Finally Watching Critical Role

I do my best not to make two roleplay posts in the same week (the same rule applies to film, or internet culture, or video games and so forth) but this is just a very quick post while I hastily finish my preparations for GeekOut Shrewsbury, for which I should – as you read – already being attending, and the nub of the topic is fairly self explanatory:

After a couple of years of being badgered about it – pretty much since the first month the all-star D&D game headed by Matthew Mercer – I am finally watching Critical Role by Geek and Sundry.

Some caveats, I’m only watching them on YouTube so if you watch on Twitch then you are already well ahead of me, and I am only watching Season 2, skipping the first season altogether because that’s two years of three to four hour episodes, many of which have production quality low enough to make enjoyment difficult, namely the varying volumes of the players making it tough to keep full track of the narrative. Fortunately the new series is a new campaign, no need to keep tabs on a consistent story and only a few in-jokes that may be missed but there was an unreserved comment early in episode 1 where they promised they’d do their best not to overdo it. Cheers guys.

For those of you wondering “Hey… what?”

Critical Role is a Twitch series featuring a group of talented voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons that began in march of 2015 and really took off a couple of years ago as the fandom grew to tremendous scale. Celebrity gamers joined for one-shot adventures, Vin Diesel, John Bradbury, Joe Manganiello to name a few, the latter of which is currently pushing for a new Dungeons & Dragons movie. The series has a supporting comic written by one of my favourite gaming YouTubers, Matt Colville, an analysis series “Talks Machina” and a sister show hosted by Wizards of the Coast themselves, Force Grey.

And it is nothing short of entertaining.

While I may prefer the visual style and abbreviated format of Titan’s Grave – another Geek and Sundry production – for ease of watching, there’s no question that the increased support for the show and its ensuing budget increase have made for a series that I find more enjoyable than anything currently showing on standard television. Its long run time per episode does make for tough scheduling, despite the fact that I am traditionally sat at my keyboard most of the day, but I found that watching it while playing Skyrim is an oddly satisfying experience, an excessive dose of fantasy roleplay if you will.

A fascinating comment made by Colville rings very true as I watch: this is not standard D&D play. If you’ve never played a roleplaying game before then do not take Critical Role as your sole arbiter of how a game should go. These are actors hurling themselves into character, but also conscious of the fact that they are characters in a show, meaning that the whole experience is generally far more “presented”, conversations are smoother with people calmly waiting to speak with a minimum of cross-talk, in and out of character voices are clearer, and the whole thing is presented in a way that is much more audience-aware than your average game.

The average game is carnage. For a start their table appears to have no snacks whatsoever, nor does it contain even a trace of the detritus of day-to-day life which players have dismissed as “not too in the way”. Everyone has their own pencils and pens, dice seem to hardly ever end up on the floor, halting play for long enough that everything gets confusing. Players in Critical Role pay attention to the DM, and are quiet when he’s speaking. There are far fewer arguments about rules… check that, I haven’t heard one yet! Six hours so far and not a single word about what the rules say compared to what the DM did.

To compare Critical Role to every day games is to compare a soap opera to real life. Technically it’s all real, but it’s mostly just for show, and real life doesn’t work that way. In short I’m enjoying myself. Go watch Critical Role, new episodes every week on Twitch and YouTube.

Not now though, now you should be at GeekOut.

One thought on “Finally Watching Critical Role”

  1. I honestly recommend watching the first campaign. It’s really good. You can also get it now in podcast format, audio only.

    Something I’ve taken away from Critical Role is putting a bit more work into unique character voices. I’m no voice actor, not like these guys, but I’ve been working on creating a few unique ones for certain characters for the upcoming campaign, mainly villains hahaha

    But yeah, jumping in right now is good, since they’re barely starting and there aren’t 2 years’ worth of character arcs to contend with.


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