It always makes me laugh when I hear that Critical Role is scripted

2 thoughts on “It always makes me laugh when I hear that Critical Role is scripted

  1. John Jordan says:

    No more scripted than any other table (e.g. making arrangements for the absence of a player/s). What makes people think the show is scripted is some of the decisions the table has made. While your table is almost certainly never going to be populated with highly-talented actors who have made a decision to perform for an audience there are still a lot of lessons to be learned from the Critical Role table that you can apply to yours.

    Listen. Biggest change you can make is to pay attention to what is going on. There are two major reasons for this. The first is that your attention contributes to everyone’s experience. If you are present and really paying attention that deepens the experience of everyone at the table and makes for a better game for everyone. The second reason is that your fellow players will be extending invitations to you to play and you’ll only pick up on them if you are listening. This is the big ‘improv’ secret: pay attention and be ready to contribute to the story your fellow players (which includes the DM) are crafting.

    Commit. Look, you’re definitely going to feel silly and you might look silly (because you aren’t a professional voice actor) doing voices. If that’s the case, don’t try to do an accent or a voice that sounds different. Instead, look to finding the Voice of your character: the things that motivate them, the things that make them different from other player-characters or NPCs. Don’t be afraid to act as your character.

    Work together. If your character is a totally self-interested non-team player then your character won’t last long at the table because the other characters won’t trust them. Unless you’re really good friends with the other players you won’t last long at the table because your character’s behavior will spill over into your interactions with the other players. You need to be prepared to find a reason for your self-interested player to be a team player or at least fake it well enough.

    Talk. When it’s your turn to be in the spotlight, don’t shirk it. When there’s a problem at the table, talk about it. The Critical Role table was together for three years before they started broadcasting. They had twenty plus episodes before they found the way forward to the current level of excellence. Almost four years of playing and communicating among some very good friends. And they didn’t get to this point until they had a major crisis at the table. It was a great big friendship ending crisis that they had to deal with. And they did. And while dealing with the crisis they obviously talked about what they were trying to do and what they wanted to do and how they were going to do that. It didn’t all gel at once, they made mis-steps along the way, but because they communicated and kept communicating they found a way forward.

    Performing. The Crit Role crew apparently decided to make some changes that made the show more satisfying for people watching the show. A lot of these changes (don’t talk over other players) accrue to the benefit of the table as well as viewers. Matt had already weaved a lot of player backstory into his world and there seems to have been a concerted effort to increase the backstory. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t. But in addition to creating characters that had more depth and appeal to viewers this deepened the experience for the players as well. Were these decisions made with viewers in mind? I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

    The Critical Role table isn’t perfect and isn’t the example of what all tables should be. But it is a very good table because the participants work to make it so and that’s the biggest takeaway for people who are looking to get the sort of experience we get to watch most Thursday nights.

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