'Critical Role' Brings Back 'Walking Dead' Star During Raucous Live Show

The Walking Dead's Khary Payton made a surprise return to Critical Role during its annual live show on Friday night.

Critical Role, a weekly webshow in which a group of voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons, hosted its annual live show at Gen Con on Friday night. While every episode is streamed live, Critical Role has one show a year in front of a live audience, which coincides with the biggest tabletop gaming convention in the United States.

The night was full of surprises, but the biggest was the surprise return of Khary Payton, who previously played the cleric Shakaste earlier in the show's current campaign. Payton wasn't advertised for the show and kept his arrival in Indianapolis (the home of Gen Con) a secret throughout the day.

Payton was a welcome sight for the rest of Critical Role's cast, who were in the middle of a dangerous infiltration mission against a band of slavers. The slavers, led by the savage Lorenzo, had kidnapped half their party and killed a fourth member of the group during a subsequent skirmish.

The live show itself was surreal, with the feel and excitement of a live sporting event. The fans cheered with every Natural 20 rolled and spontaneously burst out into chants as characters battled against Lorenzo and his dangerous comrades. The atmosphere before the show was electric, as every crew member who came out to check on recording equipment or take photos were met with loud applause and enthusiasm.

The second half of the show was one of Critical Role's most intense battles yet, especially when Lorenzo revealed himself to be an oni - a creature that could potentially wipe out an entire team of Level 5 characters. Lorenzo's powerful "cone of cold" spell knocked out two party members, but they were quickly revived thanks to Taliesin Jaffe's new character Caduceus. The cleric's Grave Domain powers restored one character back to half health immediately and prevented Payton's Shakaste from the threat of death.

Ultimately, the battle's tide turned when Beau, the party's monk played by Marisha Ray, used up the last of her ki points to land a stunning strike on Lorenzo, leaving him vulnerable to multiple attacks. The final blow was dealt by Liam O'Brien's Caleb, who dedicated the final blow to his familiar Frumpkin, who the slavers had (temporarily) killed earlier in the battle.


Critical Role's live show proved that tabletop RPGs are just as compelling of a narrative medium as television, movies, or books. Cheering along with 2,500 other people as fictional characters charge into danger felt no different than watching your favorite sports team take the field at the beginning of the game. The show also showed exactly why both Dungeons & Dragons and Critical Role are so popular. Any game that can generate that sort of atmosphere and constant energy over four hours has captured something truly special, and it was amazing to get to share that once in a lifetime experience with a few thousand other fans.

Critical Role airs weekly on Thursday at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on Geek & Sundry's Twitch Channel and Alpha. Episodes are then posted to YouTube the following Monday.