Critical Role: Changing Party Dynamics and Uber-Powerful Spells

Genre: Fantasy RPG

Synopsis: A party of adventures called Vox Machina must make their way through a changing world, facing ever more powerful enemies and their own personal demons. The story is brought to life by a cast of professional voice actors, and the ever-present chance that bad planning or bad dice rolling will end that journey forever.

Series: 89 episodes.

I’ve Watched: All of it.

Verdict: Still totally awesome.

Available: All of the episodes are uploaded to the Geek and Sundry website. The show streams live on the Geek and Sundry Twitch channel, Thursdays at 10pm EST.


With the wrap-up of a major arch, Critical Role reaches another milestone in its story–spoiler–the first time a player retires a party member and creates another character to play. I really do love how this show progresses and keeps moving forward, evidenced by the fact that I won’t stop talking about it.

In this case, the dynamic of the party, Vox Machina, is shaken up–they’re all reeling from the fact that one of their friends who has been with them for so long isn’t anymore. Meanwhile, this random dude (Taryon) shows up and manages to push all of their buttons, while just barely managing to give them a good enough reason to come along. (And it’s kinda fascinating that the actor who changed characters gets to watch Vox Machina praise one of his characters while ridiculing the other.)

Taryon’s essentially a spoiled rich kid who wants to prove himself to his father. The powerful items that he’s bought or made are what makes him capable of being part of such a high level party, but he’s–well, let’s say he’s still in the process of learning how to handle himself in dangerous situations. Plenty of comedy comes from his golem, whose purpose is to write down the story of his adventures. Especially when Taryon comes out of a situation he hadn’t handled well, but dictates it to his golem as a tale of his personal heroism.

With Taryon being both new and unwittingly abrasive, he and the rest of the party are slowly working up to a more trusting relationship. Very slowly, and not at the same pace for everyone. It’s also interesting to see touches of conflict when this close-knit group of friends warms up to the new guy at different rates. Like when your friends take to someone you’re not ready to trust yet.

And because Taryon is played by Sam Riegel, this is often used to hilarious effect:

  • One moment is when Taryon bonds with Percy over both of them being inventors, and Keyleth–Percy’s best friend–is insecure over him getting a new friend who shares this interest she doesn’t understand. Taryon and Percy play up the humor during the scene where she expresses her insecurity, by cracking jokes and laughing loudly enough for her to hear through the walls.
  • Another is how Taryon does not memorize any of their names except Percy’s. Until another member of the party, Pike, produces a truly hilarious set of flashcards for him to learn from.

I’m perfectly happy watching these relationships evolve from scratch, and finding out how Taryon–who’s really good at misunderstanding things–works his way into the tightknit group that is Vox Machina.

Furthermore, I’m super excited that Keyleth can now cast 9th level spells. The way this was introduced into the story was great, with it being played out as part of the plot in a way that completely floored the rest of the cast and the audience (certainly me). It was a strong cinematic sequence that I rewatched several times just to see how everyone reacted to it.

And I’m glad that Keyleth in particular will cast 9th level spells. This is a controversial opinion among fans, but I love watching how creative she is with spellcasting. It adds something extra to the mechanic of DnD, where she’ll try to find a way to fit the situation with her magic, and it’ll either work great or fail–which is actually really cool for a druid manipulating the elements. It means that, in the world of the story, controlling the forces of nature isn’t predictable or safe. That aspect really adds something to the narrative, and it requires both the player and the dungeon master to go with that creativity, which they do. 

While I’m speaking of Keyleth, I want to mention that the actress who plays her (Marisha Ray) is a really engaging panel speaker. I watched this video of her recent panel at Anime Milwaukee:


I’ve been to a bunch of panels and watched even more online. Solo panels depend a lot on the speakers’ personality, and whether they have interesting stories to share. Marisha’s are always really good.

As for Vox Machina, I could go on about the virtues of each character and the power of their flaws. Every member of the cast adds a lot to the story, and Critical Role is better for having each of them. But since I’m clearly going to be watching this show for the foreseeable future (every Thursday night, all year round except holidays), I’ll have plenty of time to give more in-depth thoughts for each character in future posts.

2 thoughts on “Critical Role: Changing Party Dynamics and Uber-Powerful Spells

  1. Theo Promes

    so jealous that you get to attend panels while i’m just sitting here in europe watching CR at 4 AM…
    Sam’s new character has been a great move on his part, the parting scene was riveting, and everything since then just *so hilarious*. That last episode with pike just…wow. Ashley can be very scary.
    I think Marisha’s spellcasting has become a lot more hit than miss lately, while she used to pull the occasional spectacular mistake (like that mistform thing fighting those worms a while back) I think she has been reading the spell descriptions quite a bit more careful recently. even the tsunami against thordak only failed because she didn’t know creature sizes too well, which is fairly tertiary information for a player. The feeblemind in the raishan fight…wow. that closed an encounter that could’ve been an easy TPK otherwise. Also prevented a whole lot of trouble down the road, because I’m pretty sure raishan would have had decent chances to escape otherwise, and with the whole dracolich stuff we know now…

    So yeah, I’m also an avid fan, and also try to catch talks machina whenever my sleep schedule allows. This show got me to pick up DnD myself, and I can’t say I regret that decision at all, either 🙂


    1. I’ve never gotten to attend a Critical Role panel specifically, just watched the videos that Critical Scope uploads. One time, I did attend a convention that they were at, but not on the same day as their panel–that one hurt.

      Now that you mention it, I do wish we got to see more of Pike, because we’ve gotten hints of a subtle characterization to her, but haven’t seen enough of it to really pin down.

      Won’t speculate on what Marisha’s doing behind the scenes, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Keyleth. And yeah, she’s made some game-changing moves recently. You brought up the feeblemind, and I’d add the planeshift to that.

      I follow Talks Machina and the live shows too, but at the somewhat more reasonable time frame of being on the East Coast USA (live shows for me are 10pm-2am-ish). 4am sounds awful…


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