Review: Eberron Campaign Guide

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 15, 2009

eberron-campaign-guide-01I’ve got the Eberron Campaign Guide. Get an advanced preview of each and every chapter including information about The Lord of Blades, King Kaius III and the brand new Dragonmarked House: House Tarkanan.

Before I get into the chapter by chapter review I wanted to comment on a few of the overall elements. The art in this book is fantastic. You’ll be blown away when you see Wayne Reynolds’ cover painting of The Lord of Blades, Ralph Horsley’s adventurers battling a huge Warforged, Chippy’s Warforged hanging off the side of the airship and (my personal favourite) Chippy’s dragon emerging from the water grasping a swordfish. Almost all the art is new (I only recognized two pictures from previous books).

The maps in the Eberron Campaign Guide are top notch. I always felt that 3e Eberron had merely adequate maps, but 4e Eberron sets the bar to new heights for cartography. The pull-out poster map shows us Khorvaire like we’ve never seen it before. And as an added bonus the flip side contains a 1-inch scale map of a random Sharn neighbourhood on one half, and a ruined fort on the other half. I have no doubt that these will get plenty of use by anyone playing in Eberron.

Adventures

The first chapter tried to group together a lot of stuff that won’t fit anywhere else in the book. Here are my thoughts on a few of the sections I found interesting.

  • The section called The Shadow War really paints a great picture of the cold war mentality most of Khorvaire’s inhabitants share. It reminds us that a war that raged for almost a hundred years has only been over for four years. Tempers are still hot and many countries expect the war to start again at any moment.
  • In the Dungeon Delving section we’re provided with ideas for where to stick a one-off delve in Eberron. This is an excellent way to let a long-term Eberron camping use an existing resource like the Dungeon Delve hardcover.
  • The Global Threats section outlines three organizations that have global presence across Khorvaire: The Aurum (heroic tier), The Chamber (paragon tier) and The Lords of Dust (epic tier)
  • An interesting sidebar called Lore in This Book reminds us that some details presented in the Eberron Campaign Guide is not for player consumption (like King Kaius III’s true nature, for example.)
    “It’s information that character have no chance of just knowing, no matter how accomplished they are in a relevant skill. A character isn’t going to stumble across that information in a history book or know it with a natural 20 on a skill check. Secret information is best learned through adventuring.”
  • The History section has a lot of information already provided in the 3e ECS, but it does provide suggested DCs for various knowledge skills to determine what a PC might know.
  • The Travel section gathers the most common and useful information and groups it together (a serious problem with the 3e Eberron books). The transportation costs haven’t changed with the notable exception of charting an airship. In 3e it was only 1,000 gp per day and now it’s 17,000 gp per day. I guess my party wasn’t the only one hopping on an airship and travelling across the world faster and easier than the DM expected. Two brand new transportation options are Linked Portals and Teleportation circle access, both cost 50 gp to use and both are controlled by House Orien.

The City of Towers

Sharn get’s its own 16-page treatment in the Eberron Campaign Guide. If you’re already familiar with Sharn from 3e then there’s not really that much new information here. If you think your PCs will pass through Sharn then there’s more than enough information for you to adequately give them a taste of The City of Towers. If you’re planning to run a long-term campaign in Sharn then I would recommend picking up the 3e sourcebook Sharn: City of Towers. Although it’s an old edition book, it is a great source for everything Sharn.

The Five Nations / Greater Khorvaire / Beyond Khorvaire

Although these are three different chapters they’re structured in much the same way so I figured it made more sense to group them together in this review.

If you’ve already read the 3e Eberron Campaign Setting then you’ll find most of the information in this chapter familiar. I’m not suggesting that you need the 3e book; this new 4e version is a solid stand-along guide. It provides a good overview of each country including its important sites, notable NPCs and power players. Each section provides a vast amount of information that PCs can learn, or my already know, based on knowledge checks.

As mentioned above the maps are fantastic. Each of the countries located in on the continent of Khorvaire include a close up of the larger pull-out map. The sections on Aerenal, Argonnessen, Sarlona and Xen’Drik each contain a half-page map.

Each section provides an NPC, monster or character of note. Here are few of the highlights.

  • The section on Karrnath includes the statistics for King Kaius ir’Wynarn III. He’s a Level 15 Elite Skirmisher, Human (undead) vampire. This is pretty much the same power level as 3e where he was CR 16.
  • The section on The Mournland includes the statistics for The Lord of Blades. He’s a Level 21 Elite Soldier (Leader), Warforged (living construct). This is huge power up from 3e where he used to be CR 12.
  • The section on Droaam includes the statistics for the Daughters of Sora Kell. Sora Katra is a level 22 Elite Controller; Sora Maenya is a Level 22 Elite Soldier; and Sora Terzaz is a Level 22 Elite Controller (Leader). All three are Fey Hags. They’re power levels were drastically increased from 3e where they were levels 11, 12, and 13 respectively.

The sections on countries outside of the Five Nations provide a wide variety of new monsters. This makes a lot of sense since many of these areas represent the savage frontier.

The Sarlona section is much more detailed than the others and includes descriptions of Adar, The Inspired and The Dreaming Dark. The Xen’Drik section profiles Drow Elves in Eberron. The Khyber section provides DMs with ideas for underground adventures and monsters that have spewed forth from the underworld.

If the Eberron Campaign Guide wets your appetite and you want more information about the places described therein, I’d recommend picking up the 3e sourcebook Five Nations. Each of the other continents has a 3e sourcebook which you may also find useful, but unless you think your campaign will focus heavily on one of these other locales you should have ample material in the 4e Eberron Campaign Guide to run a satisfying adventure.

Dragonmarks

Each Dragonmarked house gets a two-page spread. If you’ve read the 3e ECS or the 3e Dragonmarked sourcebook then there’s nothing new here for you. If you’re new to Eberron then there’s enough for you to get started. The history of each house along with its controlling interests and influential members give new DMs a strong foundation on which to build any campaigns that includ Dragonmarked houses. There is no mention of how the houses are dealing with their marks appearing on characters of rogue bloodlines or different races.

The biggest news is the formation of a new Dragonmarked house. That’s right a new Dragonmarked house. Introducing House Tarkanan. This new power group is dedicated to beings who manifest aberrant Dragonmarks. This house is actively seeking anyone bearing an aberrant Dragonmark and enlisting their aid in making House Tarkanan strong. There is a “Using House Tarkanan” sidebar that provides suggestions for how to introduce this new house into your campaign. Considering this Dragonmarked house gets the same two-page limit as all the other existing houses, I think this is the one we’re going to see a lot more information on in the coming months.

If you’re looking for more information about the Dragonmarked houses, their history and their place in Khorvaire I strongly recommend you pick up the 3e sourcebook Dragonmarked. Of all the 3e Eberron books, I think this is the one I’ll get the most use out of in 4e. It’s not 3e mechanics-heavy but it is full of great information.

Gods and Cosmology

In a world so magic-rich, it’s understandable that religion is not as prevalent in Eberron as it is in other campaign settings. This chapter gives high-level overviews of the various religions common to the Five Nations.

  • The section on The Blood of Vol includes the statistics for Lady Vol. She’s a Level 19 Elite Controller (Leader), Humaniod (undead). In 3e she was a level 16 Wizard, Half-Elf, Half-Dragon Lich.

There is a brief five-page section on The Planes which includes details on The Dragon Above (The Astral Sea), The Dragon Between (Eberron), The Dragon Below (Elemental Chaos) and Xoriat, the Realm of Madness.

New Monsters

There are over 100 new monsters and NPC presented in the Eberron Campaign Guide. Some of them are well known NPCs like the Lord of Blades, the Daughters of Sora Kell, The Lady Vol and King Kaius III. Others are monsters unique to Eberron like the dolgaunt and the ever-popular Karrnathi Skeleton and Karrnathi Zombie. We also get important NPCs representing each of the Five Nations and a scion from each of the Dragonmarked houses.

Final Thoughts

This book is great. If you’re just getting into Eberron then this book is a must-have. If you’ve played in Eberron before and have all the 3e books then you don’t need to rush out and get this on the first day, but you should plan to get it soon. It’s got everything you need to run a long and detailed campaign in Eberron. As a companion book to the Eberron Player’s Guide released last month, this book is the perfect DM resource. The two books together bring a fresh 4e treatment to Eberron. The information is presented in a very useful way which makes it more likely DMs will actually use this book. The problem with the 3e ECS was that a lot of the best information was buried. Not so in this version. As a big fan of Eberron, and someone who has all the 3e Eberron books, I don’t have any regrets after picking up the 4e Eberron Campaign Guide.

10 on a d10.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 focusgents July 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

first of all, ameron, thank you for staying on top of all this cool Eberron stuff (other blogs seem to take forever). my reactions to your previews:

maps. all i can say is yes, yes, and god, yes. maps are so key to creating a bigger picture and inspiring travel and global thinking.

npc 4e conversions. they all seem good, though Vol is a little out of left field (human? really?)

tarkanan. i thought there were always short descriptions of this abberant house in 3e. is there some kind of formal structure now?

17K for an airship. youch. though chartering includes some niceties, right?

i am always in favor of new art. is there a bunch of stuff by lucio parrillo? he has always been the artist i’ve associated with eberron.

even though i own all the 3e books, i am getting this the first day. i am jazzed.

2 The Last Rogue July 15, 2009 at 10:10 am

Awesome . . . I’m very excited.
.-= The Last Rogue´s last blog ..Character Creation – Dranni d’Lyrandar =-.

3 Brett July 15, 2009 at 10:17 am

Great write up, it looks like I will miss this one as I will be playing rather than DMing in Eberron for now, but I am sure I will grab it at some point. Are they releasing an adventure along the likes of Forgotten Realms Spelltower for Eberron?

4 Ameron July 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

@focusgents
You’re right, Lady Vol is listed as humanoid, not human. My mistake (which I have corrected in the article above). Good catch.

I don’t remember ever reading anything about House Tarkanan in 3e. In the new book it’s presented right along side of the other Dragonmarked houses.

For 17,000 they better not expect my PC to help fight off flying monsters.

There is some art by Parrillo but regrettably not nearly as much as in 3e.

@The Last Rogue
I’m looking forward to more 4e Eberron stuff. There was a lot of really good 3e stuff so I’m not sure where they plan to go next with the 4e books.

@Brett
There is a 21-page mini-adventure called The Mark of Prophecy at the back of the Eberron Campaign Guide. I didn’t have a chance to read it yet, but it’s a 1st level adventure that begins during the final days of the last war.

5 The Last Rogue July 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

I am fairly sure there is a small description of House T in the Sharn 3e book.
.-= The Last Rogue´s last blog ..Character Creation – Dranni d’Lyrandar =-.

6 newbiedm July 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

How easy is it for someone like me, who has never read an Eberron book, to “get”this setting?

Is their an assumption of familiarity written into the book?

7 Ameron July 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

@The Last Rogue
I’ll take a look at the Sharn book when I get home. Thanks for the tip.

@newbiedm
What’s presented here is completely self-contained. You don’t NEED any of the old books. If you pick up the 4e Eberron Campaign Guide and the 4e Eberron Player’s Guide then you’ll have more than enough to get started.

If you read this stuff and want more there are excellent 3e resources that you may find useful. If you can find them in a discount bin I’d seriously consider picking up Dragonmarked and Five Nations.

The content is not written with the assumption that you have any previous familiarity with the setting. If this is your first exposure to Eberron you’ll be fine. In fact it will probably be easier for you since you’re not looking out for things that have changed. Fortunately I didn’t find too many things that had changed and the one’s I did won’t have any meaningful impact on my existing Eberron campaign.

8 dar July 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

The book Sharn: City of Towers is slated for a an update to 4th edition. I think via DDI. Though I’m not sure if it’s free or for subscribers.

It was posted on EnWorld and the WotC forums.

9 dar July 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Ooops. Sorry folks. I am mistaken.

Here is the list of updates http://forums.gleemax.com/showpost.php?p=18896273&postcount=13

It looks like the first update on that list is out [link deleted] (link provided was broken — Ameron)

10 RPG Ike July 15, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Nice write up, and thanks for the very thorough examination.

You’re making me want to play in Eberron rather than start a PF campaign, and I want to pick this book up based on your descriptions of the art alone. Damn… if only life was simpler.
.-= RPG Ike´s last blog ..Hating 4E? Give it one more crack… =-.

11 Ameron July 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

@dar
Thanks for the additional info. I didn’t realize any of the 3e Eberron books were getting a 4e update. That should be cheaper than having to buy the books over again.

The second link you provided was dead so I removed it. If you find a working version of it, just post another comment and I’ll update it.

@RPG Ike
I can’t take credit for swaying you to Eberron. Wyatt and Baker have done an excellent job of brining this campaign setting to life and updating it for 4e. I’m just shining a spotlight on their fantastic work.

12 Evan July 16, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Quick note about the Daughters of Sora Kell: their class levels were 11, 12, and 13, but they were half-fiend hags on top of that. That bumped their power level up considerably.

13 Matt July 17, 2009 at 4:21 am

Very interesting to read about the House Tarkanan information. Im VERY surprised they are trying to become a House (War of the Mark history lession) but this looks VERY interesting (Im guessing they want Sharn as their base of operations).

14 Keith Baker July 17, 2009 at 7:56 am

Thanks for the review, Ameron. Just to clear up a few points…

House Tarkanan isn’t actually a recognized dragonmarked house, despite being in the DM chapter. It’s a “criminal guild specializing in assassination and theft set up as a mockery of a dragonmarked house”, set up “in defiance of the Twelve”. It’s a haven for aberrants. But it’s not represented on the Twelve or anything like that. Previous, it was mentioned in the Sharn: City of Towers sourcebook; it also plays a role in my next novel, The Son of Khyber.

As for the power shift of the Daughters of Sora Kell, they were always more powerful that their class levels suggested. If you check the Dragonshard articles (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebds/20041018a and http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebds/20041025a) you can see that while she was an 11th level barbarian, Sora Maenya had a CR of 19. Theyshow up in my previous novel, The Queen of Stone.

In any case, I’m glad you like the ECG!

15 Scott July 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

House Tarkanan is mentioned in the 3e book Sharn: City of Towers as one of the criminal organizations of the city.

The King’s Lanterns form a group of spies who all have aberrant dragonmarks. When the group is deemed a failure, they are ordered to be killed. The survivors escape to Sharn where one of them takes the name of Lord Halas Tarkanan and makes a place for her people in the criminal underworld as assassins.

16 Ameron July 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

@Evan
Good point. Daughters of Sora Kell would have had a much higher CR in 3e than just what their class level indicated. Thanks for pointing that out.

@Matt
It seem that I might have misunderstood the importance of House Tarkanan upon my initial reading (see Beith Baker’s comment above).

@Keith Baker
Welcome to Dungeon’s Master, Keith. We’re glad that you’ve found our website and I appreciate your feedback.

I realized that House Tarkanan wasn’t a “recognized” house but I guess I mistook their importance because of how their organization was represented in the ECG. Thanks for clearing that up.

As a fan of the Queen of Stone novel I was very pleased to see so much detail on Drooam in the new ECG including the statistics for so many of the power-players.

@Scott
Thanks for the additional info, Scott.

17 Keith Baker July 17, 2009 at 10:09 am

I can certainly see how the Tarkanan section is unclear as to its level of recognition in the wider world. The key is its description as a criminal guild. It’s growing in influence and establishing havens beyond Sharn, but it’s still operating in the underworld.

But again, it’s a minor point. Great job summarizing the contents of the book!

18 Hastur July 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Thanks for the review, I’m definitely getting the book now. As a DM, if I’ve got the Campaign Guide, do I really need the Players book too, or does the ECG cover off the same information but to greater detail? So far I’ve only flicked through the EPG, and really like it for the general info (i.e. the “fluff”), but don’t want to buy two books if, as the DM, one book (the ECG) will suffice…

19 Ameron July 20, 2009 at 8:25 am

@Keith Baker
Thank you for clearing that up. I for one can’t wait to use House Tarkanan in my next campaign.

@Hastur
In short I would say that the DM will want to pick up both the ECG and the EPG. The Eberron Player’s Guide provides a lot of great information about the races, classes, feats and religion unique to Eberron. Although some topics are covered in both books (like the Dragonmarked Houses) each book provides different information which together paints the complete picture. I do not think it’s necessary for all the players to get the ECG as long as the DM has a copy.

20 Hastur July 20, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Thanks, two it is then! I never really got into Eberron under 3.5, despite playing a couple of games. But once 4E came along, I had a good think and decided that, under 4e rules, Eberron is the best-fit published setting, so having the official 4e books will be pretty sweet and add a lot more depth to my campaign which is already well under way.

21 Luke July 20, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Does it include a preliminary adventure to leas into Seekers of the Ashen Crown? I hope so, but it looks like it was moved to the appendix.

22 Ameron July 21, 2009 at 12:43 am

@Hastur
I’m glad I could help. Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to pick up and read both books.

@Luke
The Eberron Campaign Guide does indeed include a preliminary adventure. It’s called The Mark of Prophecy and we’ll tell you all about it in tomorrow’s post. I don’t think it’s connected to the Seekers of the Ashen Crown (at least I didn’t see anything in there about it).

23 Shades July 21, 2009 at 8:47 am

I picked up the book last night, and skimmed through it.

As a long time fan and Eberron game runner, I am extremely happy with the 4E treatment. They didn’t break the world, I can still use my old books as relevent resources, and the mechanical changes almost seamlessly fit into the world.

The only issue I have is with Dragon Marks showing up outside of the bloodlines, which as I have mentioned before I will be ignoring.

This is good stuff, it comes with great ideas for implementing and using the material. Moreover, it complements rather than supplants as WotC did with the Realms.

24 Ameron July 23, 2009 at 8:48 am

@Shades
I too had some initial concerns about Dragonmarks appearing on all races (including Warforged) but I “get” why they’ve chosen to expand this rule-set to all PCs. As much as I liked the idea of the best healers being Halflings with the Mark of Healing, I always felt that playing a Cleric of any other race was counter-productive. With this change I can play a Half-orc Cleric with a Mark of Healing if I want to. But I think the real reason they changed the rules about which races have Dragonmarks is because of all the new races that weren’t core when Eberron first came out.

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