Dragonmarks: Cities of Riedra

The last few articles have dealt with Riedra in 5E, the provinces of Riedra, and the Inspired. Before we leave the region, I want to address a few questions about the cities of Riedra. In describing the city of Dar Jin, Secrets of Sarlona says that “the people… go about their business silently, speaking only when it is absolutely necessary.”

In light of this, people have asked: What is life like in the cities of Riedra? Is it like being in a city of zombies? Why does Riedra even HAVE cities?

Cities and Villages

Riedra is largely split into two types of communities: small villages that serve a specific function (typically agriculture or mining), which are spread out around a central massive city, known as a bastion. The bastion serves as a military garrison and houses the Inspired who govern the region. Crucially, every bastion has a teleportation circle, typically connected to Durat Tal. So if you’re on official business for the Inspired and need to travel quickly, you’ll travel to the nearest bastion, use the circles to reach the bastion closest to your destination, and then go from there.

What’s the purpose of Riedran cities?

Bastions serve as military strongholds and transportation hubs. They are also the centers of industry. Most villages gather raw materials, while the bastions contain the factories that produce goods. Wait, factories? Riedra has factories? Yes. Reidra doesn’t have the wide magic of Khorvaire, and its factories are more primitive than their Cannith counterparts in Khorvaire; work is done by hand, without the aid of constructs or arcane tools. But you don’t have a lot of individual blacksmiths; instead, the bastion has a massive foundry, with a hundred smiths all working together. Assembly lines are common, with each individual focused on a single task. And while you don’t see the magecraft or arcane tools of Cannith, there are psionic tools at play. Riedran factories employ background telepathic projection. In some cases, this is simply a tool that helps the workers clear their minds and focus on a task. In others, the projection actually guides the hands of the worker, operating as a constant form of magecraft.

The most unusual form of factory are the sentira production facilities. Sentira is a form of solidified ectoplasm formed from intense emotion. Where tools of crysteel and steel can be created by mundane workers, sentira can only be worked by shaper psions, using a powerful psionic form of fabricate. The role of the common worker in a sentira factory isn’t to produce the finished goods, but rather to feel; the Inspired need concentrated emotion to create raw sentira. Different emotions create different forms of sentira, and factories that focus on hatred or sorrow are usually also prisons; the Inspired have no desire to force loyal citizens to feel miserable, but this is a perfect use for dissidents. So if a group of adventurers is looking for a force of possible allies, they should find a sentira factory with an unpleasant aura…

In addition to being centers of industry, military fortresses, and transport hubs, the bastion cities are administrative centers. Chosen and Inspired monitor events in the Bastion sphere, tracking production, transport of supplies, dissident activities, and other critical information. While paper is used to some degree, information is primarily stored in crystal form, a system similar to spellshards. Administrative centers have large crystal repositories that are managed by psychic figments created by the Inspired—simple personalities (not unlike the 3.5 psicrystals or the spirits associated with the UA archivist artificer) that assist and manage data access, as well as performing other minor administrative functions. Each center has a figment capable of moving between Dal Quor and Riedra, and all records are also stored in a central repository in Dal Quor; if an Inspired in Dar Jin needs to know about troop requisitions in Dar Ulatesh, the figment clerk can quickly retrieve that information from Dal Quor.

Life in a Riedran City

Dar Jin is larger than any city in Khorvaire. It is composed of five spherical wards, each a metropolis in its own right. Four of the wards are almost identical. The streets are paved with smooth black cobblestones, interspersed with squares of clear crysteel. When darkness falls, the crysteel blocks glow with a soft light. Workhouses, dormitories, and storehouses are made of blocks of black and white stone; crysteel panels serve as skylights during the day and glowing lanterns at night. Most buildings are curved or whorled; hard angles are few and far between. The city is beautiful in its way, but is extremely repetitive; every dormitory looks exactly the same. 

Secrets of Sarlona, Page 72

As mentioned in the previous article, casual psionic projection is used to identify streets and buildings. At a glance, it seems like it could be impossible to find your way. But if you stop to think about it, you’ll realize that you know where you are. It’s an alien memory nestled in your subconscious, but one you’re aware of it this casual projection makes it easy to find your way around. Likewise, the dormitories look exactly the same, but you know which one is Jhora Hall and which is Ula Hall.

Secrets of Sarlona calls out the fact that Riedrans go about their business silently, speaking only when necessary. This doesn’t mean they act like zombies! Riedrans are focused on their tasks. They know exactly what they need to do, and they are determined to do the best job they can; they don’t have time for small talk. But this doesn’t mean that they’re emotionless robots. Riedrans may smile or nod to each other in passing. If someone drops what they are carrying, the people around them will likely stop to help pick it up. They may not SAY anything, because nothing needs to be said; it is understood that we are all working together, we are here to help you. The key point is that the silence of Riedra isn’t OPPRESSIVE; it occurs because most of the time, nothing needs to be said. Most Riedrans are comfortable with their lives. They feel that they share a common cause with the people around them. So they aren’t shuffling, emotionless zombies; most are content, determined to work as hard as they can and to earn their advancement on the Path of Inspiration.

A key part of this is that for a Riedran citizen, daily life is very predictable. You work with the same people in the same building following the same general schedule. You all dream the same dreams; you all receive the same messages from the Voice. Again, this doesn’t make Riedrans zombies, it just means that they have safe, reliable patterns. This is a critical reason that adventurers make most Riedrans uncomfortable: they are disrupting that pattern. Riedrans know what to expect from one another. They have no idea what to expect from a warforged, an elf, and a dragonmarked human—all the worse if these three appear to be armed and prepared for violence!

So what is life like in a Bastion city? As called out in Secrets of Sarlona, there are many people but little conversation. People aren’t standing around, they aren’t shopping or killing time. They act with a sense of purpose. They know where they are going, they know what they have to do, and they are always moving toward that goal. They rarely speak, but that doesn’t mean they won’t acknowledge one another; and again, if someone stumbles or if there’s an accident, the closest people will provide assistance. When adventurers enter the picture, they will find that people keep their distance. Civilians will typically avoid eye contact; soldiers will watch adventurers closely, clearly concerned that these outsders may be up to something dangerous. If forced to interact, most Riedrans will be polite to adventurers but seek to end the conversation as quickly as possible; they have somewhere they need to be.

A secondary point is that Riedran cities aren’t designed for tourists or consumers. There are no shops or restaurants; Riedrans eat in their dormitories or garrisons. There are no theatres, no gambling. There are gardens of reflection and memorials that share memories of tragic events or grand triumphs. There are statues of the Inspired that radiate awe, plazas where priests of the Path of Inspiration inspire the crowds, spaces where soldiers drill or people engage in group exercise. But there’s no luxuries, nothing that’s designed for pure leisure; everything serves a purpose.

But what about the Jhodra?

So, life in a Riedran city is stable and predictable. The people are quietly devoted to their work. They largely ignore outsiders, and adventurers are seen as a curiosity at best and as threats at worst. Which is why Dar Jin and Dar Ulatesh—the two major ports where foreigners are welcome—have foreign quarters that cater to the needs of outsiders. The Jhodra is the foreign quarter of Dar Jin. It has dragonmarked enclaves and embassies of a number of nations of Khorvaire. There are theatres, shops, and taverns; however, most of these are actually run by the dragonmarked houses. So the good news is that after your long journey across the sea to the mysterious empire of the Inspired, you can still get a bowl of tribex stew at the Gold Dragon Inn (Disclaimer: The tribex stew served at the Jhodra Gold Dragon Inn is not actual tribex, but rather a pomow-based meat substitute being tested by House Ghallanda).

Most Riedrans are forbidden from entering the Jhodra. Those who work in the foreign quarter are trained and prepared to deal with foreigners, and thus don’t display the discomfort seen elsewhere. There are many guides, always watching for travelers who seem lost or confused, always ready to provide assistance; there are even some who are only guides, as opposed to agents of the Thousand Eyes!

So in imagining a scene in the Jhodra, keep that cosmopolitan population in mind. Walking through the Jhodra, you’ll have that odd sensation of knowing where you are—of remembering the name of the street even though you’ve never read it. Most Riedrans are going about their business: sailors headed for the docks, envoys headed to an embassy, all moving quietly and with purpose. Dragonmarked heirs share jokes with embassy staffers. An expat grabs you—Did you just get off the Sharn boat? You don’t have any of Mazo’s shaat’aar, do you?—and perhaps they have a story to share, or a risky opportunity for a few capable people. You see a statue of the Inspired, and you can’t help but be impressed… but is that your actual feeling, or just a projection of the statue? And perhaps… though it’s unlikely… one of those silent, hardworking Riedran gives you a look or makes an odd gesture. What are they trying to convey? Do they want to find a way to speak to you alone? Is there something going on? Or is it an agent of the Thousand Eyes, testing you to see if you are searching for dissidents?

Crime is almost unheard of in Riedran communities—in part because most people have little to steal. There are criminals in the Jhodra, but they’re mostly from Khorvaire and focus their attentions on fellow travelers. However, the Jhodra is well defended, both by soldiers of the Harmonious Shield and the imposing oni of the Horned Guard. The Jhodra also has an unusual number of Inspired, who help monitor the area and support the soldiers if needed. In most places, the priest in a garden of reflection will be an unoccupied Chosen or even a mundane human. In the Jhodra, it will be a hashalaq Inspired with significant powers of coercion and empathy.

Secrets of Sarlona discusses Dar Jin and the Jhodra in more detail, including the mercantile center, the tower of the Thousand Eyes, and the exotic Song of Skin—a talhouse catering to changelings.

How do you LEAVE the Jhodra?

Previous articles have discussed secret ways to enter Riedra: traveling through Khyber, passing through another plane, working with the Dream Merchants or other smugglers. But if you truly have a good reason to explore another part of Dar Jin or to travel across Riedra, all you have to do is ask. Secrets of Sarlona says the following…

In order to explore Riedra, a traveler must acquire a transit visa from the Iron Gate, the foreign relations office, in Dar Jin or Dar Ulatesh. This scroll provides a description of the travelers, states the nature of their business, and delineates any restrictions on travel. A bearer might be limited to traveling in specific provinces or spheres, and the visa usually has a set expiration date…
The Iron Gate does not charge for transit visas, but it rarely grants them. Riedra isn’t for tourists. Travelers must provide a valid reason for entry and show that they have no criminal tendencies or intent, as well as enough knowledge to avoid accidentally breaking Riedran laws. A successful DC 30 Diplomacy check is sufficient to get an entry request considered, but even then the reason must stand on its own. Finally, mind probe (EPH 119) is often brought into play to ensure that the travelers have no hidden motives. If the request is especially intriguing or risky, the Iron Gate might allow travel but send a member of the Thousand Eyes along as a chaperone and observer. Unless the party is deemed a serious risk, this observer is a Chosen; the controlling spirit only takes possession of the vessel every few hours to check on the situation. 

Secrets of Sarlona, pages 45-46

General Q&A

Do the planes play into the sentira factories? I imagine it’s hard to have a prison-factory of despair in Khalesh.

Absolutely! Most sentira factories only focus on a single emotion. Part of the point of having a mass teleportation network is that factories can specialize like this, because it’s easy enough to transport such specialized goods across the Unity. So certainly, you don’t put your despair factory near a wild zone to Irian.

Sentira is a MASSIVELY cool material. Would you see it made and used in Adar, too? Or is it something that you need psions on the level of the Inspired to create, and thus it’s harder to make useful quantities in Adar?

Secrets of Sarlona calls out that Adaran kalashtar also work with sentira, but they don’t have the facilities or resources to produce it in the same quantities as the Inspired. So you can fine sentira items in Adar — notably, the horned headdresses kalashtar are often shown wearing are supposed to be sculpted from sentira — but you don’t see buildings made of it.

Is loving/adoration sentira a genuine reflection of emotion or artificially sustained?

That’s a good question. With any sort of sentira factory, can the emotion be artificially induced? Can you create love with a charm effect, or generate fear with psychic power? The simple answer is yes, but I think it’s more INTERESTING if the answer is NO: if the emotion has to be sustained and natural. This makes a factory that deals in fear more horrifying, because they can’t simply cast fear; they have to truly make you terrified for an extended period of time. And this would also lean toward certain emotions being much harder to produce. It could be that Love sentira is quite rare in Riedra—but that it can be found in Adar, whereas Adarans are almost never found using fear or hate sentira.

Could you elaborate on Riedran families? Riedrans seem to live in various communal housings by what you say. If people are silent much of the time, when do they converse and get to know each other?

This is covered in Secrets of Sarlona. Here’s two relevant passages; SoS elaborates on both of these topics, as well as describing a day in the life of a Riedran villager.

Time away from work is usually spent with other members of the community. Riedrans dine together in central halls, participate in group athletic exercises, and gather in the evenings for storytelling and religious instruction. They are allowed a brief amount of unstructured time each day, ostensibly for meditation on the day’s events; however, many prefer to remain among friends even during this private time. Privacy is not something the Riedrans treasure—solitude can be a painful and disturbing experience for a Riedran.
Young Riedrans are raised communally. They are often transported to new villages as soon as they are old enough to travel, to prevent birth parents from forming an unhealthy bond with the child. Youths live in segregated dormitories, tended by dedicated caregivers (part of the Guiding Path). As they grow, children serve as apprentices to other members of the community, allowing the caregivers and priest to determine their aptitudes. A youth is usually set on his path in his thirteenth year and moves into an adult dormitory at this time. 

Riedrans are largely silent while they are focused on their work, unless that work requires conversation. But they talk with one another when they don’t have other tasks that demand their attention. As noted above, they enjoy the company of others; but often being around friends is sufficient, even if there’s nothing you need to talk about.

Can you talk about subversive activities in a city of Riedra? I am not asking about big things like spies or revolutionaries, but small things as places to do things not encouraged by Inspired (maybe play a game, buy a book, etc…). On what level do you think that this happens, is there is races with more probability of do this kind of thing, graduation of the punishment, etc…

First of all, consider that most Riedrans don’t have any frame of reference to understand these concepts. The majority of Riedrans are illiterate and most villagers have never seen a book. They have assigned activities; why would they “play a game?” Part of the challenge of driving revolution in Riedra is that the people don’t see why they’d WANT all the freedoms the people of Khorvaire take for granted.

Hard as these things are in general, they are exceptionally difficult to perform in a Riedran city. There ARE no private spaces. Almost all activities are group activities. There are people everywhere, and it’s generally believed that the Thousand Eyes are always watching.

Does this mean these things are impossible or never occur? Of course not. Secrets of Sarlona presents many groups that tie into these things. The Broken Throne is a faction that seeks to recover the knowledge of pre-Sundering Sarlona; they specifically teach members to read, and might treasure ancient games. The Dream Merchants are a network of smugglers, and they will happily sell books to members of the Broken Throne… though, of course, Riedrans have no money, so they’ll have to find something of value they can trade. But it’s still exceptionally difficult to find a safe space in a Riedran city. Perhaps, if the city is built on an old foundation, there’s an ancient chamber hidden below (… but can you be sure the Thousand Eyes don’t know about it? That they haven’t left it intact specifically to lure such dissidents?). Perhaps there’s a part of a factory that was abandoned after an accident. There’s nothing RELIABLE or safe; every cell has to find its own sanctuaries. A more unusual resistance movement is that of the Unchained, a group that practices free dreaming and communicates using the dreamspace. But again, if you want more information about any of these organizations or Sarlona in general, refer to Secrets of Sarlona.

Now it’s time to leave Riedra! My Patreon supporters have chosen the Nobility of Khorvaire as my next major topic; as with Riedra, I will likely post some Patreon-exclusive content as part of this. Thanks to those supporters for keeping this site going!

Dragonmark: Provinces of Riedra

In June, my Patreon supporters called for an article about Sarlona. The first part dealt with the role of Riedra and how to bring it into fifth edition. To conclude, I’m delving deeper in a subject that is only touched on in Secrets of Sarlona: the history and unique elements of the eight provinces of Riedra. I am posting the full article for inner circle patrons on my Patreon, but here’s the introduction and the first two provinces: Borunan and Corvagura.

The Unity of Riedra is a single political entity. It’s one nation. But it’s made up of eight provinces, and each of these provinces were once unique nations. Those nations were shaped by environmental factors, by religions, arcane discoveries, and most of all, by planar influences. While they are now unified—and while the Inspired work to discourage any strong sense of provincial nationalism in modern Riedra—understanding these fallen nations is crucial both to understanding the landscape of Riedra, the history of the Five Nations, and the secrets or wonders that adventurers might travel to Riedra to uncover. RIEDRA may be one nation, but you’ll have very different adventures in Borunan and Ohr Kaluun.

Secrets of Sarlona implies that the old kingdoms were fairly advanced—that they had wizards, sorcerers, divine champions. If so, why did these techniques not travel to Khorvaire? And in general, why don’t the Five Nations show their Sarlonan roots more strongly? We’ve said that while most followers of the Sovereign Host in the Five Nations know that their faith is “the Pyrinean Creed,” very few actually know that this means it originated in the Sarlonan nation of Pyrine. Why have these nations been forgotten?

There’s two important factors. The first is that the Sarlonan “settlers” of Khorvaire weren’t the paragons and pride of their nations. We’ve called out that Lhazaar was a pirate, and it’s no accident that her lieutenant Malleon was known as “The Reaver.” Many of those who followed Lhazaar were outlaws, renegades, or rebels of one brand or another. Later waves of colonization were largely driven by refugees. These weren’t organized efforts to preserve the culture and achievements of the old kingdoms. Equally important is the fact that they couldn’t transport many of their greatest achievements, which is another reason why there weren’t more active programs driving colonization. Because one thing Sarlona has in greater amounts than any other continent is planar influence. Manifest zones, wild zones, reality storms, and more—Sarlona is closer to the planes than Khorvaire. This creates both threats and opportunities. Depending on their traits, manifest zones and wild zones can be extremely dangerous—but as seen in Sharn, Shae Mordai, and Dreadhold, they can also enable wonders that can’t be replicated in the mundane world. Manifest zones can be a source of unusual flora, fauna, or other resources. The drug known as absentia is created using a root that grows in certain Xoriat manifest zones, while the pomow plant—the mainstay of the Riedran diet—was developed in Lamannian zones. Beyond this, the more powerful zones leak planar energies into the surrounding region. This can be tapped to produce magical effects, and can also subtly shape the personality of mortals. Creatures that live in the vicinity of a Shavarath wild zone are more likely to be aggressive—and to have an instinctive knack for developing martial skills. So the wizards of Khunan and the sorcerers of Corvagura were channeling planar magic… and when Khunan wizards fled to what’s now Valenar, they found that their magic didn’t work there. So the reason the Five Nations don’t seem to be that much more advanced than the fallen kingdoms of Sarlona is because they had to rebuild their arcane science… in the process, creating forms of magic that are more reliable and versatile. Nonetheless, it is possible that adventurers sifting through the ruins of the old kingdoms may find rituals, relics, or spells that are a match or even superior to modern techniques… though it might take the skill of an exceptional arcanist—or a player character—to adapt these techniques to the modern style! (Side note for the Arcana-proficient: the old Sarlonan style of magic—drawing on planar energies—is referred to as “Externalist” or “wielding external forces.” The most common form of arcane science employed by the Five Nations is “Siberyan,” and manipulates energies exuded by the Ring of Siberys.)

So what follows focuses on aspects not covered in Secrets of Sarlona: the impact of the planes and interesting aspects of the old cultures. But always remember that the Inspired have worked to suppress the old traditions. In particular, the Edgewalkers are an elite order tasked to protect innocents from extraplanar threats, and one of their major duties is patrolling the borders of wild zones. Many zones do contain deadly threats; but in other cases the Inspired don’t want the locals to find ways to use the zones as their ancestors did, or to be influenced by the zone.

Note that manifest zones to all planes (save Dal Quor) can be found anywhere in Riedra. What are called out in these sections are the most common and powerful planar influences in a region, and the common wild zones. But manifest zones to Thelanis can be found in any province, for example; in the novel The Gates of Night, the protagonists travel between Xen’drik and Sarlona using manifest zones tied to Thelanis.

BORUNAN

In Borunan, you might…

  • Be drawn into the schemes of oni and ogres plotting rebellion.
  • Find an ancient forge where oni crafted weapons for ogre champions.
  • Be forced into an extension of Shavarath, where celestials and fiends fight an endless war.
  • Use a passage from Khyber to enter Riedra.

In the days of the old kingdoms, the ogres of Borunan were peerless warriors. The champions of Borunan possessed inhuman strength, martial discipline, unshakeable courage, and weapons forged in Fernian flame. Time and again, they repelled the legions of Nulakesh and the crusaders of Khalesh, and yet Borunan never sought to conquer any of its neighbors. Some might wonder why this was. Borunan is a harsh land; did the ogres never consider claiming the more fertile fields of Nulakesh? What kept their population so low that they never needed to expand?

It’s commonly known that the people of Borunan considered their neighbors to be “unworthy foes” and the common assumption was that the ogres were cruel brutes who constantly fought one another. In fact, the ogres were waging a truly divine war—fighting alongside angels in an endless struggle against devils. The center of Borunan contains a wild zone to Shavarath where a fragment of the Eternal Battleground extends directly into the material plane, and the ancient ogres devoted their might not to conquest, but to defending this keep against the forces of tyranny.

Borunan contains multiple wild zones tied to Fernia and Shavarath, along with multiple passages into Khyber. The forerunners of the ogres emerged from a demiplane within Khyber; tectonic activity destroyed this passage, leaving them stranded in this barren region of rocky desert and hills. Of the Shavaran wild zones, only the one—known to the ogres as Gul Dol, the Gate of War—is a direct passage to the Eternal Battleground. But the ogres built their fortresses in the other Shavaran zones, and over generations the influence of Shavarath helped shape them into fierce warriors. The origin of the oni is a secret long forgotten, but one possibility is this: just like the rakshasa and the overlords, the immortals of Shavarath cannot be permanently bound. But during their service in Gul Dol, the champions of Borunan found a way to bind defeated fiends to their own bodies—sort of an involuntary version of the process that created the kalashtar, trapping a fiend within a bloodline of ogres. Thus the supernatural powers of the oni may be tied to the essence of devils bound to the bloodlines. This could be why many oni are drawn toward evil; but the oni of Borunan resisted those sinister instincts, using the power of their defeated foes to fight alongside celestials.

In addition to being fierce warriors, the oni of Borunan forged their weapons in the Cauldron, a wild zone tied to Fernia. Their weapons weren’t as well-crafted as the arms and armor of the Dhakaani, but the oni spell-smiths were able to channel the energies of Shavarath and Fernia to imbue their creations with powerful magic. While most of these weapons were destroyed long ago—not to mention being designed to be wielded by ogres and oni—legendary items or even artifacts could remain in Gul Dol, the Cauldron, or other ancient ruins.

The ogres of ancient Borunan cared nothing for the Sovereigns or the Silver Flame. They were entirely devoted to the battle for Gul Dol. The angels of the Legion of Freedom battle the devils of the Legion of Tyranny for control of this massive fortress, which is broken into multiple rings and wings. The angels believe that the balance of this war reflects the balance between tyranny and freedom across the multiverse. Of course, this is only one of countless fronts in the eternal war between these forces, but the ogres embraced this idea and believed that in fighting alongside the angels they were fighting for freedom for all people.

The Fall of Borunan. Despite the might of its champions, Borunan was easily laid low by the Dreaming Dark. The humans of the surrounding regions had long feared the ogres, and it was easy for the quori to fan these flames. Within Borunan itself, the quori sowed doubts and created feuds, shattering centuries of unity. Were the oni secretly in league with devils? Was the battle for Gul Dol a pointless sacrifice? Civil strife decimated Borunan and left it vulnerable to outside attack.

Borunan Today. In the present day, the ogres of Borunan are kept from the wild zones that served as the strongholds of their ancestors, and largely kept from any form of war; they use their strength for manual labor as opposed to battle. The oni are raised to believe in a twisted form of their actual history. Riedran oni are taught that their gifts are the result of being living prisons for fiends; it is the duty of the oni to redeem the fiend within them through their own devoted service to the Inspired. Largely, this has proven successful, and the Horned Guard—an elite corps of oni soldiers—is one of the most powerful weapons in the Riedran arsenal. However, over the course of the last two decades a group of Borunan rebels has been forming a resistance movement, the Horned Shadow, that seeks to protect the ogre-kin (ogres, oni, eneko). This is still a young movement, struggling to build power while avoiding the gaze of the Thousand Eyes. It’s up to the DM to decide if the Horned Shadow is entirely heroic—a throwback to the champions of ancient Borunan, who devoted their lives to defending freedom from tyranny—or if the oni leaders are driven by fiendish impulses and have malevolent goals.

Keep in Mind. Borunan has many passages to Khyber. These could provide ways for adventurers to cross from Khorvaire into Riedra, intentionally or by accident. This could also be a vector that could bring the minions of a daelkyr into Riedra. The Edgewalkers monitor these passages, and have sealed those that can be sealed. The public is kept away from the wild zones that hold the ancient ruins of Borunan, and believe them to be the domain of foul altavars (the Riedran term for fiends). The two most powerful zones are the Cauldron (a Fernian zone in the Broken Blade Mountains and the seat of old Borunan’s oni spell-smiths) and Gul Dol. Today, the majority of the Gate of War is in the hands of the Legion of Tyranny, but the angels still hold an isolated keep. Their forces include a number of Borunan sword wraiths—the spectral vestiges of the ogrekin champions that fought and died alongside them.

The ogres of Borunan are generally more intelligent than their cousins in Droaam, with an average Intelligence of 9. It’s likely that the ancestors of the ogres and oni of Khorvaire were transported by a planar anomaly; this might explain their reduced Intelligence and the lack of any Borunan traditions. Another possibility is that the ogres of Khorvaire are a separate branch of the species—that they came from the same demiplane but emerged in Khorvaire instead of Sarlona, and were untouched by the influence of Shavarath.

CORVAGURA

In Corvagura, you might…

  • Seek to sabotage the teleportation network of Durat Tal.
  • Explore a mysterious magebreeding facility in a Lamannian wild zone.
  • Try to save a youth who’s manifested sorcerous powers.
  • Explore the tomb of a forgotten sorcerer-king.

Corvagura is a tropical region marked by deep jungles and lush fields. It has long been the most densely populated region of Sarlona, and it was one of the most powerful and influential of the old kingdoms. Corvagura includes manifest zones and wild zones tied to Lamannia, Mabar, and Thelanis. It’s the influence of Lamannia that lends unnatural fertility to the region and its inhabitants. The influences of the other planes were made manifest in two powerful lines of sorcerers. Anyone born within the sphere of influence could potentially develop sorcerous powers; Corvagura was born when leaders rallied these sorcerers into two noble houses, and used their powers to conquer the city-states in the region.

  • The House of the Sun drew its power from Thelanis. Its members had the Wild Magic origin. Their magic tended towards glamour and glory, twisting the thoughts and emotions of others or striking down foes with bolts of flame. Though biologically human, members of the House of the Sun often had fey features and could be mistaken for Khoravar. The sorcerers of the House of the Sun were taught to be proud and glorious, demanding adoration from their subjects.
  • The House of the Moon drew its power from Mabar. Its members had the Shadow origin, and their magic drew on darkness and inspired fear. They never animated the dead, but they could command shadows and summon specters. The sorcerers of the House of the Moon were taught to be calm and cruel, instilling terror in any who might challenge them.

While these houses were presented as families, position was based entirely on sorcerous power. Anyone who manifested such powers would be adopted into the appropriate house, while any heir who failed to show sorcerous talent by their 18th birthday was cast out. The majority of the sorcerers of Corvagura were convinced that their powers elevated them above the common people, and were infamous for their casual cruelty and tyrannical rule. But they did protect the common people from a number of deadly threats, from the colossal beasts that emerged from Lamannian wild zones to the restless dead and capricious fey unleashed by the other wild zones.

The Fall of Corvagura. The quori attacked Corvagura on three fronts. They encouraged the cruelty and narcissism of the worst of the sorcerers, pushing their subjects past the limit of what they would endure. They created a deep, paranoid rift between the houses, leading to destructive vendettas. And they encouraged the spirit of revolution among the people—culminating in the appearance of early Inspired, commoners wielding supernatural powers capable of defeating the sorcerers.

Corvagura Today. Today Corvagura is the heart of Riedra, both in terms of population and administration. It’s home to both the capital city of Durat Tal and the primary eastern port, Dar Jin, along with a number of other important bastion cities. The influence of wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis are largely contained by the Edgewalkers; the Shanjueed Jungle has been called out as the largest Mabaran manifest zone in Eberron, dwarfing even the Gloaming of the Eldeen Reaches. Lamannian wild zones and manifest zones have been tapped to contribute to the agricultural programs of Riedra; this includes the creation of unusual hybrids, such as the pomow plant. As the Inspired keep people out of the wild zones and work to contain their influence, plane-touched sorcerers are rarely born in Corvagura. People know what to watch for and know that such sorcerers are vessels for Altavars, responsible for chaos and bloodshed in the days before the Unity, and sorcerers identified by the Thousand Eyes will either be killed or forced into service with the Edgewalkers. However, as with other provinces, there may well be a few who have managed to conceal their powers or who managed to flee into wild zones and survive there—rebels who could assist player characters. On the other hand, some such sorcerers have internalized the teachings that these powers are the gifts of fiends, and believe that the path to greater power lies in performing vile acts; such criminals are exceedingly dangerous. It’s worth noting that while the sorcerer-princes of ancient Corvagura were human, there’s nothing stopping a Corvaguran changeling, shifter, or member of another species from developing such powers.

Keep in Mind. Corvagura is the heart of Riedra. Dar Jin is a center for trade and diplomacy. Durat Tal is the administrative center of the Unity, and it is also the hub for the network of teleportation circles that allow the Inspired to swiftly move troops and supplies across the length of their realm. Because of this, Corvagura has the largest number of hanbalani monoliths and the greatest effort made to ensure the loyalty of its people; while there could be a few rogue sorcerers, Corvagura is a difficult place to find support for any sort of rebellion.

The manifest and wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis provide all sorts of potential for adventures. These zones may contain ruins associated with the Houses of the Sun and Moon, along with the forgotten treasures of the sorcerer-kings. Mabar zones may yet be haunted by the specters of ancient tyrants or by newly animated undead. The Edgewalkers are dedicated to keeping fey and undead contained, and the Thousand Eyes ensure that no one tells the stories of the fey. But this can still be another way to enter Riedra; Thelanian zones often allow passage to the Faerie Court under the right circumstances, and adventurers exploring the Twilight Demesne in Khorvaire could accidentally end up facing Edgewalkers on the edge of a forest in Corvagura.

That’s all for now! The full article—covering Dor Maleer, Khalesh, Nulakesh, Ohr Kaluun, Pyrine, and Rhiavhaar—is available to inner circle Patreon supporters. I’ve spent far more time on the last two articles than on anything I’ve ever written for the site, and it’s only the support of my patrons that makes that possible. Thanks to all of you who have shown your support!

Dragonmarks: Riedra in 5E

Rising From The Last War focuses on the continent of Khorvaire. Humanity thrives on Khorvaire, but it didn’t begin there; humanity came from the continent of Sarlona. Today, Sarlona is largely a mystery to the people of the Five Nations. It is dominated by the Unity of Riedra, and while this nation isn’t hostile to the Five Nations—indeed, it provided humanitarian aid and assistance to many nations during the Last War—its borders are largely closed, with outsiders only welcome in the port cities of Dar Jin on the east coast and Dar Ulatesh to the west. Most people know that Riedra is ruled by the Inspired, nobles said to be be bound to celestial spirits; and many have heard stories of the strange forms of magic used in Riedra. But most commoners know nothing more about the realm of the Inspired.

Sarlona is described in detail in the 3.5 sourcebook Secrets of Sarlona. I personally wrote the Riedra section of that sourcebook, and my vision of the rest of Sarlona doesn’t perfectly match the canon depiction. My current goal is to expand on Secrets of Sarlona rather than to rewrite it. I may present my approach to Adar, Syrkarn, and Tashana in future articles, but these articles focus on Riedra. This article explores the narrative role of Riedra and the Inspired, and how to approach both of these in fifth edition given the limitations of the current mechanics.

THE PURPOSE OF RIEDRA

What does Riedra add to the world of Eberron? Why did we create it in the first place, and what does it offer to a campaign? Before we consider what it is, let’s take a moment call out what it isn’t. Riedra is not intended to reflect any nation or culture on Earth. It’s home to psychic warriors and soulknives, not to samurai and ninja. It’s not supposed to be some sort of version of the Soviet Union—in Eberron, the cold war is being fought between the Five Nations, not between Khorvaire and Riedra. From the beginning Riedra was always supposed to be unique and alien. It’s a culture shaped by overlords from the Realm of Dreams. It’s a realm where people craft tools and towers out of solidified emotions and where the rulers weave dreams for their subjects. It fills the pulp trope of “mysterious, isolated nation with exotic traditions.” But in looking for inspiration, don’t look to our world or our history. Look to your imagination; this is a realm that should feel as if it’s shaped from dreams and nightmares.

The core idea of Khorvaire and the Five Nations was civilizations where arcane magic has been incorporated as part of society. The most basic, core idea of Riedra was a civilization where psionics are the foundation of society. With Eberron we wanted to look at the logical consequences of magic existing; with Riedra, we wanted to do the same for psionics. At the same time, knowing that many DMs don’t LIKE psionics and feel that they clash with classical fantasy, it felt appropriate to make Riedra isolated and mysterious. DMs who WANTED to delve into psionics could either take adventures to Sarlona or simply have more contact with Riedran and Adaran characters. But that core idea was simple. Psionics are a well-established part of D&D that feel out of place directly alongside arcane magic. Let’s create a place where psionics BELONG—where they are a key tool of civilization.

The second purpose of Sarlona and Riedra is as the birthplace of humanity. We decided from the start that humans weren’t native to Khorvaire; that while they are the dominant species on Khorvaire, they are colonizers and on a fundamental level they are on the wrong side of history. But while humanity came from Sarlona, it’s no longer the land they left behind. In Riedra we have a new nation built upon the bones of those ancient realms, with many forgotten secrets waiting to be found.

Riedra is a dystopia where tyrants even control the dreams of their subjects. Or is it a utopia without crime, hunger, or doubt? We as players and DMs know that it’s an oppressive dictatorship, and yet it’s not the enemy of Khorvaire and many nations want its aid, which is again part of its story role: what do you do when your country allies with an oppressive nation? One of the fundamental principles of Eberron is that things aren’t supposed to be simple. WE know that the quori have stolen the freedom of the people of Riedra, but the greatest trick of the Dreaming Dark was convincing the people to build their own chains; the Riedrans don’t WANT your freedom. So we look at Riedra and feel that they SHOULD be the enemy; they are an oppressive dystopia, a vast and alien empire. But by default, they aren’t the enemy. So how do you deal with them? It’s the base of the Dreaming Dark, but the common people of Riedra don’t even know the Dreaming Dark exists.

So from a design perspective, here are the things Riedra brings to the world and to a campaign.

  • It’s a source for psionic content. Characters with psionic classes or abilities can be from Sarlona or have learned from a Sarlonan teacher. It provides an opportunity to introduce psionic villains and it’s a source for psionic artifacts. If you want a deep psionic campaign, it’s a place to run it. While that’s currently complicated by the lack of deep psionic rules, those rules are under development. I suggest alternatives later in this article, but if you do want to use the psi knight fighter or the soulknife rogue, this is where they belong.
  • It’s a dystopian tyranny, more inspired by 1984 or The Giver than any nation in our history. If you want to play out an underdogs-against-the-empire campaign, it’s better suited to that than any nation in Khorvaire… whether on the Adaran front, as a band of Akiak commandos, or a group of unchained dreamers hiding in the heart of the empire. Yet Riedra is also a place to explore what would we give up for security? Riedra has no crime, no hunger, no doubt. Are we so sure Khorvaire is better, with its greedy Houses, warring Wynarns, and Boromar Clan?
  • It holds the hidden bones of the nations that gave birth to humanity. Which means that it may hold many secrets lost in the Sundering. What did Khalesh know about the Silver Flame that the people of Thrane have yet to discover? Did the Pyrineans have ways to invoke the Sovereigns—new divine spells—that never made it to Khorvaire? What wonders and terrors are hidden in the war-mazes of Ohr Kaluun?
  • It’s closer to the planes than any other continent. In addition to massive manifest zones, it has wild zones—regions where a plane essentially projects into the material—and reality storms. This is a point that will be explored in greater detail in the upcoming article on the provinces.
  • Tied to a number of these points, Riedra is alien. It is shaped by spirits from another plane. It uses a supernatural science that’s all but unknown in Khorvaire, and it’s built on a foundation of nations that tapped the planes in strange ways. After a thousand years of Galifar, Khorvaire is known; Riedra is home to thriving civilizations, yet still unknown.

So in bringing Riedra into a campaign, you have a number of choices. If you have no interest in psionics you can ignore it completely. You can use it in the background, as a source for psychic characters and tools—the home of a single recurring villain or PC. You can highlight its role as an enigmatic ally—highlighting its presence in Q’barra, dealing with the Inspired ambassador at the Tain Gala—noting that it is a force that is technically helping and that the Five Nations want good relationships within, while also invoking its alien nature and dystopian aspects; if the Inspired ambassador offers aid, do the adventurers take it? If you choose to make the Dreaming Dark a major foe in the campaign, Riedra can become far more important, as diplomatic immunity and embassies serve as shields for Riedran villains. You could take the campaign to Riedra; perhaps the adventurers are fighting the Dreaming Dark or working with the Adarans, or perhaps they need to find a relic lost in a ruined temple in Khalesh or hidden in a war-maze in Ohr Kaluun. Or you could set your entire campaign in Riedra, focusing on the struggle against an all-powerful alien dictatorship that holds the common people in its thrall.

A RIEDRAN INVASION?

Riedra is a massive, tyrannical empire. The Dreaming Dark yearns to control all mortal lives. On the surface, this seems like it’s a set-up for a vast invasion. And if that’s a story you really want to tell in your campaign, your ally is Lord Zoratesh, the kalaraq quori who commands Riedra’s armies. However, in canon Eberron, it’s not a scenario that’s likely to occur. Secrets of Sarlona says…

Both the Devourer of Dreams (leader of the Dreaming Dark) and Lady Sharadhuna (leader of the Thousand Eyes) believe that (open war with Khorvaire) would be disastrous, providing a common enemy to unite the people of Khorvaire, destabilizing Riedra, and risking the ire of the dragons, the Lords of Dust, and other conspiracies currently watching from the shadows. 

Lady Sharadhuna believes that the quori don’t need Khorvaire—that dominating Sarlona is sufficient for their needs. The Devourer of Dreams does plan to conquer Khorvaire, but not through brute force. Secrets of Sarlona notes that “The unity of Riedra succeeds because the people believe that the Inspired are saviors, not conquerors.” The quori created Riedra through manipulation. They tricked the old kingdoms of Sarlona into fighting each other, eroded faith in the old religions, played on prejudices and fears. And then they created the Inspired as champions who rose up from among the common people, uniting the people to fix the disasters the quori had carefully engineered. So the PEOPLE believe that the Inspired are heroes—legends who guided them through a terrible age of darkness and into a golden age.

The Devourer of Dreams plans to use the same script in Khorvaire… and most likely is already doing it. Over the last century, a stable kingdom collapsed into chaos and civil war. This war was driven by the paranoia of the last king and by the ambitions of the heirs—exactly the sorts of emotional states that could be engineered or enhanced by quori manipulation. We’ve never said conclusively that the Dreaming Dark DID cause the Last War, because ultimately we want each DM to make that decision themselves. But it certainly fits their style. They don’t conquer with invading armies; they conquer by tricking people into tearing their own nations apart. The trick here is that if the quori DID ignite the Last War, they surely DIDN’T cause the Mourning. It’s the Mourning that has brought a sudden and immutable end to the war, as the nations are afraid to continue their battles until the mystery is solved. So if the Dreaming Dark caused the war, the Mourning is surely a deep source of frustration for them… and they are likely trying to solve this mystery themselves!

But if you want to explore the quori conquest, there’s a crucial second piece of the puzzle. The quori don’t need the people of Khorvaire to adopt Riedran customs. The Dreaming Dark wants to create a stable civilization where it controls the dreams of the public, using a system similar to the hanbalani monoliths in Riedra. But they don’t NEED people to worship the Inspired or to follow the Path of Inspiration. They created the Inspired because it fit the situation they’d created—because they were saviors who rose from within to solve the problem. If they’re using the same script in Khorvaire, they will create something local and new—a force that the people of Khorvaire will accept as their saviors. Consider a few possibilities…

  • The Sovereign Swords. Presented in Dragon 412, the Sovereign Swords are an order of selfless heroes guided by the Sovereigns and strengthened by their angels. Or are they? The Swords truly are devout champions who seek to aid those in need. But are their powers and visions coming from the Sovereigns? Or are their “angels” actually quori, and their visions carefully scripted by the Dreaming Dark? The original Inspired were heroes who rose up within the common people, guided and strengthened by celestial powers. The Sovereign Swords could be unwitting tools of the quori, following the same script… but how can adventurers be sure?
  • The Dragonmarked Houses. Again, the Dreaming Dark doesn’t need Khorvaire to resemble Riedra; it just needs the situation to be stable and it needs people to accept their quori-designed monolithic dreams. One of the basic themes of Eberron is the balance of power between the old monarchies and the dragonmarked houses. Perhaps the quori are working within one or more houses to drive this—pushing for a future in which the common people accept that the old nations are irrelevant and that the houses are the future—creating a functional dictatorship run not by godlike Inspired, but simply by gold. In such a future, the monolithic dreams could be presented as a SERVICE: House Cannith and House House Sivis working together to provide you with OneDream™, the latest in somnambulant entertainment! Tasker’s Dream is a House Sivis think tank working on the potential of telepathy; could it be a quori front?
  • The Once and Future King. Alternately, the Dreaming Dark could have helped to tear down Galifar in order to rebuild it… to its own design. The Dreaming Dark could choose one of the existing candidates and work to present them as the true, destined savior who will restore Galifar. Queen Aurala is a possibility since she is known to want to restore Galifar, but an exotic option would be Prince Oargev of Cyre—if the Dreaming Dark helps to create a narrative of how the prince who lost everything is the one destined to save us all. This option is a way to have a LITTLE bit of a Riedran invasion, since Riedra could lend troops to support Oargev’s claim—but again, the goal of the Dreaming Dark would be to convince the common people to support Oargev; they don’t want to CONQUER, they want the people to build their own cage. So using dreams and agents, they’d work to convince people that Oargev IS blessed, that the Sovereigns are behind him, that he’s the one who can sweep away the corruption and terrors of the war and restore a golden age, where even dreams are always happy.

The net point is that Riedra is a looming and powerful force, but it doesn’t want outright war with Khorvaire; instead, the Dreaming Dark seeks to rebuild from within. But who will be their figureheads and catspaws?

RIEDRA AND THE INSPIRED IN FIFTH EDITION

The basic concept of Riedra is that it’s a society built on a foundation of everyday psionics… and there’s no system for psionics in fifth edition. What’s the answer? How can you make a Dreaming Dark assassin feel suitably different from a mundane rogue? How do you make Riedra feel truly alien?

Psionic Characters and NPCs

While the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t have finalized rules for D&D, Unearthed Arcana has explored a number of different approaches to psionics. Here’s the latest version, which includes a Soulknife archetype for rogues, a Psi-knight fighter, and a Psionic Soul archetype for sorcerers. The article also calls out that the Great Old One warlock has always had “psi-themed powers”—its class features grant telepathy, a thought shield, and the ability to mentally dominate a thrall.

So you can work with the options in Unearthed Arcana. If you want a psionics system that’s as entirely unique as the third edition system, there are third party options available on the DM’s Guild. But my personal approach is simpler. If you separate class mechanics from the default flavor associated with them, you have the tools to create a wide assortment of characters. A barbarian doesn’t have to be angry. A bard doesn’t have to be an entertainer. Consider the following ideas, which could be agents of the Dreaming Dark or heroic PCs.

  • Tactile Telekinetic. This is a human child—an urchin living in a bad part of Sharn, ignored by the world. Despite their childlike appearance, they display surprising strength—because they are channeling telekinetic ability through their body. When they are forced into battle, they’re surrounded by a translucent field of energy—a force field that reduces damage from physical attack and increases the damage of their melee attacks. As long as they are aware of threats, they can try to use their gift to shield them from threats that require a Dexterity save. That’s the STORY. Mechanically, this character is a halfling urchin barbarian. The halfling race is used to represent “young human”—small and quick. Mechanically, the character has a high strength, but they don’t LOOK like it; nothing says that a strong character has to have big muscles! The telekinetic shield is reflected by Unarmored Defense, temporarily supercharged when the character activates “Rage.” They describe “Danger Sense” as being able to deflect threats with their shield. Fast Movement? Kinetic enhancement. The point is that what Rage DOES is provide you with a temporary boost to melee damage, resistance to physical attacks, and advantage on Strength checks. It’s up to you what that looks like—whether it’s primal fury that allows you to only take half damage from physical attacks, or if you’re generating a telekinetic shield.
  • Thoughtstealer. This clever agent blends exceptional training with coercive telepathic power. They carry no weapons, preferring to strike their enemies with disorienting psychic blasts. They can use their telepathic gifts to guide the actions of their allies or to disable their enemies. And above all, they excel at beguiling their foes. This is a bard of the College of Lore, who fights with vicious mockery and describes Bardic Inspiration and Cutting Words as telepathic guidance or interference. Friends, charm person, and suggestion round out their powers of mental coercion; they could add sleep as the power to shut down enemy minds, and detect thoughts is an obvious choice. Bardic Inspiration and vicious mockery are limited by the fact that the victim has to be able to hear the target, but in MY campaign, if the bard is a kalashtar, I’d allow this to combine with their racial Mind Link power; the caster doesn’t have to speak aloud if the target is within range of their Mind Link.
  • Mindbreaker. Perhaps I want a more aggressive psion. Though they carry no weapons and wear no armor, this Inspired commando can shield themself with a kinetic shield, blast enemies with telekinetic force, and unleash devastating blasts of psychic power. When an enemy strikes them, empathic feedback causes the attacker to share their pain. This is a warlock, flavoring eldritch blast as telekinetic force bolts and mage armor as a kinetic shield. To add some flavor I’ve changed some damage types; the “empathic feedback” is armor of Agathys but dealing psychic damage instead of frost damage. The character is a Fiend pact warlock, but I’m changing the damage type on all their fire spells—burning hands, scorching ray, fireball—to psychic damage and saying that they don’t cause any damage to nonliving creatures… so the Mindbreaker can unleash a psychic blast that devastates a crowd (psychic fireball) but doesn’t burn down the building.

You can apply this principle to any character, PC or NPC. Mage armor or stoneskin? Wall of force or Bigby’s hand? Telekinesis. Detect thoughts or enthrall? Telepathy. Even disguise self could be described as planting a telepathic image in the minds of viewers; to add flavor, a DM could say that this spell won’t affect someone protected by a ring of mind shielding or creatures immune to being charmed. A fighter could describe Second Wind as psychometabolic healing, and Action Surge as momentarily altering their perception of time. A monk can easily present their qi-related abilities as being psionic disciplines, and for this reason we’ve always presented monks as being more common in Sarlona. Sometimes it makes sense to change a damage type or a detail of an effect; perhaps a Kalashtar quori-hunting paladin deals psionic damage instead of radiant damage with their smite, and Divine Sense and Divine Smite are effective against aberrations instead of undead. On some levels, this is a question of balance; radiant damage is a powerful tool against undead, and if my campaign was going to be all about fighting the Emerald Claw, I wouldn’t make that change to a PC. But if DM and player approve, there’s nothing wrong with having a “paladin” who smites with the power of their mind and lays on hands using a psychometabolic discipline. The EFFECT is extra-damage-on-melee-attack and heal-on-touch; nothing says it HAS to come from a divine power.

The default with this approach is that “psionic spells” are still treated as magic for purposes of detect magic, antimagic field, etc. The essential principle is that all forms of supernatural power—divine, arcane, primal, psionic—are different ways of manipulating energy, but that the results are similar enough to overlap. On the other hand, if a DM chooses, they could change the rules. Perhaps psionic spells can’t be countered with counterspell or negated with an antimagic field—in which case I’d likewise say that a psionic version of counterspell would only work on other psionic spells. This is a way to emphasize the alien nature of psionics—the diviner can’t even sense them!—but can raise balance issues.

So the primary question is what do you want from psionics in your game? If you WANT them to be entirely unique and to have nothing in common with other forms of magic, the best bet will be a third party approach. If what you are looking for is unique flavor, you can add that directly. So personally, I don’t have any problem using the Dreaming Dark in the current system; I just make a few changes to the creatures and characters I use as a base.

An Inspired as a PC? It’s possible someone could be set on playing an Inspired as a player character. While the obvious answer is to have them be a rogue Chosen who’s wearing a charm that protects them from being possessed by their quori spirit, perhaps they WANT to play an active Inspired. This isn’t as impossible as it sounds. There are factions within the Dreaming Dark; Lady Sharadhuna of the Thousand Eyes believes that the Inspired don’t NEED to conquer Khorvaire and that the Devourer of Dreams is chasing their own personal ambition, not working for the good of all quori. A PC could easily be a Chosen vessel of Sharadhuna or one of her top lieutenants, sent to Khorvaire to monitor and potentially interfere with the Devourer’s schemes. They’d be entirely loyal to Riedra and to their Quori spirit, but that doesn’t mean they are evil or intend any harm to the people of Khorvaire. Personally, I’d design this character as a kalashtar warlock—either using the Fiend patron and the Mindbreaker model I suggest above, or the Great Old One patron and more of a telepath/manipulation spell set. The point of the Inspired is that the powerful spirits have multiple Chosen hosts, intentionally spread around; so the character’s patron might BE Sharadhuna, but she very rarely actively possesses the character aside from to give them direction; she’s got far more important things to take care of in Riedra. As with any warlock patron, they teach the character to use their supernatural abiolities and give them direction; and the DM has the OPTION to have the character be fully possessed (temporarily gaining a boost in power) if it serves the needs of the story, but the character can’t trigger this.

Everyday Psionics

Here we run into a more basic problem. If we are using reflavored spell effects to represent psionics, than how is the psionic society of Riedra any different from the wide magic society of the Five Nations? And wasn’t that the whole point of Riedra?

The saving point here is that unlike Khorvaire, the economy and society of Riedra isn’t based on the widespread presence of low-level casters. Sarlona doesn’t rely on the psionic equivalent of magewrights. Psionic training and power is concentrated in the hands of a small group of extremely powerful people—the Inspired. Essentially, we always say that Khorvaire is “wide magic” instead of “high magic,” because it’s about a vast number of people employing low level magic, while high level spellcasters are very rare. Riedra is the opposite. It’s high psionic—a nation where a privileged corps of extremely powerful immortals have used their powers to create the infrastructure. Under 3.5 rules, there are 20th level psions among the Inspired; by comparison, Merrix d’Cannith is a 12th level character. Because of this, it’s less about what effects are used on a daily basis? What psionic powers might a local merchant use? and more what massive wondrous systems have been put in place by the metaconcert of the Inspired? This ties to the point that most dragonmarked tools require a dragonmarked heir to operate them. In Riedra, the infrastructure systems are powered by the psychic energy gathered by the monoliths; they don’t NEED the common people to do anything. Again, rather than widespread low-level casters, Riedra relies on the small corps of extremely powerful individuals creating self-sustaining systems.

The main point is that the infrastructure systems described in Secrets of Sarlona can be used as described even if we don’t have a perfect psionics system underlying them—because most of their effects are story effects as opposed to magewrights actively casting spells. Let’s take a quick look at the psionic infrastructure in place in Riedra.

  • The Hanbalani Altas. The most iconic element of Riedra is the massive ovoid monoliths spread across the landscape. These monoliths draw on the thoughts and emotions of the surrounding populace and convert this into psychic energy, which is used to power most of the effects described below. They are also planar anchors, slowly helping to bring Dal Quor back into alignment with the material plane. Where most of the services in Khorvaire are provided through individual dragonmarked enclaves and different focuses, the hanbalani represent a chokepoint for the Inspired; disabling a hanbalan is a way to essentially “cut power” to a region. This ties back to the basic point that the Inspired have great power in their SYSTEMS, but that power isn’t spread throughout the populace.
  • Nondetection. Each hanbalan is the center of a massive nondetection effect that prevents outsiders from scrying on Riedra. Once people are within the field, scrying and divination work normally, and people within the field can scry on those beyond it. But this field prevents diviners in Khorvaire from spying on the Inspired.
  • Dreamshaping. The quori believe that by stabilizing the dreams of mortals they can stabilize Dal Quor itself, preventing the prophesied turning of the edge that will end il-Lashtavar and reshape all quori. One of the most important functions of the monoliths is to broadcast the dream programming that is shared by all the people of Riedra. From Secrets of Sarlona: The typical Riedran dream is soothing and vague, blending images to project the wonder of Riedra, the joys of being part of a greater whole, and the celestial benevolence of the Inspired. Every so often, these soothing visions are interspersed with flashes of the dark horrors that lurk outside the borders of Riedra.” These dreams can be fine-tuned, targeting a region or village with a specific village, but the purpose is to have a single dream whenever possible.
  • The Voice of Riedra. Just as they broadcast dreams, the hanbalani allow the Inspired to broadcast telepathic messages over a wide area. Through the network, a message can be broadcast across the entire Unity. However, messages are usually tailored to a specific region or even a particular village. The Voice provides news, instructions, and encouragement throughout the day. It allows the Inspired to mobilize a region against a problem—for example, sharing a description of a dangerous group of rogue adventurers. It also provides the sense that the Inspired are always watching, even though the Voice is just an outward projection.
  • Teleportation. Swift transit is an important area in which Riedra has a significant advantage over Khorvaire. Riedra has a network of massive teleportation circles that connect points in space. There are two very important distinctions between the psionic circles of Riedra and the teleportation circle network House Orien is developing in Khorvaire. The Riedran circles connect two specific gates. The circle in the fortress of Kintam Lar connects to the city of Durat Tal and that’s all; it can’t be adjusted to teleport to Dar Jin. While that’s inherently more limited than the typical teleportation circle, where it has an enormous advantage is that it’s always on. As long as the portal can draw power from the hanbalani, it is always active. The Inspired can move entire armies across the continent, or transport vast quantities of food and supplies. Durat Tal is the central hub for this network—so in moving that army, it will march through the gate at Kintam Lar, arrive in Durat Tal, and then enter another gate to, say, reinforce Kintam Keera in Borunan. The kintam fortresses and bastion cities are thus connected by teleportation networks, and caravans deliver goods or troops from these hubs to surrounding villages. By contrast, House Orien is developing a system that works using the teleportation circle spell. This allows one Orien circle to connected to any other Orien circle, but an heir must have the ability to cast the spell to open the circle and it only remains open for one round. So currently the system is a novelty—a way for wealthy clients to move swiftly, but not a system that can be used to move armies or replace the lightning rail as a means of transporting goods. A key point of the Riedran system is that the gates are all heavily guarded and that this service isn’t available to the general public; Riedrans aren’t SUPPOSED to travel. But this ability to swiftly move forces across the length of Riedra is one of the most powerful tools of the Inspired.
  • Light and Heat. In Khorvaire, light is provided by individually enchanted everbright lanterns. In Riedra, the energy of the hanbalani flows into specially treated crysteel (a substance that has properties of both crystal and metal) and causes it to glow. In villages light comes from mounted crystal globes, while in larger communities the buildings themselves shed light; seen from afar, a bastion city is a stunning vision of glowing domes and spires. This same system can provide climate control, heating buildings in the chill north or cooling them in the tropical regions of the south. As such, fire is rarely seen in a Riedran community; light and heat are gifts of the Inspired.

These are systems that are immediately obvious, even to outsiders. Other systems are more subtle; the Thousand Eyes has a network of remote viewing (psionic scrying) that dwarfs the capabilities of even House Phiarlan or the Trust. The Inspired also have an interesting advantage in terms of communication, which is that any Inspired can leave its current vessel and return to Dal Quor at any time. There are Inspired whose sole role is to deliver messages; they have host Chosen in every major city and fortress, and can move between them to get news where it needs to go within seconds.

So in comparing Riedra to the Five Nations, the INSPIRED have capabilities that far outstrip the nobles of Khorvaire. They have a system of swift communication, a vast network of observation, the ability to transport forces across the continent in a brief time. But the common people don’t have access to any of these services, and daily life is more limited than life in the Five Nations. There’s no casual equivalent to the widespread magewrights and wandslingers of Khorvaire. While there are humans trained in psionics or magic, they are devoted to very specific roles—notably the Edgewalkers who protect the people from supernatural threats. The people benefit from crystal illumination, the guiding Voice, the unifying dreams. But they are dependent on the Inspired for these services… and if a hanbalani is deactivated, these services will be lost.

Casual Telepathy. One more point to consider when working to present the alien flavor of Riedra and the everyday role of psionics is the casual, institutional use of telepathy. Street signs don’t bother with names (and many Riedrans are illiterate); instead, a subtle telepathic signal means that you always know where you are in a Riedran city, if you stop to think about it. Riedran monuments project feelings or images; in studying a statue of a hero you may feel a swell of pride at their achievements, and when you visit a memorial you may find that you remember the tragedy that it commemorates, as if you were there. All of this is perfectly normal to a Riedran, but it can feel intrusive or unsettling to people from Khorvaire.

Riedran Tools

While Riedrans make use of wood, metal, leather, and other materials commonly found in Khorvaire. However, they use a few materials that are less common. Crystal is a useful medium for psionic energies; as noted, crystal spheres provide illumination in most Riedran villages. Crysteel is a substance that has the appearance of crystal, but the durability and flexibility of metal; it is an excellent channel for psionic power and is used both to make buildings, tools, and weapons. Sentira is a substance that has the appearance of polished shell; it is actually a form of ectoplasm, created from pure, solidified emotions. Sentira is a critical part of Reidran tools, as it is an excellent channel for psionic effects tied to its associated emotion.

Should you use a unique psionic system, Riedra is the logical source for psionic tools. But as with character abilities, you can create things that feel like psionic tools but that use the rules for traditional magic items… perhaps with a twist or two. Consider the following…

  • A flame tongue sword that inflicts psychic damage instead of fire damage; it channels the rage of the bearer and directs it at the target.
  • A crystal that serves as a wand of fireballs, but deals psychic damage instead of fire damage and causes no damage to nonliving targets.
  • A shard of crystal that serves as a psionic equivalent of a scroll, holding a single charge of a psionic spell effect.
  • A psionic tattoo. This can be transferred to a willing creature by touch, and triggered as a bonus action; it duplicates the effects of a potion, and vanishes when its power is used.
  • A crystal figurine of wondrous power. When activated, the statue doesn’t grow or animate; instead, it projects an ectoplasmic construct of the associated creature around the crystal core.

… And so on. Effects that can be easily identified as telepathy, telekinesis, or teleportation are logical. It makes sense for a Dreaming Dark spy to have a cape of the mountebank, a ring of mind shielding, and perhaps a sword of life stealing that deals psychic damage instead of necrotic damage. Riedran wings of flying might work through telekinetic force rather than by becoming actual wings. An important limitation is that many “psionic magic items” can only be attuned or activated by people with some degree of psionic talent. Depending on how the DM decides to implement psionics, this could be a negligible issue; on the other hand, it could be a way to provide agents of the Dreaming Dark with powerful tools that can’t be immediately used by the adventurers (even if they can surely find people in House Cannith or Sivis who will be happy to pay for them!).

Speaking to the overall alien aesthetic of Riedra, most structures are built from stone, sentira, and crysteel. Structures are often shaped through metacreative techniques; spheres are more common than sharp angles, and sentira tools have the look of horn or shell—more grown than built.

Loose Ends

This covers the most basic issues, but there’s certainly other questions one might ask regarding Riedra in fifth edition…

What about elans and dromites?

Elans and dromites are races that were added in the 3.5 Psionics Handbook and given a place in Sarlona. Immortal elans were described as being living prisons for exiled quori, while the insectoid dromites leave deep below Sarlona and fight an ongoing war with the Inspired. Elans play such a trivial role in the setting that it’s not something I’ve personally taken steps to correct. For dromites, the simplest answer at the moment is to use the psionic version of the thri-kreen to represent them. It’s not perfect (among other things, dromites are a small race) but if you don’t want to design a new version of the dromites or use a third party resource, thrikreen are an existing option. I’d love to write more about my vision of dromite culture in Sarlona, but that’s another topic.

Do you see a way for PCs of Khorvaire to enter Riedra without being sneaky? A more lawful or proper way?

Sure, this is discussed on page 46 of Secrets of Sarlona.

The Iron Gate does not charge for transit visas, but it rarely grants them. Riedra isn’t for tourists. Travelers must provide a valid reason for entry and show that they have no criminal tendencies or intent, as well as enough knowledge to avoid accidentally breaking Riedran laws. A successful DC 30 Diplomacy check is sufficient to get an entry request considered, but even then the reason must stand on its own. Finally, mind probe (EPH 119) is often brought into play to ensure that the travelers have no hidden motives. If the request is especially intriguing or risky, the Iron Gate might allow travel but send a member of the Thousand Eyes along as a chaperone and observer. Unless the party is deemed a serious risk, this observer is a Chosen; the controlling spirit only takes possession of the vessel every few hours to check on the situation.

I would also be interested in finding out more about means for PCs or other characters to being able to lay low in Riedra after becoming targets. It sounds like they can be scryed up pretty easily.

Remote viewing essentially functions like scrying. So using the 5E rules, first the viewer must know SOMETHING about the target; they can’t just say “There’s some foreigners somewhere.” If the scrying force is simply working off a description of the character, the target gets a +5 saving throw versus the attempt and if they succeed, it can’t be repeated for another day. So I’d start with that; they’d have to deal with a daily scrying attempt.

If they can find allies among the Unchained or the Dream Merchants, they could potentially either acquire the equivalent of a Ring of Mind Shielding or something else that could help them hide. Perhaps a sentira ring with a strong resonance can essentially mask the wearer’s personality signature—not making them IMMUNE to divination, but providing a large bonus to saving throws against scrying. I could also see manifest zones as interfering. Scrying can only target creatures on the same plane of existence, and wild zones are described as essentially a chunk of the plane intruding into Eberron; I think it’s reasonable to say that the Thousand Eyes cannot scry into wild zones, so those become sanctuaries for rogues and rebels alike.

The kalashtar believe that by doing good works and promoting peace through the Path of Light, they will bring about the turning of the Age and create Il-Yannah, the Great Light. By that logic, one would think that the way to preserve Il-Lashtavar would be to spread war and suffering.

That’s not actually how it works. If that’s what the kalashtar believed, they’d be wandering across the world trying to spread peace and goodwill, and they notably ARE NOT DOING THAT. The Adaran kalashtar have remained in isolation for centuries, and even the Kalashtar in Khorvaire are called out as largely remaining in their isolated communities, not actually traveling around spreading goodwill. Those few who DO take this sort of direct action are the shadow watchers, and are called out as being few in number.

Here’s the idea. All quori believe that the Quor Tarai — the spirit of the age — has a natural lifecycle. It WILL change, regardless of what mortals do. It gets thirty or forty thousand years (as Eberron measures time) and then it changes. That’s just a scientific fact of how Dal Quor works, just like how the planes orbiting. So there is a clock counting down to the turn of the age. The kalashtar want to keep that clock counting down or, if possible, to speed it up. The Inspired want to break the clock – to freeze it and stop the hands from moving.

Here’s a crucial piece from Races of Eberron: The majority of kalashtar devote themselves to spiritual warfare. These kalashtar, called lightbringers, believe that the only way to truly destroy the Dreaming Dark is through spiritual change, that through their religious rituals they are slowly turning the wheel of the age, banishing the dark and bringing in the light. Thus, most kalashtar appear to be peaceful mystics, but in their minds, they are soldiers in the midst of a war.

A second point: The kalashtar want to reshape Dal Quor, and they believe that with their continued devotions they are doing so.

The Path of Light embodies the values of il-Yannah, so those who follow it actively seek to embody those values. But they aren’t trying to impose them on others, because that’s not necessary. THROUGH THEIR MEDITATIONS they continue to turn the wheel; and when it finally changes, the world will BECOME a better place.

Likewise, the Dreaming Dark doesn’t believe that they NEED to spread darkness. This is an age of darkness. What they need to do is to stop the clock. The Inspired are trying to cheat and freeze time by essentially freezing mortal dreams—creating a shared, static dream and simply stopping change. But they are still AFRAID that the kalashtar, through their meditations, are moving it forward — and so, they seek to destroy the kalashtar.

The point being that to US it seems like the Adaran kalashtar are trapped in their mountains and accomplishing nothing. But THEY believe that they are winning their war, because every day they continue their devotions moves us closer to il-Yannah.

How does this affect the two sides in their ongoing war? Do either have some kind of proof or evidence that their way is working? What else could this mean?

No, they have no way to measure success. Like all the religions of Eberron, this is entirely a question of faith. This is the point of the disagreement between the quori leadership. Lady Sharadhuna doesn’t think the Inspired NEED to conquer Khorvaire; she thinks they’ve already won the war. Zulatar thinks they must conquer Khorvaire. And the Devourer of Dreams may be pursuing its own agenda.

It’s possible that the idea that the Kalashtar believe they need to promote peace comes from Faiths of Eberron. I didn’t work on that book and I don’t actually recall what it says about the Path of Light. But by other canon sources, the kalashtar who actively meddle in the world are the shadow watchers, and they are a minority; the majority of the kalashtar believe that they are fighting the war by meditating in their monasteries.

Obviously this only scratches the surface of Riedra, but that’s what I have time to address here. This isn’t intended to invalidate Secrets of Sarlona, so you can find more information there. My next article will dive into the provinces of Riedra. Because of the length of that article (which is considerably longer than this one), I’ll be posting an excerpt of it here on the site, and posting the full text to the Inner Circle of my Patreon. Thanks to the Patreon supporters who keep this site going and who chose this topic!

Sidebar: Aberrant Champions

It’s hard to talk about dragonmarks and the dragonmarked houses without also discussing aberrant dragonmarks and the War of the Mark. I posted a sidebar article about Aberrant Dragonmarks not too long ago, but my Patreon supporters recently raised a number of questions recently about the aberrant champions of the War of the Mark, notably Halas Tarkanan.

For a quick refresher: Long ago aberrant dragonmarks were more widespread than they are today, and they were also more powerful than the common aberrant mark known today—the simple powers granted by the Aberrant Dragonmark feat. The dragonmarked houses—quite young at the time—used the fear of aberrant dragonmarks as a scapegoat, both as a cause that helped to unite the houses themselves and to strengthen public opinion that “true” dragonmarks were good, and aberrant dragonmarks were the foul touch of Khyber… and lest it go without saying, many members of the houses believed the tales they spread. There’s no cure for an aberrant dragonmark, and this led to mob violence and from there to more organized persecution on the part of the houses. “The War of the Mark” implies a conflict between two even sides, and this was anything but. Due to house propaganda, people with aberrant marks were feared and ostracized, and this was more of a witch-hunt than a war. However, as it drew on, a number of leaders emerged among the aberrants—people with the charisma to lead and the foresight to plan, and with enough raw power that even the houses came to fear them. These leaders gathered bands of aberrants around them and sought to establish sanctuaries or hold off her houses.

The band whose exploits are best known was tied to three powerful aberrants. Halas Tarkanan was known as “The Earthshaker,” and his aberrant mark gave him power over elemental forces. His two greatest allies were known only by titles. The Lady of the Plague controlled vermin and disease, and was widely seen as the most dangerous of the aberrants. The Dreambreaker wielded vast psychic power and could crush lesser minds. Beyond his personal power, Tarkanan was a master strategist. Under his guidance, they seized the city of Sharn (which far smaller than it is today) and established it as a haven for the aberrant. But the houses had superior numbers, resources, and discipline. Sharn was besieged, and when it became clear that the battle was lost, Halas determined to make the victory as costly as possible. The three aberrant leaders gave their lives and poured their essence into terrible death curses. Little is known about the impact of the Dreambreaker’s curse. But Tarkanan’s curse shook the earth and collapsed the old towers, while the Lady of the Plague spread deadly disease throughout the ruins and called up strange forms of vermin. Those few soldiers who survived the attack lingered just long enough to carry the plagues to their comrades; even in death, the Lady of the Plague inflicted a lasting blow on the house forces. Today it’s her curse that is still felt. The region known as “Old Sharn” is sealed off because it’s believed that her plagues still linger in the depths, and there are forms of vermin found in Sharn that aren’t seen anywhere else in Khorvaire.

In considering the aberrant leaders, there’s a few things to bear in mind. The first is that they possessed aberrant marks of a level of power not yet seen in the present day—aberrant dragonmarks comparable to the Siberys dragonmarks of the houses. But beyond that, just like the house of today, their greatest powers came not simply from their dragonmarks, but from tools that focused and amplified the powers of these marks. Tarkanan channeled his power through a gauntlet he called the Earth’s Fist. The Dreambreaker used the Delirium Stone to focus his mental energy. And the Lady of the Plague wore a cloak she called Silence. So it’s not that Halas destroyed a city with his mark alone; just Cannith has creation forges and Lyrandar has its storm spires, it was the Earth’s Fist that allowed Tarkanan to level Sharn. And while these leaders died, it’s quite possible these artifacts survived. Each one was designed to interface with the unique marks of the champions who carried them, but it’s possible that a modern creature with a similar aberrant dragonmark could attune to one of these deadly artifacts.

So who were these aberrant champions? The short answer is that no one knows for sure. They lived over fifteen centuries ago, most were outcasts, and of course, the winners write history. Any serious scholar has to eliminate the propaganda circulated by the houses at the time—stories that present Tarkanan and his allies as monsters. Sivis propaganda suggested that Tarkanan was an avatar of the Devourer—a story supported by his elemental power—sent to bring suffering to innocents. Other tales claimed that all of the aberrant leaders were “lords of dust,” lingering fiends from the Age of Demons that delighted in chaos and bloodshed. So the short form is that it’s hard to be certain of anything and that adventurers could always discover new answers over the course of their adventures. What follows is the answer in my Eberron—the truth that could be found by a diligent sage—but that doesn’t mean it’s the absolute truth.

Halas Tarkanan

Halas Tarkanan was the son of Ilana Halar d’Deneith, an heir of House Deneith, and Grayn Tarkanan, a mercenary licensed by the house. Ilana commanded the mercenary regiment Grayn served in, and the two fell in love. When Grayn developed an aberrant dragonmark his contact with the house was severed and Illana was ordered to end her relationship with him. She refused and was excoriated. Ilana and Grayn left Korth behind, working as independent mercenaries in southern Wroat (the region that’s now Breland), where Deneith had yet to fully establish its presence.They served the self-appointed King Breggor III in a series of bitter conflicts between Wroat lords, and Halas was raised on the battlefield. Ilana taught her son the arts of war, and he was as capable as any Deneith heir. A Sivis account says that Halas murdered his parents, but the truth is more complex. In this time the houses were expanding their whispering campaign against aberrants, and House Deneith was expanding its operations in Wroat. Deneith promised to support Breggor, but first he had to rid himself of his aberrant and excoriate champions. Illana’s troop was sent into an ambush and trapped on a now-forgotten bridge over the Dagger River. They were surrounded by enemies when Halas’s aberrant dragonmark manifested. Its power collapsed the bridge, killing both his family and their enemies, and Halas himself was presumed dead; the destruction of the bridge was held up as yet another example of the dangers posed by aberrant dragonmarks. But Halas survived.

There’s few concrete records of the next decade of Tarkanan’s life. Some say that he secretly made his way to Rekkenmark, and served in the armies of Karrnath; in these stories, some of his unmarked comrades in arms later joined his struggles in Wroat. Certainly, he eventually fought a one-man war against Breggor and House Deneith’s operations in Wroat, gaining greater control over his powers with each guerrilla attack. He obtained the Earth’s Fist during this time, presumably by working with the Tinker. He met the Lady of the Plague in this time, but none know exactly how. Within House Tarkanan, one story says that the Lady found Halas dying of infected wounds and saved his life; another tale says that the two were both sheltering in the same village during an aberrant purge. Whatever the truth, they were already partners when the houses and their supporters began executing aberrants.

Halas was a gifted tactician, and the Lady of the Plague seems to have been a persuasive speaker; together, they executed an exodus through southern Wroat, rallying aberrants from across the region around Sharn. The rest is history; in the novel The Son of Khyber, a contemporary says of Halas “I think he always knew how the struggle would end, but he was determined to give our people hope and to make the houses pay for the blood they spilled.”

So: what’s known of Halas Tarkanan? He was the child of a Deneith excoriate and hated House Deneith above all others. He was skilled with a sword, but his talents as a commander were more important than his skills with a blade. He was ruthless when he had to be, and was willing to make sacrifices when it was the only way to hurt his enemy. And not only did he possess an aberrant mark of great power, he knew techniques that allowed him to manipulate his mark in ways unknown in the present day… as shown by the “death curse” that leveled old Sharn. Many dragonmarks place a burden—physical or mental—on the bearer. There’s no records of what price Halas paid for his power, but some stories suggest that his mark may have reacted to his mood—that he was always calm, because his anger could shatter the world. But as with so much about him, this is largely conjecture. There are no records of him having children, but if any existed it’s likely he would have kept their existence as secret as possible. Certainly by the end of the War of the Mark, the houses claimed to have completely eliminated the “blood of Khyber”—but as as aberrant dragonmarks aren’t hereditary in the same way as true marks, it’s possible he could have had an unmarked child who slipped past the divinations of the Twelve.

The Lady of the Plague

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

This is the most detailed description of the Lady of the Plague, drawn from this (noncanon) article on aberrant dragonmarks. On a small scale, the Lady could use her mark to inflict effects similar to harm and insect plague. But her greater gift was the power to create virulent diseases—plagues that could spread across entire cities. However, she had no ability to cure the diseases she could create. Unleashing a disease was like setting a fire; it could spread farther and faster than she intended. She was one of the most infamous aberrants of the age; the destruction of Sarus was a regular feature in the propaganda of the Twelve, carrying the warning that sparing one aberrant could doom your entire city.

Halas Tarkanan was a strategist and a warrior, and is usually seen as the leader of the Wroat aberrants. But sages who dig deep will find that while Halas was the warrior, the Lady was the visionary—that it was her impassioned speeches that rallied the refugees when spirits were low, and she who convinced people to follow and fight alongside them. While Sivis accounts typically depict the refugees as all aberrants, the fact is that there were many unmarked people who joined the aberrant cause. Some were relatives or lovers of the marked, but others were compelled by the Lady’s words, and made the choice to stand by those innocents being hunted by the houses. Halas and the Lady rallied other oppressed people, and many Wroat goblins joined their cause. When the Twelve finally laid siege to Sharn, only about half of the people in the city had aberrant marks, but all chose to stand and fight.

It’s known that the Lady had unusual theories about the nature and purpose of aberrant dragonmarks. It’s possible she had some inkling of the Draconic Prophecy, but she may have simply believed that aberrant marks and those who carried them had a role to play in the grand order of things. There are no known recordings of her beliefs… but perhaps one of her journals remains hidden in Old Sharn, or even somewhere in Aundair.

Like Halas, the Lady of the Plague possessed the ability to enhance her power through her own pain, and her death curse lingers to this day. Her cloak Silence helped her contain her power and prevent accidental infection of innocents, but it also amplified her abilities.

The Dreambreaker

The Dreambreaker was a gnome born in what’s now Zilargo. His aberrant mark allowed him to shatter the minds of people around him and some accounts suggest that he could twist time and space. However, his power also affected his own perception of reality. It’s said that he believed the Wroat aberrants were actually fighting the Sovereigns, and that the houses and their mortal minions were simply manifestations of this greater cosmic struggle. He was devoted to the aberrant cause and his sheer power was a vital weapon in their arsenal, but his instability prevented him from leading forces on his own. Like the Lady of the Plague, the Dreambreaker was often featured in anti-aberrant propaganda; Sivis spread wild tales of his abilities to crush minds and claimed that he could murder innocent people in their dreams.

The Dreambreaker possessed a focus item called the Delirium Stone, presumably created by the Tinker. He is presumed to have died in the siege of Sharn, but he is known to have been fighting in a different tower than Halas Tarkanan and some accounts suggest that he planned to twist time, stealing the future from the houses… but nothing was ever heard from him following the destruction of Sharn.

The Tinker

Halas Tarkanan, the Dreambreaker, The Lady of the Plague, Kalara of the Ten Terrors, and more—the most infamous champions of the War of the mark all possessed artifacts that channeled and focused the powers of their aberrant marks. But where did these tools come from? Halas was no artificer, and the aberrants didn’t have the resources of House Cannith. Or did they? It’s recorded that Halas ascribed the Earth’s Fist to “the tinker,” and storytellers have used that to create a mysterious figure—an aberrant heir of House Cannith! Whose dragonmark allows them to consume or twist the enchantments of objects! Others say that this tinker must have been a fiend—able to create tools to channel the power of Khyber because they themselves were one of the true children of Khyber. Either of these are possible, but there is a simpler possibility: that “the tinker” may have been a term referring to a number of sympathetic artificers within House Cannith who opposed the War of the Mark and sought to aid their aberrant foes.

The true identity of the Tinker could be an interesting mystery to solve—especially if House Tarkanan starts receiving aberrant focus items in the present day. Are these gifts from the original Tinker, somehow preserved through centuries? Or is this the legacy of a movement in House Cannith—perhaps tied to the humble Juran line—that has hidden in the shadows of the house?

Why Does This Matter?

For centuries after the War of the Mark, aberrant dragonmarks were all but unknown. Over the age of Galifar they slowly began to return, but their powers were trivial in comparison to the might of Halas Tarkanan or the Lady of the Plague. Within the last century aberrant dragonmarks have been appearing at an unprecedented rate, and a few with greater power have been reported. Is this the work of the daelkyr? A sign that an overlord is close to breaking its bonds? Or could it be a manifestation of the Draconic Prophecy: could the aberrants have a vital role to play in the days ahead?

While there are no concrete mechanics for powerful aberrant marks, as with an dragonmark a player character could ascribe their class features to an aberrant dragonmark. A sorcerer’s spells could be drawn from their mark; a warlock could take their aberrant mark as their patron, perhaps even hearing it whisper or receiving strange dreams. Even a barbarian could say that their rage is the power of their aberrant mark. I personally played a character in a campaign who believed that he had inherited Halas Tarkanan’s mark, and that it was his destiny to rally and protect the aberrants of the present day. That’s one possibility: the idea that the essence of one of these champions could be reborn in the present. Another possibility is that the Dreambreaker could have been right all along; that he did have the power to twist time and space, and that he channeled the essence of the aberrants to the present day (a variation of this is explored in the old RPGA adventure “The Delirium Stone”). Alternately adventurers could encounter a ghost or some other legacy of one of these champions—or perhaps find a journal of the Lady of the Plague, containing strange insights.

General Q&A

Were aberrant marks always ostracized? When Cannith and Sivis began to rally the other bloodlines into the Houses, were mixed marks thought of as undiscovered new marks, or were their destructive abilities quickly categorized into the realm of dangerous and taboo?

There was certainly a time when aberrant marks weren’t as feared as they are today, let alone the crazed fear that drove the War of the Mark. We’ve called out that the houses actively fanned the flames of fear and built up that hatred for decades before the War of the Mark finally took place. But while it may not have been as intense, they were always feared, because as called out in the other linked articles, they ARE dangerous. The Lady of the Plague DID destroy multiple communities before learning to master her power—and there are many aberrants who never learn to master their powers. It was easy for the houses to amplify the fear because people were already afraid, and the houses encouraged this instead of working to bring people together. But there were also surely communities that refused to give into that fear—villages that were havens for those with aberrant dragonmarks. Such communities would have provided the bulk of the numbers in the Wroat exodus, both of marked and unmarked refugees; while the people in these communities stood together, they also knew that they couldn’t fight house forces.

Regarding why the marks weren’t seen as undiscovered new dragonmarks, and why they quickly became taboo, there’s two factors. Aberrant dragonmarks aren’t hereditary and don’t have a common appearance. Three marks that grant burning hands could all manifest in entirely different ways. It’s rare to find any two aberrant marks that are identical, let alone that resemble the “true” marks, so people were pretty quick to conclude that these weren’t just some undiscovered new mark. Beyond this, the issue is that not only is an aberrant mark not hereditary, manifesting an aberrant mark severs your connection to any other dragonmark. When the child of an Orien and Cannith manifests an aberrant mark, it also eliminates any possibility that their children could manifest the Mark of Making or Mark of Passage. As the houses were still working to build their numbers and the strength of their lines, this revelation was as significant a factor in banning inter-house liasons as fears of the mixed marks themselves.

How do you see the participation of the Houses that existed at the time playing out in the War of the Mark?

Part of the purpose of the war was to strengthen the ties between the newly minted houses—creating a common foe they could fight together. This was also a way to familiarize the people of Khorvaire with houses that had previously been limited to a particular region and to help them spread. There were houses that didn’t exist—Thuranni, Tharashk. The Mark of Detection had only just appeared, and it’s quite possible that Medani was formed during the war, as the hunt for aberrant marks would certainly have discovered this new true mark. But Phiarlan performed reconnaissance, Deneith provided the bulk of the soldiers, Cannith armed them, Jorasco healed them, Ghallanda supported them. Vadalis provided mounts to ride and beasts to track the foe. Sivis most likely focused on logistics and propaganda. In the adventure “The Delirium Stone” (EMH-7), adventurers encounter a squad of soldiers including Deneith infantry, a Phiarlan archer, and a Jorasco healer supporting the unit. Later encounters include a Vadalis magebred swarm and a Cannith construct.

Ghallanda is an interesting question. While I expected it was pressured to support the action and likely helped with supplies, I can definitely imagine individual Ghallanda heir providing sanctuary to aberrant refugees, holding their principles over the goals of the alliance.

In Dragonmarked it’s said that the Medani were originally thought to be aberrants, and that they were subsequently coerced into joining the Twelve.

It’s difficult for me to imagine that there was any significant length of time in which Medani were mistaken for aberrants. Aberrant dragonmarks and true dragonmarks are dramatically different. All true dragonmarks share the same general coloration, sizing, and overall design; the Mark of Detection is distinctly different from the Mark of Making, but at a DISTANCE it looks the same. Aberrant marks vary wildly in color and design. They aren’t hereditary and two marks that grant the same power may be dramatically different in appearance. Even if someone believed that despite looking just like a true mark that a mark was aberrant, the moment they saw that the person had a brother with the same mark they should know something was up. And remember that the Twelve were LOOKING for additional true marks; they called themselves “The Twelve” before they’d found twelve marks, because they were convinced there were others out there waiting to be found.So I have great trouble imagining a widespread series of events in which Medani were mistaken for aberrants. One or two minor incidents, sure, But even at a distance, if someone saw the blue-purple mark they likely wouldn’t say “No, wait, that’s not exactly like one of ours”—they’d say “Damn, that half-elf has a dragonmark! Who let a Lyrandar in here?”

With that said: The Mark of Detection manifested during the War of the Mark. So those who carried it lived alongside aberrants, and could easily have been caught up in the purges that targeted them. As such, I can see many Medani having sympathy for the aberrants and choosing to stand alongside them: “Why do you treat me differently than her, just because my mark is blue and the same as my father’s?” So I think it’s quite plausible that a number of early Medani rejected the Twelve and actually fought alongside the aberrants; but that’s not the same as being mistaken for aberrants. And I do think that overall, the Medani were pressured—even threatened—by the other houses to join the Twelve, and that this underlies their attitude toward the Twelve to this day.

That’s all I have time for now. Have you used aberrant dragonmarks or the champions of the War of the Mark in your campaign? If so, share your stories below. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going; supporters are currently voting on the topic of the next major article (Sarlona is currently in the lead!).

Dragonmarks: Reaching For The Stars

Image by Lucas Guerrini for Exploring Eberron

Nearly a quarter of Exploring Eberron is devoted to the planes of Eberron, providing a deeper look into these different layers of reality. While this addresses the supernatural cosmology of Eberron, my Patreon supporters have posed a number of questions tied to the Material Plane. What do the people of Eberron know about the physical universe beyond Eberron? What is the nature of the moons? Could there be a space race in Eberron? Others have raised more practical questions: how do the many moons of Eberron affect its tides? Wouldn’t the destruction of a moon have had even more cataclysmic results than have been suggested?

Ultimately, this begins with a crucial question: what is the Material Plane? In the myth of the Progenitors—a tale told in some form by nearly every culture—the three Progenitors work together to create thirteen planes, each one an idealized exploration of a particular concept: Life, death, war, peace. Following this effort, they rest in the emptiness that lies at the center of the planes. There the Progenitors quarrel. Khyber kills Siberys and tears him apart. Eberron enfolds Khyber and becomes the world itself, forming a living prison she cannot escape.

Whether this is truth or metaphor, it is a basic explanation for natural phenomenon.

  • Eberron is the world and source of natural life. It is surrounded by the shattered Ring of Siberys, and it contains Khyber. Whether or not Eberron was once a noble dragon who imprisoned another dragon, it is a natural world that surrounds and imprisons a source of fiends and aberrations.
  • Eberron—and its Material Plane—lies between the thirteen planes. It is influenced by all of them but it’s not part of any of them. It’s a world that knows both war and peace, life and death.
  • By canon (Rising p. 228), Eberron is the sole planet in its Material Plane. Beyond this, when people dream in Eberron, their spirits go to Dal Quor. When they die, they go to Dolurrh. There are no accounts of people encountering spirits from OTHER material worlds in either plane.

So the first thing to bear in mind: There is nothing natural about the universe of Eberron. The story of the Progenitors might be fact or it could be mere myth. But Eberron does appear to be the center of its Material Plane. It is the fulcrum of the 13 planes, the point where they all intersect — and as shown by Dal Quor and Dolurrh, the creatures of the Material Plane are tied to the other planes. Dig below the surface of Eberron and you won’t simply find a molten core; you’ll find the demiplanes of Khyber. You can go down a tunnel in the Mror Holds, walk five miles, and come out in Xen’drik. Which is to say, this is a supernatural reality. Arcane and divine magic are side effects of this; Eberron is suffused with a fundamental force that doesn’t exist in our world. Now, this may be because Eberron as a setting is a created artifact—that some form of the myth of the Progenitors is true. Or it could be the result of undirected evolution… but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a supernatural reality, fundamentally different from the universe that we know.

This initial section examines the known facts about the celestial objects of Eberron. This is followed by a discussion of the possible space race, which goes into more detail about what might be found on the moons or in the ring. Lest it go without saying, this is my vision of Eberron and may contradict existing sourcebooks.

The Sun and the Stars

In the Progenitor Myth, the three Progenitors rested in the Material Plane after creating the planes. They created the sun, Arrah, much as mortals might kindle a campfire. This fire remained even after their battle, and continues to provide light, heat, and comfort to the world. Arrah is rarely mentioned because it functions much like the sun we’re used to; it’s good that it’s there, but you definitely wouldn’t want to visit it. In the Sovereign Host, Dol Arrah is the Sovereign of Sun and Sacrifice; her name is, essentially, “The Warrior Sun.”

As for the stars, there are stars in the sky of Eberron, but they aren’t the anchors of distant solar systems. There are limits to the Material Plane, and the stars mark those limits; whether or not you embrace the concepts of Spelljammer, you can think of them as glittering points in the shell of a crystal sphere. The common constellations are figures of ancient dragons—Io, Tiamat, Chronepsis—though most people can’t actually say where these names come from. It’s generally assumed that they were handed down by one of the ancient kingdoms of Sarlona, or established by the ancestors of the Aereni; in fact, this is a tradition that was spread by dragons, as they moved secretly among the lesser races.

The Ring of Siberys

The closest celestial object is the Ring of Siberys, a brilliant equatorial band of light that dominates the sky. We know that the Ring is comprised of siberys dragonshards, because it’s where those dragonshards come from. Most fallen shards are quite small, but it’s there are definitely larger shards in the Ring; the civilization of the Qabalrin elves of Xen’drik was destroyed when the Ring of Storms was struck by a massive dragonshard now known as the Heart of Siberys. It’s possible that the entire ring is made up of pure dragonshards, or it could be that there are shards embedded in a more inert material—perhaps the petrified flesh of an ancient cosmic dragon.

One of the more popular schools of arcane thought maintains that all arcane magic (and perhaps divine magic as well) manipulates energy that radiates from the Ring—that magic itself is the “Blood of Siberys.” Whether or not this is true, siberys dragonshards are an extremely valuable resource. Siberys shards are used for dragonmark focus items, but per Rising From The Last War they are also used for “eldritch machines or the creation of legendary items or artifacts.” A nation or house that can secure a reliable source of siberys shards will have a huge advantage in advancing arcane science. It’s also possible that an outpost in the Ring could harness the ambient energy of the Ring itself to perform epic magic. So the Ring of Siberys is close to Eberron and unquestionably valuable; if a space race begins, it’s the logical first step.

The Moons

Twelve orbiting moons are visible from Eberron. Each moon goes through standard lunar phases, and during the month that shares its name, the moon enters an “ascendant phase”; during this time the moon is brighter than usual. Each moon is associated with certain personality traits, and it’s believed that people are influenced by the moon that is ascendant at the time of their birth. Canon descriptions of the moons can be found in this article. Moving beyond canon (something suggested but never defined) there’s a further complication, because the moons are also tied to the planes—and each moon enters its ascendant phase when its associated plane is coterminous, and becomes unusually dim when the plane is remote. So while unusual, it’s possible for there to be two or three ascendant moons at a particular time, if multiple coterminous periods converge.

The connection between the planes and the moons is reinforced by the fact that within a plane, the associated moon is the only one that can be seen in the sky (assuming that any moon can be seen; not all planar layers have a visible sky). However, the phase of the moon doesn’t match its current phase on Eberron. It may be fixed in a single phase—such as in Lamannia, where the moon is always full, or it could change from layer to layer.

By canon lore, no humanoid has ever visited one of the moons. Because of this, their nature remains a mystery. They could be similar to the moon of Earth—harsh and barren. It’s possible that they aren’t planetoids at all, but are in fact planar gateways—that a vessel that tries to land on Dravago will find itself in Risia. This would explain why the moons don’t have the expected impact on tides; it may be that they don’t actually have any mass! A third option lies between these two: that the moons are habitable planetoids that are strongly influenced by the planes they are tied to. The moon Vult isn’t inhabited by the angels and demons of Shavarath, but it could be home to societies of tieflings and aasimar locked in an endless war… though unlike the immortals of Shavarath, the people of Vult might decide to turn their aggressive attention to Eberron!

THE SPACE RACE

By canon, Eberron is the only planet in its material plane. Between the planes and the demiplanes of Khyber, there’s ample opportunity for adventurers to explore strange new worlds, and deep space exploration was never planned as part of the setting; we don’t need to have alien invaders come from a distant planet when we already have alien invaders crawling out of Xoriat. Nothing’s stopping the DM from going full Spelljammer and breaking through the wall of stars. But by default, that’s not the story Eberron was designed to tell.

However, you don’t have to go into deep space to have a space race. The Ring of Siberys is a clear target for any advanced nation. Siberys dragonshards are an immensely valuable resource; now that the Five Nations are using dragonshards in an industrial capacity and can see the potential of siberys shards, it’s only logical that people would be looking to the skies and dreaming of the power waiting to be claimed. Beyond the ring you have the moons. Perhaps they’re barren orbs. But if they’re planar gateways they could be the key to serious planar exploration, and if they’re manifest worlds they could hold unknown wonders. So there’s clearly something to be gained from reaching for the sky. And just as in our world, a space race gives a clear, tight focus for the current cold war. The people of the Five Nations may be afraid to start the Last War anew… but which nation will be the first to plant their flag in the Ring of Siberys?

In dealing with the space race, there’s a few questions to consider. What are the obstacles that have to be overcome? Who’s in the race? Who’s already up there? And what might people find?

Obstacles

If all that it takes to reach the moons is to fly straight up, people would have done it long ago. Even though airships are a relatively recent innovation, surely in three decades SOMEONE has determined just how high they can go… and while airships may be new, brooms of flying and similar devices have been around. If there’s no obstacles, there’s no tension and it’s hard to explain why it hasn’t happened. Yet at the same time, this isn’t our reality and there’s no reason that the obstacles to space travel should be the SAME obstacles that we had to overcome. So as a DM planning a space race, consider the following factors.

  • Gravity. If you have to escape the gravity of Eberron to reach the Ring of Siberys, it’s easy to say that no standard methods of flight provide sufficient velocity to accomplish this. This provides room for different nations to be exploring different approaches to attaining that velocity. Elemental binding is an option; how many elementals can you bind to a vessel? Another option is to expand on the arcane principles of levitation, perhaps burning siberys shards to provide a temporary surge of energy. A more exotic option would be to abandon flight in favor of teleportation; imagine flinging a teleport circle anchor at the target.
  • Cosmic Rays. The Ring of Siberys is thought by many to be the source of arcane energy. If so, this radiation could be lethal without proper protection. Alternately, the energy might be harmless, but it could overload unprotected enchantments: until people figure out how to protect against this surge, all magical systems could burn out and shut down in the vicinity of the Ring of Siberys. This could form a deadly layer around the entire planet, or this could be a way to explain why people are aiming for the moons instead of the Ring; because they can’t safely get close to the Ring, but they can avoid it.
  • Oxygen. At what point does the air become too thin to breathe? Is there a vacuum between Eberron and the moons? Because this isn’t natural space, it could be that there IS breathable air throughout the entire system, or that the Ring or the moons have atmosphere—or it could be that the atmosphere largely behaves the way that we’re used to. If oxygen is an obstacle, it doesn’t affect the design of a vessel, but travelers will need to have a solution. Spells and magic items that allow people to breathe underwater could be adapted for this purpose; it’s possible that the same item could work both underwater or in the Ring of Siberys.
  • Hostile Environment. In our world, space travel may require you to deal both with extreme cold or heat. Is the Ring of Siberys shrouded in bitter cold, or is it mysteriously maintained at a comfortable temperature? Chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides basic guidelines for dealing with extreme cold, extreme heat, or high altitude. These could be intensified to reflect a truly alien environment, either reducing the time between required saving throws or amplifying the effects of failure. This could also be a factor in vessel design. Airships are made of soarwood; will a wooden ship burn up on re-entry?

Who’s In The Race?

The idea of a space race is that there’s a sense of tension and competition. The Ring of Siberys is too vast for any nation to claim dominion over it. But the first nation to establish an outpost in the Ring or on the moons with have the first opportunity to explore the environment, to harness its resources, and to establish contact with whatever creatures could be found there. The idea is that no nation or dragonmarked house has had unlimited access to Siberys shards; no one knows what could be done with that reliable source. So for purposes of the story, people should KNOW who’s in the race; adventurers could involve helping an allied power gain the resources it needs to advance or acting to block a rival power. So who’s in the race?

One option is to focus on the Five Nations: this is about Breland, Aundair, and Karrnath racing to the sky. A second option is to make it a rivalry between house and nation; perhaps it’s about the Twelve competing against the space program of the Arcane Congress.

Personally, my inclination is to focus on the Five Nations—emphasizing that the Last War has been replaced by a cold war. But I’d also throw in additional alliances. House Cannith is involved with everyone; it’s split in three and the house thus wins in any scenario, but part of the question is who wins; it could be generally understood that the Cannith faction that wins the space race will also claim the leadership of the house. So here’s the factions I’d use in MY space race.

  • Aundair: The Dragonhawk Initiative. Aundair’s space program is an alliance between the Arcane Congress, Cannith West (under Jorlanna d’Cannith), and House Orien. While they are exploring all possibilities, the Dragonhawk Initiative is focusing on teleportation. There are three current paths under investigation: direct teleportation (which also requires scrying to confirm the target point); physical projection of an object that serves as a teleportation circle; or using a passage through a plane to cross space. Thelanis and Xoriat are the planes most tied to these efforts. There is a branch of the Dragonhawk exploring traditional levitation, but leadership is convinced that teleportation is the cleanest and safest approach.
  • Breland: The King’s Observatory. The Observatory is a branch of the King’s Citadel, formed in alliance with Zilargo, Cannith South (under Merrix d’Cannith), and Hosue Lyrandar. While they are exploring traditional levitation techniques, the Observatory is primarily focused on building a better elemental airship, overcoming the obstacles with elemental binding and Cannith ingenuity. Merrix has been experimenting with living ships—a step that could render Lyrandar pilots obsolete. Syrania and Fernia are the planes most associated with their efforts.
  • Karrnath: The Blade of Siberys. The Blade is an alliance between the Karrnathi crown, Cannith East (under Zorlan d’Cannith), and a number of wealthy individuals. Antus ir’Soldorak brings tremendous wealth and mineral resources to the table; Alina Lorridan Lyrris is an expert transmuter and owns the richest khyber shard mines in Khorvaire. The fact that they’re both members of the Platinum Concord of the Aurum is a remarkable coincidence. The Blade of Siberys is primarily interested in reaching the Ring rather than the moons. It is focused on traditional magic of flight, but Zorlan is exploring ways necromancy could be used to solve this problem: ghost astronauts? A shadow engine that draws on the power of the Endless Night? These efforts involve the Mabaran manifest zones in Karrnath, but they are considering the potential of other planes. The Blade is also very focused on the military potential of this program, and any Karrnathi space vessel will be heavily armed.

Thrane is currently a minor player in the race, though the Argentum is exploring the possibilities for an engine that harnesses the power of the Silver Flame itself. Likewise, New Cyre lacks the resources to compete with these main players… but Oargev dreams of establishing a true new Cyre on Olarune.

Who’s Already Up There?

The Five Nations may be working to win the space race, but someone else likely won that race long ago. The dragons of Argonessen are an ancient and advanced civilization, and believe themselves to be the children of Eberron and Siberys; if it’s possible to reach the Ring of Siberys, they surely did it long ago. They could use outposts in the Ring to watch for the appearance of Prophecy marks, and the epic magics unleashed in the destruction of Xen’drik may well have been channeled through siberys shards harvested from the Ring. However, the Ring of Siberys is vast and the dragons are secretive; their outposts are surely well hidden, both physically and magically. Having said that, the dragons may not have bothered to explore the moons—so they could be a truly unexplored frontier.

The giants of ancient Xen’drik were also powerful and advanced. Both the Cul’sir Dominion and the Group of Eleven explored the planes; either one could have ventured into space. Any giant outposts in the Ring of Siberys would have been destroyed by the dragons when they laid waste to Xen’drik, but there could be still be ruins in the Ring. And if a DM wants to introduce a powerful force of giants or empyreans, they could have used a powerful sequester effect to conceal a base in the Ring or on one of the moons.

The Undying Court aren’t involved in the space race. The Ascendant Counselors explore the universe in astral form and have no need to do it physically. The Lords of Dust don’t have any outposts of their own, but they are surely watching all the participants in the space race. As the fiends are the children of Khyber, it’s possible that the pure essence of Siberys is especially repellant to them—that any fiend that approaches the Ring will be destroyed.

These are creatures of Eberron who might have settled above it; possible natives are discussed below.

Exploring the Ring of Siberys

The Ring of Siberys is the logical first stop in the space race, being closer than the moons and having a clear strategic value. If the DM would rather focus on the moons, the magical energies of the Ring can be deadly to living creatures. If the Ring is the destination, the first question is whether the Ring has gravity and atmosphere. This is the most magical place in existence, so anything is possible. The next question is whether the Ring is in fact entirely comprised of massive dragonshards, or if the bulk of it is some other material; it could be a soft stone, that some might see as the calcified flesh of an ancient dragon. Even if there is an atmosphere, the Ring is entirely barren. People may be able to dig into it or build structures on the surface, but there’s no natural sources of food or water; travelers will need to either have strong supply lines, or more likely, to come prepared with ways to magically create food and water.

Magic is dramatically enhanced within the Ring. One option is that all spells cast in the Ring benefit from the Distant Spell and Extended Spell Metamagic options presented in the sorcerer class. But it’s difficult to channel this power; if the DM uses this option, all spellcasting carries the risk of a sorcerer’s Wild Magic Surge. With time, it could be that spellcasters could learn unique spells that can only be cast in the magic-rich environment of the Ring.

Even if the energies of the Ring aren’t directly lethal, they can produce many dangerous effects. Just as the energies of the Ring can be used to produce fireballs and lighting bolts, the Ring produces dramatic, unnatural weather effects—bursts of fire, acid rain, illusory manifestations, psychic storms. The Ring also produces living spells, which linger for a time before being absorbed back into the Ring. Other native creatures are rare, given the difficulty of surviving in the RIng. However, just as the rakshasa are said to be the children of Khyber, the native celestials of Eberron—the couatl—are said to have been born of Siberys. While most of the couatl sacrificed their existence to bind the overlords, there could be a few powerful celestials still bound to the Ring. Given that Thrane isn’t a major player in the space race, the first explorers could be surprised to discover embodiments of the Silver Flame itself in the Ring of Siberys.

There’s another exotic possibility. Legends speak of the Irsvern—winged kobolds said to be blessed by Siberys. According to these tales the Irsvern live on the peaks of the tallest mountains; but what if they’re actually natives of the Ring of Siberys? What powers might these children of the Ring possess?

Exploring The Moons

Exploring Eberron provides more details about the planes, and will prove a useful resource whether the moons are planar portals or merely strongly influenced by planes. The main difference between the planar portal and the idea of the manifest world is the degree to which the adventurers can have a lasting impact, and the degree to which the world is an entirely new frontier. The planes are known, even if mortals don’t visit them regularly; and the planes cannot be fundamentally changed. On the other hand, manifest worlds are an opportunity to explore entirely new and alien realms—to have first contact with unknown cultures. This is another a way to introduce exotic races or elements from other settings; perhaps loxodons are from Olarune!

Q&A

Does Arrah orbit Eberron? If so, is it much further away than the moons?

There’s no canon answer to this. What we know is that Eberron has traditional seasons (as defined by the calendar)—that Arrah FUNCTIONS in the way we’re used to a sun working. On the one hand, there’s some logic to Eberron being stuck in the center of its sphere (though it could well be that it rotates in that central point and that Arrah is fixed!).

But let’s consider the Progenitor myth, which again, may or may not be exactly true but is still the closest thing we have to an explanation. In the myth, the Progenitors finish their work and rest in the Material Plane. They kindle Arrah as a campfire. They then fight: Siberys is killed, Eberron and Khyber entwined. Arrah exists BEFORE Eberron becomes a world, and I think it’s perfectly logical to say that ARRAH is at the very center of the plane and that Eberron orbits it. Though another sage could argue that the Progenitors were clearly the focal point of creation and that Arrah would have been pulled into their orbit. So like many things in Eberron, I expect that it’s something sages are actively debating in the world itself.

How do the multiple moons of Eberron affect lycanthropes?

The origin of lycanthropy remains a mystery. All lycanthropes are influenced by the moons, but not all in the same way; this suggests that there may be multiple strains of lycanthropy with different origins. The first strain is only affected by the phases of the moon Olarune; this is typically associated with good-aligned lycanthropes. The second strain of lycanthropy is affected by all of the moons, and multiple full moons can cause extreme behavior; this is the effect reported by the templars during the Lycanthropic Purge, and it encourages aggressive behavior and drives victims to quickly succumb to the curse. The third strain of lycanthrope is affected by the moon(s) that were ascendant at the moment of its birth or at the moment it was afflicted; this is common among natural lycanthropes. When adventurers encounter lycanthropes, the DM will have to decide which strain they’re dealing with.

In the past you’ve said that the Gith come from another world… could this be one of the moons?

It’s a possibility, but not the one I personally use. Exploring Eberron goes into more detail about how I use the Gith in my Eberron.

How do the shifter Moonspeakers see the moons? Are they planar portals or more like spiritual guides?

The Moonspeaker druids view the moons as spiritual guides. This doesn’t invalidate the possibility that they are planetoids or portals; the Moonspeakers invoke the spirits of the moons, just as some other druids invoke the spirit of Eberron. With that said, it’s worth noting that this material contradicts the Moonspeaker’s assignment of the moons; I didn’t design the Moonspeaker and I don’t agree with all of its choices.

While the moons correlate with the planes, is there really a correlation with the Dragonmarks, too? The lost moon is tied to Dal Quor, but the lost mark is the Mark of Death, which would have been tied to the same moon as Dolurrh, I would have thought.

There’s a few basic points here. The moons and the planes are both part of creation; they have both existed since the dawn of time. The Dragonmarks have barely existed for three thousand years, and it’s quite possible they were created by the daelkyr. Consider that Crya was lost tens of thousands of years before the Mark of Death even existed! So the ultimate point is that the association of dragonmarks and moons isn’t a concrete, natural FACT as the association of planes and moons is; it’s a superstition, where people have ASSIGNED marks to moons, because hey, twelve marks, twelve moons. And the people who made those assignments may not even know that there once was a thirteenth moon! So it’s possible that people have stumbled onto a cosmic truth in linking these together‚that even those the marks are recent, they tied into this cosmic code. But it could also be entirely speculative.

Having said that, consider what Dolurrh actually is. It’s NOT the “Plane of Death.” Many believe that it is the plane of transition, where the soul leaves its burdens behind and ascends to a higher realm. Aryth is “The Gateway” — and the dragonmark associated with it is the Mark of Passage. The point of this association is that Dolurrh ISN’T actually the destination; it’s a pathway to the unknown realm that lies beyond.

The moons of Eberron are tied to the planes. What about the sun? What’s it tied to?

There is no canon answer to this question, and I’m sure that sages debate it at Arcanix and Korranberg. I’ll give you three answers that all likely have supporters. One is that it represents nothing. It was created by the Progenitors to serve a utilitarian function; it’s the divine campfire. Another is that just as the moons are tied to the planes, the sun represents the MATERIAL plane. A third is tied to the theory that Dolurrh is a gateway that allows people to transition to the Realm of the Sovereigns, a higher realm no mortal can know; some surely believe that Arrah is tied to THAT plane, which is why it’s so much brighter than the moons; it’s a glimpse of the truly celestial realm.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters, who chose this topic and who keep this blog going! How have you used the moons or the space race in your campaign?

Dragonmarks: Aesthetics & Armor

Art by Júlio Azevedo for Exploring Eberron

Eberron is a world where you have the lightning rail, where warforged can be mass-produced, where the towers of Sharn scrape the sky. But it’s also a world where your character might be a knight in plate armor hitting things with a sword. So what does that look like? Does the world feel medieval, or is the aesthetic closer to World War I?

In creating Eberron, the design team made a conscious decision to keep the experience of the world grounded in D&D. This meant that people would still wear plate armor. They’d ride horses instead of motorcycles. They’d fight using swords and bows rather than using a version of firearms. So part of the point is that we didn’t want to make classic armor or weaponry obsolete. With the introduction of the wandslinger in fifth edition it’s possible to see how the world is moving in that direction—one of my favorite quotes from the Wayfinder’s Guide is the Aundairian exclaiming “Sovereigns above, Wyllis. We’re days away from the Eleventh Century and you’re still shooting people with pointed sticks?” So we are REACHING a point where the warlock wearing leather armor and carrying a wand is just as plausible a soldier as the fighter in plate with sword and shield. But for now it is still a world where armies clash with sword and spear.

With that said, the basic concept of Eberron is that it is a world in which magic has taken the place of the science we know. It’s a world that has trains, yes: but that train doesn’t use steam or gears, it’s a series of stagecoaches that ride a line of lightning. It’s NOT our world, and while the tools people use may have medieval names, that doesn’t mean they are medieval in form. I discussed this in a previous article dealing with crossbows, but it is equally important when thinking about armor. Heavy armor became obsolete in our world because crossbows and gunpowder weapons could easily penetrate it, and the protective value of the armor no longer offset its limitations on movement. But consider a few facts about armor in D&D…

  • Heavy armor provides equal protection against all weapons. Plate armor provides significantly better protection than leather armor, regardless of whether your attacker is using a sword, a heavy crossbow, or even a modern firearm (if you use the rules provided in the DMG).
  • Heavy armor is remarkably flexible. As long as you meet the Strength requirement, the only limitation it imposes is disadvantage on Stealth checks: it’s NOISY. But unlike previous editions, it doesn’t reduce your movement speed. And it doesn’t impose disadvantage on, say, Acrobatics or Sleight of Hand checks. That implies remarkable ease of movement. And, you can wear it all day without worrying about sores or other problems.

You can choose to look at these as the limitations of a casual rules system. But the alternative is to accept the idea that this isn’t medieval armor. It is “plate” armor, yes. It’s literally heavy and it requires a certain level of Strength to use it effectively. In terms of its materials and appearance, it’s not medieval. The same concept applies to other “medieval” things. Orien couriers use a form of horseshoes of speed that channel the power of their dragonmark (thus reducing the rarity) to give a mount greater speed and durability. So yes, people are riding horses instead of motorcycles, but that Orien courier can tear past you with blue light flashing from the hooves of the horse; less frequently you might even see a courier with horseshoes of a zephyr riding a horse across the surface of a river. It’s a MAGICAL world; don’t just think “No cars means it’s primitive”, highlight what they’ve developed instead. Mention the squad of Vadalis hippogriffs passing overhead, or the street performer weaving wonders out of illusion; it’s not medieval, it’s magical.

Magic is a part of life, and is very much a part of fashion. Glamerweave is a form of common magic item that imbues clothing with illusion. A sorcerer may wear a cloak that’s lined with a starry sky. A former soldier could have glowing sigils representing the medals bestowed upon them in their service etched into their armor. Consider also shiftweave, a common magic item that allows the wearer to shift between multiple outfits—so someone who can afford a common magic item can shift between their traveling outfit and a shimmering gown with a snap of their fingers. Exploring Eberron will also discuss cosmetic transmutation—the idea that you can go to a cosmetic illusionist and add magical details to your appearance. In Aundair in particular you can expect to see people with glowing eyes, metallic hair, or other cosmetic details that are obviously the product of magic.

Art by Olie Boldador for Exploring Eberron

Pulling back to armor and common appearance for a moment: Consider that Khorvaire is just two years out from decades of war. All genders served in the armies of the Five Nations. Combined together, you’ll see a trend toward practical clothing that allows freedom of movement. The closer you were to the front lines, the more you wanted to be ready for anything. Nobles might embrace fashions that restrict movement to make a statement—my fancy gown shows that I’m NOT going to fight, or that if I do it will be with magic, not muscle—but that would stand as an exception. Tied to this, armor has become a part of everyday life. Especially in the case of light armor, leather and even studded leather can be designed to be stylish and comfortable. Many former soldiers wear a modified form of their service armor. Think of it a little bit like gunslingers in westerns; carrying a pistol suggests you can handle yourself, but it’s not going to immediately raise alarm. The same is true of armor; heavy armor is definitely making a statement, but people won’t blink at someone causally wearing light armor.

So with that in mind, consider that the names of armors in D&D are arbitrary. A deeper system might explore the advantages and disadvantages of chainmail versus rigid armor; current D&D doesn’t. So consider chain shirt, scale mail, and breastplate:

  • These are all “metal armor” for spells and effects that target metal armor.
  • “Scale mail” is 20 lbs heavier and applies disadvantage to your Stealth Check, but provides better protection.
  • A “breastplate” is the same weight as a “chain shirt” but provides the same protection as “scale mail” while not imposing disadvantage on Dexterity checks.

Mechanically, these are the factors that matter: weight, AC, disadvantage on Stealth, metal armor… and the fact that someone who examines you can recognize those things. Everything else is story. There’s no reason that you can’t say that the Doldarun dwarves produce exceptionally strong, light chainmail that has the same characteristics as a breastplate rather than being heavy armor. Essentially, there’s no reason that “breastplate” armor has to BE a breastplate—as long as someone looking at the wearer can recognize the qualities of their armor. This likewise applies to, say, “studded leather.” It doesn’t have to actually involve STUDS; it is leather armor reinforced with metal, but that could be strips, metal vambraces and shinguards, etc; what’s important is that someone can say “Oh, it’s reinforced leather armor, that’ll have the stats of studded.”

Putting all of this to practical purpose, let’s talk about the common uniforms of soldiers of the Five Nations. Consider that they all BEGAN as soldiers of the army of Galifar, so while nations would evolve their own styles over the course of the war, it’s reasonable that they’d have a common base style used for conscripts. I imagine leather armor as either a leather greatcoat or, as shown with Greykell in the image above, a leather tunic supplemented with gauntlets or vambraces and high boots or shinguards. Advancing to studded leather you’d add metal to the vambraces and shinguards, and studs or strips of metal to the leather. Moving to medium armor, you’d add a metal helmet and breastplate. The standard model would MECHANICALLY be “scale mail”—but it’s a metal cuirass that’s heavy enough (that extra weight) that it applies the Stealth penalty. The improved model —the “breastplate”—is the same basic design, but uses stronger alloys to produce a thinner, lighter model that doesn’t impose the Stealth penalty. Advancing to heavy armor, I’d still keep the same cuirass design, but add chain beneath it. Now, this is definitely where you’d start to see national variation; the Karrns have always been the finest armorers of the Five Nations and will make more use of heavy armor, both in their armies and among their nobles; this can be more stylized, and even aside from the infamous bone knights you can expect gothic styling or details tied to a family crest. Meanwhile, actual chainmail would be more common in the Mror Holds and the Lhazaar Principalities… and again, I could imagine a Mror champion with reinforced double-chain that is effectively plate armor, even though it’s described as heavy chainmail.

All of this has been a very long way to say a simple thing: Just because people in Eberron use tools WE think of as medieval doesn’t mean they are medieval. You can adjust the appearance of everything from a crossbow to plate armor to make it feel more modern in its design, and you shouldn’t feel limited by the NAME of a type of armor as long as you logically maintain its STATISTICS and that someone can recognize that—again, nothing wrong with a Mror champion having chainmail “plate” as long as people KNOW that they’re fighting someone with the capabilities of plate armor.

I don’t have time to get into the individual fashions of each of the Five Nations now, but if patrons are interested in the topic, bring it up on Patreon and I may address it in an IFAQ or as a poll topic. But here’s a very high-level overview:

  • Aundair is the most magical of the Five Nations. They have the most significant number of wandslingers, and you’ll see more of a focus on the classic “musketeer”—lighter armor and wand. While mobility is key, Aundairians are definitely concerned with appearance and fashion, and are the most likely to use glamerweave or cosmetic transmutation to produce exotic effects. In general, Aundairians favor grace, mobility, and skill over heavy armor and brute strength.
  • Breland has always been called out for its industrial capacity and pragmatic nature. I see them as holding to the standard leather-and-cuirass design. People like to have some touch of personal flair, but they aren’t going to be as exotic about it as Aundairians or Cyrans.
  • Cyre falls between these two: not as dramatic as the Aundairians, but placing importance on personal style. In the past we’ve called out that Cyran fashions incorporate gloves and cloaks, with varying styles for the occasion—heavy cloak for traveling, short cloak for socializing, light long cloak with a glamerweave lining for the gala. Jewelry is likewise important for Cyrans—not necessarily holding great value, but as a form of personal expression. The fashion of “Mourningwear” is to maintain this style, but in black.
  • Karrnath is both gothic and martial in its overall style. It’s common to wear some form of armor, and heavy armor is more commonly used both on and off of the battlefield. Armor and helmets are designed to intimidate; in contrast to Aundair, in Karrnath strength is emphasized. The flag of Karrnath is black and red, and both these colors are common in their fashions.
  • Thrane is the most practical and least pretentious of the Five Nations. Templars may wear heavy armor, but the common peasant militias relies on light armor and bows. Light clothing is common, but subdued; cosmetic transmutation and glamerweave are rare. Followers of the Silver Flame will usually display a symbol of their faith, whether pendants, brooches, or painted designs.

That’s all I have time for today! Hopefully it’s been interesting. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going, and to patron dglover for the question that inspired this post. The next major article—as chosen by the patrons—will be on the moons and the space race in Eberron, though there may be another short article before that. Add your thoughts on fashions in Eberron in the comments!

Dragonmarks: The Artificer

A staff serves as a channel for destructive powers. A scroll holds words that can alter reality when read allowed. A potion is imbued with energies that can transform whoever drinks it. These treasures don’t simply appear in dungeons. In Eberron, magic is a form of science. Magic items are technology, and artificers are the engineers who work with these tools.

For the last two months I’ve been writing about the Dark Six. I’m tied up with multiple deadlines, and I will finish the Dark Six series as soon as I can. However, Wizards of the Coast just released a new version of the Artificer and I want to share my thoughts on it right away. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this website going!

This latest version of the artificer was designed with Eberron in mind, however the goal wasn’t to precisely replicate either the third or fourth edition versions of the artificer. An artificer is an arcane engineer who channels magic through tools, and who expresses creativity in a number of ways. Bear in mind that Unearthed Arcana is playtest material and that it specifically calls out that the next month’s UA article may contain additional content for the artificer. So the subclasses and content presented aren’t intended to be comprehensive or final. With that in mind, let’s explore a few things.

Artificers and Spells

Some people are disappointed that the artificer casts spells, and wish that it had a unique system of its own. A few things to bear in mind…

  • Scrolls and wands are examples of the technology artificers work with. What’s a scroll? A tool that casts a spell. The idea that the artificer produces spell effects through using tools is the logical extension of this. If an artificer created chemical explosives or firearms, it would make sense for them to use some other system. But they create items that produce spell effects, so it makes sense that the class can produce those effects.
  • The third edition artificer also cast spells. They were called “infusions” and had to be placed in objects, but aside from a few cosmetic aspects, they were spells. Now, the artificer had access to some unique effects, and we’ve already introduced one of these; arcane weapon is a variation of personal weapon augmentation. And there could be additional unique artificer spells in the future. But there’s no need to create an entirely separate system of mechanics for an artificer to heal when cure wounds is a simple, functional option. I’ll note that the artificer Lei in my novels frequently heals people; in 3E terms she’s using spell-storing item to create a cure wounds item, but the end result was that she was using a tool to cast cure wounds.

The critical point here is about flavor. From a STORY perspective, an artificer isn’t “casting a spell” like a wizard or cleric does—they are using tools to produce magical effects. As the Magic of Artifice sidebar calls out, while this follows the tried and true rules of spellcasting, from a story perspective it’s quite different. An artificer has to use a tool to perform magic, and the question is what that looks like. MECHANICALLY, an artificer gains no benefits and suffers no penalties from the fact that they are performing magic in a different way. But as long as you don’t demand something that should change the rules, this is an opportunity for you to add flavor to your particular artificer.

The Tools of Magic

Most artisans’ tools aren’t a single object. You’re not proficient with “a hammer”; you’re proficient with smith’s tools. So when you use a tool to cast a spell, it’s not that you just have a single magic hammer that you wave. Which elements of your tool are you using? What are you producing that creates the effect? Consider a few ideas…

  • Tinker’s Tools. This is a general catchall, as you can justify almost any sort of odd gadget with tinker’s tools. When using tinker’s tools, the idea isn’t that you’re producing your effect with the tools themselves (unless you’re casting mending or something similar), but rather that you’ve tinkered together some sort of prototype item. For example, my tinker artificer might use a dragon-shaped sidearm to produce fire bolt, or use a modified gauntlet to deliver shocking grasp. The point is that these things are unstable prototypes that can’t be used by anyone else and that I have to constantly tinker with to maintain. So I have to possess my tinker’s tools; I have to have a tool in hand to produce the spell effect; but that “tool” can be a dragon-gun as opposed to a pair of pliers. Regardless of what it LOOKS like, bear in mind that it is inherently magical. I might cast cure wounds using a tiny metal spider I’ve tinkered. But while it may LOOK like a clockwork construct, it’s magic that allows it to move and think. Mundane engineering may be a part of a tinker’s creations, but magic is what makes them work.
  • Alchemist’s Supplies. Alchemy blends chemical reaction with magic. This is the underlying principle behind most potions; the challenge of creating a potions is to suspend the mystical reaction so it can be consumed at a later date. It’s much easier to trigger an instant effect, and that’s what you’re doing when you use alchemist’s supplies to cast your spells. Your firebolt could be a thrown flask or some sort of dragon-gun like the tinker; in your case, it’s activating and spitting your flaming concoction. Poison spray is easily justified as flinging foul substances. Cure woundsfalse life, water breathing could all be potions you mix and serve on the spot: disguise self or alter self could be mystically charged cosmetics.
  • Calligrapher’s Supplies. Sigilry channels arcane power through symbols and sound, using special inks and techniques. As alchemy is to potions, sigilry is to scrolls; it’s much easier to produce an instant effect than to suspend and sustain it as a scroll. When you cast fire bolt, it could be that you use your quill to trace the name of fire in the air before you; or if could be that you have the sigil written down, and all you have to do is read it to produce the effect. Whether you draw sigils onto things or craft simple scrolls and read them, your pen is mightier than most swords.
  • Cartographer’s Supplies. This is a twist on the sigilist. On the one hand, you could just use your tools in the same way, drawing sigils. But if you want to be more exotic about it, you could specialize in calculating ley lines and the relationships between the planes. Essentially, the world is filled with mico-manifest zones waiting to be triggered; you’re using your tools to calculate the proper alignments to channel the energies you need.
  • Painter’s Supplies. If you want to be fanciful about it, you could paint what you need into reality. When you cure wounds, you’re literally painting over the injury; when you cast fire bolt, you paint the flame in the air and it flies towards your opponent. This is a variation of sigilry, but the same underlying principles apply. You might even create scrolls that are images rather than words!
  • Thieves’ Tools. All artificers are proficient with both thieves’ tools and tinker’s tools, and the point is that you largely use them in the same way. Thieves’ tools are picks and other fine manipulators. It’s not that you cast a fire bolt by pointing a lockpick at someone; it’s that you can use the lockpick to clear out that problematic valve on your dragon-pistol. Of course, if you WANT to come up with some lock-based form of artifice you can.
  • Woodcarver’s Tools. Wands, staffs, and rods are one of the most basic forms of arcane focus. As with tinker’s tools, if you perform magic with woodcarver’s tools, you aren’t actually blasting someone with a saw. Instead, you are using experimental, exotic, or otherwise temporary wands or rods. Again, the effect is that you have to have a tool in your hand and you have to possess woodcarver’s tools to perform your magic, but the exact nature of the tool in your hand is up to you. It could appear to be a traditional wand, or you could have come up with some new revolutionary form of wand/staff/rod.

Use your imagination, and remember that while you need a tool, you don’t have to work your magic with the tool itself; it’s that it enables you to use whatever you actually have in your hand to produce the effect. You don’t fling your alchemist’s tools at your enemy; you throw a temporary potion created using your alchemist’s tools. But you still have to have alchemist’s tools and a free hand to do this.

Spell Preparation and Infusions

During a long rest, an artificer prepares a number of spells equal to their Intelligence modifier + half their artificer level. They can also swap out one of their cantrips. But this isn’t a wizard reading a book. When an artificer prepares spells, it’s about putting together the specialized supplies and tools you need for the things you want to do. You can’t create a scroll with just ANY ink; a sigilist has to mix entirely different inks based on the type of effects they’re going to produce. Likewise for an alchemist, who prepares special reagents that they’ll combine to produce spell effects. If you’re a tinker, you’re creating and fine tuning your gadgets. The same is true of your cantrip; if you switch light for fire bolt, you’re apparently weaponizing your torch. All of this also explains the idea of spell SLOTS. The reagents you’ve prepared are tricky to produce and don’t last forever. You’re preparing as much as you can, but once you go through all your mystic inks you can’t produce another scroll effect until you have a few hours to work on it. Effectively, your spells use temporary magic items that only you can use—and you prepare those during your long rest.

Meanwhile, infusions allow you to create longer-lasting tools that your friends CAN use. This is a compromise with the generally low-magic approach of 5E and the idea that artificers should be able to create magic items. You CAN create items, but you can’t flood the party with them; it’s up to you what you do with this limited resource.

Turrets and Homunculi

We’ve said before that Eberron is a world where the weapons of war are magical. I’ve talked about siege staffs, tree-trunk sized staffs that can produce evocation effects far beyond the typical fireball or lightning bolt. First of all, you can assume that the artillerist is capable of maintaining and operating siege staffs.

Then we come to the turret. A turret is “a magical object that occupies a space and has crablike legs.” This base design reflects the apparatus of Kwalish and the arcane ballista seen in some previous designs. The main point is that it is fundmantally magical. It may have crablike legs, but it’s magic that animates them.

Beyond this, though, you and your DM can work out the exact form of YOUR turret. The main point is that it can produce the effects described and that it has a walking speed of 15 feet. Your force ballista could look like a mundane ballista that fires bolts of energy instead of physical projectiles. But it could also be a metal dragon that spits energy bolts. it should reflect YOUR personal style of artifice. Likewise, the Alchemical Homunculus of the alchemist is a tiny construct that can fly and that produces alchemical salves or splashes of acid. It could be a metal dragonfly that secretes salves, or it could be a tiny floating cauldron! Whatever it is, it’s a construct designed to deliver alchemical substances.

Styles of Artificer

As with any other class, there’s many ways to interpret the artificer and many different stories you can tell. Here’s a few ideas.

  • Wage Mage (Guild Artisan). You learned your trade from House Cannith, whether as an heir or in one of their trade schools. You put in your time in a house enclave or factory, and you’ve still got contacts in the business. Your artifice is functional and by the book, using the latest principles of accepted arcane science… unless, of course, your were thrown out of your job because you tried to push beyond the envelope.
  • Siege Engineer (Soldier). You operated and maintained the engines of war. Which nation did you serve? Are you haunted by the memory of blasted battlefields, or are you proud of your deeds? The Military Rank of the soldier background implies that you served with distinction, but you could be a Folk Hero who deserted during the war, or a mercenary veteran.
  • Innovator (Sage). You don’t do well with authority, and you never got along with House Cannith. As far as you’re concerned, the standard techniques of the magewrights and guild artisans are antiquated. You do things your way… though it’s up to you to say that the difference is! You could be a devotee of the Traveler, working on ideas that could shatter the current industrial paradigm. Or you could just be working with unusual materials or techniques.
  • Tool of War (Warforged Envoy). As a warforged, you were built to maintain other magical systems. Are you an experimental prototype, or a maintenance worker whose abilities outshone any expectations? Are you just doing a job, or do you hope you can use your skills to help all warforged? As an envoy, your Integrated Tool allows you to have your spellcasting focus embedded in your body, but bear in mind that you still have to devote a hand to using that tool; this doesn’t allow you to perform magic hands-free.
  • Thelanian Tinker (Entertainer or Outlander). In your youth you slipped through a manifest zone to Thelanis, and during your time there you learned unusual fey techniques. Like any other artificer, you use tools to produce magical effects and you can create temporary magic items. But your techniques are entirely UNscientific. You may sing to your tools, or talk to them as if they were alive; you replicate boots of flying by CONVINCING your boots that they are actually birds. Your turret or homunculus may be animated by a minor fey—perhaps a friend from your childhood.

Conclusions

This latest iteration of the artificer is just that—an iteration. It will surely continue to evolve, and your feedback could be part of that. But in use it as it stands, the key point to me is to recognize the creativity inherent in the class. Whether you’re swapping a cantrip or preparing entirely new spells, it reflects your character’s creative nature. You use the same basic rules for spellcasting as other classes, but from a story perspective it’s about you producing those effects with innovative techniques and tools. And while the ability to create permanent magic items is limited—a necessity given the basic assumptions of 5E—infusions allow you to create and modify your own unique items.

Q&A

Currently, the rules state “You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature.” Do you think it’s fair to amend that to say “Or an item crafted by your artisans’ tools?”

I think that the wording should be clarified, yes; again, it’s a playtest. However, my point is that tools are inherently abstract objects. “Tinker’s tools” weigh ten pounds. That’s not a single solid ten pound tool; it’s a tool KIT that has a lot of separate components. My argument is that when the text says “You have to have an artisan’s tool in hand” it doesn’t mean that you have to be holding your entire toolbox; you have to have the kit in your possession, and you have to have a hand free to make use of that tool. If you accept that, then I’m saying that the dragon pistol or alchemical salve is PART of the tinker’s tools or alchemist’s supplies.

Essentially, you have to have the tool in your possession and you have to have a hand dedicated to using that tool. If these conditions are met, what does it matter what the thing in your hand actually looks like? But with that said, I agree that it should be clarified if this is the desired outcome.

Post your thoughts and questions about this latest version of the artificer below!

Dragonmarks: The City of Silver and Bone

The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced the concept of the Feyspires: cities that drift between the Faerie Court of Thelanis and the material world. Legends say that the giants of Xen’drik pillaged one of these mystical cities, stealing its treasures and taking its people as slaves. According to these tales, the elves of Eberron are descended from these fallen fey. And it’s said that the ruins of the citadel remain somewhere in the wilds of Xen’drik. But these events occurred many tens of thousands of years ago, and the elves themselves know nothing about their distant ancestors. All that we know is the name of the fallen feyspire: Shae Tirias Tolai, the City of Silver and Bone.

So: the ruins of an ancient mystical city are lost in Xen’drik. But what will explorers find if they discover this shattered feyspire? What WAS the City of Silver and Bone? As with anything in Eberron, the answer is ultimately up to you. But here’s one possibility… an option that sheds new light on a few of the mysteries of the elves.

Study the lore of ancient cultures, and you’ll find a recurring story of a city that stands on the edge of life and death. A shade is drawn to Dolurrh, but along the way it passes through a wondrous city of silver and bone, a city with tapestries of fine glamerweave and bone fountains filled with blood. The librarians of this final city record the tales of the ghosts, a last record before their memories are lost in Dolurrh. The artists work with creative shades, offering a last chance to complete unfinished works. And then there are the necromancers who make darker bargains, offering a chance to return to the world of the living… but at a terrible cost.

This was Shae Tirias Tolai: the city at the crossroads, the repository of final thoughts and the last chance for the fallen to find a way back to the world. And its existence answers a number of questions that have lingered for some time.

  • The Qabalrin. It’s said that the Qabalrin were an elven nation of mighty necromancers who were feared by the giants, and who pioneered many techniques of necromancy. Stories say that there are ancient Qablarin vampires hidden in deep crypts, mighty undead that have been slumbering for tens of thousands of years. But the question has always remained: where did these elves come from? How did they learn these grand secrets of necromancy, this magic that rivaled the giants? If the tales are true, the first Qabalrin were fugitive citizens of Shae Tirias Tolai, survivors who used their necromantic knowledge to found a new realm in the mortal world.
  • Elven Necromancy. Likewise, the distant tie to Tirias Tolai explains the elven penchant for necromancy, both positive and negative. The Aereni and the line of Vol know nothing about their ancient ancestors, but memories still linger in their blood… and this may explain how the elves came to form two of the most remarkable necromantic traditions in Eberron.

But… it’s said that the giants feared the Qabalrin. How could that be, if they defeated Shae Tirias Tolai? Well, the story is that the titans of old took Shae Tirias Tolai by surprise, using treachery and careful preparation to catch the people of this city unaware. Beyond that, the inhabitants of the City of Silver and Bone weren’t warlike by nature. They dealt peacefully with the shades; they never expected an attack and weren’t prepared for battle. The Qabalrin, on the other hand, turned all their knowledge and power into weapons. They also rooted themselves in the mortal world. The original inhabitants of the City of Silver and Bone WEREN’T arch-liches or vampires; they simply knew the secrets of creating such things. In destroying the Silver City, the giants forced the survivors down a dark path.

So what lies in the ruins of the City of Silver and Bone? The first thing to bear in mind is that it is at its heart an imaginary city. It is literally ripped out of a faerie tale, and its structures and elements don’t have to conform to any sort of natural logic. It was always a gothic citadel that blended beauty and luxury with morbid reminders of death. Its people have been taken and it has been bound to the material world, but in a strange sense the city itself is still alive. Its story has simply evolved to encompass its downfall. Envision every story of a haunted castle or mansion and project it here. It is a city that was built using bones as its base—bones of dragons, giants, and all manner of lesser creature. Bone blends with marble and silver, with pools of fresh blood (which by all logic should have coagulated tens of thousands of years ago). Imagine a place of gothic beauty, and now add the aftermath of a terrible battle. Glamerweave tapestries display the tales of forgotten heroes, but the cloth is torn and tattered. The sounds of battle can still be heard as echoes. The spirit of every giant that fell in that ancient battle remain bound here, along with the angry shades of doomed eladrin and other innocent shades who were trapped in transition. Explorers may be overwhelmed by visions of that terrible final conflict, or assaulted by spirits who seek vengeance or a final release. An important point is that these spirits don’t have consecutive memory: for the most part, they are still trapped in the moment of their demise, still fighting their final battles and yearning for revenge on a nation that’s now dust.

Within this concept, it’s up to the DM to decide what wonders remain. Perhaps the library remains intact, holding the secrets of thousands of ancient champions (including dragons, giants, orcs, eladrin, and many others). Maybe there’s a vault of demiliches of dozens of different species, dragon-skulls who still remember the battles against the Overlords. The mightiest artifacts would have been taken by the giants, but there could be many lesser treasures that were beneath their notice… or deep vaults (such as that ossuary of demiliches) where even the giants feared to tread. Ultimately, it’s still important to bear in mind that it’s NOT simply the ruins of a mortal city; explorers are stepping into the story of a haunted ruin, clinging to its tragic loss. Another question to consider is whether the archfey of the city still remains, and if so in what form.

Strangely, this could be another way to explore the Raven Queen in Eberron. Perhaps the ruins of Shae Tirias Tolai still linger between Eberron, Thelanis, and Dolurrh. The Raven Queen is the archfey of the city that stands between life and death. The Shadar-Kai are all that remain of her beautiful children, and the memories she captures are what preserve her existence. If you take this route, the ruins would be revealed to be a gateway to Dolurrh. The question is whether the Raven Queen has accepted her fate and embraced her new story… or whether the player characters could undo the damage that has been done and somehow restore the City of Silver and Bone, allowing it to serve once again as a friendly waystation on the journey into oblivion.

Story Hooks

People exploring Xen’drik could simply stumble onto the ruins of Shae Tirias Tolai. The Curse of the Traveler makes the geography of Xen’drik unreliable; explorerers could discover the ruins once and never find their way back to the shattered city. But they could also be drawn to the haunted city. Consider the following ideas.

  • The party discovers a trinket from Shae Tirias Tolai. It could be carried by an enemy, found in a villain’s hoard, or simply discovered in a flea market or the trash heaps of Sharn. The trinket yearns to be returned to the City of Silver and Bone, and whoever holds it will have visions of the ancient city and its final battle. The trinket serves as a compass, and the party that carries it can ignore the Traveler’s Curse. Will they follow where it leads? A table of possible trinkets is included at the end of this article.
  • The Order of the Emerald Claw is searching for Shae Tirias Tolai. There are secrets in the City of Silver and Bone that are critical to the plans of the Queen of the Dead. Perhaps she can raise an army of lingering giant ghosts and bind them to her will. Possibly a crumbling dragon demilich knows the secret of restoring her lost mark. Whatever power she seeks, the PCs must find a way to reach Tirias Tolai before the Queen of the Dead… or if they arrive too late, to turn the lingering ghosts of the city against the Emerald Claw.
  • When a previously unknown undead force (Acererak? A Qablarin arch-vampire? A sinister being directly channeling the power of Mabar and Dolurrh?) threatens the world, the key to understanding this villain may lie in Shae Tirias Tolai. It could be held in a crumbling scroll in the library, found on a tattered tapestry, or contained in the cracked skull of an ancient demilich.
  • Someone who has been raised from the dead finds that they hear whispers, and are haunted by nightmares when they sleep or trance. Even though they have returned from death, a piece of their spirit has been trapped in Shae Tirias Tolai… and unless it can be released, their soul will eventually be torn from their body and pulled down into the haunted city. Play this a horror movie: the player character returned from the dead, but they came back incomplete and that hole in their soul is growing; if they can’t find the city they see in their visions, they will either die again or become some sort of undead monster.
  • Consider a variation of the Eye of Vecna. The giants couldn’t destroy the archfey of Shae Tirias Tolai, but they took pieces of the archfey and scattered them across the world. Each of these pieces grants great power, but the pieces yearn to be reunited and to return to the fallen feyspire. The spirit may not be evil in the traditional sense, but all mortals are as dust to it, and all that it cares about is its restoration and the restoration of its citadel. One possibility is that the sentience of the archfey doesn’t communicate directly with those who bear the pieces… but that they all know that ultimate power awaits in the haunted city.

These are just a few ideas. The point is that the City of Silver and Bone can serve many roles. It could be a haunted dungeon that adventurers stumble into once while exploring Xen’drik. It could the the ultimate capstone in the plans of the Emerald Claw. Or it could be a mystery that develops over time, a slow burn tied to the visions of a resurrected hero or the whispers of a powerful artifact.

Here’s a few ideas for trinkets tied to Shae Tirias Tolai. Even if the adventurers never go to the City of Silver and Bone, one of these trinkets could add interesting color to a story.

If you have questions or ideas tied to the City of Silver and Bone, share them below! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this website going. I’ll be at DragonCon, and I’ll post my schedule tomorrow!

Dragonmarks: The Aurum

Khorvaire is shaped by two powerful forces. The power of the aristocracy rests on land and tradition. The dragonmarked houses have used their gifts to carve out economic monopolies. How can a common person challenge these forces? If you don’t possess noble blood or a dragonmark, are you ultimately doomed to serve one of these forces?

The Aurum is a fraternal order that began in the Mror Holds; over the last century it’s spread across the Five Nations. Members of the Aurum are drawn from different religions, nations, races, and social classes. However, the order is highly selective in those that it allows to join. Notably, despite a general image as being a society of the wealthy and powerful, the Aurum rarely admits members of major noble families or dragonmarked heirs. Founder Anton Soldorak maintains that members of the Aurum must earn their place in the world, not simply stumble into it.

The Aurum is split into four levels, called concords. New members are admitted to the Copper Concord. While many believe that membership in the Aurum requires wealth, what the recruiters actually look for is influence and potential. To gain membership in the Copper Concord—the lowest level of the Aurum—you need to possess influence that will make you useful to other members. You could be a soldier, a member of the city watch, a prosperous merchant, a renowned actor, a respected sage in Morgrave, a member of a powerful criminal organization, a successful barrister… it’s a matter of impressing a patron with your talent, your influence, and most of all, your potential. Do you have skills or connections that will benefit the society? Or could you, with a little help? To move up in the ranks, you have to prove your talents and increase your influence. Members of the Gold Concord aren’t just actors, soldiers, or criminals; they’re crimelords, superstars, and generals. Members of the upper concords ARE invariably wealthy… but they’ve gained that wealth through their influence.

So what does the Aurum do? It’s a social club, with a hall in every major city in the Five Nations. It’s a philanthropic organization that supports local communities and arts. It’s a place where people with different political and religious beliefs can set those differences aside and talk; according to Soldorak, many of the most important negotiations of the Last War took place around a golden table. But ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s an organization that exists to increase the wealth and power of its members. Members of the Aurum are encouraged to assist one another and to exchange favors. Individually, Aurum concordians may not have the power of royalty or dragonmarked barons, but acting together they can accomplish great things.

So: the Aurum isn’t a SECRET society. It’s private, certainly; outsiders aren’t allowed into the halls. But even if the existence of the Aurum isn’t a secret, there are a host of conspiracy theories and stories about its hidden rituals and secret agendas. The most dramatic rumors speak of a cabal hidden within this cabal… a Shadow Cabinet of the most powerful individuals in Khorvaire. According to these stories, these concordians aren’t content to merely increase their own power; they are actively using the resources of the Aurum to undermine the Dragonmarked Houses and the old nobility of Galifar. On the surface this could seem to be a noble act. But the members of the Shadow Cabinet aren’t idealists working for the common good; they are simply determined to remove all obstacles to their personal power.

At its base, the Aurum is a society of wealthy and influential people. While the Aurum works together for the common good of its members, it’s not a tight-knit conspiracy like the Lords of Dust or the Dreaming Dark; it’s mainly a way to further justify the power of a few very powerful individuals. As such, there’s a few primary ways to use the Aurum.

  • As an enemy. Need a powerful foe for the players… who’s not TOO powerful? An Aurum concordian has power and influence, but can be driven by entirely selfish or eccentric goals. They aren’t trying to conquer the world; they’re trying to drive down property values in High Walls so they can buy a block of tenements on the cheap. If an Aurum concordian wants the Orb of Dol Azur it probably ISN’T because they’ll use it to kill everyone in Sharn; it’s just that they need it to complete their collection. Kaspar Gutman, the “Fat Man” of The Maltese Falcon, would definitely be in the Aurum if he lived in Eberron.
  • As an ally. All the things that make a concordian a useful enemy also make them good patrons for player characters. They have wealth, influence, and they’re generally not attached to any massive agenda; they’re driven either to increase their own wealth and influence, or simply to pursue their own interests. A concordian could be an eccentric collector seeking a rare artifact, an inventor who needs a priceless component only produced by House Cannith and reserved for the use of its heirs, or a ruthless criminal who’s going to draw the PCs into a web of intrigue. But again, they aren’t tied to any nation, any faith, or any vast and ancient force; they’re just people with money and things they want.
  • As an organization. An ambitious player character could be an aspiring member of the Aurum. Someone with the Criminal background could take the Aurum as their “criminal connection”—it’s not exactly a criminal organization, but it has criminal members and a great deal of shady influence. The Noble background couldreflect a character with a hereditary path into the Aurum… though again, Aurum membership must be earned. While members of the society will treat you with respect if you’re the child of a Platinum Concordian, and while that connection will get you past a lot of obstacles, you’ll have to prove yourself before you can wear the rings of a concordian.
  • The Shadow Cabinet. Part of the appeal of the Aurum is that it’s a society of individuals without a deep agenda. But what if there IS a group of shadowy masterminds pulling the strings from deep within, using the resources of its influential members to shatter the status quo? This storyline can be more compelling if players have already become entangled with the society in another way… if what appeared to be a club of eccentric and self-centered people are now revealed to be evil masterminds.

What’s my connection to the Aurum?

In the novel The City of Towers, the protagonist Daine has previously worked as a bodyguard for Alina Lorridan Lyrris, an Aurum concordian with great wealth and questionable morality. Daine doesn’t like or trust Alina, but when he and his companions are down on their luck, Alina is willing to offer them work. With the approval of the DM, any character could have a connection to an Aurum concordian. The first three tables establish a past connection to a member of the Aurum, while the DM can use the fourth table to determine the concordian’s current agenda.

Thanks as always to my Patreon backers, who keep this website going! And if you’re not up to date on Eberron in fifth edition, check out the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron and Curtain Call!

Q&A

What kind of economic sectors are not monopolized enough by Dragonmarked Houses (and the feudal nobility) to justify an Aurum concordian’s wealth?

First off, even within the fields monopolized by the houses, not everyone works directly for the house. Most people within a field are licensed by the house. They may receive training from the house; they pay a percentage to the house; they agree to meet house standards or follow certain practices (thus, standardized pricing for a longsword); and in exchange they can use the house seal. The Aurum includes many people whose businesses are licensed by a house. The most beloved singer in Sharn, from the list above, is surely licensed and booked by Phiarlan or Thuranni; but they aren’t necessarily an heir of the house, which means they will always be an outsider.

Beyond that, the house monopolies themselves aren’t absolute. Cannith dominates manufacturing, but they don’t control fashion or construction. Property management and real estate are options in places where the feudal monarchy has sold off land (which is certainly the case in parts of Breland and other nations). The houses have no role in the military, in religion, in crime, or in civic administration (examples of all those being given above). Anton Soldorak derives his wealth from mines, as do many concordians from the Mror Holds. Though by the principles of the Aurum, to rise to the upper concords you’d have to do more than inherit a mine; it’s Soldorak’s business accumen that turned those mines into an empire and founded the largest mint in Khorvaire.

So is the Shadow Cabinet a real thing, or not?

I think it is, but ultimately that’s up to each DM. The important thing is that even if it is real, most members of the Aurum itself don’t know about it. They may be tools of its schemes, and they might even support it if they did know about it, but it’s a secret society within a semi-secret society.

Druids in Eberron

A druid draws their power from Eberron. All natural life—from the druid, to the wolf, to the tree—is connected, all part of Eberron. The druid can use this connection to assume the form of other natural creatures, to manipulate the weather and other natural phenomena, to influence plants and animals.

With that said, what does it mean to be a druid? To most of the people in Eberron, the word “druid” conjures an image of mysterious sects conducting rituals in the deep wilds, of Ashbound avengers and Wardens of the Wood. Such druidic orders certainly exist, but a critical point is that not all of their members are druids.

In Eberron, the classes used by player characters reflect a remarkable degree of talent and potential. Most priests of the Silver Flame aren’t clerics or paladins. The same holds true with the members of druidic sects. Consider a few tiers of mystical talent.

  • Many of those who follow the Eldeen traditions are hunters, farmers, or initiates in the mysteries who have yet to unlock mystical powers. A hunter might be proficient in Survival and Stealth. An Initiate would likely be proficient with Survival and Nature, and perhaps Medicine, Insight, or Persuasion—useful skills for advising a community and helping to resolve disputes. These people are competent and devoted, but they don’t have all the talents of player characters.
  • Player characters and champions of a sect may have classes, but they won’t all be druids. Rangers play an important role in all of the Eldeen sects. Barbarians can be found in many of them, and there are Greensinger bards and warlocks. It’s a druidic tradition, but not restricted to druids.
  • Other NPCs fall between these two extremes. An initiate might know a few cantrips, spells, or rituals—druidcraft, speak with animals—without having the full scope of a true druid. You might meet an initiate with the Wild Shape ability… but who can only use it to assume a narrow range of shapes (local birds, for example).

So: you can follow one of the druidic traditions without having any levels in the druid class. Conversely, you can have druid as your class without being tied to any of these traditions.

What is the Druidic Language? 

What I’m suggesting here is that druids aren’t all bound by common traditions, and that you can take level in the druid character class without sharing any traditional druidic beliefs. But if that’s the case, what’s the Druidic language? How is it that a Talenta maskweaver and a shifter weretouched master—two people with absolutely no cultural overlap—somehow know this secret language unknown to the rest of the world? And furthermore, once it’s that widespread, why don’t MORE people know it? Shouldn’t rangers in the Wardens of the Wood learn to speak Druidic?

There’s two ways to approach this. One is to treat Druidic as a mundane language—exotic, certainly, but as a mundane language that anyone could learn. If I were to do this, I’d definitely make it available to anyone in an Eldeen sect regardless of class. But it still raises the question of why a Qaltiar drow druid in Xen’drik—someone whose culture has never had any contact with Khorvaire—would share a language with both the Talenta Maskweaver and the Warden of the Woods.

A second option is to say that Druidic is a fundamentally magical language. It’s not some sort of secret code: it is literally the language of Eberron. If you embrace this idea, you can extend this to say that the ability to perform druidic magic is integrally tied to knowledge of the Druidic language—that the two are one and the same. Think of Druidic as the source code of the natural world; when you perform a druid spell with verbal components, you are simply speaking in Druidic. Depending on YOUR beliefs, you might see this as petitioning the spirits for aid or you could see it as simply operating the “machinery” of nature. But the idea remains that the Druidic language is the tool used to perform magic. All druids understand it because mastering it is a fundamental part of what it means to be a druid. Even if you’re a hermit who learned your druidic abilities by listening to the wind, when you meet another druid you’ll find you both speak the same language—the language you learned from the wind. The idea here is that while Druidic can be considered to be a language for purposes of spells like comprehend languages—which is to say, magic can reveal its meaning—only someone who can cast spells from the druid spell list can fully learn the language.

With THAT in mind, I’d probably drop Druidic from some of my variant “druid-who’s-not-a-druid” ideas… allowing them to learn another language in its place. And I might allow another character (a Nature cleric casting themselves as a variant druid, a spellcasting ranger or Greensinger bard with spells that can be found on the druid spell list) to learn Druidic. Here again, the point isn’t that they learn it like any other language; it’s that knowledge of the language is an inherent part of their connection to druidic magic.

Druidic Traditions

The broad idea of druids as a servants of nature, tied to ancient traditions and serving as spiritual guides and protectors—can be seen across Khorvaire. It’s most obvious in the Eldeen Reaches, where every major community has a druidic advisor. The Gatekeeper tradition of the Shadow Marches is older still, and Gatekeeper initiates and wardens have been protecting Eberron from unnatural forces for thousands of years. Halfling druids guide the nomadic tribes of the Talenta Plains. The Tairnadal elves worship the spirits of the past, but there are warrior druids among their ranks; the Valenar capital of Taer Valaestas is protecting by a living wall of thorns.

How do these traditions map to 5E? If you’re a Warden of the Woods, should you take the Circle of the Land or Circle of the Moon? Personally, I prefer to avoid concrete restrictions. In particular, Land druids focus on spellcasting while Moon druids enhance their shapeshifting talents. To me, this can easily reflect the aptitude of an individual. Most Wardens of the Wood may be Land druids… but if your WotW shifter Wolf excels at shapeshifting and prefers to be in lupine form, I have no problem with her being a Moon druid and a Warden. In the descriptions below I suggest common classes, but there’s nothing to prevent you from making an uncommon character.

The Wardens of the Wood

Common Classes: Cleric (Nature), Druid (Land), Ranger (Hunter, Beast Master)

The Wardens of the Wood are the largest of the sects of the Eldeen Reaches, with thousands of active members. The primary purpose of the Wardens is to protect the innocent: which includes protecting the people of the region from the dangers of the wild, but simultaneously protecting the innocent creatures of wood and wild from dangers posed by civilization. The Wardens ensure that the dangers of the Towering Wood don’t spill out into the farmlands of the Eldeen Reaches, while also dealing with brigands and poachers. The Wardens work with the farmers of the Reaches, and every Eldeen village has a Warden advisor who helps ensure that the farmers are working with the land instead of harming it, and who seeks to peacefully resolve disputes within their village or with other communities.

The Wardens serve as the militia of the Eldeen Reaches. While they are the largest sect, most of their members are hunters or advisors. Among the druids, the Circle of Land is the most common path; however, druids with a knack for shapeshifting might take the Circle of the Moon, and those who guard the deep woods may follow the Circle of the Shepherd.

As a Warden, one question is why you’ve left your community behind. The Wardens act to protect the wild from the world and vice versa; how are your adventures advancing that goal?

The Ashbound

Common Classes: Barbarian (Beast Totem, Berserker, Storm Herald); Druid (Moon, Shepherd)

Where the Wardens of the Wood believe that nature and civilization must be kept in balance, the Ashbound believe that they are at war—and the Ashbound are the champions of nature. Ashbound seek to defend the natural world from the depredations of civilization. In frontier regions, this often involves guerilla strikes against encroaching settlements or making brutal examples of poachers. However, the Ashbound also see arcane magic as a dangerous and corrupting force. Ashbound have made strikes against the holdings of dragonmarked houses and released bound elementals, often causing chaos in the process.

Barbarians are common among the Ashbound. This doesn’t reflect savagery; it’s about drawing on the fury of the natural world, which may manifest through the Storm Herald archetype. Ashbound druids are warriors, and many follow the Moon Circle so they can fight with tooth and claw.

While the Ashbound believe that arcane magic is a corrupting force and that divine spellcasters are little better (clearly bargaining with alien forces that have no place in the natural world), it’s still possible to play a moderate Ashbound as a PC. You want to emphasize the reason you are out in the world—to stop the Mourning from spreading, to find allies to bring down the dragonmarked houses. If your party is serving this greater cause, you can overlook the actions of the party wizard—but you’d still want to encourage them to limit the use of unnatural magic, using it only when absolutely required.

The Children of Winter

Common Classes: Barbarian (Zealot), Druid (Spores, Twilight), Ranger (Gloom Stalker, Monster Slayer)

The Children of Winter see death, disease, and decay as part of the natural order. They believe that if the natural order is bent too far the world will retaliate with a terrible cleansing fury (the metaphorical “Winter” of their name)… and many in the sect believe that the Mourning is the first stage of that destruction. On the positive side, the Children of Winter despise undead as creatures that defy the cycle of life and death, and many of the are dedicated to hunting down and destroying undead. On the darker side, some believe that the benefits of civilization also defy the natural order, allowing the weak and infirm to survive when they’d never survive in the wilds. They see disease as an important tool that weeds out the weak and may spread disease in large cities or towns; but they may also push other situations that force conflict and ensure the survival of the fittest. However, not all Children approve of these methods. Likewise, some extremists among the Children believe that the apocalyptic Winter has already begun and should be welcomed, and that great cities should be torn down; while others fervently believe that the Mourning is a warning and that there is still time to stop this cataclysm. Such Children seek to contain contaminated regions, such as the Mournland and the Gloaming.

The Children of Winter are a small sect, but have a high percentage of elite individuals. They are comfortable in darkness, thus leading some to following the path of the Gloom Stalker ranger or the Twilight Druid. Monster Slayer rangers specialize in hunting down the undead. The Spore druid is a good match for the Children who embrace decay and disease, and its temporary ability to create a spore zombie (for one hour) is acceptable within the sect, but Children wouldn’t cast animate dead. 

As a Child of Winter PC, you are trying to protect the world from the coming apocalypse. You do this by fighting undead, by investigating the Mourning, and when possible by pushing situations that test the weak. You may  oppose extremists among the sect engaging in actions you believe are unjustified. While death is part of the natural cycle, you’re still able to heal your allies. You oppose using magical healing to sustain creatures who could never survive in the wild. But healing the fighter after he chooses to battle a pack of vampires—an unnatural situation he could have easily avoided—is entirely justified.

The Gatekeepers

Common Classes: Barbarian (Ancestral Guardian, Beast Totem); Druid (Land, Shepherd); Ranger (Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer)

The primary mission of the Gatekeepers is to protect the natural world from unnatural forces. They are best known for fighting aberrations, but they are equally concerned about fiends and other things that do not belong in the natural world.  The Gatekeepers have their roots in the Shadow Marches, and there are many in the Shadow Marches who support the “Old Ways”; but they have a presence across Khorvaire, often in the shadow of House Tharashk. Gatekeepers are constantly vigilant for extraplanar incursions, and also work to maintain existing seals that hold the Daelkyr in Khyber.

While Land and Shepherd are sound circles for Gatekeeper Druids, the Circle of the Moon is entirely appropriate for Gatekeepers who prefer to fight with tooth and claw. It’s believed that ancient Gatekeepers created the first horrid animals, and it’s thought that some Gatekeepers could assume horrid forms. The ranks of the Gatekeepers include passionate barbarians and more strategic rangers; the Horizon Walker is an especially appropriate path for Gatekeeper rangers.

As a Gatekeeper PC, are you simply keeping an eye out for trouble or do you have a particular task in hand? You might be pursuing a particular threat—a Cult of the Dragon Below, a Daelkyr agent. Or you could be protecting something: a location or an artifact that needs to be kept safe.

The Greensingers

Common Classes: Bard (Glamour); Druid (Dreams); Ranger (Horizon Walker); Warlock (Archfey)

The Greensingers believe that the magic of the fey compliments and enhances nature, and they encourage close ties between Thelanis and Eberron. They work to improve relations between mortals and the fey, teaching people how to safely interact with the fey and serving as ambassadors to the faerie realms. While the bards and druids draw the most attention, many Greensingers are simply people who learn the stories of the fey and follow their traditions, seeking to live in harmony with their fey neighbors.

Any path that touches the Fey has a place among the Greensingers. The Dream druid is the archetypal Greensinger, but their ranks include quite a few bards and a handful of warlocks. One critical point is that while the Greensingers are united by core principles, many Greensingers are aligned with a particular archfey—a patron who has ties to their region—and they may work to advance the specific agenda of their patron in the world. This can lead to feuds between Greensingers working for different archfey. This is expected and understood, though Greensingers will try not to kill rivals in the sect. This also leads to the image of Greensingers as a source of mischief and chaos; their actions are unpredictable, as they serve the agendas of different fey.

In creating a Greensinger druid, you should decide if you follow the general principles of the sect or if you have a tie to a specific archfey. If so, work with your DM to work out the story of your patron and the role they might play in the campaign.

Siyal Marrain

Common Classes: Cleric (Nature), Druid (Land, Shepherd)

The Siyal Marrain are the druids of the Tairnadal, descended from heroes who unleashed the force of nature against the giants of Xen’drik. The Siyal Marrain see nature as a tool and a weapon, and don’t have the same sort of devotion to the natural world found among the Eldeen sects. Members of this order care for and protect the famed horses of the Tairnadal; legends say that the first of these Valenar warhorses were druids trapped in wild shape by a giant’s curse, and that this is the source of their remarkable abilities. Aside from this, the Siyal Marrain are warriors who ride with warbands and use their powers in battle.

The Siyal Marrain revere their ancestors, just like other Tairnadal; their patron ancestors were druid heroes. With this in mind, when a Siyal Shepherd druid conjures their beast totem, it could actually manifest as an aspect of a Tairnadal hero as opposed to being a purely primal beast spirit. Meanwhile, a Nature cleric is a path for a Siyal who’s more focused on direct combat—relying on armor as opposed to shapeshifting. Rangers and other classes aren’t listed as the Siyal aren’t a broad tradition like the Eldeen sects; being one of the Siyal Marrain means being a primary spellcaster.

As with any Tairnadal elf, in creating a Siyal druid you should work with your DM to develop the story of your patron ancestor and to consider your relationship with Tairnadal culture. Why aren’t you serving with a warband or protecting the herds? Is your career as an adventurer driven by the actions of your ancestor?

Talenta Maskweavers

Common Classes: Druid (Dreams, Moon, Shepherd)

The halflings of the Talenta Plains believe that the world around them is filled with spirits—spirits of nature, spirits of their ancestors, and more. A number of details of this tradition can be found in this article. A maskweaver guides their tribe and serves as an intermediary for the spirits: part medium, part ambassador. They help warriors forge bonds to their mounts, and as the name implies, they help to create the masks that serve as important tools when dealing with the spirits.

Like the Greensingers, the Talenta druids often deal with the fey. Unlike their Eldeen counterparts, the maskweavers see no distinction between fey, purely natural spirits, or the ghosts of their ancestors. As far as the druid is concerned, all of these things are part of the spirit world, and all should be treated with respect. Talenta druids may also show respect for the Sovereigns Balinor and Arawai; however, they generally assert that these Sovereigns were Talenta heroes—that Balinor was a legendary hunter—and revere them in the same way as the other spirits.

The three common classes described above reflect different paths. The Moon druid focuses on working with dinosaurs, and excels at assuming dinosaur shapes. The Shepherd deals first and foremost with natural and ancestral spirits. Generally their totems reflect common beasts of the Plains: the Bear is the Hammertail (ankylosaurus), the Eagle is the Glidewing (pteranodon), and the Wolf is the Clawfoot Raptor. However, a druid devoted to heroes of the past—or Arawai and Balinor—could conjure spectral traces of those heroes as their totems. Meanwhile, the Dreams druid focuses on the fey spirits and manifest zones. This is specifically a druidic tradition (though it could apply to a Nature cleric). There are many barbarians and rangers in the Plains, and a few Archfey warlocks; while these champions may respect the spirits, only the druids perform the duties of the maskweavers.

Druids That Aren’t Druids

Mechanically, a druid is primarily defined by spellcasting abilities, limited armor, and Wild Shape. Here’s a few quick ideas for characters that use the druid class withoutbeing spiritual devotees of nature.

Changeling Menagerie

Normally, a changeling can only assume humanoid forms. But a changeling who devotes themselves to the art of shapeshifting can transcend this limitation, mastering the ability to assume a wide array of shapes. At its core, a menagerie is a Moon druid focused on their shapeshifting powers.

You could play this as a character in touch with primal forces, in which case you could speak Druidic and cast any spells on the druid list. however, if you want to play the character as a master-of-shapes without delving into the primal connection, you could swap Druidic for a standard language and focus on spells that fit either shapeshifting abilities or changeling powers. Barkskin, darkvisionjump, longstrider, meld into stonepoison spray, resistance, and similar spells could all tie to shapeshifting mastery. Charm person, guidance, hold person, and the like could reflect enhanced psychic abilities. And healing spells, enhance abilityprotection from energy and such could reflect an ability to alter the forms of others; I could see cure wounds being a sort of disturbing thing where you touch someone and scar over their wounds using your own body tissue.

Vadalis Monarch

The Mark of Handling gives a character a mystical connection to the natural world. But this gift isn’t something the heir earns; it is their birthright. A Vadalis heir could present druidic magic as a symptom of their dominion over nature. The same connection that lets you influence the behavior of animals could allow you to assume their forms… or even to control a wider range of creatures with charm person and hold person.

A Vadalis monarch could function as a normal druid and could even potentially understand Druidic, but I’d play up the flavor that this is a power of your mark and something you demand as opposed to a petition to spirits or natural forces.

Weretouched Master

Shifters are well suited to primal paths and to being traditional druids or rangers, and shifters can be found in most of the Eldeen sects. However, you could play a shifter druid as an expert in shapeshifting as opposed to being a servant of nature. As with the changeling menagerie, I’d make this a Moon druid and encourage spells that reflect control of shape. A shifter might not take charm person or hold person, but even without druidic faith, speak with animals, animal friendship, and similar spells could be justified as being a manifestation of the shifter’s lycanthropic heritage.

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you understand the concept! If you have questions post them below. As always, thank you to my Patreon supporters, who make it possible for me to spend time on this site.

Q&A

What exactly is the difference between a Nature cleric and a druid? Does a follower of the Sovereign Host have to be a cleric? Could I play a Warden of the Woods as a Nature cleric? 

Well, let’s look at the concrete mechanical differences between the two.

  • A Nature cleric can wear any sort of armor, including heavy armor. A druid isn’t proficient with heavy armor, and the PHB states that “druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal.”
  • Wild Shape is an important element of the druid. A Nature cleric doesn’t shapeshift.
  • A Nature cleric has a different selection of combat spells. Sacred flame has a better range than any druid cantrip, and guiding bolt is a strong, long range attack; by contrast, the druid can unleash a thunderwave or lash enemies with a thorn whip.
  • Generally speaking, the druid is more of a close range combatant. As noted above, most of their battle magic is relatively close range, and Wild Shape generally drives them towards melee combat.
  • A Nature cleric doesn’t know Druidic.

It’s certainly simple to say that as a general rule, priests of the Sovereign Host are clerics and spellcasters in the Eldeen Reaches are druids. However, I always believe in putting story first. If someone wants to play a priest of Balinor who excels at assuming the forms of wild beasts, I see no reason not to make that character a druid. Likewise, if someone wants to be a Warden of the Wood but doesnt’ want to deal with shapechaning, I’m fine with making them a Nature Cleric. The main issue to me is Druidic. If I feel the character IS essentially a druid from the story side, I’d let them swap out one of their current languages for druidic. On the other hand, I’m fine with the idea that the typical priest of Arawai doesn’t speak Druidic. Per my idea above, Druidic is something you learn as part of directly engaging with the natural world… while a typical Sovereign priest reaches out to a deity, not to the world itself.

In my Q’barra campaign, I had a player who really liked the idea of being a Greensinger druid, but who had no interest in shapeshifting and preferred being able to use long-ranged magic in combat. So we made her character a Nature cleric instead of a druid. I allowed her to swap a language for Druidic. Beyond this: She had heavy armor proficiency, but wearing heavy armor really didn’t fit the image of the character. We agreed that she had received a gift from her Archfey patron: mystical tattoos across her body. She had an amulet, and when she wore the amulet the tattoos hardened her skin and protected her… essentially, barkskin. While active, the tattoos shimmered and glowed slightly—not providing useful illumination, but giving her disadvantage on Stealth checks (just like wearing heavy armor). The net result of this was to give her the AC that her class proficiencies allowed, while still having limitations (Stealth penalty, obvious to observers, it could be “removed” by taking away the amulet). Now, YOUR DM might not be willing to go that far, and that’s entirely reasonable. I’m a fan of this sort of reskinning to fit an interesting story—but it does add complexity and potentially balance questions, and it’s always up to each DM to decide what they’re comfortable with.

Why use the existing archetypes instead of making new archetypes for the Eldeen sects? 

The Eberron IP belongs to Wizards of the Coast, and legally you can’t post new Eberron material. So I’m looking at the best match within existing material. The Horizon Walker ranger is a solid option for a Gatekeeper, and the Twilight druid is a good match for the Children of Winter. If Eberron is unlocked for 5E I might explore archetypes that are more directly tied to the concepts of a particular tradition, but it’s currently not an option.