Critical Role Recap Episode 21
On today's episode of Critical Role, Sam Riegal debuted the epic, '80s-inspired D&D Beyond advertisement, done in the style of the classic G.I. Joe and Thundercats opening sequence.
Previously on Critical Role...
The Mighty Nein ventured into the Labenda Swamp on a mission from the Gentleman, their criminal ally in Zadash. They made contact with Febron Keyes, an addled and lecherous agent of the Gentleman who knew the way to a storehouse that had stopped contacting the Gentleman's home base. Keyes agreed to be their guide into the swamp, and warned that a terrible fate had befallen the last group of smugglers to enter the storehouse. Morning has come, and the Nein are preparing to venture deep into the swamp...
The Mighty Nein met a new ally, Calianna, a half-elf and part-dragon sorcerer played by Mark Hulmes. She was trying to thwart a cult of the Scaled Tyrant, and sought a magic item that also happened to be in the storehouse the Nein were searching for. They journeyed through the swamp together, fighting off man-eating plants, exploding trolls, and fish-men. Within the storehouse, Fjord had a brief and traumatic vision of a shipwreck bestowed upon him by his patron. Nott found the artifact that Calianna was searching for, and Yasha used her mighty mage-slaying greatsword to shatter it. Calianna thanked the Nein for their aid, and departed on good terms with the adventurers. Now, the Nein contemplated how best to complete the Gentleman's task, now that they had cleared the monsters out the storehouse. What would be next?
The Mighty Nein prepared for the morning and sat down for breakfast. While there, they were greeted by Calianna—a half-elf sorcerer played by guest star Mark Hulmes. Mark is a long-time friend of Matt’s and the Dungeon Master of the High Rollers D&D series! She asked the Nein if they could help her venture into the swamp. She said there was something out in the swamp, a smuggler’s storehouse, and someone had stashed an item she was searching for within that storehouse. Some strange people in dragon masks were searching for that item—a bowl made for performing magical rituals.
Looking at Calianna, she was wearing a large green cloak that completely obscured her left side—which was completely covered in black scales. She also possessed a dragon’s tail, and her left hand was a gnarled dragon’s claw. She explained that an ancient ancestor of hers was a black dragon from another land. She also explained that the worshipers of the Scaled Tyrant—AKA Tiamat, the goddess of evil dragons—were searching for the magical bowl, and Calianna wanted to keep it from falling into their hands.
Calianna's official art, by @ornerine, was posted on Geek & Sundry's Twitter during the game.
The Mighty Nein agreed to help her—after a brief and intense moment of phase. They were both headed to the same place, and Calianna seemed trustworthy. With Cali as a companion, their lecherous guide Febron Keyes showed them into the swamp.
Drudging through the Labenda Swamp
During their travels through the swamp, Fjord spotted a large, fly-trap like plant and burst its bulbous form with an up-cast witch bolt, cast at 3rd level. They traveled deeper into the swamp, watching out for these carnivorous plants. Along the way, Jester heard an unusual sound upon the wind. It was a rustic sound. The noise of a wooden chime. Febron had never heard that sound before, and Fjord suggested they investigate the noise.
Caleb entered a trance-like state and channeled his own senses through Frumpkin, and sent the cat out into the swamp. Frumpkin came across the source of the sound. Hanging from one of the branches was a cluster of carved chimes, dangling from twine and jangling whenever the breeze passed through them. The strange effigy was made of wood, crocodile hide, and old bones. Caleb dismissed Frumpkin and relayed this information. The party debated if it was some kind of magical ward, but ultimately discovered nothing. They marked the spot, just in case, and decided to explore further.
Febron, foolishly leading the way, walked right into a cloud of pollen and wandered straight towards a carnivorous plant. Beau tried to grab him, but he shrugged her off and kept walking. Calianna cast levitate and whisked him up into the air, away from the plant. Beau used her quarterstaff to push him back towards them. After saving Febron, he led them to the banks of the Ounterloch, the lake near the storehouse. As the party made their way along the banks of the lake, Fjord caught sight of a shadow moving within the trees, some forty or fifty feet away. He, Molly, and Yasha approached the disturbance. Caleb stepped away.
Beau stealthily crept up on the creature from behind, and saw that a hulking, amphibious creature was lurking behind a boulder. It wore a bone necklace that reminded her of the grim wind chimes. She hurled some ball bearings to lure it away from her allies, and it took the bait. She reunited with her allies and they hurried along the edge of the lake—Cali, believing Molly to be a fellow worshipper of the Platinum Dragon, cheerfully stated that they would be safe as long as he prayed to him. Molly was unimpressed.
A quick religious discussion led Cali to reveal that she was raised as dragon cultist, but she was denied the draconic mask that her fellows wore, because she was never allowed out into the real world—she was somehow “special.”
A noise from behind revealed that the creature from before had picked up their scent and was following them. It did not attack, though, and was simply stalking the party from a distance. The party argued about what to do, but eventually decided upon a diplomatic course of action. Jester approached, using her Invoke Duplicity power to create an illusion of herself to do the talking, just in case. The swamp troll snarled when the illusion approached and swiped at it viciously! The illusion vanished, and the troll fled in fear and confusion. The Nein quickly agreed that they needed to hurry to the storehouse while they still had time.
Closer to the storehouse, they found corpses. Their tattoos identified them as members of the Gentleman’s organization. Jester cast speak with dead to briefly animate one of the corpses’ minds. They grilled it for information, and learned that they had all been attacked by fish-men from the swamp, and they were overwhelmed by their numbers. Then—the troll returned and snatched Febron and fled! A frantic, running battle ensued, and Febron was killed by splash damage dealt by the exploding poison pustules that covered the troll’s body.
The troll fell, but now the Nein were in a swamp without a guide. They returned to the talking corpse and asked it one final question: “Which way is the house?” The corpse pointed, and the Nein made a note—and took a short rest.
The Sunken Storehouse
The Nein searched the vicinity for an entrance to the Gentleman’s storehouse, and for traps as well. Cali revealed more about her involvement with the cultists of the Scaled Tyrant. She dragon goddess was one of the Betrayer Gods trapped behind the divine gate, and that she felt terribly naïve for not realizing the cult’s treachery sooner. She knew nothing of the real world, because they had kept her locked away from the reveal world. Jester felt a sort of kinship with her, and assured her that sheltered folk like she and Cali aren’t naïve—they can really be quite clever!
Cali, still with her air of optimism, stayed focused on retrieving the bowl that the cult of the Scaled Tyrant desired. It was part of a set, and terrible things would happen if they could complete it.
The party found the entrance to the storehouse, and Nott gained a Mote of Possibility from the Xhorhasian beacon. They descended into the depths—and Nott spied terrible, shark-like humanoids within. Sahuagin! They fell upon the sahuagin with coordinated fury, and made short work of the monstrosities. Kiri, their new kenku companion, stabbed one of the corpses and cawed “I killed people!” in delight.
They continued to explore the abandoned storehouse, and Nott found a golden bowl adorned with dragon symbols. She concealed it. Cali looked about in dismay—the bowl she was looking for was nowhere to be found!
“Maybe I messed up,” she said, her usual cheer draining from her voice.
“Probably!” Nott replied, lying through her teeth.
Nott pulled Caleb aside and asked him to identify the relic. It was a communion bowl that, when filled with blood in ritual sacrifice, could allow its bearer to communicate with the Scaled Tyrant herself.
Fjord went to explore deeper, and was goaded on by the voice of his patron. “LEARN,” it boomed in his mind. He entered the brackish water beyond and felt his mind torn from this reality. He was thrust into a terrible memory. A shipwreck. A violent trauma. But he focused his will and recovered from the terror. He returned to the party to find it in a state of conflict. Caleb had revealed the bowl to Cali, but was unsure if he ought to give it to her so easily. She could be lying about her mission to destroy it. He was justifiably suspicious of this person they just met with an artifact of such power.
Beau snatched the bowl from his grasp and told him that it was not his duty to control the destiny of others. Yasha defused the argument by raising her greatsword, the Magician’s Judge. The sword dispelled the artifact’s protective magic as its edge slammed down upon the soft gold used to create it. A low growl filled the air, and the artifact shattered.
Cali thanked the Mighty Nein for their aid, and gave Nott a spell scroll of invisibility as what small thanks she could give. The ten eyes of the Scaled Tyrant would surely be watching Cali now, but she vowed to continue her mission. The new allies parted ways, and the Mighty Nein planned their next move.
The Mighty Nein have another job to perform the Gentleman, this one even harder than the last. Will they pursue this deadly venture, or will they be distracted by another quest entirely? Find out next time... on Critical Role! 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 partner Hannah and his very own Frumpkins, Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.