Fans of Critical Role have been treated to some fantastic content already this year, namely the superb Legend of Vox Machina animated series that finally made its debut on Amazon Prime, a few years after its record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.
Of course, that’s not all – season 3 of Critical Role is well underway, there was another Critical Role origin comic for the beloved Caleb Widogast, the recent comic arc on the Bright Queen just concluded, the base sourcebook for Exandria, Tal’dorei Reborn got a reprint and a sizable expansion, and now we’ve got the 2nd official sourcebook born out of the partnership between Wizards of the Coast and Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep.
In short, it’s a great time to be a Critter.
In this most recent sourcebook, Matthew Mercer, James Haeck and Christopher Perkins outline a sprawling adventure that takes your players from level 3 to level 12, while integrating numerous elements from the world of Exandria as the party works to unravel the mysteries of a corrupted Champion of the Gods named Alyxian.
The adventure is broken out into 7 core chapters –
Chapter 1 starts with a friendly competition against a rival band of adventurers before the broader narrative begins to be revealed.
Chapters 2-4 have the characters leaving familiar territory and setting out to find a particular magic item.
Chapters 5-6 lead the characters to otherworldly spaces as they seek out the final conflict, hoping to redeem a former hero of the Gods before his corrupting influence is able to damage the material plane any further.
Chapter 7 features the climactic battle, as well as potential endings for all involved parties.
What makes Call of the Netherdeep particularly unique is the involvement that the rival party has in the overall adventure. You are introduced to them properly in the opening pages, and every major event has some level of involvement with the other adventurers. There are opportunities for spars and friendly competitions scattered throughout, but things can also turn deadly serious in the event of a kill.
Besides the rival party mechanic, Call of the Netherdeep also sets itself apart with a broad moral gray-area when it comes to its chief antagonist. Far from being a cut-and-dry chaotic evil avatar of the gods, Alyxian is instead a tormented figure who was previously heralded as a hero. Call of the Netherdeep challenges players to work towards healing centuries of trauma and anguish as opposed to just striking down the threat.
The expansion of Exandrian lore within Call of the Netherdeep is really great. Fans of the current season will likely appreciate the many references to Ruidus, Exandria’s second moon, and the subject of much superstition and legend. Alyxian’s backstory also provides DM’s with a particular penchant for Exandria a ton of great ideas for future enemies and narrative twists of their own.
While the narrative overall is superbly crafted, and there is some juicy worldbuilding within to sate even the most ravenous lore-fiends, outside of a brief magic item appendix near the back of the book, there is not much in the way of enhancements or additions to the broader game. No additional races or class options, nor any specific mechanics that can be ported to future games.
That being said, there are some pretty cool monsters, so there’s that.
Overall, Call of the Netherdeep is a thoughtful, epic tale that weaves in beloved locations, familiar characters, and encourages DM’s and players alike to reconsider their approaches to adventure, conflict, allies and more.
Seek it out at your local game shop or bookstore and add it to your lineup, stat!