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?
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.