The Dragonmarked Houses

The Houses

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Those born and raised in the great dragonmarked houses of Eberron feel a sense of belonging. Their place in the world is secure, as is the influence wielded by their house and family. For more than a thousand years, the dragonmarked houses have stood at the forefront of commerce, magical innovation, and culture across Khorvaire. Inspired by the power of the dragonmark that manifests in its bloodline, each house wields great influence in Khorvairian life. Now, with the Last War a memory and the future beckoning, the dragonmarked houses stand ready for even greater accomplishments.

Dragonmarks

Marked by Blood

Dragonmarks are tied to bloodlines. The dragonmarked houses are the descendants of the families that first manifested the marks, and a character with a dragonmark can always find a connection to a dragonmarked house somewhere in the roots of his family tree. Though the appearance of marks cannot be consistently predicted, approximately half the children born to dragonmarked parents eventually develop dragonmarks of their own. Common belief holds that parents with powerful marks are more likely to produce gifted children; likewise, children often develop the same powers as their parents.
Within House Sivis, members of the Torralyn family typically manifest whispering wind, while Syrralans are more likely to possess the power of arcane mark. Houses often arrange marriages with marks in mind. Despite these beliefs, dragonmarks are clearly about more than selective breeding. A child born to parents possessing least marks might later manifest the greater mark, or no mark at all. It is also known that the hybrid races cannot inherit the marks of their parents, so that a human cannot pass the Mark of Making to a half-elf child. A member of a dragonmarked house reincarnated as another race keeps his dragonmark, but children born to such transformed creatures never possess the dragonmark of the parent’s original race. Only the Mark of Finding is known to cross racial barriers, manifesting on both humans and half-orcs.

The Test of Siberys

Children are not born with dragonmarks. Rather, a dragonmark most often appears in response to a stressful situation in which the powers of the mark could prove useful. A Jorasco heir feels her dragonmark flare to life as her best friend lies dying. A Medani scion instinctively realizes the meal he is about to eat is poisoned, and in an instant of burning pain, his mark appears. The Test of Siberys—a rite of passage undertaken by the adolescent children of the dragonmarked houses—is rumored to induce the kind of extreme stress needed for dragonmarks to manifest. The test varies from house to house, and is based both on the powers of the mark and the traditions of the family. Outsiders, even those of dragonmarked houses, know little of what goes on in a particular house’s test. Though a person can fail the test and still manifest a mark at a later age (as shown by the fact that a player character can manifest a mark at -any time), this is rare. As a rule, it is assumed that those who fail will never develop a dragonmark. The Test of Siberys shapes the future of a character. A successful child emerges as a dragonmarked lord with a vital role to play in his family’s future; one who fails still maintains the privileges of her bloodline, but must fight to prove her worth in the mundane offices of her house.

Dragonmarked Houses: Masters of Trade

The wealth of Khorvaire is built on magic, and the dragonmarked houses are the mortar that holds this magical economy together. Communications, transport, banking, animal husbandry, security—the cornerstones of Eberron’s pseudo-medieval culture are all effectively owned by the dragonmarked houses.
The wealth and influence of the modern houses extends far beyond the power of dragonmarks, however. Though the unique magical abilities of the Mark of Making might have given Cannith smiths an edge over their mundane competitors in centuries past, the spell-like abilities of the dragonmarked are hardly novel in a modern society where adepts, artificers, and other spellcasters are far from rare.
Rather, it is the carefully crafted histories and reputations of the dragonmarked houses that are responsible for their commercial dominance in present-day Khorvaire. The skillful manipulation of magic and artifice has allowed the houses to use the dragonmarked as the keys by which even greater magic is controlled. House Sivis’s speaking stones, the lightning rail of House Orien, Lyrandar airships, and the Cannith creation forges have all kept the dragonmarked houses at the center of Khorvaire’s economic, military, and social development. As a result, the dragonmarked enjoy a status in Khorvaire that “mundane” wizards and artificers cannot match.

History of the Houses

It is often assumed that each house has a single founder: that some ancient Master Cannith was the first person to develop the Mark of Making, with House Cannith born of his children. The truth is not so simple. Each dragonmark first appeared within multiple families, although the marks were bound to specific races and regions. The Mark of Sentinel appeared among the people of Khorvaire’s northern coast, while the Mark of Making was found in the region that would eventually become Cyre. It took generations for these first dragonmarked to realize the significance and power of their marks. During this time, aberrant dragonmarks were as common as those that would come to be seen as true marks, in part because there was no taboo against mingling the bloodlines of dragonmarked families.

Each dragonmarked family has stories about the exploits of its ancestors, although these are often contradictory. The Lyrriman gnomes of House Sivis claim that their forebears were the first to identify and unify the dragonmarked families, while members of the Vown family of House Cannith make similar claims. Seven dragonmarks were known by the time Karrn the Conqueror sought to bring all Khorvaire under his rule, though the families that bore them were not yet unified. The Sivis League, the Tinkers Guild of Cannith, and the Phiarlans of Aerenal had all laid the groundwork for their future houses, but the Sentinel families of the north were still divided. Some fought alongside Karrn, while others were among his strongest foes.

The War of the Mark

Though Karrn failed in his conquest, his wars helped raise awareness of the dragonmarked as his soldiers traveled to distant lands. Over the next few centuries, the families began to communicate with one another, with the leaders of Sivis and Cannith taking the greatest initiative. However, it would take a second war to truly bring the families together and forge the foundation of the modern system of houses. In the present day, few truths survive from the War of the Mark. History is written by the victors, and the dragonmarked houses have had fifteen hundred years to codify the persecution of the aberrants. What remain are superstitions and folktales: myths of aberrant monsters whose power could shatter cities. Many aberrants were said to be driven mad by the power of their marks—children of Khyber, touched by darkness. Those who bore the true marks were champions blessed by Siberys, or so the dragonmarked claimed. All that is truly known is that the aberrant dragonmarks of old were not bound by bloodline, and that they were as unpredictable as they were powerful.
Some say the fledgling dragonmarked houses saw a purge of the aberrants as the means to ensure their mystical monopoly. Others believe that the threat of the aberrants was inflated to force the dragonmarked families together.

Alliances were forged in the heat of battle, and in the aftermath of the conflict, the leaders of the young houses formed the council of the Twelve. This arcane cabal established the unifying traditions of the dragonmarked, and set the standards by which the houses are governed to this day.

The Twelve

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At the conclusion of the War of the Mark, Lord Hadran d’Cannith suggested that the houses formally cement their alliance by creating a citadel—a center for research and study of both arcane magic and the potential of the dragonmarked. Though there were only ten dragonmarked houses at the time, the architect and artificer Alder d’Cannith convinced the committee to name the institute the Twelve, based on his belief that there were twelve true dragonmarks. Alder was a brilliant man whose works had played a critical role in the War of the Mark, and the members of the committee humored him—though few expected the remaining two marks to appear. (The remaining two marks, Warding and Finding, were not “discovered” until after the creation of the Kingdom of Galifar.)

In the beginning, the Twelve played a critical role in shaping the dragonmarked houses, but as the houses have grown in power and spread across the land, its influence has diminished. Nonetheless, the institute remains one of the premier centers for magical research in Khorvaire. By combining the skills and mystical talents of the different marks, the wizards and artificers of the Twelve have created remarkable items. It took the combined skills of House Orien, House Cannith, and House Kundarak to create the safe-deposit vaults that allow Kundarak customers to deposit goods at one bank and withdraw them across the continent. Airships, the lightning rail, even the warforged—these marvels could not have been accomplished without the spirit of cooperation and discovery found among the Twelve. Should you rise high in the favor of a dragonmarked house, you might be able to call on the resources of the Twelve. This institute possesses impressive mystical workshops, vast arcane libraries, and the talents of some of the most gifted artificers and wizards in Khorvaire—all of which could prove quite useful to an adventurer.

The Korth Edicts

In time, a new leader set out to unify Khorvaire, and it quickly became apparent to the patriarchs of the dragonmarked houses that Galifar I might well succeed where Karrn had failed. When house leaders met Galifar in the city of Korth at the height of his drive to unite the Five Nations, the would-be king swore to protect the houses, agreeing to a number of provisions that would ensure their continued economic strength. In return, the houses agreed to restrictions on their political power.

For a thousand years, the Korth Edicts prevented any member of a dragonmarked house from holding a grant of land and placed limits on the size of house enclaves and the armed forces garrisoned there. Special provisions were made for House Deneith, which retained the right to assemble military forces for mercenary service. The edicts further specified that no member of the aristocracy of Galifar could be bound to a member of a dragonmarked house in marriage without one of the two giving up all heritage and rights. Since the houses did not own land, the edicts dictated a system of rents to be paid to the crown in exchange for the territory the houses required for their needs.

The Last War

When the Kingdom of Galifar was shattered, every nation needed the services of the dragonmarked houses. House Cannith was called on to produce wands, magic siege engines, and mundane arms and armor, in addition to reinforcing walls and fortifications. Cyre made the most extensive use of House Deneith’s services, but other rulers hired mercenaries for critical tasks. House Sivis played a vital role in the coordination of troops, while House Orien and House Lyrandar helped transport goods and soldiers. House Jorasco medics were in high demand. With the hounds of war baying and the dragonmarked houses ascending, the Korth Edicts were quietly set aside during the last war. Even now, many house enclaves maintain forces beyond those allowed by the edicts, and a number of houses have successfully claimed land and holdings of their own. One notable example is Stormhome in Aundair, which is for all intents and purposes a territory of House Lyrandar.

In the wake of the war, the status of the edicts remains uncertain. The Treaty of Thronehold called on the authority of the Korth Edicts when House Cannith was ordered to shut down the creation forges. Though Cannith acquiesced, the house was in chaos at the time, its leadership shattered on the Day of Mourning. Today, more and more dragonmarked nobles are holding to the opinion that the edicts were an agreement with the King of Galifar, not the rulers of the Five Nations. It remains to be seen whether the Thronehold nations can join together to enforce the terms of the edicts once more—or whether the growing economic and military power of the houses will allow them to dictate new terms to the nobility.

House Enclaves

In a small community, a dragonmarked house might be represented by a single business. A village might have a Jorasco healing house, a tiny Sivis message station, or a Gold Dragon Inn of House Ghallanda, all run by individuals. Large cities and metropolises have dozens of such house businesses, but they also have enclaves—the citadels of the dragonmarked houses.
A house enclave is a self-contained community where a member of a house can spend months without ever needing to leave. The center of the enclave includes production, training, and administration facilities, living quarters, and shops catering to the everyday needs of its inhabitants. This region of an enclave is reserved for the private business of the house, and strangers are allowed in only under special circumstances. As a result, wealthy heirs of the house often maintain secondary residences beyond an enclave for the purpose of entertaining. The center of an enclave is a private fortress. Depending on the house, security could be an internal affair. Alternatively, it might be undertaken by arrangement with House Deneith, House Medani, or House Kundarak.

The secondary ring of the enclave is where business occurs, and is the site of guild offices, shops, and other facilities. Customers, dragonmarked heirs, and guild members with no family connections all cross paths here. Though the everyday services of house and guild can be found across Khorvaire, a house’s most expensive services are exclusive to its enclaves. Courier stations are common throughout Sharn, for example, but teleportation is available only at the Orien enclave in Dragon Towers. Part shopping center, part production facility, and part suburb, a house enclave is often the economic center of the community in which it is found.

Hierarchy

Each house has its own distinctive traditions. However, most houses follow a similar leadership model. The ultimate authority within a house is the patriarch (or matriarch), who oversees the house’s ruling council. The patriarch is appointed by a council of viceroys; term of offi ce and the means by which an inept patriarch can be removed vary from house to house. Many patriarchs also take the title of Baron.

The patriarch is advised by a council whose members represent each of the nations in which the house operates. The members of this council are known as the lords seneschal. In addition to the regional lords, additional lords seneschal are appointed by a patriarch to act as his personal representatives. A seneschal can be dispatched to investigate a corrupt or ineffective viceroy, or to negotiate an especially critical agreement between houses or nations. Houses with multiple guilds often have an additional lord seneschal appointed to each one. These individuals serve as the ultimate guildmaster, coordinating reports from each region and advising the patriarch.

Viceroys (so named regardless of gender) are regional directors. A viceroy manages guild operations and house affairs in her assigned region. This office is bestowed by vote of the local council of viceroys, and while a viceroy can theoretically be stripped of her rank, the position is hereditary in most houses. Long-standing alliances ensure that viceroyalties remain under the dominion of particular branches of a family. The next tier splits into two paths. Administrators who specifically oversee guild functions are known as masters, while those who manage the internal affairs of a house are ministers. Beneath these come the standard hirelings of the house, whose titles are simply descriptive. In House Ghallanda, the Viceroy of Sharn oversees all activities in the region, and the Master of Agriculture coordinates supplies and the purchase and distribution of foodstuffs, but each individual hostel is run by a house member with the lofty title of innkeeper.

In addition to these offices, any member of the house who has manifested a dragonmark (including player characters) is allowed the title of lord or lady. This title does not grant any sort of privilege within the house, however: Lord Cantal might work in the mail room, while an exceptional administrator who never develops a dragonmark could work her way up to seize a viceroyalty.

The Guilds

The vast majority of the people who are employed by a dragonmarked house have no blood tie to the houses. Instead, they belong to one of the house guilds. These guilds are vast, sprawling entities that cover a wide range of occupations.

Why join a house guild? To begin with, each guild maintains a network of trade schools. The price of education includes a period of service to the house, along with a long-term tithe. Both vary based on the amount of gold the apprentice can bring to the table, but a house always looks for a long-term investment from its students. Students of a guild school must sign contracts forbidding them from future competition with the business of the house. A would-be magewright can learn his craft at House Cannith’s academy easily enough, but he must swear to serve the Fabricators Guild thereafter. Should
he start an independent business that challenges the guild, House Cannith will bring the full weight of the law to bear.

Resources are a tangible benefit of joining a guild. An alchemist associated with the Fabricators Guild purchases exotic components and reagents directly from House Cannith, providing him with supplies that independent competitors might have a hard time acquiring. As such, guild merchants sell goods or services that independents simply cannot provide. The reputation of a guild is also a powerful tool. When people are paying 50 gp for a potion of cure light wounds, few of them will take a chance on any vendor not displaying a House Jorasco banner.

A guild merchant gets more business, but he must pay dues to the house along with a share of his profits. In addition, he must meet the standards of quality and behavior set forth by the house. Observers can appear at any time to audit a guild business, and members who fail to uphold the standards of the house can be penalized or stripped of guild status.

Guild Membership

Each of the three types of guild membership reflects a different connection to a dragonmarked house. The most common type of guild businesses are those licensed by the guild but not bound to its structure. Licensees are trained by the guild and pledge to uphold its standards, but receive no regular direction from guild administrators. A licensed inn is named by the owner and has its own menu, but the Ghallanda seal on the door promises courteous behavior and fair prices. Likewise, a sea captain licensed by the Windwrights Guild is not bound by the routes or schedules of the guild. However, his ship must pass inspections, and he must uphold the honor code of House Lyrandar, in addition to paying the house a percentage of his profits. A licensed business can display the guild seal using black paint or ink.

Bound businesses are those funded by a guild in exchange for a greater share of profits and a controlling hand. Though a licensed Lyrandar captain owns his ship, a bound captain’s ship belongs to the guild, and guild administrators dictate his routes. The Gold Dragon Inn is a popular bound business of Ghallanda’s Hostelers Guild, and an innkeeper who runs one is expected to prepare the same menu as every other Gold Dragon Inn. Licensed businesses often have their own flavor, but a customer who goes to a bound business knows exactly what to expect. Bound businesses display the guild seal in silver, and the names of many bound businesses are as well known as the houses themselves.

Rarest among the guilds are the house arms: businesses directly managed by blood heirs of the house. House arms are not a separate type of business, but are themselves either licensed or bound. A Sivis scribe might choose to head up a bound house arm (for example, a notary’s office operated according to terms set by the house) while a Tharashk inquisitive establishes his own licensed house arm (a private investigation service that can be run according to the character’s whim). House arms are simply representative of a direct connection to a house’s hierarchy that most licensed or bound businesses do not have. These businesses display the guild seal in gold, and often display the seal of the house as well.

Guild Wars

House administrators seek to squelch competition between guild businesses. House Cannith has fixed the price of longswords at 15 gp across Khorvaire, and every licensed or bound smith is expected to hold to that price. Though adventurers might encounter licensed artisans fighting economic duels in the shadows, a more common scenario is independents being pressured to join a guild. The houses seek to maintain a monopoly on their trades, and if a master artisan begins to draw significant business away from a guild, its house will take action. A guild representative might appear, extolling the benefits of membership. The merchant might become the victim of a campaign slandering his skills. The local guild viceroy might use his political influence to tangle the independent in red tape or strangle his access to supplies. If all else fails, an independent might find himself dealing with burglars, vandals, or even threats to his life.

The Dragonmarked Houses

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