Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3

No matter how: why did he want to do this?

Critical Role warned fans to anticipate the unexpected in Campaign 3, and they delivered in a major, heart-pounding fashion towards the end of its 33rd episode – more than 130 hours into the game.

[Warning: This tale contains spoilers for Critical Role’s Campaign 3 episode 33. That episode’s video on demand will not be accessible until Monday, September 12, with an audio-only podcast available on Thursday, September 15.]

The dust had yet to settle, but when the session ended on Thursday night, two characters — Orym (Liam O’Brien) and Fearne (Ashley Johnson) — were dead, and two more were dying. Fresh Cut Grass (Sam Riegel), a brilliant automaton, was left cowering in an alley while the streets of Bassuras burst all around them. It appears that Matthew Mercer has constructed his most devastating, and maybe purposely unwinnable, combat in CR history.

Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3
Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3

The set was bathed in hues evocative of Exandria Unlimited: Calamity, a subtle warning of how dramatic this episode was. The episode was unprecedented in more ways than one. The actors commented many times last night that having that many characters unconscious at the same time was unusual.

Episode 33 began in the midst of a previous unexpected battle, when the castle the group was penetrating was attacked in the midst of a blinding dust storm. The Bell’s Hells separated the group to exploit the cover of the chaotic conflict to conduct their intended theft, acting as nominal allies of the fortress’s defenders, Paragon’s Call. Chetney (Travis Willingham) missed a tripwire and bounced downstairs “ass over teakettle,” and Ashton (Taliesin Jaffe) and Fresh Cut Grass did donuts in a Mad Max-inspired crawler in the first half.However, the group took some significant blows when they encountered rival bounty hunter Artana Voe. While they were able to overpower and bargain with her before betraying her in a matter of minutes (did I mention it was a chaotic episode? ), the encounter was only one of the ways the party’s strength was eroded in the first half.

Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3

They faced only one foe in the second part of the episode: Otohan Thull, the famous leader of Paragon’s Call. While non-player characters cannot be aligned with player character levels or classes, it is evident that Otohan Thull is a strong foe. “Back when I was a child, if you wanted to talk about the most screwed up, crazy, insane motherfucker in the history of this town, who just killed and fucked everything up, this was the person,” Ashton informed the party in Episode 27. This individual was nightmare fuel.” Otohan stands up to her reputation, with legendary acts and tenacity.

Fortunately for the Hells, they also had some clutch magic under their sleeves, according to Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, which was released in December 2021. Silvery Barbs, which compels an opponent to reroll their attack and provides an ally an advantage — all as a response, which is basically an extra action that players may insert into a variety of circumstances. Silvery Barbs has swiftly become the new go-to spell for high-level play, allowing Laudna (Marisha Ray) to deflect a critical blow on the party last night. Ray also cast Wither and Bloom, a second-level area of effect spell that allows friends to reroll hit dice while enemies make saves.It allowed Laudna to stand up a character who was close to death twice during the night, which meant Ashton and Chetney were still barely alive at the conclusion of the episode. Hannah Rose, co-lead of Tal’Dorei Reborn and MCDM managing editor, remarked one hour into the second part of the program. “If this session had happened even 10 months earlier, the Wither and Bloom and Silvery Barbs spells would not have been available, and this conflict may have gone even worse!”

Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3

But it wasn’t quite enough. For practically the entire episode — three hours and 30 minutes — Bell’s Hells were engaged in battle rounds, a brutal conflict only seen in the concluding episodes of their past campaigns, Vox Machina and the Mighty Nein. When Vox Machina battled at the table for four hours in 2017, the characters were fully tuned for D&D’s capstone fourth tier of play. The Mighty Nein were lower at Level 15 in 2021, but still towards the top of Tier 3. In both occasions, the participants had also gathered and charged a number of amazing items.The Hells, on the other hand, are still at the comparably low seventh level, in the midst of tier two, and are scarcely regarded Heroes of the Realm. They just do not have a plethora of large, gleaming magical things at their disposal.

However, it is possible that many of these characters have much more power within them. We’ve uncovered deadly capabilities — enough to murder an entire party of adventurers — lying below the bright, cheery veneer of Aeormaton Fresh Cut Grass in recent episodes. We’ve seen flashes of Launda and Ashton’s magical might, and a huge portion of the party has ties to Ruidus, the enigmatic red second moon of Exandria that is looming large in this campaign. In recent episodes, those latent powers have drawn the attention of very strong forces to the Hells.

Imogen (Laura Bailey) was the main target last night. We’ve known for a while that Otohan resembled the woman haunting the terrible, red-washed nightmares we’ve seen in previous episodes. We also learned in this episode that Otohan was implicated in the unexplained and brutal death of Orym’s husband. Otohan’s intentions remain unknown, but her maneuvers in this fight were meant to shatter Imogen. She gave unneeded coups de grâce to downed party members, despite Imogen’s repeated declarations that she will surrender.

But what Otohan desired was explosion, not acquiescence, and as the show finished, that’s exactly what occurred. The remaining Hells stared as their lovely, shy companion levitated, her pale skin burning scarlet and sparking with blazing purple energy. As she cries, space warps, structures crumble, and the world turns white… exactly as Mercer describes the session.

Critical Role reaches a grim new milestone in the latest episode of Campaign 3

The cameras continued to film to capture the cast’s emotions, which ranged from uncertainty (Marisha Ray wondering, “Am I dead or alive?” to Sam Riegel yelping, “Did we go somewhere? Is she still alive? “Are we gone?”) and amazement (Travis Willingham and Ashley Johnson said “That was incredible!” and Liam O’Brien exclaimed “That was a tremendous game, Matt”). Mercer smiled broadly as he observed his players’ astonished expressions. Unlike previous character deaths, no one left the table, however table chatter indicates that this is as perplexing to the players as it is to the audience.

Unlike the one irreversible death of a previous campaign — Mollymauk’s early death in Episode 26 of Campaign 2 — the Hells have access to the kind of magic that would allow for a Revivify — and potential access to even stronger resurrection spells through Orym’s connection to Campaign 1 archdruid Keyleth. Or it’s possible that none of this is necessary: Viewers have already speculated that this may be a dream or something else beyond the game’s usual logic — similar to the violent vision with which Brennan Lee Mulligan launched EXU: Calamity.

Many viewers take solace in the fact that this is a very “early” episode (in comparison to the 100+ runs of previous campaigns), putting their faith in Mercer as DM and storyteller. And Mercer appears to be cognizant of this trust, tweeting, “If you need some time to process, that is OK.” Just know that our table is united in its appreciation for this game and the challenges it presents. The darkest times frequently result in the brightest epiphanies. I adore you all. <3”

If you only want to witness the Otohan fight, I recommend watching the stream just after the mid-game break at the two-hour point, which will be accessible on YouTube Monday or to Twitch subscribers today. Twitch streams Critical Role live every Thursday at 7 p.m. PT.

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