#WyrdAndWonder 2021 | How Critical Role celebrates playing make-believe when you’re all grown up

IMAGE CREDITS: images by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

Wyrd & Wonder is a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril, Lisa and Jorie. Get involved here!

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!

Have you ever watched Critical Role? Are you a D&D player? I’d love to know!

10 thoughts on “#WyrdAndWonder 2021 | How Critical Role celebrates playing make-believe when you’re all grown up

  1. Molly's Book Nook says:

    I play D&D! We just ended a campaign because the DM is moving out of state, so now my husband is the DM for a new campaign we just started 2 weeks ago. I SUCK at it. I don’t do well with roleplaying but it’s still fun even if I’m awkward lol. My husband watches Critical Role but I just have never gotten into it lol I find it kiiiind of boring and the sound drives me nuts (it may be better in more recent videos but those first ones omg my ears haha).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jackie A. says:

    Oh! I just listened to the very first Critical Role episode yesterday, and I am so excited to have discovered it! I had a significant other that was really into D&D, so he started teaching me the mechanics of the game, but I never had the opportunity to actually join a campaign. Some day, I’d love to find some folks to play with (tabletop games in general, to be honest).

    Also, this first part of this post sounds just like me! A lot of the kids I knew grew out of playing pretend really early, so I often felt out of place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole @ BookWyrmKnits says:

    I’ve never watched Critical Role, but I have been a D&D player. I played a lot when I was young—my parents took turns as DM, and my sister and I had a group of our friends who would play with us. (The non-DM parent would also play, partly to shepherd us kids if things got off the rails.) I haven’t played in ages, though, because I haven’t found a group of adult friends I trust enough to play with. Maybe I’ll get back to it someday; I really want to. We’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stephanie - Bookfever says:

    I’ve never played D&D. I’m sure people play it here in Belgium but I’m not sure how well known it is in general. Maybe I’m completely wrong though since I’m not really a game player. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

      I’d be really interested to know just how popular D&D is outside the USA! I know a few people who play it in the UK, but I still don’t feel like it’s talked about much here even within SFF fan communities.


  5. JonBob says:

    Matthew Mercer is legit a genius storyteller isn’t he. I’m so glad you been enjoying CR, campaign 1 is actually one of my favourite stories of all time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. JonBob says:

        I wouldn’t worry about that, there’s like 120 odd episodes of campaign one, and they’re still playing campaign two now, making new episodes every week. No shortage of CR content on the horizon! It’s an absurd time commitment, but honestly think I’m gonna watch the whole first campaign again once I’m up to date with C2. Which tbf will probably be never at the rate I’m watching at the mo.


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