Episode 11: Chasing Nightmares
The gang face off against the formidable Ira, the Nightmare King, in his basement lair. Ira sends a nasty chain lightning tearing through the group before taking a step back, tempting the group deeper into the laboratory. As the group begin to spread out around Ira, he shatters a blue power gem against the ground and the chairs and table begin to shake and shudder in a frighteningly familiar way. The heavy wooden table charges towards Imogen and Orym, knocking them back a few paces. The two chairs make a break towards Fearne and Ashton. Dorian shatters the lock on Gurge’s cage and frees the wildman into the fight. Ashton lands a powerful swing against the chair, nearly scattering it to splinters. Imogen and Laudna try to launch magical attacks from afar but Ira is too dextrous and shifty to be hit. FCG sends in his spiritual weapon to help attack the furniture and telepathically takes the edge off of some nasty damage from Laudna and Orym. Ira seems to be getting annoyed by the groups few landed attacks and FCG taking out some furniture. He sends a polymorph spell rocketing towards FCG, turning the cleric into a teeny little turtle. Orym, Dorian, Laudna, and Imogen are all on death’s door from attack after nasty attack from Ira’s clawed hands and magic.
Chetney, fresh off destroying an animated chair finally faces down Ira, who is busy taunting the gang. Drawing Ira’s attention, Chetney asks if he thinks Gurge is the only one with a special gift. Chetney’s body begins to twitch and sprout hair and his voice deepens into a menacing growl. It seems Chetney has been hiding quite a secret of his own. Ira takes the interesting information in stride and decides it might be time to pivot his intentions. He creeps his way towards a dormant machine in the corner of the room. Fearne steps in front to try and stop him and as he looms over her, reveals he recognizes her “Calloway family” smell as he too is from the fey wild. Fearne is unable to stop Ira as he activates the machine.
The gang watch helplessly, half of them in ragged tatters on the ground, as Ira begins to gather his research and make his escape. The machine begins to shake the floors and walls as it powers up. He does hate to leave things unfinished, and they were having such a fun time. Hopefully they’re as resourceful as they look. Ira gives one last smirk and then winks out of the locked room and escapes into the night.
The gang frantically begin to look for a means to escape whatever this machine is about to unleash. Chetney rushes to the wall where he remembers the locking mechanism to be. He jumps up to pull the lever and yells for the rest of the group to head to the stairs. The machine reaches a deafening high pitched whine as they clear out of the room as fast as they can. They all just manage to fling themselves back out of the basement, out of the office, and back to the grassy courtyard when a massive explosion rocks the building behind them. Peeking back as they run, the group are shocked to see that the Moon Tower has been completely destroyed, and giant boulders of rubble begin crashing down around them.
The group run all the way back to the transport gondolas, barely taking time to lick their wounds and check in with each other. They spend the car ride back to the tavern in stunned near silence. They finally make it back to the Weary Way tavern and settle in with some food and drink before they begin to dissect what happened. Chetney and Gurge are placed under the inquisitive microscope. Chetney shows remorse over hiding this secret from the group, but it is a rather dangerous secret to harbor. His lycan-kind are often hunted down. He enlisted Gurge’s help to find the elusive Claret Order. The Order of other blood hunters like him would help train him to control his unpredictable curse. Gurge also reveals that Ira was looking to take Gurge’s curse and use it to infect a volunteer army for unknown purposes. Still reeling from their harrowing fight, the group agree to rest for the night and try and piece this mess together in the morning. Gurge agrees to at least stay until morning, but then he vows he’s off and away from this city and back to his jungle home.
The next morning, true to his word, Gurge takes his leave of the group shortly after morning meal. The group will do their best to help Chetney continue his search for the Claret Order. For now, Chetney is content to stay with the group and see out their current plans.
It’s decided that they’ll check in with Lord Eshteross again and update him with the news of this nefarious plot. Eshteross promises to have his people look into Vali and Ira and see what they can find of this concerning news. Eshteross also lets Orym know that Oshad Breshio has finally recovered enough to speak with the group about the attack he survived. Imogen also gets her entrance letter into the conservatory. He can tell the group is a bit worse for wear after their last encounter and sends them to spend an afternoon relaxing at the spa before Orym’s meeting with Breshio.
After their well earned, and much enjoyed spa trip, the group make their way to the Lumas estate. Orym meets with the lady of the house, and mother to the twins that perished in the attack. She recounts asks for Orym’s story and how it connects to her sad tale. He relates the story of the attack on Keyleth. The attackers seemingly materialized from nothing, and dissolved into black ooze if killed. They were obviously skilled, well trained, and left the Ashari feeling like the attack was just a test of their defenses. Lady Lumas agrees with Orym’s tale and allows him entry to speak with Oshad.
Oshad recounts his version of events to Orym and they both agree that these attacks are somehow connected. The attack against the Lumas twins happened in The Heartmoor wildlands where they were studying planar and celestial bodies along with crystal fauna and flora that grow in the Heartmoor. Oshad is remiss that he can’t give Orym more information but promises to reach out should he hear anything more. The group promise Orym the chance to look further into the attack in the Heartmoor when they take the job Ashton stirred up (which is also suspiciously located in the Heartmoor).
With all the rest of the group’s tasks taken care of, Imogen finally gets her chance to dig up some research in the conservatory. Unfortunately, her letter only allows one person passage, so she must go in alone. She spends the next several hours researching any book she can find on people affected by her strange magic and dreams. Near the end of her exhaustive research she comes across an older study that was done near her hometown. One professor, Kadija Sumal, found a pattern amongst people reporting strange dreams and new powers emerging around the Celestial Cycle every 30 years. These psychically sensitive people are listed in the study and Imogen is shocked to find her mothers name, Liliana Temult. Imogen despairs to see that the rest of the pages from the study have been torn out of the tome and she is left once again with more questions than answers.
Whew! What an episode! The Nightmare King encounter was the toughest one yet and led to Chetney finally revealing his secret abilities. Orym and Imogen follow more breadcrumbs and the plot begins to thicken. Let’s dive right in to this week’s session.
I think the gang immediately knew they were well out of their depths fighting against Ira, even before he started pulling double digit damage from his legendary actions. Level 4 is pretty dang low to be facing off against such a powerful opponent, even if they have 8 capable fighters. By 4 rounds in, nearly everyone was in single digit HP, out of healing spells, or incapacitated from the fight. Ashton spent all but one or two rounds of the fight frightened of Ira and unable to do much except attack the surrounding animated furniture. Which… hot dang….that table doing an easy 20+ damage in one attack was something fierce. That wasn’t a flimsy IKEA table, that was some solid wood!
Dorian played a solid support character, freeing Gurge and healing and buffing where he could. Robbie did get to roll his first death save, which of course he rolled a natural 20 on because, what else can he roll but nat 20’s. Orym also scored a much needed nat 20 death save just seconds after Dorian’s. Honestly, with FCG polymorphed as a turtle and Fearne otherwise occupied with Ira, those nat 20’s were the only way Dorian and Orym were able to stay in the fight at all.
Matt made a solid DM call to end the fight at exactly the right time. One more attack or one more round could have seen more than one fatality among the group and that’s not what Critical Role fights are about. Matt gave one last warning to the group that he could have very well ended them all in a nasty acid cloud, but ultimately dropped the spell and sent Ira escaping into the night with the promise for a future rematch.
As fun as seeing an encounter out to its grizzly end can be, this fight proved something pretty important to new fans of the show. Mercer isn’t about to bulldoze over everyone’s characters and the story at large just to prove a point in one fight. It’s a smart way to run the table and not crush spirits for the sake of dominating or showing off in an encounter. Plus, it just means we get another loose end to try and tie up in the coming months whenever Ira and his army of lycans pops up again.
Eshteross paid off in this session! Not only did they get a free spa day, but they also got to dive a bit deeper into two other ongoing story lines. Orym finally got his meeting with Breshio and learned a couple of new tidbits. There was another Campaign 1 easter egg tucked into this story. Orym learned of the attack against Oshad and the Lumas twins from one Jarrett Howarth. It seems that Jarrett and Oshad were old friends or soldier training buddies before Jarrett left for Tal’Dorei. Jarrett was a guardsman and close confidant of Vox Machina back in Emon and Whitestone and was able to reach out to Keyleth to let her know of the similar attack in Marquet.
Mercer also laid some new breadcrumbs connecting Orym’s story with Ashton’s new mission by placing them both in the mysterious Heartmoor wild lands. We’ll see how deeply these stories all intertwine as the gang continue to pull at all these tangled threads. Mercer has also been leaning heavily into the moon lore in this campaign. These were threads that were meticulously laid back in campaign 2, threaded through ExU and finally rearing up all around the gang in campaign 3. I’m sure the threads will continue to tangle as Imogen explores her family’s connection to the Celestial Cycle, and Chetney explores his gift and the moons’ influence over his abilities.
How about that Chetney reveal?! There’s been much speculation ever since it was hinted that ‘wild man’ Gurge may be a lycan. And sure enough, Chetney proved the fans correct when he finally loosed his inner beast. Fans of the Song of the Lorelei one shot will remember that Travis has been rabid to play a werewolf for as long as he’s been involved with DnD. While the Lorelei one-shot was a howling good time, it’s plain to see that Travis is absolutely loving his blood hunter Chetney. The voice acting is spot on, the role play is hilarious, and the jokes are never ending. It’ll be a blast to let him let loose over the next few episodes.
Imogen finally got some clues to her backstory started in the cliffhanger scene. How will her mother’s participation in the study help uncover the source of Imogen’s strange dreams and powers? Will they be able to track down the professor or the missing pages?
Lots of exciting story lines to explore in the coming weeks. Not to mention a chance to play dress up at a fancy ball. Hopefully both Travis, and the rest of the anti-shopping critters can survive a trip to the tailor’s and long, detailed descriptions of fantasy outfits.
We’ll see what new trouble the gang will cook up for themselves in the next session. They do have a few days down time before the ball and Ashton’s mission. Don’t worry Critters! It’s almost Thursday.
Don’t Miss It!
We’ve got some new non campaign related content coming our way this week. Tune in Thursday, January 27th for a guest star laden Battle Royal one-shot GM’d by Sam Riegel.
And of course, watch along with the entire world as the first three episodes of The Legend of Vox Machina release Friday, January 28th on Amazon Prime! Keep an eye on Geekly Grind for our reviews of this new animated series!