Is it Thursday Yet? : Critical Role

You might be confused. When I post something titled “Is it Thursday, Yet?” on a Tuesday, you might check your smartphone and answer “No” and you might follow up with “What happens on Thursday?”. Well, I will tell you which was the whole point of this post so I was going to explain anyway. On Thursday nights a program known as Critical Role airs online. It airs on something called Twitch which is a video streaming platform built for live shows. It is produced by a company called Geek and Sundry which was founded by the wonderful Felicia Day. Critical Role is a Dungeons and Dragons show where sessions of a campaign are played live on camera.

The stars of the show are a bunch of professional voice actors who discovered a love of the game. The history of the show is that Liam O’Brien had discussed Dungeons and Dragons with his colleague Matt Mercer with Matt trying to get Liam to play. Eventually, Liam and Sam Riegel decided to take Matt up on the offer for Liam’s birthday. They gathered a group of friends and work acquaintances and did a one-shot adventure. They were all quickly hooked. The group slowly grew to a whopping nine people playing their game in Matt Mercer’s house. After over a year of playing together, they were offered a deal by Geek and Sundry to make their home campaign into a show.

That is the strength of the show, at least for me. The show began as something all of them did for fun and as an excuse to spend time with friends and work colleagues. The whole cast chose to do the show because it was an excuse to get together weekly instead of monthly and they could call it work. The show started small on Twitch and nobody involved knew if the show would attract much interest. The show may have started small but the word started to get out quickly and it was soon gathering subscribers and fans like crazy. The show made a point to interact with fans without letting them guide the show or the characters. This created a strong, mostly positive community that were united in their love for the show and the people involved.

The Cast is as follows:

Matt Mercer – Matt is the Dungeon Master and is therefore in charge of the world that surrounds the player characters. He writes the world of the game in response to the decisions that the character’s decisions. He also voices the hundreds of non-player characters that the players meet and each one is beautifully voiced by Matt in countless different voices that he invents for each character. He is a tough but fair DM and he seems to love bringing his friends through new adventures every week.

Liam O’Brien – In the first campaign, Liam plays Vax’ildan, a half-elf rogue who is reckless and broody but he also enjoys playing pranks on his friends. Vax is the twin of Vex much to the constant confusion of everyone. In the second campaign, Liam plays Caleb, a human Wizard who is fearful and grubby. At some point, Liam loved the game so much that he started to DM for his kids.

Laura Bailey – In the first campaign, Laura plays Vex’ahlia, a half-elf ranger who seeks to hide her lowborn, poor upbringing by acting like royalty. Vex is the twin of Vax, which (again) is confusing. In the second campaign, Laura plays a tiefling cleric (and thief) named Jester who says whatever she is thinking and is constantly stirring the pot. Laura is superstitious about her dice and is constantly switching them out when they start to roll poorly.

Sam Riegel – In the first campaign, Sam plays Scanlan, a gnome bard who handles every situation with bravado, style, and poop jokes. Whenever Scanlan sang in-game, Sam would sing parody versions of popular songs with lyrics to match in-game events. In the second campaign, Sam plays Nott, a female goblin rogue who wears a porcelain doll’s face as a mask. Sam is constantly trolling the fans on camera and adds a ton of easter eggs to the experience.

Travis Willingham – In the first campaign, Travis plays Grog, a goliath barbarian who is bloodthirsty and dumb but he has a good heart deep down. Travis played his character’s stupidity to the hilt. In the second campaign, he plays a half-orc warlock named Fjord who wields sword magic and his razor wit. Travis is hilarious and is constantly hitting up subtle and blatant puns.

Marisha Ray – In the first campaign, Marisha plays Keyleth, a half-elf druid who is basically a clumsy homeschooled girl with a good heart. Keyleth ended up being the conscience of the group. In the second campaign, she plays Beau, a human monk who has a very laid back personality but she stands up for what’s right. Marisha is probably the most excitable cast member.

Taliesin Jaffe – In the first campaign, Taliesin plays Percy, a human gunslinger who invented the world’s first gun and struggles with his morality. Taliesin was very creative and he was constantly trying to introduce new elements into the game. In the second campaign, he plays Mollymauk, a tiefling bloodhunter who used to work for a traveling circus. In both campaigns, Taliesin plays custom-made character classes that were created by Matt.

Ashley Johnson – In the first campaign, Ashley plays Pike, a gnome cleric who was basically team mom. In the second campaign, Ashley plays Yasha, an aasimar barbarian who is tough but fair as she used to be a bouncer for the circus. During the first campaign, Ashley was cast in the TV show Blindspot. Since it films in New York, she often has to miss out on being on the show if she cannot Skype in.

Orion Acaba – In the first campaign, Orion plays Tiberius, a dragonborn sorcerer whose lack of social graces are balanced out by his immense magical power and creativity. Orion was constantly pushing the boundaries of the rules in a bid to be as effective as possible. He left the show about thirty episodes in.

The show has never gotten old to me as Matt and the cast are constantly balancing the progression of the main plot and also each character’s personal goals. The voice actors who play these characters imbue their characters with such personality that it feels like they are real at times. As the first campaign progressed, I got to watch people who were work friends become real friends. The adventures they go on are thrilling, funny, and sad. When my mom asked what it is like to play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, I showed her an episode of Critical Role and said: “just take away the cameras”. I recommend the show but I acknowledge that each episode is long. The episodes average about four hours each and the first campaign was over 447 hours from 115 episodes. The new campaign is only over a dozen episodes and is an easier entry point.

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8 Responses to “Is it Thursday Yet? : Critical Role”

  1. Nilanjana Bose Says:

    Not familiar with this show but any in which the performers have great chemistry and are doing it for fun would be a sure shot hit with viewers imo. A thoroughly exhaustive post, kudos.

    Like

  2. artistpath Says:

    My younger twin brothers played D&D. I was the DM which led to a love of creative writing. I’m going to check this out. Thanks for sharing 😊

    Like

  3. Tasha Duncan-Drake (@beren_writes) Says:

    So that’s what that is! I keep seeing stills from this on Tumblr and I knew it was to do with roll playing, but had no other details than that. Now all those posts make sense :)
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

    Like

  4. Debi O'Neille Says:

    I’ve never heard of the show, but thanks for sharing. I might check it out now, since I got to hear Matt’s voice. And what of voice! :-) I could listen to that all day…

    Like

    • Wolf of Words Says:

      He’s very special. As a heterosexual male, I’m very comfortable saying that I could also listen to his voice all day. There’s a reason that he is a professional voice actor.

      Like

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