IFAQ: Where do you get powerful Magic Items?

I’ve been very busy this month—and year!—and haven’t had as much time for articles as I’d like. However, I do answer questions for my Patreon supporters every month, and some times the topics are too big to be addresses on Patreon. Such as…

My campaign is Pathfinder 2e, but set in Eberron. It’s been going great, but one major sticking point is that players in Pathfinder are expected to be able to buy or somehow find higher level generic magic items like scrolls and talismans to aid them in adventure. As Khorvaire doesn’t have very high magic, where would a group of adventurers over level 10 equip themselves with strong but generic magical effects? As in, who is selling level 5+ spell scrolls?

First of all, it’s important to clarify the question that’s being asked. The point isn’t just where do you get powerful magic items, but specifically about “generic” and consumable items—scrolls, potions, and similar tools. The system presumes that high level characters have casual access to consumables that are appropriate to their level—that it’s not a big deal for a 12th level character to grab a potion of speed. But 6th level magic is beyond the everyday magic of the Five Nations. So where can a powerful character get a 6th level spell scroll?

There’s no one answer. House Cannith doesn’t have a VIP section of its enclaves that only sells powerful gear to powerful characters. So in my campaign I would tailor the approach to the party of the adventurers and the story of the campaign. Who are their allies? Who are their enemies? Do you WANT it to be as easy as just dropping some gold and getting the items (in which case my homemeade gear suggestion is easy) or do you want to give the players access to the gear but make them have to maintain a relationship if they want to restock? Do you want it to be a slightly shady thing? With that in mind, here’s some ideas.

THE IMMEASURABLE MARKET. From Exploring Eberron…

While most planes are isolated from others and it’s difficult to move from one plane to another, commerce and peaceful interaction are defining aspects of Syrania. Most planes have back doors that lead to the Immeasurable Market. The crystal spire in the Open Sky is merely a gateway leading to an open marketplace that extends as far as the eye can see. To one side, a slaadi haggles with a modron over the price of hippogriff eggs; to the other, a sly dao shows a Shavaran balor a selection of Fernia-forged blades. It’s said that anything you can imagine—and many things you can’t—can be found in the Immeasurable Market. 

Are you looking for things that can’t be purchased in the Five Nations? Are you a remarkable, legendary adventurer? The Immeasurable Market of Syrania has what you need. Not only does it provide access wondrous goods, the entrances to the Market could turn up anywhere. If I were to use the Immeasurable Market as an ongoing part of a campaign, I’d have an adventure in which the adventurers stumble onto a doorway to the Market and have to earn the favor of an Angel of Commerce, who gifts them with the ability to return. If you want to limit it, they could be presented with a key that will guide them to the nearest door to the Market and open it (a key that will only work for them). This allows the DM to decide whether or not there IS a door in their current area, just as you can’t always find a shop selling scrolls. If I were to follow this plotline, I would play up how remarkable this is and have some developing stories as the adventurers get to know merchants and other residents of the Market. For simplicities sake I’d generally allow adventurers to spend gold on simple consumables, but Exploring Eberron lists a variety of other options…

SUNDRY. If you don’t want to have the adventurers go to the Immeasurable Market, you have the Market come to them… or, more specifically, to introduce a magical merchant whose storefront appears in different places. Sundry (or whatever you choose to call them) pops up just where the adventurers happen to be with the deal you need. Sundry COULD be getting her goods from the Immeasurable Market, but if you want to add more mundane flavor, she could just have connections across Eberron. Those potions are from Aerenal; that wand was carved by one of the finest artificers of the Venomous Demesne; that scroll? Stolen from Ashtakala. That potion of speed is actually surplus from the Last War, a cutting edge formula Jorasco and Vadalis are working on… Don’t worry, the side effects aren’t too bad. Is Sundry just well connected? Is she a Chamber dragon? One of the Lords of Dust? An archfey? The Traveler? Does it really matter, if she has what you need when you need it? An interesting Good Omens take on this would be to have a little shop that appears just where the players need it to be that has TWO proprietors, one who sells more benevolent goods, one who deals in delightfully dangerous things. This pair could be a Chamber dragon and a Lord of Dust who both have a Prophetic interest in the actions of the adventuring party, who have agreed to monitor them together… selling them the things they need to stay on the proper path, without revealing that path.

HOMEMADE GEAR. If any of the player characters are spellcasters, you could build the story around the idea that they are creating the items they want to purchase themselves. They would still expend the amount of gold it would normally cost to buy the item, and they could only buy items between sessions when they’re at rest, but wouldn’t need to go through the usual process of creating magic items; it’s as if they are their own shop.The expenditure of gold should be recognized as the cost of the components and dragonshards needed to quickly create the items in question. A key point is that THIS IS NOT NORMAL—but high level player characters AREN’T normal. They are supposed to be legendary figures and heroes of the age, capable of doing things that are beyond the typical magewright artisan. The exact flavor of item creation (as well as what the DM decides is available) can vary based on the character. For example…

  • Artificers and wizards are essentially arcane scientists and would create their consumables in a workshop.
  • Warlocks could bargain with their patrons to acquire the items.
  • Sorcerers might channel their raw arcane energy into consumable form.
  • Druids could GROW organic tools that replicate the abilities of wands, scrolls, or potions
  • Clerics or paladins could pray during a long rest. This isn’t just about having a scroll appear; they would lay out a seal of faith using raw Eberron shards, and focus their faith on this point, drawing on the energy of the divine and letting it flow through them—essentially, being artificers but without understanding the science involved.

Again, the point here is that cosmetically it is the same as going and buying the item from a store. You can’t do it in the middle of an adventure, you are limited by the money you have on hand, it’s up to the DM to decide what’s available in this moment. But if you’ve GOT the money and you’re in a safe space, you can just get a few scrolls; just spend a minute or two describing how you make them and move on. If you want, you could call out how the items created in this way are unstable or only work for the creator—thus explaining why the PC doesn’t go into business creating and selling magic items. They can’t create permanent items this way—make sure you drink that potion within a few days or it will lose its fizz.

LUCIUS FOX. In some interpretations of Batman, Wayne is the superhero but it’s Lucius Fox who supplies his cool gadgets. The point is that Fox doesn’t have the talent to go out and personally fight crime, but he’s a great inventor. So if you don’t like the idea that the adventurers are creating their own goods, you could have an NPC who does it for them. A key point here is that NPCs don’t follow the same rules as PCs. It is possible for an NPC to be a great INVENTOR without having the full class abilities of an artificer or wizard. They can build amazing things overnight, as long as you provide them with the resources (IE gold), but they can’t cast a spell in six seconds; they aren’t capable of being an adventurer, but they can help you to succeed.

IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT… The Sundry idea presents a way for the adventurers to BUY powerful magic items that aren’t available to the general public. However, you could drop that approach and give the party a patron who supplies them with powerful, generic items. If high level adventurers are knowingly working for the Chamber or the Lords of Dust, there’s nothing odd about them being giving the basic tools they need to carry out a mission. If characters have a tie to the Church of the Silver Flame, the Argentum collects dangerous magic items; you could make a big deal about the Argentum doling out items saved for just such an occasion.

So summing up… having the characters create their own items is potentially a way to highlight that the characters are remarkable—that they can create things that couldn’t be bought. Giving the adventurers access to the Immeasurable Market is a way to highlight how remarkable they are and to add a series of plotlines tied to the Market, while Sundry implies that Market connection without having the players themselves engage in extraplanar travel.

In terms of the Sundry section, I have to wonder why even ask for a price as a lord of dust or a chamber agent, I find it somewhat hard to imagine that someone as part of a civilization as powerful as advanced as the lords of dust or argonessen would be strapped for cash to the point where they’d need a couple thousand gold from the party…

Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head as to “Why do the dragon/rakshasa need money…”

  1. They don’t, and they can just give things away for free. As long as it suits your campaign, there’s no reason they’d have to charge anything.
  2. They believe that it’s the only way the adventurers will place value on the things they are buying.
  3. They use the money for other personal projects. The dragon might support a local charity, orphanage, what have you; the rakshasa might fund a Swords of Liberty cell, pay for raves, or similar things. The point is that while they are technically observers for their factions, their factions wouldn’t support those personal projects. The CHAMBER could pay for a thousand orphanges, but THEY WOULDN’T… so the dragon pays for the orphanage with this “Adventurer Tax.”

That’s all for now! All of the ideas I’ve presented here are only a few possibilities, but it’s all I have time for now! If you have other thoughts on how to give high level characters access to high level consumables, add them in the comments. Also: I’m preparing to run a new campaign arc for my Threshold Patrons. This is a monthly campaign: every patron can apply to play in a session, and all sessions are recorded and shared for patrons to watch or listen to. This upcoming campaign is set in Graywall, and we’re in the midst of a series of session zero polls to establish the party of adventurers. If this sounds interesting, this is your chance to get on board before it begins and to help shape the story. Check it out on Patreon!

Dragonmarks: Wondrous Caches

It was pure luck that Rusty found the loose board in his room in the Crooked Cat. The space below was just small enough to hold a folded sack… but that sack was a bag of holding which was somehow shielded from divination. Now the contents of the bag were spread out across the bed. Three different sets of identification papers. Ten Kundarak letters of credit, each worth one thousand galifars. Three vials bearing the Jorasco seal—high grade healing potions. A spellshard. A wand, a rapier, and a ring… all radiating magic. “So what do you think?” Rusty asked his friends. “Are we the luckiest bastards in Sharn? Or should we put this all back, get a new room, and pretend this never happened?”   

My previous post examined buried treasures and how the pursuit of a lost, legendary treasure could be the driving force for an entire campaign. But not all treasures are ancient relics found in a monster’s lair. In Khorvaire, there are many options for finding hidden treasures that are anything but legendary. Consider caches—something stored away or hidden for future use. Here’s just a few example caches that come to mind…

  • A former assassin decides to live an honest life, and hides the tools of their tradea hat of disguise, dagger of venom, an assortment of poisons—behind a mortared stone in a shrine to Olladra. 
  • Someone becomes obsessed with the idea that a grand apocalypse is just around the corner, and hides supplies in preparation for this. Are they still alive—perhaps running a cult of the Dragon Below tied to their apocalyptic visions? Or did they die long ago, leaving their doomsday supplies behind? If they left clues about their fears, might the PCs realize there’s some truth to them?  
  • The Swords of Liberty or Emerald Claw have stashed supplies that are supposed to be used in an operation in the next few days. Do you take the supplies and run, or do you try to deal with the cell behind it?  
  • In the aftermath of a botched attack, the last survivor of a Cyran commando squad discarded their gear and tried to blend into the local populace. Perhaps they succeeded and just never returned for it; perhaps they were killed or imprisoned. This is excellent equipment, but it is clearly Cyran military gear.
  • Once upon a time, there were countless Dhakaani caches spread across Khorvaire—remnants of the last days of the empire, as those dar who resisted the effects of the Kapaa’vola fought against the chaos. Thousands of years have passed, and most of these caches have been recovered. But adventurers could still find a cache containing perfectly preserved Dhakaani adamantine arms and armor, or the hidden treasures of a dirge singer. Such a cache might include trinkets that have no immediate, obvious value to adventurers—but which could be incredibly important to the Heirs of Dhakaan. 
  • During the Last War, a squad of soldiers engaged in forbidden looting and hid their spoils. Perhaps they used the chaos of war to steal from a noble of their own nation, or from a dragonmarked house. Perhaps they had a mission to recover goods from an enemy and chose to hide some of this bounty instead of turning it all over to their superiors. If the PCs stumble onto this cache, will they try to return the goods to their rightful owners? Alternately… were one or more of the player characters part of the group of looters? 
  • The Fifth Crown, King’s Citadel, the Shadow Houses, the Trust, and  the Royal Eyes all have supplies hidden across Khorvaire, stashed for the moment when an undercover operative needs something. The nature of the equipment will be tied to the mission it’s supposed to support. The Fifth Crown collapsed with the Mourning, and most of its caches are likely lost and forgotten. But other caches may be placed with a very specific purpose—and if you take the supplies, you could jeopardize an operation. If it’s not your nation that’s involved this might actually be a good thing… but most such caches won’t have a convenient note saying who they belong to or what they’re for. And it’s always possible there’s some way for the owner to trace the equipment…
  • A more dramatic version of this is a cache set aside for agents of the Chamber or the Lords of Dust. Such equipment may be far more powerful than what spies of the Five Nations would normally employ, but you’re crossing significantly more dangerous people if you take it. Unless, of course, your clearing out the cache is part of their plan, because they need you to have this equipment to carry out your role in the Prophecy…

As uncommon magic items, bags of holding are part of everyday life; portable holes and handy haversacks are rarer but still well known to the general public. Such things make it possible to conceal a significant amount of equipment in a relatively small space. A cache could contain mundane supplies or money—something that would help a group of adventurers but that has little immediate impact or identifying marks. On the other hand, it could contain valuable magic items… perhaps a conveniently interesting item for each of the adventurers, something that will get them started on their adventures. But such items might be distinctive, whether they are clearly tied to a particular organization or to the original owner. Are the players concerned about running into someone who recognizes this loot? On a different spectrum, a cache could contain trinkets that have little concrete value but that tell a story or set the players on a path… A journal that exposes a secret plot or a possible threat, or evidence about a crime that’s long gone unpunished. On the other side, a cache could have magic that is exceptionally powerful, but more than the adventurers want to deal with. A bag of blast disks; a spellshard containing secrets of proprietary Cannith artifice; the Orb of Dol Azur (which for this purpose we’ll say has the same stats as the Wand of Orcus). If you’re a group of 3rd level characters, what are you going to do with the Orb of Dol Azur? Especially knowing that in all likelihood it was stashed by an incredibly powerful and dangerous person who will probably come looking for it? On an even more exotic path, imagine that you find a cache that contains the answer to the cause of the Mourning—along with an item (an arcane core for a weapon, an artifact tied to an overlord) that could allow someone to enact a second Mourning. If this falls into the hands of any nation it will irrevocably alter the balance of power in Khorvaire. What will the adventurers do with it? 

Part of the point of a cache is that it’s not a deep dungeon or a tomb full of traps. A good narrative example is the troll’s den in The Hobbit. After the trolls are defeated, Gandalf concludes that they must have a safe hole, and they search until they find it… and when they do, it’s full of treasure, including two named magic swords and some swanky gear for Bilbo. We get a slight repeat of this in Fellowship of the Ring, where the hobbits just kind of stumble across a barrow and end up with some nice equipment. A cache can be a fun way to give adventurers some decent equipment while also setting up interesting story hooks. Do they have to worry about the owner of the cache coming after them? Does anything they’ve claimed rightfully belong to someone else, and if so, do they want to find that rightful owner… who could then become a patron of the party? Does something in the cache draw them into a greater plot—is there evidence of a murder that should be avenged, or an Emerald Claw threat about to happen, a Chamber scheme? With all these stories in mind, one of the key questions is how the players encounter the cache. A few possibilities…

Random Chance. All the clever concealment in the world can’t counter pure luck. Perhaps the adventurers are caught in a skirmish between Daask and the Boromar Clan, and an eldritch bolt that misses its target shatters the hollow statue of Boldrei containing a stashed haversack. Perhaps when the character with Sage background conducts research they need a book in the Morgrave stacks that no one else would ever have reason to look at—and they find that this obscure account of Galifar the Dark’s economic policies is a hollowed out book containing a spellshard, a glove of storing, and a few other key belongings of a rogue Dark Lantern.  Perhaps the rogue goes to visit an old mentor and finds them dead—their apartment is trashed, but because the adventurer knows the mentor, they spot the clue that reveals their hidden cache. The PC feels certain the mentor would want them to use these hidden tools, but will they try to avenge their mentor? And why WAS the mentor killed? The point here is that finding the cache isn’t the challenge; it’s a surprise, something that falls into the path of the PCs, and the question is what they will do with it. 

Spoils of War. As with the trolls in The Hobbit, a cache could be a reward for victory. After defeating the Emerald Claw’s latest scheme, the adventurers find a key to a Kundarak vault or a note with the address of their safehouse. The cache contained goods or equipment they wouldn’t just carry around town, and may have additional clues about future threats, local agents, or other hooks for future stories. But the challenge is fighting the cache owner; once that’s accomplished, the cache itself is relatively easy. 

The Tiny Dungeon. On the other hand, there are countless ways a cache could be secured. This article discusses a few examples of how everyday magic can take interesting forms. Glyphs of Warding are extremely flexible, and even an alarm can be a concern if you’re afraid of who will be alerted. So one option is that the players find a cache but have to deal with considerable security to gain access to it. Another is that they learn of a cache but reaching it is going to be a journey. A group of Cyran adventurers might be contacted by an old comrade in arms who has located a cache of Cyran treasures just inside the Mournland. When they arrive, the contact is missing; perhaps kidnapped or killed by agents of an Aurum concordian who wants the cache. Can the adventurers get there first, and if so, can they bypass its security? Will they keep the goods or turn it over to New Cyre and Oargev? The main difference between this and the buried treasure stories of the last article is the scale. This isn’t an epic expedition that will cover multiple sessions, and the treasure in the cache is significant, but it’s not a dragon’s hoard. This is an adventure low level characters can complete; the loot creates more opportunities and hooks for them, but it’s not a king’s ransom.  

That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, whose support makes these articles possible. Speaking of which, I will be doing a live Q&A on the Last War on Sunday January 14th at 9 AM Pacific time, on the Threshold Discord channel associated with my Patreon. If you’re a patron and you can’t make it live, don’t worry – it will be recorded and shared with all patrons. Thanks for your support! And also, thanks to Matthew Johnson for the image of the artificer Ink Narathun that opens this article! 

IFAQ: Buried Treasures

Devin, a simple goblin tailor, as illustrated by Matthew Johnson.

The year is coming to a close, but there’s still time to answer an interesting question posed by one of my Patreon supporters…

What sort of legendary buried treasures might Eberron have stories about? Where might they be located? My players are big fans of the One Piece series, and expressed interest in looking for treasure on the scale of the in-universe “one piece,” said to be so grand that it could set you and your family up for the rest of your bloodline. Are there any hidden treasures of this variety that would be whispered in taverns and told between crews over pints of ale?

Buried or otherwise, legendary lost treasures are a great trope for setting a campaign in motion. From One Piece to The Hobbit to Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s an easy drive for story. This doesn’t have to be driven by greed; just comparing those three examples, the quest for treasure could be driven by the status that will accompany the recovery of the treasure, by a rightful claim to the wealth, or by the desire to keep a dangerous artifact out of the hands of people who will abuse it. Regardless of whether the adventurers are driven by pure self-interest or whether they’re serving a greater good, a grand quest for a legendary treasure can be a solid drive for adventure.

So… what are some legendary treasures of Eberron? Let’s consider a few, canonical and otherwise.

TREBAZ SINARA. The island of Trebaz Sinara was Lhazaar’s seat in life and her home in death, and its vaults held the treasures and tribute she gathered in her decades as the pirate queen. Her heirs followed in this tradition, adding vast wealth and extravagant tombs… and each one did something to add to the security of the island. Lystara the Red bargained with one of the Lords of Dust and established a deadly demonglass reef—a maze that can gut a ship from below. Hungry Lhazaan imported the most terrifying monsters from across the world to guard the shores. Duros the Wise worked with the greatest mages of the age to add arcane wards and traps to the halls and tombs of Trebaz Sinara. And Astalaar—the last pirate queen to rule from Trebaz—well, no one knows exactly what she did. Astalaar swore that no one would ever steal her treasures after her death, and no one has… because since the moment of her death, no one has set foot on Trebaz Sinara. Most ships that enter the demonglass maze around Trebaz Sinara never return. But a few captains claim to have safely navigated the maze and its monsters, only to find themselves on the opposite side of the island. In 997 Koulton Brightwind sought to land on Trebaz Sinara using a stolen airship; his vessel barely survived the unnatural storms that rose up, and despite pressing through them Koulton was unable to find the island. Trebaz Sinara is a large island, and people can safely sail around it, but something prevents anyone from landing on it. Has the island been shifted to another plane? Is it simply concealed from any ship that lacks the proper enchantments? The truth remains a mystery. But Trebaz Sinara holds the treasures of a dynasty of legendary pirates, including the crown jewels of Lhazaar herself.

The first challenge to Trebas Sinara is finding the island itself—discovering what Astalaar did to conceal it and how to overcome its defenses. Once this is accomplished, however, it will still take a very capable ship and crew to thread the needle of the stormlashed demonglass maze (an airship is an option, but as Prince Brightwind can attest, the supernatural storms make this a dangerous choice!). And making landfall on Trebaz Sinara is just the start of the story, as the isle is home to countless monsters, and every tomb has its own host of traps. A party of treasure hunters could simply snatch all that they could carry and flee back to sea. But Trebaz Sinara was the seat of Lhazaar herself, and if someone claimed Lhazaar’s crown and her ancient keep they would be in a powerful position to challenge Rygar for the title of High Prince of the Lhazaar Principalities; the wealth of Sinara could be enough to jumpstart a new nation.

RED KNIGHT. During the Last War, House Cannith established a number of hidden forgeholds where they worked on military projects of the utmost importance. Some of these are relatively well known within the house, such as the Whitehearth facility that plays a role in Shadows of the Last War. But there’s another forgehold whose existence was hidden not only from the Twelve, but even from the Lords Seneschal of House Cannith. Red Knight was personally established by Starrin d’Cannith. It’s existence was only revealed after a team of adventurers recovered one of Starrin’s journals from the ruins of Metrol; potentially, this could have been the work of the player characters, either before the campaign begins (it’s a prelude that the PCs were brought together to work on this Metrol job, and their success is what leads to the ongoing campaign) or potentially as their first adventure. Regardless of how they come by it, Starrin’s journal reveals the existence of Red Knight, a forgehold isolated even from House Cannith, where the Gorgon was working on his most cutting edge, dangerous experiments. Unfortunately, the journal is damnably vague about what those experiments were. It’s possible that Red Knight holds the secret to the Mourning, or that it houses some other weapon of incalculable power. But it could be that its research was focused in an entirely different direction, but one that could be equally world-shaking. Perhaps Red Knight holds the prototype for a teleportation network (that doesn’t need House Orien), or a reliable resurrection creche (with no need for House Jorasco). Maybe Starrin found a way to create portals to other iterations of Eberron lost in the Maze of Realities. Perhaps he was harnessing the full power of an overlord… in which case, it could be that the accidental release of that overlord triggered the Mourning!

It could be that the adventurers learn of Red Knight on their own and choose to conceal this information from everyone else, not wanting anyone to know about it until they’ve found it and learned exactly what it contains. On the other hand, every power player in Eberron would jump at the chance to seize this hidden facility. All three Cannith factions would be desperate to acquire it, as would the Aurum, the Dark Lanterns, the Royal Eyes of Aundair, the Blood of Vol, the Lord of Blades… so the question for the DM is who they want to be involved in the race. The initial challenge will be trying to locate the forgehold without revealing anything about it to the rest of the world. The secrets could be hidden in the Mournland (especially Eston or Making), but it’s possible that Merrix, Jorlanna and Zorlan have critical keys or pieces of information whose relevance they aren’t aware of. Once it’s located, bypassing the security of the forgehold will be an epic endeavor in its own right, as it will be defended by remarkable magic and cutting-edge constructs. The exact nature of the defenses could relate to the work being done there. If involves teleportation, it could exist in the astral or ethereal plane. If it deals with resurrection, it could have a staff of arcanists who are automatically reborn any time they die—similar to a lich’s phylactery only without death. If it’s tied to an overlord, Red Knight could be located in the heart demiplane of that overlord… and possibly been overrun by its minions. And if the adventurers succeed, the question rises again: do they take what they can carry and run? Do they destroy it so no one can harness its power? Or do they seek to operate it? If one of the player characters is a Cannith heir, do they work with one of the three aspiring barons, or do they make their own claim to reuniting the shaken house?

THE GRAVEDIGGER’S HOARD. As noted in this article, Hazcoranar the Gravedigger is a rogue black dragon infamous for looting treasures of fallen or falling human civilizations. He’s gathered artifacts from the Empire of Dhakaan, the Cul’sir Dominion, and the pre-Sundering kingdoms of Sarlona… not to mention pillaging battlefields during the Last War. There’s many accounts of priceless treasures stolen by the Gravedigger. But where does he keep his hoard? As a rogue, Hazcoranar isn’t welcome in Argonnessen. Which means his hoard is hidden somewhere where it could be found. The Gravedigger spends much of his time actively pillaging, and a clever group of adventurers could sneak in while the dragon is away. But would they take what they could and flee, spending the rest of their lives wondering when the Gravedigger would track them down? Or might they believe that they could fight the dragon and survive, claiming his lair as their spoils?

Hazcoranar’s hoard is an opportunity for a classic dragon’s lair tale. Somehow the adventurers stumble onto a secret leading them to his hoard… a map? A lone survivor of a previous expedition? A journal whose pages have been torn out and scattered? The lair could simply be isolated and well-hidden; or it could be in a demiplane or an extradimensional space, where the challenge isn’t simply finding it but finding out how to forge an arcane connection to it. Perhaps the adventurers find the back door and are able to sneak in and steal something while the dragon is away, but can they come up with a way to actually defeat the Gravedigger? Beyond that, what will they do with their spoils? Relics from ancient Xen’drik may not have any active claimants, but the treasures Hazcoronar stole from the Dhakaani or during the Last War could well have people eager to recover them; will the adventurers restore these relics to their rightful owners or claim their rights of salvage?

THE MOURNING VAULT. On a far smaller scale, countless noble families lost their estates and their treasures when the Mourning struck. If a Cyran adventurer has the Noble background, they could have just such an estate in the Mournlands. Perhaps they discover the existence of a vault they never knew about—an ancestral hoard hidden beneath their estate, holding treasures that are rightfully theirs. This is smaller and more manageable that some of the earlier ideas. The adventurer knows exactly where their estate is. The challenge is that it’s in the Mournland. They will have to cross the untold dangers of the Mournland to reach it, and there’s no telling how the estate itself has been transformed. There’s also the question of whether the vault holds secrets about the character’s family they themselves never knew… in which case, the recovering of the first treasure could just be a stepping stone toward the next phase of the campaign. There’s also the question of whether the noble will just claim the treasure as their rightful due, or whether they will use it to try to help New Cyre or other refugees. Nonetheless, this is a concept that is smaller and more manageable than some of the preceeding ideas—it’s a treasure that the adventurers COULD recover and take away without it being the end of their lives as professional adventurers, or threatening the balance of power of a region.

These are four solid ideas. But this is still just scratching the surface. A few more to consider…

  • The Imperial Treasury. The legendary vault of the last emperor of Dhakaan. Of course, this is vitally important to all of the Heirs of Dhakaan…
  • The Orb of Dol Azur. This isn’t a HOARD, but rather a singular lost treasure. It’s said to be the treasure that caused the Mockery to betray his siblings, an object of immeasurable power. One possibility is that it is the eye of the overlord Katashka; depending on the path of a campaign, it could have the abilities of either the Wand of Orcus or the Eye of Vecna. In any case, this is a solid option for a legendary TREASURE that could be sought by Antus ir’Soldorak, Lady Illmarrow, or other powerful and dangerous people.
  • Noldrunhold. The dwarves of Clan Noldrun mysteriously vanished. The riches of their hold remain, for anyone willing to brave the strange terrors that lurk in the Realm Below. This is another case where the location is KNOWN, it’s just DANGEROUS… likewise, like the Mourning Vault, it’s less that there is one singular treasure hoard and more that the wealth of an entire wealthy hold is spread out below… UNLESS it’s been gathered and concentrated by some foul creature in the darkness over these many centuries.
  • The Demon’s Trove. During the Sundering, refugees fled from Ohr Kaluun to Khorvaire. Some landed in the Demon Wastes and became Carrion Tribes. Some crossed safely to establish the Venomous Demesne. But surely some ships didn’t survive the journey. What Kaluunite artifacts and treasures were lost in the Barren Sea?
  • The Heart of Siberys. The RTS game Dragonshard dealt with an alliance from Khorvaire seeking to recover a massive dragonshard from a dangerous region of Xen’drik, contending both with the scales set to guard it and a force of Umbragen drow with their own plans for the Heart. The Heart of Siberys isn’t a traditional TREASURE, as it’s a massive geological feature; but Dragonshard is still a campaign driven by a race to claim an object of great power that’s located in a dangerous, inaccessible region.

The list goes on! The Lair of the Keeper, the master vault of House Kundarak, the hoard of Hassalac Chaar or the lich Gath… I’m going to stop here, but I hope this gives you some ideas.

Any of these treasures could start a campaign rolling. A few things to consider…

  • Do the adventurers have a patron supporting their quest, or are they operating on their own?
  • Do the adventurers or their patron have a rightful claim to the treasure? If they don’t, does anyone?
  • Is anyone else actively searching for the treasure? If so, are they aware of the PCs, and will clashes between them be a regular part of the story?
  • Is the primary challenge locating the treasure, or is that only one piece of the puzzle? Perhaps the key to the vault was carried by a lycanthrope who fled into Lamannia during the Silver Crusade, or the five seals of Trebaz Sinara are described in five scrolls that are in the collections of different Aurum Concordians…
  • Once the adventurers HAVE the treasure, is it just a question of dividing it up and carrying on with life? If it’s a case of grabbing something and running this might be true. But if the wealth involved is truly vast, the next phase of the campaign could be about MANAGING it, and what the adventurers choose to do with the influence that it gives them—such as if they want to use the Mourning Vault to help New Cyre or to claim the crown of a united Lhazaar Principalities!

There’s only a few hours left in 2023, and this is all I have time for. I hope it gives you somethign to work with! And again, my deepest thanks to my Patrons who have supported my in 2023. It’s been a hard year, and this support is the only thing that allows me to spend time continuing to explore Eberron. In addition to asking questions, patrons have access to live and recorded Q&A sessions and the opportunity to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. If that sounds interesting, check it out. And regardless, happy New Year!!!

IFAQ: Hearing Aids, Smugglers, and Dreamlily

Every month I answer questions posed by my patrons on my Patreon site. Here’s a few that have come up this month…

What options does Eberron provide for people who are deaf or hard of hearing? Are there magical hearing aids? Is sign language common place?

There are a variety of tools and options. There are three primary sign languages in use in Khorvaire. Aelada is the oldest visual language that’s still in use today. It is employed by both the Aereni and the Tairnadal, as well as the Bloodsail elves of the Lhazaar Principalities. Kaasvola is a visual language developed by the Dhakaani dar, and is dominant in Droaam, Darguun, and the Shadow Marches. However, the primary form of sign language used in the Five Nations is SSL, Sivis sign language. Aelada is quite complex; Sivis wordsmiths adapted some of its principles, but worked to develop a visual language that was more intuitive and adaptable.

The most common form of hearing aid is the tin ear. Typically taking the form of an earring, this is a common magic item that uses principles of minor image and prestidigitation to compensate for hearing loss. There’s a variety of forms of the tin ear produced by House Cannith, the Arcane Congress, and others, but they operate on similar principles.

Anyone can use a tin ear, but there is another option: a familiar. This article discusses the role of familiars in everyday life in more detail. As described in find familiar, a character with a familiar can can see through their familiar’s eyes and hear what it hears. Normally this requires ongoing concentration, but some people learn a specialized form of the spell that allows them to use the familiar’s senses instead of their own without having to take an action to do so, but only if they are in physical contact with the familiar—so they see or hear through the crow on their wrist or the cat on their shoulder. Some people who use familiars in this way will speak through their crow, raven or parrot familiars.

My campaign involves a criminal mastermind running smuggling operations in the Lhazaar Principalities trying to make a name for themself and become fabulously wealthy. What would they be smuggling, and who would be trying to stop them?

On the whole, the majority of smuggling in Khorvaire deals with relatively mundane goods that are highly taxed in the Five Nations. For every smuggler carrying dreamlily in western Khorvaire, there’s three smuggling harpy sugar… an exotic sweetener from Droaam that happens to be in vogue in Sharn and that’s taxed accordingly. And this is a great option for player characters with a smuggling background. You could have been transporting medical supplies (which is, after all, how the dreamlily trade began…) through blockades. You could have been bringing Marcher moonshine into Sharn, evading the highly unjust Brelish tariffs on this totally innocent beverage (which does NOT make you go blind, or contain Kyrzin-brewed sentient fluids. Honest.) But in this case we aren’t looking for what’s USUALLY smuggled. You might make money smuggling harpy sugar, but you’e not going to make a fortune or develop an infamous reputation. So what’s something dangerous or reprehensible? Something that will generate outrage or make headlines? Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head.

  • Dragon’s Blood from Droaam, a dangerous, addictive drug that temporally grants or enhances sorcerous power.
  • Experimental Jorasco/Vadalis drugs that were condemned as being too risky or harmful.
  • Surplus Cannith weapons developed for Cyre during the Last War, doubly so if they might be unreliable. Probably smuggled out of the Mournland, which further adds the risk that they have been affected by the Mourning in unpredictable ways.
  • Cyran fine art or Cyran cultural treasures smuggled out of the Mournland.
  • Spirit idols from Aerenal, which could perhaps have some value to unscrupulous necromancers (such as the elves of the Bloodsail Principality)—there may be ways to essentially bind the spirit in the idol to create various forms of undead servants.
  • Karrnathi undead that have supposedly been stored in the vaults under Atur, sold with magic items that supposedly allow the bearer to control the undead.

All of the things I mentioned would be illegal under the Code of Galifar or restricted under the Treaty of Thronehold, so any national coast guard would interfere. Aerenal would be especially interested in shutting down the theft of spirit idols, and the Karrns would take the smuggling of undead seriously… though if the smuggler is operating in the Lhazaar Principalities, Karrnath would already be their primary concern.

What about dreamlily? It comes from Sarlona, but the Boromar Clan maintains dens where you can take it, much like opium dens. Do they have experts who have studied and tried to understand it? If so, what have they managed to figure out? What sorts of skills would such experts have?

Dreamlily was introduced to the setting in Sharn: City of Towers, which notes:

Healers first used essence of dreamlily, a powerful opiate from Sarlona, during the Last War. Once the Brelish Crown realized the dangers of addiction, use of this elixir was quickly outlawed. This has not erased the demand for the drug, and the control of the dreamlily trade is a source of significant strife in the Lower-City. Essence of dreamlily is an iridescent, psionically active liquid. It draws on the mind of the user, and tastes like his favorite beverage. Each use of the drug can potentially lead to an overdose, especially for those addicted to it.

If I were to do a quick conversion of dreamlily to fifth edition, I’d say that someone under the influence of Dreamlily is immune to the Frightened condition. They cannot take reactions, and on their turn, they can use either an action or a bonus action, not both. In third edition rules, dreamlily allowed someone to continue to operate normally even when they had 0 to -5 hit points; a similar way to model this would be to grant the user 5 temporary hit points. It’s not supposed to be something adventurers would want to take, though it could be interesting for adventurers to dose themselves with dreamlily before facing a creature that causes fear.

I didn’t mention dreamlily in the preceding answer, because LOTS of smugglers deal in dreamlily—it’s not a commodity that will make a master criminal stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, the general tone of Eberron is more late 19th century – early 20th century than present day, and the dreamlily trade is more like the old opium trade than a modern drug trade with people synthesizing knock offs and variants. In general, the idea is that Sarlonan drugs like dreamlily and absentia (another drug from Sharn: City of Towers, which allows the user to experience the world through another creature’s senses) are mysteries that can’t be replicated in Khorvaire, because in Sarlona you’re dealing both with wild zones and psionics; essentially, they are working with a form of science we don’t understand and have access to (super)natural resources that don’t exist in Khorvaire. The Boromars can’t figure out how to synthesize deamlily because it requires psionic disciplines and plants cultivated in a wild zone.

With that said, if I wanted to do a Breaking Bad story I could imagine someone working with a rogue gleaner (primal magewright) or alchemist artificer — or both — to enhance dreamlily. They still get the core product from Sarlona, but give it a unique twist that makes their product superior to what’s otherwise in the market. On the other hand, I could also imagine Jorasco, Cannith West, and Vadalis working together (this kind of cooperation is why the Twelve exists) to create a new narcotic as a native Khorvairian alternative to dreamlily, which could lead into an opioid epidemic if that’s a story you want to explore.. But again, that’s a generally more modern concept than the canon setting aims at; dreamlily is supposed to be more opium than fentanyl.

That’s all for now! If you’ve got questions of your own, you can pose them on my Patreon. I also hold a live Q&A each month of patrons, and patrons at the Threshold level have a chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. You can check my Patreon out here—and if you’re already a patron, thanks for your support!

IFAQ: Potions of Longevity

August has been a month! After returning from GenCon I ended up being sidelined with COVID for a week. In addition, Wayfinder—a video game I’ve been writing for—has just gone into early access. AND, I’m going to be at PAX in Seattle this upcoming weekend; if you’re there, come find me at the Twogether Studios booth and say hi! Oh, and also, the seats for my table at D&D in a Castle are almost sold out, so if you want to be part of that, follow the link!

So, it’s been a crazy month and I haven’t had as much time or energy for writing as I’d hoped. However, when time allows I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one of those…

How common or uncommon are magics that extend someone’s lifespan in Eberron, like potions of longevity? There’s NPCs like Haldren ir’Brassek that are supposedly human, but still healthy enough at at least 120ish years old that there would be people willing to serve under him if he broke out of prison, which makes me wonder how much those types of potions might play into politics.

While there are always exceptions, largely the rarity categorization is a good indicator of how common a magic item is. Potions of Longevity are very rare, which means that they aren’t unheard of—they aren’t LEGENDARY—but at the same time they definitely aren’t mass produced or reliably available. At very rare, they aren’t being produced by House Jorasco. Because they exist, you can be sure that Jorasco is trying to create them—likely coordinating with Vadalis and the Twelve—but it hasn’t managed to crack the code.

With that said, very rare means that, again, they aren’t legendary. People have HEARD of them, even if they aren’t something you can just go to the store and purchase. This ties to the general point that especially with rarer items, don’t just think of it as a generic “potion”. Who made it? How will that affect its appearance? Are there any interesting side effects? Appearance, application, side effects—all of these should be largely cosmetic. If a potion is something you rub on your skin instead of drinking, you should still be able to do it in six seconds. A side effect might make you green for an hour, but it wouldn’t give you the Poisoned condition. I mean, it could, if that’s what you want, but that would be a distinctly inferior version of the item.

So with that in mind, let’s consider a few ways someone could acquire a very rare potion of longevity… and what those might look like. .

  • The Shadow or Sul Khatesh. The Shadow and Sul Khatesh can both be sources of powerful magic… but such magics often has a disturbing cost. A powerful priest of the Shadow or a favored warlock (or other devotee) of Sul Khatesh could learn a ritual allowing them to create a swirling crimson liquid that adds years to your life. The catch? The primary ingredient is the lifesblood of a humanoid creature; generally, to be effective, it must be a creature of the same species as the potential imbiber, and there could be additional restrictions (the blood of a virgin or the blood from someone who has never taken a life). Essentially, you are stealing their life—again, it must be their lifesblood, which is to say that they must die in the process of your taking it—and condensing it down to give you a few more years. There is a second form of this ritual that instead requires the recipient to bathe in the enchanted fluid as opposed to just drinking it. This doesn’t have the cumulative risk of accidental aging, but it takes longer and requires much more blood—the blood of multiple humanoids for one effective dose. There have been a few tyrants throughout history who have worked with a priest of the Shadow and extended their lives unnaturally in this way; while they weren’t actual vampires, they lived off the blood of their subjects.
  • The Blood of Vol. One of the basic devotions of the Seekers of the Divinity Within is the communal donation of blood. This blood is typically used to support vampires and other undead champions of the faith. However, a few Seeker priests have found a way to create a potion similar to the Shadow brew described above—a potion that can sustain a living creature through the donated lifeforce of the faithful. However, this is a divine ritual that is difficult to master and there may not be any living priests capable of performing it. Further, while it’s superior to the Shadow technique in that it doesn’t require the death of the donors, it can only draw on the blood of the faithful and it uses a significant amount of that blood (it is concentrated down into the final potion); it’s not an efficient use of the donations.
  • The Prince of Slime. The daelkyr Kyrzin creates a symbiotic ooze that can be consumed as if it was a potion, which has the same effects as a potion of longevity. The ooze spreads throughout the donor’s body, rejuvenating their flesh. However, it remains within their system forever. Should the user consume multiple potions, there is no risk of accidental aging. However, with each potion consumed, there is a 10% cumulative chance that the user’s personality and memories will be eradicated and replaced by the alien consciousness of the slime.
  • Archfey. A number of Archfey create potions of longevity. The elixir brewed by the Lady in Shadow ages someone close to the imbiber a number of years equal to the benefit the user receives; they get more life, but someone they know pays the price. The Harvest Monarch produces a potion that reduces the imbiber’s effective age… but the years come back during the winter months, only to fade again in the spring. The Mother of Invention might produce a potion that works in a manner similar to Kyrzin’s slime; it effectively reduces the age of the user, but it does so by replacing some of their internal organs with clockwork or silver thread, and there’s a cumulative 10% chance that the imbiber will become a mindless construct. The Merchant of Misthaven sells a standard potion of longevity with no unpleasant side effects; the question is what she will seek in exchange for that potion.
  • Mordain the Fleshweaver. Mordain has created a number of different forms of potions of longevity... a salve that’s rubbed into the skin, a silvery fluid similar to mercury, a glittering powder that’s inhaled. It’s unclear why he keeps making new versions; presumably, he’s trying to find the perfect form and these are all unsatisfactory. Which could again mean that there’s some long-term side effects waiting to be discovered…

With it being very rare, I wouldn’t have Jorasco producing potions of longevity. However, if they did, I’d definitely give it a catchy name and appealing flavoring. Try the new SpringStep, available in Zilberry or new Vazilla!

With all that in mind, let’s consider the second question: what’s the political impact of such things? After all, the Code of Galifar has a clause that addresses the undead, so that a vampire can’t (openly) rule forever. Would there be a similar clause dealing with potions of longevity? As written, I’m inclined to say not, for two reasons. The short form is that they aren’t that impressive. A potion of longevity extends someone’s life for up to 13 years, with a 10% cumulative chance of backfiring. So at best that’s adding 130 years of life. Which SEEMS pretty good to us, but when we’re living in a world of elves and dwarves, Haldren’s 120 years really isn’t that impressive; let’s face it, that’s the default starting age for an Aereni PC. Beyond that, there’s a lot of different things that could extend life a little. Haldren ir’Brassek is called out as having ties to the worship of the Dark Six, so I expect he’s increasing his life using techniques of the Shadow. BUT… he’s also a powerful sorcerer, which means that he’s innately magical. While I don’t think it’s suggested in the class features, I see nothing strange about the idea that a powerful Draconic Sorcerer might live an unnaturally long life. The same logic could follow for any sorcerer. Perhaps a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer has an innate form of the Mother of Invention’s potion, slowly becoming more construct over time. A Divine Soul Sorcerer could easily be sustained by celestial energy. Beyond that, you have affects of manifest zones, subtle aasimar, fey bargains… In short, if a seemingly normal human lives for centuries, people may start to wonder. But if someone who is known to be a powerful sorcerer makes it to 120 and still seems healthy? He’s clearly a remarkable person infused with supernatural energy; I don’t think people will be too surprised. Some might even say “Age isn’t what’s gonna kill Haldren.” At the same time, murdering people to extend your life is definitely against the Code of Galifar. If he’s just a (super)naturally long lived sorcerer that’s fine. If it can be proven that he ritually sacrificed people to extend his life, well, back to Dreadhold we go…

That’s all for now! If you’re at PAX this weekend make sure to drop by the Twogether booth and say hello. Thanks again to my Patrons who make these articles possible—I’ve got a number of things planned for Patreon in September.

IFAQ July Roundup: Hektula, Hidden Masterminds, Character Age and More!

The last few months have been a difficult time, culminating with the death of my mother at the end of July. A lot of work had to be sidelined and it’s going to take me a few weeks to get back up to speed, so I may not be as active this month as I’d like to be. However, I do like interacting with all of you and answering questions, so I’ll do what I can. I’m close to completing my final work for Frontiers of Eberron: Quickstone and I’ll be posting another preview for patrons before the end of the month. In the meantime, here’s a few of the interesting questions posed on Patreon in July.

How would you build Hektula as a warlock patron? Fiend? Old One? And how might you introduce her as a patron, but keep her identity a secret from the warlock?

My inclination would be to say that it’s not HEKTULA who’s the patron, but rather one of her books. She gives the book to the warlock or arranges for them to get it, and the book acts as a surrogate for her. With this in mind, the nature of the patron (Fiend, Old One, etc) reflects the nature of the book. The Fiend patron would be a version of the Demonomicon. An Archfey patron would be a book of sinister faerie tales. It’s not that the patron IS an archfey or fiend, it’s that they are sharing the secrets of archfey or fiends. These books would be artifacts. I wouldn’t make them indestructible (because I can think of a lot of ways for a player to abuse that) but if destroyed they would return to Ashtakala, and would likely be returned to the warlock. So if you think of Death Note, the warlock finds the book, and the book has a spirit or sentience associated with it that guides the warlock. The player doesn’t know that Hektula arranged for them to get the book or if the book spirit has other loyalties. But over time, they may encounter other Codex warlocks and start figuring things out.

Eberron campaigns often revolve around conspiracies and mysteries that have built up for several centuries or millennia, orchestrated by supernaturally intelligent masterminds who have been methodically concealing their presence this entire time. How do you manage to get PCs invested in these masterminds, if they cover their tracks and thus won’t reveal themselves until the final act? For example if you’re running an Emerald Claw campaign how do you make the players care about Lady Illmarrow who spends 99% of the campaign in the background more than whatever Emerald Claw minion or lieutenant does most of the heavy lifting?

I don’t. When players are dealing with the Emerald Claw, I WANT them to care about the lieutenant who does most of the heavy lifting. The original ECS specifically includes an NPC named Demise who is a recurring villain for use with the Emerald Claw; I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the changeling Garrow in my Emerald Claw campaigns. In my novel The Shattered Land, the adventurers encounter the warforged Harmattan and his crew; they are agents of the Lord of Blades, but they’re interesting on their own. Consider the original Star Wars trilogy. The mastermind behind the Empire is Palpatine. But the hero of the story doesn’t encounter him until late the the trilogy… because he’s not READY to encounter him. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is a cool badass… which itself reflects on the power of Palpatine. So: the players won’t be ready to face Illmarrow for a long time, and it makes sense to match them against Demise or Garrow. But while doing that, I want them to LEARN about Illmarrow and to come to hate her. First, her minion should name drop her all the time. Soon Illmarrow’s plans will come to fruition! Second, it should be clear that whatever terrible thing the EC is doing is in her name. She should also be credited for their powerful tools or weapons; Demise may be triggering the necrotic resonator, but she explains how it was the genius of Lady Illmarrow that created it. Demise could even share recorded messages from Illmarrow. Another possibility is for the players to fight Demise session after session… and then in the endgame discover that she WAS ILLMARROW THE WHOLE TIME… that she was toying with them for some reason, or perhaps experimenting with placing her consciousness in a living body.

What was the reasoning behind making Galifar a kingdom and not an empire?

This is a fundamentally semantic question, so I’ll start with a semantic point. I wasn’t simply the Kingdom of Galifar; it was the UNITED Kingdom of Galifar. Going as far back as the original ECS, the timeline states that in -1,012 Galifar begins his campaign to UNITE the Five Nations. Switching to Exploring Eberron, here’s a few key quotes:

After a long campaign of conquest and diplomacy, Galifar I unites the nations of Khorvaire under his rule, declaring this realm the United Kingdom of Galifar…

… Galifar didn’t just want power—he wanted to build a better world, and on many levels, he succeeded. He abolished slavery and instituted laws that promised justice for all. Over time, the kingdom would promote public education and the rise of the merchant class…

… Galifar Wynarn was a military genius, but it was his eldest daughter Cyre, twin to Aundair, who imagined the warring nations working together as a single family: Karrnathi might, Daskari faith, and the wisdom of Thaliost working together for the greater good. In crafting the map of the united kingdom, Galifar declared that Cyre would be the heart of the realm.

So Galifar didn’t conquer the Five Nations and rule over them as a tyrant. He united the Five Nations—some through force, others through diplomacy. He then instituted major new systems—education, justice—designed to improve the lives of all citizens. Crucially, Galifar’s home nation—Karrnath—was in no way elevated above the others. If anything, it was Cyre which was the first among equals, and remember that Cyre didn’t exist as a nation beforehand—the region was Metrol, and while in the other nations Galifar allowed the existing ability to retain their land, in Metrol he resettled the old nobility in order to create something new. If Karrn the Conqueror had succeeded, he would have created the Empire of Karrnath. Galifar didn’t want to create the Empire of Karrnath; he wanted to unify the previously warring nations into something entirely new—the united kingdom of Galifar. Cyre embodied this idea… as noted above, the idea of previously warring nations working together as a family.

How old is the average adventurer in Eberron? Are most of them in early adulthood, or they usually get to adventure later in life?

My immediate reaction is “There are no average adventurers.” Breaking that out a little, “adventurer” isn’t a recognized career someone prepares for… which means everyone gets there a little differently. For purposes of example, consider these adventurers from my Quickstone campaign…

  • TARI is a kalashtar orphan; we’re not actually sure how old they are, but part of the point of their character is that they’re “The Kid.”
  • The same goes for KALA SAR’KAAS, the tailor’s teenage daughter who became a bardlock by making a deal with an archfey.
  • THREE WIDOW JANE is around thirty; old enough that she had a career as a smuggler before becoming a full time rake and wandslinger, but still relatively young.
  • ROLAN HARN is in his fifties—a seasoned veteran who had a long career as a Sentinel Marshal before retiring to Quickstone.
  • SORA d’SIVIS is almost three hundred years old.

Rolan and Tari are essentially Rooster and Mattie from True Grit. Bel is in her twenties—still young, but running a successful business. Devin’s his thirties; consider that he has a teenage daughter. Sheriff Constable is a warforged, built during the war and about ten years old. The point is that each of these characters has their own story that’s led them to where they are. Tari was orphaned as a child. Rolan was discharged after a long career. Bel was forced out into the world by the Mourning. There is no AVERAGE adventurer; every adventurer should have a story, and that will determine their starting age.

The Venemous Demesne is obviously run by tieflings, and tieflings make up the upper class there. How strictly is that enforced? Are there physical or social boundaries preventing say, Lady Pyranica of House Dreygu from taking Nilah the human as a wife?

There’s no PHYSICAL boundaries. Even within the tiefling families, there are children born human sometimes—it’s embarrassing, to be sure, but humanity is in the blood. Beyond the tiefling aspect, a crucial question is POWER. If a human scion proves to be a mighty warlock or wizard, their power proves the worth of their blood. And that POWER is the key here. A noble can take any spouse they wish. But dueling plays an important role in Demesne society… and if other members of the house feel the noble is weakening the house through their choice, they can challenge the prospective spouse to a duel. If the spouse survives, they prove they are a worthy addition to the house. So if Nilah has power in her own right she’ll be fine. If she’s just a cute poet and Pyranica loves her for her sensitivity, she’s going to have a lot of trouble surviving her duels with the three Dreygu wandslingers lined up to fight her…

Since Quori are fiends, and Kalashtar are the merging of these fiends and humans, does that mean Kalashtar are basically tieflings?

In Eberron, most tieflings aren’t shaped by direct contact with fiends; they are shaped by the malefic influence of the planes. Even those who owe their tiefling nature to a fiendish connection (Sakah, Venomouns Demesne) don’t have a direct, ongoing connection to a specific fiend. Tieflings are also noted by dramatic physical manifestations. Kalashtar have subtle physical manifestations and are shaped by an ongoing spiritual connection to a specific entity. So no, I think the differences between the two are sufficient that they wouldn’t be considered to be tieflings.

That’s all for now! Thanks again to my patrons; your support allows me to continue delving into Eberron. In addition to the next Quickstone preview, this month I’ll be doing another live Q&A on the Patreon Discord and running the next session of my Frontiers campaign. If any of that sounds interesting, check out Patreon!

Random Rolls: Forgotten Civilizations

My previous article calls out the fact that there may have been hundreds of civilizations that rose and fell over the course of the Age of Demons. Most of these cultures were directly influenced or guided by one of the overlords, which would allow rapid progress along a particular path and, most likely, an apocalyptic end; for Rak Tulkhesh, the only reason to create a civilization is to watch it fight increasingly brutal wars until it finally falls or destroys itself.

The Age of Demons came to an end a hundred thousand years ago, and many of these civilizations are millions of years old. Combined with their dramatic falls, few have left any traces of their existence. However, it’s always possible adventurers could fine a relic or a vault tied to one of these primordial civilizations, or encounter a vision of the past. These tables provide a quick foundation for a random civilization. The first presents a nation that could have existed on ancient Khorvaire. The second suggests a patron overlord and how that association would influence the culture. It may seem like the overlord should override the entry on the first table—that a civilization tied to Sul Khatesh should always be noteworthy for its arcane magic and that a nation created by Rak Tulkhesh would always be militant and known for its soldiers or weapons of war. But the two elements can co-exist. A nation crafted by Sul Khatesh will have magic as part of everyday life. But if the first table suggests it’s a militant empire known for its weapons of war, add arcane magic to that; its weapons of war are siege staffs or rituals of mass destruction. Rak Tulkhesh could create an isolated league of halflings known for their scholars and sages; but the scholars would be studying the nature of war and they would periodically emerge from isolated to ransack their neighbors.

This table is tied to Khorvaire, and as a result doesn’t include humans, giants, or dragons as the foundation of a nation. The category Extinct Creatures suggests something that was wiped out during the Age of Demons; if you get this result you could decide that there were humans or giants in Khorvaire in the past, or you could use a species that is completely unknown in the present day.

I have yet to write about the history of Khorvaire before the Dhakaani Empire, and you could use this table to create nations that might have existed during the Age of Giants. In this case you only need to use the first table; the question is what ultimately became of the civilization, if it’s completely unknown in the present day.

Ancient Civilizations

Roll on each column (or choose a result) to create a nation that once existed on Khorvaire!

d12A …Of…Noteworthy for its…
1DecliningEmpireOrcsArcane Magic
2WartornRepublicHalflingsSoldiers
3IsolatedLeagueGnomesPoetry or Music
4OppressiveKingdomGoblinoidsWeapons of War
5BrutalTheocracySentient BeastsSpiritual Beliefs
6CruelClanDwarvesMassive Monuments
7PrimitiveTribeLizardfolkBeasts or Monstrosities
8UnstableDynastyCentaursWarlocks
9MilitantOrderTieflingsHidden Celestials
10FanaticalCultMinotaursConstructs and Artifice
11PowerfulGuildKoboldsCrime Syndicates
12TerrifyingInstitutionExtinct CreaturesScholars and Sages

Overlord’s Influence

What overlord is associated with the civilization, and how is its influence felt?

d10Overlord’s Cultural Impact
1Sul Khatesh. Dangerous magic. The society could be based around arcane science, with powerful wizards and artificers and oppressive mystical industry. Or it could be a civilization driven by secretive warlocks—though these warlocks would likely all have pacts with fiendish lieutenants of Sul Khatesh. Magic is dangerous and common people live in fear of it.
2Rak Tulkhesh. Engine of War. This civilization will be obsessed with war. It could be an mighty imperial power engaged in constant military expansion, or it could be driven by endless internal conflict—rival warlords constantly testing strength and crushing anyone who shows weakness.
3Bel Shalor. Fear and Loathing. This society will be driven by fear. Its people fear one another just as much as they fear external enemies. It will have excessive fortifications and security measures, along with hosts of secret police. People often succumb to their own worst impulses. Shadows may play an active role as allies, tools, or as a threat.
4Eldrantulku. Endless Intrigue. The Oathbreaker delights in intrigue and betrayal. His nations will be filled with secret societies, mystery cults, and complex political systems rife with backstabbing and corruption.
5Tul Oreshka. Hermits and Heretics. The Truth in the Darkness revels in revelations. Any society driven by Tul Oreshka would be driven by visions and moments of inspirations. Given that Tul Oreshka delights in the fear of secrets revealed, there could be a powerful central authority—whether a church, library, or government—that is forever fighting against schims, heretics, and rebels. Poetry and other art from such a nation might be very powerful.
6Katashka. The Quick and the Dead. The Gatekeeper thrives on the fear of death and the undead. This could be internal—a nation ruled by tyrannical lich-lords or vampires who terrify their living suspects. Or it could be external, with a nation endlessly struggling to hold off a plague of the restless dead.
7Tol Kharash. The Iron Fist. The Horned King promotes soul-crushing tyranny. Any society he creates will brutally oppress its own people, as well as seeking to subjugate others. Compared to Eldrantulku or Bel Shalor, this oppression will be active and physical; the Horned King lacks the subtlety of those other overlords.
8The Daughter of Khyber. Dragonfear. As with Katashka and undead, the Daughter of Khyber delights in mortal fear of dragons. The cultures she creates could serve draconic masters and work together to terrify other nations… Or, the society could be driven by utter fear of dragons, scraping to raise tribute for their dragon lords and forever rebuilding from the last attack.
9Masvirik. Hidden Serpents. The Cold Sun delights in warmblooded fears. Lizardfolk or kobold societies could be early variations of the Poison Dusk. A culture based on another species could be an excellent place for spontaneous yuan-ti—with the common folk living in fear of the malevolent serpents hidden in their midst. I also imagine elaborate traditions of poison…
10Ashurak. Plague and Pestilence. The Slow Death trades in disease. Ashurak’s nations might live in constant fear of a perennial plague, going to great lengths to watch for signs of infection and ruthlessly sealing away anyone who shows symptoms. Alternately—like the Plaguebearers of the present day—Ashurak’s people could be carriers for a disease they’re immune to, taking it into the territories of other overlords like missionaries spreading the word.

Keep in mind that a single overlord could seed multiple civilizations at once. Rak Tulkhesh could shape a powerful league of orcs known for their weapons of war and a brutal clan of dwarves known for their soldiers, because he wants to watch them fight and see which successfully evolves into a cruel empire known for its massive monuments.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. I will be doing a live Q&A on my Patreon Discord for patrons at 9 AM Pacific Time on Saturday, July 22nd. If you’re interested in joining live or watching the recording—or in playing in a session of my ongoing Eberron campaign—check out my Patreon!

IFAQ: The Near Future

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one from this month…

With a complete lack of Player interaction, what major events would play out in your Eberron in the five years following 998 YK?

I have an Eberron one-shot that I’ve run 59 times. It never gets boring for me, because it’s filled with interesting decision points and choices for the players. I’ve never gotten bored with running it, because every time I run I see something I’ve never seen before—every group of players comes up with something no one else has tried. It’s like I get to watch my favorite movie over and over, but it surprises me every time.

Eberron overall is the same thing for me. 998 YK is a nexus of possible dramatic events—far more than you could incorporate into a single campaign. This is intentional, because an Eberron story can be so many different things—gritty noir in Callestan, globetrotting expeditions with the Clifftop adventurers, horror, intrigue, and more. Every campaign I run engages with different elements and thus takes a different path. A key part of this is that I never use all the major villains in one campaign. I’ve said before that with the Dreaming Dark, the Lords of Dust, and the Daelkyr, I’ll pick one to play a major role and use the others sparingly. Most of these major threats are working on plans that spans centuries, and it’s easy enough to say that none of the overlords are close to release right now or that it’s going to take another decade for the Dreaming Dark to set a scheme in motion.

So, for example… In the next five years, will there be war between Droaam and Breland? Well, even if you remove player characters from the equation, is the Dreaming Dark involved (in which case they might be interested in promoting unity and manipulate people to drive peace) or does the overlord Tol Kharash seek to inspire war? Are the Heirs of Dhakaan going to emerge in force or are they going to hold off for another decade? I can’t just give you a list of “This is what would happen in the next five years” because the answer will change with every campaign I set up; it will depend on which of the major powers are manipulating the world in the background, whether the tone is grim horror or over the top pulp action, and so much more. With that said, what I can do is to call out what those major events would be. The OUTCOME will depend on the forces involved… but these are a few of the factors that I’d want to address in any campaign that covers that period.

Droaam seeks recognition. As Droaam continues to rise, will it eventually be accepted as a Thronehold nation, in which case Droaamites will be more widely seen across Khorvaire? Or will fear and intolerance drive Breland into war with Droaam, with or without the support of other Thronehold Nations? This is something that comes up in my novel The Queen of Stone, which is set during 999 YK.

King Boranel dies. What happens next? Does the Brelish monarchy come to an end, and if so, does this have any broader impact on the other Wynarn monarchs? Or do the loyalists coalesce around a surprisingly effective heir—and if so, is that heir secretly a figurehead for the Dreaming Dark, a servant of the Lords of Dust, or beholden to the Twelve and to House interests?

Someone fights Valenar. The Valenar want someone to attack them, and will continue to poke at hornet’s nests. Darguun or Karrnath are the most likely to respond, but anything’s possible. Here again—the Tairnadal want a war so they can emulate the deeds of their ancestors. But does some other force have an interest in this conflict? Could the Valenar be collectively possessed by Rak Tulkhesh? Is their a Cult of the Dragon Below spreading through the Tairnadal—could that elf warrior have a tongueworm hidden beneath his Zaelta veil?

Haruuc dies. As seen in Don Bassingthwaite’s Legacy of Dhakaan novels. What happens next? Does someone manage to fill the void, and if so, are they puppets of the Dreaming Dark or the Lords of Dust? Do the Heirs of Dhakaan emerge openly? Or does Darguun fall into chaos?

Arcane science advances. The last 30 years have brought us warforged, airships, and colossi. What’s coming next? I’d chose 2-3 major breakthroughs that could have a significant impact on the story. Do we improve teleportation circles? Come up with a Sending-based improvement to communication, or something like radio? A weapon? Or, as seen in my Siberspace campaign… spelljammers?

The Lord of Blades escalates. The Lord of Blades wants to make a dramatic statement, and I’m sure he will do SOMETHING major in the next five years… anything from urging a violent warforged uprising in Sharn to unleashing Cannith superweapons recovered from the Mournland. While his intentions may be pure—he’s dedicated to the cause of his people—is he an unknowing puppet of one of the ancient powers?

What’s up with the Dragonmarked Houses? Beyond any advances in arcane science, a number of houses are already pushing the limits of the Korth Edicts. Do any seek to more actively exert political influence or to expand their power within the world? Does Cannith get a single baron or does it break into multiple houses like Thuranni and Phiarlan? Do any rivalries—notably Deneith and Tharashk—grow deeper?

Kaius III is challenged. Many of the warlords of Karrnath are unhappy with Kaius’s pursuit of peace… and those potential usurpers could be manipulated by anyone from Rak Tulkhesh to Lady Illmarrow. A coup or civil war could start within Karrnath, or it could be triggered by an outside, like the exile Drego Thul. And whatever path you choose, Kaius has secrets… what happens if they are exposed?

An ancient power is released. Consider the story of Tira Miron. She ultimately prevents the overlord Bel Shalor from fully escaping their bonds. But the saga begins with Bel Shalor being partially released—starting a year of blood and fire, as the overlord’s power and its fiends spread across Thrane. There’s literally dozens of overlords, along with the daelkyr. I could definitely imagine a campaign in which the adventurers don’t have the opportunity to prevent an overlord from being released; the partial release is what sets the campaign in motion, and the adventurers must battle against the chaos it brings to the world and try to return it to its prison.

Aurala wants a war. Does she get it? On a small scale, this could revolve around Thaliost or the Eldeen Reaches. On a large scale, Aurala wants to reignite the Last War and claim the throne of reunited Galifar. But to do this, she’d need reason to believe she could win—an unbeatable alliance (with Riedra? With an overlord?) or an arcane superweapon that no nation can stand against. This also ties to…

An answer to the Mourning? The major factor preventing the Next War is fear of the Mourning. As long as people don’t know what caused the Mourning, they are afraid to go back to war. If it’s a weapon, someone could have that weapon; if it was an environmental effect caused by the overuse of war magic, restarting the war could cause the Mournland to expand. The mystery of the Mourning is the deterrent. If that mystery is solved, the key questions will be who solves it; whether that answer allows them to replicate or control the Mourning; or whether the answer proves that war magic IS dangerous, making it difficult to pursue war.

These are major points I’d be thinking about, but there’s so many more! Do the Heirs of Dhakaan unite under a single leader and emerge in force? Does Oargev establish a new Cyre? Is there a change in relations with Riedra, or perhaps a dramatic shift in the stalemate between Riedra and Adar? Looking back to the original question, I can’t tell you which of these things WILL happen or how they will play out, because it’s all going to depend on the story I feel like telling as I set up the campaign… do I want a war story? Do I want it to explore corporate overreach or advancements in arcane science? Just like my convention one-shot… If I run 59 Eberron campaigns, I expect to see 59 different paths for the future.

That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the article, please consider checking out my Patreon! In addition to asking the questions that drive articles like this, my Patreon support directly determines how much time I can spend creating Eberron content in the future. I’m also doing a monthly live Q&A, and Threshold patrons have the chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. And for the month of July, patrons can get a special discount on Exploring Eberron! Check it out, and thanks to all of you who are already patrons!

IFAQ: The Grand Duke of Atur

When time permits I like to answer questions posed by my Patrons. Many are simple; others require more thought. It’s taken me a few months to address this question, and you may want to read this article on Atur before you dive into it. With that said…

In your Eberron, who is the Duke of Atur and what do his personal agenda and political aspirations look like? 

Delve into the pre-Galifar history of Karrnath and you’ll find references to the “Dark Ages.” This was a time of tyrants and feuding warlords, but the use of dark doesn’t refer to this brutality… rather, it’s a reference to the literal darkness found in Karrnath during this period. There were vast shadow lands, barren stretches where clinging mists obscured the sun. These shadow lands posed a threat even to those who shunned them. Shadows, wights, and other deadly undead would rise within the mists and emerge to threaten the surrounding lands. These shadow lands are powerful manifest zones tied to Mabar. While fighting tyrants and warlords, the first followers of the Divinity Within often took shelter in shadow lands, and they learned how to manipulate the Mabaran energies with their rituals. And over time they found ways to channel these energies—using some of this power to raise skeletons and zombies to help with everyday life, and dispersing additional Mabaran energy in ways that limited its impact on the flora and fauna of the region. The people of the surrounding regions soon learned that the Seekers were useful neighbors—that even if their necromantic practices were disturbing, it was better to have skeletal farmers on the border than bloodthirsty wights crossing it. 

The region where Atur now stands is one of the most powerful Mabaran manifest zones in Khorvaire, known in records as the Lake of Sorrows. The necromancer Duran dispersed the shadows of this “lake” and built a fortress for his followers here, and over the course of time this expanded to become the city of Atur. When the other warlords joined together to support the first Queen of Karrnath, Duran chose to stand apart: his loyalty was to his followers and to their faith. While some urged the Queen to destroy the Seekers, she remembered the horrors that once emerged from the Lake of Shadows, and preferred to keep those forces in check. So she negotiated an arrangement with Duran—one preserved to this day, granting Atur the status of a semi-independent palatinate. It was in Atur that Kaius I negotiated with the Seekers of the Divinity Within, and it holds the Vaults of the Dead where most of Karrnath’s undead forces are held in reserve, patiently waiting to return to the battlefield. Despite Moranna’s edicts condemning the Blood of Vol, the crown needs the Seekers to contain the Lake of Sorrows and to maintain the Vaults of the Dead. And so Atur remains a proud Grand Duchy and a stronghold of the Blood of Vol… and the Grand Duke Davian Karla is its ruler. 

The Blood of Vol was born from the blending of the traditions of Aereni exiles and human rebels. Davian is a Khoravar who can trace his bloodlines back to Duran the Wise and the shadow-touched towers of Shae Deseir. Though his title of Grand Duke entitles him to use the ir suffix, his parents weren’t nobles and Davian is proud of his lowly roots; he enjoys the discomfort of his fellow warlords when they remember how he earned his title. Because as a palatinate, Atur isn’t bound by the traditions of Karrnath, and the title of Grand Duke isn’t hereditary. It is bound to a second title… Warden of the Lake of Shadows. There is a core of Mabaran energy at the heart of Atur, a force first contained by the Seeker Duran. Binding this power is a crucial part of holding the harmful energies of the region at bay. It is a task that requires tremendous willpower, faith, and an understanding of necromantic science… and the favor of the Lake itself. When the Grand Duke of Atur is lost, any resident of Atur can seek to claim the title. The process is simple. An applicant must descend to a chamber below the great palace, immerse themselves in the ever-spreading pool of shadows… and drive a dagger into their heart. While dying, they must draw the shadows into their body and bind this Mabaran power to their blood. No one lives through this ritual: they will either be reborn as the Warden of the Lake of Shadows, or die in the darkness and be forgotten. Going forward, the Grand Duke is infused with this power. It sustains them, protecting them from age and disease. They are alive—mechanically, using the Reborn lineage. But their body is now bound to the shadow, and they do not heal normally. When they are seriously injured, flesh falls away to reveal the shadow within. Eventually—when shadow outweighs flesh—the Grand Duke will be drawn into Mabar as a wraith. Duran escaped this fate by becoming a lich, but every Warden who’s followed him has eventually been consumed by this darkness. 

Davian Karla has been Grand Duke of Atur for 235 years. He was 33 when he claimed the title—a necromantic prodigy, and one of the youngest people to successfully claim the title. He is not as powerful a practical necromancer as Malevanor or the late Gyrnar Shult; but it is his deep understanding of the principles of necromancy and his devotion to the Seeker faith that allows him to contain the Lake of Shadows. He is an elegant Khoravar with pale skin and shining dark hair that he usually wears in a plaited braid. The irises of his eyes are ever-shifting gray, forever reflecting the Lake of Shadows. Davian is tall and thin, but not gaunt; he moves with an easy grace, like water flowing against stone. His fine, dark clothing generally hides his most distinctive feature. During the Last War he lost his left arm and upper left shoulder, along with strips of his left chest and lung. Where once there was flesh, now there is shadow—a misty replica of the limb he once had. While he is conscious, he can choose to make this phantom limb substantial, and so he usually hides it beneath silk and leather. But should he choose, Davian can make his arm insubstantial; there are stories of him reaching into a rivals’ chest and running ghostly fingers across their heart. 

Davian’s primary motivation is to protect Atur and to maintain it as a bastion of the Blood of Vol. During the Last War, he played a vital role in negotiating the Seeker alliance with the crown and overseeing the construction of the Vaults of the Dead. In the present day he navigates a difficult path, balancing the resentment of many warlords and their desire to scapegoat the Seekers for Karrnath’s setbacks with the fact that Karrnath needs the Seekers to maintain the Vaults and to contain deadly Mabaran energies. He is equally skilled with intimidation and persuasion; he can play on the fears of those unnerved by his ghostly halflife and the power he possesses, but he can be extremely charming when circumstances require. Atur is a city that celebrates life, and Grand Duke Karla embraces that; he loves poetry and dancing, and often joins his people in the streets during wild nights. While he is angry about how the Seekers have been treated, he does all that he can to maintain his relationship with King Kaius III and Queen Etrigani. He does not seek to expand his holdings, because it is the Mabaran foundation of Atur that ensures no other warlord could ever claim it. But he is determined to maintain its independence and to ensure it remains a sanctuary for the Blood of Vol. 

Davian Karla is a committed Seeker. He is not a priest, but his role as Warden of the Lake of Sorrows commands the respect of other Seekers; while he can never fully unlock the power of the Divinity Within, he holds the deadly shadows at bay with the strength of his mind and blood. He has resisted the influence of Lady Illmarrow and despises the Order of the Emerald Claw for tarnishing the reputation of Seekers both in Karrnath and beyond; however, he is in touch with the Crimson Covenant and abides by their commands. As the vessel of the Lake of Sorrows, he cannot travel more than sixty miles from Atur; there is a supernatural gravity tying him to the city, and his body cannot be moved further even against his will. 

How powerful is Davian? That’s up to the DM. It could be that he contains the power of the Lake but cannot wield it; likewise, it could be that his necromantic knowledge is reflected by expertise in Arcana but not by practical spellcasting. On the other hand, it could be that he possesses vast power he just almost never exercises. Davian Karla is alive; for now he is a humanoid, not undead. But it could be that he has the power of a Death Knight and could use that stat block. He doesn’t usually wear armor and he’s alive; but he could possess all of the other abilities and traits of a Death Knight. Regardless, he is a skilled swordsman and served in the military before he became Grand Duke; in battle he can choose whether to fight with a weapon or to strike with his phantom grip. His ghostly touch mimics the life drain attack of a wraith: +11 to hit, 4d8+5 necrotic damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 16 constitution saving throw or have their hit point maximum reduced by the damage taken. Again, it could be that this grip is the only dramatic supernatural ability he possesses, or it could be that he is one of the most dangerous beings in Karrnath… who wants to find out? 

How would you use him in a story? Grand Duke Davian Karla is a powerful figure working to protect the Seekers and their interests. But aside from the diplomatic maze he navigates, he is also the governor of an important province and has countless duties to oversee and attend to. Beyond this, after two centuries governing the infamous City of Night, Davian is widely known across Karrnath—and he can’t go far from his city. Taking all of these factors together, Davian needs capable agents to help him as he strives to help the Seekers. Depending on their beliefs and allegiances, Davian could support an entire party of adventurers. Alternately, he could be the secret patron of a single Seeker character, providing instructions through spectral messengers (let’s call them “undead drops”). He could push his agents to quietly oppose the Emerald Claw while minimizing the damage the Claw does to the reputation or the Blood of Vol. He could have them help other Seekers in trouble, or acquire necromantic lore or artifacts sought by the priests of the Crimson Monastery. Or he could need help with more mundane issues—dealing with diplomatic rivals or undermining rival warlords. 

One question the DM must decide is the relationship between Davian and Kaius III—which in turn depends on the path they’ve decided to take with Kaius. It is possible that Davian is a close confidante of Kaius III, working to help him fight Lady Illmarrow while maintaining the King’s secrets. Or it’s possible that there is a bitter divide between them—that Davian maintains a diplomatic relationship, but doesn’t know the king’s secrets and blames Kaius for the difficulties the Seekers are facing. 

If the adventurers oppose the Blood of Vol—perhaps lumping all Seekers in with the Order of the Emerald Claw—then Davian could be a dangerous enemy. Or, in your Eberron, you could decide that Grand Duke Karla has embraced Lady Illmarrow and that he is giving the Emerald Claw a safe haven within Atur. As always, it’s a question of the story you want to tell. Could the Grand Duke of Atur be a powerful ally, or is he a deadly foe? 

That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the article, please consider checking out my Patreon! In addition to asking the questions that drive articles like this, my Patreon support directly determines how much time I can spend creating Eberron content in the future. I’m also doing a monthly live Q&A, and Threshold patrons have the chance to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. Check it out, and thanks to all of you who are already patrons!

IFAQ: Kobold Character Hooks

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, someone asks…

Could you expound on the role of kobolds in Eberron? They often seem to be lumped together with goblins as “small, chaotic humanoids oppressed by those in power,” but they don’t have anything as interesting as the Dhakaani or Khesh’dar hooks that the goblins have. What are some interesting hooks for kobold characters?

Before looking at kobolds, take a moment to consider orcs in Khorvaire. In the Demon Wastes, the devout Ghaash’kala fight fiends and channel the power of Kalok Shash. In the Mror Holds, the Jhorash’tar follow the Path of Bones. In the Shadow Marches you have the rising corporate power of House Tharashk, the ancient primal Gatekeepers, and those who cling to the Old Ways of the Dragon Below. Just next door in Droaam, there’s the peaceful culture of the Gaa’ran and the aggressive Gaa’aram.

Kobolds are just as diverse as orcs; we just haven’t had time to explore many of their cultures in depth. I don’t have time to go into detail now, but here’s a quick overview of some of the canonical kobold cultures.

The Seawall Mountains. Kobolds have a strong presence in the Seawall Mountains and have often clashed with Zil gnomes seeking to expand their mining operations. This is one of the main places where you’ll find the iredar and irvhir cultures described in this early Dragonshard article. Rather than the traditional association with flesh and blood dragons, these kobolds believe that they have a direct connection to the PROGENITOR dragons.

Zil Kobolds. The Zil clash with the iredar and irvhir in the mountains, but over the centuries there are kobolds who have chosen to live alongside gnomes, sharing their cultures. This isn’t as strong a blending as you see between orcs and humans in the Shadow Marches; there’s only a few such villages along the edge of the Seawall Mountains. But because of this, you can find kobold agents of the Trust, kobolds teaching at Korranberg colleges, and so on.

Stormreach. City of Stormreach infamously suggests that there’s a bounty on kobold hides in Stormreach. This is a nod to the grinding needs of the video game set in Stormreach, and not something I use in my campaign. In my Stormreach kobolds have an important role in the community maintaining the sewers and serving as guides to the lower levels of the ancient city. And, of course, the kobold Hassalac Chaar is one of the most powerful spellcasters in the setting.

Q’barra and the Poison Dusk. We haven’t talked much about the peaceful kobolds of Q’barra, and they could follow the same iredar/irvhir traditions as the Seawall kobolds. But what we have said is that the kobolds of Q’barra are especially vulnerable to the influence of the Cold Sun and are frequently found within the Poison Dusk—recently discussed in this article. So if you’re looking for kobolds serving an evil dragon, Rhashaak and the Poison Dusk are what you need.

The Oppressed People of the Barrens. As called out in Exploring Eberron, kobolds and goblins have long been oppressed in the Barrens of what is now Droaam. This is beginning to change with the rise of Droaam, most notably because of Kethelrax the Cunning and Shaarat Kol. However, Kethelrax is still fighting on behalf of Shaarat Kol and of those smallfolk still suffering cruelty at the hands of tyrannical chibs.

Kanonical Kobolds of Droaam. Just as you have the Gaa’aram and Gaa’ran orcs in Droaam, there are multiple kobold cultures in Droaam. Frontiers of Eberron discusses the Khaar’paal, kobold spreads across the Graywall Mountains. The Khaar’paal are referenced in the Kethelrax article I linked above, but here’s another tiny preview from Frontiers. Keep in mind that this specifically refers to a small group of Khaar’paal artisans living on the edge of Quickstone; they come from a city in the Graywall Mountains that is largely and considerably more sophisticated than Quickstone.

The Khaar’paal are a group of about sixty kobolds camped on the southern edge of the Tents. They don’t work metal; their tents are made of leather, their tools of wood and stone. At a glance most assume these kobolds are a primitive nomadic tribe. This assumption is wrong on every count. Khaar’paal means “mageblood“, and the Khaar’paal kobolds have an innate talent for arcane magic not unlike that of a sorcerer. They may not use metal, but they have talented magewrights who make use of mending, prestidigitation, magecraft, continual flame and similar magical techniques and tools, and work with exotic materials like quickstone and wyvern hide. Their wands may not be as well-tooled as those produced by House Cannith, but the Khaar’paal scouts are wandslingers as capable as any Brelish arcane dragoon.

So how about some hooks?

The above examples are just some of the kobold cultures in Eberron. But any of these could provide a foundation for a kobold adventure. Consider…

  • A Zil kobold sage—a former Korranberg professor who might secretly be an agent of the Trust.
  • A Stormreach kobold sorcerer who’s a child of Hassalac Chaar. They could be adventuring on a mission from their father, or they could just be a nepo baby out on a lark.
  • A Droaamite champion of the Dark Six. Proud to be a vessel of their deity, and willing to challenge anyone who dares look down upon them. A cleric or bard tied to the Fury could seek to rally and inspire allies; a kobold paladin of the Fury could be a holy avenger determined to right the wrongs they see in visions.
  • A Droaamite agent of Kethelrax the Cunning, sent out into the wider world to gather allies and resources for Shaarat Kol, and perhaps to hunt down envoys of Rhesh Turakbar or others who have abused the smallfolk of Droaam in the past.
  • A Khaar’paal wandslinger looking to make their fortune among the slow-moving softskins of the east.
  • A Seawall iredar kobold druid or ranger who believes they are guided by Eberron herself, following a series of visions.
  • A Q’barran kobold warlock who was part of the Poison Dusk. They broke the fiendish hold of the Poison Dusk and they’ve fled Q’barra to put some distance between them and its influence, but they are still tapping its powers and gifts as a warlock… slightly afraid that every use of its power could be pulling them back into its thrall.

Random Kobolds

So, there’s a lot of options for kobolds. When you meet a kobold on the road, what could their story be? You can easily choose the answer drawing on any ideas above, but if you know me you know I love a random rolling table, so here’s one for kobolds. While this can get you some very random possibilities, you can generally figure out which culture they might relate to. Kobold warlocks are probably tied to irvhir or the Poison Dusk… though they don’t have to be! Likewise, a kobold artificer could be a Khaar’paal alchemist, or perhaps they’re a Zil prodigy who studied evocation at Korranberg and designed siege staffs during the Last War!

d8A…KoboldWho is…
1EnthusiasticSorcerer… Working for the Trust.
2GrimWarlock… Possessed by a fiend.
3ElderlyCleric… Fabulously wealthy.
4BrilliantWandslinger… Seeking revenge.
5ArtisticArtificer… Carrying a powerful magic item.
6YoungPaladin… Guided by a vision.
7EmotionalBard… On the run.
8ArrogantNoble… Possibly a dragon in disguise.

That’s all for now! If you’d like to see more articles or ask your own questions, check out my Patreon! I run a monthly campaign that patrons can play in, and I’ll be doing a live Q&A for patrons on June 28th.