IFAQ: Kalashtar quest-givers, the Dreaming Dark, and Quori Minutiae

A young kalashtar holding a magical sucker and a ball of silver flame.
The kalashtar orphan Tari by Matthew Johnson.

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one from this month…

In a campaign in which the Dreaming Dark is the primary villain, would the Kalashtar be the right quest-givers? How aware are the Kalashtar of the schemes of the Dreaming Dark? How would Kalashtar or other NPCs learn of Dreaming Dark plots?

So first of all, this question is sort of like saying In a campaign in which the daelkyr are the primary villains, would the orcs be the right quest-givers? To which the answer is that Gatekeepers would be the most likely quest givers. Ghaash’kala orcs, Jhorash’tar orcs, a Tharashk inquisitive working the mean streets of Sharn—they’re not going to know anything about the daelkyr. This is key here because the automatic answer is that followers of the Path of Light are an excellent option for drawing adventurers into the schemes of the Dreaming Dark. But not all kalashtar follow the Path of Light, and even among those that do there are different approaches among the faithful. A few quick points to keep in mind…

  • The kalashtar have been separated from Dal Quor for almost two thousand years. The rebel quori escaped Dal Quor before Riedra existed as a nation. So it’s not like they split off a few years ago and have lots of inside info. Especially because…
  • The kalashtar don’t dream in Dal Quor. Contrary to popular belief, kalashtar DO dream. Their dreams are formed from their own memories and subconscious and those of their linked quori spirit. But because they don’t dream in Dal Quor, they can’t be affected by dream and more important, they can’t actually spy on the Dreaming Dark in Dal Quor. Within Adar, there are human devotees of the Path of Light who are trained to serve as dream-spies, going where kalashtar can’t. So the Adaran Path of Light has access to some inside information, but that’s because of their human agents.
  • Kalashtar can’t usually talk to their quori. Kalashtar don’t have casual conversations with their guiding spirits; instead, they are guided by instincts and visions. It’s something that could happen under exceptional circumstances. The most common would be a kalashtar spellcaster framing their divination magic as communicating with their quori, but as a DM you could have a kalashtar get a direct message from its quori in a dream vision or something similar. But it’s not normal. The kalashtar feel the presence of their guiding spirit, but they can’t just say “Ashana, tell me everything you know about the Dreaming Dark“… and likewise, it’s possible for an orphan kalashtar to fail to recognize the nature of their spirit, just believing they have interesting dreams and strong hunches.
  • Kalashtar are at least latently psionic and could be sensitive to psychic disturbances. And this can be a key to the adventure hook. Kalashtar don’t have a direct backdoor into the plans of the Dreaming Dark. But the Path of Light is aware of the Dreaming Dark, and kalashtar in general may be able to sense when something is off—when quori have been manipulating emotions, mind seeding people, etc. This isn’t something concrete or reliable like a paladin’s Divine Sense. But as a story device, a DM could certainly say You feel something wrong here, Virashana… a pervasive, unnatural sense of despair. You can feel Ashana’s concern. This same concept can easily be used as a basis for kalashtar quest-givers. They don’t KNOW the plans of the Dreaming Dark, but they feel that something is wrong… can you investigate, adventurer?

So keeping that in mind, let’s revisit the question… In a campaign about fighting the Dreaming Dark, would kalashtar be the right quest givers? They COULD be, but what that would look like would depend on the individual. A key point here is that as a DM running a long term campaign I’m usually not going to start by stating on day one The Dreaming Dark are infiltrating House Cannith and planning to create an army of warforged vessels they’ll use to conquer Khorvaire! What I want is for the players to learn about the Dreaming Dark and their greater scheme organically… to interfere with a minor scheme and then slowly get pulled deeper and deeper into it. My novel series The Dreaming Dark deals with, surprise, a scheme by the Dreaming Dark. But they don’t even get MENTIONED in Book One; there’s simply an incident in which the protagonists cross paths with a kalashtar. In Book Two the character returns to help them with a problem and avoiding spoilers, the story evolves from there. So this is a case where a kalashtar drives the story… but she doesn’t just show up in Book One and say “You must come with me now to fight the Dreaming Dark!

Taking all that in mind, let’s consider three different kalashtar, any of which could be PCs or NPC quest givers.

TARI (pictured above) is an orphan who grew up in the Shadow Marches. They’ve never met another kalashtar and didn’t know the word until someone else used it to describe them; they still don’t really know what that means. They know nothing about the Dreaming Dark or the Path of Light, and have instead found their way to the Silver Flame. Mechanically they are a divine soul sorcerer, with their powers flavored as a blend of silver fire (guiding bolt, sacred flame) and psychic influence (charm person, hold person, detect thoughts). The idea is that all of this is largely intuitive, driven by their compassionate spirit and their unrecognized link to their quori. Tari is better suited to being a PC than an NPC; part of the point of the character is that they are connected to powerful forces they don’t yet fully understand, and that they can receive guidance and visions from both the Flame and their quori. So as a PC, Tari COULD lead the other adventurers into a scenario with the Dreaming Dark, but the idea is that they wouldn’t know what they were getting into… they’d just know that something is wrong and needs to be investigated, and THEY would learn about the Dreaming Dark along with the other adventurers as they dig deeper into the adventure.

VIRASHANA is a kalashtar soulknife rogue from Breland. She was raised in the Path of Light and knows its traditions, and if she’s in Sharn she knows people in Overlook; but overall she operates alone. She’s what the Path calls a Shadow Watcher—someone who seeks to fight evil directly and forcefully. When she was young, the kalashtar coummunity she was part of was targeted by the Dreaming Dark and her father was killed by an Inspired mindstealer. Now she craves vengeance and has devoted her life to identifying and eliminating mind seeds and other agents of the Dreaming Dark in Khorvaire.

Virashana could absolutely draw adventurers into a story, but she would likely be acting alone: she’s been conducting a personal investigation and she’s identified a threat, and she needs back-up. This story is stronger if one of the player characters has a pre-existing connection to Vira, and even if they’ve never met IN THE CAMPAIGN, this is where I might draw on a character’s background and work with the player to develop a story. Perhaps a Folk Hero, Inquisitive, or former Sentinel Martial once teamed up with Virashana to catch a murderer driven by nightmares. Maybe a former Spy got an unexpected assist from Virashana after his handler mysteriously turned on him (due to a mind seed). If the player is up for it, I might ask them to tell me about the time Virashana saved their life… establishing that she’s a mysterious woman with psychic knives who helped you out with some creepy dream business.

The main point is that Virashana can get a story rolling with her investigation, and she can share general knowledge about the Dreaming Dark, but she’s never been to Adar, she’s never actually met a Riedran Inspired, and she’s not connected to a larger network of kalashtar. She’s great for getting adventurers involved in a small, targeted scenario that will later be revealed as part of something larger. She’ll show up and say Good to see you again, Daine. What’s it been—five years since that ugly business in the Cogs? Well, it’s happening again… something to do with House Deneith. You and your friends free tonight? Dress for the sewers. She’s following a lead, she doesn’t have a lot of information, and she’s going to get her hands dirty whether you join in or not.

ALARKHAD is a kalashtar monk from Adar, sent by the elders to serve as a Lightbringer—combating the Dreaming Dark and other malevolent forces by inspiring the people around him to be better and generally bringing more light into the world. While I’ve described him as a “monk”, mechanically he’s a bard; his Inspiration and bardic magic (mainly enchantment and divination spells) are presented as psionic powers. He can definitely serve as a patron for a group of adventurers. Like the character in my novel, he might just show up when the adventurers need guidance or healing, helping to remove a psychic “curse” one of the characters has been afflicted with in an encounter with quori vessel. Unlike Virashana, he is more likely to guide and advise. Coming from Adar, he has access to a deeper knowledge base and resources, but he dislikes direct, ruthless action and beyond that, he’ll need time both to come to trust the adventurers and to prepare them for the greater conflict that lies ahead.

So after helping them in a previous adventure, Alarkhad might approach the characters and say There is a malevolent force growing in Callestan. Speak to those who are suffering there, and look closely at the agents of House Tarkanan; I cannot say with certainty that they are the source of this corruption, but they may be. He isn’t coming along. He doesn’t actually have a personal stake beyond people are suffering. He’s just letting you know something is rotten in the district of Callestan and you need to check it out. It might not even BE related to the Dreaming Dark — but if you resolve the situation compassionately, he’ll conclude you have the skills and temperament to deal with the more serious scheme he’s aware of.

But what’s the Scheme?

If I’m running a campaign in which the Dreaming Dark are the major villains, I’ll start by coming up with their BIG GOAL. As I’ve said in other places, the first thing I’ll do is pick a catspaw. The Dreaming Dark established Riedra by turning all the existing powers against one another and then presenting the Inspired as unifying saviors. They convinced the people of Riedra to forge their own chains. In my campaign, if they want to conquer Khorvaire they’ll take the same approach. They’ll push the Five Nations to tear themselves apart (canonically, there’s lots of hints that they could have set the Last War in motion) and then present a savior to fill the role of the Inspired in Khorvaire… or, potentially, a different approach that still ends with a stable pacified population, such as an army of quori-possessed warforged. So, who’s the figurehead in this scheme? It could be the ruler of one of the Five Nations; a dragonmarked house; the Twelve; a new religion; an existing religion (new zeal for the Sovereign Host!); a political movement. Whatever this is, it’s going to be something I want to develop over time. I don’t want to send 1st level characters up against THE DREAMING DARK; I want them investigating something smaller. Identify a mind seed. Investigate the actions of a strange warforged that turns out to have an impossible design. Deal with a psychic plague spreading through a bad part of Sharn. Deal with a serial killer driven by dreams. These could be trial runs of something they intend to deploy later, or dominos whose impact won’t be seen until later (the serial killer causes fear in the area which makes people more willing to accept martial law when it’s proposed). This also means that when the player characters solve the problem, they aren’t actually drawing the wrath or attention of the Dreaming Dark. The psychic plague was a trial run; the warforged was a prototype; the serial killer already served his purpose. The adventurers have triumphed and done something good for their community, but the Dreaming Dark’s plan continues to unfold.

I’m creating a smol table for randomly generating Dreaming Dark schemes as a treat for my Patreon supporters (Inner Circle and above). If that sounds like fun, check out my Patreon!

This month, patrons also asked a questions about the Quori themselves…

Are there any Lluora Quori-inspired Chosen lines in Riedra? If yes, which branch of Riedra do they serve?

This is a VERY deep cut. The Lluora quori are an idea I suggest in this article, when someone asked if there could be a quori of sloth. Here’s what I said…

“Sloth” isn’t quite the right word for a quori. The general idea is that quori specialize in developing and manipulating particular emotions or moods. So the key is that this quori—which I’ll call the Lluora—doesn’t embody sloth itself; rather, it specializes in SAPPING MOTIVATION. Consider all the tools of procrastination—creating distracting tasks or options; causing the mortal to endlessly question their decisions, paralyzing them with self-doubt; causing them to question their end goal; encouraging Whataboutism and “Why bother doing anything when nothing will ever really change?” I don’t think they’d be common. One possibility is that they’d be a sort of jailor, trapping mortals in their own mental prisons and preventing them from ever building up the motivation to escape. Another is that they’d advise kalaraq, suggesting ways to undermine mortal motivation.

So sure, there could be a Lluora line. Which branch would they serve? One immediate option is THE GUIDING PATH. The Lluora essentially specialize in preventing progress and quelling resistance by dissolving the motivation to rebel. Another option is THE THOUSAND EYES, serving in the role of jailor described above. But also, it’s important to keep in mind that not every quori specializes in administering RIEDRA. This ties to theoretical quori who deal with greed or envy. There are quori who have no role in Riedra, because their role is to serve the Dreaming Dark as it plants roots in OTHER CULTURES. The lluora CAN help the Guiding Path sap motivation. But it’s going to have a far greater impact *working in the Five Nations* helping to undermine passion and drive. Riedra is a fairly stable machine at this point; it’s Khorvaire where there’s more need to actively inflame greed, doubt, envy, and more.

But there’s another point here. If you make a new type of quori and then aren’t sure how it fits into the Dreaming Dark’s activities on Eberron, remember that QUORI DON’T BELONG ON EBERRON. That’s not why they exist. They SHOULDN’T all have a role to play on Eberron, because THAT’S NOT WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. If you can think of a useful way the Dreaming Dark could use them in its schemes, that’s great. But they are supposed to have a role to play in DAL QUOR; whether there’s something for them to do on Eberron is entirely secondary.

Could you see there being 13-1 types of Quori? I wonder if it too many and I am not sure how make one of types missing.

No, personally I wouldn’t do this. The idea of a missing quori TYPE seems forced. If I was to push a Baker’s Dozen on the quori—and I probably WOULDN’T—I’d say that there are thirteen KALARAQ, but that Taratai is missing. But on reflection I think this is an unnecessary limitation. As for quori themselves, I think thirteen is too FEW. Consider how many different times of demons or devils exist! The ones we know may be the most common types, but I don’t feel a need to completely lock down how many strains there are; I like being able to add a new rare quori type if I think of something cool.

That’s all for now! I need to stockpile firewood for Long Shadows. Oh, with that in mind: I’ll be doing a live Q&A on Saturday, December 23rd at 9 AM Pacific Time for my Threshold patrons; the session will be recorded and made available to Inner Circle patrons after the fact. So, one more reason to check out my Patreon! Patreon support is what makes it possible for me to spend time on Eberron, so thanks to all of you who make this possible!

IFAQ: Sphinxlantis

Every month, I answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. I christened these articles as “IFAQs” with the idea that they are INfrequently asked questions—a chance to ask things you won’t find answered in any sourcebook. And this one is definitely that…

If you had to place Sphinx-lantis anywhere in Your Eberron, where do you think it would be and why? How do you see their civilization as being?

I imagine most of you are saying “Sphinx-what now?” This question is tied to the previous article I wrote on Sphinxes in Eberron. In Fifth Edition, sphinxes have power over time and I suggested a few explanations for that. Here’s the one that’s relevant.

Most recently, (Morgrave scholar) Cord Ennis returned with a refinement of his thesis. Ennis suggests that sphinxes are mortal, civilized creatures, but that the reason there’s no evidence of any sphinx civilization is because they aren’t from this time. There are a number of accounts in which people facing sphinxes in their lairs are shifted through time—the apocryphal tale that Breggor Firstking was a beggar who was given a chance to relive his life and used his knowledge to become a king, or the story of the man who sleeps in a sphinx’s lair without permission and awakes a hundred years later. According to Ennis’s theory, the idea that sphinxes can move through time helps to explain both their seemingly oracular abilities and their interest in seeming cryptic actions; that their enigmatic behavior shapes future events in ways we don’t see, but they do. The lack of any signs of sphinx civilization is because it doesn’t exist in the scope of history as we know it. And further, the fact that sphinxes only manipulate time in their lairs suggests the use of some form of eldritch machine as opposed to the innate powers one would expect in a living manifestation of the Prophecy—that they accomplish time travel using a tool, rather than personal power alone. Ennis asserted that this could explain Flamewind’s observed behavior—at times the cryptic oracle, and at other times almost more of a curious tourist.

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 what 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.

In that article someone asks “How do they reconcile the fall of their civilization? Do they know their time will run out?” Here’s my answer to that.

Certainly. It’s something we see in various versions of Atlantis. Imagine that they know that their civilization will end in one year. The overlords are going to rise and that is absolutely, 100% inevitable: Krypton WILL explode. They don’t have the resources to project their entire civilization beyond the Age of Demons; they can only support, say, one hundred time travelers. And it may even be that they can only support them for a certain amount of time, that they will eventually be pulled back to the doomed dawn. So those one hundred time travelers are essentially stretching that final year out for as long as possible by dwelling in other times — seeing as much as they can of a future their people will never know, cataloguing the wonders of eternity and doing what they can to be a part of legend—to create stories that WILL be remembered—before they are gone.

On the other hand, if you want a more activist story, consider this: what if the reason the sphinxes are tweaking history and shaping stories is because they are creating a point in the distant future that they CAN move their civilization to? Essentially, it’s an even longer game than the Lords of Dust. Each shift—each hero tested—is shifting the number of a combination lock. At some point they will create the future they are looking for, five thousand years from now, when Sphinx Atlantis can leap forward in time and be saved. So they could, essentially, be from both the past AND the future.

And just to have all the information about time-traveling sphinxes in one place, here’s what else I said.

Time Travelers. One of the core elements of sphinxes as time travelers is the idea that they are a mortal civilization. They are advanced beyond any civilization that exists today, but they are individuals using magical tools to accomplish these things—they are arcane scientists and divine spellcasters, capable of observing the tapestry of time and playing a great game with it. If this is the case, Flamewind in Sharn may indeed have very specific events she wants to observe and people she wishes to drive down specific paths, but at the end of the day she is a mortal wizard. She may play the role of being enigmatic and all-knowing, but there’s a touch of the Wizard of Oz; she DOES have knowledge of the future and of the potential destiny of the characters, but she’s not in fact infallible, she is playing her own game, and she also enjoys being a little bit of a tourist between those critical events. Should you follow this path, there’s a few points I’d consider.

  • The spellcasting abilities of a sphinx reflect whether they are a divine or arcane spellcaster—essentially, a wizard or a cleric. Under this approach, gynosphinxes and androsphinxes are simply male and female sphinxes, and it should be possible to encounter an androsphinx wizard or a gynosphinx priestess. A key question is what divine power sphinxes serve; personally, I like the idea that they might have a different sort of relationship with the Progenitors than people of the present day.
  • In shifting themselves or others to another plane, I would specifically use XORIAT. We’ve established that Xoriat is the key to time travel, and I’d assert that the time travel techniques being used by the sphinxes are based in this. The sphinxes aren’t creatures OF Xoriat and have no love for the daelkyr; they are scientists who are USING Xoriat. But they can also toss you into it for kicks.
  • The lair abilities of a sphinx are tied to a form of eldritch machine. Most likely this is specifically linked to the sphinx and cannot be used or even understood by any other creature… But it’s POSSIBLE that someone who’s figured out the mystery of the sphinx and has access to their lair could find a way to hack their time machine. A second specific question is where Flamewind has her lair. If the lair is a machine, it’s not likely to be something she could build in Morgrave University. In the novel City of Towers, this is why she deals with the protagonists in the abandoned temple in Malleon’s Gate; she hangs out at Morgrave, but her LAIR is in Malleon’s.
  • The final point is that time-traveling sphinxes are manipulating events, but they don’t have the same sort of agenda as heralds of Prophecy or Archfey emissaries. They aren’t invested in the outcome in the same way as, say, the Lords of Dust or the Chamber. Ultimately, this isn’t their time and the outcome won’t actually AFFECT them; it’s more intriguing than vital. However, divine sphinxes are more likely to be driven by a divine mission, while arcane sphinxes are more likely to be scientists and researchers.

So, let’s look back to the original question… If you had to place Sphinx-lantis anywhere in Your Eberron, where do you think it would be and why? The answer is simple: It was in a place that no longer exists. This comes back to the idea that it simply isn’t possible for the sphinxes to somehow save it. The overlords ripped their way out of Khyber and they can shape reality with their power. It’s not just a matter so splitting previous continents, though I think that definitely happed. Consider the overlord Ran Iishiv, the Unmaker. It seeks to tear down reality itself, and in the Age of Demons it was free to express that desire; in my opinion, large chunks of whatever existed before were completely destroyed by Ran Iishiv, and that’s just ONE of the overlords. This comes back to the observation in the original article that there are no traces of a sphinx civilization… in my opinion, it’s just one of the pieces of the world that Ran Iishiv unmade while earning that title. There may be TRACES of Sphinxlantis that have somehow survived, but I think they would be more likely to be artifacts than structures.

A second key point is that in my opinion, Sphinxlantis was just one of the civilizations that existed in the past. So what other creatures were around? For starters, dragons and titans. Dragons are said to have emerged from the blood of Siberys falling upon Eberron; they were there at the start. You could use this to play with some of the “First World” ideas, if you want. However, in my opinion “modern” dragon civilization has absolutely nothing in common with the Sphinxlantis-era dragons—whatever civilization existed at the dawn of time were completely annihilated by the Age of Demons. Rak Tulkhesh and Tol Kharash set existing civilizations against one another in brutal wars, while Eldrantulku and Bel Shalor tore them apart from within. The Wild Heart and the Heart of Winter devastated civilizations with the horrifying potential of nature, while Ran Iishiv simply annihilated them. And dragons themselves would be subsumed by the Daughter of Khyber. Again, these are just a few of the overlords and they dominated the world for millions of years… it’s no surprise that little remains. With that said… who else could have existed? Frankly, anyone. Dragons and titans are sure things. But given the role of the Ghaash’kala, it’s quite possible that orcs existed at the dawn of time and survived through the Age of Demons. I’ve joked about the people of the Five Nations attributing Dhakaani ruins to some lost human civilization… but if it suits the story you want to tell, you could say that there was a human civilization in Sphinxlantis, something far more advanced than the present day. A truly odd idea is that the sphinxes were products of a primordial human civilization. Rather than saying that in the past you had sphinx families sitting around a table together at Sphinxsgiving, it could be that the sphinxes were created by the people of Sphinxlantis AS time travelers—that the reason their eldritch machines can’t be used by others is because the sphinxes themselves essentially ARE eldritch machines. You can explore this idea whether or not you use humans as their creators.

Another thing I’d consider: If the myths are accurate, Sphinxlantis predates both the Sovereign Host and the Silver Flame. Earlier I suggest that the divine spellcasting sphinxes may engage more directly with the Progenitors. This ties to something I suggested in my Siberspace campaign—that LILENDS are children of Siberys. There’s some broad similarities between lilends and sphinxes, both blending humanoid and animal features. It could be that the shape of the sphinx is a reflection of a connection to Siberys (though they ARE mortal, not celestial)… or it could be that the people of Sphinxlantis created the sphinxes in partial emulation of lilends and other celestials. In any case, because Sphinxlantis predates the Silver Flame, they would have had more interaction with individual native celestials—couatls, lilends, and more.

Why Does This Matter?

A key question in deciding why this matters depends on the motivation of the Sphinxes, and I presented some options in this article. Do the sphinxes have a mission? Are they paving the way for a new Sphinxlantis to be born in the distant future? Are they playing a cosmic chonological game with one another? Is there actually a secret war being waged between the divine spellcasting sphinxes and the arcane spellcasting sphinxes? Or are they ultimately just tourists, stretching out the final days of their civilization by living out their lives in other times and watching the world that takes their place?

Aside from the sphinxes themselves, one reason this matters is because it is an excellent source of artifacts. Part of the whole point of time traveling sphinxes is that they are more advanced than any modern civilization, including Argonnessen. The certainly had a closer relationship with the native celestials, and may have had a closer relationship with the Progenitors themselves. And any object that has survived from the dawn of time would HAVE to be powerful and virtually indestructible. So this is an excellent origin point for artifacts that are incredibly powerful but have no connection to any known civilization—artifacts that could do ANYTHING.

Typing this, another thought occurs to me. I’ve said that the sphinxes could have had a different relationship with the Progenitors. That could include Khyber. If I wanted to explore a story that deals with the Progenitors as actual, concrete entities I might consider the idea that Sphinx civilization is older than the world itself—that rather than being created BY the Progenitors, the sphinxes could have come to this reality WITH the Progenitors. In this concept, they aren’t celestials because they’re older than the celestials. Though again, this is as a civilization—any individual sphinx is mortal, so it’s not like Flamewind is older that Eberron, but her people were. This could be one reason that they aren’t fighting the destruction of Sphinxlantis… because some among them honor Khyber and believe that Khyber deserved an opportunity to express their vision on reality, at least for a time.

Again, it’s important to me to say that we don’t know if the Progenitors were real or if the creation myth is just a metaphor. But part of the point is that if it is a metaphor, it may be a metaphor in which the reality we know was created not by cosmic dragons but by three immensely powerful mortal individuals—potentially, members of the same civilization as the Sphinxes. I say this in the same way I suggest multiple possible causes for the Mourning: because the answer depends on the story you want to tell. If sphinxes are survivors of the first civilization, THEY may know the true nature of the Progenitors… and may have been their servants, creations, or peers.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and thanks to my patrons for making these articles possible. Also, every month I run an Eberron game and any of my patrons at the $6 Threshold level can apply to play in it… and I’m just setting the time for the December game now. So if that sounds interesting, check out my Patreon!

November IFAQ Roundup: Atur Innovations, Karrnathi Law, and History vs Thelanis!

The wandslinger Three Widow Jane by Matthew Johnson

Each month I answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few interesting ones from November!

We know that Atur has skeletal street crew and Oathbound bartenders, but what are some other more unorthodox examples of casual necromancy within Atur?

Atur, the City of Night, is an independent duchy within Karrnath. This article provides a broad look at the city, while this article takes a closer look at the Grand Duke of Atur. As presented in these articles, Atur is a stronghold of the Blood of Vol in part because the city is built at the heart of a powerful Mabaran manifest zone. This allows for widespread use of necromancy in the same way that the manifest zones of Sharn makes it possible to build sky scraping towers. In fact, the ongoing rituals of the Blood of Vol play a crucial role in channeling and containing the dangerous energies of Mabar. Here’s a key quote from the first Atur article…

The Seekers have no attachment to corpses and most are happy to donate their remains to serve the greater good. As a result, skeletons are found performing menial tasks and manual labor across the city. Because they serve many different functions, they’re generally painted to indicate their service; blood-red for those associated with the Monastery or other temples, dark green for sanitation, black and gold for those tied to the city watch, blue for this tied to commerce; artists add often secondary designs that give each skeleton a little personality. However, these are standard skeletons, possessing limited intelligence; they are managed by Bone Wranglers, specialized magewrights who effectively program the undead.

So, skeletal labor is common place. But what are some other manifestations of necromancy in Atur? Here’s a few.

Bone Beasts. Obedient and tireless, skeletons make excellent laborers. While Atur is infamous for its practice of animating the bones of its citizens, the city makes use of the bones of many creatures. Skeletal horses, oxen, and tribex are found drawing wagons and coaches throughout the city. Skeletal hounds and wolves are employed as tireless watchdogs. Skeletal cats and rats control the living rate population. Skeletal pigeons are used as couriers. If you’re wondering how could a skeletal pigeon fly without flesh or feathers, consider that the bones of a skeletal are held together by mystical force, essentially translucent ectoplasm. It’s this same force that takes the place of the feathers and flesh of a skeletal bird. While the remains of any birds can be used to create couriers, pigeons are the most common choice.

Garghouls. The bonesmiths of Atur aren’t limited to direct animation of remains, and they create many forms of undead that use only parts of a corpse. Garghouls typically use a skull, which is embedded into a door or a statue and empowered to perform specific actions. For example, a door may have a skull embedded into it; the skull is aware of the people on the doorstep, and if you speak the proper password it will unlock the door. Properly enchanted garghouls can speak or sing, though they are not properly sentient and can only repeat phrases implanted by bone wranglers. Garghouls are often used as another form of security, triggering an alarm, glyph of warding, or simply taking notes on intruders or people they observe.

Ghastlights. As called out above, skeletons are held together by an ectoplasmic force. This is typically invisible, but under the right circumstances it can manifest as a green glow. The streetlights of Atur take advantage of this phenomenon. Shards of bone are implanted in lanterns shed an eerie light. The essence burns out over time, so you have bone-tenders wandering the streets with bags of broken bones freshening the lamps. Just as the towers of Sharn rely on the Syranian manifest zone, ghastlights only function in Mabaran zones with the proper traits.

Remnants. Some bonesmiths and wranglers specialize in working with partial remains. Garghouls are one example of this, but there’s a wide range of options. In Atur, you could encounter a gearwheel being turned by a tirelessly pumping pair of skeletal legs, or a chair with a pair of skeletal arms that massage you while you relax. Helping hands are skeletal hands that can be programmed to serve a variety of functions; consider Thing from The Addams Family. Most helping hands aren’t fully sentient and can only perform specific actions. However, there is a ritual that can bind a greater degree of a person’s essence to their hand… creating a creature that uses the stat block of the crawling claw, but without being inherently evil. Bones from a specific creature have a sympathetic resonance, which is why animate dead typically can’t use bones from multiple creatures mixed together. Bonesmiths can work with this connection; mansions in Atur have bone boards, where moving a knucklebone in the dining room (or any other room) rattles a matching fingerbone in the servant’s station.

Funerary Fashion. Remnants can be incorporated into clothing; fingerbones are often used as clasps. One of the more colorful accessories is the rasp, a skeletal serpent programmed to serve as a belt, boa, or other form of adornment. In addition to serving as a practical belt or fashion accessories. Rasps typically use the poisonous snake stat block combined with skeleton traits; they don’t produce poison, but can at least serve as a brief distraction if flung at an enemy and commanded to attack.

Bone Grafts. Eberron: Rising From The Last War introduces prosthetic limbs—common magic items that can take the place of a lost limb. Throughout the Five Nations these are usually made from wood or metal. In Atur, they are typically made from bone—which could be the polished bone from the original severed limb, or the limb of a different creature. It’s up to the DM to decide if these prosthetic limbs function beyond Atur and can thus be encountered anywhere in the world, or if they only function in a Mabaran manifest zone. Beyond their appearance, they function like typical prosthetic limbs. While they are made using necromantic rituals, they draw on the lifeforce of the bearer and thus aren’t affected by turn undead or similar effects. And before anyone asks, you can definitely get a skeletal version of an arcane propulsion arm!

These are just a few examples, but I hope they’ll inspire more ideas!

For a cleric of the Divinity Within, how do you flavor spells/features which explicitly summon or contact external divine creatures? I’m thinking here of things like Summon Celestial, Divine Intervention, Planar Ally, or Commune?

Exploring Eberron has a section on the Blood of Vol that addresses this. Here’s the relevant section…

If the power of the Blood of Vol flows from within, who answers when a cleric conjures a celestial or invokes planar ally? One simple answer is for the DM to use a being who has the statistics of a celestial or fiend, but that is formed from blood and magic; it’s a manifestation of your own divine essence and fades away when its work is done. This might seem a strange match for planar ally, a spell that normally requires payment to an external force, but even an ally of your own essence might demand a service in return. This could be seen as a request from your subconscious—a demand that you do something you know you should do, but that you’ve been trying to ignore. On the other hand, it could be a mysterious task with no discernible purpose; this ties to the fact that your Divinity Within is something beyond mere mortal understanding, and you don’t fully understand what it needs or wants.

Another possibility is that you’re drawing on the Seeker community rather than reaching to the planes for assistance. One principle of the faith is that champions become undead so that they can help other Seekers. When you cast planar ally, rather than calling a celestial or fiend, you might summon an undead champion of your faith; this could be anything from a vampire to a mummy lord or a death knight. In this case, the payment they demand for their service would likely be a tithe to the Seeker temple they are bound to. On a smaller scale, your DM could similarly decide that when you cast conjure celestial, it summons a sarcastic flameskull instead of an angel.

This is another relevant section…

As a divine spellcaster who follows the Blood of Vol, you believe that your power comes from your own soul. As a paladin, you are calling on the power of your own blood when you heal your allies or smite your enemies. The visible manifestations of magic of the Blood of Vol typically involve crimson energy, as if luminous tendrils of blood are flowing from you. But it’s not simply your power. Consider the Seeker priest who casts commune; how can they gain information they don’t already know? The answer is that the divinity within is something far greater than you. It is a god, possessing celestial power you can’t understand or imagine—but it is still in its chrysalis, waiting to be born. When you cast your spell, you awaken a sliver of its power; once the spell is done, it returns to its rest.

How widespread is the acceptance of undead throughout Karrnath? I understand that most Karrns do not know their king is a vampire, and that there are undead laborers in the major cities at least. In Joe Flyspeck village, are undead laborers common as well, or are they rare, or out of vogue, or feared, distrusted, what? What is the perception of both thinking and unthinking undead throughout Karrnath?

Atur is q special case. Chapter 18 of Chronicles of Eberron covers Karrnathi Undead and addresses their wider role in more detail. Here’s a relevant quote…

The followers of the Blood of Vol—who prefer the term Seekers—are the ones who practice necromancy and embrace the undead. The Blood of Vol has had a presence in Karrnath for over a thousand years, but it has never been the faith of the majority. During the Last War, Kaius I embraced the Blood of Vol and it gained greater influence; during this time, the undead were incorporated into the Karrnathi army. In more recent years, Kaius III and the Regent Moranna turned against the Blood of Vol. The chivalric orders of the Seekers were disbanded, and Kaius has used the Seekers as a scapegoat—blaming the famines and plagues that crippled Karrnath on the Seekers.

So with Joe Flyspeck village, the question is whether the village is a community of Seekers or Vassals. If it’s a Seeker village, they will be using undead labor as they have been for centuries. If it’s a Vassal community, they wouldn’t know how to create undead even if they wished to — and most wouldn’t. The people of Karrnath are USED to undead. The Seekers have been using them for over a thousand years, and they were part of the armies of Karrnath for decades. So Karrns won’t flinch when they meet a skeleton soldier or an oathbound (mummy) monk, and many Karrns are simply ambivalent about undead. But there are some who feel that the use of undead and embrace of the Seeker faith was a betrayal of the traditional culture of Karrnath — as noted above, who use the use of undead as an excuse for Karrnath’s losses in the Last War. “If we’d relied on pure Karrnathi steel and skill, King Kaius would be ruling a new Galifar now.” Because of these attitudes, you DON’T see a lot of undead labor in the major cities. Those who associate with undead are generally assumed to be Seekers. But Karrns are USED to undead, and not surprised to find Karrnathi undead used in special cases.

Karrnath is described as using the Code of Kaius, which is based off of the Galifar code of Justice but with more extreme punishments and more specific and strict laws. What could this code look like? What are some examples of how the two compare and how they differ?

Sharn: City of Towers is the best source for information on the Code of Galifar, and talking about what constitutes a crime and how justice is enforced. The Code of Kaius uses the Galifar code as its foundation, but is a form of martial law. Under the Code of Galifar you are innocent until proven guilty, and if a crime is serious enough to go to court you may have a trial by jury. Neither is true under the Code of Kaius. Justice flows summarily from the warlord and their representatives, and there is no recourse or appeal. So what is considered a CRIME is generally the same, but punishments are harsher and often carried out on the spot. Meanwhile, crimes such as treason are interpreted more broadly in Karrnath; there’s no right to free speech, for example. That’s the basic concept; hopefully you can extrapolate from there.

Given how the most famous historical figures are often mythologized and become key facets of their cultures, how do historical figures factor into Thelanis? Is there a Dread Conquerer riding about, endlessly seeking to expand his domain?

So if you’re talking about WARRIORS, the answer you are looking for may lie in SHAVARATH. Consider this section from Exploring Eberron.

All mortal creatures have a spiritual connection to Shavarath, and there’s a sliver of their spirit in the plane. The strength of this sliver is determined by the mortal’s courage, willpower, and martial drive… Sometimes, on the death of a great mortal warrior, echoes of their personality and martial spirit can coalesce into a sword wraith (though its abilities may vary based on the champion it echoes). Unlike standard conscripts, sword wraiths are capable of meaningful action even without the direction of an immortal and can command conscripts of their own. A sword wraith has the appearance of its mortal source and some of the memories, but it’s only an echo of the mortal, much like the traces of memory that allow you to speak with dead. Sword wraiths reconcile their memories with the war within the layer. If there’s a sword wraith of Karrn the Conqueror commanding troops in Nullius Terram, he believes that he’s fighting for Karrnath and can’t be convinced otherwise; after all, he’s only a memory, and there are limits to his ability to reason.

So adventurers might meet a sword wraith of Lhazaar commanding a ship in the Bloody Sea. Dhakaani champions, the Mror clan founders, heroes of the Last War—any of these could be found as sword wraiths, serving the legion that best matches their values. There are sword wraiths of many patron ancestors of the Tairnadal elves; however, these aren’t the patrons themselves, simply echoes left behind. While sword wraiths generally form after a mortal’s death, the slivers of especially remarkable heroes can manifest sword wraiths even while alive. King Boranel of Breland surely has a sword wraith serving in the Legion of Justice, and it’s possible an adventurer could meet their own sword wraith while exploring Shavarath.


Meanwhile, Thelanis isn’t affected by HISTORY or real events. Consider this from Exploring Eberron:

Breland tells tales of the Sleeping Prince, cursed to slumber by a cruel hag until he’s saved by the courage of the Woodcutter’s Daughter. In the Mror Holds, there’s a tale older than Breland itself, in which Lady Narathun curses Doldarun’s son with eternal sleep, until he’s saved by humble Toldorath. And the Dhakaani dar have an ancient story about how Hezhaal—a dirge singer who betrayed the empire and studied sinister magic—cast the marhu’s son into a cursed slumber, until he was saved by a simple golin’dar.

The stories of Thelanis don’t exist BECAUSE of events in the material plane; instead, events on the material plane are sometimes drawn to reflect Thelanian stories. So there may well BE a Dread Conqueror in Thelanis. But if so, there’s ALWAYS been a Dread Conqueror in Thelanis, and scholars will say “Ah, you can see how in Karrnathi folk tales Karrn the Conqueror assumed the role of the Dread Conqueror; but you can find a similar version of these stories in Nulakhesh, based around the deeds of the Iron Emperor.

Amaranthine City Question: If Genghis Khan was an immortal spirit would he be a Irian Celestial or a Mabaran Yugoloth? The man began a huge empire, but he also ended several others.

Part of what you’re running into is the fact that mortals are more complex than immortals. Mortals have shades and dimensions. Immortals embody specific iconic concepts. So with a figure like Genghis Khan, there’s three distinct ideas you could explore which would all be different immortals.

  • In IRIAN you would find the VICTORIOUS EMPEROR—the leader who is uniting people and forging something new, who is riding the glory of his triumphs, who is celebrated by his people and feared by his enemies.
  • In SHAVARATH you could find the WARRIOR KING. Because neither Irian or Mabar is about WAR. If you’re looking for an immortal who embodies the idea of brutal military conquest, that’s an immortal in the Legion of Tyranny.
  • In MABAR you would find the EMPEROR IN DARKNESS, whose strength is fading, whose empire is rotting from within, weakened by corruption and torn by insurrection, the king who still sits on his throne but who knows his days of glory are behind him.

… the further point here is that the story won’t change, because what you’re dealing with isn’t REAL, it’s SYMBOLIC. Mabar is about despair and decay. Irian is about hope and growth. The Victorious Emperor in Irian will ALWAYS be enjoying the rise of his empire, while the Emperor in Darkness will always be sullenly watching it collapse. Meanwhile, yes, the fact that the the triumph of the Victorious Emperor means that other people have been subjugated isn’t the focus of the story in Irian; an immortal in Irian embodies hope and triumph. If you want to see brutal conquest, you need to go to Shavarath. And again, this is what makes the material plane special and what makes mortals special—they can be many things at once. Their stories can evolve and change. They can create hope and despair through the same action. Most immortals are inherently more two-dimensional, because they are symbols, not people. And keep in mind that the mortal Genghis Khan would cast a shadow in Mabar, a sword wraith in Shavarath, an ember in Irian—because he touches them all. As a side note, the idea of the empire-in-decline is one story you could tell about Genghis in Mabar. Another would be the Collapsing Empire—the story of the empire being CONQUERED by Genghis, facing an implacable enemy and knowing the end is near. Again, if the story was about the ACTUAL BATTLE it would be in Shavarath; but if the story is about the DESPAIR and terror of the people forever awaiting the arrival of the Horde, endlessly preparing but knowing no preparations will be sufficient… that’s Mabar.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my patrons for posing these and many other questions, and for making these articles possible. If you have questions of your own—or if you’d like to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign—check out my Patreon!

IFAQ: Hearing Aids, Smugglers, and Dreamlily

Every month I answer questions posed by my patrons on my Patreon site. Here’s a few that have come up this month…

What options does Eberron provide for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? Are there magical hearing aids? Is sign language common place?

There are a variety of tools and options. There are three primary sign languages in use in Khorvaire. Aelada is the oldest visual language that’s still in use today. It is employed by both the Aereni and the Tairnadal, as well as the Bloodsail elves of the Lhazaar Principalities. Kaasvola is a visual language developed by the Dhakaani dar, and is dominant in Droaam, Darguun, and the Shadow Marches. However, the primary form of sign language used in the Five Nations is SSL, Sivis sign language. Aelada is quite complex; Sivis wordsmiths adapted some of its principles, but worked to develop a visual language that was more intuitive and adaptable.

The most common form of hearing aid is the tin ear. Typically taking the form of an earring, this is a common magic item that uses principles of minor image and prestidigitation to compensate for hearing loss. There’s a variety of forms of the tin ear produced by House Cannith, the Arcane Congress, and others, but they operate on similar principles.

Anyone can use a tin ear, but there is another option: a familiar. This article discusses the role of familiars in everyday life in more detail. As described in find familiar, a character with a familiar can can see through their familiar’s eyes and hear what it hears. Normally this requires ongoing concentration, but some people learn a specialized form of the spell that allows them to use the familiar’s senses instead of their own without having to take an action to do so, but only if they are in physical contact with the familiar—so they see or hear through the crow on their wrist or the cat on their shoulder. Some people who use familiars in this way will speak through their crow, raven or parrot familiars.

My campaign involves a criminal mastermind running smuggling operations in the Lhazaar Principalities trying to make a name for themself and become fabulously wealthy. What would they be smuggling, and who would be trying to stop them?

On the whole, the majority of smuggling in Khorvaire deals with relatively mundane goods that are highly taxed in the Five Nations. For every smuggler carrying dreamlily in western Khorvaire, there’s three smuggling harpy sugar… an exotic sweetener from Droaam that happens to be in vogue in Sharn and that’s taxed accordingly. And this is a great option for player characters with a smuggling background. You could have been transporting medical supplies (which is, after all, how the dreamlily trade began…) through blockades. You could have been bringing Marcher moonshine into Sharn, evading the highly unjust Brelish tariffs on this totally innocent beverage (which does NOT make you go blind, or contain Kyrzin-brewed sentient fluids. Honest.) But in this case we aren’t looking for what’s USUALLY smuggled. You might make money smuggling harpy sugar, but you’e not going to make a fortune or develop an infamous reputation. So what’s something dangerous or reprehensible? Something that will generate outrage or make headlines? Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head.

  • Dragon’s Blood from Droaam, a dangerous, addictive drug that temporally grants or enhances sorcerous power.
  • Experimental Jorasco/Vadalis drugs that were condemned as being too risky or harmful.
  • Surplus Cannith weapons developed for Cyre during the Last War, doubly so if they might be unreliable. Probably smuggled out of the Mournland, which further adds the risk that they have been affected by the Mourning in unpredictable ways.
  • Cyran fine art or Cyran cultural treasures smuggled out of the Mournland.
  • Spirit idols from Aerenal, which could perhaps have some value to unscrupulous necromancers (such as the elves of the Bloodsail Principality)—there may be ways to essentially bind the spirit in the idol to create various forms of undead servants.
  • Karrnathi undead that have supposedly been stored in the vaults under Atur, sold with magic items that supposedly allow the bearer to control the undead.

All of the things I mentioned would be illegal under the Code of Galifar or restricted under the Treaty of Thronehold, so any national coast guard would interfere. Aerenal would be especially interested in shutting down the theft of spirit idols, and the Karrns would take the smuggling of undead seriously… though if the smuggler is operating in the Lhazaar Principalities, Karrnath would already be their primary concern.

What about dreamlily? It comes from Sarlona, but the Boromar Clan maintains dens where you can take it, much like opium dens. Do they have experts who have studied and tried to understand it? If so, what have they managed to figure out? What sorts of skills would such experts have?

Dreamlily was introduced to the setting in Sharn: City of Towers, which notes:

Healers first used essence of dreamlily, a powerful opiate from Sarlona, during the Last War. Once the Brelish Crown realized the dangers of addiction, use of this elixir was quickly outlawed. This has not erased the demand for the drug, and the control of the dreamlily trade is a source of significant strife in the Lower-City. Essence of dreamlily is an iridescent, psionically active liquid. It draws on the mind of the user, and tastes like his favorite beverage. Each use of the drug can potentially lead to an overdose, especially for those addicted to it.

If I were to do a quick conversion of dreamlily to fifth edition, I’d say that someone under the influence of Dreamlily is immune to the Frightened condition. They cannot take reactions, and on their turn, they can use either an action or a bonus action, not both. In third edition rules, dreamlily allowed someone to continue to operate normally even when they had 0 to -5 hit points; a similar way to model this would be to grant the user 5 temporary hit points. It’s not supposed to be something adventurers would want to take, though it could be interesting for adventurers to dose themselves with dreamlily before facing a creature that causes fear.

I didn’t mention dreamlily in the preceding answer, because LOTS of smugglers deal in dreamlily—it’s not a commodity that will make a master criminal stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, the general tone of Eberron is more late 19th century – early 20th century than present day, and the dreamlily trade is more like the old opium trade than a modern drug trade with people synthesizing knock offs and variants. In general, the idea is that Sarlonan drugs like dreamlily and absentia (another drug from Sharn: City of Towers, which allows the user to experience the world through another creature’s senses) are mysteries that can’t be replicated in Khorvaire, because in Sarlona you’re dealing both with wild zones and psionics; essentially, they are working with a form of science we don’t understand and have access to (super)natural resources that don’t exist in Khorvaire. The Boromars can’t figure out how to synthesize deamlily because it requires psionic disciplines and plants cultivated in a wild zone.

With that said, if I wanted to do a Breaking Bad story I could imagine someone working with a rogue gleaner (primal magewright) or alchemist artificer — or both — to enhance dreamlily. They still get the core product from Sarlona, but give it a unique twist that makes their product superior to what’s otherwise in the market. On the other hand, I could also imagine Jorasco, Cannith West, and Vadalis working together (this kind of cooperation is why the Twelve exists) to create a new narcotic as a native Khorvairian alternative to dreamlily, which could lead into an opioid epidemic if that’s a story you want to explore.. But again, that’s a generally more modern concept than the canon setting aims at; dreamlily is supposed to be more opium than fentanyl.

That’s all for now! If you’ve got questions of your own, you can pose them on my Patreon. I also hold a live Q&A each month of patrons, and patrons at the Threshold level have a chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. You can check my Patreon out here—and if you’re already a patron, thanks for your support!

A Draconic Miscellany

At the dawn of creation, the blood of Siberys rained down upon the surface of Eberron, blending the essence of the two Progenitors. This union produced the first dragons. While mortal, they were infused with the mystical power of the Dragon Above; magic is as much a part of a dragon as blood or scale. When Siberys’s blood struck the high mountain peaks, the silver dragons were born. Where it struck the desert, brass dragons emerged from the sand. Where it fell into the oceans, bronze dragons emerged from the water. These glittering dragons were echoes of the perfection of the Progenitors. But they weren’t alone. Foul Khyber was bound beneath Eberron, and as the blood of Siberys soaked down into the soil, the influence of Khyber rose up. And so a second wave of dragons were born… still the children of Siberys and Eberron, yes, but touched by the essence of Khyber. Instead of the beautiful metallic scales of the first generation, these younger dragons had scales of flat, base colors—a visible sign of their weakness of body and spirit. 

This is the bitter truth of our chromatic cousins: they carry the legacy of Khyber in their blood and on their scales. Consider the favored form of the Daughter of Khyber. Consider how much stronger her influence is over these dragons than we pure metallics—something seen even in the best of times in their aggressive temperaments and sharp tongues. We cannot blame our cousins for this weakness; we can only pity them, and be even vigilant lest they fall prey to their baser nature. 

-The Loredrake Ourenilach

When creating Eberron, we made a conscious decision to take new approaches to many well known monsters. Eberron  has honorable gnolls and the orcs protect the world from demons and daelkyr. Halfling barbarians ride dinosaurs. Giants aren’t tied to the Ordning. As for dragons, the Eberron Campaign Setting says “Dragons come in all alignments; it is as common to encounter a good red dragon as it is an evil gold dragon. Usually, dragons aren’t monsters in the typical D&D sense; heroes won’t barge into a dragon’s lair looking to plunder its treasure. Instead, dragons are either aloof and unapproachable, or they are curious and manipulative, pulling strings from behind the scenes or trying to influence the world and the Prophecy in arcane ways.” 

In this article, I want to address a number of questions about dragons. Do dragons in Eberron have the same personalities assigned to the colors in the Monster Manual? If not, what are the meaningful differences between chromatic and metallic dragons? What inspiration can I use for quick draconic encounters? Do all dragon follow the Thir faith? For more on dragons, I previously answered some questions tied to Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons in this article; meanwhile, this article looks at why dragons usually aren’t our friends. This topic was proposed on my Patreon and addresses questions raised by patrons; check it out here if you want to influence future articles!

METALLIC AND CHROMATIC

In the default lore of Dungeons & Dragons, metallic dragons are the virtuous scions of Bahamut while chromatic dragons are the evil spawn of Tiamat. Beyond alignment, this is reflected in their regional effects and lair actions; Silver dragons generate zephyr winds around their lairs that gently catch innocent people who fall in the mountains, while blue dragons produce endless storms and malevolent dust devils. In fifth edition, black dragons aren’t just described as being evil, they FEEL evil, fouling nearby water supplies and inducing despair in the creatures around their lairs. But Eberron strips this away; you’re as likely to encounter a good red dragon as you are an evil gold. If that’s the case, why even have the distinction? What’s the meaningful difference between a black dragon and a copper dragon? 

In Eberron, draconic alignment and behavior are a matter of choice. But lair actions and regional effects are biological, determined by the color of the dragon. A powerful blue dragon may choose to be heroic, but it’s still going to generate fierce thunderstorms anywhere it settles. A powerful black dragon fouls water sources regardless of the dragon’s alignment. Overall, the practical fact is that chromatic dragons shape the environment in ways that feel malevolent, while metallics typically have more positive effects. Among the dragons themselves, this is attributed to the influence of Siberys and Khyber. As presented by the loredrake Ourenilach at the start of this article, many dragons believe that the metallic dragons are the pure children of Siberys and Eberron—while the chromatic dragons are fundamentally corrupted by the touch of Khyber. Proponents of this theory point to the malign regional effects as evidence of this. And while any dragon CAN fall prey to the influence of the fiendish overlord known as the Daughter of Khyber, chromatic dragons are more susceptible to her influence; likewise, their eggs are more easily corrupted to create Spawn of Tiamat. 

So black dragons DO foul water and generate entangling undergrowth. But that’s just part of being a black dragon, not the result of any actual malevolence of the dragon. It’s likely one reason Vvaraak chose the Shadow Marches as her beachhead in Khorvaire rather than the Towering Wood: as a powerful black dragon, she had less of an impact on the environment by settling in an existing swamp. It’s worth noting that only legendary dragons produce environmental effects… and this in turn is a reason for the Chamber to use younger dragons as its undercover operatives. If a powerful blue dragon settles in Sharn, the city will be lashed by powerful storms and plagued by dust devils. 

A side effect of this is that there often ARE more evil chromatic dragons than evil metallic dragons—because being a chromatic dragon is HARDER than being a metallic dragon, and it can take a toll on the psyche of the dragon. As a blue dragon it can be depressing living under constant storm clouds, and those dust devils are kind of like draconic lice. Meanwhile, everyone loves Shiny the Silver and their life-saving zephyrs. So this can contribute to chromatic dragons being more likely to be angry or cruel than their metallic cousins. But most shrug this off… and as we see with Vvaraak, Ourelonastrix and Dulahrahnak, chromatic dragons can be champions. 

While only legendary dragons produce full six-mile radius environmental effects, most older dragons generate these effects to some degree; they are a reflection of the raw arcane power of the dragon. Within Argonnessen, these effects have been harnessed in many ways. Storm spikes catch lightning and store it as arcane energy; you’ll find these spikes anywhere powerful blue dragons dwell. Gold dragons often act as dream guides, and it was a team of gold dragons that created the epic Draconic Eidolon in Dal Quor. Meanwhile, communities that support black dragons use powerful cleansing stones to maintain pure water supplies; it’s quite possible that a Chamber agent helped the architects of Sharn develop the water purification systems of the city precisely so they wouldn’t be fouled by a resident black dragon. 

SOVEREIGN ARCHETYPES

When thinking about a personality for a dragon from Argonnessen, consider the archetypes presented in Dragons of Eberron. The religion of Thir maintains that dragons have the potential to ascend and become divine beings—to become the Sovereigns, governing reality until a new aspirant takes on the mantle. Even if a dragon isn’t striving to become a Sovereign, the archetypes still offer a clear path in life. And an archetype can be an easy way to give a dragon goals. Most dragons may not care about amassing wealth, but a Master of the Hoard is defined by their treasures. A Loredrake is always interested in arcane knowledge. So, consider the following…

  • A Child of Eberron may seek to protect the natural world and its creatures, as Vvaraak did. They might seek to cultivate a region—maintaining a vast preserve or zoolological garden in Xen’drik or Argonnessen. Or they could follow the path of the Devourer, embodying the destructive power of nature. Imagine a legendary storm that manifests in Khorvaire every year and moves along a particular  path… but when they are caught in the storm, the adventurers discover that there is an ancient blue dragon at the heart of it. 
  • The Flames of the Forge are artists and artisans. Within Argonnessen, these dragons create eldritch machines and epic wonders. But perhaps there is a Prometheus like dragon who is leaking secrets of artifice to lesser creatures… or who simply enjoys watching the younger species pursue knowledge. Such a dragon might take a particular interest in an artificer adventurer whom they see as the genius of the age. Or perhaps the adventurers stumble into the workshop lair of a rogue Flame of the Forge who died centuries ago… but who left behind a lair filled with eldritch tools and deadly traps. Do you want to introduce a construct that has no logical place in the region? Perhaps it escaped from that abandoned dragon’s forge…
  • Fortune’s Fangs are social dragons who enjoy traveling and seeing the world. Many serve as spies for the Chamber or help to push particular paths of the Prophecy. But they might also become patrons of the arts, amused by the work of the younger races (“If you set a ten thousand humans writing, eventually one might produce the works of Shakespearatryx.”). Others simply want adventures of their own—seeking there own excitement in Xen’drik, the Mournlands, or other dangerous places where their actions won’t impact the younger species. 
  • Guides of the Weak likewise often serve as spies for the Chamber, subtly helping communities of humanoids. When they go bad, this is where you could have a rogue dragon who sets themselves up as a tyrant over a small, isolated community. Typically dragons get these impulses out in the safe space of the Vast of Argonnessen; among other things, embracing tyranny opens a door for the Daughter of Khyber. But a young dragon might defy tradition and ignore the risks… which could then lead to their becoming a servant of the overlord. 
  • Lightkeepers enforce order within Argonnessen, and who fight the cults of the Daughter of Khyber that emerge there. They are usually quite strict about not interfering with the younger species, but there are a few hidden among humanity and the other species. Keep in mind that the terms of the Prophecy often require humanoids to solve their own problems; a dragon might be able to defeat a particular villain easily, but they need to push the adventurers to do it themselves. 
  • Loredrakes are the scholars and arcane researchers of Argonnessen. Most work within Argonnessen, as both sages and scientists. Loredrakes are the most ardent students of the Prophecy. But the pursuit of knowledge can lead to villains such as Zenobaal or lesser rogues—those who follow the path of the Shadow and research paths of magic forbidden by the Conclave of Argonnessen. Such things might not even be directly relevant to adventurers; a loredrake’s work could be SO esoteric that a common wizard can’t even understand it. On the other hand, it could be that a group of adventurers who stumble into a Loredrake’s lair could recover a spellshard holding a civilization-changing secret—how to mystically split the atom, for example. Imagine Stranger Things, but instead of it being the government running experiments on the edge of town, it’s a rogue loredrake experimenting on mortals beneath it. It all goes smoothly until they somehow open a portal into Xoriat. The adventurers must deal with both the creatures that have come through the portal, the innocent subjects of the dragon’s experiments, and ultimately a dragon twisted by exposure to Xoriat. 
  • Looking for a dragon with a trove of treasure? The Master of the Hoard is just what you need. A Hoarder might get involved in commerce within a particular town, using the younger species to play out its archetypal role. Or it could be obsessed with collecting something in particular—like the default black dragon in the Monster Manual who “collects the wreckage and treasures of fallen peoples.” Such a dragon could be entirely harmless if left alone; it only wishes to enjoy its hoard and acquire all of its treasures through legitimate trade. But it could be the adventurers have a desperate need for one of the treasures in the dragon’s hoard; can they bargain with the Master of the Hoard or will they attempt theft? Beyond this, dragons can be driven by greed just as humans are. I could see reenacting Beowulf or the story of Smaug in a remote part of the Lhazaar Principalities, with a young dragon laying claim to the vast wealthy acquired by a greedy prince.  
  • Dragons of Eberron presents Passion’s Flame in a relatively negative light, focusing solely on the aspect of the Fury. I think it can be more broadly expanded to fill the same role as the Three Faces of Love in Khorvaire. Within draconic society, Passion’s Flames serve as matchmakers, midwives, and entertainers—helping to bring dragons together. Passion’s Flames organize festivals and celebrations, much like Cazhaak priests of the Fury. Those encountered beyond Argonnessen can be on the wilder side—unconventional artists who use humanoids as their medium, rogue prophets with wild visions—but I also envision Passion’s Flames within the Chamber as specialists who understand how to manipulate humanoid emotions. For example, if the Prophecy requires Prince Oargev to fall in love with a particular person, it would be a Passion’s Flame who would study the situation and try to create a path that would bring those two crazy kids together.
  • Stalking Wyrms seek challenging prey and as such rarely spend much time among humanoids. But adventurers in Xen’drik could accidentally come between a Stalker and her prey, or be themselves pursued by a rogue Stalker who considers them worthy of a hunt. 
  • Like Lightbringers, Wyrms of War usually serve the Conclave or the Light of Siberys. But as I’ve suggested with the Flames of the Forge, a Wyrm of War might find some pleasure in training the finest warriors of the younger species, or in observing their battles without interfering. A rogue Wyrm of War could spar with an agent of Rak Tulkhesh, playing a game of Conqueror with living pawns… though such a dragon would be in dire risk of being corrupted by the Daughter of Khyber.  

USING THE MONSTER MANUAL…

A patron observed that because Eberron’s dragons throw out the good and evil stereotypes presented in the Monster Manual, it can be difficult to use existing adventures or material. I sympathize with this in principle. You’re in a hurry, you like the description of the black dragon in the Monster Manual, and you just want to throw it in an adventure… but are you somehow breaking Eberron by doing it? Well, there’s a place for everything in Eberron. The gnolls of the Znir Pact defy the gnoll lore of the Monster Manual, but you can apply that lore to the gnolls who are still bound to one of the overlords.. Looking back to the ECS, it said that USUALLY dragons aren’t monsters in the typical sense; they are masterminds and manipulators, scholars and observers. But if you just want to have a black dragon sitting on a hoard in a swamp? There’s a few ways to handle this. 

Bad Apples

The Monster Manual provides a lot of flavor for different types of dragon. According to the MM, black dragons “collect the wreckage and treasures of fallen peoples. These dragons loathe seeing the weak prosper and revel in the collapse of humanoid kingdoms. They make their homes in fetid swamps and crumbling ruins where kingdoms once stood.” A black dragon “lives to watch its prey beg for mercy, and will often offer the illusion of respite or escape before finishing off its enemies.” In Eberron, this definitely doesn’t apply to ALL black dragons. But it could be true of a particular black dragon. While we’ve only named a few in canon, there are supposed to be rogue dragons who have spawned terrifying legends throughout history. You could use this to explain the Monster Manual lore—to say that that lore is taken from an in-world draconomicon that asserts that all black dragons are cruel and all blue dragons are tyrants based on the actions of individual rogue dragons encountered in history. So, to make up a few rogues…

  • Hazcoranar the Gravedigger is a black dragon and a Master of the Hoard. He is infamous for appearing after horrific battles and looting the corpses of the dead—adding to his hoard of treasures from fallen or falling humanoid civilizations. Aside from the treasures of Galifar, he has gathered artifacts from the Empire of Dhakaan, the Cul’sir Dominion, and the pre-Sundering kingdoms of Sarlona. In tales he often appears at the end of a battle, finishing off dying survivors (and enjoying their pleas for mercy) but his title of the Gravedigger comes from the fact that he has desecrated and stolen from a number of great tombs. 
  • Prince Golan Thunder was an elf prince of Stormkeep, a domain in the mainland Lhazaar Principality. He was a tyrant who maintained power through an alliance with a blue dragon who dwelt in the mountains above the Principality, who destroyed anyone who challenged him. While Stormkeep was a small domain, Golan built it up in remarkable ways, recruiting exceptional mercenary soldiers, a court wizard, fine artists—playing to the blue dragon stereotype of wanting exceptional minions. In fact, Golan WAS the dragon—Golantyx the Thunderer, a tyrannical Guide of the Weak. He ruled for over a century, but he eventually fell prey to the influence of the Daughter of Khyber and sought to conquer the surrounding principalities. One of the champions of the age (perhaps Harryn Stormblade) challenged the tyrant, first in elf form and then as a dragon, and Golantyx was forced to abandon his domain. 
  • Why is the Dragonwood of Breland called “The Dragonwood”? Because of Mazalaryn, known variously as the Viper Queen and the Wyrm of the Woods. This green dragon appeared during the reign of Galifar the Dark and announced her claim to what was then called the Daggerwood. She would often appear in human guise at the galas of neighboring nobles. For a time, she demanded a strange tribute from neighboring nobles—every 25 years, each family had to send a champion into the woods to find her lair, dealing with the countless hazards in the forest maze. If a champion survived the challenge, she would advise the family for the next 25 years; if a family refused to participate, she would raid their holdings in dragon form. Over time, she created a culture driven by vicious vendettas and the use of poison, and the ir’Calan line was completed wiped out in these feuds. Templars and other champions often entered the Dragonwood to slay the Viper Queen; few ever returned from the woods. It’s possible that Mazalaryn is a rogue who is simply playing with humanoids as if they were toys. Or it may be that she’s an agent of the Chamber who is carefully setting up paths of the Prophecy. It could be that she’s still active today, or it may have been a century since she’s been seen. If so, she could have been targeted by one of the Lords of the Dust or even caught in an accidental bombardment during the Last War. 
  • In the annals of the Five Nations, the most infamous red dragon of legend is Sarmondelaryx, the Bane of Thrane. Long before the Year of Blood and Fire and the rise of the Church of the Silver Flame, Sarmondelaryx terrorized the region, ultimately killing Prince Thrane ir’Wynarn. However, there is another red dragon that made his mark on history. The Kech Volaar have records of Jharaashta, also known as the Marhu’kor (Crimson King). Jharaashta dominated a region of central Khorvaire before the rise of the Dhakaani Empire. It’s said that his mountain domain contained countless treasures, both things he collected as tributes and artifacts of ancient times that he jealously hoarded—artifacts from the Age of Demons, relics of the Sovereigns. The legendary Jhazaal Dhakaan negotiated a peace between the dragon and the young empire—and it was Jhazaal who convinced Jharaashta to surrender the horn that later became the artifact Ghaal’duur. While the Dhakaan were able to buy ongoing peace with Jharaashta, it came at a considerable price, and his lair is said to contain incalculable wealth. Jharaashta hasn’t been seen for nine thousand years. Most likely he’s long dead of old age; another possibility is that he was a Master of the Hoard and that he is the spirit currently embodying Kol Korran or the Keeper! Likewise, his lair could still remain intact, holding countless Dhakaani and pre-Imperial artifacts; if so it would be of great interest to the Heirs of Dhakaan. On the other hand, it is possible it was looted thousands of years ago. But Jharaashta contributes to the legend of the red dragon as vain and greedy.
  • In the Lhazaar Principalities, it’s said that the isle of Orthoss used to be a tropical paradise… until the white dragon known only as Rime settled there. There are countless stories of Rime trapping ships in ice and stealing their cargoes, or demanding sacrifices in exchange for mercy. Rime could be a Child of Eberron, following the path of the Devourer; they embody the harsh hand of winter. Rime has been silent for over a century, following a clash with the heroes of a previous age. But the people of Orthoss remember the dragon-fear, and many swear they will return. If you want to run Rime of the Frostmaiden in Eberron, you could potentially set the game in Orthoss and use Rime as a stand-in for Auril. 

These five ideas all play to the Monster Manual stereotypes… the sadistic black dragon hoarding relics of a previous age, the blue tyrant, the treacherous green. But these are specific individuals who happen to have those personality traits. It’s not that all red dragons are greedy—it’s that JHARAASHTA was greedy, and because he’s a rogue who actually interacted with humanoids, scholars assert that all reds are greedy. This ties to the point that you could take the personality traits or hooks presented in the Monster Manual and apply them to ANY dragon. Even here, Rime could be a silver dragon instead of a white, if for some reason that better suits the story you want to tell. 

Prophecy Actors

“Random Dragons” could be foundlings who never had the education of a child of Argonnessen. They could be rogues or exiles. But perhaps there’s more to their actions than first meets the eye… perhaps the dragon that’s been sitting on the hoard in the Burning Hills for the last two centuries has actually been stationed there waiting for the adventurers to arrive, because this is the moment when the Son of the Storm has to overcome adversity and sieze the Blade of the Falling Star. For the adventurers, they think they are fighting a monster and stealing its hoard. The dragon can’t just give them the sword; to fulfill the Prophetic condition they have to fight for it. But boy, after spending the last 200 years establishing this set piece, the dragon is going to be SO glad when the damn adventurers finally steal the sword and they can go home. Even the Bad Apples described above could be actors; building up the reputation as “Rime” because that’s somehow necessary to lock in a particular Prophetic path. 

Storybook Dragons

Are you looking for a dragon to be the classic villain in a simple tale, jealously guarding its hoard or protecting a legendary artifact? Thelanis is the answer to your problem. Consider the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. As a Thelanian manifest zone, it could be unnaturally rich in resources… the story of “wondrous wealth”. But as that’s discovered and people pour in, the story shifts to “deadly greed” and the dragon manifests to kill the miners and claim the hoard. In this version of the story, the Arkenstone could be a Thelanian artifact — the stone of impossible beauty — but the hoard could also contain lesser magic items created by the miners before the dragon came for the hoard. The point here is that Smaug exists because this is a story about a hoarding dragon. He didn’t fly in from somewhere else and he has no ties to Argonnessen; he appeared when the story needed a dragon, and now he remains because the dragon guarding the hoard continues to be a good story. While he is a product of Thelanis and the manifest zone, he has become real; he COULD fly away from the mountain to ravage Laketown. But it’s not something he could or would do casually; looking at The Hobbit, the idea would be that the people of Laketown celebrating the dwarves and THINKING about the mountain and the treasure draws the dragon to them, playing out the story. If the dragon was somehow kept out of the manifest zone for a long time it might shrivel or weaken — but it could dart out for a raid and return. 

What differentiates these Storybook Dragons from the Bad Apples described above? Largely it would be about the complexity of the character. The Venom Queen is a little like Maleficent—the powerful mystical neighbor who might get pissed if she’s not invited to the christening. But most of the Bad Apples ended up getting involved in local politics and history. Jharaashta dealt with the Empire on an ongoing basis. The point of Storybook Dragons is that they ultimately aren’t REAL; they’re just the IDEA of a dragon. And lest it go without saying, this same concept could apply to any other creature. You could have a cloud giant tied to an airborne Thelanian manifest zone who embodies the idea of a monster in the sky but who doesn’t actually interact with the world below in any meaningful way.  

FALLEN CIVILIZATIONS

We know very little about draconic culture and history. A broad implication is that it’s been a monolithic force since the Age of Demons. Personally, I don’t think it was monolithic then, and I don’t think it’s continued in an unbroken path. The reason the dragons remain isolated in Argonnessen is because of their fear of the Daughter of Khyber, and I don’t think you adhere to that for tens of thousands of years unless you’ve had clear evidence that it’s an existential threat. Personally, I think there’s been two serious cataclysms within draconic civilization that have rocked even Argonessen, and likely a few smaller collapses that only affected outposts established beyond it. I’ve already said that I think there was a widespread dragon civilization on Khorvaire sometime before the Age of Giants that collapsed due to the Daughter. It’s even possible that the destruction of Xen’drik had terrible consequences for Argonnessen—that such a dramatic exercise of their power caused a surge of cult activity on Argonnessen and a bitter civil war. Why does this matter? Because it means there could be draconic artifacts on Khorvaire tied to a civilization that no longer exists, things unknown even to Argonnessen. This could be an opportunity for adventurers to stumble across something even the Chamber has forgotten. And if it’s tied to a forgotten civil war between dragons, it could be a threat to the wyrms of the present day. While Ourenilach suggests that chromatic dragons are most vulnerable to the Daughter of Khyber, I like the idea that even if this is true, chromatic dragons of the past (such as Ourelon) could have crafted magic items to help them resist this, meaning that it could have been arrogant metallics who were the villains in the first great world war between Argonnessen and the dragons of Khorvaire…

WHAT ABOUT ARGONNESSEN?

An in-depth look at Argonnessen is beyond the scope of this article, but I want to touch on a few points that should help inform encounters with dragons from Argonnessen. Dragons of Eberron covers Argonnessen and I did work on that sourcebook, but I feel it doesn’t hit all the notes I’d like to hit if I were writing it alone, so here’s a few thoughts.

Advanced Aliens, Not Monsters

My touchstone for the dragons of Eberron are the Vorlons of Babylon Five—an incredibly ancient and powerful civilization that remains in isolation from the younger races while conducting its enigmatic war against the Shadows (IE, the Lords of Dust). By the rules of 3.5 dragons were not only incredibly intelligent, they were all innate spellcasters. Even without taking any class levels (and 3.5 had classes designed specifically for dragons!) a typical great wyrm could cast 9th level sorcerer spells. And one of the basic principles of Eberron is if Arcane magic existed, wouldn’t it become a tool of civilization? So think of the everyday magic of Khorvaire, and now imagine that EVERYONE in society can perform arcane magic—and that if you live long enough, you might be able to cast wish just using your own inherent power. 

With this in mind, I feel that this takes the idea that sufficiently advanced science would seem like magic in a different direction: sufficiently advanced MAGIC would seem like magic. Meaning that the magic of the dragons is so advanced (and often, drawing on their own innate power) that wizards and artificers can’t comprehend the techniques. This ties to the idea that dragons can create artifacts and eldritch machines—things that go beyond what can be done with simple artifice. They can curse entire continents, leaving effects that still remain in force tens of thousands of years later. Within Argonnessen itself, there could be an arcane infrastructure that is all but invisible. Imagine seeing what seems to be a simple valley flanked by hills and caves. But should you detect magic, you’ll sense the massive energy flowing through artificial ley lines (generated by blue dragons and storm spikes…) and when the local dragon council gathers for their meeting a structure formed of walls of force will shimmer into existence. How does Argonnessen support its large dragon population? Well, if we assume dragons actually eat standard food, there’s a few options. Those who enjoy eating can conjure the food they need; the dragons of the Vast use the magebred bolatashi to keep the region stocked with dinosaurs and other suitable prey. But the dragons also long ago learned to mass produce goodberries—or, more likely, crafted wells imbued with the same life-sustaining magic, so a single drink provides all the sustenance you need for a week. And here again, the point is that this may not LOOK advanced to the casual observer; oh look, it’s a marble well. But look closer and you’ll recognize it’s an eldritch machine that can sustain a city. 

Again, the key point here is that in setting up Eberron, we made the decision that for the most part, its dragons weren’t monsters; they are “either aloof and unapproachable, or they are curious and manipulative, pulling strings from behind the scenes or trying to influence the world and the Prophecy in arcane ways.” Consider the common trope of advanced aliens interacting with pre-warp civilizations. Some are observers trying not to interfere with the lives of the creatures they are studying; others are rogues using the younger species for entertainment.  

Greater Diversity

Dragons of Eberron gives the sense that Argonnessen is very monolithic—for example, that all of the dragons of Argonnessen embrace Thir. DoE suggests that the Thousand is just made up of different families; I see it as being comprised of different cultures. Again, I don’t have the time to explore this in depth now. But I’d definitely imagine…

  • A culture driven by Children of Eberron that employs advanced primal magic (likely the birthplace of Vvaraak)
  • A magebreeding culture that created the bolatashi—and possibly, that created many other species found across Eberron
  • A culture that has focused on the planes and demiplanes, the source of planar orreries. 
  • A culture focused on artifice.
  • A culture dedicated to the study of immortals—dealing with elementals, celestials, etc. They would be the experts on the overlords and would also be the main source of dragon warlocks. 

… That’s just a start. All of this is on top of the Light of Siberys—which you can think of as Starfleet, a force that serves the United Federation of Dragons—and the Tapestry, which is where dragons of different cultures actively work together and share their philosophies. And on the other end you have the Vast, which is specifically maintained as a preserve where any dragon can live as they choose… in some ways, it’s the dragon equivalent of The Purge

Humanoids in Argonnessen

Argonnessen isn’t only inhabited by dragons, and Dragons of Eberron discusses the role of nondragons in each of the major regions. The most populated and diverse is the Vast…


The Vast has the highest nondragon population of any of the territories. These lesser races have been brought to Argonnessen over the course of a hundred thousand years. Hobgoblins, whose ancestors were saved from the downfall of the Empire of Dhakaan, still sing the songs of the duur’kala… Elves, whose ancestors were brought from the shores of Xen’drik long before the elf–giant wars, know nothing of the Undying Court or the Tairnadal. There are nondragons never seen in Khorvaire, members of races that were exterminated by the giants or the daelkyr. The range of communities that can be found are dizzying. Some are metropolitan, with members of a dozen races living under one roof. Other communities are genetically isolated, steadfastly preserving secrets of their forgotten cultures. 

Humanoids in the Vast are essentially toys for the dragons that live there. “To a dominion lord, nondragons are an extension of his hoard.” Guides of the Weak often interact directly with humanoids, either dominating them as tyrants or working as mentors. Wyrms of War play wargames with humanoids, whether pitting their humanoids against those of other Dominion Lords or engaging in direct dragon-to-dragon conflict to seize humanoid holdings. Here’s a table you could use to generate a community players encounter in the Vast…

Humanoids in the Vast

d12SpeciesWho…
1Dhakaani Dar… have perfectly preserved their original culture
2Borunan Ogres… have half-dragons incorporated into their culture
3Xen’drik Giants… have been reduced to feral savagery
4Ghaash’kala Orcs… are pacifists protected by their dominion lord
5Dragonborn… have a ruthless culture devoted to war
6Lizardfolk… are more arcanically advanced than modern Khorvaire
7Xen’drik Elves or Drow… employ powerful primal magic
8Sarlonan Humans… worship their dominion lord as a deity
9Five Nations Blend… have been altered by a powerful manifest zone
10Forgotten Species… have just been seeded in their current location
11Other… have a unique culture that’s survived for millennia
12Roll TwiceRoll Twice

Forgotten species is the idea of a form of humanoid that is entirely unknown in the present day, such as the proto-Dar I’ve mentioned a few times. “Other” could include yuan-ti, shulassakar, Lorghalen gnomes, Tairnadal elves, dwarves from the Realm Below… or even a unique species magebred by the dragons that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

In other regions, humanoid civilizations always serve some sort of draconic purpose. The Light of Siberys maintains an army of dragonborn and giants, ready should they ever be needed. Within the Tapestry and the Thousand, there’s a few different purposes for humanoid civilizations…

  • Lab Rats. This could be a particular unpleasant scenario in which some form of arcane magic is being actively and aggressively tested on a humanoid population. On the other hand, it could be an entirely peaceful experiment that will take centuries to play out… for example, a line of dragons is studying divine magic and has created a religion, and wants to see if their humanoid subjects develop the ability to cast divine spells through belief in this artificial faith.
  • Factory Workers. Because of how advanced the dragons are, menial labor is usually accomplished with magic. However, there could be a particular reason to use humanoids to maintain some sort of arcane system—whether it’s a production facility or simply part of the infrastructure, such as maintaining a nexus of artificial ley lines. This would make particular sense with an arcane system or manifest zone that has dangerous long-term effects; dragons don’t want to be exposed to it, but humans don’t actually live long enough to experience the negative effects.
  • Companions. Humans keep cats and dogs; some dragons keep humans. This could be a direct relationship, or it could be more like a garden; the dragons remain aloof but enjoy providing for and observing their humanoid community. “You must come and visit—the orcs are in bloom.”
  • Artwork. A twist on this is that a humanoid community could be a palette for a dragon artist—essentially, a living poem or concept given form. One option is that such a society would be kept stagnant to preserve the artistic vision; another is that it is a short term project, and that the artist plans to clear their canvas and start again in a century or two.
  • Valets. Exceptional humanoids could work directly with dragons—if not as equals, at least as respected servants. This is similar to Factory Workers but with more direct interaction between dragon and humanoid. I could imagine a primal society where humanoid gleaners and druids work closely with Children of Eberron, or a planar orrery where humanoid magewrights are tracking specific signs for dragon sages. I say “Valet” because the relationship here definitely isn’t one of equals—but the dragons involved have more respect for the humanoids than in the other examples, and won’t just throw them away. With this in mind, this sort of relationship would be most common within the Tapestry (the home of the Chamber); among other things, I can certainly imagine a humanoid community where the Chamber trains bother humanoid agents to serve as moles in the wider world, while also serving as a training ground for dragons who are preparing to go undercover themselves.

WHAT’S THE STORY WITH THE KECH DRAGUUS?

This question came up on my Patreon, and it’s a very deep cut. But since it deals with dragons, I’ll add my answer here. The Kech Draguus weren’t mentioned in Exploring Eberron, and I believe the only canon source for them is a Dragonshard article I wrote, which states Long ago, a rogue gold dragon formed an alliance with a clan of Dhakaani hobgoblins. Now this Kech Draguus has emerged from hiding. With a corps of half-dragon goblinoids and a few full-blooded dragons at its disposal, the Kech Draguus are poised to reshape Darguun.

Fifth edition adds a twist that adds an entirely new aspect to the Kech Draguus. In fifth edition, gold dragons have an affinity for dreams. A legendary gold dragon has the following regional effect: Whenever a creature that can understand a language sleeps or enters a state of trance or reverie within 6 miles of the dragon’s lair, the dragon can establish telepathic contact with that creature and converse with it in its dreams. The creature remembers its conversation with the dragon upon waking. Such a dragon also has the following Lair Action: One creature the dragon can see within 120 feet of it must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or be banished to a dream plane, a different plane of existence the dragon has imagined into being. Now, the first key question is what is meant by “A dream plane”. Is this Dal Quor or just a completely isolated demiplane of the dragon’s imagination? Personally, I would use it as banishing the victim to Dal Quor, to an island in the Ocean of Dreams that has been imagined by the dragon. So, taken together, legendary gold dragons have a strong tie to Dal Quor: they can create dream islands and send people there temporarily, and they can find and communicate with mortal dreamers who dream nearby, causing the dreamer to remember the conversation — meaning, they induce lucid dreaming in the people they interact with. 

First of all, this idea says to me that in fifth edition Eberron, gold dragons played a crucial role in the creation of the Draconic Eidolon—the draconic gestalt that can preserve dragon souls after death. Second, while the Lair Action is primarily intended as a short term, temporary attack, I would allow a gold dragon to transport a willing mortal for a longer period of time — meaning, if you have a need to physically get to Dal Quor, you need to find a legendary gold dragon. With all THAT in mind, let’s get back to the Kech Draguus. 

The canon information is that a rogue gold dragon formed an alliance with a clan of Dhakaani hobgoblins. The dreaming abilities of gold dragons are regional, so I would shift “clan” to “city”. This dragon forged an alliance with a Dhakaani city, protecting the city in the waking world and guiding its citizens in their dreams. This dragon admired the Uul Dhakaan and the Dhakaani principles, and worked with the Kech Uul. However, its love and loyalty were first and foremost for the city it had formed an attachment to; it was respected by the Kech Uul but didn’t work closely with them. Then the Xoriat incursion comes along. The dragon helps to protect its “children” but it can only do so much. The dragon works with the leaders of the city to prepare the sanctuary vault, and in time they flee into the depths and the long isolation—becoming the Kech Draguus. 

Here’s where things get interesting. The canon line says that the Draguus have a FEW full-blooded dragons, along with HALF DRAGONS. As far as I know, fifth edition doesn’t have half-dragons in the same way 3.5 did — creatures that are genetically part dragon, anything from humans to rats. Our most infamous half-dragon in Eberron is Erandis Vol, and some people have assumed that means Argonnessen will exterminate all half-dragons. That wasn’t actually meant to be the case; the issue with Erandis was the attempt to produce an Apex Mark and to move it onto dragons. Many Argonnessen dragons find half dragons to be CREEPY, but they aren’t Kill On Sight. There are some half-dragons among the Serens and in the Light of Siberys; some lords of the Vast likely create their own half-dragons. For purposes of easily dropping half-dragons into the Kech Draguus, I might just make them dragonborn sorcerers. But I like the idea of playing with the regional effects of the gold dragon and saying that gold half-dragons are innately lucid dreamers. Meanwhile, looking to the idea that the Kech has a few full-blooded dragons, I’d make those children of the founder… but the fact that there’s more than one means that they have the potential to spread out while still maintaining a presence in both the waking world and the Uul Dhakaan. So if I were to do something with the Kech Draguus, I’d play up the idea that they dwell both in the physical world and in the Uul Dhakaan itself and that because of this they consider themselves to be the most true to the core ideals of the Empire. It could be that they are just trying to reestablish the Empire as it was in the present day… But they could have a more exotic goal. Perhaps they want to help all Dhakaani permanently, physically immigrate to the Uul Dhakaan! A second question is how they interact with the Dreaming Dark. It could be that the quori leave them alone; the Uul is a stable mass dream, and that’s good for il-Lashtavar. It could be that the Kech Draguus is actively fighting quori forces that are laying siege to the Uul. OR… it’s quite likely that the Turning of the Age will destroy or at the very least transform the Uul Dhakaan. Perhaps the Devourer of Dreams has demonstrated this to the leaders of the Kech Draguus, both human and dragon—and they now are aligned with the Dreaming Dark in doing whatever they can to prevent the turning of the age! 

Another question: 2600 years ago isn’t that long for dragons. Are there living dragons on Argonnessen who opposed the destruction of the line of Vol?

Certainly. The green dragon known as the Emerald Claw didn’t act alone. There was a faction of dragons within the Thousand that supported the efforts of the Emerald Claw, and there was a fullscale conflict between dragons that took place in Argonnessen even as battles were raging on Aerenal. Many of the dragons who supported the experiment were slain, but there are certainly some who chose to stand down. However, it’s important to recognize that these dragons weren’t in an way acting for the good of elves or the younger races. They were working to create a half-dragon with an apex dragonmark, because they saw this as a crack in the door to potentially control the Prophecy itself. The supporters of this project believed that it could at the very least allow them to defeat the overlords and Lords of Dust once and for all, and potentially to gain the power of the Progenitors themselves; the majority that opposed it felt that it was both hubris and far too dangerous, with the potential to destroy Argonnessen itself. But there were a significant number of dragons who opposed the destruction of the Line of Vol—including some who actually fought against it.

That’s all the time I have. I won’t be answering further questions on this topic, but feel free to discuss it in the comments. if you do have questions for me, join my Patreon—thanks to the patrons who make these articles possible!

IFAQ: Kalaraq Kalashtar

Kalaraq Quori by Christopher Stevens from Dragon #324.

Between multiple conventions, getting sick from attending multiple conventions, and working on Wayfinder, I haven’t had time to write articles for my website this month. But I have been answering questions on my Patreon, and I thought I’d share one now…

In Exploring Eberron one of the suggested class ideas for a kalaraq kalashtar was a conjurer who summons spirits bound by your kalaraq spirit, but how did the kalaraq bind those spirits in the first place? Say my conjurer can summon a minor elemental. Do elementals dream, or did the kalaraq bind the spirit directly before Dal Quor was severed from the other plane?

Kalaraq quori are the most powerful quori spirits, and they are legitimately terrifying. Alone of the quori, an eyebinder can kill you in your sleep; if it kills you in your dream, it can bind your spirit to its wreath of eyes… Or it can twist your personality into a mirror of its own, using its mind seed ability. The strength of a kalaraq is a reflection of the number of souls that it’s bound; a powerful kalaraq could have hundreds of bound spirits.

There’s a number of interesting questions that come up with kalaraq kalashtar. If they are aspiring to be spirits of light, how do they justify the binding of souls? If we assume that there’s two or more kalaraq spirits left among the kalashtar lines (the leader of the rebel quori, Taratai, was kalaraq, but her line has been wiped out), one of them might have released all its bound spirits when it turned to the light. On the other hand, we’ve never said what sort of experience the souls have while bound. An interesting possibility is that each soul is trapped in its own eternal dream; that it continues to dream as it would in Dal Quor, just within the essence of the kalaraq itself. This helps explain the power of the kalaraq; each one is, in essence, a miniature Dal Quor, containing its own array of dreamers. So if we keep that idea in mind, one of the kalashtar kalaraq could have specifically targeted cruel and evil people who it believes deserve eternal punishment, and it keeps them experiencing endless nightmares; pretty brutal, but if we say that it targeted exceptionally horrible people, it’s interesting to imagine who it felt deserves such punishment. On the other hand, another kalashtar kalaraq could have taken the opposite approach: it bound the most compassionate and accomplished mortals it could find in order to preserve their spirits from dissolution in Dolurrh. Each one lives on in a dream paradise; essentially, this kalaraq decided to give worthy people the idyllic immortal afterlife that doesn’t exist on this side of Dolurrh (as no one knows what’s beyond Dolurrh). In either case, as a kalashtar of a kalaraq’s line, it’s interesting to think about the spirits it has bound in its eyes. Are they compassionate and accomplished mortals the kalaraq wanted to preserve? Or are they vile people it wished to punish?

This brings us back to the original question. In Exploring Eberron I suggested that you could use the nature of the kalashtar quori to add flavor to character abilities. Perhaps a conjurer is drawing on souls bound by the kalaraq! But what does that mean if the creatures you’re conjuring are elementals, or fey, or animals? Did the kalaraq dreambind a pack of wolves? Do elementals dream? Well, if you fight an elemental in Dal Quor, it’s not actually an elemental drawn from another plane; it’s a dream figment that has the abilities of an elemental. In conjuring creatures, what I’d say is that I’m not summoning the actual spirits my quori has bound; I’m summoning the nightmares of those bound spirits, made real using the energy of the spirit. This is where I’d come up with a list of nightmares at my disposal, and rename/flavor the creatures I could summon with that in mind. For example, if I can cast summon minor elemental I can summon an Azer. But with my DM’s approval, I’d say that what I actually summon is a horrifying burning clown—the persistent nightmare of a serial killer my quori bound ten thousand years ago. On the other hand, if I conjure animals, those beasts could sing softly with the voices of the bard who was bound long ago; they are part of the song he has been singing in his dream for thousands of years. While they may have the stats of elementals or beasts, cosmetically I’d highlight that they are dreams made real—the dreams of the souls preserved by my quori.

This same principle could apply to other spells or abilities. If I cast borrowed knowledge I’d say that I’m drawing that proficiency from one of the souls my quori holds bound. But I could see a non-musical bard who says that they perform “Bardic Inspiration” by temporarily gifting you with a guiding spirit (based on the kalaraq binding compassionate people). A warlock could have the kalaraq as their patron and say that each spell or invocation is the gift of a different spirit it has preserved; hellish rebuke is tied to the spirit of a furious, vengeful barbarian while charm person and suggestion draw on a charismatic bard.

But to further address the original question: A kalaraq couldn’t have bound any spirits before Dal Quor was cut off from the material plane. The breaking of the thirteenth moon occurred in a previous age of Dal Quor. When the Age turned and the Quor Tarai changed, it pulled in all the quori of that age and they were reborn as children of il-Lashtavar. This is why the Dreaming Dark is trying to stop the cycle; if il-Lashtavar becomes il-Yannah, it will again draw in and destroy all existing quori, creating a new host in the model of the Great Light. Kalaraq quori are children of il-Lashtavar; the quori of the previous age were likely entirely different in form.

And a last minor point—in all of the art I’ve seen of the kalaraq, their eyes have been very uniform in appearance. My original description emphasized that every eye is unique, reflecting the creature that’s bound within it.

Wait: a kalaraq can kill you in your sleep? Or mind seed you? How are player characters supposed to fight that?

It’s a very valid question. I’ve written before about how the initial actions of player characters aren’t likely to draw retaliation from the Dreaming Dark — that they are effectively playing hundreds of games of chess across Eberron and they EXPECT some of their plans to fail; they aren’t going to hunt down every meddling kid who interferes. But eventually you may reach a point where the Dreaming Dark definitely knows who the players are and it feels like if they could just kill them in their sleep, they would. How do you justify their survival?

One way is to consider that the kalaraq are the most important quori and have many duties. Unless the PCs are dealing with a kalaraq directly, the quori whose plans they’ve been spoiling may not want to draw the many eyes of a kalaraq to their personal failure. If they are mainly dealing with an Usvapna, they may want to personally fix the problem BEFORE the Devourer finds out, rather than risking his wrath at their seeming incompetence. Likewise, we’ve called out that the Dreaming Dark doesn’t love mind seeding especially powerful people because they don’t have absolute control over mind seeds. Mind seed replaces the personality of the victim with that of the seeding quori. But the seed ISN’T a quori and isn’t actually at any risk from the turning of the age, and there is always the chance that they may abandon the cause of the Dreaming Dark and pursue their own agenda. This is called out with Keshraa the Fallen, on page 59 of Secrets of Sarlona. Mind seed is an exceptionally powerful ability but it’s not a flawless tool — and the more powerful the seed, the greater the risk that they’ll see other opportunities.

However, ultimately, I have no problem as a DM saying that the kalaraq can’t bind the souls of the PCs. One of the basic principles of Eberron is that Player Characters are remarkable. I’ve called this out with the idea that resurrection doesn’t work for everyone; the fact that you can resurrect player characters without consequence reflects the fact that they are remarkable people with unfulfilled destinies. I’d be absolutely happy to run a terrifying scene in which a kalaraq quori slaughters a PC in their dreams, proclaiming that it will bind their soul… and then they just wake up, unbound. Why didn’t it work? I’d leave that as a mystery to both kalaraq and PC. It could be the power of the Prophecy, protecting the character with the unfulfilled destiny. It could be that an overlord is shielding the character who is destined to release them, or that a dragon has warded them for similar reasons. It could be that the turning of the age is close at hand, and the power of the kalaraq is waning. Whatever the answer, I have no problem with the idea that player characters are big damn heroes who occasionally break the rules; that’s part of the pulp inspiration.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. I’m about to do a live AMA for Threshold Patrons on things left on the cutting room floor of Eberron. If you’re reading this it’s probably too late to catch it live, but I’ll be posting the recording on Patreon.

IFAQ: Potions of Longevity

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 Shadow or 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.

IFAQ July Roundup: Hektula, Hidden Masterminds, Character Age and More!

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!

Random Rolls: Forgotten Civilizations

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.

Ancient Civilizations

Roll on each column (or choose a result) to create a nation that once existed on Khorvaire!

d12A …Of…Noteworthy for its…
1DecliningEmpireOrcsArcane Magic
2WartornRepublicHalflingsSoldiers
3IsolatedLeagueGnomesPoetry or Music
4OppressiveKingdomGoblinoidsWeapons of War
5BrutalTheocracySentient BeastsSpiritual Beliefs
6CruelClanDwarvesMassive Monuments
7PrimitiveTribeLizardfolkBeasts or Monstrosities
8UnstableDynastyCentaursWarlocks
9MilitantOrderTieflingsHidden Celestials
10FanaticalCultMinotaursConstructs and Artifice
11PowerfulGuildKoboldsCrime Syndicates
12TerrifyingInstitutionExtinct CreaturesScholars and Sages

Overlord’s Influence

What overlord is associated with the civilization, and how is its influence felt?

d10Overlord’s Cultural Impact
1Sul 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.
2Rak 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.
3Bel 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.
4Eldrantulku. 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.
5Tul 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.
6Katashka. 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.
7Tol 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.
8The 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.
9Masvirik. 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…
10Ashurak. 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!