This article contains some spoilers for Critical Role campaign 3.
Critical Role, the live role-playing series, can be, in a word, daunting. The actual-play stream has been running for years, featuring a cast of professional voice actors and friends playing characters in long-running campaigns once a week, every Thursday, for four hours a session. That’s a huge time sink for the uninitiated, and it can be intimidating! Fortunately, now’s a great time to get started.
Last October, Critical Role returned from a hiatus with their third campaign set in DM Matt Mercer’s homebrew world of Exandria. Where the first two campaigns explored the continents of Tal’dorei and Wildemount, this new one is set in Marquet.
It’s an exciting time, learning a new chapter of a campaign setting’s world, learning a new land and new characters alongside it. While the characters of the first two campaigns eventually united under the group identities of Vox Machina and the Mighty Nein, this new band are still figuring out their dynamics—they’ve only barely settled their roster! But what a roster it is. If you’d like to jump in without catching up, here’s a quick primer on our newest band of heroes.
We’ll start with some returning characters. Between Campaigns Two and Three, the Critical Role channel ran an eight-episode miniseries called Exandria Unlimited. DM’d by Aabria Ayengar, ExU was the first introduction to Marquet, and while it didn’t feature the full main cast of Critical Role, it did feature a mix of new guests and a few regulars.
Orym (Liam O’Brien) is a Halfling Fighter, and a member of the Air Ashari, one of four multiracial tribes who protect points on Exandria where the primal elemental planes—air, earth, fire, water—converge too close with the prime material plane, aka the normal dimension that Exandria resides in. Orym shares this background with Keyleth, a half-elf druid played by Marisha Ray in Campaign One.
As a character, Orym is straight-forward in manner, if somewhat private. He’s plain-spoken and a strong moral compass for the party, with a belief in doing good not just by happenstance, but intentionally.
Prior to the events of Campaign Three, Orym was part of the Crown Keepers, played by the cast of ExU and so named for their task of keeping an artifact named the Circlet of Barbed Vision from the hands of more dangerous parties. Between this adventure and the start of Campaign Three, Orym, Dorian, and Fearne met with Keyleth, now Voice of the Tempest and leader of the Air Ashari, and were sent to Marquet to investigate an attack on the Air Ashari tribe by assassins who simply melted into black ichor when slain.
A contrast to Orym’s stoic heroism, Fearne Calloway (Ashley Johnson) is a six-foot faun from the Feywild (D&D’s official name for the world of faeries), who crossed over into Exandria via a gate built between the two realms. Fearne is chaotic, charismatic, and possessed of a certain wild wisdom that’s often at odds with the bounds of polite society.
This mindset has occasionally gotten her and her party members in trouble; during the events of ExU, Fearne had to be talked out of rescuing a baby monster called an ankheg from captivity—while her instincts to free the creature were noble, neither she nor the rest of the Crown Keepers had the ability to see to its care, and the act itself would have endangered others. She’s also (in)famous for acts of petty theft; she’s not intentionally larcenous, she just sees sparkly things that catch her eye, and takes them without thinking.
The third character from ExU to join Campaign Three, Dorian Storm (Robbie Daymond) is an Air Genasi—while the Ashari deal directly with elemental crossovers, Genasi have elemental creatures known as Djinn directly in their lineage. As a consequence, while he might otherwise resemble an elf in general appearance, Dorian has sky-blue skin and hair that naturally takes on an ombre between jet black, white, and light blue. He makes his way as a Bard, telling stories and singing songs.
As a member of the Crown Keepers, Dorian struck up a fast friendship with Dariax Zaveon (Matt Mercer), and the pair became known as the “Double Ds,” much to DM Aabria’s chagrin. While close during the events of ExU, at some point Dorian and Dariax became separated, and it remains to be seen whether Dariax will make an appearance in Campaign Three.
Dorian began the adventures of Exandria Unlimited with an alignment of Chaotic Good, something that shifted in the middle of that story as he attempted to sacrifice one of the Crown Keepers’ foes to the goddess Lolth in exchange for power. After joining the cast of Campaign Three, it was revealed that Dorian Storm is not his real name, but a stage name he uses as a bard, and that he is actually Brontë Wyvernwind, second son of a wealthy family in a floating city known as the Silken Squall. That city promises to be interesting in its own right, as flying cities (and their fall) are a prominent piece of Exandrian lore.
If the Sorcerer/Warlock Laudna (Marisha Ray) has a last name, she hasn’t given it. What is known is that she’s a Hollow One, a concept unique to Exandria where occasionally, when a person dies, they get back up, entirely of their own accord. As a Hollow One, Laudna no longer ages; she’s currently about fifty, but appears to be twenty. She exists somewhere at a midpoint between life and death, but is equipped with a lively personality, at the very least, displaying a joie de vivre and enthusiasm that is often at odds with her somewhat disturbing appearance.
Laudna is close friends with fellow party member Imogen (Laura Bailey), and the two started Campaign Three together in the city of Jrusar with a shared goal to enter one of the conservatories there in search of knowledge to advance Imogen’s research. Additionally, Laudna has another significant tie: her Warlock patron appears to be Delilah Briarwood, a villain from Campaign One. The details of this relationship, including how the pact was struck, remain a mystery so far, but Delilah was a necromancer in life and that could spell a lot of trouble for Laudna in the future.
Although she hasn’t died and come back to life, Imogen Temult (Laura Bailey) is like her friend Laudna in that she’s a Sorcerer with a farm background. She’s a human woman, reserved and thoughtful, and prefers not to be the center of attention. Her sorcerous gift has resulted in an additional ability: sometimes in large crowds, Imogen can hear the thoughts of others around her, a phenomenon that can be dangerous and disorienting.
Imogen’s primary goal is the research and improved control of her sorcery, and it was in pursuit of this goal that she and Laudna were attempting to access the Starpoint Conservatory in Jrusar. Her gift, which has already precluded her having any kind of romantic life, is proving to be increasingly worrisome, as shortly after joining the party, she foresaw in a dream the death of another member, one Bertrand Bell. This dream was a departure from the recurring one she has, which is a red storm consuming all in its path. In the latest episode, Imogen finally secured access to the conservatory, and learned that not only were people having this dream the world over, but that her own mother was one of them.
Fresh Cut Grass
Fresh Cut Grass (Sam Riegel) is often referred to as an automaton, which is…kind of like a predecessor to a robot. Seriously, look them up, they’re a fascinating part of history. However, FCG (as he’s known) is relatively unique in the world of Exandria in that while other automatons exist, he’s the only one who appears to be sentient, acting and speaking of his own free will, that most people have seen. This is because FCG is actually an aeormaton, so named after (and possibly a relic of?) the fallen magical city of Aeor (remember what I said about floating cities?) which provided the setting for the final arc of Campaign Two.
Fresh Cut Grass is known for his sunshiny personality, often giving up aphorisms and platitudes in his attempts to comfort the hurts of those around him. He’s also the party’s Cleric, wheeling around and patching up their physical wounds alongside their emotional ones. In an interesting twist, while Clerics usually derive their magical power from one of Exandria’s many deities, FCG has made no mention of such, instead spontaneously proffering his ability from an unknown source.
Like Dorian, Ashton (Taliesin Jaffe) is also a genasi, although in this case an earth genasi, with earth elementals somewhere in their family lineage. Ashton could best be described as a ne’er-do-well, with a rough hand and a stony personality, doing odd jobs to get by in the city of Jrusar. His rough-and-tumble life has proved of use to the party so far, as he’s familiar with the local geography in a way none of the rest of them are (I swear to god this is not a series of earth/rock based puns, at least anymore than Ashton themself is one). Ashton’s genasi heritage is extremely prominent; his skin is made of green stone, his hair looks like dark crystal, and there’s a hole in his head (patched with slag glass) through which a geode-looking brain can be seen.
In addition to his, ahem, salt-of-the-earth life skills, Ashton is a Barbarian, meaning that, mechanically at least, he favors front-line combat even more than Orym. To that end, Ashton carries a large, two-handed glass hammer inscribed with the words “FUCK OFF” just in case his other subtle hints to people are overlooked.
Bertrand Bell (Travis Willingham) holds the dubious distinction of being the first player character to die in Campaign Three, a thing that has happened somewhat organically in both of the first two stories. An aging human Fighter who first appeared in a special episode shortly after the end of Campaign One, what differentiates Bertrand is that, by the time of Campaign Three, he’s presumably in his eighties. It’s Bertrand whose death Imogen dreams of, and when his murder comes to pass in Episode 3, it galvanizes the rest of the party into uncovering the identity of his killer. After successfully avenging his death, the party would eventually meet…
Chetney Pock O’Pea
In what appears to be a running joke on Travis’ part (and possibly to keep him from playing a romantic arc, a thing that he finds incredibly embarrassing to do), Chetney Pock O’Pea (still Travis) is actually even older than Bertrand, although in a bit better physical condition – gnomes, like other fantastical lineages, have longer lifespans than humans. Chetney is a toymaker by trade, and for purposes of the game is a Blood Hunter, a homebrewed class created by Matt Mercer for Exandria (Taliesin’s character Mollymauk was also one).
Chetney often falls into old man stereotypes, with a husky, high-pitched voice and a tendency to harangue his younger compatriots—a grumbled “whippersnapper” wouldn’t be out of place. He joined the party in Episode 7, and as such has only been around for a handful of sessions, which has somewhat limited his character growth compared to the rest of the cast. He does appear to be well-funded, if not rich, and often pays for the party’s meals or lodgings. He additionally has shown a willingness to fight and a readiness to volunteer when tasks require his skillset. That courage may be somewhat bolstered by the Episode 11 revelation that Chetney is in fact a werewolf, afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy. That curse functions somewhat differently in Exandria than it does in our standard myths, owing in part to Exandria having more than one moon, but the lunar cycle can still affect Chetney, apparently. How much remains to be seen, but we do know he’s closely watched by the Claret Order, an organization of monster hunters.
That wraps up our party thus far for Campaign Three! The Critical Role cast has an interesting mix this time around; whereas Campaign One featured far more traditional adventurers, and Campaign Two featured a party whose destiny as heroes or villains always seemed to be in flux, this one seems to be comprised largely of bright-eyed hopefuls with hard lessons to learn away from the respective shelters of their upbringings.