NYCC 2018: The ‘Critical Role’ Live Show Experience

Critical Role has taken New York Comic Con by storm, kicking off the weekend with a live show. Though separate from NYCC, the live show set the stage for the rest of the Critical Role related events that will be happening on site at Javits. 

The United Palace Theatre up in Washington Heights hosted the cast and hundreds of fans Thursday night for their first New York City live show. Typically few and far between, live shows pick up where the web series left off and give fans a chance to be in the room where the D&D magic happens. 

Thursday’s episode took fans on a pirate journey as the Mighty Nein explored Fjord’s past. There won’t be any spoilers, but what I want to share is information about the experience. 

Had anyone told me a year ago I would be paying money to watch people play D&D live, I would have laughed. I would have said, as I have many times, “I like playing, but not watching other people play.” I was a sweet summer child then. 

For some reason Critical Role and other D&D podcasts and web series are far more enchanting than initially anticipated. The live show even more-so. What usually occurs around a table in someone’s home or a game shop was put center stage for the world to see in a big way. 

Before general admission, VIP attendees were treated to an intimate discussion with the cast led by Brian W. Foster. The cast perched on the edge of the stage and answered questions. Momlan – Sam Riegal’s lovely mother – made a guest appearance and shared love with all the critters in attendance. 

Even though there was a huge line outside the venue for general admission attendees the energy was light and positive. There were loads of cosplayers dressed as their favorite characters. People cheered as they recognized iconic characters from the series appear before their eyes. 

It was the happiest line anyone will probably find during NYCC weekend. 

Once inside of the building the atmosphere intensified. Fans took photos with cosplayers. Everyone chatted amicably. It felt like home. 

If you enjoy watching Critical Role and want to understand what it is like to watch it live, take your personal joy and multiply it by a thousand. When Brian W. Foster stepped on stage to announce the cast everyone screamed and clapped their hearts out as the team, donned in pirate gear, made their way to their seats. 

Matthew Mercer, Critical Role‘s Dungeon Master, came onto the stage to a standing ovation. In class form, once everyone was seated, the crew did their announcements. Sam Riegel celebrated D&D Beyond with a song worthy of Broadway as surprise guest Ashley Johnson harmonized. 

The credits rolled, fans cheered, and the tale of the Mighty Nein began. 

For the sake of avoiding spoilers I won’t tell you what happened. I will only say that watching live is an experience worth having if you’re a fan of Critical Role. Watching it at home is usually a relatively isolated experience. Watching it in a theatre with your fellow fans is an integrative one. 

We laughed together, face-palmed together, clapped and went wild when things worked. There were oooo’s and ahhhhhh’s and surprisingly everyone followed the “don’t shout rules” rule. 

The whole thing was a family experience. There were moments the energy in the room brought tears to my eyes as I realized just how connected we all were. I might not have known everyone in the room, but somehow we were still family. 

I made it to the break, then went home. I’m afraid I’m not built for staying up past midnight. But I didn’t leave before we, cast included, sang along to the D&D Beyond theme song while the ad played. 

What makes Critical Role so remarkable is how it brings people together, like it did for the live show. I’ve tangoed with a number of fandoms in my day, but none as pure as this. I think Critical Role, and D&D in general, attracts people from all different walks of life. Other fandoms I feel like tend to pull from a similar pool. 

What gets the credit for the diversity in the fandom? One thing really: stories. Not just the stories the cast tell every week about the adventures of the Mighty Nein, but the stories of themselves that they share. Story telling begets story telling, vulnerability begets vulnerability, and vulnerability leads to strong relationships. 

That’s what I think Critical Role‘s secret sauce is, and why live shows are so amazing. You can come as you are, and you are loved. Who knew a bunch of nerdy ass voice actors playing D&D every week would lead to this? 

If you’re looking for more Critical Role this weekend at NYCC then you’re in luck. The cast will be doing signings throughout the weekend and you can find the schedule HERE. There will also be a “Talks Machina” panel on Sunday starting at 10:45am on the main stage. 

Come and feel the love.