Dragonmarks: The Barren Sea

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions from patrons. Here’s a recent one…

Is there anything going on in the Barren Sea beyond well… A lack of anything really? What would that be?

Good question! The Player’s Guide to Eberron has this to say:

The Barren Sea is so called because it is poor for fishing and devoid of apparent life. Hideous monsters are said to inhabit its depths—but sailors make that claim about all ten seas. In fact, sailors have more to fear from storms, icebergs in the north, and unpredictable winds than they do from any living thing in the Barren Sea. In addition to the mundane risks of storm and calm, the Barren Sea is known for scattered areas of dead calm—areas of perfectly still water, sometimes suffused with negative energy that attracts undead.

The Eberron Campaign Guide adds this…

The Barren Sea is home to dark and sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities far below the waves… and tremendous storms send ships to splinter against the rocky shore (of the Demon Wastes).

The Thunder Sea is home to powerful civilizations, and those who cross it will have to deal with the sahuagin or sea elves. The Lhazaar Sea is more chaotic, home to pirates, drake hunters, elemental islands, and all manner of monstrosities. The Barren Sea tells a different story. As its name suggests, it seems to be almost lifeless. The Barren Sea isn’t a resource to be harvested; it’s a deadly obstacle to be crossed, an aquatic desert. It’s for this reason that you don’t see the equivalent of Rhiavhaar or the Lhazaar Principalities on the coasts around the Barren Sea; there’s no fishing, nothing to draw people into the water. The people of Ohr Kaluun, Nulakhesh, and the lands now known as Droaam largely ignored the Barren Sea. Today, the Riedran province of Corvagura is an important port that supports shipping to and from Riedra’s interests in western Khorvaire and Xen’drik, and many of Riedra’s merchant sailors are Corvaguran; but there are no fishing boats in the Barren Sea.

So why is the Barren Sea so barren? The practical explanation is hypersalinity. The waters of the Barren Sea have almost ten times the salt content of the other seas of Eberron. Few plants or animals can survive in these waters. A side effect of this is that the waters of the Barren Sea are surprisingly buoyant; anyone swimming in the Barren Sea has advantage on checks made to stay afloat. But while the salt content explains why the sea is devoid of life, the larger question is why is the water so salty? Hypersalinity is usually caused by mineral deposits, but that’s not a factor here. The mystery is further compounded by the fact that the majority of the Barren Sea is shielded from divination (including the psionic clairsentience techniques employed by Riedrans). A massive nondetection effect blankets the barren waters and anything upon them. Sages can’t explore the Barren Sea with scrying, Tharashk prospectors can’t sense what lies beneath the waves, and even commune can’t unlock the secrets of the Barren Sea. Mystical navigation tools become unreliable in barren waters, and navigators must be prepared to use mundane techniques. Taken together, the hypersalinity and nondetection effect are clearly unnatural. The cause of these effects is explored later in this article.

Calm and Still, Merchant and Spy

So, back to the original question… What goes on in the Barren Sea? You won’t encounter dragon turtles or merfolk there, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that it’s boring and uniform. Here’s a few of the things you can find.

Deadly Storms. The Player’s Guide to Eberron calls out the risk of storms and “unpredictable winds.” it later specifies that these are “mundane risks”—so while storms are always a risk on the Barren Sea, they aren’t as dramatic as the Lamannia-fueled storms of the Thunder Sea. The exception is to the north, where the ECG notes the “tremendous storms” that can dash a ship against the Demon Wastes; along this cursed coast, the weather is enhanced and twisted by the malevolent powers bound in the Wastes.

Dead Calm. The southern Barren Sea holds a number of large manifest zones tied to Mabar. Normally Mabaran manifest zones can be recognized by their impact on flora and fauna, but in the Barren Sea there’s no native life to use as a yardstick. As called out in the Player’s Guide to Eberron, these Mabaran zones create areas of unnatural calm. Winds die and currents are diverted. Some of these share Mabar’s trait of Eternal Shadows; in such regions all bright light is reduced to dim light, and ships must make their way through this gloom.

As noted in PGtE, regions of dead calm are often inhabited by undead. Zombies, skeletons, and other undead can be found—animated corpses both of travelers and of strange creatures from deep below the poisoned waters. However, the most common form of undead are shadows. Superstition holds that within the dead calm, the shadows of sailors can come to life and kill their owners, persisting even after killing the mortal who cast them. There are countless tales of merchants stumbling on ghost ships inhabited solely by shadows. In the annals of the Wayfinder Foundation, Lord Boroman ir’Dayne discovers a massive graveyard of ships in the Barren Sea, including vessels that seemed to be the ships of giants and Dhakaani galleys. According to the story, Boroman’s own ship was overrun by shadows and he was forced to abandon his vessel and flee. His dinghy was overturned and his friends consumed by “shadow sharks,” but—at least according to the tale—Boroman managed to swim for days and made landfall in the Demon Wastes (which is a story in its own right). Though he tried, ir’Dayne was never able to find the graveyard again.

Still Water. While there are Mabaran manifest zones across the Barren Sea, to the north they are outnumbered by manifest zones tied to Risia. These zones are unnaturally cold, home to unexpected icebergs and creeping ice that can potentially trap slower vessels. Such zones have Risa’s Lethal Cold trait as described in Exploring Eberron. A few of the largest manifest zones have the Preservation trait; any creature or object that is completely encased in this Risian ice is kept in stasis, ignoring the passage of time. Travelers or entire ships could be found trapped in such an iceberg: fiends or dragons from the first age of the world, Sarlonan refugees fleeing the Sundering, or more recent sailors from Khorvaire. The shroud against divination makes it difficult to track such prisoners from afar… but there are wonders waiting to be found.

Known Threats and Dangerous Paths. Over the centuries, sailors have charted safe paths through the Barren Sea, identifying deadly manifest zones and plotting routes that avoid them. There are three primary routes used by Riedran ships and Lyrandar vessels, and with a reliable map and a good navigator you can follow such a path and avoid the planar threats. However, many independent captains—smugglers, spies, Adaran vessels avoiding Riedran patrols—pride themselves on knowing shorter paths. Such routes can save you time and avoid contact with other vessels… but a false map can lead you into still water or a shadowy end. Even if route is good, since these paths are less traveled there’s a greater chance of running across an intermittent manifest zone that was dormant when the cartographer passed through. When you leave the known paths you may encounter deadly threats—but it’s in these dangerous regions that you might find ghost ships laden with treasure or ancient wonders preserved in Risian ice.

Merchants and Soldiers. There is a regular stream of legitimate traffic across the Barren Sea. In the south, merchants and cargo ships travel between Dar Jin, Dar Qat, Stormreach, and Sharn. A northern route connects Dar Jin and Dar Kel to Aundair and points east. The majority of these ships are Riedran, though Lyrandar and other vessels are mixed in. Diplomats and scholars can also be found making their way across the sea. Riedran frigates patrol the trade routes, ever watchful for pirates and smugglers. While Riedran soldiers aren’t inherently hostile to the people of Khorvaire, they may stop and board any vessel they suspect of smuggling or of supporting the enemies of Riedra—notably, the kalashtar.

Smugglers, Spies, and Pirates. The steady stream of merchant vessels provide an inviting targets for pirates in the Barren Sea. Riedran frigates are ever vigilant, but the shrouding effect of the barren waters makes it possible for pirates to evade pursuit by plunging into uncharted waters. Of course, this means risking the dangers of a dead calm or still waters, but there are always those willing to take that risk. Given the dangers, the Barren Sea isn’t exactly teeming with pirates, but those who manage to thrive in these dangerous waters are often quite capable.

The shrouding effect also makes the Barren Sea a haven for smugglers—including the Dream Merchants of Riedran, Adarans making to or from Khorvaire, and others—and spies, whether they’re spying on Riedra, Droaam, or elsewhere. Conspiracy theorists claim that many dragonmarked houses maintain secret facilities on platforms in the Barren Sea, places where they can defy the Korth Edicts.

Sahuagin. The hypersalinity of the Barren Sea is just as deadly to the sahuagin as it is to other creatures, and the Eternal Dominion of the Thunder Sea doesn’t extend into these western waters. However, there are a few sahuagin clans scattered across the very edges of the Barren Sea. Each of these small enclaves have their own unique cultures; some are peaceful, others vicious and cruel. The most dangerous of these are the Sa’arlaath, “The All Consuming”; these sahuagin dwell on the coast of the Demon Wastes and have been twisted by fiendish powers. The Sa’arlaath raid vessels that pass over their terrain, but most of the sahuagin of the Thunder Sea remain in isolation in the deep, ignoring both the people of the surface and those who dwell in the deepest depths of the Barren Sea—the Kuo-Toa.

The Kuo-Toa: Dreamers in the Deep

The upper waters of the Barren Sea are deadly, but descend far enough and the salinity of the water drops. It is here that adventurers can discover the “sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities far below the waves” mentioned in the Eberron Campaign Guide. Those creatures that dwell on the ocean floor aren’t literal fiends, but their realm is a terrifying array of nightmares. This is the domain of the Kuo-toa.

While the upper waters of the Barren Sea are close to Mabar and Risia, the depths of the ocean once held powerful manifest zones tied to Dal Quor, the region of dreams. A unique species evolved in this region. All mortals of Eberron possess a connection to Dal Quor, glimpsing the Realm of Dreams when they sleep. But these creatures possessed a far deeper connection; they existed in both realms simultaneously, perceiving both dream and reality at all times. They called themselves the Quor-Toa, the People of Dreams. Beyond their power to perceive Dal Quor, within the manifest zones below the Barren Sea, the Quor-Toa could draw the essence of Dal Quor into reality and shape it, sculpting tools, structures, and servants from the stuff of dreams. Their deep empire was a place of impossible wonders, of spectacles dragons and giants could only dream of. Yet because they could only work these wonders in manifest zones to Dal Quor, the Quor-Toa never sought to spread out into other lands or seas. They defended their territory, and it is for this reason that few giant explorers ever reached Sarlona; there are records in Cul’sir accounts that describe the glories glimpsed below the waves of the “Golden Sea” and of the godlike beings that defended it. In the end, the giants destroyed the Quor-Toa without even meaning to. Forty thousand years ago the giants severed the ties between Eberron and Dal Quor, as a way to end their conflict with the quori. In the process, they destroyed the Quor-Toa. As the manifest zones tied to Dal Quor were stripped of power, the dream-towers of the Quor-Toa melted away and the fishfolk themselves suffered devastating psychic trauma. Their civilization collapsed into chaos. It took generations to recover from the shock, and the survivors weren’t the people they had once been. Their knowledge had been storied in libraries of dreams, vaults that were shattered and lost. Their psychic gifts had been twisted. They were no longer the Quor’Toa; they had become kuo-toa, the fallen people.

Following Two Paths

The kuo-toa have never regained the power of their ancestors. The energies of Dal Quor no longer flow naturally into Eberron. But the kuo-toa still possess a stronger connection to Dal Quor than any other mortal creature. Most mortal creatures describe the kuo-toa as “mad”, but the truth is far more complicated. Where most mortals only glimpse Dal Quor when they sleep, the kuo-toa perceive both realms simultaneously; they are ALWAYS dreaming, experiencing the dream overlaid over reality. This has a few effects.

  • A kuo-toa can always be targeted by the dream spell, even while it is awake.
  • A kuo-toa experiences two realities at once—the physical world and Dal Quor. Thus, when a kuo-toa is dealing with an adventurer, it is also dealing with whatever dream occupies the same space as the adventurer in its vision. It could be holding a fish and describe it as a sword, because in Dal Quor, it is holding a sword. To the kuo-toa, both realities are equally real. It is a sword AND a fish. And the kuo-toa could be fighting a monster in Dal Quor while also talking to an adventurer; so while it appears to be waving a fish around, it is fighting a nightmare with a mighty sword.
  • This is the source of the Otherworldly Perception trait of the 5E kuo-toa; they perceive invisible and ethereal entities through their echoes in the dream.
  • If a kuo-toa is slain in Dal Quor, it loses its perception of Dal Quor until it completes a short rest. There’s no other negative consequence; it’s essentially no different from a human being killed in their dream and waking up.
  • The kuo-toa of Eberron speak Quori instead of Undercommon. They have no ties to the creatures of Khyber, and they learned Quori long ago from their dreams.

While they lack both the resources and the knowledge of their ancestors, the kuo-toa still possess supernatural powers tied to their dual existence. Kuo-toa seers have a sharpened form of their Otherworldly Perception, seeing dream visions that reveal secrets about the waking world; a seer might manifest true seeing—seeing a shapeshifter’s true form as a dream aura around it—or other divination effects. Kuo-toa shapers can cast illusion or conjuration spells by pulling dreams into reality, often without fully understanding that this is what they’re doing. This is just a shadow of the power they wield as a community, which is discussed below. But there’s a second aspect that’s crucial to understanding the kuo-toa. They experience Dal Quor and Eberron at once. But they don’t just dream any dreams. For whatever reason, nightmares are drawn to the kuo-toa. They aren’t just always dreaming, they’re always experiencing nightmares. And this in turn shapes the way they interact with the world.

Gods & Monsters

A single kuo-toa might have the power to draw a wisp of dream into reality to create a minor illusion. But as kuo-toa join together, their collective unconscious amplifies their nightmares—and they can bring these things into reality. Kuo-toa cities are ruled by gods they have dreamed into being, but these aren’t the gods they have chosen; they are deities built from their fears. Every kuo-toa deity is unique, and they shape their cities to match their nature. Hence, “sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities beneath the waves”—for the gods of the kuo-toa make harsh demands on their people. Beyond their gods, the kuo-toa dream other horrors into existence. They may dream creatures that have the abilities of krakens or aboleths (though not their exact shapes or motivations), or entirely new abominations. Such monsters might serve the local deity, or they could simply rise to the surface to prey on unwary travelers. So in truth you never know what you’ll find in the Barren Sea… because the kuo-toa in the deeps could dream up a unique nightmare that’s never been seen before and which will never be seen again.

Kuo-toa and Quori

It might seem like the Dreaming Dark would love the kuo-toa and would exert power over them; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider than in the Age of Giants, the Quor-Toa were in a realm close to Dal Quor, and yet the Quori came to Xen’drik instead. Why not travel through this open gateway? Because the quori of the past feared the Quor-Toa, just as those of the present fear the koa-toa. Because the koa-toa shape dreams, pulling the essence of the Dal Quor into reality and bending it to their will. The kuo-toa gods began as quori—but they have no control over the situation, and are forced to play out the roles the kuo-toa have set for them. This isn’t something the kuo-toa do consciously, and they can’t choose NOT to do it. But the quori are aware of the kuo-toa and stay far away from the ocean deeps.

The Barren Truth

The beginning of this article raised a question: why is the Barren Sea so barren? What is the cause of the focused hypersalinity, and what is it that blocks divination? Scholars on land have advanced many theories. Clearly it’s the work of the dragons of Argonnessen, an epic curse like those unleashed against Xen’drik. Obviously it’s the handiwork of the Daelkyr. Or maybe there’s an unbound overlord in the water and this is its domain. Any of these ideas are plausible, and a DM could choose any one of them. But in my campaign, the Barren Sea is a nightmare of the kuo-toa. Collectively, they see the world as a barren place of death, and it is this shared nightmare that actively poisons the waters above them. This is part of the wounded psyche of the species, and it’s not something that could be changed by a few friendly conversations. On the other hand, if Dal Quor itself were to change—if il-Lashtavar were to give way to il-Yannah and an Age of Light—perhaps the Great Light could heal the kuo-toa and life could return to the Barren Sea.

So, back to the original question… What goes on in the Barren Sea? Pirates! Smugglers! Getting boarded by Riedran soldiers who want to inspect your cargo! Ghost ships filled with shadows! Finding an ancient couatl frozen in an iceberg! A secret Cannith research platform! A nightmare from the depths! Or, perhaps, a visit to a city deep beneath the waves, where a nightmare deity rules over people poised between two worlds…

What’s Common Knowledge?

The people of the surface world know almost nothing about the kuo-toa. They know exactly what the ECG suggested—that there are “fiends in horrid cities” at the bottom of the Barren Sea. To this point, the nightmare deities of the kuo-toa have kept their dreaming subjects in the depths—and the major trade routes used by Riedra and Khorvaire don’t pass over kuo-toa cities. So how will adventurers discover what lies below? Adventurers venturing through uncharted waters could be shipwrecked by a nightmare and drawn into the depths. A dragonmarked research platform could shift the focus of a kuo-toa god, causing it to focus its wrath on the world above. A kalashtar could be urged to venture below by visions from il-Yannah; could the kuo-toa play a vital role in the turning of the age? And what affect might the kuo-toa dreamers have on a kalashtar’s quori spirit?


How powerful are the Kuo-Toa gods?

It depends on the community they’re tied to. A small outpost might have a “god” with the power of a pit fiend. For the major cities, I’d personally use this as an opportunity to repurpose the statistics of existing archfiends; this would be a fine place to have a version of Demogorgon or Asmodeus, thought I’d definitely give them some distinct kuo-toa flavoring. The main thing is that their power is definitely geographically limited; while Blibdolpoop/Demogorgon might be extremely powerful in their domain, they couldn’t leave it and go attack Sharn. It’s a little like the Undying Court, except that the kuo-toa gods feed on the nightmares of their people instead of on their love.

Maps are inconsistent across editions. Some maps show the Barren Sea extending all the way to the Dagger River; others present it further west. Where do you draw the line for the “Barren” waters?

The general description of the Barren Sea is that it is “west of Khorvaire, northwest of Xen’drik and east of Sarlona.” If you consider the most recent map—page 104-105 of Rising From The Last War—the labeling of the Thunder Sea is significantly southwest of the Dagger River and Manta Bay. I’m inclined to say that the barren waters start just to the west of Zarash Bay. So Zarash Bay has standard water, but the Bay of Madness and the western coastline of the Shadow Marches are barren water.

How does that even work? Shouldn’t currents disperse the high-saline water? Nature doesn’t just stop at an arbitrary border.

That is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. The point is that there is nothing natural about this. Hypersalinity is an effect that can be found in the natural world based on mineral deposits in closed bodies of water. But this ISN’T a bounded body of water and there’s no clear mineral deposits that could cause it. Likewise, the fact that it STOPS when you do deep enough is entirely unnatural. And keep in mind that once the giants referred to it as the “Golden Sea.” The hypersalinity is a natural effect that is being created and sustained by a supernatural force. When the waters of the Barren Sea are flow out of the Barren Sea, the charged salinity fades. If the science of this is troubling, you can just think of it as “magical death water.”

Since it’s so barren, what do the kuo-toa eat? Do they dream food into existence?

The Quor-Toa dreamt food into existence. The kuo-toa don’t have quite such perfect control; it’s possible that there are kuo-toa shapers who can cast effects like goodberry, create food, or even heroes’ feast by conjuring food from dreams, but this is a rare gift and isn’t enough to sustain a city. The main point is that the barren water ENDS when you go deep enough; there is flora and fauna in the depths. Much of it is unusual—shaped over time by kuo-toa nightmares—but there’s definitely edible plants and fish.

That’s all for now! I am traveling at the moment with limited internet and there is a good chance that I will not be able to answer many questions on this article, though I’m happy for people to pose questions and discuss them in the comments. Thanks to my Patreon supporters both for suggesting the topic and for making it possible for me to write it; it’s only this support that allows me to spend time on articles like this.

45 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: The Barren Sea

  1. Are the stone giant dreamwalkers from Volo’s Guide to Monsters essentially stone giants with the same powerset as the quor-toa, perceiving both dreams and reality simultaneously?

  2. 3.5 Secrets of Sarlona says: “The lords of the Dreaming Dark believe that control of Eberron might allow them to control the destiny of Dal Quor. Opinions differ as to how this can be accomplished. The dominant belief is that two steps are required. The first is to realign Dal Quor with Eberron, repairing the damage done at the end of the Age of Giants.”

    What does this actually mean in practical terms? How is realigning Dal Quor with Eberron supposed to help?

    Does the time scale difference between Eberron and Dal Quor flatten out as Eberron and Dal Quor align, thus slowly whittling away the Dreaming Dark’s time scale advantage?

  3. Sounds like a great place to put a Weeping Witch, a solitary sea hag who bends the bones and shadows of those she consumes to her will.

    But that’s just my personal quest to shine some light on that brand of hag.

  4. Are these kuo-toa gods actually that powerful, or are they more along the lines of a balor or a pit fiend in terms of raw strength?

    • I’d say they’re as powerful as the story demands

      After all “what their dreams imagine, their hands create”

  5. Love, love, love it! Amazing addition of the Kuo-toa!

    I was going to ask about the “Golden Sea” but I see now it’s a case of the area being different back in that time.

    Was saving this for the Tashana article but a small question now: does that mean the Tashana to Zarash’ak trading mostly goes through the White Sea and down the (fiendish sahuagin infested) coastline? Or do they have routes and maps like the smugglers and Riedrans do?

    Also I didn’t realize the Barren Sea extends that far but looking at the map it seems to go to almost thr mouth of the Dagger River! Does this hypersalinity affect the coastlines of Droaam (Vralkek) and the Shadow Marches?

    • I’ve added the answer to the second question to the main article. And Tashana traders definitely have their own secret paths across the Barren Sea (distinct from those used by the Riedrans and Lyrandar).

      • Borders RE-understood! I suppose I was just confused by the mention of Droaam ignoring the Barren Sea in the article, I get it now that it’s that any sailing they did do was localized to their Thunder Sea, not that they were ON the Barren Sea.

        Did Nulakesh, Coravaruga and Ohr Kaluun suffer for this lack of food from the sea and the salinity of their coastlines? I certainly can see now why Ocean Striders (harkening to the previous article) avoid Corvaruga!

        Would Nulakesh has looked more to their inland sea of Rhialuun? Does the Barren Sea’s “death water” extend into Koralandaluun Bay (which all there kingdoms and Pyrine border)?

  6. What happens to a kuo-toa while they are actually sleeping? Do they still perceive both Eberron and Dal Quor?

    What happens to a kuo-toa who sleeps near a kar’lassa?

    • I’ve got to figure they don’t.
      Why would their gods let them sleep when they could be working on any of its plans?
      There literally not being a standard place for PCs to sleep in that situation seems like the most logical answer for that kind of a campaign.

    • What happens to a kuo-toa while they are actually sleeping? Do they still perceive both Eberron and Dal Quor?
      They still exist in both worlds; it’s just that all they perceive of Eberron is the back of their eyelids. So they are effectively like other mortals while dreaming.

      What happens to a kuo-toa who sleeps near a kar’lassa?
      This raises a larger question, which is that if the kuo-toa are dreaming all the time, what happens when they just WALK near a kar’lassa? I would assume that their dream-perception would shift to the plane tied to the kar’lassa, and that they would experience it both when waking and sleeping. But it may be something that’s NEVER HAPPENED, so the DM will have to decide when and if it does.

  7. In my campaigns, I’ve included Ravnica as a massive flotilla on the Barren Sea, keeping the nightmares that rise from the sea at bay and trying to figure the issue of the waters out to open the sea to the world.

  8. Would a kuo-toa seer be able to perceive a rakshasa for what they are?

    And could the kuo-toa have kept a quori trapped from the pre-moonbreaker era?

    • Would a kuo-toa seer be able to perceive a rakshasa for what they are?
      I don’t know; would they? In theory, true seeing doesn’t affect a rakshasa because they are immune to that level of magic. A DM could decide that a dream-seer’s abilities aren’t traditional magic and supercede this effect, but that’s definitely in the “What story do you want to tell” category.

      And could the kuo-toa have kept a quori trapped from the pre-moonbreaker era?
      The Quor-Toa definitely bound pre-Moonbreaker quori as servants. But Quor-Toa civilization was destroyed by the Moonbreaker, and the current kuo-toa deal with il-Lashtavar quori. So the main question is whether there could be a bound Quor-Toa creation that survived the destruction of their civilization, or whether their bindings were all broken when the connection was severed — as is the case with most of their creations. So I’d say it would be extraordinarily rare, but not impossible.

  9. Could a properly prepared missionary team get the kuo-toa to dream up Sovereigns (or at least the Dark Six less the Traveler)?

    Elemental galleons would be immune to the becalmed areas, right?

    This is a fantastic article, thank you for posting it.

    • Could a properly prepared missionary team get the kuo-toa to dream up Sovereigns (or at least the Dark Six less the Traveler)?
      This sounds like a fine plot for an adventure. But it wouldn’t be simple. We don’t choose our nightmares, and the idea is that this is basically what the kuo-toa gods are. The gods are shaped by their collective UNconscious, not by their conscious desires; they can’t just decide “We don’t like this one any more.” Likewise, the idea of kuo-toa “madness” is that kuo-toa experience a world we can’t see; as a missionary, you’re dealing with people who are experiencing a dream you don’t perceive in addition to your own. But sure, IT’S POSSIBLE; it’s just a question of how you could do it. It’s probably something you’d need to start with a small community, creating a TINY Aureon to guide them and perhaps help convert others.

  10. Odd question but do the kuo toa just dream food into existence? I imagine if there’s no life in thr barren sees agriculture or aquaculture is near impossible

  11. Absolutely incredible, you are always so creative and imaginative with your worldbuilding and ideas for Eberron, but this might be my favourite single piece of worldbuilding you’ve done for this setting that I’ve ever seen you do (and I’ve been following you online from the old WotC forum days at the dawn of 3.x Eberron on up through these blog posts, so that is SAYING SOMETHING).

    Absolutely phenomenal, this makes me want to run an Eberron game again SO BADLY with all the ideas it’s giving me!

  12. Does the salt from the barren sea have any anti-scrying, psionic, dream etc properties if consumed, heated, or used as spell components?

    • I wouldn’t say that the salt has power on its own, but it absolutely makes sense that it’s a potent component that’s used in magic relating to dreams or nondetection.

  13. Oh so imagine if one of the Kuo-toa cities dream up an expansionist tyrant god. It’s certainly nightmarish. Only unlike most other nightmares this one would call upon them to expand.

    Completely unrelated but do the Riedrans have any plans or prototypes of a smaller, perhaps MOBILE hanbalani? Would be interesting if you could find a massive Riedran galleon that has its own hanbalani on it (enabling all sorts of minor psionics on the vehicle) powered by the many people on board.

    • Oh so imagine if one of the Kuo-toa cities dream up an expansionist tyrant god. It’s certainly nightmarish. Only unlike most other nightmares this one would call upon them to expand.

      The main issue is that it would be difficult for them to expand beyond the Barren Sea because the power of the gods is bound to the space, much like the Undying Court can’t extend its reach beyond Aerenal. But there could certainly be an expansionist god who drives its kuo-toa to enslave the other kuo-toa!

      Completely unrelated but do the Riedrans have any plans or prototypes of a smaller, perhaps MOBILE hanbalani?
      It’s never been discussed, but why not?

      • I’ve always hypothesized the Riedrans could start doing Protoss construction techniques; build in the homeland then warp in your buildings wherever they’re needed.

        • Given that they have a working psionic teleportion network, this seems quite plausible!

      • I thought the Undying Court was bound to Aerenal because the court needed the Irian zones to sustain itself? The Kuo-toa though no longer have the Dal Quor zones they once used so I assumed this effect simply has to do with the density of Kuo-toa in a specific area (which would mean massive schools of Kuo-toa moving together could move the effect with them to an extent). Or is it just meant to be a lingering effect of the now closed manifest zones?

        • Or is it just meant to be a lingering effect of the now closed manifest zones?

          You’re not wrong; in theory, the manifest zones to Dal Quor are severed and there’s no particular reason that they SHOULD be bound to a location. And yet, they’ve been around for FORTY THOUSAND YEARS and yet most people have never heard of them; if their gods were going to lead them on a crusade, why haven’t they already done it? One very simple principle is that while the manifest zones are gone, there are still many artifacts of the Quor-Toa—artifacts the kuo-toa don’t fully understand and can’t replicate, as they were forged when dreamshaping was possible—that enable the existence of the gods. So they COULD leave, but if they just set up shop in a distant ocean they wouldn’t be able to create gods with the same level of power. Which lends both to the idea that even after all this time they are still living in Quor-Toa ruins (built up, but on the foundation of lost glory) and that their gods won’t LET them leave.

          If you go with that idea but still want expansion you could say that a god figures this out and realizes that if they dig up the artifact and move it with them they could move. Again, the main question is why haven’t they already done it thousands of years ago?

          As a side note, I would also imagine that the kuo-toa don’t have forty thousand years of unbroken culture. Given the idea of nightmare gods, I think it’s quite likely that they’ve had civil wars, and cities that have collapsed and risen and collapsed and risen… and that many gods have either evolved with their people or died with their cities and been reborn in new forms as their cities rise again. I think it’s fun to imagine a single city/god that has endured all that time—the crown jewel of the Barren Sea—but I would think that there’s been a fair amount of churn over the course of millennia.

          • Oh I just got an idea for pearl-like Khyber shards with bound previous Age Quori that were used liberally by the Quor-Toa to power artifacts having degraded to being used as currency or just scattered across the ocean floor. And maybe one of them gets snatched by a nightmare beast that attacks a ship headed to Sharn.

  14. Thank you, Keith, for this article about the kuo-toa in Eberron! It really couldn’t have come at a better time for my campaign! Ever since Exploring Eberron came out, I’ve been pondering the ultimate fates of both the kar’lassa tied to Dal Quor and the Thirteenth Moon (Crya) as its Gateway.
    A major focus of my 5e campaign has involved mixing player characters from the ancient past (Age of Giants), when there was that extra moon, with those from the Last War era. But, I also have one PC that has migrated through the editions, from AD&D, where he became an apocalyptic messiah for the kuo-toa (this was his barbarian horde), through 4e (skipping 2 and 3.x) which took place in various domains of the Feywild (Thelanis), and is now running through a variety of Khyber shadow demiplanes (including the Vale of the Inner Sun).
    Ahh! To sail the Golden Sea!
    This is truly a Godsend (gods’ end!)!

    Thanks again!
    Oh, and BTW: I really loved that Savage Worlds Live G4 game you played through the Dream bubbles!

  15. Good lord Keith, I am the dude who asked the question in the patreon and I have to say, your ability to turn things that look boring into something amazing is incredible, Thanks a lot! You did far more than I could expect you to do after I made that question

  16. This has vast implications for my campaign!
    If the Kua Toa exist in two worlds, does that mean if the players visit them the Kua Toa might say “There’s one behind you!”.

    I’m also interested in Couatl in general. Just how “lost” are they?
    I’ve kind of assumed that they are extinct in most people’s opinions.
    And how conscious is a Silver Flame prison?
    For example, could a player go to Flamekeep, visit the flame prison and ask it about one of the other Overlords?

    • “Theres one behind you” referring specifically to a Quori that is stalking the party.

    • If the Kua Toa exist in two worlds, does that mean if the players visit them the Kua Toa might say “There’s one behind you!”.
      Sure! But when the adventurers look around, they won’t see anything.

      I’m also interested in Couatl in general. Just how “lost” are they? I’ve kind of assumed that they are extinct in most people’s opinions.
      And how conscious is a Silver Flame prison? For example, could a player go to Flamekeep, visit the flame prison and ask it about one of the other Overlords?

      These are good questions, but they aren’t related to the Barren Sea. If Patreon patrons ask about couatl it could be the subject of a future IFAQ.

  17. What would a kuo-toa see upon entering Riedra, particularly around the monoliths?

    • I’d imagine it would be the overlap of the controlled, structured dream that the monolith creates. Same if they went to Dar Qat in Xen’drik

  18. Keith, I just wanted to say that I admire you for your creativity, I wish I still had my creativity which wouldn’t be nearly a quarter of yours, I’ve lost my creativity either because of my mental illness or because of the medicine I take to treat my illness.

    Thanks for making Eberron, it is my favorite D&D world!

  19. Hey Keith, I was thinking about the kar’lassa, and how the Dal Quor’s one has been lost.

    I know that exploring eberron says that no Kuo’toa lives in the thunder sea, but what if there is a thriving secret city of Quor’toa around Dal quor’s Kar’lassa, hidden in the depths of the thunder sea? Perhaps the Kar’lassa is able to maintain the last manifest zone of Dal quor?

    Like, could it be Eberron’s atlantis? the thriving remains of an ancient civilization thought in ruins? Perhaps they are in a 40,000 old conflict with Dal quor, who wants to use it as a means to be able to escape to the material plane!

  20. Great article!

    But now I’m left trying to figure out how to plausibly have kuo-toa in Khyber, since I was hoping to run Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. Perhaps the waters in the Shrine link to the Barren Sea? Their mad goddess forced them into a war with the Umbragen Drow, in dry tunnels, and with no discernable advantage to be gained from it?

    • Any sea could have abysses that contain caves linked to Khyber. Perhaps some Kuo Toa or even Quor Toa expedition ventured into an undersea abyss to never return, trapped in Khyber by a collapsing cavern and forced to adapt there.

      • And “Never to return” doesn’t work because the module expressly has a way to teleport to the presence of their goddess … who would appear to be physically present in their home town. Unless they are being physically transported to the deity’s presence in Dal Quor? I’m not clear on how the dream-deity manifests.

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