Hi! It’s Annie!
Despite all the time I’ve written on this blog, I still haven’t talked about ‘Critical Role’ even though I’m actually a pretty big fan of it. And you could definitely say that it’s currently in its prime. With the beginning of campaign three just started (alongside a possible new addition to the team) and ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ set to stream on Amazon Prime soon, they’re really pushing forward into the main stream. Which is great! It makes Dungeons and Dragons as a game seem less like a taboo thing and more like something anyone can enjoy. For me, who actually enjoys Dungeons and Dragons, the fact that they are able to do this is wonderful. Though I do understand how ‘Critical Role’ might be difficult to get into considering each campaign has over a hundred episodes and each episode is usually over four hours long. Though I’ve watched most of both full campaigns, I can’t say I’ve had the time to watch them all. But I do have my opinions on each of the already released campaigns. I think both campaigns are amazing and all of the characters are also amazing! I don’t have a clear favorite. But I do have slight favorites for which character each regular player has played so far. This isn’t a criticism, just me having fun. All opinions are welcome and keep in mind that I love all of the players and all of their characters! So without further ado- let’s just get into it!
Travis Willingham (Grog vs Fjord):
I should jump in right now and say that I’m mostly going to be talking about the character development and role playing side of these characters. And when it comes to both of them, I thing Travis did an excellent job. Grog was one of the main comic relief characters in Vox Machina and he truly was hilarious. Due to his misunderstandings of some situations and his general bluntness, Grog was always a very loud and amusing addition to the group. But he also had a heart of gold. One of the most prevalent parts of his character was Grog’s friendship with Pike. The biggest member of the team being best friends with the smallest member of the team was already an adorable concept. But that mixed with Travis’s real life friendship with Ashely only made everything that much more adorable. Fjord was an interesting addition to the mix when it came to The Mighty Nein. In comparison to Grog’s brute force, Fjord was usually more tactical. Fjord became the impromptu leader of the group, something I doubt that Travis expected after playing Grog who never aided in any decisions regarding over-all group plans. It was entirely because Fjord was intelligent and Grog wasn’t intelligent in the usual way. Because of this I think we got to see Travis explore many types of character development he hadn’t been able to before. Such as romance. (Which I completely get because that can be awkward for me as well, but I think it was funny that he was uncomfortable even though his own wife was playing his love interest.) Over-all, I think we got to see Travis do more as Fjord. So, as much as I absolutely love Grog…
Laura Bailey (Vex’ahlia vs Jester):
Laura Bailey also quickly proved herself to be one of the most hilarious players. Though from Vex, who came off as very posh, it was a pleasantly unexpected source of comedy. Vex is a very elegant character who seemed to only surround herself with more elegance as the campaign went on. Such as when she was eventually named by Percy the Grand Mistress of the Grey Hunt. Her shiny new title went well with many of Vex’s other likes. Which were shiny things. She was the cunning bargainer of the group. And her closeness with her twin brother and eventual romance with Percy was able to show the audience a more caring side of her. But there is something about Jester that is just so Laura. Jester is adorable and funny without meaning to be most of the time. She’s the type of character that can just say anything and get away with it. And if she pouts at you then she’ll probably get her way. I think I would judge correctly if I said that Jester is one of the most immediately loved characters in all of ‘Critical Role’ just because of how fun she is. Jester was actually one of the first characters from this that I fell in love with, because I actually came in around the second campaign. Jester has her own bubbly aesthetic to her and her accent just makes her all the more adorable and hilarious. It’s hard to imagine someone coming out of campaign two not liking Jester.
Taliesin Jaffe (Percy vs Mollymauk/Caduceus):
This might be one of the most difficult for me, because Taliesin is masterful about creating his characters. The dice also love him. He’s the master of natural twenties. I don’t know how he does it, but I think with just Percy alone Taliesin became the king of rolling in D&D. And you can tell that Taliesin and his characters have a fan following from the moment you join the fandom. Percy was one of the most popular members of Vox Machina and for good reason. Not only was he a badass in battle, but he was also a badass in every other aspect of his life. Percy was loveably sarcastic, extremely intelligent, and also the master of comebacks. He’s also one of the most complex characters in the campaign. Between his revenge and half possession, Percy isn’t always the most moral of the group. Meaning that he had a massive character arc surrounding how he learned to put aside his revenge and focus more on morals. Molly was barely in the second campaign and he quickly gained a fanbase due to his mysterious past and charming persona. Taliesin had quite a challenge in creating a character that would be so loved after Molly, and he really did succeed with Caduceus. Caduceus not only had an amazing nature aesthetic but he also was very wise and pleasantly calm. Often the voice of reason and comfort for the entire group, Caduceus is one of those characters that you want to be friends with. The popularity of each of these characters is amazing, but Percy’s insane character arc still hasn’t been topped in my eyes.
Liam O’Brien (Vax’ildan vs Caleb):
The hipster Dad of the group, Liam seems like he would prefer playing calm characters with happy childhoods. But he’s the master of angsty characters. Vax’ildan is a sly character with a charm about him and a heart of gold. One of my favorite lines from campaign one is “do not go far from me”, which he says to his sister, which attests to the surprisingly gentle nature of the assassin of the group. Both of Liam’s characters are also openly bisexual. Vax had romances with both Gilmore and Keyleth, both of which proved to be very tender moments of the campaign. The duality of Vax is amazing, and it was very difficult to see him go. Especially after the connection he had already built up with Keyleth. Caleb was even more complicated. He was a German sounding character who dressed a little homeless and had an absolute love of knowledge. His romance with Essek, who also had difficulties with his past and morals, was even more lovable. It was really difficult not to love Caleb. Despite his past and angst over morality, he was also one of the most adorably soft spoken but intelligent members of campaign two. I once again absolutely love both characters, but I think I have to go with the adorable awkwardness and gentility of the homeless looking wizard.
Marisha Ray (Keyleth vs Beau):
A lot of people have loud opinions about Marisha’s characters, and I have no idea why this is such an issue. I’ve always loved all of Marisha’s characters and the way she’s played all of them. Each character has a delightfully vibrant and bright life that I think only Marisha could bring to a character. So, this is no exception when I say I love all of the characters in ‘Critical Role’. Keyleth is adorable. She’s an intelligent character who starts out pretty naive but also one of the most empathetic voices in Vox Machina. There’s nothing better than Keyleth talking to the sun tree and Marisha’s animal noises when Keyleth transforms into an animal. Beau is very different from Keyleth in every way. Instead of the shyness you get from Keyleth, Beau comes off as confident from the very beginning. Beau is often calm and collected and definitely not afraid to crack a joke. While Marisha discovered that playing a monk could be difficult, she took it in stride and made Beau confident and able despite her mistakes. But Keyleth was so relatable to me and that’s why Marisha created Keyleth. To be relatable to herself so that she would be comforted in doing something she never had before.
Sam Riegel (Scanlan vs Nott):
Sam is the comedic genius at the table. There’s no disputing that. Between his T-shirts of funny photos of either himself or other people at the table and his giant tankards of water; it is clear that this man knows comedy. So it’s no surprise that there’s always some sort of giant troll in every character he makes. No other person in the world has probably made Mathew Mercer facepalm this much. Scanlan is a bard who constantly comes up with the absolute worst/best songs to get everyone else at the table laughing. Scanlan also has a flip side, with an unexpected storyline featuring his daughter and even Scanlan leaving for a while. Sam always makes his characters complex on top of the comedy. Nott was unbelievable when she was first introduced. Sam was playing a tiny female goblin. It was hilarious. But Nott proved to be so much more than that. Nott became Jester’s best friend, she was a mother and a wife, and Sam knew how to play that side of her too. Of course, all of that along with “Nott the Best Detective Agency” which was a genius bit of improv. As much as I love Nott and all her craziness, I can’t get over Scanlan’s songs though. I still miss them.
Ashley Johnson (Pike vs Yasha):
I kind of feel like this battle is very not fair. Ashley was understandably not present for much of campaign two and even quite a bit of campaign one. But Pike was already a developed character, whereas Yasha wasn’t as much. Both characters are still great and I’m so glad we got what we could of Ashley. But I think Ashley also had her own opinions regarding this. Ashley had a hard time connecting to Yasha for quite a while. You could tell that Ashley was much more comfortable with her portrayal of Pike. Pike was lovable, wise, moralistic, and hilariously best friends with Grog. Pike also dealt with Scanlan in a way that nobody else could. Whenever Pike showed up it was a joy because everyone knew that they all needed Pike. Yasha was more reserved, but in a very interesting way. Losing Molly took a toll on her, but she was eventually able to bounce back as one of the main sources of muscle in the group. Ashley breathes life into each session she’s a part of and it’s always a joy to see her characters. But Pike is a comfort to everyone, including Ashley herself. One of the reasons why I love Fearne in campaign three is because it feels as though Ashley is in her element again.
Of course, I would be remiss without mentioning Mathew Mercer and his amazing stories and NPCs. He’s a genius and none of these characters would have arcs or be brought to life without him. I’ve watched some of the new campaign and I already love it. Between FGC who is already cute and makes me laugh, to Fearne who is unexpectedly violent, to Orym the humble halfling, to Laudna who is delightfully creepy, to Imogen who is cool and collected, to Ashton who is delightfully sassy, to the characters who we aren’t sure if they’ll stay yet. Such as Bertrand Bell who is a funny familiar face and Dorian who is relatably anxious all the time. (I hope Robbie Daymond stays because I am a huge fan of his!) I actually watched Exandria Unlimited (and died laughing at Orym pretending to be a toddler) so I automatically loved the familiar faces. I love everything these amazing voice actors do, obviously, so I can’t wait to see what they do next. And I can’t wait to see other voice actors guest on the show and to see D&D continue to be more of an accepted hobby because of this show.
See you across the pond!