Between multiple conventions, getting sick from attending multiple conventions, and working on Wayfinder, I haven’t had time to write articles for my website this month. But I have been answering questions on my Patreon, and I thought I’d share one now…
In Exploring Eberron one of the suggested class ideas for a kalaraq kalashtar was a conjurer who summons spirits bound by your kalaraq spirit, but how did the kalaraq bind those spirits in the first place? Say my conjurer can summon a minor elemental. Do elementals dream, or did the kalaraq bind the spirit directly before Dal Quor was severed from the other plane?
Kalaraq quori are the most powerful quori spirits, and they are legitimately terrifying. Alone of the quori, an eyebinder can kill you in your sleep; if it kills you in your dream, it can bind your spirit to its wreath of eyes… Or it can twist your personality into a mirror of its own, using its mind seed ability. The strength of a kalaraq is a reflection of the number of souls that it’s bound; a powerful kalaraq could have hundreds of bound spirits.
There’s a number of interesting questions that come up with kalaraq kalashtar. If they are aspiring to be spirits of light, how do they justify the binding of souls? If we assume that there’s two or more kalaraq spirits left among the kalashtar lines (the leader of the rebel quori, Taratai, was kalaraq, but her line has been wiped out), one of them might have released all its bound spirits when it turned to the light. On the other hand, we’ve never said what sort of experience the souls have while bound. An interesting possibility is that each soul is trapped in its own eternal dream; that it continues to dream as it would in Dal Quor, just within the essence of the kalaraq itself. This helps explain the power of the kalaraq; each one is, in essence, a miniature Dal Quor, containing its own array of dreamers. So if we keep that idea in mind, one of the kalashtar kalaraq could have specifically targeted cruel and evil people who it believes deserve eternal punishment, and it keeps them experiencing endless nightmares; pretty brutal, but if we say that it targeted exceptionally horrible people, it’s interesting to imagine who it felt deserves such punishment. On the other hand, another kalashtar kalaraq could have taken the opposite approach: it bound the most compassionate and accomplished mortals it could find in order to preserve their spirits from dissolution in Dolurrh. Each one lives on in a dream paradise; essentially, this kalaraq decided to give worthy people the idyllic immortal afterlife that doesn’t exist on this side of Dolurrh (as no one knows what’s beyond Dolurrh). In either case, as a kalashtar of a kalaraq’s line, it’s interesting to think about the spirits it has bound in its eyes. Are they compassionate and accomplished mortals the kalaraq wanted to preserve? Or are they vile people it wished to punish?
This brings us back to the original question. In Exploring Eberron I suggested that you could use the nature of the kalashtar quori to add flavor to character abilities. Perhaps a conjurer is drawing on souls bound by the kalaraq! But what does that mean if the creatures you’re conjuring are elementals, or fey, or animals? Did the kalaraq dreambind a pack of wolves? Do elementals dream? Well, if you fight an elemental in Dal Quor, it’s not actually an elemental drawn from another plane; it’s a dream figment that has the abilities of an elemental. In conjuring creatures, what I’d say is that I’m not summoning the actual spirits my quori has bound; I’m summoning the nightmares of those bound spirits, made real using the energy of the spirit. This is where I’d come up with a list of nightmares at my disposal, and rename/flavor the creatures I could summon with that in mind. For example, if I can cast summon minor elemental I can summon an Azer. But with my DM’s approval, I’d say that what I actually summon is a horrifying burning clown—the persistent nightmare of a serial killer my quori bound ten thousand years ago. On the other hand, if I conjure animals, those beasts could sing softly with the voices of the bard who was bound long ago; they are part of the song he has been singing in his dream for thousands of years. While they may have the stats of elementals or beasts, cosmetically I’d highlight that they are dreams made real—the dreams of the souls preserved by my quori.
This same principle could apply to other spells or abilities. If I cast borrowed knowledge I’d say that I’m drawing that proficiency from one of the souls my quori holds bound. But I could see a non-musical bard who says that they perform “Bardic Inspiration” by temporarily gifting you with a guiding spirit (based on the kalaraq binding compassionate people). A warlock could have the kalaraq as their patron and say that each spell or invocation is the gift of a different spirit it has preserved; hellish rebuke is tied to the spirit of a furious, vengeful barbarian while charm person and suggestion draw on a charismatic bard.
But to further address the original question: A kalaraq couldn’t have bound any spirits before Dal Quor was cut off from the material plane. The breaking of the thirteenth moon occurred in a previous age of Dal Quor. When the Age turned and the Quor Tarai changed, it pulled in all the quori of that age and they were reborn as children of il-Lashtavar. This is why the Dreaming Dark is trying to stop the cycle; if il-Lashtavar becomes il-Yannah, it will again draw in and destroy all existing quori, creating a new host in the model of the Great Light. Kalaraq quori are children of il-Lashtavar; the quori of the previous age were likely entirely different in form.
And a last minor point—in all of the art I’ve seen of the kalaraq, their eyes have been very uniform in appearance. My original description emphasized that every eye is unique, reflecting the creature that’s bound within it.
Wait: a kalaraq can kill you in your sleep? Or mind seed you? How are player characters supposed to fight that?
It’s a very valid question. I’ve written before about how the initial actions of player characters aren’t likely to draw retaliation from the Dreaming Dark — that they are effectively playing hundreds of games of chess across Eberron and they EXPECT some of their plans to fail; they aren’t going to hunt down every meddling kid who interferes. But eventually you may reach a point where the Dreaming Dark definitely knows who the players are and it feels like if they could just kill them in their sleep, they would. How do you justify their survival?
One way is to consider that the kalaraq are the most important quori and have many duties. Unless the PCs are dealing with a kalaraq directly, the quori whose plans they’ve been spoiling may not want to draw the many eyes of a kalaraq to their personal failure. If they are mainly dealing with an Usvapna, they may want to personally fix the problem BEFORE the Devourer finds out, rather than risking his wrath at their seeming incompetence. Likewise, we’ve called out that the Dreaming Dark doesn’t love mind seeding especially powerful people because they don’t have absolute control over mind seeds. Mind seed replaces the personality of the victim with that of the seeding quori. But the seed ISN’T a quori and isn’t actually at any risk from the turning of the age, and there is always the chance that they may abandon the cause of the Dreaming Dark and pursue their own agenda. This is called out with Keshraa the Fallen, on page 59 of Secrets of Sarlona. Mind seed is an exceptionally powerful ability but it’s not a flawless tool — and the more powerful the seed, the greater the risk that they’ll see other opportunities.
However, ultimately, I have no problem as a DM saying that the kalaraq can’t bind the souls of the PCs. One of the basic principles of Eberron is that Player Characters are remarkable. I’ve called this out with the idea that resurrection doesn’t work for everyone; the fact that you can resurrect player characters without consequence reflects the fact that they are remarkable people with unfulfilled destinies. I’d be absolutely happy to run a terrifying scene in which a kalaraq quori slaughters a PC in their dreams, proclaiming that it will bind their soul… and then they just wake up, unbound. Why didn’t it work? I’d leave that as a mystery to both kalaraq and PC. It could be the power of the Prophecy, protecting the character with the unfulfilled destiny. It could be that an overlord is shielding the character who is destined to release them, or that a dragon has warded them for similar reasons. It could be that the turning of the age is close at hand, and the power of the kalaraq is waning. Whatever the answer, I have no problem with the idea that player characters are big damn heroes who occasionally break the rules; that’s part of the pulp inspiration.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. I’m about to do a live AMA for Threshold Patrons on things left on the cutting room floor of Eberron. If you’re reading this it’s probably too late to catch it live, but I’ll be posting the recording on Patreon.