|“||Kiss my ass, you sanctimonious bastard.||”|
—Merle, to John
Merle Hitower Highchurch is a player character in The Balance Arc campaign controlled by Clint McElroy. He is a beach dwarf cleric and former mercenary soldier with a neutral good alignment who enjoys long walks on the beach.
He was formerly associated with Marthammor Duin, the dwarf god of wanderers, travelers, and outcasts; and a Disciple of Life, but it was retconned so that his allegiance is to the nature god Pan at the conclusion of the Moonlighting mini-arc. He is from a big family of the Rockseeker clan with many cousins.
Early Life 
Merle comes from a wooded enclave away from most of society. He was born into a Panite commune, called the Coralhard Clan, and comes from a religious family of beach dwarves. Merle's father, who was also a Panite, had forced him to many religious functions, every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, Summer Pan Camp etc. which Merle did not enjoy, but dealt with it so he wouldn't disappoint his father or get grounded. Because of this, his religion is something he's inherited and therefore has mixed feelings on Pan.
Sometime during his teen years, a person in Merle's enclave would barely survive a bear attack. This would lead to his first experience of being somewhere outside his enclave, when he came to a woodsman living in the nearby forest in search of ways to protect himself from danger. For many years after, Merle would be taught in the ways of ax-wielding by this woodsman.
The Stolen Century 
Feeling that the Panites around him were too exclusive, Merle would leave his enclave in search of greener pastures. During that time, he ended up getting a job at the Institute of Planar Research and Exploration as its Resident Medic and Biologist. He would later be chosen as one of the lucky seven to leave their home world, and explore other planes besides their own.
Before leaving their home world, the crew goes to a biker bar to party and fight. After a fight inevitably does break out, Merle hides Lucretia behind the counter and tries to put a stop to it before it gets too bad. He succeeds, but not without getting a small cut on his forehead from a flying bottle.
On the day of the launch, Merle chose to wear the red jacket. As the storm starts to consume their world, the crew catches sight of The Hunger. They decide to evade and not return until after the danger has passed. When they touch back down, they realize they're not in the same plane they left.
After the Red Robes land onto The Animal Kingdom, they see The Light of Creation crash-land somewhere on it. Merle leaves to scout out its current location, and brings Davenport along to help him out. After a long, tedious trek through the forest, they find out that The Light of Creation is being held by the High Court of The Animal Kingdom. After relaying this information to the others, the crew goes back with Magnus to try and gain access to The Light of Creation. After causing a scene, Magnus and the rest of the crew enter the animal's High Court.
After a year of negotiating and gaining their trust, the Red Robes almost manage to get The Light of Creation from the High Court. Unfortunately, The Hunger attacks The Animal Kingdom before they can retrieve it, and they are forced to make a hasty retreat. As they leave, they watch The Hunger become stronger as it absorbs The Light of Creation.
Later on in his life, Merle would end up in an arranged, loveless marriage with his now somewhat ex-wife, Hekuba Roughridge, in order to keep the dwarven bloodline pure. Hekuba had had a daughter named Mavis with another dwarf before marrying Merle. During their marriage, Merle and his wife would have a son named Mookie. After years of putting up with each other, Merle ended up abandoning his family, saying he was going to the Dwarf Store to get smokes and never looking back. Because they never properly divorced, Merle is still legally married to Hekuba and is now a "dwarf on the run".
Merle has stated he's been on other adventures before joining up with Taako and Magnus, the details of which are unknown.
Here There Be Gerblins 
Merle introduced the party to his cousin Gundren Rockseeker, who offered them the job that began the quest.
After defeating The Hunger, Merle began Merle Extreme Teen Adventures as a way to prepare the next generation of adventurers and travel with his children. 11 months after the Day of Story and Song, he was approached by Lord Artemis Sterling who wanted him to become the governor of Bottlenose Cove and help it get back on its feet after it was destroyed by the Hunger; Merle agreed on the conditions that he be called "Earl" not Governor, he be allowed to continue his work with his adventure company, and that a bar named Chesney's would be built for him. Shortly after, Merle moved into his new estate, which was located next to a guild hall being built for his company.
Powers and Abilities
- Darkvision: Merle had the ability to see with no light source at all, but gave it up during the mission in Wonderland.
- Poison Resistance: As a dwarf, Merle has advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance to poison damage (which Clint and Griffin forget on almost every occasion).
- Channel Divinity
- Nature - Used mostly to hit on plants.
- Turn Undead - Merle can present his holy symbol and speak a prayer censuring the undead. Each undead that can see or hear him within 30 feet of him must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes any damage.
- Destroy Undead: When an undead fails its saving throw against Merle's Turn Undead feature, the creature has the possibility of being instantly destroyed.
- Divine Intervention: Merle can call on Pan to intervene on his behalf when the need is great. If Merle rolls a number equal to or lower than his cleric level, Pan intervenes. Griffin chooses the nature of the intervention, and the effect of any cleric spell or cleric domain spell that would be appropriate.
- Animal Handling Proficiency
- Battle Axe Proficiency: Given up during the mission in Wonderland.
The following are the spells known by Merle.
Please note, that most low-level spells can be cast at an additionally higher level for a stronger effect.
Cantrips are spells which can be cast at any time. Merle knows 6 of these.
|Name||Synopsis||School||Number of Times Used||Episodes Used|
|Light||You touch one object that is no larger than 10 feet in any dimension. Until the spell ends, the object sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet.||Evocation|
|Prestidigitation||You create a shower of sparks, clean or soil a small object, print a symbol or color, etc.||Transmutation||Ep. 4|
|Thaumaturgy||You manifest a minor wonder, a sign of supernatural power, within range.||Transmutation||Ep. 4|
|Sacred Flame||Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range.||Evocation|
|Thorn Whip||You create a long, vine-like whip covered in thorns that lashes out at your command toward a creature in range.||Transmutation|
|Spare the Dying||You touch a living creature that has 0 hit points. The creature becomes stable.||Necromancy||1||Ep. 16|
|Mending||This spell can physically repair a magic item or construct.||Transmutation|
1st - 6th Level
As a 15th level cleric, Merle has access to all the spells on the cleric list from level 1 to 8, though he is only able to have 18 spells prepared (and thus ready to cast) at once. He can pray to Pan to change which spells he has prepared at the end of a long rest, and in addition gets several bonus nature-themed spells, thanks to focussing on the Nature domain. In practice, these rules never come into play; Clint and Griffin only vaguely keep track of which spells he is and isn't allowed to cast, with only level and class requirements ever being checked.
|Name||Synopsis||Level||School||Number of Times Used||Episodes Used|
|Augury||By casting gem-inlaid sticks, rolling dragon bones, laying out ornate cards, or employing some other divining tool, you receive an omen from an otherworldly entity about the results of a specific course of action that you plan to take within the next 30 minutes.||2nd-level||Divination|
|Healing Word||A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1d4 + your spellcasting ability modifier.
At higher levels, when you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increased by 1d4 for each slot level above 1st.
|Prayer of Healing||Up to six creatures of your choice that you can see within range each regain hit points equal to 2d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.
At higher levels, when you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 2nd.
|Guardian of Faith||A Large spectral guardian appears and hovers for the duration in an unoccupied space of your choice that you can see within range. Takes the form of Della Reese, with the symbol of Pan on her shield.||4th-level||Conjuration||8||Ep. 30, Ep. 38, Ep. 49, Ep. 55, Ep. 56, MaxFunCon East Live, Live in San Diego!, Live in Nashville!|
|Shield of Faith||A shimmering field appears and surrounds a creature of your choice within range, granting it a +2 bonus to AC for the duration.||1st-level||Abjuration|
|Zone of Truth||You create a magical zone that guards against deception in a 15-foot-radius sphere centered on a point of your choice within range. (Merle's specialty!)||2nd-level||Enchantment||12||See below|
|Insect Plague||Swarming, biting locusts fill a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range. The sphere spreads around corners.||5th-level||Conjuration|
|Locate Object||The spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewelery, furniture, tool, or weapon.||2nd-level||Divination|
|Silence||For the duration, no sound can be created within or pass through a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range.||2nd-level||Illusion|
|Clairvoyance||You create an invisible sensor within range in a location familiar to you (a place you have visited or seen before) or in an obvious location that is unfamiliar to you (such as behind a door, around a corner, or in a grove of trees).||3rd-level||Divination|
|Calm Emotions||You attempt to suppress strong emotions in a group of people.||2nd-level||Enchantment|
|Enhance Ability||You touch a creature and bestow upon it a magical enhancement.||2nd-level||Transmutation|
|Guiding Bolt||A flash of light streaks toward a creature of your choice within range.||1st-level||Evocation|
|Spiritual Weapon||You create a floating, spectral weapon within range that lasts for the duration or until you cast this spell again.||2nd-level||Evocation|
|Meld into Stone||You step into a stone object or surface large enough to fully contain your body, melding yourself and all the equipment you carry with the stone for the duration.||3rd-level||Transmutation|
|Dispel Magic||You end the effects of any 3rd level or lower spell.||3rd-level||Abjuration|
|Banishment||You attempt to send one creature that you can see within range to another plane of existence.||4th-level||Abjuration||Live in San Diego!|
|Commune||You contact your deity or a divine proxy and ask up to three questions that can be answered with a yes or no. You must ask your questions before the spell ends. You receive a correct answer for each question.||5th-level||Divination|
|Spirit Guardians||You call forth spirits to protect you.||3rd-level||Conjuration|
|Protection from Poison||You touch a creature. If it is poisoned, you neutralize the poison.||2nd-level||Abjuration|
|Stone Shape||You touch a stone object of Medium size or smaller or a section of stone no more than 5 feet in any dimension and form it into any shape that suits your purpose.||4th-level||Transmutation|
|Flame Strike||A vertical column of divine fire roars down from the heavens in a location you specify.||5th-level||Evocation|
|Mass Healing Word||As you call out words of restoration, up to six creatures of your choice that you can see within range regain hit points equal to 1d4 + your spellcasting ability modifier.
At higher level, when you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the healing increases by 1d4 for each slot level above 3rd.
|Find Traps||You sense the presence of any trap within range that is within line of sight.||2nd-level||Divination|
|Legend Lore||Name or describe a person, place, or object. The spell brings to your mind a brief summary of the significant lore about the thing you named.||5th-level||Divination|
|Command||For the duration, you understand the literal meaning of any spoken language that you hear. You also understand any written language that you see, but you must be touching the surface on which the words are written.||1st-level||Enchantment|
|Mass Cure Wounds||A wave of healing energy washes out from a point of your choice within range. Choose up to six creatures in a 30-foot-radius sphere centred on that point.||5th-level||Conjuration|
|Aid||Your spell bolsters your allies with toughness and resolve.||2nd-level||Abjuration|
|Geas||You place a magical command on a creature that you can see within range, forcing it to carry out some service or refrain from some action or course of activity as you decide.||5th-level||Enchantment||1||Ep. 49|
|Wind Wall||A wall of strong wind rises from the ground at a point you choose within range.||3rd-level||Evocation|
|Sanctuary||You ward a creature within range against attack.||1st-level||Abjuration|
|Planar Ally||You beseech an otherworldly entity for aid.||6th-level||Conjuration||1||Ep. 56|
|Blade Barrier||You create a vertical wall of whirling, razor-sharp blades made of magical energy.||6th-level||Evocation||1||Ep. 69|
|Heroes' Feast||You bring forth a great feast, including magnificent food and drink. The feast takes 1 hour to consume and disappears at the end of that time, and the beneficial effects don't set in until this hour is over.||6th-level||Conjuration||1||Live in San Diego!|
|Ice Storm||A hail of rock-hard ice pounds to the ground in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a point within range.||4th-level||Evocation||1||Candlenights in Tacoma!|
"I cast... Zone of Truth!"
Merle's favorite spell is Zone of Truth, and he casts it often. Some examples:
- Ep. 5: Baby's first Zone of Truth. Merle casts Zone of Truth on Gundren Rockseeker and, unintentionally, Magnus and Taako.
- Ep. 12: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Angus during their first meeting.
- Ep. 14: Merle casts Zone of Truth on the suspects of the murder on the Rockport Limited during interrogations.
- Ep. 21: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Hurley in order to learn more about Sloane.
- Ep. 27: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Sloane to try to get information on how to free her from the sash's possession.
- Ep. 45: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Cassidy to get her to tell them the truth about the Quarry.
- The Adventure Zone Presents: The Live Boston Stunt Spectacular: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Klarg to make him confess his true feelings about the boys.
- Ep. 54: Merle starts to cast Zone of Truth on the Wonderland twins, but Griffin stops him because the liches are not in range.
- Ep. 59: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Taako in order to gain Angus's trust.
- Ep. 68: Merle casts Zone of Truth during Parley, unintentionally summoning Pan.
- The Adventure Zone: Live in Austin!: Merle casts Zone of Truth on a bleacher full of students in order to determine which one of them trapped them in the dreamscape.
- The Adventure Zone: Live in Nashville!: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Greg Grimmaldis in order to learn the location of the $15 dollars.
- The Adventure Zone: Candlenights in Tacoma!: Merle casts Zone of Truth on Jimmy in order to determine whether or not he really has been a good boy this year.
- The Adventure Zone: Halloween Special: Merle casts it around the Frankensteins, breaking the entire point of Griffin's puzzle
Items both currently owned and lost by Merle throughout the show.
These are items currently within Merle's possession as of the most recent episode.
|Item||Episode Acquired||Item Type||Notes|
|"Smoosher," the War Hammer||1||Weapon|
|Water skin||1||Tool||Given in Ep. 1, discovered Ep. 3|
|Hand Axe ("Lil' Choppy")||1||Weapon||A small hand axe. Existence somewhat debated.|
|Adventurer's Kit (minus crowbar)||1||Tool||See "former items" below|
|Bracer of Balance||9||Magical Artifact||On Merle's left arm, which, given what happens later to his right, is a good thing.|
|True Heart Clasp||9||Magical Artifact; Jewelry||From the Fantasy Gatchapon machine; assists on insight checks (lie detection)|
|Extreme Teen Bible||9||Tool; Magical Artifact||Purchased from Fantasy Costco; enhances spells|
|Rusted Compass||16||Trinket; Enchanted/Haunted Item||Finds Treasure|
|Ring of Recall||17||Magical Artifact; Jewlry||Purchased at Fantasy Costco; helps Merle recover lost spell slots on a fail|
|Slippies of Haste||17||Armor/Clothing; Enchanted/Haunted Item||Advantage on all initiative rolls; fuzzy slippers with wings|
|Owl Mask||23||Armor/Clothing||Gifted by Hurley|
|Physician's Pendant||28||Jewelry||From the Fantasy Gatchapon machine; saves a healing spell slot|
|The Nitpicker||28||Enchanted/Haunted Item; Tool||Purchased from Fantasy Costco; opens locks while nitpicking|
|Phone-a-friend Scrying Bones||28||Magical Artifact||Used to ask DM a question|
|Iron-on badge||29||Candlenights Gift?||Dark blue circles, iron on; twelve circles around the outside; unreadable language in the center; comes with note that reads "For Your Eyes Only"|
|Potty Chair||29||Candlenights Gift||Gift from Magnus|
|"Caleb Cleveland, Kid Cop" Book||29||Candlenights Gift||Gift from Angus|
|Airplane Bottles of Booze||29||Candlenights Gift||Gift from Avi|
|Awareness Frames||40||Enchanted/Haunted Item; Armor/Clothing||Nerd-ass looking glasses; thick, boxy, brown tortoise shell; +2 to Perception/Investigation|
|Mathias, the Living Grimoire||40||Magical artifact; Tool||Clockwork owl that allows a wizard to prep a spell they don't have once per day|
|Pan Chic Tracts||40||Document||Merle has unending supply.|
|Strongmouse's Laughing Amulet||40||Jewelry; Enchanted/Haunted Item||Laughing face; wearer taps twice, then throws a stinger at the defeated enemy; If DM thinks joke is funny, you get a recharge of your abilities; if the DM hates the joke, it strikes you with lightning|
|Cockroach Mandible||33||Weapon||Taken from giant cockgroach|
|Boyland's Axe||33||Weapon||Covered in Boyland's kids' names|
|9-second Back-Up Ball||47||Magical artifact||Gift of the Goddess Istus|
|Broom of Flying||50||Enchanted/Haunted Item||Wooden broom; can carry 400 lbs; flies 50 ft; can be fetched remotely; activation words: "Hang Ten!"|
|Ring of the Grammarian||50||Jewelry; Magical artifact||Allows user to change a letter in a spell once per day ("Cause Fear" becomes "Cause Bear")|
|Gilley||66||Weapon; Stick||A magical wooden stick with a leather cup on the handle that was created by Merle himself; Imbued with Arcane Assurance, which means he can spend two spell slots in order to gain advantage on the spell he's casting.|
|Plastic Sheriff's Badge||68||Trinket; Enchanted/Haunted Item||Gives user a false authority on bluff rolls; Given to Angus by Taako who then gave it to Merle.|
These are items which were lost or given away.
|Item||Episode Acquired||Episode Lost||Item type||Notes|
|Holy Symbol||1||9||Magical Artifact||Sold when for the Extreme Teen Bible when Merle updated his religion|
|Emmanuel the Crowbar||1||19||Tool||Part of Adventurer's Kit, lost to the vines in the elevator shaft|
|Jade Frog Statuette||3||9||Trinket||Sold to Fantasy Costco|
|Map of Wave Echo Cave||3||8||Document||Made of Merle's Blood; lost like everything else in Phandalin|
|Scuttle Buddy||9||16||Tool||Purchased from Fantasy Costco; listens in on conversations; super cute; lost in train crash|
|Stone of Far Speech||9||57||Tool||Gifted from Magnus to Merle; Fantasy walkie-talkie. Destroyed by Barry Bluejeans.|
|Hammerhead Uniform||22||22||Armor/Clothing||Disguises stolen from sleeping Hammerhead gang members|
|Safety Harness||23||23||Armor/Clothing||Used in Battle Wagon Race|
|Cheerwine||28||28||Food and Drink||+5 to max HP, drunk; Merle had another can of (non-magical) Cheerwine that was lost during the Battle Wagon Race (ripped off with door)|
|Old Meat||44||44||Food and Drink||Fed to underground bug creatures|
|Music Box||29||29||Trinket||Music box the size of a lemon; made of bronze; with some of Johan's music; Merle re-gifted his to the Director|
|Whetstone||29||29||Tool||Gift from Killian; personalized, shaped like a duck; Merle re-gifted this to Angus|
|Trick Tract||29||29||Document||Given to Avi|
|Pick Axe||44||44||Tool||Held temporarily during Ep. 44 while in the mine|
|Root Beer Barrels (candy)||49||49 & 50||Food and Drink||Grody gift from Cassidy; gifted to both Istus and Mookie|
|Adamant Spanner||23||54||Tool; Enchanted/Haunted Item||Imbued with charges of spell "Repair"; Functions as +1 mace; Gifted by Hurley; Lost to the Wheel of Sacrifice in Wonderland|
|Wedding ring||Unknown amount of time||54||Jewelry||Merle claims he "always had it" and that it contains his last happy memory of his family, which he abandoned; Lost to the Wheel of Sacrifice in Wonderland|
Usually, Merle is dressed as a typical dwarf cleric who is also a follower of Pan.
|Outfit Name||Description||Arc Used|
|The Owl||Merle takes on the racing persona of the Owl, complete with a mask featuring white feathers and a cracked yellow beak.||Petals to the Metal|
|Safety First||Everyone, even Steven, gets a null suit to counteract the crystallization of Lucas's lab.||The Crystal Kingdom|
|Jortpurs||In Ep. 41, the gang goes to Fantasy Costco and Merle gets jodhpurs, cut right above the knee and secured with garters, in black, green, and red plaid. Jortpurs.||The Eleventh Hour|
|Pinstripe!||In The Adventure Zone Presents: The Live Boston Stunt Spectacular, Merle takes on the persona of Pinstripe. He is resplendent in a sleazy pinstripe suit with a lot of chains.||The Chaos Stadium|
|IPRE uniform||In Ep. 60, Merle excitedly chooses the jacket instead of the robe. The uniforms are "crisp and bright red" with the IPRE logo on the left breast pocket.||The Stolen Century|
|Tuxedo Arms||During the Heist at the Great Grimaldis Casino, Merle is wearing tuxedo sleeves presumably the ones from Magnus' armless tuxedo||Live in Nashville|
|Santa Claus||Merle is officially given the role and appearance of Santa Claus after the boys accidentally murder the original one.||Candlenights in Tacoma|
Known Physical Traits
Disclaimer: The McElroys do not consider their versions of their characters any more "canon" than anyone else's - there is no obligation to stick to these in fanart, so please do not be rude to people for ignoring these traits.
|Trait||Episode Mentioned / Introduced|
|Has a beard||Episode 10|
|Kenny Chesney face tattoo (right butt cheek )||Episode 10|
|"She thinks my [image of a tractor]'s sexy" tattoo (left butt cheek)||Episode 10|
|Has a tonsure||Episode 11|
|Has a wooden right arm with four fingers (after introduction)||During / Post Episode 34|
|3ft 6in tall||Episode 50|
|Hazel Eyes (before) / Gray Eyes (after)||Episode 52|
|Missing left eye||Episode 54|
|Probably the most attractive member of the [starblaster] crew||Episode 60|
|Older than Magnus and Taako||Frequently referred to|
Deaths and Major Injuries
Merle has been knocked unconscious 4 times.
- Knocked unconscious by Sloane in the Goldcliff bank.
- Fell into unconsciousness after having his arm chopped off by Magnus.
- Knocked unconscious by Edward in Wonderland.
- Knocked unconscious by Final John in Ep. 69, before being revived by Pan.
Merle has died a total of 68 times.
- While he was traveling through other planes as a Red Robe, Merle died 57 times without crossing over to the Astral Plane, making him the richest bounty Kravitz has ever hunted. Here are some known ways he has died:
- Killed by John.
- Killed by John.
- Killed by John.
- Killed by John, but not without giving him a sick burn.
- Killed by the Justices in the 65th cycle.
- Merle died a total of 11 times during the events of The Eleventh Hour.
|“||What brings me joy…is life. I think you can find joy anywhere in life. I’ve found joy honest to god getting to know ya…I haven’t enjoyed, you know, getting my ass killed, but I- I find joy in whatever I do. I don’t always do things right and I dont always do things smart…but whatever I do I do because at the end of the day [joy’s] all you got. Looking back at the joy you got, the joy you found, and the joy you gave other people.||”|
—Merle on what brings him joy
|“||“Tell ya what, if we ever meet each other somewhere in infinity, you can apologize to me and tell me you were wrong.”||”|
—Merle, to John
- Merle has 1,999 party points.
- His interests include Kenny Chesney and the hit Faerun TV show "The Bigg Bang Theory."
- His basketball number is 26.
- His favorite candy is marzipan.
- His ascended dragon form is Krayphis, the Eternal Dragon.
- Merle founded a church to Pan in the Mushroom Kingdom. (Referred to as The First Church of Fungston by Griffin)
- Merle has confessed to having a plant fetish.
- Merle is currently the reigning Santa Claus of Faerûn.
- Merle is left handed.
- Merle (still played by Clint McElroy) makes an appearance in the Dungeons and Dragons Stream of Many Eyes episode 'Adventure Impractical' alongside Critical Role cast members Taliesin Jaffe, Sam Riegel and Ashley Johnson.