EN World's Critical Role Roundup 012: How Caleb Spent His Summer Vacation
  • EN World's Critical Role Roundup 012: How Caleb Spent His Summer Vacation


    The Mighty Nein face off against a hill giant, enjoy some revelry, we finally learn all about Caleb's inevitably tragic backstory, and the Mighty Nein reach Level 5 on the latest episode of Critical Role!


    Episode Recap
    We pick up where we left off last time, as the enraged hill giant enters the arena!

    Fjord: Let's try to talk to him, guys!

    It's a tough battle, with Molly and Yasha both unconscious next to each other at one point. Molly's Periapt of Wound Closure stabilizes him, and Jester heals Yasha. The Mighty Nein chip away at the giant until Caleb casts sleep, thinking it will be futile, but it works! The hill giant drops to the ground asleep, so the group surrounds him and all strike together to finish him off. Hooray!


    As the giant goes after Nott, Sam erects a barrier of giant flasks for protection.

    The Stubborn Stock barely survives a fight against a wyvern with its wings clipped. The tournament is a tie! Each team receives 1,600 gold.

    There's a soiree for the winners, attended by local dignitaries. They meet Starosta Wyatt Fedar, and Yasha and Beau get elected to talk to the two mages by the window. They are Oremid Hass, Headmaster of Halls of Erudition, and Master Trent Ikithon, the mage from the Zauberspire battle. They take a strong interest in Yasha, and Hass scans her mind magically. Ikithon is very focused on her.

    Everyone reconvenes to stress out over whether the mages think Yasha is a Xhorhassian assassin. They agree they should get out of town before they get drafted. Under Nott's questioning, Yasha reveals that in the north of Xhorhas, dark elves have been doing terrible things and keeping the skies dark with magic.

    The Mighty Nein go to the Pillow Trove to check for Jester's package, which is actually there! Her mother sent a very sweet letter, a vial of lavender perfume, 200 gold, and five bottles of ink for her sketchbook: red, blue, green, and two black.

    Caleb quietly tells Beau he wants to go to the Cobalt Soul library before they leave town. Beau agrees to take him if he tells her why he's afraid of fire.

    They get rooms, and the desk clerk mentions they offer other services if they need anything: food and drink, companionship, whatever they need. Molly requests two companions to entertain him with amusing conversation while one to gives him a very thorough post-near-death massage, and the other feeds him fruit while that's going on. Preferred gender? "Surprise me!"

    Caleb gets his own room and asks Nott to bring Beau in. He asks Beau her opinion on the Empire. She isn't a big fan of authority in general, and thinks the Empire is oppressive and treats the poor badly. At this point, Liam asks Matt if everyone can leave the table except Caleb, Beau, and Nott. They go to the kitchen for ice cream.

    Caleb begins his tale: "I am going to tell you the story of how I murdered my mother and father."

    As a teenager, Caleb and two other teens from his town with clear arcane talent were invited to attend the Soltryce Academy. After a year of study, a mage moved the three kids to a country house for special training. That mage was TRENT IKITHON, whom Beau and Yasha met earlier! He was cruel, torturing them while training them to be war mages. He brainwashed them until they were willing to execute people in the name of the Empire.

    When graduation drew near, Caleb visited home and overheard his parents speaking treason against the empire. Disgraced and shamed, he reported this at the school. The three teens were ordered to kill their parents, which they did. Caleb burned his house down with his parents inside. He "broke" as he heard their screams. He went to an asylum for years, which he doesn't remember much of.

    Years later, a woman at the asylum put her hands on him and "took the clouds away." He realized the memories of his parents' treason were false, implanted with magic. Caleb ran away, killed one of Trent's people, and took the necklace he's wearing, which protects him from being found. He's been running for five years.

    Trent clearly wants Yasha now. Beau says he has a responsibility to keep Trent from hurting other people. Caleb wants into the library to get deeper magic power: "I want to bend reality to my will."


    It was subtle, but Caleb made A Face when Ikithon's name was first mentioned earlier.

    Though Nott and Beau insist he'd been brainwashed, he still blames himself because he wanted to do it at the time. Beau says he can either go after Trent for his own vendetta, or he can use his abilities to keep other people from being hurt like he was. Nott gives a lovely speech about how he needs to forgive himself, and says she will stay by his side while he learns to do that.

    The other players re-enter. The next morning, the news is out that the war is on, and soldiers are all over the place.

    Beau, Caleb, and Nott go to the library. Caleb researches ancient, boundary-pushing mages, searching for information about powerful transmutation -- time manipulation, specifically. It's very dangerous and barely achievable. He also reads a book about the Cerberus Assembly. Trent Ikithon is mentioned in it, as he is their Archmage of Civil Influence.

    The Lawmaster seeks out the Mighty Nein, wishing to contract them as legionnaires to help keep the city safe while the military is away at war. It's a tempting and potentially very lucrative offer, but they would be employees of the Empire. They are undecided and will think it over.
    Outside the Leaky Tap, the Righteous Brand marches through the streets. Kara approaches and says the Gentleman has a mission for them. Cliffhanger!

    Before signoff, they level up to 5. Everyone rolls their new HP, get excited about having a +3 proficiency bonus, and look at the new features they get. Sam: "What's Uncanny Dodge?" Laura: "I get Revivify now!" It's the best part of D&D!


    Sam utters famous last words upon realizing how Uncanny Dodge works: "I'm a golden god!"

    Play of the Game
    With her offer of an afternoon at the library, Beau got Caleb to divulge his closely guarded backstory in extreme detail. Excellent strategy, perfectly executed.

    Quote of the Week
    Molly enters the girls' room with the remnants of his fruit platter, wearing only his new Platinum Dragon tapestry. "I am your god, long may I reign, eat of my fruits!"

    Context-Free Comedy
    "If they're garbage people, I'm their rare cousin, the trash person."

    contributed by Annie Bulloch
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      I clicked in to make sure the Mighty Nein wasn't the Mighty Neun. Looks like they're pretty close. I'd like to see a group of seven non-professionals behave as well as these players!
    1. Rhineglade's Avatar
      Rhineglade -
      That is one crazy backstory! No wonder Caleb is so messed up.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rhineglade View Post
      That is one crazy backstory! No wonder Caleb is so messed up.
      Indeed! It's along the lines of what I expected, but everything about Caleb makes sense now. They're nowhere near powerful enough to try to take on Ikithon right now, so I'm curious how this will weave into the campaign.

      Of course, I'm also extremely curious about how Caleb's explorations into time travel will go horribly, horribly wrong.
    1. Harzel's Avatar
      Harzel -
      A few other items I thought were interesting/significant/amusing:
      - Nott the Most Cautious diligently reminds Jester to check the package from her mom for traps! (Jester ignores her.)
      - Jester reveals that the initial stake her mom gave her was 5000 gp. (Perhaps she had mentioned this before, but if so, I don't recall it.) She has a bit of difficulty (involving some hyperventilation) reconciling herself to only receiving 200 in the package, but in the end resolves to try to be more self-reliant.
      - Jester's mom signed her letter with her real name, which Jester reads out loud - Marion* Lavore (sp?)
      - The letter also indicates that Jester's transgressions in her hometown had not yet been forgotten.
      - Caleb probably didn't actually need Beau's help to get into the Cobalt Soul library - visitors seemed generally welcome - so he really doesn't get much for his disclosure.
      - Caleb seemed oddly unruffled by the fact that at the post-Victory-Pit soiree they had been so close to Trent, his former abuser.
      - The paranoia about being conscripted was totally fabricated within the group - mainly by Molly. There are no actual indications that Zadash or the Empire are going to conscript anyone.
      - The Lawmaster's offer to the Mighty Nein is pretty rich - 10,000 gp if they can bring back a miscreant known as the Hawker alive. But the Hawker may have ties to the Myriad, so there's the potential to make some powerful enemies there.

      * Fun fact: One purported meaning of the name Marion/Marian is "star of the sea".
    1. pogre's Avatar
      pogre -
      General question - Are folks enjoying this campaign as much as the previous one?

      Real question - no hidden agenda I promise!

      The viewer numbers suggest that the enthusiasm for the stream has not waned.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      I am! It's hard to compare them because when we joined Vox Machina on their adventures, they'd already been playing together for a few years so the characters' relationships were established. There automatically was more depth. But in this campaign, everyone knew how deep things could get eventually, so they built stuff into their characters and backstories that could develop over time. I think they did a good job making the Mighty Nein characters quite different from Vox Machina, so the team dynamic is different and the players get to use different muscles, so to speak.

      I know quite a few people who started watching with this campaign and haven't gone back to watch the several hundred hours of Vox Machina material, and they seem to love it just as hard as anyone. That's anecdotal of course, but it seems to be working for people.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Harzel View Post
      A few other items I thought were interesting/significant/amusing:
      There was SO MUCH happening in this episode. Sadly, it wasn't possible to cover everything and do it justice with my word limit. Deciding which details I have to leave out due to space restrictions is the hardest part of this gig.

      Quote Originally Posted by Harzel View Post
      - Caleb probably didn't actually need Beau's help to get into the Cobalt Soul library - visitors seemed generally welcome - so he really doesn't get much for his disclosure.
      I'd have to go back and check, but I think in the episode before, he learned that he could get in if escorted by someone who has access.

      Quote Originally Posted by Harzel View Post
      - Caleb seemed oddly unruffled by the fact that at the post-Victory-Pit soiree they had been so close to Trent, his former abuser.
      Once Trent's name was dropped, Liam started emphasizing that Caleb was keeping his face pointed toward the floor, trying to stay inconspicuous. He didn't know that character was at the party before that, so he worked that in as possible once he knew. To be fair, it's been maybe 15 years since Caleb has seen Trent, so he might not have recognized him right away.

      Quote Originally Posted by Harzel View Post
      - The paranoia about being conscripted was totally fabricated within the group - mainly by Molly. There are no actual indications that Zadash or the Empire are going to conscript anyone.
      No reason to think they won't, though -- especially for a group who recently, repeatedly, and publicly proved to be very effective fighters. I think Molly's right to be cautious about it. I'd get out ASAP if I was in their shoes.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      We started watching the first campaign at the same time this one started, and it is interesting. It seems this time the characters are definitely designed more for performing to an audience rather than just D&D characters they wanted to play in a home game. (I was hooked right in the first episode where they were having such fun revealing their new characters to the rest of the group - you can tell them were as interested in the reactions to their characters as they were in just living within them.)

      Also, we aren't too far into the first campaign yet (episode 18 or 19), but it's interesting contrast between the two groups (at least with how Vox Machina is at that point, we'll see how much they change in the next 100ish). VM comes across as a bunch of arrogant trash talkers that actually do some really great deeds, while Mighty Nein are all relatively kind-spoken (although sometimes awkwardly so) but are actually devious punks up to no good looking out for themselves.

      Lastly, it's great seeing Travis playing a character that isn't a dumb barbarian. Grog is awesome, of course, but you can tell Travis is really enjoying being one of the brains of the group with Fjord as much more of a leader and tactician.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Annie Bulloch View Post
      Once Trent's name was dropped, Liam started emphasizing that Caleb was keeping his face pointed toward the floor, trying to stay inconspicuous. He didn't know that character was at the party before that, so he worked that in as possible once he knew. To be fair, it's been maybe 15 years since Caleb has seen Trent, so he might not have recognized him right away.
      As for the lack of recognition, the two wizards did have their backs to the party while looking out the window until Beau and Yasha approached them.

      Also, I didn't notice at the time, but I saw it shared on Tumblr, but when Trent's name is dropped just watch Liam. He freezes in mid reach just staring for 20 seconds or more. So I think his seeming "unruffled" was actually some pretty severe dissociation. He was likely distancing himself emotionally from it, or at the very least trying to fade into the background and not be noticed. With the sort of character Caleb is, the majority of his most emotional moments are when he gets quiet. His "I have a plan!" was the most animated he has been other than his proud moment after Nott cast her first spell.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      Quote Originally Posted by kenmarable View Post
      As for the lack of recognition, the two wizards did have their backs to the party while looking out the window until Beau and Yasha approached them.

      Also, I didn't notice at the time, but I saw it shared on Tumblr, but when Trent's name is dropped just watch Liam. He freezes in mid reach just staring for 20 seconds or more.
      Yeah, in the screencap I included above, he made A Face and held it. I wasn't focused on him at the time, but of course I went back and looked later.

      And you're right, Matt said specifically they had their backs to the room, looking out the window.
    1. Harzel's Avatar
      Harzel -
      Quote Originally Posted by Annie Bulloch View Post
      Yeah, in the screencap I included above, he made A Face and held it.
      Yep, he just froze, which does seem to be what Caleb does when alarmed rather than being demonstratively frantic.
    1. Harzel's Avatar
      Harzel -
      Quote Originally Posted by Annie Bulloch View Post
      There was SO MUCH happening in this episode. Sadly, it wasn't possible to cover everything and do it justice with my word limit. Deciding which details I have to leave out due to space restrictions is the hardest part of this gig.
      Yah, sorry, I didn't intend to imply that your summary was deficient.

      No reason to think they won't, though -- especially for a group who recently, repeatedly, and publicly proved to be very effective fighters. I think Molly's right to be cautious about it. I'd get out ASAP if I was in their shoes.
      Assuming the worst has both benefits and costs.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by pogre View Post
      General question - Are folks enjoying this campaign as much as the previous one?

      Real question - no hidden agenda I promise!

      The viewer numbers suggest that the enthusiasm for the stream has not waned.
      ...
      Hrm. Not yet.

      But it's a very different experience. I got into CR a couple years ago, when there was like 30 episodes. So there was always a new episode to watch, and I could watch episodes in a long chain. I was pretty much watching CR a couple hours every day. I became really familiar with the characters really quickly.
      We're twelve episodes into the new campaign now. I likely watched that many episodes in my first week of getting into CR.

      At that point, the characters were also well defined. And there were lots of amusing inside jokes. They had years of fun stories to retell.

      It was a very different experience. Here, we're all still learning the characters. We're still just getting backstory on several.

      There's also a fondness for the past that makes it hard to compare. CR wasn't the first live stream game I watched. But it was the first live stream campaign I embraced. I didn't know what to expect, so everything was a surprise.
      I knew what I was getting into with campaign 2. The surprise and wonder isn't there.
    1. MarkB's Avatar
      MarkB -
      I'm not yet as invested in this campaign as I was in the last one, but I'm enjoying it a great deal. This episode felt like a turning point, with the formal news of war, Yasha's description of the Kreen, and Caleb's revelations about the Empire's training methods combining with Molly's justifiable paranoia to set up a very clear dynamic of this group of friends trying to avoid being swept up in events spiralling rapidly out of control.

      Caleb's backstory combined with Yasha's encounter with Trent feels like it's established the campaign's first long-term nemesis, and it looks like both the story and the party are set to move onwards soon, so I'm eager for more.

      Side note: my tablet tried to autocorrect Kreen to Green, so don't feel too bad, Marisha.
    1. Annie Bulloch's Avatar
      Annie Bulloch -
      I think we're just starting to get to the real meat of the campaign, which is only natural.

      Can I just say that one of the greatest challenges of this gig, aside from trying to distill several hours of talking into an acceptable word count, is guessing at how various fantasy names are spelled? It was so helpful when Matt stopped to spell out Ikithon. Otherwise, I just have to listen to it a few times and hope I get close. I swear, I never heard the N on the end of Creen (or Kreen/Crean/Kreighn for all I know).
    1. Valetudo's Avatar
      Valetudo -
      If i have one gripe with CR, its that they need to split the episodes into two parts. They just run way too long.
    1. MarkB's Avatar
      MarkB -
      Quote Originally Posted by Valetudo View Post
      If i have one gripe with CR, its that they need to split the episodes into two parts. They just run way too long.
      They don't evaporate from YouTube if you stop watching when you reach the break.
    1. WarpedAcorn's Avatar
      WarpedAcorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by MarkB View Post
      They don't evaporate from YouTube if you stop watching when you reach the break.
      This. I usually watch them in 30min-1 hour spurts while I eat or do chores around the house. But I get the OCD of wanting to finish the entire video in a single sitting.
    1. WarpedAcorn's Avatar
      WarpedAcorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by pogre View Post
      General question - Are folks enjoying this campaign as much as the previous one?

      Real question - no hidden agenda I promise!

      The viewer numbers suggest that the enthusiasm for the stream has not waned.

      I did not get into the first Campaign much. By the time I heard of Critical Role they had so many episodes I did not want to try and "catch up". I did watch a bunch of clips and fan-made animations though. I've been watching the new Campaign from the get-go though. While not a great comparison, based on the clips vs. the full episodes I am enjoying the new Campaign more due to the characters. Jester, Nott, and Caleb are the standout characters to me that I want to follow more closely.
    1. Valetudo's Avatar
      Valetudo -
      Quote Originally Posted by MarkB View Post
      They don't evaporate from YouTube if you stop watching when you reach the break.
      yeah thats true but youtube has reset the video on more than one occasion on me, and its a pain to find where i left off because i am usually doing other things when i watch the episodes. Its actually quite easy to split the episode into two or even more parts.
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