The Dark Six: The Devourer

This image by Vincentius Matthews doesn’t actually depict the Devourer, but hey, oceans.

In the dawn times, the Sovereigns of the natural world chose to share their gifts with mortals. Arawai taught the first farmers, but she also showed us how to work with wood and heal with herbs. Balinor taught us both how to hunt game, and how to work with the horse and hound. Together these Sovereigns showed us how to harness these gifts of the natural world. Arawai and Balinor sought to lift us up, but there was another who sought to tear us down. The Devourer despised the first people and their civilization, seeing them only as prey. This struggle continues to this day. Arawai showed us how to harness the wind for sail and mill, but the Devourer sends winds that snap masts shatter buildings. Kol Korran taught us to build ships, and the Devourer delights in sinking them. Onatar showed us how to harness fire, but it’s the Devourer who smiles when the uncontrolled flame engulfs a city. The Sovereigns guide us when we work with nature—but we must always be careful and cautious, for the Devourer is ever ready to bring the power of the wilds down upon us.

Phthaso Mogan, High Priest of Sharn

You humans see the wilds as a thing that must be tamed. You fight it, caging it in your fields and binding it with leash and chain. We embrace the storm, running with the wind and dancing through the fire. We know that flame paves the way for new growth, that culling the weak strengthens the pack. You fear the Devourer; we ARE the Devourer.

Khaar’kala of the Great Pack

Arawai and Balinor embody mortal dominion over the natural world. Arawai grants power over flora, while Balinor grants power over fauna—guiding both the hunter and those who domesticate animals. But the Devourer is there to remind us that the wild can never be truly bound. We must never grow too arrogant or complacent; we must never forget to respect the power of nature. Because when we do, the Devourer will be there with wind, with flame, with tooth and with claw.

More than any other Sovereign, the interpretation of the Devourer varies dramatically from culture to culture, driven by the relationship of culture and species to the natural world. The Pyrinean interpretation of the Devourer reflects a fundamental fear of the untamed wild, while the sahuagin Sha’argon is the paragon of a species of carnivores who believe the strong should consume the weak. The Church of the Wyrm Ascendant depicts the Devourer as a dragon turtle while Arawai and Boldrei are traditional dragons; this reflects the fact that the Sovereigns walk among humanoids and guide them, while the Devourer lurks in bitter isolation in the deepest water, sinking ships and lashing the land with hurricanes. Ultimately, it’s a question of whether a civilization fears nature’s wrath, or whether it seeks to embrace primal power.

NATURE’S WRATH: The Pyrinean Creed

As described in the quote from Phthaso Mogan, the Pyrinean Creed asserts that the Sovereigns showed their vassals how to control the natural world. Arawai guides those who harvest, while Balinor guides those who hunt. Both reflect our power to impose our will on nature. In this vision of the world, the Devourer reflects the fact that we can’t ever fully control nature. The Devourer is the explanation for natural disasters and tragedies. It is the Devourer who sink ships and levels villages with wildfires and hurricanes. It’s the Devourer who guides the wolves who prey upon our sheep. The important thing to understand is that under the Pyrinean Creed, there is no benevolent aspect to the Devourer. The Devourer, Arawai, and Balinor are differentiated by the outcome, not by the tool that produces that outcome. It’s common for vassals to associate Arawai with gentle rains and the Devourer with scouring storms. But if gentle rains come in sufficient quantities to cause devastating floods, they are a tool of the Devourer; while if a region relies on monsoons to irrigate land, vassals will see those nuturing storms as gifts of Arawai. A shepherd curses predatory wolves as teeth of the Devourer, but might well have a magebreed wolf that’s been domesticated by House Vadalis guarding their flock; whether a wolf is associated with Balinor or the Devourer is determined by the outcome of interacting with it.

So under this view, there is nothing benevolent about the Devourer… and yet, he is part of everyday life. The farmer thanks Arawai for her guidance but is ever fearful of the Devourer’s wrath. Because of this, Vassals who regularly deal with dangerous natural forces often make placatory offerings to the Devourer. The principle is that the Devourer will have his due. If you benefit from working with the natural world, the Devourer will eventually come to even the scales; but if you make an offer willingly, he may accept it and pass you by. Among Vassals, it’s common to burn a fraction of the yield after a harvest; skeptics simply burn the dross, while devout Vassals base the burn on their own prosperity and what they have to lose. Vassal sailors trust Kol Korran to guide them, but many also cultivate a relationship with the Devourer and make an offering when their vessel reaches deep water. This could be anything from a single crown to a lock of hair, a poem, or something more precious; it depends on the perceived danger of the voyage and where they feel they stand with the Lord of the Depths. Again, there is no thought of benevolence here; it’s much like playing poker with a very dangerous opponent, with the question being how well you know your enemy and what you can get away with on this voyage. While common, this is still a superstition and there are some captains who won’t abide it on their ships, whether they assert that it’s a foolish waste of resources or that making offerings to the Devourer is more likely to draw his attention than to placate him.

The Three Faces of the Wild

The Three Faces of the Wild is a mystery cult within the Five Nations. Much like its counterparts, it honors members of both Sovereigns and Six: in this case, Arawai, Balinor, and Shargon. The Three Faces of the Wild acknowledge Shargon—the Devourer—as the primal force of untamed nature, but don’t depict him as inherently malevolent. Shargon demands people respect nature and maintain the balance between nature and civilization… and should they forget, or disrupt the balance due to greed or ignorance, he will remind them of nature’s might. Followers of the Three Faces of the Wild recognize that many disasters can be avoided—not by making a sacrifice or burning a field, but by understanding the interactions between civilization and nature. When a village suffers severe floods, rather than cursing the Devourer, perhaps don’t build your village in a flood plain. Followers of the Three Faces practice free range grazing and low-impact farming, and oppose techniques that they see as causing lasting harm to the world. This often leads them to oppose industrial advances that they see as threatening the natural world, and there have been clashes between Three Faces sects and House Vadalis or House Cannith enclaves, not to mention mundane damming and logging operations. Outright violence is rare; the sect prefers to solve problems with social engineering. However, this is still a potential source of environmental conflict in the heart of the Five Nations—and dangerous zealots can take root in an otherwise benevolent branch of this sect.

Champions of the Devourer

Beyond the Three Faces and placatory offerings, there’s little worship of the Devourer within the Five Nations; he’s a force to be feared and placated, not idolized. As a result, champions of the Devourer are rare and remarkable—and often dangerous.

  • The Storm Herald is a wandering priest who travels through agricultural regions. When a Storm Herald comes to a community, they will call together the Vassals and have them organize a communal feast. At this feast the Herald calls on people to discuss their profit and loss, the blessings they’ve received from the Sovereigns and what is owed to the Devourer. Sacrifices are made both through the feast itself and through additional burnt offerings at the feast. The principle is that the Storm Herald helps the community buy a period of prosperity, carrying disaster away when they leave. Storm heralds are extremely rare, mainly known through stories; in these stories, some are good people who are truly trying to help the innocents avoid disaster while others are extortionists running supernatural protection rackets—unless I am satisfied, there WILL be a disaster.
  • The Lightning Rod is another figure typically only encountered in stories or plays—someone blessed or cursed by the Devourer, who draws disaster wherever they go. Wherever they go, they are plagued by predators, bad weather, spontaneous fires, and other minor phenomena. The longer they stay in one place, the worse these manifestations will get. In stories, some lightning rods manage to weaponize this effect, becoming storm sorcerers or Ancients paladins—but even these champions need to keep moving, lest the disasters that dog their heels destroy the people they care about.
  • The Zealot is an extremist who despises civilization and industry. A typical zealot becomes infuriated by a particular manifestation of civilization—a new Tharahsk mine, a Vadalis ranch, a lightning rail line driving across their field, or even just a group of local farmers cutting down a tranquil grove—and their intense devotion to its destruction unlocks divine power. Devourer zealots generally have more in common with cults of the Dragon Below than with druidic sects. They typically lack organization or deep tradition—often involving a single divinely inspired individual—and are usually driven by an ever-growing obsession with the destruction of their target. Should a zealot achieve their goal, they could snap out of that obsession and return to normal life, or they could latch on to a new and even greater obsession; having destroyed the Orien ranch near their village, they’re now determined to destroy the house enclave in the nearby city, continually escalating until their finally fall in battle. While zealots can be tied to the Three Faces of the Wild, what characterizes the zealot is their obsession with destroying their target and the degree of supernatural power they wield; a Three Faces sect might try to negotiate with an environmental offender or to otherwise find a peaceful solution, while a zealot sees themselves as the vengeful hand of the wild.

House Lyrandar: The Kraken’s Brood

The basic doctrine of House Lyrandar maintains that the Mark of Storms is a blessing granted by Arawai and Kol Korran, a gift to help the Khoravar prosper. However, these is a sect within the house that claims that holds more sinister beliefs. These cultists say that their mark is a gift of the Devourer, and that it is intended to be used as a weapon—that the Khoravar are meant to assert their dominion over Khorvaire with hurricanes and lightning. This sect maintains that their greatest visionaries have become krakens who dwell in the deepest waters and guide their followers through visions; as such they call themselves the Kraekovar or “Kraken’s Brood.” Kraekovar heirs learn to use their dragonmarks in unusual and destructive ways, specializing in lightning. Other Lyrandar heirs say that this represents a fundamental corruption of the dragonmark—that the mark isn’t meant to be used as a weapon—and that this in turn causes the Kraekovar to become unstable and sociopathic. While the Kraekovar claim that their power ultimately flows from the Devourer, they don’t share any common cause with the Three Faces of the Wild or with zealots; they are loyal to their own elders—whom they believe to be immortal krakens—and to their vision of a nation ruled by Khoravar storm kings.

Nature and Tempest, Druid and Paladin

Champions of the Devourer can take many forms. One zealot might have the gift of wild shape and run with a pack of wolvesdrawing on the Moon druid for inspiration—while another might be more like a Storm sorcerer, wielding shocking grasp and lightning bolts. One of the main potential points of confusion is the difference between a cleric or paladin of the Devourer, and one devoted to Arawai or Balinor. Can a priest of Arawai use the tempest domain? Can a champion of the Devourer have the Oath of the Open Sea? In short, yes. The Nature domain, Tempest Domain, Oath of the Ancients, Oath of the Open Sea—all of these could be suitable for Arawai or the Devourer. Remember that the Devourer isn’t the Sovereign of Storms; he’s the Sovereign of the destructive power of nature, while Arawai is nature harnessed in the service of civilization. So, a few points to keep in mind…

  • A servant of Arawai could be a Tempest cleric or a Storm sorcerer. Their devotion allows them to smite an enemy with lightning, but for them this is no different than the ability to plant a seed or to harness an oxen to a plow; they have been granted dominion over nature as a tool to serve the greater good. An Arawai Storm sorcerer will typically be calm—even serene—when using their powers, and will strive to minimize collateral damage. The same goes for a Paladin of the Open Sea; they may call lightning or unleash a tidal wave, but they will control these forces and seek to use them with precision, avoiding harm to innocents.
  • Where the priest of Arawai harnesses the power of nature for the greater good, the champion of the Devourer teaches us that nature cannot be controlled. They revel in the wild and primal nature of the powers that flow through them and make no effort to avoid collateral damage; they have been granted these powers to make people fear the power of nature.

The point is that even if two clerics are casting the exact same spell, it should feel different if it’s tied to Arawai or to the Devourer. Arawai’s lightning bolt will be focused and precise, while the Devourer’s should feel more wild and intimidating, as if the caster is barely in control of the bolt. Beyond this, especially when dealing with NPCs, keep in mind that the spells wielded by player characters don’t have to reflect the absolute limits of mystical power. It may be that a Storm Herald can curse a community with a promise of a devastating hurricane, or that the death of a champion of the Devourer will trigger a flash flood. Neither of these effects have the precision or speed of control weather or tidal wave… but that very unpredictability is what should make them interesting. This ties to the general ideas present in this article. With this in mind, even a player character who’s tied to the Devourer could be a lightning rod, drawing disasters wherever they go unless they ensure that the people around them make sufficient sacrifices.

PRIMAL POWER: The Cazhaak Faith

In Droaam nature has a single face, and it’s both beautiful and cruel. Ghaal’gantii—the Devourer—speaks through the storms that lash the land, through the fangs of the worg, through the stone beneath the hands of the medusa. This isn’t a tradition of shepherds; it’s the faith of the wolves. There’s no need to split the roles of hunter and predator, and no interest in a deity to bless the harvest; outside of the Gaa’ran, widespread agriculture is all but unknown. The Devourer embodies a view of a world that’s red in tooth and claw. He is the hunger that drives us to survive, but he places deadly obstacles in our way; those that can overcome the challenges of the Devourer grow strong and prosper, while the weak are swept away to make room for the strong.

For most who follow the faith, the Devourer is a force to be endured rather than celebrated. He will test you with a hurricane or a wildfire. He’ll lash you with thorns, and his hand is in the deadly currents of the rapids. You can certainly offer a prayer or a sacrifice, but what he wants is your strength. Survival isn’t something he will give you in exchange for a gift; he has given you tooth and claw, and he wants to see you use them. Because of this, many of the peoples of Droaam rarely invoke the Devourer; they acknowledge him, but they don’t make offerings to him as the Vassals do. The most notable exception to this are the purest predators of the region—the worgs and the lycanthropes of the Great Pack—who call on him to sharpen their senses and their fangs. This isn’t a petition, it’s an offer—join me in my hunt, that you may share my joy in victory. The Cazhaak Devourer has no need of weaklings who require his aid to survive; but a worthy hunter can draw his eye, and his favor with it. The only sacrifice that need be made is the kill itself. The Fury is often closely connected for such devotees. The Devourer is a source of physical strength, while the Fury is the source of instinct; both are important to the hunting worg.

Beyond the predators, the Devourer also draws the prayers of those who work with natural resources. Largescale agriculture may be uncommon, but Medusa stoneworkers and kobold apothecaries thank the Devourer for nature’s bounty. Even here, though, the tone is different than the thanks offered by the Vassal priests of Arawai. The Cazhaak faithful know that the Devourer gives nothing; he only offers you the chance to take it. Essentially, the Devourer puts the “hunt” in “hunter-gatherer.” Whether you’re an apothecary looking for bloodroot or a sculptor seeking the perfect place to strike the stone, you face a challenge; the Devourer will sharpen your eyes and give you the hunger to succeed, but you must still fight for your victory. The people of Droaam don’t sail, but if they did they would scoff at the placatory offerings of Vassal sailors. If the Devourer chooses to challenge you with a storm, he will; you honor him and earn his favor by facing that challenge without fear and surviving it. What the Devourer wants from you is strength and skill, not trinkets tossed in the water.

Cazhaak Champions of the Devourer

Just as Vassal priests can perform services of all of the Sovereigns, a Cazhaak priestess of the Shadow will offer thanks to the Devourer. However, it’s rare to find a singularly devoted priest of the Devourer in a temple in Droaam, because the Devourer has little interest in cities and buildings. His most devoted priests are the worgs running with their pack and the harpies singing high on storm-wreathed peaks. Here’s a few examples of devoted champions of the Devourer.

  • The Huntmaster. The Great Pack is an alliance of worgs, lycanthropes, and other predators. Huntmasters are equal parts bard and priest, inspiring their comrades with wolfsong and guiding them on the hunter’s path.
  • The Stormsinger. While Huntmasters focus on the hunt, the Stormsinger embraces the furious power of hurricane and storm. Most Stormsingers are harpies, devoted equally to the Fury and to the Devourer. They dance through the winds, delighting in the deadly play of lightning. Largely Stormsingers are ecstatic mystics who praise the Six through song and flight, but they can also call down lightning on enemies in battle. If there is reason, they can draw away storms, luring the storm itself with their songs.
  • The Stoneshaper. Medusa architects invoke the Shadow and the Devourer. The Shadow wove stone into the medusa’s blood and shows them the secrets of working it, while they thank the Devourer for the raw gift of stone. Stoneshapers are specialized adepts capable of producing effects like stone shape, mold earth, and meld into stone.
  • The Wolfchild. Goblins and kobolds have long been oppressed in the Barrens of Droaam, being dismissed as small and weak by the ogres, trolls, and their kin. But there have always been those whose fury and determination to bring down their enemies—no matter their size—has drawn the favor of the Devourer and unlocked the predator within them. Known as the Gaa’taarka, these champions develop the gift of wild shape. While they are most often associated with wolf form, they aren’t limited to it; there are Gaa’taarka who can scout as hawks or fight as bears. The Gaa’taarka are broadly similar to Moon druids (and this would be a way to play a Wolfchild as a character) but most don’t possess the full spellcasting abilities of a druid. Those that can cast spells typically possess magic tied to working with beasts—beast sense, speak with animals, and similar spells. In the past, Wolfchildren have often served as champions defending their kin from would-be oppressors. In the present, a number of Gaa’taarka have joined the Great Pack, while others are serving with Maenya’s Fist. Technically, any devoted creature could become a Gaa’taarka; however, it’s still primarily associated with goblins and kobolds, hence their being described as “children.”

This is by no means a complete list—just a handful of examples of Droaamites touched by the Devourer.

OTHER VIEWS OF THE DEVOURER

As with all of the Sovereign and Six, many different interpretations of the Devourer can be found across the world.

  • In Xen’drik, the giants of Rusheme revere the goddess Rowa of the Jungle Leaves, who incorporates aspects of both Arawai, the Fury, and the Devourer; according to City of Stormreach, Rowa is “the goddess of life and nature. Rowa is much beloved, but she is given to fits of passion that can drive her into a rage. As a result, storms, wildfires, and other natural disasters are attributed to ‘Rowa’s wrath.’
  • As mentioned earlier, the Three Faces of the Wild respect Shargon as the untamed power of the wild, but don’t see him as malevolent; they seek to find the balance between Arawai and Shargon.
  • The sahuagin of the Eternal Dominion honor Sha’argon, saying that he began as a mortal hunter who stalked, killed, and devoured their interpretations of Arawai and Balinor, thus claiming dominion over nature. This vision of the Devourer is even more ruthless than their Cazhaak counterpart. The sahuagin razh’ash teach that Sha’argon “sets the laws of the world, and they are cruel. Life is an endless struggle. The weak will perish in the storm or be consumed by the mighty. Those with cunning and courage can conquer the world itself, and the victor has the right to devour their vanquished foe.”  

These are just a few examples; there’s no limit to the number of sects that might be out there, each with their own unique interpretation of the Devourer. This also relates to the relationship between the Devourer, Arawai, and the Fury. There is a Pyrinean myth that suggests that the Fury is the child of Arawai and the Devourer—a metaphorical representation of the concept that a storm destroying a farm causes anguish to the farmer. On the other hand, Rusheme conflates the three into a single deity, while a Droaamite myth asserts that the Fury was born of Eberron’s cry of pain when she brought life into being. Priests create myths about the Sovereigns as a way to teach lessons, and those myths vary based on the culture that creates them and the lessons they’re passing on.

USING THE DEVOURER

One of the simplest ways to bring the Devourer into your campaign is to talk about the weather. It’s an important part of everyday life, but it’s something we often ignore in adventures—and it doesn’t help that the sourcebooks don’t go into much detail about what to expect in different parts of Khorvaire. So to some degree you’re on your own here. But if time after time you mention the gloomy rains of Sharn, you lay the groundwork for the slowly-building threat of a hurricane that somehow resists the power of the Raincaller’s Guild. Is a group of Devourer zealots responsible for this threat? Is it the work of the Kraken’s Brood (in which case the Raincaller’s Guild may have been sabotaged from within)? Can the adventurers find a Storm Herald, and if they do, what will the herald want in return? A storm at sea, a wildfire threatening to sweep over an adventurer’s home village… when these moments come, will the adventurers embrace the superstition and make an offering to the Devourer, or will they spit in the eye of the storm?

Followers of the Devourer can be an easy source of villains. Zealots can always turn up to shatter cities or strike at the Dragonmarked Houses. The Kraken’s Brood uses primal force in their pursuit of power. A Droaamite worg may honor the Devourer by hunting the most dangerous prey—and they’ve set their sights on one of the player characters. On the other hand, champions of the Devourer don’t have to be enemies. A medusa stoneshaper could prove an invaluable ally when adventurers are trying to get into a collapsed mine. The Three Faces of the Wild could draw attention to industrial activities that do threaten a local community. A Droaamite huntmaster could adopt the adventurers as their temporary pack and guide them through a dangerous region. They could also just be mysterious. If the adventurers have business in a small community, a Storm Herald could arrive and call for the Devourer’s Feast. They say that this is an innocent action which will help to protect the village from disaster. Will the adventurers help organize the feast, or will they oppose the Herald—and if so, will disaster indeed strike?

Player characters could follow any of the paths described above. An urban druid could be devoted to the Three Faces of the Wild. A goblin or kobold could play a Moon druid as one of the Gaa’taarka—have they been sent out on a mission from the Daughters of Sora Kell, or are they just following their instincts? A Lyrandar Fathomless warlock could have been raised in the Kraekovar cult… have they turned against the Kraken’s Brood, or are they trying to oppose its corruption from within the system? A Storm sorcerer could be a lightning rod, both cursed and blessed by the Devourer; they have also power over lightning and wind, but if they stay in one place for too long disaster will follow. Can they find a way to lift this curse… and if they do, will they lose their gifts as well?

That’s all for now. Note that this article reflects how I use the Devourer in my campaign and may contradict canon sources! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for choosing this topic and for making these articles possible; follow the link if you want to have a voice in future topics! Because of serious IRL events I will not be able to answer many questions on this topic, but feel free to discuss your experiences and thoughts on the Devourer and to praise his Watery Deepness in the comments.

Dark Six: The Mockery

The principles of the Sovereigns are the cornerstone of our civilization. Boldrei brings us together. Aureon’s laws allow us to coexist in peace. When peace is not an option, Dol Dorn gives us the strength to defend ourselves, and Dol Arrah teaches us to use that strength wisely and with compassion. Why should the strong protect the weak? Why spare civilians and fallen foes? Because if we all live by those principles, we all prosper. War isn’t just about victory—it’s about being able to live with the aftermath. —Phthaso Mogan, Sovereign priest of Sharn

‘Why should the strong protect the weak?’ It’s a question posed by those who wish you to believe that they are strong and you are weak, that you would be helpless without them. These are the words of people who only know one way to play the game of war, and who are desperate for you to play by the same rules. Our lord shows the truth: the strong protect the weak because they don’t want the ‘weak’ to realize how strong they can be. Imagine a hundred hounds pursuing two wolves. The hounds call out, challenging the wolves to face them in honorable combat. The brave wolf turns and fights beneath the bright sun, and they are torn into a hundred pieces. The wise wolf knows a simple truth: I cannot beat them at once, but in the shadows my teeth are as sharp as any of theirs. Every night, the wolf comes with the shadows and kills one of the hounds. The hounds may curse the wolf for his cowardly, dishonorable actions… but in a hundred days, the wolf stands triumphant. Which wolf are you? Will you fight in the sunlight, and die with honor? Or will you follow the path that leads to victory, even if it leads you through shadows?” —’RedbladeRrac, of the Deathsgate Adventurer’s Guild

In the first age of the world, three siblings challenged the Lord of Death. They rallied their forces, and swore to meet Death on the battlefield at dawn. When Death came with his army of corpses, the eldest brother was nowhere to be seen; he lacked the courage to face this dreadful foe. The mortal soldiers quaked, seeing comrades who had fallen in battle now serving in the army of the dead. But the young brother filled them with courage and inspired them with his strength, scattering the forces of the dead. And the sister called on the light of the sun, blinding Death until her soldiers could safely retreat. Though the battle was lost, the champions were able to save most of their soldiers. They learned that their elder brother had used the distraction to steal a great treasure from the Citadel of the Dead, caring more for his personal enrichment than for the lives of his siblings, their soldiers, or his own oath.

This is the story of the Mockery. It can be found in many forms across many cultures, and the details are always different. In some versions of the story, it is Aureon who orders that the Mockery be stripped of both his name and his skin, his truth laid bare for the world to see. But in the Cazhaak myth, the elder brother fools his siblings by shedding his skin and using it as a decoy; going forward, he often strips the skin off his enemies and wears it to fool their friends. Likewise, the reason for the Mockery’s betrayal also varies. In the common story, the Mockery betrays his siblings due to cowardice and envy, further using the opportunity to enrich himself. The implication is that if he had bravely stood with his siblings, Death could have been defeated. But the annals of the Three Faces of War say that Dol Azur believed the battle to be a fool’s errand from the beginning, asserting that it wasn’t possible to defeat Death; rather than fighting a battle that couldn’t be won just because he’d sworn an oath to do so, Dol Azur used the distraction to steal a mighty weapon from the enemy’s citadel. So his action was unquestionably a dishonorable betrayal; but he also accomplished a tactically significant objective, rather than fighting an “honorable” fight that couldn’t be won.

Such shifting interpretations are common with the Sovereigns and Six, reflecting the values of the cultures and individuals who worship or revile them. Within Khorvaire, there are three common approaches to the Mockery. The common Vassals blame him for the excesses of war and for cruel betrayal. Some emulate him, seeking to earn his favor through acts of cruelty. And others see him not as the Lord of Betrayal, but as the Sovereign of Victory—a deity who can always show you the way to overcome your enemies, even if it is a dark path.

Bloodshed and Betrayal

The Vassals of the Pyrinean Creed believe that the Sovereigns act through mortals, that they guide us and inspire us. Onatar doesn’t craft a sword; he guides the mortal smith, and if the smith listens she will forge a finer blade. Dol Dorn is a source of strength each soldier can find within, a whisper of courage in the darkest moments. For the Vassals, the Dark Six explains the darker impulses of mortals. The Keeper inflames our greed, whispering to us of the things that could be ours. The Fury overwhelms us with anger and passion. And the Mockery urges us to be cruel—to revel the suffering of others and our power to inflict it. The Mockery scoffs at courage and honor, telling us that all that matters is survival and victory, no matter the cost. It’s Boldrei who tells us we’re stronger as a community, Aureon who teaches that laws can benefit us all; the Mockery urges us to place our own needs above anything else, to see others solely as tools to be used. So under the Pyrinean Creed, the Mockery and others of the Dark Six inspire our base instincts; the Sovereigns show us how to be better, and how to prosper as a community.

With this in mind, the Mockery covers two distinct spheres, as called out in his title of bloodshed and betrayal. On one level he is a WAR god—specifically calling out all the darkest elements of conflict and combat. Bloodlust, unnecessary cruelty, dishonorable strategies; all of these are tied to the Mockery. But the Mockery isn’t confined to the battlefield. The assassin who kills without warning, the bully who beats smaller children—these two are guided by the Mockery. Any time blood is shed in cowardly or cruel ways, the Mockery smiles. The Fury inspires rage, the Keeper drives greed, but when the actual blade is drawn it’s the Mockery who guides the hand of the murderer. Beyond bloodshed, the Mockery also delights in betrayal. He takes the greatest pleasure when the betrayal runs deep—a sibling betraying a sibling, a lover turning on their paramour. But on the simplest level, this aspect of the Mockery is tied to deception with the intent to cause pain to others. The Traveler also delights in deception, but the Traveler is the Sovereign of chaos and change. The Mockery uses deception in the pursuit of pain. So the changeling grifter may see the Traveler as their patron, but the assassin who uses disguise self to get close to their victim is guided by the Mockery.

Among Vassals, the Mockery is primarily seen as an explanation for cruelty in the world. Virtuous Vassals never offer prayers to the Mockery; they pity the brutal people who are swayed by his whispers and drawn down cruel and criminal paths. Those who actively revere the Mockery in this aspect are people who willfully embrace a dark path and acknowledge their actions as selfish and cruel. A King’s Dark Lantern who kills for the good of their nation and their people will ask Olladra for luck, even though they are deceiving others and spilling blood. The assassin who invokes the Mockery knows that they are spilling blood solely for their personal gain, and takes pride and delight in their power to inflict pain. The monks of the Flayed Hand are an example of this: they acknowledge the Mockery as the Sovereign of Bloodshed and Betrayal, but worship him still, and believe that they commune with the divine by inflicting pain. And for this reason, the Flayed Hand is a secretive order and the monks hide their devotional scars; those who knowingly employ the Flayed Hand are comfortable with cruelty.

One aspect of the Mockery that’s not always recognized is the use of Fear. Dol Dorn inspires courage in the soldier’s heart; the Mockery shows them how to inflict terror on their enemies. This ties to the idea that the Mockery delights in causing pain—psychological as well as physical. This leads to one of the few potential paths for a player character who honors the Mockery: the hero who uses fear as a weapon, such as Batman or the Shadow (the pulp hero, not the deity!). This is a dark path to follow, as the fearmonger knows they are inflicting suffering on their enemies. This can tie to the idea that my enemies don’t deserve to be treated with honor—that it’s acceptable to engage in a brutal war on evil, to fight fire with fire. The main point is that the Mockery believes that no weapon is too vile to use in battle, and fear or other forms of psychological warfare are certainly valid. Most likely, a vigilante who embraces the Mockery in this way believes that the law is ineffective—that Aureon’s laws and Dol Arrah’s honor has failed, and that only cruelty and fear can overcome the threats the character is facing or avenge the wrong that’s been done to them.

The Lord of Victory

The Pyrinean Creed casts the Mockery as a force of pure evil—the cruel betrayal who delights in the suffering of innocents. But there are many ways to look at the world. The Cazhaak faith calls the Mockery the Lord of Victory. The Pyrinean interpretation chooses Dol Arrah over the Mockery, saying that war can and should be fought honorably. The Cazhaak interpretation says there is no honor in war. War is brutality and bloodshed. Once you see this—that someone ALWAYS suffers in war—you’ll realize that it’s better to be the one holding the blade rather than the one who bleeds. The Cazhaak Creed values cunning over brute strength; ultimately, survival is the proof of righteousness. If the goblin defeats the ogre, it doesn’t matter if they used poison or treachery; they should be celebrated for finding a path to victory.

The Cazhaak creed promotes a harsh, ruthless vision of the world: you should always be ready for betrayal. You should always be watching for weakness in those you deal with. One might think that this philosophy would undermine any form of community. But the Cazhaak creed does create communities, just in a very different way from Boldrei’s love and Aureon’s laws. The Cazhaak community is a wolf pack. Leaders must command respect with their cunning and power. If people don’t betray their leaders, it’s not because of honor or duty; it’s because they think it’s in their own self-interest to serve the leader, or believe that they couldn’t get away with the betrayal. You follow your leader because you believe you will prosper under her rule. In a society driven by the Cazhaak principles, no agreement can be based purely on trust. Words alone mean nothing; they have to be backed up by fear, by the knowledge that betrayal will carry a terrible cost. Look to Droaam as a whole; while Katra inspires with her voice, Maenya’s fist is always ready. It is a cruel way to view the world, but it makes sense to those who follow it. To the Cazhaak vassal, the ideals of Dol Arrah are childish; war isn’t a game with rules. With that said, it’s important to recognize that while the Cazhaak faith can support communities, historically it has never been tested on a wide scale. Droaam is a new nation, and in the centuries prior the Barrens were ruled by small communites and city-states. The Pyrinean scholar might argue that why Aureon’s laws and Dol Arrah’s ideals matter is because international relations rely on trust and on law. The armies of Droaam rely on guerilla warfare and small-unit tactics, where the cunning of the squad leader can turn the tide of battle. It remains to be seen if their ruthless principles can support global relationships.

Some who follow the Cazhaak path draw in the more extreme elements of the Lord of Bloodshed and Betrayal. There are those who revel in displays of cruelty; the Skinners of Graywall prey on despised foreigners and wear the tanned hides of their victims as grisly trophies. But for most who follow the Cazhaak path, the point is more that the world is cruel, and you must be strong and cunning to survive it; do whatever you must to bring down your foes.

If you’re a player character who follows the Cazhaak creed, a key point is that you expect betrayal and cruelty from others. You believe that you need to display your strength or cunning to ward off challenges; you aren’t used to kindness or pure altruism and you don’t expect people to keep their word if it becomes an inconvenience to them. You expect people to be driven by self-interest. The key to a lasting bargain isn’t a word of honor; it’s making sure that neither party dares to break the agreement.

The Three Faces of War

The Three Faces of War is a mystery cult found across the Five Nations. Exploring Eberron has this to say…

The Three Faces of War honors Dol Arrah, Dol Dorn, and Dol Azur (the Mockery). It was part of the united armies of Galifar, and cult chapters can be found in all of the armies of the Five Nations. Sect meetings provide a place for soldiers and veterans to interact as friends and equals, regardless of rank or nationality. The cult asserts that honor and courage are to be valued, but there is also a time and place for cunning and cruelty, even if it is never to be desired.

As depicted by the Three Faces of War, Dol Azur is a less intense version of the Lord of Victory. The Three Faces of War acknowledge that his actions are dishonorable and cruel, that the world is a better place if we all live in Dol Arrah’s light. But followers of the Three Faces acknowledge that the world is cruel, and that there are times when victory must come before honor. The Three Faces of War notably downplay the aspect of betrayal and focus on Dol Azur’s role on the battlefield; at the same time, followers of the Three Faces of War are definitely feel that while treaties play an important role in international relationships, a commander must always be prepared to violate a treaty when the moment is right. The Three Faces of War also recognizes the power of psychological warfare, of using fear to demoralize a foe. The key point is that followers of the Three Faces honor Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn; they do believe that honor has a place on the battlefield. But they believe that every tactic has its time and place—that we should strive to fight just wars, but be prepared for them to get ugly. Members of the Three Faces often feel that they have a particular affinity for one of the Sovereigns; those who feel they are guided by Dol Azur may still seek to using their powers for good, but they acknowledge that they have a knack for sowing terror or ruthless action when it becomes necessary. Within the sect, steel is used to represent Dol Dorn, gold to represent Dol Arrah, and leather to represent Dol Azur; if a soldier wears a leather ring, it might be a sign that they feel they are guided by the Mockery.

The Three Faces of War is a hidden sect, but its existence is a fairly open secret. It has members in all of the armies of the Five Nations. Allegiance to the Three Faces definitely doesn’t supercede national loyalty, but provided that it doesn’t violate that loyalty, it provides a foundation for friendship between soldiers of different nations. If a player character with the Soldier background chooses to be an initiate of the Three Faces of War, this can be used to explain how the benefits of the Military Rank feature apply when dealing with soldiers of other nations; even if they fought one another in the Last War, they respect the character as an initiate into the mysteries. And again, a player character could decide that they are guided by Dol Arrah and wear gold to show it; just because they accept that Dol Azur is part of war doesn’t mean that they have to embrace his path.

Using The Mockery

So how can you use the Mockery in a campaign? Well, in a world filled with shades of grey, followers of the Sovereign of Bloodshed and Betrayal are a good source of absolute villains. When you’re running a pulp campaign and you want someone who feels capital-E EVIL, a Flayed Hand monk is certainly an option. Someone who is guided by the Pyrinean creed but nonetheless chooses to embrace the Mockery is something who delights in cruelty and who believes that they gain strength by inflicting suffering on others. I could imagine a serial killer warlock who believes their power flows from the Mockery, and whose Mask of a Thousand Faces ability requires a strip of skin from the person they wish to impersonate. On the other hand, you could explore the idea of a group of ruthless vigilantes who believe that the terror tactics of the Mockery are the only way to combat rising crime… or the once-virtuous person who’s turned to the Mockery and the Fury to take vengeance for a crime Aureon’s laws failed to stop. Turning to the Lord of Victory, this can work anywhere you have a wolf pack, a group that will do whatever it takes to survive and overcome a foe. Aside from this, it can be a generally interesting way to contrast a soldier of Droaam from one of the Five Nations. Those who follow the Cazhaak path genuinely see the idea of honor in war as a childish concept. This doesn’t make them EVIL. Just because the world is cruel doesn’t mean they have to be unnecessarily cruel. but it means that they will do whatever is required to survive, that they will show mercy only if they see some clear benefit down the road. Meanwhile, the Three Faces of War is an old tradition that seeks to forge a bond between soldiers of all nations, and if one or more of the player characters is a veteran of the Last War, an influential member of the Three Faces could be a useful patron. Alternately, while the cult overall isn’t malevolent, an influential Azur-touched initiate of the Three Faces of War could use the organization to rally other Azur-touched for some sinister purpose.

Q&A

Is someone who “fights dirty” in a direct sense (leverage, gouging, cheap shots) fighting more in the vein of Dol Dorn or the Mockery? 

It’s important to remember that Vassals see the Dark Six as part of everyday life. When your anger gets the better of you, you let the Fury take hold for a moment. The Keeper drives our greed, and the Mockery urges us to take the cheap shot. If you’re watching a fight and there’s a move that makes everyone go “Ooooh—that’s a dirty trick!” then yes, that’s guided by the Mockery. The point is that Dol Dorn gives you the strength and skill you need to win in a fair fight, and the Mockery can show you how to win when you can’t win a fair fight. But throwing one sucker punch doesn’t make you a cultist of the Mockery. Think of people saying “The Devil made me do it” in our world—that’s not the same as saying “I am now a warlock devoted to dark powers.”

The key aspect is that people use the Dark Six to explain why there is evil in the world. Atrocities happen in war, just as rage or passion can drive people to violence in everyday life. People condemn those actions and blame them on the corrupting influence of the Dark Six, but that doesn’t mean they believe everyone who takes such an action consciously chose to serve the Six. The voices of the Six are with us all the time; the virtuous Vassal should overcome them and heed Aureon’s law and Dol Arrah’s light.

Rising calls out the divine domains of the Mockery (Trickery and War), but what subclass would you suggest for a Paladin of Dol Azur or for a Warlock who sees the Mockery as their patron?

For a Paladin, my immediate choice would be Conquest. FEAR is one of the traits of the Mockery, and beyond having fear on their spell list, Conquering Presence and Aura of Conquest are both fear-related abilities. Vengeance is possible, but I’d be more inclined to give it to a paladin of the Fury. Likewise, Oathbreaker is an option, but given the association with undead I’d be more likely to use it for a paladin of the Keeper.

For a warlock, my inclination would be Hexblade. The Mockery is a Sovereign of War, after all; the Shadow is a more logical source of general malevolent magic.

Why can a Karrnathi soldier not openly declare themselves to belong to the Three Faces of War, following in the footsteps of Karrn?

The existence of the Three Faces of War isn’t a secret. It’s been around for around two thousand years. Everyone knows that it exists and that it’s part of the armies of the Five Nations, and there’s never been an inquisition to wipe it out. It’s not seen as a threat or as a cult of the Dragon Below. The reason you don’t announce it is because it’s a MYSTERY CULT. Only those who have been initiated into its mysteries understand it, and only they DESERVE to know about it. The Karrn soldier doesn’t hide the fact that they belong to the Three Faces of War because it’s a crime; they hide it because the uninitiated don’t deserve to know about it. Beyond that, it’s a known fact that the Three Faces cults involve veneration of the Dark Six. Initiates understand the context of this and WHY they accept their chosen member of the Six as worthy of veneration—but they know that those who don’t understand the mysteries will not. So, the first rule of the Three Faces is that you don’t talk about the Three Faces.

What is the relationship of the goblinoids of Darguun to the Mockery and the Three Faces of War?

The Ghaal’dar hobgoblins and the Maargul bugbears both revere the Mockery. Much like the minotaurs of Droaam and the Horned King, each tribe and clan has its own interpretation and unique traditions, but they fall on a spectrum between the Sovereign of Betrayal and Bloodshed and the Lord of Victory. Since taking power, Lhesh Haruuc has been working to promote the worship of Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah, blending this with the existing worship of the Mockery. The simple fact is that this is about optics more than faith. Haruuc recognizes that most people of the Five Nations see worship of the Mockery as evil, and shifting the conversation to say that Darguuls worship all of the Sovereigns of War makes things a little more palatable for outsiders. Having said that, Haruuc believes that there are lessons to be learned from each of the Sovereigns, and feels a particular affinity for Dol Dorn—so his efforts aren’t entirely insincere. At the moment, there has been no concerted effort by the Three Faces of War to initiate Darguuls, but it’s possible that there are mercenaries who were initiated by comrades during the war.

What’s the Orb of Dol Azur?

The Orb of Dol Azur was first mentioned in an article I wrote in 2004. Since then, it’s been my go-to MacGuffin, an easy placeholder to drop in any time people are looking for something mysterious and powerful. I’ve never actually used it in a campaign or ever said what it does, though by all accounts it’s powerful and dangerous. Dragons of Eberron establishes that the draconic champions fought the overlord known as Katashka the Gatekeeper during the Age of Demons, and it’s entirely possible that this is the actual basis of the myth of the Dols fighting Death. If you accept this, it’s an easy step to think that the Orb of Dol Azur could actually be an artifact the proto-Mockery stole from the citadel of the Overlord. Katashka the Gatekeeper embodies our fears of death and the undead. With that in mind, people on the Eberron Discord server have made a number of interesting suggestions as to what the Orb could be…

  • The Orb of Dol Azur is one of the eyes of the Overlord Katashka. By default it’s the size of a dragon’s eye—quite large—but the proper ritual could cause it to shift to a size appropriate to the bearer. In short, this would be a way to use the mechanics of the Eye of Vecna in a form that fits the lore of Eberron.
  • When you kill someone with a Keeper’s Fang—a magical weapon that prevents resurrection—their soul is bound to the Orb of Dol Azur. At this point, the Orb holds the spirits of countless mortals and lesser fiends trapped over the course of history.

I doubt I’ll ever give an official answer, because I enjoy having a vague MacGuffin… but I think both of those are interesting possibilities!

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for choosing this topic and for making these articles possible!

Dragonmark: Priests, Krozen and Zerasha

July is quickly fading, but as time allows I want to answer a few questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, people asked about a pair of priests—High Cardinal Krozen of Thrane and Zerasha of Graywall.

Dealing with the Divine

Krozen and Zerasha are both powerful divine spellcasters. In third edition, Krozen was defined as a 12th level cleric of the Silver Flame, making him one of the most powerful clerics in canon Khorvaire. While never defined, Zerasha is supposed to be similar in her power—a priest respected and feared by a city of monsters and the mind flayer who governs it. Given that most priests in Khorvaire are adepts—or don’t even cast spells at all—I want players to feel how remarkable these individuals are when they encounter them. A powerful wizard is essentially a scientist, someone who uses logic and knowledge to break the laws of reality. A powerful divine caster is something else. Both Zerasha and Krozen are the chosen agents of cosmic powers. The Sovereigns and Six are omnipresent forces. The Shadow knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of mortals, and Zerasha is one of its chief agents. Krozen can command the dead to return to life or call celestials from the essence of the Silver Flame. We can debate the existence of the Sovereigns, but the Silver Flame is the force that stands between Eberron and the overlords, and Krozen is a conduit for its power. These aren’t just people who have learned how to perform magic tricks. They are the chosen agents of vast cosmic forces. If you’ll pardon the phrase, they are burdened with glorious purpose.

But how do you make the powerful priest feel different from a wizard or a prince? This is something I discuss at more length in this article. One of the key points is to separate the way divine NPCs cast spells from how player characters do it. We need the structure of the classes for player characters because we need tactical precision, and I’m fine to say that in combat, Krozen casts spells as a 12th level cleric. But outside of combat I don’t feel that he needs to engage with his magic in the same way as a player character. The most common divine spellcasters—adepts—function much like magewrights; they have a specific set of cantrips and spells they can cast and that’s all they can cast. A typical spellcasting priest might be able to cast thaumaturgy, light, and ceremony. There are specialist adepts—oracles who can cast divination, healers who can perform lesser restoration—but the oracle can’t just decide to become a healer in the morning. They have been granted a divine gift, and they can’t exchange it for another one. More powerful spellcasters like Zerasha and Krozen aren’t limited like this, but they also don’t call their divinity on the phone each morning and make spell requests. Their divine power source grants them the spells they need when they need them, provided the request is justified. Krozen doesn’t prepare zone of truth ahead of time, but if he formally demands you speak the truth in the light of the Flame, zone of truth happens. Essentially, his spells are selected on the fly to match the situation he finds himself in. But the contrast is that he doesn’t have the freedom a PC has to request any spell. The Flame may empower Krozen to raise someone from the dead or to smite them with a flame strike, but in spite of his effective level it’s not going to grant him the power to create undead or to cast contagion; these aren’t the tools of a righteous servant of the Flame, and if you DO see a Flame priest using such spells, it’s a clear sign that they are actually a servant of the Whispering Flame or a warlock hacking the Flame. Krozen may take actions we consider evil, but he believes his actions are righteous in the light of the Flame; he’s not drawing on malefic powers.

Divination is another important example. With the spellcasting power of a 12th level cleric, Krozen could technically cast commune three times a day, along with a batch of auguries. And that’s how things work for PCs. But Krozen doesn’t just have some magic hotline that he can dial three times per day. He can’t just call up Tira Miron and say “Does Boranel dye his hair? Yes? I KNEW it!” It’s not some sort of abstract, scientific tool that he can just use for whatever random, trivial detail he wants to know. But the flip side is that he may simply receive information that he needs—that he can receive divine visions. Even when he doesn’t cast augury, he may suddenly KNOW that a decision he’s about to make could lead to disaster. Even without commune, he might KNOW the truth about a situation. This is especially relevant for Zerasha, because part of what defines the Shadow is dangerous secrets. Consider this description of the Shadow from this article:

As the dark side of Aureon, the Shadow is also the Sovereign of Knowledge… but specifically the things you shouldn’t know. The Shadow knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of mortals. It knows who killed your parents. It knows what your lover really thinks about you. And it knows secrets of magic that Aureon won’t share… techniques that can provide power, but at a cost.

So It’s not that Zerasha sits down and says “I want to know secrets about this player character” and casts commune or some other divination spell; it’s that when the players come before her, she simply DOES know who killed the paladin’s parents and why the rogue murdered their partner, because that’s part of what it means to be the voice of the Shadow.

The short form is that when dealing with NPCs who are powerful divine spellcasters, I want them to FEEL like they are conduits to powers far greater than they are. When Krozen demands that you speak the truth, zone of truth happens. When he barks out an order, it may become a command, because that’s the power that flows through him. I want the powerful priest to feel larger then life, because at the end of the day they are the conduits for something that IS larger than life.

Now, reading all this, you might say “But I thought Eberron was the setting where we don’t know if the gods even exist.” We know that deities don’t walk the world in Eberron. You will never have a chance to punch Aureon in the face. But we know that divine power sources exist. We know that priests have been drawing on the POWER of Aureon for tens of thousands of years, and that in part because of this, most people believe divine forces exist. They may argue about details; the Cazhaak interpretation of the Dark Six is quite different from how they’re depicted in the Pyrinean Creed. But most people believe in SOME form of divinity, and part of the reason for that is the fact that divine magic exists.

With all of this in mind, you might say “If that’s how you handle NPC priests, why don’t you deal with player character clerics in the same way?” I offer some suggestions in that direction in this article. But fifth edition embraces the idea that NPCs and PCs don’t have to follow the same rules. Part of being a player character is having flexibility and tactical control. It’s about having the ability to make choices. I’ve played campaigns in which divine characters CHOSE to give me more control over their spells—embracing the idea that the powers were gifts they didn’t fully control—but that was a choice they made that fit the story of that character. But one of the fundamental principles of Eberron is that player characters are remarkable, and I have no problem with them having a greater degree of versatility and precision than most other servants of the divine.

Having worked through that, let’s talk about the two specific priests that people have asked about…

Who is High Cardinal Krozen of Thrane?

Our blessed child is the Keeper of the Flame and shows us all the path to the light. But I am the keeper of the nation, and if I must toil in the darkness to ensure its prosperity, so be it.

High Cardinal Krozen

People have lots of questions about Cardinal Krozen of Thrane. What’s his first name? Does he realize he’s evil? Does he believe in a greater good—or for that matter, does he even believe in the Silver Flame? What makes him more important than the other 11 High Cardinals of the Church? These are all good questions. I’ve always liked Krozen, but my vision of him is quite different from how he’s evolved in canon sources. I know what I originally planned for him when we first created the character, and that’s how I use him, so I’ll lay that out here. Keep in mind that this directly contradicts multiple canon sources (which, admittedly, contradict themselves on some points). This is MY interpretation and I am not going to reconcile it with what other authors have done with the character; it’s up to you to decide which version you prefer.

My original vision of High Cardinal Thrane was loosely inspired by Cardinal Richelieu as depicted in The Three Musketeers—a ruthless man who is engaged in sly intrigues, but who is nonetheless an extremely capable leader, perhaps moreso than the king the protagonists serve. It was always my vision that Cardinal Krozen was devoted to Thrane and that he performs his duties exceptionally well—that he is a brilliant strategist and a charismatic orator. But this is tied to the idea that he truly believes that he knows what is best for the nation. The basic dictate of the Silver Flame is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. Where Jaela recognizes that this applies to ALL innocents, regardless of their faith or nationality, Krozen believes that you aren’t innocent unless you’re a Thrane and a servant of the faith, and don’t oppose him. He DOES fight to protect the innocent—but only those HE decides are innocent.

So I see Cardinal Krozen as a remarkable man—one of the player characters of his generation. He’s human and I see him as being about fifty years old. The details of his youth—and, in fact, his first name—aren’t generally known; the general story is that he lived on the Aundairian border and that the Flame granted him the power to perform great deeds, first in the defense of his village and then as a templar. He was always charismatic and intelligent, but beyond that, his divine power was always remarkable; when he called on the Flame, he gained the power to smite his foes. In his early twenties he rose out of the templars and into the hierarchy of the church, turning his gifts to leadership behind the scenes rather than fighting on the battlefield. From there, his star rose and rose; those who opposed him were either won over by his charisma or driven from his path, one way or another.

Part of the core idea of Krozen is that he represents the danger of Thrane becoming a theocracy—that in doing so it drags the church into the management of temporal matters and political concerns. The idea of Thrane is that Jaela Daran represents the pure ideals of the faith—while Cardinal Krozen deals with political realities. Again, Jaela does believe that “protect the innocent” applies to all people—that Krozen believes that it can only be applied to the faithful and to Thranes. It’s not that he is a vile, selfish person; but he has blended his faith with his devotion to his nation and places the good of Thrane over all others. Beyond this, Krozen very much has a Chosen One mentality. He possesses immense divine power, and in his mind this proves his righteousness. He believes he was given this power to serve the interests of Thrane, and the fact that he still wields that power proves that he is right to do so. He will crush others who get in his way—even other priests or templars—because he believes, again, that those who oppose him aren’t innocent.

In considering all this, take a moment to think about the Shadow in the Flame. There are those—the Whispering Flame cultists—who knowingly choose to serve Bel Shalor. But the true power of the Shadow in the Flame is its ability to piggyback on the Voice of the Flame and to pour poison in the ears of the truly faithful. Bel Shalor loves to erode empathy and to convince people to do evil when they only seek to do good. The Shadow in the Flame reveled in the suffering caused by the Silver Crusade, and Bel Shalor undoubtedly sees Cardinal Krozen as a valuable tool. The question for the DM to decide is how much of a hold does Bel Shalor have over the Cardinal? In MY Eberron, Krozen KNOWS the dangers posed by the Shadow of the Flame; all the faithful do. And with that in mind, he does his best to resist those impulses; he knows that he does questionable things (like, you know, torture and murder…) but he truly believes that he is acting for the greater good and that he’s NOT a tool of the Shadow in the Flame. But in your campaign you could decide that he HAS fallen prey to Bel Shalor’s whispers and no longer realizes the evil he is doing… or even go further and decide that he is a priest of the Whispering Flame. Personally I prefer to follow the shades-of-grey model, to say that while Krozen does evil things, he only does them when pursuing the interests of Thrane—that he always believes his actions are justified. I like the idea that Krozen knows he walks a dark path, but that he believes it is the path the Flame has set him on, and that at the end of the day he is protecting the innocent—even if he has had to sacrifice his own innocence to do it.

Now, some people may be say “That’s all fine, but who IS he?” Krozen is one of the high cardinals of Thrane. Per the original Eberron Campaign Setting…

This group of powerful church leaders administers both the workings of the church and the functions of the government. In theory, the cardinals answer to the Keeper of the Flame. In practice, they run the church and the government, only dealing with the Keeper on issues that require divine attention and interaction with the Voice of the Flame. The cardinals believe that they know best when it comes to running the government and the church, and they leave the Keeper to deal with the well-being of the spirit of the nation. This arrangement has led to problems between the Council and the Keeper in the past, but the current Keeper seems interested more in divine and spiritual matters than the intricacies of secular administration.

There may be twelve High Cardinals, but Krozen is the effective leader of the Council—and thus, of Thrane. If you have a divine problem, talk to Jaela. But if you’re looking into the deployment of Thrane troops or about getting more resources for Rellekor, it’s Krozen who can get things done. The general idea is that Krozen is in many ways the opposite of Jaela. Where the Keeper is compassionate, the Cardinal is ruthless. The Cardinal is a master of political intrigue, while Jaela prefers honest dealing. Jaela wants what’s best for all innocents; Krozen cares only for Thrane.

The final thing I’ll call about about Krozen is this: If there’s twelve high cardinals, why is he the leader? What makes him special? The short answer is that what makes him special is that he IS special. Again, not all priests are spellcasters at all, and in a world where everyday magic goes to 3rd level, a 12th level spellcaster is remarkable. He can raise the dead! Those who oppose him are struck down by flame strikes! You’ve seen him shape celestials from the pure power of the Flame! And as I said, while I don’t just let him cast commune three times a day, he hears the Voice of the Flame in ways that others do not (and, of course, potentially the Shadow in the Flame as well). There’s surely other spellcasters among the cardinals, but Krozen stands out; if you look to the 3.5 statistics, he’s notably a more powerful spellcaster than the high priest of the Host and Archierophant Ythana in Sharn: City of Towers. Power alone isn’t everything, but the whole idea is that this power is matched with passion and charisma—that just like a player character, Krozen is remarkable. With this in mind, he doesn’t command the Council of Cardinals, but he has won the loyalty of the majority of its members and thus is the EFFECTIVE leader of the council. In my opinion, there’s four cardinals who are utterly devoted to him; three who believe he’s doing what’s best for Thrane; and four who don’t support him. Of these four, all believe that the Keeper shows the proper path for the nation and that Krozen’s actions are concerning; one or two may have deeper concerns, or believe that he is serving the Shadow in the Flame. So Krozen DOESN’T have absolute control of the council, but he’s effectively the leader.

Krozen as a Villain

As I’ve just spent a lot of time insisting that Krozen believes he’s acting for the good of Thrane and that he is an effective leader, you might wonder if I actually see him as a villain. I do, generally—just a villain with many layers. He performs evil deeds in pursuit of the greater good, and more than that, he is only concerned with the greater good of THRANE. When I use Krozen, I want it to be clear why people support him. I want Thranes, in particular, to feel conflicted because Krozen IS good at his job—that if the nation was guided purely by the idealistic Jaela, it would be easy prey for the machinations of Kaius, the Royal Eyes of Aundair, and the Dark Lanterns. Krozen is effective; but is that enough to justify his methods? And IS he a tool of the Shadow in the Flame, even if he refuses to see it?

Zerasha, the Voice of the Shadow

You think you know why you’re here. You think we have to be enemies. But that’s the voice of your petty and jealous Sovereigns, who fear what you could become if you follow the paths I could show you.

Zerasha of Graywall

The medusa Zerasha is a priest of the Shadow in the city of Graywall. She’s mentioned in a Dragon article, which says…

The street ends at the Eye of the Shadow, a small windowless temple formed from black stone. The medusa priestess Zerasha holds court here. A fearsome combatant and skilled ritual caster, Zerasha is the most influential voice in Graywall after Xorchylic; the people of the town have come to trust her oracular gifts. At the moment, she is an ally of the Daughters of Sora Kell, but her first loyalty is to the Shadow and to her own warlord, the Queen of Stone. Should there ever be a civil war in Graywall, the black-scaled medusa will be a force with which to be reckoned. 

Backdrop: Graywall, Dragon 368

That’s the only canon information that exists on her. Since I wrote that article, people have asked: What is the priestess Zerasha’s relationship with Xorchylic? What are her goals, and what might cause those goals to become so misaligned with Xorchylic’s as to cause open conflict?

In my mind, Zerasha is truly devoted to her faith and to her Queen, in that order. As described in this article, she believes that the Shadow is the guide and guardian of those creatures followers of the Sovereigns consider monsters. Beyond this, she is what the article describes as a mentor. Acting on behalf of the Shadow, she seeks to help the faithful achieve their ambitions—even if that means following the darkest possible paths to do so. Beyond that, the Shadow is the Sovereign of secrets. As described above, she is an oracle—not as gifted in this regard as Sora Teraza, but certainly the most powerful oracle in Graywall. She knows secrets. Having said that, as I called out above, her knowledge comes from the Shadow and she doesn’t know things until she needs to know them. When she meets a player character, the Shadow may tell her their secrets; but it’s not like she just randomly knows everyone’s secrets all the time. And again, if the Shadow shares a secret with Zerasha, it’s so she can DO something with that secret.

So in terms of her goals, I believe that Zerasha’s goals are first and foremost to offer spiritual guidance to the people of Graywall and to help them achieve their true potential. Beneath that, her goals are whatever tasks the Shadow sets before her; it’s quite common for her to feel that there is a particular individual the Shadow wishes her to focus on, someone who needs to be guided on the proper path. And beneath that, her loyalty is to her queen, the medusa Sheshka, and to the people of Cazhaak Draal.

Her relationship with Xorchyllic largely depends on what the DM decides Xorchyllic is truly up to. As long as Xorchyllic is pursuing the greater good of Graywall and Droaam, Zerasha will support him. But we’ve called out that the Flayer Guard of Droaam serve the interests of the governor first and the common folk second. If Xorchyllic is somehow oppressing or harming a portion of the city in pursuit of his personal agenda, that could bring him into conflict with Zerasha. Ultimately, the question is what is the interest of the Shadow? If the Shadow supports Xorchyllic and wants the illithid to achieve its ambitions, Zerasha could work closely with the governor. On the other hand, if the Shadow is most interested in helping a lowly kobold on the Street of Shadows achieve her ambitions of overthrowing Xorchyllic and becoming a new warlord, than Zerasha would oppose the mind flayer. The same is true for player characters. What does the Shadow think of them? It could be that it favors their enemies, in which case Zerasha will oppose them. Or it could be that the Shadow has an interest in one of the adventurers and wants to show them the path to power—in which case, Zerasha who seek to serve as their mentor. But again, a mentor of the Shadow will always lead you down dangerous paths…

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

IFAQ: Lightning Round!

Every month I ask my Patreon supporters for short questions. Normally I’d spread these out over a lot of short articles, but September kept me busy and I didn’t have a chance. So, here’s an assortment of infrequently asked questions, dealing with dwarves, Dar, the Dark Six, numerology, electrum, and much too much more!

Are the Dark six truly evil? Or are they just misunderstood by the civilized people?

There’s no absolute answer, because the Sovereigns and Six can’t be judged independently of their followers. The Sovereigns and Six are IDEAS. To people who follow the Pyrinean Creed, the Dark Six are literally symbols of evil. The Devourer is the source of the destructive powers of nature. The Shadow creates monsters and lures people down dark paths. While to someone who follows the Cazhaak traditions, the Devourer tests us and weeds out the weak, and the Shadow helps us unlock our true potential. But the whole point of religion in Eberron is that there is no absolute proof that one of these beliefs is right and that the other is wrong. The question is which YOU believe to be true, and what you will do because of those beliefs. So, are the Dark Six truly evil? It depends who you ask. I’ve written a number of articles that talk about how different groups view the Dark Six; these include articles on the Shadow, the Keeper, the Fury, and the Traveler.

How well known is the commonality of the 13-1 in Eberron? Is it common numerology? Does it cause issues with there being 15 member of the Sovereign Host?

People within the setting are aware of the patterns that link certain phenomena. The ones most people know about are the moons, the planes, and the Dragonmarks. Most people believe that this is because there is a relationship between these things—that the moons are linked to the planes or to the dragonmarks in some meaningful way. Most people don’t believe that EVERYTHING is somehow tied to a baker’s dozen, so no one things it’s strange that there’s 15 deities in the Sovereign Host or that there’s only eight beasts in the Race of Eight Winds. And while most people do believe that the numerology of moons, marks, and planes is significant, MOST will say that some of the other baker’s dozens—the number of Mror Holds for example—are surely just a bizarre coincidence, though others will claim that it’s tied to the Prophecy. So people are AWARE of it, but they don’t believe that it does or should apply to every aspect of the world.

You once said “Antus ir’Soldorak recently began minting electrum coins called “Eyes” (due to the stylized eye on one face).” What are the public/private reasons for that eye and what has been the public reaction(s)?

So setting aside the IN-WORD explanation, there’s two explanations for why *I* made those decisions. Electrum pieces have been a weird outlier since AD&D; 4E dropped them completely. I wanted to give them an actual concrete role in the setting, along with a reason why they WEREN’T used in 4E — that they are actually new in the world. As for “Eye”, the MAIN reason for this is to fit the pattern of the coin name matching the letter of the metal: copper crowns, silver sovereigns, gold galifars, electrum eyes. Of course, I chose “Eyes” —rather than, say, “Elephants”—because I liked the idea that perhaps there IS a greater significance to it. The Player’s Guide to Eberron introduces an enchantment spell created by the Aurum that uses a platinum piece as a component; it seemed very in line with Soldorak’s ambitions to create a coin that could be used, perhaps, as a specialized scrying target… that in spreading this new currency across the Five Nations, he’s actually laying the groundwork for a vast spying network.

Is that true? That’s up to you to decide, based on the role of the Aurum in your campaign. Likewise on the reaction to the coins themselves. Personally, I think the reaction would vary from indifference to disdain—with some people seeing it as a publicity stunt and others seeing it as unnecessary. On the other hand, Soldorak could create a publicity campaign suggesting that his electrum coins are more reliable than others—especially if this was combine with a surge in counterfeiting of traditional currencies with base metals.

What’s Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax like? Do the kobolds and goblins have the same culture, or are kobolds as described in Volo’s?

In brief: This article discusses the most widespread kobold culture in Eberron. Droaam in particular has a number of micro-cultures created by the interactions between kobolds, goblins, and the other inhabitants of the regions, so there are isolated kobold clans and bands of goblins that have entirely unique traditions. However, most of the kobolds and goblins of the region have a shared history of being oppressed and dominated by other creatures, which has established a strong bond between the two species and a number of common traditions. This is the foundation of Shaarat Kol: it is a dominion formed from the ground up by kobolds and goblins freed from subjugation and working together to CREATE their own culture. It blends together a number of different micro-cultures, and it’s still finding its identity. Full details on Shaarat Kol and Kethelrax could be a topic for a future Dragonmark article.

Do magebred flowers and plants exist and what uses could they have?

Eberron possesses a host of flora not seen on our world. The most common source of such unusual plant-life is the influence of manifest zones. We’ve already talked about many such plants over time: livewood, Araam’s crown, dawn’s glory. The pommow plant of Riedra is specifically called out as being actively magebred—not merely “naturally” occurring in a manifest zone, but developed by the Inspired. A more detailed exploration of magebred and supernatural plants could be a subject for a future Dragonmark article.

What is the path to citizenship in the Five Nations?

Galifar is based on feudal principles, and most nations retain that basic foundation. To become a citizen of such a nation requires an audience with a local noble. The applicant swears fealty to the nation and its ruler, and also direct allegiance to that local noble; the noble in turn formally accepts them as a subject. This means that the noble is accepting responsibility for that individual, and the individual is promising to obey that noble, pay taxes, and answer any call for conscription, as well as to respect the laws of the land. The noble doesn’t HAVE to accept an offer of fealty, and most won’t unless the potential subject intends to reside within their domain. So it’s entirely valid for a Brelish noble to refuse to accept the fealty of an ogre from Droaam because either they don’t believe the ogre will uphold the laws or they don’t believe that the ogre intends to remain within their domain. Likewise, back before Droaam, the Barrens were considered to be part of Breland but the inhabitants of the region weren’t Brelish citizens, because they’d never sworn fealty to any Brelish lord; legally (from the perspective of Galifar) they were outlaws squatting in Brelish land.

In the modern age, much of this process is handled by bureaucracy, especially in the case of children of existing citizens. In some regions there are annual ceremonies where each child swears an oath to the local lord before being recognized as an adult. But in a populous region like Sharn, the parents will file paperwork when the child is born, and when the child becomes an adult they’ll file their own statement. But the underlying principle remains the same: someone needs to make a decision on behalf of the local lord as to whether to accept the offer of fealty, and this will be based on the applicant’s residence, reputation, family, and other factors.

How do governance and taxation work in the biggest principalities in Lhazaar? Are there any established checks on the princes’ powers, or are they all like little autocracies?

Every principality is unique, and the laws of a principality can dramatically change from prince to prince. As shown by the recent article on Lorghalen, the culture and traditions of the gnome islanders have nothing in common with the Bloodsails. The idea of the Principalities as a truly formalized alliance with a single leader and a more unified set of laws is a very new concept; Ryger ir’Wynarn is striving to bring the Principalities together, but that’s very much a work in progress.

What makes the dwarves of the Realm Below concretely different from the dar of Dhakaan? They’re both subterranean empires. If I want to have adventurers have to deal with daelkyr forces massing in a subterranean ruin, why would I use one instead of the other?

One reason to use one culture instead of the other is the location of the story. Sol Udar occupies a small region, primarily just the land under the Ironroot Mountains. Under most of Khorvaire, the Dhakaani were the only advanced subterranean nation. In Xen’drik you don’t have Dhakaani or Udar; instead you might find the Umbragen drow or Giant ruins. As for cosmetic differences, the appearance of the Realm Below is discussed on page 119 of Exploring Eberron. The civilization of Sol Udar was a highly magical civilization that incorporated cantrip effects into daily life. An Udar ruin will have magical lighting, illustrate music, climate control. The Dhakaani are primarily a martial society: their forge adepts created magical weapons, but they didn’t have arcane air conditioners or magical jukeboxes. Dhakaani structures are stark and brutalist in design, though extremely durable; from the ground up, they were designed for WAR. The Udar weren’t so warlike, and their homes have a lot more cosmetic comforts. The second aspect is the degree to which the Udar specialized in working with demiplanes—meaning that for any Udar ruin you want to establish what demiplane it’s attached to and how those effects manifest in the ruin.

In Exploring Eberron, Jhazaal Dhakaan is said to have created the Ghaal’duur horn, but she’s also described as a bard. How does this fit with the fact that the Dhakaani have a strong tradition of artificers?

It’s not just Exploring Eberron; the Ghaal’duur is first mentioned as a creation of Jhazaal in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. It’s always been assumed that the duur’klala create magic items, but they create magic items associated with bardic magic. Duur’kala create items associated with enchantment, inspiration, and healing, while the daashor generally create armor and weapons of war. Now, the daashor CAN create any sort of item. Jhazaal created the First Crown, which is an artifact tied to inspiration; but it was a daashor who created the Rod of Kings. Still, the general principle is that the forge adepts create the tools of war, while the dirge singers create items associated with peace.

Do the Dragonmark houses view The Twelve as an authority or an advisory body?

The Twelve is technically a RESOURCE. It’s an arcane institute devoted to developing tools and techniques that benefit all of the dragonmarked houses. Dragonmarked heirs learn the arcane arts from the Twelve, and many important tools—such as the Kundarak vault network and most dragonmark focus items—were developed by the Twelve. The Council of the Twelve discusses issues of interest to all houses and helps to mediate disputes, but it has no AUTHORITY… though because its work is of great value to all of the houses, no house would want to take actions that would cause it to be cut off from the institute.

What stands out about Eberron’s transitive planes? Or are they just part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality, and a shortcut to the other planes in the Deep Ethereal and the Astral?

They’re primarily a part of the backbone of Eberron’s reality. In the 3.5 ECS the transitive planes were called out as functioning normally, and we’ve never suggested that they were created by the progenitors; instead, they are part of the basic metaphysical framework that the progenitors built upon. So they are largely supposed to fill the same function as they do in other settings.

What was the family of Mordain Fleshweaver inside House Phiarlan?

This is the sort of question I prefer not to answer. The answer has no significance for me. I could make a D6 table of named Phiarlan families and randomly say “Shol”, because hey, that’s a Phiarlan family. But that doesn’t make anyone’s story BETTER. The question is what do you WANT his family to be? If one of your player characters is a Thuranni, you might say that Mordain is also Thuranni, and might take an interest in the character because of that. Or you could say he was Paelion and will have a vendetta against the PC for that reason. But perhaps you’ve got a character who’s a Shol from Phiarlan… well, maybe Mordain is a Shol! Essentially, Mordain’s specific lineage isn’t an important part of his story, so I don’t want to make a choice that has no meaning for me but might get in the way of YOUR story. Since you’re asking the question, you presumably have a situation where it’s going to matter; so what do you WANT the answer to be? What will be the most interesting answer for your campaign?

That’s all for now! I’ll be asking my Patreon supporters for October questions soon, and I have a new Patreon experiment I’ll discuss next week!

Dark Six: The Traveler

Boldrei unites us as a community, and Aureon’s laws bring order to our lives. Dol Arrah shows us the path of honor and Dol Dorn gives us courage. The Traveler seeks to destroy all of this. It wanders the world, hiding behind a hundred different faces. It offers gifts, tempting you to take risks and to stray from the path. It has one goal: chaos. Try something new! Listen to this secret! Take this risky opportunity! All of these are the gifts of the Traveler, and all will lead you to despair. Trust in tradition. Trust the neighbor you know, not the stranger on the road. Beware the gifts of the Traveler.

—Halas Molan, High Priest of Wroat

‘Don’t speak to strangers.’ ‘Don’t try anything new.’ The priests tell you to treasure the life you have now, and to avoid anything that might place it at risk. Well, the sheep in the field live predictable lives of absolute security… until the shepherd grows hungry! The Traveler will shatter the life you have known, yes. Because it is in that chaos that you will find YOUR path and learn who you truly are. It is only by leaving your comfortable home that you’ll see all the wonders the world has to offer. If you care only about peace and stability, you might as well crawl into your grave right now. If you want to experience everything life has to offer—moments of despair, yes, but also the greatest joys you can imagine—embrace the gifts of the Traveler.      

—Chance of Sharn

Five bones lashed together—one of the oldest and simplest symbols of the Dark Six, found in countless shrines in Droaam. But why five bones? Because the Traveler can’t be bound to one place or one form. The Traveler is the space on the wall, acknowledged in their absence.

Our lives are balanced between order and chaos, and the Traveler is always trying to push us over the edge. In the myths of the Nine and Six, the Traveler is never encountered as “The Traveler.” The Traveler is the smith who gives Dol Dorn a sword, only to have it shatter in the first battle; the thief who steals Aureon’s tome the moment he needs it most; the sage who exposes Dol Azur’s treachery. The Traveler wears a different name and face in every tale, but we KNOW they’re the Traveler because of the impact of their actions. Sometimes the gifts of the Traveler can raise you up, and sometimes they will ruin you. The only constants are chaos and change—shattering the foundation of your life and forcing you to find a new path forward.

In the common traditions of the Sovereign Host, the Traveler is presented as a malicious entity who revels in misfortune, chaos, and confusion. Good fortune is the blessing of Olladra; when something fails at the worst possible moment, it’s the hand of the Traveler. In these stories, the Traveler seeks to undermine all security, to tear down every foundation. Any stranger could be the Traveler, seeking to bring you to ruin. By contrast, those who follow the Traveler say that the change it brings is a positive thing—that chaos spurs innovation and revelation, that it’s important to challenge traditions and abandon those that have served their purpose. Like most of the Dark Six, the Traveler focuses on the good of the individual over the stability of institutions: the Traveler helps you find YOUR path, rather than being bound by tradition. When you meet a stranger on the road, are you afraid of this possible threat or excited to meet someone new?

When this article refers to vassals, it’s a reference to those who follow the Pyrinean Creed—the default faith of the Sovereign Host as practiced in the Five Nations. There are two other sects that are relevant here. The Cazhaak tradition is the common faith of Droaam; it respects the chaos of the Traveler as a force that challenges tradition and forces people and civilizations to evolve. The most devoted followers of the Traveler are the Children, the faith of the nomadic changelings who view the Traveler as a personal guide and source of inspiration.

Chaos and Change

The Traveler touches the domains of many other Sovereigns. Like Aureon and the Shadow, the Traveler is a source of knowledge. Along with Olladra and the Mockery, the Traveler is a patron of those who rely on deception and cunning. Like Onatar, they can provide inspiration to the artisan. Both those who fear the Traveler and those who revere them agree on one thing: whatever gifts the Traveler gives, they always lead to chaos. If the Traveler gives you knowledge, it’s because the revelation will force you to reevaluate everything you have known. If they help you deceive, it’s because your actions will introduce chaos and crisis—whether into your life or the lives of others. Onatar will teach a swordsmith to make a better sword; the Traveler might show her how to make a bomb, changing the face of warfare. The Traveler isn’t here to help you to satisfy your greed or to achieve your ambitions. The Traveler will set you on paths you never thought to try. They may grant you good fortune… but when you call on the Traveler, you are inviting the unexpected into your life.

The Traveler isn’t evil in the same way as the Devourer or the Shadow. But most vassals view the Traveler as an entirely malicious force—while those who honor the Traveler emphasize the potentially positive aspects of chaos. Take the myth mentioned above as an example. A smith gives Dol Dorn a magic sword, promising that it can defeat any foe. Dol Dorn rashly challenges a band of demons, but as soon as battle is joined the blade shatters. Refusing to retreat, Dol Dorn fights on and brings down his enemies with his fists and feet… creating the martial art practiced by the Order of the Broken Blade. The typical vassal interprets the role of the Traveler as entirely negative: the sword shattered and it was only the strength and courage of Dol Dorn that allowed him to triumph. Whereas one of the Children will say that it was because the blade shattered that Dol Dorn was forced to create something entirely new: that the Traveler’s goal wasn’t to kill Dol Dorn, but rather to challenge him and force this moment of innovation. The Cazhaak tradition maintains that the chaos of the Traveler is a flame that tests and tempers traditions and beliefs, whether these define a society or an individual. The Traveler doesn’t seek absolute anarchy; but they want you to constantly challenge your beliefs, and to abandon traditions that have outlived their usefulness. Under this interpretation the Traveler is ultimately a positive force, though they force you to live in interesting times. However, the majority of vassals dismiss this and see the Traveler solely as a bringer of misfortune and mischief.

Walk Your Own Path

In the Pyrinean myths, the Traveler seeks to lure you off the path of safety and security. In the traditions of the Children, the Traveler is the guide who walks by your side when you choose the unknown road. Because it’s only by walking your own path that you can find yourself. These two concepts—walk your own path and find yourself are important principles for those who honor the Traveler. Walk your own path is a principle that can be embraced both literally and metaphorically. On the one hand, it’s a faith that encourages a nomadic lifestyle, embracing the chaos of the road and seeking out new places and experiences. Beyond that, it’s a simple directive not to let others control your life; trust your instincts and don’t fear the unknown.

Find yourself can likewise be embraced on multiple levels. Identify your strengths and your passions. But beyond that, figure out who you want to be and become that person. While this is an easy directive for a changeling, Eberron is a world of magic and it’s something that can be a literal truth for anyone. Disguise self and alter self allow people to temporarily assume identities, but there are transmutation spells and rituals that allow someone to permanently change any aspect of appearance or gender. Followers of the Traveler are urged not to feel bound by anyone’s expectations—only you know who you are.

So while the vassals fear the Traveler as a malevolent force that seeks to pull you into chaos, the Children and those that follow the Cazhaak faith see the Traveler as the one who will stand by you when you choose to leap into the unknown or to challenge tradition.

Paths of the Traveler

Those who follow the Traveler generally embrace one of three paths.

  • The Trickster sows chaos for the joy of it, believing that as long as they are causing trouble for someone they will be protected by the Traveler. Some tricksters are manic and wild, causing disruptions wherever they go but rarely causing any huge disasters. Others are careful and calculating, forgoing petty disruptions in favor of actions that will shake cities or institutions. With that said, most tricksters have no long term agenda beyond chaos itself; their purpose is to light the fire, and how far it spreads or what it consumes is in the hands of fate. Tricksters are primarily found among the vassals; as the faith has a purely negative view of the Traveler, those who follow their path embrace that destructive view.
  • The Mentor creates chaos because they believe it will have a positive outcome. In comparison to tricksters, mentors are rarely manic in demeanor; a mentor is more calculating. The mentor is the smith who gives Dol Dorn a flawed sword knowing that Dol Dorn relies too heavily on his sword and needs to learn he doesn’t need it. Of course, it’s the mentor who decides what lesson you need to learn, and there’s no promise you’ll survive the ensuing strife. But the mentor creates chaos with a goal in mind, whether it’s testing an institution, a law, or a particular individual. Mentors can also focus on guiding those who are in moments of crisis. Just as you believe the Traveler is by your side in chaotic times leading you towards the positive outcome, you could take that role for others. You believe that traditions need to be challenged, that people need to be tested; but ultimately you want people to learn a positive lesson, not to be lost to the chaos.
  • The Wanderer follows their own path, pursuing a life of constant change and new experiences. They don’t seek to cause chaos, either maliciously or with good intent. Rather they embrace it in their own life, seeking to live unfettered by expectations and to avoid settling into any negative patterns.

Any character or NPC could follow any of these paths. Remember that you don’t have to be a divine spellcaster to believe that you have a divine purpose, or even to play the role of priest. Bards, rogues, and charlatans make excellent mentors or tricksters. A sorcerer specializing in illusion or enchantment could attribute their gifts to the Traveler. An Archfey warlock could set the Traveler as their patron… but are they actually serving the Sovereign, or an archfey who’s taken on the mantle? A ranger could easily follow the path of the wanderer, as could a changeling monk who seeks to perfect their own form.

Using the Traveler

The Traveler is the only Sovereign who’s often depicted as wandering the world. However, this is a flawed interpretation of what’s actually going on. The Traveler is the stranger on the road, the spark that creates the Flame. The Traveler takes a different form in every story, but we know they’re the Traveler because of the consequences of their actions. On the one hand, you could posit this as the work of a single divine entity.. On the other, it can simply be the actions of many different people. The Children believe that the Traveler acts through them; that when you do the work of a mentor, in that moment you ARE the Traveler. Likewise, there are many powerful beings—from archfey to the legendary Sora Kell—who have taken on the mantle of the Traveler or whose actions have been attributed to the Traveler. So you could choose to actually have players interact with an individual who claims to be the Traveler: but is it actually a god? Is it an archfey or celestial that’s taken on the mantle? Is it simply a changeling priest? Here’s a few other options to consider.

Player Characters

In making a player character who’s devoted to the Traveler, the critical question is how you’re going to interact with the other members of your party. The carefree trickster who sows chaos with no concern for consequence might be fun for YOU, but why would the other player characters associate with you (unless they share your beliefs)? As such, the mentor or the wanderer are better paths for player characters. The wanderer is primarily a free spirit; you’re going to encourage the party to keep moving forward, to question authority and to keep from being tied down, but you are focused on your OWN journey as opposed to trying to bring chaos to others. The mentor can be an excellent path for a PC. As a mentor, you can focus on bringing down corrupt systems and institutions: challenging the Dragonmarked Houses, exposing corruption in local guilds or temples, and meanwhile trying to help innocents find a positive path through chaotic times. This is also a possible place to use some of the things I suggest for Adding Drama to the Divine. Your mentor could be pointed at people to help or institutions to challenge. You may not know the entire story, but you know that it’s your task to bring down the Daggerwatch Garrison in Sharn… are you up to the task?

As a cleric of the Traveler, you could focus on the Trickery or Knowledge domain depending on your vision of your character. Are you more about active deception, or do you work by exposing secrets? Another option is the Forge cleric (or artificer) focused on creating things that will change the world; see the Cannith cult below for more thought on this. There’s no particular paladin oath that’s ideally suited to the Traveler, but that means that you could follow any oath as long as you’re pursuing the goals of the Traveler. If you’re primarily a wanderer, you could take the Oath of the Ancients. If you’re focused on tearing down corrupt systems you might take Vengeance, while if you’re primarily driven to help guide others through times of chaos and crisis you could follow the path of Devotion.

The primary point in following the Traveler is that you embrace instability and chaos as positive tools. Unless you’re a trickster, you don’t want to cause trouble without reason. But you believe in taking chances, embracing uncertainty, and pushing others to do the same.

THE CABINET OF FACES

Most tribal changelings follow the path of the wanderer. They live nomadic lives and walk their own paths, with little concern for the greater world around them. However, there is an alliance of changelings who follow the path of the mentor—who actively sow chaos in large and small ways. As most members of the Cabinet of Faces are changelings, their exact numbers are impossible to track and it’s up to you as a DM to decide just how widespread they are and how deep their resources go. There could be members of the Cabinet in every city, with agents hidden in positions of power. Or there could be merely a dozen members of the Cabinet, each of who assumes a hundred different roles.

Members of the Cabinet of Faces play the role of the Traveler in the myths. They take actions that will set chaos in motion. This could be a gift, a theft, a revelation. Consider the following possibilities.

  • A old sage asks the party to investigate a Dhakaani barrow. They recover a powerful sword that holds the essence of a Dhakaani champion—a powerful weapon for whoever wields it, but also something that could change the balance of power between the Heirs of Dhakaan. When the players return from their adventure, the sage is nowhere to be found. What will they do with the sword?
  • The players are ambushed by a member of a local organization who escapes after being seen. In fighting the organization, the PCs shake up a corrupt and engrained system, but they never encounter the person who originally attacked them.
  • A scholar arrives with proof that one of the players has a claim to a noble title… but what chaos will ensue if they pursue it?
  • The party is accosted by a group of guards, as a member of the party was clearly seen committing a crime earlier: will they sort out the situation, or panic and dig in deeper?

In all of these examples, a single individual is setting a chaotic series of events in motion. The assassin, the sage, the criminal—they don’t have a personal investment in the outcome; they are simply working to place the player characters in a challenging situation or using the player characters to challenge a powerful institution or tradition.

The key with the Cabinet of Faces is that their actions will always create a crisis. This could be a personal crisis—what do we do with this artifact? Do I pursue my ancestral claim?—or it could be a set of events that could bring down a dragonmarked house, a high priest, or a nation. It’s possible that these actions can objectively be seen as noble; they will often target corrupt institutions. But they can also be challenging virtuous institutions or traditions just to make sure that they are still serving their purpose and to force them to evolve. Their goal isn’t “good”—it is chaos, with the hope that that chaos will have a positive outcome.

CANNITH CULTS

Onatar is generally seen as the patron of House Cannith. And as noted above, Onatar does inspire artisans and help them find better ways to do their work… but slowly and carefully. Onatar can be seen as following the Prime Directive: the Sovereign of the Forge won’t share any ideas until the world is ready for them. But there are those in House Cannith who believe that there should be no limits on arcane advancement, divine or otherwise. Artificers and artisans who invoke the Traveler pursue ideas that could change the world. One common theory is that the Mourning was caused by a Cannith cult of the Traveler—that they were creating a weapon that would completely change the face of modern warfare and lost control of it. There’s no question that the Mourning has forced change upon the world… but it also shows the potential danger of meddling with forces we don’t understand. Others say that Aaren d’Cannith was a devotee of the Traveler, and that the Sovereign of Change showed him the path to warforged sentience… a discovery that is forcing us to reconsider the nature of life and the rights of our creations.

From a story perspective, this can be the source of a single mad mage with big dreams and creations they can’t control. Or it can be a cabal that is actively working to release something that could fundamentally change civilization as we know it. Reliable resurrection. Cheap teleportation. Part of the point of introducing such a thing would be to explore the chaos it would cause, and the ways in which it would transform the world.

Cannith cults are the best known of these because they can hide within the infrastructure of the house, but any artificer can seek inspiration from the Traveler. The risk is that House Cannith always seeks to contain any advances that could threaten its monopolies. Working within the house you can try to hide your true work within legitimate paths; as an independent you don’t have the shield provided by family connections or knowledge of the house. But it’s certainly the case that an independent artificer who creates a revolutionary ritual can threaten the established dominance of the house… and bringing down established powers is certainly one of the goals of the Traveler.

INDEPENDENT OPERATORS

As noted above, anyone who causes chaos or crisis can be perceived as hands of the Traveler. But there are also those who do the work of the Traveler in less dramatic ways. In Sharn, there’s a priest of the Traveler who runs a gambling hall; encouraging people to task risks and facilitating unusual wagers. The Tyrants of Sharn aren’t as far-reaching in their actions as the Cabinet of Faces, but they also take subtle actions to challenge the institutions of the city… exacerbating the conflict between Daask and the Boromar Clan, subtling interfering in the espionage and diplomacy that occurs throughout the city. The basic question when introducing a devotee of the Traveler is the question of mentor or trickster… do they believe that their actions could have a positive outcome, or are they lighting the fire because they want to watch things burn?

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Q&A

Why is the Traveler in the Dark Six? The other five members have evil alignments, but it is CN. So why’s it with the rest of them?

Because it’s not about the alignment of the entity, it’s about the consequences of their actions. The Sovereign Host are seen as forces that strengthen and support civilization: law, agriculture, industry, commerce, honor. The Dark Six are forces that are either destructive or that favor the individual. Even if you accept the mentor’s view that chaos can have a positive end result, the Traveler is fundamentally a deity driven by challenging tradition and shattering order: placing them directly in opposition with Onatar, Aureon, and the rest of the Nine.

Mythologically, does the Traveler predate the other Sovereigns?

Mythologically, no one knows. That’s the message of the five bones: the Traveler may be grouped with the Dark Six, but they’ve always walked their own path. The Traveler is present in the myths, but there’s no story that explains their origin. So it’s possible that they predate the Sovereigns or possible that they came into existence with the Sovereigns; the critical point is that they’re always there, shaping the story from the sidelines.

The Traveler seems an obvious figure to be seen as the driving force behind a revolution. Are there any revolutionary groups in Eberron, past or present, that pay tribute to the Traveler?

It’s not quite as obvious as it appears. Under the Pyrinean Creed—the dominant faith of the Five Nations—the Traveler is seen in a purely negative light. Look again to the myth of Dol Dorn’s broken sword; the Vassal interpretation isn’t that the Traveler helped Dol Dorn learn a lesson, but rather that the Traveler intended mischief and Dol Dorn’s courage and strength allowed him to triumph in spite of it. As a result, groups like the Swords of Liberty don’t invoke the Traveler as their patron. They invoke Aureon, saying that they seek to create a better system of laws and leadership; Dol Arrah, saying that they fight for a just cause; Boldrei, saying that they are the ones fighting for the good of the community; or Dol Dorn, asking for the strength and courage to see their battle through. They don’t see the Traveler as the guiding their efforts to bring change; they fear that the Traveler will bring them misfortune or through their plans into chaos.

Essentially, the vassals assume that all who follow the Traveler are tricksters. The idea of the mentor and the positive aspects of chaos are largely tied those who follow the Cazhaak traditions and the Children. While there are those in the Five Nations who share these beliefs, it’s not usually something they would proclaim openly as it would generally be misinterpreted. So there may be those WITHIN the Swords of Liberty who offer prayers to the Traveler and view them as a patron of their efforts—but it’s not something embraced by the movement as a whole.

With that said? Certainly, it’s happened in the past. Bear in mind that the Last War isn’t the first time there’s been strife over the succession of Galifar. There was a princess of Aundair who invoked the Traveler, calling for a fundamental change to both the system of the Galifar and the dominance of the Pyrinean Creed; there was likewise a movement in Cyre that sought vast changed and called themselves the Travelers. However, neither of these ended well, and most Vassals blame this on the foolish concept of placing any faith in the Traveler.

How common are cloaks as a motif in the practices of the Children? Beyond the obvious utility of a cloak, are cloaks part of the vestments of clerics, are they handed down and repaired rather than replaced? 

I’d take this a step farther. The Children don’t rely on clothes to identify a priest. Among other things, having a recognizable uniform prevents the changeling from assuming other roles… and one of the roles of a priest of the Traveler is to be able to BE the stranger on the road, which is hard to do if you’re wearing a distinctive uniform.

So rather than clothing, I’d see the Children developing personas for their priests. I know my priest by their face and their voice. Helgin is a white-haired dwarf with a scar over his left eye and a deep booming voice. He’s also one of the priests of my tribe, and when I see Helgin, I know it’s a priest acting in his official capacity. It doesn’t matter what he’s wearing; the SHAPE is the vestment, and it is something that would be handed down and shared by multiple priests within the tribe.

Tied to this, in my opinion the Children don’t use a consistent holy symbol for the Traveler. Instead, I feel that the holy symbol is something that has personal significance and importance to the individual priest… not unlike an okus in Illimat. So an heirloom cloak could certainly be a PARTICULAR cleric’s holy symbol; as symbols are usually handheld it’s slightly odd, but the point would be that to USE it as a holy symbol, you’d have to lift a corner in your hand (same as a priest of the Undying Court has to place a hand on their mask to use it as a holy symbol).

So yes, I think a cloak is an interesting holy symbol. But I also think that the Children recognize their priests based on personas as opposed to clothing.

How does guarding and protecting a persecuted people interact with introducing chaos as an agent of change?

This is the critical point that highlights why the Traveler gets pushed to the Dark Six. The mentor will try to help you through crisis, but they will CREATE the crisis to begin with. Weathering a storm makes you stronger, so I’m going to push you into a storm. This also ties to the three paths I described. The trickster creates chaos and doesn’t care about helping people in crisis. The wanderer follows a chaotic life, believing the Traveler walks with them; they likewise don’t care about OTHER people in crisis. It’s the mentor who actively tries to help others… but again, they will create crises if you’re not already dealing with one.

Do the Children have any thoughts on their purpose in the Traveler’s path? Are they considered to be his agents?

Most of the Children follow the path of the wanderer. Look back to the Jes myth: ‘I will protect your children if they follow my path. Let them wander the world. None will know them. They will have no kingdom but the road, and no enemy will find them. They may be shunned by all the world, but they will never be destroyed.’ The Children don’t care about anyone else; they believe that as long as they embrace a path of constant chaos and change, always moving and adapting, that the Traveler will guide and protect them. So overall, the Children consider themselves to be the chosen people of the Traveler, but that doesn’t require them to interfere with others.

Now, SOME of the Children believe that they are active agents of the Traveler. The Cabinet of Faces is primarily comprised of Children, and largely follows the path of the mentor. Others become tricksters, seeing it as a sacred duty to sow chaos. And beyond this you have priests, who often believe that they are the hands of the Traveler in guiding and protecting the Children.

Is the connection between the Traveler and the Children a known part of the distrust of changelings or just a happy coincidence?

The Children don’t feel that the laws of others apply to them, and see it as their right to deceive single-skins. And yes, this has increased the general distrust of changelings. But it’s worth noting that the Children are extremely secretive; they’re known more as urban legend than concrete fact. Unlike many traveling people in our world, you’re not likely to ever know when a group of the Children pass through your city.

What beliefs does Lost have about the Traveler? They’re a more stable doppelgänger community aren’t they?

That depends how you define “stable.” Lost is a mobile village whose BUILDINGS can shapeshift. This follows the basic principle of the path of the wanderer: they are ever-moving, ever-changing, and as such the Traveler remains by their side.

Lost is described in Dungeon 193. The article presents a version of the myth of Jes’s Children later seen in WGtE, stating that the founders of Lost were fleeing enemies in Ohr Kaluun and that the Traveler helped them hide. “In exchange, the people of Lost swore to bring confusion to his enemies and change to the world.” So the inhabitants of Lost are a branch of the Children, albeit one that’s less influenced by regular contact with the culture of the Five Nations. Beyond this, it’s important to remember that the followers of the Traveler aren’t opposed to tradition; they simply believe that traditions should always be challenged and should evolve when necessary, and this is true in Lost. From the article, the people of Lost “…find joy in change, both within the individual and the ripples they create in the lives of others. Although each doppelganger has a unique thought-symbol that serves as a true name, the people of Lost are ambivalent regarding permanent identity in a way that that outsiders find disconcerting.” Again, this ties to the WGtE statement that the Children don’t write down their myths, because a story should be allowed to take different forms. Lost is the oldest community of the Children, and devoted to the Traveler. But the village itself changes location and appearance, and the people likewise embrace continuous change… even if their devotion to the Traveler remains a constant throughout.

Dark Six: The Shadow

The Shadow was the first of the Dark Six. As Aureon drew the first words of power in the blood of Siberys, his shadow was tracing sigils in the blood of Khyber. As Aureon gained power, the darkness in his heart gained strength and sentience. It was the whispers of the Shadow that led the Mockery down his dark path and stoked the anger of the Devourer. For the Shadow is the maker of monsters. The Shadow gave the harpy a voice that lures innocents to their doom, and gave the medusa her deadly gaze. But the Shadow can make monsters of any of us, tempting us down evil paths. Aureon and Dol Arrah show us the path to the common good, while the Shadow urges us to give in to our own darkness. It is up to you to listen to the light and to take the higher road. 

—Halas Molan, High Priest of Wroat

Eat your vegetables. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t learn that spell, it’s dangerous! Aureon, the king, the judge, the teacher… the world is filled with people telling you what to do, people who want to impose their laws on your life. They say the Shadow urges you to do evil, but who decides what’s evil? The Shadow wants you to achieve your full potential, to live your best life—not to be limited by lesser people and their laws. And if that makes you a ‘monster’ in their eyes, so be it. 

—Thalanna of Sharn

The war between the Shadow and Aureon rages in all of us. Aureon’s voice tells us that we are stronger together, that it’s worth it to suffer for the sake of the common good. The Shadow whispers that there is no common good—that all that matters is what you need and what you can do. Why should you make sacrifices for others instead of doing what’s best for yourself? Why should you give when you can take?

In the common tradition of the Five Nations, the Shadow is broadly responsible for evil within the world. The Sovereigns banished and bound the Overlords of the First Age, but the Shadow is a part of Aureon and couldn’t be destroyed; metaphorically, this reflects the idea that the potential for evil is in everyone. But as with all of the Dark Six, the Shadow has different aspects: the Sovereign of Ambition, the Tempter, the Keeper of Secrets, and the Maker of Monsters.

Ambition and Temptation

The Shadow is the source of ambition. It’s the voice that keeps you from ever being satisfied, that urges you to achieve greater things. A little ambition can be a good thing, but the Shadow is never satisfied. It embodies the hunger to succeed regardless of the cost to yourself or others. Those who revere the Shadow emphasize this as a positive trait: The Shadow will show you the path to power, how to be the best that you can be. But how far will you go? Would you murder your boss if it’s the only way to advance? What if you can simply ruin their reputation with a lie? Would you employ dark magics even if you’ll take a year off an innocent’s life each time you cast a spell? This is how ambition becomes a pathway to temptation.

But what is the purpose of temptation? Why does the Shadow want to lead you astray, and why should his followers care about you? Because Dolurrh isn’t the end of existence. Most Vassals believe that Dolurrh is a place where the soul transitions to a higher level of existence: the realm of the Sovereigns. Some believe that that this is a true afterlife based on the concept of each Sovereign: that Arawai and Balinor govern a realm of perfect nature, while Aureon presides over a grand assembly of courts and libraries. Others believe that Vassals become part of the Sovereign they most resemble—that the soul of the sage becomes one with Aureon. But one led astray by the Shadow becomes part of the Shadow. This might mean dissolution of the soul or it could be an eternity trapped in a formless void; either way it’s not going to be fun. Of course, as with all things related to the Sovereigns, there’s no absolute proof of this… and a devotee of the Shadow will tell you it’s exactly the kind of story followers of Aureon use to control you. Are you going to let fear keep you from achieving your ambitions?

Those who follow this aspect of the Shadow often call themselves mentors, but others refer to them as tempters or Shadowtongues. A tempter specializes in helping others find a path to power… but always driving them towards the darkest path. While this has some overlap with a talon of the Keeper, there are significant differences between the two. A talon negotiates a deal with explicit terms and benefits: your inn will prosper, in exchange for which you will die at the age of forty and the Keeper will take your soul. By contrast, a tempter doesn’t make a specific promise or ask you for anything. A mentor simply offers advice… helping you figure out how to solve your problem or achieve your goal yourself. But in the process, they will urge you to follow darker and darker paths… to become a monster.

A skilled tempter needs to know secret paths to power and to have the charm to convince others to follow them. A mentor could be a cleric, following either the Knowledge or Trickery domain; a warlock, using the Archfey patron to reflect a talent for beguiling others and slipping into the shadows; or a bard using the College of Whispers. Some tempters believe that their powers are a direct gift from the Shadow, and that they hear whispers from the Shadow telling them who to corrupt. Other tempters trust that the Shadow rewards them for their work, but don’t have direct interaction with the Shadow or an immortal emissary.

Another divine option is the Oath of Conquest paladin: a would-be tyrant who believes that the Shadow is giving them the power they need to achieve their ambitions. What separates a paladin of the Shadow from a paladin of the Mockery is the focus on power rather than war. Where a Mockery paladin lives for conflict, the Shadow paladin is only concerned with the end result.

Mentors are typically villains, and they facilitate the evil actions of others. But it’s a possible paths for a player character, albeit a dark one. A tempter emphasizes choice and freedom. They may excel at solving problems, and can help other characters achieve noble goals; the point is that a follower of the Shadow believes that nothing is forbidden. A Shadowtongue bard could even be searching for light in the darkness—tempting in the hopes of finding someone who resists corruption. Alternately, a player character could be haunted by a previous encounter with a tempter, who helped them achieve whatever position or power they hold today. Is this character permanently spiritually tainted by the actions they took to achieve their ambition? Or can they find redemption?

The Keeper of Secrets

Aureon is the Sovereign of Knowledge, who uses science (arcane and otherwise) to build a better world. As the dark side of Aureon, the Shadow is also the Sovereign of Knowledge… but specifically the things you shouldn’t know. The Shadow knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of mortals. It knows who killed your parents. It knows what your lover really thinks about you. And it knows secrets of magic that Aureon won’t share… techniques that can provide power, but at a cost. This is one of the main things that can draw a Vassal to invoke the Shadow… the desire to gain knowledge they know they shouldn’t seek.

In dealing with a priest of the Shadow—NPC or player character—consider the ideas in my article on Adding Drama to the Divine. A priest of the Shadow may regularly receive revelations—information about the people around them, or the world. But unlike an augury or commune, the priest doesn’t ASK for this knowledge and has no control over it. Sometimes this knowledge will be useful, but just as often it will reveal things you don’t actually want to know… knowledge that will hurt people if you share it. With that said, people with this sort of connection to the Shadow often end up as fixers in the criminal underworld; are you willing to pay the price for their knowledge? Knowledge clerics and Whispers bards are both sound paths, though the College of Lore is also a reasonable option for a follower of the Shadow; the Cutting Words ability of the Lore bard can reflect your knowledge of a weakness, or a whispered secret that causes your victim to stumble.

While this reflects general knowledge, the Shadow is particularly known for arcane secrets—for teaching techniques that good people will shun. At a simple level, this makes the Shadow a standard patron for Warlocks. Because this is about deadly power, the actual “patron” is flexible; Fiend or Hexblade both work, and as noted before an Archfey warlock could reflect powes of coercion and deception as opposed to an actual tie to the Fey. Like all gods of Eberron, the Shadow won’t actually manifest to a warlock. But the warlock may BELIEVE they have a direct channel to the Shadow; and they could have a sinister spirit acting as an emissary of the Shadow, or they might actually be working for the Overlord Sul Khatesh. The main thing is that a Shadow Warlock believes they are making a sacrifice to gain mystical power… and that they are expected to use that power for malevolent purposes.

The Shadow Sorcerer is also a logical servant of the Shadow. In this case, the power may have been given to you involuntarily. Perhaps your parents were Shadow cultists, and you are the result of a a terrible ritual: are you doomed to be consumed by evil, or can you use your power in the service of the light?

Beyond this, any wizard can be presented as having received inspiration from the Shadow. You’d never have mastered necromancy on your own, but you woke from a dream and realized you understood it. This is fine as a general idea, but it’s also possible for a DM to introduce ACTUAL gifts of the Shadow into the game. The whole idea of the Shadow is that it knows secrets of magic people shouldn’t use. The magic of D&D isn’t designed that way. So, as a DM you can ADD forbidden magic. There’s a few ways to do this. One is to introduce new spells that are unusually powerful or have especially horrifying effects. Another is to allow a character to gain a metamagic benefit (as if they were a Sorcerer) by taking on a penalty. Here’s a few thoughts on effects that the magic of the Shadow might have.

  • Every time you cast the spell, roll 1d4. You permanently lose that many hit points.
  • Every time you cast the spell, roll 1d6. The DM chooses you or one of your allies, and either inflicts the result as necrotic damage or applies it as a penalty to the victim’s next saving throw.
  • When you cast the spell, an innocent creature dies. You have no control over who will suffer and may never know who it is.
  • Whenever you cast the spell, plants withers and all natural creatures within 15 feet suffer one point of necrotic damage.
  • Any time you cast the spell, there is a chance that a hostile shadow will manifest; if it does, it will try to harm you and your friends.
  • When you cast the spell, choose an ally within sight. The player must reveal a horrifying secret about their character to you. This must be worse than any previous secret they’ve revealed; if they can’t (or if the player chooses not to) the spell fails. Note that this is a choice of the player; the character doesn’t have this choice, and it’s up to the DM if they realize their secret has been shared.

These are all ideas that are at least PLAUSIBLE for player characters. An NPC wielding secrets of the Shadow could have more dramatic effects or costs to their spells. The main point is that when we say “This is power people shouldn’t use,” it’s NOT just Aureon being a jerk; these powers truly are dangerous.

The Maker of Monsters

Through temptation, the Shadow can transform anyone into a monster. But the Shadow is also infamous for unleashing monsters into the world. The definition of “monster” varies by culture, but the essential point is that this is the influence of malevolent magic twisting nature; thus, it usually includes most aberrations and monstrosities, along with giants or humanoids that are seen as evil by the culture in question. Mythologically, the idea is that the Shadow took evil humans (or dwarves, or halflings, etc) and transformed them into harpies, medusas, hags, and the like—and there’s a host of myths that deal with these monstrous origin stories. It should be noted that these are MYTHS and are in many cases provably false; certain creatures are known to be the creations of specific Overlords or daelkyr. But it isn’t always possible to prove the origin of a species; many scholars assert that the daelkyr Orlaask created medusas, while the medusas themselves attribute their powers to the Shadow.

This aspect of the Shadow overlaps with Cults of the Dragon Below and the daelkyr. But it’s another way that you can find wizards or warlocks who are seeking to create monsters. Looking to a warlock, the Pact of the Chain can be reflavored to suggest that the character created their familiar.

The Shadow in Monstrous Cultures

The Dark Six have been called out as having significant support in Droaam and Darguun. It’s important to recognize that these articles generally focus on the Nine and Six as they are presented in the Pyrinean Creed, the common Sovereign faith of the Five Nations. The people of Droaam have their own interpretations of the Nine and Six that are both entirely different from the Five Nations and from one another. Droaam is a tapestry woven together from wildly diverse cultures. The Last Dirge harpies worship the Fury, but they say that she was born from Eberron’s cry in birthing the world. The minotaurs worship the Horned Prince, but interpretation varies by clan and some are effectively worshipping the Mockery, Dol Dorn, Dol Arrah, or Rak Tulkhesh.

Following the unification of Droaam, the traditions of Cazhaak Draal have effectively become the state religion. People still hold to their own traditions, but the Voices of the Shadow—typically medusas or oni—are recognized as spiritual authorities. Here’s a few critical details about the Cazhaak faith.

  • All members of the Dark Six are worshipped by their common titles (Shadow, Fury, Keeper, Mockery, Devourer, Traveler)… though usually in Goblin.
  • The Shadow is the foremost of the Six. In addition to the traditional spheres of magic and knowledge, the Shadow is generally considered to be a guide and guardian to the monstrous species. As such, a medusa cleric of the Shadow might actually have the Life domain… because she sees the Shadow as being the bringer of life to her people.
  • The Sovereigns are considered to be the cruel and petty gods of the people of the East. The general assertion is that the Sovereigns want to keep their subjects small and weak; that the Shadow rebelled and broke free from Aureon, giving gifts to its creations. Thus, there is some overlap with the way the Seekers of the Divinity Within view the Sovereigns; a Voice of the Shadow feels pity for a human Vassal.
  • A Voice of the Shadow reveres all members of the Six and will invoke all of them when it is appropriate. However, there are priests who are devoted to a single deity and who lead or provide services tied to that god… so, there is a priestess of the Keeper in Graywall who performs funerary services.
  • One question that’s come up is whether the Cazhaak Six are seen in a more positive light than the Pyrinean Six. On the one hand, they definitely are; they are seen as positive forces in civilization. On the other hand, they still embody the same core ideas; part of this is that the values of Droaamite civilization are very different than the Five Nations. Droaam is a place where there is no distinction between vengeance and justice, where victory in battle is more important than honor. It’s a meritocracy where having the talent to take power is more important than following a system of laws. I will say that the Cazhaak Shadow drops the aspect of the tempter. The Voice of the Shadow asserts that knowledge is power, that people should pursue their ambition and that there should be no limits on knowledge. But they scoff at the idea that the Shadow tempts people to do evil; that’s the product of a civilization that’s bound and blinded by its laws and moral codes, that fears ambition and instinct.

It’s been asked before how a human follower of the Sovereign Host would react to a Voice of the Shadow, and vice versa. The short answer is that each will recognize that the other is following a different creed, and each will assert that the other’s interpretation is flawed. The Voice of the Shadow pities the fool who worships Aureon; how good can your god be, when he didn’t even give you eyes that can see in the dark? Meanwhile, the Sovereign priest will dismiss the Shadow-worshipper as a servant of the Tempter, both deceived and deceiver.

The critical point, however, is that the Pyrinean creed presents the Sovereigns and Six and two sides of a coin. The Droaamite faiths either focus on a single entity (such as the harpy faiths) or generally dismiss the Sovereigns as evil entities.

What About The Overlords?

The Shadow has specific overlap with two of the best known Overlords of the First Age. Sul Khatesh is also known as the Keeper of Secrets, and also said to be a source both of arcane knowledge and things best kept hidden. While Bel Shalor is known as the Shadow in the Flame and specializes in temptation.

There are a number of scholars who assert that the myths of the Shadow are actually based on interactions between draconic champions and Overlords… that the story of Aureon learning magic may actually be based on a bargain between the dragon Ourelonastrix and Sul Khatesh. It’s up to a DM to decide if there’s any truth to these tales. However, even if these tales are false, the fact remains that Sul Khatesh and Bel Shalor are concrete, very real entities that can serve in the role of the Shadow… and that warlocks or cults that believe they are dealing with the Shadow could easily be working with one of these archfiends.

Using The Shadow

So how can you use the Shadow in a campaign? What would a villain devoted to the Shadow actually want?

As noted above, in many cases a servant of the Shadow may be an instigator as opposed to the primary villain. A mentor drives others to do evil, and helps facilitate their plans. A priest of the Keeper of Secrets may serve as a general fixer in the criminal underworld, but can also set trouble in motion by revealing a secret. Combined with their knowledge of dark magic, such a character could be an interesting frenemy for a group of player characters. Consider Thalanna, a human priestess of the Shadow in Sharn. She’s known as a reliable source of information about the underworld, always willing to share her knowledge… for a price. But she may also approach the players and simply tell them things. Did they know that Ilya Boromar is going to assassinate Saiden Boromar tonight? Did they know that Thora Tarkanan was the one who killed a friend of theirs? Thalanna has nothing personal to gain by sharing this information, but she enjoys setting wheels in motion. And if one of the players is a wizard, Thalanna can offer to teach them a few things they won’t learn in Arcanix… tied to the ideas presented above. These secrets ARE powerful… but is the character willing to pay the price?

Shadow sects can also fill the classic role of the warlock cabal or the infernal bargain… people being granted mystical power in exchange for performing malevolent actions. Often this is about ambition—getting the power you need to fulfill your darkest desires—but it can also be driven by fear. The leader of a warlock coven may play on fears of the Mourning, refugees, or even monsters. Join them and they will teach you the magic you need to protect yourself! As mentioned above, such a cult could be found to have connections to the Lords of Dust, either Sul Khatesh or Bel Shalor.

Another Shadow-driven villain is the wizard who is determined to unlock ultimate arcane power, regardless of cost. Such a character could even have a noble goal; for example, a wizard who believes that they must unlock the power of the Mourning so they can prevent it from spreading, or being harnessed and used by one of the Five Nations. The point is that this character is consumed by their ambition and doesn’t care about who they hurt in pursuit of their goal. Perhaps they need to open a manifest zone to Mabar in the middle of Sharn to complete a ritual or learn a secret… even though doing so will break Sharn’s connection to Syrania and bring down the towers. It doesn’t matter, because the knowledge they acquire will help them save the entire world!

To be clear: these examples are extremes. There are some who offer prayers to the Shadow who aren’t warlocks or wizards, and who don’t seek to tempt others or destroy the world. The ultimate principle of the Shadow is that nothing is forbidden: that you shouldn’t let laws or the dictates of society hinder your ambition. Do you believe that you’d do a better job than your boss, but it’s going to take decades to get there if you follow the system? The Shadow tells you the system is the problem. Beyond this, the Shadow embraces those that society calls “monsters.” The Mockery and the Keeper can both serve as patrons for criminals driven by greed or violence, but the Shadow is a general patron for someone who feels that they stand apart from Boldrei and Aureon; that they don’t have a place in a community, or that the laws only exist to hold them back. In this, there’s some overlap with the Traveler; the net is that the Traveler encourages people to challenge systems and to drive change, while the Shadow is more about pursuing personal ambition.

As for player characters, here to you can have the person pursuing knowledge at any cost; the character shaped by a past bargain who now seeks redemption; the bard who sees the Shadow as the source of knowledge and freedom, who does good but on their own terms. Looking to the paragraph above, you can also have a rogue who’s a casual supporter of the Shadow, asserting that laws are for other people. You can have the Conquest Paladin who is willing to use the power of the Shadow to seize their ambition… will they have a change of heart along the way?

Long Shadows

The Sharn: City of Towers sourcebook calls out a number of “holidays” in Eberron. One of these are the nights of Long Shadows, which takes place from the 26th through the 28th of the month of Vult. It’s said that on these three nights the power of the Shadow is at its peak—that malevolent magics are stronger, and that monsters—either those born monsters, or those who have become monsters—are free to act. It’s up to the DM to decide what truth there is to this superstition. Perhaps people have disadvantage on saving throws against any sort of “dark magic” during this time. Maybe those who act with evil intent will receive advantage to their actions, or other supernatural benefits. Perhaps there are mystic rituals that can only be performed on these nights. In any case, these are three nights when good folk tend to stay in and huddle around the fire, while the forces of evil rise up and take action.

Q&A

Is necromancy associated with the Shadow? Is it forbidden, or is it taught in Arcanix?  

Divine necromancy—such as a cleric with the Death domain—would usually be associated with the Keeper or the Blood of Vol. Arcane necromancy is generally associated with the Shadow. Sharn: City of Towers presents the shrine of the Shadow as a gathering place for necromancers, and Thalanna is presented as a cleric/necromancer. Only Karrnath employed necromancy in the Last War, and that was primarily divine necromancy provided by the Blood of Vol. We’ve never said that it is strictly FORBIDDEN; it’s not like a cleric of the Blood of Vol can be arrested for having a skeleton companion. But it’s definitely seen as a dark path that good people avoid. I suspect that Arcanix has a small necromancy department that primarily focuses on passive necromancy—such as speak with dead—and that is constantly struggling to maintain its funding.

As the Shadow is a creator of monsters, how would you present a Shadow-themed barbarian? 

I could see two paths. One would use the Zealot subclass and be similar to the Conquest paladin; a warrior strengthened by malevolent magic, who has been granted power to achieve their ambition. On the other hand, one could present a barbarian character as actually being physically altered by the power of the Shadow… with the Rage feature reflecting a sort of Jekyll and Hyde physical transformation.

Droaam is a nation where the official religion seems to be the Six, but do its leaders, the Daughters of Sora Kell, truly support it?

If you mean “Do the Daughters attend services and offer prayers to the Six”— No, I don’t think they do. None of the Daughters feel that their fates are in the hands of higher powers, and their mother may have known Ourelonastrix or Bel Shalor. What I’ve said is that the common faith is based on the traditions of Cazhaak Draal. It’s a tradition that’s broad enough to be able to incorporate the beliefs of other subcultures, which allows it to serve as a unifying force, and that’s all the Daughters care about; if a Voice of the Shadow can get a harpy, a minotaur, and a goblin to all attend the same service, mission accomplished. But to the Daughters it’s just a tool, not something they believe in.

HAVING SAID THAT… There’s no absolute answer as to who the fathers of the Daughters are. I could see Sora Maenya asserting that she’s a daughter of the Devourer; this certainly fits her wild nature and insatiable appetite. And asserting that she’s kin to the Fury would be a fun thing to add to her myth and reputation…

When did the Dark Six lose their names? Magic of Eberron reveals the names Shurkaan, Szorawai, Kol Turrant, and Dol Azur; when did the Church of the Sovereign Host decide those names would be forgotten in favor of the titles used today? 

There’s a few points here. The first is that it’s important to recognize that different traditions use different names and titles; the titles given here are the Pyrinean titles, just as Aureon and Boldrei are Pyrinean names. Shurkaan is also known as Shargon (hence Shargon’s Teeth near Xen’drik). The Harpies of Droaam call the Fury The Song of Rage and Fury or more typically The Song; they don’t accept the Arawai/Devourer story or use the name Szorawai. The Cazhaak tradition uses the titles, because they take the Six as embodiments of those ideas; they don’t hold to the Pyrinean myths. So to the priestess of Graywall, the Keeper is the Keeper; that IS his name.

Now, looking to the Pyrinean tradition, it wasn’t the CHURCH that stripped the Six of their names; it was the Sovereigns. Dol Azur was stripped of his name—and his skin—after he betrayed Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn. The Keeper was cast down after making his bargains with Death. So the CORE church has always separated Sovereigns and Six… but you’ve also always had the Three Faces sects and other groups that have preserved the names.

Do the Cazhaak have a unified symbol for the Six like the Octogram or do they just use the Six’s usual symbols?

Have you met the Hexagram? With that said, the Cazhaak tradition is also the main source of the five-bones-and-a-shadow symbol that often is incorrectly assigned to the Devourer. But essentially, any prominent display of six points—or five points and a shadow—is common.

how do the Cazhaak respond to the more aggressive extremes of the non-Cazhaak veneraters of the six?

As we’ve called out elsewhere, Droaam basis its laws more on the principles of the Fury and Shadow than on Aureon. The most powerful force—the Daughters and their governors—define and enforce the law. But justice and vengeance are still largely synonymous; if someone does you wrong, you don’t take the problem to the Flayer Guard, you handle it yourself. So the short form is anyone whose actions threaten the good of the city or nation will be dealt with by the authorities; otherwise, people can do whatever they can get away with. So a Voice of the Shadow tries to mitigate those extremes—to take the Last Dirge harpy and say “I recognize your devotion to the Song; here in Graywall we know her as the Fury, and let me teach you ways to honor her that won’t get you killed.”

I’m currently in the midst of a series of articles about the Dark Six, the sinister side of the Sovereign Host. You can find my articles about the Fury and the Keeper through these links. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who make these articles possible.

Also, while it has nothing to do with Eberron (Aside from Arawai being the Protector of Puppies), please check out the Kickstarter for my new game: ACTION PUPS! It’s a casual storytelling game about revealing the secret lives of dogs, and we need your dog pictures! If you like dogs or storytelling, take a look! 

Dark Six: Myths and The Fury

There are many myths of the Sovereigns and Six. Dol Arrah battling Death itself. The Mockery’s betrayal of his siblings Dol Arrah and Dol Dorn, only to be stripped of name and skin by his brother. The Keeper bargaining with Death to gain the power to steal souls. The birth of the Fury, Aureon unleashing the Shadow. We’ve only mentioned a few of these myths in canon sources, but there are hundreds within the world. Often these explain natural phenomena; the massive volcano in the Mror Holds is called the Fist of Onatar, because it’s said that Onatar smashed the mountain to create his first forge.

How can this be? Deities don’t physically manifest in Eberron. The Devourer is the storm and the raging sea, not an angry giant who’s going to personally knock your house down. The answer is that the myths are tales of their deeds before they became the Sovereigns. Reality was created by the struggle between the Progenitors. Khyber’s children rose from the darkness and seized control of the world. A band of heroes rose in this time to battle the fiends and establish the foundation for civilization. The myths are the stories of these champions… heroic deeds, vile betrayals, and more. Ultimately these champions defeated the Overlords. This left the world in need of guiding hands: and so these first heroes and villains ascended to become the Sovereigns and Six, merging with reality and rising to a higher form of existence. So there are many tales of Dol Arrah’s heroism, but no one expects her to physically manifest today; vassals know that she is ALWAYS with them, guiding the hand of every virtuous warrior.

There’s no canon list of these myths, in part because there are many different interpretations across different cultures. The common vassal traditions of the Five Nations are based on the Pyrinean Creed, developed in Sarlona before Lhazaar’s journey. But the Talentans say Bally-Nur was a clever halfling hunter, and if you go to Khazaak Draal you’ll hear stories about the Shadow never told in a human temple. The Church of the Wyrm Ascendant is a sect in the Five Nations that claims that the Sovereigns were dragons, and that the myths are based on the actual deeds of draconic champions and villains in the Age of Demons. However, this isn’t a universally accepted belief. Most myths are vague about the nature of the Sovereigns, and it’s common for them to be depicted as members of the dominant culture sharing the story. Pyrinean temples occasionally depict the Sovereigns as dragons, but this is considered to be metaphor, not literal portraits.

The point is that while the Sovereigns and Six don’t manifest in the world and can’t be proven to exist, you CAN have artifacts, locations, or deeds that are attributed to them. You can visit the Lair of the Keeper, or find Dol Arrah’s Sunblade or a cloak said to be made from the flayed skin of the Mockery. That doesn’t mean these things are actually what people say they are—but the idea of finding Dol Arrah’s sword isn’t at odds with her never manifesting today, because this was her sword before her ascension.

Now let’s take a closer look at another member of the Dark Six: the Fury.

THE FURY

When I found my lover murdered, I gave myself to the Fury. I don’t remember the rest of the night. But I regret nothing, and thank the Dark Lady that justice was done. 

The Fury is a silent whisper that can drive you to doubt or despair. She is blind rage and all-consuming passion. Instinct is the voice of the Fury, guiding us when rational thought fails. And she is the Sovereign of Revenge, promising vengeance to those willing to surrender to her. Her father the Devourer embodies the devastating power of the storm; the Fury is the storm that rages within us all, wild emotions that we fight to control.

As with all of the Dark Six, the Fury is acknowledged by the vassals who worship the Sovereign Host. She is the source of any unbalanced emotion. Someone consumed by despair is carrying the Fury on his shoulders, while anyone who lets anger driven them to rash action has given the reins to the Fury. Love is also an emotion, but in the hands of the Fury it is wild and dangerous. Just as there are Three Faces of War, there are Three Faces of Love: Boldrei is the love that binds, Arawai is the love that brings life, and Szorawai—the Fury—is the love that burns.

So typically the Fury is something civilized people guard against, something that must be contained and controlled lest she leave your life in ruins. But she is a part of the world, and there are those who chose to embrace her. While there are priests of the Fury—especially along the path of the Revelers—typically people find the Fury on their own. You don’t need a priest to speak to the Fury; she is part of you, already speaking through your rage and your sorrow. You just need to listen.

THE REVELERS

Civilized societies typically fear the Fury, seeing her influence as disruptive. However, there are those who see her “madness” as a virtue. This path asserts that it’s  only fighting the Fury that brings pain. Aureon’s laws are chains. Break them. Let your instincts guide you, experience your emotions fully, and you will know a freedom others cannot imagine. This path is more common in Droaam than in the Five Nations. Adherents are encouraged to act without thinking, to trust impulse and instinct. Whether you feel sorrow or anger, embrace it and follow where it leads.

Such followers of the Fury often engage in fevered celebrations. Outsiders generally call these frenziesand depict them as a blend of celebration, orgy, and riot; they’re seen as dangerous and immoral. But those who participate call them revels. One aspect of a revel is to experience unbridled joy; all extreme emotions are the touch of the Fury. But the primary purpose of a revel is to shatter Aureon’s chains, to experience a moment unfettered by the expectations of others… and in that moment to find your true self.

This is typically the path of those who publicly identify as followers of the Fury. While any character could follow this philosophy, if you want to reflect a supernatural connection to the Fury there’s a few ways to do it.

  • It’s a plausible path for any barbarian, though Berserker is the most logical choice. You could depict such a character as having been raised as a warrior in a community where the Fury is respected, and having always embraced and cultivated their rage—an outlander or soldier from Droaam, for example. But you could also play such a character as a sage or a guild artisan who’s extremely articulate and civilized except when you give yourself fully to your rage. Such a character could even have a high Strength score that’s not reflected by their physical appearance, because it’s more about your ability to channel adrenaline in the moment you need that strength… so a character that seems like a harmless scholar until you unleash your fury. You could also have a barbarian urchin who grew up nearly feral in the streets, who follows the guidance of the Fury wherever it leads.
  • Depending on the spells that you choose, it’s likewise a plausible path for a sorcerer. You could say that your magic comes from a place of primal instinct; you don’t consciously know how to perform it and might not even be able to cast every spell on your list on demand, but when the time is right the knowledge rises up within you. There’s no particular subclass ideally suited to this, but I’d probably go with Wild Magic to reflect the idea that you don’t fully understand what you’re doing and don’t have absolute control over it.
  • In some ways, a bard makes a better reveler priest than a cleric. Following the College of Glamour, you have the ability to inspire primal emotions; it’s your task to encourage people to fully experience and feel their feelings. You could play such a character like the barbarian mentioned above—only embracing the Fury fully when in the throes of performance. But you could also play this character as a priest who tries to help people understand their feelings at all times… or as someone who fights to bring down any system that seeks to compel or control peoples’ thoughts and emotions. This is different, however, from the priest of the Traveler who inspires chaos and change on a societal level; the Fury is more driven by the storm within each heart. If someone were to follow this path in my campaign, I’d be willing to consider their bard spells as divine magic as opposed to arcane—gifts of devotion as opposed to lore—but this wouldn’t have a mechanical effect.
  • There isn’t an official cleric domain that reflects this path well. Strangely, I would consider the Order domain presented in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, simply reversing the flavor of the abilities. As written the Order priest compels because people respect their inherent authority; for the Fury, all of the compelling abilities would be about generating raw emotion. A command FEELS so right in the moment that the victim obeys… while hold person could reflect a paralyzing doubt and despair that the victim must shake off before they can act normally.
  • Many of the members of the Dark Pack of Droaam—worgs, lycanthropes, and other predators—view the Fury as a personal guide and patron. This ties to the principle that instinct is more important than reason, and that one should always let instinct guide action. You could play a Moon druid whose powers flow from this idea; rather than being tied to a druidic sect, you are primal predator whose form and actions are shaped by the Fury.

Boldrei is the patron of mediators and therapists, those who help maintain peace within a community and help people overcome negative emotions. However, there is an alternative. When a vassal makes a sacrifice to the Devourer in the face of an oncoming storm, they don’t expect the storm to suddenly stop; they are begging the Devourer to turn his rage to someone else. Sometimes you may find a simple altar to the Fury hidden in a vassal community. The principle is simple: if you are dealing with an emotion you can’t handle, you can make a sacrifice… and if it is accepted, your pain will be given to someone else. This practice is largely reviled because it’s a zero sum game; SOMEONE will suffer your sorrow or despair. But if you’re willing to pass your pain to a stranger, it’s a possibility. Likewise, such an altar could be used to beg the Fury to ignite a spark of passion in an object of affection; but once again, the love of the Fury is wild and uncontrollable, and often leaves ashes in its wake.

THE SOVEREIGN OF REVENGE

The Fury is there whenever you suffer pain or anguish. Aureon’s laws provide a path for order in a civilized society, and Dol Arrah guides the justiciar. But perhaps you feel the forces of the law are corrupt and will never punish your enemy. Perhaps the wrong that’s been done to you isn’t a crime, but you still want the cause of your pain to suffer for what they’ve done. Or perhaps you don’t want justice… you want bitter and bloody REVENGE, to make your enemy suffer and feel the pain they’ve inflicted upon you a thousand times over.

In some cultures—certainly in parts of Droaam and Darguun—revenge and justice are seen as one and the same; it is understood that anyone who’s harmed has the right to revenge, and that the Fury promises that vengeance. With the Five Nations people generally support systems of well defined laws and frown on vigilante justice, but this aspect of the Fury can be seen in two ways.

The first is urban legend as much as it is myth: the idea that if you’ve been wronged, you can engrave the name of the person you seek vengeance upon into a red candle, blend a drop of blood with the wax, and leave the lit candle in your window. This is a symbol that the Fury burns within you, demanding vengeance on the person you have named. In some stories, this is simply a call for the Fury to take vengeance for you, acting through environmental forces; if your target falls from a horse the next day, that’s the Fury answering your prayers. Others say that there’s a hidden order of assassins who roam Khorvaire, who will fulfill the promise of the crimson candle. What’s understood with either option is that once the Fury is invoked, you have no control over what form the vengeance will take or how many people will be hurt in the process. This ties to the point that this isn’t justice, and that while vengeance comes with a price YOU may not be the one who pays it. The Fury doesn’t eliminate pain and suffering; she spreads it and magnifies it. Because of this, the crimson candle isn’t used lightly; placing the candle in your window is a public declaration that you want revenge and you don’t care about the cost or who knows it. If the adventurers come into a village with dozens of crimson candles burning in the windows, it’s a sign that something is terribly wrong. And to the person named on the candle, it’s a question of whether you will try to make amends and convince the victim to extinguish the candle before the Fury takes notice of the plea.

The crimson candle is an invocation of the Fury, a request that someone or something else could grant vengeance. But there’s also the belief that someone who has been terribly wronged can surrender entirely to the Fury, abandoning moral principles and personal responsibility until vengeance is obtained. According to the stories, a vengeful hand is a vessel for the Fury, capable of superhuman feats; however, it’s entirely up to the DM to decide if there’s any truth to these tales or if it’s simply a form of temporary psychosis. Either way, this isn’t a common thing. Anyone can say that it was the voice of the Fury who drove them to rash action; but the vengeful hand is someone gripped by focused madness, whether divine or otherwise. And while people may sympathize with a vengeful hand, while it’s understood that they would never commit such horrific crimes under other circumstances, this doesn’t excuse the crimes they commit in pursuit of revenge.

There’s a number of ways this could be reflected in a player character. As before, any character could be driven by vengeance regardless of their class abilities. In developing the character idea, the question is what fuels your need for vengeance and if it’s a quest that can ever be completed. For example, someone could be driven by a desire for vengeance against Erandis Vol… but they have no idea where Vol is and know they don’t have the personal power to bring her down, so they’ll devote themselves to fighting the entire Emerald Claw until the path to Vol is made clear. Or if a criminal killed your parents, you could devote yourself to vengeance upon all criminals. The critical point is that someone driven by the Fury doesn’t care about the cost of revenge, and that this isn’t about fair punishment; it is about raining down pain and suffering upon those who have wronged you. Can you ever come to the end of that dark path? Or is your need for vengeance an all consuming flame? Here’s a few specific character ideas.

  • The Oath of Vengeance is an obvious choice for a paladin of the Fury, a warrior infused with divine power to me used in pursuit of revenge. This path works just as well for a Zealot barbarian, or potentially a cleric with the War or Death domains. This could fit the idea of the vengeful hand: you were a peaceful civilized person until you swore your oath of vengeance, and you have been filled with the power you need to see it through. On the other hand, you could also have been granted your powers to help others take vengeance; you are the one who answers the call of the crimson candle. In either case, I again call out this difference between this and the path of Dol Arrah. The hands of the Fury don’t pursue justice; they seek vengeance, regardless of how much new pain and suffering is generated in the course of revenge.
  • A warlock could be presented as someone who has made their vow to the Fury, gaining power to be used in the quest for revenge. As above, this could be a pact made in pursuit of personal vengeance, or the warlock could be assigned to help others obtain revenge. In regards to how this relates to the idea that the gods can’t be proven to exist, there’s a few ways to handle it. The first is that the warlock doesn’t directly interact with their patron; the warlock swore an oath and knows what they have to do. Another option is that the warlock’s patron is a fiend who considers themselves to be a voice of the Fury: perhaps a spirit of Mabar who enjoys the pain and death that accompanies these quests. Alternately, the warlock could have visions they believe are coming directly from the Fury… but is there a way to truly prove that these aren’t just delusions?
  • A bard of the College of Whispers is skilled at manipulating emotions and fears, both weapons in the arsenal of the Fury. This ties to the idea that vengeance need not always be bloody. A Whispers bard devoted to the Fury could be a character assassin, carrying out missions of vengeance like any other vengeful hands but focusing on destroying the lives of their victims as opposed to simply ending them.

Overall, the point here is that the people of the Five Nations don’t revere the Fury: but they certainly acknowledge her presence and her power. Typically she’s seen as something you should fight against: bite back your anger, overcome your despair, trust in the law to see that justice is done. So in general, you won’t find a priest of the Fury on the streets of the Five Nations… and paladin who acts as a vengeful hand may not ANNOUNCE that, as again, acting in the name of the Fury doesn’t let you get away with murder. But people don’t need a priest of the Fury to hear her voice. And putting a crimson candle in your window is usually seen as a cry for help or an act of protest, not heresy that needs to be punished.

Q&A

The myths mentioned above seem to imply that Death is a separate entity. Is it something a cleric could worship?

In the myth, “Death” is something that Dol Arrah defeats and binds. Most of the myths are about the champions battling hostile aspects of reality, which is what ultimately leds to their ascension. So technically “Death” is something that exists—which is why people still die—but it’s not free to act wantonly or maliciously. Mythologically Death is a subject of the Keeper… tied to the previous article that notes that the Keeper can target people with illness and misfortune in order to kill them.

An arcane scholar who believes that the Sovereign myths are legends of ascended dragons would assert that “Dol Arrah’s battle with death” is an account of a draconic champion fighting the Overlord Katashka, who embodies our fears of death and the undead… a battle depicted on page 6 of Dragons of Eberron.

Could someone worship it? Sure, just as someone could worship Katashka the Gatekeeper. But again, bear in mind that by the myths, Death is now a vassal of the Keeper—just as the Overlords themselves are bound. It’s possible such an individual would be able to channel divine magic, but a Vassal would assert that this power COMES from the Keeper; that whatever they call it, “Death” is the Keeper.

Are the “true/previous” names of the Dark Six common knowledge? Dol Azur and Szorawai and the like? Is it considered heretical to refer to them by that name? Or simply esoteric/academic?

The general idea is that stripping the Six of their names is a way to strip them of power. When Dol Azur betrayed his comrades, they took his skin and his name. Because they aren’t commonly used, most people only know them by their titles. Many people feel that addressing one of the Six by its original name can draw its attention, and thus it’s superstitiously avoided. However, in sects such as the Three Faces of War or Love where the member of the Six is acknowledged as part of the core faith, it’s more common to use the name. So if you say “Szorawai” to a group of common vassals, probably a third of them won’t recognize it, another third will gasp in horror, and the final third will nod sagely… and followers of the Three Faces of Love will roll their eyes at the people of gasp and urge them to get over it.

Are the Devourer (Shurkaan) and Keeper’s (Kol Turrant) names in other sources canonical?

The names of the Dark Six—Shurkaan the Devourer, Kol Turrant the Keeper, Dol Azur the Mockery, and Szorawai the Fury—were presented in Faiths of Eberron, which is a canon source. However, like the Sovereigns, different cultures and sects will also have their own names. Shurkaan is also known as “Shargon,” though some people who use that name just think it refers to a legendary sea monster. So yes, these are canonical names, but you can also come up with others.

Would it be true to say that the Dark Six are ultimately opposed to Khyber and the Overlords—that even if they are evil and dark, they are on the side of dragons and mortals? 

Largely, yes. The relationship between the Overlords and the Nine and Six is somewhat analogous to the Titans and Olympians of Greek mythology. The Dark Six are themselves Sovereigns, though most Vassals don’t acknowledge that… but the Sovereigns gained their sovereignty by overthrowing the Overlords. So the Dark Six may PREY upon good people, but none of them want to return the world to the chaotic rule of the Overlords.

With that said, mythologically some of the Six had DEALINGS with the Overlords. The Mockery and the Keeper both made bargains with Overlords, and some scholars say that the myth of the Shadow could actually refer to Aureon making a deal with Bel Shalor or Sul Khatesh. But even in those cases, the Mockery and the Keeper continued to oppose the Overlords overall.

Likewise, we’ve suggested that there are fiends who count themselves as agents of the Dark Six; such fiends wouldn’t be loyal to Overlords.

Do the Dark Six’s followers acknowledge the Traveler as an equal part of the Six or is it a separate entity even within the Six? 

“The Dark Six” is largely a mortal construct. It’s not like it’s the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, and that they each have headquarters and membership cards. What makes someone a member of the Dark Six is that they are seen as holding dominion over dark powers… not that they are supposedly friends. So the Traveler is unquestionably part of the Dark Six. But the Traveler has also always been a mystery. They have no established name and appear in a different form in each myth. looking to the previous questions, mythologically the Traveler stood with the host against the Overlords, but it was still never known and understood as the others were.

Do most followers of the Dark Six worship the pantheon as a whole, or are they generally devoted to individual deities?

Like the Sovereign Host, I’d say that most acknowledge the entire pantheon (and that typically also means that they acknowledge the existence of the Sovereigns) but they choose to offer their greatest devotion to the deity that holds the most influence over their life. The changelings of Lost are first and foremost devoted to the Traveler. This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in the Shadow or the Fury; they just don’t particularly care about them.

So looking to Droaam as a whole, most of them do acknowledge all of the Six and at least respect them all; but they may have a particular deity they see as their personal guide and patron. There are variants that ONLY acknowledge a specific deity—tied to variant myths, such as the harpy assertion that the Fury was born from Eberron’s cry of pain—but those are less common.

Would you say those who approach the Six with the intention of getting something from a deity they believe to be evil tend to be worse than those who viewed them as less or not evil?

With many of the Six, this is less about Good and Evil and more about Law and Chaos. The Sovereigns largely embody the values that support civilization. When you are wronged, DON’T seek bloody revenge; follow the established system that will provide justice. When you’re making a bargain or fighting on the battlefield, don’t engage in treacherous behavior. Think of others, don’t just pursue your own greed or ambition. The Five Nations value the rule of law and consider these to be virtues. By contrast, Droaam is a very chaotic nation where people are expected to solve their own problems and look out for themselves. There’s no difference between vengeance and justice. You’re not expected to rein in your emotions for the benefit of others; if someone angers you, they need to deal with the consequences of your anger; you’re not expected to harness your fury and let the insult go.

So the main point is that in a chaotic culture the ideas embodied by the Six may not be seen as negative concepts… whereas in a lawful culture they often are. In Droaam there’s nothing wrong with embracing the Fury; restraining emotions is the strange and artificial thing. On the other hand, if you’re a citizen of the Five Nations and you light a crimson candle, you’re asking the Fury to circumvent the system of justice and grant you revenge, regardless of who may be hurt in the process. So you are definitely making a SELFISH choice, a choice in which your pain matters more than the potential consequences of revenge. You are making a choice you know goes against the moral and legal values of your society.

The same is true of a wizard who seeks forbidden arcane lore. The Shadow asserts that there should be no limits on the pursuit of knowledge. The fact that you’re choosing to violate Aureon’s laws doesn’t necessarily make you evil; that’s a question of what you’re willing to do to get the knowledge and what you’ll do with the power once you’ll have it. But it certainly means that you’re placing your personal desires over the laws of your society… so again, Law versus Chaos more than Good versus Evil.

Similarly, how do Vassals and other devout reconcile the different views of the Six? If a vassal heard that Medusa talking about the Shadow would they think that both descriptions were true or that one of the two was wrong?

Vassals know that many cultures have skewed ideas of the Sovereigns and Six. The Talenta halflings say Bally-Norr was a halfling hunter, and everyone knows that’s not true. So first of all you’ll have the indulgent “You’re just a savage who doesn’t understand the truth of the faith.” So in part it depends how it’s presented. The Fury as she’s revered in Droaam is largely the same concept as the Fury in the Pyrinean Creed; it’s simply that the Droaamite believes that embracing your instincts and emotions is a virtue, while the Vassal believes that it’s weakness. Likewise, the Vassal sees the Shadow as malevolent because it creates monsters; the medusa sees the Shadow in the same light, but sees “creating monsters” as a positive thing as opposed to a negative.

Do the harpies of Droaam adhere to any aspects of the faith that most other Fury followers don’t?

Many of the harpy wings of Droaam say that the harpy sings with the Fury’s voice. For these harpies, song is an act of prayer, and they frequently engage in ecstatic choruses. Many consider their ability to throw the emotions of others out of balance as a sign that they are truly the children of the Fury. However, in this they tend to focus on the emotional aspects of the Fury; by contrast, the Dark Pack is also strongly devoted to the Fury, but more in her role as the source of instinct.

I’ve always found it tonally inappropriate that the Fury was born of rape — it’s the only mention of sexual assault in an Eberron book, and while I get that it *happens* in real-world myths, it’s never been something I’ve particularly cared for… Are there other myths of the Fury’s origin?

There’s certainly other myths. The harpies say that Eberron cried out in pain when she brought life into being, and the Fury is her cry (note that by this story, the Fury is actually older than the other Sovereigns and Six). Another myth says that the Devourer was bound by his enemies; his rage gave him the strength to break his bonds, but it was so powerful that it burst forth as the Fury.

With that said, the Pyrinean myth is largely metaphorical. The prosperous farm is the bounty of Arawai, and the storm and fire that threaten to destroy it are the Devourer. So to the farmer, the Devourer is constantly attacking Arawai. The farmer whose field has been laid waste feels rage and despair… and so, the Fury is born of the Devourer’s attack on Arawai.

The Fury and The Cults of the Dragon Below appear similar since they both encompass the Madness Domain. What are the ways Revelers might be distinguished from the Cultists of the Dragon Below?

It’s an interesting question. First of all, the Cults of the Dragon Below are incredibly diverse. But I’d say the crucial difference is that the Cults of the Dragon Below don’t worship a personification of insanity; rather, they are themselves insane. Meanwhile, the priests of the Fury don’t worship the idea of madness; they worship the Fury as a source of passion and powerful emotions that can push someone into madness. So if a priest of the Fury casts feeblemind on you, they are consciously making a decision to drive you insane, overwhelming you with sorrow or doubt. If a cleric of the Dragon Below casts the same spell, they may actually describe it as if it’s dominate: “Let me show you the truth of our cause and you will see we’re correct!”… and then they’ll be disappointed when this “revelation” breaks your brain. This article on the Cults of the Dragon Below might help.

If you have questions about the Fury, post them below! And thanks as always to my Patreon backers for making this blog possible!

The Dark Six: The Keeper

The Mockery is the lord of treachery and terror. The Devourer commands the destructive powers of nature. The Keeper will strike you down with disease and then snatch your soul so he can continue to torment you for eternity. Everything that we fear—poverty, disease, betrayal, madness, monsters—all of these fall under the sway of the Dark Six. What could drive people to worship these malevolent deities? What sort of player characters would follow them?

In the days ahead I’ll be delving into each of the Dark Six and their followers, starting here with an overview of the Six and a deeper look at the Keeper. Bear in mind that this is my personal take on the Dark Six and the Sovereign Host. It’s not canon material, and it may contradict canon sources.

NINE AND SIX AND ONE

Sourcebooks generally present the Dark Six and the Sovereign Host as if they’re two different faiths, but they’re closely intertwined. The world holds good and evil, joy and tragedy. The Sovereigns need the Dark Six to explain injustice and suffering. When there’s a bountiful harvest, farmers praise Arawai; when there’s a drought, they curse the Devourer. When magic is used for the greater good, it’s a blessing of Aureon; when magic causes suffering, it’s the work of the Shadow. The vassals (devotees) of the Sovereign Host don’t praise the Dark Six, but they acknowledge their existence and power. Prayers refer to the Nine and Six and One, but the point is that the Nine and Six ARE one. A few places where this can be seen…

  • When faced with a deadly storm, a vassal sailor may toss something precious into the water—making a sacrifice to placate the Devourer.
  • The Three Faces of War is a vassal cult found across the armies of the Five Nations. Initiates honor Dol Arrah, Dol Azur, and Dol Dorn—acknowledging that all three have a place on the battlefield, and that each warrior must choose a path between them.
  • The Restful Watch believe that the Keeper and Aureon occasionally work together; at Aureon’s direction, the Keeper catches the souls of heroes so that they aren’t lost to Dolurrh and can be returned when they are needed. The Restful Watch still acknowledge the Keeper as generally malevolent, but willing to bargain with Aureon to serve the greater good.

None of these three examples challenge the basic depiction of the Six. The Mockery, Devourer, and Keeper are still seen as dangerous and dark; it’s simply understood that they are part of the world and that there are times where it’s better to acknowledge them or even work with them than to ignore or entirely deny them. This same principle flows in reverse. A medusa of Khazaak Draal who reveres the Shadow doesn’t deny the existence of Aureon; she accepts them both and CHOOSES the path of the Shadow over that of Aureon. The choice is more meaningful because it is a choice; the medusa doesn’t deny that Aureon may exist, but says that if he does, his laws and attempt to impose morals on magic are misguided and tyrannical.

WHO FOLLOWS THE DARKNESS?

While most vassals acknowledge the existence of the Dark Six, most choose to live their lives according to the principles of the Nine. The ideas represented by the Nine form the foundation of civilization: knowledge, community, industry, commerce, honor, prosperity. The farmer depends on Arawai’s goodwill, and the hunter needs Balinor’s guidance; for both of them, the wrath of the Devourer is something to be feared. Any vassal can choose to bargain with the Six; the common practice of burying a corpse with valuables to distract the Keeper is an example of this. But this is a matter of placating one of the Six when you enter their domain as opposed to revering them.

The question is what drives someone to offer their first devotion to the Six: not simply placating them in desperate times, but idolizing one of these dark powers. In future articles I’ll explore each of the Dark Six, but let’s begin with the Sovereign of Death and Decay: The Keeper.

The Keeper

Sovereign over: Greed, death, hoarded wealth, unfair bargains

Common Subclasses: Death, Trickery (Cleric), Oathbreaker (Paladin), Fiend, Hexblade (Warlock)

Never flaunt good fortune. Avoid arrogance or pride. Those who crow too loudly may catch the jealous eye of the Keeper. Even the mightiest hero can be laid low by disease or ill fortune; the Keeper has a vast arsenal to bring down those that he desires. Once he pulls you down into the darkness, he will snatch your soul before it can reach Dolurrh and and you to his endless hoard, where he can toy with you and torment you until the end of time.

On first reading, this might not sound so bad. Isn’t Dolurrh a place where the soul fades and memories are lost? Aren’t those taken by the Keeper being spared from oblivion? Yes and no. The fading of Dolurrh is an observable effect. But the Vassals maintain that souls that fade in Dolurrh aren’t lost; rather, the fading of memory reflects the transition of the soul to a higher level of reality, where it joins the Sovereigns. So first of all, you’re losing a chance at paradise; second, even if you don’t accept that idea, it’s a choice of oblivion versus eternal torment. So, most people prefer to avoid the Keeper’s grasp. Initiates of the Restful Watch specialize in setting a price on the soul, establishing what must be buried or burned with the corpse to placate the Keeper.

The Keeper is the brother of Kol Korran and reflects the darker aspects of commerce, inspiring avarice, conspicuous consumption, and insatiable greed that can lead to murder or theft.Greed and hoarding are defining aspects of the Keeper; death is simply the tool that he uses to add souls to his hoard. This introduces an often overlooked aspect of the Keeper: bargaining. The Keeper is always searching for new treasures to add to his hoard… and these treasures can include souls, memories, and even more abstract things. A bargain with the Keeper can get you wealth, magic items, the powers of a warlock, or more. While the gifts of the Traveler often have unexpected consequences, the goods of the Keeper are generally exactly what they appear to be: but the Keeper never makes a deal unless the price is in his favor. Whatever you get from the Keeper, you’ll have to give up something of even greater value.

Followers of the Keeper

Out of the Six, the Keeper is the deity most commonly acknowledged by vassals—every funeral acknowledges his presence—but revered by few. Here’s a few ways you might encounter followers of the Keeper in the world.

The Greedy and Devious. Kol Korran is the patron of commerce and honest trade. The Keeper guides those who put their own personal gain above all else. The Keeper helps the liar and the cheat. The Mockery guides those who use deception to spill blood, but those who use guile to gain gold rely on the guidance of the Keeper. Criminals and rogues who see themselves as heroes may look to Olladra for good fortune in their endeavors. But those willing to acknowledge their own greed may offer prayers to the Keeper.

This sort of worship is typically a personal thing. Many members of the Boromar Clan offer prayers to the Keeper, but the clan doesn’t maintain a shrine to him. Individuals who are especially skilled at separating people from their riches may be considered to be blessed by the Keeper, just as a skilled blacksmith may be thought to be favored by Onatar; they may not have the trappings of a priest, but others may still ask for (and pay for) their blessing. On the other hand, you could also have a priest of the Keeper who runs their own guild of thieves; the critical point is that such a priest would typically see their congregation as tools to further their own greed. A cleric following this aspect of the Keeper would have the Trickery domain, but it’s just as appropriate for any rogue, criminal, or charlatan.

While a player character could follow this path, there’s little heroic about it. The Keeper is the lord of greed. Kol Korran governs the positive aspects of trade, and Olladra guides the playful trickster and bard. The Keeper is the patron of those concerned solely with their own personal gain regardless of the cost to others. However, it’s still possible for a mercenary character to begin their career as a cold-hearted devotee of the Keeper—fighting solely for gold—and to perhaps discover that there are things more important than simple acquisition along the way.

The Restful Watch. Priests of the Restful Watch specialize in embalming, funerals, and maintaining cemeteries. They can be found in every major city in the Five Nations, and even smaller towns may have a devotee of the Watch tending the boneyard. The doctrine of the Restful Watch is based on the idea that most spirits pass through Dolurrh and into the realm of the Sovereigns, but that once someone has entered the realm of the Sovereigns they can never return. As a result, if Aureon knows that a dead hero will be needed in the future, he has the Keeper snatch the soul before it reaches Dolurrh, so it can be restored when the time is right. Thus, initiates of the Restful Watch present themselves first and foremost as servants of Aureon, but they understand the Keeper. One of their most important duties is helping the bereaved choose appropriate grave goods or a sacrifice sufficient to distract the Keeper and ensure that the soul reaches Dolurrh. For a simple person with few achievements, a single coin might suffice; but the more remarkable the deceased, the greater interest the Keeper will have… requiring a more significant sacrifice to distract him.

While the Restful Watch can be found in any major city, they maintain a low profile; unless you’re planning a funeral, there’s little reason to interact with them. However, there’s a few ways that they could intersect with adventurers or serve as the foundation for a player character. Clerics of the Restful Watch typically take the Grave domain, reflecting their balance between the light of Aureon and the darkness of the Keeper. However, both the Knowledge domain and the Death domain are options. Likewise, Watch paladins typically embrace the Oaths of Devotion or Redemption, but those especially close to the Keeper could take the darker path of the Oathbreaker. With that in mind, here’s a few options for the Watch.

  • The Restful Watch believes that Aureon has preserved the souls of heroes so they may return for an apocalyptic conflict that lies ahead. Many scholars believe this cataclysm predicts the collapse of the Silver Flame and the unleashing of the Overlords of the First Age. As a Watchful Eye, you have been sent out into the world to search for signs that this cataclysm is drawing nigh. You may have a specific set of things you’re supposed to look for or investigate (such as the Mournland), or you could be largely given a free rein.
  • Occasionally the Watch identifies individuals who they’re sure have been marked by Aureon for preservation. You may have been assigned to such an individual—one of the other player characters—with the task of chronicling this person’s life and performing the proper rituals when they die. Whether or not the person appreciates or wants your companionship is irrelevant. “Don’t mind me, I’m just going to follow you around until your heroic death. Trust me, I think you’re going to accomplish some big things!”
  • Especially gifted priests of the Restful Watch serve as exorcists and mediums. As a cleric with the Grave domain, you may consider it your holy purpose to seek out the undead and lay their troubled spirits to rest.

Keeper’s Hands. Dedicated priests of the Keeper can be found in Droaam, Darguun, and even in Zilargo or the Lhazaar Principalities. These priests generally take the place of the Restful Watch, though they lack the benevolent aspect of Aureon. They still perform funerals and tend cemeteries, but they have no qualms about presenting themselves as servants of the the Keeper as opposed to being tied to some greater good. Like the Restful Watch, they will set a price for a soul’s passage; however, this will definitely include profit for the priest. In such places it’s generally accepted that one can gain the Keeper’s favor by sending him choice souls, either by simple dedication (which anyone can try—”Keeper take your soul!”) or more thorough ritual… so if you don’t pay the Keeper’s Hand to ensure the soul’s passage to Dolurrh, they’ll sell the soul to the Keeper themselves. Necromancy is also a common path for Keeper’s Hands, whether they are adepts, clerics (Death domain) or Oathbreaker paladins. They see necromancy as an earned gift from the Keeper and consider it the necromancer’s right to compel the dead to service… so, a far cry from the Restful Watch seeking to lay the dead to rest.

A Keeper’s Hand doesn’t see any of this as evil. It’s just the way the universe works. Life and death are business transactions, and a Keeper’s Hand is a merchant who expects to profit from them. Keeper’s Hands may also serve as talons (see Bargaining With The Keeper). As a path for a PC, you may have been raised in one of these dark cultures and simply be trying to use your gifts for your own benefit. Working with a mercenary band of violent adventurers is an excellent way to be around death—and you’re happy to dedicate those deaths to the Keeper in hope for favor.

While this focuses on the DEATH aspect of the Keeper, Keeper’s Hands are also often shrewd negotiators. Especially in more civilized regions, a Keeper’s Hand may be involved with smuggling or managing other criminal enterprises in addition to their religious duties. As a lone wolf adventurer, you could likewise be focused on all things that could bring you profit. There’s no reason you can’t be willing to share these profits with your friends, as long as you get what you want—so again, a Keeper’s Hand can be an excellent match for mercenary adventurers driven primarily by profit.

Keeper’s Fangs. The Keeper’s Hand simply pursues general profit, dedicating any deaths they can to the Keeper and hoping that this earns them favor. However, a few individuals feel a closer connection to the Keeper—they hear his voice or know what he wants most of all. Known as Keeper’s Fangs, these assassins hunt down and slay anyone marked by the Keeper. They may also be charged to find treasures the Keeper wants to add to his hoard. It’s up to the DM to decide if such a treasure must be immediately sacrificed upon acquisition, or if the Fang can make use of the relic before it is claimed by the Keeper.

In the ancient Sarlonan nation of Pyrine, Keeper’s Fangs were assassins who would sell death for gold. Assassination isn’t sanctioned in the Five Nations, but there is an order of Keeper’s Fangs who follows these old traditions. They are few enough in number that House Thuranni generally doesn’t see them as a threat to business. While this order exists, there are just as many Keeper’s Fangs who have an entirely personal relationship with the Keeper: they see what he wants in visions, and act in the hopes of personal reward. This is a logical path for a Hexblade warlock, whose shadow-infused weapons are a gift from the Keeper. However, it’s just as plausible for a Death cleric, Oathbreaker paladin, or rogue assassin.

Others. As noted above, these are a FEW ways to encounter followers of the Keeper. These ideas follow the traditional Pyrinean interpretation of the Six; but the Sovereigns and Six have been interpreted in many ways in various cultures. Among the giants of Rusheme, the Keeper is known as Karaak the Final Guardian, and considered to save the souls of the worthy from dissolution—similar to the beliefs of the Restful Watch, but without adding Aureon into the equation. The Keeper is always associated with death and greed, but the exact interpretation can vary considerably.

Bargaining With The Keeper

How do bargains with the Keeper work? The Six don’t walk the world, so you have to find an intermediary who can make a bargain. This could be a devoted outsider, or it could be a mortal with a strong connection to the Keeper. This could fall into any of the categories described above—a priest of the Restful Watch, a criminal considered to be blessed by the Keeper, a Keeper’s Hand or Fang. Someone operating in this capacity is referred to as a talon. Despite all of these options, talons are exceptionally rare—and those with established track records even more so. This is because working with a talon is entirely a matter of faith. The petitioner comes with a request. The talon establishes the exact terms. Payment is often abstract: the most common fee is the assurance that the Keeper will claim the petitioner’s soul after death, often with an added limitation on maximum lifespan (“Should you live to be forty years of age, the Keeper will end your life and claim his rightful prize”). But payment could be something unique that the petitioner possesses, whether physical or metaphysical. The only constant is that the Keeper never makes a bargain unless the price is in his favor; the cost will always be dear.

If a bargain has a material cost, the talon takes the goods on behalf of the Keeper. But the talon doesn’t provide the reward, and there’s no guarantee as to when the Keeper will uphold his end of the bargain. So an aspiring merchant could make a deal to acquire wealth and success in exchange for a 40-year lifespan and the only picture of her mother. The talon takes the picture and the merchant goes on her way. Within the year, she has a run of good fortune, or finds a wealthy investor, or stumbles upon buried treasure that allows her to set up her business. Is this the result of the bargain, or just coincidence? WILL she die when she’s forty, or is that also just superstition? An established talon is defined by having a string of successes; people have to BELIEVE that the talon can speak for the Keeper. But the Keeper acts in his own time and in his own way, and there’s nothing about a talon’s bargain that can’t be questioned by a skeptic.

A Keeper’s bargain is an excellent way to establish a character’s backstory. Player characters possess remarkable talent; did a character bargain for that talent, and if so, what was the cost? Perhaps the terms of the agreement only give the character one year to live: can they find a way to break the bargain before time runs out? This is also a possible explanation for the powers of a warlock, especially if the warlock specializes in conjuration and necromancy. In this case the warlock may not have an active and ongoing relationship with their patron (though the following section presents alternatives) but what were the terms of the deal? If a player character wants to make a bargain with a talon during a campaign, it’s up to the DM to decide what terms the Keeper will offer and what the practical effects will be. If someone offers to give up their musical talent in exchange for a silver tongue, the DM could allow them to swap a proficiency with Performance for Deception… but again, it’s up to the DM to decide if such a thing is possible and how to implement it. If someone bargains for “skill at arms” the DM could rule that this skill will be acquired over time as they gain levels; again, the benefit doesn’t have to come instantly, and most people can’t gain levels as PCs do. It’s also possible that a talon could approach the player characters with an offer. Perhaps they’ve acquired the Book of Vile Darkness and no one actually wants to read it. But a talon approaches them; the Keeper has spoken to them and wants the book, and is offering a different artifact in exchange. Are they interested? And again, such a bargain doesn’t mean that the talon possesses the other artifact; it’s simply assured that should the PCs give the book to the talon, the other artifact will come to them. Metaphysically, the theory is that most of the gifts the Keeper can bestow come from imbuing the beneficiary with an element of one of the souls in his hoard; the Keeper grants musical talent by imbuing the seeker with the soul of a renowned bard. As such, there are certainly things the Keeper CAN’T grant. The Keeper can’t granted arcane knowledge that no mortal has discovered; that would be the domain of the Shadow.

The Keeper and the Afterlife

DOES the Keeper snatch souls on their way to Dolurrh? As with anything tied to the divine, there’s no absolute proof. But from the preponderance of myths to the concrete fact of soul-trapping Keeper’s fang weapons, it’s POSSIBLE for souls to be lost in this way. There are tales told of heroes finding the Lair of the Keeper in the Demon Wastes and negotiating with a skeletal dragon to recover souls lost to Keeper’s Fangs. Perhaps these stories are literally true. Or perhaps the “Lair of the Keeper” is a portal to a demiplane ruled by the first and most powerful dracolich… and this mighty creature created the Keeper’s fangs. Ultimately it’s up to the DM to decide. Is there anything to a talon’s bargains beyond superstition and coincidence? Can souls be taken by the Keeper, and if so, how can they be recovered?

In this article I discuss the cost of resurrection—whether cast as a spell, or offered to a slain hero by supernatural forces. In Eberron, this is one more opportunity to bargain with the Keeper. Should a player character die early in their career, the Keeper (or something posing as him) could offer resurrection—but at what cost? Alternately, if the player characters have the ability to raise the dead, the Keeper can add an unexpected obstacle. If the Keeper claims a soul, Raise Dead won’t work unless the Keeper chooses to release the soul… which will require a bargain. See the linked article for ideas about what such bargains could entail!

This adds one more interesting background for a player character: the REVENANT. Even as a first level character, you could have died and been released by the Keeper… what bargain did you make? Is this tied to your class abilities? Did you die recently, or did you linger in limbo for centuries before returning—exactly what the Restful Watch describes? This could allow you to play an elf from the age of Aeren; a human who fought along Lhazaar, Galifar, or Tira Miron; a Goblin who fought the daelkyr; or any other hero from the past. This could have required a bargain with the Keeper (or something claiming to be the Keeper)… or perhaps there is something to the beliefs of the Restful Watch and you’ve been returned without strings—but if so, why were you preserved and why have you been restored now? What’s your purpose in the present day?

Q&A

I love the idea of people burying treasures with the dead to distract the Keeper. If this is a common practice for everyone in Eberron, would you think it would lead to extensive grave robbing by non-believers? Is there some “curse” rumored to go with grave robbing?

Good question. It’s definitely seen as a bad idea to steal grave goods—even if the Keeper doesn’t physically take them, his eye has been on them and by taking them you’re drawing his eye to you. However, that’s only going to deter vassals; if someone doesn’t believe in the Keeper, they won’t believe in the curse. With that said, bear in mind that for MOST people we aren’t talking about things of tremendous value—a few copper crowns, something that was valuable to the deceased but doesn’t necessarily have high market value. if the thing that was most valuable to the deceased was a portrait of their lost child, that might suffice… even though you couldn’t get a great price for it. Beyond that, this is one of the specific duties of the Restful Watch—maintaining and protecting cemeteries.  And in the case of someone who would be buried with things of considerable value—a noble, a hero—you would have crypts with actual security.

All of which leads to possible adventure: You need to get into the crypt of first King of Metrol to recover the sword that was buried with him… but is its power intact, or is it now cursed?

If you were to create a 3.5 lawful good paladin of the Keeper, what positive aspects of the Keeper would you emphasize? Or would you prefer they be a Paladin of the Restful Watch instead?

It’s a tough sell. I personally define the good alignments as reflecting empathy and altruism, and altruism is literally the antithesis of the Keeper. Even the Restful Watch doesn’t present the Keeper as an altruist; he’s just willing to work with Aureon, presumably profiting from the deal in some way. To me, the people who worship one of the Six above the Sovereigns don’t try to change the basic message of the Six, they simply embrace the darkness. The merchant who follows the Keeper is a mirror of the “Greed is Good” stockbroker, or the con artist who believes that if they can fool you, they’ve earned your gold. So personally, I’d go with the Restful Watch.

HOWEVER, if I absolutely had to make an LG paladin of the Keeper who wasn’t associated with the Restful Watch, I’d emphasize the role of the Talon. They help people make bargains with the Keeper. They don’t seek personal profit, and they offer the best advice they can to the prospective client. It could be that the paladin then acts to make the deal come true; if the Keeper has promised someone wealth, it’s up to the paladin to actual get it for them. So essentially, even though the Keeper always gets the best of the bargain, the paladin sees themselves as doing good by helping people make the deals to get what they need.

A general question about the Dark Six: How do you present them as being worshipped as a pantheon? Usually things focus on cults dedicated to individual members of the Six. 

I lean towards the Nine and Six and One. Rather than say “There is a group that explicitly worships all six of the Dark Six and denies the Sovereigns,” I lean towards “There is a pantheon of fifteen deities, which ones appeal to the individual?” For example, a gnoll hunter in Droaam might respect the Keeper and the Shadow, but as a hunter they could also offer thanks to the Lord of Hunt and Horn—which is to say, Balinor. While Balinor is traditionally part of the Nine, if you’re a hunter, he’s your patron. The Devourer doesn’t guide the hunter; he resides in the storm and the wildfire. The gnoll might RESPECT the Devourer, but if he’s looking for guidance in the hunt, that’s not what the Devourer does.

Essentially, with any of the Sovereigns and Six, there will be members of the pantheon who are more relevant to your life than others. If you’re not a soldier you don’t have a lot of reasons to invoke the Three Faces of War. If you’re not an artisan you may never have a need to ask Onatar for guidance. The same holds true with the Six. The Keeper is relevant to everyone, because we all die. The Shadow is generally seen as the patron of monsters and thus is broadly relevant to all of the denizens of Droaam. But the Devourer and the Fury are more specialized and typically only invoked when needed.

With that said, there are certainly cults in the Five Nations who take it as a point of pride that they follow the Six instead of the Nine. Typically this is seen as a statement of freedom and independence. The Nine are tied to the typical rules of civilization; law, honor, duty, commerce. The Six embody the things we fear, the forces that defy civilization. Someone who embraces the Six is stating that they choose to stand with these forces… even if they may never actually invoke the Devourer directly.

How do followers of the Blood of Vol feel about the Keeper? 

This is a case where people say “They both use necromancy, so they must be allies, right?” WRONG. Many followers of the Blood of Vol maintains that mortality is a curse set on the world by cruel gods… and the Keeper is a cruel god who inflicts death and suffering. The Keeper grants power over the dead, but the Blood of Vol sees the entire idea of the Keeper and any who would revere him as abominations.

What makes The Keeper and Katashka: the Gatekeeper definitely different beings and sources of power to the dragons?

Katashka the Gatekeeper is one of the Overlords of the First Age, an archfiend embodying the fears of death and undeath. There’s certainly some overlap, and one of the common theories is that the inspiration for the Keeper was a draconic champion of the First Age who bargained with Katashka and became the first dracolich—and that this entity could be the inhabitant of the Lair of the Keeper in the Demon Wastes. But there are critical differences between the two. Again, Katashka is a fiend who embodies our fears of death and undeath. If freed from his bonds, Katashka would create a blighted realm in which undead prey upon the living. Katashka is in essence a predator who strikes indiscriminately, spreading the influence of the dead across his domain. He is a source of necromantic power, certainly, but he’s an immortal fiend—not something a dragon could aspire to become.

By contrast, the Keeper is the embodiment of greed… it just happens that one of the things he covets is souls, and he uses death and disease as a way to acquire them. The Thir archetype tied to the Keeper is the Master of the Hoard; dragons who emulate the Keeper “treat life and death as simple negotiations and collect actual souls.” As a general rule, Katashka isn’t interested in bargaining or acquiring PARTICULAR souls; he’s all-consuming. The Keeper is a connoisseur who relishes his hoard and who’s always interested in a bargain. And of course, dragons believe that it’s possible for an exceptional Master of the Hoard to BECOME the new Keeper.

My question would be what kind of monsters or monstrous humanoids would have an association with the Keeper? 

It’s not generally a strict racial connection. There are Keeper’s Hands in Droaam and Darguun, but they aren’t tied to a particular species. Medusas revere the Shadow, but in Graywall the primary priestess of the Keeper is a medusa. Essentially, it’s the same principle as anyone worshipping the Sovereign Host; offer devotion to the deities you feel govern your situation or whose guidance you seek. Culturally many of the inhabitants of Droaam are more comfortable with death and with open greed than people of the Five Nations. Humans usually embrace Kol Korran over the Keeper because they want to feel that they are the hero of the story—clever, certainly, but not rapacious or cruel. Following the Keeper acknowledges that you put your own desires ahead of all others. And again, while there are Keeper’s Hands in Droaam, there’s also Keeper’s Hands in Zilargo or Lhazaar.

With all that said, a monstrous race that lives on the edge of life and death or is closely aligned with negative energy could see themselves as children of the Keeper. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but maybe I’m missing one.

Post your questions and comments about the Keeper below! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making this possible!

Dragonmarks 5/30/14: Vol, the Dark Six, and the Trouble With Aundair

Spring has been a busy time, and I haven’t had much time for the site. I’m working on a lot of exciting things, and I look forward to being able to discuss them in more detail in the future. I also have a backlog of Stories & Dice to get to. But for now, here’s a few Eberron questions. As always, bear in mind that these are only my personal opinions and that my answers may contradict canon material.

Chris Perkins said that Eberron will have 5e/DNDnext support and your input. Is this true?

Yes. It’s far too early to talk about details as to what form support will take, how extensive it will be, or anything like that, but I have been talking with Mike Mearls and Chris Perkins about Eberron in D&D Next, and I will be working with WotC on future Eberron support. More details to follow in days to come.

What makes Aundair interesting? It seems like idyllic farm land except for Aurala’s ambitions.

This question came in at the last minute, and it can easily be the subject of an entire post. So I’m just going to give you a very high level overview, and explore all these points in more detail in the future.

What makes Aundair interesting?

  • A land divided. Aundair USED to be idyllic farm land… until a big chunk of its idyllic farmers seceded to form the Eldeen Reaches. That’s huge ongoing rift with serious impact on daily life in both Eldeen and Aundair. Then to the west, you have Thaliost – a major Aundairian city now in the hands of Thrane. Of all the surviving Five Nations (we’ll leave Cyre out of this) Aundair carries the worst wounds from the war… which is one of the reasons Aundair HAS ambitions.
  • Mystical sophistication. Aundair is the seat of the Arcane Congress. It’s the smallest of the Five Nations, and during the war, Aundair relied on its arcane superiority to survive. Out of all the Five Nations, Aundair is the one where arcane magic is the most integrated into daily life. If you want to explore that aspect of Eberron, Aundair is the place to do it.
  • Ambition. Aundair dares! The bitter wounds of the war give Aundair a motive to fight – the belief (perhaps foolish) that only renewed war could settle these injustices and turn the fortunes of the nation. Combine this with the belief that Aundair’s mystical edge could let it win that war – that it’s just one super-weapon away from ultimate power. The King’s Citadel is basically working to preserve the status quo… while the Royal Eyes want to destroy it. If you want to be a spy who’s out to CAUSE trouble instead of stopping trouble, it’s the place for you.
  • A nation of dreamers. Karrnath is stoic and grim. Thrane is tied to the church. Breland is industrial and grimy. Aundair is all about magical thinking, figuratively and literally. Its people have the most romantic – and unrealistic – outlook on things, in part because as the nation of magic, they know life can BE unrealistic. Aundairians love duels. They love grand gestures. Life in Aundair is full of flair and color. This ties to the fact that most of the zealots of the Silver Flame are actually from Aundair – because they are more passionate and, if you will, magical in their beliefs, while Thranes tend to be moderate and compassionate.

I’d love to go into more detail on all of these points, but I don’t have time. But to me, the high degree of magical integration combined with the tensions of Thaliost and Eldeen can give birth to a host of interesting stories.

I notice that, in relation to Aundair, you did not mention that, according to the maps published in Forge of War, the entire of southern Aundair (including Arcanix) was actually part of Thrane before the Last War, and a good chunk of northern Thrane (not just Thaliost) used to be part of Aundair. Do you use those border changes in your home game? If so, how does that impact the nation?

This is why I always say “My answers may contradict canon material.” I have no problem with borders having shifter, but I don’t accept the idea that Arcanix was originally part of Thrane. As I said above, the whole idea of Aundair is that it’s the nation most driven by arcane magic… that Aundair herself was one of the earliest wizards and made her nation the seat of the Arcane Congress, and that this is an integral part of Aundair’s character and culture. Conversely, Thrane has nothing arcane in its culture at all (yes, Silver Pyromancers, but that’s the key – even wizardry is tied to the church). Having Thaliost or other significant cities have changed hands is interesting, but having Arcanix have been part of Thrane weakens both nations, because it doesn’t play into the character of either.

Why the Dark Six? By this I mean: What is the function of the Dark Six and their worshippers from a plot perspective? If I’m looking to run an evil cult, why the Dark Six? Or is there some completely different function that they’re serving that I am missing?

First off, it’s a mistake to separate the Dark Six from the Sovereign Host. The Shadow is cast by Aureon. The Mockery puts Dol Dorn and Dol Arrah in perspective… as shown by the Three Faces of War, which is devoted to all three of them. We’ve mentioned a number of cults that blend the worship of Host and Six – for example, the Restful Watch, who revere both Aureon and the Keeper. The Host and the Six are all part of the same big picture, and you should always consider how your cult walks the line between the two.

Looking to one simple example: Onatar is the divine patron of House Cannith. However, the house has always been a haven for Traveler Cults. Canniths who follow the Traveler typically do so because the Traveler drives innovation. Onatar guides the hands of the smith when he makes a sword, but is the Traveler who gives him the idea for a gun or a bomb – something that could utterly change the face of warfare (for better or for worse). The Traveler encourages dangerous risks and paradigm shifts. These things are dangerous, and that’s what puts the Traveler in the Dark Six. But Cannith Traveler cultists have made some of the largest breakthroughs in the history of the house. Sometimes dangerous risks pay off.

The Three Faces of War maintain that all the Dols have a place on the battlefield. Dol Arrah is the patron of honor and strategy, and there’s a time for that. Dol Dorn is the rough-and-tumble patron of the career soldier. But war can get ugly… and that’s where Dol Azur comes in. The Mockery pursues victory at any cost. He shows you the path to defeat the undefeatable foe. He’s not honorable. He’s not strong. But he will win, and so will you… if you’re willing to follow his path.

In Droaam, the Six are revered as positive forces. Humans see the Shadow as the corrupting force that creates monsters. Well, monsters see the Shadow as the Prometheus who gave them their gifts, powers Aureon won’t share with humanity. For wizards, the Shadow/Aureon divide is much like Traveler/Onatar or Mockery/Dol Arrah. Do you follow the rules, or do you follow the path others are afraid of?

In short, don’t just think about one of the Six in isolation. Think of them alongside their counterparts in the Host, and think about what it says about a person that they embrace the aspect represented by the Six.

Could some way the cultists of the Dark Six and the Lord of Dust cooperate? Maybe could a rakshasa impersonate a god?

Certainly! In my opinion, both the Lords of Dust and the Chamber have posed as deities to manipulate mortal cults. Of course, I wouldn’t really call this “cooperation”; the cultists don’t realize they’re working with a fake god, after all. But yes, the Lords of Dust may manipulate cults of the Dragon Below, the Dark Six, or for that matter the Sovereign Host (though that’s usually the dragons’ department).

Why is the Order of the Emerald Claw not shown to have grey morality too? It can have tragic figures.

I have a different answer to each of these sentences. Taking the last one first: It’s very easy for the Emerald Claw to have tragic figures associated with it. Its members can be driven by tragic past, misguided patriotism or religious zeal, or an understandable desire for vengeance for crimes inflicted during the war. Erandis Vol herself is a very tragic figure, with many valid reasons for doing what she is trying to do.

But that’s where we come to grey morality. Erandis is a tragic figure with understandable motives for doing what she is trying to do. But when what she is trying to do is suck out the life force of everyone in Sharn so she can power her necrotic resonator and become Queen of the Dead, there’s no question that your PCs are doing the right thing when they try to stop her. And that’s the purpose of the Emerald Claw. It’s like Cobra in GI Joe or the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark; these are PULP villains, enemies that the PCs KNOW they should oppose whenever they are encountered.

If you want more shades of grey, just pick a different order. Personally, I use the Order of the Ebon Skull as my go-to Blood of Vol chivalric order with a complex moral agenda. But from a storytelling perspective, there is a value to having a particular force that the players KNOW they don’t need to think about; if the Emerald Claw is up to something, stopping it is the right thing to do.

So the key point: You can do anything you want with the Emerald Claw. YOU can make them more complex. But their role within the setting as designed is specifically to BE a black-and-white pulp enemy as opposed to a shades of gray noir faction.

How are Outsiders, native and otherwise, seen in Blood of Vol theology?  They have blood, and they have immortality. Do Outsiders have the divine spark?  If so, why aren’t they getting divinity and deific status with the massive amounts of time at *their* disposal?

First: The Blood of Vol maintains that Eberron and its inhabitants are special, a belief shared by others. The planes are isolated aspects of reality: War, peace, light, darkness, order, chaos. Eberron (well, the material plane in general) is where all these things come together. Mortals know war AND peace, order AND chaos. They dream, they have inspiration, and at times this can drive them to madness. The pit fiend of Fernia and the angel of Syrnia each possess tremendous power, but both are limited by their fundamental nature. An embodiment of war can’t become a force for peace. In a sense, it’s about free will. Ultimately, very few immortal outsiders actually have it. They are incarnate ideas, but that means that they are bound by their nature. Changing their fundamental nature literally means a physical transformation; a fallen angel becomes a devil or a radiant idol or what have you. And it’s very rare that this can happen in the first place.

So: an angel has vast power to begin with, but it’s limited by its nature. You don’t get to be a hashalaq quori by starting out as a tsucora and working your way up; you either are a hashalaq or you’re not.

The mortals of Eberron have nothing BUT potential. A baby has no power at all, but he can grow up and become an amazing sorcerer or a mighty cleric. If he can do all that in a single century while also suffering the daily trials of mortal life, what could he achieve with eternity at his disposal?

Looking at it another way: the basic premise of the BoV is that mortals have a divine spark and the potential to achieve divinity… and that because of this the gods afflicted them with mortality. The fact that outsiders are immortal is, essentially, a sign that they have no spark… because the gods don’t see them as threats or rivals. Which makes them tools, weapons, slaves, servants… call it what you will. The key point is that for all its power, a pit fiend (or a lich, for that matter) lacks the raw potential of a mortal human.

As a side note, I personally don’t think that immortals DO have blood in the same sense as mortals. If you want to get purely mechanically, if a creature doesn’t specifically say it can’t be killed by stirges then it theoretically has some form of circulatory fluid that can be drained with a negative effect. But even if that’s true, I don’t think that an angel’s blood or demon ichor is going to resemble the blood of a human or an elf. I might say that an angel’s blood is light, while the blood of a demon might be a foul black substance that slowly eats away at mortal matter… and I’d probably change this based on the nature of the angel or demon. Really, that’s a DM’s call – but I don’t think immortal blood resembles mortal blood, and that’s enough for a BoV priest to call it a mockery or imitation.

Are there any particularly handy resources already floating around where you’ve commented on the Blood of Vol history or philosophy, particularly the role of its undead champions (when they’re not just being used as a corny “eeevil” death cult), the nature of House Vol before its fall, or the history of the Blood of Vol dating back to before Galifar such as Aerenal or the Qabalrin?

I don’t know about “handy.” One of these days I’ll have to consolidate some of these into a single coherent entry. But here’s a few scattered pieces and discussions across the web. The RPG.Net links are discussion threads, but ones where I’ve posted at some length.

Eberron Expanded: Libris Mortis

Dragonmark: The Mark of Death

Dragonmark: Erandis Vol – Hot or Not?

RPG.Net: What’s Erandis Been Doing For 3,000 Years?

RPG.Net: The Blood of Vol

On this one, I particularly recommend pages 2 and 3, which discuss what makes it an attractive religion to followers and what a paladin of the BoV can do to “fight death”.

Is there a dark side of house Ghallanda? Hosting illegal parties with dangerous substances and activities I would guess…

Anything can have a dark side, if you want it to.  House Ghallanda doesn’t just run inns and restaurants; they are the masters of the urban social arena. They know what to do to make their clients comfortable. A Ghallanda fixer is the person who can get you anything. He may employ members of other houses to accomplish that – turning to Sivis, Medani, or Tharashk, among others – but the point is, the concierge at the Gold Dragon Inn can get you anything. You can just as easily have crisis managers and cleaners – the branch of Ghallanda who takes care of things when there’s a dead body in the prince’s room or when the Countess overdoses on the dreamlily the concierge obtained for her. Ghallanda also has its promoters who build up celebrities to help as draw to Ghallanda events and locations.

Beyond that… are you familiar with the Black Dogs, from Eberron? These are Ghallanda assassins, who among other things are experts at mystically poisoning food and drink.

Do you have any thoughts on what place Vestiges and Pact Magic might have in Eberron? 

Personally, I say that Vestiges are immortal entities that linger in Dal Quor. Not exactly gods, they are beings who have become legends, and their spirits draw power and sustenance from that. I’ve called out titans of Xen’drik and ancient dragons as possible Vestiges. It’s entirely possible the Daughters of Sora Kell are trying to become Vestiges, or that Sora Kell is one.

If you could add a new continent to Eberron, what would you put on it?

Drawing on past answers, the simplest is that I wouldn’t add a new continent; I’d add more depth (get it?) to the undersea civilizations. At the moment, I don’t feel a need to add something completely new to the surface world, in part because it’s so easy to add an entirely new race/civilization/whatever to Xen’drik.

You once mentioned how the future of Eberron may be (warriors with many magical weapons, etc) Have you played in a future era?

I’ve played in some very near-future scenarios, but not in a future where the level of magic has changed significantly.

If warforged have no souls, which is an option, could Canniths somehow force/program them to do something against their will?

People in the world argue about whether or not warforged have souls. Speaking personally, the question to me isn’t whether warforged have souls; the fact that they can be raised from the dead is basically proof of that. Instead the question is how can they have souls, and where those souls come from. Whatever your stance on this, whether or not warforged have souls doesn’t affect Cannith’s ability to manipulate them. You can’t “program” a warforged; if you could, Cannith would have done it to all of them. There are quite a few aspects of sentience Cannith would love to have selectively removed from the warforged, but sentience came fully formed. Cannith can provide basic direction to the warforged – producing a model with an inherent aptitude for combat or recon, for example – and it is this that suggests that they might actually be using recycled souls. The reason Warforged X pops out with an innate aptitude for combat is because he has the soul of a soldier.

In any case, the key point is that by canon there is no way for an artificer to “program” a warforged. You could always introduce something – say that Merrix has a secret network of Warforged Manchurian candidates – but it’s not the default.

I must admit, though, that I prefer the possession of souls by warforged to not be settled under canon but to be left to each DM…

Even if it is established under canon, it’s ALWAYS up to each DM to change canon as they see fit. The main issue is that warforged BEHAVE as if they have souls for purposes of magic that directly affects a soul – resurrection, trap the soul, magic jar, etc. The DM could certainly come up with an explanation for why this is possible when they don’t actually have souls – but MECHANICALLY they are treated like creatures that do have souls.

I wonder if perhaps Cannith artificers do not at the very least have the capacity to “charm” warforged in a very powerful way, being their creators, or of removing their souls from their bodies -temporarily or not- if they do have souls.

Again, it’s always up to you as a DM. But from a world design standpoint, the concept has always been that Cannith itself doesn’t fully understand or control the warforged. If every aspect of the warforged was under their control, there are many aspects of humanity they would probably eliminate. The idea is that they didn’t CHOOSE to give the warforged the capability to feel love, or sorrow, or fear; these things simply came with the package when they found a way to imbue them with sentience. Again, the key is that warforged aren’t robots; they are living beings who were created through artificial means.

Thus, a typical Cannith has no means to control the thoughts of a warforged, even one he created. However, what he does have are many, many ways to DESTROY a warforged… disable construct, inflict damage, etc. We see this in the Dreaming Dark novels with Lei; she can’t take control of a warforged, but she can certainly shut one down.They can’t manipulate their thoughts any more than they can manipulate the thoughts of any other living being. But they can take apart their bodies, because that’s the part of the warforged the Cannith understand perfectly.

With that said, you can do anything with the right Eldritch Machine; this is presumably the foundation of the soul-stripping plotline in DDO.

I’m sure it’s been asked before, but… name one new technology you’d like to see replicated Eberron-style. Smartphones?

In the original proposal I had “crystal theaters.” Essentially, the theater has a GIANT CRYSTAL BALL, with a number of preset “channels” – Phiarlan and Thuranni stages where major events are performed. At showtime, the screen is tuned to the proper location. It’s an example of magic accomplishing the same function as technology, but using the existing mechanics of magic. Rather that the event being broadcast to the screen, the screen is scrying on the stage. I use these in my campaign, but I don’t think they made it into any official source.

Bear in mind that Eberron’s key principle is finding ways to use D&D magic to accomplish the things we do with technology. So in thinking about something like a smartphone, the question is how you create a smartphone using existing D&D principles. Is it a sentient magic item with decent knowledge skills combined with a form of sending that can only connect with someone carrying another smartphone? That sort of thing would work, but of course, a sentient magic item is SENTIENT… so you might have to worry about whether your smartphone is smarter than you.

That’s all for today. A late question is “Why do the Dragonmarked Houses use the animal symbols they do” and I’ll see about addressing that as a bonus tomorrow.

Dragonmarks 6/6: Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell

Droaam is one of my favorite places in Eberron, and The Queen of Stone is my favorite of my novels. Eberron in general explores the impact arcane magic might have on the development of civilizations; I like thinking about the sort of things monsters could accomplish if they put their supernatural abilities to practical use (such as the troll-sausage Grist Mills that feed the masses of Droaam). Needless to say, anything I write in this article is merely my opinion. If you’re looking for canon material, check out the follow.

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part one

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part two

Backdrop: Graywall

Eye on Eberron: Daask

Now on to the questions…

Who, exactly, is Sora Kell?

Sora Kell is described in this Dragonshard article. She is an exceptionally powerful night hag. Bear in mind that in Eberron, night hags are native outsiders that are peers of the Lords of Dust; the 3.5 ECS says “Night hags have been around since the Age of Demons, where they often served as ambassadors and messengers between the fiends and the dragons.”

Sora Kell’s full powers and purpose are intentionally left unclear. However, she has been wandering the planes for tens of thousands of years, and is the best known of all of the night hags; she’s no one to be trifled with. Of course, she hasn’t been seen for at least a century. Is she trapped? Dead? Or sipping a cool drink in Risia?

The following two questions are related…
Alongside that, what exactly are her daughters motives, in your version of Eberron, at least?

And…

What is the role of the Daughters of Sora Kell in Eberron? How have you used them?

As with many things in Eberron, the Daughters are intentionally mysterious. Why have they founded Droaam? There are many possible answers. The second question is the critical one: what role do you want them to play in your game? Do you want them to be villains or enigmatic allies? Because their motives will be whatever you need to fit that role. So let’s look at a few possible roles the Daughters can play.

KATRA WANTS A CROWN

Why did the Daughters create a nation? The same reason any ruler creates a nation – to gain power and influence over others. And Droaam is only the beginning. There are more monsters in the world than anyone knows. Creatures hidden in high mountains and deep caves, things that have been long forgotten. Even as Daask builds its power in the cities of the Five Nations, emissaries of the Daughters are finding the scattered monsters of Khorvaire. And when the time is right, they will rise to challenge humanity.

If you go this route, there are a number of questions to consider. Does House Tharashk know about Katra’s ambitions, and do they support them? Is she a friend or enemy of the Daelkyr? We’ve already seen her allied with the anti-Daelkyr Xorchyllic, so she might be stealing other aberrant forces from Khyber. Does she want to conquer the Five Nations, or would she be content with a larger kingdom that claims the outer regions – uniting the Shadow Marches and Droaam into one entity, and seeking to absorb the Eldeen Reaches and Demon Wastes?

This is a good route if you just want the Daughters to be an aggressive force in the world; on the other hand, there’s certainly a lot of those to choose from.

AGENTS OF PROPHECY

Sora Teraza brought the Daughters together. One possibility – as described later in this post – is that Teraza is following her own agenda. Another is that all of the Daughters are united behind her. She may still be half-mad or bound to her visions, but there is a purpose behind it… a goal that all three of the Daughters believe to be worthwhile. A few possibilities to consider:

  • Sora Kell is trapped. The Daughters don’t care about temporal power, but they do care about their mother – and they need the resources of a nation in order to free her. Following the intricacies of the Prophecy, there’s a few ways this could go. It could be that they need the power of the Kingdom of Monsters… or it could be that they actually need the strength and talents of a group of heroes, who will rise to the occasion if they have an enemy to fight. So Droaam could in fact be a stalking horse. They create it, set it up to challenge Breland precisely because that’s what it will take for a group of PCs to do what it takes to bring down Droaam… and in the process, get the power, weapons, and information they need to face the Overlord or Daelkyr who has imprisoned Sora Kell.
  • The Daughters are already legends. But they want to become something more. They want to be vestiges – immortal entities that will live on in Dal Quor after their defeat. This requires them to enter the world stage and draw the spotlight… and ultimately, it requires them to be defeated by the greatest heroes the world has ever known. So once again, they might choose to make Droaam a threat the players must oppose… but in the end, they WANT to lose the fight. They just want to make sure it’s a battle that will resonate throughout history.
  • They want to save the world. They know about the Lords of Dust, the Quori, the Daelkyr, and whatever other world-ending threats are out there in your campaign. Through Teraza’s knowledge of the Prophecy, they know that they personally can’t defeat the great threat. But they can HELP defeat it – by battling its lesser forces when the time is right, and again by honing or advising the heroes who CAN defeat it. This is a good approach if you want the Daughters to occasionally help the players, and for them to find Daask fighting the Cults of the Dragon below or Lords of Dust. Of course, a key point here is that the Daughters aren’t doing this to help HUMANS. They’re doing it to save THEIR people. Which brings us to the next idea…

MONSTERS FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF MONSTERS

Most of the monstrous races of Khorvaire have never had an easy time of things. The Dhakaani goblins conquered any who challenged them and drove the rest into the dark places. Humans are even worse. They fear the children of the Shadow. Humans are jealous of the wondrous gift of the harpy’s voice and the ogre’s strength. Always divided, the monstrous races have never been able to forge a kingdom to match those of the humans. Until now…

Under this idea, the Daughters simply believe that the monstrous races deserve better than they have gotten. They want to create a kingdom not simply for the sake of gaining power, but because it is the only way that the ogre and troll can break free of the cycle of savagery. They see the amazing potential of a nation in which monsters use their gifts for mutual benefit, and they want to make that reality. Their efforts to be recognized by the Thronehold powers are absolutely legitimate; they know it will take many attempts, but they’ll keep working at it. As for Daask, they’re simply Sora Katra’s answer to the Dark Lanterns or Royal Eyes of Aundair. She doesn’t want a war – but she realizes that one way to avoid war is to have power that cannot be ignored. In this role, the Daughters truly are benevolent leaders who want to create a kingdom of monsters that is the equal of any on Sarlona or Khorvaire. They don’t want war, but they’ll fight if they have to.

These are just a few ideas. If you’ve used them in a different way, talk about it in the comments!

If one of the three perished, would a new member be recruited or would the Coven dissolve?

It depends who died. I think Maenya is the most expendable. She’s the bogeyman, but Katra could find something else to play that role… though the death of Maenya would be a blow to the image of the Daughters and likely invite challenges from other warlords. Teraza’s death would change nothing in the short term, because she takes no obvious leadership role; however, without her guidance to help Katra outmaneuver enemies, the nation could fall. The one surely indispensible sister is Katra. She is the charismatic voice that unites the common people of Droaam, and the cunning schemer who outwits the warlords and keeps them in line. Maenya doesn’t have the subtlety and patience, and in my campaign Teraza is too unpredictable.

With that said, Sora Kell could easily have more daughters. She wandered the planes; perhaps she has a daughter in Shavarath, another in Khyber, and a third in Dal Quor (remember, night hags deal with dreams!). Three is a magic number, and the current triumvirate is well suited to the job at hand. But if one or more of them dies, you could always have new daughters show up to fill the void.

In fact, since I doubt the story will ever go anywhere, I’ll point out that in the Eye of the Wolf comic, Sora Katra calls Greykell “sister” at the end, and hey, her name is GreyKELL. Coincidence?

Is the government the coven created effective enough to hold to Drooam together if someone else were to usurp it?

The government? Not at all… not yet, at least. The Daughters maintain power with Katra’s cunning and charisma, Maenya’s intimidation, and Teraza’s prescience. If an individual or new cabal can fill that void with equal talent, they could keep it going, but it’s absolutely a cult of personality and personal power. As it stands, the government of Droaam would never last without the Daughters or someone of equal power behind it.

With that said, I don’t think it would dissolve completely; it would fracture into smaller alliances. There are definitely warlords who have seen the value of unity and who could cannibalize pieces of what the Daughters have created. For example, the Grist Mills could be maintained, and whoever holds those would have considerable power. But I don’t think the infrastructure alone is enough to enforce order on the entire region.

For me, Sora Teraza can be almost omnipotent. As a DM, I dislike that because why does she need adventures? Can’t she do it?

This ties back to the role/motive question. But let’s look at a few ways to deal with the potential unbalancing power of Teraza’s vast oracular abilities. Here’s a few ways to handle Teraza.

  • She is for all intents and purposes insane. She can’t actually judge what facts are important and what aren’t. Thus, the things she decides to tell her systems about are largely random, as are her personal actions.
  • Teraza knows one single path of the Prophecy/future – and it is her absolute duty to ensure that the future takes that path, or to correct it should it shift from it. That path includes very specific things: for example, in Olarune 999 YK, one of the PCs will kill Sora Maenya and claim the Sword of Dol Azur. She will defend her sisters and oppose the players if this is the correct time for her to do that; but at the appropriate times, she will actually aid the PCs over her sisters. Alternately, she will encourage her sisters to manipulate or employ the PCs, because again, that’s the path the future takes. Could she do it, whatever it is? Perhaps. But she can’t, because that’s not the path the future takes. Essentially, she is a prisoner of her own knowledge. She knows what happens in the future, and she is bound to make sure that things happen exactly that way, even if the method or outcome isn’t ideal. It’s the way she perceives the world; the way that things have to be.
  • Teraza is, in fact, Sora Kell herself. She has been stripped of much of her power by some sort of enemy or curse. She pretends to be mad or bound by various constraints to help keep her children from realizing who she is and the degree to which she is using them; she is manipulating Katra just as much as Katra is manipulating the warlords of Droaam. All of her schemes are leading towards her getting her power back. This is tied to the Prophecy. She’s got more freedom to maneuver that the option above, but there’s still a limited set of prophetic paths that lead to her powers being restored. So again, why doesn’t she reveal the PC’s plans to stop Daask? Why does she encourage Katra to use them in a particular scheme? Why doesn’t she tell Katra about Tzaryan Rrac’s treacherous plot? Because all of these things are steps on the path that will lead to her regaining her powers – and she is prepared to sacrifice her daughters to achieve that.

Essentially, Teraza’s powers are a plot device. The Daughters cannot be surprised if you don’t want them to be surprised. They can predict things no one else can. But they can easily be surprised if you do want them to be surprised, because there are many possible reasons for why Teraza might not share knowledge with her sisters even if she has it.

Another alternative is to say that the PCs can hide themselves from Teraza’s vision by following a different path of the Prophecy. Essentially, there is a way the future is supposed to unfold, and if they don’t KNOW what to do, the PCs will follow it. But if they work with someone else who understands the Prophecy – like a Chamber patron – they can basically get a map of actions Teraza won’t see.

How much leeway do the individual warlords have when it comes to fighting their fellows, before the DoSK step in?

In MY campaign? Not much. That’s part of why you serve the Daughters: they protect you from the other warlords. You can do what you like WITHIN your allotted territory – and bear in mind that when the Daughters handed out territory, it’s not like everyone in that territory was already completely united under the warlord in question. The Daughters backed a warlord and said “If anyone from another domain crosses this line, we’ll do something. If you cross this line, we’ll do something. Stay in the lines, maintain order however you like, send us our tribute, and everyone will be happy.”

This also ties to the goblin and kobold population of Droaam. Traditionally these races are often abused by the more powerful creatures. In Graywall and the Great Crag, the Daughters see that they are treated fairly in exchange for their labor – and they have given Kethelrax the Cunning a territory of his own. If a goblin can make it to the Great Crag, he can join the workforce of the Daughters and live a pretty good life. But the Daughters don’t tell Rhesh Turakbar how to treat his goblins. They won’t return any goblins that flee from his domain and reach the Crag – but neither will they demand that he treats his goblin population the way that they treat theirs.

What are some ways the Daughters might go about helping their mother? (I am looking for some potential plot hooks here)

This depends what sort of help Mom needs. Let’s consider some ideas.

  • Prisoner of Baator. Sora Katra wanders the planes. As described in the recent Eye on Eberron, Baator is a planar prison – easy to get into, hard to get out. The Daughters could be working on an Eldritch Machine (requiring Daask to gather rare components, etc) that will actually blast open the spiritual walls of Baator – freeing Sora Kell, but also unleashing a host of devils into the world. In this, they could be working with Asmodeus’ warlocks. Alternately, Asmodeus might be the one holding Sora Kell captive. In this case, the Daughters could be engaged in a campaign targeting infernal cults. Perhaps only a hero with a connection to the divine can breach the walls of Baator; this would result in the Daughters advising or helping the divine characters among the party. Of course, Katra might “help” a paladin by sending a wyvern to attack him, because any paladin who’s going to someday face Baator will have to bathe his blade in wyrmsblood before his 24th year (or what have you).
  • Lost in Nightmares. Same as above, but it’s Dal Quor that’s the issue. Daask might come to the aid of the players when they are fighting the Dreaming Dark, or the party may find Daask fighting a seemingly innocent force only to later discover that force had been compromised by the Dreaming Dark. While she’s not a night hag, Katra might have artifacts allowing sufficiently powerful adventurers to engage in lucid dreaming and face the quori directly.
  • Something Unpleasant. Sora Kell is alive and living beneath the Great Crag. However, she is crippled and needs a serum made from the blood of five kings to restore her strength. The Daughters are building their power, and when the time is right they will go after it – likely pursuing these kings one at a time. Bear in mind that this doesn’t have to mean “current leaders of the Five Nations”; feel free to explore the potential meaning of “king.”

Beyond this, they could have to arrange for the planes to become coterminous ahead of schedule, which could cause all kinds of magical fallout; acquire mystical tomes from Korranberg or Arcanix, or even from the dreams of sages at either place. That’s a fairly random assortment, but hopefully there’s something there to spark an idea.

The Daughters of Sora Kell have been mentioned more than once to be beings straight out of legend. Are there any tales about the pre-Droaam Daughters that you’ve expounded upon in your head or in your game?

The Queen of Stone mentions a few of these. Needless to say, I don’t have room to go into detail, but to throw out a few short ideas for you to play with…

SORA MAENYA is the classic bogeyman. In Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches, parents warn their kids that Maenya loves nothing more than the taste of a misbehaving child. She is renowned for her strength and appetite; I like to say that she can crush a giant with her bare hands, and eat the whole thing and still be hungry. She is the trophy-taker; she binds her victims’ souls to their skulls and keeps them as mementos. While she can appear as a terrifying brute, she is as capable of subtlety as her sisters and enjoys playing with her prey, and her shapeshifting abilities play into that. In The Queen of Stone, there’s a story where a ragged refugee comes seeking help from a garrison of soldiers. When the man who lets her in goes on patrol, he returns to find that all of his friends have been eaten and the bones carefully stacked for him.

SORA KATRA is more subtle. One tale I’ve referenced a few times is that she “weaves curses on her loom.” While she lacks Teraza’s oracular abilities, she knows a great many things and possesses many ancient treasures, and she loves nothing more than a contest of wits. Thus, I see her tales as often dealing with people who ask her for help, seek to steal from her, or challenge her to a contest… and these things rarely end well. If you follow Once Upon A Time, take Rumpelstilskin and multiply him a few times, and you get Sora Katra. She’s a master schemer, a player of games, and she loves to play with heroes. At the same time, she has her bogeyman side as well; in The Queen of Stone, there’s a reference to a child’s tale in which she comes to steal the fingerbones of children who lie.

SORA TERAZA is the most mysterious. A phrase I often use concerning her is “Some say she knows when every man will die; some say she decides it.” I’ve suggested that she has a library in the Great Crag filled with books that are the lives of special people… made from their actual lives and bound in their skin. But there’s essentially no stories of her before Droaam. Which is, of course, something you could play up if you like the idea that she’s actually Sora Kell!

Did Sora Kell intervene ever with the Royal Family of Galifar? She’s a fable, but fables in Eberron can be real. Are there records or stories of her interacting with major figures since the founding of the Kingdom?

Certainly. I’d say that Sora Katra has also interfered with various nobles, though they likely brought it on themselves in some way or another. The Dragonshard that mentions Sora Kell says there’s been no confirmed sightings of her for over a century, meaning that there were confirmed sightings before that. What did she do? This falls into the category of “Over a thousand years, all SORTS of interesting things should have happened in Galifar!” In the Thorn of Breland books I talk about the dragon Sarmondelaryx slaying the first Prince Thrane, something that’s never mentioned anywhere else. So what did Sora Kell do? What do you WANT her to do? Perhaps Sora Kell promised to teach Aundair powerful magic if the princess would give up her first child – did she do it? Is the history of Arcanix ultimately tied to the teachings of Sora Kell? Perhaps Sora Katra gave Wroaan of Breland a ring that would make all who heard her believe her words – but the ring couldn’t be removed, and forced its wearer to always tell the truth. In short, yes, they certainly interacted with important people over the centuries.

Droaam has a large giant population (ogres, ogre-magi, etc) and speakers of Giantish. Is this a legacy of the age of Giants?

Personally, I consider Goblin to be the Common tongue of prehuman Khorvaire, spread across the continent by the Empire of Dhakaan. As a result, in my campaign I have orcs and most other monstrous species speak Goblin, reserving Giant for those with a direct connection to Xen’drik (like Gorodan Ashlord). Ogres and Ogre-Magi are technically immigrants from Sarlona. Of course, since that occurred many many centuries ago, I typically have them speaking Goblin, having abandoned their original languages over the course of generations; however, you could find those that speak Giant (looking back to distant distant ancestors) or more likely Riedran, the old Common tongue of eastern Sarlona.

Have there ever been any other monstrous nations like modern-day Droaam? Considering that Khorvaire saw lots of empires before humans ever set foot on the continent, I think its only fair to assume that the Daughters of Sora Kell haven’t been the first monsters with ideas of a unified nation.

It depends how you define “unified nation.” To name just a few, gnolls, orcs, goblins, medusas, and sahuagin all have civilizations that predate Droaam – some by centuries, some by millennia. In some cases these rose to great heights and fell completely. In others, they simply remained self-contained. Neither the medusas nor gnolls ever sought to dominate others; however, they are both pre-existing political entities who allied with the Daughters, but who could easily return to their old ways if the Daughters fell. And while we’re discussing monstrous civilizations, let’s not forget giants and dragons!

With several demonic forces (i.e. Turakbar) in Droaam what is the status of druidic/primal society there?

We’ve never discussed it. I see no reason not to have a primal faction among the Dark Pack, though I’d probably create an entirely new sect as opposed to drawing on one of the existing ones. There’s a significant orc population in Droaam, and some among them could follow the ways of the Gatekeepers or another sect. Heck, you could add a druidic sect to the medusas that communes with serpents and creatures of the deeps. With that said, when it comes to people-who-don’t-like-demons, the force I’d call out is the Znir Pact. They broke with their ancestors’ demon-worshipping ways long ago, and I could see them having a secret order that seeks to prevent fiendish forces from gaining a foothold in the region again. It would have to be a VERY secret order, as the Pact is renowned for its neutrality… but I personally like the idea of a secret order of gnoll demon-hunters policing the warlords from the shadows.

Above and beyond the typical worship of the Six and the image of the Shadow as the Father of Monsters, are there any cults and sects of the Sovereigns and/or Six in Droaam? Do they have unique theological traditions (ala the masks of the Mror)?

The Graywall Backdrop I linked to at the start of this post has a whole section on religion; here’s a brief quote.

“…little religious solidarity exists in Graywall. A host of tiny shrines are scattered throughout Bloodstone and Little Graywall, and they represent the deities of different clans and races. The minotaurs of the north are united in worship of the Horned Prince, but each clan has their own representation of this demon overlord and believes all others to be flawed. The Last Dirge harpies revere the Song of Passion and Rage—an interpretation of the Fury—while the Stormsinger harpies venerate the Stormsong, an aspect of the Devourer. The asymmetric icons of the Traveler hold hidden messages for doppelgangers who pass through Graywall. The Znir gnolls worship no deity or demon, instead raising piles of stones to reflect the idols shattered by their ancestors.”
The article goes into more detail about the role of the Shadow and the way that the people of Droaam view the religions of the east. The key point is that Droaam is made up of a range of very diverse cultures, and religion reflects that.

Prior to The Last War and the creation of Droaam, would the aforementioned Gnoll and Medusa civilizations have had treaties with Galifar? Could some of them even have fought alongside Galifar himself in ages past?

The medusas only laid claim to Cazhaak Draal in 778 YK; prior to that their civilization was entirely subterranean and had no meaningful contact with the surface world. So unlikely on that front. Gnolls could be a possibility, though I’m not sure I’d see anything so formal as a treaty. Legally speaking, Breland laid claim to the entire southwest, but it never had the people or need to actually occupy what is now Droaam or the Shadow Marches. Most likely there were some clashes between explorers and gnolls which resulted in a general recognition of “Don’t cross this line and we’ll ignore you.” I do think you might have had a Brelish prince with a personal guard of Znir gnolls – a little like the Byzantine emperors’ Varangian Guard.

Does Droaam have any allies amongst those Nations recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold?

By canon, no. Their strongest political ally is House Tharashk.

Does House Vadalis have any major stakes in operations based in Droaam?

Not by canon, but it seems like something that would be interesting to develop. Vadalis would surely be interesting in things like wyvern breeding stock and the like, not to mention a chance to work with Cazhaak Draal’s basilisk wranglers. It’s mainly a question of what Vadalis would offer in return and how Tharashk would feel about it, since Tharashk has been a loyal ally.

You remind us that Night Hags deal in dreams. How would this effect the opinion of them amongst other creatures that are tied to Dal Quor, such as the Kalashar and the Inspired? Are the competitors for domination of dreams? Are they allies in establishing the power of dreams over mortals or in free dreams in the turning of the age?

The Quori are the native spirits of Dal Quor. They reign over the stable heart of the plane, which is defined by il-Lashtavar. However, that stable heart is surrounded by an ever-shifting borderland comprised of mortal dreamscapes. The Quori are powerful in these regions, because Dal Quor is their home. But they aren’t omniscient or omnipotent. They can’t monitor EVERY dream. The renegade quori hid out in these border realms for quite some time before they ran out of boltholes and merged with the kalashtar. The Gates of Night introduced the draconic eidolon – a composite entity formed of the souls of dead dragons – as a powerful force that exists in the border regions of Dal Quor.

So the short form? The night hags generally walk in the border realms. They are interested in the dreams of individuals but as currently defined don’t seek to use dreams to manipulate the world; they’re more likely to distill a particular nightmare to use as an ingredient in a potion than to try to start an uprising in Breland. The hags are old and powerful, and described as often serving as mediators between powerful forces of different planes; as such, I would suspect that most of them have established treaties with the quori. They won’t approach the heart of the realm. They won’t interfere with any dream the Quori have marked as being of great import. And in return, the Quori will stay out of their way in other dreams.

One point: The night hags are among the only entities who know all about the previous ages of Dal Quor. That information could be quite valuable to both kalashtar and Quori, if the hags care to share it. So that would be a good explanation for why the Dark would imprison Sora Kell, if you decide they have.

You mentioned that the Night Hags deal with Dreams and served as messengers and ambassadors during the Age of Fiends. Could the Hags have allies in Sarlona (Possibly in the Horned Shadow) and how exactly do they Dream/travel to Dal Quor?

The Night Hags are native fiends of Eberron. The idea is that where the Couatl were the native celestials (good spirits) and the rakshasa were native fiends (evil), the Night Hags have always been essentially unaligned. I should call out the fact that in comparison to couatl and rakshasa, there are far, far fewer Night Hags; I might even limit them to a dozen… well, thirteen originally, but Sora Kell’s gone missing… 😉 In fact, if you did say there were only thirteen, I’d go so far as to say that each was recognized as a favored envoy to a particular plane; they all could travel to Dal Quor with special ease, but one among them has a particular strength in dreams. Perhaps that’s Sora Kell; or perhaps she’s got stronger ties to Thelanis, reflected in the faerie tale nature of her daughters.

In any case: COULD a Night Hag have allies in Sarlona? Sure, if you want them to. But by canon, the idea is that the Night Hags aren’t schemers in the same way as the Lords of Dust or the Inspired. They are more interested in eldritch studies mortals can’t comprehend; in walking the planes and gathering wonders; or for that matter in studying the interplay between the great powers of the multiverse. Frankly, I could see a Night Hag still acting as a neutral envoy between the Devourer of Dreams and the Council of Ashtakala, or continuing to negotiate between dragon and fiend as she did at the dawn of time. The 3.5 ECS says this about Night Hags:

“Today, they remain as the impartial mediators, and adventurers who wish to deal with outsiders or other realms may wish to seek out a night hag—although they can be quite difficult to find. The motivations of the night nags remain mysterious and unclear. They may simply enjoy their role as ambassadors, watching the tapestry of history unfold across the planes.”

As for how a Night Hag gets to Dal Quor, she doesn’t dream as mortals do. When a mortal dreams, their spirit goes to Dal Quor. A Night Hag simply goes there physically, stepping between the planar wall. Note that the Night Hags of Eberron are generally more powerful than the default night hag in the Monster Manual, as they are ancient. Like all fiends, they are immortal; if one is killed it will be reincarnated. So if you want a weak night hag, you can simply say that it’s a recent reincarnation and hasn’t yet rebuilt its skills and power.

What did/do the Dragons and Rakshasa think of the Hags during and after the Age of Demons?

The Night Hags were a neutral force that carried messages between the dragons, couatl, and rakshasa. I don’t see that anyone would have a changed opinion about them as a species; I could see there being strong opinions about individuals, IE Sora Hekla is the one Night Hag who betrayed the trust place in her and is hated by all dragons.

The next two points will likely be moved into a Goblin/Darguun post once one exists, but since it doesn’t, here they are.

Concerning goblins, apart from the way in which Darguun was created, what are the reasons why they so reviled and disliked by others? Outright discrimination (this would apply to non-Darguun goblins, I guess)? Disagreement with the slavery favored by some in Darguun?… or, perhaps, rejection of cruel practices that were rampant in Dhakaan, which are attributed to current goblinoids. Despite being an Empire, I have the idea that Dhakaan may have favored cults of the dark six, oppression and murders of other races (gnomes?…)

First of all, if you haven’t read the Dragonshard about the Heirs of Dhakaan, I’d recommend it. Next, I’ll tell you what NOT the cause of human prejudice against goblins – it’s got nothing to do with any sort of Dhakaani practices. The Empire of Dhakaan fell more than a thousand years before humans even came to Khorvaire, and the average human knows nothing about it.

Next… I wouldn’t say that goblins are universally reviled. In The Queen of Stone, Thorn and Toli have more issues with the Thrane delegation than with the Darguuls; and in The Dreaming Dark trilogy, there’s a Cyran goblin (NOT a Darguul mercenary, a local Cyran goblin) serving with Daine’s unit. But here’s a few issues that can drive human-goblin prejudice, on both sides…

  • The goblins were here first. Humanity claimed their land. Most major cities are built on goblin foundations. So that doesn’t breed love between the two races.
  • Add to that the fact that those first humans enslaved the goblins. Galifar I freed these slaves, but you still have the fact that humans came from Sarlona, took the goblins’ lands, drove some of them into mountains and caves and enslaved the rest.
  • Combining the two previous factors, goblins (specifically GOBLINS, as opposed to goblin-hobgoblin-bugbears) are found in most major cities of the Five Nations. However, they are typically trapped in a cycle of poverty that often drives them to menial labor or crime – which creates an image of the “dirty untrustworthy goblin”.
  • And finally: put a goblin next to a halfling. The halfling LOOKS LIKE A LITTLE HUMAN. Heck, halflings are cute. They have the same skin tones as humans. The same general capabilities as humans. While goblins – skin tone, posture, eye color, teeth – all alien to humans. If you go by 3.5 rules, they have darkvision… which may seem like a trivial difference, but think what it means to have goblins creeping around in deepest dark, able to see you when you can’t see them. Think of all the prejudice WE’VE created over skin tone and then consider just how physically different the goblin is. Layer on cultural guilt; fear that the goblin wants revenge; economic disparity; religious differences (yes, many worship the Dark Six)… and it’s not surprising that relations between humans and goblins are often uncomfortable.

But for what it’s worth, I’d say the typical Cyran veteran probably hates Valenar elves just as much as goblins.

Regarding the question on hatred against goblins, I portray racial tension as having something to do with the empire of Dhakaan, because I tell players that despite its having ended well before humans arrived in Khorvaire some historical records and oral traditions passed on from gnomes who felt oppressed by the goblins depicted them as cruel, reason why humans began to distrust them. Concerning this, I remember that in James Wyatt’s storm dragon the characters discuss religion in Dhakaan, and Mit Davandi described many Dhakaani aspects in the legacy of Dhakaan.

Midian Mit Davandi is a Korranberg scholar, so it’s no surprise that he’s well-versed in Dhakaani history… and when you are actually interacting with the Kech Volaar, it’s a very relevant thing. And OF COURSE you should do what you want in your campaign. Frankly, our difference is more semantic than anything else. I have no issue with humans disliking goblins because of their history; I just don’t think that should go all the way back to Dhakaan, which is sort of like saying “I hate Italians because they used to crucify people.” My point is that it’s not like there was some vast cultural vacuum between Dhakaan and the present day, and Dhakaan is the only goblin culture the people have to choose from when forming an opinion. Sure, gnomes didn’t get along with the Dhakaani. But you know who else they didn’t get along with? The Ghaal’dar. In fact, they’ve likely fought with Ghaal’dar clans in just the last few centuries.

Even though the Daelkyr were defeated, they mortally wounded the empire. The Daelkyr are the lords of madness and corruption, and they planted seeds of madness among those they fought. The empire splintered into pieces. Traditions were forgotten as generals promoted the worship of strange gods, and others sought to destroy these vile cultists. Within centuries, the empire had collapsed into savagery. Various groups rose and fell in this ocean of barbarism. These are the goblins humanity encountered: an aggressive race engaged in seemingly endless (and largely pointless) battles, unable to stand against humanity because they couldn’t form a united front. Among the many clans, you could find slavers (as you still do today) and those who flayed the skins of their victims to honor the Mockery (as some still do today). So, my key point here when I say we’re arguing semantics: I have no issues with one aspect of human prejudice being “Goblins are violent savages. Look at their history! They’d cut your throat in the night. They’d flay your skin and wear it as a cloak. They even enslave one another. And their cities are all ruins – clearly they’re little better than beasts.” Historically you can find examples of all of these things. But look FURTHER back in their history, and you find Dhakaan, a disciplined and civilized culture where all the goblins species were united; a culture with remarkable artistic and philosophical achievements; and even accomplishments in metallurgy and certain aspects of magic that humanity hasn’t yet matched.Frankly, I think the typical man on the street is more likely to scoff at the idea of what the Dhakaani accomplished than to base his current opinions on it.

Darguun was founded by the tribes of the Ghaal’dar. We’ve never said how long the Ghaal’dar have existed (I don’t think – unless Don has) but I wouldn’t say that they’ve existed in anything resembling their current form for more than a thousand years, if that. The Marguul are probably only a century or two old as a culture. As seen in the novels, they have their own codes of honor, and they have held onto certain things like the use of chain weaponry. But they aren’t Dhakaani, and even what THEY know of the Dhakaani is largely muddled and mixed up.

Then we have the Heirs of Dhakaan. When the empire was collapsing into madness, a few leaders recognized what was happening. They rounded up those they could trust and sealed themselves away in deep dark places, and there they preserved the culture of their people. It’s only recently – less than thirty years – that the Dhakaani clans have emerged into the world, and they’ve kept a low profile. For the people of Darguun, this is sort of like having Leonidas and his Spartans suddenly pop up and say “Oh, we just faked our deaths. We’re back now. Wow, you guys all look like a bunch of wimps… Don’t worry, we’ll whip you into shape once we’ve decided who’s going to be in charge.” While there are those among the Ghaal’dar who take some pride in the idea of their ancient glory and who have trained with chain weapons and the like, when an actual Dhakaani chainmaster walks in the room, it’s a little like being the guy who plays with a foam katana with his friends and bumping into an actual samurai. Needless to say, Midian Mit Davandi can tell you all about that chainmaster – what his clan is, the way his chain was forged, and so on. But the average guy on the street in Breland has no idea of the difference between the Ghaal’dar, the Dhakaani, and the Marguul… let alone between the Kech Volaar and the Kech Sharaat. And they don’t have to. They know that the goblins beyond the Five Nations have long had a history of violence and have fought both humans and gnomes; they know that the goblins fought in the war only to break their word, turn on the Cyrans, and claim their land; they know that goblins engage in practices like slavery (we’ll ignore the whole goblins-used-to-be-slaves-of-humans part for now…). I’d think that’s enough to make most people feel uncomfortable when a hobgoblin warrior walks in the room.

With that said, we have the NON-Darguul/Dhakaani goblins…

City Goblins. The goblins who have lived alongside the citizens of Galifar since before the kingdom was founded. Here’s a quote from Sharn: City of Towers…

Sharn was built from the ruins of Shaarat, which was built atop old Duur’shaarat. All of these cities had one thing in common: Goblins. Malleon the Reaver enslaved the goblins of Duur’shaarat and forced them to build his city. King Galifar I offered the goblins freedom in exchange for their service as soldiers and laborers. For many of the goblins, there was little difference between life as a slave and life as a free laborer, but over the centuries some learned valuable trades and established their own businesses. While the goblins were officially citizens of Galifar, few humans enjoyed their company, and they found themselves congregating in Malleon’s Gate.

Some goblins resort to crime or grift. But many do seek to live honest lives; again, I’ll point to the goblin scout in The Dreaming Dark. Looking to the relationship between these goblins and their cousins from other nations, Sharn says this:

The relationship between the “city goblins” and these (immigrants from Darguun) is not entirely amicable; the Ghaal’dar bugbears and hobgoblins are used to dominating the goblins of Darguun, while the goblins of Sharn value their independence and rights as citizens.

And going back to the scout in TDD, he’s a soldier in the Cyran army. Not a Darguul mercenary; a Cyran citizen fighting for his nation. So just saying, many (though not all) city goblins DO consider themselves to be Brelish or Aundairian or what-have-you. Of course, many humans still look at them and say “stinking goblins” – but they’re a legitimate part of the society.

The Goblins of Droaam. In most of the world, “goblin” means “the three related species of goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear.” In Droaam, “goblin” means “little creatures who have been oppressed by larger creatures for a very long time” – specifically, kobolds and goblins. A goblin in Graywall feels more kinship with a kobold than a bugbear, because for the last few centuries kobolds and goblins alike were enslaved by ogres, trolls, and other larger creatures. My point is that these goblins have no cultural ties to Darguun, Dhakaan, or bugbears/hobgoblins in general.

As with all things, these are just my opinions. Other RPG writers and novelists have presented things in other ways, and there’s nothing wrong with making Dhakaan something people are more familiar with. But personally, I think the Dhakaani were as admirable a culture as any that exists in present day Khorvaire. They’re extremely militaristic and make the Karrns look like party people, but the social relationship they established between the goblin races is certainly better than we’ve seen since; they had many remarkable achievements; and in the end, they sacrificed their lives to save the world from the Daelkyr. Not only did they not worship the Dark Six, they didn’t worship ANY gods. Meanwhile, since the empire fell, there have been and still are violent goblin slavers who worship the Dark Six and do horrible things to their enemies, and the goblins did just seize a human territory and conquer it through treachery. I just don’t think you have to look back thousands of years to come up with reasons for hostility.