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In Exploring Eberron, I delve into topics I’ve been wanting to exploring in more detail for over a decade. One of these is the Kech Dhakaan, the goblinoids who still maintain the traditions of the Empire of Dhakaan. This section examines Dhakaani history, the active clans, and provides support for playing characters from the Kech Dhakaan—as well as a glossary if you’re worried about keeping track of all those dar words!
I don’t want to give a release date for Exploring Eberron until I’m sure of it; I am still wrapping up the final pieces now. But we’re getting very close, and I can’t wait to share it with the world!
As always, thanks to my Patreon supporters: I’ll be posting the requested Dolurrh article tomorrow!
While I get certain questions about Eberron all the time, I’ve asked my Patreon supporters to give me some simple infrequently asked questions. Today’s question comes from DMZ:
I have a goblin PC who is an Heir of Dhakaan but I don’t feel confident about his backstory. Are there any Dhakaani clans that are known for their Artificers, that want to preserve knowledge and the past or maybe one that wants to unite goblinoids once again?E
The Empire of Dhakaan was an advanced goblin nation that dominated Khorvaire long before humanity arrived on the continent. It was ultimately destroyed by the daelkyr, but before it fell completely a number of clans retreated into deep vaults. Recently these “Heirs of Dhakaan” have returned to the surface. They are more advanced and disciplined than the Ghaal’dar goblinoids most people are familiar with. You can find more information on the Dar—Dhakaani goblinoids—in this article.
So: are there any Dhakaani clans known for their artificers, their desire to preserve knowledge, and maybe that wants to unite goblinoids once again? In fact, there’s one that fits all three of these categories: the Kech Volaar, the “Keepers of the Word.” The Volaar value knowledge above all else—both the records of history but also, knowledge of the arcane. The Volaar have the finest duur’kala bards of all the clans. But they also have daashor—the forge adepts who serve the Dhakaani as artificers—and they are actively working to perfect the arcane science that produces wizards. All of the Dhakaani clans want to reunite the DAR, but many believe that the modern goblinoids have been corrupted by the daelkyr and cannot be saved. Of all the clans, the Kech Volaar are the most optimistic that it may be possible to reclaim these lost souls and to rebuild the Empire with ALL goblinoids.
There are a number of elements that make the Kech Volaar an excellent choice for PCs who want to be Dhakaani adventurers. The Kech Volaar are eager to learn more about the modern world, and especially to study the arcane science or traditions of other cultures. As such, a Volaar adventurer could simply be out in the world gathering information, with a special interest in investigating anything tied to arcane science. The Volaar are also determined to recover powerful Dhakaani artifacts lost during the fall of the Empire (and quite possibly now in the hands of chaat’oor!), which is another concrete quest for a player character to pursue.
So as a Volaar artificer you could be gathering information, searching for Dhakaani artifacts, or simply trying to improve your own skills by studying the artifice of other cultures.
Exploring Eberron has an extended section about the Kech Dhakaan that describes nine clans and goes deeper into the daashor tradition, so there’s a deeper examination of all of this coming soon!
I’ve collected a lot of questions from my Patreon supporters over the last few months — some related to Eberron, some to Phoenix: Dawn Command, Illimat, or other things. I’ll be working through the list as time permits. Here’s the first installment.
I’d love to see a master list of races you would include in a 5E Eberron campaign.
As a rule, I limit the number of races in my campaign. I don’t want Sharn to look like Mos Eisley; I prefer to work with fewer races and to have more room to really delve into their roles in the world and their relationships than to cram as many races into the world as possible. As a result, in my Eberron the Five Nations tend to include the standard Humans, Elves, Halflings, Dwarves, and Gnomes; Shifters, Changelings, Warforged, Kalashtar, Orcs and Goblins; and the various hybrid races, such as Half-Orcs and the Khoravar. On top of this you have the monstrous races (not all of which are available as PCs) that have a place in the world depending where you are… Ogres, Trolls, Minotaurs, Gnolls, Harpies, Medusas, Lizardfolk, Kobolds, Troglodytes, Dragonborn, Sahuagin. Eladrin are optional if I’m going to work in the Feyspires, and Drow are an option if we’re dealing with Xen’drik.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few. Now right there we’ve got 26 sentient races — 28 once you add in the different Goblin subspecies — and that’s not even touching the options for subcultures and subraces. For me, that’s enough; left entirely on my own I’m not going to add in Tieflings (for example), because I just don’t need more races. On the other hand, if a player comes to me and wants to play a Tiefling or an Aasimar or a Kenku and has an interesting story in mind, I’ll generally embrace that story — as I’ve discussed in this post. So I can’t give you a true master list, because I CAN include anything, and generally I WILL if there’s a compelling story to be told and not just “I want this particular special ability.” And in the case of wanting that racial ability, I’d look at whether it could be reskinned to an existing race — such as the time I played a character that was mechanically a Deva, but in the story was a human from Cyre possessed by spirits of people who died in the Mourning.
And to be clear: this is a list of what I will use, not what’s out there in canon. Canon sources add Tieflings, Skulks, Aasimar, Eneko, Xephs, Eladrin, Yuan-Ti, and goodness knows how many more… because again, Eberron is designed to have room for almost anything. But that list in the first paragraph is what *I* will generally use when I’m creating a cast of characters for an adventure.
I don’t remember Canon sources speaking of kobolds and troglodytes, may you help me?
Kobolds appear in a number of places. This Dragonshard article is the primary canon source, but they appear in asides in many sourcebooks. Kethelrax the Cunning is a kobold warlord in Darguun, while Hassalac Chaar is the most powerful spellcaster in Stormreach. Troglodytes are covered in far less detail, but are mentioned as being present in Q’barra in the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide, and I worked this into the articles I wrote about Q’barra for Dragon.
It appears that in Eberron, Goblin is the name for goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears?
The Common tongue does have this semantic issue. When using it, I use Goblin to refer to the language or overall species, and goblin for the subsecies. This problem is solved if you use the Goblin language, in which the overall species are the Dar, and the subspecies are golin’dar (goblin), ghaal’dar (hobgoblin) and guul’dar (bugbear).
In 5E would those three be a subraces of goblin rather than listed separately?
If the question is whether I’d mechanically represent “Goblin” as a primary race and have bugbear, hobgoblin and goblin be subraces of that race, no I wouldn’t. There’s significant differences both physically and psychologically and I believe that each of these subspecies deserves it’s own race entry. In fact, since I tend to use 5E’s subraces as a form of individual expression and optimization as opposed to true biological divisions (an approach I discuss here) I’d conceivably include subraces FOR each of the Dar.
Does the Church of the Silver Flame have any presence in Darguun?
I don’t believe it’s ever been mentioned in canon. In my Eberron, the Dar are inherently rational and have difficulty accepting things on faith — something I call out in this article. This is stronger with the Dhakaani, which is why Dhakaan is presented as an agnostic civilization that lacks divine magic. It’s something that was likely weakened along with the eusocial bond, and thus you do have goblins pursuing religions after Dhakaan, but I still maintain that it’s not something that has either the width or depth of faith in the Five Nations. So this is why you have the Ghaash’kala among the orcs and no equivalent among the Dar: the Goblin psyche just doesn’t lend itself towards it. And personally, I think you’d need something like the Ghaash’kala. The Church of the Silver Flame as it exists in the Five Nations is based around the sacrifice of a human to save a human nation; I don’t see the concept as being especially appealing to creatures still seen as monsters by many humans, and the CotSF is a militant enough force that I don’t think people looking to establish a local church would be welcomed with open arms in Rhukaan Draal.
Now, if you want to START something — to have a Dar PC (or NPC) who hears the Flame and seeks to start a movement, becoming a new Voice of the Flame — that seems like an excellent thing to drive a campaign. And you could certainly have a friar in Darguun trying to pave the way for something. The fact that it doesn’t exist in canon simply means that it’s a chance for it to be the unique story of one of your characters. But I do think it would be a challenging path to walk.
Worshipping the Silver Flame still requires faith, which the Dar find difficult, but would it be easier for them to have faith in something that can be shown to be real?
Not really, no. Channeling divine magic is about more than simply believing that the power source exists. Note that in Eberron, most priests aren’t divine spellcasters. Those priests believe in their faith, but even they can’t truly touch the divine itself. I talk about transcendental faith in this post and about the question of divine purpose in this one. The net is that it’s more than just believing in a thing. It’s not rational. It’s about having an absolute faith both in the force; in its divine purpose; and that you yourself are a part of that, that YOU have a higher purpose and role to play. The typical Dar can believe that the Silver Flame exists. As established in canon, some among the Ghaal’dar and the Marguul DO worship variants of the Sovereign Host or Dark Six. And yet when it comes down to the ultimate surrender of self — the belief that there is a purpose to the universe and that you and this force are part of it — something in the subconscious of the Dar freezes up. To me, the logical explanation would be that it’s tied to the eusocial bond, which essentially defined a Dar’s place in the universe. Biologically, they weren’t designed to question their place in the universe; they fundamentally knew it. As such, their brains simply aren’t wired for the sort of abstract and transcendental faith that produces divine magic. On the other hand, they have a natural bent towards organization and discipline. Orcs on the other hand are passionate and primal and have a far easier time embracing abstract ideas… in small groups. But this also leads to an independent nature that makes it difficult for them to form large rigid hierarchies. Which is why even though the Ghaash’kala have been around far longer than the Church of the Silver Flame, they are far fewer in number and don’t have anywhere near the degree of hierarchy or ritual that the CotSF has developed.
Of course, none of this should stop YOU from having a Dar character or NPC who has found that transcendental faith. It’s simply an explanation for why the Dar as a whole have few divine casters and few prominent religious institutions.
Did the Dreambreaker intend to betray Halas Tarkanan during the War of the Mark?
That’s a pretty deep cut. The Dreambreaker is one of the aberrant commanders from the War of the Mark. He first appeared in the module The Delirium Stone, and was further described in places like this Dragonmark.
In my opinion, the Dreambreaker was a true champion and loyal to the cause. However, he was also insane. Along with the Lady of the Plague, the Dreambreaker represents the fact that aberrant marks often come with a terrible price. The Lady of the Plague destroyed her village before she mastered her mark, and had to exercise constant control to keep from harming the people around her. The Dreambreaker had the power to cause madness… but this also affected his mind. The Delirium Stone gives this advice to the DM playing the Dreambreaker: “He sees visions no one else can see, and he believes the true battle is with the gods, with time and space, and that the people around him are merely manifestations of patterns. When playing the Dreambreaker, always act as if you know terrible things others can’t imagine. Take care of the Aberrants in your charge – but treat them as children, because that’s what they are to you.”
So the Dreambreaker wouldn’t intentionally betray Halas… but he’s not entirely predictable.
Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters! Share your thoughts on these or other questions below!
I don’t believe I’ve written about goblins in depth on this site. If you want to catch up on previous information, you might want to review my Dragonshard about the Dhakaani or this Dhakaani Strike Force. I’ve also written about the Kech Ghaalrac in Dragon 413.
In many settings, goblins and orcs are presented as genetically evil — malicious by nature, enemies the players can always feel good about fighting. From the start, we wanted to take a different approach to goblins and orcs in Eberron. I liked the idea that these creatures were fundamentally inhuman, and had a cultural history that often them set at odds with humanity, but that they were no more innately evil than dwarves or elves. This led to the idea that these were the primary aboriginal races of Khorvaire. The goblins once had an advanced civilization that dominated the continent: The Empire of Dhakaan. Conflict with the Daelkyr destroyed this civilization long before humanity came to the continent. When humans arrived the goblins had fallen into a savage state (and were far fewer in number than they had been at their height). Some goblins were enslaved by humans, a practice that continued until Galifar abolished it a thousand years ago; their descendants integrated into the population, and these are the city goblins you find in most major cities. Others goblins were driven into undesirable lands, and these were the ancestors of the current goblin population of Darguun and Droaam. So, goblins aren’t evil, but from a cultural standpoint they have every right to dislike the humans who took their lands and enslaved their ancestors. Even Sharn is built on the foundations of a great Dhakaani city.
So: this gave a sound role for goblins and orcs in the setting. But what are they like? What makes them different from humanity and from other monstrous races? How are they truly alien races, as opposed to just being humans with fangs and unusual skin colors?
So what separates goblins from humans and orcs? One of the critical things to understand is that goblins themselves are split into three very distinct categories.
City goblins are descended from slaves. They have lived among the people of the Five Nations for as long as those nations have existed. All too often they are poor, and many feel driven to crime. City goblins have adopted many human customs and many have little knowledge of or attachment to their history.
The Ghaal’dar are the descendants of those goblins who fought the human settlers and were driven into inhospitable lands. While they are less barbaric than the tribal orcs, they are less sophisticated than the people of the Five Nations and are often thought of as warlike and savage; they are noted as practicing slavery. Looking at the Ghaal’dar, humans have a hard time believing that the goblins once had an advanced society that created tools House Cannith can’t replicate today. And they are right to be dubious. The Ghaal’dar are not the goblins of old. The Empire of Dhakaan fought the Daelkyr, and with the help of the Gatekeepers they banished these Lords of Madness to Khyber. But this war had deep and lingering consequences… consequences so severe that one can question if the Daelkyr are the ones who actually won the war. Even though the Daelkyr were banished, over the course of the long war they had sown seeds of madness and corruption among their enemies, and over time those seeds began to grow. The Empire had been stable for thousands of years… but within the course of generations, Dhakaan fell into civil war. Cults, coups, and madness tore apart their advanced civilization. Within centuries, the empire had collapsed. Soon its advanced traditions were lost. The Ghaal’dar don’t know how to smelt and refine adamantine alloys. They don’t possess the martial disciplines or techniques used by their ancestors. The strong dominate the weak, while under Dhakaan all worked together. There are still exceptional people among the Ghaal’dar – people like Lhesh Haruuc, who founded Darguun. But they are very different from the goblins who once dominated the continent. Which brings us to…
The Heirs of Dhakaan, commonly just called the Dhakaani. Following the defeat of the Daelkyr, a number of Dhakaani leaders saw the signs of spreading madness. They constructed deep vaults and retreated from the world, taking their best and brightest with them. In doing this, they avoided the subtle curses that afflicted the rest of the goblins. For thousands of years they have honed their skills, and now they have returned. Currently they are split into Kech factions. They have no Emperor and this has kept them from uniting. Their numbers are limited, as each Kech carefully controlled population to deal with limited resources. But their martial discipline is rivaled only by the Tairnadal. Their smiths produce arms and armor superior to the work of House Cannith. Dhakaani champions are a match for any hero on Khorvaire. And they aren’t happy to see these soft creatures living in their ancestral lands. The Dhakaani are few in number and still divided… but they are a force to be reckoned with, and a way to surprise players who think of goblins as savages.
City goblins, the Ghaal’dar, and the Dhakaani have dramatic cultural differences. But they are all goblins, and share basic traits that concretely differentiate them from humans, elves, and other races. Goblins possess darkvision, and are quite comfortable dwelling underground. While they aren’t the only race to do so, it’s still a thing to bear in mind. Goblins don’t fear night or shadows the way many creatures do. On a primal, instinctual level night is a time when humans are vulnerable; for a goblin, it is a time when they are strong, as their darkvision gives them an advantage over their enemies. They don’t need light as humans do, which means that their buildings will have fewer windows and that they have no need for casual lighting. This is a small thing, but it’s part of remembering that they aren’t just humans with orange skin. They are a different species that has evolved under different circumstances and who have different instincts and brain chemistry than humans do. Here’s a few more things I consider to be basic goblin traits.
So: regardless of culture, a goblin inherently prefers structure to disorder. You like having a clearly established leader and a clearly defined course of action. You are rational and pragmatic, always looking for an efficient solution to the problem at hand and rarely romanticizing things or engaging in wild speculation. Goblins aren’t emotionless Vulcans, by any means. But they aren’t as passionate as orcs: they are practical, always looking to cut the Gordian knot and solve problems as opposed to speculating about them.
So the first step in differentiating goblins and orcs was the idea of orcs as passionate and chaotic, with goblins being practical and more lawful. But there’s another thing that distinguishes goblins: multiple subspecies. There are at least three goblin subspecies – goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. There could easily be others that were around in the age of Dhakaan and have died out on the surface, goblin subtypes humans have never seen. To me, this is a fascinating aspect of goblins that’s rarely explored in any depth. It reminds me of eusocial species like ants, bees, and naked mole rats – and in such species, the different subspecies all serve a particular role within their society and work together. In most settings this isn’t true of goblins; instead, it’s usually a case of might makes right, with the stronger goblin species oppressing the weaker. But as called out in the ECS and this Dragonshard:
Among the Ghaal’dar and the Marguul, the strong rule the weak. Leadership is founded on fear, and the weaker races hate the stronger tyrants. Among the Dhakaani goblinoids, this is not the case. Each species has a role to serve in society, and each embraces this role. The hobgoblins rule not through force of arms but because the goblins and bugbears respect their ability to maintain structure and discipline. The strength of the bugbears is turned against the enemies of the clan.
With Dhakaan, I wanted to emphasize the species worked together, each using their particular strengths for the benefit of the whole. The bugbears bring strength and courage. The goblins have cunning and finesse. And the hobgoblins are the most rational and disciplined, the most naturally oriented to build, to organize. In my opinion, it was the loss of this eusocial bond that truly destroyed the Empire – a subtle corruption that caused the sub-species to stop seeing themselves as one. But it’s something that is preserved in the Heirs of Dhakaan – a natural instinct to work towards the common good.
Which is not to say that the Dhakaani lack individuality or self-determination. They aren’t ants; every Dhakaani goblin is a sentient being with free will and their own dreams. A goblin has their general role in society mapped out, but they could still end up as a common laborer, an artificer, or one of the Sharaat’khesh. In one of my favorite Eberron campaigns, one of the PCs was a male Dhakaani hobgoblin who wanted to be a bard, a traditionally female role. Individual goblins may lack the eusocial instincts that drive the Dhakaani as a whole. But it’s still a critical note for the Empire as a whole. It is a place where racial caste roles are deeply engrained, and where people are respected for filling those roles. The goblins are the laborers, but they are appreciated for performing this vital function – not oppressed and forced into it.
One question that’s been raised is how goblins can be used as allies or heroes in a campaign. To begin with, the Dhakaani are certainly heroes in their own eyes. They are champions who have returned from a self-imposed exile to find their homeland in the hands of aliens and their people reduced to savagery. The Dhakaani struggle to recover their lost artifacts and figure out how to restore their civilization is an inspiring one, and only “evil” if you’re one of those wretched aliens now holding their lands. So one way to use the Dhakaani as heroes is to play Dhakaani. One of the one-shot adventures I sometimes run at conventions puts players in the roles of a Kech Volaar strike force working to recover a lost artifact. Alternately, you can play an entire party tied to the Ghaal’dar, working for Lhesh Haruuc; as troubleshooters for the Lhesh, you can be trying to maintain order and ensure the survival of Darguun as a nation – something that requires dealing with the Valenar, the Marguul, the Dhakaani and, of course humanity.
In a broader sense, an obvious answer is to look to Don Basingthwaite’s trilogy of novels that deal with Darguun. You can easily set the (human) players in a position where they have to decide what faction to support in Darguun. Should they support the Ghaal’dar? Or can they work with someone like Tuura Dhakaan to choose a Dhakaani emperor who will serve as a stabilizing force in the region and ultimately prove a stronger and more valuable ally for the Five Nations than the unstable Ghaal’dar? Convincing the Dhakaani to respect the Five Nations instead of planning to drive these aliens from their homeland would be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Looking at goblin player characters in a party that’s primarily non-goblinoid:
Another possibility for goblin PCs is to be tied to the Khesh’dar, the spies and assassins of Dhakaan. In this case you might choose a different background that’s your cover story – and it’s up to you and the DM to decide what your real mission is, and when you’ll decide to share your true identity with the party.
So: let’s talk specifically about the Dhakaani. Here I speak both of the civilization that spread to dominate Khorvaire and the modern goblins who have preserved its traditions. Again, in my opinion there is a fundamental psychological difference between the Dhakaani and the Ghaal’dar; it’s not just that the Ghaal’dar weren’t raised in Dhakaani society, but also that their ancestors were subtly influenced by Xoriat and lack the eusocial bond and innate discipline of the Dhakaani goblins. But: What are the core elements of Dhakaan? Why was the Empire so successful?
If orcs can be seen as easily embracing the primal and divine, the Dhakaani are a fundamentally martial culture. War is in their blood. Some sages have theorized that the goblins are a magebred race, that their subspecies are the result of some long-forgotten force — A dragon? The Overlord Rak Tulkhesh? — crafting a warrior species. This is reflected by their natural instinct to hierarchy and discipline, but also by a racial genius for the arts of war. All of the Dhakaani can follow any martial path, but each subspecies has its specialties. Hobgoblins are exceptional fighters and warlords. The goblin Sharrat’khesh and Tarkha’hhesh are gifted rangers and rogues. Bugbears often serve as scouts, but the iconic Dhakaani bugbear is the barbarian. But the Dhakaani barbarian isn’t a primal savage; rather, their “rage” is a carefully cultivated state of ecstatic frenzy.
Honor and Duty, Atcha and Muut
Much like the Tairnadal, this martial mindset bleeds into all aspects of Dhakaani life. The Empire is always in a state of battle-readiness; if it’s not actively expanding, it’s preparing for the next inevitable conflict. The Heirs of Dhakaan have been in seclusion for thousands of years, but they have never lowered their guard or ceased their training. This also reflects the direction of Dhakaan society. As called out by Don Bassingthwaite, Dhaakani culture revolves around the concepts of muut and atcha. Muut is essentially about the honor of the Empire, and can be roughly translated as duty; atcha is personal honor. The most common form of thanks is ta muut, essentially “You do your duty.” Meanwhile Paatcha! is an offer of honor, typically an exhortation of a commander to his troops – this is your chance to gain honor! The key is that the Dhakaani are always considering these concepts: how you are fulfilling your duty to the Empire, and how your actions reflect on you. The key here – and a statement that’s often misunderstood – is that the Dhakaani idea of honor on the battlefield is very different from human concepts. I’ve said before that Dhakaani “don’t care about honor on the battlefield.” What I mean by that is that Dhakaani have no compunctions about killing a helpless foe, about killing civilians if it’s strategically logical, about ambushing an enemy, and similar actions that we generally consider dishonorable. The Dhakaani are concerned with victory. Honor comes from following the orders of your commander, from standing your ground against any odds, from displaying both skill and discipline. Do what you have pledged to do, and do it well. So Dhakaani take personal honor far more seriously than most human soldiers – but it’s important to understand what “honor” means to them.
An Evil Society?
People have asked if the Dhaakani were an evil society. In my opinion, if you mapped them to an alignment it would be lawful neutral: highly structured and disciplined, but neither exceptionally cruel, corrupt, or altruistic. Note that the two primary Dhakaani leaders mentioned so far are Ruus Dhakaan, the lawful neutral leader of the Kech Shaarat; and Tuura Dhakaan, the neutral leader of the Kech Volaar. Dhakaani society is neither cruel nor kind: it is efficient and expedient. It is a society driven by constant war, and warfare is carried out in the most efficient and effective manner possible. They’d generally avoid targeting civilian populations not because it’s the morally correct thing to do, but because destroying them is a waste of resources that could be used in the future. Their leaders do what is best for the empire, which often means doing what is best for the people. But if it was for some reason necessary to wipe out an innocent village for the good of the Empire, they’d do it without hesitation… but they’d do it for the good of the Empire, not for personal gain. Again, corruption is extremely rare among the Dhakaani (though it can certainly be found among the Marguul and Ghaal’dar). Pursue muut above all and then your atcha. So the Dhakaani may often oppose player characters – but that doesn’t make them evil.
A secondary aspect is the role of slavery in the Empire. The Ghaal’dar and Marguul practice slavery, but in my opinion it was relatively rare in Dhakaan. The eusocial bond and racial caste system are the foundation of the Empire. Every goblin has a clearly defined role and embraces that role. Members of other species have no sense of muut and atcha. They are difficult to control, will always seek to rebel, and have no clear role in the first place. In some ways the Dhakaani can be seen as ants: they spread as efficiently as possible, and they don’t seek to compel other insects to work as slaves in their anthills; they simply kill rivals or drive them away. So it was with the Dhakaani. They spread to dominate the best lands in Khorvaire, and they drove their enemies into the lands they didn’t want. This isn’t to say that slavery was unknown, but it’s a rare practice that comes into play when a specific slave has a skill the Dhakaani need – a translator, a wizard, etc – as opposed to a major institution within the society.
Magic and Metallurgy
There are many things humans take for granted that the Dhakaani have never developed. But the Dhakaani are the finest armorers and weaponsmiths in the known world, superior even to House Cannith and the Tairnadal. They have mastered metallurgy and learned to produce and work with alloys that other races haven’t even discovered. Adamantine is a Dhakaani specialty; Cannith has learned to work with this metal, but it is costly and difficult, and they don’t understand it as the Dhakaani do.
This leads to the question of magic. The Dhakaani never developed the traditions of the wizard or sorcerer, and as noted above, they don’t have divine classes. Their primary sources of magic were bards and artificers. However, it’s important to recognize that these classes were NOT identical to Cannith artificers or Phiarlan bards. These core classes existed, but they would have had their own unique subclasses and specific spell lists. They may have developed paths that aren’t seen today, and may never have done things that we commonly associated with the classes. Specifically…
Dhakaani artificers are primarily armorers, weaponsmiths, and combat engineers. They don’t use constructs but excel at combat fortifications and siege warfare. Among hobgoblins this is primarily a male tradition, but exceptional goblins of both genders can follow this path.
Bards are the duur’kala, “dirge singers.” This path is almost exclusively followed by female hobgoblins. The duur’kala fill the roles that clerics do in many other societies; they are healers, diplomats, and spiritual leaders. They inspire the troops in battle. They heal the injured – note that in 5E, bards are nearly as gifted healers as clerics, and their spell list includes both raise dead and resurrection. They’re also vital to communication and coordination; note that the bardic spell list includes sending, clairvoyance, and various forms of teleportation. Powers of suggestion and charm are vital when mediating disputes and maintaining order within the Emopire, and equally useful for negotiating with enemies. So we generally depict the bard as an entertainer or vagabond. Within the Dhakaani, the duur’kala are leaders and healers with critical roles both on and off the battlefield. There’s nothing frivolous or light-hearted about them.
The critical point here is that lacking the paths of wizard or sorcerer, the Dhakaani rarely used magic as a direct weapon in combat. They relied more on the skill of well-equipped soldiers than on fireballs or cloudkill. The duur’kala heal and strengthen soldiers, but magic isn’t the primary weapon. It’s simply a branch of arcane science the Dhakaani never explored. But they’re interested in it now. They realize that the arcane magic wielded by the people of the Five Nations is an extremely effective weapon. The Kech Volaar are at the forefront of experimenting with this, and goblins are learning the arts of wizardry – and this is a place where you may find Volaar kidnapping human wizards to try to learn their secrets. But it’s still a new program, not one they’ve fully explored.
Known and Unknown
A critical thing about the Heirs of Dhakaan is that they’ve been in isolation for thousands of years. We haven’t gone into great depth about their achievements to begin with, and it’s entirely possible that a particular clan has developed something new over the course of centuries. Consider the following possibilities…
In Dragon 413 I introduced the Kech Ghaalrac, a Dhakaani force that has continually fought the Daelkyr since the incursion. These goblins have blended Gatekeeper horrid magebreeding, Daelkyr symbionts, and Dhakaani industry to create a wide range of innovations. So feel free to explore such things.
Lots of good questions. Let’s get to them.
Would it fit the Dhakaani Empire if I used the Roman Empire as inspiration for their society, architeture, martial tactics and weapons and armours?
Nothing in Eberron is intended to directly map to our world, and Dhakaan is no exception. There’s certainly some base similarities to Rome – military discipline, widespread empire – and some similarities to feudal Japan or ancient India. And critically, Rome is a HUMAN civilization; Dhakaan is fundamentally an ALIEN civilization, shaped by things like the presence of the multiple goblin species. A few points of sharp dissimilarity to Rome:
As a side note, in the past we’ve suggested Dhakaan as a place to introduce martial traditions that don’t have a clear place in the Five Nations, including the Samurai, Kensai and Ninja classes.
I know during the Dhakaani Empire they fought a huge battle against the Daelkyr, with the assistance of the Gatekeepers saved Eberron. But who were the main enemies of the Dhakaani empire before that?
The Dhakaani fought every other major intelligent race on Khorvaire at some point. There was a time when orcs were spread across Khorvaire; the goblins DROVE them into places like the Shadow Marches, and the same may well be true of gnolls and other species. They fought the Tairnadal elves and the Dragonborn of Ka’rhashan, and may have clashed with the dwarven civilization that was also destroyed by the Daelkyr (the predecessors of the Mror). Beyond that, you have all the threats that linger today. The Lords of Dust were just as active then, and you had undead, lycanthropes, and the threat of other planar incursions.
Can you go into a little bit of the relationship between Lhesh Haruuc and the Dhakaani? If I remember correctly from the novels, they sort of grudgingly respect his position, but don’t really see Darguun as a proper goblin nation.
As always, it’s worth noting that the novels – like this blog – are not canon. Both are possible interpretations, but you can always go in a different direction in your own campaign. So with that said, here’s my opinion.
The ancestors of the modern Heirs of Dhakaan went into isolation because they believed a curse was destroying their civilization. Thousands of years later they have returned… and discover that it’s exactly what happened. There are these alien creatures living in their ancestral lands, and the modern “goblins” are savages with no muut. Lhesh Haruuc shows that there is still a spark of Dhakaani spirit left in these corrupted creatures, but overall the Ghaal’dar – and even moreso, the Marguul – are a deeply disturbing display of how far their people have fallen. The critical question is whether it is possible to salvage anything, whether these modern goblins can be integrated into a new empire… or whether, in fact, the first step in restoring Dhaakan should be purging these disgusting remnants. I believe that this is a matter on which the Kech leaders differ; offhand I’d say that Tuura prefers integration and education, while Ruus advocates wiping them out. Part of the question you need to answer here is how many soldiers do the Heirs of Dhakaan have? How deep are their vaults, and how many Kech forces are out there? COULD they choose to wipe out the Ghaal’dar, or do they need their numbers?
So, in my opinion the relationship between Dhakaani & Haruuc varies by Khesh – and Haruuc himself is likely very on the fence as to whether these goblins are allies or enemies. Even in the best case, Tuura would want to reestablish Dhakaani society, and it’s worth noting that the Ghaal’dar have more freedom and individuality than the Dhakaani. In causing that eusocial bond to atrophy, the Daelkyr introduced an element of chaos in that strongly lawful goblin psyche – and the modern goblins may find they don’t want to be Dhakaani.
Are dirge-singers incorporated into the current Dhakanni military as a learned specialty serving specific tactical needs or more as a rank denoting authority in certain fields? Or something else entirely?
Something else entirely and somewhere in between. Dirge Singer isn’t a rank on its own, and you surely had different categories and ranks of duur’kala within the Empire; I would expect that some duur’kala focused specifically on healing, while others dealt more with diplomacy, lore, etc. So a low-ranking duur’kala specializing in healing might accompany a unit of soldiers in a support capacity – while a high-ranking diplomat/loremaster might assume control of a military unit for purposes of a particular mission. If you look to the Dragonshard, the fiction essentially depicts a duur’kala who is leading a unit of soldiers to reclaim a relic, because she’s their lore expert – but when it comes to battle, the military commander would take over.
The Dhakaani dominated the centre of Khorvaire, roughly corresponding with the modern Five Nations, but did they ever have a maritime culture?
In my opinion, their maritime culture was largely limited to river and coastal travel. As you suggest, the presence of Shaarat suggests that they did value rivers, which is logical for a widespread society. We’ve never discussed goblin incursions on Aerenal or suggested a goblin presence in Xen’drik. With that said, in my Bermuda-Triangle-influenced Lamannia adventure I have a massive Dhakaani galley lost en route to Xen’drik, but the idea is that it was a pioneering attempt and it didn’t go well.
If I wanted to use Koalinth (linked here) in name and spirit, how do you guys see them coming about? Were they bred to be aquatic hobgoblins, as the goblins and bugbears are said to be engineered for their roles? Or are they elite hobgoblins warriors using artifice to swim like fish and breathe and fight underwater?
Either one is an option. As it stands, the idea that the goblinoids were magebred is just that – an idea – and something that would have predated Dhakaan as opposed to being a part of it. So Rak Tulkhesh may have created them to be an army… and long after the Overlord was bound, the goblins developed a martial culture of their own. By this concept, the magebreeding idea is simply a justification for having this eusocial set of linked subraces… not a science possess by the Empire. So running with things as they ARE, it’s simpler to make the Koalinth specially trained goblins, working either with artifice tools. You could even say that they have been permanently modified – some sort of alchemical process – but that it’s not a true subrace.
With that said, I think it would be very interesting to say that magebreeding WAS a science the Dhakaani possessed and actively used. I’d be inclined to say that it was relatively rare – the work of specialists in a particular region of the Empire. But this would be an opportunity to use any of the other variant goblins – blues, norkers, varags, etc. A wacky twist would be to make these magebreeders responsible for the horrid animals found in the west. Currently the theory is that these were created by the Gatekeepers… but we’ve never really said how or why the Gatekeepers accomplished this, and if it’s something they can still do. It would be interesting to say that the horrid animals were the result of collaboration between the Gatekeepers and Dhakaani magebreeders during the Xoriat incursion – that the goblins created them, but gave them to the druids who were better able to control them.
So if I wanted to follow this, I’d introduce a new faction in modern day Eberron: The Kech Vorg’dar. Located on the western edge of the Five Nations – either on the edge of Breland or Aundair – this Kech was the heart of Dhakaani magebreeding and has both preserved the ancient techniques and improved upon them. They have a host of subraces, and other living weapons. How will they interact with the Wardens of the Wood, the Ashbound, and House Vadalis?
At one point, the PCs in my campaign were told that we were “honorable…for humans”. That raises my question: I’m guessing that “honor” in this case would be atcha – personal honor. We dealt honestly and respectfully with the dirgesingers and Tuura Dhakaan in particular, and returned a batch of Dhakaani treasures to the Kech Volaar. But would Dhakaani recognize any kind of “muut” among non-goblins?
I think you’re correct: humans could have atcha, but it would be hard for them to have muut. Muut is a reflection of the fact that in Dhakaan, every goblin HAS an established role and duty. It’s part of your blood and your instinct. You know what muut demands, or you should… whereas atcha is more about personal choice and action. Your actions helped the Empire, but you were acting based on personal integrity, not because of your established duty owed to the Empire. It’s possible that they would see a Brelish soldier doing his duty to Boranel as having a human form of muut, but essentially, they don’t see humans as having a society that has muut; humans are acting in a way that vaguely resembles a true society, but they are still basically disconnected savages with no real sense of the common good.
Without wizarding or sorcerous practices, were the otherworldly invaders a surprise to the Dhakaani? Were they aware of the planes/worlds?
The planes are an integral part of Eberron. The Dhakaani may not have had wizards, but they dealt with the effects of manifest zones and coterminous/remote periods. Note that Sharn is built on the foundations of a great Dhakaani city – meaning the Dhakaani chose to build their city in the manifest zone. In addition, both Arcana and Religion are bard skills; the Dhakaani might not believe in gods, but the Religion skill would still encompass knowledge of outsiders, undead, etc.
Did the Dhakaani have a concept of an afterlife, or was your honor in this life to you and the Empire what mattered?
Honor in this life is what matters, and it’s what ensures you are remembered in the future. You set an example that inspires others, and that lives on.
If they are not ants I guess there are some good or evil Dhakaani. So there are some moral discussion on what should be done or how to interact with other races.
Absolutely. The point is that all of those discussions would take for granted the basic assumption that the good of the Empire is paramount. Evil Dhakaani likely argue that all other species should be eradicated; good Dhakaani would press for enemies being allowed to flee and to settle in lands of no use to the Empire. As that’s what ended up being the more common practice, there’s certainly good Dhakaani out there. With that said, I’d maintain that most Dhakaani tend towards neutrality and also that corruption is not tolerated. One of the characteristics of an evil alignment is putting your desires ahead of the needs of others, and a Dhakaani caught pursuing their own agendas over the good of the Empire would be executed.
In general, I wonder what Dhakaani do when they don’t prepare for war.
Easy… prepare for war. Like the Tairnadal, this is the structure of their lives. If you’re a soldier, you hone your skills, drilling and engaging in tactical exercises and wargames. If you’re an artisan, you do the work that needs to be done, and then you work on honing and refining your skills. If you’re an armorer, spend any spare time you have working on ways to make even better armor.
Essentially, a critical part of “prepare for war” is to be the best you can be – so when they have spare time, Dhakaani are almost always going to be practicing whatever it is they do so they can be better at it. A typical Dhakaani just perfects their talent, while an exceptional Dhakaani looks for new ways to innovate and improve upon the current techniques. And bear in mind that for the Dhakaani, that’s fun. As a bugbear barbarian, you love spending some downtime sparring with a comrade… even if you spent the day training, this is where you just fight for fun, proving your talent.
With that said, even for the Dhakaani there must be times when they relax, right? So what do they do? Here’s a few things.
The main point – again, like the Tairnadal – is that for a Dhakaani, work isn’t a chore, it’s the focus of your life. You strike for muut and atcha. You gain muut by doing what you must do, and atcha by going above and beyond that. Engaging in activities that hone your skills IS entertainment. So essentially, Dhakaani look at Ghaal’dar or most humans and see them as incredibly slothful and unfocused, wasting the potential and with no sense of communal good.
How do the Dhakaani see love/sex/mate?
I think Dhakaani feel love as others do, and there is certainly a duty to produce offspring and honor to be gained by guiding them on the proper path. With that said, family is less important than the Empire; when children reach an age that their aptitudes can be determines, I expect they are fostered in a school that focuses on those skills. So if you’re a goblin miner and your son has the potential to be one of the Shaarat’khesh, he goes to join the Khesh’dar and you may not see him again for years, or ever. Accepting that is muut. It’s also the case that within the Kech, reproduction would have to have been controlled to manage limited resources. We’ve established that goblinoids – especially goblins have a high rate of reproduction, and if the Kech are relatively small today that has to have been an intentional choice.
With that said, bear in mind that there’s an aspect here of the Dhakaani are not human. As humans, we are inherently alone. Love is in part about finding a companion, about building a family, and about ensuring its survival and prosperity. The point of the eusocial bond is that on a fundamental, biological and psychological level, Dhakaani goblins feel a bond to one another that humans don’t. Basically, they have a general love for each other that we don’t have as humans. The strength of the Empire is that it isn’t simply a political construct; its people work well together because they feel an inherent connection and loyalty to their comrades. So a Dhakaani goblinoid can certainly have a specific greater sense of love for a particular individual – but they have a broad real sense of connection to all the people of the Empire that we as humans don’t have with one another. And I’m saying that this was one of the critical things that was lost in the wake of the Daelkyr, and the loss of that connection that caused the Empire to collapse and led to civilizations like the Marguul and the Ghaal’dar. So again, this is a fundamental difference between the Heirs of Dhakaan and the Ghaal’dar.
Do the subraces reproduce among each other? How is that different for other goblins?
As far as I know, it’s never been established what happens if a bugbear mates with a goblin. I suspect that in Dhakaan it’s not an option, which is made easier by the fact that you spend most of your life surrounded by and interacting with members of your own subrace. Looking to love, again, I’m sure it exists and there may be tragic tales of the bugbear who loved a goblin, and you could certainly have that as a platonic relationship… but in terms of actual family, you must do what muut demands. With the other goblins, I doubt there are any absolute restrictions, but within a society like the Marguul I find it hard to image a bugbear consorting with a goblin. Family is definitely important among the Ghaal’dar, and for that reason it also seems likely that a hobgoblin bonding with a goblin would be at least somewhat scandalous.
Where was the heartland of the Empire? Was it a single palace under a singular Emperor, or were there multiple emperors ruling at once across the land?
We’ve never said where the Empire began; what works best for your story? We’ve implied that there was a single Emperor, but there were certainly regional leaders who served as the Imperial authority within an area.
I was hoping you could clear something up for me about “city goblins”. I’m not sure if it was written this way in canon, but my impression was always that only the Small goblinoids were incorporated into human society. Is this accurate, or do you see a lot of hobgoblin and bugbears that have grown up among humans as well?
You’re close. page 304 of the 3.5 ECS says:
During the initial human colonization of Khorvaire, Sarlonan invaders enslaved thousands of goblinoids. Today, goblinoids can be found in most of the major cities of Khorvaire. These goblinoids (mostly goblins, but some hobgoblins and bugbears) have been entirely assimilated into humanoid culture.
So that majority of the city goblin population are made up of actual goblins, but there are exceptions. It’s worth noting that “true” goblins have the highest birth rate and are already disposed towards common labor, so they were both the easiest to enslave and quickest to thrive in the years that followed… whereas the more aggressive bugbears and hobgoblins were more difficult to integrate and more likely to just be killed. But yes, there are city bugbears and hobgoblins, just not as many.
Do you think Darguun has any large scale dealings with Droam? Do you think their people or governments see each other as kindred spirits considering their histories?
In my novel The Queen of Stone, Darguun sends emissaries as part of the diplomatic mission to the Great Crag. No mention is made there or elsewhere that I’m aware of about any other significant dealings between the two nations. Darguun is already on thin ice regarding its own recognition as a nation, and a close alliance with a nation seen as something of a terrorist state wouldn’t help that. I’m sure that the Daughters have reached out to Haruuc with just such arguments – “We’re all outsiders, we should stand together” because Droaam needs allies. But what can Droaam offer Darguun – especially that would be worth endangering relations with Breland to gain? And as for being kindred spirits, they’re really not kindred spirits. Looking specifically to goblins, prior to the rise of the Daughters of Sora Kell most goblins in the region were oppressed by more powerful creatures – as they often are among the Ghaal’dar and Marguul. The fact that they have their own warlord in Droaam is a significant change that is thrilling for the goblins (and what makes them among the most loyal supporters of the Daughters) – and something that could actually cause trouble for the hobgoblin-dominated Ghaal’dar or bugbear-led Marguul if their goblin population is inspired to rebel. Essentially, yes, they are all “monsters” and deal with prejudice from humans – but culturally they don’t have a lot in common.
I wonder if dhaakaani would have been doomed against a free overlord or could have found another way to battle/imprison it.
Technically, the Dhakaani were doomed against the Daelkyr; it was the alliance with the Gatekeepers that enabled their defeat. So, if they fought an Overlord, it seems you’d end up with something similar. I could easily see a story based on the partial release of Rak Tulkhesh shaking the Empire thousands of years before the Daelkyr. Dhakaani skill might not be able to end the conflict, but this is where you could have a critical alliance with the Ghaash’kala of the Demon Wastes… champions of the Silver Flame who might leave the Labyrinth to bind the demon. Which brings us back to the difference we’ve established between orcs and goblins. The orcs are innately passionate and drawn to primal and divine paths; the goblins are innately pragmatic and drawn to martial paths. Goblin pragmatism and discipline allowed them to dominate Khorvaire; but Orc faith may have saved the world multiple times.
Just how secluded and hidden were the Kech clans? Thousands of years, operating entirely in secret, hidden from their fellow Dar, hidden from all the other underground races, yet never physically changing?
There’s a few different things to consider here.
Where did Ghaal’dar clan Bards come from if they weren’t somehow trained by the Kech Volaar?
Where do Brelish fighters come from if they aren’t trained in Karrnath? The Ghaal’dar are a unique culture that has evolved in the wake of Dhakaan. Their combat and bardic traditions might have hints of Dhakaan techniques that have lingered through generations, but they are not the same: a Ghaal’dar bard is NOT a duur’kala. We’ve never particularly established that the Ghaal’dar HAVE a well-established bardic tradition; it might be that Ghaal’dar bards are basically self-taught mavericks. In 5E bards don’t have to know lore, so a Ghaal’dar bard could be more like the orcish Passion mentioned above.
How did the hidden clans come into the light? Did Haruuc know of the Dhakaani Kech clans before starting his rebellion? Did House Deneith have contact with them? Could a pre-969 Hobgoblin or Bugbear tribal chief hire a Khesh’Dar assassin or spy?
Haruuc knew nothing of the Kech when he started his rebellion. Full details of the Return have never been provided, and are something that would have to wait until there’s an ability to truly create new setting material, especially since each Kech has its own story and approach to contact. However, there’s a few basic things that have been established. The ECS notes Kech Volaar goblinoids often venture beyond Darguun in search of Dhakaani ruins, but they do not work as mercenaries. They rarely interact with other races except in the pursuit of a mission.
So the main point of the Heirs of Dhakaan is that they are NOT known to the world at large. They are engaged in a shadow war with each other, and adventurers who interact with them are essentially pioneers on the edge of an exciting developing situation. It’s up to you to decide whether the Dhakaani see a reason to interact with the PCs or will simply pursue their agenda as efficiently as possible. But this is about the fact that in Eberron, PCs are supposed to be the protagonists of the novel. When they run into the Kech Dhakaani, they are DISCOVERING something cool – there’s powerful ancient goblins, and they’re in conflict with other ancient goblins! – not just bumping into something that’s already well known.
Droaam is one of my favorite places in Eberron, and The Queen of Stone is my favorite of my novels. Eberron in general explores the impact arcane magic might have on the development of civilizations; I like thinking about the sort of things monsters could accomplish if they put their supernatural abilities to practical use (such as the troll-sausage Grist Mills that feed the masses of Droaam). Needless to say, anything I write in this article is merely my opinion. If you’re looking for canon material, check out the follow.
Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part one
Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part two
Now on to the questions…
Who, exactly, is Sora Kell?
Sora Kell is described in this Dragonshard article. She is an exceptionally powerful night hag. Bear in mind that in Eberron, night hags are native outsiders that are peers of the Lords of Dust; the 3.5 ECS says “Night hags have been around since the Age of Demons, where they often served as ambassadors and messengers between the fiends and the dragons.”
Sora Kell’s full powers and purpose are intentionally left unclear. However, she has been wandering the planes for tens of thousands of years, and is the best known of all of the night hags; she’s no one to be trifled with. Of course, she hasn’t been seen for at least a century. Is she trapped? Dead? Or sipping a cool drink in Risia?
The following two questions are related…
Alongside that, what exactly are her daughters motives, in your version of Eberron, at least?
What is the role of the Daughters of Sora Kell in Eberron? How have you used them?
As with many things in Eberron, the Daughters are intentionally mysterious. Why have they founded Droaam? There are many possible answers. The second question is the critical one: what role do you want them to play in your game? Do you want them to be villains or enigmatic allies? Because their motives will be whatever you need to fit that role. So let’s look at a few possible roles the Daughters can play.
KATRA WANTS A CROWN
Why did the Daughters create a nation? The same reason any ruler creates a nation – to gain power and influence over others. And Droaam is only the beginning. There are more monsters in the world than anyone knows. Creatures hidden in high mountains and deep caves, things that have been long forgotten. Even as Daask builds its power in the cities of the Five Nations, emissaries of the Daughters are finding the scattered monsters of Khorvaire. And when the time is right, they will rise to challenge humanity.
If you go this route, there are a number of questions to consider. Does House Tharashk know about Katra’s ambitions, and do they support them? Is she a friend or enemy of the Daelkyr? We’ve already seen her allied with the anti-Daelkyr Xorchyllic, so she might be stealing other aberrant forces from Khyber. Does she want to conquer the Five Nations, or would she be content with a larger kingdom that claims the outer regions – uniting the Shadow Marches and Droaam into one entity, and seeking to absorb the Eldeen Reaches and Demon Wastes?
This is a good route if you just want the Daughters to be an aggressive force in the world; on the other hand, there’s certainly a lot of those to choose from.
AGENTS OF PROPHECY
Sora Teraza brought the Daughters together. One possibility – as described later in this post – is that Teraza is following her own agenda. Another is that all of the Daughters are united behind her. She may still be half-mad or bound to her visions, but there is a purpose behind it… a goal that all three of the Daughters believe to be worthwhile. A few possibilities to consider:
MONSTERS FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF MONSTERS
Most of the monstrous races of Khorvaire have never had an easy time of things. The Dhakaani goblins conquered any who challenged them and drove the rest into the dark places. Humans are even worse. They fear the children of the Shadow. Humans are jealous of the wondrous gift of the harpy’s voice and the ogre’s strength. Always divided, the monstrous races have never been able to forge a kingdom to match those of the humans. Until now…
Under this idea, the Daughters simply believe that the monstrous races deserve better than they have gotten. They want to create a kingdom not simply for the sake of gaining power, but because it is the only way that the ogre and troll can break free of the cycle of savagery. They see the amazing potential of a nation in which monsters use their gifts for mutual benefit, and they want to make that reality. Their efforts to be recognized by the Thronehold powers are absolutely legitimate; they know it will take many attempts, but they’ll keep working at it. As for Daask, they’re simply Sora Katra’s answer to the Dark Lanterns or Royal Eyes of Aundair. She doesn’t want a war – but she realizes that one way to avoid war is to have power that cannot be ignored. In this role, the Daughters truly are benevolent leaders who want to create a kingdom of monsters that is the equal of any on Sarlona or Khorvaire. They don’t want war, but they’ll fight if they have to.
These are just a few ideas. If you’ve used them in a different way, talk about it in the comments!
If one of the three perished, would a new member be recruited or would the Coven dissolve?
It depends who died. I think Maenya is the most expendable. She’s the bogeyman, but Katra could find something else to play that role… though the death of Maenya would be a blow to the image of the Daughters and likely invite challenges from other warlords. Teraza’s death would change nothing in the short term, because she takes no obvious leadership role; however, without her guidance to help Katra outmaneuver enemies, the nation could fall. The one surely indispensible sister is Katra. She is the charismatic voice that unites the common people of Droaam, and the cunning schemer who outwits the warlords and keeps them in line. Maenya doesn’t have the subtlety and patience, and in my campaign Teraza is too unpredictable.
With that said, Sora Kell could easily have more daughters. She wandered the planes; perhaps she has a daughter in Shavarath, another in Khyber, and a third in Dal Quor (remember, night hags deal with dreams!). Three is a magic number, and the current triumvirate is well suited to the job at hand. But if one or more of them dies, you could always have new daughters show up to fill the void.
In fact, since I doubt the story will ever go anywhere, I’ll point out that in the Eye of the Wolf comic, Sora Katra calls Greykell “sister” at the end, and hey, her name is GreyKELL. Coincidence?
Is the government the coven created effective enough to hold to Drooam together if someone else were to usurp it?
The government? Not at all… not yet, at least. The Daughters maintain power with Katra’s cunning and charisma, Maenya’s intimidation, and Teraza’s prescience. If an individual or new cabal can fill that void with equal talent, they could keep it going, but it’s absolutely a cult of personality and personal power. As it stands, the government of Droaam would never last without the Daughters or someone of equal power behind it.
With that said, I don’t think it would dissolve completely; it would fracture into smaller alliances. There are definitely warlords who have seen the value of unity and who could cannibalize pieces of what the Daughters have created. For example, the Grist Mills could be maintained, and whoever holds those would have considerable power. But I don’t think the infrastructure alone is enough to enforce order on the entire region.
For me, Sora Teraza can be almost omnipotent. As a DM, I dislike that because why does she need adventures? Can’t she do it?
This ties back to the role/motive question. But let’s look at a few ways to deal with the potential unbalancing power of Teraza’s vast oracular abilities. Here’s a few ways to handle Teraza.
Essentially, Teraza’s powers are a plot device. The Daughters cannot be surprised if you don’t want them to be surprised. They can predict things no one else can. But they can easily be surprised if you do want them to be surprised, because there are many possible reasons for why Teraza might not share knowledge with her sisters even if she has it.
Another alternative is to say that the PCs can hide themselves from Teraza’s vision by following a different path of the Prophecy. Essentially, there is a way the future is supposed to unfold, and if they don’t KNOW what to do, the PCs will follow it. But if they work with someone else who understands the Prophecy – like a Chamber patron – they can basically get a map of actions Teraza won’t see.
How much leeway do the individual warlords have when it comes to fighting their fellows, before the DoSK step in?
In MY campaign? Not much. That’s part of why you serve the Daughters: they protect you from the other warlords. You can do what you like WITHIN your allotted territory – and bear in mind that when the Daughters handed out territory, it’s not like everyone in that territory was already completely united under the warlord in question. The Daughters backed a warlord and said “If anyone from another domain crosses this line, we’ll do something. If you cross this line, we’ll do something. Stay in the lines, maintain order however you like, send us our tribute, and everyone will be happy.”
This also ties to the goblin and kobold population of Droaam. Traditionally these races are often abused by the more powerful creatures. In Graywall and the Great Crag, the Daughters see that they are treated fairly in exchange for their labor – and they have given Kethelrax the Cunning a territory of his own. If a goblin can make it to the Great Crag, he can join the workforce of the Daughters and live a pretty good life. But the Daughters don’t tell Rhesh Turakbar how to treat his goblins. They won’t return any goblins that flee from his domain and reach the Crag – but neither will they demand that he treats his goblin population the way that they treat theirs.
What are some ways the Daughters might go about helping their mother? (I am looking for some potential plot hooks here)
This depends what sort of help Mom needs. Let’s consider some ideas.
Beyond this, they could have to arrange for the planes to become coterminous ahead of schedule, which could cause all kinds of magical fallout; acquire mystical tomes from Korranberg or Arcanix, or even from the dreams of sages at either place. That’s a fairly random assortment, but hopefully there’s something there to spark an idea.
The Daughters of Sora Kell have been mentioned more than once to be beings straight out of legend. Are there any tales about the pre-Droaam Daughters that you’ve expounded upon in your head or in your game?
The Queen of Stone mentions a few of these. Needless to say, I don’t have room to go into detail, but to throw out a few short ideas for you to play with…
SORA MAENYA is the classic bogeyman. In Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches, parents warn their kids that Maenya loves nothing more than the taste of a misbehaving child. She is renowned for her strength and appetite; I like to say that she can crush a giant with her bare hands, and eat the whole thing and still be hungry. She is the trophy-taker; she binds her victims’ souls to their skulls and keeps them as mementos. While she can appear as a terrifying brute, she is as capable of subtlety as her sisters and enjoys playing with her prey, and her shapeshifting abilities play into that. In The Queen of Stone, there’s a story where a ragged refugee comes seeking help from a garrison of soldiers. When the man who lets her in goes on patrol, he returns to find that all of his friends have been eaten and the bones carefully stacked for him.
SORA KATRA is more subtle. One tale I’ve referenced a few times is that she “weaves curses on her loom.” While she lacks Teraza’s oracular abilities, she knows a great many things and possesses many ancient treasures, and she loves nothing more than a contest of wits. Thus, I see her tales as often dealing with people who ask her for help, seek to steal from her, or challenge her to a contest… and these things rarely end well. If you follow Once Upon A Time, take Rumpelstilskin and multiply him a few times, and you get Sora Katra. She’s a master schemer, a player of games, and she loves to play with heroes. At the same time, she has her bogeyman side as well; in The Queen of Stone, there’s a reference to a child’s tale in which she comes to steal the fingerbones of children who lie.
SORA TERAZA is the most mysterious. A phrase I often use concerning her is “Some say she knows when every man will die; some say she decides it.” I’ve suggested that she has a library in the Great Crag filled with books that are the lives of special people… made from their actual lives and bound in their skin. But there’s essentially no stories of her before Droaam. Which is, of course, something you could play up if you like the idea that she’s actually Sora Kell!
Did Sora Kell intervene ever with the Royal Family of Galifar? She’s a fable, but fables in Eberron can be real. Are there records or stories of her interacting with major figures since the founding of the Kingdom?
Certainly. I’d say that Sora Katra has also interfered with various nobles, though they likely brought it on themselves in some way or another. The Dragonshard that mentions Sora Kell says there’s been no confirmed sightings of her for over a century, meaning that there were confirmed sightings before that. What did she do? This falls into the category of “Over a thousand years, all SORTS of interesting things should have happened in Galifar!” In the Thorn of Breland books I talk about the dragon Sarmondelaryx slaying the first Prince Thrane, something that’s never mentioned anywhere else. So what did Sora Kell do? What do you WANT her to do? Perhaps Sora Kell promised to teach Aundair powerful magic if the princess would give up her first child – did she do it? Is the history of Arcanix ultimately tied to the teachings of Sora Kell? Perhaps Sora Katra gave Wroaan of Breland a ring that would make all who heard her believe her words – but the ring couldn’t be removed, and forced its wearer to always tell the truth. In short, yes, they certainly interacted with important people over the centuries.
Droaam has a large giant population (ogres, ogre-magi, etc) and speakers of Giantish. Is this a legacy of the age of Giants?
Personally, I consider Goblin to be the Common tongue of prehuman Khorvaire, spread across the continent by the Empire of Dhakaan. As a result, in my campaign I have orcs and most other monstrous species speak Goblin, reserving Giant for those with a direct connection to Xen’drik (like Gorodan Ashlord). Ogres and Ogre-Magi are technically immigrants from Sarlona. Of course, since that occurred many many centuries ago, I typically have them speaking Goblin, having abandoned their original languages over the course of generations; however, you could find those that speak Giant (looking back to distant distant ancestors) or more likely Riedran, the old Common tongue of eastern Sarlona.
Have there ever been any other monstrous nations like modern-day Droaam? Considering that Khorvaire saw lots of empires before humans ever set foot on the continent, I think its only fair to assume that the Daughters of Sora Kell haven’t been the first monsters with ideas of a unified nation.
It depends how you define “unified nation.” To name just a few, gnolls, orcs, goblins, medusas, and sahuagin all have civilizations that predate Droaam – some by centuries, some by millennia. In some cases these rose to great heights and fell completely. In others, they simply remained self-contained. Neither the medusas nor gnolls ever sought to dominate others; however, they are both pre-existing political entities who allied with the Daughters, but who could easily return to their old ways if the Daughters fell. And while we’re discussing monstrous civilizations, let’s not forget giants and dragons!
With several demonic forces (i.e. Turakbar) in Droaam what is the status of druidic/primal society there?
We’ve never discussed it. I see no reason not to have a primal faction among the Dark Pack, though I’d probably create an entirely new sect as opposed to drawing on one of the existing ones. There’s a significant orc population in Droaam, and some among them could follow the ways of the Gatekeepers or another sect. Heck, you could add a druidic sect to the medusas that communes with serpents and creatures of the deeps. With that said, when it comes to people-who-don’t-like-demons, the force I’d call out is the Znir Pact. They broke with their ancestors’ demon-worshipping ways long ago, and I could see them having a secret order that seeks to prevent fiendish forces from gaining a foothold in the region again. It would have to be a VERY secret order, as the Pact is renowned for its neutrality… but I personally like the idea of a secret order of gnoll demon-hunters policing the warlords from the shadows.
Above and beyond the typical worship of the Six and the image of the Shadow as the Father of Monsters, are there any cults and sects of the Sovereigns and/or Six in Droaam? Do they have unique theological traditions (ala the masks of the Mror)?
The Graywall Backdrop I linked to at the start of this post has a whole section on religion; here’s a brief quote.
“…little religious solidarity exists in Graywall. A host of tiny shrines are scattered throughout Bloodstone and Little Graywall, and they represent the deities of different clans and races. The minotaurs of the north are united in worship of the Horned Prince, but each clan has their own representation of this demon overlord and believes all others to be flawed. The Last Dirge harpies revere the Song of Passion and Rage—an interpretation of the Fury—while the Stormsinger harpies venerate the Stormsong, an aspect of the Devourer. The asymmetric icons of the Traveler hold hidden messages for doppelgangers who pass through Graywall. The Znir gnolls worship no deity or demon, instead raising piles of stones to reflect the idols shattered by their ancestors.”
The article goes into more detail about the role of the Shadow and the way that the people of Droaam view the religions of the east. The key point is that Droaam is made up of a range of very diverse cultures, and religion reflects that.
Prior to The Last War and the creation of Droaam, would the aforementioned Gnoll and Medusa civilizations have had treaties with Galifar? Could some of them even have fought alongside Galifar himself in ages past?
The medusas only laid claim to Cazhaak Draal in 778 YK; prior to that their civilization was entirely subterranean and had no meaningful contact with the surface world. So unlikely on that front. Gnolls could be a possibility, though I’m not sure I’d see anything so formal as a treaty. Legally speaking, Breland laid claim to the entire southwest, but it never had the people or need to actually occupy what is now Droaam or the Shadow Marches. Most likely there were some clashes between explorers and gnolls which resulted in a general recognition of “Don’t cross this line and we’ll ignore you.” I do think you might have had a Brelish prince with a personal guard of Znir gnolls – a little like the Byzantine emperors’ Varangian Guard.
Does Droaam have any allies amongst those Nations recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold?
By canon, no. Their strongest political ally is House Tharashk.
Does House Vadalis have any major stakes in operations based in Droaam?
Not by canon, but it seems like something that would be interesting to develop. Vadalis would surely be interesting in things like wyvern breeding stock and the like, not to mention a chance to work with Cazhaak Draal’s basilisk wranglers. It’s mainly a question of what Vadalis would offer in return and how Tharashk would feel about it, since Tharashk has been a loyal ally.
You remind us that Night Hags deal in dreams. How would this effect the opinion of them amongst other creatures that are tied to Dal Quor, such as the Kalashar and the Inspired? Are the competitors for domination of dreams? Are they allies in establishing the power of dreams over mortals or in free dreams in the turning of the age?
The Quori are the native spirits of Dal Quor. They reign over the stable heart of the plane, which is defined by il-Lashtavar. However, that stable heart is surrounded by an ever-shifting borderland comprised of mortal dreamscapes. The Quori are powerful in these regions, because Dal Quor is their home. But they aren’t omniscient or omnipotent. They can’t monitor EVERY dream. The renegade quori hid out in these border realms for quite some time before they ran out of boltholes and merged with the kalashtar. The Gates of Night introduced the draconic eidolon – a composite entity formed of the souls of dead dragons – as a powerful force that exists in the border regions of Dal Quor.
So the short form? The night hags generally walk in the border realms. They are interested in the dreams of individuals but as currently defined don’t seek to use dreams to manipulate the world; they’re more likely to distill a particular nightmare to use as an ingredient in a potion than to try to start an uprising in Breland. The hags are old and powerful, and described as often serving as mediators between powerful forces of different planes; as such, I would suspect that most of them have established treaties with the quori. They won’t approach the heart of the realm. They won’t interfere with any dream the Quori have marked as being of great import. And in return, the Quori will stay out of their way in other dreams.
One point: The night hags are among the only entities who know all about the previous ages of Dal Quor. That information could be quite valuable to both kalashtar and Quori, if the hags care to share it. So that would be a good explanation for why the Dark would imprison Sora Kell, if you decide they have.
You mentioned that the Night Hags deal with Dreams and served as messengers and ambassadors during the Age of Fiends. Could the Hags have allies in Sarlona (Possibly in the Horned Shadow) and how exactly do they Dream/travel to Dal Quor?
The Night Hags are native fiends of Eberron. The idea is that where the Couatl were the native celestials (good spirits) and the rakshasa were native fiends (evil), the Night Hags have always been essentially unaligned. I should call out the fact that in comparison to couatl and rakshasa, there are far, far fewer Night Hags; I might even limit them to a dozen… well, thirteen originally, but Sora Kell’s gone missing… 😉 In fact, if you did say there were only thirteen, I’d go so far as to say that each was recognized as a favored envoy to a particular plane; they all could travel to Dal Quor with special ease, but one among them has a particular strength in dreams. Perhaps that’s Sora Kell; or perhaps she’s got stronger ties to Thelanis, reflected in the faerie tale nature of her daughters.
In any case: COULD a Night Hag have allies in Sarlona? Sure, if you want them to. But by canon, the idea is that the Night Hags aren’t schemers in the same way as the Lords of Dust or the Inspired. They are more interested in eldritch studies mortals can’t comprehend; in walking the planes and gathering wonders; or for that matter in studying the interplay between the great powers of the multiverse. Frankly, I could see a Night Hag still acting as a neutral envoy between the Devourer of Dreams and the Council of Ashtakala, or continuing to negotiate between dragon and fiend as she did at the dawn of time. The 3.5 ECS says this about Night Hags:
“Today, they remain as the impartial mediators, and adventurers who wish to deal with outsiders or other realms may wish to seek out a night hag—although they can be quite difficult to find. The motivations of the night nags remain mysterious and unclear. They may simply enjoy their role as ambassadors, watching the tapestry of history unfold across the planes.”
As for how a Night Hag gets to Dal Quor, she doesn’t dream as mortals do. When a mortal dreams, their spirit goes to Dal Quor. A Night Hag simply goes there physically, stepping between the planar wall. Note that the Night Hags of Eberron are generally more powerful than the default night hag in the Monster Manual, as they are ancient. Like all fiends, they are immortal; if one is killed it will be reincarnated. So if you want a weak night hag, you can simply say that it’s a recent reincarnation and hasn’t yet rebuilt its skills and power.
What did/do the Dragons and Rakshasa think of the Hags during and after the Age of Demons?
The Night Hags were a neutral force that carried messages between the dragons, couatl, and rakshasa. I don’t see that anyone would have a changed opinion about them as a species; I could see there being strong opinions about individuals, IE Sora Hekla is the one Night Hag who betrayed the trust place in her and is hated by all dragons.
The next two points will likely be moved into a Goblin/Darguun post once one exists, but since it doesn’t, here they are.
Concerning goblins, apart from the way in which Darguun was created, what are the reasons why they so reviled and disliked by others? Outright discrimination (this would apply to non-Darguun goblins, I guess)? Disagreement with the slavery favored by some in Darguun?… or, perhaps, rejection of cruel practices that were rampant in Dhakaan, which are attributed to current goblinoids. Despite being an Empire, I have the idea that Dhakaan may have favored cults of the dark six, oppression and murders of other races (gnomes?…)
First of all, if you haven’t read the Dragonshard about the Heirs of Dhakaan, I’d recommend it. Next, I’ll tell you what NOT the cause of human prejudice against goblins – it’s got nothing to do with any sort of Dhakaani practices. The Empire of Dhakaan fell more than a thousand years before humans even came to Khorvaire, and the average human knows nothing about it.
Next… I wouldn’t say that goblins are universally reviled. In The Queen of Stone, Thorn and Toli have more issues with the Thrane delegation than with the Darguuls; and in The Dreaming Dark trilogy, there’s a Cyran goblin (NOT a Darguul mercenary, a local Cyran goblin) serving with Daine’s unit. But here’s a few issues that can drive human-goblin prejudice, on both sides…
But for what it’s worth, I’d say the typical Cyran veteran probably hates Valenar elves just as much as goblins.
Regarding the question on hatred against goblins, I portray racial tension as having something to do with the empire of Dhakaan, because I tell players that despite its having ended well before humans arrived in Khorvaire some historical records and oral traditions passed on from gnomes who felt oppressed by the goblins depicted them as cruel, reason why humans began to distrust them. Concerning this, I remember that in James Wyatt’s storm dragon the characters discuss religion in Dhakaan, and Mit Davandi described many Dhakaani aspects in the legacy of Dhakaan.
Midian Mit Davandi is a Korranberg scholar, so it’s no surprise that he’s well-versed in Dhakaani history… and when you are actually interacting with the Kech Volaar, it’s a very relevant thing. And OF COURSE you should do what you want in your campaign. Frankly, our difference is more semantic than anything else. I have no issue with humans disliking goblins because of their history; I just don’t think that should go all the way back to Dhakaan, which is sort of like saying “I hate Italians because they used to crucify people.” My point is that it’s not like there was some vast cultural vacuum between Dhakaan and the present day, and Dhakaan is the only goblin culture the people have to choose from when forming an opinion. Sure, gnomes didn’t get along with the Dhakaani. But you know who else they didn’t get along with? The Ghaal’dar. In fact, they’ve likely fought with Ghaal’dar clans in just the last few centuries.
Even though the Daelkyr were defeated, they mortally wounded the empire. The Daelkyr are the lords of madness and corruption, and they planted seeds of madness among those they fought. The empire splintered into pieces. Traditions were forgotten as generals promoted the worship of strange gods, and others sought to destroy these vile cultists. Within centuries, the empire had collapsed into savagery. Various groups rose and fell in this ocean of barbarism. These are the goblins humanity encountered: an aggressive race engaged in seemingly endless (and largely pointless) battles, unable to stand against humanity because they couldn’t form a united front. Among the many clans, you could find slavers (as you still do today) and those who flayed the skins of their victims to honor the Mockery (as some still do today). So, my key point here when I say we’re arguing semantics: I have no issues with one aspect of human prejudice being “Goblins are violent savages. Look at their history! They’d cut your throat in the night. They’d flay your skin and wear it as a cloak. They even enslave one another. And their cities are all ruins – clearly they’re little better than beasts.” Historically you can find examples of all of these things. But look FURTHER back in their history, and you find Dhakaan, a disciplined and civilized culture where all the goblins species were united; a culture with remarkable artistic and philosophical achievements; and even accomplishments in metallurgy and certain aspects of magic that humanity hasn’t yet matched.Frankly, I think the typical man on the street is more likely to scoff at the idea of what the Dhakaani accomplished than to base his current opinions on it.
Darguun was founded by the tribes of the Ghaal’dar. We’ve never said how long the Ghaal’dar have existed (I don’t think – unless Don has) but I wouldn’t say that they’ve existed in anything resembling their current form for more than a thousand years, if that. The Marguul are probably only a century or two old as a culture. As seen in the novels, they have their own codes of honor, and they have held onto certain things like the use of chain weaponry. But they aren’t Dhakaani, and even what THEY know of the Dhakaani is largely muddled and mixed up.
Then we have the Heirs of Dhakaan. When the empire was collapsing into madness, a few leaders recognized what was happening. They rounded up those they could trust and sealed themselves away in deep dark places, and there they preserved the culture of their people. It’s only recently – less than thirty years – that the Dhakaani clans have emerged into the world, and they’ve kept a low profile. For the people of Darguun, this is sort of like having Leonidas and his Spartans suddenly pop up and say “Oh, we just faked our deaths. We’re back now. Wow, you guys all look like a bunch of wimps… Don’t worry, we’ll whip you into shape once we’ve decided who’s going to be in charge.” While there are those among the Ghaal’dar who take some pride in the idea of their ancient glory and who have trained with chain weapons and the like, when an actual Dhakaani chainmaster walks in the room, it’s a little like being the guy who plays with a foam katana with his friends and bumping into an actual samurai. Needless to say, Midian Mit Davandi can tell you all about that chainmaster – what his clan is, the way his chain was forged, and so on. But the average guy on the street in Breland has no idea of the difference between the Ghaal’dar, the Dhakaani, and the Marguul… let alone between the Kech Volaar and the Kech Sharaat. And they don’t have to. They know that the goblins beyond the Five Nations have long had a history of violence and have fought both humans and gnomes; they know that the goblins fought in the war only to break their word, turn on the Cyrans, and claim their land; they know that goblins engage in practices like slavery (we’ll ignore the whole goblins-used-to-be-slaves-of-humans part for now…). I’d think that’s enough to make most people feel uncomfortable when a hobgoblin warrior walks in the room.
With that said, we have the NON-Darguul/Dhakaani goblins…
City Goblins. The goblins who have lived alongside the citizens of Galifar since before the kingdom was founded. Here’s a quote from Sharn: City of Towers…
Sharn was built from the ruins of Shaarat, which was built atop old Duur’shaarat. All of these cities had one thing in common: Goblins. Malleon the Reaver enslaved the goblins of Duur’shaarat and forced them to build his city. King Galifar I offered the goblins freedom in exchange for their service as soldiers and laborers. For many of the goblins, there was little difference between life as a slave and life as a free laborer, but over the centuries some learned valuable trades and established their own businesses. While the goblins were officially citizens of Galifar, few humans enjoyed their company, and they found themselves congregating in Malleon’s Gate.
Some goblins resort to crime or grift. But many do seek to live honest lives; again, I’ll point to the goblin scout in The Dreaming Dark. Looking to the relationship between these goblins and their cousins from other nations, Sharn says this:
The relationship between the “city goblins” and these (immigrants from Darguun) is not entirely amicable; the Ghaal’dar bugbears and hobgoblins are used to dominating the goblins of Darguun, while the goblins of Sharn value their independence and rights as citizens.
And going back to the scout in TDD, he’s a soldier in the Cyran army. Not a Darguul mercenary; a Cyran citizen fighting for his nation. So just saying, many (though not all) city goblins DO consider themselves to be Brelish or Aundairian or what-have-you. Of course, many humans still look at them and say “stinking goblins” – but they’re a legitimate part of the society.
The Goblins of Droaam. In most of the world, “goblin” means “the three related species of goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear.” In Droaam, “goblin” means “little creatures who have been oppressed by larger creatures for a very long time” – specifically, kobolds and goblins. A goblin in Graywall feels more kinship with a kobold than a bugbear, because for the last few centuries kobolds and goblins alike were enslaved by ogres, trolls, and other larger creatures. My point is that these goblins have no cultural ties to Darguun, Dhakaan, or bugbears/hobgoblins in general.
As with all things, these are just my opinions. Other RPG writers and novelists have presented things in other ways, and there’s nothing wrong with making Dhakaan something people are more familiar with. But personally, I think the Dhakaani were as admirable a culture as any that exists in present day Khorvaire. They’re extremely militaristic and make the Karrns look like party people, but the social relationship they established between the goblin races is certainly better than we’ve seen since; they had many remarkable achievements; and in the end, they sacrificed their lives to save the world from the Daelkyr. Not only did they not worship the Dark Six, they didn’t worship ANY gods. Meanwhile, since the empire fell, there have been and still are violent goblin slavers who worship the Dark Six and do horrible things to their enemies, and the goblins did just seize a human territory and conquer it through treachery. I just don’t think you have to look back thousands of years to come up with reasons for hostility.