New Campaign for Critical Role Off to an Exciting Start

Genre: Fantasy RPG

Synopsis: An assorted group of adventures meet, set out to have a good time at a carnival…only for trouble to find them.

Series: 1st episode in an ongoing series. Set in the same world as a previous campaign–but on a different continent, in a different time, with all new characters.

I’ve Watched: The one episode that’s out.

Verdict: This is an amazing start.

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.

(The actual content of the episode in the video above starts around 16:30.)

The first episode of a completely new story with new characters has launched from the cast of Critical Role, and I could not be more excited about it. Apparently I’m not the only one, because I noticed the number of live viewers more than quadrupled from their previous campaign. So if anyone was interested in Critical Role, but daunted by how much content there was, here’s a good chance to jump on board to a whole new story line.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but this episode exceeded anything I could have hoped for. The characters are quirky and funny, the circumstances are intriguing, and there’s something special about getting to know them for the first time. And watching them getting to know each other. It’s fascinating to watch those early moments when they’re not quite on the same side, don’t really have each others’ backs yet. I’m not entirely sure how all of them are going to come together as a party yet, but I really want to find out.

As per usual, we have seven (fantastic) characters in the group:

Jester, played by Laura Bailey: Jester is a character that demands attention. She has little to no restraint, and can’t resist the opportunity to mess with people (even when it’s kind of a terrible idea). Her bubbly personality and trickiness make for a wonderful combination. Whether she’s bluntly telling this guy she just met how bad he smells (but insisting she has the best of intentions), or rearranging all of the books in a bookshop, I can’t help but watch her antics with pure amusement. She’s completely unselfconscious and ridiculously charismatic. Like, ridiculously.

I absolutely adore this character–she’s already a clear standout and favorite of mine–and we’ve only just met her.  

Nott, played by Sam Riegel: She’s a twitchy little goblin girl–her kind is not-so-welcome in these parts, so she keeps her facial features hidden. With only one companion in this world to help her with her secret (and who’s really bad at keeping that secret), it’s no wonder she’s paranoid. And it’s no wonder she’s willing to steal and con people out of money, surviving however she can. It’s easy to imagine both her and Jester getting the party into all kinds of hilarious mishaps.

Of course, Nott’s personality aside, there is one other question to ponder--namely, just how long can Sam keep up that accent?

Mollymauk, played by Taliesin Jaffe: Molly is a showman working for a traveling carnival. He’s got the flair, the intuition, and the ability to convince Jester he’s actually reading her fortune instead of telling her what she wants to hear. This is a fun character, but I’m also intrigued by how his class relates to his background–there has to be a story there, about how and why he has his powers. But so far, all we’ve seen is the performer trying to make a living, and not the hunter. I’m thoroughly intrigued to see where this goes.

Beauregard, played by Marisha Ray: Beau is just so chill. But despite that laid back attitude, there are moments that manage to excite her and draw her out of that flippant attitude. I find myself looking forward to seeing what sorts of things break through the nonchalance. (And I’m personally picking up vibes that she might have a tiny bit of a crush on Yasha, even at this early stage–which could make for a really interesting dynamic.)

Yasha, played by Ashley Johnson: She’s a little standoffish, a little gruff. It’s fun to watch some of the other characters–particularly Beau–run up against her emotional walls. She also doesn’t let herself be played easily, drawing her lines and holding to them. And sometimes playing the other guy instead. A bit of a solitary figure, when push comes to shove, she’s perfectly willing to look out for herself. I can’t wait to see her character transform as she gets to know the rest of the group. Of course, she’s plenty entertaining as the woman taking care of herself first, and I hope we get to see plenty of that first.

Caleb, played by Liam O’Brien: A terribly unkempt wizard, Caleb is Nott’s only companion at this point. It’s the two of them together, out against the world. And all of that makes sense for Nott, who’s a goblin and has no choice but to live like this. But it brings up plenty of questions about Caleb, who’s human and can blend wherever he wants to. How did he and this goblin girl even meet? What made him choose to continue standing by her? (And how have the two of them kept their anonymity when he’s so hilariously bad at keeping secrets?)

Fjord, played by Travis Willingham: He remains a bit of a mystery so far. Travis has kept him mostly in the background, only stepping up to add a sensible word here or there, or to take a targeted action–like stepping in front of a friend about to be accosted by a guard. We’ve seen hints of an understanding between him and Beau, and at least enough companionship between him and Jester for him to have her back. He’s been serious, practical, and generally honorable. But we clearly haven’t even scratched the surface of his character yet.

These are intriguing bits and pieces to characters we’ve only just met, with enough potential already to know we’re going to get some incredible interactions in the future. As excited as I was for this new campaign, I genuinely expected more of an adjustment period. I thought it would take time for the characters to grow on me, and that the first episode would be a bit more of a mess–as everyone worked out their place in this new dynamic. But instead, ten minutes in, and I’m completely hooked. I honestly couldn’t be happier.

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7 thoughts on “New Campaign for Critical Role Off to an Exciting Start”

  1. It was just the same for me! I often need a while to get used to new characters, in TV and literature – but here, wow. It took about as much time as it was for sam to open his mouth.
    My current favourites are Fjord and Jester, the latter mostly because of the impressive change in character for Laura – from the aloof, pragmatic Vex’ahlia to the charismatic, bubbly prankster Jester. Quite amazing. Fjord is great on multiple levels, first off, I am really excited to see what happens if you hand Matt Mercer a warlock to toy with, warlocks are imo the class you can do most with as far as player-DM backstory/character story development goes, because you have that very direct interaction between patron and warlock. I am extremely curious to see what will happen there. Second, Travis finally gets to apply that tactical mind of his – it shone through with Grog when it was appropriate, but since that one’s interests were pretty narrow, I often got the impression that he was holding back, because Grog was sort of a reactive/comic relief role outside of combat. This will be very different with Fjord, who is extremely charismatic, the party face and quite a bit of a mastermind on top of that.

    But that being said, all the new characters are really exciting, and I was very impressed with how they pulled that off, the years of experience really reflect in these new, much more faceted characters, in my opinion. The viewer numbers are damn impressive too, lots of people taking the opportunity to jump in at the beginning – someone from my own gaming group as well, who has not had the time to catch up entirely just yet, and really enjoys being able to watch live, now.

    Is it thursday yet? 😀

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    1. One of the interesting things for me, is that I’m not sure Fjord will actually be the face of the party. While both him and Caleb have the highest charisma scores, they don’t seem to be big talkers–and I actually find it quite exciting that the lower-charisma characters might take the initiative to talk, while the higher-charisma characters might only stir themselves for damage control when things start going badly.

      I’m also uncertain that Travis’ presumed status as some kind of secret mastermind isn’t a bit of a viewer myth–as Grog, he couldn’t do much reacting out-of-character except for facial expressions, and people generally read what they want out of facial expressions. Since most people think that their ideas are smarter than everyone else’s, if nobody at the table had one particular viewer’s idea, they could imagine Travis as their fantasy self-insert.

      I’m not saying that Travis isn’t intelligent–I’m saying that plenty of the other players are clever in their own right, and I see no evidence of a huge gap between him and the others. (Unless you were just saying that Travis was the only one who didn’t get a chance to flex his strategic muscles for story reasons, in which case, sorry for the presumption.)

      I do agree that his character is promising, though, and filled with potential that I can’t wait for them to explore.

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      1. Hmm, thats not quite what I meant to say, I didn’t mean to imply that Travis was somehow better at, well, anything than the other players – just that there was a lot of things he sort of took a backseat for, because grog, and now he is at the forefront for exactly those things – negotiations, infiltration, deception.

        [Spoilers C2E3]
        I am thinking of all those guard interactions, for example when they snuck into the carnival, or his old-man distraction in the most recent episode – its an enormous role reversal from grog, and that is what I enjoy, as much as Laura’s.
        Perhaps the party face was a bad choice of words, the cast don’t really do that anyway, they are way too good about switching spotlight – but Fjord seems to be the type of person who stays quiet for a while, assessing the situation, and then steps in trying to steer things once he has a grasp on the other participants’ motivations. Thats what I noticed in their interactions with the Lawmaster, for example, and what I meant by mastermind. He and Caleb, and perhaps Beau seem to be the more collected, calm characters of the party, and with Fjord, the contrast to Grog showcases what a great, faceted actor Travis is. That’s what I meant to say.

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        1. Sorry, that was my bad then–I’ve seen this particular fan theory make the rounds enough times that I’m probably primed to expect that whenever someone mentions Travis’ tactical mind. (Even Laura commented on it once, on screen.) That was me reading into things you weren’t saying.

          And it totally is cool to get to see the actors adjust their role in the group and the characters they play. This might be a little early, and I could be wrong, but I felt like Fjord’s representative personality moment came when he distracted the guards (with the old man disguise) while the others escaped out the window. He didn’t volunteer himself, someone else had to suggest that he do it. But once he was handed the task, he ran with it and totally trusted in his own powers of persuasion. I can easily imagine him doing a lot of the talking, though much of it might be damage control after Jester and Nott have already made a conversational mess of things.

          Travis is definitely a great actor–his character in the Deadlands one-shot in particular manages to be quite different from either Grog or Fjord.

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        2. Yeah, I mean, they all are great actors, and intellectually I know that, but it was still sort of mindblowing how much they changed their personalities, even down to small affectations like Jester’s gambling enthusiasm. I guess this ties back into what you wrote in your original post, that it was really engaging to meet the new characters, even though some level of wistfulness was to be expected. With Laura and Travis, that character change felt the strongest to me, and that impressed me a lot. Not to imply that the others didn’t do the same, but for example, Sam plays another small, funny agent of chaos, even though the characters are different, there are similarities, so the differences were less pronounced than with Vex’ahlia – Jester. That doesn’t mean I like their characters any less, but that abrupt change in personality was just a really remarkable thing for me.

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        3. I didn’t mean to make you feel like you needed to justify zeroing in on the characters that most stood out to you–it was just bad luck that some of the language you used happened to coincide with language I usually see used for one particular argument. If anything, this just proves that I need to stay away from the Twitch chat and Reddit for Critical Role. It’s starting to negatively impact my ability to interact with people. And to fully appreciate the show.

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        4. Well, don’t worry about me – this was less me justifying myself and more me trying to put my own thought process in order, as to why I found Jester and Fjord so compelling.
          I do however understand the need to take a break from the community, it gets a little intense sometimes – to be honest, I’ve stopped looking at twitch chat a very long time ago, its just way too full to get anything useful from it, in my opinion. I’ve been watching season 2 on youtube anyways, while chatting with someone from my own D&D game for live commentary. I do visit the subreddit, but more like once a week to catchup on the most entertaining conspiracy theories and fun bits than to have intense discussions, at least at this point of the campaign.

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