IFAQ: Transportation

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Here’s a few relating to transportation in Eberron.

How ubiquitous was the lighting rail before/during the last war? Going from the map, it doesn’t look like it actually connects to all that much.

The lightning rail has been in operation for almost two centuries, and in my opinion it is a widespread, common form of long distance transportation. I feel that the rail lines shown on the map are just a few of the most notable ones, but that more or less any major city in the Five Nations will have a lightning rail station, unless it was damaged in the Last War and is awaiting repair. In my first draft of the adventure Shadows From The Last War the adventurers take a lightning rail from Sharn to Rukhaan Draal, and use a lightning runner (see below) on the abandoned rails in Darguun to reach Rose Quarry. So in short, it’s as common as you want it to be, but in MY Eberron, most significant cities of the Five Nations are connected by lightning rail.

Does Eberron have an equivalent to cars or motorcycles?

Magical land vehicles are uncommon in Eberron. Aside from the lightning rail, House Orien uses horses with the equivalent of horseshoes of speed for couriers and high-speed stagecoaches, but the horse is still the motive force (note that these are a form of dragonmark focus item and require a rider or coachman with the Mark of Passage). My first draft of SotLW had a lightning runner, a stagecoach-sized vehicle that can run on the lightning rail. The Explorer’s Handbook introduced the elemental land cart, which is essentially an automobile, but notes “Most of the few elemental land carts in existence belong to nobles of one of the dragonmarked houses.” House Orien and the Twelve are surely WORKING on new forms of land transportation and you can introduce them into your campaign if you choose, but they aren’t common in canon Eberron.

How far in the future do you pitch House Orien demiplane transportation? Could it be introduced tomorrow or is it still a few years away in your mind?

To clarify: Demiplanes are small pockets of reality that connected to the material plane in Khyber. These connections defy normal space, so you could find an entrance to the daelkyr Belashyrra’s prison demiplane in the Shadow Marches, walk for a mile, and then emerge in Xen’drik — a trip that would have taken days or weeks by other methods. It’s been suggested that House Orien would love to find a way to harness this effect, creating a system of transplanar highways.

The people of the Five Nations know almost nothing about demiplanes. The idea of Orien’s interest assumes that the house has stumbled upon a demiplane, confirmed that it is a spatial shortcut, and wants to make use of it. My assumption is that they are working on creating artificial portals, because most existing portals won’t be much use; they can’t do much with a random portal out in the middle of the Shadow Marches. But they could develop an eldritch machine that uses the power of the Mark of Passage (hence, Orien) to rip a path into a demiplane.

With all that in mind, how close is that to being functional? NOT AT ALL. First consider that the whole thing is highly experimental. Consider also that they need to figure out how to get passengers safely through the demiplane. It may be a shortcut, but you still may have to travel for a mile across Belashyrra’s prison to reach the exit point; how are they doing that?. What dangers might they face? Which reaches the main point: in my Eberron, ORIEN HAS NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE MESSING WITH. This is entirely like Weyland-Yutani discovering a xenomorph and saying “I’ll bet we can use that.” They don’t KNOW that they are opening portals into, for example, daelkyr prisons or overlord’s hearts. I expect that these efforts will have DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES. So in my campaign, this isn’t a service you can actually expect to WORK any time soon; it’s something that serves to drive ADVENTURES, as adventurers are hired to explore demiplanes, or accompany Orien pathfinders, or to deal with the horrors the house accidentally released into Passage by opening portals best left closed.

What about Brooms of Flying? Exploring Eberron says Aundair used these in the war; have they been adapted for civilian use?

By the rules of Fifth Edition, a broom of flying is an extremely useful item. It’s an uncommon magic item, putting it within the range of Khorvaire’s wide magic. Unlike wings of flying, there’s no time limit on the use of the item, and critically, it doesn’t even require attunement. What’s been suggested is that Aundair used these for elite units and that other nations developed them in smaller quantities—so they aren’t commonplace in civilian life, but they are in the world.

With this in mind, the first question I’d ask is are they brooms? While the core magic item is a broom, I see no logical reason that they should be actual brooms in Eberron; remove the mythology of Earth and there’s no particular reason a broom is associated with flight. So I’d actually call them skystaffs. Keep the same essential shape—a short wooden haft—but remove the bristles, add a seat, and perhaps handles that fold out from the shaft. Essentially, make it a tool clearly designed for its function as opposed to a household item that does something unexpected. I’d then say that while anyone can use one, they require Dexterity checks for tight maneuvers or sustained balance at full speed, unless the rider has proficiency in air vehicles—so anyone CAN use one, but it requires some training to actually use one effectively. As a final element, I’d say that a skystaff is made using soarwood, which is a crucial factor in why there aren’t more of them in service at the moment. The enchantment isn’t that difficult—again, “uncommon” level in terms of its power—but the actual components required to create one are in limited supply, so there aren’t that many around. Having said that, they are most often seen in Aundair, and you’ll certainly see a few in the skies above Fairhaven or darting around Arcanix.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for their support and questions.

Dragonmarks 8/9: Lightning Round 5!

It’s time for another Eberron Q&A! Let’s get right to it…

Let’s say that I’ve got a player who really likes games with Nerull. How would you put him in? The Keeper? Lord of Dust?

The thing about the Keeper is that you only interact with him through his cults, and they aren’t even all bad. The Restful Watch believe that Aureon and the Keeper work together to preserve vital souls from Dolurrh so that they can be returned to Eberron in a time of need; in many communities, the RW maintains cemeteries and performs funerary rites. As a result, I’d go with the Lords of Dust, specifically the Overlord Katashka, also known as the Gatekeeper. Lord of death and undeath, Katashka is said to have created the first undead. His mightiest servant is the dracolich Mazyralyx, who some scholars believe is the original inspiration for the myths of the Keeper. Katashka himself is bound, but you can bring Mazyralyx and any number of fiendish and undead servants to bear. Katashka is mentioned on page 30 of the 4E ECG and in this Eberron Expanded article.

Continuing with the theme…

How exactly does a Rajah like Yad-Raghesh ( from Dragons of Eberron, page 50) die?

He doesn’t. That’s the point of Yad-Raghesh’s tale; his apparent death appears to be a shocking, one-of-a-kind victory, but it is later discovered that rather than dying, he has simply spread his spirit across the Vale, transforming it into a pit of corruption that spawns fiends and slowly expands. If Yad-Raghesh was truly “dead”, the blight on the land would pass; it’s the presence of his spirit that keeps it alive and growing.

Now, to be clear: An Overlord can be temporarily killed the standard way – by reducing his hit points below zero. It’s simply that this doesn’t last for long; he returns within a day. In the case of Yad-Raghesh, he didn’t return and thus appeared to have been truly defeated. This turned out to be a false hope. By transforming himself in this way, he at least partially escaped the binding of the Silver Flame; he can’t return to his original form, but his power is continuing to spread while the other Overlords are held in check.

As for what he represents, I would say corruption. He gave up his physical existence to BECOME the corruption he embodied.

Out of all Eberron NPCs, which one would be the most likely to become a Ravenloft Darklord?

I don’t know about “most likely,” but my choice would be Merrix d’Cannith. His great crime? The attempt to create true life, moving beyond the warforged (who can’t procreate) to create something that can truly replace the current people of Eberron. In the Gothic architypes, he’d be a sort of Frankenstein, his realm filled with his imperfect creations – after all, the Dark Powers might let him get close to his goal, but they’d never allow him to succeed.

Suppose you have a player who, for whatever reason, wants part of his PC’s story arc to be romancing a noble. Who would be your best/favourite NPC noble for this role?

I’m still planning to write more about the nobility in the future, but this is more targeted. It depends where your story is set, but I’d personally choose Princess Haydith of Karrnath, who currently resides in Boranel’s court in Breland. According to Five Nations she’s only fifteen, but it’s easy enough to adjust that as you see fit. I think Haybith is an interesting character for a number of reasons. She’s the sister of a king, so certainly an important noble; she’s in a foreign land and thus likely happy to find a new friend or romance; she’s already a political pawn in Kaius’s efforts to promote peace, but she could easily be targeted by those who wish to strike at Kaius himself. And, of course, getting close to Haydith provides an interesting connection to Kaius itself, which could go any number of different ways.

Besides a certain royal prince (already mentioned in the ECG) who are some potential identities behind the mask of Prisoner Deep Fourteen?

Let’s look at the facts. He was sent to Dreadhold by Kaius III. He is being kept alive. His features are hidden. He can’t speak and isn’t allowed to communicate in other ways. So why keep him alive but incommunicado? Here’s a few random ideas, which I am making up at this very moment.

War Wizard. This individual is one of Karrnath’s greatest war wizards, responsible for creating immensely powerful and horrific rituals used in war. He’s wanted for a host of war crimes, and Kaius promptly had him tried and supposedly executed at the end of the war before any other nation could get their hands on him (thus claiming innocence in some of his worst atrocities). However, the fact of the matter is that he wants the man alive so if the war begins again he can bring him back into service. Heck, if you want to go there, you could say that he is the architect of the Mourning itself! Kaius is horrified by the damage the weapon did and doesn’t want his future kingdom devastated like this… but he doesn’t want to kill the one man who knows how to make a second Mourning.

Demon Vessel. During the war, Kaius made deals with a powerful fiend. When it came time for the fiend to collect what was promised to it, Kaius was able to trick it into possessing this mortal body, which was then bound and sent to Dreadhold. If the vessel is killed, the demon will be freed and will take a terrible vengeance on Kaius and Karrnath.

Who’s Your Daddy? According to some myths, a vampire has influence over vampires that it creates. Some superstitious people maintain that slaying a vampire will result in the deaths of those it has sired; even if this isn’t true as a default, a brilliant necromancer could certainly devise sympathetic rituals to strike at a vampire through it’s sire. As for why Kaius III would want a vampire locked away – I’ll leave it to you to figure that out.

Have you ever ran an adventure in Everice or Frostfell? What sort of things might be found there? I can only think of Daelkyr/Quori ruins greatly inspired by At the Mountains of Madness, though I wonder what ideas flow through your head.

I wrote a backdrop set in the Frostfell for the print edition of Dungeon that never ended up seeing the light of day. Rumor has it that some form of it may appear as an Eye on Eberron article. For now, I’ll simply say that my vision of the Frostfell includes old dwarven ruins and the impact of a powerful Overlord of the Age of Demons.

I noticed the other day that, geographically, much of the demon wastes should be rainy, frozen misery. Was this intended?

The Demon Wastes is an unnatural place, due to the presence of buried overlords and close ties to Khyber. So rainy, frozen misery is certainly appropriate; but it also has its share of volcanic activity, burning basalt wastes, and the like.

With House Sivis’ tight standards for authentication, how effective is forgery for your typical hard-working scoundrel?

Difficult. However, based on the principle that science advances with needs, I’m sure that there are tools in existence allowing people who can create arcane marks to (attempt to) forge a Sivis mark. And bear in mind that not all documents in circulation are authenticated by Sivis. Letters of credit and identification papers generally are; but when the innkeeper sends a letter to his brother, he’s not likely to run over to the bank to get it authenticated.

Lightning rail roads are always shown as a single line of stones. How do the trains pass each other?

I don’t believe that the coach needs to ride directly above the rail; it’s about the interaction between the two. as such, I think two trains could slide to the side (using some form of front deflector) and move alongside each other, with the rail in between the two of them, for a short period of time.

I want a villain with an airship. He’d need a Lyrandar pilot. Why wouldn’t the House put a stop to that? At what point would the House personally step in to stop a rogue member assisting a villain?

It would only concern the house if it was somehow causing bad publicity for them. Their initial response would simply be to declare the individual to be a rogue and excoriate, and likely put a bounty on him based on just how much trouble he was causing them; meaning that yay, the player characters can collect an extra reward. I’d only see the house leadership as taking some sort of direct action if the individual became a huge black eye for them – if her actions were causing people to boycott Lyrandar services or the like.

Did the ancient goblins/giants/dragons have artificers? If not, why not? If so, what are some examples of ancient artifice, as opposed to just ancient magic in general?

First off: the artificer is a PC class. I don’t like saying that “Culture X doesn’t have a single individual of class Y”, because PC-class individuals are remarkable people. Just because the ancient dragon culture as a whole didn’t have artificers doesn’t mean that there wasn’t *A* dragon artificer; what I’m going to say is my view of the culture’s approach to magic as a whole. And with that in mind, bear in mind that there’s nothing an artificer can create that can’t be created by some other spellcasting class. The artificer is simply more versatile and efficient. In my opinion, it represents a more industrial approach to the creation of magic items: a focus on magic items as a tool of society, as opposed to a secondary aspect of whatever field of magic the individual pursues. So, looking at each culture:

Dragons of Argonnessen. I don’t see artificers as being a significant part of draconic cultures. Dragons are magic, and their style of magic largely involve learning to channel their own innate power, or using it to create greater effects in the world around them – which is to say, primarily sorcery. Dragons of Eberron talks about loredrakes and divine casters, and loredrakes such as Ourelonastrix obviously unlocked epic level magic lesser creatures haven’t yet mastered – things like the magic used to devastate Xen’drik. But I don’t see artifice as such being a particular interest of dragons.

Giants of Xen’drik. Yes, I believe that there were artificers in Xen’drik. In particular, the Sulat League has been shown as having a very industrial approach to magic, between elemental binding, magebreeding, and the tools and weapons they created. In The Dreaming Dark trilogy you see a number of examples of their artifice, such as the moon-breaker and the chamber of false dreams.

Dhakaani Goblins. No artificers. They have exceptional smiths whose techniques and knowledge of metallurgy allow them to produce magical arms and armor, but a Dhakaani war-smith simply doesn’t have the versatility of an artificer (who can also disable constructs, craft everburning torches, create spell-storing objects, etc). The Dhakaani goblins do know how to create artifacts – Ghaal’Duur, to name one – but as described in the recent Kech Ghaalrac article, “these objects cannot be mass produced; each one is unique and requires rare components to create—the blood of a daelkyr, slivers of Khyber dragonshards imbued with a demon’s essence, and the like.” So again, they have exceptional treasures, but that doesn’t mean that they have a culture that produces artificers; their treasures are made by their smiths and the duur’kala. With that said, if your goal is to find a place where an artificer could learn a new infusion, I could see saying that a PC artificer could learn some sort of new technique by working with the Dhakaani smiths, even if those smiths aren’t artificers.

Was there ever the idea to break up Cannith’s HUGE powerbase and split up the magic stuffs a bit more? Yeah, Cannith is split up three ways that make sense but would it make sense for Denieth to make the Warforged … or have Lyrandar make the airships? Cannith just seems very omnipresent in a world surrounded by magic.

Don’t overestimate Cannith’s power. Cannith produces airships, but it can’t make airships that actually work without the help of both Lyrandar and Zil elemental binders. Cannith created the Kundarak vault network, but it required the assistance of Orien and Kundarak heirs. Cannith is the house of making, and they are the foundation of the magical economy. But many of the critical tools of society require multiple houses to work together. This is the primary purpose of the Twelve: to facilitate this sort of cooperation and create things no house could create alone.

So allowing Lyrandar to create airships on its own would significantly alter the balance of power. As it is, Lyrandar needs Cannith… but Cannith also needs Lyrandar. There are many things – the warforged, wands, etc – that Cannith creates alone, but even there it relies on House Tharashk for the massive amounts of dragonshards required for its work. They are one of the most powerful and influential houses, but there are other houses that can challenge them – especially with the current schism in their ranks.

Maybe you answered this before, but how would you retcon the Silver Flame being the ones to handle resurrection in DDO?

The short answer is that I wouldn’t. City of Stormreach leaves resurrection in the hands of Jorasco, and even there notes that it’s not something they do lightly as many strange mishaps have happened in the past. However, if I had to, I’d start by saying that because of those mishaps Jorasco has finally dropped the service. Then I’d highlight the fact that the Silver Flame in Stormreach is a heretical sect that’s been cut off from Flamekeep for refusing to accept the authority of the theocracy (maintaining that the political ties distract the church from its true mission and breed corruption). Lacking the support of Flamekeep, they may have turned to this as a way to raise the money they need to maintain their mission in Stormreach. One option is to say that they’ll only resurrect people who they consider to be unworthy of joining the Flame, reasoning that thus they aren’t actually robbing the Flame of a soul; another approach is to say that as they are a minority “heretical” sect, they feel the need to keep anyone who might champion their cause alive.

Are there enough kalashtar to form an evil splinter-group, perhaps countered by a group of altruistic Inspired? How about one that has defected & wants to warn the world?

Evil kalashtar? Sure. I think Races of Eberron actually presented a group of Kalashtar who essentially wanted to become full-fledged quori. Kalashtar are mortal creatures; their personalities are influenced by their quori spirits, but at the end of the day, they are unique individuals. An evil kalashtar may be a manic, psychotic individual because of the psychic dissonance between their actions and the beliefs of their connected Quori, but that’s fine for a villain!

“Altruistic Inspired” are a very different story. The kalashtar can come in any flavor because they are mortal. Inspired aren’t. They are immortal embodiments of nightmares. They are literally evil incarnate*. They can change – as the kalashtar quori did – but this is like an angel falling and becoming a demon. An immortal is an idea given form, and if that idea changes, the form will change as well; it’s not something that would go unnoticed, and that transformed spirit would either be eliminated or force on the run, as the kalashtar quori were. Just bear in mind that there is a fundamental difference between mortals and immortals; immortals don’t have as much free will and opportunity for mental evolution as mortals do. This is why the Lord of Dust remains fundamentally the same being he was a hundred thousand years ago; it’s not in his nature to change.

With that said, all quori may be “evil”, but that doesn’t mean they are opposing the players. The primary concern of the quori is preserving Dal Quor. Many highly placed quori believe that they have accomplished that by gaining control of Riedra, and that as long as the kalashtar don’t mess things up, there is no need to take hostile action against Khorvaire… and that in fact, this simply risks disrupting the success they have achieved. Such quori aren’t “altruistic”, but they may see the actions of the Dreaming Dark as running against the best interests of their people, and thus be willing to help the PCs. However, I wouldn’t expect them to take any action that would threaten the quori and Dal Quor as a whole; again, for that to occur, you’d really have to have such a fundamental shift that the spirit is, essentially, a fallen angel (or redeemed fiend).

* As a side note: quori aren’t actually “evil” incarnate. They are the embodiments of the nightmare age, and they feed on (and create) mortal nightmares. The Tsucora quori are tied to fear; the Du’ulora to agression and hate; the Kalaraq to pride and ambition; etc.

That’s all I have time for this week. Feel free to leave more questions below!