IFAQ: Dreamspace and Flumphs

Art by Julio Azevedo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Sarlona, Page 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

IFAQs: Seeker Crime, Targath, and the Dreaming Dark

October was a chaotic month for many reasons, and I’m also preparing for Pax Unplugged—my first convention in almost two years! As a result I haven’t been able to write much for the last few weeks. There’s an article on The Mockery in the works, but for now I wanted to share a few questions posed by my Patreon supporters last month.

Is there crime in Seeker towns and villages? Since the overall theme of the Blood of Vol seems to be “we only have each other/self-improvement” at it’s most altruistic, I wonder if the usual trigger for crime (lack of resources/access and a submarket growing to fill need) exists in a community that’s living very community minded.

All of the major religions of Eberron encourage strong communities. The Silver Flame encourages people to stand together in the face of supernatural threats, and to try to fight human evil with compassion and by example. The Blood of Vol teaches that we face a hostile universe and cruel gods and all we have is one another. The Sovereign Host urges us to obey Aureon’s laws, while Boldrei binds a community together. But within any community, not everyone will hold to one of these faiths, and even those who do may not live up to the ideals of their faith… or interpret them generously. There are many faiths in our world that encourage compassion and charity; but not everyone who follows those faiths shares their possessions with the poor. And this doesn’t begin to deal with crimes of passion and other unpremeditated crime. Beyond this, there’s the possibility of a Seeker criminal who emphasizes breaking the laws of the land to get the people of their community the things they need; there’s also a practice common in many grifter communities of only targeting outsiders. Everyone knows Joey is a pickpocket, but they also know he only targets tourists and adventurers passing through, so that’s fine; he may even tithe part of his take to the local church.

So I don’t think I’d say “There is no crime in Seeker communities.” Instead, I’d consider how crime might evolve in such a community—IE criminals who are acting in the best interests of the community or targeting outsiders—and also consider the likelihood that as with Karrnath in general, the forces of the law might be especially ruthless in a Seeker community; if you DO choose to prey upon your community, they’ll make a harsh example of you. This would actually be a potential contrast between Seekers and the Silver Flame. The Flame encourages us to show compassion and inspire by example—so you want to show mercy to the criminal and try to guide them to the light. I can see Seekers being considerably more pragmatic; if you prey on your community, you’ve made your choice and will suffer the consequences. The Silver Flame believes that noble souls strengthen the Flame after death, and thus tries to guide people to the light; the Blood of Vol knows this life is all we have and won’t waste time with such notions.

Targath doesn’t get much mention after being floated as a resource for periapts of health, reducing the risk of disease, and as a weapon against deathless in ECS. Since it’s a resource found in Northern Argonnessen do you have any thoughts for ways the dragons, Seren, and dragonborn could make use of targath for both benign purposes and as a weapon?

Targath is an exotic metal introduced in the 3.5 EBerron Campaign setting, along with byreshk, bronzewood, and others. Part of the point of targath is that it’s an exotic metal almost completely unknown in Khorvaire, and mined and used by a civilization that is all but unknown and dramatically more advanced than Khorvaire. in this, it is quite similar to vibranium in the Marvel Universe—a wondrous substance, but one the common people know almost nothing about, encountered in the weapons of champions. Odds are good that only a handful of sages and artificers in Khorvaire have even encountered targath, and those who have only in weapons recovered from remnants of the Dragonborn Empire or Seren champions. The Aereni are familiar with it, but for obvious reasons they would have no reason to encourage knowledge of it or spread it around. Among other things, this makes it a fun “miracle substance” for PC artificers to “discover”—WE know it just as a set of game mechanics, but for the PC artificer it’s a source of unknown potential and an obvious “power component” they could use to create items like a periapt of health. Even the Dragonborn of Q’barra have no traffic with Argonnessen, so their Targath items would be the regalia of champions, handed down over the course of thousands of years. Essentially, the point is that this is one way to concretely identify an item as belonging to the Trothlorsvek; it’s made from a metal unknown on Khorvaire.

Looking to the Serens, the question is whether the metal can be found on the islands, or only on mainland Argonnessen. If it’s on the islands, the Serens may use it in many ways, likely incorporating it into unenchanted decorations and ornaments. This could imbue a general degree of health across their population, even without the full effect of a magic item. The Serens aren’t an advanced culture, so I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of exotic mystical uses, but they may also have items given to them by their draconic patrons. As for the dragons, keep in mind that Targath is like dragonshards: it’s an exotic material that doesn’t exist in our world but that channels a particular form of mystical energy in undefined ways. It’s especially tied to HEALTH, so amulets of health and periapts of wound closure are obvious. But a belt of giant strength, armor of poison resistance, or cloak of protection forged in Argonnessen could all be described as having Targath strands woven through them. Potions of healing from Argonnessen could be identified by the traces of Targath infused into the potion, and it could be this that allows Argonnessen to produce potions of supreme healing, potions of longevity, and elixirs of health.

Ultimately, it’s an exotic substance that allows an alien culture to produce wonders we can’t produce in the Five Nations; you can work it into any sort of magical effect associated with supernatural health.

How suspicious are the major nations of Riedra beyond what you’d usually expect of a nation looking at another nation whose intentions you’re not fully sure of?

Well, let’s compare Aerenal and Riedra. Both are distant nations. Both are isolationist cultures that don’t allow outsiders to freely travel through their lands. Both are older than Galifar and have rigid traditions. Both claim to have leaders who possess divine powers. Keep in mind that aside from its conflict with the Kalashtar, Riedra has never been a conquering power; it arose from the Sundering when the Inspired UNITED the common people to bring an end to the vicious conflict between the warring nations. So again, Riedra is older than Galifar, but has never engaged in any sort of obviously hostile action against Khorvaire. It’s been a reliable trade partner and has helped multiple nations over the course of the war. What reason is there to BE suspicious of it? The people of Khorvaire may find Riedran customs to be strange and oppressive, but overall the RIEDRANS are content; so again, what reason is there to be suspicious of them? And if there IS reason to be suspicious, would those same suspicions be applied to Aerenal? WE know about the Dreaming Dark and Riedran aspirations. But part of the point of the Dreaming Dark is that it can be a disruptive force in Khorvaire without directly employing Riedran agents. if anything, the main reason to BE suspicious of Riedra is that it’s TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE… it’s TOO friendly. Why were they so willing to help out Khorvaire during the war? Why aren’t they interested in spreading their culture or beliefs to Khorvaire? Why don’t they want outsiders roaming unrestricted in their lands?

So on a high level no one is particularly suspicious of either Riedra or Aerenal, because both are isolationist powers that don’t actually seem to WANT anything from Khorvaire. However, there may be INDIVIDUALS—spies, ministers, sages—who have personal suspicions and gut feelings they’re trying to justify. On the other hand, the Dreaming Dark can use dream manipulation to help improve their image. It’s amazing how many people have dreams about helpful, friendly Riedrans…

If the players found a way into Dal Quor, and took the fight to Tirashana (a powerful agent of the Dreaming Dark) in her home plane, where might they find her?

I think the main question is whether she’s expecting company. if so, I’d expect her to build her lair from the nightmares of the adventurers who are pursuing her. Dal Quor is a mutable reality, so her lair could include the childhood home of one of the adventurers, or the prisoner of war camp they were in during the Last War, or the site of a tragic loss. I’d look to the book/movie IT as a possible source of inspiration, in terms of what it means to attack a mistress of nightmares in the seat of her power. Likewise, you might want to read The Gates of Night, which has some general inspiration for adventures in Dal Quor. But the key point is that I would build her lair from the nightmares of the player characters. And to do that, I’d personally ask the players to help shape it. I’d ask THEM to tell me what’s so scary or creepy about a scene—because they know better than you what their character would find terrifying. One of the greatest strengths of RPGs is that they are COLLABORATIVE. Especially when it comes to horror, each player knows better than you what they would find terrifying and entertaining—and likewise, they know better than you the lines they don’t want to cross and the things they DON’T want to experience in a story.

Could describe your ideas for a Quori of Sloth? How would they effect dreamers? What is their position and role in hierarchy of Dreaming Dark?

“Sloth” isn’t quite the right word for a quori. The general idea is that quori specialize in developing and manipulating particular emotions or moods. So the key is that this quori—which I’ll call the Lluora—doesn’t embody sloth itself; rather, it specializes in SAPPING MOTIVATION. Consider all the tools of procrastination—creating distracting tasks or options; causing the mortal to endlessly question their decisions, paralyzing them with self-doubt; causing them to question their end goal; encouraging Whataboutism and “Why bother doing anything when nothing will ever really change?” I don’t think they’d be common. One possibility is that they’d be a sort of jailor, trapping mortals in their own mental prisons and preventing them from ever building up the motivation to escape. Another is that they’d advise kalaraq, suggesting ways to undermine mortal motivation.

So in short, the Lluora is a quori spirit that specializes in creating doubt, undermining self esteem, and similar tools. “Why bother doing anything at all?”

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

IFAQ: Dreams and Quori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look back at Exploring Eberron.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some other types of quori?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragonmarks: Common Knowledge

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. One question that often comes up is “What do people in the world actually know about (subject)?” As players and DMs, we have access to a tome of absolute knowledge that tells us all about the Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, the Empire of Dhakaan, and so on. We know that characters may know about these things if they have appropriate proficiencies and make successful skill checks. But what do people know WITHOUT making any skill checks? What things are just common knowledge?

This article reflects the common knowledge of a citizen of the Five Nations. Common knowledge will vary by culture, and I can’t account for every possible variation. People in Stormreach are more familiar with drow than people in Fairhaven. Shadow Marchers will have heard of the Gatekeepers, while Karrns won’t have. In general, you can assume that things that have a direct impact on the lives of people living in a region will be part of common knowledge. For example, the people of the Mror Holds don’t know a lot about the daelkyr in general, but they DO know about Dyrrn the Corruptor, because they’ve been fighting him for decades and he signed his name with Dyrrn’s Promise in 943 YK. So determining what things are common knowledge will often require the use of common sense.

With that said, the people of the Five Nations can be assumed to know the following things.

Planes, Moons, and Manifest Zones. Everyone knows the names of the planes and the moons, and the basic attributes of the planes (IE, Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and is filled with celestials and fiends fighting). Think of this a little like knowledge of the planets of the solar system in our world; most people can name the planets and know that Mars is the Red Planet, but only someone who’s studied them can tell you the names of all of the moons of Jupiter. The main point is that the planes have real, concrete effects on the world through their manifest zones and coterminous/remote phases, and people understand these things. A common person may not be able to tell you the precise effects of a Shavarath manifest zone unless they actually live by one, but they know Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and could GUESS what such a manifest zone might do.

The Creation Myth. Everyone knows the basic story: Khyber, Eberron, and Siberys created the planes. Khyber killed Siberys and scattered his pieces in the sky, creating the Ring of Siberys. Eberron enfolded Khyber and became the world. Whether people believe this is literally true or a metaphor, everyone knows the myth and everyone understands that magic comes from Siberys, natural creatures come from Eberron, and fiends and other evil things come from Khyber.

The Sovereign Myth. The Sovereign Host is deeply ingrained into daily life in the Five Nations. Even if you don’t BELIEVE in the Sovereigns, you know the names and basic attributes of the Nine and Six. Likewise, everyone knows the basic story that in the dawn of time the world was ruled by demons; that the Sovereigns fought them; and that the demons were bound. The Dark Six are largely only known by their titles—The Mockery, the Keeper—and their original names are something that would only be known by someone with a tie to a relevant cult or with proficiency in History.

The Silver Flame. Tied to this, everyone knows the idea that the Silver Flame is the force that binds demons. People do NOT know where it came from. Many vassals assume the Sovereigns created the Silver Flame. Those who follow the faith assert it is a celestial force that is strengthened by noble souls.

Dragons. Everyone knows that dragons exist and that they are terrifying and powerful creatures. People know stories of dragons guarding hoards of treasure, and if you’re from Thrane you know of the Bane of Thrane, the dragon who slew Prince Thrane. There are also a few stories about heroes making bargains with dragons, or dragons possessing secret knowledge. People know that Argonnessen is a land of dragons, but they know almost nothing about it beyond “Here there be dragons” and the fact that people who go there don’t come back. Some people know that dragons occasionally attack Aerenal, and know that the giants of Xen’drik were destroyed in some sort of war with dragons. So everyone knows that dragons exist; that they are extremely powerful; and that they can be deadly threats or enigmatic advisors. Most people don’t ever expect to see a dragon. The idea that there are dragons secretly manipulating humanity is a conspiracy theory on par with the idea that many world leaders in our world are secretly reptilian aliens; there are certainly people who believe it, but sensible people don’t take it seriously.

Evil Exists. Everyone knows that there are fiends, undead, aberrations, and lycanthropes in the world. They know that ghouls may haunt graveyards, that the creepy stranger in town could be a vampire or a werewolf, and that dangerous things could crawl out of Khyber at any time. This is why the Silver Flame exists and why templars are generally treated with respect even by people who don’t follow the Silver Flame; people understand that evil exists and that the templars are a volunteer militia who are ready to fight it.

The Overlords and the Lords of Dust. Everyone knows that the overlords were archfiends who dominated the world at the beginning of time. Regardless of whether you believe in the Sovereigns or respect the Flame, you know that the overlords are real because one broke out and ravaged Thrane a few centuries ago. Most people have heard stories of a few of the overlords and may know their titles—the Shadow in the Flame is the one most people have heard of—but would need to make checks to know more. But critically, everyone knows that there are bound archfiends that would like to get out and wreck things.

Most people have never heard of “The Lords of Dust.” People have certainly heard stories of shapeshifting demons causing trouble and know that this is a real potential threat, but the idea that there is a massive conspiracy that has been manipulating human civilization for thousands of years is up there with the idea that dragons have been doing the same thing. If you have credible proof that someone in town is actually a fiend or is possessed by a fiend, people will take the threat seriously; people know that such threats can be real. But few people actually believe that there’s a massive conspiracy that secretly controls the course of history, because if so, why haven’t they done anything more dramatic with it?

As a side point to this, most COMMON PEOPLE don’t differentiate between devil, demon, and fiend and treat these as synonyms. People know of rakshasas as “shapeshifting demons,” even though an arcane scholar might say “Well, ACTUALLY ‘demon’ refers specifically to an incarnate entity of chaos and evil, and the rakshasa is a unique class of fiend most commonly found on the material plane.” But the Demon Wastes could be called “The Fiend Wastes;” in this context, “Demon” is a general term.

Khyber and the Daelkyr. Tied to the creation myth and to the idea that evil exists, people know that BAD THINGS COME FROM KHYBER. They don’t know about demiplanes, but they know that if you find a deep hole there might be something bad at the bottom of it. Critically, most people just know that THE DRAGON BELOW IS THE SOURCE OF BAD THINGS and don’t actually differentiate between aberrations, fiends, and monstrosities. This is why the Cults of the Dragon Below are called “The Cults of the Dragon Below” even though a cult of Dyrrn the Corruptor really has nothing in common with a cult of Sul Khatesh; as far as the common people are concerned, they are cults that worship big evil things, and big evil things come from Khyber, hence, cult of the Dragon Below.

With this in mind, most common people don’t have a clear understanding of what a “daelkyr” is. Anyone who’s proficient with Arcana or History has a general understanding of the difference between the daelkyr and the overlords without needing to make a skill check. But for the common person, they are both powerful evil things that are bound in Khyber.

Fey and Archfey. Everyone knows that the fey exist. Everyone knows about dryads and sprites, and everyone knows that they’re especially common near manifest zones to Thelanis. Beyond this, everyone know FAIRY TALES about fey and archfey, and knows that there’s some basis to these stories. So people know STORIES about the Lady in Shadow and the Forest Queen, and they know that somewhere in the planes, you might actually be able to meet the Forest Queen. But they don’t actually EXPECT to every meet one. Most people have no way to easily differentiate between an archfey and some other type of powerful immortal. Notably, you could easily have a cult of the Dragon Below that’s bargaining with Sul Khatesh but BELIEVES it is bargaining with an archfey, or a cult of Avassh that thinks it’s blessed by the Forest Queen. If a cult worships “The Still Lord” or “The Queen of Shadows”, they don’t have some kind of special key that tells them whether that power is a fiend, a fey, or a celestial; that distinction is ACADEMIC, and would require a skill check.

Specific knowledge of the fey is more prevalent in regions that are close to Thelanis manifest zones or where people have a tradition of bargaining with the fey; notably, Aundairians know more about fey than most people of the Five Nations.

The Dreaming Dark and the Kalashtar. Everyone knows that when you dream you go to Dal Quor. Everyone accepts the idea that “There are demons that give you bad dreams!” Very few people believe that those fiends are manipulating the world. People have had bad dreams FOREVER. If bad-dream-demons were going to take over the world, why haven’t they already done it? As with the Lords of Dust, people will listen to credible threats that a specific person could be possessed, but few will believe stories of a massive dream conspiracy bent on world domination.

Looking to Sarlona and the Inspired, everyone knows that the Riedrans have a strict culture and they’re ruled by beings who they say are channeling celestial powers. Few people have ever met a Riedran, let alone one of the Inspired. Those who have met kalashtar (which for the most part only happens in major cities) know that the kalashtar have been oppressed and driven from Sarlona, but largely assume this is about political and religious differences, not a war between dream-spirits. It’s relatively common knowledge that people from Sarlona study some form of mind-magic, but most people don’t know the precise details of how psionics are different from arcane or divine magic.

The Aurum. While it’s a stretch to say that everyone’s heard of the Aurum, it’s about as well known as, say, Mensa in our world. It’s generally seen as an exclusive fraternal order of extremely wealthy people. Because it IS exclusive and because many of its members are minor local celebrities, there are certainly lots of conspiracies theories about what it’s REALLY up to… but even if there’s people who SAY that the Aurum wants to overthrow the Twelve or that it engineered the Last War, at the end of the day people know it’s that fancy members-only club on Main Street that always donates generously to the Race of Eight Winds celebrations.

Secondary Religions. Aside from the Silver Flame and the Sovereign Host, most of the other religious are relatively regional. The Blood of Vol is the best known of the secondary religions because of the role it played in Karrnath during the Last War, but outside of Karrnath most people think it’s some sort of Karrnathi death cult. Everyone knows druids exist, and the Wardens of the Wood are relatively well known because of their central role in the Eldeen Reaches, but the other sects are largely unknown outside of the areas where they operate; the Ashbound are likely the second best known sect because of sensationalized reports of their violent actions. The Path of Light is largely unknown aside from people who have direct interaction with kalashtar.

Goblins and the Empire of Dhakaan. Everyone in the Five Nations knows that goblins were on Khorvaire before humanity, and that they had an empire that fell long ago. Most people don’t know the name of this empire or exactly how it fell. People generally recognize Dhakaani ruins as being goblin creations, and know that many of the largest cities of Khorvaire are built on goblin foundations, but there’s certainly a lunatic fringe that asserts that those structures are clearly too sophisticated to be goblin work and must have been built by some forgotten human civilization. However, most people understand that these “forgotten human” stories are ridiculous conspiracy theories, on par with the idea that shapeshifted dragons are secretly manipulating the world.

The History of Xen’drik. People know that Xen’drik was home to a civilization of giants. Most people believe that the giants were destroyed in a war with the dragons. Many people know that the elves were originally from Xen’drik and fled this destruction. Without History proficiency, most people do NOT know the name of any of the giant cultures or that there were more than one, and they definitely don’t know anything about giants fighting quori. The idea that arrogant giants destroyed the thirteenth moon is a common folk tale, but it has many forms and it’s something most people know as a serious fact.

Spies. When people in the Five Nations talk about spies, they’re usually thinking of The Dark Lanterns or the Royal Eyes of Aundair. Both are well known spy agencies known to operate covertly in other nations, similar to the CIA and KGB during the height of our cold war. Most people in the Five Nations have heard of the Trust and understand that it’s some sort of secret police force that maintains order in Zilargo, but don’t know much more than that and they aren’t concerned about Zil spies. House Phiarlan and House Thuranni are known as providers of ENTERTAINMENT and aren’t generally seen as spies. The assertion that Phiarlan runs a ring of spies is like the idea that Elvis worked for the CIA; not IMPOSSIBLE, but not something people see as a particularly credible threat.

Exotic Player Species. Most people know that drow come from Xen’drik. People know that lizardfolk and dragonborn come from Q’barra, but most people in Khorvaire don’t know that these are two different species. Tieflings are generally understood to be planetouched; as discussed in Exploring Eberron, aasimar are generally so rare that they won’t be recognized by the general populace. With that said, overall people are fairly accepting of species they’ve never encountered. In a world where people DO deal with humans, orcs, shifters, goblins, warforged, elves, kalashtar, ogres, medusas, and more every day, people who’ve never seen a goliath before are more likely to say “Huh, never seen that before” than to panic because it’s some sort of alien giant-man; exotic characters will generally be targets of curiosity rather than fear.

Dragonmarks and Aberrant Dragonmarks. The dragonmarks have been part of civilization for over a thousand years. The houses provide the major services that are part of everyday life. Everyone in the Five Nations knows the names of the houses and the common twelve marks. Without proficiency in History, people won’t have heard of the Mark of Death. Common knowledge is that aberrant dragonmarks are dangerous to both the bearer and the people around them, and are often seen as the “touch of Khyber.” Without proficiency in History, they won’t know much about the War of the Mark, aside from the fact that the aberrants were dangerous and destroyed the original city of Sharn.

The Draconic Prophecy. Most people have heard of “The Draconic Prophecy” but know almost nothing about it aside from the fact that it’s, y’know, a prophecy. When such people talk about the Prophecy, what they’re usually talking about is the Caldyn Fragments, a collection of pieces of the Prophecy assembled by Korranberg scholar Ohnal Caldyn (described in City of Stormreach). Most people definitely don’t understand that it’s an evolving matrix of conditional elements or that it’s the key to releasing the overlords.

Aerenal, the Undying Court, and the Tairnadal. Aerenal is an isolationist culture that has little interest in sharing its traditions with others. However, the elves do trade with the Five Nations and there’s been enough immigration over the course of history to provide a general knowledge of their culture. Most people know that Aerenal is ruled by the Undying Court, and that the Undying Court is made up of ancient undead elves. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between deathless and other undead. In Five Nations, most people have never heard of “Tairnadal” and assume any Tairnadal elf is from Valenar. They know that Valenar elves are deadly warriors who are always looking for fights and who worship their ancestors, but they don’t know any specifics about patron ancestors or the Keepers of the Past.

Q&A

What do most people believe about the connection between shifters and lycanthropes?

Most people believe that there is some sort of distant connection between shifters and lycanthropes. Shifters are often called “weretouched,” and some people mistakenly believe that they get wild when many moons are full. However, few people few people believe that shifters are capable of spreading lycanthropy or are sympathetic to lycanthropes. Those negative stereotypes exist, especially in rural Aundair or places where people have never actually SEEN shifters, but they’re not common.

What do followers of the Silver Flame believe about the Sovereigns? What does the Church teach about them? Is it normal to venerate both, at least among the laity? Do they even believe the Sovereigns exist?

Nothing in the doctrine of the Church of the Silver Flame denies the existence of the Sovereigns. It’s entirely possible to follow both religions simultaneously, and templars are happy to work with paladins of the Host. However, the point is that the Church of the Silver Flame doesn’t CARE if the Sovereigns exist. Their general attitude is that if the Sovereigns exist, they are vast powers that are maintaining the world overall. Arawai makes sure there’s rain for the crops. Onatar watches over foundries. That’s all great, but SOMEONE HAS TO DEAL WITH THE GHOULS IN THE GRAVEYARD. It’s notable that the Church of the Silver Flame, for example, doesn’t have a unique creation myth because at the end of the day it doesn’t MATTER where the world came from, what matters is that the people who live in it are threatened by supernatural evil and we need to work together to protect them.

I’ve said before that the Church of the the Silver Flame is more like the Jedi or the Men in Black than any religion in our world. It is EXTREMELY PRACTICAL. Evil exists, and good people should fight it. The Silver Flame is a real, concrete source of celestial energy that can empower champions to fight evil. Noble souls strengthen the Flame after death, so be virtuous. If you want to believe in some sort of higher beings beyond that, feel free. What’s important is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil, and faith in the Flame will help you to do that. So the Church doesn’t teach anything about the Sovereigns and it doesn’t encourage its followers to believe in them or incorporate them into its services in any way, but it doesn’t specifically deny that they exist or forbid followers from holding both beliefs.

That’s all for now! Feel free to ask about other general information topics in the comments, but I won’t have time to address every topic. Thanks again to my Patreon supporters who make these articles possible!

IFAQ: Immortal Alliances

When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Today I want to answer a few questions about immortals in Eberron.

In the past I’ve said that one of the most important differences between mortals and immortals in Eberron is that immortals lack free will. With a few notable exceptions, immortals can’t change. They may LOOK like humans (or humanoids), but they are essentially cogs in a metaphysical machine: created to serve a specific purpose. The gear in a watch didn’t DECIDE to be a gear, and it can’t suddenly quit being a gear; in the same way, the typical angel of Shavarath didn’t DECIDE to fight in the war, nor could it choose to stop.

So: immortals come into existence with an established purpose and with the knowledge and tools needed to play that role. The deva in Shavarath didn’t have to learn how to use a sword, and more important, over the course of hundreds of thousands of years of war, it’s never gotten any better at it. Again, one of the strengths of mortals is that they can change. They begin with no skills whatsoever, but they can follow any path they choose. This isn’t to say that immortals can’t learn new facts. And this does vary by immortal. Hektula, the rakshasa Librarian of Ashtakala, has surely learned new spells over the last hundred thousand years. However, she may not have gained any new class levels in that time. She’s broadened her knowledge, but she is at the peak of her potential and can’t push beyond it.

Or course, there are exceptions! The radiant idols are fallen angels of Syrania. The kalashtar are bound to quori who rebelled against il-Lashtavar. It’s possible that you could find an angel of Shavarath who has abandoned the eternal war. But these are exceptionally rare. We’ve never said how many quori exist, but for sake of argument, let’s say there’s a hundred thousand… mostly lesser spirits like the tsoreva, and mostly devoted to duties in Dal Quor. From the perspective of the quori, the current era of Dal Quor has lasted for 400,000 years. In all that time, we’ve called out 67 quori who rebelled to become kalashtar. Let’s imagine there’s another 33 who were either caught and destroyed or who have managed to remain undetected. That’s still around a .1% rebellion rate over the course of 400,000 years… not too bad. Essentially, these are malfunctions. They’re gears that came into existence with the wrong number of teeth. Which is why the Dreaming Dark seeks to destroy rebel quori — to that energy can be drawn back into Dal Quor and reforged into a proper, compliant spirit.

So, keep these basic principles in mind. Most immortals come into existence with a clear purpose and with the skills they need to accomplish that function. They choose how they pursue that purpose, but they cannot change it. They are powerful, but they cannot learn new things as mortals can. Some of them have existed for a million years of subjective time. They don’t grow bored; they don’t desire change. They are what they are.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few questions.

How common is it for a fiend or cult to serve multiple overlords?

This depends on your definition of “Serve.” Most lesser fiends are bound to their overlord in the same way that the quori are bound to il-Lashtavar. Mordakhesh didn’t DECIDE to work for Rak Tulkhesh; the Shadowsword is essentially an extension of Rak Tulkhesh, the embodiment of one of the many ideas that falls under the Rage of War. Serving Rak Tulkhesh is part of his spiritual DNA; it’s not a choice, it’s what he IS. Thus, he will never feel that same loyalty to another overlord; it’s not in his nature.

HOWEVER: It’s possible that Rak Tulkhesh and Sul Khatesh could have a common goal, and that they might work together to create a cult that serves both of them. The mortals in that cult might feel equal loyalty to both overlords, just as devotees of the Restful Watch revere both Aureon and the Keeper. The fiends associated with the cult might work toward its common goals, but it doesn’t change the fact that every one of those fiends is devoted to EITHER the Rage of War or Keeper of Secrets, not both. They pursue the alliance because it serves the purposes of their overlord, but there is never any question that THEY serve their overlord and only their overlord.

Ultimately, this sort of alliance is why the Lords of Dust came into existence—to facilitate cooperation between the servants of different overlords. With that said, it’s more common that this simply extends to preventing fiends from fighting one another as opposed to actual alliances like I’ve described above. In fact, I’m not sure there IS an example in canon of two overlords working together in that way. Part of it is because their natures are SO different that it is hard for them to forge a lasting alliance; a second aspect is that the things the overlords require for their freedom—the Prophetic “combinations” to their chains—typically have nothing in common. Keep in mind that the reason the overlords were defeated was because they wouldn’t cooperate… and that while we mortals would learn from that mistake, immortals can’t change. So it’s not IMPOSSIBLE to have a fiendish cult that serves two overlords, but it’s not common and not likely to be long-lived.

In theory, it’s MORE plausible with the daelkyr, because the daelkyr were all originally on the same side. They have shared resources; Dyrrn created the dolgrims and Belashyrra created beholders, but both can be found serving any daelkyr. However, it’s also the case that most daelkyr cults are shaped by the mental influence of their daelkyr patron, and this is a powerful and unique force; a mortal bound to both Dyrrn and Belashyrra would be mentally torn in two very different directions. So again, it’s more likely than an alliance between overlords, but still not likely to be a long-term alliance.

There’s one wild card here: non-native fiends. NATIVE fiends have a bond to a particular overlord. But we’ve called out the fact that there are immortals from the planes who have broken from their planes and joined with the Lords of Dust… essentially, rather than a fiend rebelling to become an angel, it’s a fiend rebelling to be a fiend somewhere else. Two canon examples of this are Thelestes, a succubi who serves the overlord Eldrantulku; and Korliac of the Gray Flame, a Fernian pit fiend allied with Tul Oreshka. Such fiends are already outliers, because they have broken their original path, which again most immortals can’t do. As such, there’s nothing that prevents them from choosing yet ANOTHER path. CURRENTLY Thelestes serves Eldrantulku… but she could decide to serve Bel Shalor and the Wyrmbreaker as well, or to simply break her ties to the Oathbreaker. Ultimately, as with all things, the end answer is do what’s best for your story. Most quori can’t rebel against il-Lashtavar, but SOME CAN; if you want a new rebel quori in your story, then there’s a new rebel quori! If you decide that the Wyrmbreaker is betraying Bel Shalor and working with Eldrantulku, so be it (though like the Devourer of Dreams, it’s not entirely odd to think that the chief servants of spirits of betrayal and corruption might themselves betray their masters!).

Can immortals be promoted or demoted? Can an immortal gain power?

Yes, just not in the same way that mortals can. Time and experience aren’t how immortals improve. Essentially, the way to think of any particular group of immortals—the quori, the angels of the Legion of Justice, the fiends of Rak Tulkhesh—is as a pool of energy. The amount of energy in that pool is static and cannot change. If there are a hundred thousand quori, there will always be a hundred thousand quori. Kill one—or a hundred—and their energy flows back to il-Lashtavr, which eventually reconstitutes that energy and spits out replacements. This is why people bind immortals instead of killing them; you can’t destroy that energy, but if you can take it out of circulation, that’s a win.

So: this pool of energy is static. But it’s not distributed equally. A powerful immortal like Mordakhesh holds more of that energy than a typical Zakya rakshasa. A powerful immortal can redistribute that energy. So it is POSSIBLE for a deva in Shavarath to be elevated to the position of planetar… but only if a planetar is demoted to deva, or if the deva is taking the place of a planetar that was destroyed rather than it being reconstituted. Likewise, Rak Tulkhesh could STRIP Mordakhesh of some of his power, and then invest that power into another fiend. So yes, the higher powers CAN elevate or promote the immortals below them; but only by redistributing that energy from somewhere else. There will always be devas in Shavarath; Justice Command can’t just promote them all to the rank of solar.

However, there’s one other possible twist. The energy within a pool is static. But the other way for an immortal to gain power is to TAKE energy from somewhere else. This is the idea of the Devourer replacing il-Lashtavar: that an immortal could USURP another immortal’s power. Another possibility is that an immortal could somehow draw power from an artifact or some other outside source. So Mordakhesh doesn’t gain levels just by killing things. But if he found some way to literally absorb the essence of a coautl, maybe he COULD gain strength. The main thing is that this would be a momentous event that is shaking the metaphysical balance of the multiverse. It’s quite possible that it would be dangerous and potentially unstable… that there would be some way to restore the couatl, pulling the power back out of the fiend.

What are the attitudes of the Daelkyr and the Dreaming Dark towards one another? What about the Lords of Dust?

The Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, and the daelkyr are the three most powerful malevolent forces in the setting. Their ultimate goals are mutually exclusive. The Dreaming Dark seek a stable world dreaming their dream. The overlords seek a return to primordial chaos. The daelkyr seek to transform reality into something unrecognizable. There’s no vision of victory that will allow two of these groups to both be satisfied. It is also the case that they are DANGEROUS. A rakshasa doesn’t fear death; it knows it will return. But can a daelkyr change the ESSENCE of a rakshasa—driving it mad or turning it into something new and horrifying? If you’re a rakshasa, you don’t want to find out. Essentially, NO ONE in their right mind, immortal or otherwise, wants to fight the daelkyr if they can avoid it.

These groups don’t actually know much about one another. The daelkyr and fiends don’t dream, so the quori can’t spy on them that way. The Dreaming Dark holds its councils in Dal Quor where none can spy of them. Riedra is hidden from the Draconic Prophecy. The daelkyr don’t care what the other two are up to, and their actions are inscrutable. Dreaming Dark mind seeds and daelkyr cults can appear anywhere, subverting long-established Lords of Dust agents without even realizing it. So more often than not these groups will stumble onto one another accidentally—and when they do, the first one to realize it will usually act to eliminate the threat. Consider that the Edgewalkers of Riedra are specifically trained to fight fiends and aberrations!

On the other hand, if you WANT these groups to work together in your campaign, go for it. The main question is why. The easiest ally is the Lords of Dust, because their goal of manipulating the Prophecy could require one of the other factions’ schemes to succeed. The main thing is that in any sort of alliance, each faction likely thinks it’s coming out ahead in the exchange… because in the end, they can’t both get what they want.

Personally, I rarely use all three of these as equal threats groups in the same campaign. All of these factions have been scheming for centuries or even thousands of years. There’s no reason that all of their schemes have to come to a tipping point in 998 YK. It’s entirely reasonable to say that the stars won’t align for the Lords of Dust for another decade, or that the daelkyr are currently dormant. So you can have alliances or conflicts between them, but you also can choose to ignore one or more completely.

You could also have the groups work against one another, using PCs as pawns.

Certainly. As noted above, in my opinion if their plans conflict, they will oppose one another, and the player characters could be caught in the middle of that. The main thing in MY Eberron is that the Chamber and the Lords of Dust are actively at war (though a very cold war). They are playing a game on the same board—manipulating the Prophecy—and they understand one another. By contrast, neither the Chamber nor the Lords of Dust really have a clear picture of the daelkyr or the Dreaming Dark. So they eliminate these threats when they interfere with their plans, but they don’t see the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish — while the dragons and fiends DO have that picture with one another.

What’s a “native outsider?” Are they basically the same as immortals that live on other planes, only native to Eberron, or is there more to them than that?

“Native outsider” is a holdover term from 3.5 and can be thought of as “native immortal.” It means that the immortal is a product of the material plane. Native fiends are apocryphally said to be children of Khyber, while native celestials are children of Siberys. First of all, this means that when the immortal dies, it will be reborn on Eberron——while if you destroy a Shavaran devil on Eberron, it will be reborn on Shavarath. It’s also the case that immortals in some way embody the concept of their planes of origins. So take a pit fiend. If it’s from Shavarath it is ultimately a spirit of WAR and tyranny. If it’s from Fernia it is first and foremost a fiend of FIRE. If you just want a generic “I’m eeeeevil” pit fiend, than it should be a native immortal tied to one of the overlords, such as Bel Shalor. As a side note, the night hags of Eberron are native immortals, but aren’t tied to the overlords; they are their own faction.

Regarding stuff like efreet, salamanders, or similar entities, would you have them all follow the same template as fiends and celestials in that they generally maintain a particular alignment or distribution of alignments, or is this not a fundamental aspect of some groups of immortals and the alignment of a group is more dynamic in some cases?

My definition of “Immortal” means the following: the creature is tied to a specific plane; it came into existence with its skills and knowledge in place, and did not need to learn; it does not reproduce naturally; it has a static population, and when it is destroyed, either it will be reborn or a new creature of its type will appear to take its place. As long as it meets these criteria it doesn’t matter if a creature is a celestial, elemental, fiend, or aberration. If it does NOT meet these criteria, it is not immortal under these terms. Thus, for example, a vampire is immune to aging, but it won’t be replaced if it is destroyed and it has a method of reproduction. It’s not an immortal; it’s a mortal that is channeling the power of Mabar, which sustains its life.

Immortals are SYMBOLS more than they are living creatures. They have purpose, even if often that purpose is simply to represent an idea. The basic definition of “fiend” is that it embodies an EVIL aspect of an idea, while a “celestial” embodies a GOOD aspect of an idea. Shavarath is the plane of WAR. Devils represent war fought in pursuit of tyranny; angels, war fought in pursuit of justice. So for these spirits, alignment is part of their core concept. Elementals aren’t as clear cut and don’t have an automatic alignment bias. But as they are immortals, they represent IDEAS. So the key question is “What is their idea?”

In MY Eberron, what the efreeti represent is the beauty and glory of fire… but also its capricious and deadly nature. The raging bonfire is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but if you are careless it can burn all you hold dear. So too with the efreeti. They are glorious and powerful. But anger them and they will burn you in the blink of an eye. What we’ve said in Eberron is that alignment doesn’t tell us WHAT you’ll do, it tells us HOW you’ll do it. You can have an evil king who wants peace or a good queen who pursues war; it’s just that the evil king will be ruthless in his pursuit of peace while the queen will be kind as she pursues war. Efreeti don’t necessarily want to DO things we would consider evil. They want to celebrate their wealth and power. They want to outshine their rivals. An efreet might invite you to a grand gala in its brass citadel, with no hostile intent. But if you insult it, or embarass it by using the wrong fork, it will burn you with no remorse. THAT is what makes efreeti evil. It’s not that they are all conquerors or torturers; it’s that like fire, they have no mercy and no empathy. They BURN, bright and beautiful, and if you aren’t careful they will burn you.

So efreeti are not universally pursuing an evil CAUSE in the same way that the devils of Shavarath are. But they still have evil ALIGNMENTS because it’s in their nature to be merciless and unrelenting… even if a particular efreeti has no grand designs we would see as evil. Meanwhile, the beings who embody the purely benevolent aspects of fire are celestials, and those who embody SOLELY its destructive aspects are fiends. The Azer are spirits of industry and are neutral. Efreeti are both the beauty of fire but also its danger; they won’t necessarily pursue evil goals, but they have no remorse when their actions cause suffering.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going!

Villains of Eberron

As I was writing about the daelkyr in my last Eberron post, it occurred to me that my emphasis on how alien and unknowable they are might make it hard for people to understand how to work them into a story. Eberron has a host of major villains ready to go, and sometimes it’s not always clear what differentiates them. So I figured I’d do a quick run-down of the big bad guys.

The Dreaming Dark seeks to take control of mortal civilization in order to preserve the current status quo in Dal Quor. Thus, its primary goal is conquest. However, the quori prefer to conquer in such a way that their subjects embrace their oppressors. If you look to Sarlonan history, they instigated a series of wars and political upheavals and then the Inspired emerged as the saviors who brought order to this shattered land. They are more likely to do the same thing in Khorvaire than to invade with a Riedran army. It’s entirely possible that they instigated the Last War as the first stage of this plan. The question is who they will use as their figurehead leaders. They don’t need to replicate the culture of Riedra in Khorvaire: they simply need a scenario in which mortals embrace a new, absolute ruler. Is Queen Aurala secretly a quori figurehead (which would explain her warlike ambitions)? Have they assumed control of one or more of the Dragonmarked houses? Whatever it is, the main role of the quori is to cause chaos and then to provide a seemingly perfect solution.

The Daelkyr are essentially alien scientists and artists, and their primary goal is change. When they first arrived, they engaged the Empire of Dhakaan with armies of aberrations. They took creatures of Eberron and twisted them to produce monstrosities. For the last seven thousand years they’ve been bound in Khyber, and many wonder why they haven’t been working harder to escape. The main point is that they aren’t interested in conquest: they are interested in transformation. Even from the depths they can work through their cults and their agents; read this blog post for information on why someone would be a part of a daelkyr cult. They may BE changing the world in ways people don’t even realize; one interesting idea is that the dragonmarks were actually created by the daelkyr. If you WANT a daelkyr to burst out of Khyber with a devastating army of aberrations, you can have that. Just bear in mind that they aren’t seeking to conquer or colonize Eberron: they simply want to change it. If you’re going to use a daelkyr as a major villain, think about how it seeks to change the world.

The Lords of Dust are driven to free their ancient Overlords. Thus they are driven by Prophecy. The release of an Overlord will likely shatter modern civilization. Thus the Lords of Dust have little interest in conquest… unless conquest is necessary to release the Overlord. Each Overlord has a sequence of events that must come to pass to release it – a combination to its lock. It’s up to you to decide what that combination is. So if you WANT the combination to involve the conquest of Aundair by the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes, than the Lords of Dust will be working to conquer Aundair. You could have a Lord of the Ring plotline – they need to recover a lost artifact and return it to a specific location at a specific time – in which case the conflict would all be based around the artifact and those who possess it. Or their actions could be far more subtle: they need Queen Aurala to restore Galifar, and thus they are helping her conquer the other Five Nations, but they are acting behind the scenes and even she doesn’t know it. Another way to look at the Lords of Dust is The Terminator: They have a vision of the future, and they are taking the actions required to make that future come to pass. Their actions don’t always make sense to us because we don’t understand the dominoes they are lining up. Why are they helping Aurala? What’s that do for them? We’ll find out when she’s murdered on the day of her coronation and Sul Khatesh is released from her bonds.

The Aurum is an alliance of powerful and wealthy mortals, and they seek to increase their own power and influence; as such they are often driven by Greed and Ambition. In a sense, they are a cabal of Bond villains, and pretty much any James Bond plot could be laid at the feet of the Aurum. While they work together when it serves their purposes, their schemes are often the schemes of an individual Aurum concordian – thus, foiling a plot doesn’t necessarily make you the enemy of the entire Aurum. Likewise, their schemes are often on a smaller scale than those of the daelkyr or the Dreaming Dark. They want to acquire a particular thing, gain control of an organization or piece of land, eliminate a particular person. Where the daelkyr and the quori are cosmic threats, the Aurum are fundamentally human villains (even if they are dwarves or elves).

The Emerald Claw are driven by Erandis’ desire to restore her dragonmark and gain ultimate power. Like the Aurum, their actions are generally more straightforward and serve a specific purpose. Erandis is going to set off a necrotic generator that will turn everyone in Sharn into a zombie because she hopes that harnessing that power will unlock her mark. She’s going to send an army of undead against Arcanix because she needs a particular necromantic tome or artifact. The actions of her followers may be cloaked in political schemes – many agents of the Emerald Claw believe they are laying the groundwork for Karrnathi dominance – but ultimately, any large-scale Emerald Claw action is somehow about increasing Erandis’ power or furthering her personal goals.

I’ve got to get back to work on Phoenix, so I’ll stop here. How about you? Which villains are your favorites, and what have you done with them?

Dragonmarks 6/14: Lightning Round 4!

Big week this week, but it may be two weeks before there’s another update; I’m getting ready to move back to Portland and there’s a lot of work to be done! As always, these are my personal thoughts and may not always mesh with canon sources. Take ’em for what they are worth.

Did you sneak any personal data into Eberron? Is “Eberron” the name of a favourite cat as a child? Is Merrix a best friend?

Bear in mind that not all the names are mine; many things changed in the big brainstorming phase when I was working with James Wyatt, Bill Slaviscek, Chris Perkins, and the rest, and many NPCs were developed in that phase. For example, I think it was Bill Slaviscek who came up with the name “Khorvaire”, so maybe someone in his family drove a Corvair. Everyone on the original design team left their marks on the world somewhere.

On my part, the only one that comes to mind is Greykeyll from Eye of the Wolf and City of Towers. In real life, Greykell is my adopted sister. The character in City of Towers essentially is her, dropped into Eberron. When I was developing ideas for the comic and decided to use a Cyran veteran, she seemed like a logical choice – and as I mentioned earlier, her background became much more interesting at that point. And hey, she’s got a great fantasy name!

The real Greykell!

Sharn and Stormreach are two cities that have seen a decent amount of source material. Are there any other cities that you would like to see fleshed out? Which ones and could you elaborate on what is interesting about those places?

I want to see EVERYTHING fleshed out. But I’ll pick out a few specific examples.

Graywall. I got started with this in this Dungeon Backdrop, but it’s one of my favorite cities and I’d love to do more. I love the frontier feel and the chance to explore monsters in a role beyond “the creatures you kill for treasure.” It’s also a great haven for dissidents, deserters, and war criminals. As I like to say, it’s Casablanca with more trolls.

Thaliost. It’s a powder keg right in the heart of the Five Nations, and a chance to take a deeper look at both Aundair and Thrane. it was something that was in the running for a 2012 Dragonshard, but Eston ended up winning the “undeveloped city” slot.

Pylas Talaear. This port city serves as the gateway to Aerenal. We haven’t taken a close look at what daily life is like in Aerenal, and what it’s like for foreigners who visit; I think it would be a great place to explore.

Atur. Ancient stronghold of the Blood of Vol in Karrnath. The crown has distanced itself from the faith, but Kaius still holds court in Nighthold. This is an interesting place to explore the full spectrum of the Blood of Vol and its relationship with Karrnath, and the conflict between the Emerald Claw and other elements of the faith.

Did you have explanation for the day of mourning when you first developed the setting?

No. I had half a dozen explanations that all made sense to me, which is essentially the approach you get with a lot of things in Eberron. To me, the cause of the Mourning was far less important than the impact it had on the world. The unsolved Mourning is what holds the Next War at bay and keeps the world in a cold war, and that interests me far more than an adventure in which people solve it. So here’s a few I considered:

* It was an environmental consequence of the amount of magic being used in the war – both war magic and increased production on the part of the houses. This is one thing driving the ceasefire; until people can be sure that using war magic won’t cause another Mourning, it’s hard to start firing the siege staffs again.

* It was a misfire of a weapon that was being developed, most likely by Cannith. The question then becomes if any of the current Cannith heirs know anything about it, or if all information was lost.

* It was a successful test of a weapon, and whoever did it is waiting to “reload” before they take credit for their actions.

* It was the result of the release of a demon Overlord or Daelkyr, who is currently sitting in the Mournland rebuilding its strength and studying the world. This could be an interesting blend with the Becoming God or Mournland Magebred.

* The Children of Winter are right: it is simply the beginning of the end. Whether or not it was triggered by magic, it is a catastrophic environmental failure that will soon start to spread across the world until the entire world is transformed; at that point, an entirely new world will be created.

* It’s the work of the Sovereigns – a warning to get people to stop and reconsider.

* It’s tied to the appearance of the Feyspires (see The Fading Dream).

… I could continue, but you get the idea. Any of these could be true. And as long as any could be true, people have to proceed as if they are all potential threats.

Some people may say “But in The Gates of Night it’s implied that Lei’s parents know what caused the Mourning! So that means you had an answer!” Well, if you read closely, they don’t say they know WHAT caused the Mourning, they say they know WHO caused the Mourning. They have a specific answer in mind, and it could apply to any of those explanations I’ve given above… and I’ll leave it at that.

If you have a ‘new favorite’ explanation of the day of mourning, and if so, what is it?

Clearly, it’s the Spellplague!

… OK, maybe not.

It’s sometimes mentioned that cultists of the Dragon Below have some kind of “promised reward” in the form of a wonderful place deep within Khyber. Have you ever fleshed out any details about what this promised land would be for them, or is this something that’s intentionally vague and/or subject to change depending on the particular cult?

A key principle of the Cults of the Dragon Below is that they aren’t monolithic in any way. The majority of cultists don’t even think of themselves as “cultists of the Dragon Below”; it’s a label that academics use to cover the diverse range of sects. Common elements are connections to or affection for aberrations; ties to Daelkyr or Overlords; and bizarre beliefs which may actually be schizophrenic in nature. I’ve talked about a sect that believes there’s a glorious kingdom below that you can only reach by paving the path with the blood of enemies. It could be that this is a literal, physical place. Khyber is supposed to include, essentially, demiplanes – there could be some bizarre wonder-world you can only get to through this cavern in the Shadow Marches. Or it could be utter lunacy. This same basic belief could appear in another cult across the nation, especially if it’s tied to the same Overlord or Daelkyr; but that doesn’t imply any communication between the two cults, and it’s possible cult two has an entirely different idea of their paradise… or that their paradise also exists but is a different demiplane.

Were there any other potential races you thought of for Eberron before settling on Changelings, Warforged, and Shifters? Also, regarding Changelings, what are your personal ways for keeping Changeling PC’s in check?

First, you left Kalashtar out of the list, and they were in from day one. Beyond that, there were no other NEW races in the original proposal. It was suggested that goblinoids should be viable characters. As for changeling PCs, it depends what they’re trying to do; I’ve played in quite a few games with changeling PCs without problems. Can you be more specific (in the comments) about exactly what problems you’re having (and what edition you’re using)? Their clothing and equipment doesn’t change, and in a society in which changelings exist people will pay attention to such things. In a city like Sharn, groups such as the Tyrants may actually police their own, as someone passing through and giving changelings a bad name will hurt them in the long term. Beyond that, though, anyone can be a changeling with a hat of disguise or first levelillusion spell – and there they can change clothes, too! Changeling abilities are useful, but they shouldn’t be foolproof – and bear in mind that this is a world where changelings, illusionists, rakshasa and more are simply known fact.

In a real society, the medieval urban elite would be bankers, traders, captains of industry. But in Eberron, industry and trade is dominated by the Dragonmarked. How do hypothetical non-Dragonmarked urban elites compete without the magical edge the Dragonmarked possess?

Not easily, which is why the Houses are typically described as having monopolistic power over their fields of industry. Thus, the simplest way for a non-dragonmarked urban elite to thrive is to run a business sanctioned by one of the houses; this is something described in the Dragonmarked sourcebook. Not every inn is a Ghallanda inn; but if it’s got the Ghallanda seal of approval, you know it’s of quality… and that it gives the house a share of its profits. To be licensed, you need to adhere to house standards (and put up with inspections) and pay your dues. But it’s possible for everyone to profit.

There are other options. You can find a niche that none of the houses cover. While we’ve never mentioned it, it’s possible Cannith has a line of clothes. But they aren’t competing with people like Davandi in the field of high fashion. You could specialize in a particular field; you can’t make smoothies as quickly as someone using a Ghallanda prestidigitation-based blender, but you have a special recipe that makes it worth the wait and higher price. This is the point of, say, The Oaks in Sharn. The food is simply better than you’ll get in the Gold Dragon Inn. But it’s due to the genius of that single chef. You could also possess a resource that the house needs and doesn’t have. The Mror lords are wealthy because they own the gold and steel mines.

I’ve talked about how the houses may bring their power to bear on someone who threatens their monopolies. The thing is, it has to really be a viable threat. Ghallanda doesn’t care if the Oaks is the best restaurant in Sharn; they still make fat dragons every day from all of their restaurants. It’s only if the Oaks’ chef tried to create a national chain and a series of low-end cheap eateries that they’d start to worry. Likewise, Cannith doesn’t need to drive every single smith out of business. However, if you buy from a smith who doesn’t have the Gorgon seal, you don’t know what sort of steel you’re getting!

Considering the masses of Warforged that have been produced , what countermeasures against Warforged have been created? How likely would it be for an influential Individual like Nolan Toranak to find/create them ?

Honestly, the masses of warforged still make up a relatively small number of the total troops fielded during the war. With that said, you don’t need something to be entirely developed to destroy warforged; anything that would be especially effective against armored infantry will work. Heat metal, some sort of corrosive cloud, a swarm of rust monsters… take your pick. And if you’re using 3.5 rules, you have a wide range of inflict damage/disable construct spells you can build into weapons. I don’t think Nolan Toranak could create them, but he could certainly buy them.

What do the leaders of Aerenal think about Xen’drik and the recent trend of expeditions looting all those giant relics? I can’t imagine them to be neutral about this, since they know better than almost anyone else what the ancient giants were capable of.

What are they going to do – blockade the Thunder Sea? There’s more humans than elves. I think the most likely approach would be for them to send their own forces – a specialized unit of the Cairdal Blades – to try to destroy the things they feel are too dangerous to be found. So when your adventurers have just found a really, really cool artifact, have some elves show up who want to destroy it.

What does the Dreaming Dark think of Aerenal? I imagine they must be pretty concerned with the power of the Undying Court, and the fact that the elves will likely know some of the stuff that happened back when the Quori invaded Xen’drik.

Maybe yes, maybe no. The Dreaming Dark seeks to impose order upon the chaotic minds of humanity because mortal dreamers affect Dal Quor. Elves don’t dream, therefore it’s quite likely that their actions have no impact on Dal Quor; and setting aside that tiff with Vol, Aerenal has shown itself to be an incredibly stable society that has barely changed in twenty thousand years. What more could the Quori want from it?Essentially, their best bet is to leave it alone and hope that nothing changes.

As for the elves remembering the Quori invasion, there’s all sorts of issues there.

* It’s not like the elves who founded Aerenal were big on pre-war history. They don’t even have concrete info about the Qabalrin; the line of Vol was just using scraps of Qabalrin lore.

* The exact details of the Quori “invasion” are still very mysterious. While it’s logical to assume that they were seeking to evade the turn of the Age as the current Quori are, it’s entirely possible that they were trying to do this in a non-aggressive manner; the existence of the docent Shira shows the possibility that they simply sought to ESCAPE Dal Quor, but had no desire to conquer the people of Eberron. Another possibility that’s come up is that the giants – who were clearly aggressive – actually sought to conquer Dal Quor, and that the actions of the Quori were in fact self-defense.

* Any way you slice it, that war involved an entirely different age of Dal Quor, and the Quori were nothing like those of the present day. So even if there are elves who kept excellent records, those records describe interactions with a very different culture and species.

How would the Dreaming Dark feel about Warforged , since they do not sleep and therefore dont dream ?

See the above, and for that matter, read The Dreaming Dark trilogy. It was written by this Keith Baker guy – you might have heard of him. It’s out of print, but still available in ebook form: City of Towers, The Shattered Land, and The Gates of Night.

“Do warforged dream of humunculi sheep?” A question that came up in game recently when one character offered to show the warforged character her dreams. The warforged said that “they don’t dream.” Other than a “Blade Runner” type adventure, how do you interpret this concept?

How do *I* interpret it? Well, you might want to check out The Dreaming Dark trilogy. I hear it’s available on Amazon. Now in time for the holidays!

Could Karrnathi skeletons theoretically act autonomously like a warforged or do they require Karrnathi military orders to act?

Karrnathi skeletons can make autonomous decisions based on pre-existing orders. So if a Bone Knight tells his undead regiment “Hold this pass at any cost” and then dies, the regiment is capable of adapting their tactics to deal with whatever new threat comes along. However, they cannot do any of the following:

* Decide that they are sick of holding the pass and want to do something else.

* Conclude that circumstances have changed and that the pass is no longer strategically important.

* Compose poetry while they are waiting.

* Improve their skills – which is to say, gain class levels.

* Have any sort of emotional attachment to anyone or anything in their unit.

Karrnathi undead aren’t like vampires or liches. They can only be made from the corpses of elite Karrnathi soldiers, but a newly risen Karrnathi skeleton is identical to every other Karrnathi skeleton; it has none of the memories of the original soldier. The ritual isn’t some cheap form of raise dead. One way to look at it: a warforged has a soul; Karrnathi undead do not. FOr more on Karrnathi undead and possible dark secrets about them, check out the Fort Bones Eye on Eberron article.

On the Ashbound: do you see there being room in the Ashbound doctrine for members who oppose not arcane magic, but the mundane pollution of Eberron?

Allow me to answer with a quote from the Player’s Guide to Eberron: “To the Ashbound, many things violate the natural order, with arcane magic at the top of the list. The Ashbound see such magic as the epitome of the unnatural, using formulas and rituals to twist the laws of nature and create deadly effects that were never meant to exist. Cities and other physical manifestations of civilization are next on the list, along with structured agriculture and the magebreeding of animals—twisted attempts to reshape the world.”

“Pollution” is just a symptom; civilization is the disease.

How would the Ashbound regard an arcane caster who draws their magic from nature, such as the Pathfinder witch?

That depends. How does it manifest, from a practical in-world standpoint? How does someone looking at the witch recognize that her magic is arcane in the first place, and how can they tell that it comes from a “natural source”? If she is using the verbal, somatic, and material components of a wizard, then the Ashbound will treat her like a wizard. If she looks more like a druid, then most will treat her like a druid; it would take some sort of magehunter who’s actually trained to sniff out arcane magic to recognize her and decide what to do.

What is a cutting disk, what does one look like & how did it come to be a kalashtar weapon?

One is shown here in the hand of the Atavist Lanhareth. The kalashtar prefer curved things to hard angles. In my opinion it was developed as a soulknife weapon long before it was used in steel. As a result, they come in many styles; any soulknife could come up with a different take on it.

If Eberron religions were replaced with Earth religions what would their analogues be?

The Sovereign Host is a pantheistic faith dealing with anthropomorphic deities, and as such could map to any number of Earthly religions. Frankly, the others weren’t intended to mirror Earthly religions and don’t map well at all.

The Church of the Silver Flame doesn’t worship an anthropomorphic deity. It doesn’t believe that its divine power created the world; rather, it believes that this power was created to combat the evil in the world. Add to that the fact that supernatural evil unquestionably exists. The current human church (as opposed to other Flame sects like the Shulassakar) was founded when Tira Miron was empowered by the Flame to defeat Bel Shalor. This is sort of like Godzilla appearing in North America and stomping on Texas and Oklahoma before being defeated by someone who was given a special gun by aliens and invited to join the Galactic Federation of Godzilla Binders. People don’t “worship” the Flame as such; the Flame is a source of power noble people can draw on to protect the innocent from evil, and the Church is the organization that coordinates that (and as the Shulassakar show, you don’t have to be part of the church to form a connection to the Flame). It has as much in common with the Jedi and the Men In Black as it does with Christianity.

The Blood of Vol is based on the question “What just god would allow suffering and death?” – with the conclusion “None, so the gods must be our enemies.” It’s tied to the fact that the people of Eberron KNOW what the afterlife is like, and it’s not pretty. The Elven religions seek to avoid going to Dolurrh; the Silver Flame believes its people join with the Flame; and the Vassals say “Well, we go to Dolurrh, but you just don’t understand what it really is.” The Seekers say “You’re kidding yourself. Dolurrh is extinction. But we have the divine spark within us. We can become gods – and even if we can’t, we will spit in the face of death.” Again, not a very direct map to anything.

Concerning religions, while the Silver Flame is certainly no direct analogue of a real-world religion, to my mind many of its elements are similar to Catholic and Christian elements. Aside from cardinals, the idea of sacrificing oneself for getting rid of evil (Tira Miron, etc.) and the existence of exorcisms are some of them.

Certainly. Note that I said “it has as much to do with the Jedi as Christianity” – which is to say, there are elements of each. The elements you mention are good examples – and bear in mind, long before Tira Miron was born, the Flame itself was formed by the sacrifice of the Couatl; the most fundamental principle of the Flame is noble sacrifice to defeat evil. It’s simply the case that while there are important similarities, there are also some very fundamental differences – people can be blinded by one and not see the other.

Blood of Vol is cult like, individual, secret. How do you reconcile that with a massive Monastery in Atur? How old is that?

I think we have very different views of the Blood of Vol. Have you read the Eye on Eberron article on Fort Bones? One pertinent quote: “The Blood of Vol has had a presence in Karrnath for many centuries, and followers of this faith served under Karrn the Conqueror and Galifar I.” There are many Karrnathi villages where it’s always been the dominant faith for over a thousand years, and in any major Karrnathi city it should be easy to find the neighborhood of the Seekers or the local priest; Atur has long been its urban stronghold. However, it was never endorsed or supported by the royal family, and this is what Kaius did – he made it the religion of the state and gave its priests real political power. Now he’s reversed that, disbanded the orders, and condemned the Emerald Claw. In my campaign, Moranna and Kaius are also using the Seekers as scapegoats for many of Karrnath’s troubles and defeats – why, their dark magics are probably why Karrnath had such troubles with the plagues in the first place, and then they tricked us to relying on them. This is an effort to undercut the power the faith gained during the war and to strengthen Kaius’ support by saying “all our past problems can be blamed on these people, and I’m taking steps to change that.”  So life can be difficult for the faithful. But it’s still not a crime to follow the faith, and most who follow it remain loyal to Karrnath even though their fortunes have changed; the commander of Fort Bones is a seeker.

As for being individual and cult-like, there’s two paths Seekers tend to follow. You have the hermit-like followers who carry out a solitary pursuit of the Divinity Within, which is after all a personal quest. However, most Seekers believe that you CAN’T find the Divinity Within in a human lifespan, which is precisely why they believe the Sovereigns created the curse of mortality – to prevent humans from attaining their true potential and becoming the equals of the Sovereigns. These Seekers hope that their undead martyrs (martyrs in that an undead creature can never attain the Divinity Within, which is tied to the blood and spark of life) and the champions of the church will some day break the chains of death for all people, Seekers and non-Seekers alike. In the meantime, the faith places a very strong emphasis on community. The universe is against us and death is the end. Therefore, hold tight to your friends and neighbors. Present a united front. Every death diminishes us, and we must stand together in the face of this. The most common religious rite is bringing the community together and sharing blood in a basin; this emphasizes that the community is one, and must stand together. I’ll also note that a cleric of the Blood of Vol is more likely to raise the dead than one of the Sovereign Host (who believes that Dolurrh is the gateway to joining the Sovereigns) or the Silver Flame (who believes noble souls strengthen the Flame). The Seeker cleric knows that nothing better is waiting for you, and if he can get you back, he will.

Now, the Order of the Emerald Claw is secret and cult-like. But it’s an extremist sect. Some Seekers support its actions even if they won’t join it; but others despise the Emerald Claw and oppose it when they can.

Where does the Emerald Claw keep finding those gullible kids to be their minions?

Who says they’re gullible? There’s a few different things that drive them.

* The principle of the Blood of Vol is that the ancient undead champions have the wisdom to guide the living towards the Divinity Within and that if anyone can defeat the Sovereigns and free the living from the curse of mortality, it’s them. And what undead champion is mightier than the Queen of Death? The sad part is that by canon, Erandis doesn’t care about that, but hey, they don’t know that. “There is no greater champion than the Queen of Death. She will usher in the new Age of Life.”

* The Blood of Vol came to the aid of Karrnath in its hour of need. Seekers who could have stayed out of harm’s way joined the battle because their priests called on them to do so. They shared secrets of the faith with the king, created Fort Zombie and Fort Bones, helped the nation to survive. Now the King has turned on them and condemned them without reason. He ignores their good works and blames his own failings on them. “My father gave his life for this kingdom! He spilled his blood on its soil! And this king spits upon his sacrifice? i will give MY loyalty to a Queen who will never betray us.”

* Most Seekers don’t actually WANT to be undead. They want the Divinity Within; being a corpse driven by a blood-thirst that cannot be slaked pretty much sucks next to that. However, there are some who are purely driven by a desire for personal immortality and power, and Erandis plays to that. “The Queen of Death has promised that I shall be one of her next blood lords if I succeed at this mission!”

* Kaius’ actions have angered many of the non-Seeker warlords. His efforts to broker a peace are seen as weakness. Many Emerald Claw recruits aren’t seekers at all; they have simply been lured by the idea that this Queen of Death will overthrow Kaius and place their warlord of choice (who might be one of those she’s promised to make a vampire, or even Erandis herself) on the throne of Galifar. “I fight for Karrnath! This lily-white king is sucking the blood from our country – the Queen of Death shall lead us all to victory!”

I could go on, but I do have to do some work that pays bills sometime. But you get the idea.

Are you aware of any 4e conversions of the Master Inquisitive?

Not personally. I’d make it a theme. Have a base ability that helps with investigation and utilities tied to Perception, Insight, and Steetwise (look to the skill powers for inspiration). Not sure about what I’d do with the combat powers, you could tie it to the way they handle Sherlock Holmes in the Downey movies – using Insight to anticipate an opponent’s moves and make a more effective attack.

Do representitives from Adar / Kalashtar not speak to the nations of Khorvaire?  Do they not say ‘Hey guys Riedra is ruled by extra planar denizeniens bent on world (means everyone) domination, we should do something!’   Does no one care?

This is covered in more detail in sources like ​Races of Eberron. To a certain degree, the kalashtar suffer from a level of cultural arrogance; “This is our battle to fight.” There’s also the fact that most of the kalashtar of Adar don’t approve of active warfare in the first place; they believe that it is through their continued passive resistance that they will force the turn of the age, and THIS is what will win the war. if you want to do something to help, stop fighting your wars and letting the quori turn you against one another, because THAT is how they conquered Sarlona. However, there are kalashtar in Khorvaire who want to do more. Some of these might try to raise awareness. But here’s the problems with that:

  • Riedra is a global superpower. It is a valuable ally and trade partner, and many nations received Riedran aid during and since the Last War. In short, nations have good reason to want to keep Riedra as an ally.
  • Riedra has taken no offensive action against any nation in Khorvaire.
  • Riedra asserts that the Adarans are religious fanatics and terrorists, much like the Order of the Emerald Claw – something the common folk of Khorvaire can identify with.
  • The leaders of Riedra are demons trying to enslave us all!” If this is true, why hasn’t Riedra tried to enslave anyone? Even the history of Riedra is one of the common people embracing the Inspired as their saviors, not one of conquest. Beyond this, bear in mind that the leaders of Riedra don’t deny that they are possessed; they simply assert that the spirits that possess them are benevolent ancestors. It’s not particularly different from the Tairnadal or the Undying Court.
  • No-one is especially concerned about having Adar as an ally.
  • The Dreaming Dark is careful to keep its operations entirely separate from Riedran ambassadors, and the Dreaming Dark has no recognized authority in Riedra; if the action can be traced to Riedra at all, it would be something the Inspired could dismiss as criminal.
  • There are mind seeds and quori agents scattered across Khorvaire, some in positions of power. Essentially, the Kalashtar who goes to the Duke and announces his suspicions about a local Dreaming Dark plot may simply be exposing himself to the agents of the Dark.

So: Riedra has in the past shown itself to be a valuable ally to Khorvaire. Adar can’t prove any claims it might make, and drawing itself into the spotlight actually makes it easier for the Dreaming Dark to use propaganda against it. The kalashtar believe that it’s their task to oppose the Inspired. Some feel that they do this simply by surviving and continuing their devotion to the Path of Light. Others seek to identify, expose, and destroy individual operations of the Dreaming Dark (which, remember, more often then not have no obvious connection to Riedra). Experience has shown that it’s more effective to gather a small skilled force – say, a party of adventurers – and handle things directly.

Kalishstar resemeble humans so much, how evident would it be for someone to identify a character as Kalishtar instead of human …

Following 3.5 rules, a kalashtar receives no penalty if it attempts to disguise itself as human. So if they TRY to appear human, it’s not very hard for them to do. If the kalashtar makes no effort to conceal its identity, its mannerisms, appearance (unnatural symmetry, etc), and potentially clothing will make it stand out as unusual, even if the observer isn’t familiar enough with kalashtar to recognize it for what it is.

You mentioned the Duke being controlled by a “mind seed.”

A mind seed is a psychic infection that rewrites the personality of the victim to that of a quori. So the mind seed isn’t controlling the Duke as such; he’s become a willing servant of the Dark.

Aren’t all Kalashtar seen as enemies of the Dreaming Dark? Therefore he wouldn’t even have to talk to the infected Duke, merely be seen by him … or would that Duke necessarily immediately know if someone was Kalishtar or Human by sight?

To address the second part first, if the kalashtar disguises his appearance – wearing a hooded robe, taking some effort to adjust his body language – he can easily pass as human. Beyond that, does the duke actually see every traveler who passes through his domain? However, if he walks up to the duke and says “I am a lightbringer of Adar, and I tell you that there is evil in this place!” – well, the cat-of-light’s out of the bag at that point.

As to the first question: is every kalashtar seen as an enemy? Every kalashtar is connected to a rebel quori, and as such the Dark would be happy to destroy every kalashtar of a line in order to reclaim that spirit. However, on a daily level, not every kalashtar is actively engaged in conflict with the Dreaming Dark, and of those who are the vast majority do so simply by performing the rituals of the Path of Light, which are ever-so-slowly keeping the wheel of the age turning. The net result of this is that yes, the Dark is always a potential threat to a kalashtar, which is why they generally live in Adaran communities and draw little attention to themselves. But in practice, the death of any single random kalashtar is a very very low priority to the Dreaming Dark. So let’s go back to that infected duke. He’s a very valuable tool for the Dreaming Dark and likely engaged in long-term political schemes. He sees some random kalashtar on the street. Risking exposure and the upset of all his plans just to kill some random, possibly harmless kalashtar isn’t remotely worthwhile. On the other hand, if that kalashtar is either drawing attention to himself or directly threatening the operations of the Dark – suddenly it may be worthwhile to risk exposure in order to eliminate him. Of course, they’d try to eliminate him in a way that DIDN’T risk exposure – frame the kalashtar for a crime, for example, so the duke can execute him legally. But if the kalashtar stays in the shadows, keeping a low profile and concealing his true nature from those he doesn’t know, he’s far safer than if he walks around saying “LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE DREAMING DARK!” – which is why they don’t do it.

Another way to look at the lightbringers’ approach to the Dreaming Dark is very much Tommy Lee Jones’ statement to Wil Smith in the original Men in Black. Why don’t they tell the world about all the aliens? Because ignorance is what lets these people live their normal, happy lives. If you tell them that there are evil monsters in their dreams they are never going to sleep soundly again, and yet that won’t help one bit in making those dreams safer. The Lightbringers are aware the threat. They will identify it and deal with it. If you’re a capable adventurer, perhaps you can help. But revealing it to the world will only cause panic for no purpose. There’s a certain arrogance to this – they frankly think they can handle this better than you can, paladin of the Silver Flame – but there it is.

Look for more about the Dreaming Dark in an upcoming Eye on Eberron article!

As always, I’d love to hear what you’ve done in your campaign or your thoughts on any of these things. The next Q&A is going to concern the nobility of the Five Nations – feel free to ask questions here!