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!