Being in Asia I typically end up getting many of the new releases months after they hit the US market. Of course between traveling and being generally a little lazy with reviewing new WTOC material, I typically have an even longer lag time. After all the Eberron campaign guide was released last month. Hee… I’ll post my thoughts anyway.
I like the Eberron campaign setting. I like the swashbuckler adventuring feel, with plenty of noir plopped on. Plus the concept of magic as a trade is interesting. The more ‘modern’ influences resulting from this magic concept on the campaign world makes it stand apart a bit from other traditional fantasy settings.
One thing that makes this book a little different from the Forgotten Realms setting, is how much has remained the same from the previous edition after being revamped for 4E. Forgotten Realms made a lot of drastic changes to the world landscape. So much so, you could consider 4E Forgotten Realms almost a reboot of that setting. Eberron has taken a simpler approach and just refined a lot of the mechanics to reflect 4E changes. As such, the world has not changed much from 3.5 which I consider to be a good thing as it makes it tons easier to port an existing campaign over to 4E.
Because of this similarity to the previous edition, I want to just sketch out a few things I got from the Player’s Guide:
Races – Changelings, Warforged, and Kalshtar all are detailed. For the most part I feel changelings and warforged have interesting abilities. I think both of them will offer some dynamic character possibilities. The kalashtar however are a little lacking. They have a means of mental telepathy which is neat, but their racial power is a little lackluster. It is clear the race screams psion class, but I think without that rule set in concrete (aside from Dragon play test rules) the race is a little limited in potential.
Artificers – I’m liking this class. It is nice to see another arcane leader option provided. Particularly I like the extended semi-daily powers of healing infusions. Artificers get a dynamic heal/buff that can be recharged through using healing surges after a short rest (making them effectively encounter powers). What is particularly neat is that any player can donate these surges. So the entire burden is not on the artificer to keep healing infusions going, it can be spread around a bit (especially that one guy that always seems to get though fights without a scratch).
Feats and Dragonmarks – Lots of new options and dragonmarks provide some interesting abilities. Another neat point about dragonmark feats is access to specific rituals, without needing the ritual caster feat. Dragonmarks are also not tied down to racial prerequisites. For maintaining the feel of the campaign, being a racial outsider having such a feat should have a lot of repercussions in game. I suspect it will impact campaigns differently, depending on the DM, but I’m fine with that.
The Good – There is a lot a basic information and background to flesh out a campaign. I think they provide a lot of ideas for the player to whip up a personality and bio that fits the setting. They also give a lot of thoughts on the theme of the campaign, and I think it helps both the DM and players ease into the setting, providing some solid guidance on what makes Eberron different from traditional fantasy worlds.
I think enough detail on the political and social structure of the world is provided, so that both DMs and players can get a hold of the fantasy-noir aspect of the game. It is great that enough detail is given to run a game and get people excited about Eberron without requiring the campaign guide.
The Bad – However some things are a little skimmed over. I find a lack of a proper player map disappointing. The provided map is okay, but printed so small much of the detailed settlements are illegible. Having a larger, simplified map with clear regional borders would have been a good addition. I can see keeping a super detailed map for the campaign book, but a larger player-oriented map would have been nice.
Adding to this point is the player regional backgrounds. Over all I think the section is good, as it gives players a good snapshot of each region, with plenty of ideas to fit their character into it. But having a small mapped portion like the Forgotten Realms player guide would have been pleasant.
I’m also disappointed artwork was not provided for some of the player equipment, especially the weapons. Some of the descriptions are rather lacking. If they can provide a full page spread of example player travel documents, a simple black and white sketch of the weapons would have been a plus.
It is also too bad other details like lizard mounts of the Talenta Plains are totally missing. Okay, keep the stats for the campaign guide, but some simple fluff text with artwork would have been fine. Right now there are hints eluded to dinosaur-like mounts, but no concrete details. Bleah…
The Verdict – A good purchase with enough meat to allow players to run a 4E Eberron campaign. Even if a DM had no interest in running the setting I would consider picking up the book. The new races and especially the artificer allow for some interesting options that would be a good edition to an existing campaign. Plus the concept of the dragonmark feats might add a little spice to a homebrew setting without too much alteration.