Every good Dungeons and Dragons DM creates homebrew rules to make their campaigns more fun, and Matt Mercer of Critical Role is no exception. Mercer not only adapts his campaign to suit his players, but he also tweaks the rules to keep his game moving at a faster pace for the enjoyment of his audience. As a result, Critical Role’s campaign rules have some major differences from the RAW (rules as written).
Since Critical Role is played live via Twitch, Matt Mercer has adjusted some of the rules to make things – such as crafting and resting – move faster. Mercer’s campaign is also being played by seasoned D&D veterans with high-level characters, so he uses his homebrew rules to add some extra challenges. Mercer has even created whole new character classes and specializations, which other DMs can purchase online.
Even experienced Dungeons & Dragons players may not pick up on all of the rules Matt Mercer has changed for his campaign. Here are all of the unique Critical Role D&D rules, explained.
In the D&D 5e RAW, according to Roll20, only attack rolls can critically succeed or fail. In Critical Role, Matt Mercer applies crit success and failure rolls to skill checks as well, meaning a player can spectacularly succeed (or fail!) at any of their skills.
In the RAW, taking a potion counts as a full action. Mercer allows his players to take potions as a bonus action instead.
In the D&D 5e RAW, spellcasters can only cast one non-cantrip spell per turn. In Critical Role, players can cast two spells per turn, as long as one of the spells is 2nd level or lower. The second spell counts as a bonus action.
The RAW states that a player whose attack roll is a crit gets to roll twice as many damage dice as usual. In the Critical Role campaign, Matt Mercer simplifies things by having players roll their normal damage dice, he just doubles whatever the resulting value is.
As players reach higher levels in D&D, they gain ready access to resurrection spells and items, making character death less dramatic and more of a slight inconvenience. DM Mercer wanted to increase the gravity of death for his players, so he introduced a Resurrection Challenge. Basically, if a character dies and another player attempts to use a resurrection spell with a cast time longer than one action, the Resurrection Challenge initiated and the party must pass a Contribution skill check
Any party member can contribute using whatever method they wish – for example, a player with a high Religion skill might contribute by praying to the fallen character’s deity. If the combined Contribution skill checks are successful, the resurrection works. If the skill checks are unsuccessful, the dead character’s soul will not return to their body, and the character will be permanently dead.
To speed things up for the Critical Role campaign, Matt Mercer decreased the amount of in-game time it takes to craft magical items, potions, and other items. Depending on the crafting level of the character and the level of the item being made, crafting only takes ¼ – 1/8 of the amount of time specified in the RAW.
In the RAW, a short rest – which allows injured characters to recover some hit points – must last at least an hour of in-game time. In the Critical Role campaign, short rests can be around 15-20 minutes.
In the RAW, the DM can reward a player for role-playing their character exceptionally well by giving them Inspiration, which allows them to gain advantage on their next attack role. Mercer modified his Inspiration, which instead gives the player an extra 1d6 they can add to any future roll.
Intimidating Presence is a Barbarian ability in D&D that, as the name suggests, intimidates another character and gives them the Frightened effect. In the RAW, Intimidating Presence uses the Barbarian’s Charisma modifier. In Critical Role, Intimidating Presence is based on the Barbarian’s Strength modifier, making it a more powerful ability since Barbarians usually have a much higher Strength score than Charisma score.
In addition to his homebrew rules, Matt Mercer has also created some new classes and class specializations, with modules players can purchase online.
A Blood Hunter is essentially a warrior who uses blood magic to make themselves more powerful. Blood Hunters use their own blood to enhance their weapon abilities or control the blood of their enemies through blood curses.
Order of the Lycan is a specialization for the Blood Hunter class that involves the character intentionally being inflicted with lycanthropy, allowing them to become a hybrid form for short periods of time without losing mental control.
Matt Mercer created the Gunslinger martial archetype for the Fighter class, based on the Gunslinger class from Pathfinder. This archetype gives Fighters the ability to design, craft, and use firearms.
The College of the Maestro is a Bardic College (a specialization for the Bard class that unlocks at 3rd level) that Mercer created. It allows for a more support-focused Bard and adds an extra utility to their Bardic Inspiration that allows the Bard to subtly alter and manipulate the battlefield in small ways.
The Lingering Soul can either be played as a starting class, or the DM can provide it as an option to players whose D&D characters have died. Essentially, this turns the player character into a ghost who can hop from body to body, curse their foes, and take advantage of other spectral abilities to seek vengeance for their untimely death.
A great Dungeons and Dragons DM will adapt and change the rules of the game to suit their players. With more than 200 episodes under his belt, is no wonder that Critical Role’s Matt Mercer has created so many unique D&D rules for his campaign.