"The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) is the one hundred seventeenth episode of the second campaign of Critical Role. Hard choices await the Mighty Nein, who must decide whether to follow the current path of their former friend or deviate and forge a new one...



  • Sam is on probation with D&D Beyond (maybe too many fart jokes?) so he's doing everything by the book tonight, and Ashley is there to keep him on track. Her years of training dogs pay off as Sam tries to keep to the script to let everyone know about the availability of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything on D&D Beyond. Check it out at bitly/CRTasha's.
  • Second sponsor tonight is Dungeon Craft with their new Hell & High Water 2-D Terrain Box holding hundreds of two-sided terrain pieces that fit on any flat map. Their Black Friday deals are on right now at bitly/1985Games2. Use the code "CriticalPin" for a free tape mimic pin with your order.
  • Critical Role will be dark next week for American Thanksgiving, returning 3 December 2020.
  • Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition releases 24 November 2020.
  • Merch Alert! Gilmore's glorious hooded bathrobe, Critical Role pewter holiday ornaments, wrapping paper, and washi tape are now available. Laura is very into giftwrapping.

Previously on Critical Role

So, last we left off: The Mighty Nein, making their way to Eiselcross, lost their paid patron for this trip, Lady Vess DeRogna, as she was murdered, it seems, by Mollymauk, or whoever pilots the body.

Fan art of the Nonagon, by Amarantheia.[art 1]

You've gathered the body of Vess and made your way northward with your guide, Dagen Underthorn. He is your guide northward. After coming across a number of dangerous and unique encounters in this southern region of Foren, you eventually found your way to "A5", the first of your Aeorian ruin excavations. You delved into the subterranean tunnels beneath, you searched for signs of life, signs of recent movement, uncovered bodies, some older, some newer, a still spider creature that you avoided and sealed off... mostly. You fought frozen elementals in a chamber, and one of you, Veth, slid through the open doors upon completing the puzzle of which led to the next chamber, which was a 270-foot pit, and you plummeted but caught yourself with some magical know-how, and then were immediately attacked by some black puddings that drew your attention. The rest of you-- some of you turned into eagles and others rode on them and you fought them in a giant lightless tunnel... D&D.

After making your way to the base of that pit, you discovered a hidden, mostly obscured entranceway to an elongated still-magically-lit tunnel. At the end of it, an arcane doorway, and beyond that, a somewhat circular chamber, where upon looking within, you discovered the tail end of a conflict, where it seems the Tombtakers have just finished off the last of their victims, of which Mollymauk, throwing the lifeless body of the individual that he was previously clutching to the ground, turned with a smile and said, "Oh, my apologies. You arrived early. I was hoping to tidy up a bit."

Part I

The circular chamber is lit with bright blue light from a foot-wide gem in the center of the ceiling thirty feet above. Caleb detects a strong aspect of teleportation magic in the room, and the gem has a very strong aura of conjuration. Lucien stands above the body of the woman he has just killed and greets the party, stating that he's only "sort of met" Jester through her scrying and he's curious who they are. Cree explains that they all know each other, and the tiefling introduces himself as Lucien, the Nonagon, and says he assumes they were friends of the "uninvited guest who took the reins for a bit." He does not remember any of them, and wants to know why they've followed him.

The Nein explain that they were hired by Vess DeRogna and her murder by Lucien has put them in an awkward position. They were fond of Mollymauk although Lucien himself seems to have no feelings about him at all, since he didn't really matter. Mollymauk was just a part of himself, is gone, and Lucien has taken back what's rightfully his. They have a long conversation which mostly consists of the party asking Lucien questions:

Fan art of Lucien and Molly, by Aimee Ernst.[art 2]

  • He's been the Nonagon for a number of years.
  • DeRogna was an ambitious woman, and a traitor who agreed to help the Tombtakers, lied, killed Lucien, and scattered his soul into pieces. The Tombtakers put him back together. He couldn't miss the the opportunity to kill her by getting the jump on her.
  • The Tombtakers are heading to Aeor, but once Lucien's journey is finished he would be happy to tell the authorities that he was DeRogna's killer. He aims to be both a public figure and hidden.
  • The party that the Tombtakers have just killed were simply the first to reach the crystal room and didn't want to share.
  • The last person to hold the title of "Nonagon" disappeared a long time ago. The party may meet who gave Lucien the title, if they're looking for work.
  • The Tombtakers plan to stay on this sliver of reality, "and perhaps a bit beyond."
  • Referring to the entity that gave Lucien his title and powers, he said he regarded himself as their student and entrusted representative.
  • Vess's tattoos were her misunderstanding of the tome she took from Lucien. She had no claim to the title.

As he speaks, the nine eye tattoos on his body light with red light, and simultaneously the eyes of his followers also begin to glow red and they speak in unison with him. The Tombtakers will take what they came for and be on their way, and the Nein are welcome to follow them. Cree tells Caduceus that she was the one who dug up Mollymauk's body when she heard that "the vessel was available." The halfling walks up the wall and ceiling and begins chiseling out the large blue gem in the center, which the goliath catches when it falls. Lucien reiterates they're welcome to follow the Tombtakers since they have a few other things to pick up, but he does not want them as part of his party, and again the voices of all of them chime together. He repeats that Mollymauk is truly gone.

Fan art of Yasha and Lucien, by Toby Sharp.[art 3]

Yasha takes out a four-leaf clover from her book that she says Mollymauk gave her for luck. She hands it to Lucien, and he accepts it and tucks it in his jacket.

The Tombtakers leave, and Jester Sends to Dagen to warn him to hide from them. Caleb puts DeRogna's body back into the Vault of Amber and gives it to Fjord to put in the Bag of Holding. They have a long discussion about where to go next and what to do about DeRogna, deciding to leave her dead for now.

Matt confirms there are nine Betrayer Gods as of the ascension of Vecna, possibly linking to the entities that gave Lucien his nine eye tattoos. Caleb is able to identify that the now-taken crystal is part of the largest threshold crest[1] he's ever seen, and that it would take multiple crests to plane shift a city. They theorize that this links to the living city seen in their joint vision of the Astral Sea when Vokodo died,[2] and that the Tombtakers are seeking more crests from the other Aeorian ruins shown on their map. They begin making their way back to the surface.

They finally emerge to find Dagen hiding from the Tombtakers, who are apparently heading northward. There is much more discussion of where to go next and the availability of shortcuts. Dagen shares that the lava river arises from the "flow shift", going both north and south. Snow does not melt on this river, and if enough snow gathers on it, it can be crossed. They discuss whether to follow the Tombtakers north to either the site A2 or the ruins of Aeor itself, or to head east to site A? which they speculate is as yet unexplored. Beau suggests contacting Essek Thelyss to see if he knows anything, since the Kryn Dynasty also has a presence in Eiselcross. Caleb mentions he's considering trying to contact Astrid and Eadwulf for help.

For now, they follow the Tombtakers north through worsening weather, encountering a group of six long-frozen bodies from which Caleb recovers a small piece of a threshold crest. Caduceus discovers a faint undead aura emanating from them and they move away quickly. Toward nightfall, Jester casts Scrying on Cree and sees the Tombtakers settling down for the night before Cree notices her sensor, and Lucien addresses her again urging them to keep up. The party pushes on a bit until they spot the Tombtakers' campfire and Caleb then casts Widogast's Nascent Nein-Sided Tower for the night.

Fjord pulls Jester aside and gives her the Amulet of Proof against Detection and Location to try to keep Lucien from seeing her when she scrys on him. Jester asks Fjord how he's doing after the attack by Avantika. He tells her he's fine, but is troubled by trying to move forward with his new life when the old life is still haunting him, and he wants to deal with his past before moving on. He also tells her about the bounty he put on Sabian with Kotho, and Jester uses Sending to contact her. Kotho responds that Sabian has been found on Darktow Isle.

They gather for a pie dinner and while discussing who to Send to that night, let slip in front of Dagen that Vess DeRogna is dead. Dagen is horrified and tells them he'd really rather not know, and Jester offers to modify his memory in the morning which he accepts. Caleb brings up contacting Astrid or Eadwulf again, on the theory that letting someone know Vess is dead would be better sooner than later.

Fan art of Essek in Eiselcross, by fiovske.[art 4]

They finally settle on contacting Essek for now, telling him they're heading to Aeor, the Nonagon is here, and they're looking for threshold crests. He responds that he is at a Vurmas outpost[3] to its east. Dagen tells them that Vurmas is a collection of Dynasty ships that are usually located to the west. There is a very small Dynasty outpost on the eastern side of the crater of Aeor, however.

They decide to check with Essek again in the morning and head to bed. Caleb goes to the fourth room on the private eighth floor, which appears to be a dorm room with a disheveled bed. He speaks aloud, saying, "What are we going to do about our home? Can I trust you? Should I trust you? We could make it better, if you want to."


Part II

In the morning, Jester casts Modify Memory on Dagen, causing him to forget that Vess DeRogna is dead. Jester casts Sending again to Essek, telling him they just left A5 and they'd like to meet him by the flow change of the lava river. They're moving north. He responds that he currently oversees the outpost and cannot leave, but they should feel free to visit.

Fan art of the frost worm, by BlackSalander.[art 5]

They continue to follow the Tombtakers through improved weather, when Dagen hears the sound of a frost worm approaching. The clerics both cast Spirit Guardians and Veth begins levitating as the worm bursts out of the snow beside them. She fires her crossbow and misses as Beau attacks, taking serious cold damage on her melee attacks. Caleb casts Enlarge on Yasha and Fjord casts Faerie Fire on the worm. However, the worm uses its Trill ability and only Jester of the party saves. All of the others are stunned for one minute. All of the concentration spells drop.

Yasha immediately saves against the stun. Jester casts Polymorph on the worm, changing it into a snow bunny, and drops her Spirit Guardians so the bunny won't hurt itself. However, it attacks Fjord and Star Razor automatically damages it, returning it to its worm form. Yasha attacks and takes significant cold damage. Jester then casts Polymorph again and turns it into a large tortoise. Caleb saves against the stun. Yasha uses her Zealous Presence to give everyone advantages on saving throws, then flips the tortoise on its back. She moves it out onto the ice on its back and spins it, and the rest of the party except for Veth succeed on their saves.

Fan art of the Polymorphed frost worm, by Vic Iddstar Hill.[art 6]

Yasha picks up Veth and carries her with them as they beat a retreat, and Veth eventually overcomes the stun. They travel on following the tracks of the Tombtakers, who appear to be heading to A2 almost due north. They could follow, or head toward Aeor to talk to Essek. Beau suggests going to A4, far to the east. Caduceus casts Commune and learns from the Wildmother that the Tombtakers are indeed going to A2 and have been watching the party, but they are not watching right now.

They decide to try to beat the Tombtakers to A2, and Caleb, Jester, and Yasha are Polymorphed into giant eagles. They grab the others and take off northward.

Featured Characters

The Mighty Nein





Adjustment Count Item Source Destination Notes
Acquired 15 Platinum pieces frozen bodies Caleb
Acquired 341 Gold pieces frozen bodies Caleb
Acquired 1 Diamond frozen bodies Jester Worth 250 gp.
Acquired 1 Small chunk of blue material frozen bodies Caleb Very similar to the blue crystal from the threshold crest that the Tombtakers took.
Transferred 1 Goggles of Night Veth Beau Returned.
Transferred 1 Amulet of Proof against Detection and Location Fjord Jester


  • Caleb: I am very curious. Are you looking to bring the past back to the present? Is that what this is about?
    Lucien: There's a lot of things that are possible, up in Aeor's ruin. I sense you're one curious about possibilities as well.
    Caleb: Well, it's in my nature.
    Lucien: Well, then, you're going to have a lot of fun. There's so much to find.[4]
  • Lucien: If it helps put your feelings to rest, I am sorry, for whatever it's worth, that your... friend is gone. Whatever part of me they were is not of me anymore. Truly... gone. And I understand that can be challenging, and I'm sure even my presence now opens a wound.[5]
  • Fjord: It feels like I keep trying to start newer chapters in my life and leave the old stuff behind, and then it just keeps popping up. It feels like it's hard to pursue something new when the past is not dealt with.
    Jester: Well, do we need to deal with the past?
    Fjord: I think so. I want to. I feel like I need to close all of that before...[6]
  • Dagen: Interesting point. I just was real curious. So I assume Vess isn't going to meet us there 'cause she's dead?
    Caleb: Yes, Dagen, you are within the circle of trust now. This is a very complicated situation.
    Dagen: Wait a second, wait a second--
    Fjord: Oh, boy, who's got the Modify?[7]
  • Jester: Honestly, this may sound stupid, but wherever you guys want to go, I'll be there.[8]


  • This episode featured the first of new thumbnail photos of the cast.[9]


  1. Threshold crests are blue stones that allow a city to plane shift.  See "The Feywild" (1x59) at 2:57:20.  They were introduced in The Campaign of Vox Machina when Artagan tasked Vox Machina to procure him a piece of one from the city of Syngorn. See "Heredity and Hats" (1x60) at 1:11:31.
  2. See "Rumble at Rumblecusp" (2x105) from 4:37:55 through 4:39:45.
  3. See  Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, pp. 131–132.
  4. See "The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) at 0:43:17.
  5. See "The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) at 0:47:59.
  6. See "The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) at 2:00:23.
  7. See "The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) at 2:12:36.
  8. See "The Tortoise and The Dare" (2x117) at 2:30:35.
  9. See Critical Role's tweet about the new photos.


  1. Fan art of the Nonagon, by Amarantheia (source).  Used with permission.
  2. Fan art of Lucien and Molly, by Aimee Ernst (source).  Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Yasha and Lucien, by Toby Sharp (source).  Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Essek in Eiselcross, by fiovske (source).  Used with permission.
  5. Fan art of the frost worm, by BlackSalander (source).  Used with permission.
  6. Fan art of the Polymorphed frost worm, by Vic Iddstar Hill (source).  Used with permission.

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