Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein infiltrated the Sour Nest in search of Lorenzo, a cruel slaver who not only put Jester and Fjord in shackles, but who also personally killed Mollymauk Tealeaf. With them was Keg, a dwarven fighter who had once been a part of Lorenzo’s company, the Iron Shepherds, but had fled from their callous and bloodthirsty ranks after inadvertently causing the death of one of her friends. The party fought their way through the Sour Nest and freed the partner and son of Nila, a firbolg druid that accompanied them after Mollymauk’s death. They were also joined by Caduceus Clay, a high-spirited firbolg grave cleric who took pity upon the Mighty Nein and vowed to aid them.
The Mighty Nein delved deeper into the bowels of the Iron Shepherd’s hideout, the Sour Nest. At times, Lorenzo’s mocking voice boomed out, disembodied, taunting the party and goading them into making hasty decisions. Along the way, they fought and eliminated all but two of Lorenzo’s minions and saved several of the captives the vicious slavers had taken from across Wildemount. Within one of the cages was Shakäste, a cleric of some power that had aided the Mighty Nein back in Alfield several weeks prior. With Shakäste’s aid, the heroes fought their way to Lorenzo and discovered that he was not a human being, but a dreadful oni! This living nightmare put up a terrible fight, but the Mighty Nein’s ranks were bolstered with new allies, and managed to prevail!
Lorenzo was incinerated and the Iron Shepherds were laid low. The Mighty Nein found the unconscious forms of Jester and Fjord in chains and freed them. Together, they returned to Shady Creek Run to relax and recover, a blood-stained chapter in their saga finally drawn to a close.
Art by Ari Orner (@ornerine)
This adventure was played in front of an audience of thousands of Critical Role fans in the Old National Theater in Indianapolis, IN, during the 51st annual Gen Con. As such, Mighty Nein’s actions during this adventure were met with a near constant stream of applause, cheering, and some heckling. Likewise, the actions of Matthew Mercer’s villains—Lorenzo in particular—were met with hushed silence and even passionate booing and hissing.
Searching the Sour Nest
After Brian W. Foster introduced the cast and they all made their grand entrance onto the stage, Matthew Mercer brought us into the story once more. The Mighty Nein were within the Sour Nest, having recently said goodbye to Nila and her family, and they decided to scout out the upper levels of the compound before delving deeper into its dungeon. Caleb and Keg searched the upper levels using a mix of haste and invisibility—not to mention Frumpkin’s invaluable contributions as a tiny animal spy. A minor skirmish erupted as some of the Iron Shepherd’s hired guards discovered the Mighty Nein, but they were rapidly dispatched by the divided party.
Little of value was found in the Sour Nest’s upper levels, and the party descended into the dungeon. Two of the Shepherds had already been defeated: Dwelma the half-orc druid was defeated at the battle of Glory Run Road, and the barbarian woman Wan had been defeated early in their attack on the Sour Nest. The remaining Shepherds were below: the half-elf “sorcerer” (actually a bard) Ruza, the halfling rogue Prado, and—worst of all—Lorenzo, a human warrior of mysterious power. He was an expert glaive fighter, and well-protected in a suit of chainmail, but he also wielded magic as powerful as cone of cold, a 5th-level spell! The Mighty Nein entered the dungeons of the Sour Nest with a mix of trepidation and fury, their yearning for vengeance only mildly tempered by their anxiety.
Art by Anna Zee S. (@AnnaZee_S)
In the depths of the Sour Nest, the Mighty Nein evaded traps and battled the remaining members of the Iron Shepherds. Caleb was particularly partial to using invisibility to remain completely hidden during this exploration, and also frequently used Frumpkin to scout ahead in times of danger. Caduceus summoned a horde of biting beetles from within his staff to create an insect plague to fight the Shepherds.
During their exploration, the party came across a chamber filled with cages. Two of the cages were occupied: one with a dwarven father and child, the other with a familiar humanoid. Upon revealing the identity of this character, a man appeared from offstage—and the entire crowd erupted into uproarious applause: the figure was Shakäste, a cleric who had aided the Mighty Nein rid the mines near Alfield of gnolls and save the captives taken in their raid. Khary Payton, Shakäste’s player, strode onstage with a lamp shaped like the Egyptian queen Nefertiti in his grip. He revealed to the audience that he had simply taken it from backstage.
Shakäste wielded the lamp of Nefertiti as his spiritual weapon this game, but it didn’t serve him very well at all. The new weapon missed every single attack he made with it that game out of sheer bad luck. According to Payton himself, he had flown to Indianapolis on the same plane the rest of the Critical Role cast and crew had (on Thursday), and had kept his presence in Indy a secret from the public until the game (Friday night) to preserve the surprise. Now that’s dedication!
The Mighty Nein, with Shakäste added to their numbers, engaged Ruza and Prado in combat in the room of cages. When the combat went south, Ruza and Prado fled through a trapped corridor and disappeared down another staircase. Beau and Keg shared some witty repartee during the fight, and helped one another lift a massive portcullis that a trap had dropped between the two halves of the party mid-combat. The sexual tension was so thick, it could be cut with a knife.
Ruza and Prado’s retreat brought the combat in the depths of the Sour Nest to a close, but Caleb was not finished with them. He sent Frumpkin (in the form of a spider) to trail them, but Frumpkin was pierced by a wicked crossbow bolt. Even this magical spider was not hardy enough to survive such an attack, and he exploded into a cloud of fey dust.
The Mighty Nein pursued Ruza and Prado relentlessly through the rest of the Sour Nest’s dungeon, attempting to disarm traps along the way, until they arrived at the top of a staircase leading into a chill, dank chamber. Ruza and Prado had gathered there, and two silhouetted figures could be seen collapsed on the floor in a cell behind them. The heroes fell upon their enemies, attacking with abandon, until Lorenzo’s voice rang out through the room.
The fight stopped for a moment as all combatants turned to see Lorenzo materialize out of thin air. But this creature was not the human man they had fought within the woods at the edge of the Empire, several days before. This being stood nearly ten feet tall and its cerulean, musclebound body was covered with scars. It gazed at them with fearsome golden eyes, and Caduceus correctly identified Lorenzo’s true form as that of an oni, a bogeyman-like creature distantly related to ogres that possessed tremendous physical and magical power.
The Mighty Nein fought bitterly against Lorenzo and his underlings. Ruza and Prado eventually fell, and Caleb was critically wounded and forced to flee up the stairs. Lorenzo employed a cruel tactic of flying to the top of the ceiling, diving down to stab at one of the heroes with his long-hafted glaive, and then flying back to the ceiling where he could be safe from melee attacks. However, his strategy faltered when he (or rather, Matt) forgot to have him fly back up at the end of one of his turns. Beau took immediate advantage on this lapse of judgment and battered the oni with a Stunning Strike.
And for perhaps the first time in the entire campaign, Beau’s Stunning Strike worked perfectly. I actually turned to the person next to me in the theater (we had been whisper-chatting all game) and said, “That was a fight-ending attack. That stun is going to singlehandedly win the fight.” And it did. Beau’s attack was the turning point of the battle, and the audience began chanting her name: “Beau! Beau! Beau!”
Lorenzo knew he was in trouble, but attack after attack crashed into the oni. Keg’s eyes were alight with vengeance, and the rest of the Mighty Nein knew that this would be the moment that Mollymauk would be avenged. Caleb delivered the final blow with a firebolt, and incinerated Lorenzo’s foul form until nothing but dust and his eyeballs remained. As soon as Matthew said the words “How do you want to do this?” the crowd erupted into a roar of vindicated joy. It was louder than any crowd I had ever heard before. Even rock concerts were tamer than this animal yell. This was a cry of raw emotion, and it lit a fire in the spirits of every person in that theater.
What Lies After Revenge?
Nott investigated the figures in the barred alcove, and found that they were Jester and Fjord, in chains and out cold. “Case closed,” she whispered to Jester, and set the pair free. Yasha was found in a separate cell, also unconscious and bound. Yet, with Lorenzo dead and their quest for vengeance completed, the Mighty Nein were at a loss. They returned to Shady Creek Run, but few of them knew what their next step would be. And it was past 1 AM in Indianapolis—the show needed to be wrapped up quickly.
Keg didn’t know what she needed to do, save that she needed to have a few long, hard drinks first. Revenge had eclipsed so much of her life and so much of herself that she felt a little empty without the burning need to kill Lorenzo. Beau turned to her and asked her if she wanted to spend the night with her, and Keg barely took a moment to think before agreeing. Their scene faded to black. (Matthew tried to coyly hint at the nature of their night together, but Ashly was adamant in clarifying: “Sex! They’re having sex.”) The rest of the party settled back and took a well-deserved night of recovery. They would tend to Jester, Fjord, and Yasha throughout the night, and be ready to return to their full strength in the morning.
The game was drawn to a close, the cast stood, and the audience burst once more into wild applause. The joyful energy that filled the Old National Theater that night simply cannot be overstated. The fans of Critical Role love this show more than I have ever seen fans love anything. For better or for worse, Critical Role has driven people to a height of emotion that is simply indescribable. If you can make your way to Gen Con next year and experience this show firsthand, simply being a part of that sea of joyful energy is a sensation worth the price of admission.
What is next for the Mighty Nein? They defeated the Iron Shepherds, and must report back to Ophelia Mardun as promised—what adventures will that relationship lead to? Whether they remain outside the borders of the Dwendalian Empire or return to the warlike nation, adventure will no doubt await them at every turn. Is it Thursday yet?
Unless otherwise credited, all images in this article are courtesy of Critical Role.
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.