Critical Role recap: Campaign 3, Episodes 1-19
Calling all Critters!
We at Pure Fandom are so excited to be wading into Critical Role! For the uninitiated, Critical Role is where a bunch of self-described nerdy ass voice actors get together and play Dungeons & Dragons. What began in 2012 as a group of friends hanging out and rolling dice, has become an entertainment empire. They now have millions of devoted fans as well as an Amazon series called The Legends of Vox Machina, which follows the events of their first campaign. (Seriously. Go watch that. Like, right now.)
Gathering the party
Campaign Three follows an eight person adventuring party led by the incomparable Matt Mercer as Dungeon Master. They are an unruly band of adventurers, who (in the way of D&D) fall together by pure happenstance in the jungle city of Jrusar.
As far as D&D groups go, this one is fairly well-balanced. Best friends Imogen (Laura Bailey playing a human sorcerer) and Laudna (Marisha Ray, human warlock) are the heart of the party. Orym (Liam O’Brien, halfling fighter) and Dorian (Robbie Daymond, air genasi bard) are the brains of the operation. Ashton (Taliesin Jaffe, earth genasi barbarian) and Fearne (Ashely Johnson, fawn druid) certainly provide their fair share of chaos, while Fresh Cut Grass (Sam Reigel, automaton cleric) is the on-hand therapist of the group. And finally, Sir Bertrand Bell (Travis Willingham, human fighter) is the face man.
An early loss
Long time viewers will recognize Bertrand Bell from way back in campaign one of Critical Role. The now elderly Bell is as shady as ever, but he does introduce the group to their benefactor, the mysterious Lord Eshteross. And while Bell may be anything but reliable, his presence is deeply felt. Especially when he gets killed in episode 3 by an enemy the party barely knew they had.
Now Critical Role is not Game of Thrones. It’s a big deal when one of the player characters die. But Bell’s death does serve to cement the group together, and even leads them to claiming their official adventuring name: Bell’s Hells.
Working for Lord Eshteross, they learn that Bell’s death is connected with an incursion of shadecreepers– Jrusar’s version of rats, only massive and horrifying (okay, more horrifying). But nothing in Critical Role is ever a simple step from point A to point B. It’s not until episode 7, and the introduction of Travis’ new character, Chetney Pock O’Pea (gnome bloodhunter) when the group makes a new discovery.
Chetney’s one friend in Jrusar is missing, so he approaches the Bell’s Hells for help. They follow the trail to the very swanky Moon Tower and the office of the city’s business commissioner. The fast talking group manages to get inside the office where they discover some incriminating evidence connecting the commissioner to a person intimidatingly called The Nightmare King.
With a name like that, they have no choice but to go in.
Facing the Nightmare King
Episode 11 sees the group face the Nightmare King– the first real Boss of the campaign. It is a gnarly fight, and if the Nightmare King hand’t recognized Fearne’s family name, he might have straight up killed them all. As it is, he decides flee… blowing up the Moon Tower in the process.
Our heros escape the destruction– and save Chetney’s friend– but witnesses were left behind. Things are getting hot in the city for the Bell’s Hells, and the smart move would be to get out of Jrusar. One of Ashton’s contacts even has a job for them. But they’re too close to finding answers to simply leave. (And let’s face it, the cast of Critical Role rarely makes the smart move.)
Because it’s not only the business commissioner who has been implicated now, but also Armand Treshi– one of the most powerful men in the city. But how can a group of nobodies get close to a nobleman? Go to a ball, of course!
Of balls and brawls
The plan is a simple one: Lord Eshteross will use his contacts to get them all invitations to the ball. When they get inside, all they have to do is slip Armand Treshi’s signet ring off his hand and replace it with a duplicate ring. This magical duplicate will allow Eshteross to track him. Nothing could go wrong.
Not to say they don’t get the ring. They do. They just also manage to start a duel with a renowned mercenary, call down the suspicion of nearly every city leader, get into a fight with the mysterious Lady Emoth and her pack of shadecreepers and– when Dorian’s brother is arrested– break him out of custody.
Time to face some consequences: Dorian leaves the party.
Knowing that his brother is being hunted, Dorian decides to flee the city. After some tearful goodbyes (mostly on my part) Dorian ships out of Jrusar, but hopefully not out of the campaign for good. (For anyone who is as much of a Dorian-stan as I am, go check out the Critical Role offshoot show, Exandria Unlimited.)
Everything they learned at the ball also confirms their suspicion that Armand Treshi is behind the shadecreeper incursion in the city too. Lady Emoth, was Treshi’s date after all and she was able to control the shadecreepers before disappearing in via a hole in the wall.
The Shade Mother
The Bell’s Hells ultimately decide to take a page from Dorian’s book and get out of town while they can. Too bad they’re intercepted– and then deputized– by the Greenseekers, a pair of renowned investigators. Hot on Lady Emoth’s trail they all head to the mines in the city’s Smolder Spire where they face, not only Lady Emoth, but dozens of shadcreepers and an incredibly disgusting looking slug-like hive queen known as the Shade Mother.
Episodes 15 and 16 see the very first dungeon crawl style fight of campaign three, and boy was it a nasty one. The Shade Mother and all her minions put up one hell of a fight. With their lives on the line, the Bell’s Hells knew they were outgunned, but they had take Lady Emoth alive. Without her testimony there is no chance of exposing Armand Treshi as the villain he so clearly is.
On the road again…
After a rough battle, the party returns to the surface victorious, but everyone agrees that it’s still best for them to get out of dodge for a while. Episodes 17 and 18 see them heading out of the city, trekking through the jungle to the Heartmoor Hamlet. Officially they’re going to question a man named Estani about an attack that killed two young students.
It’s not the most obvious quest for a group with as much chaos energy as the Bell’s Hells, but the twins were researching a study that Imogene’s mother was involved in before she disappeared. And the twins themselves were killed in the same manner as an attack that killed Orym’s husband.
Speaking to Estani is a very personal quest. But it’s only part of the reason they’re there. The other is for Ashton.
Ashton owes a great deal of money to a noblewoman called Jiana Hexum. In typical bored, noble person flippancy, Jiana made a bet with the proprietor of the Twilight Mirror Museum. If the Bell’s Hells can penetrate the museum’s security and steal an ancient earring, she will forgive Ashton’s debt. But nothing’s ever straight forward on Critical Role– even a simple bet. Because the Bell’s Hells aren’t the only ones aiming for the earring. They’ll be going toe to toe with a much more experienced– and dangerous– band of adventures, mercenaries and thieves.
And the winner takes all.