Eberron is the newest full-scale D&D campaign setting, created by Keith Baker as winner of Wizards of the Coast’s huge 2002 campaign setting creation contest. This week, Eberron gets the 4th Edition treatment, with new races, a new class and much more for adventurers calling Khorvaire home.
I’ll admit right away that I never played an Eberron campaign when the setting first came out, nor have I read any of the original Eberron sourcebooks, so I can’t tell you if the setting has changed signficantly from then to now. I did read a few of the novels, and based on that, it appears that the timeline of Eberron has not progressed forward - it’s still the immediate aftermath of the huge civil war that tore up Khorvaire.
If you’re new to Eberron, the Player’s Guide gives a good general overview of the setting. It is a world of high magic, where magical constructs and elemental-powered cities are as common as technology is in the real world. Eberron is said to strive for “cinematic” action (although, shouldn’t all campaign settings have similar aspirations?). There’s a lot of political intrigue, an ominous magical prophecy, tons of ancient ruins to explore and all the other fun stuff that makes a campaign setting so appealing to adventure in. Plus, long distance travel in Eberron is much easier than it is on other worlds. You can traverse entire continents with relative ease, which should keep the action moving along at a ripping pace.
My one serious complaint about the Eberron Player’s Guide is that it sticks with the 4E campaign setting format established with the Forgotten Realms. You get a Player’s Guide, with a bunch of tools and options for PCs and a somewhat brief overview of the setting itself. The Campaign Guide, intended for DMs, is sold separately. It makes me desperately miss the campaign setting boxed sets of old. With those, you could still have separate player’s and DM’s books, but all in one box. Most importantly, you could have poster maps. The Eberron Player’s Guide has a gorgeous full-page map of Khorvaire (the continent where the bulk of the action occurs), but it would be ten times better if it folded out and I could hang it on my game room wall.
Poster map nostalgia aside, this is a solid book with enough material to satisfy you even if you don’t plan on running an Eberron campaign. And if you’re looking for an official campaign setting for 4E, Eberron is probably the one to go with (speaking as a Forgotten Realms fanboy, don’t use 4E Forgotten Realms, which is pretty much your only other choice at the moment). Eberron is a rich, complex world that offers many opportunities for adventure, and its relative newness makes it that much more intriguing to explore each demon-haunted forest and gleaming magical metropolis. If you’re participating in an Eberron campaign, this is a no-brainer.
There’s a lot of cool stuff that could easily find its way into non-Eberron campaigns, however. There are three new races, bringing the total number of officially supported 4th edition races to 28,462. The Kalashtar are cool and conceptually somewhat likes Devas, but not quite as weird. Changelings are an interesting choice, though I worry that their at-will polymorph self power could be too powerful in certain campaigns (I know I would have abused the hell out of that in 3rd edition). Warforged are…well, warforged. If you ever wanted to play Iron Man in D&D, here you go. I could never really get my head around the concept of these guys as player characters, although the ability to modify your own body with arm-blades and mithril plating is pretty cool.
The new artificer class is a real Swiss army knife. They can summon constructs powered by elementals, but beyond that they feel somewhat unfocused. That is in keeping with the concept, perhaps – they are capable of creating a wide range of effects (but generally unimpressive damage), and seem to have a greater variety of damage types than any other class. I think pretty much every type is represented in some way. It seems like effective use of an artificer will require a lot of forethought and planning on the player’s part. This is probably a class for advanced players looking for a challenge.
The bulk of the rest of the book is grab bag of new toys for PCs. Paragon paths and epic destinies for the new class, plus Dragonmarked characters are here, and there’s a ton of new feats, including the aforementioned Dragonmarks, which are sort of like mystical tattoos defined by some connection to Eberron’s prevailing prophecy. There are a couple of new weapons and armors native to Khorvaire, and some mundane adventuring items. The magic items section is brief, with no weapons, mostly holy symbols, magic implements, and body modifications for warforged. Don’t forget about the dragonshards, though – these crystals can be infused into weapons to give them added magical abilities. Arcane characters will enjoy several pages of new rituals, all thematically linked to Eberron but useful in other contexts as well. Alchemists will be particularly happy, since they get quite a few new formulas (alchemy needs some serious attention).
Bottom line: if you like Eberron, this book is solid gold. If you don’t, you can easily cherry-pick what you like for your own campaign.