Yeah, you’ve seen me talking about Critical Role a fair bit recently, so I’m sure you expected this. I have two obsessions currently, and I’ll talk about them! Critical Role is a great franchise to get into for fantasy lovers. There are cartoon series, comics, and novels, plus you can listen to the full campaigns in podcast form or watch the videos.
When I was younger, I was one of those people guilty of thinking DnD was lame. Did I roleplay? Yes. But I considered my type of rp so different as it didn’t include dice and was a little less limited. Yeah, I know that’s dumb, but I was a teenager. Since then, I’ve stumbled across the podcast Spellcheck DnD, where a bunch of YA authors played DnD together. I enjoyed listening to it and decided to check out Critical Role after. It took a few tries for me to get into it, but now I have, I wish I’d gotten into it earlier. Mostly so it wouldn’t be taking me so long to catch up.
What Is Critical Role?
Critical Role is a series of DnD campaigns as they were played with a bunch of anime voice actors. It started as a game played in each other’s homes before they were asked if they’d wish to stream on Geek and Sundry. They had to change the form of the game they were playing for the stream, so there is some confusion in early episodes when they can no longer do certain things, but it’s worth getting through it. Since then, Critical Role has broken off and become its own company. They stream on their own channels, have a store, and run a foundation where they earn money for various charities.
All the main Critical Role content is set in the world of Exandria. This is a world that DM Matthew Mercer has created with the help of others. It’s a fascinating world with so much history and potential story. There was recently a campaign played set in the distant past. It was so dark, so fascinating, and utterly heartbreaking. It was a masterclass in both worldbuilding and storytelling and worth listening to or watching. It’s only a four-parter, but some of those episodes are very long- so be warned.
There are three main Critical Role campaigns. There’s a main cast of seven, and for each campaign, they play different characters. Sometimes they connect, but aside from in a few specials, you never see them interact. There are time gaps between each of the campaigns, so technically… you don’t need to watch them all. But I would highly recommend that you do.
Can I enjoy the books/comics/cartoon without watching the campaign?
Technically, yes. The cartoon especially. But watching the campaign will give you a better understanding of the world and characters. You’ll be able to catch easter eggs. But if you’d rather try other media before trying a campaign? You can.
The Legend of Vox Machina is a cartoon they funded on Kickstarter for two seasons based off of campaign 1. It’s on Amazon Prime, and there’s 1 season up so far. It tells the story of a pre-stream fight they did and then moves onto the Briarwood arc. Season 2 looks like it’ll be going into the Chroma Conclave, and I imagine it’ll look at ending Vecna as well.
The style of the cartoon is that of a western fantasy cartoon. The players voice their characters, with other voice actors taking on the roles of the various NPCs. It’s very much an adult cartoon. There’s a little sexual content, but a lot of blood and gore. There’s a particular scene with a tongue getting shot out that always comes to mind. Yuck.
I’ll admit, I think I would’ve enjoyed the cartoon more if I had cared a little bit more about the characters beforehand. Then I would’ve seen the changes. But as a newbie, it did make me curious about the campaign, and I found a favourite character in Percy.
The Comics and Books
As someone who hasn’t read the books yet – as I write this post, Kith and Kin is the next book on my TBR – and doesn’t know when they’ll get to the comics, I don’t know whether you can enjoy them separately. However, I think you probably can.
All the novels and comics are prequels.
If you’re looking for a way to meet the characters from campaigns 1 and 2 without trying out the videos or podcasts, this might be the best way to do it. You’ll be introduced to the world and the characters, plus you’ll see a lot of growth if you go into the actual campaigns. Nothing in these is going to be an overt reference to what happens in the main story, so you won’t feel like you’ll be missing out.
They could be either a great starting point or a great bonus. It just depends on what way around you want to do it.
Where do I find Critical Role content?
You can find the podcast episodes on Spotify and the VODs on Youtube. Just search for the campaign you’re after, and you should be able to find playlists. If you really get into Critical Role, then each episode is streamed every Thursday on both Twitch and YouTube. If you’re not up for them, the episodes are posted on Youtube the following Monday and on Spotify the following Thursday. So you can catch up however you like.
Comics and books can be bought wherever you like to buy books.