Critical Role: Caleb (2019)
“Anyone can send a message through a wire. I want to bend reality to my will.”
I think the thing that intrigues me most about Caleb is Liam’s portrayal of him, and how, despite his narrow-minded focus on his goals, he finds his priorities and allegiance shifting almost without him knowing, affecting the decisions he makes in unpredictable ways. It makes him a constantly evolving character with sometimes confusing motivations; Caleb at the beginning of the campaign is wildly different than he is now, and yet he remains a character that is super relatable, often incredibly frustrating, and way more complicated than he seems.
I wanted to explore that change, while also showing ways in which his character stays stagnant, because I feel like it’s a duality we all have. We all have the capacity to change, and at that same we’re perfectly capable of crossing our arms and resisting that change as hard as we can. We’ve all struggled with lack of agency in different capacities. We’ve all dealt with grief and regret in ways that might seem unpalatable to others. That’s why Caleb grew on me so much throughout the campaign, I think; I saw a character that, somehow, became his own person, and a reflection of how confusing and unpredictable we all are.
I wanted to go with an atypical box shape for Caleb, because I enjoy how it changes the way I map things out. One of my favorite other boxes was octagonal, so I was excited to try it again. In the lid, I wrote out some of my favorite spells from Caleb’s spellbook, while trying not to get too spoilery, and spilled some ink inside, because you know Caleb has totally done that with all that ink and paper he’s gone through.
Magic is such a big part of Caleb’s character, so I wanted to explicitly reference his spells and components, since there’s so much emphasis on his actual spellcasting. Here are some of the specific spell references included in the physical box, not including potions.
Spell Books from Caleb’s book holster + Inside lid with pages of spell books
Maximillian’s Earthen Grasp/Cat’s Ire - Cat paw wax seal
Haste- licorice root (in leather component pouch)
Leomund’s tiny hut + alarm spell - dome with tiny spool of silver wire “thread”
Message - little copper wire (in leather component pouch)
Chromatic orb- diamond stamp
Find familiar- Frumpkin figure
Here’s a close up of the tiny dome and of Frumpkin!
(He’s so cute, I think he’s my favorite part of the box.)
For Caleb, I didn’t worry as much about stones, just because I focused so much on physical objects. Instead, I let some stones fall into place with the themes I selected and went from there. The main focal stone, a hematite tower, was actually one of the last things that went in the box, because it was hard to pin down something that fit the theme but also the muted color palette I was going for. In fact, with the exception of fluorite and labradorite, most of the stones are earth-tones. I chose this because I wanted to represent Caleb’s origins, and his initial desire to blend in with his environment. There are earth colors, fire colors, and then that shock of blues and purples and flashy greens of fluorite and labradorite show the small changes Caleb makes aesthetically that reflect his change in attitude. In the box there is:
Red tiger eye - motivation (frantic, desperation), single-mindedness
Fire agate- banish fear
Garnet - banish fears, make your desires reality/manifestation, passion, bond of found family
Hematite tower- grounding, manifestation
Fluorite- focus, intelligence
Labradorite- transformation, becoming
In the photo you can also see a close-up of the brass ouroboros necklace I chose to represent the necklace Caleb wears to shield himself from being found, and the Pyrite Dodecahedron I used to represent the Luxon Beacon.
There are 6 potions, each labeled with a number on the bottom. The first three are in the above photo, in order from left to right. The first one represents magic and manifestation, particularly manifesting your desires into being. It includes rosemary for protection, as one of the main uses of Caleb’s magic is to protect himself and his friends. There’s fluorite pebbles, representing intelligence and the search for knowledge, goldenrod for magic, deer tongue and acorn for power and chalk for magic circles; garnet for making your desires reality, gold dust for dunamancy, anise for time magic and using knowledge as power/to protect yourself/get what you want, and mint for trying to atone for the past. Sealed with gold wax and a cat stamp.
The second potion revolves around Caleb’s past, and how that has shaped who he is now, mainly his lack of agency, trauma, grief and distrust. There’s rue and amaranth for help recovering from trauma, sage and cypress for grief and loss, lilac for being manipulated by someone with authority over you, yarrow for breaking magical influence of others and regaining agency, black salt for being controlled, hydrangea and yellow rose for violence and death/war, and poppy for remembrance/holding on to a traumatic period in your past. Sealed with gold wax and cat paw stamp.
Potion number three is about self hatred as motivator, seeing as self-loathing is one of those Caleb traits that tends to stand out (especially his inability to forgive in himself what he forgives/excuses in others). In this potion is lemon balm and basil for self-hatred, marigold for cruelty, purple hyacinth for seeking forgiveness, yellow carnation for disdain, and peony for shame and anger. Sealed with gold wax and a magic circle stamp.
In the following photo are the last three potions (also in order from left to right), plus a tiny bottle of green crystals (which are peridot) to represent residuum crystals for past trauma, and the multiple ways in which Caleb’s past and present intersect.
The fourth potion represents fear, fleeing, and hiding in plain sight. Caleb is on the run from people in his past, and up until recently, has been alone for a good deal of that, trying to blend in and protect himself from discovery. So, here I’ve included heather for solitude, agrimony to ward off evil, and of course, dirt, since Caleb’s initial method of choice for hiding is being so gross that no one looks at him. There’s also mugwort for fear and cautiousness, thyme for protection from negative energy and unbearable grief, nutmeg to make oneself anonymous or impossible to find, and comfrey leaf for protecting people on the run. Sealed with gold wax and key stamp.
The next potion, number five, is about Caleb’s conflicting emotions regarding the Mighty Nein, and his struggle with learning to trust other people. To me, this potion focuses on Nott, Beau, and Fjord especially, but applies to the entire group. There's a red carnation for sibling bonds (Beau and to some extent Jester), skullcap for making oaths to others (Fjord), magnolia for unwavering loyalty and trust (Nott), zinnia for remembering absent friends (Molly), lavender for initial distrust, and dogwood for devotion. Sealed with gold wax and diamond stamp.
The sixth and last potion represents growth. Funnily enough, it’s the smallest, but still important, because let’s face it, Caleb has a long way to go but he’s also come very far. Here I wanted to focus on the big contrasts between selfishness and selflessness, and the change in priorities between self preservation and putting others’ safety before your own. There’s Gum Arabic for growth and protecting others (also a spell component), jasmine for learning and opening up to new ideas, bay leaf for transformation, rosemary for harmony and exchange of ideas/information, and lavender for stability. Sealed with gold wax and tiny geometric stamp +inlaid gem.
Finally, here’s a photo of a brass book locket I stamped with the quote in the introduction, and a close-up of Caleb’s spell books and component pouch.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you like him as much as I loved working on him!