Dragonmarks: Planar Q&A

I’m working on a post about Phoenix for next week, but today I’m going to address a few more questions about the planes of Eberron. Like much about the planes, most of these topics have no answers in canon material, so what you’re dealing with are my current thoughts and opinions, and NOT canon.

Did the effects of the Mournland bleed into other planes where Cyran manifests zones existed?

In Dragon #408 I said “The devastation of the Mourning had repercussions across the planes. Perhaps the grievous wound to Eberron was felt across her creations.” That article presents Baator as a demiplane where corrupted spirits are imprisoned and asserts that on the Day of Mourning the wards holding the prisoners faltered — so in this version of Eberron, the devils have only been in control of Baator for a few years. Given this, it’s logical to think that other planes could also have felt similar impacts. We haven’t suggested major transformations, but I think it’s interesting to explore pockets of the planes that have been transformed in unpredictable ways.

Is there any connection between Siberys and the Silver Flame? The latter seems too embedded in the material plane.

The Silver Flame is embedded in the material plane, as are the fiends that it holds at bay. The Silver Flame was created by the combined spiritual energy of the couatl — Eberron’s native celestials — in order to bind Eberron’s native fiends. In a way it can be seen as a parallel to the myth of Eberron and Khyber; Eberron couldn’t destroy Khyber, but she could bind her. It’s commonly asserted that just as Khyber is the source of Eberron’s fiends, Siberys was the source of its celestials, so in that way the Silver Flame IS tied to Siberys. This is also something of an explanation for why the celestials of Eberron aren’t as powerful as the Overlords; after all, Khyber killed Siberys, so the balance between celestial and fiend started off poorly.

There’s nothing strange about having a divine power source based in the material plane. The demons it binds are based in the material and the champions it empowers are in the material. The Undying Court is another divine force based entirely in the material.

How do celestials relate to the Sovereigns? Do the celestials associated to the Sovereigns believe in them like the mortal races do? Are they formed from the faith of the mortals? Are there any celestials that don’t believe in any deities other than the Progenitors?

Looking at the last three questions, the answer is “yes.” When a cleric uses planar ally an outsider answers the call. There’s three possible reasons ways this could happen.

  • The ally is manifested on the spot from the energy of the divine power source. Once its job is done it will be absorbed back into the source. This is particularly logical for the Silver Flame, which as described above has no roots in the outer planes. Given that, if I DID have an angel respond to a Silver Flame caster’s spells, I might use angel stats but I’d likely give it couatl features — rainbow wings, feathers instead of hair, etc. Essentially, a celestial of this sort is a pure embodiment of the faith and should have whatever trappings are appropriate for that.
  • The ally is an existing immortal who is devoted to the faith. In Fourth Edition material we suggest that there are angels (which in 4E is a broader class of celestial than in previous editions) who are devoted to the Sovereigns. The account is essentially that the Sovereigns at one point were present in the planes before ascending to a higher level of existence (which lines up with the Draconic Thir view of the Sovereigns). The angels have no direct line of communication with the Sovereigns, but have absolute faith that the Sovereigns exist and are part of the machinery of reality, and that my carrying out their functions the angels are following the plans of the Sovereigns. This is also in line with the idea of Radiant Idols — who are essentially angels who have become jealous of the worship the absent Sovereigns receive and want such worship themselves.  
  • But you could just as easily say that the angel in question doesn’t believe in the faith and that this doesn’t matter. When a cleric of Dol Arrah calls for a planar ally, they might get an angel from Irian who is devoted to protecting life and inspiring hope. Or they might get an archon from Shavarath who embodies combat fought for a just cause. Neither of these celestials cares exactly what the mortal believes; they are responding to the justice of the cause. It’s clear that this is aligned with their purpose… and that’s all that matters.

If I ever get to write a sourcebook on the planes, I’ll have to decide which of those last two answers I’ll run with. But both are plausible.

Can spells call on planar allies from sources like the Path of Light or the Becoming God that haven’t become Sovereign or Planar dominating yet?

Sure: either the first or third options I share above apply to this situation. The Path of Light is divine power source. Therefore the planar ally could be manifested on the spur of the moment from that source. It doesn’t have a truly independent identity and existence; it comes into being to fulfil the needs of the caster and vanishes once it’s done. If you’ve seen Rick & Morty, it’s a Mister Meeseeks. The third option is the idea that you’re just drawing an outsider who supports what you’re trying to do, even if they don’t share your faith.

Where do the fiendish/devil/demons conjured by evil clerics come from? Can you do some examples as you did for celestial creatures?

All the premises given for divine casters summoning celestials apply to fiends as well. They’re either formed directly from the divine power source, immortals devoted to the force in question, or immortals who approve of the general principle of the call. Mabaran fiends are generally happy for an opportunity to cause loss or crush hopes. Demons of Shavarath enjoy savage bloodshed.

We know of Mabar and Irian crystals, and dusk and dawnshards have been mentioned, are there other planar shards or crystals?

Certainly. There are a host of minerals and vegetation infused with planar energies or shaped by exposure to those energies, and this is true of every plane. Such things are most typically found in manifest zones, where they are shaped by long-term exposure to planar energies. In the case of plants, they usually won’t grow outside such zones… or they’ll grow, but will lack their remarkable properties. This is why covadish leaves (ECS 91) are only found in Aerenal; they are specifically found in certain manifest zones tied to Mabar, which are most common in Aerenal.

So: there are many different forms of planetouched minerals and plants. Many of these serve as components for spells and the creation of magic items; we’ve just never called these things out. For example, in the Thorn of Breland books Thorn uses Mabaran nightwater when disarming mystical wards. In my opinion, this wasn’t a special magic item that was giving her extra bonuses; it’s that nightwater is part of a rogue’s basic toolkit when dealing with magical traps. Likewise, while the core PHB might suggest that a fireball requires sulpher or guano as a component, in Eberron wizards might instead use a pinch of Fernian firedust. This is no more difficult to acquire than sulfur would be in another setting; it’s simply that it’s a resource unique to the world.

When it becomes possible to create new Eberron material, I’d love to put together a more substantial list of such things — both those background items like nightwater and firedust and things that are rarer and have more dramatic uses.

Do dragonshards operate differently on other planes?

We’ve never suggested that they behave in unusual ways when taken to other planes, and at least in the novels we have planar travelers who don’t experience any unusual behavior with dragonshards or dragonmarks. 

Eberron has various Ages in its history, are there any planar milestones tracked on other planes?

Sure, but I can’t give you specific examples until there’s an opportunity to develop the planes in more detail. The Turning of the Age in Dal Quor is an example of this established in canon. Perhaps Fernia has a similar cycle — it’s currently mildly evil-aligned and thus dominated by the malevolent aspects of fire, but perhaps at other times it’s been mildly good-aligned and more positive. The Endless Night has cycles of absorption and assimilation. I have thoughts about how milestones might unfold in Shavarath — but it’s something that will have to wait for a longer article. 

I’d love to read about how the gith survive on Kythri. With how chaotic it is, how do permanent establishments exist?

First of all, I think Kythri is more complex than the previous description gives it credit for. Its layers are symbols of chaos, change and uncertainty; that doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire plane is literally formless, churning chaos. The Githzerai might have drifting monastaries that ARE constantly changing and evolving — but they never stop being monastaries, and the change occurs over hours or days, not seconds. The Githzerai are comfortable with this constant change; like a zen garden, they meditate on the shifting form and how it reflects reality. It may well be that it’s the mental discipline of the Githzerai that imposes this relative stability; if the monks were to abandon their monastary (or if they were killed) it would dissolve into the greater chaos.

If you have questions or thoughts about the planes, post them below! And thanks as always to the Patreon supporters who keep the blog going.

Dragonmarks: Orcs and the Ghaash’kala

Last week I wrote about Goblins, Orcs, and the Dhakaani. It turns out that there’s a lot to say about goblins, and the post has grown to an unwieldy size. So for the ease of future generations I’ve decided to separate the orc material into a standalone post. As as long as we’re talking about orcs, I want to takes some time to delve into the Ghaash’kala, a topic that’s received little attention in the main sourcebooks.

As I said in the previous post, my goal in Eberron is always to explore what makes each PC race unique. In what way are orcs not just humans with green (or grey) skin and fangs? How are they different from goblins and other “savage humanoids”? Let’s take a look.

ORCS

While they aren’t as directly animalistic as shifters, I see orcs as a very primal race. They’re extremely passionate and emotional; this can manifest as aggression or rage, but it’s just as strong when it comes to loyalty, affection and faith. They believe in things intensely. This led to them being the first druids on Khorvaire and having one of the oldest sects of the Silver Flame – the Ghaash’kala guardians of the Demon Wastes. But they’re also highly individualistic… leaning more towards chaos than law. They are very effective in small tribes or family groups, where they all know each other and are working together… but they aren’t good with faceless authority, blind obedience, or being part of a huge infrastructure. This is one of the main reasons the orcs never dominated Khorvaire. They are barbarians by nature. They have no innate desire to build vast cities or organize huge armies; the small tribe is what they are comfortable with. This led to their being pushed into the fringes of Khorvaire by the Dhakaani goblins, and that’s where this linger to this day. If the goblins are like ants or wasps, orcs are like wolves: fierce, loyal to their pack, but not inclined to form into a massive legion of wolves and conquer the world.

In playing an orc – whether as a player or DM – I’d emphasize this primal and passionate nature. They feel emotions strongly, and are quick to anger but equally quick to celebrate. They believe things deeply, and can be very spiritual. As an orc, you’re loyal to your pack – whether that’s your family or your adventuring companions – and quick to distrust massive, faceless forces and invisible authority. This may seem at odds with the idea of strong faith, but they’re equally distrustful of monolithic organized religions. The Ghaash’kala are one of the oldest sects of the Silver Flame, but they operate in small clans and have never formed the sort of political hierarchy that you see in the Church of the Silver Flame. So as an orc, follow your heart; explore your faith; be true to your friends and suspicious of those who would tell you what to do.

Half-orcs blend the traits of orc and human, and it’s up to you to decide which manifest most strongly in your personality. Do you have the quick emotion and deep faith of your orcish ancestor? Or has this been tempered by your human side? Half-orcs are celebrated in much of the Shadow Marches, where they are thought to possess the best qualities of both races. However, the people of the Five Nations don’t generally share this view… and for that matter, most of the people of the Five Nations assume that orcs are brutish.

If the orcs are so chaotic & don’t make big cities, how do we have Zarash’ak and House Tharashk?   

Because of humanity. There are two primary cultures in the Shadow Marches. The tribes are the older culture and continue to live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. The clans embraced humanity – and over the generations, they adopted many human customs. House Tharashk is an unprecedented alliance between clans, and one that would never survive if not for the humans and half-orcs that balance the chaotic tendencies of their orcish kin. Tharashk orcs have grown up in this blended culture. While they are used to it, it’s still in their nature to question authority, and most Tharashk orcs are ultimately more loyal to their close kin and enclave than to the overall institution – but that’s enough to keep the house intact. Zarash’ak is the largest city the Marches have ever seen, built by House Tharashk when success demanded it; the orcs had no desire to build such things in the past.

Orcs make up the Gatekeepers and the Ghaash’kala. So are they fundamentally good creatures? 

Not at all. Yes, the Ghaash’kala and Gatekeepers are two forces that have protected Eberron for thousands of years. But for every orc in the Ghaash’kala, there’s at least two in the Carrion Tribes of the Demon Wastes. For every Gatekeeper, there’s an orc tied to a cult of the Dragon Below. One reason the Daelkyr didn’t create an orcish equivalent of the Dolgaunts and Dolgrims was because many orcs were quick to embrace their cause; they didn’t need to make an orc slave race. So orcs are passionate in their beliefs, but that includes belief in the Overlords just as easily as loyalty to the Silver Flame.

Have you ever imagined a bardic tradition for orcs?

So a critical thing to bear in mind here is that most people in the world don’t use PC classes. In Eberron, most priests are experts or adepts, NOT clerics. The same applies here. Do orcs have traditions of music and dance? Absolutely! They’re passionate, creative and emotional. I can imagine a tradition of ecstatic song and dance, where listeners are exhorted to let go and give themselves to the music; and I can imagine a tradition of song that is more mournful – similar to Portuguese fado – that is about exhorting the listener to feel the pain or anger of the song. And I’d expect specific musical traditions tied to both the Gatekeepers and the Cults of the Dragon Below. As I call out below, the Dhakaani goblins don’t enjoy art for arts sake; their songs educate you about the past, their dancing is a form of combat drill. For the orcs, art is something to experience and enjoy.

But with that said, most entertainers wouldn’t be bardsA bard isn’t just an entertainer. They are arcane spellcasters and highly skilled loremasters. If all you’re looking for is entertainment, all you need is an expert trained in Performance and perhaps Insight and Persuasion. Among the Dhakaani the dirge singers are deeply integrated into their civilization, serving not simply as entertainers but also as healers, diplomats, and spiritual guides. We have not presented a similar critical role for bards in either the Ghaash’kala or Shadow Marches. With that said, do they exist? Sure. Here’s three ideas.

  • Memories. Much of the secret lore of the Gatekeepers has never been committed to writing; it is the task of a Memory to preserve this knowledge, remembering all things that both their modern comrades and future generations will need to know. Memories typically lead public services in Gatekeeper communities, and this is where inspiration comes in; they are master orators who can exhort the people to remember the importance of their cause. So a higher level druid might be the leader of a Gatekeeper sect, but the Memory may be the one who conveys his message to the people. In looking to the wider word, Memories could be sent out beyond the Marches both the confirm that their knowledge is still accurate (for example, checking the locations of Khyber seals to ensure they are still intact) and to update their knowledge base, investigating mysteries and learning new things. Memories generally know spells related to nature (Animal Friendship, Speak With Animals, Animal Messenger), healing spells, and spells that will help them uncover secrets, and they are usually well versed in knowledge-based skills (Arcana, History).
  • Passions. The Cults of the Dragon Below have always had a strong presence in the Shadow Marches. Many cults don’t have traditional priests or clerics; instead, they have Passions, ecstatic speakers who fan the flames of emotion (and often madness) in their communities. At their best, Passions are spiritual guides and mediators; at their worst they are demagogues and firebrands, inflaming dangerous emotions. As such they rarely have skills like History or Arcana; instead they are well-versed in Insight, Intimidation and Persuasion. Their spells likewise tie to emotion, manipulation and madness. Vicious Mockery, Charm Person, Hideous Laughter, and Suggestion are all solid choices for Passions. If you’re playing an edition where bards have a Bardic Knowledge ability, for a Passion this would reflect literal mad insights; they haven’t studied a topic, but they just declare what they believe – and strangely, that’s often the truth. There’s no organization among Passions; they general spring up spontaneously. Generally there’s only one per community. A Passion PC might have developed a passion for travel; they might be following a mad vision, having an idea of a grand quest that might or might not have any basis in reality; or they could even have been driven from their community for causing trouble, and it’s up to the PC to decide if they’re remorseful adn seek redemption, or if they’re out to sow more chaos.
  • Bridge. In the Shadow Marches, half-orcs are called jhorgun’taal, “the bridge of two bloods.” Some exceptional half-orcs embrace this role. They travel from community to community, carrying local news and helping to bind those communities together. They are entertainers and mediators, seeking to spread cheer and resolve feuds. They typically know the ways of both Gatekeepers and the Cults, and seek to bring out the best in followers of both paths. A Bridge bard would be a helpful guide and advisor to strangers coming to the Marches for the first time. It would be unusual for a Bridge to leave the Marches, but one could be driven by sheer curiosity or a desire to help a wider community.

THE GHAASH’KALA

Everyone knows about the Gatekeepers, the orc druids who fought the Daelkyr. But there’s another group of orc champions who’ve been fighting evil for far longer, and whose vigil has never waned: The Ghaash’kala of the Demon Wastes.

I created the Ghaash’kala in the original ECS. The only canon source that’s expanded on them is the Player’s Guide to Eberron. This is one of those cases where I don’t agree with what was written there – it’s not bad, it’s just not my vision. So to be clear, what you’re about to read contradicts canon and is literally what I do in my Eberron. A few years ago a friend of my ran a 5E Eberron campaign and I played a Ghaash’kala paladin, so I put more thought into the Ghost Guardians, and what follows is the result of that.

HISTORY

In the dawn of time the world belonged to the fiends. The Binding Flame was born from a desperate act of sacrifice. The Overlords cannot be destroyed, merely held at bay; their power yearns to break free from the Flame that binds them, and their servants prey upon those who have inherited the world. The Flame is fueled by courage, and it is only through the vigilance and sacrifice of champions that the light remains strong enough to hold the darkness at bay.

The prisons of the Overlords are scattered across the world, but their power is strongest in the Demon Wastes. Here lies the ruins of Ashtakala, the greatest city of the Age of Demons. Though the Overlords are bound, their power corrupts nature and weak minds. The Wastes are filled with horrors, both mortal and immortal. Left unchecked, these terrors would spread to the south and bathe Khorvaire in blood. But ancient magic and geography have established a barrier: the mountain range known as the Labyrinth. This barrier can’t stop the powerful rakshasa from leaving the Wastes, but it serves as a funnel for the lesser horrors. Bloodthirsty barbarians, minor fiends, twisted creatures… all flow through the Labyrinth seeking release. One force guards the gates of the Labyrinth and protects the innocents to the south: The Ghost Guardians, the Ghaash’kala, sworn to serve the Binding Flame from birth to death and beyond. The life of a Ghost Guardian is one of endless strife. It is a mirror to the Flame itself: it is a battle than can never be truly won, but through sacrifice they can continue to contain the evil and protect the innocent from harm.

The Ghaash’kala have no written records and don’t know exactly how long their ancestors have fought against the darkness. It’s clear that couatl trained and equipped the first Ghaash’kala; it may not have been during the Age of Demons itself, but it was long before humanity came to Khorvaire. As such, the Ghaash’kala may be the first humanoids to channel the power of the Silver Flame… or as they call it, Kalok Shash, the Binding Flame.

STRUCTURE

There are four Ghaash’kala clans spread across the Labyrinth. As far as they are concerned, the world is divided into two sides: the living and the fel (a word that could be translated both as “unliving” or “unnatural”; it is a term that encompasses both undead, fiends and life that has been corrupted). They have no interest in politics or commerce; should the Overlords rise, they will care nothing for trivialities of mortal nations. The Ghaash’kala place most people into the category of “The weak innocents we are protecting,” but they will accept members of any race into their ranks. They feel disdain for anyone strong enough to fight who ignores the greater duty, especially mercenaries who squander their gifts without any conviction whatsoever.

The Kalok Shash is a simple faith, and the Ghaash’kala don’t waste time on the elaborate rituals or titles of the Church of the Silver Flame. There are only a few recognized positions among the faithful.

  • A korta (“Speaker”) is someone who hears the Voice of the Flame more clearly than others. The korta serve as spiritual guides, diplomats and healers, using their connection to the Flame to guide and advise others. A korta’sha is a divine spellcaster. The korta’sha are always on the front lines, leading war parties and battling demonic influences.
  • A kala (“Guardian”) is a warrior who fights in service to the Flame; this includes the bulk of the Ghaash’kala population. A kala’sha is a divine warrior – typically a paladin.
  • A drok (“Hand”) is a non-combatant, either because of infirmity or because of a vital non-combat skill needed to support the fight.

There are no equivalent ranks to bishop, priest, cardinal, or any of that. The Ghaash’kala are few enough in number that the korta and kala are distinguished by their deeds. Everyone knows that the korta’sha Hurok is the greatest of the Speakers; he doesn’t need some special title to indicate that. The Ghaash’kala are also considerably more blase about divine spellcasters than most human cultures. To the Ghaash’kala, these individuals are weapons. A korta’sha isn’t necessarily holier than a non-casting korta… but she has a purpose and a duty. She is a tank, and a tank belongs on the battlefield. While Ghaash’kala despise mercenary soldiers, they are truly baffled by the idea of divine spellcasters who do not use their powers to directly fight evil.

Now: how have the Ghaash’kala survived in the Demon Wastes for tens of thousands of years? Where do they get the supplies they need, from steel for their weapons to the food and water they need to survive? What are their shelters like?

To start with the last: Each of the four clans has a stronghold carved deep into the rock of the Labyrinth, each drawing on the powers of a manifest zone. These were created by dragons and couatl in the first age, and are imbued with powerful magic; it is these fortifications that have served as a final refuge in even the hardest times. Likewise, the Ghaash’kala possess tools and weapons that have been handed down for generations. The Ghaash’kala consider these relics to be sacred gifts, and they might as well be; the most potent of them were crafted by the beings who first kindled the Flame itself. Of course, an artifact is not something to be used lightly; sometimes generations pass before someone successfully bonds with a relic. Some say that Tira Miron’s blade Kloijner came from the Wastes, that the couatl guided her north to claim the weapon she needed to face Bel Shalor. If one of your players is a champion of the Flame, perhaps there is an artifact waiting for them in the vaults of the Ghaash’kala.

Such tools certainly help explain the survival of the Ghaash’kala. But there are only a few such artifacts. The Maruk stronghold has a well that never runs dry, a variation of the Alchemy Jug. But they still need food and any number of basic supplies that can’t be found in this poisoned land. But the very thing that makes the Wastes so dangerous also provides opportunity. The Demon Wastes are peppered with passages to Khyber… not simply the physical underworld, but a host of demiplanes and demonic realms. Fiends emerge from these paths to prey on the weak… and the Ghaash’kala venture into them to find what they need. The Maruk hunt balewolves in the Abyssal Forests of Khar, and wield weapons taken from the corpses of the demon foot soldiers of the Ironlands. These strange realms are alien and deadly, but over the many centuries the Ghaash’kala have learned their secrets. As a result, the Ghaash’kala have resources that can’t be found anywhere in Khorvaire. Their weapons are forged from unknown materials, and they brew salves and unguents that would make Jorasco weep. So the idea is that the Ghaal’dar are essentially barbarians living in an apocalyptic landscape – but by mastering that environment, making the most of the resources available to them, and preserving and using ancient relics, they have found what they need to hold the line in their never-ending war.

KALOK SHASH: THE BINDING FLAME

Overall, the faith of the Binding Flame is harsh, simple and compassionate. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak. It is the duty of the living to fight the fel… whether with the sword, or in the case of the drok by caring for the warriors and producing more warriors. Harsh sacrifice is often necessary, but the loss of any innocent life is a tragedy. With that said, there is a concrete line over which innocence is lost. One of the constant threats faced by the Ghaash’kala are the Carrion Tribe barbarians, mortals who serve the Overlords. The Ghaash’kala call a mortal who chooses to serve evil a fel’gha – “Vile Soul.” They do not waste time or tears on the fel’gha; there are too many threats to the world to worry about redeeming the corrupt. A Ghaash’kala would cast any human who chooses to prey on other humans in this category, and typically one deals with fel’gha with the sword. This can be a difficult challenge for a kala’sha who travels in the south, where many humans seek to take advantage of one another. A greedy innkeeper most likely isn’t a true fel’gha deserving of death… but the Ghaash’kala are disgusted that anyone would seek to harm others for profit.

While they may give it a different name, the Ghaash’kala channel the power of the Silver Flame. They may shout different invocations, but the visible manifestations of their magic are identical to those of an exorcist of the Silver Flame or a silver pyromancer. A paladin from Thrane and a korta’sha who observe each other in battle recognize that they wield the same forces. With that said, if you’re planning to use the Ghaash’kala in a campaign involving divine characters tied to the Flame, it’s an excellent opportunity to shift around spell lists. Perhaps the Ghaash’kala know ways to use the Flame that humans have never discovered… while Tira’s followers have discovered more subtle rituals that the Korta’sha have never imagined. The simplest way to handle this is to give the Ghaash’kala spells found in a new supplement or sourcebook – so you aren’t taking away core spells from a player, but rather providing an interesting path for learning new spells. Rather than having new options magically appear over night, it’s more interesting to make a cleric study with a korta’sha to learn that new spell or channel divinity option. And perhaps they have something to teach in return.

But wait: earlier, I said the korta hear the Voice of the Flame. Isn’t Tira Miron the Voice of the Flame? She is… for the Church of the Silver Flame. A Voice is the anchor of a manifestation of the faith. Tira is the Voice of Flamekeep. But the Ghaash’kala have their own Voice, just as the people of Khalesh did in Sarlona. One can assume that the Voice of Kalok Shash was an orc from long ago, but if so their name has been lost; they are simply known as Korta’Shash. If you use my idea of learning new divine spells by training with the Ghaash’kala, it could be that this isn’t just about learning a new incantation or gesture as it would be for a wizard… but rather realizing that there is more than one Voice of the Flame, and learning how to hear the Voice of Kalok Shash.

USING THE GHAASH’KALA

Here’s a few ideas about ways to bring the Ghaash’kala into your campaign.

  • If your adventurers need to go to the Demon Wastes – perhaps to explore the Lair of the Keeper? Or on a secret mission to Ashtalaka? – they will have to deal with the Ghaash’kala to get through the Labyrinth. The Guardians won’t stop people from going in, but will warn that no one tainted by the influences of the Wastes will be allowed to leave – are you sure this trip is worth it?
  • An adventurer with ties to the Silver Flame may be guided to the Labyrinth. There is an artifact in the Maruk stronghold that they must claim… but can they prove their worthiness to the guardians?
  • The players stumble onto a rakshasa plot to weaken the wards of the Labyrinth. The PCs must work with the Ghaash’kala to stop it – but will distrust or treachery doom this effort and unleash a horde of Carrion barbarians into Aundair?
  • A Ghaash’kala paladin arrives in the PC’s community. She’s tracking an escaped possessing fiend, and will do whatever she must to destroy it. Can the PCs help capture the fiend with minimal collateral damage?

Beyond this, the Ghaash’kala can be an entertaining background for a PC. Have you been sent in pursuit of a particular agenda – Stopping the rise of an overlord? Reclaiming Kloijner? Protecting one of the other PCs, even though neither you nor they know why this is important? Are you pursuing escaped demons or the opposing the Lords of Dust? Were you exiled for a crime (and did you actually commit it)? Or are you an ambassador, sent to learn the ways of the soft southerners and protect them? As someone who played a Ghaash’kala paladin, it can be fun to play a character who is truly a warrior in the cause of light… and yet, completely unfamiliar with the ways of civilization. While most Ghaash’kala are orcs, they accept members of any races. My paladin was a half-orc; his human father was a paladin who had returned Kloijner to the Wastes, and now the blade was guiding my character on a new quest in the south.

Is there a physical manifestation somewhere in the Wastes where the Voice of the Flame can be found, similar to Tira Miron?

You may be confusing Tira Miron – the Voice of the Flame – with Jaela Daran, the Keeper of the Flame. There’s no physical location where Tira Miron can be found. Flamekeep is the site of Tira’s sacrifice and the seat of Jaela’s power, but Tira isn’t physically present; anyone who follows this branch of the faith can hear Tira no matter where they are.

The Ghaash’kala have no equivalent of the Keeper of the Flame. Every clan likely has a korta they consider to be closest to the Flame, but that’s based on their actions as opposed to being a special mystical connection; there’s no equivalent to the power boost Jaela gets in Flamekeep.

With that said: there is no canon explanation of what it takes to become a Voice of the Flame. It would certainly be reasonable to say that a mortal can become a Voice of the Flame when they voluntarily bind an Overlord – that in the process, their spirit merges with the Flame, but WITHOUT the usual process of going through Dolurrh, which means that they retain more of their individuality and consciousness. In which case, the Voice of Kalok Shash could have a story similar to Tira. Perhaps long ago a Ghaash’kala champion sacrificed themselves to bind Rak Tulkhesh. Somewhere in the Demon Wastes lies the point where this sacrifice took place; and like Flamekeep, this could be a place of power. Essentially, the Ghaash’kala don’t have a Keeper and don’t know where this point of sacrifice is, because it’s somewhere in the incredibly hostile Wastes. But if they could find it and somehow secure it, perhaps they COULD have a Keeper in the future.

Does the leaders of the Church of the Silver Flame know about the Ghaash’kala? If so, what does the relationship between those in the groups that know of each other look like?

Yes and no. There are a number of scattered sects that worship the Silver Flame. The Ghaash’kala and the Shulassakar are two prominent ones, but there are others. These are often called “Serpent Cults.” So the Church knows about the Ghaash’kala and has studied them. Whether an individual knows would be about a Religion check. It’s not COMMON knowledge, but neither is it entirely unknown. The Ghaash’kala have little interest in the outside world, because they have a war to fight.

So: in the campaign in which I played my Ghaash’kala paladin, there was a cleric of the Silver Flame from Flamekeep (technically a clone of Jaela, long story) and a Silver Pyromancer. I’d had a vision that guided me from the Wastes to protect the Jaela-clone. In their eyes, I was a barbarian – clearly serving the interests of the Silver Flame, but still a savage. In my opinion, they were soft folk who likewise had the right idea but had never fought on the front lines of the eternal war; lucky for them that I was there to protect them. So initially we didn’t UNDERSTAND each other – but we still respected one another as serving the same overall cause.

But here’s the thing. You COULD say that the Ghaash’kala and Church work closely together, that Flamekeep recognizes the importance of what the Ghaash’kala are doing and supports them. But is that a fun story? In my opinion it’s more interesting for YOUR STORY if there’s been fairly little contact between the two and each largely dismisses the other… which means that YOUR ADVENTURERS – whether they are from Thrane or the Wastes – will be the ones who ESTABLISH understanding and alliances. Let your players take an active role in establishing (or destroying the chances of) an alliance – because this is exactly the sort of thing that lets the PCs make a difference within the world.

That’s all I have time to write, but if you have questions or thoughts about the orcs or the Ghaash’kala, share them below!

Dragonmarks: Tieflings

In a previous Dragonmark I wrote about my general approach to adding exotic races to Eberron. Since then there’s been a fair amount of interest in a race that already has a vaguely defined role in canon Eberron: The Tiefling. While tieflings have come up in canon sources — the Venomous Demesne is mentioned in the 4E sourcebooks — as always, this is what I’d do in my personal campaign and it may contradict canon material.

The basic concept of the tiefling is a humanoid touched by infernal powers. Some interpretations present the concept of an empire whose lords bargained with dark forces; in others, tieflings are loners without a clear culture or path. As always, my goal in adding a new race is to find out what the players are looking for. If I have a player asking to be a tiefling, do they want to be part of an ancient tradition of warlocks? Would they rather play a loner who feels cursed by their infernal blood? Here’s two different approaches, each of which provides a very different story for a player to build on.

THE VENOMOUS DEMESNE

The Sarlonan nation of Ohr Kaluun was infamous for delving into dark magics. In the depths of their war labyrinths, the mage-lords of Ohr Kaluun forged pacts with infernal spirits and tapped into the powers of the planes. Over generations this twisted the blood of the nobles, producing the first tieflings. This corruption didn’t go unnoticed. Khaleshite crusaders fought bitterly against Ohr Kaluun, and fear of the demonic taint of Ohr Kaluun spreading across Sarlona was a cornerstone of the civil strife that resulted in the Sundering. The civilization of Ohr Kaluun was wiped out during the Sundering, but a small force of nobles and their retainers escaped across the sea. These refugees created a hidden enclave on the west coast of Khorvaire. Over the course of centuries, they regained a portion of their pride and power. They inspired fear in the savage creatures that lived around them, and their realm became known as the Venomous Demesne. The tiefling lords were largely content in their isolation until the Daughters of Sora Kell rose to power in the region and sought to unify the wilds into the nation of Droaam. Sora Teraza herself came to the Venomous Demesne, bypassing the mystical concealment as if it didn’t exist. She spoke to the Council of Four, and none know what she said. But in the days that followed, the noble lines sent representatives to the Great Crag and joined in the grand experiment of Droaam.

The Venomous Demesne is a tiefling community and culture. It is a small hidden city, whose population includes both humans and tieflings… though many of the humans have minor signs of infernal heritage, even if they don’t have the full racial mechanics. The Demense is ruled by an alliance of four tiefling families, and the members of these families are powerful casters delving into many paths of magic: there are warlocks, clerics, and wizards of all schools. Their powers are vast, but grounded in dark bargains made in the past. To most outsiders, their traditions seem arbitrary and cruel. The price of magic is often paid for in pain and blood. Duels are an important part of their culture – never to the death, as they are still too few in number to squander noble blood so casually, but always with a painful cost for the loser.

If you are a full-blooded tiefling of the Venomous Demense, you are a scion of a noble line – a line that made bargains with malefic powers in the past. Your people have long been extremely insular, shunning all contact with the outside world. Now that they are expanding into Droaam, some are interested in knowing more about Khorvaire and the opportunities it presents. Consider the following options…

  • Your noble house is the weakest of the four lines. You are searching for allies or powers that will allow your house to gain dominance over the Venomous Demesne.
  • You are a lesser heir of your house and will never achieve status in the Demesne. You are seeking personal power that will let you take control of your house. You’re especially interested in the Mourning; it reminds you of stories you’ve heard about the magics of Ohr Kaluun, and you wonder if you could unlock and master its powers.
  • You have discovered a terrible secret about your ancestors and the bargains that they made… a pact that is about to come due. It may be that the cost affects you personally; that it could destroy your house; or that it is a threat to Eberron itself. Perhaps an Overlord is due to be released, or a planar incursion will occur if you can’t stop it. The Council of Four won’t listen to you – so you’re on your own.
  • You have been exiled from the Demesne. This could be because of a duel you lost, a crime you committed, or a crime you WOULDN’T commit. Perhaps you were ordered to participate in a pact that would damn your soul, or to murder someone you cared about. You can never return: what destiny can you find in the outer world?

You are from a hidden city of dark wonders, and the Five Nations seem hopelessly primitive and savage to you. Where is the blood wine? Where is the music of the spheres? Imagine you’re an alien from an advanced civilization, forced to deal with savages.

PLANETOUCHED TIEFLINGS

The tieflings of the Venomous Demesne were mystically engineered. Their ancestors chose to become tieflings by binding dark powers to their blood. But those same dark powers can leak into the world uncalled for. During coterminous periods, planar influences can shape an unborn child; this is especially true in a manifest zone. In this way, a Tiefling can be born into a human family. This occurs most frequently in the Demon Wastes, and among the Carrion Tribes Tieflings are seen as blessed, often rising to positions of power in a tribe. Within the Five Nations such births are more often viewed with fear and concern. This is often justified. A planetouched Tiefling isn’t the result of a bargain or pact. They are touched by planar power, and this shapes them in both body and mind.

When making a planetouched tiefling, the first question is which plane you’re tied to and how that manifests physically and mentally.

  • Fernia is an obvious choice, as its residents include devils and demons and many Tiefling racial abilities are tied to fire. A Fernian tiefling fits the classic appearance. Skin could be fiery red or orange, and warm to the touch. Eyes could be glowing embers, and when the tiefling grows angry the ambient temperature could rise. A Fernian tiefling would be fiery and passionate, with an innate love for seeing things destroyed by flame.
  • Shavarath is also a good choice, as it is home to the majority of fiends that resemble tieflings. A tiefling tied to Shavararath might have horns of steel, and their skin could seem to be made of leather or iron, though this would be a cosmetic effect only. A fiend of Shavarath could keep the standard flame-based powers, but would have a martial nature and strong instinct for aggression, conquest, or bloodshed.
  • Risia also works as the counterpoint to Fernia. A Risian tiefling would have pale white or silvery skin and hair. Their horns might actually be made of ice, staying frozen even in the warmest temperatures, and they might draw heat from their surroundings. A Risian tiefling should have resistance to cold instead of fire, and their Hellish Rebuke would inflict cold damage. Emotionally, Risian tieflings tend to be cold and distant, rarely showing emotion or compassion.
  • Mabar is home to succubi, and a Mabaran tiefling takes after these fiends. A Mabaran tiefling replaces fire resistance with resistance to necrotic damage, and replaces Hellish Rebuke with Arms of Hadar. Mabaran tieflings are often extremely attractive; some have natural skin tones, while others have unnaturally dark skin. Mabaran tieflings are predators by nature and often sociopaths or narcissists.
  • Sakah are tieflings of the Demon Wastes who are touched by the power of the rakshasa. Instead of the horns and tail of the typical tiefling they have feline traits – cat’s eyes, fangs, skin with tiger-stripe patterns, often in unnatural colors. Sakah can use the exact same racial traits as the traditional tiefling, though with the DM’s permission you can exchange Hellish Rebuke (at 3rd level) for the ability to use Alter Self once per day. Sakah are inherently deceptive and manipulative; like the Mabaran tieflings, they are almost exclusively sociopath who have difficulty empathizing with humans.

A critical point here: you aren’t simply touched by the plane, you are touched by its fiendish influences. The fiends of Fernia don’t simply represent fire: Fernian demons reflect the chaotic, terrifying destructive power of fire, while Fernia devils embody the use of fire as a tool for destruction and torment. A genasi is an individual tied to neutral elemental forces: as a tiefling, you are a malevolent embodiment of the planar concept. If you’re a tiefling from Shavarath, you’ve innately got a strong bond to the Mockery – you might want to follow the path of Dol Arrah, but it will definitely be a struggle as your instincts push you towards treachery and cruelty.

Unlike the tieflings of the Venomous Demesne, planetouched tieflings aren’t a true-breeding race; they have no communities or culture. Were you abandoned by your parents who considered you a freakish mutation? Did they instead embrace you and try to help you find a place in the world? Are you a bitter lone wolf, or someone who has fought to find acceptance in public society? Were you born in the Demon Wastes and considered to be blessed… and if so, why did you ever leave? Most of all, do you consider the touch of the plane a curse or a blessing?

PUBLIC REACTION

So the question that comes up most often is how do people in (place) react to tieflings? People in Thrane must hate them, because they’re like demons, right?

Well, sort of. The point I’ve made before is that WE look at the tiefling and see a demon: but the demons the people of Eberron know best are rakshasa, so “horns and red skin” doesn’t automatically mean “evil.” Consider the vast number of monstrous humanoids that exist in the world: if you live in Sharn you’ve encountered harpies, gargoyles, ogres, goblins, shifters, changlings, warforged, and potentially even medusa just doing everyday stuff in town. There’s a creature with living snakes for hair, and while people are definitely UNCOMFORTABLE around medusas, they are still a part of the world.

So the first question is: does the person in question actually know what a tiefling is? By default, tieflings are extremely rare. The tieflings of the Venomous Demesne have always been in hiding. Planetouched tieflings are most common in the Demon Wastes and rarely ever leave it. If you don’t know that a tiefling is connected to fiendish powers, then they are just a person with strange skin and horns. My point in the previous article wasn’t that anyone could mistake a tiefling for a minotaur, but rather that to the casual observer there’s nothing more inherently threatening about a tiefling than there is about a minotaur; both are horned humanoids, and frankly the tiefling is closer to being human. So by default a tiefling won’t produce a reaction of “BURN IT! IT’S A DEMON!” because it’s not the right sort of demon. It’s just some sort of monster, and there are lots of monsters in the world.

With that said, if you WANT the story of persecution and fear, it’s a trivial thing to say that people do know what tieflings are and why they should fear them. Looking to my explanation for planetouched tieflings, I suggested that this is a thing that happens when the destructive planes are coterminous. In this case, as rare as they are, it could be understood that tieflings care the touch of evil – that there is a fiendish taint in their blood, and that most are dangerous and destructive. In this case, I’d look at the treatment of the aberrant dragonmarked as a guideline. Like a tiefling, an aberrant didn’t choose to be cursed – but they possess a dangerous power, and superstition states that they are inclined to be evil. People may not call a priest when a tiefling shows up, but they could certainly treat the tiefling – and any who associate with them – with fear and suspicion, and want nothing to do with them. Followers of the Silver Flame or Dol Arrah could assert that through no fault of their own, the tiefling is inherently inclined to be evil; it might not be a matter of shoot-on-site, but a templar could easily be looking for an excuse to take the twisted thing down.

Now, if this is the path you use, the critical thing would be that if you have BOTH planetouched tieflings and the Venomous Demesne, people will assume the tiefling from the demense is planetouched. Because again, the Demesne has always been hidden and planetouched tieflings aren’t true-breeding; so the idea of a city of tieflings is definitely beyond anyone’s imagining.

RELLEKOR

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea that the village of Rellekor in Thrane has had a large Tiefling community for centuries. How does this tie into these two models? Recall that the Church of the Silver Flame is founded on principles of compassion. It seeks to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. A tiefling has the potential to be a supernatural threat, but it can also be innocent; a tiefling can even become a champion of the Flame.

With this in mind, Rellekor was established as a haven for planetouched tieflings. When Thrane families give birth to a tiefling (due to planar influences), they will usually turn the child over to the church, who will in turn deliver it to Rellekor. Thus, the population of Rellekor is made up of planetouched tieflings with ties to many different planes. It’s not a prison; it’s a place where tieflings can be with their own kind without dealing with the fear of others. Priests of the Flame seek to help tieflings come to terms with their planetouched nature and any gifts or powers associated with it, and help them find a path to the light… while Templars stand ready to deal with those who prove dangerous or irredeemably sociopathic. Note that most of these priests and templars are themselves tieflings.

People of Thrane thus have some concept of tieflings, but bear in mind that part of the point of Rellekor is to keep tieflings from mingling with the general population. The basic attitude is thus that tieflings are dangerous, much like people with aberrant dragonmarks.

If you want to play a tiefling devoted to the Silver Flame, it makes sense that you would have been raised and trained in Rellekor. Otherwise, it can be an interesting location to visit. There are a number of tiefling sages and priests with great wisdom in this place, and it’s also a center for study of the planes tied to the tieflings; if you need insight into Mabar, speak to the Mabarn tiefling monks of Rellekor.

I’m going to leave things there, but hopefully that’s given you some ideas if you’re looking to bring tieflings into your campaign!

 

Catching Up and the Eldeen Reaches

It’s been over a month since my last post: where have I been?

There’s been quite a few things that kept me off the internet. At Twogether we’ve been hard at work getting Illimat to press. Gloom In Space just came out, and I’ve been working on another game you’ll be seeing later in the year: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game. Beyond this, I’ve been dealing with family issues and helping organize gaming on the JoCo Cruise. And to top it all off, I have the flu.

So: I’ve been busy. And I’m going to continue to be busy for the forseeable future. I’m a Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon later this month; I’m working on a new new game, just recorded an episode of a new podcast, and I’m still planning a range of support for Phoenix: Dawn Command in the next few months.

However, I don’t want to let too much time go by without addressing Eberron questions, so let’s get back to it.

Would people from Varna and other eastern settlements in the Eldeen Reaches reconsider going back under Aundairian sovereignty if the Ashbound and the Children of Winter increase attacks against those “civilized” lands and the Wardens are reluctant or unable to protect them? 

As with most things in Eberron, it’s certainly possible if it’s a story you want to explore. It’s especially plausible in Varna, as House Vadalis maintains strong ties to Aundair and would be happy to see Varna return to Aundair.

The critical thing to understand is that the split between Aundair and the Eldeen wasn’t a spur of the moment decision during the Last War. The bandits were the excuse but not the root cause. Instead, it was the culmination of events that had been brewing for a thousand years. The Wardens of the Wood predate Galifar, and always had ties to the people of the Reaches. Galifar united the Five Nations by conquest. His daughter Aundair was set over the northeast, and she sought to instill her values in the people of the region: her love of education, civilization, and arcane magic. But the further you get from Fairhaven, the more people hold to the old ways. When the Eldeen Reaches seceded from Aundairan, they weren’t suddenly allying with mysterious druids they knew nothing about; they were throwing off centuries of oppression and returning to their ancestral roots.

Varna is an exception. It has always been the seat of House Vadalis. It’s the largest city in the Reaches, a center of industry, and it has the strongest ties to Aundair. It’s the logical place for a pro-Aundairian movement to arise.

With that said: the critical question is why the Wardens wouldn’t take action if the Children of Winter and the Ashbound became increasingly aggressive. Small raids may be overlooked, but large-scale action should draw a response from Oalian and the Wardens; that’s what the Wardens are for. One option is that they simply can’t defend the Reaches — that the Ashbound or Children of Winter have had a sudden surge in numbers and power, perhaps drawing members away from the Wardens. If this is the campaign plan, I’d want to explore WHY the sect in question has suddenly gained such power. What’s behind the surge? Why do they feel expanded aggression is necessary? Alternately, it could be that the Wardens are unwilling to interfere… but again, why is this? If innocents are being hurt, why won’t the Wardens take action? If it were me, the answer to these questions would be a critical part of the story of the campaign.

Are there still any operating shrines to or faithful of the Silver Flame in the Eldeen Reaches since the time of the purge?

Excellent question, and one that hasn’t been explored as deeply as it probably should have been. The Silver Flame gained a foothold in the region when the templars fought the lycanthropic plague. This is an example of a time when the Wardens couldn’t defend the region against a threat, and many placed their faith in the force that saved them. With that said, it’s important to emphasis that this is the stronghold of the so-called “Pure Flame.” These are people who first encountered the Flame as a tool of war. It’s this splinter of the faith that has produced people like Cardinal Dariznu. Charity and compassion aren’t key components of the Flame you’ll find here, and a friar from Thrane may find little common ground with a templar from the Reaches.

I guess those faithful are mistrusted by the local shifters…

That goes both ways. Followers of the Pure Flame generally consider shifters to be tainted by lycanthropy… essentially, that they are werewolves-in-waiting, who could at any time fall prey to the corruption in their blood. And it was the followers of the Pure Flame that instigated the worst of the atrocities in the inquisition that followed the Lycanthropic Purge — driven by an understandable hunger for vengeance on the force that nearly destroyed them. So yeah, local shifters will generally dislike followers of the Flame.

Are purified shifters seen as traitors by others?

I don’t think “traitor” is the right word, but it’s something that would be incredibly rare. The primary faith of the Flame in the region is the Pure Flame, and per the Pure Flame shifters are cursed. So a Shifter follower of the Pure Flame would be someone who in all likelihood distrusts their own kind; it’s sort of like a half-fiend embracing the faith, likely believing that it can help them overcome the evil in their lineage.

With that said, the core beliefs of the Silver Flame aren’t prejudiced against shifters, and a shifter cleric from Flamekeep wouldn’t feel this way; however, most locals don’t know the difference, as the Pure Flame is the only form of the Silver Flame they’ve encountered.

Could a surge in the other sects be perhaps the outcome of a ploy by queen Aurala?

I wouldn’t see that as happening directly, but indirectly, certainly. The Ashbound are deeply opposed to the abuse (or for that matter, the use) of arcane magic. Imagine that Aurala makes a gift of mystical tools to villages in the Reaches – a kindly peace offering. Cleansing stones, everburning lamps, some new system of wards, or especially something that affects the natural order – something that blocks disease, affects the fertility of the region, etc – could push the Children of Winter or Ashbound to aggression removing this unnatural thing. Thus Aurala is doing something generous and the sects blocking it are seen as heartless and cruel. Of course, if you want to keep it interesting, it could be that Aurala’s magic WILL disrupt natural patterns; there’s no reason the Ashbound can’t actually be RIGHT with their concerns.

Or a rogue dragon trying to shape the prophecy by weakening the Wardens or furthering chaos in the Reaches?

Seems more like something that would be tied to the Lords of Dust, and the Lords of Dust would have a more logical basis for having an entrenched network of agents in the region that could help manipulate events.

If it was a Gatekeeper that awakened Oalian (if it was), why did he found a new sect of druid faith?

Why do new religions evolve, or existing religions change? Tira Miron was a paladin of Dol Arrah, and she became the Voice of the Silver Flame. Oalian is a unique individual. He’s bound to the natural world in a way the druid who awakened him never could be. He has a unique perspective and centuries of experience – and in that time, he created the sect he believed the region needed.

How has having Droaam as a new neighbor influenced the Reaches?

Before she joined her sisters as a ruler of Droaam, Sora Maenya was the Terror of the Towering Woods. She’s not a new threat, and the Towering Woods have never been safe. That’s why the Wardens of the Wood exist: to protect outsiders from the wood, and to protect the wood from outsiders. They’ve clashed with the Znir Pact and the Wind Howlers long, long before Droaam ever existed. If anything, hostilities between the Reaches and Droaam have probably DROPPED since Droaam became a nation as the Daughters have tighter control over forces that would have otherwise engaged in random raids and skirmishes.

Did the Greensingers arise from other druidic sects like the case with Oalian founding the Wardens? 

Essentially. The druidic traditions in the Reaches can be ultimately traced back to the Gatekeepers. But like Oalian, the inhabitants of the Reaches — shifters, human settlers, others — learned these traditions after the Xoriat incursion, and weren’t as focused on the Gatekeeper mission. Imagine that a member of the Chamber founds an order of wizards and teaches them arcane magic to use to find a demon. They do, and the members of the circle devote their lives, and those of their descendants, to maintaining the seals. But along the way, a member of the circle teaches some of their magic to someone else – an outsider who hasn’t sworn to maintain the seals, or a child who leaves their family instead of embracing their duty. This person goes north and teaches the magic they’ve learned to someone else. At this point, this third generation wizard knows only the basic principles of the magic and almost none of the history behind it; but they have enough to build upon, to make their own discoveries and create their own traditions.

This is what you have in the Reaches. The basic techniques of druidic magic can be traced back to the Gatekeepers, but we’re talking about thousands of years — more than enough time for new traditions to evolve and arise. The Greensingers are just such a case, shaped when druidic initiates encountered envoys of Thelanis, or found their way into the Faerie Court themselves.

And do you see the majority of the Greensingers as being more loyal to their fey patrons or to the people of the Reaches, considering that they act as intermediaries between the two?

I see the Greensingers as being an intensely individualistic sect, far more so than any of the others. They’re tied to different patrons and inspired by different things. Some of them may be deeply devoted to serving as intermediaries or guides; others may solely be concerned with the agendas of their fey patrons.

What could change if the Wardens decide that Ashbounds are right and arcane magic is driving the world to apocalypse? Could the druid together do something? Would they try something extreme like a war to house cannith, attempting to kill everybody with the mark of making?

Do they have the resources to do anything like that? It’s really up to you as a GM. In my opinion, the Wardens of the Wood are a small force; while they may have access to significant primal power in the Towering Woods, like the Undying Court, that power is concentrated in a specific geographic location; they simply don’t have the capability of threatening House Cannith across the Five Nations. Which is part of the basic premise of Eberron: if they DID decide House Cannith was a threat, they’d need to find some champions – IE PCs – to do something about it. Note that even at the height of their power, the Gatekeepers couldn’t face the Daelkyr on their own; it was the alliance of Gatekeepers and Dhakaani that overcame the incursion.

With that said, if you wanted to use this as something the PCs need to prevent as opposed to enact, there’s any number of plots I could image. Perhaps they work with the Children of Winter and come up with a plague that specifically targets the dragonmarked, killing them or simply sterilizing them. This isn’t an instant effect, but it’s something that is spreading rapidly; can the PCs find a cure before it’s too late? What consequences will losing a big chunk of the dragonmarked have on the world?

Perhaps they enact a massive ritual that separates Eberron from Siberys and completely disrupts arcane magic – which would have widespread ramifications, such as the collapse of Sharn and crashing of airships. The initial ritual might only last for a day – but can the PCs find an answer before a follow-up ritual makes it permanent?

And the real question I’d ask is What if they’re right? What if it IS pushing Eberron closer to the apocalypse? If you reverse this ritual, will it trigger a new and more widespread Mourning?

I explored this concept in greater depth in an Eye on Eberron article in Dragon 418. Here’s an excerpt.

The doctrine of the Children of Winter states that Siberys is the source of arcane and divine magic; Eberron the mother of primal and natural things; and Khyber is the font of aberrations and fiends. The first signs of Eberron’s fury would be a wave of natural disasters. Thousands die as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes shake the world. Once she is fully awake, Eberron asserts her preeminence over her creation, banishing the influence of Khyber and Siberys alike. The Lords of Dust are forced into the depths with other fiends, while the dragons of Argonnessen are wiped out. The magical energies wielded by both wizards and priests are cast back to the Ring of Siberys, and arcane and divine magic fails utterly. The towers of Sharn collapse under their own weight. Airships fall from the sky. Amid this chaos, awakened plants tear down the foundations of cities, newborn primal predators hunt survivors, and plagues ravage the land.

            The loss of magic is the key event of this disaster, but it doesn’t make the world a mundane place. Dragons are hard hit because arcane magic flows through their blood—but there are many natural creatures that have innate supernatural abilities. The ogre still has his strength, and the blink dog can still slip through space. Primal magic is stronger than ever, and the youngsters in the ruined cities will grow up to be barbarians and wardens. But beyond that, only a handful of people can still use arcane and divine magic . . . including the player characters. One of the underlying themes of Eberron is that the PCs are the most important people of the age, and here is where that precept is made manifest. Player character clerics and paladins are the last connection to the divine in a world cut off from the heavens. The PC sorcerer still holds a spark of Siberys in his blood, while the artificer is one of the only people who can harness the residual energy that remains. The characters have powers that no one else can wield. Will they search for a way to restore the old order, or will they use their abilities for personal gain? Will the wizard try to create rituals that anyone can use, or use his powers to carve out a kingdom?

Maybe it’s a too off topic question, but if the plan of the Ashbound was to kill or sterilize every Cannith… what would change in Eberron? How would it be an Eberron without House Cannith?

It’s off topic, but I’ll allow it. Personally, I don’t think the removal of House Cannith alone is a logical goal for the Ashbound. Among other things, House Vadalis and House Jorasco are more obvious offenders when it comes to “twisting the natural order of things” and Vadalis is based in Varna, right on the doorstep of the Ashbound. Beyond that, removing House Cannith WOULDN’T have a dramatic immediate effect on things, because most of what Cannith does can be replicated by independent artificers, alchemists, wizards and blacksmiths; what Cannith does is a) innovate and b) industrialize. Inventions like the warforged – something that can only be created by Cannith – are rare; mostly, they produce everything from potions to mundane tools, and creation forges and schemas allow them to produce these things more efficiently and in larger quantities than other folks. Remove House Cannith and what you’ll get is prices of common items going up, shortages occurring, and quality starting to vary dramatically; right now Cannith defines the “industry standard”.

We’ve always said that Eberron is “widespread magic” as opposed to “high magic”. It’s the industrial aspect of Cannith that allows it to be widespread, producing mundane items like everburning torches and the like. Remove Cannith and those things will still be produced – just by a hundred independents, resulting in that range of quality and availability. It wouldn’t be as dramatic as eliminating arcane magic entirely.

Do you have questions about the Eldeen Reaches? Post them below!

Dragonmarks 7/11/16: Druids

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We’re closing in on the release of my new RPG Phoenix: Dawn Command, and Jenn and I are working to organize the events we’ll be running at Gen Con. But I’ve been promising to answer questions about Druids in Eberron for a while, so here goes! As a side note, the image above is actually a Devoted Phoenix, but as a Grimwald shaman he’s SORT of a druid. Anyhow…

PRIMAL MAGIC

In the previous Dragonmark, I wrote about the difference between arcane and divine magic. As I mentioned there, I prefer druidic magic to be an entirely separate path as opposed to a subset of divine magic – taking the 4E approach of making druids and rangers primal casters. If you believe the myth of the Progenitors, arcane and divine magic both draw on the power of Siberys, while primal magic is the power of Eberron – the world itself. This reinforces the idea that druidic magic is natural magic, and fundamentally different from either arcane magic or divine magic.

So… How is it different? Arcane magic is about manipulating mystical energy through scientific methods. Divine magic uses faith and willpower as a method to tap divine power sources. What’s involved in primal magic? In my opinion, it walks a path between the two. Power is present in nature, and it comes in many forms. You have the direct elemental power of wind and storm; the power of animal archetypes; the life force of the world; and more. Primal magic involves touching and channeling one of these forces. In my opinion, this is like lucid dreaming – something anyone in theory COULD do, but something that in practice few people master. Another example would be Naming in Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. To generate lightning, a wizard will use a formula that alters the laws of physics. A cleric will call on the power of the Sovereigns. The druid simply understands the storm and knows how to ask it to do what she wants. This doesn’t require any particular belief, nor does it unlock every secret of nature at once. A ranger may have learned how to tell the world to leave no trace of his path, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to talk to the storm. With that said…

HOW DOES YOUR DRUID CAST SPELLS?

Primal magic doesn’t require belief to function… but that doesn’t prevent humans from layering belief on top of it. Each druidic sect has its own approach, and ultimately it’s up to you to decide how your primal caster operates. When you perform a spell, what do you do? Here’s a few approaches.

  • You invoke the spirits of nature. You speak to the storm and ask it to strike your foes. You call to primal spirit of the Hawk and ask it to lend you its wings.
  • You know secret words and rituals that let you channel natural forces – one word that calls the storm, another that gives you skin of bark. There’s more to this than just the word itself; it’s about understanding the storm and the tree. Nonetheless, you don’t actually talk to the storm; you simply know how to make lightning strike your enemy, the same way a farmer knows how to plant a seed so it will grow. You understand nature in a way most people do not, but to you this isn’t magical; it’s natural.
  • All things are connected through Eberron. You are already connected to the hawk and the storm. You don’t invoke them with secret names or address them as spirits; you simply reach through that connection and draw on the power you need. When you heal someone, you are helping them draw on their own connection to the primal lifeforce; when you hurt them, you are reaching through that connection and channeling disease.
  • You are a champion of Eberron, empowered by the world itself to protect her. She created the storm and the hawk, and she gives you dominion over them. You are the hand and the voice of the Wild.

In a sense, primal lies between divine and arcane, and the question is which end of the spectrum you fall under. Do you interact with spirits the same way a priest might speak to angels? Do you believe that you are a champion of the world as a paladin is a champion of the Silver Flame? Or do you believe that nature simply is, and the magic you perform is no more “magical” than a tree growing from the seed – you just know how to make natural things happen on demand?

WHAT ABOUT RANGERS?

Rangers serve as the warriors of the Eldeen druidic sects. They are primal characters in 4E and use druidic magic in 5E. Thus, as a whole, they fit the concepts presented above, and rangers from the Eldeen sects will follow the belief framework of their sect. However, it may be that you have an idea for a ranger that doesn’t really fit any of these. You want to be an awesome hunter, but you don’t really see your character thinking about “the balance of nature” or anything like that. If you want a not-so-druidic ranger, here’s a few approaches.

  • You can characterize your ranger’s spells as being more “tricks” that they’ve picked up. Perhaps you cure wounds using a salve you’ve learned to make, or create a fog cloud with a smoke grenade. Your hunter’s mark or jump could simply be driven by skill, and detect magic an innate sense of things. Mind you, all of these things WOULD still be magic, and could be dispelled, detected, etc – but it’s more that you’ve jury-rigged things that produce magical effects as opposed to having a deep connection with the power of nature.
  • Personally, I’d have no objection to a ranger who wanted to define his spells as arcane (reflecting a scientific approach to magic) or entirely divine (tied to his faith to Arawai or Balinor, for example). I wouldn’t change the spell list, as that’s part of the class balance, and because they can choose spells that fit what they are looking for – but I’d be happy to consider their magic to be arcane or divine instead of primal for any magical effects that relate to such things.
  • You can simply play a ranger who doesn’t use spells; one version of this was presented in this Unearthed Arcana article.

DRUID SECTS

To date, most of the focus on primal magic has been on the druidic sects of the Eldeen Reaches. Aside from the primary setting guide, you can find more details on these sects in the Player’s Guide to Eberron and Faiths of Eberron. Each of these sects is primarily concerned with a different aspect of nature. Here’s the very short version.

  • The Wardens of the Wood are about balance. They help people live in harmony with nature, and act to protect both the innocent and the wild. They are the largest of the Eldeen sects and the one that gets the most new recruits, as they actively work to help and protect the people of the Eldeen Reaches.
  • The Gatekeepers are about protecting nature from the unnatural. They fight the forces of Khyber and Xoriat, and maintain the seals that hold the Daelkyr at bay.
  • The Children of Winter are about the cycle of life… and death. They believe that civilization has thrown this cycle out of balance and use disease and other means to test and thin the herd. They further believe that there will come a time when an apocalypse cleanses the world, clearing a path for its rebirth. Some of them believe the Mourning is the first stage in this disaster… and that it should be welcomed and accelerated.
  • The Ashbound oppose civilization. They despise agriculture, cities, and all the ways in which civilization seeks to control or abolish the natural world… but they are especially opposed to those who warp the natural order with unnatural magic. They are the most zealous and dangerous of the sects. This sect includes a significant number of barbarians along with rangers and druids.
  • The Greensingers are ambassadors to the Fey. They linger in areas that are close to Thelanis, and often travel between the planes. While they are most strongly connected to the Fey, some Greensingers are more broadly interested in traffic with all of the planes.

The critical thing is that these five sects are NOT all of the druids in the world! To begin with, we’ve said that there’s around a dozen active sects in the Eldeen Reaches (which obviously means that there were thirteen, but one’s gone missing). We have never described the other Eldeen sects, because this is part of “There’s a place in Eberron for anything in D&D…” We intentionally left those other sects open so DMs have an easy place to drop in new sects of their own or interesting sects from other settings or sourcebooks. It’s possible we will add others in future material; I have an idea for a shifter sect with a focus on shapeshifting and living among the beasts of the wild, which hasn’t made as much of an impact as the others because its members are largely invisible within the woods. But the point is: These five sects exist to give you hooks to play with, but they are not intended to cover every possible sect.

Beyond this, within canon we’ve already presented a number of other druidic sects.

If I had the time to go through every sourcebook, I’m sure I could find more examples of druidic sects. The five named sects are those with the greatest impact on the Five Nations, and have been cast into the spotlight by the Eldeen secession. But you’re not limited to these five choices when you make a primal character of your own.

What do the Ashbound and Children of Winter think of the Undying Court, to the extent they are aware of each other? Have the Followers of the Broken Path had any significant contact with the other druid sects? Do the Gatekeepers nowadays a connection to the Wordbearer Dhakaani?

I’m merging all these together because they are all variations of the same question, which is how much contact do the Eldeen sects have with the rest of the world? The answer: not much. There’s a reason we call them the ELDEEN sects. We’re used to a world that is filled with information, where TV and internet keep us in constant contact with the entire world. Not only does Eberron lack these things, but the druid sects – especially the Ashbound – largely avoid the tools that do exist; the Ashbound aren’t going to go use House Sivis speaking stones or pick up the latest chronicle. The Wardens of the Wood rose up to protect the people of the Eldeen Reaches during the Last War; but during the thousand years Galifar was unified, they rarely left the Towering Woods.

With that said, some of the sects have taken an interest in the wider world recently BECAUSE of the Mourning. Children or Winter have ventured east to study the Mourning and to bring Winter to the great cities of the Five Nations. Some Ashbound believe they must strike deeper at the heart of civilization; some Gatekeepers want to reach out to find help in their struggle. These are things you can expand upon to meet the needs of the story you want to tell. But BY DEFAULT the Eldeen sects have little knowledge of or contact with the world beyond the Towering Woods. Among other things, this means that as a player character from one of these sects, you may be a trailblazer. The Gatekeepers haven’t been in contact with the Wordbearers or joined forces with the Kalashtar to fight the Dreaming Dark… but YOUR Gatekeeper might be the druid who restores the ancient alliance with the Dhakaani or negotiates new ties to the Kalashtar. This ties to the general philosophy of Eberron: YOU should be the people at the heart of events that change this era. There are many groups that share common interests with the Eldeen sects… but it’s up to you to establish those ties.

THE CHILDREN OF WINTER

It’s not so clear to me what’s the goal of Children of Winter. Do they want to kill any human life?

From Dragon 418:  When Eberron created life, she also created death. She gave the asp its venom and set plagues loose in the world. All these things have their purpose. Now you have pulled the serpent’s teeth and leashed the plagues with magic. Our mother will not be mocked, and her wrath is coming soon.

This is in the voice of one of the Children; a later section is clearer.

Although they surround themselves with vermin and the trappings of decay, the Children see themselves as champions of life. They believe that all natural things have a purpose, even those that seem malevolent. Death clears the way for new life. Disease weeds out the weak. The Children work to preserve this cycle. 

The Children despise the undead and destroy them whenever they encounter them… and if they WERE aware of the Undying Court, they’d despise it as well. Positive or negative energy means little to them; the simple fact is that these elves have placed themselves outside the natural cycle, and no good can come of it. And while they aren’t as dedicated to it as Gatekeepers and have no specialized spells, the Children will also fight aberrations or similar unnatural threats if they encounter them.

So why do the Children kill people? What’s their real goal? Let’s look back to Dragon 418: Like most druids, the Children see Eberron as the source of all life and the spirit of the natural world. They believe that she had a grand design for nature, a purpose yet unfulfilled. And they believe that if humanity strays too far from the path of Eberron’s design, she will wipe the slate clean and start again.

It’s not simply that the Children believe that people are “breaking the rules” with their medicine and their Undying Courts; they believe that these things THREATEN EVERYONE, and that if we don’t get the population under control the WORLD WILL BE DESTROYED. By spreading disease, they are using the tools nature designed to weed out the weak and reduce population. A significant number of Children believe that the Mourning is the harbinger of this “Winter” – the apocalypse Eberron will use to wipe the slate clean and start again. This has created a subsect whose members welcome this; this world is too far gone, and they want to bring down the Winter and reset the world. However, other Children oppose this and still believe the current world can be saved.

Are the Children of Winter aware of all the cosmic threats like Daelkyr, Lords of Dust and so on? Do they care?

No more than most people. WE know about the Lords of Dust because we have a cool book that spills all their secrets – but they are a conspiracy that has successfully remained hidden for thousands and thousands of years. The Children fight aberrations when they encounter them, but in short, the Daelkyr haven’t been a serious threat for thousands of years and the Overlords haven’t been a threat for tens of thousands of years. They’ve GOT a thing that they know about that is a real serious issue, and that’s what they worry about. Side note: Back in the day, when Bel Shalor was almost released… to the degree that the Children of Winter were aware of the troubles of Thrane, they might have considered THAT to be a possible harbinger of Winter.

THE GATEKEEPERS AND DRAGONS

As I understand the Gatekeeper sect, most of it’s knowledge came from Vvaraak’s teachings a long time ago. And most of it is lost today, especially the underlying magical principles of the seals and the annual ritual. They merely follow rituals they don’t understand any more, at least not in the fullest. So, in my understanding, they would not be able to repeat the ritual they used to seal the Gates to Xoriat – right?

That is correct.

Are the gatekeepers aware that Vvaraak was/is a dragon? If need be, would they try to find her today or seek help from another dragon?

Vvaraak taught the first Gatekeepers sixteen thousand years ago, and dragons aren’t immortal, so Vvaraak is long dead… plus, there’s a decent chance she was assassinated by the Eyes of Chronepsis for her actions in Khorvaire. The Gatekeepers have no easy way to contact Argonnessen and even if they did, the dragons wouldn’t help them. As called out on page 11 of Dragons of Eberron, Vvaraak’s actions were a betrayal of draconic customs:

A true child of Eberron, Vvaraak foresaw a disaster that would wound the world itself. The Conclave had no interest in this struggle; just as the dragons had stood aside while the giants of Xen’drik battled Dal Quor, the elders of the Conclave told Vvaraak that they would act when a clear threat to Argonnessen existed, and not before.

As a whole, the dragons aren’t your friends. They aren’t here to help. They stood by and watched as the Xoriat Incursion tore apart the Empire of Dhakaan. They did nothing during the Giant-Quori War. Heck, they attack Aerenal on a regular basis just so the kids can earn their wings. The one time they took decisive action was when the giants were preparing to do something that would threaten Argonnessen… and they dealt with that by utterly destroying giant civilization. Vvaraak was an extremely rare individual who truly cared about the lesser races – but that’s not a common thing.

I read that the gatekeepers have friendly connections to the Chamber and sometimes their scholars (known as dragons?) come to converse with the druid elders. If that’s true, why not simply ask a visiting dragon what to do if something with the seals/Daelkyr threat is … threatening? Or how to repeat the ritual properly?

It is true that over the centuries the Chamber has established Siberys Observatories in the Shadow Marches. But you’re making the mistake of thinking of the Chamber as “good guys” who would help if the people needed it. The Chamber monitors the Prophecy and ensures that it remains on the approved path. The only way to monitor the Prophecy is to have agents across the world. Essentially, the Chamber is using the Gatekeepers to collect data, which they can periodically pick up. The Gatekeepers don’t fully understand what they are doing, and I don’t think their Chamber contacts identify themselves as dragons. Even if they did, they would only help if it was part of the approved path of the Prophecy. It’s entirely possible that a Daelkyr Uprising IS part of the approved path, in which case not only would the Chamber not help them stop it, they’d actively mislead them to keep things on track.

Generally speaking the Chamber is better for us than the Lords of Dust, because their endgame doesn’t involve the release of demonic Overlords. But they are not our friends. Vvaraak broke with the Chamber when she taught the Gatekeepers.

What do the Gatekeepers think about the prophecy? Do they have druids specialized in deciphering the prophecy? Is it incorporated in their daily life somehow?

Yes and no. There are Siberys Observatories in the Shadow Marches, and the Chamber has got the Gatekeepers monitoring these and collecting the data they need for occasional pickup. This data MAY be useful in the short term at predicting events within the Shadow Marches, and the Gatekeepers undoubtedly believe that it will give them advance warning of a Daelkyr resurgence. However, they are not capable of monitoring the Prophecy as a whole from one location, and the scope of the Prophecy goes way beyond the Marches. It takes a group like the Chamber, Lords of Dust, or Undying Court – immortals with vast resources and power – to be able to put together the bigger picture.

So there are druids who specialize in using the Observatories, and in using them to predict local events and monitor the seals, but they aren’t concerned with the wider scope of the Prophecy.

The Gatekeeper community getting smaller with every generation, so it gets more challenging to maintain the seals. Are there seals all over Khorvaire or are they all located in the Shadow Marches/Eldeen Reaches/Demon Wastes? 

It has been established somewhere that the location of the seals doesn’t correspond to the physical location of the imprisoned Daelkyr. With that said, in MY campaign many of the seals are highly portable. There are a few seals that are vast buried stones, but a seal could also be a pendant, or a ring, or embedded in a staff. In this case it is possible that prophecy dictates where a seal must go; it could be that to function, one of the seals needs to follow a particular path or visit a series of locations. All of this is a great foundation for a Gatekeeper PC who is assigned to carry one of the seals, and who must take it to certain dangerous places to maintain its power.

How many seals do the Gatekeepers maintain? Somehow I recall that there are 6 (or7) Daelkyr left in this world and I assumed that therefore there are 6 (or 7) major seals as well, probably accompanied by smaller ones. Is this defined in canon material? And if not, how would you do it?

There are six Daelkyr that have been called out by name, however the Player’s Guide to Eberron states “These are undoubtedly among the most powerful of their kind, with abilities beyond those presented in the EBERRON Campaign Setting.” So there are as many Daelkyr as you need for the purposes of your story, and the same holds true for the seals. Given that you’re talking to ME, obviously I would say that there were thirteen seals, but one has already been destroyed in the past, and many believe that this is why the Daelkyr are stirring now.

Do you have some ideas what special relics back from the Daelkyr war the gatekeepers might have right now or have legends about? (beside Vvaraak’s tears)

Not off the top of my head. It’s certainly a topic I’d love to explore if Eberron gets unlocked for the DM’s Guild!

THE GREENSINGERS

Am I right in thinking that you wouldn’t really have creatures of Thelanis considering themselves Greensingers or druids?

You are correct. With that said, the Greensingers themselves are the least “druidic” of the Eldeen sects. We’ve already noted the fact that they sometimes multiclass with arcane classes (typically bard)… and as far as their druidic magic goes, they are much more in the model of “I know the secret name of the storm, so I can ask it to smite my enemies” than “I am a servant of Eberron.” Shapeshifting is also a common strength of Greensingers, in part in emulation of the fey who aren’t bound to a single form.

It’s hard for me to imagine the native inhabitants of Thelanis or Lamannia taking up druidic traditions per se – even if it weren’t “the magic of Eberron itself”, Thelanis isn’t the same kind of natural world that druids care for.

First of all, I wouldn’t include Lamannia in this equation. The Greensingers have strong ties to Thelanis, largely derived from the presence of the Twilight Demesne. They have no particular attachment to Lamannia. Aside from that, the Greensingers themselves don’t care for the natural world in the way that most druids do. The Greensingers look at what nature COULD be. They see the story. They imagine that the wind is singing a song, that the tree truly dances in the wind… because in Thelanis, it does. If you wanted, you could decide that Greensinger magic is actually slightly different from that of other druids… that rather than drawing on pure nature, they are temporarily imbuing the world around them with a touch of Thelanis. A dryad isn’t a natural part of Eberron, but it could be that a Greensinger temporarily creates a dryad in a normally natural tree.

Even if you don’t go that far, that’s how the Greensinger sees it. They see the world as a magical place, and it becomes more magical around them.

THE WARDENS OF THE WOOD

How are the Wardens of the Wood inserted in the geopolitics of the Reaches? Since they were a very active part of the independence, and there is very little about how the region is organized.

From page 97 of The Player’s Guide to Eberron: 

When the plains folk seceded from Aundair, the Wardens trained their militias and fought at their sides. In their gratitude, the folk turned to the study of the druidic mysteries, and this helped make the land remarkably fertile. Today, Warden rangers patrol the entirety of the Reaches, fighting bandits, poachers, and other interlopers.

And from page 172 of the Eberron Campaign Setting: 

Long dominant in the forest, the Wardens have spread out into the plains to ensure order throughout the region. Each village has a druid counselor (of anywhere from 1st to 7th level, depending on the size of the community) who provides magical assistance and spiritual guidance, and who advises the leaders of the community. Councils made up of representatives from each farming family govern each of the communities. Bands of Warden rangers patrol the forest, responding to threats as they arise. 

As a side note, some of these druid counsellors might be gleaners. But the short form is that the Wardens advise and protect, but do not rule. Also note that while the Wardens patrol the entire region and settle any disputes between villages, each village does have its own mundane militia – trained by the Wardens, but not made up of primal-classed characters.

THE ASHBOUND AND THE MOURNING

What do the Ashbound think of clerics and their divine magic?

That it’s the unnatural result of trafficking with alien spirits. At the end of the day it’s manipulating the same energy wizards do, and they have no love of it. It’s possible a priest of Arawai or Balinor would meet with their approval if he SEEMED primal. But generally, if it’s not natural magic, it’s UNnatural magic.

Finally I am thinking on a campaign focused on the Ashbound. In that campaign they behave like real terrorists. They are fundamentalists, but they are right. Mourning happened because too much of magic has been used. So, here comes the question: if THAT is what caused the Mourning, who should know that? Lords of Dust, Chamber, the Twelve, a daelkyr, someone in Daanvi? How should they react?

The idea that the Mourning was caused by the extensive use of war magic is one of the popular theories within the world, and it is a primary reason for the Treaty of Thronehold: the fear that continuing the war will simply cause the effect to spread. As for who would KNOW THIS WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY? That depends on where you want to go with it.

  • The Twelve are a weird choice, but not out of the question. You could say that Cannith knew that the extensive use of war magic was a danger but concealed this information because hey, their business is about selling war magic. If this is the case, it can be argued that THEY CAUSED THE MOURNING. That’s an interesting plotline to me, because what are you going to do about it? This is especially true if it was known to the Twelve – if the leadership of all of the houses were complicit in hiding this information and continuing to push the world closer to doomsday.
  • The Lords of Dust or the Chamber work if you want to say that the Mourning was foretold by the Prophecy. If it’s the Lords of Dust, I would argue that the Mourning is in fact the visible manifestation of weakening the bonds of the Overlords, and that at least one Overlord was released on the Day of Mourning and now lingers in the Mournland as it regains its power. So the action was caused by overuse of magic, but there is worse still to come.

Assuming that it was the result of human action, another twist on the Twelve being behind it would be to have the information shared or revealed by the Dreaming Dark, who have plucked it from the dreams of one of the Twelve conspirators. What’s their angle? I don’t know. But if you want to bring in another faction, that’s an option.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Are the druid sects a religion? If so, the vast majority of “druids” and “rangers” are really not classed individuals, and don’t have the capabilities of a class level PC. It seems to me this distinction is always reinforced by you with wizards (most are magewrights) and clerics (most are even adepts) but is never touched with druids.

This is really two different questions, so I’ll address them in order. There is a spiritual component to the beliefs of the different druidic sects: live in harmony with the world and your surroundings. Some – on an individual basis – take this further and see themselves as champions of Eberron; but other members have a more pragmatic view, and that’s fine. Again, primal magic doesn’t REQUIRE belief the way divine magic does. A sect provides guidelines for how a person should live their life, but it doesn’t necessarily tell them what they must believe.

As for your second point, there’s once again multiple answers.

  • Every sect generally has a large number of common people who share their general beliefs and approach to life. This is especial true of the Gatekeepers. When talking about the Shadow Marches we say that a significant portion of the population follows the Gatekeeper traditions. This doesn’t mean they are druids, that they know anything about the seals other than ancient stories, or that they are ready to fight aberrations; it simply means that they tell the stories of the Gatekeepers, respect their traditions, and would welcome and honor an actual Gatekeeper druid who shows up. The same is true of the Wardens in the Eldeen Reaches. There are many commoners who are ALIGNED with the Wardens, but they wouldn’t actually CALL themselves Wardens of the Wood. Further, for every classed Warden, you might have a half dozen initiates struggling to master their skills, or working to help the sect in support roles.
  • With that in mind, when we say “Wardens of the Wood” or “Gatekeepers”, we are generally referring to the elite core of that sect – the people who do have primal classes, and who actively pursue the goals of the sect. Now, most of these people would top out at first or second level, but this IS remarkable; this one reason the Reaches were able to secede and why they still haven’t been reclaimed. It’s why groups like the Ashbound and Children of Winter are serious threats even if each may have less than a thousand active members: they are small groups of exceptional people.
  • With THAT said, part of the issue is that core D&D doesn’t have a primal NPC class – an equivalent of an adept or magewright. Which is why I made one. Years ago I made a primal NPC class called The Gleaner. This was posted on Giant In The Playground, but hasn’t been used elsewhere. It is precisely what you’re looking for here, and yes, for every full druid in the Wardens of the Wood you have a number of Gleaners who travel the Reaches and the woods helping those in need. While D&D doesn’t have a system in place for someone “evolving” from one class to another, I would personally say that many druidic sect initiates begin as first level gleaners and then evolve into rangers or druids once they fully master their skills.

In general, do how the sects see each other? Are druids of different Eldeen sects more friendly to each other than a random person they meet? Do they all pay some respect to Oalian?

This is addressed on page 57 of The Player’s Guide to Eberron: 

Despite their differences in belief, Oalian supports all the druids, since each sect embraces an aspect of the natural world. In return, most druids respect Oalian as the ultimate spiritual authority in the region, and they gather at The Greenheart for important conclaves and rituals.

Beyond that, I’d say that in general the active members of the sects will treat primals of other sect with respect, and they might work together to resolve certain problems; they joined forces during the Eldeen Secession, and members of any sect would join together to deal with undead or aberrations in the woods. But that won’t prevent Wardens from opposing members of other sects who are endangering innocents; there have certainly been many clashes between Wardens and Ashbound in the past.

If the druid sects would be aware of the Aundarian plans against the reaches, could they start a war against Aundair? Would it become a new global war?

In thinking of the capacity of the Reaches to wage war, bear in mind that they are not a normal nation. They are a collection of villages and small communities, and the closest thing they have to a single leader is a tree. They don’t have a strong industrial base to create weapons of war. Their population is a fraction of Aundair’s, let alone the other nations. One of their greatest strengths is their strong bond to the Towering Woods and their ties to the manifest zones and magic of the woods; once they lead an army into hostile territory, they lose that. And if they were to invade Aundair, what would victory look like? Would they try to actually occupy it in some way? It’s not like the people of Fairhaven are suddenly going to adopt the lifestyle of the farmers to the west.

So no: I don’t see the Eldeen Reaches waging a full-scale war against Aundair. With that said, I could certainly see them engaging in GUERILLA warfare. If Aundair begins building up forces in preparation for reclaiming the Reaches, they could definitely launch targeted strikes to take out caches, depots, or research facilities. Part of the point is that the Reaches don’t have either the infrastructure or the numbers of Aundair… but what they do have is a small but elite force. If it came to a straight-up war, Aundair simply outnumbers and outguns the Reaches. But with an army of rangers and shapeshifting druids, the Reaches are well-suited to covert strikes before disappearing back into the woods.

The Eldeen sects are so named, as you say, because they’re native to the forests of the Eldeen Reaches. Do you think their particular philosophies or concerns are tied to that location, or are they the sort of thing that might have arisen independently in other regions and/or taken root there if brought by a rare wandering druid?

Geography definitely plays a role. The Greensingers largely came about because of the Twilight Demesne, while the Children of Winter have a connection to the Gloaming. Proximity to Aundair is definitely a factor for the Ashbound.

With that said: I believe that the mechanical elements of the sects reflect different ways to focus druidic magic, and that you could see other sects adopt these same practices even if they don’t share the same name or precisely the same beliefs. The Seren Dragonshard linked to above notes that most Dragonspeakers follow the paths of the Wardens of the Wood or Gatekeepers… which is about them MECHANICALLY following those paths, not that some of them say “We’re Gatekeepers!” So in creating a new sect, if you don’t want to create entirely new mechanics, you could certainly say “Which of the five is it most like in its purpose?”

This is particularly relevant to the Greensingers. The Eldeen sect has a strong connection to the Twilight Demesne. But if you’re using the 4E story, I’d say that you could have similar sects in any of the regions where Feyspires manifest – essentially, anywhere that has a strong, ongoing connection to Thelanis. These would share similar traits – fey ambassadors, blending druidic and bardic paths – but they wouldn’t necessarily call themselves Greensingers. WITH THAT SAID… you could just as easily say that the Greensingers began in the Twilight Demense, entered Thelanis, and from Thelanis spread out to such places… and thus make them all part of the same sect.

You’ve mentioned previously that each sect tends to fight one enemy, Aberrations for Gatekeepers / Undead for Children of Winter, is there a sect setup to fight the Lords of Dust? or Demons / Devils in General?

The Overlords aren’t bound by a natural force; they are imprisoned by the SIlver Flame. Thus they are primarily opposed by forces that channel the SIlver Flame, like the Ghaash’kala orcs. So no: at present there is no canon druidic sect that focuses on fighting demons. On the other hand, I’d think EVERY sect WOULD fight demons if they encountered them.

Tied to this: the sects often have one foe they are most concerned with, but they’ll still fight the others. The Gatekeepers are focused on aberrations and the Children despise undead. But the Gatekeepers will definitely destroy undead and the Children will hunt down aberrations that cross their paths. It’s just that these things aren’t a focus of their daily lives.

How do the different druidic sects and the Church of the Silver Flame tend to perceive each other? 

Personally, I think there’s very little interaction between them. The Church can’t possibly monitor every single sect or cult that exists in the world, and the druids aren’t especially interested in interacting with them; they’re doing just fine, thank you. WE know what the Gatekeepers are doing is vitally important, but to the world at large they are obsessing about something that hasn’t been a threat since before humanity came to Khorvaire. With that said, I’d think that they would have a generally positive view of the Wardens of the Wood, who likely assisted templars during the Lycanthropic Purge, and  a generally negative view of the Children of Winter and Ashbound, both of whom take actions that can threaten innocents… and the Ashbound in turn will see the Church as channeling unnatural energy. Meanwhile, the Gatekeepers live in the shadows and don’t believe that they need the help of some human outsiders.

WITH THAT SAID: In the last 5E Eberron campaign I’ve been playing in, the players include a Ghaash’kala paladin, a cleric of the Silver Flame (well, technically, Jaela Daran), and a Gatekeeper druid. We work together well because we do all share a common goal of protecting the innocent from evil, and we’ve been happy to pursue each other’s personal issues. But we’re still playing it that our respective organizations really don’t know a lot about one another.

Furthermore, if primal magic does not require belief… could a druid believe in and follow the Silver Flame?

The question I’d ask is why they become a druid in that case, instead of becoming a cleric. But other than that, there’s no reason they couldn’t. You could easily CREATE a sect of Silver Flame-inspired druids in the Eldeen who adopted the faith after fighting alongside templars in the Lycanthropic Purge.

Are there any druidic traditions amongst the Blood of Vol?

The Seeker tradition is largely urban and druidic traditions generally develop in the wild. Further, the goals of the Seekers are fundamentally TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF NATURE; combined with their affinity for undead, this would brand them as abominations in the eyes of the Children of Winter, if not most sects.

When it comes to druids, are there any sects that tend to utilizing the feat from 3.5 “Assume Supernatural Ability”? Does it fit with any specific sect’s view on the world?

Nothing particular comes to mind… but I don’t have time to go through and figure out a) what shapes a druid could take where this would come into play and b) the level that would be required to do so, which would affect how much it could really be central to a sect. You could certainly make a new sect around the idea.

And are there any sects that use “Draconic Wildshape”?

Sure: the Seren Dragonspeakers.

Are there any druidic traditions amongst the merfolk and sahuagin? What are some druidic traditions of the Vulkoorim drow of Xen’drik?

I’m certain that there are aquatic druidic traditions. The Qaltiar drow have a tradition involving primal spirits, as seen in The Shattered Land and Gates of Night. But neither of these are things I have time to explore in this format. Once Eberron is unlocked for the DM’s Guild, I’d love to explore this in depth (or see what other people do with it).

Is there any more information about the druid(s) that awakened Oalian and Kraa’ark Lors?

Not at present.

Life in the Lhazaar Principalities revolves around the sea. What’s the possibility of there being a druidic sect in that area who focus on the sea life of the region; ensuring fishermen get bountiful catches, ensuring whaling ships don’t hurt the creatures unnecessarily, and predicting the hurricanes off the Sea of Rage?

It’s a logical role for druids or gleaners, and something that has been suggested in passing; in particular, it’s been noted that Cloudreaver priests of the Devourer may develop druidic abilities, and the Wind Whisperers are a powerful force. With that said, we haven’t presented druids as a defining pillar of society in the Lhazaar the way we have in the Eldeen Reaches, so if I was writing for canon Eberron, I probably wouldn’t make them the secret masters of the Reaches. However, I could see adding in a gleaner sect that does exactly the sort of thing you suggest – ensuring bountiful catches, predicting storms, preventing overfishing. As a Gleaner sect they could exist without DOMINATING the culture; some respect them, some curse them as annoying busybodies. But they aren’t as dramatically powerful as the Cloudreaver druids or the Wind Whisperers.

As a side note on the Wind Whisperers: In theory, their power comes from a connection to the Mark of Storms. In practice, I might give a powerful Wind Whisperer NPC druid, warlock or sorcerer levels with storm/lightning related magic reflecting a deeper connection to primal storms unlocked by the mark. So the power that makes them a force to be reckoned with is more than just the base abilities granted by the mark.

What’s the tie between the Prophecy and Primal Magic? Aren’t both a direct expression of Eberron?

Eberron may be the source of Primal Magic, but she’s not the sole source of the Prophecy. There are many different theories about the origin and nature of the Prophecy; the dominant view in the Chamber (as called out in Dragons of Eberron) is that “The Prophecy is a reflection of the ongoing struggle between Khyber and Eberron. The Progenitors shaped reality at the beginning of time, and the Prophecy reflects their divergent desires for their creation.”

If dragons know primal magic and druidism for millennia, should we suppose that a sect of very powerful, high level dragons/druids exist and take care of the equilibrium of Eberron?

Powerful draconic druids do exist. The Child of Eberron is one of the core archetypes of the religion of Thir, as covered in Dragons of Eberron: All natural life sprang from the progenitor dragon Eberron, and the child of Eberron honors the Great Mother and defends her works. However, the vast majority believe that this is a task fit solely for dragons, not something that the lesser races should be involved in. There may be a few Children of Eberron acting within Khorvaire, but they aren’t working with lesser druids (whom Vvaraak should never have taught!) and are generally dealing with primal problems we don’t even perceive. Humans are like ants to them: part of the natural world, capable of forming communities, but of no directrelevance to their actions… and if you have to wipe out a bunch of them to do something important, they’ll recover from it. The critical example of this is Xen’drik: when the giants were about to take action that seriously threatened the equilibrium of Eberron, the dragons acted and utterly destroyed their civilization.

The good news for us is that the Children of Eberron are generally only concerned with SERIOUS threats to the equilibrium of Eberron, like “destroying a moon.” Things that are just going to wipe out a bunch of human nations aren’t that big a deal… again, when you look at things from a perspective of millennia, they’ll grow back. With that said, I suspect the Children of Eberron are concerned with the Mourning, and could potentially be allies in a plot that seeks to solve this mystery… but again, if the answer to the Mourning is “humans did it” and there’s a chance they could do it again, there is a very real risk that Argonnessen would decide that human civilization should go the way of the giants.

If primal magic is the result of invoking the primal spirits, using the secret names and rituals to channel natural forces, or tapping into the interconnectedness of all things through Eberron, how do druids and other primal casters use magic when they travel to other planes? In theory, primal magic is the domain of Eberron herself, so when traveling away from her, wouldn’t a primal spellcaster be cut off from their magic?

Good question. The same problem applies to Divine and Arcane magic, which are fundamentally drawing on the power of Siberys; shouldn’t going to another plane separate them from this source? The short and simple answer is that no, it doesn’t. The Progenitors created all the planes, and all of the planes are connected to Eberron. The creatures of Eberron live and die, know peace and war, dream and go mad. This is because Eberron is touched by all of the planes. The same process works in reverse. Dal Quor may not have a direct connection to Thelanis, but it DOES have a connetion to Eberron, and this allows your caster to draw on the power of Eberron or Siberys.

Now, if YOU had more time, it would certainly be interesting to change the way that primal magic works in Thelanis or Lamannia, and it’s something I might explore if/when I have the opportunity to develop Planes of Eberron. But the simple out if you don’t have time for such tinkering is “Eberron touches all the planes.”

My next few post will be about Phoenix: Dawn Command, but I will be posting another Eberron Q&A sometime in the next few weeks; the topic will be Thelanis and The Fey. Post your questions about Phoenix or Eberron below!

Latest News and Eberron Q&A!

EPSON MFP imageI’ve spent much of the last few weeks sick with the flu, but I’ve finally bounced back. I’m continuing to work on Phoenix: Dawn Command, and I’m excited about how the adventures are coming together. I’m still not 100% certain what we’ll be doing at Gen Con and whether there will be full demo sessions, but at the very least I’ll have a get together to discuss the game and show you how it works. The above image is from one of our stretch goals – a challenge created by the amazing Jason Morningstar.

In other news, Fairytale Gloom is out in the wild… though it doesn’t seem to have reached all stores yet. I’m keen to hear what people think. If you’ve had a chance to play and have any questions or comments, let me know!

And finally, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the vast backlog of Eberron questions. I’m afraid I still have no concrete information about 5E Eberron development; I’m hoping there will be news of some sort at Gen Con. Today’s questions focus on warforged, the Silver Flame, and the devious daelkyr…

A very interesting point in my opinion is the conflict between the ideals of the Flame and the corruption and racism of the Church. For example about warforgeds. How are the lives of warforged living in Thrane?

This is a complicated issue. To begin with, let’s talk about racism in Thrane.

The 3.5 ECS says nothing about endemic racism in Thrane. This is a concept that was introduced in Five Nations, a book I didn’t work on. It’s not a concept I personally endorse. There’s nothing in the core beliefs of the Silver Flame that sets humanity apart or above other races. At its ultimate core it is about defending the children of Eberron and Siberys from the children of Khyber. Broadly interpreted it’s about protecting the innocent from supernatural evil… not “innocent humans.” ALL noble souls can strengthen the Flame after death, and it was originally kindled by a noble sacrifice made long before human civilization existed. Many sources feature nonhuman Thrane clerics of the Silver Flame, and one of Tira Miron’s most trusted allies was an elf avenger. Aundair doesn’t have a human majority, yet Thrane’s templars put themselves in harms way to defend Aundair from the lycanthropic threat. If anything, I would expect Thrane to have LESS racism than the other Five Nations as it is grounded in a faith that is driven to protect all innocents. So speaking personally: I didn’t come up with the idea of excessive racism in Thrane and it’s not something I embrace at my table or in my writing.

WITH THAT SAID: If I were to embrace Five Nations’ depiction of racism in Thrane, I would say that it is a relatively recent development that seems to be getting worse every day… And that it is in all likelihood a manifestation of Bel Shalor’s growing power. The Shadow in the Flame thrives on drawing out the darkness inside of people, and this would be a logical manifestation of that. I’d call out the fact that it IS in opposition to the principles of the Flame, and have a few notable voices (such as Jaela) trying unsuccessfully to steer people back to the light.

The warforged are a special case. The Church doesn’t accept that Cannith could artificially manufacture souls. Thus warforged don’t fall into the category of “innocents to be protected.” A warforged is like a sword: a tool to be used in the battle. The Treaty of Thronehold gave the warforged freedom, but it can’t give them souls… and thus, in the eyes of the faithful, they remain things. What’s been said before is that Thrane warforged often end up in various forms of indentured servitude. They are seen as tools, and the Treaty hasn’t changed that.

In my campaign one of the players is a warforged paladin and most of the hierarchy doesn’t even look at him as a living being. As my players are growing up to mid-high levels, I’m thinking: what if keeper of the flame would create him a cardinal? How would the hierarchy react? How the people? Would it be a playable role?

Certainly. In MY campaign, you can’t decide to be a paladin; you have to be called. Cannith couldn’t build a paladin. Thus, the warforged paladin is proof to those with eyes to see that warforged DO have souls and can be part of the Flame. It would be something many Thranes would have difficulty accepting, but it could ultimately cause change across Thrane… or it could trigger a hostile backlash, especially if natural doubts were fanned by the Shadow in the Flame. And as such, it is an extremely playable role.

One thing I am curious about is why did the Treaty of Thronehold include the destruction or disassembly of all of the creation forges? Why do that when you’re also including in there that all warforged are considered individuals rather than property? The way I see it, it’s like neutering an entire race…

The fact that the Treaty of Thronehold helps the warforged is incidental. Its primary purpose was to limit the power of both the Five Nations and House Cannith. At the end of the war, every nation had warforged armies of various sizes. Disbanding these armies was a symbol of standing down from military footing. In my opinion, the original draft of the treaty ordered that all warforged be destroyed; shifting this to freedom for the warforged took a serious amount of lobbying on the part of sympathizers who’d worked with warforged over the wars. But the primary intention was eliminating standing armies, and I doubt that even many of the sympathizers considered this “the birth of a new race.”

Meanwhile, the destruction of the creation forges was a way to rein in the power of House Cannith. Left unchecked, Cannith could produce armies of warforged. Already there’s reason to question if the Five Nations truly have the power to enforce the Korth Edicts; no one liked the idea of Cannith being able to field an army of its own.

So both of these actions were about the balance of power in Khorvaire, not a grand vision of the sanctity of warforged life; in all likelihood, it was a near thing that the warforged weren’t destroyed along with the forges.

Maybe the Keeper could create cardinal a paladin orc?

This seems far less likely to me. I’m actually playing an orc paladin of the Ghaash’kala in a 5E Eberron campaign (a home game run by a friend). One of these days I’ll post some of what I’ve written about the Ghaash’kala over the course of the campaign. The short form is that my paladin would have no interest in being part of the hierarchy of Thrane. He comes from a completely different culture and a different tradition of the Flame. The excessive hierarchy and traditions of the Church seem frivolous to him; he is a warrior used to being on the front line of an endless war. I could see Jaela doing something to more officially acknowledge the Ghaash’kala as comrades in faith – but I don’t think appointing one of them to be a cardinal in Flamekeep would work out well for anyone involved.

Do you think the Lord of the Blades could have some connections with an Overlord? Maybe the mourning was caused by the freeing of an Overlord; or maybe the Becoming God is nothing but a living machine for channeling the energy of an Overlord. Or maybe he is trying to create with warforgeds something like Elves did in Aerenal.

All of these things are certainly possible if it’s a story you want to tell. The Lord of Blades could have connections with an Overlord. He could even be a Lord of Dust who’s only masquerading as a warforged. Try this on for size: We’ve never said where warforged souls come from. This is because warforged souls are tiny, tiny fragments of an Overlord, tiny enough to slip through the binding of the Flame. The Becoming God is a vessel that will ultimately absorb all the souls of the warforged and recreate the Overlord. So once the vessel for the Becoming God is completed, the “Lord of Blades” may start setting up situations to kill warforged – because when they die, their spirits are sucked into the vessel of the God. The trick is that each individual soul is innocent and unique, as long as it can keep from being reabsorbed. So a warforged PC is thus a part of a great evil – but by staying alive, they are preventing that evil from being reborn and turning its power to a good purpose.

I remember somewhere you wrote that it COULD exist a good Daelkyr, even if it still would be somehow crazy. Have you ever played something like that? Could the Daelkyr join the Silver Flame? Do you think Gatekeepers would fight him anyway?

I touch on this in a reply to a comment in my blog post on The Daelkyr And Their Cults. The critical point of the issue is that you could have a “good daelkyr” in the sense that its overall agenda is intended to help the people of Eberron. However, that doesn’t mean that agenda would appear to be good to everyone else. Daelkyr are as alien as alien gets: their idea of doing good might be to change all humans into changelings, to spread a linguistic virus that transforms Khorvaire into a group mind, or something like that. In the long run this might actually promote world peace and harmony, but it’s not likely to be something the existing cultures welcome. Even a daelkyr who simply wants to protect Eberron from other forms of supernatural evil – so one that serves the same purpose as the Silver Flame – would be likely to do so in a way that’s inexplicable to humans. One option I’ve thrown on the table is the idea that the daelkyr created Dragonmarks; perhaps that’s their way of trying to help humanity against other evil forces.

The main thing is that I personally wouldn’t have a daelkyr show up in Flamekeep and have a rational discussion with Krozen and Jaela (or the PCs) about how they can join forces to fight evil. If I wanted to do this with some traditional force of evil I’d use a Lord of Dust or a Quori. The Lords of Dust are native fiends of Eberron and the Quori are tied to human dreams, and as such there is a basic foundation for understanding. While in my mind what defines the daelkyr is that there is NO foundation for understanding. The mere presence of a daelkyr causes confusion, and if it focuses its attention on you it can inflict permanent mental damage. To me this is a side effect of the fact that it’s a powerful telepath whose thoughts are so innately alien that the telepathic broadcast breaks human minds. If you touch its mind, you will go insane. To quote the ECS…

The mind of a daelkyr is a labyrinth that can swallow the thoughts of lesser creatures. Any creature who attempts to read the thoughts of a daelkyr or otherwise study its mind must make a DC 29 Will save or suffer the effect of an insanity spell.

Note that this isn’t an active power. It’s not something the Daelkyr CHOOSES to do. It is simply what happens to any creature of Eberron that touches the mind of a daelkyr.

And for all these reasons: Yes, a Gatekeeper would fight him anyway. Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what his intentions are. He’s a fundamentally alien entity who doesn’t belong in Eberron, and who innately spreads madness and corruption simply by virtue of his presence. Which may be a tragedy if he means well, but there it is.

So I’m certainly open to a story about a daelkyr who’s trying to help the people of Eberron… but I’d make his help enigmatic and potentially dangerous, not some sort of simple “creepy ally.”

Is a human mind as alien to a daelkyr as a daelkyr mind is to a human, and if not, why not? Do daelkyr suffer similar problems if they read the mind of a creature from Eberron?

No. In general aberrations are alien creatures, but you can use detect thoughts on a dolgrim, beholder or mind flayer without getting your brain fried. It’s not simply that daelkyr are alien; it’s that they are primal immortal entities who ALSO happen to be indescribably alien. So a daelkyr looking at your thoughts will going to find them very alien and puzzling… but so incredibly tiny and insignificant that it doesn’t really have a big impact.

Personally, I would put the relationship between human and daelkyr as much like the relationship between a fruit fly and a human. From your perspective the fly’s life is trivially short and relatively meaningless. Look at a single fruit fly: can you tell me what it’s thinking or the purpose behind its actions? Do you believe it feels emotions or has dreams or thoughts as you do? Meanwhile, do you think the fly understands YOU? You’re so vast that all it can really perceive is your foot or the finger descending to kill it; it doesn’t even have a full picture of what you are. Comparing lifespans you are essentially immortal. And again, do you think it understands WHY you do what you do? Perhaps you’re a scientist running an experiment in genetics. Perhaps you’re a bored child pulling the wings off insects for the fun of it. Perhaps different daelkyr represent these different things… so Belashyrra is pursuing a vast experiment (one that will take many, many human generations to show any results) while Dyrrn the Corruptor is simply the child frying ants with a magnifying glass. This allows the one daelkyr whose actions, however bizarre, do involve a vast scheme – and the other whose cruelty is purely pernicious.

Now if you WANT a daelkyr to take a personal interest in a PC as part of a storyline, go ahead. It happens that they’re a particularly remarkable fly and the culmination of a particular experiment and it’s actually keeping an eye on them to see how it plays out. But it still doesn’t understand or empathize with them; they are still just insects, even if they happen to be interesting ones.

Dragonmarks 3/12/15: Origins, Authors and Thrane

It’s been a busy few months for Twogether Studios. We’re continuing to work towards the Phoenix: Dawn Command Kickstarter campaign, and I’ll be writing more about Phoenix soon. But it’s been nearly three months since my last Eberron Q&A, and I figure it’s time to get to some questions!

With the recent Unearthed Arcana release of the Eberron material, do you like the 5e work up of the material? Would you change it any further from what is currently “playtesting?” Do you think the Artificer should be re-designed in 5e as a stand-alone class, or would you like to see it supported as a Wizard (or other) type of sub-class?

At the moment, I’ve held off creating my own 5E Eberron material, beyond the vague first drafts I’ve presented for the warforged and artificer. I’m keen to develop new Eberron material, but until it’s been authorized by WotC I’ve got more things to work on than I have time. I’ve been focused on playtesting Phoenix Dawn Command for the past year, and there’s always more to do there – not to mention the Gloom variations and other projects I can’t talk about yet.

Given that: I’m glad to see WotC exploring Eberron in Unearthed Arcana. Personally, I would like to explore different approaches to the material, but the UA article specifically states that it’s an exploratory first draft… and it’s always good to explore multiple directions. The 3.5 warforged went through seven drafts before the final one. In one version warforged could attach extra limbs. In another, they absorbed the energy from magic items to gain enchantments. I don’t see a version I’d want to consider final in the UA material, but if I have an opportunity to work on official Eberron material I’ll certainly consider the UA drafts and the feedback people have given about them. Which comes back to my previous request: tell ME what you think about them, and what you would keep, add or change.

If the Du’rashka Tul tale proves to be true, could it be neutralized or dispelled? And could its effects go to Khorvaire?

For those not familiar with it, the Du’rashka Tul is mentioned on page 53 of Secrets of Xen’drik. According to legend, it is a powerful curse laid on the continent of Xen’drik by the forces of Argonnessen when the dragons destroyed the civilization of the giants. The theory is that the Du’rashka Tul is triggered any time a civilization or settlement reaches a certain level of size or sophistication. The curse drives members of the civilization into a homicidal madness; they turn on each other and destroy themselves. In this way, the dragons ensured that the giants would never rebuild their ancient power. As a result, there is evidence of a number of civilizations that have risen only to suddenly disappear over the course of the last thirty thousand years.

As it stands, details about the Du’rashka Tul are far too nebulous for me to be able to answer the questions that are posed here. So the question is how do you WANT it to work for purposes of your campaign? If you don’t want it to be possible for it to be dispelled, then it’s a curse leveled on the entire continent using a form of magic human mages can’t even begin to understand. On the other hand, if you want to be able to break it, the first thing is to define it. Perhaps it’s tied to an artifact: the skull of the titan emperor Cul’sir, engraved with draconic runes and imbued with immense magical power. First you have to find it; then you have to decide what to do with it. If it’s an artifact, it may be impossible to destroy or dispel it. You don’t know how far its radius is (it’s currently affecting all of Xen’drik). Do you drop it in the ocean and potentially destroy the civilizations of the sahuagin and merfolk? Take it back to Argonnessen and see what happens? Or might someone bring it back to Khorvaire not knowing what it is and accidentally trigger an apocalypse?

If you don’t like that approach, you could decide that it’s actually tied to a living creature. Ever since the destruction of the giants, there has been a dragon stationed in Xen’drik maintaining the Du’rashka Tul. Can you find it? Do you need to kill it, or could you just convince the guardian that the time has come to end the curse?

About the Du’rashka Tul… If it could be dispelled, would it bring about an era of colonization of Xen’drik by the great powers? If so, that could bring about potential conflict not only between the great nations of Khorvaire, but also with the Riedran empire, who already have a settlement therein. Do you think more cities would be created? And could the traveler’s curse be removed as well?

The Du’rashka Tul is an unproven myth, so I don’t think THAT’S what’s stopping the colonization of Xen’drik. The Traveler’s Curse is unquestionably real and a serious hindrance to colonization; who wants to establish a colony if you might not be able to find it later? If you posit that you remove BOTH curses, then the main issue is that you’re dealing with a continent that’s still full of powerful monsters… and the fact that Khorvaire isn’t exactly overcrowded right now. The main draw to go there is untapped resources and treasure hunting. So if you took away all the curses, I certainly think you’d get an expansion of settlements there to claim and harvest resources, in a sort of Wild West gold rush development… but I don’t think you’d see a vast proliferation of permanent settlements. Heck, if you’re looking to live on a dangerous frontier because you want a chance to strike it rich with dragonshards, you can already do that in Q’barra.

As for bumping into the Riedrans over territory, Xen’drik is the same size as Khorvaire, and KHORVAIRE still isn’t overcrowded, so it seems a little hard to imagine it happening in a hurry. Personally, I’d make it more about conflict between settlers from the Five Nations and the Dragonmarked Houses. Tharashk would definitely want to harness the resources as quickly and efficiently as possible, and any number of the other houses could see this as a way to establish lands outside of the Korth Edicts. So you could certainly have conflict between would-be independent prospectors hoping to strike it rich and dragonmarked Tharashk.

If my goal was to run a campaign focused on territorial conflict between Riedra and the Five Nations, I’d actually create a new massive island in the Lhazaar Sea. Let’s say that it’s a chunk of another plane that suddenly drops in during an odd planar conjunction – so a piece of Lamannia, filled with natural and mystical resources never even seen before on Eberron. This gives a new desirable territory directly between Khorvaire and Sarlona; lets it be small enough that forces can quickly come into conflict; places it in a region where Lhazaar pirates can pose an interesting threat; and lets in be filled with unknown threats and commodities. I think that could make for a very interesting campaign… though I’d also throw the Dragonmarked Houses in as a third player in the conflict.

There are some fairly close thematic similarities between the kalashtar and the githzerai: both use psionics, both have extraplanar connections, both are at eternal war with a race of shared origin. Were these similarities intentional when the kalashtar were designed? If so, were they meant to be a playable version of the githzerai for your campaign (ie, lacking in level adjustment)?

Interesting theory, but no. The kalashtar have the distinction of being the one new race that was mentioned in the original ten-page overview of Eberron in the setting search (though the idea of a playable doppelganger was also there in the ten-pager). For me, the defining elements of the kalashtar are that they are mortal humanoids tied to immortal spirits and their unique connection to the world of dreams, something that’s been a long-time interest of mine. My first published piece of RPG material dealt with a conspiracy of people who shared dreams and affected the world through dream manipulation (more than a decade before Inception, mind you). So no, I’m afraid it’s just a coincidence.

Meanwhile, I’ve always used the Gith as a race whose world was destroyed by the Daelkyr before they came to Eberron. I consider the Illithids to be to the Gith as the Dolgaunts are to hobgoblins; they are creatures the Daelkyr created from Gith stock. Thus the Gith are a race who have lost their world, and they despise the Mind Flayers both as the instruments of their destruction and a mockery of their people.

Also, I have read elsewhere that warforged and shifters were elements introduced to Eberron only after WotC accepted it as their contest winner. In the pre-WotC conception of Eberron, did elements related to warforged and shifters exist?

That’s not quite true. The Warforged and Shifters weren’t present in the TEN page submission, because I made the assumption that WotC wouldn’t be interested in adding lots of new races when so many already existed. As such, the kalashtar were the only NEW race I presented. When WotC chose Eberron as a finalist, I had the opportunity to talk to the D&D R&D team and they discussed the aspects of Eberron they liked and what they wanted to see more of in the 100-page final story bible. In particular, they wanted to see more races – specifically races that addresses the magic-as-part-of-life aspect of the world. Sentient war golems and playable lycanthropes both fit that bill. So warforged, shifters and changelings were all in the 100-page story bible that was submitted in the final round of the setting search… and then after Eberron was selected, they were further defined and refined for inclusion in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting.

Is it conceivable for a 5e Great Old One Warlock to have a bond with a Quori? If so, how would you interpret a warlock bond with a Quori outside of the Kalashtar case?

You can certainly have a Great Old One Warlock tied to Dal Quor. Here’s a few ways I could see it working.

Higher Power. The Warlock isn’t dealing with the lesser entities of the Quori; rather, he is dealing directly with one of the greater spirits of the plane. If he tends towards evil, this would be the dominant spirit, il-Lashtavar, the Darkness that Dreams. If he’s benevolent, this would be il-Yannah, the Dawn Yet To Come.

Essentially, the Quori are the creations and servants of il-Lashtavar. If a PC warlock is directly chosen by the great spirit, he is being elevated above the Kalashtar or even the rank and file members of the Dreaming Dark; among the Quori, only the Devourer of Dreams communes directly with il-Lashtavar. This would make the PC a remarkable special person… as a PC should be. The question then becomes HOW the power communicates with him and why. Does it have specific requests, and if so why can’t those be handled by Kalashtar or Quori? Or does it simply need a mortal vessel for some other reason?

Enemy of Higher Power. Twist the concept of the Warlock. The PC isn’t a SERVANT of il-Lashtavar. Instead, the Warlock has essentially hacked into il-Lashtavar and is draining its power by casting spells. This concept works well if you don’t plan for a lot of direct warlock-patron interaction. Alternately, you could say that the power is taken from il-Lashtavar, but the patron is il-Yannah; by weakening the darkness, you speed the coming of the light.

Quori Stooge. The player’s patron is a malevolent quori, likely one of the most powerful of the Kalaraq (such as the Devourer of Dreams). It is posing as some awesome dream entity; it is only through play that the PC will realize that the missions he’s being given are pushing the world in a subtly sinister direction. At this point he’ll need to find a new patron, such as…

Lost Kalashtar. The rebel kalaraq Taratai started the Kalashtar rebellion, but all of her kalashtar hosts have been eliminated and her spirit is lost, presumed to have been reabsorbed by il-Lashtavar. But perhaps it still survives, and has managed to reach out to the warlock. While this bond wouldn’t be the same as being a Kalashtar, it would make the warlock incredibly important to the Kalashtar.

If you named a bunch of books, or films, or TV shows, or whatever, whose inspiration has been critical in creating Eberron, in a sort of multimedia Eberron Appendix N, which would they be?

I could swear there’s a two page list in one of the 3.5 sourcebooks, but a quick search isn’t turning it up. Putting together a list of every book, show or film that I think could possibly inspire people working on Eberron would take more time than I currently have. For example, I have a FEELING that some people might find China Mieville’s books to be inspiring for Eberron, but I’ve never actually read them (which is embarrassing, as all accounts suggest they are awesome – I’ve just never gotten around to it). Likewise, I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. So I’m going to list a few things, but these are simply a few things that personally inspired me – not every possible source of inspiration.

Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and almost any Film Noir movie.

The original one sentence description of Eberron was “Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Maltese Falcon meet Lord of the Rings.” Anything in this vein will help inspire adventures tied to dirty dealings on the mean streets of Sharn… and I’ve always described Graywall in Droaam as “Casablanca with ogres.” For what it’s worth, I prefer The Maltese Falcon as a movie and The Big Sleep as a book.

Two-Fisted Tales of Adventure!

The Mummy. Any Indiana Jones movie. Any Republic serial (such as “Nyoka and the Tigermen”). Anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs or Jules Verne. I originally came up with the idea for Eberron because I’d spent a few years working on a pulp-flavored MMORPG that ended up being cancelled, and I’d been watching a LOT of pulp serials.

Neuromancer

William Gibson’s Neuromancer is one of the early cyberpunk novels. It combines aspects of a dystopia future with some basic film noir tropes. There are certainly ways in which the Dragonmarked Houses are inspired by the classic cyberpunk megacorps, with the basic question of what happens when corporate power equals or exceeds the relevance of nations. Almost any cyberpunk novel can provide inspiration for a House-heavy game, but Neuromancer remains my favorite.

Steven Brust

Brust’s Taltos series are pulp stories set in a fantasy world, and deal with many of the same issues as Eberron… though Dragaera is more magically advanced than Eberron; teleportation and resurrection are basic tools available to civilization and everyone effectively has a psionic cell phone. I’ve often considered running a Taltos-style campaign in Eberron, in which the PCs are small time operators in the Boromar Clan trying to hold their turf and expand their reputation and influence. I also like Brust’s Phoenix Guards series, in part because it’s set in an earlier age and there’s an opportunity to see how the science of magic evolves. And as long as we’re mentioning The Phoenix Guards, you also can’t go wrong with anything by Alexandre Dumas.

Phillip K. Dick

I prefer PKD’s short stories to his novels, but I love the questions he raises in his work. The warforged essentially spring from my long love of Blade Runner, bringing us back to cyberpunk. What is the nature of life? What do you do if you were made to be a weapon and there is no war?

H.P. Lovecraft

If you’re going to get into the Cults of the Dragon Below or the Lords of Dust, you should delve into some Lovecraft.

I’m going to stop here because I could keep this list going for pages, and I’m out of time… but anyone reading, post your inspirational films and stories in the comments! For honorable mention, as authors I’ve read and enjoyed who may or may not have directly influenced Eberron: Jack Vance (anything to do with the Dying Earth); Tanith Lee (Night’s Master or Tales From The Flat Earth); J. R. R. Tolkien; George R. R. Martin; Michael Moorcock; Robert E. Howard; Sheri S. Tepper; Neil Gaiman; Patrick Rothfuss; William S. Burroughs (maybe not useful for Eberron, but great if you’re running Over The Edge)… I’ll stop there, but I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more as soon as I post this.

And now, the Thrane and the Silver Flame questions…

Is there any cardinal who is seriously opposed to Krozen or is suspicious about him? Does Jaela Daran mistrust Krozen?

As with many things about Eberron, it depends on your campaign. In MY campaign, I might decide to have Jaela be a canny politician who’s quite suspicious of Krozen and seeks personal agents to help her carry out personal missions. However, more often I cast Jaela as the truly spiritual leader of the Church, who has little interest in politics and thus tends to trust Krozen and rely on him to handle that side of things. I hate to say this with so many questions, but it’s really a question of how you want the story to go; there’s no wrong answer.

In the 4e ECG it’s mentioned that Aundair refused to return lands to Thrane and that is why Thrane kept Thaliost. Why did Aurala attach more importance to those lands than to such a city? Magic, strategic importance, or other settlements?

Personally I see this as an oversimplification. It’s not that Thrane offered to return Thaliost and Aundair said “No deal,” it’s that each nation had made territorial gains and neither one was willing to give ground. Remember that Aurala in particular believes in the righteousness of her claim to the throne of Galifar and has the least interest in the peace process. What’s been said in other sourcebooks is that Aundair claimed the land that is currently home to Arcanix during the war; note that as Arcanix is a set of floating towers, it was moved to this location to help secure the claim. However, if you consider what makes specific locations strategically important in Eberron, if I were to write something about Arcanix in the future I’d propose that the current location is a powerful manifest zone that is valuable for the research conducted at Arcanix… which would explain both why Aundair attaches such importance to the location, why they moved the university there, and why they aren’t prepared to surrender it.

Wasn’t it mentioned somewhere that Overlord Sul Khatesh is imprisoned under Arcanix?

Good catch! You’d think I’d remember that, since I wrote it (it’s on page 31 of the 4E ECG). In my opinion, this isn’t something anyone KNOWS – it’s a fact for you, the DM. But it’s an excellent reason to say “Arcane magic is remarkably effective in this region and people are far more likely to make amazing breakthroughs in arcane studies.” People think it’s because of a manifest zone, but in fact it’s the influence of Sul Khatesh. So Aundair does believe it’s an ideal site for the University. If I was looking for a plot hook, I’d have some Church scholar figure it out and Thrane suddenly urgently pushing to take back the region, which threatens to escalate into open conflict.

What kind of discrimination (if any) would an aristocrat face who is a devoted follower of the Silver Flame but who holds lands in Cyre, Breland, Aundair, etc.  Having that kind of dual loyalty would strike me as fertile ground for rivals to nibble away at holdings. 

The Silver Flame was widespread across Galifar before the Last War. Ever since the Lycanthropic Purge it’s been especially strong in Aundair, which has always been the stronghold of the Pure Flame. However, devotion to the Flame DOES NOT EQUAL LOYALTY TO THRANE. Many of the Purified don’t approve of the theocratic government of Thrane, asserting that involving the Keeper and cardinals in secular politics distracts the Church from its true mission and breeds corruption.

The purpose of the church is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. Mortal politics don’t enter into the equation. So a Brelish noble who is loyal to the Flame can absolutely oppose the soldiers of Thrane when they are engaged in military action on behalf of Thrane. If, say, an army of demons pops up, all of the Purified would be expected to join forces against this supernatural threat; once that’s out of the picture they could return to their secular conflict.

So: an Aristocrat who is devoted to the Flame is unlikely to suffer significant prejudice in any nation other than Karrnath. However, a noble who vocally supported his national government being dissolved in favor of Thranish theocracy would likely suffer trouble.

How prolific is the CoSF in Karnath and to what degree would the Karnathi Purified have been persecuted?

The CoSF has never had a strong presence in Karrnath. The people of Karrnath are pragmatic and pessimistic by nature, and the Silver Flame is fed by optimism and altruism. Beyond this, the Blood of Vol was deeply rooted in Karrnath a thousand years before the modern CotSF was even formed… and the Blood of Vol is fundamentally opposed to the Silver Flame, as it embraces what the Church would call “Supernatural Evil”. So it was weak to begin with, and most SF loyalists would have risen in revolt when the state embraced the Blood of Vol as the state faith and began employing undead in the military. This is also the reason Thrane and Karrnath have the deepest emnity of any of the Five Nations. There are surely some in Karrnath who embraced the faith of the Flame… and even if most immigrated or revolted during the war, some could have chosen to hold position and endure so that they could continue to protect the innocents of Karrnath. But they would certainly be viewed with distrust and disdain by those around them, and could easily be accused of treason (true or not).

Side note: While the state no longer supports the Blood of Vol, the cultural tone of Karrnath is still a better match for the BoV – which is a bleak faith based on the concept that the universe and the gods are our enemies and ultimate dissolution is inevitable – than the Silver Flame.

After the Day of Morning, Thrane turned away Cyran refugees.  Would the Purified of Cyran birth been exempt from this prohibition?

Well, here’s the thing. In the extended aftermath of the DoM I could see Thrane refusing to admit refugees. However, in the IMMEDIATE aftermath, it’s the only nation I CAN’T imagine refusing refugees. The entire purpose of the church is to DEFEND THE INNOCENT FROM SUPERNATURAL EVIL. Not “Defend the citizens of Thrane” or “Defend the followers of the Flame”, DEFEND THE INNOCENT. The Mourning is about as “supernatural evil” as things get. It is utterly bizarre to suggest that when faced with clear evidence of supernatural attack that anyone devoted to the Flame would turn back civilians to fend for themselves.

So frankly, the first thing I’d do would be to rewrite whichever history book says that they turned away refugees in the immediate aftermath. After that, I’d have to come up with an explanation that would make sense to me as to how they would justify turning away refugees in a long-term situation. I do feel that they would accept anyone who wished to serve the church itself, because again, the purpose of the church transcends politics. I could see AUNDAIRIAN Templars aligned with the Pure Flame taking such actions (turning back any who didn’t support the Flame) because the Pure Flame is an extremist movement that frequently ignores the core principles of the faith (as shown by Archbishop Dariznu burning people)… but it’s very out of character for Thrane Templars, and personally I’d ignore it in any campaign I run.

I can see the explanation for turning away refugees to involve something along the lines of, “In our capacity as worldly rulers, we are forced to separate ourselves from our spiritual roles as leaders of the Church. So, it is with a heavy heart we are forced to look at what is good for Thrane, rather than what is good for for the suffering souls of Cyre. We are therefore closing our borders to any, and all, refugees from the event known as the Day of Mourning.”

Certainly. If I had to come up with an explanation for it, it would the the reasons that any government turns away refugees. I’m just saying that of all the Cyre-adjacent countries, Thrane seems like the strangest one to make that decision. Consider our options…

  • Karrnath. A very logical choice. Not only are they a highly pragmatic, militant culture used to making harsh decisions, they are also called out as dealing with famine and thus legitimately lacking the resources to suddenly support refugees. If I was picking one of the Five Nations to turn away refugees, it would be Karrnath.
  • Breland. On the one hand, you have Breland’s egalitarian character; on the other, Breland is often also presented as pragmatic and opportunistic. It wouldn’t surprise me to have some corrupt border patrols lining their pockets in exchange for safe haven.
  • Thrane. The odd duck. Thrane isn’t noted as suffering from a crippling lack of resources that would prevent it from accepting refugees. The fundamental principle of the Silver Flame is protecting the innocent from supernatural threats… like the Mourning. Thrane abandoned its secular government in favor of a theocracy based on this faith, and this faith is widespread throughout the nation – so even if the secular leaders gave such an order, I’d expect many border forces to ignore it and follow their faith. Bear in mind that when Aundair was threatened by a plague of lycanthropy a few centuries early, an army of Thranes threw themselves in harm’s way to protect their neighbors. They are the one nation with a proven history of altruistic behavior. Now, I have no problem with Thrane turning away immigrants under any other circumstance… but specifically turning away refugees fleeing from a horrific supernatural threat is bizarrely out of character for Thrane.

Historically, Thrane has the least consistency in its presentation by different authors. The corruption is often blown out of proportion, when a) the CotSF isn’t supposed to have MORE corruption than any other faith in Eberron, it’s simply that there IS corruption even in this altruistic institution; and b) the majority of that corruption is based in Breland. The zealotry becomes a focus, when Aundair is supposed to be the stronghold of the Pure Flame and Thrane the seat of the moderate faith. Heck, we can’t even get consistency on the fact that archery is an important cultural tradition.

So: there is a book that says that Thrane ruthlessly turned away refugees on the Day of Mourning. I could come up with an explanation for that if I had to. But in MY campaign, I’m simply going to ignore it and say it was Karrnath that turned people away… which was an unfortunate necessity due to their limited resources.

So, in your view the Cyran refugees problem presented in the books happening in Breland, it also exists in Thrane? With ghettos and maybe a big refugee camp( like a smaller New Cyre). If not, why the refugee problem exists only in Breland? They have gone there BECAUSE of New Cyre? The Thrane refugees adopted quickly the faith and culture of Thrane and are more keen to mingle and adapt than the Brelanders?

All good questions! To be clear: My issue is the concept that Thrane would turn away people fleeing from a severe supernatural threat. Once that imminent threat is over, I have no issue with them placing political reality ahead of altruism. It’s the same idea that Thrane followers of the Flame can fight Brelish followers of the Flame, but if that demons appear they should both stop fighting to deal with them. For followers of the Flame, a supernatural threat should override political concerns – but once that threat is resolved, politics are back in play.

I believe that Cyran refugees are a problem across Khorvaire (and heck, as far away as Stormreach). If there’s a nation where they aren’t a problem, I’d pick Karrnath… both as the nation legitimately most likely to reject them in the first place (famine!) and as the nation most use to draconian enforcement (Code of Kaius). However, I think that Breland is unique in embracing the refugees… specifically creating New Cyre, a place where their culture is allowed to flourish. Thrane could well be pushing its refugees to abandon their culture and assimilate into Thrane and the Church… given which, those with the means to do so would likely have made their way to New Cyre.

So if I was creating a Flamekeep sourcebook, I would certainly address the presence of Cyran refugees within it. But again, I’m happy with the idea that they are under significant pressure to assimilate, and that NEW refugees aren’t welcome. It’s not that Thrane is the kindest, gentlest nation; it’s that it is specifically altruistic when it comes to fighting supernatural threats, and the actual event of the Mourning would fall under that umbrella.

The accounts of the spread of the Mourning suggest it was very fast (it was the Day of Mourning, not the Week of Mourning or the Month of Mourning, and the Field of Ruins was certainly overrun that same day). If that is the case, how are there any significant number of refugees at all? For that matter, how was there time for any official policy on refugees to be formed? It doesn’t seem like anyone other than border guards would have had time to react before the refugees were already there.

Another excellent set of questions. You’re absolutely correct: it’s called the Day of Mourning for a reason. The first point is that the effects of the Mourning bizarrely conform to a particular set of borders. In my opinion, the bulk of the “refugees” weren’t actually in Cyre when the Mourning occurred; they were soldiers and support staff either in enemy territory or land temporarily seized. This raises one of the long-term issues of dealing with Cyran refugees: most of them were actually enemy combatants, and the war wasn’t over.

In terms of civilian refugees, start with those already out of the borders. Add to those communities on the very edge of Cyre… it was the Day of Mourning, not the Hour of Mourning, after all. The cloud could be seen from a great distance away, and you could easily have had a few places where there was communication – a Speaking Stone station sends a message out saying “Cloud approaching” and then drops off the grid. People on the edge who discover that no inner city is responding might have time to make it to the border… though given that they wouldn’t have known it would stop at the border, odds are good that you’d just have general panic and “SOMETHING IS COMING!!!” – again, the sort of supernatural threat Templars are supposed to defend the innocent from.

HOWEVER, at the same time, it was a time of war and for all border guards would know, it could be a trick. In a time of war, it’s not unreasonable for any nation to act with fear and suspicion; it’s simply that of all the nations, Thrane has the most compelling reason in the very short term to set that suspicion aside to defend those endangered by a supernatural threat.

So for refugees, this gives us Cyrans in enemy territory already; civilians on the very edge who were able to flee before the Mourning reached them; and one more category: survivors. The effects of the Mourning weren’t entirely predictable, and not everyone exposed to it died. The Storm Hammers in Stormreach (City of Stormreach, p.73) are a group of such survivors. So you could have had people in border communities who didn’t escape – but who survived and then fled in a panic.

In any case, you’re right: we’re not talking about large numbers of refugees, and it would be the border guards that would be making the initial decision.

What’s your take on the event leading to the creation of the Church of the Silver Flame?

Well, the 3.5 ECS has this to say…

In 299 YK, the event that started the religion of the Silver Flame took place. In that year, a terrible eruption split the ground and a great pillar of crimson fire emerged from the resulting chasm. No one understood the significance of the blazing column of flame, but most who dared approach it felt unrelenting malevolence in its radiating heat… Tira Miron, a paladin dedicated to Dol Arrah, received a powerful vision about this strange fire while exploring the western reaches of the realm. In her vision, a great rainbow-winged serpent warned her that a terrible evil was emerging in the east, riding crimson fire from the depths of Khyber itself. Tira rallied the forces of Thrane and defeated the dark creatures that had come to venerate the crimson fire and help free the malevolent entity trapped within its flames.

A key point here that’s sometimes missed is that Bel Shalor was never truly free; he just got VERY VERY close to being released. This caused the appearance of demons. Some were likely drawn to the region from other points (such as his followers in the Lords of Dust), but many were probably just released from the Flame itself in advance of him… imagine a fishing net pulled from the ocean with one big fish trapped in it and hundreds of smaller fish tumbling out through the gaps. So: Demons were afoot in Thrane, and their numbers were increasing over time. However, I think that the actions of mortals were more noticeable than the presence of demons. As Bel Shalor’s influence over the region grew, he brought out the worst in people. As noted in the 4E ECG, “People who fall under his sway become selfish and cruel, turning on one another instead of standing against him.” So you’d see feuds and vendettas taken to extremes, the rise of petty tyrants, widespread banditry, and far worse. It makes me think a little of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles – there ARE demons in the darkness, but the people are more concerned with increasing banditry, war, taxes and the like… not realizing the darker forces that are influencing things.

Tira becomes aware of the threat, but in my opinion she doesn’t just rush over and dive in. Personally, I feel that it took her the better part of a year to prepare – gathering mortal and immortal allies, traveling across Khorvaire and even the outer planes to learn about Bel Shalor and how he could be defeated. In my personal campaign, she went to the Demon Wastes to obtain Kloijner; the greatsword was forged by the couatl (technically it’s a couatl frozen in steel) in the Age of Demons and was previously in the possession of the Ghaash’kala orcs.

In coming back through Thrane, the first step was uniting people and helping them break free of Bel Shalor’s influence; then she led these forces and her allies to the site of the breach, where she defeated the demons and sacrificed herself to force Bel Shalor back into the Flame. Those she left behind then laid the foundation of the modern church. As a side note, in my opinion Tira was essentially one member of a party of adventurers. Dragon 417 includes an article called Miron’s Tears, which identifies an Avenger named Samyr Kes as one of these allies. Others haven’t been named – but these would be the people who established the Church.

One other point: While Bel Shalor was never fully released, it seems likely that his prakhutu, The Wyrmbreaker (described on page 30-31 of the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide) would have been commanding the forces defending the breach… so likely Tira and her allies had to defeat him before they could reach the Flame.

Phew! That’s all for this installment. I’ll certainly let you know as soon as I have any news about Eberron development of 5E. Next up: More about Phoenix: Dawn Command!

Dragonmarks 7/2/14: Subraces, Sarlona, and More!

So I’ve got over 50 questions on my slush pile, and I don’t have time to answer them all. As a result, the next few Q&As will be tied around particular themes, such as The Five Nations and Magic. This helps me narrow down the pile and will hopefully make it easier for people to find answers in the future. I’m sorting the existing questions into these categories, so if I don’t answer your question about Boranel’s children here, it’s because it’s a Five Nations topic. The next post will be on Aundair and The Eldeen Reaches, including the druids. If you have new questions on those topics, post them below!

As always, these are my personal opinions and nothing more. They may contradict previous or past canon sources.

What’s going on with D&D Next? Is the setting going to see major changes like the Forgotten Realms or is it just going to be a rules set change? Will there be new Eberron novels?

It’s too early in the process to answer these questions, I’m afraid; things are still being worked out. There will BE Eberron support for D&D Next, but exactly how extensive it is or what form it will take remains to be seen.

There’s also been a number of questions about how I’d handle specific mechanics in D&D Next, such as an artificer or dragonmarks. While I’d like to answer these questions, these are things that take a significant amount of time and testing; I don’t have answers I’m 100% satisfied with yet. All I can say is that one way or another, these answers will be coming in the future.

Are there any plans to make Eberron compatible with Pathfinder or any rules already out?

The vast majority of Eberron material that’s out there is 3.5 material, which is considerably easier to convert to Pathfinder than, say, to D&D Next. If you haven’t read this material, it’s available in PDF form at D&D Classics.  As Eberron belongs to WotC, it’s not currently possible for Paizo (or anyone else) to produce new Eberron material for Pathfinder.

What do you mean when you said you don’t use subraces? You use the drow don’t you and they are a subrace of elf!

This is mainly a 3.5 issue. I use drow, and in 4E I use eladrin, which some could see as “high elves.” But I don’t use Sun Elves, Chaos Gnomes, Snow Orcs, Star-Bellied Halflings, and so on. There are literally dozens of subraces in 3.5 D&D, and the vast majority of them exist for one of two reasons…

  • “I want to play class Y and I want to be race X but race X is terrible at class Y… so I’ll play a subrace of race X, which is exactly the same but has the perfect stats and favored class for class Y.”
  • “I think that if race X lived in environment Y, they would need to be stronger, so they should have a strength bonus.”

Humans don’t change. Inuit don’t get a bonus to Constitution because they live in the arctic. Thus, I dislike this idea that every other race should alter their stats because of the environment the live in. And if Race X isn’t the ideal match for a Class Y, I’d prefer to challenge you to think of how that race would adapt to compensate for that handicap rather than making a new version of the race that lacks it.

Let’s look at the Valenar. Many people have asked me: “Valenar like being rangers. Why not give them ranger as a favored class?” My response is that as Elves have an innate racial talent for wizardry, what you’ll see among the Valenar is a lot of rangers with a few levels of wizard—something that makes them distinctly different from other races and reflects their elven nature. In my opinion, that favored class isn’t cultural; if it was, a member of any race that grows up in another culture should have that favored class. Instead, it is fundamental to the race. Whether it’s a difference in brain structure, innate fey blood, or what have you, Elves have a natural talent for wizardry. I’d rather explore how that affects the martial culture of the Valenar than simply ignore it and make them a different sort of elf entirely.

Now, let’s look to drow and eladrin. Both have deep cultures and history within the setting. While both are racially tied to elves, they are also physically distinct on a very fundamental level—differences that occurred not just because “They lived somewhere cold” but because their ancestors were genetically altered by the magic of the giants. The only difference between a Tairnadal and an Aereni is cultural; an Aereni can choose to BECOME a Tairnadal elf. But he can’t decide to become drow or eladrin. It’s not just a cultural difference; it’s a fundamental physiological difference with a logical origin, along with an interesting role in history.

I’m not innately adverse to subraces. I’m adverse to subraces that in my mind have no logical reason to exist and that add nothing substantial to the history or story of the world. This isn’t just limited to subraces; it extends to full-on RACES. Personally, I don’t use Illumians or Goliaths or Genasi. I don’t want my world to feel like a Mos Eisley cantina, with a different species at every table. I’d rather use fewer races but really focus on their cultures, histories, and role in the world. Which leads us to…

How do the lords of dust view Tieflings and how are tiefling viewed by different nations or religions? What of very obvious tieflings?

I never used tieflings in 3.5 Eberron. However, as they are a core race in 4E D&D, I developed a place for them. In canon Eberron, tieflings can trace their roots back to Ohr Kaluun, a Sarlonan nation that made pacts with fiends; Ohr Kaluun is also the source of the skulks. During the Sundering, Ohr Kaluun was vilified and destroyed. Those tieflings that survived escaped to Droaam and the Demon Wastes, and this is where their descendants live today. The tieflings of the Demon Wastes are scattered among the Carrion Tribes and have no distinct culture of their own. The tieflings of Droaam have their own kingdom, the Venomous Demesne; this is where to go if you want tiefling pride and intrigue. However, neither the Demon Wastes or the western edge of Droaam have any real traffic with the Five Nations. In Sharn, there are in all likelihood more medusas than tieflings. And there are certainly more harpies and ogres. Tieflings simply aren’t prevalent enough for people to be aware of their origins or to have a strong opinion. When someone sees a tiefling in Sharn, their first response won’t be “Flame preserve us! Her ancestors made pacts with fiends!” Instead, it’s more likely to be “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!

With that said, if I decided I wanted to do something with tieflings, I think that the Venomous Demesne could be a fascinating place to explore. Here’s a place where the warlock tradition is the foundation of their culture, a place where fiendish bargains are a fundamental part of life. I see a lot of room for interesting intrigue. And if I was to play a tiefling from the Demesne (warlock or no), I would certainly establish what pacts the character or their family had made, what intrigues they are tied to, and what has driven them out into the wider world. While by contrast the Demon Wastes are the source for the isolated tiefling with no cultural or family connections.

How do the Lords of Dust feel about tieflings? “Whoa! That’s the sexiest minotaur I’ve ever seen!” The ancestors of the tieflings didn’t make pacts with the Overlords. There’s no innate connection that makes the Lords of Dust treat tieflings any differently than orcs, hobgoblins, humans, or what have you.

Now: that’s how I use tieflings, and it’s the canon position in 4E. But you could go a different way. You could say that tieflings are bound to the Overlords (though why do they have horns instead of stripes?). You could have them be persecuted by the Silver Flame. It’s just not what I do.

What subraces do you use in D&D Next?

Given my big diatribe there, this may come as a surprise… but at the moment I use all of them. I just don’t consider most of them to be subraces (with Drow as the sole exception); I think of them as different manifestations of the races’ natural talents. If you look to D&D Essentials, most races took the form “ELF: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence or Wisdom.” I liked this as a way of providing flexibility, and that’s how I look at the subraces in 4E. Rather than saying “City Halflings are Lightfoot and Talenta Halflings are Stout”, I prefer to say “ANY Halfling can be Lightfoot or Stout.” These are simply different paths any member of the race can follow. So a Valenar warband would include both “wood elves” and “high elves”… just like I’ve got an ectomorphic body type, while my best friend from high school is a mesomorph.

You COULD say “All Aereni are High Elves and all Tairnadal are Wood Elves”, but again, this raises all those issues like “But an Aereni can become a Tairnadal” and “What about a elf who was raised by humans?” For me, it’s just simpler to say that they aren’t “subraces”, they are simply different manifestations of elf found in all elven communities. The drow are a clear exception, because again, you can’t just “decide to be a drow when you grow up”; they have a significantly distinct physiology and a clear role in the world.

If you were to run a campaign aimed at ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, what would it take for the Inspired to lose hold of Sarlona?

The simplest answer is the one the Kalashtar are pursuing: get the cycle of Dal Quor to shift, bringing an end to the Age of il-Lashtavar. If this is done, all the quori will be drawn back to Dal Quor and transformed. Do that, and you end the occupation in a moment. So the question is what you can do to accelerate that.

First of all: if you haven’t done it yet, read Secrets of Sarlona. Otherwise, much of what I say here won’t make sense.

My first question: Why do you want to rid Sarlona of the Inspired? Do you have a system in mind to take its place? At the moment, the people of Riedra love the Inspired, and the Inspired provide for their basic needs. They are denied many freedoms people of Khorvaire take from granted, but they largely don’t have to worry about crime, starvation, shelter, etc. As you can see in regime changes across the world, when you kick out a dictator you create a vacuum… and what’s going to fill it? In ridding Sarlona of the Inspired, will you collapse Riedra into civil war, famine, and plague?

Assuming you’ve got an answer to that, there’s a few lynchpins to the Inspired system. The major key is the hanbalani monoliths. These control the dreams of the people, serve as planar anchors and power generators, and are the backbone of continental communication. Whether you’re acting on a regional level or continental, the hanbalani are vital targets. The second critical target is the psionic teleportation circles that allow swift transportation of troops and supplies. Of course, these draw on the local hanbalani for power, so if you eliminate one you eliminate the other.

You’d also likely want to work with existing dissident groups: The Broken Throne, the Dream Merchants, the Horned Shadow, the Unchained, and the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun. Of course, some of these groups – notably, the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun – are worse than the Inspired, so it’s again a question of who you really WANT to help.

But the most important ally and the true key to success would likely be the Edgewalkers—the Riedran military arm tasked with defending the nation from extraplanar threats. It would be incredibly difficult, but if you could convince the Edgewalkers that the Inspired themselves are an extraplanar threat, you’d gain access both to a disciplined corps of people trained in dealing with hostile spirits and a force recognized as heroes by the common people.  However, it’s all how you prove this. Just saying “They’re possessed by spirits” won’t do the trick, because EVERYONE KNOWS THAT; you’d need to prove that those spirits aren’t what they say that they are, and that despite the fact that they’ve kept the nation prosperous and cecure for a thousand years – and despite the fact that they themselves created the Edgewalkers – that the Inspired are somehow an evil threat that must be removed.

Could you go into more detail about what you think would happen if all the Quori disappeared, leaving their Inspired vessels empty? Are Chaos and civil war inevitable?

It’s a valid question. If the only thing that happened is that the quori themselves vanished – say the Age turned without a visible terrestrial struggle – it wouldn’t actually be immediately obvious to anyone except the Chosen (the mortal hosts of the Inspired) themselves. And the Chosen aren’t simply puppets who would suddenly be useless if the Inspired vanished. A few things to bear in mind:

  • Most quori have multiple Chosen vessels and move between them. Thus, the Chosen are used to operating and ruling even without quori guidance. It’s been noted that over the course of years, the presence of a quori has an effect similar to mind seed; the Chosen essentially thinks like the quori even when the quori isn’t present.
  • Tied to this is the fact that there are also a significant number of actual mind seeds around Sarlona. For those who aren’t familiar with the discipline, mind seed essentially reformats a creature’s brain to be a duplicate of the manifester, minus a few levels of experience. So mind seeds are humans, ogres, whatever – but with the personality, memories, and some of the class levels of a quori. They’ll all still be around even if the quori are transformed.

So eliminating the QUORI wouldn’t immediately throw every community into chaos. The Chosen are capable of leading and the people are used to obeying the Chosen. However, there are three other things that would cause more trouble.

  • The hanbalani monoliths are used for communication and more significantly, to control the dreams of the populace. The people of Riedra don’t think of dreams as a source of inspiration or creativity; they think of them like a news channel, where they get the latest information. This is part of what gives them such a sense of unity: they literally share the same dream. Once you eliminate that, first you have wiped out the government’s ability to provide news; second, there is an excellent chance that people will panic when they start having everyday normal nightmares, because they’ve never had them before. They may think that evil spirits are attacking them, or just generally freak out because they don’t know what’s going on. You could mitigate this with help from the Unchained, who are Riedrans who have experiemented with dreams, but it’s going to be the main immediate source of panic.
  • The hanbalani also power the system of psionic teleportation circles. If the hanbalani are left intact, there would be Chosen or mind seeds who could maintain them, even if they couldn’t create new ones. But if you eliminate the hanbalani and thus this network, you’re going to have communities that no longer have access to supplies they are accustomed to, which could thus lead to shortages, famine, etc.
  • Most of all: the Chosen may be capable leaders on their own, but they lack the pure unity of purpose shared by the quori. What I’ve said before about immortal outsiders is that to a large degree they lack free will. Kalashtar aside, the quori have a truly inhuman dedication to their common goal. This is enhanced by the fact that they are planning their actions from Dal Quor (where time moves at a different rate than on Eberron). The Inspired Lords of the major cities may never meet in person, because they don’t have to; their quori meet and make plans in Dal Quor and then return to the Chosen. Left on their own, the Chosen may be good leaders, but they are human. They will come up with their own goals and agendas. They will have doubts about one another. The leaders of the Thousand Eyes may decide that they are best suited to maintain order… and be opposed by the military leaders or the Edgewalkers.

So a certain amount of chaos and panic are inevitable once people start dreaming. The Chosen may maintain order, but without the unifying, inhuman influence of the quori I think that you will get factionalizing and civil war fairly quickly. With that said, I don’t see things dissolving into UTTER chaos; I think you’d see a breakdown into three or four major factions/nations, with a handful of isolated independent communities scattered around them. The largest of these would likely be a faction maintaining that the quori will return – that people need to maintain tradition and calm and just wait it out. But I think you’d get SOME significant factions moving in different directions.

Will common people revolt against their masters without pacifying influence of the hanbalani?

I don’t think that’s a given, but it’s a possibility. Again, the majority of people in Riedra BELIEVE in the Chosen and Inspired. They will be looking to the Chosen to fix things, not instantly turning on them. On the other hand, SOME might instantly turn on their lords.

Or will any external power take a chance to prey on weakened Riedra?

I don’t think there’s any mundane force powerful enough to try to INVADE Riedra. They’d still have their military infrastructure, even if leadership is fragmented. I think it’s far more likely that Riedra’s greatest enemy would be other Riedrans, as different Chosen lords pursue different agendas to fix things. But setting aside the concept of invasion, there’s lots of forces that would take advantage. The Akiak dwarves. The Heirs of Ohr Kaluun, who I think would immediately seize at least one small province. The Horned Shadow. For that matter, I could easily see a Lord of Dust deciding that this is a perfect opportunity to gain followers… or failing that a group of dragons. The main question on those last two is if they were certain the quori were GONE; otherwise they might not want to poach so quickly. But that leaves another possibility…

WHAT WOULD THE NEW QUORI DO? The easiest way to get rid of the quori is for the age of Dal Quor to turn. This effectively eliminates ALL kalashtar and Inspired; their quori spirits will be sucked back into Dal Quor and released in a new form that fits the flavor of the new age. In all likelihood they wouldn’t immediately return to Eberron, because we’ve established that the quori of a new age know nothing about the quori of the previous age; they wouldn’t know anything about Riedra, the Inspired, or any of that. However, if you WANTED to, you could decide that these new quori are quick learners… and that they actually do return to the Chosen in a new, more benevolent form, and work with them to create an entirely new Riedra.

OF COURSE… if something like this happens, are you entirely sure you believe them? Or could it be the old quori just trying to get your PCs to leave them alone?

I’ve been trying to understand a few things about the shifter nations of the Tashana Tundra. So I said to myself, where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes… but what happened to lycanthropes beyond western Khorvaire during the 9th century? Were they not affected by the new strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge?

You’re working from a flawed premise: “Where there are shifters, there must be lycanthropes.”  While many people assume that shifters are thin-blooded lycanthropes, there’s a shifter tradition that maintains that the reverse is true – that the shifters came first, and that the first lycanthropes were created from shifters. The existence of a shifter nation elsewhere in the world—in a place where lycanthropy may not even exist—certainly supports this idea.

That same article calls out the fact that the shifters and the lycanthropes weren’t allies. The only way the Shifters were affected by the strain of lycanthropy that led to the Purge was that the lycanthropes sought to use them as scapegoats and living shields. Even before the Purge occurred, there was a sect among the Eldeen shifters dedicated to hunting down evil lycanthropes, because those guys are bad news for everyone.

So, the short form is that the Purge had no particular impact on the shifters of Sarlona.

A second question is how shifters migrated from one continent to the other. Setting aside the plausible possibility of parallel evolution, the most likely possibility is that a tribe of shifters passed through Thelanis via manifest zones… the same way Daine & co get from Xen’drik to Sarlona in The Gates of Night. The Eldeen certainly has its fair share of Thelanian manifest zones.

You’ve mentioned before that a LE cleric of the Silver Flame would detect as LG, as the clerical aura is stronger than that of his personality. What would happen, if by some twist of fate, someone became a CG paladin (of freedom) of the Silver Flame (3.5, Unearthed Arcana)? Would others be able to detect that she is chaotic?

This is a house rule that I discuss in detail here. Under 3.5 rules, a divine power has an alignment. The Silver Flame is Lawful Good. A cleric has a powerful divine aura tied to his divine power source that is actually stronger than his personal aura. So a chaotic cleric of the Silver Flame will radiate an aura of law.

All this is based on the 3.5 SRD description of detect (alignment). This spell specifically calls out CLERICS as having that powerful aura. As a DM, I would be willing to extend this effect to “divine spellcaster,” thus including paladins, favored souls, and so on. However, by the rules as written, a paladin wouldn’t have this aura.

A key point, however: this isn’t some sort of trick or loophole you can take advantage of. If you have a divine aura, it is because you have deep faith and a mystical connection to that source. To be cloaked by the aura of the Flame, that LE Cleric must be truly devoted to the Flame; it’s simply that he may take evil actions in pursuing that faith and philosophy. So assuming that you or your DM allow paladins to have that aura, your paladin must be called by the Flame to have its aura. If you see a way to reconcile a Paladin of Freedom with faith and devotion to the Flame, this could work, and it would conceal a chaotic alignment. But again, it’s not a trick or a cheat; it’s because the character literally is bound to something bigger than himself, and that bond overshadows his personal alignment.

Did the Thranes of the Church of the Silver Flame, at least some of its priests, care for the wounded of rival nations during the Last War?

The faith of the Silver Flame maintains that the best way to combat human evil is by showing an example of virtuous behavior, through acts of compassion and charity. Given that, anyone who follows the Silver Flame would be encouraged to show kindness to prisoners. We’ve established that the Puritan faith of Aundair tends to stray from this and lose sight of the value of compassion, and Breland has the highest percentage of corrupt priests (of all faiths, not just the Flame). Still, you could expect to see such acts of kindness from any truly devoted follower of the Flame. And overall, I would certainly expect Thrane to have the best record for taking care of prisoners of war.

Since Jorasco works for profit, and the CotSF is understood as being more altruistic, were there voices that opposed more aggressive factions and took care of and even healed rival soldiers and civilians from other nations?

Throughout all Five Nations you surely found conscientious objectors who refused to fight. Some simply left; this is how the current human civilization of Q’barra was founded. Others might have done their best to care for the injured, especially innocent civilians; I’d expect such behavior from adepts of Boldrei just as much as from priests of the Silver Flame. But a key point here: You suggest that this might present an alternative to Jorasco, because Jorasco works for profit. The key is that the church simply don’t have the resources to offer some sort of free alternative to Jorasco that could provide all the services Jorasco is capable of providing. In the present day, you do have charitable clinics maintained by both the Flame and the Host (again, Boldrei is all about caring for the community). Go to such a place and you’ll find an acolyte trained in the Heal skill that will do their best to assist you. But they can’t provide magical healing. One of the central pillars of Eberron is that people with player character classes are rare, and that even at first level PCs are remarkable people. The typical priest of any faith isn’t a cleric; he is an expert trained in skills like Diplomacy, Religion, Sense Motive, History, Heal, etc. The role of the priest is to provide moral and spiritual guidance to his community, not to cast spells for them. Divine casters are rare and remarkable people who are likely to be pursuing vital missions for their faith. There simply aren’t enough spellcasting clerics in the world to replicate the services that Jorasco provides, and even Jorasco couldn’t provide those services based on spellcasters; it relies on Dragonmark focus items that can be used more frequently than Vancian magic allows. The reason Jorasco can charge what it does is because it’s the only place you can get magic healing RIGHT NOW when you want it.

Having said that: Thrane has more divine spellcasters than any other nation. This was a key military asset for the nation during the Last War. But even there, it doesn’t have so many of them that it could simply treat them as a replacement for combat medics. There are many things a divine spellcaster can do that can have a more dramatic impact on the outcome of a battle than healing an individual soldier, especially when you can buy that service from Jorasco.

So might there have been priests in Thrane who healed enemy combatants and civilians? I’m sure there were. Just bear in mind that this didn’t somehow make Jorasco obsolete or redundant, because these charitable healers couldn’t offer all the services Jorasco can.

What would happen if the Dragons launched their next attack on the elves and the elves wiped them out without effort? Full scale war?

Just like the true cause of the Mourning, the motivation for the Elf-Dragon conflict is left to the individual DM. Consider this quote from Dragons of Eberron:

Those who study this puzzling behavior ask… What motivates this seemingly endless struggle? If the dragons truly wish to eliminate the elves, why don’t they commit their full forces to the task? If they don’t care enough to do so, why do they continue to fight in such piecemeal fashion?

One theory is that the dragons despise the exten­sive practice of necromancy, even when it draws on the positive energy of Irian, but do not view it with the same abhorrence as the giants’ planar studies. Thus, they cannot agree en masse that Aerenal should be laid low.

Another possibility is that the struggle is a form of exercise for the dragons, a proving ground for the younger warriors of the Light of Siberys. Conversely, it might be that the wars are fought to test the elves and harden them for some future conflict, just as a soldier will sharpen his blade in preparation for battles to come. The dragons might be unwilling to share the secrets of their power with lesser races, but they can still push the lower creatures to reach their full potential. The long struggle with the dragons has certainly forced the Aereni wizards and Tairnadal warriors to master the arts of war and magic.

The response to an overwhelming defeat would depend on the reason for the attacks. If the purpose of the conflict is in fact to hone the skills of the elves, it could be that the dragons would be pleased by this outcome. It could be that, thanks to the Prophecy, the dragons know that an Overlord will be released in Aerenal… and that if the elves couldn’t defeat a dragon attack, they’d never be ready to face the Overlord. If the dragons were using the elves as a training ground for their young warriors, I don’t think they’d seek vengeance on the elves for defeating them; the dragons chose the battle, not the elves. Instead, I think it would mean that they’d chose a NEW target for future training exercises—something more evenly balanced. Perhaps Sharn?

Divine Ranks and Eberron, where do the progenitors stand, for example?

Frankly, they don’t. Divine Ranks are part of a god’s statistics, suggesting the power it wields when it manifests… and the deities of Eberron don’t manifest. The only beings we’ve assigned Divine Rank to in Eberron are the Overlords of the First Age, precisely because they DO manifest in this world; IIRC, we’ve set their divine ranks at 7.

Now, looking to the Progenitors, consider a few things. IF you take the myths at face value and believe that they are literally true, the Progenitors created reality as we know it. They didn’t just create planets and creatures; they created all of the planes that we know. At the end of all of this, Eberron became the world. Eberron can’t physically manifest because doing so would be the equivalent of the world stretching out and standing up. The Progenitors exist on a scale beyond everything else. And no one believes that they directly grant spells. Many druids revere Eberron, but they don’t think that Eberron listens to them or personally answers their prayers; Eberron sleeps, holding Khyber in her coils, and what they respect is the system she created. So, if I had to give Eberron a divine rank, I’d make it a minimum of 30. They are the over-est of overdeities.

I’m running a 3.5 Eberron game and the bottom line is this: Vol is seeking to attain godhood by sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives in a mater of days. To do this, she has discovered a set of powerful artifacts that would awaken the greatest and most powerful evil of all and bind it to her will. The entity? Not an Overlord, but KHYBER himself, restored, not in full cataclysmic power, but close. She then intends to send him again the Five Nations and harvest the souls through several Eldritch Engines. I would appreciate your input on this plot and to suggest any substitutions or monsters that might represent Khyber.

This question runs into the same problem I mentioned above. Khyber is literally the underworld. Khyber is the demiplanes that exist in the world. If Khyber was truly somehow physically restored to its primal form, a) you’d be ripping out the heart of the world, which would have cataclysmic effects; and b) the scale is simply too grand for PCs to face it. Consider Siberys. If you believe the myth, the Ring of Siberys is literally the remains of Siberys’ body… and it wraps around the entire world. The Progenitors are simply TOO BIG to be brought into a normal combat.

With that said, I’m not one to stomp on a story. So if you want to keep Khyber as your threat, you could say that it isn’t Khyber’s true body, but rather a physical manifestation of Khyber’s spirit… in which case, it can be the biggest, baddest dragon you care to put together.

However, if I may suggest an alternative: I wouldn’t use Khyber for this plot. Among other things, Khyber isn’t a force of death (I realize Siberys might argue this point). ALL the Progenitors are forces of creation; Khyber may create fiends, aberrations, and monsters, but that’s still creation. If Khyber were to manifest, I wouldn’t expect the occasion to be marked by a big dragon smashing things; I’d expect to see hordes of new monsters and fiends being created by this event. None of which really fits the idea of Vol becoming a Goddess of Death.

 

So my suggestion is that she summon one of Khyber’s children… specifically, Katashka the Gatekeeper. Katashka is the Overlord that embodies death and undeath. If Vol wants to become a goddess, what she basically wants to do is to take Katashka’s place. So my plot would be that Vol finds a way to release Katashka and bind him to her will, harnessing the deaths that he causes and ultimately using that power to usurp his place and become him.

The Overlords are entities with an approximate divine rank of 7. You can see find more details about creating an Overlord in 3.5 rules in Dragon 337; you can get a PDF of this issue here.

OK, there’s still a lot of questions on my pile – let’s do a quick lightning round of ones with short answers.

What happened to Eberron’s thirteenth moon?

It was destroyed by the giants of the Sul’at League during the conflict between the giants and the Quori of the previous age. This action had horrific physical and mystical consequences for Eberron, and this is why the dragons intervened the next time the giants considered using such a weapon. It’s discussed in more detail in the novel The Gates Of Night.

Does the force known as the Silver Flame have adherents beneath the waves? A different take on it like the Gash’kala?

Not in any canon source. It certainly doesn’t fit sahuagin culture as it’s been presented. However, if you play with the idea that the aboleths are agents of an aquatic overlord, one could assume that the aquatic races fought them during the Age of Demons; given that, I could see having a merfolk interpretation of the Silver Flame that traces back to that conflict. But it’s not something that’s ever been concretely defined.

Would there be werewolf war if a werewolf lord were to appear?

I’m not sure what you mean by “werewolf war” – a war between werewolves, or a new attack on the scale of the one that triggered the Purge. There IS someone I’d consider a “werewolf lord” in Eberron: Zaeurl, the leader of the Dark Pack. She’s been keeping the Pack on track and alive for the last two centuries. On the other hand, if you mean something more like an Overlord, I suggest you check out The Queen of Stone for my take on that idea…

 Would anyone on Khorvaire care if Stormreach was destroyed?

Absolutely! Stormreach is the gateway to Xen’drik, which is a source of many imported goods—dragonshards, kuryeva, eternal rations, and more. Dragonshards are the key, as they are a vital part of the magical economy. Plus, something that could destroy Stormreach could presumably threaten any coastal town in the Five Nations. I’d expect it to be a serious concern.

Besides the Lord of Blades and his whole warforged supremacy thing, what other cults, societies or groups have emerged in and around the Mournland?

I’ll revisit this in the future in more detail, but the short form is that it’s very difficult for any human to live IN the Mournland, both because of the hostile environment and simple lack of natural resources. But you’re going to see scavengers and salvagers; refugees who have established communities on the edge; cults of the Dragon Below that believe the Mournland is the promised land; bandits willing to take the risks to shelter from the law; and creatures that have evolved to live in the Mournland (want a city of Abeil? It just popped up in the Mournland!). Per canon, you have a wider range of warforged factions than just the followers of the Lord of Blades. And don’t forget the magebred empress and her followers (from the 4E ECG).

Beyond the world, sun, and the thirteen moons, are any other celestial bodies in the galaxy described anywhere?

Not in any canon source that I’m aware of. Though the 3.5 ECS includes constellations.

OK, that’s all I have time for now. If you have questions about Aundair or the Eldeen Reaches, post them below!

Dragonmarks 3/27: Khyber and Archivists

At the moment, most of my attention is focused on Gloom. With TableTop Day and the special promo release approaching, I’ve been working on a variety of support; you’ll be seeing a number of Gloom videos and articles over the next few weeks. However, I recently answered these two questions and figured I’d share them with you. The Archivist question is a fairly obscure topic, but there’s some interesting story potential even if you don’t use the Archivist class. As always, these answers are my personal opinion and may contradict canon sources.

Check back tomorrow for more Gloom news!

Of all the lands across Eberron, the one that I find most mysterious is the vast underground realm of Khyber. I have read about the Underdark of Forgotten Realms and the Darklands of Pathfinder. There is not much detail about the realms. Nothing about its terrain, lifeforms, other denizens etc. Will these be addressed in upcoming future?

Khyber is a fundamentally different place than the Underdark. Here’s a quote from the Eye on Eberron article “The Inner Sun”:

Walk through the typical cave, and you’ll find what you expect to find: slick rock, stalagmites and stalac­tites, molds and insects. But there is more to Khyber than mundane matter. The proper passage in Khyber can take you to the Abyss, or to the furnaces of Fernia. The Vale of the Inner Sun is a similar place, a pocket of space loosely connected to the material world. The heart of the vale is only about a hundred miles in diameter, but it’s possible that the entire place is larger than Khorvaire.

Khyber isn’t just a set of caves; it is a different layer of reality. What you find going through one passage to Khyber may be completely different from what I find down a different tunnel just a dozen miles away. In the Forgotten Realms, the Underdark is a country that happens to be under the map. Khyber has a few of those—the lost kingdom of the dwarves destroyed by the Daelkyr, the realm of the Umbragen, the home of the Kech Ghaalrac—but you could still take a fork in the road and find something entirely different.

In other words, there’s not a lot of information about the terrain and lifeforms found in Khyber because there’s an almost endless array of it. You can find the realms of the Daelkyr and their aberrant hordes. You can find the Umbragen drow. You can find devious Derro in the ruins of Noldrunhold, or the Vale of the Inner Sun. The catch is that you can’t walk from the Vale of the Inner Sun TO Noldrunhold without passing back through Eberron; the two are on different planar layers.

Essentially, as opposed to being one more country, Khyber is a sandbox that can contain whatever the story calls for. The Vale of the Inner Sun in Dragon 414 is an example of one of the realms of Khyber… but you can make one that’s entirely different.

Will there be more information released about Khyber? I’d love to write a supplement containing a number of different layers of Khyber, and expanding on the Daelkyr, the Umbragen, the lost empire, and other Khyberians we’ve already discussed. However, at the moment I’m not aware of any plans for future Eberron support, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

I’m sorry if this question is out of left field, but it’s always been kinda difficult for me and my game groups to answer in a way that satisfies and I would welcome your opinion. How do Archivists (from Heroes of Horror) fit in? Archivists seem to treat divine magic the way that wizards and artificers treat arcane magic: they approach it like a science. Yet I’ve read in some of your previous posts that in Eberron, the fact that divine magic can’t be treated like science is what makes it distinct.

If you’re not familiar with the Archivist class, you can find it online here.

In introducing Archivists to an Eberron campaign, I think that the first question you need to ask is whether the class is in fact employing divine magic. It is the case that I see arcane magic as being driven by a scientific approach to the manipulation of magical force, while divine magic is driven by faith and, theoretically, some element of divine intervention. As such, if an archivist is truly capable of casting divine spells without faith, I would argue that it’s not a divine class; rather, it is an arcane class that is duplicating the effects of divine spells through arcane means. I’d actually consider their spells to be arcane for any purpose that distinguishes between arcane and divine, even though they are duplicating the effect of divine spells.

With that said, I think it’s quite possible to use the archivist as a divine class. Just looking at the description of the class itself…

While most archivists are religious, it is fundamentally their way to put more stock in the power of the divine than in the divine itself… Some hunt down the secrets of ages past to exalt the greater glory of their deity, while others seek only to safeguard sacred lore from falling into the wrong hands. Still others see very little connection between their personal devotion and the work they do, aside from perceiving their continued success as evidence of their god’s favor.

So per the class description, most archivists are devout; they simply approach the working of divine miracles in a scholarly way as opposed to fervent supplication.

I think there’s a very obvious path for the divine archivist. Aureon is the Sovereign of Law and Lore. He is the patron god of wizards, who teaches the value of science and its ability to shape reality. Now take this and add it to the syncretistic approach of the Sovereign Host, whose followers maintain that ALL religions are simply worshipping the Sovereigns by different names. Many faiths are quite obviously doing that, such as the giants of Xen’drik. In the past, I’ve suggested that when new cleric spells are added by new supplements, rather than making them instantly available, DMs should find a way to introduce them organically into the campaign—so in exploring the Grand Temple of Ourelon in Xen’drik, an enormous prayerbook written by giants may reveal a new way to invoke Aureon that leads to the new spell. Which brings us to the Archivist: A divine scholar who studies other cultures and delves into ruins in search of new ways to reach the Sovereigns. It could well be that a new prayer CAN’T be instantly accessed by a traditional priest; rather, the Archivist identifies it, copies it, masters it, and then finds a way to translate it into a ritual that modern priests can use. So I could see the Archivists of Aureon being a highly respected order of priests.

The same approach could apply to the Silver Flame; an Archivist of the Silver Flame could study serpent cults, fight alongside the Ghaash’kala, and venture into the ruins of Khalesh to find the ways in which other cultures have drawn on the power of the Silver Flame, and translate those rituals into a form that works for the modern church. In so doing they further understanding of the Flame and its mission; they could also be charged to catalog the Overlords of the First Age and other fiends bound by the Flame.

While such an Archivist is trained to perform their rituals in an academic manner, they are still driven by a core of faith, and it’s that belief that allows them to recognize and master the key elements of a new ritual. As I said, I think such Archivists would be treated with respect and awe by others who share their religion; they are expanding our understanding of the faith.

The reason I’d take this approach is that it plays to the idea of the Archivist as explorer. This isn’t work you can do from a library. You must find the ruins of other cultures that shared your faith, or interact with other cultures that practice your religion through a different lens. If you stay at home, you can only touch the gods in the ways you already know; the Archivist ventures out into the world to learn new ways to reach the divine. It’s not “scientific” in a way that defies faith; it’s a quest to broaden the concept of what can be accomplished with faith. It ties to the idea that the core religions have been practiced by many different cultures, and that each one may have different techniques. I think it’s a great idea for an adventurer. But to me, the Archivist is still driven by his faith, and the idea that we can always learn more about the divine.

If you’re fixed on the idea of the Archivist as a faithless individual who approaches magic from a purely abstract and scientific place, as I said I’d make that character and his magic arcane instead of divine. I’d also make it an entirely new thing, not an established order; it represents a new, entirely modern approach to magical theory that isn’t reflected by society as it stands. Both the Arcane Congress and the Twelve would be likely sponsors, depending on whether the character is affiliated with the dragonmarked houses or the Five Nations. Both the Arcane Congress and the Twelve have considerable resources and are striving to expand the potential of arcane science. Of course, the Twelve will ultimately put these discoveries to industrial use, while the Arcane Congress will use them to support Aundair and the rest of the Five Nations… but finding a way for arcanists to reproduce divine effects would certainly strengthen Aundair and weaken Thrane.

If you go with the Twelve, House Sivis is actually the house that immediately comes to my mind. Phiarlan is certainly about chronicling history, but Sivis is the one that is looking at the power of the word, and which would be most inclined to look to a prayer as a linguistic tool that channels magical energy.

What kinds of interactions would an archivist provoke from clerics and druids?

A divine Archivist such as I’ve described above would be respected by clerics, because they are seeking to expand understanding of the faith, not to undermine it. An arcane Archivist—a faithless individual seeking to pillage the blessings of the divine for secular use—would likely receive a very negative reaction from people of faith. Divine magic is a blessing; for you to try and harness it purely for personal gain is deeply offensive.

As for druids, it will definitely depend on the sect. I wouldn’t expect any druidic sect to be thrilled by a faithless scholar trying to learn their secrets… and the Ashbound in particular would likely have a very violent response to the idea.

Would any other houses employ them as an alternative to other divine casters? How might this affect Jorasco and their business?

Personally, I don’t see Archivists as being an alternative to divine casters. First off, ALL PC classes are rare. You don’t generally hire a cleric; you hire an adept or magewright. And I’d consider an Archivist to be far rarer than a cleric. Again, as I see it, at the core of the thing an Archivist is an explorer; an Archivist who just goes to work at a Jorasco house of healing is abandoning his quest for knowledge. How is a person who gives up so easily for a little gold going to have the drive to become an Archivist in the first place? I think it’s more likely that the arcane Archivist would work for the Twelve, seeking to break down the barrier between the arcane and the divine so that magewrights can learn healing magic and work for the houses.

As far as how it would impact Jorasco’s business, bear in mind that most of Jorasco’s business actually involves mundane treatment. Adventurers aside, people don’t generally go to a Jorasco house for Cure Light Wounds or even Cure Disease (which is available but expensive); they go to be treated by experts in the Heal skill. The spells and rituals are available through dragonshard focuses or house adepts, when needed. If some archivist sought to set up a new secular healing service, it would be as though someone started selling airships than don’t require the Mark of Storms, and would likely be treated the same way. The houses have the power they have because they are monopolies. If this new business truly looks like it could pose a threat—as opposed to being one single healing house in a continent filled with Jorasco houses—they could attack it in any number of ways, from spreading slander and scandalous rumors to employing Thuranni assassins to take out the Archivist.

Given the strict control of arcane magic in Riedra, would archivists be viewed in the same light?

Unless they are acting in the service of the Inspired, absolutely.

 In a recent thread on the WoTC site you said that the Silver Flame is not a god, and in these posts you mentioned that while not being an impersonal force it is not an anthropocentric deity. I think (but may be wrong) that Faiths of Eberron said that the SF is a god. I was wondering if this is one of those aspects, as the mourning, left for the DM to decide, and that thus the SF can or cannot be a god created by the sacrifice of the Couatls depending on each DM. Otherwise, if it is not a god, could it be a force that is ultimately serving a good deity, perhaps a major one that is not even from the Sovereign Host but a benign more powerful being?

EVERYTHING in Eberron is left for the DM to decide. “Canon” is simply inspiration. With the Mourning, we don’t even GIVE you an answer… but you can always change anything you’d like. What you have hear is an example of that. Faiths of Eberron is technically a canon source. However, I disagree with a number of key elements of its depiction of the Silver Flame, and run things differently at my table. It’s always up to you to do what you want to do. So moving on, let me explain why I do what I do.

The Silver Flame is fundamentally different from the deities of the Sovereign Host. The followers of the Host assert that their deities are omnipresent and shape all things. Any time a smith picks up a hammer, Onatar is with him. Any time a soldier draws a sword, the Three Faces of War are watching. How do you KNOW Onatar is with the smith? Because he produced good work. So essentially, the Sovereigns are omnipresent, but there is no concrete PROOF of their existence; it’s a matter of faith.

The existence of the Silver Flame isn’t a matter of faith. We know with absolutely certainty that it exists, because if it didn’t the Overlords would be rampaging across the world. The SIlver Flame is an energy field that holds fiends at bay. It was created by the sacrifice of the Couatl, and according to the articles of the faith, strengthened ever since then by noble mortal souls. Mortal champions of the faith can draw on the power of the Flame to perform divine magic. Essentially, this is like a Jedi Knight and the Force. There’s no question as to whether the Force exists; it’s just a matter of whether you are personally capable of touching it and harnessing its power. And similarly, the Force isn’t something that acts on its own; it empowers the Jedi Knights to serve as champions, but it can’t stop the Jedi from being hunted down or from falling to the dark side. It can guide and it can strengthen… but it can’t MAKE anything happen on its own.

Beyond this is the question of what it even “wants”. Because it’s not an anthropomorphic entity. It’s not one being; it’s the souls of hundreds of thousands of beings merged together. They are united by basic beliefs – defend the innocent from harm – but they aren’t ONE MIND. This is the idea of the Voices of the Silver Flame. You can’t have a conversation with the Silver Flame, because the Silver Flame isn’t an individual entity. So a Voice of the Flame is a soul that doesn’t merge with the Flame as fully as most; instead it retains enough identity that it CAN directly interact and guide the faithful on some level. Tira is the Voice to the modern church; in my opinion, every branch of the faithful – from the Ghaash’kala to the Khaleshites – have their own voices. But Tira ISN’T the Silver Flame; she’s like an ambassador. She’s not infallible. She’s not even divine. She’s a mortal soul who gave up her life to defend the innocent from evil. Essentially, she’s a saint. It’s Tira who whispers in your conscience, and Tira who answers commune. But she’s not a god. She can’t affect reality on her own. She can only offer guidance.

Which comes to your next question: “could it be a force that is ultimately serving a good deity?” The Silver Flame can’t serve anything, because that implies that it is capable of independent action. The Silver Flame is a resource. It’s a wall that stands between us and cosmic horror, and a well that virtuous people can learn to draw from. But again, it’s like the Jedi: the Force is the tool that the Knight uses to do good, but if there are no Knights, it can’t act on its own.

Tied to this is the point that Tira Miron was herself a paladin of Dol Arrah. In dedicating herself to the Silver Flame, she wasn’t breaking some sort of vow to Dol Arrah. The existence of the Silver Flame doesn’t in any way contradict or oppose the existence of Dol Arrah; it’s simply operating on a different level. Trust me, the priests of Dol Arrah do say that the Silver Flame is simply a manifestation of Dol Arrah’s divine light; the priests of the Silver Flame simply take the view that the Flame is a concrete force while Dol Arrah is an abstract one. Generally, followers of Dol Arrah and the Silver Flame work well together; the followers of the Flame are simply more pragmatic, if you will.

This ties to my second disagreement with Faiths of Eberron: The idea that the struggle against evil can be “won.” I’ve discussed this before, but to sum up: as I see it, the Silver Flame is a concrete, real force that protects us from darkness and grants its champions the strength to carry on that fight in the present day. There will always be evil; even if you completely eliminated it, all it takes is one new person thinking an evil thought to bring it back into the world. Unlike the Blood of Vol – whose followers think Death can be destroyed – the followers of the Flame don’t fight because they believe the battle can be WON; they fight because it is by fighting that they make the world a better place. Perhaps we can reach a world where no one need fear evil, where no one is endangered by it – but we will always need those who remain vigilant for new dangers, and who are prepared to fight them. Looking again to the Jedi, the Empire can be defeated… but that doesn’t mean that there will NEVER BE EVIL AGAIN, it just means that for the moment the universe is a better place.

Dragonmarks 1/30: Dreams, Werewolves, and DM Etiquette

The last post generated quite a few interesting questions, so I decided to push ahead with another round. As always, these are purely my opinions and may contradict canon material.

In general, how much is it worth correcting players who, during play, misremember aspects of a setting?

This depends on a number of different factors.

  • Is the element directly important to the current adventure? Will the flawed recollection interfere with players’ ability to enjoy the story?
  • How will your players respond to being corrected? Will it be a welcome clarification, or cause irritation?
  • Is the misremembered element something that is especially important to you or your interpretation of Eberron? Is it something fundamental (the Last War was fought between the Five Nations, not between Galifar and Riedra) or a point of trivia that actual people in Eberron might not know (according to Faiths of Eberron, House Medani helped end the lycanthropic purge by creating a focus item that identified lycanthropes).

As someone who travels the world running Eberron games, I often have players who aren’t familiar with the setting. Perhaps I’ve got a player in a one-shot who is treating his warforged like a robot. I know that there’s lots of differences between warforged and robots. But his interpretation isn’t going to interfere with the one-shot adventure, and my explaining the differences will frustrate him rather than improve his enjoyment of things. On the other hand, if I had that same player in a campaign that was going to last for a year and involve interactions with other warforged, House Cannith, and the Lord of Blades, I probably would explain the differences so he’d have the proper context for his interactions with these forces. And if someone said “This ‘Last War’ was fought against the goblins, right?” I’d explain it right away.

Codex sounds very interesting. When will we be able to know more about it? I’d like to know if you’ll create it entirely on your own or if supporters will somehow participate, as happened with the Midgard campaign setting.

I will be writing a longer post about it sometime within the next week; I have a few deadlines I need to deal with first. I’ll address the design process in that post.

Concerning colonization… wasn’t Stormreach originally a colonial post of Galifar?

No. This is discussed in more detail in City of Stormreach. It was established as an outpost by pirates and legitimized by a compact with Galifar, but it was never subject to Galifar’s laws or authority, and it wasn’t settled according to any sort of royal plan.

Secondly, is there room for unknown continents in Eberron?

There’s room for anything in Eberron if you want to come up with a story for it. But a mystery continent is a big add, because Eberron has been well-explored. From dragons to gnomes to elves, you’ve had a host of intelligent, sophisticated races exploring the world. How did this continent go undiscovered? Was it hidden by magic? Has it just risen from the ocean floor? Or have people known about it but never gone there, and if so, why has that changed?

By contrast, Codex is set during a period of exploration, and the potential to discover new lands is one opportunity for people to add their own flavor to the setting.

Are there concepts or facets of Eberron that seem intrinsically influenced or tied to certain editions, such as 3E where it was debuted and 4E where it got its (arguably) first big makeover? As a DM I feel pretty confident in my ability to fit rules, story and player expectations into a package everyone will have fun with, but I’m curious if the issue’s ever come up with the mighty Hellcow.

Not big ones, but sure, there’s a lot of little things. A few examples:

  • Eberron was originally designed for D&D 3E, but by the time it was released D&D was up to 3.5. The changes might seem fairly minor, but they can still have an impact. Notably, in 3E, any lycanthrope can spread the curse; if you’re bitten by a werewolf and turned, you can bite me and turn me. This was the impetus for the Lycanthropic Purge: lycanthropy is a dangerous contagious curse that could easily spread out of control if not contained. But 3.5 changed this so that only natural-born lycanthropes could spread the curse; a true werewolf could bite you and turn you, but you couldn’t pass it to me. This completely changes the exponential threat potential and makes the Purge seem like overkill. Hence we shifted the story to say that back in the time of the Purge, the curse was stronger and all ‘thropes were infectious; the Purge weakened it, so it’s no longer the threat it once was.
  • The first Thorn of Breland novel was written during the 3.5 era. In 3.5, dragons possess blindsight, and this plays a role in the story. Likewise, Thorn is very much a 3.5 Assassin; if she gets a little while to watch you, she can do a sudden death strike, and she knows a handful of spells (disguise self, spider climb, etc). In 4E, dragons DON’T possess blindsight, and at the time of the second novel, there were no rules for assassins. I ended up simply ignoring most of these things… though I did address the Eladrin in the third Thorn novel.

Races would probably be the biggest change; with 4E, we wanted a place for the new core PHB races – dragonborn and eladrin. I feel we did a reasonably good job of fitting these in without dramatically changing the world, and I like the role of the Eladrin. But it did take some thought.

In general, Eberron was designed with 3E D&D in mind – but it can certainly be adapted to any system.

All this time I thought it was the Silver Flame Church who started the anti-Lycanthrope purge, not the Flame itself/Tira!

If you haven’t read it, I’d take a look at this Dragonshard article about the Purge. A lot of people have the wrong idea about the Purge, and think that the Keeper got up one day and said “You know what I feel like doing? Hunting down lycanthropes who are minding their own business.” In fact, the Purge began as a war of defense and containment after there was an exponential surge in lycanthropy in what is now the Eldeen Reaches. Waves of lycanthropes were raiding Aundair, and at that time the curse was highly contagious. I like to describe it as “28 Days Later with werewolves instead of zombies.” The first days of the “Purge” were much like the marines versus the xenomorphs in Aliens: brutal and terrifying. One to one, very few templars were a match for a lycanthrope, and one bite is all it takes to turn an ally into an enemy. After years of bloody conflict the tide turned in favor of the Silver Flame, but it was no easy battle. The decades of persecution that followed were fueled by a hunger for revenge, especially on the part of the Aundairians who had lost homes, friends, and family to the lycanthrope plague. This is why the Aundairian Pure Flame are the most zealous and aggressive followers of the Silver Flame; their branch of the faith was born in war and vengeance.

And lastly, it says in Faiths of Eberron that the Lycanthropic Purge ended shortly after House Medani invented a dragonshard focus that could detect lycanthropes. Do you have any thoughts on how this item would function?

I didn’t work on Faiths of Eberron, so I don’t know what the author had in mind. As a dragonshard focus item, it would require an heir of the house to operate it. Other than that, I’d have it function as best fits your story. It could be a tracker a la Aliens, which notes general position and distance, but not complete details; this would allow you to maintain some mystery. “There’s definitely a werewolf in this room… but which of us is it?” If you want to kill that mystery, it could be a monocle that reveals the lycanthrope’s true shape, but thus only works with line of sight.

It says in the Eberron Campaign Setting that “when mortals dream, they psychically project their minds to Dal Quor.” What about immortals? Could a bound rakshasa rajah in suspended animation find a way to project his mind to Dal Quor?

The basic idea is that mortal spirits are influenced by all of the planes, and pulled between them. We slip into Dal Quor when we dream. We’re pulled to Dolurrh when we die. Beyond this, we are creatures of body and soul; it’s the spirit that visits Dal Quor when you dream, leaving your body behind.

Meanwhile, immortals are physical embodiments of ideas. This has two aspects. First, the immortal doesn’t dream the way mortals do. Its body isn’t mere flesh: it’s a physical representation of its spirit. The two don’t separate. If it wants to go to Dal Quor, it goes there in one piece. So it doesn’t “dream”, but it could planar travel. This ties to the second point. The mortals of Eberron are touched by all planes. War and peace, light and darkness, madness and dream; all of these things shape mortal minds. An immortal is a creature of one shade. It is PURE war, unadulterated madness or dream. It is a physical embodiment of the core ideas of its plane. A rakshasa or a Fernian balor has no innate connection to Dal Quor; dreams aren’t part of their core identity.

Having said that, could a Khyberian Overlord find a way to project itself into Dal Quor? Sure. If that’s the story you want to have happen, make an explanation. Perhaps Bel Shalor’s connection to the Silver Flame lets it ride mortal spirits into Dal Quor. Perhaps the followers of the Voice In The Darkness have created an eldritch machine that lets her push into the realm of dreams. If you want it to happen, decide what it takes. But it’s not normal, and it would be a significant event.

Furthermore, it also states that “the only way to reach Dal Quor from the Material Plane is through the psychic projection of dreaming.” Does this mean that only mortals on the material plane dream? What about mortals on other planes? What about mortals from the material plane traveling to other planes?

As noted above, creatures of Eberron are inherently shaped by all of the planes, and it its this connection to Dal Quor that lets us go there when we dream. Many of the planes don’t HAVE mortal inhabitants… or their mortal inhabitants are immigrants (or descendants of immigrants) from the material plane. I would say that most native mortals don’t go to Dal Quor when they sleep; in this I’ll point to the Eladrin, who don’t dream. Do traveling mortals dream? I’d say it depends on the plane. In Fernia, you might dream in Dal Quor; however, planes such as Baator (well, demiplanes) or Dolurrh might have a spiritual gravity that prevents you from escaping through dreams.

Do some noble lords have their own armies, as in feudal societies?

Yes and no. If you look to Karrnath, while the army has a national command structure, individual forces are raised and maintained by the noble families; the leaders of each family are known as warlords. So while the army typically serves the coordinated vision of the king, every soldier is personally loyal to a specific warlord, and any warlord could choose to remove his support from the king – something Kaius has to keep in mind. While this has been specifically called out in Karrnath, I imagine it’s the basic model for most of the nations: nobles are charged to raise and maintain elements of the national armies. Beyond this, there’s nothing stopping nobles from having their own private forces. The only restriction that’s ever been mentioned is the Korth Edicts, which prevent Dragonmarked Houses from having armies. If a noble of Galifar wants an army and can afford to maintain it, that’s their business.