Eberron: Rising from the Last War, the latest source book for Dungeons and Dragons, has been out for a few months now, and I’ve finally had the chance to take it all in. In the initial media frenzy, you’ve probably heard about the larger features of the book, such as the new character races, or Artificer class. In this article, I wanted to shine light on some of the smaller ideas in the book that really left a mark on me.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the setting…
What is Eberron?
The world of Eberron is a high-magic fantasy setting where magic is basically a division of science. The world is completely separate from the Forgotten Realms setting, where most of the other 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons books take place in.
Imagine the crazy technological advancements the human race will come up with 100 years from now. Now imagine those same advancements run on magic instead of anything resembling current tech. Take that same setting, and add dinosaurs. Now you’re in Eberron.
Rising from the Last War primarily focuses on the continent of Khorviare. There is plenty of interesting lore, but the short of it is that the five nations of Khorviare were at war, warmagic got dangerously powerful, then a mysterious magical disaster called the “Mourning” occured, motivating all sides to end the war immediately. No one knows what caused the Mourning, but most folks fear the war had something to do with it. So now you have five nations that still don’t like each other, but fear retaliation from whatever caused the Mourning in the first place. Politically speaking, things are awkward.
If that sounds interesting at all, then I highly recommend you pick up the book: The paragraph above is skipping a whole lot of exciting details. Now that the quick and dirty overview is out of the way, let’s look at those hidden gems.
While technically more than a “hidden gem” of the setting, it’s pretty easy to look past the Mourning in favor of robots riding dinosaurs. A “magical calamity that occurred long ago” is a common fantasy trope. In Eberron, the calamity is still hanging around. Heck, the party can even visit it!
The Mourning is described as a gray mist that causes magic to behave erratically. It’s vague, but the idea is that the mist is either harmful, can cause other things to become harmful, or just makes weird things happen. From a DM’s standpoint, this offers a LOT of creative freedom in coming up with potential encounters. Anything goes!
To answer the question “why would anyone bother entering the Mourning”, it’s basically sitting on top of a whole nation. The former residence of the nation has to get our real quick, leaving their entire lives behind (IF they even made it out). Thus, there’s plenty of treasure or other long lost things that NPCs may find useful, so coming up with a reason to go there isn’t too difficult.
I see the Mourning (and the Mournland, the name of the area where you’ll find the Mourning) as a source for plenty of side quests. If your sessions are running a bit stale, then maybe some mysterious benefactor could request the party enter the Mournland. While infiltrating that abandoned magical academy may seem easy, you’ll have to get by the ghosts of soldiers past, and their lava kitten mounts. Not to mention the entrance is now at the top of the building, and probably filled with spikes. Good luck!
A byproduct of the Mourning. Take your normal character spells, and turn them into sentient monsters.
Narratively speaking, Living spells are magical spells given a more permanent form and a mind of their own. Prowling the Morunland and attacking anything they run into. Mechanically speaking they’re a monster template with a recharge action that casts the spell they were inspired from. Rising from the Last War provides a couple of examples with different challenge ratings, such as the Living Lightning Bolt.
I had the pleasure of pitting one of my groups against some living fireballs, which was a blast (pun absolutely intended). They’re fairly simplistic to run in combat as they really only use a melee attack and cast the spell they’re named after. Other than that, they have reasonable immunities and resistances. On the whole, there isn’t a lot of mental overhead to running them in an encounter.
I love the concept of a spell given life. It provides the party with a constant arcane caster threat in an encounter, attached to the stat block of a melee focused monster. Living spells basically throw a wrench in the the “focus the caster” strategy. I see these making awesome guards in a mage’s sanctum, or the payoff of a trap. I’m looking forward to crafting encounters featuring different flavors of living spells working in tandem.
Additionally, there’s nothing stopping you from adding these to any setting: it’s a magical construct that could reasonably exist in any fantasy world. You could even give your players a chance to summon or craft their own.
A Docent is a magical item that only warforged (A race of robots introduced in Rising from the Last War) characters can use. It’s a little orb that can be attached to the warforged and provides some benefits to the character, namely a large bonus to a skill, a spell, and automatic stabilization attempts when the character goes unconscious. The Docent is sentient, and even knows multiple languages.
Maybe it’s just the childish side of me, but I giggle at the idea of introducing voice assistants as magical items.
“Okay Docent, how do I get out of this forest?”
“Hey Docent, what did that giant say?”
“Docent, what does my schedule look like today?”
…I dunno. I’m weird. Next gem!
Magic is everywhere in Eberron, from affordable and simple magical items, to the magic powering the various elevators, transports, and other magically infused quality of life things. It only makes sense that magic makes its way into the working world. Enter the Magewrite.
A Magewright is a working professional of some sort, such as a blacksmith, who happens to use spells as one of their everyday tools. They don’t necessarily have spell slots, but instead know some cantrips and can cast higher level spells as a ritual with a material cost. Sure a locksmith still uses mundane picks, but they might occasionally rely on the Knock spell for trickier situations.
ERLW certainly didn’t come up with the idea of commoner NPCs casting spells, but it does strongly reinforce the idea, providing rules and examples. I’m a fan of magewrites because they allow NPCs to make use of lower level spells without actually being a wizard or other caster. Think about it, if you could open a portal to another world, read someone’s mind, or throw a fireball, you wouldn’t work a day job as a chef. That’s just silly.
If your campaign takes place in a high-magic setting, then use magewrites. They support the overall magic vibe without the party having to worry about a surly plumber potentially throwing Scoring Ray.
Wrap it Up
I could go on, but this article has gone on long enough. Again, if you find any of the above even slightly interesting, I’d recommend you pick up the Eberron: Rising from the Last War.