Fleshing Out Some Characters and Plot Points

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Hey everyone! Hoping you guys could help me flesh out some plot points for my players.

Firstly, I will say most of the players are new to Eberron, so I'm trying really hard to hammer home the role of industry in Eberron and how nothing is at it seems.

So far the PCs have been hired by House Cannith to track down a rogue artificer (who stole secrets from house Cannith), and her warforged guardian. (Kipp and Avalanche are their names for the record). The division of House Cannith that hired the PCs was adamant that Kipp was too be captured alive, being that she was family regardless of any theft she'd committed.

The PCs have spent a few sessions playing cat and mouse with Kipp and Avalance, bouncing between the mournland and Vathirond, slowly coming to the realization that Kipp and Avalanche are not the outlaws they've been painted as. In their time spent in Vathirond and in the mournland they've seen lots of evidence of Warforged activity under the banner of the Lord of Blades, though have yet to have a major encounter with them.

After a few interactions the two parties came to respect each other, though the PCs were still adamant about their job to hunt down and return Kipp to house Cannith alive.

The PCs lost Kipp and Avalanches trail for a short while (there was a filler session here to introduce some important characters for future story-lines) and a short while later, Avalanche showed up in order to request the PCs help.

Avalanche revealed that he and Kipp had been tracking a top secret house Cannith project which had been classified at the highest levels of the House Cannith heirarchy. The project involved ripping the personality and free will out of Warforged experiments and binding them to a single Psi-forged (who would then be controlled by an Eldritch Machine). The goal was to create an elite fighting force free of the flaws that come hand in hand with free will (and viewed by some as an accident in the creation process of the Warforged).

Kipp discovered that despite official documentation the project had not been discontinued at the end of the Last War with the Treaty of Thronehold and being a strong advocate for the rights of the Warforged stole classified documentation from the vaults of House Cannith in order to intervene in the continuation of "Project War Machine". He and Kipp managed to locate a top secret House Cannith facility still operating beyond the borders of the Mournland, however while scouting the facility Kipp was captured and so Avalanche came to the only people he knew with the combat savvy that would be needed to break Kipp out.

Avalanche fears that Kipp has learned too much about Project War Machine and will be executed as a result - additionally the players were made aware that access to this kind of classified information was very tightly restricted, it's likely the members of House Cannith who hired them to track down Kipp weren't even aware of the nature of the information Kipp stole, the decision to execute Kipp will come from over their heads and will likely be kept a closely guarded secret.



So this brings us up to the present: In the next session the players accompanied by Avalanche will move to infiltrate the House Cannith facility that houses Project War Machine, only to find it under assault by squadron of Warforged under the command of the Lord of Blades - none too pleased with the nature of Project War Machine.

When the players find Kipp she will insist on the destruction of Project War Machine, despite the obvious danger of staying in a facility controlled by the Lord of Blades who so far seems to have a "No non-warforged are allowed to live" policy.




Anyway, now that you guys are caught up on what's been happening, I've got a few ideas for future plot lines I'd like suggestions on.

1. In the filler session I mentioned I introduced a changeling named Scheik Alteran (masquerading as a half-elf Paladin) who helped the PCs recover a small box that seemed to generate mournland-like horrors around it in a wide radius when opened. When the PCs wouldn't let him take the box he waited until they fell asleep and then stole it. They now hate him forever. I plan to have him crop up a few more times and double cross/trick them a few more times to really make the hatred sink in slowly sprinkling in evidence that he works for a big-time crime boss in Sharn (named Mire).

Eventually the players will find out that Scheik Alteran steals things for Mire because Mire has his sister captive. His sister (who is obviously also a changeling) is important because she has a dragonmark - this dragonmark will change into an appropriate dragonmark whenever she turns into a dragonmarked race:
-How do I show the players how significant this is?
-How do each of the dragonmarked houses react to this?
-What kind of political turmoil can I stir up?
-And what kind of difficult decisions can I force the players to make?




2. I want to introduce House Tarkanan as allies / good guys. So far I'm really not sure how to do this. I'm thinking maybe the players will get caught up in events where members of house Tarkanan are being wrongfully persecuted/attacked based upon their Abberant Marks.

The big events with this plot line will happen later - Several sessions in advance the players will start hearing rumours about people being killed in the streets and left as dried out husks on a pretty large scale in the lower wards. A couple sessions later they'll run into a young girl named Lillian Prior (she'll be about 14-15 years old, naive, innocent) who is being hunted by an unknown party for unknown reasons.

As the story builds the players will realize Lilly has an EXTREMELY potent abberant mark that lets her manipulate/generate necrotic energy (unrelated to undead, it'll be pure necrotic energy). A short while later the players will come to realize that the people hunting Lilly are friends/allies they made in the original House Tarkanan story arc - Lilly's abberant mark is the most powerful mark since the War of the Mark, with a similar potential for death and destruction, and to make matters worse Lilly's power is totally out of control (the players will have witnessed her have an uncontrolled outburst by this point). House Tarkanan claims that Lilly's mark is turning the attention of some very powerful organizations toward her - she's too powerful and too out of control to be allowed to live.

House Tarkanan believes that it's a matter of time before Lilly's power really gets out of control and does irreparable damage and are afraid that it could cause massive anti-abberant backlash - the kind of backlash that the house just doesn't have the fire power to fight against right now, and so for the good of all abberants Lilly has to die. The PCs allies in House Tarkanan are good aligned and are extremely sad they have to kill the most powerful Abberant since the War of the Mark, let alone an innocent beautiful girl like Lilly but they believe the death toll will be far to high leaving Lilly alive, which will make the exchanges between House Tarkanan and the PCs especially charged.

I expect the players will side with Lilly on this one - they have a hardline LG Paladin who has taken the role of party-leader. If the players succeed in protecting Lilly from House Tarkanan Lilly will indeed eventually have an outburst and likely kill at least one of their friends in House Tarkanan (likely the one who was most sympathetic toward her) along with many innocent civilians - I don't know how the PCs will react to this yet. If the PCs fail to protect her, House Tarkanan will kill Lilly on a rather sad note, but do their best to honor her with a proper funeral and respect paid to both her and the PCs.

Even further down the road I plan to bring the story-arc back. The Players will eventually discover evidence that not only was Lilly's Abberant Mark not a naturally occurring mark, but Lilly herself has been cloned many times. Here are some questions I was hoping you guys could help me with:
-What kinds of groups and organizations would be interested in exterminating Lilly?
-What kinds of groups and organizations would be interested in manipulating/using Lilly?
-Which kinds of groups and organizations could be responsible for creating Lilly and subsequently cloning her? What is their purpose?
-Where do I take House Tarkanan from here?
-What kinds of organizations can I introduce to oppose/support house Tarkanan in the future?


I have a couple more plot threads I'd like some help developing, but I'd like to see what you guys have to say about these first.

How do I show the players how significant this is?


For players new to Eberron, this will be complicated. I believe that it would have to be done by repeatedly confronting the PCs in both minor and major ways with the issue of marks. It would help if one of the PCs got a mark, since you could have celebrations and well-wishers to show them how important it is.


Perhaps you could build in a few "innocent" side quests involving the dragonmarked houses. You already have them started as agents of Cannith. Toss a few others in: create an NPC who is despairing because she failed the Test of Siberys and believes she cannot manifest a mark; or a love story where, say, a member of Phiarlan has fallen in love with a non-elf, and her family forbids the relation to go anywhere because the child could not manifest a mark. I had a situation like this once with a rebellious Lyrandar who had fallen in love with a kalashtar. Situations such as these should hammer home the point that only members of the appropriate race can manifest a mark, making the changeling exceptional.

As for the part where she can actually change her mark... Considering that marks are tied to various dragonmarked items, the PCs might be confronted with situations where they would need an appropriate mark to pass (open a Kundarak vault, pilot an airship, doors which are keyed to one mark, etc). Drop hints every time they go somewhere. “Don’t worry. Your treasure will be safe with us. Only someone with the Mark of Warding can open this vault, and we know who they are!”. Again, confront them with people who are disadvantaged by not having a mark; say, a ship captain who would love to compete with the Windwrights but can’t outrun their ships.


How do each of the dragonmarked houses react to this?


I would think that the Twelve would be in uproar because it overthrows what they know about the dragonmarks. She is only one person, so no economic threat, but as far as knowledge goes, a big upheaval. It will probably be important enough to warrant an emergency meeting at the Tower of the Twelve to reach a conclusion; whether and how she should be studied. After that, it will depend on the individual dragonmarked leaders whether they stick to this rule. Thuranni seems most involved with studying the Prophecy, so they could try and use the girl for their purposes; Vadalis might become interested in the genetic parts. Lyrandar’s Storm Front sees the marks as a gift of the Devourer and might take religious offense or interest, causing them to turn against their house on this point. 


But actually, I would be less worried about the Twelve if I were her...


What kind of political turmoil can I stir up?


... because the dragonmarks are part of the Prophecy. Someone who can alter their mark can potentially be used to alter the Prophecy. So what you are looking at here is a fight over this ‘resource’ , a chance to dictate the Prophecy rather than interpret it, between the Lords of Dust and the dragons. Not so much political as apocalyptic once the dragons and the Lords of Dust openly fight over something (though they are more likely to try to work subtly).


Beyond that, if she can change her mark into whatever mark she wants, she can adopt the Mark of Death. And that interests Erandis Vol. The Emerald Claw would go to extreme length to capture her; if it means triggering a war between the dragonmarked houses or getting the Lords of Dust and the dragons to kill each other, so be it.


And what kind of difficult decisions can I force the players to make?


Let’s say the Chamber decides she destabilises the Prophecy. It would then decide she has to be removed. The last time someone tried to interfere with the marks, an entire lineage was eradicated. If the PCs want to save her life, only one group is powerful enough to stand against Argonessen, and that is the Lords of Dust. But would the PCs work with them? Is the life of an innocent person worth giving the fiends the means to write part of the Prophecy themselves?


What kinds of groups and organizations would be interested in exterminating Lilly?


Who would seek to stop an uncontrollable time bomb walking around Sharn? The Citadel and the Blackened Book, for instance. Exterminate or at least imprison (potentially in Dreadhold’s Stone Ward or an antimagic cell).


Beyond that, in some Dragonmarked Houses, traditions against aberrant is stronger than in others – the more extreme, I believe, being Cannith and Deneith. The most tolerant I believe would be Thuranni, Tharashk and Ghallanda (who, by 3.5 Dragonmarked accept aberrants amongst their heirs).


The Church of the Silver Flame might rightly see her as a threat too; they can be ruthless when faced with such danger, as the Lycanthropic Purge demonstrates (and in both cases, there was a clear danger to innocents). The Undying Court, given their dislike for Mabaran energies to which she is connected, even if she doesn’t use undead, could decide her presence hurts the world. 


Which kinds of groups and organizations could be responsible for creating Lilly and subsequently cloning her? What is their purpose?


Erandis Vol. One of her major aims is to recreate the Mark of Death. An aberrant mark using negative energy may have been an experiment gone wrong, or simply one step in the right direction. Additionally, cloning seems appropriate for someone obsessed with eternal life, especially if they seek to understand how death and marks interact.


A Cult of the Dragon Below. The Daelkyr may have managed to figure out how to influence marks; the Shapers of Flesh probably know about cloning. Also, the Daelkyr are connected to Khyber, and the aberrant marks are also believed to be connected to the Dragon Below.


Mordain the Fleshweaver, who studies Daelkyr magic.


The Daughers of Sora Kell, who already know how to influence marks through their dragonblood drugs. Maybe this was the reason they created the drug, or maybe it was a side effect, though I doubt Sora Teraza did not see it coming.


House Vadalis, experimenting on dragonmarks. They are the house best suited to improve living creatures by breeding, though marks usually escape any genetic rationale.


Where do I take House Tarkanan from here?


I could see this cause a rift in House Tarkanan. After all, their mission is to help aberrant marked, so some members might take issue with the decision to kill one, and decide that their leadership needs to be replaced.  

My Eberron Characters. Commissions by various artists on Deviant Art.

Thanks for the great suggestions, I've made some adjustments based on your advice Syltorian! The stuff about demonstrating the significance of the dragonmarked houses and abberant marks was especially helpful!

I do have a few more ideas I'd like help fleshing out!

The PCs have been encountering Warforged flying the banner of the lord of blades, I really like the idea that he's not even real - more of an idea. I'm not 100% sure I'm going to go with this idea, but I'm curious how I might develop this plotline? I don't see a lot of ways of upping the tension with him not being real as opposed to an actual tangible threat. I kind of see him like Darth Vader right now. When he shows up you basically run and hope he doesn't chase you. Here is an idea I'm floating about him:
He exists but not all is as it seems. There are many copies of the Lord of Blades all running around simultaneously, leading to inconsistent stories about his name and deeds. None of the Lords of Blades seem to be aware of each others actions, but all of their actions are strangely interconnected as though they act with some unknown purpose, in service to an unknown master.

Questions:
1. Who could the lord of blades be working for and why?  How did they build multiple copies of the same personality warforged and why do they seem incapable of acknowledging each other?
2. The Lord of Blades has been taking an extremely "anti-fleshy" policy in my game and has been extremely aggressive about territorializing the Mournland. If his true goals aren't to build a Warforged nation what is he trying to do? (As a note, I am going to avoid dealing with the source of the Mourning, it's a mystery I would like to leave intact.)

Actually that's it for now, the other ideas aren't solid enough yet to give you enough of a starting point.
The Lord of Blades could be controled by some outside force, maybe the same one responsible for the cloning. Clone a fleshie, clone a warforged. As to his/their/whomever's agenda, this opens several plans. Free the Lords of Dust to destroy the flesh. Maybe a rogue dragon is interpreting the Prophecy in a radical way, and sees the end of humanity in it. A rival of House Cannith could have tried to gain an advantage, and dramatically lost control. Or, my personal favorite, the numerous Lords of Blades is controlled by an ultimate being. Two come to mind: the original Lord of Blades (who did achieve godhood) or the Dreaming Dark. Who doesn't love those scary Quori?
To borrow a trope: how about if the LoB is skynet? Mechanically a shared mind that can influence or control warforged within a certain area. Its goal could be to expand that area and eventually achieve a sort of divinity, while exterminating the fleshbags. I've always seen LoB as a tool of the Lords of Dust or other long range thinkers.