Image by Wayne Anthony Reynolds from Sharn: City of Towers
As time allows, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month someone asked Who actually runs the skycoaches of Sharn?
Skycoaches are an iconic element of the City of Towers—small boats that dart between the spires, carrying passengers to every level of Sharn. As House Lyrandar holds a near-monopoly on airship travel, one might expect Lyrandar to run the skycoaches as well. But the skycoaches of Sharn have nothing in common with Lyrandar’s elemental airships. While Lyrandar’s airships are arecent development, the skycoaches of Sharn have been in operation for centuries; they were developed soon after the flying buttresses that highest towers of the city. Sharn is located in a manifest zone tied to Syrania, and skycoaches operate through a series of sympathetic principles that tie them to the Azure Sky. Among other things this means that they don’t function outside of Sharn; if you fly a skycoach beyond the city limits it will slowly lose power and descend to the surface. This is why you don’t see skycoaches in Wroat or Fairhaven; it’s a unique aspect of Sharn. There may be a few other cities that are located in similar manifest zones that could support skycoaches—but we’ve never suggested that such a city could rival Sharn, and most likely the skycoaches in such a city would have to be uniquely attuned to the manifest zone of that place and wouldn’t be casually interchangeable with the coaches of Sharn. As a point of trivia, the city of Eston is noted as using “skycoaches,” but despite the name, these vessels operate on entirely different principles than the coaches of Sharn and are more like carpets of flying.
The coaches of Sharn have soarwood hulls. The weight of passengers and other trappings prevents a coach from being naturally buoyant, but they are astonishingly lightweight. The interior of the hull is engraved and inlaid with arcane patterns; this channels the motive energy that drives the coach. The control system is made on of two linked pieces—a medallion of the sky and the medallion anchor. The anchor is a metal plate affixed to the coach, while the medallion itself is worn by the pilot. The primary function of the medallion of the sky is to allow easy, reliable control of the linked coach; while attuned to the medallion, the bearer has advantage on any ability checks (Air Vehicles) to control the coach, and doesn’t need to make a check to perform simple actions. The medallion also serves as a feather token, allowing an attuned wearer to cast feather fall once per long rest. Without a medallion, someone who’s proficient in either Arcana or Air Vehicles can control a coach, but it’s more challenging—and because it’s more a measure of understanding theory rather than practical knowledge, checks to control a coach using Arcana have disadvantage.
So: every skycoach has a medallion anchor and a medallion of the sky. These are forged in Sharn and are carefully regulated by the city government. Medallions are bought from the city and registered with the city, and transferring ownership of a medallionof the sky is a formal process that must be properly documented and approved by the original owner. The City Council evaluates the number of skycoaches operating in the city one a decade, but it’s actually quite rare for the city to issue new medallions; as a rule, if you want to run a skycoach in Sharn, you have to either inherit a medallion or buy one from a current owner. Even if one happens to fall into your hands, if you can’t prove that the original owner voluntarily transferred it to you, the city will reclaim it and sell it at auction.
So: the skycoach business has deep roots in the city of Sharn. There are a handful of one-coach operations; Dael Tantein, affectionately known as “the Sphinx” is an elf who’s been flying his coach for over five hundred years. However, most coaches are associated with companies that own the coaches and hire pilots. The Skycoach Company table provides a list of the best-known companies.
The Swan. Over a third of the coaches in Sharn are tied to the Swan. The company is based in Dura and owned by the Undalon—a line of Brelish dwarves with long ties to the Boramar Clan. Swan coaches aren’t always pretty, but they’re ubiquitous and they’ll take you anywhere you want to go, no questions asked. Andala Undalon runs the daily operations of The Swan; she’s a gold concordian within the Aurum and keen to increase her hold on the skies of Sharn.
The Gold Line. Based in Skyway, the Gold Line provides the most luxurious coaches in Sharn. Even the most basic Gold Line coach is well appointed and maintained, and charges twice the usual price for travel. The Gold Line also has three “party barges” and two gilded fliers—these fliers are twice as fast as the typical skycoach. Gold Line coaches are usually only found in Skyway and the upper districts, and its higher end coaches can only be booked by appointment.
Silverstreak. Based in Middle Central, Silverstreak is notable in that it will rent skycoaches (along with a qualified driver) for extended periods, allowing a group to have a personal skycoach at their disposal for days or even weeks. The owner, Serra Narim, is an ambitious entrepreneur who’s been expanding her business as quickly as possible; she’s always looking for opportunities to acquire additional medallions.
Aureon’s Flight. Based in Menthis, Aureon’s Flight is notable for hiring students from Morgrave University as part-time pilots. Its pilots aren’t as fast or as ruthless in their work as their counterparts in Silverstreak or the Swan, but they’re often very familiar with the entertainment districts and have interesting stories to tell.
Other. The four companies mentioned above are the largest, but there’s a host of individuals and small companies who have maintained their medallions over the years. Roo are a group of goblins who run four coaches out of Malleon’s Gate; Daask has been offering to help them expand. Eagle’s Claw runs three coaches, and is noted for its fanatical devotion to the Eagle in the Race of Eight Winds. Feel free to make up a new company!
Skycoach pilots are often colorful characters. The company they’re tied to may suggest characteristics of a pilot—Gold Line pilots are usually more “respectable” than Swan pilots, and Gold Liners know the best restaurants in Skyway while the Swan can take you to the dingiest dives in Lower Dura. But company aside, the Coach Pilot table can help you quickly create an interesting pilot.
… Who’s deeply religious.
Halfling / Gnome
… Who’s got a story to share.
Elf / Khoravar
… Who wants to sell you something.
Dwarf / Goblin
… Who fought in the war.
Changeling / Shifter
… Who has an interesting hobby.
Orc / Jhorgun’taal
… Who flies like a maniac.
… Who loves the Race of Eight Winds.
… Who knows a “shortcut.”
Would House Lyrandar or Orien be interested in encroaching on the Skycoach business?
If that’s a story you want to tell, don’t let me stop you! But in my campaign, no, Lyrandar and Orien don’t care about the Skycoach business. It’s important to remember just what an incredibly niche market this is—a mode of transportation that operates in a single city—and that the dragonmarks don’t offer any particular edge in flying a skycoach. Lyrandar is interested in dominating international air travel; it’s OK with leaving the alleys of Sharn to the Swan and the Gold Line.
With that said, House Vadalis offers air travel within Sharn; if Vadalis expands the services of its eagles and hippogriffs, that could be a concern. Beyond that, there’s aways tension between the existing companies; the Swan would love to consume Silverstreak.
That’s all for now! I don’t have time to answer questions, but share your own Skycoach ideas and experiences below. And if you have questions of your own or want to help support the site—or even play a game with me—check out my Patreon!
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few from this month!
Is there an equivalent to the phonograph in Eberron? If so, how accessible is it?
In this article I gave my thoughts on the equivalent of photography in Eberron. So, what about recorded sound? Well, Eberron is about the every day application of magic. Is there a spell of 3rd level or below that could reasonably be applied to produce a similar effect? Absolutely. Minor illusion is a cantrip that allows the reproduction of sound… and spellshards are crystals that hold data. And who loves music AND has a talent for illusion? So, putting that all together…
If you attend the Tain Gala, Celyria will show you her latest acquisition—a Phiarlan hydra. The base of this wonder is a cube of black stone. A four-headed hydra is engraved on its top, and the mouth of each hydra is a spherical depression that can hold a polished globe of wood embedded with a tiny dragonshard. Each of these “marbles” holds a performance by one of Phiarlan’s finest musicians. But the hydra has a fifth head, sculpted from copper and wood, rising up from the base. When you activate the hydra, it draws out the sound of the performance held within one of the marbles and projects it through the sculpted head, as clear as if you were there. So come to the Tain gala, and hear the hydra sing!
Personally (largely because it’s never been mentioned before) I’m inclined to make the hydra a recent development that’s currently only available to the wealthy. But the principles aren’t terribly complicated — it’s cantrip level magic — so I could see it quickly gaining popularity and spreading. PCs with the entertainer background could be encouraged to record some marbles for Phiarlan! Also, if you’re interested in the idea of broadcast audio entertainment in Eberron, check out the House Sivis Echoer Station!
Do the Poison Dusk lizardfolk of Q’barra have any significant musical/artistic customs?
Certainly! But it’s important to remember that the Poison Dusk aren’t exclusively lizardfolk and that they aren’t a traditional culture. As called out in Dungeon 185, the Poison Dusk includes kobolds, troglodytes, lizardfolk, and dragonborn—including mutants like the blackscale lizardfolk. They aren’t a culture that has evolved over time; they are victims of Masvirik, whose personalities and memories have been eroded and overwritten by the power of the Cold Sun. Their leaders are actively (if often only partially) possessed by fiends.
So with all that in mind, in thinking about ANY of the customs of the Poison Dusk, I would want them to feel eerie and alien—to help convey the concept that these are people who are all, on some level, shaped by fiendish influences.
Considering all this, what comes to my mind is the Hissing Chorus. This is a rhythmic, ululating hissing, at its base almost like the sound of wind. This hissing is supplemented by body percussion, each participant using a single hand to tap claws against scales, or potentially to scrape claws against another surface — essentially, adding fingernails on a blackboard to a musical performance. The key to all of this is that the rhythm is seemingly random, asymmetric and unpredictable, yet all participants work in perfect unison; it’s an ecstatic experience driven by instinct, something that draws the musicians into communion with the Cold Sun. The Hissing Chorus is encountered in many ways and with varying intensity. A single Poison Dusk may effectively whistle while they work, hissing quietly to themself. A troop will hiss as they march, with greater force and intensity. And a Poison Dusk community may hiss together as a writhing mob, guided by a dusk-shard imbued champion who voice is amplified by magic, potentially with instrumentalists using hide drums and scraping surfaces that send chills through anyone within range. But the PRINCIPLE is the same throughout, and crucially, the song is something that is constantly evolving; it’s more like speaking in tongues than playing a treasured symphony. Because the Poison Dusk has no lengthy history; time and time again, they have been hunted down by the Trothslorsvek and the Masvirik’uala, only to rise once more, hissing their eerie, endless song.
That’s all for now! If you have questions of your own, join my Patreon. As always, thanks to my patrons for making this site and these articles possible!
Hey all! I’m currently in New York City. As you can see in the picture above, I just saw the musical Hadestown; I loved it, which is no particular surprise, given that Dolurrh basically exists to provide an opportunity for adventurers to venture to the underworld to try to rescue loved ones!
I am still working on my next Dragonmark article, but I wanted to answer a few of the interesting questions that have been raised by my Patreon supporters. I’ll also be running the next session of my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on Patreon soon, so if you’re interested in play in a session with me, check that out! In the meantime…
How might you fit Nilbogs into Eberron?Is there a way you would fit an immortal trickster spirit that possesses goblinoids into your eberron?
The nilbog was introduced in the original Fiend Folio as a sort of joke—a goblin who is healed when it should suffer damage, and who can only be hurt if you cast healing spells on it. It’s goblin backwards, get it? Monsters of the Multiverse brought a number of Fiend Folio classics into 5E, including the nilbog. The 5E nilbog isn’t quite as extreme as the original. It has a reaction—Reversal of Fortune—that allows it to reduce a source of damage to zero and to heal as a result, and this is the only way it can be hurt. But this is a reaction; once the nilbog has used up its reaction it can suffer damage normally. And it can’t benefit from healing magic, but you can’t KILL a 5E nilbog by casting cure wounds on it.
The 5E nilbog is presented as a trickster spirit that only possesses goblins, which an explanation tied to the deity Maglubiyet. My immediate reaction is that the core idea of the nilbog—a trickster who can’t easily be defeated by brute force—is a fun concept, but that in Eberron there’s no particular reason it would have to be a GOBLIN. Its key abilities—Reversal of Fortune, a sanctuary—like effect that charms creatures that try to attack it, a 2d4 mocking word and at-will use of hideous laughter—could easily be applied to other base statblocks. TSo with that in mind, there’s a few different ways I could imagine using the basic idea of the nilbog in my campaign.
Mocking Joy. In fifth edition, nilbogs are presented as fey. It’s easy to imaging an archfey—a cousin of Fortune’s Fool—who challenges tyrants and mocks the mighty, laughing at all threats; let’s call them Mocking Joy. This archfey has a strong connection to a manifest zone in Droaam, and historically nilbogs have almost exclusively been encountered among the oppressed kobolds and goblins of the Barrens. Many scholars BELIEVE that it’s a goblin-only condition, hence the use of the term “nilbog”—but this is inaccurate. Any humanoid Mocking Joy deems a worthy avatar—typically an oppressed underdog—could be granted the chaotic gifts of nilbogism; this would also cause them to become a fey creature for the duration of this possession.
Gift of the Traveler. A trickster who laughs in the face of danger and sows chaos? This sounds like an excellent option for a devotee of the Traveler, perhaps an agent of the Cabinet of Faces. In this case I wouldn’t make it external possession, but rather a sort of ecstatic communion; the devotion channels the Traveler and gains the abilities of a nilbog for the duration of that experience. While such nilbogs could be goblins, any humanoid would be an option; most often I’d be inclined to make these nilbogs changelings, which would add another trick to their mischievous arsenal. While I’ve suggested that this would be a case of the nilbog voluntarily invoking the Traveler, it could be switched to suggest that there’s a place at which anyone could be temporarily possessed, acting as a nilbog and not being able to remember anything that happens during the possession. However, because of the nature of faith in Eberron I’d personally say that this can only affect devout Vassals or followers of another Sovereign variant—that it’s not an external spirit like a quori, it’s still a manifestation of the victim’s own faith. They KNOW what the Traveler is like, and they are temporarily compelled to act as if they were the Traveler. If I went down THIS path, I might concievably create similar forms of ecstatic possession for other members of the Sovereigns and Six!
The Touch of Xoriat. The nilbog is typically presented as a hilarious, mischevious trickster. But what if it wasn’t? Consider its core abilities. When you try to attack the nilbog, it can break your mind, temporarily turning your aggression into blind adoration. It can inflict psychic damage and shake your confidence simply by speaking to you (Mocking Word). And it can twist reality, turning a deadly attack into a soothing balm. This CAN be wacky fun… but it could also be terrifying. Rather than a fey gift, I could see it as the result of a strange bond to Xoriat. I’d say that they first appeared in Eberron during the Xoriat incursion and the subsequent collapse of Dhakaan, and as such scholars THINK it’s a goblin-only condition… but again, that any creature could develop these abilities, and I’d make them aberrations instead of fey. They could be tied to a particular daelkyr, but I also kind of like it as a more general effect of Xoriat rather than daelkyr engineering. I’ll note that while these nilbogs wouldn’t be wacky fey tricksters, I’d be inclined to say that the connection to Xoriat shift their perception of reality, and that they would be amoral and inclined to cause chaos if not necessarily mischief.
Exploring Eberron says that Daanvi has a Solar assigned to observe each plane and to administer justice there. It specifically names Azazar as the Solar of Xoriat. What is Azazar like? Are they corrupted by forbidden knowledge, or are they a potential source for information on Xoriat that adventurers could have a normal conversation with?
Well, let’s start by looking at the actual kanon lore.
There are thirteen solars, each assigned to monitor and administer justice within one of Eberron’s planes (no solar holds dominion over the Material Plane). However, there are a host of restrictions on how and when they may act. Typically, a solar must be invoked by a legitimate authority within the plane in question—so while Hazariel, the Solar of Syrania, is usually called in to cast down radiant idols, Azazar, the Solar of Xoriat, has never yet been called on by that plane. Until called, they watch; while in the Panopticon, solars can observe anything that occurs in the plane of their dominion.
So one of the first important points here is that Azazar has never actually been to Xoriat, and likely never will; who would summon them? Having said that, Azazar has been monitoring Xoriat since the beginning of creation and in my mind is suited to that task; the Solars were created for this purpose and Azazar was made to be able to administer justice in Xoriat if it becomes necessary to do so.
So… Azazar is a Solar and uses the base attributes of a Solar. But they are also made to be able to observe and act within the Plane of Revelations. Solars already have truesight; I’d probably add some sort of mind blank affect to Azazar’s block, and further give them the Alien Mind trait of a daelkyr, on the basis that in order to be able to observe Xoriat, Azazar’s mind must process knowledge in ways that material mortals can’t; it’s not malevolent, but making contact with their thoughts will disrupt your normal thought process.
Moving further, I’d probably roleplay Azazar much like Doctor Manhattan: not malevolent, but as someone who perceives reality in a way you can’t understand. To be able to “observe” Xoriat and follow the progress of events there, Azazar would have to be unbound by the perception of linear time and might be actively aware of multiple possible timelines simultaneously. So I’d emphasize that Azazar CAN be a source of information about Xoriat, but that the information you receive will often be cryptic or inaccurate, because it will only make sense when you’re in the right time, place, or even the right timeline. Azazar isn’t in any way corrupted by Xoriat; Azazar understands Xoriat, but they can’t share that understanding with a creature with a limited, linear perception of reality.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!
Last week I was at MegaCon in Florida playing games with Six Sides of Gaming, and I’m busy working on Wayfinder, which is entering early access soon, so I’m still working on the next Dragonmark article! However, whenever time permits I like to answer short questions posed by my Patreon supporters. So let’s look at a few of those.
There’s a lot of lore about the Bloodsails of Farlnen, the Aereni, and the Tairnadal. The Wind Whisperers of Orthoss also trace their roots back to Aerenal? How do they approach death?
So, to start, let’s take a look at what’s been said about the Wind Whisperers…
Not all of the Aereni refugees sought shelter in the shadow of the Fingerbones. Some fully embraced Lhazaar culture, mingling with humans and creating a significant population of half-elves. The island of Orthoss is a haven for the Khoravar, and half-elves from across Khorvaire have found their way to the town of Blackrock. Notably, the Lhazaar lifestyle has attracted a number of members of House Medani and House Lyrandar over the centuries — young rebels seeking an escape from the smothering traditions of their houses.
First and foremost, what this tells us is that the Wind Whisperers ARE NOT AN ELF CULTURE like the Bloodsails, the Aereni, and the Tairnadal. They don’t have a lot of full-blooded elves and thus aren’t shaped by some of the biological aspects of being an elf—notably the exceptionally long lifespan, which is part of why the pure elf cultures are so concerned about avoiding death. They are a KHORAVAR culture that from the start fully embraced Lhazaar culture; they have had a steady influx of immigrants bringing their own traditions; the PRINCE is a Lyrandar excoriate who wasn’t even born on the island. It’s described as a haven for “young rebels seeking an escape from the smothering traditions of their houses” and its people are said to be “as wild and unpredictable as the wind itself.”
So: consider the general rebellion against smothering traditions and the fact that the prince is an immigrant; the Wind Whisperers don’t WANT to cling to ancient traditions and they aren’t going to be obsessed with their ancestors. On the contrary, the Wind Whisperers embrace constant change. The fact that they are led by Koulton is proof that they are always looking to the immigrants to bring them NEW traditions and ideas; they don’t want to force old beliefs on people, they want to adapt and incorporate to new ones. So the Wind Whisperers of the present day may have very different traditions than they did five hundred years ago, and THEY may have been quite different five hundred years before that. And, as you note, Orthoss isn’t noted for Mabaran or Irian manifest zones, which drive the culture of the Aereni and the Grim.
To address the specific question — how do they approach death — I’d say that they have a casual and comfortable relationship with death. They don’t try to cling to their ancestors or their past; they are like the wind, ever flowing and moving forward. We are here and then we’re gone, but the wind will always flow; not exactly a belief in reincarnation as much as a approach of It’s all going to be all right; don’t try to fight the wind, allow it to carry you on to whatever lies beyond. But again, that’s a general, casual idea because the Wind Whisperers HATE SMOTHERING TRADITIONS and are always open to change.
What’s a good reason for a Talenta adventurer to remain away from the Plains for an extended period of time—something beyond duty to clan, spirit or the houses? What’s something that could drive an outlander to want to become less of an outsider?
This is a tricky question, and I’m going to include a few answers that don’t quite fit the question. But here’s a few immediate ideas that tie to the question of why doesn’t the outlander go home?
FOUND FAMILY. This is the usual path *I* have taken when I have played this sort of character. If, over the course of adventures, I have formed a bond to any of the other adventurers — if we’ve bled for one another, if we’ve saved each other’s lives — then THEY are my clan, and as long as one of them is in danger or has unfinished business, I will remain and see the journey through with them. They may not have ASKED me to do this; they may not share my belief that we are family; but if *I* believe that we are bound in blood, that is sufficient.
NOTHING TO RETURN TO. One of the simplest reasons to LEAVE the Plains is because your clan is no longer there. This could be because they were wiped out; you may have originally left seeking vengeance on whatever force destroyed them. It could be because you were exiled: the remain but you’re not part of the clan any more. Or for the more positive outcome, it could be because YOUR WHOLE CLAN left the Plains; they’ve immigrated to Sharn at the request of, say, Saidan Boromar, and now your task is to help them settle and to protect them from the dangers of this new world. Depending on your choices, this is an obvious pairing with Found Family; you lost your clan and now you’ve found a new one.
NEW SPIRITS. An important part of Talenta belief is that spirits are EVERYWHERE, not just the on the Plains… and the spirits of, say, Sharn have no one who listens for them. They may be suffering, creating spiritual cankers, or they might have things that need to be done and no one who can help. If the character goes back to the Plains, they are just one of countless people working with the spirits; they aren’t NEEDED. In Sharn, no one else hears the cries of the spirits and they could play a truly unique role.
IS THERE ANYTHING OF VALUE? Does the character believe that there is absolutely nothing of interest in the world beyond the Plains? Or do they think there’s might be something worth bringing home—anything that could improve the life of their clan, whether that’s a single magical tool or a new technique? If they haven’t found anything, are they still sure there’s nothing to find? Essentially, they could take an active role in trying to discover the most valuable things in wherever they are — not necessarily monetary value, but things that could help their clan. Can they learn new crafting techniques? Master a new form of magic? Learn a new way of communicating with spirits, or even discover a new form of spirit?
PERSONAL INTEREST. What do THEY want? Is there anything in this world that has caught their attention? Have they fallen in love… which could be with a person, a place, or an idea? Might they want to become a star of the Crystal Theater, to outshine the legend of Boroman ir’Dayne or to woo a Boromar heir? Have they heard the story of a Talenta champion who came to the region centuries ago and lost a legendary artifact… and can they find both the story and the artifact itself? Do they encounter a traveler from a rival clan, with a score than must be settled?
That’s far from a comprehensive list, but that’s all the time I have and hopefully something there will prove useful! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and making these articles possible. Also, I’m going to be running my next Frontiers adventure later this month—if you’d like to have a chance to play a session with me, check out my Patreon!
I’m on my way to MegaCon where I’ll be talking about games and playing on the main stage! It’s been a busy month: I’ve relaunched my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on my Patreon and I’m writing for Wayfinder. I’m working on the next Dragonmark article, which will deal with Khorvaire in the Age of Giants. But when time allows I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons… so lets look at one of those.
Could you expand on the description of the Crucible artificers in Exploring Eberron, or more generally on how the overlap between adept magic and artifice/magecraft works & what it looks like? I’m assuming the faiths have followed technological progress, but I’m having a hard time coming up with more than mass-produced religious icons, scripture, and holy water.
One of the central aspects of Eberron’s idea of Everyday Magic is the existence of a widespread force of spellworkers who don’t have the flexibility or scope of player character spellcasters. An oracle can cast divination and augury, but they can’t perform healing magic. A locksmith can cast knock and arcane lock, but they can’t conjure illusions or fling fireballs. For most people in the world, mastering a particular set of spells is a life’s work, and you can’t just spend an evening reading a spellbook or a morning in prayer and completely change your spell list.
In the original ECS, adepts and magewrights were called out as entirely different classes. As the concept evolved this line was blurred. Eberron Rising From The Last War generally uses “magewright” as a blanket term for any professional spellcaster. The Magewright Specialty table on page 318 of Rising includes Oracles, Mediators, and Healers—all roles traditionally associated with adepts and divine magic. But the point is that from a purely mechanical perspective, it doesn’t matter how the magewright casts the ritual, only that they can; the rest is cosmetic detail. I discuss this in this article, looking at the difference between a divine oracle and an arcane oracle. Both can cast divination, but for the adept this is about communing with a divine force, while for the arcane magewright it’s based on some form of science, such as cartomancy. The short form is that “magewright” as defined in Rising From The Last War simply means someone who can cast a limited set of ritual spells or cantrips and doesn’t care whether that person is a traditional magewright, adept, gleaner, or wandslinger.
I expanded on this in Exploring Eberron:
Arcane magic is a science; magewrights master its techniques. However, there are other forms of magic which can likewise be adapted to everyday functions. An adept derives their magic from their faith, a more limited form of what a cleric can do; likewise, a gleaner masters the simplest forms of druidic magic. Especially with the adept, this is usually more of a calling than a job; you don’t decide to become an oracle of Aureon, you find that you are gifted with visions. The rituals of an adept will invoke divine forces, while a gleaner will draw on the world around them and often use an herbalism kit as a spellcasting focus.
Having said that in Exploring Eberron, I’m going to quantify it here. VASSALS don’t choose to become adepts; they believe they are called or blessed by one of the Sovereigns. You can’t demand that Aureon give you the gift of prophecy; either he chooses you to be an oracle or he doesn’t. But that’s because Vassals interact with the Sovereigns as if they were people. As a Vassal, you ask Aureon for guidance. By contrast, the Silver Flame is an impersonal force. It’s not an anthropomorphic entity that decides to do things. The Silver Flame was created to bind the overlords. That’s its primary function and we’re all very lucky that it continues to perform that function. The fact that people of great faith can draw on its power to defend the innocent is a side benefit. The Silver Flame binds the overlords. To do that, it must be omnipresent within the world; and therefore, the power is all around, available for a person of faith to use.
The people of Thrane are raised with that concept. While Thranish belief in the Flame isn’t universal or oppressive, for the faithful it’s part of everyday life. You know that the Flame is all around you, that it holds the ancient evils at bay, and that those with sufficient devotion can wield its power to serve the greater good. It’s a tool, like the bow… and where some Thranes master the bow and become templars or serve in the village militia, others turn to the tool of prayer and focus on harnessing the power of the Flame. Hence, as said in Rising From The Last War, moreso than in the other nations, “Faith is part of daily life in Thrane and divine adepts provide important services.” Specifically, they provide services that are typically provided by arcane magewrights in other nations. Healer and oracle are common roles for adepts in any nation. But in Thrane, you can find launderers using the power of the Flame to cleanse dirty clothes. You can find locksmiths who channel the power of the Flame to cast arcane lock—providing protection for the innocent. You can even find entertainers who draw on the Flame to amplify their voices or create music. This looks different from a Vassal adept, because the adept of the Silver Flame doesn’t have to ask for the power; the power is THERE, and they just need to know how to use it. But the Flame adept still needs faith to channel the power, and needs to believe they are using their gift for the good of the community. So the Thrane launderer doesn’t say “Oh Flame, I beseech you, cleanse these filthy clothes!” But they may sing a hymn to Tira or to the Flame while doing the laundry, and for them, doing laundryis an expression of their faith—they feel the power of the Flame flowing through them, and know that they are helping this community. A secondary point to this is that Flame adepts take money for their services, because they need to be able to thrive to continue to provide those services to their community, but as a rule they aren’t driven by greed. They need to believe they are providing a valuable service and it’s only just for those who can afford it to pay a fair price for that service. But they believe that they are doing a service for those in need, not simply chasing gold; and Thrane adepts are thus more likely to perform charitable work for those who truly are in need than the typical Brelish magewright.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE CRUCIBLE?
With all that in mind, let’s look back at the original question. Exploring Eberron has this to say about the Crucible of Thrane: Developed during the Last War, this small order of adepts and artificers crafts items drawing on the power of the Silver Flame. So what do they actually MAKE? Is it all mass-produced scripture and holy water?
These days the difference between adepts and magewrights is cosmetic. The same principle applies to artificers. Just as you can play a bard who isn’t a musician, a barbarian who never gets angry, and a warlock without a patron, you can play an artificer who draws on the power of the Silver Flame. And they can create anything any other artificer could create. You can be an artillerist carving wands or an alchemist making potions. The key is that you are enchanting these items by infusing them with the power of the Flame. Where a Cannith artillerist might craft a wand of fireballs inlaid with Fernian brass and fine draconic sigils, your wand will be traced in silver and an invocation of the Flame—and it may inflict fire damage, the flames will be silver. Note in particular that the Crucible was developed during the Last War. So what does it make? WEAPONS. Siege staffs. Blast disks. Long rods. Mechanically these are the same as their Brelish counterparts, but the Thrane force staff flings bolts of blinding silver energy and one of the three actions required to activate the staff is invoking the Flame. Exploring Eberron says that using arcane artillery “requires specialized training, similar to that of an artificer or magewright; someone trained to operate arcane artillery is generally called a bombardier.” Operating a Thranish Flame-powered siege staff would require an entirely different set of training. There ARE elements of science involved; the staff is still a tool that must be maintained. But the energy involved is divine in nature and only responds to faith. If you wanted to take this a step farther, Exploring Eberron presents dragon’s breath as the primary ammunition used by arcane artillery. I would imagine that divine artillery would use a different substance, possible just called Flame by the bombardiers—a powder that is literally infused with faith, produced in factory-temples.
Having said all that, it is important to note that there are arcane magewrights and artificers in Thrane and divine adepts elsewhere. It’s possible that Breland has a unit where Brelish templars operate a Thrane-made Flame cannon, and Thrane may have used traditional blast disks. Note that the Crucible was formed DURING the Last War. It is a reflection of wartime innovation and the industrialization of the faith—and just as there are many devotees of the Flame who don’t approve of the theocracy of Thrane, there are likely many who don’t approve of this industrialization.
So the short form is that ANY magic item could be presented as being a product of the Crucible powered by the Flame. Just consider how that’s reflected in its appearance. Potions produced by a Crucible artificer may shimmer with a silver radiance or seem to burn. The command word for a Crucible wand is an invocation to the Flame. And crucially, consider how the creator of the item could belief that in its creation they are serving their community and protecting the innocent. The Crucible created weapons and tools to protect the people of Thrane. It brewed potions to heal them. But it couldn’t produce pure luxury items or trivial goods, because the typical Crucible artificer would stumble in creation, questioning how it was a worthy use of the Flame’s power.
So how do these principles apply beyond Thrane? Can you have a divine artificer bound to Boldrei, and what does that look like? Certainly, you can have Vassal artificers and adepts. The key is that they are less industrialized. Because faith in the Flame is such a universal constant in Thrane, and because the Flame is perceived as an omnipresent force, it can be approached like learning to use a tool. Faith in the Sovereigns is more casual and more personal; each Vassal develops their own relationship with the Sovereigns. So again, as noted above, you don’t train to be an oracle of Aureon; you realize that you are an oracle of Aureon. The same principle applies to the artificer of Boldrei. It’s not a job with a clear entry path. You likely start by training for a mundane job and then realizing that Boldrei is guiding you, that she is infusing your work with magic, and over time, you learn how to effectively use her gifts. Which also means three Artificers of Boldreicould be very different based on their relationship with the Sovereign. The first thing I imagine is an Alchemist artificer who uses Chef’s Tools to produce enchanted food; their cure wounds is a strong cup of Tal that perks you right up and their enhance ability is a muffin whose flavor depends on the ability involved, but which channels the energy of Boldrei’s Hearth. On the other hand, a Battle Smith of Boldrei would be driven more by Boldrei’s role as defender of the community; their Steel Defender doesn’t follow any Cannith principles, but is animated by the artificer’s faith. This is also a good time to point out that the Sovereigns don’t stand alone. We often call someone out as an “Oracle of Aureon” to say that out of the Host, they feel the strongest connection to Aureon. But when the Oracle of Aureon gets in a fight, they may still offer a prayer to Dol Dorn–and likewise, the Battle Smith “of Boldrei” can also feel a connection to the rest of the Host. They identify with Boldrei because they feel they’ve been called to defend their community, but they can still thank Onatar while they repair the armor that was damaged in a battle.
Nonetheless, the key point here is that Thrane is the only one of the Five Nations where divine artifice has become an industry. Vassal adepts and artificers are usually more unique, and that means the things they create will be as well. So Boldrei’s Alchemist may use cooking tools and give you a muffin to enhance your strength; while Boldrei’s Battle Smith could use smith’s tools and give you a medallion engraved with Boldrei’s sigil.
That’s all for now; hopefully this gives you some interesting ideas. As I’ll be at MegaCon for the next few days I won’t be answering questions, but feel free to share your ideas and experiences with divine artifice in the comments. And thanks as always to my Patreonsupporters for making these articles possible and for asking interesting questions!
“We’re approaching the Strait of Shadows, Captain.”
With a face forged from steel, the warforged captain couldn’t scowl… but his crystalline eyes glowed brighter for a moment. “I know, Mister Darro. Get the passengers below and arm the crew. If the Cloudreavers are in the sky today, this is where they’ll strike.”
How would I handle sky piracy in Eberron? It’s a question that’s come up on my Patreon a number of times over the course of the last year, and it finally won a decisive victory in the poll to determine article topics. But it’s a tricky question, because the outright answer is that I wouldn’t explore sky piracy in canon Eberron. By canon, elemental airships have only been in service for eight years. Air travel is a very recent development and there’s just not a lot of traffic in the sky; I’d expect the most common form of aerial crime to be skyjacking. Which isn’t to say that I couldn’t or wouldn’t run a sky pirates campaign in Eberron; it’s that the first thing I’d do would be to change canon to support it. What follows are ideas I would implement for a sky pirates campaign—not just not canon, but not something I’d necessarily use in a standard kanon campaign unless I wanted air travel to play a significant role. So none of this is canon, and I may end up incorporating some of these ideas into the new setting I’m developing for Threshold. Having said that, let’s delve into the Eberron I’d run my Sky Pirates campaign in…
THE WORLD ABOVE
Look into the skies above our world and you’ll mostly find air and water—storms, clouds, and gales. You won’t find things that are solid and permanent. You won’t find lines of fire burning in the sky, or patches of eternal night. And you won’t see castles in the clouds, or chunks of stone or soil suspended in the air. In Eberron, all of those are part of the skyscape… and that’s only the beginning. Manifest zones are places where the planes bleed into the material world, and manifest zones aren’t limited to the surface of Eberron. The Strait of Shadows are a massive aerial zone tied to Mabar—a stretch of air that consumes light, creating a region of endless night filled with banks of roiling shadows. Firefalls are rifts in the sky where Fernian flame cascades down toward the surface. The flames fade before they reach the ground, but a firefall can be a deadly hazard to a vessel in the air. Here’s a few important things that can be encountered in the skies above Eberron.
Walking on the Clouds
While most of the clouds in the sky are insubstantial vapor, there are two planes that can produce solid cloudstuff. Syranian clouds are identical to mundane clouds—typical stratus or cumulus in form—but they are soft, solid, and stable. They generally lack any sort of indigenous life, making them a solid base for aerial colonization; the floating district of Skyway in Sharn is built on a foundation of Syranian cloud.
Where Syranian clouds are generally uniform in design, every Thelanian cloud is unique—each held together by a story. Mistone Keep is a massive castle, with walls formed from the same cloudstuff as the “ground” it rests upon. It’s sized for giants, but it was empty when it was found and its original owners have never returned… though some wonder if they yet may, and if so what they will make of the people of Aundair who have colonized their castle. Thunderholt is a storm cloud, with lightning forever rippling in its murky depths. The surface of the cloud is filled with canyons and caves, and there are streams of lightning in its depths. Some claim that the archfey known as the Forge Maiden has a workshop in the depths of Thunderholt, where she harnesses the lightning; it’s said that the thunder is the sound of her hammer on the forge. Silverwood is a forest growing out of the clouds. Its trees are unique; some have snowflakes budding on their branches, others bear flowers made of mist. The heart of this cloud island is a massive tree of bone, with brilliant crimson leaves; the dryad tied to this tree is an oracle, but she will only answer questions for those who water her roots with blood. These are just three examples. Some Thelanian clouds are uninhabited, like the empty castle of Mistone Keep. Some, like Silverwood, have indigenous fey that are willing to coexist with mortal settlers. Others have denizens who have no interest in sharing their islands with others. Graystorm is home to the silver dragon of the same name; while he has been dormant for centuries, in the past Graystorm has pillaged cities below and its said that his hoard contains artifacts from Dhakaan and ancient Wroaat—possibly even the axe of Malleon the Reaver. While Graystorm is mechanically a dragon, he is functionally an immortal fey and has no ties to Argonnessen, nor any interest in the Chamber or the Lords of Dust. Cloud giants are an open question. A cloud giant could follow the model of Graystorm, being an immortal Thelanian creature tied to the story of their cloud. Alternately, cloud giants could be a colonizing force who have laid claim to the clouds over Xen’drik, a few of which have made their way to Khorvaire.
Clouds spawned by manifest zones are stationary, bound to the zone that generates them. Cloudstuff will turn to vapor when removed from the zone, and a damaged cloud will regenerate over time. However, Thelanian clouds may produce unique resources that can be harvested and removed. The trees on Silverwood won’t grow anywhere else, but their fruit can be carried down to the world below.
Islands in the Sky
Lamannia sometimes projects pieces through its manifest zones, creating floating islands of soil and stone. Sometimes, these are extremely small; there are chunks of Lamannian sky-stone barely large enough for a single watchtower. Others are large enough to support entire towns, such as the seat of the Lyrandar enclave over Stormhome. Korran’s Belt is a massive field of small chunks of earth and stone found on the border of the Ironroot Mountains and the Lhazaar Principalities; sages theorize that at one point it was a single mass but that something caused it to shatter into hundreds of smaller stones. For the most part, Lamannian sky islands have the same qualities as mundane land; what’s remarkable is their ability to sustain an ecosystem even in an impossibly small space. They are essentially projections from Lamannia, and are not bound by mundane limits. A Lamannian island might have a pool of water that never runs dry, or a river that forever flows off the edge of the island and spilling down onto the world below; both are replenished from Lamannia, and have the purity imbued by the Primordial Matter trait of that plane.
Lamannian islands can be verdant and fertile, making them excellent outposts for colonies in the sky; there are a number of sky towns in the Five Nations. Smaller islands may have been claimed by a particular family; in Breland, the ir’Tains summer on Griffon Crown, an island south of Wroat. However, there are many small and remote islands that are unclaimed in the present day. Some are home to untamed beasts, including megafauna creatures; if you’re looking for a place to put a roc in Eberron, look no further. Others could have outposts from fallen civilizations that once claimed the island; a sky island over Q’barra could have relics from the ancient dragonborn empire. These small islands can be excellent havens for smugglers and sky pirates; Korran’s Belt is filled with hidden harbors, some active and some long forgotten.
Much like the Feyspires that phase in and out of alignment with Eberron, there are stories of Syranian towers appearing in the skies for brief periods of time. These towers are typically the seats of angelic dominions, holding secrets tied to the dominion’s sphere of influence. In some of these tales, explorers bargain with the master of the tower; in others, the spire appears to be abandoned. The only thing the tales agree on is that Syranian spires never stay in the material plane for long; if you find one, you’ll want to act quickly or pass it by.
Wonders and Hazards
Manifest zones usually impose one or more of the universal traits of their associated plane. As such, manifest zones related to the same plane can produce dramatically different effects. The Straits of Shadow have the Eternal Shadows trait of Mabar, but don’t consume life. On the other hand, there are stories of regions where the Hunger of Mabar trait can trigger without warning, swiftly killing living creatures and leaving shadows in their place. Such zones create graveyards of haunted airships; new ships pause to investigate the derelicts, only to suffer the same fate when the Hunger of Mabar manifests once more. Risian zones that manifest the Lethal Cold trait of the plane are eternal blizzards, but a Risian zone that has the Stagnation effect might be less obvious to observers. Kythri zones can produce bizarre, psychedelic forms of weather—and vessels that pass through these prismatic storms can be affected by the Constant Change trait of the plane, suffering unexpected transmutation effects. And in addition to having chunks of stone that simply serve as obstacles for ships, a Lamannian zone could produce intense hurricanes or storms, or even an airport Sargasso that seeks to entangle ships with rapidly growing vines. These are just a few examples; there are countless possibilities, and zones can be of any size. A massive Fernian firefall may be a major obstacle travelers have to skirt around; on the other hand, there could be a Kythri zone that’s so small it’s never actually been noticed and recorded, but it’s enough to cause trouble when your ship passes through it. These environmental manifest zones are often hazards to be avoided, but some can produce valuable resources with uses in arcane industry… while others can serve as shelters or blinds for travelers with nefarious intent.
Islands, cloud castles, and manifest wonders all give a reason for people to reach for the sky. In canon Eberron, air travel is quite limited and dominated by House Lyrandar. And in my campaign, the elemental airship as we know it remains a recent development and the pride of House Lyrandar. But there is another form of common air travel that forms the basis of commerce and the target of piracy, and that’s tied to the Skylines. Also known as planar currents, skylines are vast, invisible channels of energy that connect major aerial manifest zones. The strongest currents weave together threads of different planes, but there are lesser currents branching off to minor the least zones.
Ships capable of traveling along the Skylines are properly called manifest vessels, though ‘airship’ remains the common word for all large air vehicles. Manifest vessels don’t hover under their own power. Instead, they are buoyed by the energy of the skyline. While within a skyline, a manifest airship is much like a submarine (immersed within the medium it travels through as opposed to traveling on the surface of it). Left untended, a manifest airship will remain suspended in the line. However, should a vessel travel out of the skyline, it will fall to the earth. The energy of the line grows weaker the closer you get to the edge, which in turn slows the ship; any capable navigator can recognize the warning signs and keep their ship safely in the current. But it is possible to sail a ship out of the current and into the open—and unsupportive—air. Skylines vary in size; the largest is about a mile in diameter, while the smallest skyline might be just fifty feet across—though they can have “shallows” extending farther for vessels willing to risk them.
The larger a vessel is, the stronger the current needs to be to support it. So while there are small skylines that connect lesser manifest zones, a large vessel can’t travel along these lines, just as a supertanker can’t travel along a stream. This means that a small, fast vessel can travel along lesser lines that trade ships can’t take—or just skirt the edges of a line, where the currents are too weak to support a larger ship, just as a water vessel would need to be careful to avoid running aground in shallow water. All of these things combine to support aerial piracy. The first element is that there are recognized, established trade routes and that large vessels have to stick to these paths. This is also how things like firefalls and the Strait of Shadows come into play. If you take the major skyline from Rekkenmark to Vedakyr, you’re going to pass over the Nightwood and the Strait of Shadows; avoiding it would require following a different set of skylines that will add a few days to your travel time, and they will likely have other hazards you’ll have to deal with. But it’s also the case that smaller vessels can travel along lesser lines—allowing them to take direct paths and also, allowing raiders to strike a ship on a main line and then flee along the lesser currents.
In setting up an aerial campaign, an important question is how ships REACH the Skylines. If you want to keep it simple, major aerial manifest zones can drop pillars down to the surface—so you can descend from Silverwood to the ground safely. On the other hand, this could be limited to specific manifest zones; for example, it could be that Syranian manifest zones like Sharn become crucial ports where major manifest vessels can descend to the surface, while in lesser zones only small ships can descend, leading to systems of tenders or away teams using skystaffs or flying mounts.
Skylines are largely stable and predictable, but manifest zones can be unpredictable. A major skyline usually has a number of minor zones along its path that fluctuate in strength, like the Mabar or Kythri zones mentioned above. Thus you can have the equivalent of weather, as a Kythri zone that’s long been dormant suddenly flares up with a prismatic storm. It’s also the case that a skyline is still subject to MUNDANE weather; when you aren’t dealing with rocs or firefalls, you’ll still have to handle thunderstorms and blizzards!
There are maps of the major skylines across Khorvaire, but there may still be skylines that have yet to be explored, especially those tied to minor currents or remote zones. Adventurers could discover a new line or be hired to accompany a vessel exploring a new line, not knowing what zones or threats they will encounter along its path.
COMMERCE AND TRAVEL
The manifest airship is the main form of traffic along the Skylines. Most manifest vessels have a top speed between ten to sixteen miles per hour. The most energy efficient way to travel is using manifest sails, which can be arranged to catch the planar currents; such vessels are typically on the slower side unless they can also harness wind. Faster ships use a manifest engine that burns dragonshards to produce motive power; House Cannith produced the first manifest engine, but the Arcane Congress produced its own form of it. House Lyrandar doesn’t have a monopoly on manifest travel, but they have produced small vessels capable of combining wind power and manifest sails, enabling them to move swiftly at lower cost than other ships.
The skylines and manifest travel are the most COMMON form of air travel, but not the only one. The timeline for the development of the elemental airship remains the same; House Lyrandar launched the first commercial airship eight years ago. With a typical cruising speed of twenty miles per hour and the ability to follow any path—completely ignoring the established skylines—the elemental airship stands ready to upset the established balance of power. However, Lyrandar’s fleet of elemental airships is still quite small, and their manifest sails are still less expensive to operate—so Lyrandar continues to sail the Skylines in addition to charting new paths with their elemental ships.
While manifest ships remain the most reliable way to travel over long distances, there are many short-range options and flying mounts. This article discusses some of those. I’d make skystaffs (brooms of flying, just not shaped like brooms) more widespread in a campaign with a strong aerial focus. Hippogriffs have long been the traditional canon mount, though fifth edition swapped the balance and made hippogriffs slower than both griffons and giant eagles; if you want to preserve the older balance, you could introduce a Vadalis hippogriff that has an flight speed of 90 ft but only inflicts 1d8 with its bite attack and 2d4 with its claws. Likewise, Syranian manifest zones that enhance flight—like the zone in Sharn and most regions with Syranian clouds—will support skycoaches and other local flying vehicles. As a note, if you find that the speeds of the ships feel too slow, feel free to increase them. A modern cruise ship travels at an average speed of 20 miles per hour, and I’m using naval speeds as a benchmark here. I could see doubling those speeds, but if you get to the sorts of speeds we see in modern air travel, among other things, ships don’t stay in the air that long and you don’t have as much opportunity for piracy!
So in this version of the setting, Skylines become a secondary form of river—paths that connect communities and serve as paths of transit and commerce. Many major cities are built near or under Syranian clouds or Lamannian islands, while other sky islands serve as hubs in their own right. In this version of the setting, Arcanix was built in its current location rather than being moved; if Aundair DID seize Arcanix from Thrane during the war (as presented in canon history), it likely belongs to Aundair/Thaliost at some previous point and was lost to some form of bureaucratic motion during the long history of Galifar. Had I time, I would go deeper into the flavor of the skies of each nation. I’ve always called out Aundair as having strong ties to Thelanis, which would make Thelanian clouds more common there. Karrnath is home to the Strait of Shadows and other Mabaran zones, and I would see it having some rocky Lamannian islands; Breland has more Syrannian clouds and a few resource-rich Lamannian islands that are being harvested to support its industry. The Lhazaar Principalities are home to Korran’s Belt and other small islands—some claimed by Principalities, others left empty. Which brings us to…
PIRATES AND ADVENTURERS
In this vision of the setting, air travel is a common activity. Lyrandar has the fastest and most efficient ships, but every nation has ships in the air, along with countless independent merchants. The Skylines create established shipping lanes… which in turn create targets for piracy. It’s up to the DM to decide just how crowded the sky is. It could be that sky islands are relatively rare, or it could be that formations like Korran’s Belt are actually found across Khorvaire; if these Lamannian chains have valuable (and possibly renewable) resources, sky mining could be an important commercial activity.
With this in mind, sky piracy would operate much like piracy on the sea. Pirates would find vulnerable spots in the shipping lanes, places where it’s easy for a raiding ship to hide. Pirates would likely use smaller manifest vessels, focusing on speed and the ability to go into shallow currents or along lesser lines where other ships couldn’t follow. On the other hand, you could easily have gangs of skystaff raiders or beast riders operating over short distances, boarding a vessel and then seizing control of it to take it to a nearby friendly port. I can also imagine a well-established Skyline that runs through particularly dangerous territory—with a significant number of mini-Kythri zones generating prismatic storms, Mabaran graveyards, chunks of Lamannian rock that are barren but dangerous—which is thus shunned by legitimate travelers but has become a haven for smugglers, pirates, and others willing to run the dangerous path. Let’s call that The Gray Road—and saying that someone “takes the Gray Road” is a slang term for up to no good. And again, the places where the Gray Road intersects with other skylines would be prime spots for piracy.
In general, the principle of the Gray Road gives room for adventure. There can be known skylines that aren’t used by commercial traffic because they’re just too dangerous—so people know about paths that ships can take, but they haven’t been thoroughly explored. Beyond this, there can be lesser lanes that can’t support large ships… but the player characters have obtained a revolutionary vessel that can stay aloft in the shadows, and they’ve been charged to do some exploration and trailblazing. What’s the story of that Thelanian island? Can you steal an artifact from Graystorm’s hoard? Alternately, adventurers can be bounty hunters or privateers, venturing down the Gray Road or into other dangerous currents in pursuit of known pirates or war criminals.
Looking to pirates, the simplest thing is to make use of the pirates we already know. The Lhazaar Principalities raid the seas because that’s all that’s available. But in this campaign, the Principalities could extend into the air. The Wind Whisperers might have the fastest ships, but the Cloudreavers could be the most brutal of the sky raiders. And despite the captain’s comment in the opening quote, the Bloodsails would likely love to linger in Mabaran zones like the Strait of Shadows. Over Droaam you’ll have to worry about harpies and gargoyles, not to mention the concept of a wyvern-riding Dassk force. In the Mror Holds there could be a gang of manticore-riding brigands. And worst of all, who knows what’s become of the skies over the Mournland? Have the effects of the Mourning destroyed the skylines above Cyre, or have they been transformed or seeded with monsters?
Obviously this is only the tip of the floating iceberg, but I’m afraid it’s all the time I have for the topic. You may want to read my article on Airships or Flight in Eberron, though neither considers the concept of widespread flight. As always, thanks to my Patreon supporters for choosing the topic and making these articles possible!
When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my patrons on Patreon. Last week I wrote about cyclopes. Today, let’s look at another monster you don’t see every day. Patron Travis asks do you envision an niche for perytons in Eberron?Why yes, yes I do.
Peryton? That’s an old legend, child, tied to the long nights of old Karrnath. It’s said that when love and murder are intertwined, the shadow of the victim can congeal and pool in their heart. When carrion birds consume the heart of the corpse, the anguished shadow can slip into them. The tormented spirit changes the birds into vessels for its pain, making them huge, horned, and hungry things. The only respite the peryton has is when it consumes the heart of another humanoid… and then, for a short time, its pain will pass.
That’s the OLD story, the one your grandmother may have known. But she’d probably never seen a peryton, likely never knew it as anything but a story. Here, we know them to be the hungry truth. The peryton is tied to murder and to vengeful shadows. Well, child, thirty years ago there was a war within the House of Shadows. The elves turned on one another, and the Thuranni wiped out the Paelion family. Those elves had strong shadows to begin with, and they were strengthened by both rage and poisoned love, for this was a battle of kin against kin. When the carrion birds feasted on the Paelion dead, the shadows they consumed were stronger than anything. These monsters—they’re as much shadow as flesh. Cut one of them and you’ll see the shadow-form below the fur and feathers, as much a part of it as its blood; mere steel won’t cut that shadow, you be warned of that. And you’ll see—the creature’s shadow, it’s no bird shape. It’s the shadow of an elf, twisted in anguish.
What we’ve got in these woods? Don’t call it a peryton, child. Call it what it is. Call it a paelion. And be warned. They’re hungry for the hearts of elves, for those that betrayed them. But in the end, they’re just hungry… and when they hear the beat of your heart, they’ll come for you.
The peryton is a creature created by Jorge Luis Borges that combines the features of a stag and bird. Like the medusa and the gorgon, D&D’s interpretation of the peryton has always diverged from the source material. As presented in 5E D&D, the peryton is a monstrosity with human-level mental ability scores. Perytons understand Elvish but can’t speak. They are noteworthy for casting humanoid shadows, as seen in the image from the original AD&D Monster Manual I’ve included above. The 5E peryton is resistant to non-magical physical attacks, though no explanation is given for this resistance. And the story is suggested that the perytons were formed when carrion birds fed on the corpse of someone who died associated with murder and magic.
The Paelion perytons—which I’ll refer to as paelions going forward—build on that idea. There’s something about this particular region in northern Karrnath that makes the peryton curse possible. Perhaps it’s an unsual manifest zone, perhaps the forgotten working of an overlord such as Sul Khatesh. Whatever the case, there’s a place where carrion birds can consume the essence of people who’ve been murdered; and the Thuranni in the region knew nothing about this when they killed a Paelion family living there. The corpses were left to rot, but their shadows lingered, vengeful and strong… and when the crows consumed those shadows, they became monstrous paelions.
A paelion is a medium-sized monstrosity with traits of stag and eagle. But what truly defines it is its shadow. The shadow cast by the paelion has the appearance of an elf. This shadow is always visible, even when there is a limited light source. This shadow is a fragment of a slain Paelion elf, and it grants the paelion its understanding of Elvish and near-human intelligence, but it is only a fragment of the dead elf; its sentience is a blend of bestial instinct and elvish memories. A paelion is driven by its hunger both for humanoid hearts and for vengeance, but it can’t fully remember or parse the reason in craves vengeance or what proper vengeance would look like. A paelion can predict and anticipate humanoid behavior—it understands houses, weapons, tools—but can’t just choose to sit and have a friendly conversation as a normal person would; the fires of hunger and vengeance are always driving it to hunt and feed. If adventurers could find a way to dull that consuming hunger, it’s possible that a paelion could regain some of the sentience and personality of the elf within its shadow, but finding a way to achieve this would be a difficult challenge.
The paelion’s humanoid shadow is a sliver of a murdered Paelion elf. While it manifests most obviously as a visible phenomenon, the shadow is also suffused through the creature’s body. This is the basis of the paelion’s resistance to non-magical physical damage; when you cut or pierce the paelion, you see the shadow of the creature still intact within the world. Beyond this, the strength of this shadow and the effects it can have vary from paelion to paelion. Here’s a few possible options. Spells use Charisma as their spellcasting modifier; a spellcasting peryton might have a higher than average Charisma.
Paelion Peryton Shadow Traits
The shadow can speak Elvish and may sing traditional Phiarlan songs. This is instinctive and isn’t consciously controlled by the peryton itself.
The shadow can take on other shapes; the peryton can cast minor illusion as a bonus action.
The shadow is aggressive; the peryton can cast chill touch as a bonus action.
If the peryton is slain, its shadow lingers as an independent shadow.
The shadow guides the peryton, providing it with darkvision with a range of 120 ft.
The peryton can unleash its shadow to cast darkness. Once it’s used this ability, it can’t cast darkness again in this way until its completed a long rest.
Why does this matter?
The Paelion peryton can just be an interesting regional monster. There’s a village in Karrnath where the people are haunted by beautiful songs that come from the deep woods, but anyone who follows the song never returns; the villagers could throw a coin to their Witcher adventurers to deal with this threat. Traveling adventurers could be attacked by paelions, especially if there are elves or Khoravar in the party. So, they could just be monsters. On the other hand, if the adventurers have any personal connection to the Shadow Schism, these creatures could be vital as one of the last links to the true events of the Schism and the lingering remnants of the Paelion line. Perhaps there’s a way to restore the creatures to full consciousness, or even to isolate their shadows and return them to humanoid bodies. If not, it could still be the case that one of the songs sung by a paelion’s shadow reveals a key truth about the Schism… or perhaps, a clue to a hidden Paelion vault that holds a lost treasure, whether that’s an artifact, a secret, or even a long-forgotten song.
That’s all for now! If you have an interesting Eberron question and would like to help determine the subject of future articles, check out my Patreon!
2023 continues to be an extremely busy year. Among other things, I’m taking part in the liveplay session Destiny of Worlds, where I play Merrix d’Cannith of Eberron next to Ed Greenwood as Elminster of Shadowdale! If you haven’t seen it yet, the first two episodes are available here. I’m working on a larger article I’ll have out in the next few days, but in the meantime I wanted to address a few more questions from my patrons on Patreon. Such as…
How would you use cyclopes in your Eberron?
I’ve never used cyclopes in a campaign, and I think this raises an important secondary aspect to this sort of question… which is not just how I’d use a thing in Eberron, but WHY I’d add whatever that thing is to a campaign. While there’s a place for everything in Eberron, just because you CAN add something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. My question is always how will this make my story more interesting? Why will encountering a cyclops be a compelling experience for the players… and how will it be different from dealing with an ogre chib or an ettin in the Barrens? Fourth edition made cyclopes fey, tying them to fomorians and playing up the idea of the “evil eye.” But in fifth edition they’re just giants with poor depth perception. If I’m going to use those cyclopes in my campaign, I want to add something that makes them interesting.
Sight is the thing that immediately stands out with a cyclops. 5E gives them poor depth perception, but I like the idea of balancing that with a supernatural gift. Two thoughts immediately come to mind.
Plane Sight. It’s said that the first cyclopes were giants who yearned to see things no one else could see. They were so driven that they each plucked an eye from their skulls and cast them into the void; each found their way to a different plane. Now every cyclops sees two worlds at once they see the material plane through the eye in their head… but each cyclops is bound to another plane, and they perceive that plane overlaid atop the material. This is similar to my vision of the kuo-toa of the Thunder Sea, but where the kuo-toa are all bound to Dal Quor, each cyclops is tied to a different plane.
The first thing I like about this is that it gives me an immediate foundation to make every encounter with a new cyclops unique, because its personality and abilities may be affected by its unique vision. Consider…
A cyclops who is an unexpectedly sophisticated warrior, because they see into Shavarath and have studied the combat techniques of the celestials and fiends. Such a cyclops could be a dangerous foe, but they could also potentially be a swordmaster who’s able to teach manuevers that can’t be learned anywhere else on the material plane.
A cyclops who lives in a desolate cave but who is a surprisingly erudite sage; they perceive Syrania and while sitting in their cave, they are reading books in the library of a Dominion of Knowledge.
A cyclops who perceives Dal Quor, who sees the nightmares of their enemies. Do they use this knowledge to frighten enemies in battle, or do they actually use it to try to help people understand their dreams and face their fears?
Even following this model, not every cyclops has to be so clever and sophisticated; as presented in 5E, the default cyclops only has an 8 Intelligence and 6 Wisdom. So for every Shavarath-linked cyclops who has mastered celestial martial arts, you could have four more who are just especially aggressive because they perceive themselves as being constantly surrounded by war. Likewise, a cyclops who sees Dal Quor COULD just be confused by these visions—reacting to the dream-personas of adventurers rather than their physical selves—as opposed to making clever use of this model. I prefer to play with the more intelligent cyclops, but they can still be brutes if that’s what your story calls for.
Piercing the Veil. Rather than seeing into other planes, another option is to allow cyclopes to see into the Ethereal Veil. What I like about this idea is that it could lead to cyclopes dwelling in haunts, because they perceive the haunted echo of what once was. A cyclopes lives in the burnt-out ruins of a manor because it still sees Lady ir’Halan’s grand ball. Some cyclopes could take this further and serve as mediums, learning to communicate with ghosts and shades. Less sophisticated cyclopes might see the denizens of the haunt, but be unable to communicate with them; but they could still see these ghosts as companions. Either way, a cyclops could be an interesting way to draw adventurers’ attention to a haunted location. If I went down this path, I would probably go ahead and grant cyclopes the ability to see invisible objects and creatures, as see invisibility also grants ethereal sight.
But where are they from? My basic inclination is to keep cyclopes as being rare and remarkable, rather than to introduce a nation of cyclopes somewhere in the world. There’s a few options. They could be creations of the daelkyr Belashyrra; do they have any loyalty to the daelkyr or was this purely an abstract experiment? They could be native fey, each with a story, much like I’ve said of hags in this article. They could be the devolved descendants of giants from the Group of Eleven. However, what I would do is to make them a strain of ogre—making cyclops sight a rare, recessive trait that occasionally appears among ogre communities. In the ancient nation of Borunan, these eye-seers were celebrated for their plane-sight, which was usually tied to Shavarath or Fernia. They are rarely seen in the present day, but can still appear in any ogre bloodline. In Khorvaire they’re mostly found in Droaam, but can potentially be encountered anywhere on the continent.
That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. And check out Destiny of Worlds!
When time allows, I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons. This has been an exceptionally busy month and I’ve largely only been able to answer questions on my Patreon, but I’m going to try to get to a few more this week, starting with this one.
The Blood of Vol asserts that everyone has the potential to become a god, but that no one actually has yet. How does this appeal to a commoner? Maybe a player character can believe that they’ll be the first one to do it, but isn’t this kind of like saying it’s a religion in which no one’s ever made it to heaven yet, but hey, maybe you’ll get lucky?
So the first thing to recognize is that the typical Seeker (someone who believes in the Blood of Vol, short for “Seeker of the Divinity Within“) doesn’t expect to become a god. A basic principle of the faith is that we all could become gods, but that the curse of mortality was created to prevent us from doing so—that you will die before you can unlock your true potential. It’s not a question of “maybe you’ll get lucky.” You won’t get lucky. You will die first. That’s literally why death exists. That’s not the goal of the faith.
So what is the goal of the faith? Let’s look at the basic principles presented in Eberron: Rising From The Last War.
Everyone has a spark of divinity. Find that power within.
Death is the end, Dolurrh is oblivion, and if the gods exist, they are cruel. Stand with those you care for; all we have is this life and each other.
Working backwards, the first thing the Seeker faith does is to provide an explanation for injustice and suffering. Why is there death and disease? Why do our crops fail and our children die? Because the universe is cruel. There’s no benevolent skyfather, there’s no happy afterlife at the end of the rainbow. If there are gods, they’re jealous beings who hoard their power and laugh at our pain. This is why the faith thrives in the harshest parts of Khorvaire; it’s the faith of a people who see suffering every day, and who seek an explanation for it. And that explanation is life is cruel. But what the Seeker faith tells you is to FIGHT. The universe is against us. This life is all we have. So fight for those you care about. Protect your family and your friends, because the world WILL try to take them from you. To be a Seeker is to know that there is misfortune around every corner, to be ever ready for the next plague or famine, because you know the universe will take any chance to screw you over. But it’s also to know that you will not lay down and die… and even if you do die, damn it, let your family animate your corpse so you can keep fighting for them until your bones are ground to dust.
And when it comes to fighting… Everyone has a spark of divinity. Find that power within. The common Seeker doesn’t expect to become a god, to fully unlock their Divinity and to become an omnipresent entity with the power of a Sovereign. But the SPARK of that power is within them… and they CAN draw on that power. This is most obvious in the magic of Seeker paladins, clerics, and adepts. Seekers believe that their divine spellcasters draw power from their own divine sparks. Each Seeker cleric is, in essence, their own deity. But what of the commoner who can’t cast divine spells? Well, consider the Vassal smith, who asks Onatar for guidance when they start their work. Consider the Vassal soldier who asks Dol Dorn for strength and courage in battle. They aren’t paladins or clerics, but they believe that they can get strength and guidance from a higher power. The Seeker soldier or smith believes the exact same thing—except that the higher power is within them. The Seeker knows that they have divinity within their blood… that they CAN perform miracles. They have the courage they need. They have the ability to make the finest sword that’s ever been seen. They don’t need to ask some alien force to help; the power is within them. A Seeker doesn’t ask Olladra for good fortune; they know that they can make their own luck. And if it doesn’t work? Well, that’s the cruel universe for you; spit in its eye and keep fighting.
So how does the Blood of Vol appeal to the commoner? It explains why you suffer. It urges you to defy the cruel fates and to fight for a better life, and it tells you that you have the power you need to fight. It doesn’t promise some gilded afterlife at the end of the road; death is the end. But that is exactly why it urges you to FIGHT for yourself and for everyone you care about. Because this life is all we have. Make it count.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
When you’re playing a Seeker, keep a few things in mind.
Some Seekers believe that the Sovereigns exist and that they are cruel. “As flies to wanton boys, so are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.” Others believe that there are no deities, that the universe sis simply an impersonal engine of cruelty. Where do you fall on this scale? Do you believe that it’s theoretically possible to some day make the Sovereigns pay for their cruelty, or is the only fight that matters the struggle to survive?
As a Seeker, you’re always prepared for the worst. You expect nothing but cruelty from the world. Plague, disease, war, greed—whatever can go wrong surely will. You ration your food because there could be a famine next month… and when it happens you’ll be ready. The followers of the Silver Flame are prepared for the fiendish apocalypse; the Seekers are prepared for house fires, flash floods, flu outbreaks, and every other mundane, shitty thing that could happen. So as a Seeker, you’re never surprised when something bad happens. Of course you rolled a 1; the universe hates you.
… But again, part of what it means to be a Seeker is that you will fight against that cruelty. You’ll extinguish the fire. You’ll save your child from the flood and you will nurse them through the flu. You won’t give the universe the satisfaction of surrender.
And most crucially, you will fight for everyone you care about. You know that we can’t survive alone. Encourage teamwork. Try to form connections to the people you are working with, because you will need those connections to survive. You may be grim, but you’re not a lone wolf; you recognize the importance of standing with a pack.
As a divine spellcaster, you believe that your magic comes from within you. You’re drawing on your own divine spark. When you use divination, you’re being guided by the god you could become. Even if you’re not a divine spellcaster, you believe that you have that power within you, that you are being guided by your own divinity. Where others would pray to a higher power and say give me strength, you say I know that I have the strength I need within me.
What about necromancy? The Seeker refuses to surrender to death. We were cursed with mortality by the cruel universe; necromancy is a way to give that universe the finger. You killed my father? Well, he’s right here fighting alongside me. The Seeker faith asserts that death is oblivion and, therefore, there is no reason to have reverence for a corpse; a corpse is a tool, and if it can serve the greater good, that’s something any Seeker would want. Beyond that, Seekers have learned how to channel the energies of Mabar into necromantic rituals as a way to contain the negative environmental effects of those energies; in places like Atur, Seekers make significant use of necromancy because it’s actually vital to the ongoing health of the city.
So as a Seeker you may be grim and stoic. You may expect the worst from the world. But you know that we need to stand together to survive. You value friendship, love, and community, and you will fight fiercely for those you care about. And as seen in Atur, make sure to celebrate the joys of life when you can.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always to my Patreonsupporters for making these articles possible, and look for a bigger article later in the week!