IFAQ: Medusas

The race of medusas was born in Khyber, but two hundred twenty years ago a clan emerged from the darkness and laid claim to the city of Cazhaak Draal in Droaam. The medusas have played an important role in Droaam’s rise as a nation. They are skilled stonemasons and architects, and their deadly gaze attack makes them dangerous warriors and valuable bodyguards.

This is what the original Eberron Campaign Setting had to say about medusas. It followed our general approach of questioning and considering previous assumptions. Traditionally, medusas were monsters, expected to hang around in statue-filled caves waiting for adventurers. But third edition didn’t present them as being created by a curse or otherwise existing in isolation—and further, the mental ability scores of the typical medusa were superior of those to the typical human. So why would these intelligent, powerful creatures hang around dank dungeons waiting to fight adventurers? Why wouldn’t they have a civilization of their own? Beyond this, it was easy to see how medusas could play an important role in Droaam. They’re smarter than humans, let alone ogres—and they have a power that even a gargoyle or minotaur has to respect. Breland might not think much of a city of ogres, but a city of medusas is a force anyone has to take seriously.

I expanded on the medusas of Eberron in this Dragonshard article, which added a few additional twists. The medusas of Cazhaak Draal use their serpent manes as secondary eyes, allowing them to see while their primary eyes are closed or covered. They’ve developed a language called Serpentine, which uses the hisses and motions of their serpents. Medusas can petrify other medusas (something that has varied by edition) though they’ve developed a ritual to negate the effects of their gaze. Within their own culture they use petrification as a tool, preserving elders or mortally wounded medusas. However, this article leaves many questions unanswered… a situation further complicated by the constantly shifting lore about medusas. Sharn: City of Towers has male medusas with the same capabilities (serpents, petrification) as females, while non-Eberron lore in some editions presents male medusas as a divergent species with entirely different abilities. Fifth edition presents medusas as isolated individuals rather than a distinct species; in 5E, medusas (male or female) are created as the result of a curse and they have no culture.

Eberron has always diverged from default lore; just look at gnolls, drow, and mind flayers. The fact that the default lore of medusas has changed in fifth edition doesn’t make any difference, because Eberron wasn’t using the lore of previous editions either; again, in S:CoT we have the male medusa Harash, who’s notably not a maedar. The medusas of Eberron are the medusas of Eberron: a unique species who emerged from Khyber to found a city-state on the surface, and who possess a distinct culture and language. In Eberron, vanity alone can’t make you a medusa. Which is fine, but it leaves many questions unanswered. Keep in mind that—like all of these articles—all of what I’m about to say is what I do in my Eberron campaign. Nothing here is canon, and it’s entirely possible I will contradict canon sources. This is how I use medusas; it’s a suggestion, not a fact.

What’s so interesting about medusas?

There’s many things I like about medusas.

  • They’re traditionally encountered as lone monsters, and I love turning that around and exploring the idea of medusas as a civilized people. Along with the Venomous Demesne, they have a sophisticated culture that predates Droaam, and they’re a power bloc the Daughters want to keep as allies.
  • Many of the creatures of Droaam—ogres, trolls—are creatures that rely on brute force. Medusas are more intelligent than humans. They’re an excellent tool for getting across the point that these things humans consider to be monsters may be alien, but that doesn’t make them subhuman.
  • At the same time, medusas ARE very alien, and I like exploring that. I like digging deeper into the serpent mane, and in playing up ways that human assumptions about them can be very off-base.
  • Medusas are POWERFUL and dangerous. The mere threat of their gaze is enough to change the dynamics of a conversation.
  • The Cazhaak medusas are a very spiritual people, and are the primary priests of the dominant religion in Droaam—a religion based on deities humanity fears. This is another source of power and potential story hooks, and something that can give a medusa goals that run counter to those of Droaam; Zerasha of Graywall places the her duty to the Shadow above the desires of the Daughters.

All of these things combined can make medusas excellent ambassadors, enigmatic priests, or Daask commanders. They can enforce order among dangerous and diverse minions, but they aren’t inherently bloodthirsty or brutish. They are a truly alien species, and for people who have never actually dealt with them before it’s fun to play with expectations and fears.

Where do the medusas of Eberron come from? Were they created by Orlassk?

The Cazhaak creed asserts that the Sovereigns created and cultivated weak creatures that they could dominate—pathetic, powerless creatures, like humans. It was the Shadow who gave the blessed creatures—those humans call “monsters”—their gifts. The oldest medusa myths maintain that their ancestors were slaves in the depths of Khyber—enslaved by a “stone tyrant,” most likely the daelkyr Orlassk—and that the Shadow gave them their powers and inspired them to break the yoke of their oppression and claim their freedom. Keep in mind that these are myths, passed down through oral tradition for centuries before they were even concretely codified. Gatekeepers and many modern scholars assert that it was most likely Orlaask who actually created the medusas, blending humans (Explorers? Some sort of colony?) with basilisks. But religion is about faith; even if they were presented with absolute concrete proof that Orlaask created the first medusa by merging a human and a basilisk, a medusa would say that Orlaask was simply a pawn guided by the Shadow, and that it was the Shadow who gave their ancestors the strength to rebel against the Stone Tyrant. The Cazhaak medusas know that they are children of the Shadow, and simple facts won’t shake this faith.

Regardless of the truth, the medusas are a relatively young species. In describing Cazhaak Draal, the Eberron Campaign Setting says that Cazhaak Draal “was abandoned after the daelkyr released a horde of basilisks, gorgons, and cockatrices from the depths of Khyber.” Note the lack of medusas in that description. Medusas generally resemble humans more than they do hobgoblins or dwarves (let alone gnolls), and their first historical appearance on the surface world is when they emerge to claim Cazhaak Draal. It seems likely that as a species, medusas are little over a thousand years old. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that there is a second culture of medusas that has yet to be encountered by humans—medusas who remained servants of the Stone Tyrant. So explorers in Khyber could discover a city of medusas still devoted to Orlaask, who know nothing of the Shadow or the Cazhaak creed.

What is the life cycle of medusas in your Eberron?

First of all, in my campaign maedar—the serpentless “male medusas”—are an entirely separate species. Fourth edition presented them as having a “venomous gaze” and I’d be more inclined to use these scaly, venomous humanoids as creations of the overlord Masvirik, the Cold Sun—an overlord noted for reptilian traits and poison. The medusas of Eberron are defined by their serpent mane and their petrifying gaze.

Cazhaak medusas can have a masculine or feminine appearance. Thus we have Queen Sheshka, but also the medusa Harash in Sharn, who is described as male. The majority of medusas—around 80%—have a feminine appearance. However, the fact is that medusa physiology is nothing like that of humanity and that this presumption of gender is misleading. “Female” medusas may have a feminine shape, but they don’t suckle their young and don’t actually have mammary glands. Medusa myths suggest that they were created (whether by Orlaask or the Shadow) from another humanoid species, and most likely their silhouette is an artifact of that forgotten past.

Medusa reproduction is nothing like human reproduction, and any two medusas can reproduce. After a period of foreplay that causes key chemicals to be released, two medusas entwine their serpent manes. They bite one another’s serpents, and those bitten in this way fall off of the head. The entwined, impregnated serpents undergo a metamorphosis, merging together into leathery “eggs,” eventually releasing a young medusa that blends the traits of both parents. A stranger aspect of this lifecycle is that there’s no absolute assurance how long it will take for a medusa’s egg to mature. It takes at least a year, but it’s not uncommon for an egg to take anywhere up to ten years to hatch… and some eggs never produce a child. Many medusas believe that a child has to want to emerge. Eggs are typically buried in warm sand, and it’s not uncommon for one parent to tend to their brood, singing to the eggs each night; it’s this caregiver who the medusas would call the “mother,” even though they don’t carry the children directly. This slow gestation is offset by a long lifespan. Medusas can live between three hundred to four hundred years before falling victim to old age; There are many medusas in Cazhaak Draal who were part of the expedition that originally claimed the city.

When interacting with other humanoids, medusas often adopt the pronouns people typically associate with their appearance; thus, Sheshka is a queen and uses she/her pronouns. However, the Serpentine language doesn’t use gendered terms. In Serpentine, Sheshka is simply leader, not queen.

Where did the medusas live before Cazhaak Draal? Do they live there still?

The medusas have never been a widespread or numerous people. Their myths speak of a long period of nomadic wandering following their escape from the Stone Tyrant, and describe periods of settlement in what seem to be different demiplanes—periods that always end in disaster, with the medusas being forced to move on. This exodus came to an end when they settled in a Dhakaani city deep below the surface, a vault whose keepers were slain long ago. The medusas call this city Niaanu Draal, the Mother City, and it was here that they wrote down their myths and established the traditions they carry on today. They remained in Niaanu Draal for over two centuries, before this, too, ended in tragedy. The forces of a daelkyr drove the medusas from Niaanu Draal. These enemies could not (or would not) follow the medusas to the surface, and so they came to Cazhaak Draal and claimed it as their home.

Which daelkyr did they fight? It’s possible that it was Orlaask, that the minions of the Stone Tyrant sought to reclaim its former subjects. It could be that Belashyrra was offended by these creatures with their deadly gaze, or that the crawling hordes of Valaara overran the Mother City. This battle took place centuries ago, and ultimately it only matters if a DM wants to run a story related to Niaanu Draal; as a DM, if you want to tell that story, it’s up to you to decide which daelkyr best suits the needs of your campaign. Note that this isn’t a mystery to the medusas themselves; there are medusa elders who took part in the battle, along with petrified elders who once lived in Niaanu Draal. It’s simply that there’s no reason for me to lock in a specific daelkyr here, when a different daelkyr might serve your story better. The medusas faced a great enemy they couldn’t defeat, but it has left them alone ever since. Given the enigmatic nature of the daelkyr, it’s entirely possible that this exodus was the daelkyr’s goal all along… that for some reason it wanted the medusas to rise up from Khyber.

Has Sheshka always been the Queen of Cazhaak Draal? If not, how did she gain the title?

It wasn’t Sheshka who led the medusas to Cazhaak Draal. In the novel The Queen of Stone, a warrior who’s been petrified for over a century recognizes Sheshka as “Lady Sheshka” and is surprised to discover that she is now queen. Sheshka inherited her title, but it is about more than just bloodline. Also from The Queen of Stone

“It’s not as simple as it seems.” Sheshka’s hand brushed against the silver collar that hung around her neck. “I am Sheshka, the Queen of Stone. To you, that may seem an arrogant title, an affectation of a woman who governs a city smaller than your Wroat or Passage. But it is not just a title of nobility: it is a statement of fact. I am the Queen of Stone. I hear the whisper of marble and granite…”

Essentially, Sheshka is the Queen of Stone because she IS the Queen of Stone. In a sense this is similar to the Keeper of the Flame. Medusas have varying degrees of natural affinity for stone. The regalia of the queen—the pendant Sheshka wears—amplifies this gift, but only one with the gift can attune to the collar. If Sheshka were to be killed, the medusas would search among their people for another with this gift—starting with Sheshka’s relatives, but continuing until a suitable medusa is found. So it’s as much a theocracy as it is a monarchy; Sheshka is considered to be blessed by the Shadow.

How do you see a medusa’s gaze working in general interactions. 5e’s gaze feature indiscriminately tries to petrify any qualifying targets in range…

Not exactly. Let’s look at the text…

When a creature that can see the medusa’s eyes starts its turn within 30 feet of the medusa, the medusa can force it to make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw if the medusa isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature…

There’s nothing indiscriminate about this. The medusa CAN force the creature to make a saving throw as long as the medusa can see the target, but it doesn’t HAVE to. My interpretation of this isn’t that a medusa can somehow make it safe for other creatures to look it in the eye, but rather that it’s a simple enough matter for a medusa to avoid meeting another creature’s gaze, using any of the methods I describe in this article. Notably, I still maintain that a medusa only petrifies with its primary eyes, and it can close them (or wear eyeblinders or a blindfold) and use its serpent mane for vision. In 3.5 I assigned a -2 penalty when a medusa uses its serpents for vision, and that’s an option here (fifth edition rarely does penalties, but disadvantage feels too severe). On the other hand, it’s also reasonable to say that the fifth edition medusa can choose not to petrify creatures, and that it does this by closing its main eyes and using its serpents—and therefore apply no penalty for doing so.

Fifth edition also says…

If the medusa sees itself reflected on a polished surface within 30 feet of it and in an area of bright light, the medusa is, due to its curse, affected by its own gaze.

I’m ambivalent about this. It seems very vague and ill-defined compared to the very specific degree of control the medusa has in dealing with enemies. A medusa can choose not to look at an adventurer (not forcing them to make a saving throw)—if that adventurer is holding a mirror, I’d assume it can avoid looking at that, too? I’m not adverse to the idea that a medusa could be affected by its own gaze—as the article suggests, medusas can petrify other medusas—but I think they’d be VERY used to the risks and good at avoiding them; and they’d be able to avoid the threat completely by closing their main eyes (or blindfold) and seeing through their serpents. I’d also hold closely to that “polished surface” and say that they don’t get petrified by, for example, looking at rhe rippling surface of a glass of water. So I’m fine with saying that if there’s a really well-executed plan it is POSSIBLE to petrify a medusa with their own gaze, but that it’s not something you can do casually by just wearing a mirror around your neck.

Cazhaak Draal is noted as being the spiritual center of Droaam. Do the medusas have an arcane tradition as well, and if so, what is that like?

The Cazhaak medusas have an arcane tradition. They are devoted to the Shadow, and the Shadow is a deity of KNOWLEDGE; according to Cazhaak myths, it was the Shadow who taught Aureon all that he knows. However, the Shadow is also about personal ambition and power, and rather than developing a shared system of arcane science that can support wizards and artificers (as seen in the Venomous Demesne), Cazhaak Draal is more a collection of individuals following their own secret paths to power.

Cazhaak Draal has both magewrights and adepts. Medusas have a natural affinity for stone, and their spellcasters often cast spells (or rituals) related to stone, earth, or poison. Cazhaak Draal thus has a strong corps of magewrights capable of casting mold earth and stone shape; working together and using arcane focuses they can cast move earth. More sophisticated spellcasters generally follow the model of bards (most often Whispers), sorcerers (typically Shadow or Storm), or warlocks (potentially any). In the case of warlocks, most Cazhaak warlocks believe their powers flow from the Shadow; they might have the powers of an Archfey of Great Old One patron, but those are the gifts the Shadow has bestowed upon them. However, medusa warlocks believe that the Shadow’s gift was connecting them TO their patron, and you could find a medusa warlock dealing with an archfey, a dao, or some other patron. The main point is that such spellcasters are remarkable individuals, each blazing their own trail—and thus, Cazhaak Draal overall doesn’t have the arcane infrastructure of the Venomous Demesne.

Does it bother you that mythologically, Medusa was a specific gorgon, while in D&D, medusas are a species and gorgons are an entirely different, unrelated creature?

Not really. D&D is full of such flawed mythological analogues. Greek Mythology is as irrelevant to the medusas of Eberron as the default lore of third or fourth edition. The medusas of Eberron are an alien species that share a name and a few cosmetic traits with medusa and the gorgons of mythology. (As a side note, I’ve always loved the name Euryale—one of Medusa’s sisters.)

In conclusion… What I enjoy about medusas is that they alien and intelligent, that they are spiritual but devoted to a tradition humanity shuns. Cazhaak Draal is a distinct faction within Droaam that has considerable power and influence, and I enjoy exploring its relationship with the Daughters. And I like the dramatic weight that comes with the medusa’s gaze, especially when dealing with a medusa in a non-combat situation.

Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who requested this topic and who are the only reason I can taker the time to write these articles!

55 thoughts on “IFAQ: Medusas

  1. What do you see as the “rules” of a medusa’s gaze in Eberron? Can it be “turned off” simply by willing it to be turned off? Does a medusa have to veil themselves? Are medusas vulnerable to seeing their own reflections?

    Is the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica undercity medusa closer to the Eberron medusa than the Monster Manual medusa?

    • Seems like most of that is covered in the linked dragonshard?

      > The gaze of a medusa can petrify even an ally, and as a result, a medusa does not meet the gaze of a person with whom it is conversing. Where she directs her eyes indicates her esteem for the person. She drops her eyes toward the ground to show respect, or looks up and over the person if she wishes to indicate disdain; when speaking to an equal, she glances to the left or right. If she wishes to show trust, she directs her gaze to the person, but closes her eyes.

      • The article was written with 3.5 in mind, not 5e. I am interested in an “up-to-date” look on how the medusas of Eberron are “supposed” to work, particularly with regards to reflective surfaces.

    • I’ve added my answers to the main article. They can’t will their gaze to turn off, but they can close their eyes, which has a similar effect since they can use their serpent mane for sight.

      I don’t have access to the Ravnica or Theros books at the moment, so I can’t answer those questions.

  2. In Mythic Odysseys of Theros, there are statistics for a very powerful medusa, Hythonia. She is worthy as an endgame threat.

    If someone wanted to use the statistics for Hythonia in Eberron, which medusa would be a good candidate for such? Who is the strongest medusa around, a medusa of truly immense power, whom heroic PCs would have an actual reason to fight?

      • Sheshka is a medusa ranger 4 in D&D 3.5. That is reasonably strong, but “mid-level strong” rather than a legendary endgame threat.

        • “Who is the strongest medusa around, a medusa of truly immense power, whom heroic PCs would have an actual reason to fight?”

          The one who is equivalent to the level of the strongest rulers of the Five Nations.

          A CR 17 Medusa, by contrast, likely doesn’t exist in Khorvaire (for the same reason a marilith isn’t just hanging out in the Cogs) but might be in Khyber? CR 17’s equivalent to an adult red or gold dragon, an androsphinx or a (non-Lhazaar) dragon turtle, a wild and terrifying thing to encounter. Though a bit low in CR, she could even function for an avatar of Orlassk

  3. Do the medusas of Eberron favor bows, much as the medusas of 3.X through 5e do, or do they have no particular affinity for bows?

    If they do prefer bows, is there some cultural reason for doing so? I cannot imagine that bows would have seen much use in the tunnels of Khyber.

    • Sheshka used a bow in The Queen of Stone. Medusas have always had Darkvision from what I can tell, and since Khyber encompasses everything from lightless tunnels to rivers of lava to worlds within the world them having a tradition of archery can still work. And when you think about it, a medusa up close can switch to its petrifying gaze.

      Anything that scares a medusa enough to pick up a bow must be a serious threat!

    • Certainly, medusas like bows; as has been called out, Sheshka is frequently depicted with a bow. Most enemies who know the threat posed by a medusa’s gaze will try to avoid getting within 30 feet of it, so it behooves the medusa to be proficient with a ranged weapon. And as the medusas of Cazhaak Draal have been above ground for over two centuries, what’s useful in Khyber isn’t particularly relevant any more.

  4. You call out medusas as being skilled at sculpting and architecture in the Dragonshard article thanks to their affinity for stonework. Do you have any thoughts on what the broad strokes of medusa stone sculpting and architecture might look like?

    • Just to pile on further, I came across the Black Effigy magic item from Faiths of Eberron, which seems like a natural fit for medusas.

      The Black Effigy is an onyx statuette of a shadowy draconic figure, which absorbs light and feels strangely smooth to the touch that when activated with a prayer to the Shadow impedes Concentration and magic items within 100 feet for an hour. I can imagine larger versions spread around Cazhaak Draal and other holy sites to the Cazhaak Creed in Droaam to impede those who can’t rely on supernatural abilities to see them through a fight.

    • Exploring Eberron describes the medusa aesthetic as “More elegant than Znir or Barrens work, with smooth curves and engraved patterns.”I would also expect to see caryatids and similar incorporation of sculpture into architecture.

  5. In Exploring Eberron, you talk about how Medusa serve as Voices of Katra to resolve disputes and enforce justice. What kind of justice do they enforce? Justice based on moral principles (do no harm), justice based on honor (break no bargains) or justice based on the Daughters (everything the Daughters does is good)?

    What would a Medusa Voice of Katra think of Daask, Katra’s criminal empire?

    • Keep in mind that the society of Droaam is inspired by the principles of the Dark Six, not those of the Sovereign Host. It elevates the Fury and the Mockery over Aureon and Dol Dorn, and is concerned more about VENGEANCE and VICTORY than about compassion or protection of the weak. Beyond this, the magistrates are the Voices of KATRA, not of some abstract concept of justice. So first and foremost, they punish people who fail to follow the edicts of the Daughters or whose actions threaten the overall security of success of DROAAM. As noted with the Flayer Guard in Graywall, if you burn down a building they’ll take you down; if you get into a street brawl, they’ll take bets on the outcome. Beyond that, a Voice of Katra serving as a magistrate essentially falls into the role of King Solomon; you present your grievance and if they consider it valid, they will arbitrarily make a judgment and pass a sentence—or petrify you if they decide you were wasting their time.

      Following this principle, the Voices don’t consider Daask to be a “criminal empire.” Again, this is a civilization that elevates the Mockery over Dol Dorn, and prizing cunning victory over honor. The Five Nations don’t recognize Droaam as a nation; why, then, should Droaam recognize any of their laws? And if they aren’t bound by foreign laws, the agents of Daask AREN’T criminals, they are soldiers of Droaam serving the interests of the nation.

  6. if a petrified individual is smashed, would they be able to be repaired, potentially with magic, and then un-petrified, without dying?
    could this be used to smuggle people?

    could a petrified body be animated by a spell into a stone construct?

    A Rouge Medusa, petrifying people and making a terracotta (well, stone) army?

    How strong is the stone? i.e if someone is bracing against a door to keep it closed, or holding up a collapsing roof, would petrification allow them to hold it in place for longer without tiring, potentially giving backup time to arrive?

    would they be fireproof/resistant to some attacks? i.e petrifying someone (willing or not), to use as temporary cover?

    can the medusa change the Type of stone that the target is turned into?
    i.e turning a large individual into Pumice, and using them as an emergency flotation device?

    • Most of these are RULES questions.

      In 5e, you’re still a creature, but with a condition, so breaking you apart means you die. “A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging. The creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage. The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity Saving Throws. The creature has Resistance to all damage. The creature is immune to poison and disease, although a poison or disease already in its system is suspended, not neutralized.”

      Same in 3.5 but the rules are different “A petrified character has been turned to stone and is considered unconscious. If a petrified character cracks or breaks, but the broken pieces are joined with the body as he returns to flesh, he is unharmed. If the character’s petrified body is incomplete when it returns to flesh, the body is likewise incomplete and there is some amount of permanent hit point loss and/or debilitation.”

      Animating a petrified person, same deal. Either way you’re still a creature with a condition so no animate objects

      How strong is stone? In 5e likely resistance to weapons and fire, and in 3.5 you subtract hardness (8) and you’d halve the damage of fire

      As for the terracotta army or pumice petrification remember medusa are products of the Shadow/Daelkyr, so do what you think makes a good story above all.

  7. In one of my games I unveiled a male medusa named Ophion who claimed relation to Sheshka. He was of a “royal” line altered directly by Orlassk to petrify victims into byeshk instead of stone, a fail safe in case other daelkyr-spawn gained leverage on Orlassk or its minions.

    Years before that my players came upon a small fishing village where multicolored marble fish were washing onto the shores by the mill, the results of an aquatic medusa with a river-snake motif.

    I have always enjoyed variations and spinning expectations and medusa are among my favorite creatures to showcase those options with.

    Thanks for the article, Keith!

  8. How do see medusa’s gazes working in general interactions. 5e’s gaze feature indiscriminately tries to petrify any qualifying targets in range, but that hardly seems a sensible situation for a society of medusas that interacts with others as well as themselves. Should they be able to suppress it? Avoid a proper “lock” instinctively? They could of course close those eyes, but I think I recall that specifically being a sign of deep trust, not an option to manage all day to day interactions.

    • Dragonshard says
      > The gaze of a medusa can petrify even an ally, and as a result, a medusa does not meet the gaze of a person with whom it is conversing. Where she directs her eyes indicates her esteem for the person. She drops her eyes toward the ground to show respect, or looks up and over the person if she wishes to indicate disdain; when speaking to an equal, she glances to the left or right. If she wishes to show trust, she directs her gaze to the person, but closes her eyes.

        • Likely why the medusa in Exploring Eberron in the Droaam section is depicted as removing a blindfold. Gives a whole different feel to “justice is blind”

        • Sure,
          Consider the image Keith chose and the concept of a Medusa-Bard. Perhaps wearing the mask (part of a Bard’s outfit) prevents such accidental petrification. This might even be a requirement of the host. There would be little hinderance to the medusa who can see through it’s snakes as Keith described.

          On that note: an accidental petrification of an individual, or even a stadium of fans, could make for an excellent plot hook to your PCs. Perhaps they are sent to hunt a medusa who is in true remorse about what happened. Maybe she fled to get the ingredients for the ritual to restore them to life. If the PCs don’t find out, they may kill an innocent over an accident.

  9. When the medusa rose to claim Cazhaak Draal, did this register with anyone in Galifar or the larger Khorvaire? We’re talking 778 YK, well after the establishment of the groundwork for the Khorvaire of today, did anyone outside the western part of Droaam notice or care? Did those roving Brelish monster-slaying knights start running into medusa often enough to trace this, and in modern Khorvaire would academics and scholars know that 220 years ago these creatures came up from Khyber?

    • Exploring Eberron calls out that the Barrens were Breland mostly in name, much like how many forests are known to be haunted Cazhaak Draal could have quickly developed a reputation for somewhere you just didn’t go.

      We know of other warlords in now-Droaam that have likely held their territory for some time. The Prince of Bones is called out as a venerable troll, he has probably resided within Suthar Draal for more than a decade.

      Just my two crowns!

      • And a valuable Brelish double-crown it is, but my issue comes in that Cazhaak Draal’s on the FAR side of Droaam from Breland, past the Great Crag and any memory of a road, out in pacifist farmer orc country. However, Suthar Draal’s farther than that so if the Brelish knew about the Prince of Bones then that follows

    • When the medusa rose to claim Cazhaak Draal, did this register with anyone in Galifar or the larger Khorvaire?

      No. Consider that Cazhaak Draal was a RUIN in what was already considered to be a cursed land (the Stonelands), in addition to being across the Barrens. Breland liked to claim the region on the broad map of the world, but the simple fact is that they largely ignored the world west of the Graywalls. The point was generally “This is ours whenever we decide to claim it” as opposed to “We are going to actively govern and maintain every inch of this.”

  10. Secrets of Xen’drik mentions medusas as a possible encounter in Xen’drik caverns. What are these Xen’drik medusas like?

    Secrets of Xen’drik also says, “Those brave enough to stare the medusa sorcerer-queen Vestania in the eye and survive can ask a boon. Legend holds that Vestania’s gaze is deadly enough to reduce even artifacts to powder.” Who is Vestania?

    • As there aren’t any canon sources I’m aware of, I wonder if Keith’s response might be something along the line of, “Who do you want her to be in your campaign?”

      You pose a great question and I’m excited to hear the answer.

    • I didn’t create Vestania, and I don’t know what the original writer was thinking. She certainly has no connection to the medusas of Cazhaak Draal. I don’t have time to look her up right now and see what else is said about her. But consider that the demiplanes of Khyber interact strangely with space, and that she could easily be a refugee from Niaalu Draal who fled in a different direction from those that founded Cazhaak Draal. With this in mind, her great powers could reflect a deep connection to the Shadow… or it could be that she found ancient powers in Xen’drik entirely unknown to her cousins in Khorvaire and that it’s these that have granted her such significant abilities.

  11. Do Medusas have access to any easier way to reverse their petrification, or is dedicating themselves to Shadow to be granted the 5th-circle spell Greater Restoration the only way?

    • Yes, the Dragonshard article I linked to includes the medusa’s kiss spell, which is a specific tool they developed to reverse the effects of their pertifying gaze. While it’s a 3.5 spell, the basic idea can easily translate to 5E.

  12. A ponder came to in regards to their anatomy. Can a medusa procreate with a human or other humanoids? Or even have the anatomy to have sex with a human or humanoid for pleasure or intimacy while being unable to procreate.

    And do they shed their skin?

    • Can a human procreate with an alligator? No, and medusas are considerably MORE alien than alligators. Can a human be intimate with an alligator? Sure. All that intimacy requires is the willingness to learn what is pleasurable for the partner. So medusas and humans can’t procreate without the use of some sort of significant transmutation magic, but they could certainly be intimate.

      Medusas do shed their skin, but they don’t shed it all at once; you don’t end up with a perfect skin-outline or anything like that, and it usually goes unnoticed.

  13. Great article as always Mr.Baker. I do just have a couple questions.

    It’s been mentioned that the Medusa are good architects and stone masons. Is this pure craft, or do the medusa have access to spells like mold earth or stone shape? And is this divine magic or magic learned from the Daelkyr?

    In Queen of Stone it’s been show the medusa are semi content to be left alone and just send missionaries into Droaam. Is there a reason you chose for Harash to be a leader of Daask or did you just want to show the kinds of creatures Droaam had? (Side note I use him as a anti hero in the game I run and it’s been very fun I gave him blacked out sunglasses).

    • It’s been mentioned that the Medusa are good architects and stone masons. Is this pure craft, or do the medusa have access to spells like mold earth or stone shape?
      They have access to spells such as mold earth and stone shape, along with magecraft. They use both arcane and divine techniques, and also have an innate talent for working with stone (as suggested in the question about Sheshka).

      In Queen of Stone it’s been show the medusa are semi content to be left alone and just send missionaries into Droaam. Is there a reason you chose for Harash to be a leader of Daask or did you just want to show the kinds of creatures Droaam had?

      Cazhaak Draal seeks to preserve its own identity and culture, but we’ve always presented medusas as playing a leadership role across Droaam. They’re among the most intelligent species within Droaam and have the power to keep more reckless Droaamites in line. Exploring Eberron notes “There are relatively few medusas in Droaam, but their intelligence and mystical power makes them a vital part of this growing nation. Medusa architects direct construction in the blended cities, laying the foundations of what this nation will become. Medusas who choose to serve as Voices of Katra are often called upon to resolve disputes and enforce justice, for who dares challenge the ruling of a medusa?”

      • Would it be fair to assess any arcanists or magrwrights among them use something similar to Dominon Theory but for the Shadow?

        • I added this to the main post, but I’ll share it here as well.

          The Cazhaak medusas have an arcane tradition. They are devoted to the Shadow, and the Shadow is a deity of KNOWLEDGE; according to Cazhaak myths, it was the Shadow who taught Aureon all that he knows. However, the Shadow is also about personal ambition and power, and rather than developing a shared system of arcane science that can support wizards and artificers (as seen in the Venomous Demesne), Cazhaak Draal is more a collection of individuals following their own secret paths to power.

          Cazhaak Draal has both magewrights and adepts. Medusas have a natural affinity for stone, and their spellcasters often cast spells (or rituals) related to stone, earth, or poison. Cazhaak Draal thus has a strong corps of magewrights capable of casting mold earth and stone shape; working together and using arcane focuses they can cast move earth. More sophisticated spellcasters generally follow the model of bards (most often Whispers), sorcerers (typically Shadow or Storm), or warlocks (potentially any). In the case of warlocks, most Cazhaak warlocks believe their powers flow from the Shadow; they might have the powers of an Archfey of Great Old One patron, but those are the gifts the Shadow has bestowed upon them. However, medusa warlocks believe that the Shadow’s gift was connecting them TO their patron, and you could find a medusa warlock dealing with an archfey, a dao, or some other patron. The main point is that such spellcasters are remarkable individuals, each blazing their own trail—and thus, Cazhaak Draal overall doesn’t have the arcane infrastructure of the Venomous Demesne.

  14. We know that they are architects, do we know what kind of cities/buildings they like? Do they use magic or mundane stone crafting techniques?
    As for their religion it should be quite natural to invest time and resources into creating magic items, “gifts” for new generations like the gifts of the Shadow. What do you think?

    (In general, it looks like in Everton there are more “arcane items” then divine ones, although for example the keeper of the flame should be able to create new high level items few wizards can)

  15. Really fun article. Medusa reproduction really nails home the alien species aesthetic. I also really like the idea that medusas are a relatively new race. Their association with Greek mythology always makes them seem ancient, so the idea that they are very recent additions to the surface world is a nice change.

    For anyone interested in an exploration of the Gorgon/Medusa question, the GM Word of the Week podcast did a really nice episode on that exact topic. It’s a 20-ish minute listen.

    http://www.gmwordoftheweek.com/home/gorgon?rq=gorgon

  16. Medusas seem to be pretty organized and, at least in Droaam, one of the most community-oriented races–other comments and ExE have called out that they are magistrates or judges in Droaam, and, unlike the base D&D lore, medusas are not solitary. On the other hand, the Shadow emphasizes personal ambition in the Cazhaak Creed. How do the medusas deal with the conflict between personal ambition and civic-mindedness?

    • As discussed in this article, the Cazhaak Creed is fundamentally different from the Pyrinean. The article notes “In addition to the traditional spheres of magic and knowledge, the Shadow is generally considered to be a guide and guardian to the monstrous species. As such, a medusa cleric of the Shadow might actually have the Life domain… because she sees the Shadow as being the bringer of life to her people.” The Pyrinean creed ONLY views the Shadow as a personal tempter and corruptor, while the Cazhaak creed looks to the Shadow as a Promethean figure who gives people—all monstrous creatures, not just individuals—the gifts they need to thrive.

      The short form is that the Cazhaak creed supports the creation and establishment of communities, but with fundamentally different base values than the Pyrinean societies. Justice is inspired by the Fury, not by Aureon’s laws; the basic principle is that those who have been wronged deserve vengeance. The Shadow shows its followers the path to unlocking their full potential and urges them not to be limited by morality; but that doesn’t mean that they should foolishly destroy the systems around them in pursuit of their ambitions. Imagine you’re a medusa acolyte and you want to be high priest. The Shadow will urge you to pursue that goal—but not by destroying the church in the process, because if you do that, you will in fact never achieve your goal. Consider King Kaius in the Five Nations; he’s a king whose actions would definitely be supported by the Shadow. He is a ruthless man willing to use murder or torture to achieve his goals, but he is still working to keep Karrnath strong through his actions.

      Essentially, it’s a balance. It’s not that the Cazhaak faithful aren’t civic-minded, it’s that there is no room for compassion or altruism in the equation. They help the community because a strong community helps them: but they will be ruthless in their pursuit of that strong community. And it may be that EVERY medusa acolyte wants to be high priest, but they don’t just randomly murder the other priests because a) they know that would just collapse the church into chaos and they wouldn’t achieve their goals and b) they know that the Magistrates would serve as the fangs of the Fury. The acolyte is always looking for the opportunity to pursue their ambitions, but they are still considering the greater good, especially as it benefits them personally. You might say that they’re cold-blooded…

      • That’s actually very much like the drow priestess of Menzoberanzan. Its a game of intrigue and fights in the dark, knowing that they cant just kill everyone or else who are they going to loard over?

        • Its a game of intrigue and fights in the dark, knowing that they cant just kill everyone or else who are they going to lord over?
          Exactly. Your actions aren’t bound by honor or morality, but you still need to ensure that you are strengthening or at least preserving the society or organization you’re part of, because your ambitions are tied to that overall strength.

  17. Have you ever had a PC medusa? Would love to hear your thoughts on how to run one, both in terms if mechanical abilities and how a medusa adventurer would interact with the world.

    • Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold is set on the Droaam/Breland border, and it will discuss many different options for monstrous adventurers. Work has been delayed—it’s been a complicated year—but it will happen.

  18. It seems to me that Medusas’ relationship with the Shadow is similar to changelings’ relationship with the Traveler or sahuagins’ relationship with the Devourer.

    Do they have a unique way to call the Sovereign, or myths?
    Did they know about Aureon before emerging to the surface?

    • It seems to me that Medusas’ relationship with the Shadow is similar to changelings’ relationship with the Traveler or sahuagins’ relationship with the Devourer.

      The medusas see the Shadow as a Prometheus figure who gave them their gaze and who freed them from bondage, but it’s important to note that they believe the Shadow gave the harpy her voice and the troll his regeneration. They don’t believe that medusas are somehow blessed above all; they believe that they are one of many children of the Shadow. It’s also noteworthy that the Cazhaak creed places weight on all of the Dark Six. While they believe they have been blessed by the Shadow, Cazhaak medusas look to the Mockery for inspiration in battle and call on the Fury for vengeance. And I’ll call out something that Exploring Eberron deals with in more detail: in Serpentine, the Mockery isn’t called “The Mockery”—but it’s easier for us to use that translation than to introduce an entirely new set of names for the deities when we all agree we’re talking about the same person. But THEY don’t see the Mockery as a mockery.

      They definitely have unique prayers, rituals, and myths, but I’m afraid that’s outside the scope of what I have time to write right now.

      They knew generally about Aureon but didn’t care about the specifics (and again, didn’t use the name “Aureon”). The point in their myths is that there’s the weak gods who hold dominion over weak creatures, and then there’s the Six.

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