IFAQ: Houses and Politics

I’m still busy working on Exploring Eberron, but I like to take time to answer questions from my Patreon supporters when I can. Today’s question comes from Reighndragon:

How far do the dragonmarked houses involve themselves in national politics? How do they view the restrictions imposed on them by the Korth Edicts? In specific: Is it possible for a dragonmarked gnome of House Sivis to take a seat in the advisory council of the king of Q’Barra? Would House Lyrandar be inclined to send an airship for the Aundairian army to perform a paratrooper invasion of Thaliost?

First of all, I suggest reviewing this article for a deeper look at the houses overall, including a discussion of the Korth Edicts. Let’s look at the basic points.

  • The houses are first and foremost BUSINESSES. They are interesting in making a profit.
  • They do business with and have holdings in most of the nations of Khorvaire.
  • In many cases—especially Sivis and Kundarak—their business depends on their customers believing that they are neutral, reliable forces. If it was revealed that House Sivis was sharing all its data with the Royal Eyes of Aundair, it would be a disaster for the house.

So this is a simple equation: What does a house gain from getting involved in politics, and what does it have to lose? In the long run, will this help its profits, or hurt them? Let’s look at the two examples.

Can a Sivis gnome take a seat on the advisory council of the King of Q’barra?

Certainly. This doesn’t even violate the Korth Edicts, which prevent a member of a dragonmarked house from owning land, holding a noble title, or maintaining an army. If a King wants ADVICE, where’s the harm in that? Corporations in our world hire lobbyists and get included on advisory boards all the time. The only reason it would be a problem is if word got out that this advisor was sharing Sivis customer secrets; if that were to happen, I would expect the advisor to be very publicly excoriated from the house, and possibly be faced with more severe punishments for scarring the reputation of the house.

A quick point of comparison is Valenar. House Lyrandar essentially runs the administration of the nation on behalf of the Tairnadal. But they don’t actually hold noble titles or own the land; it’s a simple arrangement where they do work the Tairnadal don’t want to do, while allowing them to create opportunities for Khoravar immigrants. But here’s the big thing: they don’t give the Tairnadal free shipping. Their administrative work is a separate business transaction; but if the Tairnadal want to use Lyrandar airships, they pay just like anyone else. Which brings us to the next question…

Would House Lyrandar be inclined to send an airship for the Aundairian army to perform a paratrooper invasion of Thaliost?

House Lyrandar is a BUSINESS. They can and did provide transport services to ALL nations during the war. The opening of my novel City of Towers involves a Cyran force defending against an airship attack. But that isn’t a political move on the part of Lyrandar, because they serve anyone who can pay for the service. So sure, they’d allow Aundair to charter an airship for their paratroops, and then they’d let Thrane charter a ship for its counter attack. They aren’t choosing a side; they’re selling their services to anyone with the gold.

Now, COULD they decide to take sides and offer their services to Aundair for free? Sure, they could, but WHY? How does this help their bottom line, when it invites distrust and possible retaliation from the rest of the Five Nations? Their neutrality is their shield and maximizes their profits; once they choose sides, they are narrowing their markets. Why is this a sound business decision? What is Aundair offering that’s worth risking their business? We’ve called out that Aurala is friends with the Matriarch of the house, and Aurala could offer them a second grant like Stormhome (which ALSO violates the Edicts…). But essentially, why wouldn’t they just ask Aundair to PAY for the ship? Aurala can definitely afford it, and that’s what Lyrandar does.

So: at the end of the day, houses are going to make their choices driven by profit. At the moment, they work with anyone willing to pay for their services. They definitely can and will do favors for allies—see House Jorasco’s ties to the Boromar Clan in Sharn—but that is always measured on the balance of will this help our hurt our profits? Now let’s hit one more part of the question…

How do they view the restrictions imposed on them by the Korth Edicts?

Again, check out this article for a deeper look at this question. One of the key story elements of Eberron is the idea that it may no longer be possible to enforce the Korth Edicts. If Breland makes a Deneith heir a duke, who’s actually going to do something about it? Queen Aurala’s consort is a Vadalis heir, and though he holds no title it’s pretty sketchy. The Korth Edicts worked when Galifar was united; now, it’s possible no single nation can enforce them, and we’ve called out examples of houses that ARE pushing against them. One concrete example is House Tharashk; in brokering the services of Droaamite services, they are likely breaking the “no armies” clause. But who’s going to try to stop them… especially when everyone wants to hire their monster mercenaries? So again, it’s all about will this help or hurt their profits?

The other big thing people often forget about the Korth Edicts is that they weren’t simply a burden on the houses; they were an opportunity. Essentially, they were a deal with Galifar: If the houses agreed not to challenge him politically (no titles of nobility) or militarily (no land, no armies) he wouldn’t challenge them economically. The houses hold monopolies on a scale that’s illegal in the US today, and under the Edicts they regulate their own industries. So they don’t particularly want to throw out the Edicts, because for House Sivis, the lack of antitrust laws is far more important to their bottom line than being able to have a noble title. This ties to one last question that came up in another discussion. Paraphrased…

My character was hired by House Cannith to do a job that involved me being locked in a room with no way to leave. While I was doing this job, a bunch of cultists teleported in and because I couldn’t leave, my friends and I were nearly killed. Can I sue Cannith for negligence? And if I do, would they be more likely to settle or to do something dramatic like assassinate me?

The good news is that they probably wouldn’t assassinate you. The bad news it that it’s because you don’t have a case. There’s no worker protection laws in Eberron. The Korth Edicts specifically protect the nobility—the houses can’t raise armies against them or create rival kingdoms—but they aren’t about protecting the commoners. On the contrary, the Edicts specifically lay the foundation for the house monopolies. This is far more like The Jungle than the world we live in today. Having said that, this isn’t to say that they houses are intentionally careless with the lives of their employees, especially heirs of their own house; part of being family businesses is that they don’t want their own children to die. If a Lyrandar heir is injured on the job, they likely will be taken care of. But this is driven by their own self-interest, not the law; and if a random “adventurer” is hurt while working for them… isn’t that why they call them adventurers?

Now: I said they wouldn’t assassinate you… which is BECAUSE you have no case. If you did, or at least were posing some other sort of threat to them? Then it’s at least on the table. We’re back to that original question: how will this affect their bottom line? Are you a hero whose actions matter and whose death would be noticed? Do they NEED to assassinate you, or can they just threaten you? Slander you? Buy your company and have you fired? We’ve said before that the houses will do terrible things to maintain their power. The question is always back to the balance sheet; how much are you going to cost them, and what’s the best way to minimize that number? It’s also definitely the case that some houses are worse than others, and that ultimately it will come to who’s in charge of the region. I think the majority of Lyrandar heirs would be horrified at the idea of their house sanctioning assassination. But Calynden d’Lyrandar, the Kraken of Stormreach? That dude has Thuranni on speed dial.

To be clear: this is a terrible terrible situation… and that’s the point. Overall, the houses are amoral corporate entities driven by profit and possessing potentially unchecked power. Because one of the other core principles of Eberron is that it’s a world that needs heroes. Some heroes fight demons; others battle corrupt corporations. Which story do you want to explore? Note that if it’s a story you DON’T want to explore, you can push a more positive view of the houses. But the current situation is intentionally imperfect.

Why did the Twelve permit Cannith to agree to the shutting down of the creation forges in the Treaty of Thronehold? Beyond producing warforged it seems like that is a huge hit to their ability to produce goods on a massive scale.

Excellent question, and also discussed in the other linked article. Here’s the factors.

  • The Treaty of Thronehold represented a rare moment of unity. The reason the Korth Edicts are difficult to enforce is because no one nation can enforce them alone. This was a demand made by ALL THE NATIONS.
  • House Cannith’s leadership and its major operations were lost in the Mourning, and the house is STILL reeling from that blow. Starrin d’Cannith, the patriarch lost in the Mourning, might well have found a way to counter the demand. But as of the Treaty of Thronehold, Cannith doesn’t even HAVE a patriarch.
  • The warforged are seen as weapons. Most nations were uncomfortable with Cannith having the capability of producing its own private army of constructs, given that the war was now over. The recognition of warforged as sentient, free beings was a further nail in this coffin: It could be seen as violating both the Korth Edicts (no house armies) AND the Code of Galifar (no slaves).
  • Last but not least: Cannith had always dominated the Twelve. Many of the other houses were HAPPY to see Cannith taken down a peg. So they weren’t fighting as fiercely as they might have against other restrictions.

Bear in mind, the creation forges are NOT the primary tool that Cannith uses for mass production of mundane goods; they have other eldritch machines and focus items that assist general mass production. Rising From The Last War specifically identifies the forges as producing warforged (page 280) while the Eberron Campaign Guide says “These enormous contraptions… are designed to churn out mechanized soldiers.” They were also used to produce titans and homunculi, but again, they WEREN’T the be-all end-all of Cannith’s production facilities, and there are “Forgeholds” that don’t have creation forges.

So this article paints the Dragonmark Houses in a bleaker and more corporate light than most… but they’re definitely not monolithic. So I’m curious as to which of the Houses you think is more willing to incidentally hurt people on their way to profit (aka less empathy), versus those with more empathy involved in their methods.

This is a good question. I am presenting the houses in a harsh light here, because the point is that they could do terrible things if they chose. The theme we wanted to explore with them from the start is that in the wake of the Last War, are the houses more powerful than nations? But the fact that there are few checks on their power isn’t supposed to make them monsters. The idea is that over centuries, most people have come to trust and rely on the houses, because they’ve been reliable. You believe that Sivis will keep your secrets safe, that Kundarak protects your goods, that you’ll get the best sword at a smith with the Cannith seal and you won’t get food poisoning at the Ghallanda inn. I call out that they regulate their own industries as a sign of the power they possess; but the twist is that they actually DO regulate their own industries. There’s tremendous potential for abuse, but that doesn’t mean it’s common. In general, MOST PEOPLE view the houses as reliable businesses, not as terrifying corporate tyrants. It’s just that, again, they DO have unchecked power and COULD abuse it… and what happens if and when they do?

So the question is: What houses are willing to hurt people in the name of profit? Which generally lack empathy? As the question notes, houses aren’t monolithic. So I’ll call out that I think Cannith is near the top of the “low empathy” list. During the war they manufactured weapons for all sides, and they essentially created a slave race that they threw onto the front lines of that war. On the other hand, I’ll note that Aaren d’Cannith—the creator of the modern warforged—left the house in protest of the treatment of the warforged. Of the current Cannith contenders I’d say that Jorlanna is probably the best of them; both Zoraln and Merrix are pretty ruthless.

So Cannith is up there. Thuranni surely is as well; it’s a house who’s specialty IS assassination. Calynden may make the order, but it will be a Thuranni heir who actually fires the crossbow. Phiarlan is somewhat better, and again, there are a significant number of Phiarlan heirs who truly believe in the ARTISTIC mission of the house and don’t work with the Serpentine Table.

I’d put Vadalis on the low-empathy side, as well. They are essentially about manipulating animals for the benefit of humanity, and I don’t think PETA would approve of their methods. Sivis is tricky because they definitely place the APPEARANCE of neutrality as paramount… but they’re also Zil gnomes, so they live in a society that embraces the idea of assassination as an acceptable tool in pursuit of the greater good. I tend to think of Sivis as one of the nicer houses, but in part that’s because they DON’T have a lot of competition; if something came up, we’d likely see a darker side pretty quickly.

So which are the nicest houses? I think Kundarak is pretty much what it says on the can: they are honest folk who want to keep your stuff safe for you. Ghallanda is literally in the business of hospitality, and their name means “The Helpful Hound That Appears Where Needed The Most”; i think they are the most inclined to offer empathy and even charity when called for; at the end of the day, I think Ghallanda likes people. I think Medani is a reasonably empathetic house and tries to do what it feels is right, which is also why they’re one of the less influential houses. I tend to think that Orien is another house that basically just tries to provide a useful service; they haven’t tried to destroy Lyrandar’s airship business…. yet.

The others all fall in the middle. I think Lyrandar is generally a friendly house. But if someone started developing airships anyone can fly? People like Calynden would go to great extremes to eliminate that threat. Individual Tharashk inquisitives can be great, but the house as a whole is very ambitious. Jorasco is very complicated, and discussed at more length in the article linked earlier; there are many Jorasco HEIRS who are driven by empathy and want to help however they can, but there’s also ruthless people determined to ensure that the house thrives as a business.

I’m going to stop there, because this has already gone on WAAAY too long for an IFAQ. BUt the ultimate answer is this: The houses are as ruthless and frightening as you want them to be. The framework is there to run a campaign in which the houses are ruthless dystopian megacorporations, and it’s questionable who could stop them if they go in that direction. But you CAN also just focus on them as reliable service providers, and just ignore the lack of outside oversight or labor laws.

Thanks again to my Patreon supporters! Per the latest Patreon poll, the next major article will explore Dolurrh, the Realm of the Dead!

50 thoughts on “IFAQ: Houses and Politics

  1. In the scope of business, why did the Twelve permit Cannith to agree to the shutting down of the creation forges per the Treaty of Thronehold? Beyond producing warforged it seems like that is a huge hit to their ability to produce goods on a massive scale. If Cannith guilds have set the standards for pricing and quality, wouldn’t the threat of not providing those goods have carried more weight in their favor? Maybe I’m just not seeing all of the bargaining chips to know why Cannith would accept such a crushing blow to their industry.

  2. So on one hand, the Houses pioneer the great advances in their industries, via trade schools train people in those industries, and via the guilds ensure that the goods people buy are up to a certain standard. On the other, the Houses aren’t concerned about their workers beyond their heirs and family, are concerned with short- and long-term profit over any particular advancement of society, and don’t care about anything outside their immediate political sphere unless that threatens them.

    That latter part sounds like the dragons of Argonessen, a bit.

    • All of that sounds accurate to me! Again, the houses COULD be worse than they are; despite the fact that they regulate their industries, we’ve generally suggested that the quality of goods in Khorvaire is actually pretty good. Ghallanda actually HAS standards, and when you go to an inn with the Ghallanda seal you feel that means you WON’T get food poisoning. But they COULD do worse if they wanted.

  3. Eberron is ripe for some labor organizing. I could easily see some garment district fire style event in Sharn triggering work stoppages, and picket lines. And then Deneith or Tharask heavies wading in and cracking skulls.

    • Absolutely! The main point is that this is left as something that can be the focus of a campaign, as opposed to being something that already happened.

      • On this topic…this is exactly what’s happening in my campaign right now, and I’m actually running into some problems managing this. One of my PCs, a LG half-orc monk of the Sovereign Host, really doesn’t like how the slum-dwelling factory workers in Sharn are treated by House Cannith, and she’s successfully organized a labor movement against Cannith. Her community now wants her to run for district councilor. She has the support of Sharn’s chief commissioner (a LG cleric of Aureon/wizard/mystic theurge), and House Tharashk is offering her campaign support if she gives them priority in gaining employees from her primarily orc, half-orc and goblinoid constituency, which she politely declined.

        Complicating matters is that one of my other PCs is a Cannith heir (LE human arcanist) and the most trusted agent of Merrix’s second in command (TN human artificer, who basically sees the monk as her arch nemesis). Unsurprisingly, the two PCs have a long history of rivalry (the players enjoy this, so no bad blood out of game). He just openly pledged his support to the monk’s campaign in order to make her look bad and corrupt.

        All of this happened organically through downtime roleplay, and I’m really not sure how to proceed and make a district election…well, fun. And if she does win the election, the player doesn’t want to retire the PC to stay in Sharn as a politician, but I’m also not sure how to balance a PC being a city councilor with adventuring. I use a lot of downtime in game, so that could help, but it’s still awkward to manage.

    • If our pre-COVID-19 sessions are anything to go by this is a major thread my friends want to pull on as we all play through the setting. I’m hoping they continue partnering with Lyrandar until things go bottom-up or they dive right in to rallying workers to get better conditions by siding more with the underbelly of society.

    • I have been thinking the Swords of Liberty might be friendly to labor organizing.

  4. So this article paints the Dragonmark Houses in a bleaker and more corporate light than most… but they’re definitely not monolithic. So I’m curious as to which of the Houses you think is more willing to incidentally hurt people on their way to profit (aka less empathy), versus those with more empathy involved in their methods.

    • I just answered this at some length at the end of the main article. I could definitely dig much deeper into the question, but I’ve already spent way too much time on this—IFAQs are support to be SHORT subjects! 😉

  5. When asked which house will be the cause of the apocalypse I always maintain with my players that Tharashk is right up there with Cannith. I always portrayed their ambition as an antagonist force, their expansion in Q’Barra squeezing out small towns, threatening war with the lizardfolk and the rise of a demon lord, their outpost in Blood Crescent leaving good men and women in their family and employ exposed to the direct influence of the rakshasa.

    Am I giving them a bad reputation? Two focused on their mining operations?

    • No, I think this is perfectly fair. I think Tharashk is more RECKLESS that RUTHLESS, but they are extremely ambitious and willing to take dangerous chances.

  6. How do foundlings from and marrying into noble families work? Do the houses actually care, or does it just result in a family of land owners that happen to have the (for example) mark of passage?

    Whose name would be on a mail order catalog in Eberron? It seems like it would require the efforts of three or four houses: Cannith to make manufactured goods (though I’m sure something like military surplus or stable foodstuffs could do without them), Sivis to distribute it and receive orders, plus Orien (and/or Lyrandar) to take it to customers.

    • How do foundlings from and marrying into noble families work? Do the houses actually care, or does it just result in a family of land owners that happen to have the (for example) mark of passage?

      You can have a dragonmark and be PART of a noble family. You just can’t hold a noble title and lands and also be a recognized member of the HOUSE. We have multiple examples in canon of dragonmarked heirs who have abandoned their rights and status as members of the house to become nobles. You can’t be a dragonmarked heir AND a noble, but you can choose one or the other.

      One thing that’s never been clearly spells out. The rough figure of “50% of heirs develop the mark” is within a dragonmarked house and presumes strong dragonmarked bloodlines on both sides. The rate of manifestation among foundling children is FAR lower, which is why you can have foundlings who’d never seen a dragonmark in their family before. So if you have the Orien foundling marrying into a noble house, don’t expect half of their children (and their children, and their children) to carry the mark.

      Whose name would be on a mail order catalog in Eberron?

      Many important services are actually multihouse efforts; this is the purpose of the Twelve. Airships and lightning rails are built by House Cannith. The Kundarak vault network involves Cannith and Orien. So one possibility is that it would be Cannith, as they’d actually be manufacturing the goods; they would essentially be subcontracting Sivis and Orien. The other logical option would be for the mail order service to be an operation of THE TWELVE, not of a single house.

  7. This may be beyond the scope of the thread, but I’ll throw it out there: If the Houses control so many major industruies (manufacturing, transport, banking, etc.), where do the non-House members of the Aurum make their money? Are they all feudal nobility? Are there other key sectors of the economy that DON’T have a House monopoly?

    • Many members of the Aurum hold positions in house guilds; remember that the majority of the people who work for the guilds aren’t actually house heirs. Some make their money from raw materials; looking to named concordians, Alina Lorridan Lyrris sells Khyber shards (often TO the houses) while Antus Soldorak has gold mines. Loyal Daison is a real estate mogul. You also have people who compete with the houses. Just because most people would RATHER go to an inn with a Ghallanda seal doesn’t mean there aren’t people trying to make a go of it without it; it’s simply that they don’t pose a serious threat to the house (… or the house would likely have done something about it).

    • How do you use Orien as an antagonist?

      I DON’T use House Orien as an antagonist in my campaign. In my campaigns, I generally focus on Cannith (overall ambition, internal struggles), Lyrandar (Valenar ambitions) or Tharashk (Q’barra ambitions). I generally present Orien as a straightforward service provider. If I HAD to make them antagonists for some reason I would focus on their rivalry with Lyrandar and fear that airships are going to ruin their business, or on their aggressive efforts to expand their industry.

      I think an important question is “Why do you WANT to use Orien as an antagonist?” Start by identifying the story you’re trying to tell and then figure out how their motives and actions can fit that goal.

      • The why is simply because I can see ways to do it for every other house.

        Both Mark of Shadows houses: Explicitly in spying and possibly worse
        Cannith: At least one faction knowingly and intentional violates the treaty while keeping sapients as slaves
        Sivis: A few sources state they keep more private information than they let on
        Deneith: Mercs who could easily be hired against the PCs
        Vadalis: Treats its people like livestock. Hooks have been presented about them growing supersoldiers and bioweapons.
        Kundarak: Literally a monopoly bank.
        Ghallanda: Criminals can evade the law in one of their enclaves as long as they keep paying (This one is, admittedly, more of a secondary obstacle than an arc baddie)
        Jorasco: Some strong ties to the Boromar
        Medani: Dragonmarked quotes their patriarch saying the secrets they hold could destroy the Five Nations if they wanted to .
        Tharashk: Supply a lot of monstrous antagonists.

        Seemed odd I couldn’t find some way to use Orien as an antagonist.

        • Overland smuggling seems like a pretty lucrative area for rogue elements of Orien to get involved with—whether of goods or of people looking to get across borders.

          • I agree: any form of smuggling could be tied to Orien. Forget overland; Orien has access to teleportation. Orien could establish a secret teleportation network allowing the other villains to continually outmaneuver heroes, could free trapped villains from prison, etc. A lone, troubled Orien heir could also be a dangerous serial killer, slipping away from the scene of the crime.

          • Thanks Keith!

            I also wanted to note that there is a brief mention of a potential secret society of Traveler followers within House Orien in Dragonmarked, which seem like an opportunity to develop part of the organization in a more antagonistic/chaotic direction.

            I’m definitely pulling these ideas for my campaign!

        • I had an Orien wizard in my campaign who was the rare sort who felt stronger ties to his homeland (Karrnath) than to his house and was teleporting members of the Emerald Claw to locations for terrorist activity.

  8. Hi keith! What is in your opinion the weak point of the houses? If you should run a campaign where the group is essentially no global – anti capitalist heroes that want to fight the power of the houses where would you start?

    Another question that is maybe answered somewhere… how are the leaders of the houses selected? Election? Hereditary power?

    • Looking at Cannith, it seems the leader selection is quite flexible.

      Actually, how publicly known is Cannith’s suffering internal struggles? Will the average guy on the street know Cannith is quarreling over who will become the next leader or who the main candidates are?

      • Will the average guy on the street know Cannith is quarreling over who will become the next leader or who the main candidates are?

        I’d think they probably do, actually; I suspect there’s a regular column in the Korranberg Chronicle evaluating developments in the house, while local chronicles like the Sharn Inquisitive may print stories favoring their local candidates. Certainly it’s EXTREMELY well known that the house leadership was lost in the Mourning and that they have no accepted patriarch.

  9. With the understanding that one’s own Eberron is, ‘the’ Eberron; are any dragonmark services/products more advanced in the non-Galifaran nations? For example would Valenar have an efficient air-ferry line, or Droaam have the most efficient road system because their settlements are newer & less beholden to negotiating routes around large aristocratic land grants; would Talenta have the best dino-powered ambulance service?

    • I think there’s competing principles here. In the USA, did Deadwood have better roads than New York City? Yes, it’s starting from a clean slate; but also, it’s a virtually lawless frontier with almost no established industrial base. Likewise, Talenta isn’t burdened by existing infrastructure, but its people live in nomadic tribes. They don’t have easy access to general industrial resources and services that can be easily acquired in the Five Nations. It’s possible Jorasco DOES have a cool dino-ambulance service, but it’s going to be tricky to have an effective ambulance service when the people are nomadic and have limited communication; the tribes don’t have an equivalent of phone or radio. There could possibly be a system of glidewing fliers and a certain kind of signal fire you light to call one, but I’m not sure how broadly sustainable that is when the population is widely dispersed… and while it might be impressive under the circumstances, it’s still essentially dinosaurs and signal fires, not an equivalent to airships and speaking stones.

      COULD Droaam at some point have better roads that Breland? Sure; it’s an interesting thing to explore. But Droaam has only existed as a concept for a little over a decade. I don’t think they’ve got the finest highways in Khorvaire yet. Planning such a thing, organizing the labor force, acquiring materials—all of these would take time.

      VALENAR on the other hand is an interesting possibility to explore. The downside is that the Tairnadal themselves really have no interest in building an amazing civic infrastructure; they have no great attachment to cities in the first place and view the entire nation as disposable. On the other hand, LYRANDAR is very invested in Valenar (in a way that, for example, Orien is NOT invested in Droaam) and views Valenar as a potential foothold for a Khoravar nation; as such, I COULD imagine them working on some impressive civic infrastructure programs and developing something revolutionary.

      As a secondary note: In DROAAM you have a situation where the Daughters can pretty much build roads wherever they want, because Rule #1 is “You don’t $^#% with the Daughters.” That’s definitely not the case in Breland, where Haruuc doesn’t have absolute dominion and would certainly have to negotiate with other warlords before just dropping in a major new road crossing multiple territories.

      • One factor that might influence developments in Droamm and Valenar, and possibly Darguun, going forward is that civic infrastructure also serves as military infrastructure. Consider the relative positions of North and South in the US Civil War wrto railroads and industry. The formal name of the Interstate Highway System is “The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” Valenar, especially, might be interested in having a road network that would let them quickly deploy forces to any frontier, with a network of defensible towns that could deny the same roads to would-be invaders.

        • These things are true for Droaam and Darguun—though Darguun, in particular, WAS Cyre and thus still has the existing infrastructure of Cyre in place. One thing that’s been called out is that Darguun has a series of conductor stone routes that haven’t been in operation for a few decades because Orien doesn’t feel the region is safe. So they already HAVE Orien roads in place.

          With Valenar, though, I’d have to disagree. Bear in mind that the Tairnadal don’t just want a war; they want to emulate their ancestors, who fought a guerilla war in wild environments. Part of the Tairnadal structure is that they can split into small warbands quickly and operate with great modularity and independence; we’ve called out that while they can launch grand assaults, they also love to harry larger forces, taking advantage of their superior capabilities of living off the land (using tools like the cualra flask). An extensive, well-maintained system of roads would be more useful to the ENEMY than to Valenar forces; if anything, they’d want to DESTROY such a system, making it more difficult for a large army to maintain its supply lines and maneuver its forces. Likewise, I don’t think they actually want to keep the enemy OUT of Valenar; they WANT to draw them in, to regions where they have laid traps and hidden caches. I see their desired conflict as being most similar to the Vietnam War, punctuated by warbands drawing together for the occasional devastating strike.

          • “One thing that’s been called out is that Darguun has a series of conductor stone routes…” I was wondering about that! Is there a source that details the routes or what encouraging circumstances Orien might be looking for?

  10. While the other 11 houses have no qualms about profiting at Cannith’s expense in its time of trouble, are any of them worried about Cannith actually collapsing?

    Does the Twelve have any ideological commitment to getting Cannith patched up or healing the fracture in the Mark of Shadows?

    If Cannith does break apart, is anyone planning for how each of the pieces seems to have fairly strong regional/national ties? I can’t imagine anyone is terribly enthused by the thought of Cannith or its fragments ceasing to be neutral in how it deals with the other Houses or Nations.

    • There is precedent for a House breaking apart into separate houses – the Mark of Shadow, where Thuranni split of from Phiarlan. I could conceive of Cannith splitting off a new House, with the two devoted to different aspects of Making, say, one devoted to the skilled crafts (architecture, metalwork, etc.) and one to artifice. Maybe even into three, though I’m not sure what the 3rd specialty might be. But splitting Cannith would break the 12+1 rule, so I don’t think it’ll happen. 🙂

  11. ” I don’t think PETA would approve of their methods”
    Given that PETA don’t actually care about animals, i wouldn’t be surprised if a few didn’t mind.

    • The point is that Vadalis believes that animals are tools, and that we have the right to eat them, wear them, and use them for entertainment, and they’re always looking for new and imaginative ways to do this. So insert the name of an animal rights group of your choice.

      • I keep thinking that someone in Vadalis is about one hatching/whelping away from the magebred version of a bicycle. I just can’t figure out what form of creature that might be…

  12. Hi keith! What is in your opinion the weak point of the houses? If you should run a campaign where the group is essentially no global – anti capitalist heroes that want to fight the power of the houses where would you start?

    Another question that is maybe answered somewhere… how are the leaders of the houses selected? Election? Hereditary power?

    • What is in your opinion the weak point of the houses?

      This is a huge topic, not in the least because every house has different weaknesses. But generally? Turn them against each other. Exacerbate internal divisions (such as we already have with Thuranni/Phiarlan and Cannith). Present viable alternatives to dragonmarked services… because the reason they have their monopolies is because there’s no alternatives. Organize workers.

      Another question that is maybe answered somewhere… how are the leaders of the houses selected? Election? Hereditary power?

      Again, this varies by house. Dragonmarked discusses it for at least some of the houses. I don’t think any of the houses have been described as STRICTLY hereditary; they’re all vast businesses and you don’t want everything to come crashing down because an idiot inherited their way to the top. Note that Cannith doesn’t currently HAVE a patriarch, because they can’t reach a consensus on the leader.

      • Of course, the potential development of alternatives is something one can expect the Houses to stamp out… if they are perceived as enough of a threat. This isn’t just a House thing either; research the binding of elementals at your own peril.

        On either side of this point: In a couple of stories I’m involved with, it’s established that a Zil gnome in Korranberg is running a free clinic out of what used to be servant’s quarters in a family residence (her family is clearly rather well-off, though perhaps less so than once was the case). Not only is House Jorasco not interested in shutting her down, the local Jorasco clinic actually has an unofficial arrangement of (very limited) support. Why? Three main points:
        1) This clinic is basically serving precisely the portion of the population least likely to ever become paying customers.
        2) They specialize in mundane healing, not magical. While I’m sure Jorasco can offer the former as needed, it’s not exactly their bread and butter.
        3) This clinic is in Korranberg, a place replete with bardic training. Simple healings can often be gotten as a favor anyway, so Jorasco’s efforts in the area have to be a bit more specialized.

        On the other hand, in one of those stories, a new cleric with very unusual circumstances, training under a mentor belonging to an organization that basically invented the Archivist class, observed the potential for interest from and conflict with House Jorasco should said organization’s efforts ever bear the fruit of putting low-level divine magic in the hands of a greater portion of the populace.

  13. So I started with the question: House Lysander does a lot of administrative duties for Valenar, but who makes sure theyre keeping everything on the up and up? But then I came up with an answer: one of the least popular Valenar Ancestors (but essential enough to be remembered nonetheless), the elf whose rigorous focus on supply chain management saved the rebels thousands of times in the era of the war against the giants.

    There’s one guy in Taer Valestas who is the most skilled administrator on the continent today, honed in the ways of his ancestors. He can’t manage the whole nation by himself (not that he hasn’t tried) but he can keep track of all the paperwork brought to him by the Lysander administrators and check it for errors. This man is the secret hero of the Valenar.

    • That also seems ripe for an explanation for a sudden, very significant upheaval, given the single point of failure involved. If anything happens to this one individual, the effect on the nation could be devastating.

  14. House Orien as a whole may not be sabotaging House Lyrandar vessels, but I’m pretty certain there are a few individual members who are. Of course, if those attempts are found out, the House as a whole will disavow those actions and have to excoriate the members responsible (at least as far as the public is concerned). Airships are a new invention and not yet commonplace, but they are superior to every other form of transport (save teleportation, which is prohibitively expensive). That corners the high-end transport market and hits House Orien in the pocketbook. As a result, House Orien should fight back with any legal means at their disposal (like bidding for soarwood to drive the price up), as well as a few illegal methods when they can get away with them.

  15. Do any of the Houses have a tendency to use libel, slander, or worse against small competitors who refuse to basically become franchises/submit to inspections (either because they can’t afford to or have something against the House)? Or are the Houses’ reputation such that they don’t even need to, since the mere lack of association is enough to make a would-be competitor suspicious?

  16. In my campaign, the Swords of Liberty mobilized an army of disaffected Brelish and marched on New Cyre with visions of ethnic cleansing. The Crown denounced them, a small number of regular army troops helped in New Cyre’s defense, and the secret floating fortress Dejarn was diverted to for the post-battle cleanup.

    Along the way the Swords’ army destroyed a large House Vadalis enclave (a couple thousand acres leased from Breland) with the help of a Vadalis traitor — they stole everything they could, ate hundreds of magebred cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, and murdered everyone who tried to stop the traitor.

    Now the Questions: Can House Vadalis SUE Breland for damages estimated at a half million galifars (or more)? Does the complicity of the Vadalis traitor and the Crown’s actions against the Swords of Liberty matter in terms of liability? Where would such a suit be heard — Thronehold? The Twelve?

    • Civil law in Eberron in general would be a good subject. Criminal law gets a bit in City of Towers, but I don’t think civil law is covered at all.

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