Last year during Wyrd & Wonder, JonBob @ Parsecs & Parchment introduced me to Critical Role. I was still furloughed at this point, which meant I had a lot of time in which to do nothing – I wish I could say I was incredibly productive during furlough, but I wasn’t in the right headspace for that so I poured most of my energy into reading and this blog – so I had time to sit down and dive into Critical Role.
I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, even though I’d love to, but I know I wouldn’t be able to play it unless I was with people I trusted implicitly because I get easily embarrassed in the land of make-believe. I never used to, which makes me so sad, but I remember being younger and being so frustrated when my friends felt like we were too old to play pretend anymore, and I was suddenly made to feel ashamed for wanting to play. Dungeons & Dragons sounds like the perfect opportunity to play again – why do we deny ourselves that simple pleasure when we grow up?* – but, for me, it’ll mean having to unlearn a lot of that shame.
Living vicariously through others, then, has been a joy, and Critical Role is such a brilliant example of the kind of storytelling that can be experienced through Dungeons & Dragons.
*I think quite a few people transfer that desire to play to video games. I’ve never been a gamer, though; I never had a PlayStation or Xbox or Wii growing up, and I never had a Game Boy, and to be honest I never asked for one either. For some reason video games never captured my imagination.
I’m still slowly making my way through Campaign One of Critical Role, not only because I’m savouring it but also because each episode is fairly long, but I’m loving it and I wasn’t sure if I would going in. JonBob certainly sold it well! Would I enjoy watching a group of people sitting around a table, though?
Yes, yes I would.
Not only does it help that all of the characters are played by voice actors, who are therefore incredibly skilled at getting emotion across when it counts and deeply care about the characters they’re portraying, but the Dungeon Master, Matthew Mercer, is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, where is this guy’s book deal? If he wrote a high fantasy novel I’d buy it in an instant. He brings all of the places and people the characters meet to life so vividly that I feel like I’ve watched this story unfold in a show on Netflix, not around a table in LA. In fact the series has done so well that an animated series is coming to Amazon Prime and I am very, very excited for it!
JonBob described Critical Role as ‘the most rewarding storytelling experience’ he’s ever had and I can see why. This story truly is so immersive, and the characters so easy to get attached to, that you can’t help celebrating their victories and mourning their losses with them. So if you’re a long-time fan of D&D, or you’re someone like me who’s never played but is still interested in it, I can’t recommend giving Critical Role a go enough!
And if D&D is a love of yours, video essayist Rowan Ellis recently did a very interesting video on why it so often appeals to the LGBT+ community:
So I recommend watching this if you have 40 minutes to spare, too!