Dragonmarks 6/6: Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell

Droaam is one of my favorite places in Eberron, and The Queen of Stone is my favorite of my novels. Eberron in general explores the impact arcane magic might have on the development of civilizations; I like thinking about the sort of things monsters could accomplish if they put their supernatural abilities to practical use (such as the troll-sausage Grist Mills that feed the masses of Droaam). Needless to say, anything I write in this article is merely my opinion. If you’re looking for canon material, check out the follow.

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part one

Dragonshard: The Daughters of Sora Kell, part two

Backdrop: Graywall

Eye on Eberron: Daask

Now on to the questions…

Who, exactly, is Sora Kell?

Sora Kell is described in this Dragonshard article. She is an exceptionally powerful night hag. Bear in mind that in Eberron, night hags are native outsiders that are peers of the Lords of Dust; the 3.5 ECS says “Night hags have been around since the Age of Demons, where they often served as ambassadors and messengers between the fiends and the dragons.”

Sora Kell’s full powers and purpose are intentionally left unclear. However, she has been wandering the planes for tens of thousands of years, and is the best known of all of the night hags; she’s no one to be trifled with. Of course, she hasn’t been seen for at least a century. Is she trapped? Dead? Or sipping a cool drink in Risia?

The following two questions are related…
Alongside that, what exactly are her daughters motives, in your version of Eberron, at least?

And…

What is the role of the Daughters of Sora Kell in Eberron? How have you used them?

As with many things in Eberron, the Daughters are intentionally mysterious. Why have they founded Droaam? There are many possible answers. The second question is the critical one: what role do you want them to play in your game? Do you want them to be villains or enigmatic allies? Because their motives will be whatever you need to fit that role. So let’s look at a few possible roles the Daughters can play.

KATRA WANTS A CROWN

Why did the Daughters create a nation? The same reason any ruler creates a nation – to gain power and influence over others. And Droaam is only the beginning. There are more monsters in the world than anyone knows. Creatures hidden in high mountains and deep caves, things that have been long forgotten. Even as Daask builds its power in the cities of the Five Nations, emissaries of the Daughters are finding the scattered monsters of Khorvaire. And when the time is right, they will rise to challenge humanity.

If you go this route, there are a number of questions to consider. Does House Tharashk know about Katra’s ambitions, and do they support them? Is she a friend or enemy of the Daelkyr? We’ve already seen her allied with the anti-Daelkyr Xorchyllic, so she might be stealing other aberrant forces from Khyber. Does she want to conquer the Five Nations, or would she be content with a larger kingdom that claims the outer regions – uniting the Shadow Marches and Droaam into one entity, and seeking to absorb the Eldeen Reaches and Demon Wastes?

This is a good route if you just want the Daughters to be an aggressive force in the world; on the other hand, there’s certainly a lot of those to choose from.

AGENTS OF PROPHECY

Sora Teraza brought the Daughters together. One possibility – as described later in this post – is that Teraza is following her own agenda. Another is that all of the Daughters are united behind her. She may still be half-mad or bound to her visions, but there is a purpose behind it… a goal that all three of the Daughters believe to be worthwhile. A few possibilities to consider:

  • Sora Kell is trapped. The Daughters don’t care about temporal power, but they do care about their mother – and they need the resources of a nation in order to free her. Following the intricacies of the Prophecy, there’s a few ways this could go. It could be that they need the power of the Kingdom of Monsters… or it could be that they actually need the strength and talents of a group of heroes, who will rise to the occasion if they have an enemy to fight. So Droaam could in fact be a stalking horse. They create it, set it up to challenge Breland precisely because that’s what it will take for a group of PCs to do what it takes to bring down Droaam… and in the process, get the power, weapons, and information they need to face the Overlord or Daelkyr who has imprisoned Sora Kell.
  • The Daughters are already legends. But they want to become something more. They want to be vestiges – immortal entities that will live on in Dal Quor after their defeat. This requires them to enter the world stage and draw the spotlight… and ultimately, it requires them to be defeated by the greatest heroes the world has ever known. So once again, they might choose to make Droaam a threat the players must oppose… but in the end, they WANT to lose the fight. They just want to make sure it’s a battle that will resonate throughout history.
  • They want to save the world. They know about the Lords of Dust, the Quori, the Daelkyr, and whatever other world-ending threats are out there in your campaign. Through Teraza’s knowledge of the Prophecy, they know that they personally can’t defeat the great threat. But they can HELP defeat it – by battling its lesser forces when the time is right, and again by honing or advising the heroes who CAN defeat it. This is a good approach if you want the Daughters to occasionally help the players, and for them to find Daask fighting the Cults of the Dragon below or Lords of Dust. Of course, a key point here is that the Daughters aren’t doing this to help HUMANS. They’re doing it to save THEIR people. Which brings us to the next idea…

MONSTERS FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF MONSTERS

Most of the monstrous races of Khorvaire have never had an easy time of things. The Dhakaani goblins conquered any who challenged them and drove the rest into the dark places. Humans are even worse. They fear the children of the Shadow. Humans are jealous of the wondrous gift of the harpy’s voice and the ogre’s strength. Always divided, the monstrous races have never been able to forge a kingdom to match those of the humans. Until now…

Under this idea, the Daughters simply believe that the monstrous races deserve better than they have gotten. They want to create a kingdom not simply for the sake of gaining power, but because it is the only way that the ogre and troll can break free of the cycle of savagery. They see the amazing potential of a nation in which monsters use their gifts for mutual benefit, and they want to make that reality. Their efforts to be recognized by the Thronehold powers are absolutely legitimate; they know it will take many attempts, but they’ll keep working at it. As for Daask, they’re simply Sora Katra’s answer to the Dark Lanterns or Royal Eyes of Aundair. She doesn’t want a war – but she realizes that one way to avoid war is to have power that cannot be ignored. In this role, the Daughters truly are benevolent leaders who want to create a kingdom of monsters that is the equal of any on Sarlona or Khorvaire. They don’t want war, but they’ll fight if they have to.

These are just a few ideas. If you’ve used them in a different way, talk about it in the comments!

If one of the three perished, would a new member be recruited or would the Coven dissolve?

It depends who died. I think Maenya is the most expendable. She’s the bogeyman, but Katra could find something else to play that role… though the death of Maenya would be a blow to the image of the Daughters and likely invite challenges from other warlords. Teraza’s death would change nothing in the short term, because she takes no obvious leadership role; however, without her guidance to help Katra outmaneuver enemies, the nation could fall. The one surely indispensible sister is Katra. She is the charismatic voice that unites the common people of Droaam, and the cunning schemer who outwits the warlords and keeps them in line. Maenya doesn’t have the subtlety and patience, and in my campaign Teraza is too unpredictable.

With that said, Sora Kell could easily have more daughters. She wandered the planes; perhaps she has a daughter in Shavarath, another in Khyber, and a third in Dal Quor (remember, night hags deal with dreams!). Three is a magic number, and the current triumvirate is well suited to the job at hand. But if one or more of them dies, you could always have new daughters show up to fill the void.

In fact, since I doubt the story will ever go anywhere, I’ll point out that in the Eye of the Wolf comic, Sora Katra calls Greykell “sister” at the end, and hey, her name is GreyKELL. Coincidence?

Is the government the coven created effective enough to hold to Drooam together if someone else were to usurp it?

The government? Not at all… not yet, at least. The Daughters maintain power with Katra’s cunning and charisma, Maenya’s intimidation, and Teraza’s prescience. If an individual or new cabal can fill that void with equal talent, they could keep it going, but it’s absolutely a cult of personality and personal power. As it stands, the government of Droaam would never last without the Daughters or someone of equal power behind it.

With that said, I don’t think it would dissolve completely; it would fracture into smaller alliances. There are definitely warlords who have seen the value of unity and who could cannibalize pieces of what the Daughters have created. For example, the Grist Mills could be maintained, and whoever holds those would have considerable power. But I don’t think the infrastructure alone is enough to enforce order on the entire region.

For me, Sora Teraza can be almost omnipotent. As a DM, I dislike that because why does she need adventures? Can’t she do it?

This ties back to the role/motive question. But let’s look at a few ways to deal with the potential unbalancing power of Teraza’s vast oracular abilities. Here’s a few ways to handle Teraza.

  • She is for all intents and purposes insane. She can’t actually judge what facts are important and what aren’t. Thus, the things she decides to tell her systems about are largely random, as are her personal actions.
  • Teraza knows one single path of the Prophecy/future – and it is her absolute duty to ensure that the future takes that path, or to correct it should it shift from it. That path includes very specific things: for example, in Olarune 999 YK, one of the PCs will kill Sora Maenya and claim the Sword of Dol Azur. She will defend her sisters and oppose the players if this is the correct time for her to do that; but at the appropriate times, she will actually aid the PCs over her sisters. Alternately, she will encourage her sisters to manipulate or employ the PCs, because again, that’s the path the future takes. Could she do it, whatever it is? Perhaps. But she can’t, because that’s not the path the future takes. Essentially, she is a prisoner of her own knowledge. She knows what happens in the future, and she is bound to make sure that things happen exactly that way, even if the method or outcome isn’t ideal. It’s the way she perceives the world; the way that things have to be.
  • Teraza is, in fact, Sora Kell herself. She has been stripped of much of her power by some sort of enemy or curse. She pretends to be mad or bound by various constraints to help keep her children from realizing who she is and the degree to which she is using them; she is manipulating Katra just as much as Katra is manipulating the warlords of Droaam. All of her schemes are leading towards her getting her power back. This is tied to the Prophecy. She’s got more freedom to maneuver that the option above, but there’s still a limited set of prophetic paths that lead to her powers being restored. So again, why doesn’t she reveal the PC’s plans to stop Daask? Why does she encourage Katra to use them in a particular scheme? Why doesn’t she tell Katra about Tzaryan Rrac’s treacherous plot? Because all of these things are steps on the path that will lead to her regaining her powers – and she is prepared to sacrifice her daughters to achieve that.

Essentially, Teraza’s powers are a plot device. The Daughters cannot be surprised if you don’t want them to be surprised. They can predict things no one else can. But they can easily be surprised if you do want them to be surprised, because there are many possible reasons for why Teraza might not share knowledge with her sisters even if she has it.

Another alternative is to say that the PCs can hide themselves from Teraza’s vision by following a different path of the Prophecy. Essentially, there is a way the future is supposed to unfold, and if they don’t KNOW what to do, the PCs will follow it. But if they work with someone else who understands the Prophecy – like a Chamber patron – they can basically get a map of actions Teraza won’t see.

How much leeway do the individual warlords have when it comes to fighting their fellows, before the DoSK step in?

In MY campaign? Not much. That’s part of why you serve the Daughters: they protect you from the other warlords. You can do what you like WITHIN your allotted territory – and bear in mind that when the Daughters handed out territory, it’s not like everyone in that territory was already completely united under the warlord in question. The Daughters backed a warlord and said “If anyone from another domain crosses this line, we’ll do something. If you cross this line, we’ll do something. Stay in the lines, maintain order however you like, send us our tribute, and everyone will be happy.”

This also ties to the goblin and kobold population of Droaam. Traditionally these races are often abused by the more powerful creatures. In Graywall and the Great Crag, the Daughters see that they are treated fairly in exchange for their labor – and they have given Kethelrax the Cunning a territory of his own. If a goblin can make it to the Great Crag, he can join the workforce of the Daughters and live a pretty good life. But the Daughters don’t tell Rhesh Turakbar how to treat his goblins. They won’t return any goblins that flee from his domain and reach the Crag – but neither will they demand that he treats his goblin population the way that they treat theirs.

What are some ways the Daughters might go about helping their mother? (I am looking for some potential plot hooks here)

This depends what sort of help Mom needs. Let’s consider some ideas.

  • Prisoner of Baator. Sora Katra wanders the planes. As described in the recent Eye on Eberron, Baator is a planar prison – easy to get into, hard to get out. The Daughters could be working on an Eldritch Machine (requiring Daask to gather rare components, etc) that will actually blast open the spiritual walls of Baator – freeing Sora Kell, but also unleashing a host of devils into the world. In this, they could be working with Asmodeus’ warlocks. Alternately, Asmodeus might be the one holding Sora Kell captive. In this case, the Daughters could be engaged in a campaign targeting infernal cults. Perhaps only a hero with a connection to the divine can breach the walls of Baator; this would result in the Daughters advising or helping the divine characters among the party. Of course, Katra might “help” a paladin by sending a wyvern to attack him, because any paladin who’s going to someday face Baator will have to bathe his blade in wyrmsblood before his 24th year (or what have you).
  • Lost in Nightmares. Same as above, but it’s Dal Quor that’s the issue. Daask might come to the aid of the players when they are fighting the Dreaming Dark, or the party may find Daask fighting a seemingly innocent force only to later discover that force had been compromised by the Dreaming Dark. While she’s not a night hag, Katra might have artifacts allowing sufficiently powerful adventurers to engage in lucid dreaming and face the quori directly.
  • Something Unpleasant. Sora Kell is alive and living beneath the Great Crag. However, she is crippled and needs a serum made from the blood of five kings to restore her strength. The Daughters are building their power, and when the time is right they will go after it – likely pursuing these kings one at a time. Bear in mind that this doesn’t have to mean “current leaders of the Five Nations”; feel free to explore the potential meaning of “king.”

Beyond this, they could have to arrange for the planes to become coterminous ahead of schedule, which could cause all kinds of magical fallout; acquire mystical tomes from Korranberg or Arcanix, or even from the dreams of sages at either place. That’s a fairly random assortment, but hopefully there’s something there to spark an idea.

The Daughters of Sora Kell have been mentioned more than once to be beings straight out of legend. Are there any tales about the pre-Droaam Daughters that you’ve expounded upon in your head or in your game?

The Queen of Stone mentions a few of these. Needless to say, I don’t have room to go into detail, but to throw out a few short ideas for you to play with…

SORA MAENYA is the classic bogeyman. In Aundair and the Eldeen Reaches, parents warn their kids that Maenya loves nothing more than the taste of a misbehaving child. She is renowned for her strength and appetite; I like to say that she can crush a giant with her bare hands, and eat the whole thing and still be hungry. She is the trophy-taker; she binds her victims’ souls to their skulls and keeps them as mementos. While she can appear as a terrifying brute, she is as capable of subtlety as her sisters and enjoys playing with her prey, and her shapeshifting abilities play into that. In The Queen of Stone, there’s a story where a ragged refugee comes seeking help from a garrison of soldiers. When the man who lets her in goes on patrol, he returns to find that all of his friends have been eaten and the bones carefully stacked for him.

SORA KATRA is more subtle. One tale I’ve referenced a few times is that she “weaves curses on her loom.” While she lacks Teraza’s oracular abilities, she knows a great many things and possesses many ancient treasures, and she loves nothing more than a contest of wits. Thus, I see her tales as often dealing with people who ask her for help, seek to steal from her, or challenge her to a contest… and these things rarely end well. If you follow Once Upon A Time, take Rumpelstilskin and multiply him a few times, and you get Sora Katra. She’s a master schemer, a player of games, and she loves to play with heroes. At the same time, she has her bogeyman side as well; in The Queen of Stone, there’s a reference to a child’s tale in which she comes to steal the fingerbones of children who lie.

SORA TERAZA is the most mysterious. A phrase I often use concerning her is “Some say she knows when every man will die; some say she decides it.” I’ve suggested that she has a library in the Great Crag filled with books that are the lives of special people… made from their actual lives and bound in their skin. But there’s essentially no stories of her before Droaam. Which is, of course, something you could play up if you like the idea that she’s actually Sora Kell!

Did Sora Kell intervene ever with the Royal Family of Galifar? She’s a fable, but fables in Eberron can be real. Are there records or stories of her interacting with major figures since the founding of the Kingdom?

Certainly. I’d say that Sora Katra has also interfered with various nobles, though they likely brought it on themselves in some way or another. The Dragonshard that mentions Sora Kell says there’s been no confirmed sightings of her for over a century, meaning that there were confirmed sightings before that. What did she do? This falls into the category of “Over a thousand years, all SORTS of interesting things should have happened in Galifar!” In the Thorn of Breland books I talk about the dragon Sarmondelaryx slaying the first Prince Thrane, something that’s never mentioned anywhere else. So what did Sora Kell do? What do you WANT her to do? Perhaps Sora Kell promised to teach Aundair powerful magic if the princess would give up her first child – did she do it? Is the history of Arcanix ultimately tied to the teachings of Sora Kell? Perhaps Sora Katra gave Wroaan of Breland a ring that would make all who heard her believe her words – but the ring couldn’t be removed, and forced its wearer to always tell the truth. In short, yes, they certainly interacted with important people over the centuries.

Droaam has a large giant population (ogres, ogre-magi, etc) and speakers of Giantish. Is this a legacy of the age of Giants?

Personally, I consider Goblin to be the Common tongue of prehuman Khorvaire, spread across the continent by the Empire of Dhakaan. As a result, in my campaign I have orcs and most other monstrous species speak Goblin, reserving Giant for those with a direct connection to Xen’drik (like Gorodan Ashlord). Ogres and Ogre-Magi are technically immigrants from Sarlona. Of course, since that occurred many many centuries ago, I typically have them speaking Goblin, having abandoned their original languages over the course of generations; however, you could find those that speak Giant (looking back to distant distant ancestors) or more likely Riedran, the old Common tongue of eastern Sarlona.

Have there ever been any other monstrous nations like modern-day Droaam? Considering that Khorvaire saw lots of empires before humans ever set foot on the continent, I think its only fair to assume that the Daughters of Sora Kell haven’t been the first monsters with ideas of a unified nation.

It depends how you define “unified nation.” To name just a few, gnolls, orcs, goblins, medusas, and sahuagin all have civilizations that predate Droaam – some by centuries, some by millennia. In some cases these rose to great heights and fell completely. In others, they simply remained self-contained. Neither the medusas nor gnolls ever sought to dominate others; however, they are both pre-existing political entities who allied with the Daughters, but who could easily return to their old ways if the Daughters fell. And while we’re discussing monstrous civilizations, let’s not forget giants and dragons!

With several demonic forces (i.e. Turakbar) in Droaam what is the status of druidic/primal society there?

We’ve never discussed it. I see no reason not to have a primal faction among the Dark Pack, though I’d probably create an entirely new sect as opposed to drawing on one of the existing ones. There’s a significant orc population in Droaam, and some among them could follow the ways of the Gatekeepers or another sect. Heck, you could add a druidic sect to the medusas that communes with serpents and creatures of the deeps. With that said, when it comes to people-who-don’t-like-demons, the force I’d call out is the Znir Pact. They broke with their ancestors’ demon-worshipping ways long ago, and I could see them having a secret order that seeks to prevent fiendish forces from gaining a foothold in the region again. It would have to be a VERY secret order, as the Pact is renowned for its neutrality… but I personally like the idea of a secret order of gnoll demon-hunters policing the warlords from the shadows.

Above and beyond the typical worship of the Six and the image of the Shadow as the Father of Monsters, are there any cults and sects of the Sovereigns and/or Six in Droaam? Do they have unique theological traditions (ala the masks of the Mror)?

The Graywall Backdrop I linked to at the start of this post has a whole section on religion; here’s a brief quote.

“…little religious solidarity exists in Graywall. A host of tiny shrines are scattered throughout Bloodstone and Little Graywall, and they represent the deities of different clans and races. The minotaurs of the north are united in worship of the Horned Prince, but each clan has their own representation of this demon overlord and believes all others to be flawed. The Last Dirge harpies revere the Song of Passion and Rage—an interpretation of the Fury—while the Stormsinger harpies venerate the Stormsong, an aspect of the Devourer. The asymmetric icons of the Traveler hold hidden messages for doppelgangers who pass through Graywall. The Znir gnolls worship no deity or demon, instead raising piles of stones to reflect the idols shattered by their ancestors.”
The article goes into more detail about the role of the Shadow and the way that the people of Droaam view the religions of the east. The key point is that Droaam is made up of a range of very diverse cultures, and religion reflects that.

Prior to The Last War and the creation of Droaam, would the aforementioned Gnoll and Medusa civilizations have had treaties with Galifar? Could some of them even have fought alongside Galifar himself in ages past?

The medusas only laid claim to Cazhaak Draal in 778 YK; prior to that their civilization was entirely subterranean and had no meaningful contact with the surface world. So unlikely on that front. Gnolls could be a possibility, though I’m not sure I’d see anything so formal as a treaty. Legally speaking, Breland laid claim to the entire southwest, but it never had the people or need to actually occupy what is now Droaam or the Shadow Marches. Most likely there were some clashes between explorers and gnolls which resulted in a general recognition of “Don’t cross this line and we’ll ignore you.” I do think you might have had a Brelish prince with a personal guard of Znir gnolls – a little like the Byzantine emperors’ Varangian Guard.

Does Droaam have any allies amongst those Nations recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold?

By canon, no. Their strongest political ally is House Tharashk.

Does House Vadalis have any major stakes in operations based in Droaam?

Not by canon, but it seems like something that would be interesting to develop. Vadalis would surely be interesting in things like wyvern breeding stock and the like, not to mention a chance to work with Cazhaak Draal’s basilisk wranglers. It’s mainly a question of what Vadalis would offer in return and how Tharashk would feel about it, since Tharashk has been a loyal ally.

You remind us that Night Hags deal in dreams. How would this effect the opinion of them amongst other creatures that are tied to Dal Quor, such as the Kalashar and the Inspired? Are the competitors for domination of dreams? Are they allies in establishing the power of dreams over mortals or in free dreams in the turning of the age?

The Quori are the native spirits of Dal Quor. They reign over the stable heart of the plane, which is defined by il-Lashtavar. However, that stable heart is surrounded by an ever-shifting borderland comprised of mortal dreamscapes. The Quori are powerful in these regions, because Dal Quor is their home. But they aren’t omniscient or omnipotent. They can’t monitor EVERY dream. The renegade quori hid out in these border realms for quite some time before they ran out of boltholes and merged with the kalashtar. The Gates of Night introduced the draconic eidolon – a composite entity formed of the souls of dead dragons – as a powerful force that exists in the border regions of Dal Quor.

So the short form? The night hags generally walk in the border realms. They are interested in the dreams of individuals but as currently defined don’t seek to use dreams to manipulate the world; they’re more likely to distill a particular nightmare to use as an ingredient in a potion than to try to start an uprising in Breland. The hags are old and powerful, and described as often serving as mediators between powerful forces of different planes; as such, I would suspect that most of them have established treaties with the quori. They won’t approach the heart of the realm. They won’t interfere with any dream the Quori have marked as being of great import. And in return, the Quori will stay out of their way in other dreams.

One point: The night hags are among the only entities who know all about the previous ages of Dal Quor. That information could be quite valuable to both kalashtar and Quori, if the hags care to share it. So that would be a good explanation for why the Dark would imprison Sora Kell, if you decide they have.

You mentioned that the Night Hags deal with Dreams and served as messengers and ambassadors during the Age of Fiends. Could the Hags have allies in Sarlona (Possibly in the Horned Shadow) and how exactly do they Dream/travel to Dal Quor?

The Night Hags are native fiends of Eberron. The idea is that where the Couatl were the native celestials (good spirits) and the rakshasa were native fiends (evil), the Night Hags have always been essentially unaligned. I should call out the fact that in comparison to couatl and rakshasa, there are far, far fewer Night Hags; I might even limit them to a dozen… well, thirteen originally, but Sora Kell’s gone missing… ;-) In fact, if you did say there were only thirteen, I’d go so far as to say that each was recognized as a favored envoy to a particular plane; they all could travel to Dal Quor with special ease, but one among them has a particular strength in dreams. Perhaps that’s Sora Kell; or perhaps she’s got stronger ties to Thelanis, reflected in the faerie tale nature of her daughters.

In any case: COULD a Night Hag have allies in Sarlona? Sure, if you want them to. But by canon, the idea is that the Night Hags aren’t schemers in the same way as the Lords of Dust or the Inspired. They are more interested in eldritch studies mortals can’t comprehend; in walking the planes and gathering wonders; or for that matter in studying the interplay between the great powers of the multiverse. Frankly, I could see a Night Hag still acting as a neutral envoy between the Devourer of Dreams and the Council of Ashtakala, or continuing to negotiate between dragon and fiend as she did at the dawn of time. The 3.5 ECS says this about Night Hags:

“Today, they remain as the impartial mediators, and adventurers who wish to deal with outsiders or other realms may wish to seek out a night hag—although they can be quite difficult to find. The motivations of the night nags remain mysterious and unclear. They may simply enjoy their role as ambassadors, watching the tapestry of history unfold across the planes.”

As for how a Night Hag gets to Dal Quor, she doesn’t dream as mortals do. When a mortal dreams, their spirit goes to Dal Quor. A Night Hag simply goes there physically, stepping between the planar wall. Note that the Night Hags of Eberron are generally more powerful than the default night hag in the Monster Manual, as they are ancient. Like all fiends, they are immortal; if one is killed it will be reincarnated. So if you want a weak night hag, you can simply say that it’s a recent reincarnation and hasn’t yet rebuilt its skills and power.

What did/do the Dragons and Rakshasa think of the Hags during and after the Age of Demons?

The Night Hags were a neutral force that carried messages between the dragons, couatl, and rakshasa. I don’t see that anyone would have a changed opinion about them as a species; I could see there being strong opinions about individuals, IE Sora Hekla is the one Night Hag who betrayed the trust place in her and is hated by all dragons.

The next two points will likely be moved into a Goblin/Darguun post once one exists, but since it doesn’t, here they are.

Concerning goblins, apart from the way in which Darguun was created, what are the reasons why they so reviled and disliked by others? Outright discrimination (this would apply to non-Darguun goblins, I guess)? Disagreement with the slavery favored by some in Darguun?… or, perhaps, rejection of cruel practices that were rampant in Dhakaan, which are attributed to current goblinoids. Despite being an Empire, I have the idea that Dhakaan may have favored cults of the dark six, oppression and murders of other races (gnomes?…)

First of all, if you haven’t read the Dragonshard about the Heirs of Dhakaan, I’d recommend it. Next, I’ll tell you what NOT the cause of human prejudice against goblins – it’s got nothing to do with any sort of Dhakaani practices. The Empire of Dhakaan fell more than a thousand years before humans even came to Khorvaire, and the average human knows nothing about it.

Next… I wouldn’t say that goblins are universally reviled. In The Queen of Stone, Thorn and Toli have more issues with the Thrane delegation than with the Darguuls; and in The Dreaming Dark trilogy, there’s a Cyran goblin (NOT a Darguul mercenary, a local Cyran goblin) serving with Daine’s unit. But here’s a few issues that can drive human-goblin prejudice, on both sides…

  • The goblins were here first. Humanity claimed their land. Most major cities are built on goblin foundations. So that doesn’t breed love between the two races.
  • Add to that the fact that those first humans enslaved the goblins. Galifar I freed these slaves, but you still have the fact that humans came from Sarlona, took the goblins’ lands, drove some of them into mountains and caves and enslaved the rest.
  • Combining the two previous factors, goblins (specifically GOBLINS, as opposed to goblin-hobgoblin-bugbears) are found in most major cities of the Five Nations. However, they are typically trapped in a cycle of poverty that often drives them to menial labor or crime – which creates an image of the “dirty untrustworthy goblin”.
  • And finally: put a goblin next to a halfling. The halfling LOOKS LIKE A LITTLE HUMAN. Heck, halflings are cute. They have the same skin tones as humans. The same general capabilities as humans. While goblins – skin tone, posture, eye color, teeth – all alien to humans. If you go by 3.5 rules, they have darkvision… which may seem like a trivial difference, but think what it means to have goblins creeping around in deepest dark, able to see you when you can’t see them. Think of all the prejudice WE’VE created over skin tone and then consider just how physically different the goblin is. Layer on cultural guilt; fear that the goblin wants revenge; economic disparity; religious differences (yes, many worship the Dark Six)… and it’s not surprising that relations between humans and goblins are often uncomfortable.

But for what it’s worth, I’d say the typical Cyran veteran probably hates Valenar elves just as much as goblins.

Regarding the question on hatred against goblins, I portray racial tension as having something to do with the empire of Dhakaan, because I tell players that despite its having ended well before humans arrived in Khorvaire some historical records and oral traditions passed on from gnomes who felt oppressed by the goblins depicted them as cruel, reason why humans began to distrust them. Concerning this, I remember that in James Wyatt’s storm dragon the characters discuss religion in Dhakaan, and Mit Davandi described many Dhakaani aspects in the legacy of Dhakaan.

Midian Mit Davandi is a Korranberg scholar, so it’s no surprise that he’s well-versed in Dhakaani history… and when you are actually interacting with the Kech Volaar, it’s a very relevant thing. And OF COURSE you should do what you want in your campaign. Frankly, our difference is more semantic than anything else. I have no issue with humans disliking goblins because of their history; I just don’t think that should go all the way back to Dhakaan, which is sort of like saying “I hate Italians because they used to crucify people.” My point is that it’s not like there was some vast cultural vacuum between Dhakaan and the present day, and Dhakaan is the only goblin culture the people have to choose from when forming an opinion. Sure, gnomes didn’t get along with the Dhakaani. But you know who else they didn’t get along with? The Ghaal’dar. In fact, they’ve likely fought with Ghaal’dar clans in just the last few centuries.

Even though the Daelkyr were defeated, they mortally wounded the empire. The Daelkyr are the lords of madness and corruption, and they planted seeds of madness among those they fought. The empire splintered into pieces. Traditions were forgotten as generals promoted the worship of strange gods, and others sought to destroy these vile cultists. Within centuries, the empire had collapsed into savagery. Various groups rose and fell in this ocean of barbarism. These are the goblins humanity encountered: an aggressive race engaged in seemingly endless (and largely pointless) battles, unable to stand against humanity because they couldn’t form a united front. Among the many clans, you could find slavers (as you still do today) and those who flayed the skins of their victims to honor the Mockery (as some still do today). So, my key point here when I say we’re arguing semantics: I have no issues with one aspect of human prejudice being “Goblins are violent savages. Look at their history! They’d cut your throat in the night. They’d flay your skin and wear it as a cloak. They even enslave one another. And their cities are all ruins – clearly they’re little better than beasts.” Historically you can find examples of all of these things. But look FURTHER back in their history, and you find Dhakaan, a disciplined and civilized culture where all the goblins species were united; a culture with remarkable artistic and philosophical achievements; and even accomplishments in metallurgy and certain aspects of magic that humanity hasn’t yet matched.Frankly, I think the typical man on the street is more likely to scoff at the idea of what the Dhakaani accomplished than to base his current opinions on it.

Darguun was founded by the tribes of the Ghaal’dar. We’ve never said how long the Ghaal’dar have existed (I don’t think – unless Don has) but I wouldn’t say that they’ve existed in anything resembling their current form for more than a thousand years, if that. The Marguul are probably only a century or two old as a culture. As seen in the novels, they have their own codes of honor, and they have held onto certain things like the use of chain weaponry. But they aren’t Dhakaani, and even what THEY know of the Dhakaani is largely muddled and mixed up.

Then we have the Heirs of Dhakaan. When the empire was collapsing into madness, a few leaders recognized what was happening. They rounded up those they could trust and sealed themselves away in deep dark places, and there they preserved the culture of their people. It’s only recently – less than thirty years – that the Dhakaani clans have emerged into the world, and they’ve kept a low profile. For the people of Darguun, this is sort of like having Leonidas and his Spartans suddenly pop up and say “Oh, we just faked our deaths. We’re back now. Wow, you guys all look like a bunch of wimps… Don’t worry, we’ll whip you into shape once we’ve decided who’s going to be in charge.” While there are those among the Ghaal’dar who take some pride in the idea of their ancient glory and who have trained with chain weapons and the like, when an actual Dhakaani chainmaster walks in the room, it’s a little like being the guy who plays with a foam katana with his friends and bumping into an actual samurai. Needless to say, Midian Mit Davandi can tell you all about that chainmaster – what his clan is, the way his chain was forged, and so on. But the average guy on the street in Breland has no idea of the difference between the Ghaal’dar, the Dhakaani, and the Marguul… let alone between the Kech Volaar and the Kech Sharaat. And they don’t have to. They know that the goblins beyond the Five Nations have long had a history of violence and have fought both humans and gnomes; they know that the goblins fought in the war only to break their word, turn on the Cyrans, and claim their land; they know that goblins engage in practices like slavery (we’ll ignore the whole goblins-used-to-be-slaves-of-humans part for now…). I’d think that’s enough to make most people feel uncomfortable when a hobgoblin warrior walks in the room.

With that said, we have the NON-Darguul/Dhakaani goblins…

City Goblins. The goblins who have lived alongside the citizens of Galifar since before the kingdom was founded. Here’s a quote from Sharn: City of Towers…

Sharn was built from the ruins of Shaarat, which was built atop old Duur’shaarat. All of these cities had one thing in common: Goblins. Malleon the Reaver enslaved the goblins of Duur’shaarat and forced them to build his city. King Galifar I offered the goblins freedom in exchange for their service as soldiers and laborers. For many of the goblins, there was little difference between life as a slave and life as a free laborer, but over the centuries some learned valuable trades and established their own businesses. While the goblins were officially citizens of Galifar, few humans enjoyed their company, and they found themselves congregating in Malleon’s Gate.

Some goblins resort to crime or grift. But many do seek to live honest lives; again, I’ll point to the goblin scout in The Dreaming Dark. Looking to the relationship between these goblins and their cousins from other nations, Sharn says this:

The relationship between the “city goblins” and these (immigrants from Darguun) is not entirely amicable; the Ghaal’dar bugbears and hobgoblins are used to dominating the goblins of Darguun, while the goblins of Sharn value their independence and rights as citizens.

And going back to the scout in TDD, he’s a soldier in the Cyran army. Not a Darguul mercenary; a Cyran citizen fighting for his nation. So just saying, many (though not all) city goblins DO consider themselves to be Brelish or Aundairian or what-have-you. Of course, many humans still look at them and say “stinking goblins” – but they’re a legitimate part of the society.

The Goblins of Droaam. In most of the world, “goblin” means “the three related species of goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear.” In Droaam, “goblin” means “little creatures who have been oppressed by larger creatures for a very long time” – specifically, kobolds and goblins. A goblin in Graywall feels more kinship with a kobold than a bugbear, because for the last few centuries kobolds and goblins alike were enslaved by ogres, trolls, and other larger creatures. My point is that these goblins have no cultural ties to Darguun, Dhakaan, or bugbears/hobgoblins in general.

As with all things, these are just my opinions. Other RPG writers and novelists have presented things in other ways, and there’s nothing wrong with making Dhakaan something people are more familiar with. But personally, I think the Dhakaani were as admirable a culture as any that exists in present day Khorvaire. They’re extremely militaristic and make the Karrns look like party people, but the social relationship they established between the goblin races is certainly better than we’ve seen since; they had many remarkable achievements; and in the end, they sacrificed their lives to save the world from the Daelkyr. Not only did they not worship the Dark Six, they didn’t worship ANY gods. Meanwhile, since the empire fell, there have been and still are violent goblin slavers who worship the Dark Six and do horrible things to their enemies, and the goblins did just seize a human territory and conquer it through treachery. I just don’t think you have to look back thousands of years to come up with reasons for hostility.



23 Responses to “Dragonmarks 6/6: Droaam and the Daughters of Sora Kell”

  1. Chris Handforth says:

    I asked this in a previous lightning round, but I think it got lost and I didn’t have time to repost it…

    Is there anything about the Daughter’s backstory that you really enjoy, but hasn’t made it’s way to the surface yet, similar to Vol not knowing the location of her phylactery? Or alternately, do you have a particular fable about one of the sisters that you really enjoy?

  2. Keith Baker says:

    I vaguely remembered the question, but when I looked through the posts I couldn’t find it. I just added another question someone asked along a similar theme, so you can find that answer up above. Really, the key to me is to emphasize that the Daughters are more than just monsters. Their abilities should be more than just combat stats. Sora Katra “weaves curses on her loom” – if anyone is capable of saying that Princess Haydith will fall into a deathlike sleep for a hundred years, it’s Sora Katra. Likewise, they have a host of strange and priceless treasures they have gathered over the years. To me, dealing directly with the Daughters should be somewhat like stepping into a faerie tale – a very different thing from facing Vol or the Lord of Blades. For all that I’ve said above, their actions simply shouldn’t always make logical sense… as long as they make a good story.

  3. Chris Handforth says:

    No problem. Although I think some new questions have percolated by now.

    You remind us that Night Hags deal in dreams. How would this effect the opinion of them amongst other creatures that are tied to Dal Quor, such as the Kalashar and the Inspired? Are the competitors for domination of dreams? Are they allies in establishing the power of dreams over mortals or in free dreams in the turning of the age?

    Did Sora Kell intervene ever with the Royal Family of Galifer? She’s a fable, but fables in Eberron can be real. Are there records or stories of her interacting with major figures since the founding of the Empire?

  4. Chris Handforth says:

    Re: question one

    Or are the opinions of the other “Dreampt” with regards to Night Hags somewhere in between? I recognize that the Hags seem extremely independent, but the Kalashtar and DD are not to say the least. I’d think their approach to the Hags might be a good deal more monolithic than the hags’ feelings towards them.

  5. Novem5er says:

    Awesome answers, Keith. Thank you for sharing.

    My own adventures in Droaam had the PCs recruited by Sora Katra to sneak into Turakbar’s fortress and steal a Dragonlance from his vault. Sora Katra explained that the Dragonlance was an ancient relic of the Dhakaani Empire and that its presence in Droaam was unsettling to the distant dragons. They hired the PCs (various races plus a minotaur and a half-vampire) to steal it so that they didn’t have to overtly subvert one of their warlords domain.

    As a side quest, a local goblin of Graywall hired the party to infiltrate Turakbar’s fortress and rescue a goblin resistance leader being held in the dungeon. In truth, these goblins were Dhakaani spies that were trying to recover the Dragonlance relic to bring back home.

    The group ended up infiltrating Turakbar’s fortress and rescuing the goblin spy, only to have the spy STEAL the Dragonlance from underneath their noses during a fight with Turakbar himself. Our Minotaur player landed the killing blow on Turakbar himself.

    Our group escaped, having completely failed every directive from Sora Katra, and were absolutely scared for their immortal souls. Not only had they lost the Dragonlance, they had killed a warlord, and ended up starting a non-demonic minotaur uprising.

    I felt so maliciously evil, watching them sweat it out when they were summoned by Sora Katra. They were prepared to fight for their lives, until it was explained to them that everything went according to Katra’s plan… the scary Dragonlance was no longer in Droaam (evoking the dragons’ ire), and the unstable influence of Turakbar’s demonic rule had been destroyed without the political baggage of the Daughters turning against their own warlord.

    The PCs might have felt used and abused, except that they made some powerful allies in the deal, and that the minotaur PC was actually offered (and declined) the warlord position. It was a great couple of sessions :)

  6. Keith Baker says:

    Good questions. I updated them into the main body.

  7. Keith Baker says:

    Sounds like a great story, Novem5er! Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Chris Handforth says:

    Excellent, that really reinforces why the Night Hags have a strong connection to the Traveler. A couple more (gee is it obvious I love religious studies?)…

    Above and beyond the typical worship of the Six and the image of the Shadow as the Father of Monsters, are there any cults and sects of the Sovereigns and/or Six in Droaam? Do they have unique theological traditions (ala the masks of the Mhor)?

    Prior to The Last War and the creation of Droaam, would the aforementioned Gnoll and Medusa civilizations have had treaties with Galifer? Could some of them even have fought alongside Galifer himself in ages past (Insert image of Tyrion as Galifer’s goblin bannerman)?

    Does Droaam have any allies amongst those Nations recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold?

    Does House Vadalis have any major stakes in operations based in Droaam?

    … Sorry, I find it easier to come up with questions once I can bounce them off of your responses to others.

  9. Nicolas Carrillo (paladinnicolas) says:

    This is a fantastic post Keith. I especially like it because it illustrates how in Eberron many mysteries are left open for DMs to decide what to do with them. This is why I would rather see 5E Eberron in 998 or after it, because the Mourning and other interesting mysteries arose after the last war

  10. Nibelung says:

    Keith, just a quick question. What is your personal position about how DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online) work with eberron histories?

    Most of the adventures and quests are Xen’drik-related, and don’t affect the average Eberron player (that usually play in Khorvaire), but some time ago they developed a series that involved an invasion of Droaam into Stormreach.

    Would like to hear some opinion about other DDO storylines too, like the relationship between the Truthful One and the Stormreaver, about Black Abbot failed ascension to godhood, the invasion of Shavarath into the vale of twilight by the 13th eclise, and the Lord of Blades infiltration into an old cannith manufactury.

    Maybe I’1m asking too much and a separate Dragonmark to talk about DDO may be better.

  11. Keith Baker says:

    I’ll address this in a future post, Nibelung.

  12. Keith Baker says:

    @Chris – I’ll respond in the future when I have a little more time. Too many deadlines right now and the religion question isn’t a simple one.

  13. Chris Handforth says:

    No Problem. I’ll repost them in the most recent question thread so you can find them later.

  14. KKRP says:

    These Q&As are always a real doozy. Just reading this one, I’ve got tons of new ideas floating around in my head.

    Thanks a lot for doing these every week, Keith, they never disappoint.

  15. Keith Baker says:

    @Chris – I answered your questions after all.

  16. Keith Baker says:

    @KKRP – Thanks for the feedback. I’m likely to drop to every other week until my move is resolved, but I always enjoy talking about Eberron!

  17. Chris Handforth says:

    Your sir, are fantastic. Good luck with the move!

  18. Nicolas Carrillo (paladinnicolas) says:

    Just for sharing the way I handle things in my campaign, regarding the question on hatred against goblins I portray racial tension as having something to do with the empire of Dhakaan, because I tell players that despite its having ended well before humans arrived in Khorvaire some historical records and oral traditions passed on from gnomes who felt oppressed by the goblins depicted them as cruel, reason why humans began to distrust them. Concerning this, I remember that in James Wyatt’s storm dragon the characters discuss religion in Dhakaan, and Mit Davandi described many Dhakaani aspects in the legacy of Dhakaan

  19. Gurv says:

    I love this kind of thing. Droaam has never been a big part of my Eberron. I tend to focus on interaction between groups like the dragonmarked houses and national agencies, and Droaam has never seemed subtle enough for that.

    But one thing here that you said, calling Daask “Sora Katra’s answer to the Dark Lanterns or Royal Eyes of Aundair” really turned on a light bulb for me. I’ve always thought of the gang as more of a terrorist group, with a side order of fundraising for the home-country.

    Now I think that the appearance is deliberate, with the ‘gang’ called Daask acting as a front for a much more subtle black ops order. People think they’re dealing with easily manipulated criminal types, but its really the monsters who are watching THEM. That Sivis heir who gets his dragonblood fix is in the perfect position to feed information to the hags. The Dark Lantern who spies on Daask criminals is in the perfect position to act on that information should he stumble on the right clue.

    This is the kind of brilliant writing that really gets the gears turning in my mind.

  20. Keith Baker says:

    Hey Nicolas!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve commented on it above, but again, that’s just what I’m doing – I always enjoy hearing where other people have taken it. And again, even us “official” writers don’t always agree with one another. You mention the discussion of religion in Dhakaan, while I’ll note that the original description of the Dhakaani on page 304 of the 3.5 ECS says “The Dhakaani do not have clerics. They are an agnostic society, and their spiritual leaders are the hobgoblin bards who inspire the communities with tales of past glory.” My way of reconciling this is to say that conversation in question actually refers to the FALL of Dhakaan – the period after the Daelkyr had been defeated but before the empire had completely collapsed, during which time many divergent beliefs took root. So there were Dhakaani who worshiped sixteen gods, but they were “fallen” Dhakaani and the society was in decline.

  21. Nicolas Carrillo (paladinnicolas) says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for your answer. This clarified so many things, and I’ll adjust my campaign accordingly. I would like to ask you one last question: are there any negative aspects of the empire of Dhakaan you handle in your campaign? I ask this because I like to tell my players that they live in a continent that was home to a powerful, disciplined empire that was yet ruthless with non-goblins, as seen in torture devices, books and relics they find in ruins.
    Again, thanks a lot for sharing your ideas with all of us.

  22. Ax says:

    Out of curiosity…
    What would you say are the Daughters of Sora Kells relation with Thrane?
    Thrane, as one of the Nations, is needed to make their own kingdom seen as an actual place according to the Thronehold.
    It also holds the most people with divine power of all the Nations, which would mean that if the Kells would be seeking to have some divinely-powered champions (as you mentioned in the article) they’d likely need to interact with Thranes, so it’d be helpful to know how interactions there tend to go.
    Does Krozen manage to get one up over the Daughters, from time to time?

    Generally, I’d be very interested in knowing more about how Thrane interaction tends to go.

  23. Keith Baker says:

    What would you say are the Daughters of Sora Kells relation with Thrane?
    Terrible.
    (Thrane) also holds the most people with divine power of all the Nations, which would mean that if the Kells would be seeking to have some divinely-powered champions (as you mentioned in the article) they’d likely need to interact with Thranes,
    Yes, but remember that over the centuries, those divinely-powered champions have spent a fair amount of time clobbering the creatures that live in Droaam. The Dark Pack is the last haven of lycanthropes, which were otherwise exterminated by the Church of the Silver Flame. The primary mission of the Church is protecting the innocent from supernatural evil, and many of the creatures of Droaam – the Daughters included – are exactly what they mean by “Supernatural Evil”. The Graywall backdrop and other articles note that the people of Droaam are largely dismissive of followers of the Sovereign Host, who they simply see as weak (“Look at the gifts the Shadow gave to us – what did your Aureon ever do for you?”)… but they are actively hostile to those who wear the symbols of the Silver Flame, due to centuries of conflict between them.

    So personally, no, I don’t see there being a warm series of dialogues between Krozen and Katra, and if there were it would likely cause an outcry among the population of both nations if revealed. With that said, the Silver Flame does send emissaries to Droaam in The Queen of Stone. They’re certainly interested in what’s going on with Droaam, and Jaela at least is willing to consider that not all “monsters” are a threat. But a force like the Pure Flame would likely rise up in revolt if the Keeper were to embrace figures who have been celebrated as terrifying monsters for centuries.

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