Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
I couldn’t have been more excited for the latest Dungeons & Dragons release from WotC, the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. That is in no insignificant part due to the fact that it’s an extra special book created in partnership with Critical Role.
For those who don’t know, Critical Role is an actual play D&D livecast, streamed on Twitch by a group of self-proclaimed “nerdy ass voice actors.” You may have heard of some of them—Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, and Ashley Johnson. It’s currently one of the most watched tabletop streams in the world, regularly getting over 100,000 viewers every Thursday, and there’s a cartoon series coming soon to Amazon that broke all related Kickstarter records.
Critical Role is huge. So when I received my copy, kindly sent by the wonderful folks at WotC, I wasted no time in excitedly reading through it, front to back. And then back to front. And then, well you get the picture.
I’m a big fan
You might have guessed that I’m a Critical Role fan and therefore incredibly biased when it comes to this product. But I’m also a D&D fan and, so there’s lots at stake here for me. Thankfully the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount lives up to my expectations. And here are the top five reasons that this is the perfect companion piece for Critters (fans of Critical Role) and D&D aficionados alike.
Disclaimer: From here on there may be spoilers for campaigns 1 and 2 of Critical Role. Read on at your peril.
1. It’s Written by the Cast
When something like this comes out, it’s easy to be cynical. “Oh, it’s just another money spinning exercise that has no real heart,” you might say. But with the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount that couldn’t be further from the truth. Matthew Mercer has clearly written this book from the heart. It is a labor of love and every page includes the kind of details and hidden gems that only someone who is passionate about what they do can bring.
The foreword sets out the stall and reveals more than just what to expect in the book. Matt writes:
“Imagination drives innovation and inspires communal creation. For this geeky theater kid, imagination was my solace.”
Dungeons & Dragons is all about stretching your imagination to its fullest and this acknowledgement is both timely and touching. It reveals a vulnerability that only comes when you pour your soul into something. And that is exactly what has happened here. Any Critter will be thrilled to read on, explore Wildemount, and delve deeper into the world of Critical Role.
2. The Wildemount Gazetteer
The Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is campaign setting, player’s handbook, monster manual, and rule book combined into one, and each section is filled with brand new content. If you already own the excellent Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting and are wondering if it’s worth getting this follow up book, don’t worry, it is.
Not least because of the “Wildemount Gazeteer.” A whole 99 pages devoted to the continent of Wildemount. From the Menagerie Coast to the Marrow Valley, and from the Wastes of Xhorhas to the Blightshore, you can visit all of the key locations so far from campaign two of Critical Role. It’s all here and described in exactly the right amount of detail to help your imagination surge.
Become a pirate captain in Darktow, stand up for the oppressed halfings of Felderwin, or visit Pumat Sol at the Invulnerable Vagrant in Zadash, Critical Role fans will love that all of their favorite locations are included, and many more besides.
Each section that describes a location provides all the information you need to set up an exciting campaign. It also includes specific adventure hooks and ideas for each place. These range from being body guards for a criminal to helping aarakora destroy some harpy eggs, and are sure to help any Dungeon Master develop their story.
3. Four Brand New Starter Adventures
If it’s brand new adventures you’re after then the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has those in spades too. In fact there are four brand new unique starter adventures ideal for dropping players new and old into their very first Exandria campaign.
Tide of Retribution is a nautical and jungle-exploring adventure that takes players from 1st to 3rd level as they explore the Menagerie Coast. Players will face scary Sahagain (weird fish people), become crewmembers on a boat, and attempt to stop an island from sinking into the sea. It’s a great looking adventure with some novel ideas and potential ship-to-ship combat.
Dangerous Designs gives players a taste of the war in Xhorhas (Critters will know all about this!) and includes monster hunting and political intrigue. It starts in Hupperdock and features Kobolds, a prison break, bounty hunters, and a boastful, narcissistic inventor in a mech-suit.
Frozen Sick is set in the Biting North region of Wildemount and players will get to see Uthodurn and Shadycreek Run. Players are tasked with investigating the death of a dwarf explorer and go on to discover a deadly disease that can’t be cured by conventional means. They’ll face bandits, giant ice frogs, and zombies before they can save the day.
Unwelcome Spirits is an adventure that begins in the goblinoid settlement of Urzin. A uniquely mobile location built on the backs of dozens of giant horizonback tortoises. The adventure includes encounters in the Brokenveil Marshes, fights against lizardfolk and bullyugs, all before a final confrontation versus a shadow demon possessed warlock. It’s a fun adventure that sees players interact with monstrous races that aren’t always the enemy—perfect for anyone who always wanted to play a goblin character.
4. Wildemount Treasures
The Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has a whole section devoted to the treasures players can find in this continent. From new vestiges of divergence—expanding on those already included in the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting—to brand new, fantastic magic items, DMs will find enough loot in here to fill an ancient red dragon’s hoard.
Items I’m particularly excited to see in here include the Amulet of the Drunkard (regain hit points whenever you drink ale), Dust of Deliciousness (perfect for charming old hags), and the Potion of Maximum Power (does what it says on the tin).
Critical Role fans will already be familiar with the Vestiges of Divergence—awesome weapons left over from the wars of creation—and the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount expands on those with seven new vestiges, but it also includes something completely new: Arms of the Betrayers. Like the vestiges, the arms are super cool weapons, but instead of being used by heroes, these were used by the bad guys in the creation story of Exandria. Therefore they come with both boons and curses, and are in fact sentient beings filled with fury.
5. Maps, Monsters, and More
There is so much crammed into the 304 pages of the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount that are crying out to be used in any campaign you or your DM might be planning—it doesn’t have to be set in Wildemount or even Exandria.
There are 23 brand new monsters included in this book. Critters will recognize the moorbounders and gloomstalkers, as well as the aforementioned horizonback tortoise, and there are even some new monsters that haven’t yet featured in either campaign.
There are also numerous maps featured in the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. The only issue I have with that is that the walls of my office are already covered in the framed maps from other D&D books, and the pull-out map of Wildemount is so beautiful that it really demands to be framed and put alongside them. I’m going to need a bigger office.
Critical Role fans will also be excited to see the inclusion of Dunamancy in this tome. A massive part of the current campaign, Dunamancy features two new subclasses for wizards: Chronurgy magic and Graviturgy magic. Included are 15 brand new spells, as well as a whole new subclass for fighters—the Echo Knight.
Whatever your relationship with Critical Role, if you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fan and you’re looking for something new to add to your next campaign, or for inspiration for your next character, the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is a perfect addition to your D&D collection.
If, like me, however, you’re a proud Critter, then the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is more than just that. It’s the perfect companion to your Thursday nights. It’s a font of joy and inspiration. It’s one of the few books where even the glossary is exciting. A must have for any fan of Critical Role.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount for review purposes.