The following is a video transcript
Travis Willingham: For the first game, Matt reached out to Joe to join. And we had heard of Joe and his character, Arkhan, but some of us hadn't followed up as much.
Travis Willingham: He was like, "Joe's going to play. He plays this dragonborn oathbreaker paladin. He's also taken a couple classes of barbarian." And he came on and he just crushed it, right? He just killed it. It was a crucial time with Vecna.
Travis Willingham: Before the show, he came up and he was like, "Yo, bro. I got you a shirt."
Travis Willingham: I was like, "A shirt?"
Travis Willingham: He was like, "Yeah." And it said Jocks Machina on it.
Travis Willinghham: I was like, "Oh my god. This is so long overdue."
Travis Willingham: He's like, "Right, bro? Represent. Like the tanks, right? The big beefy guys. There's room for us in this world too. It doesn't need to just be people that you think would play Dungeons & Dragons. It's athletes. It's lifters. It's crossfit people."
Travis Willingham: And I was like, "Yeah. Yeah, man. Absolutely. A hundred percent."
Joe Manganiello: I noticed that anytime Travis would bring up football on Critical Role, all the musical theater kids would tell him to shut up, like shush him.
Joe Manganiello: I figured, well, I'm coming on. I'm a jock. Jocks Machina. Okay, cool. I'm making t-shirts for me and Travis, that's it.
Travis Willingham: He was wearing his, and I was like, "Can I wear mine under my shirt, and when you pop on we'll unveil Double Dragon style?"
Travis Willingham: He's like, "Yeah, dude. Let's do it."
Travis Willingham: He came on, and then there was the unveiling. It just took off.
Joe Manganiello: It was funny the way that all these people started reaching out to me, saying things like, "You know, I'm a jock, and I love fantasy novels, and I'm tired of being ostracized for being a jock or for being an athlete," which is the reverse of what you'd think it would be.
Travis Willingham: People on the internet were like, "Hey, where do we get this shirt? I want to do it. I deadlift 400 pounds. I want to be able to ...". Especially our brothers and sisters in the military. They're like, "I lift. I can do all this stuff. I want to be able to tell my friends that it's not just the niche, basement-dwelling Dungeons & Dragons crowd anymore. It's athletes. It's military. It's all these other people."
Travis Willingham: The shirts started selling like crazy, and Joe's like, "We're selling all these shirts. We should send it to Puerto Rico relief."
Travis Willingham: I'm like, "Yes, do it! Charity! Help people. Go for it."
Travis Willingham: It just took off from there.
Joe Manganiello: It's strange that somehow me playing with Travis and putting a name to this phenomena, it brought all these people out of the dark, saying, "I'm just like that too, and there's a place for me at the D&D table."
Joe Manganiello: It's strange that the jocks somehow felt like they maybe didn't belong at the table.
Travis Willingham: He actually had the idea right after the Vecna fight, because he was like, "That was amazing." He's like, "What if it was just all world breakers, right? Just titans and just tanks, an all-tanks game, a Jocks Machina game."
Travis Willingham: And I was like, "Set it up, man."
Joe Manganiello: In recruiting for this game, I made sure that I didn't get anybody who didn't know how to play. This is not like, "Oh, you're big. Let's do a little publicity stunt, and you can come play."
Joe Manganiello: No. I grew up playing. I grew up DMing. Travis, obviously, is on the biggest D&D show every week. My trainer, Ron, who's a crossfit masters champion, who is the biggest fantasy novel encyclopedia you've ever met in your life and plays religiously. And then on top of that, Paul White, the Big Show. Big Show grew up playing D&D. We're all D&D heads.
Travis Willingham: We did get a disturbing email from Mike Mearls. He was like, "You don't have a healer, right? You don't have a cleric. It's just tanks?"
Travis Willingham: We were like, "Yeah."
Travis Willingham: He goes, "You guys might be in trouble."
Travis Willingham: I was like, "Mike, come on, man. We're level 18. We all have over 200 hit points. How are we going to be in trouble? This is going to be a slaughter."
Travis Willingham: And he goes, "You might be in trouble."
Travis Willingham: I was like, "Mike, do you have a tarrasque coming? An astral dreadnought? What's the deal, man?"
Travis Willingham: He goes, "I'm just saying."
Travis Willingham: It's like, "Mike, don't to that do me, man!"
Joe Manganiello: When we were 10 years old and 11 years old and 12 years old, we're playing barbarians, and fighters, and warriors, and we weigh 90 pounds soaking wet.
Joe Manganiello: Well, you're actually going to see barbarians, and fighters, and warriors played by people who you would cast in the movie. Think about that, how rare that is to actually have real tanks at the table.
Joe Manganiello: I think there's something organic that happens whenever you have a table full of actual tanks playing tanks.
Travis Willingham: It's funny. We hear a lot about Critical Role when we go out and do shows and we do conventions. We hear about what it means to them, and we hear about the impact that our characters have made. And then I would say 10% of the people that we talk to are like, "Jocks Machina, man. Jocks Machina."
Travis Willingham: I was like, "Yeah?"
Travis Willingham: They're like, "Yeah, bro. I played football in college," or "I played soccer," or "I do this. I do that."
Travis Willingham: "I had to be really quiet about the fact that I played sports when I was playing with my Dungeons & Dragons friends," or "When I was with my Dungeons & Dragons friends, I had to be really quiet..." You know, vice versa.
Travis Willingham: It's just nice to be able to see that people are embracing the thing that's broken down that little barrier in a world that's so inclusive anyway, so it's just been really nice to see that people are embracing it fully.