Critical role: Making D&D cool again

Evan Williamson, Staff Writer

Dungeons and Dragons has been a popular game among certain groups since it’s release in 1974. But throughout the 1980’s it was painted as satanic, and even though that perception has gone away for the most part in the early 2000’s, it was still something that you didn’t want to admit to playing. That all changed March 12, 2015; Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer, a voice actor who has been in many anime and video games including his role of McCree in Overwatch, introduced a show that would bring Dungeons and Dragons into popularity that has not been seen before.

“Welcome to the first episode of Critical Role, and what this basically is, is a continuation of our weekly D&D game. Me and a bunch of other likely nerdy and enjoyable voice actors gathering around, rolling some dice, killing some creatures, having some adventure. Now we have the pleasure of bringing it on the stream for you to watch, enjoy, and occasionally interact with.”

The show featured some well-known voice actors that you have most likely heard in some of your favorite shows and video games. Starring Ashley Johnson “Recess,” “Ben 10,” “Blindspot,” etc. as gnome cleric Pike Trickfoot. Laura Bailey “Dragon Ball Z,” “Soul Eater,” etc. as half-elf ranger/ rouge Vex’ahlia. Liam O’Brien “Shadow of Mordor,” “Injustice 2,” etc. as half-elf rogue/paladin/druid Vax’ildan, Vex’s twin brother. Marisha Ray “Star Wars: Battlefront,” “Far Cry 5,” etc. as half-elf druid Keyleth. Sam Riegel “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003,” “Sofia the First,” etc. as gnome bard Scanlan Shorthalt (1-85, 99-115) and human artificer Taryon “Tary” Darrington (85-102). Taliesin Jaffe “Mr. Mom,” “Injustice 2,” etc. as human gunslinger Percival “Percy” Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III. Travis Willingham “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Far Cry 4,” etc as goliath barbarian/fighter Grog Strongjaw; and finally, Orion Acaba “Gormiti,” “Call of DutyBlack Ops III,” etc as dragonborn sorcerer Tiberius Stormwind (1-27).

Critical Role also had a number of special guest stars including Will Friedle, Chris Hardwick, Jon Heder, Joe Manganiello and many others. Campaign 1 of Critical Role features the aforementioned characters that were broken up into five story arcs that lasted from 2015-2017. I’m going to be honest, the first story arc which includes episodes 1-23 which are important to the story has poor sound quality and it also takes you a little bit to identify with the characters which is natural, once you fall in love with the characters you will never want to stop watching.

The second arc is where the show really starts getting good. This arc includes episodes 24-38 and you start seeing relationships develop and you learn more about the characters. The sound quality is better, and this is where you start to fall in love with the characters. It has drama and comedy similar to the first 23 episodes, but the stakes are a lot bigger in this arc.

It is Percy’s main story arc as you see him go through different changes as he seeks revenge and the team leads a rebellion against vampires and other undead foes to restore light to his homeland. The third arc is where things get interesting. It is the longest arc, spanning from episodes 39-84. It pretty much starts out with devastation, as the heroes have to escape an attack from four ancient dragons!

This arc also confirms relationships and you learn a lot about the characters backstories. It is also in this arc that events relevant to the ending start to be seeded with it being a longer arc like a regular Dungeons and Dragons game, but the heroes go to different places to get items to help them on their quest to defeat the Chroma Conclave. If you are not into this series by the end of this arc, then this show isn’t meant for you. The fourth arc has episodes 85-99. This arc again like all the others has drama and comedy. This arc is pretty much the team finishing up business that they had prior to the Conclave attack and the characters continuing to evolve.

The final arc, which has episodes 100-115, has everything starting to come together. I would say this arc has a couple of the most emotional episodes in the campaign. One of the things that made it more emotional is that you know that the characters you have watched for almost three years. It is literally a race against the clock as the team goes to prepare and defeat the “Whispered One” bringing things that happened in arc two to light.

It is very difficult to review a series that I love without giving too much away and the fact that it has 115 episodes that are three to five hours long each makes it impossible. With that being said the popularity of the show brought back Dungeons and Dragons, it is now cool to play it now. The cast of Critical Role goes to many different conventions and the popularity has resulted in a campaign guide and a comic book series. You may not have time to watch or listen to all these episodes and it’s understandable.

The show continued on Jan. 11, 2018, with the same cast but new characters. So if you want a more realistic way of catching up on the first 12 episodes of this campaign go to YouTube. There are also recaps of the first episodes if you just want to dive right in. Episode 13 will begin right where episode 12 ended and frankly I’m excited.

You can watch Critical Role Thursdays on the Geek and Sundry Twitch channel or wait for the episode to be uploaded to YouTube every Monday. With drama and comedy, you don’t want to miss looking into this. “Is it Thursday yet?”