“Legend of Vox Machina” is a Love Letter to D&D Fans Worldwide

The show’s subversion of fantasy tropes paves the way for a new generation of fantasy media.

Daniel Stell, Managing Editor

The Critical Role Twitch Stream has become one of the most popular fandoms in recent years. Critical Role consists of eight professional voice actors who get together on Thursday nights to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, the popular tabletop role-playing game. They started off playing privately in a home game until the media company Geek & Sundry caught on to their game and asked them to start streaming in 2015. They completed their first campaign in 2017, with 115 episodes detailing the adventures of the adventuring party known as Vox Machina. Now, after a second campaign starting in 2018 and ending in 2021, and then a third campaign still going since last October, Critical Role has become quite possibly the biggest Twitch stream in the streaming industry. A recent leak of Twitch revenues revealed that they, “from 2019 up until now has made $9,626,712.16” (Hutchinson), making them the highest-paid Twitch Streamers of all time.
Critical Role made a name for themselves in mid-2019 when they started a Kickstarter campaign to get their first D&D campaign based around Vox Machina animated as what was originally planned to be only two small shorts. After the campaign started, they were bombarded with donations and reached past their original goal within less than 24 hours. They became one of the most successful Kickstarters of all time, ending their 45-day campaign with over 11 million at their disposal. Because of this mass influx of money, Critical Role was able to fund a full 12-episode season based on one of the early arcs of their stream. Amazon Prime later swooped in and bought the series to put it on their streaming platform.
This is the backstory of “The Legends of Vox Machina.” The fact that the entire series was mostly funded by fans of the series is a sentiment that all the members of Critical Role stand by. By itself, Vox Machina is a delightful animated fantasy show detailing the adventures of a group of outcasts trying to make a name for themselves in the epic fantasy world of Tal’Dorei. This group includes the twin half-elves Vex (Laura Bailey) & Vax (Liam O’Brien), the dimwitted half-giant Grog Strongjaw (Travis Willingham), the overly anxious druid Keyleth (Marisha Ray), the inventor of guns in this world Percival de Rolo (Taliesin Jaffe), the mischievous bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel), and an insecure priest Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson). All of these characters work well with one another, bantering and helping each other through their journeys. Each of them ends their story with a better understanding of one another and how they are as a team. A major theme in this show is the trust we learn to build in our found families and our ability to let go of what stops us from trusting those around us.
However, “Vox Machina” is not a show for the faint of heart. The show is incredibly brutal, with bloodshed, sexual content, and many swears along the way. The charm of the series mostly comes from its usage of D&D tropes and fun references that both fans of the stream and people who are being introduced to Critical Role through this show can enjoy. It loves to subvert the normal fantasy tropes by giving us a group of characters that would never be heroes on their own with real struggles with mental health or insecurities. A major problem with the show though is that it can be difficult for those who have never seen Critical Role and/or have never even played a pen-and-paper RPG to get into this show. It is not impossible, however.
The story mostly focuses on this band of mercenaries known as Vox Machina traveling to the city of Whitestone to defeat the evil Briarwoods who took over Percival’s original land and killed his entire family. Now, Percival is back with both vengeance and a group of powerful friends. The story mostly focuses on Percy as he must relive the trauma he and his family endured for years. Another major theme explored here is learning to forgive not just those from your past, but yourself and those you love.
The show has a very satisfying conclusion but still leaves on an exciting cliffhanger, teasing the next antagonist of the series: the Chroma Conclave, an army of powerful dragons. Fans are mostly pleased by this first season, though many have commented on some both minor and major changes to the story. For one, there was a whole other character that was a member of their party at the beginning of their campaign. However, the person who played this character named Orion Acaba left their stream due to liver issues and early struggles with substance abuse. There are also small deviations in character design for specific NPCs, such as skin tone or even their physical sex.
“Legends of Vox Machina” is an incredibly fun yet brutal show with a lot of heart and soul put into this series to make it a massive love letter to fans of Critical Role, D&D, and the fantasy genre as a whole.

Works Cited:

Hutchinson, Maya. “Twitch Leaks: Critical Role Twitch Earns $9.6m.” WePC, 14 Feb. 2022, https://www.wepc.com/news/twitch-leaks-critical-role-earnings-payout/.