Review: Eberron Player’s Guide (Part 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 9, 2009

eberron-players-guide-01The wait is over. We have the Eberron Player’s Guide now and we’re reviewing the entire book today. We’re revealing everything about the feats, the magic items and most importantly the Dragonmarks. We covered the races and the classes in the Eberron Player’s Guide Review (part 1) that we posted earlier today. Now we complete the review and reveal all the remaining secrets.

Chapter 4: Character Options

The Feats section begins with Dragonmarks. Dragonmark feats are available to ALL PCs regardless of their race or class. There are absolutely no prerequisites to taking a Dragonmark. If you choose to take a Dragonmark feat there are four options.

  1. You choose to become an heir of a Dragonmarked house. The example in the book is a Half-elf choosing the Mark of Storm feat and becoming a member of House Lyrandar. You are a recognized member of the house and the Dragonmarked bloodline.
  2. You choose to become a distant offshoot of Dragonmarked bloodline. So just like in option 1 you choose the race most commonly associated with the house and the Dragonmark it possesses. So again you’d be a Half-elf with a Mark of Storm feat, but in this case you’re not affiliated with the house. The house will take interest in you if they learn of you.
  3. You choose any Dragonmark, regardless of your race. In this example you might be a Human, Deva, Shifter or Warforged with the Mark of Storm feat. This makes you extremely unique. The Dragonmarked houses have no interest in you. Your Dragonmark is considered to be a direct manifestation of the Draconic Prophesy and has nothing to do with the Dragonmarked Houses.
  4. You choose an aberrant Dragonmark. Your mark is not one of the established Dragonmarks and the houses will hunt you down if they learn of your Dragonmark.

Once you take a Dragonmark feat, you’re pretty much stuck with it. There is a side bar that clearly states that “Dragonmarks should not be casually retrained.” So although the mechanics of 4e allow you to retrain feats, the DM is advised to strongly discourage it in this case.

All the dragonmarked feats are heroic tier. I can’t find any reference to distinction between least, lesser, greater and Siberys Dragonmarks. Looks like that mechanic was removed during the 4e revamp.

In the section Other Common Races in chapter 2, the entry for each race has a section called Dragonmarked Houses. This provides a brief description of the established houses by race and suggestions for how to play PCs of races that don’t typically possess Dragonmarks.

Below is a quick preview of the powers that come with each of the Dragonmark feats. In addition to those listed, each Dragonmark allows the PCs possessing it to perform rituals associated with their particular mark.

Dragonmarks Feats

  • Mark of Detection: You roll twice for Perception checks. You can sense magic and can use Perception in place of Arcana to detect magic.
  • Mark of Finding: An enemy granting combat advantage shifts you can shift into the square he just vacated.
  • Mark of Handling: Benefits of Mounted Combat feat and while mounted +2 to speed and +1 AC. The same benefits apply to your beast companion.
  • Mark of Healing: Allies can make a save whenever you heal them.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Allies within 10 restore maximum hp possible during a short rest.
  • Mark of Making: Use Enchant Magic Item ritual and make Alchemical items as two levels higher.
  • Mark of Passage: When a power lets you shift or teleport, +1 square.
  • Mark of Scribing: Gain fluency in four new languages and +2 to Diplomacy.
  • Mark of Sentinel: When making an opportunity attack shift 1 as a free action before or after.
  • Mark of Shadow: Remain hidden or invisible if you miss with your attack.
  • Mark of Storm: You gain +1 to speed when flying and thunder or lightning powers slide enemies 1 square.
  • Mark of Warding: +1 AC to powers that provide defense bonuses and marked enemies suffer -3 to attacks when targeting others.

Magic Items

  • There are 18 new alchemical items.
  • There new are Holy Symbols for each of 15 different deities. All symbols come in 5 or 6 different power levels (which means there are over 75 new Holy Symbols to choose from).
  • Dragonshard Augments are compressed into two pages, which I found disappointing. The augments themselves are mostly just +1 to damage from a particular energy type.
  • There are 11 new Warforged Components ranging from level 2 to level 29 which means over 50 to choose from. The write-up on component traits and converting items to Warforged components provides additional ways to make Warforged PCs unique and even more fun to play.
  • There are 16 new rituals.

Chapter 5: World of Eberron

The world is broken into three categories: The Five Nations, Greater Khorvaire and Beyond Khorvaire. Each category is further divided by country or region. The description for each country provides Common Knowledge, Regional Features, People and Adventurers. The Adventurers section describes regional traits including associated skills.

Dragonmarked Houses Backgrounds

PCs can choose to take a Dragonmarked House background. Three different background options are presented under each of the thirteen Dragonmarked Houses with each option providing different benefits.

An additional twelve backgrounds that are not associated with any of the Dragonmarked Houses or geographic region are available for a PC who doesn’t find any of the alternatives to their liking.

Final Thoughts

I really like this book. It provides a lot of new options for players. If your campaign takes place in Eberron then you should definitely pick up the Eberron Player’s Guide. It’s important to remember that this book shouldn’t be judged on own since it’s only half of a set. Until its companion, the Eberron Campaign Guide, is released next month I reserve final judgment. However, as much as I like this book I found it lacking in some areas.

When the 3e version of the original Eberron Campaign Setting came out, it had everything for everyone. Although additional supplements were released in the following months, this one book provided enough detail to start a campaign in Eberron. The new 4e book is just a resource for players. If you’ve played in Eberron before then it will allow you to convert from 3e to 4e, but if this is your first look at Eberron then I think you’ll have a lot of questions.

The Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide spent a lot more time describing the geography of the world. The Eberron Player’s Guide is seriously lacking in this regard. It’s possible that more detail will be provided in the Eberron Campaign Guide but for now we just don’t know. A sizable portion of the Eberron Player’s Guide is dedicated to Dragonmarks and the Dragonmarked Houses, something not relevant to the Forgotten Realms, and the details about Eberron’s geography seems compressed to make room.

If you don’t play in Eberron and you don’t think you’re going to play in Eberron then I don’t think you need to purchase this book if you have a Dungeons & Dragons Insider subscription. All of the relevant details will be incorporated into the Character Builder in July.

So for now, if you’re a hard core Eberron fan then I recommend you pick up the Eberron Player’s Guide next week. You’ll enjoy the 4e makeover and the changes to the campaign setting you know and love. If you’re just a casual observer, I’d say get a DDI subscription.

8 on a d10

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark June 10, 2009 at 12:32 am

Very fair review! I am a fan of the noir setting that Eberron brought to D&D and I am really looking forward to seeing this book….chomping at the bit would be the actual description.

I have been looking over some older adventures of my own to convert over and maybe re-run for my group or take one to Dragon Con later on this year!

Thanks for the first look and the general layout!

2 Vaeron June 10, 2009 at 1:36 am

I’m pleased to hear this book doesn’t waste a lot of space on mundane geography like the FRPG did… that was the primary reason I didn’t buy that book, half of it was completely unrelated to actual player options and more appropriate to the Campaign Guide.

Your review makes it sound like they were more focused this time around, and hopefully will not have that needless repetition of information. Even though I do have DDI and the Char Generator, I will probably buy this book anyway due to complete unfamiliarity with Eberron, whereas I have material dating back to 1988 or so for the Realms.

3 DM Doom June 10, 2009 at 4:27 am

Eberron was made to do far more than just Noir. Noir was merely an option. It was meant to fill niches that weren’t commonly covered in most traditional D&D settings such as noir, pulp action, and more. I truly hope they don’t change that by bringing the setting to a more classic D&D, we already have that, some people are bored with it, hence fun settings with fresh takes like Eberron.

The true test will be the setting guide. Did they utterly remake the setting until it was only recognizable as a shadow of its former self like they did the realms or do they give it a fair translation to 4e without effectively raping it. I really don’t want to see another of my favorite settings ruined so I’m more than a little anxious for the campaign guide to come out. It’ll determine whether or not I give 4e any further funds.

4 Shades June 10, 2009 at 9:56 am

I’m concerned about the entire anyone can have a Dragon Mark change.

That’s more than just a little off. Part of the core of Eberron was an attempt to get away from fantasy worlds structured around the various different religions. Dragon Marks and the great mercantile houses built on those marks was the alternate model they created. That model worked because of the exclusivity of the marks and the blood ties of the people that held them. Eliminating that strikes at the underpinnings of the structure of the world.

Unless they have a really good explanation for the change (we want people to be able to play what they want is not good enough) it’s not something I will be recognizing in my game.

5 Ameron June 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

@Mark
I’m glad you found this review useful. I too was chomping at the bit and still am with regards to the Eberron Campaign Guide.

@Vaeron
If you’ve never played in Eberron then the lack of substantial geographic information is a disservice since many of the unique locations in Eberron are so great for adventuring. But I think those details will be covered in the Eberron Campaign Guide.

@DM Doom
I don’t think the setting was raped, but it was certainly diluted. There’s still a lot of great stuff in here, but I think it should remain unique to Eberron and not try to be presented in such a way that any PC in any world can use it.

@Shades
I was very alarmed to learn that any PC could have a Dragonmark when it was announced at least year’s GenCon. I agree that they were fine as originally presented in 3e and allowing any race to have any Dragonmark cheapens them somewhat. I think a lot of hardcore Eberron fans will stick to the old guidelines as a house rule. I think I’m going to recommend this to my group.

6 Feeroper June 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Would you recommend someone new to eberron (like me) pick up the 3.5 campaign setting then? I want to get into the setting, and was hoping to do so with 4th, just want to see if the old book would still be worthwhile for me. Based on your review, it sounds like someone new to Eberron will have questions with just the 4e players guide book.

7 Ameron June 11, 2009 at 8:20 am

@Feeroper
I’d say wait another month until the Eberron Camapign Guid is released. Once I get a look at both 4e books together I’d be able to make a better reccomendatin.

As far as the 3e Eberron books, if you can find them on sale I’d say pick them up. I’d particularily reccomend the Eberron Campaign Setting and Dragonmarked. For a great history of Eberron pick up Forge of War and Five Nations. And the guidebooks to Sharn and Xen’drik are both excellent if your campaing is going to take place in either of these loactions.

8 Furluge June 19, 2009 at 3:40 pm

@Shades

Just so you know they do a decent enough job explaining the dragonmarks appearing in other races. But before I get into that I want to address your real concern. The Dragonmarked houses haven’t been changed or cheapened. Each Dragonmarked house is still made up of the races outlined in 3e Eberron. The book is very clear on that. There is also a fair introduction to each of the dragonmarked houses, why they’re important, backgrounds associated with dragonmarked houses instead of geographic location, and paragon paths for each dragonmarked house. Also the change to the way the Dragonmarks work makes them a much better representation in game what they are supposed to be in the fiction, which is a /great/ change. I think in the Dragonmark article the writers did a good job of explaining why they changed dragonmarks appearing on new races.

Now in regards to your previous question about dragonmarks. Remember the mark of Siberys and how it would appear on anyone? Expand that concept to regular marks and you essentially have their take on Dragonmarks this edition. Essentially Dragonmarks have been known to appear on the land and creatures as well as people. The PCs are are key figures in the world at a time when the events of the prophecy are coming to a head and the Draconic Prophecy may write itself upon them regardless of their race. It’s not too far removed from what’s already said. We already have the mark of death re-appearing in the fiction, rather spontaneously, and marks already appear on things as mundane as rocks. Having it appear on new races isn’t a huge stretch. Different than the norm, usual, and probably unsettling to everyone of Khovarie, but not a stretch. Think of it as a new kink that defines the current era as a real upheaval.

I think this idea kind of works best if the mark appears in the middle of their adventuring career. There are some interesting stories you can tell.

9 Ameron June 22, 2009 at 1:23 pm

@Furluge
Thanks for jumping in. I agree that a PC who manifests a Dragonmark not normally associated with his race will get more attention (and some lively role-playing) if it happens during his adventuring career and not at 1st level.

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