Eberron Player's Guide
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    Eberron Player's Guide

    I picked up the original Eberron CS when it first came out, after wanting to find something not Forgotten Realms, nor Greyhawk, nor some other Tolkien rip-off. I have never been dissatisfied, and have not looked back. My group switched to Eberron right away, and we've not strayed from it since. That's my background, so you know where I'm coming from on this.

    I'd been looking forward to this release since I moved to 4e last year, and was really curious about how the designers would incorporate the dragonmarks into 4e's system -- that's really want I wanted to see, and I'll comment more on that in a bit.

    The book is what you'd expect from WOTC 4e: the art is great, the font is easy to read, the book is organized in the same order as all the others ones, and the index is lousy. There's a good amount of background fluff for players in this -- enough to give them the background they'd need to play in an Eberron campaign. Unlike the 3.5 CS, however, I do not believe that there is near enough fluff for the DM. While you could run and play an Eberron campaign directly from that book, we'll have to wait until later this month for the ECG to complete the foundation. But since this is a guide for players, it's entirely appropriate in terms of breadth and depth of content.

    The book introduces three new races: Changelings, Kalashtar, and Warforged. Shifters, although originally an Eberron race, are found in PHBII. Anyway, I like that the Changeling has an option when it comes to stat bonuses, with +2 to CHA, and either +2 to DEX or INT. This enables you to create two relatively different Changeling characters, which is nice. Their at-will power, which is essentially a personal polymorph, doesn't deviate from the idea found in 3.5, and blends nicely with 4e systems. The Kalashtar, in my opinion, make far more sense in 4e and are far more playable as a result. While there isn't as much fluff about their odd beginnings, their powers and traits are clear. In a way, they are something along the lines of the Deva of Eberron, in that they are a little off from everyone else, due to their origins, but not so off as to be difficult to blend into a party or story. In fact, I think they are less so than the Deva. They have the ability to form a link between their mind and the minds of others within range, enabling communication within the party -- a very nice, clean introduction of a semi-psionic power without creating a new subsystem. The warforged are also of good quality, blending nicely into 4e canon without watering down what they were in 3.5. There is a section later in the book that introduces a number of modifications (built-in equipment) for them, which enables you to readily customize them. Finally, there are seveal pages of how other races factor into Eberron, again smoothly blending all core fluff into the setting.

    As for classes, the artificer is given the 4e facelift, and I believe for the better. This is a far more playable model than the one found in 3.5, fitting firmly into the leader role. Artificers have a number of nifty powers that they can set up after an extended rest, and provide buffs to others in the party until the end of the next extended rest -- very nice. They also have a good mixture of powers, of all frequences, that allow them to assist others and do for themselves. Much like the new cleric, this is a leader that doesn't need to hide in the background, or obsessively avoid melee contact. The artificer can hold his own in combat if needs be.

    There is the obligatory selection of Paragon paths, one for each dragonmarked house. These are mostly interesting, with useful powers, and should fit well into a story involving any of those groups. For example, House Ghallanda members have the option of becoming elite guards of their inns and sanctuaries, thus guaranteeing not only a nice place to stay, but also a safe one. That's a very clean combination of the new mechanic of the paragon path and the Eberron story itself. Most of the other paths are of similar quality.

    The feats section adds some interesting Eberron-specific options, mostly related to the new races, the artificer, and the dragonmarks. Ah yes, the dragonmarks -- the character option that I believe best defines and shapes the setting as a whole. This is the only part of the book I was less than satisfied with after reading it and thinking about it for a few days. Gone are least, lesser, greater and Siberus marks. Gone are the combination of skill bonus and spell-like ability (which, when you think about it, presaged the idea of daily powers). In their place is, in most cases, a single bonus, as well as free access to a number of rituals -- once you reach the level required. For example, the Mark of Sentinel, which used to grant various defensive powers in combat, as well as a bonus to Sense Motive, now grants a free shift before or after you use an Opportunity Attack against an enemy that provokes, as well as access to 3 rituals. Lame. LAME! I guess I see how the availablilty of the rituals, reached over the duration of a campaign as characters level, is somewhat like the different levels of marks granting new powers. But the single, often highly situational, other bonus seems to really water down the usefulness of the mark in terms of game mechanics, and by extension, I believe, diminishes what would be the power and impact of the marked houses. And those are really central to the world.

    The powers offered by the marks are not consistent, either. Sentinel offers access to 3 rituals, while the Mark of Passage gives access to 6 specific rituals, and all those in the travel category over time. Passage also adds 1 to any teleport power you use, and enables some allies to shift an additional 1. That's hardly balanced when compared to Sentinel, which suddenly seems pretty weak for being the defining trait of the house that provides the best mercenaries and bodyguards in the world. And the poor Jorasco halflings no longer get any actual healing powers...just the ability to enable whomever they're using Heal or a healing power on make a saving throw. These examples form a trend across all twleve marks. That's a pretty radical departure from what the marks of old could do -- and as I said, by extension into the story, what those houses would be able to do. If I had never read the 3.5 version, I think I'd see these marks a just feats associated with a group that fit into the story background, and nothing more.

    Beyond the many character options, there is information about the different countries, regions, and peoples of Eberron, with the focus being (obviously) on Khorvaire. There are also short, and useful, equipment and rituals sections, rounding out the options for characters, and DMs for campaign-building.

    Overall, this is a great book. The production quality is top-notch; it includes a balance of sections and information akin to other books already out; it smoothly blends existing races and classes into the unique world of Eberron; and it should provide players -- new to Eberron or not -- with all the information they need to jump head-first into the world. The only failing is, in my opinion, the changes made to the dragonmarks. While the new marks should work just fine, I think they've lost something of the distinctiveness they had in 3.5. They just seem like feats or powers now, lost in the jumble of others found throughtout the many 4e books. I'm in the process of re-writing them for my 4e Eberron campaign, essentially taking what the 3.5 marks could do and matching them with 4e powers already available to. I hope to have a selection that will preserve the story and role of the marks as found in 3.5, using 4e mechanics. Beyond that, the EPG is a worthy addition to your 4e library, and essential if you want to play or run an Eberron campaign.
    Last edited by Morrus; Friday, 21st August, 2009 at 09:46 PM.

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