Top positive review
An amazing book for players and DMs
Reviewed in the United States on March 18, 2020
First, like others here, my book arrived damaged. This review is for the book, not Amazon's piss poor ability to deliver undamaged books.
As the title of this review indicates, this book should be of great interest to both players and DMs. I provide a few general thoughts and then break down details for each of these target audiences.
This book is a tome, with a little bit of everything. It has the history and gazetteer one expects to find in a setting book, but written in a way that is more useful than most. There is also extensive information with players, including the most complete compilation of previously released races yet. New subclasses and spells. Several adventures to help launch your campaign. It even has new and unique magic items and a bestiary of unique BBEGs.
All of this content is wonderfully creative. The writing, clear and concise. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Buy this book, you will not be disappointed. Mercer and collaborators have outdone themselves with this one. Players and DMs interested in a detailed rationale for this recommendation, read further.
Most players don’t purchase setting books, but you may want to make this an exception. The character options (pp. 161-203) is extensive. It includes all of the “exotic” race options that were previously spread over many different books, complicating the character creation process. In addition to the standard PHB races, this book includes racial traits for: Arakora, Aasimar, Firbolgs, Genasi, Goblinkin, Goliaths, Kenku, Orcs, Tabaxi, and Tortles.
The fighter subclass, Echo Knight, sounds like a lot of fun to play. Tons of room for creative play when there are tow of you on the battle map, and your double gets better and better as you level up.
The two wizard subclasses provide unique magic schools, with spells that sound both fun in the sense that I can foresee some pretty hilarious narratives when they are used, but also useful. Powerful, but not OP.
Most players love reading through the Monster Manual and the bestiary in this book will not disappoint those of you who are among them.
If your DM sets a game in Wildemount, there are unique tools presented to assist you in the creation of a backstory tied to this setting. Who hasn't thought to themselves, "How in the hell should I know where I was born and what it was like to live there?" The tools presented in the Heroic Chronicle solve this problem. They also include fun details that could be really fun to role play such as your favorite food.
With respect to character generation, all of these things essentially mean that this can serve as PHB 2.0. In fact, I intend to use the book for this purpose in my games, whether or not they occur in this setting.
Because this is a setting book, I’ll start with that material. The history and lore of Wildemount, and by extension Exandria, is well developed. Logical explanations are provided to explain the existence of nasty beasts, artifacts, ancient ruins, etc. More importantly, much of this history is presented in a way that is sure to get you creative, storytelling juices flowing.
The geography is expansive, covering just about every biome one can imagine. Lots of unique location ideas that could be borrowed by world builders. One of the cool aspects of the gazetteer are DM plot hooks inserted throughout location descriptions. Essentially one sentence seeds for adventures that could occur in the area, categorized for low-, mid-, and upper-level characters.
The character creation section includes some great nuggets as well. For starters, we finally have all of the exotic races in one location! This should be useful for those of you creating characters in your homes because you will no longer have to flip through a pile of books to get to this information. For those of you creating characters online, you can finally get the content for all races through the purchase of a single book. Pretty cool subclasses too that don’t seem OP (WotC has stated they were extensively play tested), but do seem to have a lot of flavor with respect to action descriptions.
For those of you who have struggled to get backstories for their characters, there is a section call the Heroic Chronicle that helps accomplish this task. Essentially, this is a series of tables that helps ground the characters to the setting in a more extensive way than previously published examples. Most importantly, this includes details such as key enemies and allies that should make it easy to work into story arcs. For world builders, there could easily be tweaked for your own settings.
There is so much work when starting a new campaign and this book makes this a little easier too. There are short adventures presented for different regions of Wildemount with plenty of potential hooks to continue your adventure. This will allow you to more easily dive in, while developing the rest of your campaign materials.
The magic items presented in the book include vestiges, and eveil--sometimes sentient--artifacts. For those that don’t know, vestiges have increasingly magical powers that “awaken” when players complete an epic part of their journey. This provides good storytelling opportunities and allows the item to remain useful as the your players enter higher levels of play. With respect to the evil artifacts, what DM doesn’t like the idea of playing the PCs desire for power against potentially dangerous and deleterious side effects?
Finally, the bestiary presents loads of nasty BBEGs sure to strike terror in your players. We’re always looking for these, right?
I’ve seen some DMs express concern that players will expect a retelling of the setting as presented in Critical Role. Personally, I think most players would actually want the opposite, or at least something that is strange yet familiar. There is also an upside to the popularity of the show, you know that there will be tons of great maps created by the community that you can easily “borrow” for your games.