More than just a sourcebook, the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is a love letter and a piece of art for fans who love Exandria and the stories of Vox Machina. Beyond that, it is an offering to those ready to venture into Game Mastering their own adventure in this rich world, given with unparalleled permission to take ownership of Exandria. This distinction is more than clear, both in the introduction written by Matthew Mercer and contained throughout the text in consistent reminders (and not just a single addendum), that there is no “one version” of Exandria, and express permission is granted to readers to make it their own. Tal’Dorei is a setting created to be explored and expanded for each and every table.
A sourcebook and campaign guide of inspiration for Tal’Dorei and the expanded world of Exandria to some degree, this book certainly offers a deep dive into the heart of the continent of Tal’Dorei. Exploring its history, places, regions, and people, the scope of what Matthew Mercer, Hannah Rose, and James J. Haeck have created is spectacular. More than just looking at the immediate relevance of the adventures of Vox Machina, it expanded on what the first Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting (2017) offered. This explores much more of what happened, as well as why it happened, and why it mattered. There is more than history, there is the greater mythology of Tal’Dorei to be explored. The other major continents of Exandria are mentioned, with references and details regarding Wildemount, Issylra, and Marquet found within.
One aspect I found interesting was that despite all the detail offered about the continent and its history, there are still significant portions of the map still to be explored and filled in, so to speak. Some aspects are purposely left uncertain or unconfirmed. This extends to more than just the state of affairs, such as the tenuous peace following the fall of the Chroma Conclave and the rise of the Republic of Tal’Dorei, but actual details of the world, such as what remains hidden within the Rifenmist Peninsula and the true nature of the rule of the Iron Authority. There are secrets and mysteries in Tal’Dorei, and many are left up to the creativity of whatever storytellers, players, or Game Masters take up the mantle.
No campaign sourcebook would be complete without adventure hooks, and through more than eighty pages in the Tal’Dorei Gazetteer, the lands of Tal’Dorei are explored. Story hooks are presented for all tiers of play, distinguished into low-level (1st-4th level), mid-level (5th-10th level), high level (11th-16th level), and epic-level (17th-20th level). Additional tools are offered in Chapter 5 on how to expand upon the wide array of story hooks. They can be utilized for all player character levels, but each is given a recommendation based on narrative weight or the creatures and monsters involved within certain hooks. The hooks are an interesting addition, because the solutions and most of the details are left up to the creativity of the Game Master.
New character creation options are given, as well as sections about the races, cultures, influences of factions and gods, and more are all explored. Different aspects of dragonbloods (the Exandrian version of dragonborn) are detailed, variations in elves and small folk, such as halflings and gnomes, and even exploring mixed ancestry and their accompanying statistics. This not only gives permission for these additions and adaptations, but goes the extra step of providing optional tools for how to incorporate them into the game. Who knows, maybe this will give the option for someone to play the child of a tiefling and a half orc.
The character creation section goes on to detail nine new subclasses, five new backgrounds, seven new feats, and the Fate-Touched supernatural blessing. Many of these feel very at home in the Tal’Dorei setting or in an Exandrian based adventure, but I do not necessarily see many of these catching on as enthusiastically as some of the earlier subclasses that came from the mind of Matthew Mercer, though these likely saw much more thorough playtesting before their publication. That said, the new Blood Domain cleric and Blood Magic wizard might fit in perfectly in a party with Blood Hunters, or the College of Tragedy bard might make an excellent participant in a troupe venturing into the Domains of Dread. Who knows where these new options will actually be taken, or what subclass might capture a player’s imagination.
The book rounds out with some tools, tips, and mechanics for Game Masters, from some home rules that might seem familiar to fans of the show to new options for smoother play. There are new magic items as well as an expanded list of the Vestiges of Divergence with their multiple levels of advancement. Many are even given small hints as to their current owner or whereabouts, giving even more fuel to the creativity fires of intrepid Game Masters. And finally, the Allies and Adversaries chapter explores over fifty pages with 44 stat blocks and accompanying lore, from wandering monsters, ancient guardians, and even the members of Vox Machina themselves. And yes, some of them are still just as broken as you remember they were from the show.
The Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn truly does feel like a labor of love from the folks at Critical Role and Darrington Press. Seen in the contents of the book and in the detail given to the book itself, it is a truly great offering for the fans. The small details that they got to include, likely as a result of self-publishing through Darrington Press, such as the ribbon bookmark, cover sleeve for the map, and even the texture of the cover all show a great attention to detail. The art is gorgeous, and this book gives a deep dive into Tal’Dorei like ever before. For fans of Exandria and Matthew Mercer’s work, this is a great showing from Darrington Press and the creative team they put together to make this project a reality.
You can purchase your copy of Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn from Darrington Press through all the regional Critical Role shops!