Dragonmarked Houses.   Posted by GM.Group: 0
GM
 GM, 12 posts
Wed 5 Apr 2017
at 14:28
Dragonmarked Houses
In general:

To maintain their monopolies, dragonmarked Houses have to have a large number of members. But "members" means "family members," and this has a few implications.

First of all, dragonmarked families are enormous because the only reliable way to instill the mark in more people is for it to be passed on to direct heirs - and even that method is not completely reliable. Most heirs are subtly and not so subtly encouraged to begin having children as soon as they can. Without getting into the potential ickiness of this, the result is a lot of very young parents and a lot of very old parents; female heirs who are almost constantly pregnant; suspected bye-blows who are abducted from their mothers and given to House members - and who subsequently vanish when if they don't develop a dragonmark or are proven not to be heirs.

This has been the case ever since the dragonmarked families began to gain power, but things have changed in response to the losses suffered in the Last War. Now the Houses - especially Cannith, whose losses were staggering - are ramping up their active membership numbers as much as possible.

Dragonmarked children are pressed into the service of the House as soon as they exhibit a measure of control over the power of their mark. Effort is taken to keep them out of the most dangerous and deadly aspects of a given House's business, yet it is sometimes necessary to, say, employ a small Thuranni child (who admittedly would be older than a human child of the same size) as a spy or even an assassin.

Heirs who don't develop dragonmarks don't tend to receive as much pressure from the House itself to start working, but such individuals have been known to push themselves to excel beyond their magically-imbued cousins (or otherwise gain positions of power), in order to prove their worth to their House.  Unmarked heirs are still pressured to procreate, as any direct descendent can still produced marked children.

Nowadays, pressure to work comes from the other end of the age spectrum as well. Extremely old members of a House are pressured to keep active, even when they'd rather retire in the luxury they can most certainly afford. Some are kept on the job despite declining physical and mental states, with an increase in their medical care, if they're lucky. Some heirs see their marks become increasingly powerful with age, others see a significant decline and at times have to exert themselves dangerously to perform their duties. Ironically, there are sometimes vicious fights between elderly heirs jockeying for the cushiest postings.

Many members who had previously been deemed too incompetent, irresponsible, amoral, or otherwise too problematic to serve their family are being embraced once more, their faults overlooked for the time being. Almost anyone who it is deemed won't do more harm than good is now being brought back into the fold, at least on a probationary basis.

For the most part, the longer-lived a humanoid race, the smaller number of children they have. This holds true for the dragonmarked Houses, and therefore Kundarak, Sivis, and the elven Houses do not see a significant advantage in numbers.
GM
 GM, 14 posts
Wed 5 Apr 2017
at 14:43
Dragonmarked Houses
What this all means for Sharn:
Dragonmarked children are better kidnapping targets than their parents. With many more of them underfoot, keeping them all protected is vital, and House Deneith has trouble enough just guarding their own. Adventurers can earn gold and curry favor watching over a passel of dragonmarked children - or rescuing them if their original caretakers fail.

While they have not fully entered in on their magical inheritance, dragonmarked babies and children still exhibit abilities related to their marks, some of which are unpredictable and dangerous. This helps dissuade kidnappers, but can also make them harder to guard.

When giving House outlets their patronage, adventurers are likely to encounter House members who are surprisingly young; distressingly old; very pregnant or indeed holding or trying to keep track of children; or who are either terrible people or just terrible at their jobs.

While lucrative, House work is still work, and there's more than can be covered even with the broadened employment standards. This makes for long hours, pushy bosses/parents/offspring, and some very questionable treatment of human(oid) resources. Some House members would like to skip out, temporarily or permanently. There are some members who had been banned or exiled and who need to be found and brought back into the fold. Others saw opportunities to fake their own deaths during the War. Adventurers are sometimes hired to find wayward members, or to keep them from being found. The reward might be in money, or it might be in House services.
GM
 GM, 25 posts
Fri 7 Apr 2017
at 18:43
Exclusive House Services
The Houses include many non-marked heirs among their number, but also directly employ non-heirs. Some of these are spouses, or even in-laws of heirs. These days spunky niece or nephew on one's non-heir spouse's side might these days take a posting as a page or courier that otherwise would have gone to an heir. Some employees, such as dustmen, butlers and other positions that are either highly distasteful, or call for expendable assets, or both might be filled by someone who just has the qualifications. (House Cannith, naturally, fills many House positions with warforged who might still feel loyalty or with other purpose-built constructs.)

But some things apparently still require a dragonmarked heir. for instance:

All airships and elemental galleons have someone with the Mark of Storm at the helm, if not actually in command. They are also at the controls of every skycoach in Sharn. This strikes many - including some Lyrandar heirs - as demeaning work, but it gives the House a high degree of control over comings and goings in Sharn. Among other advantages....

House Sivis speaking stones (less-portable, but easier-to-create versions of sending stones) are apparently only ever seen operated by someone with the Mark of Scribing.

House Orien puts heirs with the Mark of Passage on ever lightning rail and elemental land cart.

It is not known if any active creation forges exist, but it's generally assumed that only someone with the Mark of Making could make one function.

Some argue that these devices aren't different than any other magical convenience and that it's merely House training that allows the heirs to operate them. The Houses are known to make life miserable for anyone who tampers with their proprietary devices, or even seems to be looking to closely at them, so this claim is rarely tested.

(I want to avoid absolutes here, but I also want to give the Houses a huge amount of control. An annoying amount of control. That said, it's more fun when things work than when they just sit there, so there will be options for non-marked characters to use House devices, if the need arises. Fortunately, the party includes a Lyrandar heir already.)
GM
 GM, 27 posts
Mon 10 Apr 2017
at 00:41
House Strictures
Because of the power they wield, the Houses are careful not to fall too far afoul of the official governments. At various times, they have deigned to follow various limitations on property ownership, and the like.

The Houses also have agreements among themselves. One of the most important of these stems from their fear of aberrant dragonmarks. This fear is party financial - should too many individuals develop useful abilities outside the control of the Houses, the Houses might lose their monopolies. The fear is also one of actual dread, because there have been wars between dragonmarked Houses, and between the Houses and dragonmarked upstarts with powers that possibly outstripped even their combined might. Sharn itself was all but destroyed in one of these wars, and as far as anyone knows the Day of Mourning may have had its source in an incredibly powerful aberrant mark.

The source of aberrant marks is not entirely clear, despite centuries of research into bloodlines and the Draconic Prophecy. Dragonmarks clearly have a hereditary aspect, though, so to be on the safe side all of the officially recognized dragonmarked Houses forbid their families from interbreeding. Knowingly or even accidentally (as accidental as such things can be) going against this carries severe penalties from the Houses and their joint councils.
GM
 GM, 109 posts
Fri 12 May 2017
at 14:22
House Undertakings
House Vadalis seems to possess a method of detecting changelings. The exact nature of this method and how widespread it is are not currently known. It seems likely that the method involves some creature or living thing that has been bred or trained to indicate the presence of a changeling. Should the Tyrants manage to determine what the method is, they will make every effort to hinder its effectiveness.