By Diego Higuera
The cast of Critical Role (Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, Ashley Johnson, Taliesin Jaffe, Liam O’Brien, Travis Willingham, and Laura Bailey) held an amazing Q and A panel in the famous Ballroom 20. Amassing over 70,000 regular viewers across their Twitch and Youtube streams, with a fanbase of over 1.2 million, Ballroom 20 was packed with “Critters” but also the heavy anticipation of attendees.
Hosted by Christian Navarro (13 Reasons Why), the room exploded with screams the moment that Willingham started the cast walk-out onto the stage. Chanting of “Vox Machina”, the cast’s name of their party in the first campaign, filled the room reverberating off the walls.
With so many attendees cosplaying across the three different campaigns of Critical Role, the cast couldn’t help but put the spotlight on their fans, pointing out their hard work on amazing costumes.
The floor was opened up to the Q and A for fans to ask their burning questions. They asked about current and past campaigns, deeper explanations about the lore of the world, how past events from previous campaigns had affected the current party (Hell’s Bells), Game Master tips from Mercer, and what characters from Critical Role would Willingham want on his starting line-up for the Dallas Cowboys, which did make the whole room explode with laughter and make Willingham go into lengthy detail of who he chose and why.
One question did stick out the most: a fan came up and introduced themselves and showed off their recently acquired tattoo based on one of O’Brien’s past characters Caleb Widogast. The tattoo had in the middle of it “You are not born with venom in your veins,” a quote from Caleb in the second campaign. Finally, the question directed at O’Brien, “When it comes to Caleb’s past and his trauma, as someone who is diagnosed with CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), what thought processes and ideas went into how Caleb would react to his trauma?” She continued, “because a lot of media uses trauma just as flashbacks. But you did so much more with Caleb.”
This led to a very real moment where O’Brien says “Caleb is very much grounded in parts of my life that are private but very real. I know we all aspire to rise from the ashes, and we do, but I know from experience when things happen to us on some level carry them with us.” O’Brien began to get a little emotional and continued, “When I created Caleb I knew that he was going to be a wizard and I knew he was going to fight dragons I knew that fantastical things were going to happen, but when I created him it was to explore the human experience.”
O’Brien sighed, and at this point, Mercer reached across the table and began to comfort his friend and help him through his answer. “I always wondered if anyone would directly ask me this.” O’Brien stopped to take his time and the room gave a standing ovation, letting O’Brien know they were there with him. “I’m happy that they got to use the story we told as The Mighty Nein with Caleb that people are really flawed, all of us. Every one of us is able to achieve great things regardless of what has happened to us in the past. It doesn’t mean we forget them, it doesn’t mean they go away. We live with them, but the world is there for every single one of us.”
The connection that critters had with the cast was apparent and it would seem to any outsider as if they had all been friends. The love that was shown for this show and the willingness to be so open with the cast even in a room full of people was something that was so rare that made these moments so special. If you weren’t a fan of the show before coming in you would be soon after.
Until next year’s San Diego Comic-Con, “How do you want to do this?”