Thelanis in Play: Artifacts

Last week I wrote about the Faerie Court of Thelanis and the fey. While it’s interesting in principle, that Q&A doesn’t get into the practical applications of how to directly incorporate either fey or Thelanis into a typical Eberron campaign. It’s a big topic, so rather than piling it all into one big post I’m going to split it up into a number of small posts spread throughout the week. Over the next few days I’m going to explore the impact of artifacts, fey patrons, curses, manifest zones, and a final round up of questions. Let’s start with the first approach: Artifacts

Eberron is a world where magic is treated as a science, where there is a certain degree of gritty realism laid over the fantasy. It often breaks the mold of classic fantasy. So how does this mesh with Thelanis, a plane that essentially embodies the faerie tale? To begin with, understand that Thelanis is its own world. In his essay about fairy stories, J.R.R. Tolkien notes that if fey creatures “really exist independently of our tales about them, then this also is certainly true: elves are not primarily concerned with us, nor we with them. Our fates are sundered, and our paths seldom meet. Even upon the borders of Faërie we encounter them only at some chance crossing of the ways.” Unlike the quori, the inhabitants of Thelanis as a whole have no interest in Eberron. Individual fey may have a story that drives them to interact with mortals, or seek amusement abroad. But by and large interactions are incidental. And yet, this lack of a single massive driving plot actually allows Thelanis to touch a wide array of stories, precisely because its inhabitants aren’t as united as the quori.

To start with, let’s consider a way that Thelanis can influence a story without the appearance of a single fey creature: artifacts. Khorvaire is a place of industrialized magic, a place where things make sense. Thelanis is a realm of storybook magic, and it often defies logic. Things from this world – from the greatest treasures to seemingly trivial things – can have remarkable qualities. The catch is that these things often come with twists… frequently things that don’t quite follow the rules people are used to dealing with when it comes to magic items. Consider the following…

  • The Mithral Falcon. This statue has no obvious powers other than its exceptional beauty… but it can amplify greed and desire, causing powerful people to shed blood to obtain it. The player characters may not want the Falcon, but it could be a  catalyst for mayhem around them as rival ganglords fight over the Falcon in the streets of Sharn. Or perhaps an Aurum concordian will hire the PCs to “acquire” the Falcon from a rival.
  • Tascara’s Eye. If you activate the power of this crystal orb, it will show you glimpses of the past, present, or future.  Most of the time the Eye shows things you want to know – warnings about threats, answers to mysteries that have been troubling you. But there is no way to control it what is shown, and sometimes it shows you things you didn’t want to know… or visions that if misinterpreted could lead you to disaster. Will you use its power and take that risk, or leave it alone?
  • Stone of Rebirth. After slaying a long-time foe, the PCs are surprised when she returns unharmed. This is because she possesses the Stone of Rebirth, an artifact that works much like a lich’s phylactery. Once someone has formed a bond to the stone, nothing can prevent them from being resurrected by it after death. The heroes must learn of the stone, figure out where it is being kept and how to sever the villain’s bond. But then what do they do with it? Does one of them want to use it? If so, will they discover that there is a price that must be paid for this eternal life? Perhaps the stone kills someone close to the bearer as a price for rebirth, or perhaps each new life comes with a curse. If they don’t want to use the stone themselves, how will they deal with the many powerful people in the world who covet it?
  • The Final Blade. The wounds inflicted by this weapon cannot be healed by any method. Those that are killed by it cannot be resurrected; it may even be that it can permanently kill immortals. But every time it takes a life, this sword strikes a blow against its wielder… and this wound can never be healed. Who will wield the Final Blade?
  • The Keepsake. This locket provides +1 bonus to AC and Saving Throws. It contains the images of two Eladrin, lovers from an ancient story. Each time the bearer levels up, the power of the amulet increases… but the bearer changes slightly. A skill proficiency shifts. A background benefit changes. Hair color shifts. The character remembers something that’s not their memory… but it’s a memory that can lead the party to adventure and treasure. With each advance, the character changes further. They are gaining power and information that leads to a grand adventure, but they are becoming one of the characters in the ancient story. Will they accept this fate? If not, it it possible to undo the changes that have already occurred? And what will it take to remove the amulet?

The general concept of Thelanian artifacts is that they come with a price… or that they draw characters into their story. The Mithral Falcon creates a story of betrayal and greed.The Keepsake literally draws its wearer into the story. Tascara’s Eye gives information… and in so doing, shapes the path the PCs will take. Once they know their employer is betraying them, can they continue working for him?

Thelanian artifacts can be acquired by dealing with the Fey, but they can also be found in hoards, collections, or the hands of powerful people. Perhaps the Daughters of Sora Kell give Tascara’s Eye to the leader of the Daask cell in Sharn… but was Sora Teraza intending for it to fall into the PC’s hands from the very beginning?

Next up: Manifest Zones!

10 thoughts on “Thelanis in Play: Artifacts

  1. Hehe, the Mithral Falcon.

    That was awesome Keith, thank you! Now I just need to figure out what I can sacrifice to the Hellcow to get similar advice for the other planes 😉

    • My current plan is to poll Patreon supporters to determine topics, once I get that set up in January. I’d certainly love to do a similar treatment of other planes. The Patreon will also determine how much time I can put into the site.

      • That sounds like a good way to do it. I’d assume that the Patreon articles would me more “how to” articles like this one since you can’t do original content until the DM’s Guild (finally) allows Eberron? Or do you think the Q&As are still fair game?

        • I’m playing around with things like this, that aren’t exactly original content but are a little more broadly useful than narrow Q&As. I can also also create original content for Phoenix that can be transported to other settings, with suggestions on adaptation. But I can’t do straight-up new Eberron content until it’s unlocked for the DMG.

          • Awesome. This was really helpful, and I’m sure that the other followup articles will be too!

  2. Very cool. I’m guessing that Thelanian artifacts are even less amenable than other classes of artifacts to determination of their properties by magical means. However, since they are all about their stories, I’m guessing that attempts to determine the history of a Thelanian artifact (through good old-fashioned exploration and research0 and how it came to be in Eberrorn, might give PC’s insight into what kind of story the artifact is telling. The Mithral Falcon, for example, has passed from hand to hand for centuries…in a more frequent and bloody manner than even mundane objects of comparable worth. Possessors of the Eye tend to enjoy spectacular successes…but often come to even more spectacularly tragic ends. And eventually, if the PC is dogged and persistent enough, the trail leads back to Thelanis

  3. I love all of theese ideas… but some sounds a bit difficoult to balance. I mean, in terms of character welth by level.
    Btw: I don’t know what Patron is, but I’ll be glad to support any project for having more of this material. I would be particularly interested in Daanvi (I think I have some good questions about it) and Syrania (well… just because of Sharn).

    • I love all of theese ideas… but some sounds a bit difficoult to balance. I mean, in terms of character welth by level.

      Absolutely. That’s the point of defining these as “artifacts”. They aren’t supposed to be things you casually acquire or could buy at the store; they aren only supposed to enter play if they are driving a story. Don’t give players Tascara’s Eye unless you already know the visions it will show them if they use it. And definitely don’t use the Stone of Rebirth unless you specifically want to explore the challenges facing an immortal player character and the cost of that rebirth (a plot that may not fit the typical campaign!). These aren’t as simple as a crystal ball or a ring of regeneration; the imbalance is intentional, because it’s what drives the story.

  4. It could also be interesting to have the keepsake locket be split and end up with a villain in possession of one half and a pc with the other, and have both attempting to figure out what is happening.

  5. Does Eberron have a fortune-telling deck similar to the tarot, the tarokka (Ravenloft), or the harrow deck (Pathfinder)?

    There is a Pathfinder adventure where the party is pulled inside a harrow deck and have to quest through the story of the deck itself, and with a little conversion I think it could make a good Thelanis (contained) adventure. Just wondering if there was something that could take the place of the Harrow Deck.

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