Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 6-18

I’m dealing with a deadline and don’t have time to address a topic in depth, so here’s a quick lightning round of Eberron questions submitted by my Patreon supporters.

What were some of your plans for Greykell that never made it to print or comic?

For those who don’t know, Greykell ir’Ryc is a character who first appears in my novel City of TowersShe later became the protagonist of the comic Eye of the Wolf; the easiest way to find it now is in this collection.

Eye of the Wolf left a number of hooks I’d love to explore. In the last panel you can see that Greykell has the battlefist of her warforged companion, Mace, sitting on a bench. So if I’d picked it up, the immediate story would have been finding Mace and getting the band back together. Following that, the primary plotline would be unlocking the mystery of the Key to the Kingdom of Night, the artifact revealed in Eye of the Wolf. What is its purpose? Why does the Emerald Claw want it? Beyond this, there’s certainly questions to be resolved concerning Greykell’s lineage, her sword, and other things. So: that’s what I had in mind at the time. If I were to pick her story up again, I’d consider if there were any new directions I’d rather take.

How rare are dragonmarks and dragonshards, numerically? I can’t come up with a relatable analogy or real-world example. 1) How limited of a resource are dragonshards? Equivalent to Industrial Revolution coal? Or gold? 

Good question. Starting with dragonmarks, it depends on the type. Eberron dragonshards are the basic fuel of the magical economy. In my opinion they are fairly common and are usually encountered in a refined, powdered form; you can almost think of this as Eberron’s answer to oil. What I’ve said before is that in magic item creation, it should be understood that a chunk of the “base GP cost” represents Eberron dragonshards—that pretty much any major act of creation will use them.

Siberys and Khyber shards are considerably rarer, and would be more in line with uranium. They are crucial for certain types of magic, but not generally used for trivial effects and much harder to come by.

Are dragonshards a renewable resource?

Yes and no. They are a form of crystal; it’s not implausible to say that Eberron shards form naturally over time. However, if this occurs, it’s not fast. The discover of new shard fields in Q’barra wouldn’t be as important if the existing fields were a never-ending cornucopia. Essentially, I’ve never intended there to be a storyline in which the world simply runs out of dragonshards, but it is the case that the discover of a new source of shards is supposed to be valuable and significant.

How often would you encounter someone with a dragonmark on the streets of Sharn, or in your modest village?

What we’ve said before is that about 50% of dragonmarked heirs develop the least manifestation of the mark. Someone who does develop a mark has a valuable skill and a tie to a dragonmarked house. So looking to your modest village, it’s relatively unlikely: unless they are performing a specific job in the village, why wouldn’t they take that mark to the big city and make some gold? As for Sharn, we actually did a dragonmarked breakdown when we were working on the Sharn: City of Towers book. I don’t remember the results, but there were definitely hundreds of least-marked heirs, if not thousands.

Both Shard and Mark are required to perform most of the abilities that run the Eberron economy, so how common are these “jobs,” of all jobs in the economy?

Of all jobs in the economy? Not very. An airship needs a pilot with the Mark of Storm (and maybe a co-pilot for a long flight); compare that the the number of people working maintenance or support on any flight. A Sivis message station needs an heir to operate the stone, but it’s not as those there’s a message station on every street corner. Cannith heirs run the creation forges and similar focus items, but there’s many more jobs that simply require magecraft or mundane talent.

Short form: The marked services are the things that give the houses their edge, since others simply can’t provide these services. But they are a small percentage of the actual jobs in the world.

How do you feel about the loophole in 3.5 that allows goodberry to provide healing in the Mournland? Is this something that should carry over to 5e, or other systems?

I’ve never considered it an absolute rule that healing doesn’t function in the Mournland, because I don’t think anything about the Mournland should be absolutely reliable. Given that, I’m fine with the idea of unusual resources and approaches (goodberries, healing potions brewed in the Mournland, etc) that healing possible. Essentially, what’s important to me is that the Mournland means that you can’t rely on the things you’re used to.

With that said, the goodberry effect wasn’t intentionally planned out, so I don’t care if that PARTICULAR loophole makes its way into 5E; I’m just saying that I’m amenable to DMs providing ways for PCs to heal in the Mournland, as long as it requires some effort.

Is there a holiday involving gift-giving in Eberron?

A simple option is Boldrei’s Feast (9 Rhaan), which is a celebration of community. Another possibility is Sun’s Blessing (15 Therendor) which is a day of peace and a time to set aside differences. Aureon’s Crown (26 Dravago) is a day for people to share knowledge.

Those are all in canon. Unofficially, I introduced a tradition in one of my campaigns which I just called “The Gifts of the Traveler,” which was effectively a Secret Santa exchange. In my campaign, the warforged paladin gave another character a collection of poems she’d written called Rust & Blood; given that none of us knew she was writing poems, it was kind of sweet.

Does the Blood of Vol have a “Martin Luther” character in its lore, that have experienced and rejected the machiavellian schemes of Vol and the Crimson Covenant, and seeks to create a more “pure” faith? 

Not by canon, but I think ALL the religions of Eberron should have this sort of thing. Part of the point of faith in Eberron is that there’s no one absolute authority on interpretation. We’ve talked about the Time of Two Keepers with the Silver Flame, not to mention the Pure Flame. We’ve already called out that the BoV has a few divergent paths—those who believe in a war against the Sovereigns, those interested solely in personal ascension, those loyal to the Queen of Death. So: there’s no existing NPC, but it’s a great story to explore.

Given the assumption that all arcane magic can be ultimately drawn from one of the planes, which plane do you think would manipulate time (slow, haste, time stop, etc.)

That’s not my personal assumption, but GIVEN that assumption, I’d either use Thelanis or Xoriat. Thelanis because of the idea that time is unpredictable in the fey realm and because it is about the world behaving in a magical way; Xoriat because it embodies things NOT working in accordance with nature, and if you’re breaking natural laws it’s a reasonable force to use.

Does Droaam have any kind of international trade aside from byeshk and brokering monsters through House Tharashk?

Like Darguun, I see Droaam as still focusing on establishing its own infrastructure. They’re building and expanding their own cities and working on producing or acquiring the resources they need to keep the nation going. Mercenaries services and Byeshk are two known commodities that already have a market. Beyond these, they are still figuring out what surpluses they may have or what they can produce. So right now, I don’t see them as offering much more (aside from things like Dragon’s Blood, which is under the table). But if you want to INTRODUCE something as a new development, that makes perfect sense. And bear in mind that “mercenary” is a loaded term that sounds like it’s solely about soldiers. Most of the “monstrous mercenaries” Tharashk manages in Sharn are ogre laborers, gargoyle couriers, and other nonviolent services.

A side note here: Many of the dragonmarked houses are interested in Droaam BECAUSE it’s largely undeveloped and it’s not yet known what resources they possess. So there’s certainly merchants in Graywall both looking to sell the things that Droaam needs and to see if they can make deals to get unique resources that haven’t yet been fully tapped.

Have you ever used Argonth or any of the floating fortresses in any of your games? 

I never have! I’ve thought about it a few times—in developing games for CCD20, “Die Hard on Argonth” has been on my list—but no, I never have.

Are you going to be allowed to talk about converting Waterdeep: Dragon Heist for Eberron when the time comes?

I don’t think I’m forbidden from talking about anything. What I’m not allowed to do is to produce concrete material: adventures, race conversions, etcSo I could do an article on this site about a general conversion, as long as I had the time to do it. I just couldn’t actually convert NPC stats to Eberron or present my version of Dragonmarks as part of it.

That’s it! Feel free to post additional questions below—though as I am very busy, I can’t promise they’ll be answered.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes for 5e shows that Mordenkainen (who in 3e was a 27th level wizard) is aware of Eberron and the Last War. What would you do with the implication that high level wizards like Elminster, Murlynd and Dalamar do visit Eberron?

Well, Mordenkainen could be aware of Eberron without actually having visited it. Setting aside epic scrying magic, he could have consulted with other travelers—plucked images of Eberron from the memories of a mind flayer.

I have two main caveats concerning any connection between Eberron and other planes. The first is that it has to be optional. The flip side of “There’s a place for everything in Eberron…” is “… but you get to decide whether you use it.” If someone WANTS to put Elminster in Eberron, more power to ’em—but *I* don’t.

But assuming you DO: one of the design principles of Eberron is that there’s no powerful good guys. If the Tarrasque attacks Sharn, there’s no 27th level wizards sitting around waiting to teleport in and solve the problem. Where there ARE powerful benevolent NPCs—The Keeper of the Flame, the Great Druid—they are limited in some way. Jaela loses her powers if she leaves Flamekeep. Oalian is a giant tree. So if I were to add Elminster into Eberron, I’d want to add a similar handicap. Two options come to mind. The first is that he can’t exercise his full powers without disrupting some sort of balance—whenever he uses his magic in Eberron, Sul Khatesh learns one of his secrets, and once she learns them all she’ll be freed (and he knows this). The second option—which can be combined with the first—is that the Chamber is aware of him and will act to eliminate him if he threatens to disrupt the balance. Even a 27th level wizard should tread lightning around a host of epic level dragons.

So I’m fine with saying that they’ve been around but tread lightly… or exploring the consequences of them NOT treading lightly. For example, I’d love to say The Daelkyr Incursion was the result of Mordenkainen coming to Eberronwhatever method he used to breach the planes drew the attention of the Daelkyr and ultimately destroyed the Empire of Dhakaan.

You may have mentioned this in a prior post, but what do you use/think for the religious views of the jhorash’tal orcs?

Personally, I see the Jhorash’tal orcs as culturally distinct from the orcs of both the Shadow Marches and Demon Wastes. I use a blend of Sovereigns and Six—similar to the Three Faces of War, but encompassing some of the others as well.

what do you think of animal familiar in Eberron? What does it say on magic the fact that every wizard and every sorcerer has one?

Two things there: whether EVERY wizard and sorcerer has one is a function of the edition you’re playing. Even if that is the case, remember that both wizards and sorcerers are rare in Eberron. Most professional spellworkers are magewrights. So familiars will be rare even if every wizard has one.

Second, there critical question is what is a familiar? The traditional familiar is a normal animal that becomes a magical beast when summoned to service. In essence, a minor spirit of some sort possesses the animal body. You could present this as being extraplanar (and in the case of a warlock, an emissary of the warlock’s patron). However, I’m more inclined to say that it’s a manifestation of the spellcaster’s subconscious mind. Especially if ALL wizards have one, I’d argue that when you unlock the part of your mind that allows you to master arcane magic—shaping reality with your thoughts and words—that it allows your subconscious to manifest through a local vessel. The familiar is literally the voice of the piece of you that understands magic.

But that’s just my idea.

20 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 6-18

    • aI don’t think it’s ever been said what if any specific process makes them (ie diamonds are compressed carbon) or how long those processes take (ie wood grows considerably faster than coal & oil forms). If you are the gm.. do you -want- them to be renewable?… If you are not the gm, does he or she -want- them to be renewable?

    • Yes and no. They are a form of crystal; it’s not implausible to say that Eberron shards form naturally over time. However, if this occurs, it’s not fast. The discover of new shard fields in Q’barra wouldn’t be as important if the existing fields were a never-ending cornucopia. Essentially, I’ve never intended there to be a storyline in which the world simply runs out of dragonshards, but it is the case that the discover of a new source of shards is supposed to be valuable and significant. 

  1. Hi Keith! As you are busy, I will try to ask you some questions that are not so broad 🙂
    1) what do you think of animal familiar in Eberron? What does it say on magic the fact that every wizard and every sorcerer has one?
    2) how powerful are the lords of dust in your eberron? I mean: beside overlords, are high level characters a match for them?
    3) May you give us a glimpse on how you imagine a typical street or square in Zilargo? What atmosphere you feel there?
    4) some time ago you mentioned that Wish would need a whole post. I know that if it would need a whole post you can’t discuss it here, but may I ask you why do you think that it’s not enough the normal description of powerful rare extraplanar magic?
    5) last but not least: a friend of mine would like to play in a one shot a droaam minotaur. His idea is that he fleed because he does not accept that droaam becomes a state. Would you give us some hints on minotaur culture? Just some funny hints for playing a one shot

    • I’ve answered your first question at the end of the article. With the Lords of Dust, it varies dramatically. You have the base CR 10 rakshasa, and any fiend could be used as a minion of the Lords of Dust. On the other hand, we’ve presented prakhutu – the speakers of the Overlords – as being in the CR 25 range (in Dragon 337).

      The other questions will have to wait, as I’m still working on a deadline.

  2. Hi Keith! I’ve been a long time fan of Eberron and soon I’m going to be playing a new campaign there. We’re still sticking to 3.5, and so my question to you would be could you extrapolate a little bit on the Favored Soul in Eberron? In the Campaign Setting book there was only a short footnote about the class. I want to play one in the new campaign and would like to ask how you see them or their place in the world of Eberron. Is it possible to be a Favored Soul of the Undying Court for example? Or even more interestingly, a Favored Soul of the Path of Inspiration? How would one be born into the role of the Favored Soul in Riedra?

    Also, while being a huge fan of the class, would you agree that it’s a good idea to just skip the level 17 wings as it makes no sense for a follower of the Undying Court, or even let’s say Onatar to grow wings? Perhaps this could be replaced with something else more appropriate for the deity or just omitted altogether.

    Thank you if you answer or just for reading that. I know you are very busy.
    Cheers from Eastern Europe!

  3. Ah, so aiships and the lightning rail, which require the khyber shards for elemental binding, are more akin to nuclear submarines than our trains and planes of the 19th/20th centuries…

    • More like nuclear-powered cruise liners, because people aren’t terrified of them. They probably had warlike uses in the Last War, but they weren’t (obviously) connected to the Mourning so they don’t have the associations we have with the A-bomb.

  4. This may be off-topic, but…

    I just finished reading the Game Marshall’s Guide for P:DC for the first time. I have to say, I am pretty blown away, and pretty regretful I haven’t paid much attention to Phoenix for so long. So I have two questions:

    1. Are there still plans to release official modules for the game? And will those modules pick up on the Dark Omens arc, or will they be exploring a different story element entirely? I’m full of ideas for individual missions, but Omen was so brilliantly set up and foreshadowed in Dark Omens that my impulse is to wait for official material to develop him!

    2. Regarding the re-release of the game; will there be any incentive to wait for this edition, eg balance tweaks/errata/improved materials? I know the hope from TGS is to have as much engagement as possible, and I’ll be buying the original release soon anyways. I just wanted to know if there were going to be any extra goodies.

    • Hi Spoondragon!

      I just posted a new article about PDC. Do you mind reposting these questions on that article? Just so I can answer them in the proper context.

  5. You may have mentioned this in a prior post, but what do you use/think for the religious views of the jhorash’tal orcs?

  6. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes for 5e shows that Mordenkainen (who in 3e was a 27th level wizard) is aware of Eberron and the Last War. What would you do with the implication that high level wizards like Elminster, Murlynd and Dalamar do visit Eberron?

    In most campaigns, their presence isn’t going to change much, they probably just pop in for a cameo, maybe leave behind a scroll or two But what cool things could one do with tying Eberron to the 5e multiverse?

    • I may be wrong, but it is never directly shown that Mordenkainen was talking about the Last War; the note just says that “humanity lost war with itself”. He could have talked about Last War, but if I would ever introduce that point in my campaign I would say that it talks about the Sundering of Sarlona instead, Sarlona being the “human” continent after all. Another point to this is the fact that Mordenkainen is not aware of existence of any gnome nations, which Eberron actively defies with Zilargo. So, Mordenkainen could have just heard about Eberron, or visited it a long time ago. It may be convenient, but there is no reason why extraplanar mages should visit locales players will most likely find themselves in first.

      And, thanks to Keith Baker for actively offering help and opinion on his setting! I’m sorry if this was too far off initial theme of mighty master spellcasters running around, but I feel it could be a good opportunity to get your party in places far from Khorvaire when taking “planar travelers” sort of approach.

  7. I have a few questions that all stem from the same line of thinking so I hope this isn’t too much to unpack all at once.

    I was curious about the working of Manifest Zones themselves. Namely, how does planar interaction function while phasing in conjunction with the Material Plane? Is there a general rule of thumb for how thing behave once an area becomes coterminous with a plane, such as becoming superseded, swapping places, acting as some sort of bridge, or maintaining it’s general features while taking on the qualities of the plane in question? Do these things shift based on present proximity at the same time? For example, if we have a house merging with the Fernia would that house catch fire and burn down, a lava pool replace the spot where the house is, a path open to Fernia proper near the basement boiler, or does the house become a fire version of itself? What happens between overlap for Manifest Zones, or would this be impossible?

    • There’s no absolute rule for manifest zones. Each manifest zone is unique. Sharn’s manifest zone to Syrania enhances magics of flight and levitation; but you might have a different Syranian manifest zone that counters aggression, focusing on the peaceful aspects of Syrania.

      Given this, the way in which each manifest zone interacts with planar phases will likewise vary. It would be logical to say that when the plane is remote, the effects of the manifest zone subside – but this presumably doesn’t happen in Sharn, or the towers would have collapsed long ago.

      So the short form is that it’s something you should decide when you create a new manifest zone. How does it manifest the influence of the plane, and how does the phase of the plane affect this?

      Should I every have an opportunity to write a planar handbook, I’d certainly include examples of different sorts of manifest zones associated with it and these effects. For now, follow your instincts!

  8. Completely random question! How are the conductor stones for the lightning rail supposed to function? The text and the artwork seem to contradict one another.

    I always thought the text said that conductor stones were laid down in pairs, two on the ground about the same width as train tracks. These pairs then formed the “conduit” for the lightning rail to pass through.

    All the artwork shows just the single line of stones, with conductor stones on the underside of the lightning rail carriages.

    How do you envision them in your game(s)?

  9. It would be interesting to have the Jhorash’tal worship the “Wild Six”, the six nature-associated ones which were hypothesized to be the original six in the “Nine and Six and One” in old scriptures.

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