Dragonmarks: The Overlords Revealed

In the first days of the world, the children of Khyber rose from the darkness to reign over Eberron. The greatest among them were the overlords, who held dominion over a world of fear, war, and death until the children of Eberron and Siberys rose up against them. Armies of dragons fought against the fiends of Khyber. And though the overlords couldn’t be destroyed, the couatl sacrificed their lives to build a prison of celestial light: a silver flame that bound the overlords in Khyber once more. These bonds have held for countless generations, but the overlords still yearn to break free and reclaim the world above.

Eberron: Rising From The Last War.

The overlords are one of the greatest threats in the Eberron campaign setting. They ruled the world in its first age, and they yearn to break their bonds and drag reality back to that age of demons. The Lords of Dust work to free the overlords, while the dragons of the Chamber oppose their efforts—and this long, cold war is one of the driving forces in the setting. I’ve written many articles about the overlords over the years, and this month I’ve received a host of questions concerning specific overlords from my Patreon supporters. I thought I’d revisit the topic and bring some of that scattered information together, as well as updating things to incorporate the ideas presented in Rising From The Last War and Exploring Eberron.

WHAT ARE THE OVERLORDS?

  • The overlords are immortal fiends with immense power (equivalent to divine rank 7 in 3.5 terms). At full power, an unbound overlord exerts influence over a broad region, but this dominion is finite; it might cover a country, but not an entire continent. There were approximately thirty overlords, and between them they dominated the world. While they have the equivalent of Divine Rank and while I may refer to them as “gods” in this article, they aren’t deities. They cannot grant divine magic, though a devout follower might be able to draw power directly from Khyber as a result of their faith. 
  • The overlords cannot be permanently destroyed. The couatl sacrificed themselves and fused their celestial energy together to create the Silver Flame, a force capable of binding the overlords and most of their minions.
  • While most of the fiendish forces were bound with their masters, some slipped through. These beings largely work to release their masters, and they are called The Lords of Dust. They are opposed by the dragons of The Chamber.
  • Each overlord is bound in a physical vessel, but it is the power of the Silver Flame that keeps them bound. They can only be released if a particular piece of the Draconic Prophecy comes to pass. The Draconic Prophecy is constantly evolving, and so the Chamber and the Lords of Dust study it and seek to manipulate it to achieve their goals.
  • Even while bound, the overlords still influence the regions around their prisons. Most Overlords are effectively asleep, and this influence is essentially an effect of their “dreams”. A few — such as Bel Shalor, the Shadow in the Flame — are more aware and actively scheming.
  • “Demon” usually refers to a chaotic evil fiend, but it can also be used as a general term for any evil immortal, and this is its context of “The Age of Demons.”

The overlords are commonly referred to as the children of Khyber. The truth is slightly more complex; they are actually the architecture of Khyber. Beyond the physical tunnels and caverns that extend into the depths, Khyber is a matrix of demiplanes. These can be seen as the dreams of the progenitor, each reflecting a horrifying vision of a possible reality—realms defined by fear, bloodshed, and worse. While most are isolated, some—known as heart demiplanes—are able to leak out into the prime material plane, and this is where native fiends come from. The overlord is the defining spirit of the demiplane. When it is “released,” its power flows out into reality, slowly reshaping the world to mirror its heart plane. The entity that can be fought is an avatar of that force, but it’s just a projection; if that projection is destroyed, its power flows back into its heart plane, regenerates and returns. So physically defeating an overlord is only a temporary setback for it, and the physical form you encounter is merely a projection.

One common question is what differentiates overlords from the Dark Six. There’s a few major differences. First and foremost, the overlords absolutely exist. You can find the resting place of an overlord or go to its heart demiplane. If they’ve loosened their bonds, an overlord can manifest an avatar and you can actually fight it. So while you’ll never shake hands with Aureon or dine with the Devourer, there may be a time when you can punch Rak Tulkhesh in the nose or have tal with Sul Khatesh. The downside of this is that as powerful as they are, overlords have a limited sphere of influence. While bound they can only influence the regions around their prison or where their heart demiplane touches the world. When released, their power has a finite radius. Bel Shalor threw Thrane into chaos, but his power wasn’t felt in Sharn or even in Korth. Other overlords have different limitations: the Daughter of Khyber can reach across the world, but she can only influence dragons. A final important difference is that the overlords aren’t some sort of logically arranged pantheon. Some of their ideas overlap; Bel Shalor and Eldrantulku are both corruptors, Sul Khatesh and Tul Oreshka hold secrets, Masvirik deals with reptiles while the Daughter of Khyber corrupts dragons. There’s an overlord of cold, but we’ve never mentioned one associated with fire. They aren’t gods, they’re monsters. Bel Shalor and Eldrantulku overlap in concept, but they influence entirely different regions within the world. Rak Tulkhesh is infamously an overlord of war, but there could be an entirely different overlord associated with bloodshed or war in Sarlona. Overlords are epically powerful, but they are also finite. They don’t explain the existence of evil, they embody specific aspects of it.

Every edition that Eberron has been part of has provided statistics for some of the overlords, and these vary wildly in power. Under the 3.5 rules, overlords rivaled lesser deities; they possessed the equivalent of 7 divine ranks and 30-50 character levels. The 3.5 version of Sul Khatesh could cast counterspell as a free action, had spontaneous access to all wizard and sorcerer spells, and could destroy antimagic fields; she had innate true seeing as well as the ability to cast legend lore on anything she could see. By contrast, Rising From The Last War presents Sul Khatesh as a CR 28 threat with a fairly limited set of spells. How do these two interpretations relate to one another? The answer is that the lesser deity equivalent statistics reflect the full power that an entirely unbound overlord could wield, while the CR 28 interpretations of Sul Khatesh and Rak Tulkhesh reflect a weaker avatar, most likely manifested by an overlord who’s still partially bound. At the end of the day, overlords are essentially plot devices. They are the most powerful entities that exist on Eberron, and at their full power were able to face armies of dragons. They aren’t supposed to be balanced; the idea that player characters can face them directly and potentially win the fight would reflect limits placed on the overlord (IE partial binding), the fact that the player characters are vessels of the Prophecy, the impact of special preparations (Tira Miron might have bathed Kloijner in the waters of Irian or the heartsblood of Durastoran the Wymbreaker). Overlords wield apocalyptic levels of power, and any stat block should be seen as an inspiration for what an overlord might be capable of, not an absolute limit.

How Are The Overlords Bound?

Overlords can’t be permanently destroyed. When an avatar is defeated its essence flows back into its heart plane and reforms. What the champions of the first age did was to bind that essence—preventing it from returning to its heart plane. Essentially, they severed the overlord’s brain from its heart; the heart demiplanes still exist, but the consciousness of the overlords are bound elsewhere and they can’t manifest their avatars or exert their full power. While the essence of each overlord is bound to a physical vessel, it is the power of the Silver Flame that actually keeps the overlord bound. A vessel can be damaged—Rak Tulkhesh is bound to a Khyber shard that’s been shattered—but this won’t release the overlord.

How Can They Be Released?

Releasing an overlord is no trivial matter. The prisons of the overlords are as indestructible as the fiends themselves. The only way for an overlord to be released is for a certain path of the Prophecy to come to pass. For this reason, the actions of the Lords of Dust are enigmatic. They cannot simply release their masters— they must bring history to a particular crossroads, a point at which the planes and moons are aligned and the darkness can rise again. It is up to you to decide just what is required for a particular overlord to be released. It could be something as grim as the downfall of a nation, or something as positive as the birth of a child.

Eberron Campaign Guide

This article goes into much more depth about the nature of the binding and how it can be broken. There’s a few things to keep in mind. The first is that the Prophecy is almost always tied to the actions of specific mortals. Despite all their power, the dragons and the Lords of Dust can’t resolve a situation with brute force; they need to guide the actions of mortal pawns. The second is that the Prophecy is always evolving. There is always a path for the release of an overlord. As soon as the Chamber severs one branch, a new one begins to take shape. There will never be a time when humanity doesn’t have to worry about the overlords; foiling the plans of the Lords of Dust buys time, as a new branch may take centuries to be uncovered and cultivated—but there is always a path to release Sul Khatesh and there always will be. And while the Lords of Dust and the Chamber are always working to cultivate these branches or to trim them, there’s always the chance that the events required to release an overlord will play out entirely on their own. Not all overlords have agents within the Lords of Dust, and the Chamber isn’t omnisicent; it’s always possible that the necessary events will simply happen, even if there’s no cult or fiend driving them.

How Do They Pose A Threat?

As long as the overlords are bound by the Silver Flame, they can’t physically manifest in the world. But each overlord embodies a particular aspect of evil, which grows in strength as their servants scheme to release their ancient masters. The overlords gain strength when mortals embrace the dark paths laid down for them. And as they grow stronger, they gain more influence.

Eberron: Rising From The Last War

If the bonds of an overlord can only be broken by a prophetic path, what does it mean for an overlord to “grow stronger?” Overlords threaten the world in two ways. If an overlord is released from its prison, it will transform a region of the world into a mirror of its heart demiplane. This may start slowly, but the end results can be dramatic. The Cold Sun will steal the light from the sky, while the Heart of Winter will blanket her domain in ice. Every overlord has a handful of fiends that walk the world… but if an overlord is unbound, greater forces will emerge from its demiplane. Beyond this, the overlord itself will be able to manifest a physical avatar, as shown in Rising From The Last War. An overlord is only able to affect the world directly if their bonds are broken. But even while bound, they still have the ability to influence mortals. Tiamat corrupts dragons, the Wild Heart corrupts nature, and Rak Tulkhesh drives people to spill blood. Essentially, bound overlords can still influence mortals—and the more mortals who succumb to their influence, the greater this power becomes. Sul Khatesh can’t walk the world and unleash and arcane armageddon, but she can still whisper secrets to warlocks and create cabals and cults, while Rak Tulkhesh can shatter peace and drive war. “Partial release” falls between these two. When partially released the Wild Heart was able to amplify the power of the curse of lycanthropy and assert control over all ‘thropes, and it may have been able to manifest an avatar in the heart of the forest; but we’ve never suggested that the Towering Woods themselves were physically transformed, or that the avatar of the Wild Heart was roaming freely and striking down its enemies. Ultimately, this is about the needs of the story. A bound overlord has a very limited ability to influence mortals. An unbound overlord can affect both mortals and the world itself, and can manifest an avatar wielding tremendous power. A partially released overlord falls somewhere in between, with whatever limitations you need to impose to make your story satisfying. The key point is that even when they aren’t trying to release their overlord, cults and fiends will often try to increase its influence—usually by playing out its core concept (war, undead, betrayal, sinister magic) in a region.

While bound, the overlords are effectively dreaming—or trancing, if you prefer, as they aren’t tied to Dal Quor and can’t be targeted by dream. The point is that they aren’t entirely conscious, nor are they fully comatose. Rak Tulkhesh revels in hatred and bloodshed, but it’s his speaker Mordakhesh who schemes across the centuries and who actively sows strife. Sul Khatesh does whisper to her warlocks and share dangerous secrets, but even this is essentially reflexive; it’s how her influence manifests, and not every warlock she deals with is part of a world-breaking scheme. The Lords of Dust understand the world and scheme to free their overlords; the overlords themselves are delighted when their influence grows, but are only partially aware of what is going on in the world. This is what makes their speakers—prakhutu—so important; Mordakhesh can commune with Rak Tulkhesh and divine what the Rage of War desires. (Hint: It’s war.)

WHO ARE THE OVERLORDS?

There is no complete list of overlords, and even their exact number is uncertainly; one canon source says “around thirty” while another says “a few dozen.” Likewise, even with the overlords that do exist, much is left vague. Does Sakinnirot have a prakhutu, and if so, do they consult with the Bleak Council of Ashtakala? Where is Tul Oreshka’s prison? Largely this is intentional, because the overlords are essentially plot devices. Does Sakinnirot have a prakhutu? Well, do you want it to? We know the location of Sul Khatesh’s prison, but Tul Oreshka’s is intentionally undefined so that it can be wherever you want it to be. Are their thirty overlords or thirty-six? The answer is how many do you need?

This is a list of all of the Overlords who’ve been mentioned in canon or kanon. It includes details on where they’ve appeared, but again, many of them simply don’t have much information available; in many cases, the information provided here is more than actually exists in canon. Don’t let that hold you back; use this as inspiration and build upon it to meet the needs of your campaign.

ASHTAKALA, The Demon City. Located in the Demon Wastes, Ashtakala is described in many sources as the last citadel of the Lords of Dust and the meeting place of their Bleak Council. In this article I present the idea that Ashtakala is itself an overlord, the immortal embodiment of the citadel of evil.

ASHURAK, The Slow Death. While never named in canon, the Slow Death is the patron of the Plaguebearers, one of the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes. Ashurak revels in the horror of disease. The plagues they spread are agonizing and disfiguring, but never kill quickly; lingering suffering is the hallmark of Ashurak. While their prison is in the Demon Wastes, their influence can be carried by the diseases they creates and Plaguebearers have occasionally started cults in the Five Nations. While it might seem that these cultists would find allies among the Children of Winter, the truth is quite the opposite; the maladies of Ashurak are deeply unnatural and the druids battle these cults whenever they find them. Ashurak isn’t one of the most powerful or infamous overlords, but they do have representatives among the Lords of Dust; their speaker is Shalashar, a native oinoloth. (ECS)

BEL SHALOR, The Shadow in the Flame. Bound in Flamekeep, Bel Shalor is the most infamous overlord in Khorvaire, largely due to his well-documented devastation of Thrane and subsequent defeat at the hands of Tira Miron. Bel Shalor embodies our fear of one another and the capacity for even the most virtuous person to do evil. He thrives on paranoia and smiles anytime a good person harms an innocent or ignores their conscience. Bel Shalor’s speaker is the ak’chazar rakshasa Durastoran the Wyrmbreaker, and his minions are a powerful force within the Lords of Dust. Where his influence was originally tied to Thrane, due to the conditions of his binding he can influence anyone who draws on the power of the Silver Flame; it’s entirely possible he wanted to be bound, that he always planned to become the Shadow in the Flame. (ECG, ExE)

THE DAUGHTER OF KHYBER, Tiamat. The Daughter of Khyber embodies the fear of dragons and the evil they can do—fears both of humanoids and of the dragons themselves. She is bound in the Pit of Five Sorrows in Argonnessen, but much like Bel Shalor and the followers of the Silver Flame, the Daughter of Khyber can touch the heart of any dragon wherever they may be. Her influence can be subtle, hidden within pride or even a desire to help lesser creatures—but once she sinks her hooks into a dragon’s soul, she can twist even noble desires toward evil ends. The Daughter of Khyber’s machinations have brought the world to the edge of disaster at least once since the Age of Demons, devastating ancient civilizations on Khorvaire that have now been forgotten; it is because of this that the dragons of Argonnessen place severe restrictions on how dragons exercise power in the wider world. Known to some as Tiamat, the Daughter of Khyber has no involvement with the Lords of Dust, and if she has a speaker their identity is unknown. (Dragons of Eberron, ECG, ExE)

DRAL KHATUUR, The Heart of Winter. Bound in the Frostfell, Dral Khatuur embodies of all of the terrors of winter—endless night, the killing frost, the ice-encrusted face of a frozen friend. Her minions are frozen corpses, fiends sculpted from ice, and the howling, hungry wind. She despises all other creatures, including the other overlords; she had no ties to the Lords of Dust and waits in the Frostfell for anyone foolish enough to venture into her domain.

ELDRANTULKU, The Oathbreaker. As described in Dragon 337, Eldrantulku is a spirit of discord who turns allies into enemies and lovers into mortal foes. A master deceiver, his title comes from his ability to convince others to break their oaths. He is not a force of war—he corrupts the innocent, using ambition, jealousy, and paranoia as his tools. He is active within the Lords of Dust. Notable minions include Thelestes, an exiled Mabaran succubus and deadly assassin; and the devious rakshasa Kashtarhak, his prakhutu. The location of Eldrantulku’s prison is unknown.

KATASHKA, The Gatekeeper. Katashka thrives on mortal fears of death and the undead. He is thought to have brought the first undead into the world, and certainly created the first liches and dracoliches. Katashka’s servants are part of the Lords of Dust, and his prakhutu is the dracolich Mazyralyx, thought by some to be the origin of many myths of the Keeper. The location of Katashka’s prison is a mystery. The Lair of the Keeper in the Demon Wastes is a possibility, but it’s just as possible that this contains a connection to his heart demiplane. Katashka’s cults are more widespread than many other overlords, which suggests that his prison has been shattered and scattered like that of Rak Tulkhesh. As Katashka is known to create liches, one possibility is that pieces of his shattered prison are used as phylacteries by his lich champions, who spread his influence wherever they go. Katashka largely works with undead as opposed to fiends; his champions include the ancient wizard Kyuss and his spawn. (Dragon 337, ECG, ExE)

THE LURKER IN SHADOW. In the first age of the world, the Thunder Sea was the domain of a powerful overlord embodying the fear of the unknown and unknowable, of the unimaginable terrors lurking in the depths and in the darkness. Its true name is one more secret. Its servants call it Surash Ka, which is simply Abyssal for “The Deep Lord” or “The King Below;” the sahuagin and other denizens of the Thunder Sea avoid even that name, calling it the Lurker in Shadow or just the Lurker. It’s an exceptionally powerful overlord; when unbound, it dominated the Thunder Sea and even now its influence can be felt across the region. The Lurker in Shadow has no interaction with the Lords of Dust. Its servants include aboleths, shadow demons, and shark-aspected rakshasa, but stories say these are the least of the horrors it has spawned. While the Lurker has some overlap with Sul Khatesh and Tul Oreshka, Sul Khatesh is focused on arcane knowledge and personal secrets, while Tul Oreshka deals with secrets that can break people; the Lurker in Shadow deals with the things you can’t imagine, the forces that lie just beyond sight and that are waiting to pull you down. I’ll be providing more information about the Lurker in a follow up article.

MASVIRIK, The Cold Sun. Masvirik consumes the light, embodying our fears of all that slithers through the dark and cold. On the one hand, he embodies the warmblooded fears of reptiles and venomous vermin. On the other, he embodies reptilian fears of cold and death. His minions include corrupted lizardfolk, dragonborn, and kobolds, along with undead reptilian creatures and fiends who thrive on cold instead of heat. Masvirik is imprisoned beneath Haka’torvhak, and his influence is felt across Q’barra. His speaker, the dragon Rhashaak, is bound in Haka’torvhak; the reptilian rakshasa Asshalara represents Rhashaak on the Bleak Council of Ashtakala. (Dungeon 185)

RAK TULKHESH, The Rage of War. Rak Tulkhesh embodies the fear of war and bloodshed, whether as a victim of violence or losing oneself to bloodlust and rage. The cults of Rak Tulkhesh include brutal raiders who embrace lives of endless violence, but also those who spread hate and strife—anything that stirs up harsh conflict where there might otherwise be peace. The prison of Rak Tulkhesh has been shattered, and his influence is spread across Khorvaire; however, he has a strong presence in the Demon Wastes and his Carrion Tribes are always thirsty for bloodshed. His speaker, Mordakhesh the Shadowsword, is a respected member of the Lords of Dust and a brilliant military strategist. (Dragon 337, Dragon 416, ECG, ExE, Rising)

RAN IISHIV, The Unmaker. Bound beneath Adar, Ran Iishiv is a force of chaos and destruction. Some believe that Ran Iishiv reflects Khyber’s primal hatred of creation itself, the burning desire to tear down the material plane and start anew. Whatever the truth, Ran Iishiv was expecteptionally powerful and feared even by other overlords; it’s believe that the wild zones to Kythri in Adar reflect Ran Iishiv literally tearing through reality. Even while bound, the Unmaker’s fury is a powerful force. Ran Iishiv may be the source of the storms that batter Adar, and some accounts claim its rage created the volcano of Korrandor. Ran Iishiv has no allies among the Lords of Dust, and it’s even possible fiends tied to other overlords would help prevent the Unmaker’s release. Ran’s primary servants are the Endseekers, cultists who have heard the Unmaker’s dreaming whispers and seek to return reality to primordial chaos. (Secrets of Sarlona)

SAKINNIROT, The Scar That Abides. Those loyal to Sakinnirot say it was the first child of the Dragon Below but the last to be born. In many ways it embodies pure hatred—not the savage bloodlust of Rak Tulkhesh, but hatred that smolders and burns. Sakinnirot thrives on bloody feuds that only serve to deeping the need for revenge, on physical and spiritual wounds left to fester. It’s possible that Sakinnirot is nothing less that the patient fury of Khyber itself, the determination for vengeance upon the world that holds it prisoner. Whatever the truth, Sakinnirot is one of the most powerful overlords; during the Age of Demons, the Scar laid claim to all of Xen’drik and reveled in battling other overlords. It was bound even more tightly that most overlords, and few of its fiendish servants escaped into the world; both because of this and its feuds with other overlords, the Scar That Abides isn’t represented within the Lords of Dust. However, the rakshasa Lorishto—an Ak’chazar of Eldrantulku—has been seeking to weaken the binding of Sakinnirot, hoping to become the prakhutu of the Scar That Abides. (City of Stormreach)

THE SPINNER OF SHADOWS. Presented in D&D Online, the Spinner of Shadows is commonly associated with spiders; however, this reflects her wider role as an overlord of hidden schemes, of the careful vendetta and the joy of toying with a powerless foe. While she has significant overlap with Sakinnirot, the Spinner is less driven by burning hatred and more by hungry ambition—the schemer willing to climb a web formed of innocent corpses to achieve their desires. While not one of the most powerful overlords, one of her strengths is her talent for remaining hidden—reflected by the fact that she had her domain in Xen’drik despite Sakinnirot’s claim on the continent. because of this obsession with secrecy, it’s unlikely that the Spinner is involved with the Lords of Dust; her agents scheme along, hiding even from their fiendish cousins. (D&D Online—technically neither canon nor canon, but I’m including her on the list)

SUL KHATESH, The Keeper of Secrets. Per Rising From The Last War, “Sul Khatesh is known as the Keeper of Secrets and the Queen of Shadows. She embodies the fears and superstitions surrounding magic, from malevolent warlocks to mad wizards, from deadly curses to magical power that draws those who wield it deeper into darkness.” She may be bound beneath Arcanix, but she has found ways to spread her influence further. Her prakhutu—the First Scribe, Hektula—has written books of magic that can grant tremendous power but that also serve as a focus for her influence; these could mirror the effects of the Book of Vile Darkness or the Demonomicon. Likewise, Sul Khatesh spreads cabals and covens, and where her cultists come together to perform malefic rituals, Sul Khatesh can touch the world. While she often whispers to her warlocks and to other susceptible minds, Sul Khatesh is essentially dreaming; while her whispers rarely work out well for those who listen to them, they aren’t all tied toward one grand plan. The agents of Sul Khatesh are a strong force in the Lords of Dust. Hektula maintains the library of Ashtakala and often mediates disputes between the other speakers. (Dragon 337, City of Stormreach, ECG, ExE, Rising)

TOL KHARASH, The Horned King. There is a dark power bound beneath the fortress known as Turakbar’s Fist, and it has long spread its influence across the barren region now known as Droaam. Znir hwyri hunt those who fall too far down its path, while the minotaur clans see this power as their patron. Tol Kharash can easily be mistaken for Rak Tulkhesh, as both delight in bloodshed and war. However, Tol Kharash is a force of tyranny rather than rage. It drives the strong to oppress the weak… and the crueller they are, the better. The Horned King is the common name of the overlord and the aspect worshipped by Rhesh Turakbar and his clan, the Blood Horns; they raid and pillage in his name. However, each of the major minotaur clans has their own unique interpretation of the Horned King. The Red Hooves are devoted to He Who Walks Behind, and prefer sly ambushes to the howling assaults of the Blood Horns. The Blade Breaker clan worships One Horn, who rewards displays strength and courage. While the Blade Breakers are just as aggressive as the Blood Horns, they are less brutal; it’s just possible that while THEY think One Horn is an aspect of the Horned King, they are in truth drawing on a different power entirely—perhaps, the essence of Dol Dorn. Tol Kharash has relatively few fiendish minions. His greatest servants are possessed mortals as opposed to manifested fiends; he has no representatives in Ashtakala and doesn’t work with the Lords of Dust. (Tol Kharash appears in the upcoming Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold)

TUL ORESHKA, The Truth In The Darkness. Tul Oreshka embodies our fear of secrets and the things we don’t know, of unbearable truths and feelings we’d kill to keep secret. These may be deeply personal—your mother wishes you’d died instead of your brother—or shocking cosmic revelations. She’s far more primal than Sul Khatesh; the words she deals with may not conjure fire or fiends, but they still have the power to shatter lives. People who pass by her prison may learn terrible things through ghostly whispers or vivid nightmares. Her cults take many forms, and are almost always driven by a compelling, infectious idea. While she doesn’t deal in traditional mystical knowledge as Sul Khatesh does, Tul Oreshka can reveal secrets that defy our previous understanding of magic or that alter the way we see reality; for example, a cult of Tul Oreshka might reveal that humans are all fiends, that humanity itself is collectively an overlord. While her agents are unpredictable, Tul Oreshka does participate in the Bleak Council of the Lords of Dust; her current speaker is a pit fiend named Korliac of the Gray Flame, though Tul Oreshka’s speakers rarely hold the position for long. The location of Tul Oreshka’s prison has never been established. (Dragon 337)

VAL GULTESH, The Shaper of Nightmares. Many overlords embody something that is feared; Val Gultesh feeds on fear itself. They thrive on paranoia and on lives torn apart by unfounded fears, and crafts nightmares that help spread terrifying and disruptive ideas. While they can shape nightmares, they do so from Eberron—effectively, using a powerful form of the dream spell that can potentially affect hundreds of people at once—as opposed to entering Dal Quor. The quori of the present age haven’t encountered an unbound Val Gultesh; it’s quite possible the overlord would pose a threat to them, especially to quori manifesting in Eberron as Inspired or Kalashtar. Val Gultesh is imprisoned somewhere in Zilargo, and it’s possible that should their power grow that they could corrupt the Trust to serve their purposes; however, the Trust could be aware of this threat, and may have ruthlessly eliminated cults of Val Gultesh in the past. The Shaper of Nightmares works with the Lords of Dust, but the nature of their speaker and the power of their faction have yet to be established. (Mentioned in the adventures “Curtain Call” and “Fear Reveals Truth”)

THE WILD HEART. The Wild Heart embodies mortal fears of the natural world. To some degree this embodies the sheer unknown that the wild represents, but it especially draws on the fear of predators—the unknown dangers lurking in the depths of the darkest wood. The Wild Heart is known both for their connection to gnolls and as one of the primary sources of lycanthropy; in Kanon, they were the cause of the Lycanthropic Purge. As a force that is fundamentally opposed to civilization, the Wild Heart uses no name and takes no part in the schemes of the Lords of Dust. Their speaker is a shapeshifting fiend known as Drukalatar Atesh, but its fiendish minions are more likely to possess or be fused with beasts than to act in fiendish form. (Novel: The Queen of Stone)

YAD-RAGHESH, The Fallen Rajah. The fiend known as Yad-Raghesh is a mystery; some loredrake scholars question whether they were actually an overlord, or whether they were an exceptionally powerful champion of Sakinnirot or Ran Iishiv. What is known is that during the wars of the Age of Demons, Yad-Raghesh fought in the form of a colossal two-headed rakshasa; that they were defeated with surprising ease; and that it was later discovered that they had somehow imbued their essence into the region in which they were slain, permanently corrupting it. The corpse of Yad-Raghesh remains in this vale, which seethes with hatred and fiends. There is no evidence that the consciousness of Yad-Raghesh remains as an active force, and they play no role in the Lords of Dust, but they have effectively transformed this “Vale of the Fallen Rajah” into a heart demiplane in the midst of Argonnessen. (Dragons of Eberron)

UNNAMED AND UNKNOWN. A number of overlords have been hinted at in canon sources but never described in detail. Secrets of Sarlona suggests that there are overlords imprisoned in the Kretok Peninsula and in Sustrai Mor, while the Player’s Guide to Eberron suggests that an overlord with power over the weather is bound on Tempest Isle. Some previous lists included Shudra the Fleshrender, a “mighty rakshasa” mentioned in Forge of War. However, Shudra is a rakhsasa champion on par with Mordakhesh and Hektula; he’s associated with the overlord Dhavibashta, who appears in James Wyatt’s novel In The Claws Of The Tiger. As mentioned at the start, this is not intended to be a complete list of overlords, and I would never want to create such a list; there should always be room in the world for an overlord who perfectly suits the needs of your story.

How Do These Overlords Relate to the Planes?

The overlords are spirits of Khyber and the material plane. As the material plane ties together all of the iconic concepts that define the outer planes, some of the overlords reflect ideas that are represented in the planes. Rak Tulkhesh is associated with war, and Shavarath is associated with war. Tul Oreshka and the Lurker in Shadows both deal with the unknowable and unnatural in ways that evoke Xoriat, and Val Gultesh shapes nightmares. But Val Gultesh isn’t a creature of Dal Quor and the Rak Tulkhesh isn’t from Shavarath. They are spirits of the material plane, and deal with mortals who fight and dream; but they influence those things in and from the material plane, and have no connection to or alliances with the denizens of the planes. In general, the power of an overlord will trump the power of any extraplanar entity while they are in the material plane; an unbound Val Gultesh might be able to control quori possessing human hosts. For this reason, extraplanar entities generally try to avoid conflict with overlords and the Lords of Dust.

Are The Overlords Allies?

Absolutely not. They often fought one another during the Age of Demons, and a few of those that have been named—Ran Iishiv, Sakinnirot, Dral Khatuur—have been specifically called out as being shunned by the Lords of Dust. Part of the point is that the overlords embody terrible things, and that all they desire is to express their nature. Rak Tulkhesh IS furious bloodshed and has no other way to the world; if you live next to Rak Tulkhesh, you KNOW he’s going to constantly attack you. Likewise, Eldrantulku is the embodiment of betrayal. The Lords of Dust who deal with him know that sooner or later any arrangement will have an unpleasant surprise; but because they know this, they can prepare and work around it. The key point is that the Lords of Dust aren’t the overlords, they’re the lesser fiends that serve them. Rak Tulkhesh is unreasoning war, but Mordakhesh is careful and calculating, and willing to scheme with the servants of other overlords. With that being said, the Lords of Dust always place the interests of their own overlord above all else… and many members of the Lords of Dust have long-standing feuds or rivalries with other fiends.

Why do the Lords of Dust serve the Overlords?

Given that the overlords ARE so firmly bound, it’s a reasonable question—why do the Lords of Dust serve the overlords? Why doesn’t Mordakhesh pursue his own interests? There’s a few aspects to this. The first is that the fiends are immortals, which makes them fundamentally inhuman. They were created as the physical embodiments of ideas, and they can’t change those ideas. Mordakhesh never chose to serve Rak Tulkhesh; it’s a fundamental aspect of what he is and he can’t change it. Furthermore, all native fiends are tied to heart demiplanes. When Mordakhesh dies, he returns to the Bitter Shield, the heart of Rak Tulkhesh. In essence, while he has his own unique personality, Mordakhesh is part of Rak Tulkhesh. Immortals CAN change—angels can fall, quori can become kalashtar—and it’s certainly possible to encounter a fiend that’s somehow shifted its allegiance or even become something other than a fiend. But it would be extremely unusual. Most fiends don’t choose to serve their overlord; it’s a fundamental part of who and what they are.

HOW CAN YOU USE THE OVERLORDS?

Eberron is balanced on a precipice. Should the overlords rise en masse, they’d destroy reality as we know it and drag the world back into the primal chaos of the Age of Demons. However, the release of a single overlord would be a devastating event that could destroy a nation—but it wouldn’t instantly herald the end of the world. We’ve seen examples of this before. In the Year of Blood and Fire, Bel Shalor devastated Thrane until he was rebound by the sacrifice of Tira Miron. In this article, I suggest that the Lycanthropic Purge was the work of the Wild Heart; as the Towering Woods were more remote than Thrane, the impact of their partial release and the sacrifices made to rebind them are less well known. It could even be that it was a release of an overlord.

Legacy. Overlords are sources of evil, and their existence can be used to explain why evil things existence in the world. The Daughter of Khyber corrupts dragons. The Wild Heart is one of the sources of lycanthropy, while Katashka creates many forms of undead. The overlords have the power to create artifacts; a sword bearing a shard of Rak Tulkhesh might grant great power while also spreading strife and hatred. An adventure or a campaign arc could involve creations of the overlords—a rogue dragon, a pack of werewolves, a clan of clever ghouls, a cursed artifact—without actually having anything to do with the overlord or its goals. The Book of Vile Darkness may have been written by Hektula and be a vector for the influence of Sul Khatesh; but it may be that Sul Khatesh’s plans are on hold for the next century, and the book is only dangerous by virtue of its innate power.

Cults and Influence. Even while bound, the overlords influence mortals. Exploring Eberron delves into the many forms these cults take—from ancient secret societies that actively work to release an overlord to deluded sects who have no idea of the power they’re tied to. The whispers of Bel Shalor are a threat to every follower of the Silver Flame. Followers of Rak Tulkhesh strive to cause strife, and the ghouls of Katashka feast on flesh beneath cities across Khorvaire. So adventurers can clash with a cult of the Whispering Flame or a cabal of Katashka’s ghouls even if the overlord has no greater role in the campaign.

Long-Term Plans. Prophetic paths that lead to the release of an overlord have many steps; they can take generations or even centuries for finally bear fruit. As discussed in this article, adventurers can be caught up in a scheme set up by one of the Lords of Dust, but regardless of the outcome, there’s no threat of an overlord actually being released. It may even be that a fiend wants to help an adventure acquire a powerful magic item—because the character needs to have that item to fulfill their role in the Prophecy. It’s also the case that the Lords of Dust have their own feuds and rivalries; adventurers could get a tip about a rakshasa scheming to take over a local guild, only to eventually realize it was another fiend that helped them.

Character Origin. Player characters can be tied to overlords. A Tome warlock could be tied to Sul Khatesh and the intrigues of her Court of Shadows. A Great Old One warlock might be receiving visions from Tul Oreshka, not knowing why they’ve been chosen by the Truth in the Darkness or what she wants with them. A barbarian character could have a sliver of Rak Tulkhesh’s prison shard bound to their flesh; the shard is what powers their rage, but by mastering that rage they help hold the overlord at bay. This could be vitally important if the campaign involves the potential release of the Rage of War… or it could be that there’s no risk of Rak Tulkhesh escaping this century, but the character may clash with cultists who want to claim the shard.

Threat of Release. The threat of an overlord’s release could be a driving arc for a campaign, building to a climactic clash in which the adventurers must fight against a doomsday countdown to prevent an overlord from escaping its binding. The key here is that if the players succeed, the overlord won’t be released. They’ll be dealing with cultists and Lords of Dust. It could even be that they face a weak avatar in the conclusion of that final battle, but it’s a battle that can be won.

So far, these ideas suggest ways to use overlords in minor roles… or how to use them as the ultimate challenge of a campaign. But there’s another option—to say that the campaign isn’t about stopping the release of an overlord, but rather dealing with the impact of it. Let’s look at a historical example…

THE YEAR OF BLOOD AND FIRE: Tira’s Campaign

When Bel Shalor broke his bonds in Thrane, he plunged the region into chaos—a period known as the Year of Blood and Fire. In my vision of things, Tira Miron didn’t simply ride up and smite him; it was a long road that led her from first touching the Flame to her final sacrifice. And while she may have made that sacrifice alone, she had companions on the journey. Canonically we’ve mentioned the avenger Samyr Kes, but in my opinion she had a full party of stalwart allies. In short, Tira was one of the player characters of her age. I see her campaign as going something like this…

  • When Bel Shalor first breaks his bonds, his power is weak. The Eberron Campaign Guide says “If the Shadow in the Flame is freed, his influence will begin to extend out over the land around him, first covering a few miles, and ultimately spreading out across an entire nation. People who fall under his sway become selfish and cruel, turning on one another instead of standing against him.” This is the world in which the campaign begins—a Thrane in which people are drawn to darkness, where good people are tempted to commit atrocities. Tira begins as a paladin of Dol Arrah. She knows something is wrong, but she doesn’t know what it is. In her initial adventures, she fights the symptoms—clashing with newly-formed cults, with good people drawn to evil, and perhaps even with a few shadowy fiends—agents of Bel Shalor who helped with his release.
  • As the campaign proceeds and Bel Shalor’s power grows, the Year of Blood and Fire truly begins. Murder and arson spread across the realm. Cities burn. Innocents suffer. Fiends emerge into the chaos, gathering cults and preying on the innocent. And it is in this time—perhaps as she chooses her Oath—that Tira has a vision of a couatl and is first touched by the power of the Flame.
  • Along with her companions, Tira fights the horror spreading across the land. She learns to harness the power of the Silver Flame and uses it to protect the innocent. She establishes a haven in an Irian manifest zone, and develops techniques that can help her followers recognize and resist the insidious corrupting influence. Her and her allies discover the source of the darkness. Reaching it, they discover that Bel Shalor has broken his bonds but is not yet fully free; he can manifest a weak avatar but can’t yet leave the spot in which he’s been bound. Nonetheless, this avatar is far too powerful for Tira and her companions to defeat, and they are lucky to survive and flee. But now they know their enemy.
  • While they can’t defeat Bel Shalor, Tira and her allies are celebrated champions protecting a community of people. They continue to deal with Bel Shalor’s servants and those who’ve been corrupted by his influence, but they are also doing all they can to learn how Shalor can be defeated. In addition to the couatl, they receive assistance from a (secret) agent of the Chamber. They travel to Daanvi, seeking knowledge in the Infinite Archive, and to other planes as well. They take steps laid out in the Prophecy, though many of these challenges are enigmatic and set them directly at odds with agents of the Lords of Dust.
  • Guided by the Flame and the Prophecy, Tira obtains the greatsword Kloijner. A brutal cult is spreading across Thrane, but Tira presses to the heart of it and exposes Durastoran the Wyrmbreaker, the speaker of Bel Shalor. The rakshasa kills her Chamber ally, but Tira takes him down with Kloijner. This battle is part of a prophetic path Tira has uncovered. She knows it will keep Durastoran from reforming for decades. But it also fully releases Bel Shalor, who now strides across Thrane as a vast force of shadow.
  • Tira knew the consequences of defeating Durastoran. She and her companions gather all those innocents freed from Shalor’s power in the Irian zone that has become their haven. She holds Durastoran’s heart, and beyond that she knows that the fully friend Shalor can’t stand to have a stronghold of light at the heart of his darkness. All of this has been foreshadowed by the Prophecy; though her Chamber ally has fallen, Tira knows that Bel Shalor will come to her and she knows what she must do. She rallies her allies, sharing the light of the Flame. Bel Shalor comes with an army of fiends and victims, and Tira’s faithful make their stand in the last bastion of light. Though the battle seems hopeless, Tira’s allies help her reach Bel Shalor himself—and it is in this moment that Tira and her couatl guide make their final sacrifice, binding Bel Shalor with the light of Tira’s soul and the power of the Flame, which surges forth as the column that can still be seen in Flamekeep to this day.

Now, this is MY vision of how this all went, and I’m sure there’s canon sources that tell the story another way. Furthermore, I’m writing this in the moment and I don’t have any more details about it. In my mind, Tira traveled to Irian and Daanvi as part of her adventures, but I don’t know exactly what she did in Irian. So I’m just saying: I’ve just sketched out an outline of the campaign Tira might have gone through, but it’s not like I’ve actually written any of the adventures.

Nonetheless, the point is that this isn’t a campaign in which Tira even has a chance to prevent Bel Shalor from being released. He’s already been partially released when the campaign begins—and if I was running the campaign, part of the point is that the players wouldn’t know it. In the session zero, I’d emphasize that something is wrong with the world, that they will be champions of the light trying to identify an infectious evil that is spreading across the land—that they’d be both warriors and investigators. During the campaign they not only uncover the true threat of Bel Shalor and the Wyrmbreaker, they also must develop their own personal connections to the Silver Flame. The first tier of the campaign would be almost entirely spent dealing with cultists and corrupted innocents, trying to determine what power is behind it; they might initially think they can stop Bel Shalor from being released, only to reach that stronghold of evil and discover he’s already out. In tier 2 they are dealing with the increasingly apocalyptic consequences of his release, fighting fiends as well as cultists and the corrupted; this get more dramatic from there.

This is an apocalyptic scenario; we know from the start that it’s called The Year of Blood and Fire. There’s going to be burning cities and mass chaos. However, that flavor would depend on the overlord involved. A campaign based around the release of Sul Khatesh could be far more subtle. The Court of Shadows spreads, and as the campaign continues its dark vision of the world starts to become real, towers of shadow appearing across the nation. Common people start gaining arcane powers and resolving petty feuds and disputes with curses. Sly rakshasa offer tempting pacts. It builds to a point where civilization could collapse into outright arcane terror… but it can take time. Minister Adal might even forge an order of witchfinders and seize control of Aundair, little realizing that he too is just a pawn of Sul Khatesh, helping to spread delightful fear and terror. Every story will be different. The release of the Rage of War will involve brutal bloodshed; the release of the Oathbreaker could have very subtle effects.

That’s all for now, but look out for a Patreon-exclusive article delving deeper into the Lurker in Shadow. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for asking the questions that inspired this article and for making all of these articles possible.

74 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: The Overlords Revealed

  1. Thanks, Keith! This helps bring a lot of information into one concise place.

    It has been asked before, but are there any mortal races that were around during the Age of Demons that have become races of the world today, or some that were lost to the millennia of conflict?

    • It has been asked before, but are there any mortal races that were around during the Age of Demons that have become races of the world today, or some that were lost to the millennia of conflict?
      It’s a good question, but not a simple one. Feel free to ask on Patreon next month.

  2. Wow . . . that is a lot of information in one convenient place. Thank you!

    Do the histories of groups like the elves, dwarves, halflings and goblins talk about the Overlords much, or was the Age of Monsters (roughly) a fairly uneventful (or just blissfully ignorant) time?

  3. Would you say that the secrets that Tul Oreshka reveals are actually true. Or are they lies that the overlord spreads to make us question our reality? Or is it just looking at it from an altered perspective?

    • Everything Tul Oreshka says is true, and part of her power is that you KNOW what she says is true. While you COULD play this that she alters reality with her statements—that she says things that aren’t true until she says them—I think it’s more interesting if she only deals in absolute fact. She can crush you with things that are true—your mother wishes you’d died instead of your brother—but part of the point is that she’ll present these devastating truths out of context and in the worst possible way, IE leaving out but she still loves you and would lay down her life for you.

  4. How is it possible that “a cult of Tul Oreshka might reveal that humans are all fiends, that humanity itself is collectively an overlord” if Tul Oreshka centers around actual truths, as opposed to distortions of the truth?

    • Simplest answer is they reveal it because it’s true, and the ramifications are earth-shattering

    • Could be more tied to one group of humans, not unlike Innsmouth.
      Humanity could be a overlord in the same way Dragons have daugher of khyber.

    • How is it possible that “a cult of Tul Oreshka might reveal that humans are all fiends, that humanity itself is collectively an overlord” if Tul Oreshka centers around actual truths, as opposed to distortions of the truth?
      If I as a DM had her say it, it would be because it WAS true, and that this potentially explains countless cruelties inflicted by humanity over the course of history. The question would be how knowing it changes anything and if anything can be done about it.

  5. At some points in the past, you have suggested the idea of Kashtarhak stealing his own overlord’s power as a betrayal; how is that even possible, and does it require a specific Prophetic path? What is the difference between that and Kashtarhak releasing Eldrantulku the “regular” way?

    • The same way most eldritch machines are possible, narrative plus macguffin times unobtainium (dragonshards). Beteayal feeds Eldrantuklu after all…

      • Kashtarhak dramatically flipping a switch at Eldrantulku’s moment of apotheosis to start absorbing his master’s essence into himself, only for Thelestes to stab him in the back during his moment of triumph. It’s betrayal all the way down!

        • Both Ben and Matthew are correct. It’s definitely a plot device; a Prophetic path would be the most logical approach, but it could also be an eldritch machine, a planar confluence, or all of the above. And Thelestes would DEFINITELY stab him in the back at the worst possible moment.

          • How would planar confluences be relevant to manipulating overlords through non-Prophetic means, if this article says that overlords have minimal ties to the planes?

            • I think it’s more that the alignments of the planes are like the Cthulhu Mythos’ whole “the stars are right” thing. An Overlord is too much an entity of the material plane to say, cast Plane Shift, but the influences that other planes exert upon the material can be used by creatures in the material as fuel for rituals or aspects of the Prophecy.

  6. Under your current conception, what is Kyuss/the Worm That Walks really, and what is his relationship to Katashka? Are they two separate entities, or are they currently merged into a single entity? The Kyuss lore is a little muddy due to two separate versions across 3.5 Age of Worms and 3.5 Elder Evils.

    What is Mazyralyx’s “base” dragon type (e.g. red, gold)? What would you interpret his 4e “runescribed” dracolich status as, from a 3.5 or 5e perspective?

    • One adventure path had conversions written by Keith (15+ years ago) and one was not written by Keith.

      I’d say it’s firmly in your court what you want to do but seems from my current playthrough of AoW that Katashka is Kyuss is Katashka

    • Under your current conception, what is Kyuss/the Worm That Walks really, and what is his relationship to Katashka?
      In my interpretation, Kyuss is powerful champion of Katashka, infused with a fraction of the overlord’s essence. His precise relationship to Katashka would depend on the campaign I was running and the power level I wish to use for him. If I’m keeping him in the CR 20 level, then he’s an undead mortal drawing on the overlord’s power. If I’m going to go full Elder Evil, I’d say that Kyuss has become an avatar of Katashka, that the Gatekeeper is able to escape his bonds by merging with this (undead) mortal host; if the heroes can find a way to rebind Katashka, it would either destroy or depower Kyuss.

      What is Mazyralyx’s “base” dragon type (e.g. red, gold)? What would you interpret his 4e “runescribed” dracolich status as, from a 3.5 or 5e perspective?
      Mazyralyx is believed by some to be the inspiration for myths of the Keeper; the Keeper is the twin brother of Kol Korran, who’s depicted as a white dragon; therefore, I’d assume he’s a white dracolich. When he was described as “runecribed” it was with 3.5 rules in mind, but I don’t see a reason not to use 5E runescribing.

      • I thought that the “runescribed dracolich” part was referencing the 4e Monster Manual creature literally called “runescribed dracolich.”

        Are you saying that Mazyralyx is a hidecarved dragon, in the vein of the 3.5 Draconomicon or 5e Fizban’s?

        Is Mazyralyx Dragotha or vice versa?

        • Spellstitched from Monster Manual II would work. It is described for skeletal undead as being runes carved into bones and grants spell-like abilities, damage reduction, and turn resistance which seems like it would be suitable.

      • Is Mazyralyx related to the Shadowmasters, the draconic necromancers detailed in 3.5 Dragons of Eberron?

  7. How is Hektula the prakhutu of Sul Khatesh if she spends most of her time tending to the library of Ashtakala, an entirely separate overlord? How are Sul Khatesh and Ashtakala fine with this arrangement?

    In 5e Exploring Eberron, you describe Hektula as “perhaps the most knowledgeable sage in existence.” What is Hektula’s rough magical power level, as a rakshasa wizard? Is she just a couple of notches on the CR/level scale than, say, Durastoran, or is she vastly ahead of her prakhutu peers by many leaps and bounds?

    • How is Hektula the prakhutu of Sul Khatesh if she spends most of her time tending to the library of Ashtakala, an entirely separate overlord?
      I’ve said before that the Lords of Dust are sort of like the United Nations and Ashtakala is where they gather. The Library is a resource that is made possible by Ashtakala’s nature. It is a useful tool for all of the Lords of Dust, and Hektula maintains it because it is useful, both to the others and to the schemes of Sul Khatesh. Many of the books in it only exist in Ashtakala and can’t be removed, and Sul Khatesh has no similarly secure stronghold in the material plane. As for “How is she the prakhutu”—location means nothing to a speaker. Hektula could spend a thousand years in a cave—and may well have—and she’d still be the speaker of the Queen of Shadows. Being the speaker means that she can commune with Sul Khatesh, and she can do that while in Ashtakala; and again, the arcane knowledge preserved by Ashtakala and the security it provides her is useful to her.

      What is Hektula’s rough magical power level, as a rakshasa wizard?
      According to Dragon 337, Hektula is a wizard 10/loremaster 10/archmage 2 in addition to possessing the standard spellcasting abilities of a rakshasa. But also note that what I said was that she was the most knowledgeable SAGE— that in addition to her arcane knowledge, she possesses a deep and broad understanding of history, religion, and general knowledge. She may not be more powerful than Durastoran in terms of spellcasting power, but she knows many more spells and rituals than he does, and she’s vastly ahead of him when it comes to knowledge of history and other mundane subjects.

      • I see. Hektula’s path to power is entirely different from most rakshasas, because she is a wizard, whose casting does not quite “stack” with sorcerer casting. (In 3.5 terms, her wizard levels would be non-associated class levels, and she lacks the ultimate magus prestige class.)

        Did Hektula have to actually study to achieve this power, or was she “always” a wizard of such strength?

  8. If the servants of Val Gultesh are trying to release him from his prison, would the Prophetic paths involve solely the Material Plane, or would they have to involve dreamscapes in Dal Quor as well?

    Looking to other settings for inspiration with which to fill the gap…

    Would the sahkils of Pathfinder make a good basis for the fiendish minions of Val Gultesh? Would Dendar the Night Serpent from the Forgotten Realms be a decent template for Val Gultesh’s prakhutu?

    Is the Spinner of Shadows served chiefly by drow, or by non-drow? If served by drow, would a figure such as Eclavdra be a good basis for her prakhutu?

    • If the servants of Val Gultesh are trying to release him from his prison, would the Prophetic paths involve solely the Material Plane, or would they have to involve dreamscapes in Dal Quor as well?
      Which approach works best for the story you want to tell? There’s no right answer to this.

      Would the sahkils of Pathfinder make a good basis for the fiendish minions of Val Gultesh?
      I’m not personally familiar with the sahkils, but from a quick glance at the internet, it seems like it.

      Would Dendar the Night Serpent from the Forgotten Realms be a decent template for Val Gultesh’s prakhutu?
      Again, I’m not personally familiar with Dendar. From a quick study it seems like you could use Dendar as a prakhutu or as a possible avatar for an unbound Val Gultesh.

      Is the Spinner of Shadows served chiefly by drow, or by non-drow?
      In D&D Online, she was served by drow, because she was basically just Lolth. In my campaign I see no reason to tie her specifically to drow—who after all didn’t exist until long after the Age of Demons—and I’d personally give her a wider variety of servants.

      • As far as DDO canon goes, she also had fiends such as Rakshasa, hezrou, jarilith, and fiendish spiders serving her.

  9. Something I like with the dragon article is how it implies tho not confirming that Eldrantulku and Thelastes could have been invovled in the shadow schism.

    On the lurker whilst there is more to come. Will there be a mention of the Skum? Humanoids turned into aberrant thralls of the aboleth.

    And for a light hearted ponder, Tul Oreshka has quite a few levels of bard so what would be their musical instrument do you think?

    • And for a light hearted ponder, Tul Oreshka has quite a few levels of bard so what would be their musical instrument do you think?
      Personally, I don’t think she needs any instrument other than her voice. On the other hand, I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is MORE COWBELL!

  10. How did the overlords defeat the Wind Dukes of Aaqa in Lamannia (or is it Syrania?) if overlords have trouble extending their power to other planes, and if djinn are rejuvenating immortals?

    • Where is this piece of lore? I don’t recall the wind dukes of aaqa being a thing in Eberron.

      • Keith Baker mentions them in his Age of Worms conversion.

        Run a Google search for “Age of Worms Overload,” open up the PDF from Paizo’s website, and Ctrl+F for “Lamannia.” That should bring you to Keith Baker’s writeup.

        • Lore evolves. It’s not that I hoarded planar knowledge for two decades; prior to Exploring Eberron I hadn’t had the chance to think through the planes in depth and to create logical lore—and AoW came out in 2005, nearly on top of Eberron itself. So when I suggested the Wind Dukes were genies from Lamannia, I hadn’t spent the amount of time I have since then thinking about Lamannia, Syrania, or Genies in Eberron. This is why later canon usually takes precedence over earlier canon. Because IDEALLY (though sadly not always), when canon contradicts, later canon reflects an evolution of thought—like the Blood of Vol or the Mror dwarves. So ExE contradicts AoWO, but ExE is the result of 17 years of evolution and refinement.

          With that said, if you reread the AoWO, the Wind Dukes came to Eberron at the request of the couatl to fight the overlords; the war was being fought in the material plane. As for how immortals could have tombs, immortals can lose their personalities when they are destroyed, so the tombs could be monuments to individual identities that have been lost; or, more likely, the Wind Dukes could have used their own immortal energy to create the Rod of Seven Parts; thus, the tombs are again more monuments than actual tombs.

          To get serious for a moment, though: I have a limited amount of time to write. Time I spend answering questions here is time I’m not spending writing the next article, working on Frontiers of Eberron, or doing my day job. This is why I only answer a single question each month on Patreon. I really, really hate leaving questions unanswered, but unravelling contradictions in a 17-year-old magazine article isn’t an efficient use of my time. I understand that contradictions in canon are frustrating, and I encourage you to discuss them with others and to come up with answers that make sense for you. But I can’t answer every question like this, even when I want to. So feel free to keep asking these questions; *I* just can’t keep answering them, at least until I have significantly more time.

          • Since I have been reading those old adventures and conversion notes recently. I have a couple of suggestions. Keith mentions “Why would immortals need tombs” and that’s a point I myself have been focusing on. It so happens the two genie tombs we explore, per the backstory of the adventure ‘died’ in very specific ways. One was hit by a Orb of Annihilation, a black hole, a hole in reality. Perhaps even an immortal can be consumed by such a weapon. Or at least that’s how I’m playing it. The other one notably was obliterated when striking Mishka the Wolf Spider with The Rod of Law/Rod of Seven Parts. The strike broke the artifact, destroyed the d’jinn, and knocked out what Keith recast as an Overlord allowing it to be bound.

            In either case you have titanic forces at work, major artifacts in play. They’re special circumstances.

            For the Wind Dukes themselves, I feel that rather casting them as d’jinn from Lamannia, or Syrania we take another suggestion from Keith’s recent article on d’jinn that suggests that some d’jinn may also exist on Thelanis. I think the Wind Dukes fit better as d’jinn of Thalanis rather than as d’jinn of Syrania, the Plane of Peace. Just as angels and fiends can be found on multiple planes, why not the d’jinn. The d’jinn of Thalanis are not as numerous, and typically follow fairy tale logic more than their counterparts of the Immeasurable Market, but they could well be allies sought by dragons and coautl for the conflict in the Age of Demons.

            In either case The Age of Worms was written as a Greyhawk adventure first and converted to Eberron after the fact. Even in the time of 3.5 there were some round pegs hammered into round holes. You can squint and hand wave it (the lizardfolk in Breland, the giants in the Mror Holds) you can twist things, but there are always going to be some rough edges. While there are some great tid bits in Keith’s Age of Worms conversion and I like it a lot I don’t think you can take anything from the conversion notes as written in stone.

    • In the Dungeon 126 supplement the Wind Dukes are offered as denizens of Lamannia as one option among many (and even offers that none of these theories may be true as determined by the DM). Others offered include that they were dragons, the first humans, or the forebears of giants and titans.

      Another out there is they could have been couatls—since in 3.5e couatls could cast spells from the Air, Good, and Law cleric domains as sorcerer spells and shape change into small or medium humanoids. That ties them directly to the Material Plane.

  11. Since you suggested Lorishto would be a servant of Eldrantulku looking to move up in the world… Which overlord would you tie Cyl-Maaldrake the tiger-headed balor to? He’s called a “favored servant of the Lords of Dust” with many fiends loyal to him working at his release who is bound in Darkfire Crater in central Xen’drik described on page 138 of Dragons of Eberron.

  12. Can the khybershard prisons of Overlords be taken to other planes? If so, would they be inert away from Eberron [the plane] or would this cause the Overlord to free and/or their essence to transfer somewhere else in Khyber?

    • They’ve been imprisoned for tens of thousands of years and both dragons and prakhutu are powerful enough to travel to planes. If planar travel was an option either to free the overlords or as a way to bury them, it would have been used long ago. My answer would be to say that it’s simply impossible to pull a vessel off plane; they simply won’t go. It’s up to you what this does to something like a bag of holding, but even that makes sense to me; if the dragons could just lose all the shards in an extra dimensional space, why wouldn’t they?

      In the case of something like a barbarian with an embedded shard, I’d probably say that the energy is temporarily transferred to other shards on Eberron if the Barbarian planar travels and returns when they return rather than just forbidding them from traveling. But the point is the overlords are part of the reality of Eberron and can’t be removed from it. Again, if there was an easy answer Argonnessen would have used it thousands of years ago.

    • Levels of personal identity? Maybe Sul Katesh consistently manifests feminine-presenting, and thus is called ‘she’, while others manifest masculine-presenting consistently, others switch, and the rest don’t bother with anything identifiable as presenting in any way other than “Ow My Brain”.

      • I’ve been inconsistent in this and I’m going to do an editing pass on it now. In the past, our general approach has been that overlords use standard pronouns while daelkyr use “it.” To me, the pronoun reflects how the overlord usually presents itself; an overlord can take any shape it can imagine, but Sul Khatesh is typically feminine while Rak Tulkhesh is typically masculine. Those for whom we use “it” typically present as deeply alien; I feel Ran Iishiv would manifest as a chaotic storm, with nothing remotely humanoid in its appearance or affect, and the Lurker in Shadow remains alien and unknowable. “They” could reflect a lack of preference or a preference for a nonbinary form; in the case of Yad-Raghesh, they’re described as two-headed and my thought was that their heads had different genders. However, I do need to take another pass over this. I think Sakinnirot is canonically “it”, but on reflection I think the Wild Heart and Ashurak should both be “they.”

  13. Tiamat holds sway over Dragons, and the Wild Hesrt created Gnoll. The Discord discussed the idea of there being an Overlord which creates giants and exerts fear over sheer size. But it seems like Overlords do not create, and either warp or sway existing creatures into their control, is that correct?

    Do you believe it’s possible that the rise and fall of the Giants was orchestrated by the Scar That Abides, simply desiring to see something fall?

    Lastly, you mentioned that Overlords cannot grant Divine Power, but cultists can draw magic from Khyber itself. Does that mean that Cult of the Dragon Below is literal? If there are people crazy enough to worship the Overlords, is worship of Khyber possible? Is this how you would explain stat blocks like the Cult Fanatic. Also, can the Shadow in the Flame grant the powers of a Cleric?

    • I don’t see why Overlords should not be able to create things. In many ways, the Overlords are aspects of Khyber, and my impression is that all three primordial dragons were fundamentally forces of creation.

    • I personally wouldn’t make giants and giant civilization the creation of an overlord. It’s too widespread and too important for the early world. City of Stormreach calls out that Sakinnirot delighted in the downfall of the giants, but doesn’t suggest that it was entirely responsible for it; as presented, Sakinnirot doesn’t have that sort of widespread power and influence. I think it’s entirely reasonable to say that Sakinnirot corrupted the Emperor Cul’sir, inflaming his hatred and making him willing to take rash actions endangering the lives of millions—but that’s different from suggesting that the Scar That Abides was responsible for the existence of giant civilization to begin with.
      Regarding divine magic, I suggest you read this article. In Eberron, divine magic isn’t granted in the same way as it is in other settings. Transcendental faith allows someone to draw energy from a divine power source, but the power source, whatever it may be, doesn’t personally approve each spell. This is why Eberron has never required clerics to match the alignment of their deity; because in Eberron it is possible for a cleric to take cations that violate the tenets of their faith as long as they believe their actions are righteous. The Pure Flame is a great example of this; they draw their divine magic from the divine power source of the Silver Flame, but their actions regularly violate the basic principles that drive the Flame (protect the innocent). This has come up recently with the statement that Bloodsail clerics draw their power from Mabar. In saying that clerics who worship the overlords draw power from Khyber, the point isn’t that Khyber is a sentient being that is personally deciding what powers to grant; it’s that Khyber is an abstract divine power source, and that the cleric’s faith in the overlord is the key that allows them to access that power and determines the way in which they can shape it. The point isn’t that Khyber is a deity in the traditional sense, but rather that there are divine power sources within Khyber that can be tapped through transcendent faith.

  14. Slightly off topic but you mention cables of ghouls under the cities of khorvaire connected to the Gatekeeper. This got me think about the greater ghouls, Darakhul , from kobold press. If you were going to introduce Darakhul how would you do it. Would they be the creation of the Gatekeeper or something connected to Mabar necromancer like the blood sails or the Qabalrin. An add on would be how does the Gatekeeper undead and Mabar undead/ Mabar necromancer interact? For example would Vol or the Girm be interested in Gatekeeper cults.

    • If you were going to introduce Darakhul how would you do it.
      I’m not personally familiar with Darakhul, so I don’t know. If the point is that they are intelligent ghouls, I’d likely tie them to Katashka, as suggested in this article.
      As for the Bloodsails and Katashka cults, in my opinion as connoisseurs of necromancy the Bloodsails wouldn’t want anything to do with Katashka. It’s kind of like saying that you’ve come up with a great system that lets you get electricity from nuclear power… now how do you feel about getting electricity from SATAN instead? Any accomplished arcane scholar knows that the overlords are forces of primordial evil that would destroy the world if they could. Note that the Bloodsails in this example use nuclear power, not solar, because the Aereni assert that their Mabaran techniques are a threat to the environment. But it’s still the point that the Bloodsails have a scientific approach to necromancy and it WORKS; they don’t NEED to mess around with ancient powers of incarnate evil, unless there’s a VERY big upside that outweighs the obvious risks.

      • Yes darakhul are intelligent ghouls that can is a player race. Going with what you said and Darahul being connected to the Gatekeeper then Mabar necromancer would not ally with them/work with the but actively stop them. I’m just try to figure out how put them into my Eberron because I find they very interesting. In Koblod press’ world they have an under ground empire with the Darahul as the ruling elders over ghast and ghouls

        • Going with what you said and Darahul being connected to the Gatekeeper then Mabar necromancer would not ally with them/work with the but actively stop them.
          An important point here is that IT’S NOT OBVIOUS WHERE UNDEAD GET THEIR POWER. Imagine you run into a ghost, a ghoul, and a lich. A SAGE might be able to say “The ghost is a husk that’s been prevented from reaching Dolurrh; the ghoul is animated by the hunger of Mabar; and the lich has made a bargain with Katashka.” But to the casual observer, NONE OF THAT IS OBVIOUS. If two vampires run into each other in a graveyard, they may recognize that they come from different strains of vampirism, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to identify what those are… and it’s quite possible the vampires themselves don’t know if their strain is tied to Mabar or to Katashka. So it’s not that a Mabaran necromancer would refuse to associate with a Katashkan ghoul; it’s that the Bloodsails wouldn’t actively seek to work with Katashka’s power themselves, and they wouldn’t welcome Katashkan cults springing up on their island.

          • So a follow-up question is, how are Katashk’s undead affected by Mabar energies? Would it empower them or not affect them at all. Do you think there would be ghoul cults connected to the Blood of Vol? I know several questions but I just trying to flush things out for myself.

            • Mabar will empower any undead or user of necromancy. Katashkan? undead still use negative energy after all. Even Dolurrhi undead will be empowered. Ultimately it has less to do with how they are made and more with what they are.

        • I’m so glad somebody said that, because it is EXACTLY what came to my mind when I read it.

  15. If you are providing information on the Lurker in Shadow in an upcoming article, it would be nice to provide some ideas on how to better integrate the Leviathan from 3.5 Elder Evils into an Eberron campaign. The Leviathan has some Eberron conversion notes, but they are extremely bare-bones. Perhaps the Leviathan could be related to the kar’lassa?

    • Think you probably have your answer there. A 14 year old book is not really a great conversion target honestly. Just like Atropus or Father Llymic the point is really the unknowable horror of the monster, just do what’s best for your story

  16. According to Dragon Magazine #337, in reference to Tul Oreshka: “Anyone who passes by her prison might suffer nightmares or hear terrible things in ghostly whispers, and children born or conceived near her tomb are always insane.”

    Why do people give birth near Tul Oreshka’s prison if simply going near it is enough to spook someone?

    • It waxes and wanes in size or effect. It doesn’t affect everyone the same. It’s put down to manifest zones or coterminous planar effects. Some other effect of the area is desirable. The prison moves.

    • Maybe some willing cultists live there. Or colonists have there thanks to something being around her prison that people want despite rumors of things turning bad in the past. Seems like any easy enough plot hook to justify.

    • Historically, anyone fleeing from hardship might retreat “to the hills” and join the local collection of debt-avoiders, deserters, nomads, and bandits in difficult territory that was hard to militarily flush out. The same is still true in the “hard” areas of Khorvaire (e.g. Droamm, the King’s Wood) and that some people, for whatever reason, would prefer the nightmares or ghostly whispers to returning to “civilization” and facing whatever kind of local (in)justice is waiting for them. One imagines a similar motive to why someone lives in, say, a Mabar manifest zone.

      • Sorry for asking but did you happen to listen to Patrick Wyman’s most recent podcast. He talks about this in regards to the concept of the state. Very interesting to apply to Eberron. Either way, I might just relisten to it again but think about it in the Eberron context

        • I’m not familiar with Wyman, I think I picked up the concept in Debt, the first 5000 years, by Graeber, but more recently from Against the Grain by James C. Scott.

  17. What do the different covens of the Court of Shadows call themselves. I would think that they would be competing with each other for influences within the larger cult.

  18. Do the Five Nations have explicit laws (as opposed to falling under more general laws) against consorting with (cult to)/trying to unseal overlords?

    • Sharn: City of Towers has a fairly detailed breakdown of the Code of Galifar and includes nothing like this. Essentially, the crime wouldn’t be participating in a cult, it would be the crimes the cult encourages you to carry out, such as assault or misuse of magic. Part of the challenge of a “no cult” law is that there are countless variations. Just look through the Cults section of Exploring Eberron; in probably about half of them, the members don’t even KNOW they’re working with overlords or daelkyr. So the crime isn’t being part of a cult, it’s summoning fiends (misuse of magic) or sacrificing people (murder).

        • I feel like the exception here might be Thrane, which probably has laws empowering the sanction of Whispering Flame cults.
          The question is what exactly is covered by the laws. The templars are authorized to act against any cult or suspected cult and to pursue any threat of malefic forces. But what’s illegal for the people? It’s a basic principle of the faith that the Shadow in the Flame is constantly tempting us, and it’s understood that fiends can appear in any shape or possess innocents. So it’s not going to be illegal to interact with fiends; it’s something that can happen to innocent people, and it’s the role of priests and templars to guide us, warn us, and protect us from such threats. “Membership in a cult” is a difficult thing to define; it’s not like the Whispering Flame hands out membership cards, and looking at the cults in ExE they come in many forms and members often don’t understand what they’re dealing with. So again, I think you’d be prosecuted for the actions you take as a cultist, and I definitely think Thrane would consider “Knowingly summoning or abetting malefic forces” to be a crime. So again, someone who actively and knowingly serves the Whispering Flame would be prosecuted for knowingly abetting malefic forces and for any other actions that harmed innocents. But I’m not sure there’s a specific law against “being in a cult.”

  19. Do the Court of Shadows and its shadow kingdom have anything to do with the Plane of Shadows, or the Ethereal Plane?

      • Honestly, do we even know much about the Ethereal and the Plane of Shadows on Eberron? I think we’d need proper Dragonmark articles on those first. Both have a lot of potential.

  20. What sort of Tal does Sul Khatesh drink? Or is it a secret recipe with a indescribable taste she conjures?

    Would the daelkyr have avoided the thunder sea due to fear of the lurker, or would it be more with servants? Using mind flayers be used to combat the aboleth.

  21. Thank you for the glimpse at more Frontiers content! Question: Did the “Horned Prince” get upgraded to the “Horned King”?

    • Also: Would you say the gnolls were still bred and recruited by just Rak Tulkhesh and the Wild Heart, or did Tol Kharash have a hand on the ball as well?

      • I don’t see a need to change the gnoll origin story. Remember that overlords have limited spheres of influence. We know the WIld Heart is strong in the Towering Wood and Rak Tulkhesh had influence in the Demon Wastes. Most likely that is where gnolls first appeared; the Znir are descended from gnolls who migrated south from the Towering Wood and into the territory of the Horned King.

    • Yes, the Horned Prince has become the Horned King. Ultimately, it’s a matter of translation; both titles are in circulation.

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