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D&D 5E 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.

DND_Eberron_altcover.png

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.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

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.
Ok, so I'm not the only one who has a smudged fingerprint on the map page then. After seeing that, I just pulled out the poster map and started using that for reference instead.

My favorite typo so far is in the sidebar box describing the Six Daelkyr on page 283. Apparently, Avash is the source of "sham bling mounds" (sic) - you know, those mounds made up of fake jewelry.
 

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Bitbrain

Fully vaccinated!
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.

I had the same thing happen with my copy of Volo’s. There’s a fingerprint (my own) obscuring part of the Scourge Aasimar subrace.
 

Ashrym

Hero
I think it was a good review overall, but a couple of points I would make in response...

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.

I'm not sure the word "vocal" is relevant, lol. Giving that it was topping the surveys that would make it the "vocal majority" when "vocal" normally implies a minority. ;)

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.

I'm not sure wher this is coming from.

"First, put your highest ability score in Intelligence, followed by Constitution or Dexterity."

INT is recommended, it's the caster stat, the MC req, and used in multiple abilities.

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.

These aren't incongruent concepts. Breakthrough via accidental discovery is a thing. ;)
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
My favorite typo so far is in the sidebar box describing the Six Daelkyr on page 283. Apparently, Avash is the source of "sham bling mounds" (sic) - you know, those mounds made up of fake jewelry.
Is that like Sham-WOW!?

A Sham-WOW-bling mound? Ok...I'm getting terrible ideas here!
 

Aaron L

Hero
I really like Eberron: Rising From the Last War, and I am surprised at how much I do. It actually makes me want to play an Eberron campaign right away. Ventrix d'Cannith, a Battlesmith Artificer Dragonmarked heir of House Cannith with a souped-up magitech prosthetic arm, accompanied by a wolflike mini mecha Steel Defender and a little hovering homunculus 'bot floating at his shoulder (à la Booster Gold's Skeets.)

Just reading the book, especially the Artificer class, the House Agent Background, and the way Dragonmarked characters are handled, gives me all kinds of ideas for using technomagical gadgets (I love technomagical stuff) to cast spells; lots of buttons and readouts and doodads on his magitech cyborg arm to create spell affects, an infused glaive that's all rigged up with dragonshard inlays, crystal buttons, and arcane circuitry runes that turn it into a magical riflestaff arcane focus, and a wandsheath integrated into his magitech cyborg arm with a wand of lightning to create a pop-up lightning cannon... just lots of magitech gadgets covered with glowing crystals and silver rings and fins, like Buck Rogers sci-fi wizardry rayguns. Total Weird Science stuff!

(The Artillerist Artificer specialization also gave me lots of cool character ideas; wielding an Arcane Firearm in one hand and a handheld Eldritch Cannon in the other, both looking like magitech Buck Rogers rayguns with glowing crystals and silver rings/fins, and then later at 15th level when they get a second Eldritch Cannon he could mount it on the shoulder of his magitech cyborg arm like the Predator's Plasmacaster instead of giving it legs to walk around by itself. A quirky Mad Scientist character wielding a Wand of Fire Arcane Firearm/Fire Bolt Gun in one hand and a Force Ballista Eldritch cannon in the other [and later a second Force Ballista Eldritch Cannon mounted on his shoulder, which also serves as a launcher for his Fireball spells] and an embedded Lightning Cannon [a Wand of Lightning in a Wand Sheath built into his cyborg arm] would just be one Hell of a lot of fun to play!)

A visor with a dragonshard lens that creates a HUD readout for Detect and Identify spells and various other types of detection-spells and Infusion items like Eyes of the Eagle, a Lantern of Revealing, and a Gem of Seeing; a set of Message spell and Sending Stone Infusion communicator devices; a pair of leather gloves lined with silver runic circuitry that function as combined Mage Hand and Bigby's Hand Nintendo Power Glove-style control gauntlets, a set of Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind Infusion items made of specially treated glamerweave lined with silver runic circuitry, which are networked to a belt-mounted control unit that ties them together with a set of rings that function as arcane foci for False Life and Shield spells but are also all networked to Brooch of Shielding and Ring and Cloak of Protection Infusion items, all as part of a unified forcefield/cloaking projection system; an Arcane Propulsion Arm magitech cyborg arm with a small emitter on the back of the hand that envelops the fist in an offensive forcefield (the Arcane Propulsion Arm actually causes Force damage) with a rocket punch function, multiple small crystal buttons and keys around a crystal screen with a magi-digital readout embedded in the forearm, and several Eberron dragonshards and retractable emitters embedded along the length of the arm, the back of the wrist, the fingertips, and the palm to serve as energy emitters for multiple programmable spell and Infusion effects, such as Cure Wounds or Horn of Blasting; a Create Food and Water food-replicator unit; all these wearable magitech devices are powered by a battery of magical capacitors lining a belt around the waist which absorb and store magical energies from the wearer throughout the day, and the capacitor batteries are also able to release an explosive discharge (a Thunderclap spell) when activated; all these gadgets and devices would be connected by small cables and wires to the arcane capacitor batteries on the waist, to waist- and wrist-mounted control units and supplementary batteries, with the main control unit and readout being a crystal touchscreen display and a series of crystal keys embedded in the forearm of the magitech cyborg arm beside the Wand Sheath; the arm would also have multiple USB-style slots for integrating more devices into the system, and would also have multiple small slots for inserting Spellshard books allowing them to be read on the arm display, and multiple slots for inserting dragonshard spell scrolls allowing them to be cast through the Wand Sheath arm cannon (an Artificer can use any Infusion item as an arcane focus.)

And finally the main weapon/tool: a glaive rigged- and Artificed-up as far as possible to serve as a multipurpose selectable riflestaff, with a series of glowing Khyber dragonshard capacitors embedded in the haft, covered with silver rings and fins (like a Bich Rogers raygun), with thin slices of dragonshard inlaid on the haft and in a series on both sides of the blade, with the haft and blade etched with silver runic circuitry patterns inlaid along the length, so that the whole glaive serves as a variable arcane focus riflestaff, with each spell to be selected by a specific series of crystal key press inputs: it can serve as a Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost, and Conjure Volley cannon, a Magic Stone and Catapult launcher, a Shocking Grasp stunstaff, Elemental Weapon energy emitter crystals along the haft and blade, with the spell selection able to be modified by altering the runic circuitry pathways with special silver solder and swapping out crystal capacitors all using Tinker's and Jeweler's Tools during a long rest. All the spells are cast by keying in the right sequence on the crystal buttons, which causes the dragonshard below the blade to flare and send a pulse of energy down along the circuitry in the haft to another dragonshard at the butt end, then the pulse shoots back up the circuitry on haft to the blade, flows through the circuitry on the blade and lights up the dragonshards in sequence, and finally projects the spell through a final dragonshard emitter crystal at the tip of the blade. It would work through a whole series of runic circuitry connecting sets of Eberron dragonshard indicator lights and energy emitters embedded in the haft and inlaid on the blade, and a series of small Khyber dragonshard capacitors embedded in the top and bottom ends of the haft to store up magical energy absorbed from the caster. (I have a whole set of magitech principles worked out in my head to give a unified sense of verisimilitude to how the magitech works, principles that the character could spout as technobabble. ;) ) And more Infusion items like Winged Boots that are actually magitech steel hover-boots with glowing lightbars on the heals that allow flight by projecting a forcfield around the feet, a Belt of Hill Giant Strength that is actually the central control unit of a suit of half plate power armor, and a heavy crossbow with folding pop-out bow arms with the Repeating Shot Infusion that is the focus of a Flame Arrows spell, creating a semi-auto plasmabolt launcher that generates its own ammo... just so many incredibly rad ideas!

I just love the old '30s pulp Weird Fiction genre, the kind of stuff Lovecraft and his contemporaries wrote before Science-Fiction and Fantasy became separated into distinct genres, and I realized Eberron is an exemplar of that genre and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the setting.

Like I said, I really like the way Dragonmarks are handled as variant races/subraces, and how each 'Mark is given expanded spell lists that add spells known to any spellcasting class the character has. I assume this represents the progression through Least/Lesser/Greater Dragonmarks; if you have a Dragonmark it first naturally manifests as a Least Dragonmark, but if you also enter a magic-using class you learn to channel your magic through your 'Mark and your increasing spellcasting ability expands the power of the 'Mark, like exercising a magical muscle, and that causes the 'Mark to grow into the larger Lesser and Greater Dragonmarks, with accompanying expanded magical abilities. I really like how they handled it.

I didn't expect to like it so much but I really do, and it actually surprises me just how much it has inspired me to want to play some Eberron!
 
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Rabbitbait

Adventurer
I've started to construct a campaign and have left the foundations in the hands of the players. They have surprised me by deciding to have the Boromir clan as their group patron. So it's a crime campaign then.
 

Aaron L

Hero
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.
You might have been lucky with the smudging issue before now; every one of my D&D books that I got back in 2014 have smudges throughout them from the first time I read them. Every time I I touched the page the ink would smudge. I was able to get a new PHB just last year because of other, bigger problems; a whole chunk of about 80 pages in the spell section detached from the spine, but they replaced it as soon as I sent in a picture, without any hassle at all... but my DMG and MM are still full of smudged words.

I've actually been heavily considering getting one of those nice Core Rules Gift Sets with the pretty foil embossed covers (but not the limited edition... as much as I would love to have those ones there's just no way I could ever afford it.) I just need to figure out a way to save up enough money (I live on disability income and have an extremely limited budget) and find out if that printing has any problem issues itself.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I've been a die-hard Eberron fan since the lead up to its release back in 2004, and I still am. I absolutely adore this new book . . . except the artificer.

I had low hopes for the class based on the Unearthed Arcana iterations, and whole the final version is better than I feared is till dislike it intensely. I don't like how they can cats spells now in addition to infusions, and every subclass highlights a different aspect I dislike about 5e.

Overall, it's a great book, and I'm not sorry I bought it. Especially since the hobby store cover is sooooooooo gorgeous.

But I agree with the statement that Eberron's three big defining features are warforged, dragonmarks, and the artificer, and it's sad to see a full third of that bungled so badly.

I need to write a song called "We Don't Need Another Caster" to the tune of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero."
 

pukunui

Legend
I've actually been heavily considering getting one of those nice Core Rules Gift Sets with the pretty foil embossed covers (but not the limited edition... as much as I would love to have those ones there's just no way I could ever afford it.) I just need to figure out a way to save up enough money (I live on disability income and have an extremely limited budget) and find out if that printing has any problem issues itself.
I got that set recently. So far, so good. But yeah, I’ve had other issues with previous 5e books but not the easily smudged ink.
 

Aaron L

Hero
I got that set recently. So far, so good. But yeah, I’ve had other issues with previous 5e books but not the easily smudged ink.
Thank you for the info! Good to know that the Gift Set printings don't seem to have the problems the previous printings did, like the easily smudged ink, and especially the pages falling out (I do give credit to WotC for their costumer service being excellent and the whole process being completely painless, and they had a new copy of the PHB on the way to me the same day I sent in the pix of my old copy with the pages falling out.) That info might just be enough for me to buy a set; the foil covers, DM's screen, and slipcase would make it worth it, and then I'd have two copies of each book (3 of the PHB, including my old one with the pages falling out.)
 

pukunui

Legend
The foil is a cool touch, although it does remove some of the details in the cover images.

The paper feels like it could be higher quality but it’s hard to tell for sure.

The best part for me is having all the errata incorporated into the text.
 

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