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Over 40 years of Dungeons and Dragons have set the stage for a streaming community

Companion+Guide+to+Tal%27Dorei%2C+Dice%2C+Spell+Cards+and+other+pieces
Companion Guide to Tal'Dorei, Dice, Spell Cards and other pieces

Companion Guide to Tal'Dorei, Dice, Spell Cards and other pieces

Photo courtesy of Katt McClintock

Photo courtesy of Katt McClintock

Companion Guide to Tal'Dorei, Dice, Spell Cards and other pieces

Sarah Hall, Reporter

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For years, Dungeons and Dragons has been seen as geek/nerd culture at its highest.

In 1974, the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons was published, making its way into the world.

By the end of 1974, all 1000 copies of the hand-assembled prints sold out. By 1980 over 250,000 copies of Dungeons and Dragons products had been sold, including the Players Guide, The Dungeon Masters guide and Monster guide.

With the advent of computer games in the 1980’s and being featured in many mainstream mediums—it started to take off once again—being translated into multiple languages.

In 1989 the first licensed Advanced Dungeons and Dragons personal computer game, “Pool Of Radiance”, was launched.

Over the years, Dungeons and Dragons went from the reference of a nerd culture, to a possible satanic cult depiction and back again—to a very niche, nerd, but nonetheless, more mainstream culture.

In 2014 Dungeons and Dragons celebrated 40 years with the release of the 5th edition of D&D.

The “journey” itself into the D&D world is well understood and for the most part, adored and appreciated by its faithful—but to the layman it can be a bit of a challenge to grasp the language as well as the D&D excursion.

Photo courtesy of Katt McClintock
Five sets of dice used in D&D

 

This continent is divided both by jagged terrain and political powers

Matthew Dennis has been playing Dungeons and Dragons or D&D for over 37 years and has seen the benefits of this creative game.

“This is one of the best games for teaching that I know of, I taught for 25 years in public schools,” Dennis said. ”There are so many kids that don’t seem to fit in a place but with D&D they can find their place, learn new skills and be very creative in the process.”

Matthew isn’t the only one who feels this way about the game.

Andrew Bundas, who has been playing for three years, also thinks it’s great for thinking creativity.

“D&D has provided me with an incredible creative outlet, and has often kept my mind busy and engaged when times have been tough,” Bundas said. “It is a game that, whatever is going on in my life, I can spend a few hours a week being somewhere else, and oftentimes being someone else in the process. It has improved my critical thinking process as well. Day to day, I am an informal science educator working in a science center, and D&D has made me look at problems differently which is immensely valuable as I try to figure out the best way to educate the public!”

This is where we meet our intrepid group of players, known as Critical Role and their fans, the Critters.

 

The Menagerie coast, a collection of city-states united under the Clovis Concord.

 Critical Role is a live, weekly game of Dungeons and Dragons played by ‘nerdy’ voice actors on Thursday nights at 7 pm Pacific time.

The cast of Matthew Mercer (Dungeon Master), Marisha Ray (Keyleth/Beauregard), Taliesin Jaffe (Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III (Percy)/Mollymauk), Liam O’Brien (Vax’ildan/Caleb Widogast), Ashley Johnson (Pike Trickfoot/Yasha), Sam Riegel (Scanlan Shorthalt/Taryon Darrington/Nott The Brave), Laura Bailey (Vex’ahlia/Jester) and Travis Willingham (Grog/Fjord) all play, sometimes with an occasional guest star.

Campaign one is a 115 episode arc that meets Vox Machina (Keyleth, Percy, Vax’ildan, Vex’ahlia, Pike, Scanlan and Grog), a group on a mission to find Lady Kima who has gone missing in Kraghammer.

That is the start of their epic story.

The group had been gaming together for two years before they brought it to the streaming stage through Geek and Sundry’s Twitch channel. They started out with a small following, but it soon ballooned to a community, which the cast and community members called them Critters.

The first campaign ran for nearly three more years before they brought it to a close. Many things came out of the first campaign- love, loss, hope, and friendship—both with the cast and their fans.

 

Monopolizes the southwestern shores and ports of Wildemount.

 In January of this year, they started campaign two, whose first episode has been watched over one million times on the Geek and Sundry’s YouTube channel. This story takes place 20 years after the end of Vox Machina’s arc, on a completely new continent and completely new characters. We meet Caleb Widogast, Nott the Brave, Mollymauk Tealeaf, Yasha, Jester, Beauregard and Fjord, all of whom are just trying to make it through life on Wildemount.

Each episode runs between three and four hours long, but some episodes have reached nearly five hours depending on the depth and complexity of the battle or topic at hand.

They collect fan art each week and run a sizzle reel of it before the game, during the break, and after the game. Even the music behind the track is from a fan as well.

 

Thriving on cultural trade and freedom.

 The involvement of the fan base is what makes Critical Role special. The fans watch not only for the enjoyment, but for the impact that Critical Role has imprinted on them.

Northeast Valley News reached out a group of Critters to ask what impact Critical Role has had on their life so far.

“The impact Critical Role has had on me is immeasurable. It truly is,” Kathleen Coulter said. “I’ve always struggled thinking of the right words to describe the impact Critical Role has had on me. No words are loud enough. No words seem true enough. No words will ever describe the impact this show has had on me.”

Lorena Fedor explained how D&D sparked her creativity.

“It has impacted me so much. I discovered it when I was very sick. The fact that I was able to look forward to something every week gave me the strength to go on. It sparked my dormant imagination and spurred me to look for D&D groups to join,” Fedor said.

Katt McClintock spoke about how the show helped during trying times since they (gender neutral pronoun) started watching.

“I found Critical Role during a period in my life when I was depressed and feeling really down about myself,” they told Northeast Valley News. “Watching the cast play these characters gave me something to look forward to. Percy’s story arc (in campaign one) especially was very therapeutic for me to watch; seeing someone who didn’t really like himself be able to end up happy has meant a lot.”

McClintock also appreciates the representation of genderfluidity they have seen so far in this campaign, as they themselves are genderfluid.

“To have the genderfluid representation in Watchmaster Bryce (Feelid) in Campaign 2 and to be able to see myself in them means everything to me,” McClintock said. “I’ve also met so many wonderful friends because of the show, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

In the early days of the stream, the Twitch chat room often bought dinner for the cast through donations, who would come play after working their day jobs.

This made the bond with the fan base and the cast stronger in the beginning years. Charity drives, Critmas (where the cast opened gifts and letters, a lot of the time with great emotion) and more made Critical Role become more than a show.

It became a community.

 

‘Beyond the Cyrios Mountains lies the massive region known as Wynandir, bisected by the Ashkeep peaks. Eastern Wynandir houses the expansive and turbulent badlands of Xhorhas – Overrun with all manner of beasts and terrors, relics from the final battles of the Calamity that ruined that scarred landscape.

 D&D has reached many lives over its 44 years of existence.

The rise of popularity of Critical Role has launched many role-playing games on Geek and Sundry’s Twitch and on Project Alpha, where Nerdist Industries and Geek and Sundry have their own subscription-based website.

On Thursday, March 29, the live viewership of episode 12 on Twitch— hit nearly 45 thousand people watching live.

Dina James explained that D&D helps with strengths as well as weaknesses.

“It’s part acting, part storytelling, part guidelines, and part plain old-fashioned luck,” James said. “It makes you think on your feet, improvise, solve puzzles, and be creative. Whatever your strengths, they’ll fit into a game,” James said. “The same goes for your weaknesses. Say you’re a good actor but not very good with following a set of rules. The roleplay aspect will suit you nicely, and you’ll learn that the rules act as your script. Say you’re more comfortable with keeping to what the dice say you do instead of acting it out. That’s all right as well. No one will judge if you don’t want to speak in character or an accent. D&D is for everyone.”

On Tuesdays when they live stream Talks Machina- an after show where fans can submit questions about the past week’s episode- the host Brian W. Foster reassures fans that there’s more to come.

“Don’t worry, it’s almost Thursday. Stay Turnt,” Foster said.

For many, staying “Turnt” is something to hold onto.

Julia Turner, a fan in the UK, explained the joy the show has given her.

“Critical Role has really been a comfort at a time when I’ve been struggling a lot,” Turner said. “Struggling to get out of bed, struggling to cook and clean and eat. It’s been a bright spot of joy and real, genuine feelings. It’s given me something to care about, and a connection between myself and other people, both old and new. Plus, it’s just great fun.”

At the end of every episode, Matthew Mercer will look into the camera and ask…

“Is it Thursday yet?”

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Reporting from the Northeast Valley, Phoenix, and surrounding communities. State, National and International coverage- from the campus of Scottsdale Community College.
Over 40 years of Dungeons and Dragons have set the stage for a streaming community