Eberron Flashback: Aberrant Dragonmarks


There’s lots of great things afoot. I’m keen to delve deeper into the setting of Phoenix and to explore the topics sitting on the burner for Eberron. However, at the moment I am under the gun as I prepare to launch the Kickstarter campaign for my new game illimatcoming to Kickstarter this Tuesday, October 4th! and I don’t have any time to write. So instead, I’m resurrecting an old topic from 2012: Aberrant Dragonmarks.

Dragonmarks are mystical symbols that provide mystical power to the people that bear them. “True” dragonmarks are bound to bloodlines, and over time the dragonmarked houses have turn their mystical powers to industrial purpose and carved out economic empires. Such dragonmarks are reliable and useful, and largely have postive, constructive effects. But there’s another sort of dragonmark: twisted marks that are unpredictable in every way, and which grant powers that frighten and hurt others. Where the pure dragonmarks let their bearers heal and create, those who bear aberrant dragonmarks may produce fire, spread plagues, control minds, or worse. While aberrant dragonmarks often result when people of diferent dragonmarks bloodlines have children, they can manifest on anyone. There are many prejudices and superstitions tied to aberrant dragonmarks, adn centuries ago there was a massive purge – the “War of the Mark” – that virtually wiped out the aberrant population. For a time, aberrant dragonmarks were just legend. Now they are beginning to return.

While their powers are dangerous, on the surface aberrant dragonmarks don’t seem that bad. So you can cast burning hands once per day. So can a sorcerer, and he’s not being hunted by a mob. The main point is that aberrant dragonmarks are defined by story as well as rules. The concept of the aberrant dragonmark is that it is dangerous and often unpleasant for its bearer, and that even if they can control it now, they likely couldn’t when it first manifested. As an adventurer, the power provided by an aberrant dragonmark may seem to be a blessing; but per story, at some point in your life it has surely been a curse. As you develop an aberrant character, think about that concept. How did it first manifest? Who was hurt by it? How does it feel – are you comfortable with your mark, or does it burn against your skin? Many marks are accompanied by physical or mental disfigurement… is yours? If you want your character to develop an aberrant dragonmark over the course of play, you may want to place it in the hands of your DM and have it manifest at an inconvenient time, to advance the story and explore the burden. Or as a DM, with your players’ permission you could give one or more of them aberrant dragonmarks they can’t control – so don’t require them to pay the cost of the feat, but it’s up to you exactly when and how the power manifests.

With all that in mind, let’s look back at some of the questions people have had about aberrant dragonmarks.

I was always perplexed about the detail of the War of the Mark. First, there is an apparent lack of public opposition to the persecution of aberrants. Hundreds or even thousands of them must have been killed across the continent for no other reason than manifesting the wrong version of the dragonmarks. Of course, the Houses’ propaganda painted them as evil, but there is just that much propaganda can do. Most of those people had families and friends who knew otherwise. I doubt that aberrants have any bigger tendency to become criminals due to destructive powers of their marks than, say, sorcerers, who learn how to cast burning hands and magic missiles.

If you have a moment, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.

She grew up in village in Daskara, not far from the modern city of Sigilstar. She loved the country and taking care of the livestock. When she was 13, her family fell ill with a disease no one had ever seen before. They died, and the plague spread to the rest of the village and their stock. Only two things were unaffected: the rats and the girl. When everyone was dead, she fled to the town of Sarus. You’ve never heard of Sarus, because it doesn’t exist anymore. It was burnt by those who sought to keep the plague from spreading. The rats kept the girl alive, and were the only thing that kept her close to sane. In time she learned to control her power. Even so, she couldn’t bear the burden of the deaths on her conscience. She declared that the girl had died with her family. She was someone new, someone without a name. She was the Lady of the Plague.

Before I continue, have you read any of the following?

  • The RPGA adventure The Delirium Stone, in which players actually experience a flashback to the War of the Mark.
  • The Children of Khyber Dragonshard article.
  • The novels The Son of Khyber or The City of Towers, in which we interact with modern aberrants and get to see some of them. They’re not all bad people. But many of them are strange or disturbing. Little “Junior Lady Of The Plague” Zae who only talks to rats. Brom with his troll’s arm. Crippled Filleon with his deadly touch.

Here’s a quote from the Dragonshard article, describing what it’s like to have a powerful aberrant mark:

You can feel your power festering within you. It’s different for every child of Khyber. One feels a chill no warmth can push away, while another complains of fire burning beneath his skin. An heir with the power of confusion feels the force of madness in his mind, trying to claw its way out and feast on the thoughts of others. Your mark may bring you pain. It may whisper to you as you try to sleep. But it is a part of you.

You say “Why would an aberrant be any more likely to be a criminal than a sorcerer?” The answer is that a sorcerer chooses his path. Sorcery may be a natural talent as opposed to wizardry, but the sorcerer applies himself to its study and chooses the path he wants to follow. The aberrant doesn’t. His power chooses him, and often in a very unpleasant way. If the aberrant has burning hands, odds are good it manifested for the first time when he was angry at someone. Was that in a lover’s quarrel? When he was arguing with a parent? A friend? What death is on his conscience? And whenever he gets angry, can he hold the flames in? Likewise, for a sorcerer the power isn’t a burden; it’s a tool he learns to use. For an aberrant it’s something he must master and control, lest it drive him mad or harm those around him.

Powerful aberrant marks are dangerous to the bearer. They often cause disfigurements or madness. Yes, with training these dangers can be controlled or limited, and that’s something Tarkanan was trying to do. But to your question of “Why didn’t people care? Why did people believe the propaganda?”… look at the Salem witch trials and imagine that these things were unquestionably real. That someone has a livid red mark on their skin and that they burned their mother to death – and that you’ve HEARD the stories about how these people are touched by Khyber, how they are all monsters. Are you going to say “Oh, he didn’t mean it, he just needs to learn to control it. So he killed my wife – mistakes happen.” Or are you going to sending a messenger out to find the nearest Deneith extermination squad? And again, in terms of just how dangerous these marks could be, I’ll note that Halas Tarkanan destroyed a city when he unleashed his mark – and that the curse of the Lady of the Plague still lingers over a thousand years after. Far from trying to STOP the Dragonmarked from persecuting the aberrants, most local authorities were glad they were there.

The aberrant marks seen today – the “least” aberrant marks, if you will – don’t carry the same restrictions or power. You can have an aberrant mark without being a madman or a cripple. And you’re not going to use that mark to destroy a city. But the stories haven’t been forgotten, and the houses simply keep them alive. And now the more powerful marks are starting to return… so what happens next?

So you are basically saying that abberant dragonmarks do tend to make people outcasts and criminals…

Aberrant dragonmarks certainly make people outcasts. They don’t necessarily make them criminals; being outcasts may, however. The point is that there’s a significant difference between having an aberrant mark that produces burning hands and being a sorcerer who can do it. For the aberrant, it begins as a dangerous burden. Some are driven mad. Some inadvertently take actions that lead to their deaths (unleashing burning hands in a public place and getting lynched as a result). Those that survive learn to control their powers – but it’s not an easy or comfortable thing.

But the logical conclusion would be that the society had been trying to deal with this threat long before War of the Mark. If I knew a kid who caused a whole village to die from disease and another kid who torched his mom in anger and they both had those scary red marks on their skin, I would probably vote for a kill-on-sight policy for anyone with a similar mark. I would have had a lynching mob go after such people. And if it were too dangerous, I would call on my liegelord to send a squad of archers and shoot the baddie from a safe distance.

Society would only have to deal with this threat “long before the War of the Mark” if aberrant marks existed in significant numbers long before the War of the Mark… and they didn’t. Mixed marks appeared in small numbers when houses mingled; this is how the houses discovered these existed and how “the threat” became known. At the time the houses set their policy, it was largely the way we have incest laws: mingling the blood of two houses has unsavory results, don’t do it. Then the marks began spreading – yet not tied to lineage or any predictable pattern. The first of these were the equivalent of least marks. Stories begin to spread… but bear in mind that there were no airships, lightning rails, or speaking stones at this time, so word certainly didn’t spread as fast as it once did. A boy burned his mother, and he had a mark like those of the Twelve, but traced in blood. More powerful marks begin to appear, but still nothing on the level of Tarkanan or the Lady of the Plague. People say it’s Khyber stirring in the depths. There are more stories of marks driving their bearers mad, and the deaths that have resulted are sensationalized. Ghallanda spreads the word through the inns. Orien passes it along the trade roads, and Lyranar the seas. Phiarlan sings songs of the unsavory aberrants… and it’s now that the Lady of the Plague appears, and her tale is one that terrifies the public. Families that have been hiding their aberrant kid begin to question their actions. And the marks keep appearing in greater numbers, and becoming increasingly dangerous. Now Deneith-backed squads show up promising to protect people from these unclean children of Khyber – and now is the time that people start calling on them for help, or organizing lynch mobs of their own. But…

… remember that aberrant dragonmarks aren’t predictable. They can appear on anyone at any time. It’s not just “a kid” who has the mark. It could be a soldier. A Duke. A powerful priest. Anyone could get an aberrant mark, and as society turned on the aberrants in fear, those who developed aberrant marks knew exactly what fate awaited them. The boy who burned a parent wouldn’t turn himself in; he would run. The duke would try to conceal his mark, fortify his stronghold and hide from the world. This degree of versatility meant that aberrant forces could have unexpected skills and resources. And then you have Halas Tarkanan. He was a Karrnathi officer before he developed his mark, a brilliant soldier who learned the arts of war at Rekkenmark and the ways of House Deneith from his mother. His forces weren’t solely aberrants; many of his unmarked soldiers stood by him, and he won others to his cause… as well as taking in goblins and other oppressed forces.

My point is – there wouldn’t be enough aberrants hiding out there to form a force capable to wage a regular war under Tarkanan. That would require a sudden surge of aberrant powers similar to what is happening in the world in present-day, which is quite possible actually.

First off, the current surge is far less than what was seen in the century leading up to the War of the Mark. It appears to be starting again, and a DM can take it that way. But at the moment, there’s neither the number or power level seen in the past. In canon sources (remember, novels aren’t canon), no one has been described as possessing an aberrant mark matching the power of Halas Tarkanan or his lieutenants… and it was the power of these marks that kept the aberrant forces alive.

Beyond this, bear in mind that they never fought a “regular war.” You never had formations of aberrant soldiers facing off against dragonmarked house armies. While Halas did his best to provide basic training, the majority of the aberrants were noncombatants, though with their marks they could put up a defense when cornered and forced to fight. Somewhat to my surprise, the best analogy I can think of is Battlestar Galactica. Think of the aberrants as fleets of largely civilian vessels, huddling around an individual like Tarkanan or the Dreambreaker – their battlestar, whose power was singlehandedly great enough to disperse conventional forces. You then have a small group of trained soldiers and people with lesser/greater marks – the vipers of the Battlestar analogy, able to carry out their commander’s will. But they were still always on the run, relying on the raw power of their commanders (and Tarkanan’s tactical genius) just to survive, always searching for some lasting sanctuary. They were occasionally able to gather small elite units for their own commando strikes, but they never faced the houses with proper armies. And in the end, despite Tarkanan’s best efforts, they were herded to Shaarat and forced to make a final stand. And again, you can see a little of what that’s like in the RPGA adventure The Delirium Stone.

Is this what’s happening today? Aberrant marks are manifesting in ever-greater numbers, but are they going to reach the same level of power as Tarkanan possessed? And if so, is this a natural cycle? Part of the Prophecy? Or is it being actively manipulated by the Lords of Dust or some other force? That’s up to you…

I’d like to revisit one point…

If I knew a kid who caused a whole village to die from disease and another kid who torched his mom in anger and they both had those scary red marks on their skin, I would probably vote for a kill-on-sight policy for anyone with a similar mark.

Bear in mind that nothing about aberrant marks is predictable. The red and black marks that we’ve shown are the most common sort of aberrant mark, but aberrant marks can take a vast array of forms. The lines of a burning hands mark might be formed from livid scar tissue. An aberrant mark that grants charm person could actually be a shining array of glowing white lines that’s almost hypnotic to look at… while another charm person mark is red and black. Aberrant marks are, well, aberrant. So this helped slow things down. Sure, the kid with the scary scar mark burned his mom, but our daughter’s mark is beautiful. And she’s not hurting anyone, is she? Really?

Ultimately people would decide that yes, the charmer was hurting people – that mind controllers are scary. But again, this combination of diversity and limited long-distance communication added to the amount of time it took for public opinion to form.

In conclusion…

Aberrant marks originally existed in small numbers and low power. In the century leading up to the War of the Mark, they rapidly increased in number and power. There was excellent reason for people to fear the marks. If Tarkanan had been born earlier and been a diplomat instead of a soldier, he might have convinced people that the aberrants weren’t at fault – that if they were taught to control their marks, they could peacefully coexist (though some were, of course, mad or sociopathic). But most of the media of the time was in the hands of the houses, and when the fear was spreading there was no spokesperson for the aberrants. The “war” began as a simple witchhunt and purge. Tarkanan organized survivors into small guerrilla forces with enough firepower to defend themselves as they fled. Ultimately they were caught and erradicated.

In the centuries that followed, aberrant marks appeared in small numbers and only at the lowest level of power. But the stories remained and grew with each telling. People don’t run in terror from aberrants, because it’s been over a thousand years since the Lady of the Plague laid her curse on Shaarat. But they still know the stories, and aberrants are still shunned and treated with suspicion. And now the numbers of marks are growing again, and their power with them. But this is new and unusual. House Tarkanan has noticed it, and it is acting to gather the aberrants. But society as a whole hasn’t yet noticed exactly what’s going on. aberrants are an old bogeyman; even the houses are only just now looking at House Tarkanan and trying to figure out what’s happening.

Moving to more general discussion about the marks…

“Aberrant” seems like it’s shifted in meaning since the setting was originally published, and it was always kind of broad to begin with.

It’s something that was never developed as far as I wanted. I actually had a full system for aberrant marks developed for the Sharn: City of Towers sourcebook, but it ended up being cut for space. It is the case that a number of the SLAs in the original 3.5 sourcebook do NOT, in my mind, qualify for my vision of aberrant marks. I don’t see feather fall or detect secret doors as aberrant marks. To me, a core difference between aberrant and normal dragonmarks is that aberrant marks channel destructive or aggressive forces, while true marks are constructive. With that said, we’ve seen that true marks can be used in aggressive ways – from Lyrandar slamming you with a gust of wind to the Orien assassin teleporting behind you and killing you. But note that when aberrant marks were expanded in Dragonmarked the lists didn’t include superior flight or expanded detection capabilities.

What I’m wondering is if there’s some kind of substantive difference between Aberrant Marks and Mixed Marks. For example, would mixed marks tend to appear more as a mixture of the true marks? And would such a mark exhibit powers that call to mind the two true marks involved? Or is it more like the mixture of the marks corrupts their fundamental nature and creates some bizarre, unrelated effect?

The original idea is definitely the latter. Aberrant marks are entirely unpredictable. If you knew that Orien + Lyrandar = feather fall, then it’s not an aberrant mark anymore; it’s “the Mark of PassageStorms.” The idea of the mixed mark was simply that it was and is the only reliable way to produce an aberrant mark – but that there’s no telling what that mark will be. Likewise, this is part of the 3.5 aberrant mark system in Dragonmarked. You can have charm person as your least power and poison as your lesser power. You might have an aberrant individual who develops powers along a specific theme – all fire, all fear – but unlike the true marks this isn’t a given.

Now again, this is how it’s been presented. If you want to do things differently – and for that matter, play up existing elements like the feather fall aberrant mark – go for it!

45 thoughts on “Eberron Flashback: Aberrant Dragonmarks

  1. If given time, do mixed marks get filtered out of the bloodline, or is it like adding a drop of ink to water, staining their descendants henceforth?

    Are mixed marked couples more likely to produce aberrant children as true dragonmarked parents are? Or is even that aspect unpredictable?

    • If given time, do mixed marks get filtered out of the bloodline, or is it like adding a drop of ink to water, staining their descendants henceforth?

      Good question. I don’t believe that it’s been addressed in canon, but my gut is that it’s the permanent stain – that children of someone with a mixed mark will never manifest a true mark, which would certainly be a compelling reason for the houses to be so concerned about it. However, you could say that it gets filtered out after generations… which is a good explanation for a foundling who develops a mark without realizing they have a blood connection to a house.

      Are mixed marked couples more likely to produce aberrant children as true dragonmarked parents are? Or is even that aspect unpredictable?

      It’s entirely unpredictable, and if such a child DOES manifest an aberrant mark it won’t necessarily have anything in common with the parents’ marks. So you don’t have “aberrant lines.” But it can happen. IIRC, in Son of Khyber Zae the rat-speaker is the daughter of Filleon, whose aberrant mark is a deadly touch.

  2. The idea that aberrant dragonmarks appearing in brutal manners are awesome, but mechanicaly its a bit complicated to me. I mean, spontaneous casters as sorcerers are bonded to somatic, vocal and material components as wizards are. So i always thought about the magic granted by dragonmarks as natural inspiration that allowed the caster to learn the magic instinctively, but keeping the same process of executing them as wizards do.

    Did i miss any rule that allowed dragonmark magic being cast without components?

    • Did i miss any rule that allowed dragonmark magic being cast without components?

      Yes, you did. Dragonmarks are spell-like abilities. If you check the SRD entry, “A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus or have an XP cost. The user activates it mentally. Armor never affects a spell-like ability’s use, even if the ability resembles an arcane spell with a somatic component.” So as I said, a sorcerer may have a natural talent, but they still execute the magic in the same manner as a wizard; a Dragonmark is something else entirely. Incidentally, this makes the Siberys Mark of Making especially powerful, as the spell normally has a significant XP cost.

      • Whoa! very thx mr baker. As i came to know most of Eberron in 4e it became as issue when i came to 5e. In UA Eberron draft the dragonmark feats came with “You must still expend any material components”. That’s why i was thinking dragonmark magic used to work that way.

        Way more confortable with this, yet i’ll have to verify the impact some spells will have as players will be allowed to use them without expensive components taking these feats.

        • Dragonmarks in 5E remain an open question; but this is how they functioned in the original 3.5 version of the setting.

      • Although this does change in 4e mechanics, where the dragonmarks enhance the character’s existing powers, and grant access to certain rituals regardless of class.

        Incidentally, if you play 4e, but prefer the 3e mechanics for dragonmarks, you can build 3e dragonmarks by combining the wand creation rules with the alternative reward rules. There are other methods, but that one is the least work.

        • Certainly: as you shift editions, questions can arise. The core question here was “How can you reconcile an ability that requires the use of components with the idea that it could manifest spontaneously” – and the point is that when aberrant dragonmarks were originally conceived in 3E, this wasn’t a conflict because no dragonmarks required components, something that sharply distinguished them from the talents of a sorcerer. When you shift editions you may have to work around that – but it was the original concept.

  3. Re-reading, I notice you menation the Dreambreaker, who I don’t think I’ve heard of before. Were they detailed somwhere? And have any other “Battlestar” level Aberrants from the War of the Mark been meantioned besides Tarkanan and the Lady of Plague?

    • Re-reading, I notice you mention the Dreambreaker, who I don’t think I’ve heard of before. Were they detailed somwhere?

      The Dreambreaker appears in the RPGA module “The Delirium Stone” (which I wrote). I wrote this for a sidebar in Dragonmarked, but I think it was cut for space: The Dreambreaker was another of Tarkanan’s lieutenants. This gnome possessed the power to inflict madness on others; some account suggest that he could even twist the fabric of reality itself. The Dreambreaker played a prominent role in a number of key battles, but vanished during the Shaarat siege; he was presumably slain when Halas Tarkanan and the Lady of the Plague unleashed their final curses.

      And have any other “Battlestar” level Aberrants from the War of the Mark been meantioned besides Tarkanan and the Lady of Plague?

      Another commander from the War of the Mark plays an important role in my novel The Son of Khyber.

  4. I noticed that the picture of aberrant dragonmarks show four stages of development- similar to those of the Dragonmarked Houses. Does that mean that the aforementioned “Battlestar” aberrants had these Siberys (or rather Khyber) level dragonmarks? Second question- have the aberrant marks been (so far) confined to races that already have dragonmarks?

    • I noticed that the picture of aberrant dragonmarks show four stages of development- similar to those of the Dragonmarked Houses. Does that mean that the aforementioned “Battlestar” aberrants had these Siberys (or rather Khyber) level dragonmarks?

      Correct. The Dragonmarked sourcebook presents lesser and greater aberrant dragonmarks. We discuss “Khyber Marks”, but never provided mechanics for them. We’ve also called out the fact that some aberrants had dragonshard foci that amplified their powers – such as the Delirium Stone, which was the Dreambreaker’s Khyber focus.

      Second question- have the aberrant marks been (so far) confined to races that already have dragonmarks?

      Per the 3.5 ECS, they were confined to the Dragonmarked races. However, that’s up to the GM. I played a dragonborn that developed an aberrant mark in a 4E Eberron campaign, and The Son of Khyber has a warforged with an aberrant mark. The main thing about aberrant marks is that they’re unpredictable!

  5. For 5e I’ve considered banning the variant human, but allowing every player to get a bonus starting feat, allowing dragonmarks.

    If you wake up one morning with a mark, is it possibly too small to cast yet, or is the first day you see the mark, the first day you can cast?

    Also, I’m thinking of running a game where a lot of fire themed aberrant marks are trying to breed true a real mark of the flame and start a house. They have no chance of success, but erroneously believe they have figured out how the other houses were really made. Given the insanity of a cult they are unaware they will only ever get more abberant marks, but with some reality manipulation by a daelkyr, is it plausible they continue getting fire themed abberant marks, each a little different?

    • Given the insanity of a cult they are unaware they will only ever get more abberant marks, but with some reality manipulation by a daelkyr, is it plausible they continue getting fire themed abberant marks, each a little different?

      With the Daelkyr, anything is possible. Personally, I like the crazy conspiracy theory that ALL dragonmarks are creations of the Daelkyr – an experimental way to bind the Draconic Prophecy to flesh. But to what end?

      • Well, if I were running an Eberron campaign, and playing with the notion that the Daelkyr were behind dragonmarks., the notion that the dragonmarks are the Prophecy-bound-to-flesh is suggestive.

        After all, the daelkyr are masters of mutating and corrupting fleshy beings. So, if you can tie Prophecy to flesh, and corrupt the flesh, perhaps one can corrupt the Propehcy itself? And thereby corrupt the very fabric of Eberron?

        In that view, the true dragonmarks are step one – binding the Prophecy to flesh. The aberrant marks are step two: introducing a random unpredictable corrupting element. Step three, perhaps not yet realized (the daelkyr are nothing if not patient) would be to create specific aberrant marks to introduce specific distortions into the Prophecy (to what end?)

        That, in turn, would raise the question of what the dragons think about all this. The dragons didn’t interfere with the Daelkyr Invasion in past eons, but presumably they’d take this a little more personnally. Possibility the first: The dragons don’t realize what’s going on. Could be, although it seems unlikely. Possibility the second: They do know that *something* is going on, but are not sure what to do about it yet. Also possible. Possibility the third: They knw someehting is going on, but are trying to be subtle in their response. While the dragons are capable of unsubtle action (see: Xen’drik), they, too, like to manipulate the squishy races to do their handiwork. What if the War of the mark was inflamed by draconic manipulation? Maybe the dragons fear the possibility that simply wiping out all dragonmarks would wreak harm on the Prophecy greater than what the daelkyr have inflicted (so far, anyway.)

        In the latter scenario, it would seem likely that concerned dragons would use PCs, especially Dragon Propheciers, as their agents to destroy the aberrant marks and uncover the underlying plan. It would be in the PCs interest to do so, if ony to forestall Argonessen unleashing their “nuclear option” on the mark-bearing races.

        Thanks, Keith, for ramarks that can set off a whole wave of speculations!

        • The dargonmarks are the work of the Daelkyr. They are the eork of ONE daelkyr.

          The dragons made a deal with this daelkyr, to bind the Prophecy to the flesh of the mortal races. It would be far easier to manipulate the results this way, even if more risk.

          The problem much more then one daelkyr, a whole Xoriat invasion started. The dragons didn’t care, as the work was progressing, and the could clean the continent and bring the races back to Argonessen.

          But one of the original dragon that came with the idea, and made the first deals with Xoriat changed mind seeing the destruction and corruption brought my the horrors of Xoriat. Vvaraak then taught the orcs the magic to fight back.

          This event fucked up the dragonmark project, and now the dragon couldn’t just wipe everything out, since initial binding was done.

          The aberrant marks are the result. Maybe the betrayed daelkyr kept working, but now subverting the idea. Maybe it was a natural corruption of the interrupted process. Maybe he kept working as normal, but now locked up in Khyber the process is disrupted, he doesn’t realize or he doesn’t care.

          Who knows what would be the final payoff for the dragons? The result is now a Prophecy much more accessible to the demons, and other minor races. maybe it was just the expected result, how to turn the Age….

    • If you wake up one morning with a mark, is it possibly too small to cast yet, or is the first day you see the mark, the first day you can cast?

      Traditionally it’s the latter. The Test of Siberys is designed to trigger the manifestation of a dragonmark effect, along with the Dragonmark itself – so the two usually happen simultaneously.

      • This certainly adds a wrinkle. I happened to already assume it worked as you suggested, but was hoping I was wrong. The game I mentioned with the cult, I’m intending it to start as a group heavily tied with Phiarlan, and asking one player to volunteer to have the Mark of Shadow, as a gateway.

        Of course this goes to the 5e Dragonmark problem.

        My solution of bonus feat for all at 1st may do it. I’ve also considered dragonmark as a subrace, and forwarding first ASI.

        • In my 5th ed game, I used backgrounds as a way to give players the Dragonmarked feat at 1st level. I developed backgrounds around being dragonmarked, whether they were a noble in house, a displaced scion who has no ties to the house anymore or an orphan who has no idea why they have a mark. Nobles get more backing but are beholden to their house. Orphans have no ties but the house may come calling to collect their power. This way all my players could be dragonmarked at 1st level and the only trade off was losing a background feature.

  6. Have you ever given thought to what dragonmarks might manifest if tied to Eberron? We know that true dragonmarks can be augmented by siberys shards, and that the aberrant marks might be fueled by khyber shards, does that leave room for Eberron marks?

    • Have you ever given thought to what dragonmarks might manifest if tied to Eberron? We know that true dragonmarks can be augmented by siberys shards, and that the aberrant marks might be fueled by khyber shards, does that leave room for Eberron marks?

      Perhaps. The countering argument would be that humans and demihumans are fundamentally bound to Eberron, which is the source of all natural life. A Siberys Mark is thus already a blending of Siberys and Eberron’s influence. One argument I could see would be that primal powers essentially ARE a manifestation of an invisible Eberron mark – creating a stronger bond to the natural force – and that an Eberron focus item could enhance primal abilities.

  7. Have you ever tough to a Sorcerer charachter drawing the source of his power from his aberrant dragonmark? Or maybe a warlock? Does it works for you?

    And what if aberrant marks were starting to appear on shifters, changelings or goblinoid? Or maybe on warfargeds? I think the idea of goblinoids and changelings opens to a lot of campaings.

    By the way: if aberrant marks are so unpredictable, why do canon rules say that only a charachter that could have a traditional mark can choose the aberrant mark feat? Do you agree with that?

    • Have you ever tough to a Sorcerer charachter drawing the source of his power from his aberrant dragonmark? Or maybe a warlock? Does it works for you?

      Certainly. I’ve long suggested using dragonmarks – aberrant or otherwise – as a way to explain a character’s class abilities.

      And what if aberrant marks were starting to appear on shifters, changelings or goblinoid? Or maybe on warfargeds? I think the idea of goblinoids and changelings opens to a lot of campaings.

      As I said in a previous comment, one of my novels includes an aberrant warforged and my favorite Eberron PC (as a player) was a dragonborn with an aberrant mark, so I’m happy to explore such ideas. I am fine with the idea that the marks are COMMONLY found on the dragonmarked races, but I’m happy to explore other developments.

  8. Hi Keith, may I asj you what do the main druidic sects think of dragonmarks and aberrant dragonmarks?

    • Hi Keith, may I ask you what do the main druidic sects think of dragonmarks and aberrant dragonmarks?

      House Tharashk has ties to the Gatekeepers, and one of the Tharashk triumvirs is a druid. I think druids are ambivalent. Magical creatures are part of nature in Eberron; druids have no problems with displacer beasts or blink dogs, for example. The Ashbound might take issue with someone attempting to artificially manipulate or induce dragonmarks – just as they are opposed to magebreeding – but I don’t think they consider dragonmarks to be inherently unnatural.

  9. I see theese possibilities and I’d love to have your opinion:
    – Children of the Winter could see aberrant marks as a bless (recruiting people with that mark) or a sign that Winter is near;
    – Gatekeepers could see a tie between aberrant marks and Daelkys (they are still called “aberrant” and maybe have a connection with Kyeber)
    – Ashbounds could see aberrant marks as a corruption of “natural” marks. But maybe this is a stupid idea, since powerful aberrant marks existed before the evolutions of magical technology
    – Greensingers are secretly trying to understand dragonmarks and develop dragonmarks on fairies

    • And btw, I post here a question for the post on fairies: what do Ashbounds think of them? Are they “natural” or “arcane”?

  10. I’ve just finished reading through ALL of your Eberron posts here on Keith-baker.com

    Just wanted to thank you for creating this beautiful world (my main RP campaign is going on there) and posts here showing so much detail and bringing a lot of flavor! Thank you and please keep writing about Eberron – I’m sure there are a lot of silent readers like myself out there 🙂

    • Thanks! I will be writing more as time allows, and also starting a Patreon in 2017 to support more content on the website.

  11. So, looking at the Aberrant feat, only true Dragonmark races can take it. (at least in 3.5) but, in the books and fluff, there are Aberrant marked of, say, the WARFORGED. So, can, say, a drow manifest an aberrant mark? The Goliaths? Thri-keen? Or are those impossible, and it has to be Khorovian races?

    • Ultimately, it’s up to the GM; it’s simply extremely unusual to have a member of any other race manifest an aberrant mark. In a campaign I was playing in, we decided to have the changeling and dragonborn PCs develop aberrant marks – but the point is that this was remarkable and unseen before, potentially signifying some sort of important role in the Prophecy.

      With that said, bear in mind that specifically with the aberrant marked warforged who appears in the novel The Son of Khyber, he may not be what he appears to be… and the fact that he’s a traditionally non-marked race with an aberrant mark is one of the clues about that.

  12. Hello, Keith. There is something I don’t quite get… If two unmarked members from two different Dragonmarked Houses had a children, say Bob whose grandfather was a Dragonmarked Heir from House Orien has a baby with Jen, whose dad was a Dragonmarked Heir from House Vadalis, could their child develope a Mixed Mark?

    I’m asking because I figure that there must be a lot of people around who aren’t part of a Dragonmarked house but who have a Dragonmarked ancestors… with the Excoriated, the Orphans, and the Foundlings marrying outside the houses and having unmarked children, the Scions and Agents having children out of wedlock… etc., there must be many unmarked people around with a good amount of Dragonmarked blood, so, every time a Heir marries anybody out of her own house she would be risking having a baby of Mixed blood…

    Also, do Mixed Marks look nice and clean like True Dragonmarks, or are they surrounded by scars and welts like othe Aberrant Marks?

    Is there any mechanical difference between Mixed Marks and other Aberrants Marks? Can they use Khyber Shard items? Or Siberys Shard items?

    Are Mixed Marks as likely to become out of control and cause trouble to their bearers as other Aberrant Marks do?

    Thank you.

    • The central premise is that there’s no difference between a “mixed mark” and an “aberrant mark”; it’s simply that a mixed mark is an aberrant mark whose origins can be explained. However, it’s entirely possible that when an aberrant mark manifests on a child for what appears to be no reason, it’s because they had dragonmarked lineage they never knew about. Otherwise, mixed marks are just as unpredictable and dangerous as any other aberrant mark. Note that Fileon in The Son of Khyber – who has a deadly touch that killed his Jorasco mother, and whose mark-bearing arm is withered – has a mixed mark.

      • Thank you.

        About my other question, doesn’t it mean the Dragonmarked houses are taking a non-neligible risk every time they allow a non-marked outsider to marry one of their own?
        I think you said House Cannith could arrange one of its members to marry a very successful Artificer to bring him or her into the family… Isn’t it dangerous?

        • I seem to recall reading somewhere that House Vadalis offers a service reviewing the bloodlines of potential mates to avoid this sort of problem.

          Even if I dreamed it, it still makes sense.

        • Isn’t it dangerous?

          Sure, but when it comes down to it, the odds of them having the blood of another house in sufficient quantity to generate a mixed mark is no more likely than the danger of them having any number of other hereditary diseases or conditions. As Beoric says, an officially sanctioned match would likely be vetted by Vadalis or Jorasco to search for such conditions. At the simplest level this can come down to a ritual much like Augury, producing something akin to the “woe” or “weal” answer; it might be less of a full DNA breakdown, and more of a simple “This match would have bad results.”

          And given that the general concept is that the mark enhances talents tied to its form – IE, having the Mark of Making makes you a better artificer – one could make the argument that if someone is a fantastic artificer, it’s most likely that their unknown latent mark would be Making… though, of course, an undeveloped mark has no mechanical impact on a character.

  13. Thanks for this article. I’m running Eyes of the Lich Queen and the characters have just gotten their aberrant dragonmarks. I was in a quandry over what to do with them re: power selection as the powers in the 3.5 ECS do seem rather ‘benign’. I may give the warforged the suggested resist energy as that might be a nice hint at the warmind prestige class (with its theme of magical defences). However I also had the rather far-out idea of giving him resist energy as a psionic ability, with a view that the aberrant mark might slowly begin transforming him into a psi-forged (with the player deciding over time whether to embrace this through the selection of further aberrant dragonmark feats or to resist it by not doing so). I guess that’s outside the scope of the rules and potential the lore as dragonmarks do not interact with psionics?

  14. In the release of Wayfinder’s Guide To Eberron, it seems that all dragonmarks except for aberrant dragonmarks can become more powerful, is there any plans to make them like the others or are they going to stay that way for release?

  15. This is really interesting stuff! Thanks Keith!

    I have to say, the more and more I read about Dragonmarks and Tarkanan and Sharn, the more and more I really want to play in (or run, if I’m confident) a campaign that’s set around masked heroes in Sharn. It’s not too far a cry given the Pulp-Noir fusion aesthetic and all of the magical energy flying around. Aberrant Dragonmarks are a fun analogue to the X-Gene, you could have Artificers, Thieves and your own Vigilantes as your gadgeteers and brawlers, and the idea of leaping around Sharn like Spiderman is a concept that’s grabbed my attention ever since I first learned about the City of Towers. Heck, even younger heroes at Morgrave muddling through a double-life is interesting…

    How would you approach the idea of public-eye masked heroes in Sharn? The general populace is far more familiar with magic, so I wonder if the bystander effect might not be so strong among, say, Magewrights, the Marked, or the usual suspects up at Clifftop. Would the Dragonmarked Houses attempt to intervene, do you think? How would House Tarkanan react, seeing a powerful kid with an Aberrant Mark fighting the good fight, seemingly unaware of their past? They could fulfil a role such as the Brotherhood of Mutants to one or more heroes with Aberrant Marks; perhaps one quest is to overcome House Tarkanan and rebuild it in Tarkanan’s honour as a place of peace and diplomacy, the better, less destructive path.

    After all, the best steel requires the hottest flame and you can power thousands of hospitals with a process that can otherwise level cities. Destructive they may be, but few Aberrant Marks are without constructive uses; indeed, many lives can be saved simply by teaching Children of Khyber how to control their powers. After that, the choice to use their marks for good would be (in an ideal world, which Eberron does not have to be) up to the individual, though that may not be possible for all. You could certainly argue that the dragonmarks’ aberrant nature would fight this, but fights can be won if you have the tools, the ingenuity, and the force of will to overcome. This is… another discussion, perhaps, but it is interesting to wonder whether anyone in-setting has used this idea productively.

    Back to masks, the secrecy involved could be really interesting too, what with the presence of Divination magic. Perhaps The Artful Asterion, bull-headed Warforged artificer (that’s secretly a halfling in a war-suit adaptation of a Iron Defender), has invented devices that foil the Mark of Detection, but only through the use of clunky, difficult-to-conceal technologies. Or perhaps the masks are for show, and there are no secret identities to be found, although that would be a little disappointing to me.

    I don’t really know, and my apologies for the perhaps excessive rambling, but this is setting my mind alight and I thank you for that!

  16. Well will all that talk I wonder:
    How does a new true dragonmark (eg Death) doesn’t get mistaken with an abberant one?

    • Pretty simple: It LOOKS like a true dragonmark, with blue-purple lines. Aberrant dragonmarks don’t resemble true dragonmarks and generally don’t resemble each other. If two people have aberrant dragonmarks that grant Burning Hands, one might be made of scar tissue and the other might be traced in lines of cold fire. They’re pretty clearly NOT true dragonmarks.

      The second proof would be when the mark is passed on to a child, as aberrant marks aren’t reliably hereditary and even if a child does manifest an aberrant mark, it won’t have the same appearance as that of the parent.

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