If you read Tribality or basically any other major gaming-news site (or listen to Tome Show News, by Louis Brenton, Tracey Hurley, and Yours Truly), you’re already well-aware of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, which came out on St. Patrick’s Day. For everyone else, welcome to Tribality, I guess! Anyway, the skinny on this book is that it’s a setting book for Exandria, the setting of Matthew Mercer’s Critical Role campaigns. This book focuses more on the continent of Wildemount and the Mighty Nein campaign than on Tal’Dorei and the Vox Machina campaign.
As is typical for my breakdown articles, I’ll be focusing mainly on the mechanics. I care about the setting – I’m listening to the CR podcast, and just finished S2E50: The Endless Burrows – but most of my commentary on it is about format of presentation, rather than content.
Intro and Chapter 1
The book opens with a pretty typical, high-level-view format: world history, national history, daily life, religion. If you’ve read Eberron or or Seas of Vodari (and if you haven’t, the PDF will go on sale soon!) I am amused that the timeline sidebar says the book is set between episodes 50 and 51 of the second campaign… exactly where I am in the podcast! Funny.
This is a chapter of factions and societies, which is to say that it’s a chapter of agendas, dirty deeds, and character summaries. It wouldn’t necessarily be right for every setting book, but it would be right for a lot more settings than currently feature it. There’s also a boiled-down summary of each country’s legal codes.
This is the bulk of the book – the gazetteer. The nice thing they do here – the nice thing any reasonable setting book would do (sorry, SCAG) – is that each location has 1-2 adventure hooks, tagged by general level range (low/medium/high/any).
As the Character Options chapter, this is where my design breakdown really comes in. First we get a summary of how each player race fits into the setting, with a few new subraces.
Pallid Elves are elves with a strong connection to the moon. Forgotten Realms has moon elves, sort of, but they use high elf stats, as do their sun elf counterparts – so if you’re looking for mechanical distinction, this might be an option.
- +1 Wis.
- Incisive Sense grants advantage on Investigation and Insight checks.
- That sounds useful, sure. The narrative of being better-than-normal at still more sensing skills is a bit “more elf than other elves,” because superior senses is already such a part of the core elf story.
- Blessing of the Moon Weaver grants light, then sleep at 3rd (1/long rest), and invisibility at 5th (self-only, 1/long rest). Those spells all make sense to me, though sleep stops being all that useful not too long after you get it.
Overall, I like this more than the high elf mechanics, by a long shot. (I’ve frequently criticized the high elf features for being useful to so few classes.)
Sea Elves are reprinted here.
Lotusden Halflings are even bigger (smaller?) hippies than other halflings. If hobbits had lived more in the Old Forest than in the Shire, they’d be Lotusdens rather than stouts and lightfoots (lightfeet!).
- +1 Wis.
- Child of the Wood is another cantrip/1st/2nd spellcasting feature: druidcraft, entangle, and spike growth.
- Timberwalk makes you hard to track (I question how often this comes up with actual dice rolls as a PC), and you ignore difficult terrain caused by nonmagical plants and undergrowth.
The aggressive side of the Child of the Wood spells puts me in mind of Old Man Willow. I came in expecting something a little different, but this looks fine to me.
Aarakocra are reprinted here.
Aasimar are also reprinted here. It may seem like a strange thing to say, but I am delighted that they’re reprinted – it’s such a good commitment to tables not needing more than the core 3 + this book. I’m not going to say that there aren’t any places in the book with an asterisk pointing you to XGTE or whatever, because I haven’t searched exhaustively. Replacing any number of spells that you don’t have access to is a lot less than replacing racial mechanics, though.
Draconblood Dragonborn are the ones with tails and social status.
- Instead of +2 Str/+1 Cha, you gain +2 Int/+1 Cha.
- Instead of Damage Resistance, you gain 60-foot darkvision and Forceful Presence, which grants 1/short rest advantage on a Cha (Intimidation or Persuasion) roll.
- I would strongly encourage DMs to treat this as a reroll rather than advantage. The problem with 1/short rest advantage to a single roll is that you’re so often going to spend this and the feature use doesn’t change the outcome: both rolls succeeded, both rolls failed, or the first roll succeeded but the extra die failed. Basically, you don’t want to be spending a limited ability and declaring it at the time of the roll.
Ravenite Dragonborn are the tough, lower-status ones.
- +2 Str, +1 Con.
- Instead of Damage Resistance, you gain 60-foot darkvision and Vengeful Assault, which lets you make a retaliatory attack 1/short rest, as long as the creature that damaged you is within your range.
I so wish we could stop giving out darkvision so freely. Yes okay I am never going to win this fight, but I can wish. Anyway, of these two subraces, I would absolutely play a ravenite. I love the draconblood story, and I like seeing direct support for wizardly dragonborn, but Forceful Presence bugs me.
Firbolgs get reprinted, and that’s good because the Mighty Nein campaign has probably done more to popularize them as a player race than any other thing in the last 27 years of firbolgs as a player race (I remember you, Complete Book of Humanoids!)
Genasi get reprinted, along with the shape water cantrip that is necessary to make water genasi function.
Bugbears, Goblins, and Hobgoblins get reprinted. There’s an extensive sidebar explaining the Curse of Strife, or why goblinkin are under Bane’s sway and it’s okay to murder them in the face – they probably can’t break free anyway, and did you really care enough to offer them “exceptional compassion” and help them? I really like goblins as a PC race, as I recently wrote about in Harbinger of Doom, so I’m not wild about this sidebar’s justifications.
Goliaths are reprinted.
Kenku are reprinted.
Orcs of Exandria match orcs of Eberron, and differ from the Volo’s Guide to Monsters orc: no Int penalty, and they drop Menacing (proficiency in Intimidation) in exchange for Primal Intuition (proficiency in two skills, chosen from Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Perception, and Survival). Now I totally want to play an orc Strength ranger, for all that skill coverage.
Tabaxi are reprinted.
Tortles are reprinted.
There’s a new… not-a-race, but a Supernatural Gift potentially open to all races, called Hollow Ones. Remember when UA offered a revenant, way back when, and dropped the idea shortly thereafter? Well, this is a revenant. Instead of replacing any existing racial features, it’s a supernatural gift, which means it really is just extra Stuff granted at the DM’s option.
- Ageless: Yes, of course.
- Cling to Life gives you the 20 result for death saves on rolls of 16+.
- Revenance covers your partially-undead-ness. You detect as undead, but that’s it as far as I can tell. (I think I know what the wording is doing, but I also think a fair number of people will read it the other way.)
- Unsettling Presence is a micro-frightened condition, which costs an action and doesn’t allow a saving throw. It imposes disadvantage on the target’s next saving throw, 1/long rest.
These are conservative mechanics for a revenant concept, but considering that they’re all extra, I think they’re fine. If you want to see an alternate racial-feature implementation, though, check out Seas of Vodari.
The book also has three new subclasses, one for fighters and two for wizards. I’m surprised that the book references blood hunters as much as it does without adding an official blood hunter class, but it’s fine. The subclasses are based on Dunamis and Dunamancy, a major cosmological reveal of the Mighty Nein campaign that gets a little more than a half-page here.
Echo Knights are fighters that use dunamis to bring fragmentary alternate timelines of themselves into battle. It sounds up front like it’s going to be a fighter pet class, which turns out to be both right and wrong.
- Manifest Echo creates a 4e-style minion version of you that is (according to Twitter clarifications) an object, not a creature. Creating or dismissing the echo is a bonus action, and you can move the echo 30 feet on your turn for free. Per this clarification by Jeremy Crawford, that isn’t constrained by movement modes, because it isn’t a speed – so you can move it in the Z axis, but it does have to have a clear path. The echo despawns if it’s more than 30 feet from you at the end of your turn – but it could easily be 60+ feet from you during your turn. Beyond that, this feature lets you do three things with the echo:
- Trade places with it, as a bonus action that also costs 15 feet of your speed. I hear you get a secret Achievement if you teleport more than 60 feet in one use with this feature!
- Your attacks as part of an Attack action can come from you or your echo. Now you can super extra abuse cover mechanics!
- Though you still only get one reaction per turn, moving away from your echo provokes opportunity attacks as if it were you. More control of territory – and Sentinel bridges into must-buy territory!
- Unleash Incarnation gives you an extra attack that must come from your echo, a number of times per long rest equal to your Con modifier. That’s pretty awesome, though holy cats is 3rd level good for Echo Knights.
- Echo Avatar at 7th level lets you shift your perceptions into your echo, and it lets your echo persist up to 1,000 feet away from you. At this level, I hear there’s a separate secret Achievement for teleporting more than 1,030 feet in a single use! (The point of this joke is that echoes open up space for absolutely bonkers emergent play, and I would love to see how it gets used.)
- Shadow Martyr at 10th level lets you risk an echo to protect an ally, teleporting it between attacker and target. The attack still has to hit the echo’s AC (14 + your proficiency bonus), and works once per short rest.
- This is an awesome feature and definitely something I’d expect a character to do with completely disposable clones. I’m thinking of a toned-down version of Dupli-Kate and Multi-Paul from Invincible. I’m sure there are piles of Marvel and DC heroes that this resembles, but my comics knowledge is a weird mix of deep cuts and abysses of ignorance.
- Reclaim Potential at 15th level turns your minion-self into a temporary hit point generator when it dies. You can gain those 2d6 + Con modifier temporary hit points a number of times equal to your Con modifier per long rest.
- I like how this feature steps in to remind us that you’re not just generating simulacra of yourself, but drawing on parallel realities that are full of potential.
- Legion of One at 18th level gives you a second, simultaneous echo. Also, when you start a fight with no Unleash Incarnations left, you gain one. This is incredibly cool.
Everything I see here matches with what I’ve heard about people playing this subclass: it’s rad and satisfying to play. Very strong core narrative, and everything revolves around that core. It gives robust support to the combat and exploration pillars. The extra battlefield control alone is a huge tactical wrinkle to change up the flow of battles – to say nothing of freaking out enemies who think they’ve finally killed you. My one concern about it is how much it eats up your bonus actions and reactions.
The two wizard subclasses are Chronurgy Magic and Graviturgy Magic, and you don’t need an advanced degree in linguistics to sort out their themes. Someday I’ll get to writing the History of the Wizard, and 2e’s Chronomancer has another successor. (I’m not looking up the full list of 3.x prestige classes right now).
Chronurgy Magic grants:
- Chronal Shift – well, no subclass ever written was going to get a better justification for a reroll-after-seeing-the-result mechanic than this one, and here it is. There are some limits on who can trigger this reaction (they have to be within 30 feet and you have to be able to see them), and you only get two uses per long rest.
- Temporal Awareness adds your Int modifier to your initiative. Good form there.
- Momentary Stasis at 6th level gives you a magical not-a-spell to incapacitate a Large or smaller creature and reduce its speed to 0, if it fails a Con save. You get Int modifier uses per long rest. It’s interesting that a target can defeat this spell on pure size, but also this is a great concentration interrupter (because incapacitated does that), even if they’re freed from it in the next player’s action.
- Arcane Abeyance at 10th level turns a spell of 4th level or lower into a mote of potentiality, once per short rest, with a one-hour duration and 1 hit point. Assuming the duration doesn’t expire and the mote doesn’t take damage, a creature touching the mote can cast the spell.
- This has enormous potential for being part of weird emergent play and big combat-opening nova rounds (because now the fighter opens with a copy of your 4th-level fireball or whatever), but it still means you’re burning through resources faster. It’s a really cool idea, and I feel like it’s something that would reasonably happen in the world of The Magicians.
- Convergent Future at 14th level takes the concept of Chronal Shift and cranks it up until it breaks off the knob. It’s some great Dr. Strange action.
- Let’s flip over to a future where I explained this in the right order. As a reaction, you can decide to make any d20 roll made by you or a creature within 60 feet succeed, or fail by 1. This costs you a level of exhaustion that can only be removed with a long rest.
- My question: does bless automatically circumvent the forced-failure use of this spell? Are you only changing the d20 result, or the d20 + dice modifiers? I suspect the latter, because it’s a costly 14th-level feature.
I’ve seen a lot of designers hurl themselves bodily at a time-mage concept; 14,000,605 failed attempts litter the ground. This one? This one is good.
Please don’t take that literally – I’m sure there are other good time mage classes, subclasses, or whatever out there. I’m just saying it’s uncommonly hard to do well, and this has a lot to offer. I can’t imagine the self-restraint that it took not to style the character art after Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown.
Graviturgy Magic. It’s worth weighting for.
- Adjust Density lets you double or halve an object or creature’s weight. In addition to the obvious physics-problem outcomes, it’s also either a +10 speed buff that imposes disadvantage on Strength checks and saves (though… I mean, Athletics should be easier if the target is doing work on their own bodies, because you don’t lose muscle mass, you’re just fighting gravity less), or it’s a -10 speed debuff that grants advantage on Strength checks and saves. At 10th level, the size of a legal target increases from Large to Huge.
- This is an okay buff or debuff feature, but the fact that both options are tradeoffs, this feature costs your concentration, and it’s the only 2nd-level feature means we’re off to a slower start.
- Gravity Well at 6th level adds a 5-foot forced movement to any spell you cast on a creature, as long as the target is willing, is hit with an attack as part of the spell, or fails a save.
- This absolutely should be part of this subclass, but it’s still only situationally useful and it’s got to last us through 9th level.
- Violent Attraction at 10th level lets you increase weapon damage by 1d10 for one attack, or falling damage by 2d10, as a reaction as long as you’re within 60 feet. You get uses per long rest equal to your Int modifier.
- Okay, we’re in hardcore support/control play space here.
- Event Horizon at 14th level makes you the epicenter of gravity that tries to tear nearby hostile creatures apart. The area lasts 1 minute, and targets make a Strength save at the start of each of their turns. Failure causes a bit of force damage and reduces their speed to 0, while success causes less damage and slows creatures to 3:1 difficult terrain. You can use this 1/long rest, or expend a 3rd-level spell slot to recharge it. It requires concentration.
- My issue with this is that the 14th-level feature is a mixed bag of better and worse than spirit guardians. Larger area, shorter duration, less damage, doesn’t cost a spell slot but can’t be inflated, doesn’t do anything if the target starts its turn outside the area (whereas spirit guardians has its effect when they first enter the area) – creating a situation where a creature with 35+-ft speed can rush up to you and hit you. Competing with Adjust Density for your concentration is also not ideal.
Overall, I feel like something is missing from the Graviturgy Magic tradition. There are tactical situations where these features are amazing and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but they’re going to be rare and hard to find. There’s a real chance that I’m missing something, and this is all incredible – or maybe the mass of new graviturgy spells in the next section are going to change my tune. Not at least nodding to exclusive access to graviturgy spells buries the lede extra hard.
The book presents 15 new spells. In theory these are limited to dunamancy spellcasters (Chronurgists and Graviturgists), but the sidebar presents that more as operational security by the people studying dunamancy rather than inability of other spellcasters to learn these spells. Some of the spells are further restricted to just chronurgy or graviturgy.
Dark star sort of blends the black hole concept of the Graviturgist’s Event Horizon feature with hunger of Hadar (Hadar is… an evil star), and cranks that up to an 8th-level spell. Rather than 2d6 acid and 2d6 cold, it’s kicking out 8d10 force damage to creatures in the area, and disintegrating anyone that falls to 0 hit points in the area. The area is also filled with magical darkness and silence. If you needed a reminder that weird is underpowered, well, here it is!
Fortune’s favor is a reroll buff. You cast it on the target, who can be you, and the creature gets to reroll a d20 roll once in the next hour, or force an attack against them to reroll, keeping the better result. Attaching a 100gp consumed material component to that seems steep. I like that you can target additional creatures by inflating the spell, without repaying the component cost.
Gift of alacrity is an 8-hour, +1d8 initiative buff. One of the shortest spell descriptions in all of D&D!
Gravity fissure is a 100-ft-long line effect that deals 8d8 damage to creatures in the line and within 10 feet of it, and draws them toward the center of the line. Much like lightning bolt, this is harder to catch a ton of targets with than fireball or the like, but it’s still a very cool ace to keep up your sleeve. Probably the best-case scenario is one character casting this, followed as closely as possible by another character casting lightning bolt on the newly-consolidated line. Targets within 10 feet of the line but not in it that succeed the save take no effect.
Gravity sinkhole is a similar concept to gravity fissure, but a 20-ft sphere rather than a 100-ft line, and 5d10 damage rather than 8d8. It’s two levels lower, it inflates to 7d10 (avg 38.5) at 6th level against fissure’s average of 36, and vastly easier to use effectively for most situations that I’ve ever seen. I’ll grant that gravity fissure covers more actual square footage, but I question how much of that area is functional in normal combat situations. In short, gravity sinkhole >> gravity fissure outside of corner cases (and plain ol’ fireball is competitive with either until damage resistances come into the mix).
Immovable object is, you know, immovable rod in spell form, for any object up to 10 lb. The higher-spell-slot versions of this spell are completely excessive for all common use short of replacing your ship’s anchor. I’m delighted with this, as is the exploration pillar of play.
Magnify gravity is an AoE damage and 1-round speed penalty effect. It’s not quite the inverse of thunderwave, but it does say Stay Here rather than Go Away, in a slightly larger area. Much like thunderwave, this is awesome in combination with various zone effects.
Pulse wave is a 3rd-level cone-area damage spell with either a push or a pull. Also, I’m staring at this one, because It’s literally the first time I’ve seen 5e start a mechanical sentence with “And.” Other than that, the spell is fine.
Ravenous void wins the prize for the best spell name and the best Your Mom joke in all of 5e. It’s the 9th-level version of the same spell concept as dark star and magnify gravity and so on: a zone of damage, difficult terrain, and destroying all unattended nonmagical objects WTF. It hoovers up everything in a large area (20 ft + 100 feet, an odd concentric-radii setup), restrains it, and slowly annihilates it. 5d10 force damage is a little less per round than I might have expected for 9th level, but still. It’s a cool spell and a character should probably have some moral qualms about using something this destructive.
Reality break has one of four different effects on a d10 table each round on a single target, until the target succeeds a Wisdom saving throw (separate from the initial Wisdom save to avoid losing reactions for the duration). Honestly, that first save looks vestigial? Anyway, the four effects deal huge amounts of damage and may also inflict horrible conditions. At this point, it’s good to see an intensely murderous, high-level, single-target spell. Legendary creatures, you want to save your legendary resistances for the second Wisdom save, because this spell is here to wreck your day.
Sapping sting is the one cantrip of this list, combining a little necrotic damage with knocking the target prone. I don’t think I see the dunamancy theme in this spell, but I’m fine with the effect itself.
Temporal shunt is a reaction to shove an attacking creature, or one casting a spell, just a few seconds forward in time. It negates that attack (and the rest of their attacks for the round) or effectively counters the spell, should they fail the Wisdom saving throw. The At Higher Levels function is kind of weird, as you pick extra targets – but they don’t need to satisfy this spell’s trigger. For many (most?) DMs, all NPC initiatives happen on the same count, so it’s mechanically unclear how or if you’ll be denying additional targets their next turn. It’s much clearer when used against PCs. Very cool time magic spell – kinda cooler without the At Higher Levels bit to undermine its fiction.
Tether essence links the fates of two creatures – harming one harms the other for the same amount, likewise healing. The spell ends when one target is reduced to 0 hit points. I’m not wild about how this one works, because ending the effect is as simple as reducing one side of the tether to 0 hit points, or breaking the caster’s concentration. (This is your occasional reminder that Circle of the Moon druids are semi-immune to this spell, and polymorph is a cheap way out, because the way Wild Shaping/polymorphing works in 5e is so weird – you go to 0 hit points, lose your shape, then return to your RFG’ed normal hit point pool.)
Time ravage – hey, do you wanna feel old? This spell whispers to you that Critical Role recently turned 5, and D&D 5e is about to turn 6… anyway, this spell hits a target with massive, rapid aging, dealing damage and leaving it with 30 days until it dies of old age. This imposes disadvantage on basically everything the target does and halves their speed, until and unless they receive a wish or 9th-level greater restoration to reverse the effect. That… is one heck of a 9th-level debuff for you, pushing as hard up against “no save-or-die spells” as 5e can get.
Wristpocket is stage magic turned into a full-on 2nd-level spell, disappearing a small object into an extradimensional space that follows your hand. Do you remember the glove of storing? It’s that. Anyway, I’m glad to see this in the game at all, though I don’t necessarily expect it to see a ton of use even among dedicated trickster types.
This was a much-touted portion of the book in the run-up to release. I’d explain it as “the randomized-character-history portion of XGTE, given even more depth and customized to Wildemount.” It’s a whole lot of charts, and many topics have a separate chart for each region. Oddly, different questions slice up the map a bit differently.
The charts also establish several ally and rival NPCs, which… is one of those things backgrounds and bonds were supposed to do in the first place, but didn’t commit to quite hard enough. Then there are fateful moments, which are much bigger wrinkles in your character-building and play experience. Many of the results on this table include minor-to-moderate supernatural gifts, magic items, titles, feats, or property, so this is a huge deal for shaping your character. It’s very cool and I like what it’s saying about how to build characters and stories (and not worry about precise balance), but part of me wishes that instead of a chart of 20 fateful moments, the text offered more philosophy and roll-your-own guidance. There’s no particular sense that these are balanced against each other, so if optimizing is a big part of your group’s fun, this isn’t for you.
Overall, I like this section a lot. It’s trying to teach character-building for narrative and dense story hooks. It’s hard to guess how many of the people who need this advice will find this section sufficient, though, because it does focus so much on random tables rather than advice. Some variation on this section belongs in essentially every setting, and I’m glad to see WotC and EGtW’s creative team continue delving into the space that Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron started in on.
There are two new backgrounds, the Grinner and the Volstrucker Agent, along with guidance for tailoring each background to Wildemount. The Grinner is – maybe oddly – the Wildemount equivalent of FR’s Harpers. Bards and minstrels who work in secret to undermine authoritarian regimes – all they need is some folk music and it’s the 1960s all over again. Their special feature is their network of safehouses and agents, but unlike Player’s Handbook background features, this states conditions under which it might stop working.
The Volstrucker Agent is… I mean, it’s HYDRA, right? That’s what we’re getting at with the German styling and the Cerberus thing? And you have special letter-writing options, rather than just saying Hail HYDRA and hoping for the best? Anyway, they’re here for dirty deeds done dirt cheap. The Grinner is a specialized Entertainer; the Volstrucker Agent is a specialized Spy. Their special tables (Favorite Code-Songs for the Grinner, Tragedies for the VA) are strong additions and deliveries of characterization. I am surprised that the personality-feature tables of the Volstrucker Agent are all one die size smaller than usual, except for Ideals. Notably, none of their Ideals end in (Good).
Finally, there’s a page on adapting PH backgrounds to Wildemount – an unusual organized-ish religion for Acolytes, a syndicate for Criminals, a syndicate for Pirates, an order for Sages, and another intelligence apparatus for Spies. Every setting needs this kind of material.
I’m not covering the Adventures in Wildemount section, because at best my useful commentary would be nitpicking flow of information and fight structure, and almost every published adventure has some lingering issues. (Also I’m already pushing 5k words.) It does look like the adventures – especially the first one – go deeper on characterization and naming everyone than you sometimes see. Obviously, that has its own cost in brevity.
Fifteen pages of magic items is kind of… huge, by the standards of every official release since the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I don’t have a lot to say about individual magic items. The balance and narrative of magic items is much looser than spells or features. I do think it’s cool that we get new Vestiges of Divergence here, in addition to the longer list found in the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting. There are also a bunch of evil, sentient artifact weapons called the Arms of the Betrayers.
If this is your first exposure to the Vestiges of Divergence, they’re an absolutely wonderful structure for a magic item: they’re legendary, but in their starting “dormant” state they’re roughly on par with rares or very rares. When the DM feels like a Key Plot Moment has just occurred, the item improves to its next higher state (dormant -> awakened -> exalted), usually ending up as a very powerful legendary. Anyway, a way to make magic items feel more a part of a character’s story (and your character to be more a part of the magic item’s story) is a good, important thing in gaming. This was one of the great innovations of Earthdawn in 1993, Weapons of Legacy in 2005, and in D&D Next in 2012, and it works here too. Don’t get me wrong, these items scale up in power so much that you need to compensate by bulking up the monsters just like Matt Mercer does – mainly in the hit points. Also take into account the free extra power offered by fateful moments. Don’t be surprised when Wildemount PCs punch above their weight, even relative to 5e PCs that already do that.
I also appreciate how hard the hide of the feral guardian works to address the limitations of the Circle of the Moon druid.
The book wraps up with the Wildemount Bestiary. My favorites here are the sea fury, which brings sea hags into a much more threatening CR; shadowghasts, which are amped-up ghasts; and gloomstalkers, because the fell beasts of the Nazgûl need stat blocks too. I don’t have any complaints about the monsters here. I feel like maybe someone here is a big Mass Effect fan. (If that’s wrong, who wants to be right?)
If you’re any measure of a Critical Role M9 fan, this book is an obvious buy, no two ways about it. It’s a great presentation of Wildemount. You didn’t need my breakdown to tell you this.
If you’re not specifically a CR fan (but not an anti-fan), you’re the group most likely to read this breakdown in its secondary job as a review. The majority of the book is not mechanics, but Chapters 4, 6, and 7 are eminently stealable for other settings. There are a few stumbles in Chapter 4, in my view, but it also has some very good material.
The Heroic Chronicle section is a must-read. Even if you don’t use a single word of it, you need to read it and engage with its goals and methods. There are other ways to accomplish the same thing – here I’ll give a shout to the Smallville character and setting map approach – but this is a good way to enmesh your character into any existing setting. Even if you have a campaign already underway, look at this and think about how you could bring fateful moments and the like into your story going forward, to highlight their transformative nature.
It’s not my place or goal to sell you on Wildemount as a setting. That said, it’s pretty good. There are places where I could like Mercer’s aesthetic choices more than I do, or a choice feels a little safe to me. That’s okay. The regional, nation-state, and secret society conflicts of Wildemount elevate it above what I saw of Tal’Dorei. It probably goes without saying, but if you’ve already formed a negative opinion of CR or Wildemount, there aren’t great odds that this book changes your mind.
If you’re looking for a fantasy setting more “standard” than Eberron, without the baggage of the Realms (and a more DM-friendly setting book than SCAG), Wildemount is a good choice, in a sea of (Vodari) good choices. It is cool that you can listen to hundreds of hours of implementation guidance on how to use this setting, with a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors.
I haven’t said a lot about the art in the book. Here goes: it’s flawless. Deven Rue’s maps are justly famed, and some of the typographic and stylistic choices make the continent-scale map a lot easier for me to read than the big Sword Coast map.
For me, this is a very good book that, nonetheless, I’m unlikely to use directly. I’m not in a position in my life to seriously consider starting my own Exandria campaign. I’d allow the subclasses and spells in my game, though I’d have some heavy story work ahead of me to fit them into a non-Exandria setting. The magic items and monsters, at least, I’d probably lift directly. The same is true of Ravnica, the upcoming Theros, and other setting books.