The Dungeons & Dragons board game is first and foremost a storytelling game and the best stories have twists and turns that keep the story fresh and players on their toes. Surprise reveals and mysteries unraveled make the game exciting. Sometimes, however, it is not always the Dungeon Master who outshines his players.
In fact, some of the best moments in the game come from players who manage to surpass the Master, show a creative understanding of the mechanics of the game, and exploit the preset rules to obtain a victory. Whether it’s the players or the DM doing mischief, Critical Role has some of the most exciting plot twists.
10 Stipped The Player – Fjord’s Carnival Game featured one of the toughest challenges
Artist Credit: @nick_uroseva
No one could have guessed that one of the toughest challenges any member of the Mighty Nein would face would be the result of playing a carnival game. Unfortunately for Fjord, the hilarity ensues in Campaign 2 episode 17, when Matt challenges the gang to a good old hackysack-strip game. Fjord’s only objective is to throw a bean bag into a basket from 10 feet away.
A passing test of dexterity would have been a relatively easy win if Frjord hadn’t rolled a Natural 1. In a shocking twist, Fjord defies the statistics and throws two more Nat 1s in a row, turning an unfortunate loss into a completely humiliating loss for both Fjord and his personable player, Travis Willingham.
9 Perplexed the DM – Keyleth making a series of unpredictable choices
Artist Credit: @crypitick
This iconic moment confuses everybody. At this point, Keyleth is the only member of Vox Machina to avoid dying. This changes in Episode 97 of Campaign 1, when Keyleth proclaims that nothing can hurt them because they are basically gods, and proceeds to swan-dive off a 1000-foot cliff. Despite being asked several times For the DM and his co-stars, take the plunge and figuratively roll the dice. Matt, however, made roll a lot dice. Enough to calculate 1d6 for every 10 feet of bludgeoning damage, after Keyleth plummets to the rocks below.
The best part is how Keyleth tries to save herself, transforming into an animal that would be well suited to save this situation. Some might think that he would choose a bird. Instead, he chose a goldfish, completing Vox Machina’s kill count. Bingo! card.
8 The player puzzled: the sudden appearance of the jester’s parents was unexpected
Artist Credit: @ellievyle
Generally, a character’s overall objectives take time to complete over the duration of the game. However, with RPGs, it’s never off the table that a player might stumble upon a secret that unravels everything, leaving him fighting for what comes next. This happens to Jester Lavorre in Campaign 2, Episode 33, when upon meeting his mother, a resident Spitfire monk, Beaureguard makes a casual comment about The Gentleman that prompts Jester to describe him.
Jester and the group soon realize that their description of the charming mobster matches their mother’s memory of Jester’s estranged father, Babenon Dosal. Little did he know that he had met the father he was looking for 19 episodes ago on Zadash.
7 DM puzzled – Fjord destroys the Falchion and relinquishes the power he worked for
Artist Credit: @Guillaume Cayer
Magic is one of D & D’s biggest draws. So it’s telling when a player chooses to give up a great power, especially when doing so changes the course of that character’s story, leaving them starting from scratch. This happens to Nein’s warlock-in-training, Fjord, when he decides to renounce his vow to the sea god Ukatoa by throwing his beloved falchion onto the molten rock.
Unwilling to respond to Ukatoa’s increasingly violent calls, Fjord decides to take his future into his own hands, renouncing the power he had so enthusiastically acquired. Fortunately, his daring moves were rewarded when he soon became a Paladin of the Wild Mother, regaining his power by choosing a better path.
6 Stunned Player – Traveler reveals stunned to entire table
Artist Credit: @xerjester
When Jester’s mysterious patron deity is revealed to be the resurgence of a character from Campaign 1, the entire table is stunned. Throughout the game, the Nein have wondered who Jester actually spoke to when he spoke to his god, The Traveler. Due to the fact that Jester is the only one able to see it and there is no formal record of a god named The Traveler, the party is understandably suspicious.
His doubts are true when The Traveler reveals himself as Archfey Artagan. Known to be an untrustworthy ally of Vox Machina, the group is shocked and at the same time not surprised to find Artagan moonlighting as a deity to avoid his endless boredom.
5 DM stumped – Wave overruled DM’s plans
Artist Credit: @BlackSalander
Players override their DM’s plans all the time and it doesn’t take a dramatic big screen to send a Game Master throwing away hours of planning. A good example of this is seen in Campaign 2, Episode 47 when the Nein are pursued by an enemy ship, the Salty Criss. However, before the combat can actually begin, Wild Mother Cadeucas’ cleric Clay throws Water control, sending a large wave to capsize the attacking ship.
A subsequent canon blast ends the battle before it begins, causing Mercer to grudgingly congratulate his party as he saves his battle map for another time.
4 Perplexed the player: the longest day was caused by a series of random rolls
Artist Credit: @kovahs_art
At D&D there are two major game makers in business, the DM and the dice. Sometimes those forces work together to create a brutally difficult encounter that no one could have planned, especially when wild magic is at play. This was seen recently in Episode 123 of Campaign 2 when a series of unfortunate random runs sparked an impromptu encounter with the ancient white dragon Gelidon, the Nightmare in Ivory.
After a brutal battle, the group manages to chase the dragon away with minimal injuries. However, instead of a break, the group is quickly thrown into another battle against the mysterious and powerful Tombetakers, this time exhausted from their previous battle. This results in one of the most one-sided and hair-raising fights in the show’s history, ending with the Nein narrowly creeping up on their lives and uncertain of what will come next.
3 DM puzzled – Arkhan’s betrayal was unexpected to almost everyone involved
Artist Credit: via forgottenrealms.fandom.com
This surprise comes from the guest player, Joe Manganiello, and his character Arkhan the Cruel. As his name suggests, Arkhan is not the most benevolent of Critical Role’s allies. Despite his reputation, he plays a crucial role in helping Vox Machina defeat Archilich Vecna, thwarting his plan to advance the material plane.
It was beyond shocking to see Manganiello unexpectedly cut off his character’s hand, replace it with Vecna’s, and quickly disappear from the table. While Mercer is known to have known this was a possibility, nothing was planned and it was up to Joe to accomplish the feat. He did it with such style that Arkhan’s robbery was canonized in official Fifth Edition tradition.
two Gamer perplexed: Varidian’s identity revealed to blind players
To keep the focus on the main story, Campaign 1 items are rarely leaked into the current campaign. However, sometimes good storytelling opportunities do arise and a smart storyteller seizes them. This was the case when MTF Matthew Mercer took the opportunity to tie up a small loose end from the previous season, leaving a mystery for his players to discover in the process.
When the Mighty Nein visits the island of Rumblecusp, they meet an amnesic half-elf druid named Viridian who oversees the strange village there. Upon uncovering the island’s mysteries, players stumble upon Viridian’s former identity as Vilya, the presumed dead mother of Vox Machina’s half-elven druid partner Keyleth. The reveal completely stunned players and brought a much-needed closure to a beloved character.
1 The DM Baffled – The cupcake embodies the chaotic nature of the game itself and caught the DM off guard
Artist Credit: @Matthew Johnson
Say the word “cupcake” to any Critical Role fan and a singularly magnificent display of the RPG genius will come to mind. In Episode 93 of Campaign 2, the Mighty Nein visits Isharnai, the malevolent witch of the forest responsible for the curse on Nott the Brave. Upon meeting Isharnai, the group stands overhead, contemplating what they are willing to sacrifice to help their friend.
When it comes to cleric Jester Lavorre’s barter turn, Isharnai wants your hands. In a move that takes the table by surprise, Jester pulls out a cupcake and offers a new exchange. Passing a series of high-skill tests, Jester convinces Isharnai to eat a cupcake with him. Delight powder allowing him to trick the witch into believing they are friends, easily convincing her not to curse Nott, and avoiding a dangerous encounter. Legendary!
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