Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is a new setting sourcebook for D&D 5e, published by Wizards of the Coast in collaboration with Critical Role’s very own Matthew Mercer. Here’s our review.
Before we start, I want to make it clear that I am not what you’d call a Critter. I’ve watched a few episodes and there are things about this show that I like and other things that I don’t like. However, I want this review to focus on the sourcebook, not on the show, though, of course, the book is based on the setting that Mercer portrays in the show.
When I first heard about this mix-up between WotC and Critical Role, I had blend feelings about it. Business-wise, this decision made much sense. After all, the Critical Role shows are so popular that no matter what WotC would publish with the Critical Role label, it would turn instantly into a best-seller. And the problem I had with this, was that I knew that the book would sell, no matter whether it was any good or not.
The problem with products like Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is that its merit will always be intertwined with the Critical Role brand. If someone likes the show, they will probably love this book. I feared, that from the publishers’ point of view, this meant that they would not be under the same scrutiny as if they would be publishing for any other setting, like Dark Sun or Greyhawk.
Welcome to Wildemount
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is over 300 pages long, filled with beautiful maps and art. The book is divided into seven different chapters, which detail not only the setting and character options, but also include four different scenarios, magical items and a nice bestiary.
To be fair, most of the book is devoted to the setting. Wildemount is given much detail, not only geography but also its history and the many different factions and societies that have a role in the political landscape of the continent. What I liked most about this part of the book where the adventure hooks, but there are over 120 different adventure hooks for dungeon masters to work with.
Things like the adventure hooks can be so helpful, especially for less experienced game masters that are looking for creating games like the ones Matt Mercer runs for his group. Having this many adventure hooks can also be helpful for those who have seen a campaign or two to the end, since getting a grasp of the designers’ ideas can be helpful in learning in what way they would display the setting.
Much space is devoted to explaining the tension between Dwendalian Empire and Kryn Dynasty. This is a center point in the setting’s overall narrative, and at some points perhaps too much so, in my opinion. Settings with strong narratives often make me feel like no matter what narratives I present, they will always be shadowed by the main narrative.
Still, this is a solid setting, with detailed history and multiple adventure hooks.
Wildemount’s character options
Many sourcebooks offer new and setting specific character options. In Wildemount you can choose to play almost any race found in any WotC 5e book. When reading the book, I felt that in some parts the designers were trying to make sure that players could choose whatever race they want. There were moments that I felt this a bit forced.
I found the new sub-class option quite interesting. The Echo Knight seems nice and I’ve always had a soft spot for Chronomancers. But what really caught my eye was the Dunamancy spells. There are many interesting spells that I can’t wait to try out.
However, I have to say that the most interesting part of the character options is the Heroic Chronicle. This is such a nice feature to have, not only for the player but also for the game master. One of the things that I often see and experience, as player and as game master, is why the player characters need or should be the heroes of the narrative, i.e. for other reasons than monetary. This is a great tool to build a chronicle and make sure that your player character is invested in making sure that things turn out alright. Not to mention, that this adds so much to your character development.
Adventures in Wildemount
There are four scenarios presented in the book, Tide of Retribution, Dangerous Designs, Frozen Sick and Unwelcome Spirits. These are all modules for 1st to 3rd level characters and take place in different places in Wildemount.
Each module can be played in 2-4 session and comes with all the needed information, maps etc. Each of the modules has its merits but I liked Unwelcome Spirits the most, mostly for its exploration part.
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is solid sourcebook for Wildemount and I believe that most fans of Critical Role will like it. However, the information in the book is mostly aimed at the dungeon master and perhaps players that buy to book in hope for many character options might feel let down. In the end, this is first and foremost a high fantasy setting with a strong narrative.