When in doubt whether something is real or rumor, check for the Amazon listing! New Dungeons & Dragons books are no exception, as a new product was leaked yesterday to Amazon.com. Today, both Critical Role and Wizards of the Coast confirmed that the next D&D adventure book is Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount…the highly-anticipated (but unconfirmed, until now) sequel to the Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting…is releasing this Spring 2020!
For those asking, “What is Critical Role?”, allow us to give you a quick synopsis. Critical Role is a streamed live-play show on Twitch “where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons“. D&D has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years…due in no small part to Critical Role. The show also features a cast of A-list voice actors from animation and video games: Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Marisha Ray, Travis Willingham, Taliesin Jaffe, and Ashley Johnson, with Matt Mercer as the Dungeon Master.
Critical Role is currently playing through their second campaign (“Mighty Nein”), set two decades after the end of their first campaign (“Vox Machina“). In 2016 (about a year into Campaign 1), Matt Mercer announced that Critical Role would be publishing a campaign setting book for Tal’Dorei: one of the continents of the Critical Role fantasy world of Exandria, and the primary setting for Campaign 1. Thus, when Campaign 2 was revealed to be set in Wildemount, the fans (“Critters”, as they are popularly known) knew it was only a matter of time before a “Wildemount Campaign Setting” was released too.
It is interesting that the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is the first Critical Role campaign book published under the Wizards of the Coast D&D team, rather than Green Ronin Publishing. Especially since the press release for the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting back in 2016 made it clear that Tal’Dorei was intended to be the first in a *series* from Green Ronin. A statement by Matthew Mercer on Reddit suggests that the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting might have been rushed “due to demands being made of [him]” at the time. Regardless, the opportunity to be published under the official D&D brand by Wizards of the Coast also makes Exandria the first homebrewed campaign setting to enter official D&D canon since the Eberron Campaign Setting in 2004. When some D&D fans expressed disappointment that the latest content would not be fan-favorite settings like Planescape or Dark Sun, both Mercer and Wizards of the Coast reassured that the publication of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount did not interfere with any plans for those settings.
Writing the campaign guide are Matthew Mercer, James J. Haeck (who collaborated with Matt on the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting), Chris Lockey (Critical Role Content Producer), and James Introcaso (contributor to D&D books like Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Eberron: Rising from the Last War). Roughly half of the book’s artwork was contributed by artists from the Critter community, including original maps by cartographer and Critter artist Deven Rue.
According to the press release from Critical Role, the 304-page adventure book includes:
- Four “starting adventures” for the different regions of Wildemount, taking adventurers from Level 1 to Level 3
- Three new character subclasses: “Echo Knight”, “Chronurgist”, and “Graviturgist”
- A guide to dunamancy and a list of new dunimantic spells
- 23 brand-new creatures
- Descriptions of new magic items in Wildemount, including the legendary Vestiges of Divergence
- The history of Wildemount, from its creation during the Founding of Exandria to the present-day
- A breakdown of the deities of Wildemount, including idols and demigods that exist outside the official pantheon
- Major and minor factions found in Wildemount, including the important figures within each faction
- A gazetteer with locations both familiar to Critters and only hinted at in bygone lore
There’s a lot of juicy worldbuilding information to unpack here. For starters, it is confirmed that the book is set on the continent of Wildemount, during the ongoing conflict between two warring empires: the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty of Xhorhas. As revealed in the original Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, Wildemount was designed by Matthew Mercer from several historical European sources. The culture (and climate) of the Dwendalian Empire takes inspiration from 15th century Eastern Europe, such as Prussia and Russia. Xhorhas has more of a 13th century Romanian flair. Finally, the cultures and peoples along the southern Menagerie Coast, beyond the borders of both the Dwendalian Empire and Xhorhas, display a distinctly 14th century Spanish flavor. How much of an impact will your party choose to have on the conflict between Wildemount’s factions?
In addition to information and story-hooks about Wildemount, the book also features starting adventures tailored for the four different regions of Wildemount: the militaristic Dwendalian Empire, the religious Kryn Dynasty, the largely-unexplored Greying Wildlands north of both empires, or the independent city-states of the Menagerie Coast. Unique starting adventures ensures that no single campaign begins the same way as another. Will your campaign begin in the Dwendalian Empire like the wizard Caleb Widogast? Maybe you would prefer to go sailing around the Menagerie Coast like the warlock Fjord? Or perhaps you’d prefer just a nice quiet cup of tea in the haunted forests of the Savalirwood like Caduceus Clay? The choice is yours, as each party can have an entirely unique adventuring experience.
New spells and magic items open up exciting new gameplay possibilities with the inclusion of dunamancy and new Vestiges of Divergence. Dunamancy is a homebrewed school of magic, which Mercer designed with inspiration from quantum mechanics and the Many Worlds Interpretation. Using the potential energy of infinite possibilities, a character wielding dunamancy can use literal dark energy to manipulate time (Chronurgist) and space (Graviturgist) around them. Think of it like being a biotic from Mass Effect, but in a fantasy setting. Echo Knights are more martial-based dunimantic warriors, who use dunamancy to disorient and flank opponents using versions of themselves from alternate realities. And those are just the powers that are known to us: there is still much about dunamancy that has yet to be revealed both on and off the livestreamed show.
Vestiges of Divergence are powerful magical artifacts left over from the “Calamity”: the previous war centuries ago between the gods and their champions. Your character can wield the bow that once felled titans, the hammer forged in a volcano’s heart by a god, and much more. The introduction of new Vestiges with the Wildemount book offers the tantalizing possibility for Critters that there may be Vestiges on the continent that have yet to be discovered and claimed by the Mighty Nein!
What do you think? Are you excited about playing a D&D campaign set in Wildemount? How do you want to read this? Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount releases on March 17, 2020, both digitally on D&D Beyond and Roll20, and in hardcover on the Critical Role shop, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. And if you don’t want to order it off Amazon, ask your Friendly Neighborhood Game Store if they can order it in-store for you? However you choose, good luck to you, adventurers!
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