After six years, two campaigns and 265 episodes broadcast live, Critical Role is doing something new in the world of Exandria. The Dungeons & Dragons real-life game series launches an eight-part mini-campaign with a new Dungeon Master (DM). The story takes place roughly thirty years after the end of the first season and a full decade after the second season – which featured a group of characters known as The Mighty Nein. Better yet, creator Matt Mercer will be joining the fun as a full-time player character.
The new series of real games is called Exandria unlimited, and it will debut June 24 on Twitch and YouTube. Aabria Iyengar, Marketing Director of Dice Envy and a full-fledged popular game performer, will take the reins as DM. Fans of Iyengar’s work will recognize her from Mother Lands (Koseh), Happy Jacks (Tendai Collier the Joined, Khairyn Antwi), Dimension 20 (Myrtle the Bitch) and Saving Throw – where she also spent time as a DM. .
“I know Exandria better than I know the Forgotten Realms of Basic Dungeons & Dragons,” Iyengar told ServerPlay in an interview. I have been emotionally invested in this world for so long. […] I couldn’t imagine a better team of people to hang out with and build a story with. “
Mercer, who created Critical Role, will join the campaign as a player for the very first time. He tells GameServer that he is delighted to welcome Iyenga to the table.
“I’ve been following Aabria’s work for a long time,” Mercer told ServerPlay. ” There are so many [actual play performers] there, but some people just grab your attention and Aabria was one of those people. We brought in Aabria and she continued to explode all our expectations. “
The rest of the cast will include Aimee Carrero (Helen of Avalor, Blind spot) and Robbie Daymond (Marvel’s Spider-Man, Sailor moon) as well as the founders of Critical Role and veteran comedians Ashley Johnson (The last of us, Infinity train, The Avengers) and Liam O’Brien (Spider Man, Star Wars: Rebels, The Last of Us Part II).
When asked for details, Iyengar and Mercer couldn’t reveal much about the premise of the mini-campaign. Mercer, however, told ServerPlay that he would play a character “very different” from his normal archetypes.
“I learned a lot from Travis [Willingham] to really embrace the chaos, ”Mercer warned, referring to one of his show’s co-stars, known for her exaggerated antics. Mercer also seems particularly keen on playing one character instead of dozens at a time.
As noted above, Critical Role has already spent hundreds of hours on each of its two previous campaigns. This time around, fans should expect a more concise experience. This is exactly what it takes for those who might have been put off by the amount of effort it took to get up to speed on previous campaigns. The story will build on existing lore, but it’s a whole new adventure with new faces and unique stories to tell.
“It’s the perfect thing because it creates this narrative scalpel,” Iyengar said. “It’s a very different kind of storytelling in a familiar world. “
Exandria Unlimited is currently in production and all episodes will be pre-recorded before they air. This new style should allow for a more edited and guided story. It’s kind of an experiment, and it could potentially inform the format of the series in the future.
The success of Critical Role has mirrored the big changes across the tabletop RPG industry. The transition started around 2015. That’s when D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast admitted to Polygon that most of their marketing efforts were now focused online rather than in person. Much of this shift is the actual gaming movement, in which groups of players are live streaming or releasing their campaigns to the public. The current gaming movement, of which Critical Role is just one of many artist groups, was recognized across the industry with the Diana Jones Award in 2018. But all of this attention has also led to the controversial.
In 2019, Critical Role launched a Kickstarter for an animated series based on its first campaign. The end result was an $ 11.3 million haul and a streaming deal with Amazon Prime. But this success also highlighted the group’s lack of diversity.
Realizing that so far he has been the only voice to tell the story of Exandria, Mercer was keen to stress that he “created this world intentionally with plenty of space for other people to create and be. develop”. He added: “Aabria is the first choice for anyone I trust to go ahead and run with this.”
“We wanted so much to bring other people into the fold and let them create in space, which is difficult to do when your main show is weekly,” Mercer told ServerPlay. “It was an opportunity for us to take a step back and bring in other amazing creative people and see how it goes.”
“It was amazing, everyone was kind and open,” added Iyenga. “It was wonderful for everyone to have been so interested in my personal perspectives.”
Critical Role also launched its own publishing arm in 2020. Darrington Press, run by Ivan Van Norman who has 10 years of experience in the games industry, released his first board game. Uk’otoa, available now on the Critical Role store. Along with Darrington Press, Critical Role also established the Critical Role Foundation in September 2020. CRF works with five partners to provide charitable assistance in the United States and around the world. Mercer, who is a board member, pointed out that the CRF was Critical Role’s vehicle to bring “good faith to the world.”
“It was very surreal and largely accidental. We didn’t plan to do a lot of this, ”Mercer said. “We want to develop properly and prudently and make sure we allow opportunities to support the lives of others. The launch of the Critical Role Foundation was a big part of it. “
He also described the founding of Darrington Press as an “opportunity” to avoid the challenges of partnering with manufacturers who have their own commitments.
“We thought, ‘Let’s try to do it, and maybe we don’t have to worry about all these issues.’ It’s a lot of experimentation and seeing if it works. It’s very exciting, and I’m thankful that we have the opportunities that we have, and we want to bring in more people to help us guide the rocket.
You can read more about Critical Role on the official website.