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Critical Role Wiki

"Desperate Measures" (1x40) is the fortieth episode of the first campaign of Critical Role. Vox Machina must deal with the Chroma Conclave's attack on Emon and the possible slaughter of much of the city's leadership and notable citizenry.




Previously on Critical Role[]

"The group Vox Machina, after finishing their foray in Whitestone, finding a member of the CouncilRiskel Daxio, who was a cult member for this entity called Vecna—bringing him to justice and executing him in the throne room of the palace of Emon. They discovered, during the search, the Traveling Troupe of Dr. Dranzel's performance troupe, which Scanlan used to be a part of. During this time they kind of hashed a plan to have Vox Machina seek this house, that apparently had fallen into disarray and the owner disappeared for a while, that may contain some goods. The party went and investigated it—they had previously been to the house and were curious as to where it stands at this point in time, especially if people were disappearing into it.

"Upon going into what was once General Krieg's house, where they once fought a blue dragon, they discovered the corpse of Krieg, long buried from the collapse of the cavern and picked apart by some sort of other large clawed creature, and immediately got into some sort of a fight with a purple worm and a frost worm that were essentially battling over whatever it was that was moving in that tunnel that seemed to be nice and tasty. These adolescent worm creatures, not even fully grown, proved a nice little challenge, but the party managed to succeed in escaping after killing them, before the mother showed up.

"They returned to Emon, managed to help Scanlan's now-discovered daughter Kaylie out of a pinch and getting imprisoned after she got in a major bar brawl, and the party returned to their Keep, where they were notified that Uriel, the Sovereign of Tal'Dorei and the city-state of Emon, had an announcement to make in the Cloudtop District. So [they] gathered Gilmore, gathered the rest of the party, and everyone went to the Cloudtop District around [dusk] at the presentational stage. At which point, Uriel announced that he felt he was no longer a worthy leader or ruler of this entire realm that he has under his watch, and is deciding to step down.

"During this announcement, however, a number of strange entities came through the clouds in the sky, as a series of chromatic ancient dragons swooped in and began to just destroy the city of Emon. Many of the townsfolk gathered at that square were immediately killed. The party, as well as a few other straggling survivors, ran away as both the gargantuan black and green dragons began to chase [them] down. Right before they honed in to pick [the party] off, an even larger ancient red dragon shoved them off to head east, to continue their plot, after slamming down into the center of Emon and claiming it as his own domain. The party escaped via the druid's Transport via Plants spell and just stepped through the tree to land in the center of their Keep of Greyskull."

Part I[]


Escaping from Emon' Cloudtop District using Keyleth's Transport via Plants, Vox Machina returns to Greyskull Keep in the midst of the Chroma Conclave's attack. After sending the keep's staff to the relative safety of the basement, some of the party goes to the keep's outer walls, only to find dozens of Emon's refugees clamoring for entry. Vax'ildan passionately orders the guards to open the gates and escort the refugees inside, but an ancient white dragon approaches the keep and attacks--despite being ordered to pursue other tasks by an ancient red dragon in "Omens" (1x39).

Vox Machina attempts to fight off the ancient white dragon, with Trinket being frozen to unconsciousness and many refugees frozen to death. Pike heals Trinket, and the party prepares to flee. Before the situation becomes more dire, the ancient red dragon again orders the ancient white dragon-- revealing his name as Vorugal-- to continue east. Vorugal flies off, leaving Vox Machina and the surviving refugees in a traumatized state. Approximately twenty-five refugees survive and stay the night in Greyskull Keep's temple.[1] Pike casts Planar Ally to summon an angel to rebuild the temple.[2]

As the red dragon flies over the city, his voice rings out, telling the people that if they fight or flee they will forfeit his mercy. The people are to abandon their gods and convictions for their new purpose: to serve the dragon.

The Wishing Skull[]

Grog asks to speak to Percy privately in Percy's workshop, asking him to lock the door behind him. He tells Percy that the evil skull from General Krieg's house grants a wish that only those that dark things have touched can use, which Grog figures is Percy and himself. He feels that they need to use the skull's wish to combat the dragons. Percy does not disagree, telling Grog to go get the others in case something goes wrong, but Grog is reluctant, finally agreeing to get either Vax or Keyleth. As soon as he leaves, Percy takes the skull from its hiding place and speaks to it, receiving a long whisper from Matt.

Grog asks to speak to Vax alone, telling him that Percy wants him downstairs-- it's about the skull. Vax tells Vex to come downstairs as well if he's not back in five minutes, and follows Grog.


The break included Episode One of Matt Mercer's tips for GMs, titled "Encounter Building"[3]

Part II[]

Before they enter the workshop where Percy and the skull await, Grog tells Vax that he wanted to do this himself, but the skull asked for Percy. When they go in, the skull is on a table covered with the tapestry. Percy explains that there is something evil or not good inside the skull, and it has offered to grant them a wish if they set it free, but that he feels that the terms have not yet been spelled out. When he reveals the skull, it speaks to them, asking that its prison be destroyed and claiming it does not know who it is.

Grog is insistent that they destroy the skull immediately in order to save the city from the dragons, but Percy and Vax are opposed, given that they don't know what they will be releasing. Vex comes in, and Vax goes upstairs to get Keyleth and Pike. While he's gone, Vex notices Percy stealthily move the skull behind his back. Grog shuts the door and blocks it, confronting Percy, saying he wants the skull right now. Percy refuses, asking if "his new friend" has an opinion on the skull. Percy says that he will not use it, but he doesn't trust Grog not to.

The others arrive at the doorway, but Grog is blocking it and they cannot enter. Vex then proposes that Percy and Grog give her the skull, since she's not touched by anything dark, and Percy hands it to her. Grog tries to convince her to give it to him, while Percy doesn't want it himself but doesn't want Grog to have it. She removes its tapestry cover and asks it what it wants. It replies again, "to be freed."


Fan art of Grog and Percy fighting over the skull, by Thomas Brin.[art 1]

Simultaneously, Grog bum rushes Vex, Percy uses quick draw to pull his pistol and shove Vex and the skull out of Grog's way, and the now-freed door flies open allowing the others to enter. Grog tackles Percy, knocking him to the ground, then stands in front of Vex, guarding her, before turning and pulling the skull from her grasp. He tries to spike it into the ground, but sees Pike looking at him in disappointment and the skull fails to break, allowing Vex to recover it and dash out of the room. Keyleth attempts Hold Person on Grog, Percy, and Vex, but succeeds only with Percy. Vex and Vax continue moving upstairs, but run into Erwen, who tells them a guest has arrived: Lady Allura, with a companion. Vex asks for them to be brought downstairs to the party, hoping it will calm the situation.

Allura Returns to Emon[]

Lady Allura's companion is a dwarf elementalist named Drake Thunderbrand. She and Vox Machina share information, revealing a great deal of Critical Role's lore:

  • Lady Allura was in Whitestone when a terrible feeling overcame her, and her connection to the teleportation sigils in her tower and in the Alabaster Lyceum were suddenly severed. She teleported herself and Drake Thunderbrand to Greyskull Keep as it was the only place she had enough familiarity with outside the city.[4]
  • The skull contains the soul of a very old githyanki trapped in a soul gem, who may or may not be able to grant a wish. The granting of a wish can be extremely dangerous.[5]
  • Lady Allura does not know of Raishan or Umbrasyl.[6]
  • Vorugal has been known to wander the wastes north in Othanzia, and some of Vorugal's offspring have wandered farther. The Skysunder that Vox Machina destroyed two years earlier (in-game time) that was sealed in the Frostweald was one of Vorugal's children. Vorugal has not been seen wandering out as far as Emon before.[7]
  • The ancient red dragon is named Thordak, the Cinder King.[8]

    Fan art of Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia comforting each other after the Chroma Conclave's attack on Emon, by David Rodrigues.[art 2]

  • Thordak destroyed Byroden, the childhood hometown of Vex'ahlia and Vax'ildan, killing the twins' mother.[9]
  • Lady Allura once travelled with an adventuring party that included Lady Kima, Drake Thunderbrand, Sirus, Dohla, and Ghenn. Lady Allura's party sealed Thordak in the Elemental Plane of Fire at the cost of Sirus, Dohla, and Ghenn's lives.[10]
  • Lady Allura assures Keyleth[11] that Thordak was not freed by Keyleth destroying the spark stone she obtained in "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22)[12].
  • Lady Allura supposes that even if Vox Machina's killing of Brimscythe invited the Chroma Conclave's assault on Emon, then the responsibility still weighs more heavily on Allura for trapping Thordak in the first place.[13]
  • Westruun must have been attacked, because Lady Allura lost her connection to the sigils there.[14]
    Keyleth's Scry on Pyrah - linzer art

    Fan art of Keyleth's Scry on Pyrah, by linzer art.[art 3]

  • Keyleth Scrys on Pyrah, learning it has been destroyed, apparently during Thordak's escape from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Where the Fire Ashari village once stood, there is now nothing but sundered wood, charred bodies, and trees flattened by an explosive blast. In the center, there is a large, ominous, flickering gash between the Elemental Plane of Fire and the Material Plane, roughly thirty to forty feet in width and height, as magma pours out of it. Wandering imps, elementals, and various entities continue to escape from the portal into the mountains.[15]

Next Steps[]

Vex and Vax vow to each other that they will kill Thordak, or they will die trying.[16] Vox Machina, Lady Allura, and Drake Thunderbrand decide that their next course of action should be to assess which of their allies still live.[17]

Featured Characters[]

Vox Machina[]






  • Thordak: “Hear me, insects! You that live do so out of mercy. Fight or flee and you forfeit that mercy. Know that your pitiful guardians brought this upon you. That blood is on their hands! Vengeance has been swift, and in its wake, a new age is upon you. Be thankful, for until now your lives had no purpose. No meaning. Abandon your gods, your paltry convictions, for now you have a new purpose: to serve me!”[18]
  • Vax'ildan: I don’t know what’s going to happen in the following hours. Do not go far from me. If we are out of earshot, you are too far from me. Do not go far from me.
    Vex'ahlia: Do you think this is what– Do you think this is what Mother saw before she died?
    Vax'ildan: Do not go far from me.
    Vex'ahlia: I won’t, I swear.[19]


  1. See "In Ruins" (1x41) at 28:48.
  2. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 1:25:31.  The angel is identified as a "deva-like entity" in "Dangerous Dealings" (1x42) at 0:11:59.
  3. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) from 1:39:11 through 1:46:16.
  4. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:27:39.
  5. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:30:00.
  6. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:33:20.
  7. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:34:10.
  8. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:36:18.
  9. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:38:21.
  10. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) from 2:38:07 through 2:41:13.
  11. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) from 2:40:54 through 2:42:04.
  12. See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) at 4:15:16.
  13. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) from 2:43:52 through 2:46:17.
  14. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:47:54.
  15. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) from 2:49:42 through 2:53:41.
  16. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:51:05.
  17. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 2:55:30.
  18. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 1:14:32.
  19. See "Desperate Measures" (1x40) at 1:31:15.


  1. Fan art of Grog and Percy fighting over the skull, by Thomas Brin (source). Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Vax'ildan and Vex'ahlia comforting each other after the Chroma Conclave's attack on Emon, by David Rodrigues (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Keyleth's Scry on Pyrah, by linzer art (source). Used with permission.