Note: The following review is by 4E Dungeon Master and avid roleplayer Brandan Landgraff. His previous articles on D20 Source include D&D Campaign Setting 2010 and Five Ways To Make Your DMâ€™s Life Easier.
I like Eberron. I was first introduced to the setting by Jonathan shortly after it came out, and I found it resonated with my own personal tastes quite well. (Every film on the list of influences found in the original Eberron book is among my own favorites.) In light of that, the 4th Edition rules for the campaign have been among the books Iâ€™ve been most looking forward to since they were announced.
In a move most likely prompted by customer feedback, the Eberron Playerâ€™s Guide was released before the Eberron Campaign Guideâ€”the opposite was true of last yearâ€™s Forgotten Realms books. In a way, neither case is ideal, as both leave us with only half a campaign for the period between the releases. The best way would arguably have been to shift Julyâ€™s Divine Power release forward a month and release the three Eberron productsâ€”Playerâ€™s Guide, Campaign Guide, and the adventureâ€”simultaneously, as was done with the core rulebooks last year. It can be understood, then, that the Eberron Playerâ€™s Guide does not function especially well on its own as a tool for DMs, although a good deal of the information it presents will be important for a Dungeon Master intending to set a campaign in Eberron to know. On the other hand, this release does contain everything that the players will need to know about playing a game in Eberron.
One of the fears that people expressed about the campaign settings for 4th Edition was that all of them would have changes as dramatic as Forgotten Realms underwent. Like or hate the changes to Forgotten Realms, Eberron fans need not worry at all about thisâ€”the majority of the changes are cosmetic, to introduce the new player races like eladrin, tiefling, and dragonborn into the setting. As was true in the original, if it has a place in D&D it has a place in Eberron, and the addition of the new races was done fairly unobtrusively.
A more major change was made to Dragonmarks. In accordance with the general trend in 4th Edition to eliminate feat chains, there are no longer different â€œlevelsâ€ of dragonmarkâ€”there is but one feat per mark. The dragonmark feats are quite powerful, however, arguably to the point of being overpowered for use in campaigns outside of Eberron; most of them grant some ability or benefit as a normal feat would combined with the ability to master and perform a subset of rituals; the Mark of Scribing acts as Ritual Casting Plus, as it provides access to ALL rituals. The Siberys marks are conspicuously absent, however, and it remains to be seen whether they will return in the Campaign Guide or some other form elsewhere.
The artificer class is reintroduced, and while a playtest version was printed in an early 4th Edition Dragon magazine, the class has changed quite markedly from the initial playtest version, and looks like a great deal of fun to play with. One possible complaint is that the class missed inclusion in Arcane Power by two months, but as Wizards have already released playtest material for a Martial Power 2, it can be inferred that a similar book will be released for each of the power sources and that Artificer options will be presented there as well. Also present are new alchemical formulas, many of which work well with the artificer, either mechanically or in flavor.
Also returning are the Warforged, the Changelings, and the Kalashtar. Like the Artificer, there was an article on Warforged in Dragon last yearâ€”the folks at Wizards wanted, by their own admission, to allow players who were running a campaign in Eberron to continue using 4th Edition as soon as possible. No real surprises here, though the Shifter race might have been expanded on to include some of the varieties of Shifter present in the original campaign that didnâ€™t make it to PH2 in Marchâ€”that support may be forthcoming in Dragon, but thatâ€™s small comfort to those who may have been hoping for it to appear in this book.
The setting itself is discussed in minor detailâ€”enough for a player to have a decent idea about the world, the Last War, the Dragonmarked Houses, the Draconic Prophecy, the Five Nations, and all the other basics of Eberron lore. It does not provide in-depth looks into most of the above, thoughâ€”presumably that information will be presented in the Campaign Guide later this month.
The book also features a few incidences of customizable handoutsâ€”a page with a letter permitting the sale of Xenâ€™Drik artifacts, travel papers, and identification papers, with spots for the players to fill in their own relevant details and portraits if they wish. These are a nice touch, if a little unnecessary; they do a good job illustrating the equipment section even if you have no use for the props in your own game.
Ultimately, the book is not as detailed or in depth as the original Eberron book was, but it is an excellent player resource with interesting new mechanics and flavor, and it does not claim to be a complete setting in and of itself. The Campaign Guide will hopefully present the missing details, in as much or more depth as was found in the original release, and while the split of one book into two is obviously better for the sales for Wizards, it also does ensure that players donâ€™t end up with material they arenâ€™t going to use, and it allows the Campaign Guide to be a more focused book with plenty of detail for the DMâ€™s eyes only. Personally Iâ€™m quite satisfied with it and just wish that finding a game in Eberron didnâ€™t of necessity involve running it myselfâ€”I have a House Tharashk inquisitive-for-hire that Iâ€™d love to bring out of retirement with the new rules!