As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few from this month!
Is there an equivalent to the phonograph in Eberron? If so, how accessible is it?
In this article I gave my thoughts on the equivalent of photography in Eberron. So, what about recorded sound? Well, Eberron is about the every day application of magic. Is there a spell of 3rd level or below that could reasonably be applied to produce a similar effect? Absolutely. Minor illusion is a cantrip that allows the reproduction of sound… and spellshards are crystals that hold data. And who loves music AND has a talent for illusion? So, putting that all together…
If you attend the Tain Gala, Celyria will show you her latest acquisition—a Phiarlan hydra. The base of this wonder is a cube of black stone. A four-headed hydra is engraved on its top, and the mouth of each hydra is a spherical depression that can hold a polished globe of wood embedded with a tiny dragonshard. Each of these “marbles” holds a performance by one of Phiarlan’s finest musicians. But the hydra has a fifth head, sculpted from copper and wood, rising up from the base. When you activate the hydra, it draws out the sound of the performance held within one of the marbles and projects it through the sculpted head, as clear as if you were there. So come to the Tain gala, and hear the hydra sing!
Personally (largely because it’s never been mentioned before) I’m inclined to make the hydra a recent development that’s currently only available to the wealthy. But the principles aren’t terribly complicated — it’s cantrip level magic — so I could see it quickly gaining popularity and spreading. PCs with the entertainer background could be encouraged to record some marbles for Phiarlan! Also, if you’re interested in the idea of broadcast audio entertainment in Eberron, check out the House Sivis Echoer Station!
Do the Poison Dusk lizardfolk of Q’barra have any significant musical/artistic customs?
Certainly! But it’s important to remember that the Poison Dusk aren’t exclusively lizardfolk and that they aren’t a traditional culture. As called out in Dungeon 185, the Poison Dusk includes kobolds, troglodytes, lizardfolk, and dragonborn—including mutants like the blackscale lizardfolk. They aren’t a culture that has evolved over time; they are victims of Masvirik, whose personalities and memories have been eroded and overwritten by the power of the Cold Sun. Their leaders are actively (if often only partially) possessed by fiends.
So with all that in mind, in thinking about ANY of the customs of the Poison Dusk, I would want them to feel eerie and alien—to help convey the concept that these are people who are all, on some level, shaped by fiendish influences.
Considering all this, what comes to my mind is the Hissing Chorus. This is a rhythmic, ululating hissing, at its base almost like the sound of wind. This hissing is supplemented by body percussion, each participant using a single hand to tap claws against scales, or potentially to scrape claws against another surface — essentially, adding fingernails on a blackboard to a musical performance. The key to all of this is that the rhythm is seemingly random, asymmetric and unpredictable, yet all participants work in perfect unison; it’s an ecstatic experience driven by instinct, something that draws the musicians into communion with the Cold Sun. The Hissing Chorus is encountered in many ways and with varying intensity. A single Poison Dusk may effectively whistle while they work, hissing quietly to themself. A troop will hiss as they march, with greater force and intensity. And a Poison Dusk community may hiss together as a writhing mob, guided by a dusk-shard imbued champion who voice is amplified by magic, potentially with instrumentalists using hide drums and scraping surfaces that send chills through anyone within range. But the PRINCIPLE is the same throughout, and crucially, the song is something that is constantly evolving; it’s more like speaking in tongues than playing a treasured symphony. Because the Poison Dusk has no lengthy history; time and time again, they have been hunted down by the Trothslorsvek and the Masvirik’uala, only to rise once more, hissing their eerie, endless song.
That’s all for now! If you have questions of your own, join my Patreon. As always, thanks to my patrons for making this site and these articles possible!
Hey all! I’m currently in New York City. As you can see in the picture above, I just saw the musical Hadestown; I loved it, which is no particular surprise, given that Dolurrh basically exists to provide an opportunity for adventurers to venture to the underworld to try to rescue loved ones!
I am still working on my next Dragonmark article, but I wanted to answer a few of the interesting questions that have been raised by my Patreon supporters. I’ll also be running the next session of my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on Patreon soon, so if you’re interested in play in a session with me, check that out! In the meantime…
How might you fit Nilbogs into Eberron?Is there a way you would fit an immortal trickster spirit that possesses goblinoids into your eberron?
The nilbog was introduced in the original Fiend Folio as a sort of joke—a goblin who is healed when it should suffer damage, and who can only be hurt if you cast healing spells on it. It’s goblin backwards, get it? Monsters of the Multiverse brought a number of Fiend Folio classics into 5E, including the nilbog. The 5E nilbog isn’t quite as extreme as the original. It has a reaction—Reversal of Fortune—that allows it to reduce a source of damage to zero and to heal as a result, and this is the only way it can be hurt. But this is a reaction; once the nilbog has used up its reaction it can suffer damage normally. And it can’t benefit from healing magic, but you can’t KILL a 5E nilbog by casting cure wounds on it.
The 5E nilbog is presented as a trickster spirit that only possesses goblins, which an explanation tied to the deity Maglubiyet. My immediate reaction is that the core idea of the nilbog—a trickster who can’t easily be defeated by brute force—is a fun concept, but that in Eberron there’s no particular reason it would have to be a GOBLIN. Its key abilities—Reversal of Fortune, a sanctuary—like effect that charms creatures that try to attack it, a 2d4 mocking word and at-will use of hideous laughter—could easily be applied to other base statblocks. TSo with that in mind, there’s a few different ways I could imagine using the basic idea of the nilbog in my campaign.
Mocking Joy. In fifth edition, nilbogs are presented as fey. It’s easy to imaging an archfey—a cousin of Fortune’s Fool—who challenges tyrants and mocks the mighty, laughing at all threats; let’s call them Mocking Joy. This archfey has a strong connection to a manifest zone in Droaam, and historically nilbogs have almost exclusively been encountered among the oppressed kobolds and goblins of the Barrens. Many scholars BELIEVE that it’s a goblin-only condition, hence the use of the term “nilbog”—but this is inaccurate. Any humanoid Mocking Joy deems a worthy avatar—typically an oppressed underdog—could be granted the chaotic gifts of nilbogism; this would also cause them to become a fey creature for the duration of this possession.
Gift of the Traveler. A trickster who laughs in the face of danger and sows chaos? This sounds like an excellent option for a devotee of the Traveler, perhaps an agent of the Cabinet of Faces. In this case I wouldn’t make it external possession, but rather a sort of ecstatic communion; the devotion channels the Traveler and gains the abilities of a nilbog for the duration of that experience. While such nilbogs could be goblins, any humanoid would be an option; most often I’d be inclined to make these nilbogs changelings, which would add another trick to their mischievous arsenal. While I’ve suggested that this would be a case of the nilbog voluntarily invoking the Traveler, it could be switched to suggest that there’s a place at which anyone could be temporarily possessed, acting as a nilbog and not being able to remember anything that happens during the possession. However, because of the nature of faith in Eberron I’d personally say that this can only affect devout Vassals or followers of another Sovereign variant—that it’s not an external spirit like a quori, it’s still a manifestation of the victim’s own faith. They KNOW what the Traveler is like, and they are temporarily compelled to act as if they were the Traveler. If I went down THIS path, I might concievably create similar forms of ecstatic possession for other members of the Sovereigns and Six!
The Touch of Xoriat. The nilbog is typically presented as a hilarious, mischevious trickster. But what if it wasn’t? Consider its core abilities. When you try to attack the nilbog, it can break your mind, temporarily turning your aggression into blind adoration. It can inflict psychic damage and shake your confidence simply by speaking to you (Mocking Word). And it can twist reality, turning a deadly attack into a soothing balm. This CAN be wacky fun… but it could also be terrifying. Rather than a fey gift, I could see it as the result of a strange bond to Xoriat. I’d say that they first appeared in Eberron during the Xoriat incursion and the subsequent collapse of Dhakaan, and as such scholars THINK it’s a goblin-only condition… but again, that any creature could develop these abilities, and I’d make them aberrations instead of fey. They could be tied to a particular daelkyr, but I also kind of like it as a more general effect of Xoriat rather than daelkyr engineering. I’ll note that while these nilbogs wouldn’t be wacky fey tricksters, I’d be inclined to say that the connection to Xoriat shift their perception of reality, and that they would be amoral and inclined to cause chaos if not necessarily mischief.
Exploring Eberron says that Daanvi has a Solar assigned to observe each plane and to administer justice there. It specifically names Azazar as the Solar of Xoriat. What is Azazar like? Are they corrupted by forbidden knowledge, or are they a potential source for information on Xoriat that adventurers could have a normal conversation with?
Well, let’s start by looking at the actual kanon lore.
There are thirteen solars, each assigned to monitor and administer justice within one of Eberron’s planes (no solar holds dominion over the Material Plane). However, there are a host of restrictions on how and when they may act. Typically, a solar must be invoked by a legitimate authority within the plane in question—so while Hazariel, the Solar of Syrania, is usually called in to cast down radiant idols, Azazar, the Solar of Xoriat, has never yet been called on by that plane. Until called, they watch; while in the Panopticon, solars can observe anything that occurs in the plane of their dominion.
So one of the first important points here is that Azazar has never actually been to Xoriat, and likely never will; who would summon them? Having said that, Azazar has been monitoring Xoriat since the beginning of creation and in my mind is suited to that task; the Solars were created for this purpose and Azazar was made to be able to administer justice in Xoriat if it becomes necessary to do so.
So… Azazar is a Solar and uses the base attributes of a Solar. But they are also made to be able to observe and act within the Plane of Revelations. Solars already have truesight; I’d probably add some sort of mind blank affect to Azazar’s block, and further give them the Alien Mind trait of a daelkyr, on the basis that in order to be able to observe Xoriat, Azazar’s mind must process knowledge in ways that material mortals can’t; it’s not malevolent, but making contact with their thoughts will disrupt your normal thought process.
Moving further, I’d probably roleplay Azazar much like Doctor Manhattan: not malevolent, but as someone who perceives reality in a way you can’t understand. To be able to “observe” Xoriat and follow the progress of events there, Azazar would have to be unbound by the perception of linear time and might be actively aware of multiple possible timelines simultaneously. So I’d emphasize that Azazar CAN be a source of information about Xoriat, but that the information you receive will often be cryptic or inaccurate, because it will only make sense when you’re in the right time, place, or even the right timeline. Azazar isn’t in any way corrupted by Xoriat; Azazar understands Xoriat, but they can’t share that understanding with a creature with a limited, linear perception of reality.
That’s all for now! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!
Last week I was at MegaCon in Florida playing games with Six Sides of Gaming, and I’m busy working on Wayfinder, which is entering early access soon, so I’m still working on the next Dragonmark article! However, whenever time permits I like to answer short questions posed by my Patreon supporters. So let’s look at a few of those.
There’s a lot of lore about the Bloodsails of Farlnen, the Aereni, and the Tairnadal. The Wind Whisperers of Orthoss also trace their roots back to Aerenal? How do they approach death?
So, to start, let’s take a look at what’s been said about the Wind Whisperers…
Not all of the Aereni refugees sought shelter in the shadow of the Fingerbones. Some fully embraced Lhazaar culture, mingling with humans and creating a significant population of half-elves. The island of Orthoss is a haven for the Khoravar, and half-elves from across Khorvaire have found their way to the town of Blackrock. Notably, the Lhazaar lifestyle has attracted a number of members of House Medani and House Lyrandar over the centuries — young rebels seeking an escape from the smothering traditions of their houses.
First and foremost, what this tells us is that the Wind Whisperers ARE NOT AN ELF CULTURE like the Bloodsails, the Aereni, and the Tairnadal. They don’t have a lot of full-blooded elves and thus aren’t shaped by some of the biological aspects of being an elf—notably the exceptionally long lifespan, which is part of why the pure elf cultures are so concerned about avoiding death. They are a KHORAVAR culture that from the start fully embraced Lhazaar culture; they have had a steady influx of immigrants bringing their own traditions; the PRINCE is a Lyrandar excoriate who wasn’t even born on the island. It’s described as a haven for “young rebels seeking an escape from the smothering traditions of their houses” and its people are said to be “as wild and unpredictable as the wind itself.”
So: consider the general rebellion against smothering traditions and the fact that the prince is an immigrant; the Wind Whisperers don’t WANT to cling to ancient traditions and they aren’t going to be obsessed with their ancestors. On the contrary, the Wind Whisperers embrace constant change. The fact that they are led by Koulton is proof that they are always looking to the immigrants to bring them NEW traditions and ideas; they don’t want to force old beliefs on people, they want to adapt and incorporate to new ones. So the Wind Whisperers of the present day may have very different traditions than they did five hundred years ago, and THEY may have been quite different five hundred years before that. And, as you note, Orthoss isn’t noted for Mabaran or Irian manifest zones, which drive the culture of the Aereni and the Grim.
To address the specific question — how do they approach death — I’d say that they have a casual and comfortable relationship with death. They don’t try to cling to their ancestors or their past; they are like the wind, ever flowing and moving forward. We are here and then we’re gone, but the wind will always flow; not exactly a belief in reincarnation as much as a approach of It’s all going to be all right; don’t try to fight the wind, allow it to carry you on to whatever lies beyond. But again, that’s a general, casual idea because the Wind Whisperers HATE SMOTHERING TRADITIONS and are always open to change.
What’s a good reason for a Talenta adventurer to remain away from the Plains for an extended period of time—something beyond duty to clan, spirit or the houses? What’s something that could drive an outlander to want to become less of an outsider?
This is a tricky question, and I’m going to include a few answers that don’t quite fit the question. But here’s a few immediate ideas that tie to the question of why doesn’t the outlander go home?
FOUND FAMILY. This is the usual path *I* have taken when I have played this sort of character. If, over the course of adventures, I have formed a bond to any of the other adventurers — if we’ve bled for one another, if we’ve saved each other’s lives — then THEY are my clan, and as long as one of them is in danger or has unfinished business, I will remain and see the journey through with them. They may not have ASKED me to do this; they may not share my belief that we are family; but if *I* believe that we are bound in blood, that is sufficient.
NOTHING TO RETURN TO. One of the simplest reasons to LEAVE the Plains is because your clan is no longer there. This could be because they were wiped out; you may have originally left seeking vengeance on whatever force destroyed them. It could be because you were exiled: the remain but you’re not part of the clan any more. Or for the more positive outcome, it could be because YOUR WHOLE CLAN left the Plains; they’ve immigrated to Sharn at the request of, say, Saidan Boromar, and now your task is to help them settle and to protect them from the dangers of this new world. Depending on your choices, this is an obvious pairing with Found Family; you lost your clan and now you’ve found a new one.
NEW SPIRITS. An important part of Talenta belief is that spirits are EVERYWHERE, not just the on the Plains… and the spirits of, say, Sharn have no one who listens for them. They may be suffering, creating spiritual cankers, or they might have things that need to be done and no one who can help. If the character goes back to the Plains, they are just one of countless people working with the spirits; they aren’t NEEDED. In Sharn, no one else hears the cries of the spirits and they could play a truly unique role.
IS THERE ANYTHING OF VALUE? Does the character believe that there is absolutely nothing of interest in the world beyond the Plains? Or do they think there’s might be something worth bringing home—anything that could improve the life of their clan, whether that’s a single magical tool or a new technique? If they haven’t found anything, are they still sure there’s nothing to find? Essentially, they could take an active role in trying to discover the most valuable things in wherever they are — not necessarily monetary value, but things that could help their clan. Can they learn new crafting techniques? Master a new form of magic? Learn a new way of communicating with spirits, or even discover a new form of spirit?
PERSONAL INTEREST. What do THEY want? Is there anything in this world that has caught their attention? Have they fallen in love… which could be with a person, a place, or an idea? Might they want to become a star of the Crystal Theater, to outshine the legend of Boroman ir’Dayne or to woo a Boromar heir? Have they heard the story of a Talenta champion who came to the region centuries ago and lost a legendary artifact… and can they find both the story and the artifact itself? Do they encounter a traveler from a rival clan, with a score than must be settled?
That’s far from a comprehensive list, but that’s all the time I have and hopefully something there will prove useful! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and making these articles possible. Also, I’m going to be running my next Frontiers adventure later this month—if you’d like to have a chance to play a session with me, check out my Patreon!
I’m on my way to MegaCon where I’ll be talking about games and playing on the main stage! It’s been a busy month: I’ve relaunched my Frontiers of Eberron campaign on my Patreon and I’m writing for Wayfinder. I’m working on the next Dragonmark article, which will deal with Khorvaire in the Age of Giants. But when time allows I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons… so lets look at one of those.
Could you expand on the description of the Crucible artificers in Exploring Eberron, or more generally on how the overlap between adept magic and artifice/magecraft works & what it looks like? I’m assuming the faiths have followed technological progress, but I’m having a hard time coming up with more than mass-produced religious icons, scripture, and holy water.
One of the central aspects of Eberron’s idea of Everyday Magic is the existence of a widespread force of spellworkers who don’t have the flexibility or scope of player character spellcasters. An oracle can cast divination and augury, but they can’t perform healing magic. A locksmith can cast knock and arcane lock, but they can’t conjure illusions or fling fireballs. For most people in the world, mastering a particular set of spells is a life’s work, and you can’t just spend an evening reading a spellbook or a morning in prayer and completely change your spell list.
In the original ECS, adepts and magewrights were called out as entirely different classes. As the concept evolved this line was blurred. Eberron Rising From The Last War generally uses “magewright” as a blanket term for any professional spellcaster. The Magewright Specialty table on page 318 of Rising includes Oracles, Mediators, and Healers—all roles traditionally associated with adepts and divine magic. But the point is that from a purely mechanical perspective, it doesn’t matter how the magewright casts the ritual, only that they can; the rest is cosmetic detail. I discuss this in this article, looking at the difference between a divine oracle and an arcane oracle. Both can cast divination, but for the adept this is about communing with a divine force, while for the arcane magewright it’s based on some form of science, such as cartomancy. The short form is that “magewright” as defined in Rising From The Last War simply means someone who can cast a limited set of ritual spells or cantrips and doesn’t care whether that person is a traditional magewright, adept, gleaner, or wandslinger.
I expanded on this in Exploring Eberron:
Arcane magic is a science; magewrights master its techniques. However, there are other forms of magic which can likewise be adapted to everyday functions. An adept derives their magic from their faith, a more limited form of what a cleric can do; likewise, a gleaner masters the simplest forms of druidic magic. Especially with the adept, this is usually more of a calling than a job; you don’t decide to become an oracle of Aureon, you find that you are gifted with visions. The rituals of an adept will invoke divine forces, while a gleaner will draw on the world around them and often use an herbalism kit as a spellcasting focus.
Having said that in Exploring Eberron, I’m going to quantify it here. VASSALS don’t choose to become adepts; they believe they are called or blessed by one of the Sovereigns. You can’t demand that Aureon give you the gift of prophecy; either he chooses you to be an oracle or he doesn’t. But that’s because Vassals interact with the Sovereigns as if they were people. As a Vassal, you ask Aureon for guidance. By contrast, the Silver Flame is an impersonal force. It’s not an anthropomorphic entity that decides to do things. The Silver Flame was created to bind the overlords. That’s its primary function and we’re all very lucky that it continues to perform that function. The fact that people of great faith can draw on its power to defend the innocent is a side benefit. The Silver Flame binds the overlords. To do that, it must be omnipresent within the world; and therefore, the power is all around, available for a person of faith to use.
The people of Thrane are raised with that concept. While Thranish belief in the Flame isn’t universal or oppressive, for the faithful it’s part of everyday life. You know that the Flame is all around you, that it holds the ancient evils at bay, and that those with sufficient devotion can wield its power to serve the greater good. It’s a tool, like the bow… and where some Thranes master the bow and become templars or serve in the village militia, others turn to the tool of prayer and focus on harnessing the power of the Flame. Hence, as said in Rising From The Last War, moreso than in the other nations, “Faith is part of daily life in Thrane and divine adepts provide important services.” Specifically, they provide services that are typically provided by arcane magewrights in other nations. Healer and oracle are common roles for adepts in any nation. But in Thrane, you can find launderers using the power of the Flame to cleanse dirty clothes. You can find locksmiths who channel the power of the Flame to cast arcane lock—providing protection for the innocent. You can even find entertainers who draw on the Flame to amplify their voices or create music. This looks different from a Vassal adept, because the adept of the Silver Flame doesn’t have to ask for the power; the power is THERE, and they just need to know how to use it. But the Flame adept still needs faith to channel the power, and needs to believe they are using their gift for the good of the community. So the Thrane launderer doesn’t say “Oh Flame, I beseech you, cleanse these filthy clothes!” But they may sing a hymn to Tira or to the Flame while doing the laundry, and for them, doing laundryis an expression of their faith—they feel the power of the Flame flowing through them, and know that they are helping this community. A secondary point to this is that Flame adepts take money for their services, because they need to be able to thrive to continue to provide those services to their community, but as a rule they aren’t driven by greed. They need to believe they are providing a valuable service and it’s only just for those who can afford it to pay a fair price for that service. But they believe that they are doing a service for those in need, not simply chasing gold; and Thrane adepts are thus more likely to perform charitable work for those who truly are in need than the typical Brelish magewright.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE CRUCIBLE?
With all that in mind, let’s look back at the original question. Exploring Eberron has this to say about the Crucible of Thrane: Developed during the Last War, this small order of adepts and artificers crafts items drawing on the power of the Silver Flame. So what do they actually MAKE? Is it all mass-produced scripture and holy water?
These days the difference between adepts and magewrights is cosmetic. The same principle applies to artificers. Just as you can play a bard who isn’t a musician, a barbarian who never gets angry, and a warlock without a patron, you can play an artificer who draws on the power of the Silver Flame. And they can create anything any other artificer could create. You can be an artillerist carving wands or an alchemist making potions. The key is that you are enchanting these items by infusing them with the power of the Flame. Where a Cannith artillerist might craft a wand of fireballs inlaid with Fernian brass and fine draconic sigils, your wand will be traced in silver and an invocation of the Flame—and it may inflict fire damage, the flames will be silver. Note in particular that the Crucible was developed during the Last War. So what does it make? WEAPONS. Siege staffs. Blast disks. Long rods. Mechanically these are the same as their Brelish counterparts, but the Thrane force staff flings bolts of blinding silver energy and one of the three actions required to activate the staff is invoking the Flame. Exploring Eberron says that using arcane artillery “requires specialized training, similar to that of an artificer or magewright; someone trained to operate arcane artillery is generally called a bombardier.” Operating a Thranish Flame-powered siege staff would require an entirely different set of training. There ARE elements of science involved; the staff is still a tool that must be maintained. But the energy involved is divine in nature and only responds to faith. If you wanted to take this a step farther, Exploring Eberron presents dragon’s breath as the primary ammunition used by arcane artillery. I would imagine that divine artillery would use a different substance, possible just called Flame by the bombardiers—a powder that is literally infused with faith, produced in factory-temples.
Having said all that, it is important to note that there are arcane magewrights and artificers in Thrane and divine adepts elsewhere. It’s possible that Breland has a unit where Brelish templars operate a Thrane-made Flame cannon, and Thrane may have used traditional blast disks. Note that the Crucible was formed DURING the Last War. It is a reflection of wartime innovation and the industrialization of the faith—and just as there are many devotees of the Flame who don’t approve of the theocracy of Thrane, there are likely many who don’t approve of this industrialization.
So the short form is that ANY magic item could be presented as being a product of the Crucible powered by the Flame. Just consider how that’s reflected in its appearance. Potions produced by a Crucible artificer may shimmer with a silver radiance or seem to burn. The command word for a Crucible wand is an invocation to the Flame. And crucially, consider how the creator of the item could belief that in its creation they are serving their community and protecting the innocent. The Crucible created weapons and tools to protect the people of Thrane. It brewed potions to heal them. But it couldn’t produce pure luxury items or trivial goods, because the typical Crucible artificer would stumble in creation, questioning how it was a worthy use of the Flame’s power.
So how do these principles apply beyond Thrane? Can you have a divine artificer bound to Boldrei, and what does that look like? Certainly, you can have Vassal artificers and adepts. The key is that they are less industrialized. Because faith in the Flame is such a universal constant in Thrane, and because the Flame is perceived as an omnipresent force, it can be approached like learning to use a tool. Faith in the Sovereigns is more casual and more personal; each Vassal develops their own relationship with the Sovereigns. So again, as noted above, you don’t train to be an oracle of Aureon; you realize that you are an oracle of Aureon. The same principle applies to the artificer of Boldrei. It’s not a job with a clear entry path. You likely start by training for a mundane job and then realizing that Boldrei is guiding you, that she is infusing your work with magic, and over time, you learn how to effectively use her gifts. Which also means three Artificers of Boldreicould be very different based on their relationship with the Sovereign. The first thing I imagine is an Alchemist artificer who uses Chef’s Tools to produce enchanted food; their cure wounds is a strong cup of Tal that perks you right up and their enhance ability is a muffin whose flavor depends on the ability involved, but which channels the energy of Boldrei’s Hearth. On the other hand, a Battle Smith of Boldrei would be driven more by Boldrei’s role as defender of the community; their Steel Defender doesn’t follow any Cannith principles, but is animated by the artificer’s faith. This is also a good time to point out that the Sovereigns don’t stand alone. We often call someone out as an “Oracle of Aureon” to say that out of the Host, they feel the strongest connection to Aureon. But when the Oracle of Aureon gets in a fight, they may still offer a prayer to Dol Dorn–and likewise, the Battle Smith “of Boldrei” can also feel a connection to the rest of the Host. They identify with Boldrei because they feel they’ve been called to defend their community, but they can still thank Onatar while they repair the armor that was damaged in a battle.
Nonetheless, the key point here is that Thrane is the only one of the Five Nations where divine artifice has become an industry. Vassal adepts and artificers are usually more unique, and that means the things they create will be as well. So Boldrei’s Alchemist may use cooking tools and give you a muffin to enhance your strength; while Boldrei’s Battle Smith could use smith’s tools and give you a medallion engraved with Boldrei’s sigil.
That’s all for now; hopefully this gives you some interesting ideas. As I’ll be at MegaCon for the next few days I won’t be answering questions, but feel free to share your ideas and experiences with divine artifice in the comments. And thanks as always to my Patreonsupporters for making these articles possible and for asking interesting questions!
When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my patrons on Patreon. Last week I wrote about cyclopes. Today, let’s look at another monster you don’t see every day. Patron Travis asks do you envision an niche for perytons in Eberron?Why yes, yes I do.
Peryton? That’s an old legend, child, tied to the long nights of old Karrnath. It’s said that when love and murder are intertwined, the shadow of the victim can congeal and pool in their heart. When carrion birds consume the heart of the corpse, the anguished shadow can slip into them. The tormented spirit changes the birds into vessels for its pain, making them huge, horned, and hungry things. The only respite the peryton has is when it consumes the heart of another humanoid… and then, for a short time, its pain will pass.
That’s the OLD story, the one your grandmother may have known. But she’d probably never seen a peryton, likely never knew it as anything but a story. Here, we know them to be the hungry truth. The peryton is tied to murder and to vengeful shadows. Well, child, thirty years ago there was a war within the House of Shadows. The elves turned on one another, and the Thuranni wiped out the Paelion family. Those elves had strong shadows to begin with, and they were strengthened by both rage and poisoned love, for this was a battle of kin against kin. When the carrion birds feasted on the Paelion dead, the shadows they consumed were stronger than anything. These monsters—they’re as much shadow as flesh. Cut one of them and you’ll see the shadow-form below the fur and feathers, as much a part of it as its blood; mere steel won’t cut that shadow, you be warned of that. And you’ll see—the creature’s shadow, it’s no bird shape. It’s the shadow of an elf, twisted in anguish.
What we’ve got in these woods? Don’t call it a peryton, child. Call it what it is. Call it a paelion. And be warned. They’re hungry for the hearts of elves, for those that betrayed them. But in the end, they’re just hungry… and when they hear the beat of your heart, they’ll come for you.
The peryton is a creature created by Jorge Luis Borges that combines the features of a stag and bird. Like the medusa and the gorgon, D&D’s interpretation of the peryton has always diverged from the source material. As presented in 5E D&D, the peryton is a monstrosity with human-level mental ability scores. Perytons understand Elvish but can’t speak. They are noteworthy for casting humanoid shadows, as seen in the image from the original AD&D Monster Manual I’ve included above. The 5E peryton is resistant to non-magical physical attacks, though no explanation is given for this resistance. And the story is suggested that the perytons were formed when carrion birds fed on the corpse of someone who died associated with murder and magic.
The Paelion perytons—which I’ll refer to as paelions going forward—build on that idea. There’s something about this particular region in northern Karrnath that makes the peryton curse possible. Perhaps it’s an unsual manifest zone, perhaps the forgotten working of an overlord such as Sul Khatesh. Whatever the case, there’s a place where carrion birds can consume the essence of people who’ve been murdered; and the Thuranni in the region knew nothing about this when they killed a Paelion family living there. The corpses were left to rot, but their shadows lingered, vengeful and strong… and when the crows consumed those shadows, they became monstrous paelions.
A paelion is a medium-sized monstrosity with traits of stag and eagle. But what truly defines it is its shadow. The shadow cast by the paelion has the appearance of an elf. This shadow is always visible, even when there is a limited light source. This shadow is a fragment of a slain Paelion elf, and it grants the paelion its understanding of Elvish and near-human intelligence, but it is only a fragment of the dead elf; its sentience is a blend of bestial instinct and elvish memories. A paelion is driven by its hunger both for humanoid hearts and for vengeance, but it can’t fully remember or parse the reason in craves vengeance or what proper vengeance would look like. A paelion can predict and anticipate humanoid behavior—it understands houses, weapons, tools—but can’t just choose to sit and have a friendly conversation as a normal person would; the fires of hunger and vengeance are always driving it to hunt and feed. If adventurers could find a way to dull that consuming hunger, it’s possible that a paelion could regain some of the sentience and personality of the elf within its shadow, but finding a way to achieve this would be a difficult challenge.
The paelion’s humanoid shadow is a sliver of a murdered Paelion elf. While it manifests most obviously as a visible phenomenon, the shadow is also suffused through the creature’s body. This is the basis of the paelion’s resistance to non-magical physical damage; when you cut or pierce the paelion, you see the shadow of the creature still intact within the world. Beyond this, the strength of this shadow and the effects it can have vary from paelion to paelion. Here’s a few possible options. Spells use Charisma as their spellcasting modifier; a spellcasting peryton might have a higher than average Charisma.
Paelion Peryton Shadow Traits
The shadow can speak Elvish and may sing traditional Phiarlan songs. This is instinctive and isn’t consciously controlled by the peryton itself.
The shadow can take on other shapes; the peryton can cast minor illusion as a bonus action.
The shadow is aggressive; the peryton can cast chill touch as a bonus action.
If the peryton is slain, its shadow lingers as an independent shadow.
The shadow guides the peryton, providing it with darkvision with a range of 120 ft.
The peryton can unleash its shadow to cast darkness. Once it’s used this ability, it can’t cast darkness again in this way until its completed a long rest.
Why does this matter?
The Paelion peryton can just be an interesting regional monster. There’s a village in Karrnath where the people are haunted by beautiful songs that come from the deep woods, but anyone who follows the song never returns; the villagers could throw a coin to their Witcher adventurers to deal with this threat. Traveling adventurers could be attacked by paelions, especially if there are elves or Khoravar in the party. So, they could just be monsters. On the other hand, if the adventurers have any personal connection to the Shadow Schism, these creatures could be vital as one of the last links to the true events of the Schism and the lingering remnants of the Paelion line. Perhaps there’s a way to restore the creatures to full consciousness, or even to isolate their shadows and return them to humanoid bodies. If not, it could still be the case that one of the songs sung by a paelion’s shadow reveals a key truth about the Schism… or perhaps, a clue to a hidden Paelion vault that holds a lost treasure, whether that’s an artifact, a secret, or even a long-forgotten song.
That’s all for now! If you have an interesting Eberron question and would like to help determine the subject of future articles, check out my Patreon!
2023 continues to be an extremely busy year. Among other things, I’m taking part in the liveplay session Destiny of Worlds, where I play Merrix d’Cannith of Eberron next to Ed Greenwood as Elminster of Shadowdale! If you haven’t seen it yet, the first two episodes are available here. I’m working on a larger article I’ll have out in the next few days, but in the meantime I wanted to address a few more questions from my patrons on Patreon. Such as…
How would you use cyclopes in your Eberron?
I’ve never used cyclopes in a campaign, and I think this raises an important secondary aspect to this sort of question… which is not just how I’d use a thing in Eberron, but WHY I’d add whatever that thing is to a campaign. While there’s a place for everything in Eberron, just because you CAN add something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. My question is always how will this make my story more interesting? Why will encountering a cyclops be a compelling experience for the players… and how will it be different from dealing with an ogre chib or an ettin in the Barrens? Fourth edition made cyclopes fey, tying them to fomorians and playing up the idea of the “evil eye.” But in fifth edition they’re just giants with poor depth perception. If I’m going to use those cyclopes in my campaign, I want to add something that makes them interesting.
Sight is the thing that immediately stands out with a cyclops. 5E gives them poor depth perception, but I like the idea of balancing that with a supernatural gift. Two thoughts immediately come to mind.
Plane Sight. It’s said that the first cyclopes were giants who yearned to see things no one else could see. They were so driven that they each plucked an eye from their skulls and cast them into the void; each found their way to a different plane. Now every cyclops sees two worlds at once they see the material plane through the eye in their head… but each cyclops is bound to another plane, and they perceive that plane overlaid atop the material. This is similar to my vision of the kuo-toa of the Thunder Sea, but where the kuo-toa are all bound to Dal Quor, each cyclops is tied to a different plane.
The first thing I like about this is that it gives me an immediate foundation to make every encounter with a new cyclops unique, because its personality and abilities may be affected by its unique vision. Consider…
A cyclops who is an unexpectedly sophisticated warrior, because they see into Shavarath and have studied the combat techniques of the celestials and fiends. Such a cyclops could be a dangerous foe, but they could also potentially be a swordmaster who’s able to teach manuevers that can’t be learned anywhere else on the material plane.
A cyclops who lives in a desolate cave but who is a surprisingly erudite sage; they perceive Syrania and while sitting in their cave, they are reading books in the library of a Dominion of Knowledge.
A cyclops who perceives Dal Quor, who sees the nightmares of their enemies. Do they use this knowledge to frighten enemies in battle, or do they actually use it to try to help people understand their dreams and face their fears?
Even following this model, not every cyclops has to be so clever and sophisticated; as presented in 5E, the default cyclops only has an 8 Intelligence and 6 Wisdom. So for every Shavarath-linked cyclops who has mastered celestial martial arts, you could have four more who are just especially aggressive because they perceive themselves as being constantly surrounded by war. Likewise, a cyclops who sees Dal Quor COULD just be confused by these visions—reacting to the dream-personas of adventurers rather than their physical selves—as opposed to making clever use of this model. I prefer to play with the more intelligent cyclops, but they can still be brutes if that’s what your story calls for.
Piercing the Veil. Rather than seeing into other planes, another option is to allow cyclopes to see into the Ethereal Veil. What I like about this idea is that it could lead to cyclopes dwelling in haunts, because they perceive the haunted echo of what once was. A cyclopes lives in the burnt-out ruins of a manor because it still sees Lady ir’Halan’s grand ball. Some cyclopes could take this further and serve as mediums, learning to communicate with ghosts and shades. Less sophisticated cyclopes might see the denizens of the haunt, but be unable to communicate with them; but they could still see these ghosts as companions. Either way, a cyclops could be an interesting way to draw adventurers’ attention to a haunted location. If I went down this path, I would probably go ahead and grant cyclopes the ability to see invisible objects and creatures, as see invisibility also grants ethereal sight.
But where are they from? My basic inclination is to keep cyclopes as being rare and remarkable, rather than to introduce a nation of cyclopes somewhere in the world. There’s a few options. They could be creations of the daelkyr Belashyrra; do they have any loyalty to the daelkyr or was this purely an abstract experiment? They could be native fey, each with a story, much like I’ve said of hags in this article. They could be the devolved descendants of giants from the Group of Eleven. However, what I would do is to make them a strain of ogre—making cyclops sight a rare, recessive trait that occasionally appears among ogre communities. In the ancient nation of Borunan, these eye-seers were celebrated for their plane-sight, which was usually tied to Shavarath or Fernia. They are rarely seen in the present day, but can still appear in any ogre bloodline. In Khorvaire they’re mostly found in Droaam, but can potentially be encountered anywhere on the continent.
That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible. And check out Destiny of Worlds!
When time allows, I like to answer interesting questions from my patrons. This has been an exceptionally busy month and I’ve largely only been able to answer questions on my Patreon, but I’m going to try to get to a few more this week, starting with this one.
The Blood of Vol asserts that everyone has the potential to become a god, but that no one actually has yet. How does this appeal to a commoner? Maybe a player character can believe that they’ll be the first one to do it, but isn’t this kind of like saying it’s a religion in which no one’s ever made it to heaven yet, but hey, maybe you’ll get lucky?
So the first thing to recognize is that the typical Seeker (someone who believes in the Blood of Vol, short for “Seeker of the Divinity Within“) doesn’t expect to become a god. A basic principle of the faith is that we all could become gods, but that the curse of mortality was created to prevent us from doing so—that you will die before you can unlock your true potential. It’s not a question of “maybe you’ll get lucky.” You won’t get lucky. You will die first. That’s literally why death exists. That’s not the goal of the faith.
So what is the goal of the faith? Let’s look at the basic principles presented in Eberron: Rising From The Last War.
Everyone has a spark of divinity. Find that power within.
Death is the end, Dolurrh is oblivion, and if the gods exist, they are cruel. Stand with those you care for; all we have is this life and each other.
Working backwards, the first thing the Seeker faith does is to provide an explanation for injustice and suffering. Why is there death and disease? Why do our crops fail and our children die? Because the universe is cruel. There’s no benevolent skyfather, there’s no happy afterlife at the end of the rainbow. If there are gods, they’re jealous beings who hoard their power and laugh at our pain. This is why the faith thrives in the harshest parts of Khorvaire; it’s the faith of a people who see suffering every day, and who seek an explanation for it. And that explanation is life is cruel. But what the Seeker faith tells you is to FIGHT. The universe is against us. This life is all we have. So fight for those you care about. Protect your family and your friends, because the world WILL try to take them from you. To be a Seeker is to know that there is misfortune around every corner, to be ever ready for the next plague or famine, because you know the universe will take any chance to screw you over. But it’s also to know that you will not lay down and die… and even if you do die, damn it, let your family animate your corpse so you can keep fighting for them until your bones are ground to dust.
And when it comes to fighting… Everyone has a spark of divinity. Find that power within. The common Seeker doesn’t expect to become a god, to fully unlock their Divinity and to become an omnipresent entity with the power of a Sovereign. But the SPARK of that power is within them… and they CAN draw on that power. This is most obvious in the magic of Seeker paladins, clerics, and adepts. Seekers believe that their divine spellcasters draw power from their own divine sparks. Each Seeker cleric is, in essence, their own deity. But what of the commoner who can’t cast divine spells? Well, consider the Vassal smith, who asks Onatar for guidance when they start their work. Consider the Vassal soldier who asks Dol Dorn for strength and courage in battle. They aren’t paladins or clerics, but they believe that they can get strength and guidance from a higher power. The Seeker soldier or smith believes the exact same thing—except that the higher power is within them. The Seeker knows that they have divinity within their blood… that they CAN perform miracles. They have the courage they need. They have the ability to make the finest sword that’s ever been seen. They don’t need to ask some alien force to help; the power is within them. A Seeker doesn’t ask Olladra for good fortune; they know that they can make their own luck. And if it doesn’t work? Well, that’s the cruel universe for you; spit in its eye and keep fighting.
So how does the Blood of Vol appeal to the commoner? It explains why you suffer. It urges you to defy the cruel fates and to fight for a better life, and it tells you that you have the power you need to fight. It doesn’t promise some gilded afterlife at the end of the road; death is the end. But that is exactly why it urges you to FIGHT for yourself and for everyone you care about. Because this life is all we have. Make it count.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
When you’re playing a Seeker, keep a few things in mind.
Some Seekers believe that the Sovereigns exist and that they are cruel. “As flies to wanton boys, so are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.” Others believe that there are no deities, that the universe sis simply an impersonal engine of cruelty. Where do you fall on this scale? Do you believe that it’s theoretically possible to some day make the Sovereigns pay for their cruelty, or is the only fight that matters the struggle to survive?
As a Seeker, you’re always prepared for the worst. You expect nothing but cruelty from the world. Plague, disease, war, greed—whatever can go wrong surely will. You ration your food because there could be a famine next month… and when it happens you’ll be ready. The followers of the Silver Flame are prepared for the fiendish apocalypse; the Seekers are prepared for house fires, flash floods, flu outbreaks, and every other mundane, shitty thing that could happen. So as a Seeker, you’re never surprised when something bad happens. Of course you rolled a 1; the universe hates you.
… But again, part of what it means to be a Seeker is that you will fight against that cruelty. You’ll extinguish the fire. You’ll save your child from the flood and you will nurse them through the flu. You won’t give the universe the satisfaction of surrender.
And most crucially, you will fight for everyone you care about. You know that we can’t survive alone. Encourage teamwork. Try to form connections to the people you are working with, because you will need those connections to survive. You may be grim, but you’re not a lone wolf; you recognize the importance of standing with a pack.
As a divine spellcaster, you believe that your magic comes from within you. You’re drawing on your own divine spark. When you use divination, you’re being guided by the god you could become. Even if you’re not a divine spellcaster, you believe that you have that power within you, that you are being guided by your own divinity. Where others would pray to a higher power and say give me strength, you say I know that I have the strength I need within me.
What about necromancy? The Seeker refuses to surrender to death. We were cursed with mortality by the cruel universe; necromancy is a way to give that universe the finger. You killed my father? Well, he’s right here fighting alongside me. The Seeker faith asserts that death is oblivion and, therefore, there is no reason to have reverence for a corpse; a corpse is a tool, and if it can serve the greater good, that’s something any Seeker would want. Beyond that, Seekers have learned how to channel the energies of Mabar into necromantic rituals as a way to contain the negative environmental effects of those energies; in places like Atur, Seekers make significant use of necromancy because it’s actually vital to the ongoing health of the city.
So as a Seeker you may be grim and stoic. You may expect the worst from the world. But you know that we need to stand together to survive. You value friendship, love, and community, and you will fight fiercely for those you care about. And as seen in Atur, make sure to celebrate the joys of life when you can.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always to my Patreonsupporters for making these articles possible, and look for a bigger article later in the week!
I’m still in the process of deciding what I’m doing next—whether my next major project will be another Eberron book for the DM’s Guild, or whether I will explore a new setting—and if the latter, whether it will be for 5E D&D, another system, or system agnostic. However, in the meantime, I’m starting a new campaign! Every month I run an online session in an ongoing campaign for Patreon. All patrons at the Threshold level have access to recordings of previous sessions… as well as a chance to play in every new session. Over the course of this month, I’ll be running a series of patron polls to determine exactly WHAT I’m running next. So if you’d like to help determine my next campaign—or be a part of it!—check out my Patreon.
Meanwhile, another benefit of my Patreon is getting to ask me questions. I don’t get to every question every month, but here’s a few of my favorites from January!
In the original 3e Setting book for Eberron Atur is described as a bit of a party city with lots of bordellos and taverns, how true is this in your modern conception of Eberron and the Blood of Vol? Or is this a vestige of when the Blood of Vol and Emerald Claw were treated as interchangeable terms, and thus Atur was made to be seedy and decadent?
Also called the City of Night, Atur sits in the shadow of the Ashen Spires, near the great Karrn Falls that spill out of the mountains and fl ow into the Karrn River. The close peaks of the Ashen Spires, the constant mist rising off the swirling waters of the Karrn, and the oppressive brick buildings make for a place that has relatively short periods of direct daylight and consequently long nights. But the City of Night was named more for the fact that the place seems to come alive when darkness overtakes the land. With the city’s temple to the Blood of Vol (called the Crimson Monastery) and its massive Vaults of the Dead, where corpse collectors store the fodder for Karrnath’s undead armies, Atur has a definite connection to the twilight and midnight hours. A significant portion of the population follows the teachings of the Blood of Vol and attends the daily rituals in the Crimson Monastery.
Otherwise, the City of Night has a rhythm and pulse that seems to increase when the sun goes down. Feast halls, taverns, theaters, and bordellos of all descriptions open their doors after dark and stay active until the sun struggles back up and over the mountains. For many visitors, the city seems to operate in a way opposite to the other metropolitan centers of the Five Nations. Everything appears quiet and deserted by day, but by night the the various shops and businesses open to crowds of people.
Eberron Campaign Setting
The Grand Duchy of Atur is infamously a stronghold of the Seeker faith and a center for necromantic research. Its association with the Blood of Vol long predates Kaius I’s embrace of the faith, and its status as a palatinate means it remains a safe haven for Seekers regardless of how they are viewed elsewhere. Because of the strength of Seeker traditions, undead are found throughout the city. Knowing this, many who hear the name “City of Night” think Atur must be a grim, miserable place. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atur is a city that looks death in the eye—and because of that, it is a city that CELEBRATES LIFE. Karrnath as a whole is a stoic and austere culture; Atur is a place that celebrates all of the joys of life. Food, sex, art—all are enshrined and presented in a spectrum of delights. That spectrum means that there are definitely seedy elements in Atur, and if you’re looking for decadence you can find it. The quote above calls out that Atur is home to entertainments of all descriptions and that’s the key; there are taverns so fine your adventurers will surely never be let through the door, and some of Thuranni’s finest artists only perform at the grand Palace of Shadows. This is something that has evolved over the course of a thousand years, again with Atur running at odds to the generally stoic persona of the typical Karrn; the City of Night is a place for a Karrn to escape their lives for a few days, and tourism is its primary industry. So certainly, outsiders often call Atur “seedy and decadent”—but that description fails to grasp how seriously Aturans take their duty of celebrating life, and the quality of the food, music, and other performances that can be found in the City of Night.
Atur has been a bastion for the Blood of Vol since it first took root in Karrnath. The Crimson Covenant was first formed in the great monastery of Atur, and that Crimson Monastery has grown into the largest temple to the Divinity Within in Khorvaire. It was in Atur—in the palace of Nighthold—that the leaders of the faith forged their alliance with Kaius I. However, while a majority of the citizens of Atur follow the Blood of Vol, it’s not exclusively tied to the faith. The Great Hall of Feast and Fortune—commonly referred to as the Feast Hall—is one of the grandest temples of Olladra in the Five Nations; in addition to traditional services, it’s the finest venue for parties in the city, and the sounds of coins and dice can be heard at all houses in the gaming hall.
Thanks to the influence of the Blood of Vol, undead are a common sight in Atur.
The Seekers have no attachment to corpses and most are happy to donate their remains to serve the greater good. As a result, skeletons are found performing menial tasks and manual labor across the city. Because they serve many different functions, they’re generally painted to indicate their service; blood-red for those associated with the Monastery or other temples, dark green for sanitation, black and gold for those tied to the city watch, blue for this tied to commerce; artists add often secondary designs that give each skeleton a little personality. However, these are standard skeletons, possessing limited intelligence; they are managed by Bone Wranglers, specialized magewrights who effectively program the undead. As noted in the Monster Manual, “Although they lack the intellect they possessed in life, skeletons aren’t mindless. Rather than break its limbs attempting to batter its way through an iron door, a skeleton tries the handle first. If that doesn’t work, it searches for another way through or around the obstacle.” So a sanitation skeleton is focused on collecting garbage and disposing of it, but it can show limited initiative to overcome obstacles.
The Vaults of the Dead are a vast complex that served as the center of Karrnath’s necromantic war machine. Its fortified facilities include workshops for the production of undead, warehouses for storing bones and bodies, and the vast catacombs that currently hold the Karrnathi undead that have been sealed below since the Treaty of Thronehold was found. While the vast majority of the Karrnathi Undead are sealed in the vaults, the Atur Watch has a significant corps of these sentient undead, and they can also be found protecting the Ministry of the Dead, the palace of Nighthold, and other important locations. The Vaults of the Dead are maintained by the Ministry of the Dead, NOT by the Blood of Vol. While many Seekers serve in the Vaults, they serve the Crown and the Vaults are a separate entity from the Crimson Monastery.
The Crimson Monastery has its own corps of undead—Seeker martyrs who have devoted their endless lives to service to their faith. Most of these are Oathbound, a form of mummy; most have greater intelligence and lower strength than the typical mummy in the Monster Manual, but the principle is the same. Oathbound are sustained by the oaths they’re sworn to uphold and the restrictions placed upon them; many can’t actually leave the Crimson Monastery, while others are bound to their service but can roam the city. Oathbound can also be found in other roles in the city; the oldest tavern in Atur, The Old Bones, is maintained by Grethan and Talan Todar, two oathbound who’ve been serving Seekers for centuries. Unlike skeletons and Karrnathi undead, Oathbound do maintain memories of their former lives; but their oaths place considerable limitations on their activities.
Because of this, there are a number of businesses that cater specifically to undead. Second Life is an Oathbound salon. Despite what you may read in the Voice of Thrane, there’s no zombie bordellos in Atur (or ARE there…?) but there are a few establishments that are devoted to entertaining the undead. Oathbound can’t eat or drink and don’t experience physical pleasure, but they can still feel desire; Eulogies specializes in storytelling and roleplaying, helping the Oathbound remember joys they can no longer experience directly.
As called out above, Atur celebrates the arts. Before the Last War, Atur was the seat of House Phiarlan’s Demesne of Shape, devoted to physical arts—painting, sculpting, ceramics—as well as to the creation of costumes, props, and other supporting goods. In the wake of the Shadow Schism, House Thuranni claimed the demesne, now known as the True Shapers Enclave. This is a center for production and education, but it’s complimented by the Palace of Shadows—One of the grandest performance spaces held by Thuranni. This is not to be confused with the actual palace of Nighthold, a secondary seat for the royal family. As Atur is a Grand Duchy, it is semi-autonomous, but the presence of the Nighthold has always been a source of pride and a sign of the importance of the city. Kaius III has spent little time in Atur over the last decade, but Queen Etrigani loves the City of Night.
This only scratches the surface of the many wonders of the City of Night. You can be certain that in a visit to Atur you will see wonders you’ve never seen anywhere else. Is it seedy and decadent? It can be, if that’s what you’re looking for. But it can also be a place of astonishing beauty, a chance to experience meals and joys you won’t find anywhere else. And it is certainly a place to find forgotten secrets in the vaults of the Crimson Monastery, or to speak to an oathbound older than Galifar itself. But remember, what happens in Atur doesn’t always stay in Atur…
Am I correct in remembering that Atur is a major mabar manifest zone? If so how does that effect it’s status as a party scene and its culture more generally?
You are correct: Atur is in the most powerful Mabaran manifest zone in Karrnath, which is why it’s the seat of the Vaults of the Dead and the center for the production of undead. Which sounds bad, right? The key comes from the Fort Bones article in Dungeon 195: “Temples of the Blood of Vol are often built in manifest zones linked to Mabar or Dolurrh. The Seekers have learned to harness the power of (these zones) and to protect their comrades from their dangers.” This is WHY Atur is the site of the Crimson Monastery—the largest temple of the Blood of Vol in Khorvaire—and why Atur was left inviolate even when the nation shifted away from the Seeker faith: they need the Seekers to continue their rituals to keep the dangers posed by the Mabaran zone contained. This is also a concrete reason for the revelry in Atur; just as the Aereni veneration of the Undying Court generates the positive energy needed to sustain the Deathless, the ongoing celebration of life is part of the equation that holds the power of Mabar at bay. Incidentally, this is the underlying reason Queen Etrigani is fascinated with Atur and spends a significant amount of time there. She shares the common Aereni belief that Mabaran necromancy and undead pollute the world, but she is intrigued by the techniques the Seekers have developed to contain these energies… and she appreciates the active celebration of life even in this place of death.
I’m running a session in Atur and I’m trying to think of who would be memorialized by statues in the city. Does the BoV have any saints?
One of the basic principles of the Blood of Vol is that dead is dead—that Dolurrh eradicates the soul. The Seekers seek to unlock their Divinity Within, and clerics and paladins are partially doing just that. If someone truly did unlock the full potential of their Divinity Within they would in theory have the power of a Sovereign, but personally, I DON’T want to say “There’s a bunch of people who have already done that and we get power from them” because that fundamentally alters the flavor of the faith and because I always prefer to have things happening NOW than to have happened sometime in the past. I’d rather have your Seeker cleric potentially being the first to accomplish this. Some might believe that someone HAS unlocked their full divinity in the past—but that if so, they are locked in battle with the Sovereigns and unable to help mortals. The main point is that the Blood of Vol doesn’t have Saints in the sense of people who have died but who are still invoked to provide supernatural assistance. The dead are DEAD. You don’t pray to Malevanor hoping he will grant you favor; you go talk to Malevanor at the Crimson Monastery, because he became Oathbound precisely so he could continue to help Seekers after death.
So, the Blood of Vol doesn’t have saints in the sense of people-who-may-intercede-on-behalf-of-the-living. But BECAUSE dead is dead, the Blood of Vol does believe it’s important to remember the dead and to honor their memory and works. It’s the same way that WE have statues of founders and heroes; we don’t pray to them, but we want to remember them. Gyrnar Shult and Malevanor are two examples of recent people who could have statues honoring their achievements in Atur (a statue of Malevanor as he was in life, not reflecting him as Oathbound!). There could be statues of other great priests, philosophers, or soldiers; even in Atur, Karrns still respect martial prowess and courage.
Any advice how to create compelling religions in homebrew worlds?
Successful religions build community and generally offer hope or provide explanations for the challenges people face in life. The Sovereign Host tells us the Sovereigns are guiding us, that Boldrei brings us together, Aureon’s laws make us stronger, and that the Dark Six can be blamed for all the evil in the world. The Blood of Vol tells us the Sovereigns are to blame for the evil in the world (well, one Seeker sect says this): the gods are against us, life is cruel, and we need to stand together because all we have is one another. The Silver Flame teaches that there are real, concrete forces of evil in the world itself, but that we can overcome them by standing together and channeling the light of the Flame. So again, first and foremost: WHY should someone adopt the faith you’re creating? What questions does it answer? What hope does it offer? What about this faith would cause it to spread and flourish?
How would you explain Eberron to people who believe it is a Grimdark setting because of the multitude of world ending threats posed to it “at the same time?”
The multitude of world ending threats are presented as OPTIONS, but it’s up to the DM to decide which—if any—actually ARE world ending threats. It’s entirely possible that the stars aren’t right—that none of the overlords could be released in the next century, that the daelkyr are securely bound, that the Mourning was a fluke (a Cannith weapon that could only be created during a planar convergence that won’t happen for another five hundred years), that the Kalashtar have the Dreaming Dark situation under control. Part of my general campaign advice is to pick one or at most two of these threats to be factors in your story arc and to kick the others down the road; they all COULD happen right now, but none of them HAVE to.
So in short, it’s as grimdark as you want it to be. It COULD be that everything’s coming to a boiling point right at this moment… and while we’re at it, Lhesh Haruuc and King Boranel could die, Aundair could decide to reclaim Thaliost and the Eldeen Reaches, there could be a civil war in Karrnath, etc, etc… but the general approach of the setting is to present the DM with a lot of options, and for you to decide which will actually be threats TODAY.
Where would you put Penguins in your Eberron?
You’re asking the wrong question. You should have asked “Where WOULDN’T you put Penguins in your Eberron?” Those little %*¥#s are EVERYWHERE. Ok, just kidding. For real, though: they’re in the sewers of Sharn. There was a huge craze when Zil explorers brought them back from Everice, but then people got bored with them and dropped them down the privy, and next thing you know, soiled penguin swarms.
Of course, there’s the other obvious answer, “Silver Flame convents.”
And FINALLY, don’t forget about that time the megafauna penguin burst through the Lamannia manifest zone and laid waste to half of Silver Lake.
That’s all for now. Feel free to discuss these topics in the comments, but I’m afraid I won’t have time to answer questions myself. And again, thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible—follow the link if you want to ask your own questions or get in on my next campaign!
As time permits, I like to answer questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s one from this month…
You often suggest questions for new players starting a campaign to spark some character motivation. “Why do you owe/need 200gp?” “What is something you regret?” What would you suggest a good prompt would be for a campaign set in the Principalities?
This is, indeed, something I suggest. What’s your greatest regret and Why do you need 200 GP?are both mentioned in Eberron Rising From The Last War. As a DM, what I like about What’s your greatest regret is that it immediately gives me ideas about who the character is and about situations to work into future adventures. Can I squeeze in a chance for the character to regain something they’ve lost or to redeem their past mistake? Meanwhile, why do you need 200 gp is a way to give a concrete NEED that drives the story. You aren’t just taking this kill-rats-for-5-gp job because you have nothing better to do; you only have two weeks to pay off the Boromar Clan before they come after you!
In Chronicles of Eberron, I suggest another of my favorite background questions—What did you do during the Last War? The Last War lasted for a century, and came to an end only two years before the default campaign start. Many of the current nations didn’t exist or weren’t officially recognized during the Last War; if you’re from Droaam, you’re probably older than your nation. If you’re playing a fighter, did you serve in the war? If so, who did you fight for… and if not, why not, when you clearly have the skills? Was your ranger a scout, or were you a smuggler? Did you artificer repair weapons of war, or did you help warforged deserters build new lives? A follow up question is what did you lose during the Last War—a friend? Your home town? Your faith in the Sovereigns?
Part of what I like about questions like this is that they give me an immediate sense of the character without providing too much detail. I don’t actually WANT a player to show up to session zero with a ten-page backstory already written about their character, because I want the player characters to evolve together. You can add details to your character’s backstory over time. If we all agree that you served Breland during the war, and served on the Breland-Droaam border, then in a later adventure when you meet a worg ranger we can say Oh, of course—you met Ja’taarka when you were serving at Orcbone! That was that long patrol—you saved his life and you helped him find your way back home. If the player has carefully documented every battle they fought in, that’s more likely to get in the way of the unfolding story. But having a general picture—I fought for Breland on the Droaam front, and my brother was killed by minotaur raiders from Turakbar’s Fist—gives us a strong basic foundation we can build on.
Questions like this work with character background, but don’t define it. Critically, just because you fought in the Last War doesn’t mean you need to take the Soldier background. The benefit of the Soldier background is Military Rank, which establishes that you get recognition and respect from other soldiers (regardless of their nationality!). To me, this indicates that you were essentially a war hero—lots of people fought in the war, but any soldier knows YOUR story. Meanwhile, if you were a quartermaster you might take the Guild Artisan background. Entertainer? Perhaps you were the company musician before you launched your professional career. The direction-finding abilities of an Outlander are perfect for a scout. Your Acolyte could have been the chaplain, while your Criminal could have worked with the black market during the war—or simply gotten into crime afterwards. Essentially, the war is so far reaching in Eberron that fought in the war isn’t a defining background; it’s just a shade of it.
So: I like to present players with one or two interesting questions at the start of a campaign, as prompts to story. With that in mind, let’s get back to the original question… What would be a good prompt for a campaign set in the Lhazaar Principalities?
Any of the questions mentioned so far would work for such a campaign. Even pirates have regrets. Perhaps your party has a boat, but you need 200 gp to pay off your docking fees! And what DID you do during the Last War? Were you a pirate? A privateer? An innocent fisher whose boat was destroyed by Karrnathi soldiers during a navel battle? But I understand that the SPIRIT of this question is What’s a unique and interesting prompt for Lhazaar characters? Thinking about it, my question is…
What’s your most famous ancestor known for?
What’s Your Most Famous Ancestor Known For?
Brutal Piracy. It’s not rust that stains the shores of Orthoss red—that’s the blood spilled by your ancestor, said to be one of the most merciless pirates to sail the Lhazaar Sea.
Buried Treasure. Your ancestor amassed a legendary hoard, including priceless artifacts from Aerenal. But they swore that no one would ever find their treasure… and no one ever has. Can you claim your long-lost inheritance?
Turtle Hunting. Drake hunting plays an important role in the Principalities, and your ancestor was the greatest turtle-hunter of them all. It’s said turtles still quake when you speak their name. But your ancestor was eaten by a particularly large and vicious dragon turtle, who’s still at large; do you want revenge?
Humiliating Defeat. Your ancestor had grand dreams and early success, only to come to an especially embarrassing end. There’s a popular song about it. Who was their enemy? Do you believe there’s more to the story… or was your ancestor, in fact, an idiot?
Prince of an Ancestor. There’s an annual holiday in Port Verge celebrating the deeds of your ancestor, a folk hero who clashed with Galifar and Riedra but always shared their bounty with people in need. They became a prince through popular acclaim and reigned over a golden age. Think you can live up to that?
Fishing. Your ancestor was a pacifist who condemned both piracy and all forms of bloodshed, and who encouraged the people of the Principalities to focus all their efforts on fishing and trade. Do you support their views, or are you tired of people making fish jokes every time you walk in the room?
Betrayal. First, your ancestor led a mutiny and took a ship from their captain. Then they murdered a prince and claimed a crown. Their reign only lasted for a single generation, but it was marked by countless acts of ruthless betrayal. Are you equally deceptive, or are you ashamed of their legacy?
Trafficking with Malefic Powers. Your ancestor was said to be a warlock whose success was the result of deals with immortal evils. Do you believe these stories or do you think it’s jealous slander? Could you have inherited some sort of vile pact without knowing it?
Carrying the Light. The people of the Principalities aren’t especially devout, but your ancestor was a missionary who briefly inspired a strong following that still lingers to this day. What faith did they follow? Do you uphold this tradition?
Haunting The Lhazaar Sea. Your ancestor died long ago, but they still sail the sea in a ship of shadow and bones. Were they a brutal raider who still seeks to slake their thirst for blood? Or is their undead existence the result of a curse—they’re forced to wander the waters until they right an ancient wrong?
Pirate and Poet. While your ancestor was a pirate for a short time, what they are known for is their poetry; they created countless shanties that are still sung to this day. If you’re an entertainer or bard you might carry on their legacy; if not, you may be sick of all the damn songs.
Founding The Principalities. You’re descended from Lhazaar herself, the pirate queen who led the fleet from Sarlona. Sure, at this point, half the people of the Principalities have some trace of her blood in their veins… but you are from a line that has always preserved and celebrated that connection, a line that has produced many remarkable captains and raiders. Your parents have Lhazaar’s sword. Can you live up to the legend and claim that sword?
In a Lhazaar campaign, I expect the adventurers will eventually have a ship; they may walk a line between piracy and privateering, they might search for lost treasures, or they might get involved in the politics of the Principalities and perhaps even claim a crown. But the Principalities are a relatively small region of people closely linked together, and that means there will be stories about the past. People know who your parents were, and your grandparents—and they know what they did. Who’s the most famous or infamous member of your line, and what are they known for? Do you want to reclaim your ancestor’s legendary lost treasure or prove that they didn’t lose their last battle due to incompetence? Is your ancestor a source of inspiration to you, like the Tairnadal elves—or are they an albatross you carry, a story you’d like people to forget?
The table here presents a few specific ideas, but there’s countless possibilities. What your famous ancestor a prince, a pirate, a priest or a privateer? Are they renown for daring raids against Lyrandar shipping, or cursed as a traitor who worked with Lyrandar? Did they do great things at the beginning of the Last War, or did they sail in the first days of the Principalities?
This is a random example, and there are countless other questions you could ask. The point is that you don’t need to know everything about your character as a campaign begins… but answering a few interesting questions may give you a strong foundation to build upon. Thanks as always to my Patreon backers, whose support makes these articles possible!
When battle is joined, Dol Dorn gives you the courage to stand your ground and the strength to swing your sword. But it’s Dol Arrah who calls you to the battlefield and who gives you the reason to fight—Dol Arrah who urges you to stand up to injustice and to smite the wicked. Dol Dorn gives you strength, but Dol Arrah gives you wisdom; Dol Arrah tells you when to fight and how to use your strength wisely and justly. If you cannot hear Dol Arrah’s voice when your hand falls to your blade—think twice about whether you should draw it.
On my Patreon, I’ve been asked what makes being a follower of Dol Arrah interesting? Why would I want to play a character devoted to her rather than to the Silver Flame? There’s considerably more canon material on the Church of the Silver Flame than there is on the Sovereign of Sun and Sacrifice; even Tira Miron abandoned her vassal roots to embrace the Silver Flame. It was templars of the Flame who stood against the hungry horde in the Silver Crusade. We have a clear picture of what it means to be a paladin devoted to the Silver Flame. Why choose Dol Arrah instead?
Despite their surface similarities, Dol Arrah and the Silver Flame are very different. The role of a divine champion of Dol Arrah has little in common with that of a templar of the Silver Flame. Both will team up to slay a vampire, certainly; but beyond that, their outlook and general duties are quite different. The keyword of the Silver Flame is defense. It is a force that defends the innocent from evil, and primarily from supernatural evil; it binds the overlords and empowers those who fight undead and fiends, but takes no side in mundane politics or wars between mortal nations. By contrast, Dol Arrah is a Sovereign of war. Along with Dol Dorn and the Mockery she is present on every battlefield and every soldier hopes that she sees their cause as just. The Silver Flame protects humanity from evil; Dol Arrah guides those who fight for justice with honor, regardless of who or what they are fighting. At the same time, Dol Arrah is the patron of diplomats: part of wisdom in war is knowing when a battle can be avoided.
If you’re playing a character devoted to Dol Arrah, remember that she doesn’t exist in isolation; she’s part of the Sovereign Host, an interconnected pantheon whose members govern different situations. Dol Arrah may urge you to fight for justice, but it’s Onatar who puts steel in your hand and Dol Dorn who gives you the strength to swing it; for that matter, it’s Aureon’s laws that establish the nature of justice. By saying that you’re “a servant of Dol Arrah” what you’re saying is that you have a special connection to Dol Arrah that’s stronger than that of most people—that she has called you to service and charged you to fight in her name. But you should still honor ALL of the Sovereigns in their place and time, and you may color your spells as coming from any of the Sovereigns when appropriate. When you issue a command, you speak with Aureon’s voice. When you use find steed you are calling on Balinor, and when you cast bless you might ask Olladra for good fortune. The Sovereigns are united; you may be a champion of Dol Arrah, but you’re still a Vassal of the Sovereign Host. Beyond, part of your duty is to embody the values of Dol Arrah: to stand up for justice, to spread light, and to inspire others to act with honor and wisdom. This comes to the point that unlike a templar of the Silver Flame, it’s not your daily duty to hunt down the undead—but when you encounter a supernatural threat, you should call down the light of the Warrior Sun.
WHAT’S YOUR WAR?
While there are chivalric orders specifically devoted to Dol Arrah, she doesn’t have a large standing force like the templars of the Silver Flame, because in the Vassal view ALL soldiers are guided by Dol Arrah. When someone is called out as a servant of Dol Arrah, there is a purpose to the power that she grants. Her divine champions aren’t generally charged to wander around looking for random injustice; when she calls a paladin or cleric, it’s because there is a battle they must fight. There’s a specific injustice that must be addressed, an enemy that must be defeated, a war that only you can win. So, what is it? Let’s consider a few possibilities.
You must defeat Breggan, the bandit queen of the Black Crown Company.
You must overthrow Mika Stoneface and help Prince Someone claim the Cloudreaver Principality.
You must help the Boromar Clan defeat Dassk, or vice versa
You must drive the Tairnadal from Valenar.
You must defeat the Order of the Emerald Claw and destroy Lady Illmarrow.
You must reunite the Eldeen Reaches and Aundair.
You must restore the nation of Cyre.
These cover a wide range of options. The first few are very regional; Breggan Blackcrown operates on the Western Frontier, and few people outside of the Lhazaar Principalities have even heard of the Cloudreaver Principality. On the other hand, a quest to restore Cyre or to to destroy Lady Illmarrow is a more abstracted struggle whose battles could be fought across Khorvaire. The idea of Dol Arrah supporting the Boromar Clan or Daask may seem strange, but remember that Dol Arrah is present in every battle; if she commands a champion to take a side, it’s because she has declared the cause to be just and because she expects her champion to MAKE it a just and to fight with honor. She may order her paladin to fight alongside the Boromar Clan, but that doesn’t mean they should embrace the treacherous tactics the Boromars might be used to; on the contrary, the idea would be that the champion should inspire the Boromars to be better, to show them how to win their war with honor.
This isn’t a decision one person—player or DM—should make alone. Player and DM should work together to decide both the nature of the character’s war and how important it will be to the campaign. An Arrah champion’s war is the reason they’re adventuring and why they possess divine power. The character believes that they are receiving guidance from Dol Arrah—missions that lead them in pursuit of victory. But is each adventure a clear battle in the war? Or are most adventures just about honing the champion’s skills or acquiring allies? The champion should spread their light wherever they are, fighting with honor and pursuing justice—if they encounter a pack of ghouls in the graveyard, they should deal with them. But they should still have the sense that they are pursuing their war—that if they aren’t clearly fighting the enemy, they are doing something to sharpen their skills or their blade. As a DM, one of the key things I would work on is figuring out how to fit the other player characters into the war. You don’t want one character to have a driving, overarching goal that no one else cares about. If you’ve got a Arrah paladin destined to restore Cyre, than I’d either want the other PCs to have their own ties to Cyre or to have skills the champion clearly needs; part of the paladins’ mission is to convince the bard that they should use their diplomatic skills to help achieve the goal of a new Cyre. Likewise, keep in mind that not all of these wars can be won with steel; the goal mentions above is to REUNITE Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches, and this is a war that will require insight and diplomacy.
WISDOM IN WAR
Dol Dorn is the Sovereign of strength and courage, the patron of the common soldier. Dol Dorn gives you the strength to fight; Dol Arrah gives you a reason to fight, and shows you how to use your strength wisely. She’s the patron of paladins, but also of generals, strategists, and diplomats. As a champion of Dol Arrah, your role isn’t just to fight well; it is to inspire others, to lead in battle and to show them how to fight with honor. The Mockery shows the quickest path to victory, even if it comes with a brutal cost; Dol Arrah shows her champions how to win without compromising their morals, even if it requires risk or sacrifice. And again, Dol Arrah guides mediators and diplomats who prevent unnecessary bloodshed.
So where a paladin of the Silver Flame defends, a paladin of Dol Arrah needs to inspire—to lead others into battle and to inspire them to fight with honor. For a paladin, Oath of Devotion is an easy option, but the Oath of Glory is another clear choice; the Inspiring Smite reflects the rallying power of Dol Arrah. At the same time, the Oath of Vengeance can also work if you are emphasizing the active aggression of the mission—the drive to defeat the enemy rather than to defend the innocent. However, this quest for victory should never come before honor or justice… unless, of course, your champion actually serves all Three Faces of War instead of just Dol Arrah!
For clerics, War, Life, and Light are all possible domains. War and Life both reflect a champion who will fight in the vanguard, inspiring allies and getting the wounded back on their feet. The Light domain reflects Dol Arrah’s role as the Warrior Sun; the cleric should still seek out the battlefield, but they can stay behind the vanguard, inspiring and exhorting them while striking enemies with the sun’s wrath.
In either case, Martial Adept—or a few levels of Battlemaster fighter—is an excellent way to convey the martial nature of Dol Arrah and to make the champion feel like a leader. Commander’s Strike, Commanding Presence, and Maneuvering Strike are all ways to reflect the idea of the Arrah champion as a leader and strategist who relies on wisdom over brute force. Persuasion and Insight are both important skills for a champion who seeks to resolve battles without bloodshed, and Commanding Presence also helps with Persuasion!
A DIVINE MISSION?
I’m suggesting that a champion of Dol Arrah should have a divine mission, that the Sovereign has called them to service to fight a war. How does this fit with the distant nature of the divine in Eberron? The Sovereigns don’t manifest physically in Eberron. People can still have dreams or visions of them; the point is that a skeptic can say how do you know your dream wasn’t just a dream… or even the work of a night hag or quori? And the simple fact is that there’s no easy way TO know; it’s a matter of faith. But in general, Vassals believe that the Sovereigns speak to them through instinct and intuition. The champion may simply know what their mission is with an absolute certainty, that they realize things, or see signs they can’t quite explain in everyday events… when they hear the name Mika Rockface they simply know it is their destiny to bring her down. An intermediary step is what I describe in this article: the idea that the champion receives visions but that they aren’t entirely clear. When they see Mika Rockface, they see a bloody sword hanging over her; when they see the player character destined to become prince, they see a crown floating over their head. The champion is in touch with a divine power, but it’s not something that can be questioned. Another intermediary step is to give the champion a celestial intermediary, as often happens with spells such as commune. The champion has visions of a mighty warrior in red dragonscale armor; at some point in the future they will discover this is actually a Shavaran angel who serves Honor-In-War, who feels compelled to guide them through their mission.
With a broad mission—restore Cyre—the war may last the entire campaign and never actually be won; it’s what drives the champion, but it’s not actually within the scope of the campaign. On the other hand, with a small, narrow war it’s possible the champion will win their war well before the campaign is over. In this case, the player and the DM must decide how to proceed. Does the champion receive a new, even greater mission? Or are they allowed to rest… in which case, the paladin could potentially be redesigned as a fighter, laying down both their divine powers and obligations?
That’s all for now. In conclusion, in playing a champion of Dol Arrah, consider the war you’ve been charged to fight; the manner in which you receive your divine guidance; your broader devotion to the Sovereign Host; and in general, your duty to fight with honor and inspire others to do the same. Happy holidays, and thanks to my Patreonsupporters for asking this question and for making these articles possible!