Critical Role is breaking records and expanding their involvement in the gaming world

One+of+Critical+Role%27s+most+popular+characters+is+Caleb+Widogast%2C+a+wizard+played+by+American+voice+actor+Liam+O%27Brien.+%0A%2F+Artwork+by+Kyla+Jones

One of Critical Role’s most popular characters is Caleb Widogast, a wizard played by American voice actor Liam O’Brien. / Artwork by Kyla Jones

Nicole Felici, Editor in Chief

Though it was released in the 1970s, the roleplaying tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons is experiencing a renaissance. A main cause behind the game’s recent increase in popularity is the web series Critical Role: a weekly Twitch stream where American voice actors play D&D. The show began in March 2015 through the production company Geek & Sundry, and since, Critical Role has split off to form their own company, Critical Role Productions. Over the years, its popularity has grown exponentially, currently with 1.08 million YouTube subscribers, a line of Funko Pop! figurines and an animated TV series on the way.

One fact about Critical Role is that it holds a world record. In 2019, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a 20 minute animated special based on “Campaign One” of the series, which follows the adventuring party Vox Machina. The goal was to raise $750,000, but after a month’s time and over 88,000 donations, Critical Role walked away with $11.3 million. The impressive support from the fanbase made the campaign to fund The Legend of Vox Machina the most successful film or television project in Kickstarter history. So, instead of producing one special, a two-season television series will be created instead. The show was intended to be released in the fall of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the new release date will likely be in the summer or fall of 2021. 

Critical Role Productions has also launched a number of projects for their fanbase and the gaming community as a whole. One of these projects is the Critical Role Foundation, a nonprofit organization launched in September 2020. With the Critical Role Foundation the company will be able to both work alongside charities and do humanitarian work on its own. The foundation’s first partnership will be with the First Nations Development Institute (a group that helps strengthen Native American communities) to help fund the Native Youth & Culture Fund. 

Critical Role will also be releasing its own line of games through the new tabletop game publishing company titled Darrington Press (named for the character Taryon Darrington from Vox Machina). The company is headed by Ivan Van Norman, a close friend of Critical Role and a veteran in the gaming world, and voice actor Matthew Mercer, Critical Role’s Dungeon Master. As of October 2020, Darrington Press has announced four new games that will be released in 2021: Uk’otoa, Critical Role Adventures, Syndicult, and Guardians of Matrimonia. The games will be available on Critical Role’s online store and through preorder at many local game stores. 

Critical Role’s latest announcement is their newest graphic novel series The Mighty Nein: Origins. Following in the footsteps of Vox Machina: Origins, the series will tell fans the backstory of each of the player’s characters before they all met and formed their adventuring party. In “Campaign One,” that party was Vox Machina, and in “Campaign Two,” the new party is The Mighty Nein. Thus far, Critical Role has only announced novels for two members of The Mighty Nein: Jester Lavorre and Caleb Widogast (played by Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien respectively). These novels will be released in the summer of 2021 through Dark Horse Comics and will be available in book and comic stores. 

Not only is Critical Role repopularizing Dungeons & Dragons, but they are making quite a name for themselves. Fans are anxious to see how the show and the company will continue to expand in years to come.