Thanks to the abridged version of actual-play RPG series Critical Role, I might make it through a whole campaign for once

God bless editors.

God bless editors.

Critical Role’s campaigns are like children: they seem nice, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. I started watching both of its previous campaigns with the best of intentions, and a dozen or so episodes later I dropped out. Those four-hour weekly recordings are too much, especially when you sit through one devoted to a shopping trip and the next episode begins with someone saying, “I’d like to go back to that magic item shop.”

Thankfully for me and the rest of the short-attention-span squad, there’s now an official edited version. Critical Role Abridged takes those four-hour episodes, trims the fat, and reduces them down to manageable single-hour videos—or close to it. The longest one so far has been the debut, which stretched to a leisurely hour-twenty-three.

Removing the introductions, ads, table chatter, and combat waffling makes Critical Role move along at a much brisker clip. A few deep lore references that will only be appreciated by people who’ve watched previous seasons are also cut, as is a fair chunk of the dice-rolling. That’s one part I miss—the gambling aspect of D&D is part of the fun, and while some are left in, the edits seem a bit eager to delete skill checks and damage rolls that would otherwise have me on the edge of my seat. Meanwhile, Matt Mercer’s episode-one scene-setting and subsequent recaps seem like they could easily be pruned further. But on the whole, these edits do what they set out to and have kept me engaged.

In the absence of a full animated retelling like The Legend of Vox Machina, which is based on selected highlights of Critical Role’s first campaign, this is the best way to catch up to campaign three. The only thing you’re really missing if you start here are explanations for some of the in-jokes—episode two was recorded on Halloween, which they traditionally dress up for, this time cosplaying as each other. The edit leaves you wondering what the hell is going on, but that’s often the way with their long-running in-jokes, like bursting into song whenever someone says “I’m making my way.”

There are nine abridged episodes so far, though the unedited campaign is currently 97 episodes deep, so I suspect it’ll take Critical Role a year or so to catch up. You can join me over at the Critical Role Abridged playlist, and let’s see if we make it more than 12 episodes in this time

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