Critical Role Episode 17
Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein completed a dangerous task for the Gentleman, a crime boss that resided in the (literal) criminal underworld of Zadash. Thanks to his friendship, they were able to get the Crownsguard to stop hunting for them after they were found to be involved in the murder of the High Richter. Now that they were free to wander Zadash without fearing for their lives, our heroes decided to relax at the Harvest’s Close festival in the city’s bustling Penta Market.
The Mighty Nein enjoyed cooling their heels at the festival, but they really desired to fight in the Victory Pit brawler’s tournament that evening. Yasha arm wrestled with members of the Righteous Brand—the Dwendalian Empire’s army—and won! She caught the eye of a mercenary named Darrow, and he invited her to join his company, the Stubborn Stock. She politely refused, but learned that he would be fighting in the Victory Pit as well.
That afternoon, they entered the Victory Pit and registered for the tournament, alongside their new acquaintance in the Stubborn Stock. Each of the four registered teams fought against wild beasts captured by the Crownsguard. They each battled through two rounds until only the Nein and the Stock remained. The third round began, the Mighty Nein assembled on the field of battle—and an enormous, frothing hill giant burst onto the field. They prayed they would survive the encounter.
The Harvest’s Close Festival took Zadash by storm! Bards lined the streets and banners displaying vibrant autumnal colors lined the streets of the Penta Market. The Mighty Nein were eager to have some fun, drink some drinks, and maybe pick some pockets while they were there. Before the day’s festivities got underway, however, Jester focused fully on the Xhorhasian beacon for the first time and extracted a mote of possibility from it—just in case.
On the topic of the beacon, Beau and Yasha began to think about what the Xhorhasian assassin had told them when they encountered him in the sewers. The beacon allowed his people to be reborn. They weren’t sure what to make of it, but when taken in hand with news of Xhorhasians attacking the border of the empire and kidnapping children… maybe the attack on the Zauberspire and these child kidnappings were related.
They decided to leave such morbid thoughts for later, and simply enjoy the festival!
Fun at Harvest’s Close
Fjord went to play a bean-bag toss game called Trebuchet! He was… awful. Legendarily so. Somehow, Fjord rolled THREE natural 1s in a row, leaving the entire table in mirthful tears. Molly won a fresh strawberry from the same game.
Beau went and found some ruthlessly strong mead. Yasha and Jester destroyed a hammer-swing game. Jester went and found candied apples and shared them with the party. Caleb looked for books and didn’t find any. Molly purchased a huge tapestry of Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon. Nott played an archery game and Robin Hood-style split the arrow she bulls-eyed.
During the fun, Beau also bumped into an army recruiter, a member of the Righteous Brand named Leopold Wansticker, offering folks a gold piece per day to protect the empire and fight back against the Xhorhasian Empire. Beau’s anti-establishment streak nearly got her into trouble, but she did her best to play along and keep her cool. Instead, she was invited to arm wrestle a soldier named Kendell—and lost miserably, only winning a recruitment pamphlet for her trouble. If she was interested, she could always find the Righteous Brand at Marrow Keep on the outskirts of Zadash, in the Signet Wall, the city’s military district.
The party watched as Kendell was then beaten by another soldier, a brute of a man named Gunther Prahst. Yasha stepped up to challenge him. “Are you doing any more of the wrestling of the arms?” she asked.
A crowd began to gather to watch this match, and more and more observers gathered as it went on until a throng had gathered around the two heavyweights. The match went back and forth, with each wrestler coming within a hair’s breadth of defeat several times. In a crucial moment, Yasha flew into a barbarian rage and managed to slam Gunther’s arm into the table. Victory!
With the entire party still glowing after Yasha’s win, the aasimar barbarian was approached by a man named Darrow, a man with an accent and features that suggested he could be from the desert continent of Marquet. He invited Yasha to join a mercenary company known as the Stubborn Stock, a group of military contractors working with the Righteous Brand to fight against Xhorhas. She wasn’t interested, but she said she’d think about it. As they were saying their farewells, both parties realized that they might encounter one another in the Victory Pit later that day, and wished the other luck.
Beau and Caleb
Any romantic chemistry that Keyleth and Vax (played by Marisha Ray and Liam O’Brien in the first campaign) may have had definitely didn’t translate to Beau and Caleb. Earlier in the day, Caleb had disguised himself in the blue robes of the Cobalt Soul, and as they traveled to the Victory Pit, Beau remarked, “Cobalt’s a good color on you.”
Caleb glanced at her. “What?”
“You look good in blue!”
He looked at her dumbly. She grimaced. He sniffed, and kept walking.
Challengers of the Victory Pit
The party entered the Victory Pit, hungry for action. Within its office, they met Yadaka Brigmann, a fight promoter, and registered for the tournament. After the registration, Yadaka was pulled away by a page, bearing urgent news from King Dwendal. They went into another room, along with the starosta, a local legal official.
Nott used minor illusion to sneak towards the conversation Solid Snake-style by creating an illusory box around her body to sneak towards the room. She failed her Wisdom (Perception) check pretty miserably, but still managed to overhear some parts of the conversation. She learned that the empire had formally declared war on the Kryn Dynasty of Xhorhas, after a brutal massacre at the border that left over one thousand Dwendalians dead. She returned to the party and shared this information, and while they were horrified by the news, they agreed that they needed to focus on the matter at hand—the fight.
The tournament began shortly, and the Mighty Nein entered the tournament ring to the sounds of a cheering, raucous crowd. As they entered, they scanned both the pit for their opponents, and the arena’s seats for familiar faces. They saw three teams that would be their competition.
One team included dwarves and gnomes and were led by a dwarven woman with gray skin and gray hair. They were called the Mountain Makers. Another group was led by a cruel-looking man with piercing blue eyes, who led a group of soldiers in Righteous Brand armor. They were the Last Line, and their leader was Gunther, the same man Yasha had defeated earlier that day. The final group was the mercenary group led by their new acquaintance Darrow—the Stubborn Stock.
In the stands, Caleb saw that the Lawmaster of the city was in attendance of the tournament, and Beau saw Dolan Thrym sitting in the crowd next to her! Before they could consider what this meant, the fighting began! Each group, one after another, would fight a fearsome beast captured by the Crownsguard. First, the Last Line faced off against a banderhobb and won handily.
The Mighty Nein were next to fight. Their opponent was a tentacled beast that reeked of feces and rot: an otyugh! The fight was fierce, but satisfying. Yasha got the how do you want to do this with a critical hit while enlarged—for a total of 41 damage!
Next, the Mountain Makers faced off against a troll and won easily. Then, finally, the Stubborn Stock took on a 15-foot-long crocodile and won.
The Second Round
The Mighty Nein recovered from the otyugh fight and watched the Last Line return to the fray, pitted against two minotaurs. Unlike last time, however, they were beaten into the dirt, and the minotaurs were forced back into shackles by members of the Crownsguard. Most of the Last Line were saved from death by the healers on hand, and the field was quickly cleared—just in time for the Mighty Nein could to return to the pit!
This time, they faced off against two huge, white-furred winter wolfs. They claimed a resounding victory, but the next team was not so lucky. The Mountain Makers fought a pair of owlbears, but fell before the might of these abominable beasts. After the wounded among them were taken away, the Stubborn Stock were pitted against a pair of displacer beasts. They only barely managed to pull through.
With the second round finished, only two teams remained in the running. Who would prove victorious in the final round? The Mighty Nein, or the Sturdy Stock? The Nein were called back into the ring to decide this question once and for all in round three. They steeled themselves for the next monster, and assumed their fighting stances as thunderous footsteps from behind one of the doors shook the earth beneath their feet. The doors before them flew open and a hill giant strode into the pit, wielding a club larger than Yasha’s entire body. The crowd gasped, and the Mighty Nein felt their hearts sink.
Will the Mighty Nein prove victorious in this deadly test of might? Or will the Sturdy Stock take home the prize? And what of the war brewing between the Dwendalian Empire and the Xhorhas Dominion? And finally… is it Thursday yet?
Unless otherwise credited, all photos in this article are courtesy of Geek & Sundry.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He loves watching Critical Role and wants everyone he knows to get into it, too. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his very own Frumpkins, Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.