Episode 5: The Threat Between the Walls
The gang find themselves teetering on the edge of an all out war with a the criminal guild Hubbatt Corsairs. It seems that the Shadowbaker’s information was more irreverent set up than actual help. But maybe that’s all they can expect when they trust information from a man who named himself The Shadowbaker.
The de facto guild leader, a half elf named Yash Mangal demands answers from the group. How did they find this location, what do they want from the Corsairs, who do they work for and why should they leave here alive?
The gang have answers for all those question, good answers that will definitely not get them killed, but first they have their own list of questions. Are the Corsairs working with Duggar? Cus he’s one messed up dude, so they’ll have some trouble trusting the Corsairs if they accept people like Duggar. Also, why so secretive? Like, aren’t they kind of playing at being anti-heroes? And does Yash know where Duggar is or where he lives?
Tensions rise as both groups reach a bit of a shaky impasse, neither quite willing to give up too much valuable information without some reassurances. Yash begrudgingly admits that Duggar used to work with the Corsairs, but about six months back he disappeared for a while and came back…different and hasn’t associated with them since. The gang thank him for that tidbit of information and in return offer up some sensitive information of their own as insurance for the Corsairs to use in case this secret hideout location is spilled to authorities. Imogen reveals her father’s name and where he lives, while Ashton tells the Corsairs they can use his buddy Fresh Cut Grass as their collateral should things go sideways. No one else in the group can think of another close contact of theirs to put on the chopping block and so Yash must settle for what breadcrumbs he got.
Now with a more stable playing field, the Corsairs and our adventurers begin to trade information. Yash reveals that Duggar lives in a blue house in the Corespire district. No one’s seen much of him since his strange disappearance but there are whispers he’s wasting away from some horrible disease. The gang relay that Duggar’s strange new abilities seem to give him control over an undead type of Shadecreeper and some unnatural abilities and movements. The Corsairs agree that if Duggar is indeed up to no good and into something far more malignant, maybe a blind eye can be turned if he were to be…taken care of.
Yash asks the group if there’s anything else they’d like to exchange before heading off to Duggars. The party can’t exactly recall if Lord Eshteross specifically asked to be introduced to the Corsairs….or his name hidden at all costs. The gang settles for something in between, casually dropping hints that they know a “great guy who’s just so great” to know, also what’s the correct passphrase to get them back in here safely? Yash is a bit bewildered by this chaotic group with…so many questions and demands, but acquiesces nonetheless and sets them up with a better passcode for next time they need to reach out. He wishes them best of luck with their endeavor and please, don’t come back too soon.
Alright! With their meeting with the Corsairs pretty tactfully handled if you ask them, the group begin to make their way through the nearby shops. Ashton suggests they try and pick up some healing potions while they’re in the area, since last time they fought Duggar it didn’t go too well. Imogen spots a little shop that might be helpful and encounters a sweet, older shopkeeper named Juraya. Juraya has some smaller, nonmagical wares for sale but can definitely help her find someone who sells great healing potions and other magical items. Imogen hears Juraya drop the familiar name Advik (an eccentric shopkeep and a “friend?” of Ashton). Ashton isn’t sure if Advik will be ok with seeing their face around…they can’t quite remember how their last interaction went, but it’s worth a shot if there’s good potions on the line.
Advik’s Wandering Curiosities and Collections is ostentatious in just about every way. Packed to the brim with intriguing oddities and rarities, some of more dubious reliability than others, the shop and its’ keeper boast of being able to provide the party with just about anything their curious little hearts desire. And there may be a bit of a discount since they’re friends with sweet Ashton, who’s so cutely trying to hide behind that terrifying ghost lady.
The group take a look at his healing potions. They…mostly look right, though it seems a bit steeply priced for the quality. Advik also adds a pair of Stones of Sending to the table; an important magical item for any professional adventuring group to have, obviously. After some deliberation and a quick testing to make sure the potions and stones of sending work properly, the group decide to pool their funds and purchase the lot.
Confident that they’re ready to go murder a creepy dwarf in his own home, they set off towards the old Corespire neighborhood. It’s quite easy to spot Duggar’s house based on the Corsair’s description. A quick poke around shows that no one seems to be home. The group will chance breaking in to do some information gathering. Fearne tries to sneak under the door, but her little rat body can’t quite squeeze under the doorframe and she has to be carefully pried back out. Ashton begins picking the lock before the guards circling overhead get too suspicious of their loitering.
The gang quickly tuck inside the dark house just as a guard lands nearby, sniffing out any trouble. They just manage to go undetected, but will have to keep things quiet to avoid further detection. Dorian lights up his scimitar to give his companions a peek around the home. The furniture is tossed around, drawers open and contents scattered everywhere. It looks like the place has been robbed and left to rot. It definitely stinks of rot and mildew in here. In fact, there’s weird patches of sticky slime coating the floors and walls. Laudna and FCG get a bit stuck in some of the piles and caution the others to watch their footing. The group explore the house looking for clues to Duggar’s illicit activity or possible motives for his strange behavior. They don’t find anything useful…but a nearby bedroom does contain two more hidden tunnels that seem to match the one they found in the tavern.
Fearne, in her rat form, offers to explore the tunnels. She gets sixty or so feet down one tunnel before it begins to steeply drop and she worries about taking quite a plunge to the center of the earth. The group encourage her to return. Maybe they’ll find a better route somewhere else. She begins scrambling back when she begins to hear a squelching, slimy sound behind her. She pauses her running to turn back and see the horrifying sight of a rather….liquid boned Duggar forcing his distorted body through the tunnel towards her.
She manages to squeak her way back to the entrance of the tunnel, Duggar’s mushy face wetly pushing her free from the tunnel. The rest of the group watch in horror as Duggars body is squeezed and expelled from this too small hole. His bones snap back into place as he stands to his full dwarvish height. ” Well, how interesting! Come to let me finish off the rest of you?” Duggar leaps onto FCG, hacking and attacking the little bot. The rest of the group leap in to action and the fight begins.
The party’s attention is split as shade creepers begin to pour into the room from both tunnels. They must also combat the difficult terrain as their feet stick in the slick pools of slime that coat the floors. Imogen, Fearne and Laudna all land spell attacks on Duggar. The shade creepers descend onto the group, nearly cutting down Imogen in one turn. Orym goads Duggar’s attention, not quite managing to land a solid hit, but drawing his ire anyway. FCG can’t quite get himself unstuck from the goo, but still manages to toss a few spells to help his companions. He uses “sympathetic bond” to attach himself to Imogen and Orym, giving Imogen a boost to her AC for the next round. FCG also manages to land a command spell on Duggar, making him waste an entire turn alphabetizing his weaponry. Dorian is kept busy manning the second Shadecreeper hole and protecting the party’s other flank. It’s not going great, everything is so sticky, and the little beasties are so quick.
Ashton leaps into a barbaric rage, warping the gravity field around himself as he lands in the middle of a group of Shadecreepers. The gang fall into a rhythm, dodging mini fire balls as Shadecreepers explode, boosting and protecting their companions when they’re wounded. Laudna takes several hellish attacks from Duggar, but barely manages to stay on her feet. Imogen’s witch bolt takes a chunk out of Duggar, and they all watch in horror as his cloak is pushed back to reveal a giant mass pulsing on his shoulder, his face contorts as the mass begins to burst and another Shadecreeper is birthed onto the ground. Ashton and Orym flank either side of Duggar, keeping his eyes off the rest of the group. Fearne and Laudna use the distraction to pair up their spells. Fearne’s thorn whip gains an extra punch from Laudna’s inky Eldtrich blast melded to it. FCG sends a few hit points to Orym through their bond since the little fighter’s looking a little woozy on his feet.
Duggar notices that most of the gang have circled in nice and close. He casually vomits up a vile wave of goo and noxious viscera that send Fearne, Imogen, Laudna and Orym reeling. Laudna and Orym especially feel the poisoning effect from the bile and have a tougher time shaking off the damage. Another wave of Shadecreepers enters the room. One latches onto Fearne’s back and she collapses unconscious under its claws and teeth. FCG is there in an instant, picking her back up with a healing word. Imogen falls under another vicious set of claws. Dorian finally gets his turn to shine, sending an explosive Thunderwave crashing through the room, taking out a couple Shadecreepers along with Duggar. The gang watch as Duggar screams in frustration as the Thunderwave rips into his damaged body. His form burns to ash just like the other Shadecreepers.
Orym is able to reach Imogen just in time to pour a potion down her throat before she can slip away. FCG is trying to pull Shadecreepers away from Orym and Imogen, but ends up taking too much fire damage. Dorian rushes to the little bot and slaps a 10 hp Cure Wounds on them to get them back online. Laudna, Fearne and Ashton easily and furiously handle the rest of the Shadecreepers as Orym gets Imogen back to her feet. The gang manage to block off the tunnel and end the battle before more Shadecreepers can attack. They use a few minutes to search Duggar’s house for any possible set of clues they missed earlier and come up empty handed.
Well…so much for just taking a quite peek around the house while no one’s home. Hopefully sounds of battle didn’t draw too many curious eyes. Dorian notices a nosy neighbor poking around the outside of the house and decides to pull out the charm to try and smooth things over. He manages to convince the neighbor that he and his friends are just renting the place for the weekend and had a very quick but very loud pregame party. Sorry for all the noise, we’ll keep it deadly quiet the rest of the weekend. The rest of the gang sneak out while Dorian distracts the neighbor. There’s nothing left to do but head back to Lord Eshteross and give him the update.
Lord Eshteross is pleased that the gang are all well and managed to avenge Bertrand’s death. He also pays them handsomely for their troubles and thanks them for their service. He kindly invites the group to find a place to wash up and rest for the evening. He hears Spire by Fire is a very nice place. As the group heads out the door, Eshteross pulls Orym aside and lets him know that his people may have a lead on this “The Anger” Orym was asking about. He’ll get in touch soon.
The group rally to the Spire by Fire for a round of drinks, a warm bath, and a good night’s rest, ready for whatever adventure awaits them next.
Episode 5 and the gang are sure enough finding their stride. The group relationship seems to be melding quite easily and the new team ups are definitely fun to see play out. The story seems to be winding toward some new threads, now that Duggar is dead, and no new leads panned out on that front. Eshteross dropped the hint that Orym’s quest may be picking up next with the mysterious “Anger” he’s been hunting for his pal Keyleth.
Let’s dive right into the encounter with the Corsairs! I figured Mercer wasn’t going to make a bunch of level 3’s fight a room full of well trained rogues…but with this chaotic bunch, never say never. Somehow though, the group managed to fumble and feel their way into a tense truce with the thieves and earned some handy info as well. Imogen was quick to drop her father’s name as collateral (hopefully that doesn’t come back to bite her) while the rest of the group either played dumb or kept their cards close to the chest. No one was quite ready to drop any more valuable information in the hands of the mysterious Corsairs. Most everyone’s background is still a blur. We know that FCG may not have any more “close relations” since the deadly encounter that lead him to Ashton. Ashton so kindly offered up his automaton friend as collateral, quite the backhanded compliment but that seems to track for Ashton. Dorian refuses to let anyone even peek at a hint of backstory, Orym’s quite mum on his loved ones so far, Laudna….well she’s a bit of a wild card. We know Fearne has parents, and a grandmother, from her time traveling in ExU, though she’s volunteered no information with this group so far.
The gang left their relationship with the Corsairs a bit open ended. They were warned not to intrude any further, but have the option to reach out if any useful information comes their way. We’ll see if these suave swashbucklers make another appearance anytime soon.
The second part of the episode was devoted to the Duggar encounter and…boy was it a doozy. This group cannot help but bumble their way through every act of breaking and entering they commit. There’s just no easy crime for them. Then, when the creepy “jizz” covered house didn’t scare them away, they managed to find themselves in a second life or death battle with Duggar. This session’s encounter is another fantastic example of just how well Mercer can scale a fight for his players. They are level 3, but also have some absolute wrecking balls in their party. Ashton alone is already dealing a double digit damage average and has over 50 hp now at only level 4. Orym can definitely hold his own but it’s still nailbiting to watch him goad attacks as he’s clinging to his 2 measly hp. Imogen and Laudna both have the constitution and hit points of wet paper, so in close combat quarters like this battle things can get hairy quick.
We had not one but three party members fall unconscious during the battle, with two of them rolling and/or failing death saving throws. Death saves at these low levels carry a lot more punch than at higher levels, especially with clerics that don’t have Revivify learned yet. Though, Mercer isn’t a DM that would readily nuke low level players, he’s not above a cinematic death or two, ie Bertrand and Mollymauk from campaign 2. The party was able to come together and between healing potions and two well balanced clerics everyone made it through the encounter. Sam also answered a rather hypothetical question over whether his little automaton could be healed by divine magic or if he needed more mechanical ‘healing’. Mercer made a quick joke about Sam absolutely nerfing his character by not letting him heal through normal methods. (Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past Sam to make his character more difficult to play, he’s done it before.)
We saw some pretty awesome battle action from some fun new team ups. Ashton continues to intrigue with his mostly underwraps homebrew barbarian. We saw some really useful gravity bending abilities warp the battlefield around him. He also teamed up with Orym to double up on goading attacks against Duggar, meaning that no matter who Duggar attacked on the field, he’d have to roll at disadvantage. Fearne and Laudna had a special moment, teaming up their spells Thorn Whip and Eldritch Blast. While it mostly ended up being a cute little trick that did a normal amount of spell damage, it was a really cool RP moment and has potential to expound as the characters level up. Dorian and FCG also did a great job running interference across the battlefield. They both did a fantastic job of balancing healing spells, boosts and banes, and taking out a handful of Shadecreepers on their own. Dynamic Duo indeed!
Robbie got his first HDYWTDT for this campaign! Way to go Dorian! As much as Dorian “struggled” to land solid hits on the battlefield, he made his spells count when it mattered and got the big kill. It’ll be interesting to see if Robbie takes a more hands on approach to future battles as he levels up, or if he’ll be the party’s main source of buffering and boosting abilities like Scanlan and Caduceus were in past campaigns.
There’s still one face we’re desperately missing at the table. Travis and his new PC are still missing from the campaign. We’ll see if we get Travis back before the New Year or if the story has to take a few big turns before we’re introduced to a new friend. Either way, fans are chomping at the bit to see Travis’ return and the hype only grows with each passing episode. We’ve got three more episodes before the New Year! The race is on to see the CEO’s triumphant return to the table.
Just as a reminder, there will be no new episode of Critical Role Thursday, November 25th. Critical Role will return with episode 6 on December 2nd. Don’t worry Critters! It’s almost Thursday!