Every month I answer questions posed by my patrons on my Patreon site. Here’s a few that have come up this month…
What options does Eberron provide for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? Are there magical hearing aids? Is sign language common place?
There are a variety of tools and options. There are three primary sign languages in use in Khorvaire. Aelada is the oldest visual language that’s still in use today. It is employed by both the Aereni and the Tairnadal, as well as the Bloodsail elves of the Lhazaar Principalities. Kaasvola is a visual language developed by the Dhakaani dar, and is dominant in Droaam, Darguun, and the Shadow Marches. However, the primary form of sign language used in the Five Nations is SSL, Sivis sign language. Aelada is quite complex; Sivis wordsmiths adapted some of its principles, but worked to develop a visual language that was more intuitive and adaptable.
The most common form of hearing aid is the tin ear. Typically taking the form of an earring, this is a common magic item that uses principles of minor image and prestidigitation to compensate for hearing loss. There’s a variety of forms of the tin ear produced by House Cannith, the Arcane Congress, and others, but they operate on similar principles.
Anyone can use a tin ear, but there is another option: a familiar. This articlediscusses the role of familiars in everyday life in more detail. As described in find familiar, a character with a familiar can can see through their familiar’s eyes and hear what it hears. Normally this requires ongoing concentration, but some people learn a specialized form of the spell that allows them to use the familiar’s senses instead of their own without having to take an action to do so, but only if they are in physical contact with the familiar—so they see or hear through the crow on their wrist or the cat on their shoulder. Some people who use familiars in this way will speak through their crow, raven or parrot familiars.
My campaign involves a criminal mastermind running smuggling operations in the Lhazaar Principalities trying to make a name for themself and become fabulously wealthy. What would they be smuggling, and who would be trying to stop them?
On the whole, the majority of smuggling in Khorvaire deals with relatively mundane goods that are highly taxed in the Five Nations. For every smuggler carrying dreamlily in western Khorvaire, there’s three smuggling harpy sugar… an exotic sweetener from Droaam that happens to be in vogue in Sharn and that’s taxed accordingly. And this is a great option for player characters with a smuggling background. You could have been transporting medical supplies (which is, after all, how the dreamlily trade began…) through blockades. You could have been bringing Marcher moonshine into Sharn, evading the highly unjust Brelish tariffs on this totally innocent beverage (which does NOT make you go blind, or contain Kyrzin-brewed sentient fluids. Honest.) But in this case we aren’t looking for what’s USUALLY smuggled. You might make money smuggling harpy sugar, but you’e not going to make a fortune or develop an infamous reputation. So what’s something dangerous or reprehensible? Something that will generate outrage or make headlines? Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head.
Dragon’s Blood from Droaam, a dangerous, addictive drug that temporally grants or enhances sorcerous power.
Experimental Jorasco/Vadalis drugs that were condemned as being too risky or harmful.
Surplus Cannith weapons developed for Cyre during the Last War, doubly so if they might be unreliable. Probably smuggled out of the Mournland, which further adds the risk that they have been affected by the Mourning in unpredictable ways.
Cyran fine art or Cyran cultural treasures smuggled out of the Mournland.
Spirit idols from Aerenal, which could perhaps have some value to unscrupulous necromancers (such as the elves of the Bloodsail Principality)—there may be ways to essentially bind the spirit in the idol to create various forms of undead servants.
Karrnathi undead that have supposedly been stored in the vaults under Atur, sold with magic items that supposedly allow the bearer to control the undead.
All of the things I mentioned would be illegal under the Code of Galifar or restricted under the Treaty of Thronehold, so any national coast guard would interfere. Aerenal would be especially interested in shutting down the theft of spirit idols, and the Karrns would take the smuggling of undead seriously… though if the smuggler is operating in the Lhazaar Principalities, Karrnath would already be their primary concern.
What about dreamlily? It comes from Sarlona, but the Boromar Clan maintains dens where you can take it, much like opium dens. Do they have experts who have studied and tried to understand it? If so, what have they managed to figure out? What sorts of skills would such experts have?
Dreamlily was introduced to the setting in Sharn: City of Towers, which notes:
Healers first used essence of dreamlily, a powerful opiate from Sarlona, during the Last War. Once the Brelish Crown realized the dangers of addiction, use of this elixir was quickly outlawed. This has not erased the demand for the drug, and the control of the dreamlily trade is a source of significant strife in the Lower-City. Essence of dreamlily is an iridescent, psionically active liquid. It draws on the mind of the user, and tastes like his favorite beverage. Each use of the drug can potentially lead to an overdose, especially for those addicted to it.
If I were to do a quick conversion of dreamlily to fifth edition, I’d say that someone under the influence of Dreamlily is immune to the Frightened condition. They cannot take reactions, and on their turn, they can use either an action or a bonus action, not both. In third edition rules, dreamlily allowed someone to continue to operate normally even when they had 0 to -5 hit points; a similar way to model this would be to grant the user 5 temporary hit points. It’s not supposed to be something adventurers would want to take, though it could be interesting for adventurers to dose themselves with dreamlily before facing a creature that causes fear.
I didn’t mention dreamlily in the preceding answer, because LOTS of smugglers deal in dreamlily—it’s not a commodity that will make a master criminal stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, the general tone of Eberron is more late 19th century – early 20th century than present day, and the dreamlily trade is more like the old opium trade than a modern drug trade with people synthesizing knock offs and variants. In general, the idea is that Sarlonan drugs like dreamlily and absentia (another drug from Sharn: City of Towers, which allows the user to experience the world through another creature’s senses) are mysteries that can’t be replicated in Khorvaire, because in Sarlona you’re dealing both with wild zones and psionics; essentially, they are working with a form of science we don’t understand and have access to (super)natural resources that don’t exist in Khorvaire. The Boromars can’t figure out how to synthesize deamlily because it requires psionic disciplines and plants cultivated in a wild zone.
With that said, if I wanted to do a Breaking Bad story I could imagine someone working with a rogue gleaner (primal magewright) or alchemist artificer — or both — to enhance dreamlily. They still get the core product from Sarlona, but give it a unique twist that makes their product superior to what’s otherwise in the market. On the other hand, I could also imagine Jorasco, Cannith West, and Vadalis working together (this kind of cooperation is why the Twelve exists) to create a new narcotic as a native Khorvairian alternative to dreamlily, which could lead into an opioid epidemic if that’s a story you want to explore.. But again, that’s a generally more modern concept than the canon setting aims at; dreamlily is supposed to be more opium than fentanyl.
That’s all for now! If you’ve got questions of your own, you can pose them on my Patreon. I also hold a live Q&A each month of patrons, and patrons at the Threshold level have a chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. You can check my Patreon out here—and if you’re already a patron, thanks for your support!
August has been a month! After returning from GenCon I ended up being sidelined with COVID for a week. In addition, Wayfinder—a video game I’ve been writing for—has just gone into early access. AND, I’m going to be at PAX in Seattle this upcoming weekend; if you’re there, come find me at the Twogether Studios booth and say hi! Oh, and also, the seats for my table at D&D in a Castle are almost sold out, so if you want to be part of that, follow the link!
So, it’s been a crazy month and I haven’t had as much time or energy for writing as I’d hoped. However, when time allows I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one of those…
How common or uncommon are magics that extend someone’s lifespan in Eberron, like potions of longevity? There’s NPCs like Haldren ir’Brassek that are supposedly human, but still healthy enough at at least 120ish years old that there would be people willing to serve under him if he broke out of prison, which makes me wonder how much those types of potions might play into politics.
While there are always exceptions, largely the rarity categorization is a good indicator of how common a magic item is. Potions of Longevity are very rare, which means that they aren’t unheard of—they aren’t LEGENDARY—but at the same time they definitely aren’t mass produced or reliably available. At very rare, they aren’t being produced by House Jorasco. Because they exist, you can be sure that Jorasco is trying to create them—likely coordinating with Vadalis and the Twelve—but it hasn’t managed to crack the code.
With that said, very rare means that, again, they aren’t legendary. People have HEARD of them, even if they aren’t something you can just go to the store and purchase. This ties to the general point that especially with rarer items, don’t just think of it as a generic “potion”. Who made it? How will that affect its appearance? Are there any interesting side effects? Appearance, application, side effects—all of these should be largely cosmetic. If a potion is something you rub on your skin instead of drinking, you should still be able to do it in six seconds. A side effect might make you green for an hour, but it wouldn’t give you the Poisoned condition. I mean, it could, if that’s what you want, but that would be a distinctly inferior version of the item.
So with that in mind, let’s consider a few ways someone could acquire a very rare potion of longevity… and what those might look like. .
The Shadowor Sul Khatesh. The Shadow and Sul Khatesh can both be sources of powerful magic… but such magics often has a disturbing cost. A powerful priest of the Shadow or a favored warlock (or other devotee) of Sul Khatesh could learn a ritual allowing them to create a swirling crimson liquid that adds years to your life. The catch? The primary ingredient is the lifesblood of a humanoid creature; generally, to be effective, it must be a creature of the same species as the potential imbiber, and there could be additional restrictions (the blood of a virgin or the blood from someone who has never taken a life). Essentially, you are stealing their life—again, it must be their lifesblood, which is to say that they must die in the process of your taking it—and condensing it down to give you a few more years. There is a second form of this ritual that instead requires the recipient to bathe in the enchanted fluid as opposed to just drinking it. This doesn’t have the cumulative risk of accidental aging, but it takes longer and requires much more blood—the blood of multiple humanoids for one effective dose. There have been a few tyrants throughout history who have worked with a priest of the Shadow and extended their lives unnaturally in this way; while they weren’t actual vampires, they lived off the blood of their subjects.
The Blood of Vol. One of the basic devotions of the Seekers of the Divinity Within is the communal donation of blood. This blood is typically used to support vampires and other undead champions of the faith. However, a few Seeker priests have found a way to create a potion similar to the Shadow brew described above—a potion that can sustain a living creature through the donated lifeforce of the faithful. However, this is a divine ritual that is difficult to master and there may not be any living priests capable of performing it. Further, while it’s superior to the Shadow technique in that it doesn’t require the death of the donors, it can only draw on the blood of the faithful and it uses a significant amount of that blood (it is concentrated down into the final potion); it’s not an efficient use of the donations.
The Prince of Slime. The daelkyr Kyrzin creates a symbiotic ooze that can be consumed as if it was a potion, which has the same effects as a potion of longevity. The ooze spreads throughout the donor’s body, rejuvenating their flesh. However, it remains within their system forever. Should the user consume multiple potions, there is no risk of accidental aging. However, with each potion consumed, there is a 10% cumulative chance that the user’s personality and memories will be eradicated and replaced by the alien consciousness of the slime.
Archfey. A number of Archfey create potions of longevity. The elixir brewed by the Lady in Shadow ages someone close to the imbiber a number of years equal to the benefit the user receives; they get more life, but someone they know pays the price. The Harvest Monarch produces a potion that reduces the imbiber’s effective age… but the years come back during the winter months, only to fade again in the spring. The Mother of Invention might produce a potion that works in a manner similar to Kyrzin’s slime; it effectively reduces the age of the user, but it does so by replacing some of their internal organs with clockwork or silver thread, and there’s a cumulative 10% chance that the imbiber will become a mindless construct. The Merchant of Misthaven sells a standard potion of longevity with no unpleasant side effects; the question is what she will seek in exchange for that potion.
Mordain the Fleshweaver. Mordain has created a number of different forms of potions of longevity... a salve that’s rubbed into the skin, a silvery fluid similar to mercury, a glittering powder that’s inhaled. It’s unclear why he keeps making new versions; presumably, he’s trying to find the perfect form and these are all unsatisfactory. Which could again mean that there’s some long-term side effects waiting to be discovered…
With it being very rare, I wouldn’t have Jorasco producing potions of longevity. However, if they did, I’d definitely give it a catchy name and appealing flavoring. Try the new SpringStep, available in Zilberry or new Vazilla!
With all that in mind, let’s consider the second question: what’s the political impact of such things? After all, the Code of Galifar has a clause that addresses the undead, so that a vampire can’t (openly) rule forever. Would there be a similar clause dealing with potions of longevity? As written, I’m inclined to say not, for two reasons. The short form is that they aren’t that impressive. A potion of longevity extends someone’s life for up to 13 years, with a 10% cumulative chance of backfiring. So at best that’s adding 130 years of life. Which SEEMS pretty good to us, but when we’re living in a world of elves and dwarves, Haldren’s 120 years really isn’t that impressive; let’s face it, that’s the default starting age for an Aereni PC. Beyond that, there’s a lot of different things that could extend life a little. Haldren ir’Brassek is called out as having ties to the worship of the Dark Six, so I expect he’s increasing his life using techniques of the Shadow. BUT… he’s also a powerful sorcerer, which means that he’s innately magical. While I don’t think it’s suggested in the class features, I see nothing strange about the idea that a powerful Draconic Sorcerer might live an unnaturally long life. The same logic could follow for any sorcerer. Perhaps a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer has an innate form of the Mother of Invention’s potion, slowly becoming more construct over time. A Divine Soul Sorcerer could easily be sustained by celestial energy. Beyond that, you have affects of manifest zones, subtle aasimar, fey bargains… In short, if a seemingly normal human lives for centuries, people may start to wonder. But if someone who is known to be a powerful sorcerer makes it to 120 and still seems healthy? He’s clearly a remarkable person infused with supernatural energy; I don’t think people will be too surprised. Some might even say “Age isn’t what’s gonna kill Haldren.” At the same time, murdering people to extend your life is definitely against the Code of Galifar. If he’s just a (super)naturally long lived sorcerer that’s fine. If it can be proven that he ritually sacrificed people to extend his life, well, back to Dreadhold we go…
That’s all for now! If you’re at PAX this weekend make sure to drop by the Twogether booth and say hello. Thanks again to my Patrons who make these articles possible—I’ve got a number of things planned for Patreon in September.
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few from this month!
Is there an equivalent to the phonograph in Eberron? If so, how accessible is it?
In this article I gave my thoughts on the equivalent of photography in Eberron. So, what about recorded sound? Well, Eberron is about the every day application of magic. Is there a spell of 3rd level or below that could reasonably be applied to produce a similar effect? Absolutely. Minor illusion is a cantrip that allows the reproduction of sound… and spellshards are crystals that hold data. And who loves music AND has a talent for illusion? So, putting that all together…
If you attend the Tain Gala, Celyria will show you her latest acquisition—a Phiarlan hydra. The base of this wonder is a cube of black stone. A four-headed hydra is engraved on its top, and the mouth of each hydra is a spherical depression that can hold a polished globe of wood embedded with a tiny dragonshard. Each of these “marbles” holds a performance by one of Phiarlan’s finest musicians. But the hydra has a fifth head, sculpted from copper and wood, rising up from the base. When you activate the hydra, it draws out the sound of the performance held within one of the marbles and projects it through the sculpted head, as clear as if you were there. So come to the Tain gala, and hear the hydra sing!
Personally (largely because it’s never been mentioned before) I’m inclined to make the hydra a recent development that’s currently only available to the wealthy. But the principles aren’t terribly complicated — it’s cantrip level magic — so I could see it quickly gaining popularity and spreading. PCs with the entertainer background could be encouraged to record some marbles for Phiarlan! Also, if you’re interested in the idea of broadcast audio entertainment in Eberron, check out the House Sivis Echoer Station!
Do the Poison Dusk lizardfolk of Q’barra have any significant musical/artistic customs?
Certainly! But it’s important to remember that the Poison Dusk aren’t exclusively lizardfolk and that they aren’t a traditional culture. As called out in Dungeon 185, the Poison Dusk includes kobolds, troglodytes, lizardfolk, and dragonborn—including mutants like the blackscale lizardfolk. They aren’t a culture that has evolved over time; they are victims of Masvirik, whose personalities and memories have been eroded and overwritten by the power of the Cold Sun. Their leaders are actively (if often only partially) possessed by fiends.
So with all that in mind, in thinking about ANY of the customs of the Poison Dusk, I would want them to feel eerie and alien—to help convey the concept that these are people who are all, on some level, shaped by fiendish influences.
Considering all this, what comes to my mind is the Hissing Chorus. This is a rhythmic, ululating hissing, at its base almost like the sound of wind. This hissing is supplemented by body percussion, each participant using a single hand to tap claws against scales, or potentially to scrape claws against another surface — essentially, adding fingernails on a blackboard to a musical performance. The key to all of this is that the rhythm is seemingly random, asymmetric and unpredictable, yet all participants work in perfect unison; it’s an ecstatic experience driven by instinct, something that draws the musicians into communion with the Cold Sun. The Hissing Chorus is encountered in many ways and with varying intensity. A single Poison Dusk may effectively whistle while they work, hissing quietly to themself. A troop will hiss as they march, with greater force and intensity. And a Poison Dusk community may hiss together as a writhing mob, guided by a dusk-shard imbued champion who voice is amplified by magic, potentially with instrumentalists using hide drums and scraping surfaces that send chills through anyone within range. But the PRINCIPLE is the same throughout, and crucially, the song is something that is constantly evolving; it’s more like speaking in tongues than playing a treasured symphony. Because the Poison Dusk has no lengthy history; time and time again, they have been hunted down by the Trothslorsvek and the Masvirik’uala, only to rise once more, hissing their eerie, endless song.
That’s all for now! If you have questions of your own, join my Patreon. As always, thanks to my patrons for making this site and these articles possible!
I’m on my way to MegaCon where I’ll be talking about games and playing on the main stage! It’s been a busy month: I’ve relaunched my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on my Patreon and I’m writing for Wayfinder. I’m working on the next Dragonmark article, which will deal with Khorvaire in the Age of Giants. But when time allows I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons… so lets look at one of those.
Could you expand on the description of the Crucible artificers in Exploring Eberron, or more generally on how the overlap between adept magic and artifice/magecraft works & what it looks like? I’m assuming the faiths have followed technological progress, but I’m having a hard time coming up with more than mass-produced religious icons, scripture, and holy water.
One of the central aspects of Eberron’s idea of Everyday Magic is the existence of a widespread force of spellworkers who don’t have the flexibility or scope of player character spellcasters. An oracle can cast divination and augury, but they can’t perform healing magic. A locksmith can cast knock and arcane lock, but they can’t conjure illusions or fling fireballs. For most people in the world, mastering a particular set of spells is a life’s work, and you can’t just spend an evening reading a spellbook or a morning in prayer and completely change your spell list.
In the original ECS, adepts and magewrights were called out as entirely different classes. As the concept evolved this line was blurred. Eberron Rising From The Last War generally uses “magewright” as a blanket term for any professional spellcaster. The Magewright Specialty table on page 318 of Rising includes Oracles, Mediators, and Healers—all roles traditionally associated with adepts and divine magic. But the point is that from a purely mechanical perspective, it doesn’t matter how the magewright casts the ritual, only that they can; the rest is cosmetic detail. I discuss this in this article, looking at the difference between a divine oracle and an arcane oracle. Both can cast divination, but for the adept this is about communing with a divine force, while for the arcane magewright it’s based on some form of science, such as cartomancy. The short form is that “magewright” as defined in Rising From The Last War simply means someone who can cast a limited set of ritual spells or cantrips and doesn’t care whether that person is a traditional magewright, adept, gleaner, or wandslinger.
I expanded on this in Exploring Eberron:
Arcane magic is a science; magewrights master its techniques. However, there are other forms of magic which can likewise be adapted to everyday functions. An adept derives their magic from their faith, a more limited form of what a cleric can do; likewise, a gleaner masters the simplest forms of druidic magic. Especially with the adept, this is usually more of a calling than a job; you don’t decide to become an oracle of Aureon, you find that you are gifted with visions. The rituals of an adept will invoke divine forces, while a gleaner will draw on the world around them and often use an herbalism kit as a spellcasting focus.
Having said that in Exploring Eberron, I’m going to quantify it here. VASSALS don’t choose to become adepts; they believe they are called or blessed by one of the Sovereigns. You can’t demand that Aureon give you the gift of prophecy; either he chooses you to be an oracle or he doesn’t. But that’s because Vassals interact with the Sovereigns as if they were people. As a Vassal, you ask Aureon for guidance. By contrast, the Silver Flame is an impersonal force. It’s not an anthropomorphic entity that decides to do things. The Silver Flame was created to bind the overlords. That’s its primary function and we’re all very lucky that it continues to perform that function. The fact that people of great faith can draw on its power to defend the innocent is a side benefit. The Silver Flame binds the overlords. To do that, it must be omnipresent within the world; and therefore, the power is all around, available for a person of faith to use.
The people of Thrane are raised with that concept. While Thranish belief in the Flame isn’t universal or oppressive, for the faithful it’s part of everyday life. You know that the Flame is all around you, that it holds the ancient evils at bay, and that those with sufficient devotion can wield its power to serve the greater good. It’s a tool, like the bow… and where some Thranes master the bow and become templars or serve in the village militia, others turn to the tool of prayer and focus on harnessing the power of the Flame. Hence, as said in Rising From The Last War, moreso than in the other nations, “Faith is part of daily life in Thrane and divine adepts provide important services.” Specifically, they provide services that are typically provided by arcane magewrights in other nations. Healer and oracle are common roles for adepts in any nation. But in Thrane, you can find launderers using the power of the Flame to cleanse dirty clothes. You can find locksmiths who channel the power of the Flame to cast arcane lock—providing protection for the innocent. You can even find entertainers who draw on the Flame to amplify their voices or create music. This looks different from a Vassal adept, because the adept of the Silver Flame doesn’t have to ask for the power; the power is THERE, and they just need to know how to use it. But the Flame adept still needs faith to channel the power, and needs to believe they are using their gift for the good of the community. So the Thrane launderer doesn’t say “Oh Flame, I beseech you, cleanse these filthy clothes!” But they may sing a hymn to Tira or to the Flame while doing the laundry, and for them, doing laundryis an expression of their faith—they feel the power of the Flame flowing through them, and know that they are helping this community. A secondary point to this is that Flame adepts take money for their services, because they need to be able to thrive to continue to provide those services to their community, but as a rule they aren’t driven by greed. They need to believe they are providing a valuable service and it’s only just for those who can afford it to pay a fair price for that service. But they believe that they are doing a service for those in need, not simply chasing gold; and Thrane adepts are thus more likely to perform charitable work for those who truly are in need than the typical Brelish magewright.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE CRUCIBLE?
With all that in mind, let’s look back at the original question. Exploring Eberron has this to say about the Crucible of Thrane: Developed during the Last War, this small order of adepts and artificers crafts items drawing on the power of the Silver Flame. So what do they actually MAKE? Is it all mass-produced scripture and holy water?
These days the difference between adepts and magewrights is cosmetic. The same principle applies to artificers. Just as you can play a bard who isn’t a musician, a barbarian who never gets angry, and a warlock without a patron, you can play an artificer who draws on the power of the Silver Flame. And they can create anything any other artificer could create. You can be an artillerist carving wands or an alchemist making potions. The key is that you are enchanting these items by infusing them with the power of the Flame. Where a Cannith artillerist might craft a wand of fireballs inlaid with Fernian brass and fine draconic sigils, your wand will be traced in silver and an invocation of the Flame—and it may inflict fire damage, the flames will be silver. Note in particular that the Crucible was developed during the Last War. So what does it make? WEAPONS. Siege staffs. Blast disks. Long rods. Mechanically these are the same as their Brelish counterparts, but the Thrane force staff flings bolts of blinding silver energy and one of the three actions required to activate the staff is invoking the Flame. Exploring Eberron says that using arcane artillery “requires specialized training, similar to that of an artificer or magewright; someone trained to operate arcane artillery is generally called a bombardier.” Operating a Thranish Flame-powered siege staff would require an entirely different set of training. There ARE elements of science involved; the staff is still a tool that must be maintained. But the energy involved is divine in nature and only responds to faith. If you wanted to take this a step farther, Exploring Eberron presents dragon’s breath as the primary ammunition used by arcane artillery. I would imagine that divine artillery would use a different substance, possible just called Flame by the bombardiers—a powder that is literally infused with faith, produced in factory-temples.
Having said all that, it is important to note that there are arcane magewrights and artificers in Thrane and divine adepts elsewhere. It’s possible that Breland has a unit where Brelish templars operate a Thrane-made Flame cannon, and Thrane may have used traditional blast disks. Note that the Crucible was formed DURING the Last War. It is a reflection of wartime innovation and the industrialization of the faith—and just as there are many devotees of the Flame who don’t approve of the theocracy of Thrane, there are likely many who don’t approve of this industrialization.
So the short form is that ANY magic item could be presented as being a product of the Crucible powered by the Flame. Just consider how that’s reflected in its appearance. Potions produced by a Crucible artificer may shimmer with a silver radiance or seem to burn. The command word for a Crucible wand is an invocation to the Flame. And crucially, consider how the creator of the item could belief that in its creation they are serving their community and protecting the innocent. The Crucible created weapons and tools to protect the people of Thrane. It brewed potions to heal them. But it couldn’t produce pure luxury items or trivial goods, because the typical Crucible artificer would stumble in creation, questioning how it was a worthy use of the Flame’s power.
So how do these principles apply beyond Thrane? Can you have a divine artificer bound to Boldrei, and what does that look like? Certainly, you can have Vassal artificers and adepts. The key is that they are less industrialized. Because faith in the Flame is such a universal constant in Thrane, and because the Flame is perceived as an omnipresent force, it can be approached like learning to use a tool. Faith in the Sovereigns is more casual and more personal; each Vassal develops their own relationship with the Sovereigns. So again, as noted above, you don’t train to be an oracle of Aureon; you realize that you are an oracle of Aureon. The same principle applies to the artificer of Boldrei. It’s not a job with a clear entry path. You likely start by training for a mundane job and then realizing that Boldrei is guiding you, that she is infusing your work with magic, and over time, you learn how to effectively use her gifts. Which also means three Artificers of Boldreicould be very different based on their relationship with the Sovereign. The first thing I imagine is an Alchemist artificer who uses Chef’s Tools to produce enchanted food; their cure wounds is a strong cup of Tal that perks you right up and their enhance ability is a muffin whose flavor depends on the ability involved, but which channels the energy of Boldrei’s Hearth. On the other hand, a Battle Smith of Boldrei would be driven more by Boldrei’s role as defender of the community; their Steel Defender doesn’t follow any Cannith principles, but is animated by the artificer’s faith. This is also a good time to point out that the Sovereigns don’t stand alone. We often call someone out as an “Oracle of Aureon” to say that out of the Host, they feel the strongest connection to Aureon. But when the Oracle of Aureon gets in a fight, they may still offer a prayer to Dol Dorn–and likewise, the Battle Smith “of Boldrei” can also feel a connection to the rest of the Host. They identify with Boldrei because they feel they’ve been called to defend their community, but they can still thank Onatar while they repair the armor that was damaged in a battle.
Nonetheless, the key point here is that Thrane is the only one of the Five Nations where divine artifice has become an industry. Vassal adepts and artificers are usually more unique, and that means the things they create will be as well. So Boldrei’s Alchemist may use cooking tools and give you a muffin to enhance your strength; while Boldrei’s Battle Smith could use smith’s tools and give you a medallion engraved with Boldrei’s sigil.
That’s all for now; hopefully this gives you some interesting ideas. As I’ll be at MegaCon for the next few days I won’t be answering questions, but feel free to share your ideas and experiences with divine artifice in the comments. And thanks as always to my Patreonsupporters for making these articles possible and for asking interesting questions!
It’s been a busy month. In addition to all of my usual work, I’ve been putting together a Spelljammer in Eberron campaign I’ll be running for my Threshold Patrons; that’s taken up most of my D&D energy. But I do try to answer questions from my patrons when I have time, and here’s a few that have come up this month.
In your Eberron, how would you introduce and incorporate the Dunamancy school of magic from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount ?
There’s two approaches I’d consider. The Wildemount sourcebook says “Dunamis is the primal magical energy of potentiality and actuality, an anticipatory arcane force that helps shape the multiverse and might very well be what holds its elements together, like an infinite web of unseen tethers… Those who study to control and tap into this near-invisible power can subtly bend the flow of time and space by controlling the forces of localized gravity, peering into possible timelines to shift fate in their favor…” One possibility this brings to mind is the Draconic Prophecy, which is a power that shapes reality and the path of the future. On the other hand, it doesn’t really map well to the actual effects of Dunamancy. I don’t see why the Prophecy would allow you to specifically manipulate gravity, and while the Prophecy can allow you to anticipate the path of the future, it’s not generally associated with alternate timelines or, for that matter, time travel; it’s the force that establishes the future, not a force you use to travel between possibilities.
So with that in mind, I’d actually say that the source of Dunamancy in my campaign would be Xoriat. As I discuss in Exploring Eberron, Xoriat exists beyond time and is the vantage point from which you could travel through time or visit alternate realities (the other rats in the Maze of Reality). I could easily see a Dunamancer as drawing a duplicate or other aspects from one of these alternate Eberrons… and when it comes to gravity, Xoriat is all about bending natural law; the idea that you use the power of Xoriat to make gravity perform in illogical ways is entirely reasonable. With all this in mind, I could see there being a strong bias against the use of Dunamancy, on the fear that it has the potential to destabilize reality—if you keep reaching across and drawing power or elements from alternate Eberrons, one day you might trigger a cascading effect that shifts that an alternate with the prime material. Keep bending gravity and you might just break it! I wouldn’t make it something where a player character would be persecuted for practicing dunamancy, but I could see it being either forbidden or at least highly restricted in Arcanix; to learn it, you’d have to find a rare mentor or sneak into the restricted stacks in the library.
So, I’d tie Dunamancy to Xoriat. But there’s another point, which is that dunamancy doesn’t have to be dunamancy. Let’s take the Echo Knight archetype for fighter. The default lore is that they are “using dunamis to summon the fading shades of unrealized timelines to aid them in battle.” But the practical effect is that they summon an echo to fight alongside them… and there’s lots of interesting ways to explain that depending on the nature of the character.
Thuranni Shadowdancer. An Echo Knight with the Dragonmark of Shadow could tie their echo to their mark, literally calling their own shadow into battle. To give it more depth, I’d probably tie this tradition to a particular family—let’s say Thuranni—and say that they use it both for art and assassination; there’s a specialized form of performance that essentially involves dancing with yourself. Any elf with the Mark of Shadows could learn these techniques; it’s just that it’s a Thuranni tradition, and Thuranni is where you’d find the masters of the art.
Quori Nightmare. Previous editions presented the idea of the Quori Nightmare, a kalashtar tradition that manifested an ectoplasmic shroud resembling the kalashtar’s quori spirit. You could easily represent the same idea with a Kalashtar Echo Knight; it’s just that instead of the echo resembling YOU, it’s a shadowy depiction of your quori spirit. If I went this path, I’d say that there are Inspired who use a similar technique, just to have a fun Echo Knight vs Echo Knight fight at some point in the campaign.
Revenant Blade. Tairnadal champions seek to channel their heroic ancestors; perhaps a truly gifted Tairnadal can draw an echo of their ancestor to fight alongside them. With the player’s permission, I’d assert that the echo can’t be forced to perform an action that goes against their nature; if the patron was known for their mercy, the echo won’t strike a helpless foe. If the player was willing to accept this limitation, I might balance it by saying that the echo sometimes displays skills the player character doesn’t actually have; it’s not their echo; it’s their inspiration.
These are just a few possibilities. Perhaps the Knights Phantom of Aundair can conjure phantom echoes as well as phantom steeds. Maybe there’s a tradition among the Blood of Vol that allows a champion to manifest their Divinity Within. I wouldn’t personally add all of these concepts into the same campaign, just because it would end up with too many Echo Knights—I’d pick one or two options, focusing on the best story for the player who wants to play an Echo Knight. So you can add Dunamancy to Eberron—but you don’t have to work Dunamancy into a campaign if all you actually want is to play an Echo Knight.
How would the lore of Changelings change, if at all, if I wanted to use the new races from “Monsters of the Multiverse” (mostly about being a fey)?
Rues change, and I’m fine with using the new changeling rules from Monsters of the Multiverse—but in my campaign, I’m not changing anything about changeling history or culture because of it. If this is the path you want to take, one option is to use the new rules and simply to ignore the change that makes them fey. On the other hand, FEY AREN’T ALL FROM THELANIS. In the lore as described, changelings are literally defined by a mythical story—the tale of Jes and her bargain with the Traveler—and it’s entirely plausible to say that as a species they began as NATIVE FEY. I’d say they are super-grounded compared to most fey—that the Fey type is largely a legacy of their origin—but I don’t have a problem with it. On the other hand, I also have no trouble with the idea that changelings’ fluid nature causes magic to interact with them differently that it does for most humanoids—IE, they REACT TO MAGIC the same way as fey creatures, but they aren’t actually true fey. Essentially, the question is if you want changelings to be immune to Charm Person but vulnerable to Magic Circle. If so, use the MotM rules as written, with the idea that they’re distantly native fey or that it’s tied to their chaotic nature; if not, ignore that particular change. I don’t have an issue with the fact that MotM allows them to impersonate small creatures; now they can have fun in Zilargo and on the Talenta Plains.
On the other hand, I’m happy to say that there are ALSO changelings who DO come from Thelanis. These could be mortals of other species who were taken to Thelanis as children and altered by this supernatural sojourn, or they could be members of the supporting cast of Thelanis—spirits who by their nature change form to fit the needs of a story—who have somehow been cast out of Thelanis to find a story of their own. Such changelings would be extremely rare in Eberron—basically, they’re all player characters—and they would have no ties to the native changelings; with this in mind I’d give each one an entirely different natural form, based on their backstory. They aren’t a SPECIES as the native changelings are, they’re exotic individuals.
Quori are described as spirits of nightmares, but hashalaqs are spirits of pleasure and kalaraqs are spirits of pride; aren’t those usually associated with pleasant dreams?
It’s an oversimplification to say that quori are “nightmare spirits.” Quori are evil dream architects. A hashalaq quori isn’t an embodiment of pleasure; it knows how to use and manipulate pleasure. It has no interest in actually giving you a pleasant dream, unless it serves a malefic purpose; in this it’s like a succubus or incubus, a fiend that uses pleasure as its tool. Exploring Eberron describes hashalaq quori as “seducers and deceivers, feeding on doubt and desire.” Likewise with the kalaraq: pride is the tool they use to manipulate mortals. So a hashalaq may very well give you a pleasant dream, if that dream steers you down the path the Dreaming Dark wants you to follow. The kalaraq specialize in pride and ambition, and kalaraq dreams urge dreamers to seize power, to start revolutions, to kill a brother and claim their crown… because gosh darn it, you deserve it. Hashalaq weave dreams to tempt you to fall in love with the wrong person, to choose pleasure over duty, or to doubt yourself. Quori-inspired dreams don’t have to be what WE would consider nightmares; they can create whatever dream best suits their purposes.
What we’ve said about quori is that they excel at evoking particular emotions and that on some level they feed on those emotions. But any quori can create any dream. Quori have the ability to cast the dream spell, and there’s no limits on what they do with this. Tsucora specialize in fear, and I’ve suggested that they may have even more specific talents. Exploring Eberron describes a tsucora who “wove dreams of gothic horror, playing on her victims’ fears of death and the undead.” That’s what she LOVES—but if she wanted to, she COULD create a dream of evil clowns, she just LIKES gothic horror. It’s the same way that an amazing Jazz musician CAN play a piece of classical music straight as written; it’s just not going to take full advantage of their skills and won’t be as remarkable a performance as when they are playing what they love. Quori can create whatever dreams are required by the task at hand; but they’ll always be more effective when they’re doing what they love. If I was actually using the Dream spell mechanics for a particular quori dream, I might give the victim disadvantage on the saving throw if the quori they’re dealing with specializes in the subject of their dream—such as when Lurashtai weaves a dream of gothic horror. While on the other hand, if the quori is making a dream that’s the opposite of what it loves to do—a du’ulora create a dream about miserable apathy—I might give the victim advantage on that saving throw. Of course, keep in mind that most quori dreams don’t involve saving throws; it’s only if they’re trying to trigger a dramatic effect (blocking rest and/or inflicting psychic damage) that saving throws come into play.
That’s all for now! Feel free to discuss these in the comments, but I don’t answer questions on IFAQs; if you want to ask me questions like these ones, check out my Patreon!
In my last article, I described how I’d combine Eberron and Spelljammer… and realized that I want to run that campaign! As a result, I’m putting my current PatreonEberron campaign on hold, and for the rest of the year I’ll be running a Siberspace space race campaign. We’re currently wrapping up session zero, but I wanted to quickly explain how the campaign works in case you’d like to get on board.
I’ve had a Patreon for some time; this support determines how much time I can put into the articles I post on this blog. A few years I decided to expand this and added the Threshold Tier, giving patrons a chance to take part in an ongoing Eberron campaign. The story is ongoing, and the characters are consistent… but the players change each session. In the week before the session I hold a poll to choose the game time, since I have patrons in different time zones. The rules of Patreon won’t let me choose players at random, so once a time is set, I pose a creative challenge. For example, in this first Siberspace session I might say “Tell me which character you want to play, and tell me what they hate to leave behind as they head into space.” Does the Captain have an ailing sibling? A new love? A dog with separation issues? I look at the answers and pick my five favorites, and those five people play in the session… and their stories become hooks I can use in the adventure. I don’t stream the sessions live, but I record them and patrons have access to audio and video recordings of all sessions.
While only a few people get to play in each session, the story belongs to everyone. I used Patreon polls to create the characters and to establish key directions for the story. I have a Threshold Discord channel where people can discuss the campaign—and I occasionally do choose-your-own-adventure style story hours on Discord, where patrons can vote on things that happen between sessions. That’s going to be especially important in this Siberspace campaign, where months may pass between each session—and negotiations or decisions made by the leaders of the Dragonhawk Initiative could have a vital impact on the next mission. I’ll also be creating new content for the campaign—interstellar hazards, random encounters, navigational challenges—that I’ll be sharing with patrons.
So every patron gets to be part of the story, whether or not they play in it. This is especially true right now, as we’re building the foundation of the campaign. Over the course of the week, I’ve been running polls on Patreon and discussions on Discord. The patrons have chosen the Dragonhawk Initiative—Aundair’s feytouched explorers—as the focus of the campaign, and we’ve been working through the characters. I’ve pitched a variety of interesting concepts, but even I have been surprised by some of the outcomes; I never expected Dragonhawk’s captain to be an Aundairian noble cursed into the shape of a grung, but the patrons have spoken and we have our frog prince. Currently the final character poll is active on Patreon, determining the nature of the ship’s medic and chief scout; it runs until the morning of Saturday, August 20th, so if you want to help shape the Dragonhawk crew, now’s the time!
The first Siberspace session will happen in the next two weeks, and I expect it to run through the end of the year. If you’d like to join the journey, check out the Threshold tier on Patreon! To the Moons, and beyond!
The warforged captain stared at the great orange orb ahead of them. “This is it, my friends. We are about to be the first people to set foot on Olarune. Thanks to your courage and your tireless efforts, we will bring honor to Breland—and Sovereigns willing, profit.”
“Captain, ship ahead!”
“Impossible. “ The captain adjusted his ocular lenses. “We’re a day ahead of the Karrns—”
“It’s not the Blade. It’s an unknown design, sir. And it’s ascending from the surface.”
The deck crew ran to the rails. The approaching ship was like nothing they’d ever seen; it looked like a great oak uprooted and cast into the air, with tapestries of rainbows spun between its branches. In its own way, it was beautiful. But as it drew closer, the crew of Intrepid heard the sounds coming from it—the howls of hungry wolves.
Spelljammer intertwines fantasy and magic with spacefaring adventure. This dynamic setting has come to fifth edition, giving players the opportunity to set a course for Wildspace and distant stars. What does this mean for Eberron? What’s the best way to take your campaign to the skies and beyond?
Eberron: Rising From The Last War states that “Eberron is part of the Great Wheel of the multiverse… At the same time, it is fundamentally apart from the rest of the Great Wheel, sealed off from the other planes even while it’s encircled by its own wheeling cosmology. Eberron’s unique station in the multiverse is an important aspect of the world… it is sheltered from the influences and machinations of gods and other powers elsewhere in the Great Wheel.” Now, Rising also says that if you WANT to integrate Eberron with other settings you can; as a DM, you can say that whatever protections have hidden Eberron from the worlds beyond are failing. So there’s nothing stopping you from making a campaign where there’s regular commerce or even war between Realmspace and Eberron’s wildspace system—let’s call it Siberspace. But personally, I’m more interesting in combining the two concepts in a very different way—in finding an approach that adds depth to the moons, the Ring, and the existing cosmology of Eberron rather than leaving it behind.
EBERRON IN ISOLATION: THE SPACE RACE
One of the core principles of Eberron is that arcane magic is a form of science and that it evolves—that invention and innovation should play a role in the setting. With this in mind, in bringing Spelljammer into Eberron I’d emphasize that this isn’t a retcon, it’s a new development. The Five Nations have never had spelljammers until now. The adventurers aren’t the latest recruits in a vast, well-established spelljamming fleet; they are among the very first humanoids to venture into wildspace to try reach the moons of Eberron.
With this in mind, an important question is why no one’s gone into space. The Ring of Siberys is beyond the atmosphere, but what’s stopping me from putting on a ring of sustenance and pointing my broom of flying straight up? In my campaign, there are three major obstacles. The first is that the Ring and the moons are beyond Eberron’s atmosphere, so you need to be able to survive in wildspace. The second is that breaking free from Eberron’s gravity is a challenge, requiring a surge of energy a simple item like a broom of flying can’t produce. The third is that the Ring of Siberys radiates arcane energy. As discussed below, this specifically interferes with divination and teleportation, but it can overload any arcane system… and this seems to especially impact magic of flight. It’s almost like the Progenitors didn’t want people to leave the planet. But why take the hint? These are problems that can be overcome, and now they have; the people of Eberron have developed spelljammers that can reach the Ring and beyond. Still, the key is that this is all happening now, in 998 YK. And different nations are using very different techniques to overcome these obstacles—each of which could have unexpected problems.
Who’s Going To Space?
In developing a Spelljammer campaign based on the space race, a key question is who’s in the race? My preference is to focus on the Five Nations. No one won the Last War, and fear of the Mourning prevents anyone from restarting it; there’s still tension, resentment, and intrigue. So in addition to the excitement of going where no one has gone before, I’d emphasize the tension between nations and the impact triumphs in space could have back home. Just as in our world, the space race could become a proxy for this conflict, driven by national pride and the determination not to let another nation secure a tactical advantage in space. The Treaty of Thronehold still holds, and it would take intense provocation to cause an Aundairian ship to open fire on a Brelish ship—but the nations are bitterly competitive and will do anything short of war to get an edge over their rivals. Finding awesome space treasure is great, but forming alliances and establishing outposts could be the most important elements of an adventure.
So with this in my mind, I’d focus on three primary forces. The Dragonmarked Houses are willing to work with every nation, but this is also a chance to explore the growing division within House Cannith, suggesting that each of the three barons are backing a different nation and that the rivalry between these three is almost as strong as the cold war between the nations.
Aundair: The Dragonhawk Initiative
Aundair dares, and that motto certainly applies to its spelljamming program. Rather than pursuing the established path of elemental binding, this branch of the Arcane Congress is blending cutting edge arcane science with Thelanian wonder. The Brelish say that Aundair traded an old cow for a spelljamming engine, and while that’s a mocking exaggeration, it’s not entirely untrue; the ir’Dalan line has a long association with the archfey known as the Mother of Invention, and the Archmagister Asta ir’Dalan has brought wizards and warlocks together in a unique alliance. The current Aundairian ships are the fastest and most maneuverable of the three main powers, and unquestionably the most beautiful. A few key notes about the Dragonhawk Initiative…
Romantic Explorers. The Dragonhawk Initiative is a branch of the Arcane Congress; it’s a scientific program rather than a military operation. While there’s a chain of command, discipline is far less intense than on a Karrnathi vessel. Dragonhawks love the story of being explorers into the unknown and embrace the romance of the adventure more than their counterparts—as befits a ship built in alliance with the fey. Dragonhawks are determined to prove Aundairian superiority and to seize strategic objectives, but they also are the most likely to be distracted by intriguing mysteries and shiny objects, and to embrace exploration for its own sake. Dragonhawk crew have relative freedom when it comes to personal expression, and Karrns often sneer that Dragonhawks are dressed for a gala rather than for space. As scientific vessels, Dragonhawks have the lightest armaments of the three powers but the greatest investment in divination magic and other research tools.
Arcane and Fey. Dragonhawk ships rely on a blend of concrete science and on improbable fey magic. A side effect of this is that each ship is unique. The tree-like Wayfinder uses a sail that catches “ethereal winds”, while the flagship Dragonhawk has actual wings of wood and gold that animate as it flies. Each ship has a fey spirit who’s part of the ship itself, much like a dryad is tied to a tree; this spirit can’t manifest independently as a dryad does, but it monitors the condition of the ship and its mood affects the vessel’s performance. Dragonhawk ships have a number of lesser fey that work directly with the spirit and maintain its systems; these are effectively chwinga with the mending and prestidigitation cantrips. As such, a Dragonhawk vessel has a Magister—the chief wizard and researcher, who maintains the arcane wards and other scientific systems, and an Arbiter—a warlock who has a pact with the spirit of the ship itself. The Arbiter is effectively an engineer, encouraging the ship when needed to boost performance and commanding the chwinga. However, Arbiters are also expected to mediate disputes within the crew and to serve as diplomats when required. The explorers expect to face unknown dangers, and who better to handle first contact with alien beings than someone trained to negotiate with the fey?
Wondrous but Unpredictable. Each Dragonhawk vessel is unique. Their current ships are the fastest in the skies, but it’s possible the next ship they produce will be a clockwork dragon turtle that is slow but extremely durable. An unavoidable side effect of this is that each vessel can have its own unexpected problems. It’s just possible that Dragonhawk’s wings will melt if it gets too close to the sun, or that Wayfinder will run into an unexpected ethereal storm. Another way to look at this is that Dragonhawk vessels are ultimately stories. If the story of an expedition is exciting enough on its own, the ship will be fine… but if a tale starts to lag, something will happen to add drama to the story.
As research vessels, the crew of a Dragonhawk ship focuses more on arcane sophistication and on skill than brute force. Every ship will have at least one wizard and one warlock. An eldritch knight could be appointed as security chief, but a battlemaster or barbarian would be an unlikely addition to the crew. Baron Jorlanna d’Cannith isn’t as closely involved with the Dragonhawk Initiative as her rival barons are with their nations, but Cannith West is manufacturing elements of the Aundairian spelljammers and could become more actively involved in the future.
Breland: The King’s Argosy
The Argosy is a branch of the King’s Citadel, formed in close alliance with Zilargo, Cannith South under Merrix d’Cannith, and House Lyrandar. Where the Dragonhawk Initiative is scientific and the Blade of Siberys is a branch of the military, the King’s Argosy is ultimately a commercial enterprise; its mission is to seek profit in the heavens, to secure unique resources and opportunities that can benefit Breland and its sponsors. Argosy ships rely on the established principles of the elemental binding; they are essentially bulkier, overpowered elemental airships, including the need for a Lyrandar pilot. Compared to the Dragonhawks, Argosy ships are ugly; but they are sturdy, and thanks to Breland’s industrial capacity the Argosy has the largest fleet of the Five Nations. A few core principles of the King’s Argosy…
Pragmatic. The Brelish aren’t here to enjoy beautiful alien sunsets or to get lost in the wonder of exploration. This is a job, and potentially a very lucrative one; every Argosy crewmember has a small stake in any whatever profits come from their voyage. An Argosy captain is empowered to negotiate for the Brelish crown, but each Argosy ship has an Optech—an opportunity technician—from the Twelve, whose job is to identify opportunities and exploitable resources others might overlook.
Industrial and Elemental. Brelish ships aren’t beautiful; they’re bulkier, chunky airships. The fact that they’re using an existing form of science has given Breland a head start, and the Argosy currently has the largest fleet. However, this quantity comes at the expense of quality; the drawback of using the existing tool is that it’s not necessarily the best tool, as it’s not designed specifically for the challenges of space. Due to the alliance with Merrix d’Cannith, Argosy ships also make liberal use of constructs. In addition to warforged and autognomes (see below), Argosy ships often have tiny prototype constructs that serve a similar role to the Dragonhawk chwinga.
Scrappy. Argosy ships may not be as elegant as their Dragonhawk counterparts, but the Brelish excel at coming up with creative solutions to problems, which is good because there’s almost always problems that need to be solved. Brelish ships share a common hull and basic design, but each has unique modifications implemented by the ship’s artificer. Think of an Observatory ship as the Millennium Falcon—it may seem like it’s constantly on the edge of breaking down, but you never know when it’s going to surprise you.
Argosy crews place a strong emphasis on skill expertise and versatility; there’s always a few jacks of all trades ready to step into the shoes of a fallen specialist. Brelish ships always have at least one warforged or autognome; a Lyrandar pilot; and an artificer, who could be Brelish, Cannith, or Zil. It’s worth noting that while the King’s Argosy is works closely with the Twelve, the two are still ultimately independent. By allowing an Optech on board, the Argosy maximizes the chances of forging profitable arrangements. But the Optech is an adviser who has no actual authority on the ship. And should Aundair or Karrnath come into possession of a valuable resource, the Twelve would negotiate with them. Breland is making business and industry the focus of its mission in space, and thus has encouraged a strong role for the Twelve, but it’s not an exclusive arrangement.
Karrnath: The Blade of Siberys
Where the King’s Argosy hopes to profit from the stars, the Blade of Siberys seeks only one thing: victory. An alliance between the Karrnathi crown and Cannith East (under Zorlan d’Cannith), the Blade is certain that there will eventually be a war in the stars—and when that comes to pass, Karrnath will hold the winning hand. Vital resources? Strategic positions? Alien weapons or allies? The Blade wants them all. A few details about the Blade of Siberys…
Aggressive. The Karrns aren’t here for gold or adventure; this is about the conquest of space. The Karrns are proud of their discipline and their martial skills; they consider the Aundairians to be soft and the Brelish decadent. Blade captains view anything unexpected as a potential threat, and Karrns are ready to fight any threat.
Warships. The Blade of Siberys is a branch of the Karrnathi military. Martial discipline is enforced at all times and insubordination will not be tolerated. Blade vessels are armed with arcane artillery, mundane weaponry, and dedicated marines—usually supplemented by a squad of Karrnathi undead. Blade vessels aren’t fragile, but they rely on devastating offensive power over heavy armor. Argosy ships are more durable and Dragonhawks are faster, but were it to come to a sustained firefight neither could match the Blade of Siberys.
Necromancy. While the crown has officially broken its ties with the Blood of Vol, it hasn’t given up on the military potential of necromancy. Every Blade ship carries a squad of Karrnathi undead. Beyond this, Zorlan d’Cannith has devoted his life to finding new ways to harness the energies of Mabar and unexpected industrial applications of necromancy. Blade vessels are literal ghost ships, with moaning engines surrounded by a whirling morass of ectoplasm. Even the necromancers who maintain them don’t entirely understand the science involved; and the destruction of a Blade warship can unleash hungry shadows.
Every Blade vessel has a necromancer-engineer, and could have an oathbreaker paladin in charge of marines. While there are Karrn necromancers who aren’t part of the Blood of Vol, this could be a case where Seekers are given positions—a major opportunity to repair the relationship between the crown and the Blood of Vol. In general, the Karrns are more concerned with martial force than diplomacy, and strength over finesse. It’s important to keep in mind that the conflict between the Five Nations is still a cold war; with their heavy armament the Blade is prepared for that to change, but as things stand an attack on one of the other nations would be a political catastrophe. But the next war could start tomorrow, and even if it doesn’t, you never know what enemies might be waiting among the moons.
In this campaign, Aundair, Karrnath, and Breland are the three major powers in the space race; it takes the resources of a nation to get off the ground. However, over the course of the campaign other groups could make their way into space. Most of these would be operating on a smaller scale, with one or two ships rather than building up a fleet, but they could still pose unexpected challenges or become useful allies over time.
The Aurum can’t match the industrial capacity of the King’s Argosy, but a wealthy concordian could outfit a single ship to pursue their own pursuit of opportunities in space. This could be an excellent opportunity for a traditional rag-tag group of adventurers who aren’t bound to any one nation—essentially, Firefly.
Thrane isn’t part of the space race to begin with, but they could be a late entry. An engine powered by the Silver Flame could be maintained by the faith of its crew; it could be that they’re the only force the celestials of the Ring will deal with.
New Cyre doesn’t have the resources to support a space program. But what if Cyre and Eston were working on a spelljamming program BEFORE the Mourning? What if there’s a hidden underground facility that has two powerful spelljamming vessels—or possibly even a ship that can shift between the forms of a spelljammer and a warforged colossus? If such a thing exists, a team of Cyran adventurers could be sent into the Mournland to find this base and recover these ships for Cyre. Of course, the Lord of Blades will also be looking for these vessels…
Droaam is often underestimated, but given time they could have a unique entry into the space race. The core systems are developed by the Venomous Demesne, harnessing planar energies instead of elemental power; the first Droaamite spelljammer holds the essence of a pit fiend of Fernia. For the hull, the Demesne are working with the changelings of Lost to magebreed a unique, colossal facade—the massive mimics that serve as the buildings of Lost. In addition to being able to regenerate damage, this living ship could shift its appearance to mimic a ship of another nation!
Riedra may be content with its dominion over Sarlona. On the other hand, it’s possible there’s a fleet of crystal ships just waiting to be launched.
Aerenal hasn’t bothered with spelljammers and has instead focused directly on Pylas Var-Tolai and the colonization of the Astral Plane, as described in this article.
THE CANNITH AUTOGNOME
The Treaty of Thronehold specifically forbids the creation of warforged and the use of the creation forges, but it places no further restrictions on the creation of sentient construct. Over the last two years, Merrix d’Cannith has been working closely with the brilliant binder Dalia Hal Holinda to develop a new form of construct fused by an elemental heart. Over the last year this work has born fruit, but so far the bound heart can only sustain a small form; this is the origin of the autognome.
As of 998 YK, there are approximately 43 autognomes in existence. Each autognome is a hand-crafted prototype, and every one of them is unique; Merrix and Dalia are still experimenting, changing materials, designs, and technique. One autognome might have arcane sigils carved on every inch of its bronze skin. Another might be made with chunks of Riedran crysteel, which glow when the autognome is excited. What all autognome designs share is an elemental heart—a Khyber shard core inlaid with silver and infused with the essence of a minor elemental. This serves both as the heart and brain of an autognome, keeping it alive and also serving as the seat of its sentience. The minor elementals involved in this process aren’t sentient as humans understand the concept; but through the process of the binding, it evolves into something entirely new.
In creating an autognome character, begin by deciding the nature of your elemental heart. You may not remember your existence as a minor elemental, but the nature of your spark may be reflected by your personality. Are you fiery in spirit? A little airheaded? Do you have a heart of stone? What was the purpose you were made for, and how is this reflected in your design? Which of your class abilities are reflected by your physical design, and which are entirely learned skills? And most of all, what drives you? Are you devoted to your work, or are you driven by insatiable curiosity or a desire to more deeply explore your own identity?
Autognomes aren’t widely recognized and may be mistaken for warforged scouts. If their existence becomes more widely known, will anyone will seek to amend the Code of Galifar to protect all constructs? Will the Lord of Blades see autognomes as allies in the struggle, or deny any kinship to these elemental constructs?
While I’m suggesting the Cannith autognome as the most common form of autognome, it’s not the only way to use this species. In my current campaign I’ve proposed an Autognome warlock as a crewmember on a Dragonhawk ship—a construct built with the ship, who serves as its Arbiter. But here again, this character is a unique construct who doesn’t resemble Cannith’s creations or feel any immediate kinship with them.
Siberspace: The Realm Above
In simplest terms, Khyber is the underworld, Eberron the surface, and Siberys the sky; as such, the crystal sphere containing Eberron and its moons is typically referred to as Siberspace. Korranberg scholars maintain that Berspace would be a more accurate term; “Ber” is thought to be an ancient word meaning “dragon” or “progenitor,” and as such Berspace could be seen as The Realm of the Progenitors. However, beyond Korranberg the idea was dismissed because people felt ridiculous saying “Brrr, space.”
So what awaits in the Realm Above? Compared to the endless expanse of the Multiverse, it may seem relatively limited, but there’s many opportunities for adventure.
The Ring of Siberys
The first step into the sky is the Ring of Siberys, the glittering belt of golden stones that’s wrapped around Eberron. The Ring has long been an enigma. It is a powerful source of arcane energy, and this ambient radiation—commonly referred to as the blood of Siberys—has a number of effects.
Mysterious. The Ring blocks divination magic, mirroring the effects of nondetection across the ring. This makes it difficult to locate Siberys shards or other valuable mineral deposits, and allows ships to hide in the cover of the ring’s field.
Anchoring. The Ring blocks all forms of long-distance teleportation. It’s impossible to teleport to Eberron or one of the moons from the Ring; this also prevents direct teleportation from a moon to Eberron. It doesn’t block short-range teleportation—such as misty step—within the Ring, and it also doesn’t block plane shift; however, plane shift is beyond the scope of the everyday magic of the Five Nations, and isn’t an alternative to spelljamming.
Difficult Approach. Gravity and the power of the Ring combine to make the approach difficult. It takes a surge of arcane power to push beyond the atmosphere. Most flying items can’t produce this power, or will burn out if they try. Spelljammers can—that’s what makes a spelljammer a spelljammer—but it still requires a supply of Siberys shards to generate the necessary energy.
The Blood of Siberys is an obstacle, but it can be overcome. Elemental airships couldn’t reach the Ring, so the Five Nations developed spelljammers. The Mysterious and Anchoring effects can surely also be overcome with research and development; this is an opportunity to reflect the evolution of arcane science. Most likely this would come in stages rather than all at once; the Dragonhawk Initiative learns to cast detect magic through the Mysterious interference, then any 1st level divination, then any 2nd level, and so on. The breakthrough could involve a rare resource, such as a previously unknown mineral only found in the Ring; deposits of this mineral would quickly become be important strategic objectives. Can House Orien create a focus item that allows them to teleport to the Ring? Who will penetrate the shrouding effect first—Aundair or House Medani?
So to this point, the people of Khorvaire haven’t been able to use divination to study the Ring, and they haven’t had ships that could reach it. What will the first spelljammers find? Legend has long held that the Ring of Siberys is comprised entirely of Siberys dragonshards; the King’s Argosy will be disappointed to learn that this is only a myth. There are Siberys shards spread throughout the Ring of Siberys, but the bulk of the ring is comprised of massive chunks of stone and ice surrounded by fields of smaller shards. The Ring is airless and cold—or so it first appears. The blood of Siberys doesn’t just shield the Ring; it makes the impossible possible. Some of the larger stone shards have some combination of gravity, breathable air, safe temperatures, or even fertile soil (though based on other conditions, it might be impossible to grow typical crops of the world below). Usually these features are only found on the interior of a sky island; it’s barren and airless on the surface, but if you find a passage there’s a hidden oasis within. Such an oasis will be an incredible discovery for exploring spelljammers, but there’s a complication: the Five Nations aren’t the first civilizations to explore the Ring. Some of the larger shards—shards the size of Lhazaar islands—contain ruins of civilizations that died long ago. Some hold stasis fields or extradimensional spaces, waiting for an explorer to deactivate the wards or unlock the space. These can contain powerful artifacts or priceless arcane secrets… or they could contain magebred beasts, ancient plagues, or even entire outposts held in stasis. Consider a few possible origins for such things…
Dragons. The dragons colonized the Ring back in their first great age of expansion following the Age of Demons. But even held tight by Siberys, they couldn’t escape the influence of the Daughter of Khyber. The colonies were destroyed or abandoned, but explorers could find a forgotten dracolich, or the degenerate remnants of those corrupted by the Daughter of Khyber.
Giants. Both the Cul’sir Dominion and the Group of Eleven established outposts in the Ring. These were crippled when Xen’drik was devastated by the dragons. Adventurers could find empty ruins; giants that collapsed into savagery but have built new (non-spelljamming) cultures in the ruins of their ancestors; or an outpost perfectly preserved in stasis—an outpost of ancient giants who remember the fall of Xen’drik as if it was yesterday, who hunger for revenge on Argonnessen, and who could still have access to the same magic that once destroyed a moon.
Celestials. It’s always been said that Khyber spawned native fiends and that native celestials were born from the blood of Siberys. The couatl are known as the children of Siberys, and sacrificed themselves to create the Silver Flame. But there could be other celestials that never descended from the sky to assist the mortals below. Perhaps the lilends dwell in hidden halls in the Ring, contemplating the struggle of the Progenitors and awaiting their Silent Hour. Whatever their nature, celestials of the Ring have remained aloof, disinterested in the mortal world. They might be incarnations of celestial ideals, but they could well see the people of Eberron as hopelessly corrupted, possibly even defiling the Ring with their presence. Breaking past this prejudice and forging an alliance with one or more native celestials would be quite a coup for explorers.
Humans. Perhaps the magi of Ohr Kaluun managed to teleport an entire war maze into the ring to escape the Sundering. Maybe there was a human civilization entirely unknown to the scholars of the present day, whose history can only be found in the ring.
Personally, I’d be inclined to say that native fiends have a minimal presence in the Ring of Siberys. The overlords are part of the architecture of Khyber. They might be able to influence people in the Ring, as with the Daughter of Khyber corrupting dragons; but there are no overlords bound in the ring itself.
Overall, the Ring of Siberys is the first frontier. It is vast—it stretches around the entire world, and has room for countless shards the size of cities or even islands. Mineral deposits and stasis caches are tempting treasures, and a habitable oasis would be an invaluable foothold in space. However, the block against divination limits the ability to swiftly locate these things… and that’s where adventurers come in.
The Mysterious Moons
The people of the Five Nations have never reached the moons of Eberron, and there are many theories about them. Some assert that the moons must be airless, arid chunks of rock. Others say that the moons aren’t actually physical objects, but rather massive planar gateways—that a ship that tries to land on Vult will actually find itself in Shavarath. In my campaign, the answer lies between these two options. The moons are essentially manifest worlds. Each moon is closely tied to a particular plane, and the entire moon has traits that are typically associated with manifest zones of that plane. All of Sypheros is blanketed in Eternal Shadows of Mabar, while Barrakas has the Pure Light trait of Irian. The moons have atmosphere and gravity. Vegetation varies—Sypheros and icy Dravago are quite barren, while Barrakas and Olarune and lush and overgrown. While each moon is suffused with planar energies, these are concentrated in specific spaces. All of Eyre has the Deadly Heat trait of Fernia, but there are only a few places regions with the Fires of Industry trait—and those spaces would be quite desirable as outposts. However, it’s quite possible that these valuable locations have already been claimed. The moons support life, and it’s up to the DM to decide exactly what’s already there. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because this is where the exploration comes in. Here’s a few general options…
Savage and Untamed. There’s no civilization on this moon, but there is life—powerful and dangerous life. Any nation that hopes to establish an outpost or to explore extensively will have to deal with any combination of deadly monsters, supernatural hazards, dramatic weather effects, and more. It’s quite possible that one or more of these effects are so dangerous that it’s essentially impossible to maintain an outpost or establish a colony on the moon. If Zarantyr has the Constant Change or Chaotic Time traits of Kythri it could be very dangerous to remain there for long, while Olarune could be like the Titan’s Folly layer of Lamannia—any attempt to impose order upon the natural world will be overcome.
Lunar Empires. A moon could be home to one or more powerful civilizations. Perhaps the Giff have an imperial civilization on Vult, with fortresses spread across the moon. The moons are smaller than Eberron, so even a powerful lunar civilization will be limited in scope; but this is still an important opportunity for first contact and ongoing diplomacy. These societies could have technology or magic unknown on Khorvaire. If the Giff are on Vult, they could have their faithful firearms! A crucial question is whether these lunar civilizations have spelljammers of their own, or if they are landbound. The fact that none of these nations have made contact with Eberron suggests that they don’t have space travel, but it’s always possible that they have limited spelljammers that can cross between moons but can’t get past the Ring. This would allow the Giff of Vult to be engaged in a bitter war against the Plasmoids of Zarantyr and for the spelljammers of Eberron to get caught up in this conflict and to engage in battles in space, but this conflict can’t reach Eberron… at least for now!
Small Civilizations. A moon could have one or more civilizations that could interact with explorers, but that aren’t so vast and advanced as to truly dominate their moon. Perhaps there’s a few clans of Hadozee on Olarune—each carrying a different form of lycanthropy! Each claims a region within Olarune, and explorers will need to negotiate with multiple clans… being careful to learn and respective their dramatically different cultures! This sort of division could also lead to the different nations finding different allies on the same moon. On Olarune, the Blade of Karrnath could forge a bond with the powerful Wolf clan, while the King’s Argosy negotiates with the Tigers and Bears.
Planar Extensions.Personally, I want the moons to be unique worlds that are influenced by their associated planes, but that are distinctly different from what you’d find in those planes. I’d rather have Vult have a Gith empire than to just make it another front in the war between the celestials and fiends of Shavarath. However, a moon could certainly have a region that is either a direct extension of a plane or that hosts the denizens of the plane. It could be that the Feyspires of Thelanis appear on Rhaan as well as on Eberron, and that explorers could find Pylas Pyrial waiting for them when they land. Or people could land on Aryth to discover a city inhabited by the ghost of their lost loved ones… but is it real, or some sort of deadly trick?
I don’t want to know all the answers; that’s why we have a journey of discovery. But there’s at least twelve moons to explore, and each one can present very different challenges and hold different rewards. Will the adventurers be drawn into intralunar wars? Will they engage in high stakes first contact with alien civilizations? Or will the greatest challenge be surviving an expedition?
Wroat, We Have A Problem…
The moons and the Ring are the main real estate, but the space race isn’t just about the destination—it’s all about the journey, and the many, many things that could go wrong in space. In my campaign, I’d want to emphasize that space travel is new. Every ship is a protoype, and the people of Khorvaire simply don’t know what threats are waiting for them in space. In addition to the hazards presented in Spelljammer content, adventurers could run across manifest zones, wild zones, or supernatural threats never encountered planetside. A Shavaran bloodstorm could induce homicidal aggression in humanoids that pass through it, while a Lamannian sargasso could bury its roots in any ship that draws too close. There’s a giant Khyber crystal floating in space… is it a valuable resource or does it contain an incredibly dangerous spirit? And just in general, what do the adventurers do when something goes wrong with their ship? And do they think it’s just a legitimate malfunction—a lesson artificers can learn from—or is it sabotage? Is there a spy among their crew… or has an alien threat come on board?
What Lies Beyond
As depicted in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, Wildspace bleeds naturally into the Astral Sea; all you need to do is sail far enough. However, as called out in Rising From The Last War, Siberspace is isolated from the rest of the Multiverse. Exploring Eberron suggests that Eberron is the only planet in its material plane—that the stars are in fact glittering points on a crystal sphere, surrounded by the vast astral void. In my Space Race campaign, the first Spelljammers won’t be capable of reaching any form of the Astral; they’ll have to discover the limits of Siberspace and find out how to pass beyond it. This could be driven by encounters with Githyanki raiders, or require the adventurers’ patrons to bargain with Aerenal. But even when they pierce this veil, I wouldn’t take them to the full expanse of the Astral Sea. This article presents a version of the Astral Plane holding countless ruins, timelost hermitages, and outposts like Pylas Tar-Volai and Tu’narath. But it’s still an interpretation concretely tied to Eberron, home to the Githyanki survivors of a lost reality and the experiments of the Undying Court. Personally, I’d say that this version of the Astral Plane is still part of Siberspace—that just as there’s a barrier around Eberron’s material plane, its astral plane is also a shielded pocket within the greater Astral Sea.
Another point is that Siberspace can be larger that people thought. Exploring Eberron says that Eberron is the only true planet in its system. But if the twelve moons and the Astral plane aren’t enough for your adventures, there could always be one or more planets in the system that astrologers have somehow overlooked. Perhaps the Illithids of Thoon live on the dark side of a world that’s been completely blacked out, invisible and deadly.
Where is (New Monster)?
Where are the Giff in Eberron? Where could we find a megapede? In general, this is where exploration comes into play. Who knows what the adventurers will find on the moons? In my campaign, at least a few of the moons will have significant civilizations, who may well have intralunar travel and simply never have crossed the Ring of Siberys to reach Eberron. I’ve suggested the idea of the Giff as an imperialistic society on Vult—with the moon’s ties to Shavarath fueling their warlike nature—or the plasmoids being found on Zarantyr, with their fluid forms reflecting the chaos of Kythri—but those are just possibilities. There could be a single city of Mercanes on Therendor, with a gate connected to the Immeasurable Market of Syrania; they carry the goods of the Market to other moons. Neogi could have a civilization on Lharvion, or they could actually be the remnants of some long-forgotten civilization on Eberron itself, and dwell in outposts hidden in the Ring of Siberys. Space Hamsters could be found on Olarune, with other Lammania-influenced megafauna. A few other random ideas…
Aartuks are canonically come from a world destroyed by beholders. In Siberspace, they could be the survivors of a former Eberron destroyed by the daelkyr—an Eberron dominated by plant-based lifeforms. On the other hand, it’s just as reasonable to think that aartuks are creations of the daelkyr Avassh, spread into space like seeds on the wind.
Mind Flayers are typically associated with the daelkyr; why wouldn’t spacefaring illithids try to help their masters on Eberron? In my campaign I’d suggest that the Illithids found in space have broken away from the Overmind of Dyrrn and have formed an independent society in defiance of the Daelkyr; as noted above, this would be an excellent place to explore the concept of Thoon. These mind flayers may actively avoid Eberron for fear of falling prey to Dyrrn’s influence. On the other hand, it could be interesting if Xorchyllic—the mayor of Graywall in Droaam—is secretly from the stars. Did they crash, or do they still have their nautiloid hidden away?
Murder comets could be the remains of the Argosy’s first efforts to create elemental spelljammers; the ships were destroyed by the radiation of the Ring of Siberys, and the comet is a blend of the ships’ elementals and the restless ghosts of the dead crew.
Solar Dragons could dwell in Arrah itself, or one might lair in one of the largest shards of the Ring of Siberys. We know of the Daughter of Khyber down below; perhaps there’s a truly immense solar dragon in the Ring who calls itself the Son of Siberys!
Again, all of these are just possibilities; if you want space hamsters to have a mighty empire on Therendor, follow that story! Meanwhile, if you want to play a giff, hadozee, or any of the other new species, that’s what the Astral Drifter and Wildspacer backgrounds are for. I especially like Astral Drifter; your character was marooned in the Astral and lost for countless decades. You finally escaped into Eberron, where your stories of space may have inspired the current drive to reach space. But because you’ve been gone for so long, you don’t know what you’ll find when you return to your home moon. If could be that your Giff character remembers your great empire on Vult, but that since you’ve been gone it’s been entirely obliterated by illithids and neogi!
One last thing: people may say Do Giff have guns in Eberron? Why wouldn’t they? I’ve never had any issue with the existence of firearms; in a previous article I’ve suggested that the Dhakaani could use them on Eberron. I just prefer to focus the Five Nations on wandslingers and other arcane alternatives. With that said, I might still think about ways to make Giff firearms feel unique to the setting. If the Giff are based on Vult, perhaps their firearms use the powdered remnants of angels instead of gunpowder; the ashes of the eternal wars of Shavarath drift across the surface of the moon.
Playing With Time and Space
As I’ve said above, part of what I love about the Space Race campaign is the idea that it’s happening right now and that the action in space should have real consequences on the planet below. With this in mind, I’d personally play with the passage of time in a different way than in most of my campaigns.
When the campaign begins, spelljamming is in its infancy. I’ve suggested that the King’s Argosy has more ships than the other powers; but that may mean that as the campaign starts, Breland has three spelljammers, the Dragonhawk Initiative has two, and Karrnath only has a single powerful warship. The first session might be that nation’s first mission to successfully reach the Ring of Siberys!
While a particular mission might take more than one session to complete, between each mission I would establish a significant passage of time. I’d present the players with downtime options; these might just involve what their characters do on their time off, but they could also reflect what the adventurers’ organization does in that time. Do they focus on fortifying the outpost the adventurers established in the Ring, or do they devote their resources to building a new ship? Do they negotiate with one of the other spacefaring powers or attempt to sabotage their efforts?
The opening of each new mission would thus involve a recap of how things have evolved between sessions. What’s become of the joint Brelish-Aundairian outpost? What’s the challenge we face in the effort to reach Zarantyr, and what’s it going to take to overcome it? Has the Dragonhawk Initiative found a way to overcome the divination-blocking effects of the Ring of Siberys? This is also where we could see latecomers to the space race; it might be around the sixth or seventh sessions that the Aurum or Prince Oargev manage to get a ship in the air.
This could also lead to adventurers having a surprise land-bound adventure, as they’re called to participate in an international summit or sent on a mission to acquire a vital, rare resource! Depending on the outcomes of the missions, there could also be increasing tensions on the surface. How would the death of King Boranel affect the Argosy?
If I wanted things to be REALLY dramatic, the endgame could involve an existential threat to Eberron itself. Perhaps the Mourning begins to spread, or multiple Overlords break their bonds—Eberron can’t BE saved, and the goal now is to lead an exodus into space! But which moon could support the survivors?
Another way to approach this would be to have each player make two characters—a member of the spelljammer crew and someone who’s involved in the diplomacy, administration, or research efforts on the ground. These planetbound characters might not be as combat-capable as the explorers, but they each have vital resources and influence; they’ll never actually get into a battle on a grid map, but they’ll be making the crucial decisions that determine the greater arc of the campaign. These could be people who are important but not the top decision makers, or they could actually be the central players; if you’re running an Argosy campaign, one of the players could be King Boranel, another Merrix d’Cannith, another the head of the Zil binders. Again, these characters wouldn’t actually have full stats and character sheets, but the players would have to play them in negotiations and decide what they commit to during downtime—does Merrix support the colony or does he devote his resources to building a better autognome?
As I said, this is the campaign I want to run. But Spelljammer is designed to allow adventures across the multiverse, and if that’s the story you want to tell, tell it! There’s nothing wrong with having your spelljammers crash land on Krynn. If you want to retrofit the two together, you could say that Galifar had a long-established spelljamming fleet with outposts in the Ring of Siberys; during the Last War, the Ring seceded and now exists as its own independent force that protects Siberspace from outside threats and continues to explore the multiverse. There are some cosmological questions you’ll have to resolve, but again, if that’s the story you want to tell, there’s always answers!
Would You Like To Know More?
I’m juggling many things, and I won’t be answering questions on this article.But if you’d like to see more of how I’d run such a campaign, you can—and you can even play in it! For the rest of the year, I’m shifting my Threshold Patreon to running a Siberspace campaign. Every month I run and record a session. The characters and the story are persistent, but the players change each session; every Threshold patron has a chance to get a seat at the table. Even if you never get a seat at the table, you have access to the recorded sessions and you have an opportunity to shape the story through polls, Discord discussions, and story hours. Currently I’m going through the Session Zero with the patrons; we’ve decided to base the campaign on the Dragonhawk Initiative, and we’re developing the player characters. If you’d like to be a part of it, become a patron!
Thanks as always to my patrons for making these articles possible, and good luck to all of you in your adventures in space!
“We’ve got to hold this position,” Drego said. “We can’t let the wolves through the pass. But the people at the Crossroads need to know what we’ve learned about the thrice-damned rats.” He unpinned the raven brooch from his cloak, and whispered to it. Silver flame licked around the edges, and the metal melted and expanded, reforming into a bird with glittering feathers. After a few more words, the bird took to the air and disappeared into the canopy of the Towering Wood, heading south.
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Questions like…
How do you see Figurines of Wondrous Power fitting into the Eberron setting?
A figurine of wondrous power is a magic item that can become a living creature for a particular duration or until the animal is killed. These are the mechanics, but it’s up to us to provide the flavor and the context. How common are they? Who makes them, and who uses them?
Starting with the first question, suggested rarity is a good place to start. What we’ve said before is that uncommon items can be found as part of everyday life in the Five Nations. Rare items are in fact rare; they exist, certainly, but aren’t part of everyday life. So it’s reasonable to think that a soldier in a special forces unit might be given a silver raven to help with communication, and one of Tharashk’s top bounty hunters might have an onyx dog to help with her hunts. But that onyx dog would be a remarkable tool… and the very rare obsidian steed would be almost unheard of in the Five Nations. Given both the material and the nature of the creature involved, I’d be likely to make obsidian steeds tools created by the Lords of Dust—perhaps by the Scribe Hektula, given to favored warlocks of Sul Khatesh.
So once again, figurines are mechanics. But there’s a lot of different ways that you could interpret those mechanics, based on the story you want to tell. So how do figurines fit into Eberron? I could imagine a few very different ways I’d use them.
Sovereign and Flame
The first figurines used by the people of the Five Nations were divine in nature, not arcane. Balinor is the Sovereign of Hunt and Hound, teaching people to work with beasts both as allies and as prey. Vassal figurines are engraved with Balinor’s symbol and imbued with faith. They function just like normal figurines, but they can only be recharged by devotion; such a figurine won’t regain its charge unless it’s in the possession of a devoted Vassal.
As noted in the quote that opens this article, the Church of the Silver Flame has also created such figurines. The most common of these is the silver raven, often used as a messenger by templars in the field; some of these take the form of small winged serpents, though they have no special abilities beyond flight. Like the Vassal figurines, these divine items can only be recharged by the faith of a follower of the Flame. I could also imagine Seekers of the Divinity Within crafting bone figurines of wondrous power; while one might expect such creatures to be skeletal, I’d be more inclined to make them vivid crimson beasts formed from the essence of the Seeker’s own blood.
Over the last century, House Cannith has been experimenting with figurines that replicate the basic principles of a creation forge. Cannith figurines can only be used by people who bear the Dragonmark of Making. They’re made of metal and wood, embedded with small siberys dragonshards. When activated, they grow bodies of root and steel, and have the Constructed Resilience trait of warforged. When the beast is killed or reverted, the materials that comprise it dissolve.
Both the Inspired and the kalashtar of Adar use figurines of wondrous power carved from sentira, a substance made from solidified emotion. The emotion used in the figure is reflected in the creature summoned; an onyx hound made from hatred will be cruel and aggressive, while one made from love will be gentle but protective of its summoner. The beasts summoned by sentira figurines have the statistics of the living creatures they resemble, but they’re formed from ectoplasm and often have dreamlike aspects—unnatural coloration, fur rippling in nonexistent wind, and a strong aura of the emotion that forms them. Activating a sentira figurine requires the user to feel the associated emotion intently; to use a figurine formed of hatred, the bearer will have to think of a creature they hate.
The elves of Aerenal—both Aereni and Tairnadal—create figurines of wondrous power. Both operate in a similar manner. When the figurine is activated, the translucent form of the summoned animal takes shape around the item. The summoned creature is solid and can be touched or ridden, and is in all ways treated as a living creature, but it is clearly ghostly and dissolves when its service is done. Aereni figurines are made using the spirits of beloved animals, while Tairnadal figurines are icons representing beasts of legend that fought alongside the patron ancestors. Both types of figurines are prized relics that typically have great emotional value to their owners, and are rarely sold; given this, Aereni or Tairnadal may be curious or angry if they see such items in the hands of others. Spectral figurines are often tied to the Valenar beasts presented in Eberron: Rising From The Last War; the equivalent of an onyx dog might summon a Valenar hound.
A number of the daelkyr have created Figurines of Wondrous Power. While functional, they’re not very pleasant…
Dyrrn’s figurines are small, beating hearts. When activated, a figurine extrudes fleshy tendrils and chitinous plates, weaving them together to create a body out of strands of muscle; it has the general shape of an elephant or a goat, but most people will be horrified by its appearance. When the creature is killed or reverted, the fleshy form falls away and slowly decays, leaving only the heart intact.
Kyrzin’s figurines are vials of fluid. To activate the figurine, you unstopper the bottle and pour out its contents; the liquid expands into a gelatinous shape, again reminiscent of the creature but very clearly unnatural. When slain or reverted, the gelatinous form melts away. Meanwhile, the vial slowly refills itself until it’s ready to be used again.
Orlask’s figurines are stone statues, much like standard figurines of wondrous power. However, Orlassk’s figurines are living creatures that have been trapped in this stone form; holding the figurine, you can feel the misery of the trapped creature. When they are used, the bound creature is released, though it is forced to obey the person who freed it. When slain or reverted, they are returned to their prison of stone.
These are just a few examples of possible figurines of wondrous power, and I’m sure you can come up with many more. As rare items most figurines would be, well, rare; I’d use the uncommon bag of tricks if I was creating a version of Pokemon in Eberron.
I won’t be answering questions on this IFAQ, but share your thoughts and ideas below. And if you’d like pose questions that could inspire future articles or participate in my online Eberron campaign, check out my Patreon!
When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This one has come up a few times…
Are there any cultures within Khorvaire that particularly utilize the Tarokka style deck? Is this associated with a dragonmarked house, magewrights, or something else?
Eberron: Rising From The Last War includes “oracle” as one of the possible specialties for magewrights; as presented, they can cast augury and divination as rituals. I expand on this in Exploring Eberron:
At DM discretion, a magewright’s spells may have expanded—or limited—effects. Consider what it takes to make a spell a viable commercial service. For example, augury only allows the caster to predict events 30 minutes in the future—useful for adventurers in the midst of a dungeon, but not for the farmer wanting an opinion on planting crops. A professional oracle might be able to predict woe or weal anywhere from a day to a week in advance—but such an oracle could have very specific limitations, such as only being able to make predictions related to to weather or agriculture. As a DM, use the existing spells as a model, but adjust them as necessary to create a viable business.
This is one place where I’d draw a sharper line than usual between magewrights (who employ arcane science) and adepts (who perform divine rituals). As a 2nd level spell, augury is in the range of everyday magic; as a 4th level spell divination is a little beyond it. With this in mind, I’d be inclined to either say that only the most exceptional magewright oracles can perform divination, or that they can only perform a narrow version of it, as described above. While for adepts I’d be inclined to say that they can cast augury at will but that divination is less predictable; they can pray on a thing, but sometimes answers come and sometimes they don’t… and sometimes, an adept oracle receives answers to questions without even asking them. It’s faith, not science.
So: Oracles can be found across Khorvaire, and they can cast augury and divination. But what does this LOOK like? The rules gives us the mechanics of spells, but flavor is something we have to add. Take fireball. Typically we think of a wizard raising a hand and calling out a word of power to produce a blast of fire from thin air. On the other hand, an artificer who employs alchemist’s supplies as their spellcasting focus could describe casting a fireball as hastily assembling a magical Molotov cocktail. It’s the same spell, but the flavor is completely different. The same definitely holds true here. An adept oracle might light incense and pray throughout their ritual time, seeking the answer within. A magewright oracle could employ bones, tea leaves, or unquestionably, cards—and I think there are oracular traditions that use all of those tools on Khorvaire.
We’ve never discussed cartomancy in any canon source that I’m aware of, but I’ve always assumed that it exists. A key question is how do people think the cards work? What power is guiding the cards? Let’s look at a few possibilities and where they’d fit.
The Draconic Prophecy. Eberron HAS the idea of a vast power that can be used to shape or predict the future, and it’s easy to imagine a deck of cards that’s seen as a lens for drawing guidance from the Draconic Prophecy. Personally I’d say that this is a very limited lens—peeking at the Prophecy through a hole in a piece of cardboard, no match for the vast observatories and tools employed by the Lords of Dust and the Chamber—but still useful as a tool for everyday life and a reliable way of casting divination. Personally, I would imagine this using a blend of the Sovereigns, Progenitors, and Planes as the arcana. To me, this would be the Rider-Waite of the Five Nations—a standard deck employed across the nations. Let’s call it the Golden Deck or the Dragon Deck (when it depicts the Sovereigns as dragons).
Sul Khatesh. The Keeper of Secrets loves esoteric rituals and people seeking forbidden knowledge. The Deck of Shadows is said to have been created by Hektula, and it uses overlords and archfiends as its arcana. It has a sinister reputation and is said to reveal painful secrets and things people don’t want known—all catering to Sul Khatesh’s love of people fearing magic. So this is found across Khorvaire, but it’s not a deck people will use in nice neighborhoods.
Thelanis. The spirits speak through the cards, and in this case the spirits are the archfey of Thelanis. The Deck of Stories is most commonly used in Aundair—where there’s long-standing traditions of dealing with the fey—but it can be found across the Five Nations.
Xoriat. It’s said the artist who drew the first tohiish dooval deck gouged out his eyes before sketching the cards. The images on the cards are unnerving, abstract designs; it’s not unlike a deck of Rorshach images, with different people seeing very different things as they stare at the cards. The tohiish dooval—”dangerous truth“—first appeared in the Shadow Marches and is rarely seen in the Five Nations, but there are rumors that Narathun oracles have started using a similar deck found in the Realm Below.
The Divinity Within. It’s not about the cards—it’s about the person reading them. Adept oracles of the Blood of Vol use cartomancy more than those of any other faith, but there’s no standardized deck associated with the faith. You could use Tarokka, Harrow, or any other deck. What’s important is what the reader sees in the cards, because the cards are the tool they use to reach their own Divinity Within.
These are just a few possible decks and traditions; an Aereni oracle might use a unique deck with cards representing their own personal ancestors. Aside from its use as a divinatory tool, I’d definitely allow a warlock to use a cartomancy deck as an arcane focus (and as their Book of Shadows, if they have Pact of the Tome); they could use the cards as a means to communicate with their patron, and could describe producing their spell effects by dramatically displaying and invoking specific cards.
I’ve got a Duergar Spirit Bard who uses a Harrow deck he found while in a labor camp in Ohr Kaluun; given that the whole vibe for Ohr Kaluun is “dark magic”, cartomancy felt like a natural fit.
This seems entirely reasonable, and such a tradition could have been carried over into the Venomous Demesne. But with that said, the question that immediately comes to my mind is what makes it “Dark Magic”? Is it a method of communicating with fiends? Are the cards printed using the blood of an innocent, and it’s their tormented spirit that speaks through the cards? Is the deck itself a bound imp? For those who aren’t familiar with it, Ohr Kaluun is a region in Sarlona which was in the past known for dangerous and sinister magical practices, including consorting with malevolent powers. When creating magic items from Ohr Kaluun, I love to try to hit this—to ask why would people be afraid of this place? I want players to say “I want to keep this item because it’s useful, but also, ewwww.”
That’s all for now! Feel free to discuss these ideas or to share what you’ve done with cartomancy in the comments, but as this is an IFAQ, I won’t be answering questions on the topic. Thanks to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions!