Interview With Jason Russell of Critical Dice
The Geek Post believes in supporting small business and it’s no different when it comes to geeky businesses. Critical Dice is an independent business that provides a different and unique experience for geeks that enjoy tabletop games and dice collections. Their myriad of geek products are sure to make any tabletop gamer happy. The Geek Post took the time to interview Jason Russell, owner of Critical Dice.
I personally have been a subscriber of The Critical Dice “Endless Bag of Dice for over a year. I love the dice variety I get every month, as well as the pins and stickers.
GeekPost: What gave you the idea to start your business Critical Dice? Did you dream of owning a business when you were younger? Why dice?
CriticalDice: I started my Instagram about 3.5 years ago. My kids had just started learning how to play D&D and they wanted to play all the time. So that means I either needed to write my own adventures or go broke buying all the books. I started writing down one or two sentence game hooks in a notebook so I would have them for later. I thought that a list of short easy story ideas might be something other DMs would appreciate so I started posting them to Instagram. My goal has always been to provide resources to help people have more fun around their table, and the game hooks are a big part of that.
As far as the business side of Critical Dice, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve had a graphic design side hustle, I’ve done consulting for nonprofits and I even owned my own vending machine business. About four years ago I got into a car accident; everyone was fine but it totaled my car. After I replaced my car I had a bit of money left over, so with that money I decided to start an online business. I was reading about selling on Amazon and so I decided I would take a stab at that. I wanted my first product to be something that was small, easy to make, and wouldn’t be difficult to ship. Since I had recently just got back into D&D I thought I would make some dice. I got in touch with some factories overseas and had them make custom dice for me. My very first set, that I still sell on my site today, had a “No.” on the D20 where the “1” normally is. I thought it was pretty funny and so I named the set Critical Dice, because the dice are critical of your rolls.
GeekPost: Have you heard the term “dice goblin” or “dice dragon”?
CriticalDice: I love dice goblins! It’s all about those shiny, click clack, math rocks!
GeekPost: What do you offer dice goblins out there?
CriticalDice: Dice Goblins are great! Not only are they some of my best customers, they also typically are very passionate and thoughtful players. These are the people who have a set for every character because the set matches the theme, color scheme, and general vibe of their character. They sometimes even have that one special die like Bard and Black Arrow. “Black dice! I have saved you to the last. You have always rolled true and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old.”
Dice Goblins also like me because one of the things I sell on my website is a dice subscription service called the Endless Bag of Dice. You can get a new set of dice straight to your door every month. It includes bonus items, downloads, and even discount codes in every bag. The XL bag has two sets of dice, so it’s really popular. I get a lot of really positive and joyful comments every month on social media. When people get their bags it’s a lot of fun to see their faces light up when they open the bag.
GeekPost: Is anyone in your family a “dice goblin”?
CriticalDice: My daughter is 13 and she is absolutely a dice goblin. The moment I get a new style to put on the website, somehow she already has a set in her pocket. Her “sleight of hand” skill is maxed out! I think she has a set of dice from every variety I’ve ever sold in the last 3 1/2 years. She’s gonna need a new dice bag soon.
GeekPost: Does your company have employees?
CriticalDice: Critical Dice is only 3 1/2 years old and it has been a side hustle for me up until this year. It has grown by leaps and bounds and I’m honestly surprised, shocked and just blessed by how much it has grown. Back in May, I quit my job of six years and went full-time with Critical Dice I have my own office space and I finally get to focus completely on creating things to serve the TTRPG community. As of right now I am the only employee, though I do hire artists and writers from time to time for special projects. When I’m sending out the Endless Bag of Dice I have a lot of friends who will come and help me get those thousands of orders out.
GeekPost: It looks like your company offers more than just dice. Can you tell us about some of these products?
CriticalDice: One of the things I’ve been able to focus on now that this is my only job is making more things like pins and shirts. One shirt I made recently, that I’m very proud of, is a Ravenloft shirt that says “One Nation Under Strahd”. Everyone has really liked that one and I think it’s very funny.
GeekPost: I see that you have been playing Dungeons & Dragons for a long time. Do you have a favorite edition of D&D that you’ve played? Favorite class/race?
CriticalDice: I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 1989 when I was in middle school and I have played almost all the additions except 3.0 and 3.5. I played a lot of 2e in college but my favorite has to be 5e. It’s probably the most well thought out, balanced, and accessible version of D&D. I’ve often said that 5e feels like second edition if it had actually been made by game designers. No shade to the original creators; it’s just that some of those older versions are a little byzantine and confusing when it came to the rules. Why would there be a different kind of saving throw for a fireball depending if it was cast by a wizard or cast out of a wand!? It makes no sense.
My favorite class to play is usually Bard, because of the versatility that class provides. However, when I do play other classes I usually play them in a “Swiss Army knife” kind of way for the same reasons. As far as race, I kind of like the half elf but no matter what kind of race I play I will typically play them against type or look for a new angle. Currently I’m playing a halfling wizard who has a lot of ways to reroll dice and change probability, just really leaning into the lucky side of halflings. His guiding question is not “is this the right thing to do”, but “is this a thing I could possibly do”, and for him it usually is.
GeekPost: Are there other roleplaying games that you play or have tried?
CriticalDice: One of my favorite games right now is Monster of the Week. After listening to podcasts like the Crit Show and the Adventure Zone I just fell in love with the kind of stories you can tell with that system. I started my own MotW stream called the Duke City Chronicles that takes place here in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s been a lot of fun to run that game but what surprised me the most is how it has developed other muscles in my brain. I’m seeing the lessons I learned with MotW bleed over into D&D and I think it has made me a better GM.
GeekPost: It’s rather easy to amass dice, thanks to your subscription service. Do you have any storage suggestions?
CriticalDice: I’ve seen people do all sorts of things. I’ve seen people reuse spice racks and toolboxes with those tiny compartments full of dice. One of the more interesting methods was a shower curtain that is supposed to have little pockets for pictures of people and places you’ve traveled hung up on a wall and just full of dice.
GeekPost: Aside from dice, what is one gaming item you cannot live without?
CriticalDice: I’d probably say a good notebook. I don’t do excessive planning for most of my games. I am very much from the improv and theater of the mind school as a DM. But when I have a good idea, if I don’t write it down, I will lose it. I’m also pretty bad with names and so most of my notes are just full of proper names like places and people. Of course I also have a list of future NPC names for when my party inevitably asks “what’s the goblin’s name”.
GeekPost: Is there anything new that you’re working on?
CriticalDice: Every year I do a big gift box for the holidays. It has dice vaults, premium dice and other D&D goodies from myself and other creators. It’s the perfect gift for the TTGPR nerd in your life or for your DM, as a thanks for all the great adventures. That will come out on black Friday weekend.
GeekPost: What is one thing you want our readers to take away from this interview?
CriticalDice: The goal of D&D is to have fun. The dungeon master has infinite worlds to create and the players have infinite choices to make. As long as both are using their “infinities” so that everyone on both sides of the DM screen is having fun, you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons right. Go out there and tell great stories and may the dice be ever in your favor.
A big thank you to Critical Dice for agreeing to this interview. If you would like to learn more about Critical Dice and its many awesome products, visit the website.
If you are looking for tips to have more fun with playing and running D&D, not limited to but including game hooks and funny gaming memes, stop by the Critical Dice Instagram.