Episode 129: Between a Ball and a Hard Place
The action picks up right away with Team Happy Fun Ball (Fjord, Beau and Yasha) finding themselves inside the first room of the Folding Halls. Knowing they have a race against the clock, the three party members quickly get their bearings and set off to try and unlock the door that leads to their exit.
Fjord and Beau remember that the door they want to unlock is hidden behind the blue tapestry, trapped by fire, and nearly impossible to unlock without magical means. Or they could try to unlock one of the uncharted doors behind the other tapestries. Both grade A options, maybe we’ll start with the troubles we know first.
Yasha woefully laments letting Kima borrow Magician’s judge instead of Skin Gorger… having that handy little dispel magic would be so useful right now. Fjord also rues the fact that Jester is using his ring of fire resistance as finger candy when it would be oh so useful against this fiery trap. It would have been the first time he’d be able to use it! Maybe another day.
Beau takes out her Thieves’ tools hoping that Veth has taught her enough to get this door open without too much trouble. Unfortunately, after two unsuccessful tries end with the gang getting blasted by a spray of fire and snapped lock picks, Yasha decides to take matters into her own hands and literally beat the door down. Just as the door buckles and breaks off its hinges, Fjord and Beau realize that the magic holding this doorway tethered has also broken and their only way out is quickly crumbling and floating away into oblivion. The three friends take a leap of faith and just manage to land safely on the other side of this magical portal.
Well… There’s no going back now. The world lurches around them as gravity re-centers around Halas’ study room. The three take a breath to reorient and recall that the red gem in a stained glass window will take them to the dragon lair exit. Hold on though, It seems like Yussa has efficiently raided this room of valuables but three tantalizing books remain on the shelves. Shrugging off better judgement and time constraints, each of the companions picks a book to inspect. They quickly realize that the books are in fact chained into walls, and shelves, and remain unreachable. Beau tries one last furtive tug on her tome and the chain activates a hidden mechanism, raising a concealed wall. Oh yeah, and of course there’s a giant clay golem guarding this study.
The golem bursts from its resting place and begins to give chase as the adventurers quickly race to the gem. Their fingers brush the gem just as golem reaches them, and they go tumbling roughly into the dragon’s lair. Once again, picking themselves up off the ground and taking stock of their surroundings, the companions relish a moment of peace and quiet seeing the lair is still vacant. Fjord wastes no time in activating the first lock, using his icy armor of agathys to arm it. As he races across the room to the second lock, they hear the golem dropping down from above.
The golem slams to the ground, separating Fjord from Beau and Yasha. Beau takes one swing at the golem, stunning it with an incredibly lucky blow. The others don’t push their luck and quick as they can run to the second lock. Fjord fjorgets for a brief moment that he needs to cast a spell in order to activate the sphere and accidentally headbutts the dais thinking it will trigger his armor. Thankfully the shock of pain jolts his memory back and he once again casts another spell to open the doorway. Their hands reach out to touch the portal and…we jump to Team Planeshift!
The seven others on Team Planshift appear in the center of what looks like someone’s living room. The air is boiling hot, and a river of lava cascades down a rock face nearby. While it’s uncomfortably warm and painful to breathe, it seems like this chamber is quiet and safe for the immediate moment. Veth and jester take a moment to check in with their family members and make sure everyone is more or less ok. While this situation is only marginally better than being hunted by Trent and the Volstrucker, everyone would prefer to get the dome up to safely rest for the night.
Caleb asks Veth and Jester to do a little reconnaissance while he prepares the dome. He’ll just the dome to block the only entrance tunnel, but he would like to know if anything dangerous will be coming down this tunnel during the night. Veth and Jester travel quite a ways in the pitch black of the tunnel and just as they are about to give up, they see a speck of light. They decide to press on and find this tunnel leads to another great cavern filled with volcanic, desolate features and more lava pools. Seeing no life forms nearby, the two companions begin to joke around quite loudly about possibly opening up a little Private Investigator business once they retire. Suddenly, a rasping voice interrupts them, “By what will do you disturb the Sanctum? The Sanctum must be cleansed!”
Caleb hears some loud noises and running feet heading his way. He abandons his spell, not able to bring the dome up in time. He warns Caduceus to get the others into hiding. Caduceus makes sure Marion, Luc, and Yezza duck safely behind a bookshelf. Caleb hears the roaring voice of a fire elemental tearing down this hallway, mixed with Jester and Veth screaming behind it. He manages to grab Caduceus out of the tunnel entrance into a safer position just as the creature breaks into the room. The fire elemental once again yells out about sanctums and cleansings and disturbances but the gang is a bit preoccupied with defending themselves.
Caleb uses Allura’s staff of power to blast the creature with a cone of cold and the elemental hits back with two nasty blasts of fire. Veth attacks from behind with a couple of cataclysm bolts but they don’t do as much damage as she hoped. Caduceus steps out from behind Caleb to cast spirit guardians but is hit with an attack and is lit on fire. Jester warms things up with a wicked guiding bolt which just pisses the elemental off. It gathers its energy up into one gigantic fire ball, completely enveloping the battlefield in an inferno.
Everyone slowly shakes off the effects of the blast. Caleb succumbed to the blast and lies unconscious on the floor. Jester and Caduceus have also taken the full force of the attack but just manage to stay on their feet. Veth hears Marion screaming for help and watches Yezza’s panicked face run as he runs out towards Marion and his son Luc.
Veth’s ears still ringing from Marion’s desperate scream and fearing the worst, she unleashes a volley of ferocious attacks. The elemental has split into three smaller forms after blasting the room and Veth’s attacks manage to hit two of the forms. She goes dashing across the lava river to try and get to Marion and her son, fearing the worst.
Caduceus manages to get off a heal spell and picks Caleb up off the floor. Caleb hits on elemental with a slow spell, Jester follows with another guiding bolt and also tried to jump her way across the river to answer her mom’s pleas for help. Unfortunately she loses her footing and slips into the lava flow taking 41 damage. She throws herself to the other side, clutching her badly burned leg. There’s still a foot attacked…but now it’s missing a few toes. Veth rounds the corner and sees Marion holding the lifeless, burned body of her son Luc. She lets out a rage and grief laden scream and fires her crossbow into one of the Elementals, obliterating it. Caduceus finishes off the last two elementals with a sacred flame and spirit guardians then the battlefield grows quite.
Caduceus approaches, hearing Veth and Marion crying for help. He kneels down over Luc’s body, pulling a diamond from his pouch and praying to the Wildmother. “It is not yet this one’s time. his destiny is unfulfilled. Please let him have another breath.” There’s a long silence. The moss that has grown over Luc’s body dies and falls away. Caduceus’ hands still hover, hoping for any sign of life. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Luc’s chest begins to rise and fall and his eyes flutter open. Veth scoops her boy into her arms, everyone moves to give the family space to breathe.
Yezza tries to calm Veth’s feeling of guilt while also making sure Luc understands what happened is not his fault. If anyone should feel guilty, Yezza wants to take the blame. he says he’s the onen that engaged with the Assembly and stated this whole mess. He begs Veth to see this through to the end and get the Assembly out of their lives once and or all. Veth vows to do everything in her power to keep her family safe and come back home safely too.
Caleb, still struggling with his own shame at endangering her friends, slinks off to finish casting the dome. Caduceus continues healing his party while the dome is being cast. Jester hopes her toes will come back after a few extra heal spells. Once everyone is healed up and the dome is cast, jester and Caleb spend a couple minutes finishing up a pet project of his. He asks Jester to aid him in completing the anti magic collar he borrowed from Halas. With Jester’s careful hands, they manage to place the last pin and reactivate the collar. He tells Jester he hopes to use these against Trent. Jester also tells Caleb to go easier on himself, They’re a family now and they’ll always have his back.
Time to try and get some rest while they wait for team Fun Ball to return. Sleep does not come easy but an exhausted crew finally find respite after quite an eventful couple days. The next morning, Jester attempts to message Fjord in the Fun Ball to get an ETA, but communicating across different time streams leads to panic and confusion making both parties nervous. Suddenly, Jester realizes that the plane shift spell will only transport eight people, and Team Fun Ball will have to still be in the Fun Ball for this plan to work.She rushes to cast Plane Shift before her companions leave the Ball. A few tense seconds of panic pass as Jester worries about the effect of teleporting in the middle of a plane shift but thankfully they time it perfectly. and she manages to land them safely in Zadash just outside her father’s headquarters, The Evening Nip.
Jester tells her mother that it’s time she and her father get reacquainted and what better time than now! A little hiding out from shady government organizations is the perfect time to pull a parent trap. She messages the Gentleman to let him know that they are just outside, with Marion, and they will also need to hide out for a few days. Hope that’s all ok! it’s going to be quite an adventure, next time on Critical Role.
Well this episode went about as well as expected! There was only about two and a half of the three hours of game play where I was incredibly concerned for everyone’s life. But hey, here we are, relatively unscathed and mostly untraumatized. Just in time fore another interlude episode to help Jester check anther item off her bucket list.
Team Happy Fun Ball had quite the little adventure. I know Travis expected utter mayhem and death from their escapade but it was much better than that. When Ashley Johsnon brought up her regret over giving Kima Magician’s Judge I had to laugh. I had that very same thought when Yasha let Kima have a choice. I couldn’t believe that Yasha would let Magician’s Judge out of her grasp, but I figured that Holy Avenger must have had some very comparable features. It seems that Yasha is still unable to access the swords more potent abilities as she still hasn’t been able to take a level of Paladin yet. it’ll be interesting to see how Yasha does hanging out in between these two powerful swords,
Despite their early set backs, Beau, Yasha and Fjord handled the curve balls in the Fun Ball relatively easily. As creative as it was to bust down the locked door, it will complicate any further journeys into the Fun Ball. Hopefully Yussa doesn’t mind that they accidentally reshaped the inside of the entrance. They also managed to muck things up a bit in Halas’ study by poking at books they should have let alone. No harm no foul though, the golem they unleashed mostly just managed to pressure them for time. As flighty as Travis gets during combat, everyone managed to keep a cool head and get out of the Ball safely. Good job Team Fun Ball!
If you thought Team Fun Ball’s adventure was exciting enough, you were in for an anxiety treat during the second half of the episode. Team Fire Plane had a really rough go of what was supposed to be an nonintrusive rest. We knew the adventurers were going in blind, but when they bamfed into an abandoned room, we all hoped for the best. Caleb’s plan to use the dome to block the tunnel entrance was good and may have possibly kept them safe from the Elemental guardian for quite some time. My guess is that they were going to have to face this Elemental sooner or later, but the circumstances just felt so darn unfortunate. OF course the encounter would happen because of a moment of carelessness between Jester and Veth. Poor Veth is going to be guilt tripping herself all the way to Eiselcross and back until she’s able to properly ensure her family’s safety. Will this dark cloud ever lift over the Brenatto’s? Here’s to hoping Veth gets to enjoy a nice long, danger free retirement in comfort before too long.
Caduceus scoops up another MVP mention for this episode. After coming up with the rather creative plan to use the Fun Ball to help with Plane Shifting, he also saved the Nein’s hides so many times during their Fire Plane adventures. I’ll say it a hundred times, Taliesin’s wit, inventive improv, and role play combined with a powerhouse cleric is one of my favorite characters in Critical Role. Percy from campaign 1 is an absolute gem and will always have a special place in our DND hearts, but I do love seeing how Caduceus is flexing Taliesin’s muscles. Nailing support character spell casting while simultaneously balancing a low intelligence high wisdom role play is not easy. Taliesin makes it look a breeze though.
How about those tender moments between Veth and her family? Things got quite…heated this session and Veth has been reaching a boiling point with her involvement with the Nein. Just last session Veth expressed an interest in leaving the Nein for the idyllic retired life. Now, with the burden of trying to protect her family and having her son killed on her watch, Veth has a lot of pressure riding on her to make it out of this alive and victorious. Mercer made sure to not let Veth sit in guilt and anger for too long though. Yezza had some quite impassioned pleas for Veth to keep going with the Nein for a little while longer. It would be so easy for the drama of this arc to get incredibly dark and serious, but Mercer has beautifully balanced primordial existential crisis with well formed character growth and story progression. I guess I’m more used to Liam’s dark and heavy emotional role play so having two characters healthily work through an incredibly challenging ordeal was an interesting dynamic. Sam is always a solid scene partner and role player and these little moments between the silly chaos are wonderful.
And finally, we have the ultimate trickster, Jester. Of course she would find a way to get her parents back together before the end of the world. I’m sure this was her master plan all along. Stage a world ending alien invasion threat just to get the Ruby and the Gentleman in the same room again. Good for her. She’s one of those beautiful, talented, widely loved people that always get what they want. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Jester deserves the world on a platter. With how quickly the story has been moving these past few sessions (even though the last four sessions only cover the space of a couple days… time is weird) we’ll see how long Jester can stay and watch her parent trap come to fruition. I’m guessing we’ll get to see their long awaited introduction, maybe peeping tom a few awkward interactions, then the Nein will be off on their adventures again before too long.
Where to go from here? Are the Nein ready to head back to Eiselcross to face Lucien and the Somnovum? Will Essek still be willing and able to lend a hand on this incredibly dangerous mission? We have a lot of story to power through and next session may be a slower breather before the big plunge. Don’t worry Critters, It’s almost Thursday.
Don’t Miss It!
New Talks Machina Tuesday at 7 pm. Join host Brian and his guests Matthew Mercer and Taliesin Jaffe for an in depth deep dive into episodes 127 through 129.
Brand new Narrative Telephone Tuesday at 4 pm! Dani Carr drops a doosy of a dialogue on the cast.
And of course don’t miss the regular Thursday broadcast of Campaign 2 episode 130!