Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins – Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson & Chris Northrop (Dark Horse)

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I should be beaten, whipped and castigated at length by bog bound goblins and Kobold shaman and my shame should be eternally mocked by underworld denizens and moribund night hags.  What pray tell, I hear you ask, is the cause of such abject contrition and remorse? Well, since I’m in a sharing mood and your dogged pursuit of an answer knows no bounds, I shall tell you. Despite being an avid gamer for more than three and a half decades and being more than a little gung-ho for all things Dungeons & Dragons related, I haven’t listened to, or watched, a single episode of Critical Role. There, I’ve said it, I can’t take it back and now everyone knows the source of my secret ignominy.  That said, I’m almost glad that I was unfamiliar with Critical Role as Vox Machina Origins is a seamless introduction to the disparate and dysfunctional characters who fate throws together in a tale involving demons, poison, curses and a most villainous land-grab of epic proportions.

The wonderful thing about Origins is that I’ve known, and played, characters like the ensemble players who will become Vox Machina. They’re rough and ready, complex and complicated, maladjusted and broken by life and experience and at odds with the world in which they dwell, yet in the midst of battle, when the excrement hits the fan and when it matters, they come good and there’s no-one that you’d rather have by your side. And  the mystery they become embroiled in is dark, dirty and entirely fuelled by avarice, greed and the very worst aspects of human, and other species, nature; just like the very best adventures always are. 

Colville and Mercer’s plot and characterisation is flawless, with the former bringing Rose Estes early Choose Your Own Adventure series and first edition, entry level TSR modules to mind and the latter pushing the idea that characters are, in their purest forms, an extension of all of their players most hidden desires and darkest personality traits, while Olivia Samson’s art is beautiful to behold and immediately catapults your imagination back to the heyday of Dragon and it’s magnificent interior illustrations . Enticing and captivating, Origins is the most D&D flavoured fun you can have without rolling a saving throw and in those all too common moments when real world commitments  have forced your party to desert you and life prevents your gaming group getting together.  Sharpen your swords, shine your amour and consult your spell books, its adventure time… Tim Cundle


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