Geek CultureTabletop

How to Get Started with Critical Role


Critical Role’s impressive back-catalog of tabletop roleplaying content can be intimidating. Fortunately, the creative team recognizes this hurdle and offers many in-roads for those eager to explore Exandria. Here are some tips on where to get started with Critical Role.

The Exandria Unlimited Mini-Campaigns Offer a Smooth On-Ramp Into Critical Role’s World

For those craving an instantaneous hook into the best Critical Role has to offer, look no further than Exandria Unlimited: Calamity. Dimension 20‘s Brennan Lee Mulligan helmed the four-episode prequel campaign set nearly a century before the events of any of Critical Role’s main adventuring parties. While Mulligan and Matthew Mercer collaborated on the core story and, therefore, included lore nuggets for long-time fans of Critical Role, Exandria Unlimited: Calamity offered an apocalyptic tale easily accessible to new audiences. Mulligan established an engaging and unrelenting pace for the miniseries, and the player characters matched his intensity, delivering gut-wrenching performances chockfull of interpersonal turmoil, ambition, romance, and expertly executed gallows humor.

Exandria Unlimited: Calamity is one of Critical Role’s anthological mini-campaigns set in its sprawling fictional universe, with the first of these campaigns also proving a solid jumping-on point for fans. The prime Exandria Unlimited campaign welcomed Game Master Aabria Iyengar to Exandria and introduced a smaller stakes group of heroes called the Crown Keepers. Set after the Campaign 2 adventures of the Mighty Nein and just before the Bells Hells journey, Exandria Unlimited provided a perfect segue for those hoping to start their Critical Role journey with the ongoing Campaign 3. Bells Hells members Orym, Fearne and Dorian started to forge their close-knit bond as Crown Keepers in Exandria Unlimited.

Aside from the Exandria Unlimited mini-campaigns, Critical Role boasts a catalog of even lower commitment one-shots. While some of these stem from the established characters and lore of the main campaigns, such as the recent The Mighty Nein Reunion: Echoes of the Solstice, others are disconnected from the world of Exandria altogether. While one-shots such as Cinderbrush: A Monsterhearts Story or Generation Nord won’t offer any insights on Critical Role‘s core interconnected fantasy narrative, they can provide a casual platform to explore the core voices and frequent collaborators that make the TTRPG channel so engaging to fans.

Each of Critical Role’s Main Campaigns Offers Appetizer Courses

A first-look video clip for The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 is here, delivering lots of dragons, and season 3 is confirmed as well.

As mentioned with Exandria Unlimited‘s transition into the story of Campaign 3, each of Critical Role’s three main adventuring parties offers an appetizer to the world with a lower barrier to entry. Introductory videos, like “Exandria: An Intimate History,” “The Story of Vox Machina,” and the show’s official animated recaps, offer first impressions of the pertinent lore, characters, and party dynamics of each campaign when determining which of the three might be a perfect personal starting point. Though each campaign does narratively build upon the ones that came before, there’s no wrong place to jump into Critical Role‘s story.

Outside of its Twitch and YouTube content, Critical Role provides additional in-roads to Campaign 1’s Vox Machina and Campaign 2’s Mighty Nein in the form of origin novels and comics. The Legend of Vox Machina, Prime Video’s animated adaptation of Critical Role‘s first campaign, likewise serves as a fitting introduction to the show’s world.

There’s No Wrong Place to Start with Critical Role

Critical Role.

Though Critical Role offers several in-roads for those interested in taking the plunge, there’s no wrong approach to exploring the channel’s content. For example, some fans prefer listening to the campaigns in the audio-only podcast format on their commutes, while others gather in packed theaters and arenas (when the opportunity arises) to watch the show with a crowd of Critters. A person who obsessively watches every piece of content from Critical Role‘s channel is no more valid than someone who’d rather rewatch their personal comfort campaign for the third time or someone who just started to investigate the channel because a voice actor they love appeared in a recent one shot.

Critical Role‘s three main campaigns certainly build upon one another, and this means that someone of a completionist mindset might be inclined to start with Vox Machina’s first episode. However, there’s nothing wrong with someone starting with the Mighty Nein if that group’s dynamic is the one that interests them the most or checking out Bells Hells on a Thursday to get a taste of the show.

About the author

Tara McCauley
Nerd at large, Tara McCauley's happiest playing or writing about tabletop role playing games. In addition to The Escapist, Tara has gushed about her favorite pop culture topics at CBR, MXDWN, and Monstrous Femme. When she's not writing or rolling dice, Tara can be found catching up on her favorite sitcoms, curled up with a horror comic, or waxing poetic about the WNBA.