“Dungeons and Dragons” has had somewhat of a renaissance in recent years. While this is due to many factors, one of the biggest contributing phenomena has been actual-play shows. Describing when a non-scripted, genuine game of “D&D” is played on stream, many shows in this genre have risen in recent years, with the biggest example being “Critical Role.”
Ran by Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer and played by seven other renowned voice actors, the show has spawned a humongous social media following, tons of merchandise and even an upcoming animated series on Amazon Prime Video.
With the long-running series now being in its third campaign after a summer-long hiatus, fans were ecstatic to hear that not only would “Campaign 3” be streamed live on Twitch on Oct. 21, but that select Cinemark theaters would be broadcasting the event as well.
I was one of the lucky people that was able to secure a ticket in the ten or so minutes after the initial announcement before they sold out, and when the day came, I was ecstatic, unable to focus on anything but the upcoming screening.
When I arrived at the Cinemark theater in Watchung, N.J., I quickly secured my seat. Being the first to arrive, it was a blast watching fellow Critters — the oft-used term for "Critical Role" fans — file into the theater, welcoming them to the experience and complimenting any merchandise they might have been wearing.
Banter aplenty was exchanged in the minutes leading up to 10 p.m. when the show would start. What kind of characters would the seven players be using? What kind of new biomes, technologies and cultures would Mercer be revealing to his players, and by extension the audience? These were just some of the many questions circulating online and especially in the theater that night.
When the time finally came, everyone sat and watched Mercer welcome in a new era of “Critical Role,” and after a brief interval of news updates and ad sponsorships, the premiere session of “Campaign 3” began.
What followed was a great deal of laughter and merriment as the cast introduced their characters. Most of them were original, but some were returning from other “Critical Role” media, with a special guest even being involved in this first game of set-up.
Nevertheless, the new cast of adventurers quickly established themselves with playful banter, jokes that had the audience rolling on the floor at times, and a combat encounter against animated furniture that featured theater-of-the-mind flips, tricks and magic.
The session was incredibly long compared to the average movie, lasting around four hours including a brief intermission, but the audience around me was fully engaged the whole time. The cast’s visible chemistry, the vibrant world set up by Mercer, the special effects that came courtesy of the show’s new set, and the fact of seeing the group sit at the same table again after months of socially distanced programming was enough to keep Critters enticed.
By the time the session was finally over and it was 2 a.m., I doubt that anyone in that room felt sleepy. The entire ride home, I was filled with adrenaline over the joy of “Critical Role” officially returning, and I couldn’t wait for the next session to come.
Now that "Campaign 3" is here to stay for nearly every Thursday for the foreseeable future, millions of Critters, myself included, cannot wait to see what is in store for our new band of adventurers in the diverse and advanced new world they find themselves in. Is it Thursday yet?