While few outsiders know what goes on inside an Aurum hall, the existence of the organization is no secret; most members proudly wear the eight rings of their concord. If you asked a member of the Aurum to describe it, they’d say that it’s a fraternal order with a hall in every major city in the Five Nations. They’d brag about how the Aurum strengthens local communities through philanthropy and charitable work. They’d call out that the Aurum is an organization where people with different political and religious beliefs can set those differences aside and talk as friends: that it’s an organization for people who want to make a difference in the world, who can reach beyond class and nation. However, at the end of the day few can argue that one practical purpose of the organization is to increase the wealth and power of its members. Friends do favors for friends—and everyone’s friends in the Aurum. You have a problem with the Sharn Watch? Let’s have a drink with Commander Yorgan and see if we can work something out.
Push farther, and some concordians will acknowledge that one of the founding principles of the Aurum is that the existing system within Khorvaire is oppressive: the dragonmarked houses have tyrannical economic monopolies and the monarchies of the Five Nations are outdated. The Aurum brings together the finest and most capable people outside that structure, and helps them to achieve the opportunities they deserve. Now, you may have heard rumors of a “Shadow Cabinet” that seeks to tear down the houses or overthrow monarchies, but that’s just ridiculous. The Aurum is a social club. Last night we had a delightful performance from the Diva Laria. Provost Salar gave an impromptu lecture on the Sulat League and Councilor Evix discussed a Xen’drik expedition they’re funding. No one tried to conquer the world.
Anyone who’s read the sourcebooks knows that—spoiler alert—the Shadow Cabinet DOES exist. But the important point is that most members of the Aurum itself don’t actually know that. The Aurum is what it appears to be: an alliance of wealthy and influential people who enjoy each other’s company and who use their wealth and influence to help each another. Sure, many are evil in alignment, and those people are especially likely to take advantage of the connections offered by the Aurum to strengthen their positions and gain power, even if this circumvents the law or steals those opportunities from others. But there are concordians who are truly good, who do seek to use the Aurum’s influence to strengthen the local community. And many are squarely neutral, enjoying the camaraderie of the society and happy to help their fellow concordians where they can, but having no grand aspirations of their own.
So there’s a few roles an Aurum concordian can serve in a story.
- Patron. Are you looking for someone who wants to fund an expedition? Someone who wants to pay a group of adventurers to do something that doesn’t quite fall within the law but isn’t entirely criminal, either? This is the role of the concordian. They have gold, and they have enough connections to arrange for watch patrols to be light around the entrance to Old Sharn, or to get you past customs when you land with contraband artifacts. But they don’t have the resources of a dragonmarked house or a spy agency; they need adventurers to run their errands. And these tasks don’t have to shake the world or threaten the city. A concordian may simply be indulging a personal (perhaps slightly illegal) hobby: adding to their collection of (contraband) Sulat elemental seals, or taking actions to humiliate a professional or social rival. Concordians are people who have enough wealth and power to be able to hire and help adventurers—but not so much power that adventurers become irrelevant.
- Rival. If adventurers get on the wrong side of a concordian, it can cause a lot of trouble for them… but still, not as much trouble as making an enemy of a dragonmarked house or the King’s Citadel. A concordian may have wealth and they will certainly have contacts, but especially if they’re in the lower concords there’s a limit to how many favors they can call in. Consider Ambrose Jakis in The Name of the Wind; he’s a perfect example of how an Aurum conordian could make trouble for an adventurer who’s earned their ire. To a lesser extent, a concordian could serve as a patron for a rival group of adventurers, who thus get a lot of unfair advantages because of the wealth and influence of their patron.
- Member. A player character could be given a chance to JOIN the Aurum. An existing member (perhaps a patron) would have to sponsor them, and they’d begin in the Copper Concord. As such, they wouldn’t have a lot of pull right away—but if they do favors for concordians, others will do favors in return. They may receive opportunities they’d never have gained on their own, and have access to gossip and secrets they’d never have been able to learn. It’s a great opportunity… but they will be expected to do favors for the higher ranking concordians.
But what about the Shadow Cabinet?
From a design perspective, the Aurum is designed to be an easy source of patrons and rivals. The connections of the Aurum make a concordian a dangerous enemy or a powerful ally, but part of the point of the Aurum is that it’s NOT a tightly knit conspiracy; members have to pay for favors with favors, and there are members of the Aurum who aren’t friends with one another. It’s not as tightly knit as the Dreaming Dark or even as a dragonmarked house. It’s a quick source of influential figures, but these are people low-level adventurers can deal with.
But what about the Shadow Cabinet? This follows the idea of the Illuminati or SPECTRE: an hidden organization of powerful people who intend to shift the balance of power. Members of the Shadow Cabinet ARE more tightly connected, and do freely share resources—making them far more dangerous than just an individual Silver Concordian. They want to disrupt or control monarchies, to break the power of the dragonmarked houses; a DM who wants a dramatic twist could reveal that the Shadow Cabinet was responsible for the Shadow Schism that divided House Phiarlan (whether working with or framing the Paelions)—and that they are now actively encouraging the rivalries between the three Cannith factions, hoping to permanently split that house as well. One might well say “If I want a plutocratic villain, why not just use a dragonmarked house? They seem to have more power and cooler gimmicks.“ And that’s correct: the houses DO have far more power. The point of the Shadow Cabinet is that they ARE the upstarts and the underdogs—that they are FIGHTING the established great powers of the monarchies and houses. For all his wealth and power, Antus ir’Soldorak still needs Lyrandar excoriates to fly his grand airship. He doesn’t have all the power he wants: which is why he’s fighting to disrupt the Twelve. This is a struggle that will surely take decades to bear meaningful fruit. Again, it’s possible that the Shadow Schism was a great victory for the Aurum, and that took place 26 years ago. I don’t expect the Shadow Cabinet to have any chance to actually take over the world in the course of campaign; if they COULD somehow destroy the dragonmarked houses in a year, Khorvaire would collapse into chaos. The power is that they are trying. They are working to disrupt the order, to turn houses against one another, to fund innovations that would reduce their power. They are actively trying to shake the status quo, and this can drive the events of an adventure. But their role in the story is to be the disruptive underdogs, not to actually be on top. With that said, a very important point that differentiates the houses and the Shadow Cabinet is that a dragonmarked hosue has massive power and influence within a single field. The Shadow Cabinet has agents spread across society, in places the houses can’t touch. They have concordians in the military, in the judiciary, in the arts. Their power is less CONCRETE than that of the houses, but it is more subtle; a concordian customs inspector can cause a lot of trouble for local house operations!
Hearing all of this raises an interesting option: the Shadow Cabinet COULD be presented in a heroic light. The dragonmarked houses DO wield oppressive monopolistic power. The monarchies of the Five Nations could be seen as outdated. It is entirely possible to present the Shadow Cabinet as a heroic alliance that is trying to make change—that is fighting to help the artificer working on an airship that anyone could pilot, or to push democracy in the Five Nations. By default, canon presents the Shadow Cabinet as being driven by purely selfish goals: it doesn’t actually want to make the world a better place, it wants to make it a better place for members of the Shadow Cabinet. But it is entirely possible to present it in a more altruistic light. And the reason I’m saying this with no spoilers is because, as a player, you don’t know what your DM is doing with them. When you spot someone wearing eight rings, you know they’re in the Aurum. But are they secretly plotting to throw the Five Nations into chaos? Are they fighting a secret battle in pursuit of economic innovation and democracy? Or are they a casual member who just enjoys a good game of Conqueror at the club? And as a DM, if you want to maintain that mystery, the point is to use concordians in those different capacities. Have the adventurers benefit from Aurum philanthropy. Have them need to protect an orphanage that was built with Aurum donations. When the concordian comes to them with a seemingly innocent job, is it exactly what it appears to be… or could it be serving a hidden agenda? W
Who’s In The Aurum?
The common impression is that the Aurum is an alliance of the wealthy and powerful, because it’s those wealthy and powerful members who attract attention. And usually by the time someone is in the Gold or Platinum Concords they will be wealthy or powerful… but they may not have started out that way. The Aurum doesn’t look for wealth: it looks for influence and potential. The Copper Concord includes people who don’t have power yet—but their sponsor sees a way that they could, if the right strings are pulled. Officers in the military or the watch. Civic officials. Up and coming artists. Promising artisans. The further up you go, the more wealth and influence the concordian is likely to have. They’re not a watch officer, they command a district garrison. They aren’t an aspiring playwright, they’re an international sensation. Or they could be a wealthy collector of rare Sarlonan antiquities—but if they’re in the Gold or Platinum Concords, they will be VERY wealthy…
The Aurum Concordian table provides a quick way to generate a random concordian. You’ll have to establish the basic details—this concordian is an old Brelish dwarf—but the table helps to establish that he’s an ambassador who profited off the Last War and has close ties to the Brelish military. These are basic prompts, and it’s up to you to decide how he profited off the war, or what those close ties are like—does he have personal sway with a single military unit (he can call on the Redcloak Battalion in Sharn) or does he have broader ties to Brelish military leadership?
To be clear, the Aurum seeks to shake the status quo and thus tends to reject members who are powerful nobles or well-placed dragonmarked heirs. However, a concordian could be from a lesser noble family (a minor Lhazaar prince), or as in the case of Antus ir’Soldorak, could have bought a noble title. Likewise, concordians won’t include members of powerful dragonmarked families, but they can include excoriates or members of families that have fallen into disfavor and are unhappy with the Twelve… and the Aurum includes many people who run businesses licensed by the houses, but who aren’t tied to the house by blood and chafe under its yoke.
So again, an Aurum concordian can be a useful patron, a dangerous rival, someone seeking to help strengthen their community or someone determined to increase their own power at all costs. Invoking the Aurum is a quick way to establish that someone has wealth and influence… but it shouldn’t automatically establish someone as a VILLAIN. The Aurum is intended to be a source of easy foes for low-level adventures, but it can be just as useful as a source of patrons. In the novel The City of Towers, the down-on-their-luck adventurers turn to a member of the Aurum for work. And while concordians COULD turn to organizations like the Boromar Clan, House Tarkanan, or House Deneith, some members prefer not to deal with actual criminals or economic rivals… and that’s where adventurers come in!
What’s Your Connection?
The table above is a quick way to generate a random concordian. But perhaps you want an adventurer to have a concrete connection to that character. The following tables (originally posted in this article) help with that. It turns out that one of the adventurers was childhood friends we the ambassador, and that the ambassador pulled strings a year ago to get them out of jail… but now the ambassador is being targeted for assassination and they’re calling in that favor. The Aurum Concordian table takes the place of the “Aurum Member” table below, but I’m leaving that column in below, as it gives some quick and concrete examples.
Does a member of the Copper Concord who’s also in the Shadow Cabinet outrank a member of the Gold Concord who’s not in the Cabinet?
The Shadow Cabinet—if it even exists!—is a secret even to members of the Aurum. So no, the copper concordian can’t make demands of the gold concordian, because the gold concordian doesn’t recognize their authority. However, the people IN the secret society work more closely together than most members of the Aurum. So a member of the Platinum Concord may go out of their way to help the copper, in a way that seems unusual—because both are in the Shadow Cabinet, and it serves the purposes of the Cabinet. But it’s always possible a DM could decide to use the Aurum WITHOUT the Shadow Cabinet… or they could decide that there’s no difference between the two, and that all members of the Aurum pursue the goals of the Cabinet.
Is there an initiation ceremony or ritual involved with joining the Aurum? If so, what is that like?
Like most fraternal orders, the Aurum undoubtedly has a vast number of secret ceremonies and rituals. What are they like? SECRET. This is a level of detail you’re not likely to ever see in canon because we could easily write an entire book about the rituals of the Aurum, but for most campaigns it will never matter. Should the adventurers ever happen to witness an Aurum initiation, you can invent the rituals or even ask your players to suggest details. But certainly, it’s a solemn, complicated ceremony and it likely involved swearing oaths under a zone of truth.
When someone joins the Aurum, they join a particular hall. We use the concord rank (gold, silver, etc) as a general indicator because it’s all that most adventurers will ever have to deal with, but you can be sure that there are a vast number of internal honors and titles used within a hall. Someone’s not just a gold concordian, they’re a “Faithful Warden of the Gold Concord” —which is itself a step up from being an “Honored Initiate of the Gold Concord.” The one that matters most is the Keeper of the Hall, who is the ultimate local authority (and almost always a member of the Platinum Concord). While I’m not going to try to suggest all the secret rituals that go on as part of initiation or advancement, I will say that in either case the initiate receives the eight rings of their concord and they also receive a concordian’s coin of the metal of their concord. The rings are produced locally; every hall has their own variation on the basic design, but they are mundane metal. A concordian’s coin is a magic item produced by the Soldorak Mint. The coin has the Aurum seal on one face (the chained crown) and a profile on the other (see below). A concordian’s coin has the following properties.
- The coin is initially unbound. When someone holds the coin in the fist and recites a specific oath, the coin is bound to that person; the only way to break this bond is to destroy or disenchant the coin. Initially, the profile on the face of the coin is a blank silhouette. When the coin is bound, it takes on the appearance of the person it’s bound to.
- Only the person the coin is bound to can hold the coin. Anyone else who touches it will receive an unpleasant arcane shock. This doesn’t cause permanent damage, but if someone picks up or holds a concordian’s coin they must make a DC 10 Wisdom save each round to keep from dropping it.
- The person the coin is bound to can use it as an arcane focus. It can also be used as a holy symbol by a cleric of the Sovereign Host (specifically Kol Korran or the Keeper).
- A concordian’s coin is a common magic item. Coins of the gold and platinum concords often carry additional enchantments; a concordian’s coin might be enchanted to serve as an amulet of proof against detection and location, for example.
Beyond this, there is also a series of protocols involving both coins and rings. For example, when shaking hands on first meeting, a concordian will tap a particular finger against the finger of the other concordian, who will answer with a different tap based on the respective ranks of the members. Likewise, at a meal between concordians they may place their coins on the table; placing them in certain configurations (crown up, to the left of a drink) can convey hidden messages.
How distinctive are the rings and coin of an Aurum concordian?
Each hall has a unique ring design. However, these rings are pure metal and the designs aren’t so complex; part of the point of the ring is that another ring can be easily worn above it (like many engagement rings). So Aurum rings wouldn’t be that hard to fabricate, especially if the people you’re dealing with aren’t familiar with the hall designs. The coin is another matter. Each one is unique to the bearer, and if someone is familiar with the Aurum and has any doubts about your identity, one of the first things they’ll do is touch your coin to see if they get a shock. All concordian’s coins are made at the Soldorak Mint; counterfeiting one isn’t just about craftsmanship, it’s about calibrating the shock to feel like the Solodrak shock. It’s something a capable artificer with proficiency in forgery could accomplish, but it’s not a trivial thing. Of course, all of this comes to the question of if you’re trying to fool a member of the AURUM. Most people don’t even know concordians carry coins, let allow that they’ll shock you.
Would the Aurum take action against someone falsely claiming to be a concordian?
ABSOLUTELY. This is a highly exclusive organization of rich and powerful people. They will NOT take kindly to people seeking to profit off their reputation. Of course, they have to find out about the hoax to take action… so a charlatan could get away with it for as long as they can get away with it. But the local hall will NOT be happy with charlatans passing themselves off as concordians.
That’s all for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going! The Patreon poll to determine the subject of the next major article ends soon—currently it’s neck and neck between Sarlona and the nobility of Khorvaire.
Do the Aurum have a power structure such that a Gold Concordian can actually ORDER a Silver Concordian? Or is it just that lower Concordians have incentives based on connections to do what higher Concordians say?
Yes and no. Rank should be respected, so a Copper should treat a Gold concordian with respect. Higher ranking members have more voting power, and certain decisions will exclude members of lower concords. But it’s a social club, not an army. The general currency is an exchange of favors; you do something to help another concordian because they’re your comrade and because they’ll owe you, not because you have no choice. Higher ranking members generally have a lot to offer lower ranks, so usually a copper will be glad for a chance to help a platinum. But it’s still a choice. (Side note: you advance in rank by being sponsored by people of higher rank, so that right there is one reason to do favors.)
On the other hand, the Shadow Cabinet IS a more coherent conspiracy, and sure, a higher ranking member of the Shadow Cabinet can give orders to a lower ranking member.
How does one formally move up within the Aurum? Is there a single point of regional leadership or is it more shared? Or does that vary between branches?
There’s surely a LOT of ritual and structure to the Aurum that we’ve never discussed because a) it’s largely meaningless outside the Aurum and b) it’s undoubtedly kept as a close secret. So yes, in addition to being a member of the Gold Concord, someone might be the Bearer of the Torch of Freedom or the Keeper of the Hall. It’s established in canon that Antus ir’Soldorak is the “Chancellor of the Platinum Concord” with the implication that it’s the highest position of leadership. However, I think that the Aurum is largely democratic—that important decisions are made by votes, with higher ranks having more voting power (and certain votes being restricted to specific concords).
So in terms of how you move up in rank, I’m sure there are some arbitrary and esoteric traditions that must be upheld, but the most important element is that you’d have to be sponsored by a number of higher-ranking members… which is an important reason for lower-ranking members to do favors for higher ranking members.
But it is also likely true that there are varying traditions between halls.
Keith, is there possibly a “Kevin Bacon” or “Mycroft Holmes” figure in the Aurum? A person who isn’t particularly remarkable in their own right, but knows almost everyone, and those they don’t know personally, they know someone who knows them?
Almost certainly, but not that’s been mentioned in canon. But yes, that one guy who’s on good terms with everyone and who can always provide an introduction to the person you want to meet is most likely an Aurum member. There’s a decent chance he’s a gnome, too, because the relentless work it would take to establish and maintain that level of social connections is the sort of thing Zil enjoy (whether or not they are currently Zil).
Does the Aurum associate with the Riedran embassies?
As both seem to want the same thing, in-roads with powerful people in Khorvaire
Does the Aurum associate with the Riedran embassies?
I’m not sure how to parse the sentence. What do you mean by “associate with”? What’s an example of behavior you’re curious about?
The Aurum isn’t a political entity. It’s not a nation and it doesn’t have a clear single agenda. A Brelish ambassador who’s also a member of the Aurum might invite a Riedran ambassador at the Aurum hall. But that’s sort of the point: the Aurum holds salons and parties. It sponsors concerts. It’s not negotiating treaties. The SHADOW CABINET might form secret alliances with Ridra, but that would be extremely secretive.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the ENTIRE AURUM could be a front created by the Dreaming Dark as a way to identify and mind seed influential people from across Khorvaire. It could be that the Shadow Cabinet is in fact entirely made up of mind seeds and people possessed by quori, and that they are essentially planning the Sundering of Khorvaire. But if this is the case they’d probably have very little contact with the embassies, because they would coordinate their activities in Dal Quor.
Is there an initiation ceremony or ritual involved with joining the Aurum? If so, what is that like? If a potential member is away (perhaps in Darguun or the Mror Holds) from their local lodge/chapter (say, in Sharn) when they are accepted into the Aurum, could they officially become a member despite not being in town? I suppose part of the question involves how and when a new member of the Aurum acquires their identifying set of rings.
Is there an initiation ceremony or ritual involved with joining the Aurum? If so, what is that like?
It’s an enormous secret from anyone not in the Aurum, is what it’s like! In short, yes. Like most fraternal orders, the Aurum undoubtedly has a great deal of secret ceremonies and rituals. They’re not discussed because they are SECRET and because, at the end of the day, they don’t really MATTER to anyone outside the Aurum. But you can definitely feel free to INVENT all the Aurum rituals you want for your game. In addition to the rings, during your initiation the Keeper of the Hall gives you a coin tied to your concord. There’s an elaborate social language tied to the use of this coin: placing it on a table in a particular orientation sends a message to all other members. There’s likely some sort of grip that involves tapping rings together. And so on, and so on.
If a potential member is away (perhaps in Darguun or the Mror Holds) from their local lodge/chapter (say, in Sharn) when they are accepted into the Aurum, could they officially become a member despite not being in town?
So: a local branch is called a hall. As a member of the Aurum, you can show your rings and coin and say the proper phrases to be recognized at any hall, but you are still officially a member of a particular chapter and hall. There are undoubtedly very specific rituals that involve initiation and advancement in rank, and yes, I believe that you do have to be present for those rituals. You surely have to swear oaths (most likely in a zone of truth) and be presented with your regalia. So it can be put on record that you’re due for admission or advancement, but they aren’t going to just mail you a set of rings: you need to be present for the rituals and swear the oaths.
Awesome! When I was typing the question, I had actually considered using the phrase “can you mail-order your Aurum rings?” Heh, I figured you couldn’t. Thanks a billion, Keith. x)
FYI, I just added a section on the rings and coin to the end of the article.
Does the Aurum sponsor public events, like the Bilderberg meeting’s original agenda, or the Trilateral Commision (flavor with conspiracy to taste)? Would a Concordaian with multiple businesses licensed by the houses be more of a union boss, franchise owner, taxi-medallion profiteer, or something different altogether?
It would vary by chapter and hall. I think most Aurum halls sponsor local arts and such. Certainly in some cases they might sponsor public discussions and debates; when the Aurum began in the Mror Holds it was a center for revolutionary thought. It would largely depend on the character and businesses of the local concordians. You could have one hall that is largely associated with local criminal organizations, while in a different city the local Aurum hall opposes crime in the city and heavily supports the local watch.
Would a Concordaian with multiple businesses licensed by the houses be more of a union boss, franchise owner, taxi-medallion profiteer, or something different altogether?
This is discussed on page 11 of the Dragonmarked sourcebook. Bound businesses are essentially franchises. Licensed businesses operate within the economic sphere of the house and are regulated by the house, paying a tithe in exchange for the right to display the house seal (promising that goods and services meet the standards of the house). Licensed businesses display the seal in black, bound businesses in silver, house arms in gold. Aurum members might run licensed or bound businesses, but are unlikely to be tied to house arms. Organized labor is a different discussion, but there are surely members of the Aurum who would support it.
” and the monarchies of the Five Nations are outdated.”
Which naturally raises the question of how they work with the other anti-monarchy organization, the Swords of Liberty.
It’s logical for the Shadow Cabinet to be involved with the Swords of Liberty, just like it would make sense for them to have been involved in the Shadow Schism. But ultimately it’s up to the DM, based on what they want to do with each organization. One option is that the Swords of Liberty are puppets of the Shadow Cabinet; but it’s entirely possible that while they approve of their goals, the Shadow Cabinet disapproves of the methods of the Swords and has no connections to them.
How much are rivals allowed to feud with other members of a hall? Would higher members forcably settle it if starts rising to violence, and possibly evict a member, or is it treated more as “Sigh, I see Borlack and Zephernill are at it again.”
It’s not an army, and I think a certain amount of friendly competition is expected; if two concordians both collect Sulat elemental seals, it’s understood that they’ll compete to make sure they have the best collection. With that said, if something crosses a line, I imagine any member can call a hearing and present grievances (likely resolved by a vote of high-ranking members of the local hall). Punishments could range from demotion, lack of access to certain resources, all the way to demotion.
So friendly competition is “Borlack and Zephernill are at it again” unless it goes too far. Certainly, actual violence done to members of the Hall would go too far. It’s fine if servants or hired adventurers are harmed in a feud, but actions that directly harm a fellow concordion would be out of line.
Does the Aurum have a positive vision of the world after the overthrow of the old order, like propertarian democracy or meritocratic plutocracy, or is it simply a group of people bound together by a vague sense of, “This ain’t it” towards the existing structures?
On a totally different front, since Thrane is both low on the aristocracy and relatively low on the arcane industry the houses power, does it fall under the same critique?
Does the Aurum have a positive vision of the world after the overthrow of the old order, like propertarian democracy or meritocratic plutocracy, or is it simply a group of people bound together by a vague sense of, “This ain’t it” towards the existing structures?
There’s a reason the Aurum are generally positioned as villains rather than heroes, and that reason is that most of them aren’t truly looking for a better world, they’re looking for a world that’s better for THEMSELVES. They are people with wealth and power, and while many do engage in philanthropy, they are still ultimately determined to maintain or increase their personal wealth and power. It’s also worth noting that the AURUM is only loosely driven by this grand cause; it’s the SHADOW CABINET that is truly taking action, and most members of the Aurum don’t know that it exists.
With that said, a lot of this will be flavored by the local hall. There may be a local chapter that has strong visionary ideals, and its members would thus sponsor people they felt shared their view. So OVERALL the Aurum is more generally selfish than truly idealistic, but you could introduce a particular hall that is truly altruistic and devoted to positive change.
As for Thrane, it’s a good question. The transition to a theocratic government occurred during the war, and the question is whether the members of the Aurum feels that it’s more beneficial to them or no better than the old system. Again, most members of the Aurum are concerned with their PERSONAL wellbeing as opposed to the grand experience of civilization as a whole.
Very stimulating article! How distinctive are the rings and coin of an Aurum concordian? Are they bestowed at the initiation, or does the initiate provide their own? When one advances from Copper to Silver, etc., does one get a new set of rings? Is there a connection between the eight rings and the Octogram, or mere coincidence? On a slightly different tack: Would the Aurum take action against someone falsely claiming to be a concordian? I can imagine a fun scenario where some group of clever charlatans tries to pull an operation like “The Sting”, in which they try to convince a group of PCs that they can do a favor for an influential member of the Aurum (from out of town, of course!). Perhaps to string them along, the phony concordians would even arrange to “initiate” the PCs – after all, the ceremony is secret, so how would be PCs kow its the real tthing (unless one of the is already a concordian, in which case the con artists wouldn’t have targeteed them in the first place.) If the PCs fall for the con, they perform the requested dangerous mission, return for the sole reward of Aurum membership, only to find the first time they went to a real hall that they’d been swindled and the phony concordians had vanished into the night. On the other hand, if they tipped to the ruse and exposed the villains, they might find themselves approached by a real concordian, having proved themselves clever and intrepid!
I just added a lengthy section on the concordian’s coin and the rings to the end of the article.
Thanks for all the rich detail. It wounds as though someone trying to pull a scan by posing as a concordian would either have to be playing for very low stakes – ones that wouldn’t even come to the attention of the Aurum, or for very high stkes, where the potential reward is worth the risk of incurring the Aurum’s wrath.
Always so cool to read you! I always looked at Aurum as a bunch of villains, but now I see it in a different way.
I wonder if they have any chance of take over a monarchy. Maybe if they find out the secret of kaius? Do you think this could restart the war, like French revolution United European nations against the “abomination of killing a king”?
Second point. Just throwing a rock: what if the Shadow Cabinet IS, in fact, the Cabinet of Faces?
Ooh! Time to get out my copy of GURPS: Illuminati!
How do the Houses view the Aurum? Do you see the Twelve planting spies although the Aurum’s ranks to stave off a potential economic rival?
Not especially, no. First of all, the Aurum is very selective in recruitment and is SPECIFICALLY WATCHING OUT for spies from the houses or nobles. But beyond that: for the most part, the Aurum is exactly what it says on the tin. Most members of the Aurum AREN’T economic rivals of the houses. Most of their functions ARE entirely social or charitable. It’s kind of a waste of a good spy. The potential rivals are the Shadow Cabinet, which is a secret even to most members of the Aurum and DOUBLY careful about vetting its members.
But ultimately, this is a simple question: As a DM, who do you want to have the advantage? If you WANT to say “The Shadow Cabinet has been thoroughly infiltrated by House Phiarlan and Medani and the Twelve know everything they’re planning” you can, and the Shadow Cabinet will thus be largely ineffective. If you want to say “The Shadow Cabinet has completely evaded the eyes of the Twelve, and was in fact responsible for the Shadow Schism that split Phiarlan and Thuranni” you can. What’s the story you want to tell?
In light of this article, now I find myself imagining the Shadow Cabinet and House Tarkanan teaming up for a serious revolt against the Houses — Tarkanan doing the more blatant things, the Shadow Cabinet doing subtler things and funding Tarkanan’s efforts.
It’s certainly possible!
Thanks for an interesting article about a part of Eberron that doesn’t always get the spotlight.
Does the Aurum operate much in Zilargo? Even if they are on the watch for spies, most all of the Zil are already spies of some stripe, and I imagine the Trust would have little trouble cracking open any local halls.
Sure! The Aurum is a fraternal order that has nothing to hide from the Trust. There’s no doubt that the Trust knows everything that goes on in Zil halls, but again, most of what the Aurum does aren’t activities the Trust would take issue with. Among other things, the Aurum hall is a place where gnomes of feuding families can set aside vendettas and play a game of Conqueror together. So sure, in all likelihood one in three Zil concordians work for or report to the Trust… which also makes the Aurum a useful tool for the Trust, because it lets those agents mingle with powerful people from foreign halls.
Having said that, the SHADOW CABINET rarely conducts operations in Zilargo, because it knows the Zil halls aren’t secure. But agents of the Cabinet can still use the Zil halls when passing through.
Now, it’s quite possible that the Trust knows about the Shadow Cabinet, and is aware that the Aurum is a tool of the Cabinet. But the Trust also knows House Phiarlan deals in espionage… and they still have a grand theatre in Trolanport. The point is that Phiarlan KNOWS the Trust knows what they do. If they stay within the approved lines they’re fine. If they attempt to conduct assassinations or other covert ops in Zilargo, the Trust will deal with them. The people playing the game all understand the rules.
This gives so many ample opportunities to expound upon the few canonical members we know about!
Remembering the classic Simpsons episode Homer the Great brings up a good question: How does the Aurum handle explusion of members?
On a side note: The Shadow Council’s nature (not restricted to a group of people with easily demonstrated abilities for one) means one could theoretically, if not particularlly likely, steal a twist from Chesterton and make EVERYONE on it an undercover agent, though differing from that in that everyone is from an opposing group (Chamber, Trust, Thuranni, Phiarlan, Tharashk, King’s Citadel, Inspired ect.).
How does the Aurum handle explusion of members?
Take their coin. Personally, I don’t think it’s something that happens that often; each hall would have a file of expelled members, and when an outsider shows up the Warden of the Gate would check their coin and then check to make sure they aren’t on the expelled list (with the upper concords, many members are famous enough that it won’t be hard to remember them). If they are on the expelled list and won’t go away voluntarily, they’re trespassing and the watch will be called in.
In terms of the Shadow Cabinet, it’s definitely a possibility! It’s entirely up to the DM as to whether it’s a force to be reckoned with or whether it’s a tool of other forces or simply ineffective. The general point of the Aurum is to be a force players can interact with at lower levels, so it’s not SUPPOSED to be on par with the Lords of Dust or even the Trust.
The point about the Shadow Cabinet funding innovations to try to upset the monopolies of the twelve brings to mind a concept that came up once in a campaign: a prototype of a chargeable dragonmark focus item, wherein once the bearer of the appropriate dragonmark charges it, it can then be used for its designated ability by any magewright. This wasn’t actually a real thing in the campaign, just a background element in a character’s nightmare (in which they were accused of stealing the Siberys dragonshards needed to make it)… but if it ever were a real thing, it sounds like the kind of thing the Shadow Cabinet might well be actively funding, and it’s not hard to see how that kind of very basic breakthrough could be built off of to make something that would eventually represent more of a problem.
Also, it occurs to consider that not only might the Shadow Cabinet have some connection (large or small) to the Swords of Liberty, they might have even been a large part of helping to bring about the existence of the House of Commons in Breland. This doesn’t even have to be part of a larger altruistic take on the Shadow Cabinet; there’s a natural motive for any upstart out-of-power group to favor reforms that diminish the existing power structures. It’s a lot easier for the members to get their way politically in a more democratic structure.
Frankly, just perfecting Eternal Wands would be a serious blow to Jorasco. A magewright with one (let alone more) could undercut them on Cure Light Wounds (“An eternal wand holds an arcane spell of 3rd level or lower with a maximum caster level of 6th. Unlike a traditional wand that holds 50 charges, an eternal wand allows any character who can cast arcane spells to use the spell contained in it twice per day.”) and make back the money spent on the wand relatively quick. It wouldn’t undermine Jorasco’s other areas (resurrection, mental care, medicine, and maybe mundane care), but it would be a serious dent. I always had an idea in the back of my head of a magewright who uses his wand’s charges to generate word of mouth for his buisness, with no intention of getting into conflict with any of the Twelve, and gets into conflict with Jorasco as a result. Never got to use it.
The other houses are less vulnerable to this, since only Jorasco has a first level spell alone as a major part of their house. Still a major blow to one house hurts the Twelve as a whole, and more importantly it would make money on its own.
Quite true, though there’s a bunch of factors to consider here. Most likely Jorasco doesn’t rely on people using spell slots; most vital house services are provided using focus items such as the speaking stone, which lets a Sivis heir effectively cast whispering wind as a ritual instead of using a spell slot.
With that said, fifth edition puts a very different spin on things. Adepts and magewrights are ritual casters instead of using spell slots. And most critically, it completely changes the face of healing. Given that hit points are fully restored after a long rest, cure wounds spells are no longer a service that’s especially likely to be sold. The most critical service for Jorasco is lesser restoration, because of its ability to instantly cure a disease; in my campaign, lesser restoration can also be used to cure other maladies that player characters are never afflicted with, such as sprains, torn muscles, etc. If there was a rechargeable wand of restoration that would certainly be an issue for Jorasco, since as a ritual it takes time and burns components, but that’s not something that currently exists in 5E. But it’s certainly a thing that would cause trouble for Jorasco if it could be mass produced (and something Jorasco would work to suppress!)… though if (or when?) self-recharging wands of 2nd level spells ever became commonplace, it will be a VERY different world.
I mostly work with 3.5 still so I can’t speak that much to 5e considerations, but I do figure non-HP healing figures pretty heavily into Jorasco’s advantages. Notably, I gather low-level bardic training is rather more common in a city like Korranberg, so CLW can be had there in exchange for a favor rather than cash; in this context services like Lesser Restoration matter a lot more. (I also figure that House Jorasco is a bit less jealous on the mundane care front since magic is the thing that’s actually difficult enough to harness to limit who can even do it. One campaign I’m in involves a free clinic that provides only mundane care; Jorasco is not only not looking to shut them down, the local Jorasco clinic accepts referrals from them paid in donated coin when mundane care isn’t enough.)
As far as the Eternal Wand, it always seemed a little odd for the purported use it was developed for. That led to the idea to house-rule its mechanics a bit differently: rather than being usable twice per day for its spell and then being useless until the next day, it’s usable only once per day in the typical way, but it can also be used by an arcane caster with spell slots or prepared spells to shape any spell of equal or higher level into the wand’s spell (similar to how Clerics can cast any prepared spell as an HP-cure).
It’s likely that there are a ton of minor but important trade secrets that give the Houses edges in ways that aren’t really relevant to things adventurers of any stripe might use. Many probably require a mark to use, but some no doubt don’t. One detail that got dropped in a campaign is that a House Cannith storefront selling wands and spellbeads (something we came up with to replace the concept of artificer scrolls) keeps minor schema on-hand to meet some unspecified need; when queried on the subject, all they would say is “sorry, that’s a trade secret.”
My thought with the prototype is that it is just that: a prototype to prove a principle. Only marginally useful in itself, but something that could pave the way for exploiting disgruntled excoriates by allowing one individual’s mark to fuel far more efforts in far more places than is currently possible. The next steps still require figuring out (or stealing) many innovations to reach a point of actual competitiveness.
One minor point about Jorasco and C?W I forgot to bring up earlier (again, 3.5-based): I do figure that a relatively common ability for a House Jorasco healer is a specific aptitude toward directing Cure Wounds spells toward the healing of complex injuries. This doesn’t really have a game-mechanical effect (since D&D doesn’t actually model specific injuries that don’t fit into an HP-or-ability-score-damage abstraction), but is a reason why someone with a permanent injury beyond mundane healing might be able to seek help from a Jorasco healer, but a bard would be less likely able to help.
My inclination in 3.5 or 5 (or 4E for that matter) would be to use disease rules to reflect complex injuries that aren’t easily reflected by hit points… making cure disease (in 3.5) or lesser restoration (5E) more important than cure X wounds. (This drops bards out of the running in 3.5, though they have access to lesser restoration in 5E.)