Critical Role

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Fandom
Name: Critical Role
Abbreviation(s): CR, critrole
Creator: Matt Mercer
Date(s): March 15, 2015 - current
Medium: video, stream
Country of Origin: US, worldwide
External Links: Official Critical Role page on Geek & Sundry
Official Critical Role playlist on YouTube
Official website
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Critical Role is a web series primarily streamed on Twitch.tv, with episodes posted on YouTube and the official Geek & Sundry website. It stars a "bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors playing Dungeons and Dragons"[1] with Matthew Mercer acting as the DM.

Overview

Critical Role tells a story of Vox Machina a group of adventurers who travel the world of Tal'Dorei and fight evil. There are four distinct arcs in the story:

  • The Kraghammer arc (episodes 1-16) where the party travels to the Underdark to rescue a halfling paladin Lady Kima of Vord and end up fighting a beholder
  • The Slayer's Take arc also known as The Vasselheim arc (episodes 17-23) where the party travels to the city of Vasselheim to secure the horn of Orcus and end up going on quests to join a Slayer's Take guild of monster hunters.
  • The Whitestone arc also known as The Briarwoods' arc (episodes 24-38) where the party faces off against Lord and Lady Briarwood and help Percy face demons from his past, as they fight to save the town of Whitestone from undead tyrans.
  • The Chroma Conclave arc (episodes 39-?) where the party escapes the destruction of Emon and goes on a quest to defeat four ancient chromatic dragons that destroyed Tal'Dorei.

Cast

Main Cast

Former cast members

Guests

Fandom

Critical Role fandom is very involved and passionate. The fans of the show are called Critters. In the early days of the stream, fans who interacted with the Twitch mods and each other in the Twitch chatroom used to send the cast food and snacks during the games, and as time progressed, they also started to send gifts. That resulted in Critmas (which according to a joke made by Sam Riegel was founded by Jesus Crit) being instituted during which (usually at the end of an episode) the cast would open all the gifts on stream.

During those early days, when the Geek & Sundry twitch channel was still building and actively encouraging subscribtions (that helped pay for the content produced) Critical Role fans were rewarded for subcriptions with frequent giveaways as well as additional rewards (like then-channel managel Zac dressing up in various costumes). Some sub challenges were imposed by the fans themselves, like when during episode 17, channel subscriber and a BNF CR fan Negihama promised to buy and ship to the studio an 8 ft tall teddy bear that would represent Vex'ahlia's bear companion Trinket if the channel reached 5000 subscribers by the end of the episode. Critters also bought some of the equipment from the Geek & Sundry wishlist that allowed the crew to upgrade their set up and improve the quality of the stream.

Fandom itself is diversified and in a way divided due to many different platform the fans interact on. The most notable divide can be seen between fans on Reddit and fans on Tumblr; where Tumblr Critters look at Critical Role as a story, treating the source material very much like they would a book or an actual TV show, focusing on the narrative aspects and not caring much about the mechanics of the game. Meanwhile the Reddit part of fandom seems to keep the D&D aspect of Critical Role to a higher esteem, concentrating on the rules and technical aspects. Not saying that the platform divide is gendered in the fandom, one can't avoid the fact that the majority of users (and by extension the fans) of Reddit is male, while the majority of Critters on Tumblr is female.[2]

Ships

Het ships include Vax/Keyleth, Vex/Percy, Scanlan/Pike

Slash ships include Vax/Gilmore, Vax/Percy, Gilmore/Jarrett

Femslash ships include Kima/Allura, Vex/Pike

Poly ships are also present in the fandom, though do not have a huge popularity. Such ships include Keyleth/Vax/Gilmore, Vex/Percy/Vax and Poly Machina which is a polyamorous ship that includes all members of the Vox Machina - a concept that resulted from Vox Machina's joke comments when the party was travelling in the Feywild.

Cosplay

Partly because the cast attends a lot of conventions, there is a lot of cosplay going on in the fandom, especially because the cast actively encourages and shows their excitement every time they see someone cosplaying as their character. There was also an official cosplay contest #CriticalCostumes where the cast picked their favorite cosplays.

Cast involvement

The entire cast of Critical Role is active on Twitter, often chatting with the fans. Liam O'Brien especially spoke up about loving the fanart Critters make, to a point where every week on Geek and Sundry's website, there's a post showcasing fanart the cast saw and liked. The fanart is also showed before and after the weekly broadcast. The entire cast often likes, favorites and retweets fanart of the show[3] Liam O'Brien also commisioned art from a fanartist for a birthday present for Sam Riegel.

After being informed by a fandom statistics blog that he failed to wear an original shirt in every episode, Sam Riegel decided to wear 4 different shirts (that he changed on camera during stream) during episode 74[4] to make up the numbers. He offered no explanation to his cast mates during the episode, making it almost an inside joke between himself and the fans.

Controversies and Issues

Though largely possitive, the Critical Role fandom still struggles with certain issues and controversies; though not all of them negative.

Approach to criticism

Due to the nature of the show, some fans within the fandom have a problem when it comes to criticism directed at characters, pairings or plot points within the show, as they perceive any and all criticism as an attack on the actors and/or the DM, even in situations when such attack was not intended. One fan even commented:

CR is such a unique thing that criticism easily can be interpreted as an attack on the players. I can rant about a fictional relationship in books and films, but when actual people make joint decisions for their own characters, it becomes different.[5]

This approach often results in fans hesitating before posting what might be an Unpopular Opinion or simply not post it at all.

At the same time, there are some fans who accuse the cast of pandering to the shippers and that the relationships are forced for the sake of popularity, to a point that the cast felt the need to address the issue[6].

The very strict Twitch chat policy that the G&S Twitch team enforces might also be contributing to the hesitation fans feel before commenting/criticizing the show, the characters and/or cast.

A different side of this shows up when gaming focused fans of the show criticize the suboptimal gameplays and decisions the players/characters make on the show, either because they use the wrong (in the fans' opinions) spells or do something "stupid".

LGBT issues

Critical Role has a decent LGBT representation when it comes to their PCs and NPCs. Both twins (Vex and Vax) have been confirmed as canonically bisexual by their players. Zahra is also heavily implied as bisexual. Major NPCs like Gilmore, Allura and Kima has been established as queer, with Kima and Allura being in a relationship. There have been NPC established as non-binary, with cast making sure they used proper pronouns[7]. Though, admittedly, before that when Mercer referred to a creature/character as "it" (clearly trying to avoid gender specific pronouns), a fan asked him on Twitter to use "they" next time, as it was more respectful towards queer and non-binary genders.

The show's queer representation doesn't come without issues. For a more detailed account see: LGBT Issues in Critical Role

Feminist portrayals

female characters Vax's pursuit of Keyleth VM reactions to Saudor

Departure of Orion Acaba

fan reactions and theories

Fanworks

Fanfic

Critical Role has been a Yuletide fandom; it received 1 story in 2015 and 17 in 2016, split between the main collection and the Yuletide Madness sub-collection.

Fanart

Fanvids

Other

Links

References

  1. Official introduction used at the beginning of each episode by Matt Mercer
  2. More information about that divide can be found in a slightly unrelated post: LordByronic comments on Tumblr-bashing -why? (Or why not?), Archived version from 2015
  3. tweet from Feb 2016 where Liam O'Brien commented on a Vax drawing.
  4. twitter conversation between fans and Sam Riegel
  5. A Tumblr comment quoted with permission, from a fan who wishes to remain annonymous.
  6. Tumblr post quoting Matt Mercer's reddit post, accessed November 08, 2016
  7. Matt Mercer's tweet confirming correct pronouns for a character, accessed November 8, 2016