IFAQ: Lightning Round!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the path to citizenship in the Five Nations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the family of Mordain Fleshweaver inside House Phiarlan?

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

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

IFAQ: Breaking The Law

I’m busy working on my next Eberron product for the DM’s Guild, and I’ll share more information about that when it’s further along. I’ve also just released a new short product— Magic Sword: An Eberron Story Seed — on the DM’s Guild. You can find more information about it in this article or watch my last session with Magic Sword in Eberron. But as time allows, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Today’s questions deal with breaking the law in Upper Sharn and the relationship between the Church of the Silver Flame and the Daughters of Sora Kell.

Inquisitives and the Law

How would you handle players doing overtly illegal things like physically roughing someone up in a place like Upper Menthis? To what extent would the law try to apprehend them?

As a general rule, Upper Sharn is a dangerous place to break the law. Even if the Watch doesn’t care about justice, they are well paid to protect the people of the district… and the sort of people you find in Upper Sharn can afford to hire Medani, Tharashk, Deneith, or even Thuranni. Keep in mind that wealthy people may have a wide range of defenses that aren’t automatically obvious. The coward’s pearl was a consumable item in 3.5 that allowed a quick escape; in fifth edition, a similar item might combine the effects of misty step and invisibility, allowing the user to disappear and flee. Another simple object would be an amulet that can trigger an alarm, alerting a security team or the watch. This latter approach would work like a silent alarm in a bank; the victim would trigger it at the first sign of trouble, and then try to delay and get the criminals talking long enough for assistance to respond. Looking to other types of crime, homes and businesses in Upper Sharn may well be equipped with arcane locks, glyphs of warding, alarms, and other magical defenses; here’s an article I wrote on that topic.

Now, it’s POSSIBLE to get away with crimes in Upper Sharn. It’s just not EASY. The Watch WILL actually do their job, and even if you get away initially, Medani, Tharashk, and the Blackened Book could all be deployed to track you down. Part of the question is who was targeted. Robbing a minor merchant might not have major consequences, but if you steal from the ir’Tains, they will spare no expense to track you down—and that means Medani, Tharashk, Sentinel Marshals. Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible to get away with it, but it should be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT: this is the stuff of heist movies, not random smash and grab.

But the key is that your players need to understand that. If they’re used to solving their problems with random violence, they need to know that they’ve moved into new territory—that you’re in Ocean’s Eleven now, and Danny can’t get what he wants by walking into the casino and beating people up. Personally, if the players have never been to Upper Sharn before, I’d start the session with something like this.

Before you begin, there’s something you need to know. Up to this point, you’ve been able to do a lot of bad and frankly stupid things and get away with them. That’s all about to change. Upper Sharn is the domain of some of the richest and most powerful people in Khorvaire. They aren’t powerful in the same way you are; you could easily beat them in a fight. But if you annoy them—worse yet, if you kill them—you won’t get away with it, not unless you have done some VERY careful planning. Gold buys services. Medani will find out who you are. The Sentinel Marshals will track you down. You might evade them for a while, but they WILL find a way to bring you to justice. I don’t want to waste the next three sessions dealing with you being fugitives, so if you commit a stupid, obvious crime in this adventure, I’m going to let each of you tell me one cool thing you do while you’re on the run and one thing that leads to your capture, and then we’ll cut straight to your trial and punishment. So. Unless you WANT to be branded as outlaws—literally—don’t do something stupid while you’re in Upper Sharn. You’re in deep waters now and you’d better learn to swim.

Then, when someone DOES suggest a really stupid course of action, I’ll say “Remember that conversation we had earlier? This is you doing that stupid thing. Do you really want to do this? Because I’ve told you what happens next.”

The important thing is that this should never be the DM against the players. You’re working together to create a story you’ll all enjoy. The players just need to understand the rules of the scene: that this is not a place where you can get away with that. If you make this clear ahead of time—if you establish that this is Ocean’s Eleven, not Reservoir Dogs—you can hopefully avoid problems. Alternately, you can let the players do their stupid thing, and have them NOT suffer any consequences… and then have the powerful person who pulled strings on their behalf show up and explain why they aren’t standing on an Eye of Aureon and what they need to do now to repay the favor. Again, at the end of the day, we’re all supposed to be creating a story we enjoy. If people aren’t going to enjoy being exiled or imprisoned (because hey, this COULD be your chance to switch to an escape-from-Dreadhold campaign arc!) then either warn them away from foolish courses of action or make their getting away with it a compelling part of the story.

Do inquisitives and agents of House Medani and House Tharashk have any ability to enforce the law? Or are they just gathering information for the forces of the law to act upon?

House Medani and House Tharashk don’t have any special dispensation to enforce the law. They are, essentially, licensed private investigators and bounty hunters. Agents of the law understand the role that they play, and may either welcome their help or dismiss it. But Medani and Tharashk inquisitives have no legal authority of their own. The Sentinel Marshals of House Deneith are authorized to enforce the law, but this is very closely monitored and a marshal who abuses this authority will be stripped of rank.

I’m running a campaign where the players are using the Inquisitive Agency group patron. It seems anticlimactic if they can’t actually enforce the law, and have to rely on the Watch to resolve things.

If you look to the genre, there’s a vast array of stories about private investigators. Sherlock Holmes is a “consulting detective” with no legal authority; he works with Scotland Yard, not for them. The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Stumptown, HBO’s new Perry Mason… part of the point of these stories is that these people are PRIVATE detectives, working on the edge of the law. Sometimes they have a good relationship with the law, as with Sherlock Holmes. In other cases, the forces of the law are corrupt and part of the problem; it’s because the detective is on the outside that they can get things done. Because they’re not officers of the law, detectives aren’t always as bound by rules and regulations, and they can deal with people who might not interact with an agent of the law. In developing the campaign, a crucial question is whether the adventurers are close allies of the law—in which case you could even choose to make them deputies with limited powers of their own—or if the local watch is part of the problem, with only a few people they can truly trust.

Looking to the question of whether the story will be anticlimactic if the adventurers turn it over to the forces of the law… just because the job of the detective is to gather information as opposed to catch the villain doesn’t mean that YOUR ADVENTURE should involve them gathering information, reporting it to the authorities, and then going home while the law deals with it. The adventurers solve a mystery and identify the villain. Yes, they SHOULD let the Watch handle it. But perhaps they don’t because…

  • … There’s no time! The villain is about to flee, and if the adventurers don’t act immediately they’ll get away with it.
  • … The adventurers have caught the villain red-handed, but now they have to deal with them immediately.
  • … The villain trusts the adventurers, or they’ve got an inside ally—they can get close enough to the villain to strike, while the city watch never could.
  • … The adventurers know that the watch will bungle the capture. If they want the job done right, they’ll have to do it themselves.
  • … The city watch won’t take the adventurers seriously. Or perhaps the villain has an agent or allies within the watch; they’ll either warn the villain or keep the watch from acting altogether.
  • … The villain hasn’t actually committed a crime. They’ve done something terrible, but somehow, legally, they are going to get away with it. Will the adventurers allow it?

There’s nothing stopping the adventurers from defeating the villain themselves and delivering them to the forces of the law. They just shouldn’t MURDER them in the process. Yes, they may have to break a law or to themselves in the process, but if they’ve exposed a terrible crime the watch might not ask too many questions about their breaking and entering to pull it off. So it’s not that the adventurers need to let the law do the takedown of the villain; it’s that they should deliver the villain to justice, not execute them. And yes, this means that there’s a chance the villain WILL evade justice and return to threaten them again. Which is, after all, the plot of every Batman story ever (movies aside): Vigilante detective unravels crime, beats up criminal and turns them over to the law, villain eventually escapes to cause more trouble, rinse and repeat.

So Medani and Tharashk can’t enforce the law, but what about House Deneith?

There is inconsistent canon regarding the role of House Deneith. Notably, Dragonmarked contradicts Sharn: City of Towers. I wrote the section in Sharn, and it’s what *I* do. Here’s the critical piece.

During the reign of King Galifar III, House Deneith was granted the right to enforce the laws of the kingdom, bringing fugitives to justice and enforcing punishments in exchange for gold. Originally, this was a largely honorary role that allowed House Deneith to assist the Galifar Guard in an official capacity. With the Last War and the formation of the Five Kingdoms, these Sentinel Marshals have become far more important. The Sharn Watch, the Blackened Book, and the King’s Citadel are all agents of the Brelish crown, and they cannot pursue fugitives into Aundair or Thrane. The Sentinel Marshals of House Deneith can. These elite agents are authorized to enforce the law in all five kingdoms—although they are not authorized to break the law in pursuit of justice! Sentinel Marshals are usually employed as auxiliaries by regional authorities, but they are occasionally hired by private individuals when the local justices lack the resources to pursue a case.
A Sentinel Marshal holds the honor of House Deneith in his hand, and only the most trusted members of the house are granted this authority. A Sentinel Marshal must possess exceptional skills and knowledge of the laws of all of the kingdoms of Khorvaire, and it is rare for an heir to even be considered for this honor unless he has served with both the Blademark and the Defender’s Guild. It is possible that a player character would be granted the title of Sentinel Marshal after performing an exceptional service for the house, but a DM should always remember that this position does not place the character above the law—and should he ever abuse his authority, it will be stripped from him and he will in all likelihood be expelled from the house.

So, Sentinel Marshals enforce the law for gold. They are freelancers hired as auxiliaries by local authorities, not champions of justice expected to be fightin’ crime pro bono. Their most valuable attribute is the fact that they are recognized as neutral and extranational, able to enforce the laws across the Thronehold nations and pursue fugitives across borders.

Just to give a sense of how rare and special Sentinel Marshals are, according the Sharn: City of Towers there are NINE of them in Sharn… And Sharn is the largest city in Khorvaire! Sentinel Marshals aren’t supposed to take the place of the Watch; they are elite specialists called in for jobs that require their skills and ability to cross borders. With that said, the watch can also just hire standard Deneith mercenaries to help out with a rough situation; but that doesn’t grant the Blademarks the authority of Sentinel Marshals.

Are the brands used to mark criminals in Sharn recognizable in most of the Five (Four) Nations? Are the brands simply physical brands? If not, what kind(s) of enchantment are involved?

The brands are standardized under the Galifar Code of Justice and would be recognized in all of the Five Nations. There would be a few new nation-specific ones (“Exiled from Nation X”) but any agent of the law will recognize them. These details are discussed in Sharn: City of Towers:

Repeat offenders are often marked with a symbol that warns others about their criminal tendencies. In the past, these marks were made with branding irons. In this more civilized age, a House Sivis heir inscribes the mark using a pen of the living parchment (see page 169). Marks are either placed on the forehead or on the back of the right hand, and guards often demand that suspicious strangers remove their gloves and show the backs of their hands.

The section on the pen of the living parchment adds the following information.

A character who possesses the arcane mark ability of the Least Mark of Scribing can use the pen to inscribe permanent arcane marks onto the flesh of living creatures. These are commonly used by the courts of Khorvaire to mark criminals and exiles, warning all observers about the nature of the character’s offense… Removing such a mark is extremely difficult, and requires the use of break enchantment, limited wish, miracle, or wish; the DC for a break enchantment check is 18. Removing a criminal’s mark is a crime under the Galifar Code of Justice, so it may be difficult to find someone to break the enchantment. The character who inscribed the mark can also remove it, using the same pen they used to create it in the first place… Placing a criminal’s mark upon an innocent victim is a serious crime under Galifar law, and the Blackened Book is assigned to track down anyone believed to be performing this form of forgery.

The Silver Flame and Droaam

What would Jaela Daran’s official position, as Keeper of the Flame, be concerning the tier of evil that the Daughters of Sora Kell are classified under?

In the past, the Church of the Silver Flame cast most “monsters” under the umbrella of Innate Evil. This is called out clearly in Exploring Eberron:

Entities of innate evil. This is the most contentious category on the list, and it is the idea of monsters—that there are creatures native to Eberron who are evil by nature. In the past, the church has placed medusas, harpies, trolls, and similar creatures into this category, asserting that through no fault of their own, these creatures are vessels for supernatural evil and pose a threat to the innocent.

It’s this principle that justified the actions of templars raiding the Barrens in the past, protecting the innocent people of the Five Nations by killing these monsters. Of course, that’s what’s been done in the past. Jaela Daran embodies the compassionate principles of the faith, and in my Eberron I could easily see her asserting that the denizens of Droaam—from the Daughters to the harpy to the gnoll—are no different than any human, and pose a threat only if they choose evil. However, in doing this, she would be fighting against tradition; the Pure Flame in particular might rebel against the idea of treating MONSTERS as innocents instead of threats to the innocent. But in MY Eberron, I’d have her make that pronouncement NOW—so the player characters are actively caught in the middle of it and could play a role in what happens next—as opposed to it just being something that happened a few years ago and has largely been settled.

But aren’t the Daughters of Sora Kell half-fiends?

Maybe, but what does that even mean? Normally, immortal entities don’t reproduce. We don’t even know with certainty HOW the Daughters were born. While they are long-lived, in my opinion they are mortal and can be killed. They are capable of CHOICE… just like tieflings, and consider that the Church of the Silver Flame established Rellekor as a place for tieflings to reproduce. The Daughters of Sora Kell are evil beings of great power, but are they FORCED to do evil or do they choose it? The critical point here is that this defines the interpretation of Droaam itself. If you classify the Daughters of Sora Kell as immortal evils they must be opposed and are seen as incapable of doing anything good; thus, Droaam MUST serve an evil purpose. On the other hand, if the Daughters are capable of choice, they are capable of change; while they’ve done evil things in the past, Droaam COULD be a good thing. I prefer to have Jaela open to the concept that Droaam may actually serve a noble purpose as opposed to definitively condemning it.

How willing is Jaela Daran to accept monsters as “peers”?

While it doesn’t have close ties to them, the church has known about the Ghaash’kala for ages. The modern church accepts orcs, goblins, changelings, and shifters (despite the troubles around the Purge) as equals in the eyes of the Flame. What makes an ogre so different from an orc? The question is solely does this creature have the capacity to choose to do good? Can they touch the Flame? Or, like lycanthropes, are they compelled to harm innocents by a power beyond their control? I think that many “monsters” suffered by virtue of being UNKNOWN; no one had SEEN an ogre in any context other than “This is a monster that will try to kill my friends,” whereas now it’s a laborer working in Sharn for an honest wage. I think the VOICE of the Silver Flame would encourage compassion in this case; the question is whether mortals will listen to the Voice of the Flame, or whether the Shadow in the Flame can play on their fears.

Are the generally traditionalist Thranes willing to entertain such equivalence or would Jaela esposing such beliefs be a possible weak point for Cardinal Krozen or Blood Regent Diani to capitalize on? Or that would inflame tensions with Solgar Dariznu of Thaliost?

The Silver Flame is based on principles of compassion: on the idea that those who can choose the light should be guided toward it, and only those who are irredeemably evil need to be destroyed for the greater good. In my opinion, the people of Thrane are the people who hew most clearly to those core principles of the faith. In Aundair, the Silver Crusade created the Pure Flame, whose adherents see the Flame as a weapon; in Breland, it suffers from the general cynicism and pragmatism of the Brelish character. But if there’s a place where people will TRY to follow the core tenets of the faith, it’s Thrane. So, PERSONALLY, I believe that there are many who would follow her, or who have already come to such conclusions on their own. In my novel The Queen of Stone, Minister Luala of Thrane is diplomatic in her interactions with the creatures of Droaam, notably discussing her regrets with the Silver Crusade and the ‘madness of the zealots’ that it spawned. As I said, I think the adherents of the Pure Flame would disagree, and say that the medusa and the harpy are clearly twisted creatures of innate evil that should be destroyed; so such a ruling by Jaela would surely reate a rift with Dariznu. With Diani or Krozen? It’s a plot you could certainly explore if you want to. But I’ll call out Rellekor; where many fear tieflings, Thrane has created a haven for them. I think if you WANTED to make it an issue, the key thing would be to have a major tragedy instigated by Droaamites—a pack of war trolls slaughtering people in Flamekeep—that Diani or Krozen could use as a rallying point for fear. But again, in my opinion Thrane is the nation whose faithful are MOST likely to embrace compassion, because that is the core of the faith.

That’s all for now! I draw IFAQ topics from my Patreon supporters, as well as polling them to determine the subject of the major article for the month. There’s four days left in the current poll, and it’s currently a tight race between The Library of Korranberg and The Fey of Aundair—but there’s still time for another topic to pull ahead!

Lightning Round: Dragons, Tarkanan, and More!

Hi Everyone!

The last two months have been a whirlwind of travel and deadlines, and that’s kept me largely off the internet. In addition to traveling to GenCon, DragonCon, and XOXO, I’ve been working on Exploring Eberron—The Book Formerly Known As Project Raptor—and also on the game Twogether Studios is developing with the Adventure Zone. I’m also preparing to DM at Level Eater in Portland and G.A.M.E in Springfield!

In my next post I’ll talk more about all of these things, and about Eberron: Rising From The Last War, the Eberron hardcover that is  coming out in November. Today, I want to quickly answer a few questions from my Patreon supporters!

If Aberrant Marks can’t be passed on like normal Dragonmarks, what is life typically like for the children of House Tarkanan?

For those unfamiliar with aberrant dragonmarks or House Tarkanan, this article might be a useful crash course on some of the issues associated with them.

As for this question: remember that “House Tarkanan” is nothing like a Dragonmarked House. It’s a name this organization took in mockery of the Dragonmarked Houses, sort of like a gang calling themselves “The Kings of Callestan.” Just because they call themselves “Kings” doesn’t mean they actually have any sort of sovereign power! The Dragonmarked Houses are multinational guilds formed many centuries ago through the alliances of powerful families. They are dynasties as well as businesses with a presence in multiple nations and on multiple continents. By contrast, House Tarkanan was started less than a decade ago by the survivors of a disavowed Brelish commando unit. It has expanded its operations since then, but it is still a small organization and still fundamentally a criminal organization, NOT a dynasty. You aren’t born into House Tarkanan and you don’t need to marry into it; you’re simply recruited into it. Members often use the last name Tarkanan, but that’s an affectation. The leader of the gang often calls herself Thora Tarkanan, but her actual name is Thora Tavin.

So the main point is that there are no “children of House Tarkanan.” The organization thrives by recruiting new members, not by breeding them. If you’re a Tarkanan enforcer, you could marry a Morgrave librarian and have five kids; marked or unmarked, your spouse and children aren’t considered members of House Tarkanan unless they are recruited into it.

With that said, the issue behind the question is the idea that aberrant dragonmarks aren’t hereditary. And on that point, I’m going to change MY stance slightly. We’ve always said that the most reliable way to produce an aberrant dragonmark is to cross the bloodlines of two different houses—that this is more likely to produce an aberrant mark than a person with an aberrant mark having a child. And I stand by that, in general, with one exception: I think it’s fair to say that if both parents have aberrant dragonmarks, the odds of producing an aberrant child are the same as if you mixed two house bloodlines… that two aberrants ALSO produce a “mixed mark.” Since the War of the Mark, aberrant marks have been so rare that this has rarely been an issue. But now aberrant marks are starting to appear in greater numbers, and forces like House Tarkanan are concentrating them. So this is a factor that COULD lead to House Tarkanan producing more aberrant heirs.

But the critical question is… does it want to? 

Even if you have a more reliable way to produce an aberrant mark, one of the defining factors of aberrant marks is that they are unpredictable: even if two aberrant parents produce a child with an aberrant mark, most likely that mark will have NOTHING IN COMMON with the marks of the parents. The semi-canon example we have of this is in the novel The Son of Khyber. Tarkanan lieutenant Filleon is the son of Ghallanda-Jorasco parents and has a mark that gives him a lethal touch. His daughter Zae has a mark that lets her communicate with and control vermin… nothing to do with his mark, or Jorasco, or Ghallanda. The second key element is that fact that most aberrant marks have serious physical or mental side effects. In Son of Khyber, Filleon has a withered arm that’s a result of his mark, and accidentally killed his mother when his mark manifested. While Zae can communicate with rats, it appears that she can’t actually speak; Filleon himself says that her mark is a mental burden and that he feels pity for her. Essentially, if you’re a Cannith heir with the Mark of Making, there’s no reason not to pass that on to a child. If you’re an aberrant, you have no idea if your child will develop a mark they come to see as a curse, and you also know they’ll be ostracized and persecuted.

With player characters we tend to downplay the negative side effects of aberrant marks and leave it primarily up to the player to roleplay them. But the intent is that aberrant marks are difficult and dangerous. If we look to the X-Men as a comparison, consider Cyclops—the idea that if he loses his glasses, people may die. Or Rogue, unable to touch someone without draining their life force and memories. House Tarkanan wants to protect people with aberrant marks, and to train them to use their powers. But it’s a valid question if they’d actually want to dramatically increase the number of people with aberrant marks, given how often those marks can be a burden to the people who carry them.

Do aberrant marks follow the rules of if they are removed they will manifest again elsewhere on the body? Would they manifest with the same drawback? I know the novel dwarf has essentially regeneration backlash.

Aberrant marks are dragonmarks. As such, yes, if removed they will manifest elsewhere on the body. Essentially, the power doesn’t actually come FROM the physical mark; rather, the mark is a manifestation of the power. Cut the mark off, the power remains, and eventually the mark reappears. Whether the drawback remains the same depends on the drawback. In the case of the ratspeaker Zae, the idea is that her POWER is what drives her a little crazy; she hears whispering rats in her head all the time. As long as she has that power, it will be a burden. On the other hand, if Filleon cut off his withered arm, maybe that would be that… or maybe the power of the mark would cause ANOTHER one of his limbs to wither. There’s no absolute rules, and I don’t see that as something Filleon would be inclined to put to the test.

The dwarf Brom is an unusual character who would be difficult to create as a PC—an example of a greater or Khyber-level mark. He has essentially, a dramatic form of regeneration blended with reincarnation; when he’s injured, the cells regenerate, but typically as cells of a random humanoid. And certainly, if his mark was removed, it would return.

My general understanding is that the Aurum represents an ascendant merchant class that chafes at both Nations’ and the Houses’ powers – Something which puts them at least somewhat into alignment with Tarkanan. How do you think they would align and how would they conflict?

In many ways the Aurum and House Tarkanan are opposites. The Aurum is a collection of wealthy, privileged people who want even more wealth and power. By contrast, House Tarkanan was founded by betrayed soldiers, and represents an alliance of people scorned and feared by all, people who have endured poverty and hardship. Tarkanan is a very SMALL organization – per WGtE, a “small, elite force” and only just starting to establish itself beyond Sharn – while the Aurum is spread across Khorvaire. Members of House Tarkanan are united both by their marks and the persecution they’ve endured; they feel a sense of kinship and they generally do seek to help others with aberrant marks. Meanwhile, the Aurum is largely an alliance of convenience; they aren’t driven to help other wealthy people in need.

I could see two basic points. One would be straightforward. Tarkanan is a group of mercenary criminals. The Aurum are people with money who need mercenaries to do their dirty work. It is thus entirely reasonable for an Aurum mastermind to hire House Tarkanan to assist in an operation targeting a house,  and Tarkanan would be happy to take the job. The other possibility would be for a member of the Shadow Cabinet, such as Antus Soldorak, to recognize Tarkanan as a useful tool in their goal of destabilizing houses; with this in mind, they would offer Tarkanan gold and resources, while suggesting targets. Tarkanan is a small organization and would likely be happy to have that wealthy patron. I wouldn’t make the alliance any more direct than that. Thora would likely know very little about the patron, likely not even their name; part of the point would be that the Aurum could USE Tarkanan—known to have a grudge with the houses—as a catspaw to undertake missions they don’t want traced back to them.

If a dragonmarked heir became a warlord of Droaam somehow, would anyone call them out for violating the Korth Edicts?

Galifar I established the Korth Edicts, which forbid dragonmarked heirs from holding land, noble title, or maintaining military forces. In the wake of the Last War, it’s very unclear who could actually enforce the Korth Edicts. MOST people abide by them, because they carry the weight of centuries of tradition. But there’s a number of active examples where houses are violating the Edicts and nothing is being done. Essentially, sure, someone COULD call them out… and then what? Unless that person has powerful friends who take such an interest that they are willing to try to lean on the heir’s Baron to address the situation, odds are good it would be one more case where the Edicts are been violated and nothing is being done.

With that said, it’s also a weird issue because Droaam isn’t recognized as a sovereign nation. As such, being a warlord of Droaam likely wouldn’t be recognized as a “noble title” under the terms of the Edicts.

In an episode of Manifest Zone you (I think!) mentioned that the giants of Xen’drik were more like titans rather than the several sub-races that exist now. Could you expand on that at all? If the giants were like titans did the dragons curse the race when they destroyed their empire, deliberately fragmenting the race so they could not rise to dominance again?

That’s correct. This is covered in the 3.5 sourcebooks Secrets of Xen’drik and City of Stormreach. This is from City of Stormreach. 

In dealing with the giants of Xen’drik, it’s important to bear in mind that the giants have not always been such a divergent species. Many scholars claim that all modern giants—stone and hill, fire and frost—share a common biological ancestor, beyond the mythical titans. Some adventurers speak of encounters with primordial giants or eldritch giants, and this could be the answer to these stories. In any case, evidence exists that a few of the giant subspecies—such as the fire giants of the Sul’at League—existed prior to the great cataclysm. But others, most notably the hill giants, are said to be the result of curses unleashed in that war… powers unleashed by the dragons to prevent any giant nation from rising to its prior heights.

Titans were founders and leaders of many of the giant nations, while the “common” giants were more in the mode of storm giants or eldritch giants. The dragons unleashed epic curses—the Traveler’s Curse, the Durashka Tul, and more—and the modern giants are a reflection of these curses.

Are the half-giants a result of magebreeding or some sort of result of the curses like the hill giants? Are they actually “half” anything or are they simply the smallest giants?

The canon answer is given in the Player’s Guide to Eberron:

In the distant past, giant explorers from Xen’drik visited southern Sarlona. Their descendants are the half-giants described in the Expanded Psionics Handbook. It is unclear whether half-giants actually have human ancestry or are simply degenerate descendants of the titans of Xen’drik (as most giant kinds are believed to be).

This is echoed in Secrets of Sarlona…

Perhaps the most baffling of all the races on the continent, the nomadic half-giants of Sarlona are descendants of ancient giant explorers from Xen’drik. Some say the half-giants are degenerate offspring of the Xen’drik titans, while others contend they have a mixed human ancestry.

Are ogres and trolls actually related to the giants in the ways they are in other settings, or are they simply parallel creatures with similar traits (size, strength, ferocity) but different origins?

In my opinion, ogres and trolls are entirely unrelated to giants, which is one reason we suggests that the ogres and trolls of Khorvaire should speak Goblin instead of Giant. Trolls are likely part of the same biological path as orcs; ogres developed on Sarlona.

I am using Sarmondelaryx as a Patron for one of my players, in my campaign she has been sealed by Harryn Stormblade a couple of centuries prior to the start of our campaign. What kind of goals would you think she would be aspiring to for when she manages to get released? 

Sarmondelaryx is a character referenced in the Thorn of Breland novel series. She is a rogue red dragon possessing a set of powerful dragonshard artifacts; these help her avoid detection (and thus the Eyes of Chronepsis) and to bind souls, which has the effect of extending her life. She is infamous for having killed the first Prince Thrane and devastating the nation in the early days of Galifar.

So: Sarmondelaryx is a powerful, virtually immortal dragon with enemies in both Argonnessen and Ashtakala. She has consumed demons and slain dragons, and personally I would double down on her desire to make both sides suffer—to be a wild card in the ancient war between the Conclave and the Lords of Dust. I’d see her trying to stir up conflicts between the Lords of Dust and the Chamber, setting situations where they end up fighting each other while Sarmondelaryx (or her agent) escapes with whatever prize they were seeking. What does she want? She always wants to increase her own power… but as much as anything, I think she enjoys the game of outsmarting both of the superpowers, making her enemies suffer and proving her superiority.

The church of the silver Flame seems to have a lot of variance in its presentation by author. Structurally, it consistently has the big three orders of ministers/Templars/friars. Are other orders subsidiaries of those? Same organizational level but smaller and less prominent?

Certainly. The templars, ministers, and friars are the core roles of the church. The templar defends; the minister guides a particular community; and the friar remains in motion, bringing the light of the Flame to dark places. But within those three broad categories there are many orders and sects, many with narrower missions. For example, the Argentum is technically tied to the Templars, but it is tasked with seeking out dangerous magical relics. Some of these lesser orders are also specific to particular nations; the Argentum is a Thrane order.

That’s all for now—stay tuned for more on Exploring Eberron!

Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 3/19

I’m just back from the JoCo Cruise and about to head off to PAX East, and I haven’t had an opportunity to write the next installment of the Dark Six series. Instead, I’m going to do a quick Q&A with questions submitted by my awesome Patreon supporters. These questions fall into two categories: some are questions that have canon answers, while others are essentially asking for speculation. What other failed secessions happened during the Last War, for example; none are mentioned in canon sources that I’m aware of, so any answers I give are me telling you what I might do in MY campaign. I’m marking these answers NC. 

The current political map of Khorvaire is defined largely by successful secessions – Valenar, the Mror Holds, and the Eldeen Reaches, to name a few. What kinds of *failed* secessions happened during the Last War?

(NC) One of my main rules of worldbuilding is this: In adding a detail to the lore, can I think of three ways that it could play a meaningful role in a story? I’ve never made a comprehensive list of all the rulers of Galifar, because I’ve never been in a situation where someone needed to know who was king in 464 YK; if it came up randomly at my table, I’d just make up a name and make a note of it. I bring this up for two reasons. First of all, you’ve generally heard about the winners because they HAVE defined the present map; and second, that means in describing failed secessions, I’m only interested in coming up with ideas that COULD play an interesting role in a story… whether that’s driving adventure, creating a colorful NPC or villain, or being tied to a character’s backstory.

With that in mind, here’s one idea.

Faldren’s Folly. The drive to rid Breland of the monarchy didn’t begin with Ruken ir’Clarn. In 961 YK, King Boranex of Breland committed suicide after the deaths of his two eldest sons. While Prince Boranel had proven himself in war, he was seen as an adventurer and dilettante. Commander Rand Faldren sought to rally support within the Brelish army for an overthrow of the monarchy, placing power in the hands of the parliament. He stopped short of attempting a coup, and stood down when the majority of parliament condemned the idea. However, soon thereafter he seized control of Orcbone, the fortress by the Graywall Mountains. He proclaimed the fortress to be the heart of “New Wroat,” reclaiming the pre-Galifar name of the nation, and called on those who sought freedom to join him, following the model of Q’barra. Breland dispatched a small force to retake Orcbone, which failed; given that the region was strategically unimportant and there were pressing concerns on other fronts, Boranel chose to pull soldiers back rather than to devote a major force to bring down Faldren; essentially, he put it on Faldren to defend his new settlers. This proved a disaster. As numbers grew, Faldren encouraged settlers to establish themselves in the foundation of an old goblin city… the city we now know as Graywall. These settlers were prepared for minotaur raiders, and repelled a few attacks. But they weren’t prepared for the skullcrusher ogres and war trolls that came later—the first appearance of the elite forces of Sora Maenya. The force drove deeper into New Wroat and laid waste to Orcbone. Rand Faldren was dismembered and his head was never found; some believe Sora Maenya still has it.

Boranel responded swiftly to the destruction. Orcbone was reclaimed and fortified, and many settlers were safely returned east. While some were grateful, others felt that Faldren was a martyr to the principles of a democratic Breland—that he was driven to his fate by the outdated monarchy, and that Boranel left the settlers to die because they challenged his authority. Today any western cells of the Swords of Liberty call Faldren a hero, and demand that stronger action be taken against the creatures of Droaam.

As an idea, this is tied to existing principles—the rise of Droaam and the ongoing uncertainty about the fate of the Brelish Monarchy. It serves as a rallying point for the Swords of Liberty. And a PC could have lost family in Faldren’s Folly… perhaps still yearning for vengeance against Sora Maenya or the troll commander who slaughtered their parents.

In each country, what power group would be most likely to react to a planar invasion ? Assuming it’s more covert than just a giant portal opening and a massive horde coming through. The invasion starting under the radar but growing as major threat as time progresses.

First and foremost: Who should deal with a covert planar invasion? The player characters. Eberron has always been designed as a world where there aren’t tons of powerful benevolent forces and where the ones that do exist are often limited in some way. So I’m going to continue to talk about the forces that might come into play, but in an ideal story, these forces WOULDN’T just solve the problem on their own. Perhaps they’re crippled by infighting or corruption. Perhaps they’ve been infiltrated and compromised by the invading forces. Essentially, even if the Church of the Silver Flame is ultimately the force that would fight such a thing, in my campaign the question would always be How do the player characters play a central role in that defense? 

With that said… most of the modern nations don’t have “Planar Invasion” agencies. On the one hand this is because they’re been focused on carrying out an actual war against very concrete, mundane enemies: Karrnath has been too busy fighting Thrane to devote much of their budget to the Xoriat Defense Initiative. However, part of the reason for this is that there’s a very well established and respected military force that is dedicated to protecting people of all nations from exactly this sort of threat: The Church of the Silver Flame. People often look at the Church of the Silver Flame through the lens of religion in our world. In OUR history, militant religions have often used that military force to impose their beliefs on others. But that’s never been the purpose of the templars. Instead, they are a volunteer army dedicated to defending ALL innocents—regardless of their nation or their beliefs—from the very real supernatural threats that exist in Eberron. At any time there could be a planar incursion, a horde of aberrations bursting out of Khyber, an overlord unleashed, or—just as a random example—a deadly surge in lycanthropy. And when that last one happened, who came to the defense of the people of Aundair? The Church of the Silver Flame.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The Church of the Silver Flame has more in common with the Jedi and the Men in Black than with any religion in our world. The Silver Flame isn’t a traditional god; it is a force that holds demons at bay and that empowers champions who fight to defend the innocent from supernatural threats. Breland doesn’t need a Planer Defense Initiative because they know that IF such a threat arises, templars and exorcists from across the Five Nations will stand against it, and they DO specialize in dealing with this sort of thing. Again, when the Purge happened, Galifar as a whole said “Not our problem;” It was the Silver Flame that took action. Having said this: The Lycanthropic Purge shows that the best-intentioned plans can have terrible consequences. The Pure Flame sees the faith as a weapon to punish the wicked as opposed to a shield to protect the innocent. The rise of the theocracy has created opportunities for those who pursue rank in the church because they seek power as opposed to being devoted to defending the innocent. Part of the point of Eberron is that few things are entirely good or evil. But at its heart, defending the innocent from planar incursions is exactly the job of the Church of the Silver Flame.

The Gatekeepers are next in line as a force specifically trained and dedicated to protecting Eberron from planar incursions. However, they are a small force and lack the widespread recognition of the Silver Flame. If an exorcist of the Silver Flame shows up, presents their holy symbol and says “There’s a planar breach, I need you to get out of the way” many people would respond to their authority; whereas if someone says “I’m a Gatekeeper, I need your help” most people in Sharn will say “A what now?” The same holds true for the Shadow Watchers of the Kalashtar; while primarily dedicated to fighting the Dreaming Dark, they might uncover other planar agendas… but they lack resources or influence.

Beyond this, however, a covert threat is a covert threat. How different is this threat from one posed by mundane terrorists or spies? As such, you could get the King’s Citadel (note that the Blackened Book of Sharn and the King’s Wands are trained to deal with mystical threats), the Royal Eyes of Aundair, or the Trust of Zilargo engaging with such a threat.

Speaking of planar incursions, we know of the Daelkyr Invasion and the lycanthrope and shifter Lamannia exodus during the Purge, and feyspires being stuck in Eberron, are there any other historical en masse planar jumps either to Eberron from other planes and natives or a time when a significant group of Eberron natives went elsewhere in the cosmos?

(NC) This is back to noncanon speculation. The short answer? Yes, absolutely. The longer answer will have to wait, because it requires me to actually sit down and make some up. Just for a start, I’ll point you to my article on Mabar; there’s certainly regions that have been pulled into Mabar in the past.

There are no Daanvi manifest zones in any canon material. What would one be like, do you think?

(NC) Manifest zones channel some aspect of the plane. Daanvi is more subtle than some of the planes; per the 3.5 ECS, there are no effects when Daanvi is coterminous. Personally, I think it’s that there’s no physically obvious effects when Daanvi is coterminous, but that’s a subject for another time. The basic issue is the imposition of law and order. Here’s just a few ways I could imagine this manifesting.

  • Modrons manifest in the region, designing and maintaining a system of pendulums or some other monument to stability and order.
  • The region is permanently under the influence of a zone of truth.
  • Magic that seems inherently “lawful” could be cast at a higher spell slot in the region, with disadvantage to save versus its effects; magic that is inherently chaotic could have its effect minimized, and saves could have advantage.
  • The region could subtly push people to come together in groups, to embrace rules and laws or surrender freedoms. On some level, one could make a case that Korranberg could be in a manifest zone to Daanvi, which drove the original foundation of the Trust and enhanced people’s willingness to grant such brought authority to the institution.
  • Natural phenomena could manifest in ways that are unnaturally symmetrical or uniform.

Kalashtar: do you see most of them living in kalahtar communities, or more like a family secret that’s passed down through the generations, and you may or may not meet another kalashtar in your lifetime? And would an orphaned kalashtar simply believe themselves to be human, though with strange/unexplainable experiences?

Per canon, there’s a few factors here.

  • Kalashtar are described as mostly living in kalashtar communities.
  • Kalashtar lineage is very clear cut. If a human and kalashtar have a child, there’s a 50/50 chance of that child being human or kalashtar, and it’s 100% one or the other; either it inherits the bond and is kalashtar or it’s not and is entirely human. So it’s not like it lingers in the bloodline as a latent trait that can manifest in the child of two human parents.
  • By canon, kalashtar are close to human—in 3.5 they don’t have a penalty when disguising themselves as human—but they still HAVE to disguise themselves in order to pass as human. Kalashtar are kalashtar. Their body language, their features, the eyes-that-can-glow-when-they’re-emotional… if they aren’t hiding it, they’re just as distinctive as, say, an elf. Because they are rarer than elves, there are many people who see them and don’t know exactly what they are; but if they aren’t trying to hide it, it’s clear that they aren’t entirely human.
  • It is established in canon that an orphan kalashtar doesn’t inherently gain an understanding of what it means to be a kalashtar or of the true nature of their kalashtar spirit. So you can have a kalashtar orphan who doesn’t KNOW what they are… but they will CERTAINLY know that they are different from the humans around them. On the other hand, in a world with sorcerers and aberrant dragonmarks they may not assume “I am a different species,” but they will know they are different.

That’s all by canon. As with all things in Eberron, you can always do what makes a good story. Do you want to play the first kalashtar somehow born to two human parents? Then do it (with your DM’s permission, of course). But that’s definitely not normal.

Are the Kalashtar’s pale skin and black hair the general look for people from Adar? The Inspired are also fairly pale with (purple-blue?) dark hair, so is that region of Sarlona just known for pale people?  Or is there a huge spread, dark skin, pale skin, in between, dark hair, fair hair, curly hair, straight hair, so that noticing a Kalashtar or Inspired from far away isn’t as cut and dry (ignoring that Disguise exists and they still look weird and have glowy eyes)?

Sarlona is home to a diverse range of ethnicities based on its highly divergent environments—the Tashana Tundra, the deserts of Syrkarn, the Corvaguran rain forests, the mountains of Adar. The Inspired were drawn from across Sarlona, appearing in ALL of the nations involved in the Sundering, so there should absolutely be a full spectrum; now you call it out, I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen any dark skinned Inspired in art and I’d like to see that change.

The same is true of the kalashtar. Despite the limited depictions in art, this is from the EPG:

The monastery where the sixty-seven humans became kalashtar was a place of refuge, so the humans who lived there were diverse. Kalashtar have thus retained a diversity of appearance, possessing the same variety of skin, hair, and eye colors found among humans. They are usually slimmer and taller than humans, although short or stocky kalashtar exist.

I also feel that while the quori bond doesn’t remain latent in the human side of the gene pool — a child either has it or they don’t — a kalashtar inherits physical traits from both its parents, So you could have three kalashtar who share the same quori spirit but are physically distinct from one another.

If you imagine Droaam has an Ithilid population beyond it’s mayor. What attempts could be made to reconcile their brain-eating needs the same way troll-flesh is used to reconcile the carnivorous population’s needs?

By canon, Droaam doesn’t have a significant Illithid population. Xorchyllic is called out as being a very unusual exception, found imprisoned below Graywall and working with the Daughters of Sora Kell for reasons of its own. In general I see mind flayers as being far more alien than most of the creatures of Droaam; while I have nothing against the idea of having a few more in the mix, in my campaign their motives would be VERY different from any other warlords.

So first of all, you’re only feeding one or maybe a few mind flayers, not an entire army of carnivorous creatures. So I don’t see an industry around it. My assumption is that Xorchyllic acts as judge, jury, and executioner in Graywall, and execution involves it eating your brain. If it’s especially hungry, then guess what, jaywalking just became a capital offense…

To what extent does Rekkenmark train officers, as opposed to elite troops or even standard troops. Is it primarily about tactics or skill? In 4e terms, is it training warlords, or fighters, or both?

Here’s a few quotes from Five Nations. 

  • After the Kingdom of Galifar was established, military officers from across the land trained at the Rekkenmark Academy.
  • What if she washed out of the academy? A third of first-year officers don’t come back to Rekkenmark for the second year.

  • The vast majority of warlords and officers in the various Karrnathi armies graduated with honors from the Rekkenmark Academy and earned a place in the Order of Rekkenmark.

So: Rekkenmark ACADEMY trains officers. That could be 4E warlords; in 5E battle master fighters and Purple Dragon Knights could definitely be part of the Order of Rekkenmark.

The critical point here, though, is that Rekkenmark isn’t JUST an academy; it’s a city. And that city is also a central garrison and training center for the general Karrnathi military. So any sort of fighter might have “Trained at Rekkenmark.” The question is if you graduated from the Academy and if you’re part of the Order (which would be an interpretation of the “Military Rank” benefit of the Soldier background.)

That’s all for now! If you’re going to be at PAX East, I’ll be at the Twogether Studios/Table Titans booth. And if you haven’t seen it already, check out my recent release The Morgrave Miscellany on the DM’s Guild! And while you’re there, take a look at Rime or Reasonthe latest installment in the Across Eberron adventure path!

Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 6-18

I’m dealing with a deadline and don’t have time to address a topic in depth, so here’s a quick lightning round of Eberron questions submitted by my Patreon supporters.

What were some of your plans for Greykell that never made it to print or comic?

For those who don’t know, Greykell ir’Ryc is a character who first appears in my novel City of TowersShe later became the protagonist of the comic Eye of the Wolf; the easiest way to find it now is in this collection.

Eye of the Wolf left a number of hooks I’d love to explore. In the last panel you can see that Greykell has the battlefist of her warforged companion, Mace, sitting on a bench. So if I’d picked it up, the immediate story would have been finding Mace and getting the band back together. Following that, the primary plotline would be unlocking the mystery of the Key to the Kingdom of Night, the artifact revealed in Eye of the Wolf. What is its purpose? Why does the Emerald Claw want it? Beyond this, there’s certainly questions to be resolved concerning Greykell’s lineage, her sword, and other things. So: that’s what I had in mind at the time. If I were to pick her story up again, I’d consider if there were any new directions I’d rather take.

How rare are dragonmarks and dragonshards, numerically? I can’t come up with a relatable analogy or real-world example. 1) How limited of a resource are dragonshards? Equivalent to Industrial Revolution coal? Or gold? 

Good question. Starting with dragonmarks, it depends on the type. Eberron dragonshards are the basic fuel of the magical economy. In my opinion they are fairly common and are usually encountered in a refined, powdered form; you can almost think of this as Eberron’s answer to oil. What I’ve said before is that in magic item creation, it should be understood that a chunk of the “base GP cost” represents Eberron dragonshards—that pretty much any major act of creation will use them.

Siberys and Khyber shards are considerably rarer, and would be more in line with uranium. They are crucial for certain types of magic, but not generally used for trivial effects and much harder to come by.

Are dragonshards a renewable resource?

Yes and no. They are a form of crystal; it’s not implausible to say that Eberron shards form naturally over time. However, if this occurs, it’s not fast. The discover of new shard fields in Q’barra wouldn’t be as important if the existing fields were a never-ending cornucopia. Essentially, I’ve never intended there to be a storyline in which the world simply runs out of dragonshards, but it is the case that the discover of a new source of shards is supposed to be valuable and significant.

How often would you encounter someone with a dragonmark on the streets of Sharn, or in your modest village?

What we’ve said before is that about 50% of dragonmarked heirs develop the least manifestation of the mark. Someone who does develop a mark has a valuable skill and a tie to a dragonmarked house. So looking to your modest village, it’s relatively unlikely: unless they are performing a specific job in the village, why wouldn’t they take that mark to the big city and make some gold? As for Sharn, we actually did a dragonmarked breakdown when we were working on the Sharn: City of Towers book. I don’t remember the results, but there were definitely hundreds of least-marked heirs, if not thousands.

Both Shard and Mark are required to perform most of the abilities that run the Eberron economy, so how common are these “jobs,” of all jobs in the economy?

Of all jobs in the economy? Not very. An airship needs a pilot with the Mark of Storm (and maybe a co-pilot for a long flight); compare that the the number of people working maintenance or support on any flight. A Sivis message station needs an heir to operate the stone, but it’s not as those there’s a message station on every street corner. Cannith heirs run the creation forges and similar focus items, but there’s many more jobs that simply require magecraft or mundane talent.

Short form: The marked services are the things that give the houses their edge, since others simply can’t provide these services. But they are a small percentage of the actual jobs in the world.

How do you feel about the loophole in 3.5 that allows goodberry to provide healing in the Mournland? Is this something that should carry over to 5e, or other systems?

I’ve never considered it an absolute rule that healing doesn’t function in the Mournland, because I don’t think anything about the Mournland should be absolutely reliable. Given that, I’m fine with the idea of unusual resources and approaches (goodberries, healing potions brewed in the Mournland, etc) that healing possible. Essentially, what’s important to me is that the Mournland means that you can’t rely on the things you’re used to.

With that said, the goodberry effect wasn’t intentionally planned out, so I don’t care if that PARTICULAR loophole makes its way into 5E; I’m just saying that I’m amenable to DMs providing ways for PCs to heal in the Mournland, as long as it requires some effort.

Is there a holiday involving gift-giving in Eberron?

A simple option is Boldrei’s Feast (9 Rhaan), which is a celebration of community. Another possibility is Sun’s Blessing (15 Therendor) which is a day of peace and a time to set aside differences. Aureon’s Crown (26 Dravago) is a day for people to share knowledge.

Those are all in canon. Unofficially, I introduced a tradition in one of my campaigns which I just called “The Gifts of the Traveler,” which was effectively a Secret Santa exchange. In my campaign, the warforged paladin gave another character a collection of poems she’d written called Rust & Blood; given that none of us knew she was writing poems, it was kind of sweet.

Does the Blood of Vol have a “Martin Luther” character in its lore, that have experienced and rejected the machiavellian schemes of Vol and the Crimson Covenant, and seeks to create a more “pure” faith? 

Not by canon, but I think ALL the religions of Eberron should have this sort of thing. Part of the point of faith in Eberron is that there’s no one absolute authority on interpretation. We’ve talked about the Time of Two Keepers with the Silver Flame, not to mention the Pure Flame. We’ve already called out that the BoV has a few divergent paths—those who believe in a war against the Sovereigns, those interested solely in personal ascension, those loyal to the Queen of Death. So: there’s no existing NPC, but it’s a great story to explore.

Given the assumption that all arcane magic can be ultimately drawn from one of the planes, which plane do you think would manipulate time (slow, haste, time stop, etc.)

That’s not my personal assumption, but GIVEN that assumption, I’d either use Thelanis or Xoriat. Thelanis because of the idea that time is unpredictable in the fey realm and because it is about the world behaving in a magical way; Xoriat because it embodies things NOT working in accordance with nature, and if you’re breaking natural laws it’s a reasonable force to use.

Does Droaam have any kind of international trade aside from byeshk and brokering monsters through House Tharashk?

Like Darguun, I see Droaam as still focusing on establishing its own infrastructure. They’re building and expanding their own cities and working on producing or acquiring the resources they need to keep the nation going. Mercenaries services and Byeshk are two known commodities that already have a market. Beyond these, they are still figuring out what surpluses they may have or what they can produce. So right now, I don’t see them as offering much more (aside from things like Dragon’s Blood, which is under the table). But if you want to INTRODUCE something as a new development, that makes perfect sense. And bear in mind that “mercenary” is a loaded term that sounds like it’s solely about soldiers. Most of the “monstrous mercenaries” Tharashk manages in Sharn are ogre laborers, gargoyle couriers, and other nonviolent services.

A side note here: Many of the dragonmarked houses are interested in Droaam BECAUSE it’s largely undeveloped and it’s not yet known what resources they possess. So there’s certainly merchants in Graywall both looking to sell the things that Droaam needs and to see if they can make deals to get unique resources that haven’t yet been fully tapped.

Have you ever used Argonth or any of the floating fortresses in any of your games? 

I never have! I’ve thought about it a few times—in developing games for CCD20, “Die Hard on Argonth” has been on my list—but no, I never have.

Are you going to be allowed to talk about converting Waterdeep: Dragon Heist for Eberron when the time comes?

I don’t think I’m forbidden from talking about anything. What I’m not allowed to do is to produce concrete material: adventures, race conversions, etcSo I could do an article on this site about a general conversion, as long as I had the time to do it. I just couldn’t actually convert NPC stats to Eberron or present my version of Dragonmarks as part of it.

That’s it! Feel free to post additional questions below—though as I am very busy, I can’t promise they’ll be answered.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes for 5e shows that Mordenkainen (who in 3e was a 27th level wizard) is aware of Eberron and the Last War. What would you do with the implication that high level wizards like Elminster, Murlynd and Dalamar do visit Eberron?

Well, Mordenkainen could be aware of Eberron without actually having visited it. Setting aside epic scrying magic, he could have consulted with other travelers—plucked images of Eberron from the memories of a mind flayer.

I have two main caveats concerning any connection between Eberron and other planes. The first is that it has to be optional. The flip side of “There’s a place for everything in Eberron…” is “… but you get to decide whether you use it.” If someone WANTS to put Elminster in Eberron, more power to ’em—but *I* don’t.

But assuming you DO: one of the design principles of Eberron is that there’s no powerful good guys. If the Tarrasque attacks Sharn, there’s no 27th level wizards sitting around waiting to teleport in and solve the problem. Where there ARE powerful benevolent NPCs—The Keeper of the Flame, the Great Druid—they are limited in some way. Jaela loses her powers if she leaves Flamekeep. Oalian is a giant tree. So if I were to add Elminster into Eberron, I’d want to add a similar handicap. Two options come to mind. The first is that he can’t exercise his full powers without disrupting some sort of balance—whenever he uses his magic in Eberron, Sul Khatesh learns one of his secrets, and once she learns them all she’ll be freed (and he knows this). The second option—which can be combined with the first—is that the Chamber is aware of him and will act to eliminate him if he threatens to disrupt the balance. Even a 27th level wizard should tread lightning around a host of epic level dragons.

So I’m fine with saying that they’ve been around but tread lightly… or exploring the consequences of them NOT treading lightly. For example, I’d love to say The Daelkyr Incursion was the result of Mordenkainen coming to Eberronwhatever method he used to breach the planes drew the attention of the Daelkyr and ultimately destroyed the Empire of Dhakaan.

You may have mentioned this in a prior post, but what do you use/think for the religious views of the jhorash’tal orcs?

Personally, I see the Jhorash’tal orcs as culturally distinct from the orcs of both the Shadow Marches and Demon Wastes. I use a blend of Sovereigns and Six—similar to the Three Faces of War, but encompassing some of the others as well.

what do you think of animal familiar in Eberron? What does it say on magic the fact that every wizard and every sorcerer has one?

Two things there: whether EVERY wizard and sorcerer has one is a function of the edition you’re playing. Even if that is the case, remember that both wizards and sorcerers are rare in Eberron. Most professional spellworkers are magewrights. So familiars will be rare even if every wizard has one.

Second, there critical question is what is a familiar? The traditional familiar is a normal animal that becomes a magical beast when summoned to service. In essence, a minor spirit of some sort possesses the animal body. You could present this as being extraplanar (and in the case of a warlock, an emissary of the warlock’s patron). However, I’m more inclined to say that it’s a manifestation of the spellcaster’s subconscious mind. Especially if ALL wizards have one, I’d argue that when you unlock the part of your mind that allows you to master arcane magic—shaping reality with your thoughts and words—that it allows your subconscious to manifest through a local vessel. The familiar is literally the voice of the piece of you that understands magic.

But that’s just my idea.

Dragonmarks: Lightning Round 2/17/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragonmarks: Tieflings

In a previous Dragonmark I wrote about my general approach to adding exotic races to Eberron. Since then there’s been a fair amount of interest in a race that already has a vaguely defined role in canon Eberron: The Tiefling. While tieflings have come up in canon sources — the Venomous Demesne is mentioned in the 4E sourcebooks — as always, this is what I’d do in my personal campaign and it may contradict canon material.

The basic concept of the tiefling is a humanoid touched by infernal powers. Some interpretations present the concept of an empire whose lords bargained with dark forces; in others, tieflings are loners without a clear culture or path. As always, my goal in adding a new race is to find out what the players are looking for. If I have a player asking to be a tiefling, do they want to be part of an ancient tradition of warlocks? Would they rather play a loner who feels cursed by their infernal blood? Here’s two different approaches, each of which provides a very different story for a player to build on.

THE VENOMOUS DEMESNE

The Sarlonan nation of Ohr Kaluun was infamous for delving into dark magics. In the depths of their war labyrinths, the mage-lords of Ohr Kaluun forged pacts with infernal spirits and tapped into the powers of the planes. Over generations this twisted the blood of the nobles, producing the first tieflings. This corruption didn’t go unnoticed. Khaleshite crusaders fought bitterly against Ohr Kaluun, and fear of the demonic taint of Ohr Kaluun spreading across Sarlona was a cornerstone of the civil strife that resulted in the Sundering. The civilization of Ohr Kaluun was wiped out during the Sundering, but a small force of nobles and their retainers escaped across the sea. These refugees created a hidden enclave on the west coast of Khorvaire. Over the course of centuries, they regained a portion of their pride and power. They inspired fear in the savage creatures that lived around them, and their realm became known as the Venomous Demesne. The tiefling lords were largely content in their isolation until the Daughters of Sora Kell rose to power in the region and sought to unify the wilds into the nation of Droaam. Sora Teraza herself came to the Venomous Demesne, bypassing the mystical concealment as if it didn’t exist. She spoke to the Council of Four, and none know what she said. But in the days that followed, the noble lines sent representatives to the Great Crag and joined in the grand experiment of Droaam.

The Venomous Demesne is a tiefling community and culture. It is a small hidden city, whose population includes both humans and tieflings… though many of the humans have minor signs of infernal heritage, even if they don’t have the full racial mechanics. The Demense is ruled by an alliance of four tiefling families, and the members of these families are powerful casters delving into many paths of magic: there are warlocks, clerics, and wizards of all schools. Their powers are vast, but grounded in dark bargains made in the past. To most outsiders, their traditions seem arbitrary and cruel. The price of magic is often paid for in pain and blood. Duels are an important part of their culture – never to the death, as they are still too few in number to squander noble blood so casually, but always with a painful cost for the loser.

If you are a full-blooded tiefling of the Venomous Demense, you are a scion of a noble line – a line that made bargains with malefic powers in the past. Your people have long been extremely insular, shunning all contact with the outside world. Now that they are expanding into Droaam, some are interested in knowing more about Khorvaire and the opportunities it presents. Consider the following options…

  • Your noble house is the weakest of the four lines. You are searching for allies or powers that will allow your house to gain dominance over the Venomous Demesne.
  • You are a lesser heir of your house and will never achieve status in the Demesne. You are seeking personal power that will let you take control of your house. You’re especially interested in the Mourning; it reminds you of stories you’ve heard about the magics of Ohr Kaluun, and you wonder if you could unlock and master its powers.
  • You have discovered a terrible secret about your ancestors and the bargains that they made… a pact that is about to come due. It may be that the cost affects you personally; that it could destroy your house; or that it is a threat to Eberron itself. Perhaps an Overlord is due to be released, or a planar incursion will occur if you can’t stop it. The Council of Four won’t listen to you – so you’re on your own.
  • You have been exiled from the Demesne. This could be because of a duel you lost, a crime you committed, or a crime you WOULDN’T commit. Perhaps you were ordered to participate in a pact that would damn your soul, or to murder someone you cared about. You can never return: what destiny can you find in the outer world?

You are from a hidden city of dark wonders, and the Five Nations seem hopelessly primitive and savage to you. Where is the blood wine? Where is the music of the spheres? Imagine you’re an alien from an advanced civilization, forced to deal with savages.

PLANETOUCHED TIEFLINGS

The tieflings of the Venomous Demesne were mystically engineered. Their ancestors chose to become tieflings by binding dark powers to their blood. But those same dark powers can leak into the world uncalled for. During coterminous periods, planar influences can shape an unborn child; this is especially true in a manifest zone. In this way, a Tiefling can be born into a human family. This occurs most frequently in the Demon Wastes, and among the Carrion Tribes Tieflings are seen as blessed, often rising to positions of power in a tribe. Within the Five Nations such births are more often viewed with fear and concern. This is often justified. A planetouched Tiefling isn’t the result of a bargain or pact. They are touched by planar power, and this shapes them in both body and mind.

When making a planetouched tiefling, the first question is which plane you’re tied to and how that manifests physically and mentally.

  • Fernia is an obvious choice, as its residents include devils and demons and many Tiefling racial abilities are tied to fire. A Fernian tiefling fits the classic appearance. Skin could be fiery red or orange, and warm to the touch. Eyes could be glowing embers, and when the tiefling grows angry the ambient temperature could rise. A Fernian tiefling would be fiery and passionate, with an innate love for seeing things destroyed by flame.
  • Shavarath is also a good choice, as it is home to the majority of fiends that resemble tieflings. A tiefling tied to Shavararath might have horns of steel, and their skin could seem to be made of leather or iron, though this would be a cosmetic effect only. A fiend of Shavarath could keep the standard flame-based powers, but would have a martial nature and strong instinct for aggression, conquest, or bloodshed.
  • Risia also works as the counterpoint to Fernia. A Risian tiefling would have pale white or silvery skin and hair. Their horns might actually be made of ice, staying frozen even in the warmest temperatures, and they might draw heat from their surroundings. A Risian tiefling should have resistance to cold instead of fire, and their Hellish Rebuke would inflict cold damage. Emotionally, Risian tieflings tend to be cold and distant, rarely showing emotion or compassion.
  • Mabar is home to succubi, and a Mabaran tiefling takes after these fiends. A Mabaran tiefling replaces fire resistance with resistance to necrotic damage, and replaces Hellish Rebuke with Arms of Hadar. Mabaran tieflings are often extremely attractive; some have natural skin tones, while others have unnaturally dark skin. Mabaran tieflings are predators by nature and often sociopaths or narcissists.
  • Sakah are tieflings of the Demon Wastes who are touched by the power of the rakshasa. Instead of the horns and tail of the typical tiefling they have feline traits – cat’s eyes, fangs, skin with tiger-stripe patterns, often in unnatural colors. Sakah can use the exact same racial traits as the traditional tiefling, though with the DM’s permission you can exchange Hellish Rebuke (at 3rd level) for the ability to use Alter Self once per day. Sakah are inherently deceptive and manipulative; like the Mabaran tieflings, they are almost exclusively sociopath who have difficulty empathizing with humans.

A critical point here: you aren’t simply touched by the plane, you are touched by its fiendish influences. The fiends of Fernia don’t simply represent fire: Fernian demons reflect the chaotic, terrifying destructive power of fire, while Fernia devils embody the use of fire as a tool for destruction and torment. A genasi is an individual tied to neutral elemental forces: as a tiefling, you are a malevolent embodiment of the planar concept. If you’re a tiefling from Shavarath, you’ve innately got a strong bond to the Mockery – you might want to follow the path of Dol Arrah, but it will definitely be a struggle as your instincts push you towards treachery and cruelty.

Unlike the tieflings of the Venomous Demesne, planetouched tieflings aren’t a true-breeding race; they have no communities or culture. Were you abandoned by your parents who considered you a freakish mutation? Did they instead embrace you and try to help you find a place in the world? Are you a bitter lone wolf, or someone who has fought to find acceptance in public society? Were you born in the Demon Wastes and considered to be blessed… and if so, why did you ever leave? Most of all, do you consider the touch of the plane a curse or a blessing?

PUBLIC REACTION

So the question that comes up most often is how do people in (place) react to tieflings? People in Thrane must hate them, because they’re like demons, right?

Well, sort of. The point I’ve made before is that WE look at the tiefling and see a demon: but the demons the people of Eberron know best are rakshasa, so “horns and red skin” doesn’t automatically mean “evil.” Consider the vast number of monstrous humanoids that exist in the world: if you live in Sharn you’ve encountered harpies, gargoyles, ogres, goblins, shifters, changlings, warforged, and potentially even medusa just doing everyday stuff in town. There’s a creature with living snakes for hair, and while people are definitely UNCOMFORTABLE around medusas, they are still a part of the world.

So the first question is: does the person in question actually know what a tiefling is? By default, tieflings are extremely rare. The tieflings of the Venomous Demesne have always been in hiding. Planetouched tieflings are most common in the Demon Wastes and rarely ever leave it. If you don’t know that a tiefling is connected to fiendish powers, then they are just a person with strange skin and horns. My point in the previous article wasn’t that anyone could mistake a tiefling for a minotaur, but rather that to the casual observer there’s nothing more inherently threatening about a tiefling than there is about a minotaur; both are horned humanoids, and frankly the tiefling is closer to being human. So by default a tiefling won’t produce a reaction of “BURN IT! IT’S A DEMON!” because it’s not the right sort of demon. It’s just some sort of monster, and there are lots of monsters in the world.

With that said, if you WANT the story of persecution and fear, it’s a trivial thing to say that people do know what tieflings are and why they should fear them. Looking to my explanation for planetouched tieflings, I suggested that this is a thing that happens when the destructive planes are coterminous. In this case, as rare as they are, it could be understood that tieflings care the touch of evil – that there is a fiendish taint in their blood, and that most are dangerous and destructive. In this case, I’d look at the treatment of the aberrant dragonmarked as a guideline. Like a tiefling, an aberrant didn’t choose to be cursed – but they possess a dangerous power, and superstition states that they are inclined to be evil. People may not call a priest when a tiefling shows up, but they could certainly treat the tiefling – and any who associate with them – with fear and suspicion, and want nothing to do with them. Followers of the Silver Flame or Dol Arrah could assert that through no fault of their own, the tiefling is inherently inclined to be evil; it might not be a matter of shoot-on-site, but a templar could easily be looking for an excuse to take the twisted thing down.

Now, if this is the path you use, the critical thing would be that if you have BOTH planetouched tieflings and the Venomous Demesne, people will assume the tiefling from the demense is planetouched. Because again, the Demesne has always been hidden and planetouched tieflings aren’t true-breeding; so the idea of a city of tieflings is definitely beyond anyone’s imagining.

RELLEKOR

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea that the village of Rellekor in Thrane has had a large Tiefling community for centuries. How does this tie into these two models? Recall that the Church of the Silver Flame is founded on principles of compassion. It seeks to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. A tiefling has the potential to be a supernatural threat, but it can also be innocent; a tiefling can even become a champion of the Flame.

With this in mind, Rellekor was established as a haven for planetouched tieflings. When Thrane families give birth to a tiefling (due to planar influences), they will usually turn the child over to the church, who will in turn deliver it to Rellekor. Thus, the population of Rellekor is made up of planetouched tieflings with ties to many different planes. It’s not a prison; it’s a place where tieflings can be with their own kind without dealing with the fear of others. Priests of the Flame seek to help tieflings come to terms with their planetouched nature and any gifts or powers associated with it, and help them find a path to the light… while Templars stand ready to deal with those who prove dangerous or irredeemably sociopathic. Note that most of these priests and templars are themselves tieflings.

People of Thrane thus have some concept of tieflings, but bear in mind that part of the point of Rellekor is to keep tieflings from mingling with the general population. The basic attitude is thus that tieflings are dangerous, much like people with aberrant dragonmarks.

If you want to play a tiefling devoted to the Silver Flame, it makes sense that you would have been raised and trained in Rellekor. Otherwise, it can be an interesting location to visit. There are a number of tiefling sages and priests with great wisdom in this place, and it’s also a center for study of the planes tied to the tieflings; if you need insight into Mabar, speak to the Mabarn tiefling monks of Rellekor.

I’m going to leave things there, but hopefully that’s given you some ideas if you’re looking to bring tieflings into your campaign!

 

Dragonmarks 11/14: Warforged and More

It’s been a very busy month, from wonderful events such as Extra Life and ChariD20 to unexpected tragedies like the loss of my friend Mr. Pants. I’m also hard at work on Phoenix: Dawn Command and I hope to talk more about that soon. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Dragonmark, and I don’t want to get rusty.

At the moment, I have no news about 5E Eberron support, though I am still optimistic that there will be news soon. As always, everything I write here is entirely unofficial and may contradict material in canon sources.

How would you emulate a warforged character using the 5E PHB?

I came up with one possible 5E interpretation of the Warforged with Rodney Thompson of WotC for Extra Life; you can find the stats I used here. There are other things I might try – one being the ongoing question of whether warforged should have inherent armor similar to the 3E feat-based armor or follow the 4E hermit crab approach where armor is a shell they attach. The version on my site takes the hermit crab approach; all I’ll say is that I had a fine time with Smith when I played him in Extra Life. Personally, I will continue to experiment with different approaches to the warforged as I continue to evaluate 5E – but I think the current model is a reasonable approach and definitely not overpowered.

What sort of culture is there among warforged? Also, now that the war’s over, how might one warforged from one nation behave around a warforged of a different nation?

Both good questions, but I think the answer is that there’s no clear answer. The warforged have only been free citizens for two years, and they are still creating their culture. The followers of the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades represent two hubs for warforged culture to build around, but any center for warforged population – such as the Cogs in Sharn – could be the genesis of a warforged culture. As for how warforged of different nations behave around each other, it’s the same issue: it’s going to depend on the cultural path they are following. Followers of the Lord of Blades have no loyalty to any human nation, and consider all warforged to be part of one family… while other warforged cling rigidly to national loyalty and military discipline as the only things that have given their lives any sense of meaning. Such a warforged could be very hostile to a ‘forged from an enemy nation. The interesting question is if the ‘forged would act the same way towards a human soldier of that nation, or if he holds greater emnity for rival ‘forged because he still sees them as essentially weapons.

But the ultimate answer is “there is no absolute answer.”

Have you ever used the Lord of Blades in a game? What backstory did you use, if so?

I originally planned for the Lord of Blades to play a significant role in The Dreaming Dark trilogy. WotC decided they didn’t want him to appear in fiction so early in the cycle of the setting, so Harmattan took his place. I developed the Lord of Blades during the original cycle, and he originally had stats in the 3.5 ECS in the same section as Demise and Halas Martain – and like both of them, he had multiple sets of statistics to allow him to evolve as PCs rose in level. He ended up being cut for space, and I think it was just as well as it let DMs take him in different directions. The only time I’ve personally used him in a session it actually ended with the idea that he wasn’t an individual warforged – rather, he was a shared identity created by a cabal of warforged at the end of the war. So in that storyline, it would have been possible for people to fight and defeat a Lord of Blades in one scenario and discover that he was simultaneously doing something elsewhere. It’s a little like saying that Doctor Doom always was a bunch of Doombots working together, who made up the story of “Doctor Doom.”

I suggest a number of other ideas in this Dragonshard – among others, the idea that he could just be Aaren d’Cannith wearing a suit of warforged armor – but I haven’t personally used any of those ideas in games I’ve run.

What pacts do you think work best for warforged warlocks? With pacts made before or after rolling off the creation forge.

That depends how you define a “warforged warlock” and “pact.” For example, in a number of games I have used warforged warlocks who draw their powers from the Mourning. But the idea of this wasn’t that these warforged had made a concrete bargain with a sentient aspect of the Mourning, like a traditional Infernal or Fey warlock; rather it was that they had been touched and twisted by the Mourning. If you are actually playing with the idea of a warforged bargaining with a supernatural entity in exchange for power, I think you could make a case for any pact. I think you could have a very interesting Infernal Warlock based on the idea that a human warlock died and made a bargain that resulted in his soul being inserted into a warforged body… with the underlying threat that the body could be taken away if he fails to live up to the terms of his pact.

Are there mindflayers who support Riedra or the inspired -or that are even inspired themselves? Given their psionic abilities?

As I first discussed in this Dragonshard article, Dal Quor and Xoriat are both common sources of psionic power. However, they reflect very different approaches to reality and the mind, and I don’t see the fact that they both channel psionics as being any sort of bridge between them; if anything, I’d argue that psions inspired by these two different sources are fundamentally as different from each other as clerics and wizards are when it comes to manipulating “magic.” This can be reflected by having Wilders be more commonly tied to Xoriat, but I think that you can have people from both paths use the same class and still have a very different flavor for it. I feel that the denizens of Dal Quor and Xoriat are equally far apart and would generally find very little common ground.

While the Quori are undeniably alien creatures, there is a very close bond between them and mortal dreams. Mortal dreams have an impact on Dal Quor, and the Quori themselves inspire and draw strength from mortal emotions. Tsucora draw on fear, Duurlora are spirits of aggression, and so on. Among other things, this means that emotions as we understand them are relevant to the Quori. It means that we can generally understand their motivations and outlook on the world. You then have the secondary aspect that the modern Quori are very strongly aligned behind a common cause – the perceived survival of their reality. The Quori are an innately Lawful force. They have a strict hierarchy amongst themselves, and in many ways they are fundamentally defined by the fact that they are enforcing order upon chaos. They SHAPE dreams and use them as tools. They create specific emotions and use them to accomplish their goals.

By contrast, the denizens of Xoriat are utterly alien… as alien to the Quori as they are to humanity. I’ll point you to this Dragonmark article on the subject for further exploration of this fact. But the short form is that Quori understand humans, which is what allows them to manipulate humanity; they don’t understand the Daelkyr or their servants. There is no order that can easily be imposed upon them, and they don’t even necessarily experience the same emotions that we do.

All of this is my personal preference, and you’re certainly welcome to take a less extreme position. But for me, what makes the Daelkyr, the Cults of the Dragon Below, and aberrations in general INTERESTING in a world that also includes Quori, Rakshasa, evil dragons, and more is the fact that the creatures of Xoriat are the most completely alien of any of these. A mind flayer such as Xorchyllic might appear to have motivations we understand, but when you delve deeper you may find that there’s things going on there that don’t make sense at all. The logic, emotions and schemes of Xoriat should be hard for us to understand, because their logic is our madness. It is inherently at odds with our vision of order, reason and reality.

So I might have an ALLIANCE between a mind flayer and the Inspired, but I would certainly expect it to be temporary… and I would emphasize that even the Quori don’t understand what the mind flayer is up to.

 How would you make Thrane sympathetic in a game set in Thaliost?

Interesting question. They are the occupying force, which is always a hard position to justify. One of the first things I’d do is to emphasize that the brutal governor of the city, Archbishop Dariznu, is actually Aundairian; he represents the extremist Pure Flame movement rooted in Aundair. The Thrane templars and priests in the city are under his authority, but I’d emphasize their disgust at Dariznu’s actions and have some of them doing what they can to mitigate them or to help people in need. Compassion is a core virtue of the Silver Flame, and I’d incorporate a number of Thranes – whether part of the occupying force or independent agents – who are providing compassionate assistance to the needy. I could even see a group of Thrane templars considering if they should defy the hierarchy and remove Dariznu from power. The essential point to make is that this isn’t a simple black and white Thrane vs Aundair conflict; you are also dealing with an ideological schism within the Church of the Silver Flame. There are Aundairians and Thranes on both sides of that schism, and definitely Thranes who believe in the validity of Thrane’s claim to the region while still despising the actions of the Governor. This is something I touch on in this Dragonmark.

How do you handle airships being damaged without making it feel like you’re punishing the players or taking away their stuff?

To me, the key issue here is the difference between punishing players and taking away their stuff. In my campaign, everything outside of the players themselves is fair game to suffer consequences player action. I want players to develop attachments to people, places and things precisely so I CAN threaten their airship, spouse, or home village – because all of these are ways to add a sense of tension and consequence to player action. But that also requires a level of trust on the part of my players that the actions I take aren’t simply malicious or capricious. One of the points on things is that they can always get replaced. If I destroy their airship as part of a Lost-like scenario that drives a campaign arc, they can always get a NEW airship when they get back to civilization… and if it’s not exactly the same as the old one, like I said, that’s part of what actually drives the story: things change, events have consequences, and heroes CAN suffer loss.

But I think the key point here – as with many things about good GMing – is about clear communication between player and GM, and about an understanding of the type of story that will play out. If the PLAYERS have a clear vision of the campaign as them flying around saving the universe in the Millennium Falcon and you randomly have it destroyed by an asteroid in the first session, just saying “But you get another ship later!” isn’t going to make that all better. Basically, I would never, say, make a PC lose a limb without having some form of consent that the PC is OK with that sort of story. If the airship truly is as integral to the concept of the PC as a limb, then I’m not going to casually remove it. But overall, my GOAL is for people to be able to develop attachments to people, places and things with the understanding that these things CAN be lost, and can even potentially be lost in seemingly senseless ways; it’s this understanding that helps people feel that their actions matter and that loss is a possibility.

The game I’m currently developing – Phoenix: Dawn Command – approaches loss in a very different manner, as death and loss are fundamental parts of character growth. But that’s a subject for a future post.

OK: That’s all I have time to discuss in detail. Which means it’s time for another lightning round for the remaining questions…

Did elements from Final Fantasy VI (opera, airships…) inspire some features of Eberron even slightly?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never actually played a Final Fantasy game or seen any of the movies. So any similarities are simply parallel evolution.

How common are wands among non-magical inhabitants of Eberron?

Not at all. Using a wand requires magical talent; even eternal wands require you to be SOME sort of spellcaster, even if you don’t have to be a caster with access to the spell in the wand.

Eberron suddenly becomes “mundane” -no divine/arcane power, no connection to planes. What happens instantly, a year, 10 years?

I explored this concept in the Children of Winter article in Dragon 418. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of Eberron’s major cities take advantages of manifest zones or magic; remove those things and Sharn will immediately collapse, for example.

Can criminals avoid being convicted in spite of items as the eye of Aureon and pendants of mystic warning (from SharnCoT)?

Sure. FIrst of all, an Eye of Aureon won’t help you CATCH a criminal; it only helps you prove his guilt or innocence once he’s been captured. Eyes of Aureon are rare and “only found in the greatest cities of Khorvaire.” Beyond that, an Eye of Aureon is simply a zone of truth, and there’s lots of ways to get around those… from effects that shield you from divination to simply finding ways to mislead while speaking the literal truth. Meanwhile, a Pendant of Mystical Warning is an expensive item that can only be used by someone with arcane talent, and has all the same limitations as detect magic. So yes, I think there are definitely ways for criminals to avoid conviction. This sort of thing is a subject I delve into in considerable depth in the 3E sourcebook Crime and Punishment from Atlas Games.

If the worlds-traveling crone Baba Yaga were to visit Eberron, where would her hut reside?

Personally, if I were to use Baba Yaga in Eberron I would say that when she passes through Eberron she tends to use another name, and either make her Sora Katra or Sora Kell herself.

How evil are the daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have legitimate plans for Droam? Would you ever write a story focused there?

I have written stories focused there; I think Sheshka is actually the most popular character in The Queen of Stone. Beyond that, it’s a topic I’ve discussed in some detail in this Dragonmark, so I suggest you take a look at that and see if it answers your questions.

Does Flamewind have an androsphinx counterpart/sibling/mate?

Not in Sharn, and we’ve never detailed her private life before Sharn. Of course, if you’re referring to Flamewind as depicted in The Dreaming Dark, you have to ask yourself if she’s really a sphinx at all – or if she is some sort of manifestation of the Queen of Dusk. And speaking of which…

Will the new edition be advancing the timeline at all? Anything in the works for Daine, Lei, and Pierce?

I still have no concrete details on the plans for future Eberron support and whether it will include novels. Personally I would rather focus on the past or on regions of the world (or planes) that have been underdeveloped as opposed to pushing the timeline forward.

If a “Super Hero” team appeared in Sharn, how would Breland react to it? Would the local Dragonmark houses do anything?

Sharn’s a big place. The first draft of the setting actually included a pulp vigilante in Sharn – a kalashtar known as “The Beholder.” I’d only expect Breland to get involved if the group was somehow seen as a serious threat to royal authority; after all, it’s not as though Breland has stepped in to interfere with House Tarkanan or the Boromar Clan. Likewise, I’d only expect this houses to act if their personal interests were threatened. If anything, I could see the Twelve CREATING a superhero team as a PR exercise. Get your Cannith Iron Man, Vadalis super-soldier, Orien speedster, etc…

Are any of the moons inhabited?

They COULD be. We’ve intentionally left details on the moons scarce so that YOU can decide if you want to have a Moon Race game, an invasion from the moons, or even to just say that the moons are in fact simply portals to other planes.

Why did the Eldeen Reaches declare independence from Aundair? I can see why places like Mror or Zilargo got independent, but Eldeen?

For a brief exploration of this topic, look at this previous post. The short form is that the schism between Aundair and the Eldeen reflected significant cultural and economic troubles between the regions, and that the leadership of Aundair was focusing on the war with the other nations to the detriment of the Eldeen.

What were your plans for the undersea kingdoms of Eberron?

Someday I hope to explore this in more depth (get it?) but it won’t be today. One detail I will throw out is that Sharn originally had an undersea district with a section with a permanent Airy Water enchantment so people could make deals with merfolk emissaries.

 

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

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

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part one

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part two

Backdrop: Graywall

Eye on Eberron: Daask

Now on to the questions…

Who, exactly, is Sora Kell?

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

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

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

And…

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

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

KATRA WANTS A CROWN

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

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

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

AGENTS OF PROPHECY

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

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

MONSTERS FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF MONSTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragonmarks 5/23: Lightning Round 3!

Hey everyone! It’s been a busy week between work and preparing for Comicpalooza, and so I’ve ended up with another lightning round as opposed to taking on a larger subject. There’s been a lot of interest in the Dwarves and The Daughters of Sora Kell, and I will be giving each of these topics a full post in weeks ahead. With that said, remember that this is specifically a question and answer forum, not an outlet for general lore like you’d get from the Dragonshards or Eye on Eberron. As a result, the more questions you ask, the more answers I can provide. Just saying “Tell me more about dwarves” is too vague. Saying “Do you use any unique religious traditions in the Mror Holds in your game?” is a question I can easily answer. So think about this and post your questions here.

I’ve also added a few new answers to the previous post on the Dragonmarked Houses, notably “Why do the Zil bind elementals instead of Cannith?” and more on Dragonmark focus items.

Now on to this week’s questions!

Will there ever be a followup to Eye of the Wolf? I loved that.

I’m glad you liked it, and I certainly wrote it with a longer story in mind. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry!

Are there any restricted Races/Classes in your personal games?

As a general rule, it’s all about story. I don’t like subraces (wild elves, chaos gnomes, sherbet dwarves) and in my 3E campaign, these didn’t exist in the world. I don’t like races that exist primarily for the purpose of character optimization. In 4E, the vast majority of exotic races aren’t part of my campaign; you’d never encounter a shardmind or goliath or illumian on the streets of Sharn. However, if a player came up with an excellent story for their use of such a race, I’d probably go for it. For example, I didn’t use genasi in the world overall. But if someone said “I want to be the result of a Zil experiment gone horribly wrong that tried to bind elementals to people!” – well, that sounds like fun and I can see lots of interesting stories that could spin off from that, so I’d allow it. But there wouldn’t be a Genasi nation in the world. Likewise, I once played a deva avenger with the explanation that he was a human infused with the spirits of thousands of people who died in the Mourning; his class abilities and memories of a thousand lives were the result of the thousand souls urging him on, not any personal immortality.

In Argonessen, dragons have a society. What happens when different colors mate?

The role of color in Argonnessen is discussed on pages 15-16 of Dragons of Eberron; beyond this, the flights of the Thousand are segregated by color, so it doesn’t come up often. One of the key points is that different colors of dragons are essentially different species. They have significantly different lifespans, different mental capacity, and their mystical and elemental natures are different. There’s no canon answer, but my personal hunch would be to say that only dragons of matching elemental types can produce offspring, so a red dragon and a brass dragon could successfully mate; the offspring would be a mixed litter, though I’d tend to make the chromatic dominant as the shorter-lived species.

With that said, you could certainly add more colorful possibilities. One that immediately pops into mind: Just as mixing dragonmarks produces new, aberrant dragonmarks, mixing the blood of dragons produces horrifying aberrant dragons. Every aberrant dragon is unique (and like aberrant marks, their true nature might not emerge at birth) and dangerous in its own way; potentially, they are directly bound to Khyber and Tiamat. This is why the Thousand are segregated by color – but there’s always those young and foolish lovers in the Vast who refuse to believe the legends!

What kind of information would have a Seren barbarian about the dragons? And how much of this information would he willing to share with the rest of the world?

Have you read this canon Dragonshard article on the Serens? The short form is the dragons are essentially gods to the Serens; they don’t approach them in an academic fashion, and they certainly aren’t privy to the secrets of the Conclave or the Chamber. A Dragonspeaker knows more, especially about the personal lineage and history of their founder and the founders of opposing lines. But that knowledge is likewise couched in the form of stories and myths. For the most part, I think they’d be willing to share these tales with people they respect.

A key point is that the Serens aren’t allowed in the interior of Argonnessen. So again, they can’t tell you about the kingdoms of the Vast or where to find the Light of Siberys; they don’t know these things themselves. Some exceptional Serens are chosen to serve in more significant ways, but such individuals are unique and it’s up to you to decide what they know.

Are the Knights of Thrane are a secular order? (that is naturally largely made up of Flame adherents?)

You are correct on both counts. The Crown Knights of Thrane were established before the Church of the Silver Flame existed and the order has no connection to the church. However, the knights themselves are largely followers of the Flame – as are most of the people of Thrane – and the order often acts in the service of the church. However, on paper, its first duty is to Queen Diani.

Are monsters seen as unusual and mysterious outside Sharn and Droaam?

It depends on the monster. Goblins are found in most major cities; Khorvaire was their home before humanity even arrived, and many major cities are built on goblin foundations. House Tharashk also sells the services of monstrous mercenaries, but this again is something that’s only going to be a factor in large cities.

So ogres, goblins, bugbears, gnolls – these are species people are familiar with, and even if a farmer doesn’t like dealing with them, he’s probably seen them once or twice during his life.

Next you have magical beasts: basilisks, gorgons, displacer beasts, wyverns, and so on. The relationship between these creatures and a farmer is much like your relationship to, say, a grizzly bear. You know they exist. You’ve seen pictures in the heraldry of the Dragonmarked Houses. You might see one at some sort of menagerie. But you don’t expect to encounter one in daily life, and you’d be frightened if you did. From here you get to exotic creatures like gibbering mouthers and medusas. Someone born in the Shadow Marches likely knows what a gibbering mouther is; someone in Sharn would have no idea and find it horrifying. Living near Droaam, most people in Breland know what a medusa is. But they don’t expect to meet one – even in Sharn, there’s only 2 or 3, and they don’t walk the streets – and they’d be frightened if they did. The dwarves of the Mror Holds sometimes ride manticores – but to someone in Aundair, a manticore is a strange and wondrous thing. It’s all about geography – just as a hippo can be commonplace to someone who grew up in Africa and bizarre to a visitor from Europe.

Finally, you have exotics: aboleths, dracoliches, gray renders, maruts, purple worms. There’s nowhere where a dracolich is just “part of the wildlife”. Scholars may know about these things, but even in Sharn the common folk will run if a marut suddenly smashes through a Jorasco healing house; they won’t say “Oh, look, it’s an inevtiable spirit of some sort.”

So short answer: Consider the following questions:

* Does the creature occur in nature? Or is it only produced by planar convergences/mystic experiments/other unnatural action?

* Is the creature part of the local flora and fauna? Have the people who live there encountered it in the past?

* Is it possible to peacefully coexist with this creature? Can it be domesticated or is there a benefit to working with it?

* Does the creature have a civilization that interacts with the Five Nations?

If the answer to the majority of these questions is “No”, the creature likely qualifies as “mysterious.” If the answer to most of them is “yes,” then it’s simply part of the world – like an elephant, a monkey, or a wolverine, it might be rarely encountered, but it’s out there.

As much as I liked having the tieflings added as a playable race right from the start in Fourth Edition, I do miss the original “planetouched” version from Planescape, which could have any number of indicators of their fiendish heritage. I always thought that there was potential for using these sorts of ideas in combination with manifest zones in Eberron.

Back when 4E first came out, I posted a range of ideas for incorporating tieflings into the game on the WotC boards. Tracing their origin to Ohr Kaluun and placing them in the Demon Wastes and Droaam as a result of the exodus from Ohr Kaluun fits with the established history of Ohr Kaluun as a nation with a strong mystical tradition infamous for trafficking with fiends, and it allows those who wish to do so to preserve some of the “heirs of an ancient empire” aspect of the 4E tiefling flavor. With that said, being from the Venomous Demesne of Droaam is very different from growing up among the Carrion Tribes, so there’s room for variety there.

With that said, one of the other ideas I suggested what exactly what you mention above: Tieflings occasionally result when a child is conceived in a manifest zone during a coterminous period. In this case, there is no such thing as a tiefling culture. Physical appearance would vary based on the plane that influences them, and there’s no reason two tieflings have to have the same appearance in spite of being tied to the same plane. A tiefling tied to Fernia might have iron horns and feverish red skin, while one tied to Risia could have horns and hair formed from ice and lower the local temperature by a few degrees.

With that said, there’s no reason this same concept couldn’t be extended to include other races. I don’t want to have goliaths on Khorvaire. But if you want to say that your goliath character is someone planetouched by Shavarath, I could run with it. Rather than turning to stone, his skin becomes iron temporarily; he is filled with a thirst for battle that cannot be slaked. I’d change his appearance accordingly, but it would be a way to use the mechanics without introducing a new culture. Though if I did this, I’d certainly explore hte story further. What does it mean to be a child of war or fire? How will this affect you over time?

As always, these are just my opinions and aren’t canon unless referencing a canon source. If I didn’t get to your question this week, don’t worry – it’s on the list!