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Eberron Campaign Setting
Keith Baker, Bill Slavicsek, James Wyatt
Wizards of the Coast, 320 pages

Eberron Campaign Setting
Eberron Campaign Setting
The world of Eberron is ravaged by centuries of war that have only recently ended. Enemy nations that fought each other to a standstill over countless, bloody battlefields now turn to subtler methods of conflict. The assassin's dagger replaces the warrior's sword, and the conspirator's whisper speaks more loudly than the general's bellow. While nations scheme and merchants bicker, priceless secrets from the past lie buried and lost in the devastation, waiting to be tracked down by intrepid scholars and rediscovered by audacious adventurers. Magic pervades the world of Eberron. It creates wonders of engineering and architecture that rival the boldest dreamscapes. Magic transforms life into bizarre shapes and creates artifacts in intricate patterns for purposes that are lost in time. It also leaves its mark -- the coveted Dragonmark -- on members of a gifted aristocracy. Some use their gifts to rule wisely and well, but too many rule with ruthless greed, seeking only to expand their own dominance.

Eberron Campaign Information

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

The Eberron Campaign Setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role playing game is the result of a contest thrown together by Wizards of the Coast, which allowed game fans to put together a totally new world set in the realm of AD&D. Whoever won got to be the author of his very own book. The submissions by Keith Baker, Rich Burlew, and Philip Nathan Toomey made the cut, and their vision became Eberron.

The result is a vibrant and unique realm in which gamers will happily live their alternate lives. This new campaign introduces further and welcome changes to the D20 system, and introduces "action points," an ability by the character to supplement her or his result score through the use of additional and additive die rolls. This system tool takes a cue from such as Torg, creating moments of drama and chance hinging on a player's ability to push her or his character to statistical limits.

The world of Eberron has been wracked by warfare. The Last War continued for more than a century, with the Five Nations struggling to top the other through alliances and betrayals, open warfare and more subtle, economic and political manipulations. However, in this modern era, the peace of Thronehold's Treaty holds, and the nations struggle to rebuild themselves from the ashes.

Things are tense. While open warfare no longer shows its ugly face, espionage, sabotage, and ideological warfare are the norm (think Cold War). The tone of Eberron is one of dark fantasy and mystery (the writers suggest the movies Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Mummy as references. According to the guide, "the setting combines traditional medieval fantasy with pulp action and dark adventure."

In addition to the old-school character races, the Eberron Campaign features four new races and a new class with which to play. The classes take inspiration from a variety of sci-fi sources. The first of the new races is the Changeling, who cannot take any form, rather than work as a master of disguise. The gamer who enjoys story over hack and slash will find an exploration of identity with this character.

The second of the new races is the Kalashtar. The story of the Kalashtar is a good one (read the book), but one must wonder what unique traits this new class brings. If the Kalashtar could walk through walls, that's one thing. However, according to the listed class abilities, this race just looks incorporeal enough to make a lousy member of any shadow puppet team. (Get it? The light would just go through their fingers. Get it?). This race does have some impressive Psionic abilities. Again, the emphasis is on subtlety rather than power.

There's the Shifter, whose likeness to the Marvel character Wolverine is obvious. The difference between the Shifter and Logan is that -- as the name applies -- the Shifter can switch back to human form. One must protect oneself from copyright laws, after all. The Shifter has one lycanthropic talent, and can take the aspects of various animals (wolf, tiger, etc.). The options for the shifter is limited, and I am sure that players will expand on those options. At the same time, Baker and company must have had a hard time balancing the new abilities (+2 in various attribute scores) with game play. It's understandable that the Shifter will give up flexibility for focus.

The fourth new race is -- in my opinion -- the most intriguing: the Warforged. The magical constructs were created as soldiers and slaves during the Eberron wars. The Warforged are a necessarily new race, as the technology to build sentient constructs was only discovered somewhat late in the Eberron timeline. This allows the player to build an identity not defined by racial characteristics. The Warforged character does not offer an ability to be modular (ala Terminator 3), but as with the Shifter, certainly players will create their own versions of the Warforged, as they should.

The new character class is more disappointing than the racial classes. Characters can now play the Artificer (a former prestige class), who can create all sorts of magical instruments. What exactly has stopped players from doing this sort of thing in the past? Nothing but the rules, which are ignored in all house games (not tournaments). There are those players who will be happy to have rules for such things, and the rules are flexible and workable (as the artificer goes up in level, so does her or his ability to make stuff). However, when weighed against the importance of a new world, this new class is weak.

Eberron's true strength comes from its social structures and tone. As for the former, players can be a member of any number of royal or ordinary houses, as well as a number of temples. The chances for inter-house intrigue is tantalizing, as is the prospect of journeying characters from know-nothing newbies to powerful heads of the royal court. The additional pressure of international conflict adds to the game-play possibilities.

Complementing this house system are the Dragonmarks. A Dragonmark is one of a powerful set of tattoos that show the character's alignment and race. Each tattoo comes with unique powers and each can be grown (except for the most powerful set of marks, which can only be acquired at birth). There are twelve classes of Dragonmarks, with a 13th Mark of Death being lost to the centuries.

Really, all a gamer wants is something to make their character special, something no one else has, and something that requires effort to figure out. It's the same as any real person wants, and Eberron gives those things in abundance.

Another aspect to Eberron that is not as much a part of other AD&D campaigns is the film-noire tone. Characters will explore full mysteries that take many sessions to complete, many NPCs to shake down for information, and many secrets to uncover. Far from the world of the hack and slash, Eberron might be geared toward the older gamer who has had enough of orks and that quest for the ultimate dagger of killing goodness.

Eberron comes complete with a starter adventure to launch new parties, and a game master should have little problem immersing her or his party into a new world. The art of the book is excellent, as with most of the modern AD&D (version 3.5 and later) books, and the adults of the group can only enjoy the more mature storylines. It's a new role playing world, and Eberron delivers.

Copyright © 2004 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.

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