I’m late to the review game here folks, but I’d never forget to do a write up on my favorite Campaign Setting for Dungeons and Dragons. Eberron!
If you want to get my thoughts right out front, Eberron: Rising from the Last War is great. Coming in at 320 pages it is very meaty, and long on assistance for the Dungeon Master. Has some excellent tidbits for players too. It’s pretty much what I expect to see from an Eberron Campaign setting book. We’ve seen this before in two previous editions of D&D. This setting in particular always does a great job of introducing the world, without getting long winded. You get the perfect bare bones rundown, and are then handed the tools necessary to run with it. That’s the book in a nutshell. If you want to run games in this Campaign Setting, grab this book and you’ll have all the setup you will likely ever need.
Now, let’s flesh this out!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with a toast to the alternate cover art. It is one of my favorites since they started down this road of providing such a thing. If you have a choice between the standard cover and the alternate it is really a no-brainer here. Vance Kelly knocked it out of the park. A perfect companion to this weird little pulpy, noir, high fantasy, steampunk world. Does everything you need to set the tone. As for the standard cover (pictured above) I’m not a huge fan, simply because it highlights an area of the world setting I never really play around in, personally I preferred the working cover art, which does make an appearance in the book at least.
The first part of the book spends some needed time introducing players to the basics of Eberron. The background of the world, and what to expect about play style. Eberron has always been set almost immediately after a shaky peace has been negotiated between countries that have been at war for a generation. This sets up a very conflicted world that really allows a DM to play around. With this many groups vying to find their place in a newfound world you can go in a myriad of directions. The best thing about how this has always been handled, and continues to be handled, is that there is very little hand holding for the DM. You get the info you need to create, but aren’t told specifically which direction to go with it. We don’t even get to know what caused the major cataclysm that instigated the world to sit up and force a peace! That’s on you to explore. It can make for a somewhat advanced treatment for a DM on where to go, some may need a little more help than that, but I have always appreciated the freedom to stretch my imagination some.
Chapter One kicks off some character creation stuff, and this is where player characters will be spending most of their time. This isn’t a tidbit chunk added to appease folks looking for a few new character options, here we get a solid rundown of the changes you’ll find for races of old, and four whole new races to look at.
- Changelings – Descended from doppelgangers these individuals can change appearances with ease. Often choosing a static humanoid form to be their day to day appearance because their natural form typically earns them nothing but mistrust.
- Kalashtar – Tough to describe but they are essentially the blending of humans and psychic spirits. Certainly new type of race to play around with. In fact I’m reminded that I’ve never done much with them personally. Maybe that should change.
- Shifters – Descended from Lychanthropes, can take on bestial characteristics in order to enhance their natural abilities.
- Warforged – Metallic constructs given sentience for the purposes of war. Where they fit in during a peace time their race has never encountered is up to the player. One of my personal favorite additions.
We are also given a new class to play with known as the Artificer. This is a classic Eberron class that approaches magic with a mixture of tech, often giving a steampunk feel to the style. The Artificer can currently advance in their roles as Alchemists, who delve into potions and other mixtures, Artillerists, that essentially bring a magical turret to the battlemat, or Battle Smiths who function almost like a combat medic. Overall the Artificer is very setting appropriate, but certainly a class for players who have a bit of experience under their belt. There seems to be a lot going on with this class and you’ll want to be prepped.
Another great element to the character creation chapter is the addition of Dragonmarks, which have always been a staple of Eberron, namely I like how they are implemented in 5e. In fact this is probably my favorite implementation to date. In 5e, choosing to take on a Dragonmark replaces your chosen racial/subracial traits. It basically pot commits you to the choice. Really forces a PC’s hand to make use of the role-play aspects of their chosen Dragonmarked house. Definitely a go-to for someone wanting to try something a little different that is setting unique.
Chapter Two delves into Khorvaire, the core of the Eberron world. Here we are informed on the major countries, organizations, faiths, etc. of the lands where the bulk of the action seems to take place in Eberron. At the center of this land mass lies the ever elusive, and highly dangerous, Mournland. The Mournland used to be the country of Cyre until a magical cataclysm turned it into a wasteland of horrific monstrosities and magical hazards. This destruction helped force the uneasy peace that keeps the other powers at be in check, no one wants such a thing to happen in their own backyard.
Chapter Three highlights just one city located on the continent of Khorvaire. What can be so special about the city of Sharn that it gets a chapter all its own? Just to whet your appetite, the city is so massive it must be contained via magic to support it’s growth upwards rather than out. The city of Sharn is aptly referred to as the City of Towers for this reason. If you’re looking for the noir aspects claimed by lovers of this campaign setting here is where you might want to set down some roots. Shadows loom lengthy in a city where those above you get richer as the layers get laid. Mysteries abound around every corner as groups like the Boromar Clan operate like gangsters, or the Tyrants utilize Changelings for information dealing. I’ve personally used Sharn frequently for some excellent adventures. Truly a unique city for tabletop rpgs. The book gives some great detail on districts and organizations. Just enough for you to work with as usual.
Chapter 4 is the Dungeon Master’s toolbox essentially. Lots of great embellishment of villainous groups, and some morally gray ones at that. With the exception of perhaps the Emerald Claw most groups aren’t outright evil, they just find themselves at odds with what many would consider “good” when they start looking out for themselves. You’ll find details of places beyond Khorvaire here, some good maps, travel considerations, and more. Plus, lots and lots of random roll tables to help pad some stuff out. Rounding thing out, we are gifted with a nice little adventure, titled Forgotten Relics, for a DM to either use or peruse in order to get an idea of what an adventure in this setting might look like. Looks to be a one shot that could last two or three sessions.
Chapter 5 focuses on treasure specific to Eberron. Everything here is something you’d find unique to such a world. It isn’t the highlight chapter of the book for me but it is a nice added touch. With over 20 new magic items to dole out it will be easy to nudge one of these items out for the players.
Chapter 6 is a 40 page highlight of some of the NPCs and foes you might run into in this world. I’m always a fan of more baddies to throw at my players, especially ones fresh to a setting so they might not be privy to all the information about the beast. I mean, we need to know what lurks in the Mournland right, or the jungles of Xen’Drik? If the players are foolis…I mean brave enough to try and muck about in such places, I need to be prepared!
My opening remarks stand. Eberron: Rising from the Last War is a gem. One of the best additions to this particular edition’s line of books. If future Campaign Setting source books follow suit we are looking at some great content. It is doubly fun because I could see this book working for the player and the Dungeon Master equally (with a slight edge to the DM, which is to be expected). Quality books or no, the line of large campaign books we’ve seen of late are typically just a DM’s tool with little to offer the players. Here we have some added content that a player character will enjoy. Would have loved to see such a thing for Ravenloft rather than the adventure we received honestly, not that it was a bad adventure just left a lot of opportunity on the table.
I feel like Eberron: Rising from the Last War is a must have.
P.S. If you’re looking for more Eberron lore to pad your adventures I’d suggest looking into some of the books from previous editions. One of the great things about never advancing the timeline for the setting is that those source books hold up. I personally love Sharn: City of Towers and Five Nations the most. Also, we are starting to see a full crop of Eberron support on DMs Guild (including the pdfs of the two books I mentioned above).