The powerful mages at Wizards of the Coast have released Eberron: Rising from the Last War, and I am rising from my armchair to review this amazing supplement in all its gritty, wartime beauty. Brace yourselves: This lightning train is about to leave the station.
The newest Eberron supplement can be purchased in either a standard edition OR as a limited edition featuring unparalleled alternate cover art.
The alternate cover shows Sham, the City of Towers, at sunset. In the sky over the city, an elemental airship cruises among the clouds – and beyond it, in the hazy distance, the watchful towers of a castle built atop a floating island of rock stand, watchful. The entire scene is lit by a bronze moon, a pale dusting of the night’s brightest stars, and the slowly setting sun. From this cover image alone I felt I looked upon a world on the brink of night. Bright and glorious triumphs are relegated to the past as this world drifts slowly into a darkness for which its people are ill-prepared. This beautifully sets the stage for innumerable adventures as you dive into a world clinging to the shadows of long-dead heroes as it’s forced to face fresh cataclysms.
In this twilight, new legends may rise.
Regardless of which version you purchase, the art is amazing, as the internal contents are identical. The style is what I’m calling a “neo-nostalgic” combination of traditional Eberron and a new, darker feel that will appeal to modern gamers. My personal preference is for the limited edition cover, but my favorite piece of art from the supplement is a fantastic world map – both on-page and as a larger, fold-out map in the back.
But what makes Eberron different from any other setting?
Eberron has long been a fan favorite setting, as it combines the traditional high fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons ® with steampunk and noir elements. The first few pages of the book call out Eberron as a world in need of heroes. Why? Because the world has been broken by a century-long war that came to an abrupt end when a mysterious, arcane calamity eradicated a nation and paved the way to a fragile truce.
The setting is dark and gritty, and actions can have serious repercussions. While Eberron leaves plenty of room for typical dungeon delving (the world is littered with crypts, forgotten subterranean cities, long lost realms), it also introduces magically enhanced technology, massive, overpopulated cities filled with wartime refugees, and political elements – such as shortages and strife. Elemental airships and lightning rail trains provide clever GMs with both fast transit new opportunities for adventure! Your party can traverse the winding rails or explore the high and frosted wind currents.
The tone and setting of this world is darker than in other settings, but nothing is black and white in Eberron, not even alignments (which we will touch on in the rules review). In this colorful world, morality is bleached grey by the effects of both the arcane industry and the Last War.
And this is where we meet you, the adventurers, the game master, and all the mad and valiant deeds that await you. But what will your characters look like? That’s a good question. Although the holy trinity of D&D 5e books is foundational to this supplement, there are some new faces to meet in the world of Eberron.
The adventurer you meet in the inn might be a Changeling, though you may not know it. The trustworthy travel mate you meet on the road could be a member of the Goblinoid nation, or even a fabled Kalashtar – one who dwells in this world and yet can traverse the plane of dreams.
The orc skulking in the alleyway may not be your enemy but your ally, and that metal statue that just moved beneath the lamp the corner? No, it wasn’t a trick of the light – it’s a Warforged shooing an errant owl from her shoulder in the dusk.
Along with these new races and the innumerable options of interaction that come with them, Eberron also offers a new class: Artificers. These arcane scientists typically specialize in alchemy, artillery, or battle-smithing, and can have the option of creating their own homunculi, which can take whatever shape the creator chooses (though for rules it is always a tiny, neutral construct). And if you’ve read this far and are patiently waiting for me to answer the questions, “but are there magic guns??!?” – Yes. Yes, there are. But be careful bringing a gun to a wand fight. There are plenty of Wandslingers ready and able to remind pistol-toting upstarts that sometimes the old ways are still better than the new.
I will not go over the rules in-depth during this article but I will touch on two important factors when playing Eberron.
The first is that the rules from fifth edition have not changed. The supplement, when the rules are involved, is based directly on rules found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook, and the Monster Manual. Everything found in the trinity is useable in Eberron.
The main twist to the rules is also a fascinating part of the setting.
Alignment is not binding. If you create a chaotic evil creature you can participate in good and lawful actions. You may have some explaining to do when your god or patron shows up in your nightmares, but alignment is not concrete.
This flexibility allows for shady characters to shed light and for righteous characters to break the rules. Take that, paladins!
Every D&D campaign supplement brings something unique and flavorful with it, but Eberron is different. Eberron is not about stopping Tiamat, it is not about a vampire and the allure of his undying life, it is not about saving the world from Avernus. Eberron is a world apart from the forgotten realms. It is a world where the broken body of a god-dragon circles the planet like Saturn’s rings. It is a world where an apocalypse to rival the dropping of an atom bomb has ended a century-long war because nobody knows who dropped the bomb. It is a world where intrigue and assassination meet sky pirates and lightning train robberies.
Did I mention most halflings ride dinosaurs?
We did not even touch on the Dragonmarks and the less-than-trustworthy business magnates who rule trade in the world…
Eberron was the first world I played in and this supplement stays true to the original scope of Keith Baker’s vision for an innovative, post-traumatic, fantasy noir world still recovering from a long and devastating war. After playing in Eberron you may never want to leave. Or, more accurately, Eberron may never let you go.