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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > April 2018 (#17) > Critical Role

Critical Role

The world’s biggest Dungeons & Dragons campaign has changed the face of roleplaying forever – and its cast have had an absolute blast along the way. Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer and Liam O’Brien reveal how a birthday treat turned into a cultural phenomenon and what’s in store for season two

Critical Hit

Matthew Mercer (centre) and the rest of the Critical Role cast: Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffe and Travis Willingham

Could you and your friends run your roleplaying campaign with ten people watching? How about 100? Or 1,000? What if it was an audience of hundreds of thousands? Or even millions? That’s exactly the daunting task faced by the cast of Critical Role, a Dungeons & Dragons campaign streamed live every week by Geek & Sundry, the web video network that’s also the home of Wil Wheaton’s hugely popular board game series TableTop. Since its all-star D&D show began, Critical Role has racked up tens of millions of views on livestreaming site Twitch and video library YouTube, including a staggering 6.7 million views of its first episode, Arrival at Kraghammer, which debuted in June 2015. The game that would grow into a show watched by millions began like any other roleplaying campaign – a bunch of friends sat around a table, having fun. In this case, the organiser was Matthew Mercer, a professional voice actor with credits across video games, TV series and films, who put together a one-off simplified scenario for his friend and fellow voice actor Liam O’Brien’s birthday.

“When we started this campaign in our home game, it was for mostly a bunch of people who I’d never played before,” Mercer says. “It was supposed to be just a one-shot for my friend Liam’s birthday, and we invited a bunch of our compatriots who had never played before and they all got immediately hooked, and it turned into a campaign.”

Mercer, O’Brien and their friends – including several other actors – soon switched to D&D 3.5-based RPG Pathfinder and continued to play at home for two years, before one of the group, BAFTA-winning The Last of Us star Ashley Johnson, mentioned the campaign to Felicia Day, the cult actor who co-founded Geek & Sundry.

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About Tabletop Gaming

Tabletop Gaming April is the best place to find out about Godtear, the seriously ambitious legacy miniatures game from the creators of Guild Ball and Dark Souls: The Board Game. In our exclusive interview, lead developer Alex Hall tells us what he has planned for the massive project and why it promises to be the studio’s best game yet. Speaking of massive, roleplaying phenomenon Critical Role is back with a second season, with millions tuning in online to follow the hilarious and dramatic exploits of its all-star cast of characters as they run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign like no other. Matthew Mercer and Liam O’Brien tell us how the most popular show in roleplaying started with a friendly one-shot at a birthday party and what they have in store for the brand new season. Superheroes are everywhere today, but few can match up to Hellboy, the demonic investigator of the paranormal. As the hero for our times heads to the tabletop in a new co-op game, designer James M. Hewitt chats about his unique take on a legendary comic-book idol. How many games are in your collection? We’re willing to bet even the greatest shelf pales in comparison to the avid board game collectors in our latest issue, who reveal their hoards of thousands of games and discuss why amassing games can be just as rewarding as playing them. That’s not to mention our chat with the true Monopoly Man, who holds the record for owning the most copies of the classic board game, from One Direction to McDonald's! Our reviews section is as fully-stocked as ever with the latest and greatest verdicts on this month’s releases. Leading the way are our thoughts on the unmissable Star Wars: Legion and Rising Sun, followed closely by Stuffed Fables, GKR: Heavy Hitters, Palace of Mad King Ludwig, Civilisation, Meeple Circus, DreadBall: Second Edition, A Handful of Stars and many, many more. There’s no better place to find out what should be on your tabletop next. That’s just the start – dive in!