Kicking off what might be the most exciting and ambitious season for Critical Role yet, a series of announcements, premiers, sneak peeks, and excitement awaits fans of the livestream and Dungeons and Dragons in general. The creative products are headed by the mind of Matthew Mercer, and Critical Role has announced two D&D books in the next several months in conjunction with the other projects the company is invested in. Campaign 3 premiers on Twitch, YouTube, and select Cinemark theaters on October 21st. The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn was announced, but has no official release date. The Legend of Vox Machina premiers on Amazon Prime on February 4, 2022. And the most recent announcement, Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep was announced on October 12th, will be released on March 15, 2022. After their first two Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks, the recent dual approach of launching a revised campaign sourcebook and an adventure module is both ambitious and exciting for Critical Role.
Perhaps the most significant reason behind the swell in popularity for Dungeons and Dragons in the last several years, Critical Role has used the accessibility of the 5e ruleset with the reach afforded by livestreaming on Twitch to reach millions of fans since 2015. Since the start of the show, they have expanded Matthew Mercer’s original setting of Exandria into an established and canon setting within the multiverse of Dungeons and Dragons.
Exandria saw its first foray into publication with the original Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting written by Matthew Mercer and James Haeck, published with Green Ronin Publishing in October 2017. Within the official canon of D&D, during the events of the conclusion to the Vox Machina campaign, Arkhan the Cruel, an original character played by Joe Manganiello, stole the Hand of Vecna before absconding to Avernus. Arkhan’s appearance with the Hand of Vecna in the official Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus (2019) adventure makes Manganiello’s character along with the setting of Exandria and the events that transpired there canon within the larger scope of the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse. Critical Role later partnered with Wizards of the Coast for the publication of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount in March 2020, further cementing Exandria as canon with the official campaign sourcebook. Exandria is also referenced in Candlekeep Mysteries as a possible setting for the contained adventures.
These all confirmed Exandria as a recognized canon setting within the expanded multiverse of Dungeons and Dragons, taking its place alongside old settings such as Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, and newer ones like Eberron and Theros from Magic: The Gathering.
Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn
The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is both a reprinting and revision of the original Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting by Matthew Mercer and James Haeck, which has been out of print for some time. The new version will be published by the Darrington Press, Critical Role’s official tabletop publishing company, which was launched in 2020. The book has no official release date, but will be “coming in late 2021/early 2022.” The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn will also be getting the deluxe treatment from Beadle & Grimm’s, with bundles including in-world player handouts, battle maps, a unique Dungeon Master screen, and more. If you are unfamiliar with the amazing bundles B&G curate, check out their previous bundles from many of the official publications from Wizards of the Coast, including Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is an expanded campaign sourcebook with a wide array of new and updated material. It includes locations, people, creatures, and character options. With guides to each main region of the continent of Tal’Dorei, the team of artists working on this project have brought it to life with over a hundred illustrations and maps. The expanded character options will include five backgrounds and nine subclasses, four of which are brand new along with updates to previously included ones. Dozens of creatures are confirmed, many of which will be familiar to fans of the show, as well as 18 brand new stat blocks. This will also include the members of Vox Machina with their updated stat blocks, as well as those of a few companions. Additionally, the sourcebook will bring new lore and setting information, and more than a dozen new magic items, as well as the Vestiges of Divergence.
The book will nearly double the length of the original. Coming in at 280 pages, it will be on par with some of the largest publications from Wizards of the Coast for 5e (think Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden or Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage for comparable length). In the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, the timeline of the setting has progressed two decades since the conclusion of the events of Vox Machina, coinciding closely with the events of Campaign 2, and the adventures of the Might Nein in Wildemount. The full effect of the climactic events of Campaign 1 will be included, and readers will have a chance to see how the events of the Chroma Conclave and the Rise of Vecna have affected Tal’Dorei.
The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is being brought to fans by a creative team with a rich and bursting wealth of experience. Headed by the grandmaster himself, Matthew Mercer, Hannah Rose (Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, Mythic Odysseys of Theros) and James J. Haeck (Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus) rounds out the writers and creative leads of the book. They are supported by the additional contributions from the cast of Critical Role, as well as a slew of fantastic artists, many of whom are from the Critter community.
The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn will launch in late 2021/early 2022, first from the Darrington Press and Critical Role shops, then two weeks later at local gaming stores. Purchasing from the Critical Role shops will include a bundle with a free PDF, while sales from brick and mortar shops will be print only.
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep, the first official 5th edition adventure book from Critical Role, will be available March 15, 2022. In their second official publication with Wizards of the Coast, this adventure is written by Matthew Mercer alongside Chris Perkins and James J. Haeck. The official announcement brought hooks and hints at a grand adventure of epic scale:
“The greed of mortals has awakened a powerful entity long thought destroyed. For eons, this mighty champion of the gods has been imprisoned in the darkest depths of Exandria. His name has been forgotten, as have his heroic deeds. Languishing in despair, he calls out for new heroes to save him.”
The adventure spans from 3rd to 12th level, beginning in the wastes of Xhorhas. Players will journey to Ank’Harel in Marquet, a rich and new setting not previously explored in much detail, before finally descending to a sunken realm known as Netherdeep, a terrifying cross between the deep ocean and the Far Realm. The teasers for the adventure also make a clear reference to Ruidis, the smaller of Exandria’s two moons, which had multiple expanded references through Campaign 2. Matthew Mercer has also confirmed that the adventure contains a deeper dive into Marquet, a continent that previously had very little information or lore. Since Campaign 3 of Critical Role is set in Marquet, the expanded lore and setting information for the continent in Call of the Netherdeep coincides well.
Call of the Netherdeep will have seven chapters of adventure covering 224 pages, making it comparable in length to Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. It includes new creatures, magic items, and NPCs, with a distinct reference to the inclusion of rival NPCs. An incorporation of the Rival mechanics that are detailed in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything would be an interesting addition to a long adventure, and something new for D&D. New locations, previously unexplored, will be detailed as well as story hooks and lore for each will further bring the setting of Exandria to life. New art and maps are a must for any Critical Role product, and Call of the Neverdeep promises art and maps aplenty, including a poster map of Ank’Harel by Devin Rue.
While the previous Dungeons and Dragons books from Critical Role were largely met with positive feedback, there are sure to be things that fans are hoping to see change in both the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn and Call of the Netherdeep. The might range from balancing and refining the original subclasses, character options, and monsters further into the mechanics of 5th Edition; to the incorporation of Exandria in a fully realized setting for Dungeons and Dragons with lore, history, mythology, and relevant information for players and Dungeon Masters alike. For fans of Critical Role, I fully expect both books to be fantastic additions to the library of D&D, whether for use in an Exandria-based adventure, or as inspiration for an adventure in another setting.
With Wizards of the Coast continuing to invest in expanded settings and creators of D&D content, it’s exciting to see more and more brought under the banner of official material. With additional campaign settings from Wizards of the Coast already confirmed for 5th Edition in the near future, I can’t wait to see what else comes from both Dungeons and Dragons and from Critical Role.
Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep is now available for preorder. Preorder through the link below, and your purchase will help support the Writer in White.