk inquisitives can be great, but the house as a whole is very ambitious. Jorasco is very complicated, and discussed at more length in the article linked earlier; there are many Jorasco HEIRS who are driven by empathy and want to help however they can, but there’s also ruthless people determined to ensure that the house thrives as a business.

I’m going to stop there, because this has already gone on WAAAY too long for an IFAQ. BUt the ultimate answer is this: The houses are as ruthless and frightening as you want them to be. The framework is there to run a campaign in which the houses are ruthless dystopian megacorporations, and it’s questionable who could stop them if they go in that direction. But you CAN also just focus on them as reliable service providers, and just ignore the lack of outside oversight or labor laws.

Thanks again to my Patreon supporters! Per the latest Patreon poll, the next major article will explore Dolurrh, the Realm of the Dead!

IFAQ: Historical Figures in Thelanis?

My previous article on Faerie Tales in Thelanis raised a number of good questions that I wanted to respond to. But these IFAQ articles are supposed to be short and focused, so rather than expanding yesterdays article, I figures I’d address this as a new infrequently asked question.

If a historical figure has become a figure of folklore, how would they manifest in Thelanis? If the faerie tale has changed over time, does the figure in Thelanis change as well?

This is a valid question, because in yesterday’s article I talk about a story told in Breland called “The Sleeping Prince,” in which Sora Katra curses a newborn prince so he falls into an eternal slumber. That’s clearly a faerie tale. The villain is Sora Katra. Faerie tales are the foundation of Thelanis. Therefore, Sora Katra must have a counterpart in Thelanis, right?

Wrong! Because there’s a catch. In the MROR HOLDS, there’s a tale older than Breland that tells of how Lady Narathun cursed Doldarun’s son to slumber, until he was rescued by humble Toldorath. In ancient Sarlona, the Corvagurans told a tale of how the prince was cursed by the Demon-Seer of Ohr Kaluun—a nation that no longer exists. There’s even a Dhakaani story about how Hezhaal—a Dirge Singer who felt betrayed by the empire and withdrew to study dark magics—cursed the son of the Marhu with eternal slumber, only to have him saved by a humble golin’dar.

Sora Katra, Lady Narathun, the Demon-Seer, Hezhaal… none of these exist in Thelanis. Instead, there’s a layer of Thelanis where an archfey known as the Lady in Shadow dwells in the wilds and plots revenge on those who have wronged her. Elsewhere in the layer, there is indeed a prince she has cursed to slumber waiting to be rescued. But there’s also a tower where the Lady in Shadow has imprisoned her own son; and she keeps a walled garden of wonders, and will punish anyone who steals from it. And The Lady in Shadow has been in Thelanis for as long as anyone knows—longer than ANY of the civilizations that tell these tales.

A follow up question is how the stories of Thelanis differ from myths. The key point is that myths are specific stories, dealing with the deeds of specific deities. Consider the myth of the Deluge, something found in many different cultures. The tale of Utnapishtim, of Deucalion, of Noah; each of these is a myth. What you’d find in Thelanis is a layer in which a humble person escapes a great flood that kills the other denizens of the layer (… over and over and over). But it’s not Noah, Utnapishtim, or Deucalion. It’s the core story that serves as the foundation for all of them.

Now, here’s the bit that will really bake your noodle: some of these things actually happened. The Dhakaani don’t tell fictional stories; Hezhaal was a real person. Sora Katra is a real person, and most likely she DID curse a prince as described; the whole point of the Daughters being legends is that they did the things people talk about. And yet, the Lady in Shadow is older than any of them. So that’s the central mystery of Thelanis: how is it that these stories in Thelanis keep being retold or keep being played out in different civilizations? Does the story continue to exist in Thelanis because it continues to exist in some form in the world, or does it continue to exist in the world because of Thelanis? You can bet that there’s a class at Morgrave University that dwells on this very topic!

In 5th edition, hags are fey. So… what’s Sora Katra’s connection to Thelanis?

It’s true: in fifth (and I believe fourth) edition, hags are fey. But in third edition, when the Daughters of Sora Kell were created, they were monstrous humanoids. I don’t intend to change the fundamental story of the world every time a new edition redefines a monster—just as the new default lore associated with, say, medusas doesn’t change the backstory of Cazhaak Draal.

With that said, in many ways it makes more SENSE for the Daughters of Sora Kell to be fey than to be monstrous humanoids. They ARE specifically the antagonists in dozens of faerie tales told in the Five Nations. They follow a sort of faerie tale logic, especially Sora Teraza. So I actually LIKE that they are fey; the issue is that they aren’t FEY OF THELANIS. Just as rakshasa and the demons of the Demon Wastes are native fiends tied to Khyber rather than the planes, the Daughters of Sora Kell are native fey. This has a number of important impacts. The archfey of Thelanis are immortal; if they are destroyed they will be reborn, much like the overlords of Eberron. It’s possible they might CHANGE slightly—that there’s a sense that it’s a new iteration—but the core story will exist. And that’s the second point: the archfey of Thelanis are essentially trapped by their stories. For all their power, they CAN’T change their stories. Like the angels and fiends of Shavarath, they rarely meddle with Eberron because for the most part their stories are self contained (the exception being archfey whose stories specifically INVOLVE meddling with Eberron, likethe Prince of Frost I described yesterday).

The Daughters break all those rules. First of all, they are mortal. They had parents and they were born… and some day they WILL die. Beyond that, while they inspire stories, they are very actively meddling with events in Eberron. They are defined by basic stories and do tend to hold to those iconic roles, but they aren’t TRAPPED in the same way the immortals are. So, they share some characteristics with the fey of Thelanis, but they are native fey and differ in many important ways.

Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going, especially in these difficult times. One day left in the April poll!

IFAQ: Faerie Tales in Eberron

My Patreon supporters are still voting on the subject of the next major article, but it the meantime I wanted to take a moment to answer this question from The Ultimate Human:

In an upcoming adventure, my players are going to head into Thelanis. I want them to have to advance through stories to advance to deeper layers of the plane. Do you have any suggestions for commonly told (in universe) stories or myths that would be unique to Eberron, or ideas for adapting fairytales to the setting?

When I’m making up faerie tales or folktales for a story, I try not to make it very deep or complicated. If the idea of a story is that it’s a story that all the characters know – a common folktale they’d have heard as kids – it needs to be a story the players can pick up quickly. If it’s too long or contains too many details, they won’t be able to remember it all.

With this in mind, I’ll certainly use stories from our world as inspiration. In Exploring Eberron I mention the tale of “The Sleeping Prince.” A newborn prince is cursed by Sora Katra; when he comes of age he falls into a deep slumber, until he’s are saved by the Woodcutter’s Daughter. This isn’t Briar Rose, but it’s close enough that I don’t need to explain it in any more detail to most players. Now, if the ADVENTURE needs more detail—the characters need to re-enact the conclusion—then I’ll add something that fits the adventure I want to run. Well, she had to steal the Silver Rooster from the giant’s tower, and when the Prince heard it crow at dawn the curse was broken. Say, there IS a giant tower just to the north… The key point here is that you can make a story first, and then figure out the adventure; or you can make the adventure (I want a story with a giant!) and the explain how it connects to the story.

In general, there’s a few steps I’d use to create an in-world story. The first is to identify the purpose of the story. WHY do people tell this story to their friends or children? Here’s a few basic reasons.

  • Warning. Don’t stray from the path. Don’t tell lies. Don’t take gifts from strangers. The story teaches you NOT to do something, by showing the disastrous consequences of that behavior.
  • Encouragement. Be brave! Be honest! Believe in yourself! This story shows the values and behavior society wants from you, and the rewards it can have.
  • Fan Fiction. The story may encourage or warn, but it’s primarily an opportunity to showcase a protagonist who is based on a historic figure or who exemplifies the values of our culture, family, or nation. This is King Arthur; we all know the stories aren’t entirely true, but it’s fun to imagine that they could be. You could make someone up for this story, or grab a figure from history (King Galifar! Lhazaar! Mroranon!).

The next step is to consider if there’s an existing trope that applies, because again, in this case you WANT it to be as easy as possible for the players to fill in the blanks. Person cursed to enchanted sleep? Child trapped in a tower? Hero is rewarded for act of kindness with unreasonably powerful magic item? Got it.

Following this principle, consider a few of the challenges faced in the novel The Gates of Night when a group of adventurers are passing through Thelanis. They need to hunt a legendary beast; this is essentially the Calydonian Boar/Questing Beast myth. A serpent offers to let them cross a river on its back, but only if they answer a question truthfully: this is an encouragement story, be brave and be honest and you’ll make it across. They go to an inn, where the innkeeper demands a character’s voice as payment for the night, promising to return “a voice” in the morning; hijinks ensue when it’s the wrong voice. Don’t make shady deals with strangers!

These sorts of stories are great for a single adventure. If you’re dealing with a longer arc for fey, you may want a deeper story. In creating the Prince of Frost for Court of Stars, I said that he was once the Prince of Summer, but his heart froze when his beloved chose a mortal hero over him. She and the hero cast their spirits forward in time to escape his wrath; now he bides his time in his tower of frozen tears, taking out his anger on mortal heroes and waiting for the spirit of his beloved to be reborn. This adds a touch of tragedy—he’s not just EEEEEEvil, he’s betrayed and bitter—but gives him both an ongoing role (he hates virtuous mortal heroes) and a concrete goal that could be explored (if one or more of the PCs carries the spirit of his beloved or her lover). Yet it’s still a story that I could tell in two sentences.

The final question is if you can add a concretely Eberron touch to the story. For example, in “The Sleeping Prince” it’s Sora Katra who curses the Prince. I could imagine a story about how an ancient druid stuck an axe in Oalian and said that only the destined protector of the land could remove it; when the farmer Arla did, she became the first Warden of the Wood, gathering the bravest rangers from across the land around the Oaken Table in the Greenheart, along with a mystical advisor (The Great Druid). Boom, now I can easily spin off a whole bunch of stories about the Wardens of the Wood by lifting from Arthur.

Another option to consider when creating folktales for your campaign is to involve your players. The whole idea is that these are stories the CHARACTERS will know and care about. So rather than you just telling them, ASK for details. “Hey,Bo Mroranon, everyone knows the story of Mroranon and the Troll King—how young Mroranon tricked the Troll King and stole his crown. Do you remember how exactly he tricked the King?” There are times when this isn’t the right answer, but if you don’t NEED to control every aspect of the story, this is a great way to give the players a sense of personal investment; these are THEIR stories. Note that in doing this, I’ll establish the absolute details; I could have said “Mroranon stole the Troll King’s crown, but lost his hand in the process” — meaning the player can’t now say “The King just gave him the crown and nothing bad happened!

So: I recognize that I haven’t actually answered the original question in the sense of “What are some stories in the world” — but that’s because *I* don’t have a library of existing stories, I make them up as needed. Consider the lesson of the story; if there’s a familiar trope you can hang it on, but at the same time if there’s a twist to ground it in Eberron; and how it’s going to affect the adventure.

Do you have any collections you like?

I think the simplest answer is to just share a picture of a few of my bookshelves. A Field Guide To Little People is certainly a favorite, as are the D’Aulaires myths. But I also enjoy books that take the style of faerie tale and folklore but tell unique stories, such as The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić; Night’s Master by Tanith Lee; and Deathless by Catherynne Valente.

Have you created any faerie tales or folktales in your Eberron? Share your experiences below! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going!

IFAQ: Lhazaar Princes

While we’re all trapped in our bunkers, I’ve asked my Patreon supporters to present some interesting short questions on topics that are infrequently raised. Today’s question comes from Joseph.

When did Ryger become High Prince of the Lhazaar Principalities? The ECS says he represented the Lhazaar Principalities as High Prince at Thronehold, and that this was necessary for the Principalities to be recognized as a nation. Rising says he awarded himself the title AFTER Thronehold. While other sources—this Dragonshard and ECS in talking about Thuranni—suggest that there’s always been a high prince. What’s the story?

Needless to say, I can only give my opinion. But given that I wrote all of the Lhazaar material referenced above, that should count for something.

In this case, the most accurate source is the Dragonshard. The Rising section was simplified for the sake of brevity; the goal of Rising was to focus on the present rather than delving too deeply into how we got there. With this in mind, the crucial first step is to understand what it means to BE “High Prince.” In most of the principalities, the title of prince isn’t hereditary. You have to EARN it; you become a prince by being a leader the people of your principality will follow, whether you achieve it through charisma or wealth. With that in mind, the question posed here says that “there’s always been a high prince”… which is inaccurate on one crucial detail. Consider this quote from the Dragonshard…

The Lhazaar princes have always been willful and independent, and the history of the region is filled with feuds between princes. Powerful alliances have risen and fallen, but the islands have never been fully united under one prince. There has always been at least one lord who has claimed the title of high prince. This claim usually reflects the power of the lord’s fleet, and as a result the high prince usually has the respect of the other princes — but this doesn’t make their word law. They can make requests of the other princes, but unless they intend to use force, they cannot make demands.

So: Lhazaar herself was the first high prince, the first captain whose influence stretched across the entire region. Since then, there’s always been at least one lord who’s claimed the title. The key points here are that there’s been times when there’s been two or even three people who have CLAIMED to be the high prince; and that giving yourself the title doesn’t mean anything on its own. You don’t wield power because you’re the high prince; you can call yourself the high prince BECAUSE you wield enough power to back it up it.

What does this mean for Ryger? Let’s turn back to the ECS.

The largest fleet currently operating in the Principalities is the Seadragons, led by High Prince Ryger ir’Wynarn… The prince has ruled the Seadragon Principality for fifteen years, and throughout that time he has claimed to have the blood of the Galifar kings running through his veins. Whether this claim is true or not, Ryger has demonstrated remarkable charisma, a gift for leadership, and a head for strategy that makes him one of the deadliest captains plying the waters off the eastern shores… Pirate, privateer, merchant—Ryger has worn all of these hats and more since wresting the prince’s crown from the head of Horget Black, the previous high prince of the Lhazaar Sea.

As high prince, Ryger is seen as a leader among equals, and most of the sea barons and pirate lords bow to his wisdom and counsel (though not yet to his rule). Those who refuse to pay heed to Ryger do so quietly, so as not to attract the attention of his warships and loyal warriors. It was Ryger who gathered a council of captains and went to Thronehold to represent the Principalities in the talks that ended the war. Now, working mainly as a merchant fleet for House Orien, the Seadragons hope to gain an even greater advantage in peace than in war. High Prince Ryger wants to unite the Principalities under one banner… the banner of Prince Ryger ir’Wynarn.

Let’s break this down.

  • “High prince” is a title that implies that the bearer is the most powerful captain in the Principalities and wields influence throughout the region.
  • Ryger has been a prince for 15 years, but he didn’t start as high prince.
  • Horget Black was the previous high prince. He was in power at least 25 years ago, when he welcomed Thuranni to the region. At some undefined point in the last 15 years, he was defeated by Ryger, who “wrested the prince’s crown from his head.” While this could be a literal crown, the main point is that Black was acknowledged as the most powerful and influential captain in the Principalities and Ryger defeated him, thus implying that HE was now the most powerful captain.
  • Ryger gathered the delegation of princes that represented the region at Thronehold, and used the title of High Prince while there. No one else in the region challenged this, and this means that the other NATIONS assume that Ryger is the recognized leader of the Principalities.
  • … Which he kind of is, because no one else has challenged him and he has the strongest fleet. However, he WANTS the Principalities to join together as a true unified nation with a clear hierarchy, and that has NOT happened. He’s the high princes, and other princes will RESPECT that, but he can’t actually COMMAND any of them–he can only make requests and threats.

Rising meanwhile condenses this all down into a very simple form: Ryger has the best fleet, he represented the nation at Thronehold, he’s declared himself high prince, but he’s been unable to unite everyone. The timeline’s a little fuzzy, but the main point is that he called himself high prince before, but by using the title at Thronehold he gained international recognition as high prince and that really sealed the deal.

An important point here is that the Principalities are not a unified culture. The gnomes of Lorghalen, the Bloodsail elves of Farlnen, Mika’s Cloudreavers, the changelings of the Gray Tide—these are all proudly independent and unique. They have joined together against common enemies, and they have common traditions that unite them against the rest of the world, including the traditions of prince and high prince. But high prince isn’t a title that’s granted, it’s a title that’s claimed by someone who has the power to back it up. Ryger is high prince because he says he is and because no one’s challenged his claim. But he HASN’T managed to get Lorghalen and Farlnen and the Gray Tide to all come together and agree on a more concrete system of governance or greater union.

So: What happened to Horget Black?

Little has been said about Horget Black. Most crucially, it’s never said WHAT Principality he ruled. The ECS states that he gave Thuranni the right to set up shop in REGALPORT. There’s two ways to look at this.

The first is that Horget was himself Prince of the Seadragons. In this case, Ryger was a brilliant and capable Seadragon captain who served Captain Black for a period of time before seizing both his principality and the title of high prince. This isn’t in any way unprecedented; again, in most principalities, prince isn’t a hereditary title. The question is how it ties into the statement that Ryger has been Prince of the Seadragons for 15 years; whether that was also when he defeated Horget, or if it’s referencing that he was one of the most respected captains during that time—people were already calling him a prince even though he served Horget. It’s possible that as he called himself High Prince, Horget let his best captains be called princes.

The second option is that Horget was asserting his authority as high prince by inviting Thuranni to go settle on SOMEONE ELSE’S ISLAND. That’s the kind of thing you could get away with if you’re truly the high prince, and it would be a clear reason for Ryger to hold a grudge.

Where’s Horget now? It’s really up to you. We know he’s not a power player in the Principalities today. However, we also know that you are only prince as long as you can hold power; if he was legitimately broken—by an injury, by a crippling loss of reputation, or by age—it’s not unreasonable that he would accept his defeat and remain in a lesser standing. PERSONALLY, I’d do one of two things: I’d either have him sailing a ghost ship and occasionally popping up to take vengeance on Seadragon vessels… OR I’d have him as an old man missing a limb, serving Ryger in Regalport as a trusted advisor.

Have you put some thought towards how people travel between principalities? Given what you’ve said above, is it plausible to assume Rygar might enforce a set of rules around people who’ve fairly paid to travel between princes, or is it more like a mutual agreement that princes don’t sabotage each other’s ships when they’re carrying civilians/foreigners or trade goods?

Most ships in the region fly two flags: the flag of the ship itself (IE Breland, Aerenal, Lyrandar) and a secondary flag indicating the Principality with which they are doing business. So an Aereni ship carrying lumber to Regalport will fly a secondary Seadragon flag.

So: it’s more like a mutual agreement. If you plunder a ship bearing a Seadragon flag, you are striking at Ryger, and he may demand reparation or take retaliatory action. Conversely, if a merchant ship flies a Seadragon flag WITHOUT having legitimate business with Ryger, he may take offense at THAT.

I’ll answer more infrequently asked questions in the days ahead, and be posting a poll to Patreon to determine the subject of the next major article! Smooth sailing to you all!

IFAQ: Dhakaani Artificers?

While I get certain questions about Eberron all the time, I’ve asked my Patreon supporters to give me some simple infrequently asked questions. Today’s question comes from DMZ:

I have a goblin PC who is an Heir of Dhakaan but I don’t feel confident about his backstory. Are there any Dhakaani clans that are known for their Artificers, that want to preserve knowledge and the past or maybe one that wants to unite goblinoids once again?E

The Empire of Dhakaan was an advanced goblin nation that dominated Khorvaire long before humanity arrived on the continent. It was ultimately destroyed by the daelkyr, but before it fell completely a number of clans retreated into deep vaults. Recently these “Heirs of Dhakaan” have returned to the surface. They are more advanced and disciplined than the Ghaal’dar goblinoids most people are familiar with. You can find more information on the Dar—Dhakaani goblinoids—in this article.

So: are there any Dhakaani clans known for their artificers, their desire to preserve knowledge, and maybe that wants to unite goblinoids once again? In fact, there’s one that fits all three of these categories: the Kech Volaar, the “Keepers of the Word.” The Volaar value knowledge above all else—both the records of history but also, knowledge of the arcane. The Volaar have the finest duur’kala bards of all the clans. But they also have daashor—the forge adepts who serve the Dhakaani as artificers—and they are actively working to perfect the arcane science that produces wizards. All of the Dhakaani clans want to reunite the DAR, but many believe that the modern goblinoids have been corrupted by the daelkyr and cannot be saved. Of all the clans, the Kech Volaar are the most optimistic that it may be possible to reclaim these lost souls and to rebuild the Empire with ALL goblinoids.

There are a number of elements that make the Kech Volaar an excellent choice for PCs who want to be Dhakaani adventurers. The Kech Volaar are eager to learn more about the modern world, and especially to study the arcane science or traditions of other cultures. As such, a Volaar adventurer could simply be out in the world gathering information, with a special interest in investigating anything tied to arcane science. The Volaar are also determined to recover powerful Dhakaani artifacts lost during the fall of the Empire (and quite possibly now in the hands of chaat’oor!), which is another concrete quest for a player character to pursue.

So as a Volaar artificer you could be gathering information, searching for Dhakaani artifacts, or simply trying to improve your own skills by studying the artifice of other cultures.

Exploring Eberron has an extended section about the Kech Dhakaan that describes nine clans and goes deeper into the daashor tradition, so there’s a deeper examination of all of this coming soon!

IFAQ: Evil Tairnadal Ancestors?

I’m often asked about the cause of the Mourning or the abilities of the Mark of Death, but there are a few infrequent questions worth discussion. Like this one:

Has it ever been the case that the Tairnadal Keepers of the Past have identified a newborn’s ancestral spirit as some great villain from elven history? If so, what happens to them? Are they banished with their family exiled? Are the elves with heroic ancestral patrons forced to attempt to kill the child?

The foundation of my answer lies in a previous Tairnadal FAQ. There’s two key points.

You don’t receive a patron ancestor at birth. The Keepers of the Past don’t determine your patron ancestor until adolescence. The prior FAQ notes “Tairnadal children spend their youth essentially auditioning for the ancestors.” The idea is that the patron ancestors aren’t simply picking you based on your BLOOD—they are picking you based on your talents, your personality, and your spirit. You HELP the spirit by emulating the ancestor, so they don’t want to pick people who aren’t a good fit. In making a Tairnadal character, an important question to consider is were you chosen by the patron you hoped for, or did you have to adapt? Another aspect of this is that the Tairnadal are a CULTURE. Tairnadal can choose to abandon their traditions and become Aereni, and vice versa; if you just DON’T emulate your ancestor, you’re losing the opportunity to receive their guidance, but nothing else happens. So again, the choice happens at adolescence, after you’ve spent your childhood learning about the ancestors and the customs of your people, and training in the skills you hope will make you suitable to your preferred patron.

This ties to the second key point: The patron ancestors only exist because of the devotion of the Tairnadal. The living Tairnadal keep the ancestors from fading through devotion and by emulating them. The patrons REWARD their devotees with guidance, but if living elves simply chose not to revere an ancestor, that ancestor would fade and be lost. This is one main reason that elves DON’T get to choose their ancestors, and why as a Tairnadal it’s your DUTY to honor the ancestor who chooses you—because if everyone played favorites and picked Ancestor A over Ancestor B, we’d LOSE Ancestor B. But the key point here is you don’t get to BE a patron ancestors unless the Tairnadal want to keep you around. The previous article says “Despite being beloved and preserved in memory, did they have any notable flaws? Because it’s the duty of the revenant to embody their flaws as well as their virtues! But an elf wouldn’t be preserved as a patron ancestor unless their virtues significantly outweighed their flaws.”

So you can have a patron ancestor who’s noted for their cruelty or arrogance, and it’s the duty of their chosen to be cruel or arrogant. But they have to have been celebrated heroes IN SPITE of those flaws. If someone was an utterly despicable villain, the Tairandal would simply choose NOT to follow their example, the spirit would fade (as spirits do) and that would be that. So no: following the standard traditions of the Tairnadal, a newborn could never be chosen by a legendary villain, and their family wouldn’t be exiled.

WITH THAT SAID… That’s “following the standard traditions of the Tairnadal.” If you want to tell this story, you just have to be clear that it’s OUTSIDE of those traditions. The Tairnadal sustain their ancestors through freely offered devotion. But this is a world where undead are real. So you could easily create a new form of undead: Tairnadal spirits of infamous villains who AREN’T revered or preserved, and who are instead sustained through involuntary spiritual vampirism—selecting a host and forcing that host to reenact their deeds (as opposed to the standard system where again, the ancestor can reward a good host but can’t FORCE them to do anything). It could be that there’s a much stronger biological factor in their choice of host than usual (as noted in the FAQ article, at this point most living Tairnadal are connected to dozens of ancestors and it’s not a major factor), and that when such a host appears it’s a major concern.

SO: Could an infamous villain choose a newborn elf at birth? Not by the standard traditions. But if you WANT an infamous villain to choose a newborn elf at birth, just make a new threat that supports the story.

Are the elves with heroic ancestral patrons forced to attempt to kill the child?

I wanted to revisit this for just a moment to again reflect on things. It’s important to understand that the Tairnadal aren’t CONTROLLED by their ancestors. They believe that they are REWARDED with spiritual guidance when they do a good job of emulating the ancestor—that the champion can act through them and share its skills. They believe that by emulating the ancestor they preserve it, which adds the point that it’s their civic DUTY to do so… hence the idea that if you’ve been chosen by a cruel ancestor it’s your duty to be cruel, and if you’ve been chosen by an ancestor celebrated for their virtue, it’s your duty to be virtuous. But ultimately that’s about DUTY: you are never actually forced to take an action you don’t want to do. It’s very much like a paladin’s oath: you CAN break it, you’d just prefer not to.

So first of all, MOST Tairnadal ancestors are champions who fought giants, dragons, or goblins. They are heroes to their people, but they are soldiers as opposed to general champions of virtue. With that said, you could easily have a patron ancestor who was known as a demon hunter or ghostbuster—someone who protected the people by hunting down supernatural threats, much like followers of the Silver Flame. And yes, if you were chosen by that ancestor, it would be your duty to hunt down supernatural threats. If you define this evil thing as a form of negative undead, there’s a secondary aspect to consider: rather than being hunted by TAIRNADAL, it might be hunted by the Deathguard of Aerenal, who are explicitly sacred commandos who hunt down and destroy undead.

I’ll be answering more questions in the days ahead: thanks to my Patreon supporters for their support and interesting questions!

What Defines the Mror?

Image by Júlio Azevedo for Exploring Eberron

In March’s poll, my Patreon supporters selected Mror dwarves as the subject for this article. Exploring Eberron covers the Mror in more depth, delving into the history of the Holds, the cultures of the ruling clans, and further information about the ongoing conflict in Khyber—along with the symbiont that have been claimed as spoils of war. So there’s lots more (Mror!) to look forward to… but today, let’s look at what it means to be Mror.

Dwarves aren’t human. In creating a Mror character it can help to reflect on the ways in which dwarves differ from humanity. Clan plays a significant role in Mror culture, but there’s a few common things that can be born in mind for any Mror character.

DARKVISION

While the dwarves of the Realm Below may have spent their entire lives below the surface, the Mror dwarves were born on the surface of the Ironroot Mountains. Mror dwarves appreciate sunlight and color, and their buildings typically have windows. However, dwarves don’t need light. While in total darkness a dwarf suffers disadvantage on sight-based Perception checks. This is inconvenient, but not unbearable. Areas where people need to do skilled work will have at least dim light. But many mine tunnels and stretches of the Realm Below have no light sources.

A more general impact is that the circadian rhythms of dwarves are more flexible than those of humans. While it’s important to maintain a regular schedule, day and night have little meaning for the Mror. Mror communities are active at all hours, and major Mror businesses are continuously open. “Nightlife” isn’t a concept in Mror society, and entertainment can likewise be found at all hours; traveling Mror are often frustrated by the limited opportunities in human communities.

THE WAR BELOW

Characters from the Five Nations are shaped by the Last War. Mror are shaped by Dol Udar, the War Below. Currently this conflict is simmering, with a stalemate along the deep siege lines, but there has been no victory and the threat remains. When the war was at its height, all Mror lived in daily fear of aberrant attacks and the full resources of the holds were directed to the war effort. The Mror Holds are smaller than the Five Nations, and the impact of the conflict was intense. All civilians engaged in combat drills in preparation for dolgrim assault, and everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort—repairing or producing arms and armor, maintaining fortifications, or fighting.

For the Mror, this is the source of the Weapon Training and Tool Proficiency racial features. In creating a Mror character or NPC, consider how the war affected you and how this is reflected by your class and proficiencies. A few questions to consider…

  • Did you fight on the front lines, battling aberrations in the depths? If so, what’s the most terrifying thing you saw in the conflict? Are you scarred by your experiences, or does nothing scare you anymore?
  • If you didn’t fight in the Realm Below, did you serve on any civilian support brigades? Did you spend your childhood sharpening axes and repairing armor (proficiency in smith’s tools) or working on fortifications (mason’s tools)? Were you kept out of the conflict by family connections, or did you refuse to serve?
  • Who or what did you lose to the conflict? Did you have a stake in a colony or mine that had to be abandoned? Do you have a sibling or lover lost in the depths—and if so, do you know that they’re dead, or could they be prisoners of Dyrrn?
  • Do you dream of delving deeper into the depths, or would you rather see the Realm Below sealed away forever?

If you use your racial Tool Proficiency for brewer’s tools, you may have been involved in creating supplies for soldiers. However, this is also a common choice for Mror who venture beyond the holds. As mentioned later, the alcohol of the Five Nations is extremely weak by Mror standards, and some consider the ability to brew personal supplies to be a basic survival tool when traveling in foreign lands.

FAMILY FIRST

The Mror Holds are a feudal society. There are twelve active holds. Each is governed by a ruling clan, which gives its name to the hold; Droranathhold is ruled by Clan Droranath. Each hold is then broken up into smaller territories known as spires, each ruled by a clan; there are ancient ties of kinship and marriage between clans and the ruling clan. Within a spire, families maintain tenant relationships with the local clan. Land is held by a clan or family, and most businesses are family businesses. Families are long established, and the creation of an entirely new family is a rare event.

The Mror engage with their history through stories, and clans and families are the characters in those stories. Typically, a Mror tale refers to heroes and villains solely by their family names. So in Mroranon and the Troll King, it doesn’t matter exactly when the story took place or WHICH specific Mroranon it was; it’s a story about Mroranon, and any Mroranon dwarf should strive to live up to that example. Where the Tairnadal elves seek to emulate specific ancestors, Mror dwarves view their family as a greater whole. It’s only natural that you’d help a family member in need, and betraying a family member is like stabbing yourself in the hand. This drives feuds and alliances; if you’re wronged by a Hronnath dwarf, the blame lies with Clan Hronnath, not simply the individual. This reflects the elves in another way. The Aereni elves preserve their ancestors as deathless undead. The Mror don’t feel that need to preserve individuals; you preserve your FAMILY by living up to its character and by adding to its story. The Mror also aren’t as particular about precisely following the traditions of ancestors, as shown by the clans that are currently using symbionts; what you do is less important than the way in which you do it, the values you stand for and the lines you will not cross.

This doesn’t mean that Mror don’t take personal responsibility for their actions or feel pride in their personal deeds. For one thing, the deeds of living dwarves are generally acknowledged by name, as are most events that have occurred within the last century. But looking to your place in history, your name may not be remembered, but you hope that your deeds will be added to the trove of stories told of your family… and that you won’t forever shame your family with the stories of your misdeeds.

In creating a Mror character or NPC, consider your family. Are you part of a clan or ruling clan? If so, are you close enough to power to take the noble background, or are you a lesser heir? Are you from a tenant family, and if so what is your family’s business? Once you’ve considered this, the crucial question is what is the character of your family? While this isn’t as concrete as the Tairnadal, when people tell stories about your family, what are the virtues they highlight? Are there any particular things your family is known for, any celebrated deeds you might emulate, anything a member of your family should never do? Some families do have specific taboos; a Tronnan must never break their word, while a Holladon never turns away a guest. Does your family have any such traditions?

Another thing to consider is how your family was affected by the Dol Udar. Did they invest deeply in the depths, only to suffer grevious loses when the horrors rose? Did they fight on the front lines, or largely remain aboveground? Do they have a family treasure recovered from the Realm Below—a legendary item or artifact you might some day have the honor to wield? Are they willing to embrace symbionts, or are they disgusted by the tools of the daelkyr?

Finally, what is your standing with your family? If it’s good, why have you left the Mror Holds? (Rising From The Last War includes a table with suggestions for this!) If it’s bad, what happened? Is this a situation you hope to fix, or have you turned your back on your family? As a player, you should talk to your DM about the role your family might play in a campaign. Do you want to have cousins showing up in need of assistance or to be drawn into new feuds, or would you rather that your family remain in your backstory? 

LONG LIFE, TREASURED STORIES, AND STORIED TREASURES

The Mror attitude toward family is one example of how they deal with their long lives. A dwarf can live to be up to 350 years old. Intellectually they mature at about the same rate as humans, but they generally aren’t considered to be full adults until around 50 years of age. This ties to the fact that dwarves have a low rate of fertility, and their reproductive peak is between 50 and 120. While under fifty, a Mror dwarf is usually learning the family trade and working for their elders; at fifty and above, a dwarf will start thinking about starting their own branch of the family tree and the family trade.

In stark contrast to the elves of Aerenal, the Mror dwarves deal with their long lives by largely ignoring the passage of time: by not trying to record every detail or remember every person, simply holding on to the best moments and ideas. The story matters more than the concrete facts. Individuals come and go, but the family remains and the story continues. Tied to this is the fact that the Mror love stories. Like the dar, the Mror prefer stories to be based on fact as opposed to being absolute fiction… but a story should always be entertaining, and as long as the spirit is true it’s fine to exaggerate a few details. The talespinner bard thus does serve as a keeper of history, but their role as entertainers is as important—if not more so—than their role as sages. In playing a Mror character, you might come up with a few old stories you love. But you may also take joy in dramatically retelling the story of your adventures—the deeds of both you and your fellow adventurers—celebrating and highlighting their finest moments.

Another aspect that has been highlight about the Mror is their love of objects—their love of treasure. In part this ties to a deep appreciation of quality of work. The dwarves appreciate beautiful things, but durability and functionality are far more important—as shown by the willingness of many dwarves to embrace grotesque symbionts. Beyond this, the Mror are deeply interested in objects with stories of their own. Every family has family treasures. Sometimes these are the most powerful magic items the dwarves have acquired, and this is notably the case with artifacts and legendary items that have been recovered from the Realm Below over the last century; part of the pride of the ruling clans is derived from the treasures they can boast of. But a family treasure can also be a mundane item that has been a part of many epic stories. As noted earlier, no one cares which specific Mroranon heir was the hero of Mroranon and the Troll King. But the fact is that the house still has the bracer that hero made from the troll king’s nose-ring, and carrying this relic is a tremendous source of pride. As a Mror adventurer, when you find treasures, you want to know the stories they are already carrying—who forged this Flametongue? What battles has it seen? But beyond that, consider the items you possess that you feel a strong attachment to—and consider whether their stories are evolving along with yours.

GRAND GREETINGS AND GIFTS

Mror dwarves can be seen as boastful by outsiders, quick to share tales of their exploits. The truth of the matter is that they love stories. It’s not that they seek to dominate every conversation with their tales, it’s that they expect others to share their stories as well; and if they don’t, Mror will be quick to boast about the deeds of their companions. Anyone who spends much time around Mror will quickly grow used to the phrase tol kollanor the Common rendition, “that reminds me of a story.” Mror hate quick meetings; any gathering should have time for tales.

While there are certain families known for their thrift, generosity is an important virtue towards the Mror. As much as they value their storied treasures, there is joy to be had in giving the perfect gift—in showing that you can afford to give away a treasure, and that you recognize someone who will appreciate it and make good use of it. A common tradition at a grand feast is for each of the greatest heroes present—typically, the scions of ruling clans—to offer a gift to the host along with a tale of how they came by the gift; the one who gives the finest gift is served first at the feast.

While you may not attend many feasts, consider this tradition when you have time and opportunity. Is there a chance to give a comrade a perfect gift? Is there a treasure you possess that might be better suited to one of your companions?

FASHION

Clothes tell a story, and Mror dwarves love to tell tales. As with most Mror possessions, the quality of clothing comes first. Because of this, dwarves from lesser families may only have a single set of clothing, but these are durable and well made. With this in mind, Mror place great stock in accessories. A Mror outfit typically has elements that can be reversed, shifted, or removed. Brooches have important cultural significance, and include family crests, the seal of the ruling clan, the symbol of a Sovereign whose favor is sought, or even moods; there are brooches that mean leave me alone and looking for company. Other forms of jewelry—rings, chains, bracelets—are commonly worn by dwarves of all genders. This is an opportunity to show wealth, but decorative ornaments of iron are often worn by common folk. The dultar (“blood blade”) is a dagger worn both as a utilitarian tool and as a statement of allegiance; each of the ruling clans has a distinct style of dultar. Any Mror dwarf can immediately identify another dwarf’s clan from their dultar; for an outsider, this requires an Intelligence (History) check.

Other affectations are tied to clan and family. Some families prefer neatly trimmed beards. Many clans weave beads into facial hair or braids, with the design of the bead invoking the favor of a Sovereign or honoring a clan. Hair dye is often used as a form of personal expression.

Clans that have embraced the used of symbionts—notably Soldorak and Narathun—have developed many exotic fashions over the last century. For such dwarves, wearing symbiont clothing or accessories is a sign of courage and power—much as a hunter might wear the hides of animals they’ve defeated. Living clothing typically has a texture similar to leather, though chitin plating or hornlike protrusions are possible. Patterns or colors may shift to reflect the mood of the wearer; a living cloak may ripple or billow of its own accord. Living clothing is self cleaning and mending, and feeds on the excretions (primarily sweat) of the host. Narathun currently has the finest artisan-breeders working with living clothing, and styles are constantly evolving.

CUISINE

When approaching Mror cuisine, there’s an important thing to keep in mind: Mror dwarves have exceptional constitutions and are resistant to poison. The dwarves live in high mountains and subterranean settlements; while some of their meats and vegetables are familiar to the people of the Five Nations, they also use a wide variety of mushrooms and moss. Red pudding is a form of peaceful ooze raised as livestock. While these are entirely harmless to any creature resistant to poison damage (many Stout halflings of the Talenta Plains enjoy Mror cuisine), Mror stew can sicken creatures with more delicate stomachs.

Alcohol is also a form of poison, and Mror spirits have to be exceptionally strong to satisfy sturdy dwarves. Mror brewers often use mushrooms to produce alcohol, and also produce a number of mushroom-based beverages with light hallucinogenic effects. Most Mror hosts will be careful to keep travelers from buying drinks that could kill them!

RELIGION

Mror talespinners maintain that the dwarves are blessed by the Sovereigns, especially Kol Korran and Onatar. It is a curious coincidence that kol is the Dwarvish word for “commerce,” while dol means “war.” The talespinners say the Traveler stole the names of the Sovereigns from the dwarves during the Exile. The priests of Krona Peak say that Kol Korran came to the hero Mroranon and promised the dwarves wealth and prosperity for as long as they remembered his name and followed his path, while the talespinners of Doldarunhold swear that the hero Doldarun was the child of Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah. The records of the Library of Korranberg show that there were a number of Zil missionaries active in the Ironroots in the centuries before Bal Dulor, and some sages assert that these tales may have been the work of clever missionaries. Whatever the truth, there were already shrines to the Sovereigns when young Karrn led his forces to conquer the holds.

While the Mror broadly acknowledge all of the Sovereigns, Kol Korran and Onatar are the most beloved; Boldrei and Olladra are also often invoked. Clan Doldoran, Mroranon, and Soranath are especially devout, while Droranath, Soldorak, and Toldorath are the most pragmatic. The Blood of Vol and the Dark Six have small followings in Narathun, but other faiths have had little success in the holds.

WHAT ABOUT SUBRACES?

The general population of the Mror Holds includes both hill and mountain dwarves. Rather than being distinct ethnicities, these are primarily a secondary form of background, reflecting the nature of your upbringing. Mountain dwarves typically served in the hold militias and fought in the War Below, hence their Dwarven Armor Training. Hill dwarves were typically civilians, though this isn’t absolute; a fighter with the soldier background and a backstory of service in the war could still be a hill dwarf, as they receive armor proficiency from their class.

The Mark of Warding reflects a blood tie to House Kundarak. While this is typically limited to dwarves of Kundarakhold, Over the course of generations the Kundarak bloodline has spread throughout the holds. Such watered down bloodlines are less likely to produce a dragonmark, but you could play a Mror dwarf from another clan who develops the Mark of Warding. As with other foundlings, the house would typically be glad to accept you as Kundarak; will you embrace that, or do you prefer to maintain your allegiance to the family you were born to?

Exploring Eberron includes a new subrace with a particular (rare) role in the Mror Holds—so that’s something to look forward to!

That’s all for today. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters. I’ll be posting the poll for the April article on Patreon soon, and we’ll have more short Q&A articles next week!

iFAQ: University Adventures

I’m still working on Exploring Eberron, but with many of us trapped at home I want to write a few shorter articles dealing with INfrequently asked questions from my Patreon supporters. This week we’ve been tackling the concept of magical education in Eberron. Let’s wrap up that topic with this question.

If you were to run an anime-inspired school-based game, where would you set it?

We’re used to the idea of D&D being about epic adventures and dungeon crawls, but there’s lots of fantasy stories that focus on schooling and coming of age. Set aside anime for a moment; The Name of the Wind and the Harry Potter series are both stories that focus on adventures at a school or university. So whether you’ll looking for anime flavor or the more traditional fantasy of The Name of the Wind, I think this is a fun idea to explore.

With that in mind, I DID explore it… in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron. In the WGtE I included three “Starting Points.” This was an early variation of the Group Patrons of Rising, with the point of tying a campaign to a location and a theme rather than a patron. These included Clifftop, a hub for globetrotting adventurers; Callestan, a gritty street-level campaign; and Morgrave University.

So to answer the question: I would personally choose Morgrave University or Arcanix. Which I’d choose would be based on the type of story I want to tell. Arcanix is closer to Hogwarts. It is ISOLATED—heck, the towers are floating, and if you haven’t learned to fly yet it takes time to get down! There’s a supporting village nearby, but there’s not a lot of activity there. By contrast, Morgrave is right in the middle of Sharn, so there’s all sorts of opportunity for trouble just off campus (much as University students in The Name of the Wind can go into Imre). Likewise, Morgrave University is infamous for indulging in dungeon delves and dangerous expeditions as “field trips.” Furthermore, Arcanix is specifically a college of magic, which limits your character concepts; because Morgrave is a more general purpose institution, it’s easier to justify any class.

These are supposed to be short articles, so I’m not going to retread all the ground covered in the Wayfinder’s Guide. But I’ll touch on a few things I’d personally focus on in running a school-based campaign.

Story rewards. I’d drop the standard experience point system and base character advancement either on time or on clearly established milestones. It’s also possible that you could tie specific class abilities to in-game situations. If you want to learn a specific spell, you’re going to have to sneak a particular spellbook out of the Library. You may be a 3rd level fighter, but to get the abilities of your Martial Archetype you’re going to have to find a mentor. This is a way to blend story and mechanics together. In a game at school you’re not likely to be amassing TREASURE—so one option is for the rewards you gain to BE access to locations or the favor of teachers—but those can be linked to concrete rewards, whether it’s access to your full class abilities or something beyond that, such as Supernatural Gifts or Marks of Prestige from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

How will you handle power? D&D is based on an underlying system of character advancement that provides players with new abilities to explore and the ability to take on greater challenges over time. At the same time, it’s can be bizarre to have your characters become 6th or 7th level characters AT SCHOOL when that’s a level of skill that dwarfs veteran soldiers… especially if the DM wants to present rival students or professors as having even greater power. There’s a few ways to address this.

  • Limit advancement. You can always choose to say that characters DON’T advance in this campaign – or do so very, very slowly. You improve by gaining allies, influence, and information, not by doubling your hit points or gaining new spells. This is perfectly reasonable if everyone agrees, but at that point—if you’re eliminating a significant piece of the rules system—I’d question whether you should be using an entirely different rules system that isn’t based around character advancement to begin with.
  • It’s all relative. Sure, characters gain a level every two sessions. And the evil professor is a 9th level spellcaster. And there’s a lich in the basement. But it’s reasonable to say that this is how things appear because you’re in a microcosm and you’re comparing skills to people in that bubble with you. I would have no problem playing through a school campaign in which characters got up to 10th level and at the end of it saying “Okay, you all graduate. How about when we start the new campaign with you adventuring in the wider world, you all start off at 3rd level?” The point being that 10th level on the SCHOOL SCALE might only be 3rd level outside. Obviously this takes some suspension of disbelief—I used to be able to teleport! I raised someone from the dead! But hey, that was school, kids. Crazy things happen.
  • Ignore it. Sure, it doesn’t make sense for you to be dueling another student and that both of you are 9th level wizards. But so what? If people are having fun, does it matter?

How do you explain character classes? We’ve mentioned before that the abilities of player characters are inherently remarkable… that just at first level you’re pretty amazing. How’s that fit with a school game, where you’re just supposed to be students? Here again I’d follow the it’s all relative approach. Yes, mechanically you’re a 1st level wizard. But in this setting, that reflects the idea that you have an APTITUDE for wizardry and you need to work to develop it. A few quick thoughts…

  • Wizard? Artificer? You’re science nerds. You’re all about figuring out how arcane science works.
  • Fighter? Barbarian? You’re the jocks. Perhaps you actually want to be soldiers when you graduate, or perhaps you’re here on a Hrazhak scholarship. Barbarian, you really need to deal with your anger issues.
  • Cleric? You’re deeply religious and know that your faith in Aureon/The Divinity Within is going to help you pass that math test. Faith and divine magic ARE real things in Eberron; there’s surely a chaplain at school who will want to help you develop your faith and your abilities. You might get divine visions pushing you to do things! Paladin, you’re in the same boat, but you’re ALSO a jock on a Hrazhak scholarship.
  • Rogue? You might be a bit of a rebel—the student from Lower Dura or the bad side of the tracks, who has friends in the Boromar Clan and can get Dreamlily for the party. Are you here reluctantly? Are you hoping to turn a profit on this whole thing? Are you more interested in gambling than studying? Bard, you could follow the same path, but you’re a bit of a know-it-all and hey, you should start a band.
  • Sorcerer? Like the Cleric, sorcery is a thing that happens in the world. You may not have any knowledge of Arcana and may not want to learn, but there’s likely a teacher or professor who specializes in helping sorcerers develop their abilities. One question is whether you’re here by choice, or whether you’re here because you HAVE to be to learn to control your powers.
  • Warlock? You could take this a few ways. You COULD say that you’re working with a particular division of the Conjuration department that cultivates warlock relationships. But if it were ME, I’d play you as Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. You’re the weird kid, the outsider who’s always writing poetry in your journal in the corner, who prefers talking to your imaginary friends to going to parties… except your imaginary friends are REAL and they’re teaching you how to do things. Like the cleric, your patron could give you visions or tasks that push you to work with the other characters despite your preference for isolation.
  • Druid? Ranger? You’re both odd choices for a big city school, but hey, you just moved to town from the Eldeen Reaches and your family insisted you get an education. Shifter Ranger? You’re DEFINITELY on the Hrazhak team, and you’re annoyed because these city kids are playing it ALL WRONG.

Backgrounds obviously overlap with these ideas. Noble background? You’re from a wealthy family. Urchin? You’re the orphan here because one of the professors sponsored you. Sage? You’re the annoying know-it-all. Entertainer? You DO have a band. Soldier? You’re from a military family, and if you screw up here you’re heading back to Rekkenmark. Criminal? OK, YOU’RE the one who can get some dreamlily for the party.

This has turned into a longer article than I’d intended, so I’m going to stop here. But hopefully this gives you ideas! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

iFAQ: Magical Education

While we’re all in quarantine, I’m going to do what I can to post more short articles. I’m building up a log of interesting questions from the inner circle of my Patreon supporters that I’ll be answering as time permits. Today’s question is a spinoff from yesterday’s discussion of Aereni Learning.

University is the primary way magewrights and wizards are educated. Is a Magewright getting further education to become a Wizard like going from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate (Wizard 3) or a second, separate, degree (Magewright 2/Wizard 1)?

None of the above!

It’s easy to see mechanics and lose sight of story. A wizard can change out their spells every time they rest, which makes spells feel interchangeable. But that’s not how magewrights work at all. The concept of the magewright has always been at odds with the rules; the idea never really worked with the Vancian magic of third edition. In fifth edition, the mechanics of the magewright finally are in line with the core idea. “Magewright” is a general term, like “artisan.” It means “Someone who uses magic as a part of their occupation.” The standard magewright has one or two tool or skill proficiencies and can cast two or three spells. They cast those spells as rituals—even if they’re spells that don’t normally have the ritual tag—and have an added component cost, even if the spell doesn’t normally have a cost associated with casting.

So: a locksmith can cast mending as a cantrip and arcane lock and knock as rituals, and has proficiency with tinker’s tools and thieves’ tools. A healer can cast resistance and spare the dying as cantrips, and detect poison and disease and lesser restoration as rituals, and is proficient with Medicine and herbalism kits. These are two entirely different sets of skills—and learning to magically repair objects (mending) is as different from learning to repair people (lesser restoration) as mechanics versus medicine in our world; the fact that it’s using arcane science instead of mundane science doesn’t alter that fact. So just as an automotive mechanic isn’t going to go to the same school as a medical doctor, a magewright locksmith won’t study at the same institution as a magewright healer.

MOST magewright education isn’t done at universities. It’s handled by trade schools maintained by the associated guild. So if you want to be a healer, you’ll study with the Healer’s Guild of House Jorasco; if you want to be a locksmith, you’ll get your training from the Warding Guild of House Kundarak. When you’re done, you’ll be licensed by the guild, which will also help place you with a business. The Arcane Congress of Aundair has been developing its own trade programs, but this is something discouraged by the house guilds.

So: what does this mean for arcane universities, such as Arcanix? It’s the difference between studying physics and learning to repair a dishwasher. Guild schools train magewrights to perform clear and concrete tasks. At Arcanix, people study the THEORIES of arcane science. They learn to perform magic in very different ways than magewrights, and to cast spells that magewrights could never master. Even when casting the exact same spell, a wizard and a magewright do so in COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAYS. When a wizard casts arcane lock, it takes one action and costs 25 gp, and burns one of the wizard’s spell slots. When a magewright locksmith casts arcane lock, it costs 65 gp and takes an hour; but if they’ve got the gold and the time, they can cast it over and over and over again. The key point here is that the result is the same, but what they are DOING is very different… and the training for each is entirely different. Magewrights study for years to master their rituals; this is because those rituals are very different from the techniques of wizardry, which is WHY your wizard can’t cast arcane lock as a ritual.

Now: NPCs don’t follow the same rules as player characters. You CAN have an NPC who has the same powers as a wizard—as shown by some NPC stat blocks—but this is also an opportunity to add story and flavor to the world. It’s possible that many graduates of Arcanix are never able to cast spells except as rituals. Some will be wandslingers or Magic Initiates, mastering just a few cantrips or a single spell. Others may only be able to master spellcasting in specific spheres: an NPC evoker can ONLY cast evocation spells, and just doesn’t understand conjuration. The professors at Arcanix aren’t supposed to all be fully operational 9th level wizards; they are arcane scholars, but don’t have the same powers as player characters. Even at low levels, player characters are remarkable; the versatility of a PC wizard reflects remarkable talent and an understanding of arcane principles that most students never master.

So back to the original question: Magewrights and wizards are on completely different paths and study at different institutions. A magewright will usually study at a guild trade school that teaches both the specialized rituals and the skill and tool proficiencies they need for their work. Universities such as Arcanix teach broader arcane science; they can produce wizards and artificers, but many graduates only possess a fraction of the abilities of those classes. They understand the THEORY—and end up trained in Arcana, and perhaps possessing the abilities of a Magic Initiate or Ritual Caster, or other limited spellcasting abilities as decided by the DM—but they aren’t all full wizards. What happens if a magewright studies at Arcanix? Assuming they’re an NPC, it’s up the the DM to decide how these two entirely different sets of education combine. It could be as simple as “They’re a magewright, but now they have proficiency with Arcana.”

This in turn ties to what I said in the previous article: Aereni students take far longer with their arcane studies than their counterparts in the Five Nations… and they also produce more actual wizards. Because despite its limitations, Aerenal is fundamentally more advanced in its understanding of arcane science than the Five Nations; they are just resistant to abandoning their established traditions and pursuing dramatic innovation, while the Five Nations is quickly evolving.

Where do wand adepts fall into the wizard-magewright dichotomy?

Wand adepts fall in between, in the same category as “Magic Initiates.” They’ve learned how to cast a few cantrips and a spell or two, and critically, they cast them in the once-per-short-rest fashion of a wizard as opposed to the as-a-ritual of the Magewright. They just lack the brilliant insight into arcane principles that makes the wizard so flexible; they’ve learned how to do a few very specific things. This where MOST Arcanix students fall—they can do a LITTLE magic, but they aren’t as versatile or as gifted as a full wizard.

With that said, most wand adepts learned their skills in specific military training programs, not at Arcanix. We SAY that a wandslinger can have any two offensive cantrips and a spell, but in practice, everyone in an Aundairian Flametongue unit would be trained in control flamesfire bolt, and burning hands. If you have a different set of spells, you’re from a different unit.

Do magewrights occurs in less civilized areas or are those almost always adepts and the like?

Magewrights require specialized training. They shouldn’t just appear randomly in the wild, any more than a random villager could suddenly become an electrician. With that said, there’s a few options I could imagine.

  • They apprenticed to a previous magewright. Somewhere down the line, there was someone with formal training, and they passed it on. Personally, I think it would take longer to do this that to learn through the standard training, or this person might have gaps in their knowledge; but it should be possible to “learn on the job.”
  • You could posit a sort of sorcerous magewright. Sorcery exists and can manifest spontaneously. Just as the professors of Arcanix aren’t full wizards, you could posit a sorcerer who has a specific arcane talent but whose powers don’t go any further. They wouldn’t LOOK like a normal magewright—it wouldn’t be the SAME sort of ritual a magewright performed—but they could potentially perform the same functions.
  • They could be adepts or gleaners, driven more by faith than arcane training. Again, adepts don’t perform the SAME rituals as magewrights and to a large degree it’s about honing a gift as opposed to choosing a profession. You can discover you have a gift for healing or divination and hone that gift to become an oracle, but you can’t just declare “I’m going to become a faith-based plumber!”

Is it possible for PC wizards, artificers and others to learn rituals for magewrights? How about the Ritual Caster feat?

As it stands, no. The Ritual Caster feat only lets you cast spells that have the ritual tag; magewrights cast spells AS rituals in spite of the fact that they don’t have the ritual tag. Again, the idea is that magewrights spend years in specialized training learning to cast their specific rituals; they aren’t supposed to be something you can casually pick up.

On the one hand, this seems odd; why can’t you play a character who was a magewright before they became an adventurer? The answer is because it would break the balance of the game. Ritual casting is a fundamentally different system than the Vancian model of spell slots. If a player character cleric could cast lesser restoration as a ritual, it would fundamentally alter the balance of many threats; as is, the DM has control over whether a Jorasco healer is available. Magewrights break the rules, but that’s OK because NPCs and player characters don’t follow the same rules; player characters get wide versatility and the ability to rapidly improve, while NPCs get the benefits of deep specialization.

That’s all for now! If you want a deeper dive into magewrights, take a look at this article. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!