Eberron: Rising from the Last War - A Review

Almost as soon as 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons launched, vocal fans started asking for Eberron. In multiple surveys it was a top request. In response, Wizards of the Coast released the PDF-only Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron. A “living document” that would be updated as they refined the setting,it was met with equal parts joy and frustration (e.g., it was missing the artificer class at launch). So the release of Eberron: Rising from the Last War has been eagerly anticipated by those vocal fans. But for players new to the setting, it's worth explaining just what Eberron is before we dive into the review.
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Welcome to Eberron

In 2002 Wizards of the Coast launched a Fantasy Setting Search to create a new world for D&D 3rd Edition. Keith Baker, an author and game designer, won the competition with Eberron. It was published for D&D 3.5, which had been released in the meantime.

While Eberron shares many components with classic D&D, such as dwarfs, elves, half-orcs, magic, etc., the tone is very different. Eberron is a steampunk-inspired (perhaps magicpunk would be more accurate since magic powers more Eberron technology than steam) setting that mixes pulp adventure with noir intrigue. As a world based on magic instead of technology it has airships and skyscrapers. Minor magics are common and frequent. Major magic, like raising the dead, is rare. Whereas Lord of the Rings was one (of many) inspirations for D&D, Eberron cites The Maltese Falcon as an example so the tone and style is very different.

Eberron even has its own “micro cosmology” as Jeremy Crawford calls it. According to its lore, three dragons created the world. One, Khyber, turned on the others. Siberys was destroyed, and its shattered pieces formed a ring around the world created by the body of the dragon Eberron as it, combined with the ring, wrapped around Khyber to trap it forever. That turns Eberron into the planet; Khyber as the underworld, not unlike the Underdark; and Siberys as the world above. Eberron was “hidden away” from the rest of the D&D multiverse so gods and devils like Pelor and Asmodeus have previously left it alone. Eberron has its own gods, but they tend to be more distant and less directly active in the world while still granting powers to their clerics.

Magic in Eberron is common but shallow. Spells of 4th level are rare. Dragonmark spells top out at 5th level with spells of those level being even more scarce. Most magic is confined to 1st through 3rd level, but magic is more pervasive in everyday life than the Forgotten Realms. In Eberron, a train travels on a lightning rail powered by bound elementals, and everbright lanterns mark the streets.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War combines rules, world information, an adventure, an Eberron-specific bestiary and material to create your own adventures. While promoting the new Eberron book, Jeremy Crawford asked what would happen if Asmodeus turned his eyes to Eberron. It remains to be seen if that's a hint of future products to come or just idea prods for homebrew adventures.

It's easy to see why Keith Baker won the contest years ago. Eberron is a rich setting with a distinctly different tone, flavor and style than the D&D worlds that came before it. For all the depth and detail it contains three key components define Eberron – artificers, dragonmarks and warforged.

Artificers

Judging by the number of times it ended up in Unearthed Arcana and the subsequent player surveys, creating a balanced artificer class was a challenge for the 5th Edition development team. The original version of the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron didn't even include artificers, but the document has since been updated with an appendix entry for them.

For those who don't know, artificers study magic much like wizards, but instead of directly casting spells to create the results they want, they're essentially arcane inventors creating items imbued with magic. In an adventuring party, artificers are incredibly versatile because they can use a wand of healing when the cleric isn't available, glasses to spot traps if the rogue isn't around, and so forth.

In comparison to their 3.5 counterparts, 5th Edition artificers have higher hit dice (d8 instead of d6), and a focus on Constitution and Dexterity instead of Charisma and Intelligence, but both versions still focus on magical tinkering and spellcasting. Fans of 3.5 may disagree, but I like the new version of the artificer better. Not only do they get spellcasting plus infusions, the Craft Reserve mechanic is eliminated. Under the old method, you received a pool of points to spend when crafting an item, but points didn't carry over when a character leveled. 5E simplifies this to having a number of known infusions per level and a number of infused items.

Artificers have three subclass options – alchemists, artillerists and battle smiths. Alchemists create elixirs as well as being able to give life or take it away. Artillerists specialize in hurling energy or projectiles on the battlefield. Battle smiths are a cross between medic and protector, able to repair defenses. Each subclass gets certain spells they always have available once they reach 3rd level. While I really like the dedicated spell options for alchemists, overall they feel a bit too close to the core artificer for my taste.

Warforged

Although artificers have changed between editions, conceptually they still share a common background. The same can't be said for warforged. In both versions they begin as mindless, magical constructs. The original version said that “...warforged developed sentience as a side effect of the arcane experiments that sought to make them the ultimate weapons of destruction...” but in Rising from the Last War it says “...House Cannith devoted vast resources to improving these steel soldiers. An unexpected breakthrough produced sapient soldiers, giving rise to what some have only grudgingly accepted as a new species.” It's a subtle difference, but one a DM can use. For that matter, both could be true – perhaps warforged tell people their creation was an accident but really it was deliberate.

The original warforged had +2 in Constitution and -2 Wisdom and Charisma, whereas the new version doesn't have any minuses. Instead it has +2 Constitution and +1 to another ability. In both versions warforged have armor that is essentially their skin so they don't wear armor. However, the original version of warforged involved using a feat to set the character's armor class at character creation and then it never changed. In Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, armor was connected to its subrace. The new Rising from the Last War version, “You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class. You can don only armor with which you have proficiency. To don armor you must incorporate it into your body..,” That process takes time because you're essentially removing skin and replacing but in terms of game mechanics, it's an easier solution than the Wayfinder version and probably more satisfying in the long run for players. Otherwise, the changes made to warforged are the typical mechanical changes that would be necessary for any conversion from 3.5 to 5th.

Dragonmarks

Power and industry in Eberron are controlled through dragonmarked houses. Dragonmarks look like elaborate birthmarks that glow when their magic is invoked. Twelve families feature dragonmarks and each family's house is associated with a specific industry. To create a dragonmarked character you must be associated with one of the houses as an agent, independent scion, excoriate or foundling.

The original version of dragonmarks gave benefits broken into categories of Least Mark of [whatever], Lesser Mark and Greater Mark with each one granting the ability to cast a certain spell option, usually once a day and perhaps a bonus on certain skill checks. The new version grants more benefits such as ability score increases, abilities such as darkvision, a form of intuition (like hunter's intuition, medical intuition, etc.) and -- if you have spellcasting or pact magic abilities -- additional spells on top of those from your spellcasting class. Both the old and new versions of dragonmarks work well, in my opinion.

The Other Stuff

Unlike the Eberron Campaign Setting, one of the original book releases, Eberron: Rising from the Last War does not include a section detailing how each D&D class is handled in Eberron. Presumably players and DMs can figure that out for themselves – or it may be coming in a future book release or in Keith Baker's upcoming Exploring Eberron, which will be a DMs Guild release. Similarly, magewrights are not available as a character class at the moment but are listed as generic NPC options with customization so if players really want one, it can be reverse engineered.

As for the rest of the races of Eberron, the flavor is the same, like halflings being dinosaur riders, and their abilities are adapted to 5th Edition much like the warforged was. A new background was added – House Agent.

The original Eberron had Action Points to create swashbuckling style of play. Rising from the Last War dropped its mention of Hero Points from the Wayfinder version, but since that was an option from the Dungeon Master's Guide and it mostly referred people to that book for details, it's not much of a loss. It's also easy to reincorporate if you really miss that option.

As with the Wayfinder's Guide, the gazetteer focuses on the continent of Khovaire and Sharn, City of Towers. However, it's expanded in comparison to the Wayfinder's Guide and has nice touches like clips of “newspaper articles” for flavor. According to Jeremy Crawford, the word count on Rising from the Last War is two and a half times greater than Wayfinder's Guide.

While I complained about the lack of other world information in my review for Wayfinder's Guide, Keith Baker said that Exploring Eberron will cover things like the aquatic nations of the Thunder Sea so more material is coming via DMs Guild.

Rising from the Last War comes with a 15-page adventure – Forgotten Relics. The section on how to build an Eberron adventure is longer – 73 pages – and has some very good advice. Elsewhere in the book you can find insights as to what makes a pulp adventure or noir game. The Regrets and Debts charts can also spark some great ideas for plot hooks as well as back story ideas. I also really like the section on how long distance communication functions in a magical society. I want more tidbits like that for Forgotten Realms-based adventures, though much of this one carries over to that setting.

The artwork is much more cohesive than in Wayfinder's Guide, which had nice artwork but a few pieces that seemed inappropriately cartoonish. The art in Rising from the Last War does a consistent job of setting the right tone and mood. The mass market cover by Wesley Burt is respectable, but the limited edition cover is far superior. Vance Kelly's cover is lovely and highlights its steampunk feel of the setting.

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Should You Buy It?

I am much happier with Eberron: Rising from the Last War than I was Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, but whether or not you should pick this book up depends on how you feel about Eberron. It's a must-buy for Eberron junkies. If you bought Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron and wanted more, it's definitely worth purchasing for the new material, tear-out map, etc. If you're just curious about Eberron, you might want to check out the other documents first. If you're a diehard 3.5 fan who dislikes 5th Edition, you can easily skip this and stick with the out-of-print Eberron books. The history of Eberron doesn't advance sufficiently that fans will miss out if they don't buy this book.

I'm really curious to see where Wizards of the Coast and Keith Baker go with Eberron after this. Will Exploring Eberron eventually get a revised and expanded hardcover release? Will we get a hardcover adventure set in Eberron? I find it hard to believe that all follow-ups will be solely confined to DMs Guild since Crawford said that one Eberron NPC is mentioned briefly in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, and that there's a reason why the character can cross the planes. Regardless, if you love 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and want to play something different than Forgotten Realms, Eberron definitely deserves a look.
 
Beth Rimmels

Comments

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
The flavor of Eberron is sold well by Rising and there are some pretty interesting new character choices. I think there is enough here for someone who wasn't already sold on Eberron to get into it. At the same time, the conversion to 5E strikes me as "good enough" to keep veterans happy. In particular, the artificer has some really odd and unique play impacts I'd love to see at the table.

I can't say the version of dragonmarks presented is totally satisfying. Compared to 3E, a dragonmarked heir feels a little underpowered to me, not enough to drive the societal impacts that the houses have had on Eberron. I can see why it was balanced out this way, but I can't help but feel that balancing it this finely dilutes the flavor too much. I guess this is as much an artifact of how much more powerful cantrips are in 5E as much as anything else.

Love the special edition cover soooo much. Cheers all!
 

ChaosOS

Adventurer
Specific points
  • I'm surprised you highlighted the fairly minor wording change with Warforged but not the major lore update in terms of dwarves
  • Regarding class fit - while the book has generally been disfavored amongst the community, Morgrave's Miscellany is a project Keith collaborated on and spent a few pages per class.
  • I think you meant Wayfinder's Guide not Exploring Eberron in "Will Exploring Eberron eventually get a revised and expanded hardcover release?"
  • No discussion of the upcoming 1-20 almost 2 year AL commitment with Oracle of War when discussing adventure options?
General points
  • I found the style of bolding (as opposed to say, italicizing) every book reference throughout the body disruptive to the reading experience.
  • The review weirdly swaps from comparisons to Wayfinders vs comparisons to the ECS without any seeming internal logic like "we're talking mechanics" vs. "lore content".
 

LazarusKane

Explorer
It may be nitpicking but "The history of Eberron doesn't advance sufficiently that fans will miss out if they don't buy this book" is essentialy wrong. The year is still 998YK, (four years after the Day of Mourning and two years after the Treaty of Thronehold brought the Last War to an end), the same year as in the original 3.5 and the 4th Edition books. It´s one of the highlights of Eberron for me: No time jumps in new editions à la Forgotten Realms etc.
 

MarkB

Legend
That sounds interesting. What has changed?
As originally described, when the dwarves eventually returned to the deep caverns they'd been exiled from, they found their old civilisation wiped out and abandoned, nothing but echoing halls and random monsters.

This has now been reframed somewhat - the Daelkyr still destroyed the ancient Dwarven civilisation long ago, but some of them are still around, and there are currently active battles between the dawrves and the Daelkyrs' servants whose front lines lie deep underground.

Also, a lot of the Daelkyr 'tech' - their symbiotic weapons, armour and other such items - can be found on these front lines, and while some dwarven clans consider such things an abomination, others have embraced them as a means of fighting the enemy with its own weapons. So in some dwarven clans, these symbiotic living items are relatively readily available - and there are new divisions between the clans based upon their attitudes to such things.

It provides new angles on dwarven culture, and also provides a way to explore the Daelkyr more accessibly.
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
As someone who never got into Eberron, I had a great deal of reservation picking up this book. I didn't get into it during 3e, nor did I during 4e. So, I thought I'd give it a try here, and I am glad I did.

Knowing very little about the world and its history, this gives me a great overview of the world and what it's about, while also providing me with the curiosity to dig further.

One of the most important aspects of the book that I really enjoyed was how it inspired me to come up with a campaign idea; I was thinking how easy it would be to place a Shadowrun type game in this world.
 

Bitbrain

Adventurer
One of the most important aspects of the book that I really enjoyed was how it inspired me to come up with a campaign idea; I was thinking how easy it would be to place a Shadowrun type game in this world.
One of my players said much the same thing when I was describing Eberron to him.
 

lyle.spade

Explorer
I can't say the version of dragonmarks presented is totally satisfying. Compared to 3E, a dragonmarked heir feels a little underpowered to me, not enough to drive the societal impacts that the houses have had on Eberron. I can see why it was balanced out this way, but I can't help but feel that balancing it this finely dilutes the flavor too much. I guess this is as much an artifact of how much more powerful cantrips are in 5E as much as anything else.

Love the special edition cover soooo much. Cheers all!
I agree. I think pulling the levels of Marks guts a significant amount of the flavor and variety of them. I'm working on some Feats to fill the gap - that is, resurrecting the Lesser and Greater marks, and leaving those in the book as the Least.
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
I agree. I think pulling the levels of Marks guts a significant amount of the flavor and variety of them. I'm working on some Feats to fill the gap - that is, resurrecting the Lesser and Greater marks, and leaving those in the book as the Least.
I think this is the best approach, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a supplement released in the future that takes this approach as well.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Specific points
  • I'm surprised you highlighted the fairly minor wording change with Warforged but not the major lore update in terms of dwarves
  • Regarding class fit - while the book has generally been disfavored amongst the community, Morgrave's Miscellany is a project Keith collaborated on and spent a few pages per class.
  • I think you meant Wayfinder's Guide not Exploring Eberron in "Will Exploring Eberron eventually get a revised and expanded hardcover release?"
  • No discussion of the upcoming 1-20 almost 2 year AL commitment with Oracle of War when discussing adventure options?
General points
  • I found the style of bolding (as opposed to say, italicizing) every book reference throughout the body disruptive to the reading experience.
  • The review weirdly swaps from comparisons to Wayfinders vs comparisons to the ECS without any seeming internal logic like "we're talking mechanics" vs. "lore content".
I think I disagree with nearly every point listed here! 😂

In particular, the bolding works better than italics, the comparisons make sense as they are, and I’m certain that the comment about whether Exploring will get a hardcover update is correct.
 

ChaosOS

Adventurer
I'm the one who posted the thread about ExE. My point is why does the review author refer to it to as "revised and expanded" when it's a new book? And ExE in almost every announcement piece states it's getting a PoD release, so there's not a question there. That's why I'm wondering if the author meant Wayfinders, as the status of a hardcover release is in doubt, and as a previously-released product I could see the interest in "revisions"
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
I'm the one who posted the thread about ExE. My point is why does the review author refer to it to as "revised and expanded" when it's a new book? And ExE in almost every announcement piece states it's getting a PoD release, so there's not a question there. That's why I'm wondering if the author meant Wayfinders, as the status of a hardcover release is in doubt, and as a previously-released product I could see the interest in "revisions"
It did get revisions throughout the year and it did receive the Artificer as expanded material. I remember WotC saying it would get a POD option too. I don't know how that still stands though. I had hoped the POD option would go live when the the book hit the street.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
It did get revisions throughout the year and it did receive the Artificer as expanded material. I remember WotC saying it would get a POD option too. I don't know how that still stands though. I had hoped the POD option would go live when the the book hit the street.
Wayfinder's Guide got revisions throughout the year and received Artificer material. Exploring Eberron won't be out until January 2020. But the review author says "Will Exploring Eberron eventually get a revised and expanded hardcover release?" Which doens't make sense as it's not even out yet. That is the point of contention.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
As someone who never really got into Eberron in previous iterations, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I am enjoying reading this 5e version. I would like to trying playing in an Eberron game sometime.

That said, I am a little disappointed by the sheer number of typos. Barely a page goes by without one. It has got to be the worst edited/proofread book in the whole 5e oeuvre so far.

I also discovered, much to my dismay, that keeping my fingers on the pages with the map so I could refer back to it as I read has resulted in the ink smudging with fingerprint marks. I haven’t encountered this issue with any other 5e book.
 

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