IFAQ: Medusa Fashions and the Population of Darguun!

Tashka of Threshold, by Julio Azevedo

As time allows, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s two from this month!

Now that Medusae have begun to leave Cazhaak Draal for various purposes, have eyeblinders become a commonplace part of their culture or are they only used in the east to make the squishier races feel at ease?

“You aren’t in your Five Nations any more,” Sheshka said. She had sheathed her sword, but her voice was deadly. “You have come to my home. Your soldier threatened me with a blindfold. A blindfold, on my soil. Would I come into your castle and strip away your sword, or demand that you wear chains?”

“We can’t kill with a glance,” Beren said.

“And that excuses your threat to pluck out my eyes? Should I cut off your hands so you cannot strangle me?” The medusa’s eyelids fluttered, but remained closed. “Hand, tooth, steel – we are all deadly.”

The Queen of Stone

Canonically, while in the cities of the Five Nations a medusa is expected to wear eyeblinders, described as a metal visor that straps around the forehead and chin and takes multiple rounds to remove; in especially high-security situations, the straps can be secured with a lock. Of course, this varies by location; in a small village in Karrnath the sheriff surely doesn’t have a set of eyeblinders lying around, and in Callestan in Sharn, who exactly is going to demand the medusa put on eyeblinders? In such situations, a medusa will often wear a veil or more comfortable blindfold, as Tashka is modeling in the image accompanying this article. Such a blindfold doesn’t offer as much security as a set of eyeblinders, since it could be removed in a single action, but it’s a compromise; you don’t have to worry unless I take it off.

With this in mind, have blindfolds become part of standard medusa fashion? Do medusas wear blindfolds in Graywall or the Great Crag, or even in Cazhaak Draal? Definitely not. Medusas are perfectly capable of controlling their deadly gaze. Let’s start with simple mechanics. Here’s the 5E interpretation of the ability in question.

Petrifying Gaze. When a creature that can see the medusa’s eyes starts its turn within 30 feet of the medusa, the medusa can force it to make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw if the medusa isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature.

I’ve bolded the key word there—they can force someone to make a saving throw, but they don’t have to. While some people may interpret this as meaning that the medusa can choose to look you straight in the eye and not petrify you, how I interpret it in my campaign is that the medusa can never turn off their power, but that they have to look you directly in the eye to make it work and they’re very good at avoiding such accidental eye contact… and if they really want to play it safe, they can just close their eyes. This is something discussed in a canonical Dragonshard article…

The gaze of a medusa can petrify even an ally, and as a result, a medusa does not meet the gaze of a person with whom it is conversing. Where she directs her eyes indicates her esteem for the person. She drops her eyes toward the ground to show respect, or looks up and over the person if she wishes to indicate disdain; when speaking to an equal, she glances to the left or right. If she wishes to show trust, she directs her gaze to the person, but closes her eyes.

While this may seem inconvenient to a human, it has little impact on a medusa. If a medusa concentrates, she can receive limited visual impressions from the serpents that make up her hair; as a result, though she seems to look elsewhere, she’s actually looking through the eyes of her serpents. She can even use her serpents to see when she is blindfolded or has her eyes closed. However, she can still “see” in only one direction in this way; her serpents may look all around her, but she can’t process the information from all of them at once.

While I like the idea of looking up or down to signal respect when dealing with an individual, things get a little trickier on a crowded city street where accidental eye contact could easily happen—but in such a situation, again, all the medusa has to do is to close their eyes. To me, this is the absolute reason a medusa can’t petrify you by accident, and why you only have to make that saving throw if they choose to force you to; if they don’t want to hurt you, they’ll close their eyes.

So, with this in mind, no, medusas don’t wearing eyeblinders when they’re at home. The power of the medusa is a gift of the Shadow and they are proud of this gift; it’s not their job to calm your fears. And as Sheshka points out, everyone is dangerous, especially in Droaam; no one expects gargoyles to file down their claws, or Xorchylic to bind his tentacles. Demanding that a medusa cover their eyes is demeaning and shows a lack of trust. They’ll put up with it when the local laws require it, though even then they may skirt it (as with Tashka wearing a blindfold instead of full eyeblinders). But they certainly aren’t going to wear a blindfold while at home just to make you more comfortable.

Can you explain the demographics of Darguun? According to the ECS, only 6% of the population is human. How did it go from being a human-dominant nation to just 6%?

First of all, we need to address the tribex in the room, and that is that population numbers in Eberron have never been realistic. In part this is because we’ve never entirely agreed on the scale of the map; there’s also the broader question of whether population numbers should reflect medieval traditions (as was typical for D&D at the time the ECS was released) or if, given that society’s advances are more like late 19th century Earth, the population should reflect that as well. Consider that in 1900, London was home to five million people… while in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting, Breland only has a total population of 3.7 million.

For this reason, the 3.5 ECS is the only book that actually gives population numbers for the nations; neither the 4E ECG or 5E’s Rising From The Last War do. Because at the end of the day, the exact number usually isn’t important. What matters is that we know that Aundair has the lowest population of the Five Nations and that Breland has the highest. It’s good to know that Sharn is the largest city in the Five Nations, even if I’d personally magnify its listed population by a factor of five or more. So I DO use the numbers given in the Eberron Campaign Setting, but what I use are the demographics break-downs—for example, the idea that dwarves make up a significant portion of the population of Breland, but are relatively rare in Aundair—while I use the population numbers just as a way of comparing one nation to another, so I know the population of Breland is almost twice that of Aundair.

So: I use the stats of the ECS, but I use them for purposes of comparing one nation to another, not for purposes of setting an absolute number. With that in mind, let’s look back to the original question: Is it strange that humans only make up 6% of the population of Darguun? In my opinion, not at all. The key is to understand the difference between the Darguun uprising and the Last War as a whole. During the Last War, the Five Nations were fighting over who was the rightful heir to the throne of Galifar. As discussed in this article, the goal—at least at the start—was reunification, and the question was who would be in charge. It was never a total war; the Five Nations agreed on the rules of war and whenever possible, avoided targeting civilian populations or critical civic infrastructure.

None of this applied to the Darguun uprising. The ECS observes that “Over the course of the Last War, most of the towns, temples, and fortresses in the region were razed and abandoned.” Not conquered and occupied: razed and abandoned. The Darguuls didn’t have the numbers to rule as occupiers, so they DESTROYED what they couldn’t control, driving the people away or killing them. It was an intensely brutal, ugly conflict, driven both by history—in the eyes of the Darguuls, the people of Cyre were the chaat’oor who had stolen the land and brutalized their ancestors—and by the fact that it needed to be swift and brutal, to maximize the impact before the Cyrans could regroup. By the time central Cyre was truly aware of the situation in southern Cyre, there was nothing left to save.

So I think the the demographic percentages are reasonable; I think most of that human 6% have actually come to Darguun after the war to do business or as expatriates of other nations. This ties to the point that Darguun is a nation of ruins—again, as the ECS says, “most of the towns, temples, and fortresses were razed and abandoned.” In my Eberron, the population of Darguun is far lower today than it was before the uprising; again, part of the reason for the brutality was because they didn’t have the numbers to rule through occupation. Darguuls are slowly reclaiming ruined towns and cities, building their own towns on the foundations just as humanity built many of its greatest cities on Dhakaani foundations—but overall, much of Darguun is filled with abandoned ruins that have yet to be reclaimed.

This brings up another important point. I agree with the demographic percentages of the ECS, but I think the listed population of Darguun is too high. Darguun is listed as having a population of 800,000. Again, I’m not concerned with that actual number—I’m concerned with how it compares to other nations. At 800,000, Darguun is the size of the Lhazaar Principalities, Zilargo, and Valenar combined. The whole idea of Darguun is that a relatively small force laid waste to the region because they lacked the numbers to conquer it. Now, in my Eberron the goblin population has swelled since the uprising. Haruuc’s people—the Ghaal’dar—were based in the Seawall Mountains and the lands around it. The dar were scattered and living in caverns, peaks, deep woods. As word spread of a goblin nation, tribes and clans came to Darguun from elsewhere in Khorvaire—from deeper in Zilargo, from Valenar, from central Cyre. This ties to the reasons Haruuc often has difficulty exercising control. The Ghaal’dar support him and they are the largest single block; but there are many subcultures that have their own traditions and aspirations. The Marguul are one example that’s been called out in canon, but there’s many more like this—dar immigrants who have come to the region with their own traditions. Notably, in Kanon I have a goblin culture from deep in the Khraal rain forest that is quite different from the Ghaal’dar, who came from the mountains and caverns. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t result in a nation with the highest population of any nation outside of the main five. By the standards of the ECS—so again, ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF COMPARING IT TO OTHER NATIONS—I’d set the population of Darguun at around 230,000. That’s significantly higher than Valenar and on par with Q’barra or Zilargo, but less than a tenth of one of the Five Nations, and low enough to reflect the idea that most of the cities in the region are still unclaimed ruins.

That’s all for now! Because this is an IFAQ, I will not be answering further questions on these topics, but feel free to discuss your thoughts and ideas in the comments. And if you want support the site and pose questions that might be answered in future articles, join my Patreon!

Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 2/17/18

I’m going to fall off the grid for a week, and I don’t have time for a well thought out post before I go… so I decided to do a quick lightning round of short-answer Eberron questions before I go! As always, these are just my personal opinions and might contradict canon material. Let’s go!

Are there any Eberron NPCs that are a Keith Baker avatar, or any that you put more of yourself into?

When we created Eberron, we made a conscious choice not to include NPCs like Drizzt or Elminster. Essentially, I want Eberron to be focused on the stories of YOUR characters… not mine. So I didn’t go into it with the idea of creating a personal avatar. With that said, I had to stop and think if there’s an NPC I’m particularly invested in… but really, I like ALL of them. I’m fond of the Daughters of Sora Kell, but I feel equally attached to Oalian, to Aaren d’Cannith, to Sheshka and Steel. I put a piece of myself into anything I make.

What would it take for Droaam to become a legally recognized entity in Khorvaire?

My novel The Queen of Stone posits a summit in Droaam where representatives of the Thronehold nations convene to discuss exactly this, and that’s what it would take: a majority of the Thronehold nations supporting the idea. You can read the novel to see one way that might turn out…

I can’t seem to find any direct interaction between Darguun and Droaam in the source books. How do they view each other?

I don’t see any particular bond between the two nations. It’s not like they’re somehow united because “We’re all monsters.” Medusas, trolls, harpies, werewolves — all of these things are just as frightening to a goblin as to a human. There ARE goblins in Droaam, but they have no common culture with Darguun… in part because the goblins of Droaam have been oppressed by ogres and trolls and other scary monsters for centuries. Add this to the fact that Droaam has only been around for eleven years. One of the main obstacles to Droaam being recognized is getting anyone to believe that it will actually exist ten years from now. Most of the other nations assume it’s going to collapse any day now… and Darguun is no exception to this.

WITH THAT SAID, as with all things in Eberron, the real question is what do you WANT the answer to be? What works for your story? Darguun is a Thronehold nation, but it is on shaky ground itself. Might Haruuc see an alliance with Droaam as strengthening his position? Or conversely, might he feel that Droaam has nothing to offer his people… and that a perceived relationship will actually tarnish his standing with the other Thronehold nations? Might he actually condemn or dismiss Droaam in an effort to avoid being painted as “another monster nation?” And if that were the case, I could easily see Sora Katra making an arrangement with one of Haruuc’s rivals… perhaps instigating a coup in Darguun to bring Katra’s puppet to power.

Meanwhile, what about the Dhakaani? They’d surely see the goblins of Droaam as a tremendous disappointment, fallen even further than the Ghaal’dar. But I still imagine that the Khesh’dar have agents hidden among the goblins of Greywall… waiting to see how the wind will blow.

So: as it stands, Darguun is a Thronehold nation and Droaam is not. There’s no common culture between their goblin populations and thus no concrete connection. Where do you want it to go next?

Can you talk about the shadow in the flame — Bel Shalor — before he/she was imprisoned during the Age of Demons?

Bel Shalor is covered in detail in the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide. He has some overlap with Eldrantulku; both turn allies against one another. But in contrast to the Oathbreaker, the Shadow in the Flame is more about corruption… of the good person convinced to do evil, whether they believe it serves a greater good or whether they are convinced to abandon their ideals. One school of thought suggests that Bel Shalor is the inspiration for the legend of the Shadow; if true, this would mean that Bel Shalor might have taught the dragon Ourelonastrix the ways of magic or even revealed the Prophecy to the first loredrake. If THAT is true, then Bel Shalor might have set in motion the events that resulted in the creation of the Silver Flame and the defeat of the Overlords. But there are also those who believe Bel Shalor’s “defeat” at the hands of Tira Miron may have been planned all along; that being intimately connected to the Silver Flame and able to whisper to all who hear it may have been what Bel Shalor wanted all along.

This ties to the idea that the Overlords aren’t HUMAN. They don’t want the things we want. They embody their ideas and derive joy from DOING what they embody. The Rage of War doesn’t drive conflict because he wants territory; what he wants is war, because that is what he IS. As such, Bel Shalor may be exactly where he wants to be — safely hidden where all assume he is harmless, yet in a position to manipulate and corrupt some of the most noble people in Eberron. Again, it’s entirely possible that Tira’s victory was a trick… and that the true victory will be when a new generation of heroes finds a way to separate Bel Shalor from the Silver Flame and somehow restore his original prison. Perhaps that’s a job for your PCs…

Do you have any ideas, in brief, for what immediate events are likely if the timeline were to advance for a few years?

That’s not a good question for a lightning round. There’s LOTS of things that could happen, and they intersect in many ways. To name just a few: King Boranel dies… does a successor take the throne, or does Breland end the monarchy? This intersects with Droaam: is Droaam recognized as a Thronehold nation, or does it go to war with Breland? When Lhesh Haruuc dies, does Darguun fall into chaos? Does a new leader rise from the Ghaal’dar? Or do the Dhakaani take over, and if so, who becomes their Emperor or Empress? The Valenar want a war… does someone take them up on it? Do the Inspired establish a stronger foothold in Q’barra? What happens with the Mourning… does someone find a way to harness its power, or failing that, to prove it’s no longer a threat? That’s just two minutes of thinking. If I had more time I could raise many more possibilities (we haven’t even touched on the Dragonmarked houses), how they intersect, and what seems most likely to me, but I don’t have that time.

Would Tritons (the 5e race) fit anywhere in Eberron? Would you use them instead of your previous ideas for merfolk, or as something else?

Certainly there’s a place for tritons in Eberron. But I’d want to think carefully about what that place should be. In 5E, tritons are fully amphibious and can live on land indefinitely, which isn’t an option for merfolk or sahuagin; if tritons were as widespread or as ancient as those other two races, I’d expect much more interaction between the surface and the water. Given that, I’d either say that tritons are a recent development or that they limited to a particular area. If they’re few in number they could have been created by Mordain the Fleshweaver or even magebred by House Vadalis – a dramatic breakthrough! If they’re tied to a particular area, it could be that they only breed true in manifest zones tied to Risia or Lamannia. Short form: there’s definitely a place for them, but I’d want to think about it carefully, and wouldn’t just use them in place of merfolk.

I feel like there’s not as much about Halflings as there’s been about elves and gnomes, dwarves, orcs and goblins. 

This is true, and I think it’s a good topic for a full post in the future.

What would be a good way for the Emerald Claw (and Lady Vol) to influence Karrnathi politics in the post war?

One option, off the top of my head: To accuse Kaius of embracing peace when Karrnath could have won the war, and of making too many concessions to the other nations to preserve that peace. Beyond that, back some other warlord as the true worthy ruler of the nation — the person who will sweep aside the nation’s decline under the Wynarns and restore Karrnath to greatness. A question is whether they publicly support the Blood of Vol as a tool that can help towards this goal… or if they play down that connection.

How would a Blood of Vol cleric justify an interaction with actually seeing and interacting with spirits of people they know?

They don’t have to “justify” it. The existence of ghosts or preserved spirits doesn’t violate the ideas of the Blood of Vol. The faith is grounded on the concrete fact that after death, souls are naturally drawn to Dolurrh, where they dissipate. Speak with Dead deals with the residual memories of the deceased and doesn’t change the fact that their spirits are lost. Meanwhile, lingering ghosts are no different from vampires or mummies; it’s great that they’ve managed to avoid dissolution in Dolurrh, but they’ve still lost their blood and divine spark. If the spirit has maintained full consciousness, that’s great! If it’s become some sort of predatory wraith, then the Blood of Vol cleric would be first in line to destroy it to protect the living.

Would a Death Domain Cleric fit in with the Aerenal philosophy?

Not easily, no. The Undying Court is fueled by POSITIVE energy and disapproves of channelling negative energy, which appears to be the focus of the Death Domain cleric. The Deathguard are willing to overlook spellcasters occasionally dabbling in negative necromancy, but a cleric who’s entirely about that doesn’t seem to fit in. It’s a far more logical match for the Bloodsail elves, who are the spiritual descendants of the original line of Vol… or someone who’s following the teachings of the ancient Qabalrin.

Do you think 5e’s magic item system fits Eberron as is or it would need changes? And the way they are bought and sold?

That’s a bigger topic than I can cover here. The short form is that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything goes a long way towards resolving these issues, introducing *A* system for creating magic items and introducing common magic items. It’s a question of defining what magic items fall under Eberron’s “wide magic” umbrella and what should be rare.

In several cases you pointed out that true dragonmarks are constructive rather then destructive. In dragonmarked, however, the jorasco prestige class uses the mark of healing for destructive, killing purposes. Do you feel it as a contradiction? Do you like the idea of that prestige class?

I didn’t create the nosomantic chirugeon, but I have no problem with it. I DID create the black dog, the Ghallanda prestige class that specializes in using the Mark of Hospitality to poison people. The whole point of the prestige classes is that they are people who are learning to use their mark in WAYS THEY AREN’T MEANT TO WORK… and most members of their own houses distrust or despise members of those classes. And again, in Eberron player character classes represent a rare and remarkable level of skill… which means that people with prestige classes are EXCEPTIONALLY rare and remarkable. So again, these classes don’t represent the natural evolution of the mark; they represent people taking a tool designed to do something positive and finding a way to use it as a weapon.

Do your gnomes draw more from 3.5 or 4e? Speaking to their physical appearance and the more explicit fey connection. 

Somewhere in between? I’m fine with the idea that there are gnomes in Thelanis and in some of the Feyspires, but that doesn’t somehow change my view of the evolution of the gnomes of Zilargo (who are noted as existing in a less civilized state during the Dhakaani Empire). So I’m fine with the idea that tens of thousands of years ago a group of gnomes were dropped out of Thelanis for some reason and ended up becoming the gnomes of Eberron. So any connection they might have to Thelanis is so far in the distant past that it has no significant impact on them in the present day… and it’s more an interesting curiosity than relevant to the modern gnome.

As for physical appearance, personally I like the 4E take on gnomes. This image above — Fred Hooper’s work from the Eberron Campaign Guide — is one of my favorite Zil images, doubly so because the woman in red is clearly casting a spell behind HER back.

Do the Quori and/or Dreaming Dark have any fears of the lords of madness or denizens of Xoriat? 

Why wouldn’t they? Immortals don’t necessarily fear death the way mortals do, but anything that can alter their fundamental consciousness or personality is legitimately terrifying. Beyond this, the Quori don’t understand the Daelkyr any more than humanity does… and as Lovecraft says, the greatest fear is fear of the unknown.

How does the Dreaming Dark react to other powerful influences on the world such as the Daelkyr/Cult of Dragon Below or Lords of Dust?

None of the major threats are buddies, which is one of the things that gives players a chance. The Dreaming Dark may not want to directly engage the Daelkyr or the Lords of Dust, but having an Overlord unleashed would certainly wreck al their carefully laid plans. So this is where you could have agents of a villainous force assisting PCs who are fighting against a different villainous force. At the same time, bear in mind that it’s not like they all have perfect awareness of one another. The Dreaming Dark doesn’t have a list of secret agents of the Lords of Dust or vice versa, and generally they WANT to avoid triggering conflict with other great powers when they can.

Would the Swords of Liberty have active campaigns against Cyran refugees in Breland and/or Prince Oargev?

Not defined in canon. It’s definitely a possible storyline for them, but it’s up to you what sort of spin you want to put on them. One possible approach for the Swords of Liberty is that they put democracy first – that they are first and foremost opposed to the feudal system and are interested in toppling monarchies across Khorvaire. In this case they might welcome Cyran refugees to their cause, saying that they are comrades in arms in the struggle to build NEW nations — though they’d definitely be opposed to Oargev, as the last remnant of a corrupt system. On the other hand, you could also choose to make them Brelish supremacists, interested only in perfecting their own nation — in which case they would definitely see Cyran refugees as a threat. Personally I’d do both; say that there’s different cells of the SoL that approach their goals in different ways. Thus you might have players who find they are sympathetic to some of the Swords, while opposing others.

That’s all I have time for! Feel free to post additional questions and thoughts below, but I’ll be off the internet for a week. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this blog going.

Dragonmarks 12/21: Is Boranel Evil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is related to another question…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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