IFAQ: Treaties and Laws

My new book Exploring Eberron is available now on the DM’s Guild. You can find a FAQ about it here. I am currently working on a longer article about the Nobility of Khorvaire, but as time permits I like to answer interesting short questions from my Patreon supporters, so here’s one from Asmuz:

What’s the relationship between the Treaty of Thronehold and the laws of the Thronehold nations? Why is it called out that Darguun’s practices are against the Treaty of Thronehold, while Karrnath having the brutal Code of Kaius isn’t an issue?

The Treaty of Thronehold serves the following major purposes.

  • It ensures a state of peace between all signatories, and that no Thronehold nation will initiate an attack against any other signatory nation.
  • It includes the provision that while traveling within a Thronehold nation, any citizen of a Thronehold nation will have the same rights and protection under the law as a citizen of that nation.
  • It includes a number of lesser provisions banning the production or use of certain types of magical weapons and war rituals. It’s this section that bans the production of warforged and grants freedom to all warforged, who are to be considered citizens of the Thronehold nations whose citizens originally purchased them.
  • It defines the recognized borders and dealt with variations reparations and concessions, which, for example, confirmed Thaliost as a territory of Thrane.
  • It recognizes the rights of the Dragonmarked Houses to operate within all Thronehold nations, maintaining the established principles of the Korth Edicts. This also establishes that members of Dragonmarked Houses receive the same legal protections as Thronehold citizens. (This is why, notably, the Treaty can dictate things like “No building warforged.“)

This was a TREATY, not a CONSTITUTION. The Thronehold nations aren’t united kingdoms. They are NOT bound by the same laws—they are simply bound to treat all citizens of Thronehold nations with the same rights as their own people, and to obey the bans specifically laid out in the Treaty. A nation couldn’t, for example, make a law saying “We can sell warforged” without violating the Treaty.

Now, there’s a second thing that enters play, and that’s the Galifar Code of Justice. The Five Nations were all once united as Galifar, and remember, the Last War was fought because each wanted to reunite Galifar under their rule. Thus, it’s not surprising that they maintained the common laws, because maintaining those laws was evidence of their preservation of the ideals of Galifar. However, some of the Five Nations MODIFIED those laws. The original 3.5 ECS makes these observations…

  • Aundair. “Aundair adheres to the Galifar Code of Justice, an intricate system of laws and regulations that once helped maintain order throughout the united kingdom.”
  • Breland. “Breland makes use of the Galifar Code of Justice, and law enforcers can be found in every thorp, village, and city.”
  • Karrnath. “While the Galifar Code of Justice provides the basis for civil rights in Karrnath, the Code of Kaius that developed from it is more rigid and less forgiving. Indeed, the nation has labored under martial law since the earliest days of the Last War.”
  • Thrane. “As long as you do no obvious evil, you won’t find trouble in Thrane. However, Thrane’s laws tend to be more stringent than the Code of Galifar, and punishments more brutal.”

Sharn: City of Towers has an section that deals with law in Sharn—which, as noted above, is the Galifar Code of Justice. Here’s an important detail, with highlighting…

The mark of the outlaw is recognized in all of the Five Nations, and any nation that respects the Galifar Code of Justice looks suspiciously on exiled outlaws. As a result, outlaws usually congregate in Darguun, Droaam, the Shadow Marches, Xen’drik, the Lhazaar Principalities, and Q’barra—nations that either ignore the Galifar Code or that believe a convict can overcome a criminal past.

Sharn: City of towers, page 134

So: The Treaty of Thronehold does not require its signatory nations to make use of the Galifar Code of Justice. What I suggest here is that what it DOES require is for all citizens of Thronehold nations to be protected by local law. So as a Thrane in Darguun you are entitled to the same protection as one of the Ghaal’dar—even if that may not include all the protections you’re used to. The only nations that use the Galifar Code are the Five Nations and New Galifar in Q’barra (the mention of Q’barra in the quote above is referring to Hope). The other nations have their own systems of justice: Zilargo is far more restrictive than any of the Five Nations, while the Shadow Marches and Darguun are less structured. In the Lhazaar Principalities, princes have the right to set the laws of their domains. GENERALLY these agree on common, basic principles, but they are all unique.

So to get back to the basic question… Why are Darguun’s practices an issue when the Code of Kaius isn’t an issue? They aren’t an issue under the Treaty. Darguun isn’t REQUIRED to abide by the Galifar Code of Justice, and the proof of this is that it doesn’t. The issue is that Darguun was accepted as a Thronehold nation because of the desire for peace. Prince Oargev is very eager to have its status revoked, to have the region recognized as Cyre, and to get support to drive the Ghaal’dar from the region. Haruuc KNOWS that other nations consider their laws to be barbaric, and specifically, the practice of slavery to be an atrocity. It’s not that he HAS to change these traditions, it’s that he WANTS to change these traditions because he wants to maintain the support of the other Thronehold nations. But it’s an important point that there’s no “Army of Thronehold” that enforces these terms; the consequence of violating the Treaty is that the other nations may choose to expel you and then you’d lose the rights described above, IE, any nation could attack you and your citizens wouldn’t be protected by local laws.

Since I haven’t said this for a while, keep in mind that everything in this blog reflects how *I* do things in my campaign. I’ve quoted books that I’ve worked on, but it’s entirely possible I’ve contradicted something in Forge of War. This is how I see the Treaty, but as always, it’s up to you to decide how you use it in your game.

In Sharn: City of Towers the law seems to favour execution or monetary fines as punishment for crimes. Is this a quirk of Sharn (not a lot of prison space) or representative of the general pattern of the Galifar Code of Justice?
It’s a reflection of the Galifar Code, but it’s not quite as simple as “Fines or execution.” Pages 132-134 of Sharn: City of Towers also mentions hard labor, branding, mystical punishment, and exile. The main point is that EXTENDED INCARCERATION is very rare under the Galifar Code. You are expected to pay for your crime, with either money or labor. If you are deemed a threat you are forced to LEAVE the community (through exile) and may be forced to bear the ongoing burden of your crime through a brand. But Galifar doesn’t rely on lengthy incarceration, whether as a tool for punishment or redemption. Page 134 of S:CoT specifically states that “executions are rare.” But this is what makes Dreadhold so significant; there AREN’T a lot of major prisons designed for indefinite stays.

Was there an established system of international law/treaty making or was Thronehold something of a Peace of Westphalia sort of affair? Have nations made separate treaties with each other in addition to Thronehold or is everyone sort of waiting to see if it works?

Good questions. Consider the following points. Up until around a century ago, there was basically ONE NATION in Khorvaire (with a few minor side territories like Lhazaar). The war was being fought to restore that nation; the question was who would rule it. The Treaty of Thronehold is not a perfect solution and no one is happy with it. It’s not a carefully planned out utopian foundation for international law and relations; it’s a desperate tourniquet applied because people are terrified of the Mourning. It doesn’t settle the grievances that set the Last War in motion. It leaves in place nations like the Eldeen Reaches, Darguun, and Valenar that are STRONGLY contested by chunks of the population. The point is that people are terrified that if the war continued there could be a second Mourning. People believed that they HAD to stop the war at any cost, and the Treaty of Thronehold was the fastest solution they could find. But it’s not supposed to be perfect. There ARE elements of it that don’t make sense or that don’t go far enough. There is no body like the United Nations, no global peacekeeping force, and while they’ve established an international tribunal at Thronehold that’s very much an experiment that they are still figuring out. Looking to the signatory nations, the Eldeen Reaches and Talenta Plains are barely nations; Darguun and Valenar are contested by Cyre, though they were accepted because there is no more Cyre. But again, this isn’t a perfect system and there are many ways in which it has yet to be tested, because it’s only been in place for two years. So to me, some of these questions are questions that should come up IN A CAMPAIGN — as leaders TRY to strengthen the international community, as cases come up that test the concept of international law, and so on. This isn’t an ancient system that’s been perfected; it is very much a living thing that is still being put to the test.

An interesting aspect to consider is that when the Last War began, it was being fought by five nations that shared a common foundation of laws and that were ultimately seeking to renunite their nations, merely arguing over who would be in charge. The Treaty of Thronehold represents the death of that dream, not only accepting that Galifar will not be restored, but acknowledging nations that do NOT share the common laws or traditions of Galifar. The Five Nations were at least cousins; Valenar, Darguun, and the Eldeen Reaches all come from entirely different families with little in common. People believed they HAD to make a solution as quickly as possible, because in light of the Mourning, it was literally about preventing an apocalypse. But no one is entirely HAPPY with the Treaty of Thronehold.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going, and to all of you who’ve been reading Exploring Eberron, I hope you’re enjoying it!

FAQ: Exploring Eberron

Exploring Eberron is now available on the DM’s Guild. I wanted to take a moment to answer questions about the book, both general questions and some very specific ones…

GENERAL
What’s “Exploring Eberron?”

Exploring Eberron (ExE) is a 248 page sourcebook for the Eberron Campaign Setting, using the fifth edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s written by setting creator Keith Baker (hi!) along with Will Brolley, Wayne Chang, and Laura Hirsbrunner.

No, I mean what’s IN the book?

ExE is a deep dive into elements of Eberron that haven’t been explored in past sourcebooks, including the planes of Eberron, the aquatic civilizations of the Thunder Sea, Droaam, the Dhakaani goblinoids, the Mror Holds, and the Last War, along with Keith’s personal thoughts on the religions and races of Eberron. All in all, about 200 pages of the book are lore, with a heavy focus on how you can use this information to generate interesting stories or characters. The remaining 48 pages include new races, subraces, feats, backgrounds, archetypes. magic items, and monsters. You can check out the table of contents here.

Is it official content?

No. This is not produced by WotC and it does not match all previous canon sources. This is Keith’s personal view of Eberron and what he does in his Eberron campaigns.

Where can I get it? What formats?

Currently, Exploring Eberron is exclusively available on the DM’s Guild. It’s available as a PDF or as a print-on-demand hardcover. A bundle allows you to get the PDF for $5 when you buy the hardcover.

If I buy the PDF now and then want to buy the hardcover later, can I retroactively get the bundle?

No, the DM’s Guild doesn’t have a system in place that makes this possible.

Is it going to be available on D&D Beyond? Roll20? Fantasy Grounds?

It’s not official content and will not be on D&D Beyond, for a host of different reasons. We are exploring the possibility of conversions on other online platforms. At the moment it is only available on the DM’s Guild.

THE PROCESS

What parts of Exploring Eberron were ideas you’d had for years as opposed to ideas you developed while writing the book?

It’s not quite so clear cut. Almost all of the topics in Exploring Eberron are subjects I’ve wanted to write about for a decade. I sketched out the Thunder Sea—with the balance of power between the powerful Sahuagin nation and the sea elf colony, with the neutral, nomadic merfolk—as part of the setting bible in 2003; that setting bible likewise included the idea of the nation of monsters that eventually became Droaam, and the idea of the goblins having lost a great empire. I developed the planes with Bill Slavicsek, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins as we developed the ECS in 2004. But all I had were the basic IDEAS. I didn’t work out the SPECIFICS of the Sahuagin nation or name the noble line of sea elves. We knew Fernia was the Sea of Fire, but back in 2004 we DIDN’T know exactly how it differed from the elemental planes.

Over the course of the next decade, all of these things evolved in their own way. Writing The Queen of Stone and “Backdrop Graywall” gave me an opportunity to explore Droaam in more depth. I established the basic framework of Mabar in the article I wrote on this blog a few years ago. But that was essentially a first draft. Notably, I said that one of the powers of Mabar was the Queen of All Tears. But at the time, I didn’t know who she was. I had a general vision of a tragic undead figure. But it wasn’t until I was writing the Mabar section of Exploring Eberron that I decided she was once mortal, and thought about what tragic figure from established canon could fit that part. I always knew that the slaadi were residents of Kythri, but it wasn’t until working on ExE that I thought about what made them different from the slaadi of other settings.

So most of the BROAD concepts had been in place for decades; the primary exception would the the Mror Dwarves (with the Realm Below and Ruinbound dwarves), as that’s new angle we specifically developed in Rising From The Last War. But many of the specifics were developed over the last year, because I finally had an opportunity to spend sufficient time to really think them through.

Is there some chapter or meaningful content that didn’t make the final cut of ExE?

There’s not a lot of material that I WROTE that we didn’t use. There’s a few things, like the Shavarath denizens table I’ve posted as a Patreon exclusive. But keep in mind that the book is 80 pages longer than we originally planned, precisely because I DIDN’T want to cut a lot of ideas that I loved. However, it is the case that I had to limit the scope of some of my original ideas. For example, originally I planned to do a write up on each of the major warlords of Droaam, similar in scope and style to the write-up for the Cults of the Dragon Below: describing the warlord, their personality, their history, their minions, their story hooks. We actually commissioned a fantastic image of Sheshka, the Queen of Stone. But as things went on, I realized both that we didn’t have room and that it didn’t actually feel like the right content for what is largely a player-focused book… that it was more appropriate for a book that mainly focused on organizations, threats, monsters, etc. Honestly, that’s the biggest piece of restricted scope that comes to mind, and it’s something I definitely WILL write at some point; it just didn’t fit here. But again, it’s not that I WROTE it and then we cut it; it’s that I realized it didn’t fit, so I DIDN’T write it.

What is your favorite new thing in “kanon” that appears for the first time in this book?

It’s a difficult choice. I love all my children. I’m particularly happy with the Queen of All Tears; I always liked the concept of her, but when the final piece of her story fell into place, it was just such a perfect fit. In general, I’m thrilled with all of the planes; there were a number (Kythri, Risia, Fernia) where initially I wasn’t actually sure they would be especially compelling… but whn I sat down and actually explored the idea, something wonderful came together.

Insofar as you’re thinking ahead right now, are you planning on focusing on your non-Eberron, non-D&D work for a while? When you do your next project for DMG, do you anticipate an adventure pack, or a more focused book of lore? Do you envision ever doing another book on the scale of ExE, or is the prospect too horrifying to contemplate at the moment?

I’m still determining the answer to that question. Wayne and I started working on Exploring Eberron over a year ago, and until last week we didn’t actually know how well it would do. This is what I do for a living, so that matters; if it doesn’t make enough money, I HAVE to pursue work that will keep a roof over my head. So I didn’t make plans for another major book because I didn’t know if I could afford to. But I love writing about Eberron and there are many more elements of the world I WANT to explore; it’s always just been a question of what’s feasible.

I do have non-D&D projects I’m working on, including The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance and a new Gloom project I’m working on. And I do want to do SOMETHING with my roleplaying game Phoenix: Dawn Command; I love the system and I’ve wanted to revisit it for some time. However, I still love Eberron and don’t want to lose momentum. I will be continuing to work on this website and working to increase the value of being a Patreon supporter; the more supporters I have, the more I can do with the site.

So having said all of that: Wayne and I have already talked about a number of possible projects for KB Presents. I will say that I’m not going to jump right into another 240 page book; I want to work on a few smaller projects before diving into that again. But I think you’ll be happy with all of the things we’re considering, and I’ll share more once there’s something concrete to share.

I understand you’ve played characters in Eberron games using some of the subclasses in this book. Can you tell us about them?

The preface of Exploring Eberron has an image of a warforged druid. This was a gift commissioned by Wayne; it’s Rose, a warforged druid I played in a campaign run by my friend Dan Garrison, the co-designer of Phoenix: Dawn Command. The campaign began at a party in Metrol on the night of the Mourning, and Dan provided the players with a list of basic character concepts to choose from and expand upon. I chose the warforged companion of the Princess of Cyre, a special commission for the royal family; classes weren’t setting, and I decided the companion would be named Rose, and would have the capabilities of a druid. As I have long loved the idea of warforged druids turning into living construct animals, I did the first pass on what became the Circle of the Forged druid. Long story short: the party was epic; we danced the Tago with knives; Metrol was sucked into Mabar when the Mourning occurred; hijinks ensued.

So Rose actually predated Exploring Eberron by about a year, and the Circle of the Forged druid was the first subclass developed for it. The Maverick artificer was developed before I played one, driven by my love of the flexibility of the 3.5 artificer—specifically, of the 3.5 infusion spell storing item. I love the concept of the artificer as someone who can tinker what you need on the spot. So, when Dan started another campaign—this time set in Callestan, with the players assuming the roles of professional rat-catchers—I decided to play a Maverick. My character is a forest gnome urchin, born in the feyspire of Shae Joridal but orphaned and separated from his home in Ghaal’dar attack; he grew up on the streets of Lower Dura and doesn’t really understand the fey potential in his blood. With this in mind, he uses the Magical Thinking approach to artifice that I describe in ExE. One of my favorite elements is using the guidance cantrip, because every time I cast it I come up with a different explanation for what I’m creating based on the effect I’m assisting with. Someone’s about to make an Investigation check? Try these special spectacles I’ve put together. About to use Athletics to make a dangerous jump? Let me add my pep paste to the bottom of your boots!

(VERY) SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

Does House Ghallanda have any interest in recreating or importing the odder cuisines presented in the book to the Five Nations (perhaps homogenizing it in the process, see American “Chinese food”)?

I don’t think it’s been suggested, but I think it’s a fantastic idea. Of course, in order to introduce grist to Five Nations they’d have to figure out the secret of how it’s made, and bear in mind that while we’ve told YOU how grist is made, the people of DROAAM don’t even know what it is, and once that secret is uncovered, they have to figure out how the Daughters are making grist actually edible. But I could see a great Ghallanda heist one-shot based on stealing the secret formula for grist…

In Exploring Eberron, it talks about the daelkyr being trapped in specific demiplanes and unable to leave, but I was always under the impression that they were described as “trapped in Khyber” being free to move about in Khyber unlike the Overlords. Is this a shift from canon or did I miss or misunderstand something regarding to this?

It’s not a shift from previous ideas, it’s a clarification. The idea all along was that you can’t FIGHT a bound overlord; they are a spirit in a shard and do not physically manifest. They don’t have kingdoms in Khyber. By contrast, it was always the idea that the daelkyr ARE physically present in Khyber, that they DO have lairs and minions, and that you can go meet one. But it was never clearly explained how they were trapped or what limitations were on their movement. Likewise, the earlier sources suggested that Khyber was strange and wondrous, but never clear how its geography worked. Over the next decade, I presented the idea that Khyber contains many demiplanes—and that entrances to demiplanes can transcend normal space, which explains how Belashyrra could be fighting the Umbragen in Xen’drik and troubling people in the Shadow Marches. It’s not that the domain of the Lord of Eyes spans the Thunder Sea, it’s that the domain is a DEMIPLANE with entrances in both places.

So in ExE I just clearly state this idea. The daelkyr aren’t bound in the physical tunnels of Khyber. They are each bound in a unique DEMIPLANE in Khyber. Within that demiplane they have absolute freedom of movement, so each one rules their own bizarre kingdom. Their minions can leave the demiplane, and again, demiplanes have exits across the world. But the daelkyr can’t leave the demiplane, which finally gives a clear explanation of how they have SOME freedom of movement but can’t “leave Khyber.”

So the IDEA remains: the daelkyr aren’t stuck in shards like overlords. They have realms they rule and you can go meet one and fight one. But those realms are little pockets of reality, and the daelkyr can’t LEAVE them.

There are Krakens and Aboleths underwater, are there equivalents of the Gatekeepers or the Church of the Silver Flame? What about of the couatls themselves?

Underwater? Surely. In the Thunder Sea? No. I’m sure there was an aquatic counterpart to the couatl, and I’m just as sure that they were involved in the same celestial sacrifice that bound the overlords and created the Silver Flame. It’s likewise logical to think that there were serpent cults among the locathah of the Thunder Sea, but they were crushed by the Eternal Dominion and the Valraean Protectorate, both of which do not allow freedom of religion in their realms. You could certainly have a secret Silver Flame tradition lingering among locathah dissidents, but the basic philosophy of the sahuagin is fundamentally opposed to its principles; “the strong should make sacrifices to protect the weak” is NOT a theory that fits in the Eternal Dominion. This doesn’t mean that the sahuagin are unaware of or helpless against supernatural threats; but they are handled by the martial might of the Dominion, not by some religious cult.

The kalamer merfolk are druids who maintain the balance of manifest zones, so they are something of a parallel to the Gatekeepers, but they don’t share any specific traditions with them and have no history with the daelkyr.

Does the Undying Court know about the Queen of All Tears and does it care?

With any question like this, my answer is always what makes the story more interesting? In my opinion, it’s more interesting for this to be a secret the player characters can discover, leaving them to decide what to do with the knowledge, rather than saying “Oh, the Undying Court has known about that for centuries.” Among other things, if the Undying Court already knows about it, then either they don’t care or can’t do anything about it, because they HAVEN’T. If they don’t KNOW, then it leaves open the possibility that they will panic when they find out about it. But in general, I will always lean toward adventurers making a dramatic discovery NOW over NPCs making a dramatic discovery a thousand years ago.

Kind of as a broader version of this question, what level of knowledge do the Material Plane experts possess and to what degree is it relevant to daily living?

The book gives examples of what experts know when it quotes the Planar Codex and other scholars. The limits of what can be known through Arcana depend on where you are and on what the DM WANTS players to know. The Undying Court has spent thousands of years astrally traveling and gathering information, and they likely have the best knowledge of the planes; other scholars may have their information through Aereni accounts.

But in terms of what does EVERYONE know? Pretty much the names of the planes and their basic concepts, and they don’t always get those right. We’ve called out that the typical person thinks of Risia as the “Plain of Ice” and Irian as the “Plane of Light” and don’t understand the deeper symbolic roles of these places. People know about them because of manifest zones, but without an Arcana check they don’t know much.

Fernia and Risia seem to have moved away from the mildly evil aligned, while Syrania moved away from mildly good aligned. What led to those decisions?

I’d argue that Risia IS still mildly evil-aligned. Here’s a quote:

At first glance, Risia appears to be barren and empty. But some travelers have described a presence, a sense of being watched, and most feel this presence is malign. On the surface, the concept of Risia seems entirely neutral; there’s nothing inherently evil about ice. But there’s a hunger to Risia—an innate desire to consume warmth and to bury living things in ice. In the Planar Codex, Dorius Alyre ir’Korran calls this force the Killing Cold. 

Exploring Eberron, page 182

By contrast, my view of Fernia is that it explores all symbolic associations of fire, both benevolent and destructive, and shouldn’t be inherently evil. Syrania is primarily about commerce and knowledge and didn’t need to be inherently good; this also helps to clearly differentiate it from Irian. Beyond that, I didn’t assign those specific traits in the original ECS, and Exploring Eberron is about how I see things, not canon.

I’m a big fan of Sarlona, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen HOW the kalashtar are slipping Riedra’s net and getting to Khorvaire. Is this ever spelled out?

There’s no steady stream of kalashtar into Khorvaire. As for how immigrants have managed it, they’ve done it in small numbers and disguised as humans. They’ve made their way to Arhdman in the Syrkarn, or worked with smugglers using the secret port of Dvaarnava. Some have made a dangerous pilgrimage through Khyber. And there have been one or two bold strokes that have involved major operations to disrupt or draw away the Riedran blockades. But it’s NOT a trivial thing, and they never travel openly under a flag of Adar.

There’s a bit about magic making permanent changes to the body being a relatively common thing. How does this work with the description on identification papers?

Actually, permanent changes are NOT common. Here’s the text from the book, with a few highlights.

Minor cosmetic transmutation is quite common; most professional beauticians can change your hair or eye color. Unnatural effects are rarer, seen mainly in Aundair and Zilargo… The effects of cosmetic transmutation typically last a week, but if you’re dealing with a magewright of sufficient skill, you can extend the effect to one month. In some cities, you might even find an expert who can make the change permanent. The more complicated the transmutation, the more costly—and hard to find—the service becomes.

Exploring Eberron, Page 28

So first of all, permanent transmutation is not common. What’s common is turning your brown hair red for a month, or getting permanent eyeshadow for a week — the sort of cosmetic changes people get in OUR world, and I don’t have to update my driver’s license when I change my hair color. Exotic changes — like having, say, silver hair or cat’s eyes — are NOT common and are generally only seen in the cities of Aundair or Zilargo, where people are used to a higher degree of arcane experimentation. Permanent transformation is not only out of the price range of most people, but it’s also not something that’s available most places — again, in a major city, you might find someone who can do it. And as noted later in the section, “as with any magewright, beauticians are often specialized; a hairdresser might be able to give you permanent exotic hair but be unable to change any other feature.”

A second point is that identification papers aren’t something you need in everyday life. The ECS calls out that they’re typically carried by members of the middle and upper classes; so common laborers don’t even have identification papers. They’re primarily going to be used when crossing borders, using letters of credit, or similar situations; but you don’t need to show identification papers to buy a beer at the Gold Dragon Inn. If your papers are accurate except for your silver hair, no one’s going to question that you had your hair done. If you ARE going to engage in permanent, dramatic physical transformation—changing your apparent species, gender, height, or the like—you will want to get your papers updated. .

I had a question about the Dol Udar. Are the Gatekeepers at all aware of it?

Keep in mind that the Gatekeepers aren’t a powerful, modern faction with widespread resources. They’re the last remnants of an order that has been in decline for thousands of years, dwelling in a backwater with almost no contact with the modern nations, doing their best to maintain the ancient seals that keep forgotten evils at bay. With that in mind, consider that the Gatekeepers don’t NEED to know what the daelkyr are doing elsewhere in the world; they know that as long as they preserve the seals, the daelkyr cannot escape their prisons—and again, the seals are NOT geographically linked. There’s no Gatekeeper seals in the Mror Holds; the seals that exist prevent Dyrrn from leaving his demiplane, no matter where it touches the world.

With all that in mind, the whole point is that THIS IS WHY THEY NEED PLAYER CHARACTERS. What’s a more compelling story—the Gatekeepers having vast resources and knowing exactly what’s going on? Or the Gatekeepers knowing that they DON’T know exactly what’s going on in the wider world and needing to send a young, promising champion—a player character—to investigate the disturbances they’ve felt in the distant east? With that said, if you DON’T have a PC in this role and your player characters are active in Dol Udar, you could introduce an NPC in that role—a Gatekeeper agent who’s been sent to investigate the situation and provide assistance. But I’d still play that as they don’t KNOW what’s going on, so they’ve sent an agent to find out as opposed to they’re entirely aware of the situation and have already made plans to deal with it.

If you have questions about Exploring Eberron, post them below and I’ll answer when I can!

IFAQ: Immortal Alliances

When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Today I want to answer a few questions about immortals in Eberron.

In the past I’ve said that one of the most important differences between mortals and immortals in Eberron is that immortals lack free will. With a few notable exceptions, immortals can’t change. They may LOOK like humans (or humanoids), but they are essentially cogs in a metaphysical machine: created to serve a specific purpose. The gear in a watch didn’t DECIDE to be a gear, and it can’t suddenly quit being a gear; in the same way, the typical angel of Shavarath didn’t DECIDE to fight in the war, nor could it choose to stop.

So: immortals come into existence with an established purpose and with the knowledge and tools needed to play that role. The deva in Shavarath didn’t have to learn how to use a sword, and more important, over the course of hundreds of thousands of years of war, it’s never gotten any better at it. Again, one of the strengths of mortals is that they can change. They begin with no skills whatsoever, but they can follow any path they choose. This isn’t to say that immortals can’t learn new facts. And this does vary by immortal. Hektula, the rakshasa Librarian of Ashtakala, has surely learned new spells over the last hundred thousand years. However, she may not have gained any new class levels in that time. She’s broadened her knowledge, but she is at the peak of her potential and can’t push beyond it.

Or course, there are exceptions! The radiant idols are fallen angels of Syrania. The kalashtar are bound to quori who rebelled against il-Lashtavar. It’s possible that you could find an angel of Shavarath who has abandoned the eternal war. But these are exceptionally rare. We’ve never said how many quori exist, but for sake of argument, let’s say there’s a hundred thousand… mostly lesser spirits like the tsoreva, and mostly devoted to duties in Dal Quor. From the perspective of the quori, the current era of Dal Quor has lasted for 400,000 years. In all that time, we’ve called out 67 quori who rebelled to become kalashtar. Let’s imagine there’s another 33 who were either caught and destroyed or who have managed to remain undetected. That’s still around a .1% rebellion rate over the course of 400,000 years… not too bad. Essentially, these are malfunctions. They’re gears that came into existence with the wrong number of teeth. Which is why the Dreaming Dark seeks to destroy rebel quori — to that energy can be drawn back into Dal Quor and reforged into a proper, compliant spirit.

So, keep these basic principles in mind. Most immortals come into existence with a clear purpose and with the skills they need to accomplish that function. They choose how they pursue that purpose, but they cannot change it. They are powerful, but they cannot learn new things as mortals can. Some of them have existed for a million years of subjective time. They don’t grow bored; they don’t desire change. They are what they are.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few questions.

How common is it for a fiend or cult to serve multiple overlords?

This depends on your definition of “Serve.” Most lesser fiends are bound to their overlord in the same way that the quori are bound to il-Lashtavar. Mordakhesh didn’t DECIDE to work for Rak Tulkhesh; the Shadowsword is essentially an extension of Rak Tulkhesh, the embodiment of one of the many ideas that falls under the Rage of War. Serving Rak Tulkhesh is part of his spiritual DNA; it’s not a choice, it’s what he IS. Thus, he will never feel that same loyalty to another overlord; it’s not in his nature.

HOWEVER: It’s possible that Rak Tulkhesh and Sul Khatesh could have a common goal, and that they might work together to create a cult that serves both of them. The mortals in that cult might feel equal loyalty to both overlords, just as devotees of the Restful Watch revere both Aureon and the Keeper. The fiends associated with the cult might work toward its common goals, but it doesn’t change the fact that every one of those fiends is devoted to EITHER the Rage of War or Keeper of Secrets, not both. They pursue the alliance because it serves the purposes of their overlord, but there is never any question that THEY serve their overlord and only their overlord.

Ultimately, this sort of alliance is why the Lords of Dust came into existence—to facilitate cooperation between the servants of different overlords. With that said, it’s more common that this simply extends to preventing fiends from fighting one another as opposed to actual alliances like I’ve described above. In fact, I’m not sure there IS an example in canon of two overlords working together in that way. Part of it is because their natures are SO different that it is hard for them to forge a lasting alliance; a second aspect is that the things the overlords require for their freedom—the Prophetic “combinations” to their chains—typically have nothing in common. Keep in mind that the reason the overlords were defeated was because they wouldn’t cooperate… and that while we mortals would learn from that mistake, immortals can’t change. So it’s not IMPOSSIBLE to have a fiendish cult that serves two overlords, but it’s not common and not likely to be long-lived.

In theory, it’s MORE plausible with the daelkyr, because the daelkyr were all originally on the same side. They have shared resources; Dyrrn created the dolgrims and Belashyrra created beholders, but both can be found serving any daelkyr. However, it’s also the case that most daelkyr cults are shaped by the mental influence of their daelkyr patron, and this is a powerful and unique force; a mortal bound to both Dyrrn and Belashyrra would be mentally torn in two very different directions. So again, it’s more likely than an alliance between overlords, but still not likely to be a long-term alliance.

There’s one wild card here: non-native fiends. NATIVE fiends have a bond to a particular overlord. But we’ve called out the fact that there are immortals from the planes who have broken from their planes and joined with the Lords of Dust… essentially, rather than a fiend rebelling to become an angel, it’s a fiend rebelling to be a fiend somewhere else. Two canon examples of this are Thelestes, a succubi who serves the overlord Eldrantulku; and Korliac of the Gray Flame, a Fernian pit fiend allied with Tul Oreshka. Such fiends are already outliers, because they have broken their original path, which again most immortals can’t do. As such, there’s nothing that prevents them from choosing yet ANOTHER path. CURRENTLY Thelestes serves Eldrantulku… but she could decide to serve Bel Shalor and the Wyrmbreaker as well, or to simply break her ties to the Oathbreaker. Ultimately, as with all things, the end answer is do what’s best for your story. Most quori can’t rebel against il-Lashtavar, but SOME CAN; if you want a new rebel quori in your story, then there’s a new rebel quori! If you decide that the Wyrmbreaker is betraying Bel Shalor and working with Eldrantulku, so be it (though like the Devourer of Dreams, it’s not entirely odd to think that the chief servants of spirits of betrayal and corruption might themselves betray their masters!).

Can immortals be promoted or demoted? Can an immortal gain power?

Yes, just not in the same way that mortals can. Time and experience aren’t how immortals improve. Essentially, the way to think of any particular group of immortals—the quori, the angels of the Legion of Justice, the fiends of Rak Tulkhesh—is as a pool of energy. The amount of energy in that pool is static and cannot change. If there are a hundred thousand quori, there will always be a hundred thousand quori. Kill one—or a hundred—and their energy flows back to il-Lashtavr, which eventually reconstitutes that energy and spits out replacements. This is why people bind immortals instead of killing them; you can’t destroy that energy, but if you can take it out of circulation, that’s a win.

So: this pool of energy is static. But it’s not distributed equally. A powerful immortal like Mordakhesh holds more of that energy than a typical Zakya rakshasa. A powerful immortal can redistribute that energy. So it is POSSIBLE for a deva in Shavarath to be elevated to the position of planetar… but only if a planetar is demoted to deva, or if the deva is taking the place of a planetar that was destroyed rather than it being reconstituted. Likewise, Rak Tulkhesh could STRIP Mordakhesh of some of his power, and then invest that power into another fiend. So yes, the higher powers CAN elevate or promote the immortals below them; but only by redistributing that energy from somewhere else. There will always be devas in Shavarath; Justice Command can’t just promote them all to the rank of solar.

However, there’s one other possible twist. The energy within a pool is static. But the other way for an immortal to gain power is to TAKE energy from somewhere else. This is the idea of the Devourer replacing il-Lashtavar: that an immortal could USURP another immortal’s power. Another possibility is that an immortal could somehow draw power from an artifact or some other outside source. So Mordakhesh doesn’t gain levels just by killing things. But if he found some way to literally absorb the essence of a coautl, maybe he COULD gain strength. The main thing is that this would be a momentous event that is shaking the metaphysical balance of the multiverse. It’s quite possible that it would be dangerous and potentially unstable… that there would be some way to restore the couatl, pulling the power back out of the fiend.

What are the attitudes of the Daelkyr and the Dreaming Dark towards one another? What about the Lords of Dust?

The Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, and the daelkyr are the three most powerful malevolent forces in the setting. Their ultimate goals are mutually exclusive. The Dreaming Dark seek a stable world dreaming their dream. The overlords seek a return to primordial chaos. The daelkyr seek to transform reality into something unrecognizable. There’s no vision of victory that will allow two of these groups to both be satisfied. It is also the case that they are DANGEROUS. A rakshasa doesn’t fear death; it knows it will return. But can a daelkyr change the ESSENCE of a rakshasa—driving it mad or turning it into something new and horrifying? If you’re a rakshasa, you don’t want to find out. Essentially, NO ONE in their right mind, immortal or otherwise, wants to fight the daelkyr if they can avoid it.

These groups don’t actually know much about one another. The daelkyr and fiends don’t dream, so the quori can’t spy on them that way. The Dreaming Dark holds its councils in Dal Quor where none can spy of them. Riedra is hidden from the Draconic Prophecy. The daelkyr don’t care what the other two are up to, and their actions are inscrutable. Dreaming Dark mind seeds and daelkyr cults can appear anywhere, subverting long-established Lords of Dust agents without even realizing it. So more often than not these groups will stumble onto one another accidentally—and when they do, the first one to realize it will usually act to eliminate the threat. Consider that the Edgewalkers of Riedra are specifically trained to fight fiends and aberrations!

On the other hand, if you WANT these groups to work together in your campaign, go for it. The main question is why. The easiest ally is the Lords of Dust, because their goal of manipulating the Prophecy could require one of the other factions’ schemes to succeed. The main thing is that in any sort of alliance, each faction likely thinks it’s coming out ahead in the exchange… because in the end, they can’t both get what they want.

Personally, I rarely use all three of these as equal threats groups in the same campaign. All of these factions have been scheming for centuries or even thousands of years. There’s no reason that all of their schemes have to come to a tipping point in 998 YK. It’s entirely reasonable to say that the stars won’t align for the Lords of Dust for another decade, or that the daelkyr are currently dormant. So you can have alliances or conflicts between them, but you also can choose to ignore one or more completely.

You could also have the groups work against one another, using PCs as pawns.

Certainly. As noted above, in my opinion if their plans conflict, they will oppose one another, and the player characters could be caught in the middle of that. The main thing in MY Eberron is that the Chamber and the Lords of Dust are actively at war (though a very cold war). They are playing a game on the same board—manipulating the Prophecy—and they understand one another. By contrast, neither the Chamber nor the Lords of Dust really have a clear picture of the daelkyr or the Dreaming Dark. So they eliminate these threats when they interfere with their plans, but they don’t see the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish — while the dragons and fiends DO have that picture with one another.

What’s a “native outsider?” Are they basically the same as immortals that live on other planes, only native to Eberron, or is there more to them than that?

“Native outsider” is a holdover term from 3.5 and can be thought of as “native immortal.” It means that the immortal is a product of the material plane. Native fiends are apocryphally said to be children of Khyber, while native celestials are children of Siberys. First of all, this means that when the immortal dies, it will be reborn on Eberron——while if you destroy a Shavaran devil on Eberron, it will be reborn on Shavarath. It’s also the case that immortals in some way embody the concept of their planes of origins. So take a pit fiend. If it’s from Shavarath it is ultimately a spirit of WAR and tyranny. If it’s from Fernia it is first and foremost a fiend of FIRE. If you just want a generic “I’m eeeeevil” pit fiend, than it should be a native immortal tied to one of the overlords, such as Bel Shalor. As a side note, the night hags of Eberron are native immortals, but aren’t tied to the overlords; they are their own faction.

Regarding stuff like efreet, salamanders, or similar entities, would you have them all follow the same template as fiends and celestials in that they generally maintain a particular alignment or distribution of alignments, or is this not a fundamental aspect of some groups of immortals and the alignment of a group is more dynamic in some cases?

My definition of “Immortal” means the following: the creature is tied to a specific plane; it came into existence with its skills and knowledge in place, and did not need to learn; it does not reproduce naturally; it has a static population, and when it is destroyed, either it will be reborn or a new creature of its type will appear to take its place. As long as it meets these criteria it doesn’t matter if a creature is a celestial, elemental, fiend, or aberration. If it does NOT meet these criteria, it is not immortal under these terms. Thus, for example, a vampire is immune to aging, but it won’t be replaced if it is destroyed and it has a method of reproduction. It’s not an immortal; it’s a mortal that is channeling the power of Mabar, which sustains its life.

Immortals are SYMBOLS more than they are living creatures. They have purpose, even if often that purpose is simply to represent an idea. The basic definition of “fiend” is that it embodies an EVIL aspect of an idea, while a “celestial” embodies a GOOD aspect of an idea. Shavarath is the plane of WAR. Devils represent war fought in pursuit of tyranny; angels, war fought in pursuit of justice. So for these spirits, alignment is part of their core concept. Elementals aren’t as clear cut and don’t have an automatic alignment bias. But as they are immortals, they represent IDEAS. So the key question is “What is their idea?”

In MY Eberron, what the efreeti represent is the beauty and glory of fire… but also its capricious and deadly nature. The raging bonfire is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but if you are careless it can burn all you hold dear. So too with the efreeti. They are glorious and powerful. But anger them and they will burn you in the blink of an eye. What we’ve said in Eberron is that alignment doesn’t tell us WHAT you’ll do, it tells us HOW you’ll do it. You can have an evil king who wants peace or a good queen who pursues war; it’s just that the evil king will be ruthless in his pursuit of peace while the queen will be kind as she pursues war. Efreeti don’t necessarily want to DO things we would consider evil. They want to celebrate their wealth and power. They want to outshine their rivals. An efreet might invite you to a grand gala in its brass citadel, with no hostile intent. But if you insult it, or embarass it by using the wrong fork, it will burn you with no remorse. THAT is what makes efreeti evil. It’s not that they are all conquerors or torturers; it’s that like fire, they have no mercy and no empathy. They BURN, bright and beautiful, and if you aren’t careful they will burn you.

So efreeti are not universally pursuing an evil CAUSE in the same way that the devils of Shavarath are. But they still have evil ALIGNMENTS because it’s in their nature to be merciless and unrelenting… even if a particular efreeti has no grand designs we would see as evil. Meanwhile, the beings who embody the purely benevolent aspects of fire are celestials, and those who embody SOLELY its destructive aspects are fiends. The Azer are spirits of industry and are neutral. Efreeti are both the beauty of fire but also its danger; they won’t necessarily pursue evil goals, but they have no remorse when their actions cause suffering.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going!

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!

Magic Sword: Shadow Marches

I’m about to join forces with the band Magic Sword and gamers Damion Poitier and Satine Phoenix to tell a tale set in the Shadow Marches of Eberron. As I write this, the game is just a few hours away—starting at 4 PM Pacific time, streaming here. However, if you miss the live stream, it should still be available to view after the fact!

Preparing for this game has kept me busy, so my next article will be slightly delayed. Last month’s Patreon poll ended in a tie, and while I thought I was going to write about nobility, because of reasons the next article will be about Riedra in Fifth Edition. But don’t worry, Nobility fans, I’ll write that article as soon as I can.

I hope you can join me and Magic Sword as we explore the Marches! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

IFAQ: The Elves of Aerenal

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

Image by Matthew Riley for Exploring Eberron

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just how many bodily desires do Deathless retain anyways?

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

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

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

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

Behind The Scenes of Exploring Eberron

Today’s article is a behind-the-scenes look at Exploring Eberron from its editor, Laura Hirsbrunner, platinum-bestselling Dungeon Masters Guild designer and editor.

In the spring of last year, Wayne Chang asked me if I was available to edit “a book.” He estimated it would be “approximately 120,000 words.”

Come to find out, this humble book was actually Exploring Eberron, a Dungeon Masters Guild hardcover written by Keith Baker. Its original working title was “Eberron Expanded,” soon affectionately dubbed “Project Raptor” (because what book is complete without a codename?). The name was born from a joke Keith made during the development of Eberron: Rising from the Last War, in which he reported the entire book would be “300 pages of different types of dinosaurs, a deep dive into Talenta.” When Wizards of the Coast failed to actually publish a book about dinosaurs, we knew we needed to pick up the torch…and so Project Raptor found its name.

445 days or so later, I regret to inform you that Project Raptor does not contain 300 pages of dinosaurs, and neither is it 120,000 words. Rather, Exploring Eberron blossomed to an enormous 247 pages and 230,000 words, its contents exceeding my wildest (dinosaur-free) expectations. I can confirm that Keith is a brilliant world-builder, a joy to collaborate with and edit for…and a very very very prolific writer.

It quickly became a running joke that when Keith says “hmm,” it means we’ll need to add another couple pages—or an entire chapter—to the book. Now, if anyone tells you I was responsible for a few of the expansions, don’t believe them… it’s only halfway true. Yes, on multiple occasions, I asked Keith things such as, “Can you write a couple more sentences to help connect the dots between these two topics?” But he’d inevitably send me at least twice as many sentences as I asked for…and so the book grew. Over the last decade, I’ve edited many hundreds of thousands of words, but working on a single project of this magnitude was an experience like no other. It turns out that editing takes immensely more work the longer the book gets! The good news is that Keith quickly earned a place as one of my very favorite editing clients of all time. Despite the fact that he’s won multiple awards for his game design and is a celebrity in the D&D world, he’s one of the most humble and kind folks I’ve had the privilege to work with, and if I had to be “stuck” with a writer on a project for a solid year, I’m quite happy it was him!

In addition to my primary role as editor, I had the unexpected opportunity to contribute to the writing and design of a few sections, alongside our producer Wayne Chang (co-host of the Manifest Zone podcast) and mechanics designer Will Brolley (my friend and co-designer of several bestselling Dungeon Masters Guild supplements). I can’t imagine a better team to have partnered with on this book, and my work was equally enjoyable, frantic, fun, overwhelming, and a tremendous learning opportunity.

Shortly before I finished editing, we discovered we would need to hire a new layout designer—and, suddenly I found myself stepping into that role as well. Not what I originally signed up for, but it was immensely satisfying to be able to take the book from raw, unedited text, all the way to its final print-ready form.

Once Exploring Eberron was completed, my jaw dropped at the final word count. I was dying to know how this compared to the recent Wizards of the Coast hardcover, Eberron: Rising from the Last War (which had not one editor, but five!). So I spent longer than I’m willing to admit copying and pasting every single section from D&D Beyond to Word so I could run a count… Though Exploring Eberron’s page count is lower, it’s over 10,000 words longer!

I am grateful beyond belief to the amazing team of playtesters and beta readers that joined us on this journey, and I can’t imagine having done this work without them. They carefully evaluated (…and reevaluated, and reevaluated again…) the character options and other mechanics presented in the book, giving us amazing feedback and helping us polish the balance and playability of each section. In addition, and perhaps even more valuable to me personally, their eagle eyes and encyclopedic memories spotted errors ranging from lore contradictions from obscure 10-year-old Dragon Magazine articles to the inevitable typos that slipped past my one-person editing team. TTRPG designers, be good to your playtesters—they represent your audience in the best of ways, and will be both your harshest critics and biggest fans. My sincerest thanks to every single one of them for their investment in this book (and their unflagging encouragement and support).

If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be Keith Baker’s editor for anything, let alone a book of this magnitude, I would’ve laughed in complete disbelief. Eberron has been such a special setting to me from the moment I discovered it, and the Eberron community is one of the most welcoming, generous, and encouraging ones I’ve ever known. I’m overwhelmed in the best of ways at having played a part in bringing more of Keith’s amazing world into your hands, and I’m looking forward to the stories of how you use it in your Eberron.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this book “canon”?

One thing I love about Keith’s philosophy is that from the very beginning, he’s emphasized that Eberron is something you can make your own. There is an official “canon” of work in the officially published Wizards of the Coast hardcovers, the Dungeon and Dragon magazine articles, and the web articles from the old Wizards website. In addition to that, there’s a wealth of information that Keith’s written over the years on his blog in an unofficial capacity, commonly referred to as “kanon” among fans.

This book is officially licensed third-party content published by the Dungeon Masters Guild and is written by the creator of the Eberron setting – but no, it doesn’t have the same official “canon” status as Eberron: Rising from the Last War. However, this book is the culmination of nearly two decades of Keith’s dreams of what he’d write about Eberron if he had the space and time to do so—and I am entirely confident that the Eberron community, long-time fans and new players alike, will love this book (almost) as much as I do. It’s a perfect companion for Rising and books from previous editions; rather than rehashing material that’s been covered before, it complements it by diving deep on topics that have always been fascinating and yet woefully under-explored.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite section, partially because I’ve read all the words so many times that it all blends together… but I’ll say that I especially enjoyed the sections on the Dhaakani dar, the Thunder Sea (the kar’lassa are extremely neat additions to the world), and of course, I love everything about the planes. Suffice it to say that this book contains something for everyone.

How much will I love the art in it?

You will love it a lot. A lot a lot a lot. Exploring Eberron contains 49 original artworks commissioned for this book (in addition to its 9 licensed images originally created for other purposes, 18 stock art images, and 11 images from previous Wizards of the Coast books).

Can I preorder?

Unfortunately, preorders are not available on the Dungeon Masters Guild. However, good news! The same day that the hardcover is released, you’ll immediately be able to download the PDF version. So while shipping delays might take a month or two, the content will be in your hands immediately upon release.

Will I be able to purchase it on D&D Beyond?

The licensing agreement with the Dungeon Masters Guild does not currently allow us to release the same content on D&D Beyond. However, if ever that changes, we’ll let you know. 🙂

Just tell us now, please, when will the book be released???

Exploring Eberron was originally planned for release in 2019. However, it became increasingly evident that for Keith to do justice to the many topics planned, and to write about them in the depth that he’s always dreamed of, the book would need to be much longer than originally planned. The chapter on the Planes of Eberron was the last one written, and by far the longest. It could very easily have been an entire book on its own, but we knew that section held some of the most anticipated content. So rather than cut the material on the planes for a later hardcover (which would delight absolutely nobody), we instead adjusted our timeline to plan on a Spring 2020 release.

In the midst of this process, each member of our 4-person production team was juggling various personal commitments, including two house moves, a baby’s birth, personal illness, family illness, obligations with our full-time jobs, and much more. And then…the pandemic hit. Needless to say, between life circumstances and the rapidly increasing book length, Exploring Eberron did not come out in Spring 2020. While disappointed by the delay, we were also confident that it was a book worth waiting for.

During the month of May, writing, editing, and layout were finally completed… though we all have several more gray hairs than when we began the process. Preparing the book for print-on-demand hardcover is an entirely different beast than doing layout for PDF-only publications, and by the end, I reached a level of intimacy with InDesign that perhaps made my husband a bit jealous (lucky for him, being married to him is far less stressful than creating hardcovers for print, so our marriage is saved). 

Once the book was finished, we sent the PDF to our amazing team of playtesters, who eagerly devoured the new lore along with helping to spot remaining errors in the book. After a few last-minute tweaks, the book was ready for publishing, and sent off the final PDF to premedia review at the Dungeon Masters Guild! The book passed premedia checks with flying colors. However, before we can release it to the public, we have to review a final printed copy… and due to COVID-19, the printing and shipping process has been delayed, and can take well over a month.

So at this point, we are in the agonizing stage of waiting…and waiting…and waiting. As soon as I have the printed proof in my hands, I’ll review it to make sure the PDF file we submitted to the printer was processed correctly and printed according to our expectations (rarely, something goes wrong with the print process and images print incorrectly, or the margins are wrong, or a host of other potential issues). As soon as that happens and we confirm everything looks correct, we can give the Dungeon Masters Guild the green light to release the book for you!

We don’t anticipate any further delays or errors in the process of printing and shipping the proof copies of the book, but everything from this point on is out of our hands. Assuming all goes as expected, we’re delighted to announce that Exploring Eberron will officially be available for purchase in both hardcover and PDF next month, in July of 2020.

What formats is the book available in?

You can purchase Exploring Eberron as a hardcover or PDF. The former is 8.5″ x 11″ premium hardcover book (similar in size to Wizards of the Coast hardcovers); expect 1-2 months at minimum for shipping time due to the pandemic. The PDF version will be downloadable immediately upon purchase; this full-color PDF is identical to the hardcover book in layout, as well as being screen-reader friendly and providing optional print-friendly settings to toggle off the art & background. Due to the long shipping delays, for those that purchase both products at the same time, we’ll be offering a very steep discount on the bundle so you can enjoy the PDF right away while you wait for the hardcover to arrive.

Will Keith be writing more books?

Stay tuned… 😉

About the Editor

By day, Laura Hirsbrunner is a 3x platinum-bestselling TTRPG designer and editor, academic consultant, editor-in-chief of Across Eberron, play-by-post server moderator, wife to a paladin, and mother to two gibbering mouthlings. By night, she explores dungeons and slays daelkyr (because really, dragons aren’t the bad guys). Her DMsGuild work includes the Eberronicon, Archetypes of Eberron, Elminster’s Candlekeep Companion, and more. You can find her portfolio here, or follow her on Twitter.

IFAQ: Who Leads The Tairnadal?


When time permits, I like to answer questions from my Patreon supporters. Joseph asks:

Who actually leads the Tairnadal elves? Is it a theocracy?

It’s an interesting question. The Tairnadal are the elves of the Aerenal steppes, and the elves who have claimed Valenar are Tairnadal elves. The Aereni are ruled by the Undying Court and the Sibling Kings. Valenar has a “High King.” But what of the Tairnadal of Aerenal? Do they have a monarch, or are they ruled by the Keepers of the past?

The reason this hasn’t been answered in the past is because it’s not a question with a simple answer. There is no single monarch or high priest who leads the Tairnadal, and the answer is rooted in their unusual and rigid culture. All the cultures of Aerenal cling tightly to tradition and the past. The Tairnadal came to Aerenal as soldiers—fresh from fighting against the giants of Xen’drik and their minions—and never stood down. What drives and defines the Tairnadal is their devotion to their patron ancestors. This began before the elves even reached Aerenal, as a basic cult of personality: those warriors who’d served with fallen champions being determined to honor their heroes by following in their footsteps. Those who were most devoted to this path swore that they felt a connection to their idols—that the spirit of the champions were guiding them. So this basic element—preserve the ancestors by emulating their lives—was a part of Tairnadal society from the beginning. The traditions and role of the Keepers of the Past evolved on Aerenal, but the patron ancestors were with them from the start.

Tairnadal society is shaped by their religion. This is described on page 147 of Rising From The Last War and I’m not going to retread it entirely here. But to sum up: when an elf comes of age the Keepers of the Past determine which ancestor has chosen them, and “it’s your sacred duty… to live your life as they did and to allow the champion to walk the world again through you.” It’s important to recognize that there’s a twofold aspect to this duty. The first is that through this devotion, the living preserve the ancestors. But there is also the concrete belief that through this devotion, the ancestor can act through the revenant—that the living benefit because they receive their guidance from the dead. The doctrine of the faith is that you can only receive this guidance from the ancestor that has chosen you—which means that if you refuse to accept that bond, you are denying your community the chance to benefit from the ancestor’s supernatural guidance. Essentially, the Tairnadal believe that you will never be as useful on your own as you could be if you embraced the path of your patron ancestor, and that refusing to follow that path is deadly arrogance and selfishness, and there is no place for such selfishness in a tight-knit warband.

So: Tairnadal culture is based on people emulating the lives of their patron ancestors. But these ancestors were fighting a guerilla war. Which means that the Tairnadal have to engage in endless war to follow their example… and with this in mind, they have been engaging in complex wargames for tens of thousands of years. Combatants will spare an enemy when possible—you don’t finish off a fallen foe—there is no point to a battle that doesn’t truly test the skills of the combatants, and battles are fought with spell and steel.

Working with this foundation, there are two basic aspects to Tairnadal civilization: war and peace. the zaelantar and zaeltairn. The zaelantar (“peaceful souls”) maintain the civilian infrastructure, while the zaeltairn (“warrior souls”) serve in an army and fight the endless war.

The zaelantar raise and train both young elves and beasts of war and burden. They craft weapons and tools, and they maintain the settled communities of the steppes. The bulk of the zaelantar are young elves. Remember that an elf receives a patron ancestor when they come of age. But this doesn’t usually happen until an elf is at least 60! In the initial decades of their lives, they train in basic skills (Background! Elven weapon familiarity!), study Tairnadal history, and maintain their community—including carry for the younger elves. Through this process they are effectively auditioning to the patron ancestors. The young elf who excels at hunting expects they will be chosen by a legendary archer or stalker. The elf who becomes a leader in the community hopes to be chosen by one of the great leaders of the past. Nonetheless, you are talking about elves spending at least four decades of what humans would consider adult life working in a zaelantar community. So who performs basic, necessary tasks? The elves who haven’t yet been set on a different path. Other zaelantar include former tairn who are unable to fight—either because of age or some other infirmity—but who can teach the young. The Keepers of the Past are largely zaelantar, serving to train and guide. And finally, there are those who have been chosen by patron ancestors whose legendary skills are tied to the civic sphere: fabled smiths, legendary teachers, the Siyal Marrain (druids who tend the beasts), and so on.

The zaeltairn engage in war, emulating their ancestors in the field. They are split into armies, each of when is further divided into clans and bands. A Tairnadal army is effectively a city-state. It isn’t a temporary duty; once assigned to an army Tairnadal serve until they die or until they retire (or are forced to retire) to train the young. Most armies are mobile; most of the patron ancestors were guerilla soldiers and mobility was vital; they follow migratory paths across the steppes. There are a few that are settled, based on the specialties of the ancestors represented by the army. Notably, each of the great jungles of the region—around Shae Thoridor and Var-Shalas—are home to an army, whose members specialize in jungle warfare and commando operations.

There are three great cities in the region held by the Tairnadal.

  • Var-Shalas is the largest city of the Tairnadal. It is the stronghold of the Keepers of the Past, and it is here that the Shanutar (council of lords) conducts its business.
  • Shae Thoridor is the second great city of the zaelantar. It is smaller than Var-shalas, but nonetheless an important seat of the Keepers of the Past and an industrial center for the goods required by the armies.
  • Taer Senadal is a fortress—but an unusual one. Var-Shalas and Shae Thoridor are surrounded by walls of bronzewood thorns, similar to Taer Valaestas in Valenar. Taer Senadal is a fortress of stone. Because it’s not a fortress built to defend the region from attack; it’s built to be attacked. Senadal can be roughly translated as “whetstone,” and Taer Senadal is a fortress manned by youths in the late stages of their training. Armies take turns attacking the fortress, allowing the youths to hone their skills as they defend it and the tairn to practice attacking fortifications.

All of which finally brings us back to the original question: Who rules the Tairnadal? Are they a theocracy?

Religion is the absolute foundation of Tairnadal culture. Following the dictates of the religion sensible (the faithful receive the guidance of the ancestors), a duty to the dead (it preserves the ancestors), and a duty to the community (as the ancestral guidance makes you a more effective citizen). But the Keepers of the Past are guides, not leaders. The basic leadership role within the Tairnadal is the shan, which can be loosely translated as “lord.” Each band has a lu-shan (“band lord”), clan leaders simply use the title shan, and the leaders of armies are var-shan (“great lord”). On the side of the zaelantar, an an-shan (“young lord”) is a youth who guides a band of youths, while a tar-shan (“peace lord”) maintains a village or a district of one of the great cities. Note that shan is not a gendered term, and any tairnadal can hold this position.

The twist to this is that the characterization of Shaeras Vadallia as “High King” is largely a translation error. Shaeras is the var-shan of Valenar, the Great Lord of the Army of Valenar. it is the highest position of authority that the Tairnadal recognize, but each army has a var-shan of its own.

With this in mind, the structure of Valenar is a general model for the Tairnadal overall. As described in the ECS, there are 45 warclans on Khorvaire; this is the Army of Valenar. At any given time, twenty of these clans are under the direct command of the var-shan (Shaeras Vadallia), while the rest are active in the field. The same is true for the armies on Aerenal: each army has a core of clans that remain close and under the direct command of the var-shan, while others follow general direction but operate independently. Likewise, within a clan a certain number of bands remain under the direct command of the shan, while others may be dispersed on independent operations (scouting, harrying, etc). While the structure of Tairnadal society is relentlessly martial, they actually don’t have a complex hierarchy of ranks. Warbands are essentially families, whose members serve together indefinitely. When there is a split-second military decision to be made, the lu-shan commands and cannot be questioned. But if there are other issues, the band debates them around the campfire and consensus rules. The lu-shan does have the final say, but it is rare for a lu-shan to veto the decisions of the band without clear military reason. And if this is done, the band respects the decision because they respect the lu-shan, not because of the title alone. This ties to an important fact: those appointed to leadership roles are elves channeling the spirits of legendary leaders. Within a clan, of course the Vadallia revenant is the lu-shan, because she’s channeling Vadallia. Taeri is an unparalled swordsman, but he’s not a leader; who would even think of appointing a Taeri as shan? It is also the case that a respected revenant’s word carries a great deal of weight in matters related to that ancestor. A Vadallia lu-shan is a good general war leader, but when planning an ambush they may defer to the Falaen revenant, trusting their expertise in matters of stealth and cunning.

This overall structure flows upstream. If the shan issues a command it must be obeyed. But unless it’s an urgent matter, the shan will seek the consensus of the lu-shan. If it isn’t a question of war, they will seek the guidance of Keepers of the Past or even the tar-shan. Beyond this, each army dispatches two clans to Var-Shalas and one to Shae Thoridor. These clans protect the cities, but the shans also represent their army in the shanutar—a council that includes the tar-shans, and which is overseen by Keepers of the Past.

So once again: Who leads the Tairnadal? When decisions must be made in a moment, a shan’s word is absolute. In other matters, the Tairnadal seek consensus—whether a lu-shan consulting with their band, a shan seeking consensus from the lu-shans, or the var-shan consulting the shans. Beyond this, people respect the ancestors that are channeled; they look to those guided by ancient leaders to channel that wisdom.

All of which is a VERY long answer to what seemed like a simple question, but there you have it!

How do the Draleus Tairn and the Silaes Tairn fit into this structure?

They’re armies. The Draleus Tairn are largely defined by their ancestors; their patrons are heroes renowned for fighting dragons. The Silaes Tairn have some ancestral overlap with the Valaes, but believe that the the battle should be taken back to Xen’drik. Note that bands of Draleus and Silaes Tairn DO make expeditions to Xen’drik; the Draleus are also always preparing for the next time Argonnessen attacks Aerenal.

So are armies all made up of people who follow the same ancestors?

Not at all. Essentially, think of the ancestors as being military specialties. You’re rarely going to find a warband that has more than one Vadallia, because it doesn’t NEED more than one Vadallia. On the other hand, a band with a specific purpose—commandos, archers, scouts—may have multiple elves who channel the same ancestor because they want that overlap of skills. But ancestors are shared among all the Valaes armies, assigned to clans and bands as suits the needs of each unit.

How difficult is it for an ambitious revenant to break the mold of their ancestors and forge their own name in memory? Is this more within the wheelhouse of player characters, or are there examples of exceptional tairnadal who exceed the precedent of their patron ancestor, becoming patrons in their own right?

This is specifically discussed in this article… which gives the example of Carys Daealyth, who is guided by Daealyth Taeri, who was guided by Taeri. The main point is that those champions don’t typically BREAK the mold, they go beyond it. From that article:
So as a Tairnadal elf it is your duty to honor your ancestor and to do all that you can to bring glory to their name; but the hope is that in doing so you will become a vessel for their spirit and that together you will forge NEW legends—and that someday, future Tairnadal will channel YOUR spirit.

How does parenting work among the Tairnadal? Are familial relations important?

Generally, NO. Who your father and mother are is far less important than who your patron ancestor is. Tairnadal don’t maintain property, so you’re not passing your holdings down to a child. Critically, note that the Tairnadal don’t use family names: a Tairnadal elf uses a given name and the name of their patron ancestor. So Shaeras Vadallia may have been the son of Jael Cardaen and Sol Taeri; ultimately, that doesn’t matter. A child is given to the Zaelantar to be raised, and becomes an adult when chosen by a patron ancestor. And it’s worth noting that at this point, almost all Tairnadal are in some way tied to all of the patron ancestors; it’s not like there’s only one bloodline that produces Vadallias, or that you expect to be chosen by the same patron as your parents.

With that said, Tairnadal likely know who their parents are, and there are cases where relatives end up serving together in the same band or clan. So you can have siblings who feel a strong attachment or even a parent and child with a bond. But on the societal level, your personal lineage isn’t as significant as your spiritual lineage.

Can you talk a little about dynamics between Tairnadal elves and Lyrandar/Half-elves in Valenar? Especially with a Khoravar with a Tairnadal parent?

If you can find it, this is discussed in an Expeditionary Dispatches article from WotC called “The People of Taer Valaestas.”

As called out in the previous answer, direct blood lineage is less important to the Tairnadal than spiritual lineage, and it is the belief of the Tairnadal (supported by existing precedent) that no Khoravar can channel a patron ancestor. So essentially, the Tairnadal treat the Khoravar as being akin to zaelantar. They are people with a connection to the elves, and they are willing to do important tasks no tairn wishes to do. However, with most zaelantar there is the understanding that they will become tairn (or that they have been chosen by a peaceful ancestor, which is still an honor and duty), while they don’t believe that to be possible with the Khoravar. So the essential point is that they see the Khoravar as useful children but don’t believe they will ever grow up or be able to undertake the true responsibility of a Tairnadal—to embody an ancestor. That’s not their fault, just a sad fact. Of course, what we’ve said is that if any Khoravar could prove this wrong and channel an ancestor, it would be a player character!

Are there ever cases where a young elf coming of age is not selected by ANY ancestor? If so, how are such elves regarded by their fellows?

The Keepers of the Past aren’t selected by any one ancestor; instead, they have the ability to hear many ancestors, which is what allows them to serve in their role. In one campaign I ran, a PC played a Tairnadal shaman whose role was specifically to channel and remember a host of lesser ancestors who weren’t significant enough to become full patron ancestors, but that deserved to be remembered.

If the elf isn’t chosen by an ancestor and lacks the gift of the Keepers, what it means is, essentially, that they didn’t graduate. I said that MOST elves receive an ancestor at around 60, after they undergo a few decades as zaelantar. If you don’t get picked? Work another decade as zaelantar and we’ll try again at the next time. It would be assumed that if you’re not picked it’s because you haven’t displayed enough value to be chosen; that doesn’t mean you deserve to be shunned, it means you need to go back to work and do better. You’re a disappointment, certainly. But there may well be a case where it’s later discovered that a particular elf didn’t get picked because ALL of the ancestors wanted them and they couldn’t reach an agreement, or something like that; there could certainly be a tale of the elf who was thought to be shunned but who was in fact the most exceptional of all (… and went on to become a player character!). But the typical answer is that they would simply continue on as zaelantar.

Second question: Since the Tairnadal are constantly looking for battles to fight, do they ever seek out manifest zones of Shavarath, or venture to that plane itself?

I write about Shavarath in Exploring Eberron, and that’s a pretty extreme option; it is a vicious meat grinder and it would take exceptional mortals to survive there for an extended amount of time. Consider that the immortals are CONSTANTLY being killed and just reform; it’s a touch road for elves to jump in where angels fear to tread. With that said, it’s entirely possible that the Tairnadal SUMMON fiends or other extraplanar threats so they have worthy foes to fight. They might even use undead! Exploring the actual forms of conflicts the Tairnadal fight on Aerenal is a deep topic that could definitely fill another article.

That’s all for now. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this site going and help choose topics! And if for some reason you’re looking for even MORE information about the Tairnadal, this article answers many questions and has links to many other articles!