Dragonmarks 6/25/14: House Heraldry

I’ve been traveling for the last few weeks and haven’t had a lot of time. There’s a lot of good questions in the Q&A slush pile, and I still have other features I want to work on. But last time I said I’d finally address the question of Dragonmarked Heraldry, so that’s what I’m doing today. As always, this is just my personal opinion, and it may contradict existing or future canon material.

A question regarding the emblems of each Dragonmarked House…. why did each house choose each particular magical beast?

Flip open the ECS or ECG and turn to the section on Dragonmarked Houses, and you will see the seals of the houses. Each house has a particular beast, such as House Orien and its Unicorn. But why exactly does Kundarak use a manticore? What’s the basis behind these?

The current structure of the Dragonmarked Houses is an artificial construct established at the founding of the Twelve. Some of the houses were already operating as monolithic guilds, but others were more scattered; there were tinker families with the Mark of Making that weren’t tied to the influential Vown artificers. While every house has unique traditions, the Twelve worked to establish a unifying foundation, codifying the system of licenses and bound businesses; adoption of foundlings and excoriation; patriarchs and seneschals; and so on. Part of the purpose of this was to establish the houses as a united front in the face of kings and lesser guilds. The Guild seals were thus established in deliberate emulation of noble heraldry, with a unifying theme: the use of magical beasts, creatures who—like the Dragonmarked themselves—possessed innate mystical powers that set them apart from mundane wolves and bears.

The upshot of all this is that some of the houses had a preexisting attachment to their chosen symbol… while others literally chose a beast on the spot because it was the structure that had been agreed upon. So Kundarak actually does have a strong ongoing relationship with manticores, while Thuranni has no attachment to real displacer beasts. Needless to say, in the centuries that followed the selection of these symbols some houses have developed an attachment to their patron creature or superstitions connected to it, like the claim that Orien heirs need to remain virgins until the Test of Siberys to “attract the Unicorn.” But many of the houses had no pre-existing connection to the beast they chose. Anyhow, here’s my thoughts on the origins of these symbols…

CANNITH: THE GORGON

Cannith are artificers, who weave magic into steel. The bull has long been a symbol of power and triumph. What better symbol for this industrial house than a steel bull? The core Cannith guild was already using this symbol, and it was Cannith that proposed the magical-beast tradition; Sivis latched onto the idea and helped them push it through.

DENEITH: THE CHIMERA

The families that founded House Deneith had each prospered as independent mercenary companies. Each company had its own heraldic beast. While they couldn’t preserve each of these traditional symbols, they embraced the idea that like the chimera, their new house bound multiple beasts together into an even more fierce form.

GHALLANDA: THE BLINK DOG

As described in Dragonmarked, “Ghallanda” is the Talenta name for the blink dog. Talenta tales identify the blink dog as a helpful creature who appears to help stranded travelers: “The helpful hound who appears where needed the most.” It’s Eberron’s answer to the Saint Bernard with the barrel of booze on its neck.

JORASCO: THE GRIFFON

The Jorasco leaders wanted to use the Glidewing as their symbol, but the majority insisted on a unified theme of magical beasts. The Jorasco matriarch had seen a painting of griffons descending on a battlefield to help the wounded, and it stuck with her; this was accepted by her kin and the Twelve. As it turns out, the image was actually of griffons descending on a battlefield to feed on carrion, so it’s often been seen as an odd choice, but the house has stuck by it.

KUNDARAK: THE MANTICORE

As noted in Dragonmarked, this is tied to a legend of an early alliance between the clan and the manticores of the Ironroot Mountains. The house maintains this alliance to this day, and employs manticore cavalry in the mountains.

LYRANDAR: THE KRAKEN

Also called out in Dragonmarked; a common legend of the house founder holds that a kraken emerged from the depths to save him when he was attacked by pirates. Beyond this, a hidden sect within the house maintains that the founders of the house continue to exist as immortal krakens, though this tale is largely unknown outside the house.

MEDANI: THE BASILISK

Medani’s power is observation. They will see your enemies before they can harm you. They will spot threats… and eliminate them. Thus, a creature with a deadly gaze was a logical choice.

ORIEN: THE UNICORN

Pretty straightforward: the Unicorn is a swift land creature, a strong image, and it has the ability to teleport (check the SRD!). ‘Nuff said.

PHIARLAN: THE HYDRA

Also covered in Dragonmarked. The five heads of the Hydra represent the five artistic demesnes of the house, and they also appreciate its general reputation for resilience.

SIVIS: THE COCKATRICE

The power of Sivis lies in words; thus, the a creature with a “deadly quill” seemed to be an appropriate choice.

THARASHK: THE DRAGONNE

Again, from Dragonmarked: The Dragonne is a deadly hunter touched by dragons, long respected by Marcher hunters.

THURANNI: THE DISPLACER BEAST

Like Orien, it’s pretty straightforward; a feared predator who’s never where you think it is. What better symbol for a house of shadowy assassins?

VADALIS: THE HIPPOGRIFF

House Vadalis claims to have bred the first hippogriff. Whether or not this is true, they were certainly the first to domesticate the creatures and sell them as mounts; this was a strong part of their early success and an obvious choice for house symbol. However, as the house breeds many flying mounts, it’s not considered gauche for a Vadalis to back a different creature in the Race of Eight Winds.

TARKANAN: THE BEHOLDER

When Thora Tavin and her allies established House Tarkanan, they deliberately adopted some of the trappings of the Dragonmarked Houses. However, rather than choosing a magical beast, they chose one of the mightiest aberrations. This works on multiple levels. Obviously it’s a powerful creature feared by others; it also ties to the fact that aberrants are often treated as monsters or abominations by the “pure” dragonmarked.

I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind recapping some of your ideas for the beast that the Mark of Death would use if it hadn’t been scrubbed away into obscurity and (nigh) extinction.

As noted before, the Line of Vol was never a “Dragonmarked House”; it was erradicated centuries before the Twelve came into existence. As such, it never had any reason to follow the magical beast tradition, and would have been more likely to use the traditional elven seal of the line, or a creature more traditionally associated with psychopomps or the dead (such as a raven). If for some reason it had to follow suit, one possibility would be the Catoblepas, which is a “magical beast” and death-themed. However, the Catoblepas is deadly as opposed to being associated with death, and the Mark of Death is more about understanding and interacting with the dead than killing things, so it’s not a very good match. If I had to pick a magical beast for them, I’d personally choose the Sphinx; hidden knowledge is more appropriate for line than a deadly gaze.

You mention how some of the Houses have adopted their beast, but as many of the beasts are intelligent as well, how do they feel about representing a humanoid structure of power? Do Displacer Beast Packlords revel in their feline authority to see themselves plastered on flags, if they know how to interpret such things? Do unicorns accept their majesty being condensed into a symbol of travel and transport?

I don’t see it as a serious concern. Despite their varying intellects, none of these creatures have been presented as having anything on par with a nation. The Kundarak dwarves made a pact with a particular manticore tribe, but we’ve never presented manticores as having any remote political or cultural impact; it’s sort of like saying “Does Karrnath worry that wolves don’t like their being used on the flag?” Taking unicorns, I think it’s going to vary by unicorn; some may be amused, some may be insulted, most probably won’t care in the slightest. But there’s no unicorn nation that is going to band together and raise some sort of concerted outcry about it. And at the end of the day, the images being used aren’t especially offensive or specific to any particular cultural group among those species; it’s essentially the equivalent of having a sports team called “The Human Beings.”

Back on the previous point, some of the houses actually do interact with their heraldic beasts. Vadalis breeds manticores. Some Talenta-based Ghallanda have friendships with local blink dog packs. Kundarak still deals with Ironroot manticores. But even there, MOST Ghallanda have never seen a blink dog, and a Kundarak dwarf doesn’t have some sort of special in with a manticore from Droaam, any more than having human friends from Karrnath will help you when some thugs from Thrane want to beat you up.

Dragonmarks: Spies, Heraldry, and a Lightning Round

When I put out a call for questions last week, I didn’t expect to get fifty of them. This has inspired me to get to work organizing previous posts, both because some of the questions people asked have already been answered and because it would be nice to have all the answers on Droaam or The Mark of Death in one place. I’m going to answer a few topics in detail today, and then do a lightning round of short answers. If your question isn’t dealt with here, it may be addressed in the upcoming reorg.

As always, my answers are entirely unofficial and may contradict canon sources. If you’re looking for official answers, you might check the Dragonshard Archive, Eberron Expanded, or Eye on Eberron.

So on to the questions!

Does Eberron have a place in the next edition? Will we ever see more novels?

Eberron certainly has a place in the new edition, but I don’t have any concrete new information about what that place will be. Warforged appeared in the playtest material, and James Wyatt has mentioned Eberron a number of times in his articles about D&D Next. However, I don’t yet know exactly what that place will be or how much support you can expect, and whether novels will be a part of it. I’ll make an announcement as soon as there is concrete news.

How’s your experience been with D&D Next? And how do you run changelings in your campaign, as a player or DM?

Given that I’m playing a changeling in the D&D Next campaign I’m in, these two questions are directly related. I’m planning to write an entire post on my adventures in DDN, and I’ll cover both these questions there.

I’m hoping for advice on two fronts; I want to diversify the various intelligence agencies (Dark Lanterns, Royal Eyes, and… who do Thrane and Karrnath have?)…

First, bear in mind that the King’s Citadel isn’t just the intelligence service of Breland. back in the day, the Citadel was the intelligence service of GALIFAR, just as the Arcane Congress was the center for mystical research for Galifar, and Rekkenmark the center for training for the armies of the united kingdom. While the Citadel employed agents from all Five Nations, the bulk of its resources and command structure were based in Breland, and the vast majority of its agents were from Breland. Just as Rekkenmark reflects the martial culture of Karrnath and Aundair’s love of the arcane is tied to the presence of the Congress, the Citadel was a source of national pride for Breland and a reflection of their pragmatic culture, and the vast majority of Citadel agents were Brelish. So the reason you hear more about the Citadel than about the agencies of other nations is because it is the oldest and largest force. Prior to the Last War, Karrnath didn’t HAVE a national intelligence agency; it had the King’s Citadel. Its current agency was built at the start of the war using those Karrnathi agents who’d worked with the Citadel and the bits of infrastructure it was able to seize. But the Citadel is a national strength of Breland… just as the Arcane Congress, Rekkenmark, and Flamekeep are all institutions that once served all nations but now benefit their home nation.

So: at the start of the Last War, the Five Nations had to come up with an individual approach to intelligence. Here’s how it broke down.

Aundair. The Royal Eyes were established by Aundair herself at the dawn of Galifar. They were her personal corps of spies established to spy on the leaders of the other nations (which is to say, Aundair’s own siblings). They maintained this mission over the centuries, an have an exceptional talent for intelligence-gathering augmented by the finest arcane divination techniques and equipment in the Five Nations. Since the Last War they have expanded their numbers and the scope of their operations. However, they don’t have the numbers or resources of the Citadel, and their strength is still divination.

Breland. The Dark Lanterns and King’s Shadows once encompassed all of Galifar. As such, they have centuries of resources and techniques at their disposal. Many of their foreign safehouses and moles were identified and eliminated over the course of the Last War – but not all of them. Their agents are both more versatile and more numerous than those of the other Five Nations, and they have no particular specialty; they can carry out any sort of operation. Breland’s strong ties to House Medani and good relationship with Zilargo are additional strengths. Short form: A Dark Lantern may not be as tough in a fair fight as a Karrnathi agent and may not have the specialized magic of a Royal Eye, but they have exceptional training and strong mission support. Karrnath has warriors, Aundair has wizards, and Breland has rogues.

Cyre. Each nation had its own strengths. Breland had the Citadel. Karrnath had Rekkenmark. Cyre had the royal treasury and mint. Initially, Cyran intelligence relied heavily on House Phiarlan and House Tharashk. As the war progressed, Cyre built up its own agencies using their own ex-Citadel agencies. One that has been mentioned in the novels is the Fifth Crown, an urban strike force specializing in infiltrating enemy territory. Cyran agencies were small and had limited strategic resources (safehouses, generational moles, etc) but were generally extremely well equipped.

Karrnath. The people of Karrnath take pride in military discipline and skill, and think little of those who would skulk in the shadows; before the Last War, few Karrns service with the King’s Dark Lanterns. In the wake of the war, Karrnath established the Twilight Brigade as a special division of the White Lion police force; members of the Twilight Brigade are sometimes called “Dark Lions”. The Brigade specializes in counterintelligence, devoting its efforts to identifying and eliminating enemy operatives; it also serves the function of “secret police”, gathering information on Karrns on behalf of the king. Karrnath thus has a limited reach when it comes to gathering intelligence in foreign nations, often relying on Phiarlan and Thuranni for such purposes; its philosophy is to deny intelligence to the enemy and then rely on its own martial strength. With that said, during the war it made use of the Raven Corps, an organization formed from Blood of Vol mystics who specialized in gathering intelligence through the use of necromancy – interrogating corpses, using shadows as spies, and so on. The Raven Corps was a volunteer force, and was disavowed and disbanded at the same time as the Emerald Claw and other Seeker orders.

Thrane. The Argentum is a branch of the Church of the Silver Flame tasked with identifying, locating, and obtaining powerful or dangerous artifacts… by any means necessary. The Argentum has carried out this mandate for centuries, and this talent for covert operations made it the logical choice to serve as the foundation for Thrane’s intelligence agency in the war. In this, the Argentum is similar to the Royal Eyes. It is a small, specialized organization that has been operating for centuries and is highly skilled at a specific type of mission, which has now been given greater resources and drafted to perform other operations. As such, it’s on par with the Royal Eyes in terms of resources and scope, and still trailing behind the Citadel. Where the Royal Eyes specialize in information gathering, the Argentum excels at theft and extraction, and has access to the warehouse of dangerous artifacts its gathered over the centuries.

… and need a little help coming up with potential hot spots in a cold war across Khorvaire.

A personal favorite of mine isThaliost. Once a major Aundairian city, it’s now controlled by Thrane. They placed an Aundiarian bishop in charge of the city, but his zealous excesses have exacerbated a delicate situation. Violence is inches away, and there’s certainly opportunity to push things one way or the other and to threaten Thrane or Aundair.

Droaam is also good, as you can see in my novel The Queen of Stone. There’s all sorts of topics that could come up: its desire to be recognized, the threat of hostility against Breland, the activities of Daask, Droaam harboring war criminals or political refugees, a nation trying to secure a military or economic alliance with Droaam (which is sitting on many useful resources), or even Sora Teraza announcing that she has a collection of secrets that could topple governments and she’s going to release it next week – do you steal it? Destroy it? Protect it from other nations?

Stormreach has many of the same possibilities as Droaam. A nation could be pursuing a strategic resource in Xen’drik, funding an extremist group operating out of Stormreach, conducting secret business with Lyrandar, etc.

Beyond that, you can have themes that could occur anywhere. Any sort of serious research on the cause of the Mourning is a serious cold war threat; it’s the Manhattan Project all over. Any form of significant arcane research could be nearly as significant an issue – anyone creating something that could give them a position strong enough to start the war anew. This could be creation of a new spell or weapon, an alliance with Argonnessen, Aerenal, or Riedra, something that would cripple another nation (say, extinguishing the Silver Flame), etc.

Do the Dragonmark Houses place any honor, taboo, or significance on their standard beast? For example, would a Thuranni killing a displacer beast be seen as bad form?

It varies by house. The tradition of house heraldry is tied to the Twelve; bear in mind that Thuranni, for example, was Phiarlan until just a few decades ago, so they haven’t had long to build up a particular attachment to their heraldic beast. In some cases the beast was chosen by the house because it was a creature they already had an attachment to or use in some way. For example, in the Talenta Plains the blink dog has a reputation for helping stranded travelers; “ghallanda” actually means “helpful hound who appears where needed the most.” House Tharashk took the dragonne both because it is a fierce predator, but also because it’s a “dragon-that’s-not-a-dragon”; this is a reflection of their general view of themselves as outsiders (also reflected by their willingness to overlap Deneith and Vadalis in their dealings with Droaam). The cockatrice of Sivis can be seen as “the deadly quill.” For the most part the beast is chosen for what it represents, not because the house has a literal relationship with it. However, Kundarak does make use of manticore cavalry, and Lyrandar legends say that the spirits of Lyrandar elders linger as krakens in the depths.

So for the most part, a Thuranni killing a displacer beast would be like a Republican killing an elephant – a humorous coincidence, but not a dishonorable act.

However, if you WANTED to take it further you could certainly decide that there is a greater significance to the beasts. Perhaps each house truly does have a totem spirit, something that revealed itself to the founders of the houses… an incarnation of the power of the mark that can choose to manifest in the wild beasts. So not every gorgon has a tie to Cannith… but any gorgon could suddenly speak to a Cannith heir and offer them advice or call on them for a favor. It could be very interesting to say that there IS a sentience to each mark; the real question then is what it means that the Mark of Shadow has two beasts.

What, if any, was the totem beast for the Mark of Death? Or was the mark eradicated before it had a chance to be a proper House?

Per canon, the line of Vol was never a “Dragonmarked House”. The traditions of the houses were established and standardized by the Twelve, and the line of Vol was exterminated long before that. If you run with the idea that the beasts are more than mere symbols, then it would make sense for the mark to have a totem beast. One possibility would be for that beast to be undead, but I wouldn’t go that way; all the others are magical beasts, and I’d look for a beast that is in some way associated with the dead.

OK: there’s a lot of good questions, but too many for me to answer in depth. So it’s time for a LIGHTNING ROUND! When I do the reorg I may expand on some of these, but for now I’m keeping it quick.

Since the code of Galifar is not applicable in Xen’drik, do the Sentinel Marshals find obstacles and is their jurisdiction denied by the storm lords in Stormreach?

Sentinel Marshals have no official jurisdiction in Stormreach and the Storm Lords could block them. However, consider that Sentinel Marshals are honored members of House Deneith. Blocking the actions of a Marshal is thus spitting on House Deneith… which could be seen as insulting the Twelve. Is this situation worth the danger of economic reprisals from the Houses? In short, the Storm Lords COULD block a marshal, but I’d only expect them to do it for a VERY good reason.

What Icons would you use for an Eberron 13th Age game?

Lucky for you, I addressed this in a previous post!

Eberron and 13th Age

Can you get Randy Lander to start up our game again?

Yes. If he knows what’s good for him. I’ve got your number, Randy.

Where can I find out more about Darguun? What is society like there? Tech level? Cultural idiosyncrasies?

At the moment, your best bet is to read Don Bassingthwaite’s novels, such as Legacy of Dhakaan.

Was the Undying Court ambivalent to the daelkyr invasion of the Dhakaani empire? Or busy with some other pressing business at the time?

Excellent question that deserves more than a lightning round answer, but that’s all the time I’ve got for it. Short answer: The power of the Undying Court is concentrated in Aerenal. They undoubtedly took action to defend Aerenal from the incursion. The Dhakaani had already fought the Tairnadal and driven them from Khorvaire, so there was no love between elf and goblin; even if the Court had the power to help Dhakaan, it’s not much of a surprise that they chose to focus on their own defense.

Is there any evidence to support the claim that the daelkyr were refugees seeking asylum in Eberron and that the Dhakaani empire was the one to initiate hostilities, forcing the daelkyr to respond in self defense?

None at all. You may be thinking of the theory that the Quori were refugees seeking asylum in Eberron when they were attacked by the Giants; there’s a fair amount of evidence suggesting that, and more important, neither culture survived to the present day, so there’s no way to verify it. Meanwhile, we have the Gatekeepers, Heirs of Dhakaan, and the Daelkyr themselves as multiple living threads attesting to the hostile intent and actions of the Daelkyr. With that said, it can be argued that the Daelkyr don’t consider collapsing civilizations and warping creatures into new forms to be a hostile act. You might consider this Dragonmark:

The Daelkyr and their Cults

Are there Gatekeepers corrupted by the Daelkyr?

Certainly. “Gatekeepers corrupted by the Daelkyr” is an entirely valid foundation for a Cult of the Dragon Below. Consider the link above.

What would it take for Droaam to be accepted as a nation the way Darguun has been?

Good question, and one that’s explored in my novel The Queen of Stone. You might also look at the following Dragonmark:

Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell

Who fathered the Daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have any favorite children of their own?

They each have different fathers, which is why they are all different types of hags. The identities of their fathers have never been revealed in any canon source. No children have ever been mentioned in a canon source, though you might find a possibility in the comic Eye of the Wolf.

How would the Daughters of Sora Kell react if the Queen of Stone was assassinated?

The main question is if they were aware of it in advance or orchestrated it themselves. Remember that Sora Teraza is the most gifted oracle of the age, so you can be sure SHE’D know; the question is if she shared the information with her sisters. Personally, my feeling is that if they allowed it to happen it’s because it helps them in some way. They could have allowed it in order to replace her with a more pliable warlord. It could be a calculated move to create a martyr to inspire their forces or to demand concession from the nation of the assassins. I’d check that Dragonmark about and consider what the motives of the Daughters are in your campaign.

I watched Game of Thrones seasons 1-3. I noticed quite a lot of parallels between it and the Eberron setting. Is Eberron more than just a little inspired by A Song Of Ice And Fire?

My original pitch for Eberron was “Lord of the Rings meets Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Maltese Falcon.”  If I wrote that today, I’d probably substitute Song of Ice and Fire for LotR, because there are lots of similar aspects; stories don’t always end well, there’s more shades of gray than black and white morality, and hey, a terrible civil war. I can only imagine that I hadn’t really gotten into SoI&F when I was first working on Eberron. With that said, there are major differences. One of the central themes of Eberron is exploring the impact of magic on civilization, while Westeros is a low-magic society. SoI&F has three dragons; Eberron has an entire continent of them. SoI&F is more about the balance of power between kings, while Eberron is more about the balance between the aristocracy and the mercantile Dragonmarked Houses. Essentially, I think Game of Thrones is a great inspiration for a martial or political Eberron campaign, but it wasn’t a driving factor in the original development of the world.

What would a Warforged god be like? Domains? Favored weapon?

Faiths of Eberron includes two: the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades. That’s a place to start.

Is it settled that warforged have souls?

No, it’s not settled. This is a quote from an old HDWT post:

This is one of the key mysteries of the setting, and one that should never be given a canon answer. The artificers of House Cannith generally assert that (the spark of life in a warforged) is something artificial that they have created; others, such as the kalashtar, maintain that this is impossible, and that no mortal agency can create a soul. With this in mind, a number of theories are out there. One is that they are reincarnated spirits of soldiers who died during the war, thus explaining their natural talents for war. Another is that they are quori vessels waiting to be filled; it’s a back-up plan that would allow the quori to escape Dal Quor if the age turns, and the soul is a sliver of the quori. For a third, turn to the Sovereign Host theory that the spirits found in Dolurrh are just the husks of the true souls, which must strip away these worldly trappings to ascend to the realms of the Sovereigns… so the Warforged soul is essentially the recycled compost of a previous soul. Anyhow, there’s a few possibilities – I’m sure you can come up with more!

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW… I’d love to answer more questions, but I need to sleep and do some actual work. Upcoming posts will address Phoenix, my experiences playing D&D Next, and the next Dice Story – along with working on organizing old Dragonmarks.

Got more questions or thoughts on these topics? I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

Dragonmarks: The Dragonmarked Houses, pt 2

As always, this material represents my own personal opinions; it’s not canon and may contradict canon sources. I still don’t have any new information about official Eberron support in D&D Next, but I hope to have news soon.

I’ve talked about the Dragonmarked Houses and Aberrant dragonmarks before. Before getting to the current questions, I want to bring up a key point from the earlier article.

The power of the houses comes from the fact that they offer services that are unavailable elsewhere, at least on the scope and scale they can provide. While some houses do work to eliminate competition, for many of their services there simply isn’t significant competition. While clerics can heal, there aren’t a lot of spell-casting priests in Eberron, and they generally have a divine calling and a purpose in the world; it’s not viable to fully replace Jorasco healing houses with clerics. Likewise, while an individual spellcaster could learn and cast sending, that’s trivial compared to the network of Sivis speaking stones that deliver thousands of message each day. Magic is a form of science, and new discoveries require innovation; and it’s always easier to create a tool that enhances an existing power than to make one that generates the same effect from nothing.

So it is a default assumption of the setting that people simply haven’t found a way to create magic items that duplicate the effects of most dragonshard focus items without the need for a mark. In 4E, I suggest restricting many rituals to the Dragonmarked to reflect this. Groups like the Arcane Congress are always working on this, and your PC might be an innovator who can make some of these effects no one has until now. But the key point is that while the houses are monopolies, this is often because no one knows how to replicate what they can do on an international scale; only a few have to actively deal with serious competition.

What would happen to Eberron if all the Dragonmarks suddenly went dormant?

It would be a serious blow to the culture of the Five Nations. Swift long distance communication relies on Orien and Sivis. Orien and Lyrandar are cornerstones of mass transit and freight. Loss of Jorasco removes basic medical services, which would likely lead to plagues. Between loss of transit and Lyrandar weather control, you’d probably end up with famines when crops fail or food can’t be delivered. Loss of Cannith brings mass production of common goods and primary creation of magical goods to a halt. Breaking the Kundarak vault system suddenly cuts many people off from their wealth, which could seriously impact some nobles. If you look at my list of restricted rituals in 4E, suddenly those rituals just don’t exist in the world.

Now, it’s not the end of magic or civilization. You’ve still got magewrights out there; check this article for examples of services magewrights provide. The lamplighters who keep the streets lit aren’t using dragonmarks to do it. Some standard magical services would remain intact. Furthermore, there ARE skilled wizards and artificers outside of the houses. Nobles would still have access to some of those old services by hiring the best independent mages money can buy. But much of the system that provides magical services to the middle class would fall apart, and people would have to implement mundane systems to take their place.

Aundair would be in a strong position because of the Arcane Congress and the general effort to bring arcane magic into everyday life. Thrane has the highest percentage of divine casters and would thus have the best ability to counter the loss of Jorasco healing. Karrnath has a decent war magic program, but would be hurt by the loss of things like communication, transportation, and weather control.

I get the impression that the houses are everywhere, and if you open a business that’s within their “domain”, you either have to join the house or get stomped on. If my character starts a mercenary Company, would they have to eventually join with house Deneith? The problem with that, is that, if my character don’t possess a dragonmark or family within that house, he’ll only be able to climb so far within it.

First: It is entirely possible to operate a business without being affiliated with a house. There’s many independent mercenary companies, many smiths who don’t work for Cannith, many inns that aren’t tied to Ghallanda. One wizard who can cast Sending doesn’t pose a threat to House Sivis; it’s only if he actually comes up with a way to offer service on the same scale that they do that he becomes a real threat.

So, one independent mercenary company of 100 people based in Sharn doesn’t pose a threat to Deneith. But an independent mercenary army of 10,000 people with branches in multiple cities DOES pose a threat to Deneith, and they would attempt to stop it or assimilate it before it reached that level.

With that said, assimilation is always the preferred path. Most houses would rather just get a share of your profits that wipe you out. As described in Dragonmarked, Guild membership comes in three flavors. Most businesses are licensed. They pay a small percentage of profits and vow to uphold guild standards, and in exchange they get to show the guild stamp. So the average inn isn’t OWNED by Ghallanda, but it’s licensed by Ghallanda; the seal of the Hosteller’s Guild is an assurance that you won’t get food poisoning, be killed in the night, etc. Bound businesses are essentially franchises, and the nature of the services they offer are dictated by the guild. So an inn licensed by Ghallanda can serve whatever food it wants, as long as the quality meets Guild standards; but a Gold Dragon Inn has to serve the same core menu as all other Gold Dragon Inns.

So back to you: You want to start a mercenary company. You could be entirely independent and do your own thing, and as long as you don’t seriously threaten Deneith’s business they’ll leave you alone. However, you might find that clients pass you up and hire licensed Deneith mercenaries instead, because the Deneith seal assures them that the soldiers meet Deneith standards of training and discipline, and because they can go to the house for compensation if the mercs fail to perform. And if you decide to be licensed by Deneith, they aren’t going to try to limit your success; they’ll even send work your way. They’ll simply expect a share of your profits.

The houses do work to maintain their monopolies, but they’d rather be making money from you than spending money crushing you. They’ll only take ruthless action if they truly see you as a mortal threat to their overall success.
How do the different houses respond to a dragonmark going from least to lesser, lesser to greater, etc? There are system reasons why it happens, but does anyone in the game world have theories? Does anyone do anything to try to encourage/suppress the progression?

Well, now we venture into the realm of house rules. MECHANICALLY, marks are clearly delineated into four sizes. We have pictures of each of those four sizes. However, I personally don’t believe that you go to sleep with a Least Mark and wake up with a Lesser. I believe that marks grow organically over time. So take three people with Least Marks and they might all be different sizes and shapes – all clearly recognizable as somewhere between Least and Lesser, but different stages of development. You know you’ve reached the next stage when you are capable of performing the magic associated with the next stage, or using a focus item that requires that level of mark.

Now, that doesn’t change the question of why people think Marks grow and what affects someone’s potential. Most people believe it’s largely genetic, and that a child whose parents have powerful marks will be more likely to develop a powerful mark of their own; this also ties to the belief that children of two houses will develop aberrant marks. However, there are any number of other theories, ranging from diet and mental exercise to planar alignment and the influence of the Prophecy.

Which houses meddle in their members’ love lives, and why?

In dealing with this, it’s vitally important to remember that houses aren’t monolithic  entities. Every house is made up of multiple families; the Shadow Schism that created House Thuranni was a civil war between the Phiarlan families. The different Cannith factions are likewise largely divided along family lines. So with this in mind, I’ll give you some reasons, but interfering with your love life is something that’s more likely to be done based on the policies of your FAMILY than your house. One Cannith family may go out of its way to arrange political alliances or bring new blood into the house; if you’re the best artificer of the age & not dragonmarked, they’d like to convince you to marry into the family. Meanwhile, a different Cannith family may strictly forbid people marrying outside the house. Now, why might they interfere?

  • Dragonmarks. You’ve got a Siberys mark. You think we’re going to let you  waste that on unmarked trash? Elaydren Vown has a greater mark, and we’ve already made arrangements.
  • Race. You may love this elf, but think of your children. If they aren’t fully human, there is no chance they will manifest a mark. Will you damn them for your own selfish desire?
  • Politics. We have an opportunity to secure a connection with the Brelish aristocracy/end the feud with the Vowns/Arcane Congress etc. We’re not letting you waste yourself on some guttersnipe ex-soldier.
  • Recruitment. Flega is the finest artificer in the Five Nations. We need to bring her into the house, and you’re going to do it.
  • Prejudice. Your father was killed in the attack on Shadukar. I’ll see you excoriated before you sleep with a Thrane.

Vadalis is highly likely to arrange marriages for marks. Tharashk is remakably liberal and sees outside marriage as a good way to increase its influence. But beyond that, it’s really about your personal family.

Dragonmarks are seen only on the peoples living on Khorvaire. Why are there none on the goblin race, who lived before humans?

Good question. And why do they appear on half-orcs but not full orcs? And why not on gnolls or shifters or changelings? Nothing about the marks is clear. Bear in mind that they didn’t all appear at once; marks appeared on the Aereni and Talenta Halflings more than five centuries before they appeared on humans, and more than TWO THOUSAND YEARS before the Mark of Finding appeared on half-orcs. Who’s to say that the goblins won’t suddenly manifest a mark no one’s seen before?

And, of course, one answer is that the marks have only appeared at certain times and on certain races because they are an experiment of, say, the Daelkyr; they are actively picking and choosing who gets what mark.

Is there any reason why Greater Aberrant marks aren’t as common any more? Is the ‘bloodline’ that much weaker or another reason?

No one knows for certain. The common belief is that the strongest bloodlines were wiped out in the War of the Mark and that strength is simply gone from the world. But aberrant marks have never been strictly tied to bloodline, so it’s a little odd. So a secondary question would be “Why are aberrant marks becoming more common now?” I’ll give you a few possible answers for that:

  • The Mourning has wounded nature and increased the number of aberrant marks.
  • It’s a sign of the increased power of an overlord.
  • It’s dictated by the Prophecy.
  • It’s the work of the Daelkyr.
  • It’s just natural; the aberrant lines were weakened in the War of the Mark, and now it’s finally regaining strength.

If another house started to form, under what kind of mark do you think would be new and novel?

I’d probably start by saying that there’s been a changeling Dragonmark for over a century, but unlike most marks they can hide it by shapeshifting, so no one KNOWS about the changeling Dragonmarked House. I’d also consider the idea of the goblins developing a mark. With that said, I like the 13-1 structure… so what I might do is to have one of these two races develop the Mark of Death. There’s only 13 marks; the elves had their time with the Mark of Death; now it’s moving to another race. Is this a sign? Will the other marks start migrating too? If it’s about how long they’ve been around, the Mark of Shadow and the halfling marks would be the next to go…

Are there any houses /marks you would redesign or replace if you could? Any reason why, or ideas to that effect?

I’ve never been happy with the mechanics for aberrant dragonmarks; I’d change those if I had the opportunity. And I’ve already redesigned the relationship between marks and rituals in 4E, as noted in the previous articles. As for the houses themselves, I’m generally happy with them. I don’t think Orien has ever had the attention it deserves, and I could see doing more with Vadalis and eugenics. In general, I’d love to look at ALL of the houses in more detail, but I’m happy with the fundamental concepts.

I wonder what it’s like for non-creepy Vadalis who just want to breed a better pig.

Which is most of them. For that matter, magebreeders are only a small segment of the house; most heirs are ranchers, teamsters, veterinarians, handlers, jockeys, and more; people who love working with animals and whose animals can do amazing things.

Which house do you think has most potential as an outright villain? Would your answer be different for adventure v. campaign?

Certainly. Again, I think Vadalis has a lot of long-term potential because magebred humans are creepy (and an extremely logical source of homegrown Inspired for the Dreaming Dark to use). Lyrandar has tremendous ambition. And hello, by canon (which you can of course ignore) Zorlan d’Cannith of Cannith East is a seeker of the Blood of Vol; you could easily make him an ally of the Emerald Claw.

What is Cannith East’s greatest strength?

In my opinion? War. Cannith South specializes in warforged and manufacturing, but I’ve always considered Cannith East to be the arms specialists. They may not have manufacturing facilities to match South, but their unique form of ingenuity is building better weapons. Aside from that, they’ve been experimenting with undead, so consider the weird things you can do with that.

If all marks of a kind are the same, what about the Draconic Prophecy? Not every Mark of Making can indicate the same destiny, can it?

Not at all. First of all, speaking GENERALLY, the prophetic significance of dragonmarks isn’t tied to the individual; it’s about patterns. Think of dragonmarked individuals as tarot cards or runes. Someone who knows the Prophecy may walk into a bar, say “OK, I see Greater Storm, Lesser Making, and three of Least Healing. Which means… it’s going to be a bad day.” That bad day may not even involve any of the marked individuals; they’re just signposts for someone who knows how to read them. Having a Dragonmrk doesn’t automatically mean that YOU are significant to the Prophecy; in means that you are now a tea leaf others can use to read it. If you ARE personally significant to the Prophecy, your mark will be one of the things that identifies you, but it won’t be the only thing.

Do you think there is tension or rivalry between houses Tharashk and Medani given how both work with inquisitives?

Certainly. However, one issue here is that Medani is a very subtle house; its services also overlap with Deneith when it comes to bodyguards. Medani is the warning guild. Its specialty is counterintelligence and predictive work. You hire a Deneith bodyguard when you want muscle at your side; you hire Medani for defense when you want them to identify and neutralize the threat before it actually manifests. The same is true of inquisitives. Tharashk inquisitives are more of your classic private eyes. They are the people the innkeeper will hire to find out who stole his valuables, or who’s dating his wife. Medani’s inquisitives deal with more complex problems and generally, wealthier clients. They’re who you call in to negotiate with a blackmailer – or to prevent blackmail when you’re vulnerable but it hasn’t happened yet. Think someone might have spies watching you, or an assassin after you? Hire Medani. Short form: Medani inquisitives handle complex cases for wealthy clients; Tharashk inquisitives solve basic problems for a broader client base.

Likewise, Tharashk’s monstrous mercenaries overlap with Deneith, but don’t really fill the same space. Most of Deneith’s best clients won’t turn to ogres and gnolls instead of Deneith’s reliable forces.

While Tharashk is stepping on toes, it’s also the best source for the single most valuable resource in the magical economy: dragonshards. As a result, while Deneith and Medani are rivals with Tharashk, they don’t really want to get into an all-out feud with the house, and many other houses are willing to support Tharashk in conflicts.

I wonder why house Phiarlan does not seek to outlaw Thuranni. After all, both houses have the same dragonmark.

Among other things, because they are family. The Shadow Schism only occurred a few decades ago. The Mark of Shadow has been around for thousands of years, and elves themselves live for centuries. There are still members of the Thuranni families in House Phiarlan and vice versa. They are now professional rivals, and the wounds of the schism run deep for some; but they are still brothers and sisters. What they have largely done is divide up Khorvaire, so for the most part they aren’t directly competing in the same territories.

Moreover, why do not the sentinel marshals or national authorities imprison and prosecute those they know are killers from Thuranni? Granted, in the shadow war there is a place for spies and assassins, but an overt assassin organization should be frowned upon by the populace, and despite their alibies, many are aware of the true business of house Thuranni.

First, it’s the same principle as the Mafia or other major organized crime organizations: you may KNOW they do bad things, but can you actually catch them doing them? And as the Captain of the local city watch, do YOU really want to make a personal enemy of a family of professional assassins? Someone who starts a crusade to bring down Thuranni assassins will immediately become a target. Beyond that, their “alibis” are more than just alibis. You say that many people should be aware of the “true business” of Thuranni. But assassination ISN’T the “true business” of Thuranni. The Shadow Network is a guild of entertainers and artists, including many of the finest performers in Khorvaire. While the Network supports the covert ops that the house engages in, this doesn’t change the fact that the day-to-day business of the house is entertainment. As a normal person on the street, you can’t simply go to a Thuranni enclave to hire a spy or assassin; you go to the enclave to purchase art, to take classes (in music, acting, or other forms of art), or to engage the services of entertainers. If you want those other services, you have to know the right channels to take, and they will reach out to YOU.

With that said, if a Thuranni assassin just walked up on the street and stabbed the Mayor of Sharn in front of witnesses, Sentinel Marshals and Dark Lanterns WOULD be dispatched to bring them in (or simply kill them). Being in Thuranni isn’t a license to break the law. Again, it’s like organized crime in our world. You can get away with it if you’re careful and play by the rules that have been established, but if you’re clumsy you will get caught and pay the price.

Now for a perennial question…
Also, what happened to Cyre, really? You must have a personal Canon, right?

As I just said at DragonCon, no… I actually don’t. To me, the Mourning is much more powerful as a mystery. Once the answer is defined, it is possible to predict if it can happen again and whether it can be harnessed. Once that information becomes public, it will completely change the balance of the cold war between the Five Nations. I like the current balance of power, so I’ve never felt a need to run a campaign in which the answer is found. Meanwhile, I can think of a dozen answers that all could be true. One appears in The Fading Dream. But it could have been a Cannith weapon, possibly tied to trying to harness the power of an Overlord; or it could have been the release of an Overlord; or it could have been the natural result of using too much war magic; or it could have been the harbinger of Xoriat coming back into alignment with Eberron for the first time in thousands of years; or it could have been the beginning of the end that the Children of Winter have been talking about; or it could have been Khyber Herself finally straining against Eberron’s bonds; or it could have been a creation of the Lord of Blades, building a new homeland for his people, and he’s just about got Mourning Mk II ready to go; or… you get the idea.

I’ve always felt like the reason presented for the Mourning in The Fading Dream was not, in fact, the reason, so much as it was the “tea leaves” that indicated an event in the Prophecy was about to occur… I have always felt like the physical cause of the Mourning was still undetermined in the Thorn continuity.

The cause of the Mourning is DEFINITELY undetermined in the Thorn continuity. The Eladrin have advanced a theory, but Thorn herself doesn’t buy it. With that said, you are exactly right: this is exactly the way Prophetic manipulation would work. There could be an aspect of the Prophecy that says something to the effect of “If the Silver Queen wounds the Unknown Prince, his land shall share his pain.” Meanwhile, the Mourning itself could be caused by a Cannith weapon malfunction. What the Prophecy does is says “If event A occurs, event B will follow.” To us, there is nothing directly relating these two things – but the Prophecy lets you control one by controlling the other.

This last question is something of a spoiler for my novel The Son of Khyber. Skip over it if that concerns you.

The Son of Khyber appears in another novel prior to his appearance in The Son of Khyber. What happened between the two appearances?

If it’s not entirely clear, the individual in The Son of Khyber ISN’T the same person you’ve encountered before; he’s another soul occupying that person’s body. He’s the spirit of an aberrant leader from the War of the Mark, an ancestor of the body he occupies. He made his way back to Khorvaire, found House Tarkanan, and essentially took over. The house was a small organization, and the Son of Khyber has significant experience as a military leader, more knowledge of aberrant marks and especially aberrant focus items than anyone in the modern age, and a mark that’s more powerful than any modern aberrant. Having stepped out of time as the aberrants were being hunted down, he was pretty driven to turn things around.

Now, the other side of this coin is what happened to the original spirit that occupied that body, and that’s a good question. I had thought about him and his Jorasco companion making an appearance in The Fading Dream, as Taer Lian Doresh is both on Dal Quor and Eberron, but it was too much to fit in. But he’s still around on Dal Quor, and you can be sure his other companions are trying to get him back.