I mean… whooo. Way to kick things off with a bang!
I’m an OG Critter. I’m a Critical Role hipster… I’ve been watching the show since before it was cool. I’m not as invested in the broad lore of the show, and I don’t consider myself a die-hard fan, and I certainly couldn’t give Dani Carr a run for her money on esoteric minutiae of the show, but I keep up every week with the new episodes and love watching this zany group of professional nerds “sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons.”
For the seven of you who don’t know, Critical Role launched session one of its third campaign on October 21st of this year (last week). And… WHOOO… did they start off with a bang.
Let’s go over some first impressions about the first session and what my takeaways are from the episode. Now, this is not going to be a recap. I’m not going to give you an outline of the events, just my thoughts and opinions. Are you ready? Let’s begin!
As we’ve come to expect from the superstar players we watch every Thursday, the guys didn’t disappoint when it comes to interesting characters, and these might be the most unique yet! The first campaign introduced us to the epic fantasy heroes called Vox Machina, and the tale they told was one of high adventure. The Mighty Nein was composed of an edgier, moodier, group pursuing their own self-interests, sometimes saving the day by pure accident as they chased some personal goal, and the campaign matched that energy. Now, are presented with an incredibly esoteric cast, and we can only wait with bated breath to see what is in store for them!
The cast includes:
- Laura Bailey as Imogen, a human sorceress. She’s interested in a higher education… or at least the privileges' that those institutions can offer her.
- Marisha Ray as Laudna, a warlock/sorceress with a distinctly creepy vibe that’s quite appropriate for the season. Marisha was cagey with her race/lineage, but my money is on Reborn.
- Talesin Jaffe as Ashton, an earth genasi barbarian (a race hardly touched by Critical Role prior to this, even among the incredible list of NPCs). He seems desperate for cash, irresponsible, and abrasive… but somehow charmingly and endearingly so.
- Sam Riegel as Fresh Cut Grass, a shiny yellow robot cleric. Lots of mysteries surround this little guy, but his southern charm, eagerness, and can-do attitude have already won fans over.
- Robbie Daymond as Dorian Storm, the air genasi bard. The amount of times Robbie has described him as a “normal/average/regular” bard makes me highly suspicious, but he seems fiercely loyal to his friends.
- Liam O’Brien as Orym, the halfling fighter. A member of the Ashari, elementally themed planar guardians, Orym is on a mission for Keyleth (Marisha’s character from campaign one). While we don’t know the particulars of his mission, we do know that he is steadfast and has a strong sense of morality. Contrasted by...
- Ashley Johnson as Fearne, the satyr druid. With a penchant for stealing anything that strikes her fancy, Fearne is not nearly as innocent as she comports herself. She is a lovable scamp, and is as capricious as you might expect a satyr to be.
- Travis Willingham as Sir Bertrand Bell, the human fighter. Bertrand adventured with Vox Machina in his younger days, and is proving to be just as full of pomp and bravado as we remember him. He is going out of his way to impress the other characters, overselling his status and pull in Marquet, to what end we do not know.
The Critical Role team flexed on the whole D&D community last week with their new recording space. Now we are well used to the Critical Role squad having a world-class gaming table and backdrops that are unattainable to most of us nerds, but their new lighting rig was news to us all! Without notice, Matt and the crew are able to alter the mood lighting in the room to set the atmosphere not just for the players at the table, but for all of us viewing from home! This may not seem like a priority improvement if you haven’t seen the latest episode yet, but the reaction on set and in the chat was incredible! Setting the mood, regardless of the scenario, is primarily comes down to lighting and audio. Matt has long had an uncanny ability to DJ up a storm while also running the most popular D&D stream ever, but adding mood instantaneous lighting alterations to his arsenal gives him absolute control of the atmosphere for the stream.
Throughout the preceding campaigns of Critical Role, we have had glimpses and seen cameos of Marquet. It has a distinctly Middle Eastern influence that is unique among the other cultures of and regions of Exandria. One of my most successful and interesting campaigns took place in an Arabian Nights setting, which makes me doubly excited to see what a Mercer has planned for the campaign. I’m hoping we get to experience some of monsters we haven’t seen the CR gang face yet: Lamias, Jackalweres, Tlincalli, and Mummies! Also, can’t wait for an update on what J’mon Sa Ord has been up to since campaign one!
In session one alone, Critical Role has shown that they are willing to screw with us. Unashamedly. We expect this from Sam, but everyone else seems to be in on it this time. This is going to be a ride, y’all. The guest appearance by Robbie halfway through, withholding Travis’ arrival until late in the session, the return of several characters from Exandria Unlimited, and the appearance of Sir Bertrand Bell, appearing on a new continent and several levels lower than we last saw him (but still nearly twice the level of anyone else in the party). I mean, where do I start? We don’t know if Robbie is going to become a permanent cast member going forward. Critical Role began with Orian Acaba, so we know that they aren’t shy about an eight person party. We didn’t get to explore his character much in EXU, so continuing his story would be welcome. Liam and Ashley reprising their roles as Orym and Fearne was also unexpected. Their characters and their whole deals were a little more on display in EXU, but there’s certainly room to grow. But what particular business they have in Marquet or how it advances their personal goals in any way. Fearne’s interests, at the very least, did not appear to lie so far away from Emon. But it may just be that Matt has a story thread to tie off or tie in by including these three. Perhaps the same with Bertrand Bell! The level disparity between Bell and the rest of the party is glaring and rather suspicious. I strongly doubt that difference will continue for long, whether that means that we will be bidding the old fox goodbye, that the other characters will catch up quickly, or that he has a level drain in his future.
Critical Role has been the uncontested king of D&D on all streaming platforms, has experienced unprecedented growth over the last several years, and has a devoted fan base that is fanatically devoted to its cast and content. These things put pressure on the Critical Role cast and crew to deliver a product worthy of all that attention and acclaim, and the as yet unnamed campaign three is poised to deliver. The first campaign was an incredibly successful experiment, but no one yet knew what they were doing or how big this would become. For campaign two, the players grew some, creating more complex characters and roleplaying situations. The show itself developed as well, bringing on more guest celebrities, tackling deeper issues, and operating on a budget that they couldn’t have imagined through campaign one. Now that campaign three is here, we can expect a more seasoned approach to character creation and development, a more developed world to adventure in, an increasingly skilled crew handling the production, and two campaigns of backstory and characters to continue to develop! Critical Role campaign three is going to be something new, unlike anything the internet or the D&D community has seen before, in terms of talent, budget, and scale… and I can’t wait!
Stay tuned in to the Dungeon Feed for more on the campaign as it develops, and don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay apprised of all of Misty Mountain’s new content across our new platforms! Link is in the bottom right corner of this page!