What is Critical Role?
Written by Christina on October 21, 2021
The question has been floating around the interwebs, and with Campaign 3 kicking off, now seems like the perfect time to take a step back and explain exactly what we do and why we do it.
Below you’ll find all the information on what exactly Critical Role is and how you can watch or listen, plus a bit of background on the lore of Exandria — the world Critical Role is set in — and the company itself. If you’d like some tips and tricks as to how to catch up with Critical Role campaigns or how to engage with the community (known as Critters) jump to the Tips & Tricks section at the bottom.
So without further ado…
What is Critical Role, the show?
Critical Role, our show, is a long-running web series in which our group of nerdy ass voice actors use tabletop roleplaying game mechanics as the medium to build a longform improvisational story in the vast and rich fantasy world of Exandria. The players are guided through the world by Matthew Mercer, an incredibly experienced Game Master. Essentially, this story is like a four-hour long improvised episode of television, with each campaign focusing on its own set of characters within the world.
Critical Role’s first campaign witnessed the adventures of Vox Machina, a group of mercenaries turned heroes to Exandria’s continent of Tal’Dorei. This adventuring group first joined together years before the show began streaming. The story picks up right in the middle of their adventures. The first campaign is currently being adapted into an animated series, The Legend of Vox Machina, with our friends at Titmouse and Amazon Studios, releasing February 4, 2022.
The second campaign of Critical Role is set in the war-threatened continent of Wildemount, and sees a group of disparate souls form the Mighty Nein, going on to take actions that shape the fate of Wildemount and the wider Exandria.
Critical Role’s third campaign embarks October 21, 2021 on the continent of Marquet. This story takes place canonically after the events of Campaign 2 and Exandria Unlimited, our mini-series set in Tal’Dorei that was run by the fabulous Game Master Aabria Iyengar. If you’d like to know more about the setting of Marquet, check out our warm welcome article written by Matthew Mercer here.
And as a friendly reminder, you don’t have to do anything to prepare yourself before watching Campaign 3. This is a totally new adventure. There may be some familiar characters, events, and lore referenced throughout the campaign that folks who have watched Campaign 1, Campaign 2, or Exandria Unlimited might recognize, but don’t let that deter you from diving in. A lot happens in hundreds of episodes and there is no pressure to be an expert or to know everything. The good news is that the Critter community is super helpful and if there’s something you’re not familiar with, odds are someone will kindly provide you with the information you seek.
Episodes of Critical Role are captioned by our team of professionals. To learn how to turn on captions on Twitch’s live broadcast, check out the article here. To turn on captions on iPhone, check out the guide here. At this time, we are unable to offer captions on rebroadcasts due to an encoding error with how the captions interact with the Rerun feature on Twitch. The VOD on YouTube also has English captions available immediately upon release AND translations to Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese. Learn more about translations here.
Please note that Critical Role is intended for adult audiences and regularly contains lots of hilarious swearing, graphic descriptions of violence, and the occasional and unexpected character death (no character is safe).
Who is a part of Critical Role?
Critical Role was founded by the original cast of veteran voice actors: Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, Sam Riegel, and Laura Bailey.
Beyond the founders, Critical Role is made up of an entire company full of wonderfully passionate nerds kicking ass and taking names every day. Meet a handful of them over at critrole.com/team.
When is Critical Role?
Video-on-demand (VOD) is available for Twitch subscribers immediately after the broadcast. Twitch subscribers also get access to custom emotes and the ability to post links in chat, and as an FYI, Amazon Prime members get one free subscription per month to use on the channel of their choosing, so you can subscribe to Critical Role for free! Learn how here.
YouTube viewers can catch the VOD Mondays at 12pm Pacific.
Starting in early 2022, Critical Role will take the last Thursday of every month off from streaming our main campaign adventures. This time slot might be filled with other programming or it might be left as a short rest for the cast and crew.
Where is Critical Role set?
Critical Role’s main campaign adventures are set in Exandria, a vast fantasy world created by Game Master Matthew Mercer. Dive into the history of Exandria below:
Where can I follow Critical Role?
What else does Critical Role do?
Critical Role is a multimedia company that continues to create content with a focus on storytelling. Through fantastic partnerships, we’ve expanded our stories to additional mediums, including comic and art books with Dark Horse Comics, novels with Penguin Random House, and The Legend of Vox Machina animated series with Titmouse and Amazon Studios.
For a deeper dive into how Critical Role went from a home game to a show and an entire company, check out this awesome feature from Variety, here.
We’ve launched Darrington Press, our very own publishing company focused on creating games and bringing stories inspired by Critical Role and created completely anew to living rooms around the world. Keep updated on Darrington Press news by subscribing to the dedicated newsletter and follow Darrington Press on Twitter and Facebook.
And we’ve been incredibly blessed with great support for our charity endeavors to the point where we were able to create the Critical Role Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with an array of organizations on causes that mean a lot to us. Keep up to date on the Critical Role Foundation by subscribing to the dedicated newsletter and following CRF on Twitter and Facebook.
Tips & Tricks
How to Get Caught Up Faster
Okay, so you want to catch up on past Critical Role episodes quickly? The first thing to know is that there is no rush. The story will be there for you as you’re ready for it, but if you want to make the fastest headway into the Critical Role campaigns, read on.
Train Your Brain
Most video and podcast playback apps offer playback speeds up to 2x. It may seem overwhelming to listen at increased speeds, but if you increase the speed gradually over time, it’s possible to train your brain to take in the information faster. If you’re like the author of this article, you may find that periodically throughout the episode, you’ll be double checking that you remembered to bump the speed up because it sounds so slow and normal…
Listen to the Podcast
The podcast version of Critical Role is a great way to take in episodes while you’re on the road or doing work. So if you’ve got a commute or head off for a long road trip, you can enjoy the story as you travel — two birds, one stone!
Weekly Crit Recap
Every week, our wonderful Lore Keeper Dani Carr writes a very handy recap of the latest episode. You can find the latest recaps here.
Possible Starting Points
The answer to the question of where you should start watching the show varies depending on the viewer. If you are a completionist and want to see every event as it happens in chronological order, you should start with Campaign 1, Episode 1 and begin with Vox Machina’s adventures from the very start.
If you want to begin with Campaign 1, but the idea of starting in the middle of a story arc feels a tad abrupt, we recommend beginning with the Briarwood Arc and starting with Campaign 1, Episode 24.
If you’d like to start with one longform campaign solely captured through the streamed episodes, the best place to begin is Campaign 2, following the Mighty Nein. Since all of the episodes have aired, you can watch at your preferred pace from beginning to end and take breaks at your leisure.
The podcast version of Critical Role Campaign 2 is split between Nerdist Industries and the Critical Role Podcast Network. Campaign 2, Episodes 1-19 are available via Nerdist Industries on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Critical Role Campaign 2, Episode 20 through the finale episode can be found via the Critical Role Podcast Network on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
If you’d like to watch a limited series campaign set within the world of Exandria, you can start with Exandria Unlimited, which is run by Game Master Aabria Iyengar and features players Matthew Mercer, Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, Robbie Daymond, Aimee Carrero, and guest appearances by Anjali Bhimani.
If you’d like to watch along with the rest of the community, start watching with Campaign 3. You can participate in our live and moderated Twitch chat, live tweet (using #CriticalRoleSpoilers so folks who are unable to watch live can mute the tag and remain unspoiled), and converse with fellow Critters about all the current happenings on the online space of your choosing.
How to Engage With the Community
Before engaging with the community, please review and understand our community guidelines in order to maintain a fun and respectful environment. You can find our Value Statement and Community Guidelines here.
If you want to tweet with the community, be sure to use #CriticalRole. If your tweet contains spoilers for any current or past campaigns, please be sure to use #CriticalRoleSpoilers. If you’d like to avoid seeing tweets that may contain spoilers, be sure to mute both of these tags. Learn more about how to mute tags on Twitter here. Please note that in order to ensure you do not see any tweets that include the tag, you must set the word to be muted “from anyone,” otherwise you will still see tweets that have been sent out or interacted with by the folks that you follow.
Our Twitch chat for all streams and rebroadcasts is professionally moderated. Please be sure to be respectful to fellow chatters, moderators, and our cast and crew.
Fan-Led Community Spaces
Fans have also created community spaces on Reddit, Discord, Facebook, and elsewhere. Please note that these spaces are entirely fan-run and as such we do not moderate or oversee them.
Have more questions?
Check out our FAQ right here.
Welcome to Critical Role!
We hope this served as a good primer for what exactly Critical Role is and are thrilled to have you along for the adventure. We’ll see you in Exandria!