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Vox Machina, rendered in a chunky, oil paint style. Image: Darrington Press

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The new Critical Role campaign book is one part D&D setting, two parts history lesson

Tal’Dorai Campaign Setting Reborn adds 150 pages to a book already bursting at the seams

Bought to you from the minds behind Critical Role, Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is a new book by Darrington Press that lets you play your own adventures in the world of the long-running Dungeons & Dragons actual play series. Set 20 years after the events of Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, originally produced by Green Ronin Publishing in 2017, this new offering poses a question: What battles will the next generation of heroes face?

It answers that question in a beautiful, hardback book filled with gorgeous illustrations of places, people, and points of interest across the fictional continent of Tal’Dorei. Alongside that, the book also comes with a beautiful 18x24 inch foldout map. Drawn by cartographer Andy Law, it stands proudly next to some of the greatest fantasy maps around. Shown on the map are all the key cities, such as Emon, the human centre of Tal’Dorei, and Whitestone, set within the vast mountain ranges to the north-east. As a visual package it just works, and you are completely transported into this world.

Dungeon Masters get a true peek behind the curtain at Matthew Mercer’s creative process descending into the complete history of Tal’Dorei, the original setting for Vox Machina, the first of Critical Role’s three main campaigns. And I do mean complete. The book includes hundreds of years of war, strife, and battles – and that’s only the beginning.

With 150 more pages than the original, Tal’Dorei Reborn allows for much more freedom to explore this world. Despite covering the history of Tal’Dorei, there is so much more depth this time around as you are taken through the wars of yesteryear, as well as the current alliances and evils that have arisen after Vox Machina.

A Black woman in a white dress, flowers flowing from her red hair, stands back-to-back with a second woman wearing silver armor. The clouds break behind them over a gleaming city.
The Wildmother and the Lawbearer, just two of the gods detailed in Tal’Dorai Campaign Setting Reborn.
Image: Darrington Press

Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn teases the emergence of the League of Miracles – a mysterious group of mercenary mages who have filled their ranks with necromancers, cultists, and blood mages. Having helped Emon rebuild, they have established themselves as a real force in Tal’Dorei, to the point that one of their magical constructs, an Ardranach, is displayed prominently on the cover. Entire campaigns can explore the League and what their true goals are in Tal’Dorei.

But it isn’t just the League. The Clasp, a guild of thieves, has also risen to prominence in Tal’Dorei. The last twenty years have catapulted the Clasp from cut-throats to heroes after their work to undermine the Chroma Conclave, especially in Emon. Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn also reveals the fate of the original cast from Vox Machina with a detailed where-they-are-now section.

An aerial view of a rural village.
Andy Law’s cartography includes many different settings from the Critical Role actual play series.
Image: Andy Law/Darrington Press

This truly is The Silmarillion of campaign settings, and it’s clear to see the sheer amount of work that Mercer, James Haeck (who worked with Mercer on the original book) and veteran D&D designer Hannah Rose have put into it. In true sandbox fashion, the authors give you the keys and tell you to go for a drive. While a little overwhelming at first, it gives DMs a real sense of freedom. Tal’Dorei is their playground and they can do whatever they like in it.

Instead of a lengthy linear campaign, DMs are offered narrative hooks to pick and choose from. These hooks can evolve into anything, really, and are often inspired by the locations and the lore, giving you an initial prompt for your imagination to run wild with. These hooks range from the Lucidian Coast’s Hareth Val Bardo struggling with night terrors and violent urges, to helping a key character from Vox Machina find his daughter after she disappears in the dungeons of Castle Whitestone.

A pinacle of stone rises from a red forest. Individuals fly tiny, fragile airships on a cloudy breeze. Image: Darrington Press

But what is an adventure without adversity? There is a rogues’ gallery to choose from, including Ashari Stoneguards, Cutthroats, and the punishingly difficult Forge Guardian. There’s plenty available for adventurers of all levels to take on in battle. Challenge ratings go all the way from three up to 27, with the majority settling in around 12-18. There are minions you can use in smaller encounters, but these aren’t as interesting and players starting on lower-level campaigns would perhaps benefit from the book’s more scalable bosses.

While Tal’Dorei Reborn uses D&D’s 5th edition as its basis, it also invites you to use the rules of any other fantasy RPG. Of course, many of the playable characters and enemies include stat blocks and abilities based on 5th edition, so if you want to use another system you’ll need to do some homework.

Despite not being a truly system agnostic book, this is an incredibly well-realized world filled to the brim with interesting characters and stories to tell. Even if it just ends up sitting on your coffee table to peruse during regular Thursday-night livestreams, Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is well worth the $49.99 price tag. This is simply a must have for fans of the series, even if it’s just to delve deeper into the world Vox Machina calls home.

Tal’Dorai Campaign Setting Reborn is out now and available on the Critical Role online storefront. The book was reviewed with a pre-release copy of the physical books provided by Darrington Press. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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