– You worked on the
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount and you worked on a particular system that really roots you in that world when you’re making a new character. Can you tell me a little bit about that? – Yeah, I’d love to. So the heroic chronicle is a system that players can use to
help create characters that are deeply rooted in
the world of Wildemount, in the setting of Wildemount. One thing that I found as a player when approaching new D&D settings is that I often don’t know where to begin. I don’t know enough about the world and I don’t want to encyclopedically read through the setting to figure out, okay, what’s my place in the world? I just want to jump right in and you know, sometimes the DM won’t even let
you look at the setting book ’cause there’s so many plot hooks and other things they’re
gonna put into their campaign, so having a bit of that setting that’s explicitly focused
right at the player and right at the player making
characters is really useful. There are subclasses, and classes, and backgrounds in this book, but those are all
mechanical considerations. This is for the player that wants to really role-play
their character deeply, and it does it in a couple of ways. The heroic chronicle at its core is a lot of tables with options you can either choose
directly or roll randomly on, kind of like the backgrounds that already exist in Fifth
Edition, but turned up to 11. The best thing about it is that no matter what your background is, you know, no matter what your job was, if you were a sailor or a spy or whatever, all of those backgrounds
in the Player’s Handbook are in there, but now
we get to dive deeper. How many family members did you have? How many people have you
met along your travels that have become either allies for you, spread across the world, or who really are out for your blood? What strange, mystical happening occurred when you were a child that led
you on the path to adventure? Or what’s your favorite food, right? There are four main regions in Wildemount and this is totally for fun, stuff that gives depth to your character without affecting if you’re,
I’m a fighter, third-level with a pirate background, it
doesn’t matter, any of that, but if you come from
the Dwendalian Empire, if you come the Menagerie
Coast, from Xhorhas, from the Greying Wildlands, all of those places
are made very different by what kind of foods
they have, for instance, and so that instantly gives a little bit of grounded realism to your character insofar as now you have a detail that’s really important to you. – And it’s a good hook for your DM. – Yeah! – Like the DM can now, okay, you have X amount of family members, because if you’re a dungeon master and you’re asking the player,
you know, 10 sessions in, “So, do you have a brother or a sister “or something like that?”
(James chuckles) Then that’s very leading, you know, they’re setting up a plot line
that includes your family. This encourages you as a player to give the DM as much
to play with as they can. – [James] Yeah. – On your behalf. – The heroic chronicle
really wants players to think about their story in the depth that the cast
members of Critical Role did when making their characters. One of the big things about Critical Role, why people love it so much, is because these are people
who have thought very deeply about their character, a dungeon master who
has thought very deeply about the world, and they’re people who worked
together really closely to make sure those things mesh together. And I don’t think there are
a lot of player resources out there that really
encourage players to do that, so if you’re someone who’s
never played D&D before or if you’re someone
who’s only ever played a very dungeon crawly, combat-heavy game and you haven’t delved into real Critical Role-style
role-playing before, this is your opening gambit,
this is how you get into that. – What made this important to you? When you were designing this, for you, when you make characters yourself? – This was really important to me because it lays out the setting in a way that’s player-focused
and story-first. A lot of setting content and
a lot of adventure content is really aimed directly
at the dungeon master, and I love being a DM, I
love running campaigns, and I love learning about a world, but I often feel like the
best campaigns that I’ve run occur when I give the player
characters enough leeway to start telling their own stories and to start making the world their own, and this gives them
the ability to do that, it meets them halfway so that a player isn’t making
everything up whole cloth, so that the DM isn’t just
dictating straight to them. Suddenly the hands meet, you shake hands, you have a good campaign going. I’ve heard a lot about players who love to just make characters. (Todd laughs)
Like making characters, is like a whole minigame within D&D. – That’s all I do before
I go to sleep at night is just I’m on the iPad
and I have nothing but, I have 65 characters?
– (laughs) Oh, my gosh. – [Todd] On my D&D Beyond account? – But that’s single player D&D, right? You don’t need a group, you
don’t need a dungeon master, you pop open D&D Beyond or you pop open your Player’s Handbook and you just choose fighter, pirate, you know, and I’ve
got these background traits, and this is a character I want to play, and what are they gonna
look like at 20th level? How’s that gonna happen? That’s really fun for a lot
of people, myself included, you included, with 65 characters. (laughs) And so this is just a deeper way to have that solo D&D minigame
of character creation. – [Todd] That’s a very good point, yeah. – Yeah, and except this time, it’s not all just what
feats am I gonna take? What’s my plan for 20th level? People love planning out
where their character is gonna go mechanically. There are three parts
to the heroic chronicle because it’s, you know,
the heroic chronicle, it’s as if someone is telling
your character’s story, right? You role-play hard in the game and then when you’re done with the game, you come back out and you’re thinking, “Okay, where is my character
going from here,” right? And so there’s the
beginning of the character that I’ve talked about a lot where it’s backstory, family,
sort of nitty gritty details, where did you come from,
what’s your hometown? And then once you’re in
the game a little bit, there’s also a section
of the heroic chronicle called the prophecy and this
is an optional rule, right, not every campaign is gonna have it, but one thing that Matthew
Mercer does really well as a DM is that he works with his players to figure out where their stories can go. I won’t say any Critical
Role spoilers here, but every single of those
characters has a starting point and I’m sure they’ve
talked with each other about what some possible ending points, what some stops along
the roads are gonna be. So this prophecy section that comes into play later on in the game is at the beginning, you
note down a couple of things that you want your character to do, like totally removed, as a player, what do you want your character to do story-wise in the game? And you will give this to your DM and it all feeds back into
that stuff you created earlier. And your DM will look at it and they’ll work with you back
and forth, you know, right? The best D&D games happen
when you meet halfway. And so they look over that,
they work back and forth, massage the details so that they work for both you and the DM, and then every time these story-driven sort of checkpoints come up, these little road signs
appear in the campaign, it’s a big character moment. It’s basically you telling the DM, “I want to have this
big character moment.” The DM says, “All right, I
will make sure that a moment “very much like this happens in the game.” And then it happens, something changes both from a totally non-mechanical
role-play standpoint, everything moves in a different direction, and also you get a little
bonus gameplay-wise too. It might be inspiration, it
might be you have an extra d4 on your attack rolls for the
next day or something like that and it ideally, when people
are making this prophecy, it ties into what they’re doing, right? So if you have a, “I want to
be a great pirate fighter,” I’m going with this example, and I have a rival pirate captain on the seas of the Lucidian Ocean, and their defeat, or even better, they defeat me some time in the campaign and it changes who I am completely. So that moment happens, you fight, and obviously the dice
will have a role to play, maybe you will end up defeating them and suddenly it’s a
different moment entirely, but let’s say the prophecy
comes true, they beat you, you fall to the ground, they taunt you, they leave you alive, maybe they throw you onto
an island like Jack Sparrow and then your character
has changed as a person, but also you’re filled
with that determination to fight harder, better,
stronger than before, and so you’ve got an extra
little bonus to your attack rolls for the next little while as
you train hard, Rocky style, to become someone who can
beat this villain of yours. – That’s fantastic. – Yeah, so this is the hope, right? The heroic chronicle lets you
role-play hard in the game, making choices entirely based
on what your character will do just like the Critical Role folks do, and then once the game is
over, once you pull back out, you can think like a storyteller, like a director.
– Be a bard. (laughs)
– Like a bard, yeah! Like a chronicler, you can think, “Okay, where will this story
we’re telling go to next?” And that’s the goal of
the heroic chronicle, to make stories that
were great in the moment and become truly epic
tales on the large scale.