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"Hello everyone, and welcome to tonight's episode of Critical Role, where a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons!"
Matthew Mercer, introducing each episode
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Critical Role is a weekly Actual Play web video series where a group of well-known voiceover artists and actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons. With a cast of talented performers playing every role in the game, you know you're in for a good time.

It began as a one-time adventure developed by Matthew Mercer as a birthday present for Liam O'Brien in 2013. However, it was so well received by the group (most of whom had never played D&D before) that it grew into a regularly-occurring game played on their own time for over a year, gathering more players along the way. Eventually, Matt was invited to livestream the game as part of the Geek & Sundry web channel, creating the show we know as Critical Role. While the original campaign was played using the Pathfinder game system, Critical Role saw the group convert to a homebrewed version of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

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Critical Role launched on Geek & Sundry in 2015 and became its biggest draw, proving to be an instant success due to the big names behind it and the charm of the show itself. The show spawned a huge fandom and inspired many to try out Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, thanks to it showing just how fun and imaginative tabletop gaming can be. It has even been credited with playing a massive part in the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons in the past few years. In February 2019, the cast announced that they had officially separated from Geek & Sundry and formed their own entity, Critical Role Productions.

Starting partway through Campaign 2, the show switched to a pre-recorded format rather than filming live. Beginning in 2022, the show took the final Thursday of each month off. Additionally, the premiere of Campaign 3 was simultaneously broadcast in select theaters in the United States in a first, not only for Critical Role, but for tabletop Actual Play as a whole.

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You can watch the show live on the official Critical Role Twitch.tv channel or YouTube channel every Thursday evening (well into the morning hours of Friday for those in Europe and beyond). Archived VODs are available via YouTube.


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    Tropes In Multiple Campaigns 
  • Acting for Two: More like Acting for Hundreds. As the Dungeon Master, Mercer plays a wide variety of NPC and absent PC roles. Impressively, each one has a fairly distinct voice and mannerisms. Shortly before episode 100 aired, fansite CritRoleStats put out an infographic with various fun facts about the past 99 episodes. Over the course of those 99 episodes, Matt has apparently played five-hundred and forty-four NPCs.invoked
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A lot of the episodes are well-balanced in this way, mixing intense fights with quiet roleplaying moments.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Not the first time a product with Matthew Mercer has had a tree with hanging children on it. That also happened in Pillars of Eternity.
    • In her playlist for Vex, one of the songs Laura Bailey provided was "My Silver Lining" by First Aid Kit... which was the song played in the credits of Tales from the Borderlands, which Bailey had a starring credit in.
    • Grog (played by Travis Willingham) has a magic item that lets him recall his weapon when he throws it. Matt describes this at one point as being "like Thor." Even better, said weapon was a warhammer at the time.
    • It wasn't Taliesin's idea for Whitestone to be corrupted by vampires; that was all Matt. Considering what Taliesin spent fourteen years working on in Hellsing, though, it's sort of a no-brainer. (Although Taliesin just really likes vampires.)
    • Vax'ildan had his hands on a Ring of Invisibility, but it wasn't the first time Liam O'Brien considered it "the precious".
    • Shakaste's Spiritual Weapon being a bust of Estelle Getty is very similar to Cyborg summoning the the spiritual forms of The Golden Girls in an episode of Teen Titans Go!. Makes sense considering Khary Payton plays both characters.
    • Ashley Johnson is still a fixture on Blindspot, so the jokes haven’t stopped... especially since her character’s best friend in the group is a heavily-tattooed amnesiac.
      Ashley: I found him in the woods... in a Bag Of Holding... naked.note 
    • Speaking of Ashley and Taliesin, Sam's "You've Got Gale" segment, a parody of '80s family sitcoms involving Ashley and Taliesin in a huge way, leads to Sam quickly name-dropping Growing Pains and She's The Sheriff, both real sitcoms that Ashely and Taliesin actually appeared in!
    • The Night Before Critmas also mentions that Ashley's character was in New York for a while - even if you didn't know about where she's off to in her absence, there's that time she worked that restaurant during the Battle of New York...
    • Speaking of the MCU, there's also the Crash Pandas one-shot that somehow brings up Vin Diesel as a rival racer, and Liam as one of the raccoons is forced to talk Vin into helping them out - and Vin has a well-known role where a raccoon is the only one who understands him!
    • Laura breaks out a new character, Farriwen the Air Genasi monk for the Darrington Brigade one-shot, which means she's a martial arts chick with air blasting powers. Matt even refers to it as her Hadouken (it should be Kikouken though.)
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Campaign 2 episode 115 is titled Fetching Fables and Frosty Friends (referring to Der Katzenprinz and the yetis that start out attacking our heroes but eventually come around as allies.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • In The Night Before Critmas, Chutney refers to his crafting tools as Old Faithful... and Steve.
    • In "Adventures of the Darrington Brigade", we get one regular fantasy name (Farriwen), one No Name Given (Owlbear) and four mundane names, Hazel, Damian, Buddy and Mac. The first two are justified due to being oddly American (one fell out of WWII propaganda and one is unabashedly Italian-American).
    • The Doom Eternal one-shot has Ichabod (which at least comes from a horror story), Krill (a breed of shrimp), Reva (short for Revenant), Mancubus (for Rule of Funny) and Phyllis, which is technically an In-Universe Nickname - which doesn't explain how she summons another demon that's named Esther.
  • All There in the Manual: Talks Machina serves this role, and the Tal'Dorei campaign guide naturally has a ton of info about the setting not explored in the show.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Exandrian tieflings have vibrant and colorful skin colors that can be just about any hue, while baseline 5th edition tieflings are said to only have normal human skin tones or shades of red.
  • Ambiguously Human: Played for Laughs in regards to Taliesin Jaffe. Competing interpretations of his 'true' identity include a bog-standard immortal, an Archfey, the Vampire Prince of Los Angeles, an Eldritch Abomination, or just a pyramid in human form.
  • And Starring: Matt Mercer's place in the opening credits of the first two campaigns. In the "It's Thursday Night" opening for Campaign 3, he's third-to-last instead, ahead of Taliesin and Sam.
  • Anyone Can Die: Matt has no qualms about killing player characters, if that's where the dice fall. Matt feels both really bad about it and relieved if they survive. But it's his job to play villains and enemies like villains and enemies; if he ends up killing people, he says "it's what [Villain X] would do" as justification.
  • Audience Participation: Mercer first opened a poll up to the live audience allowing them to vote on what enemy the group would face for the boss in Campaign 1, episode 8.
    • Both of Campaign 1's Slayer's Take contracts were determined this way. The Behir they face in episode 28 was the loser of one of these polls.
    • Following up on a promise from a charity stream, Matt held a special livestream during which he worked with the Twitch chat to create an NPC and a battle encounter for the show. The results were K'ryyn the drow baker/bounty hunter, who wanted to bring Taryon home and is linked somehow with a ziggurat, and Symphior the tiny celestial, who had high charisma and used terrain-based abilities.
    • The second part of the Vox Moronica adventure had an interesting variation — $500 donations changed where the story would go, though Zac implied afterwards that a lot of them were from the moderators.
    • In Campaign 2, Mercer took suggestions from twitter polls and the live chat during a Fireside Chat to create Orly Skiffback, a sailor bard tortle.
  • Badass Baritone: Wil Wheaton with Thorbir and Travis Willingham with both Grog and Fjord. Matt sometimes puts one on for villains, such as Sylas Briarwood.
  • Belated Happy Ending: One that stretches across the first two campaigns. Keyleth's Missing Mom, Vilya, who was presumed dead after being attacked by a kraken during her Aramente, actually survived and washed up on the island of Rumblecusp, where she was ensorcelled by a morkoth and spent about 25 years as an amnesiac before befriending the Mighty Nein, who liberated the island and restored Vilya's memory. At the end of their time together, Vilya returns to the Air Ashari's home of Zephrah, and Veth briefly witnesses as Keyleth, whose ending in Campaign One was the most bittersweet, tearfully reunites with her long-lost mother.
  • Big Eater: All the players to an extent, but Orion/Tiberius actually streamed buying doughnuts from a Krispy Kreme nearby the studio.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Since the show found its stride, every episode begins with Matt welcoming the audience to Critical Role "where a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons", and ends with him repeating the Critters' rallying cry: "Is it Thursday yet?" The former is usually followed up by the rest of the cast shouting the latter half to varying degrees of comprehensibility.
    • "How do you want to do this?" Mercer delivers this line whenever someone finishes off a particularly tricky or powerful opponent. After the player details how they want to do this, Mercer then follows up with a beautifully-detailed description of the kill.
    • Matt also regularly says, "You can certainly try," when the party wants to pull off something tricky and/or ridiculous.
    • "(You can) Go ahead and roll X."
    • "He/She/It is looking pretty rough." Matt says this when an enemy is low on HP.
    • Since the show has so much content, viewers have also picked up on a number of less prominent comment phrases or words from Matt, including "perhaps", "circumstance", "gaping/toothy maw", and more. There are drinking games.
    • Laura has "Jeez Louise!".
    • Ashley has "Okay, okay, okay."
  • Citadel City: Vasselheim, the ancient city of faith, is extremely well fortified.
  • Comical Coffee Cup: Sam brings a new one to each campaign, making sure it fits his character in some way. The first one is the least relevant, being simply shaped like a tankard that fits the fantasy setting. For the second, he brings a small metal flask, similar to the one Nott drinks from (he later replaces it with a giant version). For the third, he brings a gasoline jug, since his character is a robot.
  • Companion Show: The infamous Talks Machina, hosted by Brian W. Foster on Twitch and Alpha. Brian and the cast are great friends in real life, and he is dating Ashley Johnson (Pike Trickfoot), so the show has an incredibly informal atmosphere. Viewers on Twitch can ask questions of the guests regarding the previous episode of Critical Role, and Alpha subscribers get an extra section at the end dubbed Talks Machina After Dark in which they can ask their own questions. Many revelations about character intentions and motivations have been revealed on Talks. It even has a similar sign-off - "Don't worry, it's almost Thursday" to match Matt's "Is it Thursday yet?" on the main show.
  • Counterspell: One of the cast's favorite spells from Dungeons and Dragons is Counterspell, which prevents an enemy from casting a spell. Since it can be used in the middle of the enemy's turn, it's incredibly potent and has saved the party in some dire situations.
    • Campaign 1:
      • Early in campaign 1, Tiberius was the party's designated counterspeller and used it twice to prevent major enemy spellcasters from teleporting away before the party could finish them off.
      • Scanlan learned Counterspell around episode 33 and he flavored his counterspell as an attempt to distract his enemies from their spells with degrading songs, bawdy insults, or just off-pitch notes from his shawm. Despite how silly he plays it, his counterspells twice prevented a Total Party Kill by thwarting massive area-of-effect attacks and thrice prevented villains from escaping before the heroes could finish them off.
    • Campaign 2:
      • Caleb, the party wizard, picked up Counterspell at level 7. Within ten minutes of taking it, used it to prevent a spell that would have ruined the party's plan and possibly killed one or more of them. Since then, he's prevented three villains from using Counterspell against player characters, two teleportation spells from dying villains, and once stopped a monster from getting off a Chain Lightning that would take off half the health of four party members.
      • Fjord also has counterspell, but with only two spell slots to his name, he can barely afford to use it. To date, he has only used it when Caleb is indisposed, whether because he's too far away, his player is in the bathroom, or because he used magic to turn into a dinosaur. It especially came in clutch late in the campaign to prevent Cree from escaping, when Caleb was in another room.
      • The final showdown of Campaign 2 saw Counterspell flying through the air like ping-pong balls because there were five wizards in the fight with the ability: Trent Ikkithon, Eadwulf, Astrid, Caleb, and Essek. Veth took a single level in Wizard so she doesn't have Counterspell. Twice in that battle alone, a counterspell was successfully countered with another counterspell.
  • Crosscast Role:
    • In the second campaign, Sam Riegel plays a female character and the group spends the first episode slipping up and using male pronouns. The players still occasionally slip-up and Sam himself has once or twice suggested "the ladies" go do something together while forgetting that his character is a lady too.
    • The one-shots dip into this occasionally, but it gets hilarious with Critical Role and the Club of Misfits when they're attempting a Hogwarts version of The Breakfast Club and the players are all guys, leading to Liam and Sam as Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald. Really. note 
  • Death Is Cheap: Downplayed. In comparison to the rules-as-written, Matt has added homebrewed rules that makes it possible for a resurrection spell to fail with no chance for a recast, with every successful resurrection making the next one on the resurrected person that much more difficult. Every resurrection ritual throughout the series has been a success, and the only permanent party deaths come from the fact that there was no one who could resurrect them, but failure is an option for coming back from the dead. The attempt to bring back Molly failed, then succeeded with a Divine Intervention from Caduceus, then it turned out that the Mollymauk Tealeaf we know and love is gone.
  • Facepalm: Matt is prone to this. The fan site Critical Role Stats actually tracks the number of times he facepalms.
  • Family of Choice: Vox Machina has already become this by the time the stream begins, and all of its members (particularly Vax) mention it at some point or another. While the Mighty Nein begin much rougher around the edges, they also grow into this over time. Meta-wise, the cast themselves have also stated they view each other as a second family.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: Percy's invention of the gun becomes a major theme of Campaign 1. By Campaign 2, they have achieved widespread use throughout Exandria, empowering militaries and black markets alike.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • Episode 12: Dungeons and Dragons Campaign Tips: Mercer's first D&D Workshop features Matt Mercer going over "Dungeon Mastering 101" and playing a funny campaign with Salty Pete, Snuggle-Lord, and Ufgar.note  Marisha, Orion, Taliesin, and Liam were also there as spectators and to help with character creation, much to their amusement.
    • On the second week of hiatus between episodes 16 and 17; Laura Bailey, Orion Acaba, Taliesin Jaffe, and Liam O'Brien played party games with Zac, and treated the Critters to a mini-Q&A.
    • Matt also took over the time slot of Geek and Sundry's "No Survivors" one time and ran a special Pathfinder one-shot game with Taliesin and Marisha, the show's own GM, Ivan Van Norman, and voice actors Ashly Burch and Phil Lamarr, where they all played as goblins.
    • The first week of a two-week hiatus between episodes 43 and 44 had a Q&A with Matt, Marisha, Travis, Mary, and Will. The latter four then proceeded to have their characters duke it out in an AU Battle Royale. Then they have another one in-between Episodes 54 and 55.
    • In the interim between Episodes 58 and 59, while Matt and Marisha were away in Australia to attend a convention, there was originally no plans for any D&D games, but thanks to a fluke occurrence where Liam O'Brien's schedule was free, he decided to run a one-shot that the fans affectionately called "Critical O'Brien" where Sam, Laura, Travis, and Taliesin all played as themselves during a normal day of work that quickly went to hell... in more ways than one. A brief Q&A soon followed with the five of them.
    • Not long afterward Liam was the DM for another oneshot between episodes 65 and 66, this one set in Emon (before the current arc) but focuses on members of The Clasp — an all-Rogue session where everyone had hidden motives that could lead them to stab each other in the back at any time.
    • In the break between the first two campaigns, the show became exclusively a string of unusual one-shots run by the players.
    • The Red Nose Day 2019 event is a very rare one-player adventure with Special Guest Stephen Colbert, and ends with no HDYWTDT, as Stephen finds the Big Bad's Soul Jar.
    • The Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace is several levels of different - not only is it a Cosmic Horror tale but it's set in 1890 (of our universe), and the players are apparently all Expys of the Cluedo characters.
      Taliesin: Is it, uh... Halloween yet?
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: Dalen's Closet One-Shot, aka the wedding of Percy and Vex'alia for the whole Vox Machina chapter.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: Occasionally a real-world pop-culture reference finds its way into the hijinks. For instance, when a local drunk gets up on the stage of a pub to sing a song, the selection he chooses is "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" by Looking Glass. When the Nein give fake names to Captain Avantika and her band of pirates, Nott dubs herself Gilligan. That being said, Matt Mercer has his limits, as he generally will shoot things down if the character tries to do it in-universe with something they couldn't possibly know.
  • Genki Girl: While all of the players are geeks (and thus pretty excitable), Laura definitely takes the cake, and it sometimes bleeds through to her characters.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The divine pantheon of Exandria essentially work this way, so minor deities like Sarenrae aren't quite as powerful as the big hitters like Pelor. Ioun reveals that the gods are essentially formless transcendent beings whose true essence resides in the hearts and faith of their worshippers. With enough followers and believers, a god can form themselves into a divine domain that exerts influence upon the fabric of reality itself.
  • Gorn: Matt frequently describes combat damage and kills rather... vividly. Once, when Grog Strongjaw described how he wanted to finish off an opponent by cleaving them from above with his blood axe, Mercer went into great detail about just what such a hit would do to the target.
  • Götterdämmerung: The Calamity, a major event in the world’s backstory, sealed the gods away forever behind a metaphysical barrier called the Divine Gate. It’s possible for mortals to get behind the Divine Gate in special circumstances, however.
  • Honest Rolls Character: Matt never fudges his dice rolls, believing that it will cheapen the tension and drama of the campaign. At the same time, he expects all of his players to live up to the same standard.
    • In the first campaign, Travis Willingham (as Grog) seemingly passed a check. But Travis remembered a few minutes later that he was supposed to have disadvantage on the roll. Travis rolled again in the interest of fairness, and failed the check.
    • In the second campaign, an antagonist named Lorenzo was supposed to escape and become a recurring problem for the Mighty Nein after making it personal with them. But the heroes exploited a tactical mistake Lorenzo made to whittle down his health during the second fight, and eventually killed him with a Firebolt to the back of the head from Caleb. Matt didn't like it, but the dice said Lorenzo died, so he died.
    • Matt frequently uses his smartphone to take pictures of his dice rolls, just so he can have proof of his rolls. Rarely, Matt will roll his dice right on the table so that there's no possible way it can be disputed. He did the latter at the end of Campaign 2 when the Mighty Nein attempted to revive Mollymauk from the dead after killing Lucien.
  • House Rules: The show has several, some of which stem from the conversion to D&D from Pathfinder, and some which Mercer just has at his table.
    • A "Short Rest" lasts fifteen minutes instead of an hour at Mercer's table. This is done for the sake of expediency.
    • Resurrection spells have a chance to fail. If they do, the target's soul is lost forever. Initially averted at the end of Campaign 2. The attempt to bring back Molly failed, then was reversed with Caduceus' successful Divine Intervention, which was seemingly successful since the soul that came back remembered the Nein. Unfortunately, after Jester cast Greater Restoration on him, the soul forgot the Nein, decided to identify as Kingsley Tealeaf, and considered Molly a deceased older brother.
  • I Just Write the Thing: Matt's approach to DMing, especially regarding antagonists. Mercer doesn't like being evil, but he'll make it rough for his players if that's what a villain or a monster would logically do. From Episode 113:
    Travis: What did you do?! You Kevin Spacey from Se7en motherfucker! What did you do?
    Matt: When you revealed to [the Big Bad] how close and dangerous you were last game, there were going to be repercussions. [...] And he knows how to get to you. He knows your secrets.
    Taliesin: You are a monster.
    Matt: [The Big Bad] is a monster, guys.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Vestiges of Divergence are some of the most powerful magic items the players can get, but finding one always requires the players to ignore the current arc or villain and travel to distant continents or worlds to find them. Doing so often requires fighting legendary creatures like widowed dragons, gambling fire giants, or cursed arch-fairies that sometimes are more powerful than whatever villains the heroes want the Vesitges to fight.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The cast was unsure how "nerdy-ass voice actors sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons" would be received, and Matt said in a Q+A that he was going to give it until about Episode 6 and then go back to playing at his house. The show became incredibly popular incredibly fast, to the cast's continued amazement and thankfulness.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Matt does a good job of regional accents being consistent between characters, but they are only ever accents. It is assumed that different countries in Exandria have different languages, but for the convenience of the audience, and so that Matt doesn't have to create several entire Conlangs, everyone actually speaks in English.
  • Killed Off for Real: One of the homebrewed rules is that resurrection spells can fail; if they do, then the target's soul is lost forever. A True Resurrection or a Wish spell, as well as a Cleric's Divine Intervention, has a possibility of reviving the character even if a Resurrection Challenge has failed. But the spell then has to pass a DC check before it works. This was shown in detail at the end of Campaign 2. The cast tried to revive Mollymauk's soul after defeating Lucien as the Final Boss. It was a DC 10 check, but Matt rolled a Nat 1, and the resurrection failed. Caduceus then used Divine Intervention to cause a reroll, this time lowering it to a DC 5 check. Matt rolled a 12, and the soul was returned.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Happens a number of ways:
    • Occasionally, the group will make reference to someone who exists in Real Life, only to explain them away with in-universe allegories. This includes notorious warrior Mah Choman Rand Savage, renowned wizard Venn Diagram, and Jesus, "that nice carpenter the group met in Vasselheim".
    • As in many D&D games, can show up as metagaming, where a player tries to make an informed decision based on something their character should not know. This includes situations where (for example) a player intuits a lie but the character fails the relevant skill check to disbelieve. Since metagaming is against the spirit of the game at best and outright cheating at worst, it is actively discouraged (Matt deducts points for it!). More often, the cast will instead use it for hilarious or dramatic effect.
    • When the players ask about days of the week in the world of Exandria, for perhaps the only time, Matt relies that it's currently "the equivalent of a Thursday."
    • Red Nose Day 2019 has a one-shot adventure with Special Guest Stephen Colbert as Capo the half-elf bard, who's faced with the obligatory test of character in order to get the Sword of Plot Advancement. His answer?
  • Ominous Clouds: The Kryn Dynasty has an ominous reputation as a mysterious realm of Dark Elves, "monstrous" species, and other former minions of the Betrayer Gods, where the sun is always hidden behind magical clouds. Subverted in Campaign Two when the main characters visit and find out that it's a fairly ordinary place despite its local quirks.
  • Once per Episode: Not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's quite common for each episode to include exactly one combat encounter.
  • One Steve Limit: Vax and Vex the PC twins (although those are shortened versions of Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia, which are less similar), which causes a great deal of confusion when people try to address one of the twins in particular.
    Sam: If I ever have to roll a new character, I'm calling him "Vix".
    Matt (DM): I will cut you.
  • Plot Armor: Averted. If a character dies due to dice rolls and the actions, they die. This has both helped and hindered the players. In Season 2 Molly dies after failing his death saving rolls, and Lorenzo, the arc villain that killed Molly had his head exploded and body burned due to a Critical attack. Matt admitted that Lorenzo was supposed to get away but the dice said he died, so he died.
  • Power Glows: In a world of magic like D&D, many active magical effects are naturally accompanied by "flickers of arcane energy", or "glowing radiant energy".
  • Pun-Based Title: In addition to the title of the show, a few of these pop up in episode titles.
  • The Queen's Latin: Many of the NPCs voiced by Matt Mercer have various British Accents or Irish Accents.
  • Queer Establishing Moment: In episode 114, some of the other members of The Mighty Nein adventurers tease Cleric (and cook) Caduceus Clay that the female butcher they just visited for supplies was taken with him, and he should return her favors. Clay surprises them by admitting he just isn't interested in sex or romance.
  • Retcon: The upper-class Dragonborn of Draconia who lived in the floating city were referred to as "Skywalkers" by their slave caste, the Ravinites, who lived below. Likely due to legal issues, this has been ignored in all future mentions and official publications, and they are now referred to as Draconians or Draconbloods.
  • Rule of Three: Used quite a bit in Narrative Telephone, partly because all eight players are spinning their own stories this time. Liam's tale is practically based around it given that it involves three little kids, while Taliesin delivers a story about three of Caduceus' numerous siblings, and one of them calls out three times to the voice in the woods before the mystery is solved.
  • Running Gag:
    • The secret messages on Sam's mug (changed to a flask for Campaign 2 and a gas can for Campaign 3). It changes every episode, usually having something to do with what happened in the previous episode.
    • Sam wears weird shirts with various prints with Matt's face on them in significant episodes (such as Matt bald with a giant beard). In campaign 2 and 3, this trend evolves when Sam intends to re-wear every shirt he wore in campaign 1 in order (i.e. he wears the same shirt in episode 1 of campaign 1, 2, and 3).
    • Marisha Ray falling out of her chair and/or disappearing under the table whenever a suitably dramatic moment happens.
    • Liam O'Brien will almost always put a hand or cup to his face and do an impression of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises whenever someone says the word "bane." This includes whenever the evil god "Bane" comes up or the many occasions where player use the spell "Bane."
    • Nobody knows who's on the Tal'Dorei Council (campaign 2) or the Chandei Quorum (campaign 3).
  • Scenery Porn: Being a tabletop RPG, this is a given, but Matt Mercer takes it to a level unimaginable by mortal men. It also doesn't hurt he's a professional voice actor bringing characters to life.
  • Share Phrase: "We play Dungeons & Dragons!" Travis would occasionally say this at the beginning of random episodes of Campaign 2, but it since became something that the entire cast says at the beginning of every episode. As the show went on, the cast started saying random gibberish that sounded like the phrase, but wasn't.
  • Shout-Out: Marisha has a tendency to yell "Big money, no whammies!" when rolling at a particularly tense moment.
  • Signature Laugh: Marisha has one whenever she finds something particularly hilarious. It's an extremely high-pitched set of fast laughs, so it's rather unmistakable.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Played with. Players can talk to each other during combat, but will occasionally get repercussions for spending too much time talking in tense situations. Mercer will either tell them to hurry it up, or have them waste their turn doing nothing if they don't get the hint.
  • Talking to Himself:
    • Matt by necessity, as he is the DM, and thus every NPC.
    • Taliesin voiced both Caduceus and Mollymauk during Campaign 2. The two characters only met face-to-face in the penultimate episode of the campaign, making Taliesin voice both characters talking to each other.
  • Title Drop: Inverted - the episode titles in the YouTube uploads usually aren't decided until after the original livestream, which was confirmed in campaign 2 episode 102, when Taliesin successfully pushed for "Ghosts, Dinosaurs and Stuff" as the episode's title. When it was published to YouTube, "Ghosts, Dinosaurs and Stuff" was the episode's title.
  • Took a Level in Badass: This being a role-playing game, all of the player characters are literally leveling up on a regular basis, increasing their stats and giving them access to new, more powerful abilities.
  • Total Party Kill: The players talk about the possibility of every player character dying whenever a battle starts going very badly for them, although it's subverted because a TPK has never happened.
    • As early as episode 7 of the first campaign, the party's muscle man is magically whisked away by an evil queen as she engulfs her lair in lava after having turned two members of the party to stone. This forces the weaker members of the party to outrun a lava flow while dragging stone statues, which results in the party rogue getting their foot immolated and leaves his player musing that every character is about to die.
      Liam: TPK~ TPK~
    • In Episode 93 of the first campaign, the DM states that if Keyleth died, the campaign would be over, as no one else in the party could get them out of Hell before devils killed them all.
    • In Episode 115 of the second campaign, eight of nine characters in the party fail a saving throw against an enemy stun effect, leaving the one success to fend off a CR 17 monster alone. The players immediately start murmuring about a total party kill being imminent.
  • Totem Pole Trench:
    • Done by Pike and Scanlan with a cultist robe in Vox Machina Episode 102.
    • The Pathfinder Goblins one-shot leads to the entire party of goblins stealing a drunkard's overcoat to attempt this.
    • The Crash Pandas one-shot has the entire party jacking an ice cream truck, and realising that there's an ice cream man uniform inside the truck just as they need to pass for human.
  • Weapon of Choice: Several characters have their own preferred weapons, such as Vax's daggers and Vex's bows in Campaign 1, and Nott's crossbow and Beau's staff in Campaign 2.
  • What Were They Selling Again?: Since late in Campaign 1, each episode has opened with an ad by Sam for one of their sponsors, usually with some sort of weird quirk. Whether or not one remembers afterwards what said sponsor was tends to vary, although returning sponsors have a better chance at it.
    • NordVPN, a virtual private network service, ended up getting is own "Nordverse" of skits, parodying The Matrix and containing a lot of hacker lingo (but obviously wrong with cheap-looking costumes). The exact nature of the VPN service only comes up sparingly.
    • D&D Beyond, a website archive for players of D&D to keep organized, frequently gets brought up as a sponsor. In Campaign 3, the cast even use tablets to keep track of their stats on D&D Beyond. The cast even made a Saturday morning cartoon-ish theme song for the website based on their Campaign 2 characters. However, while D&D Beyond is a sponsor, the exact nature of their service is rarely brought up.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Usually the guys themselves write this, but they still end up falling into this trope at times.
    Liam: Ok, now Klaus - not Klaus, Chutney - these fucking names...
  • World of Pun: Marisha's Honey Heist one-shots are full of bear-based puns.
  • Writing Around Trademarks:
    • Beginning around Episode 100 of season 1, Matt begins to more consistently refer to copyrighted gods by non-copyrighted titles, in order to avoid any potential legal trouble that comes with publishing a Critical Role campaign setting. This doesn't apply to the players, however, who use the copyrighted names as much as they wish.
    • Zigzagged with the one-shot adventures since they can get the actual companies as sponsors half the time. Shadow of War and My Little Pony avert this; The Night Before Critmas (it's revealed halfway through to be a crossover with The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Critical Role and the Club of Misfits (basically Harry Potter in the '80s) play it straight.
  • You All Meet in an Inn:
    • How the Season 2 campaign begins, with everyone coming into the same inn for breakfast. Played with in that they're divided into three groups who all knew each other beforehand: Caleb and Nott (Nott saved Caleb's life in a recent battle after traveling together for awhile); Fjord, Beauregard and Jester (who took on a job for a fisherman together); and Mollymauk and Yasha (who work at the same circus).
    • Played straight in certain special events like the Kobolds and Catacombs one-shot - the inn in question is even the well-known First Town, Goldshire.
    • The Elder Scrolls one-shot subverts this classic trope beautifully - due to the party needing to earn some side-coin, they're the owners of the inn.
  • You Are Too Late: Happens at critical moments in both campaigns. In Episode 66 of campaign 1, Vox Machina sneaks into Mistress Asharru's house only to find her murdered and the Cloak of Cabal's Ruin they were searching for has been stolen. And in campaign 2 the Nein enter Vess DeRogna's room and discover she's been murdered by Lucien while they slept.

    One-Shot Adventures 
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The sometimes-benevolent force of mistycism that grants the UnDeadwood party their powers is just referred to as the Dealer, heavily implied to be DM Brian W Foster dressed as a croupier. They also gain a spirit advisor called the Bartender, who's actually Ivan van Norman in a rare assistant (or should we say deputy?) DM role.
  • Androcles' Lion: Played for Laughs in the Elden Ring one-shot, when our heroes come across a massive stone giant that's got a sword stuck in it - the kicker is that it's not only already docile but Endearingly Dorky. And our heroes can use the sword upon pulling it out, so win-win.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The DOOM Eternal one-shot features several audio recordings by UAC staff that end up becoming this since, well, the world really did go to hell.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Half of the party is lost, and Maryweather manages to seal the ancient evil causing this, but it's Cast from Hit Points. Still, Maryweather promises to bring back the party members that weren't Killed Off for Real, and the Battle Butler has found a new direction in life, in the form of Hanako.
    • The Nautilus Ark one-shot. All but one of the party dies due to the alien parasite aboard, but they managed to kill it and get the human cargo the ship was carrying to their new planet. The survivor, Dr. Wiser, makes it to the planet... only to spot the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand, showing that, in an homage to The Planet Of The Apes, the "new planet" is actually post-apocalyptic Earth. But with the new colony and enough time to make the planet livable again, the human race can start anew.
  • Brick Joke: Feast of Legends. Our heroes travel to a distant town, where talking to the prince reveals that they pronounce the word "sabotage" differently. The payoff comes during the next fight, where Marisha's attempt to fool an enemy with an illusion crumbles when she pronounces "sabotage" normally.
  • The Caper: The one-shot adventure The Screw Job, created by Liam O'Brien has this as its premise.
  • Caper Crew: Of course, the players in said Caper fall into these roles.
    • Tarvis serves as The Mastermind, and the Coordinator, being the leader of the group, and the one in charge of directing everyone else to their roles.
    • Obby the Rat is The Partner in Crime, and The Pickpocket. He's fiercely loyal to Tarvis, and handles most of the steady-handed tasks.
    • Delweth is The Burglar, being the one in charge of checking for locks and traps. She might also count as a fantasy equivalent of Gadget Girl due to frequent use of her Mage Hand.
    • Though not exactly new to The Clasp per se, Dren fills the role of The New Kid, as she seems to be the least experienced member of the group and is the one taken least seriously by the others.
    • Devan (The only party member who is not one of The Clasp) is The Inside Man, being the granddaughter of the mark, and therefore knowing her way around the manor. She also tends to be the first one sent into potentially dangerous areas to trigger any traps the group happens to miss, making her double as The Fall Guy.
    • On the NPC's side, Spireling Shenn is The Backer, being the person the team is ultimately working for.
  • Cast as a Mask: One that involves an actual mask - the Doom Eternal one-shot leads up to an encounter with Dr Samuel Hayden himself, with Matt breaking out a lovely mask of the Brain in a Jar doctor's robot head (it lights up!), just to disguise the fact that Darin De Paul is hidden somewhere and voicing the Doctor live on set.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Done in a huge way in Cinderbrush - even the Forgotten First Meeting of Jaime (Taliesin) and AF (Ally Beardsley) was in the divorce court after their fathers left their mothers for each other.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Cinderbrush: A Monsterhearts Story - the New Transfer Student is played by Ally Beardsley, the only first-time player at the table.
    • Doom: Eternal - Anjali Bhimani is an necrotic magic-casting type that's basically evil Symmetra.
  • Christmas Elves: The Night Before Critmas assigns this as everyone's default race. Including the ones that normally play as regular elves. They use the same character classes you'd get in the main campaign, including the fighter and rogue they haven't really tried out, so they kick quite a bit more ass than usual.
  • Cliffhanger: The end of UnDeadwood part 1. Our party apparently passed out for half the day, but had more or less the same spirit vision, before returning to Deadwood - which is under attack. By something.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: UnDeadwood is set in the Old West, so features a good deal of this. Aloysius Fogg, the one African-American member of the party, used to be a slave, Arabella Whitlock is stuck in a loveless Arranged Marriage as part of a business partnership, and it's repeatedly pointed out that the town of Deadwood isn't exactly kind to women.
  • Destination Defenestration: Played for Laughs in Elder Scrolls Online episode 2 - one of the upgrades to the party's self-run tavern is magical self-repairing windows that the bouncer can hurl customers through regularly. It's part of the experience!
  • Deus ex Machina: The Crash Pandas one-shot assigns ten Cool Points to the whole party, to be used up whenever they need to execute something "cool". At least one is really a Chekhov's Gun though.
  • Did Not Think This Through: As part of a player challenge for Crash Pandas, Sam prepared a series of multiple choice car-related questions. Then he realized that for one of the questions, he did not write down which is the correct answer.
  • Dinky Drivers: The Crash Pandas one-shot revolves around the party having to win an illegal street race in order to gain access to a certain garbage dump. Also, they're all raccoons. This leads to a new game mechanic that can best be described as QWOP in tabletop form.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Crash Pandas again - Laura's character flings something at a rival driver, then scores a good enough roll that she not only nails the driver but his vehicle blows up.
  • Final Girl: In the Call of Cthulhu one-shot, Hanako Hayashi (special guest Erika Ishii) ticks off several requirements of this trope like being The Ingenue. She's in the half of the party that survives.
  • Fish out of Water: Much of the humor from the Goblins and Doom Eternal adventures come from our "heroes" being sent into a completely alien (read: human) environment.
  • Five-Token Band: The Kobolds and Catacombs one-shot, which coincidentally has five players covering all the five Alliance races as of Burning Crusade.
  • Foreshadowing: The UnDeadwood theme is actually modified from the guitar intro for "Wanted Dead Or Alive", which basically sums up Clayton Sharpe's fate.
  • Four Is Death: The UnDeadwood adventure is divided into four parts and ends with a Character Death.
  • Golden Snitch: Played for Laughs in Grog's One-Shot when Vax asks who "won" the one-shot. Grog asks who has the most XP (Percy had 150, Vex had 200, Vax had 10, and Scanlan had 300). Grog then opts to give a whopping 500 XP to whoever guesses his favorite color. (Percy ends up guessing correctly that his favorite color is six.)
  • Historical In-Joke: The Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Turns out Ida Coswell (Special Guest Ashly Burch) was one of the inventors ripped off by Thomas Edison himself.
  • Hit Stop: Kobolds and Catacombs. Matt describing the kobolds nailing a dynamite throw on the party suddenly gets all Michael Bay.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: In Liam's one-shot special, the fight with Demogorgon was designed to be impossible for characters of their level.
    • The battle with the Doom Slayer from the DOOM Eternal one-shot goes about as well as you would expect for the five demon PCs.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Marisha is horrified to realize she is drinking tea partly made from her best friend Sean.
    Marisha: I'm drinking my best friend's essence! That's gross!
  • Internal Homage:
    • The Night Before Critmas, being set in Santa's Workshop, starts out with some blatant wish-fulfillment as the Christmas Elves are tasked to make Vox Machina and Mighty Nein action figures.
    • From the Doom Eternal one-shot, the "Glory Kill" from the video game is reimagined for the tabletop as the equivalent to "how do you want to do this".
  • Let's You and Him Fight:
    • Adventures of the Darrington Brigade kicks off with all six new recruits matched up for three consecutive duels. And it's completely airtight in context (well, according to Tary.)
    • Hidden deep in the premise of UnDeadwood was this eventual fate for Aloysius Fogg and Clayton Sharpe.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Cinderbrush. Thanks to Monsterhearts rules, our players have to flesh out an entire high school class worth of NPCs for this one-shot, all voiced by Matt.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender:
    • Cruelly subverted in the Deadlands one-shot. Both women and one guy bite it - the one survivor isn't even human!
    • The Call of Cthulhu one-shot. Despite an even split of men and women, the one confirmed fatality is one of the men.
  • Mind Screw: Deliberately invoked to avoid an encounter with some mushroom popping troggs in the Kobolds and Catacombs one-shot.
    Quazi: Good news my brothers! We come from both the future and the past!
  • Mythology Gag: Exandria Unlimited starts out with Matt Mercer's Dariax waking up on a roof, and the first living being he sees is a pigeon.
    Liam: I thought the metagaming pigeon would come in much later.
  • No-Gear Level: The Blunder Games Guest Battle Royale starts with our five randomy-picked heroes dropped into the arena already stripped of their signature weapons "and underwear", which they have to recover from the Cornuc... uhh... Smorgasbord.
  • Not Hyperbole:
    • The Shadow of War one-shot. The orc warchief survives an attack on his life, and swears that "a hundred blades" will pierce the ones responsible... then makes his orcs count their blades to ensure they have that many on hand.
    • The Crash Pandas one-shot has the Large Ham street racing announcer give the usual "the only rule is, there are no rules". Which means that the players joining the race by attacking another driver and stealing his vehicle is legal. Well, in the context of illegal street racing...
  • Oh, Crap!: In the DOOM Eternal one-shot, everyone gets this at the end of the first half of the one-shot upon the arrival of the Doom Slayer.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The DOOM Eternal one-shot features a rare instance of both a TPK and a mission success for the Demons. The entire party is killed by the Doom Slayer, but they achieved their goal of destroying Dr Samuel Hayden's robotic body (although it's implied he can Body Surf) and destroying the Argent energy research facility, while destroying the teleporter and leaving the Doom Slayer trapped in the ruins. This being the Doom Slayer though, it's not a matter of if he gets out, but when.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: In The Nautilus Ark, heavily inspired by films like Alien, the players suspected that one of the characters would turn out to be one of these. They were right - Forrest Coreman is revealed to be a synth halfway through after he is bitten in the throat and bleeds white.
  • Robo Speak:
    • Future Liam in Liam's Quest: Full Circle pulls this out full-stop, lampshaded by Matt:
    • Matt as Doty in the Darrington Brigade one-shot also uses this.
    • In The Nautilus Ark, Ashley uses a robotic voice when speaking as Mother, helped out by some special effects. Subverted by Liam as Forrest, who turns out to be a synth but speaks fairly normally, if a little awkwardly.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies:
    • The Deadlands one-shot runs on time constraints, meaning that Matt is forced to do this when the three hours are almost up. The sole survivor is the one who was Evil All Along.
    • Notably averted with the Red Nose Day 2019 event, which had even more time constraints - thanks to Stephen Colbert's own Genre Savvy, they end it with Cutting the Knot instead.
    • Liam's Quest: Full Circle ends part one on this note, by pitting the child-aged cast against every single legendary D&D monster ever. They are plucked off one by one, only to start the second half alive again, but in a recording studio.
  • Serial Escalation: The original Red Nose Day special had Stephen Colbert bring along an electronic Cave Troll figure from The Lord of the Rings - in the 2022 edition he brings along not one but two of the prop swords in that movie, an unbroken Narsil and THE Sting!
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • UnDeadwood to the Deadlands one-shot - while the original one started pulling names from Deadwood for certain characters, UnDeadwood acknowledges Deadwood canon characters but then thrusts them into the Deadlands environment.
    • The Pathfinder one shot with goblins for a Villain Protagonist party was popular enough that they've deliberately reused the concept in the Middle Earth: Shadow of War and later the DOOM Eternal one-shot adventures, with the latter one also featuring a battle with the actual hero!
  • Take That!: The Night Before Critmas. Travis tries to pull a We Can Rule Together with Matt after he attempted to kill Santa Claus.
    "You're a fool, Klaus! We can't compete with Amazon!"
  • Tastes Like Friendship: In Exandria Unlimited, Fearne's monkey Little Mister offers Orym some plant bits, with leaves and presumably berries. It should be noted that Mister is a fire spirit, meaning he can eat pretty much anything since his gut is literally a furnace. Orym, however, is a halfling...
    Orym: (pained) That's good.
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    • Cinderbrush in both senses of the term - the high school is not only rife with bullying but even cult activity, while the player characters include a witch and a werewolf. It's the one time the Valentine's Day special could be confused for the Halloween special.
    • In Liam's Quest: Full Circle, where the cast play as younger versions of themselves, 15-year-old Ashley is so metal she intimidates the carnivorous cat creatures using a the body of one of their own, and wears her friend's corpse as armor.
  • Theme Song Power Up: Played for Laughs in The Night Before Critmas, which sees the holiday elves kicking ass to the tune of "Carol of the Bells".
  • Toilet Humor: All over the place in the Goblins one-shot.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: UnDeadwood is well known for its Darker and Edgier approach, but the thumbnails and titles like "Stay Close, Reverend" and "Goodnight, Miss Miriam" look like this trope as well. The one who dies is neither of them. It's Clayton Sharpe.
  • Touched by Vorlons: UnDeadwood part 1 ends with our party awakening from a spirit jaunt, returning to Deadwood, which is already under attack, from something - but the real surprise is the fact that they have gained spellcasting.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: "Vox Machina vs. Mighty Nein", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The two sides are tasked with fighting against each other on equal ground for the amusement of a horde of demons who want to watch them fight. This is in spite of the two campaigns taking place 25 years apart. Result (spoilers) 
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    • Critical Role and the Club of Misfits is The Breakfast Plot set at a magic school called Shmogwarts.
    • The Night Before Critmas turns out to be one for The Nightmare Before Christmas, only set from the perspective of Santa's elves as they save him from an expy of Oogie Boogie.
    • The Nautilus Ark takes most of its plot from Alien with the "meanomorph" invading the ship, though there are elements of The Planet of the Apes and other famous sci-fi horror stories.
  • Word, Schmord!: There's an extensive amount of Writing Around Trademarks in Critical Role and the Club of Misfits, which starts from renaming Hogwarts into Shmogwarts, and then just proceeds down the slippery slope.
  • The Worf Effect: The Night Before Critmas. Thanks to a bad roll by Matt, his character, Klaus, the certified badass of the lot, is the first to be trapped in a gel-cube once they face the Big Bad.

    MAME Drop 
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "Versus", Taliesin and Marisha were "startled" by the viewer, who they hadn't noticed. Matt, however, had been staring straight into the camera, noticed the viewer, and told them to sit down. (The comments showed that many Critters obliged immediately, including some very confused people who were already sitting down or lying down.)

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"It's a Thing of Evil"

Vax, Scanlan and Percy try to break into the prison through the backdoor. Despite Vax being a skilled lock pick and Scanlan being a bard magician, neither are capable of breaking into this one door and only get in due to a guard from the inside opening it for them. After literally throwing a bucket of waste in their faces.

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