Kingmaker in Eberron
Karrnath, born in war
Karrnath, land of night
Karrnath, we salute you
Let the world marvel at your might!
“War March of the Karrns,”
Karrnath’s national anthem
Karrnath at a Glance
Data based on military draft records, 994 YK.
Population: 2.5 million
Area: 1,350,000 square miles
Sovereign: Kaius ir’Wynarn III
Major Cities: Karrlakton, Atur, Vedykar, Rekkenmark
Climate: Temperate in south with cold, cloudy winters and cool, partly cloudy summers; central to northern region has short, cool summers and long, harsh winters
Highest Point: Mount Tharzil in the Ashen Spires, elevation 9,925
Heraldry: A blood-red wolf head on a shield of silver and black
Founder: Kaius I, third scion of King Jarot
National Motto: “Death holds no terror.”
Known as the “birthplace of kings,” the nation of Karrnath was born in war. The art of war remains the birthright of every true son and daughter of the land, and it sings in their blood and their dreams. The first humans to settle the region were Lhazaar marauders. They built outposts along the barren coastline and raided the softer lands to the south. Slowly, these outposts developed into towns and cities, and the people that remained in the land were tempered by the long, harsh winters. As the descendants of the Lhazaar raiders continued to spread out and eventually divide into five distinct nations, Karrn the Conqueror rose to power. He transformed the pirates and pillagers of his northeastern realm into a deadly army.
Under his leadership, the Karrnathi forces swept the remnants of the goblinoids out of the land and made war upon the other human settlements. Karrn dreamed of ruling a vast kingdom, and in his zeal he conquered two-fi fths of the human lands. In the end, no single foe defeated Karrn. Rather, he was overcome by the sheer size of Khorvaire and his own penchant for cruelty. Karrn’s legacy remains, and most people tend to forget the atrocities and prefer to remember the accomplishments.
He cleared the heartland of the human nations of the remnants of the goblinoid empire. He
galvanized the people and kick-started the march to civilization. He built the greatest army of his age. And he died in a kingdom that bore his name. Centuries later, his descendant Galifar, a true son of Karrnath, would pick up Karrn’s dream and unite the Five Nations. Galifar utilized the military power of Karrnath to forge his kingdom, and no force could stand against him. Of course, he tempered war with hope and a dream of a better society, and thus succeeded where Karrn had failed. After the Kingdom of Galifar was established, military officers from across the land trained at the Rekkenmark Academy. Military traditions and training were disseminated to the rest of the kingdom, but as a people the Karrns continued to be more dedicated to and proficient in the art of war. To this day, every citizen of Karrnath serves a term in the military, and every citizen of Karrnath practices with the local militia.
Life in Karrnath can be cold and hard, but the Karrnathi people are colder and harder.
When the Last War began, the people of the land rallied behind their king. It seemed unthinkable that the other parts of the collapsing kingdom could stand against the military might of Karrnath. Better equipment and training could take the Karrns only so far, however. They underestimated the arcane weaponry of Aundair and Cyre. They underestimated the divine power of the Silver Flame that bolstered Thrane. And they failed to account for the sheer heart and determination of the Brelish people, perhaps the most underrated nation at the start of the war. Karrnath suffered a series of embarrassing and potentially destructive setbacks, though aid was offered to King Kaius I from the Blood of Vol. Using the necromantic arts at their disposal, the Vol priests called Karrnath’s fallen warriors back from the grave, setting the stage for the rest of the long, long war. The tireless undead troops bolstered the nation’s living soldiers and brought a sense of otherworldly terror to the battlefields. The Karrnathi undead were some of the most unusual troops deployed in battle until the creation of the warforged.
A military dictatorship since the start of the Last War, Karrnath continues to operate under martial law. This makes it a bit tougher on visitors and adventurer types, but the land isn’t totally closed to travelers. Instead of the Code of Galifar, the country follows the Code of Kaius. This rigid set of laws and responsibilities is based on the older code, but many rights have been restricted or eliminated in the name of national defense. With the end of the Last War, a handful of the more stringent laws have been lifted, but the overall oppression of a martial system remains. Today, Karrnath enjoys its role as one of the architects of peace, but there are undercurrents of unease throughout all levels of the nation. It came as a surprise when Kaius III, leader of a harsh band of hardened warriors, pressed for peace.
The Island of Thronehold
Galifar I united the Five Nations and forged a new kingdom. He realized early on that the crown could not rule from one of the existing realms. To do so would be to put one of the Five Nations above the other, and that would lead to breaks and fractures that would eventually destroy the kingdom. From the moment young Galifar stood on the banks of Scions Sound and looked upon the mysterious island that rested just out of reach of the Five Nations, he knew that the island would play an important role in the realization of his dream of unification. On this island he would build his capital—Thronehold.
Prior to Galifar, the island was considered to be haunted, a place of the old ways of Khorvaire. That reputation, and its location, made it the perfect place for Galifar’s purposes. The great castle Thronehold became a shining symbol of the kingdom, and the island around it developed into a wondrous showcase for the realm. It remained so until the Last War, when it became a reminder of things lost. After Jarot’s death and the rejection of the line of succession that led to the Last War, the island and castle of Thronehold were largely abandoned.
A special detachment of House Deneith guards, the Throne Wardens, remained in place to protect and maintain the castle, but all government functions ceased with the collapse of the united kingdom. The town of Throneport, a support community in the shadow of the castle, mutated as the Last War progressed. It became a place for dissidents, spies, criminals, and mercenaries, and the once opulent and safe port turned into a rough-and-tumble town without law or allegiance to any single nation. This neutrality has served Throneport well; by 975 YK it had grown into a small city in which all of the nations and dragonmarked houses had at least a small presence, turning it into a hotbed of international intrigue. The Treaty of Thronehold further solidified this position, establishing the city of Throneport as a multinational province under the control of small peacekeeping forces from Aundair, Breland, Karrnath, and Thrane, with House Deneith Throne Wardens in place to make sure the terms of the treaty are honored. Today, the small city is neutral ground, but the castle and its grounds remain off limits and under the watchful protection of the wardens.
Karrnath spent more of the Last War in active warfare than any of the other four nations; it never left a war footing and never had long-term ceasefires with its foes. Battles between Karrnath and Cyre were particularly bloody, especially when the Valenar elves became Cyran mercenaries. Karrnath and Aundair were enemies throughout most of the Last War, although that front had long periods of stalemate and low-intensity battles of attrition. Thrane and Breland were either enemies or allies, depending on the war’s shifting fortunes.
Karrnathi forces had seized Cyran territory on the Day of Mourning, preparing to use the area as a staging ground for a push into Breland. For this reason, tens of thousands of Karrns were among the dead on the day Cyre became the Mournland. Karrnath lost as many citizens to famine and disease as it did to enemy action over the course of the war. Shortly after the war began, plague and wheat-blight savaged the nation, bringing low the Galifaran province known for its industry and military tradition. The combination of famine and disease was so devastating that King Kaius I, desperate to save his realm, turned to the Blood of Vol for aid—a decision that forever changed Kaius and Karrnath as a whole.
When Kaius III ascended to the throne with the guidance of the Regent Moranna , he immediately set about ending the war. But even four years after the Treaty of Thronehold, Karrnath is still a militaristic society that’s reluctant to abandon its war footing. The warlords remain the most powerful and influential of Kaius’s nobles. Most towns still have large standing militias, and service in the national army is compulsory.
Karrnathi soldiers still engage Valenar raiders to the southeast and battle strange horrors from the Mournland, and every skirmish receives a lot of attention in chronicles and talk within the taverns. Karrnath also has the advantage of relatively secure borders. Scions Sound offers a measure of protection from Aundair and Thrane, and the northern waters keep all but the most determined Lhazaar pirates at bay.
Karrnath’s historic weakness, its southern border, is a lot safer now that Cyre is no longer around. Monsters periodically emerge from the Mournland, to be sure, but that’s a far cry from an invading Cyran army. Garrisons in Lakeside and Irontown remain strong and alert, for Karrnath and the Mror Holds continue to dispute the border between the two nations, and many Karrns want to reclaim the dwarven lands as their own.
While Kaius III has officially broken ties with the Blood of Vol and declared it no longer the national religion, a significant portion of his citizenry continues to follow the tenets of blood as life and undeath as divinity. The crown has gone so far as to ban the open worship of the Blood of Vol in Korth, but shrines still draw followers in the towns and villages, and the Crimson Monastery in Atur continues to hold open ceremonies to mostly packed audiences of the faithful. Kaius has had better success in curtailing the influence of the Order of the Emerald Claw. In general, the nation has come to see this group of one-time patriots (at least that was how they were portrayed when the group was originally established) as violent extremists who no longer have the best interests of Karrnath at heart.
The nation continues to utilize undead forces for defense, but the vast majority of Karrnath’s undead troops have been hidden away in secret crypts for the day when they will again be needed. This huge force of undead, with more being added every day under the orders of the Minister of the Dead, provides a ready-touse army that can quickly bolster the living forces of the nation’s warlords—while also remaining mostly hidden from the rest of the nations of Khorvaire.
A Day in the Life
Harika Kraal approached the tower with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. The anticipation part was straightforward: She’d suffered through countless tests, examinations, and demonstrations to earn a place at the Rekkenmark Academy. As the firstborn daughter of General Vorelus “Horseshoe” Kraal, Harika was taking an important step in her family’s destiny by enrolling in the junior officer corps today. But the trepidation wouldn’t go away. What if she washed out of the academy? A third of first-year officers don’t come back to Rekkenmark for the second year.
Ten years ago, Harika’s uncle Wultram volunteered to fight on the western front after his first year at the academy—and the family always whispered that he volunteered because he was on the verge of flunking out. Well, he proved himself in Scions Sound, Harika thought. The Kraal family could use more Uncle Wultrams. Harika spent the chill autumn morning standing at attention, waiting for Rekkenmark clerks to inspect her entrance papers. Figuring that the long wait was just another test, Harika concentrated on maintaining her posture and breathing, trying to keep her anticipation and trepidation from showing. If the morning was devoted to standing at attention, the afternoon was an exercise in line-waiting: lines for uniforms (the plain tan of Karrnathi cadets), lines for books (chief among them an annotated Analects of War by Karrn himself), and lines for armor and weapons.
It was at the end of the last line that Harika’s trepidation went away, completely overwhelmed by anticipation. Harika took the sheathed longsword from the supply sergeant, suppressing a gasp when she saw the Rekkenmark insignia, an “R” scripted in filigree, on the pommel. Just like Father has, and just like Uncle Wultram had. Soon I’ll show everyone how well cadet Harika Kraal wields this sword, she thought.
The people of Karrnath are grim folk, hardened by military service and the harshness of their land. Order and stability are considered to be vital to society, and the average Karrn tends to hold a lawful outlook. A Karrn is expected to stand by his word and to protect those beneath his station. As a military dictatorship since the start of the Last War, the country has created a stoic, battle-hardened people. They are proud of their history and their military tradition, and they feel that every hardship they must endure simply makes them stronger.
While some objected to the Code of Kaius replacing the Code of Galifar as the country’s system of justice, today most of the population is content with the situation. The people would rather follow a leader who instills fear in subjects and enemies alike than bow to a soft diplomat. Few love Kaius III, but most believe in his strength and cunning—despite his continued efforts at maintaining the peace.
Most Karrns display their first and foremost loyalty to the land, not the king, however. If a warlord proved to be a more ruthless and effective leader than Kaius and could seize the throne with a minimum of chaos, that warlord would theoretically win the support of much of the nation.
The Karrns have grudgingly accepted the use of skeletons and zombies as frontline troops because in many ways these creatures epitomize the ideals of the nation; they are strong, tireless warriors that serve without fear or doubt. While others see Karrns as cold and ruthless, the people of Karrnath have a softer side that they conceal from all but their closest family and friends. When they gather around a roaring fire on a dark, cold evening, tankards of Nightwood ale accompany laughter, tales of past glories, and songs that praise the heroes in their bloodlines. Earn the friendship of a Karrn and he will stand with you against any foe. Cross a Karrn, however, and you gain an enemy who will battle you to the death—and, perhaps, beyond.
Despite King Kaius III’s strong role in the ongoing peace process, most common folk view Karrns with a mixture of fear and suspicion. The Karrns counter this suspicion with cold indifference.
Karrns display coolness toward people of most lands. The Karrns fought against every nation at one point or another during the Last War, and so tend to regard all of their neighbors with equal indifference. The one exception to this coolness centers on the nation of Thrane. The Karrns consider the Thranes to be true and terrible enemies; despite making some efforts at trade and diplomacy since the signing of the Treaty of Thronehold, the two nations nevertheless remain cold toward one another. Anyone wearing a Thrane uniform receives an unfriendly reaction, at best, from the common Karrn. Anyone displaying a symbol of the Silver Flame should expect worse.
While the Blood of Vol is not the dominant religion in Karrnath, it has followers scattered throughout the land. Anyone serving the interests of the Blood of Vol should be able to find supporters in a village or larger community.
Intimidation is an accepted method of accomplishing things, even when dealing with other nations. Conversely, Karrns see an overt reliance on Bluff or Diplomacy as a sign of weakness.
Karrnath and the Undead
Early in the Last War, plague- and famine-ravaged Karrnath resorted to using undead soldiers in its army—a desperate decision that might have saved Karrnath from utter ruin. Even today, Karrnath keeps undead legions to defend its borders and to use in case hostilities resume. Karrnath is not, however, a place where the undead are integrated into society (unlike Aerenal, for example, where the undead and the living coexist). During the Last War, the undead formed separate military units from Karrnath’s living soldiers, and only rarely performed in joint operations. Today, the legions of undead remain hidden, both from the average citizen and the eyes of the other nations. A relative few Karrnathi skeleton and zombie troops patrol the borders and serve as special guards in Korth and Atur, usually at facilities tied to the crown. Everyone appreciates the role that the undead play in defending Karrnath, however, and the typical soldier feels a sense of pride in knowing that he or she can continue to protect the nation even after death.
The origin of Galifar traces its roots to Karrnath, so it is no wonder that elements of the Galifarn style permeate the land. The humans of Khorvaire first attained civilization in Karrnath, and this ancient heritage can still be seen both here and throughout the Five Nations.
Two subjects turn up consistently in Karrnathi art— war and religion. Images of grand battles in flat, two dimensional renderings demonstrate an emotional connection to physical strength and perfection. For religious subjects, the Sovereign Host provides most of the inspiration, and paintings proclaiming the faith fill private galleries and public museums alike. During the height of the Blood of Vol movement, a new form of disturbing yet fascinating art developed. Blood art, known for its striking use of crimson and actual blood to create scenes as though from a fevered dream, was extremely popular for a time and is still created by the most faithful followers of the Blood.
Karrnathi architecture tends to be heavy and symmetrical, with a militaristic uniformity and lots of decorative elements, such as monoliths and obelisks. In many ways, the typical Karrnathi city street resembles a museum, with heavy stone buildings, ornate sculptures, and free standing statues. Fountains get a lot of play in Karrnath as well, with many of these becoming frozen in the winter to form a different kind of sculpture.
Karrnathi cuisine tends to be as heavy and complex as its architecture, with filling, multilayered casseroles one of the mainstays of the typical family meal. Karrns consider sausage- and cheesemaking to be art forms, and all kinds and varieties of these foods can be found throughout the land.
Because of the harsh winters, stews and soups are a staple of Karrnathi cooking, and every hearth has a pot of something simmering over the fi re throughout the long winter season. Brewing, another popular Karrnathi pastime, has created some of the most flavorful and potent beers and ales in the Five Nations, and kegs of Karrnathi brews find their way to markets across the continent. Baking has also developed into a staple of Karrnathi culinary art, and all kinds of pies and breads come out of the rich-smelling ovens throughout the land. One particularly popular loaf, called vedbread, combines crusty bread with the flavorfully sharp ved cheese. This is enjoyed warm as it emerges from the oven, or slathered with onion butter.
Karrns favor plain, functional clothing, worn neat and immaculately clean. They generally wear dark colors. Since Karrnathi winters tend to be long and cold, thick cloaks are a common accompaniment to any outfit. While their clothing tends to be drab and unadorned, Karrns take great pride in their armor and weapons—which are some of the finest produced in all of Khorvaire. Armor is frequently worn on village and city streets, and it is always carefully polished and ornately decorated.
Karrnath was the most vocal proponent of what became the Treaty of Thronehold, and it remains an active player in the intrigues of the postwar period. But Karrnath isn’t quite as active diplomatically as Aundair or Breland. Kaius expends more effort on internal matters than Queen Aurala or King Boranel does. He has the Blood of Vol and the Emerald Claw to deal with, after all.
Karrnath is wary of Aundair and still regards it as an enemy. Kaius often opposes Aundair’s Queen Aurala diplomatically, but he doesn’t believe Aundair has the will or the ability to make a significant move against Karrnath. In general, Aundair is a lot more worried about Karrnath than Karrnath is about Aundair.
Kaius regards Breland’s King Boranel as his most powerful rival at the moment. Breland’s industry is second to none, and Kaius respects its capacity to return to a war footing and outproduce Karrnath at a moment’s notice. Karrnath thus supports anything that distracts or divides Breland. It offers a measure of diplomatic recognition to Droaam’s Daughters of Sora Kell.
Karrnath supports the creation of a new homeland for the Cyran refugees, mostly as a way to provide another headache for Breland. Kaius pays lip service to other efforts at reversing the Cyran diaspora, such as resettlement in Q’Barra, but he’d like nothing better than a pro-Karrnath “New Cyre” that eats up acres of eastern Breland.
The loyalty of the dwarven clans of the Mror Holds was a key strategic advantage for Karrnath throughout the early years of the Last War. The dwarves provided an immense amount of war materiel, and many a column of dwarf troops marched alongside Karrnath’s army. As the war progressed, however, the dwarves decided to take advantage of the turmoil and break out with their own nation. Karrnath has not yet forgiven what it sees as a treacherous act by treacherous people, and tensions between the two run high.
Kaius uses talk of mutual protection to maintain relations with the Talenta halflings. Karrnath keeps a standing army garrisoned in the southern Talenta Plains, taking pains to point out how it’s beating back incursions from the Valenar elves on a monthly basis.
Karrnath and Thrane have cool relations for both geopolitical and personal reasons. Thrane’s military might be a match for Karrnath’s, especially when augmented by the many spellcasters of the Silver Flame. Kaius has no love for the religion that seized control of the throne from the Wynarn family. There is no love lost between the two nations, and hostilities between the two could break out at any moment, despite efforts to keep the Thronehold Accords alive.
The peace between Valenar and Karrnath exists only on paper. Every few weeks, the Karrnathi army clashes with riders from Valenar in a series of raids and counterraids that have so far proved inconclusive. But neither side fully commits to all-out war because both recognize the clashes for what they are: a sideline. Both Karrnath and Valenar are too busy establishing themselves in the postwar political landscape to be distracted with a real war—at the moment.
Of all the nations formed at the Treaty of Thronehold, Karrnath enjoys the most contact with the sea barons and merchant princes of the Lhazaar Principalities. During the Last War, Karrnath employed a number of the sea barons and their fleets, and received significant assistance from the Bloodsails of Farlnen. Since the end of the war and Kaius’s rejection of the Blood of Vol and the Order of the Emerald Claw, the Bloodsails have withdrawn support and have started attacking Karrnathi ships and villages along the coast. Other merchant princes regularly trade with Karrnath, but it is getting hard to tell which Lhazaar ships will be friendly and which will loot and plunder as they pass through Karrnathi waters.
The following turns of phrase are uniquely Karrnathi.
“You can break a single arrow, but not ten in a bunch.” Used to express how Karrns prefer to work together, finding strength in numbers. It’s also a subtle reminder to conform to the direction the other “arrows” (fellow citizens) are taking.
“While the wolf drinks, the dog looks on.” A Karrnathi way of saying “rank has its privileges.”
“Edible birds don’t live long.” A Karrnathi warning not to make yourself a tempting target to your rivals; a way of saying “put your guard up.”
“There’s more to good ale than a silver flagon.” A Karrnathi proverb expressing a preference for substance over style.
“Blunted!” An expression of dismay or failure.
“Khoot! Khoot! Karrnath!” A battle cheer common among rank-and-file Karrn troopers. The “oo” sounds are often drawn out into a howling wail.
Karrns usually have a personal name followed by a family-based surname.
Male: Adalstan, Alarich, Arend, Berend, Brenius, Detlev, Drago, Evetius, Falko, Fraedus, Garrick, Geroldt, Gertan, Gustavus, Halden, Leonus, Leodegar, Maenrad, Rochus, Rolund, Sigor, Theoban, Vedim, Vorik, Wultram.
Female: Adalgisa, Alinda, Asta, Bauin, Clotrila, Demuth, Ebba, Ermena, Forsindh, Gisaul, Harika, Haedrun, Karola, Lorelea, Mauriana, Menelda, Oydelis, Renilda, Syardis, Syele, Theda, Valpaea, Vaunn.
Surnames: A ltaner, A rgland, Balich, Barthus, Brand, Cerfas, Denka, Dorn, Erdei, Eschus, Furnau, Gaebler, Gergus, Grogloth, Hellekanus, Hintram, Jaranus, Karlach, Kessler, Kraal, Lassinus, Losho, Maerer, Ochem, Rangoth, Roerith, Sattler, Senglin, Taggert, Thul, Trothut, Vanalan, Vedenin, Zecklin.
Five Things Every Karrn Knows
1. How to play Conqueror. This chesslike board game reputedly invented by Karrn the Conqueror is enjoyed across Khorvaire. But in Karrnath, it’s the national pastime and a popular way to spend long, wintry nights.
2. Their own family trees, going back at least four generations. The Blood of Vol has encouraged interest in genealogy. Combined with a Karrn’s natural pride in heritage, it’s not surprising for everyone to know their families well. Two Karrns who meet in a tavern will often start a conversation by mentioning their ancestors, trying to find a common link.
3. A bit about military organization. Almost all Karrnathi adults spent some time in the military, so they know the difference between a sergeant major and a major, the proper way to salute superior officers, and what various uniform insignia mean.
4. An appreciation for art. During the Last War, many of Karrnath’s artists painted colorful propaganda posters that adorned walls in major cities. Though the war is over, many Karrns have taken the posters into their homes, where they hang as decoration and a reminder of Karrnath’s military past.
5. A keen sense of the weather. Of the Five Nations, Karrnath gets by far the worst weather. Karrns love to talk (and complain) about the weather, and they’re adept at comparing one day’s snowfall to the next. They aren’t necessarily any better at predicting the weather, but they’re quite good at answering questions such as “How hot was it yesterday?” in detail.