For this to make sense to people who for some reason have not yet heard of the news this week, I have to introduce Critical Role. A group of best friends voice actors who stream their four hours an episode Dungeons and Dragons game once a week on Twitch.
The group includes 2 married couples, a bromance whose levels are over nine thousand, and the most interesting pastel goth to walk this earth (rumored to be immortal) — that’s the real people, not their D&D charaters.
They have been streaming their game since 2015 and are currently in their second campaign. Each episode will gather about a million views over various platforms. The fan-base, called Critters, is passionate and dedicated; it has to be when episodes stretch to four hours. I am a proud Critter.
Like I said, each member of Critical Role is a professional voice actor, and has worked on cartoons, anime and games. This lends a certain dramatic flair to their game that sets Critical Role apart from other Dungeon and Dragon streams (those on the outside might be surprised how many there are) and made it one of the more popular shows. In short, these guys are nerdy rock stars. For years the fans have been asking for an animated show based on their game.
And that’s where this story really begins. On March 4th a Kickstarter campaign was launched asking for $750.000 to make a 22 minute cartoon based on the first campaign they played, to be animated by Titmouse (I wanted to link Titmouse, but when you try, you get the message “The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit.” so here’s the wikipedia instead. And yeah, the Critters and the Critical Role Kickstarter kinda broke the website. Sorry.)
The Kickstarter campaign was welcomed with a deafening roar of hyped approval by the Critter community. Within an hour of going live, it had gathered one million dollars in pledges. By the end of the day it reached over four million.
The members of Critical Role were completely shell shocked. They had planned a live stream Q&A to raise funds, which deteriorated into a hour of speechless stares, uncontrollable giggles and alternating exclamations of “Thank you!” and “What is even happening?”
At the time of the Q&A the last stretch goal of 3 million, an amount they had never dreamed of actually reaching, had already been breached. Travis Willingham mentioned he felt like they had insulted the Critters. He imagined the community on a whole saying:
“You think so little of us. Our name is Legion”
And the community pretty much responded: “Yes, it is.”
If you go to the Kickstarter comment section and scroll back to around that time, you will see numerous mentions of Legion.
You will also notice a good portion of the community obsessed with breaking records, becoming #1 in film, top ten overall, and other Kickstarter bench marks.
More recently, more interestingly, you will notice people stressing out that the growth rate of the total has slowed down. They confess to feeling sad about it. They worry about not reaching the new, hastily added stretch goals — the last of which is not even defined yet.
The original goal has been long surpassed, what was supposed to be one 22 minute cartoon has already turned into a six episode miniseries. At the time of writing the total amount on the Kickstarter campaign reads 6.7 million. The sentiment that the Critter community might not be able to make it, is absurd.
I understand it completely. I feel some of it myself.
Yes, the 4 extra episodes that might be made, if only we can reach that undefined amount, is a part of it. But honestly, it’s a small part. It’s really about power.
That first day, those insane 24 hours, we were Legion. We were an unstoppable force. We steamrolled over everyone’s expectations. Network and streaming-platform execs don’t get what Critical Role is about? We don’t need them. We don’t need anyone. We got you, boo.
Even better, we “broke” the almighty Matt Mercer, the Dungeon Master. The absolute ruler of the game. Becoming a Critter is not unlike joining a cult. And we had the cult leader at our mercy. It was a plain, old-fashioned power trip. And it was sweet.
Now? Well, we’re still Legion, but we’ve come painfully aware that there’s a limit to what we can achieve. There really is only so many of us. We can’t keep it up indefinitely. And that’s it. That’s the end of our power. The crash is bitter, my friends. Seeing the end approach is daunting. It doesn’t matter how far we’ve come. Some of the more Kickstarter savvy Critters are trying desperately to keep everyone’s hopes up, pointing out that each campaign experiences a rush near the end of it. That there’s still 40 days to go. People point out that the millions pledged are already a win. Others are stating their intent to up their pledges once new paychecks come in. But it doesn’t work — the high is gone. The feeling of invincibility won’t be returning. We are Legion Limited. Mortal after all.
At least we still have Taliesin Jaffe.