Review by C.J. Bunce
Following up on the campaign book Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (reviewed here), next Tuesday the second Dungeons & Dragons tie-in adventure with the D&D live-action series Critical Role is heading your way. Call of the Netherdeep is the first major adventure set in the world of Exandria, taking players–and five NPC rival adventurers–from the wastelands of Xhorhas to the oasis city of Ank’Harel, then on to the ultimate confrontation at Netherdeep, a twisted realm of gloom, corruption, and despair that harbors a terrible secret. Available for pre-order now here at Amazon, Call of the Netherdeep will remind players things are rarely what they seem in “the world’s greatest roleplaying game.”
What kind of impact will the haunting Red Moon have on your campaign? Call of the Netherdeep introduces the first underwater adventure of the 5th Edition, including rules for deep sea swimming and water pressure, strange aquatic creatures, and new magic items, including items granting the ability to breathe under water. The undersea beasts each have their own deep level of detailed relationships with their functions and environment. Derived from real-world creatures, they have been turned into something more gruesome. But what is behind their fates?
Players begin by exploring the streets of Exandria, and fans of the Critical Role series will notice plenty of familiar places and Easter eggs along the way. Seven chapter-long adventures are included, for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 12th level characters. This is one of the darker D&D adventures, not billed as horror but filled with ample fear, suspense, and supernatural evil. Heroes are tasked with morally ambiguous decisions. How hero players face the darkness will reveal how they address the core antagonists in the end.
The book includes a pronunciation guide for its several NPCs and places. It also sports some of the most interesting maps–more maps than a typical 5th Edition adventure guide. A lot is happening in each adventure, giving advanced DMs plenty layers of material to explore with players. Multiple story tracks are embedded within.
Unlike monsters we’ve seen before in other manuals and campaign books, these water creatures aren’t so much the stuff influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. The root of these creations is something even uglier, as players will learn as they confront the Alyxian Aboleth, the Gloomstalker, Moorbounders, and the Bloodfin seen in the cover art, among others. As a bonus, the pages of the book itself include a nicely creepy design element showing some kind of red vine–or vein–that gradually creeps up the sides of its 224 pages.
Although players don’t need the separate Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, it can serve as a supplement to this adventure. Players will need the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Player’s Handbook (available all together here).
Artist Minttu Hynninen provided the cover artwork for this Call of the Netherdeep, which does not have a game shop variant edition. The campaign book features a giant pull-out poster map of the city of Ank’horel drawn by cartographer Devin Rue. Appendices include usable game cards and a look behind the concept artwork for this book.