I’m still in the process of deciding what I’m doing next—whether my next major project will be another Eberron book for the DM’s Guild, or whether I will explore a new setting—and if the latter, whether it will be for 5E D&D, another system, or system agnostic. However, in the meantime, I’m starting a new campaign! Every month I run an online session in an ongoing campaign for Patreon. All patrons at the Threshold level have access to recordings of previous sessions… as well as a chance to play in every new session. Over the course of this month, I’ll be running a series of patron polls to determine exactly WHAT I’m running next. So if you’d like to help determine my next campaign—or be a part of it!—check out my Patreon.
Meanwhile, another benefit of my Patreon is getting to ask me questions. I don’t get to every question every month, but here’s a few of my favorites from January!
In the original 3e Setting book for Eberron Atur is described as a bit of a party city with lots of bordellos and taverns, how true is this in your modern conception of Eberron and the Blood of Vol? Or is this a vestige of when the Blood of Vol and Emerald Claw were treated as interchangeable terms, and thus Atur was made to be seedy and decadent?
Also called the City of Night, Atur sits in the shadow of the Ashen Spires, near the great Karrn Falls that spill out of the mountains and fl ow into the Karrn River. The close peaks of the Ashen Spires, the constant mist rising off the swirling waters of the Karrn, and the oppressive brick buildings make for a place that has relatively short periods of direct daylight and consequently long nights. But the City of Night was named more for the fact that the place seems to come alive when darkness overtakes the land. With the city’s temple to the Blood of Vol (called the Crimson Monastery) and its massive Vaults of the Dead, where corpse collectors store the fodder for Karrnath’s undead armies, Atur has a definite connection to the twilight and midnight hours. A significant portion of the population follows the teachings of the Blood of Vol and attends the daily rituals in the Crimson Monastery.
Otherwise, the City of Night has a rhythm and pulse that seems to increase when the sun goes down. Feast halls, taverns, theaters, and bordellos of all descriptions open their doors after dark and stay active until the sun struggles back up and over the mountains. For many visitors, the city seems to operate in a way opposite to the other metropolitan centers of the Five Nations. Everything appears quiet and deserted by day, but by night the the various shops and businesses open to crowds of people.Eberron Campaign Setting
The Grand Duchy of Atur is infamously a stronghold of the Seeker faith and a center for necromantic research. Its association with the Blood of Vol long predates Kaius I’s embrace of the faith, and its status as a palatinate means it remains a safe haven for Seekers regardless of how they are viewed elsewhere. Because of the strength of Seeker traditions, undead are found throughout the city. Knowing this, many who hear the name “City of Night” think Atur must be a grim, miserable place. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atur is a city that looks death in the eye—and because of that, it is a city that CELEBRATES LIFE. Karrnath as a whole is a stoic and austere culture; Atur is a place that celebrates all of the joys of life. Food, sex, art—all are enshrined and presented in a spectrum of delights. That spectrum means that there are definitely seedy elements in Atur, and if you’re looking for decadence you can find it. The quote above calls out that Atur is home to entertainments of all descriptions and that’s the key; there are taverns so fine your adventurers will surely never be let through the door, and some of Thuranni’s finest artists only perform at the grand Palace of Shadows. This is something that has evolved over the course of a thousand years, again with Atur running at odds to the generally stoic persona of the typical Karrn; the City of Night is a place for a Karrn to escape their lives for a few days, and tourism is its primary industry. So certainly, outsiders often call Atur “seedy and decadent”—but that description fails to grasp how seriously Aturans take their duty of celebrating life, and the quality of the food, music, and other performances that can be found in the City of Night.
Atur has been a bastion for the Blood of Vol since it first took root in Karrnath. The Crimson Covenant was first formed in the great monastery of Atur, and that Crimson Monastery has grown into the largest temple to the Divinity Within in Khorvaire. It was in Atur—in the palace of Nighthold—that the leaders of the faith forged their alliance with Kaius I. However, while a majority of the citizens of Atur follow the Blood of Vol, it’s not exclusively tied to the faith. The Great Hall of Feast and Fortune—commonly referred to as the Feast Hall—is one of the grandest temples of Olladra in the Five Nations; in addition to traditional services, it’s the finest venue for parties in the city, and the sounds of coins and dice can be heard at all houses in the gaming hall.
Thanks to the influence of the Blood of Vol, undead are a common sight in Atur.
- The Seekers have no attachment to corpses and most are happy to donate their remains to serve the greater good. As a result, skeletons are found performing menial tasks and manual labor across the city. Because they serve many different functions, they’re generally painted to indicate their service; blood-red for those associated with the Monastery or other temples, dark green for sanitation, black and gold for those tied to the city watch, blue for this tied to commerce; artists add often secondary designs that give each skeleton a little personality. However, these are standard skeletons, possessing limited intelligence; they are managed by Bone Wranglers, specialized magewrights who effectively program the undead. As noted in the Monster Manual, “Although they lack the intellect they possessed in life, skeletons aren’t mindless. Rather than break its limbs attempting to batter its way through an iron door, a skeleton tries the handle first. If that doesn’t work, it searches for another way through or around the obstacle.” So a sanitation skeleton is focused on collecting garbage and disposing of it, but it can show limited initiative to overcome obstacles.
- The Vaults of the Dead are a vast complex that served as the center of Karrnath’s necromantic war machine. Its fortified facilities include workshops for the production of undead, warehouses for storing bones and bodies, and the vast catacombs that currently hold the Karrnathi undead that have been sealed below since the Treaty of Thronehold was found. While the vast majority of the Karrnathi Undead are sealed in the vaults, the Atur Watch has a significant corps of these sentient undead, and they can also be found protecting the Ministry of the Dead, the palace of Nighthold, and other important locations. The Vaults of the Dead are maintained by the Ministry of the Dead, NOT by the Blood of Vol. While many Seekers serve in the Vaults, they serve the Crown and the Vaults are a separate entity from the Crimson Monastery.
- The Crimson Monastery has its own corps of undead—Seeker martyrs who have devoted their endless lives to service to their faith. Most of these are Oathbound, a form of mummy; most have greater intelligence and lower strength than the typical mummy in the Monster Manual, but the principle is the same. Oathbound are sustained by the oaths they’re sworn to uphold and the restrictions placed upon them; many can’t actually leave the Crimson Monastery, while others are bound to their service but can roam the city. Oathbound can also be found in other roles in the city; the oldest tavern in Atur, The Old Bones, is maintained by Grethan and Talan Todar, two oathbound who’ve been serving Seekers for centuries. Unlike skeletons and Karrnathi undead, Oathbound do maintain memories of their former lives; but their oaths place considerable limitations on their activities.
Because of this, there are a number of businesses that cater specifically to undead. Second Life is an Oathbound salon. Despite what you may read in the Voice of Thrane, there’s no zombie bordellos in Atur (or ARE there…?) but there are a few establishments that are devoted to entertaining the undead. Oathbound can’t eat or drink and don’t experience physical pleasure, but they can still feel desire; Eulogies specializes in storytelling and roleplaying, helping the Oathbound remember joys they can no longer experience directly.
As called out above, Atur celebrates the arts. Before the Last War, Atur was the seat of House Phiarlan’s Demesne of Shape, devoted to physical arts—painting, sculpting, ceramics—as well as to the creation of costumes, props, and other supporting goods. In the wake of the Shadow Schism, House Thuranni claimed the demesne, now known as the True Shapers Enclave. This is a center for production and education, but it’s complimented by the Palace of Shadows—One of the grandest performance spaces held by Thuranni. This is not to be confused with the actual palace of Nighthold, a secondary seat for the royal family. As Atur is a Grand Duchy, it is semi-autonomous, but the presence of the Nighthold has always been a source of pride and a sign of the importance of the city. Kaius III has spent little time in Atur over the last decade, but Queen Etrigani loves the City of Night.
This only scratches the surface of the many wonders of the City of Night. You can be certain that in a visit to Atur you will see wonders you’ve never seen anywhere else. Is it seedy and decadent? It can be, if that’s what you’re looking for. But it can also be a place of astonishing beauty, a chance to experience meals and joys you won’t find anywhere else. And it is certainly a place to find forgotten secrets in the vaults of the Crimson Monastery, or to speak to an oathbound older than Galifar itself. But remember, what happens in Atur doesn’t always stay in Atur…
Am I correct in remembering that Atur is a major mabar manifest zone? If so how does that effect it’s status as a party scene and its culture more generally?
You are correct: Atur is in the most powerful Mabaran manifest zone in Karrnath, which is why it’s the seat of the Vaults of the Dead and the center for the production of undead. Which sounds bad, right? The key comes from the Fort Bones article in Dungeon 195: “Temples of the Blood of Vol are often built in manifest zones linked to Mabar or Dolurrh. The Seekers have learned to harness the power of (these zones) and to protect their comrades from their dangers.” This is WHY Atur is the site of the Crimson Monastery—the largest temple of the Blood of Vol in Khorvaire—and why Atur was left inviolate even when the nation shifted away from the Seeker faith: they need the Seekers to continue their rituals to keep the dangers posed by the Mabaran zone contained. This is also a concrete reason for the revelry in Atur; just as the Aereni veneration of the Undying Court generates the positive energy needed to sustain the Deathless, the ongoing celebration of life is part of the equation that holds the power of Mabar at bay. Incidentally, this is the underlying reason Queen Etrigani is fascinated with Atur and spends a significant amount of time there. She shares the common Aereni belief that Mabaran necromancy and undead pollute the world, but she is intrigued by the techniques the Seekers have developed to contain these energies… and she appreciates the active celebration of life even in this place of death.
I’m running a session in Atur and I’m trying to think of who would be memorialized by statues in the city. Does the BoV have any saints?
One of the basic principles of the Blood of Vol is that dead is dead—that Dolurrh eradicates the soul. The Seekers seek to unlock their Divinity Within, and clerics and paladins are partially doing just that. If someone truly did unlock the full potential of their Divinity Within they would in theory have the power of a Sovereign, but personally, I DON’T want to say “There’s a bunch of people who have already done that and we get power from them” because that fundamentally alters the flavor of the faith and because I always prefer to have things happening NOW than to have happened sometime in the past. I’d rather have your Seeker cleric potentially being the first to accomplish this. Some might believe that someone HAS unlocked their full divinity in the past—but that if so, they are locked in battle with the Sovereigns and unable to help mortals. The main point is that the Blood of Vol doesn’t have Saints in the sense of people who have died but who are still invoked to provide supernatural assistance. The dead are DEAD. You don’t pray to Malevanor hoping he will grant you favor; you go talk to Malevanor at the Crimson Monastery, because he became Oathbound precisely so he could continue to help Seekers after death.
So, the Blood of Vol doesn’t have saints in the sense of people-who-may-intercede-on-behalf-of-the-living. But BECAUSE dead is dead, the Blood of Vol does believe it’s important to remember the dead and to honor their memory and works. It’s the same way that WE have statues of founders and heroes; we don’t pray to them, but we want to remember them. Gyrnar Shult and Malevanor are two examples of recent people who could have statues honoring their achievements in Atur (a statue of Malevanor as he was in life, not reflecting him as Oathbound!). There could be statues of other great priests, philosophers, or soldiers; even in Atur, Karrns still respect martial prowess and courage.
Any advice how to create compelling religions in homebrew worlds?
Successful religions build community and generally offer hope or provide explanations for the challenges people face in life. The Sovereign Host tells us the Sovereigns are guiding us, that Boldrei brings us together, Aureon’s laws make us stronger, and that the Dark Six can be blamed for all the evil in the world. The Blood of Vol tells us the Sovereigns are to blame for the evil in the world (well, one Seeker sect says this): the gods are against us, life is cruel, and we need to stand together because all we have is one another. The Silver Flame teaches that there are real, concrete forces of evil in the world itself, but that we can overcome them by standing together and channeling the light of the Flame. So again, first and foremost: WHY should someone adopt the faith you’re creating? What questions does it answer? What hope does it offer? What about this faith would cause it to spread and flourish?
How would you explain Eberron to people who believe it is a Grimdark setting because of the multitude of world ending threats posed to it “at the same time?”
The multitude of world ending threats are presented as OPTIONS, but it’s up to the DM to decide which—if any—actually ARE world ending threats. It’s entirely possible that the stars aren’t right—that none of the overlords could be released in the next century, that the daelkyr are securely bound, that the Mourning was a fluke (a Cannith weapon that could only be created during a planar convergence that won’t happen for another five hundred years), that the Kalashtar have the Dreaming Dark situation under control. Part of my general campaign advice is to pick one or at most two of these threats to be factors in your story arc and to kick the others down the road; they all COULD happen right now, but none of them HAVE to.
So in short, it’s as grimdark as you want it to be. It COULD be that everything’s coming to a boiling point right at this moment… and while we’re at it, Lhesh Haruuc and King Boranel could die, Aundair could decide to reclaim Thaliost and the Eldeen Reaches, there could be a civil war in Karrnath, etc, etc… but the general approach of the setting is to present the DM with a lot of options, and for you to decide which will actually be threats TODAY.
Where would you put Penguins in your Eberron?
You’re asking the wrong question. You should have asked “Where WOULDN’T you put Penguins in your Eberron?” Those little %*¥#s are EVERYWHERE. Ok, just kidding. For real, though: they’re in the sewers of Sharn. There was a huge craze when Zil explorers brought them back from Everice, but then people got bored with them and dropped them down the privy, and next thing you know, soiled penguin swarms.
Of course, there’s the other obvious answer, “Silver Flame convents.”
And FINALLY, don’t forget about that time the megafauna penguin burst through the Lamannia manifest zone and laid waste to half of Silver Lake.
That’s all for now. Feel free to discuss these topics in the comments, but I’m afraid I won’t have time to answer questions myself. And again, thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible—follow the link if you want to ask your own questions or get in on my next campaign!
Yikes! Sewer Penguins!
The Old Bones sounds like a tavern that never has a problem with rowdiness! One dreadful glare and the offending party gets filled with fear!
I initially thought that would be very strange for an oathbound to handle food but I’m still stuck in 3.5 where a mummy’s touch spread a disease, where in 5e much like lycanthropy it’s a curse that is a form of attack that’s made. Am I right in assuming most oathbound can freely touch things without spreading mummy rot in Eberron?
I could definitely see a niche for gloves, stained with the blood of living donors of the faith, that allow the oathbound to mingle with their breathing brethren.
Oh! That’s a cool idea, tools rather than immediate change. Focuses on the “we rely on each other” nature of the Seekers. They might well be able to withhold the cursed touch normally, but the gloves allow for a moment where a rowdy patron notices the “gloves come off”
Karrn being famous for beer plus undead focus and I assume oathtaking makes for a fantastic speculation on what kinds of beers this tavern serves (and the cheese and bread and sausages too)
The Rotting Touch is a concern, as seen in the Oathbound Seeker stat block in Chronicles of Eberron. You don’t want Talan Todar to shake your hand. But it’s not a mundane disease, and you can’t catch it from picking up a tankard of ale he’s set before you; it is a direct effect of interaction with the Mabaran energy that is animating the oathbound. So look, but don’t touch.
With that said, I entirely support Jarrod’s suggestion of tools—gloves, robes, amulets—that can contain that energy and allow for limited safe contact—and something tied to the blood of the faithful would make a logical tool.
Fantastic food for thought on my Seeker character. 😀
Is there a Joke I’m missing about the penguins? I’m not sure I get it
There are no jokes about Penguins, they are noble and majestic creatures and they should be in all your games.
This is a take on the American urban legend about pets like alligators being flushed while small and thriving in sewer systems.
I feel like one of the core problems with how other D&D settings (especially Forgotten Realms) handles religion is how “mercenary” it feels to be a cleric in those settings. Most of the times those religions feel so incredibly transactional, Ilmater cares for the sick and broken and the suffering… but you’re going to need to pay Ilmater in faith and prayers, what do you think he is? A charity? He needs to climb that divine rank ladder after all, and if you die without a faith and go to the Wall of the Faithless… well you didn’t scratch Ilmater’s back, so why should help you now?
Makes me wonder about Etrigani – who’s canonically from Aerenal and kanonically a deathguard – and the embrace of necromancy in Atur, given the Aereni distaste for Mabaran magic.
How are you going to spy them otherwise?
As it should! Etrigani is a complicated character and more than just that combination of nationality and faction. Hopefully I’ll have time to write more about her soon.
Am I correct in remembering that Atur is a major mabar manifest zone? If so how does that effect it’s status as a party scene and its culture more generally?
I believe the canon is that it’s *near* one – whether that means in the Ashen Spires or as part of the Nightwood is up to you, I’m sure Keith if he’s got time has some opinions on this.
This is an important question, so I’ve added the answer to the main article.
WELP, looks like it’s time to plan a session in Atur.
Damn, I was planning to do a gazeteer to Atur in case my players decide to go there while they’re in the neighbourhood. This is great inspiration material, do you mind me including these locations if I compile it as a PDF? (to share freely with the Reddit community, not a paid DM’s Guild product.)
If you include a link to the article or the site, sure!
Who built the Pyramid of Atur?
And how many conspiracies is there of it’s construction?
Followup question, Do Tolashcara (“Keepers of Bones that Rustle and Moan”) have any history with atur from the time before humanity or currently?
How does the Atur Academy (described on page 103 of the Player’s Guide to Eberron) differ from other magical academies in the Five Nations (like Arcanix) because of its unique ties to the City of Night? Is this the kind of magical institution that might teach the esoteric magic of dunomancy?
Thanks for expanding on this lively vision of the City of Night!
I like the idea that these ‘celebrations of life’ help manage the influence of Mabar.
Perhaps positive social engagement like this could also function as a kind of ‘therapy’ for Vampires/undead? To help them resist the gradual erosion of their connection with mortals, caused by their extended negative-energy existence.
Also, glad to see a mention of Olladra – but a little surprised that a Host temple would be so prominent in a stronghold of the Blood of Vol.
Regarding ‘Penguins in Sharn’: maybe under the influence of the manifest zone, some of them have regained the ability to ‘fly’ – by swimming through the air!
In am one of the DMs in an Eberron west marches style game and I’m in charge of our game’s seeker faith. My personal answer to the question of already-ascended individuals is that those ascended don’t ascend *as* individuals. Rather, their personal divinity is a divine element that transcends the world as is and is connected to the divinity within humanity in general. One might receive guidance and power from their own divine potential but true achievement of divinity is always beyond any self. This is also why people are not horrified with losing the divine spark to the degree of preventing them from becoming undead: the spark may be personally inactive but they can share in the communities’ divinity and in the knowledge that divinity is there. While they do search for ways to manifest godhood, their mission does not end with their mortality.
This has been my one issue with the Blood of Voll, namely how does the sect cater to the needs of the common member? The main teachings seems so terribly far out of tune for all but some exclusive few. It’s like if Christianity taught that no one have gotten into heaven yet, but who knows, you might be the first if you’re really diligent! That might be something for a PC, but definitely not a promising tenant for a poor farmer or run-of-the-mill citizen.
This has been my one issue with the Blood of Voll, namely how does the sect cater to the needs of the common member? The main teachings seems so terribly far out of tune for all but some exclusive few.
I address this in my most recent post. “Become a god” isn’t a primary goal of a Seeker; the teachings of the faith are that the universe is cruel, the odds are stacked against us; but we all do have a SPARK of divinity within us, and even if we’ll never fully unlock that power, we can still draw on it as we make a stand against the odds and the gods. For the poor farmer, the faith explains why their crops failed and why their son died; it urges them to stand with their family and neighbors and to fight against cruel fate, and promises that they have power within, if they can find it.
I’ve always wondered about why the Karrnathi Undead specifically was “sealed away” in underground vaults. Is the crown afraid that they’ll end up in the wrong hands? Or even that they’ll go rogue due to either their nature or being affected by a coterminous plane?
To store them specifically in the middle of an especially powerful manifest zone to Mabar sounds makes the entire project even more peculiar! Any ideas or IME’s to share on the subject?