IFAQ: Dreamspace and Flumphs

Art by Julio Azevedo

Every month, I ask my Patreon supporters for interesting questions about Eberron. This is the first time I’ve been asked about flumphs! So let’s get to it!

What’s the role of Flumphs in Eberron, especially in Riedra or Adar?

As far as I know, flumphs have never been addressed in canon. I’ve personally never used a flumph in any campaign I’ve run, so I’m primarily familiar with them from their appearances in Order of the Stick. So, the following things are true about flumphs in 5E.

  • Flumphs are small aberrations.
  • Flumphs are telepathic. They feed on telepathic emanations and thus are thus found around other telepathic species. They can eavesdrop on telepathic communication in their vicinity and cannot be perceived by telepathy or divination.
  • Flumphs are wise and benevolent. They dislike holding on to evil thoughts, and thus when they overhear evil thoughts they will try and share them with good people—so they’re ideally suited to spilling the beans on illithid or aboleth schemes.
  • They’re traditionally found in the Underdark, and live in harmonious units known as cloisters.

So with all that in mind, here’s how I’ll use flumphs in Eberron…

Flumphs are natives of Xoriat, where they dwell in the Emocean—a tide of surging thoughts and emotions, deeper and more primal than Dal Quor’s Ocean of Dreams. Flumph cloisters drift along streams of consciousness, drawing sustenance from the pure psychic emanations surrounding them. This is a blissful experience, and most flumphs have no interest in traveling to the material plane. But occasionally manifest zones form maelstroms within the Emocean, especially when people within the manifest zone suffer intense emotions. Flumphs in the material plane are fish out of water, and need to quickly find a source of psychic emanations in order to survive. While flumphs can draw sustenance from any form of telepathic emanation, they are benevolent by nature. While they can survive on a diet of cruelty, it’s distressing and they will seek to expunge the evil thoughts in a psychic exchange with good creatures whenever possible.

Flumphs enter Eberron through manifest zones to Xoriat. Here’s a few places flumphs can be found in Eberron.

  • There are flumphs scattered across Sol Udar beneath the Mror Holds, pulled in by the fear and suffering of the dwarves battling Dyrrn the Corruptor. Most Mror flumphs are isolated and lost, struggling to survive. Sages of Clan Narathun have established a flumph sanctuary beneath Shadowspire and reunited a flumph cloister. A group of Narathun bards have been working with these flumphs to develop their thoughtsinging techniques, and flumphs are helping Narathun watch for Dyrrn’s forces.
  • Flumphs can be found in the swamps of the Shadow Marches. Some linger in the periphery of dangerous telepathic entities. Others have formed a symbiotic relationship with a sect known as the Uul’gaanu, the “Daughters of the Dream.” A benevolent variation of Kyrzin’s Whisperers, the Uul’gaanu build their communities around hidden flumphs. The flumphs help the Uul’gaanu develop basic telepathic abilities; an Uul’gaanu community has a very simple hive mind, with members of the community casually sharing emotions and thoughts. Community members gather together for psychic metaconcerts, generating shared emotions that feed their flumphs. Dealing with the Uul’gaanu can be unsettling for outsiders, as the Uul’gaanu respond to the thoughts and emotions of their companions without need for speech; while for their part, the peaceful Uul’gaanu are often distressed by the cruel or selfish thoughts of outsiders. As a result, the Uul’gaanu tend to remain isolated from other Marcher communities.
  • Flumphs have emerged in wild zones of Sarlona over the years. Because of their ability to eavesdrop on psychic communication, the Inspired consider them a security risk and exterminate them whenever they are found. However, a number of flumphs have found safe havens in the fortress monasteries of Adar. Adaran flumphs are valued members of their communities, engaging in thoughtsinging and presenting young Adarans with philosophical challenges. Some flumphs choose to work with Adaran security forces, watching for Inspired infiltrators and influences.

As denizens of Xoriat, flumphs perceive reality in very different ways from creatures of the material plane, and have different outlooks on the nature of time, space, matter, and individual identity. Those who can bend their brains to encompass these concepts can learn a great deal from flumphs, as shown by the nascent group mind of the Uul’gaanu and the thoughtsinging techniques of the Narathun. However, these concepts can be difficult to reconcile with everyday life in the material plane, and this can make conversations with flumphs confusing for people fully grounded in reality.

What is the Dreamspace, and how would you use it?

The Dreamspace is a concept introduced in Secrets of Sarlona, which has this to say:

Planar gateways that once linked Eberron and Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams, were sundered during the cataclysmic wars that destroyed Xen’drik and shattered the giant civilization. Since then, Dal Quor has been forever distant, and no stable manifest zones to Dal Quor exist anywhere on Eberron.

However, Dal Quor and Eberron remained inextricably linked by the state of dreaming—the process by which mortal minds travel to the Region of Dreams, and the subtle gateway through which the quori first began their conquest of Sarlona some fifteen centuries past. 

Discovered short years ago and still known only to a few, the dreamspace is an effect that appears related to this spiritual connection between planes, but one that as yet has no explanation. It appears as a kind of ripple of arcane and psionic energy—a border of sorts between the mortal world and the world of dreams… Regardless of its origin, different factions among both the kalashtar and Inspired distrust—some even say fear—the dreamspace. In particular, a good number of Inspired are said to be disturbed by the existence of a power connected to Dal Quor that they neither control nor understand.

Secrets of Sarlona, Page 18

Secrets of Sarlona includes a set of “Dreamtouched Feats” that allow people to attune themselves to the Dreamspace. Specific uses include the Dream of Contact, which allows long-distance telepathic communication (not unlike Sending) and Dream of Insight, which allows the dreamer to make a Intelligence-based skill check with a substantial bonus to the role—essentially, drawing knowledge from the collective unconscious. These techniques are crucial tools for the Unchained, a resistance movement within Riedra whose members engage un unsanctioned free dreaming.

That’s the extent of canon information. The Dreamspace was “discovered a few short years ago” and both the Inspired and kalashtar distrust it. So what IS it? A few possibilities that come to mind…

  • The Dreamspace is just part of the natural infrastructure of the planes. Think of it as the phone lines that connect mortal dreamers to Dal Quor. There’s nothing sinister about it; it’s just a (super)natural part of the world.
  • The Dreamspace is an artifact created by the quori of a previous age when they interacted with Eberron. Rather than tying this to the Giant-Quori conflict in Xen’drik, I’d tie this to an even older age of Dal Quor, potentially associated with long-forgotten civilizations in either Khorvaire or Sarlona… civilizations destroyed by the rising of the Daughter of Khyber or another Overlord. This allows for the discovery of ancient rituals or artifacts designed to manipulate the Dreamspace, and leaves the question open as to whether the quori of that past age were benevolent or if the Dreamspace itself was designed as some sort of weapon or tool of oppression.
  • People have only discovered the Dreamspace recently because it’s only recently come into existence. It’s the side effect of unforeseen damage the Inspired are inflicting on the psychosphere of Eberron through their use of the hanbalani monoliths. At the moment it’s a useful tool, but as the damage becomes more extensive it could connect unwilling minds, cause dreaming spirits to be lost in the Dreamspace instead of reaching Dal Quor, or far worse things.
  • The Dreamspace is a hoax. It’s a creation of the Dreaming Dark, a lure that’s being used to draw out rebels like the Unchained. Attuning the the Dreamspace and developing Dreamtouched techniques actually makes the user more vulnerable to quori possession.

These are all interesting possibilities. The point is that, like the Mourning, I wouldn’t WANT to present a single kanon or canon answer, because a central point of the Dreamspace is that the people using it don’t know what it is. It is a new tool that’s being latched onto by a desperate resistance—is it a blessing, or could it be a trap? Is it secretly a tool of the Dreaming Dark, or is it a the horrifying result of their messing with powers beyond even their control? Each of the four options above would form the foundation of very different stories. Using the first option, it could be a simple, reliable tool that has no other significant impact on the story. Using the second option could unveil a quori scheme from a previous age that dwarfs the ambitions of the Dreaming Dark—while the third option could end with the Dreaming Dark and the player characters working together to disassemble the hanbalani system before it tears reality apart.

So, the Dreamspace was always intended to be an idea that each DM could use in different ways; perhaps one of these ideas will inspire you!

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for posing interesting questions and for making these articles possible!

IFAQ: Fizban’s Treasury and Eberron

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month there’s been a number of questions related to Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. As always, my answers here reflect what I would do in my personal campaign and may contradict canon material! Also, check out this later article on how I’d use Gem Dragons and Gem Dragonborn.

How would you incorporate either the draconic echoes or the Elegy of the First World into Eberron?

To answer this question, you first need to answer another: Do you want your Eberron to be part of the greater Multiverse? Eberron has its own cosmology and a very different approach to deities than many of the other core D&D settings. One option—as we suggest in Rising From The Last War is the idea that Eberron is part of the multiverse, but that it was sealed off; that traffic to other settings is possible, but very difficult. On the other hand, if you don’t WANT to use elements of other settings in your Eberron campaign, it’s easy to just ignore the Multiverse and focus on Eberron as an entirely independent setting.

By canon, Eberron has its own creation myth that explains the origins of dragons. The funny thing is that it’s not entirely incompatible with the Elegy of the First World. The Elegy asserts that three dragons created reality and dragonkind (if you count Sardior). The Progenitor myth asserts that three dragons created reality and dragonkind. The Progenitor myth asserts that the first dragons were born from the drops of blood that fell on Eberron; nonetheless, this still matches the basic concept of the Elegy, in that the dragons were the first children of the Progenitors, but “were supplanted by the teeming peoples” that came after them.

Personally, I LIKE the story of dragons being formed from the blood of Siberys—the idea that they alone believe that they have a direct connection to both Siberys and Eberron, an idea that explains their innate arcane power. In MY Eberron campaign, I’m not likely to abandon this concept in favor of Eberron’s dragons being linked to other dragons across infinite settings.

If you want to add the First World to Eberron WITHOUT adding the Multiverse, a simple option is to just put it AFTER THE PROGENITORS. The Progenitors create reality. Bahamut (a native celestial who favors a draconic form) and Tiamat (the Daughter of Khyber) unite the dragons and create the First World on Eberron—an idyllic civilization that predates the Age of Demons, which was ultimately shattered BY the Age of Demons, presumably set in motion by the Daughter of Khyber. This aligns with Thir, saying that the “Dragon Gods” existed before the Age of Demons but left reality when the First World was broken; this ties to the idea I’ve suggested elsewhere that Eberron’s version of Bahamut would have sacrificed themselves in the Age of Demons and could be the core of the Silver Flame.

If you want to incorporate the Multiverse into your Eberron campaign, then you can just use the First World exactly as it stands in Fizban’s. In this case, the Progenitor myth is presumably FALSE, since it has a very specific story for the origin of dragons; but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the Progenitor Myth IS ONLY A MYTH… or even that the Progenitor Myth is just a garbled version of the Elegy.

As for draconic echoes, the idea that each dragon is mirrored across realities: If I wanted to use this, what I’d do is to assert that every reality has a Draconic Prophecy, and Eberron is simply the only one where people have recognized this. Draconic Echoes reflect the fact that the dragons are prophetically significant. But if I was going to do that, I’d personally want to add OTHER echoes across settings; even if they don’t manifest dragonmarks, you might have echoes of dragonmarked heirs in other worlds, and you’d definitely have echoes of especially Prophetically significant characters—IE player characters. But I personally prefer NOT to mix peanut butter with my chocolate. I’m happy to explore alternate incarnations of Eberron, as with the Gith, but I’ve never brought the rest of the multiverse into any of my personal campaigns (though I HAVE played a “far traveler” character from Eberron—a warforged cleric searching for pieces of the Becoming God—in someone else’s non-Eberron campaign).

How would you incorporate the alternative half-dragon origins from Chapter Three of Fizban’s? Would that change how you present Dragonborn?

Keep in mind that all things that use the stat blocks and basic shapes of dragons and dragonborn don’t have to share the same origin. For the primary dragons of Argonnessen, I LIKE the fact that while they are imbued with arcane power—children of Eberron and Siberys—they are still ultimately MORTAL. They are an ancient and advanced species, but they aren’t multiversal echoes and they’re more grounded than the immortals. They live, learn, have jobs, pursue research. So for the dragons of Argonnessen, I wouldn’t say that they reproduce by divine origin or parthenogenesis or when someone steals their hoard… because they are are ancient, long-lived, and imbued with arcane power, but they are STILL MORTAL CREATURES OF EBERRON. This principle likewise applies to dragonborn who trace their roots to Argonnessen. It seems likely that the original dragonborn were magebred by the dragons from some sort of humanoid stock. But I don’t think those original dragonborn were formed from greed or true love. WITH THAT SAID…

As I said, NOT ALL DRAGONS AND DRAGONBORN HAVE TO HAVE THE SAME ORIGIN. Many of the options described in Fizban’s—from someone becoming a half-dragon after stealing from a dragon’s hoard, to eating forbidden fruit, to a tree on which dragon eggs grow like fruit—don’t sound like Argonnessen to me; they sound like THELANIS. First of all, you could have any number of dragons who appear as “supporting cast”—they would have the stats of dragons (though I’d likely make them fey as well as dragons) but the point is that they aren’t entirely REAL. They don’t have goals or desires beyond serving their role in the story. The dragon in a cave guarding a sword in a stone truly has nothing better to do. Beyond this, I could also imagine a dragon as one of the archfey of Thelanis. I can see two paths here. My personal impulse would be to have a single archfey dragon who encompasses all the legends of dragonkind—the greedy hoarder, the destroyer of cities. But I could also imagine there being two archfey dragons—the Bright Dragon and the Night Dragon, essentially filling the STORY role of Bahamut and Tiamat, even though they wouldn’t take direct action on Eberron. Still, it would be one of these entities who could potentially bestow Cradle Favor or have a tree that grows dragon eggs (because as archfey they wouldn’t reproduce like mortal dragons do). With that in mind, I feel it’s either in Thelanis or in a Thelanian manifest zone that you’ll have someone becoming a dragon or half-dragon due to greed or by bathing in dragon’s blood. And you could thus have dragonborn who have such origins—or heck, who spring up because you sow a field with dragon’s teeth. But they aren’t the most common forms.

Regardless of how I present dragonBORN, we had half-dragons in 3.5 Eberron. The most infamous of these is Erandis Vol. Her creation is described this as involving a program of magebreeding, so I think it’s a form of True Love’s Gift, but I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “I love you, you get to be part-dragon” (UNLESS you’re in Thelanis!); I think you’ve got to work actual magic into the picture. In the case of Vol, I think the Emerald Claw and his kind were trying to create sustainable, “true” half-dragons; I could easily see some rogue dragon using less reliable techniques to create sterile half-dragon mules.

I am fine with the idea that infusions of dragon’s blood could have a dramatic effect on other creatures, and could be a basis for sorcery; again, dragons have an innate force of arcane magic. But I am more inclined to make that essentially scientific in nature. If there’s a place where just living there causes you to become a half-dragon, I’d make that a Thelanian manifest zone, not just something that happens to anyone who hangs out in a mansion in Argonnessen.

The main thing is that many of the Fizban options present dragons as fundamentally mythic beings. The dragons of Argonnessen are legendary, but they are also VERY REAL. They have a civilization, families, politics, and so on. With all that said, the final option I’d consider if I wanted to use multiversal echoes and the like would be to have a number of dragons who are literally physical embodiments of the Draconic Prophecy. These could be essentially immortals, aware of their nature and their purpose; or they could be scattered among the mortal dragons, essentially an immortal seed reincarnated many times, and that has echoes across the multiverse.

Have there been any notable half-dragons in Khorvaire’s history that weren’t Kill On Sight? Anyone that famously claimed draconic heritage or might similar to Hassalac Chaar?

There’s a few factors here. Personally, I don’t think half-dragons ARE kill on sight. In my opinion, the issue with the line of Vol wasn’t solely half-dragons; it was the attempt to create and control apex dragonmarks through the medium of half-dragons. I also think Argonnessen disapproves of the idea of dragons trying to create any entirely new true-breeding species without approval. However, if we assume that most dragons are sterile or otherwise can’t pass on their traits, I don’t think Argonnesen will care about them, and I can personally imagine individual dragons creating half-dragons for specific purposes. Beyond this, I don’t think it’s going to be easy to identify a half-dragon AS a half-dragon. I think half-dragons with different origins could have very different physical traits. Does your sorcerer who claims dragon’s blood actually have scales and claws, or is it purely an explanation for their power in spite of their mechanically using a different ancestry? Regardless, in a world with dragonborn, blackscale lizardfolk, yuan-ti, and magebreeding in general, I think a lot of times rare oddities will just be seen as curiosities.

This ties to the point that when I say that someone becoming a dragonborn or half-dragon by bathing in dragon’s blood would be tied to Thelanis, it’s because of the idea that there are stories about it happening. So yes, I am certain that there ARE an assortment of legendary heroes and villains across all of the cultures of Eberron—the fallen kingdoms of old Sarlona, Xen’drik, even Dhakaan—of rare half-dragons, whose powers were a blessing or a curse. We have one concrete example in canon, and that’s the Draleus Tairn, the dragonslayer elves; Dragons of Eberron notes “Rumors exist that the Draleus dragon slayers can take the powers of their victims; that their blood burns like dragonfire; that they can spit lightning or breathe acid; and that their blood rituals increase their life span and even imbue them with the strength of the dragon. Perhaps these stories are mere myths. The tales could also reflect the presence of half-dragons or dragon shamans among the Draleus Tairn, with these powers derived from spilled blood instead of shared blood.” At the moment I don’t have time to make up examples of such heroes or villains, but I expect there’s a few examples in almost every culture. Following the Thelanian example ofthe half-dragon created through greed, I love the idea of a half-dragon giant lingering in a vault in a Thelanian manifest zone in Xen’drik.

How do Moonstone Dragons, which as presented in Fizban’s are tied to both the fey and to dreams, fit into your Eberron?

Personally, I see no reason to tie Moonstone dragons directly to Dal Quor. Fizban says “Moonstone dragons can project themselves into the realm of dreams to communicate with the creatures that sleep near their lairs.” Thus, they are related to dreams in the same way as a night hag or any mortal wizard who can cast Dream: they are skilled at USING and manipulating dreams, but that doesn’t mean they are natives of Dal Quor. Likewise, I personally wouldn’t make them dragons of Thelanis. In my earlier suggestions regarding Thelanian dragons, the main idea that Thelanian dragons would fill iconic draconic story archetypes which don’t really make sense for mortal dragons of Eberron—IE, when you find a dragon guarding a hoard in a cave in the woods, with no logical reason to be there other than to guard that hoard, THAT might be a Thelanian dragon and the cave may be in a manifest zone, because most Argonnessen dragons have SOMETHING BETTER TO DO than to hang out in a cave in the woods. The Moonstone dragon doesn’t fit that role either; it’s more exotic and unusual than iconic.

So WITH THAT IN MIND… The dragons of Argonnessen are the most ancient civilization on Eberron (and have seen cultures rise and fall). They have forgotten arcane secrets other species have yet to learn. In the process of their history they have surely studied the planes, manifest zones, and wild zones. I would say that Moonstone dragons trace their roots back to a flight of dragons devoted to the study of the planes and to Thelanis and Dal Quor in particular, who were changed through their long interaction with those planes—either intentionally (magebreeding themselves to strengthen their ability to operate in those planes) or by the “background radiation.” I would say that they serve as Argonnessen’s ambassadors to Thelanis and as mediators to Fey in general; Argonnessen has manifest zones tied to Thelanis just like everywhere else, and where some cultures have fey pact warlocks, Argonnessen has Moonstone dragons. The dream aspect I’d tend to use just as described—a tool they use to communicate and inspire mortals, but not reflecting a deeper connection to Dal Quor.

I think the idea that they love creativity and like to inspire mortals is fine, and I can see this bringing a lot of Moonstone dragons to the Chamber—that they actually LIKE working with the “lesser species” and giving them inspiration in ways that don’t hurt the Prophecy or carry the risk of Aureon’s Folly. But personally, I’d largely keep them on the material plane. If there are Moonstone dragons in Thelanis, I’d make them envoys or immigrants rather than natives.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and making these articles possible. And just to be clear: I’m happy to clarify my answers to the above questions, but I do not have time to answer addtional new questions about other aspects of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons; it’s a big book and covering it in its entirety would require a longer article.

Dragonmarks: Night Hags and Nightmares

The night hags of Eberron are mysterious and enigmatic. The Princess Aundair asserted that night hags were fallen fey cast out of Thelanis; it was likewise Aundair who popularized the idea that night hags created nightmares by ripping the wings off of pegasi. The scholars of Galifar debunked both of these ideas, and established that night hags are native fiends of Eberron that have existed since the Age of Demons. But many questions remain unanswered. If night hags are fiends, why do they seem to have no sympathy for raksashas or other native fiends? How is it that on the one hand you have Sora Kell, who’s described as tearing apart armies with her talons and laying waste to a city with a single spell… and on the other, you have stories describing night hags who seem little more powerful than a typical troll? And if the night hags are native fiends, why do they have such an affinity for dreams and a talent for traveling to other planes?

The most reliable source on the topic is the Codex of All Mysteries, written by Dorius Alyre ir’Korran. The Codex makes the following observations.

Thirteen hags emerged in the First Night, old on their first day; they were called grandmothers even before the first mortal was born. Twelve of these night hags were bound in covens of three; even then, Sora Kell made her own path. Most fiends are tied to one of the dread overlords, and it would be easy to think that the first hags were children of Sul Khatesh, given their affinity for both secrets and magic. But there is no overlord in the First Night. Rather, it seems that the twelve and one collectively embody an idea. Many fiends embody concepts that mortals fear, and the simplest answer is that the night hags embody mortal fears of the night—both specifically of nightmares, but also of the unknown forces lurking in the darkness. The accounts of Jhazaal Dhakaan add a twist to this, suggesting that the night hags embody the curiosity of Khyber itself. Jhazaal observes that the night hags should be considered evil, as they will lead mortals into despair and doom without remorse. But she notes that the hags lack the greater malevolence of the overlords, that they have no desire to dominate mortals or the world; instead, they love to watch stories unfold, especially stories that end in tragedy. In the first days to the world, the night hags served as intermediaries between mortals, fiends, and the other great powers of reality. They took no sides in the many wars of that time, finding joy in moving stories along and watching the horrors that unfolded; they had no agenda, for this story needed no finger on the scales to tilt it toward disaster. The hags simply loved being in the midst of the chaos, and reveled in turning the pages of history.

Should we accept these stories, a night hag is many things at once. She is a shaper of nightmares, who takes joy in hand-crafting nocturnal visions so terrifying that a mortal might fear to ever sleep again. She is an ancient being who may have spoken with dragons, demons, and even overlords. And above all, she is a creature who delights in watching stories unfold and in seeing what happens next—especially when those tales end in tragedy.

What of the curious spectrum between night hags? How can we reconcile the legend of Sora Kell shattering an army with the tale of Sola the Smith outwrestling Sora Tenya? How can we account for the fact that a catalogue of night hags produces more than thirteen names? The answer may be found in another Dhakaani account. The dirge singer Uula Korkala blamed the hag Sora Ghazra for the tragedy that befell her city, and rallied the greatest champions of the age to her pursuit of vengeance. She worked with the legendary hunter Ur’taarka to track the hag and to create snares that could bind even the greatest of fiends. She worked with the daashors to enchant the chain of the mighty Guul’daask, creating a weapon that would shatter the hag’s spirit even as it crushed her bones. Korkala took her vengeance, and Sora Ghazra was defeated. But it is no simple thing to kill an immortal. The shards of Ghazra’s shattered spirit embedded themselves in her killers. Ur’taarka, Guul’daask, even Korkala herself—all were haunted by nightmares. Unable to sleep, they wasted away in body and mind. Eventually the magic of this curse reshaped them into hags—lesser versions of the primal crone they’d destroyed. This created a line of night hags, each bearing this curse. When any one of them dies, the killers will be consumed by nightmares. The curse grows weaker with each generation, and there are heroes who have survived this gauntlet of nightmares; but any who are broken by these terrors will become a weaker hag. Thus, should you encounter a night hag who seems not to live up to the terrifying legend of Sora Kell, she is likely one of Ghazra’s line; the threat she poses will depend on how far removed she is from her ancestor.

Dorius Alyre ir’Korran is a legendary scholar and diviner, known for his ambition to supplant Aureon himself; the Codex is the most trusted source of information on the hags. The actual entry includes far more information than just this, providing further details on many of the original thirteen hags and their covens. However, it is as always up to the DM to decide if any of this is true, or if it is still speculation or even misinformation spread by the hags themselves.

If you trust the Codex, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Night hags can have a vast range of power. The Challenge 5 night hag presented in fifth edition is likely a weak descendent of Sora Ghazra. Sora Kell was the most powerful of the primal night hags—the one who always stood alone—and likely has a Challenge rating over 20. Other hags—between the other primal hags and the greater descendants of Sora Ghazra—would fall somewhere within that spectrum. Because of Ghazra’s story, there’s no absolute limit on the number of night hags in the world. There may have only been thirteen primal night hags, but the extent of Ghazra’s brood is entirely up to the DM. The lesser hags of Ghazra’s brood DO NOT retain many memories of the hag that spawned them; they have a basic foundation, but a CR 5 hag doesn’t have memories of the Age of Demons and doesn’t retain all the contacts and connections of their parent hag.
  • Night hags largely view mortals as a form of entertainment. They typically have a cruel sense of humor, and they take joy in hand-crafting nightmares for people who catch their interest. Many of them do enjoy testing virtuous heroes and seeing if they can hold to their ideals. But at the end of the day, most are driven by cruel curiosity; if a hero DOES persevere and overcome adversity, they’ll chuckle and move on, making a note to check back in a few decades. They don’t CARE about the goals of the overlords or the Chamber; they just love good stories. The night hag Jabra sells goods in both Droaam and the Immeasurable Market of Syrania. Her goods won’t necessarily bring misfortune to the buyer; among other things, she sells dreams she’s collected over the centuries. But SOME of her goods are certainly bound to bring tragedy to someone, if not necessarily the person who purchases them. And more than anything, her work as a merchant is a way to while away the immortal hours while she waits for someone interesting to cross her path—a story she can delight in following to its end.
  • Night hags wield power in Dal Quor, as measured by their ability to manipulate dreams. They have an understanding with the quori; remember, the primal night hags once served as ambassadors to all the great powers, and they can be persuasive when they choose. Night hags can smell the touch of a quori on a mortal’s dream, and they will thus avoid interfering with dreamers who play critical roles in the plans of the Dreaming Dark. Beyond this, Dal Quor is vast; night hags and quori generally do their best to stay out of each others’ way. With that said, there have been stories of friendships, rivalries, and feuds between specific quori and night hags; a particular tsucora and a child of Ghazra might take turns tormenting a particular mortal, each trying to craft the most terrifying dream.
  • Night hags have a particular affinity for dreams and Dal Quor. For a night hag, shaping a dream is like playing an instrument; it’s both art and a satisfying hobby. A night hag doesn’t HAVE to have some grand agenda in deciding to haunt a particular mortal, any more than a writer has some specific vendetta against the sheet of paper they select on which to write a story. On the other hand, they may well focus on people who draw their attention. In Droaam, Jabra has been known to buy peoples’ dreams. The simple fact is that she can haunt someone’s dreams whether they agree to it or not; but Jabra enjoys convincing a victim to agree to their torment.
  • Primal night hags are immortal and have existed since the dawn of time. If slain, they will reform in the demiplane known as the First Night. Ghazra’s brood can be killed, at which point they infect their killers with their nightmare curse. Each such generation grows weaker, and it’s possible that the CR 5 night hag of the Monster Manual is simply too far removed from the source to curse its killers… or it might be that they have only to enduring a single nightmare or a few nights to overcome the curse.
  • Primal night hags don’t require a heartstone to become ethereal. A heartstone is a focusing item that allows one of Ghazra’s brood to tap into this power, concentrating their weaker spirit.

With all that in mind, let’s consider a few specific questions.

The ECS says that Night Hags are neutral, but here you say they’re evil. Which is it?

Many ideas in the ECS have evolved over time. When I wrote that original section in the ECS, the intent was to emphasize that the night hags aren’t allied with the Lords of Dust and the overlords—that they are, ultimately, neutral. However, in retrospect, I feel that they should both be fiends and should have an evil alignment. They were born in Khyber, and on a personal level, they delight in tragedies and will unleash nightmares without remorse. We’ve called out that good people can do evil things and that evil people can do good; in the case of the night hags, they are evil beings who choose not to serve a greater good or greater evil.

The immortals of Eberron draw from a finite pool of energy and don’t reproduce. But Sora Kell has daughters, and there’s also hagblood characters. How’s this work?

Night hags can reproduce, but this doesn’t follow normal biological science and most never do. Essentially, what a night hag does in creating a child is much like how they create a nightmare; each of the Daughters of Sora Kell are, essentially, nightmares made real. It’s quite likely that the hag has to invest a certain amount of her own essence in her children, not unlike the story of Sora Ghazra. If so, Sora Kell is likely no longer as powerful as she once was, and this could explain why she’s been missing for so long.

Sora Ghazra’s children are created when a sliver of her spirit reshapes a mortal body. The weaker the are, the more mortal they are; the least of these hags might be able to have children in the normal way, though these children wouldn’t be night hags.

Night hags can trap mortal souls in soul bags. Why do they want mortal souls?

Trapping souls is hardly unheard of in Eberron. Sora Maenya isn’t a night hag, but she’s known for trapping the souls of her victims in their skulls and keeping them. She doesn’t DO anything with them; she just likes collecting them. Sora Teraza traps souls in books, cataloguing the life of the subject. This is the model for night hags. Some may bind captured souls into objects, keeping a collection of soul-bound dolls, for example. Others may weave the souls into acts of magic. For example…

What’s the origin of nightmares (the monsters) in Eberron? Do they have a connection to night hags?

Nightmares are fiends that protect their riders from fire and allow them to travel between the planes. The first nightmares were created by Sora Azhara, a primal night hag with a particular love of Fernia. She crafted the first nightmares by fusing literal nightmares with the ashes of the Demon Wastes and mortal souls. A few of her sisters admired her creations, delighting in their ability to carry mortals into dangerous places, and created nightmares of their own. Any creature capable of casting nightmare could potentially learn the ritual for creating a nightmare. This requires a bound mortal soul slain by nightmares; ashes from the Demon Waste; and a living equine creature, which serves as the physical framework. This is the origin of the tortured pegasus story—but the victim doesn’t have to be a pegasus. A creature who’s soul is bound into a nightmare can’t be raised from the dead by any means until the nightmare is destroyed; the soul is however preserved from Dolurrh while bound. Typically, the mortal spirit is unconscious and oblivious to the passage of time during this binding.

What does it mean that the primal night hags serve as ambassadors? If there were thirteen of them, did they have ties to specific planes?

“Ambassador” isn’t an official title. Night hags are capable of moving across planes, something that’s uncomfortable for most native immortals. Essentially, they spend a lot of time traveling—they are in part driven by curiosity—and they know people. The dragons and fiends of the Age of Demons found it useful to have a recognized neutral force, and the night hags enjoyed being a part of the story. This continues today. The night hag Jabra knows thousands of immortals through the time she’s spent at the Immeasurable Market. A random lesser night hag may know a number of quori—some friends, some rivals. Sora Azhara has a love of Fernia and is a regular guest at the parties of the efreet. But this is ultimately an informal role, more “I know a hag who knows a guy” than being officially appointed by the Progenitors or anything like that.

That’s all for now! Thank you to my Patreon supporters both for making these articles possible and for suggesting the topic; in my monthly call for questions, someone asked “Night Hags! Just Night Hags!… So here we are! If you want to have a chance to shape future topics and help insure that there are more articles, pitch in at my Patreon.

Also: I am continuing to work on Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold, and TONIGHT (Wednesday September 8th) I’m kicking off a new stream to playtest the material. It’s part of the Fugue State stream, which I play in with Colin Meloy and Chris Funk of the Decemberists, Charlie Chu of Oni Press, Han Duong, and Jennifer Kretchmer. It’s going to run for about six weeks and the first episode is TONIGHT, so if you want to see it kick off, drop by the Twogether Studios Twitch channel at 7:30 PM Pacific Time! This is a very casual stream—basically just our home game in action—but I’m sure it will be fun!

Dragonmarks: The Barren Sea

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions from patrons. Here’s a recent one…

Is there anything going on in the Barren Sea beyond well… A lack of anything really? What would that be?

Good question! The Player’s Guide to Eberron has this to say:

The Barren Sea is so called because it is poor for fishing and devoid of apparent life. Hideous monsters are said to inhabit its depths—but sailors make that claim about all ten seas. In fact, sailors have more to fear from storms, icebergs in the north, and unpredictable winds than they do from any living thing in the Barren Sea. In addition to the mundane risks of storm and calm, the Barren Sea is known for scattered areas of dead calm—areas of perfectly still water, sometimes suffused with negative energy that attracts undead.

The Eberron Campaign Guide adds this…

The Barren Sea is home to dark and sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities far below the waves… and tremendous storms send ships to splinter against the rocky shore (of the Demon Wastes).

The Thunder Sea is home to powerful civilizations, and those who cross it will have to deal with the sahuagin or sea elves. The Lhazaar Sea is more chaotic, home to pirates, drake hunters, elemental islands, and all manner of monstrosities. The Barren Sea tells a different story. As its name suggests, it seems to be almost lifeless. The Barren Sea isn’t a resource to be harvested; it’s a deadly obstacle to be crossed, an aquatic desert. It’s for this reason that you don’t see the equivalent of Rhiavhaar or the Lhazaar Principalities on the coasts around the Barren Sea; there’s no fishing, nothing to draw people into the water. The people of Ohr Kaluun, Nulakhesh, and the lands now known as Droaam largely ignored the Barren Sea. Today, the Riedran province of Corvagura is an important port that supports shipping to and from Riedra’s interests in western Khorvaire and Xen’drik, and many of Riedra’s merchant sailors are Corvaguran; but there are no fishing boats in the Barren Sea.

So why is the Barren Sea so barren? The practical explanation is hypersalinity. The waters of the Barren Sea have almost ten times the salt content of the other seas of Eberron. Few plants or animals can survive in these waters. A side effect of this is that the waters of the Barren Sea are surprisingly buoyant; anyone swimming in the Barren Sea has advantage on checks made to stay afloat. But while the salt content explains why the sea is devoid of life, the larger question is why is the water so salty? Hypersalinity is usually caused by mineral deposits, but that’s not a factor here. The mystery is further compounded by the fact that the majority of the Barren Sea is shielded from divination (including the psionic clairsentience techniques employed by Riedrans). A massive nondetection effect blankets the barren waters and anything upon them. Sages can’t explore the Barren Sea with scrying, Tharashk prospectors can’t sense what lies beneath the waves, and even commune can’t unlock the secrets of the Barren Sea. Mystical navigation tools become unreliable in barren waters, and navigators must be prepared to use mundane techniques. Taken together, the hypersalinity and nondetection effect are clearly unnatural. The cause of these effects is explored later in this article.

Calm and Still, Merchant and Spy

So, back to the original question… What goes on in the Barren Sea? You won’t encounter dragon turtles or merfolk there, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that it’s boring and uniform. Here’s a few of the things you can find.

Deadly Storms. The Player’s Guide to Eberron calls out the risk of storms and “unpredictable winds.” it later specifies that these are “mundane risks”—so while storms are always a risk on the Barren Sea, they aren’t as dramatic as the Lamannia-fueled storms of the Thunder Sea. The exception is to the north, where the ECG notes the “tremendous storms” that can dash a ship against the Demon Wastes; along this cursed coast, the weather is enhanced and twisted by the malevolent powers bound in the Wastes.

Dead Calm. The southern Barren Sea holds a number of large manifest zones tied to Mabar. Normally Mabaran manifest zones can be recognized by their impact on flora and fauna, but in the Barren Sea there’s no native life to use as a yardstick. As called out in the Player’s Guide to Eberron, these Mabaran zones create areas of unnatural calm. Winds die and currents are diverted. Some of these share Mabar’s trait of Eternal Shadows; in such regions all bright light is reduced to dim light, and ships must make their way through this gloom.

As noted in PGtE, regions of dead calm are often inhabited by undead. Zombies, skeletons, and other undead can be found—animated corpses both of travelers and of strange creatures from deep below the poisoned waters. However, the most common form of undead are shadows. Superstition holds that within the dead calm, the shadows of sailors can come to life and kill their owners, persisting even after killing the mortal who cast them. There are countless tales of merchants stumbling on ghost ships inhabited solely by shadows. In the annals of the Wayfinder Foundation, Lord Boroman ir’Dayne discovers a massive graveyard of ships in the Barren Sea, including vessels that seemed to be the ships of giants and Dhakaani galleys. According to the story, Boroman’s own ship was overrun by shadows and he was forced to abandon his vessel and flee. His dinghy was overturned and his friends consumed by “shadow sharks,” but—at least according to the tale—Boroman managed to swim for days and made landfall in the Demon Wastes (which is a story in its own right). Though he tried, ir’Dayne was never able to find the graveyard again.

Still Water. While there are Mabaran manifest zones across the Barren Sea, to the north they are outnumbered by manifest zones tied to Risia. These zones are unnaturally cold, home to unexpected icebergs and creeping ice that can potentially trap slower vessels. Such zones have Risa’s Lethal Cold trait as described in Exploring Eberron. A few of the largest manifest zones have the Preservation trait; any creature or object that is completely encased in this Risian ice is kept in stasis, ignoring the passage of time. Travelers or entire ships could be found trapped in such an iceberg: fiends or dragons from the first age of the world, Sarlonan refugees fleeing the Sundering, or more recent sailors from Khorvaire. The shroud against divination makes it difficult to track such prisoners from afar… but there are wonders waiting to be found.

Known Threats and Dangerous Paths. Over the centuries, sailors have charted safe paths through the Barren Sea, identifying deadly manifest zones and plotting routes that avoid them. There are three primary routes used by Riedran ships and Lyrandar vessels, and with a reliable map and a good navigator you can follow such a path and avoid the planar threats. However, many independent captains—smugglers, spies, Adaran vessels avoiding Riedran patrols—pride themselves on knowing shorter paths. Such routes can save you time and avoid contact with other vessels… but a false map can lead you into still water or a shadowy end. Even if route is good, since these paths are less traveled there’s a greater chance of running across an intermittent manifest zone that was dormant when the cartographer passed through. When you leave the known paths you may encounter deadly threats—but it’s in these dangerous regions that you might find ghost ships laden with treasure or ancient wonders preserved in Risian ice.

Merchants and Soldiers. There is a regular stream of legitimate traffic across the Barren Sea. In the south, merchants and cargo ships travel between Dar Jin, Dar Qat, Stormreach, and Sharn. A northern route connects Dar Jin and Dar Kel to Aundair and points east. The majority of these ships are Riedran, though Lyrandar and other vessels are mixed in. Diplomats and scholars can also be found making their way across the sea. Riedran frigates patrol the trade routes, ever watchful for pirates and smugglers. While Riedran soldiers aren’t inherently hostile to the people of Khorvaire, they may stop and board any vessel they suspect of smuggling or of supporting the enemies of Riedra—notably, the kalashtar.

Smugglers, Spies, and Pirates. The steady stream of merchant vessels provide an inviting targets for pirates in the Barren Sea. Riedran frigates are ever vigilant, but the shrouding effect of the barren waters makes it possible for pirates to evade pursuit by plunging into uncharted waters. Of course, this means risking the dangers of a dead calm or still waters, but there are always those willing to take that risk. Given the dangers, the Barren Sea isn’t exactly teeming with pirates, but those who manage to thrive in these dangerous waters are often quite capable.

The shrouding effect also makes the Barren Sea a haven for smugglers—including the Dream Merchants of Riedran, Adarans making to or from Khorvaire, and others—and spies, whether they’re spying on Riedra, Droaam, or elsewhere. Conspiracy theorists claim that many dragonmarked houses maintain secret facilities on platforms in the Barren Sea, places where they can defy the Korth Edicts.

Sahuagin. The hypersalinity of the Barren Sea is just as deadly to the sahuagin as it is to other creatures, and the Eternal Dominion of the Thunder Sea doesn’t extend into these western waters. However, there are a few sahuagin clans scattered across the very edges of the Barren Sea. Each of these small enclaves have their own unique cultures; some are peaceful, others vicious and cruel. The most dangerous of these are the Sa’arlaath, “The All Consuming”; these sahuagin dwell on the coast of the Demon Wastes and have been twisted by fiendish powers. The Sa’arlaath raid vessels that pass over their terrain, but most of the sahuagin of the Thunder Sea remain in isolation in the deep, ignoring both the people of the surface and those who dwell in the deepest depths of the Barren Sea—the Kuo-Toa.

The Kuo-Toa: Dreamers in the Deep

The upper waters of the Barren Sea are deadly, but descend far enough and the salinity of the water drops. It is here that adventurers can discover the “sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities far below the waves” mentioned in the Eberron Campaign Guide. Those creatures that dwell on the ocean floor aren’t literal fiends, but their realm is a terrifying array of nightmares. This is the domain of the Kuo-toa.

While the upper waters of the Barren Sea are close to Mabar and Risia, the depths of the ocean once held powerful manifest zones tied to Dal Quor, the region of dreams. A unique species evolved in this region. All mortals of Eberron possess a connection to Dal Quor, glimpsing the Realm of Dreams when they sleep. But these creatures possessed a far deeper connection; they existed in both realms simultaneously, perceiving both dream and reality at all times. They called themselves the Quor-Toa, the People of Dreams. Beyond their power to perceive Dal Quor, within the manifest zones below the Barren Sea, the Quor-Toa could draw the essence of Dal Quor into reality and shape it, sculpting tools, structures, and servants from the stuff of dreams. Their deep empire was a place of impossible wonders, of spectacles dragons and giants could only dream of. Yet because they could only work these wonders in manifest zones to Dal Quor, the Quor-Toa never sought to spread out into other lands or seas. They defended their territory, and it is for this reason that few giant explorers ever reached Sarlona; there are records in Cul’sir accounts that describe the glories glimpsed below the waves of the “Golden Sea” and of the godlike beings that defended it. In the end, the giants destroyed the Quor-Toa without even meaning to. Forty thousand years ago the giants severed the ties between Eberron and Dal Quor, as a way to end their conflict with the quori. In the process, they destroyed the Quor-Toa. As the manifest zones tied to Dal Quor were stripped of power, the dream-towers of the Quor-Toa melted away and the fishfolk themselves suffered devastating psychic trauma. Their civilization collapsed into chaos. It took generations to recover from the shock, and the survivors weren’t the people they had once been. Their knowledge had been storied in libraries of dreams, vaults that were shattered and lost. Their psychic gifts had been twisted. They were no longer the Quor’Toa; they had become kuo-toa, the fallen people.

Following Two Paths

The kuo-toa have never regained the power of their ancestors. The energies of Dal Quor no longer flow naturally into Eberron. But the kuo-toa still possess a stronger connection to Dal Quor than any other mortal creature. Most mortal creatures describe the kuo-toa as “mad”, but the truth is far more complicated. Where most mortals only glimpse Dal Quor when they sleep, the kuo-toa perceive both realms simultaneously; they are ALWAYS dreaming, experiencing the dream overlaid over reality. This has a few effects.

  • A kuo-toa can always be targeted by the dream spell, even while it is awake.
  • A kuo-toa experiences two realities at once—the physical world and Dal Quor. Thus, when a kuo-toa is dealing with an adventurer, it is also dealing with whatever dream occupies the same space as the adventurer in its vision. It could be holding a fish and describe it as a sword, because in Dal Quor, it is holding a sword. To the kuo-toa, both realities are equally real. It is a sword AND a fish. And the kuo-toa could be fighting a monster in Dal Quor while also talking to an adventurer; so while it appears to be waving a fish around, it is fighting a nightmare with a mighty sword.
  • This is the source of the Otherworldly Perception trait of the 5E kuo-toa; they perceive invisible and ethereal entities through their echoes in the dream.
  • If a kuo-toa is slain in Dal Quor, it loses its perception of Dal Quor until it completes a short rest. There’s no other negative consequence; it’s essentially no different from a human being killed in their dream and waking up.
  • The kuo-toa of Eberron speak Quori instead of Undercommon. They have no ties to the creatures of Khyber, and they learned Quori long ago from their dreams.

While they lack both the resources and the knowledge of their ancestors, the kuo-toa still possess supernatural powers tied to their dual existence. Kuo-toa seers have a sharpened form of their Otherworldly Perception, seeing dream visions that reveal secrets about the waking world; a seer might manifest true seeing—seeing a shapeshifter’s true form as a dream aura around it—or other divination effects. Kuo-toa shapers can cast illusion or conjuration spells by pulling dreams into reality, often without fully understanding that this is what they’re doing. This is just a shadow of the power they wield as a community, which is discussed below. But there’s a second aspect that’s crucial to understanding the kuo-toa. They experience Dal Quor and Eberron at once. But they don’t just dream any dreams. For whatever reason, nightmares are drawn to the kuo-toa. They aren’t just always dreaming, they’re always experiencing nightmares. And this in turn shapes the way they interact with the world.

Gods & Monsters

A single kuo-toa might have the power to draw a wisp of dream into reality to create a minor illusion. But as kuo-toa join together, their collective unconscious amplifies their nightmares—and they can bring these things into reality. Kuo-toa cities are ruled by gods they have dreamed into being, but these aren’t the gods they have chosen; they are deities built from their fears. Every kuo-toa deity is unique, and they shape their cities to match their nature. Hence, “sinister fiends that dwell in horrid cities beneath the waves”—for the gods of the kuo-toa make harsh demands on their people. Beyond their gods, the kuo-toa dream other horrors into existence. They may dream creatures that have the abilities of krakens or aboleths (though not their exact shapes or motivations), or entirely new abominations. Such monsters might serve the local deity, or they could simply rise to the surface to prey on unwary travelers. So in truth you never know what you’ll find in the Barren Sea… because the kuo-toa in the deeps could dream up a unique nightmare that’s never been seen before and which will never be seen again.

Kuo-toa and Quori

It might seem like the Dreaming Dark would love the kuo-toa and would exert power over them; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider than in the Age of Giants, the Quor-Toa were in a realm close to Dal Quor, and yet the Quori came to Xen’drik instead. Why not travel through this open gateway? Because the quori of the past feared the Quor-Toa, just as those of the present fear the koa-toa. Because the koa-toa shape dreams, pulling the essence of the Dal Quor into reality and bending it to their will. The kuo-toa gods began as quori—but they have no control over the situation, and are forced to play out the roles the kuo-toa have set for them. This isn’t something the kuo-toa do consciously, and they can’t choose NOT to do it. But the quori are aware of the kuo-toa and stay far away from the ocean deeps.

The Barren Truth

The beginning of this article raised a question: why is the Barren Sea so barren? What is the cause of the focused hypersalinity, and what is it that blocks divination? Scholars on land have advanced many theories. Clearly it’s the work of the dragons of Argonnessen, an epic curse like those unleashed against Xen’drik. Obviously it’s the handiwork of the Daelkyr. Or maybe there’s an unbound overlord in the water and this is its domain. Any of these ideas are plausible, and a DM could choose any one of them. But in my campaign, the Barren Sea is a nightmare of the kuo-toa. Collectively, they see the world as a barren place of death, and it is this shared nightmare that actively poisons the waters above them. This is part of the wounded psyche of the species, and it’s not something that could be changed by a few friendly conversations. On the other hand, if Dal Quor itself were to change—if il-Lashtavar were to give way to il-Yannah and an Age of Light—perhaps the Great Light could heal the kuo-toa and life could return to the Barren Sea.

So, back to the original question… What goes on in the Barren Sea? Pirates! Smugglers! Getting boarded by Riedran soldiers who want to inspect your cargo! Ghost ships filled with shadows! Finding an ancient couatl frozen in an iceberg! A secret Cannith research platform! A nightmare from the depths! Or, perhaps, a visit to a city deep beneath the waves, where a nightmare deity rules over people poised between two worlds…

What’s Common Knowledge?

The people of the surface world know almost nothing about the kuo-toa. They know exactly what the ECG suggested—that there are “fiends in horrid cities” at the bottom of the Barren Sea. To this point, the nightmare deities of the kuo-toa have kept their dreaming subjects in the depths—and the major trade routes used by Riedra and Khorvaire don’t pass over kuo-toa cities. So how will adventurers discover what lies below? Adventurers venturing through uncharted waters could be shipwrecked by a nightmare and drawn into the depths. A dragonmarked research platform could shift the focus of a kuo-toa god, causing it to focus its wrath on the world above. A kalashtar could be urged to venture below by visions from il-Yannah; could the kuo-toa play a vital role in the turning of the age? And what affect might the kuo-toa dreamers have on a kalashtar’s quori spirit?

Q&A

How powerful are the Kuo-Toa gods?

It depends on the community they’re tied to. A small outpost might have a “god” with the power of a pit fiend. For the major cities, I’d personally use this as an opportunity to repurpose the statistics of existing archfiends; this would be a fine place to have a version of Demogorgon or Asmodeus, thought I’d definitely give them some distinct kuo-toa flavoring. The main thing is that their power is definitely geographically limited; while Blibdolpoop/Demogorgon might be extremely powerful in their domain, they couldn’t leave it and go attack Sharn. It’s a little like the Undying Court, except that the kuo-toa gods feed on the nightmares of their people instead of on their love.

Maps are inconsistent across editions. Some maps show the Barren Sea extending all the way to the Dagger River; others present it further west. Where do you draw the line for the “Barren” waters?

The general description of the Barren Sea is that it is “west of Khorvaire, northwest of Xen’drik and east of Sarlona.” If you consider the most recent map—page 104-105 of Rising From The Last War—the labeling of the Thunder Sea is significantly southwest of the Dagger River and Manta Bay. I’m inclined to say that the barren waters start just to the west of Zarash Bay. So Zarash Bay has standard water, but the Bay of Madness and the western coastline of the Shadow Marches are barren water.

How does that even work? Shouldn’t currents disperse the high-saline water? Nature doesn’t just stop at an arbitrary border.

That is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. The point is that there is nothing natural about this. Hypersalinity is an effect that can be found in the natural world based on mineral deposits in closed bodies of water. But this ISN’T a bounded body of water and there’s no clear mineral deposits that could cause it. Likewise, the fact that it STOPS when you do deep enough is entirely unnatural. And keep in mind that once the giants referred to it as the “Golden Sea.” The hypersalinity is a natural effect that is being created and sustained by a supernatural force. When the waters of the Barren Sea are flow out of the Barren Sea, the charged salinity fades. If the science of this is troubling, you can just think of it as “magical death water.”

Since it’s so barren, what do the kuo-toa eat? Do they dream food into existence?

The Quor-Toa dreamt food into existence. The kuo-toa don’t have quite such perfect control; it’s possible that there are kuo-toa shapers who can cast effects like goodberry, create food, or even heroes’ feast by conjuring food from dreams, but this is a rare gift and isn’t enough to sustain a city. The main point is that the barren water ENDS when you go deep enough; there is flora and fauna in the depths. Much of it is unusual—shaped over time by kuo-toa nightmares—but there’s definitely edible plants and fish.

That’s all for now! I am traveling at the moment with limited internet and there is a good chance that I will not be able to answer many questions on this article, though I’m happy for people to pose questions and discuss them in the comments. Thanks to my Patreon supporters both for suggesting the topic and for making it possible for me to write it; it’s only this support that allows me to spend time on articles like this.

IFAQ: Dreams and Quori

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few about Dal Quor and its denizens.

Do prophetic dreams occur in Dal Quor and if so do the Dreaming dark collect or research them?

Exploring Eberron has this to say about dreams in Dal Quor:

Dal Quor doesn’t have layers like other planes. Instead, it can be seen as a vast ocean. When a mortal dreams, they fall into that ocean and create an “island”: a dream pocket, shaped by their memories and desires. When they wake, this island disappears. So at any given moment, Dal Quor contains millions of islands, but none last for long. 

I’ve bolded the important piece. The key point here is that the quori don’t create or even monitor all mortal dreams. There are far more mortals then there are quori, and at any given time there a hundreds of thousands of dreams that the quori know nothing about. Most dreams are just dreams, shaped by the dreamer’s own memories and mind. Quori CAN interfere with mortal dreams, but so can other creatures—night hags, any creature using the dream spell. Mortal creatures can even create permanent islands, such as the Draconic Eidolon or the Uul Dhakaan.

The point here is that the quori aren’t omniscient or omnipresent within Dal Quor. Other forces can shape dreams, and it’s entirely possible for this to occur without the quori being aware of it. So YES, there can be prophetic dreams in Dal Quor. Such dreams could be actively shaped by powerful beings (again, all it takes is the dream spell). Looking to divine visions, the existence of prophetic dreams doesn’t necessarily prove the existence of the Sovereigns. We know that there is a divine power source that channels power to worshippers of Boldrei. It could be she’s an actual goddess who actively sends a message to her priest; or it could be that “Boldrei” is a spiritual construct that lies within the collective unconscious, and the priest’s dream is drawn from those subconscious depths. Either way, it’s possible to have a vision from Boldrei; but just because you can meet her in your dreams doesn’t mean that she exists in a form you could meet in the flesh.

Does the Dreaming Dark collect or research these dreams? I’m sure it does, IF IT OBSERVES THEM. Again, there are more mortals than quori, and at any given moment a third of the world is asleep; there’s no way for the quori to monitor them all. And personally, I don’t WANT the quori to monitor them all. I like the fact that I can say that the group’s cleric has a divine vision and that the quori don’t know about it. With that said, part of the role of the hashalaq quori is to monitor mortal dreams and dreams and to keep notes. The hashalaq are the loremasters of Dal Quor, and when the Dreaming Dark wants to perform an act of manipulation, it turns to the hashalaq to identify the most effective targets to carry out those goals. So the hashalaq do monitor the dreams fo people the quori have identified as significant, and they maintain a broad “map” of the Ocean of Dreams. Thus, they COULD have observed and recorded any prophetic dream and could well have a vault filled with accounts of thousands of “Dreams of Interest” they’re studying. But it’s ultimately up to the DM to decide if any given dream has been noted and recorded, or if it escaped the many eyes of the Dreaming Dark.

Are there any limits to the Quori ability to shape dreams?

Yes and no. If you’re familiar with Star Trek, think of Dal Quor as a holodeck. Normally, the dreamer shows up and runs their own program. When a creature uses dream, they are overriding that and placing the dreamer in a program of their own design. And that can be ANYTHING. A quori has an even greater degree of control than a wizard using dream. They can control every detail and they’ve had tens of thousands of years to hone their talents at creating dreams.

WITH THAT SAID… This is a game. It’s fun to have adventures in dreams where adventurers can potentially overcome challenges, and with that in mind I wouldn’t want to make quori omnipotent when shaping a dream. So personally, I’d go back to the holodeck analogy. The quori can PROGRAM the dream. They can personally take the place of any creature in the dream, intervening directly. But adventurers can defeat the challenges a quori places in their path. The quori can make you dream about a terrifying dragon, but you and your fellow adventurers could DEFEAT THAT DRAGON; this reflects your will and heroic drive overcoming the quori manipulation.

WITH THAT SAID… That primarily only applies to LUCID dreams. Most dreams don’t get played out as adventures. And with that in mind, that’s why the dream spell has a saving throw! You could look at a successful saving throw as meaning that the caster can’t shape the dream at all; or you could look at it as the caster creating a nightmare but the dreamer defeats the nightmare. So if the quori gives you a dream of a dragon ravaging your village, if you fail your saving throw the dragon destroys your village, kills everyone you love, and then kills you, and you wake up horrified (taking psychic damage and failing the long rest)—while if you MAKE the saving throw, you still dream about a dragon, but in the dream you DEFEAT the dragon. Your subconscious overrides the quori manipulation, and your self-image is so strong that you reject the vision the quori tries to impose.

Do Quori create figments or enlist drifters for the Dreaming Dark?

Let’s look back at Exploring Eberron.

A figment can be anything—a friend of yours, a zombie version of that friend, a demon, a dragon—but the catch is that it’s drawn from the mind of the local dreamer. When you dream about your old drill sergeant, they can’t tell you a secret you don’t already know, because they’re part of you. On the other hand, if you’re in someone else’s dream—or if a quori has taken control of your dream—then the figments can surprise you, because their capabilities and knowledge are drawn from someone else’s mind.

Figments are just part of the basic mechanics of Dal Quor. Any time a dream is created, it’s populated with figments. Look back to the holodeck example: figments are all the NPCs in a holodeck scenario. So yes, the quori create figments that last for the duration of the dream and then dissipate.

DRIFTERS are a different story. Per ExE, “Occasionally, a remarkable figment develops the ability to persist beyond the dream that created it—becoming a truly sentient spirit instead of a simple manifestation… Such free-willed figments are called drifters.” Generally speaking, the Dreaming Dark doesn’t employ drifters and most drifters will do their best to avoid the quori, because DRIFTERS ARE A FLAW IN THE SYSTEM. Why SHOULD a quori deal with a free-willed, unpredictable drifter when it could just use a figment that will do exactly what it’s supposed to do? This is one reason drifters may help adventurers; they themselves aren’t part of the system and have no loyalty to the quori; quori will typically destroy drifters as they ARE flaws in the system. Having said that, it’s possible an unusual drifter could make a deal with the Dreaming Dark and gain greater power through such service. But most drifters won’t take that risk.

The dominator Tirashana is a powerful Inspired mentioned in multiple sources. What kind of quori is she? Sharn: City of Towers doesn’t say, Secrets of Sarlona says she’s usvapna, and the ECG says she’s a kalaraq.

This is what happens when you are dealing with an evolving setting and multiple editions. When Sharn: City of Towers was written, the tsucora quori were the only quori that had been defined. We knew that there WERE others, but we hadn’t solidified any of the details. SECOND: When Tirashana was created, mind seed was a high-level power any psion telepath could potentially manifest. As such, we established Tirashana as a 17th level psion—she had the power to mind seed, but she did it in the same way any other creature could do it, if they happened to be a 17th level telepath.

By the time Secrets of Sarlona came around, we’d introduced more types of quori. The kalaraq quori, in particular, had the innate ability to perform mind seed by binding the essence of a victim. But we’d already defined Tirashana as a 17th-level telepath, so we chose to make her an usvapna—a powerful and respected quori caste, but not kalaraq.

Then fourth edition came around. Fourth edition had no player-facing form of mind seed. We had a version of it associated with the kalaraq, but it was a unique thing. So: the usvapna didn’t exist in fourth edition, and even if they had, we could say Tirashana was an usvapna with enough telepath levels to manifest mind seed, because it didn’t exist in fourth edition. So, in fourth edition we made Tirashana a kalaraq because it meant that DMs would ahve a stat block they could use for her and because it was the only way she could do what she was supposed to do — create mind seeds.

The key point here is that the lore isn’t consistent because the RULES weren’t consistent. We changed the lore to meet the needs of the story. Ultimately, the most important thing was that Tirashana is a quori who can mind seed people. Given that she’s unlikely to ever appear in the flesh, it doesn’t really MATTER is she’s usvapna or kalaraq; what matters most is that she can mind seed people and the DM knows how mind seed works.

So: in fifth edition, I’d personally make Tirashana a kalaraq quori for the same reasons we did it in fourth edition: we have a stat block for kalaraq quori and we don’t have an usvapna block, and a kalaraq quori has a way to plant mind seeds.

In general, however, this ties to the general point that canon isn’t ironclad or infallible, because it wasn’t created in a vacuum. Tirashana couldn’t be an usvapna in the Sharn sourcebook, because usvapna didn’t exist when we wrote it. Canon is a place to start, but it does have contradictions and errors, and it’s up to each DM to decide how to reconcile those in their campaigns.

What are some other types of quori?

I don’t have time to stat out additional quori in this space, but what I will say is that the general idea of quori is that they generally manipulate and feed on certain types of emotion or aspects of the mortal psyche. Tsucora specialize in fear. Du’ulora manipulate rage and hatred. Hashalaq understand pleasure. Kalaraq twist pride and ambition. I didn’t create the tsoreva or usvapna, so they aren’t designed with that in mind; I’d personally probably make the weak tsoreva tied to spite, and the usvapna—described as the judges and inquisitors of Dal Quor—as manipulating concepts of duty and tradition, albeit in the focused path of tyranny and persecution.

With that in mind, what are some other types of quori? I could imagine quori that inspire greed and avarice; quori that sap motivation and thrive on sloth and indolence; quori that thrive on misery; quori that inspire envy. Quori are children of the Dreaming Dark, so they are generally tied to NEGATIVE aspects of the psyche. Kalashtar quori still have this heritage, but turn it around; a tsucora kalashtar understands fear, but can use that knowledge to help people overcome their fears and find their courage.

I don’t understand quori possession. Rising From The Last War says the Quori must be within five feet of the creature it wants to possess, and if it is expelled it appears next to them? I thought quori couldn’t manifest physically?

That’s because quori have access to TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FORMS OF POSSESSION. The form of possession that is presented in the stat block is something the quori can do IF it is physically present. An important detail is that it can use this form of possession on an unwilling target! It would be extremely difficult for a quori TO physically manifest on Eberron—it would involve some sort of unprecedented story hook—but IF IT DID it would be capable of forcibly possessing any humanoid using this technique.

But the catch is that this isn’t the form of possession the Dreaming Dark generally employs, because the quori CAN’T physically manifest in Eberron. So instead, the quori normally possess humanoids through their dreams. The quori crafts a dream (essentially, casting dream) and within that dream, has to convince the target to voluntarily allow the quori to possess them. The victim may not understand exactly what they are agreeing to—the quori could present itself as an angel, as the ghost of an ancestor, etc—but they know that they are agreeing to let an outside spirit temporarily assume control of their body. If they agree, the quori takes possession and maintains control until either it chooses to depart or until it is driven out by magical means; in either case, it returns to Dal Quor. Once the quori leaves, it can’t possess the victim again unless the victim AGREES to the possession again. In some cases, the quori may manage to cultivate its relationship with the victim such that the victim will allow this; again, they may believe the quori to be a guardian angel or an ancestor, as long as the actions the quori takes don’t disprove this. On the other hand, if the quori isn’t trying to maintain a relationship with the host, it may not bother to maintain such a masquerade.

The Inspired are possessed using this second form of possession, but the catch is that each Inspired is bound to a particular quori spirit and they have no choice when that spirit chooses to possess them. However, an Inspired could also voluntarily allow a different quori to possess it, if it served a useful purpose.

This raises a key point, which is that per Rising, forcible possession doesn’t allow the quori to use the proficiencies or class features of the target. The idea of the cooperative possession (or the Inspired) is that the possessed individual DOES have the proficiencies and abilities of both quori and host. This is how the quori can maintain a disguise and why it’s useful to the Inspired quori to have vessels with different skill sets; a particular quori could have one vessel that’s a tough fighter and another that’s a sly assassin, and choose the host that serves its current needs. Likewise, the reason an Inspired might allow a different quori to possess it would be because it needs the particular skills of THAT quori to accomplish its mission. So part of the idea has always been that when dealing with Inspired or with voluntary hosts you’re dealing with a gestalt entity. The quori is in CONTROL, but it gets to draw on the skills and knowledge of its host.

As this second form of possession is different from what’s described in the book, it raises a number of questions. Can a quori possess one of their specially-bred Chosen/Inspired link at any moment, even while that Chosen/Inspired is awake?

Yes, a quori can possess a Chosen vessel at any time. The quori has a direct spiritual connection to its Chosen and this doesn’t require the victim to be asleep.

Does the Protection from Evil and Good spell stop a Chosen/Inspired from being possessed by their linked quori?

An empty vessel who is protected by protection from evil and good can’t be possessed by their quori, and this is something we’ve previously called out as a way that fugitive Chosen could remain free. However, the spell specifies that the target has to be a willing creature, so you couldn’t cast it on an unwilling Inspired to break their connection to their spirit.

Does the Magic Circle spell stop a Chosen/Inspired from being possessed by their linked quori?

If the unpossessed empty vessel is protected by the circle, they can’t be possessed. However, I would again say that this wouldn’t BREAK an existing case of possession; you can’t create a magic circle and then push someone into it to exorcise them. It prevents a possessing spirit from attaching itself to a mortal host, but it doesn’t drive out the spirit once it’s present. At least, that’s the ruling I’d make at MY table (and if your DM disagrees, that’s fine—but this is MY ruling).

Can the Dispel Evil and Good spell drive out a quori from their linked Chosen/Inspired? If so, what stops the quori from immediately repossessing the Chosen/Inspired?

This is addressed in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting entry on Inspired, and the rule seems sound here.

Resist Exorcism: The quori spirit inhabiting an Inspired is subject to a dismissal spell, an exorcism, or a similar effect. Use the total of the human vessel’s character level and the quori’s Hit Dice for the purpose of determining whether the spirit resists dismissal or exorcism. If the effect is successful, the quori spirit is temporarily driven back to Dal Quor. This effect lasts for 10 minutes per caster level of the character who cast the spell or performed the exorcism, after which point the quori spirit can return and possess the human vessel again.

Combining hit dice doesn’t quite work in Fifth Edition, but the point is you can do it but it’s supposed to be hard—I’d probably give the Inspired advantage on their saving throw.

If an Inspired currently possessed by their linked quori is reduced to 0 hit points and knocked unconscious, but not killed, is the quori driven out? Or does the quori stay?

No. The “Brute Force” possession in the quori stat block can be broken by dropping a creature to zero hit points, but rendering a creature unconscious has no effect on either an Inspired or on a creature that has voluntarily allowed a quori to possess it.

Can a possessing quori allow the victim to retain control of their actions—to play the role of an “advising spirit”? Or is it always in full control while possessing a victim?

A possessing quori can always choose not to exercise the full power it has over its victim, but it CAN exercise that full control at any time. So the victim may not REALIZE that they are fully possessed; they may believe it’s some sort of symbiosis or partnership. Which is great, until the quori has a reason to take full control, and which point it will take full control. With that said, the person agreeing to possession is aware that they are allowing possession—that they are allowing the spirit to reside within them. In a situation where the quori doesn’t plan to assume control it may present this as guidance, partnership, etc — but the victim still knows I am allowing a spirit to reside in my body.

How much awareness does a quori have over the status, thoughts, emotions, location, current activities, etc. of its linked Chosen/Inspired, while those Chosen/Inspired are awake and uninhabited?

Very little. For example, we’ve never suggested that if you get into a fight with an empty vessel that its connected quori would somehow be instantly aware of the threat and pop in. Keep in mind that a quori could have HUNDREDS of empty vessels. I’d be inclined to say that the quori would notice the death of a vessel—because it would feel the sudden severing of their link—but even then, if the quori has a lot of vessels I might have them make a Perception check to see if they notice it right away.

When a quori possesses someone, how much access to the host’s memories does the quori have? Does this change based on the possession method: brute force, voluntary possession, linked Chosen/Inspired possession, etc.?

It depends entirely on the form of possession. The brute force possession provides no access to memories whatsoever, which is why the quori “doesn’t gain access to the victim’s knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.” Voluntary possession does grant access to the host’s memories and skills, as specifically called out in the 3.5 ECS: “A possessing quori has immediate access to all of the vessel’s thoughts and memories… The quori spirit combines its skill ranks with those of its vessel.” With that said, while voluntary possession grants full ACCESS to the host’s memories, I’d see this as a human gaining access to a library. You can read any book you want, and when you NEED a specific piece of information you can immediately acquire it, but you most likely don’t have time to read every book in the library. So it’s not like a quori knows every one of your secrets the instant it possesses you; it has to have a reason to dig for a specific piece of information, and it’s quite possible it never bothers to look back to your childhood and find that moment you made a deal with a dragon.

What’s your opinion of the tsoreva and dream master quori from Magic of Eberron? Would you redesign them if you converted them to fifth edition?

I didn’t work on Magic of Eberron. The tsoreva is fine; it’s useful to have a low-CR quori and I can see them as spirits that feed on spite—essentially, lesser tsucora. But I don’t like the dream master. First, it doesn’t follow the naming pattern. We retconned this for Secrets of Sarlona, naming it the usvapna. But beyond that, its basic design doesn’t follow the model used by other quori. The original idea of the quori is that they manipulate and feed upon a particular emotion. This is concretely reflected by their abilities. At a quick glance…

  • A tsucora (fear) has Terrifying Sting, which mimics the effects of phantasmal killer, and it regains hit points when it kills someone with this power. When it stings you, it afflicts you with a nightmare so intense it can kill you, and if it does, it feeds on that fear.
  • A du’ulora (rage) has Fury Aura—which induces rage in creatures around it—and Burning Rage, which kills a creature with its own anger… and which heals the quori when it kills a creature in this way.
  • Hashalaq (pleasure and pain) has Intimate Knowledge (it knows your desires), Empathic Feedback (the attack shares its pain), and Idyllic Touch (which overwhelms with pleasure)… and when it kills a creature with Idyllic Touch, it regains hit points.

The tsoreva is such a minor spirit that it doesn’t have space to follow this pattern. But the dream master is a POWERFUL quori, but it doesn’t have a clear associated emotion or unique powers; it’s a powerful psion, but there’s nothing that reflects a theme. So yes, I might keep the broad concept and form of the usvapna, but if i converted it to 5E I’d want to give it a more defined theme.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

Bakery News & Eberron Q&A!

What can I say? I enjoy my poutine.

You might be wondering where I’ve been for the last few weeks. Well, Calgary, for one… I had a fine time sampling poutine, playing games and acquiring fine dice bags at the Calgary Expo. Beyond that, I’ve been very busy. I have a number of projects in the works at the moment – my level for Paizo’s Emerald Spire superdungeon, a new expansion for Gloom, ongoing work on Codex, and two entirely new games—and as a result I’ve had to take a little time off from Dragonmarks and Six Questions. But they will return!

Before I get to the questions, a few other bits of news:

  • Gloom was featured in this week’s episode of The Escapist’s The Wishlist!
  • I’m an Industry Insider Guest of Honor at Gen Con 2013. I’ll be bringing all sorts of things to playtest to the convention, though at the moment I haven’t figured out my gaming schedule. If you’re going to GC, watch this space for more news!
  • I’m also scheduled to be a guest at GenreCon in October. What can I say – I can’t stay away from Canada!

Now on with the questions! First, two in a similar vein…

Since the inception of D&D Next, do you feel Eberron will still have prominence in this new system? Will it still be playable?

Currently WotC hasn’t decided what they are going to do for Eberron support in D&D Next. It’s been said that they will at least convert the races and perhaps the artificer. If you want to see more support, the best thing to do is to let WotC know it. Post on forums! Ask Customer Service if it will be supported! If it’s clear there is an audience that wants support, then it’s more likely that the support will come to pass.

 

With 4E not receiving a lot of support and D&D Next still some time away, is Eberron sticking with the D&D system, or able to branch as it’s own?

Eberron is the property of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast, so legally I can’t create new content for it on my own, in any system. I hope that Eberron will be supported in D&D Next and that I will be a part of that, but since it’s currently unknown I’m also developing a new setting, under the working title (and only a working title) Codex. That’s an ongoing, long-term project and I don’t want to discuss it in detail until I have a clear path to release, so expect to hear more about it later in the year.

 

I was wondering what people called ‘The Last War’ before it ended, and when they started using that name.  I know IRL a very small number of people called WWI ‘the first world war’ when it was just starting, but there were a bunch of other names used at the time.

For most of the people of the Five Nations, it was simply known as “the war.” However, if they were talking about it to a Riedran or Aereni, they’d generally refer to it as “The War of Succession” or “The Succession War.” Cyrans would be more likely to call it “The Insurrection” or “The Traitor’s War.”
Is there any story behind who first called it ‘The Last War’?

I don’t think it’s been stated in canon. I believe that the term is first formally used in the preamble of the Treaty of Thronehold, which essentially states that all signatories have seen the horrors wrought in this grievous conflict, and vow to make this the last time that these nations shall take arms against one another – the last war that Khorvaire will know. The Treaty of Thronehold is as well-known across the Five Nations as the Gettysburg Address is in the USA, and everyone knows the preamble. The Brelish claim that it was Boranel who coined the phrase; the Thranes insist it was Keeper Jaela; and so on.

 

If we corelate the Last War to WWI, what would be your take on WWII?

While there are many keystones in WWI that relate to the Last War, the end of the war is much closer to that of WWII: the appearance of a weapon that completely changes the face of modern warfare. While few nations believe the peace will last, and all are jockeying for power, no nation would dare to start a new war until the mystery of the Mourning is revealed. How could Aundair dare to employ wide-scale war magics in the field when it’s possible the widespread use of such magics is what destroyed Cyre? How can they dare attack another nation until they are certain that nation hasn’t harnessed the power of the Mourning? Beyond this, there is the fact that if any nation COULD harness the power of the Mourning and weaponize it, who would dare to challenge them? Until you answer the question of the Mourning, it’s impossible to define the shape of the Next War. Will it be fought with almost no magic to prevent another war? Will it be much like the Last War, once it is revealed that the Mourning was a fluke? Or will the Mourning be weaponized, making the new conflict take a completely different form from the last?

 

What does Eberron look like a thousand years after the era of the printed setting?

What will it look like? A warped wasteland enshrouded by dead-gray mists. Of course, the way things are going it will look like that in just five years.

 

The “facts” about Eberron are “just what is believed.” How far from those “facts” has the truth gotten in your games? And what drove that departure?

I always tell people not to be bound by canon, and to use the books as inspiration rather than limitation. So, how does MY version of Eberron vary from canon? It would take a lot of time to compile an exhaustive list, but here’s a few things.

  • In 4E, I limit many key magical rituals to characters with Dragonmarks; this helps explain why the dragonmarked houses have the economic power that they do, because they are the only source of these critical magics.
  • Related to this, I’ve always put a lot of restrictions on resurrection magic. Casual resurrection simply doesn’t work for most people, and resurrection spells are often dangerous—you might just bring in random hostile ghosts, or get the wrong spirit in the body, etc. I want resurrection to be one of the rare and impressive magics that people are still amazed by, not a reliable service you can purchase from Jorasco. Reliable resurrection is something that would have a tremendous impact on a society, and I don’t feel that Eberron has that taken into account.
  • I’ve always emphasized the idea that dragonshards are an integral part of any sort of industrial magic, from the creation of magic items to common spells. In 4E this is easily accomplished by saying that residuum is processed dragonshards. The point is to emphasize the importance of dragonshards to modern civilization, which helps people understand the power of House Tharashk and the importance of dragonshard-rich regions such as Q’barra and Xen’drik.
  • I hold to the 3E canon idea that Dragonmarks are bound by bloodline. I might allow a PC to have a dragonmark that doesn’t belong, but if I did it would be a historic, campaign-defining event.
  • I never added Baator to the cosmology, as was done in 4th Edition. I like the existing balance of the cosmology and didn’t see a need to change it. With that said, I like the version of Baator I developed for DDI, in which it is a demiplane (so it doesn’t contradict the original material) and in which Asmodeus’ rise to power only occurred around the Mourning—playing up the idea that the Mourning had reverberations across the planes. This also presents the devils of Baator as an entirely new force in the world. Rather than saying that they’ve always been around and figuring out how they have interacted with the Lords of Dust, Quori, etc, this presents them as an entirely new planar faction that is a concern and potential threat to all the long-term power players.
  • I have a very different vision of Thrane than that presented in The Forge of War, but I’ve spoken about this at some length elsewhere.
  • Likewise, I have a very different vision of the Blood of Vol: the tone and practices of the faith, its history in Karrnath, etc. Again, I’ve written about this at length elsewhere. Looking to the “Why,” the point to me is that a successful religion offers some form of comfort to its followers. It is a way to make sense of the universe. The Blood of Vol is a very GRIM religion, but it is nonetheless a faith that seeks to answer questions (first and foremost, what benevolent god would allow death and suffering to exist?) and build strong communities; it is a faith that ultimately seeks to destroy death and create a paradise on Eberron.
  • I’ve done more with sahuagin civilization than has been covered in canon; this is hinted at in The Shattered Land, and comes out a little in the Xen’drik sourcebooks.
  • I don’t use subraces, and don’t feel obliged to find a place for every new monster or race that comes along. I COULD if I wanted, but I generally see no reason to do so. I feel that intelligent races should have a history and sense of place in the world, so I don’t want to add new ones in without good reason.

I could probably go on for pages. As you can see, most of these aren’t huge changes; they’re just little things. But the short form is I do what makes sense to me for the stories I want to run.

 

What if the kalashtar rebellion fuels up quori hatred & empowers Il-Lashtavar preventing a change in Dal Quor?

Quori don’t experience emotion the way most mortals do. They aren’t mercurial beings. They don’t go from love to hate in a single day, or even a year. Like most immortals, they are incarnations of ideas; a tsucora quori is an incarnation of fear, a du’ulora an embodiment of fury, and so on. Essentially, a quori who hates can never STOP hating, or hate any more than it already does; hatred is its nature. The kalashtar quori are an anomaly that must be eradicated so they can be returned to the fold—so the rebellious spirit can be eradicated and restored to its proper nature. So first off, the actions of the kalashtar haven’t actually created MORE hatred among the quori; the quori hate exactly as much as they always have, according to their nature. Mortal dreams can affect Dal Quor—but the quori are part of Dal Quor, and their emotions don’t influence it.

With that said, this is largely while the Adaran kalashtar don’t advocate violence. They believe that the turn of the age will occur; it is inevitable. By meditating on il-Yannah they help strengthen her vision and move towards that new age. But they don’t feel a need to try to hurry the change—and certainly not by a spread of violence and hatred.

If anything will empower il-Lashtavar, it’s not the spread of hatred among the quori that will do it… it’s the spread of hatred through humanity and other mortal dreamers.

 

Dragonmarks 1/30: Dreams, Werewolves, and DM Etiquette

The last post generated quite a few interesting questions, so I decided to push ahead with another round. As always, these are purely my opinions and may contradict canon material.

In general, how much is it worth correcting players who, during play, misremember aspects of a setting?

This depends on a number of different factors.

  • Is the element directly important to the current adventure? Will the flawed recollection interfere with players’ ability to enjoy the story?
  • How will your players respond to being corrected? Will it be a welcome clarification, or cause irritation?
  • Is the misremembered element something that is especially important to you or your interpretation of Eberron? Is it something fundamental (the Last War was fought between the Five Nations, not between Galifar and Riedra) or a point of trivia that actual people in Eberron might not know (according to Faiths of Eberron, House Medani helped end the lycanthropic purge by creating a focus item that identified lycanthropes).

As someone who travels the world running Eberron games, I often have players who aren’t familiar with the setting. Perhaps I’ve got a player in a one-shot who is treating his warforged like a robot. I know that there’s lots of differences between warforged and robots. But his interpretation isn’t going to interfere with the one-shot adventure, and my explaining the differences will frustrate him rather than improve his enjoyment of things. On the other hand, if I had that same player in a campaign that was going to last for a year and involve interactions with other warforged, House Cannith, and the Lord of Blades, I probably would explain the differences so he’d have the proper context for his interactions with these forces. And if someone said “This ‘Last War’ was fought against the goblins, right?” I’d explain it right away.

Codex sounds very interesting. When will we be able to know more about it? I’d like to know if you’ll create it entirely on your own or if supporters will somehow participate, as happened with the Midgard campaign setting.

I will be writing a longer post about it sometime within the next week; I have a few deadlines I need to deal with first. I’ll address the design process in that post.

Concerning colonization… wasn’t Stormreach originally a colonial post of Galifar?

No. This is discussed in more detail in City of Stormreach. It was established as an outpost by pirates and legitimized by a compact with Galifar, but it was never subject to Galifar’s laws or authority, and it wasn’t settled according to any sort of royal plan.

Secondly, is there room for unknown continents in Eberron?

There’s room for anything in Eberron if you want to come up with a story for it. But a mystery continent is a big add, because Eberron has been well-explored. From dragons to gnomes to elves, you’ve had a host of intelligent, sophisticated races exploring the world. How did this continent go undiscovered? Was it hidden by magic? Has it just risen from the ocean floor? Or have people known about it but never gone there, and if so, why has that changed?

By contrast, Codex is set during a period of exploration, and the potential to discover new lands is one opportunity for people to add their own flavor to the setting.

Are there concepts or facets of Eberron that seem intrinsically influenced or tied to certain editions, such as 3E where it was debuted and 4E where it got its (arguably) first big makeover? As a DM I feel pretty confident in my ability to fit rules, story and player expectations into a package everyone will have fun with, but I’m curious if the issue’s ever come up with the mighty Hellcow.

Not big ones, but sure, there’s a lot of little things. A few examples:

  • Eberron was originally designed for D&D 3E, but by the time it was released D&D was up to 3.5. The changes might seem fairly minor, but they can still have an impact. Notably, in 3E, any lycanthrope can spread the curse; if you’re bitten by a werewolf and turned, you can bite me and turn me. This was the impetus for the Lycanthropic Purge: lycanthropy is a dangerous contagious curse that could easily spread out of control if not contained. But 3.5 changed this so that only natural-born lycanthropes could spread the curse; a true werewolf could bite you and turn you, but you couldn’t pass it to me. This completely changes the exponential threat potential and makes the Purge seem like overkill. Hence we shifted the story to say that back in the time of the Purge, the curse was stronger and all ‘thropes were infectious; the Purge weakened it, so it’s no longer the threat it once was.
  • The first Thorn of Breland novel was written during the 3.5 era. In 3.5, dragons possess blindsight, and this plays a role in the story. Likewise, Thorn is very much a 3.5 Assassin; if she gets a little while to watch you, she can do a sudden death strike, and she knows a handful of spells (disguise self, spider climb, etc). In 4E, dragons DON’T possess blindsight, and at the time of the second novel, there were no rules for assassins. I ended up simply ignoring most of these things… though I did address the Eladrin in the third Thorn novel.

Races would probably be the biggest change; with 4E, we wanted a place for the new core PHB races – dragonborn and eladrin. I feel we did a reasonably good job of fitting these in without dramatically changing the world, and I like the role of the Eladrin. But it did take some thought.

In general, Eberron was designed with 3E D&D in mind – but it can certainly be adapted to any system.

All this time I thought it was the Silver Flame Church who started the anti-Lycanthrope purge, not the Flame itself/Tira!

If you haven’t read it, I’d take a look at this Dragonshard article about the Purge. A lot of people have the wrong idea about the Purge, and think that the Keeper got up one day and said “You know what I feel like doing? Hunting down lycanthropes who are minding their own business.” In fact, the Purge began as a war of defense and containment after there was an exponential surge in lycanthropy in what is now the Eldeen Reaches. Waves of lycanthropes were raiding Aundair, and at that time the curse was highly contagious. I like to describe it as “28 Days Later with werewolves instead of zombies.” The first days of the “Purge” were much like the marines versus the xenomorphs in Aliens: brutal and terrifying. One to one, very few templars were a match for a lycanthrope, and one bite is all it takes to turn an ally into an enemy. After years of bloody conflict the tide turned in favor of the Silver Flame, but it was no easy battle. The decades of persecution that followed were fueled by a hunger for revenge, especially on the part of the Aundairians who had lost homes, friends, and family to the lycanthrope plague. This is why the Aundairian Pure Flame are the most zealous and aggressive followers of the Silver Flame; their branch of the faith was born in war and vengeance.

And lastly, it says in Faiths of Eberron that the Lycanthropic Purge ended shortly after House Medani invented a dragonshard focus that could detect lycanthropes. Do you have any thoughts on how this item would function?

I didn’t work on Faiths of Eberron, so I don’t know what the author had in mind. As a dragonshard focus item, it would require an heir of the house to operate it. Other than that, I’d have it function as best fits your story. It could be a tracker a la Aliens, which notes general position and distance, but not complete details; this would allow you to maintain some mystery. “There’s definitely a werewolf in this room… but which of us is it?” If you want to kill that mystery, it could be a monocle that reveals the lycanthrope’s true shape, but thus only works with line of sight.

It says in the Eberron Campaign Setting that “when mortals dream, they psychically project their minds to Dal Quor.” What about immortals? Could a bound rakshasa rajah in suspended animation find a way to project his mind to Dal Quor?

The basic idea is that mortal spirits are influenced by all of the planes, and pulled between them. We slip into Dal Quor when we dream. We’re pulled to Dolurrh when we die. Beyond this, we are creatures of body and soul; it’s the spirit that visits Dal Quor when you dream, leaving your body behind.

Meanwhile, immortals are physical embodiments of ideas. This has two aspects. First, the immortal doesn’t dream the way mortals do. Its body isn’t mere flesh: it’s a physical representation of its spirit. The two don’t separate. If it wants to go to Dal Quor, it goes there in one piece. So it doesn’t “dream”, but it could planar travel. This ties to the second point. The mortals of Eberron are touched by all planes. War and peace, light and darkness, madness and dream; all of these things shape mortal minds. An immortal is a creature of one shade. It is PURE war, unadulterated madness or dream. It is a physical embodiment of the core ideas of its plane. A rakshasa or a Fernian balor has no innate connection to Dal Quor; dreams aren’t part of their core identity.

Having said that, could a Khyberian Overlord find a way to project itself into Dal Quor? Sure. If that’s the story you want to have happen, make an explanation. Perhaps Bel Shalor’s connection to the Silver Flame lets it ride mortal spirits into Dal Quor. Perhaps the followers of the Voice In The Darkness have created an eldritch machine that lets her push into the realm of dreams. If you want it to happen, decide what it takes. But it’s not normal, and it would be a significant event.

Furthermore, it also states that “the only way to reach Dal Quor from the Material Plane is through the psychic projection of dreaming.” Does this mean that only mortals on the material plane dream? What about mortals on other planes? What about mortals from the material plane traveling to other planes?

As noted above, creatures of Eberron are inherently shaped by all of the planes, and it its this connection to Dal Quor that lets us go there when we dream. Many of the planes don’t HAVE mortal inhabitants… or their mortal inhabitants are immigrants (or descendants of immigrants) from the material plane. I would say that most native mortals don’t go to Dal Quor when they sleep; in this I’ll point to the Eladrin, who don’t dream. Do traveling mortals dream? I’d say it depends on the plane. In Fernia, you might dream in Dal Quor; however, planes such as Baator (well, demiplanes) or Dolurrh might have a spiritual gravity that prevents you from escaping through dreams.

Do some noble lords have their own armies, as in feudal societies?

Yes and no. If you look to Karrnath, while the army has a national command structure, individual forces are raised and maintained by the noble families; the leaders of each family are known as warlords. So while the army typically serves the coordinated vision of the king, every soldier is personally loyal to a specific warlord, and any warlord could choose to remove his support from the king – something Kaius has to keep in mind. While this has been specifically called out in Karrnath, I imagine it’s the basic model for most of the nations: nobles are charged to raise and maintain elements of the national armies. Beyond this, there’s nothing stopping nobles from having their own private forces. The only restriction that’s ever been mentioned is the Korth Edicts, which prevent Dragonmarked Houses from having armies. If a noble of Galifar wants an army and can afford to maintain it, that’s their business.