Critical Role (also known by detractors as DoorMatt Merciful's Mellow March) is a web-video series that airs on a weekly basis, and is based on the streaming of a game of Dungeons & Dragons played by a group of famous voice actors, most notably Matthew Mercer as the Dungeon Master. It has been held up as being a huge part of the reason why Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition was such a commercial success, as this publicity gave D&D a huge public image makeover, allowing it to be officially perceived as "cool", and not the province of emotionally stunted, socially inept, hideously deformed basement-dwelling nerds. /tg/ has never forgiven them for it.
The players of Critical Role use Mercer's own homebrewed world, called Exandria; the first campaign (series) takes place on a continent called Tal'dorei, whilst the second takes place on another one called Wildemount. The second campaign is set 20 years after the events of the first. The first campaign is mostly an archetypal fantasy adventure having a lot of noblebright elements (the "Briarwoods arc" being a notable exception). The second campaign set in the Dwendalian Empire, is much more Grimdark, the Empire itself sharing many similarities with /tg/'s favorie religious intolerant and all-around fascist empire.
The Dungeon Master
Critical Role is DMed by Matthew "Matt" Mercer. While generally regarded as being an awesome DM, Matt's ranking in those holiest of annals is a source of Discussion. While some of the fans regard him as the "BEST DM EVAH!", Most of /tg/ is a bit hesitant to give him that title, given his leniency towards his party and the now memetistic "Mercianisms" (Describing monsters frequently as having a "toothy maw" and low-HP creatures as "looking pretty rough" are the most famous examples).
The Cast of Characters in Season 1. (2015-2017)
"Right, listen up. If you have ale, then you have a friend in Grog Strongjaw. A goliath of towering height and size, this barbarian has an appetite for the two great loves in his life: combat, women, and ale. Wait... Easily the brains of the group, Grog is often consulted for his vast knowledge of shapes, colors, and shiny things. Also ale. In his early years, armed with his two-handed greataxe, Grog often enjoyed proving his might amongst the ranks of his family's wandering herd. But after coming upon an unsuspecting elderly gnome in the woods, he objected to the killing of such an innocent life. A creature of impulse, Grog felt only pity for this terrified little thing. His disobedience cost him dearly. Beaten bloody and banished by the herd leader, his uncle Kevdak, Grog was abandoned and left to die. Exiled from his herd, it was then that the relative of the very gnome he fought to save, saved him. It was the kindness of a gnome cleric named Pike that healed Grog, bringing him back from death's edge. And they have remained close friends ever since. Most nights, Grog can be found challenging entire taverns to wrestling matches! Or accompanying Scanlan to the nearest house where you pay for, er, lady favors. Also ale." -Grog's introduction
"I would like to Rage!" -Grog whenever he gets the chance
Goliath barbarian and resident meat shield Grog isn't exactly the sharpest half-giant in the crayon box but he makes up for his lacking mental capacity with his ungodly strength and winning personality. Grog is good at three things: Killing things very violently, drinking profusely and finding horrible evil swords by accident. Grog has earned many titles over his long years of adventuring most of them due to complete accident or where given as a joke this however makes them no less hilarious they include but are not limited to: The Grand Poobah de Doink of All This and That, First Tour Captain of Whitestone, King-Maker, Dragon-slayer, Professor Grog, Jumbo, Greg, Philip, Peanutbutter. This list of illustrious names only scratches the surface of the legend that Grog has accumulated over his time adventuring with Vox Mochina. He may be dumb as hell and will straight up murder some one if provoked but he does try to do what's right whenever the chance arises. Basically the most popular character in Vox Machina in part thanks to Travis Willingham and his insane commitment to roleplaying the character.
"A first impression of Keyleth would leave you with little information on the half-elven druid. You might even think that her social awkwardness due to her sheltered upbringing is kind of sweet. Of course, it would be unwise to underestimate her based on first impressions. Under that unintimidating petite frame is a vicious beast waiting to be unleashed, whose natural powers have made even the fiercest of champions pee their pants. Literally. Born to the air tribe of the Ashari people, Keyleth was raised with a deep love of nature and the elemental magics. It is her people's inherent duty to protect the delicate areas in Tal'Dorei, where the four elemental planes begin to bleed with this realm. Since she was a little girl, she had quite a knack for air manipulation and beast shaping abilities; well, if you consider kittens and flying squirrels to be little beasts, which I do. Anyways, it wasn't long before the headmaster of the tribe, her father, Korrin, realized her true prodigious abilities and she was inveterated to succeed him as the next headmaster. Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations. Every druid leader-to-be must embark on a journey to seek out the sister tribes in order to introduce and establish respect amongst the fellow headmasters. They call this the Aramenté, or Noble Odyssey. When her father felt she was ready, he set her on the path to truly discovering herself. Not knowing when, or if, she will ever return. As she hikes down the mountain towards Stilben, she meditated on the task ahead. Part of the Aramenté is proving yourself a strong warrior, a valiant protector, and a wise and compassionate leader. With this knowledge, one thought plays in repeat in her mind: is she even worthy?" -Keyleth's Introduction
A Half-Elf Druid, at the start of the campaign she's on a quest to become headmaster of the Air Ashari (a group of druids that guard portals to the Elemental Planes) which involves visiting the other three tribes to prove her worth
so she can become the Avatar. Keyleth might be the single biggest source of Skub in Critical Role, mostly due to her player Marisha Ray failing at playing a high Wisdom character and mis-using her spells (and of course the infamous goldfish-accident). Which lead to Ray receiving a ridiculous amount of hate mail from fa/tg/uys.
"Never entirely welcome in the company of elves or men, Vax'ildan learned at a young age to skip past formality, preferring instead to invite himself in your door. Along with twin sister Vex'ahlia, Vax was born by a chance encounter between elven royalty and human peasantry. Raised by their mother in their early years, the twins were eventually sent off to their father in the elven capital of Syngorn. But their cool reception among the elves there never warmed, and their time in the capital didn't last. The siblings stole away one autumn night and set out on the open road. After a few years of wandering, they eventually decided to return to their mother, and journeyed back to the lands of their youth. But instead of finding their childhood home, they returned to a pile of rubble. Their mother was gone, their home burned to ash. Pressing the townspeople for answers, they learned of the day the dragon came. With their ties all severed, Vax'ildan and his sister set out to find their fortune together in Tal'Dorei. An outsider since birth, Vax quickly learned to solve life's challenges in his own particular way, often by sidestepping them entirely. And when his knack for circumventing adversity isn't enough, the way of blades the elves schooled him in more than makes up the difference." -Vax's Introduction
The archetypical Half Elf edgy boy Rogue who later multiclassed into Paladin. Vax is probably the most traditionally cliche character of the bunch due to being played the most straight. No one's favorite or least favorite character, Vax effectively became the main protagonist of the final arcs due to an early death and resurrection that saw him become a Revenant for the Raven Queen. Had a bit of a habit of stealing screentime and pulling people aside for one-sided conversations that largely became him using them as stress balls. The only main member of the team to die for good at the end of the game.
"Like so many half-elves, Vex'ahlia has spent most of her life suffering the cool reception of a people who don't fully accept her. Born of a human mother and an elven father—who only later in life took an interest in their existence—, Vex'ahlia and her twin brother Vax'ildan quickly realized the only people they could truly rely on in this world were each other. It was at the age of ten when the two were taken from their mother, and brought to live in Syngorn, the isolated elven city for which their father was an ambassador. He quietly took them in, but always kept an icy distance, and after too many years of disdainful looks, the pair decided to leave his indifference behind, and set out on their own. Vax took to the cities, stealing small trinkets and learning the ways of the thief, while Vex kept to the woods. She preferred the isolation. Always the keen observer, she learned to hunt and to track, to spy and to shoot. And through a series of fateful events, earned herself a companion in the form of a bear—her own stolen Trinket—to fight alongside her and protect her fiercely. Also, he is adorable—and gives expert massages." -Vex's Introduction
Half-Elf Ranger, has a pet bear named Trinket who due to the nature of animal companions in Fifth Edition became more and more useless as the campaign progressed. She's also the group's accountant and keeps track of their finance. Vex is in general a bit of an odd character as even though Laura Bailey role-played consistently and is generally well-liked by the fandom she doesn't get any major arcs or character progression along the campaign besides her relationship to Percival, making her well-liked but no one's favorite
Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III
"Percy was the third child of seven children, born to a noble family who lived far to the north in the ancient castle of Whitestone. With so many siblings to share the burdens of lordship, Percy turned his attention to the sciences, engineering, and naturalism. One day, a mysterious couple, named Lord and Lady Briarwood, came to court. During a feast held in their honour, the Briarwoods violently took control of the castle, killing or imprisoning everyone who would stand in their way. Percy awoke chained in the dungeon, only to be freed by his younger sister. Together they fled, chased by the Briarwoods' men. As they ran, Percy's sister took several arrows to the chest and fell. Percy kept running, eventually jumping into a freezing river and floating unconscious to freedom. He did not remember waking up on a fishing boat. He barely remembered the next two years, as he slowly made his way as far south as possible. Then one night, Percy had a dream. A roaring cloud of smoke offered him vengeance against those who destroyed his family. When he awoke, Percy began to design his first gun." -Percival's Introduction
A human Gunslinger (a custom archetype made by Matt available on the DMs Guild), Percy quickly came into his own as a character and enraptured the community due to a haunting backstory and performance from Taliesin Jaffe. Percy unintentionally opens Pandora's Box through the creation of firearms, yet another bundle of trauma to add onto losing all of his family at a young age and being forced to flee as they were slaughtered before his eyes. Eventually finding a replacement family in Vox Machina, Percy set out to avenge his loved ones and provide his new family with a safe home in Whitestone after reclaiming it from a horde of vampires and undead. Percy also is responsible for 90% of Vox-Machina's one-liners.
"Oh, you haven't heard of Scanlan Shorthalt? Well, gird your loins, ladies, because he has his eye on you. A talented musician, master of disguise, and dashingly handsome in his own mind, Scanlan sings songs almost as much as he sings his own praises. Born a poor gnome, Scanlan used his endless charm and soaring tenor voice to croon for coin and support his single mother. One day he was discovered by a half-orc promoter, and joined Dr. Dranzel's Spectacular Traveling Troupe, where he learned the ways of the world, and honed his skills as a bard extraordinaire. A loner much of his life, Scanlan has never quite come to terms with the violent death of his mother at the hands of a goblin invasion. While his years on the road provided many, shall we say, educational experiences with the opposite sex, deep down Scanlan yearns for the one thing he's never known: the true love of a fellow gnome. Still, Scanlan considers himself a lover first, performer second, and fighter distant third. On the battlefield, he'll support his allies, but rarely draws blood unless it's to protect fellow gnome Pike. Count on Scanlan for a hearty laugh, a rollicking song, and a twinkle in his eye that melts hearts and makes the females swoon." -Scanlan's Intro
The classic bardic archetype, Scanlan started life as a question by his actor Sam Riegel to Liam O'Brien on their podcast All Work No Play asking what was the worst possible class/race hybrid he could play, to which O'Brien answered with "Gnome Bard." As fond of the ladies as he was fond of praising himself, Scanlan served mostly as a support caster, making the most of his Bardic abilities to flicker between DPS, healing and buffing as needed. Pretty much universally adored, especially once Sam began to make Scanlan the most unintended badass character in the team with feats such as burning a mansion down during a running battle that started with him bursting the doors down as a dinosaur. As he matured and learned to let go of the lecherous lifestyle, helped by a surprise appearance from his unknown daughter, Scanlan became an invaluable member of the team who provided a cruical part in many of the larger battles.
"Pike grew up in the outskirts of town, near the Bramblewood. Her ancestors were a family of deep gnomes with quite an unfavorable reputation. Thievery, destruction, and trickery left them with the curse of the last name of Trickfoot. Sarenrae, the goddess of healing and redemption, had other plans for Pike's great-great-grandfather Wilhand, who left his family at a young age after a dream—a dream that changed the course of the Trickfoot family. Wilhand devoted his life to Sarenrae, and pledged from then on that he and his family would live a life of service and devotion. As a child, Pike seemed to have an affinity to heal. Whether it was animals, people, or even flowers, she felt she had a purpose in making things whole that had once been broken. She studied and learned the ways to heal through divine magic. She lived a peaceful life, quiet and simple, until one day, Wilhand was captured and almost killed by a group of goliath barbarians. One of the goliaths took a stand against the murder of the innocent gnome, and he himself was beaten, bloodied, and left for dead, abandoned by his herd. Wilhand went to Pike for help. She prayed, and healed this barbarian as best she could, bringing him back to life. When he awoke, she discovered his name was Grog Strongjaw. After that, they were the best of friends—a rather unlikely pair. Little did she know that in a few years time, Grog would soon return the favor and bring her back from the clutches of death. After being killed in battle, Pike felt angry. She wanted to be stronger, so that it would never happen again. She spent four months at sea, training with the men and women aboard a ship called The Broken Howl. Gripping her holy symbol in one hand, and her morningstar in the other, this time, Pike is ready." -Pike's Introduction
A Gnome Cleric, Pike was the party's main healer and source of moral support. Due to her actor Ashley Johnson spending much of the campaign living in New York filming for NBC's Blindspot, Pike had very infrequent appearances relying on Ashley being able to Skype in if she got off work early enough or coming to LA for several weeks- various times her character sheet would be given to another cast member for more important battles. This had the unintended consequence of giving Pike little chance to grow as a character due to many of her arcs being cut off by Ashley having to leave or being heavily truncated. While mostly liked by the fandom, no one's exactly going to call Pike their favorite.
Ashley's boyfriend, later husband, Brian Wayne Foster, also hosts a spinoff show called Talks Machina where a rotating cast made of the players are asked followup questions about each session.
"Greetings and salutations. I am Tiberius Stormwind. I hail from a town called Tyriex, located in the heart of Draconia, born from a politically respected family. At the age of 15, I succeeded in passing the Sorcerer's Rite, showing prodigy-like control of my magic. The judges and the Draconian high council were amazed at how powerful my spells were for how long I had been training. At 20 years old, I was the youngest appointed member of the magic guild in Draconian history. For the next few years, I almost went mad from the malaise of being a guild member, as it's rather boring. However, one day I happened upon a chamber, unused for quite some time. In the room were stacks of books and maps of the surrounding cities and areas around the known world. For months I would frequent the chamber, and learned of artifacts from legend. After a long period of research, I made a list of artifacts that caught my eye. I brought these findings to the high council and was told that all of the information in the chamber I stumbled upon was either believed to be fiction or unsolvable mysteries, and hence were lost forever. I found those answers to be unacceptable. A year later I devised a ruse and managed to convince the city council to lend support in me leaving Draconia on a mission of peace and diplomacy for the surrounding kingdoms, going from town to town and making friends and allies, in and for the name of Draconia. Being a red dragonborn, I had quite the task on my hands in that respect, but it was exactly what I needed so I could explore the world and find these artifacts, as I felt the truth was out there. Some may describe me as buffoonish, but I say poppycock to all that. I am much sharper than most give me credit for. I just don't pay attention to things sometimes. I've also been known to be rather cunning, loyal, happy-go-lucky, and well, dangerous. I can't help but show my true scales every now and then. But overall, I think I'm quite friendly for a dragonborn." -Tiberius' Introduction
More known for the controversies his actor got into, Tiberius was a Dragonborn Sorcerer driven to uncover magical mysteries and recover lost artifacts. Proving popular in the early days of the show, Tiberius's popularity would wane after the first major arc due to accusations that his actor Orion Acaba was cheating at the table through fudging dice rolls and deliberately misreading his magic items to give him an advantage over the DM. Acaba's bad habit of getting into spats with the fandom such as telling a fan they were "no true fan" of Critical Role when they made a Tiberius shirt, soured a lot of people to the character as a consequence. When Orion abruptly left the show in 2015 shortly after accusations of dice fudging broke out, the fanbase devolved into massive arguments about it and conspiracies began to emerge about the true reasoning for his firing. Orion himself has given differing accounts, citing a mixture of a HIV diagnosis alongside a bad breakup and meth addiction making him unpleasant at the table and souring his professional relationships. Various new debacles involving him pocketing charity money meant for one of his Twitch mods and various ex-girlfriends calling him abusive have made even the mere topic of Tiberius persona non grata for many fans. Ultimately, Matt (with Orion's permission) had Tiberius killed offscreen by member of the villainous Chroma Conclave when they attacked Draconia. Orion later created an audio series called Draconian Knights, involving Tiberius and other Dragonborn going on adventures (if you want to know how good it is, imagine if Matt Ward created an audio-series about Kaldor Draigo with no restrictions of how much lore he could break).
“I am literally the least hard man to find: I tell everyone my name, I wear a gold helmet, and I walk around talking about myself.” -Taryon to his father
Sam Riegel's replacement character during a period where Scanlan left the show, Taryon was an Artificer (gen 2) described as a low level character wearing a high-level player's gear. Aided by his companion Doty, Taryon inserted himself into Vox Machina's story and became fast friends with the group after the token tragic backstory exchange. Left the party after Scanlan returned and took a more recurring role for the rest of the series.
The Mighty Nein
The Cast of Characters in Season 2. (2018-Present)
Beauregard "Beau" Lionett
Socially awkward, lesbian human monk played by Marisha Ray. The Korra to Keyleth's Aang. Surly and cynical, a self-professed jerkass. Turns out to have been running from successful wine merchant parents who were so outraged by her bootlegging their wine that they had her kidnapped by a monastic order, the Cobalt Soul, with the instructions to literally "beat the indiscretions out of her". /tg/ aren't really fans of her. Even less so for Beau's Player, Marisha Ray.
Serene, asexual male
Firbolg goatfolk cleric played by Taliesin Jaffe. He is the team's chef, and soundly loathed by much of /tg/ for cementing the "Firbolgs are hornless minotaurs" meme started by the campaign with his official art. Besides that his most notables traits are his love for tea, grown in a cemetery and always refered by the name of the family the plant grew on and not the plant itself. Played by Molly's actor after his previous character's unfortunate demise.
Caleb Widogast (born Bren Aldric Ermendrud)
Played by Liam O'Brien. A worldweary, mentally scarred vagabond human wizard (Transmuter) with large crystals inserted into his forearms. Was trained/brainwashed into becoming a mage-assassin and given the final task of killing his parents for subversion. Turns out he was compelled magically to do so and subsequently went mad from revelation. He was committed to an insane asylum for over a decade before getting his faculties back and breaking out, meeting up with Nott along the way.
Played by Travis Willingham. Male half-orc sailor turned warlock, ultimately multiclassing to paladin. Suffers from an inferiority complex due to being raised among human society, and imitates his former captain down to the accent for a large portion of the series. Once he loses his warlock powers derived from an eldritch horror, he comes clean and converts to a nature deity to regain his former abilities and multiclass.
Jester Lavorre (born Genevieve Lavorre)
Played by Laura Bailey.
Annoying Spunky, Chaotic Stupid playful, mischievous female tiefling cleric of the local god of trickery and chaos. Has blue skin instead of red and an affinity for frost instead of fire, which might be because she's actually half tiefling and half (water) genasi. Daughter of a courtesan and raised exclusively indoors, she has major issues dealing with reality but keeps an upbeat attitude possibly out of necessity. Her dad is a crime boss known as The Gentleman, which the fans predicted might be the case almost as soon as he was introduced but wasn't revealed until dozens of sessions later. Generally the most beloved character, balancing a chaotic and impulsive nature with almost childlike innocence and a thick eastern accent. Also the most lewded probably do to the fact that her mother is a prostitute and her fascination with harlequin novels.
Mollymauk "Molly" Tealeaf
Flamboyant purple-skinned male tiefling Blood Hunter, introduced as a traveling circus performer and con-man. Waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of his past and with his neck completely covered in scars and adorned with various eye tattoos across his body. Molly is a literal and figurative peacock, wearing a colorful robe covered with religious symbols of nearly every deity and delighting in telling outrageous lies with no thought for who believes them. Despite his mischievous, carefree and sometimes downright hedonistic attitude, he still manages to be endearing and kindhearted when it matters. Molly grew to be an overall favorite amongst the fans and the party due to these traits, and for a time was ironically the party's moral center, balancing mischief and outrageous hijinks with a desire to not harm those who didn't deserve it. Brutally murdered in the 26th episode, and many a tear was shed. RIP.
Nott the Brave/Veth Brenatto (née Smyth)
Played by Sam Riegel. A skittish, kleptomaniacal, booze-addicted female goblin rogue with an immense sense of racial self-hatred going on, Nott became a surprise hit on /tg/ due to her endearing personality and being a mainstream depiction of the "cute goblin" meme, with some hints from her players that she's even a canonical shortstack. Then it was revealed that Nott is actually a halfling called Veth, who was cursed into the form of a goblin by a vengeful goblin shaman for killing said shaman's husband. She ultimately broke the curse and returned to her original form. Ironically, /tg/ generally considers it a downgrade in terms of attractiveness.
Played by Ashley Johnson Goth-styled lesbian fallen aasimar barbarian with a tragic past involving her lover from another tribe being murdered when they tried to run away together. Has apparently become the Chosen One for the setting's Tharizdun, which is ominous.
The Cast of Guest Characters in Season 1 and 2.
Played by Felicia Day, founder of Geek & Sundry (the original channel/network of Critical Role). She's a human wizard that is trying to join the Slayer's Take (a group of monster hunters operating out of Vasselheim) because she's in love with one of it's members, Aldor, who does not return the feelings and perceive her as "stalky". She joined half of Vox-Machina when they were set on a task to join the Take and was a good mix of funny and quirky while also being useful to the party in and out of combat.
Played by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Zahra is a Tiefling Warlock that joined half of Vox Machina and Lyra in their quest. She proved herself quite popular with the fandom, given Mary's great grasp of the character even though it was her first time role-playing, and the character would return in different episodes.
Played by Wil Wheaton of Star-Trek fame. Thorbir is a dwarf fighter that joined the other half of Vox Machina in their respective quest. Presenting himself as a battle-hardened badass, Wil's physics-defying bad luck with dice made the character a bit of a comic-relief as he failed on the simplest of tasks and could barely land any hits in combat.
Played by Will Friedle. Kashaw is a human cleric to the godess of death Vesh, who ritually married him and not so ritually raped him (the food was okay). Despite the grimdark backstory he is somehow not an edgelord (at least not as much as one would expect), possessing a caustic and sarcastic sense of humor and proved himself to be a reliable ally, even a caring individual. Like Zahra, Will would come back in future episodes to reprise the character, and Kashaw and Zahra would eventually start a relationship.
Lillith Anioska Daturai
Played by Kit Buss, the artist behind Vox Machina's official portraits. She was a Tiefling Wizard with a British accent that helped Vox Machina in the fight against the Briarwoods in Emon. In the following night she departs without saying goodbye to the party, later she would send them a letter, revealing she was Zahra's cousin, and a gift, as well as a separate letter to Percy.
Played by Jason Charles Miller, who composed the many opening themes Critical Role had through the years. Garthok is a half-orc rogue that helped Vox Machina meet with The Clasp (the in-universe thieves guild) after a dragon attack in Emon, later he "turned against" the party (they were circumstantial allies at best) siding with The Clasp as negotiations went sour.
Played by Chris Hardwick, a Blue Dragonborn Necromancer and candle-maker (who could create candles which magical effects). When Vox Machina met him he had four undead thralls, Carol, Coral, Fatty Arbuckle, and Stimpy. The character (and Chris Hardwick's portrayal) are divisive on the fandom with some considering the episode with Gern one of the funniest in the fist campaign while others attribute it to spotlight-stealing antics, with Chris in many moments making out of character jokes. Gern was also the original owner of Vex'ahlia's flying broom.
Played by no other than Chris Perkins. Shale was a Goliath with a missing eye and arm. A bit of an oddball of the Herd of Storms (the same tribe Grog belonged to) she was a continuous source of amusement during the episode, shining as a type of grandmother figure to Grog.
Played by Patrick Rothfuss, the second slowest fantasy writer alive. A human paladin who had retired and become a blacksmith (basically a reverse Valten). Kerrek was a compassionate and caring man, who easily clicked with the party, offering help and wisdom to them when required, specially to Keyleth. After his original appearence Kerrek would return in audio-form as Patrick had recorded a letter written to Keyleth, and in the flesh in the four episodes that concluded the Chroma Conclave Arc, Kerrek himself getting the killing blow at Raishan, the last surviving dragon of the alliance.
Played by Noelle Stevenson, a dwarf/werebear bloodhunter, who despite all the red-flags, is not an edgy fuck. Vox Machina met Tova on the Nine Hells, when on a mission to slay a Rakshasa in it's own realm (long story short they had already killed him twice in the material plane wanted to make sure he wouldn't come back). Tova helped the party along the way, when they finally had succeeded in their mission and were ready to plane-shift Tova decided to stay behind and rescue her friends who were still imprisoned by a Fiend with whom one of them had made a contract (read the fine-print when playing Warlock kids). Tova would later come back in one-shots featuring Trinket and other woodland criters
Lionel "Chod" Gayheart
Played by Jon Heder aka Napoleon Dinamite, Lionel is a half-orc Bardbarian who is heavily implied to have been a duck transformed into a humanoid by Scanlan Shorthalt using True Polymorph (his Barbarian totem was the homebrewed totem of the Duck). As you can see, Chod was 110% lulz, and was Scanlan's bodyguard while he ran a counterfeit furniture criminal empire under the alias of the Meat Man, a name he acquired when buying Fusaka (a type of spice he thought was a drug, and ended up paying 40 times the actual value). In summary, don’t let your Bard go on solo-quests.
Ethrid "Sprigg" Brokenbranch
Played by Darin De Paul aka Reinhardt, Sprigg is a Gnome Rogue who originated in a campaign Darin played with Matt Mercer's mom 37 years prior to the episode he appears (in-character Sprigg has been in retirement for 37 years). Widely considered to be the best guest-character thanks to Darin's commitment to role-playing Sprigg's eccentricity and quick-wit, he also helped Vox-Machina to reach the realm of Ioun, who taught them how to defeat Vecna, where she cures his madness from years of isolation.
Arkhan the Cruel
Played by Joe Manganiello, a Red Dragonborn Oathbreaker/Barbarian, Arkhan might be the skubbiest guest character on Critical Role (and considering how much skub surrounds this show, that's saying something). Arkhan appeared on the tail-end of the Vox Machina campaign, as a level 17 character with extremely over-powered homebrewed items (that Joe himself created, as he was an imported character from his home game) and who's only trait was "badass". He gets to participate on the end of the final battle of the campaign against Vecna, and in what can only be described as the ultimate spotlight-hogging moment, steals the hand of Vecna after The Undying King had been defeated. The skub was intensified as Arkhan and the "hand-heist" were made canon in the Forgotten Realms with the release of Descent into Avernus where Arkhan wielding the hand has a base in the Nine Hells where he tries to free Tiamat.
Why Does /tg/ Hate Critical Role?
That's a tough question. And probably the most honest answer is that /tg/ doesn't hate Critical Role per se, instead what they really hate is all the amazing talent in the show that isn't getting used at all. Critical Role has 2 seasons, the first is widely considered by /tg/ to be really good. Especially the earlier episodes which had a much lighter tone and seemed to truly be a home game brought on to the internet. However the 2nd is much more condemned. Campaign 1 is 115 episodes, with multiple arcs, boss battles, and two truly great "Save the World" quests. Campaign 2 has, well, a lot of filler, and is already in the early 100s. The cast decided to be more Chaotic Neutral than the last campaign and that has lead to a mostly aimless plot where the Mighty Nein (who are themselves usually felt to not be as iconic or memorable as Vox Machina) try to avoid getting entangled in current affairs. So now we have high-CR encounters and problems, faced by a murderhobo-ing party. Also the campaign has a big lack of iconic villains, specially in the first half, while the 1st campaign gave us Clarota, K'varn, Hotis, the Briarwoods, Anna Ripley and Thordak the Cinder King before episode 50, the only arguably iconic villain is Campaign 2 is Captain Avantika; even Lorenzo, who is responsible for the death of Mollymauk, isn't given much screen-time or developed. For better or worse, the second season is significantly more focused on character development instead.
To put things in perspective, by episode 50 of Season 1 the Heroes had ventured deep into the underdark, slain a beholder that had dominated a clan of mind flayers, freed a city from the undead tyranny of the Vampiric Briarwoods, and slain multiple high level monsters. By episode 50 of Season 2? They had met Spurt, accidentally caused an act of terrorism in a concord city, and stolen a valuable relic from another nation that basically guaranteed war, and during a brief period in-between became pirates. Not quite as epic is it? Though to be fair, Campaign 1 started streaming when the characters were Level 9, and Campaign 2 started at level 1 - How many campaigns have you played where a team of Level 1 nobodies defeated a Beholder and his Duergar/Mindflayer army? Also, motherfuckin' Pirates!!
Another frequently levelled criticism (rightly or wrongly) is that what is shown on screen in the series is a poor representation of an average p&p RPG session. Yet the series being popular and often the first introduction to non-vidja RPG's for potential new players, the show creates a lot of expectations that arent held up by the reality of the hobby... to the immense frustration of both the newcomers who expected something else, and the oldtimers becoming fed up of being unjustly compared to Matt Mercer, something Mercer himself has spoken up about and against.
The actual difficulty of the campaign has also been brought into question, with accusations that Mercer (or as he's often called "Merciful Mercer") fudges rolls when he can to avoid putting the party in any permanent situations where they could suffer losses or letting the players off the hook with more braindead decisions. The crew themselves are aware of how often they're accused of scripting out content and have made meta jokes about the "writing team" being just off camera.
There is also something to be said for it being this generation's gateway drug for a new surge of interest in the hobby, the same way the tabletop gaming webcomic boom of a generation ago did for its own rush of newbies. While not everyone on /tg/ is a bitter old fossil quietly furious that their once-exclusive clubhouse is throwing open the gates to let in the hoi polloi, thereby making them less special, there are always going to be those who don't "get it" and don't like feeling alienated from the crowd chattering about the new hotness.
Finally, there's the simple fact that Wizards is desperately trying to piggyback on the success of the ongoing gaming podcast boom to claw for relevance, slowing down the official releases for 5e, an edition defined by extensive content drought and starvation, by throwing out sourcebooks based on popular podcasts instead of the treasure-hoard of IPs they are sitting on, neither using nor allowing anyone else to use. Even for Critical Role fans, it's a hard pill to swallow. For those who aren't, it carries the pain of the newbies being not only welcomed in but actively catered to at their expense.
The Mercer Effect
When Critical Role is mentioned, the term "the Mercer Effect" may come up as a point of critique. The basic idea is that Critical Role, being more popular, widespread and well-known than your mom's venereal diseases, creates an idea among new and a few older players that, ideally, a game of Double D should be played the way Matthew "The Merciless" Mercer plays with his friends. Of course, this idea is a tragic bit of nonsense - as the man himself stated, he has been playing as a DM for over twenty years, and his players are all professional actors with huge backgrounds within voice acting; there's no way you and the sorry gaggle of idiots you call your friends could play the way they do. Moreover, you shouldn't base your way of playing a game of make-believe on what other people do. As many dungeon-crawly players and DMs will fight to be allowed to tell you, Critical Role's way of playing isn't how they like it.
Critical Role's style of game works well for them because his players are used to heavy roleplay and deep character study as good friends and actors. It may work for you, it may not; the only thing that matters is that you don't judge yourself (or worse, your DM) and compare you and them with Mercer and his merry band of misfits. You're probably not gonna be able to meet their level either way, so enjoy how you play and what you do well in your group, and accpt what your group is like.
Occasionally the term is used as a bit of a slur against players and fans who like Critical Role, but to be honest, it's closer to a compliment to the group than anything. If it's used that way, it's by people who don't like the show and thinks the Mercer effect is the term that explains how the show is ruining DnD.
Critical Role began as a Pathfinder game, and then moved to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition with some homebrewed mechanics, most notably the existence of a Gunslinger class. The shift in systems also led to the 1st campaign to start with a few over-powered items due to overlooked differences in mechanics.
Mercer may also be familiar with Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, as certain influences from the Nentir Vale can be seen on Tal'dorei - most notably, the Tal'dorei pantheon is literally the Dawn War pantheon, but given new names.
In 2017, Mercer officially released a Tal'dorei campaign setting splatbook for 5th edition. He has also brought up the idea of doing other splatbooks for different parts of Exandria. 2020 saw this become fully official, as Explorer's Guide to Wildemount was confirmed to be published and released by Wizards in March of that same year. While a decent splat-book that introduced interesting sub-classes based on the concept of Dunamancy (arcane space-time manipulation), many neckbeards, including a good chunk of the critter comunnity, were rightfully angered that Wizards would publish it while 5th edition still lacks pretty much all iconic settings except for Forgotten Realms (if you can call SCAG a proper campaign book) and Eberron.