iFAQ: Warforged, Blood, and the Blood of Vol

People ask me a lot of questions about Eberron. While I’ve typically answered the most frequently asked questions at sometime in the past, every now and then there’s an INFREQUENTLY asked question that still seems like it’s worth answering. Over the last few weeks two of those have come my way. How could a warforged become a cleric of the Blood of Vol? And can a warforged become a vampire?

Could a Warforged Become a Cleric of the Blood of Vol?

The Blood of Vol is based on the principle that the blood of the living holds a spark of divine power, and that all mortals have the potential to harness and evolve that Divinity Within. A Seeker cleric believes they are drawing on their own divine spark when they cast spells.

Warforged don’t have blood. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that they don’t have the spark of the Divinity Within. So why would they follow the Blood of Vol, and how could a warforged Seeker paladin or cleric justify their divine magic?

To begin with, let’s start with the WHY. Ultimately, the Blood of Vol faith is grounded in the question what just god would allow death and suffering, with the conclusion none; the fact that we suffer shows that if there are gods, they are cruel. All we have is each other, and we must stand together and defy death. The Seekers place a strong emphasis on community and protecting the weak. Any death is tragic. They use undead because once the spark is gone, there’s no reason NOT to use the corpse if it can help protect the living. More powerful undead—vampires, mummies—know that they will never achieve divinity, as they lost their divine spark when they died; but they can still fight to defend and to guide the living, to be champions of life… and perhaps someday topple the Sovereigns themselves and free the entire world from the curse of mortality. This is where the warforged Seeker comes in. They have no blood, and presumably no divine spark. But they are immune to disease and to the ravages of time. A warforged is in many ways much like a mummy. They can’t achieve true divinity, but they can protect and guide others. So the warforged Seeker priest isn’t driven by a desire for personal power; rather, they are driven by compassion and the desire to protect their community from suffering and death.

But what about the HOW? If Seeker clerics draw their power from their own blood, how do they get magic? Well, first of all, remember that the “drawing power from within” is an article of faith. They don’t KNOW the power comes from within with any more absolute certainty than a paladin of Dol Arrah knows that their power comes from Dol Arrah. So one option is to simply say “It works, don’t question it.” But the other example is to look to the mummy. Malevanor, the high priest of the Blood of Vol in Atur, is a mummy. He has no blood. So how does he cast spells? There’s two simple answers. The first is the idea that he draws on the divinity of the people around him. This ties to the strong community focus of the Blood of Vol; he can’t attain personal divinity, but he can draw on that potential within you and use that power to protect or heal you. With that said, what happens if you’re not around? Well, Seeker communities donate blood to sustain their champions. Vampires drink this blood, and while it is within them this connects them to the sparks of the living. Seeker mummies and liches BATHE in the blood of the faithful, and this charges their power for a short time.

So for your warforged cleric, the simplest answer is that they draw their power from the rest of the party! If you want to be creepy about it and the rest of the characters are willing, they could actually get blood donations from the party. But you could also just say that the proximity spark does the trick. On the other hand, you could also just say that they don’t KNOW how it works, but it does work… and that they BELIEVE it’s because they (and presumably all other warforged) have divinity within as well, despite having no blood. This would certainly be an interesting long term arc to explore!

Having said all that, back around 2005 I worked with David Esbri—who was at the time doing illustrations for the RPGA—on an early concept for an Eberron comic. One of the villains in that was a Warforged tied to the Emerald Claw who had embedded components allowing it to drain blood from its victims… essentially, an artificial vampire who believed that he could use this blood to become divine. So you could always explore a more exotic path!

Can Warforged Become Vampires?

There’s many answers to this question. The simple answer is that under the rules of 3.5 they couldn’t; “vampire” was a template that couldn’t be applied to constructs, and 3.5 warforged were constructs. The 5E rules have changed, however, and by the rules as written a warforged can become a vampire. However, the rules are guidelines, not absolute and inflexible! In my opinion, this is a case where the DM has to decide what they want from the STORY. Does it make SENSE for a warforged to be able to become a vampire, when it has no blood and doesn’t eat in the first place?

In my campaign, I would say that no, a warforged cannot become a vampire. A vampire can drain the LIFE FORCE from a warforged, but it has no blood for a vampire to drink. Vampire spawn rise when “buried in the soil”—I don’t see this having much meaning for a warforged. I DO think that warforged can become undead—that they can become vessels for the power of Mabar, channels through which it can consume the essence of the living—but I would be inclined to create a unique warforged expression of vampirism, rather than just forcing the standard bloodthirsty form onto them. I’d see it as draining energy like a wight as opposed to drinking blood, and I’d consider which of the traditional vampire powers made sense and what it might have instead.

That’s all I have time for today! Have you used warforged seekers or undead in your campaign?

34 thoughts on “iFAQ: Warforged, Blood, and the Blood of Vol

  1. I seem to recall that Warforged, while lacking blood, do have alchemical fluids in their organic components. Could such serve as an acceptable analog?

    • It’s possible. That’s the RAW argument for why a warforged isn’t immune to bleeding effects and can be hurt by a stirge. At the same time, I don’t see that substance as really being similar to blood; among other things, the warforged DON’T BREATHE, so it’s not an oxygenated substance. Beyond that there’s the basic idea that it’s artificial. I believe that the base Seeker assumption would be “You can’t create a soul/spark with a machine.” However, as WE know that warforged do have souls, it’s entirely plausible for a campaign to involve the PC warforged priest discovering that it DOES have a divine spark and figuring out how to prove this and/or inspire others to believe it.

      It’s a little risky, though, because warforged aren’t subject to the curse of mortality in the same way humans are. They can’t starve to death. They don’t age. They’re immune to disease. As it stands, it’s easy for a Seeker to essentially see them as a metal mummy. If they DO have the Divinity Within, there’s a question of whether they are, essentially, the logical inheritors of the world.

      • I always saw the “Spark of Divinity” as being kind of impossible to prove – just like all the gods in Eberron – but they meet the criteria. They have free will – unlike an angel or demon. They are able to grow in power, again what divides mortals from the immortals. Who’s going to let a little technicality like lack of blood get in the way?

        • Certainly! The Divinity Within can’t be proven to exist, but IF it exist, it is likely tied to the soul, and WE know that warforged have souls. The point is that many people IN THE WORLD think that the idea of warforged souls is ridiculous. It’s a story I’d want to come out over the course of a campaign, as you’ve suggested.

  2. “I’d see it as draining energy like a wight as opposed to drinking blood”
    Depending on the energy in particular, i could see that coming in handy…

    Wards blocking a door? drink the wards dry.
    trying to sabotage an airship? drain the magic keeping it in the air.

    • I could see this going two ways. One argument would be that life energy and magical energy aren’t interchangible; a wight can’t suck the magic out of your wand. Mabar seeks to consume LIFE, so this warforged undead probably couldn’t drain magic.

      HAVING SAID THAT… I think it’s a cool idea to have a form of warforged undead that consumes magical energy INSTEAD of life energy – a vampire that drinks magic instead of blood. So, certainly a fun concept to explore!

  3. But could a Necromancer raise an undead Warforged?
    Which at the end of the day it would be pretty much just a mindless golem.

    • By the rules as written, warforged are humanoids, so yes. However, it’s up to the DM to make the final decision and to decide if a warforged zombie would have any unusual characteristics.

  4. How do the Blood of Vol’s beliefs interact with Incarnum?
    “Incarnum is an amorphous magical substance made up of the soul energies of all sentient creatures—living, dead, and, it is theorized, those even not yet born. […] Essentia is the substance of a character’s personal soul energy. Everybody has it, but only some characters learn to manipulate it to enhance magical effects” (MoI, page 4)

    PGtE only really covers the Incarnum races and one temple, with little on who actually uses Incarnum beyond that it’s best understood of the weird magic types. Do you think the Blood of Vol would have any particular affinity for Incarnum?

    One of the most interesting things to me about the system is that even a Commoner can take Shape Soulmeld and unlock some fantastic abilities. Airstep Sandles and Blink Shirts would be interesting to throw on some Emerald Claw minions.

    • How do the Blood of Vol’s beliefs interact with Incarnum?

      I’ve never used Incarnum (and I didn’t work on that section of PGtE), so I’m afraid I don’t have an opinion. But it sounds like an interesting path to explore if you are using it.

    • Faiths of Eberron featured a Blood of Vol prestige class called Thief of Life that could steal incarnum from other creatures, for whatever that’s worth.

  5. Tangentially related to this topic, the last Manifest Zone, and your post on the Cults of the Dragon Below, it seems like warforged and the unclear nature of where their souls come is fertile ground for a lot of heresies within established religions in the setting. Especially as it relates to Thrane and The Church of the Silver Flame, and Karrnath and the Blood of Vol given their religious and national issues with integrating warforged post-war.

    You’ve mentioned the possible belief that the warforged souls coming from the Silver Flame itself as an interpretation of where warforged souls come from. Any followers of the CotSF who say that belief seem to be in a small heresy with the existing interpretation of warforged by the nation of Thrane and also the Church. Have you considered alternate beliefs from the Blood of Vol side of things regarding warforged souls? Short of a warforged becoming a living bloodbank couldn’t some Blood of Vol members see warforged as proof of concept of the divinity within for all living beings that Cannith may have simply lucked into?

    • I had a character who was made as an experiment, trying to explore the origin of Warforged souls by explicitly trying to use another soul for it. See a bit further down if you want to check it out?

    • Couldn’t some Blood of Vol members see warforged as proof of concept of the divinity within for all living beings that Cannith may have simply lucked into?

      Some COULD, but it doesn’t seem extremely likely to me. WE know warforged are alive and that they can be resurrected (and thus presumably have souls). But I think many people who don’t have personal experience with warforged think of them as tools as opposed to people. Tied to this, in what way does a warforged prove the concept of the Divinity Within? They are immune to age and disease, but what Seekers aspire to isn’t simply PHYSICAL immortality, but rather ascension. This is why most Seekers don’t WANT to become vampires; eternity trapped in your corpse might be worse than oblivion. They believe that those who unlock the Divinity Within will become something divine and unbound. So the question is, why should I believe that the walking toaster has the potential to achieve that?

      The main point is that if I did this in my Eberron, I wouldn’t just say that it’s something people ALREADY believe. I’d make it all about the PC warforged cleric, and have it be something that they can inspire and proof. Place them at the forefront of the movement rather than just part of the wave.

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response!

        I saw it tied to the Divinity Within since you have the creation of life with a soul which seems reserved as an unprecedented act I’d associate with divine inspiration (obviously, that’s not the consensus in setting).

        Though I guess the creation of mortal life isn’t something the Blood of Vol cares that much about, and would only prove the Divinity Within by something like a warforged cleric like you said. With Zorlan d’Cannith following the Blood of Vol I saw some crossover between Cannith and BoV beliefs with a human artificer potentially channeling the Divinity Within and using that power to make new life. How Dr. Frankenstein bringing his monster to life was him playing god was my thinking.

        I’m spitballing since the idiosyncrasies of warforged souls interacting with the CotS and the BoV are part of the backdrop motivation for a few NPC’s in my game so that’s what’s leading to these questions.

  6. I would still have a Warforged Vampire drink blood. Possibly as a way to follow the Blood of Vol, the vampire could be a “priest” that drinks the blood of others, hoping that if they get enough of the divine spark inside them that they could become a deity.

    Or, you could go with the sapping of magic/life energy.

    In my games, there is nothing wrong with a Warforged becoming an undead, they just look completely different. A Warforged Zombie wouldn’t look that different from a normal Warforged, but it would have some of the alchemical fluids and “roots” that are inside their body dripping out, and possibly rusted armor. A Skeleton made from a Warforged would just be the frame of the bones/body of the inside of a typical Warforged, but they would be extremely uncommon.

    A Warforged Mummy would be created in similar ways to a normal mummy, but I don’t know if the Fire Vulnerability makes sense, I might get rid of it.

    I really like the sound of a Warforged Lich, but I don’t see why a warforged would pursue lichdom other than slight benefits, like poison immunity, paralyzing touch, and phylactery. Since Warforged can’t age as far as anyone knows, they wouldn’t pursue becoming a lich for the immortality, except for the phylactery. The phylactery I’d flavor as a Tiny Creaton Forge, that forges a new body, and this small eldritch machine has the Warforged’s soul bound to it.

    What do you think of these? Any reply is appreciated.

    • I would still have a Warforged Vampire drink blood. Possibly as a way to follow the Blood of Vol, the vampire could be a “priest” that drinks the blood of others, hoping that if they get enough of the divine spark inside them that they could become a deity.

      That was the principle behind the warforged villain I described, but the point was that they weren’t undead and they didn’t DRINK blood; they had a specialized armblade that allowed them to drain it. Personally, from a story perspective, nothing about traditional warforged and traditional vampires clicks for me. TECHNICALLY a vampire can kill a warforged by draining its alchemical fluids, but those fluids AREN’T blood; they don’t run through a heart; remember that warforged don’t bleed! So I don’t see a warforged death-by-fluid-drain as being the same as a vampire drinking the lifesblood of a human. The idea that the warforged then becomes a vampire “if it’s buried in the earth” likewise doesn’t click for me. I’m happy with the idea of a unique warforged manifestation of vampirism, but I wouldn’t make them blood drinkers. But that’s me! I don’t have a problem with people doing something else in their campaigns.

      I agree that warforged zombies and skeletons would be cosmetically different but basically the same. The forge-phylactery approach seems like an interesting idea to explore!

      • Thanks for the reply!

        I personally would keep it as draining blood, as Vampirism is a curse, and makes humanoids act in strange ways that they normally wouldn’t act. I know that Warforged function slightly different from most normal humanoids, but I would keep it as a blood drinker just to show how Vampirism works. Vampirism is a curse. It isn’t rational. Humans don’t normally tun into bats and drink blood, so I would keep Warforged Vampire’s behavior similar or identical to normal vampires, just to show how the curse funtions.

        • Sure, but this raises the question of WHAT IS VAMPIRISM? I’ll address this in more depth in a future post.

          • I think I’d have it be connected to the Blood of Vol in some way. Maybe some ancient priest created the curse while trying to become a god, or Erandis Vol created it as a way to gain stronger followers.
            I’d love to see a future post on this.

            • Canonically, vampirism is far older than the Blood of Vol. The oldest known vampires in canon are Qabalrin elves from the Age of Giants… and there’s reason to think it predates their civilization as well. But I’ll discuss it in the future.

  7. I haven’t used undead warforged, but I have explored templates that can be applied to warforged in 3.5. My favorite was one with a skeleton crafted from hardened dragon bone in place of adamantine to make a half-dragon warforged – the template can be applied to “any living creature” and warforged are, by definition, “living” constructs.

    She was an experiment in controlling the origin of warforged souls – where do they come from? Do they exist? Etc, and managed to essentially reincarnate the soul from a dragonwrought samurai’s ancestral daisho stolen from Argonnessen, the bones from a dragon in the linage being required to make the soul transfer. She wound up using the hilt of her old “body” to recreate the blade as a soulknife. She had faintest memories of her former life, hazy like dreams, and memories of a moral code from that time.

    …. Okay that got increasingly off-topic from The Seekers, but when else was I going to get a chance to share that story with Keith Baker?

  8. One of the PCs in the game I’m running next year is a warforged Blood of Vol cleric who sees the “blood” bit of the Divinity Within as metaphorical. Now he just has to convince his fellow Seekers that he’s right. I’m very excited to play with him and explore the Blood of Vol and the resounding themes of self-determination that a warforged Seeker (especially this player’s character) brings into play.

  9. Hey Keith, thanks as always, I’m really looking forward to ExE’s release. This article reminded me of a question I had on the BoV and sentient undeads, all the more so that our next campaign will center on a BoV community in Q’barra…

    In general, Mabar-fueled undeads are regarded as literally life-sapping, in line with Mabar’s role as the source of negative/necrotic energy. This is why the Undying Court and the Silver Flame are so adamantly opposed to their very existence. Such a life-destroying behavior is obvious in the predatory instincts of vampires. Likewise, according to 5E’s Monster Manual, liches need to be supplied souls, lest their degenerate into semi-conscious demiliches.

    Now, what about the third main type of sentient, free-willed undead that can be found in the Crimson Covenant or the Emerald Claw: mummies. What kind of toll do they impose on the world of the livings? I haven’t found any indication of a need to prey on the livings. Aside from food and drinks getting spoiled when brought inside a mummy lord’s lair. Mummies may cause rot but they don’t have to, do they? In that case, they aren’t so different from an acid-spitting (say) living creature. I suppose that’s what a BoV follower would think, am I right?

    • I’ll discuss this in a future post when I talk about vampires, but in short: The Undying Court and Church of the Silver Flame both assert that all undead animated by the power of Mabar take a toll on the world of the living. If it’s not obvious — like a vampire — it means that the creature is just sucking away the ambient lifeforce of the world around it. The BoV dismiss these claims as superstition. Ultimately it’s up to the DM to decide who’s correct and if undead have an ambient negative effect on the environment and living creatures around them (though if they do, it should be subtle enough that it’s POSSIBLE for the BoV to deny it).

  10. Was there ever any tension during the war about Warforged from other nations possibly being raised as necromancers (unfounded or not)? Were the Karrn warforged considered not-patriotic enough to quality for the Odakyr Rites?

    A karrnathi skeletal warforged would be . . . horrifying.

    • Bear in mind that prior to the Treaty of Thronehold, warforged were property. As with bound elementals, I think the common populace justified that by not thinking of them as living beings. I don’t think most people—commoners or Karrnathi necromancers alike—would EXPECT that you could cast animate dead a warforged, any more than you could make a zombie from a sword.

      I definitely don’t think anyone would expect warforged to qualify for the Odakyr Rites, which after all only work on the finest Karrnathi soldiers, people who embody the martial spirit of Karrnath. Warforged were never strongly valued by Karrnath and are still largely seen as property. The only way I’d see this happening is if there was a specific necromancer who had greater respect for a specific warforged and somehow pushed it through; but culturally it seems very unlikely.

      A karrnathi skeletal warforged would be . . . horrifying.

      Would it, though? To me it would be more WEIRD than frightening. For me, what makes things like skeletons and zombies frightening is the reminder of mortality, the fear of your own corpse being pressed into service. Since a lot of people don’t think of warforged as being alive in the first place, it doesn’t really fall into that category. WE know warforged aren’t robots, but again, especially during the war many people didn’t think of them as living creatures. When C3P0 gets his arm torn off in Star Wars, it’s not nearly as horrifying as if it happened to Chewie (or as dramatic as, say, Luke losing his hand).

  11. Not quite related to Warforged, but how does the Blood of Vol feel about Elans? They are humans who have found a solution to immortality, after all.

    • Canonically, elans are from Riedra and are created when a quori spirit is imprisoned in an elan vessel. Secrets of Sarlona says they’re “So few in number that most Riedrans don’t even know they exist”… and they’re FROM Riedra. So I would say that most Seekers have never heard of Elans and will never meet one; if you do bring them together in your campaign, you’ll have to decide how they feel about them.

      • I keep winding up in an awkward position of wanting to play with psionics and not wanting to read about Sarlona. I’ll have to take a look though to see what makes sense, though. The change of type to aberration – and the effects of trying the elan ritual on a nonhumanoid, according to some of the expansion material on elans, always made me tie it into secret daelkyr shenanigans.

  12. Hello Keith,
    This question is not really related to the BoV, but more about the anatomy of the Warforged.

    A PC is a scared of death and likes to slowly replace his body parts with mechanical parts and achieve an increased longivity this way. Hence he is fascinated by the Warforged, with their suspected immortality, and likes to know how they work. Now my question: How is the Warforged built? Do they have integral parts that keeps them alive, like a human has a heart and lungs? And if you were dissect a Warforged, how would they look behind those armor plates?

    Thanks in advance

    • Warforged do have anatomy. They aren’t immune to critical hits, and they are vulnerable to effects that are based on “blood” loss, which reflects a circulating network of alchemical fluids. However, their anatomy isn’t remotely HUMAN. They don’t eat or drink, so they won’t have a digestive system. They don’t breathe and we’ve suggested that they produce sound in a manner different from humans, so they don’t need lungs. They’re immune to disease. All of this implies a very different sort of physiology than a human. We’ve said before that the “muscles” of a warforged are made from rootlike tendrils, and they may very well have more in common with plants than with most mammals.

      As a side note, in 3.5 there was a prestige class based on the idea of artificers or wizards wanting to achieve immortality by replacing their organic components with warforged parts—it was called the Renegade Mastermaker.

  13. In my campaign, a minor villain is a warforged vampire cleric of the BoV who has a syringe gauntlet built into his right hand that he uses to drain blood from his victims to power his magic/keep him sustained.

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