Critical Role

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Critical Role
Genre Fantasy
Dungeons & Dragons
Created by Matthew Mercer
Starring Ashley Johnson
Laura Bailey
Liam O'Brien
Marisha Ray
Matthew Mercer
Sam Riegel
Taliesin Jaffe
Travis Willingham
Theme music composer Jason C. Miller
Opening theme "Critical Role Theme Song" (Season 1)
"Critical Role Too"
(Season 2)
Ending theme "Twin Elms" (Season 1)
"Welcome to Wildemount"
(Season 2)
Composer(s) Jason C. Miller
Kevin MacLeod
Justin Bell
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes

115 (Season 1)

26 (Season 2)
Production
Location(s) Los Angeles, California
Running time 180–300 minutes
Distributor Geek & Sundry
Release
Original network Twitch.tv
Geek & Sundry
YouTube
Project Alpha
Original release March 12, 2015 (2015-03-12)
Chronology
Related shows Talks Machina
External links
Website

Critical Role is an American web series produced by Geek & Sundry in which a group of professional voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons. The series is broadcast live on Thursdays at 19:00 PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel, YouTube channel and Project Alpha simultaneously. VODs are also available on Twitch and Project Alpha and on the following Monday on Geek & Sundry's website, YouTube and VRV.[1][2]

Background[edit]

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.[3][4] The group enjoyed this initial game so much that they continued to play, switching to Pathfinder,[5][6][7][8] 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.[6][8] 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.[9]

Format[edit]

Critical Role is a mixture of a traditional weekly show and a modern gaming Twitch stream.[7] Each episode usually runs for 3 to 5 hours,[10][11] is streamed live, and is made available on Geek & Sundry's Twitch channel immediately after airing to their more than 36,000 subscribers and to their YouTube channel the following Monday.[12] Critical Role Season 2 also streams live on Geek & Sundry's YouTube channel every Thursday coinciding with their Twitch broadcast.[13]

Critical Role has played with a live theater audience three times: the first for episode 60, Heredity and Hats, held on July 14, 2016, at the Landmark Theatre in Los Angeles;[14] the second for episode 62, Uninviting Waters, held on August 6, 2016, at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis;[15] and the third for episode 109, The Ominous March, held on August 18, 2017, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis.[16]

A number of the streams have also served as a donation drive to support nonprofit organizations such as St Jude's, 826LA, Extra Life, and Doctors Without Borders.[17]

Campaign structure[edit]

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.

Campaign one[edit]

Campaign one takes place in the world of Exandria, primarily in the continent of Tal'Dorei. 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.

Pre-series history[edit]

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.[18]

On-stream campaign[edit]

The first episode of the show aired on March 12, 2015, and the final episode of the first campaign on October 12, 2017.[9][19]

The Kraghammer story arc (episodes 1–16) takes place primarily in the Underdark, and culminates in a battle between Vox Machina and a beholder named K'varn who is controlling an entire city of Illithid.

The Vasselheim story arc (episodes 17–23) splits the party into two groups to prove their worth to the "Slayer's Take", a local adventurer's guild in the city of Vasselheim. This arc features guest appearances by Felicia Day, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Wil Wheaton, and Will Friedle, adding a new twist to the now-divided adventuring band. This arc also includes the first backstory related episode (episode 22), as Keyleth visits a related druid tribe.

The Briarwood story arc (episodes 24–38) is dedicated to following Percival's backstory, and brings the adventurers up against Lord and Lady Briarwood who are ruling in Percy's ancestral home, Whitestone. The powerful couple turns out to be a vampire and a necromancer, and Vox Machina must stop them from completing a ritual that threatens to endanger the entire kingdom.

The Chroma Conclave story arc (episodes 39–83) begins when four ancient chromatic dragons attack Tal'Dorei and divide the kingdom between them. In order to defeat the dragons, Osysa—the gynosphinx who leads the Slayer's Take—sends Vox Machina on a quest to obtain "The Vestiges of Divergence", a series of famed magic items that are scattered throughout the world.

The Taryon Darrington story arc (episodes 84–99) focuses on Taryon Darrington, an inexperienced aspiring author and adventurer that Vox Machina meets in the city of Ank'Harel in the continent of Marquet after an abrupt exit by Scanlan Shorthalt from the group. Together with Taryon, Vox Machina travel to Vesrah to finish Keyleth's Aramente, to the Nine Hells to kill the Rakshasa Hotis and to Taryon's home Deastok in the continent of Wildemount to confront his father.

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, and features Scanlan rejoining the team to fight the mysteriously returned Lady Briarwood, who is leading a cult based in the Shadowfell that seeks to summon the evil lich demigod Vecna. The first two episodes feature guest appearances by Jon Heder as Lionel "Chod" Gayheart, a slow-witted but kind-hearted half-orc "bardbarian".

Campaign two[edit]

A campaign set in Wildemount, 20 years after Vox Machina's adventures, started on January 11, 2018.[20][21]

The first story arc (episodes 1–4) takes place in Trostenwald, a town in the south of Wildemount. It covers the forming of the new party and its victory against a devil toad.

The Zadash story arc (episodes 5–18) covers the party's travel to Zadash and their dealings there, where they meet with both the upper class and the underbelly of the city, doing work for the legionaries of the empire by clearing out a monster from the sewers, and doing work for The Gentleman, who controls the criminal underground of Zadash.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Actor Campaign 1
(2015–17)
Campaign 2
(2018)
Matthew Mercer[22] Dungeon Master
Ashley Johnson[22] Pike Trickfoot[23]
(gnome cleric)
Yasha
(aasimar barbarian)
Laura Bailey[22] Vex'ahlia
(half-elf ranger/rogue)
Jester Lavore
(tiefling cleric)
Liam O'Brien[22] Vax'ildan
(half-elf rogue/paladin)
Caleb Widogast
(human wizard)
Marisha Ray[22] Keyleth
(half-elf druid)
Beauregard "Beau"
(human monk)
Sam Riegel[22] Scanlan Shorthalt
(gnome bard)
Taryon "Tary" Darrington
(human artificer)
Nott the Brave
(goblin rogue)
Taliesin Jaffe[22] Percival "Percy" Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III
(human "gunslinger" - a custom fighter martial archetype)
Mollymauk "Molly" Tealeaf
(tiefling blood hunter)
Travis Willingham[22] Grog Strongjaw
(goliath barbarian/fighter)
Fjord
(half-orc warlock)
Orion Acaba[22][note 1] Tiberius Stormwind
(dragonborn sorcerer)
N/A

Guests[edit]

Actor Campaign 1
(2015–17)
Campaign 2
(2018)
Felicia Day Lyra
(human wizard)
N/A
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn Zahra Hydris
(tiefling warlock)
N/A
Wil Wheaton Thorbir Falbek
(dwarf fighter)
N/A
Will Friedle Kashaw Vesh
(human cleric)
N/A
Kit Buss Lillith Anioska Daturai
(tiefling wizard)
N/A
Chris Hardwick Gern Blanston
(dragonborn wizard)
N/A
Jason C. Miller Garthok
(half-orc rogue)
N/A
Christopher Perkins Shale
(goliath fighter)
N/A
Patrick Rothfuss Kerrek
(human paladin)
N/A
Noelle Stevenson Tova
(dwarf/werebear blood hunter)
N/A
Jon Heder Lionel "Chod" Gayheart
(half-orc bard/barbarian)
N/A
Darin De Paul Ethrid "Sprigg" Brokenbranch
(gnome rogue)
N/A
Joe Manganiello Arkhan the Cruel
(red dragonborn paladin/barbarian)
N/A
Khary Payton N/A Shakäste
(human cleric)
Mark Hulmes N/A Calianna

(half-elf sorcerer, 1/10 black dragon)

Ashly Burch N/A Keg

(dwarven fighter)

Sumalee Montano N/A TBA

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

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.[5][24] Additionally, the YouTube archived videos have over 17 million views.[25] It has amassed over 68 million overall.[26] 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.[citation needed]

In a January 2016 article, Polygon described Critical Role as a "thoroughly modern" show with a business model that is still developing.[5]

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.[27][28] 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".[29]

Viewer responses to the show have been overwhelmingly positive,[8] with many fans 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.[23]

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.[6] For the 2015 New York con "critical rolls" were available from one of the food vendors.[30]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Streamy Awards Gaming Nominated [31]

Spin-offs[edit]

One-shots[edit]

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.[32]

Webcomic[edit]

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.[33]

Talks Machina[edit]

On September 28, 2016, Geek & Sundry announced Talks Machina, a fan-centered after/talk show hosted by Brian Wayne Foster broadcast live on Twitch on Tuesdays, in which the latest episode is discussed with the cast of Critical Role.[34][35]

Campaign setting books[edit]

On August 8, 2016, Green Ronin Publishing announced that it has 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, in Gen Con 2016.[36] 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.[37] The hardback edition was released at Gen Con 2017 on August 17, 2017,[38] while the PDF version was released on July 17, 2017.[39][40] On July 14, 2017, Green Ronin revealed the cover by Aaron Riley of Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting on Twitter.[41]

Podcast[edit]

On the 100th episode of Critical Role, the launch of the Critical Role podcast was announced; an audio version of the games.[26][42] It is available on iTunes, Google Play Music and at the Geek & Sundry website.[43]

The first campaign's podcast episodes were released in batches of 10-15, between June 8, 2017[26] and Jan 8, 2018.[44] Since the start of the second campaign, the podcast episodes have been released on the following Thursday[45].

Comic book[edit]

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.[46][47][48] 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.[49] It was scheduled to be released before the end of 2017.[50] 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.[51] The first digital issue was released on September 20, 2017.[52][53][54]

Art book[edit]

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.[55]

Charity involvement[edit]

On October 16, 2015, the Extra Life fundraiser episode raised over $20,000 for the Children's Miracle Network during the broadcast.[56] 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.[57] 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 cast member sponsoring each charity.[58]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ From episodes 1−28 only

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Here's Where You Can Watch and Listen to CRITICAL ROLE's New Campaign". Geek & Sundry. January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018. 
  2. ^ "VRV Broadcasts Critical Role". VRV. June 14, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  3. ^ Mercer, Matthew (November 19, 2015). "@jaa0109 @CriticalRole The veeeery first session was very simplified 4E combat rules (we had new players), so we used he sheets/color coding". Twitter. Retrieved September 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ Mercer, Matthew (November 19, 2015). "@jaa0109 @CriticalRole @jaa0109 @CriticalRole @VoiceOfOBrien It was very simplified 4E for just combat abilities.We converted to full Pathfinder right after". Twitter. Retrieved September 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c Kuchera, Ben (January 11, 2016). "How the Voices Behind Your Favorite Games and Shows Are Re-Inventing Live D&D". Polygon. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Burlingame, Russ (September 29, 2016). "With Critical Role, Geek & Sundry Score A Hit By Bringing Friends Together For D&D". Comicbook.com. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Gallagher, Brian (August 2016). "Critical Role Cast Talk D&D, World Building & Stranger Things". TVweb. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c Shea, Brian (December 22, 2016). "How Popular Voice Actors Took A D&D Game Global With Critical Role". Game Informer. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Sheehan, Gavin (June 8, 2017). "'Critical Role' Is About To Throw A Nat 100 On Episodes". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved June 8, 2017. 
  10. ^ Philips, Jevon (February 22, 2017). "'Critical Role' and 'HarmonQuest' prove watching role-playing games can be fun. But 4 hours?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 8, 2017. 
  11. ^ D'Anastasio, Cecilia (June 8, 2017). "Twitch D&D Show 'Critical Role' Is Helping Fuel The Game's Renaissance". Kotaku. Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  12. ^ Ehrbar, Ned (February 21, 2017). ""Critical Role" takes Dungeons and Dragons out of the basement and online". CBS News. Retrieved May 31, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Here's Where You Can Watch and Listen to Critical Role's New Campaign". Geek & Sundry. January 10, 2018. Retrieved April 14, 2018. 
  14. ^ "Critical Role Live: Los Angeles". Eventbrite. Archived from the original on October 8, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Geek & Sundry (and Critical Role) is Going to Indy (and Gen Con)!". Geek & Sundry. July 27, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Buy Your Tickets for Critical Role LIVE Now!". Geek & Sundry. July 7, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Critical Trolls Relinquish Their Dignity For Extra Life | Geek and Sundry". Geek and Sundry. Oct 16, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2018. 
  18. ^ Winter's Crest in Whitestone : Critical Role RPG Show Episode 36 - The Story of Vox Machina (Youtube video). Geek & Sundry. December 18, 2015. Event occurs at 1:36:21. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
  19. ^ Critical Role [@CriticalRole] (October 16, 2017). "The end" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  20. ^ DeVille, Chris (November 16, 2017). "The rise of D&D liveplay is changing how fans approach roleplaying". The Verge. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  21. ^ Knox, Kelly (December 18, 2017). "Critical Role: One Chapter Closes, And Another Begins". Geek & Sundry. Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
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  23. ^ a b Amaya, Erik (August 25, 2016). "Ashley Johnson Discusses Her Critical Role". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  24. ^ Byrd, Matthew (September 14, 2016). "When Did Dungeons & Dragons Become Cool?". Screen Rant. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  25. ^ Wilde, Tyler (January 3, 2018). "The RPGs of 2018". PC Gamer. Retrieved January 12, 2018. 
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  28. ^ Tito, Greg; Mazzanoble, Shelly (June 15, 2016). Liam O'Brien and Laura Bailey on Critical Role. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved June 8, 2017. 
  29. ^ Hall, Charlie (August 20, 2015). "Dungeons & Dragons is booming online, but not in the way you think". Polygon. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  30. ^ Battersby, Charles (October 9, 2015). "Fantasy Food Truck dispenses Nuka-Cola and Cookie Cats at New York Comic Con". Geek.com. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
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  32. ^ e.g.
  33. ^ "Winter's Crest Festival". geekandsundry.com. Geek & Sundry. November 18, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
  34. ^ "Alpha Information Reveals New Shows and the Return of Favorite Series". Geek & Sundry. September 28, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2017. 
  35. ^ Spangler, Todd (September 28, 2016). "Legendary Digital Sets 'Alpha' Subscription VOD Launch Plans, With Nerdist and Geek & Sundry Programming Slate". Variety. Retrieved January 21, 2017. 
  36. ^ Sass, Evan (August 14, 2016). "Geek & Sundry Partners with Green Ronin to Create RPG Books Based on its Groundbreaking Show - Critical Role". Green Ronin Publishing. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
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  38. ^ Sass, Evan (January 9, 2017). "Ronin Roundtable: New Year's Message 2017". Green Ronin Publishing. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
  39. ^ Pramas, Chris (June 1, 2017). "Critical Role Release Plan". Green Ronin Publishing. Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  40. ^ "If you want the PDF edition only of Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, use this link! …". Twitter. Green Ronin Publishing. July 17, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  41. ^ "Delighted to reveal the cover for the Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting! Art by Aaron Riley. Pre-order starts on Monday!". Twitter. Green Ronin Publishing. July 14, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
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  44. ^ "Vox Machina EP. 115 - The Chapter Closes". Geek & Sundry. Jan 8, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2018. 
  45. ^ "Here's Where You Can Watch and Listen to Critical Role's New Campaign". Geek & Sundry. January 10, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2018. 
  46. ^ Matt Mercer On The Official Critical Role Comic Book (Youtube video). Dungeon Life. July 22, 2017. Event occurs at 00:08. Retrieved July 24, 2017. 
  47. ^ "Just announced! An official #CriticalRole comic book written by @mattcolville is coming later this year! #TalksMachina #SDCC". Twitter. Geek & Sundry. July 22, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  48. ^ Colville, Matthew (July 22, 2017). "So this first storyline is not only pre-stream, it's actually pre-game!". Twitter. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  49. ^ Colville, Matthew (July 22, 2017). "Drawn by @fireStash! Colored and lettered by @chris_northrop!". Twitter. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  50. ^ Kenreck, Todd (July 24, 2017). "Critical Role To Get An Official Comic Book Written By Matthew Colville". Forbes. Retrieved July 27, 2017. 
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  54. ^ Knox, Kelly (September 20, 2017). "Get a Peek Into 'Vox Machina: Origins' Issue 1". Geek & Sundry. Retrieved September 23, 2017. 
  55. ^ Romero, Rachel (August 18, 2017). "Announcing the First Critical Role Art Book!". Geek & Sundry. Retrieved August 18, 2017. 
  56. ^ "Critical Trolls Relinquish Their Dignity For Extra Life". Geek & Sundry. October 16, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2017. 
  57. ^ "An Act of #HOOMANISM: Critical Role Gives Back to 826LA". Geek & Sundry. September 25, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2017. 
  58. ^ "A Critter's Guide to Critmas". Geek & Sundry. December 11, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2017. 

External links[edit]