The day foretold in the Draconic Prophecy has come, and Eberron has returned to Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition! The planned settings announcement went live on July 23rd, and to accompany it came the PDF of the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron (don’t worry, we’ll pay due attention to the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica when it comes out later this year). We grabbed a copy pretty much right away, and after a few days to read through it and digest the contents I’m ready to talk about what’s in it, what’s not, what it all means, and where Eberron and D&D go from here!
Chapter 1: What is Eberron? and Chapter 2: Welcome to Khorvaire
There are, broadly speaking, two types of potential consumers for the guide: people who are new to Eberron as a setting, and people who have played in this world before. Fortunately, it looks like the WGtE has uses for both parties.
If you’ve never dug into the Eberron setting before, the Guide serves as a good ‘Beginner’s Guide to Eberron’. It starts off by talking about what makes the setting unique: the ever-present and somewhat industrialized magic, pulp adventure, neo-noir intrigue, the shadows of the Last War that hang over everyone, the mystery of The Mourning that destroyed an entire nation, and the ancient mysteries that work in the shadows. It talks about ways to incorporate your favorite things from other settings (“If It Exists In D&D, There’s a Place for It in Eberron”) before diving into the world itself, and the principal continent of Khorvaire.
However, if you’ve been riding the lightning rail since 3.5, you probably know most of that stuff already. This is where the Guide becomes useful to veterans as well: each section of the book that covers a part of the lore, say for example the militaristic elven nation of Valenar, comes along with hooks and advice on how to involve that lore with your character, and no few of them also come with some sort of mechanic, even if it’s ‘only’ something like a chart to roll on to determine what sort of scheme your Zil gnome is up to. To continue with the Valenar example, the Guide talks about what kind of martial role your Valenar elf might hold, and provides unique racial traits to allow access to the double-bladed scimitar associated with the nation. Basically, even if the lore is familiar, there are new mechanics and some pretty good advice to be found that will benefit veterans just as much as the newcomers.
There are some general sections that will familiarize the reader with the facets of everyday life in the Five Kingdoms and beyond, the tenets of Eberron’s religions that don’t depend on deities dropping in, and most importantly how the widespread use of magic has affected the world, from its communication to its fashion to its transportation to its warfare.
While there’s a lot of lore here, it doesn’t go into any overwhelming depth, particularly when it comes to the parts of the world beyond Khorvaire and the various planes of existence in Eberron’s cosmology. Much of that material can be found in third and fourth edition materials that are already available, and in fact an appendix of other resources like older sourcebooks and novel series helps close out the book and give the reader ideas of where to go for more information. I don’t think they’re mandatory, but then again I’ve already got most of them, so my perspective might not be clear there. Point is that I get the impression that you can take the Guide, read through it, and get started with stories in Eberron perfectly fine on its own.
But what about those crunchy bits?
Chapter 3: Races of Eberron
The first bit of mechanical bone that the Guide gives its own section are the Races of Eberron. The most interesting part of the chapter has to be the four races unique to the setting: Changelings, Kalashtar, Shifters, and Warforged. Kalashtar are making their 5th Edition debut, while the other three first saw the light of day in an Unearthed Arcana more than three years ago.
The Changeling has, erm, changed significantly since the original Unearthed Arcana days. They receive +2 to Charisma and can also boost either Intelligence or Dexterity (no subraces to be found). Their Change Appearance ability is no longer limited to copying a humanoid they’ve seen before; they have to have seen someone in order to duplicate them, but otherwise have wide freedom to change their form. Instead of just Deception they can choose between two of Deception, Intimidation, Insight, and Persuasion. Once per rest you can use your shapeshifting as a reaction to spook an attacking enemy into rolling with disadvantage. Finally, you gain proficiency with a tool . . . and a unique alternate identity that lets you double your proficiency bonus with the tool when you assume it.
Kalashtar, the hybrid race that are half-human half-being-of-dreams, don’t have any subraces either but still have a lot going on. Their Wisdom and Charisma go up by one, and a third ability score of your choice goes up by one as well. They can spend a reaction to gain advantage on a Wisdom saving throw thanks to their Dual Mind. They resist psychic damage, and can use Mind Link to speak with others telepathically. Thanks to a Psychic Glamour they have advantage on a skill of your choice: Insight, Intimidation, Performance, or Persuasion. Finally, kalashtar don’t dream, so there are certain spells that have no effect on them.
Shifters got scaled back a bit, in that they have four subraces here instead of six: Cliffwalk and Razorclaw shifters have vanished. Other than that, though, they’ve got more going on. They still all have Darkvision and +1 Dexterity, but they’ve gained proficiency with Perception. Shifting still grants temporary HP, but the individual subraces have more. Each adds a +2 to its chosen ability score instead of +1, and each comes with an additional skill proficiency: Athletics for Beasthide, Intimidation for Longtooth, Acrobatics for Swiftstride, and Survival for Wildhunt. Shifting grants more temp HP as well as an AC bonus for Beasthide, a bite attack that deals extra damage for Longtooth, an increased speed for Swiftstride (on top of a passive increase that’s always on) and a reactionary disengage, and advantage on Wisdom checks for Wildhunt (on top of another passive ability that helps track a target).
Warforged got a major overhaul. At base they only get +1 Constitution, while their Warforged Resilience grants them a bevy of immunities, advantages, resistances, and exceptions. They have Integrated Protection that serves as armor and can be adjusted to work with your armor proficiencies. The biggest change, however, is that the Warforged now have subraces. The Juggernaut gets a +2 to strength, a better unarmed attack, and increased carrying capacity. The Skirmisher gets +2 Dexterity, an increase in speed, and the ability to move stealthily over an extended period. The Envoy is by far the most interesting: it gains +1 to two scores of choice, a tool proficiency of your choice, and a tool of that choice integrated into their body.
Now, all of this stuff on the new races can also be found in this week’s Unearthed Arcana article. Wait, what? Why is Unearthed Arcana material in a $20 PDF? More on that towards the end of the article.
What follows on from there are sections devoted to every other D&D race, talking about their place in the setting. There are some flavor text tables scattered through them, and some interesting mechanical bits from the aforementioned Valenar double-bladed scimitar to the clawfoot raptor mount of the Talenta halflings. Basically every race gets mentioned, even the really exotic ones like tabaxi; even if they don’t have a place in Eberron yet, this section talks about ways you might find them one.
Chapter 4: Dragonmarks
Next up we have the Dragonmarks, the magical symbols etched into the skin of living beings that grant them the power that has forged the great Dragonmarked Houses of Khorvaire, the premier drivers of the magic industry. Previously, Dragonmarks have been treated as feats that a player could take when their bloodline’s power comes through, but here they’ve done something different: each dragonmark is expressed via a variant race or a subrace. Thus you choose your Dragonmark during character creation, and it changes or replaces several features, including your ability score increases. Every ‘mark grants unique effects, some as exceptional abilities and some as access to certain types of magic, but each also has an Intuition Die, a d4 that is added to the rolls for one or more skills whether or not you have proficiency in them. There is also a new background for an agent of a dragonmarked house, and a Greater Dragonmark feat you can take starting at 8th level that will increase your Intuition Die to a d6, increase an ability score, and grant access to powerful spells.
Overall, I really like the design choice they’ve made with Dragonmarks, here. They have some very profound effects on your character, just as they should to make you feel like a true dragonmarked scion of your House, and they all seem useful. The one nitpick I have is that having them as variant/subraces keeps you, rules as written, from manifesting a ‘mark during gameplay as part of the story, which in my experience is by far the most popular way to do it. I think there are a couple of ways to get around that, however, just like as in previous editions I let players take the feat when they had the chance but didn’t have it manifest in-game until they’d reached their appropriate moment.
There are also rules for the aberrant dragonmarks, bizarre symbols that don’t fit in with the predictable power of the ‘normal’ ‘marks. Take a feat, get the mark, get +1 Constitution, gain access to a sorcerer cantrip and a 1st level sorcerer spell of your choice, and the ability to boost it by spending a Hit Die and taking damage.There’s also a nice flavor text table for how your actual mark behaves . . . oddly. I like the cantrip and spell bit, but the Hit Die bit could be very brutal at low levels, and there’s no other way to grow the ‘mark like with the Greater Dragonmark feat. A good start, but there’s room to grow, here.
Chapter 5: Magic Items
This chapter has a bunch of magic items, like everyday tools like the everbright lantern, arcane focuses that can boost certain spells, items that can only used by dragonmarked characters such as the Inquisitive’s Goggles, eldritch machines that have profound and far-reaching magical effects, and components that can be installed in warforged. The list here is by no means exhaustive (there’s no elemental airship to be bought, for a dramatic example), but it’s a good basic kit that can be very useful and can get newcomers used to just how much everyday magic there is in Eberron.
Chapter 6: Sharn
The final chapter narrows the focus of the Guide to Eberron’s most famous city, Sharn. This is the part of the Guide that is really set up to get you going with actual adventures in the setting. It starts off with extra tables for all of the PHB’s Backgrounds that tie your character into the city. It then goes into the actual city itself, describing the five different plateau ‘quarters’ that make up the City of Towers, the Upper, Middle, and Lower wards of each quarter, and various things to find and do within each area. Following that are sections devoted to holidays the city celebrates, criminal activities and the organizations who conduct them, how to get around, and how interesting falling from Upper Tavick’s Landing can get.
Following these general overviews are three ‘Starting Points’ you can use to begin an adventure in Sharn. You’ve got the crime-ridden district of Callestan in Lower Dura, perfect for a ‘dark neo-noir’ story. Then there’s the Clifftop District in Upper Dura, a favorite place for adventurers and explorers, ‘pulp heroes . . . whose services are in demand.’ Finally there’s Morgrave University in Upper Menthis, a college for adventurers that will send you on some more light-hearted travels. Each Starting Point comes with text about setting the right tone, what brought characters to the point, what the characters might want, and descriptions of the district and its interesting locations.
The chapter then has “A Quick Sharn Story”, five random tables that let you quickly create the Hook, the Villain, the Plot, the Twist, and a fantastic location to put the Final Scene in for a pickup adventure. The chapter concludes with three 2d20 tables for random happenings, sights, and encounters on the streets of Lower, Middle, and Upper Sharn.
What’s Not Here, What’s Going On, and What’s In The Future
So, what’s not in the Guide? No artificer. No psionics, which is kind of a strange fit with the kalashtar. No rules for Siberys Dragonmarks. No other builds or varieties for existing classes, although that’s less of a concern. This brings us back to the Unearthed Arcana bit.
There was a fair bit of initial confusion online over what exactly the Guide is, when people opened it up and saw that it wasn’t Adventure League-official, that the cover calls it a ‘prototype’. To clarify: at the moment the WGtE is essentially a living playtest; Keith Baker outright referred to it as a type of Unearthed Arcana on his own blog. According to Mike Mearls on Twitter and the July 23rd Dragon Talk episode, what will happen is that, as feedback filters in and new material is created, the Guide will be updated. New purchasers will get the most recent update, and everyone who has already purchased a copy will have their version updated for free as things proceed, so once you’ve bought it you’re guaranteed the final product. Again according to Mearls the Guide will be finished when the last changes are made and the Artificer is added in (the Artificer will have a new UA article soon), and then it will also have a Print On Demand option. The chance remains for a hardcover print Eberron book, in which some things may be duplicated between that theoretical future product and the Guide (such as races, the artificer, etc.), but the goal will be for people to be happy if they’ve bought both.
Perhaps this type of information should be on the DTRPG/DM’s Guild page of the product, instead of people having to go to the Twitter feeds and blogs, but that’s another conversation entirely.
By far the most drastic effect of the Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron is that its publication has unlocked the setting for the DM’s Guild, meaning that anyone can publish their own Eberron material through the Guild. There are already people taking advantage of that fact, and there are a number of products that were released right away, some by folks who were clearly just waiting for the go ahead. Whatever other ebook or printed products come out of Wizards of the Coast for Eberron, the setting is out in the wild, now. It’ll be interesting to see what people come up with, and what rises to the top.
Is the Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron worth buying? I would say yes. There’s a lot of material packed into this PDF, and while some may grouse about ‘paying to playtest’, there is the fact that you’re going to get a final product that’s been refined by the same process that brought us every other 5th edition sourcebook starting with the PHB. If you’re an Eberron fan already, there’s no reason not to buy it; you’d probably have bought the final product anyway, it’s useful, and this way you get to put your feedback in for a setting you love. If you’re a newcomer, it’s a great product to jumpstart your journey in a world where there’s magic on every corner, a spy in every shadow, and adventure over every horizon.
As mentioned above, you can find the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron PDF on DriveThruRPG and the DM’s Guild for $19.99.
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