The great dragonmarked families are the barons of industry and commerce throughout Khorvaire and beyond. Their influence transcends political boundaries, and they remained mostly neutral during the Last War. While not technically citizens of any nation, the matriarchs and patriarchs of each house live in splendor within their enclaves and emporiums located throughout Khorvaire. These dynastic houses of commerce derive their power from the dragonmarks — unique, hereditary arcane sigils that manifest on certain individuals within the family, granting them limited but very useful magical abilities associated with the trade guilds the family controls.
The thirteen dragonmarked houses constitute an aristocracy of commerce and industry across Khorvaire. The blood members of each family have wealth and social status that puts them firmly in the middle to upper classes of Khorvairian society. The house nobles and their immediate relatives share the highest status in the land, equivalent to the royal houses and the highest-ranking clergy. Scions further removed from the main bloodline share and take advantage of this status as the nobles allow, but on their own they rank in the middle class.
Individual dragonmarks appeared within bloodlines, and soon family dynasties sprang up to take advantage of the dragonmark powers. Each family created an economic empire using the dragonmarks, and the dragonmarked houses developed into independent commerce states operating across multiple nations. The War of the Mark, which ended about fifteen hundred years ago, stabilized the houses and ended the threat of aberrant and mixed marks that might have destroyed the economy of Khorvaire. Today, twelve dragonmarks shared among thirteen houses form the basis for economic power across the continent.
Agreements reached 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 that they can operate in all nations), fair trade and practices, family naming conventions, and a ban on marriages between houses so that the dragonmarks remain pure.
There are fourteen dragonmark marks, though the Mark of Death, possessed by House Vol, is extinct. For the longest time, there were only thirteen until last year when a group possessing aberrant marks were somehow changed into a legitimate dragonmark line. The Mark of Shadow is possessed by two separate Houses, Phiarlan and Thuranni.
House Cannith dominates all forms of manufacturing, both mystical and mundane. Gorgon-marked Cannith forgeholds use streamlined forms of production to quickly produce common goods. Even independent artisans often learn their trade at Cannith academies and adhere to Cannith standards. The House of Making builds the tools the other houses rely upon, and it has always been the unspoken leader of the Twelve.
The Last War was a time of great opportunity for Cannith. Every nation wanted weapons and warforged, along with mundane arms and armor. The war raised the house up, and then tore it down. House Cannith was based in Cyre, and the Mourning destroyed the house leadership and key facilities. Now three barons jockey to fill the leadership vacuum: the alchemist Jorlanna of Fairhaven, weaponsmith Zorlan of Korth, and Merrix of Sharn, innovator of warforged. It remains to be seen whether one of these leaders will unite the house, or if it will shatter under the strain.
House Deneith is the dragonmarked house of humans whose members are highly-acclaimed mercenaries and bodyguards known for their efficiency and martial skill.
House Deneith was born in Karrnath, and war flows in its veins. For centuries, the Blademarks Guild of House Deneith has governed the mercenary trade. While warriors with the Mark of Sentinel are among its most elite forces, House Deneith brokers the services of a wide range of soldiers, including Valenar war bands and the goblins of Droaam. Beyond the battlefield, the Defender’s Guild provides exceptional bodyguards for those who can afford their services. House Deneith is also renowned for its Sentinel Marshals, agents who hold the authority to pursue criminals and enforce the law across the length of Khorvaire. The Sentinel Marshals hold the honor of the house in their hands. Being a Marshal is a privilege, and it comes with high expectations.
Despite its might and the desire of some house members to flex their military muscles, House Deneith has always maintained absolute neutrality, selling its services to all sides of a conflict. Baron Breven d’Deneith shows no inclination of using the massive, chimera-marked military forces of his house for his own ends, but he’s surrounded by aggressive advisors who would like to see a Deneith ruling all Khorvaire. House Deneith is also caught in an escalating rivalry with House Tharashk, as it edges into the mercenary trade.
House Ghallanda is a dragonmarked house of halflings found throughout Khorvaire. Ghallanda is one of the few dragonmarked houses that are not involved with some form of arms dealing or soldiering. Instead members of House Ghallanda are Khorvaire's best hosts dealing in food and shelter.
The majority of inns, taverns, and restaurants in the Five Nations are either directly owned by House Ghallanda or licensed by its Hosteler’s Guild. Most people give little thought to House Ghallanda; when compared to the soldiers of House Deneith and the factories of House Cannith, an alliance of innkeepers seems harmless and inconsequential. But Ghallanda’s strength lies in charm and connections. A Ghallanda innkeeper hears many things—if you want to know what’s really going on in a community, talk to the halfling bartender. The leaders of House Ghallanda don’t sell information; they prefer to build friendship and deal in favors. But should a Ghallanda baron ever truly need something, they likely have a favor they can call in.
Ghallanda has a number of “bound businesses”—franchises run directly by the house. The Gold Dragon Inn is such a business, with Gold Dragon Inns being found in every major city, each serving a familiar menu and providing similar services. But many Ghallanda heirs take pride in creating their own unique businesses. There are also many independent restaurants, inns, and taverns licensed by House Ghallanda. The blink dog emblem is an assurance that a locale meets Ghallanda standards of health and quality—but not every inn is run by a halfling.
House Ghallanda’s mandate extends beyond providing creature comforts to travelers. Every one of the house’s enclaves—which are more numerous than those of any other dragonmarked house—is a sanctuary beyond the legal reach of any government or dragonmarked house. Baron Yoren and his daughter Chervina have greatly expanded the house’s presence even in remote areas such as the edge of the Demon Wastes, guided by their study of the Draconic Prophecy.
House Jorasco is a dragonmarked house of halflings found throughout Khorvaire. Their house enclave is located in Karrnath, though the mark originated among the nomadic tribes on the Talenta Plains.
The Healer’s Guild provides a vital service to Khorvaire, and the Last War ensured there was great need for healers. The leader of the guild, Baron Ulara d’Jorasco, is much beloved in northwestern Khorvaire for her instrumental role in combating an epidemic in that region a decade ago, and Jorasco medics served in every nation’s army during the war.
The guild runs schools that teach medicine, as well as houses of healing that provide both mundane and magical services. If it could save a life, it’s probably marked by the House Jorasco griffon emblem, and it will come with a cost. If you have the gold, Jorasco healers can remove a disease instantly with lesser restoration. If you can’t afford such a service, they will treat you with mundane techniques. House Jorasco is also the source of potions of healing. While many criticize Jorasco’s demands for payment, the house maintains that it’s not about greed; it’s about ensuring the prosperity of the house, so they can continue to help future generations.
While the public face of Jorasco is that of the healer, there are rumors that the house engaged in disturbing experiments during the Last War, working with House Vadalis to develop biological weapons and new creatures.
House Kundarak is the dragonmarked house of dwarves with services focused in security and banking. Their primary customers are those who have enough coin to buy something worth protecting, including the wealthy, the powerful, other dragonmarked houses and even state governments. They are the wealthiest dragonmarked house by far and their banking establishments can be found all over Khorvaire.
House Lyrandar is a dragonmarked house of half-elves in Khorvaire with its enclave located on Stormhome, an island city-state just north of Aundair. House Lyrandar possesses the Mark of Storm. This mark grants various magical benefits that allow its bearers to control winds and waves.
House Medani is a dragonmarked house of half-elves and is known as the smallest and one of the youngest houses. However, despite its size and age, its members are seemingly everywhere, working as operatives in various fields such as guards, researchers, advisers, inquisitives and spy-catchers. Unlike most dragonmarked houses, Medani has a strong geographical location as the majority of its members are Brelish nationals and live in Breland.
Represented by the basilisk’s eye, the Warning Guild of House Medani brokers the services of bodyguards and inquisitives. Medani advisors specialize in risk assessment and management, protecting clients from both physical and social threats. While Medani overlaps with the inquisitives of House Tharashk and the bodyguards of House Deneith, the Warning Guild specializes in subtle threats and complex mysteries. Baron Trelib manages the guild’s affairs from the Tower of Inquisition in Wroat, where the house also interrogates prisoners for King Boranel of Breland.
The members of House Medani are half-elves with deep roots in Breland. Medani has little interest in the power struggles that sometimes break out between the other dragonmarked houses. Many Medani heirs are more interested in helping their communities than in raw profit, and Medani heirs often work with local law enforcement or help those who can’t afford their services.
House Orien is a dragonmarked house of humans in Khorvaire, with its major enclave located in Passage, Aundair. The house specialises in courier services and land based transport. Though House Cannith invented the lightning rail, House Orien are the ones who operate and manage it.
The House of Passage manages land transportation. The lightning rail is the house’s most dramatic tool, but Orien also runs caravans and coaches across the length of Khorvaire. Dragonshard focus items ensure that the fastest vehicles are those driven by heirs with the Mark of Passage, but the house also licenses unmarked teamsters. The Courier’s Guild of House Orien delivers mail and packages and has a branch that handles more covert and dangerous deliveries.
Orien has dominated transportation for centuries, but now the house is facing challenges. The Mournland is a dramatic obstacle for ground transportation, and Baron Kwanti d’Orien has had tremendous difficulty securing funds to rebuild the lightning rail line across the blasted landscape. Indeed, he spends most of his time away from his headquarters in Aundair, trying to raise funds for the project while keeping an eye on house operations. He travels across western Khorvaire in his personal lightning rail coach, the Silver Unicorn—a reference to the house’s unicorn emblem.
House Orien’s problems don’t end with the Mournland, though. The expanding role of Lyrandar airships threatens the house’s business. Baron Kwanti would like to be able to offer more instantaneous transportation, but long-distance teleportation is a service only the strongest Orien dragonmarks can provide.
House Phiarlan is an dragonmarked house of elves in Khorvaire, although they are now based in Sharn, their former base of operation in Cyre having been destroyed in the Day of Mourning. To the public, Phiarlan is a house of entertainment comprised of bards, actors, artists and acrobats, though it is secretly a house of spies.
Elves have carried the Mark of Shadow for thousands of years. The mark’s bearers left Aerenal after the conflict that wiped out the Mark of Death and established House Phiarlan in Khorvaire. These elves are expert entertainers, giving them access to all manner of places and secrets. Known to few, there has always been an elite force of spies and assassins within House Phiarlan. Only special clients—nobles, merchant lords, and the like—have access to these spies.
Toward the end of the Last War, a bitter feud broke out between the major families of the house. Known as the Shadow Schism, it resulted in a split withinin Phiarlan—and the foundation of House Thuranni. House Phiarlan continues to offer entertainment and espionage in the lands west of the Mournland, while Thuranni operates in the eastern lands. As a rule, Phiarlan elves are the better spies and Thuranni agents are superior assassins. Thuranni and Phiarlan maintain a peaceful relationship, but rivalries run deep.
Baron Elar d’Thuranni is said to be responsible for the Shadow Schism. Ruling the house from an enclave in Regalport, he is always accompanied by a shadowy pair, rumored to be embodiments of shadow itself. The displacer beast serves as the young house’s emblem.
The lands of House Phiarlan, known as the Demesnes, are the foremost centers of the arts in the Five Nations, each focusing on a specific artistic tradition: the written word, movement arts, music, material arts, and the arts of illusion, puppetry, oratory, and acting. Baron Elvinor Elorrenthi leads the house from the last of those, the Demesne of Shadow, which is located in Sharn. The hydra serves as House Phiarlan’s emblem.
House Sivis is the dragonmarked house of gnomes strongly based out of Zilargo. while most people are suspicious of the devious and conniving nature of gnomes, House Sivis has remained firmlu neutral in all conflicts and their services are now considered indispensible. The House is currently governed by a High Council composed of representatives from each of the nations in which the House operates; this council is currently led by Lysse Lyrriman d'Sivis. Lady d'Sivis has led the House for nearly 90 years, since nearly the beginning of the Last War.
Bearing the emblem of the cockatrice, the gnomes of House Sivis facilitate communication. This is seen most literally in speaking stones, magic items allowing a Sivis heir to send a short message to another speaking stone. House Sivis’s message stations employs these items as the backbone of their long-distance communication network. The house also trains and licenses scribes, notaries, interpreters, cartographers, barristers, heralds, bookbinders, and others who work with words. House Sivis has an especially close relationship with House Kundarak, as Kundarak letters of credit must be notarized with a Sivis arcane mark.
House Sivis takes great pains to maintain the trust of its clients and holds a position of absolute neutrality in all disputes, whether between houses or nations. Sivis gnomes are typically friendly, curious, and engaging, but that kindly exterior might conceal a scheming mind. Gnomes have a natural love of intrigue, and the different families within the house often engage in subtle schemes and feuds. Doyenne Lyssa Larriman, the leader of the house, takes pains to ensure that these intrigues never threaten the house or its reputation.
House Tharashk is a dragonmarked house of half-orcs and humans that has just recently begun spreading throughout Khorvaire, though it is still heavily based in The Shadow Marches. Its members are renowned prospectors, bounty hunters, and inquisitives. Tharashk is the only house to hire monstrous laborers and mercenaries from Droaam, with whom they have an alliance.
House Tharashk traditionally licenses inquisitives and bounty hunters. Recently the house’s Finder’s Guild has expanded into dragonshard prospecting. As dragonshards are the lifeblood of the magical economy, the house’s talent has given them new wealth and influence.
Tharashk is the youngest of the dragonmarked houses and hasn’t embraced all the customs of the others. The distinct clans that united to form the house remain important, and heirs of the family usually retain their family names rather than adopting “d’Tharashk” as tradition dictates. Each of the three major clans—the Aashta, the Torrn, and the Velderan—has a representative on the Triumvirate that governs the house, and the city of Zarash’ak in the Shadow Marches. Together, they stand as one under the emblem of the dragonne (a lion-dragon hybrid).
Lhara d'Aela is a dragonmarked heir of House Tharashk, a member of the Finder's Guild and Clifftop Adventurer's Guild, and the owner of the Careless Whisper Tavern and Inn.
House Thuranni was once a part of House Phiarlan and have become their direct rivals competing in entertainment and espionage. House Phiarlan is still larger and stronger than House Thuranni, leading the way in information gathering and spying however, House Thuranni surpasses Phiarlan in assassinations.
Several decades ago, the Thuranni family—accomplished assassins of the house—split off from House Phiarlan and took with them the house's clientele in eastern Khorvaire, forming their own dragonmarked house, House Thuranni. Today, these two rival houses generally service different regions of Khorvaire, with Phiarlan in the west and Thuranni in the east.
Like Phiarlan, the new House Thuranni is known for the arts, but secretly it offers espionage, along with its specialty, discrete assassination services. House Thuranni operates the Shadow Network, with a public face of entertainment, but behind the scenes, its members serve as elite assassins or spies.
House Vadalis is a dragonmarked house of humans in Khorvaire. Their main operation is centered in the Eldeen Reaches, having migrated there almost 2,000 years ago. The house's most significant trade is in the breeding and training of animals.
Represented by the hippogriff, House Vadalis plays an important role in daily life, offering meat, mounts, and more. Vadalis isn’t one of the most powerful houses, but its barons are generally content; they’re more interested in discovering new monstrosities than engaging in politics. The current head of the house, Dalin d’Vadalis, disdains the use of a title and has no aspirations to nobility or greatness for himself or his house.
House Vadalis breeds and trains beasts for a wide range of purposes. While the house maintains vast cattle ranches and trains horses and hounds, the Mark of Handling allows Vadalis to work with more exotic creatures as well. Griffons, hippogriffs, and even bulettes can be bred and trained. Even with the Mark of Handling, this is dangerous work; there’s a lot of turnover at the bulette ranch. But these exotic creatures aren’t enough to satisfy the most innovative members of the house, leading to the practice of magebreeding. Using dragonshard focus items, Vadalis has found ways to create magical creatures. Typically, this results in a superior version of a creature—an animal that is stronger, faster, and smarter. But rumors claim that Vadalis has crafted monsters of its own. Some rumors even insist that Vadalis is trying to magebreed better humans.