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Critical Role Wiki

This page is about the enemy faced by Vox Machina prior to the beginning of the stream. For the similarly-named Betrayer God, see The Strife Emperor.

The Dread Emperor was one of the major enemies that Vox Machina fought prior to the stream. He was a deviation of the "Dread Emperor" example villain from Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd ed.[1] As an NPC, he was played by Matthew Mercer.




Art of the Dread Emperor's child form, by Wendy Sullivan Green. From "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06).

In the Material Plane, the Dread Emperor used magic to appear as a child with black hair and golden eyes, but upon dropping the illusion, he appeared as a grown man with long, black hair, wearing gold armor.[4]


The Dread Emperor enjoyed the presence of children because of their innocence and naïveté.[5] However, when his own life was at stake, he was willing to use those same children as a means of defense, even at the cost of their lives. He also killed the children that grew too old.[6]



The Dread Emperor was a being that lived on a large island, which held a giant gothic castle surrounded by a bramble forest, floating through either the Astral Plane[7] or a pocket dimension.[8] The Dread Emperor abducted children, chaining them by the neck to his armor, gaining power from them. When the children became too old, he would kill them and put their bodies in the castle basement.

Before the Stream[]


Art of Gren Tal'Dorei talking with the black-haired, golden-eyed boy, by Wendy Sullivan Green. From "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06).

Vox Machina was tasked with investigating the disappearances of various children throughout Tal'Dorei. Hearing about a suspicious child that would appear a week before each disappearance, the party kept their eyes peeled.[9] Eventually, while celebrating their efforts for saving the city of Emon, they noticed the child talking to the son of Sovereign Uriel Tal'Dorei, Gren. They attempted to capture the black-haired, golden-eyed boy, but he kidnapped the sovereign's son before Vox Machina could intervene. However, the party managed to follow them through a portal.[10]

The portal led them to a large island drifting through the Astral Plane and surrounded by a perilous bramble forest.[11] Within the forest, a corrupted treant stepped forth from the vines toward Vox Machina. Using one of her druid spells (likely Command Plants, since it was Pathfinder), Keyleth convinced the corrupted treant to go back to sleep, averting a combat encounter.[12]

Vox Machina eventually arrived at a gothic mansion in the center of the island. They made their way through the building, seeing many children cleaning nervously along the way. They came upon a library, where the golden-eyed boy stood from his chair, letting the illusion fade into a man with long, black hair and golden armor to which four children were attached by chains around their necks. The Dread Emperor attacked Vox Machina with his magic and commanded the mind-controlled children to attack as well. Vox Machina realized that any damage done to him was magically suffered by the children chained to him.[13] In order to defeat him without harming the children, the party tried to free them from him. They were able to save three of four children, as the last child was accidentally killed by Keyleth when she got into a tug-of-war with the Dread Emperor and the pressure on the child's collar broke his neck.[14] Despite this casualty, they were able to defeat the Dread Emperor.[15]


Vox Machina was able to return a majority of the abducted children (among them Gren Tal'Dorei and Simon Brist) to the Material Plane, where they were reunited with their families.[16]

The incident regarding the child's death, however, weighed heavily on Keyleth's conscience, and it was interfering with her desire to do what was necessary to survive in addition to her training with the Earth Ashari during her time away from Vox Machina, as she revealed during the party's time at Pyrah.[17] It became a sensitive subject for her, as shown the day after Vox Machina's first battle with the Briarwoods when Vax'ildan brought up the child's death in comparison to Tiberius's killing of an old woman.[18] Keyleth quickly grew cold to Vax as a result, not even wanting to speak to him for a time.[19][20][21] She eventually got over it while en route to Whitestone, but the memory of that day continued to haunt her.

Vox Machina briefly reunited with one of the children, Simon Brist, and his mother, Elowen Brist, when encountering a camp of refugees from Westruun after the Chroma Conclave's attacks.[22][23][24]

After Pike severed Craven Edge's connection to Grog with a Greater Restoration spell, Keyleth banished the evil sword to the Dread Emperor's realm using Plane Shift.[25] Due to the conflicting statements about the Dread Emperor's realm, Craven Edge might have been shifted into the Astral Plane, a pocket dimension, or somewhere else altogether.[26][27]


Character Information[]


Because Vox Machina fought the Dread Emperor prior to the launch of Critical Role, his abilities were not recorded, but he possessed great power.

  • Polymorph
  • Unspecified interplanar transportation

Notable Items[]

  • Armor of the Dread Emperor[presumed][1]
  • Ring of the Dread Emperor[presumed][1]

Appearances and mentions[]



  • The Dread Emperor is one of the example villains described in Book of Vile Darkness, a supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd ed.
    • The Dread Emperor was also mentioned in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th ed book Manual of the Planes, p.57.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 See Book of Vile Darkness, pp. 17–19. Some content in this article is presumed from that reference, but Matthew Mercer may have deviated from that example.
  2. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 19:50.
  3. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 19:50.
  4. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) from 18:27 through 19:34.
  5. See "K'Varn Revealed" (1x10) from 3:24:47 through 3:25:05.
  6. See "K'Varn Revealed" (1x10) from 3:25:09 through 3:25:14.
  7. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 18:35.
  8. See "Into the Frostweald" (1x48) at 0:28:10.
  9. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 6:12.
  10. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) from 18:27 through 18:57.
  11. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 18:57.
  12. See Matthew Mercer & Marisha Ray's Second Post-Critmas Hangout & Mini Unboxing 2016-04-23 at 59:00.
  13. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) from 19:07 through 19:50.
  14. See "K'Varn Revealed" (1x10) from 3:26:02 through 3:26:58.
  15. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 19:50.
  16. From Matthew Mercer's old Vox Machina Wiki page for Elowen Brist.
  17. See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) from 2:55:58 through 3:00:08.
  18. See "Consequences and Cows" (1x26) at 0:35:40.
  19. See "Consequences and Cows" (1x26) at 2:21:50.
  20. See "Consequences and Cows" (1x26) at 2:35:05.
  21. See "The Path to Whitestone" (1x27) at 1:12:06.
  22. See "Into the Frostweald" (1x48) at 0:20:30.  Matthew Mercer misspoke when saying that Elowen's daughter was saved by Vox Machina, as it was actually her son, Simon.
  23. See "Into the Frostweald" (1x48) at 0:23:48.
  24. See "Into the Frostweald" (1x48) at 0:27:34.
  25. See "Best Laid Plans..." (1x50) at 1:04:11.
  26. See "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 18:35.
  27. See "Into the Frostweald" (1x48) at 0:28:10.