Random Rolls: Forgotten Civilizations

My previous article calls out the fact that there may have been hundreds of civilizations that rose and fell over the course of the Age of Demons. Most of these cultures were directly influenced or guided by one of the overlords, which would allow rapid progress along a particular path and, most likely, an apocalyptic end; for Rak Tulkhesh, the only reason to create a civilization is to watch it fight increasingly brutal wars until it finally falls or destroys itself.

The Age of Demons came to an end a hundred thousand years ago, and many of these civilizations are millions of years old. Combined with their dramatic falls, few have left any traces of their existence. However, it’s always possible adventurers could fine a relic or a vault tied to one of these primordial civilizations, or encounter a vision of the past. These tables provide a quick foundation for a random civilization. The first presents a nation that could have existed on ancient Khorvaire. The second suggests a patron overlord and how that association would influence the culture. It may seem like the overlord should override the entry on the first table—that a civilization tied to Sul Khatesh should always be noteworthy for its arcane magic and that a nation created by Rak Tulkhesh would always be militant and known for its soldiers or weapons of war. But the two elements can co-exist. A nation crafted by Sul Khatesh will have magic as part of everyday life. But if the first table suggests it’s a militant empire known for its weapons of war, add arcane magic to that; its weapons of war are siege staffs or rituals of mass destruction. Rak Tulkhesh could create an isolated league of halflings known for their scholars and sages; but the scholars would be studying the nature of war and they would periodically emerge from isolated to ransack their neighbors.

This table is tied to Khorvaire, and as a result doesn’t include humans, giants, or dragons as the foundation of a nation. The category Extinct Creatures suggests something that was wiped out during the Age of Demons; if you get this result you could decide that there were humans or giants in Khorvaire in the past, or you could use a species that is completely unknown in the present day.

I have yet to write about the history of Khorvaire before the Dhakaani Empire, and you could use this table to create nations that might have existed during the Age of Giants. In this case you only need to use the first table; the question is what ultimately became of the civilization, if it’s completely unknown in the present day.

Ancient Civilizations

Roll on each column (or choose a result) to create a nation that once existed on Khorvaire!

d12A …Of…Noteworthy for its…
1DecliningEmpireOrcsArcane Magic
3IsolatedLeagueGnomesPoetry or Music
4OppressiveKingdomGoblinoidsWeapons of War
5BrutalTheocracySentient BeastsSpiritual Beliefs
6CruelClanDwarvesMassive Monuments
7PrimitiveTribeLizardfolkBeasts or Monstrosities
9MilitantOrderTieflingsHidden Celestials
10FanaticalCultMinotaursConstructs and Artifice
11PowerfulGuildKoboldsCrime Syndicates
12TerrifyingInstitutionExtinct CreaturesScholars and Sages

Overlord’s Influence

What overlord is associated with the civilization, and how is its influence felt?

d10Overlord’s Cultural Impact
1Sul Khatesh. Dangerous magic. The society could be based around arcane science, with powerful wizards and artificers and oppressive mystical industry. Or it could be a civilization driven by secretive warlocks—though these warlocks would likely all have pacts with fiendish lieutenants of Sul Khatesh. Magic is dangerous and common people live in fear of it.
2Rak Tulkhesh. Engine of War. This civilization will be obsessed with war. It could be an mighty imperial power engaged in constant military expansion, or it could be driven by endless internal conflict—rival warlords constantly testing strength and crushing anyone who shows weakness.
3Bel Shalor. Fear and Loathing. This society will be driven by fear. Its people fear one another just as much as they fear external enemies. It will have excessive fortifications and security measures, along with hosts of secret police. People often succumb to their own worst impulses. Shadows may play an active role as allies, tools, or as a threat.
4Eldrantulku. Endless Intrigue. The Oathbreaker delights in intrigue and betrayal. His nations will be filled with secret societies, mystery cults, and complex political systems rife with backstabbing and corruption.
5Tul Oreshka. Hermits and Heretics. The Truth in the Darkness revels in revelations. Any society driven by Tul Oreshka would be driven by visions and moments of inspirations. Given that Tul Oreshka delights in the fear of secrets revealed, there could be a powerful central authority—whether a church, library, or government—that is forever fighting against schims, heretics, and rebels. Poetry and other art from such a nation might be very powerful.
6Katashka. The Quick and the Dead. The Gatekeeper thrives on the fear of death and the undead. This could be internal—a nation ruled by tyrannical lich-lords or vampires who terrify their living suspects. Or it could be external, with a nation endlessly struggling to hold off a plague of the restless dead.
7Tol Kharash. The Iron Fist. The Horned King promotes soul-crushing tyranny. Any society he creates will brutally oppress its own people, as well as seeking to subjugate others. Compared to Eldrantulku or Bel Shalor, this oppression will be active and physical; the Horned King lacks the subtlety of those other overlords.
8The Daughter of Khyber. Dragonfear. As with Katashka and undead, the Daughter of Khyber delights in mortal fear of dragons. The cultures she creates could serve draconic masters and work together to terrify other nations… Or, the society could be driven by utter fear of dragons, scraping to raise tribute for their dragon lords and forever rebuilding from the last attack.
9Masvirik. Hidden Serpents. The Cold Sun delights in warmblooded fears. Lizardfolk or kobold societies could be early variations of the Poison Dusk. A culture based on another species could be an excellent place for spontaneous yuan-ti—with the common folk living in fear of the malevolent serpents hidden in their midst. I also imagine elaborate traditions of poison…
10Ashurak. Plague and Pestilence. The Slow Death trades in disease. Ashurak’s nations might live in constant fear of a perennial plague, going to great lengths to watch for signs of infection and ruthlessly sealing away anyone who shows symptoms. Alternately—like the Plaguebearers of the present day—Ashurak’s people could be carriers for a disease they’re immune to, taking it into the territories of other overlords like missionaries spreading the word.

Keep in mind that a single overlord could seed multiple civilizations at once. Rak Tulkhesh could shape a powerful league of orcs known for their weapons of war and a brutal clan of dwarves known for their soldiers, because he wants to watch them fight and see which successfully evolves into a cruel empire known for its massive monuments.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. I will be doing a live Q&A on my Patreon Discord for patrons at 9 AM Pacific Time on Saturday, July 22nd. If you’re interested in joining live or watching the recording—or in playing in a session of my ongoing Eberron campaign—check out my Patreon!

10 thoughts on “Random Rolls: Forgotten Civilizations

  1. “Or it could be external, with a nation endlessly struggling to hold off a plague of the restless dead.”

    So you’re saying Katashka the Gatekeeper could be the Evil Overlord who created Dread Metrol…fascinating.

  2. I’d honestly never even thought about “civlizations” during the Age of Demons. I just imagined everything to be Mad Max all the time.
    Were the Overlords known about openly during this age? Or was their influence covert?

    • I just imagined everything to be Mad Max all the time.
      And there were surely stretches of time—tens of thousands of years at a time—when it WAS Mad Max all the time. But many of the overlords won’t find pure savagery to be a satisfying expression of their core concept. Eldrantulku and Sul Khatesth both get much more satisfaction from a civilization. And even Rak Tulkhesh finds a clash of armies more compelling that just a bunch of people hitting each other with sticks and rocks. As for whether they were known, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The overlords don’t need worship, so they don’t need to be seen as gods. They thrive on fear and cruelty, regardless of whether those things are done in their names. So it would largely be up to the FIENDS who are active in the world. Sometimes they might openly rule a civilization and force it down a path; other times they might prefer to steer it from the shadows.

  3. One weird question: just as there is the shadow in the Flame, would it be fair to say that there is a celestial counterpart? That Syberis’s influence endures somehow even in the hearts and minds of those serving the overlords, and that good deeds sometimes inspire them. It would be nice if during the fall of their age, some fiends were defeated by former champions of theirs who repented. The idea of a redeemed sinner as a paragon of virtue taught by the CotSF and the Sovereign Host would be a most interesting one

    • One weird question: just as there is the shadow in the Flame, would it be fair to say that there is a celestial counterpart?

      So first of all, there WAS NO Shadow in the Flame until Tira’s Sacrifice. The nature of Bel Shalor’s rebinding allowed him to BECOME the Shadow in the Flame. Note that his influence doesn’t in any way corrupt the Flame itself; it just allows him to communicate with mortals who can hear the Voice of the Flame. The FLAME is still pure; Bel Shalor is just able to speak through it. Some scholars theorize that he may have intentionally allowed himself to be rebound and that this could have been his goal all along.

      SO: There is no inherent shadow in every celestial, and likewise, no spark of light in every fiend. It is possible for a fiend to evolve into something noble; we’ve seen that with the kalashtar quori. It’s just exceptionally rare. If you WANT to push the triumph of good, you could say that the Silver Flame anticipated that rebinding Bel Shalor would allow him to become the Shadow in the Flame, but that just as Bel Shalor can communicate with mortals who hear the Voice of the Flame, Tira can whisper to all of the lesser fiends that serve Bel Shalor—that while Bel Shalor is tempting mortals, he doesn’t realize that Tira is tempting his servants and drawing them to the light.

      In general, though, in my campaign I downplay the background redemption because I want dramatic changes in the world to be driven by player action. The whole point of the Silver Flame is that it is performing a vital task—binding the overlords—but that it cannot do more without mortals willing to serve as its champions. The Flame couldn’t have stopped Bel Shalor without Tira’s courage and sacrifice. The world needs people to choose to do go, to strive to be heroes; the fiends won’t go away if you leave them alone.

      • Thank you as always for replying and sharing your thoughts! What *my* Eberron has in that regard is Syberis’s sacrifice having been a secretly willed one, since he saw that endless fighting Khyber would taint all of their creation, so that Syberis can inspire virtuous deeds on mortals even under the influence of Khyber’s physical or spiritual offspring. And in fact people are still needed, to respond to the call for goodness, given how it respects freedom. Different approaches but a partly similar outcome 🙂 Thanks again!

  4. The very idea what Rak Tulkhesh would affect gnomes in some moment of history.. It’s something that modern zil would admit with shame.. while hiding fact that Eldrantulku had much more influence on their culture..

  5. A useful source of inspiration! Very flavourful.

    Looking forward to hearing some more about Khorvaire in the Age of Giants, should you choose to explore that!

    These would make good sources for a deeper layer of a dungeon before the ‘goblinoid stratum’.

    An Unstable Dynasty of Centaurs, noteworthy for its Warlocks, influenced by Rak Tulkhesh.
    I imagine: Ruled by an elite order of Hexblade shadow-lancers, this semi-nomadic civilisation regularly raids and clashes with surrounding societies. With no stable succession system for leadership, duels among the warlocks decide who rules, along with their military accomplishments, leading to brief, bitter, and bloody civil wars each time their is a vacancy at the top.

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