Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Not the kind with cardstock and pawns. Mostly play by post Mafia so far.

Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Thu Oct 01, 2015 12:57 pm

Sorry all, extremely busy day yesterday. Expect more content tonight and a return to normal levels over the weekend.

I should also say that I'm not in a huge hurry to get the game started because I'm travelling from 10/9-10/19, with internet access but not much free time. It would be nice to get characters mostly worked out by then, but I'm definitely not going to start the game proper until after I get back.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Tamien » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:12 pm

October is going to be a stupidly busy month for me as well - I'm running a LARP this weekend, going to Great Western War the weekend after, doing Indie Games for Good the weekend after, and then I have one weekend off before Halloween. So I'm good with just working on character creation for a while.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Bluelantern » Thu Oct 01, 2015 5:09 pm

jalapeno_dude wrote:Sorry all, extremely busy day yesterday. Expect more content tonight and a return to normal levels over the weekend.

I should also say that I'm not in a huge hurry to get the game started because I'm travelling from 10/9-10/19, with internet access but not much free time. It would be nice to get characters mostly worked out by then, but I'm definitely not going to start the game proper until after I get back.


I might take two wisdom teeth around that period, so it suits me, so it is all ok.
Sorry for my bad english

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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Fri Oct 02, 2015 12:32 am

Infopost II: Infopost Harder

Today's topic: the Dragonmarks and Dragonmarked Houses! I'm assuming at least one of you will want to play a dragonmarked character, and there's a fair chance that the employer specified in the most recent pitch will be either The Twelve or a specific house (we'll get to that later), so this seems relevant.

Recall that my last infopost contained the sort of information a typical, reasonably well-interested inhabitant of Khorvaire would know. This post will specialize a little bit more: it will contain the sort of things a typical member of a dragonmarked house different from the one being described would know. So it doesn't contain Deep House Secrets, but it does give a reasonably accurate description of what the house actually does (you'll soon see that that's often very different from what the house claims it does). Note also that as per our campaign pitch we're starting slightly before the Day of Mourning, which is 4 years before the date the sourcebooks describe, so some of the information about the houses will be different than what you'll find elsewhere. This is still mostly written of the top of my head, and/or consulting what I've written for other campaigns, because if I don't remember it it's probably too obscure for you to care about it right now. I have looked up the actual names of the dragonmarks, most of which I can never remember.

A Quick Word About Dragonmarks Themselves

Dragonmarks are basically magical tattoos, or maybe birthmarks. Each of the dragonmarks (with a big exception I'll get to momentarily) appears only to (a small portion of) the members of a small group of families. Each dragonmark appeared at some definite time within historical memory (seven before the time of Karrn the Conqueror tried and failed to unify Khorvaire two thousand years ago; eleven--all but the Mark of Finding of the half-orcs and humans of House Tharashk--by the foundation of Galifar), and once it appeared it appeared only in members of the group of families it had initially appeared in. Typically dragonmarks appear during adolescence, but this isn't always the case. In the vast majority of cases, a dragonmark will appear small but fully-formed overnight: though it appears on different places on different people, each dragonmark of the same type looks the same (e.g. every newly-formed Mark of Warding looks the same). Dragonmarks grow and become more elaborate over time; they do so at different rates for different people, and the rate isn't steady over a bearer's life, but again the forms in which they grow are the same for all members of a house.

Here is an example of what a dragonmark (in this case, the Mark of Warding of the dwarves of House Kundarak) looks like. The image at the top is what it starts off as, and it progresses smoothly to the form of the second image and finally the third. (People speak roughly of Least, Lesser, and Greater Dragonmarks, but this is really a spectrum). Even new dragonmarks contain power, sufficiently to allow their bearer to accomplish arcane feats in the domain of the Mark similar to the effects a wizard or artificer or cleric could achieve. Again using the Mark of Warding as an example, a typical bearer of a Least Mark could for example set up something similar to a wizard's alarm or arcane lock; more experienced bearers can create involved magical wards that have effects like explosive runes or glyphs of warding. And of course Siberys shards tend to supercharge these abilities, allowing the bearers of dragonmarks to interface with and operate arcane artifacts that can't be created any other way.

Now, you probably noticed that there's a fourth Mark depicted on that image. A *very* small proportion of those who don't develop normal Marks will occasionally wake up with a massive version of their House's Mark spread across their entire body, known as a Mark of Siberys, which grants them even more powerful abilities in the Domain of the Mark. Without Heirs of Siberys (as they are known) many of the greatest achievements of the Houses would not be possible. But because they can't be properly tutored as they grown into their power like a typical bearer of a Mark, the appearance of a Heir can have explosive political effects within a House.

Finally, the exception I mentioned above. Very occasionally, someone is born with a mark that doesn't correspond to one of the known ones. These marks tend to be...disturbing, often with greater destructive power than typically seen in the normal ones. This is the excuse for shunning (and often imprisoning or executing) those with aberrant dragonmarks. But there are two more reasons that the Houses do this:

1. About 500 years before the foundation of Galifar, there was a huge war between the Dragonmarked Houses and a number of bearers of aberrant marks. You can read about the War of the Mark here, but suffice to say that it was intensely destructive.
2. Most (possibly all) aberrant marks appear on the children of parents from two different dragonmarked houses. As a result the Houses have all banned marriage between members of different houses.

The Houses in the World

I mentioned in my last post that the Dragonmarked Houses have immense power--they each function as a guild with a de facto monopoly over some critically important facet of industry or commerce. So, you might ask, why aren't they running the world? Well, you might reply, they sort of are. All of the nations in the Last War bought warforged from House Cannith and mercenaries from House Deneith and intelligence from House Phiarlan and communicated with their armies in the field using House Sivis. And they couldn't mint their own currency because House Kundarak would only recognize and store the coins of Galifar. But then, you might counter as you became increasingly schizophrenic, why aren't they overtly running Khorvaire? Good question! Part of this has to do with the last time the Houses raised armies themselves: the aforementioned War of the Mark. As a result the notion of Houses with a military has some serious bad press.

But a bigger part has to do with the Korth Edicts. When Galifar was in the process of uniting Khorvaire, a few years before the actual Kingdom of Galifar was proclaimed, he and the houses came to a mutual understanding. Galifar agreed to protect the Houses, and their economic monopolies. In turn, the Houses agreed to support Galifar, and they agreed to restrict their political power. They agreed not to maintain armies (with an exception for the mercenaries of House Deneith, which however swore not to use these forces on its own behalf), and not to maintain great estates. And they agreed not to claim, acquire, or hold titles of nobility. In particular, when a member of a dragonmarked house and a member of the nobility marry, one or the other of them must give up their membership in either house or nobility...

Now, it's interesting to note that the Korth Edicts were an agreement between the Houses and Galifar. Get the right member of the right House drunk enough, and they might say some very interesting things on to what extent they apply, and to what extent they're honored, in an era when Galifar no longer exists...

...and I've run out of time tonight. Coming next time:

The Thirteen Houses and their Twelve Dragonmarks

The House that Used to have the Thirteenth Dragonmark

The House that Currently has the Thirteenth Dragonmark, Except Not Really
____________________________

I have edited the first post to index some of my relevant posts scattered throughout the thread (the infoposts and campaign pitches). Hopefully that's useful.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Kappa » Fri Oct 02, 2015 5:45 am

*burrows into this infopost and snuggles its many cozy huggable words*

What, if anything, do the descendants of the aberrantly dragonmarked tend to get? More aberrant dragonmarks? Dragonmarks as appropriate to either ancestral house? Nothing?

I assume the dragonmarks don't care if one of your dragonmarked ancestors married into nobility and forfeited official membership in their house. What happens to people who acquire said marks under this and similar conditions? Are the spies and genealogical records of the Thirteen Houses that good?
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Fri Oct 02, 2015 12:55 pm

Kappa wrote:*burrows into this infopost and snuggles its many cozy huggable words*

What, if anything, do the descendants of the aberrantly dragonmarked tend to get? More aberrant dragonmarks? Dragonmarks as appropriate to either ancestral house? Nothing?

I assume the dragonmarks don't care if one of your dragonmarked ancestors married into nobility and forfeited official membership in their house. What happens to people who acquire said marks under this and similar conditions? Are the spies and genealogical records of the Thirteen Houses that good?


So we are in firmly non-canonical territory at this point, but this is the model in my head for the way aberrant dragonmarks work in this campaign:

To the extent that genetics is useful in a magical setting, you can model "the ability to manifest one of the 12 dragonmarks" as a dominant allele. Other genetic/epigenetic/hormonal/environmental/magical factors control whether a dragonmark actually manifests, but you need one copy of this allele to even have a chance. This explains why dragonmarks continue to manifest in the Houses after centuries of outbreeding. I will leave as an exercise to the reader whether having two identical copies of the allele makes a dragonmark more likely, and/or whether some or all of the Dragonmarked houses have launched secret centuries-long eugenics programs to try to maximize this chance.

Now, when someone has two different dominant alleles, i.e. they're descended from two different dragonmarked houses, a number of things can happen. They might manifest one of these two dragonmarks as normal. They might not manifest a mark at all. Or, and this is the notable one, they can manifest an aberrant mark. (Note that there are more than 12^2-12 types of aberrant marks: which pair of alleles you get doesn't (fully) determine the type of aberrant mark you get.)

Given this, I can answer Kappa's question: the descendants of one parent with an aberrant mark can manifest normal dragonmarks, and the descendants of two people with aberrant marks can also manifest aberrant marks (c.f. the War of the Mark). In fact, the former group have a higher-than-average chance of doing so.

There is a class of people known as "foundlings", who manifest a dragonmark without having a recognized ancestor from a House. Most of these people are illegitimate children (or grandchildren or whatever) of a House member. But, as we just saw, some of them are the children of people with aberrant marks. This goes a long way towards explaining why the Houses don't automatically execute everyone with an aberrant mark.

Now let me say a little bit more about the Korth Edicts. I think it makes sense that they granted the Houses jurisdiction over their own members, like clergy in the IRL middle ages. And here "members" includes "anyone who manifests a dragonmark." So for the purposes of this campaign, the Korth Edicts give the Houses jurisdiction over all of these people. They get to determine what to do with people with aberrant marks (maybe modulo annoying things like mass murder). They get to claim foundlings as part of their house and assume guardianship over minors. They get to prevent people with dragonmarks from leaving their House except under circumstances they control.

So, to answer your second set of questions, I'd imagine that children of the nobility who acquire dragonmarks forfeit their titles and their family name and become part of a dragonmarked house. And there are probably a fair number of Shakespearean-style tragedies about people trying and inevitably failing to hide their marks.

As for non-nobility who manifest marks? Well, presumably most of them willingly choose to join the Houses and get a big increase in status and quality of life. But I'd imagine some of them don't, and some portion of them sell their services on the black market, until they get caught and *forcibly* inducted into their house.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Kappa » Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:03 pm

Nifty. Dragonmarks are cool.
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:11 am

Infopost III: Revenge of the Infopost

still-relevant boilerplate from last time wrote:Today's topic: the Dragonmarks and Dragonmarked Houses! I'm assuming at least one of you will want to play a dragonmarked character, and there's a fair chance that the employer specified in the most recent pitch will be either The Twelve or a specific house (we'll get to that later), so this seems relevant.

Recall that my last infopost contained the sort of information a typical, reasonably well-interested inhabitant of Khorvaire would know. This post will specialize a little bit more: it will contain the sort of things a typical member of a dragonmarked house different from the one being described would know. So it doesn't contain Deep House Secrets, but it does give a reasonably accurate description of what the house actually does (you'll soon see that that's often very different from what the house claims it does). Note also that as per our campaign pitch we're starting slightly before the Day of Mourning, which is 4 years before the date the sourcebooks describe, so some of the information about the houses will be different than what you'll find elsewhere. This is still mostly written of the top of my head, and/or consulting what I've written for other campaigns, because if I don't remember it it's probably too obscure for you to care about it right now. I have looked up the actual names of the dragonmarks, most of which I can never remember.


The Thirteen Houses and their Twelve Dragonmarks

For the sake of my own sanity I'm sticking with a common structure for this:

House Name: Pithy Title
On the Surface: Who they are, what they do. This includes both the guilds they operate and the other major stuff they do in public.
Deeper: Some of the crazy rumors about them.

House Sivis: Perfectly Innocent, and Anyone Who Says Otherwise Disappears in the Middle of the Night

On the Surface: The gnomes of House Sivis bear the Mark of Scribing. They run the Speakers Guild, which maintains the network of Speaking Stones (essentially a magical telegraph network), and also has a near-monopoly on translation, interpretation, and arbitration, as well as the self-explanatory Notaries Guild. They're based in Korranberg in Zilargo but, mostly because of the Speaking Stones, are spread throughout the entire continent. If you sign a contract, sue someone in court, or send a message across the continent, you're almost definitely using the services of House Sivis.

Deeper: So the reason I told you about the Korth Edicts was mostly so I could tell you about how the various Houses are totally subverting them. Recall that one of the big parts of the Edicts was that the Dragonmarked houses weren't supposed to hold political power and were supposed to be neutral. This has always been the sketchiest with the gnomes. Part of that is that they have the most opportunity to meddle. On the one hand, Zilargo existed before Galifar did, and it always had a large degree of political autonomy. In principle, Zilargo is ruled by the Triumvirate, which consists of representatives elected from the Three Councils of Nine running Korranberg, Trolanport, and Zolanberg. But in practice almost no one knows who the Triumvirate is at any given time, and almost no one knows who belongs to the Trust which implements the Triumvirate's directives, so no one can prove that House Sivis and the Trust are totally separate from each other. On the other hand, House Sivis operates the network of Speaking Stones, which are the only way short of paying exorbitant fees to a wizard of sending messages across Khorvaire at a reasonable rate. And even if they didn't have that going for them, the Mark of Scribing gives them a comparative advantage at pretty much everything text-related. Do you really trust that the intelligence agency of any actual nation can hide anything from Sivis?

House Cannith: They Made Iron Men

On the Surface: The humans of House Cannith bear the Mark of Making. They run the Tinkers Guild and Fabricators Guild, which both specialize in artifice and item creation (but the former is the more mundane stuff and the latter is the fancier and pricier things). Their headquarters and the essential beating heart of the Cannith organization is Eston in Cyre, a nice central location that surely won't get catastrophically destroyed along with any notion of House unity. If you're an artificer or a magewright you're either in a Cannith guild or wish you were--they have the best training, the most resources, and, most importantly, access to a proprietary set of artifacts (the creation schemata) which allow items both magical and mundane to be duplicated with ease. Before the war they helped create the Lightning Rail and other great works of magic. During the War they've created all sorts of weapons of war, most notably the Warforged themselves.

Deeper: The dirty secret of Cannith is that they've done much better during the War. Day-to-day artifice is nice and profitable, sure, but creation of custom-built weapons of war is even more lucrative, it's much more fun for the artificers involved, who actually get to apply themselves, and a single successful product creates demand from all sides. You get to sell a weapon to one side and then its counter to every other! Sure, Deneith was supposed to be the one with the monopoly over mercenaries, but who needs them when you can just make your own soldiers?

House Vadalis: Animal Husbandry for Fun and Profit and World Domination

On the Surface: The humans of House Vadalis, based in the Eldeen Reaches, bear the Mark of Handling, and, unsurprisingly, run the Handlers Guild. This is basically the Teamsters Union of Eberron, in the original sense: they maintain stables and provide drivers and handlers for the Orien-run Caravans which are still the engine of overland trade everywhere outside the range of the Lightning Rail. They also breed the finest, "magebred," horses and livestock on the continent.

Deeper: You know what else I heard they're breeding? People are animals, too. When's the last time you heard of an Aberrant Mark out of Vadalis? Did they figure out how to get rid of them? Or are they experimenting on them somewhere? And isn't it weird that after all these centuries they still see themselves first as a single big family rather than a guild? Oh, and their patriarch's brother married the queen of Aundair. Does it seem like Aurala doesn't care as much as her predecessors did about reclaiming the Eldeen Reachs, now? Neutrality, right?

House Orien: The Lightning Rail is So Last Century

On the Surface: The humans of House Orien bear the Mark of Passage, and are headquartered in the city of the same name in Aundair, on the shore of Lake Galifar. As the name suggests they specialize in travel and transportation: they run the Couriers Guild and Transportation Guild, the latter of which runs both standard trade caravans (with Vadalis assistance) and the Lightning Rail (constructed by Cannith and Zilargan elemental binders but maintained by Orien). And at the very high end of the price scale, for a few thousand golden Galifars they'll even teleport those who can afford it between house enclaves.

Deeper: They haven't been having a good century. Less call for an international postal system, or a international rail network, now that there's a war on. Plus why use a courier when you could use the Speaking Stone network? Sure the gnomes are probably recording your message, but Orien was opening your mail anyway so it's not much different. And the rail network isn't as convenient as it used to be since the bridge between Thaliost and Rekkenmark got blown up, though of course you can still change routes in Metrol. Plus Lyrandar's airships are just so much more stylish than taking the train.

Still to Come:

House Tharashk: The Dragonshards Must Flow
House Jorasco: Everyone Needs a Medic
House Kundarak: They Run the Banks
House Phiarlan: Just a Jolly, Innocent Group of Circus Performers
House Thuranni: Just Another Jolly, Innocent Group of Circus Performers with a Blood Feud against the Other Ones
House Medani: The ones with Detective Vision
House Deneith: Fun with Mercenaries
House Ghallanda: Everyone Trusts the Innkeeper
House Lyrandar: Definitely not running a Weather Protection Racket
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby Kappa » Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:31 am

*scoops up this infodump and gives it a great big hug*

what a cozy squishable pile of words

i am pleased
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Re: Interest Check -- Play-by-Post RPG?

Postby jalapeno_dude » Wed Oct 07, 2015 1:53 am

Infopost IV: Spawn of Infopost

Before I get to new stuff, two notes on edits I made to older posts:

1. I realized that all of the art and maps from the Eberron sourcebooks are available online. In particular, that includes the art in the Eberron Campaign Guide, which includes depictions of (twelve of) the dragonmarks. I have edited this into the above infopost where relevant.
2. I fixed a mistake in the first dragonmark infopost--I said that only ten of twelve current dragonmarks had appeared at the time of the Korth Edicts, but it was actually eleven (House Kundarak had dragonmarks but the Twelve didn't recognize that until a century after Galifar).

The Thirteen Houses and their Twelve Dragonmarks, Continued

House Tharashk: The Dragonshards Must Flow

On the Surface: The half-orcs and humans of House Tharashk have an impossible-to-spell name and bear the Mark of Finding. (As a side note, the Mark of Finding is the only known dragonmark that appears to two "different" "races"; working out what this implies about the relative biology of, say, half-orcs versus half-elves is left as an exercise to the reader.) They run the Finders Guild. As the name of their guild and their mark implies, House Tharashk basically does one thing: they find things. Specifically, they find Eberron dragonshards, especially those near their ancestral home in the Shadow Marches.

Deeper: House Tharashk does one thing in principle. House Tharashk is the newest of the Dragonmarked Houses: it appeared around the time of Galifar but the House was only recognized five hundred years ago. Of course that still means they've been around for a long time, but the Twelve can be very tradition-bound, especially in dealing with each other, and Tharashk doesn't get a lot of respect. It doesn't help that, even though orcs were on Khorvaire millennia before humans, many of them still aren't viewed as "civilized" in the Five Nations--most of them are viewed as tree-hugging druids. House Sivis "discovered" the Mark of Finding while "exploring" the "unclaimed territory" of the Shadow Marches, and the gnomes were the ones who insisted that the families who bore the mark joined together into a House. Today Tharashk is run more as a family than a guild.

Maybe because of all that, House Tharashk is, in practice, not very good at sticking to one thing. Finding isn't really all that different from Detection, so Tharashk has been challenging House Medani's claim to have the best "inquisitives"--basically, investigating detectives. And after the formation of Droaam, Tharashk exploited their geographical closeness and marginal status in civilization to become the only group the Daughters of Sora Kell allowed into Droaam. That gives them a de facto monopoly on the resources of a vast part of Khorvaire, and trade with the harpies and knolls and the hags themselves. Even more audaciously, Tharashk has arranged to hire many of the members of these "monstrous races" out as bodyguards or mercenaries in the War. Technically, Tharashk is just the intermediary managing the contracts, so they're neither violating the Korth Edicts by recruiting an army nor challenging Deneith's monopoly on mercenaries. Technically.

House Jorasco: Everyone Needs a Medic

On the Surface: The halflings of House Jorasco bear the Mark of Healing. Like all halflings, the families that make up Jorasco trace their ancestry back to the dinosaur-riding nomadic halflings of the Talenta Plains. Those halflings are still doing fine, thank you very much, but the vast majority of the halflings moved out the plains and took to the urban life, and Jorasco is no exception. Unlike Ghallanda, they're not even nominally based in Talenta, but instead operate out of Vedykar in Karrnath. Like Sivis, though, they're spread all over the place--even a small town will have a Jorasco hospital. The one concession they have to their roots is their unusual leadership structure: all members of the House technically have the right to advise the leadership, and more importantly the members choose a matriarch or patriarch by acclamation and can replace them whenever they see fit.

Deeper: Modern magical theory is based on the discoveries of the giants, and ultimately the dragons before them. And one of the (very very) few things nearly all writings on magical theory agree on is that magical healing is fundamentally divine, not arcane in nature. (Sure, bards are able to use their innate magic to heal, but that merely provides evidence for <insert your pet theory about magic here>.) But the Mark of Healing has no time for your petty theories: as the name suggests, it's all about healing, and it heals in precisely the same way clerics do. Think about how society on Khorvaire might have developed if clerics in temples or druids in cults were the only source of magical healing. Suddenly religion would go from an occasional source of philosophical debate and a matter of individual aesthetics to a deadly serious matter of life and death. Instead of a well-established schedule of rates and fees from Jorasco healers, divine clerics could withhold their aid to those who didn't share their beliefs! They're might have been wars over religion! We'd all be like those fanatics in Thrane!

(OOC for those who aren't familiar with D&D tropes: In D&D in general, healers are almost always clerics and druids, and magical healing in society at large comes exclusively from temples. This is not the case in Eberron. Note that the Mark of Healing can't resurrect the dead (the Mark of Death is rumored to have been able to do so, but no one knows for sure), so that's still a divine monopoly, though.)

House Kundarak: They Run the Banks

On the Surface: The dwarves of House Kundarak have the most metal coat of arms (though Cannith comes close), bear the Mark of Warding, and run the Banking Guild and the Warding Guild. Before it was a House, Kundarak was the thirteenth of the clans of the Mror Holds (now twelve, since Clan Noldrun vanished mysteriously four hundred years ago, though the Jhorash'tar orcs have long lobbied to be treated as a clan in their own right). Now Kundarak has shifted its efforts from protecting the dwarven clans (what they needed protection from has been learned by very few outside the clans themselves) to protecting people's possessions. In particular, the Bankers Guild coins money (copper Crowns, silver Sovereigns, golden Galifars, platinum Dragons), loans that money, and stores it in conveniently-accessible extradimensional vaults, for a nominal fee.

Deeper: Of course the power of the bankers is obvious. By calling in a loan, or offering a new one, the dwarves can make the nations of Khorvaire dance to whatever tune they desire. And it's well-known that the Dwarves and Gnomes are thick as thieves; the dwarves maintain the vaults, the gnomes keep the ledgers. But don't neglect what else the House of Warding wards: not just coins, but people. And a ward turned inside out is nothing but a jail, those contained within nothing but prisoners. The nations of Khorvaire speak of Dreadhold, a gods-forsaken island off the coast of Cape Far on the northeastern tip of the continent, only seldom, and then in hushed tones. The careful scholar of history might learn much from inspecting the list of prisoners, especially the long-term ones who serve their indefinite terms of imprisonment petrified into stone statues...

____________________________

That's all I have time for tonight. Still to come: rival houses of deadly elven assassins! Racist weather-controlling half-elves with zeppelins! And much more!
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