Previously on Critical Role, the Mighty Nein saved the Plank King from usurpation by unveiling the plans of the treacherous Captain Avantika, who then perished at the Plank King’s hand. Their reward was banishment—with their lives intact—and the half-wrecked Squall Eater. From there, they ransacked Avantika’s chambers and traveled to the Diver’s Grave. In that deep dwelling, they fought a vengeful sea fury and claimed her treasure: another orb of Uk’otoa. Thus empowered, Fjord and his companions returned to the surface and gazed once more to the horizon.
The Mighty Nein met a stowaway on their ship, a cheery gnome named Twiggy—played by guest star Deborah Ann Woll. Their new friend had a mysterious runic sphere, and after some experimentation with it, the entire party was sucked into an extraplanar dungeon. They explored its bizarre halls, suffering setback after setback until they found a treasure hoard guarded by a blue dragon. They fought hard, and Twiggy dealt the final blow as the rest of the party fled. When they emerged back onto the deck of their ship, the crew revealed to them that they had already reached the next island—and that the Mighty Nein had been in the puzzle sphere for seven full days.
Orly, the Mighty Nein’s tortle navigator, set a course of Bisaft Isle. The team tinkered and tended to their own business on the voyage. Nott tinkered with the gunpowder in Avantika’s hold and was able to make an explosion—when it blew up in her face, of course. She tried to diffuse the situation and shift suspicion off of herself when her friends came to check up on her. She blamed the explosion on “a booby trap set by Avantika” and claimed that there might be someone hiding out belowdecks.
Twiggy, a New Best Friend
Belowdecks, Jester did find someone! A gnome girl of ambiguous age, covered in soot, chocolate, and pretty jewelry was hunched down in the ship’s hold. She summoned an illusion of a glimmering halo over her head to profess her own innocence. Twiggy, a forest gnome arcane trickster, had stowed away on the ship. A tiny squirrel, named Trixie, was hidden away in Twiggy’s cloak. Jester and Trixie shared their fuzzy forest creatures.
Critical Role Official Art by Ari Orner (@ornerine)
Beau was nonplussed at this incredible display of cuteness. She demanded Twiggy tell her why she was hiding on the ship. She simply explained that she stole an artifact from a bad guy, and hid from him on the ship—and then the ship took off with her in it! This artifact was a brass sphere with all sorts of intricate carvings and puzzle-like elements upon it. By pressing its various buttons, she could make money appear from thin air! In exchange, Jester showed her the Xhorasian dodecahedron, and Tracy had her own cosmic experience within it—and emerged with a Fragment of Possibility. Beau told her, in so many words, that she would kill her if she betrayed them. Twiggy laughed it off with her typical bubbliness.
Jester, Nott, and Beau introduced Twiggy to the rest of the party. Most were at least a little suspicious of Twiggy, but they weren’t resistant to her accompanying the party. Caleb took special interest in Twiggy’s unusual artifact. His scrutiny allowed him to realize that conjuration magic of some sort was runically engraved in its surface. Meanwhile, other members of the party realized that their ship, the Squall Eater, was classified as a criminal vessel in the Clovis Concord. They suspected that this could give them trouble in the future, so they leapt into action! They chose to rename the ship and alter its name to…
The Ball Eater.
The Mighty Nein spent plenty of time interrogating and bonding with their new party member. Caleb asked Twiggy for her permission to examine the puzzle orb. He began working through its powers and bit by bit opened “locks” upon the sphere. Each lock unlocked activated a new function of the sphere, while locking out the previous function. He wasn’t able to get through the entire sphere, but managed to open up an extradimensional hole that led into a place with some treasure in it! Fine boots, a metallic staff, and a crimson winter cloak with an unusual sigil on its back. Twiggy regaled the party with her tragic backstory of imprisonment at the hands of a tall, thin firbolg named Sir Cadogan. She made up plenty of imaginary friends while she was there, and then one day she was able to escape from him, and stole the orb as she ran off!
Art by Caio Santos (@BlackSalander)
Dungeon of the Heirloom Sphere
Meanwhile, Caleb continued to tinker with the orb… and then clicked a new nub. A flash of green light engulfed the entire party—and Matt called intermission! The entire audience was left in suspense. When we returned from break, the entire party found themselves in a triangular room with walls adorned by colorful banners—red, green, blue, and black, with gold embroidery down the side. The symbol that appeared on the red cloak was emblazoned upon these banners. Two long-dead, mummified corpses laid upon the stone floor. And Twiggy’s runic ball was gone.
Caduceus spoke to the corpse using speak with dead and asked “What killed you?”
To which it responded, “The wailing creature.” A banshee?
“Which curtain did it hide behind?”
The party began examining the room. Twiggy used mage hand and pulled back the green tapestry and found a statue depicting a horribly mutated humanoid creature—and a viridian gas poured forth from its mouth! But Caleb’s tiny hut kept the party safe from harm. Behind the red tapestry was a wooden door, painted red, and bearing the now-familiar symbol of Halas. Using mage hand again, Twiggy opened the door—and triggered a jet of crimson flame to pour from the door! But again, the tiny hut protected them from harm. Then, Twiggy opened the door again. Behind it was a passageway. The party left the hut and departed down the hall.
Nott and Jester had a brief aside where they commiserated over Twiggy stealing their schticks. They wondered if they were being replaced! Nott turned to Jester and said, deadpan. “Let’s kill her.”
Jester replied, equally deadpan. “Okay.”
Nott nodded and said, “When the time is right.”
They both giggled, and went on their way. They were probably kidding.
They traveled down the hallway, and Caleb began to get an uncomfortable, extraplanar feeling. They were already out of Material space, but the chamber beyond this one was elsewhere entirely. Another plane, or demiplane. Their exploration led them to a secret study within the “Heirloom Sphere,” and the entire room was filled with ancient books. Upon one wall was a portrait of a tall thin man with light brown skin, long hair, and a pointy beard, gazing upon the party. He wore a flowing, red robe, and his mouth curled into a knowing smile as they approached.
Within this room was a stained glass window, a diagram of the planes that seemed to predate the Calamity itself. There was no Divine Gate, preventing the gods from interfering in the affairs of mortals. And somewhere in the Astral Sea glimmered a small ruby. Fjord moved forward to touch the ruby, but when he did, the window shattered, and Fjord was sucked into the starry sky beyond… and the window re-formed behind him. Fjord was gone.
Caleb searched the room, but the room itself wanted to kill the intruders! Doors with teeth, a desk that turned out to be a mimic, and even more horrors warded this bizarre study. Caleb found a book filled with spell equations, and his touch didn’t activate any traps. However, as Beau inspected the stained glass window for a way to help Fjord, all the rest of the party was sucked into the stained glass window. They tumbled through empty space for some time, until they all landed in an arrow-shaped chamber. A pedestal stood in the room, surrounded by corpse fragment, and the entire space was covered in jewels, and partially buried beneath it was a dragon. A young blue dragon. And it raised its head and addressed the Mighty Nein.
“The smell of unfamiliar sneak-thiefs finds us. The way is shut to you.”
Fjord stammered out an unsteady apology, and asked if the dragon could point them towards the exit.
It sneered. “Where’s the fun in that? Why are you here, little morsel?”
Fjord attempted to leave, but failed to get away, and was simply wound deeper into conversation with the dragon. The dragon explained that Halas was his master, and he gave him gifts in exchange for his obedience. Fjord commented that Halas was probably dead, and the dragon paused for a moment to muse on this possibility. It seemed to accept it as true, and declared itself lord of this manor, and advanced menacingly upon the party. Fjord briefly attempted to offer his services to the dragon, but failed to charm the dragon in quite the way he had hoped.
Critical Role Official Art by Ari Orner (@ornerine)
The Guardian Dragon
The dragon smiled wide, and combat began. The battle raged for several rounds until Jester cast polymorph. Combined with Caduceus’s bane, the dragon was polymorphed into a crimson weasel, and it fell to the ground… and then it took 1 point of damage. But that wasn’t enough to destroy its new form! A fire elemental conjured by Beau, however, then attacked the weasel… transforming it back into a blue dragon. Oops.
Meanwhile, spells spiraling with cold energy were being flung around the battlefield. Every single point of cold damage spent in the battlefield seemed to empower a crystal at the far end of the chamber. The fight went from bad to worse, however, when Beau lost control of her conjured elemental and it went berserk, attacking its former allies indiscriminately. A sphere of energy formed, creating what could only be interpreted as a gate out of the dragon’s lair—and the entire party dashed out of the lair, some with only single-digit hit points remaining.
Then, when she was the only Twiggy left in the room, she threw one last attack. A natural 20. With sneak attack. A killing blow. The dragon trembled and fell… but the berserk fire elemental still lingered in the room. Twiggy jumped toward the sphere and escaped. The Mighty Nein were on the other side, in the hull of the ship with the rest of the crew surrounding the sphere looking towards them in fear and confusion. Orly approached. “Where have you been hanging?” he grumbled. Marius revealed that they had been waiting for them for seven days.
The crew had already arrived at Bisaft Isle and completed the ship’s repairs. Twiggy bade the Mighty Nein farewell, and began to go on her own adventures. She opted to leave her sphere with the Mighty Nein. Twiggy walked over to the gangplank, waved, and said a few words of parting. The rest of her friends waved to her, and Twiggy vanished into the crowd on the island.
The Mighty Nein cleared naught but three rooms of a hundred-room extraplanar dungeon. Will they return? Perhaps someday. 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 Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, 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.