Review: The World of Critical Role by Liz Marsham


Title: The World of Critical Role: The History Behind the Epic Fantasy

Author: Liz Marsham (and the cast of Critical Role)

Published: 20th October 2020, Ten Speed Press

Status: Read November 2021



My Thoughts:


As a teen my friends and I had a brief obsession with board games, and then graduated to tabletop RPG (role play games). We made an attempt at Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, borrowing bits and pieces from someone’s uncle, but we all found it a little too complicated to make sense of on our own, so we cast around and discovered Heroes Quest, a brand new board game with a fantasy RPG element. We all pitched in to buy it and spent many hours rampaging through dungeons.

When my eldest son was thirteen a local games store began organising a semi regular social night for ages 12-18. They hosted a mix of activities including the chance to participate in Dungeons & Dragons ‘one-shots’. I was certain that my son, who devoured fantasy novels and wrote fan fiction, would love D&D and convinced him to give it a chance. So he’d have an idea of what to expect we watched a bunch of YouTube video’s and read through information online, and when I picked him up that evening he couldn’t wait to play again. Shortly after the Dungeon Master invited him to join a group he hosted every fortnight at his home, and my son, who is now 17, has being playing with them ever since.

All this is to explain why I chose to read The World of Critical Role. D&D is a big part of my son’s life, and I am occasionally able to play a game with him. He loves Critical Role and is one of the estimated 1.5M people who watches each 4-5 hour long episode every week. Every so often I join him, because I enjoy it too.

Critical Role is the name for a group of LA based friends who turned their friendly Dungeons & Dragons home game into a live stream on YouTube/Twitch, originally through Geek & Sundry. The stream proved so popular that eventually Critical Role formed their own company, moved into their own studio space, and launched their own streaming channel with additional content and projects including live tours, merchandise, comic books, campaign handbooks, one-shots, limited campaigns, and an animated Amazon series (coming 2022).

In The World of Critical Role, Marsham shares the history of the group, reveals behind the scenes tidbits, and provides cast and character biographies. Much of the book focuses on elements of Campaign 1: Vox Machina which debuted online in 2015 and ran for 115 episodes, until 2017 but only about a third of Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein which began in 2018 and ran for 141 episodes, (with a hiatus due to the pandemic) finishing mid 2021, taking readers through the many highlights – the creative moves, the biggest mistakes, the fierce battles and the tragic losses. Marsham also explores the Critical Role fandom, and discusses why the game attracts and inspires people.

I thought I might end up skimming through some of the book given I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from the campaigns, but I was completely enthralled by it all. It’s funny, informative and even thought-provoking. Beautifully illustrated with photographs and stunning art, I think The World of Critical Role would serve as a good introduction to the entire Critical Role phenomenon, especially the first and second campaigns, and become a keepsake of sorts for ‘Critters’ (Critical Role fans) who can be reminded of, and relive, some of its best moments.

I’m sincerely considering binging on both campaigns which would take me to close to a year if I watch an episode a day. Critical Role is currently just four episodes into Campaign 3 (as yet unnamed) which began October 2021, and I’ve already made a start on it.

Let the adventure begin….


Available from your preferred retailer

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greg
    Nov 24, 2021 @ 19:51:56

    This sounds great, and I’ve recently become a fan myself after seeing Ashley’s recent one shot. I haven’t watched the first two campaigns but I’m going to start soon with the new one and try to keep up.

    Nice review Shelleyrae! Thanks for reviewing it!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Liz Dexter
    Nov 25, 2021 @ 02:49:27

    This is so interesting, I love how this game which has been going for so long is constantly changing and adapting to new ways of playing and talking about it.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. WendyW
    Nov 25, 2021 @ 10:42:00

    This is fascinating. My husband used to play D&D when we were first married, and he really enjoyed it. I love how the game is still going on.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. BookerTalk
    Nov 26, 2021 @ 08:43:59

    D&D was a big thing when I was at uni but it never appealed to me. I’ve been (blissfully??) unaware of Critical Role……



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