Thirteen families, distributed among the civilized races in Eberron developed long ago magical powers granted by strange arcane marks on their skin. Similar to tattoos, but in vibrant and living colors and intricate silhouettes, these dragonmarks allowed them to perfect their particular trade with a touch of magic. Soon, family leaders started turning their progeny into business dynasties. Centuries later, these families have become true economic empires overseeing transportation, communications, healing, banking, entertainment and even animal training.
Believed to be a manifestation of the Draconic Prophecy, marks come in many sizes, from the lesser ones to the most powerful Syberis ones, which can cover the bearer’s entire torso. These last are very rare and incredibly powerful. Mechanically, they have usually been treated as feats, and in the Dragonmarked sourcebook, each House was given a prestige class linked to its own mark. The Eberron Player’s Guide for 4e did the same.
In the world, each house has one or more guilds associated to its business. Most guild members are not bound to the house by blood, but do so because the house’s banner is seen as a sign of quality and reliability, and that means they’ll get more business. Think of it as fantasy branding and franchising.
Dynasties of intrigue
The Dragonmarked Houses can play a very important part in a campaign that focuses on political intrigue as these houses struggle for power and influence in a world where the central authority that held them in check for a thousand years no longer exists.
The influence of the Dragonmarked Houses has grown over the last few years. When he forged his kingdom, King Galifar recognized the merchant princes as potential threats, even though at the time they lacked the power to challenge his rule. He issued the Korth Edicts to limit their power, preventing them from owning land, holding noble titles, or massing armies to challenge his own forces. Over the centuries, a united Galifar was strong enough to enforce these limitations, but that authority changed with the Last War: the Treaty of Thronehold, and all its limitations and affectations to the Houses, has created a situation rife with intrigue and ready for adventure, as player characters (especially those who bear dragonmarks themselves) negotiate the everchanging alliances and plots among the houses and the nations. Dragonmarked characters are sure to be a part of their house’s complex agendas, whether they know it or not.
Aside from the individual intrigues of each dragonmarked house, you might also consider the growing influence of the houses as a whole. A century ago, the balance of power clearly lay in the hands of the monarchy. Today, the divided leaders of Khorvaire’s many nations squabble and work intrigues, weakening their influence over their economies. Meanwhile, the reach of the merchant houses grows stronger with each day. There are many who whisper that if the nations of Khorvaire are ever to be united again, it will not be a descendant of Galifar who sits on the throne, but a dragonmarked heir of one of the houses.
Published in November 2006, the sourcebook with all things related to the Dragonmarked Houses was written by Keith Baker, Ari Marmell, C.A. Suleiman, and Michelle Lyons, with the usual amazing by Wayne Reynolds. This accesory details each of the thirteen dragonmarked houses and presents advice for playing dragonmarked characters within a house or house guild. It also introduces new options for dragonmarked characters, including prestige classes, feats, and spells, divided in five chapters.
- Heirs to Power
- The Houses
- Prestige Classes
- New Feats
- Magic and Dragonmarks
The one thing I may like the most in the whole book is the text about the Test of Syberis: As children are not born with a mark, but get one during a stressful situation (just like the mutant powers of the X-Men), elders designed a rite of passage in which adolescent members of dragonmarked families are subjected to enough stress to awaken their marks. Each house has its own design for this test, and no one outside knows any details about it.
A Three-headed Gorgon
I already mentioned my “Vision 20/20” plan, so I’ll give you another preview, introducing you another of the titles I’ll be working on. Set in the aftermath of the Last War, this adventure starts as House Cannith is facing the loss of its patriarch and successor, the destruction of its most groundbreaking facility and the warforged emancipation established by the Treaty of Thronehold, immersed itself into an internal conflict like it has never before seen.
As Starrin d’Cannith and his son died two years ago, the Council of Elders of House Cannith needs to elect a new patriarch. However, it is difficult for them to reach a decision, since the candidates differ precisely in the characteristics that they should all have in order to be elected.
The House is now divided in three factions in every aspect but the formal: West, East and South, each in charge of one of the most suitable candidates, and each of them managing their own business according to their designs. The Council of Elders has determined that before the end of 999 YK, it will evaluate the achievements of each one separately and thus appoint the new House Patriarch or Matriarch.
As expected, each of the factions pursues quite different goals, each more amoral than the next. Espionage and counterintelligence prime among them, and that is why the disappearance of Merrix d’Cannith, grandson of the genius creator of the warforged during the Last War and responsible for Cannith South, arouses the suspicions of the entire House and the khorvairian society.
Theories and conspiracies abound, but none is taken seriously due to lack of evidence. The Cannith South Headquarters in the Dragon Towers of Sharn are an impregnable fortress where some agents will meet and do their best to discover the truth.
Welcome to A Three-headed Gorgon, a campaign where our heroes will try to get the upper hand and find whoever is responsible for Merrix’s disappearance. Was he kidnapped? Did he run away? What was he working on?
Well, I guess you’ll have to wait for A Three-headed Gorgon to be available to find out.
Have you ever played a dragonamrked character? Why did you decide to do so? Leave your mark in the comments below!