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‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ Is Bringing D&D Mainstream

‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ is Amazon’s latest hit—but how much do you really know about it? From the incredible voice cast to the origins of the show, here’s everything you need to know.
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Have you seen The Legend of Vox Machina yet? The hit adult animated series on Amazon has been getting rave reviews. But unlike other fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or the upcoming Rings of Power series, it’s not based on a book.

The origin of Vox Machina is a lot more complicated than that.

It began as a group of friends and professional voice actors getting together to play Dungeons & Dragons. Eventually, they started live-streaming their weekly games on Twitch and later YouTube via Geek & Sundry. Every “episode” captures the chaotic, funny, violent, and sometimes heartbreaking nature of D&D home games—albeit with much better character voices.

Group shot of Vox Machina
Amazon Prime Studios

In 2019, the Critical Role cast launched a Kickstarter to turn their dream of an animated series based on the first campaign into a reality. They wanted to raise $750,000. Instead, they raised over $11 million. Amazon Prime Video picked up the streaming rights, and the series premiered to critical acclaim on January 25, 2022.

What Is ‘Vox Machina’ About?

The show follows a group of adventurers in Tal’Dorei, a land that will be familiar to anyone who has encountered literally any high fantasy work of fiction. But while the setting has that “Medieval Europe but with dragons and wizards” vibe, it’s also steeped in modern-day irreverent humor.  That’s evident from the first moments of the series when a stereotypical heroic adventuring party is wiped out in seconds by a dragon. We cut to our “heroes” getting drunk and starting a fight at a tavern instead…

The series adapts the Briarwood arc of the first campaign of Critical Role. A mysterious and deadly couple from the past emerge to threaten Vox Machina—and the entire kingdom. Each character gets a moment to shine in this tale of revenge and redemption.

There’s plenty more where that came from, with over a hundred multi-hour episodes of the Vox Machina campaign to adapt. Plus, there’s always campaign two, The Mighty Nein. Currently, Critical Role is a few months into their third campaign, so now would be a good time to jump in and start watching!

Is It for Kids?

Um, no.

Definitely, definitely not. Yes, it’s animated… but so is BoJack Horseman. The show is packed with graphic violence, profane language, and nudity.

Why Does That Voice Sound Familiar?

The main cast of Vox Machina are all professional voice actors, and if you’ve played a video game or watched anime in the last decade or so, then you have definitely heard them speak before.

Real-life Critical Role cosplay
Critical Role

Matthew Mercer is the dungeon master for Critical Role, so he typically does all the non-player character voices. He is also married to Marisha Ray. In the animated series, he serves as the narrator for the first episode, the voice of villain Silas Briarwood, and provides the sound effects for Trinket the bear. You can also spot a couple of cameos throughout the series of characters that look like him.

With over 400 voice acting credits, it might be easier to list what Mercer hasn’t been in. You can hear him as Jotaro in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Levi in the English dub of Attack on Titan, McCree/Cole Cassidy in Overwatch, and Leon in Resident Evil 6.

Laura Bailey voices Vex’ahlia, the ranger and twin of Vax’ildan. She’s a phenomenal voice actress who has just shy of 500 credits to her name on IMDb. Some of the highlights include Kira Carsen in Star Wars: The Old Republic, Black Widow in multiple Marvel video games and TV shows, Abby in The Last of Us: Part II, and Jaina Proudmoore in World of Warcraft.

Keyleth in Vox Machina
Amazon Prime Studios

Marisha Ray is Keyleth, a nervous druid who just wants to make her family and friends proud. You might have heard her voice in Persona as Margaret or The Legend of Heroes as Laura. She’s also the creative director for Critical Role.

Travis Willingham is Grog, the barbarian with a heart of… well, maybe not gold. In addition to being Laura Bailey’s husband, Willingham is also a voice actor with more than 400 credits to his name. If he sounds familiar, maybe you recognize him as Thor from Marvel video games and animated series? Or you might know him as Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist or Portgas from One Piece.

Liam O’Brien voices Vax’ildan, a rogue and the twin brother of Vex. If you watched the Carmen Sandiego animated series, then you might recognize him as Professor Maelstrom. He was also the voice of Illidan in World of Warcraft and has performed both Doctor Strange and Red Skull for Marvel. Oh, and if none of that rings a bell, then maybe you know him as Gaara from Naruto?

Scanlan in Vox Machina

Sam Riegel plays—and sings—as Scanlan in Vox Machina, but he’s also voiced characters in dozens of TV shows and video games. You’ve almost certainly heard him as Donatello in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. And if you were a fan of Winx Club, then you might recognize him as Riven, Musa’s boyfriend.

Taliesin Jaffe is the voice behind Percy De Rolo. Wait, sorry, that’s Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III. Although not quite as prolific as some of his castmates, Jaffe has appeared in almost 200 live-action and voice-acting roles.

Ashley Johnson is Pike, a gnome cleric and best friend of Grog. Unlike most of the Critical Role crew, Johnson has almost as many live-action roles as voice-over credits. If you watched Blindspot, then you’ll definitely recognize her as Patterson. Gamers know Johnson as the voice of Ellie, one of the main characters in The Last of Us. She’s also Gwen Tennyson in Ben 10 and got her start as a child actor in Growing Pains.

Read More: ‘The Last of Us’ Director Wraps Filming

What About the Rest of the Supporting Cast?

In addition to the Critical Role crew, you’ll also hear some famous actors lend their voices to the show. Legendary voice actor Grey Griffin added Vox Machina to her list of 644 credits and counting—she plays Delilah Briarwood.

Stephanie Beatriz, fresh off her success in Encanto and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has a small role as Lady Kima. Stephen Root (Barry, Office Space) voices the treacherous Professor Anders. Suits star Gina Torres appears as Keeper Yennen, and Lord of the Rings and Lost actor Dominic Monaghan is rebel leader Archie.

Kelly Hu makes an appearance as Anna Ripley, Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development) lends his voice as Sir Fince. Game of Thrones actor Indira Varma voices Lady Allura, and Doctor Who star David Tennant’s Scottish brogue is out in full force as General Krieg. Oh, and pay attention for nerd queen Felicia Day, who voices a military captain and a bandit.  

Wait, Is This Just Animated D&D?

Well, you won’t be watching anyone roll dice or review their stats, if that’s what you’re worried about. Vox Machina is more like watching the collaborative storytelling world of a home D&D game come alive. While I personally love actual-play shows and podcasts like Dimension 20 and Not Another D&D Podcast, I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. This show manages to capture the fun of role-playing an adventure with your friends while still telling a compelling and cohesive story.

Thankfully, the series doesn’t feel the need to Jumanji the action by framing the story as a game being played at a table. While there are a few nods to the polyhedral dice that make D&D such nerdy fun—look for the shape of a D20 here and there throughout the series—the story is presented as a straightforward adventure.

Read More: What if Disney Princesses Played ‘Dungeons & Dragons’?

Should You Watch ‘Critical Role’ Since You Loved ‘Vox Machina’?

This is kind of a hard question to answer. A lot of the dialogue and the big moments are adapted straight from Critical Role. The tone is even more raucous and violent at times, thanks to Mercer’s deliciously graphic narration. You’ll also find that Ashley Johnson, like her character Pike Trickfoot, is sometimes absent from the table or playing remotely thanks to her demanding schedule.

Pike in Vox Machina
Amazon Prime Studios

It’s really satisfying to see the little easter eggs and callbacks to the original streaming tabletop show. However, watching the Vox Machina campaign from start to finish is a massive undertaking. We’re talking over four hundred hours, or roughly 18 and a half days. The audio and production value of the earliest episodes is rough, too—although it does get better quickly. There’s also the issue of a now-banished player from the first part of the campaign, whose appearance could be confusing for fans of the Amazon series.

The good news is that you don’t have to start at the beginning. You can find plenty of guides out there for “just the good parts” viewing of Critical Role.

Will There Be a Second Season?

In a word, yes! Thanks to the runaway success of the original Kickstarter campaign, the team behind Vox Machina secured a guaranteed two seasons from Amazon. We don’t know when exactly it will premiere, but it’s definitely happening. Our best bet is either at the end of 2022 or the start of 2023.

Keyleth in Vox Machina
Amazon Prime Studios

And that’s a relief because the short series ends on a cliffhanger. As the sun sets over the newly democratic kingdom of Emon, the silhouettes of four dragons (aka the Chroma Conclave) arrive. Also, the heroes left a spinning orb of death active in the ziggurat under Whitestone…