Critical Cartography is All Over the (Tal’Dorei) Map

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Some of Critical Role‘s most suspenseful and epic battles have taken place on a map meticulously designed by Dungeon Master Matt Mercer. Like all dungeon maps, terrain and obstacles are set with care and with purpose, and play their own roles in the battles that are waged on their surface.

Artist Chris Bissette has taken special note of those maps for his new project, Critical Cartography, and shares them as his own unique, incredible take on fan art.

Minor spoilers for Critical Role follow.

Bissette is a professional Dungeons & Dragons map and campaign designer who’s been playing since the 1990s. He started watching Critical Role because of the involvement of Matt Mercer and Laura Bailey, who he enjoyed watching on Titansgrave. “I’ve been a fan of Matt’s work for a long time — I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve introduced to There Will Be Brawl,” Bissette says.

After starting a Critical Role binge in 2015, he hasn’t missed a week since.

While he’s only tackled three maps from Vox Machina’s escapades so far, Bissette’s goal is to eventually draw every battle map from every episode. He begins his mapmaking with a visit to the indispensable CritRoleStats.

“Currently I’m making heavy use of CritRoleStats’ library of map images as reference,” Bissette says, “trying to piece together a coherent map from the various angles of the photos. I draw the maps by hand with fineliners, then scan them and convert the lines to vectors in Adobe Illustrator.”

It’s not an easy process. Some maps don’t have detailed reference images, so Bissette will need to revisit the battles to see them in action. “I’ll have to go back and rewatch those episodes to figure out what’s going on,” he says. “For example, the final fight with Hotis is one that I really want to do, but Matt’s map was in multiple pieces and I’ll need to watch it to remember how they go together.”

Bissette doesn’t plan to stop any time soon, and hopes to tackle a location Vox Machina hasn’t visited in years next.

“I’m trying to focus on the more recent Dwarven Forge maps first,” says Bissette, “because the catalyst for this whole project was in realising how much I missed seeing Matt’s hand-drawn maps! That said, I really want to map out what we know of Kraghammer, and that’s likely going to be one of the next maps that I draw.”

Above all, Bissette considers his maps project an homage to one of his favorite Dungeon Masters. “It’s a project that’s more for fun than anything else,” he says, “although I also wanted to see more Matt-specific fan art, because so much of the amazing work that gets produced every week focuses exclusively on Vox Machina (and, well, of course it does). I realised that even though I can’t hope to compete with the incredible artists producing the beautiful work we all love, I could produce my own take on fan art.”

Follow Critical Cartography on Twitter to see his latest creations, and be sure to tune into Twitch every Thursday for the next exciting installment of Critical Role.

Which map stands out in your memory? Tell us in the comments.

Map Images: Chris Bissette

Other Images: Geek & Sundry

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