Dungeons & Dragons
|Created by||Matthew Mercer|
|Based on||Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition|
|Theme music composer||Jason C. Miller|
|Opening theme||"Critical Role Theme Song" (Season 1)|
"Critical Role Too"
(Season 2, episodes 1-43)
"Your Turn to Roll"
(Season 2, episodes 44-present)
|Ending theme||"Twin Elms" (Season 1)|
"Welcome to Wildemount"
|Composer(s)||Jason C. Miller|
Justin E. Bell
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||115 (Season 1)|
55 (Season 2)
|Production location(s)||Los Angeles, California|
|Running time||Approximately 180–360 minutes per episode|
|Original release||March 12, 2015|
|Related shows||Talks Machina|
Critical Role is an American web series in which a group of professional voice actors plays Dungeons & Dragons. The series is broadcast live on Thursdays at 19:00 PT on the Critical Role Twitch channel, with the video on demand (VOD) being available to Twitch subscribers immediately after the broadcast. On the Monday following the live stream, the VODs are made available for the public on Critical Role's website and uploaded to their YouTube channel.
- 1 Background
- 2 Format
- 3 Campaign structure
- 4 Cast and characters
- 5 Reception
- 6 Spin-offs
- 7 Charity involvement
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Matthew Mercer serves as the show's Dungeon Master, running an ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The first campaign began two years prior to the series as a one-time simplified Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition game for Liam O'Brien's birthday. The group enjoyed this initial game so much that they continued to play, switching to Pathfinder, and continuing their story as the Super High Intensity Team. Felicia Day had heard about their private home game from Ashley Johnson and approached the group about doing it on-stream with Geek & Sundry. In order to streamline gameplay for the live show, the game's characters were converted from Pathfinder to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition before the web series began airing on March 12, 2015.
In June 2018, Critical Role launched its own Twitch and YouTube channels, with cast member Marisha Ray becoming the creative director of the franchise. Critical Role then started to self-produce new shows and content which did not air on Geek & Sundry's channels. The sets for their shows moved from Legendary Digital Network's studios to Critical Role's own studios in July 2018. In February 2019, Critical Role's amicable split from Geek & Sundry and Legendary Digital Networks was completed, with live broadcasts of their shows and VODs airing exclusively on Critical Role's channels. "Legacy episodes" (the entirety of Campaign 1, the first 51 episodes of Campaign 2, as well as the first 100 episodes of discussion show Talks Machina) will remain available in Geek & Sundry's archives on YouTube, Twitch, and Alpha.
Critical Role is a mixture of a traditional weekly show and a modern gaming Twitch stream. Each episode usually runs for 3 to 6 hours, is streamed live on Critical Role's and Geek & Sundry's Twitch channels, before being made available for subscribers only on Critical Role's Twitch channel immediately after airing. VODs are available on Critical Role's YouTube channel the following Monday.
Critical Role has played with a live theater audience six times: the first for episode 60, Heredity and Hats, held on July 14, 2016, at the Landmark Theatre in Los Angeles; the second for episode 62, Uninviting Waters, held on August 6, 2016, at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis; the third for episode 109, The Ominous March, held on August 18, 2017, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis; the fourth for episode 29 of the second campaign, The Stalking Nightmare, held on August 3, 2018, at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis;, the fifth for episode 37 of the second campaign, Dangerous Liaisons, held on October 4th, 2018, at the United Palace Theatre in New York, and the sixth for a one-shot game called Vox Machina: The Search for Grog, held on January 19, 2019, at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel in LA.
The Critical Role storyline occurs in a campaign made up of a series of story arcs that are played over multiple episodes. Between the major story arcs, the characters rest, resupply, or go on side quests. In addition, each character has a backstory, an unfinished part of their history that enters into the campaign at irregular intervals.
Both campaigns are set in Exandria, a world of Matthew Mercer's creation.
Campaign one takes place primarily in Tal'Dorei, a continent of Exandria. It follows the exploits of an adventuring party known as Vox Machina, previously known as the Super High-Intensity Team, a rag-tag group of mercenaries originally formed in the swamp-town of Stilben. It consists of Vax'ildan, Vex'ahlia, Pike, Grog, Scanlan, Tiberius, Keyleth and Percy.
In their adventures prior to the start of the series, the group saved the family of Sovereign Uriel Tal'Dorei III, ruler of Tal'Dorei and its capital city of Emon. In appreciation, Uriel gave the group seats on the city council, and provided them with a residence called Greyskull Keep, which is located just outside the city. Episode 36, titled Winter's Crest in Whitestone, features a summary of the pre-series history (starting 1 hour 35 minutes into the episode), with artwork created by Wendy Sullivan Green and voice-overs provided by the cast.
The Kraghammer story arc (episodes 1–16) jumps in at a point in Vox Machina's story where the cast's original home game left off. It takes place primarily in the subterrenean depths of the Underdark, and culminates in a battle between Vox Machina and a dangerous beholder by the name of K'varn, who is controlling an entire city of Illithid.
The Vasselheim story arc (episodes 17–23) splits the party into two groups, who seek to prove their worth to the "Slayer's Take", a local adventurer's guild in the ancient city of Vasselheim, by taking on dangerous missions. This arc features multi-episode guest appearances by Felicia Day (Lyra), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Zahra), Wil Wheaton (Thorbir), and Will Friedle (Kashaw), adding a new twist to the now-divided adventuring band. This arc also includes the first episode (episode 22) that touches on a character's backstory, as Keyleth visits another druid tribe to continue her Aramenté, a journey to become the leader of her people.
The Briarwood story arc (episodes 24–38) leads Vox Machina to Percy's ancestral home, the city of Whitestone, which was once ruled by his family. The party have to fight for control over Whitestone against Lord and Lady Briarwood, who are responsible for the demise of most of the de Rolo family and have taken the city as their own. The Briarwood's ties into necromancy and a secret cult make things even more dangerous, and Vox Machina must stop them from completing a ritual that threatens to endanger the entire kingdom. During the early stages of this arc, Tiberius leaves Vox Machina for good.
The Chroma Conclave story arc (episodes 39–83) begins with the attack of four ancient chromatic dragons on Emon, the capital of Tal'Dorei, with the Sovereign and other important political figures falling in the onslaught. The dragons take control over and divide the kingdom, and in order to defeat them, Vox Machina needs more power than they currently have. They search for the "Vestiges of Divergence", famed and extremely powerful magical items from ages passed, which are scattered throughout the world. During the ongoing battles against the powerful dragons of the Chroma Conclave, the backstories of some characters are also further explored. Smaller arcs focus on Grog's herd that once exiled him, the last figure from Percy's traumatic past, as well as a strained family reunion for the twins, Vex and Vax.
The Taryon Darrington story arc (episodes 84–99) begins with the departure of Scanlan from the group, whose mental problems and disagreements with the group culminate in an argument that shakes the party. While traveling to Ank'Harel on the continent of Marquet, Vox Machina meet Taryon Darrington, an inexperienced aspiring author and adventurer. Adventuring together with Taryon, some smaller story arcs see Vox Machina helping Keyleth (who seeks to complete her Aramenté), literally traveling to hell, as well as dealing with Taryon's family, who reside in the Dwendalian Empire on the continent of Wildemount. During this arc, which is loosely defined by Scanlan's absence and Taryon's presence in the party, Pike's family also makes an appearance and her relationship with them is explored. The arc includes a one year time skip between episodes 94 and 95.
The Cult of Vecna story arc (episodes 99–115) revisits the mysterious and dangerous artifact that was activated beneath Whitestone Castle during the Briarwood story arc. Scanlan finally rejoins Vox Machina, while the party now has to fight a cult which tries to summon the evil lich demigod Vecna, who seeks to ascend to true godhood and rule Exandria. His ascension actually succeeds and he becomes the only god on this side of the Divine Gate, which keeps the other gods from directly interfering in the world they created. With the indirect help of some of the prime deities who aid them with special powers, Vox Machina are the only group of heroes who can possibly stop the "Whispered One" in one gigantic final battle.
The "Vox Machina: The Search for Grog" one shot was played at a live show on January 19, 2019, and released on YouTube February 23, 2019. This in-canon game explored an event of the final episode of campaign one, which could not be explored at the time. Several additional Vox Machina one-shots are planned.
The second campaign began on January 11, 2018. The story of the second campaign follows the exploits of an adventuring party known as The Mighty Nein and takes place on the continent of Wildemount, which was briefly visited during the Vox Machina campaign. The Mighty Nein campaign is set 20 years after Vox Machina's final battle against Vecna.
The Trostenwald/Alfield story arc (episodes 1–7) serves as an origin story for the new adventuring party, whose members meet for the first time in Trostenwald, a town in the south of the Dwendalian Empire. Seven very different individuals join forces to investigate a zombie attack in a circus for which two of them worked previously. After seemingly solving the mystery and freeing themselves from accusations against them, the seven individuals (Fjord, Beau, Caleb, Nott, Jester, Mollymauk and Yasha) agree to form a traveling party. They agree to travel north towards the city of Zadash, but run into trouble in the town of Alfield. After lending their assistance to the crownsguard during a gnoll attack and its aftermath, the group come up with the party name "The Mighty Nein" for the first time.
The Zadash story arc (episodes 8–18) covers the party's adventures in the city of Zadash. They come into contact with both the upper class and the underbelly of the city, do a job for the crownsguard, briefly support a secret group that fights corrupt high ranking government officials and eventually start working for The Gentleman, an enigmatic figure who controls the criminal underground of Zadash. During their time in the city, the Mighty Nein also participate in a fighting tournament and witness the beginning signs of war between the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty, rulers of the eastern country of Xhorhas.
In the Northward story arc (episodes 19-31), the Mighty Nein leave Zadash to deal with two important missions for the Gentleman. Their first errand takes them westwards to Berleben, a town in the Labenda Swamp, and eventually into the swamp itself, where they investigate a smugglers' safe house that went dark. Their second errand takes them northwards and outside of the Empire's borders, where they are supposed to aid an ally of the Gentleman in the lawless city of Shady Creek Run. During this journey, the Mighty Nein encounter a dangerous group of slavers. Three party members are kidnapped, while the others desperately try to save them. During their fights against the slavers and their allies, the party experiences hardships, loss and grief, but also gains a new ally (Caduceus). In the aftermath of their second errand, the party returns to Zadash and - for now - finishes up their work for the Gentleman.
The False Serpent arc (episodes 32-47) leads the Mighty Nein out of the Empire on a more private mission, as they travel southwards towards the city states of the Menagerie Coast, where they hope to find out more about Fjord's strange and growing powers. After briefly visiting Jester's mother and following certain leads in the coastal city of Nicodranas, a crazy series of events leads to the Mighty Nein sailing a boat onto the Lucidian Ocean. While learning more about Fjord's powers and the ancient being that grants them to him, the party is forced into working with a cunning pirate captain and eventually ends up in Darktow, an island controlled by the pirate group known as the Revelry. After severing their ties with the pirates, Fjord figures out that continuing on his path may cause a catastrophe in the process, and the party leaves the ocean. They head back into the Dwendalian Empire after hearing about developments in the now ongoing war with Xhorhas, specifically an attack close to Nott's home.
In the current story arc (ongoing from Episode 48), the Mighty Nein head to Felderwin, a city east of Zadash. They learn more about the surprising Kryn attack behind the war's frontlines, during which a person was taken. This development forces Nott to open up about herself, and the party learns that she is not exactly who she said she was - for example that she hasn't always been a goblin. Embarking on a rescue mission to save Nott's loved one, the party travels underground to avoid the frontlines and heads into the wastelands of Xhorhas. On their way towards Ghor Dranas, the capital of Xhorhas, where they believe Nott's loved one is being held, they stop in Asarius, the city of beasts.
Cast and characters
Currently, there are eight main cast members. A number of guest players have appeared on the show over the years.
The cast, their character(s), as well as that character's race and class for the two campaigns are listed below. When a player has taken the option of multiclassing, the classes are listed in the order taken by the player.
Since October 15, 2015,[update] after Orion Acaba left the show, there have been eight credited cast members.
|Actor||Campaign 1: Vox Machina
(2015–17; 2019 (One-Shot))
|Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein|
|Matthew Mercer||Dungeon Master|
|Ashley Johnson||Pike Trickfoot
|Yasha Nydoorin |
|Laura Bailey||Vex'ahlia "Vex" Vessar
(half-elf ranger / rogue)
|Liam O'Brien||Vax'ildan "Vax" Vessar
(half-elf rogue / paladin)
|Caleb Widogast |
|Marisha Ray||Keyleth of the Air Ashari
|Beauregard "Beau" |
|Sam Riegel||Scanlan Shorthalt [note 2]
|Nott the Brave |
|Taliesin Jaffe||Percival "Percy" Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III
(human gunslinger) [note 4]
|Mollymauk "Molly" Tealeaf [note 5]|
(tiefling blood hunter) [note 4]
|Travis Willingham||Grog Strongjaw
(goliath barbarian / fighter)
Sir Bertrand Bell [note 1]
|Orion Acaba [note 7]||Tiberius Stormwind
Guests are an irregular occurrence on the show. So far, Chris Perkins is the only guest to have appeared in both the first and second campaigns.
|Mary Elizabeth McGlynn||Zahra Hydris
|Wil Wheaton||Thorbir Falbek
|Will Friedle||Kashaw Vesh
|Kit Buss||Lillith Anioska Daturai
|Chris Hardwick||Gern Blanston
|Jason C. Miller||Garthok
(dwarf/werebear blood hunter)
|Jon Heder||Lionel "Chod" Gayheart
|Darin De Paul||Ethrid "Sprigg" Brokenbranch
|Joe Manganiello||Arkhan the Cruel
(red dragonborn paladin/barbarian)
(half-elf sorcerer, 1/10 black dragon)
|Sumalee Montano||N/A||Nila |
|Deborah Ann Woll||N/A||Twiggy|
(forest gnome rogue)
As of January 2016, each episode of the show has been watched for more than a million minutes on Twitch, totaling over 37 million minutes watched for the whole series. Additionally, the YouTube archived videos have over 17 million views. It has amassed over 68 million views overall. On January 11, 2018, the second campaign's first episode peaked at 135 thousand viewers on Twitch and YouTube, compared to the first campaign finale's 40,000 viewers.
The show has caught the attention of the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, who discussed it at length on two occasions on their official D&D podcast, along with cast members Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, Liam O'Brien, Laura Bailey and former member Orion Acaba. In an interview with the online gaming magazine Polygon, lead D&D designer Mike Mearls commented about the show, stating "It was really cool, as a guy who works on Dungeons & Dragons, to open up my Twitch app on my iPad and see Dungeons & Dragons in the first row".
Viewer responses to the show have been overwhelmingly positive, with many fans, nicknamed "Critters", creating content such as fanart, fan fiction, character-inspired music, and fan-created merchandise for the show. Fans also send in many gifts for the cast and crew, resulting in occasional "Critmas" episodes during which the gifts are opened and distributed.
The cast of Critical Role are active participants on sci-fi/comics convention circuits, appearing for panels and signings at San Diego and New York Comic Cons. For the 2015 New York con, "critical rolls" were available from one of the food vendors.
|2018||Streamy Awards||Live Streamer||Nominated|||
Instead of an episode in the main storyline, the series will occasionally feature a one-shot game, often with several guests replacing absent cast members. Some have a tangential relationship to the main storyline; others are fully independent adventures. Not all one-shots use the Dungeons & Dragons game system, as some are based on different, often one-page RPG games. As of February 2019, over 20 one-shots have aired, and every cast member - with the exception of Ashley Johnson - has taken up the duties of Dungeon Master/game master at least once.
On September 28, 2016, Geek & Sundry announced Talks Machina, a fan-centered after/talk show hosted by Brian Wayne Foster, a close friend of the cast. The first 100 episodes of the show were broadcast on Geek & Sundry's channels and are available via a playlist on Critical Role's website. Beginning in February 2019 and coinciding with Critical Role's split from Geek & Sundry, new episodes now air live on Critical Role's Twitch channel on Tuesdays at 18:45 PT. The VODs are available to Twitch subscribers immediately after the show and are also uploaded to YouTube on the following Thursday. On Talks Machina, the latest episode of Critical Role is discussed with some members of the cast of Critical Role, who answer fan questions and give some insight on in-game decisions.
Hosted by Critical Role production coordinator Dani Carr, Critical Recap quickly summarizes the events of the previous week's episode of Critical Role. Starting with Episode 11 of the second campaign, Critical Recap aired on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel before the Critical Role live stream on Thursdays. After Critical Role's split from Geek & Sundry, new episodes of Critical Recap are now premiering on Critical Role's YouTube channel every Tuesday, while a rebroadcast airs on the Critical Role Twitch channel immediately before the Critical Role live stream on Thursdays.
On March 4 2019, the cast launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a 22 minute animation called Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina Animated Special. The animated story will be set just before the streaming portion of the campaign started – when the players where around level seven – during a time when, canonically, there is an in-game period of roughly six months when the (then eight) members of Vox Machina were not all together at the same time. For a single 22-minute animated short, fulfilling the other campaign rewards, and the fees associated with a crowdfunding campaign; the cast projected the a cost of US$750,000. Not knowing how long this would take to raise, the campaign length was set at 45 days.
Within an hour of launch, however, the Kickstarter had reached more than $1,000,000. At the end of the first full day, all of the announced stretch goals had been unlocked, and the total had reached more than $4.3 million. With four 22-minute episodes funded in first 24 hours; additional stretch goals were added, expanding the project into an animated series. The first two episodes will cover the pre-stream story arc. The subsequent episodes will adapt the Briarwoods' arc, also of the Vox Machina campaign. As of March 18, 2019[update], eight 22-minute episodes have been funded.
The cast will reprise their respective Vox Machina roles, with the exception of Orion Acaba. The animated show will be written by Jennifer Muro, and animated by Titmouse, Inc. The project is slated for release in late 2020.
Geek & Sundry produced a six-panel series of webcomics weekly from November to December 2015 that describes a "Winter's Crest Festival" that occurred pre-series. The webcomics are written by cast members Marisha Ray and Taliesin Jaffe, and feature artwork by Wendy Sullivan Green.
On July 22, 2017, at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International, a comic book that tells the tales of the beginning of Vox Machina pre-stream and pre-game was announced. It is written by Matthew Colville, drawn by Olivia Samson (a long-time member of the Critical Role community), and colored and lettered by Chris Northrop. It was scheduled to be released before the end of 2017. On September 6, 2017, Geek & Sundry announced that they partnered with Dark Horse Comics for the comic book. They also revealed the cover for the first digital issue by Deborah Hauber and release dates. It was announced to be available digitally beginning September 20, with a physical graphic anthology to follow in Spring 2018. The first digital issue was released on September 20, 2017. A trade paperback Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins series I was announced on March 11, 2019, and is due to be released October 15, 2019.
On March 11, 2019, a second set of six comic books was announced continuing the Vox Machina Origins stories. Also published by Dark Horse Comics, Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins series II is written by Jody Houser, drawn by Olivia Samson, colored by MSASSYK, and lettered by Ariana Maher. Issue one will release July 10, 2019.
Campaign setting books
On August 8, 2016, Green Ronin Publishing announced that it had signed a licensing agreement with Geek & Sundry to release roleplaying game sourcebooks based on Critical Role. The announcement was made by Chris Pramas, president of Green Ronin and Ryan Copple, General Manager of Geek & Sundry, live on the 62nd episode, Uninviting Waters, at Gen Con 2016. All books in the series will use the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules. The books will be written by Matthew Mercer and will be set in the world of Exandria.
The first book, titled Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, is set on the continent of Tal'Dorei where most of Vox Machina’s adventures take place. The hardback edition was released at Gen Con 2017 on August 17, 2017, while the PDF version was released on July 17, 2017. On July 14, 2017, Green Ronin revealed the cover by Aaron Riley of Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting on Twitter.
On the 100th episode of Critical Role, the launch of the Critical Role podcast was announced: an audio version of the game sessions. It is available on iTunes, Google Play Music, and at the Geek & Sundry website.
The first campaign's podcast episodes were released in batches of 10-15, between June 8, 2017 and January 8, 2018. Since the start of the second campaign, the podcast episodes have been released on the following Thursday.
On August 18, 2017, at a live show in Indianapolis, The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. I: The Tale of Vox Machina, a Critical Role art book was announced. It includes backstories for Vox Machina, as well as some of the NPCs. It features artwork from the community. On August 3, 2018, was announced. The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. II: The Legend of Vox Machina, a sequel to the first art book, was released November, 2018.
The first Mighty Nein art book The Chronicles of Exandria: The Mighty Nein was announced on March 11, 2019. It is expected to be published late 2019.
Obsidian's RPG Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire received a free DLC entitled Critical Role Pack on launch day, adding additional character voices and portraits. The set corresponds with eight characters from the first campaign, making up the bulk of Vox Machina. Additionally, the character Arkhan the Cruel appears as a playable character in Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms. The character's inclusion was announced on Talks Machina as part of a sponsorship deal.
Licensed miniature figures
In July 2018, Steamforged Games raised just over £900,000 (approx US$1.2m) in a Kickstarter campaign for a collection of miniature figures based on player characters (PCs) and non-player characters (NPCs) from both Critical Role campaigns. The Kickstarter campaign included miniatures of both Vox Machina and the Mighty Nein, which will go on commercial sale at a date not yet announced. The Kickstarter also included exclusive miniatures of Taryon Darrington, Doty, Pumat Prime, and three Pumat Sols. Since then, Steamforge Games has released a number of officially licensed miniatures of PCs and NPCs from both the first and second campaigns as limited editions.
On October 16, 2015, the Extra Life fundraiser episode raised over $20,000 for the Children's Miracle Network during the broadcast. This charity episode included a reappearance of the Critical Rejects, as well as three members of the Critical Role cast, Liam O'Brien, Marisha Ray, and Orion Acaba.
During the show, viewers are invited to donate money to 826LA, which is later provided in a lump sum to the charity. Donation amounts and messages appear live on the stream, and on earlier episodes, a list of donors was read at the end of each session. During Geek & Sundry's 2015 Extra Life fundraiser, a special interactive episode was broadcast. This episode alone brought in over $20,000 for the Children's Miracle Network, and the event as a whole raised over $76,000. In late November 2015, Geek & Sundry's Twitch channel held a special Doctors Without Borders fundraiser, with nearly half of the $10,000 goal being raised during the 4-hour Critical Role broadcast. In December 2015, the cast released a "Critter's Guide to Critmas" in response to the flood of gifts they were receiving from fans, asking them to instead donate to a variety of charities, with a different cast member sponsoring each charity.
In Spring 2018, the show held a charity drive for 826 LA which resulted in community members donating over $50,000, which was matched by a generous community member. This charity drive resulted in some prizes being unlocked for the community, such as discount codes for D&D Beyond and Wyrmwood Gaming, a second Fireside Chat with Matt Mercer, and a second Honey Heist run by Marisha Ray.
- Vox Machina: The Search for Grog (One-Shot)
- Episodes 1−85, 99-115
- Episodes 85−102
- A homebrew class developed by Matthew Mercer.
- Episodes 1−26
- Episodes 28-present
- Episodes 1−28
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