Critical Role is a Twitch and YouTube show in which a bunch of nerdy voice actors sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons. And it is one of the best narrative shows out there, period.
I’ve been a Critical Role fan for years. When I started watching the show, there were about 25 episodes, the cast ate pizza ordered for them by viewers on stream, and were thrilled by their small growing fan base. Fast forward to this week, 160-ish episodes in, and their Kickstarter for an animated special reached $1 million within an hour. It’s currently on $4.5 million and it’s been up for just over a day.
So now Critical Role is spreading through nerd media, and people have questions. Questions like what is this thing, and why should I care, and Rhiannon, please, when will you stop trying to convert everyone to your obsession? (Never!)
So here are my top 7 reasons why you should be watching Critical Role RIGHT NOW:
1. Dungeons and Dragons is THE BEST
And if you’ve never played it and think it’s boring, super nerdy nonsense… welcome, friend. Join us in the world’s greatest fantasy video game, where you can literally make your character do anything you want to do — or at least attempt it, depending on the dice.
2. The show is super chill
Critical Role is just a bunch of nerds and best friends hanging out playing D&D. Critical Role is my lifesaver whenever I’m feeling less than great or like I need an easy distraction. It’s got that gentle, welcoming, just-chilling-out feel… at least until the plot twists start coming.
3. The storytelling is AMAZING
The actors put so much depth into their characters and into the world they’re playing in, and so much emotion too. And if you get invested in a TV character over a season, imagine how invested you can get in characters after 400 hours of play.
4. It will make you laugh until you can’t breathe
Their improv skills are on point. They are professional actors, after all, and they treat the series as half radio play, half improv show, always jumping straight into any potential hilarious insanity.
5. You can’t predict what will happen
Although players can choose what they want to attempt to do, outcomes are dictated by the dice gods. Whether people live or die, have epic success or hilarious failure… you can’t predict what might happen based on narrative tropes or expectations. Anything could happen, and it’s tenser than any TV show I’ve ever watched, because not even the people involved themselves can dictate the outcome.
6. It gets EPIC
Sometimes, the dice provide. The dice know what the story needs. The dice deliver that cheer-worthy natural 20 in the moment when all seemed lost, or throw out an absolute failure at just the moment when failure will really change everything. It’s thrilling, gripping stuff.
7. The cast are just generally awesome people
All of the players just seem like genuine, kind, funny, loving people, who work hard to tell the best, most entertaining, most inclusive story they can, who love one another and love their fans. You just really want to spend time virtually “hanging out” with them, watching them play D&D. And clearly, I’m not alone in this — recently, the Critical Role brand expanded to its own Twitch and YouTube channel, with other show concepts that are frequently just “hang out with the cast as they play retro games/learn to draw/play RDR2/do goat yoga.” And it’s GREAT.
So if you’re interested…
Check out the start of Campaign 2 on YouTube. You can also start with Campaign 1, but 2 is the current one, and it starts with much higher production values to pull you in. You might not understand a couple of the in-jokes between the cast if you start there, but there is very little in the way of spoilers about the first story, and it’s set in a completely different part of the world with a completely different cast of characters, so you won’t have missed a thing.
Also, Critical Role is up there with Game of Thrones for me on my nerdy obsession level, and I’m tempted to do recaps of the first campaign like I’m currently doing of Game of Thrones… we’ll see if I can resist.