The idea of tabletop gaming as public entertainment is nothing new. Japan published “replays” of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns (with one becoming the famous Record of Lodoss War), and just about anyone with a camera can set up a stream of their friends’ gaming group. But what if the people behind the characters were actually actors — and familiar voices, at that?
That’s the concept behind Critical Role, a gaming group’s D&D 5th Edition campaign done live on Geek & Sundry. But as of 2018, the take of Vox Machina has expanded far beyond its earliest days.
Level 1: The Basics
The first iteration of what we now know as Critical Role was a 4th Edition one-shot run for voice actor Liam O’Brien’s birthday (You may know him as Gaara from Naruto, Archer from Fate/stay night, and Nephrite from the new Sailor Moon dub, to name a few). The players enjoyed themselves so much, they revived it as a Pathfinder game — then switched to D&D 5th Edition when Felicia Day invited them to stream their game nights live.
At the head of the table is Matthew Mercer (who notably voiced McCree in Overwatch and Levi in Attack on Titan), walking Vox Machina through their adventures in the world of Exandria. In the party you’ll find voice talents like Laura Bailey (Jaina Proudmoore in World of Warcraft, Black Widow in multiple Marvel animations), Sam Riegel (Phoenix Wright in the 3DS Ace Attorney games), and Taliesin Jaffe (England in Hetalia), to name a very few. And, of course, every player (and Mercer as every NPC) throws in all their voice acting chops, bringing the characters to life whether you’re watching or listening.
The group’s exploits ran until October of last year, when the campaign ended… but that doesn’t mean the fun is over! They’re back at it with a new campaign and new characters every Thursday night.
Level 2: Guests and Fans
Unsurprisingly, the world of Exandria has received a lot of fans — known as “Critters” — who tune in weekly for the long-form gaming sessions. They also create amazing works of art featuring the characters of Vox Machina, many of which are shared on the show. And participation does have its merits, with many contributors receiving thank-yous in various forms.
Critters also celebrate “Critmas,” sending gifts to the players during the holidays. And should you end up becoming a Critter (which you probably will) and wanting to participate in Critmas (which, again, you probably will), the group has assembled a handy way to do so, linking to each player’s charity of choice.
Vox Machina has also found fans among the industry, and you’ll occasionally see familiar faces popping in for an evening! Look out for Ashly Burch, Kingkiller Chronicle writer Patrick Rothfuss, Wil Wheaton, Chris Hardwick, and (of course) Felicia Day herself!
Level 3: Beyond the Table
If somehow you manage to run out of Critical Role to watch… well, first, lend us your time machine! And second, you’re still not out of Vox Machina madness to enjoy! There are webcomics, comic books, art books, a podcast, and the Talks Machina aftershow. And if you’d like to explore Exandria with your own gaming group, there’s a setting book penned by Matthew Mercer!
Speaking of Mercer, DMs both new and experienced will likely find themselves envying his storytelling style. There’s a lot to learn from watching him in-game, but he’s also on hand to help you out one-on-one in his GM Tips series!
And if somehow that still isn’t enough, you can see new and familiar faces exploring an 80s horror story in Sagas of Sundry: Dread. And this time, the dice are gone, with all decisions being made by a pull from a Jenga tower!
For those interested in helping Critical Role make a difference beyond the gaming table, there’s also their favorite charity, 826LA. The charity helps kids and teens learn and become inspired to write, and sells stories by their participants in the Time Travel Mart.
Ready to start your journey to Exandria and beyond? Dive into Critical Role on VRV!