Critical Role To Critical Role or not...That is the question

Did Critical Role influence D&D and how do you feel about CR?

  • Critical Role is the biggest reason for 5e's popularity and I love CR

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • Critical Role is the biggest reason for 5e's popularity and I like CR

    Votes: 5 3.2%
  • Critical Role is the biggest reason for 5e's popularity and I'm neutral to CR

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • Critical Role is the biggest reason for 5e's popularity but I dislike CR

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • Critical Role is the biggest reason for 5e's popularity but I hate CR

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Critical Role is a factor in 5e's popularity and I love CR

    Votes: 15 9.6%
  • Critical Role is a factor in 5e's popularity and I like CR

    Votes: 46 29.3%
  • Critical Role is a factor in 5e's popularity but I'm neutral to CR

    Votes: 53 33.8%
  • Critical Role is a factor in 5e's popularity but I dislike CR

    Votes: 10 6.4%
  • Critical Role is a factor in 5e's popularity but I hate CR

    Votes: 6 3.8%
  • Critical Role isn't a factor towards 5e's popularity but I love CR

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • Critical Role isn't a factor towards 5e's popularity but I like CR

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • Critical Role isn't a factor towards 5e's popularity but I'm neutral to CR

    Votes: 8 5.1%
  • Critical Role isn't a factor towards 5e's popularity and I dislike CR

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • Critical Role isn't a factor towards 5e's popularity and I hate CR

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • Critical Role...what's that...oh, and I think Matt Mercer is hot

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Critical Role...no idea what that is, but Matt Mercer needs a haircut

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • Critical Role...don't ask...but I eat puppies and kittens for lunch

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Critical Role...Yes...yes...I'm critical to RPGs...why do you ask

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Critical Role...go for the eyes boo...go for the eyes!!!

    Votes: 2 1.3%

GreyLord

Legend
So there have been quite a number of highly posted threads in other locations this week on other sites where conversations about Critical Role have popped up (actually, more like the past three days, it's like a LOT of people are talking about it).

The primary point seems to be whether people love, hate, or dislike Critical Role and it's ROLE (see what I did there!! Hahaha) in how popular D&D is currently.

I don't watch it, and really don't care whether people do or not. I DO think it is GREAT in how it has brought people into the hobby. I think it's wonderful that people are engaged with it and enjoy it and how it's helped popularize D&D.

However, I don't see this opinion really expressed other places. It seems people either really love it and think it's the greatest thing that ever occurred, or that it's the worst thing ever. No one seems to share the same opinion as I do, and it seems rather binary in the opinions I've seen people express.

Maybe I just hang out with the wrong groups online?

Anyways, there IS one thing that I dislike about those who are very pro-Critical Role that I've seen. It seems most of them think that the ONLY reason 5e is as big as it is is because Critical Role uses it. That without Critical Role, 5e would not be the booming success it is. I disagree with this idea STRONGLY. I live in a relatively smaller area (so, not a big city, at least compared to what I think is a big city) and I don't know a soul that has heard of critical Role. Not a player, not a store owner...no one. Those who play D&D here, are NOT playing because of CR as far as I can tell. Those playing in larger cities have SOME that I've seen that will talk about CR, but most of them were playing RPGs long before CR inspired them to (there may be a few that started from CR, but most did not). It annoys me to no end, then, to come online and see CR fans claiming that 5e's success is due to CR. I'd think the opposite. I'd say CR got far more popular from them utilizing 5e in a more symbiotic relationship than them being the reason 5e became popular.

CR, despite it's popularity among RPG groups is STILL a very niche thing, in my opinion. Offline, it doesn't have the widespread fame that many seem to indicate it does online.

BUT, my experiences are anecdotal. It could simply just be who and what I am exposed to.

As I said, I actually appreciate Critical Role and what it brings to the table, my only complaint being about fans (not even about CR) who claim the above items..of which...I could also be wrong.

In that light, I am posting this poll. This is still anecdotal (as this site is not really a good enough sampling to really be taken as scientific), but it is expanding the view I have outside my own small circles. It could enlighten me (and maybe others).

If I had to view my choice, I'd probably say I think Critical Role has had some influence on D&D's popularity (but isn't the main reason it is popular), and I am more neutral in how I feel about Critical Role (I am not a viewer, I have nothing against it in general, and hope they do what they do, but I am not particularly interested in it).

Curious what others think.

Edit: Could have sworn I posted a poll, but I'm not seeing it....hmmm...not sure what I did wrong. I think it's available now.
 
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I like the Critical Role playstyle and the people it has brought to D&D. And I really like the Vox Machina animation. But I don't watch the show myself. But That's down to me, I'm a poor listener, a poor spectator, and have a short attention spa.. look, a moth!
 

South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
I greatly enjoy it for what it is, but I also recognize it's a game played by professional actors all of whom excel at improv, so in content and tone it will differ from many others' campaigns (and I see nothing wrong with that--I'm one of those "Let a thousand flowers bloom" kinda guys). Differences from reg'lar ol' D&D that I've noticed are as follows:
  1. They have a lot more character development and "conversations about life" than the average game. These are professional actors: how in the world would they not do this?
  2. A watchful eye can indeed catch a few instances of the actors pretending to be shocked, thrilled, mortified, or exultant. Again, this is something actors are supposed to do, so I see no problem.
  3. Production value is high. Very high.
  4. The show is mind-bogglingly popular. The only problem I see here is the "Matt Mercer Effect," which Mr. Mercer himself has lamented.
I've watched everything of the second and third campaigns now and really like the way they run the thing. I've learned some nifty tricks from Mercer about DMing. If there's a downside to Critical Role, I haven't noticed it yet.
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
"CR is a factor (one of several), and I'm neutral toward it."

I've met a quite a few gamers familiar with CR; and a couple people who know CR but don't play D&D.
However, I've never met any CR fans who insisted it is the reason for D&D's success.

As for me, I don't do CR. No animosity, I'm just not into keeping track of someone else's games or other canon. (That goes for FR, too, for example.)
 


I greatly enjoy it for what it is, but I also recognize it's a game played by professional actors all of whom excel at improv, so in content and tone it will differ from many others' campaigns (and I see nothing wrong with that--I'm one of those "Let a thousand flowers bloom" kinda guys). Differences from reg'lar ol' D&D that I've noticed are as follows:
  1. They have a lot more character development and "conversations about life" than the average game. These are professional actors: how in the world would they not do this?
  2. A watchful eye can indeed catch a few instances of the actors pretending to be shocked, thrilled, mortified, or exultant. Again, this is something actors are supposed to do, so I see no problem.
  3. Production value is high. Very high.
  4. The show is mind-bogglingly popular. The only problem I see here is the "Matt Mercer Effect," which Mr. Mercer himself has lamented.
I've watched everything of the second and third campaigns now and really like the way they run the thing. I've learned some nifty tricks from Mercer about DMing. If there's a downside to Critical Role, I haven't noticed it yet.
Just remember Mercer is a guy who started with 2E DM-ing people who mostly started with 5E. When you realise that, a lot makes more sense.
 


J-H

Hero
I'm with the OP. I don't watch it, don't have the time or interest (Tabletop D&D is too slow-paced to make good entertainment for me unless I'm participating), but it has reached a large audience and broadened the base of players and social profile of D&D, so... good for it!
And it's made money for the people doing it. They get to make money, as actors, doing something fun, without a ton of middlemen and movie directors and investors taking huge cuts. Good for them!

Of the about 8-10 people I play with (all in person) maybe 2-3 have watched CR. If it's added even 15-20% to the hobby, that's substantial and meaningful without being overwhelming.

I've watched more Matt Colville videos ON CR than I've watched OF CR.
 


DRIZZN'T

Villager
As an older player who started with B/X and now runs 5e games, I'm pretty happy with 5e. It's fairly streamlined and easy to learn, which makes it easy to bring in new players. I get why people might like crunchier rulesets like 3/3.5e or Pathfinder, but they're just not for me. My DM style is sort of "rules casual", in that I'll mostly follow the rules of the game but I like coming up with situational rules on the fly that I feel follow the spirit of D&D as I remember it from back in the day.

Critical Role? Meh. Its not my thing. Not that I dislike narrative-heavy games! Love them actually, its just hard to find players who are really into RP. The Critical Role people all just seem to be talking over one another all the time in order to get more spotlight, every time I turn it on, it bothers me. I like that they have helped make a thing that I used to get beat up for in grade school, cool. I love that D&D is "cool" now.
 

I'd say it is a factor, but not the only one. When I still watched CR (season 1), there were loads of people who said they started to play bc. of CR, but CR viewers still make up only a fraction of 5e players if we trust the numbers published by WotC. Generally, it's probably more RPG streaming as a concept that helped 5e to take off. Plus, 5e is a decent game if you are into the sort of experience it offers (which seems to be true for a large number of people, especially in the US).

Closing note: these days im neutral towards CR - I don't think I'll go back to watching, but I'm glad for the people who still enjoy it and it doesn't bother me in any way.
 


Oofta

Legend
I watch critical role while exercising or doing some other activity. I enjoy it but it's more just a handy distraction than anything.

As far as the effect on the game despite what some people claim I just don't see it, at least not to the extent that some claim. The 5E trajectory was already double digit growth after an unexpectedly successful launch long before CR was a hit. WOTC stated in 2020 that 50 million people have played D&D, around 1.5 million people watch any given episode of CR. Since the game has continued to grow since then, the number of people that watch CR is dwarfed by the number of people that play D&D.

As far as the show itself, I appreciate the style of game that they show. In general it feels like the style of game I run myself. Admittedly we can't get together for 3-4 hours each week so we have less time spent on RP since I want to keep the plot moving. I also make no claim that we are anywhere near as entertaining as they are, but we joke and laugh, have stupid character interactions and so on. For the most part CR feels real to me, at least when they're not performing for a live audience. Are they acting for the viewers? To a certain degree I'm sure they are. Just like my home game, they're also acting for each other because that can be a big part of the fun.

I think the biggest reasons they're successful is that it doesn't feel like they're running a joke campaign or a campaign solely designed to entertain. It feels like they have fun playing the game first and entertain second.
 


Bluebell

Explorer
Having actually come from the internet circles where CR is very big, I would definitely agree that it's a factor in 5e's success but not the sole reason for it. There was a lot of hype for 5e among new players when it first released because we all heard how accessible it was. CR just happened to come along when that hype was already going, and I'd say their success is due in part to people who were already interested in DnD, but had never played it themselves, wanting to watch it in action.

I'd say a less well-known show, but still very significant in bringing in new players, was The Adventure Zone, which started before Critical Role did and also continues to have a solid following.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I hate CR. I think it is garbage, boring, and not representative of most D&D games IME; and Vox Machina is a travesty in representing D&D. I have no clue why people would watch others play D&D when they could play themselves. 🤷‍♂️

INSHO if you have time to watch CR, you have time to play D&D instead. Yeah, I know, people are busy, they can't find players, etc. Crap IMO. You think it is hard to find and organize a game now? Try it in the 80's before gaming, video games, anime, comics, and such things were NOT mainstream in any way, shape, or form. To be clear I am not saying finding a game or group is easy, but you can do it if you really want to IME.

All that being said, not just CR but online videos of gameplay, advice, etc. have ALL contributed greatly to the popularity of D&D and increased its general acceptance. Now when I tell people I play D&D, instead of getting a strange look or cringe, I get an "Oh, I've heard of that. That's cool" more often than not. Many people still aren't really interested in trying it, but at least few people treat my like I have leprosy when I tell them I play D&D.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I like it. I don’t have the lifespan to watch all of it, but I listen to it like a podcast when I’m cooking or doing dishes and it’s quite good. It gave my partner enough of an example of D&D actual play to feel comfortable trying it, and of course loved it. Many of my coworkers who (now) play D&D had similar experiences. One would be a fool to assume it hasn’t been a significant factor in D&D’s current popularity, but to call it the biggest factor would be overselling it. D&D was already on the rise when CR started, which is part of why they played it.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
It's a minor factor, IMO most followers are people who were already into RPG.

I don't dislike it because I think it's very well made, but at the same time I never watch it because it feels like wasting my time.
 

Lycurgon

Adventurer
I hate CR. I think it is garbage, boring, and not representative of most D&D games IME; and Vox Machina is a travesty in representing D&D. I have no clue why people would watch others play D&D when they could play themselves. 🤷‍♂️

INSHO if you have time to watch CR, you have time to play D&D instead. Yeah, I know, people are busy, they can't find players, etc. Crap IMO. You think it is hard to find and organize a game now? Try it in the 80's before gaming, video games, anime, comics, and such things were NOT mainstream in any way, shape, or form. To be clear I am not saying finding a game or group is easy, but you can do it if you really want to IME.
I completely disagree with your statements that if you have time for watching CR you have time to play D&D.
I play 3 games current, just about start a 4th. I have time to play D&D and other RPGs. I also have time to watch CR. These to things do not take the same commitment and are not equatable. Playing an RPG game means organising time to play with others. It involves forward planning to schedule and effort to run for at least one of the people playing. It also involves social interaction with others and some people only have a limited amount of that that they can copy with.
It is not the same as putting on an Internet show. Like many others I mostly watch/Listen to CR while doing other things. I cannot play D&D while cooking dinner, or doing house cleaning etc. I know a number of people that watch/listen to it while working because their job allow for doing so. And it takes a lot less forward planning or energy to watch. Just turn it on and there it is.
 

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