Critical Words by Jared Whalen

Dungeons and Dragons, the tabletop roleplaying game, has been having a moment in recent years, and in no small part thanks to D&D streaming shows, most notably Critical Role. Critical Role is a live-play D&D show with a cast of professional voice actors that sit around a table and improvise as their fantasy characters for about four hours a week live on the internet. Dice are rolled, imaginary monsters are slayed, and a lot of words are said. I thought it would be interesting to analyze the literal hundreds of hours of dialogue and look for patterns. So after scraping 120 episodes and 3.8 million words, I compiled to results into a data visualization essay.

The result is a web app tapper where the user moves through a series of slides and digs deeper into patterns that emerge in the dialog. Visualizations include a steam plots, radial sankey diagram, heatmaps, and bar charts.

I used R for the data scraping, cleaning and formatting. The data was then stored in a MongoDB Atlas Database accessible via a web hook deployed on Heroku. The app itself is using a bespoke graphics rig and D3.js for the visualizations.

The app was widely shared across the Critical Role subreddit and other online spaces.
Jared Whalen is a data visualization designer and journalist based out of Philadelphia. He is currently at Axios and formerly worked for The Delaware News Journal and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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