IFAQs: Seeker Crime, Targath, and the Dreaming Dark

October was a chaotic month for many reasons, and I’m also preparing for Pax Unplugged—my first convention in almost two years! As a result I haven’t been able to write much for the last few weeks. There’s an article on The Mockery in the works, but for now I wanted to share a few questions posed by my Patreon supporters last month.

Is there crime in Seeker towns and villages? Since the overall theme of the Blood of Vol seems to be “we only have each other/self-improvement” at it’s most altruistic, I wonder if the usual trigger for crime (lack of resources/access and a submarket growing to fill need) exists in a community that’s living very community minded.

All of the major religions of Eberron encourage strong communities. The Silver Flame encourages people to stand together in the face of supernatural threats, and to try to fight human evil with compassion and by example. The Blood of Vol teaches that we face a hostile universe and cruel gods and all we have is one another. The Sovereign Host urges us to obey Aureon’s laws, while Boldrei binds a community together. But within any community, not everyone will hold to one of these faiths, and even those who do may not live up to the ideals of their faith… or interpret them generously. There are many faiths in our world that encourage compassion and charity; but not everyone who follows those faiths shares their possessions with the poor. And this doesn’t begin to deal with crimes of passion and other unpremeditated crime. Beyond this, there’s the possibility of a Seeker criminal who emphasizes breaking the laws of the land to get the people of their community the things they need; there’s also a practice common in many grifter communities of only targeting outsiders. Everyone knows Joey is a pickpocket, but they also know he only targets tourists and adventurers passing through, so that’s fine; he may even tithe part of his take to the local church.

So I don’t think I’d say “There is no crime in Seeker communities.” Instead, I’d consider how crime might evolve in such a community—IE criminals who are acting in the best interests of the community or targeting outsiders—and also consider the likelihood that as with Karrnath in general, the forces of the law might be especially ruthless in a Seeker community; if you DO choose to prey upon your community, they’ll make a harsh example of you. This would actually be a potential contrast between Seekers and the Silver Flame. The Flame encourages us to show compassion and inspire by example—so you want to show mercy to the criminal and try to guide them to the light. I can see Seekers being considerably more pragmatic; if you prey on your community, you’ve made your choice and will suffer the consequences. The Silver Flame believes that noble souls strengthen the Flame after death, and thus tries to guide people to the light; the Blood of Vol knows this life is all we have and won’t waste time with such notions.

Targath doesn’t get much mention after being floated as a resource for periapts of health, reducing the risk of disease, and as a weapon against deathless in ECS. Since it’s a resource found in Northern Argonnessen do you have any thoughts for ways the dragons, Seren, and dragonborn could make use of targath for both benign purposes and as a weapon?

Targath is an exotic metal introduced in the 3.5 EBerron Campaign setting, along with byreshk, bronzewood, and others. Part of the point of targath is that it’s an exotic metal almost completely unknown in Khorvaire, and mined and used by a civilization that is all but unknown and dramatically more advanced than Khorvaire. in this, it is quite similar to vibranium in the Marvel Universe—a wondrous substance, but one the common people know almost nothing about, encountered in the weapons of champions. Odds are good that only a handful of sages and artificers in Khorvaire have even encountered targath, and those who have only in weapons recovered from remnants of the Dragonborn Empire or Seren champions. The Aereni are familiar with it, but for obvious reasons they would have no reason to encourage knowledge of it or spread it around. Among other things, this makes it a fun “miracle substance” for PC artificers to “discover”—WE know it just as a set of game mechanics, but for the PC artificer it’s a source of unknown potential and an obvious “power component” they could use to create items like a periapt of health. Even the Dragonborn of Q’barra have no traffic with Argonnessen, so their Targath items would be the regalia of champions, handed down over the course of thousands of years. Essentially, the point is that this is one way to concretely identify an item as belonging to the Trothlorsvek; it’s made from a metal unknown on Khorvaire.

Looking to the Serens, the question is whether the metal can be found on the islands, or only on mainland Argonnessen. If it’s on the islands, the Serens may use it in many ways, likely incorporating it into unenchanted decorations and ornaments. This could imbue a general degree of health across their population, even without the full effect of a magic item. The Serens aren’t an advanced culture, so I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of exotic mystical uses, but they may also have items given to them by their draconic patrons. As for the dragons, keep in mind that Targath is like dragonshards: it’s an exotic material that doesn’t exist in our world but that channels a particular form of mystical energy in undefined ways. It’s especially tied to HEALTH, so amulets of health and periapts of wound closure are obvious. But a belt of giant strength, armor of poison resistance, or cloak of protection forged in Argonnessen could all be described as having Targath strands woven through them. Potions of healing from Argonnessen could be identified by the traces of Targath infused into the potion, and it could be this that allows Argonnessen to produce potions of supreme healing, potions of longevity, and elixirs of health.

Ultimately, it’s an exotic substance that allows an alien culture to produce wonders we can’t produce in the Five Nations; you can work it into any sort of magical effect associated with supernatural health.

How suspicious are the major nations of Riedra beyond what you’d usually expect of a nation looking at another nation whose intentions you’re not fully sure of?

Well, let’s compare Aerenal and Riedra. Both are distant nations. Both are isolationist cultures that don’t allow outsiders to freely travel through their lands. Both are older than Galifar and have rigid traditions. Both claim to have leaders who possess divine powers. Keep in mind that aside from its conflict with the Kalashtar, Riedra has never been a conquering power; it arose from the Sundering when the Inspired UNITED the common people to bring an end to the vicious conflict between the warring nations. So again, Riedra is older than Galifar, but has never engaged in any sort of obviously hostile action against Khorvaire. It’s been a reliable trade partner and has helped multiple nations over the course of the war. What reason is there to BE suspicious of it? The people of Khorvaire may find Riedran customs to be strange and oppressive, but overall the RIEDRANS are content; so again, what reason is there to be suspicious of them? And if there IS reason to be suspicious, would those same suspicions be applied to Aerenal? WE know about the Dreaming Dark and Riedran aspirations. But part of the point of the Dreaming Dark is that it can be a disruptive force in Khorvaire without directly employing Riedran agents. if anything, the main reason to BE suspicious of Riedra is that it’s TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE… it’s TOO friendly. Why were they so willing to help out Khorvaire during the war? Why aren’t they interested in spreading their culture or beliefs to Khorvaire? Why don’t they want outsiders roaming unrestricted in their lands?

So on a high level no one is particularly suspicious of either Riedra or Aerenal, because both are isolationist powers that don’t actually seem to WANT anything from Khorvaire. However, there may be INDIVIDUALS—spies, ministers, sages—who have personal suspicions and gut feelings they’re trying to justify. On the other hand, the Dreaming Dark can use dream manipulation to help improve their image. It’s amazing how many people have dreams about helpful, friendly Riedrans…

If the players found a way into Dal Quor, and took the fight to Tirashana (a powerful agent of the Dreaming Dark) in her home plane, where might they find her?

I think the main question is whether she’s expecting company. if so, I’d expect her to build her lair from the nightmares of the adventurers who are pursuing her. Dal Quor is a mutable reality, so her lair could include the childhood home of one of the adventurers, or the prisoner of war camp they were in during the Last War, or the site of a tragic loss. I’d look to the book/movie IT as a possible source of inspiration, in terms of what it means to attack a mistress of nightmares in the seat of her power. Likewise, you might want to read The Gates of Night, which has some general inspiration for adventures in Dal Quor. But the key point is that I would build her lair from the nightmares of the player characters. And to do that, I’d personally ask the players to help shape it. I’d ask THEM to tell me what’s so scary or creepy about a scene—because they know better than you what their character would find terrifying. One of the greatest strengths of RPGs is that they are COLLABORATIVE. Especially when it comes to horror, each player knows better than you what they would find terrifying and entertaining—and likewise, they know better than you the lines they don’t want to cross and the things they DON’T want to experience in a story.

Could describe your ideas for a Quori of Sloth? How would they effect dreamers? What is their position and role in hierarchy of Dreaming Dark?

“Sloth” isn’t quite the right word for a quori. The general idea is that quori specialize in developing and manipulating particular emotions or moods. So the key is that this quori—which I’ll call the Lluora—doesn’t embody sloth itself; rather, it specializes in SAPPING MOTIVATION. Consider all the tools of procrastination—creating distracting tasks or options; causing the mortal to endlessly question their decisions, paralyzing them with self-doubt; causing them to question their end goal; encouraging Whataboutism and “Why bother doing anything when nothing will ever really change?” I don’t think they’d be common. One possibility is that they’d be a sort of jailor, trapping mortals in their own mental prisons and preventing them from ever building up the motivation to escape. Another is that they’d advise kalaraq, suggesting ways to undermine mortal motivation.

So in short, the Lluora is a quori spirit that specializes in creating doubt, undermining self esteem, and similar tools. “Why bother doing anything at all?”

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and for making these articles possible!

23 thoughts on “IFAQs: Seeker Crime, Targath, and the Dreaming Dark

  1. A medical facility in Argonnessen having targath worked into the pillars of the building would be very neat… or maybe a Chamber agent helps to make such a Jorasco facility and tension ensues when the Undying ambassador has to visit!

    Thanks, Keith!

  2. What can you tell us about the Devourer of Dreams? We know that he is the kalaraq leader of the Dreaming Dark, that he is the closest to il-Lashtavar, and that Sharadhuna of the Thousand Eyes suspects an ulterior motive to his proliferation of hanbalani altas monoliths.

    What else is there to know about him? What can he do that other kalaraqs cannot, and how strong is he compared to other kalaraqs?

    • What can you tell us about the Devourer of Dreams?

      This is a great question to pose on Patreon! This article reposts questions I’ve already answered on Patreon; unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to answer entirely new questions. Hopefully that will change soon, but for now my time is very limited.

  3. How comfortable are Riedran Inspired ambassadors in explaining that they are inhabited by il-altas spirits? Do they have an elaborate mythology that lionizes and sanitizes the tsoreva caste, the tsucora caste, the du’ulora caste (e.g. “spirits of righteous battle”), and so on?

    Do Riedran Inspired ambassadors freely discuss psionic powers with the people of Khorvaire? Do they offer to teach psionics to those Khorvairians with latent psionic potential?

    Are Riedran Inspired ambassadors willing to trade, pomow, crysteel, sentira, and the like? Would, say, House Cannith have a use for Riedra-imported crysteel and sentira?

    Does Riedra send ambassadors to Aerenal, knowing that elves cannot dream and are therefore immune to most of the Dreaming Dark’s tricks?

    • “To date, the Inspired have kept their distance from the lands of the dragons and the Undying Court. Interactions generally occur on foreign soil, either in the courts of Khorvaire or in Stormreach on Xen’drik. No hostility is apparent between these powers, but the ancient elves and mighty dragons watch the Inspired with great interest. Perhaps their inaction means that they’re unaware of the quori agenda, or perhaps they feel that they have nothing to fear from the outsiders.”
      -Secrets of Sarlona, pg 58

      • In addition to what you shared, the lack of reciprocal representation of an Aereni or Valenar embassy in Riedra further supports this:
        “The Jhodra also contains a number of embassies. To date, Aundair, Breland, Karrnath, the Mror Holds, Q’barra, and Zilargo have established consulates in Dar Jin. The Inspired have not yet extended an invitation to the elves of Aerenal or Valenar. The Thousand Eyes keeps a very sharp watch on these embassies. As a result, the ambassadors might turn to unfamiliar faces—such as adventurers—if they need to engage in subterfuge.”
        -Secrets of Sarlona, p. 73

    • A few quick answers; I don’t have time to elaborate further.

      How comfortable are Riedran Inspired ambassadors in explaining that they are inhabited by il-altas spirits?
      Entirely comfortable. It’s a foundational part of their culture and something they are proud of. Plus, by coming right out and saying “We are possessed by benevolent spirits” they head off anyone saying “You seem to be possessed.”

      Do they have an elaborate mythology that lionizes and sanitizes the tsoreva caste…
      I don’t think it’s necessary. The principle of the il-Altas is that they are ascended mortal spirits. They certainly could come up with an elaborate system like this, but by invoking the names of quori spirits, they run into the risk of, say, Khorvairian scholars saying “Hey, wait! The il-Altas have the same names as quori!” They say they are possessed by the il-Altas, not by quori; I don’t think they need to try and whitewash the quori as part of this.

      Do Riedran Inspired ambassadors freely discuss psionic powers with the people of Khorvaire?
      Sort of? They generally explain their superior mental powers as gifts of the il-Altas. They don’t hide that they have these powers, but they don’t engage in scientific discussions of the nature and potential of psionics with sages from Khorvaire, no.

      Do they offer to teach psionics to those Khorvairians with latent psionic potential?
      DEFINITELY NOT. They don’t even teach psionics to Riedrans unless those Riedrans are directly serving the state; why would they teach random outsiders? On the other hand, THE DREAMING DARK will absolutely teach psionics to people of Khorvaire who can serve as useful tools, as seen in canon with the Sovereign Swords and a certain compromised dragonmark house in Sharn.

      Are Riedran Inspired ambassadors willing to trade, pomow, crysteel, sentira, and the like?
      I don’t think they’re entirely opposed to the idea, but I also think they prefer to trade mundane goods rather than to expose unique resources that could give them the edge should there be any sort of future conflict. Essentially, there is a clear tactical advantage for them to use a form of magic that potential enemies don’t understand. House Cannith might well have a use for sentira… but does it benefit Riedra to have Cannith understanding sentira and unlocking its mysteries?

      Does Riedra send ambassadors to Aerenal, knowing that elves cannot dream and are therefore immune to most of the Dreaming Dark’s tricks?
      This is addressed on page 58 of Secrets of Sarlona: “To date, the Inspired have kept their distance from the lands of the dragons and the Undying Court.”

  4. Do mortals in planes other than the Material Plane dream? Do animals/beasts dream? Do people who are petrified, in temporal stasis, frozen in ice in Risia, etc. dream?

    • Previous answer when you asked 5 months ago

      “Mortal beasts on Eberron dream. Note, among other things, that the Dream spell isn’t limited to humanoids; it only excludes creatures specifically called out as not dreaming, such as elves. So, yes, beasts dream. However, I would say that as with Speak With Animals, “the knowledge and awareness of many beasts is limited by their intelligence” — and that this is further exacerbated by the fact that most creatures don’t actually remember their dreams. So there are limits to the degree that a beast can be manipulated through its dreams, just as there’s limits as to what you can get out of speaking to a beast with Speak with Animals. This relates to the point that quori possession only works on humanoids; I’d say that the mind of the beast isn’t capable of supporting the quori spirit. On the other hand, if I wanted to use this idea in a story, I’d create a new form of lesser quori that specifically manipulates the dreams of beasts. i wouldn’t allow a quori to mind seed a beast; the original 3.5 Mind Seed could only target humanoids, and I see no reason to change that.

      Re: Petrification, etc, my personal ruling would be NO: that to dream you have to SLEEP, and a creature that is in stasis or petrified isn’t SLEEPING. A comatose creature who is physically asleep could be dreaming, but when all biological processes are frozen that also prevents dreaming. With that said, I think the idea of dreaming statues is INTERESTING and I might allow it for a specific form of petrification — for example, the standard Flesh to Stone spell wouldn’t allow dreaming, but a creature petrified by Orlassk WOULD continue to dream (emphasizing the unusual and unpredictable nature of the daelkyr).”

  5. You said that the Silver Flame communities are more about showing a convict the way back to the right path. Would you see this more in a Therapudic way? By which I mean would Thrane and other Church of the Silver Flame communities favor rehabilitation facilities and/or community service over incarceration or physical punishment? I could see an interesting potential story or Character in the vein of “My Name Is Earl” wherein a convict must help a certain number of people to be freed of their criminal status.

    • My Name is Earl would be an interesting basis for a Thranish morality tale, perhaps there were a series of “medieval morality play” style performances in Thrane’s culture which are all about a thief turning his life around . . .

    • By which I mean would Thrane and other Church of the Silver Flame communities favor rehabilitation facilities and/or community service over incarceration or physical punishment?
      Definitely. Again, this is a distinct difference between Thrane and Karrnath; Thrane will focus on the idea of guiding people back to the light, while Karrnath focuses on harsh punishments and object lessons.

  6. How aware is Aerenal of the Dreaming Dark? I assume quori cannot manipulate elves seeing as they do not sleep, but does the Undying Cort or the Sibling Kings even know of the Dreaming Dark?

    • Personally, I see no reason to say that the Aereni would know about the Dreaming Dark. Given that the elves don’t dream and that the quori have avoided interacting with Aerenal, and that the Undying Court is an isolationist force with little interest in other cultures, why does it make sense for them to be aware of it? And more important, would Aerenal knowing about the Dreaming Dark somehow make a better story than having them be ignorant of it? Generally, I think it’s more interesting for the player characters to have to work to expose the DD, rather than having a member of the Cairdal Blades say “Oh, are you talking about the Dreaming Dark? We’ve known about them for centuries, it just never seemed important.”

      • I think an interesting campaign arc for an Aereni group would be to have them look into Sarlona to expand; Sarlona is full of manifest zones (including many Irian zones) so one could say that the Court realizes that they can no longer allow for worthy candidates to become Deathless and to avoid the social unrest the best option would be to create a new court in a strong new Irian zones, maybe in Syrkarn.
        Heck it would probably be an even better campaign for Riedran adventurers! Suddenly the quori would lose quite a few of their options in dealing with the threat of an Aereni colony right at their footstep which might mean they need to deploy local troops to interact with the colonists directly.

  7. I know this is unrelated, but FTR, i think the way yugoloths are potrayed in Eberron is very sloppy. As far as i know, yugoloths are meant to be the sadistic citizens of Mabar, and if you fall in with them you’ll go down the path of misery.

    This is EXTREMELY boring if you ask me. I’ve always seen yugoloths as being an exiting wild card, the brutal uncaring side of evil, as evidenced by the masked or faceless appearance of ultroloths or mezzoloths, the sort of evil you see in Fiddler on the Roof or a WWIII film about the Holocaust. Making yugoloths simply evil through and through gives them the exact problem that devils have in dnd, it’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t deal with them, who would trust a creature that is native to the plane of innate evil?

    The sort of fiend I think would work better would be demodands, the evil jailors of Carceri. They would make much more sense, they fit into the idea of a sadistic and cruel race already as they are commonly portrayed as infernal jailors of various damned souls. They’d make sense on Mabar.

    And seriously, I think yugoloths would make much more sense on Shavarath. Where do mercenary fiends go? Oh yes, where the eternal war is. I’d imagine if they were there they’d be fulfilling the treacherous or untrustorthy soldiers for hire that every great war needs, that they’d regularly show up on Syrania for a grand time.

    • Further reading on Mabar might be required. Where yugoloths are extremely boring in normal D&D (another shade of fiend) Exploring Eberron notes them as Mabar’s version of consumed immortals. As shadows are to mortals, so yugoloths are to angels and demons. They are not mercenaries in Eberron, so being on Shavarath would require going backward, returning to previous lore from other non-Eberron settings.

      Feel free to return to the comfort zone of other settings in your own Eberron of course.

    • I think the general idea is that Keith is just using existing immortals/outsiders as stat blocks. While with other races he considers their existing lore and tries to take a novel approach that resonates with the abilities of specific creatures, the outsiders of D&D are deeply tied into the Great Wheel. The demons of Eberron are not tanar’ri; they are just an umbrella term for chaotic evil creatures of the thirteen planes. They don’t spontaneously form from the Abyss, they are definitely not infinite, they have no Court of Woe, fight no Blood War or try to bond with layers of the Abyss to become demon princes. I guess he could, if he wanted, maintain their racial identity and treat them as a whole instead of individual creatures but this has not been the approach so far to my knowledge.

      Now if we HAD to keep the outsider races as a concept, I’d have that be Khyber’s work. For instance she could have made different batches of creatures to populate the planes, each with a different main purpose, who would then have adapted to the individual planes accordingly. But that would also create spades of new lore to account for how their hierarchy, birth, evolution and diversification work.

      Heck I think a simulationist would have had completely different stat blocks for every creature in each plane that shares the same block now. The way I see it a Fernian Balor is not the same creature as a Shavarath Balor, they just share a stat block for convenience. They are probably not even both called balors (well given how powerful balors are, they are likely individuals anyway).

      So in the end I think if Keith focused on yugoloths he would not focus on them as a race but on the individual creatures, taking into account the abilities that each one of them has and building a story for them based on that.

        • You could say that for Yugoloths across all editions tbh. The amount of pages spent developing the tanar’ri and baatezu is an order of magnitude greater than the ‘loths get. In 3.5 both of them got entire books, plus significant space in BovD, plus far more in space across Monster Manuals or Dragon articles and Dungeon adventures (just think of the multitude of Princes and Lords compared to the ‘loths having the General and the Oinoloth and no other real higher ups). Heck 4E turned them into a demon subrace. Even before that outside of Planescape they were never given much time.

      • I think the general idea is that Keith is just using existing immortals/outsiders as stat blocks… So in the end I think if Keith focused on yugoloths he would not focus on them as a race but on the individual creatures, taking into account the abilities that each one of them has and building a story for them based on that.

        That’s correct. Keep in mind that just like devils and demons, yugoloths aren’t tied to any single plane. Devils embody principles of law and evil; demons embody principles of chaos and evil; yugoloths embody evil unswayed by law or chaos. They are the primary denizens of Mabar for that reason, as Mabar is the end of all things and cares nothing for law or chaos. But there easily could be a brigade of yugoloths in Shavarath who stand between Tyranny and Cruelty; the point is that those yugoloths aren’t mercenaries from Mabar, they’re yugoloths spawned by Shavarath to embody those principle.

        Beyond that, there’s more to the story of the yugoloths of Mabar than “if you fall in with them you’ll be miserable.” As Matthew says, they are to other immortals as shadows are to humans; they are celestials and fiends who have themselves been consumed and reshaped by despair and entropy. To the question of “Who would trust a creature from a plane of innate evil” most of the people of Eberron have no idea what a yugoloth is, and most of the time a yugoloth doesn’t give its victim a choice. Yugoloths don’t pop up on Eberron and say “Hi! How’d you like to do something with me? Trust me, it won’t make you miserable!” Instead, they manipulate people through their shadows in Mabar; per ExE, “By shaping a mortal’s shadow, a fiend can fill that
        mortal with despair or drive them down dark paths
        .”

        Matthew brings up another key point: if you prefer the lore of other settings, then use it. Eberron offers alternatives. We present gnolls that don’t serve demons, gnomes that aren’t tinkers, yugoloths that aren’t mercenaries… because if you WANT demonic gnolls, tinker gnomes, and mercenary yugoloths you already have them from other settings. Your campaign is your Eberron. Canon Eberron is just a starting point, and ExE isn’t even canon! Tell the story you want to tell.

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