Amazon really did us dirty by giving us three episodes of the amazing Vox Machina, and then making us wait for the next one. And sure, we could go back and rewatch the 41 hours of the original Critical Role Campaign 1 – but there might be spoilers! (Certainly for those who didn’t want it originally, and have newly discovered Vox Machina.) Never fear. As always, I’m here with a list of books that can fill the void. Some of these have a stricter *DnD Vibe*, whilst others are a great mix of fantasy heists, problem-solving and magical abilities.
Kings of the Wyld
Was this whole blog post just another excuse to recommend Kings of the Wyld? Yes. Of Course. In fact, you can stop reading now, pick this book up and you’ll make me very happy. Oh, you’re still reading? Well, I guess I’d better explain then. Kings of the Wyld is the first in a trilogy written by the wonderful Nicholas Eames, set in a traditional Fantasy realm, Bands of Mercenaries are treated like rockstars. The bigger the monster you kill, the more of a headliner you are. Clay has retired, though everyone recognises his infamous shield and the broad man attached to it, and it’s only when a friend of his comes to him with a problem that the band is brought back together. There are so many DnD tropes in this book, but they all subvert the traditionally (*cough* misogynistic *cough*) style of High Fantasy. Every character is fully fleshed out and realised, the world-building is clever and fun, the banter is expertly done and I loved, loved, loved the whole ‘Epic Quest with a Band of Idiots’ vibe. Truly DnD in novel form.
The Library of the Unwritten
A librarian, a hero, an angel and a demon walk into Valhalla… and so begins this epic quest. Just like with KOTW, The Library of the Unwritten feels so much like a homebrew campaign that I couldn’t NOT include it on this list. We’ve got LGBTQ+ Rep, compelling (and in some places heartwrenching) storylines, great world-building, subversion of expectations – and this is kind of like Good Omens, if there were a Good Omens module. Here’s looking at you Wizards of the Coast. The third book in the trilogy comes out in a few weeks, and we are excited!
The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Gentlemen Bastards are a gang of con artists, with a treasure trove to rival a Blue Dragon, and Locke Lamora is their charismatic leader. A born liar, and a powerful enemy, Locke and his crew create intricate plots to bring down the aristocracy – drawing the attention of assassins. Lots and lots of assassins. The Lies of Locke Lamora has a slew of great characters (all morally grey), this grimdark fantasy is one of my favourites. Stylistically, it’s very similar to Nevernight, and certainly much darker than Six of Crows, which also has some DnD vibes if you squint and tilt your head. But this book echoes that campaign where you can’t trust any of the NPCs, and the one you do trust might not make it to the end of the book.
The Poison Study
Maybe you’re starting a new campaign, in a dungeon, level one. Haven’t even tapped into your powers yet, have no idea how to fight – but a brooding, dark patron gives you the opportunity to fight for your life, and you take it. That’s Poison Study. A six-book series, with an additional spin-off, we meet Yelena in the dark depths of the castle dungeon, starving, dirty and sentenced to death. But when she’s given the opportunity to become the taster for their highest general, tasting for poisons is the least of her problems. This is a far more expansive world than the previously recommended books, and part of that is because it’s not a trilogy, so there is scope to play with more of the world-building. The characters are great, with intriguing plots, realistic development of strength and magic and a magic system with hard rules. Plus, unlike the previous books mentioned, there’s actually sexual tension in this one.
The Colour of Magic
The Colour of Magic is a classic in fantasy novels. As the first introduction of the Discworld, there is a lot of exposition, drama, fighting, banter and general goofiness. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy playing DnD and watching Critical Role so much. You’ve got Barbarians, Wizards (who can only learn one spell at a time, sound familiar?) tavern brawls and damsels who are a bit put upon. But what I especially like is the direct way Pratchett speaks to his audience, really involving you in the story, tapping into the real world for familiarity, before reminding you that, on the Discworld, the rules are so very different.
You can actually read the prequel to the Vox Machina Animated series here: Vox Machina Origins, a graphic novel all about Vax and Vex, and how they got together with their band of rascals. The artwork looks stunning, and it was co-written by one of the founders of Critical Role, Matt Mercer, who DM’d the original campaign. There is also Vox Machina Kith and Kin, written by Marie Nijkamp, a full novel about Vax and Vex and their quest for gold, knowledge and a cheeky bit of revenge. If you recognise the name Nijkamp, they are the author who brought us Even if We Break, the YA thriller around an RPG gone VERY wrong.
And Finally, Finally…
Maybe Vox Machina made you want to play yourself. DnD is a classic for a reason, and a great way to hang out with your friends – so long as you can find the time! Check out the Player’s Manuel here, which is a core rulebook from Wizards of the Coast. We are able to get other DnD books in, modules and core books. So message us if you’d like to get your hands on a copy! And let us know if there are any books we mist from this list that would make for great void-fillers, whilst we wait for the next episode of Vox Machina!