I received my alternative-art copy of “Rising from the Last War” just six days after it was released, which can be considered a true miracle of logistics, considering that I live in Peru. The first thing I have to address is the amazing presentation. Even if I knew beforehand this was going to be a 320-page hardcover, holding all its weight in my hands feels extraordinary. The metallic shine in the art made me notice that the book doesn’t have any text in its back, just like other Hobby Store exclusive editions. Right out of the gate there is a lot to cover, so let’s get into it without further ado: the book has an introduction and six chapters. All along we are presented into two noticeable features: first, both new and old artwork has been used in the book (even some originally used for the novels and appearing for the first time in a sourcebook). The Chapter openings are all brand new and quite spectacular. Second, plot hooks are presented in the form of news clippings from different Khorvairian publications, such as the Voice of Breland, The Korranberg Chronicle and the Sharn Inquisitive, among others.
Welcome to Eberron
A short flavor text introduces us into the world right in. The “Ten Things you Need to Know” from previous editions have been reduced to seven. There is a summary for the History of Eberron and the Five Nations, before we get deeper into the everyday life in Khorvaire, including languages, naming conventions, calendar reckoning and currency. From there, we really dive into what makes Eberron unique, its genre defined in five elements.
- Pulp adventure talks about exotic locations available, the need for remarkable heroes, the high stakes involved, and the nature of villains who become more and more powerful.
- Noir intrigue gives us two very appreciated tables to randomize two additional background features for characters: regrets and debts. Additionally, both personal motivations and shades of gray are discussed to confront players with an axiom of terrifying truth: the simplest solution is not always the best solution.
- Magic and its place in the world mentions some of the most notorious ways adventuring life (including communication, transportation and even healing services) is different due to widely available magic.
- Being just recently finished, the Last War has left a scar not only in the nations but of course in the inhabitants of Khorvaire, and as such, its consequences (including the Mournland) are affecting them in different ways.
- Finally, a few paragraphs introduce the Draconic Prophecy. Not much information is given about it, just as before, which is slightly disappointing, but on the other hand, wasn’t expected anyway.
The first chapter in the book is about making your character shaped into Eberron’s history. We have plenty of material in these 85 pages which include not only the new races and dragonmarked sub-races, but also brand new backgrounds and the very first new official class in 5e beyond the Player’s Handbook.
Every new race follows the structure we already know: there are few but significant updates from the version we got via the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, and the known races entries offer context on how they are differnet in this world. Wood elves, known in Eberron as the Tairnadal, include information about the Valenar double-scimitar and even a new feat to wield it with mastery and nifty benefits, as well as giving more options to the well-known Valenar horses for riders. Bugbears, goblins and hobgoblins get their own entry under Goblinoids.
Creating a Dragonmarked character now requires you use a variant on your race; some are variant races, other variant sub-races. Unlike previous approaches (4e, I’m looking at you) now the rules are trying to get the dragonmarks into their particular race, keeping the Aberrant ones as a feat available to players who want to break some rules. Each Mark is described on a single page with a beautiful and very art-deco emblem, name of its leader and main headquarters, race variant rules and list of spells available if your character is a spellcaster.
The Artificer is, no need to say it, one of the most anticipated contents of this hardcover. There are the most notable changes from the Unearthed Arcana 2.0 version from May and the definitive one:
- Tool expertise gets left for 6th level. At 3rd level we get The Right Tool for the Job: instead of giving additional bonus to check you try with tools you’re proficient with, now you can create the ones you need for any situation if you have one hour to spend.
- Arcane Armament is dropped and now it’s a specialist feature for the Battle Smith specialist.
- Flash of Genius shows out of nowhere at 7th level, and it’s immensely powerful for support: it allows you to use a reaction to add your Intelligence modifier to an ability check or saving throw, yours or someone else’s as long as you can see the target within 30 feet.
- At 10th level you can spend less resources crafting common and uncommon magic items, and you can attune to one extra. At 14th level, you can ignore requirements on attuning or using a magic item, and now it’s five of them you can be attuned to. At 18th, it is now six of them.
- Spell-storing item shows now at 11th level instead of 18th. It can only contain a spell of up to 2nd level, though.
We won’t get into the three sub-classes, but we’ll mention them: The surviving Artificer specialists are the Alchemist (the expert at mixing potions and materials, giving and taking life depending on his will), the Artillerist (who uses sheer energy as well as ammunition and explosions to dominate the battlefield) and the Battle Smith (a combination of protector and healer, expert at repairing and defending their comrades).
The last almost 40 pages in the chapter introduce an innovative approach to patrons, treating them as group patrons, unlike the ones we can see in Faerun via the Adventurer’s League. I’m not the only one who has noticed that having individual patrons achieve the opposite to the reason why they were created, fragmenting the adventuring party and turning it into a group of inidividuals with different goals and interests. Many examples are given, one for each of the eleven types of patron introduced in the book, such as the crime syndicate, the dragonmarked house, the inquisitive agency or the newspaper.
As briefly as possible, Chapter Two gives us what we need to know about Khorvaire and the distant territories beyond the sea. Each of the nations in the continent of Khorvaire has an entry with interesting things to know, details about typical characters from that nation, important cities and sites and what life is like after the Last War.
The entries about the territories outside Khorvaire (not only the other continents, but also the north and south poles) include details on what your characters may be doing there, some notable locations and most importantly how those distant lands exert some degree of influence. This chapter ends with a description of the main faiths in the world, including even the lesser-known druid sects.
Sharn, City of Towers
In many aspects, Chapter Three feels like an extension of the second: it’s mostly a minisetting centered in the most famous city in the world. I must say that the first newspaper clip in this part (“Watch for falling drunks”) was definitely the most hilarious of them all, and the one in page 175 (“Is your neighbor a Cyran invader?”) the most shocking as it feels so close to the real world where immigration is such a hot topic.
Not much that hasn’t covered before in other Eberron sources has been added here, but it definitely is handy for newcomers to this setting. Locations in main districts are offered in the shape of a table, which makes information easy to read, but not necessarily easy to find.
Building Eberron Adventures
And here we are: bread and butter for the DM comes in Chapter Four. Most of the concepts here were introduced already earlier in the book, but are given a deeper treatment destined to be read and used by the DM: how to keep villains alive, for example. Roll into charts if you want to jump-start a campaign with a story kickoff, a new development or even a “the plot thickens” moment. From there, we’re given specifics for certain organizations, featuring plots, themes and even maps.
The warforged colossus is an ambitious addition to Eberron lore (at least, I can’t recall them being mentioned before) and pushes the limits of the genre to include something that can be described as a mecha. Having already moving fortresses, this is not as astonishing as it may sound and it’s a welcome addition: I’m actually already planning how to incorporate one into one of my campaigns.
The cosmology section offers not only the usual description of each plane, but also features of manifest zones linked to those, inviting us to populate the Dragon Between with contacts to other realities. The part that I probably will be using the most, though, is the one about Travel. Even if we had the basics already, the Lyrandar airship and the Orien Lightning Rail are no more just scenery staples, turning into tools that can be handled by the heroes, given of course that they fulfill the requirements.
Before ending with an adventure (“Forgotten Relics”, which has the same name as my second campaign set in Eberron many many years ago), the chapter provides detailed information to the specifics of a campaign set in the City of Towers, including among many other crime elements, the Boromar Clan, House Tarkanan and the Watch.
The shortest chapter revolves around magic items. Just seven pages is what we’ve got to discuss dragonshards, specific magic items (counting some expected classics such as the armblade and the docent, but also introducing the legendary Belashyrra’s Beholder Crown), eldritch machines and common magic items. At least in this section, I can say that “Rising from the Last War” slightly disappoints as I really wanted it to seriously overperform “Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron”, sharing almost all of its contents instead.
Friends and Foes
And the usual bestiary arrives in Chapter Six.What definitely is unusual is the high level of some of the creatures included. Back in the days of 4e, it was surprising to see Bel Shalor in full stats. Now we have Belashyrra, Dyrrn, Lady Illmarrow (I wonder who she really is!), the Lord of Blades, Rak Tulkesh, Sul Khatesh, a kalaraq quori and the warforged colossus, all over them with a CR between 18 and 28.
All in all, “Rising from the Last War” is what we were expecting: if something, I’m glad the lore was kept short and straightforward to leave space for new mechanics. After all, most of the lore deserves their own sourcebook, and hopefully Keith Baker himself will periodically deliver a new book via the DM’s Guild. For now, we’re changing focus and waiting for “Exploring Eberron” this month.
If you’re not an Eberron fan, there’s still the Artificer, but paying 49.95 for a 320-page hardcover from which you’ll use but a few doesn’t sound very clever as an investment; on the other hand, it’s the smartest one you can do this year, as you may be tempted to give Eberron a try and trust me: you won’t regret it.
What do YOU think of “Rising from the Last War”? Did it bring everything you were waiting for? What do you want to be featured in “Exploring Eberron”?