'Critical Role' becomes 'D&D' canon with 'Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount'

This could be one of the biggest changes to 'Dungeons and Dragons' in years.

Ariana Orner

The next Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook is about to make a huge portion of Critical Role official canon, bringing players to the continent of Wildemount where they just might encounter the Mighty Nein adventuring party. The most popular D&D live play series is about to reach everyone’s gaming table, continuing a trend for D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast, which released a book in 2019 about Acquisitions Incorporated and incorporated storylines from Joe Manganiello’s character Arkhan (who has joined Critical Role on occasion) via Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus.

Wizards of the Coast made the official announcement Monday morning mere hours after a leak on Amazon teased the new book, called Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.

The 304-page sourcebook includes “introductory adventures, dozens of story-inspiring plot seeds, and the new heroic chronicle system” but also “new character options available for play in any campaign, like the Echo Knight fighter subclass, spells of dunamancy, numerous new monsters, and more!”

In terms of new mechanics, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount could be even more significant to D&D than Wizards’ November release, Eberron: Rising From the Last War, which introduced Artificer as a new class thanks to the unique school of magic Matthew Mercer created for Critical Role Season 2: Dunamancy.

Cover art for 'Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount'.

Wizards of the Coast

Dunamancy is a heady concept at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy that might remind Marvel fans of the Quantum Realm from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Created by Mercer uniquely for the Critical Role show, dunamancy involves the manipulation of entropy, gravity, and time in interesting ways, altering space-time to hinder foes or bolster allies.

At a more fundamental level, dunamancy acknowledges the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which asserts that an infinite number of branching timelines exist. As such, echo knights and dunamancers can harness the power of their alternate-reality selves to aid them in battle. How this will be presented in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount remains to be seen, but it already sounds exciting.

In a post on the Dungeons & Dragons subreddit, longtime Critical Role Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer confirmed this new announcement arrived early because of the leaks, but he hopes all sorts of D&D players will find something to love in the new book.

“I want this book to not only be a vibrant, unique setting for non-critter players and Dungeon Masters young and old, experienced or new, but also a resource of inspiration for DMs to pull from regardless of what setting they are running their game in,” Mercer wrote in the Reddit post.

“I’ve done my very best to make it a dynamic, breathing world full of deep lore, detailed factions and societies, a sprawling gazetteer, heaps of plot hooks, and numerous mechanical options/items/monsters to perhaps introduce into your own sessions, or draw inspiration from to cobble together your own variations.”

This isn’t the first time Matthew Mercer has published his original material, but it’s the first time Wizards of the Coast has collaborated with him to make his stories official.

Under Green Ronin Publishing, the Critical Role team released an unofficial source book, Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, in 2017 based on the setting from the Critical Role Season 1 adventure featuring the group Vox Machina. Consider that “unofficial” material and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount official.

In early 2019, Critical Role also raised a record-breaking $11 million in a Kickstarter campaign to fund an animated series based on the Vox Machina storyline. By November 2019, Amazon secured the rights to the series and pre-emptively ordered a second season. Season 1 is slated to premiere in fall 2020, perhaps as little as six months after the release of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. Needless to say, it’s a huge year for Matthew Mercer.

One day soon, we all might count ourselves as “Critters,” the name given to Critical Role fans.

Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount will be released March 17, 2020.

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