The World of Critical Role

The World of Critical Role
The hardcover cover for The World of Critical Role, featuring (L-R, background) Keyleth, Nott, Jester Lavorre, Fjord, Percival de Rolo, Vax'ildan, and Yasha Nydoorin, and (L-R, foreground) Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey, Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Liam O'Brien, and Ashley Johnson.[1]
Creative team
AuthorLiz Marsham[2]
PhotographyRay Kachatorian[2]
Publication information
PublisherTen Speed Press[1]
Publication dateOctober 20, 2020
Media type
Dimensions7.5 (w) x 10.5 (h) inches[1]
Audiobook information
PublisherRandom House Audio[5]
NarratorMary Elizabeth McGlynn[6]
Running time669 minutes[5]

The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy is a nonfiction Critical Role book written by Liz Marsham, featuring input from the cast of Critical Role, and published by Ten Speed Press. Also featured in the book is a foreword by Felicia Day, photography by Ray Kachatorian, and illustrations by Oliver Barrett,[2] with additional art by Francesca Baerald and Rich Kelly.[3]

The book details the real-world history of Exandria and the series and features new art of and behind-the-scenes insight into various moments in both campaigns.[2] The book is also available as an audiobook of the same title.[7]

The book was available for preorder from January 30, 2020, to March 12, 2020. Customers who preordered the book within the aforementioned timeframe had their name printed in the book.[2] In The New York Times Best Seller list for November 8, 2020, the book was #9 in "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous".[8]

Publisher's summary[edit | edit source]

Dive deep into the history of the world's most popular fantasy RPG livestream with the cast of Critical Role in this definitive guide featuring never-before-seen illustrations and photos.

From its unassuming beginnings as a casual home game between friends to the role-playing phenomenon it is today, Critical Role has become the stuff of legend. These pages chronicle how a circle of friends who all happen to be talented voice actors built the most-watched tabletop role-playing livestream of all time.

Discover dazzling new illustrations and richly written insights into the locations, characters, and adventures featured in the hundreds of episodes across Critical Role's two campaigns, Vox Machina and the Mighty Nein. Go behind the scenes with archival photos and exclusive interviews with Dungeon Master Matt Mercer and the entire Critical Role cast as they explore their characters' most triumphant moments and darkest hours. And celebrate the massive community of Critters who support and expand the show's world through a highlighted tour of the crafts, cosplay, and art they create every day.

Featuring a foreword from the cast, lush illustrations, and the inside story you won't find anywhere else, this book is your indispensable guide to Critical Role. The adventure begins![1]

Contents[edit | edit source]

The book takes a behind-the-scenes look at how the Critical Role franchise, describing how it came together, how it runs today, and what the future holds for the show. The book features new interviews from the cast members, who offer new perspectives on moments from both campaigns. It includes illustrations of locations, characters, and events from the history of the group and highlight the Critter community.[9]

Chapters[edit | edit source]

Each of the chapters in The World of Critical Role is named after a lyric from "Your Turn to Roll", the theme song of The Legend of Vox Machina.

Title Page
Foreword 6
Chapter 1: The Adventure Begins! They Were Always Beside You... 9
Chapter 2: Your Nerdy Best Friends, and the DM to Guide You... 27
Chapter 3: And They Rise from the Flames for the Battles Ahead. Villains Beware 'Cause You're 'Bout to Be Dead! 109
Chapter 4: They Got Magic and Flair. They Got Falchions and Cunning... 155
Chapter 5: They Don't See Over There, There's a Monster Incoming! 195
Chapter 6: Inspiration Is Waiting, Rise Up, Don't Think Twice... 245
Chapter 7: Put Your Fate in Your Hands, Take a Chance, Roll the Dice! 261
Chapter 8: Can You Answer the Call? Dig in Deep in Your Soul... 285
Chapter 9: As the Legend Unfolds... 309
Now It's your Turn to Roll! 318
About the Author 319
Special Thanks 319

Foreword[edit | edit source]

Hopefully, you will be inspired by the group's enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication to each other. They are truly genuine, lovely people. By the end of reading these pages, anyone will be proud to call themselves a Critter. I know I am.

— Felicia Day

A single-page foreword by Felicia Day in which she describes her involvement in the launch of Critical Role, what the show embodies, and what readers will see in the book.

Chapter 1[edit | edit source]

From the first minute of the first stream, you see exactly what Matt and the rest of the group insisted on: No special effects. No edits. Nothing to interrupt the role-play. Just a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors, sitting around and playing Dungeons & Dragons. Critical Role had begun.

— Liz Marsham

Chapter 1: The adventure begins, they were always beside you... introduces readers to Dungeons & Dragons and Critical Role, details the history of the home game and the early history of the streamed game, and features cast commentary on the live-action episode openings.

Sections[edit | edit source]

  • "Don't Kill my Sister. What Is Going On?!?"
  • Beginnings
  • The Early Streams
    • Dinner and a Show
    • Maybe People Want Shirts?
    • So They Think They Can Dance
    • Monsters on Demand
    • Other "we're older and wiser now" highlights from early streams include:
  • Gathering the Party, Venturing Forth
  • From the Ren Faire to the Woods to the '80s: The Live-Action Opening Credits

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The full introduction of the book was published on Variety on May 20, 2020.[10]

"Don't Kill My Sister. What Is Going On?!?"

A group of friends is gathered around a table, littered with papers and minis and dice and beer bottles and the remains of a veggie tray. They talk wildly, voices overlapping and rising as they start to panic, because:

A group of adventurers is in a tower, and the tower is falling.

The friends and the adventurers are the same, and yet they are worlds apart. This is the wonder of the game.

Laura Bailey is a voice actor. She is also Vex, a half-elven archery expert with a pet bear named Trinket. She is at the table, clutching at her hair and staring at the papers in front of her for inspiration. She is also in the tower, riding a too-slow platform toward the ground as the stones around her begin to shake. Four of her party members have already escaped using magic. All the others, including her twin brother Vax, could possibly rappel out of a window. But Trinket can't hold a rope, Vex will not leave her bear, and the others will not leave her.

At the far end of the table, Matthew Mercer begins to speak, cutting through the crosstalk. "Percy, Vex, Vax, Grog are all on the slow elevator. You still have probably another 300 feet to the ground, when the tower lurches—" He makes a convincing stony impact sound, "KRRRRSH," and jerks his body to the side, somehow embodying both the tower and the shaken people inside it in one motion. Because this is also the wonder of the game: everyone at the table is a person in another world, except for Matt. Matt is the other world. He is everyone they meet and every place they go. Matt is the Dungeon Master, and right now, he is the tower, and the tower is falling.

The platform breaks and goes into free fall. Liam O'Brien has an idea, and so his character, Vax, also has an idea. Vax tied a rope above, as the tower began to fall. He is holding the free end in his hand, and some of them can try to grab it. "Hold this rope with me!" Liam shouts to the table, Vax shouts to his friends in the tower.

Matt claps his hands together: to business. "All of you make a dexterity check," he commands. This is the way the world works. The people at the table declare what they want their other selves in the tower to do. But wanting doesn't make it so, not in any world. So they roll dice. Depending on their rolls, Matt, the voice of the world, decides what happens.

Vax is already holding the rope, so Liam doesn't have to roll. Travis Willingham, who is also Grog, rolls well. Taliesin Jaffe, who is also Percy, rolls badly. So does Laura. Laura also rolls poorly for Trinket, who, being a bear, has a slim chance of success regardless of the result. Grog grabs the rope. Vex and Percy and Trinket fall. They're out of ideas, and Liam knows it.

"DON'T KILL MY SISTER, WHAT IS GOING ON?!?" Liam calls out to Matt, but he calls out with Vax's voice. He knows the rules of the game he is playing, though, and neither Liam nor Vax expects an answer. He is holding a rope, clinging for his life as he watches Vex and Percy and Trinket drop below him. He is holding a phone, recording everything, because he already knows that what is happening here is special, is something he never wants to forget. Back and forth, from the table to the tower and back again, faster than the space between his words. His voice is full of terror. His voice is full of joy. This is the wonder of the game.

Matt speaks again, weaving the world, describing the fall. "You can see there's broken portions of stone, the rug that was on the platform is spinning and plummeting on its own . . . What do you guys want to do?"

Taliesin begins to pitch Matt an idea, involving firing his gun. In the meantime, Laura turns to Sam Riegel, sitting next to her. Sam is Scanlan, a bard who has already escaped the tower. Vex can't talk to Scanlan, but Laura can talk to Sam. "I want to grab the . . . the rug, or something?" she says, the question plain in her voice. Will that help? Why would that help? She and Sam begin to brainstorm, but they're distracted as Taliesin enacts his plan . . . and rolls badly. Percy's gun misfires.

"You are plummeting into probably another 120 feet of free fall," Matt says. "It's just you guys, the broken platform, and the rug."

(Listen closely, and you'll hear it: this time he leans on the word rug. Just a bit. He is very good at his job.)

Everyone freaks out, shouting over each other. "What do I do?" Laura wails amid the tumult. "Take the rug? How can I use the rug?"

"Turn it into a parachute or something!" Travis volleys back.

Laura throws her arms over her head, miming as she turns to Matt. "I grab the rug and I turn it into a parachute."

(Watch closely, and you'll see it: Matt's body language changes in an instant. He stills, draws inward, gathering himself. He has been waiting for this.)

Matt tells Laura to make a check. An unexpected one: he wants her to roll to see if she can use a magical item.

Sam understands immediately. "It's magic?" he asks, his eyebrows shooting up. "The rug is magic?" He begins to grin, the tension draining out of his face as Travis gets it, too, and they shout together: "IT'S A MAGIC CARPET!"

Laura makes the roll, Vex snatches the rug in midair, and Matt becomes the world again: "As you grab the rug and begin to pull on it, just willing yourself to slow," he says, raising his arms above his head to match Laura, "the rug all of a sudden . . ." He pauses and makes a complicated tumbling movement with his arms, becoming both Vex and the rug. ". . . sweeps underneath you to catch you," he finishes.

The room erupts in applause and cheers.

"Trinket and Percy go plummeting past you," Matt says to Laura.

"Go get 'em! Go get 'em!" screams Travis, even as Laura yells "I fly down! I fly down!" Everyone is still freaking out and shouting over each other, but the feeling is different now: joyous, united, expectant.

Matt finishes the tale, bouncing on his toes and waving his arms: he is Vex, piloting the carpet to catch her friends. He is Trinket, falling onto the carpet with a heavy thud. He is both of them and Percy, and the carpet, too, tumbling to a halt at the bottom of the tower, bruised but alive, gasping in relief. He is very good at his job.

The friends at the table hoot and laugh and clap, celebrating their victory, the story, each other, Matt, the world.

This is the wonder of the game: the fun of building an adventure together, the challenge of role-playing, the tension of each dice roll, the satisfaction of discovery and puzzle-solving and beating the odds.

This is the wonder of this game: these friends, devoted to each other. These talented actors, embodying and embracing their characters so completely. This gifted storyteller, creating a world to play in that is strange and wide and deep, with the seeds already planted to make the people in the tower pivotal, able to damn the realm or save it, depending on what they choose and how the dice fall.

The game is great. This game is special.

And here is one final wonder: we get to watch.

Welcome to Critical Role.

— Introduction[10]

Chapter 2[edit | edit source]

These eight friends, these eight performs, make magic every week. It's worth looking at them separately to understand why, and how. Here's a little about their lives, what they each bring from their lives to the game, and how all those different pieces come together, complementing and contrasting and aligning just right, to make one, perfect picture.

— Liz Marsham

Chapter 2: Your nerdy best friends, and the DM to guide you... features one-on-one biographies and excerpts of commentary from the cast of Critical Role on themselves, their backgrounds, their careers, their time playing D&D, and their characters.

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 3[edit | edit source]

Adventuring in the vast, complex world of Exandria is no easy matter, and both Vox Machina and the Mighty Nein have needed plenty of help along the way. Most of that help, of course, is actually Matt, playing one of the hundreds of characters he has created. But sometimes it's fun to shake things up, and that's where guests come in.

— Liz Marsham

Chapter 3: And they rise from the flames for the battles ahead. Villains beware 'cause you're 'bout to be dead! describes the setting of Critical Role and focuses on the guests and their characters and the various non-player characters, allies and antagonists alike, that have appeared on the show, including the cast's most frustrating enemy: doors.

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 4[edit | edit source]

You pick your stats and you write your backstory before the game starts, sure. But once you take your character out into the world, anything could happen. Maybe they'll find a new weapon that changes the way they want to fight. Maybe they'll gain a new ability that changes their persoanlity, making them more confident, or sneakier, or more insightful. Each item your character finds, each spell they choose, each skill they master continues to add to their story. Here are some ways that the cast has taken their character's battle tools and made them into role-playing tools as well.

— Liz Marsham

Chapter 4: They got magic and flair. They got falchions and cunning. focuses on the items, spells, and abilities at the disposal of the players and characters and spotlights the most notable used by each character.

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 5[edit | edit source]

After doing that a number of times, the phrase 'How do you want to do this?' became the shorthand for the invitation at the table, and my players began to know what that meant. And then it became a phrase that they waited for, what they got excited for. It became kind of a cheer at the table for a player success, and that's what it is now, to this day.

— Matthew Mercer on his famous phrase.

Chapter 5: They don't see over there, there's a monster incoming! explores the various aspects of the combat side of D&D, including how Matthew Mercer creates the maps and minis used in combat, the different ways combat and encounters can go for better or worse, and the different ways monsters are killed.

Sections[edit | edit source]

  • Look Where You're Going: The Maps
  • The Home Game
  • Painting the Minis
  • Pen and Paper
  • New Dimensions
  • Strategy and Creativity
  • Dungeon Crawling
  • Roll Initiative: The Fights
  • Trap or Opportunity?
  • The Ticking Clock
  • The Badass Move
  • Area of Effect, Blessing and Curse
  • Splitting the Party
  • The Horror Show
  • How Do You Want To Do This?: The Big Kills
  • The Group Kill
  • Death and Resurrection
  • The Cathartic Kill
  • The Guest Kill
  • Defeating the Whispered One

Chapter 6[edit | edit source]

During the live Q&A after episode 10, the topic came up? The cast threw the question to the Twitch chat, and an answer came back: Critters. The name stuck immediately. Cute image, nice pun, what's not to like, right?

— Liz Marsham

Chapter 6: Inspiration is waiting, rise up, don't think twice... focuses on the Critical Role community and how they "inspire" the cast through fan art, crafts and cosplay, gifts and donations, and online projects like CritRoleStats and the Critical Role Fandom wiki

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 7[edit | edit source]

There's something so freeing about being able to follow your imagination anythere you want to. There's nothing fencing you in for what the story is. There's no 'I can only do X, Y, an Z moves.' Anything can happen.

— Liam O'Brien.

Chapter 7: Put your fate in your hands, take a chance, roll the dice! focuses on the players' ability to try anything, notable moments in both campaigns involving player creativity and crucial dice rolls, and why the cast enjoys D&D and what they bring away from the table.

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 8[edit | edit source]

We want to have a positive impact on the world and we felt lucky to have this growing Critter community of people who are moved by the story. And that is the biggest gift to us, to have people follow along, and we wanted to pay it forward. So we started immediately looking for ways to leave a positive impact in addition to getting to tell this fantastic story.

— Liam O'Brien.

Chapter 8: Can you answer the call? Dig in deep in your soul... focuses on the activities of the cast outside of the main series: charity involvement, one-shots, other cast members taking on the role of Dungeon Master, Brian Foster and Talks Machina, and other creative ventures.

Sections[edit | edit source]

Chapter 9[edit | edit source]

I think there's always going to be people finding ways to add bells and whistles and unique ways to enhance the gameplay experience, but I don't think anything will ever replace what makes this wonderful, which is the very, very basic elements of getting together with people you like, rolling some dice, and telling a story together.

— Matthew Mercer

Chapter 9: As the legend unfolds... discusses the future and impact of Critical Role and tabletop role-playing games and what the cast wants for the legacies and lessons they will leave for their audience and children.

Sections[edit | edit source]


Now it's your turn to roll![edit | edit source]

More specifically, the Critters mentioned in chapter six are all excellent follows and a good way to dip your toe into the fan community. Follow them, check out the hashtag and follow some more, and soon your feeds will be chock full of talent, inspiration, and positivity.

— Liz Marsham

Now it's your turn to roll! lists where readers can find more online communities and resources for watching the show, playing D&D, participating in the community, submitting fan art, and donating to charity.

About the Author[edit | edit source]

As a D&D character, she would most likely be a warlock: she can do a couple of cool things in a row, but then she needs a nap.

— About the Author.

This section provides a brief backstory for Liz Marsham, the author of the book, and what kind of D&D character she would be.

Special Thanks[edit | edit source]

Liz would like to thank everyone at the Critical Role Wiki, CritRoleStats, and the Critical Role Transcript project. Without you, this book would be far less fun to read, and it would have been dramatically more difficult to write.

— Special Thanks.

In this section, Marsham thanks a few online fan projects for greatly easing the writing of the book and making it more fun to read.

Media[edit | edit source]

Editions[edit | edit source]

ISBN Released Publisher Format Price Ref.
9780593157435 October 20, 2020 Ten Speed Press US hardcover $35.00 [11]
9781984858320 October 20, 2020 Ten Speed Press US ebook $14.99 [12]
9780593293621 October 20, 2020 Random House Audio Audiobook $20.00 [5]

Reception[edit | edit source]

Reviews[edit | edit source]

Writer Source Score Ref.
Adrian But Why Tho? 5/5 [13]
"Ultimately, The World of Critical Role is an essential item for any Critter. 320 pages will fly by as memories from over the last fives and beyond jump off the page in this encapsulation of all things Critical Role. Much in the way that the group has come to be known for, The World of Critical Role is one of the most inclusive guides that I have had the pleasure of enjoying. While navigating the chapters may prove to be a little difficult given the way they are named, new Critters, longtime Critters, young Critters, adult Critters, and everyone in between will definitely find something to love here."
Christian Hoffer Comic Book [14]
"If you have a Critical Role fan in your life or know someone interested in the show, The World of Critical Role is a must-have gift. Liz Marsham and the cast brilliantly capture what makes the show so amazing and gives readers an amazing look into the magic behind Critical Role."
Tommy Williams GeekTyrant 9/10 [15]
"There is so much in The World of Critical Role that I can't hope to cover it all. If you like Critical Role, do yourself a favor and get it. If you know someone who likes Critical Role and they don't get it before the holiday season, this would be an excellent gift. What's your favorite part of the book? "
EdFortune Starburst [16]
"What's very nice about this book is that it serves as a guide to the series, which is handy for people who don't have the time to invest into the story so far and are just looking to jump into the action. It's also a nice summary of the cast and the charm that they have; this is a warm hug of a book. A geeky but fun introduction to the series designed to delight fans by reminding them of all the little moments that make the show so addictive."
Kat Bloodgood That Hashtag Show [17]
"This book celebrates the show, the cast, the characters, and the fans as well. And for the newer fans of the show, they will be able to learn a lot from reading this."
Brie Mihele TheGamer [3]
"This book is an excellent addition for any Critical Role fan who might want to reminiscence on the best moments from the show or want more detail into the behind-the-scenes of the stream. Beautifully written and illustrated, this guide and memoir reflects the love of storytelling through Dungeons & Dragons that is so present in this show. / This book was a joy to read, and it was by no means a quick one either. I found myself laughing and wonderstruck, much like I do when I experience the show week by week. I only wish that the chapters, although creative, were more specifically named or defined, as with a large guide such as this, I would have loved to be able to navigate it more easily and return to the parts that I love the most. / Besides being a staple for any Critical Role fan, this book could also be enjoyed by a fresh-faced audience. Newcomers to the show might not resonant with a large portion of the content the book references, but it is well-written and explained in such a way that someone who might have never heard of the show would still be able to follow along."

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 The World of Critical Role on Penguin Random House's official website
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 HYPE: The World of Critical Role, Our First Nonfiction Book, is Available for Pre-Order Right Now! on
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The World Of Critical Role Review: A Marvelous Guide On The Power Of Storytelling. TheGamer. (October 19, 2020). Retrieved on December 25, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 HYPE: The World of Critical Role Is Available Now! on
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy on Penguin Random House's official website
  6. HYPE: The World of Critical Role Is Available Now! on
  7. The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy audiobook on Penguin Random House's official website
  8. "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous Books - Best Sellers - Nov. 8, 2020". The New York Times. November 8, 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  9. Wieland, Rob (January 30, 2020). Enter The World Of Critical Role With This Upcoming Book. Forbes. Retrieved on June 10, 2020. (backup link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 "'The World of Critical Role': Read the Introduction to Forthcoming Book. Variety. (May 20, 2020). Retrieved on June 10, 2020. (backup link)
  11. The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy hardcover on Penguin Random House's official website
  12. The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy ebook on Penguin Random House's official website
  13. Adrian (October 20, 2020). REVIEW: 'The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy'. But Why Tho?. Retrieved on January 2, 2021. (backup link)
  14. Review: THE WORLD OF CRITICAL ROLE Is Amazing for Fans of the Series. Comic Book (October 19, 2020). Retrieved on January 2, 2021. (backup link)
  15. Tommy Williams (October 21, 2020). Review: THE WORLD OF CRITICAL ROLE Is Amazing for Fans of the Series. GeekTyrant. Retrieved on January 2, 2021.
  16. EdFortune. (October 25, 2020). THE WORLD OF CRITICAL ROLE: THE HISTORY BEHIND THE EPIC FANTASY. Starburst. Retrieved on January 2, 2021.
  17. Kat Bloodgood. (October 19, 2020). REVIEW: The World Of Critical Role. That Hashtag Show. Retrieved on January 2, 2021.

External links[edit | edit source]