Critters Rejoice! Now you too can follow in the footsteps of Vox Machina, with Matthew Mercer’s Critical Role Tal’Dorei Campaign setting.
It finally happened. While fans may be mourning the end of the first full campaign, this book arrives just in time to fill the void left by Percy, Grog, Keyleth, Scanlan, Pike, Vex and Vax.
And as far as content goes this book certainly doesn’t disappoint.
What is Critical Role?
For those who don’t know, Critical Role is an actual play (AP) live D&D stream that goes out every Thursday and follows the trials and tribulations of adventurers Vox Machina as they traverse the continent of Tal’Dorei in the fantasy world of Exandria. Running online for the last two years, Critical Role has amassed an immense following of devoted fans, called Critters. Performed by a bunch of self-proclaimed “nerdy-ass voice actors,” it has proven to be one of the most successful and popular D&D games out there. And so now, with the release of the Critical Role Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, Critters and D&D players around the world can explore this exciting new world and create their own legends and adventures.
So here are the top 5 reasons this book is an essential buy for any Critter or D&D fan.
1. It’s more than just single, linear narrative
Unlike some of the more recent Wizards of the Coast fifth edition D&D campaign books, the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting doesn’t follow a single linear narrative. Instead it provides dungeon masters (DMs) with the tools to create and build any number of their own campaigns in a fully formed world set one year after the end of the Critical Role Vox Machina campaign. This approach encourages DMs and players to take on more responsibility in the story and delivers a far more creative and unique experience. However, be warned, if you are used to a more prescriptive and rigid approach to your campaign, you may find this book a bit overwhelming, as you are left almost entirely to your own devices as far as a plot is concerned.
2. There’s plenty of content
This book has mountains and mountains of content. Enough to fill multiple successive campaigns. Reading through it, the potential for adventures seems limitless; all you have to do is add your own characters to fill in the gaps.
The book is broken down into four chapters which cover every aspect of the Critical Role campaign setting. Chapter One is called “Campaigns in Tal’Dorei,” and covers the history, deities, factions, and races of Exandria. Chapter Two, “Gazetteer of Tal’Dorei,” details the calendar and prominent locales around the continent. Chapter Three is titled “Character Options” and includes new class options, backgrounds, and feats. Finally, Chapter Four, “Allies and Adversaries,” covers all the monstrous races and creatures that populate Tal’Dorei and a few potential allies to boot.
While it is designed to be used alongside the current core D&D rulebooks, the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide, it also contains lots of supplementary content and homebrew rules from the Critical Role show. This includes variant rules on revivification, as well as the new character options for players to take, such as the “Clasp Member” and “Ashari” backgrounds.
However, one thing that perhaps is conspicuously missing is the Gunslinger fighter sub-class (represented in the show by Percy, played by Taliesen Jaffe), but this omission is alluded to in the text with a nod to the DMsguild where freely available Gunslinger options, and others, can be found.
3. The Vestiges of Divergence
Also included in the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting are the Vestiges of Divergence, legendary magical weapons and items that feature prominently within the Critical Role series. I was particularly excited to find them all here and given excellent descriptions that satisfyingly represent those given in the show. All you have to do is create a reason for your party to hunt for them; perhaps a legendary ancient sphinx could send them on a quest to discover them?
What’s great about their inclusion is they can be added into any D&D game that you might already be playing at home—I already have plans for my group to be sent off on a quest to find them. In fact, this goes for a large majority of the content of this book. It’s all very adaptable and could easily be dropped in your own campaign without any disruption.
As well as the items and inclusions that fans might expect, there is also brand new content created just for this book, some of which are seen in Critical Role but included here with a twist, such as some extra Vestiges that are only alluded to in the show.
4. Monster stats!
Any DM will tell you they can never have enough monster stat blocks. No matter if you already own the official fifth edition Monster Manual or Volo’s Guide to Monsters, there will be times when you just can’t find the particular monster that you’re looking for. Well, worry no more! Matthew Mercer has it covered with the inclusion of 16 new unique monsters primed and ready to battle your adventuring party.
From the Ashari Firetamer to the Remnant Chosen, these 16 monsters help make bringing the world of Tal’Dorei to life that bit easier. My particular favorites included in the book are the Kraghammer Goat-Knight, dwarven warriors who patrol the cliffs of Kraghammer on their trusty Goat Steeds, and the Ravager Stabby-Stabby, elite goblin warriors and orc slaves who attack with a fierce and mad frenzy.
5. It’s all so beautifully realized
All-in-all this is a beautifully realized tome. The artwork—including an excellent pull-out map of Tal’Dorei, which is definitely getting framed and hung in my office—brings all the fantastic aspects of Critical Role to life.
Every aspect of Tal’Dorei is written out with such loving attention to detail; from Gods to Goat-riders to Goblins, it’s all here. Fans of Critical Role will be also excited to find many of the well-known and recognizable locations, each with its own carefully detailed populace, politics, and plot hooks.
This entire campaign setting is clearly a labor of love, the culmination of over five years of world building and development from Matthew Mercer. As you flick through the pages, it is easy to see how the foundations of the Critical Role phenomenon were built; sure you need some enthusiastic players and a world-class DM to emulate Vox Machina, but with this campaign setting, you can at least begin follow in their footsteps.