Since this has come up a few times, I figured I'd use a blog post for easy reference to explain why this wiki uses chapters when Critical Role and Geek & Sundry do not, as well as to lay out a few reasons for the current format. Of course, this (and everything else) is always up for community discussion!
Why Use Chapters?
With over two hundred hours' worth of Critical Role episodes (see the "Running Times" spreadsheet by CritRoleStats), this series has already produced more content in about a year than most multimillion-dollar TV shows produce over their entire lifetimes. That means there's also a lot of content for this wiki to cover—and a lot for Critters to remember.
Toward the end of what we now call Chapter 1, this wiki's founder, Dexcuracy, suggested that the wiki adopt a season delineation (see blog post "Introduction"). Over time, it evolved into what we have now.
By splitting the episodes into chapters, we can make information easier to remember, categorize, display, and cross-reference. The tools of a wiki function more effectively when there are classifications and subgroups. We can easily target certain groups of episodes with particular templates, and we can change how pages are organized. We can auto-categorize pages and sort images and otherwise have a better grasp of—to borrow Mercer's phrase—this "majestic clusterf#ck". One obvious candidate for chapter grouping was the Specials chapter, consisting of episodes that are not strictly part of the show's primary campaign. The other chapters take a little more nuance to delineate.
How Are Chapters Divided?
The chapters are currently divided by dramatic structure.
- Chapter 1 may have been instigated by Allura's request for Vox Machina to find Kima, but the quest ends up being much more than a rescue mission. Thus, the chapter does not end when the party escapes from the Underdark to Emon.
- Exposition: Kraghammer stuff, especially the meeting with Nostoc and the other miners.
- Rising Action: Everything from the Greyspine Quarry through the battle with K'Varn.
- Climax: Killing K'Varn and acquiring the Horn of Orcus.
- Falling Action: Escaping from K'Varn's temple and the Underdark, returning to Emon, meeting with the Tal'Dorei Council, the brief respite with Gilmore in "Shopping and Shipping" (1x14), the brief battle with wyvern-riders in "Skyward" (1x15), and overcoming the traps to seal away the Horn of Orcus under Vasselheim.
- Dénouement: The resolution of the Horn of Orcus storyline (which is ultimately what all of Chapter 1 was about) in "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16), and the departure of Pike to restore Sarenrae's temple.
- Special Note: The distinction between Vasselheim episodes in Chapter 1 vs. Chapter 2 is about both motivation and quest-line. The business in Vasselheim at the end of Chapter 1 is still part of the main quest to deal with the Horn of Orcus, which was not really a self-directed quest, whereas Chapter 2 is about the group getting itself into trouble and creating their own adventures in Othanzia.
- Chapter 2 is about the members of Vox Machina choosing what to do now that the Horn of Orcus is safe.
- Exposition: Learning about Vasselheim (and therefore Matt Mercer's world and its history).
- Rising Action: Grog's first bout with Kern, slaying the hydra and accidentally creating tension with the Slayer's Take, learning about themselves while split into groups, making tentative allies and joining the guild, deciding not to go after the Briarwoods yet, and journeying to Pyrah for Keyleth. Throughout the rising action, the general theme of this chapter is learning about themselves and each other through the decisions they make.
- Climax: Grog's second bout with Kern, which is fitting since it comes full circle from "Hubris" (1x17).
- Falling Action: Rescuing Percy and Keyleth, the encounter with Earthbreaker Groon, and returning home.
- Dénouement: The release of bottled-up Underdark and Slayer's Take tension toward Kynan Leore, some intraparty disagreements/dialogue, and Seeker Asum's ominous cliffhanger of the Briarwoods.
- Chapter 3 is the Briarwoods chapter.
- Exposition: Learning about the Briarwoods' history and preparing to encounter them.
- Rising Action: Everything up through the Whitestone Rebellion.
- Climax: Defeating the Briarwoods, and Scanlan's victory over Orthax.
- Falling Action: The people of Whitestone gathering at the Sun Tree with Keeper Yennen, the awkward Vaxleth scene, Winter's Crest, and returning to Emon.
- Dénouement: Vox Machina proving their innocence and dispensing "justice" upon Riskel Daxio, the traitor that helped the Briarwoods, in "A Musician's Nostalgia" (1x37) and "Echoes of the Past" (1x38).
- Chapter 4 is about the Chroma Conclave, but more than that, it's about the shock and sense of powerlessness in the face of epic-scale tragedy.
- Exposition: Everything from "Omens" (1x39) until the attack. The return to Brimscythe's home, an infodump about Marquet (home of Thordak long ago), and Sovereign Uriel's past, present, and future.
- Rising Action: Dramatic and steep in this chapter, with the Chroma Conclave attacking, people fleeing, looking for survivors, seeking allies and means of salvation, gathering the first few items, and finding Westruun in need.
- Climax: The dual climax is the defeat of Kevdak, but Westruun is not yet free, so an urgency pushes the protagonists to the true chapter climax, which is the defeat of Umbrasyl.
- Falling Action: The return to Westruun, which was actually pretty minor since no bandits assaulted the group on the way back to Westruun, no one stole the treasure from the dragon's hoard while the group was away, the Herd of Storms didn't fight back, and Blackfoot was already dead when they found him.
- Dénouement: The Kerrek–Keyleth conversation, the convincing of Westruun citizens, the Percy–Keyleth conversation, sending for refugees from Kymal, the Scanlan–Kaylie conversation, the Vax–Pike conversation, and the realization that while they had all been on the scrambling defensive ever since the Chroma Conclave attacked, now they could take destiny into their own hands. They chose what to do next and where to go, and their victory over Umbrasyl replaced a sense of powerlessness with one of purpose.
- Special Note: The separation of Chapters 4 and 5 at this point are once again about motivation and plot-line. Chapter 4 sees characters motivated by trauma and reacting to unfolding events. As a plot-point, the defeat of Umbrasyl and salvation of Westruun at the end of Chapter 4 serves as a small-scale analogy to the larger war to defeat the Chroma Conclave and save the world. On the other hand, Chapter 5 features much more of a self-motivation and deliberate responses to circumstances, with a plot pushed by the determination of the characters more than the circumstances.
- Chapter 5 is still young, so it's hard to speak definitively about it yet. It does still deal with the Chroma Conclave, but in a very different way. So far, Chapter 5 is about embracing oneself, one's power, and one's destiny. The Chroma Conclave no longer seems untouchable. Seeking the Vestiges is no longer a quest from an external source, but a chosen path to further success based on their own experience.
If you have feedback on the chapter system or specific chapter breaks, please share it with the community by responding below or leaving a comment on the relevant chapter page.