Hello! Nerditor Doug here to welcome you to the second installment of Gin’s musings and thoughts on the new campaign of Critical Role, Geek and Sundry’s mega-popular live stream gameplay starring Matt Mercer as Dungeon Master with a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors playing D&D. New episodes stream every Thursday at 10 p.m. eastern. Viewers can watch through Alpha Project, Twitch and recently YouTube live as well.
VOD of each episode is typically available within 24 hours through Alpha, 48 hours on Twitch and within a week on YouTube. The posting schedule underwent some changes with the new campaign and I’m not 100 percent certain on those details. Down below you’ll find a video from the Nerdarchy YouTube channel where Nerdarchists Dave and Ted share their thoughts on Critical Role too. The new campaign was the perfect jumping on point for them to join the Critter family. These videos will post on Wednesdays, with a two week window giving Critters time to watch if they missed the live game. But enough from me, let’s hear what Gin has to say…
*spoilers for Critical Role, Campaign 2 Episode 3 ahead
Let’s dive into Episode 3 of Critical Role
Last episode ended with our not-yet-heroes making their way to the circus grounds in the wee hours of the morning, and questioning the performers about the previous night’s zombie incident. Jester and Nott had thought they’d built a case against Orna the fire dancer, but Dungeon Master Matt Mercer called the session just after Caleb (through the eyes of his cat familiar Frumpkin), watched as the toad fiend Kaori emerged from his tent, turned two nearby Crown’s Guard into zombies, and fled north towards the Ustaloch (the east lake).
This week Matt wasted no time before launching into combat. Unfortunately, the casters had already used a lot of their spells during the day, so most of the heavy lifting was left for the martial characters. Beau got in some good hits – BTW Marisha really added to the combat by being more descriptive of her attacks, and Mollymauk had an excellent round where his two attacks bifurcated a zombie in a most excellent manner.
Unfortunately, he was very shortly knocked out by the second zombie. (Side note: Taliesin, you’re wonderful, but WTF were you thinking giving Matt the golden snitch, do you WANT to die?!) Luckily, Fjord and Caleb both landed attacks, Nott was zipping around making critical shots with her crossbow, and Jester used spare the dying to keep Molly from reaching the point of actual death.
After the fight a few of the remaining performers flee the area (all nearby Crown’s Guard now being dead), but Orna the fire dancer chooses to stay put. She came off somewhat caustic last episode, and definitely not very complimentary to the other circus members, but at this moment she indicates she won’t leave Gustav and Bosun to take the fall for everything (these last two being the circus folk already in jail).
The party takes the dead-again zombies to be disposed of elsewhere, hoping to simultaneously alleviate suspicion of Orna and follow the toad fiend. With some Investigation and Nature checks they come to the conclusion that Kaori must have fled into the water, and towards a distant set of islands in the Ustaloch. With Mollymauk barely alive and both Caleb and Jester completely tapped, they take decide the better option is retreat back to their inn and rest.
The Crown’s Guard appear oblivious to their charges’ late night activities, and while most of party are still obliged to stay put, Caleb and Nott head back to the shop they’d visited the day before. Now that Jester has identified Kaori as fiend, Caleb thinks they might find something useful in the books he’d placed on hold, particularly the one titled “The Fiends of Folklore.” Nott, delightful little scamp that she is, reveals she actually has more than enough gold to pay for both books, and it’s not long before they’re back at the inn and Caleb is immersed in the one tome. It turns out this was a good plan, because Caleb comes across information about a creature that is unmistakably similar to Kaori.Just as Caleb is catching the others up on his find, and they’re discussing what to do about it, the Crown’s Guard show up announce there have been more murders (#shockednotshocked, #tookyoulongenough). The party is informed they won’t be summoned today, as the guard is focusing their efforts on this new development.
Soldiers remain posted at the inn to make sure Fjord/Jester/Beau/Mollymauk don’t leave – but thankfully the guard is no match for the wiles of a very charismatic half-orc.
In what is my absolute favorite part of the whole episode, Fjord disguises himself as an old man with dementia. He lures the Crown’s Guard away with tales of another zombie nearby, but after a few minutes of hustling them along the old man suddenly ‘forgets’ what he’s doing, and becomes frightened of them.
Why are they following him? Had he done something wrong? Perhaps they could help him locate his son, or hey, even spare him a bit of gold? Old-man Fjord gets a good slap for wasting the guards’ time, but everyone else escapes the inn handily.
Fjord maintains his disguise as the party makes their way to docks, but Travis flawlessly transitions from crazy old man to charming, retired sailor. He even utilizes his background feature to secure free passage to the islands from a local fisherman. It’s the Travis we’d all been waiting for. Not that we didn’t love Grog (seriously, EVERYONE loved Grog), but savvy Travis is a whole new beast to admire.
After mildly terrorizing the poor boat captain, the group lands on the island and successfully tracks down Kaori. He has the young dwarf Toya with him, and he’s not going to try and talk things out. In just a few seconds Kaori’s summoned three imps to aid him, and convinced Toya to join the fray. She doesn’t attack anyone, and to be fair she seems pretty frightened and confused at everything that’s happening, but she uses her magical singing abilities to impose disadvantage on others.
As combat breaks out there’s some interesting choices made. Beau – who every episode shows us more and more she’s NOT Keyleth, uses force to take Toya out of the fight, then taunts Kaori with her unconscious body. Caleb shows his ability to provide support by lighting up the area, thereby helping out those who don’t have darkvision, instead of focusing on damage the whole time. Fjord does try out his warlock Hexblade’s Curse for the first time one screen (more on that later), and Mollymauk also shows off some of his class abilities.
And Nott, oh Nott – how I love you. Nott is still zipping around attacking enemies like a boss (she even jumps on an enemy’s face to stab at him), but when Caleb gets knocked out she throws herself over his prone body to protect him. Meanwhile Jester is dodging in and out of the fray, and haranguing her illusory duplicate when things go poorly.
Luckily, the party triumphs. Those imps were no joke though, and multiple people got KO’ed in the fight. Nobody dies thanks to successful death saves and Jester pitching in where she can. She does leave Caleb pretty beat up though, instead choosing to loot Kaori’s body and then spend time ritualistically casting detect magic to scope out the rings she found. It could have been a simple oversight on her part, but it was a pretty stark contrast to the immediate concern she showed for Fjord and Mollylauk when they went down.
Presumably next time the crew will sail back to town (good luck explaining the unconscious dwarf and dead fiend to that poor fisherman), and hopefully get everything straightened out with local law enforcement. I’ll be interested so to see if they’re honest about what they did, and also how painful dealing with the Crown’s Guard turns out to be.
Episode summary out of the way, I want to review a few interesting character bits we saw this week. All of the cast had good moments, but I was particularly focused on Fjord and Beau.
With Fjord we learned a) he was a sailor, b) when he uses his Hexblade’s Curse his falchion drips seawater and sprouts barnacles, and c) he is incredibly talented at both adopting different personas and manipulating strangers. Something else I’d noticed before, but didn’t really assign any importance to, is that his coloring is odd. He looks like he’s green with a blue mantle painted on. I’ve been looking through half-orc art, and blue is not a common color, nor is skin that’s two-toned. We know from the source material warlocks are sometimes physically marked by their patron, and the Hexblade weapon is often symbolic of their pact, so I’m wondering if the blue skin and curse effects are suggestive of Fjord’s pact being with an entity from the elemental plane of water.
He said in a previous episode magic was new to him, and that “something happened” recently. Maybe there was an incident at sea, one where he nearly drowned but was instead saved by entering this pact. Maybe Fjord isn’t even his birth name, maybe it’s something he adopted after becoming a warlock. Travis was pretty cagey on Talks Machina about whether it was pronounced ‘ford’ like the car or ‘fjord’ like the body of water. If not unusual, I think it’s at least uncommon for someone not to care how their name is pronounced.
Fingers crossed Caleb comes out of his defensive shell, and takes the initiative on probing Fjord about his abilities. They could learn more about magic together, like arcane bros. (Arcana bros? Brocana? Brocanes?)
As for Beau, I didn’t notice much about her class abilities but there were a few intriguing peeks into her psyche. After episode 2 Marisha said on Talks Machina that Beau doesn’t like Mollymauk, mostly because he seems like a shady grifter. However, in this episode she has some pretty clutch ideas for befuddling the guards, and shows marked appreciation of Jester’s sneaky, but decidedly illegal, ideas. She didn’t seem to mind that Nott has sticky fingers, either, so it can’t be that Beau objects to breaking the law in general. Beau also had no problem taking out a 12-year-old girl when she became a threat, despite having put herself at risk to help said girl not two days ago. So what’s her deal? It she a vigilante? An anarchist who doesn’t mind attacking abusive authorities but also wants to protect the disadvantaged? It’s all so delightfully nuanced, I’m really looking forward to seeing how she develops.
As always, let me know if you have any ideas/gossip. With the entire cast always on camera it’s hard to catch all the hints and details dropped in their various interactions, so please share in the comments or tweet me @IfThenAnderson with your insights.
Behind the Nerditor’s desk
If you want to see Gin doing her own awesome roleplaying, check her out in Nerdarchy’s weekly Scarlet Sisterhood of Steel and Sorcery live stream game.
If you haven’t checked out Critical Role yet, do what the rest of the Critter community does and head over to Project Alpha where new episodes live stream Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST. If you want to play D&D in the same setting, pick up Matt Mercer’s Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting and explore Exandria at your gaming table. And with D&D Beyond as an official sponsor of the show, you can find Critical Role content at DDB too.
Is it Thursday yet?
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