As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, someone asks…
Could you expound on the role of kobolds in Eberron? They often seem to be lumped together with goblinsas “small, chaotic humanoids oppressed by those in power,” but they don’t have anything as interesting as the Dhakaani or Khesh’dar hooks that the goblins have. What are some interesting hooks for kobold characters?
Before looking at kobolds, take a moment to consider orcs in Khorvaire. In the Demon Wastes, the devout Ghaash’kala fight fiends and channel the power of Kalok Shash. In the Mror Holds, the Jhorash’tar follow the Path of Bones. In the Shadow Marches you have the rising corporate power of House Tharashk, the ancient primal Gatekeepers, and those who cling to the Old Ways of the Dragon Below. Just next door in Droaam, there’s the peaceful culture of the Gaa’ran and the aggressive Gaa’aram.
Kobolds are just as diverse as orcs; we just haven’t had time to explore many of their cultures in depth. I don’t have time to go into detail now, but here’s a quick overview of some of the canonical kobold cultures.
The Seawall Mountains.Kobolds have a strong presence in the Seawall Mountains and have often clashed with Zil gnomes seeking to expand their mining operations. This is one of the main places where you’ll find the iredar and irvhir cultures described in this early Dragonshard article. Rather than the traditional association with flesh and blood dragons, these kobolds believe that they have a direct connection to the PROGENITOR dragons.
Zil Kobolds.The Zil clash with the iredar and irvhir in the mountains, but over the centuries there are kobolds who have chosen to live alongside gnomes, sharing their cultures. This isn’t as strong a blending as you see between orcs and humans in the Shadow Marches; there’s only a few such villages along the edge of the Seawall Mountains. But because of this, you can find kobold agents of the Trust, kobolds teaching at Korranberg colleges, and so on.
Stormreach. City of Stormreach infamously suggests that there’s a bounty on kobold hides in Stormreach. This is a nod to the grinding needs of the video game set in Stormreach, and not something I use in my campaign. In my Stormreach kobolds have an important role in the community maintaining the sewers and serving as guides to the lower levels of the ancient city. And, of course, the kobold Hassalac Chaar is one of the most powerful spellcasters in the setting.
Q’barra and the Poison Dusk. We haven’t talked much about the peaceful kobolds of Q’barra, and they could follow the same iredar/irvhir traditions as the Seawall kobolds. But what we have said is that the kobolds of Q’barra are especially vulnerable to the influence of the Cold Sun and are frequently found within the Poison Dusk—recently discussed in this article. So if you’re looking for kobolds serving an evil dragon, Rhashaak and the Poison Dusk are what you need.
The Oppressed People of the Barrens.As called out in Exploring Eberron, kobolds and goblins have long been oppressed in the Barrens of what is now Droaam. This is beginning to change with the rise of Droaam, most notably because of Kethelrax the Cunning and Shaarat Kol. However, Kethelrax is still fighting on behalf of Shaarat Kol and of those smallfolk still suffering cruelty at the hands of tyrannical chibs.
Kanonical Kobolds of Droaam. Just as you have the Gaa’aram and Gaa’ran orcs in Droaam, there are multiple kobold cultures in Droaam. Frontiers of Eberron discusses the Khaar’paal, kobold spreads across the Graywall Mountains. The Khaar’paal are referenced in the Kethelrax article I linked above, but here’s another tiny preview from Frontiers. Keep in mind that this specifically refers to a small group of Khaar’paal artisans living on the edge of Quickstone; they come from a city in the Graywall Mountains that is largely and considerably more sophisticated than Quickstone.
The Khaar’paal are a group of about sixty kobolds camped on the southern edge of the Tents. They don’t work metal; their tents are made of leather, their tools of wood and stone. At a glance most assume these kobolds are a primitive nomadic tribe. This assumption is wrong on every count. Khaar’paal means “mageblood“, and the Khaar’paal kobolds have an innate talent for arcane magic not unlike that of a sorcerer. They may not use metal, but they have talented magewrights who make use of mending, prestidigitation, magecraft, continual flame and similar magical techniques and tools, and work with exotic materials like quickstone and wyvern hide. Their wands may not be as well-tooled as those produced by House Cannith, but the Khaar’paal scouts are wandslingers as capable as any Brelish arcane dragoon.
So how about some hooks?
The above examples are just some of the kobold cultures in Eberron. But any of these could provide a foundation for a kobold adventure. Consider…
A Zil kobold sage—a former Korranberg professor who might secretly be an agent of the Trust.
A Stormreach kobold sorcerer who’s a child of Hassalac Chaar. They could be adventuring on a mission from their father, or they could just be a nepo baby out on a lark.
A Droaamite champion of the Dark Six. Proud to be a vessel of their deity, and willing to challenge anyone who dares look down upon them. A cleric or bard tied to the Fury could seek to rally and inspire allies; a kobold paladin of the Fury could be a holy avenger determined to right the wrongs they see in visions.
A Droaamite agent of Kethelrax the Cunning, sent out into the wider world to gather allies and resources for Shaarat Kol, and perhaps to hunt down envoys of Rhesh Turakbar or others who have abused the smallfolk of Droaam in the past.
A Khaar’paal wandslinger looking to make their fortune among the slow-moving softskins of the east.
A Seawall iredar kobold druid or ranger who believes they are guided by Eberron herself, following a series of visions.
A Q’barran kobold warlock who was part of the Poison Dusk. They broke the fiendish hold of the Poison Dusk and they’ve fled Q’barra to put some distance between them and its influence, but they are still tapping its powers and gifts as a warlock… slightly afraid that every use of its power could be pulling them back into its thrall.
So, there’s a lot of options for kobolds. When you meet a kobold on the road, what could their story be? You can easily choose the answer drawing on any ideas above, but if you know me you know I love a random rolling table, so here’s one for kobolds. While this can get you some very random possibilities, you can generally figure out which culture they might relate to. Kobold warlocks are probably tied to irvhir or the Poison Dusk… though they don’t have to be! Likewise, a kobold artificer could be a Khaar’paal alchemist, or perhaps they’re a Zil prodigy who studied evocation at Korranberg and designed siege staffs during the Last War!
… Working for the Trust.
… Possessed by a fiend.
… Fabulously wealthy.
… Seeking revenge.
… Carrying a powerful magic item.
… Guided by a vision.
… On the run.
… Possibly a dragon in disguise.
That’s all for now! If you’d like to see more articles or ask your own questions, check out my Patreon! I run a monthly campaign that patrons can play in, and I’ll be doing a live Q&A for patrons on June 28th.
2023 continues to be an extremely busy year. Among other things, I’m taking part in the liveplay session Destiny of Worlds, where I play Merrix d’Cannith of Eberron next to Ed Greenwood as Elminster of Shadowdale! If you haven’t seen it yet, the first two episodes are available here. I’m working on a larger article I’ll have out in the next few days, but in the meantime I wanted to address a few more questions from my patrons on Patreon. Such as…
How would you use cyclopes in your Eberron?
I’ve never used cyclopes in a campaign, and I think this raises an important secondary aspect to this sort of question… which is not just how I’d use a thing in Eberron, but WHY I’d add whatever that thing is to a campaign. While there’s a place for everything in Eberron, just because you CAN add something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. My question is always how will this make my story more interesting? Why will encountering a cyclops be a compelling experience for the players… and how will it be different from dealing with an ogre chib or an ettin in the Barrens? Fourth edition made cyclopes fey, tying them to fomorians and playing up the idea of the “evil eye.” But in fifth edition they’re just giants with poor depth perception. If I’m going to use those cyclopes in my campaign, I want to add something that makes them interesting.
Sight is the thing that immediately stands out with a cyclops. 5E gives them poor depth perception, but I like the idea of balancing that with a supernatural gift. Two thoughts immediately come to mind.
Plane Sight. It’s said that the first cyclopes were giants who yearned to see things no one else could see. They were so driven that they each plucked an eye from their skulls and cast them into the void; each found their way to a different plane. Now every cyclops sees two worlds at once they see the material plane through the eye in their head… but each cyclops is bound to another plane, and they perceive that plane overlaid atop the material. This is similar to my vision of the kuo-toa of the Thunder Sea, but where the kuo-toa are all bound to Dal Quor, each cyclops is tied to a different plane.
The first thing I like about this is that it gives me an immediate foundation to make every encounter with a new cyclops unique, because its personality and abilities may be affected by its unique vision. Consider…
A cyclops who is an unexpectedly sophisticated warrior, because they see into Shavarath and have studied the combat techniques of the celestials and fiends. Such a cyclops could be a dangerous foe, but they could also potentially be a swordmaster who’s able to teach manuevers that can’t be learned anywhere else on the material plane.
A cyclops who lives in a desolate cave but who is a surprisingly erudite sage; they perceive Syrania and while sitting in their cave, they are reading books in the library of a Dominion of Knowledge.
A cyclops who perceives Dal Quor, who sees the nightmares of their enemies. Do they use this knowledge to frighten enemies in battle, or do they actually use it to try to help people understand their dreams and face their fears?
Even following this model, not every cyclops has to be so clever and sophisticated; as presented in 5E, the default cyclops only has an 8 Intelligence and 6 Wisdom. So for every Shavarath-linked cyclops who has mastered celestial martial arts, you could have four more who are just especially aggressive because they perceive themselves as being constantly surrounded by war. Likewise, a cyclops who sees Dal Quor COULD just be confused by these visions—reacting to the dream-personas of adventurers rather than their physical selves—as opposed to making clever use of this model. I prefer to play with the more intelligent cyclops, but they can still be brutes if that’s what your story calls for.
Piercing the Veil. Rather than seeing into other planes, another option is to allow cyclopes to see into the Ethereal Veil. What I like about this idea is that it could lead to cyclopes dwelling in haunts, because they perceive the haunted echo of what once was. A cyclopes lives in the burnt-out ruins of a manor because it still sees Lady ir’Halan’s grand ball. Some cyclopes could take this further and serve as mediums, learning to communicate with ghosts and shades. Less sophisticated cyclopes might see the denizens of the haunt, but be unable to communicate with them; but they could still see these ghosts as companions. Either way, a cyclops could be an interesting way to draw adventurers’ attention to a haunted location. If I went down this path, I would probably go ahead and grant cyclopes the ability to see invisible objects and creatures, as see invisibility also grants ethereal sight.
But where are they from? My basic inclination is to keep cyclopes as being rare and remarkable, rather than to introduce a nation of cyclopes somewhere in the world. There’s a few options. They could be creations of the daelkyr Belashyrra; do they have any loyalty to the daelkyr or was this purely an abstract experiment? They could be native fey, each with a story, much like I’ve said of hags in this article. They could be the devolved descendants of giants from the Group of Eleven. However, what I would do is to make them a strain of ogre—making cyclops sight a rare, recessive trait that occasionally appears among ogre communities. In the ancient nation of Borunan, these eye-seers were celebrated for their plane-sight, which was usually tied to Shavarath or Fernia. They are rarely seen in the present day, but can still appear in any ogre bloodline. In Khorvaire they’re mostly found in Droaam, but can potentially be encountered anywhere on the continent.
That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. And check out Destiny of Worlds!
Kethelrax the Cunning is the warlord of Shaarat Kol. Sometimes known as the Goblin Prince, Kethelrax has been a rallying figure for people who have been oppressed throughout the history of the region. Kethelrax was born into one of the Khaar’paal kobold clans of the Graywall Mountains. Gifted with sorcerous power, these kobolds have largely remained in their fortified tunnels, ignoring both the humans to the east and the raiders to the west. Young Kethelrax was curious and keen to explore the western lands—but soon after he ventured into the Barrens, he was taken prisoner by an ogre chib who dominated a village of kobolds and goblins. For a time, Kethelrax served this ogre, learning the ways of the Barrens and his oppressed cousins. Before the Daughters exerted their influence over the land, the Barrens were violent and unstable; the ogre chib was in turn slain by minotaur raiders, who took Kethelrax and some of the others back with them to the fortress then known as Haalrac’s Fist. Kethelrax had many opportunities to escape; he’d been honing his sorcerous talents throughout his time in the western lands, and his captors had no idea of what he was capable of. But Kethelrax wasn’t content to escape alone. As a servant, he managed to manipulate the warrior Turakbar, playing on the minotaur’s ego. Kethelrax convinced Turakbar to slaughter the reigning clan lord, Haalrac, and in the ensuing chaos the kobold was able to free a host of goblins, kobolds, and others forced into service in Haalrac’s Fist. Kethelrax led this band south, hoping he could convince the Khaar’paal to take in these refugees. But during the long journey, Kethelrax was visited by a blind hag who urged him to take shelter in Dhakaani ruins in the foothills of the Graywall Mountains. Sora Teraza told Kethelrax that change was coming to the Barrens—and that there was a need for a leader who could inspire the small folk of the Barrens, rallying goblins and kobolds alike. Over the few years, Kethelrax and his band targeted weak chibs in the region, freeing their prisoners and building a significant force. It wasn’t easy, and Kethelrax suffered a number of bloody defeats—but he and his people remained strong. In 985 YK, Sora Katra came to Kethelrax. She explained the Daughter’s vision for the region, and made a bargain with Kethelrax: if he could seize the fortress now known as Shaarat Kol, he could hold it as a warlord of Droaam, creating a haven for goblins and kobolds. Kethelrax agreed, and over a decade later he reigns as the Goblin Prince of Shaarat Kol.
Ketherax the Cunning lives up to his epithet. He is both clever and charismatic, able to inspire his people but equally adept at deceiving his enemies. His primary motive is always to improve the lives of the kobolds and goblins of the western plains, and this has led him to be one of the most trusted allies of the Daughters of Sora Kell. While some warlords chafe at the Daughters’ rule and yearn for greater power, Kethelrax recognizes that a strong and united Droaam holds many opportunities for his people. He continues to improve Shaarat Kol, working to make it a haven for both smugglers and honest traders. With that said, he still has a number of old scores he’d like to settle with those chibs and warlords that have long oppressed the small folk. He has been unable to convince the Khaar’paal kobolds to ally with the Daughters, but he continues to work on it.
Kethelrax is a red-scaled kobold. He’s a charismatic speaker who possesses both arcane gifts and a knack with a knife. He’s known for his ability to conjure blades of flame (something that mimics both flame blade and fire bolt, as he can fling his fiery daggers). He prefers to outwit enemies rather than to rely on force to solve his problems… but he’s deadly when he needs to be.
Rumors About Kethelrax the Cunning…
Kethelrax is a champion of the Dark Six. The Fury has empowered him to avenge the suffering of the goblins, and the Mockery cloaks him in shadow when Kethelrax doesn’t want to be seen.
Kethelrax is no kobold at all: he is a dragon who has taken on kobold form.
Kethelrax has sworn that he will kill Rhesh Turakbar by the end of 998 YK.
In Brief: City of goblins and kobolds, smuggling and manufacturing center
Key Inhabitants: Kethelrax the Cunning (male kobold warlord)
Shaarat Kol is a city in southeastern Droaam, set against and into the western face of the Graywall Mountains. Like Cazhaak Draal, it is built on the foundations of an ancient Dhakaani city; unlike Cazhaak Draal, far more of the original city remains intact. The city was either abandoned or completely depopulated during the wars with the daelkyr. Those parts of the city that were above ground were damaged by battle and the passage of time. An ogre chieftain built a simple fortress within these ruins, and this changed hands many times over the centuries. But much of Shaarat Kol was underground, and in its last days its gates were sealed with both arcane locks and adamantine bars. None of the chibs and chieftains who claimed the fortress on the surface were ever able to delve below. None, at least, until Kethelrax the Cunning. In 985 YK Kethelrax was the leader of a band of goblins and kobolds—rebels hiding in the Graywall Mountains and raiding the thuggish chibs. Sora Katra came to his camp, and the two talked for hours. In the month that followed, Kethelrax led his followers in a daring attack against the ogres and their ettin chib who currently held the ruins of Shaarat Kol. It was a vicious fight, but Kethelrax’s forces won the day and claimed the fortress… and using the knowledge Katra had shared, Kethelrax was able to open the gates of the old city and discover the true face of Shaarat Kol. The name of the city is Goblin for “Forge of Swords” and it was once an industrial center of the Dhakaani, home to some of their greatest forge adepts. The city was largely intact and contained resources untouched for thousands of years; while some of these resources were lost to time, adamantine doesn’t age. However, the city was lost in war, and the ancient daashors left countless traps along with their treasures. There are amazing facilities and other wonders to be found in Shaarat Kol, but claiming them is a slow process. Even now, more than a decade later, the denizens of Shaarat Kol have only reclaimed an estimated 20% of the ancient city.
So at the moment, Shaarat Kol is essentially two cities. The Upper City is the surface, which is being expanded and rebuilt in the new Droaamite style seen in Graywall and the Great Crag. Most of the people of the city live in the Upper City and it’s where most business takes place. But there’s also the Undercity, which lies beyond the ancient gates. This is where Kethelrax holds court and where his most loyal and talented followers dwell. Should there ever be a serious attack, Kethelrax could seal the gates—and when those gates were last sealed, they held off intruders for thousands of years.
The Upper City of Shaarat Kol is a haven for trade, known for the vast Goblin Market. This is an even larger cousin of the Bloody Market found in Graywall. All manner of independent artisans, hunters, and magewrights sell goods and services. You can hire mercenaries, buy plunder from raiders, find trinkets scavenged from Dhakaani ruins or dangerous imports from the Venomous Demesne. The Goblin Market is a vast open space largely filed with tents and temporary housing. Looking to the permanent buildings, roughly two-thirds of the structures are built for the comfort of small creatures, with a another third of the city being designed to accommodate medium and large creatures. Kethelrax has sworn that Shaarat Kol will be a haven for goblins and kobolds, who have long been oppressed in this region; he’s building this city first and foremost for his people.
The Undercity of Shaarat Kol uses the intact infrastructure of the ancient Dhakaani city. This was an industrial center and it contains mines, foundries, and forges; Kethelrax and his people are working to restore these facilities and to make use of them. While some of the great daashors were hobgoblins, the golin’dar (goblins) were the primary artisans of the empire, and much of the city is designed for their comfort. As noted before, the process of reclaiming the Undercity is slow, and there are always teams at work exploring new sections and trying to clear out traps and defenses. But just in the area that’s been reclaimed Kethelrax has been able to get a foundry and an ore processing facility working, and they are learning a great deal about the process the Dhakaani used to create and work adamantine. This is only the start, but Shaarat Kol has the potential to play a very important role in the future of Droaam.
Unlike Graywall, Shaarat Kol has made little effort to welcome the Five Nations. There’s no Orien trade route and no Dragonmarked outposts in the City of Goblins. The coastline to the south is rocky and dangerous, and it is difficult for large ships to land. Kethelrax is actively working to build a safe port so that Shaarat Kol can rival Vralkek as an important shipping destination. For now there are a few safe havens for those who know them, but they only support small ships. All this means that the people of the Five Nations who come to Shaarat Kol are mainly smugglers. There’s all kinds of valuable goods available in the Goblin Market, including many that are taxed or prohibited in the Five Nations. Some use paths and hidden passages through the Graywall Mountains, while others dare the dangerous coastline in small boats. While Kethelrax and the Daughters haven’t tried to bring the Dragonmarked Houses to Shaarat Kol, he’s happy to deal with legitimate traders, hence his work on the port; he just wants to finish securing the Undercity and unlocking its potential before bringing easterners into the city in large numbers.
Goblins and kobolds make up nearly 90% of the population of Shaarat Kol. Many of these were formerly subjugated by brutal chibs, and either fled on their own or were released from their bondage by the Daughters and allowed to go to Shaarat Kol. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie among the people of the city; throughout the city you’ll see people working together and helping their neighbors. There’s only a small (literally) city watch, but that’s because anywhere that there’s trouble a mob of citizens will come together to deal with the problem. There are a number of large trade schools that are teaching the skills needed to use the facilities of the Undercity, and Kethelrax has brought in mentors from the Khaar’paal kobolds to help kobolds harness their sorcerous potential. As a result, Shaarat Kol has far more magewrights than any other city in Droaam. The city is still growing and finding its footing, but there’s more casual comforts than one can find even in the Great Crag. The denizens of Shaarat Kol have largely embraced the faith of the Cazhaak Six, and there’s a temple maintained by the medusa priest Shalaasa and a number of Khaar’paal adepts. In general, Shaarat Kol is one of the safest cities in Droaam, as long as you don’t start any trouble. On the other hand, the camaraderie among the small denizens means that the criminals and con artists of Shaarat Kol ply their trade on the visiting tall-folk; keep an extra eye on your purse and don’t buy a deed to a Byeshk mine, no matter how good the price is.
Interesting Things About Shaarat Kol
The Undercity of Shaarat Kol holds undiscovered wonders. There could be an armory stocked with Dhakaani artifacts, or the forge that was used to make them. There’s certainly an opportunity here for adventurers willing to brave the countless traps. But it’s also possible people who dig deeper will find that there are daelkyr forces left behind as well—as the Mror found when they dug too deep into their ancient past.
The Heirs of Dhaakan may be interested in reclaiming Shaarat Kol or at least recovering relics from the Undercity. This could lead to a deadly conflict between Kethelrax and the Kech Dhakaan. It’s quite likely that agents of the Shaarat’khesh are already hidden among the people of Shaarat Kol, evaluating the situation and passing information to the clans.
Kethelrax rose to power by fighting other chibs. He’s made many enemies, most especially Rhesh Turakbar. Any of these foes could attempt to assassinate Kethelrax or at least sabotage Shaarat Kol.
This is an excerpt from Frontiers of Eberron, which I’ve been working on since I released Exploring Eberron. I’m currently running a poll on my Patreon to help me decide where I go from here—whether I continue to develop this book for Eberron and the DM’s Guild, or whether I use it as the foundation of an entirely new setting. There’s many factors in this decision and I won’t be making it quickly. Regardless of what happens, thanks to my patrons and to everyone else who’s supported Eberron over the years!
As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patrons. Recently, someone asked…
We know that Droaam is largely populated by monstrous races, but it also has a population of disenfranchised humans. What is life like for these humans? Are they treated much the same as everyone else? Are there any human chibs?
The denizens of Droaam have no love for the arrogant people of the east, who have long condemned them as monsters, claimed dominion over their lands, and occasionally sent templars or questing knights west to kill their people. When the Daughters of Sora Kell led their first attack against Brelish forces, the message was clear. From Exploring Eberron…
“Tell your rulers there’s a new power in the west,” Sora Katra told the people of Stubborn. “What you’ve called the Barrens, we now name Droaam. The land beyond the Graywall and below the Byeshk belongs to our people. Withdraw yours quickly and respect our claim; next time, there will be no survivors.”
Katra’s message wasn’t your people are welcome to join our new society, it was vacate the premises immediately. King Boranel of Breland refused to recognize the new nation—and he still hasn’t—but in 987 YK he ordered all Brelish citizens to withdraw from the disputed region. Those that ignored his orders were driven east by force or slain. So by canon and Kanon, there are no human communities as part of Droaam. With that said, Exploring Eberron has this to say about humans in Droaam.
Most humans living in Droaam are easterners— brigands or renegades evading the law, or merchants seeking opportunities. However, a few are natives, serving Droaam as part of the Venomous Demesne. While the demesne’s nobles are tieflings, humans are a significant part of the population, and Demesne humans can be found serving as magewrights in other cities. The humans of the Venomous Demesne have little in common with the people of the East, considering them savages, and feel no kinship to the Five Nations.
So first of all, there is a significant population of humans in Droaam: the people of the Venomous Demesne. However, the Demesne is an advanced civilization that still remains largely isolated from the other peoples of Droaam, and that is all but unknown to the Five Nations. As noted, humans of the Demesne can be found in the major cities of Droaam, providing vital magewright services that most of the Droaamite subcultures haven’t mastered; but they are relatively few in number and focused on their work. Demense humans stand out by their fashions and manners, and are largely recognized by other Droaamites and left alone; they provide useful services and are typically capable of defending themselves. If an Easterner is familiar with the customs of the Demesne, disguising themselves as a Demesne magewright would be one way to avoid trouble… until they encounter a tiefling lord who wants to know their lineage and loyalty!
Beyond the humans of the Venomous Demesne, most humans are brigands or renegades evading the law, or merchants seeking opportunities. The Graywall Backdrop in Dragon 369 had this to say about Easterners in the city: Humans, half-orcs, dwarves, and members of the other races are largely concentrated in the Calabas; those who live in Bloodstone are largely bandits or fugitives. The Calabas is a recognized foreign quarter with laws enforced by House Tharashk, and is the safest place in Graywall. What I’ve always told players entering Graywall is that if you see an easterner outside the Calabas, you can assume they’re capable of defending themselves… because eventually, they’ll have to. A merchant would be sure to travel with a bodyguard. But if you see three former Karrnathi soldiers, you can be sure that at some point, a drunken ogre will have taken offense at the presence of these expatriate easterners—and the fact that they’re still here shows that they can handle such a situation.
So in short, there are humans in Droaam, but they aren’t farmers. There’s merchants engaged in business—legitimate or otherwise—who will either be prepared to talk or buy their way out of trouble, or who will have some form of protection. And then there’s people who have chosen to abandon the Five Nations: War criminals, deserters, renegades, dissidents, mages pursuing forbidden research, followers of the Dark Six seeking to practice their faith openly. The main thing is that any human living in Droaam outside a foreign quarter has a reason to be there, and must be prepared to talk or fight their way out of any trouble that comes their way. Those who survive will earn respect and a reputation. Essentially, they’ll be remarkable people.
OK, but what about Brelish settlers? Aren’t there Brelish settlers? Yes, but not in DROAAM. Remember that Breland doesn’t recognize Droaam as a nation, which means there’s no official border. Sora Katra laid claim to “the lands beyond the Graywall and below the Byeshk” and the commonly recognized border is the Orien trade route that runs between Ardev and Sylbaran. The region around the road is contested territory. The road is patrolled by Brelish forces and Znir gnolls serving the Daughters, but the region around the road is far from any lord or chib. There are human communities and settlers who consider themselves Brelish. But there are also a few communities that have no loyalty to either nation. Much like the farming communities of the Eldeen Reaches, the inhabitants of these towns felt abandoned by Breland during the war; unlike the Eldeen, they lacked the unity or numbers to secede and form a new nation. Today these villages are havens for brigands or deserters, always at risk of being targeted by raiders from Turakbar’s Fist or soldiers from Orcbone. And there’s brigands who prey on the Border Road as pirates prey on trade routes on water. The most infamous bandit in the region is Breggan Blackcrown. Here’s an excerpt from Frontiers of Eberron: Threshold...
In a region where bandits are as common as copper pieces, the Company of the Black Crown have earned their infamy. The core of the company were members of an elite unit of Brelish soldiers stationed at Orcbone. Their captain, Breggan, regularly ignored her orders and waged her own personal guerrilla war against Droaam, slaughtering goblin villages and leaving gruesome displays that could chill even a medusa’s blood. Some stories say that Breggan sought to avenge the slaughter of her own family at the hands of monstrous raiders. Others suggest that she admired the ferocity of her foes, that in seeking to match their cruelty she became a monster herself. One especially dramatic tale says that after losing an eye in a battle with a minotaur champion, she plucked out the eye of her fallen foe and pressed it into her own socket, so she could see the world as her enemies do. When she was finally called to account for her cruelty and violation of orders two years ago, she broke with Breland, and many of her soldiers followed her. Now she claims that she is a true daughter of Breggor Firstking, the founder of the ancient nation of Wroat, and that a vision from her ancestor guided her to find his black iron crown. She says that Boranel betrayed his people by failing to bring Droaam to heel, and that she is the champion of the abandoned people of the western frontier; she calls herself “the Queen of the Lost,” subject to the laws of no nation.
The Company of the Black Crown is a mobile force trained in the techniques of guerilla warfare. They have a few long rods and other military-grade weapons. They ride the very edge of Droaam and Breland, defying both nations and preying on the people of both lands. They frequently target other brigands and clash with Droaam raiders, and most believe that this is why the commander of Orcbone chooses to ignore them; others say that the commander is one of Breggan’s former lovers, or that he doesn’t want to send his soldiers to their deaths. Regardless of the reason, for now Orcbone isn’t pursuing the Black Crowns.
While the Black Crowns ruthlessly slaughter other brigands and raiders, they’re no angels. They rob small villages and caravans—never entirely, just “collecting the Crown’s share.” While they usually don’t kill villagers, they make a bloody example of anyone who challenges them.
Breggan Blackcrown is a human woman in her thirties, equally skilled with sword and wand. She’s more than just a wandslinger; stories suggest she could be some sort of warlock. She’s as charming as she is ruthless, and never underestimates a foe. Her success to date is no accident. Breggan is a brilliant leader and her soldiers are exceptionally loyal to her, willing to take any risk in her service. Her primary lieutenants are Hatchet (male halfling, an expert scout), her bodyguard Blessing (female personality warforged, a heavily armored defensive fighter) and Sigil (male human, the war mage who maintains the company’s artillery).
Rumors About Breggan Blackcrown…
… Breggan’s right eye is a crystal shard, and she can see people’s fears.
… Sora Katra has offered to make Breggan a warlord of Droaam.
… In her raids, Breggan has acquired a number of mysterious artifacts—possibly Dhakaani relics, or weapons from the Age of Demons.
… Breggan Blackcrown attended a feast at Turakbar’s Fist. In some versions of this story she danced with Rhesh Turakbar; in others, she beat him in a bare-handed duel.
Breggan and her Black Crowns have already made an appearance in my Threshold campaign, and if you’re a Threshold patron you know how that turned out. I’ll note that this section is from the player-facing gazetteer in Frontiers of Eberron; the DM section has more information, along with statistics for Breggan herself.
So are there any human chibs or warlords? None are mentioned in canon, but the Droaam is always changing; in a year, Breggan could be a warlord of Droaam, or she could be rallying the villages of the Trade Road to forge a new nation. What’s the story you want to tell?
Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. As this is an IFAQ and my time is limited, I won’t be answering many questions, but feel free to discuss this topic in the comments!
Every month my patrons pose questions. Some of these become Dragonmark articles, like the recent articles on Hags and Session Zero. However, other topics don’t need a full article. Here’s a few from this month! As always, these answers reflect what I do in MY campaign and may contradict canon material, starting right away with this first question…
What were the borders of Thrane before the war in your Eberron?
The Forge of War presents a map of Galifar before the war, and it draws a traveling west from the Face of Tira to the Duskwood, saying everything south of this line—including Passage, Lathleer, Ghalt, and Arcanix—were all part of Thrane. I have many issues with this map. First of all, it’s very arbitrary, lacking any natural or manmade obstacle that would help people recognize that border. Second, it places Daskaran in Aundair; it’s been previously established that before Galifar, Thrane was called Daskara, with the assumption that Daskaran a vital part of the old nation. But beyond that, we’ve made a BIG DEAL about the fact that Thrane holds Thaliost. The idea that Aundair seized three major cities and Arcanix during the war and that nobody really cares much about them is hard to fathom. Beyond that, to me Passage is very well established as a traditional Aundairian city, home to the Guild of Endless Doors and the Passage Institute. I’ve accepted the idea that Arcanix was in Thrane territory based on the idea that the floating towers were moved to the current location after the territory was seized during the war. But that simply doesn’t fit my vision of Passage, and I see no reason to accept the Forge of War borders.
So, what were the pre-war borders in MY campaign? I’d start by using the Aundair River. Daskaran’s on the southern shore, Thaliost is to the north, and it’s a major natural obstacle. So I’d start with the river. When you reach Fairhaven, I’d use the TRADE ROAD as the border—running down from Fairhaven to Lathleer and then from Lathleer to Ghalt. At that point, I’d draw a line from Ghalt to Lake Galifar—so the Eldritch Groves were technically in Thrane, but no one LIVED in them. A critical point of this is that Lathleer and Ghalt were on the border. Throughout the history of Galifar, these cities lay between Aundair and Thrane; they blended the customs of both nations and had inhabitants from both sides. During the war, Aundair gains ground and establishes a series of fortresses—including Wrogar Keep, Tower Valiant, and Tower Vigiliant—to maintain that border. The reason the loss of Lathleer and Ghalt isn’t as significant as Thrane’s occupation of Thaliost is that both cities already had strong ties to Aundair and deep-rooted Aundairian traditions—while in the case of Thaliost, the city was a proud and ancient Aundairian city with no ties to Thrane. The people of Lathleer are largely happy to be Aundairian, while Thaliost is an unstable occupation.
I’ve already discussed Arcanix—that it was a small village that took on its current importance when Aundair moved the floating towers there. But beyond that, I feel that when you go beyond the Eldritch Groves you’re dealing with territory that was technically Thrane on the map but that had a very weak cultural connection to the nation. The Year of Blood and Fire is a foundational element of modern Thrane culture and a critical part to the deeply engrained cultural devotion to the Silver Flame. I think it’s reasonable to say that Bel Shalor’s influence never spread beyond the Eldritch Groves—that the people of that region didn’t suffer in the Year of Blood and Fire and largely maintained their Vassal faith through to the present, making many of them quite happy to shift their loyalties to Aundair or Breland. In particular, I think it’s logical to assume that the Eldritch Groves have strong ties to Thelanis, and that the people in that region had fey-related customs more typically associated with Aundair. Meanwhile, Xandrar is so far from Flamekeep—separated by mountains and water—that I feel it was effectively an independent culture that just happened to be assigned to Thrane on the map, much as Droaam was technically Breland but the residents of the region didn’t consider themselves to be Brelish.
So I feel that Lathleer and Ghalt were significant acquisitions by Aundair during the war, and that this acquisition was safeguarded by the establishment of the border towers—but that from a cultural perspective these were fairly easy acquisitions compared to the bitter, contested occupation of Thranes. There is still surely a minority in both Lathleer and Ghalt who consider themselves Thranes and who despise the Aundairian tyrants, and this could create intrigue for adventurers, but they aren’t powerful forces. I’d also assert that both Lathleer and Ghalt had an influx of Aundairians resettled from the west when the Eldeen Reaches seceded, further bolstering Aundair’s hold on both cities.
Does the Eternal Dominion of the Sahuagin claim any part of the Dagger River? The area around the Hilt looks much like a fjord, which can be up to a mile deep in our world.
Not in my campaign. The sahuagin of the Dominion prefer salt water and are happy to have a little distance between them and the land-dwellers; the Dagger is also far away from their Kar’lassa. However, there could easily be a different aquatic culture in the Dagger. I don’t think there would be an actively hostile culture in the middle of the Dagger; such a nation would have been dealt with during the centuries of united Galifar, whether driven away or forced to the negotiating table. So one way or another I’d think that the Dagger-dwellers would have a diplomatic relationship with the surface… though this could still lead to outlaws raiding ships in defiance of custom. Personally, rather than sahuagin, I’d be inclined to make this a locathah culture, providing a counterpoint—and potential ally—to the locathah that have been subjugated by the Dominion and the Protectorate.
Droaam and Breland were certainly in conflict during the Last War, but was Droaam fighting on any other fronts?
There were no conflicts between Droaam and either the Shadow Marches or the Eldeen Reaches. As the Eberron Campaign Setting says, “The Shadow Marches are a geographic region, not a nation“—aside from House Tharashk, the Shadow Marches aren’t an entity you can have a political relationship with. Meanwhile, the Reaches and Droaam are separated by a formidable natural barrier—the Byeshk Mountains. The Reachers have no need or desire to expand their territory, and Droaam’s primary concern is solidifying its claim on the territory of the Barrens…. land claimed by Breland. So there was a concrete reason that they had to fight Breland. But the Byeshk Mountains are a clear border that both sides have been willing to respect, and at the moment neither one has any reason to pick a fight with the other.
With that said, you could Droaam was fighting on a second front… but that front was WITHIN DROAAM. The history of Droaam wasn’t a perfect, smooth rule from day one. Maenya’s Fist has crushed multiple warlords and chibs who refused to recognize the Daughters or who turned on them over time. So Droaam has definitely fought other battles, but they’ve been internal.
The Five Nations all have a heraldic animal—Thrane’s old boar, Breland’s bear, Karrnath’s wolf, and Aundair’s dragonhawk. But Cyre has always been a bell as far as anyone can tell. What animal would you assign to Cyre?
As discussed in Exploring Eberron, Cyre was a manufactured nation that consciously broke from the established customs of Metrol. They chose the crowned bell—crowned with the five-stone crown of Galifar—as a clear breaking of the old traditions; if you asked a Cyran the question, they’d raise an eyebrow and say “Please! We’re not animals.” Another way of asking the question is “What was the heraldic animal of Metrol“—the seal that was abandoned and replaced by Cyre’s crowned bell. It’s never been described, but given that we have Bear, Boar, and Wolf represented I’d be strongly tempted to choose TIGER. We know tigers exist in Khorvaire, from Dhakaan and Borrie Tigers, and it completes the set of common lycanthropes (which makes me wonder if Thaliost was a rat before they switched to the dragonhawk). But again, Cyrans made an intentional choice NOT to represent their nation with an animal, thank you.
In my Eberron campaign the party is searching for Vvaraak’s lair. What do you think the lair looks like and what sort of wards, traps or guardians would you imagine protects the lair?
The first question you need to ask is “What is Vvaraak’s Lair?” Is it the literal place that Vvaraak slept, possibly even with a hoard? Is it a a site where she conducted Druidic rituals? Is it also her tomb—or, perhaps, did she transform herself into livewood and still sleeps in the heart of the lair as a living, wooden dragon? Is or is it not literally her lair at all, but rather a passage to a verdant demiplane that is called her lair because it’s so fertile?
In looking to traps and guardians, the next question is “Why are there traps or guardians?” What are these systems protecting, and who are they protecting it from? Why is the lair hidden and guarded at all instead of being a pilgrimage site for Gatekeepers?
With that last question in mind, I see two possible answers. One is that Vvaraak foresaw a time in the future when a vital tool or piece of knowledge would be needed and set the traps and guardians herself to keep everyone out until the time was right. In this case, the theme should be PRIMAL MAGIC. The guardians would be plant creatures, treats, maybe elementals—things that don’t care about the passage of time, since they’ve been isolated for thousands of years. They would be designed to keep out Cults of the Dragon Below but also to keep out anyone else until the time was right, and likely test Druidic ability.
The completely opposite answer is that it’s not her lair—it’s her PRISON. Vvaraak was trapped and sealed away by the Lords of Dust, and turned herself to livewood to survive while waiting for a rescue. In this case the guardians would be fiends, designed to keep out Vvaraak’s allies. If these defenses are breached, it’s possible that she could be restored to flesh—or she could offer guidance as a livewood guardian, not unlike Oalian.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my patrons, who make these articles possible and come up with interesting questions!
When Eberron was created, hags were monstrous humanoids. In fifth edition, they’re fey. What does this change mean for the hags of Eberron? Are they now tied to Thelanis?
No. Not all fey creatures share a common origin. The denizens of Thelanis are the fey we hear the most about, as they’re often encountered on Eberron in manifest zones. But there are fey that are native to Eberron, such as the Valenar beasts of Rising From The Last War. In my campaign, fiends are physical incarnations of evil, while celestials are embodiments of good. Fey are creatures of magic, neither innately good or evil. This is reflected by the current druid Wild Companion ability, which allows them to summon a fey companion in the form of a beast. This looks like an animal, but it wouldn’t exist without the druid; it is a magical embodiment of the druid’s love of nature. Likewise, the Valenar beasts presented in Rising From The Last War are fey creatures, but they aren’t from Thelanis; they are “animals are awakened to advanced intelligence and power by the touch of an ancestral spirit“—mundane creatures that BECOME fey due to an infusion of supernatural energy, the same basic concept we see in the Hexblood lineage.
Divine magic is shaped by faith. Arcane magic is shaped by science. Fey magic is often—though not always—shaped by story. Valenar beasts are part of the story of the Tairnadal ancestors. The dryad is a story we tell ourselves about an interesting tree. Even the Wild Companion is a sort of story… and then a helpful beast came to assist meand to be my friend. This ties to fact that fey often come into existence with a clear purpose the skills they need to accomplish that purpose—essentially, they appear ready to play their role in the story. When you meet a tinker sprite in a manifest zone tied to the Thelanian Assembly, that sprite never chose to be a tinker. They came into existence with a love of tinkering and the knowledge of how to do it, never considering there was any other path they could take. The Wild Companion comes into existence to help your druid, never asking Why am I here? What do I want? Its purpose in the story is to help you. Most fey creatures have a similar purity of purpose, whether they’re kind or cruel. Evil fey are storybook villains. They don’t need the same depth of motivation that mortals do; villainy is their purpose, in and of itself.
Thelanis is the primary source of fey. Within Eberron, fey are most frequently encountered around Thelanian manifest zones. Sometimes the fey in these regions are directly tied to Thelanis; the dryads of Silvermoon Grove consider themselves to be handmaidens of the Forest Queen, even though they dwell in Eberron. Other times, it’s simply that the proximity of Thelanis leaks fey energies into the world, which respond to the stories of the people in the region; such few are often tied to their manifest zones, but they know nothing about Thelanis and feel no kinship to other fey. But fey can be found anywhere in the world… and can even begin as mortals. The Valenar beast is our key example of this—a mundane creature that is touched by the story of a Tairnadal ancestor and becomes a fey embodiment of that story. The key to these creatures is to understand the story that shapes them. Is it tied to a place? Or a person? Does it require them to behave in a particular way? The more mortal a fey creature is, the less they’re bound by their story. Notably, the Eldeen Reaches has a population of centaurs who are technically fey, but who lead mortal lives—growing old and dying, giving birth and raising children. Their ancestors were shaped by the energies of Thelanis, and that power clings to them to such a degree that spells react to them as fey; but they are mostly mortal, for better or for worse.
With that in mind, let’s look to the main subjects of this discussion…
The Daughters of Sora Kell are the most infamous hags of Eberron. But the Daughters are so remarkable that they have little in common with the standard hags of the monster manual. What, then, is the role of a typical green hag or sea hag? Where do they come from and what do they want? There’s a few answers to the question. Note that night hags are an entirely different sort of creature, and have been covered in a previous article.
Mother Graytooth dwells in the Saddleback Bog, and she always has, just as long as long has been. She’s matched wits with dirge singers and with templars of the Silver Flame, and many’s the time she’s been killed, but she’s too evil to stay dead for long.
Saddleback Bog is a minor Thelanian manifest zone and Mother Graytooth is a green hag rooted in Thelanis. There’s no historical basis for her story, she’s just always been there. People who live in the area eventually start telling her story, even if they can’t remember where they heard it; it’s seeped into the collective unconscious of the region itself, and if you ask someone how they know it, they’ll just say “Maybe it was my old gran who first told me the tale? I couldn’t say. But everyone knows about Mother Graytooth, mister.” She gets killed occasionally and may stay dead for decades, but people remember her story even when she’s gone, and eventually she’ll come back.
Old Man Cord was the nicest man you could meet, if you met him in the day. Always had a story or a toy for the children, always a smile and a crown. But at night, now, that was a different story. A tanner, he was, and a worker of leather, and he’d make himself a cord from the guts of his victims… then out into the night he’d go, waiting for someone to stray from the light. When they finally caught him, they found the remains of all his victims, hanging by their innards in his basement. They hung him, and that was their mistake; ropes are his friends, and no noose would kill Old Man Cord. He’s been out there ever since, lurking in the darkness and waiting for someone to stray from the light. So mark my words, children, and mark them well—never be out in the night without a lantern, as you value your breath.
Old Man Cord is an annis hag haunting the town of Lowpoint. His Crushing Hug takes the form of choking a victim with a leather strap, but otherwise he has all the abilities of an annis—shapeshifting, hiding in fog, inhuman strength. Unlike Mother Graytooth, his story has a concrete beginning; there was an Old Man Cord who killed dozens of people. He spread terror through the town while he lived, the revelations of his crimes shocked them even further, and when a child went missing a year later, everyone knew it was Old Man Cord. In essence, the town willed him into existence the same way a druid wills a Wild Companion into existence, and they keep him alive through their fear. Another difference is that his story can have an end. He can be killed; the key is that he’ll only stay dead if the people of Lowpoint believe he’s dead and, most critically, STOP TELLING HIS STORY.
A critical point is that the annis hag isn’t actually Old Man Cord. This is what differentiates this form of hag from a ghost or undead. The hag embodies the story of Old Man Cord. It’s both larger than life and also more shallow than the original. It doesn’t matter why Cord actually murdered people; what matters is why people THINK he murdered people. In some ways, you can think of this as a nightmare made manifest; he’s going to be more exaggeratedly EEEVIL than the mortal man ever was, because he’s embodying the story. One might ask if the hag could be changed by changing the story; if the people all came to believe that Old Man Cord was cuddly and friendly, would he become cuddly and friendly? Usually, no. This sort of hag is typically generated by fear. Cutting off the source will keep the hag from returning, but it won’t actually change it or kill it; the Cord hag will still be out there and will try to get its story back on track by killing people in terrifying ways. However, if his story becomes a joke, Cord won’t be able to return if he’s slain.
Often, historical hags are formed near Thelanian manifest zones; even if the zone doesn’t manifest traditional fey, the energy can form creatures like hags. However, in rare cases, such hags can form spontaneously if a response to a story is both widespread and visceral. Historical hags are typically bound to a region, but can move with their story. If a family travels from Lowpoint to Sharn and manages to spread the story of Old Man Cord throughout Callestan, he could potentially follow them.
Historical hags generally only manifest after a villain has died, typically after their story has been greatly exaggerated; again, they’re usually more of a caricature of the original, not an actual ghost. However, it could theoretically be possible for an infamous villain to be thought dead and for their story to generate a hag while they are secretly still alive. Perhaps the real Old Man Cord never killed anyone and is still in hiding; finding him could help put the story to rest.
You will find no warm welcome in the Winter Court. In particular, you had best keep an eye out for the frost maidens—Linger, Livid, and Lost. Linger is as strong as a dying oak tree, and Livid as cunning as black ice. Their hearts are as cold as their hands, and they delight in smothering joy and stealing hope.
Thelanian hags are the closest to the traditional fifth edition lore: “Ancient beings with origins in the Feywild, hags represent all that is evil and cruel; there is nothing mortal about these monstrous creatures, whose forms reflect only the wickedness in their hearts.” They can play minor roles in the stories of baronies or feyspires, or be found scheming in the Moonlit Court. They are typically immortal, though like many immortals, if they die they might return in a slightly different form; the overall story remains, but the exact telling of it can change. While they are immortal embodiments of evil, part of what makes them fey instead of fiends is that drive to embody their story. Most are content to while away immortality in Thelanis, but every now and then a hag or a coven takes up residence in a manifest zone, or decides that intrigues in Eberron could somehow help their position in the Moonlit Court; a powerful Thelanian hag or coven could easily serve as the patron for an archfey warlock. Again, what makes a hag a HAG is being “evil and cruel”; while the Daughters of Sora Kell are more nuanced in their desires, Thelanian hags tend to play up their villainous roles. However, evil doesn’t mean violent; a Thelanian hag could be a merchant who sells interesting items that will ultimately cause misery (consider the classic monkey’s paw) or a cruel step-parent who keeps their child imprisoned in a tower made from thorns.
While “hags” are traditionally villainous, the stat block of a hag can be used for good or neutral fey. The green hag in particular makes an excellent fey courtier, clever and gifted with illusion. For such a fey, their claw attack could be replaced with a Humiliating Slap that deals psychic damage (a good pairing with vicious mockery), a Withering Touch that deals necrotic damage (tied to the strange passage of time in Thelanis), or something else that fits the story of the courtier; they might not look like a traditional hag, but the stat block works!
Pact HagsAND HEXBLOODS
Story hags were never real, and historical hags typically rise after the death of their source. But there are fully mortal beings with the powers of hags. They begin by making a pact with another powerful hag. In some cases, the nature of this bargain is clear from the start; in others, the connection may be forged my a seemingly innocent arrangement—a favor granted, a gift given. The beneficiary becomes a hexblood, as described in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft—and eventually, they may be transformed into a full hag. In part, this is a matter of time. But it’s also based on the actions of the individual. Hags represent all that is evil and cruel; the more the hexblood succumbs to cruelty, the more delight they find in the misfortunes of others, the more trouble they cause, the closer they get to becoming a hag. Few hexbloods every actually reach the point where transformation is actually possible; to become a hag, they must literally be larger than life, essentially becoming a living story.
Pact hags are the most human of the hags discussed here. They began as humanoid creatures, and the essence of that humanity remains. They are mortal and won’t return after death. But they are also fey, and aging has little effect on them. Unlike story and historical hags, pact hags aren’t limited to any particular area or community and can travel freely. As a result, pact hags can be found working with Daask cells or acting as ambassadors for the Daughters of Sora Kell.
Wait—Old *MAN* Cord?
Yes, Old Man Cord. There’s no reason hags have to take female forms. Even by fifth edition lore, their forms reflect the wickedness in their heart; wickedness isn’t limited by gender. While “hag” remains the common term for this class of fey, they can appear in male, female, or nonbinary forms.
What about Sea Hags?
Sea hags will fall into one of the categories presented above, and their role in the world will reflect this. Sargasso Jane is a story hag who dwells in a kelp mass and torments the crew of ships that get stuck in it. Captain Alarack is an infamous pirate who was lost in the Lhazaar Sea, but people say he will murder any captain who takes a prize in his waters without throwing tribute over. The Mother of Maelstroms is a Thelanian sea hag who occasionally makes pacts with Fathomless warlocks. And if Droaam starts a navy, perhaps Sora Katra will produce a pact hag to run it.
The Daughters of Sora Kell
So having discussed four types of hags, what are the Daughters of Sora Kell? They’re typically described as being a green hag (Sora Katra), an annis hag (Sora Maenya), and a dusk hag (Sora Teraza). But Sora Maenya is described as crushing giants with her bare hands and scattering armies—hardly the actions of a CR 6 Annis. The answer is that the Daughters are hags in the same way that Bahamut is a dragon; they have the forms of hags, but they are something far grander and more powerful than any normal hag. The simplest way to look at it is that they are native archfey. Their mother wasn’t a fey hag at all; Sora Kell is a primordial night hag and a legend in her own right, and in birthing her daughters she was bring nightmares into the world. The Daughters are both far more powerful than most hags, but also more subtle and complex. Katra and Maenya may delight in casual cruelty, but they fall into the category of alignment telling you how they’ll pursue their goals, but not whether their goals are good or bad. In Droaam they have created something new and given a voice to people once voiceless. They enjoy the terror they instill in their enemies, but they are far more complex that Mother Graytooth or Old Man Cord.
So just how powerful are the Daughters of Sora Kell? Their canon statistics have varied wildly over editions, and to some degree I think that’s appropriate. They’re native archfey, and to some degree, they’re as powerful as the story currently calls for them to be. Sora Maenya’s never had to fight an army of dragons, and by default she definitely doesn’t have that degree of power; but the Chamber can’t be certain that she wouldn’t GAIN that power if she was attacked by an army of dragons, because what a story that would be. So in my opinion, a major part of fighting the Daughters of Sora Kell is to lock down their story. If a party of adventurers just charges into a room and attacks Sora Maenya with no plan, they’ll lose, because she’s Sora Maenya; her story is driven by her being the strongest there is. But if the adventurers learn of her weakness (a weakness that might not even manifest unless her enemies know about it), if they spread stories of her growing old and infirm, if they destroy her treasured collection of soulbound skulls, THEN when they face her she will be locked down to a CR that is reasonable for them to face… because they have created a story in which she can be beaten. This ties to the question of whether or not the Daughters are immortal, like story hags or Thelanian hags. Personally, I’ve always believed that they are NOT immortal—they were born and one day they will die. But in my campaign, if you collapse a building on them or bomb the Great Crag, they will somehow survive… their death won’t stick unless it’s a good story.
Ultimately the real question with the Daughters is how powerful do you want them to be? In my campaign, I LIKE them being the most terrifying beings you could just make an appointment to meet. I’d probably put the Daughters in the same league as the archfey in Exploring Eberron, with CRs somewhere in the low 20s. But that’s the story *I* want. I want Maenya to be able to crush giants and fight armies. You may want to tell a very different story, in which the Daughters truly have to be afraid of their warlords, where Maenya could be taken down in an ambush by Rhesh Turakbar… and that might be a better story. Which again is why I’m inclined to say that their power level can literally shift to meet the needs of the story. Place them in a situation where they need to be impressive and they will become impressive. But if their enemies can control the story, perhaps Sora Maenya can be reduced to a mere annis hag.
That’s all for now! I won’t be answering questions on this article, but feel free to discuss the topic and how you’ve used hags in the comments! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for raising the questions that spawned this topic and for making these articles possible.