Titansgrave vs. Critical Role

When Geek and Sundry’s webseries Tabletop had its record-setting Indiegogo campaign last year, one of the stretch goals reached was the creation of a new RPG show to be produced as well. That show is a now a thing you can watch called Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. Right now we’re 3 episodes into the 10 episode series, plus a bonus ‘episode 0′ that fills you in on the rpg system being used, the story’s universe, and the characters’ backstories.

When Geek and Sundry launched their Twitch channel in March of this year, they also created a tentpole of their livestreaming with Critical Role. This is a separate RPG show, where a group of friends play their weekly  Dungeons and Dragons (5ed) game for approximately 4 hours. It’s just like your game and mine, except cameras are rolling. And those cameras are excellently run by the Geek and Sundry staff. And the group are lead by a very talented game master (GM) in Matt Mercer. And the party of adventurers are all voice actors with an incredible knack for performing their characters.

So it’s a little better than your game and mine at home.

I think you should watch both, but in case anyone was conflicted between between #savegrog and #savethebeer , here’s a quick comparison of the two.

Like It Is, or Like It Is in Hollywood

Critical Role plays it like it is. These folks are playing an excellent game of DnD and there’s no reason your home game can’t be very similar. Players are making nerdy jokes and chomping on vegan pizza while their characters haggle with the local shopkeep, polymorph into animals, or downing a cask of ale they had stashed in the bag of holding. If it’s any different from your previous RPG experience it’s probably because your friends weren’t as experienced.

Titansgrave is a whole realm of production beyond what you and I will do at home. They’ve had the resources or artists, video editors, and graphic designers augment the experience to a level that if you try to mimic it, you’ll probably fall over before you have a chance to finish your storyline. Your everyday GM shouldn’t bother trying to make this sort of immersion happen — but holy cow is it awesome. Watching Titansgrave feels a lot more like watching a movie. Enjoy it the same way you enjoy a summer blockbuster.

Matt vs. Wil

Matt is clearly an amazing GM and his quick acting of NPCs is clearly at another level. Wil lacks some of the quickchange voice-acting cred, but also gets a lot of credit for creating one heck of a new universe in Titansgrave. Using a less-developed system has also given him a lot of power, so I think Titansgrave really feels like we see a lot more of Wil’s mind that Critical Role shows us playing around in Matt’s.

That, and Wil is my man-crush. But Matt might be yours.

Matt Mercer
Matt Mercer

How’s Your Schedule?

Twitch has become the hot new place for Geek and Sundry to release content. Good on ’em for keeping up with the times. What that means though is that unless you start matching the Twitch stream’s scheduling, you’re missing out on the full experience. Titansgrave is still posted asynchronously — so if you watch it 5 hours after it comes out, you’re still on par with the rest of the world. 5 hours late on Twitch is missing the whole episode. Critical Role is definitely an in-the-moment experience. The episodes still get posted later (here) but it’s just not the same. Plus you miss out on the chat room with the other “Critters,” which is a pretty great way to participate with an RPG show.

All I’m saying is, to max out your fandom you might need to think about just how available you can be Thursdays 7pm PT.

By Alex

Web Developer and Fitness Coach in Louisville, KY

One reply on “Titansgrave vs. Critical Role”

This article seems just a little shallow to me. On the GM level, Mercer wins hands down. He manages up to 8 players at a time, in the moment, with engaging encounters and set pieces that are allowed to feel like a true part of the setting. His cities are cities, full with the things you’d expect to find there, and the players are allowed to find their own way through their objectives there. Meanwhile Will only keeps his four players in check by rail roading them hard, and each time they’re in a city they get hush-hush’d through it as quickly as possible, beacon-homed to their objective by adamantium plot rails. His encounters have never progressed far past “I hit you, you hit me”, except for that one where the players had to make like 10 jump checks in a row and nothing else. Yawn.

The system Will uses, while not often used, is well-established; it has existed longer than D&D 5e, and Mercer makes plenty of adjustments to his own rules, so not sure what the author is even talking about when he says the system allows Will more freedom.

Titansgrave could be a unique and exciting setting, but it’s not. Magic + tech has been used before (Shadowrun does it best), and the story really just doesn’t feel an influence from it. None of the setpieces have a unique feeling because of this blend, it all feels very bland and banal, unremarkable.

“if you try to mimic it, you’ll probably fall over before you have a chance to finish your storyline” -> Most of that stuff is post-production. It’s not like Will showed all those images, etc, to the players during the game. Will’s style is easy to mimic, his DM’ing is pretty amateurish on several levels. He is good at coaxing a story out of a player though, I will grant him that, but honestly if you stripped his excellent production crew away his session would be unremarkable.

It’s not that Titansgrave is bad, mind (well, not until the dream vision episode where Will basically monologued his way through an entire hour that could easily have been interactive, anyway) it’s just that critical role is so much better. But not for people with short attention spans, so there’s that.

Also, the exposition in Titansgrave is heavy handed and clumsy, and the story is enormously standard.

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