Non-player character
Screenshot of Orthax from "The Darkness Within" (LVM1x12).[art 1]
Basic information
ActorMatthew Mercer
RaceShadow demon
Biographical information
Full nameOrthax
LanguagesCommon, Abyssal
AffiliationsMade pacts with:
Mechanical information
Creature typeFiend (demon)
Around 406
21[1] (decreased to 16 by daylight)
First seen
Last seen
StreamCampaign 1 (4 episodes)
TelevisionThe Legend of Vox Machina (3 episodes)

Orthax is a powerful shadow demon who makes pacts of vengeance with mortals in exchange for souls.

In both Critical Role and The Legend of Vox Machina, Orthax is played by Matthew Mercer.

Description[edit | edit source]

When Orthax manifested before Vox Machina, its black smoke coalesced into a humanoid form that continued to grow until it reached the roof of the twelve-foot-tall tunnel they were in.[2] Its bird-like beak is the inspiration behind Percival's mask.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Before Campaign 1[edit | edit source]

Orthax appeared to Percy, in what he thought was a dream, and offered him vengeance against those who destroyed his family. It was with Orthax's inspiration that Percy designed his first gun.[3]

Campaign 1: Vox Machina[edit | edit source]

While on the hunt for the Briarwoods, Percy began to act increasingly more erratic and violent due to Orthax's influence. Dark smoke began to emerge from Percy's body and envelop him during these moments.[4]

When Percy tried to sever his ties to Orthax, it appeared and fought Vox Machina. As a precaution, Scanlan threw Percy's pepperbox pistol into acid, in hopes that that would sever its tie to him.[5]

Orthax reappeared when Vox Machina caught up to Anna Ripley, as she had made a similar pact with it, and assisted her in the fight against Vox Machina on Glintshore, which led to Percy's death at the hands of Ripley. Vox Machina was able to fell the demon, however.[6] Even after being defeated, Orthax remained in the Material Plane through its attachment to Ripley's pepperbox, Animus. It used this attachment to grab hold of Percy's soul, preventing his resurrection until Keyleth managed to sever the thread connecting it to Animus through the use of Greater Restoration.[7]

The Legend of Vox Machina[edit | edit source]

Relationships[edit | edit source]

Percival de Rolo[edit | edit source]

Orthax made a pact with Percy after his family was slaughtered by the Briarwoods. Orthax offered inspiration for Percy in designing his deadly firearms; in return, every target that Percy killed in revenge was offered as a soul to Orthax. Percy eventually bucked the deal and expelled Orthax, with some help from Scanlan.

Anna Ripley[edit | edit source]

After being rejected by Percy, Orthax sought out one of his former revenge targets, Anna Ripley, who had been trying to create firearms of her own after Percy's design. Orthax offered the same pact to Ripley as it had to Percy, and she accepted.

The List[edit | edit source]

Each person Orthax made a pact with kept a list of people who had wronged them. Every time one of the people on this list was killed, that victim's soul was taken by Orthax to consume.

Abilities:[edit | edit source]

Orthax had the usual characteristics for a shadow demon drawn from the Monster Manual,[8] but with significant seeds of homebrew from Matt:

  • Light Sensitivity: Orthax has lower AC while exposed to a bright light[9] as well as disadvantage on Perception and attack rolls usual for shadow demons.[10]
  • Orthax can teleport from one shadow to another within a certain distance without using his movement.[11][12]
  • Mark of Vengeance: Grants him advantage on attacks[13] +2d6 psychic damage on marked target. The Mark can be moved to another creature as a bonus action.[14]
  • Rampage Pulse (recharges based on a die roll): Creatures within 20 feet of Orthax who fail a Wisdom saving throw (DC 17) immediately attack a nearby creature, even if it's an ally; on a success they take psychic damage.[15][16]
  • Shadowy Escape: When Orthax is reduced to zero hit points, he becomes a small pile of shadow[17] and attempts to return to his host.[18][19]
  • Claw: Orthax's claws has 10-foot reach,[20] doubling the usual stat for shadow demons, dealing 2d8 (plus an unknown modifier) of psychic damage[21] or 4d8 when he made attacks with advantage.[21]
  • "Grasp an element of your willpower" (triggers in the course of a multiattack): On a failed Wisdom saving throw, Orthax does something that presumably dominates the target.[22]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

Orthax's effect on Percy was counted in points of corruption, a system Matt customized based on the "Taint Rules" in the Heroes of Horror for D&D 3.5.[23] The corruption system was too close to the original to include in Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, but he released a PDF of them online for free on DMs Guild.

If Scanlan hadn't destroyed the gun, Matt had more plans for Orthax. Ripley would never have started working with him, but would have stalked the party to steal information or weaponry from Percy. Orthax would have begun to push Percy to complete the List, and to exude a stronger influence. The more Percy's vengeance would begin to consume him from the inside, the more fiendish powers Orthax would have offered.[24]

Appearances and mentions[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • When Taliesin created Percy's backstory, he left it up to Matt to decide whether Percy's dream vision of a smoky entity was real or just a dream. The appearance of Orthax in the story was as much of a surprise to him as the rest of the players.[25]
  • Interestingly, Orthax is a shadow demon but is able to create pacts with at least two people (Percy and Anna). Fiends with the ability and propensity to create pacts or contracts are almost always in the domain of the lawful evil devils of the Nine Hells which are, in traditional D&D lore, in eternal conflict with the chaotic evil demons of the Abyss. Orthax being a shadow demon belongs to the latter.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 4:14:27.
  2. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 1:00:33.
  3. From Percy's intro. "Arrival at Kraghammer" (1x01) from 5:58 through 6:07.
  4. "Whispers" (1x29) at 3:01:40.
  5. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1.
  6. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 4:18:00.
  7. "Passed Through Fire" (1x69) from 1:08:12 through 1:09:15.
  8. Monster Manual, 5th edition, p. 64.
  9. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 1:44:52.
  10. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:56:34. See also 3:26:23, 4:03:02, and 4:06:06.
  11. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 1:13:07.
  12. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:44:39.
  13. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:25:47. See 3:29:42 for explanation of advantage.
  14. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 4:00:29.
  15. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 1:57:39.
  16. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:45:12.
  17. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 4:17:54.
  18. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 2:02:55.
  19. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 4:20:49.
  20. "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:57:35.
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Cloak and Dagger" (1x68) at 3:30:25.
  22. "Denouement" (1x35), part 1, at 1:42:22.
  23. "Talks Machina Special #5: Fireside Chat Q&A" (TMSx05) at 33:08.
  24. "Talks Machina Special #5: Fireside Chat Q&A" (TMSx05) at 1:34:15.
  25. "Q&A and Battle Royale: Take II" (OSx05).[citation needed]


  1. Screenshot of Orthax from "The Darkness Within" (LVM1x12). This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.