We’ve got a few important announcements this week—if you want to be sure to catch them, sign up for the Twogether Studios newsletter! Beyond that, as time permits I like to answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one from this month…
How do you make the Sovereign Host feel like the predominant faith for a large portion of Khorvaire and thus a major part of the world? It often feels like they end up overshadowed by other faiths.
Previous, I’ve said this about the Sovereign Host.
The Sovereign Host is deeply ingrained into daily life in the Five Nations. Even if you don’t BELIEVE in the Sovereigns, you know the names and basic attributes of the Nine and Six. Likewise, everyone knows the basic story that in the dawn of time the world was ruled by demons; that the Sovereigns fought them; and that the demons were bound.
The broad idea is that the Sovereign faith is omnipresent in the Five Nations; that even if you don’t follow the faith, you can feel its impact throughout the nation. And yet, it’s also a more casual faith than the Church of the Silver Flame, lacking the monolithic structure or the militant mission of the templars. The Blood of Vol draws attention because it’s feared and misunderstood; the Path of Light is exciting because it’s locked in conflict with the Dreaming Dark. Set against these more dramatic stories, how can a DM make the Sovereigns feel like the dominant faith in the Five Nations?
One of the defining features of the Vassal faith is that the Sovereigns are always with us, always ready to offer guidance or inspiration; you just have to ask. You don’t have to go to a temple; you can always just say Aureon, guide me. While this can be done with deep devotion, it’s also something that should just come out constantly in casual, everyday speech… which is to say, Vassals swear by the Sovereigns all the time. Try dropping some of these into NPC conversation.
- Sovereigns and Six! A good general expression of astonishment. Sovereigns and Six, have you ever seen such a mess?
- Aureon’s Eyes! Essentially, How did you miss this or you should have known better. “Aureon’s Book” is slightly more positive; Are you ready for the exam, Kel? Aureon’s Book, I hope so.
- Dorn’s Strength! This can be a positive invocation, something a warrior says as they draw their blade or an athlete says as they enter the ring. Or it can be an expression of long-suffering frustration… Dorn’s strength, Kel’s coming over here.
- Olladra Smiles. A general acknowledgement of good fortune. Can be sincere, or said to someone else as a snarky anyone can get lucky. Olladra scowls is a general expression of bad luck,while Olladra cries or Olladra’s tears is usually a sarcastic “Ooooh, poor baby” when someone complains about misfortune.
These are just a few examples. Arrah’s Light, Onatar’s Hammer, Korran’s Purse. In one of my novels, a Brelish ambassador says Boldrei’s bloody feet! as an expression of frustration. Again, everyone knows the names and roles of the Sovereigns; this sort of swearing is a simple cultural touchstone. Beyond this, it’s common for people to call on the Sovereigns for casual blessings, and this is a friendly act. Boldrei’s blessings, my friends! is a common greeting from any innkeeper, while a teacher may start their lesson with Aureon, be with us now.
This is also reflected in places and shops. Just looking to Sharn, Olladra’s Kitchen, Boldrei’s Hearth, Korran-Thiven and The Korranath are all districts. Olladra’s Arms is an inn, Boldrei’s Tears sells potions, the Grand Hall of Aureon and the Korranath itself are temples. Need a name for a random business? (Sovereign’s) (Tool) is an easy option… get your sword at Onatar’s Forge or pick up a pastry at Arawai’s Bounty.
This ties to the general idea of shrines and monuments. This article talks about how the Sovereigns may be depicted in artwork—whether as dragons, using their symbols, or blended with images of beloved historical figures. Sovereign monuments and shrines can be found all over the place. A shrine can be any place where people feel the Sovereigns are present. Farming communities in northern Breland (and Cyre before it fell) often have blessing trees, a large centrally located tree that serves as a shrine to Arawai and Boldrei; people will hang small offerings in the branches of the tree, especially as thanks for a good harvest or the birth of a child. Adventurers could find a shrine to Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn that’s a literal sword in a stone; the village founder embedded the sword in quickstone, saying the Sovereigns will grant their strength and the blade to a champion if the village is ever in need. In Sharn, the gnome Daca sits atop a densewood pillar and shouts advice to those below; this is seen as a blessed shrine of Boldrei. Basically, anywhere adventurers go, they could bump into a Sovereign shrine or icon.
Perhaps you want something that more actively evokes the Sovereigns? How about Holidays? Both Sharn: City of Towers and Rising From The Last War provide a list of common holidays observed in the Five Nations, and most are associated with the Sovereigns or Six. These can add a lot of color to the background of a story. If it’s early Nymm, then everyone’s getting ready for Brightblade, the festival of Dol Dorn. If you’re in Sharn, you can be sure that mercenaries and adventurers are coming to town, ready for the prizefights and the Cornerstone contest of champions. People may be practicing archery or wrestling, and tavern brawls are likely to shoot way up due to the competitive spirit in the air. As Barrakas approaches, people will start talking about what beast will be brought in for The Hunt, and people may plan their own smaller hunts. Wildnight can be wondrous or dangerous, while the nights of Long Shadows are a time that even adventurers may want to stay in and join their friends around the fire. These can be background events, or they can form the basis of an entire adventure. Do you participate in the Contest of Champions on Brightblade? Does a patron hire you to capture a wondrous monstrosity and transport it to Sharn for The Hunt? You could even have an adventure that focuses on the stories you tell on the nights of Long Shadows, and the old ghosts that are stirring.
Another way to remind people of the Sovereigns is through magic items. The Vassal faith is the dominant faith of the Five Nations, and this may be reflected in their tools. Even if it’s made using arcane science, a sentinel’s shield may bear the Sun of Dol Arrah, while a good luck stone might be a domino imbued with Olladra’s blessing. Looking to more powerful items—legendaries and artifacts—you could have items that are tied directly to the Sovereigns in some way. Dol Dorn’s sword was famously shattered. An Aurum concordian could have found proof that nine legendary weapons were made from the fragments of Dol Dorn’s blade and be determined to recover them all; while each weapon is powerful on its own, can the fragments be reassembled to recreate Dol Dorn’s sword? Before people say but I thought there was no proof the Sovereigns existed, this is a common misunderstanding. It’s provable fact that the myths of the Sovereigns are based on the deeds of champions (possibly dragons) who fought the fiends in the Age of Demons, but at that point in time they were mortal champions. The myth is that they ascended to become the omnipresent Sovereigns after defeating the overlords, and THAT’S the part that can’t be proven. As a Sovereign, Dol Dorn has no use for a sword; he is present anywhere a blade is drawn. But he HAD a sword back when he was a mortal champion fighting demons.
In conclusion, if you want to make the Sovereign faith feel widespread, the key is to show how it IS a part of everyday life—in common speech, in place names, in widespread shrines, in festivals.
Wait, DOES everyone accept that there were mortal champions who inspired the Sovereign myths? And how do immortals play into this—don’t some immortals revere the Sovereigns?
Hmm. Let me reframe that. What I meant to say is this. It’s a provable fact that there were mortals whose names and deeds are very similar to the myths of the Sovereigns. This is NOT common knowledge; what’s common knowledge is the myths of the Sovereigns. But there is testimony from dragons, ancient giant records, and most notably, testimony from immortals that prove the existence of beings like the dragon Ourelonastrix. My point was that the fact that these historical figures can be proven to have existed doesn’t prove the existence of the Sovereigns, one way or the other. A few factors…
- The core myth is that the Sovereigns defeated the demons and then ascended to serve as immortal guardians. The existence of mortal champions doesn’t prove ascension.
- Most likely the Sovereign myths and relics came from multiple champions. We have a myth about Dol Dorn’s sword being shattered and we may have pieces of Dol Dorn’s shattered sword. But a dragon wouldn’t need a sword. So, was there also a titan or a giant who inspired myths of Dol Dorn? Were they involved in the Age of Demons or did they come later?
- Tied to the above, many scholars will argue that there’s not proof that those oldest known champions became the Sovereigns as opposed to being early servants of the Sovereigns. THe key example here is Ourelonastrix, the first Loredrake. A skeptical scholar could easily say the Draconic word ‘strix’ means ‘invigorate.’ So ‘Ourelonastrix’ means ‘He who is invigorated by Aureon‘—clearly, one of the first priests of the Sovereign.
OK, but what about the immortals? There are immortals who worship the Sovereigns, right? Doesn’t that prove they exist? Well, here’s a key quote from Exploring Eberron…
When priests of the Sovereign Host cast spells such as commune or planar ally, they usually interact with celestials from the planes. Typically, this is a celestial that embodies the same concept as the Sovereign in question; when a Vassal priest casts conjure celestial in Dol Arrah’s name, a warlike angel may come from Shavarath. When a celestial speaks the name of a Sovereign, listeners will hear the name they are most familiar with, whether that’s Balinor, Baalkan, or Bally-Nur. As such, some scholars assert that it’s slightly unclear if a summoned angel serves “Dol Arrah,” or if it instead serves “Honor in War” and it’s just being translated as Dol Arrah. If asked such a pedantic question, both the angel and a devout Vassal might simply respond with, “What’s the difference? Dol Arrah is honor in war.”
Well, OK, but Exploring Eberron also says “The Librarian of Dolurrh may mention the time Aureon came to borrow a book—but that was almost a hundred thousand years ago.” In this case, the Librarian is talking about a mortal champion who embodied Aureon. But here again, part of the point is that immortals don’t get too hung up on the details. If Jaela Daran came to the Librarian, they’d likely say “I spoke to the Silver Flame today.” The Librarian spoke to a being who was the essence of Law and Lore. The distinction of whether they WERE the pre-ascended Sovereign or whether they were simply a mortal channeling the power of the Sovereign—a mighty cleric or priest—is irrelevant.
So, there were mortal champions who inspired myths and left relics behind. There are immortals who honor the Sovereigns. But the Sovereigns themselves do not manifest as physical entities, and the existence of immortals who honor them or mortals who resemble them doesn’t tell us whether they are, in fact, guiding us in this very moment.
One More Option…
I’ve suggested that the way to suggest the presence of the Sovereigns is to have people use their names and to highlight their festivals. But there’s another option, which is to suggest the presence of the Sovereigns. I wouldn’t do this casually, but let’s imagine that an adventurer—not a paladin or cleric, just whoever—is facing a demon in an epic fight that could have grave consequences for their nation. They have been paralyzed by hold person and they are about to make their next saving throw, and they may die if they fail it. I might ask them—you were raised a Vassal, right? Do you ask Dol Arrah to aid you? If they say they will, I might follow up—what do you offer? What is your vow or your sacrifice? If they give a compelling answer, well, perhaps the save will succeed on its own; if not, maybe I’ll give them a second chance or just say it succeeds. Either way… will they fulfill their vow? DID they get help from Dol Arrah, or did they just concentrate their will with such determination that THEY broke the spell? Or, perhaps did something else give them aid? In this article I talk about the fact that Divine magic should be mysterious—part of what differentiates it from Arcane magic is that it’s not scientific. I wouldn’t want to ever say “If you say a prayer to Dol Dorn at the start of combat you get a +1 Initiative.” But maybe, if it really matters, if you need it to succeed, and your character calls on a greater power—whether it’s a Sovereign, the Flame, their own divine spark—maybe it will answer. I definitely wouldn’t suggest this as a standard rule or something players could or should ever rely on… but as a DM, if you want your players to wonder if the Sovereigns are with them, you might want to occasionally give them reason to believe that they are.
As this is an IFAQ I won’t be answering questions on this topic, but please share your own thoughts or ways you’ve used the Sovereigns! And thanks to my Patrons for making these articles possible.