Critical Role's Sam Riegel on Nott and the D&D Beyond Jingle

Todd Kenreck: Today I'm talking to Sam Riegel about his character Nott, the jingle he sang and created for D&D Beyond as well as the animation, and why if Critical Role got an animated series, it would be full circle for the entire cast.

Sam Riegel: Well, I currently play as Nott the Brave in our campaign two of Critical Role. I chose that character because ... Well, for the first campaign, Liam suggested that I play as a gnome bard, and so Scanlan was born. And for the second campaign, I thought it was only fitting that he choose again so he said, "Why don't you do a goblin rogue?" So I did a goblin rogue but I wanted to find something that was ... that wasn't Vax really, like I didn't want to be a cool assassin, brooding, awesome rogue, so I wanted to do something a little different and something that could have some humor and character quirks and stuff. I started exploring maybe having a skittish character or a nervous character and then I was just trying, again, like get away from the stuff we had done in the first campaign, so as far away from like confident, cocky Scanlan as I could get. So I landed on Nott the Brave who is about as far the other direction as you can get. I made her a girl because girls are awesome and also just to get away from everything I had done before. I wanted to get out of the comfort zone, you know?

Yeah, Nott has definitely evolved since we began. We played one session before the campaign started that was like a test out session, it only was like an hour long. And she didn't have a voice, she didn't really have any personality, I was just trying to like learn how rogues work. And then, when we started playing on the stream for the second campaign, I gave her a voice and I gave her some character quirks and stuff and started building in like she's a kelpto, she's an alcoholic, which is good places to start. But then, as anyone does when they play a character for a while, you start to like ... at least I start to ask like why. Why is she a kelpto? Why is she an alcoholic? Why is she scared of all these people and things and why is she behaving this way? I flesh out the character a little bit more in my head and some things have been brought out and revealed to the audience as well, but there's more out there that they haven't seen yet and it's fun to explore and figure out like where she's going.

There's definitely aspects of Nott that come from me, my undying love of Liam O'Brien, of course, being the number one. But I like to think that I'm a loyal friend and a careful person and as a parent now, Nott has a lot of parental qualities that I have learned over the years of having children and stuff. There's also aspects of Nott that are completely hard for me to do. Like for instance, when everyone's talking in a new scene or talking to a guard or something like that, I really want to pipe up and say something but I also know that Nott would hang in the back and not talk as much. She has super low charisma, which is very much not like me. She just ... she doesn't want to put herself out there a lot and that's hard for me to do. Yeah, that's been the hardest aspect is like not relying on a clever turn of phrase to solve something, I got to do it other ways.

I wanted to make her young just because it's cool and cute and she can have people fawn over her and stuff, but also part of the reason that she's so young is Matt told me that goblins only live til like 40 or something, so she's not that young in terms of goblins. She's just young for an outsider watching.

Speaker 3: (singing)

Todd Kenreck: Do you expect that all this madness would happen?

Sam Riegel: No, no. The ... for the D&D Beyond song, I-

Todd Kenreck: Because I was blown away.

Sam Riegel: I had no idea that it was going ... I had no idea the song was going to be what the song is now. Every week, as I drive around, I think like "What am I going to do for the ad this week? Should I do a little skit or play a little character or read a poem or something?" And then, one week I was like "There hasn't been a ... I haven't sung anything for a while 'cause I'm not Scanlan anymore. I'll sing a song for D&D Beyond and that'll like get that out of my system." So I wrote this little song in a couple minutes and I sang it and I had no idea that it was going to become this thing that got turned in to a bigger thing and got turned in to a animated thing, and you guys let me re-record the song and produce it with my brother-in-law and I got to do harmonies and layered stuff and it's so ... it came out so great and I'm thrilled with ... that you guys did it and that it came out so well and it's really one of the coolest things we've done.

Todd Kenreck: I also like that Nott also is so well expressed in that cartoon.

Sam Riegel: Oh, yeah.

Todd Kenreck: When they sent it in, I was just like "Oh my God." You see her like hide from one side and then hide from another side, like it's so layered.

Sam Riegel: There's so much going on in the D&D Beyond and we had a thing that's like all these little hidden gems and Easter eggs and stuff and it's only like 40 seconds long but the animators did an amazing job of hiding all kinds of great stuff in there. So watch it frame by frame.

Todd Kenreck: Frame by frame. And ... yeah, a lot of people want to see you guys make an animated show.

Sam Riegel: Man, making an animated series would be just a perfect circle, right? Because we started as animation ... voice actors and then we did this game and then we did it as a show and we do it as song and we do it as a thing and now if we went full circle and made like an actual animated series, it would be amazing. If you know anyone who wants to produce it ...

Todd Kenreck: Okay. I'll-

Sam Riegel: Give us a call.

Todd Kenreck: Yeah. Let me think of ... let me think of some people.

Sam Riegel: Yeah. My brother-in-law and I met signing acapella together in college, so we've been singing together for 20 years now almost.

Todd Kenreck: Wow.

Sam Riegel: Yeah. And he's a music producer and he does all kinds of pop stuff so I sent him the thing that I recorded live on the show and he made the track for it and sent it back to me and I laid down vocals and he sent back a fixed track. And then, I sent back harmonies, I did all these harmonies all over it not knowing which ones he was going to use. And then he ended up using like all of them so there's like 12 tracks of me going on. It's great.

Todd Kenreck: Has all of this ... you getting together and just playing with your friends, this is ... lot of creative freedom, I imagine. Is this the most freedom you've ever gotten, just being part of Critical Role and hanging out with your friends?

Sam Riegel: Yeah. I mean, this is the culmination of everything I think we've ever done as performers, all of us. Like it's a little bit of writing on the fly as improv, it's a lot of acting, it's a lot of puzzle solving and just game play stuff, it's hanging out with people we love and admire, it's watching Matt and watching him create characters and worlds, it's signing, it's everything that we've ever done all put together at one table. And it's the most amazing thing that I think any of us have been part of just 'cause we're creating this thing together and we get to use all the best parts of ourselves in the story.

I think from like a life goal sort of a thing, if you look at any of the members of Critical Role or any real successful like performer in general, you'll see that, at least the roles in Critical Role, they ... we don't just act and we don't just play D&D, we do a lot of other stuff, some of which you get to see little peaks of on the show but I think being an interested person in the world leads you to so ... and being open to the world, being ... just kind of saying yes to the world, like having interesting experience, trying new things that you've never tried before, it all will come to fruition at some point later in your life, and even if it doesn't, you've had fun exploring. Like I took tap dancing classes as a kid, I never became a tap dancer but knowing a little about tap dancing and about moving my body has certainly helped me as a voice actor in like knowing how my body works and stuff like that and what sounds I would make when I'm making my body turn in different directions and stuff. Improv, dance, signing, it's all ... just do what you like to do and don't worry about like why you're doing it.

Todd Kenreck: Thank you, Sam, for being on D&D Beyond. D&D Beyond is the official digital tool set for fifth edition D&D. I'm Todd Kenreck, thank you for watching.

 

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