Critical Role

Critical Role
Critical Role flaming logo from Campaign 2
StarringLaura Bailey
Taliesin Jaffe
Ashley Johnson
Matthew Mercer
Liam O'Brien
Marisha Ray
Sam Riegel
Travis Willingham
Hosted onTwitch
Running time± 4 hours
No. of seasons3
No. of episodesOngoing
First airedMarch 12, 2015
Last airedContinuing

Critical Role is a weekly web series in which a group of voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons.

History[edit | edit source]

The campaign itself started on December 8, 2012.[1] The very first session was played by Liam O'Brien, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Taliesin Jaffe, and Orion Acaba, with Matthew Mercer as the Dungeon Master using the rules of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons and converted to the Pathfinder at their nex session.[2] The characters started at first level.[3] Afterwards, the group met every month to month-and-a-half and played for about eight hours. This infrequency was problematic, as many of the players needed to be reminded by Matt of elements of the storyline, how to play, etc.[citation needed] All the players began the campaign with the same characters they had on the stream, with the exception of Taliesin who played a dragonborn paladin for their first session. Marisha Ray and Ashley Johnson joined the game in later sessions.

In August 2013, Matt said that "in their recent session" Grog has vanished and was found by the rest of Vox Machina with a phylactery inside his chest. They went to Jorenn Village to get into an unnamed cult that was kidnapping local prostitutes to summon a "dark envoy from the "Shadowfell" on a nightmare. The party wanted to kill its mount and retrieve the skull of the nightmare for the ritual to remove the phylactery. Keyleth, Pike, Vax, in order to enter the cult, dressed as prostitutes but only Pike succeeded to decive them with her charisma. Cultists brought her up to a hill at night during the full moon to sacrifice her blood for the ritual to summon the nightmare and its rider. The rest of Vox Machina ambushed the cultist and were just barely in time for Vex to deflect a cultist's blade aimed at slitting Pike's throat. Scanlan has also revealed his Burt Reynolds persona. The session ended when they set off to find the heart of a nymph.[4]

In 2015, they were approached by Felicia Day to stream their campaign live on the Geek & Sundry twitch channel. When Matt told the other cast members about her offer, the group's reactions were recorded for posterity. In preparation for the streamed series, Matt converted the game over from Pathfinder to Dungeons & Dragons, to speed up combat and because D&D has more name recognition. When converting their game, Matt had to create a custom fighter's Martial Archetype for Taliesin Jaffe's character, Percy, as the Gunslinger subclass didn't exist in 5th Edition D&D. On March 12, 2015 the first live episode of Critical Role was aired: "Arrival at Kraghammer" (1x01).

The series initially aired live on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and YouTube, and subsequently on the Critical Role Twitch channel, on Thursdays at 7pm (Pacific Time). The first campaign and a part of the second campaign were live streamed on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel. In February 2019, Critical Role parted ways with Geek & Sundry, launched their own Twitch and YouTube channels, and started to self-produce new shows and content under the name Critical Role Productions LLC.[5] Eventually the live broadcasts of Critical Role and VODs aired exclusively on Critical Role's channels. Episodes are archived on the Critical Role website and the Critical Role and Geek & Sundry YouTube channels.

On 17 March 2020, Critical Role announced[6] that it was suspending all live broadcasts of both the D&D stream Critical Role and Talks Machina due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the hiatus, they produced new content, as well as re-imagined versions of existing shows that followed the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Critical Role returned in a prerecorded format on 2 July 2020 with the broadcast of "Hunted at Sea" (2x100).[7]

Starting with Campaign 3, the show no longer airs on the last Thursday of the month to give the cast and crew time to rest and prepare for upcoming episodes and to give viewers time to catch up with the show.[8] The prerecorded format was also made permanent.

The Show[edit | edit source]

First Campaign[edit | edit source]

The first campaign features a group of adventurers called Vox Machina originating from Tal'Dorei. The stream began on March 12, 2015 with "Arrival at Kraghammer" (1x01), and after two-and-a-half years and 115 episodes, the adventures of Vox Machina came to an end on October 12, 2017 in "The Chapter Closes" (1x115).

After the first campaign ended, the group played three canonical one-shot games featuring Vox Machina, "The Search For Grog" (OSx28), "The Search For Bob" (OSx31) and "Dalen's Closet" (OSx33).

Second Campaign[edit | edit source]

The second campaign started on January 11, 2018 with "Curious Beginnings" (2x01), and ended three and a half years and 141 episodes later on June 3rd, 2021 with "Fond Farewells" (2x141). This campaign began approximately 20 years after the end of the Vox Machina campaign and told the story of the Mighty Nein in Wildemount. Most of the players participated in a session 0 before the stream with Matt so that they could get a feel for their characters and the setting they would be playing in.

Third Campaign[edit | edit source]

The third campaign started on October 21, 2021 with "The Draw of Destiny" (3x01) and is currently airing. This campaign begins approximately six years after the end of the Mighty Nein campaign and within a year after the events of Exandria Unlimited, and is set on the continent of Marquet. The players who weren't part of Exandria Unlimited participated in a session 0 before the stream with Matt so that they could get a feel for their characters and the setting they would be playing in.

Live Shows[edit | edit source]

Some episodes of Critical Role are performed before a live studio audience, where the cast take on adventure with a live audience gasping at every roll of the die, and cheering them on with every victory. "Heredity and Hats" (1x60) was the first episode of the series to be performed before a live studio audience.

Podcast[edit | edit source]

The logo for Critical Role Podcasts.

All the main episodes of Critical Role through Campaign 2, Episode 51 were released as a podcast version on the Geek & Sundry official website as part of the Nerdist Industries podcast network.

As of December 19, 2019, starting with Episode 20 of Campaign 2, podcasts moved to the Critical Role podcast network. The podcast links can be found though the Podcast section of the Critical Role website and via Podbean, iTunes, Google Podcasts, and on Spotify.

Openings[edit | edit source]

Most of the Critical Role episodes begin with an opening video, usually played after the announcements.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main Cast[edit | edit source]

The main cast of Critical Role

The main cast appears in every episode of the main series, Critical Role, with a few exceptions.

The original cast also included Orion Acaba as Tiberius Stormwind. On October 28th, 2015, at 6:40 PST, it was announced live on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel that due to a mutual parting of ways, Orion would no longer appear on Critical Role.

Guest stars[edit | edit source]

Occasionally, a guest star or two join the main cast. These guests play their own characters who encounter Vox Machina, The Mighty Nein, and/or Bells Hells while on their own individual journeys and decide to team up with our protagonists for as long as their goals are aligned.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Will Friedle returned on several different occasions to reprise their roles as Zahra and Kashaw. Patrick Rothfuss also returned as Kerrek for several episodes near the end of the Chroma Conclave story arc. Other guests appearing in multiple episodes include Khary Payton, Ashly Burch, Sumalee Montano, and Mica Burton, Erika Ishii. Chris Perkins has appeared in both Campaign one and two as Shale and Spurt, respectively. Robbie Daymond has appeared in both Exandria Unlimited and Campaign 3 as the same character.

Related media[edit | edit source]

Series[edit | edit source]

The logo for Talks Machina
The Legend of Vox Machina

Books[edit | edit source]

The cast as scholars, by CoupleOfKooks from The Chronicles of Exandria - The Mighty Nein, pages 256 and 257.[art 1]

Comics[edit | edit source]

Cover art for Vox Machina Origins Volume 1, by Stjepan Šejić.[art 2]

Several comics, both online and in book form, have been produced covering the story of Vox Machina before the streams began.

Merchandise[edit | edit source]

Laura Bailey is in charge of Critical Role merchandise and often announces new releases at the beginning of new episodes of Critical Role. Since the initial airing of Critical Role, merch of all shapes and forms has been created, including t-shirts, hoodies, keychains, pins, collectible figures, plushies, dice, dice accessories, blankets, mugs and prints.

In 2018, Steamforged Games(SFG) raised approximately $1.2M in a Kickstarter campaign for a collection of miniature figures based on player characters (PCs) and non-player characters (NPCs) from both Critical Role campaigns.

In 2020, a line of official Funko Pop figures of the members of Vox Machina was released.

In February 2020, it was announced that Critical Role had partnered with Hot Topic to sell branded apparel both online and in their stores.

Official merchandise is sold in five online shops to accommodate international shipping:

Community[edit | edit source]

Soon after the stream started, fans of the show, known as Critters, began to show their support, first by sending food during the stream, and soon after, fan art, creations, and gifts. The cast would open these gifts and thank their fans at the end of a gaming session and the segment began to be known as Critmas. The cast openly interacts with their fans via social media.

Critters are known for their dedication. Within an hour of the Legend of Vox Machina Kickstarter launch, more than $1 million in funding had been raised. By the close of the campaign, "Critical Role" fans had shelled out more than $11.3 million, making the fundraiser the most successful film or television project in Kickstarter history. More than 88,000 people contributed to the campaign.

The Critter community produces an incredible amount of creative content including fanfics, cosplay, and thousands of fanart pieces. A number of fan artists have seen their work published in an official Critical Role artbook. Some Critters also write and perform original music based on the show. A group of Critters known as the Cantata Pansophical even wrote and performed a rewritten version of the Hamilton soundtrack telling the story of Vox Machina.

Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Streamy Awards Gaming Nominated [22]
2018 Streamy Awards Live Streamer Nominated [23]
2019 Webby Awards Video Series & Channels - Games Won (Webby Award & People's Voice) [24]
2019 Shorty Awards Games Won (Finalist & Audience Honor) [25]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Community Links


References[edit | edit source]

  1. Liam O'Brien, Sam Riegel, and Travis Willingham all tweeted about their first game session together. Based on the timestamps, the game began on the night of December 8th and continued past midnight into December 9th. (Sources: Liam's tweet; Sam's tweet; Travis's tweet)
  2. Matt Mercer (@matthewmercer) on Twitter: "It [the first session was very simplified 4E for just combat abilities. We converted to full Pathfinder right after.]" (November 19, 2015).
  3. "Liam's Quest" (OSx07) at 2:49:15.
  4. Ayacon 2013 - Geek Pride: The Return of Mercer at 47:10.
  5. Spangler, Todd (March 8, 2019). "Critical Role Team, After Record-Breaking Fan Crowdfunding Response, Vows to Make 'The Best Goddamn Cartoon Anyone Has Ever Seen'". Variety. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  6. The tweet announcing the hiatus and Critical Role's website post.
  7. YouTube video of the announcement.
  8. See State of the Role: Campaign 3 Announcement | Fall 2021 at 5:33.
  9. "The Legend of Vox Machina crew squabble in exclusive clip as show gets new premiere date" (December 20, 2021) by Nick Romano at Entertainment Weekly
  10. The Chronicles of Exandria - The Mighty Nein.
  11. Critical Role update on The World of Critical Role.
  12. See "Explorer's Guide to Wildemount" on Amazon
  13. announcement on
  14. See Critical Role's announcement
  16. Critical Role: The Mighty Nein - The Nine Eyes of Lucien on Penguin Random House's official website
  17. Hoffer, Christian (February 16, 2022). "Dungeons & Dragons Announces Delay for European Release of New Critical Role Book". Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  18. Critical Role:Bells Hells - What Doesn't Break on Penguin Random House's official website
  19. See Critical Role's announcement and an article on IGN.
  20. See Critical Role's announcement and a article.
  21. See Critical Role's announcement.
  22. 6th Annual Winners & Nominees. Streamy Awards. Tubefilter. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  23. 8th Annual Nominees. Streamy Awards. Tubefilter. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  24. "Critical Role". The Webby Awards. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  25. Critical Role - The Shorty Awards. Retrieved May 6, 2019.


  1. The cast as scholars, by CoupleOfKooks from The Chronicles of Exandria - The Mighty Nein, pages 256 and 257. This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
  2. Cover art for Vox Machina Origins Volume 1, by Stjepan Šejić (source). This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.