This has to be one of my new favorite episodes in campaign two. We haven’t had an emotional cliffhanger like this in a minute. There were so many unexpected twists and turns in this episode. Starting with Hot Boi Essek showing up for dinner at the Xhorhouse. I loved so many things about this scene, but I’m also left with many questions.
Essek popping over for a dinner party with the Nein was a bit of a shock. But after Matt’s revelation in the accompanying Talks Machina about Essek being a loner child prodigy with few social and emotional connections, it makes his appearance feel more like Matt fleshing his character out. The Nein all treated him so warmly and welcoming for the most part, though Nott still seems a bit uneasy. Essek was able to glean buckets of new information and Empire secrets off of the Nein. He must really be raking in the favor of the Bright Queen for all the tidbits, war strategy, and Luxom news he’s been picking off them.
As much as I wholeheartedly want Essek’s new friendship with the Nein to be plain and simple, there is a little nagging voice in the back of my head that says he’s not being completely honest with them. To top it all off, Sam did mention that his high perception roll against Essek during the prison interrogation in episode 90 left the little hairs on his neck standing up. That doesn’t sound so plain and simple to me yet. There are layers we need to uncover!
Jester was able to piece together a deep cut of lore during Essek’s conversation about the Luxom beacons. He mentioned that members of the Dynasty had recently traveled to a town called Nogvurat to retrieve some recently ‘awakened’ Luxom souls. Nogvurat had been the scene of a deadly war some 15 years previously. The Consecuted dynasty warriors that perished in that battle were placed into Empire families to someday be awakened and called home. This reminded Jester of the town crier heard long ago telling the story of a group of children kidnapped by Dynasty thieves. Nothing in this campaign is as simple as it seems. Mercer is a complex and complicated master story weaver and I absolutely love it.
Fjord had his own version of a deep lore cut when he was finally able to piece together his newfound worship of the Wildmother and his nearly forgotten orphan surname. Caduceus was once again speaking about the three founding families of the Wildmother, the Clay’s, the Stone’s and the Dust’s. Fjord mentioned how strange of a coincidence it was that his given orphan surname was Stone! This bit of story magic seems too perfect to not have been planned, but everyone involved in the writing of backstories can confirm that it was a creepily accurate coincidence. Travis/Fjord are both still convinced that it means nothing and was just a funny anecdote. But, come on, it’s too perfect! I am desperate for it to mean something.
The second half of the episode takes a bit of a wild turn when Caleb, Nott, and Essek are able to finish Halas’ Form Changing spell. Things had been moving rather quickly for Caleb, who had been devoting all his spare time and energy into completing the spell. I think we were as shocked as the Nein when the three were able to piece everything together so quickly. But of course, Matt had something much more complicated up his sleeve. After a heartbreaking moment of indecision, The Nein are able to emotionally convince Nott into agreeing to trying the spell. At the last second, the spell fails and we learn that the old hag that cursed Nott has her roots in far too deep to break. Caleb and Nott both hear her creepy laughing as the last moments of the spell fail to connect.
There has been much speculating about just how influential this old woman has been in the lives of the Nein. Beyond Nott’s encounter, we have Beau’s family being coerced into following the premonitions of an old fortune teller to find their wealth and prosperity. Caleb also had a mysterious woman who was able to finally clear his mind of the madness Trent Ikithon cast on him. It will be interesting to see where this new thread takes them.
This is another example of an episode with no fighting, initiative roles, intense battle scenes, yet it is absolutely one of my favorites. These fragile, character building episodes add so much flavor and depth to the campaign. I couldn’t have guessed where the episode would end up, but now there is a whole new story to explore and flesh out. Next session promised to be a rather emotionally driven one as well!
Don’t Miss It!
All Work No Play returns!! My favorite hidden Critical Role gem will premiere its second season Tuesday, February 4th. It will continue to premiere every other Tuesday at 4pm taking the time slot of Travis Willingham’s Yee-Haw Game Ranch until it comes back from hiatus.