Analysis: The Philosophy of Caduceus Clay – Critical Role C2 Ep029 4:10:04

This is the companion analysis to this transcript. Here’s
the most relevant quote:

4:10:21 Caduceus:
“I mean, really? I mean, people aren’t good.
That’s not how this works. I mean, Things that you do are good, or bad, but people are just people. And you guys just keep doing
good things, and all I’ve seen is you
doing good things. I’m not sure what the confusion is about.”

That quote from Caduceus in particular really hit me when I
first heard it. It’s so strikingly different from how the others view
themselves, and to some degree the world. In many ways it’s at odds with how
many people use the alignment system in D&D. D&D’s alignment system is
very much a product of Western philosophy. But how Caduceus is framing that is
Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism. From this and other things, it’s
pretty obviously a source of inspiration for his characterization.

Critical Role has done a lot of meditating on what makes
people, or their deeds, good or evil. It’s played with characters losing or
gaining their way, & all the faltering between. But it’s never really
explored a character who refutes the good or evil of people themselves. Shakäste
seems to share a similar philosophy, but not to the same degree.

Caduceus tried to diffuse the conflict with the ettins in a
way almost counter to how D&D is normally played. He had no animosity for
them, nor concern they would try this with someone else. D&D’s a game about
being a hero, yet here’s a character who has no interest in being heroic.
There’s something he has to do in the world, & he means to find out what it
is. But he’s not trying to save the world or thwart the forces of evil because
he doesn’t think in those terms.

It’s an extremely interesting character choice for a game
that is distinctly cast in more shades of grey than the last. Whatever their
personal struggles, Vox Machina wanted to do good and right the wrongs of the
world. The Mighty Nein aren’t thinking in those terms.

Vox Machina’s foes were very supernatural & story-book.
The world of humanoids beset by outside forces. But so far, the conflicts
arising in Wildemount are political & very human(oid). This is a struggle
of internal conflicts. Where most believe they’re serving the greater good. Against
a struggle to define “what is good,” a character who refutes the idea
of moral absolutes is going to be fascinating. (I think Molly would have been a
different version of rejecting moral absolutes.)

If you like this transcript, consider buying me a coffee
( I’ve been working on these while struggling to adjust
to disability. Donating helps me justify spending time on these projects.

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