IFAQ: Working Without Lore, Sovereign Images, Nagpa and Princess Marhya!

Every month I answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few more from April!

What details do you start with when trying use a Eberron location with no lore? Sometimes I get blank page paralysis.

First of all, what’s the nation? If it’s Aundair, is there something interesting going on with everyday magic or fey? If it’s Thrane, how does the faith in the Silver Flame manifest? If it’s Karrnath, is it more influenced by Seekers or by Karrnath’s martial traditions? Can you feel the weight of the Code of Kaius? If it’s Breland, is there crime? Do they support the monarchy or the Swords of Liberty? Outside the Five Nations, is there a manifest zone? Is it tied to a daelkyr or an overlord? Is there an interesting resource or an unusual creature?

Another thing to consider is the stories people tell. For example, in Frontiers of Eberron I dealt with Whitehorn Woods for the first time, which raised the question “Why do people call it Whitehorn Wood?” So, I decided that the people in the region tell stories of Whitehorn, a massive horned bear. Essentially, if a place has a name, there’s surely a reason for the name—what’s a logical explanation you can come up with?

Beyond that, I will often ask my players to help flesh these things out. If I was running a game tomorrow in the Whitehorn Woods, I’d start by telling people about the bear, and then I’d ask each player “Tell me something you’ve heard about the Whitehorn Woods.” I did this in Threshold just recently, when I asked players to tell me something they’d heard about the Byeshk Mine. I didn’t USE all those answers—not every story has to be true—but it was a useful source of inspiration.

How concrete are the appearances of the Sovereign Host — particularly at the local level. While canon has called out they have different appearances, is this a matter of everyone at one church holding a common image of Dol Arrah, or is it rather a more personal choice and imagining for each Vassal?

There’s two important things to consider here. The first is that the Sovereigns appear in many different cultures and with many different variations. Clearly Banor of the Bloody Spear, Bally-Nur, and the Pyrinean Balinor won’t all look the same; one’s a giant, one’s a halfling, one isn’t locked into any one species. Even within the Five Nations, you have many subsects within the broad Pyrinean tradition—the Church of the Wyrm Ascendant, the Restful Watch, Aureon’s Word, the Order of the Broken Blade, the Three Faces, and so on.

The second important point is that on some level, the exact appearance of the Sovereigns doesn’t matter, because the idea of the Sovereigns is that they aren’t going to appear and interact with you physically, but rather that they are with you at all times, offering guidance.

Is there art depicting the myths of the Sovereigns? Absolutely. But the key is that there’s no absolute agreement on what they look like, so instead what’s crucial is symbols. The first of these is called out in the original ECS: Dragons. Each of the Sovereigns is associated with a particular dragon; the blue dragon is a symbol of Aureon, while the silver dragon is used to represent Dol Dorn. Beyond this, each Sovereign has a particular iconic symbol, suggested in Faiths of Eberron; Aureon can be recognized by his book, while Arawai holds a sheaf of wheat. The ECS also assigns a favored weapon to each Sovereign, but I didn’t choose these and I strongly disagree with some of the choices. As Sovereign of the fields, it would make sense for Arawai to be associated with a farming implement, such as the flail or the scythe; instead, she’s canonically tied to the morningstar (which is sometimes depicted as a ball-and-chain, but definitely not a farming implement). Balinor is the Sovereign of the Hunt but is canonically tied to the battleaxe, hardly a traditional choice for a hunter. With that in mind, I’ll suggest kanonical alternatives befow.

With all this in mind, the point is that artwork depicting the Sovereigns focuses on SYMBOLS. There’s no one universally accepted depiction of Dol Dorn, but he’s always muscular and carries a longsword, often crossed over a shield. Dol Arrah holds her halberd with the sun rising behind her; if that doesn’t fit in the image, she’ll have a rising sun worked into her clothing. The humanoid models vary by sect and region, and often use historical or living figures considered to exemplify that Sovereign’s traits. For example, there may be a church in Sharn with a mural that depicts war heroes Khandan the Hammer as Dol Dorn (wielding a longsword instead of his famous hammer) and Meira the Huntress as Balinor. If you’re Brelish, you know Khandan as a warrior renowned for his strength and courage, and this combined with his pose, his obvious strength, and his sword and shield make it clear he’s representing Dol Dorn; if they really wanted to lay it on, they could add a silver dragon in a pennant or a brooch. Meanwhile, Meira the Huntress would be recognized as Balinor by her bow, by the antlers mounted on her helm, and by the fact that she’s clearly a huntress. It doesn’t matter that Balinor is considered to be male, because what this picture is truly depicting is Balinor acting through Meira—because THAT is how you’ll actually encounter the Sovereigns in the world. In using real people as models for the Sovereigns, these images remind us that the Sovereigns are with us all.

SovereignDragonWeaponSymbol
ArawaiBronzeFlailSheaf of Wheat
AureonBlueQuarterstaffBook
BalinorGreenBowAntlers
BoldreiCopperSpearHearth
Dol ArrahRedHalberdRising Sun
Dol DornSilverLongswordShield
Kol KorranWhiteMaceGold Coin
OlladraBlackDaggerDomino or Dice
OnatarBrassWarhammerHammer and Tongs

Where would the Nagpa from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foe fit into your Eberron?

I’ve never used the Nagpa. As I understand the story, the idea is that they’re mortal wizards who were cursed by the Raven Queen for meddling in a war between gods. Now they plot in the shadows, but presumably on a smaller scale than, for example, the Lords of Dust; they are still cursed mortals.

The first thing I’d do is to drop the Raven Queen and evaluate the core overall story. Mortals meddle, are cursed by a wrathful being of deific power. Playing to the idea that they “interfered in a war between gods” the most obvious answer to me is that they weren’t HUMAN wizards… they were DRAGONS. They interfered in the first war—the conflict between dragon and overlord—and were cursed by Ourelonastrix, forever bound to these pathetic, humanoid forms. Powerful as they are, they’re still feeble next to the glory of a greatwyrm, and you can see how their state would be a considerable humiliation. With this in mind, they can then have been present in EVERY disaster that’s come since. They could have played a key role in Aureon’s Folly; perhaps it was one of the Nagpa who urged the giants to use the Moonbreaker. Rival Nagpa could have helped different mazes in Ohr Kaluun, or Khunan. A key point would be that unlike the Chamber or the Lords of Dust, the Nagpa aren’t driven by the Prophecy and don’t know what the long-term impact of their actions—they just enjoy sowing chaos and causing trouble for all sides. If I didn’t want to do that, the next approach that comes to mind is to make them cursed acolytes of Sul Khatesh, twisted by their devotion to the Queen of Shadows—cursed with ugly immortality until they can unlock some particular arcane mystery. This could be tied to her release—making them allies of Hektula and an adjunct of the Lords of Dust—or they could just be an entirely separate faction which, again, has no knowledge of the Prophecy and are purely devoted to pursuing their own selfish problem. Another option would be to work with Thelanis, as the whole “cursed wizard” story sounds very Thelanian. But personally, I’d either go with cursed dragons or ancient Khorvairians.

You’ve mentioned Princess Marhya ir’Wynarn of Cyre a number of times, but if she’s in any canon sources, I cannot locate her. Is there anything more you can tell us about this youngest daughter (or possibly granddaughter, again referring back to the Oargev’s suitors article) of Queen Dannel? I’m not looking for anything mechanical here.

A few years back, my friend Dan Garrison—the co-designer of Phoenix: Dawn Command—ran an Eberron campaign called “The Fall of Cyre”. It began in Metrol on the eve of the Day of Mourning, at the celebration of Princess Marhya’s betrothal. That was the night we danced the Tago with knives! Marhya was the younger sister of Oargev, which in my current view would make her a granddaughter of Dannel. My character in that campaign was the warforged envoy Rose, who was built to serve as a companion to the Princess; Rose is depicted in Exploring Eberron and mentioned in the article on Oargev’s suitors.

In Dan’s campaign, Marhya was betrothed to Prince Jurian of Aundair… though of course, this isn’t canon. Marhya was competent, trained in statecraft and with the sword, determined to do what she could to ensure peace and safety for her people. In that campaign, Metrol was also sucked into Mabar, but more in the typical Hinterlands way—so apocalyptic chaos rather than the dystopia of Dread Metrol. Marhya was the natural leader who needed to unite the survivors and find a way out of the nightmare. Good times!

As with most IFAQs, I won’t be expanding further on these topics, but feel free to discuss them in the comments! If you have questions of you’re own, I’ll be posting a new call for questions for my Patreon supporters soon!

IFAQ: Prince Oargev’s Suitors

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one that’s come up a few times over the last few months.

Who would you cast as suitors for Khorvaire’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Oargev ir’Wynarn?

Oargev ir’Wynarn is the last son of Cyre’s ruling family. He was serving as an ambassador to Breland when the mysterious disaster befell his nation and has since become the unofficial leader of the Cyran refugees scattered throughout the other domains. He hopes to one day gather all of Cyre’s homeless children to this refuge in Breland. His other desire revolves around discovering the truth behind the destruction of his kin and country, and exacting revenge on the guilty parties. Until then, he graciously accepts the hospitality of Breland (even if the Brelish have given him unwanted land in the middle of nowhere) and works to rebuild the confidence and honor of his subjects. He serves as mayor of New Cyre while also playing the role of a king in exile.

Eberron Campaign Setting

Though young, Oargev is already a widower. His wife was lost on the Day of Mourning while Oargev was abroad. Oargev must take a new wife if the Cyran branch of the line of Wynarn is to endure. The prince, now twenty-five years of age, is both charming and gallant, and the coming social season is sure to be lively as both the families of Cyre and the nobles of other nations try to woo this dynamic leader.

Five Nations

In talking about Prince Oargev, an important first step is to resolve contradictory canon. Canon sources disagree on everything from Oargev’s age to his alignment to his class (notably, presenting two different sets of statistics for Oargev in the same book, Five Nations). Personally, I prefer Five Nations‘ first choice—NG aristocrat 2/bard 2—reflecting an optimistic idealist with raw artistic and arcane talent, both things Cyrans admire. But the more significant contradiction is his age and parentage. Forge of War and the 4E ECG both describe Oargev as the son of Queen Dannel ir’Wynarn. But his original mention in the 3.5 ECS simply describes him as “the last son of Cyre’s ruling family”—and Five Nations calls out that he’s young, 25 years old as of 998 YK. By canon, Queen Dannel became Queen of Cyre in 943 YK… meaning that she had been RULING Cyre for thirty years when Oargev was born. If we consider parallels in our world and cast Queen Dannel as Queen Elizabeth II of England, I’d personally cast Oargev as a young Prince Harry, not Charles; he was one of Dannel’s grandchildren. He is the “last son of Cyre’s ruling family,” not the last son of Dannel herself.

So for purposes of this article, Oargev is young—25 as of 998 YK. He’s idealistic, “charming and gallant“; he “hesitates to betray” his allies, and believes he’s doing what’s best for the Cyran people. He’s charming and artistic, being appointed to serves as a wartime ambassador when he was only twenty years old. He’s a grandson of Queen Dannel. Who were his parents? Honestly, I don’t care. It could be fun to create a story about his parent’s tragic relationship and how that affected him growing up, or to suggest that Dannel herself was jealous of the popularity of one of Oargev’s parents, or something like that. But I don’t like getting too deep into the weeds unless I’m actually telling a story in which those facts MATTER. The most important details are that Dannel was Queen of Cyre on the Day of Mourning and that Oargev is the last scion of the royal family; if you feel a need to fill in additional details about the Cyran royals, go right ahead. Which brings us to the next important question…

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Why does anyone CARE who Oargev is dating? What possibly relevance could it have to an adventure you might run? It’s a valid question. As I mentioned with Oargev’s parents, I don’t like adding obscure details unless they’re going to actually matter in the story that I’m telling. So why could Oargev’s love life matter in your campaign? Here’s a few possibilities.

The Legacy of Cyre. One of the simplest, basic backstories for a group of Eberron adventures is former Cyrans. Whether you were soldiers who served together or patrons of the same lost tavern, shared Cyran background is an easy way to forge a bond between a group of characters and to justify a group of wandering adventurers; your homeland was destroyed, and all you have now is the bonds you build. This in turn brings us to New Cyre. If you have a group of Cyran adventurers—or even just one influential Cyran within your party of adventurers—then New Cyre matters. As a Cyran your nation has been destroyed and your people scattered to the winds. New Cyre is a nexus for Cyran refugees, a place where your people are struggling to maintain your culture and to rebuild your nation. In a party with one or more Cyran adventurers, one question I’d ask in session zero is what are your ties to New Cyre? It’s the largest assembly of Cyran refugees… does the character have any family or friends in New Cyre? Do they want to see their nation reborn or have they turned their back on it?

If the adventurers care about Cyre or New Cyre, one possibility is for Oargev to serve as their patron—as described in more detail in the Head of State group patron presented in Eberron: Rising From The Last War. Adventures can be driven by the ongoing interests of Cyre and by the investigation of the Mourning or the Mournland. New Cyre itself could serve as an adventuring hub. If you follow any of these ideas, than Oargev’s relationships matter. Oargev’s spouse will shape the direction of his life and ambitions, and these in turn will shape the future of New Cyre and the potential of Cyre reborn. Do you want to see Oargev with someone who will fuel aggressive ambitions to rebuild—or seize—a new Cyre? Or would you rather see him with someone more conciliatory, who will focus on the security and well-being of the refugees even if that means abandoning the idea of Cyre reborn? Are you worried about your prince becoming a tool or a puppet of malign forces? If so, you should care about his suitors.

A Horse in the Race. Even if the adventurers have no ties to Cyre, they could have a connection to one of the suitors. Are they working with the Citadel? Perhaps their contact asks them to look out for Heydith. Are they part of House Cannith? Maybe Idara is an old friend. If they’re warforged they could have ties to Rose, or be interested in their agenda. If you really want Oargev’s choice to matter, get one of the player characters in the race! This is especially appropriate for a player character with the noble background; are they personally interested in Oargev, or is there pressure from their family to pursue the match? This could easily combine with having Oargev as a patron, as the adventurer tries to win his heart while helping enact his agenda. This is a story for a particular type of player, but if you have a player who wants to pursue the prince, it could be fun!

The Draconic Prophecy. The Draconic Prophecy revolves around the interaction of prophetically significant people and events. It’s a simple matter to assert that Oargev—let’s call him the Last Prince—is a prophetically significant figure whose choice of spouse will have cascading consequences in the Prophecy. Depending on the importance of the outcome, you could have disguised rakshasas or dragons in play trying to influence events, or adventurers working for the Chamber could be told you make sure Oargev and Haydith fall in love! A key point is that if the Prophecy requires that Oargev and Haydith fall in love, the Lords of Dust can’t just brute force the answer (using dominate or replacing Haydith); if the Prophecy requires them to fall in love, they will have to legitimately fall in love for it to qualify.

The point here is that you could have a part of adventurers who has no interest in Cyre whatsoever but who are working with the Chamber (or the Lords of Dust) in pursuit of the Prophecy and who are directed to play Cyrano and to meddle in Oargev’s romantic affairs… or if they’re more interested in protecting New Cyre, they could run afoul of the disguise rakshasa pulling strings.

Phiarlan Presents: The Prince. If your adventurers have no interest in Oargev or Cyre, you could still throw in his romance as a source of comic relief. House Phiarlan is building up its crystal theaters—theaters that use scrying tools to tune into distant entertainment. Phiarlan is building up a repertoire of crystal programming, and they’ve settled on The Prince. They’ve helped assemble the team of potential matches for Oargev, and each week there’s a series of crystalized trials that help the Prince narrow down his choice. People are following the drama across Khorvaire, and each adventure NPCs could be discussing the latest twist or elimination. Meanwhile, in exchange for going along with this circus, Oargev is getting Phiarlan’s support for New Cyre… both financial support and access to their more secret services.

So there’s a number of ways to make Oargev matter. If the player characters are Cyran, Oargev’s choice could determine the future of their people. If the adventurers are dealing with the Prophecy, it could be a key point they have to push in a particular direction. And if they don’t care at all, it could still be a funny story unfolding in the background of the campaign! Which suitor will receive the Purple Rose of Cyre?

WHO ARE THE SUITORS?

As with so many things in Eberron, my immediate reaction is who do you want them to be? Because ultimately the question is always what’s going to make the best story. I don’t have time to come all canon sources for eligible young nobles, or to come up with a comprehensive list of the eligible heirs of every noble family of the Five Nations. So what I’m going to provide here isn’t in any way a comprehensive list. Instead, it’s a few examples of suitors, highlighting how that suitor could have an interesting impact on a story. As a DM, you should definitely expand this list to include your own favorite canon NPCs or new characters you create. There may be dozens of competitors on the field; I’m just calling out a few I’d use in MY campaign.

  • Haydith ir’Wynarn, Princess of Karrnath. Following the Treaty of Thronehold, King Kaius III and King Boranel agreed to an exchange of hostages—each sending members of their family to live in the foreign court. Haydith is Kaius’s younger sister, and she’s said to have become quite popular at court. Nonetheless, she’s far from her home and friends, a stranger trying to make her place in Breland just as Oargev is. I could see Haydith having true feelings for Oargev, sympathizing with his immense loss (“Most of my friends are dead too. Or undead.”). In my campaign, Haydith is about 20 years old (a shift from canon) and is a brilliant, sharp-witted gothic princess—a blend of April Ludgate and Wednesday Addams. She’s currently a pawn in Boranel and Kaius’s game of Conqueror, and she wants to change the game; if she ended up with Oargev, she’d push for him to do something truly unexpected.
  • Rose. A unique warforged envoy, Rose given to the Cyran royals as a gift from House Cannith, and served as a companion to Oargev’s sister Marhya. The Princess died in the Mourning, but Rose survived years in the Mournland and rallied a community of warforged survivors who still dwell in the Mournland. In presenting themself as a suitor, Rose notes that both they and Oargev are leaders of a people with no recognized homeland; Cyre has been lost and the warforged have never had a true home. Rose has a vision of warforged and refugees working together to rebuild a new Cyre where both are full and equal partners. Whether this means undoing the effects of the Mournland or simply reclaiming it as is, Rose is passionate about creating a new future for both their people. Needless to say, the marriage of a noble and a warforged is unprecedented, and there’s the obvious question of an heir; but Rose dismisses such concerns, believing that if they can find a way to create a new Cyre, they can find a way to create a family. Where the Lord of Blades advocates separatist aggression—the warforged building their identity apart from humanity—Rose seeks to bring two lost peoples together, peacefully building something stronger than either would be alone. If player characters are either Cyrans, warforged, or both, they may have an interest in Rose’s agenda.
  • Lady Talalara is an Inspired ambassador from Riedra, recently appointed to Oargev’s makeshift court in New Cyre. Riedra is offering economic assistance, but Talalara is offering something more—promising to train a new generation of Cyran psychics, helping Oargev’s people unlock power they could potentially use to reclaim Valenar or Darguun or to create a new nation for his people. And if this proliferation of young psychics also served as an excellent cover for having more quori hosts on Khorvaire, so much the better.
  • Vestige is a changeling with a gift for adopting the forms and personalities of people who’ve died. With Oargev, he often adopts the form of the Prince’s late wife, allowing Oargev to spend more time with his first love; he also adopts the personas of others lost in the Mourning, allowing Oargev to consult with his father or speak with his sister. Vestige serves as a medium, believing he brings peace to both the living and the dead by giving people additional time. However, he also maintains his own identity; as consort he would expect to be identified as Vestige, and to forge a new Cyre that is especially hospitable to changelings, both settled changelings and the Children of Jes. (Note that Vestige’s gift is a form of divine ritual—sort of like Speak With Dead, but instead of having a piece of the body he has to go through a short seance-like ritual with someone who remembers the person who’s persona he will assume. Vestige can then assume the deceased person’s form and is guided by their memories. A skeptic could assert that Vestige is actually just telepathically drawing on the living person’s memories of the deceased; the DM will have to decide whether Vestige can access memories of the dead they never shared with the living anchor.)
  • Ilina Corla d’Cannith. Scion of a powerful family, Ilina dreamed of being matriarch of House Cannith. But the Corla line were entirely based in Eston and Making, and the Mourning wiped Ilina’s lineage from the face of Khorvaire. She has refused to align herself with any of the three Cannith factions that have formed since the war; instead, she has remained with Cyran refugees, and has played a vital role in building and maintaining the infrastructure of New Cyre. There’s quite a few ways Ilina could go, depending on the shape of the story. She could only be interested in helping the refugees. She could be seeking influence that would make her a valuable asset to whichever of the three Cannith factions she ultimately allies with. Or she could be taking a more dramatic third option—suggesting that she could rally excoriates and foundlings and reclaim Cannith facilities in the Mournland, building a new Cyre that directly wields dragonmarked power beyond any of the houses. Depending on which path you follow, she might be happy to renounce her family name, or she could be determined to test the limits of the Korth Edicts—after all, since Oargev holds no lands at present and she is acting independently of the house, is it really defying the Edicts?
  • Siiana of the Kapaa Dor. Siaana is a champion of the Kapaa Dor clan of the Ghaal’dar hobgoblins. She recognizes that Darguun began with an act of betrayal (albeit reclaiming land taken from her people long ago) and hopes that her union with Oargev would be the bridge to reforging Cyre and Darguun into an entirely new nation where human and goblin could move forward together in peace. With that said, the Kapaa Dor are old rivals of Lhesh Haruuc and his Rhukaan Taash, and Siiana certainly recognizes that forging her new nation would involve breaking his.

These six examples are all quite exotic. As Five Nations calls out, Oargev is also surrounded by the scions of the surviving families of Cyre, along with other nobles of the Five Nations. Shaela ir’Ryc, Jalene ir’Tala, Donal ir’Kulan, Isti ir’Dalas, and Habra ir’Soras are five such heirs. One of them’s a mind seed of the Dreaming Dark, one’s part of a cult of the Dragon Below, one’s a warlock bound to an archfey, one’s fiercely devoted to the Silver Flame, and one’s tied to the Three Faces of Love; it’s up to you to decide which is which. Some say that Oargev maintains a correspondence with Queen Diani of Thrane, another monarch whose domain isn’t all that she wishes it was. But again, all of these examples are just a place to start; the important thing is to think about the story you want to tell and the role the suitor has to play in it. Should they find bliss with Oargev, how will it affect the possible future of New Cyre and its people?

Because of everything going on in my life at the moment, I will not be answering questions on this topic. However, if you’ve used Prince Oargev in your campaign, who have YOU used as his suitors? I’d love to hear your ideas and stories in the comments!

Dread Metrol: Into The Mists

The wolves of Karrnath howl at our gates. The vile necromancers of the north have brought their armies of the dead. But we are Cyrans. We do not give in to fear. What our dreams imagine, our hands create, and we have dreamt a dream of victory. It will take all that we have to give—even our very bones, so that the Karrns cannot turn our dead against us. But I know the Cyran heart, and I know that we will prevail. If you’re willing to wield a sword, report to the Vermishard of War; otherwise, report to the Vadalis Kennels for processing.

—Queen Dannel ir’Wynarn

In 994 YK, the Mourning swept across the nation of Cyre. The glorious capital of Metrol was one of the first cities to fall to the Mourning. But what if Metrol wasn’t destroyed in the Mourning? What if the city was lost in the mists, cut off from the rest of Eberron ever since that day? What if it has been under siege by what seem to be endless undead forces? How would Metrol survive? What would Queen Dannel do in pursuit of victory?

These are the questions posed in Dread Metrol: Into The Mists. We describe the book as a crossover with Ravenloft, and if you’ve read Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft you’ll recognize the core ideas of the Domain of Dread and the dark lord Dannel. But you don’t need to know anything about Ravenloft to explore Dread Metrol. All you need to know is that it’s a city that’s fallen through the cracks of reality and now is trapped in an endless siege. It’s a vision of Eberron where House Vadalis has weaponized wererats and where Cannith corpse collectors comb the city looking for spare parts. You can use it as a deadly detour for existing characters, adventurers who are torn from their regular world; or you can use it as the foundation for a new campaign, creating characters who could only emerge from this dark crucible.

Dread Metrol is a 110-page PDF that comes with a 10 high-resolution maps. The first half of the book is a deep dive into the city of Metrol, discussing the layout of the city and the forces that wield power within it. This also contains a section discussing adventurers from Metrol, whether as part of a Metrol campaign or as an unusual background for unusual characters. Do you want to play a Reborn halfling stitched together and animated by Jorasco chirugeons? Metrol is the place for it! It also contains the Mastermaker, an artificer archetype that replaces their own flesh with wood and steel. The second half of the PDF is “The Mourning After,” an adventure by Andrew Bishkinskyi set in Dread Metrol that can take characters from 1st to 4th level; the hooks provided can pull characters to Metrol, or the adventure can be used as the beginning of a campaign set in the city. In addition to all of this, Dread Metrol comes with a separate, 32-page player-friendly PDF that provides general information about Metrol without spoiling the deepest, darkest secrets!

The short form is that if Dread Metrol brings the themes of Ravenloft to Eberron and can serve as a bridge between the settings. But if you know nothing about Ravenloft, you can still explore the horrors of war in Metrol. And if you’re planning a Last War campaign, the sourcebook provides a snapshot of a city that now only exists as a ruin and a queen lost to the Mourning.

Dread Metrol: Into The Mists is a platinum seller on the DM’s Guild. Check it out now!

DREAD METROL Q&A

Previously you’ve suggested that Barovia could be a pre-Galifar Karrnath domain, and Strahd could be an ancient Karrnathi warlord. But the section on Mabar in Exploring Eberron suggests that the Hinterland consumes fragments within years or decades; how do you reconcile this with a pre-Galifar fragment that would be over a thousand years old?

The short answer is that while both can be found in the Hinterlands of Mabar, there’s crucial differences between a typical planar fragment and a domain of dread. The fragments are essentially being digested by Mabar, after which they become part of the plane. But a domain of dread isn’t just being digested; it is specifically designed to imprison and torment a darklord. The question is why. The most logical answer is that it is is how new Dark Powers are created—that somehow a darklord can evolve to become one of the Dark Powers. We see an example of this in the Queen of All Tears; for some time, she might have been a darklord imprisoned in a Hinterlands domain.

So essentially, standard fragments are digested over a period of years, but domains of dread exist for as long as it takes to complete the journey of the darklord, whether they ascend to the ranks of the Dark Power or somehow find release.

Dread Metrol says that Queen Dannel was crowned in 943 YK and was 17 years old at that time. So she’s 73 years old?

That’s correct! those dates and her age were established in Five Nations and Forge of War. If that seems surprisingly old, keep in mind that (as seen on the cover) Dannel has made construct improvements to herself; beyond that, she may well receive experimental Jorasco treatments that limit the effects of aging.

How would you integrate the haunted lightning rail—Cyre 1313—from Van Richten’s Guide with Dread Metrol?

The two are different domains, and part of the theme of Dread Metrol is its absolute isolation. So by default, I wouldn’t integrate the two. However, there is a lightning rail station in Metrol; if I was running a Dread Metrol campaign and was ready to change things up, I might have Cyre 1313 pull into the station. I would expect there to be a flood of people trying to get to the train; how will the adventurers get to the front of that line, and what intrigues might carry onto the train when it leaves?

Falkovnia in Van Richten’s Guide is a “Domain Besieged by the Dead.” Is Dread Metrol basically the same thing?

There are certainly similarities between the two domains; both explore the horrors of war and an extended undead siege. The primary differences are the intensity of the siege and the application of arcane science—both as employed by the attacking forces and the people of Metrol. In Falkovnia, criminals are impaled; in Metrol, they’re taken to the Vadalis Kennels or given to Cannith as spare parts. In Falkovnia, new zombies show up on the night of the new moon. In Metrol, new forces emerge from the mists each night, and they may bring mystical siege weapons and arcane bombardment. You can wander the ruined countryside in Falkovnia; in Metrol, the city is the domain, and all that lies beyond the walls are blasted battlefields.

So the two domains explore a number of overlapping fiends—but aside from the possibility of fighting some zombies, an adventure in Metrol will be quite different from one in Falkovnia.

Will this be available in print?

Not at the moment. We’re looking into this, but there are certain restrictions—and also, print on demand costs have increased dramatically.

That’s all for now! You can find Dread Metrol: Into The Mists on the DM’s Guild.

Dragonmarks: Cyre

The Jewel in Galifar’s Crown. Wondrous Cyre. Cyre was the heart of the united kingdom of Galifar. But what was the nation actually like? Many sourcebooks have explored the cultures and cities of Thrane, Breland, Aundair, and Karrnath. Since Cyre has fallen, the focus is often on the current plight of the refugees and not on the nation they lost. But as a Cyran PC, what are the memories you treasure? What was your childhood like? If you hope to rebuild your nation, what is it that you aspire to recreate?

In this article I’ll explore some of the history and culture of Cyre before the Mourning. Bear in mind that this is not canon material, and may even contradict canon sources.

“WHAT OUR DREAMS IMAGINE, OUR HANDS CREATE”

Galifar Wynarn was a military genius, but it was his eldest daughter Cyre who imagined the warring nations working together as a single family: Karrnathi might, Daskari faith, and the wisdom of Thaliost working together for the greater good. In crafting the map of the united kingdom, Galifar declared that Cyre would be the heart of the realm. His daughter would govern the province, and have all that she needed to pursue her vision. The crest of the Cyre is a crown and bell on a green field, above a hammer and bellows. The seat of the crown, the bell that rings in change, and the tools to build the future; the motto of the nation is “What our dreams imagine, our hands create.”

The provinces of Galifar largely retained the cultures and traditions of the nations they had once been. In many ways, their differences were reinforced and celebrated. Each nation was given one of the pillars of the united kingdom: the Arcane Congress in Aundair, the King’s Citadel in Breland, Rekkenmark in Karrnath, the Grand Temple of Thrane. Cyre was the exception. Rather than building upon the existing culture of Metrol, Cyre drew experts and artisans from across Galifar. Cyre wasn’t the center of any one discipline. Rather, it was the nexus where all of these things came together: the best of what Galifar could be. When the Arcane Congress perfected the everbright lantern, Metrol was the first city whose streets were lit with them. Soldiers trained in Rekkenmark, but the finest warriors served in the Vermishard Guard. While Metrol was the showpiece—a city of wonders—this principle was applied across central Cyre. Education, art, even agriculture; Cyre displayed the best of what Galifar could accomplish. 

This continued and evolved over the course of centuries. Karrns are tough, Thranes wise, Aundairians clever. The people of Cyre can trace their roots to all of these nations and believe they share all of these strengths; but beyond that, Cyrans strive to be creative, innovative, and artistic.

Cyre’s artistic (and some might say whimsical) temperament was balanced and sustained by the presence of House Cannith, which was based in the great city of Making. Many of Cannith’s greatest forgeholds were spread across Cyre; this provided a practical, industrial foundation that supported the wonders of Cyre. And those wonders took many forms. Where the Arcane Congress of Aundair focused on the practical applications of magic, the Wynarn Institute of Cyre explored the artistic potential of the arcane. Metrol was a city of light and marvels. Visitors could speak to illusions of past heroes and kings, and watch re-enactments of historic moments. It’s said that no one ever went hungry in Metrol, and no one ever felt the bite of winter. Cyrans say that this reflects the generosity and selflessness of the Cyran spirit; critics point out that these social projects were only possible because of the taxes paid by the people of other provinces. Certainly, Cyre held the wealth of Galifar and had a standard of living higher than any other province. Was this decadent? Or was in a work in progress, a model that could have someday been applied to all nations? There’s no way to know. Cyrans mourn what was lost; the people of other nations criticize the Cyran lifestyle as parasitic and unsustainable. What our dreams imagine, our hands build; bitter outsiders point out that it may have been Cyran hands that built, but they used the resources gathered by the hard work of others. 

This bitterness was further fueled by the Galifar’s traditions of succession. Following the example of Galifar I, the monarch’s children served as the governors of the five provinces. The eldest governed Cyre, and upon the death of the monarch they would take up the crown and their children would take over the governing positions. The prior governors would serve as regents until children were of age and as advisors moving forward, and when a monarch lacked five children the previous governors would maintain the posts. But the principle was simple: Cyre was the heart of Galifar, and all else would shift around it. Over the history of Galifar, there were multiple rebellions and attempted secessions; the Last War was simply the largest and last of them.

OUTER CYRE

Galifar’s goal with Cyre was to create something new, a culture combining the best aspects of the other nations. In the newly forged Thrane, Aundair, and Breland, the people kept their old traditions and the ruling families were often incorporated into the new governing structure. But in the old kingdom of Metrol—which covered an area roughly the size and shape of the modern Mournland—the old systems and rulers were pushed aside to make room for Cyre’s dream. Some of the noble families of Metrol embraced this new path. Others were resettled by Galifar, granted authority over regions that had previously existed as independent frontiers.

Southern Cyre covered what is now Darguun. Largely unsettled when Galifar was founded, it persisted as a backwater in the shadow of the kingdom. Its people ultimately prospered and took pride in their identity as Cyrans, aping the customs of the central kingdom. However, they had little of the wealth invested in the north or the wonders that came with it. There were ongoing clashes with goblins, a few severe—but the Ghaal’dar largely remained in the mountains and dark places until the Last War.

By contrast, Eastern Cyre —what’s now Valenar—was effectively a separate nation with dramatically different culture and values… and it was arguably Galifar’s greatest failing. The region had first been settled by immigrants from the Khunan region of western Sarlona. Galifar I wanted the lands of old Metrol, so he gave the nobles of Metrol authority over this region, setting them as the feudal overlords of the Khunan settlers. The Blade Desert served as a physical and cultural divide, and having granted the nobles their lands, Galifar largely ignored them. The noble families thus held to the traditions of Metrol rather than embracing the new culture of Cyre. Many were dissatisfied with the arrangement, and took this out on their Khunan subjects. Overall, the nobles of Eastern Cyre were petty and proud, and all too often cruel to their tenants. Some wonder why it was so simple for the elves to seize control of Valenar; first and foremost it’s because the Khunan people had no love for their Cyran rulers (generally called “thrones”) and many feel they are actually better off under the new regime.

CYRE AND THE LAST WAR

Under the reign of King Jarot, Cyre continued to shine. Aspiring artists and young nobles made their way to the heart of the kingdom, while the most promising artificers settled in the city of Making. King Jarot lavished attention on Cyre: expanding the Vermishard Palace; working with House Orien to expand the scope of the lightning rail within Cyre; spending hundreds of thousands of galifars on the Wynarn Institute of Art and the Cathedral of the Sovereign Host.

Following the death of Jarot, Galifar spiraled towards war. Initially, Cyran morale was high. Queen Mishann had centuries of tradition behind her. And everyone knew that Cyre had the best of everything: the finest wizards, the best soldiers, the foremost artificers. And on one level, this was true. But a single unit of exceptional soldiers means little when set against the martial cultures of Karrnath or Thrane. Cyre’s finest wizards were artists and theoretical scholars; Aundair had long worked on magic as a tool of war. And the expert artificers were largely tied to House Cannith, which remained neutral in the war. If you consider the nations as characters, Thrane is a paladin; Karrnath is a fighter; Aundair is a wizard; and Breland is a rogue. In this party, Cyre is the bard: elegant, clever, and doing a little bit of everything… but best when working with others, not well prepared to go toe to toe alone against a powerful foe.

Cyre adapted; it had to. Initially it relied heavily on mercenaries; it was the seat of Galifar’s treasury, and had the gold to spare. But as time passed and the scope of the conflict became clear, Cyrans devoted themselves to war. Cyre lacked the martial spirit of Karrnath or Thrane, but its people were sustained by the absolute belief that they were in the right. Beyond that, in the eyes of the people, Cyre was Galifar. It embodied the ideals of the kingdom, the best of what it could be—and that was something worth fighting for. Nonetheless, the struggle was a tremendous blow to the Cyran psyche. For centuries Cyrans had seen themselves as the stars of the show, beloved by all; now all hands were raised against them, and some at least could see their former beliefs as arrogance and narcissism. Cyre had indeed had the best of everything, but that’s because it was freely given. Now the Arcane Congress devoted its knowledge purely on the good of Aundair, Rekkenmark trained only Karrns, and the King’s Citadel served Breland. Cyre had echoes of all these things. Its wizards were still a match for any nation other than Aundair; the Vermishard Guard formed the core of Cyre’s new military academy. But it was clear that the Cyran dream had been sustained by many hands, and now the nation had to learn to stand on its own. 

TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS

Cyran culture blends the traditions of other nations. A Cyran can play Conqueror with a Karrn, sing an add-a-verse song with an Aundairian, and debate religion with a Thrane. This reflects the founding principles of Cyre—to gather the best aspects of Galifar and to build upon them. Some call this the Cyran appreciation, and considering it an admirable thing. Others call it appropriation, depicting the Cyrans as carrion crawlers who steal from others and have the arrogance to say they can do better. But the Cyran appreciation is rooted in love, not arrogance. It’s based in the idea that there is no single perfect path, and maintains both that diversity is a source of strength and that there’s always room for improvement. Cyran culture is thus a strange chimera—a blend of familiar elements from across Khorvaire, combined with a steady, ongoing evolution. A Cyran musician might play Karrnathi funeral dirges in the style of a Thrane devotional. It’s a puzzle where the pieces are known, but they’re constantly being arranged in new ways. 

The Last War built walls between Cyre and the other nations, and every nation evolved in this isolation. Cyrans know the old add-a-verse songs beloved by Aundairians, but few know the Epic of Valiant and Vigilant, a tale of martial bravery close to the heart of every modern Aundairian. They don’t know the maxims of Beggar Dane that now serve as a cornerstone of Breland. But Cyrans still see their culture as being founded on the best principles of Galifar, and can still find some common ground with people of any nation. In playing a Cyran, you can find familiar things anywhere you go. But what is it that you treasure in your memories of Cyre? Do you cling to the past, or do you embrace the Cyran principle of always striving to find a new and better way?

Fashion

Cyran fashion blends practicality with endless diversity. Cyran clothing begins with a simple foundation: this base layer may be colorful, but it is first and foremost practical and durable. Breeches and skirts, shirts or gowns; a Cyran starts with whatever the individual finds most comfortable. Again, this base level is well made, but it is more functional than decorative. It’s what comes next that adds flair. Cloaks and gloves are both integral parts of Cyran fashion. Gloves can be short and sturdy for work or war, or long and decorative for more formal occasions. Cloaks likewise vary between the practical and purely decorative: a heavy cloak for traveling, a short cloak for a casual social event, and a long, light cloak with a glamerweave lining for an evening at the Grand Stage. In addition to gloves, boots, and cloaks, jewelry is an important part of Cyran fashion. Cyran jewelry is often made from copper, leather, wood, or glass; it’s not a display of wealth, but rather a way to express individuality. Feathers and bells are also common accessories; there is a Cyran dance that involves belled bracelets and anklets. Finally, masks are often worn at formal or festive occasions. Cyran masks aren’t intended to conceal identity or intent; rather they are a way of enhancing identity and expressing a mood.

Traditionally, Cyran fashion is filled with color (often accentuated with glamerweave). In the wake of the Last War, many Cyrans have adopted Mourningwear—clothing cut in the Cyran style, but entirely in black. Others celebrate their nation by preserving its styles. Because of the emphasis on durability, a Cyran character may still have the clothes they were wearing on the Day of Mourning. What was that outfit, and do you still wear it? Do you favor a mask, and if so, what is its design?

Cuisine

Cyran cuisine reflects all the principles taken above: working with the best of all traditions and then continuing to explore. In many ways this is similar to the Sharn fusion found in the City of Towers, and a number of Cyran refugees are rising stars in Sharn’s culinary scene. Cyrans blend the thrakel spices of Thrane with traditional Karrn stews, and add the heat of southern Breland to the delicate pastries of Aundair. While many refugees cling to family recipes as a way to remember the fallen nation, others continue the tradition of Cyran appreciation—adopting new favorites from the place they’ve found shelter, and looking for ways to improve them.

Magic

Traditionally, Cyrans viewed arcane magic as a form of art as well as a practical tool. On the one hand this lent itself to a wider study of illusion and enchantment than found in other nations. But beyond this, it’s also about the presentation of magic. Magewright, bard or wizard, a Cyran often puts more show into the performance of magic than even an Aundairian. For a wizard who’s studied at the Wynarn Institute, somatic components are almost a dance, and verbal components have the cadence of song or poetry. This ties to the Cyran love of capes and flowing clothing. As a Cyran spellcaster, you are truly a student of arcane arts; consider how your casting reflects this.

Religion

While the Silver Flame had some devoted followers and temples in Cyre, the Sovereign Host was the dominant faith. At the same time, religion is driven by faith and tradition, and Cyrans have always been encouraged to question and search for new paths. The war drove some Cyrans to embrace their faith more tightly, but for others it was another source of doubt. Likewise, the Mourning threw many devout Cyrans into a crisis of faith. With that said, there are many devout Cyrans. Followers of the Silver Flame don’t question the cause of the Mourning: they simply seek to protect the innocent from harm. Vassals of the Sovereign Host trust that there is a purpose to their suffering. And in the wake of the Mourning, some Cyrans have turned to the Blood of Vol or Cults of the Dragon Below, cursing the gods they once worshipped or following a darker vision. There are also a number of new strains of the old faiths: Cyran twists on the Flame and the Host that seek to adapt traditions to make sense of the war and the world.

The preceding paragraph primarily applies to Central Cyre. The nobles of Eastern Cyre were devout vassals, convinced that their leadership was a divine right. The people of Southern Cyre are less arrogant, but still tend to have a quiet faith in the Sovereigns.

In playing a Cyran divine caster, consider the impact the Mourning had on your faith. Are you conflicted and struggling to hold to your beliefs? Or was the Mourning a source of inspiration—you know you have a divine purpose, that your people need you? If you’re tied to an existing faith, do you follow the standard traditions or have you found an unusual path?

THE THREE CYRES

When most people say “Cyre” they’re thinking of Central Cyre. When they speak of Cyran refugees, they are talking about the people who fled the Mourning. But there were Cyran refugees long before the end of the war. The Tairnadal elves established the kingdom of Valenar in 956 YK, while Lhesh Haruuc claimed southern Cyre as Darguun in 969 YK. While Valenar was an unpleasant surprise, it had relatively little impact on the nation. Eastern Cyre had always been isolated, and the Khunan majority embraced elf rule; the refugees were thus a handful of nobles who were painfully out of touch with the traditions of the central kingdom. The loss of Darguun was a more significant blow. Southern Cyre was a backwater, but this was still close to home—and it resulted in a flood of refugees that the wartorn nation was ill-prepared to handle. In creating a Cyran character, consider which Cyre you’re from. 

  • Central Cyre. Odds are good that you yourself think of your home as the “true” Cyre. Before the Mourning, did you give much thought to the refugees of Valenar and Darguun? Even now, do you think of them when you think of your homeland? Are you devoted to the idea of rebuilding your nation and clinging to your memories and traditions? Or following the Cyran appreciation, are you instead looking forward and trying to find a new and better path, even if that means abandoning the dreams of Cyre?
  • Eastern Cyre. You’re tied to a noble family that can trace its roots back to Old Metrol, before Galifar even existed. You don’t accept any of the nonsense about Cyre being “the best of Galifar” or challenging tradition; if people had stuck to the old ways, perhaps all of this could have been avoided. Your people were devoted to the Sovereign Host and truly believed that Aureon had chosen you to rule. At the same time, your lands have been lost for over forty years, and the people of Central Cyre have never avenged you or shown your family the respect you deserve. You’re not as affected by the Mourning as some, because it wasn’t YOUR Cyre that was destroyed; now the others just get to see how you feel. As an Eastern Cyran, you have noble ancestry but you’re unlikely to have the noble background, as nobody cares about your claims. Do you despise the Valenar and hope to reclaim your long-lost homeland? Or do you want to rally Cyran survivors around the TRUE royal bloodlines, challenging Oargev and re-establishing the long-forgotten kingdom of Metrol?
  • Southern Cyre. Your people have been struggling for decades, eking out a life in camps and shelters. You were encouraged to take up military service; it was easier to send you to the front than to find a new home for you. Many of your friends and family chose to idolize the Queen and central Cyre, believing that she had a vision, that she would rebuild Galifar and restore an age of wonders. Did you feel that way? Were you an idealist and an optimist? Or were you bitter and angry at the nation that failed to protect you? Are you loyal to Cyre, or are you solely concerned with Darguun and taking vengeance on the goblins?

THE WONDERS OF CYRE

Cyre is lost to the Mournland, and all people have are their memories. But what are those memories? Cyre was a land of wonders… what are some of those wonders? Here’s a few of them…

  • The Vermishards. Seven spires rise up from Metrol, a natural (or supernatural) wonder. These plateaus held the ancestral homes of the noble lines of Old Metrol, and the Royal Vermishard was the seat of the Cyran crown. However, over the course of centuries other powerful forces—such as House Cannith and House Phiarlan—made their way to the Vermishards. Cannith and Phiarlan worked together with Cyran magewrights to embed illusory lighting into the Vermishards, and these glittering spires were a remarkable part of the Metrol skyline.
  • The Wynarn Institute of Art. The Wynarn institute was both one of the foremost academies of magic in Khorvaire and one of its most amazing museums. In addition to purely artistic exhibits, the Hall of Kings allowed rulers to converse with illusory replicas of the past rulers of Galifar. Treasures of the pre-Galifar kingdoms were displayed here, along with modern works of art.
  • The Vault. The Royal Treasury of Galifar was commonly known as the Vault. While there were reserves hidden around the kingdom, the Vault included both the mint, the primary reserves of both currencies and precious metals, and cultural artifacts deemed too valuable to be displayed. Salvagers have dreamed of finding the “Golden Palace,” but there are stories saying that the Vault is actually missing. The Mourning had strange effects on Metrol, and the Vault may have simply been physically displaced, or it could have fallen into another plane.
  • The Cathedral of the Sovereign Host. Following the spread of the Church of the Silver Flame in Thrane, the Cathedral of the Sovereign Host became the primary seat of vassal devotion on Galifar. Many of the rulers of Galifar would make an addition to the Cathedral as a way of showing their piety. By the reign of King Jarot, it was a wonder. Nine colossal statues encircle the temple. Illusory displays within depicted scenes from the faith, and there was a vast collection of relics and artifacts. The fate of the cathedral and its treasures remains unknown.

All of these are within Metrol itself, and they just scratch the surface of what was possible. Aundair has floating towers; Cyre expanded on this with floating gardens, flower petals falling on the wind to the cities below. Even small towns had crystal theaters when people could scry on the great performances in the Demesne of Shape. There was always music in the air and lights in the sky. With this in mind, feel free to create wonders. Cyre was the seat of House Cannith and House Phiarlan, and second only to Aundair in arcane sophistication. What your dreams imagine, their hands could create. And even if they DIDN’T create the things you dream of, people might believe that they did; the legends of Cyre only continue to grow now that the kingdom is lost.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As a Cyran, you come from a culture that strove to find the best in all things, a tradition that encouraged creativity and innovation. But your people have also lived through a century of betrayal and war, fighting enemies on all sides. How has this affected you? Are you an idealist who still believes in the promise of Galifar—someone who believes that the Five Nations can and should unite, someone who tries to bring people together? Or do you curse the traitors who betrayed Mishann and doomed Galifar? Are you scarred by the memory of the Mournign and determined to reclaim your homeland or rebuild it somewhere else, or are you always looking forward to what happens next? Do you have any living relatives, and if so where are they now and what is their condition? Will you send money to your family in High Walls or New Cyre, or are you alone in the world? Beyond that, where was your home and what did you leave behind? Is there anything you wish you could recover from the Mournland, whether it’s something with practical value or simply sentimental? What do you still have to remind you of Cyre? 

GENERAL Q&A

Do Cyran nobles still have authority even though their lands have been lost?

This depends on the family and on the people you’re dealing with. The nobility of Cyre was originally drawn from across the Five Nations, and many Cyran noble families still have strong ties to other nations. Some families had significant holdings in other nations and still have wealth and influence, even if it’s limited. On the other hand, many Cyran nobles have lost everything but their titles. Some Thronehold nobles treat these displaced aristocrats with courtesy, but many dismiss them: at the Treaty of Thronehold, Queen Aurala famously said “Cyre no longer exists, and refugees have no place at these proceedings.”

In regard to YOUR character, there’s a simple way to determine the standing of your family: Your choice of background. If you take the noble background, your Position of Privilege means that you are treated with the respect of any noble; this implies that your family still has holdings or at least the respect of other aristocrats. But you could also be a fallen noble forced down a dark path (criminal background), a dandy who uses charm to find your way into courts even though you no longer have influence (charlatan), or a hero who still fights to protect the common people of Cyre even though you have no rank (folk hero). You could also take the noble background with the variant Retainers feature, reflecting that while you no longer have a position of privilege, you still have a few loyal followers who have been with your family for as long as you can remember.

The Forge of War says that Thrane turned away or even attacked Cyran refugees fleeing from the Mourning. You’ve said that this is inaccurate and possibly Karrnathi propaganda. Would this be a pervasive rumor? Would Cyrans think of Thranes as butchers who turned their backs? Is Karrnath exempted from this? What about Breland and Aundair?  

The faith of the Silver Flame is founded on the basic principle of defending the innocent from supernatural evil. I’ve already called out that if followers of the Flame were serving on opposite sides in a battle and a group of demons suddenly appeared, I’d expect the templars to set aside their political differences until the supernatural threat was dealt with. The same principle applies here. I could easily imagine an initial violent response if the surge of refugees was perceived as an attack. However, once it became clear that thi sis literally innocents fleeing a supernatural threat, I would expect Thrane to be the MOST active nation in providing support and shelter.

So my initial reaction is that Forge of War is simply WRONG. The situation as described makes no sense and I don’t see it as a rumor that would stick, because anyone familiar with the church should know it makes no sense. Why would they do something like that?

WITH THAT SAID: Maybe you WANT it to be true. If this is the case, the question is what could MAKE it happen as described. The simplest answer is that the facts aren’t straight. The Mourning transforms things caught within it. So perhaps Thrane templars DID “slaughter a host of Cyrans fleeing from the Mourning”—because those Cyrans had been caught in the Mourning and transformed into a ravening pack of bloodthirsty killers. They weren’t FLEEING the mists, they were charging out of them to kill anything they could get their hands on, and the templars had no choice but to put them down. So it is an absolute fact that Thrane forces killed a host of Cyran refugees, and Karrnath or other nations have publicized the story. But the truth isn’t as they present it—and beyond that, I’d still expect people who hear the story to say “But that doesn’t make any sense!”

So as a quick overview of how nations have responded to Cyrans, here’s MY personal opinion.

  • Breland has been presented as the most willing to shelter Cyrans without strings, as shown by the establishment of New Cyre. There are certainly tensions between the common people of Breland and the refugees, and life in camps like High Walls is hardly ideal, but it’s better than anything offered by Aundair or Karrnath.
  • I think Thrane would have responded with compassion and provided significant support. However, I can imagine Thrane focusing on integrating refugees into Thrane society as opposed to trying to preserve Cyran culture or supporting Cyran nobles; consider that they already set aside the Wynarn monarchy in favor of the Church. So they’d provide support and opportunities—for a new life as Thranes.
  • Aundair has been presented as unsympathetic (see that quote from Queen Aurala at the Treaty of Thronehold), and that makes sense. Aundair is the smallest of the Five Nations and has its own problems with the Eldeen Reaches, and Aurala still believes she would be the best ruler for a restored Galifar; none of this suggests sympathy for Cyre.
  • Likewise, I think Karrnath would be VERY unsympathetic. Cyre and Karrns were bitter rivals; per Forge of War, the Mourning followed directly on the heels of a Cyran sneak attack on the city of Atur. Karrnath had long struggled with famines and thus lacks the ability to suddenly support an influx of outsiders, and Karrns are known for being ruthless and pragmatic. Beyond this, as I called out in my last article, the Karrnathi undead are perfectly willing to slaughter civilians. If anyone slaughtered masses of Cyran refugees on the border, I’d expect it to be Karrnath.

Several maps show parts of the Talenta plains (or the borderlands) as part of Cyre during the Last War. Were these wartime holdings? Provinces of Cyre? How was Cyre’s relationship with the Halflings?

This is covered on page 202 of the 3.5 ECS:

Karrnath and Cyre both claimed parts of the Talenta Plains during the Last War. Prior to the fall of the kingdom of Galifar, the halfling tribes were permitted to wander their ancestral lands as long as they paid tribute to the Galifar king. With the coming of war, the halfling tribes began to cooperate in unprecedented ways to protect the Plains that all the tribes revered. Warriors of different tribes banded together, repelling invaders from Karrnath and Cyre by using their knowledge of the ways of the Plains to confuse and confound the invaders. Later, when the Plains became the place for various combatant nations to clash, the halfling tribes tried to stay out of the way.

Cannith had a lot of holdings in Cyre, and almost invariably there would have been mingling with the locals. Do you see the Houses as having a mostly distinct culture or also being something like citizens of the nation they grew up in? Cannith worked a lot with Cyre during the war, was that more an accident of proximity and money or did a lot of the leadership sympathize with the Cyrans? For example, is there a Cannith style or are there Cyran Cannith, Brelish Cannith, etc. styles of architecture/production?

The houses definitely hold themselves as extranational entities. They take their neutrality very seriously, and the only house we’ve suggested as having a national bias is Medani: so Cyre’s heavy association with Cannith was certainly based on gold. Cannith heirs consider themselves to be Cannith first, nation second. However, there’s certainly a national component to the personality of a dragonmarked heir. Beyond interaction with the locals, you’ve got the fact that houses are comprised of different families and these families are based in different nations—so the Vown are Brelish Cannith, while Juran are (or were) Cyran Cannith. It’s also the case that different enclaves have different focuses, which also affects corporate culture. Cannith South is focused on general industry, while Cannith East is more driven by weapons research and recently, experimenting with necromancy.

With that said, the HOUSES hold themselves as neutral; the members of the houses often had their own sympathies. In The Dreaming Dark novels, Daine is a Deneith heir who cut ties with the Blademark in order to fight for Cyre. Dragonmarked discusses such characters, who are generally referred to as “orphans.”

Could you elaborate a bit on what would happen to the royals and their families of the other nations once they were done reigning/advising. Would they be demoted to “regular” noble status? Would they hold land, and how would they inherit?

The position of governor came with land, but those holdings were tied to the position and would be passed to the new governor. The tradition was for a governor to marry into one of the noble families of the nation they governed, which served both to strengthen their connection to the land and to give them estates after their tenure passed. So the warlord families of Karrnath include many former governors. But this does mean that when the nations rallied behind their “kings” and “queens” to start the Last War, it was a substantial change. Frankly, this reflects how easy it was for Thrane to shift to a theocracy; they weren’t deeply attached to Wrogar’s line. Likewise, we’ve said that Kaius III is still in a delicate position with the Warlords of Karrnath; they trace their lineage back to the founders of the nation, while Kaius I was a son of Jarot. But the short answer to the question is that the governors would marry into the local nobility, which helped both to keep bloodlines fresh and to strengthen ties between Galifar and the local nobility.

What would YOU like to know about Cyre? Post your questions below. And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for requesting the topic and making it possible!

Dragonmarks: People of the Five Nations

It’s another busy week. I’m working on new material for Phoenix: Dawn Command and doing events for the launch of Illimat. Now I’m at PAX Unplugged doing Illimat demos – if you’re at PAXU, stop by the Twogether Studios booth (449)! But I have time for a quick question from Patreon

Could we get a quick rundown on what the humans of each of the Five Nations commonly look like, physically? Or are they a grab bag of all possible looks we have in reality?

The humans of the Five Nations are ethnically diverse. Humanity didn’t evolve on Khorvaire. It began on Sarlona, where environments range from desert to arctic tundra and everything in between. Humanity came to Khorvaire in multiple waves of explorers, settlers and refugees and the Five Nations were built from this stew. On the coasts of Khorvaire you can find communities that can trace their roots back to particular nations, such as the Khunan humans of Valenar. But few of the people of the Five Nations have any concept of their Sarlonan roots; over the course of generations they’ve blended and merged. So yes, they are a grab bag of all possible looks you can imagine. Rather than being judged by the color of your skin, you’ll be evaluated by your accent, attitude and fashion. Karrns are stoic and stolid, while Aundairians tend to be dramatic and expressive.

Consider this picture, which comes from the “Humans” entry in the original 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting.

There’s five humans and five nations… but nothing in the entry indicates who these people are or where they’re from. From left to right, here’s where I’d place them.

  • Vyenne is a duelist from Aundair. Her ruffles and hairstyle reflect the latest trends in Fairhaven fashion; while her dress appears constricting, the fabric is surprisingly flexible. She doesn’t wear armor because it’s so plebian; she’ll conjure mage armor when trouble strikes. She uses a flail in a style known as chain dancing, a technique full of dramatic flourishes, trips and disarms; it’s perfect both for showing off and embarassing an opponent. She’s also a wand adept; the three short rods in her belt are arcane foci used for channeling her talents. Unlike her neighbor, who still insists on launching sticks at his enemies. Does he know it’s almost 1000 YK?
  • Castor is a retired templar from Thrane. Compared to Vyenne, his clothing is simple and practical. He’s comfortable in his breastplate and he carries his weapons as a matter of course. He’s not looking for a fight, but he knows that danger can come at any time and he’s always ready to defend the people of his community from unexpected threats. He’s reasonably friendly – he genuinely likes people – but he is always serious and watchful, with no time for frivolity and no need for luxury. When he spoke with Vyenne, he didn’t realize she was mocking him.
  • Meris is from Cyre. She’s the last survivor of a prominent wizard’s circle in Metrol, and while she’s lost her homeland and her friends, she still ahs her pride. If you look closely you’ll see that her fine clothing is a little worn; she’s done her best to keep it fresh with mending and prestidigitation, but there’s only so much magic can do. Her ornate staff is merely a fancy arcane focus, but it belonged to her mentor in the circle and it’s her most treasured possession.
  • Harkan is a mercenary from Karrnath. Like Vyenne, he balances his martial skills with a touch of magic; this is less common in Karrnath than it is in Aundair, but it’s catching on. Where Vyenne likes her wands and her elegant chain dancing, Harkan carries a staff and is quite straightforward about crushing you with his mace. He is almost always found in armor. He’s generally curt, direct, and he doesn’t like you.
  • Baris is an entertainer from Breland; he’s generally found playing at one of the taverns in Lower Dura. He’s not part of any of the gangs, but he’s got friends in the Boromar Clan, House Tarkanan and even Daask; as such, he’s sometimes called upon to act as a go-between or mediator. While he generally keeps his hands clean, he’s not above picking the pocket of foolish tourist who has a little too much to drink.

Reflecting a little on how their cultures have shaped them… Vyenne is very gifted and wants the world to know it. She uses magic in her everyday life and considers those who don’t to be backwards. Appearance and opinions matter to her. By contrast, Castor reflects the values of the Silver Flame. He’s got an ascetic streak, and has no interest in luxuries or fancy talk. He genuinely cares about others and is prepared to put his life on the line to protect the innocent should supernatural threats arise… and he is always prepared for a threat to arise, which means he rarely drinks or engages in frivolous activities. Meris was once a wealthy socialite but has lost almost everything; she knows her courtly graces and keeps up up her mask when among strangers, but sometimes she prefers the company of her ghosts and memories to the salons she used to love. Harkan is grim, direct and focused on his work. He’s reliable, deadly, and not a lot of fun. Finally, Baris is a liar and a thief… but he also prefers diplomacy to war. He’s willing to take a lot of risks to help his friends, and he has a lot of friends.

What historical equivalent should I look to for fashion in Eberron? I’ve heard everything from late medieval/early Renaissance to 1920s and would you to hear at least /your/ take.

It’s hard to map Eberron’s fashions to Earth’s history because it’s not Earth. It’s a world where glamorweave and shiftweave exist, where arcane focuses are common fashion accessories. In our history armor was rendered obsolete by the prevalence of the musket. In Eberron, armor is often worn either as a practical tool or as a fashion statement, and I think that armor is more comfortable and flexible than equivalents we know from our history. It’s hard to imagine a medieval knight comfortably wearing jousting armor to a tavern, but that’s a perfectly valid choice for a fighter… which leads me to think that the plate itself is simply better made than we know. Essentially, I feel that there is a concept of practical armor. Light armor in particular often won’t read as armor: you might be wearing a heavy leather trenchcoat with long gauntlets and high boots. It’s protective, but you don’t necessarily look like a soldier. Moving up from there armor will clearly be armor, but there will still be designs that are intended for everyday use or social occasions as opposed to being made strictly for the battlefield. Even looking to heavier armors, it’s worth noting whether your character is wearing the uniform of a soldier, or if you’re wearing more personal and social armor (like Harkan in the illustration above).

I think this concept generally extends. If people are wearing what we generally consider as “fantasy” clothing, keep in mind that it’s evolved beyond that of the middle ages, and may be more practical, better made, more colorful, and so on. Beyond this, it’s good to fully understand glamerweave. This is clothing with fabric imbued with illusion. The possibilities of this are nearly endless, and to my mind the +100 gp price tag is simply a general overview. At the low end (likely less than 100 gp) you could simply have colors or textures that cannot be found in nature. At the high end you can have truly fantastic designs: a cloak that has a rippling starfield for its lining, leather armor that appears to be made from dragonscales, a Lyrandar noble dressed in a shirt that has the pattern of a storm – an if it’s truly fancy, perhaps it shifts and grows more thunderous based on the wearer’s mood. Essentially, this is a world where illusion exists and is used as part of fashion – so use your imagination and think about what’s possible.

Beyond that, I’m not a fashion expert. I look to the illustrations in the books for inspiration, and I think of the general tone of the nation. In Aundair you have more glamorweave and shiftweave, along with a general love of complexity and ostentatious display. Thranes are more practical and austere, always ready for trouble (so more casual armor), with some ornate displays of faith. Karrns are likewise practical, martial, and dressed to deal with a harsher climate. The Brelish are in a more tropical climate and fall in the middle – not as in love with fashion as the Aundairians, but neither as spartan as the Thranes or Karrns. And in Cyre you had both more widespread wealth and a love of art and artistry… but now carrying the scars of loss.

What are YOUR thoughts on fashion in the Five Nations? Share your thoughts below!

Dragonmarks 5/02/16: Ravenloft and Cyre

My last call for Eberron questions produced over forty questions, many quite complex. So it’s going to be some time before I get to them all. But let’s get started with one of the big ones… though as always, important disclaimers. Nothing I say here is official. These are my thoughts – often off the top of my head – and how I might handle things in MY campaign. I may contradict canon sources. As with all things, use what you like and ignore what you don’t. With that said…

Do you have any advice for incorporating Ravenloft in an Eberron Campaign?

Ravenloft is set in the Demiplane of Dread, a pocket dimension shaped by the enigmatic Dark Powers. These mysterious forces draw realms from the material plane, along with individuals of great evil; these become the Dreadlords who rule over these domains. The most infamous Dreadlord is Strahd von Zarovich, who rules over his domain of Barovia from Castle Ravenloft.

In tying Ravenloft to Eberron, the first question is whether you want the Demiplane of Dread to serve as a bridge between realities – if you want to have Lord Soth ruling a piece of Krynn, or to say that Barovia is a piece of the Forgotten Realms. If not, it’s a simple matter to say that all of the domains in the Demiplane of Dread are drawn from different points in Eberron’s history… especially if you assert that time passes differently in the Domain of Dread, so while a domain may have disappeared thousands of years ago, it may have only been years or centuries from the perspective of those trapped within it. Here’s a few possibilities to consider.

  • Ancient Karrnath. Barovia could easily have been a fiefdom in pre-Galifar Karrnath. With this approach you could use Strahd and his history exactly as written. Alternately, you could keep the basic story of Strahd, but change him to an infamous character from the history of Khorvaire. My first choice would be to make him Karrn the Conqueror, the king who first sought to unite the Five Nations by force… and failed. In this model, Karrn retreated to his ancestral stronghold of Ravenloft after his defeat, drawing his family and closest allies to him – and it is here that you could overlay the existing story of Strahd. This would be interesting because it would present Barovia as Karrn’s idealized vision of what Karrnath (and the Five Nations under his rule) should have been. It would also present the vision of a ruthless, vampire Karrn king… an interesting contrast and foil to Kaius III of present day Karrnath. And it opens the possibility that Karrn/Strahd could be seeking a way to return to Eberron, still hoping to unite the Five Nations under his rule. If I ran Ravenloft in Eberron, this is the path I would likely take.
  • Ohr Kaluun. This is one of the pre-Sundering kingdoms of Sarlona. Its people were known both for their strong mystical traditions and their dark practices, and it’s easy to imagine that a Dreadlord such as Hazlik could be drawn from this place. One of the distinctive aspects of Ohr Kaluun is the War Labyrinths used as citadels by the ruling families; a haunted fortress maze could certainly fit into Ravenloft.
  • The Dhakaani. Who says domains have to be dominated by humans? The Demiplane of Dread could contain a fiefdom plucked out of the Dhakaani empire at the height of its power. If you want to add a little more Lovecraftian flavor to your Gothic horror, the hobgoblin Dreadlord could secretly be running a Cult of the Dragon Below; rather than being undead, she could be bonded to life-sustaining symbionts.
  • The Qabalrin. Little is known about this ancient Elven civilization, aside from the fact that they possessed vast knowledge of the arts of necromancy and produced the first humanoid vampires and liches. They are thought to have been decadent and cruel; it’s said that they learned their secrets directly from the Shadow, and that Aureon himself destroyed their civilization. You could easily say that a piece of the Qabalrin survived the destruction that formed the Ring of Storms by being drawn into the Demiplane of Dread… or perhaps, that the entire civilization of the Qabalrin was drawn into the Demiplane, and that the meteor strike was an unrelated event that occurred in the aftermath. As the Qabalrin are thought to have been the greatest mortal masters of necromancy, it would be easy to say that Vecna is one of the first Qabalrin liches.

While you can work any or all of these options into an Eberron Ravenloft campaign, there’s another possibility that has even greater potential.

Could Cyre be tied to Ravenloft?

Four years ago the nation of Cyre was consumed by the Mourning, a catastrophe that left twisted remnants of the nation surrounded by dead-gray mists. As mists are the traditional hallmark of the Dark Powers, it would be an easy thing to say that the Mourning was nothing less than Cyre being consumed by the Demiplane of Dread. If you decide to follow this path, a critical question is just how much of Cyre you want to incorporate into the Demiplane. Is the entire country there? Or did only a small region survive the transition, such as the city of Metrol?

Per existing canon, the mists spread across Cyre on the Day of Mourning, killing or transforming anything caught within them. If you follow this path, you could say that those things twisted by the Mourning died in Eberron but lived on in the Demiplane of Dread.At first, transportation to this Dread Cyre might seem like a dream come true to Cyran PCs. Here they could find villages destroyed by the Mourning, friends or family thought long dead, or other treasures or secrets long lost in core Eberron. But over time the full extent of the realm’s corruption would be revealed. Mad Cannith artificers are performing horrific experiments, perhaps blending human and warforged to create something new and terrible. A legendary bard is perfecting a performance that drives all who hear it mad. And, of course, no one can escape the mists that surround the nation. Queen Dannel rules with an iron fist, justifying this cruelty as necessary to preserve the nation through this vital time. But what is the truth of Dannel’s tale? Is she the domain’s Dreadlord, and if so, what evil deed caused her and her nation to be drawn into Dread? Were her misdeeds tied to personal passion or ambition, or did she travel down a dark path in a quest to save her people? Does she believe that she HAS saved Cyre by pulling it out of the Last War? Or is she searching for a way to return the nation to Eberron… and if so, has she developed a horrific weapon that will ensure Cyran dominion upon its return?

A possible twist on this is to start a campaign with the player characters in Cyre on the Day of Mourning (you’d want to make clear to the players that they’ve never heard of the Mourning, and that the war is still going on). They see the dead-grey mists, but when the mists pass over them… nothing happens. Everything appears to be the same. Continue the adventure as normal, but the players will eventually learn of the impassible wall of mist surrounding the borders of the nation, and discover the slowly spreading darkness that is corrupting every aspect of their land. What will they do? Say they find a way to return… but discover that Dannel has been working on a horrific weapon of mass destruction, and that it was this work that drew the nation into Dread? Will they seek to return Cyre to Eberron if it could result in a far greater horror than the Mourning being unleashed on the rest of Khorvaire? Or will they remain in the Demiplane of Dread and find a way to live with the darkness?

What are the Dark Powers? 

Ravenloft is shaped by the Dark Powers, entities that both empower and torment the Dreadlords. The Dark Powers are largely enigmatic, but it may help you to determine their true nature in the contact of Eberron. Here’s a few possibilities.

  • The Dark Powers could be one or more of the Overlords of the First Age – the fiendish masters of the Lords of Dust banished over a hundred thousand years ago. The Demiplane of Dread could potentially be inside an Overlord (metaphysically speaking). The corrupt nature of the Dreadlord creates a link to the Overlord, who then consumes the Dreadlord and the surrounding domain and gains strength by slowly digesting it. Tul Oreshka (AKA The Voice In The Darkness) would be a good match from the Overlords that have been named so far, but you could easily create a new Overlord for this purpose.
  • The prime spirit of Dal Quor is il-Lashtavar, “The Darkness That Dreams.” The Demiplane of Dread could in fact be a part of Dal Quor. Each domain is literally the nightmare of its tormented Dreadlord. These domains serve as anchors that help il-Lashtavar avoid the turning of the age that will end its existence. A question to address with this is whether the Quori are aware of this and interact with it, or whether this is a private practice of the great darkness that its minions know nothing about.
  • Mabar is the consuming darkness. It is always seeking a foothold in Eberron, an opprtunity to consume its light and life. Mabar is the source of the negative energy that sustains the undead, and they are its unwitting touchstones into the world. The Dark Powers could be the prime spirits of Mabar, and the process of absorbing domains and corrupting Dreadlords could be part of a slow quest to consume all of Eberron. This would be a way to explain why Cyre is far larger than any other domain; the connection is growing stronger each time, and the next consumption could take an entire continent.

These are just a few ideas, and you don’t have to go to such extremes to use Ravenloft in your game. If you’ve done something different with Ravenloft in Eberron, post your ideas in the comments!

What are some easy points of reference for Cyran culture? We know that Karrnath is generally dour and proud of its military heritage and that the Brelish are cosmopolitan and welcoming, but descriptions of Cyre tend to be “was welcoming, now is a smouldering wasteland.” What values would a Cyran character have? What was its niche back when it still existed? 

The great institutions of Galifar were spread throughout the Five Nations, and while they belonged to the kingdom they had considerable impact on the nations in which they lay. Karrnath has Rekkenmark, and has always prided itself on martial skill and discipline. Aundair has the Arcane Congress, and values knowledge and all things arcane. Thrane has Flamekeep; while not a branch of Galifar, it is still an institution that has shaped the nation. Breland has the King’s Citadel. Back in the day this organization served all of Galifar, but it was based in Breland… and while Brelish may be cosmopolitan and welcoming, they are also extremely pragmatic. Essentially, if you had to assign classes to the nations, Karrnath is the fighter; Aundair the wizard; Thrane the cleric; and Breland is the rogue. So where does this leave Cyre?

Cyre was the heart of Galifar. Thronehold was the literal capital, but all the arms and various attendants of government spilled out from the island into Cyre. The nation was a center for trade, but beyond this it was the nexus of art and culture within Galifar. Breland had a strong industrial capacity, but Cyre produced the finest things in the kingdom. Poets, playwrights, artisans of all sorts: if you were at the top of your field, then Metrol is where you belonged. Add to this the fact that Cyre was the ancestral home of House Cannith and seat of most of its Forgeholds. Essentially, the other four nations had a strong single focus; Cyre is where the best of all of those things came together, or at least that’s what a Cyran would tell you. If I had to put a class to it, Cyre would be the bard. Of all the nations, it was the most charismatic, and its people valued diplomacy, commerce, and art over brute strength, devout faith, or pure knowledge.

With that said, no accounting of Cyran character would be complete without considering the impact of the Last War. The war lasted nearly a hundred years, and any human Player Character from Cyre will know no other life. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • They were in the right. Mishann ir’Wynarn was Jarot’s rightful heir. Mishann should have been Queen of Galifar; the Last War began because others challenged her rightful succession. The Cyrans know with absolute certainty that they are the only nation whose actions were beyond reproach, that it was the greed and betrayal of the other nations that destroyed Galifar. The loss of their nation simply reinforces this: it is the ultimate injustice, as they alone were truly in the right. As a side note, Mishann was assassinated by the Order of the Emerald Claw. While this was relatively early in the war, it’s still a potential foundation for prejudice against Karrns in general and the Blood of Vol specifically.
  • Surrounded by enemies. Karrnath, Thrane, Breland, and towards the end of the war Darguun and Valenar. Every other nation had one or more relatively secure borders, areas of the nation that were less affected by the ongoing conflict. There was no safe haven in Cyre, and they were always girding for the next attack.This fostered a strong community spirit – it’s us against the world – and led to…
  • Resourcefulness. Cyre didn’t have the military power of Karrnath or the mystical might of Aundair. It lacked Breland’s spy network or the divine force of Thrane. Cyre had to somehow hold off all of these foes. This led Cyre to employ more warforged and mercenary forces than any other nation (something that didn’t work out so well in Valenar and Darguun), but it also forced the Cyran people to become extremely adaptable and resourceful – stretching resources, adapting tactics to deal with their many and varied foes, and always being prepared for an attack from a new quarter. This trait has served Cyrans well as refugees, as they must continue to make the most of limited resources and constant adversity.
  • Artistry. The luxurious lifestyle of old Cyre was quickly lost as all resources were devoted to the war, but the people always treasured the fine things they still had: music, dance, literature. The most heartwrenching and uplifting works of art of this time still come from Cyre, and most Cyrans hone some sort of artistic talent, be it dabbling in an instrument, telling stories, or simply drawing in the dirt. This continues to be a source of pride for Cyrans in their exile; whatever they have lost, they know they have the talents to create new treasures. In this, there is some common ground with Aundairians, who place great value on wit and knowledge. However, the Aundiarians are more naturally scholars while Cyrans are artists. The finest histories of the war were produced in Aundair; the most heartwrenching songs came out of Cyre. Likewise, throughout the war, Aundair was able to maintain its ivory towers. Cyran artists lived and worked with mud, sweat, and tears.

Cyrans are proud. They may not have been the best warriors, wizards, or priests. But they were in the right from the very beginning of the war. They stood back to back against the enemies that surrounded them. Even when the war took everything from them, they have held on to the culture that defined them. Once Cyran tailors worked with the finest silks, and now they work with rags; but they still find ways to make things that are unique and beautiful.

Phew! Two questions down, thirty-eight to go. Share your thoughts or questions on Ravenloft, Cyre, Eberron, or anything else below!

Dragonmarks 12/21: Is Boranel Evil?

This will likely be the last Dragonmark of 2012. Come the new year, I will be focusing most of my creative energy on my new world, which I’ll talk more about next week. In months ahead, I will be discussing elements of the new world and asking for your opinions on different things. However, Eberron remains close to my heart and I will continue to do Dragonmark posts; they’re just more likely to be monthly than weekly. And while I have no new information on the subject, I hope that Eberron will be supported in D&D Next – if you want to see Eberron support in DDN, keep asking WotC and hope for the best!

As always, the answers to the questions below are my personal opinions and may conflict with canon sources.  

If Krozen’s evil, shouldn’t Boranel be evil too? He uses his dark lanterns to commit assassination, theft etc: evil acts.

Does he? Again, for my opinions on alignment in Eberron, take a look at this post. I’d pay particular attention to the discussion of Kaius and Aurala, and the note that Aurala’s generals and ministers may engage on actions on behalf of Aundair she wouldn’t personally condone.

Let’s compare Zilargo and Breland for a moment. Both have exceptional intelligence services. Both employ assassins. But just how do they employ those assassins? In Zilargo, the Trust routinely deploys assassins against its own citizens. Not only that, it regularly engages in pre-emptive assassination, killing people who haven’t yet committed any crime (but will if they aren’t stopped). They are content to, in short, rule through terror and the threat of execution.

In Breland, Lord Ruken ir’Clarn is the leader of a movement determined to end the Brelish monarchy when Boranel dies. He seeks to rob Boranel’s children of their birthright and change Brelish tradition. And yet, he’s still alive. Do you think Boranel doesn’t know what he’s up to? Do you think that Ruken is somehow so amazing that the Dark Lanterns couldn’t kill him? No on both counts. His shield is that he’s a Brelish noble and member of parliament whose actions are, by and large, purely democratic in nature. Boranel doesn’t want ir’Clarn to succeed, but if it the will of the people that he does, Boranel will accept it. I’ll also point to the fact that despite the Citadel being a key edge Breland had over the other nations during the Last War, Dark Lanterns were never deployed to assassinate other kings or queens. They were certainly employed in the war – look to Thorn’s Far Passage assignment – but there were places the king wouldn’t go.

Looking to the Thorn of Breland novels, Thorn’s first assignment is to recover a prisoner from a nation that is NOT a signatory of the Treaty of Thronehold and thus not bound by the Code of Galifar. Thorn is told that she is authorized to kill that prisoner’s jailer if need be, but that isn’t the mission; she’s there to rescue a prisoner, not specifically to assassinate a foreign leader. In the second novel, she is sent to identify a terrorist threat to Breland, and if it exists, to eliminate its leader. This is a straight-up assassination, true, but again it is targeting a criminal who potentially poses a threat to every citizen of Sharn… and she’s instructed to confirm that he is a threat before carrying out the sentence (and she’s pretty cranky about acting as what she sees as a paid assassin for House Cannith). In the third novel, her initial assignment is to protect Prince Oargev from assassins, and she’s authorized to use lethal force in the process – but she’s there in a defensive capacity. Breland is willing to employ assassination as a tool against terrorists and monsters. But it doesn’t use it casually and it chooses targets carefully. More important is the fact that Boranel is King of Breland, not master of the Citadel. He allows the Dark Lanterns to exist. At times, he even requests specific actions from them. But he is NOT their direct commander and is in all likelihood not even aware of many of the assassinations that they carry out. Who is? People like Talleon Haliar Tonan, commander of the Sharn Dark Lanterns (Sharn: City of Towers page 139). Talleon is specifically noted as being “devoted to the preservation of Breland and to the King, but he is utterly ruthless, and authorizes torture, theft, and assassination if the mission requires it.” I highlight the but because it speaks to the fact that this isn’t the general tone of Breland or the general will of the king; Talleon is willing to take extreme action in defense of the kingdom that Boranel likely wouldn’t approve of. And what’s Talleon’s alignment? Lawful evil. He works within a hierarchy and system – but he is willing to engage in evil acts to preserve that system.

Earlier there was a long discussion about the Valenar invasion, and that the Humans were only too happy to throw off the yoke of Cyran rule, based on hatreds dating back to old Sarlona. But what of Lhesh Haruuc’s creation of Darguun — from lands that had also been part of Cyre? Were the Humans there from the same region of Sarlona as those in Valenar?

No, I don’t believe that the human inhabitants of Darguun were or are of Khunan descent. The Khunans were never a numerous people. They fled directly across ocean during the Sundering, settling on the east coast of Khorvaire. They were thus refugees, not a planned settlement; they didn’t come with supplies or plans for expansion; and the region that is now Valenar was quite sufficient for their needs. You see similar “refugee colonist” cultures in the Shadow Marches and the Demon Wastes; in both cases you have a similar situation where these people were happy to settle where they landed and never had need or resources to push deeper into the continent.

Meanwhile, the people of Cyre are largely descended from the blended folk of Rhiavaar, Nulakesh, and Pyrine—people who came in an organized wave of colonization and expansion. Nonetheless, the human population density of Khorvaire is relatively low, and the Five Nations always claimed territory that they didn’t really need. Breland claimed Droaam and the Shadow Marches as part of its domain; however, unlike Cyre, it never actually conquered those territories. Cyre DID conquer Khunan Valenar and set its nobles up as overlords.

Being far inland, Darguun never had refugee colonists. Cyre claimed the territory and had settlers there, but it never had a particularly dense human population. The main reason it was so easily stolen is that Cyre’s grip on it was always tenuous… and there was no way it could stretch itself to reclaim that largely unnecessary region when it was already hard pressed on all sides by the other nations.

As I recall from a flashback scene in the Heirs of Dhakaan trilogy, some Cyrans fought back…and died. Are the rest now slaves, or did Haruuc treat them with dignity in exchange for their acceptance of the new realilty?

Haruuc had no interest in being an occupying force. He didn’t want to conquer humans; he wanted them out of the land that rightfully belonged to his people. As such, Cyrans suffered one of three fates:

  • Exile. Those who were smart and fled towards the heart of Cyre were largely allowed to leave.
  • Death. Again, Haruuc didn’t want the hassle of managing a large captive population, and unlike the Valenar he had no intention of becoming a liege lord to human vassals; again, he was building a new homeland for his people, taking back the land originally stolen by humanity. There was no room for human dignity in this equation. If people resisted, most were killed.
  • Slavery. Some prisoners were kept as slaves. Again, the goblin view is that these are the people who stole Khorvaire from their ancestors; they deserve no better.

Having said that, there’s no reason that INDIVIDUAL humans couldn’t earn the respect of the goblins around them and find some sort of acceptance within a Darguul community. But that would very much be a case by case basis; it wasn’t Haruuc’s intention in the war of foundation.

I will also point out that the Valenar had a longer engrained relationship with the Khunans. The Valenar had defended the region for decades. The Khunans were used to their presence; there were adults with no living memory of a time when they didn’t have Valenar defenders. The Valenar simply killed the Cyran overlords and said “We’re in charge now” and the Khunans largely said “OK, doesn’t make much difference to us.” In Darguun, you didn’t have this sort of pre-existing relationship. Goblins were employed as mercenaries, but the percentage of mercenary goblins was quite low compared to the current population of Darguun; Haruuc brought together a host of goblins who had never had anything to do with humans, promising them a better land and better life.

Apart from Aundair, who is more likely to ignite the next war?

If I had to pick one force, I’d go with the Lords of Dust supporting Rak Tulkhesh. The question is who they would trick into starting it for them. This is discussed in more detail in a recent Eye on Eberron article (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/dragon/2012October).

What 3 historical events in Eberron timeline would make the best backdrops/focus for one-off adventures?

It’s very difficult for me to limit myself to three. So I’ll just say that these are three events I believe would make good one-offs – but by no means the only ones. If I had the time, I could come up with twenty, easy. And no, I don’t have time.

The Lycanthropic Purge: Part One. Some people have the idea that the Purge was a one-sided affair, with poor miserable lycanthropes being relentlessly pursued by evil templars. This wasn’t the case at all. When it began, it was a war. I like to call it “28 Days Later with werewolves instead of zombies.” I’d also consider Aliens to be an excellent inspiration for tone. A single lycanthrope was generally far more than a match for the typical templar (most likely a 1st level warrior) and all it takes is a single bite to pass the infection. I’ve often wanted to make a one-off about a group of lost/scattered templars and local shifters forced into an uneasy alliance as they try to escape suddenly hostile territory, or to deal with a fiend-possessed lycanthrope leader… dealing both with an extremely deadly foe and their own distrust of one another.

The Lycanthropic Purge: Part Two. Eventually the power of the curse was broken; the number of lycanthropes were cut down to more containable numbers; and it became closer to a witch-hunt. But that witch-hunt could make for a very interesting one shot. The PCs are a mix of Silver Flame inquisitors and local villagers. There are wererats in the village, and they are murderous, malevolent and very clever… and they will do their best to trick you into harming innocents. Can you find the true villains without harming or killing innocent people?

Against The Giants. The PCs take on the roles of elven resistance fighters from a variety of cultures in the last days of the war against the giants. You’ve got a drow assassin who’s turned on his former masters but is still distrusted by the others; a haughty Qabalrin necromancer and a Cul’sir wizard liberated from the giants… along with early Tairnadal. Take this group and turn it into Inglorious Basterds. I want my titan scalps!

Do you ever tire of creating content for the ‘kitchen sink’ of campaign settings?

This is related to another question…

Did you ever feel like the stipulation of “if it’s in 3.5, it’s in Eberron” hurt your creativity in any way?   Two examples of which that I can think of just to edify my point are this: I’m personally not a huge fan of psionics, but you not only have a custom race with them, but in fact an entire continent.  Arguably putting it on par of importance with Dragons (one part of the name of the game).   Second example is the creative take you took on the drow in Xen’drik.  I felt like they were something that had to be put in due to fan love for their race, and that you had to add, but that you really twisted on it’s head._

First, let’s tackle the phrase “kitchen sink.” This impression usually comes from that second phrase – the fact that one of the ten things you should know about Eberron is “if it’s in D&D, it has a place in Eberron.” The key to me is that when I hear “kitchen sink”, I think of it as a negative term that implies that things are jammed together with no rhyme or reason. We’re going to have a culture that is effectively identical to revolutionary France next to an Aztec nation next to Menzoberranzan. This isn’t the case in Eberron. Just look at the answers I’ve given in the last few posts. They are answers about the unique history and cultures of Eberron – the political and religious conflict between Thrane and Cyre; the fate of Cyran refugees; the difference between Boranel and Krozen. My recent Eye on Eberron articles deal with the Rage of War, the sacred assassins of the Silver Flame, and the Children of Winter. None of these are in any way defined by it being a “kitchen sink”; they are tied to the religions and mystical forces unique to the world.

It’s also vital to recognize that the statement isn’t “If it’s in D&D, it’s in Eberron.” It’s “If it’s in D&D, it has a place in Eberron.” If you love abeil (bee people), there are many places you COULD put them. They could have a lost hive-city deep in Xen’drik. They could be a product of the Mourning, in which a Cyran city was transformed into an Abeil hive. They could be a new creation of Mordain the Fleshweaver. But if I don’t like abeil, I don’t have to use them at all. They aren’t IN Eberron; it’s simply easy for you to add them in if YOU want to. There’s a place for them in Eberron. This is the key to the statement that Eberron is a “kitchen sink.” It’s as much of a kitchen sink as you want it to be. I don’t use goliaths, genasi, illumians, chaos gnomes, etc. But if I wanted to, I could find a place for them.

With that said, there are things I was forced to put in. We needed a clear role for the core races of D&D, including the drow… and with the advent of 4E, including dragonborn and eladrin. 4E added Baator to the cosmology. Now, if I had been told “The drow must be just like Forgotten Realms… in fact, we want you to put Menzoberranzan somewhere” I would be very frustrated. Instead, my challenge was “you’ve got to have drow… but what makes the drow of Eberron unique? What makes the eladrin of Eberron different from those of other settings?” I think the EoE article on Baator is the best example of this. I will admit that I HATED having Baator added to the cosmology when it wasn’t there before. The Eye on Eberron article gave me a chance to define Baator in a way that made sense for Eberron… to create a new story for it, one that used the same familiar cast of characters but gave them a new backstory, motivation and role in the world than how they’d been used before. Baator is a divine prison, and Asmodeus has only just broken his bonds and risen to power; the archdevils have an element of warring crimelords, struggling to build new empires from ashes.  It’s a completely different way of using the devils than you’d get in 4E core, and that’s what I like. If YOU like Menzoberranzan, you can add it to Eberron; no one’s stopping you. But I’m going to offer the Sulatar, Qaltiar, and Umbragen.

So is it creatively stifling? It IS limiting to be forced to work in some of these things, sure. There are some I wouldn’t add in if I was doing it entirely on my own, absolutely. But if anything, it’s an interesting creative challenge to say “How do I make gnomes that AREN’T the gnomes you find elsewhere?”

Looking to psionics, that was my choice from the start, not something forced upon the world. When I read my original AD&D Player’s Handbook, it came with an appendix on psionics. They’ve always been around in D&D, but they’ve generally been a weird stepchild that doesn’t really fit the tone of everything else… or forced on everyone, as in Dark Sun. With Eberron, I wanted a compromise. I wanted to give psionics a logical place in the world, and to consider the impact they would have on a culture much as Khorvaire explores the impact of magic. But I also wanted to make sure that someone who HATED psionics could essentially ignore them. Hence, Riedra. If you LIKE psionics, play up the role of the kalashtar and Dreaming Dark, and maybe even set your campaign in Riedra. If you hate psionics, drop the Dreaming Dark and the Kalashtar, and never go to Riedra. You don’t NEED to put kalashtar in your campaign; but if you like them, they have a place complete with history, conflict, and culture.

If you ever tire of it, what kind of theme/campaign setting would you prefer to work on?

Funny you should ask, as I AM working on a new campaign setting. Thanks to Jeff LaSala, I’m due to write about my “Next Big Thing”, and that is going to be my new campaign setting. The holidays have pushed me off schedule, so it won’t come out until next week, but expect more news then… to be followed by an ongoing discussion of the world as it moves towards completion.

Dragonmarks 12/5: Siberys, Flame and Hybrids!

Soon I’ll start talking about the new setting I’m working on, but for now here’s another round of Eberron answers to chew on. As always, these are just my personal opinions & aren’t canon in any way.

What can you tell us about the status of Eberron in the next edition?

At this point in time, I have no new information. It’s my hope that it will be supported, but I haven’t heard anything positive or negative in this regard.

When will you write more novels? Are you writing one now? Write one now.

As regards Eberron novels, that’s up to Wizards of the Coast, not me. Eberron belongs to WotC, and they are the only ones empowered to authorize Eberron stories. There’s lots of stories I’d like to tell, and this is one reason I’m working on a new setting – so that I’ll have free rein to develop fiction in that world.

In the unlikely event that a Warforged gained a dragonmark, would it replace the ghulra, or be its own thing?

A warforged getting a dragonmark is going to be a one of a kind story, so it’s up to you, really. Is the dragonmark somehow manufactured? Is the Prophecy declaring this warforged to be a tool of destiny? This will likely manifest in different ways. However, I personally wouldn’t replace the ghulra. The ghulra is, essentially, the true name of the warforged: the symbol of its soul. It is unique. A dragonmark is not unique; it can be shared by many people. It touches the soul, but it is not the entirety of it.

Can you provide an in game explanation about how the only interracial breeding possibilities are between human with orcs and elves?

First off, changelings and kalashtar can both interbreed with other races, including humans, Khoravar, and elves. However, these crossings don’t produce hybrids; a human-kalashtar crossing produces a human or a kalashtar, not a half-kalashtar. So to reframe the question, why are half-elves and half-orcs the only hybrid races?

First off, I see no reason to assume that other hybrids aren’t possible; it’s simply that if they are possible, the offspring are a) not sufficiently different from one of the parent races so as to require new mechanics, and/or b) are sterile or otherwise not true breeding. Essentially, if you were in my campaign and said “I want to play a half-dwarf… mechanically he’s a dwarf, he’s just a little skinny and people make fun of his mother” I’d allow it. But I wouldn’t give you any special abilities for it – you don’t get to take human-only feats. So there exists the possibility that half-elves and half-orcs aren’t the only hybrids. But they are still the only true-breeding hybrid races that possess their own unique racial traits, so let’s keep moving forward.

We’ll start with the Khoravar… that’s the name the half-elves of Eberron have given their race, for those who don’t know it. First off, as noted in the Dragonshard on the subject the elves themselves were surprised and disturbed when they had viable hybrid offspring. Why is this possible? It could be that it has little to do with humanity and everything to do with the elves. Remember that the elves are the product of genetic engineering; when the giants enslaved the people of Shae Tirias Tolai, they altered them and stripped them of their ability to slip through the Feywild, transforming eladrin into the modern elves. They were bred to be slaves; as such, it’s not unreasonable to think that they intentionally made them genetically adaptable to help maintain their stock. We’ve never discussed the possibility of, say, elf-goblin hybrids… but if you want to make things interesting, you could say that elves can breed with anything. It would explain the fifty shades of elf you find in many settings.

As for half-orcs, personally, I think orcs work in the same way. I don’t personally consider half-orcs to be specifically half-human, half-orc. In my opinion, a half-orc might be part hobgoblin, elf, shifter, or dwarf. Basically, the orc genes are dominant enough to produce a uniform set of traits when bred with other creatures; though with that said, I’d think that you would see some differences between the hobgoblin and shifter half-orcs. But mechanically they are identical. Why is this possible? It could simply be a bizarre evolutionary trait that has allowed the orc to thrive in difficult environments. Or it could have been a gift from Vvaarak – a blessing of fertility upon the first race of druids.

What if Siberys was not killed by Khyber, despite false myths that say the contrary? Or could he resurrect?

Well, assuming you take the Progenitor myth at face value, it’s hard for Siberys to be alive because the pieces of his body are scattered across the sky. The dragons were born from his blood, and the radiance of the Ring is in my opinion the primary source of the energy mortals manipulate with magic. If he’s not killed, you have no Ring, no dragons, and no magic.

Could he be resurrected? Anything’s possible. But I don’t know what you’d do with him if he was. We’re talking about a dragon wrapped around the world… a dragon who, in his first life, created entire planes for fun. Which means if he was alive again, there’s no particular reason for him to hang around in this one; he’d probably go and see how things were working out in Syrania and Irian, then swim off into the Astral to think about what to do next. The gravitational impact of this celestial motion would likely wreak all sorts of havoc, and there’s then the question of if there would still be arcane magic in the world if he left.

A key point here is that Siberys has no particular reason to care about humans. We’re children of Eberron, and late to the game at that. Even the dragons were born of his blood, not personally shaped by his hand; if anything, he’d be more interested in the outer planes, because those he worked on deliberately.

And worst comes to the worst, he’d want a second round with Khyber and might try to get Eberron to let her go. And Eberron is the world we are standing on. If Eberron were to rise, it would literally destroy the world as we know it.

So personally, I’d let sleeping dragons lie.

What kind of creatures dwell, by your reckoning and imagination as the creator of Eberron, within the distant Ring of Siberys.

Siberys is, in my mind, the source of arcane magic. Dragons are the children of Siberys and Eberron; as such they are mortal creatures whose blood is suffused with mystic power. Per Dragons of Eberron, the couatl were formed from “the pure blood of Khyber before it touched the earth.” So couatl are one example of creatures you might find in the Ring. The key to me is that natives of the Ring would likely be highly magical creatures, as much spirit as flesh; flight would also be a common thing. But beyond “look to the couatl as an example,” it’s not a subject I’ve given much thought.

Does Eberron exist in a specifically imagined Solar System; if so what are the other celestial bodies or major planets therein.

Nope. We defined the moons, and there are a lot of them; you could choose to spread them out as planets if you prefer. But we’ve never described other planets in the system. I believe there are other worlds – the daelkyr are described as having produced mind flayers when they destroyed the homeworld of the Gith – but we’ve never stated if these are physical worlds that can be reached through space travel or alternate material planes. It’s something I’m thinking about as I’m developing my new setting, but it wasn’t something that was considered for Eberron.

Why did Thrane reject Cyran refugees?

I’ll throw out a few factors.

  • Like all of the Five Nations, Thrane’s resources were stretched thin by the war. Krozen’s top priority was to make sure he could tend to the needs of his own people.
  • No one won the war. Cyre never conceded its position or acknowledged Thrane as a righteous victor. Many of those refugees are thus unrepentant enemy combatants. Even the civilians have the potential to form a hostile fifth column within the native population. Why should we put the safety and wellbeing of our own people at risk to help those who were, months ago, trying to kill them?
  • The Mourning is utterly terrifying. An entire nation has been destroyed. No one knows why or how. Is it divine punishment of the Cyrans, and if so, will it follow them wherever they go? We need to regroup, consolidate our forces, and find out what it is and how to protect ourselves from it; this is not a time to take unnecessary risks.

There’s three reasons. Jaela would likely argue for compassion for those in need. Krozen would counter that the closed border protects the people of Thrane. And in the end, Jaela is the spiritual leader; it was Krozen and the cardinals who chose to refuse refugees.

On the other hand, while I understand the motives for Thrane’s rejection of the refugees, it seems odd since Breland welcomed them, and this puts the Flamers to shame given their beliefs in helping others.

The key here is to look at the event in context. The people of Thrane follow the faith of the Silver Flame. But they are also the people of Thrane, and have secular concerns that drive their daily lives. This isn’t a case of peaceful innocents hurt by a natural disaster. At the time of the Mourning, Thrane and Cyre had been at war for almost a century… and the last few decades of the war were fairly bitter between them. Consider the following, drawn from The Forge of War:

  • In 978 YK, Cyre and Thrane were briefly allies. However, Cyre refused to aid Thrane against Brelish aggression. This led to a collapse of the alliance. One of the first conflicts following this was Cyre’s siege of Arythawn Keep. This was a brutal massacre. The Cyrans took no prisoners, and their warforged troops pursued those who fled, hunting them down tirelessly and slaughtering them. That’s an image that is very close to the minds of Thranes on the Cyran border: their own innocents being mercilessly pursued by Cyran troops.
  • In 993 YK, Jaela Daran came to power and immediately sought peace with Cyre. Queen Dannel refused her entreaties, and Thrane soon learned that this was because Cyre had an ambitious plan to bring down Thrane with a direct assault on Flamekeep itself.  Per Forge of War, while this plan was never executed, “Keeper Daran had no counter to High Cardinal Krozen’s claim that Cyre was a clear and present danger.” So again, when Cyre was seemingly punished by divine force for its folly, most Thranes felt little desire to aid the people who just years earlier had plotted to ravage Flamekeep.

In many ways, the question isn’t why Thrane didn’t help Cyre, but rather why Breland did. Breland and Thrane were allied against Cyre on the Day of Mourning. However, Breland had fewer bitter conflicts in its past – no incidents matching either of those I called out above. And to be more cynical, the fact of the matter is that the Cyran claim to the throne was always the best one. By taking in Oargev – keeping his former enemy close – Boranel put himself in a very strong position to control whatever future the nation may have. Breland’s actions may have been pure politics as much as humanitarian kindness.

I do believe that individual followers of the Flame quite likely provided aid to Cyran civilians in need, both before and after the Mourning; and remember, there are followers of the Flame in Breland as well as Thrane. But these incidents were the acts of compassionate individuals as opposed to the policy of a nation. Thrane’s refusal to aid Cyre was a secular act, not driven by faith; it was the act of a nation scarred by war, one that had offered the hand of peace in the past and been answered with betrayal and aggression.

Speaking of Cyre: was there ever anyone doubting what they were doing, when they were planning on attacking Flamekeep? That is, literally, the most important city for the Church of the Silver Flame… I can definitely imagine the shock people of Thrane felt, for those who found out about this (did it become public knowledge? because if so, yeah, Krozen is right in that you can’t expect Thranes to help the people from Cyre all that much)… Kind of insane, really, to consider destroying Flamekeep.

Who said anything about destroying it? We’re going to liberate it from the corrupt cardinals and false Keeper. And don’t forget, there are followers of the Flame who believe the theocracy is a mistake and source of corruption. Under Cyran rule, the church would be restored to its proper role.

Well, I mean, being seen to march against Flamekeep with the purpose of killing the Keeper, that would still cause some unrest, surely? Sure, the Church might have been too involved in secular matters, but going in there to try and kill Jaela Daran still wouldn’t go very well with most followers of the Church, even those outside of Thrane – Cyre isn’t exactly noted as a gathering point of the Silver Flame, so they can’t even do what Aundair might be able to pull off, and say they’re working towards protecting the true purpose of the Church, at least not while also being particularly convincing. Also, the Keeper was chosen by the Flame itself – then again, the queen could be trying to sell it as Jaela being false, so that could work, for those who would believe her.

Let me preface this by saying that the attacking Flamekeep scenario comes from The Forge of War, which I didn’t work on. As such, while I’m going to explain what I consider to be the logic behind it, it wasn’t my idea to begin with. But let me try.

The plan was not publicly known, nor did it involve fighting through Thrane. According to Forge of War , the idea was to defeat Thrane with a single massive naval assault on Flamekeep, with the idea that if Flamekeep could be seized Thrane would be forced to capitulate. With this in mind…

  • This plan was driven by the fact that there was a new, inexperienced Keeper… and surely enhanced by the fact that she was a child, something unprecedented in history.
  • I don’t think the plan was ever to “kill the Keeper.” Rather, it would be a matter of taking her as a hostage. Dannel would have a couple of angles she could work. First of all, she would be dissolving the flawed theocracy and restoring the church to its proper role as spiritual guardian. Second, she would be essentially serving as a regent. This child Keeper is too young to handle such responsibility; Dannel will protect her and guide her as she grows into her role. With the subtext being “she is our prisoner and we could kill her if we wanted.” Many followers of the Flame had doubts about the theocracy, and false Keepers aside, the idea of a child Keeper would seem strange to many. So Dannel presents herself as a protector restoring things to their proper place… not a destroyer or assassin. Rather, she kills Krozen, pinning all the blame on him for corruption and leading the church astray.
  • The plan wasn’t publically known. I would imagine that the force being chosen for the assault would be carefully vetted, either being loyal vassals of the Sovereign Host who would be happy to weaken the Flame, or followers of the Flame who strongly opposed the theocracy.
  • When Krozen exposed the plan, you can be sure that he painted it in the worst possible light. He likely accused them of wanting to kill Jaela, and if it was me, I’d say that Dannel planned to declare Oargev as a new puppet Keeper (doubly infuriating because the Keeper is chosen by the Flame, not by mortals). So yes, this infuriated both Thranes and other loyal followers of the Flame in other countries. The plan was thus never carried out; once warned the Thranes surely bolstered their defenses, and beyond that the public sentiment in all nations would make it an unwise move.

But yes, you can see why this would make Thranes unsympathetic to the Cyran refugees… if you go with the idea of Krozen presenting Oargev as Dannel’s would-be puppet Keeper, you can doubly see why there would be no hope of setting up a New Cyre in Thrane; I’d further play up a large segment of Thranes – and even Flame loyalists in Breland – bitterly hating Oargev in the present day.

Can the SF be a good deity and not just an impersonal force?

The Silver Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It’s a force of positive energy that holds mighty demons at bay. When Bel Shalor escaped his bonds and threatened Thrane, it reached out to Tira and gave her the power she needed to defend her people. Since then, it has continued to empower noble souls to defend the innocent. It calls paladins to service and grants its power to the most faithful of its servants. It’s not an impersonal force. It doesn’t grant its gifts to everyone. When Overlords ravage the land, it doesn’t ignore the people in need.

However, it’s not an anthropomorphic entity. It’s a gestalt of thousands of noble souls, many of which were never human. It doesn’t view the world as a human would, nor does it value humans more highly than other mortals; an orc and a human are equally worthy of its gifts, if they have noble aims. It exists to defend the mortals of Eberron from supernatural threats: demon lords who would collapse the world into chaos; undead forces that would drain the life from it; a plague of lycanthropy that could consume nations. It takes no stand on conflicts between mortals, whether that’s humans fighting humans or humans fighting orcs. It was kindled by couatls fighting demons before human civilization existed. It grants its agents the power to save humanity from demons; it is up to the humans to use that power wisely when no supernatural threat exists. In judging a mortal soul, it doesn’t view it the same way as we might. It responds to faith, selflessness, the desire to help others. Tira, Krozen, Jaela, and Dariznu all share faith and a fierce determination to help their fellow mortals, and it is this that binds them all to the Flame. It’s simply that they all have different ideas about the form this help should take. Dariznu believes that publicly burning dissidents alive is the only way to bring others to the righteous path; Jaela finds this to be horrifying, while Krozen considers it a necessary sacrifice to maintain order in Thaliost. All three believe that their actions and approaches help people… and that is what the Flame responds to. It’s also the case that the Flame can only act through its agents. When Bel Shalor threatened Thrane, the Flame couldn’t simply blast him; it could only empower Tira to do what needed to be done. The Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It was formed from a great sacrifice, and ever since then it has protected the world from evil. But it is only as strong as its mortal agents. It gives noble souls the power to do good; it’s up to them to live up to the promise of their own souls.

If you want the Silver Flame to be more active, I wouldn’t do this through the Flame itself; rather, I’d turn to the Voice of the Flame. Tira’s spirit is the bridge between Church and Flame. Per canon, her role is subtle and passive… it is the quiet voice that urges you to do good, set against the subtle influence of Bel Shalor pushing you towards darkness. If I want to give someone a divine vision from the Flame, I’d have it come from Tira. But personally, I don’t want the Flame itself to be actively intervening in the daily lives of most people, because it strips a depth from the stories. I want the PCs to be the ones who have to decide what to do about Dariznu – is he actually serving a greater good, as he believes? Do they have the right to bring him down, and have they thought about what happens after? If the Flame itself personally sanctions this action, it becomes clear-cut and to my mind, less interesting. As is, the Flame empowers your paladin because you have the conviction to do good, and the potential to do good. But it’s up to you to live up to that potential, and to make the right choices.