Exploring Eberron Review, Part 2

Today I’m back with more information on Exploring Eberron, the latest 5e Eberron sourcebook created by Keith Baker and a crack group of authors. Last time I skipped through the book focusing on the ancient history of the setting and the ways in which Baker and his team are exploring fascinating corners of Eberron’s past that you never knew you needed.

In this review I’m focusing on the more familiar parts of the setting. The unique peoples of the Eberron setting and the political powers that shaped it. Also, Last War stuff. You can never quite escape it.

The Dragonmarked Houses

The Dragonmarked Houses are probably the most Eberron thing in the whole of Eberron. The magical tattoo-birthmarks that give rise to the thirteen Houses are something that no other setting has and their influence on the setting’s politics and culture is on par with the Last War. This book begins exploring the Dragonmarked Houses with new details and thoughts on the War of the Mark that led to the Houses’ creation at the cost of eradicating the so-called Aberrant Marks. I was expecting a little more on this topic given Keith Baker’s many, many posts on the topic but we only get half a page here. Maybe more next time…

Image © KB Presents

We really see more information for the Houses with the Dragonmark Focus Items. Some of these are connected to particular dragonmarks like the helm of the sentinel, prospector’s wand, and Ghallanda cauldron while others are general items that can give dragonmark bearers more use of their dragonmark spells. I also love the small table that lists magical items from the Player’s Handbook that can be duplicated in the setting as a house product, such as making Ori boots with the same powers as boots of speed just bearing the House Orien crest or eyes of the dragonne which are eyes of the eagle produced by House Tharashk.

There’s also a great section on Siberys marks, the dragonmarks turned up to 11. This is a great couple of pages with plenty of detail and also a lot of different options for how Siberys marks have appeared in past editions and how you might want to include them in your current campaigns. You can use Siberys marks straight out of the block with this book but you can also make these your own and decide how they will impact the setting, definitely a necessary part of bringing such a massive story element into your campaign.

Lastly, there are a ton of new common magic items for item production (following the guidelines in Rising From the Last War) as well as some awesome setting-specific items like a soarsled for cruising through the skies of Sharn and gloves of storing for the magically-inclined thief. This isn’t really dragonmark-related, but while we’re on the subject there are two pages of new symbionts which are gross and clingy. A lot of them I recognize from earlier editions like the shadow sibling and the tongueworm, but the hungry weapon (which lets you trade Hit Dice for extra damage) is the bone-and-sinew winner in my book.

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Galifar History

The Kingdom of Galifar might seem blasé compared to the Age of Demons or the War of the Mark but there are some intriguing new details about the Founding of Galifar and the Silver Crusade. Like the other eras there are plenty of hooks and a section on Why Does It Matter? to include it into your campaign in a meaningful way. The best part of this section, though, is the Untold History table which provides you with twelve options of Triggering Events, Connected To options, and a Which Was column as a motive. With a roll of 3d12 you can create a bit of Eberron lore on the fly to enter into your story. If the characters are passing by some ruins in the countryside then you can mention that it’s from (roll, roll) a supernatural disaster connected to the Sovereign Host which was covered up by the authorities. Later they are in Korth and find a statue which commemorates (roll, roll) a succession crisis connected to a Wynarn heir which was commemorated with a holiday. It’s a great resource.

Speaking of great resources, there’s an awesome four-page spread about Cyre before the Mourning. Since it’s currently a smoking ghost-hell called the Mournlands, Cyre is usually seen as a victim but before then it was a full nation of Galifar controlling a fifth of a continent. Here you’ll find a wealth of information about what Cyre was like before the Mourning came, from style and fashion to the Cyran role in the Last War and some of the grand wonders of Cyre’s artificers. The information here isn’t quite on the scale of what you get in the Five Nations but it will definitely make this a living, breathing nation that just happens to be dead at the moment…

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If you’re interested in more recent history, there’s fourteen awesome pages on the Last War including arcane siege equipment, magical explosives, fantastic air forces, customizations for warforged titans, and war story elements for your character’s background. There’s a short sections on wandslingers as well, magic users who use wands like firearms as military specialists. This pairs with the new artificer subclass called the maverick which is more military-focused artificer action (blech) but at least fits the pulp theme of Eberron.

Lastly, there’s a discussion of Magic in the World as it works with Eberron. In this setting, magic is wide in that it’s everywhere in small ways that are just part of life. This includes magewrights, building on the NPC block in Rising From the Last War, with some handy new cantrips and some more specialties for magewrights. A list of magical services is ready to drop into your campaign from medicine to cosmetic transmutations. There’s also adepts which are the divine equivalent of magewrights and some solid inspiration for artificer characters.

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Faiths of Eberron

While the religions of Eberron aren’t nearly its most innovative feature, they certainly challenge a lot of assumptions about religion in Dungeons & Dragons. This book has a thirty-page chapter devoted to discussing how it differs, including a discussion of arcane versus divine magic. The short version is that D&D 5e doesn’t really distinguish between them very much mechanically so it falls to the setting description to make them different. Arcane magic is a scientific matter with experimenting and reproducible results, while divine magic is a matter of faith and its results are literal miracles that happen on behalf of the divine caster. Again, this isn’t really reflected mechanically and this book includes a lot of setting advice, but there are also some optional mechanics to spice things up. Definitely something to consider even if your campaign isn’t in Eberron.

Most of that chapter is given over to descriptions of religions in the setting including the Silver Flame, the Blood of Vol, the Sovereign Host and Dark Six, the Cults of the Dragon Below (including individual cult descriptions), and more esoteric religions like the Becoming God or the Draconic Prophecy. The book also features a description of aasimar which (like everything in Eberron) is both familiar and different. Aasimar in this setting are portrayed as divinely-touched beings born for some unknown reason to unsuspecting parents. As a result they can be touched by any divine force, or even one of the planes. This means you can have an aasimar of the Silver Flame driven by a need to protect and crusade and another aasimar of the Blood of Vol with vampiric hungers and dark intentions, a situation depicted below. I love the space and consideration given to this.

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To support the faiths of the Eberron setting, this book features a number of character options to expand your character’s powers. The Mind Domain obviously helps clerics of the Path of Light but it can also work for clerics serving the Path of Inspiration in Riedra or some of the more psychically oriented Cults of the Dragon Below. Likewise the Circle of the Forged gives you an option for making warforged clerics, a concept that some people might have trouble picturing.

The monk’s Way of the Living Weapon is a multi-faceted archetype that has a few different ways to operate. You choose a particular flavor of it and that determines some of your archetype features with a few more that are shared in between. Your Living Weapon monk might be a warforged Forged Heart warrior, a tribal changeling of the Traveler’s Blade who can grow weapons from their body, a Weretouched shifter monk who use their natural weapons, or a Nightmare Shroud kalashtar monk using ectoplasmic dream-weaponry sheathing their bodies. It’s a little weird lumping all of these things together thematically, but they are very much tied to the unique religions of these groups and it makes sense to share some subclass features that all would have.

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Races of Eberron

Let me say again that I really want to have an alternative to using “race” in this context and will do my best to avoid it in this post, but it’s still a mechanical term in D&D so it’s on Wizards to make the real changes. There are fourteen pages of reviewing the iconic people of Eberron: changelings, Aereni elves, kalashtar, shifters, and warforged are all featured in detail with advice on portraying them, mechanical discussions about classes and backgrounds, and discrete aspects to include in a character to make them stand out.

Speaking of, there are three pages of new backgrounds for Eberron characters including changeling travelers and sahuagin malenti agents. There are also new Dhakaani class features that can be variant features of any other background: you might be a Dhakaani acolyte or folk hero with different features than other acolytes or heroes. Neat idea.

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There are new subraces for aasimar building on the presentation in Volo’s Guide to Monsters: the court aasimar who are born to elves, the seeker aasimar who channel the Blood of Vol, the Fernian aasimar who are tied to the plane of fire, and Mabaran aasimar who are tied to death and destruction. There are Aereni elves (extra knowledge from their studies) and the ruibound dwarves discussed last time. I also talked about the dar (the “people”) of the Dhakaani last time but it’s worth mentioning again that the ghaal’dar, golin’dar, and guul’dar are more than just tweaks of goblinoids, they are a complete redo in a way that I find fascinating. Also there are gnolls, which I’m surprised hasn’t happened already (although, see the current “evil races” discussion for a reason why).

Lastly, there are some racial feats that can give you some excellent character options if your playing one of the folks mentioned above. The Aereni halflife feat makes you part-deathless and makes me immediately want to play an Aereni. Kalashtar and shifters can really lean into their eccentricities and the two warforged feats lets you be a specialist warforged type as seen in earlier editions.

Conclusion

In my first post I went over some of the new depths of the setting and in my next one I’ll be going into the brand new directions that Exploring Eberron takes us, specifically out into the planes of the setting and down into the depths of the Thunder Sea. This is a catch-all post for the middle but let me tell you that Exploring Eberron also does core Eberron extremely well and there are new surprises even in something as familiar as a changeling’s shapeshifting. Join me next time for the thrilling conclusion as we head out to sea and then off into realms completely unknown!

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