How Do You Want to Do This?

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, anything goes. With whatever world the DM has constructed, the players are free to do as they please. Maybe they will go explore a dungeon in search of loot, fighting whatever unholy forces the DM will throw at them today. Perhaps they will embark on the story the DM has set out for them, fighting to save the land. The game is as expansive as everyone’s imagination. So what happens when you take a handful of voice actors with strong role playing, throw them into a D&D campaign helmed by a VERY talented DM, and then start streaming their adventures every Thursday for a few hours? One of the most entertaining web shows in recent memory and the very reason I myself got into D&D in the first place.

Produced by Geek & Sundry and hosted by veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer every Thursday on their Twitch channel, Critical Role follows the adventures of Vox Machina, a motley crew of adventurers that are as tight knit a family as one could come across. The current campaign actually began a few years before it aired, starting as birthday present for Liam O’Brien. Everyone just ended up loving it so much, they continued to play with it until their adventures began to broadcast with G&S. Currently at 70 episodes, starting the series now is a bit of a daunting task as each episode runs around two to four hours, but for the entertainment in seeing each cast member bring their characters to life with excellent and hilarious performances, every moment is a joy to behold.

Vox Machina consists of a pair of Half-Elven twins (a Rogue and a Ranger), a Gnomish Cleric, a Goliath Barbarian, a Human Gunslinger, a Half-Elven Druid, a Gnomish Bard, and a Red Dragonborn Sorcerer that used to be a part of the group. Vax’ildan Vessar (Played by Liam O’Brien) is the more serious and focused of the twins, having learned his trade on the streets after cutting ties with the unwelcoming elves on his father’s side and their mother’s village being destroyed by a dragon; His more relaxed and good-natured sister Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey) took a different path and honed her skills in nature, saving a young bear cub and adopting it, naming it Trinket (Who is adorable); Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson) came from a long line of thieves, but when her grandfather decided to turn their family around and worship the goddess Sarenrae, she followed in his footsteps and is best friends with a certain hulking Goliath after he spared her grandfather; Grog Strongjaw (Travis Willingham) used to be part of a Goliath herd, but was beaten and cast out by his uncle when he refused to attack an innocent old gnome and was brought back to health by the old gnome’s granddaughter; Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III (Taliesin Jaffe) was the third of seven children of a noble family, but after his entire family were massacred by a mysterious lord and lady, his desire for revenge resulted in the making of a contract with a dark spirit that gave him the means to create his first gun; Keyleth of the Air Ashari (Marisha Ray) is a rather introverted and awkward half-elf that was chosen by her father to be his successor and set out to prove herself, though she has doubts about her ability to lead her people; Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel) fancies himself a suave lover (debatable) and talented bard (fact), providing some of the most hilarious moments in the game both as himself and his alter-ego as Burt Reynolds; Finally, Tiberius Stormwind (Orion Acaba) was the scatterbrained but extremely intelligent sorcerer of the group, but after his own personal quest and ambassadorial duties had fallen to the wayside, he left the group in order to return to those duties, though he promises to see them again once they are completed. In their adventures, they have made close and powerful friends, such as the fabulous Gilmore, members of the Slayer’s Take guild, and the ever-eccentric blackpowder merchant Viktor, easily one of the most popular NPCs in the campaign.

It wouldn’t be a D&D game without a number of powerful enemies for Vox Machina to go up against. The first story arc saw the group travel into the dreaded Underdark to combat K’varn the Mad, a powerful and malicious entity that had somehow gained control of the Mind Flayers in order to invade the dwarven city of Kraghammer. After spending some time with the Slayer’s Take in hunting down an Adult White Dragon named Rimefang and Hotis the Rakshasa, they returned to Emon only to come into conflict with Lord Silas and Lady Delilah Briarwood, the very same couple responsible for killing Percy’s entire family and usurping control of their home of Whitestone. After the dangers faced so far and how close some of the members came to dying, it would have been nice for Vox Machina to take a breather and not go on another life-threatening adventure for a while. Unfortunately, their latest and current enemy not only is the most powerful so far, but also threatens the entire land. The Chroma Conclave, an unholy alliance of FOUR Ancient Chromatic Dragons, attacked Vox Machina’s home city of Emon, bringing untold destruction to the city and surrounded areas. Their numbers include Umbrasyl the Hope Devourer (Black Dragon), Vorugal the Frigid Doom (White), Raishan the Diseased Deceiver (Green), and their leader, Thordak the Cinder King, possible the single largest Red Dragon ever seen. The Blue Dragon of the Conclave, Brimscythe the Iron Storm, was much younger compared to the other four and was only an Adult when he was slain by Vox Machina in their pre-stream days, where hints of the Conclave were first dropped. Unless the group can find the Vestiges of Divergence, the Chroma Conclave will reign supreme.

A big part of what makes the show so entertaining is Matt himself. He expertly acts out all of the NPCs, he explains the world in vivid detail, he describes crushing blows in battle, and is capable of coming up with amazing stuff on the fly. All of the players are joys to watch as well, with their characters being so expertly acted out in moments of genuine emotion. Of course, when something ridiculous does happen, expect to see all of the tables just break down into hysterics to the point that not even Matt can keep a straight face. Perhaps the moment everyone always looks forward to is when after facing down a powerful enemy and struggling to achieve victory, Matt says “How do you want to do this?”. indicating that the person that just rolled scored the killing blow against the enemy and they now have the honor to describe how they dispatch it.

Before Critical Roll, I never really had an interest in D&D. Now, I own all of the Fifth Edition guide books, play with a group, and am in the process of organizing my own campaign to run as DM. It is a bit of a slog to get into Critical Role at this point, what with currently having 70 episodes and Episode 71 to premiere tonight as of this writing, but once you get hooked in, it will be hard to stop.

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