Don’t worry folks, I’m not gonna sit and bore your earholes in by talking about the nitty gritty rules of Dungeons & Dragons, I’m just using today’s prompt as a slightly stretched excuse to talk about one of my favourite hobbies 😉
I first dipped my toes into D&D around 2016 when I started watching an online campaign called Acquisitions Incorporated, helmed by the fantastic Chris Perkins and featuring fantasy’s very own Patrick Rothfuss, who plays Viari, a Rogue with a penchant for stabbing and swinging from chandeliers. It follows a band of adventurers who have ‘incorporated’ their adventuring business and take on dangerous quests in return for gold. Gotta make a living somehow right? Chris Perkins is the senior producer for the game and is a fantastic Dungeon Master. Even if you’ve never played D&D, Acquisitions Inc. is just super entertaining to watch and you can dip in and out as the adventures are largely self-contained, though there are some recurring threads, characters and jokes that are more rewarding if you’ve watched the full gamut.
I didn’t actually play the game until a couple of years ago, when a pal of mine organised a game for his birthday. In true ‘me’ fashion I spent hours coming up with a character with a full backstory, a motive for adventuring and long term goals I wanted to achieve over the course of our long term campaign that would definitely happen (Narrator: it did not happen). It was a ton of fun, but ultimately most of the players in that original game weren’t interested in a long term game and, while those of us who were continued to play for a few more sessions, it ultimately fizzled out.
By this point I’d started watching Critical Role, an online streamed game that has become a pretty major phenomenon even outside of typical D&D spaces and honestly, Critical Role is one of the best pieces of fantasy media I’ve ever had the pleasure to take part in. It started out as a home game between a group of friends and professional voice actors, who were invited to stream their little game on the internet and just exploded into something really quite special.
The first campaign follows the trials and tribulations of the adventuring group Vox Machina as they fight the evil forces that seek to control the troubled continent of Tal’Dorei in the world of Exandria. There are 118 episodes of that first campaign and over the many hours I spent engrossed in their world I fell in love, pure and simple. I honestly just want to launch into long long outpouring of love about each individual character, about Matthew Mercer’s genius storytelling and the bonds of friendship that develop between both the players and their characters over the course of this long form story. Maybe one day I will, but for now I just want to say, if you haven’t heard of Critical Role, or if you have heard of it but never got into it, I can honestly say it is the most rewarding storytelling experience I’ve ever had. Even if you’re not into D&D, these folks bring so much to their characters and delve so deep into their flaws and motivations, dreams and desires in what is essentially long form improv, it’s simply a pleasure to watch unfold. If you have an appreciation for character and storytelling then you’ll find something to love in Critical Role. The group are in the middle of the second campaign now, with a new adventuring party who have styled themselves as The Mighty Nein (yes there’s only seven of them, it’s a whole thing). If you want to delve into the world of Exandria, every episode is available for free on the Critical Role YouTube channel and I just can’ recommend it highly enough.
To wind this up, eventually I started to DM my own game, which is still ongoing (though currently on ice due to the *gestures wildly* world situation right now) and there really is no greater pleasure than making up adventures for you and your friends to go on with each other, fight bad guys and have some laughs together. D&D is so much more than a game, it’s a shared experience between friends where you get to create stories together that live on well beyond the time spent round the table. I’m really missing it right now and once the world gets back to some semblance of normality, I can’t wait to get the team back together again, to rid the world of the evil that can sometimes seem all-powerful, but through devotion, friendship and strength can be overcome. It’s very cathartic in that respect 🙂
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