Dragonmarks 11/14: Warforged and More

It’s been a very busy month, from wonderful events such as Extra Life and ChariD20 to unexpected tragedies like the loss of my friend Mr. Pants. I’m also hard at work on Phoenix: Dawn Command and I hope to talk more about that soon. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Dragonmark, and I don’t want to get rusty.

At the moment, I have no news about 5E Eberron support, though I am still optimistic that there will be news soon. As always, everything I write here is entirely unofficial and may contradict material in canon sources.

How would you emulate a warforged character using the 5E PHB?

I came up with one possible 5E interpretation of the Warforged with Rodney Thompson of WotC for Extra Life; you can find the stats I used here. There are other things I might try – one being the ongoing question of whether warforged should have inherent armor similar to the 3E feat-based armor or follow the 4E hermit crab approach where armor is a shell they attach. The version on my site takes the hermit crab approach; all I’ll say is that I had a fine time with Smith when I played him in Extra Life. Personally, I will continue to experiment with different approaches to the warforged as I continue to evaluate 5E – but I think the current model is a reasonable approach and definitely not overpowered.

What sort of culture is there among warforged? Also, now that the war’s over, how might one warforged from one nation behave around a warforged of a different nation?

Both good questions, but I think the answer is that there’s no clear answer. The warforged have only been free citizens for two years, and they are still creating their culture. The followers of the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades represent two hubs for warforged culture to build around, but any center for warforged population – such as the Cogs in Sharn – could be the genesis of a warforged culture. As for how warforged of different nations behave around each other, it’s the same issue: it’s going to depend on the cultural path they are following. Followers of the Lord of Blades have no loyalty to any human nation, and consider all warforged to be part of one family… while other warforged cling rigidly to national loyalty and military discipline as the only things that have given their lives any sense of meaning. Such a warforged could be very hostile to a ‘forged from an enemy nation. The interesting question is if the ‘forged would act the same way towards a human soldier of that nation, or if he holds greater emnity for rival ‘forged because he still sees them as essentially weapons.

But the ultimate answer is “there is no absolute answer.”

Have you ever used the Lord of Blades in a game? What backstory did you use, if so?

I originally planned for the Lord of Blades to play a significant role in The Dreaming Dark trilogy. WotC decided they didn’t want him to appear in fiction so early in the cycle of the setting, so Harmattan took his place. I developed the Lord of Blades during the original cycle, and he originally had stats in the 3.5 ECS in the same section as Demise and Halas Martain – and like both of them, he had multiple sets of statistics to allow him to evolve as PCs rose in level. He ended up being cut for space, and I think it was just as well as it let DMs take him in different directions. The only time I’ve personally used him in a session it actually ended with the idea that he wasn’t an individual warforged – rather, he was a shared identity created by a cabal of warforged at the end of the war. So in that storyline, it would have been possible for people to fight and defeat a Lord of Blades in one scenario and discover that he was simultaneously doing something elsewhere. It’s a little like saying that Doctor Doom always was a bunch of Doombots working together, who made up the story of “Doctor Doom.”

I suggest a number of other ideas in this Dragonshard – among others, the idea that he could just be Aaren d’Cannith wearing a suit of warforged armor – but I haven’t personally used any of those ideas in games I’ve run.

What pacts do you think work best for warforged warlocks? With pacts made before or after rolling off the creation forge.

That depends how you define a “warforged warlock” and “pact.” For example, in a number of games I have used warforged warlocks who draw their powers from the Mourning. But the idea of this wasn’t that these warforged had made a concrete bargain with a sentient aspect of the Mourning, like a traditional Infernal or Fey warlock; rather it was that they had been touched and twisted by the Mourning. If you are actually playing with the idea of a warforged bargaining with a supernatural entity in exchange for power, I think you could make a case for any pact. I think you could have a very interesting Infernal Warlock based on the idea that a human warlock died and made a bargain that resulted in his soul being inserted into a warforged body… with the underlying threat that the body could be taken away if he fails to live up to the terms of his pact.

Are there mindflayers who support Riedra or the inspired -or that are even inspired themselves? Given their psionic abilities?

As I first discussed in this Dragonshard article, Dal Quor and Xoriat are both common sources of psionic power. However, they reflect very different approaches to reality and the mind, and I don’t see the fact that they both channel psionics as being any sort of bridge between them; if anything, I’d argue that psions inspired by these two different sources are fundamentally as different from each other as clerics and wizards are when it comes to manipulating “magic.” This can be reflected by having Wilders be more commonly tied to Xoriat, but I think that you can have people from both paths use the same class and still have a very different flavor for it. I feel that the denizens of Dal Quor and Xoriat are equally far apart and would generally find very little common ground.

While the Quori are undeniably alien creatures, there is a very close bond between them and mortal dreams. Mortal dreams have an impact on Dal Quor, and the Quori themselves inspire and draw strength from mortal emotions. Tsucora draw on fear, Duurlora are spirits of aggression, and so on. Among other things, this means that emotions as we understand them are relevant to the Quori. It means that we can generally understand their motivations and outlook on the world. You then have the secondary aspect that the modern Quori are very strongly aligned behind a common cause – the perceived survival of their reality. The Quori are an innately Lawful force. They have a strict hierarchy amongst themselves, and in many ways they are fundamentally defined by the fact that they are enforcing order upon chaos. They SHAPE dreams and use them as tools. They create specific emotions and use them to accomplish their goals.

By contrast, the denizens of Xoriat are utterly alien… as alien to the Quori as they are to humanity. I’ll point you to this Dragonmark article on the subject for further exploration of this fact. But the short form is that Quori understand humans, which is what allows them to manipulate humanity; they don’t understand the Daelkyr or their servants. There is no order that can easily be imposed upon them, and they don’t even necessarily experience the same emotions that we do.

All of this is my personal preference, and you’re certainly welcome to take a less extreme position. But for me, what makes the Daelkyr, the Cults of the Dragon Below, and aberrations in general INTERESTING in a world that also includes Quori, Rakshasa, evil dragons, and more is the fact that the creatures of Xoriat are the most completely alien of any of these. A mind flayer such as Xorchyllic might appear to have motivations we understand, but when you delve deeper you may find that there’s things going on there that don’t make sense at all. The logic, emotions and schemes of Xoriat should be hard for us to understand, because their logic is our madness. It is inherently at odds with our vision of order, reason and reality.

So I might have an ALLIANCE between a mind flayer and the Inspired, but I would certainly expect it to be temporary… and I would emphasize that even the Quori don’t understand what the mind flayer is up to.

 How would you make Thrane sympathetic in a game set in Thaliost?

Interesting question. They are the occupying force, which is always a hard position to justify. One of the first things I’d do is to emphasize that the brutal governor of the city, Archbishop Dariznu, is actually Aundairian; he represents the extremist Pure Flame movement rooted in Aundair. The Thrane templars and priests in the city are under his authority, but I’d emphasize their disgust at Dariznu’s actions and have some of them doing what they can to mitigate them or to help people in need. Compassion is a core virtue of the Silver Flame, and I’d incorporate a number of Thranes – whether part of the occupying force or independent agents – who are providing compassionate assistance to the needy. I could even see a group of Thrane templars considering if they should defy the hierarchy and remove Dariznu from power. The essential point to make is that this isn’t a simple black and white Thrane vs Aundair conflict; you are also dealing with an ideological schism within the Church of the Silver Flame. There are Aundairians and Thranes on both sides of that schism, and definitely Thranes who believe in the validity of Thrane’s claim to the region while still despising the actions of the Governor. This is something I touch on in this Dragonmark.

How do you handle airships being damaged without making it feel like you’re punishing the players or taking away their stuff?

To me, the key issue here is the difference between punishing players and taking away their stuff. In my campaign, everything outside of the players themselves is fair game to suffer consequences player action. I want players to develop attachments to people, places and things precisely so I CAN threaten their airship, spouse, or home village – because all of these are ways to add a sense of tension and consequence to player action. But that also requires a level of trust on the part of my players that the actions I take aren’t simply malicious or capricious. One of the points on things is that they can always get replaced. If I destroy their airship as part of a Lost-like scenario that drives a campaign arc, they can always get a NEW airship when they get back to civilization… and if it’s not exactly the same as the old one, like I said, that’s part of what actually drives the story: things change, events have consequences, and heroes CAN suffer loss.

But I think the key point here – as with many things about good GMing – is about clear communication between player and GM, and about an understanding of the type of story that will play out. If the PLAYERS have a clear vision of the campaign as them flying around saving the universe in the Millennium Falcon and you randomly have it destroyed by an asteroid in the first session, just saying “But you get another ship later!” isn’t going to make that all better. Basically, I would never, say, make a PC lose a limb without having some form of consent that the PC is OK with that sort of story. If the airship truly is as integral to the concept of the PC as a limb, then I’m not going to casually remove it. But overall, my GOAL is for people to be able to develop attachments to people, places and things with the understanding that these things CAN be lost, and can even potentially be lost in seemingly senseless ways; it’s this understanding that helps people feel that their actions matter and that loss is a possibility.

The game I’m currently developing – Phoenix: Dawn Command – approaches loss in a very different manner, as death and loss are fundamental parts of character growth. But that’s a subject for a future post.

OK: That’s all I have time to discuss in detail. Which means it’s time for another lightning round for the remaining questions…

Did elements from Final Fantasy VI (opera, airships…) inspire some features of Eberron even slightly?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never actually played a Final Fantasy game or seen any of the movies. So any similarities are simply parallel evolution.

How common are wands among non-magical inhabitants of Eberron?

Not at all. Using a wand requires magical talent; even eternal wands require you to be SOME sort of spellcaster, even if you don’t have to be a caster with access to the spell in the wand.

Eberron suddenly becomes “mundane” -no divine/arcane power, no connection to planes. What happens instantly, a year, 10 years?

I explored this concept in the Children of Winter article in Dragon 418. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of Eberron’s major cities take advantages of manifest zones or magic; remove those things and Sharn will immediately collapse, for example.

Can criminals avoid being convicted in spite of items as the eye of Aureon and pendants of mystic warning (from SharnCoT)?

Sure. FIrst of all, an Eye of Aureon won’t help you CATCH a criminal; it only helps you prove his guilt or innocence once he’s been captured. Eyes of Aureon are rare and “only found in the greatest cities of Khorvaire.” Beyond that, an Eye of Aureon is simply a zone of truth, and there’s lots of ways to get around those… from effects that shield you from divination to simply finding ways to mislead while speaking the literal truth. Meanwhile, a Pendant of Mystical Warning is an expensive item that can only be used by someone with arcane talent, and has all the same limitations as detect magic. So yes, I think there are definitely ways for criminals to avoid conviction. This sort of thing is a subject I delve into in considerable depth in the 3E sourcebook Crime and Punishment from Atlas Games.

If the worlds-traveling crone Baba Yaga were to visit Eberron, where would her hut reside?

Personally, if I were to use Baba Yaga in Eberron I would say that when she passes through Eberron she tends to use another name, and either make her Sora Katra or Sora Kell herself.

How evil are the daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have legitimate plans for Droam? Would you ever write a story focused there?

I have written stories focused there; I think Sheshka is actually the most popular character in The Queen of Stone. Beyond that, it’s a topic I’ve discussed in some detail in this Dragonmark, so I suggest you take a look at that and see if it answers your questions.

Does Flamewind have an androsphinx counterpart/sibling/mate?

Not in Sharn, and we’ve never detailed her private life before Sharn. Of course, if you’re referring to Flamewind as depicted in The Dreaming Dark, you have to ask yourself if she’s really a sphinx at all – or if she is some sort of manifestation of the Queen of Dusk. And speaking of which…

Will the new edition be advancing the timeline at all? Anything in the works for Daine, Lei, and Pierce?

I still have no concrete details on the plans for future Eberron support and whether it will include novels. Personally I would rather focus on the past or on regions of the world (or planes) that have been underdeveloped as opposed to pushing the timeline forward.

If a “Super Hero” team appeared in Sharn, how would Breland react to it? Would the local Dragonmark houses do anything?

Sharn’s a big place. The first draft of the setting actually included a pulp vigilante in Sharn – a kalashtar known as “The Beholder.” I’d only expect Breland to get involved if the group was somehow seen as a serious threat to royal authority; after all, it’s not as though Breland has stepped in to interfere with House Tarkanan or the Boromar Clan. Likewise, I’d only expect this houses to act if their personal interests were threatened. If anything, I could see the Twelve CREATING a superhero team as a PR exercise. Get your Cannith Iron Man, Vadalis super-soldier, Orien speedster, etc…

Are any of the moons inhabited?

They COULD be. We’ve intentionally left details on the moons scarce so that YOU can decide if you want to have a Moon Race game, an invasion from the moons, or even to just say that the moons are in fact simply portals to other planes.

Why did the Eldeen Reaches declare independence from Aundair? I can see why places like Mror or Zilargo got independent, but Eldeen?

For a brief exploration of this topic, look at this previous post. The short form is that the schism between Aundair and the Eldeen reflected significant cultural and economic troubles between the regions, and that the leadership of Aundair was focusing on the war with the other nations to the detriment of the Eldeen.

What were your plans for the undersea kingdoms of Eberron?

Someday I hope to explore this in more depth (get it?) but it won’t be today. One detail I will throw out is that Sharn originally had an undersea district with a section with a permanent Airy Water enchantment so people could make deals with merfolk emissaries.

 

Extra Life: Hacking The Warforged

This Saturday I’m going to Seattle to play on in the D&D Team’s marathon session for Extra Life. The money I’m raising goes to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and if I can raise an additional $110 in the next few days, not only will you help kids in need, you will literally make my wish come true: if I can raise $1500, I get to cast a wish one time during the course of the game. If you can spare anything – even $1 – please donate here!

Donate to Extra Life!

Most of the time when I’m at the gaming table, I’m the GM. The first character I ever PLAYED in an Eberron campaign was a warforged artificer named Smith. I suppose you could say that he was a literal iron man; he was a brilliant inventor who was always developing new tools… and he was sheathed in awesome adamantine plating. We didn’t have a martial character in our party, and despite being an artificer Smith ended up being the primary melee combatant. He didn’t have the attack bonus of a fighter, but with his adamantine plating and shield he was extremely durable. Personally, I love the story of the warforged; beings built to serve as weapons who must now find purpose in a world without war. In Smith’s case, I was exploring the idea of the invented being who is now becoming the inventor. On a less philosophical level, what I enjoyed about playing a warforged was the sense of being a juggernaut. I had my heavy armor plating, I didn’t need to eat, breathe, or sleep, I couldn’t be poisoned… I felt like a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to generous donations from Charles Huber and Jeremy Esch, I will be playing a warforged artificer in the Extra Life marathon. But there’s no finalized statistics for warforged in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. An early version was presented in the public playtest, but it doesn’t match up to the final versions of other races. I expanded on this basic foundation with help from WotC R&D Designer Rodney Thompson, and here’s the traits I’ll be using for this weekend’s game.  Bear in mind that these traits are IN NO WAY OFFICIAL. If and when there is future Eberron support, a completely different version of warforged could be presented. Consider this an experimental playtest – nothing more.

WARFORGED TRAITS

As a warforged, you have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Adjustments: Your Constitution score increases by 2. 

Living Construct: Even though you were constructed, you are a humanoid. You are immune to disease. You do not need to breathe, eat or drink, but you can ingest food or drink if you wish.

Unsleeping SentinelWarforged don’t need to sleep. Instead, they settle into a resting state, remaining semiconscious for 4 hours each day. While in this rest state, you are fully aware of your surroundings. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Warforged ResilienceYou have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Integrated Armor: When you are not wearing armor, your AC is 12 + your Dexterity modifier. During a short rest, you can bond a suit of armor you are wearing to your body. When you finish that short rest, the armor you are wearing is bonded to you, and it cannot subsequently be removed from your body until you finish another short rest during which time you remove the bonded armor.

Self-Stabilizing:  You have advantage on death saving throws.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common. 

Type: Multiple types of warforged are found among the worlds of D&D, including warforged scouts and warforged soldiers. Choose one of these types.

Warforged Scout

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Size: Small

Speed: 35 feet

Warforged Soldier

Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 1.

Size: Medium

Speed: 30 feet

In the original Eberron Campaign Setting (ECS) warforged had a host of immunities. Warforged were completely  immune to “poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, effects that cause the sickened condition, and energy drain.” While this helped me feel like an unstoppable juggernaut, in retrospect it was simply too much. There were simply too many situations that were challenging to other characters that ended up being inconsequential to warforged. Rodney and I pared this down to a list that kept the basic flavor of being a construct – immunity to disease, resistance to poison, and no need to eat, sleep, drink, or breathe. This warforged is highly durable; the +2 Con score and bonus to death saving throws help the warforged take a pounding and keep going. As a warforged I can be a tireless sentinel but I can’t shrug off ghouls and vampires quite so easily, and I can’t make out with a succubus.

The original warforged spent a feat at first level to acquire an armored body, the equivalent of wearing either medium or heavy armor. This isn’t an easy thing to model in fifth edition, because characters don’t GET feats at first level… and simply giving the characters armor proficiencies would mess up class balance and step on what is currently the unique feature of the Mountain Dwarf. The current model gives a warforged a default AC of 12 + Dex, much like the basic composite plating of the 3.5 Warforged. Armor can then be attached like the shell of a hermit crab, the same approach used in Fourth Edition. Frankly, this is the one feature I’m not entirely happy with. That Adamantine Body was a defining part of Smith the Artificer, and the character won’t be the same without that heavy armor; at the same time, without the cost of a feat at first level, I don’t see an answer that both feels balanced and doesn’t simply steal a unique aspect of the 5E dwarf. So this Saturday, my 5E iteration of Smith will be a Warforged Soldier following these rules, and we’ll see how it goes.

In my next few posts I’ll talk about what I’m doing to model the Artificer for Extra Life and about the backstory of Smith Mk 2!

 

 

Dragonmarks: Spies, Heraldry, and a Lightning Round

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

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

So on to the questions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eberron and 13th Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daelkyr and their Cults

Are there Gatekeepers corrupted by the Daelkyr?

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

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

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

Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it settled that warforged have souls?

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up: TELEPORTATION AND HOUSE ORIEN.

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

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

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

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

Then Fourth Edition comes along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next topic: PALADINS AND THE DEATHLESS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, a little RANDOM STUFF.

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

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

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

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