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When battle is joined, Dol Dorn gives you the courage to stand your ground and the strength to swing your sword. But it’s Dol Arrah who calls you to the battlefield and who gives you the reason to fight—Dol Arrah who urges you to stand up to injustice and to smite the wicked. Dol Dorn gives you strength, but Dol Arrah gives you wisdom; Dol Arrah tells you when to fight and how to use your strength wisely and justly. If you cannot hear Dol Arrah’s voice when your hand falls to your blade—think twice about whether you should draw it.
On my Patreon, I’ve been asked what makes being a follower of Dol Arrah interesting? Why would I want to play a character devoted to her rather than to the Silver Flame? There’s considerably more canon material on the Church of the Silver Flame than there is on the Sovereign of Sun and Sacrifice; even Tira Miron abandoned her vassal roots to embrace the Silver Flame. It was templars of the Flame who stood against the hungry horde in the Silver Crusade. We have a clear picture of what it means to be a paladin devoted to the Silver Flame. Why choose Dol Arrah instead?
Despite their surface similarities, Dol Arrah and the Silver Flame are very different. The role of a divine champion of Dol Arrah has little in common with that of a templar of the Silver Flame. Both will team up to slay a vampire, certainly; but beyond that, their outlook and general duties are quite different. The keyword of the Silver Flame is defense. It is a force that defends the innocent from evil, and primarily from supernatural evil; it binds the overlords and empowers those who fight undead and fiends, but takes no side in mundane politics or wars between mortal nations. By contrast, Dol Arrah is a Sovereign of war. Along with Dol Dorn and the Mockery she is present on every battlefield and every soldier hopes that she sees their cause as just. The Silver Flame protects humanity from evil; Dol Arrah guides those who fight for justice with honor, regardless of who or what they are fighting. At the same time, Dol Arrah is the patron of diplomats: part of wisdom in war is knowing when a battle can be avoided.
If you’re playing a character devoted to Dol Arrah, remember that she doesn’t exist in isolation; she’s part of the Sovereign Host, an interconnected pantheon whose members govern different situations. Dol Arrah may urge you to fight for justice, but it’s Onatar who puts steel in your hand and Dol Dorn who gives you the strength to swing it; for that matter, it’s Aureon’s laws that establish the nature of justice. By saying that you’re “a servant of Dol Arrah” what you’re saying is that you have a special connection to Dol Arrah that’s stronger than that of most people—that she has called you to service and charged you to fight in her name. But you should still honor ALL of the Sovereigns in their place and time, and you may color your spells as coming from any of the Sovereigns when appropriate. When you issue a command, you speak with Aureon’s voice. When you use find steed you are calling on Balinor, and when you cast bless you might ask Olladra for good fortune. The Sovereigns are united; you may be a champion of Dol Arrah, but you’re still a Vassal of the Sovereign Host. Beyond, part of your duty is to embody the values of Dol Arrah: to stand up for justice, to spread light, and to inspire others to act with honor and wisdom. This comes to the point that unlike a templar of the Silver Flame, it’s not your daily duty to hunt down the undead—but when you encounter a supernatural threat, you should call down the light of the Warrior Sun.
While there are chivalric orders specifically devoted to Dol Arrah, she doesn’t have a large standing force like the templars of the Silver Flame, because in the Vassal view ALL soldiers are guided by Dol Arrah. When someone is called out as a servant of Dol Arrah, there is a purpose to the power that she grants. Her divine champions aren’t generally charged to wander around looking for random injustice; when she calls a paladin or cleric, it’s because there is a battle they must fight. There’s a specific injustice that must be addressed, an enemy that must be defeated, a war that only you can win. So, what is it? Let’s consider a few possibilities.
These cover a wide range of options. The first few are very regional; Breggan Blackcrown operates on the Western Frontier, and few people outside of the Lhazaar Principalities have even heard of the Cloudreaver Principality. On the other hand, a quest to restore Cyre or to to destroy Lady Illmarrow is a more abstracted struggle whose battles could be fought across Khorvaire. The idea of Dol Arrah supporting the Boromar Clan or Daask may seem strange, but remember that Dol Arrah is present in every battle; if she commands a champion to take a side, it’s because she has declared the cause to be just and because she expects her champion to MAKE it a just and to fight with honor. She may order her paladin to fight alongside the Boromar Clan, but that doesn’t mean they should embrace the treacherous tactics the Boromars might be used to; on the contrary, the idea would be that the champion should inspire the Boromars to be better, to show them how to win their war with honor.
This isn’t a decision one person—player or DM—should make alone. Player and DM should work together to decide both the nature of the character’s war and how important it will be to the campaign. An Arrah champion’s war is the reason they’re adventuring and why they possess divine power. The character believes that they are receiving guidance from Dol Arrah—missions that lead them in pursuit of victory. But is each adventure a clear battle in the war? Or are most adventures just about honing the champion’s skills or acquiring allies? The champion should spread their light wherever they are, fighting with honor and pursuing justice—if they encounter a pack of ghouls in the graveyard, they should deal with them. But they should still have the sense that they are pursuing their war—that if they aren’t clearly fighting the enemy, they are doing something to sharpen their skills or their blade. As a DM, one of the key things I would work on is figuring out how to fit the other player characters into the war. You don’t want one character to have a driving, overarching goal that no one else cares about. If you’ve got a Arrah paladin destined to restore Cyre, than I’d either want the other PCs to have their own ties to Cyre or to have skills the champion clearly needs; part of the paladins’ mission is to convince the bard that they should use their diplomatic skills to help achieve the goal of a new Cyre. Likewise, keep in mind that not all of these wars can be won with steel; the goal mentions above is to REUNITE Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches, and this is a war that will require insight and diplomacy.
Dol Dorn is the Sovereign of strength and courage, the patron of the common soldier. Dol Dorn gives you the strength to fight; Dol Arrah gives you a reason to fight, and shows you how to use your strength wisely. She’s the patron of paladins, but also of generals, strategists, and diplomats. As a champion of Dol Arrah, your role isn’t just to fight well; it is to inspire others, to lead in battle and to show them how to fight with honor. The Mockery shows the quickest path to victory, even if it comes with a brutal cost; Dol Arrah shows her champions how to win without compromising their morals, even if it requires risk or sacrifice. And again, Dol Arrah guides mediators and diplomats who prevent unnecessary bloodshed.
So where a paladin of the Silver Flame defends, a paladin of Dol Arrah needs to inspire—to lead others into battle and to inspire them to fight with honor. For a paladin, Oath of Devotion is an easy option, but the Oath of Glory is another clear choice; the Inspiring Smite reflects the rallying power of Dol Arrah. At the same time, the Oath of Vengeance can also work if you are emphasizing the active aggression of the mission—the drive to defeat the enemy rather than to defend the innocent. However, this quest for victory should never come before honor or justice… unless, of course, your champion actually serves all Three Faces of War instead of just Dol Arrah!
For clerics, War, Life, and Light are all possible domains. War and Life both reflect a champion who will fight in the vanguard, inspiring allies and getting the wounded back on their feet. The Light domain reflects Dol Arrah’s role as the Warrior Sun; the cleric should still seek out the battlefield, but they can stay behind the vanguard, inspiring and exhorting them while striking enemies with the sun’s wrath.
In either case, Martial Adept—or a few levels of Battlemaster fighter—is an excellent way to convey the martial nature of Dol Arrah and to make the champion feel like a leader. Commander’s Strike, Commanding Presence, and Maneuvering Strike are all ways to reflect the idea of the Arrah champion as a leader and strategist who relies on wisdom over brute force. Persuasion and Insight are both important skills for a champion who seeks to resolve battles without bloodshed, and Commanding Presence also helps with Persuasion!
I’m suggesting that a champion of Dol Arrah should have a divine mission, that the Sovereign has called them to service to fight a war. How does this fit with the distant nature of the divine in Eberron? The Sovereigns don’t manifest physically in Eberron. People can still have dreams or visions of them; the point is that a skeptic can say how do you know your dream wasn’t just a dream… or even the work of a night hag or quori? And the simple fact is that there’s no easy way TO know; it’s a matter of faith. But in general, Vassals believe that the Sovereigns speak to them through instinct and intuition. The champion may simply know what their mission is with an absolute certainty, that they realize things, or see signs they can’t quite explain in everyday events… when they hear the name Mika Rockface they simply know it is their destiny to bring her down. An intermediary step is what I describe in this article: the idea that the champion receives visions but that they aren’t entirely clear. When they see Mika Rockface, they see a bloody sword hanging over her; when they see the player character destined to become prince, they see a crown floating over their head. The champion is in touch with a divine power, but it’s not something that can be questioned. Another intermediary step is to give the champion a celestial intermediary, as often happens with spells such as commune. The champion has visions of a mighty warrior in red dragonscale armor; at some point in the future they will discover this is actually a Shavaran angel who serves Honor-In-War, who feels compelled to guide them through their mission.
With a broad mission—restore Cyre—the war may last the entire campaign and never actually be won; it’s what drives the champion, but it’s not actually within the scope of the campaign. On the other hand, with a small, narrow war it’s possible the champion will win their war well before the campaign is over. In this case, the player and the DM must decide how to proceed. Does the champion receive a new, even greater mission? Or are they allowed to rest… in which case, the paladin could potentially be redesigned as a fighter, laying down both their divine powers and obligations?
That’s all for now. In conclusion, in playing a champion of Dol Arrah, consider the war you’ve been charged to fight; the manner in which you receive your divine guidance; your broader devotion to the Sovereign Host; and in general, your duty to fight with honor and inspire others to do the same. Happy holidays, and thanks to my Patreon supporters for asking this question and for making these articles possible!
Chronicles of Eberron is my latest release on the DM’s Guild… over two hundred pages of Eberron lore and advice. The content in Chronicles began with articles on this site, but with each chapter I reviewed, reconsidered, and expanded the material. In some case this involved significant rewriting; in others, the additions are mainly art and the mechanical elements. Here’s a look at just a few of the surprises in Chronicles of Eberron!
Over the past few years I’ve delved into the uses of sentira, a material used by both the kalashtar and the Inspired. Sentira is a psiactive material that is, essentially, crystalized emotion. Canon long ago introduced the concept of sentira armor; now Chronicles of Eberron provides sentira weapons, lenses that allow you to cripple your enemies with bolts of emotional energy. Sentira lenses inflict psychic damage, and someone has asked what this FEELS like. In my opinion, that’s based on the type of emotion involved. It’s essentially an overwhelming, intense burst of the emotion in question, so powerful that it’s a shock to your system even if the emotion is pleasant. I think the typical Inspired weapon would use negative emotions, blasting you with fear or despair. On the other hand, I like the idea of a kalashtar lens that is a blast of love; it reduces your hit points not by hurting you, but rather by overwhelming you with bliss.
Chronicles of Eberron includes a deep chapter on Riedra and on the role of psionics in 5th edition Eberron. Sentira lenses are something Imogen Gingell and I developed for the book, expanding on the idea of psionic science.
How do I add this ancestry to Eberron is the question I have been asked with the most frequency over the course of the last decade. Anytime a new book comes out… how do Harengon fit into Eberron? How about Owlen? This is a topic I’ve discussed before, and Chronicles of Eberron discusses the general principles I use when making these decisions. However, it also includes more specific answers than I’ve given in the past—with concrete suggests as to how I’d add or modify thirteen ancestries for use in Eberron. If you’ve been itching to see what I’d to with grungs in my game, Chronicles has the answer!
Chronicles of Eberron includes an image of Mordain the Fleshweaver working at a cauldron. Some people have responded to this saying Does he have an extra hand? Nope! What he has is friends. Dragon 364 introduced skinweavers, creatures Mordain creates from the heads and hands of other creatures. Papadaki’s image is a callback to the art in Dragon 364; there’s a skinweaver hand stirring the pot, and a skinweaver head looking down from above. Of course, these aren’t his only little friends; if you look at Mordain’s belt you’ll see that he has a frightened frog—or is it a grung shrunk down with reduce—in one of his flasks!
One of the questions that’s come up regarding Chronicles of Eberron is why I changed the name of the dwarves of Dor Maleer from Akiak to Doriak. The short form is that they never should have been called Akiak in the first place. The Akiak are indigenous people of North America. I don’t know how this was overlooked in the first place; I didn’t work on that section of Secrets of Sarlona and don’t know how the name was developed, and I appreciate the members of the Eberron community who called this out. “Doriak” is a term that has been used by the Eberron community; it keeps enough of the original sound for some familiarity, and Do- evokes both Dor Maleer and Dolurrh.
Marco Bernadini is a joy to work with. He created the planar map in Exploring Eberron, and he’s made a wonderful map of Threshold I look forward to sharing in the future. For Chronicles of Eberron we commissioned him to create a detailed map of Riedra—including callouts that gave a glimpse into each province. The details he added to the piece are astonishing. Marco developed symbols for each of the branches of Riedran government. Looking to the Provinces, he did just as we asked—giving a glimpse of a moment in each province—but he added an extra detail, working the symbols of the planes that have the greatest influence in each province into the frame of the callout. So in this image you see the ominous gate of the Final Passage, but also the symbols of Dolurrh and Risia around it.
That’s all for now! If you’ve read Chronicles of Eberron, feel free to share something that surprised you or drew your attention in the comments.
Hektula is the Scribe of Sul Khatesh, the Keeper of the Library of Ashtakala, and the Chronicler of the Lords of Dust. Her treasured tomes hold arcane secrets still hidden from human and dragon alike. What lies beneath the Barren Sea? What powers does Mordain the Fleshweaver wield within Blackroot? Who are the Grim Lords of the Bloodsail Principality? All these secrets and many more can be found in the Chronicles of Eberron…
Eberron is vast in scope. As we close in on nearly two decades of exploring Eberron, there are still countless corners of the world that have never been dealt with in depth. I’ve personally written hundreds of articles exploring the world and offering advice, but in the past there’s always been limits on what I could do; I could write about the history of the daelkyr Avassh, but I couldn’t present a statblock for DMs seeking to pit their bold adventurers against the Twister of Roots. In Chronicles of Eberron, I expand on many of my favorite topics, and this lore is enhanced with game elements created by Imogen Gingell. Would you like to play a Stonesinger druid from the island of Lorghalen? To fight Mordain the Fleshweaver or to explore the forbidden magics of the Shadow? All this and more can be found within.
All told, Chronicles of Eberron includes 22 chapters and is over 200 pages in length. It is split into two sections. The Library covers topics that are of interest to both players and DMs. How do harengon fit into Eberron? Who are the gnomes of Pylas Pyrial? Can a player character be devoted to the Devourer? The Vault explores distant lands and deeper secrets, dealing with overlords and daelkyr, demon cities, and the realm of the the Inspired. Wherever your adventures may take you, you’ll find something you can use in Chronicles of Eberron.
The book is complete, but the process of preparing it for print on demand isn’t something we can rush; we need to review the final print proofs before we can release it. Those proofs are in the mail, and if there’s no issues we expect Chronicles of Eberron will be available at or by PAX Unplugged—the first weekend of December 2022—but there’s still a chance it could be delayed. I can’t wait to have it in my hands, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.
Would you like to support your favorite nation? Now you can! These shirts are in no way official content, but if you enjoy Eberron, you might have a sense of how the Dragon Hawk, the Crowned Bear, the Lost Crown, the Blood Moon, and the Flame could fit into it. These images were created by Matthew Johnson for Chronicles of Eberron, and the shirts are available right now at Twogether Studios!
Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold is a subsetting that explores the region that lies between Droaam and Breland. I’ve been working on it since 2020, but I had to put it on hold for pandemic and personal reasons. However, it is still in development and I expect to release it in 2023.
Thanks for your support!
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
It’s been a busy month and I haven’t had a lot of time to write, in part because I’ve been making games like Cool Cool Cool, currently in its final day on Kickstarter! However, every month I answer questions from my patrons on Patreon, and I wanted to address two of those at once!
Rather than creating entirely unique undead, I tend to add regional flavor to existing creatures. Consider the ruins of Shadukar, a Thrane city set ablaze by Karrnath during the Last War, abandoned ever since due to the infestation of restless dead. Shadukar remains under an eternal haze of smoke and ash that refuses to disperse. Those who’ve entered the ruins and survive talk of smoke ghosts, moaning figures formed from soot and the scent of burnt flesh who seek to draw the heat from living creatures… and the charred, blackened bones still cloaked in a faint, smoky outline of the flesh they once wore. The practical fact is that these are just shadows and skeletons, though I add the details that smoke ghosts aren’t resistant to fire; their fiery demise is still seared into their memory, and a torch is a good way to drive off these lingering dead.
In dealing with undead, the first question I want to answer is why does this creature exist? There’s two basic paths here—Spontaneous undead and Intentional undead.
Intentional Undead are created by a sentient entity, whether that’s mortal necromancers or immortal beings. Lady Illmarrow, Katashka the Gatekeeper, the Bone King of Mabar, the long-dead Qabalrin elves of Xen’drik. Sentient undead are created for a purpose, and you should get a sense of that—the signature of the creator. Notably, Katahska the Gatekeeper delights in mortal FEAR of death and the undead, so its creations are intentionally grotesque and designed to provoke terror; while the Qabalrin sought solely to overcome death through undead. Thus, Qabalrin vampires are elegant and subtle, draining blood with delicate fangs that leave barely-visible wounds… while a vampire of Katahska uses a writhing wormlike proboscis that leaves hideous wounds, and the feeding is horrifying for both victim and observers. The Katashka vampire is supposed to provoke terror; that’s part of its purpose.
Spontaneous Undead are generally created due to an intersection of planar energies and emotion. Mabaran undead are driven to consume life force in some form (whether as blood, raw energy, or something else); they are typically hungry. Dolurrhi undead are the more traditional restless dead driven by unfinished business or an emotional anchor, something I discussed in more depth earlier this month with haunts. Mabaran undead are often monstrous, as they are hungry manifestations of entropy and despair, while Dolurrhi undead will usually display some hint of their anchors in their appearance.
So with this in mind, let’s consider the dullahan—the headless horseman. In standard 5E lore, dullahans are “the remains of villains who let vengeance consume them… Wicked knights or commanders in life, dullahans adhere to twisted codes of chivalry or soldiership.” By default, the dullahan is an easy candidate for spontaneous Dolurrhi undead. As I called out in the haunts article, battlefields where terrible tragedies occurred are often haunted; I’d say that the dullahan normally lingers in the Ethereal Veil of the battlefield where it dies, unable to cross by choice, but drawn into the world at certain times to search for its lost head. Such a dullahan could come from any culture; a Brelish commander whose head was destroyed by an arcane blast, a Dhakaani hobgoblin whose head was vaporized by a beholder, a Talenta raptor-rider whose head was stolen by a rival. Part of the idea of the spontaneous dullahan is that it can be laid to rest—you can fight it, sure, but you could also possibly resolve the situation by finding their head or by somehow offering them peace.
That’s one option. I could imagine a servant of Katashka the Gatekeeper stealing the head of a deceased hero and using it in a ritual that raises the former champion as a tormented dullahan, forced to so terror in the community it once loved until it is restored to its head; so again, the adventurers might be forced to fight the dullahan, but unless they can find its head and lay it to rest, it will always return. As noted above, with a Katashka dullahan I’d emphasize the horror—graveworms writhing in its exposed flesh, chunks of is body sloughing away as it takes damage, the sense that the dullahan is in agony even as it is forced to fight.
Another way to use an intentional dullahan would be to reverse the formula and make it a voluntary transformation: rather than seeking its lost head, the dullahan’s head could be like the phylactery of a lich. Returning to the Talenta Plains, consider the story of Headless Haralara…
When Haralara was astride her clawfoot Scythe, none could match them for speed or skill. Together they were faster than any fastieth and as silent as nightfall. Long ago, there was a night of six moons and a swordtooth titan was seen on the planes. The maskweavers called a great hunt, and said that the first hunter to draw the blood of the beast would be blessed. All knew this would surely be Haralara—and so the other hunters forged a pact, to hunt together not for the titan, but to take Haralara’s head. These were the finest hunters in the Plains save for Haralara herself. United, none could stand against them; when Haralara heard of this, she knew she was doomed. But Haralara was clever. They couldn’t take her head if they couldn’t find it; so she hide it where it would never be found, and then, riding Scythe, Headless Haralara hunted down each and every one of her enemies and took their heads. She rode with them into the night lands, where she haunts and hunts to this day; woe to the hunter who draws the absent eye of Headless Haralara.
In this case, Haralara knows where her head is… and as long as it’s hidden, she can’t be permanently destroyed. If she takes an interest in a group of adventurers—Because a halfling adventurer is the descendant of one of her old enemies? Because the adventurers killed a beast she was hunting?—they can defeat her temporarily in combat, but the only way to permanently escape her wrath is to figure out where she hid her head so long ago!
I’ll note that these thoughts on the dullahan are based on the fifth edition interpretation of the creature, which is largely inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Really, this creature should just be call a headless horseman; the dullahan is drawn from Irish folklore and has a far deeper and more significant role there than “ghost searching for its head.” I actually created statistics for this fey psychopomp in a book I wrote for 3.5 called Classic Fey. But for purposes of this article, I’m focusing on the creature as presented in fifth edition.
That’s all for now! I won’t be answering questions, but as a bonus for patrons, I’m posting four ghoul variants on Patreon! Happy Halloween!
The cosmology of Eberron is often depicted as a vast orrery. Each of the thirteen planes embodies a particular concept, while the material plane is the nexus where all of their ideas are expressed—the realm of life and death, war and peace, story and stagnation. The Astral Plane is the space between and beyond them, embodying nothing. What, then, is the Ethereal Plane and how does it differ from the Astral?
First of all, forget everything you know from canon sources, Eberron or otherwise. This article is about how I use the Ethereal Plane in my campaign, which combines aspects of the traditional Ethereal Plane, the Plane of Shadow, the Shadowfell, and the Feywild… and builds from there. And the first difference is, don’t call it a plane. If you want to move between planes, or between Eberron and the rest of the Multiverse, you’ll travel through the Astral Plane. The Ethereal has no defining concept, and most importantly, it has no independent existence; it’s a shadow cast by another plane. With this in mind, most scholars in Eberron don’t call it the Ethereal Plane; they call it the Ethereal Veil. Think of it as the backstage of reality, a layer that lets you slip outside reality while still being close enough to observe it.
In this article, I’ll start with a general overview of the Ethereal Veil and then delve into two additional ways you can interact with the Ethereal: Haunts and Borders.
The Ethereal Veil is a gray shadow of the world. For the most part, the Veil functions exactly as described in canon.
While on the Ethereal Plane, you can see and hear the plane you originated from, which is cast in shades of gray, and you can’t see anything there more than 60 feet away. You can only affect and be affected by other creatures on the Ethereal Plane. Creatures that aren’t there can’t perceive you or interact with you, unless they have the ability to do so. You ignore all objects and effects that aren’t on the Ethereal Plane, allowing you to move through objects you perceive on the plane you originated from. The Ethereal Plane also disobeys the laws of gravity; a creature there can move up and down as easily as walking.
Standing in the Veil, you see a gray shadow of reality. You can see the misty forms of buildings, of trees, of people going about their business… but you cannot be seen or heard, and you cannot affect the adjacent reality. With few exceptions, the Veil is empty. It reflects the adjacent reality, but it holds nothing of its own, and for this reason people rarely stay there for long; there’s no food, no water, and most of the time, no people. As noted earlier, the Veil is an extension of whatever plane you’re currently on. Eberron has an Ethereal Veil, but so does Fernia and so does Syrania; the Veil of Fernia is a gray shadow of Fernia, where the fires are cold and you can pass through the obsidian walls.
Two important facts are that while you can see the images of things in the Material plane—what I’ll call echoes—you can’t affect them and can move through them. This includes the ground beneath your feet. As called out in the description above, “a creature there can move up and down as easily as walking.” This looks like walking, and uses the traveler’s standard movement speed; it’s simply that your feet find purchase wherever you want them to. This also means that you could, for example, just start walking straight down toward the core of the planet. However, you’re walking blind. If you hit a Border or a Haunt, the matter you’re dealing with may suddenly become impermeable, or gravity might reassert itself. And if your magic should fail, the standard rules say “You immediately return to the plane you originated from in the spot you currently occupy. If you occupy the same spot as a solid object or creature when this happens, you are immediately shunted to the nearest unoccupied space that you can occupy and take force damage equal to twice the number of feet you are moved.” If you’re deep in solid rock, that could be a very unpleasant return.
The people of Khorvaire know the Ethereal Veil exists, but there’s limited ways to reach it. The two most common tools are blink (which has a maximum duration of one minute) and etherealness (a high level spell that lasts for up to eight hours). When you enter the Veil, the magic that keeps you there also affects the objects you bring with you. If you blink across the Veil and drop a Shard of Rak Tulkhesh it will return to the material plane as soon as the spell ends… so it’s not an easy dumping ground for cursed objects, nor is it an easy matter to build things there (though if you time things right, you might be able to drop a bomb in there just before it explodes… just ask Three Widow Jane in my Threshold campaign!).
Of course, the Veil isn’t much use if there’s no good way for adventurers to get there. Here’s a few options to consider.
Eberron is a world where the supernatural is part of nature. The Ethereal Veil is part of life, just like air and water—and just like fish adapt to water and birds soar through the air, there are creatures in Eberron who naturally interact with the Ethereal Veil. Phase spiders are a perfect example of this—a predator with a natural ability to cross the Veil at will. While blink dogs currently teleport directly from point to point, I like to take their name literally and imagine them darting through the Veil, if only for a moment.
Night Hags are another possible threat. Along with their nightmares, these fiends have always had free access to the Veil. Every night hag has at least one sanctum hidden in the Ethereal Veil, and most have left other markers and monuments scattered around it. An old iron lantern hidden in the veil might monitor dreams, calling to the hag who forged it when there’s something worthy of attention. A monolith might be a cache where a hag stores the (literal) nightmares she collects—or she might have a stable of equine nightmares hidden in the Veil. Given the vast scope of the Ethereal Veil, adventurers are unlikely to stumble upon hag creations by accident, but night hags can definitely be a source of deadly traps or enigmatic elements waiting to be found across the Veil.
Another traditionally Ethereal-dwelling species are the Ethergaunts. Originally they’re presented as an alien species with an advanced civilization in the Ethereal Plane. Canon lore suggested that they were tied to the Daelkyr. Personally, I’d take a different approach. I don’t want a powerful civilization in the Veil, and the Daelkyr have enough going on. But I love the idea of eerie alien scientists who are watching us from beyond the Veil—who could be in the room with you right now. I love the thought of an Ethergaunt triggering a series of bizarre and seemingly impossible events—a man killed, the pieces of his body discovered in different locked vaults—in pursuit of fear, or even of children’s toys appearing from nowhere as a way to trigger joy. With this in mind, I’d tie the Ethergaunts to Mordain the Fleshweaver. Mordain never leaves Blackroot. But I love the idea that he’s created a corps of agents who are active all over the world… but active on the other side of the Veil. I love the idea of a man being questioned about an impossible murder, and when the Medani inquisitve casts see invisibility they are shocked by the hideous creature watching the interrogation from across the Veil. And the point of this approach is that each ethergaunt has its own task. It’s not introducing another organized enemy; it’s an army of invisible terrors, each pursuing a unique and unpredictable goal as they gather data for their creator. The final piece of this puzzle is how Mordain created the ethergaunts. Were they made from raw materials? Or did Mordain kidnap Orien heirs—beneath their armor, do ethergaunts have a bizarrely evolved form of the Mark of Passage?
Beyond this, part of the role of the Veil is to be undiscovered and unknown. It is as vast as the reality itself, and there may be powers within it that humanity has simply never encountered. It’s an alien world waiting to be discover that is all around us, just beyond what our eyes can see.
All this deals with the broad swath of the Veil, the gray shadow of the reality. But there are places where the Ethereal takes a more concrete form; the two most common of these are Haunts and Borders.
As described in this article, most ghosts in Eberron are “souls trapped between Eberron and Dolurrh, driven to complete their unfinished business or held fast by emotions or memories they can’t let go. While they have at least some of their memories from life, most ghosts aren’t fully aware of their condition or the passage of time, and they generally can’t retain new information.” Let’s call these restless spirits lingering ghosts.
When a lingering ghost is bound to a location—typically due to traumatic events that occurred there—it resides in the Ethereal Veil. Most such ghosts aren’t aware of the passage of time. They linger in the ether until something pulls them across the Veil, typically something tied to the anchors keeping them from Dolurrh. Most of the time, a lingering ghost simply drifts through the shadows of the Ethereal Veil, endlessly retracing its steps until something triggers a reaction. However, a lingering ghost driven by exceptionally powerful emotions or memories can reshape the Veil, imposing its own memories upon the the shadows of reality. So it may be that the ir’Halan Manor is a crumbling ruin stripped by looters long ago—but if a warlock blinks into the Veil, they find themselves in a vibrant replica of ir’Halan Manor at its height. There’s a fire in the hearth, music in the air, and guests mingling and murmuring. This is a Haunt—a recreation of the night that Lady ir’Halan was betrayed and murdered. It’s here that her ghost dwells, endlessly recreating that final night. Ethereal travelers can interact with objects and effects that are part of the Haunt; someone who blinks into the memory of ir’Halan Manor will find that they can’t walk through the walls and that normal gravity is in effect, and that they can take a drink from the waiter passing by. However, for the most part the elements of a Haunt are only real within the Veil. A traveler can take a drink from a waiter and they can savor the flavor of it… but when they blink back to reality, the glass fades from their hand and the wine itself fades from their system. In many ways it’s like a powerful illusion; a popular arcane theory asserts that many illusion spells function by shaping the Veil and pulling it into reality. But while you’re in the Veil, a haunt seems real.
The classic Haunt is tied to a single ghost; if that ghost is destroyed or laid to rest, the Veil will return to its gray shadow of reality. However, a Haunt can also be shaped by a mass surge of emotions or pain so powerful that they leave psychic scars on reality. The site of a massacre, a prisoner of war camp, an orphanage… all of these can leave Haunts on the other side of the Veil. Where the ghost Haunts often perfectly recreate a moment from the past, traumatic Haunts are often more surreal. If you’re in the ruins of a village destroyed by brutal soldiers during the Last War, the Haunt on the other side of the Veil could be haunted by shadowy creatures that blend the traits of Brelish soldier and beast, using the statistics of worgs; the Veil remembers the terror and brutality, not the precise details. As with ghost Haunts, traumatic haunts feel real to people who enter the Veil; travelers can’t move through objects, people can’t walk through the air, and threats can inflict real damage.
While Haunts are usually tied to locations, a lingering ghost can also be tied to an object… or even to a particular event, such as a song. In such instances the ghost won’t completely transform the Veil, but it will leak elements of its anchoring trauma into the environment.
See invisibility is a 2nd level spell and allows the caster to peer beyond the Veil. As such, it’s an important tool for mediums and exorcists; as it’s a gift of the Mark of Detection, House Medani inquisitives may be called in to investigate suspected Haunts.
Beyond ghosts and trauma, there’s another force that can create Haunts within the Veil: the Overlords of the First Age. An unbound overlord can shape reality; a bound overlord might reshape the Veil in its image. The most logical place for this would be around an Overlord’s prison. If you cross the Veil near the prison of the Wild Heart, you might find that the echoes of the woods are not only solid but writhing and aggressive. The Veil in the vicinity of one of Rak Tulkhesh’s prison shards might be stained with blood and the refuse of recent battle… a foreshadowing of Rak Tulkhesh’s desires. Another possibility is that the devotions of a Cult of the Dragon Below could channel the influence of their overlord to shape the Veil in their place of power. Sul Khatesh’s Court of Shadows imagine a magical kingdom that exists beyond the world; it could be that through their devotion, a powerful chapter of the Court could create this shadow-kingdom on the other side of the Veil. If so, the question is whether Sul Khatesh allows her cultists to cross the Veil, or if they simply have the ability to SEE these umbral spires rising behind reality when others cannot. In a twist—in part because otherwise it would be all too easy for House Medani to monitor cults—in my campaign Overlord Haunt effects can’t be seen by see invisibility, though true seeing will reveal their presence; just as rakshasa resist low level spells, the influence of the overlords isn’t so easily revealed.
Lingering ghosts usually don’t know that they’re ghosts. They linger because they’re trapped in a particular moment or by a powerful anchor, and they interpret all events through that emotional lens. Often when dealing with adventurers, a lingering ghost will fixate on one or more adventurers who bear some similarity to characters from their own personal drama—recognizing the bard as the lover who spurned them, or the rogue as the cousin who ruined them—and completely ignore the other adventurers. They generally can’t be reasoned with and simply won’t hear things that don’t fit their narrative. Persuasion and Intimidation often have little impact on them, because they essentially can’t change their minds… unless the speaker is actually invoking part of the ghost’s story, in which case a check might have advantage.
Lingering ghosts can use the standard ghost stat block from the Monster Manual, but they aren’t visible on the material plane while in the Veil; there could be lingering ghosts around you right now, but you’ll never know unless something pulls them across the Veil. Also, because lingering ghosts don’t know they’re ghosts, they don’t always take full tactical advantage of their capabilities in combat. They may use Horrifying Visage instinctively, manifesting their horrifying visage in a moment of anguish or rage. Possession is often used to seize control of an adventurer who has some similarities to the ghost’s living form; the ghost doesn’t recognize that they are possessing someone and believes the body is their own. However, the classic ghost stat block is only a starting point. Depending on the ghost’s scenario and the strength of its anguish, it could be a simple poltergeist or even something as powerful as a dullahan. While the core stat blocks are a good place to start, part of what makes encounters with lingering ghosts interesting is to vary them based on the story and unique nature of the ghost.
Taking a scenario like the ir’Halan manor, the house may appear to be full of people, and the people in these crowd scenes aren’t full ghosts. They’re shades, memories plucked from the life of the lingering ghost. Often shades have no real existence. They’re essentially manifestations of the phantasmal force spell. Any direct attack or defense against such a shade should be resolved with a Wisdom saving throw against the spell DC of the lingering ghost; a shade’s attack deals 1d6 psychic damage. More potent shades could use the statistics of a shadow or a poltergeist; alternately, they could use the statistics of other creatures (such as the worg-soldiers in the massacre haunt). Like the lingering ghost, shades are bound to play out their roles and may not use abilities they possess if they don’t fit their role in the story.
A Haunt reflects the anchors that are binding the ghost to the world, which may not be related to the actual moment of their death. The ir’Halan manor scenario may reflect the night Lady ir’Halan was murdered, but the haunted Cannith foundry may reflect the day that Castar d’Cannith murdered his father or ruined his partner; even if Castar died a natural death, it’s his intense guilt over what he did in the foundry that binds him to the world. In dealing with anchors, consider the following questions.
Loosening an anchor could be a task for an altruistic group of adventurers who want to lay a ghost to rest. However, it can also simply be used to set the tone and parameters of a haunt. A murdered many may not be able to rest until the entire family line of his murderer has been exterminated. The adventurers may consider this extreme and ruthless desire to be vile and cruel; the point is that the ghost’s haunt may reflect their hunger for bloody vengeance, and if one of the player characters is part of the murderer’s bloodline, it could drive the story.
The material plane is influenced by all of the other planes. Where this influence is especially strong, you find manifest zones. Traits of the outer plane bleed into the material, and planar energies may produce unusual flora or fauna. However, often manifest zones aren’t obvious to the naked eye. It’s the influence of Syrania that makes it possible for the towers of Sharn to scrape the sky, but if you never try flying, you might never notice its effects.
This changes when you cross the Veil. Where another plane touches the material, you’ll find the Border Ethereal—a dramatic blending of the two realms. The Border Ethereal generally reflects the reality of the material plane in its layout and structure; when you blink into the Veil from a tower in Sharn, you’ll still be in a tower with roughly the same shape. But the cliffs over the Dagger are now formed of thick cloudstuff. The towers themselves are formed of crystal and mist. You can see shadow angels circling in the skies, along with whorls of living cloud-stuff (the minor air elementals mentioned on page 152 of Rising From The Last War).
Likewise, imagine a Fernian manifest zone in the King’s Forest of Breland. In the material plane, this stretch of jungle is unseasonably warm and prone to flash fires. But when you cross the veil, you find that same forest, except that the trees are always on fire and yet never consumed. Mephits leap from tree to tree, delighting in the flames. While the trees are never consumed, their flames will burn any travelers who touch them, and the stifling heat is deadly to mortals.
In short, the Border Ethereal takes on some of the elements of the traditional Feywild (Thelanian Borders) and Shadowfell (Borders with Dolurrh or Mabar), while adding a host of other blended realms. However, the stories of the Border Ethereal are smaller in scope and scale than the stories of the planes; you might make a deal with a terrifying hag in a Thelanian Border, but if you want to deal with an archfey or dance in the Palace of the Moon, you need to go to Thelanis itself.
You can use any of the methods described in Breaching the Veil to reach a Border, but sometimes there are other options unique to the manifest zone. Dance in the ring of mushrooms when Rhaan is full and you might end up on the other side of the Veil. Sacrifice something you love in fire, and your grief might drag you across the Fernian border. These passages shouldn’t be easy—it’s not like the locals should have regular commerce with the Border Ethereal—and most zones don’t have them, but they can provide ways for adventurers to have an adventure across the Veil without having to spend a fortune on oil of etherealness, and a way to have a taste of the planes without entirely leaving home.
One of the major things that distinguishes the Border Ethereal from the planes they’re connected to are the inhabitants. The Border Ethereal resembles a blend of the two planes, and people can see shadows of the inhabitants on both sides of the veil. In the example given above, the angels that can be seen in the skies of the Border Ethereal in Sharn aren’t present in the border; they’re shadowy images of the denizens of Syrania, flying through their own skies. The borders of Shavarath appear war-torn and you may see misty images of conscripts and fiends, but the damage you see in the environment around you wasn’t actually caused by recent action. So for the most part, the Border Ethereal is empty and relatively safe for travelers. However, there are exceptions.
The Ethereal Veil extends from the plane its attached to, but no farther. There’s no Deep Ethereal, no curtains to other planes; the Astral Plane is the primary corridor for travel. However, the Borders are where planes come together, and it may be possible to move between material and the connected planes in such places. Anchor Lords often have the power to open passages for travelers. Otherwise, passages are often well hidden and may require particular actions to open. There might be a gate of rusted iron in a Shavarath Border that only opens when blood is spilled in anger, or a clearing in Thelanis that provides passage when adventurers tell the story of their destination.
Typically the Border Ethereal resembles the overlapping region in the Material Plane—the material foundation—transformed to reflect the influence of the outer plane. The Lamannian Border of a city will be overgrown; the Shavaran Border of a city will be shattered by war. The misty echoes of the creatures of the material plane can be seen moving around, and occasionally echoes of extraplanar beings can be seen as well.
A crucial feature of the Border Ethereal is that its structures are solid. Explorers can’t walk through the burning trees of a forest in a Fernian Border, or the fortified walls of a Shavaran Border. Gravity is also usually in effect in Borders, so people can’t walk through the air. Here’s a few elements you could find in the Border Ethereal; the planar traits referred to are described in Exploring Eberron.
That’s all for now! Feel free to discuss the topic in the comments, but I won’t be answering questions. If you’d like to ask me questions on this or other topics, check out my Patreon! And thanks to my patrons for making these articles possible.