In part 1, we broke down Team Ripley and what each member brought to the fight. This time, we will try to actually determine the state of the battleground (including leading up to the combat encounter itself), the strategies implemented by both parties, and what we can say about the fight itself.
The real battle began before combat started. As Matt points out, Ripley realized her team could not handle Vox Machina in a straight encounter. By cautiously using the glass island to their advantage and presenting themselves as being in much more of a hurry than they actually were, Team Ripley were able to use a significant amount of gunpowder to… well, figuratively level the playing field (not so much literally).
Matt informed us that Ripley and the mage had Alarm spells readied to let them know when to start the show. No matter how quiet Vax traveled, they were fully aware of his presence. We are also told that while Luska and the crate were real, Ripley and Kynan were always Major Images. Any damage Ripley took was merely simulated to put Vox Machina at ease before the trap could be detonated.
With the combined pains of the air elementals from before, the skills not regained after the assault on the ship and the elementals, and the lack of short rest, Vox Machina was already plenty soft. Another 65 damage to four party members and 32 to the tank softened them up, putting Team Ripley in a prime position to take on the otherwise stronger opponents.
Dr. Anna Ripley
Blink controlled the rhythm of the battle, ripping the antagonist out of the fray for 5 out of 7 rounds of combat. Had Ripley been present for even two more rounds of combat, Vox Machina would have been able to focus their attention on her, removing her and Orthax from play and forcing her allies to pause with their leader gone.
Much as Percy attempted to concentrate his attention on her, Ripley also focused her attention on who she deemed the greatest threat. When she wasn’t casting self-supporting spells or repairing her unreliable weaponry, she attempted a total of 10 shots, 9 of which struck true. The fireball she cast late in the battle (courtesy of Cabal’s Ruin’s spell-absorbing capabilities) also would have taken out Percy, as well as several other party members, had Scanlan not countered it.
Speaking of the cloak, its unknown properties also presented an accidental shield. Even before the encounter began, the inconsistencies presented by the Major Illusion were shrugged off as potential benefits of the cloak. Once combat began, Scanlan was hesitant to cast any spells in her direction due to her perceived immunity, and the sphere was cast at the end of the fight only in desperation.
The mage easily held the title of Most Threatening Opponent for Team Ripley, even considering he was taken out at the end of the second round. Although he had relatively little health, all he needed was a surprise round to detonate the trap and two more to knock out Trinket, Scanlan, and Keyleth, end Vox Machina’s control spells, and force the rest of the party to focus on healing instead of damage for a round. (This also came at the cost of his own life and that of one of the gunners, but is still a net gain.)
The gunners provided a small threat to the party, but primarily functioned as bait for the party to direct their attacks. At the beginning of the fight, they all focused on who they believed were the greatest threat, spreading out their attacks. It wasn’t until Ripley intervened that the female backup gunner turned her attacks toward Percy. Though the female gunner technically got the killing blow, Pike’s Death Ward amulet prevented this first kill from being permanent.
The goliath… Well, she made good bait, and drew Grog’s attention.
Unlike the rest of the team, Kynan formed a legitimate threat. He put Keyleth dangerously close to unconsciousness and eventually dropped her to zero a second time, forcing Percy and the rest of the party to burn turns healing her, and forcing her to waste a turn making a death save instead of keeping Percy up through Ripley and Orthax’s onslaught.
Increasing this threat was the understandable desire of many party members to keep him from harm. Vax burned two turns attempting to convince him to do the right thing and turn against Ripley. This eventually worked out in his favor in an attack against Orthax, but only after Kynan dropped Keyleth, forcing Scanlan to heal her instead of helping to keep Percy up or granting inspiration. Even Percy burned a turn to take Kynan out of commission for a round, something that Vax probably would have had words about after the battle had… Well, you know.
We’re inclined to grant Scanlan the title of MVP for Vox Machina. His Healing Words kept Keyleth and Percy in the fight. Counterspell ensured that Ripley’s Fireball didn’t mark the beginnings of a TPK in addition to Percy. Most influential of all, his Reverse Gravity spell “[screwed] everything up,” taking out two combatants and softening up two more (not to mention the last gunner he took out via Fireball).
Lastly, he saved his Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere for the last round of the battle. Given that it is not made of force, Ripley still would have been able to Blink out of it had he cast it earlier in the battle before Blink’s duration ran out. Even though he was unable to prevent Ripley’s last kill, Cutting Words combined with Mythcarver forced the disadvantage needed to trap her in the orb, especially considering that Dexterity is almost certainly her highest stat. From a story point of view, Scanlan also took charge of the party, organizing them in the throes of their despair to finally finish what they needed to do.
As for the rest of the party, Percy directed attacks and ran strategy for the battle when he could. Keyleth and Vex brought the healing and minion containment, chipping in what damage they could. Grog drew attacks from the minions, laying on damage to everyone in his reach and preventing the goliath from getting a single hit in. Vax, unfortunately, spent most of his time tied up with Kynan, but managed to deal some damage to one of the gunners and Orthax. Pike, who wasn’t even present, STILL managed to keep Percy in the game longer than he technically should’ve been.
Overall, Vox Machina suffered seven KOs:
- Trinket: 1
- Scanlan: 1
- Keyleth: 2
- Percy: 3
And, of course, two deaths, one of which actually stuck. With Orthax temporarily dispatched yet again to where ever he has chosen to sew seeds of chaos, Anna Ripley torn asunder, and the fate of Percival’s soul hanging in the balance, the party finds itself in quite a predicament. Just a few more hours, dear critters, to see what direction the dice will take us!