Episode 2: Trial By Firelight
We dive right in to the action with our new adventurers squaring off against Lord Esteros in a test of their abilities. Bertrand decides he will be most useful as the group’s cheerleader and decides to abscond to the back corner of the room to drink and comment on the fight. Orym, Laudna, and Dorian get up close and personal with Lord Esteros and feel the fury of his skilled weapon handling. The new companions take a few rounds to figure out how to work best as a team against Lord Esteros and take some serious damage while they work out the kinks. Dorian is knocked unconscious, and is quickly raised by Fresh Cut Grass. Imogen and Fearne fling spells from the outskirts of the fight, buying Fresh Cut Grass and Dorian some time to heal their wounded companions. Ashton struggles to land any hits on the surprisingly agile Lord Esteros. Fearne unleashes a cone of burning fire into the fray, singeing the surrounding furniture. In between their companions weapon attacks, Laudna and Imogen launch a volley of magic at their antagonist. Laudna’s intimidating scary presence sends Lord Esteros fearfully stepping backwards right into Imogen’s devastating Witch Bolt spell. A winded and wounded Lord Esteros smirks and holds up his hand in a yield. He’s seen enough to be impressed.
As the heat of the battle simmers down, Lord Esteros congratulates the companions for their surprising competence in battle. He offers the chance to work for him, under cover of course, and never revealing himself as their employer. He asks the group to look into a series of thefts happening at one of his storage warehouses in the Lanternspire district nearby. Should they complete this task to his satisfaction, then a more official contract can be drawn up and terms of service can be discussed. The group agrees to the task and sets off to begin planning.
At a nearby tavern, the friends take some time to lick their wounds, get some food, and get to know each other a little better while also discussing how to tackle their new mission. Laudna finally has the chance to introduce her strange little companion hanging from her belt. A dead rat, with a crow’s skull attached to its’ head. She lovingly calls this gruesome critter Paté De Rolo, her only companion in her solitary years. Orym, who recognizes the name De Rolo from his time with Keyleth asks how she also knows the famous Whitestone family. Laudna explains that as a young woman, she lived in Whitestone where the De Rolo’s ruled the city. A deadly coup overthrew the family and she believed all the members of the family to be killed and she fled the city. She ironically chose the name Paté De Rolo as a bit of a teasing honor to the eccentric noble family. Orym surprises Laudna by revealing that one of the De Rolo sons survived the attack and returned to reclaim Whitestone. He also tries to piece together how Laudna, who still looks quite young, might have possibly been in Whitestone for the coup which happened nearly 40 years ago now. A mystery for another time.
After food has been consumed, personal questions asked and revealed, and the hint of a plan formed, the companions head to Prudaj’s Warehouse to gather some facts. Imogen, Orym, and Fresh Cut Grass will enter the building under the pretense of searching for a new purveyor for their “employer”. Laudna, Dorian, and Ashton will investigate the back of the building for possible break in points. Bertrand and Fearne will keep watch on the front doors.
Inside, Imogen meets with the employees of the warehouse. The supervisor, a gnome woman named Dannis, shows Imogen around, while her employees continue to shuffle around the building. Orym and Fresh Cut Grass begin digging into some crates to see if they can possibly locate any items that have been stolen and discover the dust and pebbles of a powerful gemstone used to power the airships and floating cities in Exandria. Strange for a small time textile shop to be hiding. The supervisor, Dannis begins acting a bit nervously and asks the group to come back another time when they’ve secured and actual contact to do business with.
Meanwhile, Dorian and Laudna hover up to the roof to look for any hidden doors or entry ways. They don’t spot anything useful on the roof, but Laudna does find a very interesting, rather moldy coinpurse filled with a handful of silver and gold. Ashton finds the backdoor is horribly rusted and sealed shut, no way of easy access using this door. They’ll have to try and use the front door if they’re going to be doing any breaking in later.
The group reconvene in a hidden alleyway and decide to return just before the warehouse closes at dusk. Orym will sneak into the warehouse to poke around after hours, while the rest of the group will keep watch and communicate with Orym from the outside. When Dannis’ workers begin to leave, and invisible Orym is able to duck inside the warehouse unseen and takes cover in a shadowy corner. He notices a very nervous Dannis frantically rushing around the warehouse, prying open crates and gathering or shuffling some objects around. Dannis douses all the lights and rushes out of the warehouse, leaving Orym blind and a bit defenseless in the dark.
Outside, Dorian, Imogen, and Bertrand notice just now frantic and nervous Dannis looks as she leaves for the night and make the split second decision to follow Dannis into the night. Dorian doesn’t want to leave Orym trapped inside the building alone and decides to stay behind. Laudna receives a message from Imogen as she begins to chase Dannis. Laudna tries to message Orym to let him know the group is splitting up, but Orym’s a bit distracted by all the creepy voices of his companions he’s been hearing in his head all day. Ashton and Fearne decide that maybe breaking down the backdoor to give Orym a way out would be the best use of their time.
Dorian tries to keep a worried eye on the direction Imogen and Bertrand ran off to. Fearne and Ashton begin pounding on the door to warn Orym they’re breaking in. And Orym…alone in the dark hears creepy whispers, a haunting muffled voice somewhere near the back of the warehouse, and then a series of loud metallic booms. He has no idea what’s coming for him, but he’s ready for trouble.
And that’s where we’ll pick up next time!
Campaign 3, episode 2; this year’s highly anticipated Halloween episode. The legendary cosplay talent of Critical Role did not miss a beat this year, with the cast deciding to turn their costume lens on themselves. I think we all spent the entire opening ad read laughing along with the cast as they revealed their impressions of each other. Sam’s ad read gets an honorable mention this week. I was dang impressed by Sam, Marisha and Travis’ New York gargoyle accents, and poor sweet Robbie playing along. Welcome to the chaos Daymond, I hope you know what you signed up for.
The opening fight sequence was a fun little warm up for the episode. It is so early on that the fights still feel a bit staged or soft balled, but that’s to be expected. We can’t expect life or death terrifying boss battles in the first act. We’ve got to make it to at least episode 28 before making Taliesin roll a new character. While the fight was 8 against 1, Lord Esteros didn’t pull his punches. Orym, Dorian, Fearne and Laudna all took a hefty beating. It’s cute to see Dorian looking out for his little man Orym so carefully and appreciating the extra healing power of our resident chipper automaton Fresh Cut Grass. FCG has pulled out his Transfer Suffering move several times in the past couple episodes and I’m interested to see how that ability will level up as the damage dealt gets more intense. One of Sam’s favorite games is to teeter on the edge of permadeath without letting the rest of his friends know just how bad off his character is.
The fight moved quickly, and the party got to test out their teamwork abilities. This particular battlefield was quite small, which made it difficult for the squishier long range casters to get to a safe distance and stay out of damage. Mercer always knows how to craft a fair and engaging fight and never punishes his players. It could have been so easy to have Lord Esteros focus all his attacks on one character at a time and systematically drop a player each turn. But spreading the attacks and damage made the fight feel more even and ended up placing several players in danger of being knocked out at any moment.
The second part of the episode was much more role play heavy with the group accepting Lord Esteros’ job offer, then spending some more time getting to know each other. Laudna and Fearne really shine in these types of settings as their more chaotic and strange personalities come out to play. I am thrilled at how Ashley’s been able to let loose with Fearne and really unleash that gorgeous Fey chaos on Exandria. Laudna is coming in hot with the Whitestone backstory and her… friend Paté De Rolo. I was cackling as Marisha whipped Paté out and began creepy puppeting the pet rat. Taliesin’s absolute glee at Laudna’s descriptions of Whitestone and the De Rolo family was priceless. His reactions mirrored so many long time critters at home while we tried to desperately put the pieces of Laudna’s backstory together with the complete picture of Whitestone, the De Rolo’s and the Briarwoods. I almost missed Taliesin’s teasing “De Lolo” mispronunciation when Ashton jumped into the conversation. I can only imagine how fun it must be to poke fun at your old character from campaigns past. Bertrand Bell gets the honorable mention in this scene, dropping the Grog Stonejaw reference, both botching the Strongjaw name and tossing another teasing jab at Ashley Johnston for her hilarious Narrative Telephone flub.
The third act of the episode featured a notoriously chaotic plan falling apart at the seams. If Dungeons and Dragons roleplay is good for anything, it’s taking your hours of hard work planning and machinations and turning them on their head the second you say “go”. The recon and information gathering portion of the heist went…pretty well, considering how chaotic the group can be. FCG and Imogen found a nice clue and laid the groundwork for some nice story building. Part two of the heist, the sunset sabotage, highlighted just how quickly a plan can devolve. Once Orym got inside the warehouse, no one actually seemed to know what to do. He’s stuck inside with no dark vision, no plan, and no idea that half his party has just left him in the dust to pursue another lead. Thank goodness that resident nightmare Laudna is there to keep him in the loop. Which of course led to the cast very quickly jumping on the “let’s make Laudna as creepy as possible” train and gave her message to Orym the spookiest of echo whispers. Poor Orym had too many of his new companions speaking directly in his brain for one day.
I absolutely loved all the character pair ups we got in the third act. Imogen, FCG, and Orym made a pretty great info gathering and improv team. Dorian and Laudna had a hilarious interaction exploring the rooftops. Marisha is really killing the “fun scary” vibe for Laudna and Robbie is already feeling like he’s been role playing at the Critical Role table for years now. Fearne and Bertrand were the cherries on top of the role playing sundae in act three. Bertrand laying on the old man humor nice and thick, with Fearne leaving us so confused and unsettled and in awe with every conversation she has. The way she so nonchalantly waltzed into the warehouse and demanded their attention just because she got bored of watching the door was amazing. I cannot wait to see what else Fearne has in store for us.
You can absolutely tell the cast is loving being back at the same table together again. The table pranks and jokes have dialed up to an 11 and we’re only 2 episodes in. We all expected the fun from Sam, but it’s Laura and Liam who are the most disruptive and giggly at the table. This isn’t the first time the pair have sat next to each other, so I guess it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the twins are back on their old teasing ways. Laura caught a case of the uncontrollable giggles when Liam accidentally at the candy wrapper instead of his candy. And then, not too much later, Laura was busy pranking Liam as he tried to eat a handful of trail mix causing him to choke on nuts and laughter while frantically shoving food in his mouth. This giggle fit was loud enough to break Mercer and the others out of the story and wonder what the hell Liam was sputtering over. Not the first time it’s happened, and definitely not the last. Its a fun and endearing reminder that these people all love each other and are still loving spending every week playing DnD together at the table.
Next week promises a continuation of the party splitting heist. These fools didn’t even wait until the paint was dry to break the cardinal rule of DnD. Everyone all together now….never split the party. Hopefully Imogen and Bertrand can handle themselves for a bit while the rest of the party figures their life out. The rest of where the story goes will remain a mystery! Don’t worry, Critters. It’s almost Thursday!