In the race to the Cadogeist’s heart, the Mighty Nein attempted to slip past Obann and his forced guards to secure and abscond with their quarry before they even knew they were being followed. Combat was never the intention. Let’s talk about how that worked out.
The Laughing Hand
We talked about poor Ganix in our most recent What We Know About post, but it’s worth reviewing in light of how the Mighty Nein chose to approach this massive obstacle between them and the Wraithroot tree. The Laughing Hand, prior to the Calamity, was a great warrior named Ganix, who fought against the forces of the Crawling King, Torog. However, his soldiers were slaughtered and Ganix was captured. Torog, being the god of torture, mangled and warped Ganix into the Laughing Hand and forced him into endless servitude. The Laughing Hand’s heart has been hidden away in an unknown extraplanar space so that he can’t be killed.
Having faced the Hand before, and knowing their dire spell slot situation, the Nein recognized that attempting to fight the Laughing Hand head-on was folly. Their first plan was to entirely avoid him by getting ahead of Obann and Friends and getting to the tree before they could, but that plan went by the wayside when the Nein’s unstealthy landing gave their position away far closer to Obann than intended.
Their next solution was to distract him with a summoned barlgura while everyone else fled the scene. Unfortunately, the barlgura wasn’t enough to keep the Hand’s attention for more than 12 seconds. At that point, the Hand summoned his shadow hounds to chase down the Nein, and it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to outrun all of them.
Caleb attempted to banish the Laughing Hand, which would have bought them a minute of running away time (since the Hand is presumably native to the Prime Material Plane), but the Hand resisted it. Fjord’s Charm Monster spell took hold, and he used that to get the Hand to dismiss his attack hounds and walk far enough away that the Nein could continue their travel to face what lay ahead for them in the Mouldering Grove.
Obann, Yasha, and Wraithroot
Obann was singularly focused on his task of freeing the heart of Jourrael from the Wraithroot tree, once he learned of the tree’s existence from the unlucky halfling and dragonborn hunters. The Wraithroot tree is a massive, undead tree that had protected the heart for centuries (and had a short enough appearance that we don’t have any stats to show for it…). While it managed to damage Obann in the process, it was ultimately unsuccessful in preventing him from taking the heart.
Obann used Yasha as his bodyguard while he worked, and as soon as he had the heart in his possession, he Plane Shifted them out. Interestingly, he was willing to leave the Laughing Hand behind to menace the Lotusden in favor of making a quick escape, demonstrating the importance of the artifacts over his allies. Obann could certainly eventually go back to retrieve him, though most cambions only have the ability to Plane Shift once a day. That said, most cambions can only Plane Shift themselves, and he took Yasha with him, so Obann apparently isn’t “most cambions.”
The Mighty Nein
As far as plans go, the Nein could have done worse with what they had. It’s worth remembering that this whole hullabaloo in the Lotusden occurred on the same day that the Nein spent time in Zadash… and Rexxentrum... and Port Damali... and Rosohna. They had already burned through a number of their spell slots, including upper level ones for Caleb (Teleportation Circle, Seeming) and Jester (Scrying), and a number of 2nd and 4th level spells for the clerics to give their friends Enhance Ability in the Valley Archive of the Cobalt Soul. At the top of the day, none of them knew that they would be traveling to go fight Obann, which certainly would have influenced their spell selection.
The dice played a huge role in the outcome for the Nein and Obann. With time not on their side, the Nein had to choose whether they wanted to get to Wraithroot quickly and risk confrontation, or stealthily and risk not arriving in time. The polymorphed beings certainly helped try to kill two birds with one stone (strictly metaphorically speaking), but fate had other plans as they crash-landed near the very beings they were trying to get around. Tapped and assaulted by an undying warrior, Fjord’s lucky charm bought the party a short reprieve.
In the best case scenario, the Mighty Nein would have succeeded in grabbing one of the artifacts from Obann, separating Yasha from him, and teleporting out before he could retaliate. Caleb had initially planned for this scenario when he began drawing the teleportation circle, but he quickly realized that, once they were engaged in combat, there would be no opportunity to finish the ritual. (Fun fact: even with outliers, the average combat encounter lasts less than 4 rounds this campaign. If the circle wasn’t going to be completed in under 24 seconds without Caleb, it wasn’t going to be completed.)
As Matt mentioned at the end of the episode, Obann rolled really well to get the heart out of the tree as quickly as he did, which drastically cut down the Nein’s time to intervene. Between Jester’s Nat1 perception check to stick her landing as a giant eagle, the barlgura’s ineffectual intimidation of the Laughing Hand, Nott’s failed attempt at stealing the skull from Obann’s bag, and Caleb and Fjord being out of range for Counterspelling Obann’s Plane Shift, none of the Nein’s plans survived once they were put into place. While their plans didn’t survive, all of the Mighty Nein did, and there’s hope to be found in that.