Not technically citizens of any nation, the matriarchs and patriarchs of each house live in splendor within their enclaves and emporiums located throughout Khorvaire.

Is this true for ordinary members of the house? Are they citizens, and can they be drafted into service? Can a nation draft a member of house Orien to run a lightning rail service, even if the matriarch wants it to be shut down?

How common are people outside of houses who have the dragon mark? Sometimes it skips a generation or just shows up very late. I could assume a secret affair or sex with a prostitute which creates a child, who never knew who his father is.

I just need this for world building in DM 5E in Eberron.


2 Answers 2


I am going to be quoting from Eberron materials from the “v.3.5 revised edition” of D&D quite liberally in this answer—because that is where Eberron originated, and it’s got over a dozen books for Eberron, while 5e has just Eberron: Rising from the Last War. There’s a lot more material to use, and I just know where it is better. I have searched through Eberron: Rising from the Last War for material relating to the precise requirements of the houses’ neutrality, but (as far as I can tell) there just isn’t much of anything on it to be found in that book.

Not technically citizens of any nation, the matriarchs and patriarchs of each house live in splendor within their enclaves and emporiums located throughout Khorvaire.

Your quote is referring to the various agreements that ended the War of the Mark, as well as the Korth Edicts some time thereafter, which together codify the modern meaning of “dragonmark house” (and also the persecution of aberrant marks).

Unfortunately—sort of—these agreements themselves have never been precisely written down in a sourcebook, only generally described. I say “sort of” because, of course, this leaves room for the DM to nail down the details in particular ways as best suits the campaign, which is a good thing, but it does make answering this question difficult.

Things we do know in a general way about these treaties and the houses’ neutrality:

  • −1,500 [years ago] […] The dragonmarked houses launch the War of the Mark to end the threat of aberrant and mixed marks. The Twelve is established.


    −1,005 [years ago] Galifar makes a deal with the dragonmarked houses, offering them neutral status in exchange for support in his campaign [to unite the Five Nations].

    (Eberron Campaign Setting pg. 225)

  • The agreements at the end of the War of the Mark formalized tenets and traditions that all the houses adhere to. These include rules concerning neutrality (all houses make a show of remaining neutral so they can operate in all nations), fair trade and practices, family naming conventions, and a ban on marriages between houses so that dragonmarks remain pure.

    (Eberron Campaign Setting pg. 231)

  • 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. […] 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 lands, the edicts dictated a system of rents to be paid to the crown in exchange for the territory the houses required for their needs.

    (Dragonmarked pg. 10)

  • 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.

    (Dragonmarked pg. 10)

  • As an arm of the dragonmarked houses, the Twelve attempted to remain neutral during the Last War, but many of its wizards and artificers had national loyalties that were stronger than their ties to the institute.

    (Eberron: Rising from the Last War pg. 74)

There are more such mentions, but these are the meat of what we have. I seem to recall (but cannot immediately find) statements that House Cannith at least somewhat favored Cyre in the Last War, for instance. Notoriously, Sasik d’Vadalis, brother of the leader of that house, is consort to Queen Aurala of Aundair—without relinquishing his standing in House Vadalis (but then, technically, without marrying the queen). House Kundarak—formerly Clan Kundarak—no longer votes in the Iron Council of the Mror Holds, but it has substantial political sway over the other clans that do. And so on. Each of these is seen as “pushing the envelope” in terms of house neutrality.

With that in mind, we can try to answer your questions.

Is this true for ordinary members of the house? Are they citizens and can be drafted into service?

This is unclear, but the example of the Twelve from Eberron: Rising from the Last War pg. 74 suggests that members of the houses can have, if nothing else, at least emotional allegiance to one nation or another.

However, consider that Galifar was a kingdom, that is, a feudal society. The concept of “nation-state” doesn’t really apply in feudal societies—allegiance is generally to a person, not the concept of a nation. Often, that allegiance isn’t even to the person in charge of the nation—e.g. the king—but to the person directly above you, who is sworn to the person above them, who is sworn to the person above them, and eventually someone is sworn to the monarch and that’s why you’ve got to listen to them. If someone in that chain defects, you were usually coming with (unless someone below them broke their own loyalty to remain loyal to the monarch).

This is relevant because the heads of the dragonmarked houses are each barons. The heads of the houses are certainly held to neutrality—per the Korth Edicts, they would have been sworn directly to the monarch before the Last War (this would be, in the real world, not unusual for barons, who often were directly sworn to a monarch and not to one of the dukes, counts, and so on who were above them). And then every member of the house would be sworn to the baron in charge of it (or one of the barons in charge of it, since sometimes the leadership gets split, e.g. modern House Cannith has three barons).

With the dissolution of the Kingdom of Galifar, the heads of the houses are no longer sworn to anybody—there no longer is any king or queen of Galifar, and they are legally barred from allying themselves with any other nation (so long as the Korth Edicts hold, anyway). Since everyone else in the house is sworn to them, that suggests that no one in the house has any proper allegiance—that is, responsibility—to any nation.

That would prevent any nation from drafting any member of a dragonmarked house into service. It probably wouldn’t, however, stop them from enlisting, if they felt some patriotic duty to do so. We know this happened to some of those working at the Twelve.

Can a nation draft a member of house Orien to run a lightning rail service, even if the matriach wants it to be shut down?

House Orien owns the lightning rail, so that’s definitely out—even if members of the House are citizens and drafted, the lightning rail isn’t their personal property and they have no right to dictate where it goes or when it runs.

In reality, nations that have particular needs for lightning rail service simply pay House Orien exorbitant amounts to offer custom service. This is expensive, but at least currently, trying to force them to do so is beyond the capability of any nation, particularly one that is hard-pressed by other needs (e.g. whatever they need the special service for).

This is true for most, if not all, of the dragonmarked houses—they’re about on par with actual nations for power and wealth. A nation trying to force them to do anything is going to have to go to war to do it—and the house will likely have many ready allies in the form of 1. the other dragonmarked houses, who don’t want to allow the precedent of a house being pushed around like that, and 2. the other nations, who don’t want to allow any other nation to get special treatment.

How common are people outside of houses who have the dragon mark? […] I could assume a secret affair or sex with a prostitute which creates a child, who never knew who his father is.

Depends what you mean by “the dragon mark”—but the answer ranges from “rare” to “extremely rare.”

Rare would be aberrant dragonmarks. These are unique dragonmarks, different from the thirteen “true” dragonmarks (Death, Detection, Finding, Handling, Healing, Hospitality, Making, Passage, Scribing, Sentinel, Shadow, Storm, Warding). They show up randomly, and are considered evil or corrupt by most of Khorvaire—the War of the Mark was largely about them and the dragonmarked houses’ attempts to eliminate them. It’s unclear if there’s anything actually wrong, or even different, about these marks, or if that’s just propaganda and any one of these marks could develop into a new dragonmarked house if allowed. They are rare, but when they do show up, it’s (basically?) never within an established dragonmarked house.

Extremely rare would be one of the “true” dragonmarks. For one of the twelve remaining dragonmarks to appear outside of the associated house, basically means the marked person has an ancestor who was an illegitimate, unrecognized child of the house, or an ancestor who was kicked out of the house. Most of the houses are very permissive about recognizing bastards to prevent exactly this kind of thing, and kicking a member of the family out of the house is rare in the extreme. One way or the other, though, “a character with a dragonmark can always find a connection to a dragonmarked house somewhere in the roots of his family tree,” (Dragonmarked pg. 7).

(Outright impossible—barring divine DM intervention—would be the re-appearance of the Mark of Death. That dragonmark has been thoroughly stamped out, and no one is going to discover “a connection to [House Vol] somewhere in the roots of his family tree.”)

Sometimes it skips a generation or just shows up very late.

Correct; Dragonmarked states that “approximately half the children born to dragonmarked parents eventually develop dragonmarks of their own,” (pg. 7).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I assumed that identification papers eberron.fandom.com/wiki/Identification_papers work like passports. The Notaries Guild[citation needed] of House Sivis notarizes identification papers, though they are officially issued by a government to its citizens.[1][2] It seemed reasonable, that you are a citizen of a nation, if you have its papers. Would a house get its own papers, or would a houses member (except the baron himself) have a nation paper (e.g. Aundarian). Eberron seems to be more like a (post) victorian era setting, not purely medieval with a purely feudal system. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also: what happens if you marry outside of your house? Is your spouse protected? Are its parents protected? Do house member live regulary outside exclaves? If so, what about their proptery? This seems a bit like a lever nations could use, to influence people. The question was more like: house orien is unhappy for whatever reason and stops serving a specific lightning rail line. Thrane needs this line, seizes a train and uses a religious member of house orien to run it (and pays orien a high fee for confiscating it temporarily). What levers does Thrane got, to convince the member to do it. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 15:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @stupidstudent Yes, houses get their own papers. It’s mentioned in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Marriage usually results in your spouse joining the house, which is why house members and nobles cannot intermarry. The “no property” thing is unclear, but it is clear that this rule hasn’t been enforced much at all since the Last War. As for the Thrane example, they may very well start a war doing that—a very one-sided war they would almost-certainly lose. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 30, 2022 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you a lot. Where did you find the idenfication papers for houses? Is it this line for house agent: Equipment: A set of fine clothes, house signet ring, identification papers, and a purse containing 20 gp I am not sure if these are not the standard papers of the nation your exclave is located, which must be bought for 2/5 gold. But maybe I am wrong or I missed something. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 22:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @stupidstudent Eberron: Rising from the Last War pg. 72, under the Independence benefit of having a dragonmarked house as a group patron. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 30, 2022 at 23:21

It's complicated.

There isn't a straightforward answer to this. To a great extent it's what the character chooses to claim as their citizenship, and how much that political entity agrees and is willing to expend effort on the person's behalf.

According to the D&D 3.5e Eberron Campaign Setting,

Each house also employs retainers and hirelings to aid in the family business. Those retainers and hirelings who show initiative and promise can rise through the ranks to hold important positions within the house. The most effective and promising of these might be invited into the family through marriage to the young scions of the blood, thus making sure the bloodline continues.

Members of the family -- of the bloodline -- are unambiguously members of the house, and answer to the house. Individual house members may consider themselves culturally Brelish or Aundarian or whatever, but politically, they are House Cannith (or whatever), not citizens of the nation they happen to geographically live in. Somebody might make a decision to go the other way; an unmarked House Cannith member might repudiate their house membership and say "I'm not Cannith, I'm Brelish" in response to some decision the house or nation has made, but how much that actually sticks is a political question.

For hirelings, it's more complicated and depends on their position in the house. A local who was hired two years ago to work in the stable of a House Phiarlan enclave is almost certainly not considered anything of note as far as the house is concerned, and will be considered a citizen of her nation. But if that same person becomes a highly trusted agent who acts as personal assistant to the Baron, the fact that they have no blood connection and were born in Aundair may not actually matter so much. If the house will claim you and put its considerable political power into protecting you, then it is so.

Heck, it can go the other way, too. A person might say "You can't arrest me, I'm an agent of House Cannith", but if the house doesn't back up that claim, then it means as much as saying "You can't arrest me, I'm a unicorn".

But no, a state actor can't compel House assets. I mean, they can try, but if a nation tried to force Orien personnel to do anything against the house's instructions, they would rapidly find out that Orien was no longer interested in providing service to that nation -- or they might find a storm-summoner coming into town to express the house's displeasure. None of the nations would try that because they know how much they depend on the houses for economic services.

This is much like asking whether a medieval lord could force a monastery to grow wheat for his army. Like yeah, you can probably force them to do it, but what's the cost going to be? If you go far enough, you get the English Reformation, and the number of wars that happened because of that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would you not be arrested, if you are a house member and outside of your enclave? If you a brelish and you commit a crime in Karrnath, you would be arrested too. Normal House member or not. Or am I wrong here? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ It was just an example. I was thinking of diplomatic immunity, which no, would not apply to any random House member, only to specifically named delegates, but I think the point stands. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it was a very good point. I did not consider outsiders who work for a house. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 15:55

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