Episode 3: A Glorious Return
Our adventurers prepare to journey back into the city of Emon to track down one Shaun Gilmore. Disguises are needed since…you know, the whole making mortal enemies with the most powerful thieves’ guild in the city. And so the brilliant disguising begins. Dorian starts off strong, tying up his hair into a man bun. Yeah, that’s definitely going to do it. Opal follows suit, french braiding her luscious locks. Another solid disguise, this will definitely work. Fearne helps Orym out with his new hair disguise. She cuts off an inch or two of her soft seafoam green curls, Opal helps to glue it on his head giving him some very 90’s style frosted green tips. Dariax will wait to show the party his disguise when they get to the city gate. This cannot possibly go wrong.
The crew make it safely to the eastern gate of Emon. Now is Dariax’s time to shine with his distraction. He casts a disguise on himself, transforming into a voluptuous blonde half-elf dressed in a glitter-bomb sharp shouldered coat and twirling ribbon streamers. She saunters up through the crowd, introducing herself as Tharla Starr and begins a stunning dance performance just inside the gates of Emon. After a moment of stunned panic, the rest of the crew rush in through the gates and try to stealth into the crowd unnoticed. Dorian and Fearne attempt to ‘blend in’ by playing backup music for Tharla’s dance performance. Opal and Orym manage to sneak away into the crowd but turn around to see the rest of their companions stuck in the performance.
Opal thinks quick, maybe another distraction will help the first distraction get away. She begins calling out in the crowd for ‘her lost daughter Nancy!’ The crowd begins to look for her non-existent daughter as she frantically signals Dariax, Fearne and Opal to wrap it up and head out. The performers get the hint and begin to break up the show. Opal grabs Orym, a full grown halfling man with green frosted hair, a sword and shield and says “oh look, here she is, my daughter Nancy.” Flawless distraction.
Somehow the group manage to slip away from the guards at the gate and meet back up in an alley. As they are figuring out which direction Gilmore’s shop is, Fearne gets hit with a poisoned blow dart. It’s time to run.
The crew manage to stay just ahead of their pursuers, leading them further into the city, just past Gilmore’s shop and ducking into a back alley. Everyone hunkers down behind abandoned crates and dirty boxes. Dariax throws up another disguise, an old disheveled dwarf that looks like he lives in this alley. The assassins rush into the alley, stopping at the disguised Dariax. Dariax manages to convince the assassins that he saw the strange group go off that-a-way. The assassins throw a couple coins to Dariax and rush off to try and pick up a trail again. Dariax is incredibly pleased with how well his distractions did today.
Now that they’ve shaken their tail, it’s time to get Gilmore. The group approaches the ostentatious and legendary shop and are greeted by a gnomish desk clerk. They ask to speak to Gilmore but are quite brushed off, the celebrity doesn’t have time to meet with every willy nilly group that wanders in. The group ask to speak to the manager. A half-elf woman named Sherri comes to their assistance. They recount the story of the ash-hole, Lorkathar’s request and the rune they found. Sherri consults a massive book of runes but is left stumped. I guess she will have to call on Gilmore’s aid after all.
Sherri sends a quick message along and a few seconds later a figure appears at the third floor landing. A glorious Marquisian man with immaculate hair, clothes, and beard calls out to the new adventurers. As the group walk up the three flights, Orym, a little star struck, recounts all his knowledge of this mythical man. Dorian and Dariax are impressed, Opal is immediately lovestruck.
As the flustered party recount the story so far, Gilmore is immediately interested in the rune. Opal shows him the drawing and he focuses his energy, revealing a glowing purple rune in the center of his forehead. He is…unfamiliar with this rune in particular. It is very old magic. He remembers a place with similar magic, just outside of Byroden. The old, pre-calamity ruins of Quoniira. They may find answers there. He’ll arrange for transport across the city then they’re on their own.
Orym thanks Gilmore for his help and the conversation devolves into more details of their strange adventure. Dariax is finally told about his jet black eyes. Gilmore recognizes the circlet that caused this as a Vestige of Divergence. It’s Lolth’s circlet of Barbed Vision. Gilmore offers to hang onto it in exchange for 5,000 gold. Very tempting, but Dorian and Dariax both agree that they are not ready to part with the circlet. Gilmore instead offers them an enchanted box, should they change their mind or need a quick escape for the circlet, they can place it inside, close the lid and it will return here safely to Gilmore’s shop. Speaking of his shop…it’s about time these new friends spend all their money downstairs!
The crew spend the next hour or two picking out magical and magnificent items to purchase. Healing potions, pink fur coats, a new shield enchantment, musical instruments, a spear, and some cool rings are all picked up by our party.
All their money spent, the party decide it’s time to head off to the ruins of Quoniira. A cart awaits them out front, ready to take them back to the city gates. The journey starts of easily enough, but Orym can’t shake the feeling that something is off. He takes a peak at the front of the cart and notices an eerily familiar red leather coat in the driver’s seat. A crossbow bolt whizzes past his face and he quickly ducks back inside. Uh, things are bad. They’re surrounded by enemies and Poska is driving their cart.
The group start not so quietly planning their attack, when Poska calls back to them. “Are you going to keep planning my death or do you want to talk?” Orym asks what she wants. Poska just wants what’s rightfully hers. Give back the crown and the residuum and call it even. Opal blurts out that they just sold all the residuum and the crown to Gilmore. Poska pulls the cart over and demands more information. The conversation gets heated and she is not sure whether to believe this crew of absolute morons when Fearne reaches out and touches her.
Fearne concentrates a Control Person spell on Poska. She feels the spell lock into place and Poska quiets, intently listening to Fearne’s instructions. Fearne instructs Poska to get out of the cart and leave them to their business. Stiffly, Poska steps down off the cart. Fearne follows. She grabs Poska, gently kissing her cheek and thanks her for stepping aside. She can see Poska’s eyes burning with anger and frustration just beneath the surface. Fearne hops into the driver’s seat and begins to drive the carriage away. Dariax leans out the back, waving the Circlet of Barbed Vision in Poska’s eyesight. “Gotcha!” He can see the absolute rage seething in Poska as she screams and he tells Fearne to book it across the city, they only have an hour until the spell breaks. Orym frantically scribbles a note to Gilmore, saying that he may be under scrutiny. Watch out for the Nameless Ones. He and Dorian shoves it in the box Gilmore gifted them and snap the lid closed, watching it disappear.
Just as the cart makes it’s way out of the city gates, Fearne feels her spells connection snap and a hint of Poska’s absolute fury burns into Fearne’s mind. They’ve really done it now. They point the cart in the direction of Byroden. And that’s where we’ll pick up next time!
This episode was so nuts. From start to finish. This new group of misfits made it to Chaos Crew level insanity alarmingly quickly. I guess when you’ve only got 8 episodes to live, you play things incredibly off the cuff. We got two chase scenes, a messy plan gone horribly awry, a massive NPC encounter, and a shopping episode all rolled into one.
Aabria sets a blistering pace for these episodes, not giving her players a second of calm before reminding them they are hunted and on a super strict timeline. Although, watching the gang…okay mostly Dariax…stumble their way through the insanity of the Tharla Starr distraction was a joy. Mercer absolutely slayed as Dariax disguised as his one time flame, famed dancer Tharla. If Beau’s Tracy persona had an evil twin…it would be Tharla Starr. Dorian and Fearne held their own pretty easily, helping Tharla totally sell her performance. Somehow Opal’s hilarious choice to use Orym as a scapegoat runaway child to bust her other friends out of the limelight didn’t completely blow their cover. Who would have guessed that even without Sam, Laura, Travis, Marisha, AND Taliesin around this crew can still devolve into absolute chaos so quickly.
Aabria finally got to try her hand at bringing a beloved NPC to life! She bravely jaegered Shaun Gilmore for a solid one and a half hours of this three hour episode. Campaign 1 fan favorite shopkeep Sherri also made an appearance in this episode! While no one was expecting a beat for beat perfect mimic of Mercer’s Gilmore, it was still a joy to see Aabria’s Gilmore alive and well in Exandria. And married to boot! Guess Gilmore really did get his happy ending. If you’re one of the Critters that really struggled connecting with Aabria’s version of Gilmore, that’s totally fine. These characters can often dig special places in our hearts and it can be weird to let some one else in to mess with them. Hopefully this little tester campaign will help us prepare for a time, maybe sooner than we’re comfortable admitting, when Mercer isn’t the DM of Critical Role anymore. Maybe this short series is showing you that’s the day you’ll say goodbye to Critical Role and let your memories stay happily in Mercer’s world forever. Or maybe this series is showing you that, yeah, there is room to grow and stories to tell, and you’ll keep tagging along for those adventures.
And then came shopping. I guess it’s not DnD without a little shopping side adventure. At least this one was a bit shorter than most shopping episodes. Aabria seemed to utilize a mass list of available magical items that her players could select from, saving us from having to go down the list, character by character and role play out a search for items piece by piece. Still…even Aabria was over it by the end… quickly wrapping things up and shoving the players out the door. The last half of the shopping scene kind of took me out of the game a bit. It’s well known that shopping isn’t my favorite so I tend to get more critical during these scenes. I felt that Aabria was suddenly juggling too many balls, trying to role play three shopkeepers and Gilmore, keep a running money total, and make sure everyone got all the crap they wanted off the list. As if the flirting with Gilmore wasn’t enough, for some reason the gnomish shopkeep Inanna became an anime mess around the party…all bubblegum poof, nosebleedy, awkward. Eh, it wasn’t for me? There was even a moment when Aabria needed a break from Inanna and shopping and just threw a third barely named shopkeep in for one interaction before ripcording out of shopping altogether. Honestly, that’s usually my reaction to shopping trips in general.
Okay, shopping’s done. The group somehow managed to still keep their greedy mitts on a terrifying Vestige of Divergence. I wonder if Mercer is silently laughing at how hard he made Vox Mchina and the Mighty Nein work for their Vestiges and Aabria is out here like “ooh yeah this level two party of chaotic stupids definitely deserve a vestige like immediately.” Wild. The pressure never lets up in Emon as the group are immediately thrown into another encounter with The Nameless Ones. I guess I can’t say that the action lulls too much in this series. Luckily, with some quick thinking and a damn lucky spell DC roll, the group manage to give Poska the slip and a huge middle finger again. I’m not sure what Aabria had planned, sending Poska and 25 well trained guild members after a group of 5 level 2 adventurers, but it definitely wasn’t letting them go with a kiss and a wave. I wonder how the group will handle ever returning to Emon after this. Boy, that sounds familiar. Can you imagine if the Nein waltzed right back onto Darktow the next day and burned down half the pirate ship fleet?? This is basically the same thing right?! Also, huge props to Matt for ending the encounter by showing off the circlet to Poska and getting some of the heat off Gilmore like Orym asked. I love Ashley so much but the improv panic gets real sometimes and she needs a little backup.
I don’t even know what to expect from this group next episode! Will it just be a travel episode? Byroden and the ruins are incredibly far, but Aabria seems willing to super speed through travel to cut to the good stuff. How will the group handle exploring an incredibly old magical ruin from before the calamity? Will the Ruins of Quoniira be for lovers just like Aeor? I jest… kind of. Bets on who hooks up with who first? Still so many mysteries to uncover! What answers will the group find in the ashes of ancient civilization? Will Dorian ever tell us his real name, or realize that everyone is flirting with him like… all the time? Will Opal ever get Ted to apologize? Will Orym’s dignity and sanity last through 5 more sessions? All this and more, coming up on the next Critical Role Review. Don’t worry Critters, it’s almost Thursday!