• Robin Pool

Recommendations: Critical Role

I admit to having been prejudiced against Dungeons & Dragons at the beginning, despite having played a little bit with a babysitter as a kid - Lydia the elf, finger on the bowstring due to a bit of PTSD. I felt on the outside when Steve would begin to describe the epic D&D campaigns he'd played with his brother in the mid-1980s. In fact, I was pretty happy when his brother moved in with us. Could Geoff take over the endless discussions of the adventures of Tom Blackship?

So when Steve asked me to start watching Critical Role - a live-streamed Dungeons & Dragons game (https://critrole.com/), I frankly thought it was just a good chance to lie on the couch and rest. If I drifted off in the middle, it was just a D&D game, right? I soon discovered that nodding off in the middle of us not an option. That's because it's run by a genius DM whose gift for storytelling is equaled by his gift for painting gorgeous word pictures, world-building, tiny details of characterization and accents - oh the accents - that's right, because he's also a voice actor. If you're lucky, you can do one Scottish accent (mine veers near-eastern...) But every dwarf has a different Scottish accent in Matt Mercer's D&D game.

Also, All the players are voice actors too, so it's not just playing a game to them, it's inhabiting characters, And they're all close friends, so they truly love each other, and the characters truly love each other, too.

And that gets to the very best thing about critical role

the emotional experience is gripping

Steve's words:

"You're not looking at stats on the page with these guys. You care about these characters. You want to be with these characters. You don't say, 'I wish Batman were a real person, and I want to be friends with him in my living room.' What about the collateral damage? But with Critical Role, we want to be these people to be in our lives and be our friends. They tell stories with characters that blow the roof off of 'I care about you.' They take it to a whole new level.

"What makes us care so much about them is that we see their joys and sorrows. We see them suffer; we see in 3d, full color, THX stereo speaker. With the Critical Role actors, it's like they're sitting on your couch in your living room, crying and you're handing them tissue and you're trying not to cry yourself. The actors are so into it. They make a choice to explore emotions. They choose to let that pain out. It's easy to show excitement. It's easy to show joy. It's hard to show that you lost, that you hurt, that you fail but they do it and they do it so beautifully and so often that you can't help but care for them. That's what we love about them."

It's not always an exciting moment. There are plenty of spots devoted to horseplay; discussions of minutae; and technical questions about hit dice, hit points, and critical hits which may leave the newbie D&D Enthusiast a bit bewildered. But the characters are so likeable that even those regularly devolve into endearing hilarity. Oh, there is a bit of profanity sometimes. Rolling a 1, an automatic fail, can provoke a small snowstorm in a cleric attempting to cast "cause wounds" on an ancient red dragon. but the squall usually passes quickly. I hope you'll give it a go. Critical Role has done so much for us emotionally and given thousands of people across the planet a reason to ask, "Is it Thursday yet?" Watch to the end of your first episode, and You'll know what I mean.

I should mention that we don't always "watch." I get some of my most productive cooking/Cleaning/Laundry/Ironing done "listening" to the tune of Critical Role. Just don't stray too far from the screen. You may want to rush back when you hear the oohs and ahhs over matt's latest battle map, and don't miss the gorgeous fan art at intermission.

To watch it live on Thursdays, you need a twitch subscription. Episodes available the following Mondays on YouTube at no charge. Happy watching!

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