Dragonmarks: Sovereign Swords and Favored Nations!

It’s a busy week. I’m traveling this week and moving from Austin to Portland next week. As a result, I don’t have time to write up a normal post this week. Instead, I wanted to throw out a topic of conversation and see what you all have to say.

First, a new Eye on Eberron article went live today: The Sovereign Swords. This looks at a group of devout vigilantes who are traveling around the Five Nations and trying to make Khorvaire a better play. One of the things that  is called out is that the Swords are unusual in that they all have PC-class capabilities. One thing that isn’t really discussed is their appearance. They are soldiers and dress in functional clothing and armor; however, they are also divine champions and I would expect them to wear the symbols and colors of the Sovereign or Sovereigns they are most aligned with. As such, this could tie to a question that was asked a few weeks back: What would be Khorvaire’s answer to the Avengers? It’s not really how the Swords are written; as is they are more akin to an especially gifted Templar unit of the Silver Flame. However, you could play up their vigilante-hero aspect and cast their greatest members in a superheroic light.The bald cripple in the levitating chair speaks with the voice of Aureon, and his commands must be obeyed (it helps that he’s a psion, but hey). The ardent carries an impenetrable shield blessed by Dol Arrah herself. The warforged battlemind/juggernaut was built by Onatar and Dol Dorn (or so he says) and nothing can stop him! While this sort of thing is a little more colorful than the article implies, the key point is that the Sovereign Swords are being built up as heroes, and that means that there should be individuals among them who DO stand out – people the bards will want to sing about. If they are interchangeable cogs, they aren’t serving their purpose: they are supposed to be the rock stars of the future.

Anyhow, if you have any thoughts on the article or questions about it, post them here!

With that said, just to properly answer Gonz’s question, if I was doing a more direct analogue of the Avengers in Eberron I’d likely make them a special Dragonmarked force assembled as a goodwill gesture by the Twelve. Iron Man Would be a Cannith artificer who has designed a living suit of warforged armor. Lyrandar Thor commands the storms. Phiarlan and Thuranni contributed the Hawkeye and Black Widow analogues, while the Hulk is the unfortunate result of a Vadalis experiment gone horribly wrong. Cap is a Deneith warlord, And Nick Fury is, of course, a bad-ass Sivis gnome. After all, you just can’t trust those gnomes…

My second topic deals with something I want to do more of in the future – finding out your favorite and least favorite aspects of Eberron. The more I understand about what resonates with you and what doesn’t, the better work I can do in the future. So with that in mind:

What’s your favorite nation in Khorvaire? Why?

What’s your least favorite nation?

Thanks!

Meanwhile, here are responses to two points that came up in the comments…

Keith, your answers on the Valenar have got me wondering. Since they try to specifically try to reenact their patron ancestors battles, and historically they mainly battled Dragons, Giants, and Goblins, do they care about the Daelkyr, Dreaming Dark, Blood of Vol, or Lords of Dust? If a path to Khyber opens up, are they just going to shrug it off then raid a Darguun village because their ancestor was a goblin killing machine?

The Valenar are a specific faction within the overall culture of the Tairnadal elves. The Silaes Tairn believe that the only way to truly honor the ancestors is to return to Xen’drik and reclaim their ancient lands. The Draleus Tairn maintain that dragons are the only truly worthy foes. The Valeus Tairn are the largest faction, and they believe that the exact nature of the foe doesn’t matter. Properly, the goal is to act as the ancestor would while performing deeds that add to his legend; you don’t have to specific replicate his deeds, as it’s going to be difficult to find giants to fight on Khorvaire. Frankly, the Darguuls aren’t much of a challenge; even the goblin-killing-machine ancestor would have been fighting Dhakaani. As a result, if a daelkyr army suddenly appeared in the middle of Darguun, the Valenar would call it a blessing and abandon any attacks on Talenta, Q’barra or the like to deal with this greater challenge.

With that said, it’s important to know that most Valenar raids are not some sort of coordinated action. The warclans in the service of the king don’t engage in such activities. In general, Valenar prefer to operate on the warband level as opposed to the warclan level; they are looking for things that could challenge ten people, not a thousand. One to one, Talenta forces may not be a match for Valenar; but this is why they’re likely to provoke a Talenta clan, to see if the superior numbers and cunning of the halflings can pose an interesting challenge.

Now, there’s been a LOT of discussion about Thrane and Thaliost. I’m going to withhold a longer response for future posts about the Five Nations, but there is one point I wanted to respond to…

One of the worst blows against Thrane’s image, for me, was in Five Nations with some typical Thrane’s opinion on Thaliost being along the lines of “Aundair isn’t getting it back, we paid for it with blood.” or something like that. Considering what’s happening in Thaliost I just can’t stand that. Those are people’s lives you’re talking about Joe Thrane, you haven’t bought their lives and the Church owes them better.

Allow me to deliver a rebuttal on behalf of Joe Thrane.

But we DID pay for it in blood, Aundairian. The blood my ancestors shed to save yours when the wolves were howling at your door. The blood you spilled when you rained fire on Haskar and killed my grandparents. The blood of my father, who died on the streets of Thaliost. And now you want sympathy from me because one of your own is being a little too cruel to criminals? You want bread from my table after pouring acid and fire on the farms of Thrane for decades? We’re struggling to rebuild OUR cities and house OUR citizens made homeless by you, while you drove your own farmers away with your arrogance and tyranny. And now you say it’s the duty of the church to help you? If demons rise, we will come to your aid. But the demons that trouble you now are of your own making. You have sown suffering for a century, Aundair – now taste the harvest.

Mind you, Jill Aundair has similar things to say about her former enemies, as does Jack Breland and Jane Eldeen. If there’s something I can’t emphasize enough, it’s that we are just two years out of a century-long war that didn’t end to anyone’s satisfaction. There are those who want peace, who care about the suffering of former enemies, who want to dispel hostilities. But there’s a lot of hostility to go around. Joe Thrane has a lot of grief to lay at Aundair’s door; after all, if Aundair had simply sided with Thrane instead of lobbing cloudkills at it, we’d all be happier, wouldn’t we? Beyond this, remember that Aundair wasn’t fighting the Church of the Silver Flame; it was fighting a secular war for secular reasons against the nation of Thrane. The purpose of the church is to protect the innocent from supernatural harm. As Joe said, if there’s another werewolf plague or if the Keeper of Secret pops out under Arcanix, then it is the duty of the faithful to set aside political differences and battle the unnatural. But when it’s a political matter, and when there are many villages in Thrane still recovering from Aundairian attack, there’s not a lot of sympathy for the poor widdle Aundairians.

Thaliost is an example of the fact that the war isn’t really over. It’s where we can see that the peace is fragile and that Aundair and Thrane have deep wounds that have yet to heal… and who do you think will be first on the hit parade if Aurala starts a new war?

Beyond that, there is one more thing to bear in mind, and that’s the degree of information people have about what’s going on in the world. We live in an age of media. We have television, YouTube, internet on our smartphones, radios in our cars – a barrage of ways to see and hear what’s going on around the world. None of this exists in Eberron. They have message stones for personal messages, and printed chronicles as a source of news – and the average Thranish farmer doesn’t have a subscription to the Korranberg Chronicle. I think you’d have the equivalent of a Roman newsreader, and the equivalent of newsreels in places with crystal theaters – but those theaters are only in the big cities. Most news still comes from word of mouth. Joe Thrane HASN’T seen pictures of what’s been happening in Thaliost or heard incredibly detailed reports. Instead he’s had word of mouth supplemented by occasional chronicle articles, all of which are likely vague and slanted in national favor (again, with the exception of the KC, but the farmer isn’t getting that). If he was there – if he could see it – perhaps he’d feel sympathy. Instead, what he sees is the ashes of his family home and the gravestone of his sister, killed by Aundairians in the war. And he’s supposed to be sad about riots in Thaliost? Regardless of his faith, he’s a farmer, not a saint. And you’ll see the same behavior among the common people of pretty much all of the Five Nations, directed at SOMEONE; as Joe points out, in the case of Aundair it’s directed against Aundair itself in the form of the Eldeen Reaches.

But the Church has claimed secular power. They have to accept the secular responsibilities as such. You claim Thaliost is yours, which means the people living there are your subjects.

You are absolutely correct. I wasn’t trying to defend the situation – merely to explain Joe Thrane’s lack of sympathy. The situation in Thaliost is supposed to raise hackles for us as outsiders; I was simply pointing to how the common people could allow it to continue.

With that said, the issue of “government of Thrane” vs “Church of the Silver Flame” isn’t quite so simple. The Church has a broader mission that goes beyond national allegiance, which is why you saw followers of the faith on every side of the war; a Brelish follower of the Flame could still fight against Thrane, because the conflict between nations is a struggle between humans – and the purpose of the Flame is to defend humanity from unnatural evil, not to allow one group of humans to dominate another. Nonetheless, once the authorities of the Church ARE the ruling body of Thrane, the resources of the church must necessarily be tied up in national issues and agendas. This is why you have faithful followers of the Flame both in and outside of Thrane (the most notable in a canon source being the church of Stormreach) who maintain that the theocracy should be abolished – because being mired in the secular concerns of Thrane is a distraction from the true mission of the Church and a source of corruption.

Personally, how I run things is to say that Jaela is the spiritual leader of the Church, as she is the one in touch with the Voice and the Flame. She’s not involved in secular matters, because there are divine duties that only she can tend to; that’s what it means to BE Keeper of the Flame. Thus, it is the cardinals who are the secular leaders – and some among them are indeed far more concerned with secular power than their divine duties. Which doesn’t let Jaela off the hook, in that she must surely be aware of it; just saying that it’s not at her desk. I imagine her regularly saying “And what’s being done about Thaliost?” to Krozen.

I think it does a real number on the image of Thrane and lends to their image as cruel crusaders and religious zealots.

I agree. The Pure Flame is the Church’s answer to the Order of the Emerald Claw: extremists whose actions aren’t fully justified by their faith and offend many of the faithful. They’re the sect that tortured the shifters following the Purge, and have thus always been shown as cruel and paranoid. However, I’ve never liked the idea of Dariznu burning people; it seems a little too extreme.  With that said, look to the vast range of cruel leaders and horrible punishments humans have done to humans over the centuries – impalement, burning, drawing and quartering. Dariznu is a cruel governor; but to the degree that it’s justified by his faith, it’s only because he’s a member of the most extreme, violent branch of the faith – one that considers Jaela to be too soft for her role, as a side note.

Of course, this ties to the general point that the negative side of the Church is often shown without highlighting the positive. Looking to the Purge, the focus is on the collateral damage as opposed to the circumstances that made the action necessary in the first place – and the fact that many Thranes gave their lives to protect the people of a neighboring country. People don’t look at what would have happened if they’d failed or ignored the challenge – or if Tira hadn’t made her sacrifice and Bel Shalor had freed other Overlords. The point of the Church’s failings is simply to show that it is a mortal agency, and that we mortals aren’t perfect. Even an institution entirely dedicated to doing good can be subverted or do evil with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, the focus is always on the unfortunate bad and rarely on the actual good actions they do.

Other nations have their own crimes, like Aundair abandoning the Reaches and then having a tantrum when they don’t want to be part of your nation anymore and Karrnath desecrating Shadukar, but the Thranes are the ones actively doing that to their own people.

I think it’s something of a stretch to say that the people of Thaliost are “their own people.” It’s a territory that they seized from an enemy during wartime. Every nation involved in the war asserted rightful dominion over ALL lands of Galifar, which includes Thaliost. The war didn’t end because any nation admitted wrongdoing or acknowledged the claims of any other nation: hostilities ceased purely because the Mourning has people too afraid to continue. So Thrane asserts that it has a rightful claim to Thaliost and, for that matter, to all of Aundair; it knows that Aundair in all likelihood harbors hostile intent towards it; and it knows that it can only maintain its control of Thaliost through its military presence. Does that justify the abuse of the people there? Certainly not. But they are nonetheless conquered inhabitants of an occupied territory on an unstable border. The war could start again TOMORROW. It could turn out that Aundair is behind the Mourning and has just been waiting for their Mourning Cannon to reload before announcing it to the world. In an ideal world, Thrane will reunite Galifar and unite everyone under the protection of the Silver Flame. Jaela surely believes that Thaliost should serve as an example of this – giving people a positive model of what such a nation would look like. But whatever Cardinals are in charge of civic affairs apparently believe that the situation is simple too volatile and it must be controlled aggressively. Which is to say, it’s an ugly example of the inhumanity of war. But when you say “doing it to their own people” it sounds like you’re suggesting it could happen in Flamekeep.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about Aundair abandoning the Reaches. At the start of the war, they weren’t the Reaches. They were Aundair. They had been part of Aundair for hundreds of years. They were suffering due to royal neglect. The Wardens helped them. And now we have the Reaches. We haven’t gone into great detail about the specifics that drove the Eldeen to secede, but Eldeen-Aundair is entirely a situation of the the people of a nation suffering and the government ignoring their suffering. Meanwhile, Karrnath has been under martial law for decades. People may not people burnt at the stake, but it’s not the happy Code of Galifar people are used to elsewhere. The Across Valenar articles mention the unhappy state of the Khunan settlers under the rule of Cyre. What with the burning, Thaliost stands out as a particularly horrific example, but it’s not the only social injustice in the world. Essentially, the Silver Flame gets targeted as being especially big dicks, but the fact of the matter is that there’s quite a few dicks in Eberron!

<em><strong>Well Joe Thrane, if that practice of pacification is what we can expect the other nations will be subject to if Thrane takes the throne of Galifar, then your nation’s leaders are not fit for the crown. If you cannot look past the misfortune of your kinsman to the suffering of your conquered peoples, then you are ill suited to maintain the glorious Kingdom of Galifar.</strong></em>

For what it’s worth, I think Jaela agrees with you: this is an opportunity for Thrane to show its compassionate and to prove that it deserves to lead Galifar. And I think that you could have EXACTLY THIS ARGUMENT between a Thrane and Aundairian in a bar in Sharn. But just to continue take the side of the Traveler, let’s move away from Joe Thrane and look to Cardinal Bob, the man who IS the policy maker and could change it, and yet is allowing it to continue. Joe Thrane doesn’t really know what’s going on there, and thus it’s easy for him to allow it to continue. Cardinal Bob does. The Keeper urges compassion… but Cardinal Bob is dragging his feet and allowing Dariznu to have his way. How could he possibly justify his actions? Here’s a hypothetical response.

Your compassion does you credit, and we all agree that this is no model for the life we wish the people of Galifar to lead. But the situation just isn’t that simple. This is a major city on the border of a nation that can still be considered hostile. Its population in no way accepts our rule. On top of this, remember Aundair’s greatest strength: Arcane magic. Many of its citizens have studied in Arcanix, and it’s not an easy thing to recognize. That harmless bartender could cast a magic missile the moment your back is turned. How many times has a routine inspection ended in a fireball? We’ve been trying to control the influx of guano and other volatile spell components, but the Royal Eyes are smuggling supplies into the dissidents. I despise Dariznu’s methods, but until we have a way to contain the threat of arcane violence we cannot afford to ease our grip… and by having Dariznu as the face of cruelty – an Aundairian, representing the harsh face of the Pure Flame – we deflect some of his actions from Thrane. His excesses should allow us to create a groundswell of support when you do replace him with a kinder Thrane governor, when we feel that it is possible to control the situation. But that time is not now, my lady. The war is too recent. The people do not accept our presence, and we cannot control the streets without harsh measures.

Let me also remind you that appointing Dariznu as governor was the key to winning the support of the Aundarian bishops. The Pure Flame has always questioned your rule. Most supported Aundair during the war. Dimissing Dariznu at this point could be the blow that splits the church: are you prepared to see a separate church of Aundair, with Dariznu as its head? Should we return to the time of Melysse Miron?

The situation we find ourselves in is vile. We must find a way out of it, and I promise you we that will. We will find a way to govern these people justly, and one way or another we will address the problem of the Pure Flame. But for now these are necessary measures.

While I don’t expect you to agree with the cardinal, it is important to consider the arcane threat within the populace and the fact that while you say “Dariznu is Aundairian, but people see him as part of the church”, there’s more to the Church than Thrane. The Pure Flame has been the faith of Aundair since before Thrane was a theocracy. They ARE a part of Aundair. Dariznu’s appointment is part of a diplomatic juggling act with them – not simply a way to deflect blame. And the concept of a schism between the Pure Flame and Flamekeep is not at all unreasonable.



85 Responses to “Dragonmarks: Sovereign Swords and Favored Nations!”

  1. John says:

    Keith, your answers on the Valenar have got me wondering. Since they try to specifically try to reenact their patron ancestors battles, and historically they mainly battled Dragons, Giants, and Goblins, do they care about the Daelkyr, Dreaming Dark, Blood of Vol, or Lords of Dust? If a path to Khyber opens up, are they just going to shrug it off then raid a Darguun village because their ancestor was a goblin killing machine?

  2. Axe says:

    Kendreyek, the fact that the Aundarian is a follower of the Silver Flame as well, that’s one of the things I like.
    I mean, ok, he’s part of the Aundarian-based Silver Flame worshippers who as a rule are a good bit more extreme, but still, it’s a way of getting in contact with him, and thus get involved with Thaliost, right?
    Setting up the religious thing is an excellent way for Thrane PCs to get into Thaliost stories and for that I applaud Keith Baker.

    I do wish there would be some stories of Thrane helping Thaliost, though, so not everyone looks like dicks (since people your PC might have as mentors, or such, would be included in Church stuff).
    Some way for PCs to get something going, to change the situation.

    Even just some delivering food, and mentions of how very tightly the Church is gritting their teeth, and a raging, intense argument on what they can do (which also opens way for influence from other groups that really don’t want the Church to do anything, because they appreciate the people being miserable, for one reason or another)…
    Something like that would be nice.


    And Jaela’s adorableness is a National Secret!
    Thrane has worked very hard to get the most adorable and loveable leader they possibly can, for years now.
    It is now paying off! :D

  3. Kendreyek says:

    Yeah, highlighting the good that the Church of the Silver Flame does would go a long way toward helping their image. Don’t have to stop pointing out their corruption, but more contrast against their good works could make that corruption all the more tragic.

    And some acknowledgement that the people of Thrane in general are against the atrocities transpiring in Thaliost or at least ignorant of them would help. Suggesting that the Church is actually taking action would also be nice. I get that the Archbishop is a powerful man and its not so simple as “You, get the hell out of there or we’re going to stab you in the face”, after all, that’s the reason we have PCs. But just noting that the Church doesn’t condone it and is at least trying to stop it would help a lot.

    One of the worst blows against Thrane’s image, for me, was in Five Nations with some typical Thrane’s opinion on Thaliost being along the lines of “Aundair isn’t getting it back, we paid for it with blood.” or something like that. Considering what’s happening in Thaliost I just can’t stand that. Those are people’s lives you’re talking about Joe Thrane, you haven’t bought their lives and the Church owes them better.

    Playing up the compassionate side of the Church some more would help a lot.

  4. Keith Baker says:

    Pretty much every time I talk about the CotSF I try to highlight the good that it does and the fact that it’s gotten an immense amount of bad press. However, there’s not a lot of other writers doing the same. With that said, I am responding to the Thaliost point in the main text.

  5. Keith Baker says:

    I’m responding to this in the main text.

  6. Kendreyek says:

    But the Church has claimed secular power. They have to accept the secular responsibilities as such. You claim Thaliost is yours, which means the people living there are your subjects. You’re letting your subjects starve and be burned at the stake, by inaction you give tacit approval. This isn’t so much directed at Joe Thrane as much as it is at the Church, I can accept that Joe Thrane is nursing his own wounds and has little sympathy to spare for the people of Thaliost, but the Church has no excuse.

    The Church controls the nation of Thrane, therefore, Aundair was fighting the Thranish arm of the Church. The crimes of Thaliost fall squarely on the shoulders of the Church. The demons troubling Thaliost are demons under the control of Thrane. It may be an Aundarian archbishop, but it is a Thranish city. The man in control is an agent of the Church, he is given power by the Thranish government. If you want to blame the Aundairians for what’s happening in the city then you’re saying that it is still an Aundarian state.

    I’m not criticizing the idea of Thaliost itself though, because I acknowledge that its a great metaphor for the scars left over from the war and that not everything is black and white, but I think it does a real number on the image of Thrane and lends to their image as cruel crusaders and religious zealots. Other nations have their own crimes, like Aundair abandoning the Reaches and then having a tantrum when they don’t want to be part of your nation anymore and Karrnath desecrating Shadukar, but the Thranes are the ones actively doing that to their own people.

    And yes, if you claim that city is part of Thrane then those are your people. The archbishop may have been born in Aundair but he is the representation of the Thranish government in that city. If you don’t want it then just give it back, at least Aurala will kill the witch burning psychopath before he finds out she’s the Wicked Witch of the West.

    The idea of the contested city and the deep-set national enmity is solid, I just think it really hurts Thrane’s image and makes them seem much more terrible than they really are. I mean, I know that the average Thranish citizen doesn’t really know what’s happening there and the Church does far more Good than Evil, but thinking about Thaliost still makes me want to kick the Thranes in the shin and scream obscenities at them. Its just a really dark shadow hanging over the nation for me.

  7. Keith Baker says:

    All good points! I’ve replied to a few in the main text.

  8. Anthony Rosa says:

    So, funny story. I was actually planning my next Eberron campaign to be focused around the situation in Thaliost!

    The basic idea is pretty simple, really: The PC’s are a group who’ve been sent by the Church to investigate the situation in Thaliost, and do their best to pacify the region.

    In other words, while they’re level one PC’s, they start with significant political power. The Cardinal in charge of Thaliost certainly doesn’t have to answer to them, but he definitely has to pay attention.

    Naturally I’m planning on letting the PC’s proceed from there. I don’t have a “story” pre-set… but from a Draconic Prophecy perspective, if they fail (or if they never go there in the first place), the Next War could be triggered there prematurely. While nothing will prevent the Next War from eventually happening, and at best it’ll be a sort of fantasy World War 2, and equally devastating… it could be a lot worse. And this is one of the worse chains of events.

    …and speaking of the Avengers question, the campaign I have planned after the Thaliost one is basically an all-stars game where my players get to choose which of their PCs from our various Eberron campaigns and one-shots they want, and go on a high-level campaign, since none of our campaigns so far have gone above level 11. (It was sufficient for saving the world, so why not?)

    They sound excited for both, when I pitched them.

  9. Keith Baker says:

    The demons troubling Thaliost are demons under the control of Thrane.
    Joe asked me to clarify on his behalf. He was using “demons” to represent “the consequences of war.” Less poetically, “You’re suffering now because of the consequences of the war you chose to fight.” Remember that the Thranes (and Aundairians, for that matter) believe their claim is just. So as far as Joe is concerned, Aundair could have avoided this whole thing by simply accepting Thrane’s claim. Instead they declared war on Thrane. They lost Thaliost. It’s going to take time to normalize the situation, while the population is pacified and while Thrane looks after the needs of its native-born citizens still suffering from Aundair’s actions during the war. Stop rioting and causing trouble and maybe it will go faster.

    (This commentary is entirely the opinion of Joseph Q. Thrane. Bossy the Cow and its affiliates do not endorse his statements or opinions.)

  10. Axe says:

    @Kendreyek
    Well, thankfully Eberron does still have articles and such written about it.
    Maybe we can convince Keith Baker to write up something to show the better side of the Church of the Silver Flame? :)
    Talking about the bravery of Thranes when they held off the werewolves, for instance, or how the Church sets up charities or things like that, could be maybe shown as counteracting the bad press they’ve sadly gotten from other writers who just don’t get it (and keep putting bad stuff in for the Church, in an attempt at being edgy or whatever)?

    @Keith Baker
    Yes, I know that you’ve done your best at showing the good of the Silver Flame, and I do appreciate what you’ve done, really, thank you very much for these efforts.
    It’s just, as you say, that there are many more writers who show the Church as corrupt and evil, so sometimes it gets kind of hard to believe the Church is good.
    I mean, I know it is (I’ve read up on a good deal of it, so I know what the Church has done throughout its time to save Khorvaire, but the constant showings of how bad it is gets, well, it becomes a little much), but it’d be nice to have more proof you can point at, you know?

    Again, I do fully appreciate the efforts you’ve taken in your writings to make sure the Church doesn’t seem purely evil!
    I do.

  11. Keith Baker says:

    Maybe we can convince Keith Baker to write up something to show the better side of the Church of the Silver Flame?

    Well, there are the Dragonshards articles about the Church of the Silver Flame and the Purge. James Wyatt (who shares my opinion that current content is slanted) and I have talked about an article that presents examples of the positive work the church does for years, but it’s not in the stars for now.

    Talking about the bravery of Thranes when they held off the werewolves, for instance…

    Which is what I’ve done with the Purge article, but that’s also a few centuries ago. The thing I like to emphasize is that supernatural evil is REALLY. There are threats from Khyber and Mabar that manifest across the world on a regular basis. There are ghosts in the graveyard and razor storms from Shavarath on the battlefields. And even during the Last War, when these things arise, it’s the duty of the faithful of the Flame to set aside nationality and face these threats. Now, a farmer isn’t required to throw himself on a wight – he can do his duty by calling the templars to deal with it – but if they feel they have any chance of success, many will. Again, in the individual match-up of templar vs werewolf, the odds were stacked against the individual Thrane and many died. But it was a battle that had to be fought.

    So thing number one is pointing out the good works they do. The other issue is that the vast majority of the depictions of the Silver Flame emphasize the corruption, as if that’s the dominant theme of the Church – whereas in fact, it’s supposed to be a fairly minor element that is simply saying “Even in this bastion of good, these people are only human and you will find bad apples, just like in every other institution in the world.” Which is to say, there’s corrupt priests of the Sovereign Host. Erandis Vol is a corrupt priestess, abusing the faith of her followers for personal power. And let’s not limit ourselves to religion. Dragonmarked houses, nobles… the Church of the Silver Flame isn’t the most corrupt organization on Khorvaire by any means; set it next to the Aurum and it should seem almost unblemished. The corruption is remarkable and interesting simply because it exists at all in an organization devoted to such a noble purpose… while Dragonmarked Houses aren’t devoted to good works, thus not particularly exciting, and thus largely ignored by writers.

  12. Kendreyek says:

    Well Joe Thrane, if that practice of pacification is what we can expect the other nations will be subject to if Thrane takes the throne of Galifar, then your nation’s leaders are not fit for the crown. If you cannot look past the misfortune of your kinsman to the suffering of your conquered peoples, then you are ill suited to maintain the glorious Kingdom of Galifar.

    Aundair too, can’t even show compassion to those poor Cyrans. Even those people burning Thranes and grave-digging Karrns could find it in their hearts to offer some shelter to those unfortunate souls.

    Anyway, I have the solution to the situation in Thaliost: Show compassion for your fellow man or I’ll come to your home and “pacify” your legs! I’ve got PC levels and low-grade plot immunity, you’ll never stop me! :p

  13. Nicolas Carrillo (paladinnicolas) says:

    I second the request to have official material on the good aspects of the Church, and if (as I hope) Eberron is published in 5E this should be stressed, because while I understand that it is interesting to have Church intrigue, it kind of bothers me how often Eberron material portray us all flamers as bigots and ignore our good deeds :)

  14. Keith Baker says:

    Replied in the article. When I have a moment I think I’ll need to split this off, as I did with the Zilargo discussion. I shouldn’t be spending this much time on it, but it is an interesting subject.

  15. Chris Handforth says:

    Rewinding the conversation a bit, I hadn’t seen the articles on Q’Barra (I swear that WotC search function is broken). Those two alone are more than enough to bump Q’Barra from one of my least favourites to right up there completing for the top. I could see the Red Hand of Doom, one of my favourite adventures, easily being adapted to the area. All you’d really have to do is replace Tiamat with Cold Sun, replace the wild elves with a Cold Sun Federation tribe and make any have dragons you meet Fiendish Vessels instead of “natural” half-dragons. Truly, this is a testament to your genius that you could change my mind so fast!

    On to the secular vs religious discussion. I actually think there is a modern religion that parallels the CotSF vs Thrane dynamic: Islam. Mecca and Medina are considered the most holy cities to Muslims, as that is where Gabriel revealed the Quar’an’s words to the Prophet Mohammad. Many nations have controlled the two cities throughout Islam’s history, but despite the close civic and religious relationships in traditional Muslim nations, there have been many, many secular divides and wars between nations. Despite this, the respect held for Mecca and Medina has rarely been lessened, nor has the religious obligation of Muslims to perform the religious pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. I expect this would be the same for the Church during and following the war. It doesn’t matter how close the church and state are to each other, its still secular matter of rulers to those who’s faith is true. In fact, I think one of the most intriguing aspects of Thrane is the regulation of pilgrims to Flamekeep. It’s still a holy site, no matter how much someone may hate the government that rules there, so who they let in and who do not, realising they may alienate some of their followers? How does that analogy sound to you Keith?  

  16. Axe says:

    @Nicolas Carrillo
    Yeah, something like this would be good.
    There is also, note, the Eye on Eberron articles, who have all been very interesting, in the recent D&D articles!

  17. Aelth says:

    Hmm, let’s see-…

    I’d have to say my favourite nation is probably Karrnath-… Though Cyre, Zilargo and Droaam are just great for me.

    As for my least favourite, I guess it would be the Talenta Plains or the Mror Holds. They just don’t strike me as very interesting, not as much as the other nations, at least. I do, however, really like the -people- of those places, from the Talenta Halflings, to the Dwarves, to the Jorash’tar.

    Despite my I’ve recently found myself quite curious as to the nature of Krezent in the Plains, there isn’t much I know about the Shulassakar. I kind of imagine couatl ruins as having a tendency to float, though I’m one of those individuals that thinks everything’s better when it’s flying. :P

  18. John says:

    Poor Keith, he’s been defending and defining the Church of the Silver Flame for several years now. Why does the Silver Flame get so much hate? One crusade(purge, whatever) and a few evil clerics don’t make an evil organization.

  19. Keith Baker says:

    Have you read the Dragonshard on the Shulassakar?

  20. Keith Baker says:

    @John: the thing I feel people miss about the CotSF is that despite its flaws, it is the the largest and most organized force for good in the world. When the lycanthropic threat was building in the Towering Woods centuries ago, no one else was prepared to jump into the woods and help the farmers. The templars of the CotSF are dedicated to laying down their lives to protect the innocent from supernatural evil – and in Eberron, that is a very real threat. I think that’s the key. When we think of the word “witch hunt”, we immediately think of something that is unjustified and based on paranoid delusion – and thus, a faith that includes witch hunters is obviously paranoid and a destructive force. But in Eberron, that evil is real and manifest. There are aberrations and worse things in Khyber beneath your feet. There are demons in your dreams. Anyone you know could be a rakshasa, a changeling, or a secret infernal cultist. Undead could be spawned at any time. And so on, and so on. These are very real dangers that most people simply aren’t equipped to handle. The CotSF isn’t chock full of high level characters, but that’s what makes the faith all the nobler – because in the purge, the typical templar WAS outclassed by the ‘thrope, and many died in the fighting. This is rarely an easy battle, but it’s one that has to be done to keep our world safe.

    The point of corruption is to say that Eberron is a world in which there is no perfect good – that even in this organization that is devoted to the noblest of causes, the people are still human. Greed and ambition are still factors. Zealotry causes people to take things too far. Bel Shalor cannot be entirely contained. Nothing is perfect. But the corruption is supposed to be significant precisely BECAUSE the mission of the faith is so virtuous – and not everyone can live up to its standards.

  21. Madfox11 says:

    Isn’t the biggest reason things are slanted against the Silver Flame because many D&D players feel a bit of antipathy towards large organized religions and their PCs are often a bit anti-authorities in general? And looking at RL, it is a lot easier to place large organized religions in a negative light than a positive one because that is what is happening in RL as well.

  22. Micah says:

    My favorite nations are probably Thrane and Karnnath, which are substantially similar and remarkably different as nations. My least favorite is probably Aundair, because besides agitating for the next war and attacking the Eldeen Reaches, I just can’t see a lot of use for it from a story perspective.

  23. John says:

    In my games, I tend to see the CotSF as a basically good organization that’s not corrupt but as being in danger of becoming corrupt. And this is due to the Church gaining secular power over Thrane and the rise of cardinals needing to be secular leaders instead of religious leaders. Krozen never would have risen to power unless the Church needed people capable of underhanded backroom politics to run a nation. Bel Shalor is bad, but politicians are EVIL.

  24. Axe says:

    @John
    Oh, this is true – I deeply appreciate Keith Baker talking about how good the Church really is, makes me feel better about the whole thing, really.

    It’s just…
    I would like some new, official, material somewhere, that I can point to whenever someone talks about how evil the Church is, or how Eberron is subverting everything by having the Church be utterly corrupt (and I’ve seen this idea mentioned before, when people describe the setting for new people on the internet – though thankfully someone else jumped in and mentioned that the Church really does do good, so it’s not all bad, I’ll admit)

    Something to point to, that will allow you to say “the Church are totally doing great good in the world”.
    Kind of like the current Eye on Eberron article we’ve got, with the Sovereign Swords!
    Only, for the Church instead of the Sovereign Host.

    If we could get some mention of something nice like this for the Church?
    I think that could help immensely.
    Something to show that, the Church really is deserving of their their title as good guys, without being contradicted later on with showings of corruption.

    Anyway, thank you kindly for being so patient and answering our question, Keith Baker!
    Getting to see your responses, and talk to you like this, really makes me like Eberron all the more!

  25. Keith Baker says:

    And looking at RL, it is a lot easier to place large organized religions in a negative light than a positive one because that is what is happening in RL as well.

    I think this is exactly what’s going on, and my point is Eberron is radically different from our world. Like I said: in Eberron, there literally are demons in yoru dreams, monsters beneath your feet, and the chance that a demon overlord could rise up and start destroying your country tomorrow. The CotSF was founded to fight those threats, and that’s what they do every day. Political corruption and greed have leaked in because that’s human nature; but the majority of people who become templars or priests do so because they are committed to helping the innocent – because the church is engaged in a real, literal physical fight against evil. Again, looking to the Purge: it ended badly and innocents suffered – but many, many more innocents would have suffered if the templars hadn’t been willing to fight the battle. We’re basically talking 28 Days Later with werewolves instead of zombies – and the templars charged into that to keep it from spreading.

  26. Keith Baker says:

    And this is due to the Church gaining secular power over Thrane and the rise of cardinals needing to be secular leaders instead of religious leaders. Krozen never would have risen to power unless the Church needed people capable of underhanded backroom politics to run a nation.

    I agree. This is my point about the difference between Jaela and Krozen. Jaela wasn’t chosen by a mortal agency to do political work; she was chosen by the Flame to offer spiritual guidance. She can’t afford to get too tied down in the politics because there are divine duties that only she can do. On the other had, Krozen was born in a time when the Church had only just assumed secular power – when it was finding that it NEEDED people who were go at politics and governing. He has his own faith, but it is very much shaped by his vision of what his purpose is and what Thrane needs him to do. It requires a different sort of mindset.

    Looking back to the discussion about Diani, it’s important to note that many who support Diani’s return to the throne are devoted followers of the Silver Flame; they simply believe that the secular role is leading the church astray, and that restoring the separation of church and state is better for both.

  27. Keith Baker says:

    Kind of like the current Eye on Eberron article we’ve got, with the Sovereign Swords! Only, for the Church instead of the Sovereign Host.

    The thing is that the church DOES have this. They’re called “templars” and they’ve been doing this sort of thing for centuries. The Sovereign Swords stand out precisely because that sort of service isn’t normally part of the Sovereign Faith… and because the Sovereign Swords are, essentially, all PCs while most templars are just warriors (in part because the templars outnumber the swords by about a thousand to one).

    One key difference between the templars and the Swords is that the Swords are interfering in secular matters – bandits, criminals, etc – while the mandate of the Silver Flame has always been the pursuit of supernatural evil. Templars have always been allowed to act across nations – like bringing an army into Aundair – because it’s known that they only do it to deal with the unnatural. The Swords are operating on a smaller scale but they are tackling mundane problems as well as exotic ones. They are also getting the pins lined up perfectly so they always show up just where they need to be; the tempalrs don’t have that.

    Essentially, the Sovereign Swords come across as superheroes, while the typical templar is like a fireman. He does a vital, dangerous job – but most people don’t pay much attention because it’s part of everyday life. With that said, the CotSF does have its own elite, divinely empowered squads.

  28. Nicolas Carrillo (paladinnicolas) says:

    @Madfox11 with due respect, we partly disagree on the idea that in real life organized religions are mostly negative. I have seen firsthand the positive contribution of people from different faiths that goes unnoticed and how it helps people who would not be helped otherwise. Actually, it may have something to do with disagreements of many DnD platers concerning beliefs, which is normal, although for the sake of freedom of expression and tolerance it would be better if believers and non-believers know each other and realize how good many individuals are regardless of beliefs. I almost became a priest and am very religious, and still both admit that some fellow believers act contrary to what they ought to do and that some people disagree with me, but I am a close friend of many of such persons. The idea that organized religions are mostly negative is in my opinion a bias

  29. John says:

    I liked how in the novel Son of Khyber the agent of Thrane talks about how in Galifar, the CotSF would just go wherever and handle supernatural threats. After the War, since in some eyes Thrane and the CotSF have become synonymous, agents have to slip in covertly to HELP other nations deal with threats that templars are uniquely trained for and other nations have never heard of.

  30. Keith Baker says:

    It’s as if I wrote that – oh, wait, I did! But yes, that’s the point and it’s still the case. During the Last War, templars undoubtedly served alongside the soldiers of their countries. But the templars AREN’T a secular order. Thrane has secular soldiers – forces like the Knights of Thrane – who are purely devoted to enforcing the laws of Thrane and protecting its borders, etc. As a unit, the purpose of the templars is to defend the innocent against supernatural threats, regardless of nation. Again, when you’ve got that existing force sitting around doing nothing during a war, you’ll use them in the war – but they still remain as a separate unit with a different chain of command and a different overall purpose in society.

  31. John says:

    One of the things I like about the Eberron setting as a whole is how the Last War, and the politics surrounding it, shape the adventuring world. Good adventurers with a connection to Thrane, especially powerful PC’s, could be seen as a threat to countries like Karrnath and Aundair when they enter their borders. It doesn’t matter that the PC’s are trying to be the good guys dealing with some ancient evil, neighboring nations just see an elite team of warriors possibly invading their country.

  32. Aelth says:

    One of the things I find really interesting in Eberron is the Undying Court, with all of their Deathy goodness.

    It’s been mentioned multiple times that the Undying Court studies and manipulates the Draconic Prophecy, and could be used in a campaign revolving around such things.

    Is there any advice you could offer on how to play an Ascendant Councilors or Undying Councilors in an antagonistic or patron role?
    What might the motivations, actions and personality traits of such a Deathless include?

  33. Antariuk says:

    Aerenal and the Undying Court? Hell, yes. Here’s my take on it:

    What you should keep in mind when employing an Ascendant Councilor in your game is the power level, at least in 3rd edition Eberron. As printed, these guys are CR 18 and as close to divinity as (im)mortals can probably get in the setting.

    Since the majority of all D&D games starts and ends somewhere around the first ten character levels, chances are that an AC raises the bar pretty high.
    While he can of course be patron for a band of adventurers, you might consider why he would do this in the first place. What is his/the Undying Court’s agenda? The Prophecy aside, sooner or later you end up with dragons from Argonessen, rakshasas, Vol, or even extraplanar entities. Now, with the Undying Court being patent and careful observers, your gamers will probably learn about the truth only in small steps.

    While this is of course awesome and worthy of inclusion in any Eberron game, you should keep an eye on how all this is presented to the (low-level) players. Being unable to kill a rakshasa is one thing, but having it shoved in your face is another. There should always be a sense that “something” could be done, even if it is the most dangerous course imaginable.

    I’m of course aiming at the Elminster Problem, where you as a player feel stupid because some untouchable guy tells you to do his errants because he’s busy not using his awesome powers to do it in a fraction of the time you’ll need. So secrecy and scheming it is.

    Make an AC patron appear as someone else, and even then only after the players traced him back through a couple of middlemen. These guys literally had centuries to set up the pieces, so it won’t be easy to identify their contacts or gather evidence.

    Don’t forget to include a moral dilemma if appropriate. Maybe after the players find out about the nature of their mysterious patron, they discover that to prevent the fiend and the rogue dragon from combining their essences into a single, terrifying creature, a small city will be wiped out due to the aberrant energies when the eldritch machine deep beneith the surface explodes (which it must)? Stuff like that. The game the Undying Court is playing with it’s opponents will almost always involve sacrifice and trying to decide what is the lesser evil.

    At least that is how ‘d do it.

  34. John says:

    I’ve been wondering, why is Aurala so unlikeable?

  35. Micah says:

    Because she closely resembles the monarchs who started the last war. Still, she has some strong points in her favor, if you want her to be or sound right. The largest standing army on Khorvaire belongs to a private mercenary business that also controls international law, massive magical monopolies have more political power than nations. Under the power of Galifar, this power was curbed. But now that Galifar is fallen, every person might soon be subject to the power of lords driven only by greed. In Karrnath, the most powerful citizens are devoted to a dangerous cult and raise armies of the dead with magic that blights the earth. In Breland, the ambitions of the rich and powerful are held in check by little more than a charismatic king who is getting too old to be counted on for long. In Thrane, religious fanatics hold power and abuse it and their people. Don’t get me started on the barbarian nations of Drooam and Dargunn. Without Aurala, things are getting worse and on the verge of collapse anyway. If she can find a way to grab swift control of the continent, she could save hundreds of thousands and lives.

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