Dragonmarks: Wondrous Caches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IFAQ: Adepts and Divine Artifice

Art by Julio Azevedo

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 laundry is 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.


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 Boldrei could 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 Patreon supporters for making these articles possible and for asking interesting questions!