Critical Role and the D&D Renaissance

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), the decades old tabletop role playing game (TTRPG), is having a major pop culture renaissance in recent years, and as a major nerd, I have found this to be an absolute delight! Since D&D was developed way back in the 70’s, it definitely had some issues with being gatekept by certain groups and not being very diverse or inclusive, but the game has changed dramatically in recent history, and it is an absolute delight.

I am still pretty new to the world of D&D, but I love how the game can really be anything you want it to be. Sure, there are hundreds, if not thousands of pages of rules and compendiums, but it is such a fun way to spend time with folks and one of the first golden rules is to just have fun and refer to the rules as needed!

It is, first and foremost, a role-playing game that is incredibly fun. It can also be used as a powerful storytelling, writing, and literacy tool for young folks. As a library programmer, I have run a D&D campaign with a small but mighty group of teens, and it has been amazing to see them build their characters and use their imagination.

D&D is a massive universe; there’s endless campaigns, books, novelizations, TV shows, podcasts, and even a blockbuster moving coming out soon based in the D&D universe.

One of the most prolific podcasts and franchises is Critical Role, where a group of friends and professional voice actors began playing RPGs in each other’s living rooms has evolved into a multi-platform entertainment sensation. One of Critical Role’s first campaigns was Vox Machina, which has been adapted into an amazing animated show, The Legend of Vox Machina, and I recently just discovered they made a super fun graphic novel adaptation!

I read the Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Volume 1, and it is a treat for both Critical Role fans and those who are new to D&D land. It is a prequel of sorts where you are introduced to the motley crew of characters in the Vox Machina.

In this volume, we’re introduced to a pair of twins: Vax’ildan, at the time, a humble half-elf rogue, and Vex’ahlia, a half-elf ranger. Rogues are generally sneaky thief types, where rangers are generally off-the-grid warriors who are attuned to animals, nature, and often have magical powers.

The duo sees a chilling encounter (content warning – involves a baby, unfortunately), on a job in the swampy land of Stilben. We meet all the other characters and are taken through taverns, dungeons, and forests as we get acquainted with them and the world.

I will always devour a found family trope, and D&D is a rich playground for building amazing character development. This is definitely for adults only, as there is quite a bit of violence and crass talk, but the adventures and humour are delightful for any goofy fantasy fans out there.

If you’re new to D&D and looking to get into it, one of the best ways to learn is to listen or watch other people play, so I highly recommend checking out any of Critical Role’s offerings, as well as the podcast Join the Party. The official D&D website has amazing resources on D&D Beyond, mostly for free, too!

And of course, books! Check out WPL’s catalogue for novelizations in the D&D universe, rule books and more.

And want to give D&D a try? Come hang out with us in the evening of Thursday, March 2 in partnership with SPECTRUM for a one-off Pride & Preju-dice D&D campaign! Registration opens on February 9, 2023!