Dragonmarks 11/14: Warforged and More

It’s been a very busy month, from wonderful events such as Extra Life and ChariD20 to unexpected tragedies like the loss of my friend Mr. Pants. I’m also hard at work on Phoenix: Dawn Command and I hope to talk more about that soon. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Dragonmark, and I don’t want to get rusty.

At the moment, I have no news about 5E Eberron support, though I am still optimistic that there will be news soon. As always, everything I write here is entirely unofficial and may contradict material in canon sources.

How would you emulate a warforged character using the 5E PHB?

I came up with one possible 5E interpretation of the Warforged with Rodney Thompson of WotC for Extra Life; you can find the stats I used here. There are other things I might try – one being the ongoing question of whether warforged should have inherent armor similar to the 3E feat-based armor or follow the 4E hermit crab approach where armor is a shell they attach. The version on my site takes the hermit crab approach; all I’ll say is that I had a fine time with Smith when I played him in Extra Life. Personally, I will continue to experiment with different approaches to the warforged as I continue to evaluate 5E – but I think the current model is a reasonable approach and definitely not overpowered.

What sort of culture is there among warforged? Also, now that the war’s over, how might one warforged from one nation behave around a warforged of a different nation?

Both good questions, but I think the answer is that there’s no clear answer. The warforged have only been free citizens for two years, and they are still creating their culture. The followers of the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades represent two hubs for warforged culture to build around, but any center for warforged population – such as the Cogs in Sharn – could be the genesis of a warforged culture. As for how warforged of different nations behave around each other, it’s the same issue: it’s going to depend on the cultural path they are following. Followers of the Lord of Blades have no loyalty to any human nation, and consider all warforged to be part of one family… while other warforged cling rigidly to national loyalty and military discipline as the only things that have given their lives any sense of meaning. Such a warforged could be very hostile to a ‘forged from an enemy nation. The interesting question is if the ‘forged would act the same way towards a human soldier of that nation, or if he holds greater emnity for rival ‘forged because he still sees them as essentially weapons.

But the ultimate answer is “there is no absolute answer.”

Have you ever used the Lord of Blades in a game? What backstory did you use, if so?

I originally planned for the Lord of Blades to play a significant role in The Dreaming Dark trilogy. WotC decided they didn’t want him to appear in fiction so early in the cycle of the setting, so Harmattan took his place. I developed the Lord of Blades during the original cycle, and he originally had stats in the 3.5 ECS in the same section as Demise and Halas Martain – and like both of them, he had multiple sets of statistics to allow him to evolve as PCs rose in level. He ended up being cut for space, and I think it was just as well as it let DMs take him in different directions. The only time I’ve personally used him in a session it actually ended with the idea that he wasn’t an individual warforged – rather, he was a shared identity created by a cabal of warforged at the end of the war. So in that storyline, it would have been possible for people to fight and defeat a Lord of Blades in one scenario and discover that he was simultaneously doing something elsewhere. It’s a little like saying that Doctor Doom always was a bunch of Doombots working together, who made up the story of “Doctor Doom.”

I suggest a number of other ideas in this Dragonshard – among others, the idea that he could just be Aaren d’Cannith wearing a suit of warforged armor – but I haven’t personally used any of those ideas in games I’ve run.

What pacts do you think work best for warforged warlocks? With pacts made before or after rolling off the creation forge.

That depends how you define a “warforged warlock” and “pact.” For example, in a number of games I have used warforged warlocks who draw their powers from the Mourning. But the idea of this wasn’t that these warforged had made a concrete bargain with a sentient aspect of the Mourning, like a traditional Infernal or Fey warlock; rather it was that they had been touched and twisted by the Mourning. If you are actually playing with the idea of a warforged bargaining with a supernatural entity in exchange for power, I think you could make a case for any pact. I think you could have a very interesting Infernal Warlock based on the idea that a human warlock died and made a bargain that resulted in his soul being inserted into a warforged body… with the underlying threat that the body could be taken away if he fails to live up to the terms of his pact.

Are there mindflayers who support Riedra or the inspired -or that are even inspired themselves? Given their psionic abilities?

As I first discussed in this Dragonshard article, Dal Quor and Xoriat are both common sources of psionic power. However, they reflect very different approaches to reality and the mind, and I don’t see the fact that they both channel psionics as being any sort of bridge between them; if anything, I’d argue that psions inspired by these two different sources are fundamentally as different from each other as clerics and wizards are when it comes to manipulating “magic.” This can be reflected by having Wilders be more commonly tied to Xoriat, but I think that you can have people from both paths use the same class and still have a very different flavor for it. I feel that the denizens of Dal Quor and Xoriat are equally far apart and would generally find very little common ground.

While the Quori are undeniably alien creatures, there is a very close bond between them and mortal dreams. Mortal dreams have an impact on Dal Quor, and the Quori themselves inspire and draw strength from mortal emotions. Tsucora draw on fear, Duurlora are spirits of aggression, and so on. Among other things, this means that emotions as we understand them are relevant to the Quori. It means that we can generally understand their motivations and outlook on the world. You then have the secondary aspect that the modern Quori are very strongly aligned behind a common cause – the perceived survival of their reality. The Quori are an innately Lawful force. They have a strict hierarchy amongst themselves, and in many ways they are fundamentally defined by the fact that they are enforcing order upon chaos. They SHAPE dreams and use them as tools. They create specific emotions and use them to accomplish their goals.

By contrast, the denizens of Xoriat are utterly alien… as alien to the Quori as they are to humanity. I’ll point you to this Dragonmark article on the subject for further exploration of this fact. But the short form is that Quori understand humans, which is what allows them to manipulate humanity; they don’t understand the Daelkyr or their servants. There is no order that can easily be imposed upon them, and they don’t even necessarily experience the same emotions that we do.

All of this is my personal preference, and you’re certainly welcome to take a less extreme position. But for me, what makes the Daelkyr, the Cults of the Dragon Below, and aberrations in general INTERESTING in a world that also includes Quori, Rakshasa, evil dragons, and more is the fact that the creatures of Xoriat are the most completely alien of any of these. A mind flayer such as Xorchyllic might appear to have motivations we understand, but when you delve deeper you may find that there’s things going on there that don’t make sense at all. The logic, emotions and schemes of Xoriat should be hard for us to understand, because their logic is our madness. It is inherently at odds with our vision of order, reason and reality.

So I might have an ALLIANCE between a mind flayer and the Inspired, but I would certainly expect it to be temporary… and I would emphasize that even the Quori don’t understand what the mind flayer is up to.

 How would you make Thrane sympathetic in a game set in Thaliost?

Interesting question. They are the occupying force, which is always a hard position to justify. One of the first things I’d do is to emphasize that the brutal governor of the city, Archbishop Dariznu, is actually Aundairian; he represents the extremist Pure Flame movement rooted in Aundair. The Thrane templars and priests in the city are under his authority, but I’d emphasize their disgust at Dariznu’s actions and have some of them doing what they can to mitigate them or to help people in need. Compassion is a core virtue of the Silver Flame, and I’d incorporate a number of Thranes – whether part of the occupying force or independent agents – who are providing compassionate assistance to the needy. I could even see a group of Thrane templars considering if they should defy the hierarchy and remove Dariznu from power. The essential point to make is that this isn’t a simple black and white Thrane vs Aundair conflict; you are also dealing with an ideological schism within the Church of the Silver Flame. There are Aundairians and Thranes on both sides of that schism, and definitely Thranes who believe in the validity of Thrane’s claim to the region while still despising the actions of the Governor. This is something I touch on in this Dragonmark.

How do you handle airships being damaged without making it feel like you’re punishing the players or taking away their stuff?

To me, the key issue here is the difference between punishing players and taking away their stuff. In my campaign, everything outside of the players themselves is fair game to suffer consequences player action. I want players to develop attachments to people, places and things precisely so I CAN threaten their airship, spouse, or home village – because all of these are ways to add a sense of tension and consequence to player action. But that also requires a level of trust on the part of my players that the actions I take aren’t simply malicious or capricious. One of the points on things is that they can always get replaced. If I destroy their airship as part of a Lost-like scenario that drives a campaign arc, they can always get a NEW airship when they get back to civilization… and if it’s not exactly the same as the old one, like I said, that’s part of what actually drives the story: things change, events have consequences, and heroes CAN suffer loss.

But I think the key point here – as with many things about good GMing – is about clear communication between player and GM, and about an understanding of the type of story that will play out. If the PLAYERS have a clear vision of the campaign as them flying around saving the universe in the Millennium Falcon and you randomly have it destroyed by an asteroid in the first session, just saying “But you get another ship later!” isn’t going to make that all better. Basically, I would never, say, make a PC lose a limb without having some form of consent that the PC is OK with that sort of story. If the airship truly is as integral to the concept of the PC as a limb, then I’m not going to casually remove it. But overall, my GOAL is for people to be able to develop attachments to people, places and things with the understanding that these things CAN be lost, and can even potentially be lost in seemingly senseless ways; it’s this understanding that helps people feel that their actions matter and that loss is a possibility.

The game I’m currently developing – Phoenix: Dawn Command – approaches loss in a very different manner, as death and loss are fundamental parts of character growth. But that’s a subject for a future post.

OK: That’s all I have time to discuss in detail. Which means it’s time for another lightning round for the remaining questions…

Did elements from Final Fantasy VI (opera, airships…) inspire some features of Eberron even slightly?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never actually played a Final Fantasy game or seen any of the movies. So any similarities are simply parallel evolution.

How common are wands among non-magical inhabitants of Eberron?

Not at all. Using a wand requires magical talent; even eternal wands require you to be SOME sort of spellcaster, even if you don’t have to be a caster with access to the spell in the wand.

Eberron suddenly becomes “mundane” -no divine/arcane power, no connection to planes. What happens instantly, a year, 10 years?

I explored this concept in the Children of Winter article in Dragon 418. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of Eberron’s major cities take advantages of manifest zones or magic; remove those things and Sharn will immediately collapse, for example.

Can criminals avoid being convicted in spite of items as the eye of Aureon and pendants of mystic warning (from SharnCoT)?

Sure. FIrst of all, an Eye of Aureon won’t help you CATCH a criminal; it only helps you prove his guilt or innocence once he’s been captured. Eyes of Aureon are rare and “only found in the greatest cities of Khorvaire.” Beyond that, an Eye of Aureon is simply a zone of truth, and there’s lots of ways to get around those… from effects that shield you from divination to simply finding ways to mislead while speaking the literal truth. Meanwhile, a Pendant of Mystical Warning is an expensive item that can only be used by someone with arcane talent, and has all the same limitations as detect magic. So yes, I think there are definitely ways for criminals to avoid conviction. This sort of thing is a subject I delve into in considerable depth in the 3E sourcebook Crime and Punishment from Atlas Games.

If the worlds-traveling crone Baba Yaga were to visit Eberron, where would her hut reside?

Personally, if I were to use Baba Yaga in Eberron I would say that when she passes through Eberron she tends to use another name, and either make her Sora Katra or Sora Kell herself.

How evil are the daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have legitimate plans for Droam? Would you ever write a story focused there?

I have written stories focused there; I think Sheshka is actually the most popular character in The Queen of Stone. Beyond that, it’s a topic I’ve discussed in some detail in this Dragonmark, so I suggest you take a look at that and see if it answers your questions.

Does Flamewind have an androsphinx counterpart/sibling/mate?

Not in Sharn, and we’ve never detailed her private life before Sharn. Of course, if you’re referring to Flamewind as depicted in The Dreaming Dark, you have to ask yourself if she’s really a sphinx at all – or if she is some sort of manifestation of the Queen of Dusk. And speaking of which…

Will the new edition be advancing the timeline at all? Anything in the works for Daine, Lei, and Pierce?

I still have no concrete details on the plans for future Eberron support and whether it will include novels. Personally I would rather focus on the past or on regions of the world (or planes) that have been underdeveloped as opposed to pushing the timeline forward.

If a “Super Hero” team appeared in Sharn, how would Breland react to it? Would the local Dragonmark houses do anything?

Sharn’s a big place. The first draft of the setting actually included a pulp vigilante in Sharn – a kalashtar known as “The Beholder.” I’d only expect Breland to get involved if the group was somehow seen as a serious threat to royal authority; after all, it’s not as though Breland has stepped in to interfere with House Tarkanan or the Boromar Clan. Likewise, I’d only expect this houses to act if their personal interests were threatened. If anything, I could see the Twelve CREATING a superhero team as a PR exercise. Get your Cannith Iron Man, Vadalis super-soldier, Orien speedster, etc…

Are any of the moons inhabited?

They COULD be. We’ve intentionally left details on the moons scarce so that YOU can decide if you want to have a Moon Race game, an invasion from the moons, or even to just say that the moons are in fact simply portals to other planes.

Why did the Eldeen Reaches declare independence from Aundair? I can see why places like Mror or Zilargo got independent, but Eldeen?

For a brief exploration of this topic, look at this previous post. The short form is that the schism between Aundair and the Eldeen reflected significant cultural and economic troubles between the regions, and that the leadership of Aundair was focusing on the war with the other nations to the detriment of the Eldeen.

What were your plans for the undersea kingdoms of Eberron?

Someday I hope to explore this in more depth (get it?) but it won’t be today. One detail I will throw out is that Sharn originally had an undersea district with a section with a permanent Airy Water enchantment so people could make deals with merfolk emissaries.


Dragonmarks: Spies, Heraldry, and a Lightning Round

When I put out a call for questions last week, I didn’t expect to get fifty of them. This has inspired me to get to work organizing previous posts, both because some of the questions people asked have already been answered and because it would be nice to have all the answers on Droaam or The Mark of Death in one place. I’m going to answer a few topics in detail today, and then do a lightning round of short answers. If your question isn’t dealt with here, it may be addressed in the upcoming reorg.

As always, my answers are entirely unofficial and may contradict canon sources. If you’re looking for official answers, you might check the Dragonshard Archive, Eberron Expanded, or Eye on Eberron.

So on to the questions!

Does Eberron have a place in the next edition? Will we ever see more novels?

Eberron certainly has a place in the new edition, but I don’t have any concrete new information about what that place will be. Warforged appeared in the playtest material, and James Wyatt has mentioned Eberron a number of times in his articles about D&D Next. However, I don’t yet know exactly what that place will be or how much support you can expect, and whether novels will be a part of it. I’ll make an announcement as soon as there is concrete news.

How’s your experience been with D&D Next? And how do you run changelings in your campaign, as a player or DM?

Given that I’m playing a changeling in the D&D Next campaign I’m in, these two questions are directly related. I’m planning to write an entire post on my adventures in DDN, and I’ll cover both these questions there.

I’m hoping for advice on two fronts; I want to diversify the various intelligence agencies (Dark Lanterns, Royal Eyes, and… who do Thrane and Karrnath have?)…

First, bear in mind that the King’s Citadel isn’t just the intelligence service of Breland. back in the day, the Citadel was the intelligence service of GALIFAR, just as the Arcane Congress was the center for mystical research for Galifar, and Rekkenmark the center for training for the armies of the united kingdom. While the Citadel employed agents from all Five Nations, the bulk of its resources and command structure were based in Breland, and the vast majority of its agents were from Breland. Just as Rekkenmark reflects the martial culture of Karrnath and Aundair’s love of the arcane is tied to the presence of the Congress, the Citadel was a source of national pride for Breland and a reflection of their pragmatic culture, and the vast majority of Citadel agents were Brelish. So the reason you hear more about the Citadel than about the agencies of other nations is because it is the oldest and largest force. Prior to the Last War, Karrnath didn’t HAVE a national intelligence agency; it had the King’s Citadel. Its current agency was built at the start of the war using those Karrnathi agents who’d worked with the Citadel and the bits of infrastructure it was able to seize. But the Citadel is a national strength of Breland… just as the Arcane Congress, Rekkenmark, and Flamekeep are all institutions that once served all nations but now benefit their home nation.

So: at the start of the Last War, the Five Nations had to come up with an individual approach to intelligence. Here’s how it broke down.

Aundair. The Royal Eyes were established by Aundair herself at the dawn of Galifar. They were her personal corps of spies established to spy on the leaders of the other nations (which is to say, Aundair’s own siblings). They maintained this mission over the centuries, an have an exceptional talent for intelligence-gathering augmented by the finest arcane divination techniques and equipment in the Five Nations. Since the Last War they have expanded their numbers and the scope of their operations. However, they don’t have the numbers or resources of the Citadel, and their strength is still divination.

Breland. The Dark Lanterns and King’s Shadows once encompassed all of Galifar. As such, they have centuries of resources and techniques at their disposal. Many of their foreign safehouses and moles were identified and eliminated over the course of the Last War – but not all of them. Their agents are both more versatile and more numerous than those of the other Five Nations, and they have no particular specialty; they can carry out any sort of operation. Breland’s strong ties to House Medani and good relationship with Zilargo are additional strengths. Short form: A Dark Lantern may not be as tough in a fair fight as a Karrnathi agent and may not have the specialized magic of a Royal Eye, but they have exceptional training and strong mission support. Karrnath has warriors, Aundair has wizards, and Breland has rogues.

Cyre. Each nation had its own strengths. Breland had the Citadel. Karrnath had Rekkenmark. Cyre had the royal treasury and mint. Initially, Cyran intelligence relied heavily on House Phiarlan and House Tharashk. As the war progressed, Cyre built up its own agencies using their own ex-Citadel agencies. One that has been mentioned in the novels is the Fifth Crown, an urban strike force specializing in infiltrating enemy territory. Cyran agencies were small and had limited strategic resources (safehouses, generational moles, etc) but were generally extremely well equipped.

Karrnath. The people of Karrnath take pride in military discipline and skill, and think little of those who would skulk in the shadows; before the Last War, few Karrns service with the King’s Dark Lanterns. In the wake of the war, Karrnath established the Twilight Brigade as a special division of the White Lion police force; members of the Twilight Brigade are sometimes called “Dark Lions”. The Brigade specializes in counterintelligence, devoting its efforts to identifying and eliminating enemy operatives; it also serves the function of “secret police”, gathering information on Karrns on behalf of the king. Karrnath thus has a limited reach when it comes to gathering intelligence in foreign nations, often relying on Phiarlan and Thuranni for such purposes; its philosophy is to deny intelligence to the enemy and then rely on its own martial strength. With that said, during the war it made use of the Raven Corps, an organization formed from Blood of Vol mystics who specialized in gathering intelligence through the use of necromancy – interrogating corpses, using shadows as spies, and so on. The Raven Corps was a volunteer force, and was disavowed and disbanded at the same time as the Emerald Claw and other Seeker orders.

Thrane. The Argentum is a branch of the Church of the Silver Flame tasked with identifying, locating, and obtaining powerful or dangerous artifacts… by any means necessary. The Argentum has carried out this mandate for centuries, and this talent for covert operations made it the logical choice to serve as the foundation for Thrane’s intelligence agency in the war. In this, the Argentum is similar to the Royal Eyes. It is a small, specialized organization that has been operating for centuries and is highly skilled at a specific type of mission, which has now been given greater resources and drafted to perform other operations. As such, it’s on par with the Royal Eyes in terms of resources and scope, and still trailing behind the Citadel. Where the Royal Eyes specialize in information gathering, the Argentum excels at theft and extraction, and has access to the warehouse of dangerous artifacts its gathered over the centuries.

… and need a little help coming up with potential hot spots in a cold war across Khorvaire.

A personal favorite of mine isThaliost. Once a major Aundairian city, it’s now controlled by Thrane. They placed an Aundiarian bishop in charge of the city, but his zealous excesses have exacerbated a delicate situation. Violence is inches away, and there’s certainly opportunity to push things one way or the other and to threaten Thrane or Aundair.

Droaam is also good, as you can see in my novel The Queen of Stone. There’s all sorts of topics that could come up: its desire to be recognized, the threat of hostility against Breland, the activities of Daask, Droaam harboring war criminals or political refugees, a nation trying to secure a military or economic alliance with Droaam (which is sitting on many useful resources), or even Sora Teraza announcing that she has a collection of secrets that could topple governments and she’s going to release it next week – do you steal it? Destroy it? Protect it from other nations?

Stormreach has many of the same possibilities as Droaam. A nation could be pursuing a strategic resource in Xen’drik, funding an extremist group operating out of Stormreach, conducting secret business with Lyrandar, etc.

Beyond that, you can have themes that could occur anywhere. Any sort of serious research on the cause of the Mourning is a serious cold war threat; it’s the Manhattan Project all over. Any form of significant arcane research could be nearly as significant an issue – anyone creating something that could give them a position strong enough to start the war anew. This could be creation of a new spell or weapon, an alliance with Argonnessen, Aerenal, or Riedra, something that would cripple another nation (say, extinguishing the Silver Flame), etc.

Do the Dragonmark Houses place any honor, taboo, or significance on their standard beast? For example, would a Thuranni killing a displacer beast be seen as bad form?

It varies by house. The tradition of house heraldry is tied to the Twelve; bear in mind that Thuranni, for example, was Phiarlan until just a few decades ago, so they haven’t had long to build up a particular attachment to their heraldic beast. In some cases the beast was chosen by the house because it was a creature they already had an attachment to or use in some way. For example, in the Talenta Plains the blink dog has a reputation for helping stranded travelers; “ghallanda” actually means “helpful hound who appears where needed the most.” House Tharashk took the dragonne both because it is a fierce predator, but also because it’s a “dragon-that’s-not-a-dragon”; this is a reflection of their general view of themselves as outsiders (also reflected by their willingness to overlap Deneith and Vadalis in their dealings with Droaam). The cockatrice of Sivis can be seen as “the deadly quill.” For the most part the beast is chosen for what it represents, not because the house has a literal relationship with it. However, Kundarak does make use of manticore cavalry, and Lyrandar legends say that the spirits of Lyrandar elders linger as krakens in the depths.

So for the most part, a Thuranni killing a displacer beast would be like a Republican killing an elephant – a humorous coincidence, but not a dishonorable act.

However, if you WANTED to take it further you could certainly decide that there is a greater significance to the beasts. Perhaps each house truly does have a totem spirit, something that revealed itself to the founders of the houses… an incarnation of the power of the mark that can choose to manifest in the wild beasts. So not every gorgon has a tie to Cannith… but any gorgon could suddenly speak to a Cannith heir and offer them advice or call on them for a favor. It could be very interesting to say that there IS a sentience to each mark; the real question then is what it means that the Mark of Shadow has two beasts.

What, if any, was the totem beast for the Mark of Death? Or was the mark eradicated before it had a chance to be a proper House?

Per canon, the line of Vol was never a “Dragonmarked House”. The traditions of the houses were established and standardized by the Twelve, and the line of Vol was exterminated long before that. If you run with the idea that the beasts are more than mere symbols, then it would make sense for the mark to have a totem beast. One possibility would be for that beast to be undead, but I wouldn’t go that way; all the others are magical beasts, and I’d look for a beast that is in some way associated with the dead.

OK: there’s a lot of good questions, but too many for me to answer in depth. So it’s time for a LIGHTNING ROUND! When I do the reorg I may expand on some of these, but for now I’m keeping it quick.

Since the code of Galifar is not applicable in Xen’drik, do the Sentinel Marshals find obstacles and is their jurisdiction denied by the storm lords in Stormreach?

Sentinel Marshals have no official jurisdiction in Stormreach and the Storm Lords could block them. However, consider that Sentinel Marshals are honored members of House Deneith. Blocking the actions of a Marshal is thus spitting on House Deneith… which could be seen as insulting the Twelve. Is this situation worth the danger of economic reprisals from the Houses? In short, the Storm Lords COULD block a marshal, but I’d only expect them to do it for a VERY good reason.

What Icons would you use for an Eberron 13th Age game?

Lucky for you, I addressed this in a previous post!

Eberron and 13th Age

Can you get Randy Lander to start up our game again?

Yes. If he knows what’s good for him. I’ve got your number, Randy.

Where can I find out more about Darguun? What is society like there? Tech level? Cultural idiosyncrasies?

At the moment, your best bet is to read Don Bassingthwaite’s novels, such as Legacy of Dhakaan.

Was the Undying Court ambivalent to the daelkyr invasion of the Dhakaani empire? Or busy with some other pressing business at the time?

Excellent question that deserves more than a lightning round answer, but that’s all the time I’ve got for it. Short answer: The power of the Undying Court is concentrated in Aerenal. They undoubtedly took action to defend Aerenal from the incursion. The Dhakaani had already fought the Tairnadal and driven them from Khorvaire, so there was no love between elf and goblin; even if the Court had the power to help Dhakaan, it’s not much of a surprise that they chose to focus on their own defense.

Is there any evidence to support the claim that the daelkyr were refugees seeking asylum in Eberron and that the Dhakaani empire was the one to initiate hostilities, forcing the daelkyr to respond in self defense?

None at all. You may be thinking of the theory that the Quori were refugees seeking asylum in Eberron when they were attacked by the Giants; there’s a fair amount of evidence suggesting that, and more important, neither culture survived to the present day, so there’s no way to verify it. Meanwhile, we have the Gatekeepers, Heirs of Dhakaan, and the Daelkyr themselves as multiple living threads attesting to the hostile intent and actions of the Daelkyr. With that said, it can be argued that the Daelkyr don’t consider collapsing civilizations and warping creatures into new forms to be a hostile act. You might consider this Dragonmark:

The Daelkyr and their Cults

Are there Gatekeepers corrupted by the Daelkyr?

Certainly. “Gatekeepers corrupted by the Daelkyr” is an entirely valid foundation for a Cult of the Dragon Below. Consider the link above.

What would it take for Droaam to be accepted as a nation the way Darguun has been?

Good question, and one that’s explored in my novel The Queen of Stone. You might also look at the following Dragonmark:

Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell

Who fathered the Daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have any favorite children of their own?

They each have different fathers, which is why they are all different types of hags. The identities of their fathers have never been revealed in any canon source. No children have ever been mentioned in a canon source, though you might find a possibility in the comic Eye of the Wolf.

How would the Daughters of Sora Kell react if the Queen of Stone was assassinated?

The main question is if they were aware of it in advance or orchestrated it themselves. Remember that Sora Teraza is the most gifted oracle of the age, so you can be sure SHE’D know; the question is if she shared the information with her sisters. Personally, my feeling is that if they allowed it to happen it’s because it helps them in some way. They could have allowed it in order to replace her with a more pliable warlord. It could be a calculated move to create a martyr to inspire their forces or to demand concession from the nation of the assassins. I’d check that Dragonmark about and consider what the motives of the Daughters are in your campaign.

I watched Game of Thrones seasons 1-3. I noticed quite a lot of parallels between it and the Eberron setting. Is Eberron more than just a little inspired by A Song Of Ice And Fire?

My original pitch for Eberron was “Lord of the Rings meets Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Maltese Falcon.”  If I wrote that today, I’d probably substitute Song of Ice and Fire for LotR, because there are lots of similar aspects; stories don’t always end well, there’s more shades of gray than black and white morality, and hey, a terrible civil war. I can only imagine that I hadn’t really gotten into SoI&F when I was first working on Eberron. With that said, there are major differences. One of the central themes of Eberron is exploring the impact of magic on civilization, while Westeros is a low-magic society. SoI&F has three dragons; Eberron has an entire continent of them. SoI&F is more about the balance of power between kings, while Eberron is more about the balance between the aristocracy and the mercantile Dragonmarked Houses. Essentially, I think Game of Thrones is a great inspiration for a martial or political Eberron campaign, but it wasn’t a driving factor in the original development of the world.

What would a Warforged god be like? Domains? Favored weapon?

Faiths of Eberron includes two: the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades. That’s a place to start.

Is it settled that warforged have souls?

No, it’s not settled. This is a quote from an old HDWT post:

This is one of the key mysteries of the setting, and one that should never be given a canon answer. The artificers of House Cannith generally assert that (the spark of life in a warforged) is something artificial that they have created; others, such as the kalashtar, maintain that this is impossible, and that no mortal agency can create a soul. With this in mind, a number of theories are out there. One is that they are reincarnated spirits of soldiers who died during the war, thus explaining their natural talents for war. Another is that they are quori vessels waiting to be filled; it’s a back-up plan that would allow the quori to escape Dal Quor if the age turns, and the soul is a sliver of the quori. For a third, turn to the Sovereign Host theory that the spirits found in Dolurrh are just the husks of the true souls, which must strip away these worldly trappings to ascend to the realms of the Sovereigns… so the Warforged soul is essentially the recycled compost of a previous soul. Anyhow, there’s a few possibilities – I’m sure you can come up with more!

THAT’S ALL FOR NOW… I’d love to answer more questions, but I need to sleep and do some actual work. Upcoming posts will address Phoenix, my experiences playing D&D Next, and the next Dice Story – along with working on organizing old Dragonmarks.

Got more questions or thoughts on these topics? I’d love to hear them!




Dragonmarks 12/5: Siberys, Flame and Hybrids!

Soon I’ll start talking about the new setting I’m working on, but for now here’s another round of Eberron answers to chew on. As always, these are just my personal opinions & aren’t canon in any way.

What can you tell us about the status of Eberron in the next edition?

At this point in time, I have no new information. It’s my hope that it will be supported, but I haven’t heard anything positive or negative in this regard.

When will you write more novels? Are you writing one now? Write one now.

As regards Eberron novels, that’s up to Wizards of the Coast, not me. Eberron belongs to WotC, and they are the only ones empowered to authorize Eberron stories. There’s lots of stories I’d like to tell, and this is one reason I’m working on a new setting – so that I’ll have free rein to develop fiction in that world.

In the unlikely event that a Warforged gained a dragonmark, would it replace the ghulra, or be its own thing?

A warforged getting a dragonmark is going to be a one of a kind story, so it’s up to you, really. Is the dragonmark somehow manufactured? Is the Prophecy declaring this warforged to be a tool of destiny? This will likely manifest in different ways. However, I personally wouldn’t replace the ghulra. The ghulra is, essentially, the true name of the warforged: the symbol of its soul. It is unique. A dragonmark is not unique; it can be shared by many people. It touches the soul, but it is not the entirety of it.

Can you provide an in game explanation about how the only interracial breeding possibilities are between human with orcs and elves?

First off, changelings and kalashtar can both interbreed with other races, including humans, Khoravar, and elves. However, these crossings don’t produce hybrids; a human-kalashtar crossing produces a human or a kalashtar, not a half-kalashtar. So to reframe the question, why are half-elves and half-orcs the only hybrid races?

First off, I see no reason to assume that other hybrids aren’t possible; it’s simply that if they are possible, the offspring are a) not sufficiently different from one of the parent races so as to require new mechanics, and/or b) are sterile or otherwise not true breeding. Essentially, if you were in my campaign and said “I want to play a half-dwarf… mechanically he’s a dwarf, he’s just a little skinny and people make fun of his mother” I’d allow it. But I wouldn’t give you any special abilities for it – you don’t get to take human-only feats. So there exists the possibility that half-elves and half-orcs aren’t the only hybrids. But they are still the only true-breeding hybrid races that possess their own unique racial traits, so let’s keep moving forward.

We’ll start with the Khoravar… that’s the name the half-elves of Eberron have given their race, for those who don’t know it. First off, as noted in the Dragonshard on the subject the elves themselves were surprised and disturbed when they had viable hybrid offspring. Why is this possible? It could be that it has little to do with humanity and everything to do with the elves. Remember that the elves are the product of genetic engineering; when the giants enslaved the people of Shae Tirias Tolai, they altered them and stripped them of their ability to slip through the Feywild, transforming eladrin into the modern elves. They were bred to be slaves; as such, it’s not unreasonable to think that they intentionally made them genetically adaptable to help maintain their stock. We’ve never discussed the possibility of, say, elf-goblin hybrids… but if you want to make things interesting, you could say that elves can breed with anything. It would explain the fifty shades of elf you find in many settings.

As for half-orcs, personally, I think orcs work in the same way. I don’t personally consider half-orcs to be specifically half-human, half-orc. In my opinion, a half-orc might be part hobgoblin, elf, shifter, or dwarf. Basically, the orc genes are dominant enough to produce a uniform set of traits when bred with other creatures; though with that said, I’d think that you would see some differences between the hobgoblin and shifter half-orcs. But mechanically they are identical. Why is this possible? It could simply be a bizarre evolutionary trait that has allowed the orc to thrive in difficult environments. Or it could have been a gift from Vvaarak – a blessing of fertility upon the first race of druids.

What if Siberys was not killed by Khyber, despite false myths that say the contrary? Or could he resurrect?

Well, assuming you take the Progenitor myth at face value, it’s hard for Siberys to be alive because the pieces of his body are scattered across the sky. The dragons were born from his blood, and the radiance of the Ring is in my opinion the primary source of the energy mortals manipulate with magic. If he’s not killed, you have no Ring, no dragons, and no magic.

Could he be resurrected? Anything’s possible. But I don’t know what you’d do with him if he was. We’re talking about a dragon wrapped around the world… a dragon who, in his first life, created entire planes for fun. Which means if he was alive again, there’s no particular reason for him to hang around in this one; he’d probably go and see how things were working out in Syrania and Irian, then swim off into the Astral to think about what to do next. The gravitational impact of this celestial motion would likely wreak all sorts of havoc, and there’s then the question of if there would still be arcane magic in the world if he left.

A key point here is that Siberys has no particular reason to care about humans. We’re children of Eberron, and late to the game at that. Even the dragons were born of his blood, not personally shaped by his hand; if anything, he’d be more interested in the outer planes, because those he worked on deliberately.

And worst comes to the worst, he’d want a second round with Khyber and might try to get Eberron to let her go. And Eberron is the world we are standing on. If Eberron were to rise, it would literally destroy the world as we know it.

So personally, I’d let sleeping dragons lie.

What kind of creatures dwell, by your reckoning and imagination as the creator of Eberron, within the distant Ring of Siberys.

Siberys is, in my mind, the source of arcane magic. Dragons are the children of Siberys and Eberron; as such they are mortal creatures whose blood is suffused with mystic power. Per Dragons of Eberron, the couatl were formed from “the pure blood of Khyber before it touched the earth.” So couatl are one example of creatures you might find in the Ring. The key to me is that natives of the Ring would likely be highly magical creatures, as much spirit as flesh; flight would also be a common thing. But beyond “look to the couatl as an example,” it’s not a subject I’ve given much thought.

Does Eberron exist in a specifically imagined Solar System; if so what are the other celestial bodies or major planets therein.

Nope. We defined the moons, and there are a lot of them; you could choose to spread them out as planets if you prefer. But we’ve never described other planets in the system. I believe there are other worlds – the daelkyr are described as having produced mind flayers when they destroyed the homeworld of the Gith – but we’ve never stated if these are physical worlds that can be reached through space travel or alternate material planes. It’s something I’m thinking about as I’m developing my new setting, but it wasn’t something that was considered for Eberron.

Why did Thrane reject Cyran refugees?

I’ll throw out a few factors.

  • Like all of the Five Nations, Thrane’s resources were stretched thin by the war. Krozen’s top priority was to make sure he could tend to the needs of his own people.
  • No one won the war. Cyre never conceded its position or acknowledged Thrane as a righteous victor. Many of those refugees are thus unrepentant enemy combatants. Even the civilians have the potential to form a hostile fifth column within the native population. Why should we put the safety and wellbeing of our own people at risk to help those who were, months ago, trying to kill them?
  • The Mourning is utterly terrifying. An entire nation has been destroyed. No one knows why or how. Is it divine punishment of the Cyrans, and if so, will it follow them wherever they go? We need to regroup, consolidate our forces, and find out what it is and how to protect ourselves from it; this is not a time to take unnecessary risks.

There’s three reasons. Jaela would likely argue for compassion for those in need. Krozen would counter that the closed border protects the people of Thrane. And in the end, Jaela is the spiritual leader; it was Krozen and the cardinals who chose to refuse refugees.

On the other hand, while I understand the motives for Thrane’s rejection of the refugees, it seems odd since Breland welcomed them, and this puts the Flamers to shame given their beliefs in helping others.

The key here is to look at the event in context. The people of Thrane follow the faith of the Silver Flame. But they are also the people of Thrane, and have secular concerns that drive their daily lives. This isn’t a case of peaceful innocents hurt by a natural disaster. At the time of the Mourning, Thrane and Cyre had been at war for almost a century… and the last few decades of the war were fairly bitter between them. Consider the following, drawn from The Forge of War:

  • In 978 YK, Cyre and Thrane were briefly allies. However, Cyre refused to aid Thrane against Brelish aggression. This led to a collapse of the alliance. One of the first conflicts following this was Cyre’s siege of Arythawn Keep. This was a brutal massacre. The Cyrans took no prisoners, and their warforged troops pursued those who fled, hunting them down tirelessly and slaughtering them. That’s an image that is very close to the minds of Thranes on the Cyran border: their own innocents being mercilessly pursued by Cyran troops.
  • In 993 YK, Jaela Daran came to power and immediately sought peace with Cyre. Queen Dannel refused her entreaties, and Thrane soon learned that this was because Cyre had an ambitious plan to bring down Thrane with a direct assault on Flamekeep itself.  Per Forge of War, while this plan was never executed, “Keeper Daran had no counter to High Cardinal Krozen’s claim that Cyre was a clear and present danger.” So again, when Cyre was seemingly punished by divine force for its folly, most Thranes felt little desire to aid the people who just years earlier had plotted to ravage Flamekeep.

In many ways, the question isn’t why Thrane didn’t help Cyre, but rather why Breland did. Breland and Thrane were allied against Cyre on the Day of Mourning. However, Breland had fewer bitter conflicts in its past – no incidents matching either of those I called out above. And to be more cynical, the fact of the matter is that the Cyran claim to the throne was always the best one. By taking in Oargev – keeping his former enemy close – Boranel put himself in a very strong position to control whatever future the nation may have. Breland’s actions may have been pure politics as much as humanitarian kindness.

I do believe that individual followers of the Flame quite likely provided aid to Cyran civilians in need, both before and after the Mourning; and remember, there are followers of the Flame in Breland as well as Thrane. But these incidents were the acts of compassionate individuals as opposed to the policy of a nation. Thrane’s refusal to aid Cyre was a secular act, not driven by faith; it was the act of a nation scarred by war, one that had offered the hand of peace in the past and been answered with betrayal and aggression.

Speaking of Cyre: was there ever anyone doubting what they were doing, when they were planning on attacking Flamekeep? That is, literally, the most important city for the Church of the Silver Flame… I can definitely imagine the shock people of Thrane felt, for those who found out about this (did it become public knowledge? because if so, yeah, Krozen is right in that you can’t expect Thranes to help the people from Cyre all that much)… Kind of insane, really, to consider destroying Flamekeep.

Who said anything about destroying it? We’re going to liberate it from the corrupt cardinals and false Keeper. And don’t forget, there are followers of the Flame who believe the theocracy is a mistake and source of corruption. Under Cyran rule, the church would be restored to its proper role.

Well, I mean, being seen to march against Flamekeep with the purpose of killing the Keeper, that would still cause some unrest, surely? Sure, the Church might have been too involved in secular matters, but going in there to try and kill Jaela Daran still wouldn’t go very well with most followers of the Church, even those outside of Thrane – Cyre isn’t exactly noted as a gathering point of the Silver Flame, so they can’t even do what Aundair might be able to pull off, and say they’re working towards protecting the true purpose of the Church, at least not while also being particularly convincing. Also, the Keeper was chosen by the Flame itself – then again, the queen could be trying to sell it as Jaela being false, so that could work, for those who would believe her.

Let me preface this by saying that the attacking Flamekeep scenario comes from The Forge of War, which I didn’t work on. As such, while I’m going to explain what I consider to be the logic behind it, it wasn’t my idea to begin with. But let me try.

The plan was not publicly known, nor did it involve fighting through Thrane. According to Forge of War , the idea was to defeat Thrane with a single massive naval assault on Flamekeep, with the idea that if Flamekeep could be seized Thrane would be forced to capitulate. With this in mind…

  • This plan was driven by the fact that there was a new, inexperienced Keeper… and surely enhanced by the fact that she was a child, something unprecedented in history.
  • I don’t think the plan was ever to “kill the Keeper.” Rather, it would be a matter of taking her as a hostage. Dannel would have a couple of angles she could work. First of all, she would be dissolving the flawed theocracy and restoring the church to its proper role as spiritual guardian. Second, she would be essentially serving as a regent. This child Keeper is too young to handle such responsibility; Dannel will protect her and guide her as she grows into her role. With the subtext being “she is our prisoner and we could kill her if we wanted.” Many followers of the Flame had doubts about the theocracy, and false Keepers aside, the idea of a child Keeper would seem strange to many. So Dannel presents herself as a protector restoring things to their proper place… not a destroyer or assassin. Rather, she kills Krozen, pinning all the blame on him for corruption and leading the church astray.
  • The plan wasn’t publically known. I would imagine that the force being chosen for the assault would be carefully vetted, either being loyal vassals of the Sovereign Host who would be happy to weaken the Flame, or followers of the Flame who strongly opposed the theocracy.
  • When Krozen exposed the plan, you can be sure that he painted it in the worst possible light. He likely accused them of wanting to kill Jaela, and if it was me, I’d say that Dannel planned to declare Oargev as a new puppet Keeper (doubly infuriating because the Keeper is chosen by the Flame, not by mortals). So yes, this infuriated both Thranes and other loyal followers of the Flame in other countries. The plan was thus never carried out; once warned the Thranes surely bolstered their defenses, and beyond that the public sentiment in all nations would make it an unwise move.

But yes, you can see why this would make Thranes unsympathetic to the Cyran refugees… if you go with the idea of Krozen presenting Oargev as Dannel’s would-be puppet Keeper, you can doubly see why there would be no hope of setting up a New Cyre in Thrane; I’d further play up a large segment of Thranes – and even Flame loyalists in Breland – bitterly hating Oargev in the present day.

Can the SF be a good deity and not just an impersonal force?

The Silver Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It’s a force of positive energy that holds mighty demons at bay. When Bel Shalor escaped his bonds and threatened Thrane, it reached out to Tira and gave her the power she needed to defend her people. Since then, it has continued to empower noble souls to defend the innocent. It calls paladins to service and grants its power to the most faithful of its servants. It’s not an impersonal force. It doesn’t grant its gifts to everyone. When Overlords ravage the land, it doesn’t ignore the people in need.

However, it’s not an anthropomorphic entity. It’s a gestalt of thousands of noble souls, many of which were never human. It doesn’t view the world as a human would, nor does it value humans more highly than other mortals; an orc and a human are equally worthy of its gifts, if they have noble aims. It exists to defend the mortals of Eberron from supernatural threats: demon lords who would collapse the world into chaos; undead forces that would drain the life from it; a plague of lycanthropy that could consume nations. It takes no stand on conflicts between mortals, whether that’s humans fighting humans or humans fighting orcs. It was kindled by couatls fighting demons before human civilization existed. It grants its agents the power to save humanity from demons; it is up to the humans to use that power wisely when no supernatural threat exists. In judging a mortal soul, it doesn’t view it the same way as we might. It responds to faith, selflessness, the desire to help others. Tira, Krozen, Jaela, and Dariznu all share faith and a fierce determination to help their fellow mortals, and it is this that binds them all to the Flame. It’s simply that they all have different ideas about the form this help should take. Dariznu believes that publicly burning dissidents alive is the only way to bring others to the righteous path; Jaela finds this to be horrifying, while Krozen considers it a necessary sacrifice to maintain order in Thaliost. All three believe that their actions and approaches help people… and that is what the Flame responds to. It’s also the case that the Flame can only act through its agents. When Bel Shalor threatened Thrane, the Flame couldn’t simply blast him; it could only empower Tira to do what needed to be done. The Flame isn’t an impersonal force. It was formed from a great sacrifice, and ever since then it has protected the world from evil. But it is only as strong as its mortal agents. It gives noble souls the power to do good; it’s up to them to live up to the promise of their own souls.

If you want the Silver Flame to be more active, I wouldn’t do this through the Flame itself; rather, I’d turn to the Voice of the Flame. Tira’s spirit is the bridge between Church and Flame. Per canon, her role is subtle and passive… it is the quiet voice that urges you to do good, set against the subtle influence of Bel Shalor pushing you towards darkness. If I want to give someone a divine vision from the Flame, I’d have it come from Tira. But personally, I don’t want the Flame itself to be actively intervening in the daily lives of most people, because it strips a depth from the stories. I want the PCs to be the ones who have to decide what to do about Dariznu – is he actually serving a greater good, as he believes? Do they have the right to bring him down, and have they thought about what happens after? If the Flame itself personally sanctions this action, it becomes clear-cut and to my mind, less interesting. As is, the Flame empowers your paladin because you have the conviction to do good, and the potential to do good. But it’s up to you to live up to that potential, and to make the right choices.

Dragonmarks 4/11: Religion, Faith and Souls

As always, this blog is about how I run Eberron in my home campaign. It’s not canon in any way, and certain elements may contradict canon sources such as Faiths of Eberron. Use the version you like or come up with your own.

“They’re cheating!”

My mother read The Iliad to me as a child. I loved the story… right up until Poseidon and Hera interfere with the battle after Zeus specifically told them not to. Apparently this outrage remained with me over the years. One of the distinctive elements of Eberron is that the gods are distant. They do not directly intervene in the affairs of mortals. Clerics don’t have to match the alignment of their religion. There is no absolute proof that all of the gods people worship actually exist, at least in the form people believe they do; it’s entirely possible divine magic is simply a variation of sorcery, a way of shaping ambient magical energy through pure will.

Despite my fury at Hera’s duplicity, I loved Deities & Demigods as a child. I used to make my friends in kindergarten play Greek vs Egyptian Gods. So why did we push Eberron down a different path?

Consider two of the basic themes that drove the creation of Eberron. We always wanted it to be a noir world, a place filled with shades of gray. And I wanted it to be a place where the consequences of having magic and monsters in the world were played out in a logical manner. Now stop for a moment and think how different our world would be if it was simple fact that the gods exist and manifest in our world. That a cleric could reach out to her god with a ritual and get an immediate answer. That someone with enough power could actually go visit a deity in its home and beat it up. The divine is no longer a mystery, and with it the universe itself becomes a more mundane place. “Faith” in a god is more like supporting a football team than a true choice to trust in the unknown. Look at our history of schisms, crusades, and the terrible conflicts that have arisen over heresy and differing interpretations of the same sacred principle… and imagine what it would be like if those debating the point could literally call up the god and ask for a ruling. This is too concrete for Eberron, which is a place where good people can do bad things and vice versa. The Church of the Silver Flame can do something terrible with the best of intentions, and no god is going to manifest to stop them. A cleric’s faith grants him divine power, but he must decide how to use that power – and mortals make mistakes.

Beyond this… if Dol Arrah can manifest in our world, why doesn’t she? Why did she allow the Mourning to happen? Why didn’t she stop the slaughter of innocent shifters during the Silver Crusade? Does she hate shifters? Why didn’t she just stop Bel Shalor herself? Another core theme of Eberron is that the player characters are the greatest heroes of the age, and if something terrible happens, it’s their burden to bear; the gods won’t come down and fix it for them.

Of course, for that very reason some people have asked why anyone actually does have faith. If the gods don’t appear, why does anyone care about them? I’ll give you four reasons.

  • Look out your window. When’s the last time you had a god manifest and directly intervene in events in our world? And yet, are you going to tell me that religion hasn’t been a powerful force in the world? Shared faith helps to create community. Most people don’t go to church for a cure light wounds spell; they go to hear the sermon, to seek spiritual guidance, or simply to strengthen their bond to the people around them. A typical priestess of Boldrei isn’t a spellcaster. But she is a mediator, a source of comfort and wisdom for her community, and the person who performs weddings and other rituals that call on the favor of the Sovereigns.
  • The Sovereigns work in mysterious ways. So Dol Dorn doesn’t appear on the battlefield and fight. That doesn’t mean he’s not there. The fundamental basis of the Sovereign faith is that the Sovereigns are EVERYWHERE. Onatar is present in every forge. Arawai brings the gentle rain, and the Devourer’s hatred turns it into the destructive storm. Why doesn’t Dol Arrah get rid of the evil monster? She does – through you. She’s with you when you battle it, guiding your hand and giving you strength. Note that the faithful vassal will say that Dol Arrah is with you whether you believe in her or not. She puts the strength in your arm and the light in your soul; if you’re too stubborn to see that, more’s the pity.
  • There is more to the world than we know. Tied to the above point, faith lets people believe that there IS a purpose to their misfortunes or triumphs. That if Aureon placed this burden in your path there must be a reason. Beyond this is the question of the afterlife. People KNOW what happens when you die: your spirit goes to Dolurrh and your memories fade a way. That is concrete fact. But faith lets you believe that there is more than that miserable truth. Followers of the Sovereign Host maintain that the Sovereigns exist in a higher plane no mortal can touch, and that the fading of memory isn’t DESTRUCTION of memory, but rather a reflection of your transition to this higher plane; the soul left behind in Dolurrh is like the husk left behind by a snake. The followers of the Silver Flame say that noble souls ultimately merge with the Flame. The Undying Court seeks to keep its greatest souls out of Dolurrh, while the Tairnadal anchor their greatest heroes by tying them to the living. Eberron doesn’t have a concrete, proven happy ending for the dead; but many religions provide hope that there is a way to escape dissolution. You’ve just got to have faith.
  • Divine Power. Believe what you will about the gods: divine magic exists. The Silver Flame and the Undying Court have access to wells of pure divine power. Those who follow the Blood of Vol can find divine power in their own souls. The vassals of the Sovereign Host believe that the power of the Sovereigns is all around them, and the faithful can call upon it. To the vassal, this proves the Sovereigns are with us. Boldrei doesn’t appear herself; she’s beyond that. But she grants her faithful priest the power to aid those in need.

Now, some people assume that because clerics can have alignments other than that of the faith and because they can create new religions that clerics don’t have to actually believe in their creeds. I feel exactly the opposite is true: a divine spellcaster must have absolute faith in order to perform divine magic. A priest of the Silver Flame may be lawful evil, but if she is a spellcasting cleric, she has to believe in the principles of the Flame and that her actions are justified. Our history is filled with people who justify horrific actions in the name of peaceful religions. The cleric doesn’t have to be right; but she has to believe that she’s right. It’s all about faith; this is the fuel of the divine caster.

With that said, there’s always ways to get around this if the story calls for it. You want an agent of the Lords of Dust in the Church of the Silver Flame? Well, his faith is strong – but he’s loyal to Bel Shalor, the Shadow in the Flame, and that’s where he draws his power. Another supposed cleric might actually be a warlock or psion, disguising his powers as divine magic. Nonetheless, the key principle is that faith matters. Mortals can make mistakes. They can misinterpret doctrine and do evil in the name of good. But drawing on divine power requires tremendous conviction, even if that conviction is misplaced.

To sum up: I love mythology. I enjoyed the Illiad, and for that matter, I liked the Time of Troubles when it rolled through the Realms. But I wanted Eberron to be a place where you could tell stories that don’t make sense in a world of active gods.

Having said all that, let’s move onto some more specific issues.


Eberron allows a cleric to have an alignment other than that of her faith. However, many aspects of divine magic are tied to alignment. Does an evil cleric of the Silver Flame get blasted when one of his comrades casts holy word? Does a good cleric of the Blood of Vol turn undead?

My answer is based on the mechanics of detect evil/good in the 3.5 SRD. By these spells, a “cleric of an evil deity” has an evil aura that is far stronger than that of an evil or good creature with no divine connection. Note the wording – not “an evil cleric,” but rather “a cleric of an evil deity.” My houserule is that the cleric’s connection to the divine power source is what determines his alignment for purposes of magical effects. So a cleric of the good-aligned Silver Flame will read as good on detect good, can prepare good-aligned divine spells, will be unaffected by holy word and blasted by unholy word, and turns undead instead of rebuking them… even if the cleric’s personal alignment is evil. His faith provides a connection to the divine force of positive energy, and that connection is so powerful it drowns out his personal aura. Likewise, the good cleric of the Blood of Vol is still blasted by holy word and rebukes undead instead of turning them.

In the case of the Silver Flame, there is the interesting fact that the Shadow of the Flame exists within the Silver Flame. The Shadow of the Flame is an evil force, but because of Bel Shalor’s connection to the Flame, I would allow someone who worships him to actually possess the magical “good” aura of the Silver Flame. Given how far ahead the Lords of Dust plan, it’s entirely possible that Bel Shalor planned this from the start – that he allowed Tira Miron to bind him precisely so he could infiltrate the Flame in this fashion.

QUESTION: Even though worshipers can have an alignment that differs from that of the worshiped entity, could one of the latter (if assumed to exist in a given campaign) punish such a worshiper directly, such as stripping him of his powers by neutralizing them with its own force or otherwise; or indirectly, e.g. by sending supernatural beings or mortals to compel him to respect the tenets of the faith he holds to have?

I imagine the answer is obvious based on everything I’ve just written, but in case it’s not, it’s spelled out on page 35 of the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting, “A cleric who violates the tenets of her church or deity might risk punishment at the hands of the church… but risks no loss of spells or class features and need not atone.”

For me, this is about personal faith. If the cleric truly abandons his faith, I would strip him of his powers, because his powers are derived from his faith. But acting against the tenets of the faith? It happens all the time in Eberron. I could find examples of it for pretty much every listed faith, so don’t go thinking this is all about the Silver Flame. This is the point of heresy: I can disagree with you about your interpretation of our shared faith, and yet we can both continue to wield divine power. If one of us lost our powers or if an angel appeared to smite me, it would be pretty clear who’s interpretation was correct.

Now, you might say that the idea that someone can “make up” a religion or abuse divine powers without consequences should serve as proof that the gods DON’T exist. Here’s a few arguments you might get from theologians in Eberron.

  • Faith is the channel through which you gain power, but the object of your faith may not be what you think it is. The Sovereigns aren’t selfish. You may be worshipping the Lady Pine and the Horned Rider, but the fact of the matter is that your powers are coming from Arawai and Balinor. Dol Arrah doesn’t care whether you believe in her; if your heart is pure and your faith is strong, she will give you strength. Of course, if you worship her properly you’ll get MORE strength. This syncretic principle is a cornerstone of the Sovereign faith, and has been used by their missionaries over the course of centuries.
  • The Sovereigns are aware of your actions, but want you to learn your lesson on your own. Unless you come to see your mistakes on your own, you will never truly change.
  • Divine forces are with us all, but are not perfectly omniscient. They respond to the faith of the cleric, but are not aware of each and every action taken. This is the base belief of the Silver Flame, which has never been described as a sentient, anthropomorphic force; rather, it is a pool of divine energy that empowers those who fight evil.
  • And of course, there are those who will say that there’s no proof that the gods exist. Divine magic may simply be another method of channeling the ambient magical energy of the Ring of Siberys, using faith and will instead of arcane formulas. Perhaps they’re right!

QUESTION: What are your personal views on the nature of souls in Eberron?

This is discussed in some detail in the recent Baator Eye on Eberron article. Followers of the Sovereign Host assert that there is a higher realm that mortals simply cannot reach; only a purified soul can touch it. The “fading” in Dolurrh is not the destruction of memory, but rather it’s transition to the higher realm. When all memory is gone you are essentially dealing with a cast-off snakeskin; it has the shape of the former owner, but he’s moved on. One detail you may have missed: If you look at Dolurrh on the Orrery map of the planes, its symbol is also the Octogram symbol of the Sovereign Host. Because for a vassal, Dolurrh isn’t the end; it’s the gateway to the Sovereigns.

This is theoretical; needless to say, the Blood of Vol and Undying Court maintain that destruction in Dolurrh is just that. However, the existence of souls as a concrete spiritual force cannot be denied.

  • The Silver Flame. This is a divine power source originally created from the combined souls of the couatl. Followers of the Flame maintain that when they die, their souls pass through Dolurrh and strengthen the Flame.
  • The Undying Court. The divine power wielded by the Court is drawn from the gestalt souls of the Ascendant Councilors.
  • Baator Wants Souls. Asmodeus is trying to build his own little personal Silver Flame. Step one: Divert souls from Dolurrh. Step two: Profit.

By this, the Sovereigns could be the gods that the vassals believe them to be… or they could simply be pools of soul-energy that have coalesced around those concepts and respond to faith. Essentially, each god is its own mini collective unconscious shared by those with faith in that concept. Which makes the syncretic approach of the vassals not entirely wrong – their nature deity IS the same as the Talenta one – but neither one is exactly what they think it is.
So what are MY opinions? Souls exist; there’s no question there. A gestalt of souls is a power source that can be tapped to produce divine magic. But are the vassals right about Dolurrh being a gateway, or are the seekers correct that death is the end? Honestly, I’ve never decided. What’s important to me is that the universe behaves in such a way that either one could be correct. I guess I’m most interested in the mortal experience: once I decide that the Blood of Vol are wrong, it’s harder to sympathize with them, and the same goes double for the vassals if it’s the BoV who are correct. When it comes to warforged, I’ve considered answers that I like (castoffs pulled from Dolurrh; souls snatched out of the Silver Flame; the disturbing possibility that Cannith can create a soul)… but again, so far I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt I’ve had to answer it. Though I imagine if I went further with Lei and Pierce, I would.

Please tell us how you portray the participation of the Silver Flame during the last war and whether there is religious discrimination or conflict against flamers in Karrnath or Breland.

This can easily be the subject of an extended post on the Silver Flame, and since I just wrote about Faith I want to wait a few more weeks until I hit religion again. So I’m just going to bullet point this.

* The fundamental purpose of the Church of the Silver Flame is to protect the innocent from supernatural evil. It’s not to promote the church or Thrane: it is to protect the innocent from harm.

* Throughout the history of Galifar, followers of the Silver Flame HAVE laid down their lives to protect the innocent, regardless of nationality. The church began in Thrane, but its templars fought across Khorvaire; one reason it’s widespread is because people who have been literally saved by the Silver Flame have often turned to the faith. Today the most zealous followers of the Flame are in Aundair, because if the church hadn’t intervened Aundair might have been wiped out my the lycanthropic plague.

* Canon sources have already established the existence of groups of the faithful who believe that the theocracy is a mistake that distracts the church from its mission and makes it more vulnerable to corruption. Leave governing to kings; the role of the church is to protect, not rule.

* Put all this together, and what you get is that MOST followers of the Silver Flame saw no conflict between their faith and fighting Thrane. Far from feeling obligated to fight for Thrane, a Brelish follower of the Silver Flame could feel that Thrane’s leaders were hijacking the faith and the Keeper, and that only by winning the war and putting Boranel on the throne can they get the church focused on its proper mission again.

In any case: When the war began, there were followers of the Flame everywhere. Some chose to immigrate to Thrane to fight in the service of the Keeper, believing that the army of Flamekeep was surely the most righteous cause. Others stood by their kings. A Brelish sergeant who followed the Flame could certainly fight and kill Thranes, because it’s a temporal battle. Now, if there was an incursion of demons during the battle, he’d stop fighting the Thranes and join forces against the supernatural threat, because THAT’S the duty of a follower of the Flame. But when the Church was founded, it wasn’t created to rule Galifar or the world – and people can be faithful to those beliefs and still believe their ruler should be the one to unite Galifar.

Is there religious discrimination against the Silver Flame in Karrnath and Breland? Breland has the highest degree of corruption, but that’s true across all of their religions; there’s priests of Aureon taking bribes, and don’t get me started on the Brelish priests of Kol Korran! So no, there’s no special discrimination against the Silver Flame in Breland. Mind you, there’s discrimination against THRANES – you can see some of this in The Queen of Stone. But you can follow the faith without being a Thrane.

Looking to Karrnath, I’ve never seen the Silver Flame as having much love there. Karrns tend to be grim and stoic. Fight your own battles. Look after your own people. The Silver Flame is fundamentally an altruistic faith, which Karrns find both suspicious, foolish, and patronizing. Add to this the fact that the Silver Flame is violently opposed to the Blood of Vol, which has had strong support in Karrnath since well before the Church of the Silver Flame existed and you get even more reason the faith never took root there. So Karrnath is where people are most likely to associate the Silver Flame with Thrane and assume your Brelish priest is an agent of Thrane, because they don’t have centuries of experience with the faith predating the theocracy, nor are they used to trusting that if something bad happens, templars may show up to take care of it.

That’s the last point I’ll make quickly. SUPERNATURAL EVIL IS REAL. Eberron is filled with aberrations, Quori, undead, rakshasa, and more. If I’m a Brelish farmer, it’s comforting to know that if werewolves attack, soldiers of the Flame may show up to protect me. Many families across Khorvaire have stories of how their ancestors WERE defended by followers of the Flame. They don’t support the theocracy of Thrane, but they’re still happy to have those local patriotic templars around to protect them from local supernatural threats.

This leads me to another question though… are there schisms in the CotSF? I recall that it has been mentioned that the Church uses excommunication, and that the faithful of Aundair tend to be more zealot than their counterparts elsewhere, so perhaps there are churches of the Silver Flame splitting from the one guided by the keeper… just some thoughts…

Certainly. Historically, the biggest schism was the Time of Two Keepers, when Melysse Miron challenged the sitting Keeper and was ultimately revealed to be the Keeper of Bel Shalor; Melysse has been kept in the stone ward of Dreadhold for the last few centuries. Meanwhile, page 79 of City of Stormreach calls out that the Keep of the Silver Flame in Stormreach was severed from Flamekeep after King Thalin’s death – and that there is a second heresy hidden deeper within it (I won’t spoil, but I will say that it’s NOT anything to do with Bel Shalor). And Aundairian Archbishop Dariznu – the governor of Thaliost and foremost spiritual leader of the Pure Flame – is definitely on a collision course with the Keeper, who despises the tortures he’s inflicted on his own people in the name of maintaining order. If there’s a split between the Aundairian faithful and Flamekeep, I’d expect Thaliost to be the flashpoint.

Beyond that, of course, you have the other cultures that have their own traditions tied to the Silver Flame. We’ve named the Shulassakar yuan-ti, the serpent cult of Khalesh, and the Ghaash’kala orcs of the Demon Wastes – but there can easily be others.

All of these are present in canon sources, but you could easily add more.

Comparing faiths and the dragonmarked houses, though, I have always had the feeling that given their powers and benefits dragonmarked may appear to be much more powerful than others, and think that Flamer characters, for instance, should receive additional benefits due to divine forces that make them stand apart from dragonmarked and perhaps even “envied” by them.

Sure! In my campaign, I call that benefit “divine magic.” You suggest that Jorasco can’t do exorcisms, and I agree. Most Jorasco healers have the mark and nothing else. They can’t call down fire or turn undead. They have no special power to smite evil. They can’t shield others from harm (that’s what House Deneith is for). A Jorasco house with a true cleric (likely dedicated to Arawai and Kol Korran) is a rare exception. Given this, I’ve never felt a need to give the faiths additional powers, because what they have is the powers that come with faith. Now, you suggest that they could benefit from miracles at the discretion of the DM, and there’s never anything wrong with that; for example, Tira Miron received divine aid from the couatl to battle Bel Shalor. No couatl’s going to pop into Jorasco House #153 to help with Farmer John’s hemorrhoids.

The main thing is that in creating Eberron, I wanted to break with the tradition I’d seen in the past of temples being places adventurers went to in order to throw money at the altar and get healed. Eberron is like our world. If you want to get healed, go to a hospital. If you want spiritual guidance, go to a church. But if you just walked into a church you’d never been to, handed the priest a thousand dollars, and said “I cut my leg, fix it” – how do you think that would work out for you? With that said, the Church of the Silver Flame does “heal for free.” They operate free clinics and do charitable work among the needy, as do some (non-Jorasco) priests of Boldrei and Arawai. The point is that this is generally use of the Heal skill as opposed to magic. In 4E, even if they COULD perform the cure disease ritual, it costs 150 gp to perform it; they couldn’t afford it to just wander around fixing the peasants. And frankly, for commoners, the Heal skill is going to handle most of their problems; it’s just not instant. Like our world, there are faith healers who can miraculously heal with a touch – but like our world, those are few in number in comparison to hospitals or clinics.  

This relates to the idea that player character classes are rare. The cleric IS that faith healer – the rare and remarkable individual whose faith is so great that he can heal you with a prayer. But the priest in the typical church isn’t a cleric; he’s most likely an expert trained in Diplomacy, Heal, History, Sense Motive, and of course Religion. He can preach; he can listen and counsel you; but he doesn’t do magic. In Jorasco, you don’t have clerics either. What I like about 4E with its rituals is that it finally allows a Jorasco heir to be a healer without ANY divine magic, which is how I prefer it. Jorasco house can heal, but they general can’t provide any other divine services – because they are businesses, not places of worship.

I’ll also point out that nothing prevents a Jorasco heir from joining the Church of the Silver Flame! In my campaign, one of the greatest healers is a Jorasco heir dedicated to the Silver Flame, who left the house to follow his faith. Beyond this, I would definitely consider letting a player character cleric learn the rituals normally restricted to the dragonmark, because that’s part of what makes her extra-holy and amazing.