The Legend of Vox Machina, the highly anticipated adult animated series based on Critical Role, is finally available on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. Episodes currently air every Friday in February. It gives fans new and old a great excuse to catch up on the original material – dozens of hours of gameplay available both on YouTube and as a podcast.
Critical Role, the team behind VoxMachine, is a troupe of voice actors who have been playing Dungeons & Dragons together since 2014. Their weekly Twitch shows include one of the world’s most popular “live game” experiences, a performance dedicated to actually playing D&D for real. time. The first season of the animated show is inspired by the events of the first campaign and is designed to be the perfect entry point for newcomers to a sprawling multimedia adventure and a starting point for new adventures.
For those who want to go blind, know that the series was specifically designed to appeal to new viewers, launching in this new medium with a relatively short story. But, as with character building for D&D, sometimes it pays to spend time fleshing out the details and digging into the backstory.
Where does the series take place?
The Legend of Vox Machina refers to the group of adventurers known as Vox Machina. It takes place on a planet called Exandria, more precisely on the continent of Tal’Dorei. Exandria – home to remarkably difficult gods, monsters, and gates – is Matthew Mercer’s own campaign setting and represents a shared universe where all critical role campaigns take place. If you want to learn more about the history of Exandria, there’s even a handy video that explains its origin story.
Exandria’s elements will feel familiar to D&D veterans who’ve staged campaigns in the Forgotten Realms – including having deities similar to the gods of Faerûn and the presence of races like elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings, in more humans. Likewise, Exandria is connected to various planes of existence that might resonate for longtime players, including the Feywild, Shadowfell, Astral Plane, and Elemental Planes.
The anime series begins in the city of Emon, the capital of Tal’Dorei. Emon is an industrial hub located on the western shore of Tal’Dorei. The first campaign highlights Tal’Dorei as being at the forefront of technological innovation. Skyships are available for overseas travel from Emon to other Exandrian continents like Issylra and Marquet, as magic and technology unite to create wonders. Emon is also home to landmarks such as Gilmore’s Glorious Goods, the Alabaster High School, the Ivory Tower, and the Sovereign’s Palace, which is the seat of Uriel Tal’Dorei and the Tal’Dorei Council, the ruling parties of the Republic of Tal’. Dorei.
What should I know about the characters entering?
The heart of Critical Role has always been the bonds between its characters. Vox Machina has seven core members — eight, if you include Trinket the Armored Bear. Trinket is the companion of Vex’ahlia “Vex” Vessar (Laura Bailey), an imperious and frugal ranger who is the twin of Vax’ildan “Vax” Vessar (Liam O’Brien), a cunning and sardonic thief. Vex and Vax are inseparable, having been estranged from their human mother at a young age by their haughty elf father. If you want to know more about the origin story of the twins in particular, you can also check out Critical Role: Vox Machina — Friends and Relatives, the fictionalized version of their tale by Marieke Nijkamp. Polygon even has an exclusive clip, which naturally includes audio narration by the original cast.
Although they aren’t twins or even siblings, Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson) and Grog Strongjaw (Travis Willingham) also share a close bond, having been raised together by Pike’s great-great-grandfather. , Wilhand Trickfoot. Pike is a gnome cleric of Everlight, the Exandrian deity of redemption and healing, while Grog is a goliath barbarian who loves beer above all else. Pike was unavailable for several episodes of the campaign to stream, as Ashley Johnson had filming conflicts at the time – which is part of why Pike often falls into big story moments through an astral projection.
Air Ashari’s Keyleth (Marisha Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel) and Rolo III’s Percival “Percy” Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski (Taliesin Jaffe) round out the rest of the group. Keyleth, a shapeshifting druid, is perhaps the most powerful member of the group, though his clumsiness and uncertainty often prevent him from being aware of it. Scanlan is Keyleth’s polar opposite when it comes to self-confidence – as a bard, he spends a lot of his time performing, singing songs, and generally trying to charm the pants off of anyone who looks in his direction. Percy is the brooding, aristocratic gunslinger of the group, with a mysterious past that will unfold as the series progresses.
Matthew Mercer is scattered throughout the various episodes of Critical Role as the voice of many NPCs. It pops up everywhere, from bartenders to brawlers, populating the landscape of history.
Vox Machina are, in many ways, unlikely heroes. The group originally formed as mercenaries and spends most of the time in the The origins of Vox Machina comedy series looking for jobs. They are rude, unorganized and quite noticeably unwelcome in polite society during the first campaign. You can get a taste of their unique brand of heroism in this live-action replay of a scene from the show at New York Comic Con, where they get drunk, cause havoc, and end up in a bar fight.
What episodes of the filmed campaign or podcast should I watch before the series, if any?
The Legend of Vox Machina begins with untold adventures, as we mentioned. After the first two episodes, the animated series delves into the Briarwood arc of the first campaign, which brings Percy’s storyline to the fore and explores his relationship to his previously veiled past in Whitestone.
The Briarwood arc refers to the couple of the same name: Silas and Delilah Briarwood (Matthew Mercer voices Silas). In a virtual panel for New York Comic Con 2021, Marisha Ray described the Briarwood arc as the series’ “obvious starting point” for the series, with Sam Riegel adding that it was “the first time it looked like a ‘art”. The Briarwood arc has lasting repercussions for the first campaign – which also carry over into the events of the Troupe’s current campaign, which takes place many, many years after the first.
To complete the animated series, we recommend the following episodes of Critical Role, most of which correspond to the Briarwood arc of the streaming campaign. Note that all episodes after episode 24 of the first campaign directly follow the Briarwood arc and may contain spoilers for the Briarwood-centric events of the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina. We’ve also included a few more episodes that will set up the long-term dynamic between the NPCs and the party.
- Campaign 1, Episode 14: “Shopping and Shipping” – YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, episode 16: “Enter Vasselheim” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, episode 17: “Hubris” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, episode 23: “The Rematch” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, episode 24: “The Feast” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, Episode 25: “Crimson Diplomacy” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, episode 26: “Consequences and cows” — YouTube and Spotify
- Campaign 1, Episode 27: “The Path to Whitestone” — YouTube and Spotify
If you want to know more about the making of the series and the voice actors behind the main characters, you can also follow the “The Legend of The Legend of Vox Machina» series of videos.
The Legend of Vox Machina, much like Critical Role itself, is and will be somewhat unique in its relationship with its viewers. Whether you’re starting out without consuming a critical role before or you’ve been hanging around since Vox Machina turned cows, chances are you’ll be able to find something new.