IFAQ: Aerenal, Continued

The island of Aerenal is home to the majority of the elves of Eberron, including the Aereni and the Tairnadal. I’ve written a number of articles about these cultures, and Exploring Eberron delves deeper still, but my Patreon supporters came up with a few new questions!E

Are the people of Khorvaire aware of the basics of the Undying Court?

I think the common people of Khorvaire are aware that the Aereni worship their ancestors and keep them alive as some form of undead, but that’s about it; I wouldn’t expect a random citizen of the Five Nations to know what a “Deathless” is without making an Intelligence (Religion) check.

Have the Aereni sought to colonize a major Irian manifest zone elsewhere?

It’s never been mentioned in any canon source. The Valraean Protectorate in Exploring Eberron was established to create a secure buffer around Aerenal rather than being driven by a desire for significant expansion. However, just because it hasn’t been done in canon is no reason not to do it in your story. If *I* were to do this, I personally wouldn’t make it AERENAL that’s driving the colony, but rather a specific noble line or dissident group that wants to essentially found a “New Aerenal”—perhaps tied to the Skullborn, the elves who yearn to become deathless but who aren’t willing (or worthy) to follow the long and difficult path this transition usually requires. A secondary advantage to this—making it a smaller faction, not Aerenal as a whole—is that it makes it easier for adventurers to oppose the colony (or ally with it) without affecting their relationship with Aerenal itself.

Is it possible for other non Elven religions or groups to create and maintain positive energy undead like the Undying Court?

Sure. It requires powerful Irian manifest zones, a specific set of rituals and resources, and a population that’s fiercely devoted to the undead—as part of the idea of the positive energy undead it’s that devotion that sustains them when they leave the manifest zone. Like any sort of magic, this isn’t supposed to be easy or trivial; if it was, everyone would be doing it! But it’s not supposed to be something that’s somehow limited to ELVES. I could easily imagine an Irian zone in the Demon Wastes that serves as a bastion for the Ghaash’kala, with a few deathless elders who have protected this haven for millennia.

It seems weird to me how close the Undying Court is to the goals of the Seekers, especially considering the latter were inspired by its enemy.

All of the Elven cultures—the Tairnadal, the Aereni, the line of Vol—were driven by the basic question of how do we preserve our greatest souls? The Aereni created the Undying Court, preserving their heroes with their devotion. The Tairnadal become living avatars of their patron ancestors. The line of Vol noted that the flaw with both of these approaches is they are dependent on their being living elves who continue to practice their devotion. If all elves died—or simply had a change of heart—the patron ancestors would be forgotten and the Undying Court would be trapped in Shae Mordai. So Vol embraced Mabaran necromancy, ensuring that its beloved ancestors would be able to TAKE the lifeforce they needed to survive, whether as vampires, liches, or other undead.

As discussed in Exploring Eberron, the Blood of Vol is a comparatively young religion that was born on Khorvaire and is only loosely inspired by the traditions of the line of Vol (which are preserved more closely by the Bloodsail elves of Farlnen). But actually, the goals of the Undying Court and the Blood of Vol aren’t really that similar. Both agree that death is oblivion. The Blood of Vol believes that all living creatures have a spark of divinity within them—that there is divine potential in life, but that most creatures die before they can master this power. They believe that only the living have this power, and that while undeath may be a way to escape oblivion, undead creatures—both deathless and Mabaran—no longer have the spark of divinity and can never achieve their true potential. The Undying Court essentially believes the OPPOSITE of this; they believe in a transcendental state that can only be attained by the deathless, but the fact that the deathless rely on the living to sustain them prevents everyone from getting to pursue this power. So the Aereni don’t want to live forever; they believe that death and the transition to deathlessness is a necessary part of ascension.

So, they’re similar in “They are religions that believe death is bad and that it’s possible for people to ascend to a higher state.” But the Aereni believe that only a few people can achieve this higher state and that it can only be achieved after death, while the Blood of Vol believe that it’s possible for everyone to achieve divinity, but that death is the absolute end of that journey.

What was there in Aerenal before the elves?

Describing all of the challenges the elf refugees faced in founding their nation and all of the wonders they discovered would be the subject of a major article, not an IFAQ. However, if the question is were there any CIVILIZATIONS in Aerenal before the elves, no. The elves didn’t come to Aerenal as conquerors with the power to sweep aside an existing nation. They were a diverse armada of refugees from different subcultures, fleeing both war and dragonfire. The modern cultures—Vol, Aereni, Tairnadal—evolved ON Aerenal. But the idea has always been presented that Aerenal was an untamed and undeveloped land, a seemingly blessed refuge for these weary travelers.

Having said that, it’s a valid question as to WHY Aerenal was uninhabited. Humanoids are spread across Eberron, and Aerenal is a large and fertile land. Why had no one settled there? Here’s a few possibilities, each of which could support a different story.

  • It wasn’t sheer luck that brought the refugee fleet to Aerenal, and it wasn’t pure chance that the land was uninhabited and ready from their use. A cabal of dragons were responsible for both of these things; they secretly protected and guided the fleet, and they had carefully cleared the land in advance. This surely means that Aerenal has a role to play in the Prophecy, and it would surely be tied to the ongoing Elf-Dragon Wars. Canon sources have already suggested that those “wars” might be Argonnessen honing the skills of the elves in preparation for a true challenge yet to come; it could be that they set this plan in motion tens of thousands of years ago. If this is the case, it both means that the dragons have a plan for Aerenal and that there MIGHT have been a previous civilization on Aerenal, but if so, the dragons destroyed or removed it. Who knows? Perhaps Seren civilization began on Aerenal!
  • Aerenal is filled with powerful Irian manifest zones that support the creation of deathless. It’s possible that there was a previous civilization that achieved the creation of deathless, only to disappear completely long before the elves arrived. Did all of its members achieve some sort of deathless transition? Or, like the line of Vol warned, did the living members of the society die (perhaps due to a plague, perhaps due to dragons?) leaving their deathless to fade away without mortal devotion?
  • Aerenal also holds powerful Mabaran manifest zones. One possibility is that the prior society sought to harness THIS power, and their unwise efforts ultimately resulted in the death of their people. Alternatively, their major cities could have been consumed by Mabar (as described in Exploring Eberron), perhaps still existing there; could this be the origin of the Bone King? If either of these scenarios are true, could the cataclysm occur a second time? Or could the Undying Court hold it at bay?

Are there humanoids that have a significant presence or role in Aerenal beyond elves and half elves—something more meaningful than just traders, ambassadors, or tourists?

No. The 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting presents the population of Aerenal as 77% elves, 19% deathless, 3% half-elves, 1% other. Both Aereni and Tairnadal are insular cultures unwelcoming to outsiders, and at least throughout the history of the elven presence there’s never been a rival humanoid culture on Aerenal.

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

IFAQ: The Elves of Aerenal

As chosen by my Patreon supporters, my next major article is going to be on the nobility of Khorvaire. This article is a shorter subject. Last week I wrote about the Tairnadal elves. This article deals with the other culture of Aerenal: the Aereni elves, the servants of the Undying Court. I’ve written about Aerenal in this article and this article, and there’s a section on Aerenal in Exploring Eberron; I’m including the two pages we’ve already previewed below. Let’s consider a few infrequently asked questions!

Image by Matthew Riley for Exploring Eberron

Are Phiarlan and Thuranni elves still considered Aereni? Are they eligible to become spirit idols or deathless? What about the elves with the Mark of Shadow who serve with the Cairdal Blades in Aerenal?

The answer to this is largely spelled out in this article. “Aereni” is a culture; being Aereni means that you honor your ancestors, give your devotion to the Undying Court, and serve the Sibling Kings. The shadow-marked families—Tialaen, Shol, Ellorrenthi, Paelion, Thuranni—were never actually Aereni; they remained independent from the Undying Court, the line of Vol, and the Tairnadal, and traveled between communities of all of these cultures. When the Undying Court eradicated the line of Vol and exiled its allies, the shadow-marked families chose to leave with them. Some feared that they too would be persecuted for their marks; others believed that the supporters of the Undying Court had committed an unforgivable sin in spilling so much elven blood. As this article says, “to mark their departure from elven society, (the shadow-marked families) formally joined their lines into a new alliance: House Phiarlan.

As for those shadow-marked elves who are occasionally seen in the Cairdal Blades? This is also explained in the article: “A handful remained, believing that it was their duty to the kingdom; these elves found themselves largely absorbed into other lines, and this mingling of blood causes the Mark of Shadows to occasionally appear in Aerenal.” The elves who develop the Mark of Shadow in Aerenal aren’t Phiarlan or Thuranni; they are now Jhaelian or Mendyrian. And the mark only appears rarely because unlike the houses, the Aereni aren’t trying to arrange matches to produce the mark; the marked bloodlines are heavily diluted.

So no: the elves of House Thuranni and Phiarlan aren’t Aereni. They intentionally severed their ties to their homeland and have no loyalty to the Undying Court or the Sibling Kings. And since elevation to the Undying Court—whether as a spirit idol or as one of the deathless—is an honor the Aereni bestow on their most celebrated citizens, it is not offered to those elves who have abandoned their homeland and its traditions.

With that said, a Phiarlan elf could return to Aerenal, abandoning the house and embracing the Aereni traditions; they’d just have to find a noble line willing to adopt them, just like the shadow-marked elves who stayed behind when the phiarlans originally left. And as Aereni, such elves would be eligible to join the Court, though again, they’d have to impress the priests and people with their worth. But joining the court isn’t about whether you have a dragonmark; it’s whether you are a devotee of the Undying Court who has proven yourself worthy to join it, and whose talents and achievements justify this gift.


Could someone use a spirit idol as a template to clone a revered ancestor? Perhaps by transferring the soul into a construct body, or even a living elf willing to give their body to the ancestor?

All of this seems possible, but the real question is would the ancestor be happy about it? As noted in the ExE preview, for many Aereni becoming a spirit idol is something they look forward to. When they aren’t interacting with the living, the spirit within the idol exists within a paradise of its own making, dwelling within its memories and ideas. The Aereni see life as something you do to prepare for your afterlife. You don’t want to die too quickly, because then you don’t have enough memories to build a satisfying eternity. But most see life as the chrysalis, with the spirit idol as a blessed ascension, eternity unbound by the physical form.

So COULD the soul within a spirit idol be transferred into some other vessel? Sure, I don’t see why not. But this isn’t a problem the Priests of Transition are trying to solve; they see the spirit idol as being a blessed member of the Undying Court, not as a victim who needs to be saved.

Do Aereni ever join the Tairnadal, for instance one who feels rejected and out of place with their family?

Sure! We’ve mentioned it before. And likewise, zaelantar youths sometimes leave the steppes and become Aereni; this is one path for a Tairnadal youth who doesn’t get chosen by a patron ancestor. This isn’t common in either direction; a would-be Aereni has to be accepted by a noble line, while a would-be Tairnadal has to be chosen by a patron ancestor to truly become Tairnadal. But it certainly happens.

The Tairnadal faith seems fundamentally more demanding than the Undying Court. Both revolve around preserving and communing with honored ancestors, but the Tairnadal faith requires imitation and constant war, while it doesn’t seem like the Undying Court places any demands on its followers (maybe to eliminate Mabaran undead)?

The Tairnadal faith is more demanding than the Undying Court, yes. This is because the end result of the devotion is completely different. Through their faith, the Aereni seek to preserve the Undying Court. But with the exception of the ascendant counselors and divine spellcasters, the Aereni have a very concrete, limited relationship with their ancestors. If you took the Right of Counsel feat in the 3.5 ECS, you had to physically go to Shae Mordai to speak with your ancestor. By contrast, each Tairnadal vessel believes that they are a living vessel for the spirit of their patron. They believe that the patron offers them direct, personal guidance—that their remarkable skills are the result of the patron guiding their hands. So the Tairnadal endures this more demanding service because they believe that they receive a more dramatic benefit in exchange.

Having said that, a critical point is that we just haven’t talked much about what Aereni devotion actually looks like. Only the elite Deathguard are charged to fight Mabaran undead. An Aereni civilian shows their devotion through prayers, which combine expressions of gratitude for the ongoing protection the Court provides with tales that commemorate their deeds and discoveries. But the second way an Aereni honors the ancestors is by following in their footsteps. This isn’t as dramatic or absolute as the Tairnadal revenant. But Aereni do seek to hone a skill that one of their ancestors perfected—to study their teachings and master their techniques. The point is that these skills often have nothing to do with WAR and often aren’t as OBVIOUS as the revenant’s martial devotion. But the Aereni painter is honoring a great painter of the past. The bowyer followers the example of a legendary artisan (and may have served the deathless artisan as an apprentice). As a side note, this is why the WGtE suggested an Aereni variant that sacrificed weapon proficiencies for expertise with a single skill or tool—because that focused expertise is a form of Aereni devotion. Exploring Eberron includes a different approach to this concept.

So Tairnadal devotion is more demanding and intense than Aereni devotion. But the Aereni do offer prayers to their ancestors throughout the day, and they think about their ancestors constantly, reflecting on their lessons and honoring them through the exercise of their skills.

How do clerics of the Undying Court actually MANIFEST? Are they rare? For the cleric, what does it feel like to cast a spell and how do they believe they are doing it?

So under the hood, the Undying Court actually has a great deal in common with the Silver Flame. The Silver Flame was created when a force of immortals bound their spirits together into a force of pure celestial energy. The Undying Court is likewise a gestalt of souls—it is essentially a smaller Silver Flame, whose coherent elements are able to also maintain independent existence (as deathless) while still adding their power to the whole.

When a cleric of the Undying Court casts a spell, they are drawing on that GESTALT, not dealing with a single, specific member of the Court. They don’t send in a request for magic that has to be approved; what it MEANS to be a cleric of the Undying Court is that you have been recognized as a worthy vessel of its power and you have been granted the ability to draw on that well of energy. This is especially important beyond Aerenal, as the Court can’t directly affect the world the way it does in Aerenal; it NEEDS champions to serve as its hands. But essentially, as a cleric of the Undying Court, when you cast a spell, you are reaching out with your mind and channeling the power of your collective ancestors. You can FEEL them all around you, hear dozens of whispering voices, feel their strength and support. But it’s not that ONE SPECIFIC ANCESTOR is with you; it’s the gestalt as a whole.

HAVING SAID THAT, in my campaign I WILL give a cleric or paladin of the Undying Court a close relationship to a particular ancestor. They can’t initiate contact with that ancestor, but it may give them divine visions (something I discuss in this article) and missions. If they use commune or similar spells, it will be that ancestor who gives them answers. It’s a little like the idea of Tira Miron being the Voice of the Flame; the UC spellcaster will have a specific ancestor who acts as their intermediary to the Court. So that’s a unique aspect to worshipping the Court.

As for rarity, in my opinion Aerenal has more divine spellcasters than any nation in Khorvaire, even Thrane. For the Aereni, divine magic IS a science. They CREATED a divine power source, and it’s part of their government! A divine caster of the Undying Court still needs faith; it’s that faith that allows them to channel the power. But they are also, essentially, granted a license to draw on the power of the Court.

Of course, that’s if they ARE legitimate representatives of the Court. You could certainly play a character who is in essence a divine hacker—stealing energy from the Court to cast their spells WITHOUT actually being an authorized agent of the Court. This could be an interesting path for a Divine Soul sorcerer. Another option would be an Undying Warlock, who would have a relationship with a specific ancestor rather than drawing on the power of the Court… which could be because the ancestor is running a rogue operation hidden from the rest of the Court!

Just how many bodily desires do Deathless retain anyways?

In my opinion, none. Deathless are described as desiccated corpses. Consider the description of the ascendant counselor: the corpse of an elf so shriveled and aged it seems no more substantial than smoke. What survives in the deathless is the SOUL, loosely bound to the body. What makes an ascendant counselor “ascendant” is that they have moved almost entirely beyond their bodies; from the 3.5 ECS “They rarely inhabit their physical forms, preferring to explore the universe in astral form.” The body of a deathless is a corpse. it has no biological processes; if you pushed food down its throat it would just rot in its stomach cavity.

However, the counter to this is that the deathless experience reality in a way mortals can’t imagine. They are sustained by positive energy, by the love of their descendants; that is their food and drink. Do they love? Certainly. On a certain level, they ARE love; just as they are sustained by the energy of their descendants, they are defined by the love they feel for them in return. This is why deathless are “usually neutral good.” What we’ve said about Mabaran undead is that they are drawn towards evil because the hunger of Mabar hollows them out emotionally, driving them to become predators; conversely, the Deathless are sustained by love, and this softens a cruel heart.

Meanwhile, spirit idols are sustained by positive energy but live in a world they craft from their memories. They eat, they drink, they love. But they eat anything they can imagine, whether it’s having the memory of their favorite meal or whether they can combine different tastes they remember to create something new. Their companions are likewise the memories of people they knew, so they can return to an old lover, duel with a rival, or share a drink with a close friend. All of which ties to whether either form of deathless would WANT to return to life. The key with the spirit idol is that the elves believe that you need to live long enough to HAVE enough memories and ideas to populate eternity. So they will raise people who die young, even if they are deemed worthy of joining the court, because they haven’t completely the life segment of their spiritual journey. But they see physical existence as, essentially, a chore—something you do in preparation for what comes next, not the highest form of existence.

That’s all for now, but there’s more Aerenal ahead in Exploring Eberron! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going!

iFAQ: Aereni Learning

Until I’m done with Exploring Eberron, I don’t have time for deep dives. My next major article will take a deeper look at the Mror Dwarves. But meanwhile, with all of us trapped inside, I want to do a few daily posts dealing with some interesting questions from my Patreon supporters. Here’s the first!

The elves of Aerenal are supposed to spend decades perfecting the techniques of their ancestors. When an Aereni character starts out 100 years old, it’s not because they spent decades in diapers or because they’re dumber than human wizards, it’s because they’ve spent decades going deep in their studies. But how does this hold up for Aereni adventurers? They advance at the same pace as other player characters. How does an elf go from taking decades to perfect a cantrip to suddenly casting far more complex spells in a much shorter period of time?

First of all, let’s shoot the elephant in the room: character advancement doesn’t make sense. How is it that your HUMAN wizard can spend a decade studying at Arcanix, but exponentially increase their skills after a month of adventuring? How does the halfling rogue get expertise with Persuasion by stabbing a bunch of goblins? It’s a mistake to look at any of this too deeply, because it’s not logical. This also ties to the idea that the way in which player characters advance is part of what makes them remarkable and NOT typical for all inhabitants of the world. There are veterans of the Last War who still use the “Guard” statblock, because for most people that represents an OK level of skill. Player characters are supposed to be heroes, and their ability to quickly skyrocket to a greater level of power is a narrative device, not something that holds up to any sort of close analysis.

WITH THAT SAID: That doesn’t mean we can’t make it make as much sense as possible, and this is a good question. How come the Aereni wizard spent decades studying magic back home but can advance just as quickly as the human wizard? The key point is that the Aereni apprentice didn’t spend decades studying a specific spell; it didn’t take them that long to learn to cast one particular cantrip. Instead, they were mastering techniques of spellcasting. They were studying history, theory, and concretely, they were mastering somatic and verbal components. Arcane magic is a form of science, and somatic and verbal components are the underlying mechanics that make it possible. An Aereni apprentice learns precise accent and inflection of verbal components, and precise performance of somatic components, exactly mimicking the techniques of the masters of their line. They spend endless hours drilling until these techniques come naturally. When an Aereni wizard casts a spell, it looks and sounds exactly the same as the master who created the spell ten thousand years ago. Because they’ve perfected these basic principles, when they learn—or even create—new spells, the basic techniques will carry them forward. They CAN advance quickly precisely because they spent all that time learning to crawl… ensuring that they are building on a perfect foundation.

This same principle applies across all classes. The Aereni fighter is learning the basic techniques of all weapons, perfecting the most basic guards, learning to hold and move with the weapon just as their ancestors did. They are learning the most fundamental martial principles—and then they can quickly build on top of those without losing those core techniques.

Aereni PREFER to take their time with things. An Aereni fighter might spend four hours each night practicing a specific move while the other characters are taking a long rest, and continue to practice that move in their mind while trancing. But the decades they spent learning before created a foundation that lets them advance quickly when needed. They were honing the basic building blocks that they assemble as they advance with the other characters.

Now, ultimately, does all that work actually make the Aereni player character a better wizard? No. Mechanically, there’s no difference between the Arcanix-trained wizard and the Aereni wizard. But THEMATICALLY the idea is that the Aereni wizardry is beautiful and perfect, like watching a dance; by contrast the Arcanix wizard is taking a lot of shortcuts and throwing in a lot of personal touches. It works great for THAT WIZARD and may be more innovative, but the Aereni find it painful to watch. The second aspect of this is the idea that player character classes reflect a level of talent most people can’t attain, and that the Aereni have MORE people with that level of skill. It takes them longer to get there, but Aerenal has more actual wizards than Khorvaire, whereas in the Five Nations most people just spend the few years required to become magewrights.

Taking as given that player character advancement is not logical, mostly a game mechanic construct, can this focus on learning the exact techniques and history of the past account for the slow pace of technological development in Aereni cultures?

Exactly so. This is something that’s discussed in this article and in this episode of Manifest Zone. A critical quote:

This is why, despite Aereni society having been around for over twenty thousand years, humans are beginning to do things with magic that the elves have never done. Elven society is driven by tradition rather than innovation – by absolutely perfecting the techniques of the past instead of developing entirely new ways of doing things. Innovation does happen – and an Aereni player character might be the great elf innovator of this age – but it isn’t enshrined as a cultural value as it often is among humanity…

Part of the idea is that what the elves see as sloppy Arcanix techniques might actually be BETTER than the ancient Aereni traditions; certainly they’re easier to learn. But the elves take comfort in adherence to what they know.

Thanks again to my Patreon supporters, and I’ll tackle another question tomorrow!

Dragonmarks 2/26: Teleportation, Warforged, Paladins and More!

It’s a very busy time for me right now. I just got back from Portland Comic Con, Gamestorm is coming up, and I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. I’m itching to start talking about Codex, and in the future Codex discussions will be interspersed with Dragonmarks. However, I’ve still got a few things I want to finish up first, so for this week, it’s more Eberron questions. As always, all answers are my personal opinion and may contradict canon sources!

This week we have a few different topics: warforged, paladins of Aerenal, Overlords of the Age of Demons, teleportation, and more. First up: WARFORGED AND HOUSE CANNITH.

How do you see Warforged evolving and where do you see their race going in the future?

First off, I’ll point out that warforged are capable of physically evolving. The Reforged and Warforged Juggernaut prestige classes both involve a physical transformation; the warforged juggernaut actually grows heavier armor and spikes. Warforged are fundamentally magical entities, and they are living constructs; there’s more to this than just being sentient. So I think it’s quite possible that if you jumped forward a hundred years, you’d find a vast range of unique warforged who have adapted to different environments and circumstances.

With that said, the greatest obstacle in their evolution as a race and their future is their inability to procreate. The Lord of Blades is trying to address this by seizing control of a creation forge and finding a way to make it work. In The Dreaming Dark novels, Lei’s parents explore a different solution to the issue of warforged procreation. Following the previous path, perhaps some warforged could evolve the ability to procreate. However, if any of these come to pass, how will the rest of the world react? The threat of the warforged is limited because of their numbers. If the Lord of Blades is found to be producing new warforged, will nations or houses band together to stop him?

If Cannith permanently split into West/East/South, can you see them becoming “Corporations”, or what would happen?

If they permanently split, I think they would logically seek to become separate houses individually recognized by the Twelve; after all, Thuranni and Phiarlan have paved the way for this. The only question I see is if one of them would instead choose to ally directly with a nation as opposed to becoming a smaller house… if Jorlanna would ally with Aundair, for example. There’s also the question if any would keep the Cannith name. In the case of Phiarlan, the larger house kept the original name, and I suspect the same would hold true here.

Next up: TELEPORTATION AND HOUSE ORIEN.

House Orien controls teleportation in Khorvaire, but it is unclear what you are actually paying for. The Campaign setting says that teleportation is 10 gp per mile.  But they left the service description out of the book.  From reading the rest of the Eberron Campaign Setting (ECS) and having a little knowledge about some of the novels I believe the mode of transportation is a teleportation circle.  Is that true?

It depends what you’re playing, and exposes the challenge of multisystem design.

Eberron was designed for the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The premise was that magic of up to third level was fairly well integrated into society. Higher-level magic – such as teleportation – was not. It’s possible to pay Orien for teleportation, but what you are paying for is to have an heir with the Siberys Mark of Passage transport you using the once-per-day power of his mark. Looking to random locations where I know this is discussed, it’s called out on page 11 of Secrets of Xen’drik—which includes the percentage chance of finding such an heir on any given day in Khorvaire’s largest cities—and page 67 of City of Stormreach, which suggests that a teleporter comes to Stormreach about once every three days. So it’s a service that exists, but it’s not reliable; per SoX you could be waiting in Korth ten days before a teleporter shows up. With this in mind, I’ll note that the idea of charging “by the mile” makes no sense at all. It doesn’t make that much difference to the teleporter whether you’re going five miles or a thousand, and you’re using his daily charge either way; so the idea that you could pay ten gp to teleport ten miles is just silly. Any sort of teleportation is going to cost thousands. It’s a service that only the very wealthy can afford, and even they can’t always get it.

By contrast, Secrets of Sarlona reveals that Riedra is a nation that does have institutionalized teleportation circles and goes into detail about them. This was always intended to be a concrete difference between Riedra and Khorvaire, a reflection of the supernatural power of the Inspired and a contributing factor to the unity of their culture.

Then Fourth Edition comes along.

In 4E, Linked Portal is a level 8 ritual that allows the user to access a network of circles, described in the ritual as being at “most major temples, important wizards’ guilds, and large cities.” We address this on page 45 of the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide, stating that House Orien maintains Khorvaire’s network of linked portals and heirs perform the ritual for travelers. I show this system at work in The Fading Dream.

With that said, I don’t particularly LIKE this system. It’s too institutional and advanced for 998 YK Khorvaire as presented in Eberron, and makes airships and lightning rail travel largely obsolete. As such, unless I’m running a 4E campaign, I would ignore it completely and keep teleportation as a rare and expensive service.

If it is a circle does it function just like the teleportation circle spell or did you have a few tweaks you were planning on? If they use circles, where are they? Which leads me to another question – how frequent would the guild houses be; every outpost or town? If that is true, how are they operated?  The way I understand the teleportation circle spell is that it can teleport you anywhere.  From reading the ECS I get the impression that the House of Orien uses a connected network of circles to jump from point to point.   Which is more correct?

By default 3.5 rules, there is no circle service at all: you hitch a ride with an individual teleporter with a Siberys mark. By 4E rules, it’s not using teleportation circle, it’s using linked portal. As such it only provides direct transportation between portals. The ECG says “House Orien maintains an extensive network of permanent teleportation circles in cities throughout the Five Nations. Outside the Five Nations, circles are less widespread, limited to the larger cities and national capitals.”

Again, while it’s there to accommodate 4E rules, this system doesn’t fit my personal vision of Eberron in 998 YK. It makes travel to remote locations too quick and casual; I’d rather that a trip to Stormreach be significant as opposed to a quick stop down at the Orien enclave.

Who operates the circle? Is it a high level mage or is any house member capable of operating them? The last teleport question, how does the house member know where the traveler wants to go?  If I understand the spell correctly the caster can travel anywhere as long as they are familiar with the location.

If we’re talking circles, then we’re talking 4E’s linked portals. Which means you tell the house member the destination city and they take you to the portal. It’s not as flexible as a 3.5 teleportation circle spell.

Next topic: PALADINS AND THE DEATHLESS.

One of the tasks that was trusted to me by the GM was creating a Paladin from Aerenal.   We felt that some of the standard Paladin abilities just didn’t fit.  So I changed a couple of things. We dropped turn undead.  We felt the undying and undead were too closely related for the purpose of what the ability did.  So we turned to Pathfinder and borrowed the Channel Positive Energy ability.  It allows the Paladin to heal injuries or deal damage to negative energy undead.   We both thought that fit the flavor of Aerenal much better.

While you didn’t ask this as a question, allow me to address it. if this is something you’re doing for ALL paladins in order to give paladins a more distinct role from clerics—which I’d argue is the goal of the Pathfinder shift—bravo. However, if you’re saying that you’d specifically change the ability for paladins of the Undying Court because they work closely with the Deathless, I have to disagree. The Deathguard—which most of the paladins of the Undying Court are part of—is specifically charged with seeking out and destroying negative energy undead, and Turn Undead is obviously a potent tool in that war. As for the deathless, it allows them to “rebuke” deathless. But what does this actually MEAN? When you rebuke undead, they are either awed (and leave you alone) or controlled. That’s the mechanical effect, but what’s the in-game explanation? To me, it’s a matter of the deathless voluntarily recognizing and respecting the authority of the paladin. It is no different from a police officer flashing his badge and demanding that people either stand aside (awed), or commandeering civilian resources to deal with a crime (controlled). If you portray the deathless as fighting against it and being forced to comply against its will, it seems highly inappropriate… so don’t. Portray the deathless as choosing to alter its behavior of its own free will because of the paladin/cleric’s display of divine authority. The Paladin is the agent of the entire Undying Court; if the paladin is high enough level, that gives them enough clout to ask a favor of an individual deathless.

With that said, if the power is abused for trivial purposes, it is just like a cop commandeering your car and then using it to buy donuts. He could DO it, but if you report it to his superiors, he’ll get in trouble for doing it. A paladin who abuses his authority—rebuking without good reason—should suffer the same sort of disciplinary action from the mortal authorities of the Court.

And bear in mind, any positively aligned cleric/paladin can rebuke deathless. A paladin of the Silver Flame or Path of Light can do it. If you follow my interpretation, this is because the Deathless recognizes them as agents of a benevolent divine force and chooses to work with them; it’s interagency cooperation in the name of greater good. If you take a forced-into-slavery approach and take the power away from Aereni paladins, you have the strange situation of Kalashtar paladins being able to command deathless when the Deathguard can’t.

Where I am struggling though is the spells.   With the background of all the arcana in Aerenal should the Aerenal paladin have access to arcane magic instead of divine?  

A lot of people focus on Aerenal’s arcane achievements. In 4E people sometimes ask if Aereni elves should have a bonus to Intelligence instead of Wisdom. But bear in mind that while Aerenal is relatively advanced in matters of arcane magic, its greatest achievement by far is divine. Aerenal has created a god. The Undying Court is the only active, sentient force in the setting that wields full divine power. It’s equivalent to the Silver Flame, but you can actually go and talk to the beings that are a part of it. And an Aereni paladin is a direct agent of than conscious, active divine force. Frankly, no one has a better justification for wielding divine magic than an Aereni paladin, called by the Court to act as its hand in the world. If you want to reflect the tradition of the arcane, multiclass as wizard. You could even use something like the Silver Pyromancer PrC from the Silver Flame. But I see no reason to take away an Aereni paladin’s divine spellcasting ability; if anything, I’d expand it.

Turning from the divine to the demonic, it’s time for OVERLORDS AND THE UNDEAD.

Is there a list of all the rajah already published somewhere? With the rajah’s theme, location and where to find the full writeup?

I’ve never done it. However, Lord Gore at the WotC forums put together this list, which may be the most comprehensive around.

  1. Bel Shalor the Shadow in the Flame (Tamor Hills, Khorvaire) ECG page 29
  2. Dral Khatuur the Heart of Winter (Frostfell) female overlord Druid 25/Sorcerer 15/Frost MageFb 10 Death, ColdFb, WinterFb unpublished
  3. Eldrantulku the Oathbreaker (unknown) NE male overlord rogue 15/sorcerer 15/mindbenderCAr 10 CorruptionBoVD, Trickery Dr 337 pages 63, 69-70
  4. Katashka the Gatekeeper (Lair of the Keeper, Khorvaire) LE male overlord cleric 8/wizard 8/true necromancerLM 14 Deathbound, UndeathECS DoE page 36, Dr 337 page 70, ECG page 30
  5. Rak Tulkhesh the Rage of War (Khorvaire) NE male overlord fighter 15/blackguard 10/cleric 15 Destruction, War Dr 337 pages 65, 70; ECG page 31
  6. Ran Iishiv the Unmaker (Korrandar, Sarlona) SoS page 12
  7. Sakinnirot the Scar that Abides (Stormreach, Xen’drik) CoS page 156
  8. Shudra the Fleshrender (Mel-Aqat, Xen’drik) PGtE page 155, TFoW page 127
  9. Sul Khatesh the Keeper of Secrets (Arcanix, Khorvaire) LE female overlord wizard 36/archmage 4 Knowledge, Magic CoS 89, Dr 337 pages 60, 68; ECG page 31
  10. Tiamat the Daughter of Khyber (Pit of Five Sorrows, Argonnessen) DoE page 9
  11. Tul Oreshka the Truth in the Darkness (unknown) CE female overlord bard 20/wizard 10/loremaster 10 Madness, ShadowECS Dr 337 pages 64, 70
  12. Unnamed (Krertok Peninsula, Sarlona) SoS page 12
  13. Unnamed (Sustrai Mor, Sarlona) SoS page 91
  14. Unnamed (Tempest’s Isle, Lhazaar Principalities) PGtE page 99 possibly a rajah
  15. Yad-Raghesh (The Vale of the Fallen Rajah, Argonnessen) colossal two-headed overlord DoE page 50 “dead”

I believe that Sul Khatesh is the only one that’s received a complete 3.5 writeup, in Dragon 337. I’ll also note that I prefer the term Overlord. “Rajah” tends to get subsumed into “rakshasa rajah”—and while the Overlords rule the rakshasa, they are not themselves rakshasa.

Is there any connection between Katashka the Gatekeeper and other prominent undead-themed entities (eg Vol and her followers).

Not according to canon. However, you could always decide that Katashka is connected to all negatively empowered undead, whether they know it or not… and that Vol, Kaius, and other influential undead are all secretly pawns in the Overlord’s plans. This certainly seems like a fine approach for starting with the Emerald Claw as a heroic tier threat, moving to Vol herself in paragon, and then bringing Katashka in as the true epic threat. For those wanting to know a little more about Katashka, check out Dragon 337 or this Eberron Expanded article.

I just read the original ECS and it gave the impression that the Blood of Vol worship/idolize undead, when I recall that this has been clarified as not true in later books; what is going on with the Blood of Vol?

I’m not sure exactly what the question is here. You are absolutely correct that I consider the depiction of the Blood of Vol in the original ECS to be flawed. They don’t idolize undead; however, many or their martyrs and champions ARE undead, which can cause others to think this. Later books give a more rounded view of the Seekers. Here’s a quick description I wrote a little while ago…

The Blood of Vol is based on the question “What just god would allow suffering and death?” – with the conclusion “None, so the gods must be our enemies.” It’s tied to the fact that the people of Eberron KNOW what the afterlife is like, and it’s not pretty. The Elven religions seek to avoid going to Dolurrh; the Silver Flame believes its people join with the Flame; and the Vassals say “Well, we go to Dolurrh, but you just don’t understand what it really is.” The Seekers say “You’re kidding yourself. Dolurrh is extinction. But we have the divine spark within us. We can become gods – and even if we can’t, we will spit in the face of death.”

What I really need to do is to get all these Q&As organized into a master list by subject. Until then, take a look at this Q&A – there’s a lot about the BoV there.

And finally, a little RANDOM STUFF.

I’m sorry if this has been asked before, but you said the scale of Khorvaire was incorrect. How so?

I feel that the Five Nations should be on the scale of France and England; by the original maps, they’re on the same scale as Russia and China. It’s a question of travel time between nations, the logical impact an army traveling on foot can have, and similar things.

Apart from some druids, are there people that consider magic as dangerous or evil? What if its use did caused the mourning?

If it caused the Mourning, then you might want to listen to the Ashbound and Children of Winter or there might be another Mourning soon. I don’t believe we’ve specifically described any antimagic groups in canon, but I’m sure there are some out there.