'Dungeons & Dragons' Explains Why Eberron Went Digital and Future Plans for the Campaign Setting

Dungeons & Dragons took a bold new approach to bringing back one of their most popular new campaign settings. Earlier this month, Dungeons & Dragons released Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, a new digital publication that added new Eberron-specific rules and races to Fifth Edition play. This marked the first time that D&D released "official" content via the DMs Guild website, and the D&D team noted that it was a "living document" that would be edited and changed over time.

Eberron, a fantasy realm that combines steampunk and noir themes with classic fantasy tropes, has remained a popular campaign setting in Dungeons & Dragons since its release back in the early 2000s, and many fans were happy to see it return in some form. However, some people were confused about why Eberron got a digital publication even as D&D announced a new campaign setting hardcover book for the Magic: The Gathering world of Ravnica planned for later this year.

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To help clarify why Dungeons & Dragons took a new release approach to Eberron, we spoke with D&D franchise creative director Mike Mearls via email about the new publication. "One of the big elements behind D&D's recent success has been our ability to work with players and collect feedback on our releases," Mearls explained. "When we looked at Eberron, we wanted to bring the same level of care and testing to the character options that make the setting tick."

"However, it's hard to play in a setting without the world information a DM needs to craft adventures," Mearls added. "We felt a digital release allowed us to combine an Eberron campaign product with the ability to provide updates based on playtesting. It's much easier to upload a new digital document than to update print books!"

Mearls also revealed why the team chose to bring back Eberron this year. "Keith Baker, the creator of Eberron, has been tinkering with 5th edition material for the setting for a while now," Mearls noted. "We had a number of conversations with him about it, and last year he and D&D designer Jeremy Crawford hit upon a pretty nifty approach to the setting. We wanted to get it in players' hands, so it leaped to the front of the queue."

Mearls confirmed that Wayfinder's Guide is a living document and that all the game mechanic elements would receive updates. Mearls also confirmed that D&D would add the much-requested artificer class to Wayfinder's Guide when ready. "Keith also has the option to revise world material that fans find confusing or that doesn't quite hit the mark he is aiming for," Mearls added. Still, Mearls believed that most of the updates to the new publication will focus on the rules needed to play campaigns in the setting.

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We also asked Mearls about how "official" Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron was, as the new Eberron races were released under the "Unearthed Arcana" banner for playtesting.

"The current contents of the Wayfinder's Guide serve as the official 5e version of Eberron," Mearls confirmed. "It's a little different from our typical Unearthed Arcana offerings, where we offer new material to try out. If the new material passes muster, then we add it to a product. For Eberron, we're going to have dragonmarks, warforged, and so forth, so that material will be part of 5e. The details of how it works might shift, but there is no question that we're going to deliver it."

One of the biggest questions about Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron is whether we'd eventually see the publication or its content make its way into a physical product. "We're definitely considering it," Mearls said when asked about potential plans for print product. "The response to the Wayfinder's Guide has been fantastic. We're using that response, interest in Eberron among streamers, online commentary, and the response to the playtest surveys to judge whether we produce a print product."

However, players shouldn't necessarily wait to buy Wayfinder's Guide because of possible print plans. "That [print] product will be built assuming that some fans own the Wayfinder's Guide," Mearls said. "We'll keep content overlap as low as we reasonably can."

As for whether D&D planned to release more Eberron content on DMs Guild, Mearls was a bit less committal. "For now, [Wayfinder's Guide is] intended to open up Eberron to DMs Guild creators," Mearls said. "We are looking at supporting Eberron with adventures produced for the Adventurers League, but we don't want to jump too far ahead of things. For now, we're keeping an eye on how Eberron plays out and what we can do to help its community of players and DMs."

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However, he seemed optimistic about adding more campaign settings via the DMs Guild in the future. "I definitely want to do this! We're going to watch and learn from how Eberron plays out, and use those lessons in shaping the plan for the next setting that we add to the Guild," Mearls said.

Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron is currently available for sale on the DMs Guild website. Players can also unlock the content on D&D Beyond.