One of the bold new features in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount are magical items called Vestiges of Divergence. They level up as the story grows.
The Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is out now and with it several new features designed to help introduce your character to the world of Critical Role’s Exandria. A big part of Mercer’s charm is the way the world expands under his game. It’s like watching a video game get deeper–and the mechanics introduced in Wildemount reflect this video game/anime sensibility. Maybe that’s because Mercer voiced characters in popular games and anime, maybe that’s because Mercer watched and played them, whatever the source, I love the way these mechanics feel.
Today we’re taking a look at how Wildemount handles signature weapons. This isn’t a new concept to D&D, back in 3rd edition there were countless rules for Legacy Weapons or signature weapons or whatever else, but oftentimes these mechanics felt a little clunky, trying to cram level up mechanics into a system that didn’t necessarily need it. Wildemount’s Vestiges of Divergence… diverge… from that precedent, finding a much more elegant solution. They don’t try and mimic the level advancement of characters, but instead have their own system that glides along on top of the game. Each one of them has three different states, dormant, awakened, and exalted, reflecting how much of the weapon’s power is available.
In the world of Wildemount, these states exist because these were powerful magic items from a bygone age that require attunement to worthy individuals. Each tier has a different set of powers, allowing the DM to set the pace for how powerful the weapon gets–but also giving something for players to look forward to unlocking.
The advancement system is fantastic.
Typically, the advancement of a Vestige of Divergence echoes its wielder’s own journey of self-discovery, whether that involves triumph or failure. However, a Vestige of Divergence might evolve on its own during moments of duress or desperation for its wielder, granting additional aid in times of need.
Basically this lets you have the midfight anime powerup moment in the middle of your D&D encounters, and it makes for excellent moments of drama. If you’re down on your luck against a powerful boss, your weapon might suddenly unlock, the show’s title theme starts playing with even more strings and horns or something, and you’re on your way to winning the battle you’ve been striving towards.
Every game needs a system like this. And since the Vestiges are pretty straightforward, it’s easy to say “now your sword does X” instead of having to pause combat for four hours while you level up. The book provides some guidelines for the way one of these might advance:
- A character overcomes one of their greatest fears, bravely facing an otherwise paralyzing phobia to save a fellow party member
- A character is beaten within an inch of their life by a long-hated foe. In the face of defeat, they feel a deep dormant strength grow from within
- A character loses a close ally in battle, their anguish and fury stirring the power within a Vestige of Divergence
- A character discovers a facet of their destiny that guides them toward a dangerous cause. Setting aside their fears, they accept their fate and responsibility
- A character successfully takes vengeance against a rival who has long tormented them
- A character known for restraint gives in to the amoral, violent urges that a Vestige of Divergence was forged to hone
Every one of those moments is a powerful moment. I love this system so much–it gives you a way to acknowledge character growth that isn’t just increasing numbers. It lends a lot of weight to doing the thing that matters more to the story, and it captures that triumphant feeling of desperation that grows when the chips have been down for so long.
5th Edition needs more things like this. It’s easily my favorite player-focused addition in a while. Let’s take a look at one of these. We’re going to look at one of the Vestiges. These items come in two flavors, Vestiges, which are generally not evil–and the Arms of the Betrayers, weapons forged with the soul of a fiend for the champions of evil gods. Here’s a look at the weapon known as Ruin’s Wake.
This spear is made from the ivory bone of an ancient gold dragon and carved with an Orc hymn to Gruumsh.
Ruin’s Wake is a sentient chaotic evil weapon with an Intelligence of 20 a Wisdom of 16, and a Charisma of 22. It has hearing and darkvision out to a range of 120 feet.
A slaughter-loving balor named Yarrow-ish lives within Ruin’s Wake. The weapon desires only to draw blood and pushes its wielder to solve problems with violence.
While the spear is Dormant, it’s a +1 spear that deals an extra 1d8 piercing damage to any target it hits, as well as giving you a counterattack as a reaction whenever you’re hit by an attack.
When the spear is Awakened, it becomes a +2 weapon that deals 2d8 extra damage, and can transform into a bolt of lightning once per day, letting you deal 8d6 damage to anyone caught in the midst of it.
If the spear becomes Exalted, it becomes a +3 weapon, gives you a bonus action that grants advantage on attack rolls until the start of your next turn to everyone you choose within 30 feet, and lets you regain hit points when you reduce a foe to 0 hit points.
There are plenty of others, from weapons to items like magical goggles or a magical key. There’s a lot of inventiveness here.
Anyway, those are Vestiges of Divergence, just one of many new features added in Wildemount. Check back this week as we cover the new spells and subclasses in the book.
In the meantime, happy adventuring!