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"The Night Before Critmas" (Sx41) is the forty-first special episode of Critical Role. Special guest Julie Nathanson joins the cast of Critical Role for a hilarious "slay" ride through Dungeon Master Liam O'Brien's "The Night Before Critmas".
- Liam is very excited: he's been sitting on this one-shot idea for two years!
- Talks Machina will return after the new year on January 8th and Critical Role will return on January 10th. On January 3rd, a marathon of the entire first season of All Work No Play will air.
- Reminder that new shows have been announced: Pub Draw, MAME Drop, and the second season of Between the Sheets.
- Liam throws a quick shoutout to Hero Forge, Iron Tusk Painting and Jay from Emerald Knights for supplying the minis used in this game.
It's Christmas Eve at Santa's workshop, in the final hours of toy production. The North Pole has been hit by a violent strain of flu this year, and for the first time in centuries, almost all of the denizens of Christmas Village are down for the count. A small crew of seven remaining healthy elves has been put together at the last minute to finish making the toys. The group includes two regulars on the assembly line: Arthur Fizzlebottom, a troublemaker who got this job as an effort from his father to drill some responsibility into him, and Chutney Chocolatecane, one of the oldest elves in the village, who still misses the good old days when toys were made of wood and metal. They are joined by Klaus Prigman, the hard-boiled leader of village security; Bundlestein Sprucenberg, a worker from the reindeer stables; Cranberry Stockings, a lumberjack and timber sports olympic champion; Ellory Jinglegumdrop, workshop fangirl and bundle of joy; and Nutmeg Gingersnap, back in the North Pole after years of intelligence work at Macy's in New York.
With thirty-five minutes left on the clock, Bigsby Quimberump, an elderly elf and Santa's right-hand man, comes to check on the workshop. He assigns the group with making a batch of Vox Machina figures while he fetches them hot cocoa. The toys are assembled with sub-par quality by most of them. Bigsby comes back, and notices the star at the top of the tree has fallen down. It's the Star of Pure Intent, golden cogs ticking quietly behind the latticework design of its outer shell,with a large ruby set at its center that is pulsing subtly. Bigsby orders Arthur to climb up the tree and put the star back in place, when a medallion on his belt alerts him of intruders in the area. Klaus immediately wants to go check it out, but Bigsby argues that he can handle it. He tasks them with building figures of the Mighty Nein, and leaves to investigate the alarm. With the Star of Pure Intent back in place, they have advantage on toy creation and the results are much better. Bigsby comes back in, this time to order a batch of bear toys. He picks up a magic fiddle and plays it, causing the other elves to work at an extremely fast pace, but the results aren't too good, and so he pulls out a Wand of Mending and fixes up the toys. With that, the understaffed crew has finished the toys for the year.
The doors blast open and in walks Santa himself. He congratulates the workers and grabs his bag of toys before heading back outside. The elves hear him call out to the reindeers, but he is interrupted mid sentence by a loud whomp! The elves go outside to investigate. Santa has disappeared. They see his sleigh tilted on its side, and tracks made by something with three-toed feet. Looking in their direction, they can only catch a glimpse of a bathtub with a big sack in it moving rapidly through the trees. Before the elves can do anything, they hear a voice call "The fat man is ours!" from the roof of the workshop above them, where they see a pale-skinned hag of a woman wearing a tall, purple-ish hat and filthy purple robes. Off to the sides, in the treelines, are a red bearded devil and a corpse-looking man carrying scary looking weapons.
The elves fight the three creatures, with help from the power of the Star of Pure Intent, and manage to take down the devil and corpse. Beaten and on the ground, the witch says "We tried to serve--" but can't finish her sentence. Cranberry casts Command on her, asking her to tell them who she serves. The witch answers "Wormsack" and Arthur finishes her off.
Bundlestein approaches Blitzen, who was hiding in the trees, terrified. He calms the reindeer down and asks him where Santa went. Meanwhile, Chutney loots the devil's body and takes his weird tentacle weapon, and Arthur climbs back onto the tree to put the Star of Pure Intent in his pocket. Cranberry investigates the sleigh, where she finds a big bag full of toys, but it's much too heavy to lift even with Nutmeg's help. The elves consider looking for Santa, but Chutney suggests they take over for him instead and rule Christmas. Klaus is against the idea; he tells Chutney that even if he wanted to, none of them could lift the toy bag anyway. Chutney grabs the bag, and his frail old body somehow manages to lift the bag of the ground, to everyone's surprise. A few of the elves seem to agree with Chutney, but Ellory insists that they look for Santa. The group investigates the three-toed tracks they saw earlier, but they don't match any of the creatures' feet. Klaus tastes the snow around the track and discovers that they taste like fecal matter, which makes them wonder if these creatures have anything to do with the recent flu outbreak.
The elves get in Santa's sleigh and Blitzen pulls it into the sky. They follow the tracks for an hour until they reach a ring of five perfectly spaced trees at the top of a small hill. As they get closer, they notice that every tree has a door of a different shape on the trunk: a colorful egg, a turkey, a shamrock, a heart, and an orange pumpkin. The pumpkin door is slightly ajar, and the tracks lead right up to it. The elves open the pumpkin door and are sucked into a spinning vortex of orange and black filled with skulls and pumpkins, and lose consciousness.
The elves wake up, flat on their backs, in the midst of the five trees from before, but with the environment is a wasteland and the trees are withered and blackened. A Christmas Tree Door has replaced the Pumpkin Door from before.
A mile from where they are, there is another tree. Curved and large, on the horizon, but with a mass in the branches. There are no other features in the landscape surrounding them.
Chutney claims they should go back, but the other elves disagree and move toward the strange large tree on the horizon, with Arthur taking the lead.
As they walk, Ellory can see the tracks from before continue towards their path. As they get closer, they can tell that the mass in the tree’s branches is a large, bulky, multifaceted treehouse spiralling up the tree. The tracks they are following end right at the bottom of the tree, which they realize is about 100 feet tall, with iron pipes of varying sizes wrapping around the tree. They do not see any way in or up to the treehouse. Chutney searches for a way in, going around to the backside of tree and seeing the lowest portion of the shack-like treehouse about 60 feet up with a round iron trap door and a rusty metal ladder that’s out of reach. The elves debate on how to reach the ladder. They aren’t tall enough to stand on each others’ shoulders, but settle on using the pipes to climb up the tree in conjunction with a bunch of rope and some pitons. Cranberry, being the lumberjane Olympic champion, takes lead in climbing the tree. As she’s climbing, the elves realize that the Star of Pure Intent seems to have become inert in Halloweenland. Arthur’s arcane check tells the elves that the Star runs on magic and the belief on Santa, which is lacking here. Ellroy, being a cleric of Santa, tries to revive the Star, but is unsuccessful. Cranberry falls, so Arthur parkours his way up the tree and drops rope for the rest of the group, but it isn’t quite long enough to reach them. The elves struggle, but manage to climb up to the iron porthole trapdoor of the treehouse.
Arthur picks the lock on the trapdoor and enters a sitting room in the treehouse. Amidst various gross furniture, there is a set of stairs curving up to a landing. The elves stealth to enter the treehouse, but Ellroy causes a commotion, breaking the iron trap door and sending it to the ground. The elves regroup and head up the stairs to meet a door. Chutney slowly opens the door to a red room with several black chains hanging from the ceiling and gore across the floor. Nutmeg and others investigate and find the bifurcated remains of a leprechaun.
The group recollect themselves and move on up the stairs to the next door. Finding no traps, Arthur opens the door to a pine box coffin in an empty room with claw marks on the walls. Arthur opens the coffin and finds a black barbed shortsword with a woman’s face on the hilt in an expression of horror.
The group continues up the stairs finding a door on the left and a ladder heading further up. After checking for traps, Arthur opens the door to find a green tinted room with a large caldron, a table with glass bottles and a bunsen burner, a second table with its contents smashed across the floor, a bed, and a blanket, weirdly, stuck to the wall. The group spend some time investigating the contents of the room before exiting and climbing the ladder.
The ladder opens into a room of the treehouse that has been torn away, with one wall remaining. There is a gigantic, wide iron pipe a little ways from the ladder coming up out of the floor and a door in the one wall that hasn’t been ripped away. The door is adorned with a moon and there are snoring noises coming from behind it. Chutney rips the door open to see a huge bathtub with clawed feet, teeth and a big purple tongue that is sleeping on its side. Klaus carefully closes the door, while the tub remains sleeping, and Arthur locks the door from the outside.
Klaus and the group investigate the pipe before volunteering Ellroy and her lantern to explore it. They tie a rope around her waist and lower her down, where she catches a slight smell of peppermint. They continue to lower her until the pipe curves and then Klaus drops her and they all hop down the pipe, like a slide, falling the last section. Chutney lands on point, but everyone else takes slight damage from the fall.
Torchlight illuminates the ruins ahead; the group sees a brass tower of sorts: a tall rod with four levels—discs connected by the rod in the centre. On the third level disc is a strange being made of soiled burlap fabric held together by twine with red beady eyes coming from slits in the fabric: Wormsack. Wormsack addresses the group, making fun of them and threatening Santa. The tower lights up and the discs begin to spin; combat begins.
Arthur attacks Wormsack and dashes up a structure. The tower chugs around. Klaus goes onto one of the discs of the tower, springing a trap in the form of a released gelatinous cube. Unable to dodge it, he is engulfed by the cube. Ellory moves closer to the enemy and summons a fruitcake spiritual weapon. Unable to reach Wormsack with the fruitcake weapon, Ellory attacks the gelatinous cube engulfing Klaus. Chutney dashes the bottom disc, ready to dodge. Wormsack moves to the centre column of the tower, hiding, and a pair of bird sized wasps drift from him. Nutmeg casts invisibility on herself and moves towards a structure. Cranberry moves closer to the tower and casts Spiritual Weapon in the form of the Brawny man head and attacks the gelatinous cube. She then casts Toll the Dead (as the cast choir sing Carol of the Bells) on the gelatinous cube as well.
Bundlestein moves and dashes up to join Chutney and the engulfed Klaus on the bottom disc.
Arthur moves, attacks the gelatinous cube, and bonus hides. On Klaus’s turn, he menacingly attacks the cube from its interior, biting into it, and making the cube frightened of him. Ellory attacks the cube with her spiritual weapon before casting Sacred Flame on it, hitting with both, which destroys the cube and releases Klaus, sparing him from the cube’s approaching turn. The discs on the tower turn, and Wormsack begins climbing the ladder to a higher disc. Nutmeg casts Haste on herself, and moves to join the others on the lowest disc, but unable to grab the chain hanging down from the disc above. Cranberry approaches the bottom disc and attacks Wormsack with a guiding bolt, but misses. She moves the Brawny head to the second level disc. Bundlestein catches one of the chains and climbs up to the second disc, triggering a trap. A heavy iron d20 rolls towards him but misses, falling below. The wasps approach, but cannot reach him yet.
Arthur is hidden, but misses the wasp he aims for. Instead he runs towards the bottom disc. Klaus calls out to Nutmeg, forming a plan, and holds his action to attack Wormsack. Ellory moves her fruitcake weapon to the second level disc and misses one of the wasps with a Sacred Flame. Chutney climbs up the chain to the second level disc and dodges a spiked ball trap. He dashes towards the central column and hides behind it from the wasps. Wormsack taunts the group, turning to Santa who is strapped in the centre of this top-most disc and attacks Santa with a black spike from this burlap hand. Nutmeg casts Dimension Door, taking her and Klaus up to the top disc with Wormsack and Santa. They flank Wormsack and Klaus attacks. Cranberry moves her Brawny head weapon to the wasp, but misses. She climbs the chain and makes it to the second level disc, joining Bundlestein. She attacks a wasp herself, but still misses. Bundlestein attacks the wasp, killing it, and begins climbing the chain to the third level disc. The remaining wasp attacks Cranberry, attaching itself to her.
A voice sounds from the ruins around the tower, “Enough! This has all gone too far! Release him!” A pale, gaunt figure crawling over the structures. Its skin is translucent, eyes and sclera black in its misshapen head. “I started this mess, and now we will finish it!” Its jaw splits on the sides and down the middle, through the chin, approaching the tower.
Arthur moves towards the chain, climbing to the second level disc, and attacks another wasp. He triggers a trap, however, and is struck by a spiked ball and thrown from the tower. The new arrival, the Hallow King, leaps from an adjacent structure onto the second level disc in front of Cranberry. Klaus notes Santa has been stabbed a couple of times, but attacks Wormsack, going all in with an action surge, stretching Wormsack’s mouth open with his candy cane weapons. Ellory moves towards the edge of the second level disc to see Arthur and moves her fruitcake weapon to kill the wasp attached to Cranberry. She holds her action to heal Arthur when he can get back to her. Chutney climbs up to the third and then fourth, topmost, level in the disc, joining Wormsack, Nutmeg, Klaus, and Santa. Wormsack attacks Klaus, but misses, and flees to the third level disc. Klaus hits on his attack of opportunity. Nutmeg leans over the edge of the disc and casts Chromatic Orb at Wormsack, then attacks with her weapon, but misses both. Cranberry interacts with the Hallow King, with no response, but holds onto his waist, asking to be taken to the fourth level. Bundlestein attacks Wormsack four times on the third level disc, missing once.
Arthur moves to Ellory on the ground and Ellory heals him before running to the chain hanging from the second level disc. The Hallow King reaches up and launches himself up to the third level disc, taking Cranberry with him, before attacking Wormsack, a mass of bugs escape from him. Klaus uses a healer’s kit to stabilize Santa and eyes Chutney. Ellory moves to the bottom disc and grabs the chain, while moving her fruitcake weapon closer to Wormsack. Chutney laments Santa’s orders and the changing ways of toy-making. He notes the restraints on Santa before stabbing him in the chest with his wood chisel and hiding. Wormsack flees to the second level disc. Nutmeg moves from the fourth to the third level disc and attacks Wormsack with a flaming spell, burning up the burlap and killing Wormsack but unleashing a bout of bugs in his spot. Wormsack’s body falls to the ground by the tower. Cranberry’s Brawny head weapon attacks the bugs on the second level and attacks the bugs on the third, but misses. Bundlestein climbs up to the top of the tower, not knowing about Chutney’s attack, and releases an out of it Santa from his restraints.
Arthur goes to the bugs on the second level disc and attacks with his newly acquired short sword, hearing the wailing of a woman in his head from his sword. The Hallow King finishes off the bugs on the third level before dropping to the second level. The bugs attack Arthur, but miss. Klaus, having witnessed Chutney attack Santa, he flips over Santa’s form, fumbling and falling on top of Chutney. He stands and confronts Chutney before attacking him. Arthur and the Spiritual Weapons finish off the remaining bugs left behind from Wormsack. The Hallow King jumps to the top level, joining Bundlestein, Santa, Chutney, and Klaus. It reaches into his body, pulling a rib from himself and attacks Chutney. All of the elves join the top and the Hallow King asks Chutney why he attacked Santa. Chutney says he is under appreciated and irrelevant, claiming to “want to be on top for once”.
Santa grunts and sits up while Cranberry and Ellory heal him. Klaus explains to Santa that Chutney tried to kill him. The Hallow King kneels before Santa, claiming he is to blame and will make amends. He places his rib on Santa’s knee, snatches Chutney, and leaps from the tower and away into darkness.
Santa gathers himself, then the group, before magically transforming everyone into clouds. Santa swirls in cloud form, through the pipe, out of the treehouse, down to the Christmas Tree Door back into Christmasland, and to the woods outside Santa’s Workshop.
Mrs. Claus is inside the door of the workshop with Bixby. The sleigh is ready and Santa speaks to his elves before springing into his sleigh, shooting into the sky and exclaiming: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
- Chutney Chocolatecane
- Arthur Fizzlebottom
- Nutmeg Gingersnap
- Ellory Jinglegumdrop
- Klaus Prigman
- Bundlestein Sprucenberg
- Cranberry Stockings
- Bigsby Quimberump
- Mrs. Claus
- The Hallow King
- Liam O'Brien (describing Klaus' attempt at toymaking): You built the Caleb but you left out the crippling guilt, so he's barely recognizable.
- Bundlestein Sprucenberg: Be honest with us. Is the naughty list a hit list?
Klaus Prigman: Well, there's the nice list, there's the naughty list and there's the naughty list.
Nutmeg Gingersnap: So there's two naughty lists? How do you know which is which?
Bundlestein Sprucenberg: What if you make a mistake?
Klaus Prigman: Well, that's only happened twice. We have precautions now in place.
Nutmeg Gingersnap: Mistakes were made.
- This one-shot was inspired by The Nightmare before Christmas, a stop-motion animated movie featuring a character from Halloweentown who finds a circle of trees leading to different realms based on popular holidays and becomes enamored with Christmas.
- The Nightmare before Christmas was named after A Visit from St. Nicholas, a poem most commonly known as The Night Before Christmas. It may also be an inspiration for this episode's title.
- The title is also a reference to Critmas, an event established during early streams of Critical Role, where the cast opened presents sent by fans.
- When Klaus angrily wraps one of his sub-par toys, he says it's for Sam Hogg, the artist who illustrated the cover of Issue #4 of Vox Machina Origins Volume 2.
- Travis Willingham's character, Chutney, later inspired his character in Critical Role's third campaign, Chetney Pock O'Pea. As Chetney, Travis uses the same voice, much of the same personality, and also included some characteristics that reference this one-shot, such as his penchant for creating toys out of wood as gifts for his party companions.
- Due to Laura missing the stream as she was feeling sick at the last minute, Bell didn't appear in the episode