Sidebar: Aberrant Dragonmarks

The twelve dragonmarks are tied to specific bloodlines and passed down through families. They are reliable and predictable, and their powers are constructive. They create; they heal; they protect. But there is another kind of dragonmark: marks that are unpredictable and dangerous to both the bearer and the people around them.

Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, page 111

I’ve talked about aberrant dragonmarks before, including this dragonmark article and this canon Dragonshard article. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about the evolution of aberrant dragonmarks and the role they’re intended to play in the setting.

From the beginning, the idea was that the aberrant dragonmarks are in essence the direct opposite of the “true” dragonmarks… that if the pure marks are believed to be a blessing from Siberys, the aberrant marks are the cursed touch of Khyber. A few critical points…

ORDER VS CHAOS

True dragonmarks reflect order. They are entirely predictable. They are tied to specific bloodlines and passed down through a family. They look exactly the same. Aberrant dragonmarks are chaotic and break all these rules. They aren’t tied to bloodlines and aren’t hereditary. The child of two aberrants has no better or worse chance of developing an aberrant dragonmark than any other child in the world… and if the child does develop an aberrant mark, it won’t look the same as either of their parents’ marks or grant the same abilities. Looking again to Wayfinder’s Guide, “If two aberrant marks grant fire bolt, one mark may be formed from scar tissue while another is traced on the skin in lines of cold fire.”

There’s a confusing twist to this, which is that the most reliable way to produce an aberrant mark is to mix the bloodlines of two different dragonmarked houses. This is also known as a mixed mark. As a result, the dragonmarked houses forbid marriages between members of different houses. A secondary element to this: most houses shun all contact with aberrants, but Dragonmarked notes that House Ghallanda has, on a few rare occasions, allowed halflings with aberrant marks to marry into the house. While this is scandalous, it’s no more of a threat to the house bloodline than allowing any entirely unmarked halfling into the house, because aberrant dragonmarks aren’t tied to bloodlines. So: if a Ghallanda halfling has a child with a Jorasco heir, there’s an excellent chance of producing an aberrant mark. If they have a child with someone who has an aberrant dragonmark, there’s no more risk of the child having an aberrant mark than if they sire a child with any other halfling.

SAFETY VS DANGER

The true dragonmarks place no burden or strain on the bearer of the mark. The powers granted by the mark are largely constructive or positive in nature, while the powers of an aberrant mark are largely destructive or disturbing. This is a broad concept, not always absolutely true; we suggest that a Lyrandar heir can learn how to harness their mark offensively as a storm sorcerer, and the nosomantic chiurgeons of House Jorasco are infamous for their power to cause injuries and disease. Conversely, it’s possible to have an aberrant mark that channels a power that isn’t directly aggressive, but even a power that has positive aspects may manifest in a chaotic and disturbing way. The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron doesn’t restrict the spells that an aberrant mark can grant, but it notes that “…aberrant marks always have flaws. These may not actively hurt a character, but they are always a burden in some way—a burden that could drive a weak-willed person to madness.”

Consider Zae, a halfling in House Tarkanan who appears in a number of Eberron novels. Zae has the ability to telepathically communicate with and influence rats and other sorts of vermin. On the surface, there’s nothing negative about this; it’s not that different from the powers of the Mark of Handling. But the idea is that it’s not just that Zae can influence rats when she chooses to activate her mark, like a Vadalis heir… but that she hears the rats in her mind all the time. She feels them as a part of her. And she didn’t choose rats; that choice was made for her. Her mark isn’t destructive to others, but it’s a burden she had to learn to bear and to control.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

There are many ways for a person to get some minor magical abilities. In 5E, anyone can take the Magic Initiate feat. You could be a sorcerer with powers drawn from some manner of mystical bloodline. If you just want to have some innate magic power, you don’t need to have an aberrant mark. Given this, what makes an aberrant mark DIFFERENT from a sorcerer or an initiate IS the idea that it’s the touch of Khyber, that it’s a burden you’ve had to overcome, that it’s something that people are right to be afraid of. The trick to this is that it’s entirely a story concept. We SAY that it’s difficult to control an aberrant dragonmark, that it’s a physical and mental burden, but there’s no mechanical reflection of this. The ability to burn a hit die to improve the power of your mark is intended to reflect the idea that channeling the full power of your mark is a physical strain, but it’s something that a player character controls. The critical idea here is that player characters are remarkable. YOU don’t have any risk of your aberrant dragonmark suddenly triggering on its own and killing your friend… but that’s because we assume that you have fully mastered it. But OTHER people with aberrant dragonmarks do have that risk, and may have serious physical or mental flaws that we wouldn’t impose on a player character. Looking again to Zae, if I was playing her as a character, I’d play up the fact that I’m always hearing the whispers of the rats in my head and that it’s driven me a little crazy… but that’s my choice as a player, a flaw I’m taking on as opposed to a concrete mechanical aspect of the mark.

Questions that often come up in relation to this include are people with aberrant marks evil or just misunderstood? Are they like mutants in Marvel? Could you have an alliance of aberrants trying to do good like the X-Men? 

People with aberrant marks aren’t inherently evil. Like the mutants in the Marvel universe, they are people who have had dangerous powers thrust upon them and have to deal with prejudice because of it. And you could certainly have an alliance of aberrants trying to do good. House Tarkanan seeks to help aberrants. As seen in The Son of Khyber, they do seek to shelter aberrants and help them learn to control their powers. But they see the unmarked and the true-marked alike as their enemies. Rather than trying to change the prejudice, the Tarkanans see themselves as standing alone against the world, and willfully violate the laws of the Five Nations and do whatever they see as best for their people… so in the mutant analogy, they’re more like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants than the X-Men.

The ultimate point is this: Someone who develops an aberrant mark is an innocent burdened with a power that’s both a blessing and a curse. They aren’t the evil children of Khyber the superstitions say. And yet, there is some truth to the superstitions. They CAN be dangerous. They can kill innocents. Their marks can drive them mad. So the idea was always that in taking a true dragonmark you are gaining a degree of social status… while in taking an aberrant dragonmark you are choosing to deal with fear and prejudice. You can absolutely fight against that. You can try to make life better for all aberrants, to change the public view; that’s a compelling and heroic arc for a player character. But it is intentional that fear of aberrants ISN’T entirely house propaganda; that aberrant marks are dangerous and disturbing in ways that the true marks aren’t.

BUT ACCORDING TO THE ECS…

What I’ve described is how I’ve always seen aberrant dragonmarks. You can see this in the portrayal of House Tarkanan in Sharn: City of Towers and the novel City of Towers… the first Eberron books I worked on following the Eberron Campaign Setting. With that said, this isn’t reflected by the Aberrant Dragonmark feat that’s presented in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting sourcebook. That feat grants a number of seemingly innocuous abilities like feather fall and detect secret doors, and says nothing about the dreadful burden of a mark.

The point is that this is a case where what’s presented in the ECS never matched my vision of the world, and where later books corrected that. This isn’t the only place where this happened: another clear example is the Blood of Vol. The ECS says “The Blood of Vol cult attracts followers fascinated by death and the undead. The most dedicated of these revere an ancient lich who calls herself Vol, Queen of the Dead.” The current interpretation of the Blood of Vol reverses almost all of these things. Seekers are devoted to life and seek the power of the Divinity Within; they aren’t “fascinated by death.” They view the undead as useful tools. And the Queen of the Dead leads the Emerald Claw, but she isn’t part of the core faith. Essentially, the original presentation in the ECS was half-baked; over the course of subsequent books, it was fleshed out and given more depth. The same is the case with aberrant dragonmarks. When the original feat was presented, the full ramifications of aberrant dragonmarks—the War of the Mark, House Tarkanan, their role in the world—hadn’t been thought through. The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron reflects the fully fleshed out concept, and it’s the path I expect any future official content to take.

I’ll note that with the WGtE version of the Aberrant Dragonmark feat, you can still have a mark that grants feather fall. But the rest of the section still applies. Like Zae the Rat Girl, even if your POWER isn’t destructive, all aberrant marks have flaws… and the question is, what is the flaw associated with your mark and how has it been a burden to you? If you don’t like the concept, you can get the exact same effect by taking Magic Initiate instead. The idea is that you should take an Aberrant Dragonmark because you WANT that story—you want to explore the burden of the mark, or the challenge posed by the fear it inspires in others.

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Q&A

In the WGtE, Aberrant Dragonmark is a feat. But I want to play a half-elf with an aberrant dragonmark at first level. What can I do? 

There’s a few options.

  • The Morgrave Miscellany presents “Child of Khyber” as a race option, with subraces to reflect your species. This was designed with exactly this issue in mind, but it’s not official content.
  • You can use the idea that you possess an aberrant dragonmark as a story justification for your class abilities. An aberrant dragonmark is a simple way to explain the powers of either a warlock or sorcerer, and this would allow you to wield powers far greater than those granted by the feat.
  • As a DM, I’d be willing to give a player an aberrant dragonmark as a bonus feat if they understood and agreed to the idea that I was going to play up the drawbacks of having the mark—that they’d have to deal with fear and prejudice because of it. The powers the feat provides are not that vast, and if it’s going to make a more compelling story—and again, if the player understands that they are going to be paying a price for this “gift,” I’d allow it.

I seem to recall that some in Eberron interpret the true dragonmarks as a special manifestation of the Draconic Prophecy. From this point of view, how do aberrant marks fit it? 

Dragonmarks are considered to be an indicator of Prophetic significance, yes. This is true of both aberrant and true marks, and both mean the same thing: you are significant to the Prophecy. What we’ve said before is that in general, dragonmarks serve the same function as tarot cards in cartomancy or birds in ornithomancy: the appearance, confluence, and movements of dragonmarked individuals may provide information to someone who knows how to interpret the signs. So it’s not that aberrant dragonmarks reflect any sort of corruption of the Prophecy; the Prophecy incorporates good and evil, order and chaos, and both Khyber and Siberys have a place in it.

With that said… that’s the DEFAULT answer. You could decide that aberrant marks reflect a corruption of the Prophecy if you want. Or you could say that all of the dragonmarks are a daelkyr creation designed to interfere with the Prophecy… and if the dragons figure this out, they might try to destroy all dragonmarks!

In world lore did aberrant marks begin to manifest when the true marks did, were the first aberrant marks mixed or manifested spontaneously on random people?

Dragonmarked provides the canon answer.

Who was the first person to manifest an aberrant dragonmark? Did he consider his power to be a blessing or a curse? The answers will likely never be known. Over the course of centuries, the archivists and bards of the dragonmarked houses have carefully compiled a onesided version of history. The aberrants slain in the War of the Mark never had a chance to tell their story, and fact can no longer be distinguished from superstition.

Aberrant dragonmarks appear to have come into existence at the same time as the true dragonmarks. The first records of aberrant marks refer only to individuals as opposed to families. Scholars believe that aberrant dragonmarks appeared sporadically and were only rarely passed to children. Fragmentary histories paint a grim picture of the “children of Khyber,” attributing all manner of depravity to the bearers of aberrant marks. Of course, these tales also attribute astonishing powers to the early aberrants, such as the story of one who burned down an entire thorp with a wave of his hand because he “desired warmth.” Whether these stories have any grain of truth or not, tales of aberrant activity grew more frequent over the centuries. Approximately fifteen hundred years ago, the appearance of aberrants reached an apex—and the bearers of the true marks decided it was time to act.

Are there any unmarked groups in Eberron that don’t find the Aberrant marked dangerous? Do the various faiths (Seekers, Purifiers, druids) treat them as aberrations? Do the people of Sarlona have enough exposure to either group of marks notable enough to have a sweeping opinion on them?

Public opinion has been against the aberrants since before the War of the Mark, as noted above. Some feel their powers are a gift of the Traveler or the touch of the Shadow; most just think of them as Children of Khyber, cursed by dark powers. As I’ve said before, an aberrant who can’t control their mark can pose a very real threat to innocent people, and the purpose of the templars of the Silver Flame is to protect the innocent from supernatural threats; combined with house-driven propaganda, the Silver Flame generally sees aberrants as a danger to be dealt with.

With all of that said, bear in mind that following the War of the Mark and the imposition of strict rules to avoid mixed marks, aberrant dragonmarks were extremely rare. Part of why they are feared is because people have no actual experience with them; they only know the terrifying stories. Aberrant marks have become more common in the last century and are starting to manifest with even greater levels of power, but this is a new development. House Tarkanan first formed SIX YEARS AGO. So many organizations don’t yet HAVE a fully formalized take on aberrant dragonmarks. A typical templar of the Silver Flame would see aberrants as threats, but I could also see priests who would seek to create a sanctuary for aberrants and help them control their powers—much like the haven for tieflings in Thrane (it’s actually quite likely to think that the same community would house both). It’s possible there are Seekers who would see aberrant dragonmarks as a manifestation of the Divinity Within. As for Sarlona, dragonmarks don’t manifest in Sarlona and I doubt people have an opinion about them. People in the trade cities will have met dragonmarked merchants, but I expect it’s just thrown into the general pile of “Creepy things about foreigners.”

In regards to the bit about Aberrant-marked halflings being “safe” to marry into Ghallanda (or any) house because aberrant marks aren’t tied to a bloodline, what about mixed marks? Those are aberrant, and they’re explicitly caused by mingling two bloodlines. Wouldn’t those halflings pose a threat to create more and more aberrant marks?

Good question. The catch is that manifesting any sort of aberrant mark BREAKS the bloodline. If you’re a halfling born to a Ghallanda mother and Jorasco father and you develop an aberrant dragonmark, you are no longer tied to either the Mark of Healing or the Mark of Hospitality: you have an aberrant mark, and that’s all. It’s believed the same is true of all aberrant marks; if your great-grandfather was Jorasco and none of your family has manifested the Mark of Healing, in theory it’s latent in your bloodline; but Ghallanda asserts that anyone who manifests an aberrant dragonmark purges any ties to any other mark. So in that way, someone with an aberrant dragonmark is the SAFEST out-of-house heir to bring in, because you don’t have to worry about any latent ties to other houses.

In general, a bloodline can only carry a single mark; remember that this isn’t normal genetics, it’s MAGIC and the Prophecy. If your mother is Ghallanda and your father is Jorasco, if you don’t manifest a mixed mark, you’ll have the chance to develop one of the two marks, but that’s the only one tied to your bloodline. If you manifest the Mark of Healing, your children won’t ever spontaneously manifest the Mark of Hospitality.

If the aberrant marks are chaotic, are they Chaotic with a capital C? How do devotees of the Traveller regard those with aberrant marks? Is there any connection to Kythri?

Aberrant dragonmarks aren’t tied to Kythri, and true marks aren’t tied to Daanvi; they are believed to be tied to Siberys and Khyber. Looking to followers of the Traveler, there’s two aspects. Manifesting an aberrant dragonmark is a change that can bring chaos and crisis into someone’s life, and yet can ultimately make them stronger. As such, yes, many devotees of the Traveler would consider aberrant dragonmarks to be a gift of the Traveler; others see them as the touch of the Shadow. Because of this, there are certainly aberrants who embrace the faith of the Traveler.

The Test of Siberys is based on the idea that true dragonmarks manifest in stressful situations tied to the function of the mark. Is this also true of aberrant dragonmarks?

Absolutely, and given that many aberrant mark powers are dangerous, this often leads to tragedy. Someone loses their temper in a heated argument and suddenly burning hands. With that said, aberrant marks don’t always require such a situation. Take the story from the previous dragonmark…

She grew up in village in Daskara, not far from the modern city of Sigilstar. She loved the country and taking care of the livestock. When she was 13, her family fell ill with a disease no one had ever seen before. They died, and the plague spread to the rest of the village and their stock. Only two things were unaffected: the rats and the girl. When everyone was dead, she fled to the town of Sarus. You’ve never heard of Sarus, because it doesn’t exist anymore. It was burnt by those who sought to keep the plague from spreading. The rats kept the girl alive, and were the only thing that kept her close to sane. In time she learned to control her power. Even so, she couldn’t bear the burden of the deaths on her conscience. She declared that the girl had died with her family. She was someone new, someone without a name. She was the Lady of the Plague.

Now, one possibility is that she was angry when the plague first manifested. Another is that she became sick, and fighting off the infection triggered the manifestation of the mark. Or that when the first family member fell ill, her fears for them actually caused her power to activate and the disease to spread. Again, the whole point of aberrant marks is that in comparison to true marks, they are unpredictable—so it would be difficult to design a single test that could work for every aberrant mark.

I’m wondering what kind of person Halas Tarkanan was, in your imagining?

The primary information on Halas Tarkanan comes from The Son of Khyber. Speaking of Tarkanan, an associate of his says the following.

“(Halas was) the greatest man I ever met. Even when we were enemies, I admired him. If people had listened to him sooner, if he could have built his army back before the purge began, he might even have won the war—or at least have created a sanctuary for the aberrants that the others could not touch. As it was, I think he always knew how the struggle would end, but he was determined to give our people hope and to make the houses pay for the blood they spilled.” 

Later they add…

…His mark gave him power over the destructive forces of nature, but his mind was his greatest weapon. If he’d been unmarked, he might have united the Five Kingdoms centuries before Galifar. And the world would be a different place today.”

What was his plan for holding Dorasharn, if he had any, and what went wrong? (Besides being hopelessly outnumbered, of course.)

What went wrong? He was hopelessly outnumbered. The house forces had resources and discipline. They were soldiers, whereas many of the people Halas was shepherding were traumatized civilians. And as noted in the previous quote, he didn’t have time to put together a perfect plan; he chose Dorasharn as the best possible place to make a stand.

41 thoughts on “Sidebar: Aberrant Dragonmarks

  1. Keith, in regards to the bit about Aberrant-marked halflings being “safe” to marry into Ghallanda (or any) house because aberrant marks aren’t tied to a bloodline, what about mixed marks? Those are aberrant, and they’re explicitly caused by mingling two bloodlines. Wouldn’t those halflings pose a threat to create more and more aberrant marks?

  2. Hi Keith! I’m running a campaign set in the last years of The War of The Mark. The players are about Halas Tarkanan and The Lady of Plague, and they’ve already decided to help them try to hold Dorasharn against the Dragonmarked Houses.

    I’m wondering what kind of person Halas was, in your imagining? What was his plan for holding Dorasharn, if he had any, and what went wrong? (Besides being hopelessly outnumbered, of course.)

  3. Appreciate this, and as always would love to see your “actually, my intent was never that” lore laid out in more published material; I’m so tired of evil Seekers!

  4. Thanks, Keith. I seem to recall that some in Eberron interpret the true dragonmarks as a special manifestation of the Draconic Prophecy. From this point of view, how do aberrant marks fit it? The result of an attempt to damage the Prophecy (by Overlords, Daelkyr, other?)? Or a more sublte manifestation of the Prophecy that is not so clearcut as the True maks?
    Also – if the aberrant marks are chaotic, are they Chaotic with a capital C? How do devotees of the Traveller regard those with aberrant marks? Is there any connection to Kythri?

  5. I seem to recall the Trials of Siberys are connected in some way to the function of the marks (stressful situations involving healing for Jorasco, crafting for Cannith, animals for Vadalis). When aberrant marks manifest do their powers relate in some way to the situation they manifest in? Like angry situations for burning hands, surrounded by rodents when manifesting rat controlling powers?

    Are there any unmarked groups in Eberron that don’t find the Aberrant marked dangerous? Do the various faiths (Seekers, Purifiers, druids) treat them as aberrations? Do the people of Sarlona have enough exposure to either group of marks notable enough to have a sweeping opinion on them?

  6. (While not aberrant marks, I’m curious as they’re thematically linked; how canon are the Mournborne (established in Miscellany), and were they your addition?)

    • They’re canon and they were my addition, though my website is the first place the term “Mournborn” was used. Their canon appearance is in City of Stormreach; the Storm Hammers gang is an alliance of Mournborn, whose members developed the powers of warlocks, sorcerers, and barbarians following their exposure to the Mourning. The Storm Hammers are particularly called out as being sociopaths, but that’s an aspect of the people who have chosen to come together as a gang, not necessarily required of all Mournborn.

  7. Can you tell us anything more about Thora Tavin? She’s a fascinating character but largely a blank canvas of a plot device. Was that intentional?

    • I’m actually pushing info on Thora forward, as I think a separate article on House Tarkanan is a good followup to this.

  8. Edition mechanics have varied as to which races can manifest aberrant marks. In the world, how do the Twelve react to members of races outside of their own manifesting aberrant dragonmarks? Does that undermine their stance as elite chosen, or does it give more weight to the aberrant marks as foul curses and blights?

    • I think it just gives more weight to the idea that aberrant marks are an aberration. The TRUE dragonmarks are reliable and predictable, tied to proud families. A GOBLIN can get an aberrant mark. It’s a freak occurrence, nothing more.

  9. My current campaign deals heavily in aberrant dragonmarks and house Tarkanan.
    As such, I have interest in what kind of actions would the Tarkanans take to protect aberrants.
    What about aberrants that don´t want to take the job of assassins in the organization?

    In which district of Sharn do you see the House as most influential? Where is their base of operations?

    What kind of training would they use to teach new members to control their dragonmarks?.

    My idea is that Aberrant dragonmarks trigger because of a negative emotion, which is different for every Aberrant, so the training would be to master that particular emotion.

    For the Eldritch Knight in the party, the emotion is sadness, which triggers his Charm person.
    For the adopted son of the Goblin Rogue, is anger, which triggers burning hands.

    • There’s lots of good questions here, but I think I’m going to save my answers for a follow-up post about House Tarkanan as it’s a solid subject in its own right. So look for that soon.

  10. Ok I’m behind on Eberron Lore (having avoided 4th edition and no interest in 5th) but reading about the Mournborn made me touch on an old character concept. Could the Mourning have ‘mutated’ a true dragonmark? Say turn a lesser mark of Sentinel into a aberrant dragonmark? Yes I know this goes into “Mourning, what can’t it do?” category, but was curious your thoughts.

    • This definitely falls into the “Mourning, what can’t it do?” category, but with that said, the idea of the Mourning mutating a dragonmark into something new seems entirely plausible to me.

  11. “As a result, the dragonmarked houses forbid marriages between members of different houses.”

    So what happens if someone is shown to be of the bloodline of a different house AFTER marriage into a house? Example: A women who marries a Orien lightning rail driver before her younger brother manifests the Mark of Making?

    “There are many ways for a person to get some minor magical abilities. In 5E, anyone can take the Magic Initiate feat.”

    And in 3.5 there’s the feat Magical Training in Player’s Guide to Faerun, which MUST be taken at first level and is largely the same as the 5E feat. Problem is it’s Forgotten Realms material and requires one be from a specific part of that setting, but it would easily make more sense if adapted to Eberron given general education is a thing there. (There’s also d20 Modern’s Magical Heritage, which is OGL content but that’s not really relevant aside from but shadowkind hailing from Eberron.)

    • So what happens if someone is shown to be of the bloodline of a different house AFTER marriage into a house? Example: A women who marries a Orien lightning rail driver before her younger brother manifests the Mark of Making?

      An outsider marrying into a dragonmarked house is always a big deal. House sages would conduct as thorough genealogical research as possible; House Sivis maintains extensive records for just this purpose, though excoriates and bastards can obviously be lost. It’s likely that simple divinations—such as augury—would also be performed before the marriage would be sanctified. If it was later proven conclusively that someone married into the house carried a different mark in their bloodline, the marriage would be dissolved. Depending on the circumstances, that might be allowed to remain within the house as an employee, but they wouldn’t be considered part of the house families.

        • If the child has already developed a true dragonmark, it’s a lucky break and they’d remain in the house. A bloodline can only hold one mark; if they have a true mark it means they’ve avoided danger. Otherwise they’d remain under the custody of their in-house parent and be kept under observation until a mark developed, one way or the other.

  12. Have there ever been attempts to help contain the destructiveness or negative side-effects of aberrant dragonmarks that don’t basically boil down to “burn the witch”? (If so, I imagine any past successes would be suited to least marks only, meaning the recent growth in aberrant power presents a problem!) More broadly, is there anything people typically try to do if an aberrant appears who isn’t an obvious immediate threat, or do people just go straight for the torches and pitchforks regardless of the context?

    • More broadly, is there anything people typically try to do if an aberrant appears who isn’t an obvious immediate threat, or do people just go straight for the torches and pitchforks regardless of the context?

      Bear in mind that there’s no “typical” here. Most people have never met someone with and aberrant dragonmark. Again, House Tarkanan has only been around for six years. The surge of aberrant dragonmarks is very recent, and the point is that most people don’t have enough experience with them to know anything other than the terrifying legends. Even with that said, most people in a metropolitan area DON’T grab pitchforks. If you’ve got an aberrant mark on your face and you walk into a bar in Sharn, you’re not going to get drowned by a mob. Some people will be afraid of you; others will treat you with suspicion; and others will be curious. It’s when a youth develops an aberrant dragonmark in a small community that you get the mob, and then most likely after the mark triggers in a dangerous way—like when they burn down a farmhouse or kill a neighbor—that you get the mob reaction. If the mark triggers in a nonviolent way, you’re not going to see the kid immediately drowned, but you might well see them shunned or driven out, for fear that they will bring injury or misfortune.

      Beyond that, yes, you could certainly see other options. In Breland, the King’s Dark Lanterns RECRUITED aberrants, which is how we have House Tarkanan in the first place. And as I say in the article, in Thrane you could definitely see aberrant children taken to Rellekor, as a way to keep everyone safe.

      But the key point is that the surge in aberrant dragonmarks is RECENT, and that most people have never met someone with an aberrant mark.

  13. One thing that came up in planning for a campaign centered on House Tarkanan that didn’t end up making it off the ground centered on expanding on the idea of what kinds of destructiveness an aberrant mark could represent. I actually had a character concept that centered around the idea of a Zil gnome suddenly developing a least aberrant mark with Erase as its spell-like. One can imagine this seeming just kind of weird or prank-worthy in some settings, but a potentially-uncontrollable Erase power loose in a Zil city? Clearly this is an incredible threat to society. 😉 We even settled on Shatter as a lesser mark ability for them to have developed later. Again, not so much a direct threat to people’s lives as to the things that help make those lives what they are.

  14. Hi Keith! I always loved aberrant marks!

    1) who called the prophecy “draconic prophecy” the first? It would be a weird choice for dragons, and humans are unaware of it
    2) I know that is far from canon, but if you want to explore the ashbound theory, that excess of magic is like pollution, can in some way aberrant dragonmarks be mutations? The difficult point is that the most powerful aberrant marks come from a time of low magic.

    • For that matter, what IS the prophecy? Is it some written work with vague conditions or what?

      Best I can figure based on everything I’ve read (and a large part of this conclusion is the tarot analogy used here but not in any book) is it’s a system of prediction akin to meteorology: By measuring various factors like temperature, clouds, humidity, pressure ect. can determine if it will rain next week, yet even with modern tools it still has difficulty with longer term weather to the day exactly instead of trends, and it becomes harder and harder the farther out you go. This also would explain why dragons hate capstoned Cataclysm Mages (and I presume Changling Chameleons with Racial Emulation) so much: they’re a rapidly fluctuating variable that can be easily be fixed.

      • Looking to canon sources, you might consider this article. The Prophecy is a map; it shows multiple paths the future could take, allowing people to shape the future by directing it down a specific path. As for the tarot analogy, it is called out on page 8 of Dragonmarked: “Just as a shaman reads meaning into the random patterns of bone chips, a student of the Prophecy can dredge omens from the presence of particular dragonmarks in a specific location.”

        • Thanks. I missed that connection in Dragonmarked since reading bones is the material component for the augury spell and took it to mean it divines the future, “tarot” doesn’t carry that.

    • 1. The dragon Ourelonastrix discovered the Prophecy. MOST humans are unaware of it, but those who ARE aware of it—such as Cataclysm Mages—know that it was first explored by the dragons. So DRAGONS just call it “The Prophecy”; it’s humans and elves who call it the Draconic Prophecy.

      2. As you say, this doesn’t logically match to the fact that aberrant marks were at their height at a time when there was far less widespread use of magic in the world.

    • Mythologically, no. Eberron is the source of natural life. Humans, dwarves, halfling—they’re all Children of Eberron. True marks reflect the touch of Siberys on children of Eberron, aberrant marks the touch of Khyber. If you want to get weird about it, Eberron Marks could be something that appear on Rakshasa—the touch of Eberron on Children of Khyber.

  15. How do the houses relate to aberrants? Would, for example, an aberrant bard still be booked by Phiarlan? Would aberrants be charged above rate to stay at the Gold Dragon Inn or for healing with Jorasco?

    And this is a House Tarkanan question but how do Phiarlan and Thuranni feel about another assassin’s guild muscling in on their turf?

    • How do the houses relate to aberrants? Would, for example, an aberrant bard still be booked by Phiarlan? Would aberrants be charged above rate to stay at the Gold Dragon Inn or for healing with Jorasco?

      People with aberrant dragonmarks are exceedingly rare. They’re becoming more common, but they’re still quite rare: as I called out before, House Tarkanan itself has only been around for six years. Superstitious people see them as cursed or evil. In all of these cases, it would vary based on the individual involved. A particular Phiarlan booker might well says “I don’t want anything to do with aberrant scum! Odds are you’d burn down the stage.” But another might just shrug and book it. The short form is that’s a DM call. The Aberrant Dragonmark feat on its own is not so powerful as to justify the penalty of a character being unable to benefit from any dragonmarked services, unless the DM provides some further benefit (like Tarkanan allies). So it’s about what makes a compelling STORY, and that’s up to the DM.

      And this is a House Tarkanan question but how do Phiarlan and Thuranni feel about another assassin’s guild muscling in on their turf?

      House Tarkanan is largely inconsequential in comparison to the Shadow Houses. It’s a local and CRIMINAL organization specific to Sharn, while Phiarlan is a multinational business. Note that Assassination isn’t the primary business of Phiarlan: YOU couldn’t just go into a Phiarlan enclave and hire them to murder your cousin; that’s a service they only offer to special clients and each job is carefully evaluated. The Tarkanans are criminals who will sell their services to anyone, and who make no pretense that it’s anything but crime. House Tarkanan is EXPANDING, but at the moment it’s a small criminal organization; it may call itself a “House” but it’s not a serious rival for Thuranni or Phiarlan.

    • Dragonmarks don’t generally appear on animals, if you mean a horse suddenly manifesting the Mark of Handling. Dragonmarks themselves only appeared three thousand years ago and it was a shocking development; the Chamber still isn’t sure why it happened, and some believe it could be the work of the Daelkyr.

      Marks that appear on the landscape are generally called Prophecy Marks. While they are SIMILAR to dragonmarks, they aren’t identical. If a dragonmark is a single concept—MAKING—a Prophecy Mark is a phrase. So they are larger and more complex that any dragonmark, holding deeper meanings.

  16. I mostly just wanted to share a story event from my campaign that involved Aberrant Dragonmarks…
    Legends say the first kobolds were born from the spilled blood of dragon gods – or the blood of the progenitor dragons in Eberron. I’ve always been curious about the creation of more kobolds in a similar manner – and who’s to say it has to come from the blood of *real* dragons?

    I was going to do a dramatic write-up but lost my nerve, so here’s the simple version: arcane pollution in Sharn, along with maybe a coterminous Kythri, results in the spontaneous creation of a kobold – born from whatever dragon-ness exists in the blood of the thousands slain during the war of the mark. And you can believe it – this kobold has one serious aberrant dragonmark.

    This was more a character idea than anything else and I haven’t gone anywhere with it yet. I made the idea before I got a hold of the 5e Eberron books (Wayfarers guide and the Korranberg Chronicle) so if I did it now he would almost certainly be a Child of Khyber sorcerer. Thoughts?

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