On March 4, the cast of Critical Role announced plans of creating an animated special. The team behind the series hoped to raise $750,000 in 45 days but instead got that and some. Within hours, the Kickstarter gained more than $5 million. With the additional funds there will be two addition episodes, which means “44 new minutes of animation from the stellar team at Titmouse.” As of right now, the project has more than 55,700 backers and has raised more than $7.9 million.
Many people wondered how the project was able to garner such support in so little time. Since the series started, people have been asking for an animated show or special. For fans, this was something years in the making. Personally, I only started Critical Role around the start of this year but had also wondered if they would ever have any sort of animation (especially since there are comics in the works).
Before I started the series, I knew little to nothing about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and didn’t really have any real interest in it. Naturally, I didn’t think I’d enjoy watching a live-stream other people play it for hours on end (each episode is about four hours long and there are a lot of episodes). However, I quickly fell in love with the series – just a many others have – and here’s why you might too! Don’t worry, this will be spoiler-free.
What is Critical Role?
Critical Role is a series where experienced voice actors come together to play D&D. The cast had already been playing D&D for months before the thought of a show was even a thought. It started streaming in 2015 and is currently still broadcast live on Thursdays. So far, there are two main campaigns in the series. Campaign one follows the adventures of a group calling themselves Vox Machina. The animated special is based on this. The second campaign is centered in the same universe but takes place 20 or so years after the events of the first campaign. The two campaigns, however, are largely unrelated and people getting into the series can start with one campaign without engaging with the other.
Like any show or movie, Critical Role follows a main plot. Each campaign is composed of multiple story arcs that where the cast gets to do things from battle bloodthirsty beast to buying donuts. Without giving anything away, seeing the way Matthew Mercer (the dungeon master) seems to come up with story lines that are absolutely brilliant on the spot is a sight to see. The players being able to act and react with equal brilliance is a plus. Critical Role will make you root for the players, it’ll make you stress, laugh, and most importantly, it’ll make you cry. There’s no real guarantee of the safety of any of these characters. Because they’re playing D&D, a simple role of dice can seal their fate for better or worse. Tensions can run pretty high in this game because it’s totally unpredictable.
As mentioned before, the main cast of Critical Role is made up entirely of voice actors. If you’ve played popular games like Overwatch, Fallout, Street Fighter, World of Warcraft, The Last of Us, or Persona, then chances are you’ve heard some of the amazing voice acting these people have done. The main cast includes Matthew Mercer, Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jaffe, Ashley Johnson, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham. Often, the show on guest players such as Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike), Khary Payton (The Walking Dead, Teen Titans, Young Justice), Felicia Day (Supernatural, Dragon Age: Redemption, Geek & Sundry). They same skill and prowess that these people bring to their other works is very present in Critical Role.
Every character in Critical Role is played by a different person so each perspective, attitude, and background is entirely fresh. No two characters act the same or react in ways that are too similar. Instead, what you get is a mesh of complex and well-developed characters facing every obstacle thrown their way. One interesting aspect of the series is that we don’t immediately know everything about each character either. We get small hints of lore and backstory sprinkled throughout the episodes.
The characters are also pretty diverse. One popular and understandable complaint about the show is the all white cast. However, it’s apparent that diversity is important to them through how they present their characters and the guests they invite to the show.
One of my favorite things about this series is how easy it is to get access to. The cast streams every Thursday on twitch and the episodes are later uploaded to view for free on YouTube. They’re also available in podcast for those who’d rather listen than watch. The amount of spoken detail given in the episodes means that no matter what platform you use, you won’t miss any of the action.
It’s safe to say the Critical Role has a huge fan base that is loving named ‘critters.’ Each episode I’ve seen on YouTube has around a million views or more. With all these fans, there are a ton of artist, writers, and creators in general. In fact, every episode features a short segment showing off beautifully done fan art and there is also gallery that gets updated regularly. The cast and crew interact with fans online all the time too and it’s so cool to see how much they appreciate and love the content people create. The fandom are also some of the most kind and understanding I’ve seen in awhile – both online and in real life. I had the pleasure of meeting many fans at Katsucon this past February and every interaction was great.
Critical Role has gained popularity for a reason. It’s full of intriguing and gripping stories. Though trying to get into it can seem daunting, it’s not hard at all and is worth a shot. I’m definitely excited to see how the series will grow from here.