Raat shi anaa. The story begins. Rising from the Last War brought Keith Baker’s dungeon punk setting of Eberron back to 5th Edition in hardcover form, but it was the earlier Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron that first brought a world of pulp, noir, and wide magic to the latest version of Dungeons and Dragons – and it also opened up the door for anyone to create Eberron content on the DM’s Guild. When I talked with Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, the curious implications of that came up. Since it made it to the final three of the Setting Search in 2002 Wizards of the Coast has owned Eberron; while Baker was often brought back to work on supplements and novels, the final creative control didn’t belong to him. He could talk about ‘his’ Eberron, and thankfully did so quite often and at length, building a great rapport with the community, but plenty of material he came up with would never see the pages of a hardcover book. The Wayfinder’s Guide changed that, and now we have Exploring Eberron, Rising’s “perfect companion” straight from the man himself. So let’s go through chapter by chapter and section by section to see how an already big world had even more in its uncharted depths!
Chapter 1: Discovering Eberron
Our first chapter starts by looking at Eberron’s history – the Dawn of Creation, the Age of Demons, the Age of Giants, the Age of Monsters, and ‘recent’ history such as the War of the Mark, the Kingdom of Galifar, and the Silver Crusade. There are cool details here, but the true value are sections for each era labeled “Why Does It Matter?” which presents ways that Eberron’s history can be relevant for your modern era game. Several eras also have a ‘Character Ideas’ section: perhaps your character has a dragonshard that serves as part of an overlord’s prison embedded in their flesh which grants them some class abilities, or perhaps you wield a Dhakaani blade passed down through your family that has yet to grant you its ancient power.
Next up is a section all about the Jewel in Galifar’s Crown, Cyre. Cyre is often defined more by the fact that it’s been consumed by the Mournland, but here we have a really good look at Cyre-That-Was: its relationship with the rest of the Five Nations during the age of Galifar, its style and fashion and cuisine, its religions and institutions and wonders. There’s a lot of complexity in here that can be added to playing a Cyran survivor that makes them more than just another refugee, with advice on how make a Cyran’s personality stand out.
Of course, you don’t get Eberron without the Last War (unless you’re playing around with the timeline I suppose, see Chapter 5). There’s discussion about (and items/stats for) Arcane Artillery and Arcane Explosives, a look at what air forces look like in Eberron, talk of quick-draw wandslingers from the Aundairan Dragoons to the Thrane Beacons, details on the warforged titans that strode across the battlefield, and war stories for all of the PHB’s backgrounds. There are also some interesting sidebars with extra magic that NPC wandslingers might use, and an examination of how things like Arcane Explosives interact with NPCs vs PCs.
Given all the magic that showed up in the section about the Last War, it’s unsurprising that the book then dives further into the ‘wide magic’ aspect of the setting. Common, uncommon, and industrial magic items are discussed re: their place in Eberron. Magewrights, the backbone of the magical economy, get several pages talking about their cantrips, their careers, and some of the services they offer (from cosmetic transmutation to medicine).
The artificer closes out the chapter with a section of their own. Different styles of artifice ranging from the self-made warforged to the scientist who could be mistaken as a visitor from Earth are provided as examples, and the many different tool kits that artificers use are looked at with an eye towards what they look like in practice – an artificer using Alchemist’s Supplies to cast fire bolt might be hurling a flask, while one using Calligrapher’s Supplies uses a quill to draw a sigil in the air. Finally, there’s an entire page on different backgrounds and how they shape an artificer’s efforts, from the Natural (Urchin) to a well-funded guild artisan member of the Zil binders.
Chapter 2: Races of Eberron
This chapter is all about the races (and particular cultures) that are unique to Eberron: Changelings, Aereni elves, Kalashtar, Shifters, and Warforged. This isn’t the chapter for more stats or mechanics, however. Instead, the material here is for learning more about the races in question and their place in the world, so that you can better play them (and the DM can better play off of them).
Changelings are found all over Khorvaire and Sarlona, and can have offspring with many other humanoids, so the shapeshifters can be found in plenty of nations and cultures – but for those with a connection to their roots, this is the section to read. Travelers are nomadic, both in terms of geography and in identity. Stable changelings emerged from the shadows under the rule of Galifar, living openly, building communities and neighborhoods – from the Blacklead district of Wroat to the Grey Tide nation in the Lhazaar Principalities – and creating entire careers with their abilities. Passers are usually ‘found’ in communities less welcoming of shapeshifters – ‘found’ because they have one non-changeling face they’ve chosen as their real one, and their friends and neighbors may never know what they really are.
The changeling idea of persona – the concept of an identity being like a set of clothes – is discussed, particularly how traveler clans set up personas for their members to assume in various communities, as well as how changelings sometimes change their persona depending on what they’re doing (such as assuming a half-orc form to fight, and an elven one to play the violin). This is followed by some unique character concepts for changeling player characters, such as the fraud who assumed an identity whose owner has vanished, or a changeling who is an agent of the archfey of Thelanis.
The Aereni, Eberron’s unique culture of elves most well known for their positive-energy deathless soldiers and ascendant councilors, get their own section as well. A fair bit of attention is spent on the differences between Aereni culture and Khorvairan culture – their religion doesn’t operate on faith (you can talk to the Undying Court all the time, whether it’s an actual mummy-esque great^x grandparent or the Dolurrh-avoiding spirit idols), magic is pervasive to a degree that makes Khorvaire look like a backwater, and “the old ways are the best ways” is the Aereni tradition in comparison to Cannith innovation.
What follows is information on the various noble lines of Aerenal that characters (PC or NPC) may be a part of. The line of Jhaelian is particularly spiritual, producing many monks, cleric, paladins, and various flavors of undead hunter, and have a tradition of using cosmetic transmutation to appear dessicated. The line of Mendyrian is the usual source for the Sibling Kings that rule the continent, are also the source of the most gifted wizards and artificers thanks to their devotion to arcane lore, and wear masks of leather or metal. There’s also a discussion on mentors; Aereni elves are considered adults until they have a century under their belt, and that means they have time to be someone’s protégé, whether it’s an older sibling or a deathless councilor who has taken a particular – and possibly worrisome – interest in your life.
The Aereni close out with Quirks and discussions on backgrounds. An Aereni elf is not a Khorvairan elf, and as a result has some very different cultural baggage. Negative energy (i.e. typical) undead are a serious threat no matter their source, as far as you’re concerned, and you may find yourself making some social gaffes while in Sharn (you can talk to your ‘gods’ just by traveling to Shae Mordai, so suggesting a priest of the Host gives Aureon a call comes across as quite rude – why can’t we just teleport to Korth? – what do you mean nobody preserved Galifar’s soul in a spirit idol!?!?). As for backgrounds, an Acolyte is definitely a recognized servant of the Undying Court, but a Folk Hero should consider why they’re such in Khorvaire, and so on.
The Kalashtar get some details on their possible origins – Adaran kalashtar born on the continent of Sarlona, Khorvairan kalshater born into the existing communities in places like the city of Sharn, and orphan kalashtar – kalashtar can have children with humans and half-elves, with an even chance of the offspring being kalashtar, so sometimes they never know a kalashtar parent. These origins can greatly shape the kalashtar character’s backstory and personality – an Adaran kalashtar likely have a closer relationship with the quori spirit, had to brave the Riedran blockades to be a player character, and are a fish out of water in Khorvaire while an orphan might be completely assimilated in human or half-elven culture with no educated understanding of what they are or what they’re connected to.
Next, the section details the different types of quori spirits that are bound to kalashtar and how they might influence a character. Most interestingly, the spirits are still tied to emotions that are often viewed as negative; a du’ulora quori is a spirit of rage and aggression, and a tsucora quori feed on terror, but the spirits bound to kalashtar are still rebels who have chosen the path of light.
The kalashtar section wraps up by talking about some classes that would work well with them. Frankly, this makes 5th Editon’s lack of an actual psionic class pretty glaringly obvious, but the advice on what a kalashtar/psychic-flavored bard, cleric, paladin, sorcerer, and warlock would look like is still pretty useful.
Shifters don’t need to have ties to a shifter community as part of their origins, they could easily be tied to the Five Nations or the dragonmarked houses at large, but their section starts off with their unique ties all the same. They could be following shifter traditions in the Deep Forest of places like the Towering Wood that have sustained shifters for millennia, be among those who played a strong role in the creation of the Eldeen Reaches as an independent nation, or be members of an urban pack in a place like Sharn’s Lower Northedge. After that the book takes a look at the spirits most closely associated with shifters – Cousin Bear, Boar, Grandfather Rat, Tiger, and Grandmother Wolf – and the traits most often associated with them. Grandfather Rat is clever and stealthy and his shifters are typically swiftstride or wildhunt, while Bear embodies strength and caution and has shifters that tend towards beasthide.
Their section also discusses shifters’ relationship with religion and with lycanthropes. The religious relationship, for a comparatively short section is … complicated. Shifters have the Moonspeaker druids, the Hounds of Balinor and the Three Faces of the Wild among the followers of the Sovereign Host/Dark Six, and even blend the beast within and the divinity within as followers of the Blood of Vol. Overall, though, shifters are distrustful of religion – particularly the clerics and paladins of the Silver Flame, whose Church killed far too many innocent shifters as part of their effort to stymie the lycanthripc plague. Speaking of lycanthropes, their section makes a point that the Silver Crusade should have considered; while the two are similar, shifters can become lycanthropes if infected, but aren’t lycanthropes themselves. The Moonspeakers say that the first lycanthropes were five shifter champions who went up against a great evil and were turned by it, but the exact nature of lycanthropy’s origin and what foes a shifter play character might face as a result are up to the DM.
Warforged origins are typically tied to the battlefield, and questions about that type of backstory – how long you served in the Last War, who you fought for, how it effected you – are discussed. However, some other interesting options are discussed. The final decade of the Last War saw warforged being sold to civilians, giving a warforged character many different potential starting points. Perhaps you were a bodyguard for a noble – and were declared their heir for your service! Perhaps you still have ties to a village that pooled their resources to make you the protector of their home. Were you a former research assistant who has begun to master the arcane in your own right? Aside from civilian uses, there were also experimental or otherwise unique warforged created according to special designs – assassins, entertainers, shapeshifters. Your status as the an exotic warforged could give you a unique place in the world – or give you a lot of mysteries to solve.
There’s a section that examines what exactly makes a warforged a warforged – how their sentience just . . . is, how they can evolve both physically and mentally, how integrated protection and integrated tools can tell someone a lot about what a warforged was made for and what they might be up to.
The warforged section and the chapter closes out with some character concepts that definitely throw some curveballs. There are ideas for a number of different characters who have embraced the path of the cleric or the paladin, from a Forge cleric of Onatar to a follower of the Blood of Vol who awakens in a warforged body after death. A warlock with a docent, a sentient magic item, as their patron is highlighted. Finally, the forgotten assassin emerges from the bottom of a lake – no memory, slowly regaining skills, and with plenty of questions.
Chapter 3: Faiths of Eberron
The divine side of things is kind of funny in Eberron, compared to most other D&D settings: the gods aren’t statted out, they don’t appear to anyone, they’re not actually characters. So unlike, say, Forgotten Realms the religions of Eberron are a little closer to real world religions, in that they really do operate on faith, i.e. belief that doesn’t require proof. Since even the setting’s angels have never met the Sovereign Host, it thus makes sense that the chapter opens by examining how this shapes things like the divine magic of clerics and paladins, how that magic compares to other sources of power, and how it effects everyday life.
As an actual organized Church, complete with Pope analogue, the faith of the Silver Flame stands out both in its grounding in the world – unlike the Sovereigns, few can argue that the Flame doesn’t exist, you can go and see part of it in Flamekeep – as well the themes of corruption often associated with its stories. While undoubtedly a force for good, the Shadow in the Flame is always whispering, and mortals can delude themselves into doing the wrong thing for the ‘right’ reasons all too easily. This section also highlights the Church’s “Priorities of Evil”, a guideline I take glee in calling the “Anti-Lawful Stupid Guide” that keeps a paladin from stabbing the party rogue while there are still demons to fight.
The Blood of Vol has always been a curious faith, wavering back and forth from pretty-heavily-coded-as-bad-guys to misunderstood-but-normal-enough folk across the different editions. This entry is more of the latter as the Seekers of the Blood of Vol try and tap into the ‘divinity within’, pointing out that Seekers often prioritize taking care of their communities – there are no gods to have your back, after all. There’s a particularly interesting sidebar about how some spells can work with this faith, such as planar ally summoning a creature formed of your own blood and spirit – and the requests it makes in return being expressions of your own subconscious!
The Sovereign Host (and the Dark Six) are the most widely spread faiths on Eberron. Not being an ‘organized’ faith like the Silver Flame, the Host and Six’s diversity of creeds and beliefs gets a lot of highlight here, from the bog standard Pyrinean Creed to the dragon-worshiping Church of the Wyrm Ascendant. The Three Faces cults, which tend to focus on a triad made of two members of the Host and one of the Six, are particularly interesting. Speaking of the Dark Six, they all get some page time, including suggested domains for clerics and suggested oaths for paladins.
The Cults of the Dragon Below are a mixed bag whose only unifying traits are that their mortal cultists tend to be deeply evil, nuttier than squirrel droppings, or both. It’s a catch-all term for followers of the aberrant daelkyr and the fiendish overlords, from the Voice in the Stone to the Daughter of Khyber. There are some example cults, some words on typical cult structures and goals, and then a dive into the various BBEGs behind the cults: their forces, ‘gifts’, player character ideas, and story ideas.
There’s a little section on some of the Unusual Faiths of Eberron, like the Becoming God that some warforged are trying to build a body for in the Mournland (presumably with the proverbial box of scrap), and even the Draconic Prophecy itself.
The chapter closes out with a look at Aasimar; with no actual gods hopping around having kids or anything like that, aasimar instead have a connection to some source of divine power – a faith, in other words. There’s a decent number of words spent on what different types of Eberronian aasimar look like and what subrace they key to – and we’ll hear a bit more on the latter in a couple chapters.
Chapter 4: Uncharted Domains
The Five Nations of Galifar have gotten the most page space in previous Eberron offerings, but they’re not the only places and peoples in the setting worth visiting – there are some parts of Khorvaire that have gotten less screentime than entirely different continents. This chapter gives the spotlight to four of them.
Droaam, the nation of “monsters”. Personally, I’ve always found this place fascinating – I dropped a party into Graywall for a few levels instead of just a quick visit in Seekers of the Ashen Crown, and it was a blast – but you’d find more info in some novels than in sourcebooks. There’s loads of information here, covering the history, languages, political structure, organizations, laws, economy, and even cuisine! Of particular note is how Droaam uses ‘wide monster’ instead of Eberron’s typical ‘wide magic’; for one example, medusas can petrify someone who is badly wounded until the resultant statue can be hauled closer to a healer, at which point the medusa undoes the petrification and the healer gets to work.
The Heirs of Dhakaan are the dar – the goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears, to use the names that humans labeled them with when they came to Khorvaire. Once, all the dar were linked by the Uul Dhakaan, a shared dreamscape in Dal Quor created by the legendary duur’kala bard Jhazaal Dhakaan. Then came the war with the daelkyr, and Dyrrn the Corruptor let loose a psychic contagion that corrupted the dream. The Kech Dhakaan isolated themselves underground, as the Empire of Dhakaan fell into madness. Now, they’re beginning to emerge, searching for the Emperor Yet To Come. There’s information on Dhakaani biology, concepts of honor and glory (muut and atcha), traditions, yet more cuisine, and equipment. There are details on many new Dhakaani clans, such as the Kech Uul who try to guard the Ull Dhakaan and the Kech Ghaalrac who claim to have killed the Corruptor. The Dhakaani section ends with a ton of advice for playing Dhakaani characters and a glossary of goblin words and phrases to sprinkle into your campaign for flavor and depth – Jarrod Taylor and Don Bassingthwaite consulted on the goblin language, which is a perfect excuse for me to recommend Bassingthwaite’s The Dragon Below and Legacy of Dhakaan novel trilogies.
The Mror Holds are the ancestral homeland of the dwarves – up to a certain point of ancestry, anyways, as the clans of the Ironroot Mountains know that they were exiled from Sol Uldar, the Realm Below, and exactly why is buried under epochs of time. We get a detailed history of the Holds, from the hazy pre-history of the exile to the early feuding to the age of Galifar to independence during the Last War. Much more, however, is made of the Dol Uldar, the War Below, as the Mror dwarves dug deep and rediscovered Sol Uldar, with all of its ancient wonders and wealth – and the foul servants of Dyrnn the Corruptor, having consumed their ancestors. The war has raged back and forth, with some clans stubbornly holding outposts and colonies in the Realm Below and others sealing up every passage they can find. Dyrnn’s minions won’t or can’t come to the surface for reasons unknown, so the war has turned into a stalemate – with several clans grasping for an advantage by stealing Dyrnn’s power and using symbiotes. Aside from all the talk about the Dol Uldar, there’s the now-standard look at Mror culture and beliefs and a ton of detail on the different clans, from the courageous (and pure) Doldarun to the authority-challenging Soldarak – even the unique culture of the Jhorash’tar orcs and their relationship with the Holds get some time.
The Thunder Sea is the section of EE that was the biggest curveball for me. Aside from some sahuagin hitting the odd elemental galleon that the party was hitching a ride on, I didn’t put too much thought into what was in the depths. That’s definitely not the case for Baker. Atop the waves the Thunder Sea is a critical path for trade between Khorvaire, Xen’drik, and Aerenal, often treacherous because of storms caused by Lamannian manifest zones and demonglass spires that can shred hulls. Underneath the waves . . . it’s busy. Half buried in the sea floor are the kar’lassa, immortal sleeping monstrosities whose origins are unknown even to the dragons, whose dreams create entire realms not of Dal Quor, each with a connection to a different plane of existence that creates a manifest zone 13 miles out! The sahuagin have created a society known as the Eternal Dominion, and have built cities around eight of the kar’lassa, harvesting resources from the dreamers and using alchemy, transmutation, and magebreeding to create soldiers and infiltrators.
The merfolk of the Karakala migrate throughout the Thunder Sea, with a decidedly druidic bent and a nominally neutral position among the Sea’s other factions – although as they act as shepherds for manifest zones, they’re a Switzerland with a staggering amount of potential power – and variant of triton for their player characters. The sea elves of the Valrean Protectorate represent Aerenal’s interests in the waters around the continent, and protect locathah and sahuagin within their territory from the depredations of the Dominion . . . while stomping out native cultures and crushing any dissent.
And finally, in the darkest depths, there are the aboleths, servants of the overlord known as the Lurker in Shadow. Nobody has a good time when they show up, not Dominion, nor Kalamer, nor Valrean.
Chapter 5: Planes of Existence
Eberron’s wider cosmology, its equivalent of the Great Wheel popularized in ‘normal’ D&D, has never really been deeply explored, something Baker calls out in particular in this book’s preface. In Rising from the Last War they got, altogether, a mere five pages of bare details and some 1d4 tables for manifest zone features. As a result, travel off of the material plane didn’t really have anything to go off of; to my knowledge the planes of existence don’t feature in any official material apart from their distant influence on a manifest zone, and across multiple campaigns my own experience with them is limited to using them as interesting set pieces for a 4th Edition Dark Wanderer to stumble through. With more than 60 pages, this chapter changes that.
Each plane (including a section about Eberron itself and its relation to the wider universe, plus Khyber and its demiplanes) gets about as many pages to itself as the entire universe did in Rising. Each entry lists out universal properties, such as Daanvi’s Plane of Truth that prevents deliberate lies and the Inevitable Entrapment of Dolurrh that will see visitors consumed by ennui should they stay too long. Denizens are detailed, such as the Fey of the Fading Dream that can be encountered in Dal Quor and the slaadi civilizations of Kythri (from the Concordance of Iron to the Republic of B’ob). ‘Layers’ and other locations are given greater detail, from Lamania’s Endless Ocean to the Immeasurable Market of Syrania. Manifest zones associated with each plane are described more comprehensively, as well as what happens when a plane is coterminous or remote to Eberron. There’s some information on what kind of artifacts players might find on or from the planes; Fernia is a good place to find a wand of fireball, no surprise there, while Risia is the place to go to get the works of a frost giant. Finally, there are story hooks for each plane; will your adventurers be asked to recover tomes from a library consumed by Mabar’s endless night, or will they have to deactivate an eldritch machine powered by Shavarath before their home city tears itself apart?
This chapter makes multiplanar adventures in Eberron much more possible, whether you’re actually visiting the planes or simply dealing with their influence closer to home. Also, there’s just some really interesting reading here, exactly the kind you want when you’re coming up with campaign ideas. I have to call out Xoriat in particular: the metaphor with the maze of time, the material plane as the rat in the maze wearing a crown of the planes, and the daelkyr looking down from above before descending to begin their experiments on the rat made the aberrations sealed away in Khyber a lot more scary than they already were – with the bonus of adding plenty of potential time travel shenanigans into the mix.
Chapter 6: Character Options
You wanted more Eberron mechanics for player characters, you’re getting more Eberron mechanics for player characters.
First up are new Backgrounds: Changeling Traveler, Dhakaani Goblinoids, and Malenti. The Changeling Traveler covers the philosophy and lifestyle of the same name covered in Chapter 2 for the Changelings, and includes things like a shiftweave garment, a fledgling persona you’re developing for your clan, the skin cant language to communicate with other Travelers, and The Right Face For The Job which lets you assume a persona within a community to acquire gossip, food, and lodging. The Dhakaani Goblinoids don’t offer a full background; rather, they offer two variant features that can replace the feature of any other background, such as the Soldier’s Military Rank. One feature gives you access to Khesh’dar safehouses and a warm welcome in any sizeable community of goblins, while the other gives you a stronger connection to the shared dream of the Dhakaani, the Uul Dhakaan – possibly giving you visions, missions, or secrets about your current situation when you take a long rest. The Malenti is a sahuagin of the Eternal Dominion who has consumed, transformed into, and replaced a surface dweller – as a deep-cover spy, the Malenti is skilled at things like deception, can pick another background’s feature as part of its cover, has a variety of circumstances to pick from for their tour of duty, and has some truly curious characteristic as they blend the sahuagin they were with the surface dweller they’ve – in a very real way – become.
Next up are some Eberron-specific races! We’ve got four new types of aasimar: Court aasimar who appear among the elves of Aereni, Seeker aasimar who draw divine power from their own blood, Fernian aasimar (a fiery variant on scourge aasimar from Volo’s Guide), and Mabaran aasimar (an ominous turn on the fallen aasimar – yes, more ominous than a fallen aasimar already would be). There’s a new subrace for elves from Aereni, which can be either Intelligence or Wisdom focused and always knows at least one cleric or wizard cantrip. The subrace for Ruinbound dwarves – representing those dwarves of the Mror Holds born with an aberrant symbiont – gets a Charisma boost, a cantrip that represents their symbiont’s ‘gift’, and an easier time with their next symbiont(s).
Three Dhakaani races are notable particularly in comparison to the goblin backgrounds from Rising; while you certainly could play Dhakaani characters using Rising’s options with no problem, these three are a fair bit more Dhakaani flavored, and more flexible; ghall’dar (hobgoblins) and golin’dar (goblins) each get two subraces, and even the guul’dar (bugbears) have options for their ability score choices that Rising’s bugbears don’t. Whether it’s a ghall’dar who leads by example or one who studies the arts of war, a golin’dar who has mastered a trade or who can become one with the shadows, or the sheer inspirational bravery of the guul’dar, these options will really let you play out the Legacy of Dhakaan.
Then there are gnolls. Znir Pact gnolls are awesome in terms of story (what with throwing off the shackles of the fiend that made them) and pretty good mechanically speaking; flexibility along Strength/Dexterity lines, a natural bite weapon, some ranger/rogue-like bonus skills to choose from, and a bonus action free attack for chomping or dropping an enemy.
EE then gives us eight new racial feats to go with the races that call Eberron home: two for Changelings (more potent shapeshifting and skill-boosting personas), one for Aereni elves (binding your soul to Irian), two for kalashtar (a greater bond to your Quori spirit and greater telepathy), one for shifters (longer lasting and more frequent shifting), and two for warforged (tool specialization and heavier armor). All very useful, all very flavorful . . . and in some cases, particularly for the changeling and the warforged, are bringing back some basic race options from Unearthed Arcana that didn’t make it into Rising, another interesting highlight of how the DM’s Guild has let Baker play in his own sandbox again.
Chapter 6 closes out with six archetypes for player character classes, four of which are for classes in the Player’s Handbook and two of which are new specialist types for the artificer. Let’s quickly take a look at each . . .
The Forge Adept artificer represents the daashor tradition of the Dhakaani Empire, whether you’re Dhakaani yourself or have managed to learn (or steal, good luck with that) the techniques somehow. The Forge Adept is a frontline fighter: spells that focus primarily on defense with a smidgen of weapon (spiritual or otherwise) attacks, proficiency with martial weapons and the ability to use Intelligence for weapon attack and damage rolls, and an extra attack. The Forge Adept can also create a ghaal’sharaat, a ‘mighty blade’ that acts like an infusion but doesn’t eat up a slot; the weapon gets +X bonuses, can actually turn some of those bonuses into extra AC for yourself when needed, and more. Plus, you have runes that can light all of your allies’ weapons on fire (or lightning, or acid, you get the idea). Very solid looking specialist.
The Maverick artificer is the epitome of ‘winging it’ in the artificer community – represented by constantly picking, using, discarding, and replacing cantrips and spells from other classes and adding them to their own class’s spell list. At various points throughout their career the Maverick is going to pick another spellcaster class – any other spellcasting class – and add all of that class’s spells to a Breakthrough spell list. When changing up your list of spells for the day, you can prepare a spell (or spells, and of increasing level, as you level up) from your Breakthrough spell list; they don’t count against your number of prepared artificer spells. As the Maverick improves they’ll be able to learn more cantrips and use them with greater effect, change out prepared cantrips and spells with an action, cast Breakthrough spells as if they were two levels higher than the expended slot, and even gain additional spell slots that can only be used for Breakthrough spells. EE calls the Maverick a jack of all trades, and with the chance to access every single 5th level or lower spell in the game . . . yeah, I can’t quite wrap my head around all the potential, but it definitely fits the artificer-as-mad-scientist idea.
As an aside, there are some some more Infusion options presented here, like Fortify Defense (which charges armor to turn critical hits into normal hits), Healing Salve (which has four charges that can heal a creature 1d6+Int as an action), and Resistance Breaker (which charges a weapon to strip a target of damage resistances for a turn).
The Dirge Singer bard represents the duur’kala of the Dhakaani Empire – like the Forge artificer, you may be Dhakaani yourself or have simply uncovered their techniques somehow. Dirge Singers are focused on being historians, diplomats, and spiritual leaders – they get extra skill proficiencies along those lines, and double their proficiency bonus for either History or Performance – and in a fight focus on helping a group instead of just one ally at a time. They get the guidance cantrip as an extra freebie, and their inspiration is Broad: although their Bardic Inspiration die doesn’t go as high, capping out at d10, they can inspire two allies at once. Later on, the Dirge Singer can use their reaction to give an inspired ally an additional attack, adding the Inspiration die to the damage roll. Finally, they’ll gain the ability to Countercharm as a bonus action, and the allies affected by it can add 1d4 to ability checks and saving throws.
The Mind Domain for clerics is, in Eberron anyway, going to be primarily associated with the kalashtar Path of Light and the Riedran Path of Inspiration (although a Cult of the Dragon Below might be appropriate as well). The Domain spells are what you’d expect; command, detect thoughts, enemies abound, confusion, and telekinesis are some examples. This cleric gets two re-rolls per rest thanks to a Flash of Insight, adding half their cleric level to the re-roll, and when casting any cleric spell or cantrip that does radiant damage can choose to have it do psychic damage instead. The Mind Domain cleric can use Channel Divinity to inflict disadvantage on an enemy’s Wisdom saving throws (even causing psychic damage if the saving throw wasn’t caused by the cleric), grants a bonus to allied Int/Wis/Cha saving throws, adds their Wis modifier to cantrip damage, and once per rest can turn an ally’s failed saving throw into a 20. Definitely a back door psionic class, but a fitting one for both of the main religions it’s supposed to highlight (and doesn’t that just show how insidious the quori are), and particularly good if there are a lot of saving throws being rolled around on both sides.
A Circle of the Forged druid is almost always going to be a warforged; some zany artificers might experiment with primal magic and join this circle because they heard about it, but it’s primarily a warforged creation in their efforts to better understand their place in the world. Personally, I’m immediately reminded of one campaign where the DM roleplayed the Lord of Blades and company as Decepticons, and there was one warforged druid who was basically Waspinator, so this is oddly up my alley. This circle gains access to Wild Shape forms with higher CR, gains a bunch of extra benefits while transformed (like +2AC and no need/an immunity to sleep) because their beast form is still made up of warforged materials, can imbue their attacks with elemental damage, gain resistance to bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage and can Wild Shape as a reaction to attacks, and eventually can’t be charmed/frightened/paralyzed/poisoned. This is a really unique path for a warforged to take, and honestly, I just think it’s really cool.
The Way of the Living Weapon monk is actually an umbrella for a number of different martial traditions that are drawn from shapshifter techniques and those who fight with tooth and claw: the Forged Heart is a warforged creation, the Nightmare Shroud is of the kalahstar, the Traveler’s Blade was developed by changelings, and the Weretouched is embraced by the shifters. This is represented by many of the features for the Way of the Living Monk having four different options. For example, at 3rd level a Forged Heart monk’s unarmed attacks are considered to be adamantine weapons and can spend ki to force a Strength saving throw for extra damage and a push effect, while the Traveler’s Blade has a longer reach and can spend ki for even more. At 17th level the Nightmare Shroud monk can send psychic damage rippling out from their initial target to strike other enemies, while the Weretouched makes three unarmed attacks for Flurry of Blows instead of two and has advantage on all of them. The ‘generic’ features of the Living Weapon monk are all about flexibility and extra damage: changing damage types, changing bonus damage types, and ki for extra Athletics/Acrobatics d20s. Whether you go all the way with one of the different ‘branches’ of this subclass or you pick and choose as you go, there’s a lot of flavor and a lot of punch to this one.
Chapter 7: Treasures
Shiny goodies! Not all of which are items, exactly.
First, we’ve got some more Common Magic Items, things that help to better establish the concept of ‘wide’ magic in Eberron: a drybrooch that keep the rains of Sharn off your head, sparks with Fernian glyphs that help to light candles/torches/campfires, war staffs that increase the range of cantrip-grade spells. Second, you have Dhakaani magic items, such as the part torture device, part prison that is the grieving tree and the soul-devouring Keeper’s Fang daggers. Third are dragonmark focus items, like the channeling wand tuned to a specific ‘mark that lets you cast more of your Spells of the Mark – and even enhance them – and the manor key used by House Jorasco to cast Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion without needing components. There’s also some discussion and an interesting sidebar about how many of 5e’s magic items might be considered dragonmarked items; a cloak of displacement might actually by a Thuranni cloak, while the brooch of shielding is used to represent a warding brooch of House Kundarak.
Skipping around a bit, Misc.Magical Items is a small collection of magical items that aren’t quite common, but can show up in the right places for the right reasons if you’ve got the right artificer. An Aereni mask is likely only ever made on its island of origin, but if the spirits attached to it judge you worthy you can attune and gain bonuses to its associated skill checks. A soarsled is barely going to function at all outside of Sharn (or, at least, a Syranian manifest zone), but in the City of Towers you can use it to zip through the air from place to place much faster than by walking the bridges and taking the lifts.
Siberys Dragonmarks make their return here, and the reason they’re here instead of in Character Options is because they’re being treated as supernatural gifts (see Chapter 7 of the DMG for a refresher course on those). Siberys ‘marks can grow out of a pre-existing mark or manifest themselves suddenly on an unmarked individual (this is the only spot across both Rising and EE that 4e’s idea of a ‘mark showing up on someone not of a traditional bloodline is mentioned as something a group might want to do). Whoever gets one, they do at least two things. First, the character has advantage on one type of skill check all of the time; Perception for a Siberys Mark of Finding, Stealth for a Siberys Mark of Shadow, and so on. Second, the mark allows a character to cast one spell (sometimes chosen from two options) per long rest without needing components; mass cure wounds for Healing, for instance, and dimension door or teleportation circle for Passage. If a character who gets a Siberys mark didn’t already have a mark, they also gain the ability to use dragonmark focus items and (if they’ve got Spellcasting or Pact Magic) the Spells of the Mark, although they don’t gain any other of the features of the variant races that grant lesser marks.
I’m actually really pleased with the idea to make the Siberys Marks a supernatural gift instead of a character option that a player can just pick out of the toolbox; getting such a Mark, whether you were already in a House or not (and especially if you’re ‘breaking the rules’ about who can get what Mark) has huge story implications. Of course, I also think a wise DM would often talk to their player(s) ahead of time before dropping one of these things in there … then again, sometimes the sheer surprise could be worth it.
Symbionts, the living weapons created by the daelkyr, close out the chapter. There’s some discussion of how some existing magic items could be represented as symbionts – a dagger of venom could actually be a chitinous arm blade designed by Valaara – followed by eight new symbionts to add to those featured in Rising. Each is more useful and disturbing than the last, such as the spellburrow (a scarab-like creature that burrows into the skull and bestows a cantrip and some sorcerer or warlock spells of the DM’s choice) and the tongueworm (which nestles under the host’s tongue and allows them to make a poisonous unarmed attack as a bonus action).
Chapter 8: Friends and Foes
Bad guys! Stat blocks! Granted some really are most likely to be focused on doing terrible, in some cases squamous, things to your adventurers, but given the right adventurer or circumstance and some may prove vital allies.
Overall, this chapter sticks to the specific, the exotic, and/or the extremely powerful. We start off by statting out another one of the daelkyr, Valaara the Crawling Queen (seen above!), along with details on its minions and lair deep within Khyber. Next there are two of the fey rulers of Thelanis, the Forest Queen and the Forgotten Prince – these two are particularly notable as they are talked about both as potential enemies and as potential allies/patrons for player characters. After that are the melds, amalgamations of the husks of Dolurrh that hungers for memories. Merfolk stormcallers work to protect their underwater realms in the Thunder Sea. Du’ulora quori feed on anger and inspire rage – whether they’re fighting in Dal Quor, wrapped around the soul of an Inspired, or seek the light bound to a kalashtar. The sahuagin close out the chapter and the book, with the devoted priests known as Claws of Sha’argon and the shapeshifting plasmids.
So, overall, pretty niche offerings – you could play a bunch of different Eberron campaigns, never see any of these, and not feel the lack. That being said, if you are entering the realms of Eberron that these beings call home, they’ll suddenly be extremely useful – and the sections on the daelkyr and quori go into some interesting detail (such as why quori are marked as aberrations, and what effect that might have) that will be useful if those types of enemies feature, even if these specific enemies don’t show.
This is the first truly 5e style Print-on-Demand hardcover I’ve dealt with from the DM’s Guild, so the quality of the physical product deserves some mention. Although it’s bigger- fewer pages but slightly taller, slightly wider – than Rising from the Last War, Exploring Eberron feels quite a bit lighter. The pages seem a little less robust, which is probably what causes this; while I wouldn’t call it anywhere close to ‘delicate’ or ‘flimsy’, it’s probably a little more susceptible to wear and tear.
Reading through the physical product, I did spot a few typos. Mine’s a very early printing, however, and as the PDF that lies behind the PoD version gets updated it’s possible those typos will go away (although as it’s an involved process, there aren’t any guarantees). Plus, none of them were particularly jarring. The table of contents is very well organized, making it easy to jump around the book whether it’s a physical product or a PDF.
In terms of art, like Rising from the Last War, there are a few recycled images – the Six Kings Dhakaani monument stood out to me in particular, given how many times I’ve run Seekers of the Ashen Crown – but I’d say a majority of the art is original to EE, and it’s largely stunning. Katerina Poliakova’s portrait of Tira Miron, Marco Bernardini’s planar map, and Vincentius Matthew’s slumbering kar’lassa get called out as examples in the preface, and they’re really just the tip of the iceberg. This is a pretty book, and I was particularly pleased with the recurring appearances of the characters that feature on the cover as they have various adventures and mishaps.
So, in the end, it’s not precisely WotC-grade, but it’s close enough to count. If I wasn’t reviewing, I probably wouldn’t even notice the few differences I’ve noted here.
Do you need Exploring Eberron to run the setting in 5th Edition? Well, no, and it makes no claim to that. The Wayfinder’s Guide/Rising from the Last War took care of the basics for you, and you could have a perfectly enjoyable campaign in Eberron with them. This book’s title is well-chosen, however, because it really is about Exploring Eberron, going into greater detail on things you might already be tangentially aware of and shedding light on completely new territory. Need, no. Want, I’d say definitely. 5th Edition DMs will have loads of new campaign ideas, and 5th Edition players will have a wider variety of options, both mechanical and narrative. Not for nothing, there’s also just a lot of interesting reading in this book; I have no idea if or when my own adventures in Eberron will ever dive beneath the Thunder Sea, but I still enjoyed learning about the Eternal Dominion and its neighbors.
Here’s an interesting thought, though: this book isn’t just useful for 5th Edition Eberron. One of the defining things about Eberron, not of the setting in-universe but instead of the setting as a product, is that few if any of its books ever truly go out of date. During 4th Edition, if you wanted a detailed timeline of the Last War, you’d go find a copy of 3.5’s Forge of War, and that’s still the case today. It’s been noted that the 4th Edition circumstances of the eladrin feyspires of Thelanis – trapped on Eberron since the Day of Mourning – may very well be something you want to have in your own 5th Edition Eberron. Now Exploring Eberron might do the same thing. Yeah, sure, if you’re playing 3.5 or 4e Eberron there are mechanical parts of EE that won’t be usable, and some of the basic setting info would be repetitive, but there are reams of information in this book that would bring entirely new material to your game – the underwater civilizations and the planes of existence stand out, but by no means are the only items of note.
And I just think that’s kind of neat.
Exploring Eberron is available on the DM’s Guild in PDF form – $29.95 – and premium color hardcover – $59.95 on its own, $64.95 if you get the PDF as part of the package. It’s an Adamantine Best Seller as I post this, so if this review hasn’t convinced you to take another look, perhaps the opinion of the greater hivemind will hold some sway. For more goodness spawned by the Progenitor Dragons you can find Keith Baker @HellcowKeith, check out the podcast Manifest Zone, or drop by the Eberron discord which serves as a hotbed of Eberronian creativity and advice.
Raat shaan gath’kal dor. The story stops but never ends.
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