IFAQ: Kaius and Lady Illmarrow

Image by Rich Ellis and Grace Allison, from Phoenix Dawn Command

In my previous article, I answered questions my patrons posed about the Blood of Vol. In response to that, one of my patrons asked a question that had deeper roots reflected the changes to the setting over the course of three editions of D&D.

Could you please clarify the historical relationship between the vampiric Kaius, the Blood of Vol, and Erandis/Illmarrow under your current conception of their lore?

One of the most infamous “secrets” from the original Eberron Campaign Setting is that Kaius ir’Wynarn III, the King of Karrnath, is actually Kaius I—that he was transformed into a vampire by Erandis Vol and replaced his descendant. I say “secret” because this information was included in the basic description of Karrnath in the book, and because there have been images and miniatures of Kaius the Vampire… so while it was supposed to be a secret in the WORLD, most PLAYERS were aware of it. In describing this, the ECS says…

When the Last War was in full swing, Kaius I was approached by priests of the Blood of Vol. These priests promised to aid Karrnath against its enemies, provided Kaius agreed to a few minor considerations… First, the priests worked with Kaius’s own court wizards to perfect the process for creating zombie and skeleton troops to bolster Karrnath’s forces… Second, the priests provided an elite fighting force dedicated to both Vol and Kaius—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

That was in the ECS, the first Eberron book ever written. Over the course of fifteen years, the concept of the Blood of Vol, Erandis Vol, Lady Illmarrow, and the Order of the Emerald Claw all evolved. Lady Illmarrow is a spider who has agents spread among the Seekers—including priests and members of the Crimson Covenant—but the faith doesn’t serve her personally. Likewise, it has been established that the Order of the Emerald Claw was just ONE of the Seeker chivalric orders, but not the only one. So for a more detailed breakdown of the timeline as I personally run it…

  • Early in the war, plagues and famines wreak havoc in Karrnath. Priests of the Blood of Vol — possibly including Malevanor’s predecessor Askalor, or even a young and still living Malevanor — approach Kaius and propose an alliance between the Seekers and the crown, offering necromantic advancements and undead troops in exchange for elevating and celebrating the faith and developing the chivalric orders.
  • The Seekers celebrate this alliance and the common people grudgingly accept it. Over the course of decades, Seeker priests and necromancers work to find ways to enhance Karrnath’s military might through necromancy. This includes widespread use of common undead troops with their bone knight commanders, the development of the Seeker orders, and the perfection of the Odakyr Rites, creating the Karrnathi undead.
  • This continues until the Regent Moranna turns against the Blood of Vol, disbands the orders, and breaks ties between the faith and the crown. When Kaius III rises to power, he blames Karrnath’s troubles—including the plagues and famines that originally set the alliance in motion—on the Seekers, a populist strategy that salvages Karrnathi pride and seeks to solidify support behind Kaius; this is important because not all of the warlords support his desire for peace.

This all public-facing, well documented fact. What is NOT publicly known is what happened to Kaius I and the role of Lady Illmarrow. One of the intentional choices we made when writing Eberron Rising From The Last War was to leave the ultimate truth about this up to the DM. Specifically, Rising includes a newspaper article that says Maybe Kaius is a Vampire… Or maybe he isn’t! This is tied to an in-world conspiracy theory I personally subscribe to, but I’ll get back to that later. So the main point is that what I’m about to say isn’t a spoiler, because IT MAY NOT BE TRUE IN THE CAMPAIGN YOU ARE PLAYING IN, reader. But with the assumption that Kaius I is a vampire…

Long before the Last War, Lady Illmarrow worked to spread agents throughout the Seekers. She gained power over priests and even placed a number of her own loyal servants within the Crimson Covenant. While useful, this influence was limited by the fact that the Seekers had little political influence and no organized military; there was no equivalent to the Order of the Emerald Claw for her to use. As the Last War began, she used her influence with her Seeker agents to promote the idea of the alliance with the Crown. It’s worth noting that it is entirely possible that ILLMARROW is responsible for some of the plagues and famines, creating a situation where Kaius needed the alliance. Regardless of whether this is true, the priests who approached Kaius I largely did so in good faith, truly believing that their actions would benefit both their country and their faith—while Illmarrow’s loyalists made sure to include the idea of the Seeker chivalric orders. In the decades that followed, the elevation of the Seekers and their integration into the military served Illmarrow’s agenda in a number of different ways. Her agents within the Seekers gained more broad influence in the nation. She gained greater access to the Karrnathi military (remember, not all the members of the modern Emerald Claw are Seekers—many are just Karrnathi veterans and patriots!). She had access to the arcane resources of Karrnath to help her develop necromantic weapons. And with the development of the chivalric orders, she was able to build the core of a force that could serve as her personal strike force—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

Next, the ECS tells us this:

When Vol, the ancient lich at the heart of the Blood of Vol cult, appeared before Kaius to collect her “considerations” for the aid her priests provided him, he had no choice but to submit. In addition to allowing the cult to establish temples and bases throughout Karrnath, Vol demanded that Kaius partake in the Sacrament of Blood. Instead of the usual ceremony, Vol invoked an ancient incantation that turned Kaius into a vampire. Instead of becoming a compliant thrall, however, Kaius fought to keep his independence. Furious that the vampire refused to be humbled, Vol eventually forced the issue by triggering Kaius’s blood lust (something he had been struggling to control). When the crimson haze cleared, Kaius discovered that he had killed his beloved wife.

Even with the many changes over the years, in my campaign the basic idea of this is the same. As the price of the continued Seeker alliance—something Illmarrow could control through her agents—Kaius was forced to become a vampire. This should have made him a thrall forced to do Illmarrow’s bidding, but somehow he was able to resist her control… though not before killing his wife. We know that what happened next is that he went into hiding. There’s likely two reasons for this: the first being that the world wasn’t (and still isn’t) ready to put a vampire on the throne of Galifar, and the second being that whatever allowed him to resist Illmarrow’s control wasn’t reliable; he had to go into hiding until he found a way to protect himself from her influence. The ECS tells us “Now, after eighty years of hiding and secretly working to break all ties with the Blood of Vol, Kaius has returned to govern his nation. He has taken the place of his great grandson, pretending to be Kaius III.” Looking back to the public-facing facts, it is at this time that Karrnath breaks ties with the Seekers and disbands the chivalric orders. It’s up to you how far this goes; as I say above, in my campaign Kaius III is now using the faith as a straw man to build support. Regardless of whether you follow that path, Kaius III has taken an anti-Seeker stance and opposes Illmarrow, while Illmarrow has reformed the Order of the Emerald Claw as her personal army, including both original Seeker members and Karrnathi fanatics who believe she will return Karrnath to greatness (unlike peace-loving Kaius III).

The question that remains is who is Kaius III? It is possible that he’s Kaius I the vampire pretending to be Kaius III. I personally like the theory that he’s Kaius III pretending to be Kaius I pretending to be Kaius III—that the reason Illmarrow can’t control him is because he’s NOT really Kaius I, but rather Kaius I is remaining in hiding and working through K3 until they can find a way to break Illmarrow’s hold over him. This ties to the next question, which is assuming K1 is a vampire, what IS Illmarrow’s hold over him? The ECS account implies that Erandis used a ritual to turn K1 into a vampire. *I* prefer the idea that she turned him the old fashioned way—that one of her top vampire lieutenants sired Kaius, and that it is actually that lieutenant who can control Kaius, using the standard bond between sire and spawn. One of the main reasons I prefer this is because it means killing that vampire is the key to breaking Illmarrow’s hold over Kaius, and that’s a story adventurers could get involved in.

If you follow the original narrative in which Kaius I is a vampire who replaces Kaius III, what to you think he did in all the years between disappearing and becoming Kaius III? It is almost 100 years for a ex-king vampire probably with none or few allies.

First of all, I COMPLETELY disagree with the idea that Kaius I had “no or few allies.” He didn’t just run away. His disappearance would have been very carefully planned. To my knowledge the exact circumstances have never been described, but I expect that he faked his own death, used cosmetic transmutation to enact a long term disguise, and then went into hiding among a carefully established network of supporters. For the sake of absolute secrecy it’s quite likely that many of the people sheltering him didn’t know who he was, but they would know that he was a loyal servant of the former king. He would have retained contact with followers with influence in court, and in MY Eberron he was certainly continuing to manipulate events in Karrnath from hiding, offering guidance to generals and nobles who remained loyal to him and likely dealing with political rivals from the shadows. Ultimately, this culminated with his working closely with Moranna to plan the Regency and his return. Again, aside from Moranna many of the people he worked with may not have had known exactly who they were dealing with, but they certainly respected and valued his advice.

Beyond that, one of the most important things he was doing was learning everything he could about vampires. He was surely working to master his own abilities, but also to understand his weaknesses and particularly to understand the methods Illmarrow could use to control him and what he could do to block them. In this, I expect that he was working closely with Seekers. Remember that Kaius has been called out as having a loyal cabal of Seeker followers who, among other things, provide him with blood. Part of the idea is that even though Kaius PUBLICLY denounces the Seekers—because it’s politically expedient to do so—he maintains ties with a devoted sect OF Seekers. Why would they follow him? Because they recognize that Illmarrow holds a poisonous influence within their faith and that Kaius opposes her—they believe that in the long term, Kaius WILL help the Seekers. Time will tell if they are correct.

But to the short form, I believe that the vampire Kaius I was always pursuing his return, which required him to learn more about the nature of vampires and to manipulate events from the shadows. He built alliances, destroyed enemies, and studied the nature of the undead.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

All this may be fun for folks who like quibbling over inconsistencies in canon sources, but as a DM or player, why does any of this matter to you? Here’s the key breakdown.

  • The Order of the Emerald Claw is a force that is directly loyal to Lady Illmarrow. Its forces include Seekers with elite military training—bone knights, battlefield necromancers—as well as Karrnathi veterans who aren’t Seekers but who are fanatically devoted to Illmarrow.
  • While there are still necromantic forces integrated into the Karrnathi military—non-Seeker Karrns learned necromancy during the time of the alliance—a significant portion of this strength was lost when the crown broke ties with the Seekers. The bulk of the Karrnathi undead were sealed in subterranean vaults, and some of the warlords are afraid that they cannot be trusted.
  • As a Karrnathi Seeker, you may have to deal with hatred from your own people, who have been encouraged to blame the Seekers for all of Karrnath’s woes. Some Seekers are angry about this and have turned against the Crown, and it’s many of these Seekers who support the Emerald Claw. However, other Seekers are still devoted to Karrnath and trust that this time will pass.
  • Kaius III opposes Lady Illmarrow and the Emerald Claw. It may be that Kaius is a vampire who has found a way to resist her control; that he isn’t a vampire at all; or that he is actively carrying out a plan to break her power (IE destroying his sire). Illmarrow seeks to undermine Kaius; her loyalists in the Emerald Claw accuse him of being weak, of robbing Karrnath of its rightful victory by pursuing peace, and so on.
  • It also ties to the most basic question of whether Kaius is a potential ally or whether he’s a dangerous enemy. If adventurers oppose Lady Illmarrow, Kaius could be a powerful friend. On the other hand, while he may want a peaceful solution, in my opinion Kaius still wants to rule Galifar; remember that if he is the vampire Kaius I, he’s one of the five rulers who STARTED the Last War. I believe that he pursues peace because he doesn’t feel Karrnath can win and reunite Galifar through force, at least for now. But in my opinion he is a ruthless man and a brilliant strategist who has been scheming for a year. He may be the enemy of your enemy if you’re opposing Illmarrow, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have sinister plans of his own… it’s just that where Aurala is willing to restart the Last War, I think Kaius is searching for a different path to the throne of Galifar.

As a Karrnathi Seeker player character, an important question is whether you are angry at Kaius III for turning on your faith (and if so, if you actually have a positive opinion of the Order of the Emerald Claw); whether you simply have no opinion; or whether you are actually loyal to your king in spite of this betrayal. If you choose the latter approach, one option is that you are actually part of the king’s inner circle (even if only at the lowest level)—that you are sworn to help him find a way to break Lady Illmarrow’s poisonous influence within the faith.

As an example of this: In a campaign I ran, a player created a paladin of the Blood of Vol. His backstory was that his parents were members of a Seeker chivalric order and were killed when Moranna turned on the faith. As a child, the PC was taken in and raised by Lady Illmarrow, taught to harness his powers and led to believe that Kaius III betrayed his faith and was responsible for the death of his parents. As a PC, his initial arc was to build his power and gain allies to help him bring down Kaius III. That was the PC’s goal, but what the PLAYER knew from the start was that his character was a dupe and that Kaius III wasn’t truly guilty. His whole idea was that, assuming he succeeded in killed Kaius, it would through Karrnath into chaos and the PC would realize Illmarrow had lied—that the SECOND arc of his story would be undoing the damage he’d done and bring down Lady Illmarrow. We never actually reached that second arc in the campaign, but I appreciated the idea—that he KNEW his character’s goal was something foolish that would have disastrous consequences, but that his long-term character arc would be cleaning up that mess. And in this story you can see something I talked about in the previous article—that it may be that any number of Illmarrow’s agents serve her because they believe she has the best interests of the Seekers or of Karrnath at heart, and that if they discover absolute proof that this is not the case, they could turn against her.

You used to talk about Erandis Vol as quite a sympathetic character, murdered and robbed of her birthright while still a teenager, but your presentation of “Lady Illmarrow” is quite different; she seems more unambiguously evil.

There’s a few important elements here. From the very beginning Erandis Vol was intended to be one of the major antagonists of the setting. Eberron draws on Pulp and Noir themes, and Erandis and the Emerald Claw were always intended to weigh on the pulp side of that spectrum. They’re the Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, COBRA in GI Joe. What I’ve always said is that the Emerald Claw are the villains adventurers can always feel good about opposing: you never need to stop and say “I wonder if we should actually let the Nazis have the Ark of the Covenant” or “Maybe COBRA has some good points.” The SEEKERS have a far greater degree of moral complexity and depth of story, and SEEKERS can be allies or enemies. But Erandis and the Emerald Claw are supposed to be some of the most reliable, straightforward villains you can encounter in the world.

Having said that: I see Erandis as a TRAGIC character, and I always have. I LIKE villains to have depth and motivations we can understand. Erandis has endured horrors and carries an enormous burden. I can understand why she commits atrocities. But the key point there is that she commits atrocities. We may feel sympathy for her loss, we may understand her drive to reclaim her birthright, but the simple fact is that she will destroy nations and slaughter countless innocents in pursuit of that goal. She’s a tragic villain, but the key word there is VILLAIN.

The second important point here is that the people who work for her DON’T KNOW HER TRAGEDY. And that’s what underlies this question and WHY we introduced the identity of Lady Illmarrow. Erandis Vol is the woman murdered as an adolescent, who saw her entire bloodline unjustly eradicated because of a mark she bears on her skin but cannot use, who cannot even choose oblivion but is bound to an eternity to contemplate her failings and the stolen legacy of her line. It is Erandis who must hide her name and nature lest the forces that eradicated everyone she cares about come after her again. She CAN’T share her burden. She can’t even declare her name with pride lest she bring down ruin on all she has accomplished. And thus, she created Lady Illmarrow, a Grim Lord who has risen to power among the Bloodsails entirely on her own merits, unburdened by ancient tragedy. Lady Illmarrow is infamous not for the deeds of her family, but for her own deeds and power. She is respected and feared by her minions, even those who have no knowledge of her true past and potential.

It could well be that Erandis uses Illmarrow to channel her darkest impulses and to be the ruthless tyrant she needs to be to achieve her destiny, while Erandis remains the murdered adolescent still mourning her family. She’s been alive for thousands of years and has suffered through immense tragedy; it could well be that Illmarrow is in some ways an independent persona, that the mask Erandis created has taken on a life of its own and in this way allows the core of Erandis to retain some innocence. However, the ultimate point is that whether she’s Erandis or Illmarrow, she is a dangerous villain who will break the world if it allows her to achieve her goals.

If Erandis Vol wants to die (“she cannot choose oblivion”) why doesn’t she just reveal her presence to the Deathguard and let them destroy her?

First of all, just because Erandis may hate her existence doesn’t mean that she wants the DEATHGUARD to end it. The Undying Court destroyed her entire bloodline and she is all that’s left of their legacy. If she was to be destroyed without mastering her mark, all of that would be for nothing. And she will NOT allow the Undying Court to win this struggle.

Second: the Deathguard can’t destroy her. Since Rising From The Last War, it is canon that the elocation of Erandis’s phylactery is unknown; if her body is destroyed, she will reform in a random location hundreds of miles away. So the Deathguard can’t grant her oblivion. What it CAN do is slaughter all her allies, steal or destroy all the relics she’s gathered, and ruin all the plans she’s carefully built up over centuries. The danger they pose isn’t to her personally, but rather to everything she has managed to accomplish. Imagine you’d spent 800 years building up a plan; would you want a bunch of $&%* paladins to suddenly drop in, destroy everything, and leave you in a new body hundreds of miles away having to spend centuries to rebuild everything you’ve lost?

I’ve written a number of articles that are quite relevant to this topic, so for people who HAVEN’T been reading this blog for years, here’s a few you might want to check out.

Dragonmark: The Blood of Vol

IFAQ: The Crimson Covenant

IFAQ: Malevanor

IFAQ: Mummies and the Blood of Vol

Erandis: Hot or Not?

That’s all for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!

IFAQ: Blood of Vol, Malevenor, and Tairnadal Burial!

It’s been a very busy month, but as time permits I like to answer short questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few questions related to the Blood of Vol, the mummy priest Malevanor, and the burial customs of the Tairnadal elves.

Malevanor—the Blood of Vol’s high priest of Atur—seems to have genuine faith and sits between Erandis, the Crimson Covenant, and the Seeker community. What makes him tick? Is he good, bad, or in between?

In life, Hass Malevanor was a Seeker priest and student of necromancy. A Karrnathi patriot, he devoted his life to helping to develop superior combat applications of necromancy. Along with Gyrnar Shult, Malevanor played a key role in the development of the Odakyr Rites—the rituals used to create Karrnathi Undead. The basic principles of the Blood of Vol maintain that the universe is cruel and that we must stand together; Hass fought for the good of both his people and his nation. Exploring Eberron says “The former high priest of Atur was the mummy Askalor, who held the post for over four hundred years—but he was weary of his long undead existence. When Malevanor was grievously injured during the Last War, Askalor transferred his power and his undead existence to his apprentice.” This ties to the point that Seeker undead—especially the Oathbound—are expected to guide and protect the living. As both High Priest and Oathbound, this is the role Malevanor sees for himself. It is his duty to guide and protect living Seekers. As an Oathbound, he can never truly find the Divinity Within—but he can help the living Seekers and seek to find and aid those who may yet be the greatest living champions of the faith.

I personally believe that Hass is still a patriot who loves the idea of Karrnath, but it’s also the case that Karrnath has betrayed him and his people. He will always put the good of the Seekers above all else—but if he CAN help Karrnath along the way, he will.

So in Kanon, what’s his relationship with Lady Illmarrow?

I think that Malevanor believes Illmarrow is dangerous and that he questions her devotion to the faith, but he also realizes her POWER, and both a) doesn’t want to have her as an enemy and b) wants to see that power used for the good of his people. So he’s trying to maintain an alliance with Illmarrow, but it’s an uneasy relationship. Ultimately, he is OATHBOUND. I believe that his oaths are just what it says on the tin: that he is bound to protect the Seekers, help them find the Divinity Within, and to maintain and protect Atur. Which is an interesting contrast with the lich Illmarrow. I don’t think Malevanor COULD betray the faith for his own personal gain, because the oaths that sustain his undead existence are predicated on doing his duties as high priest and protecting his people.

Could Malevanor be a warlock patron (say, Undead or Undying)?

Sure, Malevanor could definitely be a warlock patron for a Seeker warlock. I’d love to do a campaign with a PC Seeker warlock who’s essentially Malevanor’s undercover agent working against Illmarrow. The main thing I’d emphasize in this case is that it’s not that Malevanor is giving the warlock powers, it’s that the warlock’s powers come from their own Divinity Within and that maelvanor is just helping them to unlock those powers. Because that is literally what he’s supposed to do: help Seekers harness the power of the Divinity Within.

In most of the Five Nations, the Blood of Vol is a series of independent covert cults without any clear connection or hierarchy between them. How does the Crimson Covenant or Lady Illmarrow find or get in contact with these cults? Or does Illmarrow mainly rely on the Order of the Emerald Claw?

Exploring Eberron has this to say:

The (Blood of Vol) isn’t as formally structured as the Church of the Silver Flame or even the Sovereign Host. For the most part, Seekers keep to themselves, living in their own villages and small towns or in isolated neighborhoods of larger communities, where they can practice their traditions without drawing the ire of their neighbors… Outside Atur, for the most part, each Seeker community relies on their abactor—the priest that oversees a temple or community—and they rarely reach out to the world beyond. The largest temple in a region serves as a hub, coordinating with the other Seeker communities around it.

With that in mind, the important thing to understand is that the Blood of Vol is a religion that Seekers follow because it helps them make sense of their lives, providing meaning and strengthening their community. Most Seekers don’t know who Lady Illmarrow is and don’t have any interest in helping her with her grand schemes. Illmarrow has agents scattered throughout the faithful who do support her—from agents in the Crimson Covenant down through hub temples or villages—and these specific agents may provide support to her schemes. But OVERALL Illmarrow doesn’t control the faith and most Seekers don’t serve her purposes; some actively despise and oppose the Order of the Emerald Claw. Meanwhile, the members of the Order are Illmarrow’s active agents; some are extremist Seekers, while others—including Illmarrow herself—aren’t Seekers at all.

So: Illmarrow’s active agents are almost entirely in the Emerald Claw. Agents of the Emerald Claw may be able to get support from a local Seeker community but that is not at all a sure thing; it will depend in Illmarrow has supporters or sympathizers within that specific community.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Covenant is something that even Seekers generally know of only as a rumor. One thing I’ve suggested is that when a Seeker priest uses commune, they could actually get their answers from the Covenant. For more on the Crimson Covenant, refer to this article.

I like the idea of the Crimson Covenant being influenced by Lady Illmarrow, but not under her full control. But how could adventurers free it over her influence without having to destroy the mummies and liches that are loyal to her?

This depends entirely on how you decide to present the members of the Crimson Covenant who are loyal to Illmarrow. WHY are they loyal to her? It could be that Illmarrow is deceiving them, and that if adventurers can expose the truth these members of the Covenant will turn against her. Or it could be that these members of the Covenant are themselves merely hungry for power and not concerned with the good of the Seekers; if adventurers could prove this to the other members of the Covenant, then the truly faithful might clean house.

The Blood of Vol is a religion that values basically faith in your inner self. It seems there would not be much of value to Seeker cleric besides their own life (and maybe life of others). What would a BoV cleric refer to as “sacred”? Does this notion even apply to the Blood of Vol?

Looking up “Sacred”, I found this definition: connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. So with this in mind, what does a Seeker priest consider to be sacred?

  • Life. First and foremost, the Blood of Vol is based on the idea that mortals possess a spark of divinity within. We ARE the gods we venerate—or at least, we have the potential to be.
  • Blood. More specifically, the Seekers consider blood to be the channel of the Divinity WIthin.
  • Survival. This one’s a little more abstract and not shared by all sects, but the general idea is that death is unnatural—that mortality is a curse invented to prevent us from unlocking the Divinity Within. With this in mind, fighting death is a sacred activity. Don’t give up, and do all you can to protect the people you love.

One of the central rituals of the Blood of Vol is the communal sharing of blood as a way of establishing the bond between a community. What we have called out is that while Seekers believe that life is sacred and death is a tragedy, they recognize that you can’t save everyone and their focus is on protecting their own communities and people. Any death is a tragedy, but if bandits attacks your village, you need to put your OWN survival ahead of those who are trying to kill you and the people you care about. But I could very well see some Seekers who actively try not to kill their enemies, believing that any death is a loss.

Though again: There are many sects in the Blood of Vol. The Thieves of Life largely care only about their OWN lives and Divinity Within, and are all too happy to sacrifice others in pursuit of their own ascension.

And now for something completely different…

How do the Tairnadal/Valenar elves bury their dead? Especially when they’re in the field or engaged in battle?

So: The Tairnadal are a nomadic culture. They are essentially always engaged in battle and on the move, and generally don’t place a lot of importance on physical monuments. Likewise, they don’t place much importance on corpses. They’re concerned with the SPIRIT, believing that the spirit can live on through devoted followers. For revenant blades of Cardaen, Cardaen’s spirit is with them at all times; it doesn’t matter where his bones are.

Having said that: we’ve talked about revenants who treasure relics of their patron ancestors. Notably, the Player’s Guide to Eberron talks about the zaelshin tu:

Every Valenar warrior reveres his ancestors and carries a zaelshin amulet bearing the sigil of his patron ancestor with him at all times. With a zaelshin tu, you do more than that: You carry a physical relic of your patron ancestor—a tooth or sliver of bone brought from Xen’drik to Aerenal and encased in your zaelshin amulet.

The two noteworthy points here are that champions carry a piece of their patron—so again, not burying them in some grand tomb—and that these are described as teeth or slivers of bone; we’ve never described them as using, say, bonecraft armor.

With this in mind, I think that the common Tairnadal practice is to burn the dead, and then to collect ashes, teeth, and slivers of bone that survive the fire, which would be carried by other members of the fallen elf’s warband and possibly passed on to the Keepers of the Past. You don’t want to leave something behind an enemy could desecrate, and all you need is a sliver that can help serve as a beacon to their spirit.

That’s all for now! Thank you to my Patreon supporters for their questions and support!

Dragonmark: The Provinces of Riedra (Full)

One year ago, my Patreon supporters requested more information about the nation of Riedra. I shared a piece of this article on the site, but kept the full article as exclusive to Patreon. It’s been a year and I’m currently dealing with a personal crisis that is limiting my time, so I decided to share the full article with all of you. So, welcome to Riedra! For more context, you might want to read this article about Using Riedra in 5E or this recent article about Quori and Dreams,

The Unity of Riedra is a single political entity. It’s one nation. But it’s made up of eight provinces, and each of these provinces were once unique nations. Those nations were shaped by environmental factors, by religions, arcane discoveries, and most of all, by planar influences. While they are now unified—and while the Inspired work to discourage any strong sense of provincial nationalism in modern Riedra—understanding these fallen nations is crucial both to understanding the landscape of Riedra, the history of the Five Nations, and the secrets or wonders that adventurers might travel to Riedra to uncover. RIEDRA may be one nation, but you’ll have very different adventures in Borunan and Ohr Kaluun. 

Secrets of Sarlona implies that the old kingdoms were fairly advanced—that they had wizards, sorcerers, divine champions. If so, why did these techniques not travel to Khorvaire? And in general, why don’t the Five Nations show their Sarlonan roots more strongly? We’ve said that while most followers of the Sovereign Host in the Five Nations know that their faith is “the Pyrinean Creed,” very few actually know that this means it originated in the Sarlonan nation of Pyrine. Why have these nations been forgotten? 

There’s two important factors. The first is that the Sarlonan “settlers” of Khorvaire weren’t the paragons and pride of their nations. We’ve called out that Lhazaar was a pirate, and it’s no accident that her lieutenant Malleon was known as “The Reaver.” Many of those who followed Lhazaar were outlaws, renegades, or rebels of one brand or another. Later waves of colonization were largely driven by refugees. These weren’t organized efforts to preserve the culture and achievements of the old kingdoms. Equally important is the fact that they couldn’t transport many of their greatest achievements, which is another reason why there weren’t more active programs driving colonization. Because one thing Sarlona has in greater amounts than any other continent is planar influence. Manifest zones, wild zones, reality storms, and more—Sarlona is closer to the planes than Khorvaire. This creates both threats and opportunities. Depending on their traits, manifest zones and wild zones can be extremely dangerous—but as seen in Sharn, Shae Mordai, and Dreadhold, they can also enable wonders that can’t be replicated in the mundane world. Manifest zones can be a source of unusual flora, fauna, or other resources. The drug known as absentia is created using a root that grows in certain Xoriat manifest zones, while the pomow plant—the mainstay of the Riedran diet—was developed in Lamannian zones. Beyond this, the more powerful zones leak planar energies into the surrounding region. This can be tapped to produce magical effects, and can also subtly shape the personality of mortals. Creatures that live in the vicinity of a Shavarath wild zone are more likely to be aggressive—and to have an instinctive knack for developing martial skills. So the wizards of Khunan and the sorcerers of Corvagura were channeling planar magic… and when Khunan wizards fled to what’s now Valenar, they found that their magic didn’t work there. So the reason the Five Nations don’t seem to be that much more advanced than the fallen kingdoms of Sarlona is because they had to rebuild their arcane science… in the process, creating forms of magic that are more reliable and versatile. Nonetheless, it is possible that adventurers sifting through the ruins of the old kingdoms may find rituals, relics, or spells that are a match or even superior to modern techniques… though it might take the skill of an exceptional arcanist—or a player character—to adapt these techniques to the modern style! (Side note for the Arcana-proficient: the old Sarlonan style of magic—drawing on planar energies—is referred to as “Externalist” or “wielding external forces.” The most common form of arcane science employed by the Five Nations is “Siberyan,” and manipulates energies exuded by the Ring of Siberys.)

So what follows focuses on aspects not covered in Secrets of Sarlona: the impact of the planes and interesting aspects of the old cultures. But always remember that the Inspired have worked to suppress the old traditions. In particular, the Edgewalkers are an elite order tasked to protect innocents from extraplanar threats, and one of their major duties is patrolling the borders of wild zones. Many zones do contain deadly threats; but in other cases the Inspired don’t want the locals to find ways to use the zones as their ancestors did, or to be influenced by the zone. 

Note that manifest zones to all planes (save Dal Quor) can be found anywhere in Riedra. What are called out in these sections are the most common and powerful planar influences in a region, and the common wild zones. But manifest zones to Thelanis can be found in any province, for example; in the novel The Gates of Night, the protagonists travel between Xen’drik and Sarlona using manifest zones tied to Thelanis. 

BORUNAN

In Borunan, you might…

  • Be drawn into the schemes of oni and ogres plotting rebellion. 
  • Find an ancient forge where oni crafted weapons for ogre champions. 
  • Be forced into an extension of Shavarath, where celestials and fiends fight an endless war. 
  • Use a passage from Khyber to enter Riedra.

In the days of the old kingdoms, the ogres of Borunan were peerless warriors. The champions of Borunan possessed inhuman strength, martial discipline, unshakeable courage, and weapons forged in Fernian flame. Time and again, they repelled the legions of Nulakesh and the crusaders of Khalesh, and yet Borunan never sought to conquer any of its neighbors. Some might wonder why this was. Borunan is a harsh land; did the ogres never consider claiming the more fertile fields of Nulakesh? What kept their population so low that they never needed to expand? 

It’s commonly known that the people of Borunan considered their neighbors to be “unworthy foes” and the common assumption was that the ogres were cruel brutes who constantly fought one another. In fact, the ogres were waging a truly divine war—fighting alongside angels in an endless struggle against devils. The center of Borunan contains a wild zone to Shavarath where a fragment of the Eternal Battleground extends directly into the material plane, and the ancient ogres devoted their might not to conquest, but to defending this keep against the forces of tyranny. 

Borunan contains multiple wild zones tied to Fernia and Shavarath, along with multiple passages into Khyber. The forerunners of the ogres emerged from a demiplane within Khyber; tectonic activity destroyed this passage, leaving them stranded in this barren region of rocky desert and hills. Of the Shavaran wild zones, only the one—known to the ogres as Gul Dol, the Gate of War—is a direct passage to the Eternal Battleground. But the ogres built their fortresses in the other Shavaran zones, and over generations the influence of Shavarath helped shape them into fierce warriors. The origin of the oni is a secret long forgotten, but one possibility is this: just like the rakshasa and the overlords, the immortals of Shavarath cannot be permanently bound. But during their service in Gul Dol, the champions of Borunan found a way to bind defeated fiends to their own bodies—sort of an involuntary version of the process that created the kalashtar, trapping a fiend within a bloodline of ogres. Thus the supernatural powers of the oni may be tied to the essence of devils bound to the bloodlines. This could be why many oni are drawn toward evil; but the oni of Borunan resisted those sinister instincts, using the power of their defeated foes to fight alongside celestials. 

In addition to being fierce warriors, the oni of Borunan forged their weapons in the Cauldron, a wild zone tied to Fernia. Their weapons weren’t as well-crafted as the arms and armor of the Dhakaani, but the oni spell-smiths were able to channel the energies of Shavarath and Fernia to imbue their creations with powerful magic. While most of these weapons were destroyed long ago—not to mention being designed to be wielded by ogres and oni—legendary items or even artifacts could remain in Gul Dol, the Cauldron, or other ancient ruins. 

The ogres of ancient Borunan cared nothing for the Sovereigns or the Silver Flame. They were entirely devoted to the battle for Gul Dol. The angels of the Legion of Freedom battle the devils of the Legion of Tyranny for control of this massive fortress, which is broken into multiple rings and wings. The angels believe that the balance of this war reflects the balance between tyranny and freedom across the multiverse. Of course, this is only one of countless fronts in the eternal war between these forces, but the ogres embraced this idea and believed that in fighting alongside the angels they were fighting for freedom for all people. 

The Fall of Borunan. Despite the might of its champions, Borunan was easily laid low by the Dreaming Dark. The humans of the surrounding regions had long feared the ogres, and it was easy for the quori to fan these flames. Within Borunan itself, the quori sowed doubts and created feuds, shattering centuries of unity. Were the oni secretly in league with devils? Was the battle for Gul Dol a pointless sacrifice? Civil strife decimated Borunan and left it vulnerable to outside attack. 

Borunan Today. In the present day, the ogres of Borunan are kept from the wild zones that served as the strongholds of their ancestors, and largely kept from any form of war; they use their strength for manual labor as opposed to battle. The oni are raised to believe in a twisted form of their actual history. Riedran oni are taught that their gifts are the result of being living prisons for fiends; it is the duty of the oni to redeem the fiend within them through their own devoted service to the Inspired. Largely, this has proven successful, and the Horned Guard—an elite corps of oni soldiers—is one of the most powerful weapons in the Riedran arsenal. However, over the course of the last two decades a group of Borunan rebels has been forming a resistance movement, the Horned Shadow, that seeks to protect the ogre-kin (ogres, oni, eneko). This is still a young movement, struggling to build power while avoiding the gaze of the Thousand Eyes. It’s up to the DM to decide if the Horned Shadow is entirely heroic—a throwback to the champions of ancient Borunan, who devoted their lives to defending freedom from tyranny—or if the oni leaders are driven by fiendish impulses and have malevolent goals. 

Keep in Mind. Borunan has many passages to Khyber. These could provide ways for adventurers to cross from Khorvaire into Riedra, intentionally or by accident. This could also be a vector that could bring the minions of a daelkyr into Riedra. The Edgewalkers monitor these passages, and have sealed those that can be sealed. The public is kept away from the wild zones that hold the ancient ruins of Borunan, and believe them to be the domain of foul altavars (the Riedran term for fiends). The two most powerful zones are the Cauldron (a Fernian zone in the Broken Blade Mountains and the seat of old Borunan’s oni spell-smiths) and Gul Dol. Today, the majority of the Gate of War is in the hands of the Legion of Tyranny, but the angels still hold an isolated keep. Their forces include a number of Borunan sword wraiths—the spectral vestiges of the ogrekin champions that fought and died alongside them. 

The ogres of Borunan are generally more intelligent than their cousins in Droaam, with an average Intelligence of 9. It’s likely that the ancestors of the ogres and oni of Khorvaire were transported by a planar anomaly; this might explain their reduced Intelligence and the lack of any Borunan traditions. Another possibility is that the ogres of Khorvaire are a separate branch of the species—that they came from the same demiplane but emerged in Khorvaire instead of Sarlona, and were untouched by the influence of Shavarath. 

CORVAGURA

In Corvagura, you might…

  • Seek to sabotage the teleportation network of Durat Tal.
  • Explore a mysterious magebreeding facility in a Lamannian wild zone. 
  • Try to save a youth who’s manifested sorcerous powers. 
  • Explore the tomb of a forgotten sorcerer-king. 

Corvagura is a tropical region marked by deep jungles and lush fields. It has long been the most densely populated region of Sarlona, and it was one of the most powerful and influential of the old kingdoms. Corvagura includes manifest zones and wild zones tied to Lamannia, Mabar, and Thelanis. It’s the influence of Lamannia that lends unnatural fertility to the region and its inhabitants. The influences of the other planes were made manifest in two powerful lines of sorcerers. Anyone born within the sphere of influence could potentially develop sorcerous powers; Corvagura was born when leaders rallied these sorcerers into two noble houses, and used their powers to conquer the city-states in the region. 

  • The House of the Sun drew its power from Thelanis. Its members had the Wild Magic origin. Their magic tended towards glamour and glory, twisting the thoughts and emotions of others or striking down foes with bolts of flame. Though biologically human, members of the House of the Sun often had fey features and could be mistaken for Khoravar. The sorcerers of the House of the Sun were taught to be proud and glorious, demanding adoration from their subjects. 
  • The House of the Moon drew its power from Mabar. Its members had the Shadow origin, and their magic drew on darkness and inspired fear. They never animated the dead, but they could command shadows and summon specters. The sorcerers of the House of the Moon were taught to be calm and cruel, instilling terror in any who might challenge them. 

While these houses were presented as families, position was based entirely on sorcerous power. Anyone who manifested such powers would be adopted into the appropriate house, while any heir who failed to show sorcerous talent by their 18th birthday was cast out. The majority of the sorcerers of Corvagura were convinced that their powers elevated them above the common people, and were infamous for their casual cruelty and tyrannical rule. But they did protect the common people from a number of deadly threats, from the colossal beasts that emerged from Lamannian wild zones to the restless dead and capricious fey unleashed by the other wild zones. 

The Fall of Corvagura. The quori attacked Corvagura on three fronts. They encouraged the cruelty and narcissism of the worst of the sorcerers, pushing their subjects past the limit of what they would endure. They created a deep, paranoid rift between the houses, leading to destructive vendettas. And they encouraged the spirit of revolution among the people—culminating in the appearance of early Inspired, commoners wielding supernatural powers capable of defeating the sorcerers.    

Corvagura Today. Today Corvagura is the heart of Riedra, both in terms of population and administration. It’s home to both the capital city of Durat Tal and the primary eastern port, Dar Jin, along with a number of other important bastion cities. The influence of wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis are largely contained by the Edgewalkers; the Shanjueed Jungle has been called out as the largest Mabaran manifest zone in Eberron, dwarfing even the Gloaming of the Eldeen Reaches. Lamannian wild zones and manifest zones have been tapped to contribute to the agricultural programs of Riedra; this includes the creation of unusual hybrids, such as the pomow plant. As the Inspired keep people out of the wild zones and work to contain their influence, plane-touched sorcerers are rarely born in Corvagura. People know what to watch for and know that such sorcerers are vessels for altavars (evil spirits), responsible for chaos and bloodshed in the days before the Unity, and sorcerers identified by the Thousand Eyes will either be killed or forced into service with the Edgewalkers. However, as with other provinces, there may well be a few who have managed to conceal their powers or who managed to flee into wild zones and survive there—rebels who could assist player characters. On the other hand, some such sorcerers have internalized the teachings that these powers are the gifts of fiends, and believe that the path to greater power lies in performing vile acts; such criminals are exceedingly dangerous. It’s worth noting that while the sorcerer-princes of ancient Corvagura were human, there’s nothing stopping a Corvaguran changeling, shifter, or member of another species from developing such powers. 

Keep in Mind. Corvagura is the heart of Riedra. Dar Jin is a center for trade and diplomacy. Durat Tal is the administrative center of the Unity, and it is also the hub for the network of teleportation circles that allow the Inspired to swiftly move troops and supplies across the length of their realm. Because of this, Corvagura has the largest number of hanbalani monoliths and the greatest effort made to ensure the loyalty of its people; while there could be a few rogue sorcerers, Corvagura is a difficult place to find support for any sort of rebellion. 

The manifest and wild zones tied to Mabar and Thelanis provide all sorts of potential for adventures. These zones may contain ruins associated with the Houses of the Sun and Moon, along with the forgotten treasures of the sorcerer-kings. Mabar zones may yet be haunted by the specters of ancient tyrants or by newly animated undead. The Edgewalkers are dedicated to keeping fey and undead contained, and the Thousand Eyes ensure that no one tells the stories of the fey. But this can still be another way to enter Riedra; Thelanian zones often allow passage to the Faerie Court under the right circumstances, and adventurers exploring the Twilight Demesne in Khorvaire could accidentally end up facing Edgewalkers on the edge of a forest in Corvagura. 

DOR MALEER

In Dor Maleer, you might…

  • Use a passage to Dolurrh to rescue a lost soul.
  • Release an ancient champion who’s been bound in ice for thousands of years. 
  • Battle rocs or other colossal beasts. 
  • Help a band of duergar commandos strike a blow against the inspired. 

Dor Maleer is a region of harsh plains, cold deserts, and mountains. It is a barren land, only slightly more hospitable than the Tashana Tundra that lies to the north. In the days before the Sundering, the northern mountains were the domain of the Akiak dwarves, while the plains were claimed by the Hual Maleer, a loose federation of human and shifter clans. 

The plains of Dor Maleer lack the resources to support large settlements, and the Hual Maleer have always lived in small communities, splitting and forming new clans when the population began to outstrip local resources. Dor Maleer contains multiple wild zones and manifest zones tied to Lamannia, but these showcase the versatility of that plane. Most people think of Lamannia as the Twilight Forest, as a plane that enhances the fertility of plants and animals… and this is a common element of Lamannian zones. But Lamannia embodies the power of nature, and that includes deadly storms, frigid tundras, raging volcanos, and more. The plains of Dor Maleer are broken up by regions of environmental extremes at odds with the surroundings. Wild zones could cause endless hurricanes, with free-roaming air elementals howling with the winds. There are vast pools of lava in the Maleeri plains, and fire elementals occasionally emerge to scorch the soil. There are also a few wild zones where the environment is more welcoming—a stretch of dense forest, an impossibly verdant valley. Maleeri hunters forage and hunt in these regions, but attempting to settle them is unwise. These zones represent the indomitable force of the wild, and resist the intrusion of civilization. Disease, accelerated decay, and hostile wildlife will all plague any would-be settlers. And hostile wildlife in these zones is quite literally a big deal. These regions produce megafauna, massive beasts similar to rocs in size and power, though they can take many forms. These powerful beasts are sterile outside their zones, and thus haven’t spread. But there are tales of ancient hunters feeding a village for a month with the corpse of a mighty bear dragged from the deep forest. These wild zones cannot be tamed, but there are a few manifest zones with less extreme effects, and these were the sites of Dor Maleer’s largest communities.  

The mountains of Dor Maleer contain wild zones tied to Risia and Dolurrh. In the Risia zones, chasms are filled with ice and temperatures are far more severe than nature should allow. But the ice of Risia preserves, and time ceases to flow for creatures or objects encased in ice in such a zone. It’s possible explorers could find ancient champions from the Sundering or the days of the old kingdoms—or even a frozen dragon from the Age of Demons! The influence of Dolurrh is unpredictable. The most dramatic landmark is the Final Passage. When the moon Aryth is full, those who venture into this cavern can enter the Catacombs of Dolurrh. This offers a way to recover a soul that cannot be resurrected through normal means. But the Catacombs have guardians, and the Queen of the Dead doesn’t surrender her subjects easily. 

The Frostblade (Paqaa) Mountains were the home of the Akiak dwarves, a dwarf culture that produces mountain, hill, and gray dwarves. The Akiak duergar are thought to be a mutation resulting from generations dwelling in the radius of the Dolurrh wild zones. In addition to their sensitivity to light, the Akiak duergar have an unusually strong bond to Dolurrh. This often results in a flat emotional affect; though they aren’t paralyzed by the infamous ennui of Dolurrh, the Akiak are somber by nature. Akiak duergar hear the whispers of spirits, both the voices of their own ancestors and of others who have died in the places they pass through. Largely these voices form an incomprehensible chorus. However, some Akiak duergar hone their skills and become mediums (as per the magewright specialty in Rising From The Last War). All duergar can learn to channel this babel, harnessing this choir of excess thought as pure psionic power; it’s by channeling this power that a duergar can hide itself from the perceptions of others or temporarily expand its mass. Akiak champions learn to wield this power to produce devastating effects. In the days before the Sundering, the Akiak pioneered the development of psionic tools and channeling devices; the hanbalani monoliths that ensure Inspired dominance over Riedra are based on Akiak techniques. 

The Fall of Dor Maleer. Dor Maleer was never a strongly united nation. The first step for the Dreaming Dark was to build a force among the Hual Maleer—causing tensions between clans and between human and shifter. Inspired champions arose within the clans, uniting them and spreading the word of the Path of Unity. The psychic Akiak proved resistant to the manipulations of the Dreaming Dark, but the quori amplified fear and conflict between them and the people of the lowlands. As the Unity of Riedra emerged, the first true Inspired offered peace to the Akiak, and paid them handsomely for their aid in creating the hanbalani and other elements of Riedran infrastructure. But once the dwarves had served their purpose, Riedra turned on them—launching a brutal preemptive strike. Survivors were driven from their mountain home and into the Tashana Tundra. 

Dor Maleer Today. This harsh frontier region can’t support the civic infrastructure that is common throughout the rest of Riedra. There is a single bastion city: Dar Vuleer, a port on Lake Kelneluun; this is in a Lamannia manifest zone that allows limited agriculture and exceptional fishing. The fortress of Kintarn Malin coordinates the defense of the northeastern border and also serves as a training center for the shifters of the Taskaan Legion. Beyond this, Maleeri villages are smaller and more loosely structured than their southern counterparts. There are relatively few hanbalani monoliths in the province and many villages don’t have the shared dreams or receive messages from the Voice. As such, while most Maleeri still support the idea of the Unity, they are not as deeply indoctrinated as the people of other provinces. Rebels from other provinces who don’t want to flee Riedra entirely might take shelter in Dor Maleer, where the Thousand Eyes aren’t watching so closely.

Because of the sparse population of Dor Maleer, the wild zones of the province don’t receive the same level of attention from the Edgewalkers as those in southern population centers. Local hunters work together to deal with rampaging megafauna, and elementals rarely stray far enough from their zones to endanger the inhabitants. The Final Passage doesn’t unleash threats into the world, and mortals who enter it almost never return; so while there are a few Edgewalker outposts monitoring the region, these zones are largely accessible to adventurers. 

The Akiak were driven from the region and their towns and fortresses were destroyed; there are ruins in the mountains, though most have been picked over by Akiak rebels in the intervening centuries. As described in Secrets of Sarlona, the Akiak are currently expanding their resistance movement, even sabotaging monoliths. 

Keep in Mind. The mountains are home to manifest zones and wild zones tied to Dolurrh. Unlike Mabar, Dolurrh rarely produces hostile undead. However, the mountains are certainly haunted, carrying echoes of the ancient dead. Shadows might replay powerful or emotional moments, or adventurers could stumble across battles being refought. Like speak with dead, these are typically just traces of memory—but they can certainly be eerie. 

KHALESH

In Khalesh, you might…

  • Recover an artifact from a couatl tomb.   
  • Discover a hidden enclave of shulassakar. 
  • Channel the power of Irian to perform a crucial ritual. 
  • Find a portal to one of the floating towers of Irian.

Khalesh is a land of temperate plains and desert—green grassland fading into sun-baked plains and mesas. While it’s more hospitable than neighboring Borunan, at a glance it’s rather barren—endless and empty. And yet, if you wander these plains, you may find yourself enveloped by a sense of well-being, a deep-rooted optimism and the knowledge that all will be well… with an underlying conviction that you’ll fight to keep it that way. 

Khalesh is suffused with the energies of Irian and Shavarath. It is Irian that provides the optimism and draws people toward the light. The influence of Shavarath is slower and more subtle, but over many thousands of years it produced a culture determined not just to embrace the light, but to battle the darkness. There are a number of patches where Syrania reaches through, where the dominant mood is one of peace. But for the most part, it is a realm that breeds hope and the willingness to fight for it… two things that are very dangerous for the Inspired. 

These planar influences aren’t the only supernatural force at play in Khalesh. Glance across a Khalesh plain and you may see what seems to be a giant bone projecting from the earth—a fallen column of what seems to be polished ivory. The locals call these “dragon bones”, saying they are the bones of Eberron herself. But search further and you may find patches of wall, foundations, or even small buildings formed from this dragonbone. It is virtually indestructible and seemingly immune to the passage of time. It’s not made from the bones of the earth; it is a building substance used by the ancient couatl, the most numerous of the native celestials of Eberron. Khalesh is one of the places that the couatl came into the world in the Age of Demons, one of the anchors where these immortals would reform if they were destroyed. In a sense, it’s the celestial counterpart to the Demon Wastes of Khorvaire; a place suffused with lingering celestial power.

The humans of Khalesh built their cities on couatl foundations, and Khaleshi champions had visions of the celestial serpents and their great sacrifice to protect the innocent. The couatl graced the banner of Khalesh, and its people took up their ancient battle against fiends. And so all three factors played a part. The Khaleshites drew on the power of the Silver Flame and embraced the call to fight supernatural evil. Irian inspired them with hope and the belief that they could build a better world. And Shavarath drove them to FIGHT for that world—to push beyond the purely compassionate aspects of the Silver Flame and to use the sword to battle mortal evil as well as fiends. 

The Khaleshite crusaders wielded the power of the Silver Flame, but they didn’t call it by that name. They fall under what the Library of Korranberg has defined as a “Serpent Cult”—focused purely on the celestial couatl and their battle against the fiends. Precedent suggests that the Khaleshites must have had their own equivalent of the Voice of the Flame, but few details of the ancient champions remain. The people of Khalesh were constantly clashing with their neighbors. They fought supernatural threats, battling aberrations from Khyber, destroying undead, smashing extraplanar threats. But they were unduly proud of their virtue, and the pervasive influence of Shavarath drove them to fight—to look for flaws in the people around them. They fought the tyrants of Nulakhesh, clashed with the reavers of Rhiavhaar and the bandits of Sunyagir, and battled the beasts of Borunan. In periods when they were at peace with Nulakesh, they would join forces to attach Ohr Kaluun… which, to be fair, certainly deserved it. 

So Khaleshite civilization was built around constant conflict, blended with a sense of moral superiority and an endless quest toward the light. Khalesh was a virtuous society, but all too quick to draw a sword when a compassionate word could better serve. 

The Fall of Khalesh. Khalesh was always deeply unpopular with its neighbors, so it wasn’t hard for the quori to harness that resentment. But they had another card to play. Quori agents revealed that the noble families of Khalesh had long concealed a bizarre secret: that over the course of untold generations of devotion to the serpent cult, Khaleshite champions had become something inhuman. The Khaleshite leadership was riddled with shulassakar, a feathered form of yuan-ti tied to the couatl. While the shulassakar were devoted servants of the light, through dreams and agents the quori were able to twist this, convincing the common people that the shulassakar were monstrous alien invaders, that THEY were fiends and that the corrupted bloodlines of Khalesh had to be completely exterminated. And, to a large degree, they were. The Inspired largely depopulated the region and leveled its cities—fortified citadels built in manifest zones tied to Irian and Shavarath. All couatl relics that could be found were destroyed, and records of the virtuous victories of the Khaleshites were wiped from history. 

Khalesh Today. The current inhabitants of Khalesh are descended from people resettled from the forgotten nations of the Syrkarn region. The modern people of Khalesh shun the ancient ruins and know that the ancient people were corrupted by the vile spirits in the region, and they are especially observant in their devotion to the Path of Inspiration. A few of the Kintam fortresses are built in manifest zones tied to Shavarath, but people are forbidden to enter the powerful wild zones, and these areas are patrolled by the Edgewalkers; all know that the sense of hope one feels around these areas is the lure of fiends trying to set hooks in your soul. 

Khalesh has the potential to be especially interesting for any adventurers tied to the Silver Flame. The Khaleshite faith was closer to that of the Pure Flame than to the modern church of the Silver Flame; the Shavaran influence drove them toward unnecessary violence. But there are still relics that will respond to the touch of anyone who channels the power of the Flame. There is surely a holy avenger waiting in a tomb, and there could be couatl artifacts that might help a party that needs to bind demons or resist the power of the Lords of Dust. This is also an opportunity to introduce new spells, feats, or archetypes added in a new sourcebook; perhaps a connection to a couatl or wisdom shared in an ancient scroll teaches a champion of the Silver Flame a new way to wield its power. 

It’s up to the DM to decide just how wild the wild zones of Khalesh are. Unlike the ogres of Borunan, the Khaleshites weren’t fighting a war in Shavarath. But it’s possible that their capital city is in a wild zone tied to an actual projection of Irian, and that Khaleshite emissaries regularly visited the Amaranthine City. It’s also a question as to whether any of the shulassakar were able to survive the Inspired purge. An unusual possibility is that in their last days, the Khaleshites developed their own form of deathless, similar to the councilors of the Undying Court. If so, there could be ascendant shulassakar, Khaleshite champions who survived the Sundering but who cannot leave the wild zone that now sustains them. 

Khalesh is also known to have at least one wild zone tied to Syrania. This could simply be a region where aggressive thought is impossible, or a place of floating rubble and remnants of great towers—a warning of what could become of Sharn. But as a wild zone it could be something far stranger, or even a portal into Syrania itself. Perhaps one of the floating towers of Syrania is in Khalesh—the tower of a Dominion of Knowledge who has been recording the conflict between the overlords and the couatl since time began. 

Keep in Mind. The energies that permeate Khalesh inspire and provide hope, but also urge war. The ruins of the couatl are largely VERY ruined, having endured the full force of both the overlords and the Inspired… though it’s always possible there is some hidden subterranean sanctums that were never found. The people of Khalesh had their own Voice of the Silver Flame; could that spirit reach out to a modern follower of the faith, and if so, is it a purely positive power or does the influence of Shavarath make it a dangerous threat? The current people of Khalesh are devoted to the Inspired and hard to sway, but could the touch of Irian lend hope to insurgents?

NULAKESH

In Nulakesh, you might…

  • Try to convince an Edgewalker commander of the threat posed by the Dreaming Dark 
  • Steal planar research from the arcane workshops of Dar Mun 
  • Destroy a Riedran resurrection facility 
  • Venture into the Iron Ward of Daanvi, a realm of tyrannical devils.

Long before anyone had dreamed of the Unity of Riedra, the Empire of Nulakesh was the most powerful force in Sarlona. Beginning as a single city-state, its legions conquered and assimilated the people of the surrounding region, incorporating them into its war machine. At its height, the Empire of Nulakesh dominated much of what is now Pyrine and Dor Maleer. The empire waxed and waned many times; its current borders reflect the lands it held when the Inspired rebellion finally wiped out the Imperial line at the end of the Sundering. 

Nulakesh is strongly influenced by Daanvi and Shavarath. Where Irian and the Silver Flame channeled the Khaleshites to fight for the light, the Nulakeshi were driven by war and order. This drove deep martial instincts and an innate aptitude for martial discipline… a legacy that still lingers in Karrnath today. But the Nulakeshi genius for war was all too often wielded by tyrants, as the influence of the Iron Ward shaped the Imperial line. 

Nulakhesh has a high number of manifest zones tied to Shavarath. These were the foundations of most of the ancient city-states, and still are today; Nulakhesh provides the bulk of the soldiers of the Harmonious Shield, and even Nulakeshi peasants engage in regular martial drills. However, it also has wild zones, and these have been a danger throughout the history of the region. One of the Shavaran wild zones is connected to the layer known as the Warring Cities, but unlikely the ogres of Borunan, there is no role for mortals to play in this layer. Other zones don’t serve as actual portals to Shavarath, but they recreate its deadly environs. All too often these Shavaran wild zones have been the source of bloodshed or tragedy, with razor storms or sword wraiths flowing beyond the borders of the zone to threaten the lands beyond. 

Daanvian zones are less dramatic, but they are largely tied to the oppressive layers of Daanvi. The ancient capital of the Empire, the city of Nulakar, was built in a zone tied to the Iron Ward of Daanvi. While there was no direct portal between the planes, accounts suggest that more than one devil passed from Daanvi into Nulakar, and that there was a time when the Nulakeshi emperors had fiendish advisors. 

The Fall of Nulakesh. Nulakesh was at a low point when the Sundering began. The Dreaming Dark began by firing up their imperial spirit, giving the emperor and warlords dreams of regaining their past glories. The Sundering lasted for generations, and the resurgent Nulakhesh was just the beginning of their plans. It became a tool they used to cripple surrounding nations—the force that fiercely battled the foul serpent-people of Khalesh and brought righteous fury to Ohr Kaluun. Along the way, the quori encouraged the emperors to indulge in ever-greater acts of cruel tyranny, and to work with their Daanvian devils (who were acting independently, with no idea of the role they were playing in the greater schemes). Even the stoic Nulakeshi had a breaking point; as they grew close to it, the first Inspired rose up, promising to overthrow the tyrants—whom they revealed to be working with devils!—and to lead the people on the true path of righteousness, cleansing ALL the foulness from Sarlona. Once the Inspired of Nulakesh convinced their forces to unite with the Inspired-led armies of Corvagura, the fate of the continent was sealed. 

Nulakesh Today. Nulakhesh has always been a part of the strong foundation of Riedra. It is the base of the Edgewalkers and the primary source of the Harmonious Shield. Its people are happy to have a cause to fight for, and to the degree that the influence of Daanvi is allowed to influence them, they are more inherently comfortable with tyranny in pursuit of order. However, the city of Nulakar is a shunned ruin, and the Edgewalkers patrol all of the dangerous wild zones. The Inspired are ever alert: they don’t mind Daanvi instilling an appreciation for order in their subjects, but they will not allow other immortals to influence their people. 

The Edgewalkers are based in the massive fortress-city of Dar Mun, which is poised between four wild zones (including old Nulavar, the Imperial Crypt, and two Shavaran zones). In addition to being the primary garrison and training facility for the Edgewalkers, it holds the finest arcane library and workshops in Riedra. The Edgewalkers are allowed to study arcane magic, and must be prepared to fight any sort of threat. The Inspired also conduct much of their planar research in Dar Mun, and there are surely many secrets to be discovered here and powerful eldritch machines. 

There are only a few wild zones tied to Dolurrh in Nulakesh, but they are noteworthy. The Imperial Crypt was was the royal necropolis, noteworthy because of its curious powers of resurrection. When any form of magic that returns life to the dead is used here, it only requires half the usual costly material components. In some cases the dead interred here have spontaneously returned to life, though perhaps not with the same souls they began with. Close to Dar Mun, the Imperial Crypt is heavily guarded by the Edgewalkers. The Inspired have limited access to resurrection and largely don’t need it, because they simply employ new hosts; but it could be that the Inspired are working on new techniques, trying to transform this zone into a resurrection factory. The other noteworthy wild zone tied to Dolurrh is a stretch of fields known as the Gray; this region is suffused with the ennui of Dolurrh, and those who remain in it for long soon succumb to a deadly apathy. 

Keep in Mind. The people of this region are both fiercely loyal to the Inspired and the most martially inclined of all Riedrans. The widespread manifest zones tied to Shavarath encourage aggression and can enhanced it in many ways, as will be detailed in Exploring Eberron. This region has the highest concentration of Edgewalkers, in part because it has some of the most dangerous wild zones. 

OHR KALUUN

In Ohr Kaluun, you might…

  • Work with the Dream Merchants to enter Riedra unseen. 
  • Search for a powerful artifact hidden in a constantly shifting maze. 
  • Be hunted by a ruthless family of skulk assassins. 
  • Fight a cabal of wizards preparing to unleash chaos on all of Sarlona.

The kingdom of Ohr Kaluun may be the most infamous nation in the history of Khorvaire. Its lords were ruthless in their pursuit of supernatural power, committing countless atrocities in their quest for mystical might. The influence of Xoriat, Mabar, and Kythri can be felt across the islands, and these powers shaped the psyche of the people. Mabar wiped away empathy, driving people to be cruel and predatory. Kythri drove constant change, a quest for innovation and endless emerging factions. And Xoriat inspired the Kaluunites to pursue strange and terrible visions, to attempt things no mundane mind would consider.

The people of Ohr Kaluun possessed advanced forms of both divine and arcane magic. Thanks to the influence of Kythri, they made countless breakthroughs in arcane science but would rarely maintain or preserve these techniques; thus Kaluunite wizards wielded astonishing powers but rarely passed their knowledge on to future generations. The most widespread and consistent advancements in Ohr Kaluun were made by their warlocks and priests; the lords of Ohr Kaluun were more than willing to make dangerous bargains in exchange for the power that they craved. 

Throughout most of its history, Ohr Kaluun was ruled by an alliance of Shadow Lords. In theory these were hereditary bloodlines, but in practice the title was held by whoever could claim power and hold on to it, and feuds and uprisings were common. Ohr Kaluun is well known for its war mazes, vast labyrinths that served as both fortresses and cities. Each Shadow Lord dwelled at the heart of a great maze, pursuing their own paths to power and scheming against their rivals. Each lord generally followed a different path to power, and a maze would be devoted to a particular sinister patron, whether that was a member of the Dark Six, and overlord, or an archfiend from one of the planes. While there were a few Kaluunite lords known to have actually been loved by their people, the influences of Mabar and Xoriat drove the Kaluunites to horrific excess and cruelty. If you are ever looking for an image of a classically evil cult, for people willfully embracing the service of fiends or performing vile sacrifices, there are surely tales of Ohr Kaluun that serve that need. 

The influence of Kythri, Xoriat, and Mabar permeate the islands, even beyond manifest zones and wild zones. There are also lesser manifest zones tied to other planes. Every war maze was built within a particular zone, and that colored the practices and achievements of the inhabitants. Evidence suggests that both the skulks and the changelings were created in Ohr Kaluun, using magebreeding techniques that surely drew on the power of Kythri. The influence of Xoriat led them to pursue paths of magic no rational mind would conceive of. Thus, while Ohr Kaluun was known for its warlocks, the Kaluunites dealt with many different patrons; one maze might use the Fiend patron to reflect bargains with native fiends, another would use the Great Old One to reflect dealing with Xoriat, another might use Hexblade to reflect bargains with the Dark Powers of Mabar. The priests of Ohr Kaluun revered the Dark Six, but different mazes had their own unique pairings, names, and interpretations of the Six.  

A critical aspect of this chaotic history is that almost any mystical approach could be found in a Kaluunite war maze. We’ve never mentioned Ohr Kaluun as working with the daelkyr or symbionts—but there certainly COULD have been a Shadow Lord who bargained with Belashyrra. Necromancy wasn’t a widespread practice in Ohr Kaluun, but adventurers could be drawn into a war maze whose lord dealt with the Bone King of Mabar, and whose mummy still rules over the deadly tomb. 

The Fall of Ohr Kaluun. The people of Sarlona always feared and hated Ohr Kaluun. Pyrine, Nulakesh, and Khalesh had clashed with the island in the past. Fear of Ohr Kaluun was a common thread the quori used in stirring up conflict across Sarlona; on the island itself, it was easy to amplifying the existing paranoia and feuds of the Shadow Lords until it reached a breaking point. The Shadow Lords crippled one another long before they were destroyed by the combined forces of Nulakesh and Corvagura, united by their Inspired champions. 

Ohr Kaluun Today. As with Khalesh, the Inspired were ruthless in their cleansing of Ohr Kaluun. The vast majority of its people were simply slain. The war mazes were nearly impossible to destroy, but were blocked off and shunned. 

Reidra maintains a presence on Ohr Kel, the largest island of the train. Dar Kel is the sole bastion city in Ohr Kaluun; while it serves as a port, it’s primarily there to monitor the area, seeking to stop or at least reduce the activities of smugglers and the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun (dissidents who seek to recover dangerous power from the ancient ruins). The Inspired are legitimately afraid of Ohr Kaluun; they know that they don’t know what deadly forces remain bound in the sealed mazes. 

Ohr Kaluun is sparsely populated; aside from Dar Kel, its legitimate inhabitants are mainly dedicated to fishing and avoid the inland ruins. However, as an areas shunned by the Inspired, it’s a haven for smugglers (including the faction known as the Dream Merchants) and renegades. 

It’s thought that the first changelings were created in Ohr Kaluun, and spread to Khorvaire in a wave of refugees. Likewise, refugees from Ohr Kaluun are believed to be the ancestors of the humans found in the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes. There is only one place where the traditions of Ohr Kaluun survive: the Venomous Demesne of Droaam. The ruling families of the Demesne are tieflings, the result of magebreeding and pacts made by their ancestors. They possess the strongest warlock tradition in Eberron and have built upon the achievements of the past; however, long removed from the corrupting influences of Mabar and Xoriat, they are neither as cruel nor as inventive as their ancestors. 

Keep in Mind. The powers wielded by Ohr Kaluun are supposed to be legitimately dangerous and frightening. It’s not simply that they were powerful warlocks and wizards, it’s that their techniques WERE things rational people would avoid. In some cases, their powers may have had a price in blood or suffering. But it’s also possible that they used spells or techniques that had unusual and dangerous side effects. You might consider the ideas presented in this article about the Shadow

A secondary point is that anything is possible in Ohr Kaluun. The Venomous Demesne only preserved the traditions of a single maze, and the Shadow Lords didn’t share techniques. There’s no telling what secrets are buried in these ancient labyrinths… but whatever they are, they’ll be dangerous and disturbing.

PYRINE

In Pyrine, you might…

  • Explore one of the earliest human shrines of the Sovereign Host. 
  • Be granted a divine vision or entrusted with a sacred artifact.  
  • Debate religion with a priest of the Path of Inspiration. 
  • Discover a hidden library vault filled with ancient knowledge.

Pyrine is a land of warm plains and forests, welcoming both in its aspect and its aura. Something about Pyrine inspires calm reflection. Standing in a Pyrinean meadow, it is easy to feel a sense of joy and contentment—to know that somehow, all is right in the world. This is due to Pyrine’s strong ties to Irian, Daanvi, and Syrania. The effects are strongest when people are close to a wild zone, but even beyond the zones a general sense of peace and well-being pervades the region. The people of Pyrine are naturally inclined to follow the rules, to avoid conflict; even where there are problems, surely they can be worked out. 

Pyrine was never a conquering kingdom. It was a nation of scholars and sages, and it shared its knowledge freely with its neighbors; Pyrinean tutors and advisors could be found in courts across Sarlona. But there was one pillar that was even more important than knowledge: the Sovereign Host. The form of the Sovereign Host embraced by most of the vassals of Khorvaire is known as The Pyrinean Creed; this is because it was established and codified in Pyrine. According to myth, a Pyrinean shepherd stumbled into the First Library, where Aureon taught them the nature of the Host and the basis of Aureon’s laws. True or not, the Pyrineans were people of deep conviction and faith. They had deep and detailed visions of the Host, catalogued in countless scrolls; as a result, they also wielded remarkable divine power, matched only by the crusaders of Khalesh. But they never used their powers for war; instead, Pyrinean priests traveled across Sarlona, spreading the word of the Sovereigns and using their gifts to help those in need. 

Largely, Pyrine was left in peace by its neighbors. The vassal faith became common across Sarlona, and many people did see Pyrine as a blessed land with a special connection to the Sovereigns. One notable exception was Nulakesh; while many Nulakeshi adopted the faith, a number of emperors used their faith as a basis for invasion—the blessed land had to be protected by the Empire, for the good of all! There were also periods where Pyrine was targeted by Rhiavhaaran raiders, and one point when a Rhiavhaaran warlord established a new kingdom in Pyrine. However, in time—often due to pressure from other nations, and apocryphally due to pressure from the Sovereigns—Pyrine was always restored.   

The Fall of Pyrine. Faith was the strong foundation of Pyrine, but the Dreaming Dark was able to use this as a weapon. Dream manipulation allowed the quori to spread false visions, creating schisms and driving zealots to pursue heresy. Nulakesh was again encouraged to extend its power into Pyrine, and even some of the Shadow Lords of Ohr Kaluun were urged to attack. Across Sarlona, quori worked to undermine faith in the Sovereigns; after all, if the gods were just, why would they allow the myriad terrors of the Sundering? Ultimately people came to see the Pyrineans as servants of the altavars, peddling a faith that bound innocent dupes to the service of fiends. The temples were torn down and the Sovereigns forgotten. 

Pyrine Today. Today, there are no signs of the Sovereign faith in Pyrine. The people remain thoughtful and philosophical, but that deep-rooted faith has been shifted to the Path of Inspiration. The region maintains the general deep aura that encourages its people to follow the rules and to avoid conflict, but now that has been harnessed in the service fo the Inspired. The Harmonious Shield has a reduced presence here, as any sort of violence is rare. The people of Pyrine generally remain both kind and inquisitive, and while their faith is deep, it isn’t blind. Of all the people of Riedra they are the most likely to be welcoming to foreign travelers and interested in engaging them in conversation. However, most Pyrineans truly believe in the Path of Inspiration and are prepared to rationally present its virtues. Of all the provinces in the Unity, Pyrine has the highest degree of literacy; the Guiding Path maintains schools in Pyrine, and those trained here serve as scribes across the nation. 

The wild zones of Pyrine are largely benevolent in nature. Under the proper circumstances, there are places that can serve as portals to the Refuge of Irian and the Immeasurable Market of Syrania. However, these zones are carefully secured by the Edgewalkers, and the people of Pyrine believe that they are dangerous regions filled with fiends. However, the Dream Merchants—and occasionally even the Inspired themselves—make use of the market portal. 

While most shrines to the Sovereigns have been destroyed, there are a fear that weren’t so easily wiped away. There’s a great arch carved of dragonbone. There’s shrines hidden in caves or wild zones. Most notably: The common belief was that the capital city of Pyrine was built around the First Library. That city was leveled in the Sundering, replaced by Dul El. However, it’s possible that the actual First Library wasn’t a building in the material plane—but rather a tower in Syrania. If this is the case, there may be other portals to the First Library in Pyrine. Did Aureon truly teach the first vassal. Or was “Aureon” a Dominion of Knowledge or a plane-traveling dragon? 

Keep in Mind. The most interesting question about Pyrine is WHY the Sovereign faith was so strong there. Was it promoted by angels from Irian and Syrania? Or is there some deeper tie between the region and the faith? A vassal cleric or paladin could be drawn to Pyrine to reclaim an ancient artifact, or adventurers in Sarlona for other reasons might experience divine visions while passing through Pyrine. 

RHIAVHAAR

In Rhiavhaar, you might…

  • Helped Unchained dissidents escape the Thousand Eyes.
  • Find an ancient artifact tied to the legendary Lhazaar. 
  • Search for an ancient treasure trove hidden in the height of Rhiavhaar’s power. 
  • Deal with an archfey whose defining story has been long forgotten.

Rhiavhaar has wild zones tied to Lamannia, Thelanis, and Shavarath, and the influence of all three planes can be seen in its history. The people of Rhiavhaar have always been the finest shipwrights and sailors of Sarlona. In part this is due to unusual lumber harvested from Lamannia wild zones; Rhiavhaaran ships have always been faster and more durable than their counterparts in other nations. Beyond this, Rhiavhaaran sailors have long known tricks for finding favor with wind and water. Some of these were tied to Lamannia and a limited form of primal magic. Others were tied to bargains with the fey, whether the friendship of a minor mischievous sprite or a pact made with an archfey. But the Rhiavhaarans weren’t simply merchants or fisherfolk. The influence of Shavarath has long driven them to piracy and reaving, and anyone who lived on the Sarlonan coast dreaded the sight of Rhiavhaaran sails. 

Alliances with the fey were a crucial part of Rhiavhaar’s culture. It was the fey-favored families who rose to power, and feuds between archfey often played out in Rhivahaar. While many of the champions of Rhivahaar could be considered to be archfey warlocks, this tradition wasn’t as well developed or understood as it was in Ohr Kaluun; Rhiavhaaran warlocks generally stumbled into their pacts and only a few wielded significant arcane power. The Rhiavhaarans valued their connections to their “cousins”, but they placed much of their faith in strength and steel. As a result, much of the benefits Rhiavhaarans received from the fey were closely tied to location—and as such, were largely lost when Rhiavhaarans crossed the seas to Khorvaire. 

In general, Rhiavhaarans were seen as wild, capricious, and dangerous. “Rhiavhaaran luck” was a curse suggesting that fortune favors a scoundrel. 

The Fall of Rhiavhaar. While it was never as despised as Ohr Kaluun, Rhiavhaar was never loved by the people of Sarlona. Internally the Dreaming Dark exacerbated the feuds between clans. Externally they fanned the flames of those who desired vengeance for generations of Rhiavhaaran reaving, and further convinced people that the Rhiavhaaran “cousins” were fiends, not fey. 

Rhiavhaar Today. Rhiavhaar serves as the western hub for sea traffic, and Dar Ulatesh is the legitimate port of entry for visitors and merchants. While the region is firmly under Inspired control, the people of Rhiavhaar aren’t as devoted as their counterparts in Nulakesh or Corvagura. There is, perhaps, still a touch of fey wildness in the Rhiavhaaran character. The Edgewalkers patrol the wild zones, but they can’t cover all of the manifest zones tied to Thelanis… and the various tools of the Inspired—the Voice, the dreams, the remote viewing of the Thousand Eyes—can be unreliable in these areas. Cells of the Broken Throne or the Unchained often meet in fey woods or circles of stones, trusting the ancient powers to shield them. Because of this dissident streak and the region’s role as the western gate, Rhivahaar has a high concentration of soldiers and large numbers of active agents of the Thousand Eyes. The Edgewalkers and the Thousand Eyes are always watching for fey influence, and it’s a dangerous place to be an archfey warlock

The Inspired continue to harvest lumber from a few of the Lammanian wild zones, though these zones can produce many dangers. Many of the region’s wild zones are on the coast and extend into the water. Sailors who don’t know the region can run afoul of endless storms, megafauna sharks, fey curses, and other threats. 

Keep in Mind. The Inspired and the Edgewalkers have been largely successful in containing the influence of the archfey associated with the Rhiavhaaran wild zones. However, this is a point of frustration for these fey, many of who yearn to see their stories told once more and who want revenge against the Inspired who have humiliated them. This could drive an adventure—as the player characters could enter Riedra through Thelanis—or just be a source of unexpected assistance. 

That’s all! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters, who make articles like this possible!

IFAQ: Thrane Fashion

Art by Bad Moon for Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold

As time permits, I answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s another:

The Thrane fashion section is missing from Five Nations—any general ideas on how citizens of Thrane might dress distinctly differently from the other Five Nations?

In thinking of Thrane, it’s useful to contrast the forces shaping it to those that shaped its neighbors. Aundair has the widest penetration of everyday arcane magic and is also shaped by long-term interaction with the Fey. This leads to fashions that are wild and whimsical, to widespread glamerweave, cosmetic prestidigitation, and a general love of flamboyance and flair. On the other side, Karrnath has the harshest climate and the most martial culture. When it embraces fashion, it tends toward a gothic approach that is both grim and intentionally intimidating; the strong seek to SHOW their strength, and you see a definite martial element across general fashion. So with that said…

Faith is the cornerstone of Thrane. This predates both the Church of the Silver Flame and Thrane itself; before Galifar, the people of Daskara were devoted to the Sovereign Host. Divine magic is as important to Thrane as arcane magic is to Aundair, but that power comes from deep faith. I have always seen the typical Thrane as more humble and stoic than their counterparts in the other nations. A key element of the faith of the Silver Flame is the idea that we face a constant, shared threat—that people should be prepared to face supernatural evil and to protect themselves and their neighbors. We’ve called out that shared devotion—and practices like group archery—are key elements of daily life for the common Thrane. I see Thrane fashion as reflecting all of these things. They don’t seek to intimidate their rivals or to celebrate their martial prowess, as you see in Karrnath; and they don’t seek to shine the brightest or to dazzle their peers, as happens in Aundair. More than anything, Thrane fashion is SIMPLE and FUNCTIONAL.

Blue and silver are colors associated with the faith, and both of these colors are thus commonly seen throughout the populace. Now, it’s not that people don’t take pride in their appearance—but they aren’t especially driven by a desire to shine brighter than their neighbors; what is vital is to wear clothing that is PRACTICAL. More than any other nation, the people of Thrane know that dolgrims could burst out of the ground or ghouls could swarm out of the graveyard at any moment; so as a Thrane, you’re always thinking “Am I wearing something that would be practical in a zombie apocalypse?”

On a more specific level, I think that long coats and dusters are common in Thrane: simple, durable, versatile when it comes to weather. The same concept goes to boots and hats; in Thrane, a hat is designed to protect you from the sun and rain; in Aundair, a hat exists to make a STATEMENT, and its functionality is a secondary bonus.

This means that at a glance, Thranes have significant uniformity—similar colors, similar overall design of clothing. But it’s not a UNIFORM. And likewise, where an Aundairian will use Mending to repair damage and likely throw out (or recycle) clothing that is out of style, Thranes will wear their clothes to the bitter end and repair them by hand. They aren’t embarrassed to have clothing with patches or a cloak that’s clearly using a piece of another cloak. So while there’s a common overall style, there’s also a significant degree of tiny, unique details, as clothes evolve over time. I could also definitely imagine a patchwork aspect to clothing, almost like a quilt—where people specifically patch their clothes with pieces of cloth that have particular significance to them—heirlooms from family members, a strip from of the cloak of a heroic templar.

We can see some aspects of this reflected in Epitaph, the Thrane missionary pictured above. Epitaph is a priest, so there is a little flair to her outfit; I’d argue that her flowing sleeves are tied to a tendency to make sweeping gestures while preaching. But compared to Aundairian fashion, it’s a fairly SIMPLE outfit. There’s no glamerweave, no decorative embroidery, no jewelry, She’s wearing practical footwear. Her most prominent accessory is the symbol of her faith, as befits a missionary. Her clothing serves its purpose. Now, she doesn’t have the “patchwork” aspect I suggested above, but that’s not surprising for a missionary, who represents the Church; but the common templar isn’t embarrassed to wear a patched cloak, or their father’s long coat modified to fit their frame.

Is there a specific style of glamerweave that does incorporate silver, similar to how silverburn alters the colors of mundane fires?

The fashion potential of glamerweave is effectively limitless; it’s illusion imbued into cloth. The Church of the Silver Flame has a small but significant following in Aundair, and yes, I believe that Aundairian priests will often have burning lines of Sliver Flame traced on their robes. In my mind, Archbishoip Dariznu of Thaliost may take things even farther; I could imagine him in a silver cloak that appears to be trimmed in actual silver flames.

Does the sentiment of reducing waste and reusing things extend to food too, does Thrane have dishes equivalent to jok/congee, horchata or cod cakes, where the food can be prepared from leftover prepared food (examples far from exhaustive)?

Yes. Again, a good way to think of Thrane is We’re always prepared for a zombie apocalypse. So you’re definitely looking for ways to recycle waste and to get the most out of the supplies you have. In some ways, this is an interesting contrast to Karrnath, which we’ve always called out as the most martial by culture. Karrnath is proud of its martial heritage and has mandatory military service. But the people of Thrane are essentially SURVIVALISTS, always training to be prepared for the threats they know are out there. This ties to the point that local militias are a major part of Thrane’s military; it’s not as FORMAL as the armies of Karrnath, but again, most Thranes have drilled with the bow since childhood. And, of course, prior to the Last War the templars of Thrane often saw more active combat than many of the soldiers of Galifar; the Silver Crusade was certainly the most dramatic conflict in the century leading up to the Last War.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

IFAQ: Education, Overlords, and More!

Art by Bad Moon for Frontiers of Eberron

The latest episode of Threshold has been posted on my Patreon for Threshold patrons! In this episode, the crew spends the day at the feast of Bounty’s Blessing. In addition, young Tari meets the Silver Flame missionary Epitaph, pictured above; Epitaph and this art will be seen in the upcoming Frontiers of Eberron!

In the meantime: Each month, I ask my Patreon patrons to submit questions. Sometimes these form the basis of articles, but there’s often questions that are interesting but have short answers. As I’m getting read to do a new call for questions, I wanted to post a lightning round with some of the questions patrons asked in May.

Do the Overlords, and their envoys in the Lords of Dust, have any form of a non-aggression pact towards one another, or is it just a free-for-all should the machinations of one come into conflict with another?

This is addressed in this article. A critical line: “The Overlords weren’t allies and had no interest in cooperation. When the domains of two overlords overlapped they would clash, and many took great joy in these conflicts.”

To begin with, don’t just think of the overlords as powerful rakshasa. They engage with reality on a fundamentally different level than their lesser minions. Overlords are primordial forces that shape reality around them sheerly by existing. In a real way, you can think of overlords as kaiju, like Kong or Godzilla. Mortal lives and cities are utterly insignificant to them and they will sweep them aside without even noticing. Rak Tulkhesh spreads rage and war. He doesn’t meticulously plan out the details of these actions because he doesn’t have to; if he is unleashed in his full power, everyone within his sphere of influence will be consumed by bloodlust and a hunger for conflict. Now, with this in mind, one can ask: could Kong and Godzilla have a non-aggression pact? Well, they certainly might team up in a particular encounter in order to defeat Monster Zero. But it’s not like they’re WRITING SOMETHING DOWN. and the next time they meet, Kong might decide to kick Godzilla’s @$$.

However, THE LORDS OF DUST are a completely different story. They are servants of the overlords and seek to return reality to a state of primordial chaos, but THEY engage with the world on a far smaller scale. Rak Tulkhesh will just sweep over a nation and cause it to collapse into savage warfare, because that’s the power he wields. But MORDAKHESH doesn’t have that power, and HE has to manipulate newspapers and subvert generals and make long term plans. And with that in mind, the PURPOSE of the Lords of Dust and the Bleak Council of Ashtakala IS to facilitate cooperation and communication between the servants of the different overlords in order to prevent unnecessary conflicts. So if Mordakhesh and Hektula find that they both have plans for a particular group of adventurers, they will meet in Ashtakala and try to work something out. And in general, they do manage to avoid unnecessary conflict with one another. But the key word there is “unnecessary”; they will almost always put the interests of their overlord ahead of the interests of the Lords of Dust as a whole… which is a weakness that can potentially be exploited.

How does public education actually work in Khorvaire? Who receives free education? Is it any different in, say, Sharn, particularly the lower wards?

The educational system of the Five Nations is described on page 132 of the Eberron Campaign Setting: “Throughout the Five Nations (or at least what’s left of them), formal schooling is considered a right and a necessary part of every child’s training. Rural manors maintain schools for the sons and daughters of the peasants and laborers. Private tutors provide an education for the children of royal and economic nobility. In towns and cities, schools cater to all who wish to attend. In no case is education mandatory; however, most people understand the advantages offered to them by the remnants of the Galifar education system. Higher education and study is available at a number of colleges and universities, as well as among the religious institutions.” So while they’ve never been specifically mentioned, we can assume that there are public schools in Sharn. With that said, I think it’s reasonable to assume that this system faces the challenges of any public schooling system, and that there are regions — such as the lower wards of Sharn — where schools will be understaffed and underfunded. It’s also important to note that the ECS specifies that education is offered but never mandatory. Nonetheless, the Five Nations do have a reasonably effective public education system… which is why it’s taken for granted that the average person in the Five Nations speaks Common and is literate.

How does Morgrave university works in terms of recruiting new students? How much it can cost per year? Or is it the talent that forms entry barrier, not the money – can they have some sort of research for especially talented young people and offer them free tuition? For example, is it possible that some people from Morgrave notice poor urchin kid on the street and take him in because he is a talented sorcerer and seems like promising/useful student and/or magic user?

Here’s a relevant comment from Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron:

As a Morgrave student, you’re not an adventurer yet. You’ve got talent, but you’re learning. Consider how your background ties into this. As a noble, are you an entitled rich kid who thinks you’re better than everyone else? As an urchin, did you somehow earn a scholarship, or are you literally sneaking into your classes? As a criminal, you could be the daughter of a Boromar crime boss, or you might be an entrepreneur selling dreamlily to the nobles. A charlatan could be a brilliant drama student or an undercover spy trying to root out enemy agents in the faculty. If you’re an entertainer you might be a prodigy whose talent is only just emerging. A Morgrave story is about coming of age and unlocking your potential. So think about your background as a way to set up the person you’re becoming, as opposed to representing adventures that you’ve already had.

The point here is that I would make the price the price of plot. D&D economics are extremely nebulous, in order to calculate a REALISTIC tuition I’d have to sit down and concretely establish the actual incomes of the different social classes of Khorvaire, which frankly I don’t have the time to do. Hence the suggestion to use backgrounds above. If you want the characters to be students at Morgrave, then they ARE students at Morgrave. If a character’s a noble, then their family is paying their tuition. If they’re an urchin, either they have a scholarship or they are sneaking into classes. The point is, the character is going to Morgrave; I’ll use their story to decide exactly how.

The only time I would want to set a concrete tuition was if it was an important plot point that the character has to RAISE that tuition over the course of their adventures, following the model of The Name of the Wind — but note that in the Kingkiller Chronicles, THE TUITION IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE, which again allows the author to set the tuition at the rate that makes it most interesting for the story. 10 gp could be an insurmountable obstacle to a 1st level character and completely trivial for a 4th level character; so a system that bases the tuition off of what you want it to be for THIS story is going to be more useful than me arbitrarily setting a cost that could be too high or too low for the story you want to tell.

What are the towns inside the Towering Wood like? We know about Greenheart and the feyspire Shae Loralyndar, but are there others? Who lives there, and how are they different than the ones in the western Reaches?

There are very few traditional “towns” in the Towering Wood; the 3.5 ECS notes that “In the great wood, the druid sects and shifters typically live in small communities that are roughly equivalent to thorps and hamlets.” Essentially, these are communities that will be tied around an extended family and live off the land; whenever population grows to a level that strains local resources, a group will split off and start a new home in unclaimed territory. The Towering Woods are vast and population density is extremely low, so there’s no shortage of space. Towering communities employ primal techniques instead of arcane or mundane industry, so you will often find homes that are embedded into living trees or that are made of stone that has been shaped by hand. Envoys—often druidic initiates—travel between family estates, sharing news and needed supplies. Shae Loralyndar is an unusual exception, and there are a handful of satellite elven/Greensinger villages around it, but those represent a distinct culture that’s different from the mainstream—just as there are nomadic shifter tribes that have traditions that are entirely different from the settled folk.

What does prophetic significance look like? Is dragonmark graffiti’d on the wall of a ruined building prophetically significant? How do the Chamber and Lords of Dust recognize this significance?

This could definitely be the subject of a longer article, but in brief: what’s been said about the Prophecy is that it takes many forms and involves more than one element at a time. IE it can be crop circles; fissures formed by an earthquake; graffiti on a wall; an unusual pattern of bloodstains. But this is COMBINED with a particular planar or lunar conjunction, a spike in magical energies, the presence of three dragonmarked people, etc. This is part of why it’s generally only creatures with vast lifespans and enormous resources that are able to interpret it. That graffiti on the wall MIGHT be significant, but unless you’ve been studying the Prophecy for a thousand years (or you’re, say, a cleric of the Prophecy with divine insight) you don’t have the context to fully interpret it.

Can Aberrant Dragonmarks appear on Warforged?

Yes. It’s an extremely bizarre thing that will be seen as a curiosity and draw interest from certain scholars, but it is possible.

That’s all for now! Thanks again for my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and for making these articles possible.

IFAQ: Dreams and Quori

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few about Dal Quor and its denizens.

Do prophetic dreams occur in Dal Quor and if so do the Dreaming dark collect or research them?

Exploring Eberron has this to say about dreams in Dal Quor:

Dal Quor doesn’t have layers like other planes. Instead, it can be seen as a vast ocean. When a mortal dreams, they fall into that ocean and create an “island”: a dream pocket, shaped by their memories and desires. When they wake, this island disappears. So at any given moment, Dal Quor contains millions of islands, but none last for long. 

I’ve bolded the important piece. The key point here is that the quori don’t create or even monitor all mortal dreams. There are far more mortals then there are quori, and at any given time there a hundreds of thousands of dreams that the quori know nothing about. Most dreams are just dreams, shaped by the dreamer’s own memories and mind. Quori CAN interfere with mortal dreams, but so can other creatures—night hags, any creature using the dream spell. Mortal creatures can even create permanent islands, such as the Draconic Eidolon or the Uul Dhakaan.

The point here is that the quori aren’t omniscient or omnipresent within Dal Quor. Other forces can shape dreams, and it’s entirely possible for this to occur without the quori being aware of it. So YES, there can be prophetic dreams in Dal Quor. Such dreams could be actively shaped by powerful beings (again, all it takes is the dream spell). Looking to divine visions, the existence of prophetic dreams doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of the Sovereigns. We know that there is a divine power source that channels power to worshippers of Boldrei. It could be she’s an actual goddess who actively sends a message to her priest; or it could be that “Boldrei” is a spiritual construct that lies within the collective unconscious, and the priest’s dream is drawn from those subconscious depths. Either way, it’s possible to have a vision from Boldrei; but just because you can meet her in your dreams doesn’t mean that she exists in a form you could meet in the flesh.

Does the Dreaming Dark collect or research these dreams? I’m sure it does, IF IT OBSERVES THEM. Again, there are more mortals than quori, and at any given moment a third of the world is asleep; there’s no way for the quori to monitor them all. And personally, I don’t WANT the quori to monitor them all. I like the fact that I can say that the group’s cleric has a divine vision and that the quori don’t know about it. With that said, part of the role of the hashalaq quori is to monitor mortal dreams and dreams and to keep notes. The hashalaq are the loremasters of Dal Quor, and when the Dreaming Dark wants to perform an act of manipulation, it turns to the hashalaq to identify the most effective targets to carry out those goals. So the hashalaq do monitor the dreams fo people the quori have identified as significant, and they maintain a broad “map” of the Ocean of Dreams. Thus, they COULD have observed and recorded any prophetic dream and could well have a vault filled with accounts of thousands of “Dreams of Interest” they’re studying. But it’s ultimately up to the DM to decide if any given dream has been noted and recorded, or if it escaped the many eyes of the Dreaming Dark.

Are there any limits to the Quori ability to shape dreams?

Yes and no. If you’re familiar with Star Trek, think of Dal Quor as a holodeck. Normally, the dreamer shows up and runs their own program. When a creature uses dream, they are overriding that and placing the dreamer in a program of their own design. And that can be ANYTHING. A quori has an even greater degree of control than a wizard using dream. They can control every detail and they’ve had tens of thousands of years to hone their talents at creating dreams.

WITH THAT SAID… This is a game. It’s fun to have adventures in dreams where adventurers can potentially overcome challenges, and with that in mind I wouldn’t want to make quori omnipotent when shaping a dream. So personally, I’d go back to the holodeck analogy. The quori can PROGRAM the dream. They can personally take the place of any creature in the dream, intervening directly. But adventurers can defeat the challenges a quori places in their path. The quori can make you dream about a terrifying dragon, but you and your fellow adventurers could DEFEAT THAT DRAGON; this reflects your will and heroic drive overcoming the quori manipulation.

WITH THAT SAID… That primarily only applies to LUCID dreams. Most dreams don’t get played out as adventures. And with that in mind, that’s why the dream spell has a saving throw! You could look at a successful saving throw as meaning that the caster can’t shape the dream at all; or you could look at it as the caster creating a nightmare but the dreamer defeats the nightmare. So if the quori gives you a dream of a dragon ravaging your village, if you fail your saving throw the dragon destroys your village, kills everyone you love, and then kills you, and you wake up horrified (taking psychic damage and failing the long rest)—while if you MAKE the saving throw, you still dream about a dragon, but in the dream you DEFEAT the dragon. Your subconscious overrides the quori manipulation, and your self-image is so strong that you reject the vision the quori tries to impose.

Do Quori create figments or enlist drifters for the Dreaming Dark?

Let’s look back at Exploring Eberron.

A figment can be anything—a friend of yours, a zombie version of that friend, a demon, a dragon—but the catch is that it’s drawn from the mind of the local dreamer. When you dream about your old drill sergeant, they can’t tell you a secret you don’t already know, because they’re part of you. On the other hand, if you’re in someone else’s dream—or if a quori has taken control of your dream—then the figments can surprise you, because their capabilities and knowledge are drawn from someone else’s mind.

Figments are just part of the basic mechanics of Dal Quor. Any time a dream is created, it’s populated with figments. Look back to the holodeck example: figments are all the NPCs in a holodeck scenario. So yes, the quori create figments that last for the duration of the dream and then dissipate.

DRIFTERS are a different story. Per ExE, “Occasionally, a remarkable figment develops the ability to persist beyond the dream that created it—becoming a truly sentient spirit instead of a simple manifestation… Such free-willed figments are called drifters.” Generally speaking, the Dreaming Dark doesn’t employ drifters and most drifters will do their best to avoid the quori, because DRIFTERS ARE A FLAW IN THE SYSTEM. Why SHOULD a quori deal with a free-willed, unpredictable drifter when it could just use a figment that will do exactly what it’s supposed to do? This is one reason drifters may help adventurers; they themselves aren’t part of the system and have no loyalty to the quori; quori will typically destroy drifters as they ARE flaws in the system. Having said that, it’s possible an unusual drifter could make a deal with the Dreaming Dark and gain greater power through such service. But most drifters won’t take that risk.

The dominator Tirashana is a powerful Inspired mentioned in multiple sources. What kind of quori is she? Sharn: City of Towers doesn’t say, Secrets of Sarlona says she’s usvapna, and the ECG says she’s a kalaraq.

This is what happens when you are dealing with an evolving setting and multiple editions. When Sharn: City of Towers was written, the tsucora quori were the only quori that had been defined. We knew that there WERE others, but we hadn’t solidified any of the details. SECOND: When Tirashana was created, mind seed was a high-level power any psion telepath could potentially manifest. As such, we established Tirashana as a 17th level psion—she had the power to mind seed, but she did it in the same way any other creature could do it, if they happened to be a 17th level telepath.

By the time Secrets of Sarlona came around, we’d introduced more types of quori. The kalaraq quori, in particular, had the innate ability to perform mind seed by binding the essence of a victim. But we’d already defined Tirashana as a 17th-level telepath, so we chose to make her an usvapna—a powerful and respected quori caste, but not kalaraq.

Then fourth edition came around. Fourth edition had no player-facing form of mind seed. We had a version of it associated with the kalaraq, but it was a unique thing. So: the usvapna didn’t exist in fourth edition, and even if they had, we could say Tirashana was an usvapna with enough telepath levels to manifest mind seed, because it didn’t exist in fourth edition. So, in fourth edition we made Tirashana a kalaraq because it meant that DMs would ahve a stat block they could use for her and because it was the only way she could do what she was supposed to do — create mind seeds.

The key point here is that the lore isn’t consistent because the RULES weren’t consistent. We changed the lore to meet the needs of the story. Ultimately, the most important thing was that Tirashana is a quori who can mind seed people. Given that she’s unlikely to ever appear in the flesh, it doesn’t really MATTER is she’s usvapna or kalaraq; what matters most is that she can mind seed people and the DM knows how mind seed works.

So: in fifth edition, I’d personally make Tirashana a kalaraq quori for the same reasons we did it in fourth edition: we have a stat block for kalaraq quori and we don’t have an usvapna block, and a kalaraq quori has a way to plant mind seeds.

In general, however, this ties to the general point that canon isn’t ironclad or infallible, because it wasn’t created in a vacuum. Tirashana couldn’t be an usvapna in the Sharn sourcebook, because usvapna didn’t exist when we wrote it. Canon is a place to start, but it does have contradictions and errors, and it’s up to each DM to decide how to reconcile those in their campaigns.

What are some other types of quori?

I don’t have time to stat out additional quori in this space, but what I will say is that the general idea of quori is that they generally manipulate and feed on certain types of emotion or aspects of the mortal psyche. Tsucora specialize in fear. Du’ulora manipulate rage and hatred. Hashalaq understand pleasure. Kalaraq twist pride and ambition. I didn’t create the tsoreva or usvapna, so they aren’t designed with that in mind; I’d personally probably make the weak tsoreva tied to spite, and the usvapna—described as the judges and inquisitors of Dal Quor—as manipulating concepts of duty and tradition, albeit in the focused path of tyranny and persecution.

With that in mind, what are some other types of quori? I could imagine quori that inspire greed and avarice; quori that sap motivation and thrive on sloth and indolence; quori that thrive on misery; quori that inspire envy. Quori are children of the Dreaming Dark, so they are generally tied to NEGATIVE aspects of the psyche. Kalashtar quori still have this heritage, but turn it around; a tsucora kalashtar understands fear, but can use that knowledge to help people overcome their fears and find their courage.

I don’t understand quori possession. Rising From The Last War says the Quori must be within five feet of the creature it wants to possess, and if it is expelled it appears next to them? I thought quori couldn’t manifest physically?

That’s because quori have access to TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FORMS OF POSSESSION. The form of possession that is presented in the stat block is something the quori can do IF it is physically present. An important detail is that it can use this form of possession on an unwilling target! It would be extremely difficult for a quori TO physically manifest on Eberron—it would involve some sort of unprecedented story hook—but IF IT DID it would be capable of forcibly possessing any humanoid using this technique.

But the catch is that this isn’t the form of possession the Dreaming Dark generally employs, because the quori CAN’T physically manifest in Eberron. So instead, the quori normally possess humanoids through their dreams. The quori crafts a dream (essentially, casting dream) and within that dream, has to convince the target to voluntarily allow the quori to possess them. The victim may not understand exactly what they are agreeing to—the quori could present itself as an angel, as the ghost of an ancestor, etc—but they know that they are agreeing to let an outside spirit temporarily assume control of their body. If they agree, the quori takes possession and maintains control until either it chooses to depart or until it is driven out by magical means; in either case, it returns to Dal Quor. Once the quori leaves, it can’t possess the victim again unless the victim AGREES to the possession again. In some cases, the quori may manage to cultivate its relationship with the victim such that the victim will allow this; again, they may believe the quori to be a guardian angel or an ancestor, as long as the actions the quori takes don’t disprove this. On the other hand, if the quori isn’t trying to maintain a relationship with the host, it may not bother to maintain such a masquerade.

The Inspired are possessed using this second form of possession, but the catch is that each Inspired is bound to a particular quori spirit and they have no choice when that spirit chooses to possess them. However, an Inspired could also voluntarily allow a different quori to possess it, if it served a useful purpose.

This raises a key point, which is that per Rising, forcible possession doesn’t allow the quori to use the proficiencies or class features of the target. The idea of the cooperative possession (or the Inspired) is that the possessed individual DOES have the proficiencies and abilities of both quori and host. This is how the quori can maintain a disguise and why it’s useful to the Inspired quori to have vessels with different skill sets; a particular quori could have one vessel that’s a tough fighter and another that’s a sly assassin, and choose the host that serves its current needs. Likewise, the reason an Inspired might allow a different quori to possess it would be because it needs the particular skills of THAT quori to accomplish its mission. So part of the idea has always been that when dealing with Inspired or with voluntary hosts you’re dealing with a gestalt entity. The quori is in CONTROL, but it gets to draw on the skills and knowledge of its host.

As this second form of possession is different from what’s described in the book, it raises a number of questions. Can a quori possess one of their specially-bred Chosen/Inspired link at any moment, even while that Chosen/Inspired is awake?

Yes, a quori can possess a Chosen vessel at any time. The quori has a direct spiritual connection to its Chosen and this doesn’t require the victim to be asleep.

Does the Protection from Evil and Good spell stop a Chosen/Inspired from being possessed by their linked quori?

An empty vessel who is protected by protection from evil and good can’t be possessed by their quori, and this is something we’ve previously called out as a way that fugitive Chosen could remain free. However, the spell specifies that the target has to be a willing creature, so you couldn’t cast it on an unwilling Inspired to break their connection to their spirit.

Does the Magic Circle spell stop a Chosen/Inspired from being possessed by their linked quori?

If the unpossessed empty vessel is protected by the circle, they can’t be possessed. However, I would again say that this wouldn’t BREAK an existing case of possession; you can’t create a magic circle and then push someone into it to exorcise them. It prevents a possessing spirit from attaching itself to a mortal host, but it doesn’t drive out the spirit once it’s present. At least, that’s the ruling I’d make at MY table (and if your DM disagrees, that’s fine—but this is MY ruling).

Can the Dispel Evil and Good spell drive out a quori from their linked Chosen/Inspired? If so, what stops the quori from immediately repossessing the Chosen/Inspired?

This is addressed in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting entry on Inspired, and the rule seems sound here.

Resist Exorcism: The quori spirit inhabiting an Inspired is subject to a dismissal spell, an exorcism, or a similar effect. Use the total of the human vessel’s character level and the quori’s Hit Dice for the purpose of determining whether the spirit resists dismissal or exorcism. If the effect is successful, the quori spirit is temporarily driven back to Dal Quor. This effect lasts for 10 minutes per caster level of the character who cast the spell or performed the exorcism, after which point the quori spirit can return and possess the human vessel again.

Combining hit dice doesn’t quite work in Fifth Edition, but the point is you can do it but it’s supposed to be hard—I’d probably give the Inspired advantage on their saving throw.

If an Inspired currently possessed by their linked quori is reduced to 0 hit points and knocked unconscious, but not killed, is the quori driven out? Or does the quori stay?

No. The “Brute Force” possession in the quori stat block can be broken by dropping a creature to zero hit points, but rendering a creature unconscious has no effect on either an Inspired or on a creature that has voluntarily allowed a quori to possess it.

Can a possessing quori allow the victim to retain control of their actions—to play the role of an “advising spirit”? Or is it always in full control while possessing a victim?

A possessing quori can always choose not to exercise the full power it has over its victim, but it CAN exercise that full control at any time. So the victim may not REALIZE that they are fully possessed; they may believe it’s some sort of symbiosis or partnership. Which is great, until the quori has a reason to take full control, and which point it will take full control. With that said, the person agreeing to possession is aware that they are allowing possession—that they are allowing the spirit to reside within them. In a situation where the quori doesn’t plan to assume control it may present this as guidance, partnership, etc — but the victim still knows I am allowing a spirit to reside in my body.

How much awareness does a quori have over the status, thoughts, emotions, location, current activities, etc. of its linked Chosen/Inspired, while those Chosen/Inspired are awake and uninhabited?

Very little. For example, we’ve never suggested that if you get into a fight with an empty vessel that its connected quori would somehow be instantly aware of the threat and pop in. Keep in mind that a quori could have HUNDREDS of empty vessels. I’d be inclined to say that the quori would notice the death of a vessel—because it would feel the sudden severing of their link—but even then, if the quori has a lot of vessels I might have them make a Perception check to see if they notice it right away.

When a quori possesses someone, how much access to the host’s memories does the quori have? Does this change based on the possession method: brute force, voluntary possession, linked Chosen/Inspired possession, etc.?

It depends entirely on the form of possession. The brute force possession provides no access to memories whatsoever, which is why the quori “doesn’t gain access to the victim’s knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.” Voluntary possession does grant access to the host’s memories and skills, as specifically called out in the 3.5 ECS: “A possessing quori has immediate access to all of the vessel’s thoughts and memories… The quori spirit combines its skill ranks with those of its vessel.” With that said, while voluntary possession grants full ACCESS to the host’s memories, I’d see this as a human gaining access to a library. You can read any book you want, and when you NEED a specific piece of information you can immediately acquire it, but you most likely don’t have time to read every book in the library. So it’s not like a quori knows every one of your secrets the instant it possesses you; it has to have a reason to dig for a specific piece of information, and it’s quite possible it never bothers to look back to your childhood and find that moment you made a deal with a dragon.

What’s your opinion of the tsoreva and dream master quori from Magic of Eberron? Would you redesign them if you converted them to fifth edition?

I didn’t work on Magic of Eberron. The tsoreva is fine; it’s useful to have a low-CR quori and I can see them as spirits that feed on spite—essentially, lesser tsucora. But I don’t like the dream master. First, it doesn’t follow the naming pattern. We retconned this for Secrets of Sarlona, naming it the usvapna. But beyond that, its basic design doesn’t follow the model used by other quori. The original idea of the quori is that they manipulate and feed upon a particular emotion. This is concretely reflected by their abilities. At a quick glance…

  • A tsucora (fear) has Terrifying Sting, which mimics the effects of phantasmal killer, and it regains hit points when it kills someone with this power. When it stings you, it afflicts you with a nightmare so intense it can kill you, and if it does, it feeds on that fear.
  • A du’ulora (rage) has Fury Aura—which induces rage in creatures around it—and Burning Rage, which kills a creature with its own anger… and which heals the quori when it kills a creature in this way.
  • Hashalaq (pleasure and pain) has Intimate Knowledge (it knows your desires), Empathic Feedback (the attack shares its pain), and Idyllic Touch (which overwhelms with pleasure)… and when it kills a creature with Idyllic Touch, it regains hit points.

The tsoreva is such a minor spirit that it doesn’t have space to follow this pattern. But the dream master is a POWERFUL quori, but it doesn’t have a clear associated emotion or unique powers; it’s a powerful psion, but there’s nothing that reflects a theme. So yes, I might keep the broad concept and form of the usvapna, but if i converted it to 5E I’d want to give it a more defined theme.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

What’s going on in Threshold?

Art by Carolina Cesario

It’s the 14th of Lharvion, and it’s too damn hot. Today is Bounty’s Blessing, the feast of Arawai; there’s a farmer’s market in the square, and a baking competition to see if anyone can make something palatable using “sand fruit”, a local succulent that is anything but succulent. In the cliffs above town, a group of adventurers have found ruins filled with petrified goblins, a dead but perfectly preserved Gatekeeper, and an altar dedicated to the mysterious Still Lord. Who is the Still Lord? Are their cultists hidden in Threshold? And can anyone actually make a satisfying sand fruit fritter?

I’m currently working on Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold, a sourcebook that explores the region between Breland and Droaam; I discuss it further in this interview. In Threshold, there’s a party of gnolls loitering at the Gold Dragon Inn while they wait for the lightning rail. Three-Widow Jane’s facing Rusty in a showdown at high noon. But there’s powers at work that overshadow such mundane concerns. Who is the Still Lord? What is the secret history of the region, and how does it threaten the future?

Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold is going to be a large book—comparable to Exploring Eberron—and won’t be out until later this year. I’m enjoying the chance to take a deeper dive into a piece of the setting, a region that’s not as well known as Sharn or Stormreach; I also love any chance to work with Droaam, as the nation of monsters is one of my favorite pieces of Eberron. While the book itself won’t be out for months to come, I’m currently running a campaign set in Threshold online—and my Patreon supporters have an opportunity to watch the campaign and potentially, to play in it. My Patreon has a Threshold tier. In addition to the Inner Circle benefits, this grants the following things.

  • Threshold patrons have access to all previous sessions of the campaign.
  • I run one session each month. The characters and the stories are persistent, but the players change each month and are drawn from the patrons. Patreon doesn’t allow me to select players randomly, but each session I post a creative challenge—challenging would-be players to add a detail to a character or to the town—and the winners play in the upcoming session. i change the recording time with each session so that sooner or later people will have a chance to play regardless of their time zone.
  • Patrons can participate in polls that help establish details about the characters, the story, and the town—so even if you don’t get a chance to play, you have an opportunity to shape the story. The ten player characters used in the campaign were developed through a series of these polls.
  • Patrons have access to the Threshold channels on the Eberron Discord server, and I drop by when I can to talk about the campaign and all things Eberron. Currently I’m trying an experiment: an ongoing story running in a Threshold channel, where Patrons can choose the path that events take.

Collaborative storytelling is my favorite aspect of TTRPGs. While I there’s only a few seats at the table in each session, this experiment allows me to collaborate with patrons even if they don’t get to roll dice in the session. I enjoy the characters we’ve created and it’s fun to see how different players interpret those characters—and it’s always fun for me to meet new people. So I can’t promise that you’ll get to play at the table if you become a Threshold patron, but you will have an opportunity to affect the story and to see the sessions (which currently aren’t available to the public), and you just might end up at the table! The next episode will be recorded on Friday, May 28th and the casting challenge is open until noon Pacific time on Tuesday the 25th.

Post any questions about Frontiers of Eberron or Threshold below! Otherwise, you can find more information at my Patreon. And the

Dragonmarks: Familiars, Homunculi, and Animal Companions

A wizard walks into a tavern with a raven on his wrist. A Cannith heir is close behind, followed by her gleaming steel defender. The Eldeen ranger is waiting for them, with his wolf curled up under the table.

All three of these are plausible player characters in an Eberron campaign. But how do these things—familiars, animal companions, homunculi—fit into the world? How do people react to them, and what do people know about them? Would any of them actually be allowed in a tavern, and would a typical person actually be able to tell the difference between a familiar and an animal companion?

Familiars, homunculi, and animal companions play different roles in the game and in the world, and I want to explore each one of them. But to begin with, let’s answer the quick questions. In the Five Nations…

  • Familiars are most common in Aundair and (previously) Cyre, but they have been employed throughout the Five Nations for centuries. They are also found in Zilargo and the Eldeen Reaches.
  • Even beyond these four areas, people are familiar with the basic idea of familiars and most people know at least some of the following facts: Familiars can communicate with their companion; their companion can see through their eyes; familiars can potentially channel touch spells; they can be easily dismissed and resummoned; they can be resummoned if killed.
  • People generally assume that familiars are extensions of a spellcaster (discussed in more detail later in this article) and don’t consider them fully independent beings. Along with homunculi, they are seen as tools. In the eyes of the law, a character is responsible for the actions of their familiar/companion/homunculus, and you can’t get away with murder by casting the killing spell through your familiar.
  • While most people can’t tell the difference between a familiar and an animal companion, most know that familiars are usually limited to tiny forms. The common assumption is that a tiny animal companion is a familiar, and a small or larger animal companion is a beast.
  • If an establishment allows patrons to carry weapons, it will generally allow well-behaved familiars, homunculi, or animal companions, unless the creature seems especially unsanitary or aggressive. In part, this is a metagame conceit: we are still playing a game, and the Beast Master ranger or Battlesmith artificer shouldn’t be crippled every time the adventurers go indoors. But it also ties to the idea that people recognize these things as tools. So in my opinion, any place that will allow the barbarian to carry his greataxe will allow the battlesmith to bring her steel defender… And conversely, a fine restaurant like the Oaks in Sharn isn’t going to let you bring your axe or your steel defender to your table.
  • Most people know that a spellcaster can spy through the eyes of a familiar, just as they know that someone with the spell beast sense (druid, ranger, Vadalis heir) can see through the eyes of a mundane animal. People don’t assume that every rat is a spy, but they know it’s a POSSIBILITY… so tiny animals showing up in highly secured areas or behaving in a clearly unnatural manner may be dealt with as if they’re spies.
  • In major cities with a significant population of magewrights or arcane universities, you may find businesses that cater to characters with familiars—the bring-your-own-sassy-magical-cat cafe.
  • While most people assume familiars are extensions, they also recognize traditional imps and quasits as fiends. Having a quasit as a familiar isn’t ILLEGAL, but it definitely makes a statement; even if you’re not actively associating with fiends, you’re choosing one to represent you. Some people will see that as cool and edgy, some people will see it as a sign that you’re a scumbag, and some people will see it as pretentious— “LOOK AT ME! I CONSORT WITH DEEEEEMONS!” It will definitely be noticed, and it’s up to the DM to decide how people will react. But again, people see familiars as tools, so they aren’t going to burn you just for having an imp; but it’s similar to whether your fighter has a greatsword of plain steel or whether he’s carrying a rune-carved sword that moans softly. You can’t get arrested for it, but people will make judgements because of it.

So key takeaways: People are familiar with the idea of familiars and homunculi. They largely see them as tools and will treat them accordingly. If a tiny animal behaves in an unusual manner, people may assume that it’s a familiar or otherwise being manipulated by magic. With those general things settled, let’s take a quick look at the differences between these three categories of companion…

FAMILIARS

Mechanically, familiars have a common foundation—the find familiar spell. Warlocks, wizards, and druids all acquire their familiars by using this spell, and this establishes the core rules that all familiars follow—shared senses, telepathic communication, can be dismissed and resummoned, and so on. But while this provides a concrete baseline for the mechanics of a familiar, from a story perspective the familiars of a wizard, a warlock, and a druid may be very different. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s three important categories of familiar.

Extensions

The most common form of familiar—the form used by most wizards and magewrights in the Five Nations—is an externally manifested aspect of the spellcaster’s personality. A few aspects of this…

  • As an extension of you, your familiar doesn’t know anything that you don’t know—but it’s drawn from your subconscious, and may know things you’ve forgotten or draw conclusions you haven’t consciously made.
  • All familiars must obey the spellcaster’s commands. An extension doesn’t resent this; they’re part of you. If they do have any personal goals, they’re likely things you actually want, even if you haven’t consciously realized it.
  • When an extension is dismissed or slain, it returns to your subconscious. This isn’t unpleasant for the familiar, and most extensions don’t resent being dismissed.
  • An extension is drawn from you. Most extensions have the fey creature type; in many ways, they are manifested stories. Extensions would only manifest as celestials or fiends if they are tied to remarkably virtuous or deeply vile people.
  • If you wish, you and your DM could decide that the familiar represents a specific aspect of your personality, which could in turn flavor its personality and demeanor. This could also be reflected by its shape, which you can change by casting the spell. It could be that as a cat it reflects your curiosity, while as a hawk it’s your courage and as a weasel it’s your cunning. A secondary question is whether each of these three would present themselves as having different names—if they essentially identify as three familiars—or whether they maintain a single identity even though their shape and personality changes.

In many ways, an extension is like a character in your dreams. They have distinct personalities, you can have interesting conversations with them, they FEEL real—but ultimately they’re a manifestation of your own mind. This doesn’t stop them from being fun and interesting individuals; it could be that your rat familiar embodies your sense of humor! But they can’t be killed because they’re a part of you; and conversely, if you die, they will die with you.

Extensions are the most common form of familiar in the Five Nations. They are a product of arcane science. On some levels (especially in Aundair), a familiar is both a tool and a status symbol for an accomplished spellcaster; wizards are rare, but some magewrights and demi-wizards manifest familiars for this reason. However, the most common users of familiars in the Five Nations are falconers. This is a magewright specialty that masters a narrow form of find familiar. A falconer can only summon a single shape of familiar—so if they can summon a hawk, they can’t turn it into a cat—but they can maintain telepathic communication and a sensory link with their familiar over a far greater distance than usual. The typical range of a falconer is one mile, but an exceptional falconer can go even farther. Falconers typically served as scouts and skirmishers in the Last War, and as the name suggests, most summon birds (typically hawks or falcons, though owls and ravens are also used). There are other magewrights who use this specialized form of find familiar in different ways—ratcatchers who conjure cats, even assassins who can conjure poisonous snakes. All of this ties to the basic point that people see extensions as tools—you learn to manifest an extension because you have a use for it.

Emissaries

When a warlock acquires a familiar, it’s generally not an extension of the warlock—it’s an emissary of the warlock’s patron, an independent entity whose services are granted to the warlock as a gift. However, this can also be an appropriate choice for a conjurer wizard or any other character who has made bargains with a powerful supernatural being. Important details about emissary familiars…

  • An emissary is an independent spirit with its own history and agenda. It’s up to the DM to decide exactly what that agenda is. It may be that the emissary is entirely benevolent and has been sent solely to assist you and protect you. But it could be that the emissary is sent to watch you—to see if you’re living up to expectations, to remind you of agreements you’ve made with your patron, or to serve as an intermediary for communication; the patron might temporarily possess the familiar when they want to communicate with you.
  • Tied to this: an emissary familiar has to follow your orders when it comes to taking physical actions, but it doesn’t have to share all of its information with you. Unlike an extension, an emissary may have knowledge you don’t have—but it’s only going to share that information with you if it serves the interests of the patron.
  • The creature type of the emissary will generally reflect the creature type of the patron. If you’re working for Sul Khatesh she’ll give you a fiend, while a celestial warlock channeling the power of the Silver Flame will have a celestial familiar. A DM may choose to tweak type and details to fit a particular patron. For example, an efreeti patron could give a warlock a familiar that’s mechanically an imp, but with the elemental type and knowledge of Primordial instead of Infernal; they might even say that its sting inflicts fire damage instead of poison damage, causing the victim to burn from within. An undead patron could likewise give an “imp” that’s got the undead type and inflicts necrotic damage with its sting.
  • Emissary familiars CAN assume a mundane animal form, but even those that take the form of animals may have a “natural” form that reflects their origins. A raven gifted by an efreeti could choose to appear as a tiny phoenix wreathed in cold flames, or just as a mundane bird.
  • It’s up to the DM to decide what happens to the emissary when it is dismissed/killed. It may be that it returns to the domain of its patron; if this is the case, it may actually WANT to be dismissed occasionally to go and take care of its own business. Or it may be that as long as it’s bound to you, it is bound to your spirit and retreats into you when dismissed. If this is the case, it may still be aware of what is going on around you, even if it can’t take any actions.

The basic question between having an extension or an emissary is whether you want your familiar to be entirely loyal and reliable, or if you LIKE the idea that your familiar may have secrets and agendas you don’t know about. An extension may have a semblance of personality, but at the end of the day it really is a puppet; an emissary is a truly independent entity who is only working with you for now, and who could have their own significant role to play at some point in the campaign.

Emissary familiars are rare. You can go to school to become a falconer, but there’s no common magewright paths that teach people to make bargains with overlords. As noted above, people generally assume that familiars are extensions, so having an imp as a familiar doesn’t automatically mean you’re making deals with demons, but to a common person what it means is that THE PROJECTION OF YOUR PERSONALITY IS A FIEND and people will judge you accordingly. And if people DO realize that no, this is an actual emissary of Sul Khatesh and you are getting advice from it, that’s not going to be great; so usually, you’re going to want your imp to be in an animal form.

Primal Spirits

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduces the Wild Companion feature, allowing a druid to cast find familiar by using a charge of wild shape. Such a familiar has the fey creature type. It’s worth noting that beasts summoned with the conjure animals spell also have the fey creature type. This doesn’t mean that they are from Thelanis. If you’re a Greensinger, they might be; but typically, these are primal spirits. These can be seen as native fey, in the same way the Lords of Dust are native fiends. They are essentially stories made real—the idea of a beast given temporary form. A few details…

  • Primal spirits don’t have individual identities in the same way as emissaries or extensions. They are more iconic beings. Your raven embodies the idea of “raven” and will behave as you expect a raven to act in a fable or folktale. A cat may be curious, a raven may be wise. But the cat embodies the idea of CAT, not of your personal curious Graymalkin.
  • Primal spirits generally only remain for as long as they are needed; when they die or are dismissed they simply return to the transcendent essence of Eberron.
  • Primal spirits generally have no desires other than to help the summoner. They don’t NEED anything and generally look forward to returning to the heart of Eberron.
  • Druids and rangers typically employ primal spirits to avoid placing living animals in danger. They don’t feel any compunctions about sending summoned animals or familiars to their deaths because they aren’t really alive; you can’t kill an idea, and ultimately that’s what they are.

Primal spirits are typically only found in communities with strong primal roots—the Eldeen Reaches, the Qaltiar drow, the Lorghalen gnomes. In such places, you may find the equivalent of Falconer magewrights—gleaners who can conjure a specific familiar spirit, and who can maintain their bond with it over an unusually long distance. Primal communities often also involve animal companions, but people working with living beasts will generally be much more conscientious about placing their companions in dangerous situations—whereas primal spirits suffer no lasting harm from death.

In Conclusion…

Familiars are the most common class of companion, and extensions are the most common class of familiar. Falconers and similar magewrights use familiars as practical tools, while arcanists use often familiars as companions and assistants. Emissaries are rare and thus rarely recognized for what they are, but most people won’t be thrilled if you reveal that your companion is an actual fiend given to you because you made a bargain with a malefic power.

HOMUNCULI AND CONSTRUCT BEASTS

A homunculus is a construct, typically created by an artificer or wizard. They notably don’t follow the rules of find familiar; a homunculus can’t be simply dismissed and recalled at will. The most common form of homunculus player characters deal with is the homunculus servant, which is created using an artificer infusion. The servant is a tiny construct, and notably the shape of the homunculus is up to the artificer. The intention of this is that the appearance of the homunculus should reflect the techniques of the artificer. A Cannith Traditionalist may create a steel dragonfly with crystal wings—a creature similar to a warforged, perhaps with metal threads or gears instead of root-like tendrils. An artificer from Pylas Pyrial may use Thelanian logic to create a flying teapot. And an alchemist who’s experimenting with daelkyr fleshcrafting techniques could create a tiny platypus with one eye and three wings. A Battle Smith artificer gets to create a more powerful homunculus, a steel defender. Again, what’s specifically noted is that the shape and design of the defender is up to the artificer, including the choice as to whether it has two legs or four. This reflects the idea that all of these homunculi are extremely unique. The fact that the artificer can only have one of each type of homunculus at a time reflects the idea these creatures aren’t entirely stable—that the artificer has to continue to maintain their companion and to maintain the reserve of arcane energy that sustains it. As noted, homunculi can’t be dismissed and resummoned with the ease of a familiar, but if one is destroyed it can be rebuilt.

So a key point is that the homunculi of player characters aren’t supposed to be as familiar as a raven or even an imp. They’re supposed to stand out; they’re reflections of the unique genius of the artificer character. Unlike familiars and falconers, there isn’t a class of magewrights that creates homunculi; again, familiars ultimately come from a 1st level spell, while homunculi are derived from an artificer class feature. They’re more exotic than familiars. At the same time, people understand the CONCEPT of homunculi. Sentient magic items exist. Constructs exist. The Clockwork Menagerie of Eston was one of the wonders of Cyre centuries before House Cannith perfected the warforged. And with that said, the Last War involved a constant escalation in the development of constructs leading up to the Last War. Animated weapons have been developed, ranging from the tiny arbalester to the arcane ballista. Warforged titans stormed across the battlefield decades before their smaller cousins. And House Cannith does create construct beasts; the iron defenders of House Cannith can be produced as autonomous constructs (though they are typically considerably weaker than the steel defender of an accomplished Battle Smith). These creatures are still EXOTIC, but they aren’t unheard of and people generally won’t be frightened by them. They’ll draw attention, certainly, but attention isn’t always bad. With that said, the daelkyr-inspired fleshcrafted homunculus will generate the same sort of reaction as the imp familiar; people may not run you instantly out of town for having a creepy homunculus, but they will judge you by the company you keep.

I’ll be posting a table of random ideas for homunculus servants on my Patreon as an exclusive bonus for Inner Circle and Threshold patrons later in this week, so if you’re a supporter, keep an eye out for that!

ANIMAL COMPANIONS

What about the ranger and his wolf? Well, beasts are a part of everyday life in Eberron. From horses and tribex to the giant owls of Sharn or the Valenar hounds, there’s nothing strange about seeing someone with an animal companion. Magewright falconers conjure their companions, but Vadalis farriers can cast animal friendship, speak with animals, and beast sense, and gleaners (primal magewrights) in the Eldeen Reaches also develop these talents. Many gnomes cultivate the gift of speaking with small beasts. Exotic beasts are often rarer in major cities simply because of the difficulty of maintaining them, but people aren’t especially SURPRISED to see a ranger with a wolf companion; the fact that there are people who can befriend and speak with animals is a simple fact of life, and has been for centuries.

Animal companions aren’t exactly tools in the same way as familiars, because they’re independent living creatures. A Beast Master can replace an companion that dies, but an animal still died… while familiars and conjured beasts can be put in harm’s way with no lasting risk. Nonetheless, to the world at large they are still largely seen as tools and treated accordingly, so the same rule applies. If the ranger is allowed to bring his sword and his bow into a place of business, he’s probably allowed to bring his wolf; and if the wolf bites someone, the ranger will be held responsible, just as if he’d stabbed the victim with a sword.

Some might wonder if the existence of speak with animals would drive an overall greater wave of ethical behavior regarding the treatment of animals. Sadly, this is not the case in the Five Nations. Speak with animals exists, but MOST people can’t cast it. People will still take a tribex-drawn carriage down to a restaurant where they’ll eat a steak, without stopping to think “Was that tribex happy? Did the cow I’m eating live a good life?” The general attitude of House Vadalis is that they’ve been granted dominion over beasts, and it is their right to exploit that power. This is quite different in wide primal societies—such as the Eldeen Reaches and Lorghalen—but in the Five Nations beasts are still primarily treated as property and tools.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for helping to choose this topic and for making these articles possible.

Dragonmarks: Common Knowledge

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. One question that often comes up is “What do people in the world actually know about (subject)?” As players and DMs, we have access to a tome of absolute knowledge that tells us all about the Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, the Empire of Dhakaan, and so on. We know that characters may know about these things if they have appropriate proficiencies and make successful skill checks. But what do people know WITHOUT making any skill checks? What things are just common knowledge?

This article reflects the common knowledge of a citizen of the Five Nations. Common knowledge will vary by culture, and I can’t account for every possible variation. People in Stormreach are more familiar with drow than people in Fairhaven. Shadow Marchers will have heard of the Gatekeepers, while Karrns won’t have. In general, you can assume that things that have a direct impact on the lives of people living in a region will be part of common knowledge. For example, the people of the Mror Holds don’t know a lot about the daelkyr in general, but they DO know about Dyrrn the Corruptor, because they’ve been fighting him for decades and he signed his name with Dyrrn’s Promise in 943 YK. So determining what things are common knowledge will often require the use of common sense.

With that said, the people of the Five Nations can be assumed to know the following things.

Planes, Moons, and Manifest Zones. Everyone knows the names of the planes and the moons, and the basic attributes of the planes (IE, Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and is filled with celestials and fiends fighting). Think of this a little like knowledge of the planets of the solar system in our world; most people can name the planets and know that Mars is the Red Planet, but only someone who’s studied them can tell you the names of all of the moons of Jupiter. The main point is that the planes have real, concrete effects on the world through their manifest zones and coterminous/remote phases, and people understand these things. A common person may not be able to tell you the precise effects of a Shavarath manifest zone unless they actually live by one, but they know Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and could GUESS what such a manifest zone might do.

The Creation Myth. Everyone knows the basic story: Khyber, Eberron, and Siberys created the planes. Khyber killed Siberys and scattered his pieces in the sky, creating the Ring of Siberys. Eberron enfolded Khyber and became the world. Whether people believe this is literally true or a metaphor, everyone knows the myth and everyone understands that magic comes from Siberys, natural creatures come from Eberron, and fiends and other evil things come from Khyber.

The Sovereign Myth. The Sovereign Host is deeply ingrained into daily life in the Five Nations. Even if you don’t BELIEVE in the Sovereigns, you know the names and basic attributes of the Nine and Six. Likewise, everyone knows the basic story that in the dawn of time the world was ruled by demons; that the Sovereigns fought them; and that the demons were bound. The Dark Six are largely only known by their titles—The Mockery, the Keeper—and their original names are something that would only be known by someone with a tie to a relevant cult or with proficiency in History.

The Silver Flame. Tied to this, everyone knows the idea that the Silver Flame is the force that binds demons. People do NOT know where it came from. Many vassals assume the Sovereigns created the Silver Flame. Those who follow the faith assert it is a celestial force that is strengthened by noble souls.

Dragons. Everyone knows that dragons exist and that they are terrifying and powerful creatures. People know stories of dragons guarding hoards of treasure, and if you’re from Thrane you know of the Bane of Thrane, the dragon who slew Prince Thrane. There are also a few stories about heroes making bargains with dragons, or dragons possessing secret knowledge. People know that Argonnessen is a land of dragons, but they know almost nothing about it beyond “Here there be dragons” and the fact that people who go there don’t come back. Some people know that dragons occasionally attack Aerenal, and know that the giants of Xen’drik were destroyed in some sort of war with dragons. So everyone knows that dragons exist; that they are extremely powerful; and that they can be deadly threats or enigmatic advisors. Most people don’t ever expect to see a dragon. The idea that there are dragons secretly manipulating humanity is a conspiracy theory on par with the idea that many world leaders in our world are secretly reptilian aliens; there are certainly people who believe it, but sensible people don’t take it seriously.

Evil Exists. Everyone knows that there are fiends, undead, aberrations, and lycanthropes in the world. They know that ghouls may haunt graveyards, that the creepy stranger in town could be a vampire or a werewolf, and that dangerous things could crawl out of Khyber at any time. This is why the Silver Flame exists and why templars are generally treated with respect even by people who don’t follow the Silver Flame; people understand that evil exists and that the templars are a volunteer militia who are ready to fight it.

The Overlords and the Lords of Dust. Everyone knows that the overlords were archfiends who dominated the world at the beginning of time. Regardless of whether you believe in the Sovereigns or respect the Flame, you know that the overlords are real because one broke out and ravaged Thrane a few centuries ago. Most people have heard stories of a few of the overlords and may know their titles—the Shadow in the Flame is the one most people have heard of—but would need to make checks to know more. But critically, everyone knows that there are bound archfiends that would like to get out and wreck things.

Most people have never heard of “The Lords of Dust.” People have certainly heard stories of shapeshifting demons causing trouble and know that this is a real potential threat, but the idea that there is a massive conspiracy that has been manipulating human civilization for thousands of years is up there with the idea that dragons have been doing the same thing. If you have credible proof that someone in town is actually a fiend or is possessed by a fiend, people will take the threat seriously; people know that such threats can be real. But few people actually believe that there’s a massive conspiracy that secretly controls the course of history, because if so, why haven’t they done anything more dramatic with it?

As a side point to this, most COMMON PEOPLE don’t differentiate between devil, demon, and fiend and treat these as synonyms. People know of rakshasas as “shapeshifting demons,” even though an arcane scholar might say “Well, ACTUALLY ‘demon’ refers specifically to an incarnate entity of chaos and evil, and the rakshasa is a unique class of fiend most commonly found on the material plane.” But the Demon Wastes could be called “The Fiend Wastes;” in this context, “Demon” is a general term.

Khyber and the Daelkyr. Tied to the creation myth and to the idea that evil exists, people know that BAD THINGS COME FROM KHYBER. They don’t know about demiplanes, but they know that if you find a deep hole there might be something bad at the bottom of it. Critically, most people just know that THE DRAGON BELOW IS THE SOURCE OF BAD THINGS and don’t actually differentiate between aberrations, fiends, and monstrosities. This is why the Cults of the Dragon Below are called “The Cults of the Dragon Below” even though a cult of Dyrrn the Corruptor really has nothing in common with a cult of Sul Khatesh; as far as the common people are concerned, they are cults that worship big evil things, and big evil things come from Khyber, hence, cult of the Dragon Below.

With this in mind, most common people don’t have a clear understanding of what a “daelkyr” is. Anyone who’s proficient with Arcana or History has a general understanding of the difference between the daelkyr and the overlords without needing to make a skill check. But for the common person, they are both powerful evil things that are bound in Khyber.

Fey and Archfey. Everyone knows that the fey exist. Everyone knows about dryads and sprites, and everyone knows that they’re especially common near manifest zones to Thelanis. Beyond this, everyone know FAIRY TALES about fey and archfey, and knows that there’s some basis to these stories. So people know STORIES about the Lady in Shadow and the Forest Queen, and they know that somewhere in the planes, you might actually be able to meet the Forest Queen. But they don’t actually EXPECT to every meet one. Most people have no way to easily differentiate between an archfey and some other type of powerful immortal. Notably, you could easily have a cult of the Dragon Below that’s bargaining with Sul Khatesh but BELIEVES it is bargaining with an archfey, or a cult of Avassh that thinks it’s blessed by the Forest Queen. If a cult worships “The Still Lord” or “The Queen of Shadows”, they don’t have some kind of special key that tells them whether that power is a fiend, a fey, or a celestial; that distinction is ACADEMIC, and would require a skill check.

Specific knowledge of the fey is more prevalent in regions that are close to Thelanis manifest zones or where people have a tradition of bargaining with the fey; notably, Aundairians know more about fey than most people of the Five Nations.

The Dreaming Dark and the Kalashtar. Everyone knows that when you dream you go to Dal Quor. Everyone accepts the idea that “There are demons that give you bad dreams!” Very few people believe that those fiends are manipulating the world. People have had bad dreams FOREVER. If bad-dream-demons were going to take over the world, why haven’t they already done it? As with the Lords of Dust, people will listen to credible threats that a specific person could be possessed, but few will believe stories of a massive dream conspiracy bent on world domination.

Looking to Sarlona and the Inspired, everyone knows that the Riedrans have a strict culture and they’re ruled by beings who they say are channeling celestial powers. Few people have ever met a Riedran, let alone one of the Inspired. Those who have met kalashtar (which for the most part only happens in major cities) know that the kalashtar have been oppressed and driven from Sarlona, but largely assume this is about political and religious differences, not a war between dream-spirits. It’s relatively common knowledge that people from Sarlona study some form of mind-magic, but most people don’t know the precise details of how psionics are different from arcane or divine magic.

The Aurum. While it’s a stretch to say that everyone’s heard of the Aurum, it’s about as well known as, say, Mensa in our world. It’s generally seen as an exclusive fraternal order of extremely wealthy people. Because it IS exclusive and because many of its members are minor local celebrities, there are certainly lots of conspiracies theories about what it’s REALLY up to… but even if there’s people who SAY that the Aurum wants to overthrow the Twelve or that it engineered the Last War, at the end of the day people know it’s that fancy members-only club on Main Street that always donates generously to the Race of Eight Winds celebrations.

Secondary Religions. Aside from the Silver Flame and the Sovereign Host, most of the other religious are relatively regional. The Blood of Vol is the best known of the secondary religions because of the role it played in Karrnath during the Last War, but outside of Karrnath most people think it’s some sort of Karrnathi death cult. Everyone knows druids exist, and the Wardens of the Wood are relatively well known because of their central role in the Eldeen Reaches, but the other sects are largely unknown outside of the areas where they operate; the Ashbound are likely the second best known sect because of sensationalized reports of their violent actions. The Path of Light is largely unknown aside from people who have direct interaction with kalashtar.

Goblins and the Empire of Dhakaan. Everyone in the Five Nations knows that goblins were on Khorvaire before humanity, and that they had an empire that fell long ago. Most people don’t know the name of this empire or exactly how it fell. People generally recognize Dhakaani ruins as being goblin creations, and know that many of the largest cities of Khorvaire are built on goblin foundations, but there’s certainly a lunatic fringe that asserts that those structures are clearly too sophisticated to be goblin work and must have been built by some forgotten human civilization. However, most people understand that these “forgotten human” stories are ridiculous conspiracy theories, on par with the idea that shapeshifted dragons are secretly manipulating the world.

The History of Xen’drik. People know that Xen’drik was home to a civilization of giants. Most people believe that the giants were destroyed in a war with the dragons. Many people know that the elves were originally from Xen’drik and fled this destruction. Without History proficiency, most people do NOT know the name of any of the giant cultures or that there were more than one, and they definitely don’t know anything about giants fighting quori. The idea that arrogant giants destroyed the thirteenth moon is a common folk tale, but it has many forms and it’s something most people know as a serious fact.

Spies. When people in the Five Nations talk about spies, they’re usually thinking of The Dark Lanterns or the Royal Eyes of Aundair. Both are well known spy agencies known to operate covertly in other nations, similar to the CIA and KGB during the height of our cold war. Most people in the Five Nations have heard of the Trust and understand that it’s some sort of secret police force that maintains order in Zilargo, but don’t know much more than that and they aren’t concerned about Zil spies. House Phiarlan and House Thuranni are known as providers of ENTERTAINMENT and aren’t generally seen as spies. The assertion that Phiarlan runs a ring of spies is like the idea that Elvis worked for the CIA; not IMPOSSIBLE, but not something people see as a particularly credible threat.

Exotic Player Species. Most people know that drow come from Xen’drik. People know that lizardfolk and dragonborn come from Q’barra, but most people in Khorvaire don’t know that these are two different species. Tieflings are generally understood to be planetouched; as discussed in Exploring Eberron, aasimar are generally so rare that they won’t be recognized by the general populace. With that said, overall people are fairly accepting of species they’ve never encountered. In a world where people DO deal with humans, orcs, shifters, goblins, warforged, elves, kalashtar, ogres, medusas, and more every day, people who’ve never seen a goliath before are more likely to say “Huh, never seen that before” than to panic because it’s some sort of alien giant-man; exotic characters will generally be targets of curiosity rather than fear.

Dragonmarks and Aberrant Dragonmarks. The dragonmarks have been part of civilization for over a thousand years. The houses provide the major services that are part of everyday life. Everyone in the Five Nations knows the names of the houses and the common twelve marks. Without proficiency in History, people won’t have heard of the Mark of Death. Common knowledge is that aberrant dragonmarks are dangerous to both the bearer and the people around them, and are often seen as the “touch of Khyber.” Without proficiency in History, they won’t know much about the War of the Mark, aside from the fact that the aberrants were dangerous and destroyed the original city of Sharn.

The Draconic Prophecy. Most people have heard of “The Draconic Prophecy” but know almost nothing about it aside from the fact that it’s, y’know, a prophecy. When such people talk about the Prophecy, what they’re usually talking about is the Caldyn Fragments, a collection of pieces of the Prophecy assembled by Korranberg scholar Ohnal Caldyn (described in City of Stormreach). Most people definitely don’t understand that it’s an evolving matrix of conditional elements or that it’s the key to releasing the overlords.

Aerenal, the Undying Court, and the Tairnadal. Aerenal is an isolationist culture that has little interest in sharing its traditions with others. However, the elves do trade with the Five Nations and there’s been enough immigration over the course of history to provide a general knowledge of their culture. Most people know that Aerenal is ruled by the Undying Court, and that the Undying Court is made up of ancient undead elves. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between deathless and other undead. In Five Nations, most people have never heard of “Tairnadal” and assume any Tairnadal elf is from Valenar. They know that Valenar elves are deadly warriors who are always looking for fights and who worship their ancestors, but they don’t know any specifics about patron ancestors or the Keepers of the Past.

Q&A

What do most people believe about the connection between shifters and lycanthropes?

Most people believe that there is some sort of distant connection between shifters and lycanthropes. Shifters are often called “weretouched,” and some people mistakenly believe that they get wild when many moons are full. However, few people few people believe that shifters are capable of spreading lycanthropy or are sympathetic to lycanthropes. Those negative stereotypes exist, especially in rural Aundair or places where people have never actually SEEN shifters, but they’re not common.

What do followers of the Silver Flame believe about the Sovereigns? What does the Church teach about them? Is it normal to venerate both, at least among the laity? Do they even believe the Sovereigns exist?

Nothing in the doctrine of the Church of the Silver Flame denies the existence of the Sovereigns. It’s entirely possible to follow both religions simultaneously, and templars are happy to work with paladins of the Host. However, the point is that the Church of the Silver Flame doesn’t CARE if the Sovereigns exist. Their general attitude is that if the Sovereigns exist, they are vast powers that are maintaining the world overall. Arawai makes sure there’s rain for the crops. Onatar watches over foundries. That’s all great, but SOMEONE HAS TO DEAL WITH THE GHOULS IN THE GRAVEYARD. It’s notable that the Church of the Silver Flame, for example, doesn’t have a unique creation myth because at the end of the day it doesn’t MATTER where the world came from, what matters is that the people who live in it are threatened by supernatural evil and we need to work together to protect them.

I’ve said before that the Church of the the Silver Flame is more like the Jedi or the Men in Black than any religion in our world. It is EXTREMELY PRACTICAL. Evil exists, and good people should fight it. The Silver Flame is a real, concrete source of celestial energy that can empower champions to fight evil. Noble souls strengthen the Flame after death, so be virtuous. If you want to believe in some sort of higher beings beyond that, feel free. What’s important is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil, and faith in the Flame will help you to do that. So the Church doesn’t teach anything about the Sovereigns and it doesn’t encourage its followers to believe in them or incorporate them into its services in any way, but it doesn’t specifically deny that they exist or forbid followers from holding both beliefs.

That’s all for now! Feel free to ask about other general information topics in the comments, but I won’t have time to address every topic. Thanks again to my Patreon supporters who make these articles possible!

IFAQ: Rakshasas and Native Fiends

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Today, I want to look at native fiends, with a particular focus on rakshasa.

What’s a “Native Fiend”?

A native fiend is a fiend that was spawned in a demiplane of Khyber. If it’s physically destroyed, its energy will return to its place of origin and it will reform. Powerful fiends retain their identity and memories from incarnation to incarnation, while weak fiends may not. So if you kill Hektula the Scribe, she will reform in the Tower of Shadows—the heart demiplane of Sul Khatesh—and she will remain Hektula and remember how you defeated her. On the other hand, if you kill Bob the Imp, a new imp will eventually appear to take his place, but it may be Bill the Imp, and he won’t remember you.

The key point is that native fiends are from the material plane. Hektula isn’t from Shavarath or Daanvi; she’s part of the spiritual architecture of the material plane. She belongs here.

How does this affect spells like Banishing Smite or Banishment?

While native fiends belong in the material plane, they are spawned in demiplanes. I’d say that banishing effects banish them to their demiplane of origin. The main question is whether they return at the end of the spell effect (which is normal for native creatures) or remain banished to the demiplane (following the rules for extraplanar creatures). There’s a case to be made either way—on the one hand, they are native to this plane; on the other, the balancing effects of the 5E rules don’t consider the possibility of a native fiend. Personally, I’d be inclined to base it on the power of the fiend in question: a lesser fiend would be banished to their demiplane, while a major villain would return when the spell expires; you can’t banish an overlord with a 4th level spell. And of course, rakshasas are immune to spells of 6th level or below, so you can’t banish Hektula with these spells.

Fiends from the planes reflect central ideas. Fiends from Shavarath are tied to war, while fiends from Daanvi are about tyranny and the abuse of law. What do native fiends represent?

At the most basic level, native fiends represent evil. They are all that is wrong with the world, all the things we hate and fear made manifest. Fiends from other planes generally don’t care about Eberron because they have business on other planes; the devil from Shavarath has a war to fight. The devil of Khyber is part of Eberron; their purpose is to represent evil in our world.

Beyond that, there are two basic classes of native fiend, based on their demiplanes of origin. As described in Exploring Eberron, heart demiplanes are essentially the true manifestation of an overlord. Fiends from heart demiplanes are, fundamentally, extensions of the overlord and they should be projected through the lens of that overlord. This is why Hektula is a scribe and Mordakhesh is a warrior; Hektula is an element of the Keeper of Secrets, while Mordakhesh is an element of the Rage of War. Fiends from heart demiplanes can freely leave those demiplanes, and while their personalities reflect their overlords, they have independent consciousness and personalities. It’s even possible—though quite rare, except with Eldrantulku—for fiends to scheme against the overlord they are tied to.

The second common class of native fiend are those tied to shadow demiplanes. These demiplanes are essentially alien worlds within the world; each reflects a concept—the Ironlands, the Abyssal Forest of Khaar—but they have no overlord and no obvious purpose; they simply are. Compared to heart fiends, shadow fiends have limited self-awareness and independence; they may appear to be intelligent, but they don’t actually have long-term goals or aspirations. They’re essentially set dressing, part of the story of the demiplane; most can’t voluntarily leave their demiplanes. However, there are places in the world where these demiplanes can bleed into Eberron… most notably, the Demon Wastes. As a result, there are fiends roaming the Demon Wastes that aren’t aligned with the Lords of Dust and who have no long-term agenda; they leave other fiends alone, but anything else is fair game. So when you fight a vrock in the Demon Wastes and think “Doesn’t it have something better to do”—no, it really doesn’t.

Night hags are a notable exception to these classifications. While they’re native fiends, they are independent beings with no known ties to the overlords. They not only move freely across Eberron, but are able to move throughout the planes; the night hag Jabra can often be found at the Immeasurable Market of Syrania, and Sora Kell is well established as a planar traveler. The Aereni sage Tyraela Mendyrian claimed to have visited a demiplane called the Covenant, which she believed to be the point of origin of the night hags; she theorized that the night hags were created by Khyber for a specific purpose, and were intentionally independent of the overlords.

Why are most native fiends rakshasas?

Surprise twist: Most native fiends AREN’T rakshasa. During the Age of Demons, all manner of fiends roamed Eberron. There were goristros and mariliths in the armies of Rak Tulkhesh, and scheming ultroloths in the city of Eldrantulku. It’s not that most native fiends are rakshasas, it’s that most UNBOUND native fiends are rakshasas, and that’s because rakshasas are hard to bind.

The Age of Demons came to an end when the native celestials of Eberron fused their essence together to create the Silver Flame, which was then used to bind the fiends. This not only bound the overlords, it bound the vast majority of their fiendish minions—who, again, are in many ways extensions of the overlord. But some fiends were able to escape the binding. Some were just lucky. Others were so weak that they escaped notice; think of the tiny fish that slips through the gaps in the net made to catch larger creatures. And then you have the rakshasas. One of the defining features of the rakshasa is its complete immunity to spells of 6th level or below. Rakshasas can’t be spotted with detect good and evil. They can pass through magic circles. Forbiddance? Not a problem. Now, this effect isn’t absolute; you CAN trap a rakshasa with, say, imprisonment. But the grand binding wasn’t targeting the rakshasas, it was targeting the overlords, and catching their lesser minions in the same net. And it turns out that rakshasas are especially slippery fish, and were able to slip through in far greater numbers than other lesser fiends.

As it turns out, rakshasas are also exceptionally well suited to the long, subtle work required to free the overlords. They’re immune to the divination and abjuration magics common in the Five Nations. They can read thoughts. They can either shapeshift or disguise themselves with illusions (depending what edition you’re using). Which comes to the second point. There ARE a handful of other free fiends loose in the world. There is at least one goristro tied to Rak Tulkhesh roaming in the Demon Wastes, revered by his Carrion Tribes. But as a general rule, the Lords of Dust don’t have a need for a twenty-foot engine of destruction stomping around; Mordakhesh can actually get a lot more mileage by controlling, say, a newspaper editor.

So the short form is that rakshasas are the most common native fiends that are loose in the world, because they are difficult to detect and bind and because they are the fiends most capable of accomplishing the things that need to be done. However, there ARE other fiends in the world, and if you want to use one in a story, go ahead. The main things to consider are which overlord it’s tied to (if any) and if it’s working with the Lords of Dust.

Why do rakshasas look like tigers? Are people superstitious about tigers because of them?

What we’ve long said is that the appearance of immortals is something that can vary based on their origin. You can find a pit fiend in Shavarath, a pit fiend in Fernia, and a pit fiend in Khyber, but they don’t look the same. The pit fiend of Shavarath is a spirit of war and will wear heavy armor engraved with burning runes. The pit fiend of Fernia is a spirit of fire, a figure of shadow wreathed in flame. The form of the pit fiend of Khyber will vary based on the overlord it’s associated with. The general idea remains the same — a terrifying winged humanoid — but the cosmetic details should be adjusted to fit the defining concept of the fiend.

Take this basic idea and add to it the idea that rakshasa are innately shapeshifters. In 5E they don’t actually shift shape, but rather use disguise self. Nonetheless, the key point is that rakshasa look like what they want to look like. With this in mind, in my opinion, THE TIGER FORM ISN’T THE TRUE FACE OF A RAKSHASA. I feel that in their natural, purest form, the appearance of a rakshasa will reflect the nature of its overlord. Rakshasa servants of the Lurker in Shadow might have a sharklike appearance. Rakshasa tied to the Cold Sun could be serpentine. Hektula the Scribe may be a cloaked figure whose actual appearance can’t be seen within the shadows of her cowl, because mystery is part of her defining concept. So they’re all humanoid, but their appearance varies. Having said that, I feel that for the rakshasa shape is like clothes are for a human. Most of us don’t walk around naked; we wear clothes, and we generally take into account the common styles of our culture. Currently, the fashion in favor with the Lords of Dust is “tigers” and as we’ve described, the Lords of Dust add their personal touches to this; Mordakhesh has stripes of flame, while Hektula is a jaguar with arcane sigils in place of spots. But this is the fashion they choose to wear, and specifically you can think of it as the working uniform of the Lords of Dust. Hektula wears her jaguar-shape while she’s tending the library of Ashtakala, but when she returns to Tower of Shadows she may wear a shape closer to her true form.

So this has two aspects. First, not all rakshasa appear as tigers. I think animal-human hybrids are common, but as I suggested with Hektula I don’t think it’s absolutely required. Second, however, tigers have been in fashion with the Lords of Dust for at least the last few thousand years. So I think it is likely that there are superstitions associated with tigers, but I think that this is much like we have stories about the Big Bad Wolf. It’s not like any reasonable person thinks all tigers are inherently evil or that this stops Boranel from loving his ghost tigers; it’s just that there are surely folk tales about fiendish tigers.

What use do you see the Lords of Dust having for Shadow Demiplanes?

Part of the idea of the demiplanes is that each is an idea in the mind of Khyber. Because of this, fiends aren’t especially COMFORTABLE entering other demiplanes. This is why the Lords of Dust meet in Ashtakala rather than in the Tower of Shadows—because Mordakhesh doesn’t BELONG in the Tower of Shadows. Most likely he could enter it, but it would be uncomfortable and potentially impose exhaustion or have other negative effects. Essentially, each demiplane is a particular pure idea—the material plane is where all those ideas can come together.

From a practical, design standpoint this ties to the fact that as a DM, I don’t particularly want the Lords of Dust to make extensive use of demiplanes. I like the idea that demiplanes can fill the role of undiscovered country—rather than saying that the Lords of Dust have been harvesting the Abyssal Forest for tens of thousands of years. It also leaves room for lesser domain lords, which could include any of the existing archdevils or demon princes; it’s been a while, but IIRC in my conversion of the Savage Tide adventure path I suggested that Demogorgon was just such a lesser archfiend, below the status of an overlord but ruling over an aquatic demiplane. With that said, I’m fine with the idea that MORTALS have been messing with demiplanes—the Kech Shaarat have an outpost in the Ironlands, the Ghaash’kala gather supplies in the Abyssal Forest, Marcher cultists strive to find the Vale of the Inner Sun. But all of those things have a small impact on the region because they ARE mortal, and because they don’t truly understand what they’re dealing with.

So the funny thing is that in some ways, if you’re in the Demon Wastes and being pursued by fiendish forces, it may be that the safest haven you can find IS a shadow demiplane — because if your pursuers aren’t from that demiplane, they won’t follow you into it.

Wouldn’t adventurers face instant death if they walked into a heart demiplane? Is there an avatar of the overlord in its heart demiplane?

Exploring Eberron says this about heart demiplanes:

To defeat the overlords, the champions of the Age of Demons used the Silver Flame to bind their immortal essence, preventing them from returning to their heart demiplane to reform. This essentially severed the brain from the heart—but the heart demiplanes still exist.

Think of a heart demiplane like the body of a human in a coma. It is a reflection of the overlord, but their consciousness isn’t there; everything is running on autopilot. Think of it as Barad-Dûr (the Tower of Sauron) in The Lord of the Rings; it was still a very dangerous place when Sauron was regenerating, but Sauron wasn’t there. So if you go to the Tower of Shadows you will have to deal with the lesser fiends that you find there, and you might have to deal with Hektula if she’s taking a break from the Library of Ashtakala, but you won’t find an avatar of the overlord and there’s no omnipotent, omniscient presence that will instantly find you and destroy you. A heart demiplane is still, by definition, one of the most dangerous places you could possibly go, but it’s not instant death.

Now, if an overlord is partially released, things would be different. In my opinion, the most common form of “partial release” would be that the overlord’s spirit has returned to its heart demiplane but that it is unable to fully emerge from the demiplane. So to look back to Lord of the Rings, Sauron is now back in Barad-Dûr, but he can’t leave it. At that point, yes, if your paladin of the Silver Flame enters the Tower of Shadows, Sul Khatesh would likely feel it and you definitely could encounter her avatar there. However, that’s the point. Again, this is literally THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU COULD EVER DO. The only way it would be feasible would be if you have some form of preparation that makes the impossible possible—“Sul Khatesh would normally detect us the instant we entered her domain, but the Cloak of the Traveler will shield us from her gaze… Just make sure it doesn’t get damaged!” This also specifically gives epic adventurers an opportunity to face an overlord in battle without having the overlord unleashed into the material world.

Since there’s native fiends, are there native celestials?

Certainly. However, you rarely see them in the present day. First of all, from a mythological standpoint celestials are children of Siberys while fiends are children of Khyber… and Khyber killed Siberys. So if you accept the creation myth as literal truth, there’s a concrete reason why the material plane has more fiends than celestials; this is also an intentional part of the design of the world, because it’s why Eberron needs heroes. Second, the vast majority of the native celestials of Eberron fused their essence together to create the Silver Flame, becoming the force that now binds the overlords. But native celestials can be encountered—either temporarily drawn out of the Silver Flame, or spirits that were never part of the binding. The couatl are the most common and preferred form of native celestial, but you could definitely have an angel of the Silver Flame. As with fiends, the point is to adjust its appearance to reflect its source. So if I had a deva of the Flame, I’d give it rainbow-feathered wings, a nimbus of silver flame, and slightly serpentine features. So native celestials are extremely rare and typically couatl (or at least couatl-ish) but Siberys could produce any sort of celestial.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.