Dragonmarks: The City of Silver and Bone

The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced the concept of the Feyspires: cities that drift between the Faerie Court of Thelanis and the material world. Legends say that the giants of Xen’drik pillaged one of these mystical cities, stealing its treasures and taking its people as slaves. According to these tales, the elves of Eberron are descended from these fallen fey. And it’s said that the ruins of the citadel remain somewhere in the wilds of Xen’drik. But these events occurred many tens of thousands of years ago, and the elves themselves know nothing about their distant ancestors. All that we know is the name of the fallen feyspire: Shae Tirias Tolai, the City of Silver and Bone.

So: the ruins of an ancient mystical city are lost in Xen’drik. But what will explorers find if they discover this shattered feyspire? What WAS the City of Silver and Bone? As with anything in Eberron, the answer is ultimately up to you. But here’s one possibility… an option that sheds new light on a few of the mysteries of the elves.

Study the lore of ancient cultures, and you’ll find a recurring story of a city that stands on the edge of life and death. A shade is drawn to Dolurrh, but along the way it passes through a wondrous city of silver and bone, a city with tapestries of fine glamerweave and bone fountains filled with blood. The librarians of this final city record the tales of the ghosts, a last record before their memories are lost in Dolurrh. The artists work with creative shades, offering a last chance to complete unfinished works. And then there are the necromancers who make darker bargains, offering a chance to return to the world of the living… but at a terrible cost.

This was Shae Tirias Tolai: the city at the crossroads, the repository of final thoughts and the last chance for the fallen to find a way back to the world. And its existence answers a number of questions that have lingered for some time.

  • The Qabalrin. It’s said that the Qabalrin were an elven nation of mighty necromancers who were feared by the giants, and who pioneered many techniques of necromancy. Stories say that there are ancient Qablarin vampires hidden in deep crypts, mighty undead that have been slumbering for tens of thousands of years. But the question has always remained: where did these elves come from? How did they learn these grand secrets of necromancy, this magic that rivaled the giants? If the tales are true, the first Qabalrin were fugitive citizens of Shae Tirias Tolai, survivors who used their necromantic knowledge to found a new realm in the mortal world.
  • Elven Necromancy. Likewise, the distant tie to Tirias Tolai explains the elven penchant for necromancy, both positive and negative. The Aereni and the line of Vol know nothing about their ancient ancestors, but memories still linger in their blood… and this may explain how the elves came to form two of the most remarkable necromantic traditions in Eberron.

But… it’s said that the giants feared the Qabalrin. How could that be, if they defeated Shae Tirias Tolai? Well, the story is that the titans of old took Shae Tirias Tolai by surprise, using treachery and careful preparation to catch the people of this city unaware. Beyond that, the inhabitants of the City of Silver and Bone weren’t warlike by nature. They dealt peacefully with the shades; they never expected an attack and weren’t prepared for battle. The Qabalrin, on the other hand, turned all their knowledge and power into weapons. They also rooted themselves in the mortal world. The original inhabitants of the City of Silver and Bone WEREN’T arch-liches or vampires; they simply knew the secrets of creating such things. In destroying the Silver City, the giants forced the survivors down a dark path.

So what lies in the ruins of the City of Silver and Bone? The first thing to bear in mind is that it is at its heart an imaginary city. It is literally ripped out of a faerie tale, and its structures and elements don’t have to conform to any sort of natural logic. It was always a gothic citadel that blended beauty and luxury with morbid reminders of death. Its people have been taken and it has been bound to the material world, but in a strange sense the city itself is still alive. Its story has simply evolved to encompass its downfall. Envision every story of a haunted castle or mansion and project it here. It is a city that was built using bones as its base—bones of dragons, giants, and all manner of lesser creature. Bone blends with marble and silver, with pools of fresh blood (which by all logic should have coagulated tens of thousands of years ago). Imagine a place of gothic beauty, and now add the aftermath of a terrible battle. Glamerweave tapestries display the tales of forgotten heroes, but the cloth is torn and tattered. The sounds of battle can still be heard as echoes. The spirit of every giant that fell in that ancient battle remain bound here, along with the angry shades of doomed eladrin and other innocent shades who were trapped in transition. Explorers may be overwhelmed by visions of that terrible final conflict, or assaulted by spirits who seek vengeance or a final release. An important point is that these spirits don’t have consecutive memory: for the most part, they are still trapped in the moment of their demise, still fighting their final battles and yearning for revenge on a nation that’s now dust.

Within this concept, it’s up to the DM to decide what wonders remain. Perhaps the library remains intact, holding the secrets of thousands of ancient champions (including dragons, giants, orcs, eladrin, and many others). Maybe there’s a vault of demiliches of dozens of different species, dragon-skulls who still remember the battles against the Overlords. The mightiest artifacts would have been taken by the giants, but there could be many lesser treasures that were beneath their notice… or deep vaults (such as that ossuary of demiliches) where even the giants feared to tread. Ultimately, it’s still important to bear in mind that it’s NOT simply the ruins of a mortal city; explorers are stepping into the story of a haunted ruin, clinging to its tragic loss. Another question to consider is whether the archfey of the city still remains, and if so in what form.

Strangely, this could be another way to explore the Raven Queen in Eberron. Perhaps the ruins of Shae Tirias Tolai still linger between Eberron, Thelanis, and Dolurrh. The Raven Queen is the archfey of the city that stands between life and death. The Shadar-Kai are all that remain of her beautiful children, and the memories she captures are what preserve her existence. If you take this route, the ruins would be revealed to be a gateway to Dolurrh. The question is whether the Raven Queen has accepted her fate and embraced her new story… or whether the player characters could undo the damage that has been done and somehow restore the City of Silver and Bone, allowing it to serve once again as a friendly waystation on the journey into oblivion.

Story Hooks

People exploring Xen’drik could simply stumble onto the ruins of Shae Tirias Tolai. The Curse of the Traveler makes the geography of Xen’drik unreliable; explorerers could discover the ruins once and never find their way back to the shattered city. But they could also be drawn to the haunted city. Consider the following ideas.

  • The party discovers a trinket from Shae Tirias Tolai. It could be carried by an enemy, found in a villain’s hoard, or simply discovered in a flea market or the trash heaps of Sharn. The trinket yearns to be returned to the City of Silver and Bone, and whoever holds it will have visions of the ancient city and its final battle. The trinket serves as a compass, and the party that carries it can ignore the Traveler’s Curse. Will they follow where it leads? A table of possible trinkets is included at the end of this article.
  • The Order of the Emerald Claw is searching for Shae Tirias Tolai. There are secrets in the City of Silver and Bone that are critical to the plans of the Queen of the Dead. Perhaps she can raise an army of lingering giant ghosts and bind them to her will. Possibly a crumbling dragon demilich knows the secret of restoring her lost mark. Whatever power she seeks, the PCs must find a way to reach Tirias Tolai before the Queen of the Dead… or if they arrive too late, to turn the lingering ghosts of the city against the Emerald Claw.
  • When a previously unknown undead force (Acererak? A Qablarin arch-vampire? A sinister being directly channeling the power of Mabar and Dolurrh?) threatens the world, the key to understanding this villain may lie in Shae Tirias Tolai. It could be held in a crumbling scroll in the library, found on a tattered tapestry, or contained in the cracked skull of an ancient demilich.
  • Someone who has been raised from the dead finds that they hear whispers, and are haunted by nightmares when they sleep or trance. Even though they have returned from death, a piece of their spirit has been trapped in Shae Tirias Tolai… and unless it can be released, their soul will eventually be torn from their body and pulled down into the haunted city. Play this a horror movie: the player character returned from the dead, but they came back incomplete and that hole in their soul is growing; if they can’t find the city they see in their visions, they will either die again or become some sort of undead monster.
  • Consider a variation of the Eye of Vecna. The giants couldn’t destroy the archfey of Shae Tirias Tolai, but they took pieces of the archfey and scattered them across the world. Each of these pieces grants great power, but the pieces yearn to be reunited and to return to the fallen feyspire. The spirit may not be evil in the traditional sense, but all mortals are as dust to it, and all that it cares about is its restoration and the restoration of its citadel. One possibility is that the sentience of the archfey doesn’t communicate directly with those who bear the pieces… but that they all know that ultimate power awaits in the haunted city.

These are just a few ideas. The point is that the City of Silver and Bone can serve many roles. It could be a haunted dungeon that adventurers stumble into once while exploring Xen’drik. It could the the ultimate capstone in the plans of the Emerald Claw. Or it could be a mystery that develops over time, a slow burn tied to the visions of a resurrected hero or the whispers of a powerful artifact.

Here’s a few ideas for trinkets tied to Shae Tirias Tolai. Even if the adventurers never go to the City of Silver and Bone, one of these trinkets could add interesting color to a story.

If you have questions or ideas tied to the City of Silver and Bone, share them below! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this website going. I’ll be at DragonCon, and I’ll post my schedule tomorrow!

Dragonmarks: Drow

These… they aren’t the elves you know from Khorvaire. Thousands of years ago, the elves fought the giants that ruled this land. Giant wizards captured elves and experimented on them, created their own soldiers to go places the giants could not. It’s said that they wove dark magic into the elven form, and that these are the result. The first elves call them the drow. 

Lakashtai, The Shattered Land

The conflict with Dal Quor weakened the giants of Xen’drik. In the centuries that followed, the elves rose up against the giants. In the early days of that conflict, the mages of the Sulat League created a new breed of elf. With perfect darkvision and a natural resistance to magic, the Drow were natural predators indoctrinated from birth to prey upon the rebel elves. At first the Drow were myths, spirits of the night that struck without warning and left no survivors. Even after the truth was revealed, the Drow remained a deadly threat throughout the rebellion. When Argonnessen crushed the civilizations of the giants, the Drow were caught in the destruction. Three primary cultures emerged from this time of chaos.

The bulk of the Drow are Vulkoori. Their ancestors took refuge in the deep jungles of Xen’drik and developed their own traditions. They are a primitive tribal culture; many focus their devotion on the scorpion spirit Vulkoor, while others revere a pantheon of primal spirits. Some tribes pursue an endless vendetta against the giants, taking vengeance against their ancient oppressors. Others are simply concerned with survival.

A smaller faction held to the traditions of their creators. These Sulatar held onto some of the techniques and artifacts of the Sulat giants, notably techniques involving the binding of fire elementals.

A third group fled underground, taking refuge in Khyber. There they found a source of dark power and bound their clan to it, drawing strength from this mysterious Umbra. These Umbragen are the most advanced of the Drow cultures, but they are locked in a conflict with the horrors of Khyber and they are slowly losing that war.

All of these cultures tend towards xenophobia and isolation. Explorers and the settlers of Stormreach have encountered the Vulkoori, but they know little about them. Few know the Sulatar or Umbragen exist… though an early encounter with the Sulatar may have provided the Zil with the inspiration that produced their elemental binding techniques.

Each of the Drow cultures serves a different purpose, both for players and gamemasters.

  • Vulkoori Drow can be an ally or a threat for characters exploring Xen’drik. They are resistant to the Traveller’s Curse, which makes them valuable guides for adventuring parties; however, most see the people of Khorvaire as outsiders and looters who have no place in Xen’drik. As a player character, a Vulkoori Drow is an opportunity to play an exotic primitive cast into an alien culture. Xu’sasar in The Dreaming Dark novels is a Vulkoori Drow, though from the pantheistic Qaltiar tradition.
  • The Umbragen are in many ways the closest to the Drow people are familiar with from other settings. They are an advanced subterranean culture centered around a dark power, and they are cruel and ruthless. They are driven by their bitter struggle with the Daelkyr, and this can make them a useful enemy-of-my-enemy; alternately, their quest for the power they need to defeat the Daelkyr could make them a threat to the people of the surface, as the Umbragen will sacrifice anything in pursuit of victory. An Umbragen PC could be an exile who turned on the dark traditions of their people, or a hero seeking the power to save them. Where the Vulkoori is a primitive, for the Umbragen Khorvaire is itself a primitive backwater.
  • The Sulatar aren’t as primitive as the Vulkoori, but neither are they as powerful or malevolent as the Umbragen. They can easily be found as the guardians of giant relics or ruins, and they know secrets about the past that have been forgotten by the others.

What would you like to know about the Drow of Eberron?

How would each of the citizens of the Five Nations see a Drow?

The inhabitants of Stormreach are familiar with Drow, and there are a handful of Drow and half-Drow that have been assimilated into the general population. As a result, people in Sharn and to a lesser extent other Brelish port cities will be somewhat familiar with them; even if they’ve never seen one, they’ve possibly heard stories.

Beyond that, I don’t particularly think the reaction is going to vary by nation; a Drow would be equally unusual anywhere in Khorvaire. With that said, Eberron is a world in which people deal with a wide variety of races (Elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and even goblins) casually and are aware that they could bump into a lizardfolk or a gnoll; as unusual as a Drow is, it’s hardly the strangest thing you might see on the street. What I think the most likely reaction would be is the assumption that the Drow is some sort of one-off mutation of a normal elf. Consider the origin of planetouched Tieflings I’ve discussed earlier – perhaps this is what happens to an elf conceived when Mabar is coterminous? Or perhaps they were exposed to the Mourning? Or they’re part of a Vadalis magebreeding experiment? So: a curiosity to be sure, and not immediately seen as representative of a foreign culture. But I think less threatening than a hobgoblin or dragonborn — so more intriguing than shocking. But as always, go with what best fits your story.

Why did you decide to make Eberron Drow focus on scorpion icons instead of the classic spider icons?

The basic principle is that the traditional Drow association with spiders is tied to a specific culture and to Lolth, a fiend not present by default in the cosmology of Eberron. Vulkoor provides an iconic focus for those who wish it. Beyond this, it does speak to a different culture. The spider is defined by its web, and Lolth’s Drow are subtle and treacherous; the Drow of Vulkoor are more direct predators. It also fits their tribal and often nomadic nature, as the mother scorpion carries her young on her back.

With that said: Personally, I’ve never particularly liked a solitary focus on Vulkoor. My first opportunity to deal with the Drow in depth came when I wrote my novel The Shattered Land. Here I introduced the Qaltiar as a culture who respect the Scorpion, but also revere other primal animistic spirits: the Shifting Panther (displacer beast), the Tlixin Bird, and a host of other totems… and the Sulatar, a Drow culture that has nothing to do with arachnids.  So you it’s up to you whether you run with purely scorpion-focused Vulkoori, or the broader primal Qaltiar.

Where is it in canon that you speak of the Umbragen?

The Umbragen are mentioned in almost all canon sources that deal with Drow. They’re covered in most detail in Dragon 330, which included a detailed look at their culture and racial feats. However, they’re also described on page 52 of Secrets of Xen’drik, page 124 of City of Stormreach, and page 198 of the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide. To be clear, while I’ve said that they are the closest analogue to the Drow of other settings – being a culturally “evil” civilization that lives underground – they are a unique culture and due to their bond to the Umbra, not entirely Drow.

I’m a bit surprised, however, when you say that “for the Umbragen Khorvaire is itself a primitive backwater.” Could you please expend your thoughts about what, according to you, make the Umbragen so superior?

I may have chosen my words poorly, but it’s a difficult concept to distill. There are two things that distinctly distinguish the Umbragen from the civilization of the Five Nations. The Umbragen are less industrial than the Five Nations, to be certain. However, they are distinctly more magical. In my opinion, the typical Umbragen – regardless of whether they’re a soldier, a mystic researcher, a mushroom farmer or a smith – is likely to have at least one level of warlock or soulknife. Half of their government – the Vault of Shadows – is dedicated to mystical research for the benefit of their civilization. Combine this with the fact that they live in the shadow of the Qabalrin, an elvish civilization whose mystic advances matched those of the giants of Xen’drik. So they are used to a far greater degree of casual magic in the world, and the idea that the farmer over there is literally just a farmer – that he can’t conjure a blade of shadows or kill an enemy with a thought – makes him seem pathetic. Add to this the fact that the Umbragen have been at war with Khyber for as long as they can remember: a constant struggle with the terrors of the deep. So again, to them Khorvaire feels soft and weak. They whine about their losses in the Last War? They clearly know nothing of loss or struggle.

Again: taken as a whole, the Five Nations are more advanced as a civilization. The Umbragen have nothing on par with the systems of transit, communication or mass production that are part of daily life in the Five Nations. But the Umbragen are also from a smaller civilization and thus an Umbragen visitor wouldn’t immediately appreciate those things; and besides, if you need to communicate with someone far away, just speak to an Umbral sage who can send a message through the shadows.

With that said, something like Sharn should still be impressive to an Umbragen; the question is whether they’d acknowledge that. The Umbragen also tend to be aggressive and predatory, so a general attitude of “Your civilization is weaker than mine” is good for instilling fear in possible rivals.

How do the different elves view the Xen’Drik Drow and Umbragen and vice versa?

Both sides retain the most basic knowledge of the origins of their people — that they were bitter enemies in the ancient war. The elves of Khorvaire know the Drow as evil servants of the giants, while the Drow know the elves as the rebels whose foolish pride led to the destruction of Xen’drik. With that said, that conflict occurred more than twenty thousand years ago, before the modern civilizations of either elves or Drow existed. The Drow are all isolationists and know next to nothing about the modern elves, and the elves are only aware of the Vulkoori, who they consider to be the savage remnants of their ancient foes. So if a Drow came to Aerenal today, they’d be seen more as a curiosity than a bitter enemy.

With that said, the Tairnadal are deeply concerned with the history of their patron ancestors. Many of those ancestors were champions in the uprising against the giants — meaning that they fought the Drow. Such a Tairnadal might be quite excited to have an opportunity to fight one of these ancient foes.

It’s worth noting that the Qaltiar — a Vulkoori subculture — are Drow who themselves rebelled against the giants. They may still blame the elves for starting the apocalypse that destroyed Xen’drik, but they would be less hostile than others.

Are there any undying Drow or Umbragen? COULD there be? 
Are there any? None that we’ve established in canon. Could there be? Sure. Becoming Deathless has nothing to do with being an elf; it requires specific rituals and access to enormous amounts of positive energy, drawn both directly through Irian manifest zones and indirectly through the reverence of descendants. So it’s unlikely that there are any Deathless Drow in Xen’drik, because they don’t have the manifest zones or knowledge of the rituals (which took thousands of years of work in Aerenal to perfect). But if you wanted some renegade Drow (perhaps some of the original progenitors of the Qaltiar) to have joined the Aereni in the exodus, sure, there could be Deathless Drow.

Eberron Flashback: Aereni and Tairnadal

In the process of getting the website up to speed, I had to delete a few old posts. Since many of you may never have seen this post unless you dug deep into the archives, I figured I’d repost it now! New posts for Phoenix and Eberron are coming soon, but for now, let’s talk about elves. As always: This is my personal opinion. It is not official Eberron content and may in fact contradict canon Eberron source material. Read at your own risk.

The elves of Eberron are divided into a number of distinct cultures. Most of the elves encountered in the Five Nations have some connection to House Phiarlan or Thuranni. Others are descended from exiles who fled in the aftermath of the war between the Undying Court and the line of Vol. However, the majority of elves in Eberron live on the island of Aerenal. There they are split into two primary cultures: the Aereni (subjects of the Undying Court) and the martial Tairnadal.

One of the things that defines the elves is their relationship with death. Per 3.5 D&D rules, an elf can have a natural lifespan of up to 750 years, and is an “adult” at 110 years. I never liked the idea that an elf was literally a child for a century. Rather, I saw that 110-year mark as the age of the typical elven adventurer. In my Eberron, elves mature mentally at a rate similar to humans, perhaps a few years off. For me, the 110-year mark is driven by a society that places great expectations on its people. A post on the WotC boards mentions a traditional sushi chef who went through seven years of apprenticeship before he was allowed to go beyond preparing the rice. I see this principle extending to all levels of youth in Aerenal… intense, lengthy apprenticeships that focus with great intensity on every different aspect of a trade. Looking to an Aereni wizard, he might spend five years simply studying somatic components (mystical gestures) before ever learning to cast a spell. He would learn precise pronunciation of verbal components, and his fireball incantation would have the exact same accent as the elf who first devised the spell… and he might even learn the incantation from that elf. By contrast, a human wizard in Arcanix would learn that you can kind of fudge incantations if you find a pronunciation that resonates with your personal aura. Aerenal teaches perfect technique; Arcanix encourages you to MacGuyver a bit.

Part of this ties to the idea that a seven-hundred year old lifespan is both a blessing and a curse. Our fluid intelligence – which fuels our ability to adapt to entirely new things – peaks in young adulthood. You grandfather may be a brilliant doctor, a skilled mathematician, and still have trouble learning to use an iPhone that a three-year-old masters in three days. The child is running on fluid intelligence, which allows him to quickly adapt to new things. You grandfather is working off crystallized intelligence, the concrete skills he has perfected over time. For me, this is the fundamental difference between elves and humans… because in my Eberron, both elf and human peak in fluid intelligence at the same time. An elf’s mental facilities don’t deteriorate due to age as a human’s will, so the 110-year-old elf is still sharp and alert… but he is also just as firmly set in his ways as a hundred-year-old human, and it’s difficult for him to adapt to entirely new things. This is why, despite Aereni society having been around for over twenty thousand years, humans are beginning to do things with magic that the elves have never done. Elven society is driven by tradition rather than innovation – by absolutely perfecting the techniques of the past instead of developing entirely new ways of doing things. Innovation does happen – and an Aereni player character might be the great elf innovator of this age – but it isn’t enshrined as a cultural value as it often is among humanity; instead elves take comfort in the familiar. Looking to a 110-year-old first level elf fighter and a 20 year old first level human fighter, it’s not that it took the elf 110 years to learn the same skills as the human. Instead, it’s that the elf knows a truly astounding array of highly specialized techniques and traditions, while the human accomplishes the same things with far less style and finesse. When the ogre attacks with a club, the elf shifts into the fell-the-mighty-tree stance perfected by the ogre-slaying hero Jhaelis Tal (and he could tell you the whole saga of Jhaelis) while the human fighter says “Hey! I can stab him in the arm!” and does that. At the end of the day, the RESULT ends up being about the same, but the STYLE is completely different.

Another thing about the elves is that they have a great deal of trouble letting go of things. When you’ve had someone around for seven hundred years, it’s hard to finally let him go. Thus, many elven cultures revolve around not letting go… around find ways to preserve their greatest souls. In Aerenal the most remarkable members of society are preserved as animate deathless entities, forming the Undying Court. Thus, the young wizard can learn magic from the elf who first invented the fireball, because that elf is still around. The Aereni believe that there is a limit to the number of Deathless the island can support, so you have to be truly impressive to earn a place on the Court, and that’s the great drive of an Aereni life. The consolation prize – if you’re close but not quite awesome enough – is to have your soul preserved in a spirit idol, where others can consult with it in the future. The key point: The Aereni don’t let go. They avoid death by literally keeping their ancestors with them. The line of Vol took the approach of negative necromancy, turning THEIR best and brightest into vampires and liches. Unlike the Undying Court, there’s no obvious limitation on a vampire population, provided there’s enough living beings to provide them with blood. However, the Undying Court asserts that ALL Mabaran (negatively-charged) undead inherently consume the life energy of Eberron itself to survive… essentially, that the Vol practices would ultimately destroy all life if left unchecked. Hence, the bitter war that ended with the extermination of the line, and the ongoing duty of the Deathguard to eliminate Mabaran undead.

THE TAIRNADAL

But what about the other elves of Aerenal… the Tairnadal? The ancient elves of Xen’drik battled the giants to earn their freedom. Rather than preserve the elves of the present day as deathless, the Tairnadal seek to preserve the legendary elves of the past. They believe that by emulating the deeds of an ancestor, they can serve as a spiritual anchor for that ancestor and ultimately become an avatar for them in the present day. Here’s a quote from an Eye of Eberron article, Vadallia and Cardaen”…

The lives of the Tairnadal elves are shaped by those of their patron ancestors. When an elf comes of age, the Keepers of the Past read the signs to determine which of the patron ancestors has laid claim to the child. From that point forward it is the sacred duty of the child to become the living avatar of the fallen champion, mastering his or her skills and living by her code. The people of the Five Nations know little about the Tairnadal, and their general assumptions often don’t make sense. Ask ten people in Sharn, and you’ll hear that the Valenar are bloodthirsty brutes who love to pillage the weak; that they seek glory in battle and won’t fight a weaker foe; that they are bound by a strict code of honor; that they have no honor; that every Valenar is bound to a horse; and so on. In fact, no one rule applies to every Tairnadal, for every ancestor demands a different role of his or her descendants. A child chosen by Maelian Steelweaver will spend his or her days forging swords instead of wielding them. One chosen by Silence will spend life in the shadows, never touching a horse. War is the common thread that unites the Tairnadal, because the wars against giants, dragons, and goblins were what produced these legendary heroes. As such, the Tairnadal seek conflicts that will let them face the same odds and fight in the same style as their ancestors. Nowadays a child of Vadallia can’t fight giants, because the Cul’sir Dominion has fallen, but he or she must search for a foe that is equally challenging and then defeat it in the same way Vadallia would, thus creating new legends in Vadallia’s name.

A few factors here…

Tairnadal society is relentlessly martial. As noted before, war is the lens through which the Tairnadal view their patrons. These legends arose in conflict, and so the Tairnadal seek to maintain a constant state of conflict. Preferably this involves an actual, true threat – and this touches on the Valenar, which I’ll discuss in more detail later – but when there is no true threat they will create challenging scenarios. They hunt wild beasts and engage in complex wargames. This isn’t just frivolous behavior; they believe that through these actions they are preserving their greatest souls. They must keep going, or those spirits could be lost.

One analogy that works for me is Ender’s Game. From youth, Tairnadal children are trained for battle. At first, they are trained in the fundamentals, giving them a chance to prove their aptitudes and show their true nature. At this point they are selected by a patron ancestor, at which point they are assigned to a warband well suited to learning the skills of that ancestor. In the Ender analogy, this is the shift from launchie to an army. Now they have clear guidance on what they should be learning, and they WILL be placed in conflict with other warbands in wargames designed to hone those skills. As with Ender’s Game, all of this is being done in preparation for the great conflict that lies ahead, a conflict that is life or death for their culture… the difference is that they don’t know what the enemy will be. Will the Dragons finally attack in force? Will it be goblins once more? Or humanity? They don’t know, but they are determined to preserve their greatest souls until that day finally arrives.

Let’s Talk About Patrons

People often have the sense that all the Tairnadal do is fight… that they are hotheads who are always looking to start trouble. There’s a solid grounding to this: the Patron Ancestors forged their legends in battle against terrifying opposition, and so it is in battle against a challenging foe that the elves have the best opportunity to emulate the deeds of their ancestors. But let’s look to that quote again…

Ask ten people in Sharn, and you’ll hear that the Valenar are bloodthirsty brutes who love to pillage the weak; that they seek glory in battle and won’t fight a weaker foe; that they are bound by a strict code of honor; that they have no honor; that every Valenar is bound to a horse…

The point here isn’t that the people of Sharn are wrong; rather, ALL of these things are true… about different Tairnadal. There are Tairnadal who abide by a strict code of honor, and there are those who act in a relentlessly dishonorable fashion. There are those who won’t fight a weaker foe and those who seek out the weak. There are those who will draw blood at the slightest provocation and those who will never strike an innocent regardless of how severely they are provoked. Because they will do their absolute best to act as their patron ancestor would act. And there is a VAST SPECTRUM of ancestors. While we often call them “heroes”, the real point of the Patron Ancestors is that the are legends; some are infamous as much as they are famous. These are the people who defined the elves during their greatest struggles. So in thinking about a Patron Ancestor, the key things to bear in mind are:

  • They are people the Tairnadal don’t want to ever forget.
  • They are people who played a defining role in one of the great conflicts (which likely means they fought giants, elves, or goblins).
  • There is SOMETHING about them that makes them memorable.

Essentially, you can have both Gallahad and Lancelot: a knight celebrated for incredible purity and honor, and another celebrated for his fantastic martial skills but also defined by his ultimate betrayal of a close friend in the pursuit of love. If Lancelot was your patron ancestor, it would be your religious duty to try to get into a horrible tragic love triangle… whether you wanted to or not… to try to emulate your ancestor. Similarly, if your Patron was known as a guerrilla who struck fear into the giants by butchering civilian populations, then it would be your duty to prey on the weak. While meanwhile, the elves chosen by Gallahad will do their best to be paragons of virtue and honor… something that might actually bring them into direct conflict with elves following the path of the Butcher. Which also might directly emulate the lives of their ancestors.

The most critical point here: the spirit chooses the elf, not the other way around. To me, this is the MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE TAIRNADAL as far as roleplaying goes. Who chose you? Why did they choose you? How do you feel about it? If you are chosen by Gallahad, it is your duty to be the purest, most honorable and virtuous person you can possibly be. Are you ready for that? By contrast, if you are chosen by the Butcher, it is your duty to be a brutal, ruthless murderer who preys on the weak. Are you ready for that? And that doesn’t even get into the more extreme aspects, such as the boy who has shown great promise as a warrior but who is then chosen by a legendary poeta man who fought his wars with words. Picture this as the background of your bard. You never wanted to be a bard; you wanted to be Gallahad! You don’t even LIKE poetry. But the spirit has chosen you, and it’s your duty to follow where it leads and to become that poet in the modern day.

WHY SHOULD I DO IT?

This begs the question: If I’m chosen by the Poet but I don’t WANT to be a bard… why don’t I just become a fighter anyway? There’s a few points here.

  • Society expects it of you. If you refuse to follow the path of your patron, you are putting your personal ego ahead of the preservation of the greatest souls of your race. You will be ostracized and driven out. You can be a fighter if you want, but you’ll never train with the greatest swordsmen and you’ll never earn glory in the eyes of your kin. More important than that…
  • The Patron Ancestors are real. When a patron ancestor chooses you, it forms a bond to your spirit. When you emulate your ancestor, you draw on that bond. A typical elf can’t communicate directly with his patron, though this is a gift that mystics and Revenant Blades develop; but the bond is there, and through it you have access to the instincts and the guidance of your patron. If you turn your back on the patron, you are throwing that gift away. When you’re chosen by the Poet, you have the POTENTIAL to be one of the greatest bards of the modern age. Will you throw that away?

This is one of those things that transcends concrete mechanics. There are mechanics for strengthening the bond, notably the Revenant Blade prestige class. But even if you’re not a Revenant, the idea is that the bond is there and strengthening you. This is the reason why the Valenar are so scary. In a world in which we have emphasized the fact that player character classes are rare, we’ve called out that the typical Valenar is a 4th level PC-classed character… and given examples of them up to 12th level. This isn’t simply because they train harder than humans, though most do; it is because they are guided by their patron ancestors. The elf chosen by the Poet will find that the arts of the bard come quickly and easily to him, whereas if he turns his back on the Poet and insists on being a fighter, he won’t have that edge. It’s not just that society wants you to be like your patron… it’s that you will gain concrete benefits if you do.

What’s This Mean For PCs?

As I said, this isn’t something represented by concrete mechanics; it’s an idea that can be used for character hooks. The Tairnadal have many of the same story hooks as the Kalashtar, in that they are tied to a spirit. But for the Kalashtar, this choice is purely genetic and something that is with them from birth. For the Tairnadal it is something that happens on the border of adulthood. This raises a host of questions…

  • What is your ancestor best known for?
  • Why did they choose YOU?
  • Do you and others around you agree with the choice, or does it seem illogical? You’ve been chosen by the Poet… have you always had an aptitude for the bardic arts, or have you been more celebrated for your brawn than your songs?
  • Have you embraced your Patron or are you rebelling against it? How does this manifest in your actions? What could cause you to change your mind?
  • What general traits or specific deeds was your patron known for? Were they especially honorable or extremely dishonorable? Bloodthirsty or restrained? Best known for their general skill or for one specific deed?
  • Did your patron have any legendary feuds that you may have to take up with elves following other patrons?
  • Do YOU interpret your ancestor in a different way from others?

This last point is the key one. Tairnadal aren’t clones; even more so than the kalashtar, it is up to the elf to choose the best way to emulate their ancestors. Consider the idea of a patron ancestor who is infamous for striking terror into the enemy through horrific murder of civilians. One follower of this patron might simply translate this to the battlefield, always targeting the weakest opponent, but not actually getting into murder. The typical chosen of this patron might tend to be sociopaths who have a very broad view of “the enemy” and view horrific murder as sport. Then there’s you. You were chosen by this murderer, but you feel that you were chosen precisely because these others are misrepresenting him and hurting his spirit. Yes, he murdered horribly when he had to, but he felt great remorse with every killing; he simply felt that it was the most effective tool in the battle for the survival of his people. As a result, you believe that YOUR mission is to hunt down and kill all the elves who are embodying your patron in a flawed manner… and boom, crazy elf Dexter saga.

The point being that six elves chosen by Gallahad will all embody him in different ways and with different degrees of success. However, it is their cultural and religious duty TO embody him, and those who do so successfully should gain power and skill as their bond to his spirit grows stronger.

Another thing to consider when creating a Tairnadal PC: after you are chosen by a patron, you are assigned to a warband. This is a group of elves whose ancestors are at least in line with yours (so the brutal killer of innocents doesn’t get teams up with the conscientious defender of the innocent), selected to work and train together. Often this is a lifelong bond. Unless your whole group embraces this, odds are good you don’t have those partners with you. So what happened to them? Did you abandoned your warband to become a PC? Did you take a leave of absence? Were they all killed, and if so do you want vengeance? Or did you kill them in a terrible parting of the ways?

THE VALENAR

The Tairnadal humans know best are the elves of Valenar. They came to Khorvaire during as mercenaries during the Last War. They sold their swords to Cyre, but late in the war turned on Cyre and seized a section of land as their own. The newly appointed High King asserted that this territory had been claimed by their ancestors long before humanity came to Khorvaire and that it was theirs by right.

However, a few things are worth noting…

  • The Valenar don’t NEED this land. They’ve got enough room back home in Aerenal.
  • The Valenar don’t have a particular interest in being lords of the land. They’ve passed a great deal of civic administration duties to Khoravar or Lyrandar, and largely ignored the human population. They’ve claimed a kingdom, but they aren’t very attached to it.
  • Valenar does NOT reflect the structure of Tairnadal life back in Aerenal. There is no King of the Tairnadal. Beyond that, the civic infrastructure of the Tairnadal… the teachers, the children, the breeders of horses… are all still in Aerenal. For the elves, Valenar isn’t ahome; it’s a military beachhead.

Ultimately, what the Valenar want is an opportunity to emulate the deeds of their ancestors in battle. Their ancestors weren’t conquerors; they were guerrillas fighting a superior foe, strengthened by their knowledge of the land. So in my Eberron – and you could take things a different way – Valenar is in fact a trick. The elves aren’t building a kingdom; they are preparing a battlefield. The reason that they are so antagonistic and provocative in their dealings with the other nations – notably Karrnath and Darguun – is because they want to be attacked by a challenging foe. They don’t want to be invaders or conquerors; they want to provoke a powerful force into attacking them on their home ground. For the last few decades they have been acclimatizing themselves to the land, learning its tricks, determining the ideal spots for ambushes or ways to disrupt supply lines, and so on. The aren’t bringing their cultural infrastructure to Valenar because at the end of the day, they are ready to LOSE Valenar; if worst came to worst, they could retreat to Aerenal and be back where they started. The Last War was a good starting point, but now they are setting the stage for the REAL opportunity to emulate their ancestors.

Not all of the Tairnadal support this idea. There are some sects that have different ideas of what to do – they think the elves should fight the dragons, or return to Xen’drik. And then there are those who are perfectly content with the way things have been done for the last ten thousand years, who think the Valenar are hotheads. If you play a Tairnadal elf, it’s up to you to decide where you fall on this spectrum. Do you support the High King and the Host of Valenar? If so, why aren’t you in Valenar now, or serving as a mercenary? Are you on extended leave and simply waiting for the call to go back? Are you a spy gathering intelligence, or a provocateur getting into a position where you could help trigger the war? Do you oppose the High King and his plan… do you believe in Valenar as a kingdom, or perhaps want to protect the innocent humans of the region from future bloodshed? Or are you a Tairnadal with no ties to Valenar, either wandering the world in you own pursuit of your patron’s path or driven from your homeland by your beliefs?

In closing, a point I’ll emphasize again: The Valenar are an army. There are no Valenar children; they’re raised and trained on Aerenal. The finest smiths and horsebreeders are in Aerenal. In Valenar, almost all civilians are humans or Khoravar (half-elves). The elves aren’t invested in Valenar for the long term; it’s a tool in a larger plan.

… At least, in my Eberron.

FURTHER READING

Unfortunately, many of the online articles once hosted by WotC have been removed from the internet. However, here’s some online articles that might prove interesting.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

Post your questions in the comments and I’ll get to them as time allows.

I remember the Vadallia & Cardaen article, but I also remember how Saer Vordalyn behaved in Queen of Stone.  And while some of the ancestors may have been great poets, given their history the majority must have been warriors (clearly not many of them were urban administrators, since they have outsourced those functions to Lyrandar).

In looking at Saer Vordalyn, consider a few things. He is Valenar, which means he is, innately, a warrior. Second, his ancestor may well have been known for pride or aggression. Essentially, when a Valenar acts like a jerk, it could be because he, the Valenar is personally a jerk; because his ancestor was a jerk and he’s obliged to act that way; or both.

As for the poet, the key point is that the poet had to do something in a time or war to achieve legendary status in the eyes of the elves. Bards are VERY important to the Tairnadal, both serving to inspire troops and more important to preserve the tales of the ancestors. So the poet could be a bard who travels with a warband. On the other hand, it could be that there is a poet who is a legend OFF the battlefield. It could be he crafted the songs that are sung by every bard, or the code that defines the Tairnadal culture. He became a legend in a time of war, but that doesn’t mean he had to be a warrior. As for the lack of civic administration, see the points above. Tairnadal culture generally avoids massive cities; even if it didn’t, the best civic administrators are back in Aerenal keeping the home fires burning. Using local talent is an excellent way to keep your personal investment in the city low.

In my experience few people live up to, or even understand, the ideal of whatever religious or secular ideology they espouse.  I can’t shake the sense that a great many adolescents would use their ancestors as excuses to indulge in bad behavior (I see this happening in real life all of the time, with teens and adults), and a great many adults would take a very simplistic and conventional view of their ancestor’s activities.

Certainly. Which ties to two points above. The first is the fact that Tairnadal culture is FAR more structured and intense than typical Sunday school. Again, I personally compare it to Ender’s Game. Tairnadal children are constantly training, fighting, and learning the stories of their ancestors. It’s not just a casual “Oh, your ancestor liked swords”; it’s a matter of drilling in his precise style, learning every account of him from history by heart, and spending hours each day sparring. You have a concrete bond to his spirit, which is something that makes you distinctly different from a human adolescent. You spar for three hours a day because it is in battle that they hope that you will find that bond, and come to understand him on a very fundamental level.

Elves in Khorvaire live more casual lives. But I see both the cultures of Aerenal as very intense. As a Tairnadal, you are part of an army preparing for a war. We don’t know if that war will come in your lifetime, but if it does, you will be ready.

How do the Stillborn deal with this situation? I gather their raison d’être is to be a contrast to the heavily tradition-bound Aereni society, but are they equally unchanging – simply more egoistical and convinced that they already know everything – or are they actually the rare Aereni equivalent of the rebellious teenager who doesn’t want to sit and have tea with great-great-great-grandmama and kiss her on the decomposing cheek, because he knows better than his elders?

They are indeed the rebellious teens. Among other things, most are drawing on the traditions of the line of Vol, which were inherently more independent. It is the nature of the Deathless that they are sustained by the devotion of living elves. Part of the reason Aerenal is so mired in tradition is that it NEEDS people to follow those traditions to sustain their divinities – same with the Tairnadal. If you follow Vol’s path, once you’re a lich you can do whatever you want; you have no obligation to anyone else. The Stillborn see undeath as a gift. They don’t want to defeat death or any other grand philosophy: they want undeath and they want it now. As a side note, Erandis Vol and her inner circle – like Demise – are largely following this same theme. The Blood of Vol faith has far deeper philosophical goals and themes – the Divinity Within, ending death for all. But the Stillborn just want to be vampires, liches, or whatever because it beats being alive.

Does this tie in with the Shadow Schism? As far as I understand what you wrote about the Phiarlan in the dragonshards, Phiarlan is almost religiously dedicated to their role of keeping peace and harmony by any means necessary, ever since the giant-quori wars – though this did not work so well after Jarot’s death. But Thuranni is presented as a much more innovative House, which wanted to move away from this world of duty (and also decided to eradicate another line of the House).

While it’s not necessarily called out in the canon material, I think there’s a lot to be said for Phiarlan being made up of those who have continued to hold to Aereni tradition (albeit not the traditions of the Tairnadal or Undying Court) while Thuranni represents an evolution that has come from living among humanity. I think it makes for Thuranni to generally be more innovative and unconventional… while Phiarlan still has the majority of the greatest practitioners of traditional arts.

Speaking of the kalashtar, how would they live their increased lifespans? It’s not as long as that of elves, but still vastly exceeds that of a human – and, though it’s not their dominant personality, their Quori part is essentially immortal and has been around since the giant-quori wars (though it is not spread thin)?

That’s an entirely different subject, but one critical point I’d make there is that the child is touched by the immortal spirit from the moment of conception and shaped by that. I see a considerable difference between true immortals and long-lived mortals. Essentially, I see long life as carrying many burdens – seeing your human friends fall, societies change, everything you know fade away. The elves largely deal with this by clinging to tradition and thus minimizing change. However, with the kalashtar, one thing NEVER changes – and that is the bond to your spirit. It was with you at birth and it will be with you to death. Essentially, I see kalashtar as having a little more natural serenity… though that will certainly vary by the individual.

I thought, though, that Five Nations elf citizens outnumbered members of dragonmarked houses . . .

By canon numbers, this is certainly true. Checking the 3.5 ECS, elves make up around 7% of the population of the Five Nations. However, as I said, these articles may clash with canon numbers… and as the setting has evolved, that number has come to feel a little high to me. I don’t feel that the elves of Aerenal have a strong drive for immigration unless forced to it, as the allies of Vol were. Some would have left in protest of the conflict even if they didn’t have to; some likely did come in search of opportunity. However, all signs suggest that elves have slow population growth – again, they’ve been on Aerenal for almost forty thousand years and haven’t grown out of it – and as a result, it seems unlikely that they would make up such a large segment of the Five Nations. So essentially, in my Eberron I’m dropping their numbers a bit – but if you hold to canon, you are correct.

With that said, I think life is challenging for elves blended into human society, given the short lifespans of the people around them and the degree to which society changes. I think urban elves likely attach themselves to institutions that can give a sense of stability – for example, the churches. Of course, if you have a 600 year old elf cleric of the Church of the Silver Flame, she is actually older than the church itself; she might have known Tira Miron personally, and helped her evangelize in the first days of the Silver Flame. I’d think that elves might also look to their relationships with humans as being a relationship with the family rather than the individual; individuals come and go, but the family will endure.

A few questions, though: what would life be like for a Tairnadal whose Ancestor was known as an innovator/inventor/visionary? Would such an Ancestor even exist, as even the elves of Xen’drik may have been largely perfecting already known techniques?

This comes back to how different people interpret the Patron’s actions. Say you have a Tairnadal wizard who invented pyromancy. I think the TYPICAL Tairnadal would respond to this by trying to master pyromancy, seeing that as the ancestor’s defining feature. A rare elf might instead say “His thing wasn’t pyromancy; it was inventing a new field of magic. I will honor him by embracing that spirit and inventing a NEW school of magic of my own!” The same principle holds true for patrons who created new martial techniques; most would respond by perfecting those techniques, and it would be a rarer individual who would recognize innovation itself as the feature to be emulated. But that certain makes for an interesting player character!

This brings up another possibility… What about the ancestors who didn’t rate patron status? In one 4E game I ran, a PC created a Valenar shaman based on the idea that rather than having a single patron ancestor, he was essentially shepherding all the spirits who were good but not quite good enough to rate patron status. An amazing cook; a remarkable jerk; etc. it was a very interesting character, as he basically developed a different ancestor for each of his powers; I could certainly see a rebellious inventor as fitting in at this level.

Also, while this may not come up much in modern campaigns, but what stance did the Qabalrin have towards tradition?

The Qabalrin are the spiritual (and physical) ancestors of the line of Vol. As noted above, it’s an approach that favors the independent individual, while the Undying Court focuses on the strength of community and tradition. This lends itself to the assertion that there was significant infighting between Qabalrin schools. So I’d say the Qabalrin were more innovative, but also more volatile.

What, however, about dwarves, who would live to 450 years, and gnomes, who can live half a millenium? The dwarves seem to be about as unchanging as the elves, if less obsessed with death; the gnomes are however known for research and progress.

It’s true. Curiosity has been established as a defining feature of the gnomes – a desire to explore, and learn, and try new things. In part this is driven by a deep-rooted desire for security; if you know everything you can’t be taken unawares, and knowing the secrets of others is a powerful weapon. But I would say that the gnomes definitely have a different fluid/crystaline balance than the elves, and that their fluid intelligence declines more slowly than most races.

How would a Tairnadal be treated if they were not touched by an ancestor spirit? Would they be a pariah; considered tainted or unworthy to be an anchor? Or would they be considered an unfettered soul; someone who could become a legendary spirit like the ancestors of old?

Well, anyone has the potential to become a legend, even if they follow the path of a patron. You’re supposed to focus on embodying the ancestor, but that hasn’t stopped later Tairnadal from becoming legends in their own right. We’ve established that there are patron ancestors from the Dhakaani conflict and the wars with the dragons; presumably THOSE elves were themselves chosen by Xen’drik patrons.

With that said, there’s no hard and fast rule established. I think it’s a rare thing and would depend on the person. If the person was lazy and uninspired, it would likely be seen as rejection due to their faults and they would be assigned to menial duties. If the person was seen as a rising star who mysteriously wasn’t chosen, it would draw more attention. In a 4E campaign I ran, someone played a Tairnadal shaman who had no personal patron but was instead in touch with a host of lesser ancestors… spirits not QUITE remarkable enough to be full patron ancestors. Each of his spells was thus associated with channeling a different patron. The same concept could generally be true of ALL of the Keepers of the Past; rather than being chosen by any one spirit, they have a broad attunement to many.

For as long as the Tairnadal have been acting as anchors for their ancestors, have they ever questioned where their souls go? Are they sacrificing their spiritual existence simply to further the existence of an ancestor’s soul?

It’s an established fact where souls go: to Dolurrh, where they fade away. The point of the Tairnadal faith is to preserve the greatest souls from this fading. It’s generally accepted that you can’t save them all; thus, a sacrifice is made to save those most important to the culture as a whole. But as noted above, the idea is out there that if you are TRULY remarkable, you may yourself become a patron to future generations; emulating an ancestor doesn’t rule this out. Again, the bond to a patron enhances your talents, allowing you a greater opportunity to achieve great deeds.

Wow, so become great or fade away into the emptiness that Dolurrh. Good to know that even though you’re representing an ancestor your deeds are still your own thus you can still have a chance to become a patron as they are.

Certainly. As I said, embodying the patron preserves the ancestor and gives you a chance to draw on their strengths, but Tairnadal history is full of those who added their own legends in the process. Technically that’s not what you should be TRYING to do, but there’s surely many who have it in mind.

So with the Tairnadal having a much less physical attachment to their ancestors, where do these spirits reside? Are they basically treating their descendants as impromptu spirit idols?

It’s essentially the same mystical principle as the kalashtar and the quori. The patron spirit is tied to multiple mortals. As long as at least one of them is alive, the spirit still has an anchor. In the case of the Tairnadal, the connection is purely spiritual where with the kalashtar it’s partially genetic; as a result, the faith and the actions of the Tairnadal matter. The elf can strengthen the bond through both belief and by emulating the deeds of the patron; an elf who has no faith and makes no effort gains nothing from the bond, and provides no real anchor.

Also, if there is a literal spiritual connection to the patron spirits, could some affect the patron by messing with their anchors? Say that a Daelkyr started messing with the elves, driving them to madness in a way that they still embodied their patron’s ideals, but in a twisted way, could the madness somehow be passed to the spirit’s soul too?

Anything is POSSIBLE, if you want it to be. With that said, as it stands we don’t say that the actions of the living elf transform the spirit; rather, the more the elf acts like the spirit, the easier it is for the spirit to guide her. But it does sound like something a Daelkyr would do, and I’ve had fun with Tairnadal Cults of the Dragon Below myself.

Is it correct to say that the Undying court is the most powerful good entity in Eberron?

“Most powerful?” Probably. We’ve established that the Undying Court has the power to shield Aerenal from an attack by a significant force of dragons, and I’m not sure who else has that level of power… and even as individuals the Deathless Counselors are pretty tough. However, “Good?” That depends on your definition. Consider how long the Court has been around. It certainly didn’t help the Dhakaani when they were being attacked by the Daelkyr. It didn’t act when human invaders were massacring and enslaving goblins, or when they began massacring humans in the War of the Mark. It instructed its followers to ruthlessly exterminate a political rival in the Line of Vol. It’s positively aligned as an energy source, and it acts to protect AERENAL – it’s up to you whether that fits your definition of “good”.

Beyond that, it’s been firmly established that its power is focused on Aerenal. It can defend Aerenal from draconic attack, but it can’t channel that same power aggressively against Argonnessen. Beyond Aerenal, it can only affect things by empowering divine champions (IE clerics, paladins, etc) who can then use that power as they see fit… just like the Silver Flame, the Undying Court doesn’t personally approve every spell cast.  

If that is true, how would you set a campaign in Aerenal? Isn’t it against the code “PCs are the heroes”?

There’s places in Eberron where players aren’t the most powerful entities around. If you decide to set a campaign in Argonnessen, I wouldn’t suddenly depower all the dragons. If there is a draconic attack on Aerenal, they don’t need the player characters to solve the problem; we know the Undying Court can handle that… UNLESS something is sabotaging the Court’s ability to form a spiritual gestalt, and that something is using magic that conceals its presence from any deathless entity or that is tied to Mabar in such a way that destroys any deathless that contacts it and/or negates any divine magic that Court clerics can bring to bear. If you want a situation where the players are the only hope, you can always create one.

Beyond that, though: Even in Aerenal, the Undying Court isn’t omnipresent or omniscient, and unlike the Trust in Zilargo, the Undying Court isn’t interested in poking into everyone’s lives. The Court deals with MAJOR threats: Invasion! Planar incursions! But you can still have any number of “street-level” intrigues and schemes that are simply beneath the radar of the Undying Court.

Out of curiosity, what would happen if a Tairnadal got a non-standard patron. For example, what would happen if an Elf was chosen by say, a warlock who sold his or her soul to one of the overlords?

In MY Eberron, fiendish bargains for souls are a fairly new concept – something introduced when I worked Baator into Eberron as a demiplane whose immortal denizens have only recently engineered a jailbreak and are in the soul business in an attempt to build sources of mystical power. But that’s neither here nor there. The short answer is that it’s up to you. In principle, the religious duty of the elf would be to sell their soul – following the same path as the patron. In practice, they could decide that it’s too extreme and that they just aren’t going to do it; this would just mean that they’d never be an exceptional avatar for that patron, and wouldn’t be able to become a Revenant Blade or otherwise draw strong inspiration from the patron.

While I’m on the topic of non-standard patrons, what if an avatar was chosen by more than one patron?

As above: the patron chooses the elf, but the choice is meaningless unless the elf chooses to emulate the patron. It is through this emulation that a bond is established, sustaining the ancestor and in theory providing guidance and strength to the avatar. So if the elf was chosen by two substantially different patrons – meaning they CAN’T somehow emulate both at once – the question is really on the elf as to which they will emulate.

In one campaign I ran, a Valenar player decided that he’d been chosen by a patron who was a legendary archer… but that he WANTED to be chosen by the traditional patron of the men in his family, a famous swordsman. Since this mean he was defying his religious duty, he’d stolen his family’s heirloom scimitar and fled Valenar, and was working at being the best swordsman he could be and ignoring his declared destiny. The player’s CONCEPT was that, over time, he probably WOULD come to terms with his destiny and embrace his future as an avatar of the archer; but in the meantime, he was TRYING to defy tradition and become an avatar of the swordsman in spite of not being chosen by him.

I’ve also already mentioned the Valenar shaman who defined his character as essentially being the caretaker of all the not-quite-legendary legends… the lesser characters who didn’t quite make it to patronhood. This was a 4E game, and every time he used one of his powers he’d explain which ancestor was helping him with it. So technically, he was working with dozens of demi-patrons as opposed to having one primary patron.

If I’m a Tairnadal avatar, and one of the other avatar’s of my patron is killed (especially if it’s in a fashion inappropriate for my patron), might I become aware of it in some fashion?

Sure. We’ve said that Tairnadal don’t communicate with their patrons casually, but there is supposed to be a bond between them. In theory, this is the same sort of connection a vassal believes they have with the Sovereigns; an avatar attributes some of their skill and success to the instinctive guidance of the patron. Essentially, the avatar simply feels what the patron feels; they don’t need to communicate as such. But you could certainly play that up – especially with an avatar that’s especially close to a patron – and say that they do have visions or flashes of divine insight.

If a given Patron were beginning to run low on avatars (for whatever reason), would that Patron become more aggressive in choosing new avatars. Or is there is spiritual queue: “I’m sorry, Poet, but you chose an avatar last month; you’ll just have to sit in the ethereal waiting room until Butcher and Galahad have chosen their next avatars.”

This process is entirely undefined. It could be that there’s a quota… or it could be that there is a reason certain elves are picked, and that an elf truly is only suitable for one particular patron. But in short, it’s a decision you should make as best suits your story.

I have a new player with a half-drow, raised by elves. Her idea was to be raised by racists, in an unhealthy enviroment. Basically, she was taken care of, but still treated as other, because she is half drow. To you, does that fit Valenar elves?

There’s a few ways it could work. It’s important to note that the elves that are in Valenar are literally AN ARMY. Their civilian infrastructure is back on Aerenal. They don’t consider Valenar to be their homeland; they consider it to be a staging ground for military operations. So they are making no effort to incorporate the humans and half-elves in the region into Tairnadal culture, and this is why they are largely letting Lyrandar run the administration of the nation. So first of all, there’s the question of whether she wants to be someone who has lived ADJACENT to the Tairnadal in Valenar – in which case she could absolutely live as an abused outsider scorned for her drow blood – or if she wants to actually be an integrated part of Tairnadal society.

Looking to what that means: There’s a reason we present the Tairnadal as the being pound-for-pound the most dangerous people on the planet. It’s because their lives are intensely structured and devoted to emulating their greatest champions. Tairnadal children undego decades of intense training in the path of their ancestor. If the typical human soldier is a first level warrior and the typical Tairnadal soldier is a fourth level ranger, it’s because that Tairnadal has spent a decades mastering those skills… and, as noted above, because they are further being guided and inspired by their patron ancestor.

So there’s no such thing as being a casual Tairnadal. Either you are a civilian, in which case you live adjacent to the chosen and perform the necessary tasks that keep society running… or you’re chosen by an ancestor and you spend decades in elf Battle School.

So if she was raised on Aerenal, she either was chosen or she wasn’t, and if she wasn’t it’s important to understand that she’s not part of what we think of as “Valenar.” She could still become a hero and such through pluck – but she wouldn’t be part of a warband or trained alongside potential revenants.

Now, if this was in my campaign, I’d say that she IS chosen by a patron ancestor. I’d work with the player to figure out who that ancestor is and think about why she’d be chosen, when as a half-drow she’s clearly a flawed reflection of that ancestor. Others around her would scoff and say that she can’t possibly do justice to the ancestor, and there’s your abusive environment. If it was ME, I’d have the punchline – only discovered far down the road – be that the ANCESTOR was half-drow and this has long been covered up, and that she’s the first warrior in millennia who CAN truly embody that ancestor. Alternately, she can find her own path, as mentioned above.

 

Dragonmarks 7/2/14: Subraces, Sarlona, and More!

So I’ve got over 50 questions on my slush pile, and I don’t have time to answer them all. As a result, the next few Q&As will be tied around particular themes, such as The Five Nations and Magic. This helps me narrow down the pile and will hopefully make it easier for people to find answers in the future. I’m sorting the existing questions into these categories, so if I don’t answer your question about Boranel’s children here, it’s because it’s a Five Nations topic. The next post will be on Aundair and The Eldeen Reaches, including the druids. If you have new questions on those topics, post them below!

As always, these are my personal opinions and nothing more. They may contradict previous or past canon sources.

What’s going on with D&D Next? Is the setting going to see major changes like the Forgotten Realms or is it just going to be a rules set change? Will there be new Eberron novels?

It’s too early in the process to answer these questions, I’m afraid; things are still being worked out. There will BE Eberron support for D&D Next, but exactly how extensive it is or what form it will take remains to be seen.

There’s also been a number of questions about how I’d handle specific mechanics in D&D Next, such as an artificer or dragonmarks. While I’d like to answer these questions, these are things that take a significant amount of time and testing; I don’t have answers I’m 100% satisfied with yet. All I can say is that one way or another, these answers will be coming in the future.

Are there any plans to make Eberron compatible with Pathfinder or any rules already out?

The vast majority of Eberron material that’s out there is 3.5 material, which is considerably easier to convert to Pathfinder than, say, to D&D Next. If you haven’t read this material, it’s available in PDF form at D&D Classics.  As Eberron belongs to WotC, it’s not currently possible for Paizo (or anyone else) to produce new Eberron material for Pathfinder.

What do you mean when you said you don’t use subraces? You use the drow don’t you and they are a subrace of elf!

This is mainly a 3.5 issue. I use drow, and in 4E I use eladrin, which some could see as “high elves.” But I don’t use Sun Elves, Chaos Gnomes, Snow Orcs, Star-Bellied Halflings, and so on. There are literally dozens of subraces in 3.5 D&D, and the vast majority of them exist for one of two reasons…

  • “I want to play class Y and I want to be race X but race X is terrible at class Y… so I’ll play a subrace of race X, which is exactly the same but has the perfect stats and favored class for class Y.”
  • “I think that if race X lived in environment Y, they would need to be stronger, so they should have a strength bonus.”

Humans don’t change. Inuit don’t get a bonus to Constitution because they live in the arctic. Thus, I dislike this idea that every other race should alter their stats because of the environment the live in. And if Race X isn’t the ideal match for a Class Y, I’d prefer to challenge you to think of how that race would adapt to compensate for that handicap rather than making a new version of the race that lacks it.

Let’s look at the Valenar. Many people have asked me: “Valenar like being rangers. Why not give them ranger as a favored class?” My response is that as Elves have an innate racial talent for wizardry, what you’ll see among the Valenar is a lot of rangers with a few levels of wizard—something that makes them distinctly different from other races and reflects their elven nature. In my opinion, that favored class isn’t cultural; if it was, a member of any race that grows up in another culture should have that favored class. Instead, it is fundamental to the race. Whether it’s a difference in brain structure, innate fey blood, or what have you, Elves have a natural talent for wizardry. I’d rather explore how that affects the martial culture of the Valenar than simply ignore it and make them a different sort of elf entirely.

Now, let’s look to drow and eladrin. Both have deep cultures and history within the setting. While both are racially tied to elves, they are also physically distinct on a very fundamental level—differences that occurred not just because “They lived somewhere cold” but because their ancestors were genetically altered by the magic of the giants. The only difference between a Tairnadal and an Aereni is cultural; an Aereni can choose to BECOME a Tairnadal elf. But he can’t decide to become drow or eladrin. It’s not just a cultural difference; it’s a fundamental physiological difference with a logical origin, along with an interesting role in history.

I’m not innately adverse to subraces. I’m adverse to subraces that in my mind have no logical reason to exist and that add nothing substantial to the history or story of the world. This isn’t just limited to subraces; it extends to full-on RACES. Personally, I don’t use Illumians or Goliaths or Genasi. I don’t want my world to feel like a Mos Eisley cantina, with a different species at every table. I’d rather use fewer races but really focus on their cultures, histories, and role in the world. Which leads us to…

How do the lords of dust view Tieflings and how are tiefling viewed by different nations or religions? What of very obvious tieflings?

I never used tieflings in 3.5 Eberron. However, as they are a core race in 4E D&D, I developed a place for them. In canon Eberron, tieflings can trace their roots back to Ohr Kaluun, a Sarlonan nation that made pacts with fiends; Ohr Kaluun is also the source of the skulks. During the Sundering, Ohr Kaluun was vilified and destroyed. Those tieflings that survived escaped to Droaam and the Demon Wastes, and this is where their descendants live today. The tieflings of the Demon Wastes are scattered among the Carrion Tribes and have no distinct culture of their own. The tieflings of Droaam have their own kingdom, the Venomous Demesne; this is where to go if you want tiefling pride and intrigue. However, neither the Demon Wastes or the western edge of Droaam have any real traffic with the Five Nations. In Sharn, there are in all likelihood more medusas than tieflings. And there are certainly more harpies and ogres. Tieflings simply aren’t prevalent enough for people to be aware of their origins or to have a strong opinion. When someone sees a tiefling in Sharn, their first response won’t be “Flame preserve us! Her ancestors made pacts with fiends!” Instead, it’s more likely to be “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!

With that said, if I decided I wanted to do something with tieflings, I think that the Venomous Demesne could be a fascinating place to explore. Here’s a place where the warlock tradition is the foundation of their culture, a place where fiendish bargains are a fundamental part of life. I see a lot of room for interesting intrigue. And if I was to play a tiefling from the Demesne (warlock or no), I would certainly establish what pacts the character or their family had made, what intrigues they are tied to, and what has driven them out into the wider world. While by contrast the Demon Wastes are the source for the isolated tiefling with no cultural or family connections.

How do the Lords of Dust feel about tieflings? “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!” The ancestors of the tieflings didn’t make pacts with the Overlords. There’s no innate connection that makes the Lords of Dust treat tieflings any differently than orcs, hobgoblins, humans, or what have you.

Now: that’s how I use tieflings, and it’s the canon position in 4E. But you could go a different way. You could say that tieflings are bound to the Overlords (though why do they have horns instead of stripes?). You could have them be persecuted by the Silver Flame. It’s just not what I do.

What subraces do you use in D&D Next?

Given my big diatribe there, this may come as a surprise… but at the moment I use all of them. I just don’t consider most of them to be subraces (with Drow as the sole exception); I think of them as different manifestations of the races’ natural talents. If you look to D&D Essentials, most races took the form “ELF: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence or Wisdom.” I liked this as a way of providing flexibility, and that’s how I look at the subraces in 4E. Rather than saying “City Halflings are Lightfoot and Talenta Halflings are Stout”, I prefer to say “ANY Halfling can be Lightfoot or Stout.” These are simply different paths any member of the race can follow. So a Valenar warband would include both “wood elves” and “high elves”… just like I’ve got an ectomorphic body type, while my best friend from high school is a mesomorph.

You COULD say “All Aereni are High Elves and all Tairnadal are Wood Elves”, but again, this raises all those issues like “But an Aereni can become a Tairnadal” and “What about a elf who was raised by humans?” For me, it’s just simpler to say that they aren’t “subraces”, they are simply different manifestations of elf found in all elven communities. The drow are a clear exception, because again, you can’t just “decide to be a drow when you grow up”; they have a significantly distinct physiology and a clear role in the world.

If you were to run a campaign aimed at ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, what would it take for the Inspired to lose hold of Sarlona?

The simplest answer is the one the Kalashtar are pursuing: get the cycle of Dal Quor to shift, bringing an end to the Age of il-Lashtavar. If this is done, all the quori will be drawn back to Dal Quor and transformed. Do that, and you end the occupation in a moment. So the question is what you can do to accelerate that.

First of all: if you haven’t done it yet, read Secrets of Sarlona. Otherwise, much of what I say here won’t make sense.

My first question: Why do you want to rid Sarlona of the Inspired? Do you have a system in mind to take its place? At the moment, the people of Riedra love the Inspired, and the Inspired provide for their basic needs. They are denied many freedoms people of Khorvaire take from granted, but they largely don’t have to worry about crime, starvation, shelter, etc. As you can see in regime changes across the world, when you kick out a dictator you create a vacuum… and what’s going to fill it? In ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, will you collapse Riedra into civil war, famine, and plague?

Assuming you’ve got an answer to that, there’s a few lynchpins to the Inspired system. The major key is the hanbalani monoliths. These control the dreams of the people, serve as planar anchors and power generators, and are the backbone of continental communication. Whether you’re acting on a regional level or continental, the hanbalani are vital targets. The second critical target is the psionic teleportation circles that allow swift transportation of troops and supplies. Of course, these draw on the local hanbalani for power, so if you eliminate one you eliminate the other.

You’d also likely want to work with existing dissident groups: The Broken Throne, the Dream Merchants, the Horned Shadow, the Unchained, and the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun. Of course, some of these groups – notably, the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun – are worse than the Inspired, so it’s again a question of who you really WANT to help.

But the most important ally and the true key to success would likely be the Edgewalkers—the Riedran military arm tasked with defending the nation from extraplanar threats. It would be incredibly difficult, but if you could convince the Edgewalkers that the Inspired themselves are an extraplanar threat, you’d gain access both to a disciplined corps of people trained in dealing with hostile spirits and a force recognized as heroes by the common people.  However, it’s all how you prove this. Just saying “They’re possessed by spirits” won’t do the trick, because EVERYONE KNOWS THAT; you’d need to prove that those spirits aren’t what they say that they are, and that despite the fact that they’ve kept the nation prosperous and cecure for a thousand years – and despite the fact that they themselves created the Edgewalkers – that the Inspired are somehow an evil threat that must be removed.

Could you go into more detail about what you think would happen if all the Quori disappeared, leaving their Inspired vessels empty? Are Chaos and civil war inevitable?

It’s a valid question. If the only thing that happened is that the quori themselves vanished – say the Age turned without a visible terrestrial struggle – it wouldn’t actually be immediately obvious to anyone except the Chosen (the mortal hosts of the Inspired) themselves. And the Chosen aren’t simply puppets who would suddenly be useless if the Inspired vanished. A few things to bear in mind:

  • Most quori have multiple Chosen vessels and move between them. Thus, the Chosen are used to operating and ruling even without quori guidance. It’s been noted that over the course of years, the presence of a quori has an effect similar to mind seed; the Chosen essentially thinks like the quori even when the quori isn’t present.
  • Tied to this is the fact that there are also a significant number of actual mind seeds around Sarlona. For those who aren’t familiar with the discipline, mind seed essentially reformats a creature’s brain to be a duplicate of the manifester, minus a few levels of experience. So mind seeds are humans, ogres, whatever – but with the personality, memories, and some of the class levels of a quori. They’ll all still be around even if the quori are transformed.

So eliminating the QUORI wouldn’t immediately throw every community into chaos. The Chosen are capable of leading and the people are used to obeying the Chosen. However, there are three other things that would cause more trouble.

  • The hanbalani monoliths are used for communication and more significantly, to control the dreams of the populace. The people of Riedra don’t think of dreams as a source of inspiration or creativity; they think of them like a news channel, where they get the latest information. This is part of what gives them such a sense of unity: they literally share the same dream. Once you eliminate that, first you have wiped out the government’s ability to provide news; second, there is an excellent chance that people will panic when they start having everyday normal nightmares, because they’ve never had them before. They may think that evil spirits are attacking them, or just generally freak out because they don’t know what’s going on. You could mitigate this with help from the Unchained, who are Riedrans who have experiemented with dreams, but it’s going to be the main immediate source of panic.
  • The hanbalani also power the system of psionic teleportation circles. If the hanbalani are left intact, there would be Chosen or mind seeds who could maintain them, even if they couldn’t create new ones. But if you eliminate the hanbalani and thus this network, you’re going to have communities that no longer have access to supplies they are accustomed to, which could thus lead to shortages, famine, etc.
  • Most of all: the Chosen may be capable leaders on their own, but they lack the pure unity of purpose shared by the quori. What I’ve said before about immortal outsiders is that to a large degree they lack free will. Kalashtar aside, the quori have a truly inhuman dedication to their common goal. This is enhanced by the fact that they are planning their actions from Dal Quor (where time moves at a different rate than on Eberron). The Inspired Lords of the major cities may never meet in person, because they don’t have to; their quori meet and make plans in Dal Quor and then return to the Chosen. Left on their own, the Chosen may be good leaders, but they are human. They will come up with their own goals and agendas. They will have doubts about one another. The leaders of the Thousand Eyes may decide that they are best suited to maintain order… and be opposed by the military leaders or the Edgewalkers.

So a certain amount of chaos and panic are inevitable once people start dreaming. The Chosen may maintain order, but without the unifying, inhuman influence of the quori I think that you will get factionalizing and civil war fairly quickly. With that said, I don’t see things dissolving into UTTER chaos; I think you’d see a breakdown into three or four major factions/nations, with a handful of isolated independent communities scattered around them. The largest of these would likely be a faction maintaining that the quori will return – that people need to maintain tradition and calm and just wait it out. But I think you’d get SOME significant factions moving in different directions.

Will common people revolt against their masters without pacifying influence of the hanbalani?

I don’t think that’s a given, but it’s a possibility. Again, the majority of people in Riedra BELIEVE in the Chosen and Inspired. They will be looking to the Chosen to fix things, not instantly turning on them. On the other hand, SOME might instantly turn on their lords.

Or will any external power take a chance to prey on weakened Riedra?

I don’t think there’s any mundane force powerful enough to try to INVADE Riedra. They’d still have their military infrastructure, even if leadership is fragmented. I think it’s far more likely that Riedra’s greatest enemy would be other Riedrans, as different Chosen lords pursue different agendas to fix things. But setting aside the concept of invasion, there’s lots of forces that would take advantage. The Akiak dwarves. The Heirs of Ohr Kaluun, who I think would immediately seize at least one small province. The Horned Shadow. For that matter, I could easily see a Lord of Dust deciding that this is a perfect opportunity to gain followers… or failing that a group of dragons. The main question on those last two is if they were certain the quori were GONE; otherwise they might not want to poach so quickly. But that leaves another possibility…

WHAT WOULD THE NEW QUORI DO? The easiest way to get rid of the quori is for the age of Dal Quor to turn. This effectively eliminates ALL kalashtar and Inspired; their quori spirits will be sucked back into Dal Quor and released in a new form that fits the flavor of the new age. In all likelihood they wouldn’t immediately return to Eberron, because we’ve established that the quori of a new age know nothing about the quori of the previous age; they wouldn’t know anything about Riedra, the Inspired, or any of that. However, if you WANTED to, you could decide that these new quori are quick learners… and that they actually do return to the Chosen in a new, more benevolent form, and work with them to create an entirely new Riedra.

OF COURSE… if something like this happens, are you entirely sure you believe them? Or could it be the old quori just trying to get your PCs to leave them alone?

I’ve been trying to understand a few things about the shifter nations of the Tashana Tundra. So I said to myself, where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes… but what happened to lycanthropes beyond western Khorvaire during the 9th century? Were they not affected by the new strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge?

You’re working from a flawed premise: “Where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes.”  While many people assume that shifters are thin-blooded lycanthropes, there’s a shifter tradition that maintains that the reverse is true – that the shifters came first, and that the first lycanthropes were created from shifters. The existence of a shifter nation elsewhere in the world—in a place where lycanthropy may not even exist—certainly supports this idea.

That same article calls out the fact that the shifters and the lycanthropes weren’t allies. The only way the Shifters were affected by the strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge was that the lycanthropes sought to use them as scapegoats and living shields. Even before the Purge occurred, there was a sect among the Eldeen shifters dedicated to hunting down evil lycanthropes, because those guys are bad news for everyone.

So, the short form is that the Purge had no particular impact on the shifters of Sarlona.

A second question is how shifters migrated from one continent to the other. Setting aside the plausible possibility of parallel evolution, the most likely possibility is that a tribe of shifters passed through Thelanis via manifest zones… the same way Daine & co get from Xen’drik to Sarlona in The Gates of Night. The Eldeen certainly has its fair share of Thelanian manifest zones.

You’ve mentioned before that a LE cleric of the Silver Flame would detect as LG, as the clerical aura is stronger than that of his personality. What would happen, if by some twist of fate, someone became a CG paladin (of freedom) of the Silver Flame (3.5, Unearthed Arcana)? Would others be able to detect that she is chaotic?

This is a house rule that I discuss in detail here. Under 3.5 rules, a divine power has an alignment. The Silver Flame is Lawful Good. A cleric has a powerful divine aura tied to his divine power source that is actually stronger than his personal aura. So a chaotic cleric of the Silver Flame will radiate an aura of law.

All this is based on the 3.5 SRD description of detect (alignment). This spell specifically calls out CLERICS as having that powerful aura. As a DM, I would be willing to extend this effect to “divine spellcaster,” thus including paladins, favored souls, and so on. However, by the rules as written, a paladin wouldn’t have this aura.

A key point, however: this isn’t some sort of trick or loophole you can take advantage of. If you have a divine aura, it is because you have deep faith and a mystical connection to that source. To be cloaked by the aura of the Flame, that LE Cleric must be truly devoted to the Flame; it’s simply that he may take evil actions in pursuing that faith and philosophy. So assuming that you or your DM allow paladins to have that aura, your paladin must be called by the Flame to have its aura. If you see a way to reconcile a Paladin of Freedom with faith and devotion to the Flame, this could work, and it would conceal a chaotic alignment. But again, it’s not a trick or a cheat; it’s because the character literally is bound to something bigger than himself, and that bond overshadows his personal alignment.

Did the Thranes of the Church of the Silver Flame, at least some of its priests, care for the wounded of rival nations during the Last War?

The faith of the Silver Flame maintains that the best way to combat human evil is by showing an example of virtuous behavior, through acts of compassion and charity. Given that, anyone who follows the Silver Flame would be encouraged to show kindness to prisoners. We’ve established that the Puritan faith of Aundair tends to stray from this and lose sight of the value of compassion, and Breland has the highest percentage of corrupt priests (of all faiths, not just the Flame). Still, you could expect to see such acts of kindness from any truly devoted follower of the Flame. And overall, I would certainly expect Thrane to have the best record for taking care of prisoners of war.

Since Jorasco works for profit, and the CotSF is understood as being more altruistic, were there voices that opposed more aggressive factions and took care of and even healed rival soldiers and civilians from other nations?

Throughout all Five Nations you surely found conscientious objectors who refused to fight. Some simply left; this is how the current human civilization of Q’barra was founded. Others might have done their best to care for the injured, especially innocent civilians; I’d expect such behavior from adepts of Boldrei just as much as from priests of the Silver Flame. But a key point here: You suggest that this might present an alternative to Jorasco, because Jorasco works for profit. The key is that the church simply don’t have the resources to offer some sort of free alternative to Jorasco that could provide all the services Jorasco is capable of providing. In the present day, you do have charitable clinics maintained by both the Flame and the Host (again, Boldrei is all about caring for the community). Go to such a place and you’ll find an acolyte trained in the Heal skill that will do their best to assist you. But they can’t provide magical healing. One of the central pillars of Eberron is that people with player character classes are rare, and that even at first level PCs are remarkable people. The typical priest of any faith isn’t a cleric; he is an expert trained in skills like Diplomacy, Religion, Sense Motive, History, Heal, etc. The role of the priest is to provide moral and spiritual guidance to his community, not to cast spells for them. Divine casters are rare and remarkable people who are likely to be pursuing vital missions for their faith. There simply aren’t enough spellcasting clerics in the world to replicate the services that Jorasco provides, and even Jorasco couldn’t provide those services based on spellcasters; it relies on Dragonmark focus items that can be used more frequently than Vancian magic allows. The reason Jorasco can charge what it does is because it’s the only place you can get magic healing RIGHT NOW when you want it.

Having said that: Thrane has more divine spellcasters than any other nation. This was a key military asset for the nation during the Last War. But even there, it doesn’t have so many of them that it could simply treat them as a replacement for combat medics. There are many things a divine spellcaster can do that can have a more dramatic impact on the outcome of a battle than healing an individual soldier, especially when you can buy that service from Jorasco.

So might there have been priests in Thrane who healed enemy combatants and civilians? I’m sure there were. Just bear in mind that this didn’t somehow make Jorasco obsolete or redundant, because these charitable healers couldn’t offer all the services Jorasco can.

What would happen if the Dragons launched their next attack on the elves and the elves wiped them out without effort? Full scale war?

Just like the true cause of the Mourning, the motivation for the Elf-Dragon conflict is left to the individual DM. Consider this quote from Dragons of Eberron:

Those who study this puzzling behavior ask… What motivates this seemingly endless struggle? If the dragons truly wish to eliminate the elves, why don’t they commit their full forces to the task? If they don’t care enough to do so, why do they continue to fight in such piecemeal fashion?

One theory is that the dragons despise the exten­sive practice of necromancy, even when it draws on the positive energy of Irian, but do not view it with the same abhorrence as the giants’ planar studies. Thus, they cannot agree en masse that Aerenal should be laid low.

Another possibility is that the struggle is a form of exercise for the dragons, a proving ground for the younger warriors of the Light of Siberys. Conversely, it might be that the wars are fought to test the elves and harden them for some future conflict, just as a soldier will sharpen his blade in preparation for battles to come. The dragons might be unwilling to share the secrets of their power with lesser races, but they can still push the lower creatures to reach their full potential. The long struggle with the dragons has certainly forced the Aereni wizards and Tairnadal warriors to master the arts of war and magic.

The response to an overwhelming defeat would depend on the reason for the attacks. If the purpose of the conflict is in fact to hone the skills of the elves, it could be that the dragons would be pleased by this outcome. It could be that, thanks to the Prophecy, the dragons know that an Overlord will be released in Aerenal… and that if the elves couldn’t defeat a dragon attack, they’d never be ready to face the Overlord. If the dragons were using the elves as a training ground for their young warriors, I don’t think they’d seek vengeance on the elves for defeating them; the dragons chose the battle, not the elves. Instead, I think it would mean that they’d chose a NEW target for future training exercises—something more evenly balanced. Perhaps Sharn?

Divine Ranks and Eberron, where do the progenitors stand, for example?

Frankly, they don’t. Divine Ranks are part of a god’s statistics, suggesting the power it wields when it manifests… and the deities of Eberron don’t manifest. The only beings we’ve assigned Divine Rank to in Eberron are the Overlords of the First Age, precisely because they DO manifest in this world; IIRC, we’ve set their divine ranks at 7.

Now, looking to the Progenitors, consider a few things. IF you take the myths at face value and believe that they are literally true, the Progenitors created reality as we know it. They didn’t just create planets and creatures; they created all of the planes that we know. At the end of all of this, Eberron became the world. Eberron can’t physically manifest because doing so would be the equivalent of the world stretching out and standing up. The Progenitors exist on a scale beyond everything else. And no one believes that they directly grant spells. Many druids revere Eberron, but they don’t think that Eberron listens to them or personally answers their prayers; Eberron sleeps, holding Khyber in her coils, and what they respect is the system she created. So, if I had to give Eberron a divine rank, I’d make it a minimum of 30. They are the over-est of overdeities.

I’m running a 3.5 Eberron game and the bottom line is this: Vol is seeking to attain godhood by sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives in a mater of days. To do this, she has discovered a set of powerful artifacts that would awaken the greatest and most powerful evil of all and bind it to her will. The entity? Not an Overlord, but KHYBER himself, restored, not in full cataclysmic power, but close. She then intends to send him again the Five Nations and harvest the souls through several Eldritch Engines. I would appreciate your input on this plot and to suggest any substitutions or monsters that might represent Khyber.

This question runs into the same problem I mentioned above. Khyber is literally the underworld. Khyber is the demiplanes that exist in the world. If Khyber was truly somehow physically restored to its primal form, a) you’d be ripping out the heart of the world, which would have cataclysmic effects; and b) the scale is simply too grand for PCs to face it. Consider Siberys. If you believe the myth, the Ring of Siberys is literally the remains of Siberys’ body… and it wraps around the entire world. The Progenitors are simply TOO BIG to be brought into a normal combat.

With that said, I’m not one to stomp on a story. So if you want to keep Khyber as your threat, you could say that it isn’t Khyber’s true body, but rather a physical manifestation of Khyber’s spirit… in which case, it can be the biggest, baddest dragon you care to put together.

However, if I may suggest an alternative: I wouldn’t use Khyber for this plot. Among other things, Khyber isn’t a force of death (I realize Siberys might argue this point). ALL the Progenitors are forces of creation; Khyber may create fiends, aberrations, and monsters, but that’s still creation. If Khyber were to manifest, I wouldn’t expect the occasion to be marked by a big dragon smashing things; I’d expect to see hordes of new monsters and fiends being created by this event. None of which really fits the idea of Vol becoming a Goddess of Death.

 

So my suggestion is that she summon one of Khyber’s children… specifically, Katashka the Gatekeeper. Katashka is the Overlord that embodies death and undeath. If Vol wants to become a goddess, what she basically wants to do is to take Katashka’s place. So my plot would be that Vol finds a way to release Katashka and bind him to her will, harnessing the deaths that he causes and ultimately using that power to usurp his place and become him.

The Overlords are entities with an approximate divine rank of 7. You can see find more details about creating an Overlord in 3.5 rules in Dragon 337; you can get a PDF of this issue here.

OK, there’s still a lot of questions on my pile – let’s do a quick lightning round of ones with short answers.

What happened to Eberron’s thirteenth moon?

It was destroyed by the giants of the Sul’at League during the conflict between the giants and the Quori of the previous age. This action had horrific physical and mystical consequences for Eberron, and this is why the dragons intervened the next time the giants considered using such a weapon. It’s discussed in more detail in the novel The Gates Of Night.

Does the force known as the Silver Flame have adherents beneath the waves? A different take on it like the Gash’kala?

Not in any canon source. It certainly doesn’t fit sahuagin culture as it’s been presented. However, if you play with the idea that the aboleths are agents of an aquatic overlord, one could assume that the aquatic races fought them during the Age of Demons; given that, I could see having a merfolk interpretation of the Silver Flame that traces back to that conflict. But it’s not something that’s ever been concretely defined.

Would there be werewolf war if a werewolf lord were to appear?

I’m not sure what you mean by “werewolf war” – a war between werewolves, or a new attack on the scale of the one that triggered the Purge. There IS someone I’d consider a “werewolf lord” in Eberron: Zaeurl, the leader of the Dark Pack. She’s been keeping the Pack on track and alive for the last two centuries. On the other hand, if you mean something more like an Overlord, I suggest you check out The Queen of Stone for my take on that idea…

 Would anyone on Khorvaire care if Stormreach was destroyed?

Absolutely! Stormreach is the gateway to Xen’drik, which is a source of many imported goods—dragonshards, kuryeva, eternal rations, and more. Dragonshards are the key, as they are a vital part of the magical economy. Plus, something that could destroy Stormreach could presumably threaten any coastal town in the Five Nations. I’d expect it to be a serious concern.

Besides the Lord of Blades and his whole warforged supremacy thing, what other cults, societies or groups have emerged in and around the Mournland?

I’ll revisit this in the future in more detail, but the short form is that it’s very difficult for any human to live IN the Mournland, both because of the hostile environment and simple lack of natural resources. But you’re going to see scavengers and salvagers; refugees who have established communities on the edge; cults of the Dragon Below that believe the Mournland is the promised land; bandits willing to take the risks to shelter from the law; and creatures that have evolved to live in the Mournland (want a city of Abeil? It just popped up in the Mournland!). Per canon, you have a wider range of warforged factions than just the followers of the Lord of Blades. And don’t forget the magebred empress and her followers (from the 4E ECG).

Beyond the world, sun, and the thirteen moons, are any other celestial bodies in the galaxy described anywhere?

Not in any canon source that I’m aware of. Though the 3.5 ECS includes constellations.

OK, that’s all I have time for now. If you have questions about Aundair or the Eldeen Reaches, post them below!

Dragonmarks 2/20: Demons and Deathless!

I’d planned on talking about Codex this week, but for a number of reasons I’m holding back on that for another week. However, if you’re going to be at Wizard World Portland Comic Con this weekend, I’ll be discussing it at my Eberron & Beyond talk, Saturday at 2 PM.

Today I’m just going to pull some questions out of the Eberron mailbag. As always, these are just my opinions, and some contradict canon material. So there!

Are the demons of the planes connected to the fiends of Khyber? Is a balor from Fernia Khyber-spawned?

Yes and no. The progenitor wyrms created all of the planes, and some show the influence of one progenitor over the others. So a balor from Fernia is Khyber-spawned in the sense that it was created by the progenitor wyrm Khyber… but it has no innate connection to the physical Khyber found in the material plane.

Tied to this is the fact that fiends embody specific concepts. Fernia is fire. Benevolent outsiders from Fernia embody the positive aspects of fire: its light drives away the darkness; its warmth keeps us alive; it purifies wounds and drives off dangerous predators; it gives the heat that fuels the forge. Fiends of Fernia embody the negative aspects of fire. Chaotic fiends embody the terrifying destructive force of it, the uncontrollable flames that consume homes and cities. Lawful fiends embody the terrible uses fire can be put to—fire as a weapon of war or torture, harnessed as an intentional engine of destruction.

A balor of Fernia and a balor of Khyber have the same game statistics. But they represent different things. They will have very different personalities and goals, and I would personally have them be physically distinct from one another. The balor of Fernia is an embodiment of wild fire, and should be flame incarnate. The fiends of Khyber are more generally spirits of terror and pure malevolent evil; a Khyberian balor will wield fire, but it will be less fiery in its appearance, and interested in a broader range of goals; it will also owe fealty to one of the overlords of the Age of Demons, which will further determine its theme and behavior.

I have a follow up. Say that the aforementioned Balor of Fernia found its way to Eberron. Through a portal or summoning ritual or whatever. Would said Balor fall in line with one of the Overlords and its agents, or would the fiery Balor have its own agenda.

A Fernian balor embodies the terrifying chaotic destructive power of fire. As such, it might be tricked into serving the ends of an Overlord, but its prime interest will be laying waste to cities and otherwise spreading fire and fear. The key point here is that extraplanar spirits embody ideas, and that determines their goals and purpose. If there is an Overlord that offers them the opportunity to pursue their ends or help them in other ways (protection or vengeance from enemies, for example) they might ally. But there’s no innate all-Balors-must-serve-Overlord-Bob thing going on.

One of the most detailed sources on the Lords of Dust is the article Eternal Evil, written back when Dragon was a print magazine. This includes bios of six members of the Council of Ashtakala. One is a Fernian pit fiend who serves the Truth in the Darkness, and another is a Mabaran succubus allied with the Oathbreaker.

It has been confirmed that dinosaurs roam the Talenta Plains, but in one of the adventure books I believe, there was a mention of a Swordtooth (Tyrannosaurus) in Khorvaire. Are dinosaurs present in Qbarra? If so, how are they different from their cousins in Xendrik?

I don’t think that it has ever been stated in any canon source. But my opinion is that Q’barra is a cradle for reptilian life on Khorvaire. The lizardfolk domesticated dinosaurs long before the Talentans did, and it may well have been the expansionist dragonborn who brought domesticated dinosaurs to the Talenta Plains. If you haven’t read it, I’d advise you to check out my Explore Q’barra article, which discusses the reptilian cultures of Q’barra in more detail.

At the core, I don’t think there are any fundamental differences between dinosaurs of Xen’drik and Q’barra. However, Q’barra was once the domain of the demon overlord known as Masvirik, AKA the Cold Sun. Masvirik has the power to corrupt and influence reptilian creatures, as seen in the Poison Dusk humanoids and the corrupted dragon Rhashaak. As reptilian creatures, dinosaurs could certainly be touched by the Cold Sun. I would expect such tainted dinosaurs to have half-fiend traits. If you refer to the Explore Q’Barra articles I wrote for DDI, I could also see dinosaurs being used as dusk shard vessels. So you might have a swordtooth possessed by an ancient demon!

Given the history of elves and giant magic, would giants have also had a number of Deathless or did the elves do that alone?

There’s a few conflicting versions of this in canon material. This is MY opinion on the matter.

The elves didn’t learn how to create deathless from the giants. On the contrary, Aeren’s death was the primary spark that led to all three of the elves’ traditions. Aeren led the elves out of Xen’drik and died in the process. The elves had lost their savior, and also had time to reflect on how many of their greatest heroes had been lost in battle against the giants. While no one can know with certainty the final fate of the dead, what is know is that souls go to Dolurrh and appear to fade away – that the dead are truly lost. The elves swore that their next heroes would not be lost so easily… but the settlers of Aerenal came from many different cultures, and they split along cultural lines.

  • The warrior progenitors of the Tairnadal tradition chose to preserve the spirits of their heroes by becoming their avatars in the world; the dead heroes live on through their descendants.
  • The founders of the Undying Court sought to ensure that their greatest heroes simply never died. However, their techniques rely on positive energy: the devotion freely given by those who worship the Court, and by the massive manifest zones to Irian that exist on Aerenal.
  • The flaw with both of the preceding approaches is that they depend on living elves. If no elves embody a Tairnadal ancestor, it will be lost. If no one worshipped the Undying Court, its power would fade. The line of Vol was determined to give their heroes the power to survive at any cost; even if the last living elf dies, Erandis Vol will still exist. They drew on the techniques of the Qabalrin elves and developed the foundation of modern necromancy.

We’ve never described the giants as having a religious culture like that of the Undying Court, which serves as a source of positive energy. It could be done with the existence of a powerful manifest zone, but I don’t really see it. Deathless is the most passive form of undeath, and the giants of Xen’drik were anything but passive. What I’ve suggested elsewhere is that the titans cheated death by becoming Vestiges… so an entirely different path.

Is there religious intrigue in Eberron? Factions of the SF attempting to split or vying for power? Jealousy of the SH?

In a word? Yes.

To go into more detail, there’s intrigue within and between all of the faiths of Eberron, from the Silver Flame to the Path of Light. The Sovereign Host is broken into more sects than you can shake an Octogram at. The Silver Flame already has defined intrigue between the core faith, the Pure Flame, the Whispering Flame, the Stormreach separatists, factions loyal to different cardinals and more… and that’s not even bringing the Ghaash’kala, Shulassakar, or Cold Sun Federation into the equation. The Blood of Vol has intrigue between those who believe in the core principles of the faith, and groups loyal to Erandis or who only see the faith as a path to power. Within the Path of Light you have the passive traditionalists of the Adaran path and those who advocate aggressive action. And that’s just what we’ve seen so far; there’s certainly room to add more intrigue if you want it.

Do you consider Khorvaire’s economy to be industrial or post-industrial?

I’d say it’s an industrial society moving towards a post-industrial economy. You have the magewright as the driving force of the magical economy, but the future lies in the new ideas of the Twelve and the Arcane Congress. Of course, Khorvaire has an economy unlike our world in that there are a great deal of monopolies. The Dragonmarked Houses have proprietary control of many vital tools; it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you can’t make a warforged without a creation forge. Of course, it could be that brilliant innovators—such as PC artificers or wizards—could find some way to break one or more of those monopolies.

What are the things hanging from the belt of the Lord of Blades on the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide?

Only Wayne Reynolds knows for sure. However, if I had to come up with an answer, I’d say that they are the schema-keys of Cannith artificers he’s killed.

What would an Eberron-inspired arcane lighthouse look like for you?

It entirely depends on who’s making it. Generally speaking, it would simply be a very large everburning lantern – a beacon of cold flame with amplifying lenses. The Aereni elves would be more likely to tap ambient positive energy, creating something more graceful and without any “flame”. Thrane might do something similar tapping the power of the Silver Flame, in which case it would have religious trappings, while one built during the war in Karrnath by Blood of Vol engineers might be empowered by bound ghosts.

Dragonmarks 12/5: Siberys, Flame and Hybrids!

Soon I’ll start talking about the new setting I’m working on, but for now here’s another round of Eberron answers to chew on. As always, these are just my personal opinions & aren’t canon in any way.

What can you tell us about the status of Eberron in the next edition?

At this point in time, I have no new information. It’s my hope that it will be supported, but I haven’t heard anything positive or negative in this regard.

When will you write more novels? Are you writing one now? Write one now.

As regards Eberron novels, that’s up to Wizards of the Coast, not me. Eberron belongs to WotC, and they are the only ones empowered to authorize Eberron stories. There’s lots of stories I’d like to tell, and this is one reason I’m working on a new setting – so that I’ll have free rein to develop fiction in that world.

In the unlikely event that a Warforged gained a dragonmark, would it replace the ghulra, or be its own thing?

A warforged getting a dragonmark is going to be a one of a kind story, so it’s up to you, really. Is the dragonmark somehow manufactured? Is the Prophecy declaring this warforged to be a tool of destiny? This will likely manifest in different ways. However, I personally wouldn’t replace the ghulra. The ghulra is, essentially, the true name of the warforged: the symbol of its soul. It is unique. A dragonmark is not unique; it can be shared by many people. It touches the soul, but it is not the entirety of it.

Can you provide an in game explanation about how the only interracial breeding possibilities are between human with orcs and elves?

First off, changelings and kalashtar can both interbreed with other races, including humans, Khoravar, and elves. However, these crossings don’t produce hybrids; a human-kalashtar crossing produces a human or a kalashtar, not a half-kalashtar. So to reframe the question, why are half-elves and half-orcs the only hybrid races?

First off, I see no reason to assume that other hybrids aren’t possible; it’s simply that if they are possible, the offspring are a) not sufficiently different from one of the parent races so as to require new mechanics, and/or b) are sterile or otherwise not true breeding. Essentially, if you were in my campaign and said “I want to play a half-dwarf… mechanically he’s a dwarf, he’s just a little skinny and people make fun of his mother” I’d allow it. But I wouldn’t give you any special abilities for it – you don’t get to take human-only feats. So there exists the possibility that half-elves and half-orcs aren’t the only hybrids. But they are still the only true-breeding hybrid races that possess their own unique racial traits, so let’s keep moving forward.

We’ll start with the Khoravar… that’s the name the half-elves of Eberron have given their race, for those who don’t know it. First off, as noted in the Dragonshard on the subject the elves themselves were surprised and disturbed when they had viable hybrid offspring. Why is this possible? It could be that it has little to do with humanity and everything to do with the elves. Remember that the elves are the product of genetic engineering; when the giants enslaved the people of Shae Tirias Tolai, they altered them and stripped them of their ability to slip through the Feywild, transforming eladrin into the modern elves. They were bred to be slaves; as such, it’s not unreasonable to think that they intentionally made them genetically adaptable to help maintain their stock. We’ve never discussed the possibility of, say, elf-goblin hybrids… but if you want to make things interesting, you could say that elves can breed with anything. It would explain the fifty shades of elf you find in many settings.

As for half-orcs, personally, I think orcs work in the same way. I don’t personally consider half-orcs to be specifically half-human, half-orc. In my opinion, a half-orc might be part hobgoblin, elf, shifter, or dwarf. Basically, the orc genes are dominant enough to produce a uniform set of traits when bred with other creatures; though with that said, I’d think that you would see some differences between the hobgoblin and shifter half-orcs. But mechanically they are identical. Why is this possible? It could simply be a bizarre evolutionary trait that has allowed the orc to thrive in difficult environments. Or it could have been a gift from Vvaarak – a blessing of fertility upon the first race of druids.

What if Siberys was not killed by Khyber, despite false myths that say the contrary? Or could he resurrect?

Well, assuming you take the Progenitor myth at face value, it’s hard for Siberys to be alive because the pieces of his body are scattered across the sky. The dragons were born from his blood, and the radiance of the Ring is in my opinion the primary source of the energy mortals manipulate with magic. If he’s not killed, you have no Ring, no dragons, and no magic.

Could he be resurrected? Anything’s possible. But I don’t know what you’d do with him if he was. We’re talking about a dragon wrapped around the world… a dragon who, in his first life, created entire planes for fun. Which means if he was alive again, there’s no particular reason for him to hang around in this one; he’d probably go and see how things were working out in Syrania and Irian, then swim off into the Astral to think about what to do next. The gravitational impact of this celestial motion would likely wreak all sorts of havoc, and there’s then the question of if there would still be arcane magic in the world if he left.

A key point here is that Siberys has no particular reason to care about humans. We’re children of Eberron, and late to the game at that. Even the dragons were born of his blood, not personally shaped by his hand; if anything, he’d be more interested in the outer planes, because those he worked on deliberately.

And worst comes to the worst, he’d want a second round with Khyber and might try to get Eberron to let her go. And Eberron is the world we are standing on. If Eberron were to rise, it would literally destroy the world as we know it.

So personally, I’d let sleeping dragons lie.

What kind of creatures dwell, by your reckoning and imagination as the creator of Eberron, within the distant Ring of Siberys.

Siberys is, in my mind, the source of arcane magic. Dragons are the children of Siberys and Eberron; as such they are mortal creatures whose blood is suffused with mystic power. Per Dragons of Eberron, the couatl were formed from “the pure blood of Khyber before it touched the earth.” So couatl are one example of creatures you might find in the Ring. The key to me is that natives of the Ring would likely be highly magical creatures, as much spirit as flesh; flight would also be a common thing. But beyond “look to the couatl as an example,” it’s not a subject I’ve given much thought.

Does Eberron exist in a specifically imagined Solar System; if so what are the other celestial bodies or major planets therein.

Nope. We defined the moons, and there are a lot of them; you could choose to spread them out as planets if you prefer. But we’ve never described other planets in the system. I believe there are other worlds – the daelkyr are described as having produced mind flayers when they destroyed the homeworld of the Gith – but we’ve never stated if these are physical worlds that can be reached through space travel or alternate material planes. It’s something I’m thinking about as I’m developing my new setting, but it wasn’t something that was considered for Eberron.

Why did Thrane reject Cyran refugees?

I’ll throw out a few factors.

  • Like all of the Five Nations, Thrane’s resources were stretched thin by the war. Krozen’s top priority was to make sure he could tend to the needs of his own people.
  • No one won the war. Cyre never conceded its position or acknowledged Thrane as a righteous victor. Many of those refugees are thus unrepentant enemy combatants. Even the civilians have the potential to form a hostile fifth column within the native population. Why should we put the safety and wellbeing of our own people at risk to help those who were, months ago, trying to kill them?
  • The Mourning is utterly terrifying. An entire nation has been destroyed. No one knows why or how. Is it divine punishment of the Cyrans, and if so, will it follow them wherever they go? We need to regroup, consolidate our forces, and find out what it is and how to protect ourselves from it; this is not a time to take unnecessary risks.

There’s three reasons. Jaela would likely argue for compassion for those in need. Krozen would counter that the closed border protects the people of Thrane. And in the end, Jaela is the spiritual leader; it was Krozen and the cardinals who chose to refuse refugees.

On the other hand, while I understand the motives for Thrane’s rejection of the refugees, it seems odd since Breland welcomed them, and this puts the Flamers to shame given their beliefs in helping others.

The key here is to look at the event in context. The people of Thrane follow the faith of the Silver Flame. But they are also the people of Thrane, and have secular concerns that drive their daily lives. This isn’t a case of peaceful innocents hurt by a natural disaster. At the time of the Mourning, Thrane and Cyre had been at war for almost a century… and the last few decades of the war were fairly bitter between them. Consider the following, drawn from The Forge of War:

  • In 978 YK, Cyre and Thrane were briefly allies. However, Cyre refused to aid Thrane against Brelish aggression. This led to a collapse of the alliance. One of the first conflicts following this was Cyre’s siege of Arythawn Keep. This was a brutal massacre. The Cyrans took no prisoners, and their warforged troops pursued those who fled, hunting them down tirelessly and slaughtering them. That’s an image that is very close to the minds of Thranes on the Cyran border: their own innocents being mercilessly pursued by Cyran troops.
  • In 993 YK, Jaela Daran came to power and immediately sought peace with Cyre. Queen Dannel refused her entreaties, and Thrane soon learned that this was because Cyre had an ambitious plan to bring down Thrane with a direct assault on Flamekeep itself.  Per Forge of War, while this plan was never executed, “Keeper Daran had no counter to High Cardinal Krozen’s claim that Cyre was a clear and present danger.” So again, when Cyre was seemingly punished by divine force for its folly, most Thranes felt little desire to aid the people who just years earlier had plotted to ravage Flamekeep.

In many ways, the question isn’t why Thrane didn’t help Cyre, but rather why Breland did. Breland and Thrane were allied against Cyre on the Day of Mourning. However, Breland had fewer bitter conflicts in its past – no incidents matching either of those I called out above. And to be more cynical, the fact of the matter is that the Cyran claim to the throne was always the best one. By taking in Oargev – keeping his former enemy close – Boranel put himself in a very strong position to control whatever future the nation may have. Breland’s actions may have been pure politics as much as humanitarian kindness.

I do believe that individual followers of the Flame quite likely provided aid to Cyran civilians in need, both before and after the Mourning; and remember, there are followers of the Flame in Breland as well as Thrane. But these incidents were the acts of compassionate individuals as opposed to the policy of a nation. Thrane’s refusal to aid Cyre was a secular act, not driven by faith; it was the act of a nation scarred by war, one that had offered the hand of peace in the past and been answered with betrayal and aggression.

Speaking of Cyre: was there ever anyone doubting what they were doing, when they were planning on attacking Flamekeep? That is, literally, the most important city for the Church of the Silver Flame… I can definitely imagine the shock people of Thrane felt, for those who found out about this (did it become public knowledge? because if so, yeah, Krozen is right in that you can’t expect Thranes to help the people from Cyre all that much)… Kind of insane, really, to consider destroying Flamekeep.

Who said anything about destroying it? We’re going to liberate it from the corrupt cardinals and false Keeper. And don’t forget, there are followers of the Flame who believe the theocracy is a mistake and source of corruption. Under Cyran rule, the church would be restored to its proper role.

Well, I mean, being seen to march against Flamekeep with the purpose of killing the Keeper, that would still cause some unrest, surely? Sure, the Church might have been too involved in secular matters, but going in there to try and kill Jaela Daran still wouldn’t go very well with most followers of the Church, even those outside of Thrane – Cyre isn’t exactly noted as a gathering point of the Silver Flame, so they can’t even do what Aundair might be able to pull off, and say they’re working towards protecting the true purpose of the Church, at least not while also being particularly convincing. Also, the Keeper was chosen by the Flame itself – then again, the queen could be trying to sell it as Jaela being false, so that could work, for those who would believe her.

Let me preface this by saying that the attacking Flamekeep scenario comes from The Forge of War, which I didn’t work on. As such, while I’m going to explain what I consider to be the logic behind it, it wasn’t my idea to begin with. But let me try.

The plan was not publicly known, nor did it involve fighting through Thrane. According to Forge of War , the idea was to defeat Thrane with a single massive naval assault on Flamekeep, with the idea that if Flamekeep could be seized Thrane would be forced to capitulate. With this in mind…

  • This plan was driven by the fact that there was a new, inexperienced Keeper… and surely enhanced by the fact that she was a child, something unprecedented in history.
  • I don’t think the plan was ever to “kill the Keeper.” Rather, it would be a matter of taking her as a hostage. Dannel would have a couple of angles she could work. First of all, she would be dissolving the flawed theocracy and restoring the church to its proper role as spiritual guardian. Second, she would be essentially serving as a regent. This child Keeper is too young to handle such responsibility; Dannel will protect her and guide her as she grows into her role. With the subtext being “she is our prisoner and we could kill her if we wanted.” Many followers of the Flame had doubts about the theocracy, and false Keepers aside, the idea of a child Keeper would seem strange to many. So Dannel presents herself as a protector restoring things to their proper place… not a destroyer or assassin. Rather, she kills Krozen, pinning all the blame on him for corruption and leading the church astray.
  • The plan wasn’t publically known. I would imagine that the force being chosen for the assault would be carefully vetted, either being loyal vassals of the Sovereign Host who would be happy to weaken the Flame, or followers of the Flame who strongly opposed the theocracy.
  • When Krozen exposed the plan, you can be sure that he painted it in the worst possible light. He likely accused them of wanting to kill Jaela, and if it was me, I’d say that Dannel planned to declare Oargev as a new puppet Keeper (doubly infuriating because the Keeper is chosen by the Flame, not by mortals). So yes, this infuriated both Thranes and other loyal followers of the Flame in other countries. The plan was thus never carried out; once warned the Thranes surely bolstered their defenses, and beyond that the public sentiment in all nations would make it an unwise move.

But yes, you can see why this would make Thranes unsympathetic to the Cyran refugees… if you go with the idea of Krozen presenting Oargev as Dannel’s would-be puppet Keeper, you can doubly see why there would be no hope of setting up a New Cyre in Thrane; I’d further play up a large segment of Thranes – and even Flame loyalists in Breland – bitterly hating Oargev in the present day.

Can the SF be a good deity and not just an impersonal force?

The Silver Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It’s a force of positive energy that holds mighty demons at bay. When Bel Shalor escaped his bonds and threatened Thrane, it reached out to Tira and gave her the power she needed to defend her people. Since then, it has continued to empower noble souls to defend the innocent. It calls paladins to service and grants its power to the most faithful of its servants. It’s not an impersonal force. It doesn’t grant its gifts to everyone. When Overlords ravage the land, it doesn’t ignore the people in need.

However, it’s not an anthropomorphic entity. It’s a gestalt of thousands of noble souls, many of which were never human. It doesn’t view the world as a human would, nor does it value humans more highly than other mortals; an orc and a human are equally worthy of its gifts, if they have noble aims. It exists to defend the mortals of Eberron from supernatural threats: demon lords who would collapse the world into chaos; undead forces that would drain the life from it; a plague of lycanthropy that could consume nations. It takes no stand on conflicts between mortals, whether that’s humans fighting humans or humans fighting orcs. It was kindled by couatls fighting demons before human civilization existed. It grants its agents the power to save humanity from demons; it is up to the humans to use that power wisely when no supernatural threat exists. In judging a mortal soul, it doesn’t view it the same way as we might. It responds to faith, selflessness, the desire to help others. Tira, Krozen, Jaela, and Dariznu all share faith and a fierce determination to help their fellow mortals, and it is this that binds them all to the Flame. It’s simply that they all have different ideas about the form this help should take. Dariznu believes that publicly burning dissidents alive is the only way to bring others to the righteous path; Jaela finds this to be horrifying, while Krozen considers it a necessary sacrifice to maintain order in Thaliost. All three believe that their actions and approaches help people… and that is what the Flame responds to. It’s also the case that the Flame can only act through its agents. When Bel Shalor threatened Thrane, the Flame couldn’t simply blast him; it could only empower Tira to do what needed to be done. The Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It was formed from a great sacrifice, and ever since then it has protected the world from evil. But it is only as strong as its mortal agents. It gives noble souls the power to do good; it’s up to them to live up to the promise of their own souls.

If you want the Silver Flame to be more active, I wouldn’t do this through the Flame itself; rather, I’d turn to the Voice of the Flame. Tira’s spirit is the bridge between Church and Flame. Per canon, her role is subtle and passive… it is the quiet voice that urges you to do good, set against the subtle influence of Bel Shalor pushing you towards darkness. If I want to give someone a divine vision from the Flame, I’d have it come from Tira. But personally, I don’t want the Flame itself to be actively intervening in the daily lives of most people, because it strips a depth from the stories. I want the PCs to be the ones who have to decide what to do about Dariznu – is he actually serving a greater good, as he believes? Do they have the right to bring him down, and have they thought about what happens after? If the Flame itself personally sanctions this action, it becomes clear-cut and to my mind, less interesting. As is, the Flame empowers your paladin because you have the conviction to do good, and the potential to do good. But it’s up to you to live up to that potential, and to make the right choices.

Dragonmarks 11/1: Sports, Holidays, and More!

Time for more Eberron questions!

Are there any Khorvairian analogs to real world holidays or festivals, say if we wanted a Christmas themed game?

It depends what you mean by “direct” analogs. There’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny in canon Eberron. With that said, there are some holidays that could be used to give a game a similar favor. A few examples:

  • Wildnight (18-19 Sypheros). The festival of the Fury, a time when passions run high and people cast aside inhibitions. Blend Mardi Gras with a divinely inspired bacchanal and you’re on the right track.
  • Long Shadows (26-28 Vult). Three nights when the Shadow reigns supreme. Most stay indoors by the fire, but it is a time for minions of darkness to take to the streets and celebrate. If you want a Halloweenish tradition, you could say that some people choose to dress as monsters to frighten their friends… though that’s a dangerous game on a night when true monsters are abroad.
  • Boldrei’s Feast (9 Rhaan). A time for a community to come together and strengthen its ties. Certainly a time in which people give thanks, if you take my meaning. Also a traditional day for elections and government appointments.
  • The Ascension (1 Sypheros). The most important celebration in the calendar of the Church of the Silver Flame, the Ascension commemorates Tira’s sacrifice and transformation into the Voice of the Flame.

All of these are described on pages 30-32 of Sharn: City of Towers, along with ten other holidays and festivals.

We rarely hear of “sports” in fantasy. Are bloodless sports a big Eberron thing? Breland Monarchs vs Karrnath Bats” style?  

Funny you should ask, as some sports are covered on pages 32-33 of Sharn. The sport that’s received the most coverage is The Race of Eight Winds, an annual aerial race that involves eight different species of flying creatures. Combat is allowed in the Race, so it’s not entirely bloodless. However, combat isn’t the focus, and many riders will do their best to avoid it; it’s simply the case that if you’re the Griffon, you’ve got a better chance of beating the Pegasus by literally beating the pegasus than you do outflying it. There are certainly bloodless races – pegasus versus pegasus, for example – as well; the Ro8W is simply the biggest sporting event of the year.

As for team events, the only one that’s been mentioned by name is hrazhak (Sharn, page 32), a team sport with its roots among the Eldeen shifters. Again, this is a full-contact sport, but the goal of the game isn’t the elimination of the opposition and only natural weapons are allowed; it’s a rough game, but I wouldn’t define it as a bloodsport. Because of the nature of the game, human players will be at a disadvantage; however, it could still be something that could gain popularity and become a national sport.

There could easily be other organized sports, but none have been mentioned in canon that I’m aware of.

I was wondering, can a half-elf born of elf and human in Eberron develop either half-elf dragonmark, if any at all?

Well, anyone can develop any Dragonmark, if the Prophecy turns that way. However, per canon and tradition, the only way to manifest a dragonmark is if the person with the mark is part of a bloodline that already carries the mark. So the question here is whether the union of a human and half-elf has the potential to produce a human child, or if all the children will be Khoravar. If a human-Khoravar union can produce a human child, then this simply means that the human parent of your half-elf character has a connection to the house in question somewhere down the line.

Note that if a half-elf/human union can produce a human child, this wouldn’t allow a human to develop the mark of Storm, any more than a Tharashk orc can develop the mark of Finding; it’s just latent in his bloodline.

Also, do half-drow have a place in Eberron?

Sure. In my novel The Shattered Land, the protagonists employ a half-drow guide named Gerrion in Stormreach. It’s simply the case that because there is so little interaction between drow and other species there aren’t very many half-drow, and thus they aren’t a cultural force the way the Khoravar are.

Keith, I’ve been enjoying your take on 4e Eberron (which I’m calling Eberron 4.K) but I’m trying to deal with the cost of rituals. Magewrights can learn one or two rituals but how do they handle component costs? I’ve been thinking of the lamplighters, walking around Sharn with Continual Light rituals and re-casting every 24 hours but the ritual is 20 gold or a healing surge. Adventurers can pay that but that’s something like the annual income of the average laborer to power one lamp.

That’s a case of the ritual being poorly designed for Eberron. You’re right; there’s no way people are paying 20 gp/day to keep a streetlight going. I think the answer lies in the streetlamp itself. The ritual allows you to place a continual light on ANYTHING. I can make my boot glow… but it only lasts for an hour. Now think of it as oil. I can pour oil on my boot and set it on fire, and it will provide light for a little while until it burns up the boot. However, if I use that same amount of oil in an oil lantern, it’s going to last far longer, because it’s a tool designed for that purpose.

So, in the case of Continual Light, what I’d say is that the streetlights are designed with dragonshard “wicks” that hold and channel the power of the ritual for an extended period of time. You pay the base cost to start it up the first time; from that point forward, you have a mini-version of the ritual that simply uses a pinch of residuum to keep it going. So the typical lamplighter is going around recharging, but only spending a small amount – which would come from municipal taxes. The “recharge” ritual isn’t a full ritual in its own right, it’s something anyone who knows Continual Light can perform.

As for the general costs of rituals (like arcane lock), the Magewright would simply have to charge enough for her services to cover the cost of the components and generate a profit.

What if dragonmarks started popping in the real world?

I don’t think there’d be a vast immediate impact. Bear in mind that much of what gives the dragonmarks their power is the tools that are designed to focus and channel that power. On its own, the Least Mark of Making lets you cast Mending once per day. That’s handy to be sure, but it’s the ability to use things like the creation forges that makes the mark a true force to be reckoned with. The marks have been around in Eberron for over a thousand years, but their influence has grown considerably over the last few centuries as the houses have developed superior tools and techniques; I’d expect the same if they appeared here.

Dragonmark 4/18: The Mark of Death

My original plan was to do a lightning round of short answers this week. However, between the release of the Bloodsails Eye on Eberron article today and the fact that this question gets asked every few months, it seems like a good time to get my answer in an easily accessible place.

As always, this isn’t canon and I’d love to hear what you’ve done in YOUR Eberron. If you’ve got comments on the Bloodsails article, post those here too! If you’ve got other questions or topics for future posts, ask in this thread.

So, the subject of the day: when I was working with Bill Slaviscek, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins on the original Eberron Campaign Setting book, we agreed that there would be certain topics that would never have a concrete answer. No sourcebook would ever say exactly what caused the Mourning or bring back the Mark of Death. These things are hooks specifically left in the hands of the DMs – so you get to decide what the answer is and what impact it will have on your game. However, people are often curious to get my opinion. So let’s talk about the Mark of Death.

But first, a little history…

Let’s take a quick step back in the past to look at the history of Aerenal and the elves. The elves who founded Aerenal were refugees from many backgrounds and cultures. One thing linked them together: the cataclysmic loss they had suffered as a race, and the determination to ensure that the greatest elves should be preserved from death. As the new nation took shape, three philosophic and religious movements took root. One group was determined to preserve the heroes of the past by becoming their avatars in the present. These were the first of the Tairnadal, and they soon split off from the others. The second group tapped the positive energy found on the island and the reverence of the elves, and used this power to sustain the wisest and most worthy members of society beyond the grave. This was the foundation of the Undying Court. The final faction shared territory with the followers of the Court, but favored a different approach. Despite the power of the Undying Court, it relies on the continued existence of living elves and outside sources of positive energy. This other faction preferred to draw on the energies of Mabar, creating undead who could sustain their own lives by consuming the blood or life-force of others. The necromancers who created these liches and vampires were the members of the line of Vol.

The members of the line of Vol held these beliefs for thousands of years before the Mark of Death manifested among them. They weren’t alone; the Bloodsail Principality is made up of the descendants of other elven lines that were allied with Vol. Over the course of generations, the Undying Court grew more powerful and influential. The priests of the Undying Court asserted that all Mabaran undead consume the life-force of Eberron to sustain themselves – that while a lich may not require blood to survive, its mere existence is a threat to living creatures. The allies of Vol called this a ridiculous political ploy—an excuse to threaten their undead elders.

This tension continued to grow. And then the Mark of Death appeared. This cemented the line of Vol’s position among the Mabaran faction. They continued to research ways to improve their techniques and to pursue true immortality for their people. This quest led them down questionable paths, notably an alliance with a faction of dragons from Argonnessen. These dragons were concerned that the dragonmarks had appeared on the lesser races, and wanted to see if a mark could be made to manifest on a dragon.

Most likely you know where this ends: the birth of the half-dragon Erandis Vol. Things you might not know…

  • Dragonmarks don’t manifest until adolescence. Thus Erandis wasn’t immediately seen as a threat. She wasn’t the first half dragon produced in this program; she was simply the only one to manifest the mark. And yes, this means that in my version of Eberron, Erandis is physically an adolescent (albeit an adolescent half-dragon).
  • Erandis’ dragonmark is not least, lesser, or greater. It’s not even a Siberys mark. It is something more amazing than all of them… the ultimate distillation of the mark. If she had time to learn to fully harness its powers, there’s no telling what she might have been able to accomplish with it. Essentially, she was a living eldritch machine. And this is what triggered the destruction of her line.

The Undying Court had put up with the existence of the Mabarans for thousands of years, and the existence of the Mark of Death for centuries. The appearance of a dragonmark on a child of Aerenal and Argonnessen changed that. “The Sibling Kings declared that the blood of Vol was to be completely destroyed, since even a drop could destroy all living things.

So it came to pass. Forces from Argonnessen joined with the Undying Court and battle was joined. The line of Vol was completely eradicated, and its remaining allies either slain, exiled, or sworn to abandon their Mabaran practices. Yet unknown to the Undying Court, Erandis herself survived. Together, her father and mother transformed her into a lich. Even she doesn’t know where her phylactery is; she knows only that she returns in a new location every time she is destroyed. Of course, a dragonmark has no power when carried by the undead. So Erandis Vol is the ultimate scion of her house, the cause of its destruction, and yet unable to achieve her destiny.

(Some of you may say “What was that about her phylactery? I’ve never heard that before.” That’s right. This again is MY Eberron, and that’s not a detail from a canon source. I see it as unlikely that she could have evaded the Deathguard completely for all this time. However, without locating her phylactery, even the Deathguard can’t permanently destroy her. It also means that she cannot destroy herself, and I think she may have tried in the past. And, of course, it means that PCs could find the phylactery and even she wouldn’t know what it was…)

So, history lesson over: let’s get to the main points.

I have a player who wants to have the Mark of Death, and I’m thinking I’ll allow it. What sort of powers should it have?

The Mark of Death was a “true” dragonmark, as opposed to an aberrant dragonmark. There are two things that distinguish these. First, they can be passed to offspring. Second, the true dragonmarks are almost universally constructive as opposed to destructive. There are a few marks with powers that can be used in an aggressive fashion, but the point is that the pure marks are things like making, healing, hospitality – productive, positive things. Meanwhile, aberrant marks are either destructive or in some way disturbing (for examble, Brom’s regeneration in The Son of Khyber, which is a form of healing but essentially reincarnates instead of healing, which can have unpleasant results).
My point is that the Mark of Death should be about interacting with death and the undead, but I wouldn’t make it about KILLING, because that’s an aberrant path. Things like speaking with the dead; animating the dead; controlling or even laying undead to rest; these all fit. It could be that a dragonshard focus item could be created that would harness that power in a destructive fashion – but that’s not the innate power of the mark.
Again, with Erandis Vol: bear in mind that she doesn’t just have the Dragonmark of Death, she has the ultimate expression of that mark, something beyond even a Siberys mark. If she returns to life, Erandis may be able to do things with her mark that no one else could do – raise an army of undead with a wave of her hand – but that’s because she is in essence a living Eldritch Machine.

What About Skeletal Guardian as the power of the Siberys mark?

Sounds fine to me. It’s about animating the dead, which is more in line with my views than an offensive power.

Beyond this, bear in mind that any dragonmark grants powers beyond the raw spell-like abilities… provided you know how to use them. Per standard rules, a dragonmark allows you to make use of dragonmark focus items. So you’ve got the Mark of Making? It’s nice that you can repair a construct, but it’s far more important that you can use a creation forge. The Mark of Storms makes you eligible to be an airship pilot. And so on. So the question is what tools the line of Vol created to harness and channel the power of the Mark of Death.

Likewise, in 4E, dragonmarks allow you to perform certain rituals. In my house rules, I say that you don’t need a ritual book to perform these rituals… but you have to be trained in their use (generally at the same market cost as buying it). There’s only one person out there who could train you in use of the mark, and that’s Erandis. Can you come to some sort of agreement?

I realize some of you may have been hoping for a concrete “the Least Dragonmark of Death lets you use deathwatch once per day,” but the fact of the matter is that I’ve never used it in one of my campaigns. In 4E, I will say that in addition to providing access to focus items and any logical rituals, I’d probably allow someone with the mark to perceive ghosts and to use speak with dead as a skill challenge as opposed to a ritual. I’d likely put a limit on length of death, but I’d personally have the Mark of Death involve interaction with the dead… not to be confused with the Mark of Healing, which prevents people from dying.

So a player character takes the Heir of Siberys Prestige Class and manifests the Mark of Death. Is it possible to re-establish House Vol? Would other Dragonmarked Houses approve its existence or see it as a threat?

You can’t reestablish House Vol, because House Vol never existed. The line of Vol was a noble family as opposed to a mercantile guild, and it was wiped out before the Twelve came into existence. So could you reform the line of Vol? Sure, if you had at least one living elf from the bloodline. The reaction of the dragonmarked houses would be based on whether you were cutting into their businesses in some way. Even if you came up with a mercantile niche using the mark that clashed with one of the houses (Jorasco?), unless you had a LOT of people with the mark and set up a serious commercial endeavor, it’s unlikely the houses will really care. Unlike…

Would the Aereni seek to slay this new heir even if the heir had no interest in vengeance against Aerenal? How would the dragons react to the resurrection of the Lost Mark?

Let me give you that quote again: “The Sibling Kings declared that the blood of Vol was to be completely destroyed, since even a drop could destroy all living things.” Short form: They won’t take it well. The same goes for the dragons. To be clear, this isn’t about YOU. Again, the Mark of Death was around for 600 years before the eradication, and that includes Siberys marks. The reason it needs to be wiped out is because as long as it exists, it is possible that you could produce a new abomination like Erandis. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a nice person or an evil one. It’s a question of eradicating your bloodline.

Now, obviously the game’s no fun if dragons kill you right away. So if I was going to use a returned Mark of Death in my game, I’d do it in one of the following ways:

  • Lay low. Can you keep your mark hidden? If you have to use it, can you trust the people who see it?
  • Help from above. Perhaps there’s a dragon in the Chamber who’s actively debating with the others and promoting an interpretation of the Prophecy that shows that your Mark is vital to the future. Perhaps Erandis or a Lord of Dust is working to hide you from your potential powerful enemies… though this might not be a good thing.

Of course if your goal is to go public and announce “I HAVE THE MARK OF DEATH” in fiery letters? In MY Eberron that’s just not going to end well for you. But hey, if you want to play things differently, do that.

How would the Valenar feel about a reborn Mark of Death?

The Tairnadal (the culture of the Valenar) never gave a damn about the line of Vol or the Mark of Death. How they would react to you would vary based on the individual and their ancestor.

How would Lady Vol react? Would she try to influence a person who manifested the Mark of Death?

Oh, definitely. But here, you need to decide what Erandis’s end goal is. Let me throw out a few possibilities.

  • The Happy Ending. Erandis is just sad her family got wiped out. She wants her family back, and figures that this will require the destruction of the Undying Court and Argonnessen. This is good news for you, because it means she wants you alive. The next question is how you feel about this. If you’re all for it, great! You can team up, she can help hide your mark, and you can be sent on missions to rally all her scattered allies from the good old days. If you don’t particularly like this idea, the bad news is that the best approach is to chain you in the basement and use you in a breeding program. I don’t see a lot of reason for subtlety here, although it may take her a while to find out that you HAVE the mark; one of her minions has to find out about it, pass the info along, and then she has to find you.
  • Queen of Death. Erandis believes that her destiny is to BECOME death… to replace the Keeper and claim dominion over Dolurrh and all mortal souls. The good news is that this doesn’t necessarily require her to, say “destroy all living things.” The bad news is that your reestablishing the line of Vol doesn’t help HER achieve her destiny. More likely, she’s going to try to come up with some way to use your blood, heart, or other random organs to return to life so she can unlock her Mark and use her destiny. How she’ll manipulate you is tied to what she needs to do to achieve this. Essentially, you’re part of a recipe. “Take one living heir with the Mark of Death, add paragon tier, add the gaze of Belashyrra, add a trip to Mabar, and sacrfice.” So it’s really up to the DM to decide what she needs you to do before you’re a suitable sacrifice… and how subtle she’ll have to be to accomplish these things. With that said… Again, Erandis accomplishing her goal isn’t necessarily bad; you won’t know until she does it and you find out if she makes a good Queen of the Dead. So one possibility is that you find a way to help return her to life that DOESN’T involve sacrificing you. Heck, if she goes ahead and ascends, it may be that the dragons will come to the conclusion that they were off-base in their reading of the Prophecy and leave you alone afterwards.
  • The Unhappy Ending. Remember that “even a drop could destroy all living things” line? Unfortunately, Erandis thinks THAT’S her destiny. So this is the same as the above, but the outcome is bad for everyone; there’s no helping her do it.

So the short form is that I can’t answer this. It’s up to your DM to decide what Vol is trying to do, if there’s any room for compromise, and if her best course of action is heavy-handed or subtle. With that said, if I did it, I’d definitely go the Queen of Death route and have a big list of conditions that need to be met before you’re ready for the sacrifice. It’s basically the same as having a shaper dragon interested in you as described in The Chamber article that went up last month.

Feel free to ask additional questions about Erandis or the Mark of Death, or to share your own experiences!