Interview: Sam Riegel on Record-Breaking 'Critical Role' Kickstarter Campaign and What's Next

Critical Role started off as a webseries about a group of voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons, but it's become one of the biggest brands in tabletop gaming. Over the show's four year history, Critical Role has built up a fanbase of millions of fans, sold out theaters for live shows, and even spun off into their own studio and Twitch channel that airs new content several times a week. Earlier this year, the popular show launched a Kickstarter to fund an animated special about characters from their first campaign. While the Kickstarter was looking for $750,000, Critical Role has raised over $9.9 million and could surpass the $10 million mark before the campaign ends on Thursday. The campaign shattered Kickstarter records and solidified the show's place at the forefront of the D&D and tabletop community.

With the Kickstarter nearing its end, had the opportunity to speak with Critical Role's Sam Riegel about the Kickstarter's success and impact:

(Photo: Critical Role) First and foremost, congratulations on the runaway success of the Kickstarter and also Critical Role's four year anniversary! Has it set in that Critical Role has become one of the ten biggest Kickstarters of all time? How's the mood in the CR studio?

Sam Riegel: The team at Critical Role Land is over the moon with the reaction to the Kickstarter and what it means for us moving forward. Not just the dollar amount - which is bananas - but the signal that the Critters have sent to the entertainment industry at large. Through their amazing contributions, our fans have shined an enormous spotlight on what we do, the stories we tell, the world that Matt has created. And it's definitely turning heads in the industry.

When you were first approached to turn your home game into Critical Role, did you foresee the show reaching this level of success?

Absolutely not. This whole ride has been the biggest fluke in the universe. All of us, Matt included, thought streaming our home game was a pretty lousy idea. At best, it would be fun for us, but no one would tune in... and at worst, well, we could see how it might be painful to watch. But now, looking back, it's the best thing that ever happened to any of us professionally.

When did Critical Role decide to plan a Kickstarter and how much pre-planning went into building the campaign outside of getting an animation studio and screenwriter to commit?

The support team we've assembled at the studio are some of the most brilliant folks we've ever worked with. So when we decided to raise funds for the animated series, they dropped everything and poured countless hours into preparation. They researched other successful (and unsuccessful) campaigns, called colleagues who had run campaigns before, and spent ungodly amounts of time developing the messaging around the campaign. Then there was our launch video... where we had to build a bed big enough for seven people to sleep in! We knew we only had one shot at this campaign, and all of us are proud of what we put together.

critical role bed
(Photo: Critical Role)

I know that Critical Role approached various production companies and studios about a Critical Role series before deciding to crowdfund a special. Have you heard back from any of them now that the Kickstarter has proven to be such a huge success?

Without getting into specifics, let's just say that the phone has been ringing more than usual. And yes, some of the folks who passed on the project a year ago are among those who are more excited by it now. Hee hee.

What do you think the success of the Critical Role series says about how Dungeons & Dragons (and tabletop RPGs in general) is perceived by the wider public?

The last couple years have been a sea change in public perception of tabletop gaming and RPGs. Between mainstream press writing about the growth in gaming, streaming shows (like ours!) becoming more commonplace, and people around the world starting up gaming groups of their own, no one can deny that tabletop RPG's are no longer a small, "niche" hobby. This record-breaking Kickstarter is really the exclamation point at the end of a sentence that has been building for years.

Does the success of the Kickstarter change future plans for Critical Role? Do you feel an extra need to accelerate your plans to capitalize on all the attention the Kickstarter has generated?

We've always had huge plans and ideas for Critical Role. We want to spread far and wide our excitement for the world of Exandria, our passion of tabletop gaming, our love of each other as friends and now, our constantly growing admiration and gratitude for the Critter community. Along with this new attention we've been getting for the past month will definitely come some new opportunities. So all of us are rolling up our sleeves and getting ready to dive in to whatever the next chapter holds. If you thought the first 4 years were fun... you ain't seen nothing yet.

Who is your dream guest appearance for the Critical Role animated series? And have you had any surprise names call you up asking how they can get a role in the series?

The casting process hasn't begun in earnest yet, since the scripts aren't yet written! But other than the main cast, we've already started tossing out dream ideas for actors and actresses we could approach for the animated series. Lin-Manuel Miranda... get ready for a call, buddy.



Critical Role's Kickstarter will run until Thursday April 18 at 11:59 PM PT. The show will host a wrap-up party featuring an appearance by Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson that will air live starting at 11:30 PM this Thursday.