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I just watched Critical Role's heartbreak prince make fans lose their minds for 6 hours on Twitch. It shows why his crew rules nerd world.

Cheryl Teh   

I just watched Critical Role's heartbreak prince make fans lose their minds for 6 hours on Twitch. It shows why his crew rules nerd world.
  • The finale of "Candela Obscura: The Circle of the Crimson Mirror" aired on Thursday night.
  • The six-hour stream, helmed by Critical Role's Liam O'Brien, was a terrifying end to the series.

In the age of 15-second TikTok videos, it's hard to imagine a form of entertainment that still manages to sustain the attention of its audience for long.

But the marathon finale of Critical Role's gothic horror game, "Candela Obscura: The Circle of the Crimson Mirror," did just that. The stream was around the length of both of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" movies put together, and ten times as scary. But thousands of people on Twitch and YouTube just kept watching — and losing their minds in chats — from 10 p.m. ET to the wee hours of the morning.

"Candela Obscura" is a game produced in-house by Critical Role's publishing arm, Darrington Press. The game is set in the Fairelands, a fantasy world similar to post-World War I Europe. What happens during the game is decided through the rolls of six-sided dice, and failed rolls result in player-characters racking up scars.

Critical Role promotes the game by streaming it on their Twitch channel to their 1.3 million fans. This is a hard-won base of loyal viewers who've been following the eight main cast members' long-running "Dungeons & Dragons" campaigns, which have now clocked over a thousand hours in runtime.

The latest three-episode installment of Candela is helmed by Critical Role core cast member Liam O'Brien, who I once called the crew's heartbreak prince.

Joining him at the table was fellow CR co-founder Taliesin Jaffe, and cast members Imari Williams, Aimee Carrero, and Alexander Ward.

For the first three hours of the show, O'Brien ratcheted up the narrative tension — and kept it high-octane throughout. He kicked off the episode with what was arguably the most intense of his opening monologues yet.

The next three hours were a terrifying, breakneck race to fight what appeared to be an eldritch monstrosity straight out of a hellish, Lovecraftian nightmare.

O'Brien, a veteran voice actor, got to creep the living daylights out of the cast and flex some vocal chops — you don't often hear such horrifying growls and sounds coming out of a man's mouth.

Some of O'Brien's nefarious narrative plans may have been foiled by the Williams' ridiculously lucky dice rolls. That luck didn't quite extend to everyone at the table, though. At the risk of spoiling any major plot points — all was, assuredly, not well.

I spoke to O'Brien in early April before the finale aired, and he gave me some insight into what inspired the plot of "Crimson Mirror."

"The joy of getting to run a game is getting to delight, shock, surprise, and amuse the people you're with," he told me.

He added that through his three-episode sojourn, he wanted to take people to "places they haven't seen yet" in the world of the Fairelands, and set up interesting complications for the characters.

"You are not going to feel like an overpowered warrior in this game," O'Brien told me. "You're going to feel like a person, even if you're one of the characters who has a little bit of supernatural ability. You're going to feel like you're fighting an uphill battle."

To be sure, Critical Role and the projects the company is running, from animation to new tabletop games, are prime targets for investment in nerd world. The success of the original Twitch stream and its $11.3 million record Kickstarter run spurred Amazon to invest in an exclusive multiyear deal with Critical Role in 2023.

And rest assured, this won't be the last we see of "Candela Obscura."

Following their sold-out live show at London's Wembley Arena, Critical Role on Thursday announced that they're taking the game to a live venue in Los Angeles.

Tickets for the 1,600-seat show, to be staged on May 25 at the United Theater in downtown LA, go on sale on April 29.

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