The successes of the Critical Role brand have been like a firestorm, igniting the flames of passion within the Dungeons and Dragons community. Their recent Kickstarter success being a capstone achievement, surpassing all milestones and funding goals. This group of nerdy ass voice actors has become a cultural icon, the likes of which have not been seen in nerd culture. Their inspiration is far-reaching, as without them I would never have even started my newest campaign or even my website. So rather than focus on astounding achievement the campaign has been, I want to take a moment to look back at the roots of this phenomenon that is Critical Role.
Flashback to the year 2013 and Liam O’Brien, the voice actor most notably known for Gaara from the Naruto series as well as Illidan from Warcraft, is having a birthday. For his big special day, Liam and his friends assembled around a table and played their first game of D&D. The group had such a wonderful time that they returned, month after month for two years. Marisha Ray, Ashley Johnson, Sam Rigel, Taliesen Jaffe, Orion Acaba, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey united under the banner of the Super High-Intensity Team(SHIT). They gathered beneath the shadow their Dungeon Master, Mr. Matthew Mercer, battling monsters and forging a destiny until Felicia Day of Geek and Sundry got wind of this grand escapade.
Seeing the potential in this band of misfits, Felicia gave them a shot with the premiere of “Critical Role” on the Geek and Sundry Network. Debuting on March 12, 2015, the party rebranded themselves “Vox Machina” and moved their game from the Pathfinder system to D&D fifth edition, for a more streamlined viewing experience. So the adventure began, in the city of Kraghammer, the alter egos of Vax’ildan, Vex’ahlia, Pike, Grog, Scanlan, Tiberius, Keyleth and Percy set out to the Underdark. Fighting their way though beholders, dragons, mindflayers and all manner of devastating beasts the stream began to grow. Now with the community, known as Critters forming they moved from a ramshackle grouping of tables and cameras to a full set. Despite the stigma and criticism that D&D has behind it, Critical Role kept touching hearts. With all of their videos getting upwards of a million views as well as upwards of 60,000 viewers at one time, there seems to be no stopping the behemoth. They even caught the eyes of Wizards of the Coast, the owners of D&D, as well as numerous other sponsorships with various tabletop gaming companies.
With all this success one would be led to assume that greed and avarice would have set its claws in by now; however, that has yet to be the case. Charity and unity have been themes expressed by the cast consistently throughout the show’s history. Not to be outdone by the players, the community of Critters has become a force unto themselves. Raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities, such as for 826LA and the Children’s Miracle Network, the Critter community is a prime example of what positivity can look like on the dark void that is the internet. They have even inspired a number of fan sites, most notable of these being Crit Role Stats.
Fast forward to June of 2018 and CR has become its own entity. Breaking away from the Geek and Sundry Network they began forging a path all their own, with a new set and shows premiering on the new Critical Role Twitch channel. From deep dives into the minds of creators and actors on “Between the Sheets“, with Brian W. Foster, to silly shenanigans with Liam and Sam it has become less about the game and more the force of personality that these actors have become. Live shows, one-shots, and now the legendary Kickstarter, no one would have thought this motley crew of jokesters and actors would become the worldwide phenomenon that is is today.