‘Critical Role’ review: Campaign 3, Episode 60 “Faith or Famine” Aired June 1, 2023, Campaign 3, Episode 61 “Crisis of Faith” Aired June 8, 2023
If morally grey is your favorite color, then Critical Role’s Issylra arc will be right up your alley. The Issylra arm of the Bells Hells (Orym, Laudna and Ashton) were just shunted to the hinterlands of Issylra. Together with their new friends Bor’Dor, Prism and Deni$e, they reach the village of Hearthdell. Now Hearthdell is conveniently located beneath a ley line nexus (very like the nexus in Marquet where the shirt hit the fan).
In the hands of any other storyteller, it would be a simple matter of going to the very large bastion of soldiers and warrior-priests at the temple of the Dawnfather and explaining who they are an where they’ve just come from. On paper the Bells Hells and the worshipful warriors of Vasselheim are naturally allies. After all, they both know the threat Predathos poses and both desperately want to take out Ludinus Da’Leth.
But we know by now that GM Matt Mercer doesn’t really go for easy.
Colonizers and Colonics
Turns out the forces of Vasselheim marched in not that long ago and began subjugating the local population. Who would have thought that forcing your beliefs on people isn’t the way to make friends? In between shopping and meeting with the local elder the Bells Hells get roped into the conflict. The deal is simple: if they help the locals overthrow the invaders, the Elder will help them scry on their friends.
It’s certainly one hell of a pickle.
Honestly at this point I did kind of expect Orym to step in and say… do we really have time for this? So of course he did the opposite, arguing that they didn’t have time to talk to Vasselheim’s leadership. (I guess he forgot magical travel exists in the world, lol.) So what is an adventuring party to do? Dose a bunch of beer with some laxatives and give it to the soldiers guarding the temple as a “gift.”
I was really expecting this fight to be a lot harder. No only were the Bells Hells (and the townsfolk) up against all those soldiers, there were also two Judicator’s there. Those massive Iron Man-type warriors are real creepy looking– and apparently they can’t feel pain? Now don’t get me wrong, the fight looked pretty bad for a minute there. Prism and Deni$e went ahead into the temple and Deni$e was left a petrified target for the Judicator to pummel.
It didn’t stop the others from busting into the temple, killing their leader (a whoopsies as it turns out) and taking out a bunch of the soldiers. The laxatives took care of the rest… which is about as good of a segue as I can think to say how much I’m enjoying the guest stars in this arc. Emily Axford in particular is an absolute gem. She’s utterly hilarious to watch and is a deceptively smart player. She honestly reminds me a lot of Sam Reigel in that way. It’s sometimes hard to appreciate how tactical they are as players through all the joking around.
And speaking of guest stars, Uktarsh’s Bor’Dor scored the first big kill of the night. He killed the head priest in the entrance of the temple… a bit of a mistake as it turns out.
Angels v.s. demons
It was unclear exactly how it happened. Was it a dying plea to the Dawnfather? Or was the god simply angry about his people being murdered? All I know is that an angel materialized. So naturally Prism summons a demon. You know, as one does. Between all of this the Bells Hells and their allies kill the angel and imprison the remaining soldiers (though that last Judicator just turned around and left). But it’s the angel’s expression when he was killed that’s remained with me.
He wasn’t angry. He was sad– like he pitied them for their actions. It felt more than a little foreboding.
Kicking over sandcastles
So was it all worth it?
It’s the question that’s stuck with me through these two episodes, and I’m not sure I have an answer to it yet. Obviously it’s worth standing up to oppressive regimes, so in that sense, yes it was. Plus the Elder was able to scry on the Uthodurn arm of the Bells Hells which is also great.
Expect there’s a big but hanging in the air. And that’s the fact that the Bells Hells just burned a HUGE potential bridge and have probably added Vasselheim to their list of enemies. Granted, are who people who subjugate others the kind of allies you even want?
The moral math here isn’t really straight forward. All we know (know?) is that the fate of the world really does seem to be in the balance, and the list of allies painfully thin.
And this campaign, more than any of the others, has me wondering what will be left of Exandria after it wraps?