IFAQ: Adepts and Divine Artifice

Art by Julio Azevedo

I’m on my way to MegaCon where I’ll be talking about games and playing on the main stage! It’s been a busy month: I’ve relaunched my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on my Patreon and I’m writing for Wayfinder. I’m working on the next Dragonmark article, which will deal with Khorvaire in the Age of Giants. But when time allows I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons… so lets look at one of those.

Could you expand on the description of the Crucible artificers in Exploring Eberron, or more generally on how the overlap between adept magic and artifice/magecraft works & what it looks like? I’m assuming the faiths have followed technological progress, but I’m having a hard time coming up with more than mass-produced religious icons, scripture, and holy water.

One of the central aspects of Eberron’s idea of Everyday Magic is the existence of a widespread force of spellworkers who don’t have the flexibility or scope of player character spellcasters. An oracle can cast divination and augury, but they can’t perform healing magic. A locksmith can cast knock and arcane lock, but they can’t conjure illusions or fling fireballs. For most people in the world, mastering a particular set of spells is a life’s work, and you can’t just spend an evening reading a spellbook or a morning in prayer and completely change your spell list.

In the original ECS, adepts and magewrights were called out as entirely different classes. As the concept evolved this line was blurred. Eberron Rising From The Last War generally uses “magewright” as a blanket term for any professional spellcaster. The Magewright Specialty table on page 318 of Rising includes Oracles, Mediators, and Healers—all roles traditionally associated with adepts and divine magic. But the point is that from a purely mechanical perspective, it doesn’t matter how the magewright casts the ritual, only that they can; the rest is cosmetic detail. I discuss this in this article, looking at the difference between a divine oracle and an arcane oracle. Both can cast divination, but for the adept this is about communing with a divine force, while for the arcane magewright it’s based on some form of science, such as cartomancy. The short form is that “magewright” as defined in Rising From The Last War simply means someone who can cast a limited set of ritual spells or cantrips and doesn’t care whether that person is a traditional magewright, adept, gleaner, or wandslinger.

I expanded on this in Exploring Eberron:

Arcane magic is a science; magewrights master its techniques. However, there are other forms of magic which can likewise be adapted to everyday functions. An adept derives their magic from their faith, a more limited form of what a cleric can do; likewise, a gleaner masters the simplest forms of druidic magic. Especially with the adept, this is usually more of a calling than a job; you don’t decide to become an oracle of Aureon, you find that you are gifted with visions. The rituals of an adept will invoke divine forces, while a gleaner will draw on the world around them and often use an herbalism kit as a spellcasting focus.

Having said that in Exploring Eberron, I’m going to quantify it here. VASSALS don’t choose to become adepts; they believe they are called or blessed by one of the Sovereigns. You can’t demand that Aureon give you the gift of prophecy; either he chooses you to be an oracle or he doesn’t. But that’s because Vassals interact with the Sovereigns as if they were people. As a Vassal, you ask Aureon for guidance. By contrast, the Silver Flame is an impersonal force. It’s not an anthropomorphic entity that decides to do things. The Silver Flame was created to bind the overlords. That’s its primary function and we’re all very lucky that it continues to perform that function. The fact that people of great faith can draw on its power to defend the innocent is a side benefit. The Silver Flame binds the overlords. To do that, it must be omnipresent within the world; and therefore, the power is all around, available for a person of faith to use.

The people of Thrane are raised with that concept. While Thranish belief in the Flame isn’t universal or oppressive, for the faithful it’s part of everyday life. You know that the Flame is all around you, that it holds the ancient evils at bay, and that those with sufficient devotion can wield its power to serve the greater good. It’s a tool, like the bow… and where some Thranes master the bow and become templars or serve in the village militia, others turn to the tool of prayer and focus on harnessing the power of the Flame. Hence, as said in Rising From The Last War, moreso than in the other nations, “Faith is part of daily life in Thrane and divine adepts provide important services.” Specifically, they provide services that are typically provided by arcane magewrights in other nations. Healer and oracle are common roles for adepts in any nation. But in Thrane, you can find launderers using the power of the Flame to cleanse dirty clothes. You can find locksmiths who channel the power of the Flame to cast arcane lock—providing protection for the innocent. You can even find entertainers who draw on the Flame to amplify their voices or create music. This looks different from a Vassal adept, because the adept of the Silver Flame doesn’t have to ask for the power; the power is THERE, and they just need to know how to use it. But the Flame adept still needs faith to channel the power, and needs to believe they are using their gift for the good of the community. So the Thrane launderer doesn’t say “Oh Flame, I beseech you, cleanse these filthy clothes!” But they may sing a hymn to Tira or to the Flame while doing the laundry, and for them, doing laundry is an expression of their faith—they feel the power of the Flame flowing through them, and know that they are helping this community. A secondary point to this is that Flame adepts take money for their services, because they need to be able to thrive to continue to provide those services to their community, but as a rule they aren’t driven by greed. They need to believe they are providing a valuable service and it’s only just for those who can afford it to pay a fair price for that service. But they believe that they are doing a service for those in need, not simply chasing gold; and Thrane adepts are thus more likely to perform charitable work for those who truly are in need than the typical Brelish magewright.


With all that in mind, let’s look back at the original question. Exploring Eberron has this to say about the Crucible of Thrane: Developed during the Last War, this small order of adepts and artificers crafts items drawing on the power of the Silver Flame. So what do they actually MAKE? Is it all mass-produced scripture and holy water?

These days the difference between adepts and magewrights is cosmetic. The same principle applies to artificers. Just as you can play a bard who isn’t a musician, a barbarian who never gets angry, and a warlock without a patron, you can play an artificer who draws on the power of the Silver Flame. And they can create anything any other artificer could create. You can be an artillerist carving wands or an alchemist making potions. The key is that you are enchanting these items by infusing them with the power of the Flame. Where a Cannith artillerist might craft a wand of fireballs inlaid with Fernian brass and fine draconic sigils, your wand will be traced in silver and an invocation of the Flame—and it may inflict fire damage, the flames will be silver. Note in particular that the Crucible was developed during the Last War. So what does it make? WEAPONS. Siege staffs. Blast disks. Long rods. Mechanically these are the same as their Brelish counterparts, but the Thrane force staff flings bolts of blinding silver energy and one of the three actions required to activate the staff is invoking the Flame. Exploring Eberron says that using arcane artillery “requires specialized training, similar to that of an artificer or magewright; someone trained to operate arcane artillery is generally called a bombardier.” Operating a Thranish Flame-powered siege staff would require an entirely different set of training. There ARE elements of science involved; the staff is still a tool that must be maintained. But the energy involved is divine in nature and only responds to faith. If you wanted to take this a step farther, Exploring Eberron presents dragon’s breath as the primary ammunition used by arcane artillery. I would imagine that divine artillery would use a different substance, possible just called Flame by the bombardiers—a powder that is literally infused with faith, produced in factory-temples.

Having said all that, it is important to note that there are arcane magewrights and artificers in Thrane and divine adepts elsewhere. It’s possible that Breland has a unit where Brelish templars operate a Thrane-made Flame cannon, and Thrane may have used traditional blast disks. Note that the Crucible was formed DURING the Last War. It is a reflection of wartime innovation and the industrialization of the faith—and just as there are many devotees of the Flame who don’t approve of the theocracy of Thrane, there are likely many who don’t approve of this industrialization.

So the short form is that ANY magic item could be presented as being a product of the Crucible powered by the Flame. Just consider how that’s reflected in its appearance. Potions produced by a Crucible artificer may shimmer with a silver radiance or seem to burn. The command word for a Crucible wand is an invocation to the Flame. And crucially, consider how the creator of the item could belief that in its creation they are serving their community and protecting the innocent. The Crucible created weapons and tools to protect the people of Thrane. It brewed potions to heal them. But it couldn’t produce pure luxury items or trivial goods, because the typical Crucible artificer would stumble in creation, questioning how it was a worthy use of the Flame’s power.


So how do these principles apply beyond Thrane? Can you have a divine artificer bound to Boldrei, and what does that look like? Certainly, you can have Vassal artificers and adepts. The key is that they are less industrialized. Because faith in the Flame is such a universal constant in Thrane, and because the Flame is perceived as an omnipresent force, it can be approached like learning to use a tool. Faith in the Sovereigns is more casual and more personal; each Vassal develops their own relationship with the Sovereigns. So again, as noted above, you don’t train to be an oracle of Aureon; you realize that you are an oracle of Aureon. The same principle applies to the artificer of Boldrei. It’s not a job with a clear entry path. You likely start by training for a mundane job and then realizing that Boldrei is guiding you, that she is infusing your work with magic, and over time, you learn how to effectively use her gifts. Which also means three Artificers of Boldrei could be very different based on their relationship with the Sovereign. The first thing I imagine is an Alchemist artificer who uses Chef’s Tools to produce enchanted food; their cure wounds is a strong cup of Tal that perks you right up and their enhance ability is a muffin whose flavor depends on the ability involved, but which channels the energy of Boldrei’s Hearth. On the other hand, a Battle Smith of Boldrei would be driven more by Boldrei’s role as defender of the community; their Steel Defender doesn’t follow any Cannith principles, but is animated by the artificer’s faith. This is also a good time to point out that the Sovereigns don’t stand alone. We often call someone out as an “Oracle of Aureon” to say that out of the Host, they feel the strongest connection to Aureon. But when the Oracle of Aureon gets in a fight, they may still offer a prayer to Dol Dorn–and likewise, the Battle Smith “of Boldrei” can also feel a connection to the rest of the Host. They identify with Boldrei because they feel they’ve been called to defend their community, but they can still thank Onatar while they repair the armor that was damaged in a battle.

Nonetheless, the key point here is that Thrane is the only one of the Five Nations where divine artifice has become an industry. Vassal adepts and artificers are usually more unique, and that means the things they create will be as well. So Boldrei’s Alchemist may use cooking tools and give you a muffin to enhance your strength; while Boldrei’s Battle Smith could use smith’s tools and give you a medallion engraved with Boldrei’s sigil.

That’s all for now; hopefully this gives you some interesting ideas. As I’ll be at MegaCon for the next few days I won’t be answering questions, but feel free to share your ideas and experiences with divine artifice in the comments. And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible and for asking interesting questions!

8 thoughts on “IFAQ: Adepts and Divine Artifice

  1. Holy Flame, it got more detailed! This is so much more than I expected, especially on my first question after becoming a patron!

    I really appreciate the extra examples too. Part of the question actually was about what the end results look like: My party’s stuck in the Mournland and now I’ve got the perfect set-dressing for a post-cataclysm Church of the Flame, plus a vexing repair challenge for the faithless artificer!

    What really made it click for me, though, was the passing mention of divinely inspired artists: your musicians, but then there have to be architects, sculptors, stained-glass-workers, painters like Séraphine Louis (who I’m definitely making a Thrane artist now), weavers, inspired poets, choirs, dancers, all working magic in praise of the Silver Flame… let’s say, I’m not wondering how the Church grew that powerful anymore. If it’s all gothic cathedrals, but with magical silver fire and iridescent rainbow feathers, I’m converting myself.

    I also got some inspiration from the post about wondrous figurines, the templar’s silver serpents, and I guess the idea of a forge adept artificer reflavored as a divinely inspired Crucible archer didn’t hurt either.

    High art and magic aside though, this is a worldbuilding and character inspiration silver mine: Temple-factories as in medieval monasteries turned sacred industry, copying scrolls, or distilling herbs into fortifying potions and spirits? Smithies with silver fire, hammer and anvil inscribed with prayers? Weaver’s workshops where every move is accompanied by sacred hymns? This is great!
    I’m seeing illuminators whose vibrant scrolls summon winged serpents or bolster prayers read from them, Flame smiths forging blessed arrowheads, rings, or chainmail, warders whose house blessings protect from evil, break-ins and vermin, there’s probably flameweave vestments and everwarm boots too… and I guess the holy hand-grenades were always part of Eberron and I missed them?

    Anyways, thank you again, this made my day, and I can’t wait for more ideas from other people and for other faiths!

  2. The Crucible seems like the perfect source for silvereye maurauders from Five Nations—leonine constructs animated by the Silver Flame that can use it as a breath weapon—developed by House Cannith in Sigilstar, silver pyromancers, and a Silver Flame worshipping defector from Aundiar Kaldor Ravalek.

  3. Interesting illustration of the different approaches to the divine forces between the Purified and the Vassals!

    The potential for disputes over the ‘industrialisation’ of the Flame within Thrane, could provide some fodder for plots about breaking with the Theocracy/pushes for reform/radical rejection. I can totally see how making something ‘miraculous’ do something so ‘mundane’ could seem sacrilegious to some groups. But that is actually quite keeping with how some real-world ancient religions worked: Ancient Egyptian temples were selling plenty of protective amulets and charms.

    I like to work in more divine spell list-derived items into the Thranish products, just to help it feel more distinct rather than just re-flavoured. DND 3.5/Pathfinder system helps make that concrete.

    I wonder how much ‘silver’ really matters to the Silver Flame? Does it actually have any special properties in-universe, especially when used in magic items, aside from overcoming damage resistance? Or is does it just ‘help the faith to flow’ because it is reminiscent of the colour of the actual divine energy of the Silver Flame?

    • I love a good religious dispute in fantasy, so: Why do you think the mundanity of industry would be an issue for the theocracy?

      Does a small and common miracle not exalt the Flame, and does the everyday nature of its works not prove that it is present all around us? It’s not sacrilege to use the Flame against a lesser evil than the one Tira fought, therefore it can’t be sin to use it for a lesser good. Especially since it is probably not our place alone to judge, whether a good or evil would be lesser in the Flame’s Light.
      Some might doubt, of course, some might even be tempted to call the Flame’s nature into question publicly. But by the Light of the Flame, through the words and works of true believers, they may see the error of their ways, and appreciate the gifts of the Flame for the miracles they are again, however small they might seem!

      It’s pretty hard to argue with a sermon like that, IMO, because “What has the Flame ever done for us?” is even easier to answer with a sacred, theocracy-sponsored industry that made most things you own, and which is very likely responsible for you surviving the war so far too.

      The question whether it’s “just” faith magic or silver that’s hurting the werewolf or disinfecting the wound is pretty hard to resolve too, unless you get faithful and werewolf volunteers for double-blind studies. So, I’d answer just yes: It helps the faith flow, because they believe it to have special properties, some of them only as salient because they believe in them.
      Consequently, since the Silver Crusades, it’s been absolutely impossible to tell how that effect arises, but the Ghaash’kala fight demons as well with iron, while the Joraash’tar disinfect with copper, so there are probably no inherent anti-septic or anti-lycanthropic properties to silver at all.

      I don’t actually think that’s a good solution for play, but I think it illustrates pretty well how wonky science can become on contact with magic, and inversely, how faith might become more reliable. It’s a fun paradox to think about, which I think can be a good way to understand Thrane (or religion in general).

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