"Talks Machina #1: 'Where the Cards Fall'" (TMx01) is the first episode of Talks Machina.

Laura Bailey, Matthew Mercer, and Travis Willingham discuss "Where the Cards Fall" (1x75) with Brian Wayne Foster.


Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Discussing the upcoming battle in "Brawl in the Arches" (1x76)[edit | edit source]

Brian introduces the show before playing the introduction video created by Wendy Sullivan Green. He then gives a quick recap of "Where the Cards Fall" (1x75) before playing the clip of Ghurrix summoning the erinyes and preparing for battle.

Matt talks about how Vox Machina has traveled to other planes before, but nothing like the City of Brass. He says that unless the players get creative they're just going to get eaten by the pit fiend.

Matt: How often would you say the players choose the path that you expect them to, and has it changed over the course of the show?[edit | edit source]

[1] It depends on where the players are in the story. In the Underdark at the start of the stream, there were a few branching paths but it was pretty straightforward.

As the players gained levels and the story evolved with the attack of the Chroma Conclave the storyline became more open. The players gained the abilities to teleport and travel between the various planes, making predicting their plans more difficult.

Matt tries to plan as much as he can, but sometimes they surprise him. For example, they recently said they weren't planning to go to the City of Brass, but then spontaneously decided to go there anyway.

On a related note, Senokir and Uten were both made up on the spot.

Matt: Do you ever get to play as a character in a D&D game or are you only ever a GM/NPCs?[edit | edit source]

[2] Matt gets to be a player rarely, usually just one-shot games when he has time. Ever since Critical Role began, turning their monthly game into a weekly one, he's had to spend more time planning which leaves him with less time to play games on his own. He feels that it's worth it though, and he loves watching his players work their way through the story.

Matt did get to play in a one-shot run by Matt Colville last year, alongside Liam and Marisha. Colville has offered to run another game for him when Mercer has more availability.

Matt has also played some one-shots on the Geek & Sundry channel with Ivan Van Norman and some of the other shows.

If Brian were Dungeon Master, he would be intimidated to have Matt as a player because he feels like Matt would know everything already. Matt admits that he knows most of the rules, which can help inform decisions, but the fun part is figuring out how to bend the rules or work around them.

Matt has a lot of experience seeing player do weird things, which can inspire him to do his own weird things as a player, but it doesn't mean he would know anything about the story or challenges that would be thrown at him.

Discussing Matt's NPC voices[edit | edit source]

Brian asks how Matt comes up with the voices for his NPCs. As far as Uten goes, a lot of Matt's tieflings come from Wildemount which has Eastern European inspirations. Senokir's voice developed more from Matt trying to find a unique voice for his first genasi NPC and deciding that his voice should make a nice contrast to the rest of the aggressive, tyrannical denizens of the City of Brass.

Matt: How often do you reuse your maps? A lot of work goes into them, so it must be hard to only use them once.[edit | edit source]

[3] Matt rarely gets to reuse his maps. A lot of battle locations are a one-time thing and many of the maps he makes go unused entirely.

Brian says that some Thursdays there will be a giant board with a blanket over it next to Matt, which Matt will just carry out with him if the battle doesn't happen.

Matt does feel a little sad that some of the maps are never seen, but it makes him more comfortable to know that they were ready if he needed them. He'd rather over-prepare than be caught off-guard and not have a cool set piece for the battle.

Matt: Despite it being what that NPC would do, are there any decisions that you regret doing?[edit | edit source]

[4] Matt doesn't have regrets exactly, but there were some moments or encounters that he expected to be much more grand or dangerous. For example, the final encounter with the Briarwoods. Due to player ingenuity and dice rolls it wasn't the climactic battle he expected, although it was still a great narrative encounter.

Matt would never punish the players for doing well, or for his own unlucky rolls of the dice. He doesn't want every single encounter to feel like it's calculated to be just the right amount of dangerous. It makes the players feel more powerful to be able to steamroll an encounter, as it shows the advancement of their characters.

Discussing Percy's attack against Raishan in "The Coming Storm" (1x73)[edit | edit source]

Brian asks Matt if he thinks Percy regrets attempting to stab the disguised Raishan in "The Coming Storm" (1x73). Matt is skeptical, since Taliesin said he did it on purpose to reveal that Raishan wasn't actually there, but he also said he was taking all three attacks.

Matt says that it revealed to the Council that Assum Emring was not the Assum they knew and exacerbated the mistrust in the room. It definitely heightened the tension in those protecting Whitestone. Matt's curious to see how that will play out in the future.

GIF of the Week[edit | edit source]

[5] Winner: Carlos B. @CspiderMx (GIF) Prize: Critical Role mug

Brian welcomes Travis and Laura to the show. He asks who is ready to die the most. Laura always feels like they're going to die. Travis thinks they're in good shape, even though they make some dumb moves.

Discussing the Halloween costumes from "The Coming Storm" (1x73)[edit | edit source]

Brian asks how long it took them to make the Halloween costumes from "The Coming Storm" (1x73). Laura already had the corset (she bought it on Etsy) and the lace part was lingerie from Amazon. Travis is not good at making costumes; Laura put together most of his for him. She had it ready two weeks in advance. Travis did his own makeup, though.

Everyone: How deep is the Hamilton obsession?[edit | edit source]

[6] It is very deep. Laura and Travis spent a lot of money on tickets for Travis's birthday. They got to see the original actor for George Washington.

Laura: What are you more worried about: surviving the current pit fiend situation or Thordak?[edit | edit source]

[7] Before answering, they all confirm with Matt that the Colossal Red Dragon miniature is to scale for Thordak, which it is. Thinking about it keeps Travis up at night.

Laura asks Matt if Kamaljiori said he would help Vox Machina once they had gathered all of the Vestiges of the Divergence. He did not say that, he only told them about the existence of the Vestiges and that gathering them would help prepare them to face Thordak.

Laura answers the original question, saying that she is more worried about the pit fiend at the moment because she's pretty sure they're all going to die.

Travis: How much can Grog bench?[edit | edit source]

[8] Grog can bench at least two small dairy cows on either side of a skinny tree trunk, according to Travis. He estimates about 2200 pounds (~998 kilograms). Laura asks if that's Grog with the Titanstone Knuckles activated or just regular Grog. He's not sure. They all agree that CritRoleStats will probably have the answer for them soon.

(Editor's note: CritRoleStats did end up calculating it. Based on the 5e lifting and carrying rules from the Player's Handbook, Grog enlarged with the Titansone Knuckles could bench 2880 pounds. Dairy cows usually weigh from 1200 to 2000 pounds, so Enlarged Grog could bench two lightweight dairy cows. Source.)

Laura and Travis: Do the members of Vox Machina view themselves as heroes? Or do they have (effectively) impostor syndrome?[edit | edit source]

[9] Laura and Travis both answer no, their characters do not see themselves as heroes.

Grog is closer to a mercenary; he's more of an adventure-seeker. He knows that if he sticks with these people that he loves, he's bound to get into good fights and he's usually never bored.

Laura thinks everyone except for Scanlan has such low self-esteem that none of them consider themselves heroes. Everybody in Vox Machina has issues.

Laura: In "Path of Brass" (1x74), Vex's alignment went back to Chaotic Good. What did she do to make it otherwise?[edit | edit source]

[10] Laura explains how Vex'ahlia became Chaotic Neutral after "Cindergrove Revisited" (1x46) because she stole the Broom of Flying from Chris Hardwick's character, Gern Blanston.

Laura defends her actions by saying that she's never played D&D outside of their own game and they were still unused to having guest players, so she didn't know that you weren't supposed to steal from other players.

Matt interjects and says that stealing from players for the sake of stealing is just being mean, but if the group of players understands the roleplaying aspect it can work very well. Laura didn't think Chris would ever be on the show again, so why not take his awesome flying broom?

Matt explains that the alignment change was a result of a series of actions, including some needlessly aggressive intimidation tactics against the potion seller in Vasselheim who took advantage of Grog.

Everyone: I'm curious about the number/design of dice each person brings to the table every week., including Matt.[edit | edit source]

[11] Laura starts pointing out how most of the dice decorating the shelves of the set belong to her. She has a whole other bag of dice as well. Before every show she goes through her entire bag, rolls a bunch of the dice, and the ones that roll the highest get put in the Wyrmwood box for use that night.

Travis counters that sometimes Laura chooses her dice by color; the previous week she had an entire rainbow laid out. Laura says that was a coincidence, those dice just rolled high.

Some of their dice are fan-made. Matt has replaced all of his old dice with dice that have been sent in by fans. The one he uses for the really intense/important rolls is the one that's shaped like an underwater mine. It has a nice weight to it, so it's sufficiently dramatic for resurrection rituals and boss encounters.

Matt got a bag at BlizzCon that contained dice with the Diablo-style numbers on them. Those got added to his stash because he's been a fan of the games' aesthetics for years.

Travis still has all of the same dice he's had since they started. He will switch in new D20s occasionally, but as soon as they roll bad they get tossed, except for the metal die made by Gil Ramirez.

Laura incorporates all the dice that Critters send her. Travis quickly requests that people stop sending her dice; Laura immediately says to never stop.

They then play the clip from "Where the Cards Fall" (1x75) where Pike tries to teach Grog to read.[12]

Travis: Do you plan to pursue literacy for Grog beyond this episode or was Thursday a one-off?[edit | edit source]

[13] The letters that Grog learned that night faded away along with the effects of the Fox's Cunning Potion, but because Grog is very prideful he will try to act like he understands what everyone else is reading. Travis does not think he will continue trying to learn how to read. Grog might try to learn numbers, but he's done with letters for now.

Matt: How long would it take, theoretically, for Grog to be able to learn his letters enough to write like a Kindergartner?[edit | edit source]

[14] It would take a few weeks straight of practice and tutoring. It's definitely possible if Grog decides to take the time to learn, but it's not possible in the middle of this current conflict.

Laura suggests that Grog could use the potential six-month downtime after the defeat of Thordak to learn to read. Travis doesn't think Vox Machina is going to get a six-month break.

Everyone: How much of Critical Role is happening offscreen? Preparation, personal character stuff, etc.[edit | edit source]

[15] Matt prepares for a minimum of as many hours as they actually play. He averages about six to eight hours of prep work every week, which includes constructing the story and possible story threads, NPC development, item creation, combat development, and any possible battlefields.

Brian quickly plugs Matt's GM Tips series which can be viewed on the Geek & Sundry website. Matt says the videos don't go too deep into any topic, but they are easier for people who are just starting out.

Everyone: What did the cast go through with Matthew to create their characters in the world? Backstories, voices, mannerisms, and what drives the characters.[edit | edit source]

[16] Laura says they didn't do a lot of prep for their very first home game. Travis didn't even have a name for his character when they started. He was just told to pick a race and a class, so he picked combination that he thought would be the biggest and easiest/dumbest because he just wanted to hit things.

Travis was actually half an hour late to their first session and was caught off guard when Marisha asked what his character's name was. He thought of how much he loved the Monkey Island game series and came up with "Grog" on the spot. He heard everyone else doing voices and he didn't want to be left out so he tried to copy the trolls from The Hobbit and ended up with Grog's voice.

Laura and Liam had already decided they would be twins because they share the same birthday in real life. The topic immediately changes to how similar Vex and Vax's names are. Laura mentions the shirts that she and Liam have which say "I'm Vax → That's Vex", "I'm Vex ← That's Vax."

Laura and Travis: What do you think Senokir's motives are, or do you think he could be a trustworthy point of contact in the Fire Plane?[edit | edit source]

[17] They both immediately answer no. Laura thinks he's creepy, although she does love him. Travis says that—because Vax has so many romances going on—he thinks Senokir is attracted to Vax. Travis doesn't actually have anything to support that statement, he just wants to start something. Laura wants him to be attracted to Vex.

Travis can't figure out what Senokir actually wants. He wonders if maybe he can't leave the city and they need to bust him out...or he wants somebody dead. Brian reminds them that they do owe Senokir a favor now.

Travis says that in the D&D world a "favor" can be something really big. He and Laura bring up the hag Forscythia, who Vax promised a favor in exchange for a vial of poison. She has not cashed in that favor yet, and Matt is well-aware of this.

Fan art of the Week[edit | edit source]

[18] Winner: @IsabelKSilva (Fan art of Grog and Pike) Prize: White oak dice vault from Wyrmwood Gaming.

Discussing the pit fiend and erinyes[edit | edit source]

Brian changes the topic to the upcoming battle with a pit fiend. The image from the Monster Manual is displayed onscreen.

Matt is really excited because very few campaigns get to the point where he can bring out high-level enemies like this. This will actually be the first time he uses a pit fiend in a game.

The standard pit fiend stats are displayed onscreen; Travis and Laura quickly avert their eyes to avoid potential metagaming. Matt confirms that he always adjusts the stats anyways, as Vox Machina is larger than the standard party.

Laura thinks it's really dumb that Vox Machina didn't have a Heroes' Feast before going into this encounter.

A picture of an erinyes is then displayed.

Brian asks how dangerous Ghurrix is. Travis realizes that—while the players will usually text each other plans and ideas—they haven't done that for the pit fiend yet. Laura says that they usually do that if it makes sense in-story that they would have time to plan. They feel bad doing it if the time between episodes is instantaneous, like it is in this case.

Travis is getting worried about the upcoming battle. Laura still insists they're all going to die. Matt says they have a lot of spells and a lot of powerful abilities—Laura interrupts saying that they have two "little buddies" (Hunin and Kyor, the aasimar slaves) that they have to save.

Matt is really excited for this fight. Laura and Travis say that Vox Machina should just run away so Matt doesn't get to do anything.

Alternate episode names for "Where the Cards Fall" (1x75)[edit | edit source]

[19] Brian reads off a list of alternate episode names he came up with this week. All of these were things that were literally said out loud by the players during the episode:

  • Sextuplets Sells
  • Sextuplet Nesting Dolls
  • You BAMF, Baby! (from Travis)
  • The Slaves of What's-Her-Butt (from Sam)
  • Little Slave Chickens
  • Pisspot Hottub (Brian's favorite)
  • Fucking Jenga
  • Green Apple Shit-Splatters
  • Baby Ghost Rider

Discussing genasi[edit | edit source]

Travis asks if Scanlan's azer form was the same race as Senokir, which it was not; Senokir is a fire genasi. Matt explains that a genasi is a humanoid who has an elemental somewhere in their bloodline, either through magical means or otherwise.

Wrapping up[edit | edit source]

Brian gives a shout out to Wendy Sullivan Green for designing the Talks Machina intro and to Jason Charles Miller for the theme music. Everything on the set was made and sent in by Critters.

Quotations[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


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