Dragon 407 - Character Theme: The Sentinel Marshal

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Dragon 407
Character Themes: The Sentinel Marshal
by Jeff LaSala

Sentinel Marshals are the quintessential elite in law enforcement in Eberron. Contracted to pursue criminals across national borders and beyond into uncivilized realms, they are an international police force dispensed by House Deneith.

Talk about this article here.

Happy to be back on the best D&D forum on the internet!

With permission from WotC, here are three sidebars that were intended to be part of this article but were removed for space reasons:

 
Low-Level Marshals

Ideally, your character spends his or her first few levels serving as a Blademark mercenary, or a bodyguard in the employ of the Defenders Guild. Your DM can require you to prove yourself for a few levels before granting you access to the Sentinel Marshal theme.


That said, exceptions can be made. A 1st-level Sentinel Marshal has probably received special treatment, has strong family connections within House Deneith, and is dragonmarked. Such hasty advancement, though, could foster resentment among other Marshals and might present a roleplaying challenge in its own right.

Only humans can be blood members of House Deneith, so Sentinel Marshals are always human. Can exceptions be made? In theory. A character of another race, if a loyal and long-standing servant of House Deneith, can earn honorary membership in the Sentinel Marshals with the approval of Baron Breven. A nonhuman Marshal might, secretly or not, be regarded as an outsider among her peers.


Campaigning Marshals

A typical assignment for a Sentinel Marshal is to find—and kill, if necessary—a known and dangerous criminal. Such criminals are usually of the worst sort, the ones who leave town, consort with all kinds of unsavory fellow outlaws, make fiendish alliances, and don’t play fair. Marshals are also special operatives, not just law officers. A Sentinel Marshal might be asked to assist in a diplomatic mission to Droaam, to seize a shipment of Xen’drik relics from pirates on the Thunder Sea, or to save an Eldeen village from a dragon roused by the Lords of Dust.

Having a Sentinel Marshal in the party provides an excellent plot device your DM can use. It’s also a good source of funding—Marshals receive pay and rewards for each job they take—and a means for your DM to deliver treasure. Is your Marshal a sorcerer who seeks a battle staff? Or a paladin who dreams of one day owning a holy avenger? Baron Breven d’Deneith might have such items in his vaults or connections that can be used to reveal where such items might be found.

The missions assigned to you are suitable for your skills and those of your known associates and regular deputies. If you’re a rogue, you might be ordered to infiltrate a thieves’ guild and slay the vampire lord who rules it. If you’re a fighter, you might be ordered to defeat an ettin terrorizing Breland’s western borders.

You’re not always on duty—you can go on adventures that have nothing do with your house. Nor are you required to chase down a cutpurse in the streets or arrest a merchant you happen to see committing fraud, unless you’ve been hired to do so. Yet you retain the right to enact justice whenever you deem it necessary. Some Marshals are callous about their authority, enforcing the law only at specific times or when they’re required to do so. Others cannot stand idle when witness to the pettiest crimes. It’s up to you where you fall in the gamut of justice.

Remember that you don’t have to kill every foe. Sometimes you’re the good guy that drags the bad guys back to the city to face the music. But just as often, you need to be the judge, jury, and executioner who gets the job done by any means necessary. Sometimes a fugitive’s head is proof enough that he’s a threat no more.



Sample Marshals

Sentinel Marshals have featured in several novels. The latest can be found in the first Dungeons & Dragons Online®: Eberron Unlimited™ novel The Shard Axe. Author Marsheila Rockwell tells the story of Sentinel Marshal Sabira Lyet d’Deneith, a woman who earned her house’s highest honor by failing at her most important mission. Although she has spent the last eight years running from that failure, ghosts of the past call her home for a final confrontation.

Here are a few others drawn from Eberron lore.



  • Alderem Eltor d’Deneith: A dragonmarked paladin of Dol Arrah, Alderem chased down war profiteers during the Last War, especially those who scavenged from fields of battle and sold military arms on the Black Highway. Under mysterious circumstances, he now roves across Khorvaire on extended leave under a personal vendetta, seeking a legendary criminal known only as the Harvestman.

  • Greigur Ralesh d’Deneith: A grizzled veteran from Karrnath, Greigur is the head of House Deneith’s enclave in the city of Stormreach. Storm Lords hire him to find dangerous fugitives who are not necessarily wanted alive.

  • Jaleid Navarr d’Deneith: A dragonmarked ranger of the Eldeen Reaches, Jaleid spent her years as a Blademark fighting opportunistic bandits who plagued the Aundair-Eldeen border during the Last War. As a Marshal, she pursued war criminals and profiteers throughout the Five Nations until her mysterious disappearance.

  • Marin Jaeren d’Deneith: Hailing from a family of Sentinel Marshals, Marin is an unmarked, straight-laced fighter whose blind adherence to the Code of Galifar cannot protect him or his family from what the Draconic Prophecy has in store.


Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Jeff, thank you so much. The first Eberron-secific Theme, and its awesome. I can only hope and pray there will be more themes like this coming from you in the future...

Just... You state in the article that Sentinel Marshals are "always human", but a DM can make an exception. Except that's not reflected in the mechanics. Why renege on the Human-only requirement? I mean, FR has race-specific themes like the Breagen D'erth Spy. I don't see why Eberron shouldn't.

While the article implies that off-race Dragonmarked Heirs would be welcomed into the Marshals, that is not a universal truth. Many DMs enforce a "stigma" on off-race Dragonmarks in their campaigns, so that for example a Shifter with the Mark of Protection trying to sign up for the Sentinel Marsals would be viewed much the same way a human with an Aberrant Dragonmark would be if he tried the same thing. With scorn, and possibly even targetted for death.

I'm fine with making exception for my players. I do it alot. But it only helps everyone if they KNOW they're asking for an exception, and don't just assume it's normal from the get go. Without that requirement in place, a non-human Sentinel Marshal isn't an exception I've made, it's just the norm. It appears to be a valid character option to anyone making a character in the CB or looking at the rules-as-written.
Planes Wanderer
Thanks for the kind words!

That wording was meant in conjunction with the text in the sidebars  above. In the actual setting, of course, Marshals ARE always human. Rather, they always have been. That's just a fact of history. The sidebar, and lack of the racial requirement in the mechanics, address the fact that the Eberron Player's Guide allows for the possibility of other races. Same with dragonmarked feats. I just wanted it to be clear that having anyone other than a human be a Marshal is an anomaly.  I probably wouldn't allow it in my game, but on the other hand, if I had a player hell-bent on being a shifter Sentintel Marshal and welcomed the roleplaying challenge that presented, and the campaign implications, then I'd absolutely consider it. And we'd both at least be within the rules to try it.

Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Thanks for the kind words!

That wording was meant in conjunction with the text in the sidebars  above. In the actual setting, of course, Marshals ARE always human. Rather, they always have been. That's just a fact of history. The sidebar, and lack of the racial requirement in the mechanics, address the fact that the Eberron Player's Guide allows for the possibility of other races. Same with dragonmarked feats. I just wanted it to be clear that having anyone other than a human be a Marshal is an anomaly.  I probably wouldn't allow it in my game, but on the other hand, if I had a player hell-bent on being a shifter Sentintel Marshal and welcomed the roleplaying challenge that presented, and the campaign implications, then I'd absolutely consider it. And we'd both at least be within the rules to try it.



I appreciate the possibility, but I honestly feel like it should by my choice as a DM whether to allow it or not. Without that requirement, it's just one of thousands of character options, and I look like a jerk for saying no to that specific one and not any others, and only for your character.

And I would totally make the exception for that hell-bent player dying for a roleplay challenge.
I also wouldn't make the exception for a much more casual player that took it "because it fits my half-orc fighter" that he hasn't even named yet, and who I know would be more irritated than not at the roleplaying consequences.

He would also be irritated at me for saying "no" and being "mean" about your average point-and-click character option in the Builder. So I'm damned if I do (allowing it and being seen as "punishing" a player in-character) damned if I don't (saying "no" and being viewed as too strict where I'm not allowing a perfectly legal charactr choice because I'm a power-tripping DM).

Here's the deal. Let's say I'm running FR, and you have an awesome backstory that involves one of the race-specific character themes in the Neverwinter Campaign setting that you're not a member of the appropriate race for. I'm going to tell you "that's awesome", and instruct you to pick that choice, which the Builder will note as a Houserule. No one's hurt. And you only knew to LOOK for that theme because you HAD a justification for it in your head.
Planes Wanderer
What a great way to kick off Eberron specific themes. The mechanics of the theme really back up the story material in a flavorful way. Thanks for posting the sidebars, it's a welcome addition. Excellent work, keep em coming!
Great article !

I was looking forward to Eberron Themes and i always liked Sentinel Marshals. Its very well written and has cool crunch and a nice Rage Magic Item. 

Also the extra stuff that didn't make it into final publication is cool to have here. 

Thank you Jeff !
A really fantastic article, with great things on both sides of the fluff/crunch line.

I have a player who is REALLY interested in his character becoming a Sentinel Marshal somewhere down the line, so personally this is exceedingly well-timed.

Thanks for the article, extra thanks for the bonus sidebars, and here's hoping the Eberron themes keep coming!
Thanks, guys! This is off-topic, but if you like my writing, you could do worse than check out Foreshadows. I even roped Keith Baker in that project... Wink

I appreciate the possibility, but I honestly feel like it should by my choice as a DM whether to allow it or not.


That's true with a lot of things, though. The game puts forth tons of rules which you could say this about, you know?

But I hear you, AvonRekaes, and I sympathize. Mostly I was sticking to the existing Eberron mechanical canon from the Campaign Guide and Player's Guide, which is the technical allowance of any race to have any dragonmark. I didn't design this article with Character Builder in mind. It's just one of those issues that's hard to please everyone on. I've seen many threads vilifying racial requirements (those very same Realms requirements you're talking about). In the end, it's just got to be something a player and DM decide together.

Mostly I'm standing by the concept in the third bullet point on page 86 of the Player's Guide about playing a character with a dragonmark. The same racial question applies to whether one can be a Sentinel Marshal. To be a blood member of House Deneith means you're human. If you're not, but you're going to be a Marshal, you're probably going to be the first ever.

Thanks for the article, extra thanks for the bonus sidebars, and here's hoping the Eberron themes keep coming!


I sure hope so. But I'm not in the know.



Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Jeff, the Theme is perfect as is. There is no Prerequisit. Just heavy recommandations that a DM can follow, but no actual formal Requirements.

See Matt James's recent Heroes of Moonshae Isles Themes  for previous experience, or the discussion that followed in CharOps.

As is, if the Character Builder doesn't allow a Dragonborn to be a Sword Marshall, then it will be a bug, not the author's fault by having set this restriction himself. Wink

I really liked the way you did it personally

Thanks for the kind words!

That wording was meant in conjunction with the text in the sidebars  above. In the actual setting, of course, Marshals ARE always human. Rather, they always have been. That's just a fact of history. The sidebar, and lack of the racial requirement in the mechanics, address the fact that the Eberron Player's Guide allows for the possibility of other races. Same with dragonmarked feats. I just wanted it to be clear that having anyone other than a human be a Marshal is an anomaly.  I probably wouldn't allow it in my game, but on the other hand, if I had a player hell-bent on being a shifter Sentintel Marshal and welcomed the roleplaying challenge that presented, and the campaign implications, then I'd absolutely consider it. And we'd both at least be within the rules to try it.


Thank you very, very much for writing it this way.  It's a much, much better way to do it than to impose mechanical restrictions on an entirely flavour basis.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Really like it and hope for more Eberron themes.

I think the first two sidebares which you posted are now included in the text or have I missed something?

As an Eberron DM I don't allow the 12 dragonmarks on other races. Everyone can have an aberrant mark if one wants but there is a total NO in this issue. And I think of myself as a very tolerant DM. Normally I allow everything if the player does the job of reflavouring if it doesn't fit. But somhow not on dragonmarks. They are kind of a holy cow for me - don't know really why. 
I think the first two sidebares which you posted are now included in the text or have I missed something?
 


Really!?  I'm not seeing it... Frown

Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Anyone else think this could be fun for a Blackguard? "Mercy? Because of your ignorance? I don't care if you know the rules... but you'll soon found out that you will be punished when you break them!"
D&DNext: HTFU Edition
Were you paid for the cut word count? I don't see how there's 'space issues' given that they don't even compile the mags anymore.
I think the first two sidebares which you posted are now included in the text or have I missed something?
 


Really!?  I'm not seeing it... 



Yes, I just looked again: The first is under New Theme: The Sentinel Marshall, the second under Adventuring Marshals. Or I have another pdf than you Wink
Ahh, okay, I see it. They're just not sidebars anymore; they're merged in with the rest. Who knew?  


Were you paid for the cut word count? I don't see how there's 'space issues' given that they don't even compile the mags anymore.


Just speculation on my part, really. I mostly missed the Sample Marshals sidebar, because it's cross-promotion with the Eberron novel The Shard Axe.

Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Were you paid for the cut word count? I don't see how there's 'space issues' given that they don't even compile the mags anymore.

Word count influences pay, yes, but more importantly, it impact the followup steps in regard development and editing. I am sure they don't pay as much attention to it as when they were printed (a few procent more or less), but if the increase is relatively big (no idea when, 10%?) will have a large impact.
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