Critical Role is one of the top Dungeons & Dragons actual play shows in the world. Its mixture of high-quality storytelling, talented cast of players, and warm sense of humor have given it immense reach among D&D players and far beyond. However, it can be a daunting show to get into.
Critical Role is split into episodes between three or four hours, with a new one every week. There are two full campaigns, a third one in progress, and dozens of one-shots and spin-off series. Nonetheless, there are a few ways to make getting into Critical Role a less overwhelming task for new listeners.
10 Don’t Start With Campaign Three
Critical Role doesn’t have to be watched in order. Each campaign is theoretically its own story. Although they’re set in the same world, the first two campaigns have very little overlap. As a result, either of Critical Role‘s Campaign One or Campaign Two are a good start. However, despite being the most recent and up-to-date, Critical Role‘s third campaign is a worse choice.
Campaign Three continues many Critical Role plot threats. It draws far more heavily on previous campaigns, with antagonists, side characters, and even player characters from the first two campaigns appearing. New fans will either need to spoil themselves on those stories or risk being lost if they start with Critical Role‘s most recent campaign.
9 Listen At A Faster Speed
Some prospective Critical Role listeners may want near-endless content to listen to. However, others may be put off by the sheer length. A single campaign has more content than the entirety of a long-running show like The Simpsons. Plenty of this is padded out by lengthy combat and other mechanical considerations. Simply increasing the speed can be a valuable way to cut down on Critical Role‘s length.
Increasing the playback on YouTube to 1.25 or even 1.5 speed can save dozens of hours in only a handful of Critical Role episodes without sacrificing any content. This can also make slow conversations or filler episodes go by faster. The only downside is it may cause episodes to sound slow if the viewer goes back to regular speed.
8 Being Caught Up Isn’t A Big Deal
Many new Critical Role listeners worry about being ‘caught up’ and able to watch the show live on Twitch or as it comes out on YouTube. This is especially pressing if they want to consume all three Critical Role campaigns, where being caught up requires them to watch hundreds of episodes. However, the benefits of being caught up are few.
Ultimately, watching every available Critical Role episode just leaves a week’s wait before more content. Fans do better listening at their leisure without any goal or target. Notably, attempting to rush through Critical Role might leave the viewer burned out by the time they catch a livestream.
7 Early Campaign One Episodes Have Problems
Fans starting with Critical Role‘s first campaign can be put off by the earliest episodes. Critical Role is a very experimental show at that early point in its lifespan. It struggles with technical issues, particularly in its audio. In addition, the cast is still finding their feet with livestreaming their game and changing systems to D&D Fifth Edition.
Critical Role‘s first campaign improves dramatically within twenty episodes until these problems disappear. New fans should keep in mind that the early teething problems are temporary. At worst, they might be better suited skipping to the Briarwood arc in Critical Role Campaign One to avoid the issues.
6 Start With Exandria Unlimited: Calamity
Some viewers might be nervous to start a Critical Role campaign with 115 or 141 episodes due to its length. In particular, it can be hard to get a taster for the show without watching several episodes. New Critical Role viewers might appreciate using the Exandria Unlimited: Calamity spin-off series as a test.
Exandria Unlimited: Calamity only takes four episodes to tell a complete story. It lacks regular Critical Role Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer but has several main cast members among the players. It’s a much easier way to try out Critical Role‘s format, storytelling, and world that many fans consider among its best content.
5 Don’t Skip Past Combat
Some Critical Role fans enjoy D&D combat less than the roleplaying and storytelling side of things. There’s no denying that combat slows an episode down. When this is a more incidental or non-climactic fight, viewers can be tempted to skip past them to cut down on episode length. Some veteran fans even recommend this.
However, some of Critical Role‘s best roleplaying happens in combats, even those that aren’t integral to the story. More incidental combats still have character moments, jokes, or player decisions that rank among Critical Role‘s best. Even if a combat does drag, it’s worth sticking it out to get the full experience.
4 Listen In The Background
Even if Critical Role‘s length doesn’t deter new fans, it can make the show hard to watch over a long period of time. Four hours a week for the show live is less of a commitment, but watching several episodes in a row can be a challenge. Fortunately, Critical Role works very well as a show to combine with other things.
Critical Role works in the background when working, walking, driving, or even doing another hobby like gaming. Not every moment has to be watched or listened to intently. If viewers worry they’ve missed something significant, they can rewind it. Some fans may prefer to give Critical Role their undivided attention, but it’s not the only option.
3 Episodes Are Shorter Than They Look
Part of Critical Role‘s daunting length comes from the fact that things other than the game happen during episodes. There are announcements, comedic advertisements, a break for the cast, and much more. The additional content in a Critical Role episode can add up to well over half an hour, particularly with a longer break.
Many Critical Role viewers consider some of these bits well worth watching, especially Sam Riegel’s infamous ad reads. Nonetheless, watchers who are concerned with the story first and foremost can speed through it much quicker by skipping these sections or listening to an audio podcast form that does this for them.
2 Don’t Worry Too Much About Exact Rules
Critical Role is a significant way for new players to get into Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. However, it can happen the other way around, with a veteran D&D 5e player starting the podcast. These players may be rules experts and put off by some of Critical Role DM Matthew Mercer’s particular rules or rulings.
Critical Role makes heavy use of homebrew content. It also has some house rules, particularly ones influenced by the Pathfinder RPG. In addition, the cast sometimes makes strange calls or flat-out forgets how things work. Viewers who stress over perfect D&D 5e rules in their actual plays may struggle with Critical Role. If this is a significant problem, they may prefer another podcast.
1 Don’t Try To Memorize Everything
Critical Role takes place in Matthew Mercer’s homemade fantasy world of Exandria. Although it draws some elements from other D&D settings, Exandria has its own history, cosmology, geography, politics, and much more. New viewers might be alarmed, particularly if they start with a more lore-heavy story like Critical Role‘s second or third campaign.
However, there’s no need to memorize every name, god, or region that appears in Critical Role. The players themselves often forget details, leading to frequent reminders from each other and Mercer. Critical Role is a show that is very forgiving for fans who forget the smaller details of its story.
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