IFAQ: September Lightning Round!

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few of the questions that came up this month!

In our world, some fairy tales heroes deal with/encounter undead: Ghosts, wraiths, skeletons, headless horsemen, etc. On the material plane, the hero would encounter them in manifest zones to Dolurrh or Mabar, but how would that story be told in Thelanis? Are there any fey in Thelanis that have to do with undead or necromancy?

First of all, you can find almost anything in Thelanis if it fits a story archetype. There’s a barony in Thelanis with a massive dragon in it, and a barony filled with ghosts. But the key point is that those ghosts were never living mortals, and that dragon likewise isn’t mortal (it’s an archfey!) and has no connection to Argonnessen or the dragons of Eberron. If a ghost story is about a ghost that lingers because of unfinished business, it’s likely tied to Dolurrh. If it’s about an aggressive undead being who consumes life or hope, it’s likely tied to Mabar. If it’s more about the abstract idea—a story that can be found repeated in many cultures, that’s more about the allegory than the specific actions of a historical undead creature—then it could be tied to Thelanis. You can have devils in Fernia, Shavarath, and Daanvi, but they’re very different from one another; likewise, you can have ghosts in Mabar, Dolurrh, or Thelanis, but they’re very different from one another. Thelanian undead aren’t actually the remnants of mortals; they’re the IDEA of remnants of mortals. It’s up to the DM to decide whether these creatures should even be considered to be undead for purposes of magical effects, or if they are in fact fey. personally, I’d probably be inclined to make Thelanian ghosts both undead AND fey; they ARE fey, but they react like you’d expect undead to react, because that’s the story.

Who is Lady Dusk of the Crimson Covenant?

The article on the Crimson Covenant notes that members of the Covenant “guide and protect other Seekers. The Crimson Covenant are the oldest and most powerful of these undead champions, some of whom were guiding the Seekers before Erandis Vol even knew the faith existed. ” It’s also long been noted that Seeker communities donate blood which is kept in barrels of preserving pine to sustain vampire champions. This practice began with Lady Dusk, believed by some to be the first human vampire in Khorvaire. Given her age and the secrecy with which she shrouds herself, few facts are known about her. The most common of these is that she was the daughter of a warlord in the first days of Karrnath; recent scholarly work suggests that she was a member of the House of the Ram, one of the warlord dynasties that would eventually merge into House Deneith. When elf refugees came west fleeing the destruction of the Line of Vol, the lady gave them shelter and fell in love with one of these refugees. When her family decided to exterminate these elves, Lady Dusk fought alongside them. She was executed by her family… but, according to the story, her lover had already shared her blood and Dusk rose as a child of the night.

Ever since then, Lady Dusk has followed the path of the undead champion—acting to guide and protect the Seekers of the Divinity Within. She’s the model of an undead champion of the faith and the reason communities began storing reserves of blood. With that said, this is dangerous work; over the centuries, most of her peers—including her lover—have been destroyed, and Dusk herself has narrowly escaped many times. As such she rarely acts openly; she disguises herself and works from the shadows. If something is threatening a Seeker community, she won’t just charge in with fangs bared; she will try to organize mortal resistance. It’s the idea of teaching someone to fish instead of fishing for them; Lady Dusk is a GUIDE, and those she assists may never know who their mentor was.

What do the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes eat to survive? Do they make use of Shadow Demiplanes for resources in the same way as the Ghaash’kala?

There’s flora and fauna in the Demon Wastes, it’s just highly aggressive and often poisonous or infused with fiendish power. Over many generations the Carrion Tribes have developed resistances to these natural and supernatural toxins, and they can eat things travelers can’t safely eat—though in part because of this diet, members of the Carrion Tribes have a very low life expectancy and their numbers remain relatively low. The Carrion Tribes aren’t as disciplined or well equipped as the Ghaash’kala and also rarely retain institutional knowledge; for all of these reasons, they don’t harness demiplanes as effectively as the Ghaash’kala. Essentially, there’s lots of things you can eat in the Demon Wastes, if you don’t mind hosting infernal parasites, shortening your lifespan and suffering hallucinations and severe mood swings; for the Carrion Tribes, that’s just a typical Tuesday.

How do you imagine the curriculum at Arcanix to be? Is the goal of classes specifically to teach how to cast spells in a practical manner, in which case I’d imagine most courses don’t go beyond the Third Circle, or are there classes in which the theory of higher level magic is studied even if the spell can’t be cast by the students? Accompanying this, I’m curious if there’s a presence by Wizard Circles in Arcanix similar to companies at universities trying to recruit talent near graduation.

The Strixhaven book coming out in a month is sure to have lots of suggestions about this topic, so I’m somewhat loathe to discuss it now. But first of all, arcane magic is a form of science, so to begin with, consider how any form of science is taught. You’re going to have base entry-level classes that teach the principles of Arcana along with the basics of arcane science and history. These will advance into practical magic, from there into study of specific schools of magic, from there into specialized topics within that field. Most students of Arcanix don’t become wizards, and there are some who can cast perform ritual magic that’s beyond the Third Circle, just more limited than what a wizard can do; so yes, there are definitely classes dealing with magical THEORY that goes beyond the practical limits of 3rd level spells. Keep in mind that Arcanix is always driving students to push beyond the limits of what’s currently possible; Third Circle may be the practical limit of everyday magic TODAY, but the students of Arcanix intend to change that.

Many of the students of Arcanix will never cast spells as a wizard or sorcerer does. However, Aundair has the highest percentage of wandslingers and war wizards in the Five Nations. Thus you have the War College within Arcanix, which focuses on practical battlefield magic. It’s here that you will get direct training in combat cantrips, arcane sparring, drills to hone concentration, and so on, along with classes in tactics and strategy.

Meanwhile, wizard circles aren’t COMPANIES. The equivalent to companies would be the dragonmarked houses or the Arcane Congress, both of which do send recruiters to Arcanix. But wizard circles are essentially fraternities; they don’t simply have recruiters at Arcanix, they have CHAPTERS at Arcanix.

How do the magic tattoos from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything fit into Eberron?

Like all magic items, magical tattoos are a set of mechanics, which can be flavored very differently based on the story and cosmetic elements associated with them. There’s no single form of magic tattoo or single culture associated with them; instead, there are a number of different forms of magical tattooing. Sigilry is the field of arcane science that is used to create scrolls, and master sigilists can create magical tattoos infused with arcane power. On Khorvaire, the Mark of Scribing has given Sivis the edge in creating magical tattoos, but Thuranni and Phiarlan also have a limited tradition of arcane tattoos. But magical tattoos can also be created using divine magic—such as the couatl tattoos of the Ghaash’kala, which I mentioned in a recent article. Such tattoos are in part empowered by the faith of the bearer and can usually only be attuned by a person who shares the faith of the creator. There’s also a primal tradition of tattooing, employed by the shifters of the Towering Wood; Races of Eberron discusses these tattoos, which shift in appearance when the bearer activates their shifting trait. So it’s the same way that many different cultures use wands, but the design of the wand and the powers channeled will vary based on the culture and their magical tradition.

What do the Valaes Tairn do when they aren’t fighting? Would there be a reason for a group of warriors to be in Sharn besides looking for an artifact of some kind?

What they do when not fighting depends on their patron ancestor. Tairnadal seek to emulate their patrons at all times, not just in battle; so what was their patrons known for? Were they explorers? Entertainers? Arcane researchers? With that said, as long as it doesn’t directly oppose what their patrons would do, Tairnadal can also pursue their own interests when there’s no clearly mandated path. So a group of Tairnadal in Sharn could be looking for work; they could be tourists passing the time between mercenary assignments; they could be pursuing a rogue Tairnadal who betrayed their warband; they could be following the example of their patron. There were grand cities in Xen’drik at the time of the elven rebellion; perhaps their patron was known for protecting the innocent in the shadows of the greatest city of the age. The Tairnadal have identified Sharn as the closest equivalent and are fighting crime in Lower Dura!

That’s all for now! If you have an infrequently asked question, I’ll be taking another round soon on my Patreon!

14 thoughts on “IFAQ: September Lightning Round!

  1. Love it, love all of it! Especially Lady Dusk

    Working off the ur-Tairnadal being free during the rebellion (with the future Aereni being the slaves, if I am recalling correctly) and certain groups like the Qabalrim also being free and having strongholds, were there Tairnadal cities/keeps in Xen’drik during the Age of Giants? Or were the cities the hypothetical Batelf was avenging the innocent in more Giant cities?

    • Were there Tairnadal cities/keeps in Xen’drik during the Age of Giants? Or were the cities the hypothetical Batelf was avenging the innocent in more Giant cities?

      My intent was that they were avenging the innocent in giant cities. Looking just to the ancestors that have been defined, Cardaen was raised as a slave in a Cul’sir metropolis. I believe that the nomadic lifestyle of the Tairnadal is a reflection of the fact that their idealized ancestors were largely nomads and guerilla warriors; if their ancestors valued cities, the Tairnadal would be building cities.

  2. How could The Wild Beyond the Witchlight and the Domains of Delight fit into Thelanis? Would you rename the Domains of Delight to something more specific to Thelanis, like “Domains of Stories”?

    • I think Domains of Delight is just a catchy alternative name for the Feywild; Thelanis, by contrast, just has “Layers”. Core D&D vs. Eberron naming conventions.
      Having read through, the big difference is the WotC presentation is much more “classic” fey with the focus on magically enforced rules, as opposed to the fey being “faerie tales” with an emphasis on archetypes.

      • Oh! I would have thought the Domain of Delights would be one specific layer in Thelanis.

        I too am wondering how the carnival stuff would be adapted to Eberron, in particular the Ravenloft/Witchlight twin carnivals roaming different planes, when in Eberron there is just the Feywild and no Shadowfell or Mists (unless one would decide to).

        • Maybe the twin fey carnivals are the original source of the stories that inspired the Phiarlan Carnival of Shadows? To make it divided among two planes, they could have been associated with a feyspire like part of the Fortress of Fading Dream between Dal Quor and Thelanis.

    • I haven’t actually read Wild Beyond The Witchlight yet, so I don’t have an opinion on this yet. It seems like other people have ideas, though!

  3. Relating to Undead in Thelanis, I have in my games the Duke of Dusk, a vampire archfey whose story is one of forever preventing the rising dawn so he may live forever. His baronie is filled with undead who refuse to pass on but have lived for so long as undead they have forgotten their past (because they never had a past, they are Fey ideas of clinging to life). Its not actually that bad tho because it’s basically the corpse bride afterlife where it’s one big party they refuse to let end.

  4. How do you think Aberrant Dragonmarks are accepted at Arcanix? Say a student, mainly there to become a Wizard under the normal training, also had a strong interest in the Study of their Mark. Would they be able to learn things like, or even just better develop independently, the 3.5 Dragonmarked spells like Dragonmark Whip, ect.
    Someone who had good control over their Mark at a young age, and it wasn’t destructive in the general sense, with a strong desire to fight for Aundair as a Wandslinger.

    • As depicted in canon, aberrant dragonmarks are widely feared and misunderstood. This is exacerbated by the fact that every aberrant dragonmark is unique; three people might all have aberrant dragonmarks that produce fire bolt, but those three marks will be DIFFERENT and manifest in different ways. This unpredictability makes it difficult to develop a program to help people harness their aberrant dragonmarks, and in canon, House Tarkanan is the only group that’s actively doing this. House Tarkanan had its roots in a Brelish military program recruiting agents with aberrant dragonmarks, but that was a Citadel black ops program, not something they were running out of Morgrave University.

      So: I think that it would be possible for someone with an aberrant dragonmark to study at Arcanix. But I think they would have to deal with a far amount of ignorant fear if their mark is known, and no, I don’t think they would find general academic support to help them harness their mark more effectively. They could pursue this effort on their own. They could perhaps find support from a faculty member who also has an aberrant dragonmark (and who may or may not be hiding this fact). The other possibility—especially when it comes to learning spells like Dragonmark Whip—would be the Unspoken Circle, who are willing to study magical traditions others fit.

  5. Thanks Keith!!
    I’m currently running a campaign of level 0 students at Glarehold Tower, so any Arcanix info is exciting. We’ve been playing for over 3 months now, so I’ve already had to make my class schedule for my PCs to customize their experience. I have my players learning magic a lot earlier and quicker than they should be, but I wanted them to be able to level up to 1st at some point, and have conceivably been able to learn those skills. Compromises a DM makes.

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