D&D: After 'Critical Role' Broke the Internet, Episode 34 Starts Putting it Back Together – BoLS

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Critical Role broke the internet with its deadliest episode yet. The latest episode shows how they’ll pick up the pieces.

In case you missed it, over the last two weeks Critical Role has been setting the internet on fire. The antics of the adventuring party known as Bell’s Hells, have resonated painfully with the community. In episode 33, the bloodiest episode yet, three player characters went down.
And not just down, but dead, down. Characters that the fans seemed more attached to than the players. But! As Critical Role DM Matt Mercer tweeted out, not all hope was lost. Sometimes the darkest moments lead to the brightest epiphanies.

While many were expressing their shock at the suddenly bloody combat. Or others dismay at the apparent lack of tactics and cohesion facing the party, everyone waited with bated breath for the next episode. This past Thursday we got to see just how much difference a party acting together can make. Spoilers abound. Be ye warned.

 

In Episode 34, things picked up at the end of the cliffhanger from Episode 33. Imogen, distressed, pushed beyond her limits by the deaths of Fearne, Orym, and Laudna at the hands of Otohan Thull, gives in to the explosive energy wracking her body.
After enduring a “cosmic mass of vibration and power” the world seems to explode into a psychic storm. All the other characters in the party experience visions from their past. And in a moment their foe is blasted away with a single attack, retreating into the distance.

Not long afterward, we get to see just how much of a difference healers can make. With two characters capable of casting revivify, and enough diamonds worth 300gp, you can turn around even a total party kill. As it was, the Aeortamaton known as Fresh Cut Grass played by Sam Riegel revived Fearne, who in turn had a terrible decision to make.
With only one spell slot and two dead PCs, Fearne chose to bring back one party member.

Orym, played by Liam O’Brien, returned from the grave. And the party licked their wounds in an inn, recovering yet another incredibly powerful magic item from hiding that they then quickly acquired a lead box for. Echoes of Campaign 2 abound. But perhaps more importantly, a ritual cast Gentle Repose means that it may be possible to bring back Laudna from the dead as well. The party has powerful allies.
And all of it illustrates that the death of a player character is hardly a permanent thing in D&D 5th Edition.

It’s an interesting moment for Critical Role. Because it highlights the incredible work you have to do to establish stakes. A big part of the reason the last two episodes were so tense was because of the uncertainty.
Both in terms of what might happen in the game, but also how the characters would go forward. It isn’t the fact that Laudna and Fearne and Orym were all dead that was distressing, but that fans weren’t sure how things would be fixed. There’s something to be said for playing with those stakes.
Mercer knows the level of his party and what they’re capable of. Which is why he’s not afraid to go all out with the right kind of villains. Otohan Thull is probably one of the best villains he’s made, and a lot of it has to do with her ability to win the fight. But the villain winning and getting what they want (Imogen’s powers awakening) doesn’t mean that the game is over.
It’s a great example of how to fail forward. Now the party is out 600 gp worth of diamonds and will have to find more if they want to bring back any future fallen friends. Stakes and complications are backed up by real, in-game mechanical and fictional consequences. That’s what makes campaigns like this exciting — for better or worse, stuff happens. And then it leads to strange places as you answer “what comes next?”
Happy Adventuring
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