HYPE: The World of Critical Role Is Available Now!
Written by Christina on October 20, 2020
It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! The World of Critical Role, our first ever non-fiction book with our friends at Ten Speed Press at Penguin Random House is out in the world! Read on for all the info as to what this book offers, where you can snag it, and for an exclusive excerpt showcasing what you can expect within the pages.
The World of Critical Role tells the tale of how a bunch of nerdy ass voice actors went from playing a TTRPG together in their living rooms to an entire company of nerds sharing stories across the globe, all thanks to the incredible support of you Critters. This gorgeous tome was penned by Liz Marsham based on new interviews with the cast of Critical Role and includes a foreword written by our good friend Felicia Day. The story is brought to life with beautiful photography by Ray Kachatorian and gorgeous illustrations by Oliver Barrett. Be sure to check out the gallery at the end of this article for a first look at some of Oliver’s work. If you prefer listening rather than reading, the audiobook version of The World of Critical Role is performed by our good friend Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
And now, for an exclusive peek at some pages!
The following excerpt explores the impact character deaths can carry in game and how the players have navigated it. Handling death is never easy, but it has a way of changing everything. Be warned, the excerpt below contains spoilers for both Campaign 1 and Campaign 2 of Critical Role.
DEATH AND RESURRECTION
“I THINK CHARACTER DEATH, for my campaigns and for these players, should be a prevalent danger,” says Matt. “It doesn’t have to be. For some campaigns, it’s more about the journey and not about the stakes. But I find those high stakes can lead to some really dynamic and really impactful moments in the story, whether through success, fleeing to live another day, or losing a character or two. These are all the things that can really make a campaign memorable.”
For over a year in the home game, Vox Machina managed to pull through everything that Matt threw their way. “It was a little more slapstick,” Matt says. “The players were having a good time, there hadn’t been any huge world-ending challenges, and the players hadn’t truly wrestled with the dangers of death.” But then Pike died, and nothing was the same afterward. “Whereas previously there was kind of a lackadaisical take on the challenges before them,” continues Matt, “now strategy meant more pre-thinking, and research meant more trying to look before you leap. All these different things begin to really sink in to the players.”
Ashley agrees that Pike dying was an inflection point in many ways. “When that happened, I remember being hit with the realization that ‘Oh, you can actually die in this game and that could be it for your character,’ ” she says. “You obviously know that it’s a possibility, but when it happened, it became very serious. We all realized that we love this game so much more than we thought! Playing a cleric, I obviously knew resurrection was a possibility. But none of us really knew what that looked like yet.” The rest of the group got Pike’s body to a temple, where healers were able to bring her back, her hair turned white, a new determination to be stronger blooming within her. In the aftermath, the players got closer, the characters got closer, the game felt more dear. The stakes, once theoretical, had become very real.
And Matt keeps those stakes high, even as players become more powerful. The resurrection ritual, never a guarantee in his campaigns, becomes less likely to succeed each time a character is brought back. If this is your first time dying, and your body is still intact, the ritual will probably work. But by your third or fourth time, no matter how many high-level spells the healers around you cast, you could be gone for good.
Matt works hard to maintain a balance. He wants his players to feel the dangers of mortality but not feel unfairly done by. “I never want death to be a needless punishment for players,” says Matt. “If they make a mistake or make a poor tactical choice, I think death is definitely an option. If the dice rolls are really against them, the player should know the danger they’re in. If they’re getting close to a really bad situation, I think as a DM you can find ways to narratively impart that information to them and let them know that they have an option to flee.”
Even so, sometimes a player needs a practical reminder. Everyone in Vox Machina managed to die and be reborn throughout the campaign, beating the increasing odds until the very end, when Vax died for good. So when Mollymauk died fairly early in campaign 2, with no resurrection magic in reach, it was a wake-up call for at least one member of the cast. “I’ve been thinking of backup characters way more than the last campaign,” says Sam.
Matt has led his players into dangers great and small. When was he actually scared for them?
“Many times,” he says, but here are six standout moments:
– When Umbrasyl took off with Scanlan and Vax inside of him and Grog dangling from his hide by a chain.
– When Ripley sprang her trap, drawing Vox Machina in with an illusion and then setting off an explosion on the battlefield. “That was very scary, although they turned it around rather quickly,” says Matt.
– The final battle with the Whispered One, which, if Vox Machina had lost, would have changed the entire world state of campaign 2.
– The Mighty Nein’s roadway fight with the Iron Shepherds—and Matt was right to be scared, as it ended with Mollymauk’s death.
– The Nein’s underwater showdown with Dashilla, a sea fury who could literally kill them with a glance. – The first escape from the Happy Fun Ball, when the Mighty Nein found their exit blocked by a raging blue dragon. “Those are some moments that really put me on edge,” Matt concludes.
We hope you enjoyed that peek between the pages of The World of Critical Role.
The World of Critical Role is available now via US and Canadian retailers and will be available in the UK on Thursday, October 22nd. A fully-translated German version will also be hitting retail shelves in December 2020.
You can snag your own copy through your local bookstore or check out criticalrolebooks.com for more information.
The photography featured above in the header is by Ray Kachatorian LLC.