OK, so I talk about Critical Role all the damn time, but not enough people are basking in its amazingness yet, so I will continue to squee. Seriously. Seriously. Watch Critical Role. And as I spend yet another Friday with Vox Machina, misfit heroes of Tal'Dorei, I just want to think about why this show has so much of my heart.
Brief summary, for the uninitiated: Critical Role is a live weekly Twitch show where a group of nerdy-ass voice actors roll dice and play Dungeons and Dragons.
Critical Role took good care of me this year, and I mean that completely sincerely. I've talked a lot about how sick I've been this year, and in the long weeks where I couldn't read, couldn't focus on TV, couldn't do pretty much anything, I could pile up some pillows, snuggle under some blankets on the couch, and sink into the next instalment of this show. When I struggled to get invested in or focus on anything, my whole heart fell in love with this.
It's just so cosy to watch. It's got this feeling of sitting down with a bunch of friends (who you are kind of semi in love with) and sharing a story together, except that your friends happen to be professional voice actors with insane imaginations who turn Dungeons and Dragons into a half improv show, half radio play. It's that Youtube magic of feeling really connected to the people that you're watching, with the extra layer of being an awesome story with great characters and a gripping plot.
It's so much fun, because it's just a bunch of idiots being silly together, getting into the kind of ridiculous situations that D&D gets you into. The "oh, god, what should I do?? I... turn into a triceratops!" kind of ridiculousness. The "so how about this? We all disguise ourselves as cows, using magic, so that we can observe the monster unseen" madness.
But it's also insanely tense and dramatic, because no one knows what's going to happen. Not anyone. The players know what they're about to attempt, but they don't know what the consequences will be. The guy running the game knows what dangers are lurking around the next corner, but he can't predict what ridiculous plan the players will come up with. And absolutely no-one knows what the dice are going to do. Maybe the players will roll amazingly and pull off something insane and amazing, or maybe they'll roll really badly and something will go hilariously wrong, or perhaps they'll roll really badly and all get burned into nothing by an angry ancient dragon.
You can watch battles where everything seems to be going wrong, and you can barely breathe, because every single character could die, and no one knows what will happen until it does. And you can't be saved by things like narrative armor and "well, all the characters can't die if this goes wrong." The usual rules of storytelling and narrative structure don't apply, because no one person is standing there and deciding what will happen. A bunch of people are contributing, and then the final result is left up to fate.
It feels like a completely unique form of storytelling, which appeals to the fiction nerd in me. If I was still in college, I'd probably find excuses to write papers about this stuff. And I just feel so close to it, and so emotionally invested in it, in a way that other shows don't manage. It's that mix of great characters and skilled storytelling and player personality and pure, wonderful insanity that pulls me in and made me fall totally in love.
And I will not stop until eeeeeveryone joins me in watching it. So, you know, do. And if you don't believe me, Patrick Rothfuss also loves the show and has guest starred on it. And he's a cool dude. He knows what he's talking about.