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Welcome to Critical Role: A Neophyte’s Primer
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Welcome to Critical Role: A Neophyte’s Primer

Critical Role is Geek & Sundry’s live Dungeons & Dragons show, featuring Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and his troupe of fellow voice actors. Catch them every Thursday night at 7:00 PM PT on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha.

“Welcome to tonight’s episode of Critical Role, where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons.”

Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer opens almost every session of Critical Role this way, but if you’ve never tuned in before, you might be wondering what the next few hours will hold. Whether you’re finally breaking down and checking out the show your friend has been raving about, or you happened across the stream on the front page of Twitch, we’re here to help.

With this Critical Role crash course, you’ll be calling yourself a Critter in no time. (First lesson: A “Critter” is a fan of Critical Role.)

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Who Are They?

Critical Role is a weekly D&D game played live on Twitch every Thursday night. The main cast remains the same week to week, barring any schedule conflicts, although guest stars will pop in now and then to join in the fun. You can think of the game as a weekly improv show set in a fantasy world called Exandria.

Once the episode gets underway, you may be wondering, “Where have I heard these guys before?” Here’s where:

  • Matthew Mercer as the Dungeon Master: Matt has had several starring and major roles in both anime and video games, from Levi in Attack on Titan, Leon Kennedy in the Resident Evil series, McCree in Overwatch, and Yusuke Kitagawa in Persona 5. You can also hear Matt as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Battlefront II.
  • Laura Bailey as Jester: Laura has a wide range of work, but is best known for her roles as Black Widow for Avengers Assemble, Catwoman in Batman: The Telltale Series, Kait Diaz in Gears of War 4, and Eltariel in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. She was also nominated for The Game Awards for her work as Nadine Ross in Uncharted: Lost Legacy, and will be in the upcoming The Last of Us Part II.
  • Travis Willingham as Fjord: Travis’s regal voice can be heard as Thor in Marvel’s animated shows and King Roland in Disney’s Sofia the First. He also starred as Roy Mustang in Full Metal Alchemist, Harvey Dent in Batman: The Telltale Series, and you can catch a quick glimpse of him in The Punisher on Netflix.
  • Liam O’ Brien as Caleb Widogast: Illidan in World of Warcraft, Gaara in Naruto, and Doctor Strange in Marvel animation are just a few places you’ve heard Liam before. He also voices Gollum in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
  • Sam Riegel as Nott: Sam has played roles like Donatello of the Ninja Turtles and Phoenix Wright, but his most recent work is as Dialogue Director on Disney animated shows like Pickle and Peanut, Elena of Avalor, and DuckTales.
  • Marisha Ray as Beauregard: Marisha has done voice work for Persona 4 and Star Wars Battlefront, but you’re likely to recognize her from your trips to GameStop, where she hosts their in-store TV programming. Marisha is also Creative Director at Geek & Sundry.
  • Taliesin Jaffe as Mollymauk: Taliesin has a strong background in anime and manga, working on shows like Hellsing and Read Or Die, along with video game voicework in franchises like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter. Recently he voiced Barry Allen in Injustice 2.
  • Ashley Johnson as Yasha: Ashley has been in acting since she was a child, starting with Growing Pains and in a variety of films. She’s also voiced cartoons like Teen Titans Go! and Ben 10, and is currently starring on Blindspot on NBC.

How Do You Play Dungeons & Dragons?

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Dungeons & Dragons is a shared storytelling experience where the success of actions is determined by a roll of the dice. If a player wants to take a swing at a monster, jump over something, look for clues, or even just try to get a read on the person they’re talking to, they roll the dice. The Dungeon Master lets them know if they succeeded or failed, and the story changes accordingly.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this video and find more details on D&D Beyond.

What Does ____ Mean?

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When you’re watching Critical Role, you may see a strange phrase flash by in the chat, or hear some terms you might not be familiar with. Here’s a quick glossary:

  • Bidet or Beep Beep: A throwback to a phrase a character used in the first campaign, meaning “hello” or “good day”.
  • Don’t F*** Me, Gil: Blacksmith Gil Ramirez has forged several dice for the players; when rolling the die, a player will often shout this in hopes of a good roll.
  • How Do You Want to Do This?: If a player lands the finishing blow in combat, Matthew Mercer gives them the chance to describe exactly how they want it to happen.
  • Jenga: An in-game code word for “Help!”
  • Natural 1: A player has rolled a 1 on their dice, resulting in a critical failure. The action immediately fails, often with spectacular consequences.
  • Natural 20: A player has rolled 20 on their dice, resulting in a critical success. The action immediately succeeds stupendously.
  • Red Stapler (Twitch chat): An emoticon meaning “not safe for work”
  • Vox Machina: The group name taken by the players in the first Critical Role campaign.
  • Whispers: If an insight check results in a success, the player will sometimes have the information whispered in their ear.

How Can I Watch?

You can watch Critical Role live on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel and on Alpha every Thursday night. The episode is uploaded to YouTube the following Monday, and can be found here on the Geek & Sundry site. You can also watch the Video On Demand anytime if you’re a Twitch or Alpha subscriber.

Why Start Watching Now?

The second campaign is just getting underway, so if you were worried about catching up on the 115 episodes of the first campaign, you don’t have to. The second campaign takes place in the same world, but you don’t need any knowledge to jump right into Exandria.

There’s no better time to start watching Critical Role than right now.

What Is Talks Machina?

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Every Tuesday night, some of the players stop by Talks Machina to chat with host Brian W. Foster about the episode that aired the previous Thursday. Talks Machina is a Critical Role aftershow on Twitch and Alpha where players and the Dungeon Master reveal a little more about what happened during the game and answer questions from viewers.

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Featured Image: Geek & Sundry (Joshua Thomas)

All Images: Geek & Sundry

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