Welcome back to Eberron Expanded. This series of articles examines sourcebooks that have not been specifically designed for the Eberron Campaign Setting. Bear in mind that the ideas presented in these articles are suggestions. As a DM, you always have the final word as to what you add to your game and how you want it to fit into the world.
The Complete Psionic sourcebookpresents a host of new options for players and DMs: feats, equipment, races, monsters, and both basic and prestige classes. Let's examine ways to incorporate these elements into the Eberron Campaign Setting. For additional information about the role of psionics in the world, refer to the Psionics in Eberron Dragonshard article.
The Exiles of Talaron
Complete Psionic introduces two forces -- the Hidden Houses and the guild of the Diamond Knights -- that trace their history back to the fallen world of Talaron. A DM who wishes to uses these organizations in the game has to decide the nature of Talaron. The Eberron Campaign Setting says that the daelkyr of Xoriat consider the destruction of worlds to be a form of art . . . a statement that implies that they have destroyed worlds in the past. Thus, one possibility is that the exiles of Talaron are the last survivors of a world shattered by the Realm of Madness. Following this path, the Diamond Knights would be the mortal foes of the Cults of the Dragon Below and natural allies of the Gatekeepers.
Another possibility is that Talaron was a city, not a world -- a vast metropolis in the Sarlonan kingdom of Rhiavhaar. The noble houses of Talaron were known for their psychic powers and vivid dreams. For ages these psionic abilities helped them maintain their influence in society, but when the Dreaming Dark turned its eyes to Sarlona, those same powers were turned against the houses. Many heirs proved to be particularly vulnerable to quori manipulation, and these formed the first rank of quori agents in Eberron: the force that would one day become the Inspired. Those who could resist the Dreaming Dark were hunted down by their corrupted brethren and fled to Khorvaire amid the other refugees. This is why the houses hide; they still fear the persecution of the Dreaming Dark and their corrupted brethren. Today, they fight their own secret war against the Dreaming Dark and Dal Quor. Occasionally, the Diamond Knights ally with kalashtar atavists, but many of the children of Talaron distrust anything touched by Dal Quor; in the minds of these zealots, the kalashtar are just as bad as the Inspired, and the hidden houses have struck against the kalashtar in the past.
Regardless of which path the DM chooses to take, the inland Lhazaar Principalities are an excellent place to put the Hidden Houses, the Diamond Knights, and the other exiles of Talaron. The Lhazaar Principalities are best known for sailors and pirates, but there are inland principalities between the Lhazaar Sea and the Ironroot Mountains, and these regions are often overlooked by the people of the Five Nations. Every principality has its own traditions and customs, some dating back to Old Sarlona. This is an easy place for the Hidden Houses of Talaron to hide from prying eyes. It's quite possible that each house has a principality to call its own, although the prince and his people would conceal their powers from travelers.
In the Eberron Campaign Setting, mind flayers are emissaries of Xoriat, the Realm of Madness. However, their origins remain a mystery. Are they the spawn of Xoriat itself? Or are they the twisted survivors of another world?
Regardless of the answer, the illithids are iconic symbols of Xoriat and the Cults of the Dragon Below. The illithid heritage feats presented in Complete Psionic could be caused by many things besides actual illithid ancestry:
- An ancient blade forged by Dyrrn the Corruptor taints all who come into contact with it. Anyone who carries the blade suffers a slow transformation. Over the course of weeks, the character's feats are replaced by illithid heritage feats. When he acquires four such feats, he becomes a true illithid in mind and body, turning on his former allies. This corruption can be reversed if the wielder can be separated from the blade, but the immense ego of the artifact prevents a weak-willed host from relinquishing this treasure.
- A manifest zone linked to Xoriat corrupts all who linger in its confines for an extended period of time. A century ago, a village was built within the zone; now illithid heritage feats can be found throughout the population of the village, although the people here typically hide these "blessings" from outsiders. What happens when adventurers stumble into this haven of the Cults of the Dragon Below? What if one of the adventurers was born in this village and is only now discovering the taint within her bloodline?
- Darguul legends speak of the Kech Uul. Reports said that this Dhakaani clan was completely eradicated in battle with the daelkyr. But some say that the Kech Uul were not destroyed -- rather, they were infected by the horrors that they fought and chose to go into hiding instead of revealing their shame. If the Kech Uul still exist, do these illithid-touched goblinoids fight the forces of Xoriat? Or have they fallen prey to the power of madness and turned against their kin?
- Any cleric, adept, or favored soul dedicated to the Cults of the Dragon Below could easily develop illithid heritage feats -- a terrible sign of the power of his faith.
Synads and Host Feats
The synad race has much in common with the kalashtar of Eberron. Both trace their roots to another plane of existence -- in both cases a realm full of horrors. And both races are defined by their expanded minds; the threefold mind in the case of the synad, and the quori-human union of the kalashtar.
Because there is such overlap between the two races, a DM may wish to focus on just one of these races. If a DM likes the kalashtar storyline but prefers the racial traits of the synad, one option is to simply change the names by using synad traits for the kalashtar. Say that the oracle aspect of the synad's threefold mind is actually the influence of the quori spirit. Another option is to say that synads and kalashtar are actually offshoots with the same point of origin -- that synads are bound to a previously unknown class of quori spirit that has a different relationship with its hosts. Both of these have the advantage of letting the synad draw on the existing story built around the kalashtar, including a homeland in Adar and the ongoing struggle with the Dreaming Dark.
A completely different approach is to make the synads an entirely artificial race. House Vadalis is best known for its magebred animals. But long-lived rumors say that Vadalis magebreeders have been experimenting on humans. The synads could be the result of House Vadalis attempting to create its own kalashtar. A DM who follows this path needs to decide how many synads exist in the world, and whether they are loyal to their creators. Is there a growing corps of synads hidden within House Vadalis? Or are there only a handful of synads: fugitives fleeing from a house that wants to erase all evidence of the breeding program?
In either case, the host feats presented in Complete Psionic are suitable for both Inspired and kalashtar. However, in the case of the Inspired, the empty vessel cannot take advantage of these feats while its quori spirit is absent.
New Classes: Ardent, Divine Mind, and Lurk
Complete Psionic presents three new psionic classes. While a character of any race or culture could pursue one of these paths, each class is best suited to a particular aspect of Eberron.
While the kalashtar brought considerable knowledge of the psionic arts with them when they first arrived on Eberron, some humans had studied the powers of the mind long before this time. The path of the ardent has a long history in Adar, one that stands apart from the Path of Light. Both kalashtar and Inspired may become ardents, but the greatest students of the ardent philosophies are humans. If the DM chooses to trace the history of the Six Hidden Houses back to pre-Riedran Sarlona, the ardent could have a strong place within this hidden psionic culture.
Many roles await the divine mind in Eberron. Complete Psionic provides mantle lists for all of the major religions of Eberron. Divine minds are rarely seen within the churches of the Five Nations, but faith can always bring out latent talent. The Cult of the Dragon Below has produced a number of divine minds, fearsome warriors armored in the essence of madness, but the majority of divine minds hail from Sarlona. Among the priests of the Path of Light, divine minds are considerably more common than clerics or adepts. On the other side of the coin, the Inspired worship the Dreaming Dark itself; this provides them with access to the Evil, Law, Light and Darkness, and Corruption and Madness mantles. The Corruption and Madness mantle represents the terrors held within the Dreaming Dark, and the manifestations of its powers should reflect this bond to nightmares.
The lurk is a scoundrel who uses psionic power to enhance her gifts of stealth and deception. The Dreaming Dark is a common source for lurks, both actual Inspired agents and humans trained in Khorvaire to serve the ends of il-Lashtavar. However, there is another strong lurk tradition. Doppelgangers are naturally telepathic, and the secret society known as the Cabinet of Faces often trains both doppelgangers and changelings in the lurking arts. The lurks of the Dreaming Dark often learn combat-oriented powers, to better serve as assassins. The traditions of the Cabinet of Faces emphasize stealth and evasion, aimed to serve the spy as opposed to the killer.
While a few kalashtar follow the path of the lurk, most prefer the contemplative paths of the psion or divine mind. Rumors of a radical group of kalashtar lurk-soulknives known as the Blades of Taratai have been floating around, and some say the members of this group engage in aggressive acts against the Inspired deep in the heart of Riedra. If this group exists, it is well hidden. The elders of Adar maintain that most Riedrans and even empty vessels are innocent victims of the Dreaming Dark; as such, they disapprove of many of the actions attributed to the Blades.
Complete Psionic presents eight psionic prestige classes; here are possible hooks for each of them.
Anarchic Initiate. While many believe that psionic power flows from Dal Quor and Xoriat, the anarchic initiate draws her wild energy from the plane of Kythri, the Churning Chaos. All effects that refer to Limbo should be altered to Kythri. Changelings are often drawn to this path, and anarchic initiates occasionally work with the Cabinet of Faces, though most initiates are too chaotic to align with any one organization for long, even one aligned with the Traveler.
Ebon Saint. The Cabinet of Faces claims that the Traveler taught doppelgangers the arts of the ebon saint before humanity even came to Khorvaire. Ebon saints are widely respected among doppelgangers, regardless of race. The motivations of the Cabinet of Faces remain a mystery. Sometimes a saint of the Traveler sells his services, but often he simply shows up with a piece of invaluable information and vanishes again, with no explanation. Of course, one should always beware the gifts of the Traveler; the "help" of an ebon saint may have unforeseen consequences.
An adventurer who wishes to become an ebon saint must first find an instructor, and this can be a considerable challenge. A doppelganger saint is more likely to mentor a changeling than a member of any of the other common races, but the only predictable thing about the Cabinet of Faces is that it is unpredictable.
At the DM's discretion, when a character that already possesses the ability to change shape at will (such as a doppelganger, changeling, or rakshasa) uses the steal form ability of the ebon saint, he should receive a +5 insight bonus on his Disguise check.
Ectopic Adept. The Quori are shapers of dreams, and the skills of the ectopic adept make dreams into deadly reality. For the kalashtar of Adar, long outnumbered by their Riedran foes, the arts of the shaper are a vital tool in the defense of the nation. Both Adarans and Inspired have orders of ectopic adepts; the finest school in Eberron is known as the Pillar of Tanalash, located in the Adaran fortress of Malshashar.
Flayerspawn Psychics. Any of the options explored in the Illithid Heritage section above could apply to flayerspawn psychics.
Illumine Souls. Tales of the war between the Undying Court and the Line of Vol mention three champions who wielded the pure light of Irian, "smiting the enemy with sunlight blades." While other psionic classes are rare in Aerenal, the Deathguard maintains an elite cadre of soulknives known as the Iria Tairn, or the "warriors of light." Few in number, these illumine souls are held in reserve for the most terrible dangers. Any elf or half-elf soulknife sworn to the Undying Court could seek to join this order. To date, no member of any other race has been inducted into the Iria Tairn, but a hero who proves the purity of his intentions might win the trust of the Deathguard.
Soulbows. The soulbow tradition has its roots among the dromites of Sarlona, and Riedrans have frequently faced dromite mind-archers in the intermittent wars between the two nations. The technique has been adopted by both the Inspired and the people of Adar, and the Reclaimers easily could be found on the fringes of Riedra.
Storm Disciples. Adar is a land of strange and violent weather, of storms that often seem to protect the realm from those who mean it harm. Legends attribute this to the power of the Storm Guardians, a clan of blue dragons who dwell on the peak of Korrandar. The storm disciples are a monastic order founded long before the coming of the kalashtar, and they consider themselves to be the true guardians of Adar. While they may fight side by side against the Riedrans, there has been tension between the storm disciples and the kalashtar; the disciples believe that the current woes of Adar can be laid at the feet of the kalashtar, and some say that the refuge of Adar was never meant for the spirits of another world.
In addition to the disciples of Adar, there are rumors that an enclave of House Lyrandar is exploring new ways to manipulate the power of the storm. Is this a natural gift? Or is this knowledge offered by agents of the Dreaming Dark, a lure to corrupt young heirs of the house into serving the quori agenda?
Zerth Cenobites. The most common practitioners of zerthin on Eberron are the dolgaunt monks of Khyber. Though blind, these dolgaunt mystics can see through time and slip through the seconds to catch foes unawares. Some say that these techniques were stolen from another world destroyed by the daelkyr; an obscure dolgaunt legend says that the first Zerthin masters threw themselves forward in time to escape death, and warns that this githzerai army could reemerge at any moment to seek vengeance for their shattered world.
About the Author
Keith Baker has been an avid fan of the Dungeons & Dragons game since grade school. His life took a dramatic turn in 2002 when he submitted the World of Eberron to the Wizards of the Coast Fantasy Setting Search. In addition to developing the Eberron Campaign Setting and Shadows of the Last War for Wizards of the Coast, Inc., he has produced material for Atlas Games, Goodman Games, and Green Ronin.