IFAQ: 5N Fleets, Rune Arms, and the Next War

October was a busy month, between Threshold, Eberron Confidential, and my many non-Eberron projects. As a result, I have a backlog of interesting questions from my Patreon supporters; here’s a few of them.

How strong are the naval traditions of each of the Five Nations, and which one would have the strongest navy?

In considering this, keep in mind that the existing maps of Khorvaire do a poor job of showing rivers, and there are considerably more rivers and lakes than have been called out. Having said that, even with what we have seen keep in mind that during the Last War these rivers and lakes were likely more significant than sea travel. Scion’s Sound is a lengthy border that connected all of the Five Nations except Breland. Lake Galifar is a massive body of water that creates a front between Breland and Aundair, and fishing and shipping along Lake Galifar has always been an important part of life in Aundair. Beyond this, Karrnath was the primary seat of Galifar’s navy in the north—keeping watch on the Lhazaar Principalities—while Sharn was the main point of trade between Galifar and Stormreach. In general, though, Galifar had no need of a significant militarized navy. The Lhazaar Principalities didn’t present a united threat; the bulk of commercial trade was handled by House Lyrandar; and Galifar wasn’t especially devoted to intercontinental trade or exploration.

So when the Last War began, as with many elements of Galifar, people who’d served the united kingdom pulled back to their nations. So one question is who were the common sailors of Galifar? Karrnath provided most of the soldiers of Galifar; was there a nation that provided the majority of the sailors? Yes, and that nation was Aundair. While all of the nations had their coastal fishing trade, Aundair had two key factors: the central role of Lake Galifar and the presence of House Lyrandar. The Windwright’s Guild has its home in Aundair, and Aundair was always home to the largest shipyards and trade schools of the Windwright’s Guild.

So Aundair has always had the greatest expertise. However, Karrnath had the most significant force of warships in service as the war began, which gave it an early edge. Breland—which had a strong naval tradition based on the trade across the Thunder Sea and ties to the expert shipwrights of Zilargo—was able to quickly get up to speed.

As the war progressed, the naval forces of each nation evolved to reflect their nation strengths. Aundair generally had the best sailors, and warships well-outfitted with arcane weaponry and defenses. Karrnath had fewer ships, but relied on its exceptional marines. By the end of the war, Breland had a significant fleet, employing Zil elemental and alchemical weaponry. Cyre never had an especially strong fleet, but it generally had the cutting edge of Cannith developments; my novel The Fading Dream includes a Cannith breacher, an aquatic construct designed to attack ships from below.

What are your thoughts on Thrane’s role in Scion’s Sound? I feel like Thrane’s Navy is not only an opportunity to expand on how important Scion’s Sound was to Galifar, but also I feel like Thrane could use some more interesting facets to it.

Thrane definitely had was to exert its power over Scions Sound, but that wasn’t tied to its SHIPS. Thrane brought two unique elements to the Scion line. The first were lantern posts, lighthouse-like structures burning with silver flame; manned by devout priests, these towers could blast vessels that drew too close with bolts of radiant fire. Their second advantage was their air force. To the best of my knowledge, Thrane is the only nation canonically called out as conducting aerial bombardment. Through their wyvern cavalry and other tools, Thrane had air superiority over the Sound; they didn’t need to match Karrnathi ships on the water if they could destroy them from above.

So yes, Thrane had a significant role in Scion’s Sound and they had ships, but their ships weren’t the source of their power.

Besides Thaliost, what are the other ‘hot spots’ of Khorvaire that could trigger a new large scale war similar to the last war?

You’re not going to see a new large scale war until there’s an answer to the Mourning. The Mourning is, essentially, the equivalent of the nuclear deterrent in our world. And entire country was destroyed in a day, and one of the dominant theory is that it was caused by the cumulative effect of war magics used in the Last War — that the world could be a mystical powderkeg, and it could be that one barrage of siege staffs is all it would take to trigger another Mourning and destroy Breland. Another possibility is that it was an experimental weapon, in which case who built it and could they use it again? It is this fear that holds the great powers of Khorvaire in check, and they won’t risk a large scale conflict until it’s resolved. So until then, the threat is about SMALL conflicts. Thaliost is one example. The Eldeen Reaches is another; will Aundair seek to reclaim the eastern Reaches? Droaam and Breland is another potential hotspot. Valenar is actively provoking its neighbors and is another strong contender. The Heirs of Dhakaan could try to seize control of Darguun…. assuming the Ghaal’dar don’t fall into civil war when Haruuc dies. You could also see an uprising in Breland spearheaded by the Swords of Liberty when Boranel dies, or have Karrnathi warlords rise up against Kaius.

Assuming you’re set on a large scale war, the first thing you need to do is resolve the Mourning. Someone has to find out the answer. Was it a fluke that won’t happen again? Was it a weapon, and if so can it be replicated? Assuming that answer doesn’t prevent war, a major hotpot beyond the ones I mentioned before is Thronehold, which is currently divided between the four surviving nations.

What do you think of Rune arms and how would you handle them in-game?

Rune arms are something created for D&D Online. I haven’t personally played DDO since they were introduced, so I don’t have in-depth knowledge of them. But what I understand is that they’re an offhand weapon that allows the artificer to make an energy attack as a bonus action, with a secondary effect of adding elemental damage to the artificer’s main weapon attack.

So, how would you introduce the rune arm into fifth edition? Well, let’s look at it again: it’s an offhand weapon that can only be used by artificers and allows them to make a ranged attack as a free action. Well, my immediate thought is you just described the artillerist artificer’s Eldritch Cannon. In creating an Eldritch Cannon, an artificer can make it a tiny object that can be held in one hand. The artificer can use a bonus action to make an attack with the cannon. So… artificer-only one-hand weapon that can be used to make an attack as a bonus action… Sounds like a rune arm! Now, in DDO, adventurers can find rune arms that inflict a range of damage types or have greater power. But given that these items can only be used by artificers, my response to this would be to treat the rune arm object as a sort of schema—as long as it’s in the possession of an Artillerist artificer, it allows them to summon a different type of Eldritch Cannon. So it still uses the Eldritch Cannon ability and takes the place of the standard cannon, but could change the damage type or enhance the effect.

So that’s what I’d personally do: say that the rune arm is is the common tiny form of Eldritch Cannon used by Artillerist artificers, and create rune arm items that enhance the feature in various ways.

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

Eberron Continued: What Is Canon?

I’ve got a lot of things I want to write about this week – Phoenix, Kickstarter, and more. However, a comment on the last Dragonmark raises an interesting question, namely “What is canon?”

Let’s start with the comment itself.

If you consider DDO to be canon in some way, there is two survivors from the Dragon/Giant war too: The Stormreaver and The Truthful One. They both died in the conclusion of the most recent game raid, but their history had been told since DDO launch.

Excellent point. But what really interests me is “if you consider DDO to be canon…” I am thrilled with everything that DDO has done and the stories that they have created. They have helped to keep Eberron alive over the years in which there’s been little new published material. But personally, I don’t consider that material to be canon… any more than I consider my own novels to be canon. Because in my mind, these are the same thing.

What COULD be considered canon? I could see a case for any of the following.

* Sourcebooks created by Wizards of the Coast.

* Articles created or authorized by Wizards of the Coast – the Dragonshards, Eberron Expanded, articles from DDI, Dragon, or Dungeon.

* Eberron novels authorized by Eberron.

* The lore created for D&D Online.

With that said, when the design team first created Eberron, we made the decision that novels wouldn’t be considered canon. A novel is a particular story that COULD happen in Eberron… but that doesn’t mean it WILL happen. In other words, just because a novel says that Lhesh Haruuc of Darguun dies in 999 YK doesn’t mean that you’ll ever see that mentioned or acknowledged in a sourcebook. In the Dreaming Dark Trilogy Pierce gets an artifact – the Docent Shira. When I wrote Secrets of Xen’drik, I included game stats for Shira. But I didn’t mention Pierce. Because if you want to use Shira in your campaign, I want YOU to decide what happens to her. So in a sense, SHIRA is canon – covered in a core sourcebook – while Pierce is not. In my opinion, DDO is in the same category as a novel. If DDO does something with the Lord of Blades that contradicts what you’ve done with him, you aren’t somehow wrong. DDO is one possible story, just like the novels. But it’s not any more important than your story.

This raises the bigger question: What is the purpose of canon? In my opinion, having canon material gives players and gamemasters a common language. It lets players from different groups share stories. It gives them something to expect. It can inspire stories and adventures. I can go into an Eberron game and tell the DM “What I really want to do is to investigate the Mourning.” Canon provides the major pillars that carry the setting… The Last War, the Mourning, the Treaty of Thronehold, the Dragonmarked Houses, the Prophecy. I may not know the specific details a DM has decided (such as the cause of the Mourning), but I know the Mourning is a major force in the world. Canon creates a CONTEXT. In my opinion, canon is most useful as a source of inspiration, when the ideas of the Lords of Dust or Lhesh Haruuc’s successor or the Race of Eight Winds or whatever gives you an idea for a story and gives the PCs context to fill in all the little details around it. What I don’t want is for it to limit you. Case in point, in the last Dragonmark someone asked if Eberron had legends of sunken lost continents. None of the material I’ve written does; in developing the setting I focused more on creating civilizations for the aquatic races than on having sunken surface nations. But as a DM, the LACK of canon information shouldn’t stop you from creating your own sunken nation. And regardless of what a novel says, you should feel free to kill Lhesh Haruuc, keep him alive, or just replace him entirely with this cool bugbear you’ve developed.

Beyond this: I might say “Sourcebooks are canon, but novels aren’t.” But the fact of the matter is that *I* don’t use everything in the sourcebooks. For example, I feel that the depiction of Thrane in The Forge of War runs counter to its depiction in other sources and to my personal vision of the nation… and thus, I ignore it. So in my campaign, The Forge of War isn’t canon. Meanwhile, you might decide that since you and your players love the Legacy of Dhakaan books, you want to make the events and characters in that book part of your story. So for you, it’s canon. When we talk about our respective campaigns, I can say “I’ve made DDO and the Thorn of Breland canon, but I’m ignoring the other novels”… and that lets you know what to expect, and gives you information you can use in creating your own character and story.

Ultimately, “canon” is a tool that helps you and your players understand the world. It creates a common language for storytelling. So what’s really important isn’t the broad generic canon, but the canon for your campaign. Personally, I’d suggest that you tell players what’s going to be canon when you start a campaign. If you like certain novels, you can say “These novels are canon.” If you hate a particular sourcebook, mention that you aren’t using it. What’s important is creating YOUR canon.

So… that’s my long rant on canon material. What do YOU think? Do you personally use the events of the novels and DDO in your campaigns? Do you feel that encouraging DMs to make the world their own is a strength of the setting, or a weakness?

Dragonmarks 8/9: Lightning Round 5!

It’s time for another Eberron Q&A! Let’s get right to it…

Let’s say that I’ve got a player who really likes games with Nerull. How would you put him in? The Keeper? Lord of Dust?

The thing about the Keeper is that you only interact with him through his cults, and they aren’t even all bad. The Restful Watch believe that Aureon and the Keeper work together to preserve vital souls from Dolurrh so that they can be returned to Eberron in a time of need; in many communities, the RW maintains cemeteries and performs funerary rites. As a result, I’d go with the Lords of Dust, specifically the Overlord Katashka, also known as the Gatekeeper. Lord of death and undeath, Katashka is said to have created the first undead. His mightiest servant is the dracolich Mazyralyx, who some scholars believe is the original inspiration for the myths of the Keeper. Katashka himself is bound, but you can bring Mazyralyx and any number of fiendish and undead servants to bear. Katashka is mentioned on page 30 of the 4E ECG and in this Eberron Expanded article.

Continuing with the theme…

How exactly does a Rajah like Yad-Raghesh ( from Dragons of Eberron, page 50) die?

He doesn’t. That’s the point of Yad-Raghesh’s tale; his apparent death appears to be a shocking, one-of-a-kind victory, but it is later discovered that rather than dying, he has simply spread his spirit across the Vale, transforming it into a pit of corruption that spawns fiends and slowly expands. If Yad-Raghesh was truly “dead”, the blight on the land would pass; it’s the presence of his spirit that keeps it alive and growing.

Now, to be clear: An Overlord can be temporarily killed the standard way – by reducing his hit points below zero. It’s simply that this doesn’t last for long; he returns within a day. In the case of Yad-Raghesh, he didn’t return and thus appeared to have been truly defeated. This turned out to be a false hope. By transforming himself in this way, he at least partially escaped the binding of the Silver Flame; he can’t return to his original form, but his power is continuing to spread while the other Overlords are held in check.

As for what he represents, I would say corruption. He gave up his physical existence to BECOME the corruption he embodied.

Out of all Eberron NPCs, which one would be the most likely to become a Ravenloft Darklord?

I don’t know about “most likely,” but my choice would be Merrix d’Cannith. His great crime? The attempt to create true life, moving beyond the warforged (who can’t procreate) to create something that can truly replace the current people of Eberron. In the Gothic architypes, he’d be a sort of Frankenstein, his realm filled with his imperfect creations – after all, the Dark Powers might let him get close to his goal, but they’d never allow him to succeed.

Suppose you have a player who, for whatever reason, wants part of his PC’s story arc to be romancing a noble. Who would be your best/favourite NPC noble for this role?

I’m still planning to write more about the nobility in the future, but this is more targeted. It depends where your story is set, but I’d personally choose Princess Haydith of Karrnath, who currently resides in Boranel’s court in Breland. According to Five Nations she’s only fifteen, but it’s easy enough to adjust that as you see fit. I think Haybith is an interesting character for a number of reasons. She’s the sister of a king, so certainly an important noble; she’s in a foreign land and thus likely happy to find a new friend or romance; she’s already a political pawn in Kaius’s efforts to promote peace, but she could easily be targeted by those who wish to strike at Kaius himself. And, of course, getting close to Haydith provides an interesting connection to Kaius itself, which could go any number of different ways.

Besides a certain royal prince (already mentioned in the ECG) who are some potential identities behind the mask of Prisoner Deep Fourteen?

Let’s look at the facts. He was sent to Dreadhold by Kaius III. He is being kept alive. His features are hidden. He can’t speak and isn’t allowed to communicate in other ways. So why keep him alive but incommunicado? Here’s a few random ideas, which I am making up at this very moment.

War Wizard. This individual is one of Karrnath’s greatest war wizards, responsible for creating immensely powerful and horrific rituals used in war. He’s wanted for a host of war crimes, and Kaius promptly had him tried and supposedly executed at the end of the war before any other nation could get their hands on him (thus claiming innocence in some of his worst atrocities). However, the fact of the matter is that he wants the man alive so if the war begins again he can bring him back into service. Heck, if you want to go there, you could say that he is the architect of the Mourning itself! Kaius is horrified by the damage the weapon did and doesn’t want his future kingdom devastated like this… but he doesn’t want to kill the one man who knows how to make a second Mourning.

Demon Vessel. During the war, Kaius made deals with a powerful fiend. When it came time for the fiend to collect what was promised to it, Kaius was able to trick it into possessing this mortal body, which was then bound and sent to Dreadhold. If the vessel is killed, the demon will be freed and will take a terrible vengeance on Kaius and Karrnath.

Who’s Your Daddy? According to some myths, a vampire has influence over vampires that it creates. Some superstitious people maintain that slaying a vampire will result in the deaths of those it has sired; even if this isn’t true as a default, a brilliant necromancer could certainly devise sympathetic rituals to strike at a vampire through it’s sire. As for why Kaius III would want a vampire locked away – I’ll leave it to you to figure that out.

Have you ever ran an adventure in Everice or Frostfell? What sort of things might be found there? I can only think of Daelkyr/Quori ruins greatly inspired by At the Mountains of Madness, though I wonder what ideas flow through your head.

I wrote a backdrop set in the Frostfell for the print edition of Dungeon that never ended up seeing the light of day. Rumor has it that some form of it may appear as an Eye on Eberron article. For now, I’ll simply say that my vision of the Frostfell includes old dwarven ruins and the impact of a powerful Overlord of the Age of Demons.

I noticed the other day that, geographically, much of the demon wastes should be rainy, frozen misery. Was this intended?

The Demon Wastes is an unnatural place, due to the presence of buried overlords and close ties to Khyber. So rainy, frozen misery is certainly appropriate; but it also has its share of volcanic activity, burning basalt wastes, and the like.

With House Sivis’ tight standards for authentication, how effective is forgery for your typical hard-working scoundrel?

Difficult. However, based on the principle that science advances with needs, I’m sure that there are tools in existence allowing people who can create arcane marks to (attempt to) forge a Sivis mark. And bear in mind that not all documents in circulation are authenticated by Sivis. Letters of credit and identification papers generally are; but when the innkeeper sends a letter to his brother, he’s not likely to run over to the bank to get it authenticated.

Lightning rail roads are always shown as a single line of stones. How do the trains pass each other?

I don’t believe that the coach needs to ride directly above the rail; it’s about the interaction between the two. as such, I think two trains could slide to the side (using some form of front deflector) and move alongside each other, with the rail in between the two of them, for a short period of time.

I want a villain with an airship. He’d need a Lyrandar pilot. Why wouldn’t the House put a stop to that? At what point would the House personally step in to stop a rogue member assisting a villain?

It would only concern the house if it was somehow causing bad publicity for them. Their initial response would simply be to declare the individual to be a rogue and excoriate, and likely put a bounty on him based on just how much trouble he was causing them; meaning that yay, the player characters can collect an extra reward. I’d only see the house leadership as taking some sort of direct action if the individual became a huge black eye for them – if her actions were causing people to boycott Lyrandar services or the like.

Did the ancient goblins/giants/dragons have artificers? If not, why not? If so, what are some examples of ancient artifice, as opposed to just ancient magic in general?

First off: the artificer is a PC class. I don’t like saying that “Culture X doesn’t have a single individual of class Y”, because PC-class individuals are remarkable people. Just because the ancient dragon culture as a whole didn’t have artificers doesn’t mean that there wasn’t *A* dragon artificer; what I’m going to say is my view of the culture’s approach to magic as a whole. And with that in mind, bear in mind that there’s nothing an artificer can create that can’t be created by some other spellcasting class. The artificer is simply more versatile and efficient. In my opinion, it represents a more industrial approach to the creation of magic items: a focus on magic items as a tool of society, as opposed to a secondary aspect of whatever field of magic the individual pursues. So, looking at each culture:

Dragons of Argonnessen. I don’t see artificers as being a significant part of draconic cultures. Dragons are magic, and their style of magic largely involve learning to channel their own innate power, or using it to create greater effects in the world around them – which is to say, primarily sorcery. Dragons of Eberron talks about loredrakes and divine casters, and loredrakes such as Ourelonastrix obviously unlocked epic level magic lesser creatures haven’t yet mastered – things like the magic used to devastate Xen’drik. But I don’t see artifice as such being a particular interest of dragons.

Giants of Xen’drik. Yes, I believe that there were artificers in Xen’drik. In particular, the Sulat League has been shown as having a very industrial approach to magic, between elemental binding, magebreeding, and the tools and weapons they created. In The Dreaming Dark trilogy you see a number of examples of their artifice, such as the moon-breaker and the chamber of false dreams.

Dhakaani Goblins. No artificers. They have exceptional smiths whose techniques and knowledge of metallurgy allow them to produce magical arms and armor, but a Dhakaani war-smith simply doesn’t have the versatility of an artificer (who can also disable constructs, craft everburning torches, create spell-storing objects, etc). The Dhakaani goblins do know how to create artifacts – Ghaal’Duur, to name one – but as described in the recent Kech Ghaalrac article, “these objects cannot be mass produced; each one is unique and requires rare components to create—the blood of a daelkyr, slivers of Khyber dragonshards imbued with a demon’s essence, and the like.” So again, they have exceptional treasures, but that doesn’t mean that they have a culture that produces artificers; their treasures are made by their smiths and the duur’kala. With that said, if your goal is to find a place where an artificer could learn a new infusion, I could see saying that a PC artificer could learn some sort of new technique by working with the Dhakaani smiths, even if those smiths aren’t artificers.

Was there ever the idea to break up Cannith’s HUGE powerbase and split up the magic stuffs a bit more? Yeah, Cannith is split up three ways that make sense but would it make sense for Denieth to make the Warforged … or have Lyrandar make the airships? Cannith just seems very omnipresent in a world surrounded by magic.

Don’t overestimate Cannith’s power. Cannith produces airships, but it can’t make airships that actually work without the help of both Lyrandar and Zil elemental binders. Cannith created the Kundarak vault network, but it required the assistance of Orien and Kundarak heirs. Cannith is the house of making, and they are the foundation of the magical economy. But many of the critical tools of society require multiple houses to work together. This is the primary purpose of the Twelve: to facilitate this sort of cooperation and create things no house could create alone.

So allowing Lyrandar to create airships on its own would significantly alter the balance of power. As it is, Lyrandar needs Cannith… but Cannith also needs Lyrandar. There are many things – the warforged, wands, etc – that Cannith creates alone, but even there it relies on House Tharashk for the massive amounts of dragonshards required for its work. They are one of the most powerful and influential houses, but there are other houses that can challenge them – especially with the current schism in their ranks.

Maybe you answered this before, but how would you retcon the Silver Flame being the ones to handle resurrection in DDO?

The short answer is that I wouldn’t. City of Stormreach leaves resurrection in the hands of Jorasco, and even there notes that it’s not something they do lightly as many strange mishaps have happened in the past. However, if I had to, I’d start by saying that because of those mishaps Jorasco has finally dropped the service. Then I’d highlight the fact that the Silver Flame in Stormreach is a heretical sect that’s been cut off from Flamekeep for refusing to accept the authority of the theocracy (maintaining that the political ties distract the church from its true mission and breed corruption). Lacking the support of Flamekeep, they may have turned to this as a way to raise the money they need to maintain their mission in Stormreach. One option is to say that they’ll only resurrect people who they consider to be unworthy of joining the Flame, reasoning that thus they aren’t actually robbing the Flame of a soul; another approach is to say that as they are a minority “heretical” sect, they feel the need to keep anyone who might champion their cause alive.

Are there enough kalashtar to form an evil splinter-group, perhaps countered by a group of altruistic Inspired? How about one that has defected & wants to warn the world?

Evil kalashtar? Sure. I think Races of Eberron actually presented a group of Kalashtar who essentially wanted to become full-fledged quori. Kalashtar are mortal creatures; their personalities are influenced by their quori spirits, but at the end of the day, they are unique individuals. An evil kalashtar may be a manic, psychotic individual because of the psychic dissonance between their actions and the beliefs of their connected Quori, but that’s fine for a villain!

“Altruistic Inspired” are a very different story. The kalashtar can come in any flavor because they are mortal. Inspired aren’t. They are immortal embodiments of nightmares. They are literally evil incarnate*. They can change – as the kalashtar quori did – but this is like an angel falling and becoming a demon. An immortal is an idea given form, and if that idea changes, the form will change as well; it’s not something that would go unnoticed, and that transformed spirit would either be eliminated or force on the run, as the kalashtar quori were. Just bear in mind that there is a fundamental difference between mortals and immortals; immortals don’t have as much free will and opportunity for mental evolution as mortals do. This is why the Lord of Dust remains fundamentally the same being he was a hundred thousand years ago; it’s not in his nature to change.

With that said, all quori may be “evil”, but that doesn’t mean they are opposing the players. The primary concern of the quori is preserving Dal Quor. Many highly placed quori believe that they have accomplished that by gaining control of Riedra, and that as long as the kalashtar don’t mess things up, there is no need to take hostile action against Khorvaire… and that in fact, this simply risks disrupting the success they have achieved. Such quori aren’t “altruistic”, but they may see the actions of the Dreaming Dark as running against the best interests of their people, and thus be willing to help the PCs. However, I wouldn’t expect them to take any action that would threaten the quori and Dal Quor as a whole; again, for that to occur, you’d really have to have such a fundamental shift that the spirit is, essentially, a fallen angel (or redeemed fiend).

* As a side note: quori aren’t actually “evil” incarnate. They are the embodiments of the nightmare age, and they feed on (and create) mortal nightmares. The Tsucora quori are tied to fear; the Du’ulora to agression and hate; the Kalaraq to pride and ambition; etc.

That’s all I have time for this week. Feel free to leave more questions below!