As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. One question that often comes up is “What do people in the world actually know about (subject)?” As players and DMs, we have access to a tome of absolute knowledge that tells us all about the Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, the Empire of Dhakaan, and so on. We know that characters may know about these things if they have appropriate proficiencies and make successful skill checks. But what do people know WITHOUT making any skill checks? What things are just common knowledge?
This article reflects the common knowledge of a citizen of the Five Nations. Common knowledge will vary by culture, and I can’t account for every possible variation. People in Stormreach are more familiar with drow than people in Fairhaven. Shadow Marchers will have heard of the Gatekeepers, while Karrns won’t have. In general, you can assume that things that have a direct impact on the lives of people living in a region will be part of common knowledge. For example, the people of the Mror Holds don’t know a lot about the daelkyr in general, but they DO know about Dyrrn the Corruptor, because they’ve been fighting him for decades and he signed his name with Dyrrn’s Promise in 943 YK. So determining what things are common knowledge will often require the use of common sense.
With that said, the people of the Five Nations can be assumed to know the following things.
Planes, Moons, and Manifest Zones. Everyone knows the names of the planes and the moons, and the basic attributes of the planes (IE, Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and is filled with celestials and fiends fighting). Think of this a little like knowledge of the planets of the solar system in our world; most people can name the planets and know that Mars is the Red Planet, but only someone who’s studied them can tell you the names of all of the moons of Jupiter. The main point is that the planes have real, concrete effects on the world through their manifest zones and coterminous/remote phases, and people understand these things. A common person may not be able to tell you the precise effects of a Shavarath manifest zone unless they actually live by one, but they know Shavarath is the Eternal Battleground and could GUESS what such a manifest zone might do.
The Creation Myth. Everyone knows the basic story: Khyber, Eberron, and Siberys created the planes. Khyber killed Siberys and scattered his pieces in the sky, creating the Ring of Siberys. Eberron enfolded Khyber and became the world. Whether people believe this is literally true or a metaphor, everyone knows the myth and everyone understands that magic comes from Siberys, natural creatures come from Eberron, and fiends and other evil things come from Khyber.
The Sovereign Myth. The Sovereign Host is deeply ingrained into daily life in the Five Nations. Even if you don’t BELIEVE in the Sovereigns, you know the names and basic attributes of the Nine and Six. Likewise, everyone knows the basic story that in the dawn of time the world was ruled by demons; that the Sovereigns fought them; and that the demons were bound. The Dark Six are largely only known by their titles—The Mockery, the Keeper—and their original names are something that would only be known by someone with a tie to a relevant cult or with proficiency in History.
The Silver Flame. Tied to this, everyone knows the idea that the Silver Flame is the force that binds demons. People do NOT know where it came from. Many vassals assume the Sovereigns created the Silver Flame. Those who follow the faith assert it is a celestial force that is strengthened by noble souls.
Dragons. Everyone knows that dragons exist and that they are terrifying and powerful creatures. People know stories of dragons guarding hoards of treasure, and if you’re from Thrane you know of the Bane of Thrane, the dragon who slew Prince Thrane. There are also a few stories about heroes making bargains with dragons, or dragons possessing secret knowledge. People know that Argonnessen is a land of dragons, but they know almost nothing about it beyond “Here there be dragons” and the fact that people who go there don’t come back. Some people know that dragons occasionally attack Aerenal, and know that the giants of Xen’drik were destroyed in some sort of war with dragons. So everyone knows that dragons exist; that they are extremely powerful; and that they can be deadly threats or enigmatic advisors. Most people don’t ever expect to see a dragon. The idea that there are dragons secretly manipulating humanity is a conspiracy theory on par with the idea that many world leaders in our world are secretly reptilian aliens; there are certainly people who believe it, but sensible people don’t take it seriously.
Evil Exists.Everyone knows that there are fiends, undead, aberrations, and lycanthropes in the world. They know that ghouls may haunt graveyards, that the creepy stranger in town could be a vampire or a werewolf, and that dangerous things could crawl out of Khyber at any time. This is why the Silver Flame exists and why templars are generally treated with respect even by people who don’t follow the Silver Flame; people understand that evil exists and that the templars are a volunteer militia who are ready to fight it.
The Overlords and the Lords of Dust. Everyone knows that the overlords were archfiends who dominated the world at the beginning of time. Regardless of whether you believe in the Sovereigns or respect the Flame, you know that the overlords are real because one broke out and ravaged Thrane a few centuries ago. Most people have heard stories of a few of the overlords and may know their titles—the Shadow in the Flame is the one most people have heard of—but would need to make checks to know more. But critically, everyone knows that there are bound archfiends that would like to get out and wreck things.
Most people have never heard of “The Lords of Dust.” People have certainly heard stories of shapeshifting demons causing trouble and know that this is a real potential threat, but the idea that there is a massive conspiracy that has been manipulating human civilization for thousands of years is up there with the idea that dragons have been doing the same thing. If you have credible proof that someone in town is actually a fiend or is possessed by a fiend, people will take the threat seriously; people know that such threats can be real. But few people actually believe that there’s a massive conspiracy that secretly controls the course of history, because if so, why haven’t they done anything more dramatic with it?
As a side point to this, most COMMON PEOPLE don’t differentiate between devil, demon, and fiend and treat these as synonyms. People know of rakshasas as “shapeshifting demons,” even though an arcane scholar might say “Well, ACTUALLY ‘demon’ refers specifically to an incarnate entity of chaos and evil, and the rakshasa is a unique class of fiend most commonly found on the material plane.” But the Demon Wastes could be called “The Fiend Wastes;” in this context, “Demon” is a general term.
Khyber and the Daelkyr.Tied to the creation myth and to the idea that evil exists, people know that BAD THINGS COME FROM KHYBER. They don’t know about demiplanes, but they know that if you find a deep hole there might be something bad at the bottom of it. Critically, most people just know that THE DRAGON BELOW IS THE SOURCE OF BAD THINGS and don’t actually differentiate between aberrations, fiends, and monstrosities. This is why the Cults of the Dragon Below are called “The Cults of the Dragon Below” even though a cult of Dyrrn the Corruptor really has nothing in common with a cult of Sul Khatesh; as far as the common people are concerned, they are cults that worship big evil things, and big evil things come from Khyber, hence, cult of the Dragon Below.
With this in mind, most common people don’t have a clear understanding of what a “daelkyr” is. Anyone who’s proficient with Arcana or History has a general understanding of the difference between the daelkyr and the overlords without needing to make a skill check. But for the common person, they are both powerful evil things that are bound in Khyber.
Fey and Archfey. Everyone knows that the fey exist. Everyone knows about dryads and sprites, and everyone knows that they’re especially common near manifest zones to Thelanis. Beyond this, everyone know FAIRY TALES about fey and archfey, and knows that there’s some basis to these stories. So people know STORIES about the Lady in Shadow and the Forest Queen, and they know that somewhere in the planes, you might actually be able to meet the Forest Queen. But they don’t actually EXPECT to every meet one. Most people have no way to easily differentiate between an archfey and some other type of powerful immortal. Notably, you could easily have a cult of the Dragon Below that’s bargaining with Sul Khatesh but BELIEVES it is bargaining with an archfey, or a cult of Avassh that thinks it’s blessed by the Forest Queen. If a cult worships “The Still Lord” or “The Queen of Shadows”, they don’t have some kind of special key that tells them whether that power is a fiend, a fey, or a celestial; that distinction is ACADEMIC, and would require a skill check.
Specific knowledge of the fey is more prevalent in regions that are close to Thelanis manifest zones or where people have a tradition of bargaining with the fey; notably, Aundairians know more about fey than most people of the Five Nations.
The Dreaming Dark and the Kalashtar. Everyone knows that when you dream you go to Dal Quor. Everyone accepts the idea that “There are demons that give you bad dreams!” Very few people believe that those fiends are manipulating the world. People have had bad dreams FOREVER. If bad-dream-demons were going to take over the world, why haven’t they already done it? As with the Lords of Dust, people will listen to credible threats that a specific person could be possessed, but few will believe stories of a massive dream conspiracy bent on world domination.
Looking to Sarlona and the Inspired, everyone knows that the Riedrans have a strict culture and they’re ruled by beings who they say are channeling celestial powers. Few people have ever met a Riedran, let alone one of the Inspired. Those who have met kalashtar (which for the most part only happens in major cities) know that the kalashtar have been oppressed and driven from Sarlona, but largely assume this is about political and religious differences, not a war between dream-spirits. It’s relatively common knowledge that people from Sarlona study some form of mind-magic, but most people don’t know the precise details of how psionics are different from arcane or divine magic.
The Aurum. While it’s a stretch to say that everyone’s heard of the Aurum, it’s about as well known as, say, Mensa in our world. It’s generally seen as an exclusive fraternal order of extremely wealthy people. Because it IS exclusive and because many of its members are minor local celebrities, there are certainly lots of conspiracies theories about what it’s REALLY up to… but even if there’s people who SAY that the Aurum wants to overthrow the Twelve or that it engineered the Last War, at the end of the day people know it’s that fancy members-only club on Main Street that always donates generously to the Race of Eight Winds celebrations.
Secondary Religions. Aside from the Silver Flame and the Sovereign Host, most of the other religious are relatively regional. The Blood of Vol is the best known of the secondary religions because of the role it played in Karrnath during the Last War, but outside of Karrnath most people think it’s some sort of Karrnathi death cult. Everyone knows druids exist, and the Wardens of the Wood are relatively well known because of their central role in the Eldeen Reaches, but the other sects are largely unknown outside of the areas where they operate; the Ashbound are likely the second best known sect because of sensationalized reports of their violent actions. The Path of Light is largely unknown aside from people who have direct interaction with kalashtar.
Goblins and the Empire of Dhakaan. Everyone in the Five Nations knows that goblins were on Khorvaire before humanity, and that they had an empire that fell long ago. Most people don’t know the name of this empire or exactly how it fell. People generally recognize Dhakaani ruins as being goblin creations, and know that many of the largest cities of Khorvaire are built on goblin foundations, but there’s certainly a lunatic fringe that asserts that those structures are clearly too sophisticated to be goblin work and must have been built by some forgotten human civilization. However, most people understand that these “forgotten human” stories are ridiculous conspiracy theories, on par with the idea that shapeshifted dragons are secretly manipulating the world.
The History of Xen’drik. People know that Xen’drik was home to a civilization of giants. Most people believe that the giants were destroyed in a war with the dragons. Many people know that the elves were originally from Xen’drik and fled this destruction. Without History proficiency, most people do NOT know the name of any of the giant cultures or that there were more than one, and they definitely don’t know anything about giants fighting quori. The idea that arrogant giants destroyed the thirteenth moon is a common folk tale, but it has many forms and it’s something most people know as a serious fact.
Spies. When people in the Five Nations talk about spies, they’re usually thinking of The Dark Lanterns or the Royal Eyes of Aundair. Both are well known spy agencies known to operate covertly in other nations, similar to the CIA and KGB during the height of our cold war. Most people in the Five Nations have heard of the Trust and understand that it’s some sort of secret police force that maintains order in Zilargo, but don’t know much more than that and they aren’t concerned about Zil spies. House Phiarlan and House Thuranni are known as providers of ENTERTAINMENT and aren’t generally seen as spies. The assertion that Phiarlan runs a ring of spies is like the idea that Elvis worked for the CIA; not IMPOSSIBLE, but not something people see as a particularly credible threat.
Exotic Player Species. Most people know that drow come from Xen’drik. People know that lizardfolk and dragonborn come from Q’barra, but most people in Khorvaire don’t know that these are two different species. Tieflings are generally understood to be planetouched; as discussed in Exploring Eberron, aasimar are generally so rare that they won’t be recognized by the general populace. With that said, overall people are fairly accepting of species they’ve never encountered. In a world where people DO deal with humans, orcs, shifters, goblins, warforged, elves, kalashtar, ogres, medusas, and more every day, people who’ve never seen a goliath before are more likely to say “Huh, never seen that before” than to panic because it’s some sort of alien giant-man; exotic characters will generally be targets of curiosity rather than fear.
Dragonmarks and Aberrant Dragonmarks. The dragonmarks have been part of civilization for over a thousand years. The houses provide the major services that are part of everyday life. Everyone in the Five Nations knows the names of the houses and the common twelve marks. Without proficiency in History, people won’t have heard of the Mark of Death. Common knowledge is that aberrant dragonmarks are dangerous to both the bearer and the people around them, and are often seen as the “touch of Khyber.” Without proficiency in History, they won’t know much about the War of the Mark, aside from the fact that the aberrants were dangerous and destroyed the original city of Sharn.
The Draconic Prophecy. Most people have heard of “The Draconic Prophecy” but know almost nothing about it aside from the fact that it’s, y’know, a prophecy. When such people talk about the Prophecy, what they’re usually talking about is the Caldyn Fragments, a collection of pieces of the Prophecy assembled by Korranberg scholar Ohnal Caldyn (described in City of Stormreach). Most people definitely don’t understand that it’s an evolving matrix of conditional elements or that it’s the key to releasing the overlords.
Aerenal, the Undying Court, and the Tairnadal. Aerenal is an isolationist culture that has little interest in sharing its traditions with others. However, the elves do trade with the Five Nations and there’s been enough immigration over the course of history to provide a general knowledge of their culture. Most people know that Aerenal is ruled by the Undying Court, and that the Undying Court is made up of ancient undead elves. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between deathless and other undead. In Five Nations, most people have never heard of “Tairnadal” and assume any Tairnadal elf is from Valenar. They know that Valenar elves are deadly warriors who are always looking for fights and who worship their ancestors, but they don’t know any specifics about patron ancestors or the Keepers of the Past.
What do most people believe about the connection between shifters and lycanthropes?
Most people believe that there is some sort of distant connection between shifters and lycanthropes. Shifters are often called “weretouched,” and some people mistakenly believe that they get wild when many moons are full. However, few people few people believe that shifters are capable of spreading lycanthropy or are sympathetic to lycanthropes. Those negative stereotypes exist, especially in rural Aundair or places where people have never actually SEEN shifters, but they’re not common.
What do followers of the Silver Flame believe about the Sovereigns? What does the Church teach about them? Is it normal to venerate both, at least among the laity? Do they even believe the Sovereigns exist?
Nothing in the doctrine of the Church of the Silver Flame denies the existence of the Sovereigns. It’s entirely possible to follow both religions simultaneously, and templars are happy to work with paladins of the Host. However, the point is that the Church of the Silver Flame doesn’t CARE if the Sovereigns exist. Their general attitude is that if the Sovereigns exist, they are vast powers that are maintaining the world overall. Arawai makes sure there’s rain for the crops. Onatar watches over foundries. That’s all great, but SOMEONE HAS TO DEAL WITH THE GHOULS IN THE GRAVEYARD. It’s notable that the Church of the Silver Flame, for example, doesn’t have a unique creation myth because at the end of the day it doesn’t MATTER where the world came from, what matters is that the people who live in it are threatened by supernatural evil and we need to work together to protect them.
I’ve said before that the Church of the the Silver Flame is more like the Jedi or the Men in Black than any religion in our world. It is EXTREMELY PRACTICAL. Evil exists, and good people should fight it. The Silver Flame is a real, concrete source of celestial energy that can empower champions to fight evil. Noble souls strengthen the Flame after death, so be virtuous. If you want to believe in some sort of higher beings beyond that, feel free. What’s important is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil, and faith in the Flame will help you to do that. So the Church doesn’t teach anything about the Sovereigns and it doesn’t encourage its followers to believe in them or incorporate them into its services in any way, but it doesn’t specifically deny that they exist or forbid followers from holding both beliefs.
That’s all for now! Feel free to ask about other general information topics in the comments, but I won’t have time to address every topic. Thanks again to my Patreon supporters who make these articles possible!
This is my third article on this topic, following Arcane Science and The Arcane Arts. Arcane magic is a part of everyday life in Khorvaire. But how did we get to this point? If you travel back a thousand years, what sort of magic did the Princess Aundair using in battle? Who were the Teslas and Edisons of Khorvaire… or, if you prefer, the Tashas and Mordenkainens?
One way to approach this would be to a big timeline of specific dates: “535 YK: First confirmed use of the phantasmal killer spell.” However, this is impractical. Among other things, there is no single path of development in Eberron. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, many different cultures have developed arcane traditions. Take fireball; the externalists of Khunan invented one form of fireball, but the Siberyan wizards of Thaliost independently created a different form of the spell, and Brelish sympathists created a different version of the spell… Meanwhile, the Sulat giants were flinging fireballs forty thousand years ago. So the goal of this article isn’t to tell you who invented fireball. Instead, it’s a broad overview of the history of Arcane Magic in Khorvaire over the course of the last two thousand years, noting a few specific developments, movements, and individuals. It is NOT comprehensive; it is a foundation for DMs to build upon. If you’re looking for older civilizations, a few are touched on in the Arcane Arts article. If you’re interested in the weapons of war, check out Exploring Eberron.
Beyond that, this article assumes you have read the two preceding articles—that you know the difference between Siberyan theory and externalist magic, and that you know that magic is more complicated than it may appear. If you haven’t read those articles yet, now would be a good time to do so.
As with the previous articles, where this article references rules, it assumes the use of the fifth edition of D&D. This specifically addresses the development of ARCANE MAGIC as opposed to psionics, divine magic, or primal traditions. And as always, this is what I do at MY table, and what follows may contradict canon material. Use what you like, ignore what you don’t!
THE NOT-WIZARDS: Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Dragonmarks
Sorcerers and warlocks typically manipulate the same forms of energy as wizards. However, neither sorcerers or warlocks need to understand the powers that they wield. Later sections will discuss their role in history, but on the whole warlocks and sorcerers didn’t band together or seek to apply scientific knowledge to the development of their gifts; however, they served as an inspiration to those scholars who believed it was possible to replicate their powers through scientific means. While sorcerers and warlocks were scattered individuals, dragonmarks were a greater force in history; due to their hereditary nature, they served as the foundation of powerful guilds, ultimately becoming the houses that continue to shape the world today. Here’s a quick look at these three paths.
Sorcerers appear in every humanoid society, spread out across history. Generally, sorcerous power isn’t as reliably hereditary as dragonmarks are, so families of sorcerers haven’t become a powerful force in Khorvaire. There are exceptions—notably the Houses of the Sun and Moon that ruled ancient Corvagura in Sarlona—but even there it is likely the case that ongoing exposure to the wild zones of the region was the primary factor in the development of sorcerous power, not simply bloodline; those few Corvaguran nobles who came to Khorvaire failed to pass their powers on to their children. There might be similar regional pockets of sorcery in Khorvaire, or families with a greater chance to manifest dragonblood talents; however, this still isn’t reliable enough for sorcerers to wield the same sort of power as the dragonmarked houses. In general, sorcerers are considered to be remarkable and unique; during the Dark Ages they were valued for their power but didn’t seek to form any sort of fellowship of sorcerers or explore the science behind their gifts. While sorcerers generally don’t need to understand the science behind their powers, the most common forms of sorcerers do map to the common theories of arcane science. Those with “Planar Power” are effectively using Externalist magic, while “Dragonblood” sorcerers are channeling Siberyan power. The other most common manifestation of sorcerers are dragonmarks themselves… though there is also the possibility of sorcerers whose gifts are in some way engineered. Here’s a quick breakdown of these paths.
Planar Power. In the past, the most common form of sorcerer was touched by the power of one of the planes. This is believed to be tied to planar conjuctions, being born in a manifest zone, or perhaps because a parent attracts the attention of a planar entity. However, it is still extraordinarily rare; Sharn is in a manifest zone to Syrania, and of the tens of thousands of children born there every year, only a handful develop sorcerous gifts. While there’s no absolute limitations imposed on player characters who choose this path, generally the origin and spells of a planar sorcerer will reflect the influence of the plane they’re connected to. A sorcerer tied to Irian might be a Divine Soul with powers of light and healing, while one connected to Daanvi might be a Clockwork Soul with spells that enforce order. Keep in mind that the title of an origin is implied lore, not an absolute restriction. A sorcerer with the Draconic Bloodline could be tied to Shavarath or Fernia, with their “Draconic” features resembling the characteristics of a denizen of the plane. In general, however, planar sorcerers don’t manifest dramatic physical mutations. This is something that distinguishes them from tieflings and people with aberrant dragonmarks, both of whom are seen as dangerous. The powers of a sorcerer are generally seen as a blessing; even before the sorcerer learns to control them, they rarely trigger accidentally or pose the sort of threat associate with aberrants and tieflings.
Dragonblood. As arcane science advanced, sages discovered a new form of sorcerer: individuals with an innate power to channel the ambient magical power known as the Blood of Siberys. These sorcerers use the techniques and trappings of Siberyan wizardry to harness their power; they study Arcana and apply it to their magic. But a dragonblood sorcerer doesn’t prepare spells as a wizard does; instead they must discover the spells they are naturally attuned to—the spells they are innately prepared to cast. This is the “Harry Potter” model of sorcerer; they resemble wizards and study alongside wizards, but their gift is tied to an innate talent, not simply learned. The Arcanix scholar Iria ir’Rayne believes that there may be more people with latent dragonblood talent than has been realized; it’s simply that there’s no widespread method to test for this talent. Dragonblood rarely has any obvious physical manifestation and as such generally doesn’t involve the Draconic Bloodline origin, but most other origins could be tied to this form of sorcerer.
Dragonmarks. Characters with dragonmarks can present sorcerer or warlock abilities as expanded powers of their dragonmark. A halfling could be a Divine Soul sorcerer who presents their healing and strengthening spells as being channeled through their mark, whiile a Lyrandar heir could be a Storm Sorcerer. Such a character doesn’t have to present all of their spells as being tied to their dragonmark, but the point is that they have learned to channel power through their mark in ways that most of their kin cannot… and along the way, discovered a few other dragonblood talents or planar gifts.
Aberrant Dragonmarks. This follows the same principle as the dragonmarked sorcerer, with the added note that aberrant marks are typically destructive or dangerous. An aberrant sorcerer possesses greater power than someone who solely possesses the Aberrant Dragonmark feat, but they are still channeling their power through their mark, and as they gain Sorcerer levels their mark may grow, spreading across their body. A core idea of aberrant dragonmarks is that they are dangerous: that while a player character may be in full control of their mark, there may have been tragic incidents before they mastered its power—and that they still may have to deal with some sort of quirk or manifestation of the mark that continues to be a burden, as described in Rising From The Last War. Sorcerer-grade aberrant marks have been rarely seen since the War of the mark, but over the last century they’ve been appearing in ever-increasing numbers. Iria ir’Rayne has advanced the idea that some aberrant dragonmarks (notably not the “mixed marks” that occur from mixing dragonmarked bloodlines) could be the result of untapped dragonblood potential “spoiling”—that if a child received guidance and training before the manifestation of a mark, they could develop the talents of a dragonblood sorcerer instead. However, this is controversial theory has largely been dismissed by the Arcane Congress.
Magebred Sorcerers. Actual draconic ancestry isn’t commonly seen as an origin for sorcerers, but as Erandis Vol shows it’s not entirely impossible. Celestials and fiends don’t reproduce biologically, but it’s possible that a sliver of an immortal’s power could be imbued into a sorcerer; in this case their origin and spells would likely reflect the powers of that being. It’s also possible that either of these options—dragon or immortal—could be infused into a bloodline as a result of arcane experiments as opposed to any voluntary interaction on the part of the donor; a sorcerer with the Draconic Bloodline origin could be the result of a Vadalis experiment.
Sorcerers have always been uncommon. People know they exist, but because sorcery isn’t something that can be learned it’s increasingly less common that wizardry or artifice, not to mention magewrights. With the exception of aberrant dragonmarks, sorcerers generally aren’t feared. Sorcerers have always been allowed in arcane institutions, but because of their lack of flexibility have often been dismissed as flawed students. During the last century, Iria ir’Rayne has fought for greater recognition for sorcerers and to find ways to expand and embrace the potential of sorcery.
Like sorcerers, warlocks can be found in most civilizations throughout history. This article examines warlocks in more detail, discussing both possible patrons and interpretations of the class that don’t rely on patrons. But the classic warlock is someone who draws their power from their ongoing, active relationship with a powerful patron. They don’t have to have any sort of supernatural heritage and they don’t need to understand the powers that they wield; they simply need to earn the favor of a powerful being. This has led to a largely negative view of warlocks over the course of history, for a few reasons…
Wizards and arcane scholars often see warlocks as reckless fools, wielding powers they haven’t earned and don’t understand.
The Cults of the Dragon Below—both those devoted to daelkyr and those tied to overlords—are the most common source of warlock powers. Both tend to draw their warlocks down malevolent paths, eroding their morals and sanity and compelling them to do terrible things.
Even warlocks devoted to less malign powers are still serving supernatural entities. There is a common sense that this comes before faith in religion or loyalty to a nation—that warlocks are essentially spies serving unknown powers.
This is a simplistic view, and the actual reaction will depend on the nature of the patron, the views of the people the warlock is dealing with, and local customs. In Aundair, many noble families have longstanding pacts with archfey. In Breland, the wandslinger who won magic powers by gambling with an efreeti may be celebrated for their wit rather than reviled. The members of the Court of Shadows are arcane scholars lured into the Court by a hunger for knowledge. In the Mror Holds, there are warlocks who have stolen their powers from the daelkyr rather than earning them with allegiance… but Mror purists argue that any use of such powers has a corrupting effect. One could argue whether the relationship of a warlock and patron is really so different than that of a cleric and their deity, but the general opinion is that it is—that warlocks are driven by greed and the desire for personal power, that patrons likewise seek to meddle with the natural order, while the Sovereigns are the natural order.
Warlocks with different patrons have little in common with one another; they may have access to overlapping spell lists, but an Archfey warlock who’s working for Fortune’s Fool and a Great Old One warlock drawing power from Dyrrn wield very different powers; depending on their choice of spells, it’s possible that the GOO warlock could be considered to be wielding psionic power. Aside from the differences in the nature and source of their powers, patrons may have very different goals and limitations. A particular archfey could be limited to only having a single warlock at a time; they can’t imbue another mortal with power unless they dismiss their current agent. On the other hand, a cult of the Dragon Below might grant power to anyone who swears an oath… But it might also sink hooks into the psyche of the newly minted warlock, corrupting them and remolding them in the image of the patron.
The average commoner can’t tell the difference between a sorcerer and a warlock. It’s not that a warlock will inherently be distrusted the moment they step into a room; but if they announce their status—”Well, I was talking to Sul Khatesh last night in my dreams, and she taught me this new spell… Neat, huh?”—they may have to deal with fear and prejudice. Arcanix accepts Archfey warlocks and studies other paths, and other warlocks might be allowed as curiosities—but Arcanix forbids trafficking with overlords, daelkyr, or other entities defined as malefic forces. This isn’t a crime under the Code of Galifar, and even in the Arcane Congress there are ways a scholar to defend interactions with such entities—but it can be cause for inquiry, censure, or even expulsion. This is discussed further in the section on Arcane Research.
A dragonmark is a lens that allows the bearer to focus magical energy for a specific purpose. From the moment it manifests, it provides certain innate gifts—a few minor spell effects, an intuitive talent for a particular skill or tool. But the potential of the dragonmark is far greater than that. Heirs who learn how to channel magical energy can use their mark to produce greater effects, as reflected by the Spells of the Mark. And as noted before, a character could ascribe their class abilities to their use of their dragonmark. A Lyrandar Storm Sorcerer might have unlocked the greater powers of the Mark of Storm, while a Jorasco Life Cleric could attribute their healing abilities not to divine power, but rather to their dragonmark. A Thuranni rogue could even class features such as Uncanny Dodge or Evasion as manifestations of their dragonmark, as they conjure concealing shadows.
There was a time when cantrips were all but unknown to the people of Khorvaire: when those tinkers who carried the Mark of Making were the only humans capable of casting mending, when the Ghallanda gift of prestidigitation was a truly remarkable gift. Likewise, there was a time when the Spells of the Mark could only be cast by those with the Mark—when knock and arcane lock were the sole provenance of the Mark of Warding. But beyond all of this, the core strength of the dragonmark has always been focus items. The idea is simple: it is easier to produce a magical effect that channels the power of a dragonmark than one that doesn’t. It’s easier to make a serpentine mirror than a crystal ball… Not to mention eldritch machines like the creation forges or storm spires. Over the course of centuries, the Arcane Congress and other mages have worked to reverse engineer these powers, discovering how to mend, to detect poison, to feather fall. By default, all such spells are now in the public domain. But again, dragonmark focus items allow heirs to provide services no one else can offer. And beyond this, while player characters can learn any spell, a DM who wants to emphasize the power of the houses can assert that magewrights are more limited—that there are rituals that can only be learned by magewrights that carry a particular mark. Looking to page 318 of Rising From The Last War, it could be that healer magewrights must carry the Mark of Healing, and that locksmiths require the Mark of Warding—or, if you want to be less restrictive, it could be that any magewright can master these rituals, but that the guild trade schools tied to Kundarak and Jorasco have the best teachers.
The key points to bear in mind when moving forward are that there was a time when most Spells of the Mark were known only to the houses, and when many useful magic items existed only as dragonmark focus items. The fact that such spells can now be learned by wizards and that such items can be created in a form that anyone can use reflects centuries of effort on the part of the Arcane Congress. The houses aren’t happy about this gradual erosion of their monopolies. But while Lyrandar may be able to suppress the development of airships anyone can pilot, not even the Twelve can block the slow and steady advancement of arcane science. It’s still easier and cheaper to produce a serpentine mirror than it is to make a crystal ball… But the Royal Eyes of Aundair have a surveillance network employing crystal balls.
THE DARK AGES
When Lhazaar’s ships arrived in Khorvaire approximately three thousand years ago, they brought little in the way of arcane magic. The Khunan externalists were powerless in a land without wild zones, and the shadow lords of Ohr Kaluun didn’t join Lhazaar or the expeditions that followed her. While these explorers didn’t have wizards, they still had magic. The divine magic of the Pyrinean missionaries played an important role in ensuring the survival of the settlers, which in turn helped to cement the strong faith in the Sovereigns that remains to this day; however, the evolving role of divine magic is a topic for another article. The explorers, settlers, and reavers also counted sorcerers and warlocks among their champions. While celebrated or feared, those that followed these paths couldn’t simply teach their gifts to others, and were limited by their own heritage or the whims of patrons.
At this moment in history, none of modern nations existed; human civilization was an assortment of warlords, colonies, and small city-states. As humanity carved out its place on the continent, the first dragonmarks were appearing. The houses didn’t emerge fully formed. Each mark appeared on multiple families, and it took centuries for some houses to unlock the potential of their marks and to come together. This is discussed in this article, as well as in the 3.5 sourcebook Dragonmarked. The Scribing families were relatively quick to form the Sivis League, but the Sentinel families were actively opposed for centuries. Even before the houses were fully formed, the reliably hereditary nature of these powers meant that the dragonmarked had a degree of organization and unity—that they were able to explore their potential in ways unmatched by the warlocks and sorcerers of the age.
Another crucial element in this age was the arrival of the elves. The eradication of the line of Vol resulted in both the exile of Vol’s allies and the voluntary exodus of the Phiarlans and other elves who feared persecution. There’s a few important things to understand about this process. This wasn’t an orderly step by a nation seeking to establish colonies; it was a scattered wave of exiles and rebels. These were elves who fought against the Undying Court, or at least opposed its goals; they weren’t seeking to preserve its traditions or values. The Bloodsail Principality and House Phiarlan were the two places where these immigrants sought to retain some element of cultural identity; but the majority of exiles dispersed among the masses building nations. There are many reasons that these immigrants couldn’t raise humanity to the level of arcane sophistication seen in Aerenal. The everyday magic of Aerenal relies on an arcane infrastructure built up over tens of thousands of years. The exiles were removed from the powerful manifest zones of Aerenal, the ancient eldritch machines, the deathless mentors, and the underlying support—not to mention traditions that might call for a magewright to spend a century perfecting their skills. Even had they wished to, a single elf exile couldn’t reproduce the wonders of Aerenal in Khorvaire. Instead, most exiled wizards chose to use their talents to achieve personal power and influence. In the northeast, exiles laid the foundation of what would become the Blood of Vol. In the northwest, some helped powerful families forge ties with the local fey.
So overall, the exiled wizards of Aerenal filled the same role as sorcerers and warlocks: individuals feared or celebrated for their powers rather than the cornerstones of institutes of learning or the forces of innovation. However, merely by existing they served to inspire others—sages who recognized that these powers weren’t simply the gifts of immortal patrons or mystical mutation. Another important point is that Aereni magic hasn’t actually changed much over the last few years. So the spells of these wizards were much like those used today… and precisely because they were severed from Aereni culture (and had in many cases rebelled against it), they’re a possible source of unique spells or rituals that could be useful to a player character wizard. Consider the story of the Queen of the Burning Sky, still told in parts of Breliand even though she predates their nation. Raela Solaen was an Aereni wizard. She opposed the Undying Court and chose exile; making her way west she married Breggor Firstking of Wroat. Her arcane might was a key element of Breggor’s success; in the tales of Breggor’s siege of Shaarat (a former incarnation of Sharn), Solaen devastates the defenders with massive waves of fire. These stories may be exaggerated; Raela may have just been using fireballs and flaming spheres. On the other hand, it’s possible that the Queen of the Burning Sky developed unique war rituals—likely spells that inflicted less damage than a fireball, but with a far greater range and area of effect. As she had no interest in sharing her knowledge with others, her secrets died with her. But if Solaen’s spellshards were found today, her war rituals might be a boon to the nation that obtained them.
The key point is that in this time, few of the civilizations of Khorvaire had actually embraced the idea of SCIENCE. Warlocks and sorcerers gained their power through bargains or accidents of birth, as did the dragonmarked houses. The wizards of Aerenal were likewise considered to be enigmatic wonders; this wasn’t a path a normal person could follow. It would be centuries still before people recognized that magic was a tool that anyone could master, not some sort of divine gift.
FIVE NATIONS RISE
Two thousand years ago, Karrn the Conqueror sought to dominate Khorvaire. Five strong nations emerged from this conflict: Karrnath, Metrol, Daskara, Wroat, and Thaliost. While only shadows of the powerful nations of the present day, these young realms possessed greater resources and brought together larger numbers of sages than had been possible in the past.
During Karrn’s conquest, magic was still largely a thing of wonder rather than a tool of science. Kings and warlords employed mercenary sorcerers or exiled elves. But there were a number of crucial developments in this period.
Dragonmarks: The War of the Mark and the Twelve
It was in this time that the dragonmarked houses coalesced into something resembling their modern form. Cannith and Sivis were the first true dragonmarked houses, and both actively worked to identify other houses and to encourage them to adopt similar traditions and structure. These early houses wielded far less power than they have today, in part because they didn’t have the tools they have today; there were no airships, no lightning rail, no message stones. But Kundarak could craft arcane locks, Jorasco could cast lesser restoration, and Cannith excelled both at the creation of mundane goods and at the creation of magic items—though at this time, even something we’d now consider to be uncommon would be a great treasure. The houses were still learning what they could do: but even beyond their active magic, the intuition granted by a dragonmark meant that the house heirs excelled at certain fields. An Orien heir is faster than an unmarked courier and excels at the operation of land vehicles, while even before elemental vessels, any marked Lyrandar heir has a knack for navigation. Artisan’s Intuition provides a Cannith heir with a bonus to any ability check involving artisans’s tools. The heirs of the dragonmarked houses were simply better at certain things than unmarked folk, and even as they learned the full powers of their marks, they also worked to establish their dominance in those fields.
In addition to their innate powers, the houses were pioneers in the field of wizardry. Cannith and Sivis were foremost in this. Having observed the exiled elves of Aerenal, recognizing the power of words and the fact that their own marks were manipulating a form of energy in a measurable way, the members of these houses dug deeper into arcane mysteries. Sivis explored the science of sigilry and the paths of divination and illusion, while Cannith delved more deeply into conjuration, abjuration, and transmutation. Two of the greatest pioneers were Alder d’Cannith and LyssiaLyrrimand’Sivis. Were you to meet either of these two in combat today, their magic might not be so impressive; as discussed in previous articles, they required higher level spell slots to cast spells we know today. But it was Lyssia who developed the basic foundation of the elemental sigils—the verbal and somatic components used by most modern externalist wizards. Alder developed the earliest form of the modern magecraft spell, as well as pioneering techniques of spell preparation and aspects of artifice.
Even as the dragonmarked houses were carving out their places in the world, aberrant dragonmarks were becoming more common and more powerful. Aberrant heirs were by far the most common form of sorcerer or warlock in this age. Aberrant dragonmarks are a dangerous burden for those who bear them, but they can be mastered and wielded safely. There were places where aberrant sorcerers served in the military, or found other ways to use their destructive powers for the greater good. But any possibility for the peaceful integration of aberrant dragonmarks came to an end with the War of the Mark. This conflict occurred approximately 1,500 years ago and is covered in other sources, but it had two major effects. The first was the near eradication of aberrant dragonmarks and lasting prejudice against those who bear them. The second was to strengthen and unify the dragonmarked houses. It was in the final days of the War of the Mark that Hadran d’Cannith proposed that the houses work together to create an “institute for the application of magic“—a foundation that would study both the dragonmarks and ways to harness their power, but also other forms of arcane magic. It was Hadran’s charisma and dreams that paved the way for the Twelve, but it was Alder d’Cannith who made it a reality. It was Alder who designed the Tower of the Twelve, and who insisted on the name of the organization, and it was in this tower that Lyssia d’Sivis perfected the elemental sigils.
For the next five centuries, the Tower of the Twelve was the greatest institute of arcane learning in Khorvaire. While much of its resources were focused on the development of dragonmark focus items and other ways to harness dragonmarks, it also drove the development of wizardry and the earliest magewrights. A key point is that the Twelve didn’t seek to create forms of the Spells of the Mark that anyone could use. They weren’t interested in crafting an arcane lock that anyone could cast. But they were interested in the potential of arcane magic, and many of the spells and rituals they perfected could be learned by anyone with talent, marked or otherwise.
Hedge Wizards and Other Traditions
It’s a simple fact that magic works. Even in the Dark Ages, the priests of Aureon mastered a few basic principles of wizardry. Externalist wizards learned to tap the power of their local manifest zones, even if these spells were rough in form and only possible in specific rituals. Here’s a few figures known to history.
Heken Askarda was a Daskaran monk devoted to Aureon, who pioneered the development of utilitarian magic. Notably, she created spells—at the time, 1st level wizard spells—that produced the individual effects of prestidigitation (heating, chilling, cleaning, soiling, etc). Later generations would refine these spells to the level of cantrip and ultimately to the versatile spell that people use today. Early wizards were often focused on the combat applications of magic; Heken sought to show how Aureon’s gift could improve all aspects of life.
Duran perfected many of the basic techniques of arcane necromancy employed by the Blood of Vol. While Duran died long ago, some say that he was also the first human of the Five Nations to master the rituals required to become a lich.
Beren’s Hearth was a legendary inn located in a Fernian manifest zone. The innkeeper Beren had crafted externalist spells allowing him to channel the power of Fernia to heat food and the inn itself. According to the tales, when a group of bandits threatened Beren and his guests, the innkeeper called the fire out of the hearth, and it chased down his enemies and burned them. To this day, Brelish wizards often call flaming sphere “Beren’s blaze” and fire bolt “Beren’s blast.” According to the tales, Beren’s Hearth finally burnt down and the land was claimed for a Cannith foundry. There are many conflicting accounts of just where the Hearth was, and some who say that it was the Twelve—notably agents of Ghallanda and Cannith—who burned down the Hearth.
Beren and Heken are good examples of the wizards of this time. Both focused on narrow fields of magic. Heken’s spells were effects that can now be cast as cantrips, while Beren’s fire spells were strong but relied on a direct tie to Fernia; nonetheless, they were spells that they developed and improved in their lifetimes, and which were further improved upon by future generations of wizards. When a Brelish wizard casts Beren’s blast they aren’t actually casting the spell created by the Wroatian wizard, but they are using the pyromantic principles he pioneered.
The Mages of Thaliost
There’s a strong fey presence in the land now known in Aundair. The earlier settlers found ways to make peace with these spirits, and the great families that forged the nation of Thaliost attributed their success to their fey pacts. While this produced a number of legendary warlocks, such as Tyman Three-Cloaks and Vilina the Unseen, not all of the fey the families dealt with had the power to create warlocks—and those that did might only grant such gifts to one child in a generation. Thaliost also drew an unusual number of Aereni exiles during the Dark Ages. Some of these chose to settle in the Towering Wood, ultimately producing the first Greensingers. Others joined the ancient families, earning influence with their arcane knowledge. As noted earlier, it was no simple thing for the Aereni to share their traditions, and few wanted to; most of the exiles preferred to keep their secrets as a unique resource preserving their value. While the elf wizards and Archfey warlocks were rare, they were a part of life. Margana Lain was an early arcane pioneer, convinced that what the fey seemed to do by whim, mortals could master through will. Over the course of her life she made dramatic breakthroughs in the basic techniques of Illusion and Enchantment magic. While she was a wizard whose powers were based on arcane science, many stories that followed called her Margana the Fey, claiming that her studies allowed her to become an archfey. Arcanix-trained mages may refer to disguise self as Margana’s masque;invisibility as Margana’s veil; and minor illusion as Margana’s mirror (according to legend, Margana would weave images in a mirror, then pull them out into the world). In the present day, the ir’Lains are a proud Aundairian dynasty; Darro ir’Lain is Second Warlord of the Realm and Commander of the Knights Arcane.
Beyond her own accomplishments, Margana was instrumental in the creation of the Guild of Moonlight and Whispers, the first true wizard’s circle of the Five Nations. The Guild became an influential force in Thaliost, and soon other circles followed in its footsteps. These circles lacked the numbers or resources of the Twelve, and members were often distracted by petty feuds with other circles. But they also became an important element of Thaliost culture and fueled arcane research, ultimately forming a foundation for the Arcane Congress.
GALIFAR AND THE ARCANE CONGRESS
Approximately one thousand years ago, Galifar Wynarn of Karrnath succeeded where Karrn the Conqueror had failed, uniting the Five Nations under the banner of the kingdom that bore his name. A key element of his victory was the work of his daughter Aundair. Long intrigued by arcane science, Aundair studied with both the Twelve and the Guild of Moonlight and Whispers, and had come up with her own unique theories of magic—the basic elements of Siberyan theory. The people she worked with had great respect for her talents—and this in turn played an important role both in Galifar’s negotiations with the Twelve and in recruiting Thaliost mages to his cause. There was no question that Aundair would govern Thaliost in the united kingdom. As the princess took stock of her domain, she worked to quell the conflicts between the rival circles of magic. Aundair recognized that the Twelve was capable of accomplishing grander things than the little circles… but she likewise knew both that the Twelve would always approach magic with a desire for profit, and that their greatest interest would always be harnessing the power of the dragonmarks. Beyond this, she had witnessed firsthand the desire to the houses to prevent people from developing spells that replicated the Spells of the Mark; she concluded that her father’s kingdom needed an institution that would pursue arcane science for the good of the kingdom, not simply in pursuit of gold. In 15 YK, Galifar I established the Arcane Congress, which united the resources of the Aundairian circles… though the circles have always continued to exist as fraternal orders in Aundair, and additional circles were established across Galifar.
The question has come up before: If you went back in time, how would the magic used by Aundair differ from that a wizard wields in the present day? Using the terms discussed in this article, the wizardry of early Galifar had higher spell slots (1-2 level higher cost than modern spells), lengthy preparation, and limited options. Notably, it would be centuries before any form of necromancy was part of the curriculum. Likewise, in the early days there simply weren’t many spells known over 3rd level. Today, the library of Arcanix includes spells created by the prodigies of the past even though few modern mages can cast them, but in the first days of the congress it would be possible for an exceptional wizard to have a 5th level spell slot… and simply not know any 5th level spells.
Institutes of Learning
This article talks about the education of magewrights, but what of wizards? The Arcane Congress was supported by Galifar, but it wasn’t the only institute of learning… And especially in the wake of the war, other nations had to develop their own
The Arcane Congress / Arcanix (Aundair). The Arcane Congress is a massive institution with campuses across Aundair. The most renowned among these is Arcanix, which serves as a center both for cutting edge research and for teaching the most advanced students. The original mission of the Arcane Congress was to improve the quality of life for the people of Galifar, and some of its greatest achievements were the development of the prestidigitation and mending cantrips, and the development of the everbright lantern.When Galifar collapsed, the Congress was immediately militarized. The core of Arcanix is located in a cluster of floating towers, and it was moved to its current location during the Last War to secure territory claimed from Thrane; while Arcanix is a school, it’s also an arcane citadel. All schools of magic can be studied at the Arcane Congress, but Aundair is particularly noted for diviners, abjurers, and conjurers. Aundair’s intelligence service—the Royal Eyes—makes extensive use of divination, and a skilled diviner may be recruited by the agency.
Atur Academy (Karrnath). Based in the so-called “City of Night” in Karrnath, Atur Academy specializes in mystical studies shunned by other institutions. Atur is a stronghold of the Blood of Vol, and the Academy has no equal when it comes to the study of necromancy. While its coverage of other schools of magic is unremarkable, its researchers develop spells that others would consider to be horrifying, and its vaults are said to contain tomes and scrolls of many spells forbidden during the reign of Galifar.
The Library of Korranberg (Zilargo). The gnomes of Zilargo place great value on illusion, divination, and enchantment magic. Most of Zilargo’s many universities teach at least one of these subjects. The Library of Korranberg is especially noteworthy, and its divination facilities rival those of Arcanix.
Morgrave University (Breland). Breland relies on the trade schools of the Twelve for general magical education, and the King’s Citadel trains spies and war mages. But Morgrave University is Breland’s best option for general research and private training. Morgrave’s faculty is eclectic, and its facilities are no match for Arcanix. But Morgrave still produces an impressive number of wizards and artificers. This is driven by a tradition of encouraging students to personalize their techniques, shifting verbal and somatic components to find a uniquely effective approach. Aundairian and Aereni wizards find this to be revoltingly slipshod, but it has produced some impressive results.
Rekkenmark (Karrnath). While its focus has always been military strategy and martial excellence, since the collapse of Galifar Rekkenmark has aggressively expanded its mystical studies. While still limited in scope, Rekkenmark has top-notch facilities for evokers and war magic, and reasonable instructors for conjuration and abjuration.
The Tower of the Twelve (Karrnath). Each dragonmarked house maintains trade schools tied to its guilds across Khorvaire, and many houses have their own facilities that engage in the secret or private work of their house. The Tower of the Twelve isn’t a production facility; rather, it is both a symbol of house cooperation and a center that brings together the finest minds of all of the houses to conduct shared research and to train promising heirs. It has access to unrivaled resources, drawing on bother the finest minds and vast resources of the houses. However, its primary focus is always on the applications of the dragonmarks and on things that can produce profit, rather than on purely abstract knowledge.
Two other noteworthy schools were lost in the Mourning. The Vermishard Academy trained promising nobles in the arts of enchantment, while the Wynarn Institute of Art (WIA) focused on the artistic potential of illusion and conjuration magic. Like other nations, Cyre embraced the martial aspects of magic during the Last War, but its war magic programs weren’t as developed as those of Karrnath or Aundair.
The Pace of Innovation
If I had more time, this article would include a timeline of the development of key arcane tools, from the siege staff to the speaking stone and beyond. I’m afraid this will have to wait for a future article. But it is crucial to understand that arcane science in the Five Nations is advancing at an exponential rate. The first lightning rail went into service in 811 YK. The first true warforged was created in 965 YK. The first elemental airships took flight in 990 YK. The Last War dramatically ramped up the pace of innovation, and saw more widespread training in the use of offensive cantrips (resulting in the more widespread presence of wandslingers). Beyond this, House Tharashk’s ever-greater ability to gather dragonshards and evolving ability to refine them has helped to support the more industrial role of magic—something that will be discussed in the upcoming article of Arcane Industry.
Alternate Spell Names
This article suggests a number of alternate names for spells tied to historical figures; a Brelish evoker might refer to flaming sphere as Beren’s blaze, while an Aundairian illusionist could refer to invisibility as Margana’s veil. The goal here isn’t to replace names and demand that you use these new names. Rather, it’s an example of the fact that spell names—like fireball— are largely generic and that different nations and cultures may have their own names for them. A Cyran wizard might cast an externalist form of fireball they call Fernia’s fury, while a Karrn evoker might use a Siberyan form called red dragon’s wrath. Spells are tools, and it’s not like there’s only one version of a sword in the world. But the key point here is that I’m never going to come up with a complete list of unique Brelish spell names… and that it’s always ok to just call a fireball a fireball. Use my suggestions if you like, but as a player or DM you should always feel free to name your own spells. If you don’t want to just cast ray of frost, YOU can decide you call it ice drake’s tooth… though, or course, you may have to tell your DM “That’s ray of frost.”
The same principle applies in reverse to any spell in D&D that HAS a proper name attached, like Tasha’s hideous laughter. One option is to simply drop the proper name; the spell is hideous laughter. Another is to replace it with someone from Eberron; Tenser’s floating disk could be Heken’s floating disk. A third option is to create Eberron versions of these common characters…
Sora Tasha was a wizard of Thaliost who was adopted by the infamous Sora Kell. In some stories, Tasha was a beloved protege of her “grandmother,” who disappeared into the planes long ago searching for Sora Kell. In other versions of the story, Tasha was responsible for Sora Kell’s disappearance, stealing her mentor’s grimoire and trapping her in a planar prison. Some stories say Tasha is long dead, while others say her spells have preserved her and she has taken Sora Kell’s hidden sanctum as her own.
Mordenkainen d’Phiarlan is the original name of the wizard now known as Mordain the Fleshweaver. As Mordain, he is infamous for his mastery of transmutation magic; but he was a remarkably gifted wizard who came up with a number of innovative spells before he became obsessed with transmutation, and those that use this name are among his earlier works. The slight twist is that most of his spells draw on Xoriat in various ways. The phantom hound of Mordenkainen’s faithful hound is a many-eyed multiidimensional denizen of Xoriat. Mordenkainen’s blade is a shard of Xoriat itself. Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion creates a pocket of space in Xoriat; fortunately, it’s impossible to breach the walls of the manor (probably…). Note that this has nothing in common with magnificent mansions created through other methods (such as Ghallanda’s manor key)… Again, one spell can have many variants. It’s also the case that there are few living spellcasters who could actually CAST Mordenkainen’s sword; it’s something that might be found in one of Mordain’s abandoned spellshards, deep in the library of Arcanix.
Bigby is said to be a giant wizard of the Cul’sir Dominion. He was one of the mentors (and slavemasters) of the legendary elf wizard Cardaen. When the warrior queen Vadallia rescued Cardaen from the citadel he was imprisoned in, she cut off the giant’s hand. Cardaen later perfected the series of spells, saying that he had bound Bigby’s hand to do his bidding. Cardaen’s spells are known both to Tairnadal and Aereni wizards, and could have been shared with wizards of the Five Nations.
I had hoped to incorporate a more lengthy list of innovators and a timeline of some of the major developments, such as the everbright lantern and the siege staff. However, the fact is that this article has already taken more time than I have available—and that if I were to add every detail I’d like to add, it might be weeks before I could complete it. The next article in this series will cover Arcane Industry, and if time allows I’d love to do a shorter article speicifically about innovators and innovations—but time is always the enemy. I will note that Arcane Industry will cover the questions about the regulation of magical research that’s come up in the past.
Thanks to my Patreon supporters for choosing this topic. It’s your support that makes these articles possible, and that determines the amount of time I can spend on them. I’ll be posting a poll for the next new topic soon!
My new book Exploring Eberron is available now on the DM’s Guild. You can find a FAQ about it here. I am currently working on a long article about the Nobility of Khorvaire. This will examine the role of the nobility in Galifar and how this evolved over the course of the Last War and into the present day—writing about what it means to be noble in Khorvaire. However, I’m not going to delve too deeply into the history of Galifar, and one thing I certainly won’t do is provide a complete list of the historical rulers of Galifar; I thought I’d take a moment to explain why.
Creating history is a potential rabbit hole for any worldbuilder. You may have noticed that Eberron: Rising From The Last War barely addresses history before the Last War. In writing Exploring Eberron I wanted to fill in this gap for people who weren’t familiar with the older sourcebooks, and ExE includes a discussion of the Age of Demons, Age of Giants, and Age of Monsters, along with a broad timeline for the modern age. But these are brief overviews, and each section includes an important question: Why does this matter? What about this period of time can drive an adventure or add an interesting element to a player character’s backstory? This is a question I ask myself anytime I’m adding lore to the world. Can I think of three ways that this could inspire or impact a story? Can I think of a reason why a player—or character—would want to know this piece of information?
Beyond the simple point of not wanting to waste time on information that no one has a use for, I also don’t want to overcrowd the world with facts that may end up getting in the way of stories I want to tell. Imagine that I’m running a campaign, and I want the players to have to track down a long-lost artifact—the Codex Ourelonastrix, a book said to have been written by the Sovereign Aureon. One of the adventurers is a Lore bard with proficiency in History, and I start the session by revealing the following information…
“The last known owner of the Codex Ourelonastrix was Queen Marala, who ruled Galifar during the fifth century. Marala was known as ‘the Hand of Aureon’ and expanded the schools of Galifar and the Arcane Congress. According to stories, she built a hidden sanctum—an ‘invisible tower’ that held her personal library. The Codex Ourelonastrix hasn’t been seen since Marala’s death, and her library vault has never been found… until now.”
Marala and her invisible tower (which I’m imagining to be an extradimensional space, like a magnificent mansion) didn’t exist until five minutes ago. They exist now because they serve the story: I can introduce a secret library that contain the lost literary treasures of the kingdom. Moving forward, I can expand on Marala and her role in the history of Galifar, and this will be interesting to the players because they have context for Marala. If I introduce her as a lich or preserved as a spirit idol, that’s going to be interesting… but it’s interesting because of their personal experience.
The flip side is that the last thing I want is for a player to say “Fifth century? Well, actually, Five Nations says that King Borotox and King Gorman were the rulers of Galifar in the fifth century, and that they were both illiterate.” The existence of Borotox and Gorman doesn’t help the story I want to tell; it’s just a random piece of canon lore that I never read, and now it’s in the way of my story. As it is, we know that Galifar HAD queens and kings, but because they AREN’T concretely listed out, nothing’s stopping me from creating one that perfectly fits the needs of my story. Likewise, note that I just said Marala “ruled Galifar during the fifth century.” I don’t need to know that her rule began in 435 YK when she took over from King Drego II and ended when she died in her sleep on 4 Olarune 468 YK… and if I DO need to know these things, I can make them up, like I just did. We’re talking about events that occurred hundreds of years ago, to a character who didn’t exist yesterday. If I NEED specifics I can create them; but odds are good that it will never actually matter when she was coronated, and if it DOES matter, it’s useful to have the freedom to create the date that best suits the needs of the campaign.
As an example of this in practice, let’s look at the War of the Mark. We know that the war took place “approximately 1,500 years ago.” But we don’t know exactly when it began, how long it lasted, or or the precise date it ended. We know the names of some of the major figures, but not all of them! We know about the destruction of Sharn, but not the exact date. Page 178 of Rising From The Last War describes ‘The Lady’s Day’, a holiday that commemorates the Lady of the Plague unleashing her death curse on Sharn with plague drills. But it doesn’t actually give the date of the celebration! If you LIKE the idea of the Lady’s Day and want to use it in your current campaign, then congratulations, it’s happening tomorrow. Because what we don’t want is for you to say “This is perfect for my story! Oh, wait, it’s on 5 Rhaan, and that’s six months from now. Never mind.” There’s no reason that it HAS to be on a specific date. I want you to tell ME when the Lady’s Day is celebrated—and then to make a note of that, and use that in your campaign going forward. Likewise, if you want to add a new aberrant champion who fought a campaign in Thaliost during the War of the Mark, go ahead! The history we’ve provided is an overview, not an absolute battle-by-battle account of the war.
Now: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t or can’t create history or set specific dates. In Sharn: City of Towers we say that the Glass Tower was destroyed on 9 Olarune 918 YK. Sharn: City of Towers also includes a list of holidays and special events with concrete dates. Because it can help to have a framework of history that can inspire DMs looking for story ideas… “Hmm, it’s Olarune, does anything interesting happen in Olarune?” It’s the same as how we tell you about SOME of the overlords and SOME of the daelkyr—but we also say that there’s more of them and that we’re never going to give a complete list. I’m never going to give an absolute list of all of the rulers of Galifar. But what I AM going to do as a Patreon-exclusive bonus to the Nobility article is to provide a list of some of my FAVORITE rulers of Galifar… people like Marala, who might inspire a story. Just like we’ve told you about Rak Tulkhesh and Sul Khatesh but not ALL the overlords, I’ll tell you about a few interesting rulers, but I’m not going to lock them all down.
So Exploring Eberron includes a timeline of the modern age that includes a number of interesting dates and events. But I’m not going to create a 200-page History of Galifar that breaks things down in detail, year-by-year. Instead, what Exploring Eberron includes is a table of ideas for Untold History. I’ll let that section speak for itself…
Galifar stood for almost a thousand years before collapsing into the Last War. This section has highlighted some particular moments in history that can be used as inspiration for adventure. But both in this book and in the wider canon of Eberron lore, there are vast stretches of time that remain largely undeveloped.
Within your campaign—whether as player or Dungeon Master—feel free to develop and explore additional moments of history if they enhance the stories you want to tell. The Untold History table provides a starting point for ideas. As a Dungeon Master, this can be a way to add depth to a story. Have the players arrived at a currently unremarkable inn? Perhaps two hundred years ago, that inn was the headquarters of an alliance of peasants that rose up against the monarchy, only to be brutally suppressed—and they still don’t think much of characters with the noble background! Or in developing a character, perhaps one of your ancestors was a wizard who made an important arcane breakthrough—only to have it covered up by the dragonmarked houses.
The crucial point is that established history is a place to start, nothing more. Use the ideas presented here when they can help you. But always feel empowered to expand the world and develop the history of your Eberron, even if it may not match official sourcebooks that come out in the future.
Exploring Eberron, page 13
A key point here is that LOCAL history can be far more important than GLOBAL history. Imagine I’m looking to add a twist to the adventure I planned. Using the ExE Untold History table, I might come up with A brutal battle connected to the Eldeen Druids which was never explained.At some point in the past, there was a bitter battle between druids, and even the locals don’t know why it happened. Here’s just a few ways I could spin out that hook…
Purely Cosmetic. There’s a field just beyond the village that is filled with unusual crimson flowers. The locals say that the flowers sprouted where the blood of the druids fell on the field. With a good Intelligence (Investigation) check, players might be able to find a few goodberries growing amid the blood-blossoms.
Character Hook. If one of the characters has a connection to a druidic sect, they could have a vision when they enter the field. The battle wasn’t between druids; it was that the druids fought a dangerous foe and the villagers never even knew of the threat. Perhaps the field contains a portal to Khyber, and it’s about to open again.
Explanation for Threat. No one knows why the druids fought, but the magics they used had a lasting effect on the region. There are dire or horrid beasts in the region, and one of them is on a rampage…
These are just a few quick ideas. Perhaps there’s an awakened tree left behind who knows the story! The hook can be even more interesting if the region is far from the Eldeen Reaches—how did the druids reach the area? Is there a hidden sect still here? The point is that this ISN’T reflected in the grand scope of history. This isn’t a reflection of a bitter druidic civil war that took place in 734 YK; it’s just a curious piece of local history, something that can add color or an unexpected twist to local history.
If you had to rewrite some parts of Eberron, would you have kept specific dates like the destruction of the Glass Tower more vague? These specific dates seem to clash with your overall design philosophy of leaving specifics up to the GM/players to decide.
It’s a good question. To me, it comes back to the overlords and the daelkyr. I don’t mind providing SOME specifics, because many DMs like having concrete things to work with. If we just said “There’s thirty overlords out there, but we aren’t going to tell you about ANY of them” then we’re imposing a lot of work on a DM to use them in any way. By providing a number of overlords as concrete examples, we both allow the DM to use something quickly when they need it and to show what WE think overlords are like; but we still leave lots of room for you to create your own, rather than providing an absolute list of THESE ARE ALL OF THE OVERLORDS. It’s the same with history. It’s absolutely fine to provide a range of concrete dates and events, because many DMs WILL find those useful and inspiring. I don’t mind providing names, details, and even dates for SOME of the rulers of Galifar. But I don’t want to establish an ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE list of ALL rulers and dates.
So I don’t mind the Glass Tower as a specific date in the past, in part because that specific date really doesn’t matter; it’s not like it’s likely to break a story. On the other hand, a date I DO regret having absolutely established is the date of the Race of Eight Winds, because that’s DEFINITELY an event that as a DM, I want to have happen when I want it to happen; I don’t want to have to say “I was going to do a cool thing with the Race of Eight Winds, but it’s actually six months away.”
So again, I’m not against ANY specifics; I’m just saying that not everything NEEDS to be specific.
With that said, if we were starting from absolute scratch, the main thing I would do is to reduce the OVERALL SCOPE OF HISTORY. There’s a tendency in fantasy fiction—in part because of long-lived beings such as elves — to make use of VAST SPANS OF TIME without really thinking it through. Galifar lasted A THOUSAND YEARS mainly because it sounds more dramatic than “Galifar lasted for 345 years” or “Galifar lasted for 245 years before splitting into two kingdoms for 30 years, after which it reunited but under a council of five princes for a century, and was finally restored to a single ruler for a decade before the Last War.” Shrinking some of the scale of the modern age would allow the colonization of Khorvaire to have a little more of a concrete impact. Beyond that, the fact that the Daelkyr incursion canonically happened NINE THOUSAND YEARS AGO is kind of crazy in terms of having it logically impact the present day. Part of the point of the Uul Dhakaan is to explain HOW the heirs of Dhakaan could maintain their culture over thousands of years. But even so, I’ll say that I tend to blur that number. It’s a little like the population numbers in the ECS, which really don’t make sense. I don’t worry about the precise numbers because THEY DON’T MATTER. What matters is that I have a sense of the relative populations of Breland and Aundair, or of Fairhaven and Sharn. I know that Aundair has the smallest population of the Five Nations, and that’s what I need for my story. Likewise, I know that the Dhakaani Empire fell before humanity came to Khorvaire; I’m not going to dwell too much on the idea that the Dhakaani empire is substantially older than Sumer, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect my story; what matters is that it’s OLD.
Since you brought up the population numbers, how about the cartography? The map in Rising not only clearly lacks the requisite number of towns and villages but seems to have a lack of rail lines and rivers.
It’s the same principle as the overlords. The map in Rising is a starting point. It mentions a number of cities, a number of rivers, a number of roads. It’s a place to begin, set of cities we all know and use together. But it was never supposed to be comprehensive. Consider that New York state has 62 cities and 932 towns. Even if we could squeeze that much detail into, say, Aundair, what would be the point? What are you going to do with 932 towns? Consider that even with the small number of communities we have, we still haven’t had time to, say, give a detailed description of Atur. We only present a few because you only need a few to serve the needs of most stories and because the more we mention, the less space we have to actually describe them in any level of detail. But you can assume that there are hundreds of farming villages spread across Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches. If you want to add a city in Breland, add it! Likewise, there DEFINITELY aren’t enough rivers and rails, which is a consequence of not showing all the towns that are on them. So again, it’s like the overlords. We’ve told you about SOME of the cities, and that gives you things you can use immediately and a model for what a Thrane/Brelish/Karrnathi town is like. But it’s not supposed to be comprehensive or realistic, because a truly realistic map would bury us in unnecessary details.
My next article is going to be a lightning round IFAQ addressing questions from my Patreon supporters, followed by the Nobility of Khorvaire. Thanks to my patrons for making this possible, and to all of you who’ve picked up Exploring Eberron!
Every month I ask my Patreon supporters to choose a topic for a major article, and that poll will happen next week. But in the process I get a lot of smaller, infrequently asked questions that can be addressed quickly. Today’s IFAQ comes from Patrick.
I’m always having trouble thinking of what the mortal inhabitants of the world would know in terms of history – and to which degree history has been researched with the aid of magic. For instance, would it be common knowledge that the Age of Giants ended roughly 40,000 years ago? How would that be supported – divination magic perhaps? Would Morgrave University teach chronomantic spells so scholars visiting ancient ruins could catch glimpses of what once happened?
This is one of the tricky questions in any setting. As players and DMs, we have access to a perfect source of information that tells us everything there is to know about the setting. But what do the people IN the world know, and how do they know it? This is complicated by the fact that (thanks in part to the existence of long-lived races like elves and dragons), the scope of history is VAST. By the canon timeline, the civilization of the giants fell forty thousand years ago. In OUR world, forty thousand years ago Neanderthals were making flutes out of bones; the Cro-magnon were still thousands of years from achieving dominance. The timeline of the Empire isn’t that far off Mesopotamia in our world, and again, we all know a great deal about Mesopotamia, right? So it’s reasonable to wonder how much people would know about these truly ancient civilizations.
The 3.5 Player’s Guide to Eberron and the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide both have tables that provide exactly this sort of information, listing skills like History, Arcana, and Religion and setting the DC to know specific facts. Since this is an IFAQ—which means, short answer—I’ll leave that there; if you want to know WHAT people know, you can check one of those out. But that leaves the question of HOW do the people of the Five Nations know these things?
The first answer is simple. Yes, they know the Age of Giants ended 40,000 years ago, because they learned about it from the elves. Aereni civilization is an unbroken path that goes all the way back to Xen’drik, and they care deeply about their history. Aside from the fact that the Five Nations has long had diplomatic relations with Aerenal and there’s an exchange of information, there’s been a significant number of Aereni immigrants over the course of thousands of years, including both House Phiarlan—a house that originally specialized in bards, people who preserved information—and the elves exiled after the fall of the Line of Vol. One of Phiarlan’s branches is the Demesne of Memory, which is all about history and the written word. And, of course, Phiarlan is about ENTERTAINMENT; it’s quite likely that even in the Five Nations, you have at least a few plays, operas, and popular songs that romanticize the battles of the elves and giants.
This same principle applies to later history. Dhakaani civilization collapsed and the Ghaal’dar themselves know little of it… and the Heirs of Dhakaan are largely unknown and not inclined to share their knowledge. But the elves fought the Dhakaani. There are Tairnadal patron ancestors who are celebrated for fighting the dar, and members of the Undying Court who may have personally negotiated with Dhakaani leaders, back in their mortal lives. So once you get to the rise of the Undying Court, you have people with (un)living memory of a vast scope of history — even if, thanks to their insular nature, that may not go very deep.
So that answers the question of whether people understand the BROAD scope of history: yes, they do, because unlike in our world, in Eberron you can essentially go TALK to a Neanderthal leader, and his distant descendants still carefully practice his bone-flute-making techniques.
But the next question is: How MUCH do they know and do they use magic to do it? How much is, again, answered in the PGtE and ECG. An important point here is to always stop and think “What makes a good story?” Because ultimately that’s what matters most. We don’t actually WANT the people of the Five Nations to know everything there is to know about the giants of Xen’drik, because it makes a better adventure to have your characters be on the cutting edge of finding it all out. Yes, the people of the Five Nations know that the Age of Giants ended 40,000 years ago, and scholars even know that the largest and most powerful giant civilization was the Cul’sir Dominion. But they DON’T know what actually happened to the Emperor Cul’sir. They don’t know exactly what happened to the 13th moon, even if some scholars know the giants had something to do with it. Which means your adventurers could learn those answers by finding the Cul’sir Moonbreaker and destroy the emperor’s demi-lich! It’s good for people to have a broad scope of history to know “There was a great nation that fell in war” – but it will usually be more compelling to players to uncover history in the field instead of through a book report.
Which gets us back to the use of magic. The answer is certainly, yes, people DEFINITELY use magic as a tool for archaeology. But remember that the wide magic of the Five Nations tops out at around 3rd level. Which means that speak with dead is absolutely in the quiver of your adventuring archaeologist, but commune or legend lore generally aren’t. It is VERY likely that they do employ chronomantic and divination techniques designed specifically for this purpose, but keep in mind that they should be of about that 1st-3rd level of power; they might show scenes, but they aren’t providing the kind of information you’d expect to get from a 5th or 6th level spell. And it’s also quite possible that they are rituals that may take a while to perform. These are academic tools, and won’t be fine-tuned for the adventurer who needs to cast things in 6 seconds. It might take an hour for a magewright archaeologist to perform the ghosts of the past ritual… and, of course, they’ll need someone to protect them while they do it!
So in short: the people of the Five Nations know the broad scope of history but don’t know a lot of specific details. Scholars know more, and the EPG and ECG give a broad set of skill checks for this purpose. Magic is used to research history, but common magic only goes to 3rd level and spells or rituals may not be optimized for use by player characters. Finally, always consider what will make the best story, and whether you WANT information to come from a skill role or whether adventurers might be making historic discoveries through their actions.
I’d also like to learn what people, both laymen and scholars, know about the history of humanity on Sarlona, given how it’s easier to explore Xen’drik than to convince the Inspired to let anyone past their port city.
Good point, double so because the elves had no contact with the people of Sarlona so that route is closed. The answer is definitely that they remember some things because they brought history with them. The modern faith of the Sovereign Host was established in the Sarlonan nation of Pyrine. But that nation fell in the Sundering over a thousand years ago, and archaeologists CAN’T go visit its sites. And while the modern faith is called “The Pyrinean Creed”, with proficiency in History or Religion a commoner probably doesn’t know what “Pyrine” is (A priest? A city? A nation? All of the above?). With checks people know the names and stories that they have either pieced together from the preserved records and traditions or through use of divination. But largely, the nations of old Sarlona are MORE mysterious to people of the Five Nations than the giants of Xen’drik.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for keeping this site going and for asking great questions.
My previous article on Faerie Tales in Thelanis raised a number of good questions that I wanted to respond to. But these IFAQ articles are supposed to be short and focused, so rather than expanding yesterdays article, I figures I’d address this as a new infrequently asked question.
If a historical figure has become a figure of folklore, how would they manifest in Thelanis? If the faerie tale has changed over time, does the figure in Thelanis change as well?
This is a valid question, because in yesterday’s article I talk about a story told in Breland called “The Sleeping Prince,” in which Sora Katra curses a newborn prince so he falls into an eternal slumber. That’s clearly a faerie tale. The villain is Sora Katra. Faerie tales are the foundation of Thelanis. Therefore, Sora Katra must have a counterpart in Thelanis, right?
Wrong! Because there’s a catch. In the MROR HOLDS, there’s a tale older than Breland that tells of how Lady Narathun cursed Doldarun’s son to slumber, until he was rescued by humble Toldorath. In ancient Sarlona, the Corvagurans told a tale of how the prince was cursed by the Demon-Seer of Ohr Kaluun—a nation that no longer exists. There’s even a Dhakaani story about how Hezhaal—a Dirge Singer who felt betrayed by the empire and withdrew to study dark magics—cursed the son of the Marhu with eternal slumber, only to have him saved by a humble golin’dar.
Sora Katra, Lady Narathun, the Demon-Seer, Hezhaal… none of these exist in Thelanis. Instead, there’s a layer of Thelanis where an archfey known as the Lady in Shadow dwells in the wilds and plots revenge on those who have wronged her. Elsewhere in the layer, there is indeed a prince she has cursed to slumber waiting to be rescued. But there’s also a tower where the Lady in Shadow has imprisoned her own son; and she keeps a walled garden of wonders, and will punish anyone who steals from it. And The Lady in Shadow has been in Thelanis for as long as anyone knows—longer than ANY of the civilizations that tell these tales.
A follow up question is how the stories of Thelanis differ from myths. The key point is that myths are specific stories, dealing with the deeds of specific deities. Consider the myth of the Deluge, something found in many different cultures. The tale of Utnapishtim, of Deucalion, of Noah; each of these is a myth. What you’d find in Thelanis is a layer in which a humble person escapes a great flood that kills the other denizens of the layer (… over and over and over). But it’s not Noah, Utnapishtim, or Deucalion. It’s the core story that serves as the foundation for all of them.
Now, here’s the bit that will really bake your noodle: some of these things actually happened. The Dhakaani don’t tell fictional stories; Hezhaal was a real person. Sora Katra is a real person, and most likely she DID curse a prince as described; the whole point of the Daughters being legends is that they did the things people talk about. And yet, the Lady in Shadow is older than any of them. So that’s the central mystery of Thelanis: how is it that these stories in Thelanis keep being retold or keep being played out in different civilizations? Does the story continue to exist in Thelanis because it continues to exist in some form in the world, or does it continue to exist in the world because of Thelanis? You can bet that there’s a class at Morgrave University that dwells on this very topic!
In 5th edition, hags are fey. So… what’s Sora Katra’s connection to Thelanis?
It’s true: in fifth (and I believe fourth) edition, hags are fey. But in third edition, when the Daughters of Sora Kell were created, they were monstrous humanoids. I don’t intend to change the fundamental story of the world every time a new edition redefines a monster—just as the new default lore associated with, say, medusas doesn’t change the backstory of Cazhaak Draal.
With that said, in many ways it makes more SENSE for the Daughters of Sora Kell to be fey than to be monstrous humanoids. They ARE specifically the antagonists in dozens of faerie tales told in the Five Nations. They follow a sort of faerie tale logic, especially Sora Teraza. So I actually LIKE that they are fey; the issue is that they aren’t FEY OF THELANIS. Just as rakshasa and the demons of the Demon Wastes are native fiends tied to Khyber rather than the planes, the Daughters of Sora Kell are native fey. This has a number of important impacts. The archfey of Thelanis are immortal; if they are destroyed they will be reborn, much like the overlords of Eberron. It’s possible they might CHANGE slightly—that there’s a sense that it’s a new iteration—but the core story will exist. And that’s the second point: the archfey of Thelanis are essentially trapped by their stories. For all their power, they CAN’T change their stories. Like the angels and fiends of Shavarath, they rarely meddle with Eberron because for the most part their stories are self contained (the exception being archfey whose stories specifically INVOLVE meddling with Eberron, likethe Prince of Frost I described yesterday).
The Daughters break all those rules. First of all, they are mortal. They had parents and they were born… and some day they WILL die. Beyond that, while they inspire stories, they are very actively meddling with events in Eberron. They are defined by basic stories and do tend to hold to those iconic roles, but they aren’t TRAPPED in the same way the immortals are. So, they share some characteristics with the fey of Thelanis, but they are native fey and differ in many important ways.
Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for keeping this blog going, especially in these difficult times. One day left in the April poll!
I’m just back from the JoCo Cruise and about to head off to PAX East, and I haven’t had an opportunity to write the next installment of the Dark Six series. Instead, I’m going to do a quick Q&A with questions submitted by my awesome Patreon supporters. These questions fall into two categories: some are questions that have canon answers, while others are essentially asking for speculation. What other failed secessions happened during the Last War, for example; none are mentioned in canon sources that I’m aware of, so any answers I give are me telling you what I might do in MY campaign. I’m marking these answers NC.
The current political map of Khorvaire is defined largely by successful secessions – Valenar, the Mror Holds, and the Eldeen Reaches, to name a few. What kinds of *failed* secessions happened during the Last War?
(NC) One of my main rules of worldbuilding is this: In adding a detail to the lore, can I think of three ways that it could play a meaningful role in a story? I’ve never made a comprehensive list of all the rulers of Galifar, because I’ve never been in a situation where someone needed to know who was king in 464 YK; if it came up randomly at my table, I’d just make up a name and make a note of it. I bring this up for two reasons. First of all, you’ve generally heard about the winners because they HAVE defined the present map; and second, that means in describing failed secessions, I’m only interested in coming up with ideas that COULD play an interesting role in a story… whether that’s driving adventure, creating a colorful NPC or villain, or being tied to a character’s backstory.
With that in mind, here’s one idea.
Faldren’s Folly. The drive to rid Breland of the monarchy didn’t begin with Ruken ir’Clarn. In 961 YK, King Boranex of Breland committed suicide after the deaths of his two eldest sons. While Prince Boranel had proven himself in war, he was seen as an adventurer and dilettante. Commander Rand Faldren sought to rally support within the Brelish army for an overthrow of the monarchy, placing power in the hands of the parliament. He stopped short of attempting a coup, and stood down when the majority of parliament condemned the idea. However, soon thereafter he seized control of Orcbone, the fortress by the Graywall Mountains. He proclaimed the fortress to be the heart of “New Wroat,” reclaiming the pre-Galifar name of the nation, and called on those who sought freedom to join him, following the model of Q’barra. Breland dispatched a small force to retake Orcbone, which failed; given that the region was strategically unimportant and there were pressing concerns on other fronts, Boranel chose to pull soldiers back rather than to devote a major force to bring down Faldren; essentially, he put it on Faldren to defend his new settlers. This proved a disaster. As numbers grew, Faldren encouraged settlers to establish themselves in the foundation of an old goblin city… the city we now know as Graywall. These settlers were prepared for minotaur raiders, and repelled a few attacks. But they weren’t prepared for the skullcrusher ogres and war trolls that came later—the first appearance of the elite forces of Sora Maenya. The force drove deeper into New Wroat and laid waste to Orcbone. Rand Faldren was dismembered and his head was never found; some believe Sora Maenya still has it.
Boranel responded swiftly to the destruction. Orcbone was reclaimed and fortified, and many settlers were safely returned east. While some were grateful, others felt that Faldren was a martyr to the principles of a democratic Breland—that he was driven to his fate by the outdated monarchy, and that Boranel left the settlers to die because they challenged his authority. Today any western cells of the Swords of Liberty call Faldren a hero, and demand that stronger action be taken against the creatures of Droaam.
As an idea, this is tied to existing principles—the rise of Droaam and the ongoing uncertainty about the fate of the Brelish Monarchy. It serves as a rallying point for the Swords of Liberty. And a PC could have lost family in Faldren’s Folly… perhaps still yearning for vengeance against Sora Maenya or the troll commander who slaughtered their parents.
In each country, what power group would be most likely to react to a planar invasion ? Assuming it’s more covert than just a giant portal opening and a massive horde coming through. The invasion starting under the radar but growing as major threat as time progresses.
First and foremost: Who should deal with a covert planar invasion? The player characters. Eberron has always been designed as a world where there aren’t tons of powerful benevolent forces and where the ones that do exist are often limited in some way. So I’m going to continue to talk about the forces that might come into play, but in an ideal story, these forces WOULDN’T just solve the problem on their own. Perhaps they’re crippled by infighting or corruption. Perhaps they’ve been infiltrated and compromised by the invading forces. Essentially, even if the Church of the Silver Flame is ultimately the force that would fight such a thing, in my campaign the question would always be How do the player characters play a central role in that defense?
With that said… most of the modern nations don’t have “Planar Invasion” agencies. On the one hand this is because they’re been focused on carrying out an actual war against very concrete, mundane enemies: Karrnath has been too busy fighting Thrane to devote much of their budget to the Xoriat Defense Initiative. However, part of the reason for this is that there’s a very well established and respected military force that is dedicated to protecting people of all nations from exactly this sort of threat: The Church of the Silver Flame. People often look at the Church of the Silver Flame through the lens of religion in our world. In OUR history, militant religions have often used that military force to impose their beliefs on others. But that’s never been the purpose of the templars. Instead, they are a volunteer army dedicated to defending ALL innocents—regardless of their nation or their beliefs—from the very real supernatural threats that exist in Eberron. At any time there could be a planar incursion, a horde of aberrations bursting out of Khyber, an overlord unleashed, or—just as a random example—a deadly surge in lycanthropy. And when that last one happened, who came to the defense of the people of Aundair? The Church of the Silver Flame.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The Church of the Silver Flame has more in common with the Jedi and the Men in Black than with any religion in our world. The Silver Flame isn’t a traditional god; it is a force that holds demons at bay and that empowers champions who fight to defend the innocent from supernatural threats. Breland doesn’t need a Planer Defense Initiative because they know that IF such a threat arises, templars and exorcists from across the Five Nations will stand against it, and they DO specialize in dealing with this sort of thing. Again, when the Purge happened, Galifar as a whole said “Not our problem;” It was the Silver Flame that took action. Having said this: The Lycanthropic Purge shows that the best-intentioned plans can have terrible consequences. The Pure Flame sees the faith as a weapon to punish the wicked as opposed to a shield to protect the innocent. The rise of the theocracy has created opportunities for those who pursue rank in the church because they seek power as opposed to being devoted to defending the innocent. Part of the point of Eberron is that few things are entirely good or evil. But at its heart, defending the innocent from planar incursions is exactly the job of the Church of the Silver Flame.
The Gatekeepers are next in line as a force specifically trained and dedicated to protecting Eberron from planar incursions. However, they are a small force and lack the widespread recognition of the Silver Flame. If an exorcist of the Silver Flame shows up, presents their holy symbol and says “There’s a planar breach, I need you to get out of the way” many people would respond to their authority; whereas if someone says “I’m a Gatekeeper, I need your help” most people in Sharn will say “A what now?” The same holds true for the Shadow Watchers of the Kalashtar; while primarily dedicated to fighting the Dreaming Dark, they might uncover other planar agendas… but they lack resources or influence.
Beyond this, however, a covert threat is a covert threat. How different is this threat from one posed by mundane terrorists or spies? As such, you could get the King’s Citadel (note that the Blackened Book of Sharn and the King’s Wands are trained to deal with mystical threats), the Royal Eyes of Aundair, or the Trust of Zilargo engaging with such a threat.
Speaking of planar incursions, we know of the Daelkyr Invasion and the lycanthrope and shifter Lamannia exodus during the Purge, and feyspires being stuck in Eberron, are there any other historical en masse planar jumps either to Eberron from other planes and natives or a time when a significant group of Eberron natives went elsewhere in the cosmos?
(NC) This is back to noncanon speculation. The short answer? Yes, absolutely. The longer answer will have to wait, because it requires me to actually sit down and make some up. Just for a start, I’ll point you to my article on Mabar; there’s certainly regions that have been pulled into Mabar in the past.
There are no Daanvi manifest zones in any canon material. What would one be like, do you think?
(NC) Manifest zones channel some aspect of the plane. Daanvi is more subtle than some of the planes; per the 3.5 ECS, there are no effects when Daanvi is coterminous. Personally, I think it’s that there’s no physically obvious effects when Daanvi is coterminous, but that’s a subject for another time. The basic issue is the imposition of law and order. Here’s just a few ways I could imagine this manifesting.
Modrons manifest in the region, designing and maintaining a system of pendulums or some other monument to stability and order.
The region is permanently under the influence of a zone of truth.
Magic that seems inherently “lawful” could be cast at a higher spell slot in the region, with disadvantage to save versus its effects; magic that is inherently chaotic could have its effect minimized, and saves could have advantage.
The region could subtly push people to come together in groups, to embrace rules and laws or surrender freedoms. On some level, one could make a case that Korranberg could be in a manifest zone to Daanvi, which drove the original foundation of the Trust and enhanced people’s willingness to grant such brought authority to the institution.
Natural phenomena could manifest in ways that are unnaturally symmetrical or uniform.
Kalashtar: do you see most of them living in kalahtar communities, or more like a family secret that’s passed down through the generations, and you may or may not meet another kalashtar in your lifetime? And would an orphaned kalashtar simply believe themselves to be human, though with strange/unexplainable experiences?
Per canon, there’s a few factors here.
Kalashtar are described as mostly living in kalashtar communities.
Kalashtar lineage is very clear cut. If a human and kalashtar have a child, there’s a 50/50 chance of that child being human or kalashtar, and it’s 100% one or the other; either it inherits the bond and is kalashtar or it’s not and is entirely human. So it’s not like it lingers in the bloodline as a latent trait that can manifest in the child of two human parents.
By canon, kalashtar are close to human—in 3.5 they don’t have a penalty when disguising themselves as human—but they still HAVE to disguise themselves in order to pass as human. Kalashtar are kalashtar. Their body language, their features, the eyes-that-can-glow-when-they’re-emotional… if they aren’t hiding it, they’re just as distinctive as, say, an elf. Because they are rarer than elves, there are many people who see them and don’t know exactly what they are; but if they aren’t trying to hide it, it’s clear that they aren’t entirely human.
It is established in canon that an orphan kalashtar doesn’t inherently gain an understanding of what it means to be a kalashtar or of the true nature of their kalashtar spirit. So you can have a kalashtar orphan who doesn’t KNOW what they are… but they will CERTAINLY know that they are different from the humans around them. On the other hand, in a world with sorcerers and aberrant dragonmarks they may not assume “I am a different species,” but they will know they are different.
That’s all by canon. As with all things in Eberron, you can always do what makes a good story. Do you want to play the first kalashtar somehow born to two human parents? Then do it (with your DM’s permission, of course). But that’s definitely not normal.
Are the Kalashtar’s pale skin and black hair the general look for people from Adar? The Inspired are also fairly pale with (purple-blue?) dark hair, so is that region of Sarlona just known for pale people? Or is there a huge spread, dark skin, pale skin, in between, dark hair, fair hair, curly hair, straight hair, so that noticing a Kalashtar or Inspired from far away isn’t as cut and dry (ignoring that Disguise exists and they still look weird and have glowy eyes)?
Sarlona is home to a diverse range of ethnicities based on its highly divergent environments—the Tashana Tundra, the deserts of Syrkarn, the Corvaguran rain forests, the mountains of Adar. The Inspired were drawn from across Sarlona, appearing in ALL of the nations involved in the Sundering, so there should absolutely be a full spectrum; now you call it out, I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen any dark skinned Inspired in art and I’d like to see that change.
The same is true of the kalashtar. Despite the limited depictions in art, this is from the EPG:
The monastery where the sixty-seven humans became kalashtar was a place of refuge, so the humans who lived there were diverse. Kalashtar have thus retained a diversity of appearance, possessing the same variety of skin, hair, and eye colors found among humans. They are usually slimmer and taller than humans, although short or stocky kalashtar exist.
I also feel that while the quori bond doesn’t remain latent in the human side of the gene pool — a child either has it or they don’t — a kalashtar inherits physical traits from both its parents, So you could have three kalashtar who share the same quori spirit but are physically distinct from one another.
If you imagine Droaam has an Ithilid population beyond it’s mayor. What attempts could be made to reconcile their brain-eating needs the same way troll-flesh is used to reconcile the carnivorous population’s needs?
By canon, Droaam doesn’t have a significant Illithid population. Xorchyllic is called out as being a very unusual exception, found imprisoned below Graywall and working with the Daughters of Sora Kell for reasons of its own. In general I see mind flayers as being far more alien than most of the creatures of Droaam; while I have nothing against the idea of having a few more in the mix, in my campaign their motives would be VERY different from any other warlords.
So first of all, you’re only feeding one or maybe a few mind flayers, not an entire army of carnivorous creatures. So I don’t see an industry around it. My assumption is that Xorchyllic acts as judge, jury, and executioner in Graywall, and execution involves it eating your brain. If it’s especially hungry, then guess what, jaywalking just became a capital offense…
To what extent does Rekkenmark train officers, as opposed to elite troops or even standard troops. Is it primarily about tactics or skill? In 4e terms, is it training warlords, or fighters, or both?
Here’s a few quotes from Five Nations.
After the Kingdom of Galifar was established, military officers from across the land trained at the Rekkenmark Academy.
What if she washed out of the academy? A third of first-year officers don’t come back to Rekkenmark for the second year.
The vast majority of warlords and officers in the various Karrnathi armies graduated with honors from the Rekkenmark Academy and earned a place in the Order of Rekkenmark.
So: Rekkenmark ACADEMY trains officers. That could be 4E warlords; in 5E battle master fighters and Purple Dragon Knights could definitely be part of the Order of Rekkenmark.
The critical point here, though, is that Rekkenmark isn’t JUST an academy; it’s a city. And that city is also a central garrison and training center for the general Karrnathi military. So any sort of fighter might have “Trained at Rekkenmark.” The question is if you graduated from the Academy and if you’re part of the Order (which would be an interpretation of the “Military Rank” benefit of the Soldier background.)
That’s all for now! If you’re going to be at PAX East, I’ll be at the Twogether Studios/Table Titans booth. And if you haven’t seen it already, check out my recent release The Morgrave Miscellanyon the DM’s Guild! And while you’re there, take a look at Rime orReason, the latest installment in the Across Eberron adventure path!
May is a busy month. I’m swamped with writing and travel (I’m currently at Keycon 35 in Winnipeg), so I haven’t had time to write a proper article. However, I reached out to my Patreon supporters for questions for a quick Q&A, and here we are. Next week I may post some thoughts on Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and how I’d apply it to Eberron.
Before I get to the questions, I want to tell you about something else that’s going on this week: The Gauntlet. Mox Boarding House in Bellevue, Washington is hosting a massive gaming tournament that’s raising money for charity. My company Twogether Studios is competing in the Gauntlet, raising money for Wellspring Family Services, and we need your help. Any donation is appreciated—a $5 donation would be fantastic—but if you’re in Portland, Oregon or the vicinity of Seattle, Washington and have the ability to be more generous, I’m going to offer a crazy incentive: a chance to play a one-shot session of Phoenix: Dawn Command or 5E D&D (in Eberron) with me. Here’s how this works: If you’re in Portland, a game requires a donation of $400. If you’re in the Seattle area, it’s going to be $500 (all the money goes directly to charity, but since it’s more work for me, I’m setting the bar higher…). This doesn’t have to be all from one person: I will run a game for up to six people, and their combined donations have to hit the target number.
If you want to do this, you need to be part of a group that is going to hit the target number. After making your donation, email me (use the Contact Me button on this website) and let me know who your group is. I’ll work with your group to find a time to play. It may take a while—summer is an especially busy time for me—but I’ll make sure we get to play before the end of 2018. With that said, The Gauntlet takes place on May 20th, so there’s not a lot of time to donate. Again, the Twogether Studios donation link is here. Whether or not you have the ability to donate, thanks for reading!
Now, on with the Q&A…
I was wondering about bone knights and their place in Karrnath. Are they still a component of Karrnathi culture and society after the war? Were they created specifically for the Last War or did Karrnath have a longer history with these more military necromancers? Is Kaius opposed to the Blood of Vol generally or the Emerald Claw specifically, and if the former is the Bone Knight thing something he wants gone from Karrnath?
There’s a lot of topics to unravel. From a canon perspective, my take is laid out in City of Stormreach and more specifically, the Eye on Eberron article on Fort Bones in Dungeon 195. Here’s the key points.
The core Karrnathi culture focuses on martial skill and discipline. It has nothing to do with necromancy or the use of undead.
The Seekers of the Divinity Within have long had a presence in Karrnath. This religion has a close association with necromancy and the practical use of the undead. The Bone Knight is specifically a Seeker tradition: an expert in commanding undead forces in combat. EoED195 calls out that Seekers of the Divinity Within served alongside Karrn the Conqueror and Galifar I. However, they were a minority faith and the army as a whole didn’t rely on or embrace their traditions.
When Karrnath faced plagues and famines during the Last War, the Queen of the Dead offered the assistance of the Blood of Vol. In exchange, the crown was obliged to recognized and elevate Seekers and to promote their faith. The chivalric orders of the Blood of Vol expanded. Undead were produced in greater numbers than ever before and became a critical part of Karrnath’s military strategy, resulting in a need for even more Bone Knights to command them.
Over time, the famines were brought under control and the balance of the war shifted. The traditionalist warlords despised both the erosion of Karrnathi military tradition and the increased political power of the Seekers. Furthermore, the use of undead disturbed the other nations. With the war closing, Kaius strengthened his position with the traditionalist warlords and the other nations by disavowing the Blood of Vol and stopping the production of undead, sealing the majority of the undead legions in the vaults below Atur. Most of the Seeker orders were disbanded, though some Seekers (and undead troops) have remained in service, most notably in Fort Bones and Fort Zombie. Kaius has continued to use the Blood of Vol as a convenient scapegoat to direct the frustration of his people, and has gone so far as to blame the Seekers for the plagues and famines that originally weakened the nation.
So, looking to the questions specifically: In my opinion, the Bone Knight is an old Seeker tradition, but one that was very uncommon before the Last War because the Seekers weren’t part of the Karrnathi military tradition; their numbers increased during the Last War in order to manage the undead forces. Kaius is publicly using the Blood of Vol as a useful scapegoat. He doesn’t NEED very many Bone Knights since he’s retired most of the undead; he’s dismissed most and allowed some to be persecuted as war criminals. However, regardless of this public image he’s not personally opposed to the Seekers. He’s maintained Fort Bones and Fort Zombie, and has a small cadre of Bone Knights and necromancers whose loyalty to the nation outweighs their anger at the treatment of their brethren.
Are Bone Knights mostly Seekers or would one devoted to the Dark Six or the Sovereign Host be capable of getting far?
There’s a number of factors. They’re mostly Seekers because it’s an ancient Seeker tradition, tied to their long-standing use of practical necromancy. Theoretically someone who follows another faith could fill that role, but it requires deep devotion to the necromantic arts. If you revere the Sovereign Host—honoring Dol Arrah and Aureon—how do you embrace this dark path? The Shadow and the Keeper are the Sovereigns who would guide you on this road, and that’s a viable path, but not exactly one that Karrnath would celebrate and encourage. So sure; I think someone devoted to the Dark Six could become an accomplished Bone Knight, but that faith won’t make them any more acceptable to the general public than the Seekers… and might even result in greater distrust and suspicion.
Is the Order of Rekkenmark’s opposition to necromancers something which would prevent a Bone Knight from excelling in their organization (as advisors to the King, movers and shakers politically)?
It’s something that would make it VERY DIFFICULT for a Bone Knight to advance in their organization, absolutely. But nothing’s impossible. It simply means that the Bone Knight in question would have to be a soldier of unparalleled accomplishment and skill, someone whose dedication to Karrnath and the king is beyond reproach. It’s possible Alinda Dorn, commander of Fort Bones, is a member of the Order of Rekkenmark. She’s an advisor to and confidante of the king in any case; it’s simply a question of whether he embraces that publicly, or prefers to keep his favor for her hidden from the traditionalist warlords.
Are the rituals for creating Mabaran undead and Irian deathless completely different, or do they look fundamentally alike except for the power source?
ALL rituals for creating undead and deathless are completely different from one another. The techniques used to create deathless are dramatically different from rituals used to create Mabaran undead. But there’s no ONE TRUE RITUAL for creating undead. Looking above, a Bone Knight who draws power from faith in the Shadow and the Keeper should use different trappings from one following the path of the Divinity Within. The techniques of a wizard will as a rule be entirely different from those employed by a cleric. One’s a form of arcane science; the other an act of extreme devotion. In my opinion, the Seeker traditions walk a line between these two sides, drawing on both devotion and a form of science. We’ve established that the Odakyr Rites used to create the sentient Karrnathi undead were a breakthrough developed during the Last War—and as such, themselves unlike the techniques used elsewhere.
Did the Dhakaani have any rites or rituals to create undead?
Did the Dhakaani as a culture embrace the creation of undead or develop techniques for creating them? Definitely not. The Dhakaani were a culture driven by martial excellence. They were agnostic (thus lacking clerics) and had very limited interest in the arcane. So no, there were no institutionalized necromancers in the Empire. With that said, it was a vast civilization that lasted for thousands of years. During that time, could a small group have developed such techniques? Could there be a Kech Mortis that has perfected these techniques during its centuries of exile, which now claims the Imperial throne with its army of undead heroes? Sure, why not! But just like Karrnath, the traditionalist like the Kech Sharaat would like be disgusting by this strange deviation from the true path.
Did they have answers to the spawn-creating plagues like ghoul fever?
The primary arcane path the Dhakaani embraced was the path of the Duur’kala, which is to say the bard. The Duur’kala inspire heroes in battle, but they also used their abilities to heal and to enhance diplomacy. The bardic spell list includes lesserrestoration and greater restoration. So, there’s your answer. Now again, if you like the idea of a Kech vault that was overrun by a zombie plague the duur’kala couldn’t contain—so PCs stumbling into an ancient Dhakaani fortress filled with undead—I’m all for it. As a culture they had a tool for it, that doesn’t mean everyone always had access to that tool.
Is it very difficult to travel across the Barren Sea? Are there ports in, say, the Shadow Marches that get trade directly from Sarlona?
This is largely covered in Secrets of Sarlona. Riedra strictly limits contact with foreigners, and Dar Jin is the only port that accepts general commerce. Other than that, there are a few outposts in Ohr Kaluun and a harbor in Adar. So, it’s not so much that it’s difficult as it is that there’s very few places to go.
Zarash’ak is the only major port in the Shadow Marches, though you could certainly introduce a smuggler’s outpost on the coast near Slug Keep. It’s certainly reasonable to think that Zarash’ak could have traffic with Riedran ships from Dar Jin.
And does the majority of trade between, say, Karrnath and Breland go via boats through the Lhazaar Principalities, or is the faster/cheaper to use overland shipment?
I addressed this specific question in a previous Q&A, so check that out. River barges, lightning rails, and airships are all options, though the Lhazaar route is also a possibility.
Do you have any brief tips for involving the Venomous Demesne into a campaign?
The Venomous Demesne is a Tiefling city-state on the far side of Droaam. They’re isolationists and largely unknown in the Five Nations. I discuss hooks for characters from the Venomous Demesne in this article. As for ways to use it in a campaign, here’s three ideas entirely off the top of my head.
The Venom Lords are working on an Eldritch Machine. They’ve sent agents into the wider world acquiring the rare components required for this device. Are they working on behalf of the Daughters of Sora Kell, or does the device have a more sinister purpose?
The vaults of the Venomous Demesne hold secrets that date back to the ancient nation of Ohr Kaluun. The player characters could need to acquire Kaluunite lore for an unrelated plot: tied to another Eldritch machine, to a path of the Prophecy, or perhaps to understanding some sort of demonic threat. To get what they need, they’ll have to go to the Venomous Demesne and earn the trust of its lords.
A variation of the previous idea is needing something that can only be obtained or acquired in the Venomous Demesne: a particular magic item or artifact, learning a spell, etc.
The lords of Ohr Kaluun made pacts with a wide variety of extraplanar and fiendish forces. If you want to do something with some sort of archfiend (such as demon lords from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes), one of the lines of the Demesne could work as its agents (or be opposed to it, but still know its secrets). Personally I’d use such a being as a powerful force in Khyber—below the level of an Overlord, but nonetheless a powerful threat that has recently broken loose from binding and is just starting to rebuild its influence in Eberron.
Is there any possibility of getting a (rough) timeline of when the events of human/Sarlonan history occurred? Were there any trade relations between Dhakaan and Khorvaire at some point, or was Lhazaar the first human to see the shores of Khorvaire?
The ancient nations of Sarlona are left intentionally vague so that they can fill the role you want them to fill. I see no reason that Lhazaar should be the first human to have set foot on Khorvaire; in all likelihood, she set out for Khorvaire because she’d heard stories of the land from previous explorers. The idea of canon is that Lhazaar’s expedition marked the first sustained and successful contact between the two. If you want to have players stumble across the ruins of an Uorallan outpost in the Shadow Marches — evidence of a settlement completely lost to history — do it. But I don’t think we’ll be defining those pre-Lhazaar civilizations in significantly more detail in a canon source.
(The founder of the Kalashtar) Taratai is female in Races of Eberron, and male in Secrets of Sarlona. Which is it?
It’s a legitimately confusing issue. Here’s a quote from “The Legend of Taratai” in Secrets of Sarlona (page 24):
She led sixty-seven spirits that became the kalashtar to Adar, where the monk Hazgaal and his students accepted them. In Hazgaal’s body as Haztaratai (though many stories still call her Taratai), she taught and wrote the precepts of the Path of Light…
So: both SoS and RoE agree that the kalaraq quori Taratai identified as female. However, per SoSshe bonded with the human monk Hazgaal, who was male. This means that the spiritual lineage of Taratai were male kalashtar, though they were bound to a female spirit. Quite a few kalashtar lines have this sort of disconnect, which results in a great deal of gender fluidity within kalashtar culture.
Do the Kalashtar believe in reincarnation, like the Riedrans do?
Sort of, but they aren’t as concerned with it as the Riedrans are. First of all, as a kalashtar you are already part of something immortal. You are bound to the quori spirit, and your memories and experiences remain with the spirit even after your physical body dies; so the kalashtar don’t see death as an absolute end. Beyond that, SoS notes that the Path of Light maintains that “Dolurrh is a place where the ego dies, but the spirit is immortal, and it returns to the Material Plane again and again.” LIFE is eternal. The soul is part of the celestial machine of the universe. But it’s not about YOU, and they don’t believe that the form your spirit takes in its next incarnation is somehow tied to your actions in your previous life, as the Path of Inspiration states. It’s not a reward or a punishment; it’s just the nature of the universe. Your legacy remains with your lineage, and the soul that was yours continues on its journey.
Why didn’t the Inspired seize Syrkarn as well as the other ancient kingdoms, instead satisfying themselves with a shallow “protectorate” title and some behind-the-curtain schemes?
The Inspired have no interest in conquering Syrkarn. The territory is too large, the population too low, and they are still concerned about the lingering threat of the rakshasa rajah buried beneath the realm. The Inspired don’t feel a need to control every single individual; they are looking to control massive populations. There’s not enough people in Syrkarn to be worth the effort, doubly so when combined with the vast stretches of relatively barren land… not to mention the threat of the Overlord.
More generally, what makes Syrkarn interesting, according to you, as a playground?
First of all, it’s a part of Sarlona in which people can move freely. Second, I’d look to page 86 of Secrets of Sarlona. Scheming yuan-ti! An Overlord stirring! Karrak cults! The Heirs of Ohr Kaluun and the Horned Shadow! Relics from pre-Sundering Sarlona! Tribal conflicts (perhaps stirred up by the yuan-ti or the Overlord)! Possibly even surprising ties to the giants of Xen’drik, lingering through the eneko.
From a game design point of view, why define Sarlona as being a blind spot in the Draconic Prophecy?
It’s summed up on page nine of Secrets of Sarlona: “The dragons of the Chamber shun Sarlona, but they want to know what is transpiring beyond its shores. PCs who have ties to the Chamber, the Undying Court, or even the Lords of Dust could be sent to explore mysteries related to the draconic Prophecy.” By making it a region where dragons fear to tred, we add a reason why player characters should go there; it provides a range of potential story hooks you don’t have in other lands.
Adar is wider than Aundair or Thrane (while understandably less populated). Now that the kalashtar can see the Inspired openly moving unto Khorvaire, how comes Adar didn’t make itself known too, nor officially voice some warning?
First of all, per SOS it’s population density is around one person for every two square miles of land—lower than Alaska or Tibet. Its people have been described as “insular to the point of xenophobia.” Direct travel between Adar and Khorvaire is extremely difficult, meaning that you have no regular stream of commerce or communication, nor any particular interest in such commerce. We’ve established that the Adaran kalashtar believe that the battle against il-Lashtavar will be won by their persistence and devotion: they don’t NEED to get the world on their side, they just need to hold their ground and continue what they are doing.
Many kalashtar in Khorvaire hold to the same general belief: we will triumph through perseverance. What’s important is protecting our community and continuing our devotions. Some younger kalashtar have embraced more active intervention, but even they largely believe that this is their war to fight, and that the humans wouldn’t listen to them or believe them. And they’re likely right. Riedra is a valuable trade partner, and it has come to the assistance of many nations during the Last War. There is a concrete benefit to working with Riedra. By contrast, Adar has virtually no recognition and nothing to offer. Even if I believe your story about the leaders of Riedra being aliens, the leaders of the Aereni are DEAD and we deal with them. And you may SAY that they want to conquer the world, but I’m not seeing it happening, and trust me, crazy monk, if they start any trouble, we can handle it. So: self-interest and arrogance are likely to outweigh the stories of the few kalashtar who do speak out against Riedra.
While religions are not required to comment on the truth or falsity of each other’s doctrines, are there any Adaran scholars aware of the Valenar and their apparent reality of the potential continuity of identity their (in purely mechanical terms) higher average levels indicate?
Possibly. There’s not a lot of overlap between them, geographically or culturally. But I don’t think there’s much to debate. Spirits exist; devotion creates positive energy that can sustain a spirit, as proven by the concrete example of the Undying Court; devoted Valenar display a level of skill that seems to support guidance from ancestral spirits. I could see a follower of the Blood of Vol saying “But how do you know that the spirit isn’t just a manifestation of YOU? The power comes from within you; you’re just creating this myth of your ancestor to help you interpret it.” I could see someone else saying “You’re getting guidance from a spirit, but are you sure it’s not some kind of demon or something masquerading as your ancestor?” Essentially, i don’t think there are many people saying that the Tairnadal religion has no grounding in reality; but I could imagine people arguing that some of the DETAILS might not be what the Valenar believe them to be.
How much of the ancient history of the Giant Empire is known in Khorvaire, and since when? On the one hand, it makes plenty of sense, both in-world and for game purpose, that it’s still shrouded in mystery, that only a few scholars and daring explorers start to poke at. But on the other hands, there are elves assimilated in Khorvaire since centuries, and their whole culture revolves about perpetuating tradition: why would they hide their stories from the other races?
There’s quite a few factors here.
The elves know THEIR history. That doesn’t mean they know the history of the giants. Consider the tale of Cardaen. “He was born in a high tower, and Cul’sir made sure his feet never touched the ground.” That’s quite different from “He was born in the city of Aulantaara in the year 14,004 RTC, where he served as an arcane adjunct to the Cul’sir College of Evocation, eventually rising to the Fourth Circle.” The Elves have preserved STORIES about the giants; that doesn’t mean they ever knew the absolute FACTS.
The elves are isolationist by nature. Their history and the tales of the ancestors are part of the foundation of their religion, and we’ve never suggested that they want members of other species to adopt their religion. I think they’d spread some details out of pride, but at the same time, I think there’s a certain level of “Our history is none of your business.”
The civilizations of the giants fell forty thousand years ago on another continent. How much does the typical westerner know about Sumerian history? If someone threw a musical version of the myth of Gilgamesh onto Broadway, do you think it would dethrone Hamilton? I’m sure SCHOLARS know as much as is known about the history of the giants, and that reflects the information you could get with a History check. But I think most humans just don’t care about the history of the giants; it’s an obscure ancient civilization that has virtually no relevance to their modern lives.
So, COULD a modern playwright produce a play about the story of Vadallia and Cardaen? Absolutely. I’m sure that there’s multiple versions of just such a play created over the millennia by phiarlans. But is such a play going to appeal to a modern human audience, or would they rather see a tale of Lhazaar, or Karrn the Conqueror, or Aundair’s forbidden love, or the sacrifice of Tira Miron? It’s possible that it would succeed—that it would be exotic and unusual and people would latch onto it. But even so, what people would then know about the giants is the same as a human who knows about early American history because they watched Hamilton; they know Cardaen was a slave who worked magic, but that doesn’t mean they know much about the actual structure of the Cul’sir Dominion, beyond the name of its evil titan king. Personally I think it’s the same general model as what the typical Westerner knows about Sumer, or ancient Egypt: the names of a few of their rulers, sure. A few stories that have been featured in popular culture or enshrined by scholars. But if you stopped someone on the street, do you think they could tell you about the structure of the Egyptian military under the Pharaoh Snefru? How many pharoahs could they name? Could they tell you how many dynasties their were? And that’s a human culture that existed just five thousand years ago.
So: I don’t think the history of the giants is an ABSOLUTE mystery. I think the common person knows that there were multiple giant cultures; that they enslaved the elves; that there was an elvish uprising and the giants were destroyed by dragons. They might know the name Cul’sir specifically because they’ve encountered it in Elvish tales, the way many Westerners know Cleopatra because of her role in popular culture but have never heard of Menes… or they might just know him as “that evil titan king.” But I doubt the common person knows much more than that.
If you have questions on these or other topics, ask below!
You might be wondering where I’ve been for the last few weeks. Well, Calgary, for one… I had a fine time sampling poutine, playing games and acquiring fine dice bags at the Calgary Expo. Beyond that, I’ve been very busy. I have a number of projects in the works at the moment – my level for Paizo’s Emerald Spire superdungeon, a new expansion for Gloom, ongoing work on Codex, and two entirely new games—and as a result I’ve had to take a little time off from Dragonmarks and Six Questions. But they will return!
Before I get to the questions, a few other bits of news:
Gloom was featured in this week’s episode of The Escapist’s The Wishlist!
I’m an Industry Insider Guest of Honor at Gen Con 2013. I’ll be bringing all sorts of things to playtest to the convention, though at the moment I haven’t figured out my gaming schedule. If you’re going to GC, watch this space for more news!
I’m also scheduled to be a guest at GenreCon in October. What can I say – I can’t stay away from Canada!
Now on with the questions! First, two in a similar vein…
Since the inception of D&D Next, do you feel Eberron will still have prominence in this new system? Will it still be playable?
Currently WotC hasn’t decided what they are going to do for Eberron support in D&D Next. It’s been said that they will at least convert the races and perhaps the artificer. If you want to see more support, the best thing to do is to let WotC know it. Post on forums! Ask Customer Service if it will be supported! If it’s clear there is an audience that wants support, then it’s more likely that the support will come to pass.
With 4E not receiving a lot of support and D&D Next still some time away, is Eberron sticking with the D&D system, or able to branch as it’s own?
Eberron is the property of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast, so legally I can’t create new content for it on my own, in any system. I hope that Eberron will be supported in D&D Next and that I will be a part of that, but since it’s currently unknown I’m also developing a new setting, under the working title (and only a working title) Codex. That’s an ongoing, long-term project and I don’t want to discuss it in detail until I have a clear path to release, so expect to hear more about it later in the year.
I was wondering what people called ‘The Last War’ before it ended, and when they started using that name. I know IRL a very small number of people called WWI ‘the first world war’ when it was just starting, but there were a bunch of other names used at the time.
For most of the people of the Five Nations, it was simply known as “the war.” However, if they were talking about it to a Riedran or Aereni, they’d generally refer to it as “The War of Succession” or “The Succession War.” Cyrans would be more likely to call it “The Insurrection” or “The Traitor’s War.” Is there any story behind who first called it ‘The Last War’?
I don’t think it’s been stated in canon. I believe that the term is first formally used in the preamble of the Treaty of Thronehold, which essentially states that all signatories have seen the horrors wrought in this grievous conflict, and vow to make this the last time that these nations shall take arms against one another – the last war that Khorvaire will know. The Treaty of Thronehold is as well-known across the Five Nations as the Gettysburg Address is in the USA, and everyone knows the preamble. The Brelish claim that it was Boranel who coined the phrase; the Thranes insist it was Keeper Jaela; and so on.
If we corelate the Last War to WWI, what would be your take on WWII?
While there are many keystones in WWI that relate to the Last War, the end of the war is much closer to that of WWII: the appearance of a weapon that completely changes the face of modern warfare. While few nations believe the peace will last, and all are jockeying for power, no nation would dare to start a new war until the mystery of the Mourning is revealed. How could Aundair dare to employ wide-scale war magics in the field when it’s possible the widespread use of such magics is what destroyed Cyre? How can they dare attack another nation until they are certain that nation hasn’t harnessed the power of the Mourning? Beyond this, there is the fact that if any nation COULD harness the power of the Mourning and weaponize it, who would dare to challenge them? Until you answer the question of the Mourning, it’s impossible to define the shape of the Next War. Will it be fought with almost no magic to prevent another war? Will it be much like the Last War, once it is revealed that the Mourning was a fluke? Or will the Mourning be weaponized, making the new conflict take a completely different form from the last?
What does Eberron look like a thousand years after the era of the printed setting?
What will it look like? A warped wasteland enshrouded by dead-gray mists. Of course, the way things are going it will look like that in just five years.
The “facts” about Eberron are “just what is believed.” How far from those “facts” has the truth gotten in your games? And what drove that departure?
I always tell people not to be bound by canon, and to use the books as inspiration rather than limitation. So, how does MY version of Eberron vary from canon? It would take a lot of time to compile an exhaustive list, but here’s a few things.
In 4E, I limit many key magical rituals to characters with Dragonmarks; this helps explain why the dragonmarked houses have the economic power that they do, because they are the only source of these critical magics.
Related to this, I’ve always put a lot of restrictions on resurrection magic. Casual resurrection simply doesn’t work for most people, and resurrection spells are often dangerous—you might just bring in random hostile ghosts, or get the wrong spirit in the body, etc. I want resurrection to be one of the rare and impressive magics that people are still amazed by, not a reliable service you can purchase from Jorasco. Reliable resurrection is something that would have a tremendous impact on a society, and I don’t feel that Eberron has that taken into account.
I’ve always emphasized the idea that dragonshards are an integral part of any sort of industrial magic, from the creation of magic items to common spells. In 4E this is easily accomplished by saying that residuum is processed dragonshards. The point is to emphasize the importance of dragonshards to modern civilization, which helps people understand the power of House Tharashk and the importance of dragonshard-rich regions such as Q’barra and Xen’drik.
I hold to the 3E canon idea that Dragonmarks are bound by bloodline. I might allow a PC to have a dragonmark that doesn’t belong, but if I did it would be a historic, campaign-defining event.
I never added Baator to the cosmology, as was done in 4th Edition. I like the existing balance of the cosmology and didn’t see a need to change it. With that said, I like the version of Baator I developed for DDI, in which it is a demiplane (so it doesn’t contradict the original material) and in which Asmodeus’ rise to power only occurred around the Mourning—playing up the idea that the Mourning had reverberations across the planes. This also presents the devils of Baator as an entirely new force in the world. Rather than saying that they’ve always been around and figuring out how they have interacted with the Lords of Dust, Quori, etc, this presents them as an entirely new planar faction that is a concern and potential threat to all the long-term power players.
I have a very different vision of Thrane than that presented in The Forge of War, but I’ve spoken about this at some length elsewhere.
Likewise, I have a very different vision of the Blood of Vol: the tone and practices of the faith, its history in Karrnath, etc. Again, I’ve written about this at length elsewhere. Looking to the “Why,” the point to me is that a successful religion offers some form of comfort to its followers. It is a way to make sense of the universe. The Blood of Vol is a very GRIM religion, but it is nonetheless a faith that seeks to answer questions (first and foremost, what benevolent god would allow death and suffering to exist?) and build strong communities; it is a faith that ultimately seeks to destroy death and create a paradise on Eberron.
I’ve done more with sahuagin civilization than has been covered in canon; this is hinted at in The Shattered Land, and comes out a little in the Xen’drik sourcebooks.
I don’t use subraces, and don’t feel obliged to find a place for every new monster or race that comes along. I COULD if I wanted, but I generally see no reason to do so. I feel that intelligent races should have a history and sense of place in the world, so I don’t want to add new ones in without good reason.
I could probably go on for pages. As you can see, most of these aren’t huge changes; they’re just little things. But the short form is I do what makes sense to me for the stories I want to run.
What if the kalashtar rebellion fuels up quori hatred & empowers Il-Lashtavar preventing a change in Dal Quor?
Quori don’t experience emotion the way most mortals do. They aren’t mercurial beings. They don’t go from love to hate in a single day, or even a year. Like most immortals, they are incarnations of ideas; a tsucora quori is an incarnation of fear, a du’ulora an embodiment of fury, and so on. Essentially, a quori who hates can never STOP hating, or hate any more than it already does; hatred is its nature. The kalashtar quori are an anomaly that must be eradicated so they can be returned to the fold—so the rebellious spirit can be eradicated and restored to its proper nature. So first off, the actions of the kalashtar haven’t actually created MORE hatred among the quori; the quori hate exactly as much as they always have, according to their nature. Mortal dreams can affect Dal Quor—but the quori are part of Dal Quor, and their emotions don’t influence it.
With that said, this is largely while the Adaran kalashtar don’t advocate violence. They believe that the turn of the age will occur; it is inevitable. By meditating on il-Yannah they help strengthen her vision and move towards that new age. But they don’t feel a need to try to hurry the change—and certainly not by a spread of violence and hatred.
If anything will empower il-Lashtavar, it’s not the spread of hatred among the quori that will do it… it’s the spread of hatred through humanity and other mortal dreamers.
This will likely be the last Dragonmark of 2012. Come the new year, I will be focusing most of my creative energy on my new world, which I’ll talk more about next week. In months ahead, I will be discussing elements of the new world and asking for your opinions on different things. However, Eberron remains close to my heart and I will continue to do Dragonmark posts; they’re just more likely to be monthly than weekly. And while I have no new information on the subject, I hope that Eberron will be supported in D&D Next – if you want to see Eberron support in DDN, keep asking WotC and hope for the best!
As always, the answers to the questions below are my personal opinions and may conflict with canon sources.
If Krozen’s evil, shouldn’t Boranel be evil too? He uses his dark lanterns to commit assassination, theft etc: evil acts.
Does he? Again, for my opinions on alignment in Eberron, take a look at this post. I’d pay particular attention to the discussion of Kaius and Aurala, and the note that Aurala’s generals and ministers may engage on actions on behalf of Aundair she wouldn’t personally condone.
Let’s compare Zilargo and Breland for a moment. Both have exceptional intelligence services. Both employ assassins. But just how do they employ those assassins? In Zilargo, the Trust routinely deploys assassins against its own citizens. Not only that, it regularly engages in pre-emptive assassination, killing people who haven’t yet committed any crime (but will if they aren’t stopped). They are content to, in short, rule through terror and the threat of execution.
In Breland, Lord Ruken ir’Clarn is the leader of a movement determined to end the Brelish monarchy when Boranel dies. He seeks to rob Boranel’s children of their birthright and change Brelish tradition. And yet, he’s still alive. Do you think Boranel doesn’t know what he’s up to? Do you think that Ruken is somehow so amazing that the Dark Lanterns couldn’t kill him? No on both counts. His shield is that he’s a Brelish noble and member of parliament whose actions are, by and large, purely democratic in nature. Boranel doesn’t want ir’Clarn to succeed, but if it the will of the people that he does, Boranel will accept it. I’ll also point to the fact that despite the Citadel being a key edge Breland had over the other nations during the Last War, Dark Lanterns were never deployed to assassinate other kings or queens. They were certainly employed in the war – look to Thorn’s Far Passage assignment – but there were places the king wouldn’t go.
Looking to the Thorn of Breland novels, Thorn’s first assignment is to recover a prisoner from a nation that is NOT a signatory of the Treaty of Thronehold and thus not bound by the Code of Galifar. Thorn is told that she is authorized to kill that prisoner’s jailer if need be, but that isn’t the mission; she’s there to rescue a prisoner, not specifically to assassinate a foreign leader. In the second novel, she is sent to identify a terrorist threat to Breland, and if it exists, to eliminate its leader. This is a straight-up assassination, true, but again it is targeting a criminal who potentially poses a threat to every citizen of Sharn… and she’s instructed to confirm that he is a threat before carrying out the sentence (and she’s pretty cranky about acting as what she sees as a paid assassin for House Cannith). In the third novel, her initial assignment is to protect Prince Oargev from assassins, and she’s authorized to use lethal force in the process – but she’s there in a defensive capacity. Breland is willing to employ assassination as a tool against terrorists and monsters. But it doesn’t use it casually and it chooses targets carefully. More important is the fact that Boranel is King of Breland, not master of the Citadel. He allows the Dark Lanterns to exist. At times, he even requests specific actions from them. But he is NOT their direct commander and is in all likelihood not even aware of many of the assassinations that they carry out. Who is? People like Talleon Haliar Tonan, commander of the Sharn Dark Lanterns (Sharn: City of Towers page 139). Talleon is specifically noted as being “devoted to the preservation of Breland and to the King, but he is utterly ruthless, and authorizes torture, theft, and assassination if the mission requires it.” I highlight the but because it speaks to the fact that this isn’t the general tone of Breland or the general will of the king; Talleon is willing to take extreme action in defense of the kingdom that Boranel likely wouldn’t approve of. And what’s Talleon’s alignment? Lawful evil. He works within a hierarchy and system – but he is willing to engage in evil acts to preserve that system.
Earlier there was a long discussion about the Valenar invasion, and that the Humans were only too happy to throw off the yoke of Cyran rule, based on hatreds dating back to old Sarlona. But what of Lhesh Haruuc’s creation of Darguun — from lands that had also been part of Cyre? Were the Humans there from the same region of Sarlona as those in Valenar?
No, I don’t believe that the human inhabitants of Darguun were or are of Khunan descent. The Khunans were never a numerous people. They fled directly across ocean during the Sundering, settling on the east coast of Khorvaire. They were thus refugees, not a planned settlement; they didn’t come with supplies or plans for expansion; and the region that is now Valenar was quite sufficient for their needs. You see similar “refugee colonist” cultures in the Shadow Marches and the Demon Wastes; in both cases you have a similar situation where these people were happy to settle where they landed and never had need or resources to push deeper into the continent.
Meanwhile, the people of Cyre are largely descended from the blended folk of Rhiavaar, Nulakesh, and Pyrine—people who came in an organized wave of colonization and expansion. Nonetheless, the human population density of Khorvaire is relatively low, and the Five Nations always claimed territory that they didn’t really need. Breland claimed Droaam and the Shadow Marches as part of its domain; however, unlike Cyre, it never actually conquered those territories. Cyre DID conquer Khunan Valenar and set its nobles up as overlords.
Being far inland, Darguun never had refugee colonists. Cyre claimed the territory and had settlers there, but it never had a particularly dense human population. The main reason it was so easily stolen is that Cyre’s grip on it was always tenuous… and there was no way it could stretch itself to reclaim that largely unnecessary region when it was already hard pressed on all sides by the other nations.
As I recall from a flashback scene in the Heirs of Dhakaan trilogy, some Cyrans fought back…and died. Are the rest now slaves, or did Haruuc treat them with dignity in exchange for their acceptance of the new realilty?
Haruuc had no interest in being an occupying force. He didn’t want to conquer humans; he wanted them out of the land that rightfully belonged to his people. As such, Cyrans suffered one of three fates:
Exile. Those who were smart and fled towards the heart of Cyre were largely allowed to leave.
Death. Again, Haruuc didn’t want the hassle of managing a large captive population, and unlike the Valenar he had no intention of becoming a liege lord to human vassals; again, he was building a new homeland for his people, taking back the land originally stolen by humanity. There was no room for human dignity in this equation. If people resisted, most were killed.
Slavery. Some prisoners were kept as slaves. Again, the goblin view is that these are the people who stole Khorvaire from their ancestors; they deserve no better.
Having said that, there’s no reason that INDIVIDUAL humans couldn’t earn the respect of the goblins around them and find some sort of acceptance within a Darguul community. But that would very much be a case by case basis; it wasn’t Haruuc’s intention in the war of foundation.
I will also point out that the Valenar had a longer engrained relationship with the Khunans. The Valenar had defended the region for decades. The Khunans were used to their presence; there were adults with no living memory of a time when they didn’t have Valenar defenders. The Valenar simply killed the Cyran overlords and said “We’re in charge now” and the Khunans largely said “OK, doesn’t make much difference to us.” In Darguun, you didn’t have this sort of pre-existing relationship. Goblins were employed as mercenaries, but the percentage of mercenary goblins was quite low compared to the current population of Darguun; Haruuc brought together a host of goblins who had never had anything to do with humans, promising them a better land and better life.
Apart from Aundair, who is more likely to ignite the next war?
What 3 historical events in Eberron timeline would make the best backdrops/focus for one-off adventures?
It’s very difficult for me to limit myself to three. So I’ll just say that these are three events I believe would make good one-offs – but by no means the only ones. If I had the time, I could come up with twenty, easy. And no, I don’t have time.
The Lycanthropic Purge: Part One. Some people have the idea that the Purge was a one-sided affair, with poor miserable lycanthropes being relentlessly pursued by evil templars. This wasn’t the case at all. When it began, it was a war. I like to call it “28 Days Later with werewolves instead of zombies.” I’d also consider Aliens to be an excellent inspiration for tone. A single lycanthrope was generally far more than a match for the typical templar (most likely a 1st level warrior) and all it takes is a single bite to pass the infection. I’ve often wanted to make a one-off about a group of lost/scattered templars and local shifters forced into an uneasy alliance as they try to escape suddenly hostile territory, or to deal with a fiend-possessed lycanthrope leader… dealing both with an extremely deadly foe and their own distrust of one another.
The Lycanthropic Purge: Part Two. Eventually the power of the curse was broken; the number of lycanthropes were cut down to more containable numbers; and it became closer to a witch-hunt. But that witch-hunt could make for a very interesting one shot. The PCs are a mix of Silver Flame inquisitors and local villagers. There are wererats in the village, and they are murderous, malevolent and very clever… and they will do their best to trick you into harming innocents. Can you find the true villains without harming or killing innocent people?
Against The Giants. The PCs take on the roles of elven resistance fighters from a variety of cultures in the last days of the war against the giants. You’ve got a drow assassin who’s turned on his former masters but is still distrusted by the others; a haughty Qabalrin necromancer and a Cul’sir wizard liberated from the giants… along with early Tairnadal. Take this group and turn it into Inglorious Basterds. I want my titan scalps!
Do you ever tire of creating content for the ‘kitchen sink’ of campaign settings?
This is related to another question…
Did you ever feel like the stipulation of “if it’s in 3.5, it’s in Eberron” hurt your creativity in any way? Two examples of which that I can think of just to edify my point are this: I’m personally not a huge fan of psionics, but you not only have a custom race with them, but in fact an entire continent. Arguably putting it on par of importance with Dragons (one part of the name of the game). Second example is the creative take you took on the drow in Xen’drik. I felt like they were something that had to be put in due to fan love for their race, and that you had to add, but that you really twisted on it’s head._
First, let’s tackle the phrase “kitchen sink.” This impression usually comes from that second phrase – the fact that one of the ten things you should know about Eberron is “if it’s in D&D, it has a place in Eberron.” The key to me is that when I hear “kitchen sink”, I think of it as a negative term that implies that things are jammed together with no rhyme or reason. We’re going to have a culture that is effectively identical to revolutionary France next to an Aztec nation next to Menzoberranzan. This isn’t the case in Eberron. Just look at the answers I’ve given in the last few posts. They are answers about the unique history and cultures of Eberron – the political and religious conflict between Thrane and Cyre; the fate of Cyran refugees; the difference between Boranel and Krozen. My recent Eye on Eberron articles deal with the Rage of War, the sacred assassins of the Silver Flame, and the Children of Winter. None of these are in any way defined by it being a “kitchen sink”; they are tied to the religions and mystical forces unique to the world.
It’s also vital to recognize that the statement isn’t “If it’s in D&D, it’s in Eberron.” It’s “If it’s in D&D, it has a place in Eberron.” If you love abeil (bee people), there are many places you COULD put them. They could have a lost hive-city deep in Xen’drik. They could be a product of the Mourning, in which a Cyran city was transformed into an Abeil hive. They could be a new creation of Mordain the Fleshweaver. But if I don’t like abeil, I don’t have to use them at all. They aren’t IN Eberron; it’s simply easy for you to add them in if YOU want to. There’s a place for them in Eberron. This is the key to the statement that Eberron is a “kitchen sink.” It’s as much of a kitchen sink as you want it to be. I don’t use goliaths, genasi, illumians, chaos gnomes, etc. But if I wanted to, I could find a place for them.
With that said, there are things I was forced to put in. We needed a clear role for the core races of D&D, including the drow… and with the advent of 4E, including dragonborn and eladrin. 4E added Baator to the cosmology. Now, if I had been told “The drow must be just like Forgotten Realms… in fact, we want you to put Menzoberranzan somewhere” I would be very frustrated. Instead, my challenge was “you’ve got to have drow… but what makes the drow of Eberron unique? What makes the eladrin of Eberron different from those of other settings?” I think the EoE article on Baator is the best example of this. I will admit that I HATED having Baator added to the cosmology when it wasn’t there before. The Eye on Eberron article gave me a chance to define Baator in a way that made sense for Eberron… to create a new story for it, one that used the same familiar cast of characters but gave them a new backstory, motivation and role in the world than how they’d been used before. Baator is a divine prison, and Asmodeus has only just broken his bonds and risen to power; the archdevils have an element of warring crimelords, struggling to build new empires from ashes. It’s a completely different way of using the devils than you’d get in 4E core, and that’s what I like. If YOU like Menzoberranzan, you can add it to Eberron; no one’s stopping you. But I’m going to offer the Sulatar, Qaltiar, and Umbragen.
So is it creatively stifling? It IS limiting to be forced to work in some of these things, sure. There are some I wouldn’t add in if I was doing it entirely on my own, absolutely. But if anything, it’s an interesting creative challenge to say “How do I make gnomes that AREN’T the gnomes you find elsewhere?”
Looking to psionics, that was my choice from the start, not something forced upon the world. When I read my original AD&D Player’s Handbook, it came with an appendix on psionics. They’ve always been around in D&D, but they’ve generally been a weird stepchild that doesn’t really fit the tone of everything else… or forced on everyone, as in Dark Sun. With Eberron, I wanted a compromise. I wanted to give psionics a logical place in the world, and to consider the impact they would have on a culture much as Khorvaire explores the impact of magic. But I also wanted to make sure that someone who HATED psionics could essentially ignore them. Hence, Riedra. If you LIKE psionics, play up the role of the kalashtar and Dreaming Dark, and maybe even set your campaign in Riedra. If you hate psionics, drop the Dreaming Dark and the Kalashtar, and never go to Riedra. You don’t NEED to put kalashtar in your campaign; but if you like them, they have a place complete with history, conflict, and culture.
If you ever tire of it, what kind of theme/campaign setting would you prefer to work on?
Funny you should ask, as I AM working on a new campaign setting. Thanks to Jeff LaSala, I’m due to write about my “Next Big Thing”, and that is going to be my new campaign setting. The holidays have pushed me off schedule, so it won’t come out until next week, but expect more news then… to be followed by an ongoing discussion of the world as it moves towards completion.
This began as a side discussion on the Dragonmarked house post, but it’s expanded far enough that I’m moving it to a separate post. Feel free to add questions or comments about aberrant dragonmarks here!
I was always perplexed about the detail of the War of the Mark. First, there is an apparent lack of public opposition to the persecution of aberrants. Hundreds or even thousands of them must have been killed across the continent for no other reason than manifesting the wrong version of the dragonmarks. Of course, the Houses’ propaganda painted them as evil, but there is just that much propaganda can do. Most of those people had families and friends who knew otherwise. I doubt that aberrants have any bigger tendency to become criminals due to destructive powers of their marks than, say, sorcerers, who learn how to cast burning hands and magic missiles.
If you have a moment, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.
She grew up in village in Daskara, not far from the modern city of Sigilstar. She loved the country and taking care of the livestock. When she was 13, her family fell ill with a disease no one had ever seen before. They died, and the plague spread to the rest of the village and their stock. Only two things were unaffected: the rats and the girl. When everyone was dead, she fled to the town of Sarus. You’ve never heard of Sarus, because it doesn’t exist anymore. It was burnt by those who sought to keep the plague from spreading. The rats kept the girl alive, and were the only thing that kept her close to sane. In time she learned to control her power. Even so, she couldn’t bear the burden of the deaths on her conscience. She declared that the girl had died with her family. She was someone new, someone without a name. She was the Lady of the Plague.
Before I continue, have you read any of the following?
* The RPGA adventure The Delirium Stone, in which players actually experience a flashback to the War of the Mark.
* The novels The Son of Khyber or The City of Towers, in which we interact with modern aberrants and get to see some of them. They’re not all bad people. But many of them are strange or disturbing. Little “Junior Lady Of The Plague” Zae who only talks to rats. Brom with his troll’s arm. Crippled Filleon with his deadly touch.
Here’s a quote from the Dragonshard article, describing what it’s like to have a powerful aberrant mark:
You can feel your power festering within you. It’s different for every child of Khyber. One feels a chill no warmth can push away, while another complains of fire burning beneath his skin. An heir with the power of confusionfeels the force of madness in his mind, trying to claw its way out and feast on the thoughts of others. Your mark may bring you pain. It may whisper to you as you try to sleep. But it is a part of you.
You say “Why would an aberrant be any more likely to be a criminal than a sorcerer?” The answer is that a sorcerer chooses his path. Sorcery may be a natural talent as opposed to wizardry, but the sorcerer applies himself to its study and chooses the path he wants to follow. The aberrant doesn’t. His power chooses him, and often in a very unpleasant way. If the aberrant has burning hands, odds are good it manifested for the first time when he was angry at someone. Was that in a lover’s quarrel? When he was arguing with a parent? A friend? What death is on his conscience? And whenever he gets angry, can he hold the flames in? Likewise, for a sorcerer the power isn’t a burden; it’s a tool he learns to use. For an aberrant it’s something he must master and control, lest it drive him mad or harm those around him.
Powerful aberrant marks are dangerous to the bearer. They often cause disfigurements or madness. Yes, with training these dangers can be controlled or limited, and that’s something Tarkanan was trying to do. But to your question of “Why didn’t people care? Why did people believe the propaganda?”… look at the Salem witch trials and imagine that these things were unquestionably real. That someone has a livid red mark on their skin and that they burned their mother to death – and that you’ve HEARD the stories about how these people are touched by Khyber, how they are all monsters. Are you going to say “Oh, he didn’t mean it, he just needs to learn to control it. So he killed my wife – mistakes happen.” Or are you going to sending a messenger out to find the nearest Deneith extermination squad? And again, in terms of just how dangerous these marks could be, I’ll note that Halas Tarkanan destroyed a city when he unleashed his mark – and that the curse of the Lady of the Plague still lingers over a thousand years after. Far from trying to STOP the Dragonmarked from persecuting the aberrants, most local authorities were glad they were there.
The aberrant marks seen today – the “least” aberrant marks, if you will – don’t carry the same restrictions or power. You can have an aberrant mark without being a madman or a cripple. And you’re not going to use that mark to destroy a city. But the stories haven’t been forgotten, and the houses simply keep them alive. And now the more powerful marks are starting to return… so what happens next?
So you are basically saying that abberant dragonmarks do tend to make people outcasts and criminals…
Aberrant dragonmarks certainly make people outcasts. They don’t necessarily make them criminals; being outcasts may, however. The point is that there’s a significant difference between having an aberrant mark that produces burning hands and being a sorcerer who can do it. For the aberrant, it begins as a dangerous burden. Some are driven mad. Some inadvertently take actions that lead to their deaths (unleashing burning hands in a public place and getting lynched as a result). Those that survive learn to control their powers – but it’s not an easy or comfortable thing.
But the logical conclusion would be that the society had been trying to deal with this threat long before War of the Mark. If I knew a kid who caused a whole village to die from disease and another kid who torched his mom in anger and they both had those scary red marks on their skin, I would probably vote for a kill-on-sight policy for anyone with a similar mark. I would have had a lynching mob go after such people. And if it were too dangerous, I would call on my liegelord to send a squad of archers and shoot the baddie from a safe distance.
Society would only have to deal with this threat “long before the War of the Mark” if aberrant marks existed in significant numbers long before the War of the Mark… and they didn’t. Mixed marks appeared in small numbers when houses mingled; this is how the houses discovered these existed and how “the threat” became known. At the time the houses set their policy, it was largely the way we have incest laws: mingling the blood of two houses has unsavory results, don’t do it. Then the marks began spreading – yet not tied to lineage or any predictable pattern. The first of these were the equivalent of least marks. Stories begin to spread… but bear in mind that there were no airships, lightning rails, or speaking stones at this time, so word certainly didn’t spread as fast as it once did. A boy burned his mother, and he had a mark like those of the Twelve, but traced in blood. More powerful marks begin to appear, but still nothing on the level of Tarkanan or the Lady of the Plague. People say it’s Khyber stirring in the depths. There are more stories of marks driving their bearers mad, and the deaths that have resulted are sensationalized. Ghallanda spreads the word through the inns. Orien passes it along the trade roads, and Lyranar the seas. Phiarlan sings songs of the unsavory aberrants… and it’s now that the Lady of the Plague appears, and her tale is one that terrifies the public. Families that have been hiding their aberrant kid begin to question their actions. And the marks keep appearing in greater numbers, and becoming increasingly dangerous. Now Deneith-backed squads show up promising to protect people from these unclean children of Khyber – and now is the time that people start calling on them for help, or organizing lynch mobs of their own. But…
… remember that aberrant dragonmarks aren’t predictable. They can appear on anyone at any time. It’s not just “a kid” who has the mark. It could be a soldier. A Duke. A powerful priest. Anyone could get an aberrant mark, and as society turned on the aberrants in fear, those who developed aberrant marks knew exactly what fate awaited them. The boy who burned a parent wouldn’t turn himself in; he would run. The duke would try to conceal his mark, fortify his stronghold and hide from the world. This degree of versatility meant that aberrant forces could have unexpected skills and resources. And then you have Halas Tarkanan. He was a Karrnathi officer before he developed his mark, a brilliant soldier who learned the arts of war at Rekkenmark and the ways of House Deneith from his mother. His forces weren’t solely aberrants; many of his unmarked soldiers stood by him, and he won others to his cause… as well as taking in goblins and other oppressed forces.
My point is – there wouldn’t be enough abberrants hiding out there to form a force capable to wage a regular war under Tarkanan. That would require a sudden surge of aberrant powers similar to what is happening in the world in present-day, which is quite possible actually.
First off, the current surge is far less than what was seen in the century leading up to the War of the Mark. It appears to be starting again, and a DM can take it that way. But at the moment, there’s neither the number or power level seen in the past. In canon sources (remember, novels aren’t canon), no one has been described as possessing an aberrant mark matching the power of Halas Tarkanan or his lieutenants… and it was the power of these marks that kept the aberrant forces alive.
Beyond this, bear in mind that they never fought a “regular war.” You never had formations of aberrant soldiers facing off against dragonmarked house armies. While Halas did his best to provide basic training, the majority of the aberrants were noncombatants, though with their marks they could put up a defense when cornered and forced to fight. Somewhat to my surprise, the best analogy I can think of is Battlestar Galactica. Think of the aberrants as fleets of largely civilian vessels, huddling around an individual like Tarkanan or the Dreambreaker – their battlestar, whose power was singlehandedly great enough to disperse conventional forces. You then have a small group of trained soldiers and people with lesser/greater marks – the vipers of the Battlestar analogy, able to carry out their commander’s will. But they were still always on the run, relying on the raw power of their commanders (and Tarkana’s tactical genius) just to survive, always searching for some lasting sanctuary. They were occasionally able to gather small elite units for their own commando strikes, but they never faced the houses with proper armies. And in the end, despite Tarkanan’s best efforts, they were herded to Shaarat and forced to make a final stand. And again, you can see a little of what that’s like in the RPGA adventure The Delirium Stone.
Is this what’s happening today? Aberrant marks are manifesting in ever-greater numbers, but are they going to reach the same level of power as Tarkanan possessed? And if so, is this a natural cycle? Part of the Prophecy? Or is it being actively manipulated by the Lords of Dust or some other force? That’s up to you…
I’d like to revisit one point…
If I knew a kid who caused a whole village to die from disease and another kid who torched his mom in anger and they both had those scary red marks on their skin, I would probably vote for a kill-on-sight policy for anyone with a similar mark.
Bear in mind that nothing about aberrant marks is predictable. The red and black marks that we’ve shown are the most common sort of aberrant mark, but aberrant marks can take a vast array of forms. The lines of a burning hands mark might be formed from livid scar tissue. An aberrant mark that grants charm person could actually be a shining array of glowing white lines that’s almost hypnotic to look at… while another charm person mark is red and black. Aberrant marks are, well, aberrant. So this helped slow things down. Sure, the kid with the scary scar mark burned his mom, but our daughter’s mark is beautiful. And she’s not hurting anyone, is she? Really?
Ultimately people would decide that yes, the charmer was hurting people – that mind controllers are scary. But again, this combination of diversity and limited long-distance communication added to the amount of time it took for public opinion to form.
Aberrant marks originally existed in small numbers and low power. In the century leading up to the War of the Mark, they rapidly increased in number and power. There was excellent reason for people to fear the marks. If Tarkanan had been born earlier and been a diplomat instead of a soldier, he might have convinced people that the aberrants weren’t at fault – that if they were taught to control their marks, they could peacefully coexist (though some were, of course, mad or sociopathic). But most of the media of the time was in the hands of the houses, and when the fear was spreading there was no spokesperson for the aberrants. The “war” began as a simple witchhunt and purge. Tarkanan organized survivors into small guerrilla forces with enough firepower to defend themselves as they fled. Ultimately they were caught and erradicated.
In the centuries that followed, aberrant marks appeared in small numbers and only at the lowest level of power. But the stories remained and grew with each telling. People don’t run in terror from aberrants, because it’s been over a thousand years since the Lady of the Plague laid her curse on Shaarat. But they still know the stories, and aberrants are still shunned and treated with suspicion. And now the numbers of marks are growing again, and their power with them. But this is new and unusual. House Tarkanan has noticed it, and it is acting to gather the aberrants. But society as a whole hasn’t yet noticed exactly what’s going on. aberrants are an old bogeyman; even the houses are only just now looking at House Tarkanan and trying to figure out what’s happening.
Moving to more general discussion about the marks…
“Aberrant” seems like it’s shifted in meaning since the setting was originally published, and it was always kind of broad to begin with.
It’s something that was never developed as far as I wanted. I actually had a full system for aberrant marks developed for the Sharn: City of Towers sourcebook, but it ended up being cut for space. It is the case that a number of the SLAs in the original 3.5 sourcebook do NOT, in my mind, qualify for my vision of aberrant marks. I don’t see feather fall or detect secret doors as aberrant marks. To me, a core difference between aberrant and normal dragonmarks is that aberrant marks channel destructive or aggressive forces, while true marks are constructive. With that said, we’ve seen that true marks can be used in aggressive ways – from Lyrandar slamming you with a gust of wind to the Orien assassin teleporting behind you and killing you. But note that when aberrant marks were expanded in Dragonmarked the lists didn’t include superior flight or expanded detection capabilities.
What I’m wondering is if there’s some kind of substantive difference between Aberrant Marks and Mixed Marks. For example, would mixed marks tend to appear more as a mixture of the true marks? And would such a mark exhibit powers that call to mind the two true marks involved? Or is it more like the mixture of the marks corrupts their fundamental nature and creates some bizarre, unrelated effect?
The original idea is definitely the latter. Aberrant marks are entirely unpredictable. If you knew that Orien + Lyrandar = feather fall, then it’s not an aberrant mark anymore; it’s “the Mark of PassageStorms.” The idea of the mixed mark was simply that it was and is the only reliable way to produce an aberrant mark – but that there’s no telling what that mark will be. Likewise, this is part of the 3.5 aberrant mark system in Dragonmarked. You can have charm person as your least power and poison as your lesser power. You might have an aberrant individual who develops powers along a specific theme – all fire, all fear – but unlike the true marks this isn’t a given.
Now again, this is how it’s been presented. If you want to do things differently – and for that matter, play up existing elements like the feather fall aberrant mark – go for it!