Sideshow’s Week in Geek: Critical Role- Dungeons and Dragons Live Show!

One of the most exciting things about being a geek is finding friends who share your favorite hobbies.  You can swap stories and share laughs, advice, and memories of your fandom, whether about your favorite movies, games, comics, collectibles, and more!

It’s always a thrill to meet other fans and gather to celebrate your passions, in groups both big or small- but how about sharing that excitement with a theater of 1,600 other geeks watching a live Dungeons & Dragons game?

Recently, Sideshow staffer Amy attended the Critical Role Live Show, the latest installment of an epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign played by a bunch of self-proclaimed “nerdy-ass voice actors”.  Hundreds of Critical Role fans, or “Critters”, joined together in a sold-out theater and watched the entertaining cast bring their original characters to life in order to slay monsters and triumph over evil.

We asked Amy about her experience at the show, listening to the podcast, and more…

For the uninitiated, what is Critical Role?

Critical Role is a long-running web series/podcast that features a cast of fearless voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons, hosted by DM Supreme Matt Mercer (voice of McCree in Overwatch, Levi in Attack on Titan, and more).

The full cast features Ashley Johnson, Marisha Ray, Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brien, Taliesen Jaffe, Travis Willingham, and Sam Riegel, and they’ve often had special guest players join in for a few games.  They even have their own post-show talkshow called Talks Machina, hosted by the hilarious Brian W. Foster.  It’s a whole storytelling experience!

I was drawn in because I recognized so many of the cast as voices in some of my favorite video games.  They always bring distinct and really vivid improv to their games, and Matt Mercer’s prowess as a Dungeon Master is really impressive and also informative!  So many people think the show is scripted because these performers are so adept at forming full and engaging storylines for their characters on the fly.

How long have you followed the campaign?

I’ve been listening for a year now!  There’s actually 2 campaigns- one following a band of heroes called Vox Machina, and one for the Mighty Nein.  I know it’s been a year since the MN just celebrated one year of playtime, and I tuned in when that team was about 4 or 5 episodes in.  I sometimes watch live, but other times I catch up on the podcast on Geek and Sundry.

I am all caught up on Campaign 2, but I need to go back and catch up on Vox. There’s over 100 episodes, so it might take a while…

Tell us about the Art of Exandria Gallery.

Before the live show, Critical Role opened an art gallery called the Art of Exandria, to showcase some phenomenal fan artists in the Critter community.  This was hosted at Gallery Nucleus, and featured pieces celebrating the characters from both campaigns, as well as some of the players themselves.  It was a really exciting event, because I got to actually meet some of the fan artists I follow online.  The pieces ranged from celebratory and fun to solemn and emotional, capturing some of the biggest moments of the series.

Plus, some of my favorite comic artists contributed to the gallery!  Babs Tarr (Batgirl) contributed a piece dedicated to Beau, the human monk.  Fiona Staples (Saga) created an homage to Mollymauk Tealeaf, the tiefling blood hunter.  Nick Robles (Euthanauts) had an illustration of Scanlan Shorthalt, the gnome bard, on display as well!  It was cool to see how far-reaching the fandom is.

What was your favorite part of seeing Critical Role live?

The absolutely electric energy of every fan in the theater.  You could tell how passionate and excited everyone was.  We’re under strict no-spoilers notice until the recording airs on the Critical Role VOD channels, but I will say that it was one of the most action-packed, epic, and enjoyable sessions of D&D I’ve ever witnessed- including from my own games!

The cheers that ran through the 1,600-seat theater whenever a player rolled a Natural 20 or was asked, “How do you want to do this?” was what I imagine to be just like seeing your favorite sports team win.  Plus, it was incredibly easy to meet new people and make conversation- all you had to do was ask about favorite characters, favorite moments, or even your own personal D&D campaigns and games and you had an instant new friend.

It all comes down to community.  The community is what made it so fun and special.  Plus, destroying monsters never hurts!

Do you have a favorite character?

Usually it’s just “whoever is talking right now” while I watch the series.  Every character is so distinct and well-crafted, it’s hard to decide.

Overall, I think I gravitate most towards Ashley Johnson’s characters- Pike Trickfoot the gnome cleric and Yasha Nydoorin the aasimar barbarian.  Their personalities and stories are so radically different but equally engaging and emotional.  The only bummer is Ashley is often filming in New York so she isn’t in every game session, but when she is, it’s always so good.  Yasha is my standout favorite of Campaign 2 for sure.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s wild to think that a group of friends playing D&D have created such a massive community around their characters and stories.  I hope I can learn from their games- and especially Matt Mercer’s DMing- to help me play better and smarter next time I sit down to roll some dice!

Big thanks to Sideshow staffer Amy for sharing her own role in the Critical Role Live festivities this week!  Be sure to check out our last Week in Geek, where we discussed our theories and ambitions for the Iron Throne talking about the upcoming return of Game of Thrones.

How have you Let Your Geek Sideshow this week?  Let us know in the comments.