Dragonmarks: Exotic Races in Eberron

The original Eberron Campaign Setting promises “If it exists in D&D, then it has a place in Eberron.” Over the years, one of the most common questions I’ve heard is “How do I use (insert unusual race) in Eberron?” How would people react to an Illumian in Sharn? Where would you put a Goliath? Recently I’ve been talking with Ruty Rutenberg of Eberron livestream Maze Arcana about tieflings and aasimars; over in Facebook’s Eberron Enthusiast group, someone was asking about playing an imp. In the weeks ahead I may look more closely at specific races and how I’d use them. But let’s start with a general discussion about introducing new races to the setting.

As a general rule, I prefer to avoid adding too many new races to the common tapestry of the world. In my mind, the streets of Fairhaven don’t look like a Mos Eisley cantina. I prefer to focus on fewer races but to make sure each one has a strong place. Warforged are defined by their role in the Last War and the chaos caused by their emancipation. Shifters are haunted by the Lycanthropic Purge and tensions with the Silver Flame. When we made dragonborn a common race in Fourth Edition, we did so by co-opting the existing story of lizardfolk in Q’barra, explaining that most humans couldn’t tell the difference between them. For the Eladrin we introduced the concept of the Feyspires, explaining that while the Eladrin were an ancient race they had always remained hidden in the shadows – until the current disaster that brought the Feyspires into the light. In this way, each race had a place in the world deep enough to generate story, without radically rewriting the setting. So that’s a starting point. If a new race exists as a true race – with a significant population and established culture – I want to think about how it fits in and the impact it should’ve had on history.

With that said, part of point of “If it exists in D&D, then it has a place in Eberron” is that there is plenty of room for unique entities. As a member of an unusual race, you could be…

  • A strange effect of the Mourning. You were once human, but you were caught in the Mourning and it transformed you.
  • A unique creation of Mordain the Fleshweaver, or one of the Daelkyr. Perhaps you escaped your creator, or perhaps you were released as part of an experiment.
  • A mutation caused due to your being conceived and born in a manifest zone/during a coterminous phase; your inhuman nature is a reflection of the influence of one or more of the planes. You could be unique, or this could be a mutation known to occur in this place at coterminous phases – so you could potentially encounter others of your kind.
  • A member of a hidden community. Your people could have a secret city in Xen’drik never seen by human eyes. You might come from a demiplane in Khyber that only touches on Eberron in a few places. You could even come from another plane, like the Eladrin; the Kenku could easily be from Lamannia or Thelanis, depending how you want to depict them. Or you could be hidden among a better known race, just as the dragonborn of Q’barra are confused with lizardfolk.
  • You might not be a member of a new race at all. If the player is primarily interested in the MECHANICS of the race as opposed to the story behind it, you have the power as DM to simply reskin that race as something else. In a 4E Eberron campaign, I played a character who was mechanically a Deva avenger with shaman subclass. However, my STORY was that I was a human peasant from Cyre who had become a host for the vengeful spirits of thousands of Cyrans who died in the Mourning. The Deva race is about having “memories of a thousand lives”; in my case, those were thousands of lives of the ghosts haunting me. The Shaman subclass gave me the ability to summon a spirit – one of my haunting spirits temporarily manifesting through me. The idea wasn’t that I was a trained warrior, but rather that the ghosts infused me with the powers of an avenger. The point being that I had all the abilities of a Deva, but we didn’t actually add a new race into the setting; we said that I was a human modified by magic.

All of this comes to the most critical question: WHY does the player want to be a member of this race? Roleplaying is collaborative storytelling, and as DM you are working with the player to create a story you’ll both enjoy. Rather than you deciding unilaterally how a race fits into the world, the critical first step is to identify the story the player is trying to create. Is the player only interested in the mechanics of the race, in which case reskinning is an option? Are they tied to the exact appearance of the race, or could you reimagine it to better fit the setting? Is it important to them to be part of a community of their own kind, or are they OK with the concept of being the only member of this species that exists in the world? Are there other elements that define the character they want to play?

For example, looking to the question “How would people feel about a tiefling in Sharn?” In my opinion, the people of Sharn would have very little reaction to a tiefling. Devils play a minor role in the world, so common folk would be more likely to consider the tiefling to be a shaved minotaur than touched by infernal power… and in Sharn in particular, the locals are used to seeing gargoyles, harpies, goblins, warforged, and even medusas. The guy with red skin and horns is exotic, sure, but I’m not going to get a mob together. But if the player specified that she wanted to be persecuted and feared – that the whole concept was that her infernal blood was a curse that made life difficulty for her – then I’d find a way to make it work. My first question would be if she was set on the general devil-horns appearance of the Tiefling, or if we might reskin it to have more of a rakshasa flavor, given that rakshasa are the most common fiends of Eberron; if so, it would be easy to play up the idea of stories of these rakshasa halfbreeds and persecution by the Church of the Silver Flame. If the devil-appearance was important, then I could easily run with it and say that people in this campaign are familiar with devils… because it’s an easy change for me to make to give the player the story she’s looking for, and I’m comfortable doing it. With that said, tieflings DO have a few defined roles in the setting, and I’ll talk about them in more detail in a future post… but you get the idea.

With that said, it’s also OK to conclude that a particular concept just doesn’t work in a campaign. Given that it’s collaborative storytelling, it’s OK for you to conclude that YOU aren’t happy with the direction the story would have to go… in which case hopefully you and the player can work together to come up with something that works for both of you. As I mentioned above, I was recently in a discussion with a DM putting together a shades-of-grey campaign set at Rekkenmark Academy, and one of the players wanted to be an imp dedicated to Dol Arrah. Through discussion, the idea was worked out that the character could be an imp-like entity tied to the Three Faces of War (since the player really wanted the ABILITIES of the imp, which were more in line with the Mockery than Dol Arrah) conjured to serve as a sort of spiritual mascot for the mortal characters. But ultimately, the player was deeply attached to the character being a pure embodiment of LAW and GOOD, and that character just didn’t belong in the noir environment the DM was creating with this Rekkenmark story; even if the DM allowed the player to use the character, the player wouldn’t get the EXPERIENCE they wanted… so ultimately, better to come up with an idea better suited to the campaign.

All of which is to say: you CAN find a place for any concept in Eberron, but that doesn’t always mean you should. Make sure that you understand the experience the player is looking for, and that the interpretation you’re using will actually provide that experience.


One point that’s come up in the comments discussion is how to incorporate the subraces of Fifth Edition into Eberron. Are Tairnadal High Elves or Wood Elves?

In my opinion, most subraces in 5E are designed for character optimization as opposed to story impact. If you’re going to play a wizard, you want to be a High Elf; if you’re going to be a ranger, play a Wood Elf. The system isn’t tied to any setting and there’s no built in reason that you HAVE to make Wood Elves and High Elves culturally distinct… so in my campaign, my answer is that all the common Elves of Eberron – Tairnadal, Aereni, Phiarlan, Thuranni – can be either Wood Elves or High Elves, as the player chooses. Essentially, subrace is a reflection of individual aptitude and specialization. WITHIN EBERRON, no one will ever use the terms “high elf” or “wood elf”; it’s simply a question of whether your Tairnadal elf is more attuned to arcane magic or to the wilds.

I’d take the same approach to most of the common subraces in the 5E handbook. A Mror Dwarf can be Hill or Mountain; a Talenta halfling can be Lightfoot or Stout. The only place where I’d separate subrace is where the subrace has a unique story, place in the world, or abilities that should have a notable cultural impact. So Wood/High Elves are simply personal aptitudes within the general “elf” race… while Drow and Eladrin are unique races/cultures with their own societies and stories. Mror dwarves can be Hill or Mountain, but Duergar are something else entirely.

As always, this is a personal choice. But to me it’s a case of most subraces serving the purpose of class specialization – and there being no compelling reason to force a player who wants to be a Valenar wizard (and there are many mighty wizards in Tairnadal legend) to be a wood elf when they’d rather have the mechanical benefits of the high elf.

In future posts I’ll talk about ways I might work particular unusual races into the setting. What races would you like to see me discuss? What unusual races have you used in your campaign?

53 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: Exotic Races in Eberron

  1. I think dragonborns fit perfectly in Eberron. In my game, the ancient Eyes of Chronepsis would punish rogue dragons who attempted to temper with the Prophecy by binding them in humanoid forms. Much like a human thief might lose her hand, a powerful rogue dragon would be bound in a humanoid body, robbed of her intellect and formidable magic, and forced to grovel at the feet of the other dragons like the rest of the insignificant humanoids. To the haughty dragons this was the most humiliating punishment, and also possibly one of the most efficient. The original dragonborns were essentially forced to serve as obedient slaves to their kin. The Eyes of Chronepsis would argue this treatment was ethical; while a human who betrayed her nation would be hanged until dead for all to see, rogue dragons were permitted to live… albeit in a form that, they believed, posed no threat to the Prophecy and the great scheme of things.

    This practice probably stopped shortly after the discovery of dragonmarks on humanoids.

    The original dragonborns were some of the mightiest true dragons that ever lived. Modern-day dragonborns are the result of millennia of interbreeding and genetic dilution, yet still, every dragonborn can probably trace her lineage to one of those original, extremely powerful “true” dragonborns. To this day dragonborns serve as slaves, priests, servants, warriors, and pets to the great dragons of Argonessen, worshipping them as gods; the dragonborns native to Khorvaire have all but forgotten the origins of their race following the devastation of Haka’torvhak.

    At least a dozen dragons are remembered in the annals of the Eyes of Chronepsis as the first true dragonborns. They were all frighteningly powerful wyrms who have betrayed Argonessen and tried to alter the Prophecy for their own ends; the Emerald Claw and Vvaraak might have been among those first dragonborns. It is said that at least one dragon forsaw his downfall and altered the Prophecy to arrange his vengeance; one of these days, this dragon will be reborn in the body of one of his modern descendants, and rise up to take his revenge.

    • Interesting idea! Have you had any dragonborn PCs run with this background? How did the story turn out?

      • It’s still ongoing! One of my players wanted to play a dragonborn, so to tailor the game more to my players I wanted to expand the place of the dragonborn race in the world. The official material gave a great place to start and I just continued building it further in the same spirit. The players will soon embark on an expedition to some sacred dragonborn ruins in Q’barra, we’ll see how the story develops 🙂

        Funnily enough, a different player chose to play a tiefling, so I also developed the history of Ohr Kaluun a little further, as well as the life and culture in the Venomous Demesne. There the pacts of the warlock are a way of life, even the cornerstone of the society; families often sacrifice their firstborn child as a “tithe”, things like that. I’m having lots of fun building up those ideas. (I also think that, to address the horns vs stripes issue, the original Ohr Kaluun tieflings made pacts with a *specific* horned capital-F Fiend, possibly an Overlord, rather than just the plural “fiends”; however the name of that entity has been lost to history when Ohr Kaluun fell. Most modern tieflings generally just continue to practice ancient misremembered rituals more as a religious tradition than practical magic).

    • Sorry, I’m stealing this. Along with the fact of Q’barran dragonborn being indistinguishable from lizardfolk, it’ll give any players landing in that jungle a nasty surprise.

  2. I’m a huge fan of how you portrayed Sheshka and the Medusae. I would love o know more about Cazhaak Draal and their life. That they protect and watch a main entry into the Khyber is interesting too. Also, thumbing through an old Slayer’s Guide about Harpies reminded me of their rare bards, the Stormsingers who are also their historians. The thought of a Harpy bard/historian is beyond intriguing, for explorers and adventurers to have a need to use. She’d still be capricious I’d imagine, but the lore/history born on a wave of magical song is just mind candy. Any thoughts?

    • Regarding Medusas, I assume you’ve read the Dragonshard on Medusas from back in the day? Regarding Harpies, I’d certainly like to explore them in more depth at some point. With all of the creatures of Droaam, the point to me is that WE see the harpy’s song as a weapon, because that’s typically how adventurers encounter it. But for the harpy, it’s a unique tool; what role would it play in their culture and society?

  3. As a rule, if I can tie the race to a plane, I call it a half celestial or tiefling and call it a day: this includes bladelings (Shavarrath) genasi (Fernia, Risia or Lammania), wildlings (Lammania), hengayokai (Thelanis), shadar-kai (4e version, Dolurrh), shades (Mabar), and devas (Syriana).

    Kapak draconians are yuan-ti or shulassakar. Shardminds are psiforged.

    I note that goliaths are mentioned in Secrets of Xen’drik (p. 61), the Players Guide to Eberron (p. 31 and 56), and the 4e EPG (p. 37).

    • I note that goliaths are mentioned in Secrets of Xen’drik (p. 61), the Players Guide to Eberron (p. 31 and 56), and the 4e EPG (p. 37).

      The Player’s Guide to Eberron includes a LOT of race and subrace thoughts – there’s goliaths in the mountains! There’s communities of chaos gnomes in Zilargo! These are options you can use, but personally I ignore almost all of them… and if someone came to me wanting to play a chaos gnome, I’d try to come up with a deeper story (or explain that he’s just planetouched by Kythri, or the result of magical experimentation). The PGtE approach largely just shoves them into the setting with no serious consideration of role in the world or history – leading to the Mos Eisley view of the world – and I prefer to have more depth in my campaign.

      • So how would you treat Goliaths, if we ignore for a moment how they are placed in the official material. I always thought that just putting them on mountain tops and forgetting them was a huge wasted opportunity.

        • I have the goliaths as a descendant of ogres and humans in Syrkarn, Sarlona. I’m not sure how the Inspired see them, but I basically replace the psionic half-giant from 3.5 with them. The few Khorvairans who’d know what a goliath is, generally live in the Lhazaar Principalities, where the Inspired have a significant presnece. Anywhere else, they’re thought of as big, dumb, ogres, whatever the truth may be.

        • As Goliaths have a stone theme, an easy answer would be to shift them from above mountains to below them, and say that the race was created by the Daelkyr Orlassk, who supposedly created medusas and basilisks; he makes things that turn other things to stone, he might as wake mold things out of stone. This could mean that there’s a strong Dragon Below streak running through Goliath culture – perhaps their ritual games are about earning passage to the Inner Sun. But Orlaask could just as easily created them and forgotten them; note that the medusas have no love of the Dragon Below and don’t acknowledge Orlaask as their creator. So you could keep as much of their culture as you want, but make them live IN the mountains as well as ON them. I’d be inclined to keep them to a single mountain/Khyber community – never widespread – but you could do more if you chose.

          Another option would be to drop them in the Demon Wastes, again living both in mountains and below them. By this concept they’d be descended from orcs; perhaps they were transformed by an Overlord in the Age of Demons, and freed from its influence when it was bound. This allows you to have multiple communities if you want them but also explain why they’ve never been known in Khorvaire proper; stick them deep in the Wastes, and a PC might be the first to venture past the Labyrinth. They could primarily be a form of Carrion Tribe or tied to Kalok Shash, but I’d be inclined to make them entirely neutral – living in the Wastes, frequently fighting the Carrion Tribes, but mysteriously unaffected by demonic influence. This gives a lot of possibility for the barbarian-discovering-civilization archetype.

        • FWIW, I developed them, as part of the same race as Firbolg, as a culture that lives in remote, usually well hidden, mountain and forest communities or around 200 individuals, and their communities are also libraries. They live longer than Goliath elsewhere, and like other long lived races in Eberron, I felt I should figure out how they deal with being so long lived.
          So, they have a cultural fixation on chronicling the world. So, before a Goliath or Firbolg can be considered an adult, they must venture into the world and collect new stories, lore, etc, and write a book. Every 20 years, communities gather with other communities from across their continent in someone’s library city, and young adults present their works for review. Elders read the works, and give the young person an adult name based on what they have contributed to The Great Library, which is what they call their entire culture.

          Every 100 years, every single community gathers in an ancient stronghold in Adar, which is nestled so deeply in the mountains that the chances of an outsider finding it, even with flight, are extremely small. Here, the oldest of their kind, and the original copies of their most important works, reside.

          These meetings are called the Thing and the Allthing, and besides dealing with books, they also deal with issues facing the Great Library, settle disputes, do some cross-community match making, and celebrate their holy days together.
          Their primary faith is actually related to the Silver Flame, but focuses on the idea that great evil can only be averted through knowledge.
          Their impact on history has been obfuscated intentionally to keep their existence hidden, just as they disguise themselves as elves or half ogres, or the like, when they go out into the world, but it has been their honor to share their knowledge in secret with many of history’s great heroes.

  4. In my campaign there was a npc half dragon/half warforged. He had a very peculiar story, but I’d love to know how would you work on that and how do you think people would react to such a creature (or to any half dragon? Would it be so different?)
    Btw I normally agree with you that normal races with a place and a background are better for players characters. I prefer to work more on monsters: how a centaur, a slaad or an efreeti is different in eberron?
    Or for classes: where is the place for a dragon shaman, a wu Jen or a spellthief in Eberron?

    Ps I remember we had a little talk on how to use hellborns in Eberron somewhere. Maybe if you find it out it could be a nice add to the post.

  5. I first encountered the dragonborn in 4E and later stumbled across them for v3.5 in “Races of the Dragon”. I haven’t had a chance to look at 4E Eberron in-depth but the premise I was working with was that the dragonborn were Seren who were blessed by their dragon gods.

    I like the idea of the Eberron teiflings looking more like the rakshasas.

    I may find the answer as I read the rest of the Eberron books but I did have a question about the Elves and their subraces. From what I can tell, the elves in v3.5 are high elves so that means that the Valenar and Aerenal elves default to high elves and you specifically mention in “Player’s Guide to Eberron” that all the elves with dragonmarks are high elves. However, the eladrin seem to take the place of the high elves in 4E but they are all from Feyspires as far as Eberron is concerned, no Aerenal.

    So, the question is two-fold: where do the wood elves fit in, regardless of edition, and how does this change in 5e where you have high, wood, and eladrin subraces all available? Thanks in advance!

    • Not Keith, but if it helps, I always just use the two interchangeably in my 4e games. They are just elves that have a stronger tie to the Fey or magic than other elves, or in Eberron I have often used Eladrin as older elves. Either way, a family could easily have both, and both would be called elves or Eladrin based on cultural circumstance and setting.

      Just my 2c, in case it is useful.

    • So, the question is two-fold: where do the wood elves fit in, regardless of edition, and how does this change in 5e where you have high, wood, and eladrin subraces all available?

      MY answer is to treat “High Elf” and “Wood Elf” as expressions of individual aptitude and talent as opposed to genetically and culturally distinct races. The core 5E system has no inherent setting, and the purpose of most subraces is to optimize a race for a particular class. High Elves are better wizards; Wood Elves are better rogues and rangers. But there are exceptional Tairnadal wizards, and Thuranni is a house of rogues.

      Essentially, looking at the Wood/High subraces, I don’t see a compelling REASON to force that choice on an entire race – to force someone who wants to play a Valenar wizard to do it as a Wood Elf. So this is a case where I’d reskin the core rules to better suit the setting. Tairnadal, Aereni, and City Elves are all ELVES – and an elf from any of those cultures can choose either the Wood or High Elf subrace as a reflection of their personal aptitude, be it a talent for arcane magic or comfort in the wilds. MOST Tairnadal would end up as wood elves and most Aereni would be high elves, but it’s not forced on the player.

      With that said, the Drow and Eladrin are more distinctive both mechanically and culturally, and each one has a clear and distinct place in the setting. So I’d keep THOSE subraces as distinct entities. But I’d treat Wood Elf and High Elf as personal expression as opposed to being unique races.

      I’d apply the same test to ANY subrace in 5E. Does the subrace NEED to be restrictive? Looking at the dwarves and halflings, I see no compelling reason to say “ALL TALENTA HALFLINGS MUST BE STOUT” or “ALL MROR DWARVES MUST BE MOUNTAIN DWARVES, AND ALL OTHER DWARVES ARE HILL DWARVES.” The function of these subraces is primarily class optimization, and I’d leave it as that – a degree of personal expression. Derro and Duergar are dramatically different races with physical and cultural differences; Hill and Mountain don’t have to be so different, and I have no problem with a single family of Dwarves having both subraces within it.

      • “So this is a case where I’d reskin the core rules to better suit the setting.”

        This needs to be added to the opening list of “Ten Things You Need to Know” because it’s something I so often forget to do and get caught up digging through books looking for an “official” ruling.

        • My ruling for high vs wood elves in Eberron is to let players choose between individual racial traits, rather than the whole package.

          So an elf character would get elf weapon proficiencies, and could choose to have either +1 int or +1 wis, and two of: knowing a cantrip, speaking an extra language, 35ft land speed, and hiding in foliage.

          This way, there’s no lore OR mechanical distinction between elven “subraces”; only permutations of different inborn aptitudes and upbringing.

          I do similar things for dwarves, gnomes, and halflings.

      • “Tairnadal, Aereni, and City Elves are all ELVES – and an elf from any of those cultures can choose either the Wood or High Elf subrace as a reflection of their personal aptitude, be it a talent for arcane magic or comfort in the wilds. ”

        This is exactly my point. One thing D&D players are prone to miss is the fact that “race” and “culture” are completely different things, especially if you put in the mix the Anthropological concept of ethnicity. While “race” can be understood as a genetic group, culture is a series of elements like mind set, tradition, laws, cousin, garments, art, social etiquette, religions, etc.

        Looking in our world, we can have a single culture made by many different peoples. For example, the Historical Celts weren’t a huge group from a single origin; the “Celts” were, in truth, a large assortment of different tribes, with individuals of very different phenotypes, living in very different areas, but they shared a common material culture (i.e. technological knowledge) and very, very similar religious and social structures. They were different groups who shared the same general mindset.

        The same can be roughly said about the “western civilization” which we live in nowadays. Lots of peoples from different countries share common cultural traits that can be understood as the same culture, be them European descendants, African descendants, Native American Descendants, etc. Sure, there are lots of variations on how this “culture” is understood but, in general, is much more a question of ‘subcultures” rather than “subraces”.

        In traditional D&D games, cultures are tightly tied to a “race” or “subrace”, but this kind of setup is very unrealistic, especially in settings were those “races” interact all the time in commerce, conflicts and world changing events. But at least two campaign settings put aside that kind of approach: first, the “dead” AD&D Al-Qadin, and also Eberron. In both settings, race does not matter much, but culture (and cultural belonging) matters a lot.

        This is why I do not see any problem at all in using subraces in an Eberron game. As it was said here before, individuals of both races can belong to the same culture. Going farther, I think that in some cases, not even the main race matters. For example, a “Reacher” (someone who was born in the Eldeen Reaches and share the local culture) can easily be a Human or a Shifter, maybe even a Half-Orc or Half-Elf.

        In that case, the four individuals from my example, being from four different “races” would probably unite in defense of the Reaches against people, lets say, from Karrnath who could be also humans, shifters, hal-orc or half-elves, but who do not have few cultural background in common – and this is one of the beauties of Eberron Campaigns Setting.

        • In traditional D&D games, cultures are tightly tied to a “race” or “subrace”, but this kind of setup is very unrealistic, especially in settings were those “races” interact all the time in commerce, conflicts and world changing events.


          • This reminds me of something I wanted to talk about some time ago: Languages. I understand why D&D has things like all elves speak elven, and not 20 different languages from elven language group, but it’s always somewhat versimilitude-breaking to me. I understand most people don’t care about linguistic of fictional world, but I always found this topic interesting.

            Especially with Eberron, there are things like elemental languages when there aren’t elemental planes in the traditional sense (except Fernia), all demons (i.E. CE fiends) speaking Abyssal despite there being no Abyss and originating from about 5 or so different planes, Argonessen dragons, random kobold tribes from Khorvaire and troglodytes that never left depths of Khyber speaking draconic, etc.., all relicts of default D&D rules concerning linguistics.

            In some cases, one language makes sense… elves are very conservative, so it’s not hard to imagine there’s one elven language (perhaps developed from (non-canon) mix of Thelanian and ancient Giant (well, one or more of the ancient giant languages) that didn’t changed much since Aeren’s times thanks to both tradition and the fact that the original speakers are still there. But still, there may be notable drift amongst elves from Dragonmarked Houses who have more contact with other races.

            Common (or Galifarian, in my mind starting as pidgin of goblinoid languages the natives used, Old Sarlonan from the human newcomers, gnome (because they are communication experts) and elven) is changing much more rapidly, even with long-lived individuals resisting changes, language used on Khorvaire today is very different from the language of Galifar I… and with the Last War, regional differences are greater too.

            Keith, would you mind sharing your thoughts on this topic?

            • Keith, would you mind sharing your thoughts on this topic?

              It’s always been a case of sacrificing logic in the service of gameplay: it doesn’t make sense that “All humans speak Common”, but it’s far more convenient at the table than to say “Well, since no one speaks Khunan, you can’t actually talk to this NPC.” I may write more about this in the next potpourri Q&A, but…

              In general I accept common tongues for purposes of convenience. My assertion is that Common is the common tongue of the humans of Khorvaire; Old Common / Riedran is the common tongue of Sarlona; Goblin is the common tongue of the monsters of Khorvaire; Giant is the common tongue of the monsters of Xen’drik.

              WITH THAT SAID, my answer is to say that there are many dialects and additional languages… but that almost everyone speaks a common tongue, and we simply don’t track those lesser languages. So in other words, there IS a Gnoll language, but you don’t need to know it because every Gnoll you meet will speak either Goblin or Khorvaire. Likewise, the humans of Valenar may speak Khunan and the people of the Lhaazar Principalities may speak Rhiavi, but all of them also speak Common, so players can always communicate using that. Even among the elves, Elvish IS a common tongue; there may be a half-dozen elvish sub-languages, but every elf understands Elvish, so that’s what’s used among mixed groups.

              The basic question is making it a thing that adds flavor and enhances story as opposed to LIMITING story. If you want to have an NPC who only speaks Khunan, it’s easy to say “Oh, Bob, since you were raised in Valenar, you know Khunan; you can translate” – and that can actually add more depth to Bob’s backstory. It’s less fun to have characters have to spend points on eight languages they may never use, or to constantly run into NPCs they can’t communicate with.

              But the short form is that I’d consider all of the major D&D languages to be “common” languages, and that there are regional dialects and diverse languages underlying them – but that these are largely about adding cosmetic flavor to a scene, and a character can be assumed to know the local language of a place he’s from or has spent a lot of time in.

      • I have a player in my current campaign who, after reading Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, really wanted to play an eladrin. The campaign revolves around exploring Xen’drik (I’m setting Tomb of Annihilation in Eberron, it just begged to be there rather than Realms), so I took a page from the 4e PGtE that the first eladrin feyspire to manifest in Eberron did so in Xen’drik during the rise of the giants. This feyspire was destroyed and all the eladrin enslaved. So all modern elves are descended from eladrin. The player is simultaneously seeking a way to potentially return all the feyspires to Thelanis (as they’ve all become “stuck” in Eberron since the Day of Mourning) while making ties to the elves residing in Eberron. As the Valenar, Xen’drik drow, and Aerneni elves all consider themselves to be the truest expression of elven culture, it’s been interesting. And it’s actually given me a lot of ways to transfer Tomb to Eberron. Now Omu (I changed the name) was a city of eladrin powerful enough to fend off the giants at the height of their power. The race has actually enriched the campaign.

  6. In my main campaign, a player wanted to be a samsaran from Pathfinder, a race tied heavily into reincarnation cycles. The info about the race plays into reincarnation mythology, and samsarans who fall off the path of light may reincarnate as a rakshasa. Using this information, I have the original samsaran as a small group of mortals chosen by the couatls to channel their essence right before they bound themselves to the Flame. This way they could ensure they would have everlasting champions of good to fight the immortal agents of Khyber.

    A 3.5 race that I personally enjoy is the Tibbit, from Dragon magazine and the Dragon Compendium. In this I just tie their origins to once-familiars of dopplegangers. Though being intentionally created by the Fleshweaver is something that never occured to me.

  7. Hi Keith. I’ve started my first campaign (5e) as a player in Eberron, and I am currently playing a forest gnome from Zilargo who has chosen (or perhaps was called?) to be a bard. I chose forest as, for myself at least, the tinker gnome from the PHB didn’t seem to be as suited to the gnomes in Eberron mechanics wise as the forest subrace did.

    My original choice was to play an eneko, but I couldn’t come up with a convincing story about how a member of a race that is more or less endemic to Syrkarn took to adventuring outside Sarlona and ended in Northern Khorvaire. I may go back to the character if the Gnome does not pan out. I’m still struggling with ideas about how a mongrel ogre could end up working for House Lyrandar.

    • What race rules for eneko?

      But perhaps I can help. House Lyrandar has a presence in Dar Ulatesh (or whatever the open port is named), so perhas the character was bought over when his or her superior got reassigned back to Khorvaire.

      • That should work, thanks!

        As for the race rules, using the goliath as a start point then swap Mountain Born for Poison Resistance, Stones Endurance for Darkvision and Natural Athlete for either Pass Without Trace 1/Day or Absorb Elements 1/Day should work.

  8. I was recently involved in helping someone translate the Volo’s Guide races to Eberron. The goblinoids and kobolds were easy enough, but I’m prouder of th stranger races;

    Firbolgs are ‘giant-kin’, in Xen’drik. Partners with and allies to the Vulkoori drow, who they trust to interact with the ‘outsiders’ (anyone not from the Xen’drik forests) for them.

    Tabaxi are to the rakshasa rajahs what the shulassakar are to the coatl. Human barbarians may be twisted or ‘blessed’ by powers in the Demon Wastes to a more feline form, mirroring their fiendish masters.

    Tritons are the grand unifiers of the underwater realm. They’re a merfolk subrace, but move between the Sahuagin Empire, the Aereni Aquatic Elves, merfolk tribes and a few may even be allowed to act as emissaries from underwater dragon strongholds.

    A player of mine also wanted to play a aasimar paladin; I suggested reskinning it as a human who’s been especially blessed by the Silver Flame. He seemed quite interested when I suggested that being from Thrane would probably have given the character a bit of a swollen head.

    • I always thought Xendrik could house plenty of cat people without any special explanation.

      • That’s an alternative; I’d place them on the outskirts of the Menechtauran (spelling unsure) desert. that’s outside where most Khorvairan expeditions take place, but I could certainly see them as living alongside thri-keen in a vaguely antagonistic relationship. If you need a hook, their culture could be based around their plentiful supply of Siberys dragonshards, like the Inca/Aztec and their gold. They’d call them sunstones, and they’d be common enough that they’d use them as simple jewellery, as they’d never have discovered their relationship to dragonmark spells. A tabaxi temple may be based on a dragonmark embedded in the earth or trees, however. They have some inkling of the Prophecy, but it’s more “these marks are important” than “this mark means”.

        Of course, the Khorvairans would play the role of the Europeans here… A party may be tasked to loot a tabaxi tribe of all their dragonshards.

  9. I’d actually like to hear some thoughts on Kenku, if you have any suggestions beyond “extraplanar”.

    I always had a soft spot for Grippli too, though I suppose they compete with Lizardfolk for conceptual space.

    • Kenku are interesting. They’re another race Ive use to make Xendrik feel isolated and different for players used to Khorvaire, as well as inserting them into Sharn as recent immigrants, who excel as messengers and delivery runners.

      In Xendrik, they live in treetop and high mountain communities, and speak the same language as crows and Ravens, and have a hard time with human tongues. They can mimic, but speaking plainly in common just doesn’t compute for most of them.

      Their culture is centered around family groups, story telling, and is very communal. Since they can speak plainly with the more intelligent corvids, crows and Ravens tend to make up part of their communities, and families of crows or Ravens often become sort of “cousin” families to family groups of Kenku.

      To outsiders, Kenku seem to be eccentrics that make up wild tales as easy as breathing, and are often off put when a Kenku stops in a public place to have a racous conversation with a few crows, or freak out when they see a Kenku suddenly jump off a platform into open air, as Kenku have no fear of heights, and think nothing of a fall that would terrify most humans.

      • I like the idea that the drow are actually the most ‘human’ residents of Xen’drik, and the rest of the native races are either giants or beastfolk.

        • Me too. I like Keith’s idea too, though. First time I haven’t hated the “incapable of creativity or invention” nonsense of the 5e Kenku.

    • I’d actually like to hear some thoughts on Kenku, if you have any suggestions beyond “extraplanar”.

      My thoughts aren’t simply “extraplanar” – they are very specifically Thelanis. If you look to the Volo’s Guide version of the Kenku, their race is defined by their story: They betrayed their master, who in turn took their wings and voices and banished them to the material plane. Go back to my recent Thelanis posts and you’ll see that this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that happens on Thelanis.

      It could even be something that LITERALLY HAPPENED THE OTHER DAY: this isn’t an ancient metaphor, it’s an event that actually happened recently. The Kenku served the Chronicler, an archfey who maintains a perfect library. When the Mourning occurred, it sent shockwaves through all the planes and the Kenku thought this was an chance to pull off their epic theft. Instead, they were caught, cursed, and banished. So they’ve only been on Eberron for two years; there’s not very many of them and they all know one another; and in Thelanis, there are Kenku who have both wings and voices.

      Now, you could take the same idea and make it an ancient event that happened long ago, and say that YOUR Kenku character has no memory of Thelanis. But it’s equally valid to take a myth like that and make it a real thing – just as in Eberron, Asmodeus seizing control of Baator is something that JUST HAPPENED.

  10. Beside my precedent comment, I’d love to explore the yuan-Ti culture in Talenta plains. The fact that they live in a cuatl city ties them to a very, very ancient time, when everything was different and dragons, cuatl and demons where openly dominating Eberron.
    Moreover, in standard d&d the yuan-ti are slavists. May the Eberron ones be lawful good and slavists too? Has their “silver flame cult” a purge?

    • Beside my precedent comment, I’d love to explore the yuan-Ti culture in Talenta plains.

      Bear in mind that the Shulassakar and the Yuan-Ti are distinct cultures within Eberron. According to the Shulassakar Dragonshard article:

      Despite their physical similarities, shulassakar and yuan-ti cultures have little in common. The shulassakar claim that the ancestors of the yuan-ti were chosen of the couatl who broke their vows to the flame and who have since slipped into decadence. As a result, the shulassakar despise the yuan-ti. If the yuan-ti shared these legends, they abandoned them long ago, and they have no interest in the shulassakar. Driven from Sarlona by the Inspired, the yuan-ti lurk in the shadows of Xen’drik and the shores of Argonnessen, plotting vengeance against the Lords of Riedra and searching for ways to use the Draconic Prophecy to gain power.

      Moreover, in standard d&d the yuan-ti are slavists. May the Eberron ones be lawful good and slavists too?

      I don’t personally see the Shulassakar as slavers, but the Dragonshard says: “When dealing with the shulassakar, bear in mind that they are highly intelligent and devoted to the cause of good, but also proud, arrogant, and ruthless. They will give up their own lives for the flame and have no compunctions about sacrificing the lives of humans or other lesser creatures.” I could see a form of slavery if they somehow perceived it as being for the good of those they enslaved.

      Has their “silver flame cult” a purge?

      If you mean “Have they done something in their past that’s as severe as the Lycanthropic Purge”, I don’t think Krezent has ever had enough inhabitants to undertake something like that; it’s a small community of sacred guardians, not an imperial power. However, Shulassakar also ruled the nation of Khalesh in Sarlona in the days before the Sundering. Khalesh has always been called out as an aggressive crusader power, especially noteworthy for its wars with Ohr Kaluun. Both cultures were wiped out by the Inspired during the Sundering.

      • I’ve never read that dragonshard before, thanks. I still think there is something to explore… they live in cuatl city, so they could know something about cuatl culture beside of being “good”. What did they want or appreciate? What kind of city did they build?

        Btw, in case you’ve lost my other post: what do you think of half dragon and how they will be seen in five nations?

        Can you see a half-dragon/half warforged?

        Finally, what about half-celestials, or any race partially from another plane? You told several times that immortal spirits are not completely free, is that true for half blooded? Should a half celestial character do something evil become a “half radiant idol” or something like that?

        • I still think there is something to explore… they live in cuatl city, so they could know something about cuatl culture beside of being “good”. What did they want or appreciate? What kind of city did they build?

          That’s a significant enough topic – what are couatl cities/ruins like? What was couatl culture like? – that it really needs to be in its own post as opposed to a comment reply on this one.

          But looking at the general topic: I don’t think the Shulassakar had DIRECT contact with couatl civilization. The couatl sacrifice was in the Age of Demons, over a hundred thousand years ago; human civilization didn’t exist at that point, and humans themselves may not have even existed then in their modern form; by comparison, in our world the earliest Cro-Magnon remains are dated at 45,000 years ago. What the Dragonshard says is that a few couatl remained after the sacrifice to guard the ruins, and that over time they recruited members of the younger races, and human servants became the Shulassakar. So I’d say the Shulassakar likely emerged in the Age of Monsters. So any knowledge the Shulassakar have is what they’ve picked up from the very few couatl who gave their ancestors guidance.

          What do you think of half dragon and how they will be seen in five nations?

          We’ve implied that half-dragons are uncommon and frowned upon by Argonnessen, but that individual dragons occasionally create them for specific purposes – such as the breeding program that produced Erandis Vol. This puts them squarely in the “unicorn” category – they are so rare that people don’t have an opinion about them, beyond “Is that some kind of weird lizardfolk?” There’s no half-dragon nation or culture; each individual half-dragon is going to have its own story, and will be evaluated as an individual.

          Can you see a half-dragon/half warforged?

          Not as the result of a biological union; warforged can’t reproduce. If you wanted to apply the template and say that the warforged was BUILT as a half-dragon, why not?

          Finally, what about half-celestials, or any race partially from another plane?

          I’m working on another article that will address this – again, too big of a topic for a comment reply.

  11. What about other half-breeds besides the khoravar and jhorgun’taal? Do the orc breeds like orogs have a place? Or any goblinoid progeny- either between different goblinoid like goblin abd hobgoblin or goblinoid with other humanoids?

    • What about other half-breeds besides the khoravar and jhorgun’taal?

      As I said, by default I generally limit the number of races I deal with in MY campaign, so I haven’t come up with explanations for tons of others. But I’m sure there CAN be a place for any half-race.

      Do the orc breeds like orogs have a place?

      Five easy answers for any orc variant:
      1. They were magebred by the original Gatekeepers to fight the Daelkyr, like horrid animals.
      2. They were created by a Daelkyr to pass the time.
      3. They were created during the Age of Demons (by either side) and are found in the Demon Wastes along with the Ghaash’kala.
      4. They are the result of the influence of manifest zones in that region.
      5. They are simply the result of crossbreeding, like the jhorgun’taal.

      Or any goblinoid progeny- either between different goblinoid like goblin abd hobgoblin or goblinoid with other humanoids?

      While we’ve never explicitly called it out, in my opinion ancient goblin societies – whether the Dhakaani founders or an even older goblin nation – practiced some form of magebreeding or eugenics. I think the hobgoblins are the “core race” and bugbears and goblins are engineered variants. This is why the Dhakaani have such an engrained racial caste system; the bugbears were born to be shock troops and labor. Thus, any additional goblin variants can be attributed to the work of these ancient magebreeders, and the question then is what the role of that variant was in ancient goblin society.

  12. I feel like the Lizardfolk don’t get enough play in Eberron, particularly as PC races. I had a Lizardfold PC that was an Ardent; his particular brand of worship consisted of a triumvirate including the Silver Flame, Rhashaak and the Traveler. He was particularly interested in the idea of Rhashaak’s corruption being a purposeful fall, a sacrifice to not just to contain the influence of Masvirik but to give the Cold Sun Federation a worthy mortal enemy to test themselves against and to grow strong enough to resist Masvirik himself in the event of his freedom. In general he was opposed to any influence from native outsiders

    There was more to his philosophy than that but I could go on forever about it. He was ultimately based very much on Kreia from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II (his interpretation of Rhashaak is basically Kreia’s interpretation of Revan) . I didn’t get a chance to play him very much but I was definitely interested in exploring the world through his lens more. I might bring him back as an NPC the next time I get a chance to DM.

  13. I’d be interested in hearing your take on where the Incarnum races should be placed, as well as the interaction between kalashtar and synads, also raptorans. Thanks for all the effort you put into answering our questions, it can’t always be comfortable letting us random gamers pick your brain

  14. A 3.5 campaign I ran once centered on the idea that recently, certain members of dragonmarked houses were suddenly manifesting not just dragonmarks, but various half-breed templates of the “new spell-like every other level” variety, such as half-celestial or one of the half-elemental templates (any physical changes that were tied to mechanics, like wings, could be made to appear and disappear at will). The characters tried to hide this from their Houses in order to stave off fear, exploitation, dissection, or similar terrible fates, yet at the same time sought to help the people of Sharn in disguise with these abilities. In other words, a superhero campaign.

    Sadly, the group never gelled enough for the story to get far. They only ever really got far enough to draw the conclusion that this was some kind of new planar influence… and to discover that this was happening in House Tarkanan, too, and they were starting to prepare for war.

  15. I just want to say that I’ve always been a fan of aasimar being descended from the Radiant Idols in Sharn. This does away with the unfortunately too common misconception of them as uncompromised goody-goodies.

  16. I once talked to you ages ago and Tiefling you said aren’t all that weird in Eberron. I’d think though in places like Thrane it may be tougher on them. I really hope to see a 5th ed Eberron because the Unearthed Arcana was very weak. They did it slapdash and pisspoor. Warforged were way too weak and uninspired in the UA. No Kalastar at all just cause there aren’t rules on psionics yet? Dragonmarks are also too weak compared to what they did in 3.5. These guys did NOT remember that Eberron was like first setting built around 3.5 rules. 5th ed took away a lot of those rules. Also considering that the only way a PC can have a Dragonmark is to be a human with the alternative human race and only if the DM allows it, which most don’t. Thus any other Dragonmarked House races are SOL until 3rd level, which means they also would lose out on stat increases.

  17. I had questions about Tiefling. Are they tied to the Lords of Dust or other Fiends in this world and do the Lords of Dust have any control or interest in them? Tieflings breed true now btw in 5th edition. They are no longer a subrace of humans.

    • I actually wrote a more in-depth post on tieflings months ago as a followup to this post and never actually posted it. I’ll see if I still have the draft.

  18. >> No Kalastar at all just cause there aren’t rules on psionics yet?
    I’m considering dealing with that by reskinning the monk class to be Kalastar psions, replacing Ki with Psi. Rename the skills and abilities with Gamma World inspired Psi names. Seems a good fit, the monk class reads a lot like a Kalastar.

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