August has been a month! After returning from GenCon I ended up being sidelined with COVID for a week. In addition, Wayfinder—a video game I’ve been writing for—has just gone into early access. AND, I’m going to be at PAX in Seattle this upcoming weekend; if you’re there, come find me at the Twogether Studios booth and say hi! Oh, and also, the seats for my table at D&D in a Castle are almost sold out, so if you want to be part of that, follow the link!
So, it’s been a crazy month and I haven’t had as much time or energy for writing as I’d hoped. However, when time allows I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one of those…
How common or uncommon are magics that extend someone’s lifespan in Eberron, like potions of longevity? There’s NPCs like Haldren ir’Brassek that are supposedly human, but still healthy enough at at least 120ish years old that there would be people willing to serve under him if he broke out of prison, which makes me wonder how much those types of potions might play into politics.
While there are always exceptions, largely the rarity categorization is a good indicator of how common a magic item is. Potions of Longevity are very rare, which means that they aren’t unheard of—they aren’t LEGENDARY—but at the same time they definitely aren’t mass produced or reliably available. At very rare, they aren’t being produced by House Jorasco. Because they exist, you can be sure that Jorasco is trying to create them—likely coordinating with Vadalis and the Twelve—but it hasn’t managed to crack the code.
With that said, very rare means that, again, they aren’t legendary. People have HEARD of them, even if they aren’t something you can just go to the store and purchase. This ties to the general point that especially with rarer items, don’t just think of it as a generic “potion”. Who made it? How will that affect its appearance? Are there any interesting side effects? Appearance, application, side effects—all of these should be largely cosmetic. If a potion is something you rub on your skin instead of drinking, you should still be able to do it in six seconds. A side effect might make you green for an hour, but it wouldn’t give you the Poisoned condition. I mean, it could, if that’s what you want, but that would be a distinctly inferior version of the item.
So with that in mind, let’s consider a few ways someone could acquire a very rare potion of longevity… and what those might look like. .
The Shadowor Sul Khatesh. The Shadow and Sul Khatesh can both be sources of powerful magic… but such magics often has a disturbing cost. A powerful priest of the Shadow or a favored warlock (or other devotee) of Sul Khatesh could learn a ritual allowing them to create a swirling crimson liquid that adds years to your life. The catch? The primary ingredient is the lifesblood of a humanoid creature; generally, to be effective, it must be a creature of the same species as the potential imbiber, and there could be additional restrictions (the blood of a virgin or the blood from someone who has never taken a life). Essentially, you are stealing their life—again, it must be their lifesblood, which is to say that they must die in the process of your taking it—and condensing it down to give you a few more years. There is a second form of this ritual that instead requires the recipient to bathe in the enchanted fluid as opposed to just drinking it. This doesn’t have the cumulative risk of accidental aging, but it takes longer and requires much more blood—the blood of multiple humanoids for one effective dose. There have been a few tyrants throughout history who have worked with a priest of the Shadow and extended their lives unnaturally in this way; while they weren’t actual vampires, they lived off the blood of their subjects.
The Blood of Vol. One of the basic devotions of the Seekers of the Divinity Within is the communal donation of blood. This blood is typically used to support vampires and other undead champions of the faith. However, a few Seeker priests have found a way to create a potion similar to the Shadow brew described above—a potion that can sustain a living creature through the donated lifeforce of the faithful. However, this is a divine ritual that is difficult to master and there may not be any living priests capable of performing it. Further, while it’s superior to the Shadow technique in that it doesn’t require the death of the donors, it can only draw on the blood of the faithful and it uses a significant amount of that blood (it is concentrated down into the final potion); it’s not an efficient use of the donations.
The Prince of Slime. The daelkyr Kyrzin creates a symbiotic ooze that can be consumed as if it was a potion, which has the same effects as a potion of longevity. The ooze spreads throughout the donor’s body, rejuvenating their flesh. However, it remains within their system forever. Should the user consume multiple potions, there is no risk of accidental aging. However, with each potion consumed, there is a 10% cumulative chance that the user’s personality and memories will be eradicated and replaced by the alien consciousness of the slime.
Archfey. A number of Archfey create potions of longevity. The elixir brewed by the Lady in Shadow ages someone close to the imbiber a number of years equal to the benefit the user receives; they get more life, but someone they know pays the price. The Harvest Monarch produces a potion that reduces the imbiber’s effective age… but the years come back during the winter months, only to fade again in the spring. The Mother of Invention might produce a potion that works in a manner similar to Kyrzin’s slime; it effectively reduces the age of the user, but it does so by replacing some of their internal organs with clockwork or silver thread, and there’s a cumulative 10% chance that the imbiber will become a mindless construct. The Merchant of Misthaven sells a standard potion of longevity with no unpleasant side effects; the question is what she will seek in exchange for that potion.
Mordain the Fleshweaver. Mordain has created a number of different forms of potions of longevity... a salve that’s rubbed into the skin, a silvery fluid similar to mercury, a glittering powder that’s inhaled. It’s unclear why he keeps making new versions; presumably, he’s trying to find the perfect form and these are all unsatisfactory. Which could again mean that there’s some long-term side effects waiting to be discovered…
With it being very rare, I wouldn’t have Jorasco producing potions of longevity. However, if they did, I’d definitely give it a catchy name and appealing flavoring. Try the new SpringStep, available in Zilberry or new Vazilla!
With all that in mind, let’s consider the second question: what’s the political impact of such things? After all, the Code of Galifar has a clause that addresses the undead, so that a vampire can’t (openly) rule forever. Would there be a similar clause dealing with potions of longevity? As written, I’m inclined to say not, for two reasons. The short form is that they aren’t that impressive. A potion of longevity extends someone’s life for up to 13 years, with a 10% cumulative chance of backfiring. So at best that’s adding 130 years of life. Which SEEMS pretty good to us, but when we’re living in a world of elves and dwarves, Haldren’s 120 years really isn’t that impressive; let’s face it, that’s the default starting age for an Aereni PC. Beyond that, there’s a lot of different things that could extend life a little. Haldren ir’Brassek is called out as having ties to the worship of the Dark Six, so I expect he’s increasing his life using techniques of the Shadow. BUT… he’s also a powerful sorcerer, which means that he’s innately magical. While I don’t think it’s suggested in the class features, I see nothing strange about the idea that a powerful Draconic Sorcerer might live an unnaturally long life. The same logic could follow for any sorcerer. Perhaps a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer has an innate form of the Mother of Invention’s potion, slowly becoming more construct over time. A Divine Soul Sorcerer could easily be sustained by celestial energy. Beyond that, you have affects of manifest zones, subtle aasimar, fey bargains… In short, if a seemingly normal human lives for centuries, people may start to wonder. But if someone who is known to be a powerful sorcerer makes it to 120 and still seems healthy? He’s clearly a remarkable person infused with supernatural energy; I don’t think people will be too surprised. Some might even say “Age isn’t what’s gonna kill Haldren.” At the same time, murdering people to extend your life is definitely against the Code of Galifar. If he’s just a (super)naturally long lived sorcerer that’s fine. If it can be proven that he ritually sacrificed people to extend his life, well, back to Dreadhold we go…
That’s all for now! If you’re at PAX this weekend make sure to drop by the Twogether booth and say hello. Thanks again to my Patrons who make these articles possible—I’ve got a number of things planned for Patreon in September.
The last few months have been a difficult time, culminating with the death of my mother at the end of July. A lot of work had to be sidelined and it’s going to take me a few weeks to get back up to speed, so I may not be as active this month as I’d like to be. However, I do like interacting with all of you and answering questions, so I’ll do what I can. I’m close to completing my final work for Frontiers of Eberron: Quickstone and I’ll be posting another preview for patrons before the end of the month. In the meantime, here’s a few of the interesting questions posed on Patreon in July.
How would you build Hektula as a warlock patron? Fiend? Old One? And how might you introduce her as a patron, but keep her identity a secret from the warlock?
My inclination would be to say that it’s not HEKTULA who’s the patron, but rather one of her books. She gives the book to the warlock or arranges for them to get it, and the book acts as a surrogate for her. With this in mind, the nature of the patron (Fiend, Old One, etc) reflects the nature of the book. The Fiend patron would be a version of the Demonomicon. An Archfey patron would be a book of sinister faerie tales. It’s not that the patron IS an archfey or fiend, it’s that they are sharing the secrets of archfey or fiends. These books would be artifacts. I wouldn’t make them indestructible (because I can think of a lot of ways for a player to abuse that) but if destroyed they would return to Ashtakala, and would likely be returned to the warlock. So if you think of Death Note, the warlock finds the book, and the book has a spirit or sentience associated with it that guides the warlock. The player doesn’t know that Hektula arranged for them to get the book or if the book spirit has other loyalties. But over time, they may encounter other Codex warlocks and start figuring things out.
Eberron campaigns often revolve around conspiracies and mysteries that have built up for several centuries or millennia, orchestrated by supernaturally intelligent masterminds who have been methodically concealing their presence this entire time. How do you manage to get PCs invested in these masterminds, if they cover their tracks and thus won’t reveal themselves until the final act? For example if you’re running an Emerald Claw campaign how do you make the players care about Lady Illmarrow who spends 99% of the campaign in the background more than whatever Emerald Claw minion or lieutenant does most of the heavy lifting?
I don’t. When players are dealing with the Emerald Claw, I WANT them to care about the lieutenant who does most of the heavy lifting. The original ECS specifically includes an NPC named Demise who is a recurring villain for use with the Emerald Claw; I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the changeling Garrow in my Emerald Claw campaigns. In my novel The Shattered Land, the adventurers encounter the warforged Harmattan and his crew; they are agents of the Lord of Blades, but they’re interesting on their own. Consider the original Star Wars trilogy. The mastermind behind the Empire is Palpatine. But the hero of the story doesn’t encounter him until late the the trilogy… because he’s not READY to encounter him. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is a cool badass… which itself reflects on the power of Palpatine. So: the players won’t be ready to face Illmarrow for a long time, and it makes sense to match them against Demise or Garrow. But while doing that, I want them to LEARN about Illmarrow and to come to hate her. First, her minion should name drop her all the time. Soon Illmarrow’s plans will come to fruition! Second, it should be clear that whatever terrible thing the EC is doing is in her name. She should also be credited for their powerful tools or weapons; Demise may be triggering the necrotic resonator, but she explains how it was the genius of Lady Illmarrow that created it. Demise could even share recorded messages from Illmarrow. Another possibility is for the players to fight Demise session after session… and then in the endgame discover that she WAS ILLMARROW THE WHOLE TIME… that she was toying with them for some reason, or perhaps experimenting with placing her consciousness in a living body.
What was the reasoning behind making Galifar a kingdom and not an empire?
This is a fundamentally semantic question, so I’ll start with a semantic point. I wasn’t simply the Kingdom of Galifar; it was the UNITED Kingdom of Galifar. Going as far back as the original ECS, the timeline states that in -1,012 Galifar begins his campaign to UNITE the Five Nations. Switching to Exploring Eberron, here’s a few key quotes:
After a long campaign of conquest and diplomacy, Galifar I unites the nations of Khorvaire under his rule, declaring this realm the United Kingdom of Galifar…
… Galifar didn’t just want power—he wanted to build a better world, and on many levels, he succeeded. He abolished slavery and instituted laws that promised justice for all. Over time, the kingdom would promote public education and the rise of the merchant class…
… Galifar Wynarn was a military genius, but it was his eldest daughter Cyre, twin to Aundair, who imagined the warring nations working together as a single family: Karrnathi might, Daskari faith, and the wisdom of Thaliost working together for the greater good. In crafting the map of the united kingdom, Galifar declared that Cyre would be the heart of the realm.
So Galifar didn’t conquer the Five Nations and rule over them as a tyrant. He united the Five Nations—some through force, others through diplomacy. He then instituted major new systems—education, justice—designed to improve the lives of all citizens. Crucially, Galifar’s home nation—Karrnath—was in no way elevated above the others. If anything, it was Cyre which was the first among equals, and remember that Cyre didn’t exist as a nation beforehand—the region was Metrol, and while in the other nations Galifar allowed the existing ability to retain their land, in Metrol he resettled the old nobility in order to create something new. If Karrn the Conqueror had succeeded, he would have created the Empire of Karrnath. Galifar didn’t want to create the Empire of Karrnath; he wanted to unify the previously warring nations into something entirely new—the united kingdom of Galifar. Cyre embodied this idea… as noted above, the idea of previously warring nations working together as a family.
How old is the average adventurer in Eberron? Are most of them in early adulthood, or they usually get to adventure later in life?
My immediate reaction is “There are no average adventurers.” Breaking that out a little, “adventurer” isn’t a recognized career someone prepares for… which means everyone gets there a little differently. For purposes of example, consider these adventurers from my Quickstone campaign…
TARI is a kalashtar orphan; we’re not actually sure how old they are, but part of the point of their character is that they’re “The Kid.”
The same goes for KALA SAR’KAAS, the tailor’s teenage daughter who became a bardlock by making a deal with an archfey.
THREE WIDOW JANE is around thirty; old enough that she had a career as a smuggler before becoming a full time rake and wandslinger, but still relatively young.
ROLAN HARN is in his fifties—a seasoned veteran who had a long career as a Sentinel Marshal before retiring to Quickstone.
SORA d’SIVIS is almost three hundred years old.
Rolan and Tari are essentially Rooster and Mattie from True Grit. Bel is in her twenties—still young, but running a successful business. Devin’s his thirties; consider that he has a teenage daughter. Sheriff Constable is a warforged, built during the war and about ten years old. The point is that each of these characters has their own story that’s led them to where they are. Tari was orphaned as a child. Rolan was discharged after a long career. Bel was forced out into the world by the Mourning. There is no AVERAGE adventurer; every adventurer should have a story, and that will determine their starting age.
The Venemous Demesne is obviously run by tieflings, and tieflings make up the upper class there. How strictly is that enforced? Are there physical or social boundaries preventing say, Lady Pyranica of House Dreygu from taking Nilah the human as a wife?
There’s no PHYSICAL boundaries. Even within the tiefling families, there are children born human sometimes—it’s embarrassing, to be sure, but humanity is in the blood. Beyond the tiefling aspect, a crucial question is POWER. If a human scion proves to be a mighty warlock or wizard, their power proves the worth of their blood. And that POWER is the key here. A noble can take any spouse they wish. But dueling plays an important role in Demesne society… and if other members of the house feel the noble is weakening the house through their choice, they can challenge the prospective spouse to a duel. If the spouse survives, they prove they are a worthy addition to the house. So if Nilah has power in her own right she’ll be fine. If she’s just a cute poet and Pyranica loves her for her sensitivity, she’s going to have a lot of trouble surviving her duels with the three Dreygu wandslingers lined up to fight her…
Since Quori are fiends, and Kalashtar are the merging of these fiends and humans, does that mean Kalashtar are basically tieflings?
In Eberron, most tieflings aren’t shaped by direct contact with fiends; they are shaped by the malefic influence of the planes. Even those who owe their tiefling nature to a fiendish connection (Sakah, Venomouns Demesne) don’t have a direct, ongoing connection to a specific fiend. Tieflings are also noted by dramatic physical manifestations. Kalashtar have subtle physical manifestations and are shaped by an ongoing spiritual connection to a specific entity. So no, I think the differences between the two are sufficient that they wouldn’t be considered to be tieflings.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my patrons; your support allows me to continue delving into Eberron. In addition to the next Quickstone preview, this month I’ll be doing another live Q&A on the Patreon Discord and running the next session of my Frontiers campaign. If any of that sounds interesting, check out Patreon!
GenCon is just around the corner, and I’m going to be busy as always! If you see me wearing my hat, I’m on duty and happy to talk about any of my games or sign things. If I’m not wearing my hat, I’m doing my own thing. Meanwhile, there’s lots of places you can find me! My company Twogether Studios is at Booth 1459 in the Exhibitor’s Hall—drop by and try our latest game Cool Cool Cool! Meanwhile, I’ll be playing D&D live with an amazing group of people with Six Sides of Gaming. Here’s a breakdown of events…
CELEBRITY SIDE QUEST: THURSDAY Time: Thu 11:00 AM Location: ICC 500 Ballroom Description: Dungeon Master Luke Gygax takes a party of bold adventurers through a tower of traps and thieving mayhem! The audience will have the chance to influence the game with suggestions, voting, cheers and more. Participants: Luke Gygax (DM), Deborah Ann Woll, Krystina Arielle, Keith Baker, Tommy Gofton, Surena Marie
WORLDBUILDING WITH KEITH BAKER Time: Thu 3:00 PM Location: Hyatt Studio 1 Description: What does it take to create a compelling fantasy world? Where do you start and how deep should you go? Whether you’re developing a setting for a novel or a TTRPG, whether you’re creating a world to share with your friends or a product for wide release, there are basic principles that can guide you on your journey. Participants: Keith Baker
CELEBRITY SIDE QUEST: FRIDAY Time: Fri 6:00 PM Location: ICC 500 Ballroom Description: Dungeon Master Vince Caso (The Guild/L.A. by Night) takes his party of adventurers through a mysterious adventure of murder and mayhem! The audience will have the chance to influence the game with suggestions, voting, cheers and more. Participants: Vince Caso (DM), Deborah Ann Woll, Krystina Arielle, Keith Baker, Tommy Gofton, Sandeep Parikh
ILLIMAT LEARN AND PLAY WITH ONE SHOT! Time: Fri 8:00 PM Location: ICC : 144–145 Description: Illimat is a modern card game that feels like it’s been around for a century, Whether you’re an experienced member of the Society of Luminaries, a seasoned skyjack, or a novice who’s never heard of the Fool of Winter, this is your opportunity to play a round of Illimat with the creators of the game and some of the hosts and players from the One Shot Podcast Network! Rules will be taught and hearts will be broken. Join us!
EBERRON AND BEYOND Time: Sat 11:00 AM Location: ICC 245 Description: I’m known for creating the Eberron Campaign Setting for Dungeons & Dragons and the card game Gloom, as well as games such as Illimat, Phoenix Dawn Command, and The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance with his company Twogether Studios. Join me for a discussion of projects past and present, including behind the scenes tales of Eberron and a peek at what’s coming next from Twogether Studios! Participants: Keith Baker
FINDING YOUR THING WITH TRAVIS MCELROY AND GUESTS Time: Sat 1:00 PM Location: Westin – Grand 3 Description: Podcaster/author/creator/voice actor, Travis McElroy (The Adventure Zone; My Brother, My Brother and Me) chats with friends about the journey of finding that “thing” at which you excel & makes you happy in life. Participants: Travis McElroy, Krystina Arielle, Keith Baker, Jenn Ellis, Cate, Osborn, Danny Quach, Laser Webber
CELEBRITY SIDE QUEST: SATURDAY Time: Sat 6:00 PM Location: Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Station A Description: Dungeon Master Tommy Gofton (The Gamers/Evil Dead 2 Boardgame) takes his party of special celebrity guests to their pan-ternity BruH to defend against their old Frat – the Delta Nu Delta! Can they survive the mayhem? The audience will have the chance to influence the game with suggestions, voting, cheers and more. Participants: Tommy Gofton (DM), Krystina Arielle, Keith Baker, Vince Caso, Bee Zelda
DESIGN A MODULE PLAYTHROUGH Time: Sunday 11:00 AM Location: Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Station A Description: Dungeon Master Devin Wilson (Destiny of Worlds/Shadowrun Takedown) takes his party of special celebrity guests through the Design A Module seminars run during Gen Con! The audience will have the chance to influence the game with suggestions, voting, cheers and more. Participants: Devin Wilson (DM), Keith Baker, Vince Caso, Surena Marie, Elisa Teague, Bee Zelda
Outside of these events, you might find me at the Twogether Booth (1459) — See you there!
My previous article calls out the fact that there may have been hundreds of civilizations that rose and fell over the course of the Age of Demons. Most of these cultures were directly influenced or guided by one of the overlords, which would allow rapid progress along a particular path and, most likely, an apocalyptic end; for Rak Tulkhesh, the only reason to create a civilization is to watch it fight increasingly brutal wars until it finally falls or destroys itself.
The Age of Demons came to an end a hundred thousand years ago, and many of these civilizations are millions of years old. Combined with their dramatic falls, few have left any traces of their existence. However, it’s always possible adventurers could fine a relic or a vault tied to one of these primordial civilizations, or encounter a vision of the past. These tables provide a quick foundation for a random civilization. The first presents a nation that could have existed on ancient Khorvaire. The second suggests a patron overlord and how that association would influence the culture. It may seem like the overlord should override the entry on the first table—that a civilization tied to Sul Khatesh should always be noteworthy for its arcane magic and that a nation created by Rak Tulkhesh would always be militant and known for its soldiers or weapons of war. But the two elements can co-exist. A nation crafted by Sul Khatesh will have magic as part of everyday life. But if the first table suggests it’s a militant empire known for its weapons of war, add arcane magic to that; its weapons of war are siege staffs or rituals of mass destruction. Rak Tulkhesh could create an isolated league of halflings known for their scholars and sages; but the scholars would be studying the nature of war and they would periodically emerge from isolated to ransack their neighbors.
This table is tied to Khorvaire, and as a result doesn’t include humans, giants, or dragons as the foundation of a nation. The category Extinct Creatures suggests something that was wiped out during the Age of Demons; if you get this result you could decide that there were humans or giants in Khorvaire in the past, or you could use a species that is completely unknown in the present day.
I have yet to write about the history of Khorvaire before the Dhakaani Empire, and you could use this table to create nations that might have existed during the Age of Giants. In this case you only need to use the first table; the question is what ultimately became of the civilization, if it’s completely unknown in the present day.
Roll on each column (or choose a result) to create a nation that once existed on Khorvaire!
Noteworthy for its…
Poetry or Music
Weapons of War
Beasts or Monstrosities
Constructs and Artifice
Scholars and Sages
What overlord is associated with the civilization, and how is its influence felt?
Overlord’s Cultural Impact
Sul Khatesh.Dangerous magic.The society could be based around arcane science, with powerful wizards and artificers and oppressive mystical industry. Or it could be a civilization driven by secretive warlocks—though these warlocks would likely all have pacts with fiendish lieutenants of Sul Khatesh. Magic is dangerous and common people live in fear of it.
Rak Tulkhesh. Engine of War. This civilization will be obsessed with war. It could be an mighty imperial power engaged in constant military expansion, or it could be driven by endless internal conflict—rival warlords constantly testing strength and crushing anyone who shows weakness.
Bel Shalor.Fear and Loathing. This society will be driven by fear. Its people fear one another just as much as they fear external enemies. It will have excessive fortifications and security measures, along with hosts of secret police. People often succumb to their own worst impulses. Shadows may play an active role as allies, tools, or as a threat.
Eldrantulku. Endless Intrigue. The Oathbreaker delights in intrigue and betrayal. His nations will be filled with secret societies, mystery cults, and complex political systems rife with backstabbing and corruption.
Tul Oreshka.Hermits and Heretics. The Truth in the Darkness revels in revelations. Any society driven by Tul Oreshka would be driven by visions and moments of inspirations. Given that Tul Oreshka delights in the fear of secrets revealed, there could be a powerful central authority—whether a church, library, or government—that is forever fighting against schims, heretics, and rebels. Poetry and other art from such a nation might be very powerful.
Katashka.The Quick and the Dead. The Gatekeeper thrives on the fear of death and the undead. This could be internal—a nation ruled by tyrannical lich-lords or vampires who terrify their living suspects. Or it could be external, with a nation endlessly struggling to hold off a plague of the restless dead.
Tol Kharash.The Iron Fist. The Horned King promotes soul-crushing tyranny. Any society he creates will brutally oppress its own people, as well as seeking to subjugate others. Compared to Eldrantulku or Bel Shalor, this oppression will be active and physical; the Horned King lacks the subtlety of those other overlords.
The Daughter of Khyber. Dragonfear. As with Katashka and undead, the Daughter of Khyber delights in mortal fear of dragons. The cultures she creates could serve draconic masters and work together to terrify other nations… Or, the society could be driven by utter fear of dragons, scraping to raise tribute for their dragon lords and forever rebuilding from the last attack.
Masvirik.Hidden Serpents. The Cold Sun delights in warmblooded fears. Lizardfolk or kobold societies could be early variations of the Poison Dusk. A culture based on another species could be an excellent place for spontaneous yuan-ti—with the common folk living in fear of the malevolent serpents hidden in their midst. I also imagine elaborate traditions of poison…
Ashurak.Plague and Pestilence. The Slow Death trades in disease. Ashurak’s nations might live in constant fear of a perennial plague, going to great lengths to watch for signs of infection and ruthlessly sealing away anyone who shows symptoms. Alternately—like the Plaguebearers of the present day—Ashurak’s people could be carriers for a disease they’re immune to, taking it into the territories of other overlords like missionaries spreading the word.
Keep in mind that a single overlord could seed multiple civilizations at once. Rak Tulkhesh could shape a powerful league of orcs known for their weapons of war and a brutal clan of dwarves known for their soldiers, because he wants to watch them fight and see which successfully evolves into a cruel empire known for its massive monuments.
That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. I will be doing a live Q&A on my Patreon Discord for patrons at 9 AM Pacific Time on Saturday, July 22nd. If you’re interested in joining live or watching the recording—or in playing in a session of my ongoing Eberron campaign—check out my Patreon!
Imagine that your world is a plaything for cruel gods. There’s no escaping them; every corner of reality falls under the dominion of one of these fiendish overlords. Their power manifests in countless horrifying ways. In the domain of the Gatekeeper, you can hear lost souls wailing in the wind… and you know that if you die, yours will join them. In Bel Shalor’s realm, your shadow conspires against you… and some day, it will kill you and claim your body as its own. Dral Khatuur brings slowly advancing, inevitable ice. But the greater and more subtle threats strike at your mind. Within the realm of Rak Tulkhesh you’ll find your anger surging. You find yourself gripping a knife you don’t remember picking up. You keep thinking about your enemies. A week ago you didn’t even know you had enemies… but now it’s hard to think about anything else. The hatred is like fire in your blood, and the only thing that will sate your rage is violence. Perhaps—perhaps you can overcome this brutal haze, to realize that these aren’t your thoughts. But the longer you stay, the more your own memories and motives will fade away in the bloodthirsty fog. This is the power of the overlords. You’ve never seen Rak Tulkhesh, but he’s in you… and soon you’ll be ready to kill for him.
Whether they twist your thoughts or the environment around you, there’s no escaping the influence of the overlords. But you have more direct threats to worry about. To Rak Tulkhesh you’re one of hundreds of thousands of fleas; his hungry wrath sweeps over you, but he won’t manifest personally to strike you down. And he doesn’t have to, because the world is filled with fiends. Some flaunt their horrifying forms and delight in spreading terror and bloodshed; others conceal their true nature and wear the faces of people you love or trust. Demons can possess corpses or beasts… or, for that matter, your body. Perhaps you’ll have to watch as one of Tul Oreshka’s vicious children uses your hands to murder your best friend and then paints a perfect, heartbreaking portrait of them using your fingers and their blood. Fiends could be in the plants around you, in the words you read, in the sword in your hand. If you’re lucky you’ll still have a strong enough sense of self to be able to feel fear and horror at what’s happening around you.
This is life in the Age of Demons. But who are you in this time? You might live in a thatched hut with your extended family. You might be hiding in a network of caves with two other survivors, and you’re pretty sure one of them is possessed. Or you might live in an ancient, crumbling city filled with scheming factions. Your may feel that your time is coming, but the oracle has seen a vision of dragons filling the sky with fire; she says that by nightfall tomorrow, your city will be in ruins. All of this depends on the whims of the overlords. Over the course of a hundred thousand years, the inhabitants of the realm of the Wild Heart have never been anything other than prey. While in the domain of Sul Khatesh there have been a dozen civilizations in that same period, each of which eventually followed a path of arcane science that ultimately destroyed it. But even where you find civilizations, they aren’t free. The subjects of Sul Khatesh can’t resist abusing magic any more than the subjects of Rak Tulkhesh can avoid war. You might ask why Sul Khatesh and her children would do this, why they’d allow a civilization to rise up only to wipe it out in an instant with an arcane cataclysm or over the course of a century through a brutal inquisition. Is it an experiment or art, like the daelkyr? Is it part of a master plan? No. Ultimately, it’s more like food, or perhaps music. The only thing an overlord truly desires is the joy it receives from tormenting mortals. Why? Because mortal souls have power. Gods in some settings need mortals to worship them. In Aerenal, it is the devotion of the living that sustains the Undying Court. The overlords don’t want worship; they want fear, and they want mortals to experience their vision of the world. Rak Tulkesh wants to see hatred and war. Sul Khatesh delights in the fear of magic, and so she creates scenario after scenario in which magic is abused and leads to cruelty, terror, and ultimately destruction. Dral Khatuur wants people to live in fear of the creeping cold. They don’t have an endgame, because they are immortal and endless. They don’t want to ever completely destroy the mortals, because it is torturing mortals that bring them joy. And so it was for millions of years. Some domains saw millions of years of brutal chaos; others saw civilizations rise and fall, but those civilizations were always under the psychic sway of the ruling overlord (whether they knew it or not) and would inevitably be destroyed.
That’s the backdrop to keep in mind when thinking of the Age of Demons. It was a world that was utterly dominated by immortal overlords, where fiends roam freely in the world, both openly and covertly. Civilizations only existed to serve the appetites of the overlords and were wiped out when they lost their savor. Overlords had broadly stable domains, but the borders of their realms were constantly in flux; among other things, the people of a neighboring territory aren’t as used to the terrors of a rival overlord, and their fear is sweeter. Dral Khatuur wants people to fear the advancing ice, not just to learn to survive in it; as such, she would choose to let her borders ebb and flow. The side effect of this is that the overlords were constantly warring with one another.
Now I’ve painted a picture of the Age of Demons, let’s look at a few questions my Patreon supporters have raised this month.
What was the relationship between the Couatls and Dragons during the Age of Demons? Did they respect each other as equals, or did they have conflicts?
The Age of Demons lasted for millions of years. In the final ten thousand years of the Age, there was a powerful draconic nation that called itself Argonnessen. Its disciplined flights of dragons trained to incinerate armies and to raze cities. And these mighty creatures were utterly devoted to the Daughter of Khyber. This overlord is an immensely powerful being. The dragons of the present day have to go to great lengths to avoid falling under her influence, and that’s while she’s bound. During the Age of Demons she was at the height of her power, and the dragons were her tools; she used them to terrify mortals and to attack the domains of other overlords. So there was no powerful nation of dragons that fought the overlords, because any powerful force of dragons would be corrupted by the Daughter of Khyber. The dragons opposing overlords were a small band of scrappy rebels who had been shielded from the influence of the Daughter of Khyber by their allies, the native celestials. Let’s consider each of those forces.
It’s said that Khyber created fiends, Siberys created celestials, and Eberron created natural life. But Khyber slew Siberys. This is why the native celestials are so much weaker than their counterparts, and why there are no celestial equivalents to the overlords. The celestials that exist are just a faint echo of what would have been had Siberys had an active hand.
Native celestials embody the broad concept of goodness in the world. Compassion, justice, defense, wisdom, love; these are the sorts of concepts personified by the celestials. Just as the fiends exist to prey upon and terrify mortals, the purpose of the celestials was to guide and protect them. Given that the celestials were massively overpowered and outnumbered by the fiends, this was something they did subtly—working to inspire people or to guide key mortals who could help others… teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish. Whenever celestials were exposed, fiends would swarm in to destroy the interlopers and whatever they had accomplished; subtlety was vital. However, keep this section from Chronicles of Eberron in mind…
Glance across a Khalesh plain and you may see what looks to be a giant bone projecting from the earth—a fallen column of something like polished ivory. The locals call these “dragon bones,” saying they’re the bones of Eberron herself. But search further and you may find patches of wall, foundations, or even small buildings formed from this dragonbone. It’s virtually indestructible and seemingly immune to the passage of time. In truth, this isn’t made from the bones of the earth; it’s a building substance used by the ancient couatl, the most numerous of the native celestials of Eberron. Khalesh is one of the places that the couatl came into the world in the Age of Demons, one of the anchors where these immortals would reform if they were destroyed. In a sense, it’s the celestial counterpart to the Demon Wastes of Khorvaire; a place suffused with lingering celestial power.
The fiends vastly outnumbered the celestials, and over the course of millions of years they learned where most of these celestial anchors were. But they couldn’t actually DO anything about them. The celestials are as immortal as the fiends, and when destroyed they would eventually return. Given a good reason—for example, if the couatls tried to foster a mortal civilization in their spire—the fiends would bring sufficient forces to bear to destroy everything in a celestial spire. While the immortals would return the mortals would be lost. For that reason, the celestials kept their work subtle, working with individuals or small groups of mortals who then worked with others. The celestial guides could shield mortals from the psychic influence of the overlords. They could teach them, helping mortals master magic or other skills. They could even channel their power into a mortal, a form of voluntary possession. However, throughout most of the Age of Demons, they were never able to affect any grand change. The final rebellion wasn’t the only rebellion; it’s just the only one that had lasting results.
While it’s never been mentioned in canon, in my Eberron Flamekeep is built on dragonbone foundations and that the font of the Flame is a celestial anchor point. Likewise, there is a celestial anchor in the Labyrinth around the Demon Wastes; this is a sacred haven of the Ghaash’kala orcs.
Throughout this I’ve been saying celestials instead of couatls. Any celestial statblock could be reskinned to reflect a native celestial of Eberron. Just as the native fiends have a certain fondness for feline forms, the native celestials often have some blend of serpentine features or prismatic feathers. The couatl are by far the most common form of native celestial, but adventurers could encounter a deva with rainbow wings or a ki-rin with prismatic scales and a serpentine head. Compared to their counterparts in Shavarath or Syrania, these celestials are still guided by the basic principle of embodying positive ideas—of protecting and inspiring mortals as the Silver Flame continues to do today. Throughout most of the Age of Demons, these native celestials were only loosely aligned and largely sought to express their nature as individuals. They didn’t try to act as a host, because all that would accomplish would be creating a target to rally the fiends; they worked subtly and on their own. Which brings us to…
DRACONIC CHAMPIONS OF THE AGE OF DEMONS
In the last era of the Age of Demons, Argonnessen was a tool of the Daughter of Khyber. But there were small groups of dragons who evaded the Daughter’s control—first through celestial intervention, and then through the use of rituals and spells that they created. Dragons possess innate arcane power. The celestials helped the dragons understand their potential, but the rebels developed their own tools and techniques. Different cells specialized in different things. Dularanahk and her brothers led groups of warrior dragons and titans, capable of unleashing devastating force when it was required. Ourelonastrix worked with a cabal of dragons studying arcane science. Think of this as a hacker collective that provided logistical support and facilitated communications between the cells. All of this built on the work of previous generations; Ourelonastrix didn’t single-handedly master the secrets of arcane magic. But working with the couatl Hezcalipa, he made a crucial breakthrough that would ultimately bring the Age of Demons to an end: he discovered the Draconic Prophecy. What followed likely took centuries, as Ourelonastrix rallied the disparate dragons and Hezcalipa called on scattered celestials to help find Prophecy signs, gathering enough data to understand the power and possible paths of the Prophecy. Up to this point, the rebels had no real goal other than survival; without a way to permanently defeat an overlord, there was no reason to start a war. Now there was a glimmer of hope—a path through the Prophecy that could lead to victory.
The dragons who challenged the overlords weren’t a nation or a massive army. They were remarkable individuals, leading small bands of other remarkable mortals—including dragons, giants, titans and more. Ourelonastrix was the greatest expert on magic and knowledge. The Dols led militant cells, while Kolkonoran facilitated logistics and support, moving supplies between the cells. Eventually the studies of the Prophecy revealed a possible path to victory. And this is when the war began in earnest. This is where we have Dularanahk facing the Lord of Death, and other clashes in which the rebels gathered all their military might together—because they needed to win battles, acquire artifacts, or even potentially to lose key battles in order to lock in the future Ourelonastrix had discovered. The final key element was the sacrifice of the celestials to create a force that could bind the overlords. But even this wasn’t an instant victory. Once the celestials kindled the Silver Flame, the overlords were severed from their heart demiplanes; when their avatars were destroyed their essence would be bound into the prison shards. But each one had to be individually defeated… and even though they were weakened, this was no small task, especially without the help of the departed celestials. The first target was the Daughter of Khyber; once she was bound in the Pit of Five Sorrows, her hold over Argonnessen was broken. And now there was a true army of dragons fighting to bring down the remaining overlords, one by one.
OK… BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THEM?
The original question was What was the relationship between the Couatls and Dragons during the Age of Demons? Did they respect each other as equals, or did they have conflicts? The important thing to understand is it wasn’t about the relationship between THE DRAGONS and THE CELESTIALS. It was about the relationship between Ourelonastrix and Hezcalipa, between Dularanahk and Azcalanti, and others. Because you aren’t talking about nations, you’re talking about remarkable individuals. Within that framework, it was the purpose of the celestials to guide and protect the mortals. There were many conflicts between them—disagreements over actions that endangered innocents, dragons believing the celestials were holding back, celestials trusting tradition while Ourelonastrix urged them to follow his instincts. Likewise, there were celestials who opposed the sacrifice that kindled the Flame, even if they ultimately took part. But again, these agreements and disagreements were between individuals, not cultures. While the celestial anchors resemble cities, the couatl never had a nation.
You’ve mentioned native celestials… What are native fiends like?
Fiends are incarnations of evil concepts. In the planes, they are tied to the central idea of their plane. A Shavaran devil reflects the idea of evil in war. A Daanvi devil embodies tyranny or oppressive order. A Fernia balor represents the cruel, chaotic destruction of fire. The native fiends more broadly represent evil in the world. Their purpose is to tempt and torment mortals, wreaking Khyber’s vengeance against the children of Eberron with a hundred thousand tiny cuts. All native fiends are tied to Khyber; most are specifically part of an overlord and its heart demiplane, but there are some time to demiplanes without overlords. Native fiends generally reflect an aspect of their overlord’s defining concept. Fiends tied to Rak Tulkhesh are tied to some aspect of hatred or war. Those associated with Sul Khatesh are more likely to be associated with magic or dangerous secrets. However, they can approach this in different ways. A raskhasa serving Rak Tulkhesh may excel at inspiring mortals to go to war—using its talents for deception to set conflict in motion. While a goristro bound to Rak Tulkhesh is a fiendish engine of war waiting to be unleashed on the battlefield.
A goristro? Absolutely. Just as couatl are the most common celestials but not the only celestials, rakshasa are the most numerous of the fiends but far from the only ones. Any fiendish stat block could be used for a native fiend, with a little cosmetic reflavoring. In the image that accompanies this article, the multiarmed figure on the left is a native marilith. Feline features are in fashion among the native fiends, but in describing a fiend, don’t feel you need to make it mundane. What differentiates a rakshasa from a weretiger? Canonically, the rakshasa Mordakhesh has stripes of blazing flame across his black fur. The First Scribe, Hektula, has arcane sigils on her fur. Remember that fiends aren’t natural creatures; when they are revealed in their full power, they should have obviously supernatural aspects.
Beyond this, I’ve suggested that feline features are a fashion. Rakshasas are natural shapechangers, and they are immortal embodiments of ideas, not creatures of flesh and blood. There may have been a time when the Lords of Dust wore shark heads, or even draconic features; the present use of feline features may be a fun retro reference to the Age of Demons. With this in mind, when adventurers in my game use True Seeing on a fiend, they don’t see its tiger form. Someone looking at Mordakhesh with Truesight will see him as a figure of shadows striped in flame and as a bloodthirsty sword, all at once. They will see that he has killed tens of thousands with his own hands, and feel his all-consuming appetite for war. Because THAT is the truth of Mordakhesh. For fiends and celestials, truesight doesn’t just strip away disguise self; it reveals their truth. Depending on the power of the fiend and the circumstances, I may make the individual with Truesight make a saving throw to avoid psychic damage or a condition; it can be dangerous to look too closely at a powerful immortal.
Just for fun, here’s a table you can use to add some random flare to a rakshasa or other native fiend…
Was there a time before the Age of Demons?
There was a brief time, yes. If you believe the myth, Eberron defeated Khyber by constricting her and then becoming the world. The principle is that Khyber’s children were able to slip through Eberron’s coils. But this wouldn’t have happened instantly, and even once the overlords were out in the world it surely took some time for them to sink their roots into reality and to establish their dominions. So, there was a period in which natural life flourish before being dominated by the overlords. What was it like? Who knows. Keep in mind that this was millions of years ago and that most likely, cultures didn’t appear fully formed. How long did it last? Were there any significant cultures in place before the overlords claimed the world? Largely, that’s a question you need to answer based on the needs of your story. Morgrave professor Cord Ennis suggests one possibility in this article about sphinxes:
While intriguing, Ennis admitted that there was one piece of the puzzle that still escaped him. When do these time-traveling sphinxes come from? His first thought was the distant future—that they could even be some sort of mystically evolved descendants of the modern races. Yet if that were the case, is there no risk of their meddling changing their own future? Given this, he ultimately favors the idea that the sphinxes are from the very distant past—that they could potentially be the citizens of the FIRST civilization of Eberron, a society that predates the Age of Demons and whose existence was wiped from history by the dominion of the overlords. With this as a foundation, Ennis suggests that the actions of the sphinxes might not be the absolute demands of destiny one would expect from embodiments of the Prophecy, but rather a grand game. As their time is long past, the sphinxes don’t actually care about the ultimate outcome; whether the overlords rise again or the daelkyr are unleashed doesn’t actually hurt them. Ennis further suggests that this could reflect the different techniques seen among sphinxes. The “divine” sphinxes—those wielding clerical abilities—could see their actions as being a divine mission, potentially even one mandated by the Progenitors (because what other gods were there at the dawn of time?) while the “arcane” sphinxes could be the scientists of their time. Thus, Flamewind could be in Sharn because she knows it is a nexus of elements she wants to deal with—events or people she wants to observe or influence—but that between those key events she is simply enjoying studying this time and place, so alien to her native time.
The key point of this idea is that the Sphinx civilization is so far back in time that no evidence of it remains, and that its downfall is utterly inevitable. The sphinxes can’t save themselves; all they can do is to play games in the future. That’s all for now! I have very limited time at the moment and most likely will not answer questions posted in the comments, but feel free to discuss them yourselves. I do answer questions on my Patreon, and in fact, I will be hosting a live Q&A on my Patreon Discord at 9 AM Pacific Time on Saturday, July 22nd. So check out my Patreon if you want to participate in that! Your support directly determines how much time I can spend creating Eberron content, so thanks to my current patrons for making this article possible.
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one from this month…
With a complete lack of Player interaction, what major events would play out in your Eberron in the five years following 998 YK?
I have an Eberron one-shot that I’ve run 59 times. It never gets boring for me, because it’s filled with interesting decision points and choices for the players. I’ve never gotten bored with running it, because every time I run I see something I’ve never seen before—every group of players comes up with something no one else has tried. It’s like I get to watch my favorite movie over and over, but it surprises me every time.
Eberron overall is the same thing for me. 998 YK is a nexus of possible dramatic events—far more than you could incorporate into a single campaign. This is intentional, because an Eberron story can be so many different things—gritty noir in Callestan, globetrotting expeditions with the Clifftop adventurers, horror, intrigue, and more. Every campaign I run engages with different elements and thus takes a different path. A key part of this is that I never use all the major villains in one campaign. I’ve said before that with the Dreaming Dark, the Lords of Dust, and the Daelkyr, I’ll pick one to play a major role and use the others sparingly. Most of these major threats are working on plans that spans centuries, and it’s easy enough to say that none of the overlords are close to release right now or that it’s going to take another decade for the Dreaming Dark to set a scheme in motion.
So, for example… In the next five years, will there be war between Droaam and Breland? Well, even if you remove player characters from the equation, is the Dreaming Dark involved (in which case they might be interested in promoting unity and manipulate people to drive peace) or does the overlord Tol Kharash seek to inspire war? Are the Heirs of Dhakaan going to emerge in force or are they going to hold off for another decade? I can’t just give you a list of “This is what would happen in the next five years” because the answer will change with every campaign I set up; it will depend on which of the major powers are manipulating the world in the background, whether the tone is grim horror or over the top pulp action, and so much more. With that said, what I can do is to call out what those major events would be. The OUTCOME will depend on the forces involved… but these are a few of the factors that I’d want to address in any campaign that covers that period.
Droaam seeks recognition. As Droaam continues to rise, will it eventually be accepted as a Thronehold nation, in which case Droaamites will be more widely seen across Khorvaire? Or will fear and intolerance drive Breland into war with Droaam, with or without the support of other Thronehold Nations? This is something that comes up in my novel The Queen of Stone, which is set during 999 YK.
KingBoranel dies. What happens next? Does the Brelish monarchy come to an end, and if so, does this have any broader impact on the other Wynarn monarchs? Or do the loyalists coalesce around a surprisingly effective heir—and if so, is that heir secretly a figurehead for the Dreaming Dark, a servant of the Lords of Dust, or beholden to the Twelve and to House interests?
Someone fights Valenar. The Valenar want someone to attack them, and will continue to poke at hornet’s nests. Darguun or Karrnath are the most likely to respond, but anything’s possible. Here again—the Tairnadal want a war so they can emulate the deeds of their ancestors. But does some other force have an interest in this conflict? Could the Valenar be collectively possessed by Rak Tulkhesh? Is their a Cult of the Dragon Below spreading through the Tairnadal—could that elf warrior have a tongueworm hidden beneath his Zaelta veil?
Haruuc dies. As seen in Don Bassingthwaite’s Legacy of Dhakaan novels. What happens next? Does someone manage to fill the void, and if so, are they puppets of the Dreaming Dark or the Lords of Dust? Do the Heirs of Dhakaan emerge openly? Or does Darguun fall into chaos?
Arcane science advances. The last 30 years have brought us warforged, airships, and colossi. What’s coming next? I’d chose 2-3 major breakthroughs that could have a significant impact on the story. Do we improve teleportation circles? Come up with a Sending-based improvement to communication, or something like radio? A weapon? Or, as seen in my Siberspace campaign… spelljammers?
The Lord of Blades escalates. The Lord of Blades wants to make a dramatic statement, and I’m sure he will do SOMETHING major in the next five years… anything from urging a violent warforged uprising in Sharn to unleashing Cannith superweapons recovered from the Mournland. While his intentions may be pure—he’s dedicated to the cause of his people—is he an unknowing puppet of one of the ancient powers?
What’s up with the Dragonmarked Houses? Beyond any advances in arcane science, a number of houses are already pushing the limits of the Korth Edicts. Do any seek to more actively exert political influence or to expand their power within the world? Does Cannith get a single baron or does it break into multiple houses like Thuranni and Phiarlan? Do any rivalries—notably Deneith and Tharashk—grow deeper?
Kaius III is challenged. Many of the warlords of Karrnath are unhappy with Kaius’s pursuit of peace… and those potential usurpers could be manipulated by anyone from Rak Tulkhesh to Lady Illmarrow. A coup or civil war could start within Karrnath, or it could be triggered by an outside, like the exile Drego Thul. And whatever path you choose, Kaius has secrets… what happens if they are exposed?
An ancient power is released. Consider the story of Tira Miron. She ultimately prevents the overlord Bel Shalor from fully escaping their bonds. But the saga begins with Bel Shalor being partially released—starting a year of blood and fire, as the overlord’s power and its fiends spread across Thrane. There’s literally dozens of overlords, along with the daelkyr. I could definitely imagine a campaign in which the adventurers don’t have the opportunity to prevent an overlord from being released; the partial release is what sets the campaign in motion, and the adventurers must battle against the chaos it brings to the world and try to return it to its prison.
Aurala wants a war. Does she get it? On a small scale, this could revolve around Thaliost or the Eldeen Reaches. On a large scale, Aurala wants to reignite the Last War and claim the throne of reunited Galifar. But to do this, she’d need reason to believe she could win—an unbeatable alliance (with Riedra? With an overlord?) or an arcane superweapon that no nation can stand against. This also ties to…
An answer to the Mourning? The major factor preventing the Next War is fear of the Mourning. As long as people don’t know what caused the Mourning, they are afraid to go back to war. If it’s a weapon, someone could have that weapon; if it was an environmental effect caused by the overuse of war magic, restarting the war could cause the Mournland to expand. The mystery of the Mourning is the deterrent. If that mystery is solved, the key questions will be who solves it; whether that answer allows them to replicate or control the Mourning; or whether the answer proves that war magic IS dangerous, making it difficult to pursue war.
These are major points I’d be thinking about, but there’s so many more! Do the Heirs of Dhakaan unite under a single leader and emerge in force? Does Oargev establish a new Cyre? Is there a change in relations with Riedra, or perhaps a dramatic shift in the stalemate between Riedra and Adar? Looking back to the original question, I can’t tell you which of these things WILL happen or how they will play out, because it’s all going to depend on the story I feel like telling as I set up the campaign… do I want a war story? Do I want it to explore corporate overreach or advancements in arcane science? Just like my convention one-shot… If I run 59 Eberron campaigns, I expect to see 59 different paths for the future.
That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the article, please consider checking out my Patreon! In addition to asking the questions that drive articles like this, my Patreon support directly determines how much time I can spend creating Eberron content in the future. I’m also doing a monthly live Q&A, and Threshold patrons have the chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. And for the month of July, patrons can get a special discount on Exploring Eberron! Check it out, and thanks to all of you who are already patrons!
When time permits I like to answer questions posed by my Patrons. Many are simple; others require more thought. It’s taken me a few months to address this question, and you may want to read this article on Atur before you dive into it. With that said…
In your Eberron, who is the Duke of Atur and what do his personal agenda and political aspirations look like?
Delve into the pre-Galifar history of Karrnath and you’ll find references to the “Dark Ages.” This was a time of tyrants and feuding warlords, but the use of dark doesn’t refer to this brutality… rather, it’s a reference to the literal darkness found in Karrnath during this period. There were vast shadow lands, barren stretches where clinging mists obscured the sun. These shadow lands posed a threat even to those who shunned them. Shadows, wights, and other deadly undead would rise within the mists and emerge to threaten the surrounding lands. These shadow lands are powerful manifest zones tied to Mabar. While fighting tyrants and warlords, the first followers of the Divinity Within often took shelter in shadow lands, and they learned how to manipulate the Mabaran energies with their rituals. And over time they found ways to channel these energies—using some of this power to raise skeletons and zombies to help with everyday life, and dispersing additional Mabaran energy in ways that limited its impact on the flora and fauna of the region. The people of the surrounding regions soon learned that the Seekers were useful neighbors—that even if their necromantic practices were disturbing, it was better to have skeletal farmers on the border than bloodthirsty wights crossing it.
The region where Atur now stands is one of the most powerful Mabaran manifest zones in Khorvaire, known in records as the Lake of Sorrows. The necromancer Duran dispersed the shadows of this “lake” and built a fortress for his followers here, and over the course of time this expanded to become the city of Atur. When the other warlords joined together to support the first Queen of Karrnath, Duran chose to stand apart: his loyalty was to his followers and to their faith. While some urged the Queen to destroy the Seekers, she remembered the horrors that once emerged from the Lake of Shadows, and preferred to keep those forces in check. So she negotiated an arrangement with Duran—one preserved to this day, granting Atur the status of a semi-independent palatinate. It was in Atur that Kaius I negotiated with the Seekers of the Divinity Within, and it holds the Vaults of the Dead where most of Karrnath’s undead forces are held in reserve, patiently waiting to return to the battlefield. Despite Moranna’s edicts condemning the Blood of Vol, the crown needs the Seekers to contain the Lake of Sorrows and to maintain the Vaults of the Dead. And so Atur remains a proud Grand Duchy and a stronghold of the Blood of Vol… and the Grand Duke Davian Karla is its ruler.
The Blood of Vol was born from the blending of the traditions of Aereni exiles and human rebels. Davian is a Khoravar who can trace his bloodlines back to Duran the Wise and the shadow-touched towers of Shae Deseir. Though his title of Grand Duke entitles him to use the ir suffix, his parents weren’t nobles and Davian is proud of his lowly roots; he enjoys the discomfort of his fellow warlords when they remember how he earned his title. Because as a palatinate, Atur isn’t bound by the traditions of Karrnath, and the title of Grand Duke isn’t hereditary. It is bound to a second title… Warden of the Lake of Shadows. There is a core of Mabaran energy at the heart of Atur, a force first contained by the Seeker Duran. Binding this power is a crucial part of holding the harmful energies of the region at bay. It is a task that requires tremendous willpower, faith, and an understanding of necromantic science… and the favor of the Lake itself. When the Grand Duke of Atur is lost, any resident of Atur can seek to claim the title. The process is simple. An applicant must descend to a chamber below the great palace, immerse themselves in the ever-spreading pool of shadows… and drive a dagger into their heart. While dying, they must draw the shadows into their body and bind this Mabaran power to their blood. No one lives through this ritual: they will either be reborn as the Warden of the Lake of Shadows, or die in the darkness and be forgotten. Going forward, the Grand Duke is infused with this power. It sustains them, protecting them from age and disease. They are alive—mechanically, using the Reborn lineage. But their body is now bound to the shadow, and they do not heal normally. When they are seriously injured, flesh falls away to reveal the shadow within. Eventually—when shadow outweighs flesh—the Grand Duke will be drawn into Mabar as a wraith. Duran escaped this fate by becoming a lich, but every Warden who’s followed him has eventually been consumed by this darkness.
Davian Karla has been Grand Duke of Atur for 235 years. He was 33 when he claimed the title—a necromantic prodigy, and one of the youngest people to successfully claim the title. He is not as powerful a practical necromancer as Malevanor or the late Gyrnar Shult; but it is his deep understanding of the principles of necromancy and his devotion to the Seeker faith that allows him to contain the Lake of Shadows. He is an elegant Khoravar with pale skin and shining dark hair that he usually wears in a plaited braid. The irises of his eyes are ever-shifting gray, forever reflecting the Lake of Shadows. Davian is tall and thin, but not gaunt; he moves with an easy grace, like water flowing against stone. His fine, dark clothing generally hides his most distinctive feature. During the Last War he lost his left arm and upper left shoulder, along with strips of his left chest and lung. Where once there was flesh, now there is shadow—a misty replica of the limb he once had. While he is conscious, he can choose to make this phantom limb substantial, and so he usually hides it beneath silk and leather. But should he choose, Davian can make his arm insubstantial; there are stories of him reaching into a rivals’ chest and running ghostly fingers across their heart.
Davian’s primary motivation is to protect Atur and to maintain it as a bastion of the Blood of Vol. During the Last War, he played a vital role in negotiating the Seeker alliance with the crown and overseeing the construction of the Vaults of the Dead. In the present day he navigates a difficult path, balancing the resentment of many warlords and their desire to scapegoat the Seekers for Karrnath’s setbacks with the fact that Karrnath needs the Seekers to maintain the Vaults and to contain deadly Mabaran energies. He is equally skilled with intimidation and persuasion; he can play on the fears of those unnerved by his ghostly halflife and the power he possesses, but he can be extremely charming when circumstances require. Atur is a city that celebrates life, and Grand Duke Karla embraces that; he loves poetry and dancing, and often joins his people in the streets during wild nights. While he is angry about how the Seekers have been treated, he does all that he can to maintain his relationship with King Kaius III and Queen Etrigani. He does not seek to expand his holdings, because it is the Mabaran foundation of Atur that ensures no other warlord could ever claim it. But he is determined to maintain its independence and to ensure it remains a sanctuary for the Blood of Vol.
Davian Karla is a committed Seeker. He is not a priest, but his role as Warden of the Lake of Sorrows commands the respect of other Seekers; while he can never fully unlock the power of the Divinity Within, he holds the deadly shadows at bay with the strength of his mind and blood. He has resisted the influence of Lady Illmarrow and despises the Order of the Emerald Claw for tarnishing the reputation of Seekers both in Karrnath and beyond; however, he is in touch with the Crimson Covenant and abides by their commands. As the vessel of the Lake of Sorrows, he cannot travel more than sixty miles from Atur; there is a supernatural gravity tying him to the city, and his body cannot be moved further even against his will.
How powerful is Davian? That’s up to the DM. It could be that he contains the power of the Lake but cannot wield it; likewise, it could be that his necromantic knowledge is reflected by expertise in Arcana but not by practical spellcasting. On the other hand, it could be that he possesses vast power he just almost never exercises. Davian Karla is alive; for now he is a humanoid, not undead. But it could be that he has the power of a Death Knight and could use that stat block. He doesn’t usually wear armor and he’s alive; but he could possess all of the other abilities and traits of a Death Knight. Regardless, he is a skilled swordsman and served in the military before he became Grand Duke; in battle he can choose whether to fight with a weapon or to strike with his phantom grip. His ghostly touch mimics the life drain attack of a wraith: +11 to hit, 4d8+5 necrotic damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 16 constitution saving throw or have their hit point maximum reduced by the damage taken. Again, it could be that this grip is the only dramatic supernatural ability he possesses, or it could be that he is one of the most dangerous beings in Karrnath… who wants to find out?
How would you use him in a story? Grand DukeDavian Karla is a powerful figure working to protect the Seekers and their interests. But aside from the diplomatic maze he navigates, he is also the governor of an important province and has countless duties to oversee and attend to. Beyond this, after two centuries governing the infamous City of Night, Davian is widely known across Karrnath—and he can’t go far from his city. Taking all of these factors together, Davian needs capable agents to help him as he strives to help the Seekers. Depending on their beliefs and allegiances, Davian could support an entire party of adventurers. Alternately, he could be the secret patron of a single Seeker character, providing instructions through spectral messengers (let’s call them “undead drops”). He could push his agents to quietly oppose the Emerald Claw while minimizing the damage the Claw does to the reputation or the Blood of Vol. He could have them help other Seekers in trouble, or acquire necromantic lore or artifacts sought by the priests of the Crimson Monastery. Or he could need help with more mundane issues—dealing with diplomatic rivals or undermining rival warlords.
One question the DM must decide is the relationship between Davian and Kaius III—which in turn depends on the path they’ve decided to take with Kaius. It is possible that Davian is a close confidante of Kaius III, working to help him fight Lady Illmarrow while maintaining the King’s secrets. Or it’s possible that there is a bitter divide between them—that Davian maintains a diplomatic relationship, but doesn’t know the king’s secrets and blames Kaius for the difficulties the Seekers are facing.
If the adventurers oppose the Blood of Vol—perhaps lumping all Seekers in with the Order of the Emerald Claw—then Davian could be a dangerous enemy. Or, in your Eberron, you could decide that Grand Duke Karla has embraced Lady Illmarrow and that he is giving the Emerald Claw a safe haven within Atur. As always, it’s a question of the story you want to tell. Could the Grand Duke of Atur be a powerful ally, or is he a deadly foe?
That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the article, please consider checking out my Patreon! In addition to asking the questions that drive articles like this, my Patreon support directly determines how much time I can spend creating Eberron content in the future. I’m also doing a monthly live Q&A, and Threshold patrons have the chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. Check it out, and thanks to all of you who are already patrons!
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, someone asks…
Could you expound on the role of kobolds in Eberron? They often seem to be lumped together with goblinsas “small, chaotic humanoids oppressed by those in power,” but they don’t have anything as interesting as the Dhakaani or Khesh’dar hooks that the goblins have. What are some interesting hooks for kobold characters?
Before looking at kobolds, take a moment to consider orcs in Khorvaire. In the Demon Wastes, the devout Ghaash’kala fight fiends and channel the power of Kalok Shash. In the Mror Holds, the Jhorash’tar follow the Path of Bones. In the Shadow Marches you have the rising corporate power of House Tharashk, the ancient primal Gatekeepers, and those who cling to the Old Ways of the Dragon Below. Just next door in Droaam, there’s the peaceful culture of the Gaa’ran and the aggressive Gaa’aram.
Kobolds are just as diverse as orcs; we just haven’t had time to explore many of their cultures in depth. I don’t have time to go into detail now, but here’s a quick overview of some of the canonical kobold cultures.
The Seawall Mountains.Kobolds have a strong presence in the Seawall Mountains and have often clashed with Zil gnomes seeking to expand their mining operations. This is one of the main places where you’ll find the iredar and irvhir cultures described in this early Dragonshard article. Rather than the traditional association with flesh and blood dragons, these kobolds believe that they have a direct connection to the PROGENITOR dragons.
Zil Kobolds.The Zil clash with the iredar and irvhir in the mountains, but over the centuries there are kobolds who have chosen to live alongside gnomes, sharing their cultures. This isn’t as strong a blending as you see between orcs and humans in the Shadow Marches; there’s only a few such villages along the edge of the Seawall Mountains. But because of this, you can find kobold agents of the Trust, kobolds teaching at Korranberg colleges, and so on.
Stormreach. City of Stormreach infamously suggests that there’s a bounty on kobold hides in Stormreach. This is a nod to the grinding needs of the video game set in Stormreach, and not something I use in my campaign. In my Stormreach kobolds have an important role in the community maintaining the sewers and serving as guides to the lower levels of the ancient city. And, of course, the kobold Hassalac Chaar is one of the most powerful spellcasters in the setting.
Q’barra and the Poison Dusk. We haven’t talked much about the peaceful kobolds of Q’barra, and they could follow the same iredar/irvhir traditions as the Seawall kobolds. But what we have said is that the kobolds of Q’barra are especially vulnerable to the influence of the Cold Sun and are frequently found within the Poison Dusk—recently discussed in this article. So if you’re looking for kobolds serving an evil dragon, Rhashaak and the Poison Dusk are what you need.
The Oppressed People of the Barrens.As called out in Exploring Eberron, kobolds and goblins have long been oppressed in the Barrens of what is now Droaam. This is beginning to change with the rise of Droaam, most notably because of Kethelrax the Cunning and Shaarat Kol. However, Kethelrax is still fighting on behalf of Shaarat Kol and of those smallfolk still suffering cruelty at the hands of tyrannical chibs.
Kanonical Kobolds of Droaam. Just as you have the Gaa’aram and Gaa’ran orcs in Droaam, there are multiple kobold cultures in Droaam. Frontiers of Eberron discusses the Khaar’paal, kobold spreads across the Graywall Mountains. The Khaar’paal are referenced in the Kethelrax article I linked above, but here’s another tiny preview from Frontiers. Keep in mind that this specifically refers to a small group of Khaar’paal artisans living on the edge of Quickstone; they come from a city in the Graywall Mountains that is largely and considerably more sophisticated than Quickstone.
The Khaar’paal are a group of about sixty kobolds camped on the southern edge of the Tents. They don’t work metal; their tents are made of leather, their tools of wood and stone. At a glance most assume these kobolds are a primitive nomadic tribe. This assumption is wrong on every count. Khaar’paal means “mageblood“, and the Khaar’paal kobolds have an innate talent for arcane magic not unlike that of a sorcerer. They may not use metal, but they have talented magewrights who make use of mending, prestidigitation, magecraft, continual flame and similar magical techniques and tools, and work with exotic materials like quickstone and wyvern hide. Their wands may not be as well-tooled as those produced by House Cannith, but the Khaar’paal scouts are wandslingers as capable as any Brelish arcane dragoon.
So how about some hooks?
The above examples are just some of the kobold cultures in Eberron. But any of these could provide a foundation for a kobold adventure. Consider…
A Zil kobold sage—a former Korranberg professor who might secretly be an agent of the Trust.
A Stormreach kobold sorcerer who’s a child of Hassalac Chaar. They could be adventuring on a mission from their father, or they could just be a nepo baby out on a lark.
A Droaamite champion of the Dark Six. Proud to be a vessel of their deity, and willing to challenge anyone who dares look down upon them. A cleric or bard tied to the Fury could seek to rally and inspire allies; a kobold paladin of the Fury could be a holy avenger determined to right the wrongs they see in visions.
A Droaamite agent of Kethelrax the Cunning, sent out into the wider world to gather allies and resources for Shaarat Kol, and perhaps to hunt down envoys of Rhesh Turakbar or others who have abused the smallfolk of Droaam in the past.
A Khaar’paal wandslinger looking to make their fortune among the slow-moving softskins of the east.
A Seawall iredar kobold druid or ranger who believes they are guided by Eberron herself, following a series of visions.
A Q’barran kobold warlock who was part of the Poison Dusk. They broke the fiendish hold of the Poison Dusk and they’ve fled Q’barra to put some distance between them and its influence, but they are still tapping its powers and gifts as a warlock… slightly afraid that every use of its power could be pulling them back into its thrall.
So, there’s a lot of options for kobolds. When you meet a kobold on the road, what could their story be? You can easily choose the answer drawing on any ideas above, but if you know me you know I love a random rolling table, so here’s one for kobolds. While this can get you some very random possibilities, you can generally figure out which culture they might relate to. Kobold warlocks are probably tied to irvhir or the Poison Dusk… though they don’t have to be! Likewise, a kobold artificer could be a Khaar’paal alchemist, or perhaps they’re a Zil prodigy who studied evocation at Korranberg and designed siege staffs during the Last War!
… Working for the Trust.
… Possessed by a fiend.
… Fabulously wealthy.
… Seeking revenge.
… Carrying a powerful magic item.
… Guided by a vision.
… On the run.
… Possibly a dragon in disguise.
That’s all for now! If you’d like to see more articles or ask your own questions, check out my Patreon! I run a monthly campaign that patrons can play in, and I’ll be doing a live Q&A for patrons on June 28th.
May was a busy month, but I still had time to answer some important questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Such as…
Are there soft drinks in Khorvaire?
One source of soft drinks that’s been called out in canon sources are the Zil waterhouses. A waterhouse is a restaurant that serves only bread and water, but both are infused with flavor using prestidigitation. This flavoring can be subtle or exceptionally strong. It can mimic mundane flavors, but it can also create unique flavors that can’t be found in nature; I imagine “vazilla” as a unique Zil take on vanilla. The Waterhouse is an old Zil tradition, and part of the point of it is getting an artisanal experience, flavored fresh for you. However, in my campaign House Ghallanda has expanded this tradition; House arms like the Gold Dragon Inn sell a variety of beverages, alcoholic or otherwise, using flavors crafted by a long lasting form of culinary prestidigitation; this can also add carbonation to a beverage. So Black Dog Fizz is a popular cola-like beverage available at any Gold Dragon Inn… along with many other options.
Nightwood ale is popular across Khorvaire, but expensive beyond Karrnath. What are some other popular ales in the taverns of Khorvaire?
Nightwood Ale is widely recognized as the BEST beer in the Five Nations. But the CHEAPEST ale is Black Dog Brew, produced by House Ghallanda and sold in any licensed tavern. Anyone with a refined palate will sneer at you for drinking Black Dog, but it’s cheap, reliable, and universally available (and not to be confused with Black Dog Fizz!). Swordtooth Ale is Ghallanda’s higher quality beer. Dwarves will want to look for Londurak’s Bounty or Greenspire Stout, potent Mror mushroom brews that will wreck any species that’s not resistant to poison damage. Meanwhile, Jorlanna d’Cannith and House Jorasco are collaborating on Iron Bull, an innovative energy drink. Needless to say, there are dozens of other brands out there, but that’s something to get you started.
What are some of the regional specialty dishes that can be found at a Gold Dragon Inn?
I’m not a culinary expert or historian. I can make up some completely random things — and I will — but it’s not going to meet my usual standard of worldbuilding, because I don’t have time to study historical cuisines and figure out something that would actually feel realistic. Notably, I’d expect climate and local crops to play a role; if I was taking this seriously, I’d want to research the correlation of those things in our world and consider the impact of manifest zones or magic to create a realistic menu. I have discussed my opinion of general styles of national cuisine in this article on potatoes, so here’s a few ideas for things you could find at the Gold Dragon Inn…
AUNDAIR:Fey Cakes. Ostensibly, enormous cakes for a sprite; in practice, tiny cupcakes with overly elaborate frostings and toppings. Usually delicate, light cake with a sparkling texture achieved using prestidigitation.
BRELAND: Boranel Potato— Typically called a “Borry Spud”, this is a fully loaded baked potato.
CYRE: Cyrans love the King’s Meal, a collection of small plates reflecting the traditions of many other nations; this is a sort of diverse dim sum or tapas.
KARRNATH: During the various famines that afflicted Karrnath, the most reliable food sources were plants that grew in Mabaran manifest zones. These generally have a very bitter taste but are highly nourishing… in part because they suck the lifeforce out of other things and concentrate it. Bitter biscuits are a form of hard tack made using Mabaran manifest dusk flour; soldier’s spread is a Marmite-like paste. Most people find these products revolting, but they are mainstays in the Karrnathi military and were important staples for commoners during the war; a taste for soldier’s spread is the sign of a true Karrn.
THRANE: Thranes LOVE baked beans.
Now, as I said, I’m not an expert, but I CAN make up completely random things. So without further ado, here’s a table of things you could find as daily specials at the Gold Dragon Inn…
I’ve answered many more questions on my Patreon and the associated Discord server. This month I’ll be doing another live Q&A and the next session of my Eberron campaign… along with a preview from Frontiers of Eberron! So check it out if you’re interesting in any of those things. Otherwise, let me know what soft drinks are available in YOUR Eberron in the comments!