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.

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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.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

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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