The last few months have been a difficult time, culminating with the death of my mother at the end of July. A lot of work had to be sidelined and it’s going to take me a few weeks to get back up to speed, so I may not be as active this month as I’d like to be. However, I do like interacting with all of you and answering questions, so I’ll do what I can. I’m close to completing my final work for Frontiers of Eberron: Quickstone and I’ll be posting another preview for patrons before the end of the month. In the meantime, here’s a few of the interesting questions posed on Patreon in July.
How would you build Hektula as a warlock patron? Fiend? Old One? And how might you introduce her as a patron, but keep her identity a secret from the warlock?
My inclination would be to say that it’s not HEKTULA who’s the patron, but rather one of her books. She gives the book to the warlock or arranges for them to get it, and the book acts as a surrogate for her. With this in mind, the nature of the patron (Fiend, Old One, etc) reflects the nature of the book. The Fiend patron would be a version of the Demonomicon. An Archfey patron would be a book of sinister faerie tales. It’s not that the patron IS an archfey or fiend, it’s that they are sharing the secrets of archfey or fiends. These books would be artifacts. I wouldn’t make them indestructible (because I can think of a lot of ways for a player to abuse that) but if destroyed they would return to Ashtakala, and would likely be returned to the warlock. So if you think of Death Note, the warlock finds the book, and the book has a spirit or sentience associated with it that guides the warlock. The player doesn’t know that Hektula arranged for them to get the book or if the book spirit has other loyalties. But over time, they may encounter other Codex warlocks and start figuring things out.
Eberron campaigns often revolve around conspiracies and mysteries that have built up for several centuries or millennia, orchestrated by supernaturally intelligent masterminds who have been methodically concealing their presence this entire time. How do you manage to get PCs invested in these masterminds, if they cover their tracks and thus won’t reveal themselves until the final act? For example if you’re running an Emerald Claw campaign how do you make the players care about Lady Illmarrow who spends 99% of the campaign in the background more than whatever Emerald Claw minion or lieutenant does most of the heavy lifting?
I don’t. When players are dealing with the Emerald Claw, I WANT them to care about the lieutenant who does most of the heavy lifting. The original ECS specifically includes an NPC named Demise who is a recurring villain for use with the Emerald Claw; I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the changeling Garrow in my Emerald Claw campaigns. In my novel The Shattered Land, the adventurers encounter the warforged Harmattan and his crew; they are agents of the Lord of Blades, but they’re interesting on their own. Consider the original Star Wars trilogy. The mastermind behind the Empire is Palpatine. But the hero of the story doesn’t encounter him until late the the trilogy… because he’s not READY to encounter him. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is a cool badass… which itself reflects on the power of Palpatine. So: the players won’t be ready to face Illmarrow for a long time, and it makes sense to match them against Demise or Garrow. But while doing that, I want them to LEARN about Illmarrow and to come to hate her. First, her minion should name drop her all the time. Soon Illmarrow’s plans will come to fruition! Second, it should be clear that whatever terrible thing the EC is doing is in her name. She should also be credited for their powerful tools or weapons; Demise may be triggering the necrotic resonator, but she explains how it was the genius of Lady Illmarrow that created it. Demise could even share recorded messages from Illmarrow. Another possibility is for the players to fight Demise session after session… and then in the endgame discover that she WAS ILLMARROW THE WHOLE TIME… that she was toying with them for some reason, or perhaps experimenting with placing her consciousness in a living body.
What was the reasoning behind making Galifar a kingdom and not an empire?
This is a fundamentally semantic question, so I’ll start with a semantic point. I wasn’t simply the Kingdom of Galifar; it was the UNITED Kingdom of Galifar. Going as far back as the original ECS, the timeline states that in -1,012 Galifar begins his campaign to UNITE the Five Nations. Switching to Exploring Eberron, here’s a few key quotes:
After a long campaign of conquest and diplomacy, Galifar I unites the nations of Khorvaire under his rule, declaring this realm the United Kingdom of Galifar…
… Galifar didn’t just want power—he wanted to build a better world, and on many levels, he succeeded. He abolished slavery and instituted laws that promised justice for all. Over time, the kingdom would promote public education and the rise of the merchant class…
… Galifar Wynarn was a military genius, but it was his eldest daughter Cyre, twin to Aundair, who imagined the warring nations working together as a single family: Karrnathi might, Daskari faith, and the wisdom of Thaliost working together for the greater good. In crafting the map of the united kingdom, Galifar declared that Cyre would be the heart of the realm.
So Galifar didn’t conquer the Five Nations and rule over them as a tyrant. He united the Five Nations—some through force, others through diplomacy. He then instituted major new systems—education, justice—designed to improve the lives of all citizens. Crucially, Galifar’s home nation—Karrnath—was in no way elevated above the others. If anything, it was Cyre which was the first among equals, and remember that Cyre didn’t exist as a nation beforehand—the region was Metrol, and while in the other nations Galifar allowed the existing ability to retain their land, in Metrol he resettled the old nobility in order to create something new. If Karrn the Conqueror had succeeded, he would have created the Empire of Karrnath. Galifar didn’t want to create the Empire of Karrnath; he wanted to unify the previously warring nations into something entirely new—the united kingdom of Galifar. Cyre embodied this idea… as noted above, the idea of previously warring nations working together as a family.
How old is the average adventurer in Eberron? Are most of them in early adulthood, or they usually get to adventure later in life?
My immediate reaction is “There are no average adventurers.” Breaking that out a little, “adventurer” isn’t a recognized career someone prepares for… which means everyone gets there a little differently. For purposes of example, consider these adventurers from my Quickstone campaign…
- TARI is a kalashtar orphan; we’re not actually sure how old they are, but part of the point of their character is that they’re “The Kid.”
- The same goes for KALA SAR’KAAS, the tailor’s teenage daughter who became a bardlock by making a deal with an archfey.
- THREE WIDOW JANE is around thirty; old enough that she had a career as a smuggler before becoming a full time rake and wandslinger, but still relatively young.
- ROLAN HARN is in his fifties—a seasoned veteran who had a long career as a Sentinel Marshal before retiring to Quickstone.
- SORA d’SIVIS is almost three hundred years old.
Rolan and Tari are essentially Rooster and Mattie from True Grit. Bel is in her twenties—still young, but running a successful business. Devin’s his thirties; consider that he has a teenage daughter. Sheriff Constable is a warforged, built during the war and about ten years old. The point is that each of these characters has their own story that’s led them to where they are. Tari was orphaned as a child. Rolan was discharged after a long career. Bel was forced out into the world by the Mourning. There is no AVERAGE adventurer; every adventurer should have a story, and that will determine their starting age.
The Venemous Demesne is obviously run by tieflings, and tieflings make up the upper class there. How strictly is that enforced? Are there physical or social boundaries preventing say, Lady Pyranica of House Dreygu from taking Nilah the human as a wife?
There’s no PHYSICAL boundaries. Even within the tiefling families, there are children born human sometimes—it’s embarrassing, to be sure, but humanity is in the blood. Beyond the tiefling aspect, a crucial question is POWER. If a human scion proves to be a mighty warlock or wizard, their power proves the worth of their blood. And that POWER is the key here. A noble can take any spouse they wish. But dueling plays an important role in Demesne society… and if other members of the house feel the noble is weakening the house through their choice, they can challenge the prospective spouse to a duel. If the spouse survives, they prove they are a worthy addition to the house. So if Nilah has power in her own right she’ll be fine. If she’s just a cute poet and Pyranica loves her for her sensitivity, she’s going to have a lot of trouble surviving her duels with the three Dreygu wandslingers lined up to fight her…
Since Quori are fiends, and Kalashtar are the merging of these fiends and humans, does that mean Kalashtar are basically tieflings?
In Eberron, most tieflings aren’t shaped by direct contact with fiends; they are shaped by the malefic influence of the planes. Even those who owe their tiefling nature to a fiendish connection (Sakah, Venomouns Demesne) don’t have a direct, ongoing connection to a specific fiend. Tieflings are also noted by dramatic physical manifestations. Kalashtar have subtle physical manifestations and are shaped by an ongoing spiritual connection to a specific entity. So no, I think the differences between the two are sufficient that they wouldn’t be considered to be tieflings.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my patrons; your support allows me to continue delving into Eberron. In addition to the next Quickstone preview, this month I’ll be doing another live Q&A on the Patreon Discord and running the next session of my Frontiers campaign. If any of that sounds interesting, check out Patreon!