Critical Role: Exandria Unlimited Episode 2: The Oh No Plateau
July 6, 2021 7:55 AM - Season 3 (Specials) - Subscribe

The party makes their way to the Fire Ashari, but their search for answers yields only more questions and deeper conflict...
posted by nubs (8 comments total)
Feels like the chaos crew is getting in their own way an awful lot; Orym (and group) tell a disjointed & incomplete story about the residuum, and based on the lack of concern, decide to keep the info about the Vestige to themselves. Though I feel somewhat suspicious of Dariax as he seems pretty invested in keeping hold of it while trying to look like he doesn't want to keep hold of it.

Really wanting to know more about what this group was doing around Thordak's Crater.

And it was fun to see Matt really lean into the whole Ash Hole bit; normally he's the one sitting back trying to figure out how to get things back near the rails, not participating in pushing them more off of them.
posted by nubs at 1:13 PM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm both excited at the possibility of Gilmore and terrified of what these chaos muppets will do to him.

The Opal and Ted relationship is perfect and I definitely want to know what the story is there.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:40 PM on July 6, 2021

I'm watching season 1 (aka the Exandria Unlimited prequel) for the first time and have just gotten to the Vestiges and Chroma Conclave. It's interesting experiencing the story from both ends at the same time, it's like a weird edit of a timeline jumping between the two (and knowing what happens with the Mighty Nine in between).

The stacking points of exhaustion were stressing me out, knowing that the rules (as written at least) mean that at 6 points of exhaustion a PC straight up dies.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:19 AM on July 7, 2021

I want to get into this, but I'm struggling.

I'm concerned because it took me a few episodes to really get into C2 (my first Critical Role experience), but this series simply doesn't have that many episodes. In a way, EXU feels more authentic to my experience playing D&D, which was always far more chaotic than Critical Role ever was, but maybe it makes it less entertaining as a viewer?

I think it's an interesting growing pain they might have to face. It's always been about just getting to watch a bunch of friends get together to play a game, but the more they extend the brand, the more they'll need to treat it like a product. I'm not sure what that means for them.

That said, I am loving the Opal/Ted dynamic.
posted by synecdoche at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2021

the more they extend the brand, the more they'll need to treat it like a product

This the problem for almost every liveplay RPG thing I follow that achieves success, but its much larger for CR - its not their home game anymore, it's now a big entertainment producer/quasi-empire to itself - CR, comics, an animated series, a charitable foundation. This is an interesting experiment for them - can they bring in a different DM, some new players, do a shorter arc, do it pre-recorded, and still keep the fans? They did it to some extent with UnDeadwood, but this is playing in their own sandbox more directly, I think, and possibly looking forward to a new business model of Matt running a main campaign (or maybe eventually retiring from the DM seat and focusing on creative efforts), but secondary campaigns also happening with a different crew.

Judging by some of the reaction I've seen elsewhere, there's a lot of negativity about this so far: its chaotic and the players don't seem to really be engaging with the hooks Aabira has laid out, and they only have 6 more episodes after this; there's also a lot of criticism coming Ashley's way (she's the new Marisha I guess, in terms of how the fandom is acting) and Aabira's style of DMing (which is honestly something I try not to get into too much; every DM is different and she's doing a lot of things I like, and a few things that I wouldn't do, but it's not my table so...)

For me, my concerns are different (I'm enjoying the playstyle, overall): 1) having this pre-recorded and edited before airing makes it feel a little less spontaneous/"in the moment" than CR usually does (I think they've by and large enjoyed being able to pre-record the end of C2 - probably better for their own personal schedules and lives, and it wouldn't surprise me that it continues now, but it makes me think that there will be more allegations of things being scripted as a result); and 2) the expectation/pressure that this will be a cool story with an arc and all of that; it's eight episodes, and sometimes despite all the best plans, it doesn't always resolve neatly. D&D is often awkward and meandering and then it sometimes comes together; but because this is an entertainment product now, fans have expectations around grand storylines and the rest, whereas this might just be a messy story of five chaotic doofuses who just tangentially touch/are sideswiped by the bigger thing going on and never really grasp anything bigger - which would be interesting in its own right, as we the audience know the larger implications.

I don't know what the answer is; they've built something pretty amazing out of a home game of D&D and how do you keep it growing while also still having fun, when a chunk of the internet criticizes you for how you have fun? How much do you change your playstyle when there is merchandise of the characters? How much do you force a storyline or plot beat?
posted by nubs at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

nubs:its chaotic and the players don't seem to really be engaging with the hooks Aabira has laid out, and they only have 6 more episodes after this; there's also a lot of criticism coming Ashley's way (she's the new Marisha I guess, in terms of how the fandom is acting) and Aabira's style of DMing
I try to steer clear of most the CR fandom these days, as it seems to have a strong toxic thread running through it.

Honestly, I think most of the pains are due to the makeup of the table - two of them are rank newbies, another isn't a super-strong roleplayer, and Matt is kinda there to goof around.. leaving a lot of heavy lifting on Liam (whose character also has custody of The Lone Braincell).

EXU is definitely a different experience from CR, but I'm very much enjoying the change. Abria's style is different and AWESOME, Ashley is surprising me (I've said elsewhere I'd have preferred someone else in her seat, but she's doing great), and I'm enjoying the barely-hinged chaos they're all getting up to.
posted by coriolisdave at 7:45 PM on July 11, 2021

I do think that it's largely just Reddit that's reacting so badly to EXU (though I haven't checked the twitch chat, so who knows). Reddit has attracted a certain type of fan that really cares about optimal gameplay, which can be entertaining and informative at points, but also . . . really not suited for EXU. Twitter and Tumblr seem to be doing the typical amount of output with possibly less negativity than there was in late stage Campaign 2, including some really good fanart (this is one of my favorites, another with a completely different vibe). But also twitter and especially tumblr tend to have ship-focused fans, and a lot of the negativity on twitter and tumblr at the end of campaign 2 was largely centered around their personal interpretation of the characters not gelling with what happened.

I love Ashley's characterization of Fearne - she comes off as more unwittingly chaotic than the rest of the muppets, like it is just her weird fae nature. I've got a lot of questions about these characters that might just never get answered, but also, it's fun to watch. I know at least two people where this is their first Critical Role, and they seem to be enjoying it. It's definitely got a different feel than the other campaigns, and seems to appeal to different audiences - whether or not that's a winning strategy, who knows.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:22 AM on July 12, 2021

Speaking as one of those newbies to whom this appeals… Yes, exactly. I watch a lot of actual-plays and I like to *feel* like that’s what I’m watching—I’m into the story, of course, but I’m just as into the out-of-character dynamics and being able to see the decisions the DM and players are making and their human reactions to each other’s choices. So far ExU fits my personal preferences there much better than the other bits of CR I’ve seen. I can understand why some longtime fans don’t love that…but I hope they keep exporting new styles long-term.
posted by hippugeek at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2021

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