"Critical Role Extra – The Return of Liam!" (Sx15), also known as "The Screw Job", is the fifteenth special episode of Critical Role. In this one-shot Dungeons & Dragons adventure created by Dungeon Master Liam O'Brien, several members of the Clasp set off on a heist in Emon's recent past.
'Hey there, friends. Let me ask you something: Chroma Conclave got you down? Aw, sure it does. That's a heavy scene, man. Remember when things were simpler? When the biggest threats around were an eyeball under a mountain and a Bohemian power couple? (sighs) Good times. Hey, what do you say we turn the clock back a bit? Welcome back to Emon, before the dragons came.
Anyone in the mood for a heist job? Okay, let's go over what we're doing tonight. Everybody remember this gentleman, Spireling Shenn? Yeah, I like the look of this guy. You probably recall him attempting to reach a business arrangement between the Clasp and Vox Machina in the days after Emon fell. It didn't really pan out, and that's okay. He's always been a busy guy, has multiple irons in the fire on any given day, and on this cold and rainy evening, he simply needs something retrieved for him. Something important. Only trouble is, it belongs to someone else. Someone who'd rather not part with it.
This is Adelaide Bluebutton, better known as the Shrew. Adelaide is a rather successful businesswoman here in Emon. She buys and sells exotic curiosities from all the far-flung corners of the world, mostly on the black market. Oh, and she's really good at money laundering, too, which the Clasp would know; they've used her extensively in the past. Had a bit of a falling-out in recent months, though. The Clasp invited her to join them, but Adelaide wasn't interested, and with her business growing the way it was-- well, the Clasp prefers people they can control. And by the way, if you're by any chance wondering how she came by the moniker "The Shrew," she earned it. Bluebutton is as mean a son of a bitch as you will ever meet. A visiting merchant once tried to get the drop on her and steal her wares. She ripped his arms off without lifting a finger. But a mark is a mark, and Spireling Shenn wants something specific. Earlier this year, Adelaide acquired an emerald as big as a cantaloupe: Tagmut's Eye. Priceless. That is a substantial amount of capital that the Clasp could bend to its purposes. That's where these guys come in.
This is Tarvis. Yes, that is the name Travis went with. He's an assassin-- a good one. Tarvis is the lead on one of Shenn's many teams here in Emon. He's also being groomed for more responsibility by his higher-ups, and is entirely devoted to his masters. His instructions: lead his team into Adelaide Bluebutton's private residence, find the gem, and get the hell out of Dodge. Simple.
Actually, I should probably confess something here. All of our players tonight? They've been given secrets, and they all think they're the only ones. Tarvis's secret? The gem is actually a cover Shenn has given him, specifically, to keep the rest of his team from knowing the mission's true objective: the Shrew's secret records. Shenn has told him to find a green leather-bound ledger containing the name of every shady character the Shrew has ever dealt with in Emon, including traitors to the throne. Valuable information. But according to Shenn, intelligence indicates that the book will most likely be found in the woman's basement or possibly in some sort of vault on the second floor, it's not clear. He's to find the book and keep it secret from his team.
This fellow here is Obby the Rat. He's quick with his hands and quicker with his mouth. He's the break-in guy. Hasn't met many locked doors that can slow him down. Obby has known Tarvis for years. They used to play in the streets together as kids, and Tarvis saved him from enough ass-kickings that he is fiercely loyal to the half-orc. Loves that big guy. Also, I gave him no secrets, just because I thought it would be funny.
Next, we move on to Delweth. Good with a blade, knows a bit of magic, just as easily kill you as look at you. She's pretty badass. Also, just between you and me: she secretly loathes Tarvis. She's been with the Clasp for years, and is itching for advancement, but instead of her, they fawn over the half-orc instead. So she's decided tonight is her chance to solve that problem. That's her secret: once they secure this gem, Tarvis is a dead man. Hell, probably the whole team. What happens at the Shrew's stays at the Shrew's. And as far as the Clasp will know, they all died doing what they loved.
And this is Dren. She may be small, but trust me, she can wreck your day. Although lately, she's been doing a lot of babysitting. See, the team actually has an outsider in tow tonight: someone who knows Adelaide and knows the house almost as well as the Shrew does. Dren has been assigned to guarding this turncoat for close to two months now. The Clasp has kept her under house arrest, and Dren has been the one to bring her food, keep her from bolting, pass the time with her... In fact, probably too much time. See, she and her charge have fallen in love. Or lust. You know what? It's complicated. But Dren has revealed to her prisoner that despite their word, the Clasp intends to kill her as soon as the job is done. So the two have cooked up a plan: once the emerald has been secured, they kill everyone, take the gem, and live happily ever after in another city.
Which just leaves us with Devan. Devan is... well, a gambling addict, mostly. She's pretty good with magic, too, but losing money is her real gift. Three months ago, Devan drunkenly shot her mouth off at the wrong card table and boasted that she knew the Shrew, and what's more, she knew the lay of the old hag's house like it was her own. And she was even telling the truth. See, Devan is the Shrew's granddaughter. Well estranged granddaughter. All right, they hate each other. Grandma Adelaide once trained Devan as she came to master the family's innate magical talents. Only for a few years, though, when she was younger, after the kid's mother cut and ran. But for some reason, it didn't end well, and the old woman kicked her out on the street. What can you do? Well, before she could blink, the Clasp had promptly bought up all her gambling debt, and now they have her under their thumb. They gave her a choice: guide Tarvis's team through her grandmother's death trap of a house or take a dirt nap in the sewers. Now, remember, bringing Dren back into the story, the two halfling lovers have hatched a plan: once the gem is procured, they kill the others and run off into the sunset. There's just one thing: Devan doesn't love Dren. She's playing her. Once the others are down, she's taking out Dren, grabbing the emerald, and splitting town on her own. Nothing personal.
So there you have it. Thanks for tuning in tonight, and welcome back to Emon.
The party waits at the Diamond Nest tavern waiting for Spireling Shenn to give the signal to start the heist. Garthok arrives and gives the bat signal, so the crew rolls out with their prisoner - Devan Bluebutton - in tow. They speak with Shenn one last time in his office where he informs the gang that The Shrew has left on a trip to Vasselheim and her house is empty - easy pickings. Their target is Tagmut's Eye, an emerald as large as Obby's very large head.
The party travels through the sewers to The Shrew's home in the Graveyard Distrct of Emon. They find the pipe leading up to the Shrew's home is flooded due to the heavy rainfall recently. Tarvis and Delwen take a moment to threaten Devan in case she tries to run while Obby teaches everyone why exactly people call him "the Rat". Obby spidermans his way up the pipe, but Delweth notices some loose bricks at the sewer wall nearby. Devan pulls the bricks revealing a curled up rat Sigil, the Sigil of the Shrew. Devan cuts her hand and applies her own blood to the sigil to activate it, revealing a secret door.
The conga line of coldhearted clasp criminals pass through the secret door and follow a dark winding passage for a while until the eponymous Tarvis steps on a trap. The crew concoct a brilliant plan to disarm the trap, but the sagacious Obby panics and runs ahead of the party, triggering another trap and showering the party in acid. Eventually Obby finds another Sigil of the Shrew and attempts to activate it with his blood. Only blood relatives of the Shrew such as Devan can activate these sigils, so Devan activates it and reveals another door.
The party finds a storage room full of crates and a halfling desk in the corner. Dren searches through papers on the desk finds a contract to surveil General Krieg Tristan. The party heads to the basement and are attacked by several mimic chests.
From the basement they head upstairs tothe first floor into the Shrew's office and find what looks like 5 dog beds. Devan doesn't recall her grandmother having any dogs though, so these must be new. The crew proceeds to the front of the mansion to the spiral staircases leading to the second floor. Through the windows they spot 3 guards posted outside the mansion and proceed stealthily.
Upstairs, Obby and Dren search the library finding some porn books. Obby recommends that Dren keep it and practice with Devan later. Meanwhile, Delweth and Devan investigate the tea room and Devan opens up about wanting to make friends and Delweth promises to protect Devan.
Devan shows the crew her old room which has been emptied and is now used as storage for some old furniture covered in sheets. The crew ransack the place hoping to find backstreet boys posters, playing cards and any sign of Devan's childhood trauma to no avail. Finally they leave Devan's childhood behind and head to the Magic Fun Room.
Once entered the Magic Fun Room, Devan tells the team to lift up a shield which is on a side of the room. Obby obeys, but it doesn’t happen anything. Devan figures her grandma must have changed some stuff in all the years she hasn’t been around. Devan warns the party not to touch anything aside what she tells them to. They start looking for a wall sconce to pull out, but it is not where Devan remembered it to be. Tarvis reaches for a carpet on the floor and lifts an edge, discovering what seems an arcane scrawl underneath it, which goes further under the carpet. Delweth recognises the scrawl as a magic sigil that if activated will turn gravity haywire. She tells the party not to step on it. The room is filled with manic crap, and Obby picks up a big gorgeous wasp he sees On one armoire. It is big as a bird, and as soon as he picks it, the wasp sticks it’s stinger into Obby’s wrist. Devan is leading the way, but as they party’s walking through the room she suddenly vanishes, and finds herself submerged in water, and she can see nothing, her hands still tied behind your back. She immediately feels multiple poisonous bites all over her body. The party starts searching for her, and Delweth finds another sigil behind a painting on the side of the room. They seem unable to identify it, when they hear a sound coming from one of the other rooms to the right. They bolt down to the door. Daren tries to open it, but as soon as she touches the handle, she gets electrocuted. Nevertheless, the door opens: inside, they see a large fish tank with Devan inside struggling against the urge to breathe and the poisonous fish. Delweth casts Acid Splash on the fish tank but it’s just too thick. Dren hits it, while Devan, seeing the light coming through the door that the party has just opened, swims towards it. While the party tries to break the fish tank, Devan casts Misty Step and appears next to Dren and Delweth, drenched and coughing. The party inquires her about her guidance abilities, and Tarvis refuses to untie her. Dren manages to stealthily feed a greater healing potion.
Coming out of the fish tank room, back in the Magic not-so-Fun-anymore Room, Devan spots another sigil of the shrew across the room, but Tarvis don’t let her hands free to activate it. Delweth lifts her, and with a bit of contortionism the sigil is activated, and a wooden door opens.
They enter in a perfectly round room, all made out from metal, 30 feet high. Obby notices in the center of the floor a circle a foot and a half wide, and he figures is the same size as the brass column they saw earlier in the basement. He goes to investigate it, suspecting there might be something under it. Meanwhile, Devan and Dren plan how to get away with the jewel they’ll find. Dren gets to loosen Devan’s ropes. At that moment, they all hear a sort of clank high above them, and they notice metal doors have slammed shut behind them, sealing them inside the room. In their head they all hear a voice saying they’re not supposed to be there. Suddenly, they find themselves surrounded by 4 smoking, misty, angry dogs, a white one bigger than the others. The battle rages, with the dogs teleporting continuously from one side to another. Devan cast Chromatic Orb at the big dog biting Tarvis, missing it. After a few hits have been exchanged between the wolves and the party, The voice is back, as a bulbous green entity comes down out of the tower and attacks Delweth with a beam of blackish light, but it misses her. Devan gets flanked by two wolves, and casts Burning Hands on them, killing one. Then she heals a bit with a potion. Delweth continues her duel with the entity, casting Sleep on it, but fails. Meanwhile, Dren kills another dog. Delweth identifies the entity as a baby Beholder. Delven burns the third dog to death and takes another potion. Tarvis, which has been fighting poorly through all the mission, takes out his whip and tries to take a strike at the last dog, but only manages to hurt himself. Dren heals herself with a potion, then finishes off the last dog standing. Obby is hit by a ray of the beholder, and goes slack. Eventually, Delweth manages to end the beholder, which falls limp on Tarvis. Delven activates the sigil for the next room, which reveals to be just a little treasure closet where the party sees the jewel they’re looking for laying on a pillow. Devan, which is the first to go in, casts Minor Illusion to make it look like there’s two jewels, one next to the other. There is also a green book, which Tarvis reaches for. Devan catches the actual jewel and passes it to Dren, while Delweth reaches for the fake one, passing through it. She figures is another trick left behind by the Shrew.
At this moment, Tarvis has what he came for, and tries to slit Delven’s throat, but she notices him, and the showdown is on: Delven casts Mirror image, and three other Devans appear next to her, then she starts running to the doors (which are still shut since the dog fight) along with another Deven. Tarvis and Obby both take a shot to them, and Obby manages to hit the real Deven, while Dren steals the green book from Tarvis and reaches for the exit as well. Devan manages to blind both Delweth and Obby. One by one the Mirror images are taken down.
Dren steps up, and force everyone to stop the fighting, revealing she loves Devan, and threatening to destroy either the book or the jewel if the party won’t let her and Devan to get away safely. It seems a Mexican standoff, where Dren is trying to bargain the emerald for the lives of her and Devan. Tarvis refuses to negotiate, and the battle resumes. Delweth casts Burning Hands on the two halflings. Devan casts a Mirror Image of the emerald rolling across the floor. Dren and Tarvis keep on dueling, and Tarvis heals a little. Devan casts Ray of Frost at Obby. Eventually, Delweth and Tarvis manages to get Devan. Obby gives her a stab, then steals her healing potions. Dren runs to her love, laying unconscious on the ground, and feeds her a potion. Their situation is desperate for the halflings, and Devan goes unconscious again under Delweth and Tarvis strikes. Obby search Devan’s body, and Dren desperately tries to pry open the sigil that controls the doors. Tarvis kills Deven. Dren screams. Delweth attacks her, then sneaks behind Tarvis. Obby takes the jewel from Devan’s corpse, then throws a dagger at Dren. Dren knows this is her final stand, incapable of fleeing and cornered, she rips up the ledger, and says her final haiku (see fanart). Tarvis, extremely upset for the loss of his true objective, the green book now shred to pieces, chokes Dren with his whip. Dren dies, joining her beloved Devan once again. Tarvis collects the ledger’s pieces, and along with Delweth and Obby finds three levers in the room. Obby cuts off Delven’s hand, while the other two pull the levers. Obby and Delweth get electrocuted with electricity running through the floor as soon as Tarvis pulls a lever. They instantly fall unconscious. Tarvis manages to feed them an healing potion, then they hear a fizzle behind them, where they now can see a little old woman standing in the closet where the book and the jewel were. She raises a staff, and a transparent cage appears around the three thiefs. The Shrew kills them all, drying out all the moisture in their bodies. So it ends the suicide mission.
- Tarvis: Give Obby a hug for checking out that dangerous pipe for you.
Delweth: He’s covered in number one.
Obby: It’s okay, I am frequently used as punishment.
- "Critical Role Extra – The Return of Liam!" (Sx15) thumbnail featuring Liam O'Brien, by PettyArtist (source). This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
- Fan art of Dren's final haiku, by Truffery (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Delweth, Obby, and Tarvis attempting to kill Dren and Devan, by David Rodrigues (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of the characters from "Critical Role Extra – The Return of Liam!" (Sx15), by Thomas Brin (source). Used with permission.