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D&D General Critical Role: Overrated, Underrated, or Goldilocks?

I didn’t say primarily.

I am reminded of the quote attributed to George Will: "Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal."

Is CR just a game of D&D? Sure. Just a game that has a corporation, a non-profit org, and publishing company founded around it. And a $11M kickstarter.
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I am reminded of the quote attributed to George Will: "Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal."

Is CR just a game of D&D? Sure. Just a game that has a corporation, a non-profit org, and publishing company founded around it. And a $11M kickstarter.
I totally agree. I don't understand why some folks insist otherwise.

Is Critical Role a game of D&D? Yes, of course it is. There are dice and rules, a DM and characters, hit points and armor class.

Is Critical Role just a game of D&D? No, of course not. It's also a live-streamed television show, a multimillion-dollar business, a comic book series, a cartoon, a non-profit, a published campaign setting, etc.
 
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Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I totally agree. I don't understand why some folks insist otherwise.

Is Critical Role a game of D&D? Yes, of course it is. There are dice and rules, a DM and characters, hit points and armor class.

Is Critical Role just a game of D&D? No, of course not. It's also a live-streamed television show, a multimillion-dollar business, a cartoon, a campaign setting, etc.
I think the problem being encountered is that the word "performance" has an unusually wide range of meanings and connotations.

Some posters appear to be interpreting the statement "Critical Role is a performance" as implying that Critical Role is not a game of D&D, and is instead a performance of a game of D&D. This would be similar to how the phrase "a performance of a murder investigation" implies that the performance is not actually a murder investigation. (Although even that would be tone-dependent, and could instead imply that an actual murder investigation was masterful.)

However, I don't think anyone in this thread is actually arguing that Critical Role is not a game of D&D, they're simply saying that it is also a performance. In other words, I don't think anyone who is arguing that Critical Role is a performance is intending to convey any connotation that Critical Role is not real.
 

Scribe

Hero
If the CR crew turns off the stream, sends home the extras (production crew) and still plays the game. Same play styles, behavior.

Is it still Critical Role?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
If the CR crew turns off the stream, sends home the extras (production crew) and still plays the game. Same play styles, behavior.

Is it still Critical Role?

That's a deep philosophical question with no answer. Much like: if a tree falls on a bard mime in the forest does anyone care? :unsure:
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think the problem being encountered is that the word "performance" has an unusually wide range of meanings and connotations.

Some posters appear to be interpreting the statement "Critical Role is a performance" as implying that Critical Role is not a game of D&D, and is instead a performance of a game of D&D. This would be similar to how the phrase "a performance of a murder investigation" implies that the performance is not actually a murder investigation. (Although even that would be tone-dependent, and could instead imply that an actual murder investigation was masterful.)

However, I don't think anyone in this thread is actually arguing that Critical Role is not a game of D&D, they're simply saying that it is also a performance. In other words, I don't think anyone who is arguing that Critical Role is a performance is intending to convey any connotation that Critical Role is not real.
Right, it’s not a performance of a game of D&D, it’s a game of D&D as performance. I’m running out of analogies here, but you could have a performance of a murder investigation, which might look like an episode of a CSI show, or you could have a murder investigation as performance if, like, the detective was live streaming their investigation or something. Critical Role is like the latter (though obviously much less grim).
 


Norton

Explorer
As a performer and player of D&D who is a huge fan of CR, what I see that makes the show notable beyond all things that make D&D notable is the energy put into each game by the players, and how that energy is generated by their being performers first, and there being an audience second.

This is an attendant energy that is second nature for performers, so seeing it replicated in their home games isn't a surprise. They are also trained to tap into it, master a TV face, let situations breathe, not step on each other's lines, see an opening for a setup, tie a conversation in a bow, etc. That's what makes it extra entertaining for many beyond the Xs and Os of the game (apologies for the sports analogy). They just happen to have so many synergistic elements so well under control with a crack production team, and that is mostly a testament to Mercer who is authentic in his passion for the game and supremely gifted in all the right ways to play it.
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
No, don’t be silly. They’re a band doing a practice session. As opposed to a band doing a concert.
But the CR cast playing the game would ... not be CR? Or if a band was just having a jam session for fun?

EDIT: I don't really care at this point, we have different opinions. Just curious.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
But the CR cast playing the game would ... not be CR? Or if a band was just having a jam session for fun?

EDIT: I don't really care at this point, we have different opinions. Just curious.
Critical Role is the name of the show, not the group. Blink 182 is still Blink 182 when they’re rehearsing or even just jamming together, they just aren’t doing Warped Tour when they do that. Likewise, the cast of Critical Role is still the cast of Critical Role when playing a D&D session together off the show, they just aren’t doing Critical Role.
 

Norton

Explorer
I wanted to add something before the thread fizzled. CR has a meta thing going for it that is very on brand for the ttrpg community: these guys are real friends that genuinely love each other. Sentimental perhaps, but I catch myself getting a bit seduced by their organic, tight-knit group almost as much as their play.
 

If the CR crew turns off the stream, sends home the extras (production crew) and still plays the game. Same play styles, behavior.

Is it still Critical Role?
If one by one the cast of Critical Role were replaced by other voice actors / D&D players, and all the crew were also slowly, one by one, replaced, would it still be the Ship of Theseus? Er, I mean, Critical Role?
 


Iry

Hero
The Critical Role cast isn’t just leveraging acting chops to maintain better pacing. They are putting on a performance. It’s just not the same activity as playing D&D casually, the same as dancing at the club is a different activity than doing an improvised dance performance for an audience. The point of making this distinction, as stated in the opening post and reiterated many times in this thread, is to recognize the incredible skill that goes into making their performance look as natural as if it were a home game, and to emphasize that if you want to emulate them, you should keep in mind that their performance has different needs and concerns than your home game, so you might need to make some changes to adapt to the needs of your game.
I'm sure there are many D&D groups that don't put any emphasis on the performance element, but I find the performance element abundant in D&D games in general. If your goal is to acknowledge that they have/use many skills that contribute to making the show enjoyable to an audience? Yes, I agree absolutely! But if you're suggesting many groups DON'T perform for each other on the regular, I think you're wrong.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I'm sure there are many D&D groups that don't put any emphasis on the performance element, but I find the performance element abundant in D&D games in general. If your goal is to acknowledge that they have/use many skills that contribute to making the show enjoyable to an audience? Yes, I agree absolutely! But if you're suggesting many groups DON'T perform for each other on the regular, I think you're wrong.
Again, there is a difference between performing for an “audience” that consists entirely of active participants in the performance, and performing for an audience of passive observers. A bunch of jazz players having an improvisational jam session together, and the same people doing an improvisational concert are two different activities.
 

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