Dragonmarks 2/20: Demons and Deathless!

I’d planned on talking about Codex this week, but for a number of reasons I’m holding back on that for another week. However, if you’re going to be at Wizard World Portland Comic Con this weekend, I’ll be discussing it at my Eberron & Beyond talk, Saturday at 2 PM.

Today I’m just going to pull some questions out of the Eberron mailbag. As always, these are just my opinions, and some contradict canon material. So there!

Are the demons of the planes connected to the fiends of Khyber? Is a balor from Fernia Khyber-spawned?

Yes and no. The progenitor wyrms created all of the planes, and some show the influence of one progenitor over the others. So a balor from Fernia is Khyber-spawned in the sense that it was created by the progenitor wyrm Khyber… but it has no innate connection to the physical Khyber found in the material plane.

Tied to this is the fact that fiends embody specific concepts. Fernia is fire. Benevolent outsiders from Fernia embody the positive aspects of fire: its light drives away the darkness; its warmth keeps us alive; it purifies wounds and drives off dangerous predators; it gives the heat that fuels the forge. Fiends of Fernia embody the negative aspects of fire. Chaotic fiends embody the terrifying destructive force of it, the uncontrollable flames that consume homes and cities. Lawful fiends embody the terrible uses fire can be put to—fire as a weapon of war or torture, harnessed as an intentional engine of destruction.

A balor of Fernia and a balor of Khyber have the same game statistics. But they represent different things. They will have very different personalities and goals, and I would personally have them be physically distinct from one another. The balor of Fernia is an embodiment of wild fire, and should be flame incarnate. The fiends of Khyber are more generally spirits of terror and pure malevolent evil; a Khyberian balor will wield fire, but it will be less fiery in its appearance, and interested in a broader range of goals; it will also owe fealty to one of the overlords of the Age of Demons, which will further determine its theme and behavior.

I have a follow up. Say that the aforementioned Balor of Fernia found its way to Eberron. Through a portal or summoning ritual or whatever. Would said Balor fall in line with one of the Overlords and its agents, or would the fiery Balor have its own agenda.

A Fernian balor embodies the terrifying chaotic destructive power of fire. As such, it might be tricked into serving the ends of an Overlord, but its prime interest will be laying waste to cities and otherwise spreading fire and fear. The key point here is that extraplanar spirits embody ideas, and that determines their goals and purpose. If there is an Overlord that offers them the opportunity to pursue their ends or help them in other ways (protection or vengeance from enemies, for example) they might ally. But there’s no innate all-Balors-must-serve-Overlord-Bob thing going on.

One of the most detailed sources on the Lords of Dust is the article Eternal Evil, written back when Dragon was a print magazine. This includes bios of six members of the Council of Ashtakala. One is a Fernian pit fiend who serves the Truth in the Darkness, and another is a Mabaran succubus allied with the Oathbreaker.

It has been confirmed that dinosaurs roam the Talenta Plains, but in one of the adventure books I believe, there was a mention of a Swordtooth (Tyrannosaurus) in Khorvaire. Are dinosaurs present in Qbarra? If so, how are they different from their cousins in Xendrik?

I don’t think that it has ever been stated in any canon source. But my opinion is that Q’barra is a cradle for reptilian life on Khorvaire. The lizardfolk domesticated dinosaurs long before the Talentans did, and it may well have been the expansionist dragonborn who brought domesticated dinosaurs to the Talenta Plains. If you haven’t read it, I’d advise you to check out my Explore Q’barra article, which discusses the reptilian cultures of Q’barra in more detail.

At the core, I don’t think there are any fundamental differences between dinosaurs of Xen’drik and Q’barra. However, Q’barra was once the domain of the demon overlord known as Masvirik, AKA the Cold Sun. Masvirik has the power to corrupt and influence reptilian creatures, as seen in the Poison Dusk humanoids and the corrupted dragon Rhashaak. As reptilian creatures, dinosaurs could certainly be touched by the Cold Sun. I would expect such tainted dinosaurs to have half-fiend traits. If you refer to the Explore Q’Barra articles I wrote for DDI, I could also see dinosaurs being used as dusk shard vessels. So you might have a swordtooth possessed by an ancient demon!

Given the history of elves and giant magic, would giants have also had a number of Deathless or did the elves do that alone?

There’s a few conflicting versions of this in canon material. This is MY opinion on the matter.

The elves didn’t learn how to create deathless from the giants. On the contrary, Aeren’s death was the primary spark that led to all three of the elves’ traditions. Aeren led the elves out of Xen’drik and died in the process. The elves had lost their savior, and also had time to reflect on how many of their greatest heroes had been lost in battle against the giants. While no one can know with certainty the final fate of the dead, what is know is that souls go to Dolurrh and appear to fade away – that the dead are truly lost. The elves swore that their next heroes would not be lost so easily… but the settlers of Aerenal came from many different cultures, and they split along cultural lines.

  • The warrior progenitors of the Tairnadal tradition chose to preserve the spirits of their heroes by becoming their avatars in the world; the dead heroes live on through their descendants.
  • The founders of the Undying Court sought to ensure that their greatest heroes simply never died. However, their techniques rely on positive energy: the devotion freely given by those who worship the Court, and by the massive manifest zones to Irian that exist on Aerenal.
  • The flaw with both of the preceding approaches is that they depend on living elves. If no elves embody a Tairnadal ancestor, it will be lost. If no one worshipped the Undying Court, its power would fade. The line of Vol was determined to give their heroes the power to survive at any cost; even if the last living elf dies, Erandis Vol will still exist. They drew on the techniques of the Qabalrin elves and developed the foundation of modern necromancy.

We’ve never described the giants as having a religious culture like that of the Undying Court, which serves as a source of positive energy. It could be done with the existence of a powerful manifest zone, but I don’t really see it. Deathless is the most passive form of undeath, and the giants of Xen’drik were anything but passive. What I’ve suggested elsewhere is that the titans cheated death by becoming Vestiges… so an entirely different path.

Is there religious intrigue in Eberron? Factions of the SF attempting to split or vying for power? Jealousy of the SH?

In a word? Yes.

To go into more detail, there’s intrigue within and between all of the faiths of Eberron, from the Silver Flame to the Path of Light. The Sovereign Host is broken into more sects than you can shake an Octogram at. The Silver Flame already has defined intrigue between the core faith, the Pure Flame, the Whispering Flame, the Stormreach separatists, factions loyal to different cardinals and more… and that’s not even bringing the Ghaash’kala, Shulassakar, or Cold Sun Federation into the equation. The Blood of Vol has intrigue between those who believe in the core principles of the faith, and groups loyal to Erandis or who only see the faith as a path to power. Within the Path of Light you have the passive traditionalists of the Adaran path and those who advocate aggressive action. And that’s just what we’ve seen so far; there’s certainly room to add more intrigue if you want it.

Do you consider Khorvaire’s economy to be industrial or post-industrial?

I’d say it’s an industrial society moving towards a post-industrial economy. You have the magewright as the driving force of the magical economy, but the future lies in the new ideas of the Twelve and the Arcane Congress. Of course, Khorvaire has an economy unlike our world in that there are a great deal of monopolies. The Dragonmarked Houses have proprietary control of many vital tools; it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you can’t make a warforged without a creation forge. Of course, it could be that brilliant innovators—such as PC artificers or wizards—could find some way to break one or more of those monopolies.

What are the things hanging from the belt of the Lord of Blades on the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide?

Only Wayne Reynolds knows for sure. However, if I had to come up with an answer, I’d say that they are the schema-keys of Cannith artificers he’s killed.

What would an Eberron-inspired arcane lighthouse look like for you?

It entirely depends on who’s making it. Generally speaking, it would simply be a very large everburning lantern – a beacon of cold flame with amplifying lenses. The Aereni elves would be more likely to tap ambient positive energy, creating something more graceful and without any “flame”. Thrane might do something similar tapping the power of the Silver Flame, in which case it would have religious trappings, while one built during the war in Karrnath by Blood of Vol engineers might be empowered by bound ghosts.