Hey everyone! It’s been a busy week between work and preparing for Comicpalooza, and so I’ve ended up with another lightning round as opposed to taking on a larger subject. There’s been a lot of interest in the Dwarves and The Daughters of Sora Kell, and I will be giving each of these topics a full post in weeks ahead. With that said, remember that this is specifically a question and answer forum, not an outlet for general lore like you’d get from the Dragonshards or Eye on Eberron. As a result, the more questions you ask, the more answers I can provide. Just saying “Tell me more about dwarves” is too vague. Saying “Do you use any unique religious traditions in the Mror Holds in your game?” is a question I can easily answer. So think about this and post your questions here.
I’ve also added a few new answers to the previous post on the Dragonmarked Houses, notably “Why do the Zil bind elementals instead of Cannith?” and more on Dragonmark focus items.
Now on to this week’s questions!
Will there ever be a followup to Eye of the Wolf? I loved that.
I’m glad you liked it, and I certainly wrote it with a longer story in mind. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry!
Are there any restricted Races/Classes in your personal games?
As a general rule, it’s all about story. I don’t like subraces (wild elves, chaos gnomes, sherbet dwarves) and in my 3E campaign, these didn’t exist in the world. I don’t like races that exist primarily for the purpose of character optimization. In 4E, the vast majority of exotic races aren’t part of my campaign; you’d never encounter a shardmind or goliath or illumian on the streets of Sharn. However, if a player came up with an excellent story for their use of such a race, I’d probably go for it. For example, I didn’t use genasi in the world overall. But if someone said “I want to be the result of a Zil experiment gone horribly wrong that tried to bind elementals to people!” – well, that sounds like fun and I can see lots of interesting stories that could spin off from that, so I’d allow it. But there wouldn’t be a Genasi nation in the world. Likewise, I once played a deva avenger with the explanation that he was a human infused with the spirits of thousands of people who died in the Mourning; his class abilities and memories of a thousand lives were the result of the thousand souls urging him on, not any personal immortality.
In Argonessen, dragons have a society. What happens when different colors mate?
The role of color in Argonnessen is discussed on pages 15-16 of Dragons of Eberron; beyond this, the flights of the Thousand are segregated by color, so it doesn’t come up often. One of the key points is that different colors of dragons are essentially different species. They have significantly different lifespans, different mental capacity, and their mystical and elemental natures are different. There’s no canon answer, but my personal hunch would be to say that only dragons of matching elemental types can produce offspring, so a red dragon and a brass dragon could successfully mate; the offspring would be a mixed litter, though I’d tend to make the chromatic dominant as the shorter-lived species.
With that said, you could certainly add more colorful possibilities. One that immediately pops into mind: Just as mixing dragonmarks produces new, aberrant dragonmarks, mixing the blood of dragons produces horrifying aberrant dragons. Every aberrant dragon is unique (and like aberrant marks, their true nature might not emerge at birth) and dangerous in its own way; potentially, they are directly bound to Khyber and Tiamat. This is why the Thousand are segregated by color – but there’s always those young and foolish lovers in the Vast who refuse to believe the legends!
What kind of information would have a Seren barbarian about the dragons? And how much of this information would he willing to share with the rest of the world?
Have you read this canon Dragonshard article on the Serens? The short form is the dragons are essentially gods to the Serens; they don’t approach them in an academic fashion, and they certainly aren’t privy to the secrets of the Conclave or the Chamber. A Dragonspeaker knows more, especially about the personal lineage and history of their founder and the founders of opposing lines. But that knowledge is likewise couched in the form of stories and myths. For the most part, I think they’d be willing to share these tales with people they respect.
A key point is that the Serens aren’t allowed in the interior of Argonnessen. So again, they can’t tell you about the kingdoms of the Vast or where to find the Light of Siberys; they don’t know these things themselves. Some exceptional Serens are chosen to serve in more significant ways, but such individuals are unique and it’s up to you to decide what they know.
Are the Knights of Thrane are a secular order? (that is naturally largely made up of Flame adherents?)
You are correct on both counts. The Crown Knights of Thrane were established before the Church of the Silver Flame existed and the order has no connection to the church. However, the knights themselves are largely followers of the Flame – as are most of the people of Thrane – and the order often acts in the service of the church. However, on paper, its first duty is to Queen Diani.
Are monsters seen as unusual and mysterious outside Sharn and Droaam?
It depends on the monster. Goblins are found in most major cities; Khorvaire was their home before humanity even arrived, and many major cities are built on goblin foundations. House Tharashk also sells the services of monstrous mercenaries, but this again is something that’s only going to be a factor in large cities.
So ogres, goblins, bugbears, gnolls – these are species people are familiar with, and even if a farmer doesn’t like dealing with them, he’s probably seen them once or twice during his life.
Next you have magical beasts: basilisks, gorgons, displacer beasts, wyverns, and so on. The relationship between these creatures and a farmer is much like your relationship to, say, a grizzly bear. You know they exist. You’ve seen pictures in the heraldry of the Dragonmarked Houses. You might see one at some sort of menagerie. But you don’t expect to encounter one in daily life, and you’d be frightened if you did. From here you get to exotic creatures like gibbering mouthers and medusas. Someone born in the Shadow Marches likely knows what a gibbering mouther is; someone in Sharn would have no idea and find it horrifying. Living near Droaam, most people in Breland know what a medusa is. But they don’t expect to meet one – even in Sharn, there’s only 2 or 3, and they don’t walk the streets – and they’d be frightened if they did. The dwarves of the Mror Holds sometimes ride manticores – but to someone in Aundair, a manticore is a strange and wondrous thing. It’s all about geography – just as a hippo can be commonplace to someone who grew up in Africa and bizarre to a visitor from Europe.
Finally, you have exotics: aboleths, dracoliches, gray renders, maruts, purple worms. There’s nowhere where a dracolich is just “part of the wildlife”. Scholars may know about these things, but even in Sharn the common folk will run if a marut suddenly smashes through a Jorasco healing house; they won’t say “Oh, look, it’s an inevtiable spirit of some sort.”
So short answer: Consider the following questions:
* Does the creature occur in nature? Or is it only produced by planar convergences/mystic experiments/other unnatural action?
* Is the creature part of the local flora and fauna? Have the people who live there encountered it in the past?
* Is it possible to peacefully coexist with this creature? Can it be domesticated or is there a benefit to working with it?
* Does the creature have a civilization that interacts with the Five Nations?
If the answer to the majority of these questions is “No”, the creature likely qualifies as “mysterious.” If the answer to most of them is “yes,” then it’s simply part of the world – like an elephant, a monkey, or a wolverine, it might be rarely encountered, but it’s out there.
As much as I liked having the tieflings added as a playable race right from the start in Fourth Edition, I do miss the original “planetouched” version from Planescape, which could have any number of indicators of their fiendish heritage. I always thought that there was potential for using these sorts of ideas in combination with manifest zones in Eberron.
Back when 4E first came out, I posted a range of ideas for incorporating tieflings into the game on the WotC boards. Tracing their origin to Ohr Kaluun and placing them in the Demon Wastes and Droaam as a result of the exodus from Ohr Kaluun fits with the established history of Ohr Kaluun as a nation with a strong mystical tradition infamous for trafficking with fiends, and it allows those who wish to do so to preserve some of the “heirs of an ancient empire” aspect of the 4E tiefling flavor. With that said, being from the Venomous Demesne of Droaam is very different from growing up among the Carrion Tribes, so there’s room for variety there.
With that said, one of the other ideas I suggested what exactly what you mention above: Tieflings occasionally result when a child is conceived in a manifest zone during a coterminous period. In this case, there is no such thing as a tiefling culture. Physical appearance would vary based on the plane that influences them, and there’s no reason two tieflings have to have the same appearance in spite of being tied to the same plane. A tiefling tied to Fernia might have iron horns and feverish red skin, while one tied to Risia could have horns and hair formed from ice and lower the local temperature by a few degrees.
With that said, there’s no reason this same concept couldn’t be extended to include other races. I don’t want to have goliaths on Khorvaire. But if you want to say that your goliath character is someone planetouched by Shavarath, I could run with it. Rather than turning to stone, his skin becomes iron temporarily; he is filled with a thirst for battle that cannot be slaked. I’d change his appearance accordingly, but it would be a way to use the mechanics without introducing a new culture. Though if I did this, I’d certainly explore hte story further. What does it mean to be a child of war or fire? How will this affect you over time?
As always, these are just my opinions and aren’t canon unless referencing a canon source. If I didn’t get to your question this week, don’t worry – it’s on the list!