IFAQ: Lightning Round!

Every month I ask my Patreon supporters for short questions. Normally I’d spread these out over a lot of short articles, but September kept me busy and I didn’t have a chance. So, here’s an assortment of infrequently asked questions, dealing with dwarves, Dar, the Dark Six, numerology, electrum, and much too much more!

Are the Dark six truly evil? Or are they just misunderstood by the civilized people?

There’s no absolute answer, because the Sovereigns and Six can’t be judged independently of their followers. The Sovereigns and Six are IDEAS. To people who follow the Pyrinean Creed, the Dark Six are literally symbols of evil. The Devourer is the source of the destructive powers of nature. The Shadow creates monsters and lures people down dark paths. While to someone who follows the Cazhaak traditions, the Devourer tests us and weeds out the weak, and the Shadow helps us unlock our true potential. But the whole point of religion in Eberron is that there is no absolute proof that one of these beliefs is right and that the other is wrong. The question is which YOU believe to be true, and what you will do because of those beliefs. So, are the Dark Six truly evil? It depends who you ask. I’ve written a number of articles that talk about how different groups view the Dark Six; these include articles on the Shadow, the Keeper, the Fury, and the Traveler.

How well known is the commonality of the 13-1 in Eberron? Is it common numerology? Does it cause issues with there being 15 member of the Sovereign Host?

People within the setting are aware of the patterns that link certain phenomena. The ones most people know about are the moons, the planes, and the Dragonmarks. Most people believe that this is because there is a relationship between these things—that the moons are linked to the planes or to the dragonmarks in some meaningful way. Most people don’t believe that EVERYTHING is somehow tied to a baker’s dozen, so no one things it’s strange that there’s 15 deities in the Sovereign Host or that there’s only eight beasts in the Race of Eight Winds. And while most people do believe that the numerology of moons, marks, and planes is significant, MOST will say that some of the other baker’s dozens—the number of Mror Holds for example—are surely just a bizarre coincidence, though others will claim that it’s tied to the Prophecy. So people are AWARE of it, but they don’t believe that it does or should apply to every aspect of the world.

You once said “Antus ir’Soldorak recently began minting electrum coins called “Eyes” (due to the stylized eye on one face).” What are the public/private reasons for that eye and what has been the public reaction(s)?

So setting aside the IN-WORD explanation, there’s two explanations for why *I* made those decisions. Electrum pieces have been a weird outlier since AD&D; 4E dropped them completely. I wanted to give them an actual concrete role in the setting, along with a reason why they WEREN’T used in 4E — that they are actually new in the world. As for “Eye”, the MAIN reason for this is to fit the pattern of the coin name matching the letter of the metal: copper crowns, silver sovereigns, gold galifars, electrum eyes. Of course, I chose “Eyes” —rather than, say, “Elephants”—because I liked the idea that perhaps there IS a greater significance to it. The Player’s Guide to Eberron introduces an enchantment spell created by the Aurum that uses a platinum piece as a component; it seemed very in line with Soldorak’s ambitions to create a coin that could be used, perhaps, as a specialized scrying target… that in spreading this new currency across the Five Nations, he’s actually laying the groundwork for a vast spying network.

Is that true? That’s up to you to decide, based on the role of the Aurum in your campaign. Likewise on the reaction to the coins themselves. Personally, I think the reaction would vary from indifference to disdain—with some people seeing it as a publicity stunt and others seeing it as unnecessary. On the other hand, Soldorak could create a publicity campaign suggesting that his electrum coins are more reliable than others—especially if this was combine with a surge in counterfeiting of traditional currencies with base metals.

What’s Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax like? Do the kobolds and goblins have the same culture, or are kobolds as described in Volo’s?

In brief: This article discusses the most widespread kobold culture in Eberron. Droaam in particular has a number of micro-cultures created by the interactions between kobolds, goblins, and the other inhabitants of the regions, so there are isolated kobold clans and bands of goblins that have entirely unique traditions. However, most of the kobolds and goblins of the region have a shared history of being oppressed and dominated by other creatures, which has established a strong bond between the two species and a number of common traditions. This is the foundation of Shaarat Kol: it is a dominion formed from the ground up by kobolds and goblins freed from subjugation and working together to CREATE their own culture. It blends together a number of different micro-cultures, and it’s still finding its identity. Full details on Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax could be a topic for a future Dragonmark article.

Do magebred flowers and plants exist and what uses could they have?

Eberron possesses a host of flora not seen on our world. The most common source of such unusual plant-life is the influence of manifest zones. We’ve already talked about many such plants over time: livewood, Araam’s crown, dawn’s glory. The pommow plant of Riedra is specifically called out as being actively magebred—not merely “naturally” occurring in a manifest zone, but developed by the Inspired. A more detailed exploration of magebred and supernatural plants could be a subject for a future Dragonmark article.

What is the path to citizenship in the Five Nations?

Galifar is based on feudal principles, and most nations retain that basic foundation. To become a citizen of such a nation requires an audience with a local noble. The applicant swears fealty to the nation and its ruler, and also direct allegiance to that local noble; the noble in turn formally accepts them as a subject. This means that the noble is accepting responsibility for that individual, and the individual is promising to obey that noble, pay taxes, and answer any call for conscription, as well as to respect the laws of the land. The noble doesn’t HAVE to accept an offer of fealty, and most won’t unless the potential subject intends to reside within their domain. So it’s entirely valid for a Brelish noble to refuse to accept the fealty of an ogre from Droaam because either they don’t believe the ogre will uphold the laws or they don’t believe that the ogre intends to remain within their domain. Likewise, back before Droaam, the Barrens were considered to be part of Breland but the inhabitants of the region weren’t Brelish citizens, because they’d never sworn fealty to any Brelish lord; legally (from the perspective of Galifar) they were outlaws squatting in Brelish land.

In the modern age, much of this process is handled by bureaucracy, especially in the case of children of existing citizens. In some regions there are annual ceremonies where each child swears an oath to the local lord before being recognized as an adult. But in a populous region like Sharn, the parents will file paperwork when the child is born, and when the child becomes an adult they’ll file their own statement. But the underlying principle remains the same: someone needs to make a decision on behalf of the local lord as to whether to accept the offer of fealty, and this will be based on the applicant’s residence, reputation, family, and other factors.

How do governance and taxation work in the biggest principalities in Lhazaar? Are there any established checks on the princes’ powers, or are they all like little autocracies?

Every principality is unique, and the laws of a principality can dramatically change from prince to prince. As shown by the recent article on Lorghalen, the culture and traditions of the gnome islanders have nothing in common with the Bloodsails. The idea of the Principalities as a truly formalized alliance with a single leader and a more unified set of laws is a very new concept; Ryger ir’Wynarn is striving to bring the Principalities together, but that’s very much a work in progress.

What makes the dwarves of the Realm Below concretely different from the dar of Dhakaan? They’re both subterranean empires. If I want to have adventurers have to deal with daelkyr forces massing in a subterranean ruin, why would I use one instead of the other?

One reason to use one culture instead of the other is the location of the story. Sol Udar occupies a small region, primarily just the land under the Ironroot Mountains. Under most of Khorvaire, the Dhakaani were the only advanced subterranean nation. In Xen’drik you don’t have Dhakaani or Udar; instead you might find the Umbragen drow or Giant ruins. As for cosmetic differences, the appearance of the Realm Below is discussed on page 119 of Exploring Eberron. The civilization of Sol Udar was a highly magical civilization that incorporated cantrip effects into daily life. An Udar ruin will have magical lighting, illustrate music, climate control. The Dhakaani are primarily a martial society: their forge adepts created magical weapons, but they didn’t have arcane air conditioners or magical jukeboxes. Dhakaani structures are stark and brutalist in design, though extremely durable; from the ground up, they were designed for WAR. The Udar weren’t so warlike, and their homes have a lot more cosmetic comforts. The second aspect is the degree to which the Udar specialized in working with demiplanes—meaning that for any Udar ruin you want to establish what demiplane it’s attached to and how those effects manifest in the ruin.

In Exploring Eberron, Jhazaal Dhakaan is said to have created the Ghaal’duur horn, but she’s also described as a bard. How does this fit with the fact that the Dhakaani have a strong tradition of artificers?

It’s not just Exploring Eberron; the Ghaal’duur is first mentioned as a creation of Jhazaal in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. It’s always been assumed that the duur’klala create magic items, but they create magic items associated with bardic magic. Duur’kala create items associated with enchantment, inspiration, and healing, while the daashor generally create armor and weapons of war. Now, the daashor CAN create any sort of item. Jhazaal created the First Crown, which is an artifact tied to inspiration; but it was a daashor who created the Rod of Kings. Still, the general principle is that the forge adepts create the tools of war, while the dirge singers create items associated with peace.

Do the Dragonmark houses view The Twelve as an authority or an advisory body?

The Twelve is technically a RESOURCE. It’s an arcane institute devoted to developing tools and techniques that benefit all of the dragonmarked houses. Dragonmarked heirs learn the arcane arts from the Twelve, and many important tools—such as the Kundarak vault network and most dragonmark focus items—were developed by the Twelve. The Council of the Twelve discusses issues of interest to all houses and helps to mediate disputes, but it has no AUTHORITY… though because its work is of great value to all of the houses, no house would want to take actions that would cause it to be cut off from the institute.

What stands out about Eberron’s transitive planes? Or are they just part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality, and a shortcut to the other planes in the Deep Ethereal and the Astral?

They’re primarily a part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality. In the 3.5 ECS the transitive planes were called out as functioning normally, and we’ve never suggested that they were created by the progenitors; instead, they are part of the basic metaphysical framework that the progenitors built upon. So they are largely supposed to fill the same function as they do in other settings.

What was the family of Mordain Fleshweaver inside House Phiarlan?

This is the sort of question I prefer not to answer. The answer has no significance for me. I could make a D6 table of named Phiarlan families and randomly say “Shol”, because hey, that’s a Phiarlan family. But that doesn’t make anyone’s story BETTER. The question is what do you WANT his family to be? If one of your player characters is a Thuranni, you might say that Mordain is also Thuranni, and might take an interest in the character because of that. Or you could say he was Paelion and will have a vendetta against the PC for that reason. But perhaps you’ve got a character who’s a Shol from Phiarlan… well, maybe Mordain is a Shol! Essentially, Mordain’s specific lineage isn’t an important part of his story, so I don’t want to make a choice that has no meaning for me but might get in the way of YOUR story. Since you’re asking the question, you presumably have a situation where it’s going to matter; so what do you WANT the answer to be? What will be the most interesting answer for your campaign?

That’s all for now! I’ll be asking my Patreon supporters for October questions soon, and I have a new Patreon experiment I’ll discuss next week!

What Defines the Mror?

Image by Júlio Azevedo for Exploring Eberron

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

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

DARKVISION

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

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

THE WAR BELOW

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

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

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

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

FAMILY FIRST

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

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

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

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

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

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

LONG LIFE, TREASURED STORIES, AND STORIED TREASURES

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

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

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

GRAND GREETINGS AND GIFTS

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

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

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

FASHION

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

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

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

CUISINE

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

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

RELIGION

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

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

WHAT ABOUT SUBRACES?

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

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

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

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

Rising From The Last War: The Dwarves

The Ironroot Mountains are rich in precious metals and ore, and the dwarves of the Mror Hold wield considerable economic power for such a small nation. The Mror dwarves have long been miners and warriors, proud of their clans and their traditions. And the clans have long told stories of the great deeds of their ancestors—of dwarves who ruled a vast domain below the roots of the mountains, who battled the ancient goblins long before humanity came to Khorvaire, of artificers who crafted wonders deep below the earth. According to these stories, the first clan lords were exiled from the Realm Below for their wild and reckless ways—but that someday, when the Mror walked a righteous path, the gates of the Realm Below would be opened to them once more.

In the early days of the Last War, the legends were revealed to be true. Delving ever deeper, Mror miners broke through into an ancient hall. There is a vast subterranean realm below the Ironroot Mountains, and the ancient dwarves who carved these halls did produce amazing artifacts and legendary weapons. But those dwarves died long ago. The daelkyr Dyrrn the Corruptor has laid claim to the Realm Below, and the minions of the Foul Labyrinth are spread throughout its halls. Dolgrims, dolgaunts, mind flayers, and other vile aberrations dwell in the depths. Degenerate derro dwell among these creatures, perhaps the last remnant of the dwarves of old.

Ever since this discovery, the Mror Clans have been waging a war to reclaim their ancestral holdings. The aberrations have yet to mount a counter-offensive or truly organized defense, and the dwarves have established a beachhead in the depths. Along the way, they have recovered both relics of the ancient dwarfs and weapons and tools of the daelkyr themselves—living weapons and items known as symbionts. Some of the clans—notably Clan Mroranon, the strongest of the holds—take the stance that all things tied to the daelkyr are abominable, and that any use of such things will lead to corruption. But others—notably Clan Soldorak—assert that symbionts are just tools, and that the weapons of the enemy can be used against them. Over the course of decades, Soldorak and its allies have brought symbionts into their daily lives, finding new uses for these living tools. Soldorak warlocks have found ways to draw on the power of the daelkyr themselves. Such warlocks swear that they’ll only use these powers for the good of the Holds, but Mroranon purists mutter that there can be no traffic without corruption.

The Present Day

Today, the dwarves continue their slow war in the darkness. Occasionally a force of aberrations seeks to rise up from the depths, but overall there is a stalemate; the Mror have claimed upper halls, but it will take a great effort to press deeper. From a practical standpoint, this means that there is a vast dungeon below the Holds. Many clans would be happy to have adventurers drive deeper into the daelkyr-held halls beneath their holds, especially if those adventurers include among them a dwarf of their line. This is an especially logical focus for a dwarf with the noble background; among many of the clan lines, the elders have asserted that if their heirs want territory, they must carve it out of the Realm Below.

So on the one hand, the Mror Holds are shaped by the knowledge of the Realms Below—the awareness that there is untold wealth and power to be gained in the depths, combined with the knowledge that a deadly enemy with vast and as yet untested power lies beneath their feet. Dyrrn the Corruptor has yet launch an organized attack against the surface, but many feel that it’s only a matter of time. Some say that it’s a question of poking the hornets nest, that all traffic with the Realm Below should be severed before Dyrrn rises. Others believe that Dyrrn is biding its time while spreading its corruption through its symbionts and cults—that Dyrrn is already attacking the Mror Holds, just not through brute force. While some say that these are the excuses of cowards: that the aberrations are not as strong as others think, and that the holds should launch a concetnrated campaign to fully reclaim the Realm Below. It’s up the a DM to decide the truth and the path a campaign will take. Are Dyrrn’s minions already corrupting the dwarves from within? Do you want to have a resurgence of this ancient threat, with the dwarves fighting a desperate battle to contain hordes rising from below? Or do you want to keep the Realm Below as a mysterious dungeon for bold adventurers to explore?

Rising From The Last War presents the foundation of this idea, and provides a few example symbionts. Exploring Eberron goes farther, with a deeper look into the cultural impact of these events, along with additional symbionts and character options.

Why Did This Happen?

Since Eberron began, the Mror dwarves have been called out as being fundamentally less interesting than the dino-riding Talenta halflings, the deadly gnomes of Zilargo, and the ancestor-worshipping warrior elves of Valenar. In the past, their primary direction has been about their economic power; but that’s a subtle distinction. In developing Rising From The Last War, we wanted to add something that made the Mror dwarves distinct without completely rewriting their history. But the Realm Below has always been part of their history. This article was the first mention of the ancient kingdom below the Holds—a realm of wonders destroyed by the daelkyr long ago. Likewise, symbionts were introduced in the original 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting and expanded upon in Magic of Eberron. But neither of these elements received much attention. Rising presented an opportunity to expand on both of these. We give the daelkyr a more significant role and create a line in the sand for adventurers who want to face them: here is a place where you know one can be found. We also take symbionts—something I’ve always liked—and say that there is a place in the world where they are being used as tools, the same way magic is used as a tool. For adventurers who prefer a more traditional dwarven story, there’s the Mroranon and their allies—proud warriors staunchly opposing the aberrations and holding to the traditions of their ancestors. For players who want something new, try the Soldorak with their warlocks and their symbionts. A critical point here is that the Soldorak aren’t evil or inherently corrupt; they see symbionts as one more tool, as a science to be mastered. Some of the other clans say that it can’t be mastered without sowing corruption—but that’s a decision the DM will have to decide. So ultimately, this was an opportunity to add a unique path for dwarf adventurers, while also expanding on the role of symbionts and the daelkyr.

But wait, you say? I keep mentioning dwarf warlocks, and dwarves aren’t especially good at being warlocks? Well, perhaps there’s an option in Exploring Eberron that will help those would-be Soldorak cultists…

What About The Shadow Marches?

The Shadow Marches also have a division between those who follow the Daelkyr adn those who oppose them. Is this just the same story repeated?

On a grand cosmic scale, it can be seen that way. But the two are very different. The story of the Marches has been playing out for thousands of years. The Gatekeepers are a truly ancient tradition. The Cults of the Dragon Below are an established part of Marcher culture. The Gatekeepers maintain the seals that keep the daelkyr bound, while the Kyrzin’s Whisperers maintain the gibbering mouthers that live in their basements and consume their elders. It is an established tradition on both sides. By contrast, the situation in the Mror Holds is active and unfolding. There IS the risk that Kyrzin could drive an all out offensive (even if the daelkyr itself can’t leave Khyber). The Soldorak are actively trying to harness and use the symbionts in a more industrial manner than the ancient cults of the Marches. And frankly, the Mroranon may oppose the daelkyr, but they don’t understand what they are fighting as the Gatekeepers do. There’s also the simply point that there’s different daelkyr involved. The Marches are primarily associated with Kyrzin and Belashyrra, while it’s Dyrrn the Corruptor who’s active below the Holds. Part of this is that it’s a great reason for a Gatekeeper adventurer to be sent to the Mror Holds, to find out just what’s happening in the east and report back to the elders in the Marches.

Q&A

How does House Kundarak fit into this picture?

The original 3.5 lore suggests that it was the Kundarak dwarves that opened the passages to the Realm Below. This isn’t entirely eliminated, but it’s downplayed. The idea remains that the Kundarak dwarves weren’t exiled; they left the Realm Below as guardians assigned to watch over the exiles and prevent their return. There’s a few things to consider here.

  • The timeline isn’t as interesting. Set aside the idea that Dragonmark of Warding just happened to manifest on a line of dwarves maintaining wards (thousands of years after their being assigned to that position), it sets the discovery of the Realm Below as something that happened centuries ago, removing the urgency and drama of the situation. We want the interaction with the Realm Below to be recent enough that’s adventurers can be an active part of the discover, and its impact on the Holds is still unfolding.
  • The previous approach meant that Kundarak maintained a direct cultural line to the Realm Below. We preferred the idea that this line was broken, that no dwarf really knows what they’ll find in the Realm Below. This ties to the fact that the ancient dwarves could make artifacts, and that there are secrets below any artificer would love to master. But it also means that the dwarves could discover that their ancestors weren’t what they believe them to have been.
  • Which all leads to the idea that the Kundarak did seal and protect the paths to the Realm Below long ago… but that then thousands of years passed and they, too, largely forgot what had come before. They didn’t fail in their duty; the paths were sealed. They just were so successful that they eventually forgot what that duty was and moved on (again, over the course of thousands of years and the rise of new civilizations) and eventually someone else DID break the seals.

But the answer is simple. If you prefer the old lore, you can use that Dragonshard exactly as it reads. The Kundarak DID open the seals to the Realm Below a thousand years ago. But this only revealed the upper levels, which were empty and long abandoned. What happened recently wasn’t the discovery of the Realm Below; it was that someone found a way to go even deeper into it, and that’s when they found the levels still occupied. So it was a known curiosity, but only recently became an opportunity and a threat.

Will you ever give a canon answer for the other 10 clans where they fall on the symbiont acceptability spectrum?

I doubt it. Exploring Eberron addresses some of the other clans, but a number are left intentionally neutral so DMs and players can decide what to do with them.

The only small niggle I have was that one in-universe tabloid on a Mror noble going to Korth kitted out with a slew of symbionts. Personally find it difficult to swallow that they’d travel internationally as such. But then, can you really believe everything you read? Especially with the Karrns likely bitter still over Mror ceding from Karrnath.

The clipping in question is on page 121 of Rising From The Last War. With all of those clippings, It’s very important to look at the source. The Korranberg Chronicle is the most reliable source. The Five Voices — in this case, the Voice of Karrnath — present inflammatory and nationalistic views. So it’s hardly surprising that the Voice of Karrnath would focus on the unsavory aspects of a visiting Mror dignitary and try to generate fear.

With that said, I DON’T have a problem with the idea of Lord Malus showing up in his living armor. You have to consider WHY he’s doing this, and WHERE. If he’s an ambassador coming to Fairhaven on bended knee, this would be a terrible choice. But to paraphrase 300, this is Karrnath. This is the nation that has entire fortresses staffed with the undead. It is a nation that understands displays of power and wielding tools that terrify others. In wearing his armor, Lord Malus is intentionally seeking to intimidate and to project power: I have mastered these terrifying things.

And there’s one other element to consider. Most symbionts have a feature called symbiotic nature. Attuning to a symbiont is a commitment, and they can’t be casually removed. Malus could surely have had his armor removed before leaving the Mror Holds; but he couldn’t simply take it off before coming to the meeting.

That’s all for now! Let me know your thoughts on this new twist on the dwarves of Eberron. And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site alive. I hope to do more on the site in the months ahead, and Patreon support will help determine what that looks like. And thanks as well to Júlio Azevedo, who produced the image above for Exploring Eberron!