"The house on Bleak Street? Don’t go near it. Yeah, I know, it looks like a prime target. A twist of wire in the lock and we could help ourselves to all that finery you saw through the window. We might even live long enough to enjoy some of the take. Maybe. Trust me when I say leave it alone. Not everyone in this city is exactly what they appear."
—Dioban the Prudent, street thief
Khorvaire is unique among the continents in that it possesses the greatest diversity of interconnected races and societies. To grasp the structure of Khorvaire requires untangling lines of political power, racial tensions, technology levels, historical grudges and alliances, and secret and public societies. The role of dragons on Khorvaire is no less important than on other continents, but it is much more subtle.
Khorvaire possesses another quality that affects how its dragons interact: Rogue dragons favor it over all other continents. Whether they disagree with the Chamber’s purpose or methodology, or fled Argonnessen in fear of their lives, or are selfish, loners, or greedy, rogue dragons find Khorvaire a hospitable land. The rise and fall of cities and the glut of races provides a shifting backdrop against which to camouflage themselves. Minions and servitors are easy to find, and the Chamber has more pressing concerns on Khorvaire than tracking down rogues. Usually.
Scales and Facades
The Chamber focuses much of its attention on Khorvaire, and for good reason. Dragonmarked humanoids are common there, as are the power seats of many empires. These elements crop up frequently in the Prophecy.
Of course, nondragonmarked beings play an important role in the Prophecy too. Khorvaire boasts the greatest concentration of the lesser races, in dynamic situations and ever-changing allegiances. A Chamber agent must be intelligent and flexible to keep track of all the powers-that-be in even a single Khorvairian kingdom. The kingdom’s web of allies, enemies, plots, and plans stretches and is entangled with other webs, which in turn interact with other webs, until a single action in one corner of the continent affects the entire land.
Chamber agents move slowly but inexorably. Little aside from death can sway a Chamber agent from her duty. She thinks nothing of setting plans in motion that take years, even decades, to come to fruition. An agent must also be on guard lest circumstances require her to move quickly. The lesser races act unpredictably, and an agent requires the ability to rapidly evaluate and react to a situation. An agent’s talents develop over many years of dedicated infiltration, study, and observation.
To preserve the secrecy of its agenda, and out of respect for the intelligence and dedication of its members, the Chamber does not maintain a rigid structure. It always keeps watch over its members, to ensure their safety and monitor them for signs of infiltration by the Lords of Dust. The Chamber generally allows its agents to work privately, although on occasion, important assignments are given to trusted agents. Members of the Chamber usually share uncovered information with the dragons of Argonnessen, who decide how best to act on it.
The Chamber possesses this fluid structure for another reason: Its members rarely agree on how best to handle the Prophecy. Different dragons have different goals, and even those who share an objective often argue over how best to accomplish it. Some do all they can to study the Prophecy without shaping it, preferring to gather all available information before making a choice. Others pursue one particular goal, such as the destruction of a rakshasa rajah, and act to shape the Prophecy to ensure their desires come about.
The Chamber values subtlety. Older dragons of Argonnessen watch constantly, often disapproving, but don’t interfere with its members as long as they keep a low profile. Agents seek to monitor and advance the Prophecy without altering it wrongly or putting themselves at risk; to that end, they work in disguise, through minions, or using magical means whenever possible.
The Chamber is powerful but unreliable. Though dragon agents often disagree on means and outcomes, they all agree that the Chamber’s agenda supersedes personal goals, attachments, and even ethics. An agent might develop a working relationship with a pawn over the course of many years, then slay that pawn without a thought if she believes the Prophecy requires it. Everything is a tool or a symbol; nothing has permanence or importance but the Prophecy.
The Prophecy in Khorvaire
Young dragons sometimes assume Khorvaire should be the focus of all Chamber activity. After all, dragonmarks tie directly into the Prophecy, and Khorvaire is home to the dragonmarked races. Even the movements of a dragonmarked individual might unveil threads of destiny: Chamber agents have spent entire decades watching a single dragonmarked individual go about her daily life. Chamber initiates learn that great revelations do not always result from great deeds; what a the bearer of a mark has for breakfast can be as vital as whether she signs a treaty or destroys a demon.
Dragonmarks reveal only aspects of the Prophecy, though. Furthermore, while dragonmarked individuals are common on Khorvaire, those without dragonmarks also have a role to play. In chess, the queen is the most valuable piece, but one cannot win without pawns. Creatures of all types on all continents have a place in the Prophecy.
This is not to say that Khorvaire isn’t a vital target for the Chamber’s observations, only that other targets exist. Khorvaire does possess unique properties that pique the Chamber’s interest. Just as an astronomer sometimes studies a single star or the relative position of constellations, the movements of the lesser races as a whole affects the Prophecy and the future. The dragonmarked houses, of course, figure prominently. The structure of the continent plays a role, too: The Prophecy refers to humanoid kingdoms at times.
Khorvaire also features unique landmarks that allow Chamber agents to decipher and manipulate the Prophecy. References to the Mournland crop up from time to time. A fallen tower in Sharn; the Gloaming in the Eldeen Reaches; a lake of fire in the Demon Wastes; the Madstone in Karrnath—these areas and more all appear in the many fragments of the Prophecy. Some places, such as the Seven Caves in Darguun, are rumored to hold undiscovered Prophecy writings. Such rumors, no matter how far-fetched, require Chamber attention.
Chamber agents who operate in Khorvaire must deal with additional dangers not found on other continents. The Lords of Dust know of the Chamber’s agenda and its obsession with the Prophecy. From time to time, false fragments of the Prophecy crop up. Some of these prove merely embarrassing to the Chamber, leading them astray at critical moments and diverting their attention. At worst, these false clues lead dedicated agents to pursue investigations that result in ambush.
Dragons possess a wide range of personalities and motivations. Though they display more racial solidarity than many other creatures, rebels do exist. Not every dragon cares for the Chamber or the Prophecy—or even for other dragons. These rogue dragons operate independently.
Rogue dragons don’t share motivations or desires; their behavior is as varied and complex as the dragons themselves. However, several common themes crop up among the rogues who lair on Khorvaire: money, power, solitude, and independence.
Khorvaire’s wealth is a great draw to rogue dragons. The Chamber monitors and guards its artifacts and relics carefully, but rogues take what they wish and share with no one. Powerful magic items and hidden treasure troves left over from the Last War dot the land, many hidden so deeply and so well that ordinary beings stand no chance of discovering them. Only creatures as powerful as dragons can find and claim these treasures for themselves.
Many rogues also enjoy feeling powerful and in control. On Argonnessen, greater dragons often dominate smaller, weaker dragons. When surrounded by lesser beings, though, even the lowliest dragon feels impressive. The pursuit of wealth is often combined with the lust for power. A rogue dragon might take on minions, then use them to search for greater treasures; the more wealth she possesses, the more she can expend on acquiring even greater wealth and more servitors.
Achieving a position of authority within the Chamber or the Conclave can take centuries or more. On Khorvaire, a clever dragon can set up a power structure with himself at the head in under a decade, all without risking the incredible dangers of the Vast. Dragons in the Vast, wild as they are, still play by the rules of the Conclave. Rogue dragons are true rebels who flout the “sandbox” of the Vast and the draconic authorities.
Some rogues, though, disdain minions and intrigue. They crave solitude above all else, rejecting even the company of other dragons. These dragons could be born introverts who prefer their own company to any other. They might be criminals on the run from the authorities of Argonnessen; they could even be wrongly accused. A few dealt major damage to enemies of Argonnessen, and now lair in Khorvaire for their own safety and for the safety of the Chamber. Others nurse a secret pain, a broken heart, or shattered dreams, and cannot bear any reminder of their old life.
Finally, some dragons simply don’t care for the politics of Argonnessen. They don’t understand the Prophecy and don’t want to. They can’t comprehend why their kin care so deeply for the actions of the lesser races and the fate of the world. Some of these rogue dragons are nihilists, while others are apathetic, and many are simply selfish.
Most rogues, however, remain keenly aware that the Eyes of Chronepsis rest on them. They crave their freedom but must conduct their activities secretly or within reasonable limits, lest they incur the wrath of the Conclave. Some rogue dragons engage in destructive but subtle activities, believing they escape notice. In many cases, though, the Conclave is aware of them and is simply waiting for the proper time to take action. Sometimes the Chamber or another faction sees value in a rogue’s activities and convinces the Conclave to delay interference.
Rogue dragons might live in solitude, have dragon allies or enemies, or involve themselves in the daily lives and politics of the lesser races. Each presents a unique challenge, and encountering one rog
The Role of Rogues
Rogue dragons can play several roles in a campaign. Most importantly, they serve as quintessential dragon villains. They rarely have complicated social structures, or webs of allies and enemies. They guard vast treasures, lair in remote locations, and merit no tears should brave adventurers destroy them. When the DM needs a powerful monster but doesn’t want a complicated backstory or adventure structure, a rogue dragon fits the bill perfectly.
Rogues work well for any adventure that involves a dragon but avoids Chamber entanglements or Prophecy storylines. They can serve as patrons who hire characters to enter dangerous places and retrieve treasures. After the PCs complete their mission, the patron pays them (or betrays them), and that’s the end of the story.
If the PCs become powerful enough to seek out dragon cohorts or require dragon allies, Khorvairian rogue dragons can become involved in party dynamics without the complications of Chamber politics and the Prophecy.
If the players find Chamber politics fascinating and enjoyable, rogue dragons work best as simple enemies and occasional NPCs.
Getting Around Unseen
A dragon who needs to move unseen through the humanoid masses has several options. Bronze, gold, and silver dragons have the easiest time procuring disguises, because they possess an innate ability to change shape. Other dragons might possess the Alternate Form feat (page 15). Usually this talent is innate and manifests shortly after hatching. In a few rare cases, a dragon develops this power through practice and meditation.
In the absence of innate ability, a magical disguise works well. Minor illusion magic such as alter self and disguise self is not much use to dragons. At most, these spells can make one appear to be a different dragon, doing little more than shunting investigations away from the Chamber in an emergency. Polymorph provides the perfect disguise, but its short duration renders it infeasible for all but the briefest of missions (and even then, only if the dragon possesses a wand or other item with which to refresh the spell). Shapechange is better suited to this purpose, but its high level and expense keep it out of the reach of all but the most powerful dragons.
Once disguised, a dragon looks for a position from which to monitor the workings of the area and individuals’ comings and goings without drawing undue attention to himself. Favored choices include posing as a member of nobility, hiring on as a clerk (or rising to a supervisory role) in a House Kundarak bank, and working at a lightning rail station, airship dock, or harbor. Recently, Chamber agents have been drawn to a new industry: the news. The gnomes of Zilargo, who publish the immensely popular Korranberg Chronicle, often learn of important events days before the population at large does. A disguised dragon working as a reporter, scriber, or editor gains access to a constant stream of information, including tidbits and facts considered too unimportant to make it into print—but which could hold great significance to one familiar with the Prophecy.
Some dragons take a more active role, particularly in rougher settings where niceties such as noble houses and broadsheets don’t exist. In a place such as Festering Holt in the Demon Wastes, for instance, a Chamber agent might pose as a treasure-hunter, explorer, or obsessive naturalist who uses the hamlet as a base of operations. Dragons who can use divine magic sometimes disguise themselves as wandering pilgrims or missionaries, settling in town to minister to the needy.
A dragon in disguise reveals his true form only in life-or-death situations. Publicity poses a great threat to the Chamber, and its agents can withstand great amounts of discomfort and danger without reverting to dragon form.
Hoards of Khorvaire
Chamber agents must be subtle and stealthy. Possessed of quick wits and great intelligence, they are ready to move on at a moment’s notice if their cover fails or their targets switch location. A good Chamber agent can be in Sharn one day and Regalport the next. Although more independent, rogue dragons often need to be similarly discreet.
How then do they manage their hoards? Though they might disguise themselves as lesser races from time to time, Chamber agents and rogues alike remain dragons at heart. The desire to hoard is as innate in them as the need to eat. Many disguised dragons keep their hoards on them at all times. Bags of holding, portable holes, and the like are invaluable tools for transporting large quantities of coins. One dragon might pour them out in a layer to make a comfortable bed. Another takes inventory regularly as a way to meditate and relax: Ensuring that her hoard still contains exactly the same number of coins soothes her and allows her to focus on the job at hand.
Dragon spies and Chamber agents favor quality over quantity. A bed of copper pieces might be comforting, but eighteen perfect diamonds are more valuable, more aesthetically pleasing, and much easier to transport. Magic items also fit these criteria. Some dragons wear most of their hoard. A magic ring on each finger keeps them all in plain view and very safe, even though the wearer can benefit from only one on each hand. Some dragons prefer to keep larger magic items in a bag of holding or the like, in case they need to change shape in response to unexpected dangers.
Artifacts and relics, of course, provide maximum value, usually for minimum size and weight. However, the Chamber prefers to keep these items on Argonnessen. Obedient Chamber agents send such finds home, where the other dragons keep them safe. On returning to Argonnessen, the agent claims the item for her permanent hoard. Rogues, of course, have no such compunctions.
A few dragons maintain permanent hoards in lairs, which can range from a typical, remote cave in a wilderness area to a hideaway in an urban setting. They carry small amounts of treasure for security and comfort, leaving the rest at home. This practice is not widespread; dragons become anxious if they leave their hoards unattended for long. Some charm or pay minions to guard their hoards, but hirelings cannot always be trusted.
The number of large urban centers in Khorvaire forces dragons to be creative when establishing lairs. Many dragons enjoy participating in the culture of humanoid races; others need to move about in cities and towns as part of their Chamber duties. Many Khorvairian lairs have unique locations and camouflage.
The most efficient and effective ploy is to hide in plain sight. Houses with large basements make ideal dragon lairs; the occupant knocks out downstairs walls to make a central chamber. The resulting space holds the bulk of the hoard and provides a relatively safe place to sleep. Owning a house also contributes to a humanoid cover identity.
A dragon with a knack for trap making or access to traplike spells can secure her lair with little difficulty. Other dragons might resort to hiring mage wrights and locksmiths for added security; some take the added precaution of killing the professionals once the additions are complete. More restrained dragons use mindaffecting magic to alter their servants’ memories or ensure that they won’t speak of the modifications they made to the house.
Some dragons prefer to claim abandoned property, especially if they wish to avoid leaving a paper trail or negotiating property transactions. Many buildings that served as supply posts, barracks, or temples during the Last War now stand unused and forgotten. Some have been up for sale since the war ended, and their owners have all but forgotten about the properties. Abandoned buildings also work well for temporary lairs.
Unorthodox areas in cities and towns also make acceptable lairs; a few are suggested in the sidebar. If a dragon doesn’t mind staying in humanoid form indefinitely, the options for an urban lair are nearly limitless.
Places of Interest
Khorvaire offers a unique backdrop for interactions between player characters and dragons. The role of dragons, particularly those of the Chamber, means that PCs can possess dragon contacts and allies from the very start of their careers. They might believe their generous patron or knowledgeable university contact to be nothing more than what she seems; only after many adventures and much excitement can the PCs learn the true, draconic nature of their contact.
Rogue dragons and competing Chamber agents provide deadly high- or even epic-level threats. Few creatures in the world are as powerful and terrifying. At the same time, dragons fit into a logical ecology and social structure; adventures can focus either on slaying a vile rogue dragon, or engaging in political machinations with a wily Chamber agent.
Dragon encounters in Khorvaire have a very different feel from those on other continents. The structure of the continent makes it easy to insert them into a campaign, but how they interact with the PCs can vary greatly. Characters can encounter dragons in many different places and through many different organizations. Even when they triumph over one draconic enemy, they should always feel that more encounters, plots, and combats remain. Draconic influence in Khorvaire never ceases, its twists and turns as complicated and infinite as the Prophecy itself.