Review: Wizards of the Coast – Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (Dungeons & Dragons)

Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is an epic fantasy supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, written by Matthew Mercer, James J. Haeck, James Introcaso, and Chris Lockey and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Dave Pierson

Learn more about Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount here
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The Homebrew DM’s Perception

Disclaimer: The continent of Wildemount and all people within are fictional and primarily exist to invite you and your friends into a world of exploration, imagination, and deep emotional catharsis through epic struggles and victories. We advise you to embrace failure as much as success, sadness as much as joy, and to remain vigilant when taking care of pets or animals you acquire on your adventures. Wizards of the Coast and Critical Role are not responsible for any mental trauma suffered by animal companions or domesticated fey creatures resulting from persistent danger and deadly challenges, nor are we responsible for whatever lack of passive Perception might lead to a failure to notice animals’ rapid escape.

– Wizards of the Coast and Critical Role, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, 2020

Bidet Critters from Minneapolis! If you are like me and enjoy watching a few streams of others playing Dungeons and Dragons, one of the best out there is Critical Role. Critical Role is a bunch of “nerdy-a$$ voice actors” who get together weekly on Thursdays at 7 PM PST to play Dungeons and Dragons. I personally stumbled across their stream while looking for information on one of the cast members, Ashley Johnson. The fact that I recognized so many cast names from video games I had played and animated series that I’ve watched, along with just the general fun they have while playing, hooked me from the beginning and I don’t miss many of their shows. The cast, led by their resident DM Mathew Mercer, started streaming their home game in 2015 under the Geek and Sundry label and then in 2018 broke off to create their own entity, Critical Role. The show has been wildly popular with the cast attending many cons over the years, including producing live shows for people to attend, and attending the Wizards’ of the Coast live D&D product launch streams with cast members partaking in many one-shot adventures.

Critical Role is a homebrew campaign which takes place in the world of Exandria and is a setting that Mathew Mercer has spent years cultivating. With the Critical Role stream gaining popularity by the weeks, in 2017 the first campaign setting book, titled Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, was released. Published by Green Ronin Publishing under a licensing agreement with Geek & Sundry. The book was based on the continent of Tal’Dorei where most of campaign one’s heroes, Vox Machina, adventures take place. It was the first of many books that were going to be released. However, with the amicable split between Geek & Sundry and Critical Role, many wondered where the next book would come from. Then in January of 2020, Wizards of the Coast and Critical Role announced the launch of the second book, titled Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, where campaign number 2 is based in.

So, what’s in the guide to Wildemount? The guide itself is a treasure trove of information regarding the Wildemount continent. The first chapter is full of background information one needs to create a campaign, from history, to daily life, to even gods. Chapter 2 introduces the major political factions and societies that make up and drive the daily interactions. Chapter 3 contains details on cities, points of interest, NPCs, and plot hooks we could use to seed our own adventures. It’s the rest of the book that really gets me excited for my own homebrew campaigns.

Chapter 4 provides everything we need to create a character. First it begins with an overview of all the different playable races in D&D 5E. Seriously, they pulled in all the playable races that have been spread across the varying setting books that have been released, provided background on how they interact with the Exandria society, and there are even some new variant sub races for us to explore! Want a Dragonborn with darkvision – we got that. How about a halfling that takes to nature – you bet it’s in here. By providing a few more options to guide players in how they envision their characters is a good thing. However, what I do hope they avoid going further is having too many options defined like 3.5 did.  Give players some early guidance, but let them have the freedom to develop on their own with their DM. That’s what’s makes homebrew fun!

Finishing up the chapter is a newish variant race feature – Hollow One; 3 new subclasses – Echo Knight (Fighter), Chronurgy (Wizard), Gravitury (Wizard); and a couple backgrounds – Grinner, Volstrucker Agent. The variant race feature reminds me of the Revenant from 4e. Undead, coming back to finish up some business. But what I’m really interested is this new type of magic, Dunamancy. Dunamancy is derived from the primal magical energy called Dunamis. Those that “tap into this near-invisible power can subtly bend the flow of time and space by controlling the forces of localized gravity, peering into possible timelines to shift fate in their favor, and scattering the potential energy of their enemies to rob them of their potency.” Okay, I get it…seems a lot like “May the force be with you”, but I bet there are a few of you out there that are little excited for this. The new subclasses seem cool to try out and the spells are well balanced. I think my players may just come across a few Dunamis users soon.

The final chapters, 5 through 7, provide additional substance for our campaigns – standalone adventures, treasure, new magical items, and a bestiary that includes some of the most interesting creatures Mr. Mercer has in his own home campaign. All work well to incorporate with ease into our own campaigns without having to sacrifice the feel we’ve developed to this point, nor must heavily edit to fit. So as a campaign setting book to include in our own homebrew campaign, I give it 2 thumbs up as this is a book that you can either blend into your world or plan jump to if you want.

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