As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few from this month!
Is there an equivalent to the phonograph in Eberron? If so, how accessible is it?
In this article I gave my thoughts on the equivalent of photography in Eberron. So, what about recorded sound? Well, Eberron is about the every day application of magic. Is there a spell of 3rd level or below that could reasonably be applied to produce a similar effect? Absolutely. Minor illusion is a cantrip that allows the reproduction of sound… and spellshards are crystals that hold data. And who loves music AND has a talent for illusion? So, putting that all together…
If you attend the Tain Gala, Celyria will show you her latest acquisition—a Phiarlan hydra. The base of this wonder is a cube of black stone. A four-headed hydra is engraved on its top, and the mouth of each hydra is a spherical depression that can hold a polished globe of wood embedded with a tiny dragonshard. Each of these “marbles” holds a performance by one of Phiarlan’s finest musicians. But the hydra has a fifth head, sculpted from copper and wood, rising up from the base. When you activate the hydra, it draws out the sound of the performance held within one of the marbles and projects it through the sculpted head, as clear as if you were there. So come to the Tain gala, and hear the hydra sing!
Personally (largely because it’s never been mentioned before) I’m inclined to make the hydra a recent development that’s currently only available to the wealthy. But the principles aren’t terribly complicated — it’s cantrip level magic — so I could see it quickly gaining popularity and spreading. PCs with the entertainer background could be encouraged to record some marbles for Phiarlan! Also, if you’re interested in the idea of broadcast audio entertainment in Eberron, check out the House Sivis Echoer Station!
Do the Poison Dusk lizardfolk of Q’barra have any significant musical/artistic customs?
Certainly! But it’s important to remember that the Poison Dusk aren’t exclusively lizardfolk and that they aren’t a traditional culture. As called out in Dungeon 185, the Poison Dusk includes kobolds, troglodytes, lizardfolk, and dragonborn—including mutants like the blackscale lizardfolk. They aren’t a culture that has evolved over time; they are victims of Masvirik, whose personalities and memories have been eroded and overwritten by the power of the Cold Sun. Their leaders are actively (if often only partially) possessed by fiends.
So with all that in mind, in thinking about ANY of the customs of the Poison Dusk, I would want them to feel eerie and alien—to help convey the concept that these are people who are all, on some level, shaped by fiendish influences.
Considering all this, what comes to my mind is the Hissing Chorus. This is a rhythmic, ululating hissing, at its base almost like the sound of wind. This hissing is supplemented by body percussion, each participant using a single hand to tap claws against scales, or potentially to scrape claws against another surface — essentially, adding fingernails on a blackboard to a musical performance. The key to all of this is that the rhythm is seemingly random, asymmetric and unpredictable, yet all participants work in perfect unison; it’s an ecstatic experience driven by instinct, something that draws the musicians into communion with the Cold Sun. The Hissing Chorus is encountered in many ways and with varying intensity. A single Poison Dusk may effectively whistle while they work, hissing quietly to themself. A troop will hiss as they march, with greater force and intensity. And a Poison Dusk community may hiss together as a writhing mob, guided by a dusk-shard imbued champion who voice is amplified by magic, potentially with instrumentalists using hide drums and scraping surfaces that send chills through anyone within range. But the PRINCIPLE is the same throughout, and crucially, the song is something that is constantly evolving; it’s more like speaking in tongues than playing a treasured symphony. Because the Poison Dusk has no lengthy history; time and time again, they have been hunted down by the Trothslorsvek and the Masvirik’uala, only to rise once more, hissing their eerie, endless song.
That’s all for now! If you have questions of your own, join my Patreon. As always, thanks to my patrons for making this site and these articles possible!