"Stalker in the Swamp" (2x21) is the twenty-first episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. A new ally joins the Mighty Nein as they head deep into the Labenda Swamp to investigate the Gentleman's mysterious safe house...
- Tonight's sponsor is D&D Beyond! "Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes" is out now. That's "Morden-KAY-nen's TOME of Foes", not "Morden-KYE-nen's TOMB of Foes" like Sam has been calling it. Sam then premiere's D&D Beyond's new fully-animated commercial (now with synthesizers), based on his 1980s-themed ad from two weeks ago. It is so good that the cast demands to watch it again, which they do.
- The hardcover trade paperback of the entire "Vox Machina: Origins" comic book run is now available on the Geek & Sundry and Project Alpha online stores.
- Stream of Many Eyes begins tomorrow (Friday, June 1, 2018)! Ashley will be playing in the Force Grey game, DMed by Matt, at 6:00 pm PDT. Taliesin, Sam, and Ashley will be playing in a game DMed by Mark Hulmes at 11:00 am PDT on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Later that day, Matt and Marisha will be playing in a game DMed by Deborah Ann Woll at 4:00 pm PDT, and Travis and Joe will be playing in a special "Jocks Machina" game DMed by Mike Mearls at 6:30 pm PDT! There will be cool reveals and crazy stuff all-day during the stream!
- Talks Machina, hosted by Brian Wayne Foster, is 7:00 pm PDT on Geek & Sundry's Twitch and Project Alpha. This week's episode will be discussed next week on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Check it out: it should be fun!
- Matt will be at A-Kon in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX on June 8-10, 2018. He will be doing panels, signings, and trying to talk/hang out with people as much as he can.
- Merch update from Laura: The d20 spinner rings are back in the store...for maybe like five more seconds until Critters buy them the entire stock again! Liam also mentions new items available in the store, as he holds up the "Vox Machina: Origins" TPB. Look at the color and the paper! You can hold it, taste it, and smell it! Matt mentions that Olivia Samson ("fireStash") did a fantastic job on the art for the comic series.
- Liam gives a shout-out to Jordan Shiveley ("Dread Singles"), who is hospitalized and in critical condition. He says "Hi!" and "Feel better!".
- Travis plays synthesizers as we cut to the intro.
Previously on Critical Role Edit
"You decided to side with The Gentleman: a purveyor of various darker and underhanded deeds throughout this side of the Empire, who offered you two possible contracted options. You chose both and proceeded onto your first leg of this journey - to the northeast, to the Labenda Swamp and to the city of Berleben, where you were tasked to discover what had happened to a safe house (of which various local goods would be stored and then transported through) that had gone dark for a number of weeks.
"You packed up, made your way in that direction, traversed through the outskirts of the swamp, managed to save a tiny bird friend from being consumed by a few large crocodiles, and scoured the swamp city of Berleben - in search of some means of information to find the individual that the Gentleman says would be able to help you in this journey: Febron.
"Febron was found - drunken, disorderly - in the Keystone Pub (so "sexy"). So, you managed to interrogate him, made him an offer he couldn't refuse, and he agreed to lead you on to where this safe house exists within the swamp. You rented out the rooms and subterranean chambers of the old and almost collapsed pub. You separated yourselves for the evening, completed your rest, and we pick up as morning comes to greet you..."
Part I EditThere are no windows in the lightless rooms, so the party just assumes that they all got a full evening's rest. Yasha glares at Febron while she gathers her things, as she woke up to find him creepily watching her as she slept. Jester and Beau had slept in a "little cuddle pile" with Kiri, who awakens them with: "It's sharp!" Kiri had gone to bed still holding the dagger she got from Fjord. An amused Jester tells Kiri that she doesn't want to sleep with the dagger; she needs to remove her knife belt before going to bed.
The Mighty Nein make their way up the ladder and through the hatch into the Keystone Pub proper, where they order breakfast. A hooded female wearing a long green cloak covering her left face and side approaches and asks if they're heading into the swamp today-- she's desperate to go there herself. Calianna apologizes for bothering them, but she couldn't help but overhear their conversation last night. She explains that there is a "smuggler's hold" deep inside the swamp which she believes contains an item she's looking for. The party realizes she is talking about the Gentleman's safe house. She tells them the item she seeks is a bowl that's part of a ritual, and is being sought by creepy people in dragon masks who worship the Scaled Tyrant. Calianna herself is one-tenth dragon. She adjusts her cloak and her whole left side is black dragon scales, her left hand is a draconic claw, and she has a black dragon tail. As a reward for helping her, she promises them a silver bracelet which she says is an arcane focus.
The party introduces themselves, but Nott uses a false name: Bren. Caleb stares at her, and she shrugs. Cali says her magic is concentrated in fire and acid. Caleb can relate. They set off into the swamp, Jester carrying Kiri and Febron supposedly pointing the way. Midway, they run into some nasty pollen shot from a fern-type plant, and Cali uses Fireball to try to burn it off. It hurts, but doesn't kill the plant, which begins moving toward them, and the party shoots it with several spells and cantrips before Fjord finishes it with a Witch Bolt.
They move on, eventually hearing a sound like wooden wind chimes. Caleb sends Frumpkin to scout it out. He sees that the chimes are in a tree, and rather than wood are made from yellowed dried hollow bones tied with sinew. Frumpkin also sees a hide curtain covering a hollow in a broken tree, and is sent over to look quickly behind it and immediately poof out to the Feywild. He sees that inside is a layer of bones and a matted pile of something in the corner. The party decides to leave it for now and possibly come back later.
As they approach the Ounterloch which will lead them to the safe house, Febron is hit by another pollen blast and begins walking straight towards the lurking plant, but Calianna casts Levitate on him to keep him from stepping into it. Fjord notices a figure hiding in the trees. Beau sneaks up on it and sees it is a troll, wearing a bone necklace very similar to the wind chimes. They decide to try to move away from it, and while they walk, Calianna tells Beau that she was raised by the Cult of the Caustic Heart, who kept her in seclusion and told her she was special and important. Meanwhile, the troll continues to keep pace with them off in the trees.
They reach the top of the Ounterloch and bend back northward into the swamp. Febron tells them there are six pearl-hilted daggers in the trees marking the trail, and they follow them. As they approach the final marker, they come upon two bodies speared to the trees. Jester casts Speak with Dead to find out more about their killers, who were many swamp fishmen from underground, about two or three weeks ago. This disturbs Febron enough that he backs away from the group and is snatched up by the venom troll. The party throws ranged attacks but the troll runs off carrying Febron, who goes limp. Roll initiative!
The troll bleeds toxic sludge when wounded. Beau gets into melee with it, takes a huge amount of damage from the poisons emitted by the troll, and sees that Febron is very dead. Every time the others hit, she takes more damage, going unconscious, and the troll picks her up. The party realizes they can't hurt the troll, or Beau will take more damage and die. Jester casts Healing Word on her, bringing her back conscious but still being carried off by the troll. Calianna casts Levitate on Beau, breaking the troll's grapple, lifting her out of its arms and sending her into the trees where she grabs on. The party hits the troll with ranged a few times, but it dashes off with the body of Febron under its arm.
Jester remembers she never asked the corpse the fifth question when they were interrupted by the troll, so since they've lost their guide, she asks it which way is the safe house. It indicates 100 feet off to the right. They decide to take a short rest.
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Part II Edit
Caleb casts Detect Magic but senses nothing but a mild glow from Cali's bracelet. Based on what Jester learned from Speak with Dead, Fjord suggests that the safe house might no longer be above ground. Jester asks Cali more about the bowl, and Cali explains that it's part of a set of six used by the cult that raised her. Their priestess Serissa told her about the Scaled Tyrant, the Queen of Dragons, one of the Betrayer Gods, and Serissa would torture and kill people in her name. Cali was rescued from the cult by a dwarf called Grim. She is going to try to find all the bowls, if she can, and destroy them.
They find a giant banyan tree surrounded by water in the approximate location indicated by the corpse, with six more bodies tied to it. Calianna uses magic to make the water, which is about three feet deep, crystal clear, and they wade out to the tree. Beau retrieves a teal-colored bandanna tied around one branch. After Nott searches around she finds a different kind of wood that when pressed, wiggles. She pulls it out opening a four-foot carved hollow leading to a dark interior.
Fjord enters first, seeing signs of a fight and spatters of weeks-old blood. A 30-inch hole descends below the tree, and Nott goes first, using Feather Fall when she slips. She hears shifting, a hiss, and a clatter, and messages the group that there is a creature there, and if they come down, use a rope. She stealths forward to investigate and sees three humanoid creatures with fins, square jaws with dangling tendrils, and long fish tails, all feasting on a crocodile. The rest of the party joins her in the lower chamber, and they decide to attack.
Fjord leads off by casting Hunger of Hadar. Although the others also attack successfully, the merrow concentrate their attacks on him, harpooning him and dragging him up to them for bite and claw attacks. A fourth merrow enters soon after. Fjord is quickly rendered unconscious, but uses Relentless Endurance to pop back up to one hit point. He is almost immediately hit into unconsciousness again. Nott kills one with a crossbow bolt, Yasha kills another, and Beau gets a third. Fjord gets the How do you want to do this? on the last merrow with two Eldritch Blasts.
They drag a merrow corpse out of the water and Keri runs up and stabs it several times with her dagger. The party finds about 200 gold, a bunch of jewelry, four sets of manacles, and two vials of a thick purple liquid. Nott finds a well-crafted marble bowl with gold inlay of a curious design, bearing five dragon heads with gemstone eyes. She hides it from Calianna.
Looking into one of the pools, Fjord hears a familiar voice in his brain saying, "Learn."
While Caleb is ritual casting Identify on the two vials, Nott shows him the bowl. He instantly casts Identify on both the vials and the bowl. The bowl is magical. It is used as a communion device. When filled with blood and given the proper ritual, it's used to acquire auguries, various bits of divination, and communication across the Divine Gate with the Scaled Tyrant. Caleb tells Nott it's of no use to them, but puts it in his satchel.
Meanwhile, Fjord dives through a hole in the bottom of the pool, with the encouragement of the voice of Uk'otoa, through an underwater tunnel into a pool in another chamber with five more merrow. He swims back to the first room where the party awaits. They all agree they need to sleep before another fight, but Calianna says if the bowl isn't here, she needs to be off seeking it.
Caleb asks what Calianna intends to do with it, and she says she wants to destroy it, although she doesn't know how. Caleb calls the group over to him one by one, and pulls the bowl out of his bag. He suggests they spend the night there, and in the morning Jester can cast a truth spell on Calianna to confirm that Cali really wants the bowl only to destroy it. Suddenly, Beau snatches it from his hand. Caleb is flabbergasted, asking why she wouldn't want to wait 12 hours to make sure that Calianna's intentions are true, since the bowl can be used to speak to one of the most evil entities in the history of creation. Beau says that Caleb's caution does not get to control other people's destinies, and he responds that she can keep it all night if she wants, so that in the morning they can use Jester's spell to determine if Calianna's intentions are true and good.
Jester is on Beau's side, saying that you shouldn't stop someone from talking to a god if they want to talk to a god. Molly casts Friends on Calianna, who reiterates that all she wants is to destroy it or hide it from the Cult. Beau hands her the bowl and tells Caleb that he doesn't get to use his past trauma to control other people. He replies, "Beauregard, what if she had been lying to us?" and Beau says they'd just take it as a lesson and move on. Cali intercedes, saying Caleb is the only one who really understands how powerful the bowl is. He was doing the right thing. Caleb just walks away.
Without much hope of success, they try to destroy the bowl. Finally, Yasha pulls out Magician's Judge, using its Dispel Magic, and shatters it.
Calianna hugs and thanks her, and says she's heading back to Port Damali. Jester and she agree to be pen pals. Since Caleb has walked off, Cali gives Nott a scroll of invisibility to give to him. She says her farewells, and leaves.
Featured Characters Edit
|Acquired||1||charm||Nott||made from dried animal foot|
|Acquired||2||vials with something||thick, purple, oily substance|
|Acquired||1||jewelry||Jester||worth 250 gold|
|Acquired||4||manacles||Fjord||spatterd with blood|
|Acquired||1||bowl||Nott||used for rituals|
|Destroyed||1||bowl||Nott||The Magician's Judge|
|Acquired||1||Scroll of Invisibilty||Cali||Nott|
- Calianna: It's a small trinket.
Nott: I love trinkets.
Jester: Trinkets are pretty great.
Nott: They are. They always have been.
- Jester: Okay, um...hey you, dead person...hey. Um...I would like if you would come to life again a little bit and tell us something that we want to know! ...Bata-lata-lata-la!
- Calianna: (About the troll) If it bleeds, we can kill it.
- Yasha: (To the troll holding Beau) DROP IT!!!
- Beau: Could I take the staff, and I pick it up with the fish still on it, and I'm like: It's fish kebabs!
- Calianna: (about the bowl) I intend to either destroy it, or find somewhere secure that the Cult of the Caustic Heart, servants of the Scaled Tyrant, can't find it, because they knew my power. They knew that I'm descended from an ancient black dragon from far away. If they find another one like me, they could do terrible things. I promise you, Mr. Caleb, I promise you that all I want is to right some of the wrongs that I once did as part of that group. I helped kill people; I helped torture people. I've got to make this right, and that's the only way I can do this. I don't know much, but I know that the only person that can take that thing and make sure it's not used for ill is me.
- Beau: I grab Caleb, drag him aside, hand Cali the bowl, drag Caleb over to a private corner, and I say, look. We all have our fucking trauma. You understand that? We all have our fucking garbage, and our dirt, and our shit. But you don't get to use your skeletons in your closet, your PTSD, to be shitty and control other people and what they want. It does not make you the authority on what's right and what's wrong. Just because you think that you're a shitty person, guess what? We're all fucking shitty people. I get feeling like shitty people. I don't speak for the rest of these guys, but I get feeling shitty. But it doesn't mean that you get to impress that on other people and make them feel like shitheads just because you are.
Caleb: Beauregard, what if she had been lying to us?
Beau: Then she fucking lied to us. We take that, and we learn that as a lesson for later on.
- Calianna: (To Jester) Can we be pen pals?
- Sam's giant flask bears a message in this episode that reads "THE BAGEL KNOWS" above a picture of a bagel.
- Nott uses the alias "Bren" in this episode.
- Fan discussions frequently use the term "Bowlgate" to refer to the confrontation between Beau and Caleb at the end of the episode.