IFAQ: Nonbinary Elves and More About Githberron

I’m getting ready for PAX Unplugged—more information on that tomorrow—but as time permits I like to answer interesting questions from my Patreon supporters. Questions like…

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes includes “Blessed of Corellon”—rare elves who can change their sex in a short period of time. How would you incorporate this into Eberron, beyond changing the name to remove the reference to Corellon?

My immediate question is WHY MAKE IT RARE? Why not just make it a standard trait of elves, a reflection of their fey ancestry? Once you do that, I’d just keep in mind that for elves, sex is a form of expression as opposed to an absolute. Some settle on one path that feels natural to them, never using the gift again once they’ve made that choice… or perhaps shifting every century, taking time to explore different paths. Others might shift casually from day to day, reflecting the mood of the moment. Some elves might use it the same way some changelings use personas, developing a set of unique identities and using the one best suited to a particular scenario. A question a DM should consider if incorporating this into the world is whether an elf can only choose from two options, or if there are other forms they can take with this blessing; this might also lead to the Elvish language having a broad range of pronouns.

Personally, I’d keep the core mechanics intact: invoking the blessing requires completion of a long rest and it doesn’t dramatically change the elf’s appearance. It’s a form of personal expression, not a disguise. But with that in mind, and with the idea that people KNOW this about elves, I don’t see why it can’t just be a common trait to all elves. Given that it requires the completion of a long rest and elves trance during a long rest, I’d personally present it as a sort of meditation in which the elf reflects on their self-image and identity, with their physical form shifting to match their thoughts. If it’s something that all elves possess, I’d just call it “The Change” and add it as a trait of the base elf race…

The Change. You may change your sex when you complete a long rest.

In a previous article about obyriths, you said it was possible that “Githberron” had its own overlords and some of them might still exist.

Exploring Eberron presents the idea that the Gith may be the survivors of a previous incarnation of Eberron that was, essentially, wiped and rebooted after being transformed by the daelkyr, which has been refered to in a few places as “Githberron.” What I say in the article is that the Obyriths could be fiends from a prior incarnation of Eberron, but that this wouldn’t have to be Githberron. Here’s the relevant quote from the article:

Exploring suggests that the Gith may be refugees from a previous incarnation of Eberron. An exotic option for the obyriths would be to say that they are fiends from a previous iteration of Khyber… That somehow they escaped into Xoriat and ultimately came to the current incarnation of reality, most likely finding shelter in a shadow demiplane.

This suggests that obyriths may be from “a previous iteration of Khyber”—not necessarily the same one that spawned the Gith. This ties to the idea that the Obyriths are extremely alien—fiends altered by the destruction of their world and by their experiences in Xoriat. The article also calls out that these fiends wouldn’t have heart demiplanes in the current reality, and that while they might be physically immortal they wouldn’t have the true immortality of a native fiend, and a former overlord wouldn’t wield that full power in the current reality.

If Githberron had overlords, did it have its own version of the Silver Flame or some other sealing magic? It’s hard to imagine the Gith’s ancestors being able to build a civilization with unbound overlords running around.

Who knows? The whole point of Githberron is that it’s a previous iteration of reality, one that’s different in substantial ways. There could be a union of celestials much like the Silver Flame, sure. But perhaps in Githberron the heart planes of the Overlords were deeply buried and they never emerged to rule an Age of Demons. Perhaps in Githberron the overlords fought one another so fiercely that they crippled one another. Perhaps a few of the overlords overwhelmed the others and dominate the world in a stable, if fiendish fashion. Perhaps there was a proto-Gith Empress who holds the overlords bound with the awesome psionic power of her unmatched mind. Each one of those is possible, and each would have a very different impact on how the world would evolve.

If there was a celestial binding force in another iteration of reality, do you think this power might still be able to be tapped into by a player character?

Anything’s possible. Githberron presumably had some form of native celestial. It’s possible that some form of native celestial survived that transition. But the point is that it WOULDN’T HAVE THE SAME POWER in this reality that it did in its native reality, because it doesn’t belong here. Just as the Obyriths can be permanently destroyed, the same thing would be true of a Githberron celestial. If it draws too much attention to itself and gets targeted by the Lords of Dust, it could simply be destroyed.

So could there be some sort of lingering celestial that could provide power to a player character? Sure, why not? But it wouldn’t be remotely on the same level of power as the Silver Flame, and it would carry the risk that it could be destroyed if the actions of the player character draw attention to it. I could imagine, for example, using this as the basis for a Aasimar cleric or paladin, saying that their divine power comes from THEIR PERSONAL CELESTIAL—but that it’s a small enough well of power that it couldn’t support other clerics or paladins beyond them, and that there’s a very real risk that it could be destroyed. Frankly, I think this could be a fun story to explore—what does the paladin do when their divine power source is literally extinguished by the Lords of Dust?—but I’d want to match sure the player was prepared for that to be a possibility.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters, who are the only thing that makes these articles possible. I hope I’ll see some of you at PAX Unplugged!

37 thoughts on “IFAQ: Nonbinary Elves and More About Githberron

    • I’ve suggested Githberron as an origin for gem dragons. But I haven’t yet had a chance to read Fizban’s and would like to do so before I venture any further opinions on them.

  1. Are most immortals aware of the changes to the Maze or do their perceptions alter with each incarnation of reality? Are the daelkyr and agents of Xoriat solely immune to these paradoxes?

    • Are most immortals aware of the changes to the Maze or do their perceptions alter with each incarnation of reality?
      Xoriat is specifically called out as standing apart from the maze. The other planes are tied to the current rat, and for that reason I think they alter with it. Dolurrh contains the library of the dead; in my opinion that’s a catalgoue of the dead of the current rat, not of ever rat that’s existed; if the latter, it would be incredibly unwieldy. On the other hand, I’m open to the idea that one of the Dark Powers of Mabar could be a remnant of a lost reality—though it might be that neither they nor anyone else really remembers the details of that world any more.

  2. Would the tairnardal have Traits associated with gender and, if so, would some tsirnardal assume a specific gender when emulating their patron ancestor?

    Also, what about the elves of khorvaire? Do they see this as an ability rooted in their ancestors, or is it so natural to them they rarely think of it?

    We’re the 6 daelkyr intended to be all the daelkyr, or could there be others too? Like a daelkyr who experiments with the concept of death and pushes creatures to the limits of what can still be considered alive.

    • If elves can change physical sex over the course of their trance, sex probably isn’t the basis for their gender system. Gender is a set of social expectations that are linked to sex here on Earth, but nonhumans wouldn’t necessarily do the same thing. In a version of Eberron with the Change, I’d see the Tairnadal as having gender tied to *tropes* — when the Keepers of the Past determine your patron ancestor as a youth, they’re also saying “here’s how you’re supposed to dress and act, because your patron ancestor did the same thing”. You might have a gender like The Smart One or The Rebellious Loner.
      It’s been called out that Khorvairian elves generally tend to adopt a sense of national identity rather than the ancestor worship of the Aereni or Tairnadal, so I think Khorvairian elves would be likely to view the Change as something else that sets them apart from the folk who waste so much of their short lives sleeping — not necessarily tied to their ancestors, but something to celebrate, not to ignore.

      • Gender is a set of social expectations that are linked to sex here on Earth, but nonhumans wouldn’t necessarily do the same thing. In a version of Eberron with the Change, I’d see the Tairnadal as having gender tied to *tropes*
        I agree. A human might look at the patron ancestor Vadallia and say “She was female, so why isn’t (High King) Shaeras Vadallia female?” But for the Tairnadal, male/female wouldn’t be a particularly significant defining factor. If I went further with the Change, one of the things I’d want to think about would be the pronouns of the Elvish language, because I think they could encompass a very different set of concepts than male and female. In common you say Vadallia was she/her and Shaeras is he/him; in Elvish, we understand that both of them are Trae/Tryl, which speaks to their spirit rather than the current configuration of their flesh.

    • Were the 6 daelkyr intended to be all the daelkyr, or could there be others too?
      There could definitely be others.The daelkyr presented in the 3.5 ECS is a generic daelkyr and isn’t intended to represent one of the Six. Another daelkyr appears in the novels. The Six might be the most powerful and well known of the daelkyr, but it’s not supposed to be a limit on what you can do in your campaign.

    • In my mind, there can be as many Daelkyr as there are themes in which to work with, and there’s plenty of room to expand too!
      Speaking of your example, I made a Daelkyr whose medium is rot, creating various horrors of rotting flesh and bone, whether they be alive or undead.

  3. In your old 2006 article on Eberron Expanded: Complete Psionic, you propose, as one of two possibilities, that Talaron might be one of the worlds previously destroyed by the daelkyr. Does this idea still work, under your current reckoning of previous Eberrons?

    • I’d imagine it works if that’s the story you want to tell. I personally always preferred the other idea:

      “Another possibility is that Talaron was a city, not a world — a vast metropolis in the Sarlonan kingdom of Rhiavhaar. The noble houses of Talaron were known for their psychic powers and vivid dreams. For ages these psionic abilities helped them maintain their influence in society, but when the Dreaming Dark turned its eyes to Sarlona, those same powers were turned against the houses. Many heirs proved to be particularly vulnerable to quori manipulation, and these formed the first rank of quori agents in Eberron: the force that would one day become the Inspired. Those who could resist the Dreaming Dark were hunted down by their corrupted brethren and fled to Khorvaire amid the other refugees. This is why the houses hide; they still fear the persecution of the Dreaming Dark and their corrupted brethren. Today, they fight their own secret war against the Dreaming Dark and Dal Quor. Occasionally, the Diamond Knights ally with kalashtar atavists, but many of the children of Talaron distrust anything touched by Dal Quor; in the minds of these zealots, the kalashtar are just as bad as the Inspired, and the hidden houses have struck against the kalashtar in the past.”

      But it’s what story you want to tell

    • In your old 2006 article on Eberron Expanded: Complete Psionic, you propose, as one of two possibilities, that Talaron might be one of the worlds previously destroyed by the daelkyr. Does this idea still work, under your current reckoning of previous Eberrons?
      Certainly. Talaron could have been an entirely different iteration of the prime material plane, or Talaron could have been a civilization on Githberron. Though as noted, that’s only one of the possibilities suggested in that article.

  4. How do daelkyr actually destroy a world in the first place? Is there some sort of tipping point wherein the fabric of reality considers a world “destroyed,” and if so, what is that tipping point? Daelkyr seem to specialize in alteration rather than outright destruction.

    • It could be a sort of infection. The daelkyr are feeding on psychic energy as channeled through strong emotion, like the White Court vampires of The Dresden Files. They consume the psychic energy, and in the process create new nightmares out of their victim’s minds. Like a viral infection, they multiply until they rupture the host world’s material plane. Then they float through the interplanar void until they land on a new host world and start the process over again.

    • This is discussed in Exploring Eberron:
      This view is critical to understanding the daelkyr. They stand above the maze, but they can also descend into it. They experiment on the rat, changing it. What happens if they make too many changes? It’s possible the rat might crawl into a corner to die and a new rat be released: perhaps the old Prime is lost and a new world moves forward. This is what the gith believe happened with their world…
      The daelkyr specialize in alteration. But the point is that the system has a breaking point. There’s a way the world SHOULD work, and if the daelkyr make too many changes, it gets dumped and reset. Which is presumably part of why the daelkyr feel no remorse for their actions; even if they completely break reality, a new fresh reality will always take its place. Beyond that it’s entirely up to the DM to decide what that final straw would be; in all likelihood even the daelkyr don’t know, and part of the point is that they are pushing things to see how far they can go before it breaks.

      • What makes a daelkyr-instigated change so different from a fiend/dragon/quori/mortal-instigated change? Is there something inherently more “unstable” about daelkyr-instigated changes?

        • Is there something inherently more “unstable” about daelkyr-instigated changes?
          Actually, yes. Dragons and overlords are PART OF THE WORLD. The actions of the overlords are essentially predicted by the system that brought them into existence; it’s expected that the Wild Heart will create things like gnolls and lycanthropes, because that’s its basic nature. On the other hand, the daelkyr aren’t part of the system. They are coming from beyond reality and making changes that were never anticipated. Beyond that, the difference is on scope and scale. Unbound daelkyr won’t stop changing things until they reach a breaking point. It’s not like House Vadalis magebreeding a faster horse for commercial use; daelkyr will turn horses into fish, then turn the water into fire and the fish into creatures that can swim through fire, and then turn fire into music.

          Having said that: the “Reset Reality” system isn’t specifically designed to protect against the Daelkyr. It resets things when a world goes deeply off the rails. I think it’s entirely possible that other forces could trigger such a reset. It’s possible that the reason the dragons were so ruthless in taking down the giants is that they were afraid that further experimentation with the power used to sever Dal Quor would trigger a reset—that they recognized that the giants were tampering with the foundation of reality and that it was DANGEROUS in a way the giants themselves didn’t understand. The main thing is that we know that Age of Demons DIDN’T trigger a reset, implying that the overlords are part of the system and that their actions, however seemingly chaotic, were anticipated.

          • Does this mean that daelkyr, Xorian aberrations, and the like never appear in the Draconic Prophecy?

      • Also, it seems that the daelkyr could be likened to a “modding community.” They are so reckless about installing mod after mod after mod that they might just cause an irrecoverable system crash, forcing the world to be hard-reset.

  5. On the point of trans and non-binary people in Eberron. The Traveler is obviously the most cited member of the Host and Six for being a god of trans-ing one’s gender. I would wonder if you, or I suppose anyone here in the comments, would put that particular domain under a member of the Host proper?

    • The DMs Guild book “Blessed of the Traveler” suggests that Boldrei and Dol Dorn hold female and male gender roles under their influences, with those who transition among the Vassals praying to one or the other to guide them

      • We were discussing that in the Eberron Discord and a few of us had called our JUST DolDorn because having both a “masculine” and a “feminine” feels weird and almost against the purpose.

        Others called our Onatar because you are “forging” a new you when you transition or come out at NB.

        • Well I was wrong, it was Arawai not Boldrei…and also yes Dol Dorn works for both the same (or Aureon is good as Keith says)

    • Why not Aureon? Aureon is the Sovereign of Knowledge, and it seems like the first step is to know yourself. Aureon is then further the Sovereign of wizardry, and arcane magic is one of the primary ways to transition in the Five Nations. So Aureon helps you both to understand yourself and then to become the person you with to be.

      • But honestly, I don’t think there’s a need to lock things down to a single Sovereign. The point of the Host is that they work together and touch all walks of life. Aureon helps with self-knowledge and magic as a tool. Dol Dorn encourages physical perfection. Arawai urges you to love yourself. Boldrei reminds us to support those we love. And on the Cazhaak side, the Traveler encourages us to embrace change, the Shadow urges us to unlock our true potential, the Keeper demands that we take what we want, and the Fury wants us to follow our passions. Remember that most priests of the Sovereign Host perform rites to ALL of the Sovereigns; there’s no reason that a priest guiding you through transition would have to be devoted to just one Sovereign, when they could encourage you to seek guidance from the entire host.

      • So you’d think that physical transition would be something you’d look a specialist transmuter for instead of a Jorasco service? I understand the former might make more sense under the rules (after all a transmuter can do so much more) but it also probably places transition completely out of reach for the vast majority of people.

        • So you’d think that physical transition would be something you’d look a specialist transmuter for instead of a Jorasco service?
          Exploring Eberron calls out House Jorasco as a possible source of transition on page 28. Nothing I say here is intended to change that. Jorasco is still employing magic and thus in the provenance of Aureon; and in mentioning the idea of a priest of the Host “guiding you through transition”, I was primarily meaning that they’d offer spiritual counseling to help you understand the person you want to be.

  6. Do you think Half-Elves would also be capable of The Change given their fey ancestry or like automatically knowing elvish, is outside of their reach due to their human blood and not being able to trance. Might Half-Elves only manifest The Change in a limited capacity, like only in certain times of the year, or The Change taking much slower for them?

    • The Change is based on the Blessing of Corellon from MToF, and the Blessing was only available to elves. With that said, the whole idea is an #IYE concept to explore, so what’s the story you want to tell? Having said that, if half-elves don’t possess the Change, it would further explain why their elves of the time were disturbed when the first Khoravar were born; it would be something that would concretely make them not elves, at a far deeper level than having a shorter lifespan or not-quite-as-pointed ears.

  7. When it comes to other worlds Exploring Eberron says, “But the other rat is still out there—forgotten and lost, huddled in a corner, but still alive.” Without a connection to the planes there would obviously be a lack of manifest zones. I’m curious, what arcane, supernatural, and otherworldly phenomena would occur on world no longer progressing through the maze? What might be some of the defining features of such forgotten worlds?

    • That’s an interesting question, but a bigger topic than I have time to address as a comment. If it comes up on Patreon it could definitely be the subject of a future IFAQ.

  8. Is the possibility of Death-of-Reality by Daelkyr something which is on Argonessen’s radar but they’re restricted to subtle manipulations to defend against or would they be ignorant and in need of persuading?

    • Which works better for the story you want to tell? The idea that the dragons destroyed the giants to prevent reality death would suggest that they are aware of the threat; on the other hand, the fact that they didn’t get involved during the Xoriat incursion suggests that they didn’t consider it a threat.

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