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Critical Role’s Candela Obscura series, explained

Matt Mercer and company’s first big foray beyond Dungeons & Dragons

Earlier this week, Critical Role released a trailer unveiling a brand new horror-themed actual play series, Candela Obscura. The monthly show will debut May 25, 2023 on Twitch, and will not only feature beloved recurring guests Anjali Bhimani (Ms. Marvel) and Robbie Daymond (Exandria Unlimited), but will also showcase Illuminated Worlds, a brand new tabletop role-playing game system from Critical Role’s Darrington Press publishing arm.

Candela Obscura follows a group of characters ranging from criminals and professors to mediums and magicians as they come together to fight a mysterious, chaotic magical force. The series was announced in a suitably atmospheric trailer, helmed by eldritch daddy Taliesin Jaffe (whose spookier Critical Role credits include running the Thursday by Night two-shot Vampire: The Masquerade game and Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace). Jaffe will serve as the game’s Lightkeeper (see below), with Matthew Mercer serving as game master. The series’ first arc will span multiple episodes, taking players through a world tinged by monsters and the arcane.

What’s a Lightkeeper?

According to a blog post on Critical Role’s website, a Lightkeeper is an “enlightened veteran” of the game world whose role is to guide the other players through the twists and turns of the world. Co-stars Bhimani and Daymond will be joined by Critical Role regulars Laura Bailey and Ashley Johnson. Together, the cast will serve as a group of investigators tied to the Candela Obscura, an esoteric order that fights back against various sinister magical threats. As Lightkeeper, Jaffe will appear at the start of each episode, providing prologues to set the stage for viewers.

Candela Obscura takes place in the fictional world of the Fairelands, a coastal valley in the country of Hale. Hale, on the other side of a long war, is awash in “spiritualism and raucous debauchery” as well as “the sudden influx of technology and wealth” in its central city, Newfaire. The series was originally created by Jaffe and Chris Lockey, with Spenser Starke (Alice is Missing) and Rowan Hall (Willing & Fable) serving as lead designer and writer, respectively. Steve Failows directed the series and co-produced alongside Maxwell James.

What is the Illuminated Worlds system?

Illuminated Worlds is Darrington Press’ own D6-based RPG system, designed to facilitate shorter, narrative-driven campaign arcs. The system was created by Stras Acimovic and Layla Adelman, and should allow players to use the system in virtually any setting, with Critical Role set to showcase the system through Candela Obscura. The game was announced in late April by Darrington Press, alongside other upcoming releases like Daggerheart and Queen by Midnight.

If you’re going to Gen Con this year, you’ll have a chance to check out gameplay sessions of the system for yourself. In conjunction with the release of the actual play, Darrington Press said it will release the Candela Obscura Quickstart Guide, which will let readers peruse the materials associated with Candela Obscura and get a taste for the way the Illuminated Worlds system will tie into the game. Expect to be able to download it for free on Thursday, May 25, and get started with a how-to-play video that will debut on the same day.

The Illuminated Worlds system isn’t Critical Role’s first foray into new systems, but Candela Obscura does reflect its notable investment in expanding beyond Dungeons & Dragons with a longer-running actual-play production. Candela Obscura will eventually get its own rulebook from Darrington Press, though an official date for its release later this year has yet to be announced.

In the meantime, you can catch new episodes of Candela Obscura on the last Thursday of each month, starting on May 25 on Critical Role’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Podcast episodes and YouTube VOD will roll out on a slight delay compared to typical Critical Role videos, two weeks after the initial broadcast.

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