We’ve reached the end of the year, which means it’s time to sit and reflect on the media we’ve consumed. In my case, that meant stressing over a topic for a year-end piece and then realizing that maybe I should write about the thing that consumed most of my year. I’m talking about Dungeons and Dragons, more specifically, Critical Role, a web series where a group of “nerdy-ass voice actors” (Matthew Mercer, Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffe, and Marisha Ray) play the classic tabletop RPG.
Critical Role, which started streaming in March of 2015, helped to breathe new life into D&D and opened doors for more people to get into the game. There’s a lot of gatekeeping in nerd spaces that prevented people from getting into tabletop RPGs, but thanks to the internet, those gates are getting easier to get through. There’s a whole diverse community of Critters (fans of Critical Role) that share their love of the show, and who have started D&D campaigns because it.
I started watching Critical Role this year after seeing a bunch of my Twitter friends talking about it and was pretty immediately sucked into it. A Critical Role binge is not for the faint of heart (or the impatient), campaign one alone is around 374 hours of gameplay (thanks Critrolestats) and Campaign two is another 158 hours, but it’s worth it. It wasn’t long before I purchased my first set of dice, got my mom into Critical Role, and bullied my brother into starting a D&D campaign. Nine months, a dozen sets of dice (No, I don’t have a problem), and three different campaigns later, I regret nothing about my Critical Role binge and diving headfirst into D&D. Especially since it’s something I share with my mom, and there’s just something great about watching your mother play a Goliath Barbarian who was raised by wolves or a Gnome Rogue with AD&D.
The world is a terrible, stressful place right now and Critical Role has given people a new creative outlet, and a new thing to laugh about. Okay and cry about. There’s A LOT of crying, but it’s all good because you’re sitting there watching a group of friends play a game and feeling like you’re part of a thing. The characters are an extension of the players and it makes it all incredibly relatable. Some episodes feel like you’re watching a therapy session for someone who’s gone through a similar thing you have and it makes you feel less alone. You get to watch them all defeat personal demons and deal with trauma, and then sometimes you get to see someone make a stupid decision that manages to work out okay. Playing D&D is the same way, sometimes you kill a dragon that destroyed a village and sometimes you poke glowing fungi and take some damage (Yes I did do both of those things, no, I don’t regret a thing).
If you’re interested in checking out Critical Role, there are a few places you can watch or listen. You can watch campaign one and two on youtube, usually, the new episodes go up on youtube on Mondays. Once you’re caught up, you can watch live every Thursday at 7 pm PST on Twitch or Project Alpha. There’s also a podcast if you find that easier. If you’re hesitant to go jumping in, you can also check out the one-offs, called one-shots, they’ve done.
It may not be your thing, but you may fall in love with Critical Role and D&D and find yourself cheering at the first “How do you want to do this?”