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Critical Role: A Dungeons & Dragons Phenomenon

The cast of Critical Role posing together
Photo courtesy of The Verge

People who are fans of RPG games will most likely enjoy the Twitch show Critical Role. It is a livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game played by a group of experienced voice actors who also happen to be close friends. It airs on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The actors are Taliesin Jaffe, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegal, Liam O’ Brien, Ashley Johnson and Marisha Ray. The Dungeon Master is Matt Mercer. Orion Acaba was another original member of the group, but he ended up leaving the show due to some differences. He departed the show early in Campaign One.

Avid gamers may recognise Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Matt Mercer and Ashley Johnson from their work on the well-known video game The Last of Us Part II. Johnson also played the character Patterson on the popular television show Blindspot. However, she left in early 2020 to devote her time to Critical Role. Bailey is married to Willingham, and Ray is married to Dungeon Master Matt Mercer. Bailey and Willingham married in 2011, and Mercer and Ray married in 2016 following an elaborate proposal involving an escape room and all of their friends dressed up as monsters.

The group began playing home games together in 2014 and the show began in 2015 with them continuing the current campaign, or ongoing D&D game, they had already begun, Campaign One, “Vox Machina,” which ran from 2015 to 2017. The campaign was set in the world of Exandria on the continent of Tal'dorei.

However, once the first campaign finished, the show had become so popular that they began a second campaign. It began Jan. 11, 2018, and since it was livestreamed from the beginning, fans have been able to watch this group from Level 1 and see them grow as they level up. The current campaign is called “The Mighty Nein.” The word “Nein'' instead of “nine” is a pun as it is the German word for “no” and the current character played by Liam O’Brien is a race that is Exandria’s equivalent to German, known as Zemnian.

The current campaign is set on the continent of Wildemount, which they visited briefly during the first campaign. The most recent episode is 131, which aired this past Thursday. Critical Role is a show that has laughs, tears and edge-of-the-seat excitement. It is something anyone can enjoy whether they are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons or not. Because, at the end of the day, if the constant dice rolling is disregarded, it's simply a group of talented actors and friends telling an amazing, complicated, wonderful story that pulls the audience in and doesn’t let go.

By Julia Langenderfer, Contributing Writer


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