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"Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) is the second episode of Talks Machina.

Ashley Johnson, Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, and Sam Riegel discuss "Brawl in the Arches" (1x76) with Brian Wayne Foster.



Ashley: How different is Skyping in for the show as opposed to being here in person?

[1] "It sucks." Ashley explains that the nature of Dungeons & Dragons is played with your friends, so you lose that part of the experience when playing over Skype. She can usually only hear Travis, Laura, and Liam because her screen is placed at their table, and she can kind of hear Matt when he's loud. Ashley ends up not hearing a lot of what's said, but she doesn't want to interrupt by constantly asking what's going on in the game. Listening to the stream isn't very helpful due to the delay.

At the end of every game she Skypes into she wishes that she could have contributed more. Whenever she does play in person it takes her some time to warm up her improv skills again. She loves this game so much, so she's always willing to Skype in when she can, no matter how difficult it is.

Matt: No sarcasm, how much did you enjoy "Brawl in the Arches" (1x76)?

[2] Most campaigns don't get to the levels that Vox Machina has reached, so Matt has been so excited to get to use the more powerful creatures. This was the first time he ever got to use a pit fiend. It was even more fun because the party was in the City of Brass and at serious risk of being thrown into slavery if they failed.

Matt enjoyed using creatures that were more intelligent than the party. They were able to use clever tactics and take advantage of the battlefield.

Everyone but Matt: How prepared do you think Matt was for a TPK?

[3] Sam assumes he's always ready for a TPK, but this fight in particular was one that Vox Machina could have easily lost. They could tell Matt was taking it seriously, which always means bad things for them. Brian adds that the red light that was glowing on Matt's face during the fight made him even more terrifying.

Matt says that the first round was what would set the tone for the rest of the fight. Vox Machina's initiative rolls were good compared to the pit fiend and erinyes. Keyleth restraining the erinyes with her Watery Sphere and Grog grappling Ghurrix were clutch moves that essentially disabled their enemies for the whole first round.

The pit fiend was originally planning to fly over the group towards Keyleth because she was the one who initiated the battle. He was going to drop a Wall of Fire behind him to cut her off from the rest of the group and just take her down with a full round of attacks next round. He would then pick of the rest of the party one by one with the spells at his disposal.

Matt says that a pit fiend doesn't have any outrageous defense, it just deals a ton of damage to a single target each round. Ashley remembers that at one point in the fight Pike had been at or near full health but was knocked unconscious by a single turn from the pit fiend.

Discussing Vax's kiss with Keyleth while Seeming was still active

[4] The clip from "Brawl in the Arches" (1x76) where Vax'ildan casts Heroism on Keyleth through a kiss is shown.

Brian says that he texted Marisha during the middle of the game reminding her that Seeming was still active, so Keyleth still looked like Vex'ahlia when Vax kissed her. Marisha hadn't realized it until she got the text. She says the blame for that is on Vax/Liam. Matt says that somewhere Garmelie is circling a page in his sketchbook.

Matt has seen several pieces of fanart for the "unintentional magical incest" moment.

Sam asks if disguising Vox Machina to all look like the twins actually accomplished anything. It did not, because pit fiends can see through illusions. Ghurrix was very unimpressed.

GIF of the Week

[5] Winner: @Mobius___Strip (GIF) Prize: Critical Role T-shirt

Discussing the battle with Ghurrix in "Brawl in the Arches" (1x76)

[6] According to CritRoleStats, the battle against Ghurrix was the longest in-real-life battle on Critical Role as of this episode. It ran for 2:37:12 in real time. Second place was the encounter with Umbrasyl in "In the Belly of the Beast" (1x54) with a duration of 2:35:53, third place was the battle with Kevdak and the Herd of Storms in "The Kill Box" (1x52) at 2:32:19.

Ashley says they would be exhausted after fighting for two and half hours, but they all know that in D&D time the battle really only lasted for a minute or so.

Brian asks Matt how much prep he had to do, specifically for the battle map. Matt says that designing and constructing the map took about two hours. He made it out of Dwarven Forge pieces, some Epix Haven walls, and a Mage Knight tower. He wanted to make the battlefield interesting, and he hopes to use more light filters in the future.

Sam compliments Matt's design for the map, saying it was useful and the party ended up using most of it, retreating behind buildings and ducking down other streets for cover. Matt wants to set up his maps so the players can take advantage of their mobility, and also so their opponents can use it to their advantage.

Brian asks if that was one of the possible maps he's brought in during other episodes and ended up taking back home unused. Matt brought that map in along with several other maps that went unused. When it became apparent at the end of "Where the Cards Fall" (1x75) that Vox Machina was about to get into a fight, Matt took the map home and expanded upon it.

Brian brings up something Matt said at the start of the battle: "You guys are rolling really well tonight, it's frustrating me." Matt says that if the pit fiend had been earlier in the initiative he would have darted forward and locked down the battlefield to his advantage, but because Grog went before him and decided to grapple Ghurrix, he was forced into a reactionary position.

Ghurrix was smart enough not to spread his attack out; instead he focused on one target at a time, aiming to take the party members out one by one so that they would be forced to focus on keeping their friends alive.

This was also the first battle where poison prevented characters from healing which was a major problem near the end of the fight. Vox Machina did well with their initiative rolls; Marisha actually got a natural 20 on initiative.

The erinyes did have a name, but she would not willingly reveal it because names have power and many magics require the true name of a fiend to affect it.

Matt did not mention the general damage taken by Ghurrix (ie. "looking rough") because Vox Machina had never encountered a pit fiend before, a creature very alien to them, so they didn't know what to look for in order to gauge its health. Also Matt wanted to keep the tension level of the battle high.

Everyone: What was your biggest "Oh sh*t!" moment of the pit fiend fight?

[7] For Sam, when he tried to heal Pike and it did nothing. That had never happened before.

For Marisha, when the Feeblemind failed and she knew Ghurrix would target her first.

Sam: How do you feel about being the MVP?

[8] Sam assumes that he's the MVP every week. He feels the same as the last 75 episodes.

In all seriousness, Sam feels that he was able to have a pretty cool moment at the end of the fight thanks to Matt's hints. He also enjoyed using Modify Memory on the guard because he doesn't get to use it very much.

Matt says that the Illuminated are 50,000 strong and serves the Sultan of the City of Brass directly. Throughout the battle Matt was rolling to see how quickly they would arrive at the scene based on the sound and noises during the fight. When the first Illuminated arrived he began to call in his fellows who would arrive after a few rounds, which would be really bad.

Every successful persuasion roll made by Vox Machina was just enough to keep the guard questioning the circumstances, until Grog ruined it. It would have resulted in the party being chained, brought before the Sultan, and having to talk their way out of it.

Scanlan's Modify Memory happened just in time, and the memory he implanted (the pit fiend planning to undermine the Sultan) was one of the few things that would turn the efreeti against an ambassador of the Nine Hells.

Sam or Matt: How high is Scanlan's Charisma skill to get such high checks, and how?

[9] Scanlan's spell DC is normally 19, but with the Hand Cone of Clarity it's 21. Scanlan's Charisma is 22, so he has a +6 modifier.

Mythcarver's Awakening

[10] A clip of Scanlan's Cutting Words rendition of "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears is played. Brian jokingly suggests that this is the reason for Mythcarver's Awakening.

The actual clip of Mythcarver's Awakening is then played.

Matt: What metric, if any, were you using to determine when Mythcarver would awaken?

[11] Not all Vestiges are attached to a deity; a lot are attached to the character's personal growth. Matt will be going into more detail about it in the Critical Role campaign guide.

Mythcarver's awakening was the results of a moment of character growth and conviction, when Scanlan decided to honor his promise to Kaylie and stepped away to preserve his own life so he could live for his daughter.

Sam: Would Scanlan really bail on Vox Machina in order to keep his promise to Kaylie?

[12] Scanlan's been thinking about that a lot lately. Sam says that for the majority of the campaign Scanlan's been the guy who would die for glory or sacrifice himself for his friends, but now he is honor-bound to Kaylie to stay alive. Scanlan's been struggling to understand how he can fight without being allowed to die.

Matt says that in some ways it's a selfish mindset, but Mythcarver comes from a long line of bards: if they don't live to tell the tale, who will? The bards that survive are the ones who write the history and tell the tales. So while it might be a selfish decision, it falls in line with Mythcarver's design.

Sam: Why did you seem so hesitant to use Mythcarver?

[13] Neither Sam Riegel nor Scanlan Shorthalt know how to use a sword. Scanlan is good at charming, singing, and performing, so even if his sword is humming to him he's going to stick with what he knows will work, namely his spellcasting. As for Sam, he's never had a lot of luck using Mythcarver so he was reluctant to experiment with it in the middle of a battle against a pit fiend.

Sam: What was your first instinct when Mythcarver began to vibrate?

[14] Sam knows that a sword can probably slash things, but up to that point Mythcarver had mostly assisted in his spellcasting. Sam didn't know if the vibrating meant that he should physically attack with the sword or use it to channel his songs. He had assumed it would help with his spells.

Ashley: Did you think it was a good idea for the group to go after the Plate of the Dawnmartyr before the Thordak battle, or were you worried about it?

[15] She was worried about it. Part of the reason for their spontaneous decision to go get it was because Ashley was in town so they though it would be good to get her Vestige. And then Ashley had to leave again.

Some of them also thought that the Vestiges might react with one another once they had all been gathered. Marisha says they were hoping for a Voltron moment.

Sam's HDYWTDT moment

[16] The clip of Scanlan's How do you want to do this? against Ghurrix is shown.

Marisha points out how exhausted and stressed they all looked, since they didn't have a break during that long battle.

Players: Do you consider the Plate of the Dawnmartyr worth the invasion of Fort Daxio, considering you haven't rested?

[17] Sam says they don't know for sure what's happening at Fort Daxio. All they know is that it's burning and wyverns are attacking it. Maybe the fight is starting, maybe they're just having a rave. Ashley suggests Burning Man.

Marisha thinks that time was of the essence, which was why Keyleth suggested they return to Senokir later. Sam admits that their decision was probably stupid, but Vox Machina is constantly stupid so they're just sticking to the theme.

Matt mentions a comment he saw on Keyleth's playlist regarding the song "Pow Pow" by LCD Soundsystem, saying that the lyrics exemplify Vox Machina's planning verbatim.

Matt: Are all the Vestiges able to be awakened?

[18] Some of them were already awakened when they were found. As a game mechanic, the Vestiges were designed to level up alongside the character. In the book, there will be very low-level Vestiges that will gain abilities as the character grows more powerful.

At Vox Machina's current level, some of the Vestiges are already as powerful as they can get; the Plate of the Dawnmartyr is pretty much at its max.

Matt: Is there an ETA on the campaign guide?

[19] Late spring/early summer 2017. Matt's still working on it.

He's had to change the names of the deities for the book, as most of them are owned by Wizards of the Coast and Matt can't afford the licensing fees. Aside from that, Wizards have been really supportive of the book and have helped Matt out with a few things.

The deities of Exandria will have titles instead of names, but it should be pretty clear which one is which.

Matt: Did you custom-make all the Vestiges' effects? Did it take long to make sure they weren't too strong?

[20] Matt did make them all. He isn't sure yet if they're too powerful; he'll find out as Vox Machina uses them. The idea of the Vestiges is that if they aren't quite at the power level the Dungeon Master wants them to be then they can always be adjusted.

Matt recommends erring on the side of the items being too weak, so they can be improved later on. If they're too powerful, they'll have to be pulled back.

Ashley asks how they knew which Vestige went to who. Each Vestige went to whoever Vox Machina decided should have it. The specific Vestiges that Kamaljiori told them about were meant to fit with their skill sets or call to them in some historical fashion.

Players: How did you feel when you saw Fort Daxio and realized it was under attack?

[21] Marisha reminds them that Keyleth had warned the group about gathering all their allies at one location, but the others had shrugged off her concerns at the time.

Ashley is still having trouble believing that the Colossal Red Dragon miniature is Thordak. Brian points to the other Conclave minis on the shelf behind them, which are much smaller than Thordak.

Players: What are your thoughts on why Allura didn't message you that Fort Daxio was under attack?

[22] Brian thought Allura was in Whitestone. Matt says they last saw her at Fort Daxio. The players wonder if she might be dead.

Players: How do you guys feel about Senokir now?

[23] He's still Sam's favorite NPC of all time. Ashley loves him so much.

Brian asks if they're still nervous about him and if they think his story is legit. Scanlan probably accepted it at face value due to his low Wisdom. Keyleth is starting to develop trust issues, so she's still suspicious. Ashley isn't sure.

Sam says Senokir is still really creepy and Marisha adds that he's still counting every second since his wife died. Ashley doubts that Senokir really told them the whole story. Marisha thinks he either loved his wife for all time or he murdered her. Sam agrees. Ashley thinks there might be something other than his wife's ashes in the box.

Fanart of the Week

[24] Winner: Kent Davis @iDrawBagman (Art) Prize: Zebrawood Hero Vault from Wyrmwood Gaming

Players: How are you feeling about the upcoming Thordak battle? Is there any strategizing happening off-camera?

[25] They have not done any planning at all. Marisha says it's hard to plan when you don't know what to expect.

Ashley says they have a text thread without Matt (entitled "Clusterfuck") where they discuss the game, but they haven't talked about Thordak yet.

Ashley: Do you feel that Pike's time away from the group has changed her relationship with Vox Machina, for better or worse?

[26] Ashley's feelings kind of blend with Pike's on this matter, so when they're separated from the group for a while it takes them some time to fit back in. If Ashley was present every week she thinks there would be different relationships and things happening.

Matt says they'll probably go deeper into Pike's story after the defeat of the Chroma Conclave, and after season 2 of Blindspot is done filming.

Sam says it feels like a different game when Ashley is at the table. Marisha says that Ashley/Pike has kind of become the beloved older sister who went off to college but comes back for holidays, so no one wants to get in an argument with her or upset her because she's only here for a little while.

Marisha: What's the beaded thing that hangs off your mug?

[27] It's just beads. She bought the mug at a yard sale, wrapped it in leather, and put the beads on it. Underneath the leather the mug says "Sales Representative of the Year, 1992".

Everyone: How purposeful were the seating arrangements for the show? Do you feel like it affects personal dynamics?

[28] The seating arrangements have changed throughout the show along with the set and the relationships between the characters and players. They switched it up more near the start, but they've kind of settled on their positions at this point.

Liam and Laura have to sit next to each other because they are twins and refuse to be separated.

In their home game, Ashley thinks that she always sat between Liam and Laura. Sam was always late so he'd just take whatever seat was still available.

They all agree that the seats do affect character interaction. Sam says that Scanlan and Keyleth talk the least out of anyone in the show because Taliesin's "gigantic" head is in the way. Sam and Marisha actually sat next to each other for a while, which is when they interacted the most.

Ashley thinks it would be fun to switch up the seating, but they all agree they'd have to convince Laura because she doesn't like change.

Part of the reason the seats changed in the first place was because Marisha and Liam didn't want to force anyone to be between them during scenes with Vax and Keyleth. At first there were several people between them which lead to many awkward moments with the rest of the group.

Marisha points out how immature everyone acted at the start of Vax and Keyleth's relationship, whereas they all seem to be enamored with Vex and Percy. Matt says it's hard to be the trailblazers.

Players: Do you guys think you need a clear leader or battlefield commander?

[29] Vox Machina doesn't want or need a leader.

Matt: How are you going to voice all of the NPCs and allies in the upcoming Thordak battle?

[30] Matt despondently says they're just going to have to find out. Marisha loves when Matt has to talk to himself.

Sam suggests that Matt is having Fort Daxio attacked so that he can kill off all the NPCs he doesn't want to voice.

Sam: Have you been writing any songs in preparation for the Thordak battle?

[31] Sam jokes that they're mostly Britney Spears covers.

Wrapping up

[32] Brian thanks everyone who helped with the Talks Machina intro, transition, set, music, chat room, etc.

There isn't a Critical Role episode next week, but there will still be Talk Machina. It'll be a free-for-all Q&A.

Brian reminds the audience to submit questions using the hashtag #AskTalksMachina. Sam decides that if you rearrange the letters in that you can spell "Stalk Sam AKA China".

Brian requests the fans' help with something special: send in a video saying what Critical Role means to you.

The cast can't stop laughing about the french horn music playing in the background.

The videos should be less than a minute and will be compiled and aired on December 20th. They must be submitted before December 15th.

Brian thanks his guests "Sam Regale", "Marsha Ray", "Ashley Jenkins", and "Mike Mercer".


  • Sam: "Maybe that's what's going on at Daxio, [Matt]'s killing all the other NPCs so he doesn't have to voice them?"
    Matt: "Just wiping them all out!"
    Sam: "Allura: DEAD, Gilmore: DEAD...anyone with a complicated accent: GONE."[33]


  1. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:04:27.
  2. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:08:30.
  3. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:10:26.
  4. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:12:34.
  5. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:14:44.
  6. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:17:43.
  7. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:24:35.
  8. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:26:07.
  9. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:29:00.
  10. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:29:56.
  11. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:32:31.
  12. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:34:11.
  13. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:35:47.
  14. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:37:16.
  15. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:40:12.
  16. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:41:20.
  17. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:44:15.
  18. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:45:51.
  19. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:46:41.
  20. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:47:53.
  21. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:49:30.
  22. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:50:33.
  23. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:51:24.
  24. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:52:42.
  25. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:55:09.
  26. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 0:56:17.
  27. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:00:03.
  28. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:01:33.
  29. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:04:50.
  30. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:05:56.
  31. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:06:26.
  32. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:06:39.
  33. See "Talks Machina #2: 'Brawl in the Arches'" (TMx02) at 1:06:10.