What started as a small group of friends playing Dungeons and Dragons now has grown into a massive fandom with a stream, an upcoming animated series, and soon, a guidebook that is now canon in the Dungeons and Dragons world.
Critical Role is a weekly livestream, “a game where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons.” The show has been running on Twitch since March of 2015, and the group of voice actors, lead by Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer, just continues to grow.
Now 90 episodes into their second campaign, they have announced a new campaign setting, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, using the 5th Edition rules of Dungeons and Dragons. This is the second expansion book Critical Role has published–the first being the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting–but Explorer’s Guide is special, in that it is going to be published with Wizards of the Coast, the parent company of D&D.
Explorer’s Guide‘s writing group was helmed by Mercer, who created the homebrew world of Exandria in which all of the Critical Role stories take place. Wildemount is the main setting of the second campaign and is one of several continents in Exandria. What makes this setting so exciting is how different it is from Tal’Dorei, the continent where most of the first Campaign took place.
In canon, Wildemount is a continent mostly split into two kingdoms–the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty. The Empire is fairly young as far as kingdoms go, having only been around for a couple of centuries, and is run by a human monarchy. In contrast, the Dynasty is headed by races mostly considered evil in D&D lore–their Queen is a drow (a dark elf) as is most of her court, and the Dynasty is mostly populated by drow, goblins, orcs, bugbears, and a multitude of other “monstrous” races.
There are three major nations of Wildemount: the Dwendalian Empire; Xhorhas, which houses the Kryn Dynasty, and the Menagerie Coast. The Graying Wildlands is a 4th realm that is a collection of lawless cities on a cursed land that keeps it unconquered by human hands and is the home of Caduceus Clay, one of the player characters.
The Empire has a lot of the nicer parts of Wildemount; they have better farmland, and the open areas of forests and meadows are typically safer than areas of Xhorhas. It is ruled over by a king, currently Bertrand Dwendal, an older human. It is home to three of the player characters: Beau, Caleb, and Nott. Other important bodies are the Cerberus Assembly and the Order of the Cobalt Soul. The Cerberus Assembly is a group of eight extremely powerful mages, most of whom hold important government positions in the Empire. The Cobalt Soul is an order that worships Ioun, the Knowing Mistress, and serves as an antagonistic counterpart to the Assembly. The two factions most often work at odds and try to keep the other in check. The Empire has strict laws regarding magic and religion: necromancy is absolutely forbidden, and only a few gods of the Exandrian pantheon are legally allowed to be worshipped.
Xhorhas is on the western side of the continent, separated from the Empire by the Ashkeeper Peaks. It contains mostly badlands and rough terrain, with the south covered in unfriendly marshes. It is home to the player character Yasha. The southern half of Xhorhas consists mostly of tribes, while the north houses the Kryn Dynasty, ruled by the Bright Queen, Empress Leylas Kryn. The Dynasty’s capital, Rosohna, is covered in perpetual twilight, making it easier for the multitudes of drow and other nocturnal and Underdark denizens to live comfortably. Unlike the Empire and most of Exandria, the Dynasty worship one god, the Luxon. Its Beacons, pieces of the body of the Luxon, allow for a cycle of rebirth. Many people in the Dynasty have lived several lifetimes because of this.
The Menagerie Coast is a collection of city-states and islands along most of the coast of Wildemount and is home to the player characters Fjord and Jester. It is more open, both geographically and politically, known for its cultural freedom. The Menagerie Coast has a lot of deals with the Empire; the Empire is land-locked, therefore all of their trade from other continents must come through the Coast and travel inland.
The book also features new subclasses, created by Mercer, and playtested extensively: Echo Knight, a fighter subclass; Chronurgist, and Graviturgist, wizard subclasses. These arose from the Dynasty and their branch of magic called Dunamancy. Dunamancy is a school of magic created by Mercer that has to do with the manipulation of time, space, and gravity, and was “inspired by [his] love of Metaphysics.” To go with these new subclasses are new Dunamantic spells and a general guide to the new magic.
And what is a fantasy world without conflict?
Wildemount is a dynamic continent, with tensions between the Empire and the Dynasty high. In the show, that has spilled into all-out war, and the book features starting adventures focusing on those tensions and conflicts, and a guide to how much these conflicts affect the continent, allowing Dungeon Masters to know how this war would affect their players based on where they are.
With over 300 pages of content, you’ll the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has something for every group, and promises endless hours of gameplay and entertainment for all sorts of players, even those who are not familiar with Critical Role.
You can pre-order Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount now. It will be released on March 17th.
Sources: Critical Role’s Twitch, YouTube, and website; Critical Role wiki, Twitter
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