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Critical Role- The Best Roleplaying Ambassador I think I've Ever Seen

Rogue 7

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I'm a huge fan of Critical Role, Geek & Sundry's weekly (mostly) Dungeons & Dragons stream. It's amazing at showing off what actual roleplaying play among a group of close friends- not all of whom are lifelong gamers. Couple that with excellent production values for a roleplaying game (Matt Mercer, the DM, puts in a ton of work on maps and miniatures) and the fact that the entire cast are all accomplished voice actors who are into their characters, and you just generally have something that is a)phenomenally entertaining, seriously, and b)What I think is the single greatest way to give someone an idea of what roleplaying should look like short of actually playing it yourselves.

I live in Tokyo and the group is in Los Angeles, so their Thursday night schedule sadly does not work for me, as I am at work and unable to watch, but the full videos go on the website I linked above usually around the beginning of the next week. The original "in" I had for this stream is that I was already a fan of the work of several of the voice actors participating.

So I thought I'd give some details about the cast-


The Dungeon Master, Matthew Mercer
You may have heard Matt Mercer in a number of roles- he was Chrom in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Robin in Batman: Arkham Knight, Levi in Attack on Titan, Kiritsugu in Fate: Zero, and many more. I knew him before this as "A poor man's Troy Baker" (to the point that he took over the role of Kanji in the Persona series from Baker on numerous occasions), though now I think of Troy Baker as "that guy who sounds like Matt Mercer but doesn't run an amazing D&D game.").

Matt is, as any good GM is, the lynchpin of the game. He has a fantastic knack for descriptions, particularly of dungeons (I've gotten a much better picture of some of his dungeons rather than his cities), is great at creating NPCs, and has an absolutely fantastic assortment of voices that he utilizes well to give amazing characterization to a ton of NPCs (Keemah, the halfling Paladin is something of a favorite). His skills at making combat interesting with descriptions cannot be overstated, and as combat gets tense, you'll hang on his every word, waiting for "How do you want to do this", the sign that the PC gets to narrate just *how* he or she is going to kill them.

Vox Machina


Vax'Ildan, Half-Elven Rogue, played by Liam O'Brien.
Liam O'Brien was probably my favorite VA at the table before this show began. You might know him as Gaara in Naruto, Gollum in Shadows of Mordor, mad scientist Lloyd from Code Geass, tons and tons of NPCs in Fallout: New Vegas, Akihito Sanada in Persona 3, Inigo in Fire Emblem Awakening (yes, it's a bit part, but like 3/4 of this party was in the game and I want to catalog it) and tons more. Seriously, look at the guy's IMDB page, it's freakin' huge. He's very skilled, and one of the original geeks in the group.

Liam plays Vax'Ildan, a half-elf rogue and the twin of Vex'Aliah, played by Laura Bailey. Vax is brash and impulsive, and a little bit mercenary, but ultimately has a good heart. He's the closest thing to a leader the group has, and also probably by far the deadliest combatant in the party- he gets *ridiculous* damage with his thrown daggers. He's always good for a quip or a badass line, too- my favorite being when the party was split-
Spoiler: Show
When Vax walked up to the Rakshasha with his knife through its throat, and said "Talk about my sister again" before ripping it out.
. Overall, Vax is probably my favorite character.


Vex'Aliah and Trinket, Half-Elven Ranger and Bear, played by Laura Bailey
Laura Bailey is known for approximately a metric ton of roles- Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening, Rise Kujikawa in Persona 4, The Boss in Saint's Row, Isara in Valkyria Chronicles, Serah in FFXIII, and tons, tons more. She's another excellent actress, and I believe this is her first D&D experience. She's married to Travis, who's up next.

Vex'Aliah is a haggler and a bit less mercenary than her twin, and she's a bit more open and expressive about caring for others, particularly the rest of the party and her bear, Trinket, who she is incredibly devoted to. She's a ranged combatant, and brings good general skills as well as a general sense of practicality to the party. She hasn't had much of a chance to delve into any personal quests.


Grog Strongjaw, Goliath Barbarian, played by Travis Willingham
Travis is probably best known as the fantastic Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist, as well as Thor in a lot of Marvel Animated stuff, as well as many more that I'm less familiar with. He does a fantastic voice for Grog.

Grog is very straightforward. He's every "Ale, whores, and combat" barbarian/fighter you've run across, but Travis has enough acting chops to make him genuinely funny, and his interactions with the rest of the party are very good. Sadly, the relationship where he had the most roleplaying opportunity- with Pike, Ashley Johnson's Gnome Cleric- has evaporated since Ashley isn't currently with the group. Still a wonderful character to watch, and you know good things are coming when you hear "I would like to rage."


Percy, Human Gunslinger, played by Taliesin Jaffe
I'll be honest, I don't think I've watched a single thing other than Critical Role that Taliesin has acted in.

Percy is generally a fairly quiet badass, not saying a great deal until the guns come out and the shit hits the fan. He's another advocate for practicality in the party, and has an awful lot of fun shooting things in the head with his guns. That he personally crafts them and gives them cool names ("Bad News" is such a perfect name for a gun) definitely gives him a lot more personality. However, he's got an intriguing backstory, one that has come to the forefront right now, and it's given him a ton of great opportunities for both characterization and badassery. (
Spoiler: Show
His yell of "SILAS!!!" last week as he walked in shooting was friggin' perfect.
).


Keyleth, Half-Elven Druid, played by Marisha Ray
The only thing I really know Marisha Ray for is Margaret from Persona 4, but if her skills in this game are any indication of her talent, I'd love to see more. She's also Matt's girlfriend, but this has no impact on the game itself. Marisha is probably the most intense actor in the group, and makes for some great drama.

Keyleth is definitely the group's conscience. She's the one who gets upset first with any lines the party might cross, and generally favors helping people, doing good, and being a good person. Watching her interactions with the rest of the party are fantastic. She gives and gets great reactions from everyone. In combat, she's typically as useful as I've known druids to be, providing healing, crowd control, and muscle with her shapeshifting.


Tiberius Stormwind, Dragonborn Sorcerer, played by Orion Acaba.
I don't really know Orion from much, but he played Kellam and Gerome in Fire Emblem Awakening. He also has his own Twitch stream and plays MMOs on Geek & Sundry's Twitch on...Mondays, I think.

Tiberius is a sorcerer with rather more power than sense, and he tends to push his nose in where it doesn't necessarily belong, and the party can suffer from his actions. He's also been responsible for several diplomatic gaffes and such. Needless to say, he's one of my favorite characters, especially when he's roasting things with his fireballs. He's hilarious.


Scanlan Shortheart, Gnome Bard, played by Sam Riegel.
Sam Riegel is pretty prolific. You might know him as Flynn from Tales of Vesperia, taking over Teddie in Persona 4, Viral in Gurren Laggan, and Stahl/Donny from Fire Emblem Awakening. Sam is a bit more of a comedy player than a serious player, but he's fully capable of being serious when the mood takes him.

Where Tiberius pushes his nose in places where it doesn't belong, Scanlan tends to push...other places. Which is funny, because one of his other most notable traits is an abiding crush on the other gnome member of the party, Pike. He's usually right where he needs to be in combat, but obviously doesn't provide as much damage as other members.

Temporarily Absent

Pike Trickfoot, Gnome Cleric, played by Ashley Johnson.
You might know Ashley as, among others, Terra from Teen Titans, Ellie from The Last of Us, or that waitress Cap saved in The Avengers. She's also currently not here, because she's acting in a show filming in New York, Blindspot.

Pike was, much more than Keyleth, the conscience of the party. She also had some personal drama related to being killed and resurrected, but it's been quite a while since she's been on the show (beyond a token appearance a few weeks back).



I think the coolest thing about this show is that it was not formed for the purposes of the show- Vox Machina was in existence for a year or so prior, just as any other D&D group that happened to have a bunch of skilled voice actors as its members. Which means, of course, that the cast had instant chemistry from episode 1, since it picked up in medias res, so to speak. It's the absolutely perfect blend of combat focus, serious roleplaying focus, and humorous roleplaying focus that I would love to have in my own games. Really, I can't praise this show enough, y'all should just watch it.
 
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Dawgstar

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I do miss Ashely, but she's busy with all the Blindspot and whatnot.
 
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CaButler

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Fun fact: The reason Liam and Laura are playing twins is because they share a birthday together.

I did like the last episode, and I agree, the way Taliesin yelled out the name of his enemy was just a great bit of roleplaying right there. You could feel the rage coming from his voice.

As for favorite episodes, I would say my favorite was the two part episode that had Wil Wheaton and Will Friedle. I should note that I was worried that Will F would take it too seriously, but he played along well with the group and meshed particularly well with Marisha. But then again, when you're in a group that has Wil Wheaton, you know that everybody is going to break down and stare at disbelief as he defies all expectations and somehow roll numerous critical failures in a row.

Spoiler: Show
Also, Kashaw's kiss on Keyleth was certainly a highlight of that adventure.


I only got into it recently and binged my way through. I haven't subscribed yet but I make it a point to try and watch them when they become available.
 

Dawgstar

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As for favorite episodes, I would say my favorite was the two part episode that had Wil Wheaton and Will Friedle. I should note that I was worried that Will F would take it too seriously, but he played along well with the group and meshed particularly well with Marisha. But then again, when you're in a group that has Wil Wheaton, you know that everybody is going to break down and stare at disbelief as he defies all expectations and somehow roll numerous critical failures in a row.
I remember a funny bit from Titansgrave.

Somebody else: "Wow, you sure are rolling bad today!"
Wil: "Yes. 'Today.'"
 

ogier300

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It really is an amazing show for showing what a D&D game is like. With 8 players, there's pretty much every Player Archetype on display. The houserules they play with are a great demonstration of extending the rules (and also the pitfalls that come with that). They're playing in Matt's homebrew world, so you get to see world-building, and also his ability to improv whatever the players decide to do is great.

The game sessions vary from combat heavy action-adventure, to talky shopping & equipping sessions, to deep emotional beats, to humor-filled laugh-fests.

Mostly, though, it's inspiring to see them generating so much interest and community with their stream, and also sucking in other folks - the Vox Moronica sessions are hilarious, the guest appearances have woven into the story perfectly... and now even Vin Diesel's gotten to play with them (he was on their wish list of people to play with, and now they've done it).

Between this show, and Wil's Titansgrave run, I've been able to finally show folks what it means when I say "I'm playing D&D". I'm so glad this exists.

Edit: And my goodness, Wil's legendary dice luck lived up to the billing. I think it just balanced out the string of crits Percy was getting a few episodes earlier, maybe.
 
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Rogue 7

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Kashaw was great, but I think the guest I'd most like to see back would be Mary Elizabeth McGlynn's Zarah. She and Laura had such wonderful chemistry, and she was so effortlessly badass.

I'm not quite done with the most recent episode (26), but oh my lord, it is *amazing*.

Spoiler: Show

SUPER FLYING COW PARTY HYPER TEAM GO!

Opening with such super drama and intrigue with the fallout from the Briarwood Brawl, along with the fact that Taliesin is sadly absent with a conplague, made for very, very tense opening act.

But then they get out to go after the roc, and it's just so freakin' funny.
 

Dawgstar

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Kashaw was great, but I think the guest I'd most like to see back would be Mary Elizabeth McGlynn's Zarah. She and Laura had such wonderful chemistry, and she was so effortlessly badass.
May McGlynn, naturally, being known for the Major in Ghost in the Shell. I'm pretty sure she sounds hardcore ordering a pizza.
 
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The Scribbler

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And they apparently just had Vin Diesel record a session with them!

[video]https://www.facebook.com/VinDiesel/videos/10153771413778313/?permPage=1[/video]
 

Crinos

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I too enjoy critical role, although I admit the actions of certain members of Vox Machina have left me somewhat disappoint.

Spoiler: Show
Sorry Grog, you're gonna have to get an asterix next to your name regarding your rematch with Kern the Hammer.
 
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