Critical Role’s Netherdeep Shows How Rivals Can Improve a Campaign

Many first timers to Dungeons & Dragons were introduced to the game by critical role. The nerdy voice actors made the game approachable and exciting for thousands of viewers who had never played before. Even after seven years as a company, critical role is still bringing in new players with every livestream, book, comic, and animated series they release. Call of the Netherdeep is the newest addition to the critical role franchise.

Call of the Netherdeep is critical role‘s first official d&d adventure module. This module guides players and Dungeon Masters through an epic adventure in Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer’s world of Exandria. The adventure is filled with thrilling dungeons, powerful magical artifacts, and terrifying enemies, but the greatest part is the rivals. From the very beginning of the adventure, the players are pitted against a compelling group of characters that progress alongside the party, a concept that could enhance any campaign.

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D&D Rivals Can Incentivize Role-Playing

d&d party

The rivals in Call of the Netherdeep are full-fledged characters that have their own hopes and fears that motivate them. Dungeon Masters will have just as much fun playing as them as players will have competing against them. Multiple times during the adventure, the player characters will have the opportunity to talk with the rivals and learn more about them. Players have the freedom to develop very in-depth and personalized relationships with these rivals, which makes every encounter all the more meaningful.

Players that shy away from role-playing might be more motivated to do so when rivals are added. Most other NPCs in Dungeons & Dragons games are usually quest givers, shopkeepers, or enemies. These are characters that can have very simple social interactions where the players are just trying to gain something from them. The transactional nature of these characters might make players less likely to treat them as full people or engage with them as much.

Rivals function differently than these other NPCs. Rivals are equal to the players in almost every way. Neither the rivals nor the players need anything from each other, which grants the rivals a lot more agency. Players don’t have to worry about losing out on a quest or item because they angered the rivals, and the rivals aren’t desperate for the players’ aid. They can push back against players and provoke them in ways that other NPCs can’t. Both players and rivals hold equal power, which might motivate players to take these NPCs more seriously than the rest.

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The Players Aren’t The Only Heroes Of D&D

Dungeons Dragons Critical Role Netherdeep

In Call of the Netherdeep, both the players and the rivals are trying to accomplish the same goals. Depending on how the players interact with the rivals, they can be trusted allies, bitter enemies, or indifferent competitors. Regardless of the relationship, the rivals will pursue their objectives with or without the players. If the players don’t act quickly enough the rivals will steal the spotlight and become the heroes of the story.

In a lot of campaigns, players will see themselves as the only important people in the world. They’re the heroes that the world has been waiting for and nothing changes unless they decide to act. Adding rivals to a campaign can make players realize that isn’t always the case. Rivals can complete missions and make relationships that the players weren’t proactive enough to accomplish themselves.

Rivals add a real sense of urgency to the game. There’s always the chance that the rivals will get to a location first or complete a quest before the players. The possibility of missing out on a reward or glory will drive players to focus on the main quest. The legitimate threat of the rivals getting too far ahead of them or beating them to a treasure should be enough to spark the competitive spirit in any player.

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The Chance Of Failure Without Death In D&D

Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep Adventure Module

Although the rivals in Call of the Netherdeep are obstacles to the players, they aren’t villains. Unless the players do something severe, the rivals won’t hate them or try to kill them. If a fight breaks out between the two groups, the rivals always do their best to make sure no one dies. This allows the players to fail at times without death being a consequence.

Every good adventure needs the chance of failure to be entertaining. The threat of defeat makes victory all the sweeter, but a character death can be devastating and derail plans. Fighting against rivals allows players to fail without death being the result. If the players fail to acquire a magic item they need, the rivals could swoop in and take it. Even though the players lost their original opportunity, they have another one the next time they confront their rivals. Rivals can add a new layer of depth to a campaign and improve the core features of the game.

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