Every month, my Patreon supporters can ask me questions. Here’s a lightning round of questions from September!
In Exploring Eberron the Dhakaani Bugbears are characterized as Bulwarks in the military structure, and the Dhakaaani Bugbear playable race has no reference to bugbears innate gift for Stealth and ambushing… is there a reason for this?
Largely, it was ignored because the Dhakaani needed the bugbear’s strength more than their stealth. Under the base 3.5 rules, the bugbear has a substantial strength bonus and more hit points than either goblin or hobgoblin. Essentially, the goblins COULD serve as spies and scouts; they COULDN’T serve as shock troops or heavy laborers, while the bugbears could. Overall, Dhakaani military strategy wasn’t based on stealth; so again, for the Dhakaani, the bugbear’s strength was the tool they had a greater use for. Per the canon Dragonshard, “From an early age, bugbears are raised to think of themselves as the heroes and martyrs of Dhakaani civilization. They are taught to believe that their strength is the single greatest weapon of the Empire.” They are described as being skirmishers and typically having barbarian levels, so they often would serve as scouts and harriers; it’s certainly useful for scouts to be sneaky. But the Dhakaani focused more on the Golin’dar for stealth and the Guul’dar for strength; even their name translates to “Strong People.”
An important part of this is the idea that the hobgoblins effectively controlled the stronger bugbears through narrative; they didn’t WANT the bugbears to focus on their cunning. The Dhakaani intentionally downplayed that talent because they wanted the bugbears to embrace the bold vanguard role, something that comes up with the modern Marguul bugbears…
Since there isn’t much written on the Marguul tribes of the Seawall Mountains, what do you see as unique to the Marguul that differentiates them from other goblinoid cultures?
What’s been established is that the Marguul are a league of bugbear tribes whose ancestors “rose up against their hobgoblin oppressors to seize control of their own destiny.” While they’re fewer in number than the Ghaal’dar, “For centuries, the bugbears have raided the larger hobgoblin communities… slaughtering the arrogant hobgoblins.” While some have come down to take part in the Darguul experiment, most remain in the Seawall Mountains, “where they continue to battle any creatures that cross their path.” As noted above, they place great value on martial skill and guerilla warfare, and worship the Mockery and the Lhesh Shaarat (“King of Swords”), an interpretation of Dol Dorn.
The Marguul are supposed to be a challenge that makes it dangerous for adventurers and others to travel in the Seawall Mountains. But this isn’t because they’re somehow innately evil: it’s because they have valid reasons to despise and fight outsiders. The people of the Five Nations are the chaat’oor who drove their ancestors into the hinterlands and who built their cities on the bones of the great Dar fortresses. The catch is that they then also hate the Ghaal’dar, who sought to dominate the displaced dar and to rule those hinterlands. While their records don’t go back that far, Marguul anger can be traced all the way back to Dhakaan, where as noted above, bugbears were effectively indoctrinated to support the ruling hobgoblins and to serve as laborers and front-line troops. The Marguul essentially say we are the strongest of our kind. For countless generations you have feared us and sought to control us. Well, you SHOULD fear us and you will never control us again. So again, the Marguul are supposed to be dangerous. But there is reason for their anger, and if their grievances and their traditions are understood, they could become friends or allies. But their initial stance is aggressive, because they believe that only bugbears have ever done what’s best for the bugbears.
Going more into unique aspects of the bugbears, this is where I’d bring in the traditional bugbear affinity for stealth mentioned earlier. The Marguul have always been outnumbered by the Ghaal’dar, and they embrace guerilla warfare. It is in this aspect that they revere the Mockery—what this article calls The Lord of Victory. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you have to be reckless. When your enemies have greater numbers and resources, the Mockery will show you the path to victory, even if it leads you through the shadows. Bugbears have a natural gift for stealth, and the Marguul have refined this to an art. I see the Marguul as exceptional hunters and stalkers, viewing the greatest warrior as the one whose enemy never sees them. I imagine them as having a long tradition of stealth duels, with six Marguul entering a hunting ground from different points and stalking and counter-stalking… though to be clear, in such Marguul duels victory would come from striking an enemy firmly with a blunted weapon; the Marguul wouldn’t carelessly spill their own blood. I could absolutely see an adventure in which explorers venture into Marguul territory playing out like Predator, with unseen Marguul hunters stalking their prey, laying traps and slowly weakening them before a final conflict. This is also where the challenge of diplomacy comes in. Again, the Marguul have reason to distrust and hate the people of the outer world; and when you enter their territory, the first time you see one of them may be when they strike to kill.
I can easily imagine a Marguul player character; the ECS notes that a few of the Marguul have descended into Darguun and become mercenaries, and this could lead them out into the wider world. I’d just emphasize that they come from a culture that sees the rest of the world as oppressors and betrayers; they are always suspicious, always ready for danger, and surprised by altruism and kindness. What others might see as dishonorable strategies, they see as smart tactics; look back to this article at Redblade Rrac’s story of the two wolves.
The undead of Kech Nasaar are cut off from the Uul Dhakaan, but did a ghaal’dar of the kech ever rise to Marhu, ruling for centuries, or does the Emperor need a living connection to the dream, much like the edicts of Galifar prevent the dead from claiming the crown?
From Exploring Eberron: “The edict of a long-dead emperor asserted that no dead creature could wear the imperial crown; while the services of the Nasaar were valued, the dead are severed from the Uul Dhakaan and cannot draw on the wisdom of the past or see Jhazaal’s dream.” It’s quite likely that at some point there was an undead marhu because they’d need a reason to MAKE such an edict—most likely a marhu who became undead after taking office—but clearly their reign was disastrous enough that the edict was made. Which is to say, I doubt that they ruled for centuries, because that would require people to be content with their rule… and the edict suggests that they were not.
A Valenar warband plans to conduct a raid into Darguun in 998 YK, Besides Darguun opposition, are there any political or social obstacles the raiders would need counter or avoid; factions within the Valaes Tairn, Khorovar, or House Lyrandar?
That depends. At any given time, a certain number of warbands are assigned to the Host of Valenar. They have specific duties and answer to the High King, and definitely can’t raid Darguun, any more than a platoon in the US army could just decide to attack Canada. The catch is the bands that AREN’T assigned to the Host. They’re free to do whatever they wish. They could sell their services as mercenaries, roam as adventurers, or act as raiders. They don’t have to tell anyone what they’re doing or request permission to act, and the High King will accept no responsibility for their actions nor shield them from consequences… though the Host doesn’t extradite raiders either, so if you want them, you’ll have to come to Valenar and get them. Which is, of course, what the Valenar actually want and why the High King allows these raids, even if he doesn’t authorize them. Having said that, warclan leaders actually do keep track of the general positions and intentions of their bands; they may not know the specifics of what they plan, but effectively there’s a lot of Knowing winks when warband X says that they’re going to spend the summer “hunting” on the border of Darguun.
If the Blood of Vol see death as the gods’ cruel joke, how does a Blood of Vol priest perform a funeral? What do they say to offer comfort if their congregation believes that the departed soul has been cheated out of their rightful apotheosis?
Seeker funerals don’t focus on the loss; they focus on remembering the person who has been lost, sharing stories and ensuring that *they won’t be forgotten.* HOWEVER, a Seeker funeral is also about focusing on the people who have been left behind. Community is important to the Blood of Vol. There’s nothing to be done for the dead, but we can still help the living. If a child has been orphaned, who in the community will take them in? If a family is left with debts, who will offer them support? One of the key principles of the BoV is to defy the cruelty of the universe by standing together and looking out for each other. You may have taken Maia’s mother, cruel fate, but she won’t be left alone.
Could a drow from Xendrik become deathless? what about a half elf? how could a half elf or drow become worthy enough to become a member of the Undying Court?
So first of all, I’ve said before that there could be drow and drow/elf hybrids integrated into Tairnadal and Aereni culture who trace their roots back to the original exodus from Xen’drik—and that because of this, there may well be drow members of the Undying Court. But the key point is that while they’re biologically drow, these elves are culturally Aereni and Tairnadal and have been for tens of thousands of years… so very different from a Sulatar drow showing up from Xen’drik today.
COULD a Xen’drik drow or half-elf become a deathless member of the Undying Court? Sure, though in my Eberron it hasn’t happened yet. In principle, anyone could. But the key factor is that they have to be adored by the Aereni; they have to be welcomed by the Court and sustained by the living Aereni. We’ve called out that the energy required to sustain the deathless is a limited resource, which is why standards are so high and why so few Aereni become deathless. The principle of the Undying Court is that the living people don’t want to ever lose the deathless individual—that they value their skills or insights so highly that they wish to preserve them forever. It’s not just about a few priests bestowing this on the drow in question; the PEOPLE have to know of them and love them. To become one of the lesser deathless they only need the adoration of a relatively small population, like a town; but to become a Councilor they need to be loved by the Aereni as a whole. How could they accomplish that? You tell me. They’d have to be known and loved by the Aereni as a whole, granted a space that could go to a member of an Aereni line. Perhaps if they publicly saved Aerenal from a major threat — a Draconic attack, an Overlord, a Daelkyr, Lady Illmarrow. Perhaps if they made some sort of discovery or creation that significantly improved life on Aerenal. It would need to be something on that level — something significantly greater than the deeds of the current members of the Court, something so remarkable people are willing to break millennia of tradition to honor this individual.
Tis the season. The Pumpkin Spice Season! So what in Eberron is like the equivalent of pumpkin spice—something that everyone associates with that autumnal pop culture crowd?
When autumn rolls around, it’s time to bring out the sandfruit spice! This delightful staple of the Brelish frontier is sure to become a beloved fall tradition across the Five Nations. Any day now.This message brought to you by Vesper and the Threshold Sandfruit Society.
For context, Sandfruit grows in the region covered by my upcoming Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold book. It’s highly unappetizing, and there’s an ongoing quest to find ways to improve the experience. Just as pumpkin spice doesn’t actually contain pumpkin, sandfruit spice is a blend used to flavor sandfruit. And trust me, if it can make sandfruit bearable, you’re going to love it!
That’s all for this month! I won’t be answering follow-up questions but feel free to discuss these topics in the comments. And if you want to ask your own questions, check out my Patreon!