Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn Review: New Threats and Intrigue Emerge

Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is a robust Dungeons & Dragons book that serves as a sequel of sorts to Critical Role's first campaign. The new 280-page rulebook published by Critical Role imprint Darrington Press is bursting to the seams with everything from new monsters and subclasses to a robust gazetteer that explains what happened to the continent of Tal'Dorei in the aftermath of Vox Machina's adventures. The book finds a fine balance between leaning on nostalgia and campaigns past and presenting new ideas that could fit in any campaign, even those that aren't set in the world of Exandria. 

Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn is a revamped version of the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting book released back in 2017 by Green Ronin Press. That book was released in the middle of Critical Role's first campaign starring Vox Machina and served to highlight the locale in which the campaign was set and provide fans with a definitive version of the expansive lore and history of Tal'Dorei. The book was a must-have for Critical Role fans but suffered from what Critical Role DM and book co-author Matthew Mercer described as a "strenuous journey" and a short production timeline and there were parts of the book that seemed less polished from others. The new Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn serves as a course correction of sorts, keeping much of the quality of the original and strengthening the weaker parts of the books. Both Mercer and co-author James Haeck return for the new book, with Hannah Rose (an industry veteran who has worked on multiple Wizards of the Coast D&D books including as an editor for Explorer's Guide to Wildemount) joining the team as a co-lead designer.  

Before digging into the contents of Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, I'll note that the physical book is a real beauty. Not only is both the cover art and interior art fantastic, the physical production quality of the tome itself is perhaps the finest I've seen out of any recent non-premium tabletop roleplaying book. The book is slightly larger than standard-sized rulebooks and the colors are especially vibrant and bright. The review copy provided to ComicBook.com was free from any visible production flaws and it just feels....nicer than other rulebooks. Critical Role has a history of high production quality in all its products and I'm pleased to say that this trend continues with their first in-house publication.

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(Photo: Darrington Press/ADRIÁN IBARRA LUGO)

For the Critical Role fan, this book is simply a must-have. Not only does Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn reveal the fates of Vox Machina and their allies 25 years after the end of the first campaign, it also references events and characters from the Mighty Nein campaign and Exandria Unlimited as well. More impressively, the book isn't content to rest on the laurels of Vox Machina or make the group too central to the politics and fates of various other factions and groups. Tal'Dorei is a full continent of adventure and new factions, threats, and mysteries have arisen that have nothing to do with Vox Machina, their enemies, or allies. Other factions have taken advantage of the chaos and destabilization left in the wake of Vox Machina's adventures, with the so-called League of Miracles emerging as a mysterious force through their magically accelerated rebuild of Emon and other cities destroyed by the Chroma Conclave. There's a LOT of Critical Role lore to dig through, enough to provide hardcore fans with a lot of material to theorycraft around for months to come. 

Even those who haven't watched an episode of Critical Role should find enough D&D content to justify the purchase of the book. Large swaths of Tal'Dorei can be imported into any other campaign setting without much retooling. Alternatively, the book explains any relevant details needed to jump into Tal'Dorei so that players can enjoy a campaign set in the world without watching the 400+ hours of the Vox Machina campaign first. There are also plenty of player options that can be utilized outside of a Tal'Dorei campaign, including several subclasses that play around with the concepts of hemocraft (or blood magic). While the book obviously is intended for those who want to build a campaign set in the world of Critical Role, there's plenty of value and inspiration for any D&D (or fantasy TTRPG) game master. Still, the book is dedicated to showing how a Tal'Dorei campaign would work and it works best for players and DM that commit to a campaign set in that specific campaign setting. 

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(Photo: Darrington Press/ADRIÁN IBARRA LUGO)
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One of the great D&D debates of recent months involves the balance of lore and universal game mechanics. While Wizards of the Coast has made moves to make its characters options more universal to all campaigns and less dependent on any one setting's lore, the Darrington Press team doubled down and found creative ways to show off how a Tal'Dorei campaign can provide unique storytelling options that make players feel more connected to the world. Although a DM could repurpose the Way of the Cobalt Soul monk or the Moon Domain Cleric subclass for another campaign setting, these are options built around a specific faction or the mythology surrounding Exandria's two moons. Likewise, the Vestiges of Divergence are magic items that can be repurposed elsewhere, but they have a specific tie to Exandria's history and its pantheon and feel more intrinsically bound to the setting as a result. It's an elegant solution that demonstrates how lore can enhance game options instead of detract from them and show a viable alternative to needing to make every character option work for every setting. Of course, Darrington Press benefits from only needing to support one specific campaign setting who fans are already familiar with, but building excitement around a campaign setting and then offering options on how to play within it seems to work well for Critical Role and its new Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn.

Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn threads the needle well, presenting a book that showcases the world of Critical Role without necessarily tying itself too tightly to the show itself. Fans of Critical Role will like this book, but so will D&D players who enjoy good worldbuilding or mythology or are simply looking for a template around which to build their own world. It's a fantastic debut TTRPG book for Darrington Press and hypes up Critical Role ahead of its upcoming animated series and collaboration with Wizards of the Coast over the next few months.