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Eberron: Rising From the Last War (D&D Campaign Setting) Review

November 19, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Eberron: Rising From the Last War
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Eberron: Rising From the Last War (D&D Campaign Setting) Review  


Supplement Type: Campaign Setting
Setting: Eberron
Lead Designers: Jeremy Crawford, James Wyatt, Keith Baker
Available at D&D Beyond, Amazon, Roll20, and your Friendly Local Gaming Store.

Fifteen years after its release, Eberron remains one of the most unique and popular settings for Dungeons & Dragons. Keith Baker’s pulp-noir take on fantasy roleplaying was an instant hit when it released in 2004 with a interesting twists on almost every aspect of the traditional D&D flavors, including a new direction to the races and a world as filled with low-level magic as it is with intrigue and a post-war, high-drama feel.

Fan demand for Eberron has been high through the years and when D&D Fifth Edition was announced in 2014, it didn’t take long for the call for Eberron to make its appearance. That finally happened after a fashion last year with The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, a living playtest update to the setting for 5E. Wizards of the Coast wasn’t done yet though, and in August the company announced that a campaign sourcebook would bring the setting to 5E in a finalized form.

That brings us to now, and the official arrival of Eberron: Rising From the Last War. At 320 pages, the same size as the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeons Master’s Guide, there’s plenty in here to bring introduce new players to this distinctive setting while still providing a lot of new material for long-time travelers of the setting’s world.

Flavor

One important thing to keep in mind when discussing Eberron is that this isn’t your traditional Dungeons & Dragons world. Sure, you’ll find all the things you’re expecting to find here. One of the core tenants of Eberron since its 3rd Edition release has been “If it exists in D&D, then it has a place in Eberron.” It was rule #1, after all. But while you’ll find all the elves, mind flayers, magic items, dragons and clerics you would expect, everything’s a little bit different as defined by the culture. The elves are ancestor-worshippers, some of whom deal in a positive energy form of undeath. Mind flayers – and most aberrations – are the creations of a group of supremely powerful entities called Daelkyr. Clerics have a somewhat different relationship with their deities, who are much more distant than players of other settings are used to. And magic – well, high-level magic isn’t as plentiful. But low-level magic? It’s everywhere.

With as much difference as Eberron has in comparison to settings like the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance or even last year’s Magic: the Gathering-based D&D world of Ravnica, it probably isn’t surprising to see that a good portion of Rising of the Last War focuses on how those twists factor into a game. This includes the introduction, “Welcome to Eberron,” and permeates its way through the rest of the book. Every aspect from Character Creation and the Gazetteer to even the chapter on magic items is focused on giving players and DMs a perspective into how to create new, different campaigns that are not your garden variety dungeon crawls (not that there’s anything wrong with dungeon crawls).

This is particularly important for Eberron, because the setting’s greatest strength also represents its biggest challenge. Between the post-war setting and the existence of things like lightning rails (magical trains), Dragonmarked houses (magic-infused noble houses who are industrial and economic powers) and the somewhat different looks at almost every aspect of D&D, it’s easy for players and DMs new to the setting to become lost.

Fortunately, the book gives Dungeon Masters plenty to work with in a whole chapter about running adventures in the setting. This includes sections on travel and the planes of existence – somewhere Eberron is also unique, in that it is somewhat hidden on D&D’s “Great Wheel” of cosmology. But the chapter also has a section on how to make adventures uniquely tailored to the setting, both in a general sense and in terms of specific adventure ideas surrounding some of Eberron’s many locations and aspects. For Eberron veterans, this includes a new look at the Mournlands, a scarred area of magic in the center of the main continent. Mournland Adventures empowers a DM to create their own vision of what the area is, reflecting the chaos of the region.

Perhaps the most thrilling part of the flavor comes in character creation, though. Rising From the Last War contains new guidelines for how DMs can collaborate with their players for stronger stories, and even contains suggestions to have DMs bring their players into the worldbuilding process. It’s something that D&D has always made possible, but not encouraged to this capacity and it’s a welcome addition to the book.

This finds its apex in a new creation option as a party, the Group Patron. This is a new optional background that the players and DM work together in creating. Eberron has no small number of potential employers, sponsors and benefactors, and the Group Patron section details how to create or utilize such an entity to figure out where the campaign is going, plus give some tangible benefits to players similar to how Backgrounds work.

Your party’s patron could be the Korranberg Chronicle, a newspaper that sends the party out to investigate stories. It could be a crime syndicate like the Boromar Clan of Sharn, or even an immortal being like the mythical Sora Kell, the Queen of the Night. Each has their own allies and enemies that will help a DM define the campaign going forward along with some Background-like patron benefits and ideas of party roles that could fit in the group. It’s a fantastic addition that would also work very well in other settings, giving the book value even if you aren’t doing all your games in Eberron.

Finally, there is a full chapter on Sharn, the biggest city on the continent of Khorvaire where most campaigns take place. Sharn has been previously detailed in older editions, something this book is well aware of. It doesn’t go too hard on replicating that information, providing enough for newcomers to learn the city and giving more story hook details than the usual list of NPCs (though there are some of those too). It’s not the most detailed chapter, but it’s difficult to complain about a 320-page book not being fleshed out enough and most of what players will learn about Sharn will come from adventuring, as opposed to reading the sourcebook.

Mechanics

Speaking of character creation, many people will be most curious about the crunchier parts of Rising of the Last War – the new character options, the magic items and, of course, the monsters. Rising From the Last War provides a host of new options, mostly in the race section, which allow players to build PCs who fit into the world. Eberron is a world where the more traditionally monstrous goblinoid races have a part in mainstream society, particularly hobgoblins, goblins, bugbears and orcs. Each of these races have been detailed previously in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, but those were for the more monstrous characters.

Rising From the Last War takes these races and gives them a bit of a tweak to make them fit better within the world. Orcs are not automatically stupider, for example; that -1 Intelligence is gone. Hobgoblins have a whole society that is detailed to some degree and that will play into how you build your character.

If goblinoids aren’t your thing but you still want something beyond the traditional races, Eberron has several unique races in the Changelings (doppelganger-like beings), Shifters (weretouched) Kalashtar (a psychic and spiritually infused race) and, perhaps most iconically, the Warforged. Each of these races have their own place within Eberron, and the book does a very good job of laying out how to play one of these races. And there are also subrace options for several core races in the Dragonmarked individuals, those touched by destiny and who have unique abilities passed down through their family lines.

It is important to note here that all of these new races and subraces were already detailed in The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron last year. Those offered a few ambitious choices in terms of race design, but they also caused a few awkward interactions with D&D’s ruleset. This new book streamlines those options. While this will undoubtedly be a source of dismay for some players — warforged lose some unique aspects and a couple cool features from the other races are gone – it also means they fit far more seamlessly into the 5E rules.

The other big mechanical part of character creation comes in the new class. Wizards of the Coast has spent a long time working on the Artificer, a core component of Eberron, to get it right for 5E. That’s included several different playtest versions, and the version we get rather effectively combines all those elements into a workable, balanced class that feels true to the spirit of the Artificer. Artificers create magical items and use tools to work their magic, and the subclasses (Alchemist, Artillerist, Battle Smith) give an Artificer some distinct roles that they can fill. They’re magic users, but they won’t be encroaching on the pure destructive power of wizards or sorcerers.

The book also contains several goodies for DMs to play with: magic items, and monsters. The monsters all effectively lay out the breadth of action in Eberron, including some named NPCs that could serve as major adversaries or allies to your parties. And magic items contain not only the high-level stuff, but also some new common magical items that reflect the prevalence of that kind of magic in Eberron. For the more adventuring party-style material there’s everything from living symbiont items bond to a character for bonuses (and body horror), items intended for Dragonmarked heroes and even a few legendary items.

Adventure

To help players get settled into the world of Eberron, a short adventure is provided in the book. Titled “Forgotten Relics,” this first level adventure is set in Sharn and involves the party being brought together by a member of the Sharn Watch to locate a warforged with information on one of the major crime organizations in the city. However, nothing is ever as it seems in Sharn as the characters quickly discover.

“Forgotten Relics” is surprisingly long for an introductory adventure like this, especially one that takes the characters up just one level. Within that length though are the essential elements of what makes a solid Sharn adventure. There are a couple of times reading through that it seems like the adventure is trying to cram everything in to introduce all the concepts, and that can be a bit awkward, but it’s mostly smooth sailing with opportunities for both combat and roleplaying.

Virtual Table Top

Rising From the Last War is available from Roll20, and as usual they’ve done a nice job of laying out the book for users of the virtual tabletop platform. The VTT version there will include the usual expansion of the compendium as well as the full adventure, making dragging and dropping easy to do so you don’t have to manually enter all of your class or race information by hand. The compendium information will also be integrated into their Charactermancer so that if you own the book, you can use that system to create your character with Eberron options.

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Eberron is a setting people have been demanding in D&D 5E for a long time, and Rising From the Last War delivers in a pretty impressive way. While there's a lot of information in here for new players to absorb, the book is laid out well to help players absorb what they need to know and there's more than enough new stuff for veterans of the setting to appreciate. While some of the changes from the Wayfinder's Guide may be a bit polarizing, this delivers on most of what any Eberron player or DM could want in order to create and play in their campaigns, while offering something to those seeking something a little different than old D&D standards.
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