"Curious Beginnings" (2x01) is the first episode of the first chapter of the second campaign for Critical Role. In Wildemount, seven adventurers coalesce in a tavern before finding themselves drawn to a mysterious circus.
- This is the first game of Critical Role's new campaign of Dungeons & Dragons. New viewers were welcomed, as a record-breaking 120,000+ people watched the episode live.
- Critical Role had two sponsors for this episode:
- D&D Beyond: an online tool for Dungeons & Dragons. Critical Role has started using it for their characters and campaign, and D&D Beyond will be a long-term partner. Critical Role content, such as the Blood Hunter class, can now be activated on D&D Beyond. Also, there is a one-time discount of $10 off any digital book in the D&D Beyond marketplace if you use the codeword "beginnings".
- Sam Riegel...no, it's Backblaze: unlimited cloud back-ups for Mac and PC. Sam wrote the sponsor ad way back in mid-December, so it feels a little stale. It is a Backblaze-themed "The Night Before Christmas" ("The Night Before Critmas"), complete with Sam in a Santa Claus hat. You can get 15 days free if you go to backblaze.com/criticalrole.
- Wyrmwood Gaming, in addition to providing new dice boxes for the new campaign, made a new gaming table. It is made of English brown oak, with the Critical Role logo as an inlay. It was built by hand in their Massachusetts office, and involved over 100 man-hours to finish. The Geek & Sundry studio smells like wood now. Sam jokes that when the show gets canceled, it will make a great dining room table.
- merch update from Laura: The 1980s parody ad used as a teaser for the new campaign (by popular demand) is now a poster available for purchase in the Geek & Sundry store. All the ladies go crazy about Matthew Mercer's outfit, much to Matt's embarrassment.
- Laura reminds the other players that there are many first-time viewers who haven't seen or haven't finished the previous campaign. So NO SPOILERS about the Vox Machina campaign!
- All of the episodes of the Vox Machina campaign are now available on the Critical Role Podcast. Podcast episodes for the new campaign will be released one week after the original airdate. For example, "Curious Beginnings" aired live on January 11, 2018, so the podcast episode will be available on January 18, 2018.
- "Vox Machina: Origins" #4 (the fourth issue of the Critical Role comic book) is coming out on January 24, 2018. Liam has already read it and it is so good. It is available for digital download on Comixology, the Dark Horse Comics app, and wherever digital comics are sold.
- Matthew Mercer will be at Paradise City Comic Con in Miami, Florida on January 12-14, 2018. He will also be at Lexington Comic and Toy Con in Lexington, Kentucky on March 9-11, 2018; Otafest in Calgary, Alberta on May 18-20, 2018; and A-Kon in Fort Worth, Texas on June 7-10, 2018.
- Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham will be at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Washington on March 2-4, 2018.
- The cast wants to renew their appreciation and support for 826LA: a really amazing charity that does after-school creative writing and great creative classes for children who are underprivileged and/or lack opportunities to attend these types of classes. Thanks to 826LA for being such an amazing source of creative drive for so many kids. Matthew Mercer asks the Critters to double down on that support and show 826LA the same appreciation, if they can.
- Thank you to Ian Phillips of Iron Tusk Painting, who painted the miniatures for the new campaign. He also painted the cake toppers for Matt and Marisha's wedding. Ashley Johnson grew up with Ian (he was best friends with one of Ashley's brothers), and they reconnected on Instagram when Ian's name was being floated around to create the minis for the new campaign.
- Thank you to Warner Bros./Monolith Entertainment and CD Projekt Red for allowing Critical Role to incorporate music from the soundtracks for "Middle-earth: Shadow of War" and "The Witcher III: Wild Hunt" (respectively) into the new campaign. Matthew Mercer had originally used music from The Witcher in the Pre-Stream, back when Critical Role was still a home game played with Pathfinder.
- Marisha Ray announces Critical Role's brand-new opening title sequence, which is then played.
Previously on Critical Role
"Welcome to Wildemount. The year is  PD, or 'Post-Divergence'. This continent is divided by both jagged terrain and political powers. The Menagerie Coast - a collection of city-states united under the Clovis Concord - monopolizes the southwestern shores and ports of Wildemount, thriving on open trade and cultural freedom.
"Beyond the Cyrios Mountains lies the massive region known as Wynandir , bisected by the Ashkeeper Peaks. Eastern Wynandir houses the expansive waste and turbulent badlands of Xhorhas, overrun with all manner of beasts and terrors, relics from the final battles of the Calamity that ruined that scarred landscape. Northward, you would find the Greying Wildlands, a lawless realm harboring a curse that has kept it unconquered by human hands. However, this story begins in the territory of Western Wynandir, within the boundaries of the Dwendalian Empire.
"Emerging thirteen generations before, the Dwendalian Empire has slowly spread to encompass the surrounding societies of the region - absorbing the peoples of the Zemni Fields and the Marrow Valley, before finally conquering the Julous Dominion and taking the whole of Western Wynandir for the Empire.
"Under the rule of the current King Bertrand Dwendal, now in his 68th year, most are left to their own devices. You live as you did before: the crown only takes a tithe of what you produce and earn. You follow its laws, worship its gods, and bow to its installed local leadership. In return, denizens of the Empire are protected from the chaotic horrors and shadowed evils that stalk the edges of the civilized lands.
"This accord has led to a prosperous century for the Empire...or at least the political elite. Tensions brew beneath the chafing watch of the Crownsguard. Every temple is government-owned and -run, and worship outside the approved idolatry is met with imprisonment. Rumors of military clashes at the eastern border near Xhorhas have many common folk on edge.
"Our story, however, begins much smaller: Here in the southern reaches of the Marrow Valley, beyond the entry gates of the Wuyun Gorge, lies the small rural town of Trostenwald. Bordering the blue waters of the Ustaloch, this town came to prominence near the turn of the recent century when the surrounding fertile farmlands were discovered to produce a unique type of grain and wheat, leading to a boom of breweries. When the glut subsided, three large families stood triumphant in the local business of fermented delights. Now Trostenwald thrives on its export of fish, crops and ale.
"Here in this sleepy trade stop along the Amber Road, a handful of wandering destinies slowly begin to intersect..."
The story opens with two people asleep in a messy upstairs bedroom at the Nestled Nook Inn. The first of the two to wake is Caleb Widogast, a human transmutation wizard. He is unshaven, with ragged traveling clothes and swept back hair. He has been sleeping for about twenty hours. He also appears to be bruised from some previous altercation.
At his feet is Nott the Brave, a young female goblin rogue. She has green skin, yellow eyes, and is dressed in a large cloak.
Nott comments that Caleb had a really bad day yesterday, which is unusual for him. Caleb agrees and asks what has happened since he went to sleep.
Nott states that she "went out" since he was asleep for so long. She went window shopping and stole a few things to try and recover what Caleb lost earlier. Nott was seen without her mask by multiple people (including the Crownsguard), which worries Caleb as goblins are not accepted. He encourages Nott to keep her mask on, stay hidden, and be with Caleb whenever possible in public.
They both go down to the tavern to eat breakfast. The tavern is bustling, with Yorda, the barkeep, and Adelaine, the waitress, trying to keep up. Nott orders meats, potatoes, and bacon, while Caleb just orders some Trosts, the local ale. Nott eats the meat as fast as it arrives and they plan to get more alcohol for Nott and books for Caleb.
A man enters the tavern and seems to approach Caleb and Nott's table, but turns to the table next to it instead. At the table is a blue female tiefling, a human female monk, and a green male half-orc. The blue tiefling is named Jester and is a trickster cleric with a blue dress and short curled horns. Beauregard is a simple-living female monk, with loose clothes and a relaxed attitude. Next to her is Fjord, a green-hued half-orc Hexblade warlock with beat up leathers and several scars.
The man who just entered, a local fisherman named Rinaldo, wishes to give the three of them a reward for saving his daughter from a large snake the previous day. He has gathered as much coin as he could from friends to pay them for their service. He puts the money on the table which garners the attention of Nott and Caleb. Beau, acting as the group's treasurer, begins counting the coins after Rinaldo leaves.
Nott is intrigued by prospect of stealing the coin out the open, but Caleb does not want to do anything since it is already on the table. Jester interrupts the two's conversation to talk to ask them whether they are staying at the inn. Jester then tells Caleb that he should take a bath because "she would not want have someone not tell her that she smelled." She then introduces herself after Nott tries to hide from her by not moving.
The two tables meet and begin to introduce each other, even though neither group trusts the other. Fjord is suspicious especially about Nott and Caleb, who are still whispering about different ways of taking the gold.
Beauregard and Jester quickly figure out that Nott is a goblin, and they also see that Caleb and Nott have been whispering together. Caleb explicitly reveals that Nott is a goblin, having misunderstood one of things that Beau asked of Nott.
As the tensions are resolved, a male tiefling and a very pale woman enter the tavern. Mollymauk Tealeaf, a lavender tiefling blood hunter, introduces himself to the group as a barker for The Fletching and Moondrop Traveling Carnival of Curiosities. Meanwhile, Yasha, a female aasimar barbarian, sits at the bar drinking an ale, occasionally contributing to Mollymauk's pitch without enthusiasm.
Mollymauk immediately endears himself to Jester, who asks him to do a card reading. He pulls three cards from the rigged deck: The Silver Dragon, the Anvil, and the Serpent card. He claims that this means she is virtuous or a good person; has a forged destiny; and that it was fated for her to fight a giant snake the previous day. Jester excitedly asks if she will find her dad. Mollymauk pulls one more card, "The Eye", and says that she has already found a clue. He then tells her that he will give her a more complex reading at the carnival.
Molly and Yasha again encourage everyone to come to the carnival and leave after Yasha finishes her drink.
As the group remaining in the inn continues talking, Nott reveals that Caleb is a very good wizard. Caleb snaps his fingers and his cat familiar Frumpkin appears out of thin air from under his table. This impresses Jester and Beau who both play with the cat.
Jester asks if Caleb is also going to the Soltryce Academy, which is where Fjord, Beauregard, and Jester are headed. To demonstrate her magic, Jester uses her Thaumaturgy cantrip and opens all the windows. The loud bang of the windows opening causes everyone in the tavern to stop and look at her. Fjord reminds Jester that they are supposed to avoiding scrutiny. She then tries to gingerly close the windows, but ends up slamming the windows shut with another casting of Thaumaturgy.
The Soltryce group try to convince Caleb about joining the school, but Caleb appears more interested in acquiring books to study on his own.
Jester then tries to teach Nott a card game called "Crick Queen's Call." Nott borrows two silver pieces from Caleb in order to bet something in the game. Both players cheat at the game, but Jester ends up winning anyway. When Nott loses, she pulls her shortsword and Beau tries to grapple her but fails. Caleb stops Nott and tells her it is okay to give Jester the coins since they were his anyway. Beau and Fjord recommend that Jester give back the money since it was a training game, but Jester resists as she did not get back any money during her training game. She eventually does give the money back after Caleb orders them drinks.
Fjord asks Nott if she is being hunted and Nott pretends that she is not, failing to deceive him.
The group begins to warm up to each other, and since the only post on the bounty board is for a vole infestation, they decide to go on a brewery tour of the major family breweries. Caleb also wants to go look for more books.
The group spends the rest of the day doing the tour, but decide not to go to the Baumbauch Brewery due to Jester, Beau, and Fjord swindling the employees the previous day. They meet Voss and June at the Husseldorf Brewery, and visit the von Brandt Brewery as well.
Caleb only finds books about farming in a parchment store. He asks if there is any place to find other books, but the shop owner only recommends an expensive visit to the Library of the Cobalt Soul. During this time, Jester completely rearranges all of the books in the store.
With the sun going down, the group gathers at the carnival. They meet up with Molly and Yasha again and all begin to head to the main tent for the event...
- Keyword for the giveaway is "Beginnings"
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The group approaches the tent and observes Mollymauk telling a fortune to a farmer with a bad cough. Molly seems perplexed by the man asking a fortune teller for advice with a physical ailment and suggests he see a physician.
Jester and Beau try and fail to convince Yasha to waive their entry fees and/or let them keep their weapons. Bo "the Breaker", a half-orc, introduces himself. Caleb likens Bo's name to Beau's, causing the two to joke and bond.
Caleb and Jester hand their weapons to Yasha. Beau tries to lie about her quarterstaff being a walking stick to keep it. When Yasha offers to carry Beau to her seat, she gives up the act immediately. Nott gives up her shortsword and tries to hide her crossbow, but fails so badly that Yasha forcefully takes the crossbow from her. Fjord gives up his falchion after a conversation punctuated by long, silent stares.
Mollymauk shows Jester the Moon and Shadow cards, asking if it means anything to her. She says yes, but does not say anything else about them. Yasha carries Beau to her seat "fireman style". The group all enter the carnival tent and take in the scenery. Beau tries to have Yasha "hold" her through out the show, but Yasha replies that being held by her incredibly strong arms is worth five gold. Beau declines the offer.
The show begins as the tent darkens and music plays. Desmond Moondrop descends from the ceiling wearing blue clothes and makeup and hangs by his foot from a rope while playing his violin. The Elf ringmaster enters the tent from the entrance wearing his hat and takes a bow.
The carnival master, Gustav, introduces the circus to scattered applause. Gustav promises to show the crowd an incredible and unique performance. He begins to tell a tale of two sisters trapped underground who learned to escape from snakes. Two halfling dancers emerge from behind Gustav dressed like snakes. They approach the pole of the tent and begin to contort in supernatural ways.
The music picks up and the two dancers climb up the vertical pole, appearing almost like snakes at times. They silently move up the pole together, making a "strange but alluring sight". Their dance becomes more and more feverish before they spin back down to the ground.
Gustav steps out to introduce the next act. Desmond now wears a black outfit and plays an ominous tune. The lights darken once more. Gustav tells a rhyming poem as a burst of flame occurs. Ornna the Fire Fairy appears. With her pair of metallic fans and gold and red dress, she appears to be "fighting" the darkness. She matches the pace of the music and does an incredible jump, concluding her performance.
A drum beats and the fiddle plays while Gustav steps out again, speaking ominously of strange beasts from Xhorhas. A terrible roar erupts as Bo and Desmond drag a large, scaly toadlike creature by chains into the tent. The "devil-toad" is pulled out into the center of the tent, terrifying the audience. Gustav asks how a savage beast like the "devil-toad" would react if the "guiding heart of innocence" reached its soul, introducing the young singer Toya.
Toya begins to sing a beautiful song and the "devil-toad" stops struggling. Everyone in the audience is mesmerized and brought to tears by the song, which sounds like an invisible chorus is magically backing it. The devil-toad comes to sit at the base of the pole to watch Toya sing. In the crowd, an elderly man stands up and reaches out toward Toya before he starts convulsing. His body begins to grow and change, as people nearby panic.
The party immediately spring to action to meet this new threat. Jester Invokes Duplicity, creating an illusion of herself. Fjord asks Yasha to return their weapons. Beau doesn't quite realize that the old man becoming a zombie isn't part of the show before the fight begins.
Jester casts Guiding Bolt, illuminating the creature. The crowd begins rushing towards the entrance as Toya is quickly grabbed by the "devil-toad" and brought to safety. The zombie creature brutally attacks and mauls a woman to death. It then begins looking for another victim.
Yasha gives out everyone's weapons. Fjord runs up and slashes at the zombie with his falchion. Caleb uses Chromatic Orb to deal cold damage.
Nott tries to soothe the creature by singing like Toya did earlier to the "devil-toad," with comically bad results. Beauregard is slow to react, still momentarily convinced that the zombie attack is a part of the act, but finally attacks the creature with a flurry of blows that knocks the zombie around.
The women that was mauled changes into the same type of creature and the group realizes that these are undead creatures.
Mollymauk pulls a sword and slices himself with it, turning the edge to ice with his Rite of the Frozen. He then slices the first creature, which is starting to fall apart.
Jester calls out to the air, saying "This is the coolest shit we've ever seen!." She then casts Toll the Dead on the first creature, dealing a small amount of damage as a loud bell sound rings out.
The first zombie reaches out and strikes Beauregard twice. The woman zombie tries to hit Mollymauk, but he uses Blood Maledict which makes her miss. Fjord is able to hit her with his falchion as she stumbles past. The zombie then swipes and hits Mollymauk.
Yasha rages and attacks, slashing the first zombie in two. The creature tries to maintain its form, but falls apart from the attack.
Fjord then focuses on the zombie woman and Hexes her before making an attack. Though she seems damaged, she does not fall.
Caleb casts Chromatic Orb again, but his aim is off due to the jostling of the fleeing crowd and the acidic orb flies through the tent.
Nott pulls out her hand crossbow and fires at the remaining zombie, doing extra damage with her sneak attack. Nott then tries and fails to find anything in the crowd nearby worth stealing.
Mollymauk continues to slash with his scimitars at the zombie woman. Both slashes hit, but the zombie keeps reforming as it nears the edge of collapse.
Beauregard then comes in behind Mollymauk and strikes the woman zombie, followed by another Flurry of Blows. The final hit smashes her face in, and the zombie falls dead.
As the battle finishes, Gustav and the rest of the Carnival employees start trying to figure out what has happened. The Soltryce group notes the coincidence of Toya's song and the man's transformation, but Gustav says that she is just a normal dwarven girl who was homeless.
At this point, the very jumpy Crownsguards call for backup and due to some playfulness Jester is almost attacked for being a zombie. The rest of the guards enter and immediately arrest Gustav and Bo the Breaker for the event. Gustav tries to convince the Watchmaster that Mollymauk is not a part of the carnival, but he is also arrested.
Yasha tells one of the guards, named Flynn, that Toya was responsible for the attack, offering to show Flynn to Toya's tent. She leads the guard to an empty tent, but after he enters she turns around and flees into the woods.
The Watchmaster tells the rest of the group that they should not leave town or he will find them.
- Adelaine, a barmaid at the Nestled Nook Inn
- Bosun, a Half-Orc carnival performer
- Enon Brinjay, an elderly man who attended the carnival
- Gustav Fletching, an Elven carnival master
- Flynn, a nervous Crownsguard
- June Husseldorf
- Voss Husseldorf
- Jossyd, the Watchmaster of Trostenwald
- Kylre the Devil Toad
- Mona, a Halfling acrobat
- Desmond Moondrop, a fiddler fool
- Ornna the Fire Fairy
- Rinaldo, a grateful fisherman
- Toya the Vivid Voice, a young Dwarven singer
- Yorda, an innkeeper at the Nestled Nook Inn
- Yuli, a Halfling acrobat
- Sheenah, owner of the Hillsbrook Parchment and Binding
- King Bertrand Dwendal
- Fryda Langer, the Starosta of Trostenwald
|Relinquished||1||dagger||Caleb||Yasha||Surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Relinquished||1||sickle||Jester||Yasha||Surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Relinquished||1||quarterstaff||Beau||Yasha||Surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Relinquished||1||shortsword||Nott||Yasha||Surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Relinquished||1||hand crossbow||Nott||Yasha||Involuntarily surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Relinquished||1||falchion||Fjord||Yasha||Surrendered in order to watch the carnival, but reclaimed immediately prior to the fight.|
|Transferred||25||copper||Caleb, Jester, Beau, Nott, and Fjord||Bo the Breaker||Carnival fee|
- Nott: I am a little goblin girl.
- Jester: (to Caleb) You should take a bath. You know they have showers here. It’s possible. [...] It’s because you smell really bad, and it’s wafting over this direction. I’m just letting you know. I would hate if I smelled that bad and someone didn’t tell me.
- Matt originally misstated the year of the campaign as "335 PD" in his intro. He later corrected the year via voiceover for the YouTube video.
- This episode had the first roll of the dice for the new campaign (by Fjord), which was coincidentally also the first natural 20.
- Nott's opening line ("Hey you, you're finally awake") is a reference to the opening lines of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
- The in-game date at the beginning of this episode was 16 Sydenstar 835.