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List of Transcripts

Pre-Show[]

MATT: Hello everyone! Welcome to Critical Role. After a two-week hiatus of our usual gaming schedule at Comic Con and then a fun-filled crazy week with half the party playing games and having fun while me and Marisha were in New Zealand, we're happy to be back. We're happy you guys are here as we continue our adventure going forward. We'll have a lot of really cool things to announce here in a moment, but let's go ahead and get that intro video started.

[dramatic music]

MATT: Welcome back. All right, this is Critical Role: a show where a bunch of voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons. Fun crazy nerds rolling dice and good times. With the adventures of Vox Machina. You're doing all right Travis. Couple quick things: Me and Marisha wanted to say a quick shout out to all of our Critters who came to visit us in Wellington, New Zealand at Armageddon Expo. We had a strong showing of Critters that was really amazing from across the world. And Australia. People could fly over from Australia just to get us to sign their books, so there's a lot of really awesome fan love out there. So you guys are great.

MARISHA: Maybe next time all of us could go? You guys should tell them.

MATT: Oh man, a Down Under Kiwi trip for all Critical Role would be a lot of fun. Send your local– I guess you don't have a congressman, because you're a different country.

ORION: Your “Con-gressman.”

MATT: Oh there you go. Orion saved it. Thank you.

ORION: It was there the whole time, Matt.

(laughter)

MATT: Disadvantage. All right, so first and foremost, couple things I want to get up here. We had our sub giveaways this evening. For every 50 subs, we give away a signed player's handbook by the cast of Critical Role, a signed photo of the cast. And tonight especially we're also giving away in that package Espionage nail packs, specifically with our fantastic gamer dice on the tips. Espionage Cosmetics were gracious to give these to us, and we will give them to you. Every 50 subs.

MARISHA: Awesome. Go follow them on Twitter; I think they're @espionagemakeup. Just look it up. They're awesome.

MATT: Google it. However, we already have a winner, before the show started. That's explodingiggy. So congratulations to explodingiggy. You already got one more to come. The fun and interesting challenge for this evening as we've been made aware, you guys, being the ridiculously amazing people you are. One of you crafted a challenge for yourself. That if we can manage to somehow get to 5,000 subscribers before the end of the show tonight, they will create and send an eight-foot Trinket. Like eight-foot-tall Trinket bear.

MARISHA: Yeah which is vague. A little. What's it made out of?

ZAC: It's a teddy bear. It's a giant teddy bear.

LAURA: And maybe his little paws can be on my shoulder the whole time I play?

MATT: Oh, he would be a perpetual staple of the set. That would be behind you at all times.

ZAC: Cool, not difficult at all, guys! Totally not difficult at all!

MARISHA: Yes, but we have to get to 5,000 subscribers.

TALIESIN: Trojan horse and a suit that they wear. They could sneak themselves onto the stage that way.

MATT: I'll get inside the teddy bear, and I'll act out Trinket during the game. Perfect. That's not going to happen. It might happen. That's if we hit 5,000 subscribers, so all your friends you know that watch the show who don't subscribe yet, tell them to. If you know anyone that hasn't seen the show yet, get them on, because a giant eight-foot bear would be pretty much the most ridiculous thing ever.

MARISHA: Yeah, I already tweeted #8ftTrinket.

LAURA: I saw something subs for bears.

ORION: Nope. Bad idea.

MATT: (laughs) Yeah, subs for bears is a whole section of Craigslist you don't want to go to. Or you do, if that's your thing. All right, so. Happy to be back from Comic Con. We had a great panel and great turnout there. Thank you for those who came and those who watched the panel. If you haven't seen it yet, the panel is available on the Geek and Sundry website. You can watch it. And as we all know, last episode we said goodbye temporarily to our fantastic gnome cleric, Pike. She's off in New York shooting awesome television shows, but she's here in spirit.

LIAM: It's going to be great.

LAURA: It's going to be a good show.

MATT: Also, as a reminder, our charity that we run here for the show is to 826LA. 826LA is a fantastic charity that promotes and teaches creative writing to younger kids between the ages of eight and 16, I think it was. Somewhere in that range?

MARISHA: K through High School.

MATT: K through High School. Fantastic program, and anything you can do to help is much appreciated and awesome. And, Marisha, if you want to go ahead and take this away. We have a new addition to our set coming next week.

MARISHA: It's so awesome! I had the absolute pleasure of joining Felicia on the latest episode of The Flog. Go check it out. It's back. I love that show. She wanted to make a neon sign, and she was like, “Let's do a Critical Role sign.” Because she's a fan of our show, which is awesome. She's probably watching right now. Love you, Felicia. So this was it, unfortunately. Yes, are we ready to do the honors? Ready? For Vox Machina!

(cheering)

MARISHA: So yeah, that's probably going to be up on our set next week, blessing us with its rose-colored glow. Go watch, if you want to see how we made it. We got this awesome tutorial. It's cool. You can go and learn how to make neon signs yourself.

ORION: And it's all science-y too.

MARISHA: It's all science-y. It's totally nerdy awesome. Yeah, krypton. But yes. Here we go. All right, say bye-bye to the sign for now.

MATT: It'll be back.

ZAC: Hey, Matt. We already have another 50 winner.

(laughter)

ZAC: It was SonicaMoto.

MATT: SonicaMoto is our new winner, already. Congratulations, SonicaMoto.

LIAM: We need less than 300 subs for that bear. I think we can do that. I think that's pretty likely.

MARISHA: You get nail wraps.

MATT: You get a bear behind us for the rest of the show.

MARISHA: You get a player's handbook signed by us.

TALIESIN: Encourage this. Oh no, encourage this. (laughs) I encourage bear.

ORION: (laughing) I do encourage… Nope. Okay. I am a trained comedian. That is not a thing.

MATT: Last but not least, before we get started, we do have one guest in the studio who's been watching for a bit tonight. Our good friend, Joré is over here from quite a distance. We met him at Comic Con.

TRAVIS: Put your head right here.

MATT: A fantastically talented artist. For those of you who have seen my profile picture on Twitter or Facebook, the really amazing artwork of me as a dungeon master, this is the man that did it. Where can they see your work online?

JORE: I have a Facebook–

MARISHA and ORION: Drop down.

JORE: There's a Facebook page. You can search J-O-R-E on Facebook, and that's probably me. If you see Matt's picture, then that's me.

TRAVIS: And my Grog raging one with blood covering his face. (growls)

MATT: Go ahead and have a seat.

MARISHA: Speaking of amazing artists. We want to do a shout out.

ORION: There's a couple more announcements. This one.

MARISHA: This one, yes.

ORION: Our wonderful artists. Kit Buss and…

MARISHA: Kit Buss and Wendy Doodles. Wendy Green. They're awesome friends of ours and fans of the show. They do amazing work. They've done a lot of the character work that you've seen, and they're going to be doing a lot more, and we just wanted to really appreciate them and show them some love, so yes. Go follow.

ORION: Our artists. As Laura would say.

LAURA: That's good. That's very see-able.

MARISHA: Okay. Is it see-able now? I want to make sure. Go follow them. They deserve it.

MATT: They've been really amazing. I know many of you have asked about what's the backstory to Vox Machina? What's that history before the stream started? We're working on something. It may take a little bit, but one or more of those artists may be involved. But when we do have that available to you, it should be really cool, and I hope you'll enjoy it. Anyway.

ORION: Oh, also, since this is fantasy, I'd like to announce that my show went pretty well that's on Mondays, seven to 10 on this channel.

TALIESIN: You have a show? What kind of show is it?

ORION: Ooh, I'm glad you asked, Taliesin. It is me and Jessica Merizan playing Final Fantasy XIV. We just found each other in the same world. There's a free company we're going to start. You can come on and join if you're already subscribing. We do giveaways for subscribers who are watching and active in the chat during the show for stuff with Square Enix. It's all good times. I'm happy to say that Taliesin, man, Thancred is still in this version of Final Fantasy XIV, so you can check his work out too, and he's awesome. The funny thing is I didn't know your character was like a badass. So I was listening to him and I was like “Oh fuck”. Yeah, he's great. So check it out. Every Monday seven to 10 on the channel.

MATT: There you go. Also all you League fans out there, I hope you're enjoying your new Bilgewater update. Anyone else have any announcements they want to make?

LAURA: Oh we're going to be at Otakon this weekend in Baltimore. Come say hi! We're leaving right after this.

TALIESIN: I've got a tiny announcement, which is Ant-Man the movie is really good. If you like Ant-Man the movie, you can hear me as Ant-Man, being not nearly as funny, in the pinball game. I'm not nearly as funny as Paul Rudd.

ORION: Oh pish posh.

ZAC: Matt? We've got another giveaway.

TALIESIN: Yeah!

MARISHA: (singing) Eight-foot Trinket, here we come!

ZAC: OhGreatLampShade.

MATT: OhGreatLampShade is the winner of our next giveaway.

LIAM: OhGreatLampShade, we thank thee for thy mercy.

MATT: Congratulations. Player's Handbook signed, picture signed, and nail wraps. And a step closer to giant eight-foot Trinket.

TRAVIS: Don't do it. No more.

LIAM: Are you sad that you will no longer be the tallest member of our group?

LAURA: I feel like we're just delaying starting because we're going to have to face that fact that Pike isn't with us as soon as we start.

TRAVIS: And Scanlan's still in the pooper. He's not really.

MARISHA: Yeah, where is Scanlan?

LIAM: He's shitting on a bed somewhere. It's his thing.

MATT: Is he on his way?

LAURA: He's on his way, yeah.

MATT: Well when he arrives… In the meantime–

TRAVIS: Where are you going?

ORION: I'm going to get something to drink.

LAURA: He's getting a drink.

MATT: Okay. As Tiberius has an aneurysm and falls to the ground–

TRAVIS: Yes! I go over and provide very vigorous CPR. No mouth to mouth, just that hand part.

MATT: Yeah. All right, make a death save.

ORION: What? Ow!

(cheering)

ORION: And I brought Scanlan with me.

MARISHA: (laughs) Like a trailing fart.

TRAVIS: (laughing) “Like a trailing fart.”

ORION: That couldn't have worked out better.

SAM: Oh really?

LAURA: What is he wearing?

TRAVIS: “Asp Hole?” What does it say? “Where you” what?

SAM: It's the Asp Hole.

LIAM: Asp. Hole.

SAM: It's just a bar that I like to go to. Down at the Asp Hole.

LIAM: And I got shit for talking about bears today.

MATT: No, I'm pretty sure that's somewhere in Emon.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: And we'll find it.

SAM: Yeah, we'll find the Asp Hole.

Part I[]

MATT: Yeah, so let's actually start this game, guys. Thank you for being patient with our intro here. We've been gone for two weeks. We have a lot to talk about, so thank you for letting us get that out. So picking up where we left off, the party completed the venture of taking the horn of Orcus to a place of safety and sealing it away, hopefully for eternity, with the help of Lady Kima, to the scalebearers. After heading to the basement of the Platinum Sanctuary in the city of Vasselheim, they've succeeded to do so. Vasselheim, which is a distant city to the far northwest of the continent they're used to. This city is a very devout, religion-based city, and currently considered the oldest bastion of civilization in the known civilized world. After taking a skyship across the ocean to get there, sealing the Horn, you guys also discover upon doing so that the ruins, long-forgotten ruins, of what appears to be an ancient temple to Sarenrae were recently discovered. While Sarenrae does not have a strong following in this city, the few that are trying to raise it ask for Pike's help to stay back and help build it and bring it to its former glory. Hopefully to re-establish a basis of worship in this city, and she decided to help these folks. The party then steps away from the ruins of the tower, sad but understanding of the circumstance.

LIAM: Perhaps we could sit on a nearby rooftop and watch Pike work.

LAURA: Just for the next eight months?

TRAVIS: I'd be all right with that.

MARISHA: That's not creepy at all.

MATT: Critical Role all of a sudden becomes the greatest grass-watching game of all time. As you all stand there, you have to decide your next course of action. You stand in the muddy road, taking in the cold dusk air as the sun slowly sets to the west. Now, this area of the city has a vastly different feel than the Platinum Sanctuary. In the haste to make it to the ruin, you've passed out of the section that seems to be under Bahamut's watch and into a different area. In this area, most of the buildings are reinforced with ruddy iron plates. Plumes of smoke rise up from a handful of heavy smokestacks. You can see over the rooftops in the distance toward the center of this section what looks like a massive dark red statue of a muscular bearded man.

LIAM: The beauty of this game is I have no idea what the shit we're going to do right now.

SAM: So we're standing outside the place where we just left Pike?

MATT: Yeah, the ruins of the tower.

MARISHA: So we're essentially standing in the middle of a town being like, now what?

LAURA: Should we go look at that statue, then?

TALIESIN: I want to see if there's an inscription.

MATT: If you'd like to.

TALIESIN: Yes, that would be lovely.

SAM: While he's doing that, Scanlan is feeling still terribly sad about leaving Pike. So overcome with emotion that he must step into the ruins one last time, just to see the place where she's going to be for the next several months, years. And before I do so, I drink one of my potions that I bought from what's-his-butt. Gilmore, the glorious Gilmore. Yes.

MATT: All right.

SAM: I don't know how it works, but I'm going to drink it anyway.

MATT: Okay, you drink it.

SAM: Okay, I drink it. I go inside the ruins and look around and touch some of the walls and look at the stonework and everything. I want to see where she's going to be so I know she's safe. Overcome with a little bit of verklempt emotion, I shed a single tear.

MATT: As you quietly take this moment to yourself amongst the ruins, you can hear the clattering of stonework as the small band of Sarenrae worshipers are now being helped by Pike, who's gathered them into a plan as to how to remove and restore portions of the building that are currently visible from the dirt and earth that it's embedded in. Hearing her voice echo through the hallway, it's a very comforting sense. You feel a rumbling in your stomach.

SAM: I feel uncomfortable. It must be the emotion.

MATT: It's probably the emotion.

SAM: I find a side chamber or a little nook. Somewhere where I can have some privacy.

MATT: Okay. You find your way back towards the makeshift wooden plank stairway and there was a small alcove not far from there within the earth wall that looks to be relatively private. There's little to no light, and it does have a view of the current ruin.

SAM: I say a little prayer, and I take a big dump on the floor.

TRAVIS: (laughing) No you do not!

SAM: Well, my stomach was rumbling.

TRAVIS: (laughing) You're in a temple, man!

LAURA: Pike's probably going to have to be the one to clean that up!

SAM: Sometimes it just affects me. I have weak nerves. And as I'm squatting, I hum to myself. (singing) How do I say goodbye to what we almost had?

ORION: This is not romantic at all, you know that, right?

MATT: Welcome back, guys.

MARISHA: I've missed you guys so much.

MATT: As you finish your business, you step away from the alcove back to the stairway. The contents of the potion seem to have had some effect, as the remnants of what you leave behind have a very soft blue glowing hue to them.

SAM: I left a magic dump.

TRAVIS: Do we need to collect the dump?

SAM: Nope. We should leave the dump.

LAURA: Are you going to be able to see through the dump?

TRAVIS: He's covering his face. I think we need the blue shit.

MARISHA: Can you cast Detect Magic on the poo?

SAM: It's already magical poo.

ORION: Are we there? We're not there.

LAURA: We're not there. It's just Scanlan.

ORION: Okay. So he's just shitting.

LAURA: He's just leaving it.

SAM: So I leave and rejoin my fellows, wiping the tear from my eye and the poo from my bottom.

ORION: Well, I love you Ashley. I do.

MARISHA: This is what happens when we don't have any direction.

TRAVIS: But what's the purpose of the potion? To make your poo blue?

SAM: I took a potion that will let me see through my poo and check in on Pike from time to time.

LAURA: Will she realize you can see her through the poop?

SAM: I certainly hope not.

LAURA: Wouldn't that be great if she could just talk to you through the poo?

LIAM: Why aren't the priests going to shovel that shit up?

SAM: As long as some of my cellular remains are there, I might be able to see a little bit into the room.

LIAM: What's “cellular?”

SAM: (laughs) It's poo.

LIAM: Oh, you mean little flakes of poo.

MATT: For the sake of brevity in story progression here, and to dissuade a 30-minute conversation about Scanlan's excrement. After you've rejoined the party, the sun is now set. The cold air is beginning to really sweep in through the streets. The clouds overhead begin to slowly rumble and you can hear distant thunder, and you get the feeling due to the moisture in the air, you're not too far away from a rain.

LAURA: Should we bunk for the night before we head out in the morning?

TALIESIN: I say we head to the ship.

TRAVIS: Wasn't there a guy with a red beard we were supposed to go see?

LAURA: I wanted to wander over to the statue while Scanlan was dumping.

SAM: I feel great right now, by the way.

TALIESIN: Finding some relief in the situation.

ORION: Damn it. Just when I was starting to like you, gnome.

LIAM: Moving on. Let's go take a look at this statue.

MATT: (chuckling) All right.

SAM: It's magic poo!

LIAM: Don't change, Scanlan.

MATT: As you guys make your way through the center of this district–

LAURA: I feel like it's dark now.

MATT: Yeah. You get the sense that this area, most of the people that live in this area are more rough-and-tumble than the already-rough people who live in Vasselheim, from what you've encountered. The buildings themselves all seem to be reinforced with iron plates and it looks like there is a very heavy trade in metalwork, and a lot of the construction of anything metallic appears to be coming through or from this portion of the town. As you approach closer to this statue, it's not just a statue. You see it is actually sitting atop what looks to be a large, blocky fortress-like temple. Unlike the Platinum Sanctuary, which is a very beautiful but simple array, this one has a crenellated top to each of these walled structures. You can see braziers blasting flame every 20 or so feet along the top of it. You can see, as you approach the front of this, there are two giant stone doorways with steps that look up to it and what looks to be two gargantuan war horns that spiral along the sides and then open up outward towards the entire city in front of it. I'm going to ask you guys to make a religion check, if you could.

TRAVIS: Oh, I got this.

ORION: Natural 20!

TALIESIN: Yeah! Natural 20.

TALIESIN and ORION: Boom!

ORION: That's so cool.

TRAVIS: Natural four.

TALIESIN: Because we know our shit.

MATT: As you guys begin your approach, even in the darkness, you can see the figure, this human-like man. Barrel-chested. Massive muscles. What looks almost like iron bracers around his wrists. He is carved or sculpted from solid iron or plates that have been put together from some sort of iron initial structure. The beard is long and goes to about mid-chest. He carries in one hand this long, thick shortsword and has furs and leathers about his legs and midsection. You recognize this to be a very hefty depiction of the deity Kord.

LAURA, SAM, and TRAVIS: Kord?

TRAVIS: I admire his beard.

MATT: It is a beard worth admiring.

MARISHA: How might one spell Kord?

MATT: K-O-R-D.

MARISHA: Simple. I like that.

SAM: He's a god of some sort?

MATT: He is, indeed.

TALIESIN: Tell us of this Kord. Try to find your notes of this Kord.

LAURA: He's a dwarven god?

MATT: Not dwarven.

LIAM: A man. Human.

MATT: Kord is essentially a deity of warfare, combat, and storms. A god that has been long-worshipped by tribal cultures from long past that enjoyed the essence of battle and challenge and combat.

LIAM: Did you say storms, Tiberius? War and combat and storms?

ORION: Storms, yes. Storms and winds.

MATT: And quickly, the motif of this section of the town comes into play. This, you assume, is the portion of the city that is dedicated to the temple of Kord, this being the structure before you.

MARISHA: Does it seem to be a central theme across the whole town? This town worships Kord?

MATT: No. You've only really been to two sections. The first one you were brought to was primarily under the worship of Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon.

MARISHA: Okay. (giggles)

TALIESIN: Getting the giggles out.

TRAVIS: Did you look at it? Did you use your fancy eyes to look at it?

TALIESIN: Well, my question is, is this a temple? If it is a temple to Kord, is this a place of battle? Is this somewhere where people go watch battles and fighting?

MATT: From the exterior, and it is a closed-off temple, it looks like a large, blocky, obstinate fortress that is nearly impenetrable from the way it's constructed and reinforced. You don't know what's inside of it.

LIAM: There's a big gate or door at the front?

MATT: Two large iron doors about 20 feet tall that are currently shut. It's about five or six steps getting up to it.

LAURA: And it's nighttime?

MATT: It is nighttime currently, yes.

LIAM: Are there any citizens out right now, or are we alone in the dark?

MATT: As it has gotten to dusk, it's thinned out a little bit, but there are a few individuals walking by, carrying pickaxes over one shoulder and passing by.

LIAM: I'd like to walk over to the nearest one and ask.

SAM: To who?

LIAM: To a passerby.

MATT: The two gentlemen, one's in his mid-20s. The one that turns to you initially probably looks a little older than that. Late 30s, grizzled. Shaven, but the five-o'clock shadow has definitely kicked in. Longer, tousled hair, dirt on the face. Simple clothing, pickaxe over his shoulder and what looks like a leather belt that carries other tools.

SAM: These are dwarves?

MATT: These are human. “Yes? I heard you calling.”

LIAM: Excuse me, good sir. My friend over here, the dragonborn. He seems to think that this is some sort of temple or edifice to the god Kord. I just want to know, is he correct?

MATT: “Is this your first time in the Braving Grounds?”

ORION: In Dwarvish, I say–

SAM: They're not dwarves.

MATT: You can still say it, though.

(laughter)

LIAM: Yes, absolutely! This is our first time. We literally just rolled into Vasselheim. What can you tell us of this? It's an impressive structure.

MATT: The younger gentleman next to him, similarly dressed, begins to speak up. He puts his hand up and goes, “The Braving Grounds is the area of this city that is built around the worship of the great god Kord. His protection and strength he bestows upon those who live for the sake of challenge. To prove oneself better with each passing day, that is the basis of the Braving Grounds.”

LAURA: So it's like a battleground?

MATT: “It's a community that when called to battle can definitely defend itself. What you see before you–” He looks up at the giant structure. “This is called the Trial Forge. It is the oldest known temple to Kord and has been built and rebuilt for many, many hundreds of years.”

ORION: (chuckles) Hence forge, right?

LIAM: And does one need to be a priest or cleric of this faith to challenge oneself? Or can anyone–

TRAVIS: Worship?

MATT: “Anyone is able to worship what deity they wish in this town. We have an understanding. If you're looking for a tussle, what you're looking for is the Crucible.”

TRAVIS: Yes. What else can you tell us about this Crucible?

MATT: “The Crucible is a fighting pit. I mean, there is a sacred arena within the temple, but that's reserved for very, very special occasions. If you're looking to just get your fight on and punch someone in the face, the Crucible is what you're looking for.” He spits off to the side and points a little ways down the roadway.

MARISHA: I think Grog wants to go.

MATT: “Beyond that way, you'll see a tavern known as the Bellows' Respite.”

SAM: Bellows' Respite.

MATT: “One of the finer inns you'll find in the Braving Grounds proper, but I take it if you walk that direction, you'll see the Crucible before too long.”

LAURA: Have you ever fought in the Crucible?

MATT: “Me? No. Too busy. Too many people better fighters than me in there. I'll just stick to the mines.”

MARISHA: Are these battles to the death?

MATT: “Nah. These are battles of honor. Death belongs in a true war. Mind you, there have been some folks unfortunately who may have fallen to a hit on the head too hard, and that's understandable. But the purpose of Kord is not necessarily to smite your foes unless they've given you damn good reason. Other than that, contest of strength is how we live.”

ORION: A friendly sparring match is what we're about.

LIAM: That's this neighborhood of Vasselheim, not the city as a whole, just in these parts?

MATT: “For the most part. I mean, we have members of our community that are Bastions and guard the whole city, but we tend to keep our own–”

(off-screen crash)

MATT: “Pardon my friend. He's clumsy.” And the other gentleman picks up his tools and is like, “Sorry.”

TRAVIS: Have you been to this Crucible often, and if so, is there a champion or a favorite that you've seen or know of?

MATT: “We have some people come in and out. Probably best to ask around the Crucible, to be honest. I've seen some people take some serious beatings down there. I haven't kept much attention to it. I haven't the money to sling around it.”

LAURA: The money? Wait, it costs money?

MATT: “What, you think there's going to be fights in a pit and no one's betting on it? Welcome to Vasselheim, my dear.”

TRAVIS: We're going to be rich!

ORION: What if there are two people fighting the town does not know?

MATT: “I don't know. Take it up at the Crucible.”

TRAVIS: How far is the Crucible from here?

MATT: “Keep walking. You'll see it.”

LAURA: Keep walking? Thank you, friend.

MATT: “My pleasure. Kord's strength to you.” And he keeps on walking.

TRAVIS: Kord's strength.

SAM: Kord's strength to you.

MATT: No, core strength.

LAURA: Sit-ups. Crunches.

TRAVIS: Core strength to you. Namaste.

MATT: You guys walk beyond the Trial Forge, back towards the path where you came off to the side on the left and you can see most of the buildings, their internal lighting is very low; you can see most folks either go to bed at this evening or at least keep a very low visual profile from their abodes. However, lights are blazing from the interior of this three-story inn. The Bellows' Respite is definitely a rowdy place. You can hear already the shouts and music streaming from the interior of it. You gather that, while there are a lot of people inside you can see at the windows and openings to the inside of the tavern, there is a large group gathered in the middle of the thoroughfare just outside of it. Looks like a circle of individuals that are all shouting and screaming over each other, big fist-pumps to the air, some folks are angrily throwing their coin purses to the ground.

TRAVIS: Like a kid getting too close to an amusement park, I take off running.

MATT: Grog starts running up, bounding up the way, you can see the actual–

MARISHA: Grog? Grog, not too far ahead!

TRAVIS: Okay!

LIAM: I don't start running, but I'm following behind him and I take out my Keen Dagger and just start sort of dancing it across my hand as I follow after him.

MATT: David Bowie and the glass orb.

LIAM: Yes, exactly.

ORION: Is there a registry or something like that?

MATT: Actually, as you approach you can see there is no registry, there is quite literally a pit in the ground. It's a 15, 20-foot dip. It is a carved-out pit, maybe no more than I'd say 25, 30 feet across. And there is no ladder, there is no step going down, there's just two people in there beating the ever-living crap out of each other and a crowd of people gathering around. You do see what looks to be two very well-dressed gentlemen that are in the process of collecting and paying out, and you approach just as the final hit takes to this gentleman's jaw, this tattooed individual, you can see bloodied in the face, nose broken, teeth knocked out, this poor, poor human fellow gets knocked clean onto the ground. You can see standing over his body this extremely built, aggressive, looks like another human female with her hair pulled back in a very tight ponytail just spits on his body, turns around and wipes the blood from the front of her face. Snaps her fingers, and you can see folks bring a ladder and lean it over the side and she climbs up the ladder as everyone cheers on her way up.

MARISHA: Before we get up to the crowd, I transform into Minxie. I'm going Minxie. And I catch up to Grog. Going Minxie.

TRAVIS: Oh, they don't like magic.

MARISHA: Did they see me? I'm trying to do it stealthily before it happens.

MATT: You can make a stealth check if you like. You do know through the discussions that it's arcane magic that seems to be the shunned element in this town. As it is a town of worship, divine magic for the most part seems okay.

MARISHA: Everyone saw me. It's fine.

MATT: Everyone would've seen you if they weren't currently enraptured by the chaos. Those who did notice probably didn't seem to care much other than a giant tiger now walks up to them.

TRAVIS: Can I grab the nearest person near me, turn whoever's shoulder that is, and go, who is she?

MATT: As you pull the shoulder around, you can see a rather portly human fellow, balding on top with long Benjamin Franklin-looking hair. Very nice robes, turns. “Are you new to this town, then, is it?”

TRAVIS: Yeah, very new.

MATT: “That's the Siren. The Siren.”

ORION: I approach and saunter next to Grog.

TRAVIS: The Siren?

MATT: “She's the one you bet on. Trust me on that.” As he walks over to, you can see another one of these gentlemen, very well-dressed, hair slicked back. Tall, thin human in very, very fine purple robes, collects some people's money, begins giving out a few things, pulls out a notebook with a little charter he's in the middle of putting notes in.

LAURA: Hello. How would we enter a new fighter into this pit?

MATT: “Well, actually, that was the last fighter scheduled for the evening.”

TRAVIS: Be a pity not to have one more.

MATT: “You wish to fight?”

TRAVIS: Wish? It's more like an itch. A need.

MATT: He puts his arm out and the crowd steps back a bit and he takes a good, long head-to-toe up-and-down look at you, walks around from side to side inspecting you. He gets a little bit close and reaches out, not even asking, he starts grabbing the side of your arms.

MARISHA: I start growling a little bit.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, watch out.

MATT: “Calm down, kitty, calm down.” Steps back. “Well, it's not too late. What caliber of fighter do you consider yourself?”

TRAVIS: Caliber?

MATT: “Who do you want to fight?”

SAM: Who are the options?

ORION: Could he fight anyone?

TRAVIS: This is my friend, Scanlan.

SAM: I'm more of his manager than his friend, actually. Hi, I'm Scanlan.

MATT: “Pleasure.”

SAM: Pleasure's all mine. My brute over here, who can he battle, what are his options?

MATT: “This late in the evening–”

LIAM: I'll fight him.

SAM: Excuse me?

LIAM: I said I'll fight him.

MATT: “I apologize. If you're going to have someone enter the arena worth betting on, they have to go up against one of our proven fighters first. However, once your friend here gets his face beaten in, you're more than welcome to join him in the ring thereafter.”

TRAVIS: I haven't laughed so hard in my entire life. Face beaten, he says. Face beaten!

MATT: “You're mighty confident, aren't you?”

TRAVIS: It's my middle– I only have one name.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: If I did.

SAM: It would be that.

TRAVIS: Yeah.

MATT: “Well, first and foremost, all bets begin at 100 gold pieces.”

LAURA: 100 gold? Is that all?

MATT: “You can increase the bet, if you'd like.”

LAURA: I'd love to.

MATT: “What would you like to bet?”

LAURA: 500 gold on this one right here.

MATT: “Is she the only one betting?”

SAM: She bets for all of us.

LIAM: I'll put a thousand down right now that I can beat the big guy.

SAM: You mean Grog?

LIAM: Of my own money. Yes.

LAURA: You can't fight him yet!

LIAM: I can't? Rules are meant to be bent and stretched. Am I right?

MATT: “You're going to put your money down between your friends to fight your friends.”

LIAM: It's a contentious relationship.

MATT: His eyes have already wandered from your face, he says, “500 gold on the goliath. Do we hear anything else?” A few other individuals step up and start telling him like, “50 gold down.” “It's a hundred-gold minimum.” "100 gold.”

SAM: Who is he fighting?

TRAVIS: We don't know yet.

SAM: We have to bet before we see the meat?

MATT: “Unproven fighters with a grandiose sense of self-ability enjoy the surprise.”

TALIESIN: So what sort of odds are we talking about, then?

MATT: “For this one, based on your height, reach, strength and arrogance, I'd put you at four-to-one against.”

LAURA: Four-to-one.

TRAVIS: Okay.

ORION: It's okay, Grog. He doesn't know that you've beaten up a lot of people.

SAM: Don't tell him.

ORION: Oh, right.

TRAVIS: I've got this scar here. How does he think I got it?

SAM: Those are fair odds, we'll take that.

MATT: “All right. 500 gold. Is this all I'm hearing?”

TRAVIS: A hundred of my own gold on me.

MATT: “600 gold.”

TALIESIN: Hold on.

SAM: I'll bet 50 gold against him. We have to hedge!

MATT: “100 gold is the minimum bet.”

SAM: Well then, I can't afford it. I'm sorry. We have to hedge.

LAURA: You're going to get it, Grog. You're going to do it. I have faith in you.

ORION: I'll put 500 gold on the goliath.

LAURA: Oh my god. We're going to lose all our money on Grog. No we're not.

MATT: “All right. Last bets, last bets!” Everyone starts putting in their cash. A couple folks frenzy over, you see a couple guys–

LIAM: I put a thousand on the goliath.

SAM: What?

LIAM: 1,000 gold on the goliath.

LAURA: Sing a song. Do you use arcane magic or do you use divine magic? Just sing a song, Scanlan.

MATT: “It seems your friends are confident in your ability. Let's hope we can put their money where your mouth is.”

TRAVIS: In my mouth?

SAM: It's an expression.

MATT: “All right.”

MARISHA: I brush against Grog. And I cast Stoneskin on him.

SAM: Will that show?

MARISHA: Does that show?

MATT: You cannot cast a spell when you're in beast form.

LIAM: Plus, kitty, you did that once and it didn't work out so well.

ORION: As I notice what the cat's doing, I'm standing right next to him, so I do it with my hand instead.

LIAM: You got caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

MATT: As you begin casting the spell, immediately the guy says, “You do that one more time and you're all disqualified from ever competing.”

ORION: Okay. I'm sorry, I just thought I'd give my friend an advantage.

TALIESIN: He'll be fine. Look at him. He'll be fine.

ORION: Yes, I have two eyes.

MATT: At which point, the other individual whispers into the initial bookie's ear. “Yes. Retrieve him, please.”

TRAVIS: Him?

MATT: “For this fight, we have a newcomer. A newcomer who is named–”

TRAVIS: Should I have a fancy name?

SAM: Yeah, you should have a fancy fighting name.

ORION: Grog the Destroyer.

TRAVIS: Phillip.

(laughter)

ORION: No, that's like the opposite of what I said.

MATT: “Phillip, the newcomer, has decided to hedge his and his friends' savings that he, upon what I can only imagine is his first arrival into Vasselheim, to get his face pummeled by our current standing champion: Kern the Hammer.” At this point, the crowd immediately goes quiet and whispering, you can see a few individuals now walking over, ushering this man, looks like he just stepped out of the nearby mines, he's got coal dirt on his face. When I say man, it is a six-foot-six, very visibly half-orc gentleman, built like some sort of thick-ass building you've walked past coming through here. Bald head, big, bristly mustache, and a face that's obviously taken a beating over the years. He walks up nonchalantly, just wearing a simple tattered tunic, leather pants and boots. You can see him like cracking his fingers. He looks over to the side at one of the guys. “They better have pulled me out of work for a good reason. Who am I up against?”

TRAVIS: I envy your facial hair.

MATT: “I envy your currently unbroken face. Currently.”

TRAVIS: I'm going to kill him. That's a rule, right? I'm not supposed to kill him?

LAURA: You're not supposed to kill him. No killing allowed in this?

MATT: The bookie steps forward. “No killing. Fighting until one falls.”

TRAVIS: What happens if they start to cry?

MATT: “Then you keep punching.”

TRAVIS: I like it.

MATT: “No weapons. No armor. Fists against fists until one of them falls. Lower the ladder.” As they put the ladder down into the arena. You can see the orc gentleman pulls out a small, enclosed, almost like a wineskin, like an iron wineskin, unscrews it and drinks it all down.

TRAVIS: Kern the Shithead does?

MATT: Yeah. Puts it down, throws it to the ground, with a ting-ting-ting.

LAURA: Wait, what was in that? Was that wine?

MATT: “It is customary to drink before a fight.”

TRAVIS: Can I have my cask of ale, real fast?

LAURA: Wait, does anybody have a Potion of Stoneskin or anything good?

MATT: As everyone gathers around, you can now see people are coming back out of the tavern to gather around the outskirts of the Crucible. Grog gets lowered down the ladder.

SAM: Oh, he's already down?

MATT: Well, Grog, what else do you want to do before you prepare?

TRAVIS: What do I want to do to prepare?

MATT: Well, if you haven't gone down yet. The other guy has come down the ladder.

TRAVIS: I took a drink from the cask of ale–

SAM: Wait, I come over to Grog and I just look in his eyes and I say, listen, you've got this, I can't give you anything else, but you've got this, man. And I also very quickly take out my Potion of Fire Giant Strength and I slip it to him before he takes a drink of his ale. I don't know if I hand it to him.

MATT: Make a stealth check.

SAM: Okay. (squeaks) Nope.

MATT: What did you roll?

SAM: Oh, that's a six. So eight.

MATT: All right. As you walk towards him and begin looking in his eyes, as you begin to pull out the flask, a hand grasps your wrist. And you glance over and you can see one of the burly human gentlemen that escorted Kern the Hammer in is currently grasping your arm and says, “I'm watching you. One more try and I'll throw you in there. We'll go down ourselves.”

SAM: It's for my asthma. I promise.

MATT: Shoves you back away, still clutching it. Looks to you, Grog, up into your eyes. “You going to climb down and fight or you going to be a pussy about it?”

TRAVIS: That's a really good question. I would like to rage. And I jump in the fucking pit.

MATT: You leap over the side, completely avoiding the ladder, both feet hitting the ground with a heavy thud sound. The packed dust kicks up around your feet.

SAM: Come on, Phillip! Kick his ass!

MATT: At which point, the other orc's finished cracking his knuckles, just kind of wipes the spit off the edge of his chin, gives you a look (growls) and you see a bit of foam toss from the side of his mouth.

LIAM: Nobody fucks with Phil.

LAURA: I can smell you from here, Kern!

MATT: Go ahead and roll initiative.

TRAVIS: 20.

MATT: 20! All righty.

ORION: Oh shit, you got a 20?

MATT: All right. You actually probably would've landed there from the run. First round starts. You're up.

TRAVIS: I would like to cast Intimidating Presence on Fern the Fucknut.

MATT: Kern. But it's better if Grog gets it wrong.

TRAVIS: He never gets it right. Phillip, thank you.

MATT: Phillip. All right, so. Use your action to use Intimidating Presence? All right, so what's the DC on that?

TRAVIS: Saving throw, 13.

MATT: 13. That will unfortunately not succeed. As you glare at him with an angry Phillip glare, your bellow echoing through the bottom of this Crucible, which in itself forms a very interesting acoustic amplifying of your yell, you can see Kern on the other side is looking at you with the same intense, burning rage.

SAM: Wait, that's your whole move?

MATT: And you can move if you like.

TRAVIS: I'll let him come to me.

MATT: Okay. All right. So as you stand there waiting with fists at your side, Kern takes his turn. You can see he begins to circle a little bit around you as he begins to spiral about with an unnerving speed, dashes forward, fists come swinging, one, two. Both strikes coming towards you. That is a 19.

TRAVIS: Misses.

MATT: This is all fisticuffs. That is a 24.

TRAVIS: That hits.

MATT: And as a bonus action, using his rage, a third attack. That is a 21.

TRAVIS: That definitely hits.

MATT: All righty.

LIAM: Would you like to use my spiky die?

SAM: Don't do it. You got this, Phillip.

MATT: The first one does eight points of damage. The second one does seven points of damage. As one fist clips you across the chin, the other one goes right into your abdominals. You're still tensing and you feel the impact but you just take the sheer weight of the force and flex and angrily stare him down in return.


SAM: Phillip, do that thing where you move your pecs up and down!

(laughter)

MATT: That's going to be a gif. And as you now see Kern prepares for a second bout, it's your turn, Grog. What are you doing?

TRAVIS: I would like to go into a frenzied rage. I would like to start with a giant front-kick forward and then hammer him down.

MATT: All right. Go for the first strike.

TRAVIS: Shit, that misses. Two.

MATT: That's probably going to miss.

TRAVIS: Yep. That's a 19.

MATT: 19 is going to hit.

TRAVIS: And also 19.

MATT: Both hit, yep. So you go to kick with the front kick, and he dodges to the side. However, you still, using your giant haymaker, the inertia clips him across the face. Go ahead and roll damage.

TRAVIS: That is a 16.

MATT: You're not fighting with your axe. This is with your fists. So rolling 1d4 and then half that.

SAM: Half that?

MATT: Yeah.

LAURA: You only get half damage of a d4?

MATT: Yep. But you still add your strength modifier.

LIAM: So these guys both potentially have like a hundred hit points.

TRAVIS: Six. It was four, and then half of that is two, plus my modifier, which is four, so six.

MATT: Correct, so six damage. All righty.

TRAVIS: And then four.

MATT: All righty.

TRAVIS: This is what I use? For my fists? I got big-ass fists! I got tattoos and shit on them. I never shower, they fucking stink!

TALIESIN: You could do more damage if you hit him with the die, because it's sharp, so you'd actually get more damage with the d4.

MATT: All right. So your modifier is plus– it's plus three for the modifier?

TRAVIS: No, my modifier's plus four.

MATT: Okay, and then what did you roll on that?

TRAVIS: Two. Minus two.

MATT: Two, then five total.

TRAVIS: Oh, five, yeah.

MATT: There you go. All righty, cool. So you hit him across the face and you hit him to the other side. He comes back, aligns his chin, and you can see he's now stooping in for some sort of an uppercut as he slips to the side a little bit with a sidestep. That will be a 25. A 20. And a one. So what's your AC?

TRAVIS: 20.

MATT: All right, so both the first two hit. As he comes low for a full-on uppercut, hitting you for, that would be six points of damage (whack) under the chin. As you're currently reeling from the impact, he crouches down and is going to go for a knee to the middle of your groin. That is another six points of damage (whack) right in the Phillip junk. You instinctively give out a (grunts) from the impact. After that point, he comes up and it looks like he tries to go for some sort of a pile-drive grapple, and you instinctively kick off of him and his third attack is completely wasted. It's now your go.

TRAVIS: No one fucks with Phillip Jr. I would like to bull rush and try and tackle him, and if it succeeds, I'd like to headbutt him on the ground.

MATT: Okay, okay. It's an action to do that, so you can use your bonus action to attempt–

TRAVIS: And I would only get two attacks, right?

MATT: You only get one with this, technically. It's an action to grapple.

TRAVIS: Okay.

SAM: Do it.

TRAVIS: All right.

MATT: So go ahead and roll an athletics check.

TRAVIS: No, that's even better. 22.

MATT: 22. Yeah, you slam into him, knock him to the ground, and you're now on top of him. He's currently considered grappled, and you can go ahead and attempt your headbutt.

TRAVIS: Say hi! (boosh) That's a lot. 24.

MATT: 24? Yeah, definitely. So go ahead and roll damage on the same 1d4.

TRAVIS: 1d4? It's my head!

MATT: Yep.

SAM: Your head is so puny.

TRAVIS: It's got tattoos on it. One and a half. Oh. One and a half plus my strength, right?

MATT: So if it's three or four it's considered two. So six? All right. So as you tackle him to the ground and he's trying to pull you off, you reach up, (wham) just slam your forehead directly into the center of his face. As you pull back you can already see the blood streak off the front of your head as his nose is smushed even further into his gnarled facade. As you pull back, instead of pain, he's laughing. (laughs) As it comes to his turn, he's not attempting to break grapple. He's going to reach up and grab you and attempt to headbutt you in return.

TRAVIS: I like it.

MATT: That's going to be a 21. A 23. And a 19. All right, that's a six, seven damage. So total of 13 damage. As he reaches up and slams you, slams you again. And as you start backing up, he goes to slam you a third time, and you catch his head in the middle of your mitt, and he's now face-to-face with you, just like (snarls). You guys are both snarling at each other like two rabid beasts. It's your go.

TRAVIS: I would like to keep his head right where I have it and take my elbow and drive it down into the bridge of his nose. So that's 25?

MATT: 25 hits.

TRAVIS: 22?

MATT: Hits.

TRAVIS: And 17.

MATT: 17 does miss. All right. So go ahead and roll damage for the next two strikes.

TRAVIS: With this thing again? Six.

MATT: Six, all righty.

TRAVIS: It's hard to get above a six. And six.

MATT: Six, nice. So as you hold him down, his face, (wham). Head goes, cracks against the ground of the Crucible. As he starts picking his head up again, you drill back again, (wham) hit him a second time. This time, you can see now. His nose was already busted before. Now it's nearly concave. It's like he didn't have a nose before and there's just a bloody void where it once was. He's still smiling in a weird, twisted way. He seems to be enjoying this almost as much as you. You go down for the third one, and this time he reaches up and grabs your elbow. He's going to take his turn to attempt to break your grapple as his action. Go ahead and roll either an athletics or an acrobatics check.

TRAVIS: 12.

MATT: 12? All right. He kicks you up back onto your feet, and as he does, he kip-ups onto his feet, as well. Looks at you with a smile, wipes the snot and blood from the front of his face, licks it off his hand, and with that same hand he rears back, almost like he's winding up for a punch, and then just kicks you right in the center of your stomach.

TRAVIS: I like the feint, I like the feint.

MATT: That's 22. Yeah, that'll hit. That is eight points of damage.

ORION: He's fucking strong.

LAURA: You suck, Korn!

MATT: That ends his turn now, you're up, Grog. You're both now standing face-to-face again, you're reeling from the kick to the breadbasket.

TRAVIS: You hit me with the knuckle you fucking licked. So I'd like to jump forward and throw my knee forward and at the last minute pull it back and throw my fist in a Superman punch.

MATT: All right, go ahead and roll.

TRAVIS: Yes, fuck you, 19.

MATT: 19 just barely hits.

TRAVIS: And I'll follow it over with a left-right. (boom, boom)

MATT: Go for it.

SAM: Are you still raging?

TRAVIS: 21. Oh yeah, frenzied, so I get three. And 22.

MATT: All hit.

TRAVIS: Outstanding. Watch me roll a six.

SAM: (whispers) Should we do something?

LIAM: Have an ale. And collect the money.

SAM: I feel like we should do something.

TRAVIS: 16, total.

MATT: Nice. (whack, whack) You first jumped, hit him in the face. As he stumbles backward, use the inertia to slam him again with the same fist in the face and then turn around with a full-on haymaker to the side of the temple. (whack) As you can see, there's a spray of blood and spittle across the, you guys are starting to push towards the back wall of the Crucible, and he actually staggers back a little bit towards the wall from the impact. (cackles) And he charges towards you, putting his head right towards the stomach that he kicked before, going for that same soft spot he's opened for himself. That's going to be a 20. Yeah, that hits. 21. And 21. Comes in, slams you into the middle of your abdomen for seven damage.

SAM: Should I sing?

MATT: Eight damage. And then an additional seven. So that'd be 15, 22 points of damage. As he slams his head into your midsection, picks you up over his head, slams you onto the ground, and as you're on the ground, he runs up and soccer-ball kicks you in the side of your ribs, just (whack). You hear a crack as the impact hits and you can feel that surging, shooting, burning pain begin to fill the side of your torso. It's your go.

TRAVIS: What else do I have? What can I do?

LAURA: You can throw some dirt in his face!

SAM: From the stands, I turn to a portly gentleman next to me and I say, sir, do you see what that fucking little elf said about your mother? He called her a name I can't even repeat. I'm so sorry.

MATT: Go ahead and make a deception check.

LAURA: Was he pointing at you?

SAM: Yes.

LAURA: Oh god.

SAM: 18.

MATT: He looks down at you and looks over at the elf and he says, “I'll deal with him after the fight. I've got too much money on this right now.”

LIAM: What an asp-hole.

TRAVIS: I roll up off of my side and I start to go, oh, I don't know, it might be too much. And I grab a handful of dirt and I throw it up into his face.

MATT: All right. Riki-oh style. I like it. All right. So. As you go ahead, go ahead and just roll a basic attack.

TRAVIS: Fuck. Thank you, god. 26.

MATT: 26. Make a dexterity save on his end– no, that won't work. So you throw the dirt up. As he's rushing towards you to follow up on the attack, the dirt goes streaming into his eyes and for a second he stumbles and starts trying to wipe his face. As he does, he has the blood on his hands that's also getting in his eyes, the blood's starting to cake up a bit, and he's just reaching out in the area. So that's your first attack.

TRAVIS: Because I feel like we have a kinship, I take my foot and I throw it right up into his grundle, just soccer-kick the shit out of his nuts.

(laughter)

MATT: Go ahead and roll an attack. You have advantage on this currently, because he can't see it coming.

TRAVIS: That's even better! 25.

MATT: 25. Go ahead and roll damage.

TRAVIS: Oh no, I only have two, right? Ten.

LAURA: How was that ten, baby? That was 11. The first one was a five.

TRAVIS: Halved. Six.

LAURA: That's 11.

TRAVIS: 11.

MATT: 11.

SAM: Baby!

MATT: If you're going to do grundle damage. So as he's reeling and tries to reach out, swiping a back-fist into open air, you rush up and (whack) hit him with sheer force that you hear a unanimous (groans) in the crowd all around echo down. His knees immediately bend in towards each other, and you can see the sound escape instinctively from him, it's like, (wheezes). As you reel for your second strike, which is going to be? What's the second one you do?

TRAVIS: Well, did he drop to his knees?

MATT: No, he's still standing, but barely.

TRAVIS: Oh, really? Yeah, same place.

MATT: You pull back and (whack) a second time in the same spot, this sending him onto the ground from behind. He is currently prone. Okay, that's rough.

TRAVIS: Literally trying to see him cough a testicle.

(laughter)

MATT: Well, regardless of what happens, there's going to be a search.

(laughter)

MATT: You're going to need a scouting party to find where one of them went. So at the top of his turn, gets up and wipes dirt crust from his eyes, reeling from the impact. Uses half his movement to get up and staggers toward you as you're just welcoming it. Looks up at you for a second and says, “You shouldn't have done that, tall guy.” At which point, he goes and lunges for your midsection a second time. Misses with that strike, as you dodge out of the way he spins around and attempts to back-kick you to the torso. That will hit. A 26. And that one is going to– That's going to be six points of damage to you from the back-kick, and as his foot comes down, he's still reaching for his groin from the sheer pain, he just rushes forward and attempts to bite into your shoulder. That's going to be a 20.

TRAVIS: He rolled a 20?

MATT: Not a natural 20. Just a total of 20. He's rolled a lot of 20s. That's going to be seven damage as he sinks his teeth into the side of your shoulder and neck area. And tears a chunk of your flesh out of the sides of his mouth, now, in the muscle. So you reel back in pain and you're both clutched in this gladiatorial grip. It's your go.

TRAVIS: Oh, amazing. Since we're clutched in that grip, I'll grab him back and I'm going to try and bite his nose off.

SAM: Wait, doesn't he have no nose?

TRAVIS: Oh, he's missing a hollow, right?

MATT: It's mashed in.

TRAVIS: How about I just aim for this area and if I catch lip I'll take it as a victory.

MATT: Okay. Go ahead and roll.

TRAVIS: Yes! Okay, 21.

MATT: That hits.

TRAVIS: 20. And 24.

MATT: All hit. So as you reach forward, you use the yell of pain to turn it into an attack, reach forward and bite into the front of his face. You don't get any nose, but you do catch the top of his lip. As you pull back with a snapping sound, part of his upper lip just comes off in your mouth. How much damage does that do?

MARISHA: It's a souvenir.

TRAVIS: The first one is six.

MATT: Six damage. All right. What's your follow-up attack?

TRAVIS: Would you say that he reaches back for his face like that in pain?

MATT: Oh yeah, he rears up with his hand right there and is like, (yelps).

TRAVIS: Fantastic. I'd like to just drive my fist into his throat as his head's arched back.

MATT: All right, go ahead and roll damage on that.

TRAVIS: Yes! Five.

MATT: Five, all right.

SAM: You know what I love about these fights? They're beautiful. The beauty of the human body.

MATT: The blood's pouring down the front of his face and his throat. You clip him right in the center of his throat. You hear the coughing sound as he, with his other hand, reaches up and grabs his throat. You can now see his front teeth visible through the lip that's no longer there. And what's your third strike?

TRAVIS: Would you say that he bends forward, then, because he's grabbing his throat like that?

MATT: He's tough. He's bending forward, but he's not completely incapacitated. He's in pain.

TRAVIS: Right, I would say I go up next to him and invoke a fabled hero that I heard about in the woods named Macho Man Randy Savage, and I double-tap my elbow and drive it down on top of his head.

MATT: (laughs) All right. Go ahead and roll damage on this one.

TRAVIS: Thank you. Six.

MATT: Six. So as you leap up, using the goliath weight coming down, you double-tap the elbow and you bring it down on top of his head. He, from the sheer force of it (wham) slams down face-first into the dirt, just like that. Onto the ground. As he's getting up, he's looking kind of rough.

LIAM: I believe that's pronounced Ma-choman Rand'Savage.

MATT: There you are. A gracious warrior of the woods. While on the ground, he reaches forward and attempts to sweep your legs out from under you. Go ahead and make– this would be an acrobatics– no, we'll make this a dexterity saving throw. Why not?

TRAVIS: Ten.

MATT: Ten. (whoosh) Pulls your legs out from under you, slams you onto your back. As he leaps up on top of you immediately and with both of his fists in the air slams them down towards your face. That's going to be a 22.

TRAVIS: What?

MATT: 22 to hit. You take six points of damage.

TRAVIS: Oh, good. (laughs) I was thinking 22 points of damage!

MATT: And a 23 to hit, it's going to be an additional eight points of damage. Just once down on your face, and again with a second slam, right down onto the front of the face again. You can taste all the irony blood and liquid pouring through your sinuses down into the back of your throat as you're currently on the ground with him on top of you. You're both looking pretty rough. Where are you at, hit point-wise?

TRAVIS: I say, tastes like home. And I spit in his face and reach up and thunderclap both of his ears.

MATT: (laughs) All right, go ahead and roll for attack.

TRAVIS: 24.

MATT: Hits.

TRAVIS: 17.

MATT: 17 does not hit.

TRAVIS: 22.

MATT: 22 does hit. So you reach up. Go ahead and roll damage.

TRAVIS: Oh yeah, right.

MATT: (whack) Thunderclap to the side of both his ears.

TRAVIS: Six.

MATT: Six points of damage. As he rears back and instinctively his hands go up and try and grab at your wrists, you pull the wrists back, and he's holding you from that point. You attempt to go for another strike, but he just redirects it with his own arms. You manage to pull out of the grip with a third strike. What are you doing for that one?

TRAVIS: He pulled away from my wrists, and I'll give him a little of the same. Put my fists together and just swing straight down into his solar plexus since he's sitting on top of me.

MATT: Roll damage.

TRAVIS: That's a five.

MATT: Five. (wham) You hit and you hear the wind out of him from the impact, (wheezes) and he's trying to get the wind back.

TRAVIS: I can't hear you. What?

MATT: He pushes off of your chest to stand up for a second and (gasps) gets one big inhale of air, and as he does, he reaches up his leg and then tries to curb-stomp kick you right in the stomach while you're still on the ground. That will be 18.

TRAVIS: Misses!

MATT: All right. A 19.

TRAVIS: Misses!

MATT: And that will be a 24.

TRAVIS: You son of a bitch!

MATT: All right. So he goes to kick you once, and you dodge out of the way. Kick a second time. This time, you catch the foot and hold it in place. He then lifts up with his other foot to a point where now you're holding him in the air. As he puts all of his weight in the air, he comes down and slams his elbow right into the center of your chest, in the way you did to his head earlier. That's going to be for a total of eight points of damage.

TRAVIS: Okay.

LIAM: I take the flagon of ale that I've been drinking all this time. I slam it down on the ground and push my sister out of the way and yell at the top of my lungs, Grog! Your father was an undead piece of shit and your cousin's going to make you his bitch!

TALIESIN: There's not enough popcorn in the world for this.

LAURA: I know.

TRAVIS: (growls) I would like to reach forward with both of my thumbs and shove them into his fucking eye sockets.

MATT: Roll an attack.

TRAVIS: Fuck!

LAURA: Oh, no. You distracted him.

TRAVIS: 12. That's better. 22.

MATT: Okay, so as you reach up to try to get his eyes, he grasps your hands and instead begins pulling back on the wrists. You can feel the tension of the bone beginning to bend from the sheer strength and force of it. As you pull back your arms, you attempt to headbutt him again and he dodges his head out of the way, and he knows he has you at an advantageous position. What do you want the third attack to be?

TRAVIS: He's still on top of me, isn't he?

MATT: Yeah. Where are you at hit point-wise, by the way?

TRAVIS: 18.

MATT: He's looking pretty rough, too. So what do you want the third attack to be?

TRAVIS: Would you say he's on my chest?

MATT: He's currently on your chest and waist area right now, like (grunts) holding you down.

TRAVIS: I was going to grapple him, but if he's on my chest, I'll use my thighs to shove him up towards the upper part of my body and I'll drive down my elbow at the same time. Into that whole bloody target area.

MATT: (laughs) Okay. As you shift upward, you bring your elbow forward. Roll for attack.

SAM: No, he rolled three already.

MATT: Oh, that's right.

TRAVIS: I got at least a six.

MATT: So six damage? Okay, as you position him up, (whack) the elbow hits, and you can feel it sink in. What bones are there are mostly splintered and broken, and you get a good inch into his face with your elbow. As you pull back, he's looking really rough, and one of his eyes is beginning to swell entirely shut.

TRAVIS: We look like a Rocky movie right now.

MATT: Yeah. This is a full-on, drag-out fight.

TRAVIS: I must break you!

MATT: He angrily looks down at you, (snarls) and he reaches both of his hands up again in a giant hammer fashion. That's going to be a 17?

TRAVIS: Misses.

MATT: A 20.

TRAVIS: Hits.

MATT: And a 15.

TRAVIS: Misses!

MATT: So he brings it down. (wham) As it hits, you manage to take the brunt of it in the shoulder. The second hit comes down and slams you for eight points of damage. (wham) This one, you can feel the sternum crack. As he brings up his fists a third time, attempting to end this, you use the leverage you had when you pushed him up to actually spring your entire body upward and force him off you. He manages to get to his feet and you just get up and you both are bleeding from all over your faces with giant bruises, and both of you are barely holding yourselves up, breathing heavily. It's your go.

TRAVIS: I'm going to rush at him, spit on my knuckles, swing back, and at the last second, take my right foot and drive it right through his kneecap.

MATT: Roll for attack.

TRAVIS: Fuck you! Yes! 24.

MATT: 24 hits.

TRAVIS: 22.

MATT: 22.

TRAVIS: 19?

MATT: 19 just barely hits.

(cheering)

MATT: All right, so as you run forward, bring the leg up, (whack) you hit the side of the knee. Roll damage.

SAM: Come on, roll good.

TRAVIS: Five. Six. Six.

MATT: All right, and what are the attacks you do?

TRAVIS: I want to drive my foot through his kneecap.

MATT: It snaps. He's still standing on the other leg, but the knee is cracked behind.

TRAVIS: Oh, that's amazing. I'll just put my foot through his other knee.

MATT: As you jump off the other one, (whack) it catches the knee. It doesn't snap, but you can see there is a bend to it, and then he falls to the ground, on both of his busted knees now, looking up at you. And with the third strike, what are you going to do?

TRAVIS: I would like to grab his head, since he's probably kneeling on the ground at this point, right? And say, there's only room for one to rage in this pit. And I take it, and I just smash into the top of his jaw, hopefully dislocating the bloody, lipless face that I see.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: Wait, is he an orc?

MATT: He's a half-orc.

TRAVIS: As a half-orc, does he got those big teeth?

MATT: There are little tusks there, yeah.

TRAVIS: I'll grab onto those.

MATT: They're small to pull. You slam down on his face. (crunch) You can see the jaw crack open. The tongue instinctively moves around a little, but the jaw is definitely broken from the impact.

SAM: It's like a dance! It's like a beautiful dance.

MATT: You can see, that blow should have taken him out, because there was nothing left.

TRAVIS: He's like the Black Knight in Monty Python! He's got no knees!

MATT: His body goes limp for a brief second. You can see the half-orc rage kicks in. That half-orc's blood. You can see him now rally up for one final round of vengeance against you, Grog. Reaches up and grabs you by the throat and brings you up to slam into his head. This is going to be a 21. A 17.

SAM: Miss.

MATT: And a 22. So grabs you, slams into your head with the first strike. That is going to be six points of damage. (boom) Into the face. You can feel like the shock, the white light in your eyes as the impact smashes into you. He goes to do it a second time. This time you instinctively reach down with your hands and push his face away. You can feel the fading just from the sheer impact as he pushes you up onto your feet again and you step back. And he takes a moment to look at you with his missing lip, his bashed-in nose, eye swollen shut, both knees messed up. (pants) “Respect.” And then he runs forward and with one heaping haymaker just takes you in the face with a cracking sound for six points of damage.

(groaning)

MATT: With a resounding crack Grog's head spins, his body turning. He stumbles a couple of steps, falls to one knee, face-down in the dirt, unconscious. The whole crowd raises and cheers, (cheering) as the mostly broken half-orc raises one of its fists to the air, walks around, looks over to your body, reaches into his pocket and flicks a gold coin onto your back. Walks over to the ladder and begins very painfully making his way up to the edge of the Crucible.

LAURA: Yeah, he's only using his arms because he's got no knees! Douche.

MATT: Getting up to the top, the crowd cheers. You can now see one of the bookies reveals a holy symbol, one that you recognize as the symbol of Kord, and he goes down and immediately begins administering, healing to our recently unconscious Grog. You can see the other bookie, who is dressed similarly in the purplish robes you saw before, also begins to heal our good fighting half-orc friend as he lumps over and takes his sack of coins from him. The clerics of Kord are the ones actually running this, it looks like. You come to in the pit, Grog, beaten, wearied, and fatigued because of your frenzied rage. However, you have been defeated in the Crucible.

LAURA: That was painful.

MATT: That was so close.

SAM: I go down and nurse him, nurse his head, hold him, and just tell him, Grog, you won! You did it, buddy!

MATT: Make a deception roll.

SAM: 16.

MATT: I would say given the circumstances, it's nice that he's trying, but it's been a while since you've been bested in one-on-one combat, and a part of you is deeply hurt by it. But at the same time, there is that burning fire, that need to come back and vengefully tear him down from his precipice when you're ready.

TRAVIS: I say nothing.

ORION: It's okay, buddy. This isn't the first time you've been knocked unconscious.

LAURA: It's too bad Pike didn't cast Death Ward on him before she left, though. That would've been great.

MARISHA: I go up and rub on him and (meows).

MATT: As you're being tended to by your party, the same bookie that brought you in comes over and taps you on the shoulder and says, “Not going to lie, no one has taken a beating from the Hammer like that and brought him so close. I don't think he's going to be able to take another round with you for at least a few days. But you're welcome to fight in my ring any time you wish.”

LAURA: We'll need to earn our money back.

MATT: “There is that, yes.”

ORION: Or you could just give it to us.

TRAVIS: I walk away.

LAURA: Is there a whorehouse here in Vasselheim?

ORION: You're asking this question?

MATT: A curious laugh comes across the bookie's face and he says, “The third floor of the Bellows'–” What did I call it, again?

SAM: The Bellows' Respite.

MATT: The Bellows' Respite. Sorry, I was in the moment. “The third floor of the Bellows' Respite does itself run as a brothel, if that's what you're inquiring.”

LAURA: That is what I was inquiring.

TALIESIN: Come on, Grog, we'll get you ice cream.

LAURA: We'll get you ice cream, Grog, and a whore. How's that sound?

LIAM: Coldstone?

ORION: Grog, you can eat the ice cream from the whore.

LAURA: Tiberius, really?

ORION: I'm trying to be creative here. Make him feel good. Fireworks. Prestidigitation.

MATT: All right. Grog, as you make your way into the tavern, there is, though in your solemn state you can see a number of the patrons who were watching from the inside who were part of the crowd all give a round of applause to you as you enter. The barkeep who turns to you, a human fellow who's missing one eye, has a tufted, spotty beard and happily extends a large tankard of ale and says, “On the house for you, friend! You fought well tonight.”

TRAVIS: I like your beard.

LIAM: I take five of my remaining gold and slide it over to that bartender and say, just keep it coming. All night, please. Thanks.

MATT: “I'll deliver it to the room. By the way, what room are you staying in?”

SAM: Do we have a room?

LAURA: We would love one of those.

LIAM: The third floor, I believe.

LAURA: For some of us, not all of us.

SAM: I don't think he's going to want to… partake tonight.

LIAM: Might have problems.

SAM: Aw, he's chugging. He's sadness-chugging.

MATT: “The rest of you, how many rooms you taking? Three amongst you?”

SAM: Three.

MATT: “Three rooms for the night.”

SAM: Plus a stable for our bear.

LAURA: No. Our bear will stay in the room with us girls.

TRAVIS: It looked like rain, right? I'll be out there with the pigs.

LAURA: No, Grog.

SAM: No, it's okay, he needs to stew in this for a while.

MATT: “Your room's on the house, friend. The rest of you, that'll be six gold for the evening.”

ORION: I'll stay in your room, Grog.

SAM: I don't think he wants company tonight.

ORION: No, he can sleep with the pigs. I'll stay in the free room.

MATT: So that's six gold for them. All right, so mark off your losses for the money you put in for the pot.

TRAVIS: Where do I mark off my loss of pride?

MATT: That would be under additional notes.

SAM: I almost won.

TALIESIN: Damn it.

LAURA: Almost.

TRAVIS: What did he have, that orc piece of shit, he had what that made him come back?

MATT: It's a half-orc racial ability that the first time they're dropped to zero hit points, they can instead choose to be at one hit point. They can only do it once per day.

TRAVIS: He had one left?!

MATT: You brought him to negative five on that final hit, but that half-orc racial ability…

TRAVIS: That's even worse!

LIAM: Grog, if it's any consolation–

TRAVIS: What's that mean?

TALIESIN: It's a grouping of stars in the sky.

LIAM: As I had no idea that weapons weren't allowed in there, if you and I had fought, you would've beaten me to a bloody paste.

TRAVIS: Oh, you weren't serious, were you? I thought you were being funny.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Oh.

SAM: There's a lot of injured pride tonight.

MARISHA: Guys, we've had a really emotional day. Can we just sleep?

ORION: I found it to be very entertaining.

SAM: Hey, does anyone want to come to my room and look through my shit to see how Pike's doing?

LAURA: Okay, yeah!

ORION: Let's look through your shit. Scanlan.

LIAM: Pike would have been proud of you, Grog.

TRAVIS: Thank you. And if there had been weapons I'd be in deep shit. I'll be at the bar.

LAURA: Oh, Grog, come on.

SAM: That's not even chicken, that's just a piece of wood.

(laughter)

MATT: And yet it doesn't stop him as he, bite by bite, makes his way through the piece of driftwood he found by the bar.

LIAM: I slap down another five gold to the bartender and say, that's for that barstool.

MATT: “Thank you.” Which, the barstools, by the way, have a thick, crusty wool on them, so there's a unique flavor to the piece you've chewed through.

TRAVIS: The frying on this chicken is exquisite.

MATT: As you all take your evening of rest in your respective groups, Grog, eating and drinking away your worries until eventually you are unable to make conversation, you sloppily make your way to the third floor to a room in the brothel that has been prepared and awaiting for you, paid for by the Bellows' Respite, and you find yourself sloppily disappointing a woman until you pass out in your own sorrow.

(laughter)

MATT: And with that, we're going to take a quick break, but we'll be back here in about ten minutes, guys, right after Overlord has a few.

TRAVIS: Fuck!

LAURA: He's so upset. He's really upset.

MARISHA: I've never seen him this upset.

ORION: Yeah, isn't it weird when other people get upset?

ZAC: He's definitely not a challenge for Overlord status, that's for sure. Guys, so in case you're wondering what all of this 5k hype is that you keep seeing, if you're watching from home and you tuned in after we started. Megiyama in the chatroom has challenged you guys, the audience, if we get up to 5,000 subscribers tonight, he will buy a very large, and by very large I mean eight feet tall. It is massive. He sent me a picture; it is massive, I don't know where we will put it. We'll figure it out somehow. He will buy that for us and ship it to us, it's a very, very generous thing to help get us to 5,000 subscribers, and I was told from some people in the chat that I should also contribute in some way, shape, or form, so I have agreed to dress up as Pengulord tomorrow all day if we reach this goal. And for those who don't know, there was a very large war this morning in team No Stream, the chatroom, while we were offline. Someone thought it would be funny to put my face on a penguin. I did not think it was funny, and I timed out and banned every single person that referenced it, and exalted all of my power as Overlord, so it pains me to agree to do this, very much so, because it completely diminishes everything I've strived so hard for in world domination. Penguins are the least-threatening animals on the planet, and I despise them.

MATT: Wow, that is an intensity. Pengulord, guys.

ZAC: Good for you guys.

MATT: Pengulord, I like the sound of that.

MARISHA: They like to snuggle.

ZAC: Well, good for them. No.

MATT: We could fit Pengulord on a license plate, right?

ZAC: No. Too many letters.

TALIESIN: If we get you in this outfit, will you waddle? That's really the question.

ZAC: I said 5,000 subs, not my dignity and everything. I will put on the damn outfit at 5,000. That's all I have to offer. I'm already still working on a damn music video, so all I have left to offer is my dignity and every ounce of pride I have in anything.

MATT: So if we somehow get to 5,000 subscribers, we get an eight-foot Trinket and Pengulord gets to rule the stream tomorrow. We'll be back in about five, ten minutes, guys, please stick around, we have more interesting things to see.

MARISHA: Oh wait, before we log off, we have this ready to go. Follow our amazing artists. Also, follow Espionage Cosmetics because they're amazing supporters of the show. Tweet at them and be like, thank you so much for supporting Critical Role. Because they're awesome. Okay.

Break[]

[dramatic music]

TRAVIS: Right, listen up! If you have ale, then you have a friend in Grog Strongjaw. A goliath of towering height and size, this barbarian has an appetite for the two great loves in his life: combat, women, and ale! (chuckle) (record scratch) Wait. Easily the brains of the group, Grog is often consulted for his vast knowledge of shapes, colors, and (chuckle) shiny things! Also ale. In his early years, armed with his two-handed great axe, Grog often enjoyed proving his might amongst the ranks of his family's wandering herd. But after coming upon an unsuspecting elderly gnome in the woods, he objected to the killing of such an innocent life. A creature of impulse, Grog felt only pity for this– well, this terrified little thing. And his disobedience cost him dearly. Beaten bloody and banished by the herd leader, his uncle Kevdak, Grog was abandoned and left to die, exiled from his herd. It was then that the relative of the very gnome he fought to save, saved him. It was the kindness of a gnome cleric named Pike that healed Grog, bringing him back from death's edge. And they have remained close friends ever since. Most nights, Grog can be found challenging entire taverns to wrestling matches! Ha! Or accompanying Scanlan to the nearest house where you pay for lady favors. Also ale!

MARISHA: A first impression of Keyleth would leave you with little information on the half-elven druid. You might even think that her social awkwardness due to her sheltered upbringing is kind of sweet. (chuckle) Of course, it would be unwise to underestimate her based on first impressions. (thunder) Under that unintimidating petite frame is a vicious beast waiting to be unleashed, whose natural powers have made even the fiercest of champions pee their pants, literally! (soft chuckle) Born to the Air Tribe of the Ashari people, Keyleth was raised with a deep love of nature and the elemental magics. It is her people's inherent duty to protect the delicate areas in Tal'Dorei where the four elemental planes begin to bleed with this realm. Since she was a little girl, she had quite a knack for air manipulation and beast shaping abilities. Well, if you consider kittens and flying squirrels to be little beasts. Which, I do. (clears throat) Anyways, it wasn't long before the headmaster of the tribe, her father, Korren, realized her true prodigious abilities and she was inveterated to succeed him as the next headmaster. Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations. Every druid leader to be must embark on a journey to seek out the sister tribes in order to introduce and establish respect amongst the fellow headmasters. They call this the Aramente, or Noble Odyssey. When her father felt she was ready, he set her on the path to truly discovering herself, not knowing when, or if, she will ever return. As she hiked down the mountain towards Stillben, she meditated on the task ahead. Part of the Aramente is proving yourself a strong warrior, a valiant protector, and a wise and compassionate leader. With this knowledge, one thought plays on repeat in her mind: Is she even worthy?

TALIESIN: Percy was the third of seven children, born to a noble family who lived far to the north in the ancient castle of Whitestone. With so many siblings to share the burdens of lordship, Percy turned his attentions to the sciences, engineering, and naturalism. One day, a mysterious couple named Lord and Lady Briarwood came to court. During a feast held in their honor, the Briarwoods violently took control of the castle, killing or imprisoning everyone who would stand in their way. Percy awoke chained in the dungeon, only to be freed by his younger sister. Together they fled, chased by the Briarwoods' men. As they ran, Percy's sister took several arrows to the chest and fell. Percy kept running, eventually jumping into a freezing river and floating unconscious to freedom. He did not remember waking up on a fishing boat. He barely remembered the next two years, as he slowly made his way as far south as possible. Then one night, Percy had a dream. A roaring cloud of smoke offered him vengeance against those who destroyed his family. When he awoke, Percy began to design his first gun. (gunshot)

ASHLEY: Pike grew up on the outskirts of town, near the Bramblewood. Her ancestors were a family of deep gnomes with quite an unfavorable reputation. Thievery, destruction, and trickery left them with the curse of the last name Trickfoot. Sarenrae, the goddess of healing and redemption, had other plans for Pike's great-great-grandfather Wilhand, who left his family at a young age after a dream: a dream that changed the course of the Trickfoot family. Wilhand devoted his life to Sarenrae and pledged from then on that him and his family would live a life of service and devotion. As a child, Pike seemed to have an affinity to heal. Whether it was animals, people, or even flowers, she felt she had a purpose in making things whole that had once been broken. She studied and learned the ways to heal though divine magic. She lived a peaceful life, quiet and simple, until one day, Wilhand was captured and almost killed by a group of goliath barbarians. One of the goliaths took a stand against the murder of the innocent gnome and he himself was beaten, bloodied, and left for dead, abandoned by his herd. Wilhand went to Pike for help. She prayed and healed this barbarian as best she could, bringing him back to life. When he awoke, she discovered his name was Grog Strongjaw. After that, they were the best of friends, a rather unlikely pair. Little did she know that in a few years' time, Grog would soon return the favor and bring her back from the clutches of death. (roar, crunch) After being killed in battle, Pike felt angry. She wanted to be stronger so that it would never happen again. She spent four months at sea training with the men and women aboard a ship called the Broken Howl. Gripping her holy symbol in one hand and her morningstar in the other, this time, Pike is ready.

SAM: Oh, you haven't heard of Scanlan Shorthalt? Well, gird your loins, ladies, because he has his eye on you. A talented musician, master of disguise, and dashingly handsome in his own mind, Scanlan sings songs almost as much as he sings his own praises. Born a poor gnome, Scanlan used his endless charm and soaring tenor voice to croon for coin and support his single mother. One day he was discovered by a half-orc promoter and joined Dr. Dranzel's Spectacular Traveling Troupe, where he learned the ways of the world and honed his skills as a bard extraordinaire. A loner much of his life, Scanlan has never quite come to terms with the violent death of his mother at the hands of a goblin invasion. While his years on the road provided many, shall we say, educational experiences with the opposite sex, deep down, Scanlan yearns for the one thing he's never known: the true love of a fellow gnome. Still, Scanlan considers himself a lover first, performer second, and fighter distant third. On the battlefield, he'll support his allies, but rarely draws blood, unless it's to protect fellow gnome, Pike. Count on Scanlan for a hearty laugh, a rollicking song, and a twinkle in his eye that melts hearts and makes the females swoon.

ORION: Greetings and salutations. I am Tiberius Stormwind. I hail from a town called Ty'rex, located in the heart of Draconia. From a politically respected family, at the age of 15, I succeeded in passing the Sorcerer's Rite, showing prodigy-like control of my magic. The judges and the Draconian high council were amazed at how powerful my spells were for how long I had been training. At 20 years old, I was the youngest appointed member of the magic guild in Draconian history. For the next few years, I almost went mad from the malaise of being a guild member, as it's rather boring. However, one day I happened upon a chamber, unused for quite some time. In the room were stacks of books and maps of the surrounding cities and areas around the known world. For months, I would frequent the chamber, and learned of artifacts from legend. After a long period of research, I made a list of artifacts that caught my eye. I brought these findings to the high council and was told that all of the information in the chamber I had stumbled upon was either believed to be fiction, or unsolvable mysteries, and hence were lost forever. I found those answers to be unacceptable. A year later, I devised a ruse and managed to convince the city council to lend support in me leaving Draconia on a mission of peace and diplomacy for the surrounding kingdoms, going from town to town and making friends and allies, in and for the name of Draconia. Being a red dragonborn, I had quite the task on my hands in that respect, but it was exactly what I needed so I could explore the world and find these artifacts, as I felt the truth was out there. Some may describe me as buffoonish, but I say poppycock to all that. I am much sharper than most give me credit for. I just don't pay attention to things sometimes. I've also been known to be rather cunning, loyal, happy-go-lucky, and well, dangerous. I can't help but show my true scales every now and then. But overall, I think I'm quite friendly for a dragonborn!

LIAM: Never entirely welcome in the company of elves or men, Vax'ildan learned at a young age to skip past formality, preferring instead to invite himself in your door. Along with twin sister Vex'ahlia, Vax was born by a chance encounter between elven royalty and human peasantry. Raised by their mother in their early years, the twins were eventually sent off to their father in the elven capital of Syngorn. But their cool reception among the elves–

Part II[]

MATT: Welcome back, guys. All right, so we had a little break here. Remember to follow our awesome artists on the Twitter. So, let's go ahead and get back to the game so we can– we have a lot to do tonight. All right. As morning comes to, the rest of you wake up, the first thought, of course, being the heartache for your friend Grog, who is not in any of the rooms.

LAURA: The heartache for our lost money.

MATT: Yeah, more the money probably for Vex– but as you wake up, Grog is nowhere to be found in your rooms, of course. He wandered off to presumably the third floor.

TALIESIN: Is that a euphemism?

MATT: It can be.

MARISHA: I'm still in Minxie form. I slept in Minxie form. I'm going to go look for him, see if I can find him in any of the rooms on the third floor.

MATT: Okay. A giant white saber-toothed tiger wandering the interior does set off a few minds. I mean, an armored bear being escorted is one thing, but a lone saber-toothed tiger? As soon as you make your way through the hallway, you can see one of the patrons comes out of the room and goes, (startled sound) and goes and pulls his blade out, like, “Help! Help, there's a tiger! There's a tiger in the inn!”

MARISHA: Why does this always happen to me?

LIAM: Hearing yelling, I run up the stairs and say, hey, has anyone seen a– oh, there you are. Come on, Snibbles, come on. We've got to go back downstairs.

MATT: “Hey, keep that thing on a leash, sir.”

LIAM: I'm really sorry.

MATT: “Liable to kill someone!”

LIAM: Chews through her rope all the time. Come on, Snibbles.

MARISHA: I roll over on my back, and I'm like those cats you see on YouTube who hate being on leashes. Just dragging.

LIAM: I start going, on the tummy.

MATT: Goes back in his room and closes the door.

LAURA: I'm pretty sure you just groped her.

MATT: At about this time, you hear a heavy footfall. A second heavy footfall. A third heavy footfall. And from around the corner of the staircase, descending from the third floor, you see a very hungover and expressionless Grog squinting and making his way down.

LIAM: Morning, big guy. Have fun last night?

MARISHA: God. You're not going to puke, are you?

MATT: You hear (meowing).

TRAVIS: I never puke.

LAURA: Do you need some breakfast or ale?

TRAVIS: What, food? I think I'm good.

LAURA: All right.

LIAM: I think you need an ale.

LAURA: Little hair of the dog? Yeah?

TRAVIS: Now that sounds like a plan.

LAURA: All right.

MATT: You guys head down. The rest of you manage to eventually wake and make your way down to the tavern, where Grog is already in the process of consuming his liquid breakfast.

ORION: Hold on, I haven't come out of the room yet, right?

MATT: Not until you want to.

ORION: So I do, I see Grog going there, drinking his thing, I use my Mage Hand and I whack the ale out of his hand.

MATT: Your tankard goes flying out of your hand, on the ground, it spills across the front–

ORION: I make my way down to the thing and I tell the bartender, give this warrior water. This might be your problem, Grog. You lost for a reason, and you're a warrior.

LIAM: Yes, but he's named after beer.

(laughter)

ORION: Yes, I know that, Vax. I'm just saying.

TALIESIN: And you are what you eat.

ORION: I cast Invisibility.

MATT: Okay. Tiberius vanishes. The barkeep hands over a big mug of clear water and sets it in front of Grog.

LAURA: Oh, this is the very special beer.

MATT: “It's the water that was requested by your friend. Who disappeared.”

TRAVIS: Water?

LAURA: It'll get you super drunk.

LIAM: Can you feel it? You can feel it, right? You can totally feel it.

TRAVIS: It's pretty smooth.

(laughter)

TRAVIS: Keep it coming.

MATT: Meals are ordered, you guys are fed as per your purchase of the evening's inn stay. Your meal's still covered by the tavern. Eventually, you find yourselves full and about, I'll say roughly ten, 11 in the morning it would be.

MARISHA: I'm no longer Minxie to eat breakfast with my friends.

MATT: Okay.

LAURA: Hi, good to see you, Keyleth.

LIAM: Are you a dwarf again?

MARISHA: No. I should to talk to more dwarves before I try to… yeah.

TALIESIN: That was a little racist.

MARISHA: It was a little racist.

SAM: Remind me, what was on our plate? What's on our plate?

LAURA: Well, we have multiple things we can be doing. We can go meet Keyleth's druid family in the mountains, right? Fire, brimstone, stuff like that. We have a lot of money waiting for us.

TRAVIS: I think we have to go back on the airship to go get it.

LAURA: In Kraghammer, yes, but there is 25,000 gold waiting for us, so that's always an option.

TRAVIS: The Braving Grounds, we could see if they need any– since we– I lost us a lot of (tearing up) money.

LAURA: Here, Grog. Have some clear beer.

TRAVIS: Some more? Okay. We can see if they need anyone for hire, go and have a… (tearing up again) being strong.

LIAM: I would feel it very hard to leave Pike behind in the city. Are we really going to leave and go to Kraghammer?

MARISHA: Well, we don't have to. I don't want to go yet. We traveled several days here. While we're in this side of the country, I should probably go, you know. Do the things I was set out to do.

TRAVIS: Plus we have the poo cell phone.

LAURA: Good job, Scanlan.

SAM: It's more of a poo walkie-talkie.

LIAM: I don't know what either of those things are.

SAM: Just know that there's poo involved.

LIAM: Does the poop talk like my earring? Because that I understand.

LAURA: Yes, it's like a poop earring.

LIAM: It's like a poop earring. Why didn't you say that in the first place? You talk through it? You talk to poo?

SAM: You see through it.

MATT: Hashtag poop earring.

LAURA: So yes. There's multiple things.

SAM: Well, multiple things. There's just go back to Kraghammer and get money, or go where Keyleth wants to go.

LAURA: We can look for work here, we can go back to Bahamut, see if they want–

TALIESIN: Keyleth's got family. We can visit her family.

LAURA: That's what I'm talking about, yes. Fire, brimstone, volcanoes. Druids.

TRAVIS: Keyleth, do you have an opinion?

MARISHA: I mean… I guess if you guys don't have anything else to do, yeah.

LIAM: How far are they from here?

MARISHA: I'm not sure. We'd have to start asking around. They're remote. We're secluded people.

LAURA: Secrety.

MARISHA: We're a little secrety, yeah, and we haven't heard– I just want to clarify, you know. I haven't talked to them in a long time, so I hope they're nice. And I'm sure they're–

LIAM: Family stuff can be tricky.

TALIESIN: It seems a shame to have a family and not take advantage of it.

SAM: What's family for other to take advantage of?

TRAVIS: To hit. To kiss.

LAURA: To kiss? You kiss your family?

TRAVIS: Yeah, I'm a goliath. What about it?

LAURA: There are things about goliaths I did not want to know. That water has a good effect on him.

LIAM: Do you feel drawn to your parents, though? Do you want to go?

MARISHA: I have to go. I don't have a choice.

LIAM: Then we should go.

MARISHA: Okay. I just don't want to inconvenience anybody.

LAURA: Inconvenience, schminconvenience.

SAM: Oh, is that Dwarvish?

LAURA: Yes. It's actually Underdark. I'm fluent.

MARISHA: Oh wait, that was Dwarvish? Inconschmenience.

TALIESIN: Your accent's amazing.

MARISHA: I'm trying to work on learning more Dwarvish. Okay.

TRAVIS: I have a question for you, Vax. The Braving Grounds that are here, would it be to our benefit to collect maybe some coin and practice our (gets choked up) fighting before we go to the maybe-friendly fire jugglers' village?

LIAM: You want to go back in there? It's awfully fresh.

TRAVIS: Not the Crucible. Don't rub my face in it. Not in the Crucible, to the Braving Grounds.

LIAM: The Braving Grounds. We were just in the pub. I mean, that was just a backyard brawl, basically. He's talking about going to the temple.

TRAVIS: Was that the Crucible I was in?

MATT: The Crucible was the pit you were in. The temple you were at is the Trial Forge. The whole area you guys are in, this district of Vasselheim, is known as the Braving Grounds.

LIAM: This is what I think, Grog. It's too fresh. You need some time away from it. We should absolutely come back and you should break that guy's fucking face, no question.

TRAVIS: (choked up) I could've. Totally could've.

LIAM: You almost did.

LAURA: Yeah. Next time, bite his nose off right away before it's concave.

TRAVIS: I saved it for too late. I did it too late. But then in the balls…

LAURA: The balls– good effort.

LIAM: We've come a very long way. Keyleth is near her family. She needs to see where that road lies.

TALIESIN: We should take care of each other.

LIAM: And once we do, we'll come back and fucking kill that guy.

TRAVIS: And we can use weapons if they suck, right?

LIAM: Yes.

LAURA: Speaking of weapons, aren't we in a perfect weapons-buying district?

SAM: Is that true?

TRAVIS: Yes! Can we go find an armory or somewhere that sells pointy things?

MATT: You can certainly try. Yeah. As a note, too, as you're having this conversation, you reach into your pocket, Grog. As you're feeling around in your pocket, you realize that you saved in your drunken state the upper lip. It's rubbery and dry, but it's there.

TRAVIS: I tuck that inside of my belt-beard. Just so it's nice there. One little part of it just flapping out.

LAURA: What about your beard? Is he growing his beard?

TRAVIS: Oh, it is a new day.

MATT: You get to go ahead and roll a percentage dice.

TRAVIS: Nine, 90.

MATT: 99. No beard this morning. It goes the other way.

TRAVIS: It goes the other way?!

MATT: Lower percentage.

TRAVIS: My life is shit! I can't do anything!

MATT: It's a rough day for Grog.

TRAVIS: I'm hanging myself. Where's the bridge?

SAM: There's no bridge here.

LAURA: Actually, I don't know about anybody else, but I'm incredibly low on funds at the moment.

TALIESIN: Perhaps shopping is not the best path.

MARISHA: We did just do a lot of shopping.

SAM: Yeah, let's go adventuring.

TALIESIN: We haven't had an awkward parental confrontation in what feels like months.

MARISHA: Okay. You guys, I'm so nervous.

TRAVIS: You really are?

MARISHA: Well, I mean, it's a big thing.

TRAVIS: Have you seen them, ever?

MARISHA: The first time I left home was when I met up with you guys.

MATT: (impact) You guys suddenly hear this slamming sound that echoes throughout the nearby city. You hear this impact, like this distant crashing of stone against stone. A few seconds later, you hear this low (horn sound), this horn that's just bellowing out, this deep echoing horn. The rest of the tavern looks around, confused. A couple of individuals step outside to look.

ORION: I'm at the dock, right?

MATT: You've been walking away for a while, and you get about roughly ten minutes away before you hear this impact and these horns going off in the distance.

SAM: I turn to the barkeep and say, well, what was that? Do you know? Have you heard that before? What is that?

MATT: “It's the horn of the Trial. Means there's some sort of attack.”

SAM: Attack? Where? How do we know where?

MATT: “I don't know, but I'm getting ready.” And he starts going to the back room.

LAURA: Getting ready where? What are we doing?

ORION: I'm going to cast Fly on myself and see what's going on.

MATT: Okay, so you become visible and begin lifting up into the air–

ORION: No, I'm still invisible for a round.

MATT: Oh, because the– okay. So you lift into the air and then appear as the concentration spell wears off. You got your crown. Looking over, you can see immediately there appears to be some commotion, like some dust has scattered up from the forest on the far side of the Braving Grounds, outside of the major wall of the city.

ORION: I'm going to do a (whoosh) to where they are.

MATT: Okay, you start gliding over. As you guys rush out, you can see now a bunch of the Bastions that are set across the top of the wall are gathering and loading in bolts, and you see two of them fire. You hear this now guttural roaring sound, but multiple ones, like a chorus of large bestial screams echo and then (wham) a second slamming sound of stone into stone, and you can see at the very distant wall, right below where those two Bastions would have fired those giant dragon-headed bolt-throwers, both get thrown off the top, falling a good 40 feet out of view beyond the distant rooftops. You can see a small crack beginning to form at the top of the wall. Two other Bastions now begin to rush in and take the place of those two bolt-throwers.

LIAM: I yank two daggers out, flip them, catch them, and just start running.

LAURA: Can I grab the flying carpet out of the Bag of Holding before you take off?

TRAVIS: Yeah.

MATT: Sure. You grab it. You guys start running. You're gliding in.

SAM: I'm ambling behind them.

ORION: I'm going to where the attack is, not to them.

TALIESIN: I'm going to hop on the carpet with you.

MARISHA: I'm going.

LAURA: I swing down and pick up my brother.

TALIESIN: I'm hopping on, as well.

MATT: You hop on.

LIAM: Come along, Percival.

MATT: At which point, two more bolts are let loose, and you hear the creature once again scream (screech) in pain, and then the footfalls.

LIAM: We don't see them yet?

MATT: No, you just hear it. It's on the other side of the wall. You see what looks like a toothy maw streak across the top of the tower for a moment, and then the tree line shift, and the footfalls get quieter and quieter.

TRAVIS: Go ask one of the Bastion guys what it was.

LAURA: Yeah, we fly up next to one of the shooter guys and say, what was it? What is it?

MATT: Okay, you glide up to it, and as you look down, you can see the two Bastions that fell. They're currently being tended to. One of them looks unconscious and rough from the impact of the fall, the other one's walking with a limp, trying to find its way back towards the interior of the wall that leads up to the top of his post. The one you come by has sweat beading down his face and you see he's loaded another bolt and he's looking out, wide-eyed, towards the forest. He goes, “It came back.”

LAURA: What came back?

MATT: “We've had this blasted thing seen on and off again for the past few weeks. Maybe it's hungry or it's bored, but either way, this multi-headed thing, this hydra-like creature keeps coming in and I don't know, I think it's testing the wall.”

LAURA: Like a raptor.

TRAVIS: They remember.

LAURA and LIAM: Clever girl.

(laughter)

SAM: Should we go kill it?

LIAM: I don't see it anymore. I think it's gone back into the woods.

MATT: “It's fled. Got a few hits in, but it went and… we can never seem to get enough to take it down.”

LIAM: How frequently are these attacks coming?

SAM: Of course we can track it.

MATT: “I mean, you're welcome to try. It's only been maybe two or three times this past week, but it's come once or twice a week for the past month, hitting different areas of the city. Not just this beast, a few different ones, but mostly this abomination. It's a nuisance more than anything, although it did get a good hit on the wall.” And he looks over and you can see there's a crack in the stone. He looks nervously over it and, “I'll get to fixing that right quick. It keeps slinking off back into the Vesper Timberlands. Kord help us if there's more than one of these.”

LAURA: Kord help us. Good old Kord. Okay.

TRAVIS: I grab my earring and I say, Tiberius, where are you?

ORION: I'm flying around.

MATT: You just now glide over, seeing the flying carpet towards the top of the wall.

ORION: I'm above you.

TRAVIS: Where?

ORION: Here!

MATT: He is visible, just gliding by. You guys have run up to the edge of the wall. You're beneath looking up at the flying carpet and they're having this conversation at such a distance where you can't really hear them talking. Percy, Vex, and Vax, you're up on the flying carpet currently, conversing with the Bastion.

LAURA: Can we float up a little bit and see if we can see movement in the trees where it is?

MATT: You glance over and you can see the canopy shifting slightly. It's about a quarter-mile off and disappearing before it's eventually a little bit out of sight. You figure a creature that large can't be too difficult to track.

LAURA: Okay.

SAM: Go kill it?

LAURA: Well, here's the thing. I bring the carpet back down and say, I see where it went, if you guys want to fight it. What do you think?

ORION: I'd like to go get my money at Kraghammer.

SAM: I thought we'd decided to go to Keyleth's.

MATT: The individuals are now, they're currently–

MARISHA: You left during the family meeting.

LIAM: That money's not going anywhere.

ORION: I suppose you're right.

LIAM: Let's help the city out, then we'll go on to see Keyleth's parents.

SAM: Help the city out by going to track the hydra first?

TRAVIS: I run back to the tavern real fast. People have left, right?

MATT: Yeah, there are people outside looking at what happened.

TRAVIS: Barkeep still there?

MATT: He's there, and he's currently putting on armor by himself.

TRAVIS: It's okay, it left. Big crack in the wall. Might think about leaving. Before you do, the Siren. Where might I find her?

MATT: He thinks to himself, says, “She's a slippery one. She only shows up when she wants to start a fight. I gather your best bet would be to ask around. I hear she runs at times with the– what are they called? The Slayer's Take. The Slayer's Take.” As you guys are talking about this, the Bastion that was talking to you guys is now coming down the wall, and he's like, “Are you seriously thinking about going after that thing?”

SAM: Only if there's money involved.

MATT: “Oh, I can guarantee a beast of that size and that much of a problem's got a hell of a price on its head.”

LAURA and SAM: From who?

(laughter)

MATT: “I gather anyone you take it to at that point. Probably take just one or more of its heads back, or some proof it's dead, and I'm sure there will be a few people that will fight hand over fist to pay for that.”

LIAM: We could easily get a head. Let's go right now. Grog's doing something. Let's go.

SAM: Hey, Grog. Grog, come in. We're going to go kill something. We need you.

LIAM: How? We're on the carpet, he's flying. Scanlan's riding on an eagle.

MARISHA: I can try a Locate Creature spell.

TALIESIN: You can do a what?

MARISHA: I can cast Locate Creature.

TALIESIN: She can cast Locate Creature.

SAM: Let's leave Trinket behind. Just for now, it's so hard to keep track of Trinket, Jesus.

LIAM: Grog's been fighting for a long time, he needs rest. Let's go!

MATT: Trinket is there behind you.

LAURA: Polymorph him, please.

MARISHA: I didn't learn Polymorph. You're going to have to ask Scanlan about that one.

LAURA: Scanlan, please. Polymorph him.

SAM: What, me? Do I know Polymorph?

LIAM: Whatever that thing is, it's getting away. We're losing time.

LAURA: We can track him. I'm a ranger.

MARISHA: I drop to my knees and I cast Locate Creature.

TRAVIS: I can only come if Tiberius lets me.

SAM: Oh, to fly.

LIAM: Yes, exactly. Let's keep twiddling our thumbs.

ORION: I'm going to cast Fly out of my ring on Grog.

MATT: All right. Grog.

SAM: I guess we're going. Hold on!

MARISHA: Do you want to use your ranger tracking skills, or should I try and cast the spell?

LAURA: I can definitely use my ranger skills.

ORION: I'm going to cast it at 5th level, and I'm going to cast it on myself, I'll keep it on him, Grog, and Trinket.

MATT: Okay. So Trinket once again– (distressed bear noises)

ORION: Like last time, remember, Trinket?

MATT: Trinket seems to be a little less perturbed by the circumstance.

TRAVIS: I grab Trinket's paw like in Superman 1, and we fly.

MATT: Grog and Trinket, coasting through the air, arm in paw.

TRAVIS: Thank you, Tiberius.

LIAM: Peter Pan and Wendy.

TALIESIN: Can you read my mind?

MATT: All right. So as you guys all drift up over the town, you can immediately see the Bastion that was talking to you is looking very, very curiously at Tiberius.

LAURA: Oh, don't worry, he's really nice!

SAM: Sorry, there was just a little magic so we could go kill the hydra, sorry…

(laughter)

MATT: As you guys vanish over the wall, you can now see before you the entirety of the Vesper Timberlands.

LIAM: Most people just say thank you! Dick.

MATT: Below you, the landscape is entirely consumed by what looks like the densest forest you've ever encountered. The cold air seems to be growing colder as the day progresses on and the clouds themselves are choked dark grey. The rain never fell last night, but the storms seem, or at least the storm front that seems to push its way is still ominously looking overhead the entirety of this landscape. Looking down across the Vesper Timberland, you can see the thick canopy, the occasional mountain or hill that's jutting through the top of it, but there is no movement. There is no current sign of the creature.

TRAVIS: Let's use some bait.

SAM: Wait no, we saw the direction it went in, right?

LAURA: Yeah.

LIAM: Don't worry, my sister's a ranger. She can track anything.

LAURA: Why are you being an asshole to me today?

LIAM: I don't know, why am I?

LAURA: I don't know!

(laughter)

LAURA: I judged him, apparently, but I don't remember doing it.

LIAM: The Critters will figure it out.

LAURA: Yeah, can I go low to the ground and track it?

MATT: You can. So you take the carpet down, and as it hits the canopy, it's a very slow, arduous process to weave between the thick network of branches and vines and other bits of growth that have completely covered the top of this forest. Eventually, the carpet comes down into the floor. The rest of you guys who are flying coming along, as well?

SAM: I'm coming along.

MATT: You all come down behind the carpet, eventually breaking through the top of the canopy and reaching the interior of the Vesper Timberland itself.

LAURA: This is my other favored terrain.

MATT: Good to know. This forest, incredibly lush, presses up against the city walls itself, nearly oppressively with the impact. It grows up right against the city wall. And it's almost like the wall itself is constantly keeping it at bay in the way that the growth that's pushing inward. The tree trunks you see, now that you've hit the interior, vary in size, some only a few feet in diameter. You come across a couple that are 20, 30 feet or more, giant trees. Also, even though it's midday at this point in time, the light into the forest is choked so thin it's almost like it's dusk, near dark, inside the forest. The air hits you with the smell of wet earth, moss. Vines and branches dangle from and reach from every direction, and you can see there are, you can walk through the path here, but nearing trees themselves, the roots are so large and so twisted where they enter the ground. You're definitely going to have to keep up with your ranger friend here.

LIAM: Just like the old days.

ORION: Now we've touched down and we're traveling?

MATT: You guys are in the forest pushing through various walkways. Go ahead and make a survival check with advantage.

SAM: Survival check? Is that for her?

MATT: Yep. She's tracking the creature.

LAURA: Oh, natural 20!

(cheering)

MATT: All right. Following its path, you see that there are tracks going both ways, meaning the creature as it came through towards the city, it turned its path about and then exited the same pathway. So as you're following it along for a good 15 minutes or so, you come across a small opening in the forest where you can see what looks to be a very messily partially devoured carcass of something.

LAURA: Is it big?

MATT: It looks like it was pretty big, it's definitely spread out over this area.

LAURA: I think it ate something here, you guys.

SAM: Good ranging.

LAURA: Thank you.

TALIESIN: I'd like to try and identify the animal that it ate.

MATT: Make an investigation check.

TALIESIN: 13?

MATT: 13? You look at it, it appears to be some sort of furred beast. Huge in size at one point, it is long-dead for at least–

TALIESIN: Like moose-big or bigger?

MATT: No, as big as some of the umber hulks you've fought. But it looks humanoid-ish, more primate-like. The more you look at it, it looks like it may have been at one point a large, massive ape of some kind. But it has been torn open, limbs scattered all across this small clearing. You can see there are a series of bite and scratch marks across it, and most of its internal organs are missing.

TALIESIN: I don't know what we're tracking, but I think it's friendly.

MARISHA: Can I do a nature check to see if I can figure anything out about the nature of the attack?

MATT: Sure.

MARISHA: That's going to be 21.

MATT: 21. As you look down at it and you take close inspection on the attack, you look, a creature like this, when it destroys and bites, especially the creature that you saw earlier briefly, it appeared through the canopy when you first arrived. Many heads, gnashing teeth. The bite marks and the attack on this carcass are definitely in line with that creature. However, you do notice that there are other marks and attacks across it, as well. Some of the wounds across its body appear to be made by weapons. There are gash marks and slashes. And the more and more you inspect the body, you can see the blood that has been scattered about by this was thick and congealed by the time that it was tossed amongst this opening.

MARISHA: Does it look like the wounds from the weapons happened post-mortem? Or at the same time?

MATT: Actually, the wounds from the weapons appear to have occurred fresh, whereas the wounds from being killed and eaten, or being eaten by the creature, appear to be post-mortem by quite some time.

LIAM: So it was killed by civilized folks and then torn apart by this thing.

TRAVIS: Maybe the Slayer's Take.

MARISHA: Can I figure out what kind, was it some bird creature? Is all Percy could–

MATT: Ape creature. It's essentially a massive, for lack of a better term, a dire-sized ape.

TALIESIN: Dire-ape. It's possible somebody was feeding it.

LAURA: Should we continue on, keep tracking?

LIAM: My sister and I are going to check and see if there's any sign of it in the area.

LAURA: Yeah, perception check around. Oh, that looks good.

LIAM: Yes, it was. 21 for me.

LAURA: Yeah, only 18 for me. But wait, advantage. That's way better! 25.

MATT: 25. Looking ahead, this carcass was eaten before the creature attacked the city. You can see from the time difference that this happened. But it has torn through this space recently. You can see part of the body has been shoved aside and crushed under some giant clawed foot. It continues weaving between the trees in this small pathway that looks well-worn, like there are some portions of the forest that are well-overgrown and mostly untouched. There is a specific path along the floor of this forest that looks like it's been used often by large footsteps and small ones.

LAURA: Should we follow along that path? But maybe off to the side a bit, like in the trees but next to the path?

SAM: No, let's just go down the middle. What, did it leave traps? It's a hydra.

LIAM: I'll go down in the bushes, thanks.

ORION: Is it like a thicket? Is this rough terrain we're going through?

MATT: There are many portions of this that come across as rough terrain. At certain times it's okay, especially on the worn path, any off that can be a little more difficult to traverse.

ORION: Is it plant life?

MATT: Plant life, tree roots, heavy thick branches that have fallen or have grown out and interwoven. Occasional rocks or natural formations that are jutting out of the earth.

SAM: Let's continue on as fast as possible.

MATT: Make another tracking check, with advantage.

LAURA: Oh man, another one?

MATT: (singing) Advantage.

LAURA: 16.

SAM: I'm going to inspire her with a little song of inspiration. (singing) And the ranger's going to range, range, range, range, range. And the tracker's going to track, track, track, track, track. I'm just going to watch, watch, watch, watch, watch. Watch her range.

ALL: (singing) Watch her range.

LAURA: What do I need to add?

MATT: A d10.

LAURA: Okay, so 19.

SAM: Oh good. Three points.

MATT: All right. You continue moving forward off the track for another ten minutes or so before you see some movement ahead.

LAURA: Perception?

MATT: Perception check.

TALIESIN: I'll join in that. 21.

TRAVIS: 12.

LAURA: 18.

ORION: How far away are we from each other?

MATT: You guys are keeping a pretty close view, you're a little behind them, but you're letting them push forward unless you choose to do anything otherwise.

LIAM: I'm going stealth.

MATT: All right. Make a stealth check. You and Percy go ahead and you look forward, and you notice there are a couple small pools of water that have just coalesced through the recent storms or just a natural small pool of water that exists in this portion, but you can see the back of a large, scaled creature with a tan dark-brown hide, long tail, currently stooped down and drinking from the waters in the pool. You can hear the distant (lapping) sound of water dripping out of its jaws, and you can see now, there are multiple heads taking drinks out of this pool here.

SAM: Is the foliage around us green? Brown? Standard foliage color?

MATT: In this area, because of the nature of the rich earth, most of the foliage here is a deep green.

SAM: I'm going to turn us all deep green. With Seeming.

LIAM: With what now?

SAM: Seeming. Yes with Seeming. I spread my Seeming all over us, turning us green. With Seeming all over us.

TALIESIN: There's nothing you can't ruin.

MATT: As the hue of your garments begin to shift to the color of the surrounding forest, I'd like everybody to make a stealth check who hasn't already, with advantage.

LIAM: Oh, 30.

ORION: I cast Stoneskin right now.

SAM: We're rolling for stealth? With advantage?

LAURA: Natural 20!

TALIESIN: 15.

SAM: 16.

MARISHA: 25 total.

MATT: These are trees. There, looming at the edge of the water–

LAURA: Whoa. Is that a dragon?

MATT: That is a massive hydra.

LAURA: So it's not technically in the dragon school?

MATT: No. It is considered a monstrosity, technically. You guys are all hidden off to the side here.

LIAM: I'm scooting forward quietly.

TALIESIN: Hail, hydra.

MARISHA: Where do you hail from, hydra?

MATT: All right, we'll put that as your guys' current placement. Stealth scores are?

LIAM: 30.

SAM: 16.

ORION: 18.

MARISHA: 25.

TALIESIN: 15.

TRAVIS: 15.

LAURA: It was a natural 20. Do I add anything?

MATT: No, you don't have to worry about that.

SAM: So we're all good.

MATT: Okay. The creature keeps drinking. Occasionally, a head will come up and look around. Another head will come up and snap at it, and snap back, and then both go down and they start drinking on their own. You apparently are not currently noticed.

LAURA: Should I have rolled for Trinket?

MATT: Go ahead and roll for Trinket.

LAURA: I rolled an 18 for Trinket.

MATT: Okay, Trinket's fine. Trinket with his deep green fur, at the moment. So what would you like to do?

LIAM: I'm pulling out my Dagger of Venom.

TRAVIS: Set a really good trap. Let's think about this.

MARISHA: I can box him in with my Wall of Stone.

LAURA: I can cast the spike-growth thing again.

SAM: Should we try to push him in the water?

TRAVIS: We could lightning the water.

LAURA: In the water, then lightning the water? That's good.

ORION: I have all kinds of things.

TRAVIS: Suggestions?

LIAM: If you box it in, we can't get inside.

ORION: If we can nudge it into where he's drinking, then box him in.

LAURA: Drown him?

TRAVIS: Or lightning the water?

LAURA: Yeah. Box him in the water and then lightning the water.

TRAVIS: Keyleth, you're up.

LIAM: Keyleth, when you shape the stone, can you make it lean towards him in a ramp? I can run up. It would still box him in. I could just traverse it.

MARISHA: Yeah, I see what you're saying. I'm going to pyramid him in, essentially. I'm going to try and make almost behind him is an auditorium and the front of him is a jabby ramp. Does that make sense? Auditorium?

SAM: Let's do this.

MATT: Okay. The wall of stone has to be connected to itself, so it would have to be like–

MARISHA: Okay, I'll do a spiral. Like a spiraly ramp that traps him in.

TALIESIN: We're going to take the carpet and make our way to the other pond.

LAURA: Do you want to go from either side? You take the carpet, go to the other side, and I'll walk over with Trinket to the other. What is he looking for?

MATT: Our carpet got moved. We have flying carpets from fans here I want to use, but it got moved.

MARISHA: Are they in our magic box?

MATT: We'll find them. We've got carpets from you guys to use. We'll get that in just a second. It's fine. We've got to move. So Percy?

TALIESIN: I have the carpet, I'm going to head towards that small–

MATT: You have the laser pointer. Show me.

TALIESIN: What is that?

MATT: That is a rock.

TALIESIN: I'm going to move just to the other side of that.

MATT: Okay, you coast through here, unseen.

LAURA: I'm going to do the same to the other side, actually.

MATT: Around and behind to this side, here?

LAURA: Would I be able to shoot him from behind the one further back?

MATT: From here, right now? No.

LAURA: Well then I'll go behind the big tree. There, yeah. Totally hidden!

MATT: Yes. Anyone else, placement?

SAM: I'm going to move closer.

MATT: Okay. Right there.

MARISHA: Hey, Matt? Instead of Wall of Stone, I'm actually going to cast my one 6th-level spell, which is Move Earth.

MATT: Have you read Move Earth?

MARISHA: Yeah. A few weeks ago.

MATT: You can move large chunks of earth over a small period of time. It's not an attack spell, it's more of you can dig a cave.

MARISHA: Never mind. I'll stick with the original plan. I can't dome him up and go ahead and push him in the water really quick at this point?

MATT: Probably not with that one.

MARISHA: All right, I'll stick with Wall of Stone, which I know I can do. Make a hydra pyramid!

LIAM: I rolled a 30. I want to get down in a crouch and just run right there.

MATT: Okay. Keyleth, where are you going? To have line of sight on the creature, where are you going?

MARISHA: Right there is fine.

MATT: You don't have line of sight on the creature. There's a tree blocking.

MARISHA: Oh. No, let me move towards Scanlan.

MATT: All right, so over here?

MARISHA: Yep.

ORION: I'd like to do an investigation on his– oh yes! I rolled a 21.

MATT: What are you trying to do?

ORION: Guess how much he weighs.

MATT: A creature of this size, probably close to two tons. More than three tons, maybe? 5,000 pounds.

ORION: Damn it. Too big.

MATT: It's a big creature. Grog, where are you going?

TRAVIS: I'm going to post up on, where's my laser pointer?

SAM: In your eye! God, you're having the worst day!

LIAM: Just headbutt a tree or something.

MATT: Tiberius, you're staying right there?

ORION: Keeping within 100 feet of it.

MATT: Okay, that's well within a hundred feet.

ORION: Well, Vax can move. Is that my best POV?

MATT: To see it, yeah. Otherwise, you would be blocked.

ORION: Okay.

MATT: All right.

ORION: Actually, we can move anywhere right now, right?

MATT: All right, is everyone set? Who's taking first initiative on this?

MARISHA: I am.

LAURA: Can you move Trinket next to Grog?

MATT: Trinket moves around next to Grog.

MARISHA: Okay, I want to try and do a little pushy-shovery at the same time.

MATT: All right. There you are.

LAURA: There we go, look at us all. Strategized.

SAM: Yeah, that's going to come in handy when he just kills all of us in one shot.

MARISHA: Okay. As he gets in that corner of that puddle, I'm going to Fibonacci circle and starting here, push him in a bit and wrap him up.

MATT: Okay, so you create from the earth a wall of stone that comes jutting out. That way?

MARISHA: Yeah, I want him to be tight in the circle here, and if I can get it to push him towards the water.

MATT: The force of the wall of stone slams into him and through the physical form, it's not enough to actually move a creature of its size and weight, but it does form around it and hold it in place, currently.

LIAM: As soon as Vax sees that, he starts running through the grass, up the slope of the stone.

MATT: It's currently surrounded by a ramp of stone. The heads start reaching out and biting at the stone.

ORION: You're running up the stone?

LIAM: Yeah, and I'm clicking one boot against the other as I run up it, so I'm going faster, run up, and I'm going to jump and I'm going to start stabbing into that head.

MATT: All righty. Go for it.

LIAM: Okay, 17. Shit. And 27.

MATT: Second one hits.

LIAM: The final one hits?

MATT: Oh sorry, the first one was?

LIAM: 17. One.

MATT: One misses, the final one hits, yes.

LIAM: Okay. So does this count as sneak attack? All right, so I roll a nine for damage, plus eight, 12, 14, 15, 17 of sneak attack damage, with the first attack, that's poison. And the poison is DC 15.

MATT: DC 15. Misses. Does not make its save.

LIAM: With 11 points of poison damage to its head. That's just the first attack that hits. And then I take my keen dagger and I jab for the eye, and that is a ten of damage.

MATT: Nice. It is considered a sneak attack because this is a surprise round.

LIAM: Both attacks?

MATT: The first attack that hits is considered a sneak attack.

LIAM: First attack I gave you was sneak attack.

MATT: No, I mean the first attack that hits it. You missed, missed, and then you hit.

LIAM: Oh, I thought I hit and missed and hit.

MATT: Missed, missed, and hit.

LIAM: All right, well then erase the first numbers I told you. It's just ten plus– it was 17, so 27.

MATT: All right. 27 damage. You leap, run up the stonework, click the heels, rush down and then slam, and the dagger slips into the front of its torso, the actual blade pulsing as the magical energy expels itself, the poison rocketing through its body. All of a sudden, the heads turn around and now you have five heads looking at you.

LIAM: Add 15 of poison to that. Add 15 of poison.

MATT: Awesome. Is he poisoned? Or just takes 15 additional points of damage?

LIAM: It gets poisoned, and it takes damage on the first hit and every round I think it takes that poison.

MATT: No, it just means it's poisoned, which means it has disadvantage.

LIAM: Oh, yes. DC 15, plus damage on the hit.

MATT: There's the flying carpet.

(cheering)

ORION: Is any part of the creature still in the water?

MATT: One of its feet is currently off to the side in the water.

ORION: Cool. I'm going to cast Invisibility. And I can see it, because I'm on the other side of the ramp, right? I'm going to cast Chain Lightning right at the foot.

SAM: Chain Lightning? You have Chain Lightning?

MARISHA: It's new.

ORION: Yes, it is. It's a 150 foot range, and I do 10d8 damage.

SAM: I know, I used it at the fight that you didn't want to fight in.

MATT: Yeah, what's the DC?

ORION: 17.

MATT: 17. All right, it does make its save, so half damage.

ORION: How do I count these? There's a bunch of sevens. Stupid ones.

SAM: 28.

ORION: All together?

SAM: No, that's 28.

ORION: Oh. 38. 43.

MATT: 43. Awesome. So a total of 22 points of damage from a save. So as it's stepping into the water, it takes an additional, I'll say, additional 2d8 from being in the water. I'll roll them here. Additional nine damage to that. As it pulls back, the stone around it, the rogue leaps up and slams it with a blade, its heads turn around, and as it does, you turn around, vanish from sight, and then… you cast Greater Invisibility or just Invisibility?

ORION: Greater.

MATT: Okay. Release your hands and a torrent of blue electrical energy rockets forth from your hands, streaking out, some parts leaving arcs that hit the nearby forests and then slamming into its body, its exposed heads. You can see the arcs now shooting through between the various necks and bodies. It writhes and streaks about, slamming its body into part of the stone that cracks and heaves from the impact, still holding it in place. Well done. You want to move, or is that your turn?

ORION: I'm going, what are the big lumps, are those trees?

MATT: These are trees. Anywhere walking on the trunk around it is difficult terrain, you cannot pass.

ORION: I'm just going to go right behind that tree.

MATT: All right. That ends your turn. Who else wants to do anything this round?

LAURA: I want to shoot him.

MATT: You all get a free round, and then we roll initiative.

LAURA: Okay, I'm going to cast Hunter's Mark on it.

MATT: Hunter's Mark on it.

LIAM: Oh, I'm sorry, DM? This is after the fact. Assassinate, on any attack before the enemy's had a chance to take a turn yet, any hit on surprise is a crit.

MATT: Good to know, so that's 54 damage from your initial strike.

LIAM: Thank you. That's all I get. That's all I do.

LAURA: So I'm going to cast Hail of Thorns at 3rd level. I'm going to roll for that. Jesus. That's only 16. That doesn't hit, does it?

MATT: For Hail of Thorns? 16 does not hit, unfortunately.

MARISHA: Even though he's trapped?

MATT: No, it's against the armor. It actually ricochets off the hide of the creature and disappears. It explodes against a tree trunk in the distance, and you can see a smattering of magical thorns shoot out into one of the canopies.

LAURA: Okay. Then I'm going to try just doing a regular attack through the magical bow of fire. And that is 17.

MATT: Hail of Thorns is an action to cast, though, isn't it? You've already used your bonus action to cast Hunter's Mark.

LAURA: Then never mind, I don't do anything. I just fucking fucked that up.

MATT: It's okay, it's a surprise round. Do you want to do anything with your self-placement or Trinket-wise?

LAURA: Yeah, I want to climb a tree that I'm next to.

MATT: Okay. Using your movement. Go ahead and make, we'll say an athletics check to climb the tree.

LAURA: What was that, athletics or acrobatics?

MATT: Athletics.

LAURA: Why?

MATT: Because there's no branches nearby, you have to–

LAURA: Six! I'm going to stay on the ground.

MATT: You slide back to the trunk, turn around and grab your bow and prepare yourself. Trinket, anything?

LAURA: Trinket's going to stay right there.

SAM: I'll move and do Lightning. Why not? Just try to get as much as possible. Just so I won't hit whoever that is.

MATT: That would probably be right there. All right, so you unleash a Lightning Bolt?

SAM: Yes, I do.

MATT: Go ahead and roll damage, 8d6. Does not make its save. Rolled a five.

LIAM: By the way, we need seven more subs, which is ironically the same number of heads the hydra has.

TALIESIN, MARISHA, and ORION: Seven more subs?

MATT: Seven more subs?

TALIESIN: We're going to get a bear!

SAM: 19.

MATT: 19?

SAM: 19.

MATT: All right, gotcha. That was the total 8d6?

SAM: That was 6d6.

MATT: 8d6 for Lightning Bolt. Roll two more.

SAM: Ten more!

MATT: All right, 29. You turn around the corner, the energy still crackling around it from the Chain Lightning. You unleash your own Lightning Bolt that hits it from the side, slamming into the side of one of the heads. The head actually pops from the impact. It's now got four heads.

SAM: Oh, hey. I got a head!

TALIESIN: What's my distance? Is this Pepperbox distance or Bad News distance, at the moment?

MATT: Right now, you can't see because there's a tree in the way, but you're Pepperbox distance from here. You could try Bad News, but you'd have to set up in place.

TALIESIN: All right, I'm going to start curling around the tree I'm near. I'm going to take some movement to fly over the pond back here. And while I'm making my little round, I'm going to take two shots with the Pepperbox.

MATT: Okay, so as the carpet's gliding past, you're basically strafing it and (gunshots). Go ahead and fire.

LIAM: You have a bear.

MARISHA: She has a bear? We got a bear!

MATT: Oh my god, there's going to be a giant Trinket. That's so stupid.

TALIESIN: Full-on misfire. (cackles) Yeah, I misfire. I don't care; we got a bear.

MATT: All right. We got a bear. As you strafe past, you pull your Pepperbox and go to fire. Suddenly there's a dull sound, and as you look at your gun, it explodes for a second in your face. You barely manage to get your visage out of the way as the barrel itself is heated up and you have to shake it off. Yeah, your Pepperbox is looking a bit rough right now.

TALIESIN: It's fine; I'm putting it away.

MATT: Okay. So everyone else has gone but Grog.

TRAVIS: Me? Can I run all the way up and try and pull a Vax, like he did?

MATT: Yeah.

TRAVIS: Hey, I want to try that! And I rage as I attack it!

MATT: All right, as you rush up, axe in your hand, you rush up the side of the stone ramp that she's created and it's right in slamming distance. Go ahead.

TRAVIS: I swing away. 24.

MATT: 24 hits.

TRAVIS: Yes, and the second. 16.

MATT: 16, no. 16 misses. And then?

TRAVIS: That's it, just the two. I'm not frenzied. Yes. 17.

MATT: 17 points of damage as you hack once again, slamming into the side of one of the necks, causing a gout of purplish blood to spray over the right side of your body. That ends the combat round for the surprise round. The creature is now aware that you're definitely there. Everyone roll initiative. All right, so 25 to 20?

ORION: 22.

MATT: 20 to 15?

LAURA: 19.

SAM: 16. First good roll I've ever had.

MATT: For initiative, yeah. 15 to ten?

TALIESIN: 13.

TRAVIS: 13.

MATT: Both of you guys 13. All right.

MARISHA: Four.

LIAM: 12.

ORION: That's what you usually get.

TALIESIN: You got a four?

MARISHA: Yeah, I did.

MATT: All right. Top of the round, Tiberius. As you start to see the head that got blown off, two heads sprout out of the–

SAM: Out of the wound.

MATT: It now has six heads.

SAM: It had five when we started!

MATT: Yep. And when you blew off the head, two more grew in its place.

LAURA: Wait, but when Hercules defeated him, he just cut off so many that they started attacking themselves and they got tangled up.

MATT: Regardless, Tiberius, it's your turn.

ORION: It's still on the same position it was, though, right? When we started? Right?

MATT: Yep. It did seem to heal a bit of its wounds as the heads pull out of it. It has a sense of regeneration.

ORION: And I go, oh no you don't. And I stick out my ring and Chain Lightning him again.

MATT: Chain Lightning is a 6th-level spell.

ORION: Yeah, I know, and I had one stored in my ring.

MATT: Your ring can only store up to a 3rd-level spell. We went over this last time. It's okay.

ORION: No, I thought that was the Ioun Stone. We all learned something today, kids. I don't do that. Instead, fine. I'm going to cast Telekinesis once. And I'm instantly going to do quicken spell and do five sorcerer points to cast it immediately again. Cast it on one head and another head and (bashing, tying sounds). To try and wrap them all and choke them.

MATT: Go ahead and roll an arcana check for the first one.

ORION: Wasn't terrible. What is that?

SAM: 14.

MATT: Okay, and for the second one?

ORION: Natural 20.

MATT: Okay, so it rolled a 17 on its second save. The first one, it did not resist because it rolled a three. So what you do as you cast Telekinesis once, you use the sorcery points to cast it again. You can't get all the heads, but you can grab two of them, one focus for each telekinetic thing. You take both heads and (whack, whack) slam them three times into each other and then twist the necks around at the point where both of them are biting onto their own necks after they've torn into a second. For that, they're both going to take 2d8 impact damage. That's nine plus five. 14 points of impact damage to each head. Both of those heads are currently grappling each other, so they will not be able to attack on its turn.

ORION: And then I go back against the tree. That is my turn.

MATT: All right. It is now the hydra's turn. It rolled a really high initiative. The two heads are going to untangle themselves. That's their attack. Now it only has four strikes this turn, two of which are going to be against you and two of which are going to be against you. All right, so. Two of the heads rear back, lunging at Vax over here. That's going to be a 29. Second one is going to be a 19.

LIAM: Yes.

MATT: All right. So you take… 17 and 15. 17 and 15, so 32 points of piercing damage. One of the heads snaps down on your torso and lifts you up for a second as the other grabs the side of your body, and it feels like it's about to tear you apart for a second until you manage to elbow it in the nose and manage to get free of one head and shake off the other. Grog, another head comes at you. First one comes at a 24.

TRAVIS: Hits.

MATT: And a natural 20 for the second.

TRAVIS: Yeah, I guess so. Phillip's a fucking douche today.

MATT: 14 points from the first one. You are raging, so it's halved to seven. The other one that is a critical, that does come to 24, so 12 points of piercing damage. All right. That ends its turn. Vex, you're up.

LAURA: Can I see its body at all?

MATT: Yeah, you can see its body, it's pretty large, mainly just the heads are visible, the ramp is blocking the lower half of it. So you can't see its legs and its main part of its torso, but you can see the necks and the heads.

LAURA: So I can't see its body.

MATT: Currently, no. It is blocked by her stone.

LAURA: Okay, I'm going to shoot towards where– is this bad? Oh no! I'm going to shoot towards where all of the heads are joined together.

MATT: It managed to unravel itself during its turn, but it used its attacks to do so.

LAURA: Yeah, down where all these heads are connected. Right here.

MATT: Oh, okay. You can sort of see that area. Best you can, yeah.

LAURA: I'm going to shoot my fancy exploding arrow.

TALIESIN: The untested?

MATT: The one that you rolled.

TALIESIN: The one that has the little mark beside it?

MATT: You pull out of your quiver the exploding arrow, which you can see it, it's heavily weighted in the front so you know you have to fire it at a slight arc against most of your arrows that you shoot. So go ahead and roll an attack on this one.

LAURA: Oh god.

MATT: What did you roll? Are you serious? As you pull back on your bow, you go to release it, and the string ignites for a second, the arcane fire behind it that you absentmindedly trigger, and as you do you realize at the last minute, the arrow doesn't fire. You actually freak out for a second and release the bow. The arrow falls, the flame hitting the edge of it, and it explodes and detonates right in front of you. Make a reflex saving throw. Sorry, a dexterity saving throw. Oh, Pathfinder. You squeak in every now and then.

LAURA: Natural 20!

TALIESIN: Now?!

MARISHA: Fuck you, dice gods.

MATT: What would have been an explosively painful 38 points of damage is halved.

TALIESIN: Well, we know it works.

MATT: So you take 19 points of fire damage, and you're knocked prone.

TALIESIN: Now, if only I could have attached that to a donkey, at some point.

LAURA: You said 19? Jesus.

MATT: You're knocked flat on your ass.

LIAM: That was all of Dungeons and Dragons contained in 30 seconds.

(laughter)

TALIESIN: For a year, he tried to get me to design an exploding donkey.

SAM: I did.

MATT: That was a little unfortunate. Trinket can still move and finish off the round, if you'd like. That was only one of your attacks.

LAURA: All right. Can Trinket run up and fight alongside Grog? All right, he's going to do that.

MATT: Trinket runs up, runs up the ramp, claws out (roars).

LAURA: Gets two attacks because of bestial fury. Jeez. Okay, I'm going to roll my Trinket dice now. Don't kill me now. Okay. I don't even know. 16.

MATT: 16 does not hit.

LAURA: Cool. 19.

MATT: 19 does hit.

LAURA: All right. (fake-cries) Okay. 13.

MATT: 13.

LAURA: Does he get Hunter's Mark?

MATT: I would say yes, because he is your bear, I'll let that happen.

LAURA: Yes he does! That's another five.

MATT: Nice, so 18 points of damage from Trinket. As Trinket runs up, one claw swings through the air, and as the head rears back, seeing this new bear that's joined the fray, reaches out and clamps onto its throat with its jaws, tearing a chunk of its flesh out.

TRAVIS: Yeah, Trinket!

MATT: All righty. That brings us to Scanlan.

SAM: I'm going to punch it with Bigby's Hand. I'm going to do Bigby's Hand. And punch it. That's it. Punch. That's my move. Punch.

MATT: (laughs) Good, let me open the spell real fast.

SAM: (singing) It's Bigby's Hand! Bigby's Hand. You know it. Shamone.

MATT: So go ahead and roll a d20 and add your spell attack.

SAM: Add my spell attack?

MATT: Yeah, it should be at the top of your spell page.

SAM: This? Spell attack. 21.

MATT: 21 hits. Go ahead and roll 4d8 points of force damage as the fist slams, clocking one of the hydras in the face.

SAM: 23.

MATT: 23. And with that, you actually punch one of the heads off the hydra. It goes spinning off into the forest.

LAURA: Oh, you don't want to punch heads off.

SAM: Hey guys, I got rid of another head! Hey guys, I'm on a roll! Who still hasn't gone? Keyleth, you haven't gone?

TALIESIN: I haven't gone and Grog hasn't gone.

SAM: Okay, I'm going to inspire Grog with my bonus action.

MATT: Okay, what do you inspire him with?

SAM: Oh, I'm going to inspire him. (singing) Come on Grog, yeah, you know what I mean. It's time to rage on this hydra…

MATT: A half-hearted d10 to you. (laughs) All right, so. As that finishes your turn. At this point, you see a series of blurs in the nearby bushes.

SAM: Blurs in the bushes!

LAURA: Blurs from the bush? What?

MATT: A voice rings out, saying, “Hey! What are you doing?!” And you now see an armored individual come rushing out from behind this tree here, another armored individual rushing from there, a female with a large sword rushing from this side, another character with leather armor, and a robed female coming from behind here. “This is our mark! You're not supposed to take that from us!”

LAURA: Well, maybe you should've fought it before we got here!

MATT: “This is against the rules, you skag!”

ORION: Wait, what rules? We don't know the rules!

MARISHA: We got here first! Warcraft rules!

ORION: I don't know what that means!

MATT: So this guy runs forward. He can't quite get all the way there, so he's going to sit there. Mage moves out this way and is going to look over at you as you're getting the gun, looks over and reaches out her hand. Go ahead and make a wisdom saving throw.

TALIESIN: Oh my god, for the love of– no!

TRAVIS: What did you roll? Say it!

TALIESIN: One.

ORION: Hold on. Wait no, hold on. I peek over and Counterspell.

MATT: You do not have visual on her at all. The trees are in between, unfortunately. As you're on the flying carpet, you see over the shoulder. You go to get your gun– you're trying to pull out Bad News– and then your muscles seize and you find yourself held in place.

SAM: Hold Person. Hold Percy.

MATT: The cleric character you see comes forward, holding aloft a holy symbol, and reaches up and suddenly you see the canopy above the hydra begin to glow with a bright orange light before a column of fire slams down into the ground from the heavens.

SAM: On the hydra?

MATT: On the hydra.

LAURA: Wait, what about the people that are near the hydra?

MATT: It appears to only be affecting the hydra.

LAURA and SAM: Ooh.

SAM: What is that?

MATT: The hydra takes 48 points of damage.

TRAVIS: Four-eight?

SAM: While you were gone, everything happened, by the way. Everything happened.

TRAVIS: We're apparently taking someone's bounty.

MATT: This character runs up, dressed in leather armor, hood, cloak. Runs back, pulling two longswords from underneath the cloak and swings up to strike multiple times. You can see a hawk gliding over, heading in the canopy. Does 12 points of damage with the first strike. The second one, goes to swing and hits the hide and flanks off of it.

LAURA: And it explodes in his face and he's knocked prone.

MATT: Sorry. This woman, as she rushes forward, you can see the skin has a pink-reddish tint, these blackened twin horns curl to the back of her head, and she carries a giant greatsword in her hands as she runs in a blur, yelling out this angry war cry. “It's ours!” Runs up and swings towards one of the hydra's heads. First one misses. Second one misses. (whoosh) In her fury and anger and the frustration of currently having apparently a targeted bounty of theirs taken, she swings wildly into the air, missing both strikes. That's going to end their round. All right, that brings us to Grog and Percy. Percy, make a wisdom saving throw.

TALIESIN: This is a wisdom modifier plus d20?

MATT: It's whatever your wisdom save is.

TALIESIN: Natural 20.

MATT: Ones and twenties tonight. So you manage to shrug the effect, but that's your turn. Grog.

TRAVIS: I would like to look to the woman that swung and missed and go, oh, I think you meant to do this. And I'll swing for the body of the hydra.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: 24.

MATT: 24 hits.

TRAVIS: And 20.

MATT: 20 hits.

TRAVIS: Why didn't I use the stupid dice, but that's okay. 19?

MATT: 19 damage.

TRAVIS: And 11.

MATT: All right. (whack) You hit once again, almost like you're cutting down a tree. You're hitting the same mark you hit last turn, carving a large chunk of the throat out. You can now see the exposed bone underneath, and it's starting to gurgle through its hissing. You bring the axe around with the inertia on the backswing and slam it into the base of another one of the necks. As it slams into it and gets wedged in there, you have to pull it out with a giant spray of blood that actually spatters across the female tiefling, which you now see. Who, as it sprays across her, she licks it off her pointed teeth, and you can see she brings her sword up, ready to go ahead and attack it again. She's glaring at you now with a this-is-mine type expression. Vax.

LIAM: All right, so am I still up on the elevated part of the stone?

MATT: You are, yes.

LIAM: The one that's occupied with Grog, I'm going to jump on it and cling my legs to the side and try to slice down as I go, over the side wall. Okay. First is a 28. I'll just do that. And it's a sneak attack because it's occupied with Grog, obviously. So that is a two– this is my Keen Dagger. That's a nine plus… nine, 13, 16, 19, 24. Nine plus 24 is 33, and then the second dagger, Flametongue, nine, ten, 19.

MATT: All right, that does hit.

LIAM: Okay, that's a regular old four plus six is ten, and then out comes the Venom Dagger, which has already spit its poison, and that is a 26, which also hits, and that is a four plus six is ten. So (dagger noises) down its neck.

MATT: All right. As you spin over and arc down onto the opposite side there, nice. Well done. I forgot to roll for– it does resist the poison at the end of its turn, by the way. Though even with the disadvantage it still managed to hit you last turn. All right, cool, so you flip over, arc yourself down after the series of dagger blades, carving these two long, ragged wounds down the side of its body. As you hit on the opposite side, where the stonework is starting to crack a little bit from the impact and swishing about of its physical body.

LIAM: Can I ask, do I have a bonus action at this point? I'm hasted, and I've done three attacks. Is there time for a bonus action? I don't know.

MATT: You have an attack, bonus action attack, and then the haste attack.

LIAM: Okay, I'm good.

MATT: All right. Keyleth.

MARISHA: Should I try and get these fuckers off, or should I just kill the damn thing?

LAURA: Attack the hydra.

MARISHA: I cast Call Lightning and bring a lightning bolt right down on its head.

MATT: In the same space, you can see there's a burnt hole in the top of the canopy where that fire column came through, there's a slight sizzle of ozone before a giant hammering blow of lightning streaks from the heavens down into the body. You feel a jolt of energy in the daggers. You pull them out instinctively before it manages to make its way to your body. Go ahead and roll damage.

MARISHA: (whoops) Nine, eight, bringing us to 17. 21 damage.

MATT: 21 damage, nice. All righty. That ends the round. At the top, where the secondary head you blew off was, two more heads sprout out. It now has seven heads.

SAM: Hey guys! There's more heads for me to knock off!

LAURA: Hey, that's the best thing ever!

SAM: We get to keep doing it!

LAURA: I bet if we keep doing it though, I mean, eventually the heads will outweigh the body and it'll just have to fall over.

ORION: Okay, well. He's 20 feet in radius himself, isn't he? Sweet! I'm going to– oh, there's a lot of people, though. Who are they? I put my ring out and I'm going to do instantly, quicken spell, do five more SP will bring me down to one sorcerer point, and I'm going to huck two Fireballs right in the center of the hydra.

MATT: Okay. All right.

ORION: But you're off to the side. You're not on it. Are you on it?

MATT: So you're drifting over here? Oh. No, you're just aiming at it. Okay. So. Back-to-back, you used the last of the sorcerer points to fire two Fireballs that explode, one after another. Go ahead and roll damage on both of them.

ORION: 20– what is that?– 29, 31, 35, 36, so that's 41.

MATT: 41 for the first one. That's almost straight sixes and fives. That's awesome.

ORION: 34, so that's 39.

MATT: 39. Were you adding five to each of those?

ORION: Yes.

MATT: I don't think you're supposed to do that for Fireball.

ORION: It's any fire attack.

MATT: Oh, that's right, because you have the– never mind. You do. Yes, that's right. I need a reflex save from Grog and from you, Vax.

LIAM: I'm going to do rogue's evasion. I'm going to use Matt Colville's die made of iron from a meteorite.

SAM: From a meteorite?

LIAM: Hopefully not die.

SAM: Wait, from a meteorite?!

TALIESIN: To be fair, the die didn't dodge the earth.

LIAM: What kind of roll is this? Saving throw. I've rolled a 17.

MATT: This is a 20-foot radius.

LAURA: So everything in that area?

LIAM: Everything in the area. It's done. I rolled a 17. Is that a success or a failure?

MATT: What is the, what's your spell difficulty?

ORION: Spell save? 17.

MATT: 17, so that just makes it for the first one, yes.

LIAM: Just makes it. For the first Fireball?

MATT: For the first Fireball, yeah. You avoid that entirely.

LIAM: Do I need to roll again? We're all going to roll again in a moment?

MATT: Yep. Roll for the second one now. Because two exploded in a row.

LIAM: Oh, now. That is less.

ORION: Oh, hold on a second. Wait. I want to put a pause on this real quick.

LAURA: You can't. You already did it!

ORION: I asked the question before I cast the spell. Is the hydra itself 20-foot radius? And I got a nod, so I figured my spell–

MATT: The hydra itself, the creature, it's a 15-foot diameter.

ORION: Diameter.

MATT: A radius is from the outside of it, from the middle.

ORION: Radius is different from diameter? Okay.

SAM: Geometry, kids.

ORION: Well then, it's fine, I'll shift it closer–

LIAM: It's done. This is why this is interesting. So I succeeded the first time. I failed the second time, which means I halve whatever the damage is, which is high.

MATT: Okay, you take 18 points of fire damage.

LIAM: That's okay.

MATT: Grog? Two saves.

TRAVIS: What am I rolling, sorry?

SAM: You're trying to beat 17.

TRAVIS: Oh, I rolled a 14, plus anything?

SAM: Yeah, you've got inspiration, friend.

TRAVIS: Yeah, I do!

ORION: Plus his what?

TRAVIS: Proficiency or what?

MATT: It's whatever your dex saving throw is.

TRAVIS: Oh. Two. So 16, plus–

LAURA: So 18 for the first one.

TRAVIS: 18 for the first one.

MATT: 18. So you take 22 points of fire damage.

LIAM: Where did all that math go from the last game?

TRAVIS: Nine.

SAM: Nine?

TRAVIS: Nine.

TALIESIN: You can take it.

TRAVIS: Yeah, I got it. I'm all good.

MATT: Here's the other side of it, though. We'll get to it in a second. Nine? You take 39 points of fire damage.

LAURA: I don't want to say it, but Trinket's right there.

MATT: Oh yeah. Roll a saving throw for Trinket.

SAM: No, remember? I said leave Trinket behind?

LAURA: Yeah, I know you said that, but he also attacked him already.

MATT: Roll a saving throw for Trinket.

LIAM: Come on, Trinket die. Oh my god. Okay.

LAURA: Don't say it.

LIAM: No, it's good.

LAURA: 17 for the first one.

MATT: Okay, that just makes it. So Trinket takes 22 fire damage. All right, and then the second one?

MARISHA: I'm eating so much sugar, compulsively, out of nerves.

LAURA: It's stuck in there.

LIAM: Oh wow, it's not either, it's really on an angle.

LAURA: It was really on an angle. That's unfortunate because one of them was good, and one of them sucked.

MATT: So what did you roll?

LAURA: Seven.

MATT: Seven, all right. So with the explosion, both explode out of the way. You both manage to avoid the brunt of the damage. Trinket falls unconscious on the ground, the smell of burnt hair. The hydra looks rough. However, the individuals also nearby that came in are also blasted back by the Fireball. Everyone but the cleric and the mage in there are hit with the double explosions. Everyone taking full damage except for him, who takes half on the first one. They all of a sudden look around, dazed and frustrated.

SAM: Yeah, we just set off a nuke on the thing.

MATT: The hydra, due to the fiery impact, collapses inside the stone structure.

SAM and MARISHA: Dead?

MATT: Dead. So how do you want to do this?

MARISHA: Our kill!

ORION: Oh my god.

LIAM: With casualties.

ORION: Before the last one reaches it, I actually cast really hard Control Flame. It totally doesn't work this way, but I do it anyway. You bastard, I didn't mean to do this! And I'm going to hammer like I did with Flaming Sphere when we were playing in private.

MATT: I'll say you do this. You set off the first Fireball. As it explodes and damages everyone in the radius, it blows one of the throats of the hydra apart. The heads are now caught on fire. As you take the second Fireball, you set it off, shouting that outward. You use Control Flame at the same time as the Telekinesis you're still maintaining to envelop the explosion of the Fireball and contain it in the center. You slam it and let it detonate as part of the impact into the torso, where the heads are currently attached. You end up blowing half the heads off the hydra in the process. The rest of its body's trying to keep itself standing up. However, the explosion itself sent the stone wall around you guys broken into pieces and shards now sticking upward. The hydra backs up and falls onto its side, impaling itself on the shattered stone wall that you had kept up as it slowly slides down on the wound and gurgles out its last life breath, the rest of its body on fire, slowly sinking to the base of the stone wall.

ORION: That was really cool.

TRAVIS: Who can heal really a lot really fast?

LAURA: Trinket! I get up and run over to Trinket and hold his little head in my hands.

MARISHA: Who's bad?

TRAVIS and TALIESIN: Trinket's unconscious.

MARISHA: I run up to Trinket and I cast Cure Wounds on Trinket in a 3rd-level spell slot.

MATT: All right.

LAURA: Help him!

TRAVIS: He's going to be fine.

MATT: As you guys rush up–

LIAM: Yeah, Vax is rolling down the corpse of the hydra to stand in front of these strangers.

TRAVIS: I've rushed to Trinket's side, too, from where I'm at.

MATT: All right. You're right at Trinket's side. You're flying in here.

SAM: I get closer and do the Superbowl shuffle in front of our new visitors, like, yeah, that's what we did.

MARISHA: Trinket heals for 21 damage.

MATT: Trinket gets up, charred but okay.

MARISHA: Who else is bad?

MATT: Trinket looks over at Tiberius and gives you a glare.

MARISHA: I use it again for Vax. Ooh, that's better.

TRAVIS: I rolled two hit dice–

MATT: Well, you aren't at a short rest yet. Because right now, as you guys are just standing there, the rest of the other party is now stepping up to you. The main human you now see in armor. He has dirty blond short hair, little bit of stubble on the chin, very well-armored, and the armor itself looks like it's taken a beating. He steps up and says, “All right. I'm going to ask you a question. What the fuck are you doing?!”

LIAM: I think we're killing a hydra. What are you doing today?

MATT: “Fulfilling my contract.”

SAM: Oh, by not killing the hydra? Because that's what you just did.

LIAM: Listen, we don't know what the fuck you're doing. Take the hydra. We're not here for a bounty; we're trying to help the city.

LAURA: Well, no, give us the money.

MARISHA: We did want some proof.

MATT: He looks back to the rest of the group and the cleric steps forward and touches his shoulder for a second. Shrugs it off and says, “No! No. Skags that wander these lands, taking creatures from underneath those who are lawfully permitted to hunt these beasts and take that bounty, and that makes you breakers of the law of Vasselheim.”

SAM: What's your name, sir?

MATT: Turns over and looks toward you, takes a couple steps forward, leaping off of the broken stonework on this side. “Aldor. And I work for the Slayer's Take, those of us that are empowered to hunt contracted bounty-given beasts and creatures in this land. You have gone out and laid claim to a beast that you had no lawful right to.”

LAURA: Well, the Bastion up on the wall said we could, so that's why we did it.

MARISHA: While all of this is going down, I'm going to casually walk over and open my little harvesting book and start harvesting some hydra blood.

MATT: As you attempt to do that, the mage walks up and goes, “I wouldn't recommend that.” You can see her elven face, there is a glare of frustration and standoffishness that is very sincere. “Do not step closer.”

TRAVIS: I'd put your hand down. You see, I had a horrible day yesterday, and unless you want to end up like puppy-dog here, we'll all end up in a big pile of blood, unless you find a way to split your take with us, and maybe let us go on our way. You see, we're new in these parts, and we have a habit for killing.

MATT: “Who would pay you?”

LAURA: What do you mean?

MATT: “Where were you going to take this creature for the bounty you keep speaking of?”

LIAM: Which one is talking?

MATT: This is Aldor, the same human fighter.

LAURA: Aldor, they told us we could kill it and then give the heads and then bring it in and then they would give us money…

SAM: We didn't think this through. Listen. Let's level with you. This whole escapade was not very well thought out. We're new in town. We don't want to step on any toes. We did you a solid; we killed your thing. Let's calm it down a notch and let's just talk, shall we?

LAURA: Why don't you just tell people you killed it, we helped, you get the money, you give us half of it, and we call it even?

LIAM: Otherwise, we're going to go right now.

MATT: He laughs to himself and looks back at the rest of them and says, “You have to understand. The Slayer's Take's contracts are binding. Magically. If we don't take this creature in after dealing the killing blow, we're at an impasse with the Slayer's Take.”

LAURA: Oh. Can you stab it right now? Maybe it's still breathing?

LIAM: Can anybody heal it? Can you kill it again?

MATT: The cleric steps forward, this human cleric, older, whitish hair. Steps forward, his mace at his side, armor currently spattered with hydra blood, looking a little charred, but for the most part okay. He says, “Okay. Before this gets out of hand, perhaps if you come with us to the Slayer's Take, there would be a possibility of us still enacting this contract if we find a way to magically bind you to it. Now, mind you, I don't know how the funds would be legally distributed; however, if you talked to the leader of our order, perhaps there could be some sort of a resolution to this.”

SAM: What funds are we talking about, here? What was the contract that you had been binded by?

MATT: They look at each other and take a step back defensively and say, “We don't discuss money matters out in the open where it's so easy for bodies to be hidden.”

TRAVIS: Who is this leader of yours?

MATT: “The one that you're looking for… is on the other page.”

(laughter)

SAM: Aldor is no longer talking, right?

LAURA: No, Sean Connery's talking now. I'm sorry.

MATT: “The Huntmaster.”

(laughter)

SAM: That's your leader?

LIAM: I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne.

MATT: “Are you taunting me?”

LIAM: I'm sorry. Not at all. Listen, we were about to come to blows. You and I are going to work this out. Words are mightier than the sword, right?

SAM: Don't ever do that again.

TRAVIS: What if we return, saying that you had acquired our services in the killing of this beast?

SAM: We were subcontracted to you, yes.

MATT: “The only way that would work is if you were contracted to the Slayer's Take beforehand, which if you were to agree to be inducted, perhaps that would alleviate the concern. We could then write you into the contract magically, share the funds, even, and you would be free to accept contracts to kill creatures at your leisure.”

TRAVIS: I'm sorry, a little clarification. We get paid to kill?

MATT: “We're not out here for fun.” At which point the tiefling female behind him says, “Hah, say that yourself. I'm out here for both.” She flicks her sword and the blood across the ground.

TRAVIS: Are you in the company or know of Siren?

MATT: They all look at each other. “She's been known to do work with the Slayer's Take, yes.”

TRAVIS: Yeah, I'm definitely in.

SAM: Introduce yourselves, if you don't mind.

MATT: “Let's do that as we walk.” At which point the cleric says, “Take the heads, cleave them off. We'll take them back as trophies to prove the contract is sealed.” The leader, Aldor, says, “Very well. Clean your weapons. No funny business. A single moment of your eyes wandering to your blade. I don't want it to have to come to blows. Let's carve up this creature.”

SAM: Oh, what will you do to us? What you did to the hydra? Oh no! Not kill us.

MATT: “I really, really don't like you.”

SAM: Few people do.

LIAM: You don't have to worry about that. We're out here helping the city for the sake of good, not earning a paycheck.

LAURA: I mean, I was going to ask them for a paycheck immediately after we'd gone back to the city, but you know.

LIAM: That's how you roll.

MATT: “There's a very lucrative trade on monster-hunting in these woods, but you have to make sure that you're certified. Otherwise, you're taking money and food out of the mouths of us and our families.”

LIAM: Certification is key.

MATT: “Come on. Gather up the creature's bits.” And they all go to start carving into the body of the hydra.

LAURA: Ooh, can we help?

MARISHA: Now I start doing my thing.

LIAM: I've got the naughty bits.

MARISHA: Do I need to roll for this?

MATT: You don't have to, actually. The group are very well trained, and as you go to try to, the tiefling puts her hand down and starts tearing pieces out. There's a dominance, a standoff here.

LAURA: Can I have a scale? Just one more scale?

MARISHA: I want some stuff.

SAM: It's all right. We'll get it and we'll figure it out when we get there.

MATT: There seems to be a general feel here that you've already broken the law enough. If you really want to fight for it, you can.

LIAM: Let's quit while we're ahead.

SAM: Yeah, let's deal with the naughty bits later.

MATT: It takes about half an hour or so to reap the bits and pieces, then again making your way back, after you've pushed the remainder of the body into the pool itself, letting it slowly sink to the bottom. You all make your way back the path you came in an awkward, quiet march.

LAURA: Oh, you guys set that bait out. You guys killed that ape, didn't you?

MATT: Aldor gives you a look. “Good to know we aren't the only trackers in this town.”

TALIESIN: That's so clever. Clever girl.

MATT: Eventually make your way back to town, skirt around the outer wall to one of the three main gates, this one right on the outskirts of the Braving (stutters). Too many creatures. Braving Grounds. The gates open. You're all led in, first question at the sight of you guys, but Aldor raises his hand and says, “No, they're with us; it's fine.” You all walk in, leads you to the outskirts of the Braving Grounds to a new area of the town you have yet to travel to. At which point, he introduces, “Welcome to the Quad Roads. This is where the Slayer's Take makes its place. This is also where the Erathis's Crown is. Best you pay an homage to the deity of civilization while here.” He pulls out a small gem around his neck with a small symbol on it, kisses it, and puts it back in his shirt. You guys continue walking to what is now, you can see these large roads that streak across. You've seen them join with the other sections. This is the most central of all the various districts of the city of Vasselheim. There is a very large trade bazaar structure not that far out of the main gate that leads to the center of this district. You can see barkers shouting out left and right to you, various phrases dealing with food and various crops, and creature fresh meat. “Fresh meat out of the Abundance! Takers of the Abundance!” And people yelling out for general goods, packs, leathers, large carts being wheeled past you, until eventually you make your way to what looks like a very old, dark-wood lodge, about three stories high, decorated with dozens of tusks and claws and other trophies that look as old as the building itself. A carved wooden sign stands bolted to the top of the porch that says “Slayer's Take Guildhall” in the common tongue. Approaching the door, still that awkward quiet keeping over the group, there is an engraving into the doorway– it's pushed into the wood– that reads, “Here is where the hunters gather, keen eyes and blades at ready. We cease the unknown's cackling laughter. Our will is strong, our members plenty. We stand against the tide of darkness. We do the deeds few men can handle. Reap forth a trophy from the carcass. We are your strength, we are your candle.” Aldor does a knock on the door. The door opens, an eye looks through, and the door swiftly opens as another individual who's dressed in a makeshift leather and hide armor steps aside. You're all let in, carrying the large hydra heads through that have been gathering looks from the individuals watching you charge through the streets. To the center of the room, you see what looks to be amongst the loose cast-iron candelabras that are affixed to the rafters, small candles flicker for the interior light, you see a long desk where a halfling male of muscular build sits eagerly rubbing his hands together, his harsh features and light scars dotting his face and hands, his red hair showing tinges of grey. His shifting smile belies a youthful vigor as you approach with the trophies. “Aldor! Welcome back. How goes that bleeding mess-headed beast? I see you seem to have dropped it before you.” Aldor takes the first head that he's carrying and chucks it to the ground. As it rolls across with two large thuds, the rest of the congealed liquid seeping into the wood. “Aye, that's true, but we bring a bit of an obstruction in the way.” Glances to the rest of you. “Obstruction, you say. Okay. Well, this is a curious phrase. Please explain to me what has occurred in your outing on this contract.” Aldor scratches the side of his face. “Well, it seems that we have a group of skags.”

LAURA: Not intentional. Skags.

MATT: “Not intentional skags out of the forest, intending to hunt and managed to deal the killing blow to our mark.”

ORION: Actually, I did that.

MATT: “This one did it.” He wipes some of the soot off his face. “Amongst other issues.”

ORION: Sorry. My aim was off.

LIAM: We've come from Emon. We're not exactly familiar with the customs and traditions of your city. We were merely trying to help. My friend may have slaughtered the hydra– unintentionally, of course. We're hoping to somehow fit into your society. Not sure how that works. Maybe you can help?

MATT: The halfling walks from behind his desk with his hands behind his back. (laughs) “You come from Emon. You are not familiar with Vasselheim, yet the first thing you do upon arriving is leap down to the Vesper Timberland, fighting a freaking hydra.”

LAURA: It was attacking the wall. We were protecting you.

LIAM: A hydra attacking your city. We were merely following our conscience.

MATT: “No, this is okay. I like the balls you all have. This is ridiculous, what you've done.”

LAURA: I have enormous balls.

MARISHA: Yep, we both do.

LIAM: See? They're massive.

MATT: He steps away. “Lady. I appreciate your brashness, but I would hope that you also act like a lady.”

MARISHA and LAURA: Oh.

MARISHA: That's a high standard.

LIAM: Careful where you're walking, little man.

MATT: “All I say is I appreciate– yes, your bear is quite fierce.”

LAURA: He's got giant balls, as well.

MATT: He reaches past and looks to the wall and you see there are two dire bear heads affixed to the wall of various ancient degrees.

MARISHA: Don't look, Trinket. Don't look.

MATT: “Well. I can see that you may have breached the contract here, and there may be ways of perhaps rectifying this, should you take the pledge. The pledge itself is a process, one that I myself cannot specifically judge upon. This would have to go to my boss, the Headmaster. My wife.”

(laughter)

LIAM: I feel you.

TRAVIS: Respect.

MATT: “I will see if she is available. One moment.” And the halfling patters off down a hallway.

LIAM: That is fucking awesome.

LAURA: That would be amazing.

MATT: Came back a few moments later. “She would like to see the skags now.”

SAM: What is with skags? Just call us people, please?

TRAVIS: We have a name. Vox Machina.

LIAM: Perhaps you've heard of us.

LAURA: Remember it.

MATT: “I have heard of it not before. I will call you this upon you making the pledge. Until then, you are a group of forest-walking skags.”

SAM: All right.

MATT: You follow him into the back hallway, down past a series of doors, some of which are half-open and ajar. You see what appear to be bunks or rooms for rest. There are some shields and various old weapons set up as decor against the wooden hallways. Down to a large, heavy door that looks like it's actually, the red leather stretched across it, nailed across all parts of the doorway, with a branded symbol in the center. The same symbol that you saw adorning the, almost like a relief behind the Slayer's Take lodge entranceway sign. As the door opens, the halfling pushing it aside. “Please, enter. She would like to talk to you.” As you guys all step inside, the interior, a soft, glowing magical torch lights the room from the ceiling. The entire room is a large office or study. There are books and meticulously kept scrolls. At a glance, you can see they break down various creature types, that talk about indigenous bestial creatures, some talk about the anatomy of mythical and mystical beasts. This is a research facility for the hunting of any such creature that would find its way near or in the vicinity of Vasselheim. There, waiting for you, not at her desk, but leaning against it, with her hands also at her back, similar to her husband, you see before you in very finely crafted dark brown and black studded leather armor, a small shoulder cloak fixed and tossed over one shoulder, tousled short brown hair, deep purple skin. The second tiefling you've seen today. This woman stands with bright white eyes, no pupil. Her tongue flickers out of her mouth like a snake a little bit as you enter. And she looks about the rest of the party. “Please. It would be my pleasure to talk with you for a moment about what you have done this day. Thank you, husband.” The door slams shut behind him.

LAURA: You two make an adorable couple.

SAM: Yeah, he's a peach. Good find.

MATT: “Welcome, skags. You seem to not be liking this title. A skag is an affectionate term we use for those who break our rules and will go to prison, perhaps beneath the Amaranthine Oubliette.”

SAM: Well, as long as it's affectionate.

LIAM: We understand we've broken the letter of your law, but perhaps not the spirit of your law, which is maybe more important.

MATT: “Which is why you are here and not currently being taken for the hall of judgment.”

LIAM: We're very grateful.

MATT: “Now. My husband said you have interfered with a contract that has already been enacted.”

SAM: We didn't know we were interfering with it at the time. We thought we were just doing good, and we're here to make right by that.

LIAM: We're tourists, basically.

MATT: “Which is also why you are not at the hall yet. He also said you showed interest in joining our ranks to avoid this prosecution, which I think is a very smart move.” And she walks behind her desk and sits down. “Should you be cut out for our work, that is. You have proven to have slain this hydra with the accompaniment of one of our roving bands of monster hunters.”

LAURA: They didn't do much, but yes.

SAM: We're quite capable fighters. Grog here almost won in his fight the other night. Sorry, Grog.

MATT: “You're the one that nearly felled the Hammer.”

TRAVIS: I am.

MARISHA: So you have heard of us.

MATT: “I've heard of this one.”

SAM: Show her the lip.

TRAVIS: I kept a keepsake.

MATT: (laughs) “A fine trophy. Do not show him you still have that. I don't think it would go over too well. Now. Most applicants for our humble family make it maybe a month or two before the Vesper Timberlands take them. Those that remain, well. They prove worthy of our business contracts. You are all on trial by deed, under my claim and authority. Should you agree and fulfill my request, indeed, you will be absolved of your infractions against the Slayer's Take and be given membership to our age-old tradition. With membership comes with access to our lodge, food, room and board, and training facilities. Simple arms can also be provided. Those that bear our insignia may also get a discount of supplies at most of Vasselheim's merchants. Most importantly, though, you will then have access to our bounty contracts. To specify, we don't just hunt beasts and creatures. A large part of what we do is harvest from our marks' requested components. Blood, eyes, teeth, organs. We receive orders from all across Exandria, from as far as even the city Emon, which you apparently hail from.”

LAURA: We have a keep there.

MATT: “How nice for you.”

SAM: Greyskull.

MATT: “I will make a note of it.” And she reaches over and grabs a quill and not even looking at the paper, just scribbles.

LIAM: We're friends with the emperor, thank you.

MATT: “Well, perhaps this emperor and many of these scholars or seers or mages you've encountered have ordered from us specifically required components, for you see, the most powerful of magics within nations require a focus or sacrifice of some kind. Many of these require pieces of these creatures. So many contracts are from very high-paying clients that have better things to do with their time than wander skulking about the forest, seeking such things as a hydra. There's a lot of money to be gained should you be up for it. I would ask you to take a contract, complete it, and return. That is all. You would have three days to do so. Do you accept?”

SAM: What is involved in signing or binding this contract?

MATT: “There is a small ritual that binds you to the contract. Within this time it must be completed. Should you fail, the contract is absolved, and your membership is revoked.”

SAM: Oh, it's a trial just to bind the contract?

MATT: “Your trial is to take the contract and you have three days to complete it.”

TALIESIN: Is there a payout on this contract?

MATT: “Oh yes, you will still receive the money for it, and with membership, from what I have been told by my husband, possibly even share in the bounty for this hydra you helped slay earlier on this day.”

LAURA: That's good, because otherwise they didn't get any credit, right? Because it was like, magically–

MATT: “Precisely. Also a part of the three-day contract, with three days before it is null and void.”

LIAM: We've taken out a beholder and a handful of illithid. We're not really worried about your contract. Give us your contract; we'll sign it.

MATT: She chuckles under her breath. “That is good to know,” she says disbelievingly.

SAM: There's an insignia that we get? Is it given to us on some sort of jacket for members only?

(laughter)

MATT: She reaches to part of her shoulder pauldron, lifts it up, and you can see there's a brand on the side of her arm.

SAM: My body's a temple. I don't like that.

MATT: “Then perhaps you'd like the judgment.”

SAM: The judgment? Oh no, no. Do I have to get branded?

MATT: “It does not hurt much.”

SAM: (whimpers) I'm really wimpy.

MATT: “Gnomes… Three days. Will you accept?”

LAURA: Yeah, let's do it. We're totally tough.

SAM: Could you do mine in henna?

(laughter)

MATT: “I will take that as an acceptance on your part, as well.”

SAM: Thank you. Yes. I'm with my group.

MATT: “Good, good. Now, I trust you work well as a team, but I am curious how well you work with others. As this is a test, I will be dividing your band between two contracts.”

LIAM: Ex-squeeze me?

MATT: “Two teams.”

SAM: Do we get to pick the teams?

MATT: “You, gnome. Giant. Ranger. Tinkerer. You will form the first team.”

LAURA: What?

LIAM: That is bullshit.

MATT: “You will be taking your contract with a couple of other hopeful possible members, as well. Three days to fulfill. Now, cutthroat. Dragonborn. Vine-speaker. You will form the other team.”

LAURA: Does my bear get to come with me?

MATT: “Your bear is allowed, yes. I shall now look over our extending contracts to decide your test for tomorrow. Go. Return in the morning fed, armed, and ready to set out. And hopefully get affiliated with your journeymen members. Now, be gone. I have business to do.”

LAURA: Wait, no. We work as a pair. Maybe you don't know that about us.

MATT: “Oh, then this should prove a very interesting test.”

LIAM: You don't understand, we haven't been apart in about–

LAURA: Ever.

MATT: “Life is hard here in Vasselheim. Deal with disappointment.”

LIAM: Oh, I'm sorry. What was your name again?

MATT: “I am known as the Huntmaster around these parts. But should you wish the name in its full, Huntmaster Vanessa Cyndrial.”

LIAM: Thank you. Vanessa… Shitmaster…

TRAVIS: Don't. I grab him and I start walking out of the room.

SAM: Vanessa?

MATT: “Cyndrial. C-Y-N-D-R-I-A-L.”

SAM: I am not going to spell that right.

MATT: “In the morning: fed, armed, and ready.” Knocks the desk twice. Her husband closes the door behind you. You take a deep breath and realize this will be a very interesting challenge.

MARISHA: Husband? Do you have a name other than husband?

MATT: (laughs) “They call me Mertin, yes.”

MARISHA: Mertin?

MATT: “Mertin Cyndrial, yes.”

SAM: Mertin Cyndrial… Well, this should be interesting. We'll set off on our journey right away, then.

TRAVIS: When do we get our brand?

SAM: After we complete the task.

MATT: Taps his nose and points. “You catch on quick. This bodes very well for you, possibly.”

SAM: Have a good three days.

TRAVIS: Can we stay in the guildhall while we're waiting?

MATT: “You are not members. Soon, though. When one's brand is achieved, as much as you like.”

SAM: All right, Grog. Let's go.

LAURA: Question, husband. Is there a way to change those little pairings that she made? Perhaps get my brother and I on the same team?

MATT: (laughs) “Trust me, there's no way to change my wife's mind. I've tried.”

(laughter)

MATT: He walks off. And we'll conclude the session for the evening there.

LIAM: Eat a bag of dicks.

[end of transcript]

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