Exandria Unlimited: The Nameless Ones
Welcome to Exandria Unlimited! Let’s dive into this new story set in Exandria, led by illustrious GM Aabria Iyengar. The camera pans down to a morning sun lit street in the Upper slums of Emon, Tal’Dorei. A halfling fighter with brown hair and a full arm sleeve tattoo featuring the two moons of Exandria has found his way to Greyskull Keep, a place of reverent legend in his home of Zephrah. As he looks up at its silent walls he feels the gravity and history of this place, the blowing breeze reminding him sharply of his air ashari home and all the stories She shared with her people of her time spent in this city. A light rain begins to fall, Orym, the halfling, thinks of visiting a fantastic magic shop he’s heard much about another time. For now, he heads back to a local townhouse to meet up with his friends.
Dorian Storm, a young air genasi bard, sits outside a townhouse playing a beautiful tune to himself on his lute. He thinks back to the day he met his strange new companions. A celebration of the Everdawn, quite a raging party. Smiling to himself at the slightly alcohol fuzzed memories, he plucks away his quiet melody waiting for his friends to wake.
Fearne Calloway, a gentle satyr druid, takes a slow morning stroll down the street near the townhouse, her monkey companion Mister loping at her side. She spies some delicate little flowers just opening to the morning sun and stops to admire them. Mister, her monkey screeches at the discovery and picks a blossom, opening his mouth wide to reveal a fiery furnace where a normal monkey mouth should be. She remembers the day she visited Thordak’s crater in the city. Touching the impossibly hot source of residual magic leaving her with strange new abilities. A wandering little fire spirit caught her fancy and became this excitable little Mister who travels with her now. A concerned neighbor looks on and Fearne ushers her furry companion back towards the townhouse to see if her friends are ready for the day.
Meanwhile, on the rooftop of the townhouse, a very hungover dwarf sorcerer with a shock of red hair is finally awake. He starts a little at how close to the edge of the roof he is, but carefully sits up. Dariax tries to recall how his night of intoxication ended up here but… nope… the night is lost to a haze of booze. With a shrug he ungracefully makes his way down off the roof to pick up his spear that fell in the gutter. Of course, it’s covered in filth and piss. Great start to another great day in this great city.
Upstairs in the townhouse, Opal, a human warlock suddenly sits up in bed. Head throbbing, she rushes to a mirror to check her reflection. Yup, yup, she’s a mess. Where’s her makeup? She never goes anywhere without her face in perfect shape. WHY would she challenge a dwarf to a drinking contest? Never again. She’ll have to get used to these big city nights eventually. Her eyes close, trying to block out the sun thats stabbing her brain. She feels a sharp familiar presence reaching across the void, her twin Ted. Their differing choices have separated them but for just a moment Opal feels like they are together again.
The companions have found their way into the kitchen of the borrowed townhouse. Everyone is ravenous and they begin a rough search for food. Of course, there is none, no one’s gone shopping. I guess we’re eating out today. The troupe make their way to a tavern down the street and tuck into a delightfully greasy meal of bacon and fruit. Dariax is still trying to remember what happened last night and asks his companions to help fill in the gaps.
Fearne delights in retelling the story of how his spear ended up in such disgusting shape. They all decided it would be fun to have a pissing contest off the roof of the townhouse! And Mister had a bit of finger painting fun with some poop…it appears to still be smeared all over Dariax’s face. Ah yes, how could he forget, no wonder he thought the city smelled so bad today. Maybe it’s time to wash up. Dorian takes a lull in the conversation to pull out his flute and put on a little show for their goliath barkeep. She’s rather impressed by him and his friends, letting them know that breakfast is on the house today. They thank the kind tavern keeper and begin to make their way back to the townhouse.
Orym uses the walk to try and piece together some strange gaps in his memory. There are flashes of memories… meeting his companions at the Everdawn party outside of town…. footsteps leading out of Thordak’s crater… the Fire Ashari… then nothing for six days until they arrived at Lothar’s townhouse! But, where’s Lothar now? Lost in these confusing thoughts Orym almost doesn’t notice something, or rather someone, strange lurking near the door of their house. A figure dressed in red has scratched a symbol of a hand holding a five pointed star into their door. The group not so subtly surround this figure and begin to brazenly question what business she has defiling their door.
Poska, the blue haired human and defiler of doors admits that she works for some very unsavory people. She comes from the nameless ones, a new faction built from the ruins of the Clasp and the Myriad after the destruction of Emon. She targets the upper crusties of the city, kind of like an Exandrian Robin Hood. Lothar, who comes from money, just happens to be on her list of Inner City richies that are buying out any intact homes they can get their hands on and driving out the good folk who live here.
Dorian and Orym would prefer to send the city guard her way and be done with this unsavory business, but Dariax, Opal and Fearne are more interested to hear what Poska has to say. Poska agrees to remove the target from Lothar’s townhouse if Dariax and his friends will do a job for her. Go down to the docks, steal a valuable item from one of the merchant ships, drop it at an undercover warehouse then come meet her back at the townhouse when its done. Dariax, Opal and Fearne all readily agree, excited at the prospect of danger and light criminality. Dorian and Orym are both still taken aback by their companions eagerness…but choose to go along with the plan if only to keep everyone out of trouble.
The camera cuts to a new scene now, the party arrive at the Darkwater Street docks on the Ozmit Sea. Opal takes in the beautiful, fish odor tinged scene and marvels at the vastness of an ocean she’s never seen before. Orym and Dariax spot many types of ships at the docks, dozens of merchant vessels from Marquet. A large dark vessel from the strange continent of Issylra also floats in these docks. It’s out of place among the other merchant ships and draws the groups curiosity.
Rather than picking an easy Marquesian target and sticking to the Poska Plan, the group decide to investigate the dark Blightstar ship. Even Orym is intrigued. The ship coincidentally flies a flag of the two moons of Exandria that rather matches the tattoos on Orym’s arm. The companions not so stealthily make their way aboard the ship and find it oddly quiet for the middle of the day. In fact, not a single crew member can be found on deck. Dariax unlocks one of the boat doors and Orym slips into the dark doorway to investigate. He misses a loose stair step and crashes down to the floor below. The darkness in here is thicker than it should be, it’s magically enhanced. How curious. Dorian and Dariax quickly follow Orym into the dark hold and begin to explore while Opal and Fearne more carefully descend into the room.
Dorian makes his way over to the source of a dripping sound. He reaches his hands out to find where the noise is coming from and his hand meets cold flesh. He recoils , cringing away from the body. Dariax brings his lighted spear closer and the party see all the crew members of the ship strung up on the ceiling with their throats cut. Fearne calls out to whoever did this, telling them to show themselves. She winces as something flies out of the shadows and slices at her arm. No one got a good look at the shadowy assassin, but Orym managed to land one slice with his sword before the form apparated back into shadow.
They quickly search the room and find three more bodies that died guarding a chest. Dariax uses his spear to pry open the chest. Inside, on a black silk pillow, lies an inky black barbed circlet. Dariax reaches out to grab it, but Orym suggests maybe don’t touch the mysterious and obviously powerful unknown magical item. Dorian attempts to pick up the crate that the circlet is housed in but he immediately feels his stomach clench and his body forcefully rejects being this close to that circlet. An inky black ichor begins vomiting out of his mouth. Orym uses a toe to kick the chest close and he also nearly loses his stomach contents. Dariax shrugs and picks up the now closed crate, not feeling weird at all…he doesn’t know what’s up with those two goody two shoes, but he can handle the crate just fine.
The party decide to take the circlet and 500 platinum coins off the ship. They don’t know what they can do about all the dead crew…but that doesn’t seem like their problem right now. Orym takes one last quick peek down another doorway into a lower hold. To his surprise, he comes almost face to face with a 9 foot long caged Ankheg. The buggy monster is crazily trying to break through the bars of its cage. Orym has seen quite enough of this ship, it’s time to go.
The group do an impromptu disguising of the crate as they leave the ship to try not to draw any prying eyes. It doesn’t seem to work too well though, a strange figure locks eyes with Fearne and continues to stare even as the rest of the group tries to break the humanoid’s focus. Still without breaking eye contact, the dark cloaked figure disappears back into the shadows. Well…that was weird… I guess we should try and find that warehouse Poska told us about.
Making their way off the docks and onto the streets of Darkwater, the group have no trouble finding the warehouse marked with the symbol of the hand and the star. Opal takes 125 worth of platinum and inscribes a coin with the symbol, leaving the pouch on the ground of the warehouse. she’s like 90% sure that’s what Poska told her to do. (It was not). Outside, Dariax and Dorian attempt to take the circlet out of its crate to hide it a little better. As soon as the circlet leaves the crate, four figured appear from shadow and chase the companions into the warehouse.
A fight ensues with these shadow beasts as everyone tries to figure out what is happening. Opal manages to take out one of the creatures with a witch bolt, though she takes a lot of damage in the process. Orym takes a fighting stance in front of Opal to protect her from more damage. Dariax and Fearne face off with the other shadow entities, dodging attacks while trying to land their own. Dorian hears one of the assassins whisper, “give us the circlet and we’ll let you live.” Eh, that’s not going to fly with this group of friends.
Opal takes out another two wounded assassins with her daggers. Dariax leaps in to help Dorian with the final assassin, Sacred Flame-ing the shadowy figure into dust. A quiet hush falls in the warehouse. Orym is getting frustrated with all the strangeness surrounding this job and the warehouse and decided to break into one of the locked doors. It takes some time, a few spell slots and a couple bruised shoulders but they finally get the door opened. Orym is shocked to discover this room is packed full of crates and barrels marked with the symbol of Zephrah. He breaks open one of the crates and finds an obscene amount of residuum. Were these crates stolen or freely given? Does She know about this? Is it part of Her plan? His confusion only build and he pockets a s much residuum as he dares, a plan beginning to form in his mind.
Dorian reminds the group that they are probably in a lot of hot water after today. They broke onto a ship filled with an entirely murdered crew, stole this crazy barbed circlet and some money, left the scene of the crime. Destroyed a good portion of this warehouse that definitely belongs to a shady underground thieve’s guild, then stole some super expensive magic dust from said thieve’s guild AND broke their agreement with Poska. Just as Dorian finishes his rant, Dariax pops open another trap door in the warehouse that reveals…a caged baby ankheg…what the hell is this day?!
Orym finally speaks up, “I know what we should do.” He wants to find the Fire Ashari and get word to his people, the Air Ashari on what he found here today. She’ll know what to do. The party agree to not go back to the townhouse and try to safely find their way to the Fire Ashari without pissing off too many more people.
The camera pans away as the friends leave the dark interior of the warehouse. We come back to an image of Poska, standing outside in the pouring rain, staring into the entrance of a ransacked warehouse. She taps a sigil on her wrist and messages, “Burn it down.” Miles away, a townhouse is set on fire.
Well?! What did you think of Critical Role’s new mini series? I thought it was great. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the new characters, cast members, and GM after just one episode. I am excited to see where this little mini adventure goes, and I’ll say it now, 8 episodes already feels too short a time to enjoy these wonderful new people.
Aabria makes her triumphant debut as Critical Role’s newest GM! She shows off her DnD chops right out of the gate with a beautifully narrated opening and guided introduction into all our new characters. The start of a new story or campaign can be a little rough around the edges, players are still settling into characters, the narrative is so new it can’t even walk yet. So having a GM like Aabria who is able to so skillfully weave an interesting and engaging opening sets this mini series apart.
Her GM style is familiar, yet just different enough from Mercer’s to give this world a breath of life. Seeing how Aabria’s (and possibly other new GM’s) storytelling will affect the Exandria that Mercer built is a little bit thrilling, isn’t it. This mini series feels so much more like a home game than the OG Critical Role campaigns. This is probably a testament to the sheer talent of DM Matthew Mercer to build worlds, craft stories, and provide endless impressive sound effects that completely immerse the audience in a fully fleshed out world. Aabria’s style is more subdued, anchored in moments of prosy narrative with moments of whimsy as she tries to keep up with her players antics.
It’s not to say Aabria is less skilled than Mercer, she certainly brings impressive skills to the table. Her style is just so much more unbridled and honest. She’s not afraid to admit she’s bullshitting a tavern name on the spot, or that she isn’t in control of every backstory detail of her players and whether they’ve seen the ocean or not. She’s quick on her feet though and can pivot and jump with every random and unexpected move her players make. She’s quickly learning how to give her players enough narrative push, even when they roll too terribly for her to justify the clues she gives. While at the same time guiding her newest players through moments when they get stuck or overthink basic interactions. It’s a nice balance of pure player autonomy and quick narrative world building to power through an 8 episode series.
She also brings her own GM quirks to Critical Role. Several times during the episode, and even once during that secret end scene stinger, Aabria spoke directly to the audience (or ‘camera’) to describe a detail or moment her players didn’t get to see. While these scenes may be tempting for the players to meta game with, the cast are either seasoned DnD role players or so new that they gloss over these little details and follow the other players lead. I loved those few moments where Aabria acknowledges that the audience can have more insight into a story than her players. It gives us something special to connect with, a little bit of spice and mystery in the story.
How about our two new players! Robbie and Aimee crushed it in their debut episode! Robbie brings the smoldering suave to his air genasi bard Dorian. I hope we get a bit more of a peek into everyone’s backstory, because those little ‘rich boy’ comments that he tried to skirt around have me thinking there’s something fun hiding beneath the surface there. As a new to DnD player, Robbie Daymond fell into role play incredibly well. He wasn’t afraid to call people out or lead the story in an interesting direction. He took the lead in some planning, and also knew when to step back and let the other players shine.
Aimee, Aimee, Aimee. Who didn’t fall in love with Opal in the first few seconds of her introduction. Aimee didn’t come to mess around, she hit her character hard and never looked back. It’s like Marisha’s Tracy got turned up to a level 10 and was loosed on Emon. Her little yelling quirk had me cackling throughout the episode. ” FOOD, GRANDMA, and CITY GUARDS!” And it actually worked!…for one time at least. I hope this is a long running bit through the series. Opal’s naive excitement at everything ‘big city’ was infectious. How many of us have run around a new campaign, or maybe real life if we’re being honest, with the same curiosity, wonder, and lust for adventure that she brings to life in Opal.
Ashley is touching on a whole new level of enchanting fey beauty with Fearne. Drop dead beautiful on the outside, surprisingly fiery inside. I love me a half fawn girl with a spicy side. I’m loving all these deeper backstory hints that were laid down in this first episode. Fearne is already becoming a fast favorite, coming in with her slightly off phrases “Time is a weird soup.” and “Crime is in the eye of a beholder.” Classic Fearne. Not to mention that hilarious ship’s cook with an accent persona she pulled out of nowhere. Then, there’s her little Mister. What a cute little fire monkey companion! Aabria certainly brings him to life as well as Mercer did with Trinket, Frumpkin, and Sprinkle.
Liam brings a backstory heavy character to the table in this series. From the get-go he’s laying on his ties to Keyleth and the events of campaign 1. He mentions Zephrah, and his people the Air Ashari, and he’s always talking about this “She, Her” figure in his life that seems to have so many interesting stories about Greyskull Keep, Gilmore’s Glorious Goods, Thordak, Whitestone, and Emon. Now, we know Liam is our little angsty boy so we can already expect some kind of emotionally charged backstory that will somehow twist a dagger into our hearts before we’re through. Also, for our moon conspiracy theorists out there…what’s going on with all the Ruidus references in this episode?
Matt brings himbo dwarf babe to life with Dariax. I love that Mercer created a character that can run around pushing every red button and diving into every shady side quest he can while he has the chance to be a player in his own world. No one can blame him for letting Dariax life his best life as quickly and as hard as he can. I also like that Dariax is a neat blend of sorcerer and cleric for a party that conspicuously had no main healer. At the very least, the party will have a few heals, a nice bless or two, and an attack boosting sacred flame to help them out in combats.
These adventurers have to be our youngest, hottest, most charismatic, and stupidest group of people yet. And they’re not ashamed to own that fact! I hope the group really play into the fact that none of them are wise or intelligent people and they mostly lack the anxiety or common sense to not charge headlong into danger at every turn. I’m excited to see what’s next! We have so many mysteries to try and sift through. What happened in the missing 6 days? Who is Lothar? What happened to the crew of the Blightstar? Will the mama ankheg and baby ankheg be reunited? How long will it take Dariax to put on the barbed circlet? So many burning questions! But don’t worry Critters, it’s almost Thursday!
Don’t Miss It!
We’ve had quite a bit of new Critical Role content and announcements since the end of Campaign 2. First up was the Campaign 2 Wrap up episode. Just over four hours of reminiscing, tying up loose ends, answering all the unanswered mysteries (YES, even who is on the Tal’Dorei council!), and exploring discarded timelines. The episode is broken up into six easy sections covering the entire campaign. The format was a bit different than campaign 1’s wrap up. The loose family table style conversation felt much more casual than the ‘extended Talks Machina’ feel of the last wrap up. Brian W. Foster was still able to sneak in a bit of screen time during the wrap up by running short and sweet guest interviews with almost every guest star of Campaign 2. We got a little peek at how Shakasta, Keg, Nila, Reani, and Spurt are doing post Mighty Nein adventures.
Then, there was the action packed and long awaited Vox Machina Vs. Mighty Nein Battle Royale! The chaos was strong with this episode. The wildcard gem soul switching feature was a clever and interesting way to ‘keep things fair’ for an uneven PC team. The fight had many memorable moments and rather a shocking outcome based on most predictions. I won’t spoil the ending just in case you’ve somehow avoided all spoilers, but this 4 hour episode is worth the watch. I am also casting my vote to ask for a VM vs M9 part 2!! Everyone switches teams, Taliesin can still play the wildcard with Caduceus and Kingsley. I’m all for it.
We got another sneak peek at The Legend of Vox Machina! We finally have official character art designs and they are gorgeous. Plus, we got the fantastic news that artist Phil Bourassa has joined the design team on this project. This animated series is really looking amazing and by the sounds of it, should be released…sometime very soon!!
Don’t miss a special play through of Uk’otoa the board game Wednesday June 30th at 4 pm pacific. Join Marisha Ray, Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham and Laura Bailey as they brave the high seas and face the wrath of Uk’otoa. And then the second episode of Exandria Unlimited airs Thursday July 1st at 7 pm p.