Critical Role could be set for a big change, if current hints as to the show’s future are anything to go by.
The in-game world of Exandria, in which DM Matthew Mercer and the cast of Critical Role narrate their D&D adventures, has been a relatively stable game setting for the past three campaigns, alongside a medley of one-shots and mini-series at various points in Exandria’s history.
But some of the latest twists and drip-fed pieces of lore seem to point to a big change coming to the world of Exandria, and could mean that Critical Role Campaign 4 looks quite different from campaigns past.
Warning: Spoilers for Critical Role’s latest Campaign 3 episodes follow, obviously.
The looming question mark over Campaign 3 is Ruidus. This ruddy red moon seems to have connections to various members of Bells Hells, with lunar ‘flares’ that bear ill omens and forever mark those born under its red shadow as Ruidusborn.
Critical Role Campaign 4 could look quite different from campaigns past.
It’s become clear that Ruidus is not simply an influence, but also a place. In recent episodes, players have spied a city on the surface of the moon, and heard tell – from some of the earliest texts in the history of Exandria, obtained by a group of academics known as the Grim Verity – that this moon may have been originally created by removing a “continent” of landmass from the planet.
That word, “continent”, is huge. Every Critical Role campaign so far has been set on a different continent, starting in Tal’Dorei (Campaign 1, Vox Machina), hopping over to Wildemount (Campaign 2, The Mighty Nein) and finishing up in Marquet (the ongoing Campaign 3, Bells Hells). If there is another, unexplored continent out there, it seems ripe for exploration in an upcoming campaign - whether that involves us going to the moon, or the moon coming to us.
Bells Hells have now discovered that a powerful network of mages, the Cerberus Assembly, is attempting to unchain the prison in which god-eater Predathos is locked - out there on the moon, or inside it. But it’s unclear what 'unlocking' really means: whether it allows the moon’s inhabitants to move freely, or if we’ll see a moon-sized landmass crash back into the planet, Majora’s Mask-style.
Either way, there’s a clear possibility that Critical Role Campaign 4 will be set in a very different Exandria; one where a former displaced continent has been returned to its home in the fissures and cracks of the Hellcatch Valley, where Ruidusborn appear to be gathering.
We know from last year’s Exandria Unlimited: Calamity mini-series that an Apogee Solstice - a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of ley lines - can act as a source of incredible magical power, even propelling entire cities into new planes of existence.
Whereas previous campaigns have been largely concerned with maintaining uneasy alliances between nations and protecting the stability of the world as it is, the successful introduction of a new continent, Ruidus, or even the city we’ve seen on its surface, would up-end the geopolitical status quo like none of the other threats we’ve seen in these campaigns so far.
The successful introduction of a new continent would up-end the geopolitical status quo like none of the other threats we’ve seen in these campaigns so far.
We know there is at least one city on Ruidus. There could be more, already built or yet to come - say, after a time jump between Campaigns 3 and 4. With the knowledge that Ruidus is inhabited by crimson beings known as the Reilora, we could even see a new player race option at the table in the next Critical Role campaign.
From what we’ve heard, Reilora have the flavour of reskinned Quori. In the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Eberron, the Quori are dream beings that can tether to people on the Material Plane, to either further their influence or find some kind of refuge, and are known as Kalashtar in their new forms. Around the start of Campaign 3, there was fan speculation around Laura Bailey’s Imogen being a Kalashtar, given her telepathic abilities and vivid dreams, and the connection now makes even more sense.
Grim Verity members have told Bells Hells that some Reilora seemed friendly, others hostile, and it certainly suggests a wide scope of interests and motives – what you’d expect from a nation, a continent, a world of beings, rather than a simple enemy.
While it’s too early to tell with certainty, the Reilora appear to offer a new era of intercontinental diplomacy or insurgency for the people of Exandria, and we expect their influence will be very apparent in campaigns beyond this one.
Last year we also saw the release of Spelljammer - a D&D 5E supplement themed around space travel between different planets, which has been part of each D&D edition since the initial Spelljammer: Adventures in Space box set in 1989.
We’ve seen the Critical Role cast navigate the high seas, but seeing them captain a Spelljammer vessel to sail through space – to the moon, and even past it – would be a new adventure altogether, and one that would allow the series to blow apart the limits of the world we’ve seen so far.
Whatever the outcome of the coming episodes, and of Critical Role Campaign 3 as a whole, it certainly looks like a new area is about to be unlocked.