Dragonmark: Flight in Eberron

My Patreon supporters have chosen Arcane Science and Industry as the topic of the month. I’ll be writing a more extensive article on the topic later in the month, but now I want to address questions on a related topic: The role of flight. Before I go any further, I’ll note that you can find more of my thoughts on airships in this article, and that the 3.5 sourcebook Explorer’s Handbook is the primary canonical source. With that said…

Outside of the skycoaches of Sharn, how prevalent are airships in the other nations? Were they used in the last war? Are there nations with growing fleets of them? Do the goblins of Darguun have any?

One of the basic principles of Eberron is that arcane magic is a form of science, and that like any science, it evolves as people unlock its secrets. The idea was always that there should be a sense of evolution. In particular, the Last War drove a number of arcane breakthroughs: warforged, wandslingers, and airships. According to the timeline in the original Eberron Campaign Setting, the first airships went into service for House Lyrandar in 990 YK—less than ten years ago. In addition, Lyrandar airships are the only form of airship currently in mass production and they require a Lyrandar pilot to reliably control the elemental. The point of this is that air travel is a very recent development and it is dominated by House Lyrandar. So at the moment, NATIONS don’t have significant numbers of airships; LYRANDAR has them, and even it doesn’t have very many. Only major cities have the docking towers required by Lyrandar airships; combined with the relatively small fleet, this is why airships haven’t completely overshadowed the lightning rail.

It’s quite possible that the King’s Citadel of Breland has an airship produced in secret and piloted by a Lyrandar excoriate, or that Aundair has been working on an airship that doesn’t require a Lyrandar pilot. But no nation has fleets of airships, definitely not the Darguuls. Likewise, there were a few Lyrandar airships that were designed for military service—the Stormships”—but they played a very small role in the war, appearing only at the very end of it.

So the science behind the airship has been established, and from this point going forward airships will play an increasingly significant role. But for now they are still few in number and rely on House Lyrandar… and House Lyrandar would like to keep it that way. The point is that ongoing developments with airships can be an important plot point of a campaign. IF the Darguuls somehow start producing a fleet of airships, that would be a major mystery—how are they doing it? What do they plan to do with them?—that could be an important plot point.

As the skycoaches of Sharn were mentioned, it’s important to remember that skycoaches are nearly unique to Sharn; they rely on the magical effects of the manifest zone surrounding Sharn, and will crash if they’re taken more than a few miles from the city. You could find skycoaches in other cities in similar manifest zones, but you couldn’t fly a skycoach between those two points.

With all of that said: airships are a new development. Aerial combat is not. Galifar the Dark—the third ruler of the united Galifar—is said to have created the Race of Eight Winds as a way to test various aerial mounts, and the skyblade tournaments of Sharn likewise are a reflection of a traditional of aerial combat. But this is a tradition of mounted combat—not large vessels such as the modern airship. More on that later.

What sort of flying magical items do you see across Khorvaire? Brooms exist as D&D canon, but it seems like different countries would have different sorts of flying apparatuses.

First, let’s review my previous discussion of the broom of flying.

By the rules of Fifth Edition, a broom of flying is an extremely useful item. It’s an uncommon magic item, putting it within the range of Khorvaire’s wide magic. Unlike wings of flying, there’s no time limit on the use of the item, and critically, it doesn’t even require attunement. What’s been suggested is that Aundair used these for elite units and that other nations developed them in smaller quantities—so they aren’t commonplace in civilian life, but they are in the world.

With this in mind, the first question I’d ask is are they brooms? While the core magic item is a broom, I see no logical reason that they should be actual brooms in Eberron; remove the mythology of Earth and there’s no particular reason a broom is associated with flight. So I’d actually call them skystaffs. Keep the same essential shape—a short wooden haft—but remove the bristles, add a seat, and perhaps handles that fold out from the shaft. Essentially, make it a tool clearly designed for its function as opposed to a household item that does something unexpected. I’d then say that while anyone can use one, they require Dexterity checks for tight maneuvers or sustained balance at full speed, unless the rider has proficiency in air vehicles—so anyone CAN use one, but it requires some training to actually use one effectively. As a final element, I’d say that a skystaff is made using soarwood, which is a crucial factor in why there aren’t more of them in service at the moment. The enchantment isn’t that difficult—again, “uncommon” level in terms of its power—but the actual components required to create one are in limited supply, so there aren’t that many around. Having said that, they are most often seen in Aundair, and you’ll certainly see a few in the skies above Fairhaven or darting around Arcanix.

This further reflects the idea that Aundair is the most mystically advanced nation. The aerial cavalry of the Five Nations has relied on hippogriffs for centuries; Aundair’s introduction of the skystaff was an early innovation in the war, and they became more common as the conflict continued. So more on that later, but in my opinion the skystaff was introduced early in the Last War. It predates the airship, but only by a century. The advantages of the skystaff are that it’s very portable. As it doesn’t have to eat or breathe, you can keep a skystaff in a bag of holding indefinitely, making it an excellent tool for covert operatives. But with a top speed of 50 ft, it’s slower than a hippogriff (60 ft) and considerably slower than a pegasus (90 ft).

Another uncommon form of flight is winged boots. In my opinion these predate the skystaff (in Khorvaire) by a few centuries. They were first created in Sharn by artificers experimenting with the property of the manifest zone, and these early models only worked in Sharn. However, by 812 YK an artificer had developed winged boots that could be used beyond the City of Towers. Because the boots are limited to the wearer’s walking speed and can only be used for up to four hours, they are more limited than flying mounts and aren’t widespread. They’re typically found in Breland, as they’re still most often used in Sharn—but all of the spy agencies of Khorvaire make use of them, along with some elite commandos and thieves.

Other magical tools of flight are more exotic. The cloak of the bat and wings of flying are rare items, which means that they CAN be found in the Five Nations but that they’re rare and unusual. A few stories I could see for such items:

  • The Narathun flesh-crafters of the Mror Holds have created a form of wings of flying with the symbiont quality—a living creature that bonds to the body of the wearer. They’ve only produced a few so far.
  • The Seeker spy organization known as the Raven Corps had an elite unit outfitted with cloaks of the bat when they served Karrnath during the Last War. A person attuned to such a cloak must expend 1 hit die after completing long rest, as the cloak drains a bit of their blood.
  • The Church of the Silver Flame has an elite order of templars who wear cloaks of flying that transform into the rainbow wings of a couatl. These are driven by faith as opposed to arcane magic, and only people with great faith in the Flame can attune to them.
  • Druidic magic can create wings of flying that use the principles of wild shape. Rather than being cloaks, these are often torcs or necklaces; the wings sprout from the back of the bearer. There’s a Tairnadal ancestor whose revenants employ such tools, and a unit of the Wardens of the Wood—the Gray Owls—who use these tools.
  • Thelanis can be the source of any sort of flight magic, from wings of flying to winged boots. Each such item has its own unique story. One pair of Thelanian boots might be birds turned into boots, that still sing when they’re happy; another might be a pair of boots without wings, that allow the bearer to walk on sunbeams or shadows.
  • Other forms of flight items could be found that have limitations. House Lyrandar could have cleared a form of wings of flying that harnesses a minor elemental for lift, but that can only be attuned by someone with the Mark of Storm; another cloak might only work in a particular manifest zone, just like the skycoaches of Sharn.

The main point is that these items are rare and unusual but can be found in the Five Nations, and there were a few elite units in the Last War that employed them.

As very rare items, carpets of flying are not commonly found in the Five Nations. When encountered, these may be the product of more advanced civilizations (Aerenal, Argonnessen, the Lords of Dust), or be extraplanar in origin (Syrania, Thelanis).

Keep in mind also that feather tokens are actually common items. Paratroopers weren’t that common for most of the war because hippogriffs can’t carry many people. But Thrane certainly delivered paratroopers by wyvern, and later in the war airships could carry paratroopers with feather tokens.

What sort of air forces did each nation deploy during the Last War?

At the beginning of the war, the standard aerial cavalry of Galifar was the hippogriff rider. There were a few other forces based on local traditions, notably the dragonhawks of Aundair and the wyverns of Thrane, but the hippogriff was the mainstay of aerial combat. Such hippogriffs were primarily used as scouts and skirmishers, and there had never been an effort to field a mass aerial force. Each nation followed different paths during the war.

Aundair had three distinctive elements: dragonhawks, skystaffs, and floating citadels. 

  • Aundair developed skystaffs at the start of the Last War. While other nations replicated them over the course of the war, Aundair has always had the most significant number of them. The skystaff has the advantage of not being alive, thus removing the complications associated with maintaining a living mount.
  • The dragonhawk is the symbol of Aundair. Larger, faster, and more powerful than hippogriffs, the primary limitation of the dragonhawks is their slow rate of reproduction. However, Aundair employed them to great effect during the Last War, and their dragonhawk cavalry played a key role in defending the nation from Thrane’s wyverns.
  • Aundair has a few floating towers. The best known of these is Arcanix—though what can easily be forgotten is that Arcanix isn’t ONE floating tower, it’s FOUR. As discussed in this article, the reason you don’t see many of these towers is that the effect is unstable and requires considerable ongoing arcane maintenance—which is easy to do when you stock the citadel with the finest wizards in your nation, as is the case with Arcanix. But the Arcane Congress does have a few other floating towers. While the towers float, they don’t MOVE under their own power; moving them during the Last War required massive teams of dragonhawks.

Breland always had the best hippogriff riders. Due to the Race of Eight Winds and the popularity of skyblades, Breland had the strongest tradition of hippogriff riding and many of the riders in the army of Galifar were Brelish. As such, while Breland’s air force lacked the raw power of Aundair’s dragonhawks and Thrane’s wyverns, its hippogriff forces were known for their daring and their skill. Late in the war, Breland employed a few of House Lyrandar’s stormships.

Cyre was relatively weak in the air. It had a small corps of hippogriff riders, and encouraged House Cannith to work on flying constructs, few of which made it beyond the prototype stage. It largely relied on siege staffs and long rods to deal with enemy fliers.

Karrnath had the weakest air force throughout the war. It relied on its strong evokers to blast enemy fliers, and relied on its dominance on the ground. The Blood of Vol experimented with undead flying units; while dramatic, these were never produced in large numbers. As a result, many of Thrane’s greatest victories involved air superiority, and Korth still bears the scars of Thrane’s aerial bombardment.

Thrane has a strong, versatile air force tied to a number of elements.

  • Wyverns are to Thrane as dragonhawks are to Aundair. For tens of thousands of years, the cliffs around Flamekeep have been home to wyverns. The least of these are typical wyverns as presented in the 5E Monster Manual… generally Large in size and incapable of speech. But there is an exceptional strain of wyverns—typically known as elder wyverns, regardless of their age—that are both more intelligent than their cousins and grow to far greater sizes; as presented in the 3.5 Monster Manual, these wyverns can grow to Gargantuan size. While they are on average less intelligent than humans, elder wyverns are capable of speech. The early settlers of Daskara made peace with the elder wyverns and the rulers of Daskara always had wyvern “advisors.” During the Year of Blood and Fire the wyverns were also threatened by the forces of Bel Shalor, and Tira Miron rallied the elders to her cause; the wyvern Ashtarax carried her in her final confrontation with the forces of Bel Shalor. Following Tira’s sacrifice, the wyverns themselves adopted the faith of the Silver Flame; they consider the defense of Flamekeep to be a sacred duty. The wyverns have relatively little concept of the wider Five Nations and don’t care to know; they serve the church because they believe it serves the Voice of the Flame, and they say that Tira continues to guide them. So, Thrane can field lesser wyverns in battle, but it is the gargantuan elders who spread terror. An elder wyvern can can carry a crew into battle, and early in the war Thrane pioneered new techniques of aerial combat; their trademark was the use of vast bags of holding to drop massive rocks and divinely-infused explosives on their enemies. While the great wyverns lack the powers of dragons, some of the elders have such deep faith that they can channel the power of the Silver Flame; a wyvern might strike at enemies with sacred flame, or even greater powers.
  • Angels are templars equipped with wings of flying. This version of this rare item is created through a ritual that draws on the faith of the bearer; only the most devout templars can become angels, and typically the item will lose its power when the character attuned to it dies. These wings typically appear to be the rainbow wings of a couatl. Because of these elite templars, Thrane was often believed to have recruited actual angels to fight for them. While Thrane did occasionally deploy celestials formed from the Flame, the majority of its winged warriors were these mortal templars.

Thrane also employed a corps of hippogriff riders. Often a few hippogriffs would be harnessed to the back of a gargantuan wyvern, released to engage any flying enemies that sought to interfere with bombardment.

How common is/was technological powered flight (blimps, dirigibles, or balloons) in Eberron?

None have ever been mentioned in canon that I’m aware of. If I were to introduce some, I’d consider a magical aspect: a dirigible filled with Thelanian clouds, or an alternative form of elemental binding using a harnessed air elemental, which sacrifices speed but doesn’t need a Lyrandar pilot. I might also consider giving dirigibles to the Dhakaani (perhaps created by the Kech Aar’ar, the Keepers of the Air) as another way to show the Dhakanni pursuing a different path than the arcane science of the Five Nations.

How does House Vadalis relate to dragonhawks and wyverns?

House Vadalis is the primary breeder and trainer of hippogriffs. It supplied Galifar with these mounts and continued to breed hippogriffs for all nations during the war. Other creatures are bred and magebred to serve regional markets. For example, the bear is to Breland as the dragonhawk is to Aundair; so in BRELAND, House Vadalis has long worked to build a better bear, with results seen in the magebred bears unleashed on the battlefields of the Five Nations. It is also the case that Vadalis has long worked with creatures that are actually intelligent, as pegasi and the giant owls of Sharn. Such creatures are actually treated as members of the house. They are raised and trained by Vadalis, and Vadalis doesn’t SELL them; it temporarily places them, and the mounts have to agree to the service.

So that’s background: Vadalis has certain beasts and creatures that it supplies to all of the Five Nations, and others that are regional specialties. Vadalis does breed dragonhawks in Aundair, but it is not involved with the wyverns of Thrane—although it does provide Thrane with hippogriffs.

As an interesting side note, the 3.5 sourcebook Five Nations calls out that in the wake of the Eldeen secession, druids in the Reaches have awakened a number of dragonhawks and sent them east, where they may be a fifth column that can disrupt Aundair’s air forces.

What about griffons?

Griffons reflect the challenge of changing systems. In 3.5, the griffon (flight speed 80) was considerably slower than the hippogriff (flight speed 100). In fifth edition that is reversed; the griffon is both stronger AND faster than the hippogriff. With this in mind, I would consider griffons to be used by most nations as an alternative to Aundair’s dragonhawks. However, I would maintain that the griffon is more difficult to control and requires more maintenance—so hippogriffs remain the common aerial mount, with griffons as heavy support.

With the changes in Fifth Edition, how does the Hippogriff fare in the Race of Eight Winds?

Traditionally, the Hippogriff and the Pegasus are the top competitors in the Race of Eight Winds. The Pegasus remains at the top. With the hippogriff’s dramatic reduction in speed in fifth edition, the question is: do you change the lore to match the mechanics, or do you change the mechanics to match the lore? Personally, I’m going to do the latter and say that while wild hippogriffs have a speed of 60 feet, the magebred hippogriffs of House Vadalis have an air speed of 80 feet—call them zephyr hippogriffs. They are no longer FASTER than the Griffon, but the fact of the matter is that the Griffon is still usually more interested in taking down other competitors than in WINNING the Race, so the Hippogriff usually comes out ahead.

What about Aerenal? It’s the source of soarwood—does it use it for flight?

Yes. Aerenal is the source of soarwood, and it’s also significantly more mystically advanced than the Five Nations. I mentioned that Aerenal is a possible source of carpets of flying; those might be woven in part from fibers from the soarwood trees, and there might be massive carpets used as a form of transit. Brooms of flying are more common in Aerenal than even in Aundair. Here again, I’d make them skystaffs rather than BROOMS, but as is typical of Aerenal I wouldn’t see them as uniform in design and mass produced. Instead, I’d imagine them as being sort of like hobby-horses, with fanciful designs; one might have the carved head of a dragon, other the head of an eagle, with similar engraving along the shaft and a seat designed to resemble the creature’s wings. Despite all of that, we’ve never mentioned the Aereni as using airships or elemental binding, and I don’t think they do.

That’s all for now. Feel free to ask questions, but understand that I may not have time to answer them. In other developments, my latest D&D supplement Eberron Confidential is available now on the DM’s Guild, I’m continuing to work with my Patreon supporters to develop my Threshold campaign, and this Friday (November 20th) at 6 PM Pacific time I’ll be playing my new Adventure Zone game with Griffin McElroy, Laser Malena-Webber and Damion Poitier on my Twitch channel! Thanks for your support!

86 thoughts on “Dragonmark: Flight in Eberron

  1. Did the giants/empyreans of Xen’drik have a bigger reliance upon flight or flying items?

    • We’ve never suggested that they did. But if you want to play up cloud giants, you could suggest that one of the Group of Eleven developed such things.

  2. How did those air fighters outside of the Five Nations fair against the air corps of fractured Galifar? I’m thinking the Talentan Glidewings, that one Valenar Warband that was griffon riders, or the Mror Manticore riders?

    Speaking of griffons, did they ever see widespread military use outside of the Valenar? Know they were used in the Race of the 8 Winds and the Citadel of the Sun keeps three half celestial griffons holy to Dol Arrah in Sharn.

    • How did those air fighters outside of the Five Nations fair against the air corps of fractured Galifar? I’m thinking the Talentan Glidewings, that one Valenar Warband that was griffon riders, or the Mror Manticore riders?
      The Mror and the Talentans never FOUGHT the forces of Galifar in any significant fashion, so it’s not a match-up that WAS ever put to the test. But at a quick glance…
      * The Mror manticores are stronger and slower than hippogriffs. With the wealth of Kundarak, both rider and mount would be well equipped; so they are juggernauts, but a Brelish hippogriff rider could try to outmanuever them.
      * Likewise, if you follow the 3.5 SRD, the glidewing is slower than the hippogriff and NOT particularly tougher — there’s a reason the glidewing never wins the Race of Eight Winds.
      * I’ve added notes on the griffon to the end of the main article. Part of the challenge here is the chaotic impact of evolving editions. In 3.5 the griffon was significantly slower than the hippogriff; in 5E it’s FASTER. So the Valenar griffon forces combine a superior mount with exceptional skill—because Tairnadal—and would most likely be the most dangerous forces in the air… but again, you’re talking about a TINY force when compared to the air corps of the Five Nations.

        • “there’s a reason the glidewing never wins the Race of Eight Winds.”

          (Boromar Clan crying in the distance)

          • This is a decent plot hook I see! Boromar Clan in my opinion, has the power to rig the Race, or just good old-fashioned sabotaging by poison, bribes, and whatsoever. Even if they succeed despite all player actions, the rigged race could be investigated after it is won, if they have the evidence.

  3. So, you point out that skycoaches are unique to Sharn, but *did* mention in your old Eston Eye on Eberron article that “Skycoaches carried smiths from forge to forge” there, which never sat right to me based on the fact that, as you say, “skycoaches are unique to Sharn”.

    • Skycoaches aren’t unique to Sharn, and I’ll have to edit that to clarify. Skycoaches can only function in an appropriate manifest zone; Sharn isn’t the only such manifest zone in Khorvaire, it’s just that you can’t fly a skycoach between the two points where they function.

      With that said, I don’t consider Eston to be such a zone, and I’d consider that to be an error.

      • Unfortunately, the description’s been perpetuated to the top of page 221 of Rising- that confused me when I read it too.

  4. Great post! This gives me lots of ideas to work with.

    “A person attuned to such a cloak must expend 1 hit die after completing long rest, as the cloak drains a bit of their blood.”

    Doesn’t that mean someone could take it off, or even just unattune it before resting to avoid this HD drain?

    “as fifth edition’s default Monster Manual giant owl is not sentient”

    5e giant owls speak a language though (Giant Owl) and understand three other languages, would that not be sentient?

    Any comments on firesleds?

    • Doesn’t that mean someone could take it off, or even just unattune it before resting to avoid this HD drain?
      Personally I’d say that yes, you could take it off to avoid this, but that doing so would break attunement. A logical follow-up would be that you immediately lose 1 hit die when you attune to the item. So you can take it off and then take a short rest to reattune, but you’ll still lose the hit die.

      5e giant owls speak a language though (Giant Owl) and understand three other languages, would that not be sentient?
      This is my error, and I’ve corrected in the text. This is what happens when systems change; I believe in FOURTH edition giant owls lost their sentience and it caused confusion about there being owl merchants and councilors in Sharn.

      Any comments on firesleds?

      The people of the Five Nations know nothing of the Sulatar. We can assume the Zil encountered them long ago, but firesleds don’t play a role in Khorvaire. With that said, as noted in another comment, when I CREATED the Sulatar, I actually say the firesleds as ground effect vehicles as opposed to flying vehicles. While this isn’t mentioned in SoX, I would personally give them a max flight ceiling of 30 feet above a surface. They’re supposed to be combat hovercraft, not fighter jets.

      • I don’t think giant owls were ever mentioned in 4e. They definitely never got stats. 5e giant owls did get 2 points knocked from their INT score though.

      • In know for me the confusion around giant owls being Councillors is that in S:CoT at pp. 57 & 110-11 Hruit is described as a beasthide shifter druid who has an “affinity for owls”, wild shapes into a small owl, has an owl companion and rode a giant owl in the Race of Eight Winds.

        In E:RftLW at p. 157 Hruitt is described as a giant owl who can take human form.

        Since I don’t remember you discussing the change, or the role of owls in Sharn society, or that nonhumanoids are eligible to be members of the Council (particularly given that the rights under the Code of Galifar are generally extended to humanoids), I always assumed that the former was correct. I have tried to reconcile the two by making the former be what Middle Dura believes they elected, and the latter being what Hruit actually is.

        So now I have a few questions, first of all as to what is Hruit’s Kanon story, secondly as to the role of giant owls in Sharn society, and thirdly as to the role and status of intelligent nonhumanoids in society generally.

        • So now I have a few questions, first of all as to what is Hruit’s Kanon story, secondly as to the role of giant owls in Sharn society, and thirdly as to the role and status of intelligent nonhumanoids in society generally.
          It was always MY intention that Hruitt was an actual owl. In general, where Rising contradicts canon (such as with the Mror) it was an intentional decision we made; the one exception is when Chapter 2 says “Erandis d’Vol, an elf from Aerenal, founded the Blood of Vol.” This is an editing mistake and a triple flub, because the line of Vol never used the d’ prefix, Erandis didn’t found the Blood of Vol, and calling Erandis Vol “an elf from Aerenal” is an understatement.

          So yes: I always intended Hruitt to be an actual owl and was disappointed that he was adjusted to be a druid. This is tied to the (canon!) Race of Eight Winds article, which notes “A few former racing owls are now merchants themselves, which can lead to unusual encounters in the Bazaar.” I believe that Councilor Hruitt — as a giant owl — makes an appearance in my first novel, City of Towers. As to the second question, giant owls don’t have a “role” — only a handful of exceptional owls have the intelligence and more importantly the INTEREST in participating in human society. The citizen owls of the Bazaar certainly know one another and work together, but there’s likely never been more than a dozen of such citizen owls. And as to that final point, as I mention elsewhere, being recognized as a citizen requires an oath of fealty and being acknowledged as a subject by a noble of your nation. Most giant owls aren’t citizens of Breland. Hruitt is, but he had to work at it. The fact that he was appointed councilor shows that he won the respect of the people of the district; it’s surely a remarkable story and speaks to his exceptional charisma as well as his intelligence. But these things are exotic and unusual, and speak to the drama of Sharn; a Brelish farmer who goes to Sharn and finds an owl running a stall in the Bazaar would be astonished by it.

          • Thanks for the clarification, I too had always been fascinated by this NPC but was a bit confused with the contradicting lore. This clears things up!

          • JFYI, I checked “City of Towers” on my kindle. It’s chapter 33 mentioned the giant owl “Hu’ur’hnn”. He’s said to be a former windchaser, but it was not clear if he was the Councilor or not.

            I think they could be the same owl (e.g. Hruitt may be a diminutive for Hu’ur’hnn), but not certain.

  5. Just adding onto the list of other flying advances, the Sulatar in Secrets of Xen’drik had flying fire sleds. I feel like they’re also a valid candidate for firearms if people wanted to go that direction, expanding from just “Elemental Binding” to “Gifts of Fernia” (In My Eberron the Obsidian City is covered by a Fires of Industry MZ)

    • Just adding onto the list of other flying advances, the Sulatar in Secrets of Xen’drik had flying fire sleds.

      What’s interesting is that as the CREATOR of the Sulatar fire sleds, I saw them as ground effect vehicles as opposed to FLYING vessels. This isn’t mentioned in Secrets of Xen’drik, but personally I wouldn’t allow them to go more than 30 feet above the ground.

      • I was under the same impression. “Sled” sounds like it’s on runners through softer terrain.

  6. “[A]s fifth edition’s default Monster Manual giant owl is not sentient […]”

    The standard giant owl in Fifth Edition has an Int of 8, Wis of 13, and Cha of 10 and is able to speak Giant Owl and can understand Common, Elvish, and Sylvan. Based on that, I would consider giant owls to be fully sentient. That’s at least on par with the average human fighter. 🙂

  7. Well the question I never knew how to ask is answered, where did the wyverns come from in Thrane, love the idea of the Elder Wyvern!

    As a continuation of the idea that these wyverns worship the silver flame, is the Church’s general dismissal of monstrous creatures extended to these wyverns? Can they achieve positions of authority and privilege in the Church or Thrane at large, or were the Daskaran advisors merely pageantry? Did it change over the years (750 years is a long time since Tira, and Daskara is over twice as old)?

    • As a continuation of the idea that these wyverns worship the silver flame, is the Church’s general dismissal of monstrous creatures extended to these wyverns?

      In my opinion it’s not about dismissal of monstrous creatures, it’s about the destruction of supernatural THREATS. Having aided Tira in the battle against Bel Shalor, they were never classified as threats.

      Can they achieve positions of authority and privilege in the Church or Thrane at large, or were the Daskaran advisors merely pageantry?

      In my opinion, it’s just pageantry. I was basing the idea of the 3.5 wyvern, which can reach gargantuan size and can speak Draconic, but they still have a listed Intelligence of 6. An exceptional wyvern might boost that up to the 10-12 range, but they aren’t as smart as dragons and I don’t really see them holding lots of important positions. With that said, they CAN be wise – that average wyvern has a Wisdom of 12 — and it would be fun to have a temple somewhere that has a wyvern as its bishop.

  8. Aerenal is the source of soarwood, if I’m remembering correctly. Do they have widespread flight items? If you want to get from Shae Cairdal to Shae Mordai, would it be an option to take a broom of flying?

    • Aerenal is the source of soarwood and is also more magically advanced; I should have labeled this article “Flight in Khorvaire”, as it wasn’t intended to cover Aerenal. I’ll add a note on Aerenal to the end of the article.

  9. I was think, as Karrnath is not so good in air combat, is there a militar academy in some nation equivalent to Rekkenmark, but more as Air Force training than army? In old Galifar.

    • Yes, Breland would have been the seat where the air forces were trained, which is why they have the best hippogriff riders.

  10. Are the magical clouds that Sharn’s Skyway rests upon a result of the Syrania manifest zone? The towers of Arcanix appear to be natural(?) skybergs, so I wasn’t sure if other areas outside of Syrania zones could utilize magical bed of clouds.

    • Yes, this is a Syranian artifact, similar to the cloud palaces of the djinni that I mentioned in the recent article. The towers of Arcanix don’t rest on clouds.

  11. And is there some Lhaazar island that have a tradition using flight? (Beyond the Half Elf Island and them Air Ship).

    • And is there some Lhaazar island that have a tradition using flight? (Beyond the Half Elf Island and them Air Ship).

      No, just the Wind Whisperers. Again, flight is supposed to be a recent development for Khorvaire.

  12. A couple of questions about airships: (1) I’m curious abou the evolution of House Lyrandar. Their mark is the Mark of Storm, so I assume that initially they discovered powers of controlling wind and weather. This would have lead fairly naturally to the Lyrandar involvement with ships. “Hey, let’s get one of these dragomark guys to sail with us and control the winds for us!” But going from that to controlling airship powered by fire elementals seems a bit of a logical leap. Is it possible that the real fundamental power of the Lyrandar mark is an affinity for elemental control, and that some future Lyrandari innovator will find that they can do neat things with earth elementals as well?
    (2) I’m a little surprised that Zil elemental binders are seemingly unable to control their own airships. Or does a mastery of binding not correspond with a mastery of control? Or is there some reason why the Zil have decided that it’s better to simply sell their services to House Lyrandar to create the ships, but stay out of the business of flying them?

    • I’m no Keith, but I can help with the second; The Zil binders are well able to control airships. It’s just contractually obligated that only Lyrandar can fly the ships. So there’s nothing physically stopping them, but there is a whole legal snafu if someone tries to make a non-Lyrandar airship.

      Also, IIRC, the binders only bind the elementals. Cannith and Lyrandar builds the actual airship hulls, leaving the binders to install the elemental in its Khyber shard.

      • I thought the Zil also made the overall hull of the ship and such, as the Zil are renowned shipwrights. I just assumed that Cannith and Lyrandar produced all of the workings to run said ship.

        • I’ve always seen the Zil and Cannith collaboration on the overall construction of the ships; Zil do indeed have a reputation as mundane shipwrights.

    • I’m curious abou the evolution of House Lyrandar. Their mark is the Mark of Storm, so I assume that initially they discovered powers of controlling wind and weather. This would have lead fairly naturally to the Lyrandar involvement with ships.

      And so it did. They dominated sea travel for over a thousand years through manipulation of winds. Elemental galleons were an evolution of this developed centuries ago. Air travel is new—eight years old—and is based on an evolution of the principles of the elemental galleon.

      Is it possible that the real fundamental power of the Lyrandar mark is an affinity for elemental control, and that some future Lyrandari innovator will find that they can do neat things with earth elementals as well?
      Yes, it’s quite possible. Again, the airship is an extremely recent development that has many possible implications that could be explored in the future.

      I’m a little surprised that Zil elemental binders are seemingly unable to control their own airships. Or does a mastery of binding not correspond with a mastery of control?
      Remember that the dragonmark heir doesn’t simply control the elemental through force of will; they use a TOOL to do it. A general principle of magic in Eberron is that it’s easier to use a dragonmark focus item to perform an effect than for an unmarked individual to do it without it. It’s surely possible for a skilled elemental binder to exercise DIRECT control over an elemental, and Explorer’s Handbook provides a number of ways to do this—but the wheel of wind and water is more reliable and doesn’t require the captain to have skills beyond the mark. The Zil COULD surely produce an airship anyone could fly if they really put their minds to it, but the main point is that Lyrandar and Orien have made it worth their while not to; this is absolutely a case of technological development being stifled by corporate interests and the power of gold. The Zil don’t NEED their own airships; it’s more convenient for them to be a vital part of the house strategy that to become enemies of the houses.

  13. There were some serious speed changes from 3.5 (when a lot of the Eberron canon was developed) to 5th edition. To quickly summarize a few:
    The pegasus dropped from a speed of 120 to a speed of 90.
    The hippogriff suffered the worst, going from 100 to 60.
    Griffons remain unchanged at 80.
    Gargoyles also stayed the same at 60.
    Wyverns made out the best, getting a boost from 60 up to an 80.
    (Actually, rocs did even better but they aren’t relevant to the questions below.)

    My overall question is how do these changes affect your Eberron?

    Specifically I’m interested in the hippogriff in the Race of the Eight winds and on the battlefield:
    The hippogriff was quoted in your Dragonshard on the Race of the Eight Winds as being a repeat victor of the Race along with the pegasus. Is it still a contender? It’s now on par with the gargoyle for speed. Also, how does it fare in the wilds against the griffon, as its traditional predator is now faster than it is? Do they only exist in captivity? Or is just a matter of numbers (very few griffons, etc.)? It is less powerful that the griffon and far less powerful than the wyvern but it used to be faster. Is it still the best choice for the most common aerial steed? I assume now that’s just because of availability and ease of training. It wouldn’t have any combat advantage over dragonhawks, wyverns or griffons. In my Eberron I’m inclined to suggest that those hippogriffs magebred by House Vadalis have higher speeds and the default is the now nearly extinct wild version. So… what’s up with the hippogriff in your Eberron? Thanks

    • Edit:
      Most of these questions were answered while I was writing this. Wow, you guys are fast. Thank you. The only one left is: how does the hippogriff fare in the Race of the Eight Winds these days?

      • This is one of those questions where you have to decide whether you’re going to stand by the changes the new edition has made to the mechanics, to hold to canon lore and change the mechanics accordingly. Personally, I’M going to say that House Vadalis has magebred a line of hippogriffs that have a flying speed of 80 ft. They’re no longer FASTER than the Griffon, but they are AS fast, and the Griffon often loses control due to its bloodlust, allowing the Hippogriff to take the lead. Meanwhile, the Pegasus continues to dominate the race.

  14. In regards to sentient creatures, like Giant Owls and Elder Wyverns. Are they protected by the Code of Galifar? Or can they be considered property and pets like any other animal?

    • Have they sworn fealty to a lord and thus become citizens of a Thronehold nation? If so, yes; if not, no. So yes, you can assume that Councilor Hruitt of Sharn is a Brelish citizen and you’d get in trouble for murdering him. But a random giant owl living in the King’s Forest may be fair game.

  15. You mention that Thrane occasionally deployed celestials, but we know that there was no “right” side in the war. So as creatures who know right and wrong and will only do good things, why would they help the people of Thrane? Did they only get into fights with the undead of Karnath, or to protect inocent civilians? Or where they on the front lines fighting other soldiers?

    • So as creatures who know right and wrong and will only do good things, why would they help the people of Thrane?
      This is an overly optimistic view of celestials. Celestials are embodiments of virtuous concepts. That doesn’t mean that they have an infallible ability to determine whether the actions of mortals are right or wrong, or that they are themselves unable to perform evil actions; most just won’t do so unless they believe those actions to be good. As I noted, the celestials deployed by Thrane were most likely physical manifestations of the Flame that only existed to perform a particular service and then were reabsorbed into the Flame; they didn’t call in angels from Shavarath, for example, who might have a different agenda.

  16. Thank you keith! Love the article and it’s levitating airforce carrier levitating towers.
    Are they residing on natural skybergs hauled from xen’drik or manifest zone or artificial replicated rocks or do newer towers not need such a foundation?

    • The foundations may be using stone quarried from manifest zones, but the foundation of the towers is not supposed to bne a stable source of levitation. Again, the point is that it is a powerful effect — an eldritch machine — that requires ongoing maintenance. It’s not like they will instantly drop if someone stops the rituals, but they would fall within a day if the machines maintaining them were sabotaged.

      • So the rock Arcanix is depicted to be built upon in artwork such as in Rising p106 is a side effect of the eldritch machine? Rather than something cosmetic or requirement?

  17. If i recall correctly, there was a Wargforged Component that gave flight.
    Would that be a recent invention, or would there have been Warforged Paratroopers?
    i’m imagining some dropping from airships to attack targets below, or alternatively, being used to Attack airships, attacking the ship itself from the outside to destroy it midair..

    • I should have mentioned paratroopers, and I’ve added it now, because feather tokens serve the function of parachute. The warforged were always an oddity. Warforged themselves were only developed 30 years ago, and it would have been at least a decade or two before the flight component was developed. I’d see this as part of what I suggested for Cyre—them urging Cannith to create construct flight options.

  18. So, some airships are powered by bound fire elementals and other, air elementals. Air makes sense for an airship, but why fire? What benefit does it provide the ship that an air elemental wouldn’t?

    • No explicit mechanical difference, but I imagine “it looks awesome” went through the mind of the designers in-universe at least once.

      Some people in their games rule that fire elemental airships are faster, and air elemental airships can fly higher.

      • Correct. We haven’t gone deeply into airships, but air-bound are more stable and manueverable and firebound are faster. Many of the largest airships use one of each.

  19. Question on the Dragonhawk in ECG is Large and the 5N one is Huge. Would this be two breeds of Dragonhawk (natural or mage)?

    Possibly copying the feathertroopers/featherjumpers of thrane with the Huge one.

  20. Since they exist pretty much entirely to be a LA+0 race with innate flight, where do you think Raptoran (RotW 65) fit in Eberron?

    • Same basic situation as I address in this article. They could be Mournland mutants, Vadalis experiments, a hidden culture in Xen’drik or the Towering Woods, actual birds turned into humanoids by an archfey. I doubt I’d personally use them unless I had a player who was desperate to play one.

  21. And where do Giant Eagles fit into all of this? Also, do you see Rocs as having played even a one-off role in the war?

    • This again is an issue. In 3.5, giant eagles are both slower than hippogriffs and are intelligent, which makes it more difficult to press them into mass service. If you use my zephyr hippogriff — thus giving the hippogriff a matching speed — I’d say that eagles were primarily used by Breland as scouts and air defense, but not in large numbers.

      As far as I know, no canon source has placed rocs in Khorvaire. I see rocs as a form of Lamannian megafauna, potentially encountered in Lamannian manifest zones, and it’s POSSIBLE Vadalis could have managed to capture and tame one – but I’d use it as an exotic exception, not a standard weapon of war.

      • ECS says part of the Demon Wastes are measured “As the roc flies”. Would be really weird if they’re not found around there.

        (Since I was checking, I note rocs seem to be pretty farspread. City of Stormreach says (via Kraa’ark Lors not tagged “Extraplanar”) rocs are at least sometimes native to Eberron. Dragons of Eberron says rocs are definitely on Xen’drik (Roc’s nest given as an encounter) and indicates they’re also on Argonnessen (evil dragons there have experimented on them). SoS says Chaos Rocs can be found in a Kythri manifest zone. )

        • I suggested that rocs could be found in Lamannian manifest zones, which means that they are on Eberron and could be removed from the manifest zone that served as a gate, just as the Karakala merfolk came through Lamannian manifest zones but can now be encountered across the Thunder Sea. Anything can be found in Xen’drik, so that’s hardly a surprise; and if they are found anywhere, it’s logical that they would be snagged by dragons somewhere over the course of tens of thousands of years as challenges to be faced in the Vast. However, none of these means that they would be commonly found in Khorvaire and used as weapons of war. As I said, I could imagine that happening — House Vadalis would be excited about it — but I’d make it a remarkable thing, as opposed to “Oh, sure, House Vadalis has been breeding rocs for centuries.” And personally, I’d be inclined to make it part of an adventure—either something the PCs have to help Vadalis obtain, something they have to fight when it escapes, or have them have to protect an ally from the unprecedented Vadalis armored roc—than just something that happened a decade ago and was cool if you happened to be there at the time. Essentially, it’s King Kong; I’d rather have my characters be in the movie as opposed to hearing about it.

          ECS says part of the Demon Wastes are measured “As the roc flies”. Would be really weird if they’re not found around there.

          Personally, I’d consider that to be an author having fun as opposed to a conclusive statement of fact. But even if true, a roc found in the Demon Wastes might not be the same as a roc found in Xen’drik; it would be more likely to be some form of fiendish creation than a natural creature that just happens to have picked that spot as its habitat.

  22. With birds being common familiars, how suspicious are ordinary people that that bird over there is spying on them for their wizard master?

    • Given that forest gnomes in 5e can talk to all small animals it might be a major source of paranoia for people inclined to worry about these sorts of things. So in Zilargo or wherever gnomes gather any bird, house cat, squirrel, rabbit, or chipmunk might also be a figurative rat as well.

    • Birds are common familiars, but wizards AREN’T actually all that common, and most magewrights don’t have familiars. With that being said, you do have druids, gnomes speaking to animals, wizards and their familiars, and so on. I wouldn’t say that all animals are automatically treated with suspicion, but I’d say that people are very aware that animals CAN be used as spies and will be more alert to unusual behavior that we might be… that if you spot a raven just hanging out inside a building, or a rat that seems to be actively listening to your conversation, sure, you can be suspicious.

  23. Wasn’t there a small (rowboat or dinghy-sized) enchanted flying vessel called a soarwood skiff, that is not reliant on a bound elemental and can be used outside of Sharn’s manifest zone? What might be their history and Last War usage?

    I imagine their rarity can be explained by the amount of soarwood and the level of enchantment needed to lift and fly such a vessel. On the other hand, once you have small magical flyers, wings, rudders, ailerons and other innovations wouldn’t be far behind (as performance wholly dependent on a spell like overland flight would be sluggish at best).

    • The soarwood skiff wasn’t a creation of mine, so I can’t speak to it. But I also believe that wherever it is mentioned, it’s described as a sneak attack in the Last War using soarwood skiffs to cross water, and that the implication was that it was a vehicle that could travel soundlessly over water – like a hovercraft – not something that could soar through the air. Soarwood is unnaturally bouyant, but not inherently imbued with the power of flight.

      • Just to confirm: This is from page 149 of Five Nations.
        Karrnathi soldiers stormed the city of Shadukar in 959 YK. The city’s defenders were not expecting a Karrn attack from Cyre, especially one accomplished using soarwood skiffs that could glide across the Brey River.

        The point there is that they could glide across THE RIVER, not fly through the air. This was swift and quiet, but not a full aerial assault.

        • Soarwood skiffs were used as flying vehicles in Voyage of the Golden Dragon as a way to ferry people from airship to ground and back. Several skiffs (not explicitly soarwood) are also used for an airship-to-airship boarding in Whispers of the Vampire’s blade. Obviously we could consider these outside Kanon, but if so how do you imagine an airship-to-airship boarding party?

          • I didn’t work on Whispers or Voyage of the Golden Dragon. Explorer’s Handbook is fairly clear on this regard. From page 29:
            Airships cannot actually land; the ring of the elemental prevents the bottom of the hull from getting closer than 10 feet to the ground. Docking towers are generally used to load or unload passengers in major cities, while rope ladders allow passengers to disembark in smaller centers or open terrain. Loading or unloading any cargo too large to be carried requires a docking tower.
            The emphasizes the importance of the docking tower and the current limitations of airships. Again, part of the point is that airships have only been in service for eight years; they’re still trying to solve these problems.

  24. With such a wide variety of winged mounts I’d understand why one like the hippogriff would be focused on. One winged beast I haven’t seemed mentioned is the Peyton. It seems like such a wild and malevolent creature I’d understand why no one has attempted to use them as mounts

    • In a game I play there is a recurring mini villain- a peryton in the secret pit fighting ring in Sharn. It is recurring and as of yet, undefeated!

  25. I love the paratrooper idea. One of the tables at my FLGS did something similar during Rise of Tiamat. They had so much cash accumulated that they didn’t have many options to spend due to AL rules, so they invested in elephant mounts, cast Feather Fall on them, and air-dropped through the open roof of Tiamat’s temple.

  26. One esoteric flight mode that I haven’t seen mentioned could come from the 3.5 Artificer sules. Artificers could create flying homunculi, and while basic homunculi are Tiny and have minimal carrying capacity, one can enlarge them by investing XP in them. Though homunculi seem to have fallen out of the 5e artificer rules that I’ve seen, I could imagine a PC Marverick Artificer (or colorful NPC) creating a flying homunculus as a personal mount, ranging from a very steampunky clockwork contraption, to a very exotic looking creature with a built-in saddle and carrying pouches, in the artificer’s personal colors. (Of course, under the 3.5 rules, such a mount wouldn’t deliberately be ridden into combat unless beefed up with a lot of hP and armor, since the Artificer would take damage if the mount were killed. But still, it could be a fun and flavorful approach to flight.)

  27. Would you say that Queen Diani ir’Wynarn the blood regent of Thrane have a Wyvern friend sworn to the royal family? Or are the wyverns closer allied to the church of the silver flame?

    • Would you say that Queen Diani ir’Wynarn the blood regent of Thrane have a Wyvern friend sworn to the royal family? Or are the wyverns closer allied to the church of the silver flame?
      What I said was…
      Following Tira’s sacrifice, the wyverns themselves adopted the faith of the Silver Flame; they consider the defense of Flamekeep to be a sacred duty.
      That was over six hundred years ago — and there wasn’t even a king or queen of Thrane for much of their time. So no: it was Daskara whose leaders had ties to the elder wyverns, never the Wynarns; and since Tira’s sacrifice, their loyalty has been first to Flamekeep and the Flame.

  28. Would you include wingwyrd gargoyles from Five Nations (gargoyles touched by the Silver Flame that protect temples of the Silver Flame) in your conception of the flying forces of Thrane?

    • Personally, I see wingwyrds as having a deep, intense connection to the temples that they guard. It’s not just an assignment, it is a mystical bond with the location. As such, wingwyrds would serve to defend their temples from enemy forces, but I do not see detachments of wingwyrds being deployed in battle.

      • That makes a lot of sense to me! Since they’re temple guards and temples are essentially fortresses that sounds like a good niche for them.

  29. In our world a leather cap+goggles+furred leather jacket ensemble is instantly recognizable as a (pre-end of WW2) “pilot” costume. Is there any clothing particularly associated with people on flying things, either air cavalry or airship crew, in Eberron?

  30. It’s not too much of a leap from Skystaves to a Palanquin of flying providing some environmental protection and then mount a wand or staff on it with a wandslinger as a pilot and you get the equivalent of an airplane.

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