Elaydren’s Magewright Primer Review

A halfling darts about the kitchen of a House Ghallanda inn, literally moving in a blur as he serves up dishes at a supernatural pace. An adventurer dons an amulet of true face, and finally sees the person they’ve always felt like in the mirror. A goblin pulls on a pair of gloves and sends lightning crackling into the chests of three muggers who tried to jump her. House Cannith (and the DM’s Guild) is proud to present Elaydren’s Magewright Primer, a comprehensive guide to the magic used in daily life throughout Khorvaire and around the world of Eberron, brought to us by Nausicaä Enriquez!

The Primer is one part original material and one part conversion/adaptation/expansion. Nausicaä gives credit where it’s due: several items first appeared and/or have been adapted from other community works like Blessed of the Traveler: Queer Gender Identity in Eberron, Korranberg Chronicle: Adventurer’s Almanac (which I believe is actually in the teetering tower of To-Be-Reviewed works on my desk, so look forward to that), and Nausicaä’s own Artifice and Invention. It also pulls from older official books, like Secrets of Xen’drik and the Eberron Player’s Guide. This sort of gives this product a feel of one that’s focused on refining, as much as creating.

So. What is the role of magic in the daily life of Eberron, and how does it manifest? Let’s go chapter by chapter to find out!

Chapter 1: Tools in Eberron

Part of this chapter focuses on some of the various tool kits to be found in the Player’s Handbook, talking about how the Eberron equivalents differ from the standard. A forgery kit contains gear for forging printed as well as written material, thieves’ tools by necessity have to be able to handle mystical as well as mundane security measures, and cook’s utensils have pans with a permanent grease effect for non-stick cooking.

There are some new tools, however. A mirror of revelation reveals the emotions of a willing subject, and is often used in the psychiatric field to provide diagnoses and care. Keshaware lanterns produce visual illusions, and Thurimbar rods create illusory sounds; both serve as a type of musical instrument (and painter’s supplies in the case of the lanterns), applying magic to entertainment. Most interesting are the different “aesthetics” that the Primer lists out for these tools, regional variations or parallel inventions that different societies in Eberron have created. Riedrans and Adarans have ringing crystals instead of Thurimbar rods, for example, and patterning boards serve the same purpose as the mirror of revelation among the elves of Aerenal and Xen’drik.

Chapter 2: Material Components

This chapter opens up with a pair of different arcane foci for characters to use. First is the artificer’s friend, a type of arcane focus that has one or more built-in tools or pieces of adventuring gear. I’ll snag some examples from the Primer: “a crystal that magnifies small objects, an orb with moving numerical and logarithmic tables, a road that contains a set of tinker’s tools, a staff usable as a pry bar, or a wand that doubles as a spyglass.” Meanwhile, focus gloves are a pair of said gloves that act as a focus item, functioning so long as you’re wearing both and have at least one hand free.

Then we get to the actual components, and I think these are particularly interesting. Each of the components listed here is optional, meaning it either gets tacked on to the components for an existing spell or can be used in conjunction with an arcane focus (consumed in one use either way), and each serves to improve the type of spell in some way. One example are covadish leaves, harvested from a plant in Aerenal, which when used as a component in a necromancy spell increases the spell slot-based effect of the spell. For another there is the root of the hathil plant, found in the Shadow Marches, which imposes disadvantage on saving throws for transmutation spells. Summoning? Try and get your hands on some narstone, found in the Demon Wastes, to grant your summoned creatures +1 to AC.

Each component has a rarity and a commensurate cost, much like magic items, but they also come with a risk (you don’t mess with tried-and-true formulas without things getting a little weird, after all). When an optional component is used, the DM may give the player inspiration in exchange for triggering a ‘detrimental’ effect.  The Sorcerer’s Wild Magic table is suggested, as well as coming up with original results that I’d personally classify as ‘overdoing it’.

It might be because I’m still running it, but this entire chapter gives me some serious vibes of 4e!Eberron, with all the Consumables and Reagents and Whetstones that characters could break out at just the right moment, and I have to say I’m digging it.

Chapter 3: Common Magic Items

Ah, now here’s a particularly meaty portion of the Primer, listing out magical items that range from almost-mundane to life-changing. Notably, the hardest to find items in this chapter are going to be rated uncommon, although ‘rare’ sometimes pops up for high-end versions.

What I’d call the highlight of the chapter is the adaptive appendage, which covers the entire run of magical prostheses and adaptive devices. Lost limbs, deafness, blindness, mutness, paralysis, all can be healed with the use of an adaptive appendage (which also again feature the various aesthetics that such an item might appear in). The appendage also has a few relatives, so to speak, such as the wheelchair equivalent Tenser’s floating chair, the mental-illness-and-chronic-pain-easing calming cap, and the dysphoria-easing amulet of true face.

The other star of the chapter is probably the cantrip-caster, also known as a ‘trip-caster. Each caster allows the wielder to know and use a single cantrip, chosen at the ‘trip-caster’s creation; Intelligence is always the modifier of choice, and the cantrip is always cast as if at first level if the wielder isn’t a spellcaster themselves. A prime example would be the Wandslinger’s friend, the most common and most obviously weaponized ‘trip-caster, often holding cantrips such as lightning lure or ray of frost. Other examples would be the Everbright Sunrod, holding the light cantrip, and the Gloves of the Mole with the move earth cantrip.

The other magic items really do cover a wide area. There are several Exactly What It Says On The Tin items like eternal rations, a restful pillow, and a staff of sweeping. Then there are those that are a bit more fantastical, like the tacit table that keeps conversations private or the Korranberg mirror that allows access to the eponymous Library. Overall, a total win of a chapter, I think every Eberron campaign could benefit to some degree.

Chapter 4: Warforged Components

If you’re going to be a magical robot, then why wouldn’t you customize yourself? It’s important to note, however, that these warforged components aren’t just for the children of Cannith. All of the components here could find themselves as part of an adaptive appendage, making the Primer’s third and fourth chapters pair together rather well.

There’s nothing super mind-blowing in this chapter, although the mermaid’s tail is an interesting surprise, and now that I think of it the floating appendages of the far hands could functionally give a monk the ability to rocket punch their opponents . . . alright, so there’s nothing broken in this chapter, just a generally good and interesting list of options. Honestly my only wish is that there were more of them.

Chapter 5: Dragonmarked Items

The Dragonmarked Houses of Khorvaire dominate the magical industries, and they probably couldn’t manage that without putting their ‘marks to the task of creating items that interact with their abilities. This is another chapter where I would have liked to see more, but what’s there is interesting.

The Host’s Haste rack of aprons allows the halflings of House Ghallanda to cast haste on all who don one, even increasing the speed with which food cooks; fast food indeed, and Siberys help you if you try to cause trouble in a kitchen full of hasted knife-wielding chefs.The Portable Exchange of Kundarak allows the bearers of the Mark of Warding to convert currencies, even exchanging gems, letters of credit, and pieces of art. Meanwhile the Trailblazer’s Wagon is used by House Orien to create roads using the clear the path spell featured later in the Primer at no cost of material components.

Chapter 6: Eldritch Machines

Eldritch machines are kind of a high-concept thing to me in the first place, and that carries through here in the sixth chapter; almost all of the machines featured here are ‘very rare’, and none of them are likely to be available to the general populace, although they do affect the general populace. Two are particularly powerful versions of dragonmarked items, House Vadalis’s Balinor’s hand and House Cannith’s Calenzo’s hammer, which help magebreed animals and assist with fabricate and creation respectively. Meanwhile on the other side of the Lhazzar Sea we have the hanbalan altas that the Inspired use to brainwash their Riedran subjects gift their followers with pleasant dreams, and the bastion walls linked to them that provide light and even atmospheric control.

Of all the chapters, this is the least universally useful one, although it’ll be clutch in any campaign that takes place on Sarlona or involves House Vadalis or Cannith . . . the fact that a Balinor’s hand can be ‘overclocked’ to engage in some particularly mad science, and that Cults of the Dragon Below are rumored to have their own version, also offers some troubling but interesting hooks.

Chapter 7: Rituals

New spells! Eight of them, along with some new rules for plant growth, running the gamut from quality of life to culturally important to Dragonmarked industry. There’s the gender-transitioning corporeal comfort, the House Medani-created inquisitive’s eyes that lets you glimpse the past of your surroundings, and the pledge of service used by Aereni and Karrmathi to dedicate themselves to service in undeath before they actually do the dying.

A particularly nice touch in this chapter is that, in addition to listing the player character classes that gain access to the spells within, the Primer also lists out the types of NPCs who are likely to have them. Adepts of the Traveler are among those who typically learn corporeal comfort, for instance, while adepts of Onatar typically have the hardening spell that increases the damage threshold of objects.

Chapter 8: Wizarding Traditions

The last numbered chapter presents two wizarding traditions that are in some ways ‘upgrades’ to some existing schools. By Nausicaä’s reckoning the School of Enchantment in the PHB is the School of ‘Low’ Enchantment, paving the way for her School of High Enchantment, which has its roots in the fey magic of Thelanis. This School replaces the Hypnotic Gaze feature of the PHB’s School with Expanded Enchantments, which adds a slew of spells such as heroism and enthrall to the wizard’s list and makes all of them count as enchantment spells. High Enchantment also counts a number of other spells already on the wizard’s list as enchantment spells, such as cause fear and maze. The Alter Memories feature is also replaced, by Leave Enchantment Behind, which lets the wizard prematurely end their own enchantments.

The second tradition is the School of Irial Necromancy, with the PHB’s School of Necromancy receiving the Mabaran moniker. This represents the ‘positive/radiant energy’ necromancy typified by the Undying of Aerenal and the Priests of Transition. Grim Harvest is replaced by Dance of Life and Death, which adds a swathe of benevolent magic such as spare the dying and mass heal to the wizard spell list, counting all of them as necromancy spells. Command Undead is then replaced by Boundless Vitality, which lets the wizard regain HP – and even reattach their own severed body parts if necessary.

The chapter closes out by talking about five more wizarding traditions of Nausicaä’s creation that can be found in another of her products, the aforementioned Artifice & Invention. Each tradition receives a blurb talking about how it fits (or doesn’t, in one case) in the Eberron setting. While the Schools of High Enchantment and Irial Necromancy cover specific and interesting aspects of magic in Eberron, and do it well, this last section is going to be hit or miss. Either you have A&I, in which case it’s an interesting read, or you don’t, in which case it’s entirely skippable.

Appendix A: A Revised History of Eberron

Part of the entire Primer’s intro talked about how, in exchanging emails with Keith Baker, Nausicaä noted the ‘too many zeroes’ problem that the setting has, what you might know as Medieval Stasis. Several cultures in Eberron have very good reasons for remaining much the same over the centuries, but why do the others take so long to get where they are today in 998 YK? Hence, this alternate timeline, which shortens the lifespan of Galifar to roughly 300 years (YK now stands for Years of Khorvaire, when the first Sarlonans arrived), and going into detail on this new version of history.

Personally, I’m somewhat numb to the ‘too many zeroes’ problem. When you think about it, no, it’s not good setting design, but it’s a problem I’m used to handwaving since it’s so widespread. So, by default, I could take or leave a timeline that tries to fix it: nice to have, but not necessary. That being said, Appendix A shows an impressive attention to detail, from the events of the Last War to the development of the printing press to the practice of scientific knighthood that eventually brought us Morgrave University. The timeline also puts in more work on the inclusiveness front, discussing kalashtar coded as transgender thanks to the dual nature of their spirits and the particularly snarky point that Tira Miron has to have been a lesbian, what with the rainbow celestials and demonic ass-kicking.

So, 100% necessary? No, you could still take or leave this Appendix as it suits you. Worth reading? Yes. Even if you leave it, you might find value in looting it for some ideas and adjustments to your own version of canon.

Production Values

Overall the Primer is well-organized and easy to read. The Table of Contents is clear and makes things easy to find (while there’s no index the Primer is short enough to get away without one), and the paragraphs are well organized. I also can’t find anything that raises a red flag typo or grammar wise.

There are some slight formatting issues that you’ll notice. For instance, each section/item has a header to it, but there’s some inconsistency in appearance. Some are bolded, some aren’t, some seem to be of a different font, and there’s a spell where one word of the name is bolded and the other isn’t for a particular example. There’s also an in-universe sidebar from Elaydren d’Vown herself that’s slightly cut off at the top. These keep me from slapping on the ‘Professional-looking’ sticker, but they don’t affect readability, and honestly I’m probably nitpicking here.

There’s a decent amount of art scattered throughout the Primer as well. It’s not going to dazzle you per se – I’m no expert, but I think I’d classify it as sketch-level – but it’s nice to have, and perhaps most importantly, every piece is very easy to match up with the item(s) from the Primer being featured, which is cool. I particularly like the in-color cover, which sort of looks like it was ripped from a Last War propaganda piece about industrious magic in the light of the Sovereign Host.

Probably the best part production-values-wise, aside from the actual items, are the stories. Each chapter starts off with little blurbs providing an in-universe example of the chapter’s items in action, from a warlock using a spyglass artificer’s friend to freeze sailors from a distance to a gnome using her mermaid’s tail adaptive appendage to catalogue aquatic species for the Library of Korranberg. These narrative bits all help to ground the mechanical bits within the setting, and they’re fun to read to boot.

Conclusion

How do you make a world feel more ‘real’/internally consistent? How do you follow the idea of industrialized magic to its various logical endpoints? How do you make a world more inclusive and open to different types of characters/people?

You put the damn work in, that’s how, and that’s what Nausicaä has done here in the Primer.

The entire product carries the vibe of someone who has spent the time and devoted the brain cells to really thinking about those questions, and then bothered to spend more time writing down the answers. And yes, Nausicaä makes a point to say that not everything here is going to fit in every campaign . . . but I think most items in the Primer will find a home in most campaigns, and I agree with her that some items and spells – adaptive appendages, amulets of true face, corporeal comfort, Tenser’s floating chairs, and so on – should always remain on the table. Because . . . why not, honestly?

Elaydren’s Magewright Primer is available on the DM’s Guild for the always fair price of Pay What You Want, with a recommended price of $6.99 (support your creators please). Grab yourself a copy and explore the role of daily magic in your own version of Eberron!


Thanks to Nausicaä for reaching out to us, and by extension to the Eberron Discord server for providing a venue for the Primer to pop up on our radar. Got a game or supplement of your own you want us to take a look at? Drop us a line @HungryHalfling in Twitter or send us an email at cannibalhalflinggaming@gmail.com!

The CHG copy of Elaydren’s Magewright Primer was acquired using funds generated by our affiliation with DriveThru RPG; travel there using one of our fine and elegantly crafted links to buy something, and we get a cut to help us get more games to review!

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