Critical Role Veterans and Newcomers Lift the Lid on Their New Show, Exandria Unlimited

Critical Role Veterans and Newcomers Lift the Lid on Their New Show, Exandria Unlimited

The adventures of the Mighty Nein might have just recently come to a conclusion, but Critical Role rolls on with a brand new adventure that takes viewers into the future of the smash-hit actual-play tabletop show’s fantastical world. We’ve got the lowdown from veteran game master Matt Mercer, and newcomers Robbie Daymond and Aimee Carrero!

Not a full-blown new series of Critical Role, the new adventure is an eight-episode miniseries, bringing together veterans of the tabletop group with newcomers to tell a new story set within the world of Exandria. Title Exandria Unlimited, the series is set 30 years after the events of the Vox Machina campaign, and 10 after the events of Mighty Nein. Starring an entirely new band of characters, Exandria Unlimited begins in the city of Emon, still recovering from the devastating Chroma Conclave attack decades prior, opening up the opportunity for Critical Role to explore its world even further than ever before, shaping adventures to come.

Starring Happy Jacks RPG, Dimension 20, and Saving Throw’s Aabria Iyengar as the campaign’s Game Master, Exandria Unlimited will bring together Critical Role returning favourites Matt Mercer, Ashley Johnson, and Liam O’Brien with two newcomers to the series: Robbie Daymond (Sailor Moon, Persona 5), and Aimee Carrero (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Elena of Avalor).

To find out more about what to expect from the new series, Gizmodo had the chance to chat with Mercer, Daymond, and Carrero over email about their involvement with Exandria Unlimited, and Critical Role’s future. Check out the full interviews below!

Image: Heirlume Photography/Critical Role
Image: Heirlume Photography/Critical Role

Matthew Mercer

James Whitbrook, Gizmodo: Coming off of the latest season of the show, why was now the time to tell a major side story in the world of Tal’Dorei?

Matthew Mercer: There were many myriad reasons, but beyond just allowing us time to recuperate and focus on interim projects, I’ve always been excited to see what kind of adventures and stories others can tell within this world of Exandria, expanding the horizons and making it their own as well. This was the perfect union of timing, intent, and talent to really dig in and see what that would look like in an official capacity!

Gizmodo: Was it important for you to bring new voices into this spinoff season? What was it like trying to find the balance between bringing new people and Critical Role mainstays?

Mercer: It was extremely important to all of us. CR began as a tight group of close friends, and while we maintain that magic we believe to be the heart and soul of it, we are also seeking to find ways to bring new friends into the fold to join the family. Guest spots have classically been the means of doing so, but by branching into wholly unique narratives we are allowed the chance to bring in these wonderful, new-to-the-community players for longer form play and really create something as special as the mainstay CR campaign. By including a handful of “ringers” from the main cast to join the new players, it helps establish a safe space of support and guidance, while also keeping the OG players on their toes with new energy and creativity, all while allowing enough of a familiarity for our audience and community for them to rapidly embrace this new show and the new faces within it. 

Gizmodo: You’re playing a role in the season, but not your usual GM one. Outside of previous one-shots, this is a bit of a rarity for you with CR — what’s it been like handing over the reins to Aabria for Exandria Unlimited?

Mercer: Indeed! For me, it’s been so exciting. There’s always a bit of trepidation in handing over the reins on something you’ve meticulously crafted over the years, but the mutual respect and trust between Aabria and I made that transition seamless for me. She’s really such an incredible person, brilliant mind, and a talented storyteller, so the joy in watching her build within the space I started and making it her own really is a gift to me. I couldn’t be prouder.

Gizmodo: Exandria Unlimited is set a significant period of time after the previous Critical Role campaigns. Can you talk about the decision to distance this that far from the past stories in this setting, and tease what possible ramifications long times will get to see from those past stories influence here?

Mercer: For us, we wanted to let these stories sit in a place in time that was familiar enough to the previous campaigns (and connected to the choices and adventures within), but also not reliant on them or seeking to entwine with them too deeply. We wanted to let both Aabria and the players have the comfort to just run with it. Setting it a bit in the future from previous campaigns allows that middle ground, where the world still has been affected by these previous legends, but is removed enough to be free to be unique within it all. That being said… many pre-existing threads in the world run deep, so who knows what aspects of the adventure may wander near some well-known facets of the past. It’s all ripe for the taking for Aabria and the players, and that’s what is so exciting. Anything can happen!

Image: Heirlume Photography/Critical Role
Image: Heirlume Photography/Critical Role

Aimee Carrero and Robbie Daymond

Gizmodo: What’s it been like joining Critical Role?

Robbie Daymond: Hah, oh man, that’s a tough one for me because it almost feels like anything I say about being on the show wouldn’t do justice to how it has impacted my life! The truth is, it’s one of the most fulfilling and exciting creative endeavours I’ve ever taken part of. I’ve been a professional performer my entire life, and still, sitting down at the table with these incredibly talented actors, who also happen to be dynamic, caring and amazing people, is unparalleled really. The skill and care that the crew puts into making such a high production value show is wild. I’m in awe how deftly handled the whole thing is every time I come in to play. Getting folding into something that already has such strong foundations, but also getting to craft something totally new in that space, is an experience I know I’ll always carry with me.

Aimee Carrero: A total dream. I’ve been a fan for so long that I worried the experience wouldn’t live up to the hype. In this case, the reality was so much better than I could have imagined. Everyone made me feel like a member of the family immediately. I completely fell in love with this world and they will never get rid of me. I have moved in.

Gizmodo: Tell us a little bit about your tabletop experience before joining the series — what appealed to you to take on this journey?

Carrero: I came into RPGs through Sam Riegel, who voice directed me on Elena of Avalor. It wasn’t until years later though, when I met with Matt Mercer about possibly guesting on CR campaign two that I dove in. I was weeks away from coming on when the pandemic hit. It did give me a year to work on my character though!

Daymond: To call me a novice would be a massive understatement! I’ve guest starred on exactly ONE streaming TTRPG one-shot a few years ago, with zero coaching and no knowledge on how to play. I was more of a novelty that all of the real players and GM had to babysit, haha! That said, I still enjoyed it. Even so, I’ve played exactly zero home games and had no knowledge of RPGs outside of watching my friends play on Critical Role! I’ve always been a huge high-fantasy nerd and I love board, card, yard, video, and leisure games, so it seems odd to even myself that I’ve never actually played. I guess I was just never approached, and once something doesn’t come into your life you don’t know what you’re missing and it just sort of never happens, you know? Even if you want it too. Then one day I got the call from CR and suddenly I had the BEST teachers in the world! I mean, what a wild experience to be coached over Zoom by freakin’ MATTHEW MERCER and MARISHA RAY on how to build a character and the rules. Then to be actually playing for your first time at a table during the pre-games with the entire cast and having a seasoned, master GM like Aabria guiding your journey and enhancing your gameplay as you learn… unreal. I recognise how privileged I am to get to have that experience and I’m honoured by it.

Gizmodo: What’s been the most exciting or challenging thing for you being part of Exandria Unlimited as a performer?

Daymond: I’ve always loved improv and theatre of the mind. The moment to moment interactions I get to have with the cast and GM are some of the purest forms of acting you can partake in. Those beats feel rooted in the given circumstances of this massive world that Aabria has created and the lore Matt and the founders have put in place. If you trust your fellow castmates/players, there’s no way you’re not going to have a good time. And damn, does it keep you sharp, haha! You can’t plan or plot what’s coming next and even if you’ve figured out a puzzle or what may be coming in the plot, another person’s actions could change all of that. You have to be present for it if you want to be a part of it. We’re all so disconnected these days and distracted by our phones and the outside world, that just sitting down and being in the moment, interacting with other people, attention undivided, is such a joy. I’m guessing it is a big part of the reason people play RPGs. The most challenging part for me was that I didn’t know the “game” aspect of playing. But, as I said before, I was given the BEST mentors. The rest of it I took to incredibly fast. I feel at home at the table now.

Carrero: The most exciting moment for me was getting my first “how do you want to do this?” My favourite thing about the game is the community-building. It feels like I’ve known these folks my entire life, when really it has only been a few months. The most challenging part for me are the combat rules! I’m still sort of a mess but, hopefully, an entertaining mess!

Gizmodo: You’re not just working with several returning Critical Role actors here, but are joined by a fellow newcomer. What’s it been like building this rapport as both an outsider coming into this world within the text and just with the series itself, with your fellow adventurers, over the course of making Exandria Unlimited?

Carrero: Robbie is an incredible actor and such a delight to watch in this character. We had several practice opportunities and those were such a gift. We were able to take our time and really enjoy the getting-to-know-everyone bit. But really, we could have just started with episode one — that’s how instant and strong the vibe is. I feel so lucky to be a part of ExU and will take every public opportunity to remind everyone at CR that my wagon is forever hitched to theirs — they have created a monster!

Daymond: I LOVE Aimee. Though I know all of the Critical Role cast through the voiceover world, Aimee and I had never worked together, though I did know who she was from her work. I feel like we hit it off in the first test game and as soon as we finished, I imagined it would be her and I in the show. I’m so glad that I was right! The most exciting thing for me is how her personality and character choices changed the way that I intended to play COMPLETELY. Being open to that, I think, made the game even better for me and really changed what I thought I knew about how I wanted to play an RPG. Personally, I am typically the agent of chaos in my social circles and most things I do, haha. With this cast there is so much manic, wild energy (especially Aimee) that I found myself making safer, different, and more complex choices. It was completely unintentional, but just felt right within the group dynamic. Aimee shifted the entire feeling of the campaign and I love where it sent my character and play style. Without giving anything away, our characters don’t necessarily vibe right away, but that’s a fantastic place to start a story between two people. I can’t wait for the audience to see where our relationship and the whole party dynamic goes! Speaking of which… is it Thursday yet?!?

Exandria Unlimited begins at 12:00pm AEST on June 25 over at the Critical Role Twitch and Youtube channels. It will be available as a VOD on YouTube the day after, and as a podcast a week after initial airing on the Critical Role podcast feed.

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