IFAQ: Buried Treasures

Devin, a simple goblin tailor, as illustrated by Matthew Johnson.

The year is coming to a close, but there’s still time to answer an interesting question posed by one of my Patreon supporters…

What sort of legendary buried treasures might Eberron have stories about? Where might they be located? My players are big fans of the One Piece series, and expressed interest in looking for treasure on the scale of the in-universe “one piece,” said to be so grand that it could set you and your family up for the rest of your bloodline. Are there any hidden treasures of this variety that would be whispered in taverns and told between crews over pints of ale?

Buried or otherwise, legendary lost treasures are a great trope for setting a campaign in motion. From One Piece to The Hobbit to Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s an easy drive for story. This doesn’t have to be driven by greed; just comparing those three examples, the quest for treasure could be driven by the status that will accompany the recovery of the treasure, by a rightful claim to the wealth, or by the desire to keep a dangerous artifact out of the hands of people who will abuse it. Regardless of whether the adventurers are driven by pure self-interest or whether they’re serving a greater good, a grand quest for a legendary treasure can be a solid drive for adventure.

So… what are some legendary treasures of Eberron? Let’s consider a few, canonical and otherwise.

TREBAZ SINARA. The island of Trebaz Sinara was Lhazaar’s seat in life and her home in death, and its vaults held the treasures and tribute she gathered in her decades as the pirate queen. Her heirs followed in this tradition, adding vast wealth and extravagant tombs… and each one did something to add to the security of the island. Lystara the Red bargained with one of the Lords of Dust and established a deadly demonglass reef—a maze that can gut a ship from below. Hungry Lhazaan imported the most terrifying monsters from across the world to guard the shores. Duros the Wise worked with the greatest mages of the age to add arcane wards and traps to the halls and tombs of Trebaz Sinara. And Astalaar—the last pirate queen to rule from Trebaz—well, no one knows exactly what she did. Astalaar swore that no one would ever steal her treasures after her death, and no one has… because since the moment of her death, no one has set foot on Trebaz Sinara. Most ships that enter the demonglass maze around Trebaz Sinara never return. But a few captains claim to have safely navigated the maze and its monsters, only to find themselves on the opposite side of the island. In 997 Koulton Brightwind sought to land on Trebaz Sinara using a stolen airship; his vessel barely survived the unnatural storms that rose up, and despite pressing through them Koulton was unable to find the island. Trebaz Sinara is a large island, and people can safely sail around it, but something prevents anyone from landing on it. Has the island been shifted to another plane? Is it simply concealed from any ship that lacks the proper enchantments? The truth remains a mystery. But Trebaz Sinara holds the treasures of a dynasty of legendary pirates, including the crown jewels of Lhazaar herself.

The first challenge to Trebas Sinara is finding the island itself—discovering what Astalaar did to conceal it and how to overcome its defenses. Once this is accomplished, however, it will still take a very capable ship and crew to thread the needle of the stormlashed demonglass maze (an airship is an option, but as Prince Brightwind can attest, the supernatural storms make this a dangerous choice!). And making landfall on Trebaz Sinara is just the start of the story, as the isle is home to countless monsters, and every tomb has its own host of traps. A party of treasure hunters could simply snatch all that they could carry and flee back to sea. But Trebaz Sinara was the seat of Lhazaar herself, and if someone claimed Lhazaar’s crown and her ancient keep they would be in a powerful position to challenge Rygar for the title of High Prince of the Lhazaar Principalities; the wealth of Sinara could be enough to jumpstart a new nation.

RED KNIGHT. During the Last War, House Cannith established a number of hidden forgeholds where they worked on military projects of the utmost importance. Some of these are relatively well known within the house, such as the Whitehearth facility that plays a role in Shadows of the Last War. But there’s another forgehold whose existence was hidden not only from the Twelve, but even from the Lords Seneschal of House Cannith. Red Knight was personally established by Starrin d’Cannith. It’s existence was only revealed after a team of adventurers recovered one of Starrin’s journals from the ruins of Metrol; potentially, this could have been the work of the player characters, either before the campaign begins (it’s a prelude that the PCs were brought together to work on this Metrol job, and their success is what leads to the ongoing campaign) or potentially as their first adventure. Regardless of how they come by it, Starrin’s journal reveals the existence of Red Knight, a forgehold isolated even from House Cannith, where the Gorgon was working on his most cutting edge, dangerous experiments. Unfortunately, the journal is damnably vague about what those experiments were. It’s possible that Red Knight holds the secret to the Mourning, or that it houses some other weapon of incalculable power. But it could be that its research was focused in an entirely different direction, but one that could be equally world-shaking. Perhaps Red Knight holds the prototype for a teleportation network (that doesn’t need House Orien), or a reliable resurrection creche (with no need for House Jorasco). Maybe Starrin found a way to create portals to other iterations of Eberron lost in the Maze of Realities. Perhaps he was harnessing the full power of an overlord… in which case, it could be that the accidental release of that overlord triggered the Mourning!

It could be that the adventurers learn of Red Knight on their own and choose to conceal this information from everyone else, not wanting anyone to know about it until they’ve found it and learned exactly what it contains. On the other hand, every power player in Eberron would jump at the chance to seize this hidden facility. All three Cannith factions would be desperate to acquire it, as would the Aurum, the Dark Lanterns, the Royal Eyes of Aundair, the Blood of Vol, the Lord of Blades… so the question for the DM is who they want to be involved in the race. The initial challenge will be trying to locate the forgehold without revealing anything about it to the rest of the world. The secrets could be hidden in the Mournland (especially Eston or Making), but it’s possible that Merrix, Jorlanna and Zorlan have critical keys or pieces of information whose relevance they aren’t aware of. Once it’s located, bypassing the security of the forgehold will be an epic endeavor in its own right, as it will be defended by remarkable magic and cutting-edge constructs. The exact nature of the defenses could relate to the work being done there. If involves teleportation, it could exist in the astral or ethereal plane. If it deals with resurrection, it could have a staff of arcanists who are automatically reborn any time they die—similar to a lich’s phylactery only without death. If it’s tied to an overlord, Red Knight could be located in the heart demiplane of that overlord… and possibly been overrun by its minions. And if the adventurers succeed, the question rises again: do they take what they can carry and run? Do they destroy it so no one can harness its power? Or do they seek to operate it? If one of the player characters is a Cannith heir, do they work with one of the three aspiring barons, or do they make their own claim to reuniting the shaken house?

THE GRAVEDIGGER’S HOARD. As noted in this article, Hazcoranar the Gravedigger is a rogue black dragon infamous for looting treasures of fallen or falling human civilizations. He’s gathered artifacts from the Empire of Dhakaan, the Cul’sir Dominion, and the pre-Sundering kingdoms of Sarlona… not to mention pillaging battlefields during the Last War. There’s many accounts of priceless treasures stolen by the Gravedigger. But where does he keep his hoard? As a rogue, Hazcoranar isn’t welcome in Argonnessen. Which means his hoard is hidden somewhere where it could be found. The Gravedigger spends much of his time actively pillaging, and a clever group of adventurers could sneak in while the dragon is away. But would they take what they could and flee, spending the rest of their lives wondering when the Gravedigger would track them down? Or might they believe that they could fight the dragon and survive, claiming his lair as their spoils?

Hazcoranar’s hoard is an opportunity for a classic dragon’s lair tale. Somehow the adventurers stumble onto a secret leading them to his hoard… a map? A lone survivor of a previous expedition? A journal whose pages have been torn out and scattered? The lair could simply be isolated and well-hidden; or it could be in a demiplane or an extradimensional space, where the challenge isn’t simply finding it but finding out how to forge an arcane connection to it. Perhaps the adventurers find the back door and are able to sneak in and steal something while the dragon is away, but can they come up with a way to actually defeat the Gravedigger? Beyond that, what will they do with their spoils? Relics from ancient Xen’drik may not have any active claimants, but the treasures Hazcoronar stole from the Dhakaani or during the Last War could well have people eager to recover them; will the adventurers restore these relics to their rightful owners or claim their rights of salvage?

THE MOURNING VAULT. On a far smaller scale, countless noble families lost their estates and their treasures when the Mourning struck. If a Cyran adventurer has the Noble background, they could have just such an estate in the Mournlands. Perhaps they discover the existence of a vault they never knew about—an ancestral hoard hidden beneath their estate, holding treasures that are rightfully theirs. This is smaller and more manageable that some of the earlier ideas. The adventurer knows exactly where their estate is. The challenge is that it’s in the Mournland. They will have to cross the untold dangers of the Mournland to reach it, and there’s no telling how the estate itself has been transformed. There’s also the question of whether the vault holds secrets about the character’s family they themselves never knew… in which case, the recovering of the first treasure could just be a stepping stone toward the next phase of the campaign. There’s also the question of whether the noble will just claim the treasure as their rightful due, or whether they will use it to try to help New Cyre or other refugees. Nonetheless, this is a concept that is smaller and more manageable than some of the preceeding ideas—it’s a treasure that the adventurers COULD recover and take away without it being the end of their lives as professional adventurers, or threatening the balance of power of a region.

These are four solid ideas. But this is still just scratching the surface. A few more to consider…

  • The Imperial Treasury. The legendary vault of the last emperor of Dhakaan. Of course, this is vitally important to all of the Heirs of Dhakaan…
  • The Orb of Dol Azur. This isn’t a HOARD, but rather a singular lost treasure. It’s said to be the treasure that caused the Mockery to betray his siblings, an object of immeasurable power. One possibility is that it is the eye of the overlord Katashka; depending on the path of a campaign, it could have the abilities of either the Wand of Orcus or the Eye of Vecna. In any case, this is a solid option for a legendary TREASURE that could be sought by Antus ir’Soldorak, Lady Illmarrow, or other powerful and dangerous people.
  • Noldrunhold. The dwarves of Clan Noldrun mysteriously vanished. The riches of their hold remain, for anyone willing to brave the strange terrors that lurk in the Realm Below. This is another case where the location is KNOWN, it’s just DANGEROUS… likewise, like the Mourning Vault, it’s less that there is one singular treasure hoard and more that the wealth of an entire wealthy hold is spread out below… UNLESS it’s been gathered and concentrated by some foul creature in the darkness over these many centuries.
  • The Demon’s Trove. During the Sundering, refugees fled from Ohr Kaluun to Khorvaire. Some landed in the Demon Wastes and became Carrion Tribes. Some crossed safely to establish the Venomous Demesne. But surely some ships didn’t survive the journey. What Kaluunite artifacts and treasures were lost in the Barren Sea?
  • The Heart of Siberys. The RTS game Dragonshard dealt with an alliance from Khorvaire seeking to recover a massive dragonshard from a dangerous region of Xen’drik, contending both with the scales set to guard it and a force of Umbragen drow with their own plans for the Heart. The Heart of Siberys isn’t a traditional TREASURE, as it’s a massive geological feature; but Dragonshard is still a campaign driven by a race to claim an object of great power that’s located in a dangerous, inaccessible region.

The list goes on! The Lair of the Keeper, the master vault of House Kundarak, the hoard of Hassalac Chaar or the lich Gath… I’m going to stop here, but I hope this gives you some ideas.

Any of these treasures could start a campaign rolling. A few things to consider…

  • Do the adventurers have a patron supporting their quest, or are they operating on their own?
  • Do the adventurers or their patron have a rightful claim to the treasure? If they don’t, does anyone?
  • Is anyone else actively searching for the treasure? If so, are they aware of the PCs, and will clashes between them be a regular part of the story?
  • Is the primary challenge locating the treasure, or is that only one piece of the puzzle? Perhaps the key to the vault was carried by a lycanthrope who fled into Lamannia during the Silver Crusade, or the five seals of Trebaz Sinara are described in five scrolls that are in the collections of different Aurum Concordians…
  • Once the adventurers HAVE the treasure, is it just a question of dividing it up and carrying on with life? If it’s a case of grabbing something and running this might be true. But if the wealth involved is truly vast, the next phase of the campaign could be about MANAGING it, and what the adventurers choose to do with the influence that it gives them—such as if they want to use the Mourning Vault to help New Cyre or to claim the crown of a united Lhazaar Principalities!

There’s only a few hours left in 2023, and this is all I have time for. I hope it gives you somethign to work with! And again, my deepest thanks to my Patrons who have supported my in 2023. It’s been a hard year, and this support is the only thing that allows me to spend time continuing to explore Eberron. In addition to asking questions, patrons have access to live and recorded Q&A sessions and the opportunity to play in my ongoing Eberron campaign. If that sounds interesting, check it out. And regardless, happy New Year!!!