With this month's release of the Expanded Psionics Handbook, many of you will be contemplating the creation of a new campaign that incorporates the new psionics rules. Others will be sorting through how best to add psionics to your existing game. And some will elect to not use psionics in their game at all.
When the Eberron Campaign Setting comes out in June, you might find yourself facing the same kind of decisions -- whether you want to use psionics in your game and, if so, to what extent. One of the interesting bits about the world of Eberron is that the campaign setting was designed with those decisions in mind. That is, the Eberron Campaign Setting was created with the use of psionics in mind, along with various options that would allow you to adjust the amount of psionics in your campaign to suit your particular needs.
At the very baseline level of including psionics in your game, you have an entirely new character race to choose from -- one that manifests psionic power as a racial ability: the kalashtar.
The kalashtar are a compound race: incorporeal entities from the alien plane of Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams, merged with human bodies and spirits to form a distinct species. They were once a minority among the quori, the native race of Dal Quor, hunted and persecuted for their religious beliefs. Fifteen thousand years after the quori invaded Eberron and the connection between their plane and the Material Plane was severed, the kalashtar were the first of the quori to discover a means to reach the Material Plane once more. Fleeing persecution, they transformed their physical forms into psychic projections that allowed them to enter the Material Plane and merge in a willing partnership with humans. It took centuries for the other quori to discover a similar means to psychically project their spirits out of Dal Quor to possess human bodies, forming the Inspired, while leaving their own bodies behind -- much as mortals project their minds to Dal Quor when they dream. For five thousand years now, the Inspired in their vast kingdom of Riedra have continued to persecute and oppress the kalashtar.
Personality: As a true merge of human hosts and quori spirits, the kalashtar possess keen intellects, but are not ruled by logic. They seek the perfection of their minds and spirits, often to the exclusion of any physical pursuits. They are generally warm and compassionate, but their manners and ways of thinking are alien to the native races of Eberron. They are more interested in psionics than in the magic that pervades Khorvaire, and often lace their discourse with esoteric terms such as matter, kinetics, and ectoplasm.
The kalashtar are outcasts from their home plane and can never return there -- not even in dream. The combination of life in exile and a dreamless existence makes the kalashtar slightly inclined toward madness, and some have speculated that the kalashtar devote themselves to psychic and physical discipline in order to keep themselves safely sane.
Physical Description: The kalashtar appear very similar to humans, but have a grace and elegance that makes them appear almost too beautiful. They are slightly taller than the average human, and their faces have a slight angularity that sets them apart from the human norm, but their deviation from average only makes them seem more attractive.
Relations: The kalashtar are born diplomats and relate fairly well to members of all races -- except, of course, the Inspired. They relate best to humans, with whom they share the greatest physical similarity, but some kalashtar find themselves strongly drawn to other races instead. They oppose the Inspired in all ways, both within Riedra and beyond its borders, and likewise oppose any group or force that corrupts or degrades mortal souls.
Alignment: The kalashtar are generally lawful good. They combine a sense of self-discipline that borders on the ascetic with a genuine concern for the welfare of all living things, or at least their souls.
Kalashtar Lands: The kalashtar homeland is a region of Sarlona called Adar, a land of forbidding mountains and hidden fortresses in the southeastern portion of the continent. Even in Adar their numbers are small, and the number of kalashtar found in Khorvaire is much smaller still. However, they can be found in the largest human cities. The largest kalashtar population in Khorvaire is in the city of Sharn, because of its proximity to Xen'drik, where many of the Inspired have extended their reach.
Dragonmarks: The kalashtar never possess dragonmarks.
Religion: The kalashtar do not follow gods, but have their own religion called the Path of Light. The center of this belief system is a universal force of positive energy the kalashtar call il-Yannah, or "the Great Light." Through meditation and communion with this force, the kalashtar seek to strengthen their bodies and minds for the struggle against the forces of darkness that threaten all life on Eberron. Though il-Yannah is not a deity, a few clerics draw power from the Path of Light. A greater number of devout followers of the Path are psions and psychic warriors.
Language: The kalashtar speak Quor, the language of the quori, and the common tongue of their homeland (either Common in Khorvaire or Riedran in Adar). Quor is a hissing, guttural tongue more suited to the alien forms of the quori than their humanoid hosts. It has its own written form, a flowing, elegant script with many circular letters.
Names: Kalashtar names have much in common with the name of their people: they are three to five syllables long, with a combination of hard and hissing consonants. Male names end with one of the masculine name suffixes -harath, -khad, -melk, or -tash. Female names use the feminine suffixes -kashtai, -shana, -tari, or -vakri.
Male Names: Halkhad, Kanatash, Lanamelk, Minharath, Nevitash, Parmelk, Thakakhad, Thinharath.
Female Names: Ganitari, Khashana, Lakashtari, Mevakri, Novakri, Panitari, Thakashtai, Thatari.
Adventurers: Every kalashtar enters adulthood with a fundamental choice: try to live a normal life as a persecuted exile in Adar, or take up a more active role in combating the Inspired in the world. Unsurprisingly, many kalashtar choose the latter option and live a life at least bordering on adventure. Most kalashtar adventurers are motivated primarily by their hatred of the Inspired, but a few -- primarily those advanced along the Path of Light -- are driven by their compassion for all living beings and their desire to fight darkness in whatever form it takes.
Kalashtar Racial Traits
Medium: As Medium creatures, kalashtar have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Kalashtar base land speed is 30 feet.
+2 racial bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting spells and effects, and possession: The kalashtar's dual spirits help them resist spells that target their minds.
+2 racial bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks: The kalashtar are masters of social interaction, influencing others through their commanding presence and subtle psychic powers.
+2 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to impersonate a human: Kalashtar have a close physical resemblance to humans.
Immunity to the dream and nightmare spells, as well as any other effect that relies on the character dreaming: The kalashtar do not dream.
Naturally Psionic: Kalashtar gain 1 extra power point per character level, regardless of whether they choose a psionic class.
Psi-like Abilities: Mindlink (1/day). This ability is like the power manifested by a wilder of 1/2 the kalashtar's Hit Dice (minimum 1st level).
If you are not using the Expanded Psionics Handbook in your game, use this description of the mindlink power:
You forge a telepathic bond with another creature within 30 feet, which must have an Intelligence score of 3 or higher. The bond can be established only with a willing subject, who therefore receives no saving throw and gains no benefit from spell resistance. You can communicate telepathically through the bond even if you do not share a common language. No special power or influence is established as a result of the bond. Once the bond is formed, it works over any distance (although not from one plane to another), but only lasts for 1 round per character level. This is a mind-affecting spell-like ability.
Automatic Languages: Common and Quor. Bonus Languages: Draconic and Riedran.
Favored Class: Psion. A multiclass kalashtar's psion class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing.
So, just starting out with a kalashtar character gives your campaign a little taste of psionics, but not too much. The mindlink power is very cool, but if you think about it, it's not necessarily any more useful than, say, darkvision or an extra feat and skill point per level.
Adding more psionics to your game is as easy as allowing characters access to the psionic classes, feats, and prestige classes you'll find in the Expanded Psionics Handbook. (Players can look forward to running into some psionic NPCs and monsters too.)
Of course, if you don't want psionics in your Eberron campaign, it's as simple as just making the decision. The campaign setting was designed to allow you to do just that -- the continent of Sarlona can simply be a place that people (and monsters) don't come from and your characters don't visit.
Even if you start out with a campaign that doesn't use psionics, there's always the option of adding them in later. The good bit about the Eberron Campaign Setting is that it's easy to turn that dimmer switch from "off" to "dim" to "bright" with very little effort. A few immigrant kalashtar PCs and/or NPCs might be the first to bring psionics to the continent of Khorvaire. Your adventuring party might just encounter some alien creatures with powers that defy explanation. A wayward voyage on an elemental galleon could land your adventuring party on the shores of Sarlona. You could even decide to incorporate the idea of a psionic secret society that's been around for ages, infiltrating every corner of the world, and always working from the shadows -- a group that may have never been detected until the PCs discover their existence or become targeted by them. One such group is the very evil organization known as the Dreaming Dark.
The Dreaming Dark
The Dreaming Dark is an order of psychic spies and assassins -- the hidden eyes and hands of Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams. While it generally seems to be allied with the Inspired lords of Riedra, the goals of the Dreaming Dark are subtle and mysterious -- but always deadly.
For a thousand years Riedra has been an insular land of mystery. The Inspired wear secrecy like a shroud, and foreigners are not allowed into the lands of the empire. For much of the history of Riedra, there was no contact between the Inspired and the other inhabitants of Eberron, but in recent decades this wall has been lowered; outsiders are not allowed on Riedran soil, but Inspired ambassadors can be found in most of the courts of Khorvaire.
But while the Inspired have only recently established open political contact with Khorvaire, they have long maintained a network of spies stretching across Eberron. This force is known as the Dreaming Dark, and for centuries it has simply watched the world from the shadows while the Inspired built their power within Riedra. But now the Quori are ready to act, and the Dreaming Dark are their hands.
Headquarters: Dar Jin, Riedra
Leader: The Devourer of Dreams
Religion: The Dreaming Dark
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Symbol: An eye partially concealed under a wing. When this is used as a badge of office, the style of the eye indicates the rank and position of the bearer.
Should he ever be confronted with the actions of the Dreaming Dark, a Riedran ambassador would deny that his nation had anything to do with the organization. This is actually true. The lords of Riedra are charged to maintain and administer the Quori territory on Eberron. The Dreaming Dark is an entirely separate organization whose rulers dwell in Dal Quor itself. The Dreaming Dark provides information to the Riedran court, but the rulers of Riedra have no actual authority over the agents of the Dark; in fact, a thoughtstealer usually holds a higher place in the hierarchy of Dal Quor than a Riedran governor or general.
The vast majority of agents of the Dreaming Dark are Inspired -- vessels for the Quori spirits of the Region of Dreams. Some of these agents use Disguise or skins of the shadowed self to blend in with the local population; others pose as kalashtar. But the Dreaming Dark has another weapon in its arsenal -- the insidious psionic discipline known as mind seed. Using this technique, a powerful psion can actually replace the personality of another humanoid creature with its own thoughts and beliefs, even imparting a share of its his psionic powers. Over the centuries, the Dreaming Dark has used this power to gain agents across Eberron, even in security-conscious nations like Zilargo, Aerenal, and Argonnessen. These agents are referred to as "shadows', being both weaker reflections of the original and aspects of the Dark. The Dreaming Dark makes limited use of shadows; these agents do not actually possess true quori spirits, and there have been a few cases where a shadow turned against the Dark. Shadows typically observe and gather information, but over the centuries they have also built fifth columns within their nations. As a result, the Dreaming Dark has influence over criminal organizations, trade guilds, and academic institutions; it even has agents in dragonmarked houses and courts across the world. Some of these groups have no idea that they are serving the Quori; they are simply following a leader without realizing that his soul has been compromised. But there are people who have been raised in shadow families. They do not inherit any sort of psionic abilities, but they are taught to revere the Quori; they believe that if they serve faithfully they will one day be granted the status and power of a shadow. These agents know virtually nothing about the Dreaming Dark; they simply follow the commands of their elders or their shadow contact.
There are a number of basic levels within the Dreaming Dark. The shadows are at the bottom of the hierarchy; they generally serve as passive spies or coordinate the actions of the fifth columns. Above the shadows are the field agents of the Dark. These typically fall into one of three categories:
Thoughtstealers are the eyes of the Dark. Psions specializing in telepathy and clairsentience, they can read secrets in the minds and auras of others. Thoughtstealer hosts are usually trained as rogues or monks. A few thoughtstealers become Quori nightmares, using the powers of the nightmare to read the dreams of their opponents.
Dominators are trained to manipulate minds and events, use psionic power and natural guile. Their psionic powers are focused on controlling thoughts, and while their hosts are usually trained as rogues the emphasis is on Charisma based skills.
Dreamblades are the assassins of the Dreaming Dark. The Quori prefer to use manipulation as opposed to force, but when bloodshed is the only answer the dreamblades are ruthless and deadly. Dreamblades are typically psychic warriors as opposed to psions; the most skilled are Quori nightmares or soulknives. Hosts are trained as fighters, monks, or rogues. The Dark possesses an elite corps of dreamblades who are trained to fight psionic foes; this unit includes psions with disciplines like negate psionics and null psionics field. These specialists are deployed against rogue shadows and the kalashtar.
The actions of the field agents are coordinated by the Circle of Night. The Circle is comprised of the most powerful psions among the Inspired, and only the members of the circle have the power to implant a mind seed. The leader of the Circle is formally known as the Devourer of Dreams, but this title is usually shortened to "the Dreamer'. While the Dreamer is the de facto leader of the organization, he serves a still greater power -- the Dreaming Dark itself. Located in the heart of Dal Quor, this is a force composed of the spirits of thousands of Quori and mortal dreamers that have been absorbed over the millennia. The Dreaming Dark has long been the driving force behind the quori, but its motives and goals are impossible for the mortal mind to comprehend. The Devourer of Dreams is the only being who can commune with the Dark without being absorbed and destroyed, and he can channel a fraction of its immense power.
Physically, the agents of the Dreaming Dark are scattered across Eberron. However, when one of the Inspired sleeps, her spirit returns to her fiendish body in Dal Quor. The Dreaming Dark maintains a vast city-fortress in Dal Quor, and the Circle of Night controls the actions of the dark from the heart of this citadel. While all members of the Dreaming Dark have host bodies on Eberron, many members of the Circle of Night make little use of these bodies; as a result they are always to be found in Dal Quor, where they can take the reports of agents of the Dark and provide new orders. For every minute of time that passes on Eberron, ten minutes passes in Dal Quor; as a result, when an Inspired agent spends 4 hours asleep, she has 40 hours in Dal Quor to report to the Circle of Night, coordinate with allies, and prepare for future missions. Shadow agents have less power and control in the Region of Dreams, but the Circle of Night can draw the spirit of a dreaming shadow to the citadel to receive new orders. The net result is that the Dreaming Dark invariably acts with careful planning and perfect coordination; over the course of a night, an agent in Khorvaire could spread a piece of valuable information across the length of the world.
For more insight into the world of Eberron, check out Dragon magazine for the next installation of a six-part monthly series: "Countdown to the EberronCampaign Setting."
Issue #319 (that's the May issue, which goes on sale this month) gives you a look at some of the magic that fills the world of Eberron, including an assortment of new spells and clerical domains, and a preview of one of the more interesting and dangerous creatures spawned by the Last War: the living spell.
Issue 318 (April) takes a long, hard look at the fourth unique character race created especially for the EberronCampaign Setting: a sentient race of constructs known as the warforged.
Issue 317 (March) introduces you to three of the unique character races created especially for the EberronCampaign Setting: Changelings, the Kalashtar, and Shifters (with a close look at shifters), along with a glimpse at how all the standard character races fit into the new world.
Issue 316 (February) gives you an idea of how all of the standard character classes fit in the setting, introduces you to an all-new character class -- the artificer -- and introduces you to another of the setting's prestige classes: the master inquisitive.
Issue 315 (January) offers more insight into the tone and attitude of the new D&D world, along with a little of Eberron's most recent history.
This June, you'll be able to pick up and start exploring every aspect of the EberronCampaign Setting. Every month until then, we'll offer up more material to help you get an even better idea of what you'll encounter when you do. Next month, you'll get a glance at a few of the new monsters you'll soon discover lurking all across Khorvaire and regions beyond (possibly even invading your other home campaigns as well--beware).
About the Author
Mat Smith is a copywriter who's been playing roleplaying games for a disturbing number of years, and now gets to spend an astonishing amount of time thinking about clever ways to get more people to do the same.