Campaign 3, episode 1 of Critical Role, titled "The Draw of Destiny", aired on October 25, 2021 on YouTube. I would like to know if this would be a seamless starting point for someone who has watched a negligible amount of the previous two Critical Role campaigns.

I understand that I could, instead, watch any of the other two campaigns first, but the main appeal for me is to talk about the show with other people as it airs. But I would also like to understand the background details, and I lack time to acquaint myself with them, and I rather would miss out on the live experience if most of the context requires a lot of background knowledge. How much of the context will I not understand if I have not seen the previous two campaigns and do not know their narrative thread?


1 Answer 1


You will mostly be missing jokes referencing events and characters.

The majority of the missing context will be jokes and inconsequential references to old characters and historical events in the world's timeline. This was the case in Campaign 2 (and has so far been the case in Campaign 3); occasionally one of the cast would crack a joke about how a Vox Machina character would have acted in a particular situation or something like that, or one of them would remember something and Matt would remind them that was something that happened to their Vox Machina character, not their Mighty Nein character.

Matt is very intentional about not relying on past characters too much.

In the first episode of 4-Sided Dive, the successor to talk show Talks Machina, Matt gives some commentary into how he has approached integrating characters from past campaigns into Campaign 3. This episode aired after C3E18, so it contains spoilers up to that point, as well as spoilers for ExU: Kymal. Here are some relevant quotes that give some insight into this question:

Robbie: I have a question. When you're tying these threads together as a player and DM, and you guys have spent seven years building this lore and creating canon through your publications and the games, and all that. I know that fans in general love tie ins and they love nostalgia. That's just one of those things I think is inherent in people. But, I feel like, and something you;re doing well, I wonder how you naviate that razor's edge of giving the cool tie in for the fans, but also walking that fine line of not getting into the realm of hokey. Because you could, leaning on it too hard, we love Vox Machina, look how it's tied! But, it's gotta be perfect, and I feel like those little seeds you guys are planting are cool, because it's a canon world that has a timeline, and you planted the seeds, and now you're gently harvesting them throughout this universe. What's that like? What does that discussion look like?

Matt: That is the challenge. I want to make sure we create something that doesn't harken too strongly on an existing story to where it robs your character of her own unique narrative. We don't want to have a group of unique characters and then the "Vox Machina tie in character". So it was very much like finding that balance where it is fun to do nods and sit in that world with realistic roots, because Vox Machina did leave a big impact on the world. But we definitely don't want any of those past elements to overshadow it. Let's ensure this is your story and your narrative.

So it seems Matt is being very intentional about keeping the narrative of Campaign 3 largely self-contained, even if some character backgrounds do involve characters from previous campaigns.

It may be worthwhile to catch up on Exandria Unlimited as you follow Campaign 3.

Exandria Unlimited is an immediate prequel to Campaign 3, and (minor spoiler):

Three of the characters of Campaign 3 begin their journey in Exandria Unlimited. So to get the details of who those characters are and why those characters appear in Campaign 3, you would have to get through Exandria Unlimited. However, without that context, you aren't missing too much, as it is briefly explained why they are there, and that would be far more context than you have for the other characters.

Further, we learn (minor spoiler for Exandria Unlimited):

A certain character from Campaign 1 is part of the backstory of a Campaign 3 character, and plays a role in the time between the end of Exandria Unlimited and the beginning of Campaign 3. If you aren't at least familiar with the characters of Campaign 1, you might miss some of the context of that Campaign 3 character's backstory.

Overall, I think you should be just fine to start with Campaign 3, especially if you catch up on Exandria Unlimited as time permits (8 episodes, roughly 32 hours of content). If you don't intend to actually sit through all of Campaign 1 and 2, you can just follow up on the lore threads from those campaigns as you encounter references you are unfamiliar with in Campaign 3.

The Critical Role website has a helpful article, "What you need to know before watching Exandria Unlimited", that suggest that Exandria Unlimited is a good place to start for those new to the series:

First things first! You don’t really need to know anything before you watch Exandria Unlimited. You can jump in completely fresh! Some of our players will be journeying into Exandria for the very first time as well.

So you definitely don't need anything from Campaigns 1 and 2 prior to Campaign 3, but Exandria Unlimited may be helpful for providing some of the context for the beginning of Campaign 3.

For a broad overview of the history of Exandria, watch this video: Exandria: An Intimate History (Campaign 1 spoilers). Replays of Exandria Unlimited can be found in several places:

Update through Episode 6, spoiler block contains spoilers

We learn in episode 6 that a character's backstory relates heavily to a certain antagonist from Campaign 1. Watching Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon Prime should get you up to speed without having to watch all the live play episodes from that part of Campaign 1.

Laudna’s Warlock patron is Delilah Briarwood, who she occasionally has conversations with in her mind.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to add a link to where Exandria Unlimited can be watched (e.g. a YouTube playlist or similar). :) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 1, 2021 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ As additional support, it's noteworthy that a common recommendation for new viewers during the run of Campaign 2 was to start at the beginning of C2 and only go back to C1 once you run out of C2 and still want more. I think the same advice is valid for C3. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2021 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ EXU doesn't require you to know CR history before watching it, but the suggestion it's a good intro to CR as a show may be contentious - it has a guest DM with a markedly different style. If you try it and bounce off, it's probably worth just reading episode recaps/summaries to get the gist (though admittedly if you don't come in with expectations of style from Matt's DMing, it may be an easier watch). I'd also note C3 is set on a different continent from C2/C1 (as C2 was from C1) about which not much has been previously shown, so limits the amount of prior knowledge any viewer has about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Nov 1, 2021 at 20:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu Having watched all of it, you can just start with C3Ep1 and just look up the references to things whenever you see the cast "squee" at something Matt says. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2021 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure about this. If you watch EXU without having seen Campaign 1, you'll have no idea 1) why there's a big crater in a major city that people ought to keep away from, 2) who the Air Ashari are and why this tribe Liam's character originates from is significant, 3) who the Fire Ashari are and why they're struggling, 4) who Gilmore is and why Aabria gives Dariax advantage on an Insight check on him for "a very meta reason," 5) what the Vestiges of Divergence are, and so on. You're expected to know these things or you'll get lost in the narrative very quickly... \$\endgroup\$ Nov 11, 2021 at 0:08

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