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Critical Role’s Candela Obscura Gazes Into the Darkness



A few weeks ago Critical Role debuted its newest campaign: Candela Obscura. io9 had a chance to talk with Matt Mercer, Candela Obscura’s Game Master, and two players—Laura Bailey and Robbie Daymond—about the game, the production, and what’s next for the game at hand.

Candela Obscura is the first original tabletop roleplaying game from Darrington Press, Critical Role’s publishing arm. It is a Forged in the Dark-style game written by Spenser Starke and Rowan Hall using the Illuminated Worlds system, which is being developed by Stras Acimovic and Layla Adelman. The limited-run series takes place in the fictional polis of Newfaire, a coastal city with turn-of-the-century Edwardian sensibilities and a creeping dread from bleeding magick of the under-city.

Linda Codega, io9: Can you give me a short bio for your character?

Laura Bailey: I don’t wanna give too much away—I’ll say that Arlo Black grew up in the high society of New Haven. She had a certain path set in front of her, but when she was… confronted… by a devastating paranormal event, she became quite a different person. Because of what happened, she basically lives half in a ghostly realm and half out. And she’s often distracted with the activity she sees that others are unaware of.

Robbie Daymond: Without giving too much away, Howard’s a real creep. I love taking tropes and turning them on their heads. He’s like a punchy lab wizard scientist. The same way I kind of wanted to make a battle Bard with Campaign Three, I wanted to make this smarty pants who’s also the tank. Howard is a man of mystery. He’s a compulsive, fastidious, hyper-intellectual reductionist, who doesn’t understand the madness that is unfolding around him and wants desperately to, and throughout this journey he will either learn to lean in or be consumed. Dr. Howard is not to be trifled with and you’ll soon see why.


io9: What aspects of the supernatural horror genre are you most excited about?

Bailey: I love to be scared. I think the thing that always gets me the most is what our minds are capable of coming up with when we can’t actually see what is coming after us. And to let someone like Matt Mercer loose in an environment where he can come up with entities and scenarios that are straight out of a nightmare is really fun. It makes you want to lean in and cover your eyes at the same time.

Daymond: I do love a good spooky story. I’m a big horror movie fan. I can’t say my favorite thing is like, you know, the cheap thrills, Fangoria, you know, splatter slasher flicks. But I really love artistic horror films that are genuinely scary. The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the Evil Dead trilogy. I love Phantasm and Poltergeist. Some of my favorites and modern classics like Hereditary and Suspiria, I think, are really really enjoyable films if they’re done well.

I love those types of stories, and bringing them into the Critical Role space, by choosing a character and forming relationships with other people at the table is just such an enticing, exciting aspect of this whole project. I have to honestly say, sitting at that table surrounded with those people is some of the most creatively nurturing and fulfilling experiences that you can have as an actor, because everyone is 100% invested with you. Even when they’re goofing around at the table, they’ll drop a bit of [roleplay] and they’ll snap right into it, and you’re there.

So I am overall so stoked to play, as a player. But the thing I’m most excited about is after those credits roll, and the first episode’s over, or the last episode’s over, I can’t wait for the people watching to go play. I had so much fun at the table, playing with everyone that I want them to have that experience. I think it’s a really accessible, fun, bite-sized experience that you can make a whole meal out of [with] your friends. And if anything, I’m just most excited about hearing about other people’s stories playing it

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io9: How does this system support the supernatural horror Candela Obscura is going for? What about this game is built to facilitate those Edwardian spiritualism vibes?

Matt Mercer: The Illuminated Worlds system is an elegant and streamlined system for a multitude of genres, much like the games that inspired it, allowing us to tailor it to Candela and the moods/themes we want to explore within it rather easily. It allows fleshing out of the player options and abilities to allow characters to find moments to shine throughout an investigation and offer tools to tackle creative solutions to challenging problems. Players feel empowered but fragile against unknown terrors, and you are continuously pushed to find and use what you can to succeed beyond just “dealing the most damage.” Every action moves the story forward in some way, with five out of the six straight die outcomes bringing some form of consequence or complication, so there is a sense of danger and risk to every action that is both exciting and plays well into the tension and stakes of a dangerous gothic horror setting.

io9: You’ve guested on a ton of Critical Role projects—what keeps you coming back to TTRPG Actual Plays?

Daymond: What keeps me coming back to TTRPG actual plays? Why did they keep asking me? I don’t know. As long as they keep asking me I’m gonna keep saying yes. They’re awesome! I feel like as a lifelong performer and improviser that this is a medium that I’d never really imagined myself in. I mean, had it not been for a phone call from [Critical Role’s] Marisha [Ray], you know, two and a half or three years ago, I definitely wouldn’t be pursuing this by any means. But now that I’m here, ding dang it sure is fun! I mean, I love the community. I love the stories. I love the ability to create and own a character and I love the connections you can create. I love lifting up my other artists at the table. And I love just playing. How often do you get to set down your phone for five hours and just go into a magical world with the people that you love? Everyone at that table has become a friend and I enjoy them as people and respect them as artists immensely. I will roll whenever they want me to.

Image for article titled Critical Role's Candela Obscura Gazes Into the Darkness

io9: What was it like learning this new system?

Bailey: It was actually really easy to pick up the system. We spent a few hours going over a lot of the options for building characters. That’s always the thing I want to spend the most time on, because it’s somebody you’re going to be with for quite awhile. There’s a really fun range of character types to choose from and each comes with a unique skill set. The fun part is that the system really makes you aware of your surroundings. It helps you think outside the box and figure out ways to use your environment to help you.

io9: This is the first full campaign to be played not only in a totally new system, but in a unique system. Are you excited to try something new?

Mercer: I am definitely excited! Being able to lean into different systems with varying genres is both exhilarating and rewarding. While I deeply enjoy our main Critical Role campaigns, and it’s where my heart lies, being able to expand on occasion and fiddle with new game systems keeps our minds fresh and excited outside of Exandria. I grew up playing many different TTRPGs, and experiencing the breadth of systems out there that exist, or creating your own, only helps to shore up your skills while providing new joys.


New episodes of Candela Obscura air on the last Thursday of each month on Critical Role’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Podcast episodes and YouTube VOD will be available two weeks after the initial broadcast.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

Source: Gizmodo

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