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Matt, hack to you.
– 
BlackWillow's signature signoff
[!h]

The Nordverse, also known as Nord by Nordwest: The Quest for the Ultra Kodex Reloaded, is a recurring advertising segment created by Sam Riegel as a way to promote Nord VPN during the announcement portion of Critical Role episodes. It features several Critical Role cast members acting as their "hackersonas", speaking in an exaggerated and often nonsensical computer jargon.

Characters[]

BlackWillow73 / BlackWillow69

Blackwillow73

Sam as BlackWillow73

Sam's hacker persona was BlackWillow73@aol.com, often shortened to BlackWillow73. He was suddenly renamed "BlackWillow69" in "Ghosts, Dinosaurs, and Stuff" (2x102) and in following segments. BlackWillow appears in the first Nordverse arc as the main character and disappears for the second. He has an old telephone receiver taped to the side of his head. His master password is always "swordfish".

CryptonicOverride

Cryptonicoverride

Laura as CryptonicOverride

CryptonicOverride is Laura's hacker persona. She has appeared in all but the first Nordverse segment. Although she initially tried to hack BlackWillow73, she became his trusted partner in their quest to defeat the Ultra Kodex. CryptonicOverride wears her signature keyboard on her arm.

Cereal Killer
Cereal Killer is a character from the 1995 movie Hackers. Matthew Lillard reprised his role during a special appearance on the third Nordverse segment.

FreezerBurn
Taliesin's hacker persona, FreezerBurn, was a level 12 master hacker who retired after spending 10 years in nano-jail for electro-crimes against webmanity. He came back to help BlackWillow73 and CryptonicOverride escape the internet, then sacrificed his hacking powers to help them. He used a power glove as his main hacking device.

MadHatterson
MadHatterson is Ashley's hacker persona who helped FreezerBurn save the main two hackers, and returned in the final battle against the Ultra Kodex. She wears some football gear and speaks in a cockney accent.

TechnoSpice69
TechnoSpice69 is Marisha's hacker persona, a 90's themed hacker who helped BlackWillow & crew during the final battle against the Ultra Kodex. She has a walkman taped to her arm.

Commodore69
Commodore69 is Liam's hacker persona, who helped BlackWillow & crew during the final battle against the Ultra Kodex. He uses a Vectrex as his main hacking device.

The Ultra Kodex[1]
BlackWillow73 and CryptonicOverride searched for the Ultra Kodex tirelessly, then attempted to take it down until it was finally revealed that Matt had been the Ultra Kodex all along!

Number 2
After eating the gleaming cube that BlackWillow had transformed into, Travis absorbed all of his hacking powers and knowledge, and became Number 2, the prophecy's chosen one.

Morpheus
Taliesin revealed himself as Morpheus when Number 2 came into existence, and proclaimed himself his new mentor.

Setty
Setty is a virus who took over the Campaign Three set of Critical Role. It can take over the bodies of the cast, causing their eyes to glow green and their voice to be distorted. It described itself as a powerful troll that Number One could never defeat.

History[]

Part 1: The Quest for the Ultra Kodex Reloaded[]

"A Tangled Web" (2x77): The First Hackening[2]
BlackWillow73 made his first appearance, attempting to hack an unspecified target, but couldn't get past the protection of NordVPN.[3]

"Punishment and Politics" (2x87): CryptonicOverride Cyber-SLICE
BlackWillow73 refused to use NordVPN's protection, believing he didn't need it, but was suddenly hacked by a faceless enemy calling themselves CryptonicOverride. BlackWillow73 quickly booted up his Nord VPN fail-safe disk and managed to ice out the hacker. CryptonicOverride admitted defeat with a heavily encrypted voice-over, but warned that they would be back to defeat BlackWillow73 and find the true source of the Ultra Kodex.[4]

"Stone to Clay" (2x91): Hack-Off!
BlackWillow73 set out to expose the identity of CryptonicOverride. However, he was sliced immediately, and received a message from his nemesis. By playing around with the message's audio file, BlackWillow finally uncovered the truth: CryptonicOverride was, in fact, Laura Bailey! She challenged BlackWillow73 to a hack-off, but during their battle, they were simul-sliced by the Ultra Kodex. Realizing that the Ultra Kodex was going to infect the whole world, the two hackers realized there was only one solution: hack the planet.[5]

"Blessing in Disguise" (2x95): The Cereal Killer

CerealKiller

BlackWillow73, CryptonicOverride and CerealKiller use the Mobius device.

BlackWillow73 joined forces with CryptonicOverride to reach the Ultra Kodex. After 18 straight hours of side channel spoof dashing, they were about to reach it, when they were suddenly simul-sliced! They were joined by Cereal Killer, who told them that hacking Ultra Kodex was possible, and suggested they use the legendrary Mobius device. The three of them joined forces, but it turned out to be a trap! BlackWillow73 and CryptonicOverride were trapped inside the internet, where they could never stop Cereal Killer's Ultra Kodex.[6]

"Ghosts, Dinosaurs, and Stuff" (2x102): Trapped in the Internet
BlackWillow69 and CryptonicOverride had been trapped inside the internet for nano-days, avoiding and fighting obstacles along the way. After an amazing display of skill, they stared into each other's eyes lovingly, but CryptonicOverride interupted the moment, reminding BlackWillow69 that they had to get to safety. They took refuge in Dani Carr's Pinterest account and wondered who could have the power to save them... in the outside world, Taliesin shook his head and put on his hacking glove for one last slice, even though he had swore not to go back to his hacking ways.[7]

"Rumble at Rumblecusp" (2x105): FreezerBurn and MadHatterson Rescue Squad

InsideTheInternet

BlackWillow69 and CryptonicOverride inside the internet.

Taliesin explained his dark past as FreezerBurn, a level 12 master hacker, and began trying to pull BlackWillow69 and CryptonicOverride from their internet prison. However, this was a two-man job, and so MadHatterson joined the fight! Working together, they managed to bring back the other two hackers. Upon arrival, BlackWillow69 told the others that everything had changed, and that he had a secret to tell them all...[8]

"Dinner with the Devil" (2x110): Data Transfer for JUSTICE
BlackWillow69, CryptonicOverride and FreezerBurn were ready to take down the Ultra Kodex, but... BlackWillow69 and CryptonicOverride lost all their hacking powers! FreezerBurn offered to transfer his 1.21 gigaflops of brain archives to them, but he'll lose his powers forever. The transfer worked, the two hackers are cured, and FreezerBurn is no more.[9]

"An Open Window" (2x114): Happy Hack-o-ween
Happy Hack-oween! BlackWillow69 had been hard at work trying to hack into the Ultra Kodex, but was focused on eating candy tonight. That is, until he found out that his bag of candy bars had been hacked, replacing all his sweets by candy corn! After investigating the crime scene, he found a hidden USB drive that revealed a mysterious message: "Eat this, u latex dork". Matthew confusedly pointed out that "latex dork" is his Playa name at Burning Man, then discovered that BlackWillow's stolen candy were on his desk! Someone was trying to turn them against each other, but who?[10]

"Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122): Techno-Blepped by Ultra Kodex

UltraCodex

The Ultra Kodex reveals himself.

Thanks to NordVPN, the internet had been totally safe for the past few gigaflops, and the Ultra Kodex had gone into cyber hibernation. Blackwillow69 and CryptonicOverride were taking the entire Critical Role cast on a VR tour of hackerspace. It all went well and everyone was having fun, until Travis was suddenly hacked and became paralyzed! The hackers couldn't believe it... only the Ultra Kodex could have done this, and that could only mean one thing: the Ultra Kodex was someone in this room! Piecing together hints from previous adventures, BlackWillow69 finally learned the truth: the Ultra Kodex had been Matt all along! Matt laughed and told BlackWillow69 he was too late. He would only unfreeze Travis once his demands were met![11]

Quest for the Ultra Kodex poster - MadameBerry

Fan art of "Quest for the Ultra Kodex" poster, by MadameBerry.[art 1]

"Worth Fighting For" (2x126): The Motherboard Monster is Revealed
BlackWillow69 and CryptonicOverride asked Matt, or should we say, the Ultra Kodex, what his demands were in exchange for defragging Travis. He told them that he was tired of these ridiculous NordVPN ads, and wanted to do them himself. If the Ultra Kodex can't control the Nordverse, he will defrag all of NordVPN! BlackWillow and CryptonicOverride refused to let that happened, and challenged him to a hack off. But the Ultra Kodex was too powerful, and he sliced CryptonicOverride, the only woman BlackWillow had ever loved! The Ultra Kodex revealed that he was about to use BlackWillow69's master password to take him down, and asked if he had any last words.[12]

"The Calm Before the Storm" (2x130): Slice Up Your Life
BlackWillow was the only one left to face the Ultra Kodex. But before the Ultra Kodex could delete him, he was joined by TechnoSpice69, FreezerBurn (who got his powers back from Satan) , MadHatterson and Commodore69. Together, they managed to override the Ultra Kodex's system and bring back Travis and CryptonicOverride. However, BlackWillow sacrificed his body and became one with the internet, becoming a beautiful gleaming cube. CryptonicOverride lamented the loss of the only man she'd ever loved, and wondered what it could mean. Travis promised he would explain... next time.[13]

Part 2: The Chosen One[]

"The Streets of the Forgotten" (2x134)
BlackWillow's absence meant the other cast members had to share the information about NordVPN through their tears. Meanwhile, Travis mistook the gleaming cube that Sam turned into for cake and began eating it. Travis absorbed all of BlackWillow's knowledge and began speaking in computer hacker terms. Taliesin interrupted him, stating that there was a great change coming, and that Travis was now Number Two, chosen by the prophecy. Taliesin offered to train him, and revealed his new identity: Morpheus.[14]

"Where There Is a Will..." (2x138)
Number Two was training hard under Morpheus' tutelage, but was held back by his fear of becoming a gleaming cube of cake, like BlackWillow before him. Morpheus encouraged him to use the power of fear and love to his advantage. Number 2's hacking managed to affect the cast members with the power of love, and Morpheus announced that he had earned his title. Suddenly, the entire set was shaken by a mysterious force...[15]

"Growing Bonds and Teasing Threads" (3x06)
As Number Two argued with his master, certain that he didn't need to train anymore, Robbie interjected to ask what they were talking about. Number 2 demonstrated his powers by hacking Robbie's tablet, then continued to confront Morpheus. However, they were interrupted when Robbie, who tried to plug in his tablet, became possessed by an unknown enemy. His eyes glowing green, he declared that he was a powerful troll that Number 2 could never defeat. He promised he would reveal his identity... next time.[16]

"Thicker Grows the Meal and Plot" (3x09)
Number Two scanned Robbie to discover who was hacking him and realized that it was a virus that came from the new Campaign Three set. The virus called itself Setty and demonstrated its power by taking over Ashley, Liam and Laura. Marisha admitted to Number One and Morphius that she didn't get NordVPN for the set in favor of a new subscription to Matt's Vest of the Month Club, which is how the virus managed to take over the set. She apologized and promised to fix the problem.[17]

"Ghosts, Dates, and Darker Fates" (3x10)
After Number Two failed to hack into the set, Morpheus told him to change tactics and unplug it. When Number Two electrocuted himself in both attempts, CryptonicOverride, Commodore69, MadHatterson, and the Ultra Kodex returned to assist Number Two with similar results. In response to Number Two's plea, Morpheus promised to bring back BlackWillow69... next time.[18]

"A Dance of Deception" (3x13)
Morpheus lent his power glove to Number Two so that his mentee could receive guidance from the spirit of BlackWillow69. At the end of the visit, BlackWillow69 revealed that Number Two, like all others, must earn his haxxor namesake... by pooping out the cake.

"The Shade Mother" (3x16)
Number Two pushed BlackWillow69 out of his system with the ever-sophisticated "crapper zapper." As BlackWillow69 was then software in need of a host instead of flesh and blood, CryptonicOverride sacrificed her consciousness to bring back "the only man [she's] ever loved."

"Breaking and Entering..." (3x20)
CryptonicOverride explained that the hacker spirit of BlackWillow69 was successfully transferred into her body, allowing her to access his 69 teraflops of hacker knowledge to defeat Setty but creating a horrific amalgam of Sam and Laura that understandably forced Number Two to run. CryptonicOverride and BlackWillow69 gave each other a Gollum-esque cyber pep talk, since they shared a body. We'll find out what Setty's planning next time!

"To The Skies" (3x23)
While CryptonicOverride monologues, MadHatterson69's inner monologue takes over until it's time for the ad spiel. No one suspects she's not listening... and no one suspects she's not either Ashley Johnson or MadHatterson anymore. Setty took over her body weeks ago, and nobody noticed. She can now slice Critical Role, then the studio, then hack the planet - next time Nord VPN sponsors the show. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

"The Deathwish Run" (3x28)
CryptonicOverride is ready to defrag Setty, but Setty reveals her true identity and severs Cryptonic first, which has absolutely nothing to do with non-sponsor Apple TV's hit series Severance. Questioned by Number Two, Commodore69 and FreezerBurn, Setty severs the parts of their brains that remembers Nord VPN or any of these stupid skits. Matt, Erika, and Technospice69 immediately volunteer to be severed as well.

"What Dreams May Come" (3x34)
Last time, the evil virus Setty won, and that's it, the end. Now, having frozen everyone else in place, she's going analog by making balloon animals. Ashley proves she can make a truly impressive balloon sword in less than thirty seconds.

"The Fey Key" (3x47)
Since it's been a while, Ashley gives the TL;dr: The cast has been sliced and frozen, BlackWillow69 is sliced, and Ashley has shed her human body to become the pure computer virus Setty, all because Marisha didn't install Nord VPN. But a now-white-clad BlackWillow69 appears, and reveals that although Marisha didn't install Nord VPN because she's got a ton on her plate, because of the power of friendship, all of the other cast members did. BlackWillow has regenerated using the rubber from Setty's balloon animals, and Setty has been foiled. Shouting "Johnson Corp shall rule!", Setty disappears, unplugged. Cryptonic hopes that she and BlackWillow, the only man she's ever loved, can be together at last, but BlackWillow tells her she belongs with Number Two.

Part 3: The ReVerse[]

"Bittersweet Reunions" (3x93)
Marisha presents the reboot of the Nordverse: The ReVerse, promising lots of mind-bending and unnecessary CGI, and the return of the beloved Cryptonic Override (no longer defined by her love of BlackWillow69). GaleForce69 and Cryptonic have sliced through the binary barrier to save the Multi-Nordverse from the bro-bots (who don't protect themselves with Nord VPN), but Cryptonic senses an obstacle ahead, one she's faced before.

"The Nox Engine" (3x98)
Cryptonic and GaleForce have successfully reached The Matrix, where everything is imaginary, including the live audience. But how will they find the Space President in the computer-generated impossibly gorgeous crowd? Even though the President uses NordVPN to hide herself, she loves to boogie, so they use the crowd to create a sick beat that entices Marisha out, dancing despite herself, and admitting that she is indeed the Space President. But Cryptonic will have to tell her about the emergency they face next time.

"Generation Nord" (Sx72): The Prequel[]

Generation Nord thumbnail

The thumbnail for the special

Players Laura Bailey, Aimee Carrero, Christian Navarro, Liam O'Brien, Lou Wilson, and special guest Matthew Lillard, led by game master and sponsorship legend Sam Riegel, go on a journey through the information superhighway (aka the internet) and into The Nordverse.

Trivia[]

Sliceinpeace

Slice in peace, BlackWillow.

BlackWillowQR2

BlackWillow's blessing.

  • The recurring joke about the password always being "swordfish" is in reference to a scene from the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers that has been parodied by many others.
  • Laura Bailey first called Sam Riegel "BlackWillow69" (rather than "BlackWillow73") during the segment that aired with "Dinner with the Devil" (2x110), and again during "Worth Fighting For" (2x126).
    • During the segment that aired with "The Calm Before the Storm" (2x130), not only BlackWillow but all other hackers had their names altered to finish with the number 69. The change appears to have been made official since then.
    • A newsletter from 8 April 2021 also referred to the main character as BlackWillow69.
  • There was a NordVPN sponsorship during "Contentious Company" (2x120) that did not feature a Nordverse bit.
  • The character Morpheus played by Taliesin Jaffe is a direct reference to [Matrix character] of the same name.
  • During the bit that aired with "The Streets of the Forgotten" (2x134), a QR code was displayed at Sam's table. When scanned, it linked to an image of BlackWillow, with the text "BlackWillow69 - 2019-2021 - Slice in peace". There was also a message written in binary code, that can be translated to "Don't fuck this up Travis".
  • Another QR code was displayed at Sam's table at the start of "Where There Is a Will..." (2x138). It linked to another image of BlackWillow, this time with severe distortion. A message written in binary code was hidden in the image, and translated to "Slice away, Travis". The image also featured a flipped and upside-down image of the Tower card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and is associated with sudden, disruptive revelation, and potentially destructive change.
  • When an enemy took control of Fresh Cut Grass to force the automaton to attack Orym, FCG exclaimed, "I need NordVPN!"[19]
  • When Matthew Mercer was asked about his favorite of Sam's ads, he said it was hard not to fall in love with the Nordverse narrative.[20]
  • At the end of the segment that aired in "The Fey Key" (3x47), Sam put Marisha "in charge of all the NordVPN ads from now on". Whilst this line was intended only as a joke, Marisha did ultimately take over the subsequent Nordverse ads when they resumed during Sam's absense from the table in "Bittersweet Reunions" (3x93).

References[]

  1. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 0:3:10.  Ultra Kodex is spelled out on a piece of paper
  2. The episode titles are taken from the Critical Role newsletter of 8 April 2021, titled "Munchkin: Critical Role featuring the Mighty Nein is HERE!".
  3. See "A Tangled Web" (2x77) at 0:30.
  4. See "Punishment and Politics" (2x87) at 0:29.
  5. See "Stone to Clay" (2x91) at 2:39.
  6. See "Blessing in Disguise" (2x95) at 0:24.
  7. See "Ghosts, Dinosaurs, and Stuff" (2x102) at 0:25.
  8. See "Rumble at Rumblecusp" (2x105) at 0:22.
  9. See "Dinner with the Devil" (2x110) at 0:16.
  10. See "An Open Window" (2x114) at 5:28.
  11. See "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" (2x122) at 0:17.
  12. See "Worth Fighting For" (2x126) at 0:17.
  13. See "Worth Fighting For" (2x126) from 0:38 through 7:15.
  14. See "The Streets of the Forgotten" (2x134) from 0:17 through 6:25.
  15. See "Where There Is a Will..." (2x138) from 0:14 through 4:27.
  16. See "Growing Bonds and Teasing Threads" (3x06) from 0:16 through 3:43.
  17. See "Thicker Grows the Meal and Plot" (3x09) from 0:18 through 3:46.
  18. See "Ghosts, Dates, and Darker Fates" (3x10) from 0:18 through 3:46.
  19. See "The Shade Mother" (3x16) at 1:22:23.
  20. See Fireside Chat LIVE with Matthew Mercer on Beacon at 07:53 (Subscription required).

Art:

  1. Fan art of "Quest for the Ultra Kodex" poster, by MadameBerry (source). Used with permission.
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