Much of what gets associated with Dungeons & Dragons comes from Western mythology. Dragons, giants, magic weapons and more come from places older than The Lord of the Rings, Conan or any of the books mentioned in Appendix N. Many of those books drew from the same ancient sources.
DesiQuest, a new actual play that raised $150,000 on Kickstarter in 2022, draws a cast, mythology and cultural touchstones from South Asia. The show stands out by playing into these unique elements for it audience. The cast also hopes that by highlighting their culture at the table they can find common ground with a wider audience.
The cast includes many familiar faces in the actual play world.
- Anjali Bhimani as Sitara the Druid
- Omar Najam as Murkha the Artificer
- Sandeep Parikh as Ash the Cleric
- Rekha Shankar as Laddoo Auntie the Barbarian
- Jasmine Bhullar as the Game Master
Bhullar created the world of Vehaar for the show. It highlights parts of history and mythology that may not be widely known in western pop culture. Bhullar hopes to highlight not just fantasy creatures but military customs, fighting techniques and equipment like weapons and armor during the encounters for the show.
Education Through Inclusion
Often times, when non-European cultures are brought into fantasy worlds, the result is something from an outsiders perspective. Even well meaning authors can fall victim to using stereotypes or misunderstood cutural references. Striking the balance between authenticity and relatibility can be one of the hardest things a creator can pull off.
Anjali Bhimani, a producer and performer on the project, hopes that by showing off their favorite elements of their culture, the performers can bring people in to the story while helping them understand what makes them unique. While the story and characters may draw from South Asian culture, the story still appeals to anyone that enjoys the important parts of actual play. There will still be plenty of spells cast, monsters slain and surprise twists to the story helped along by the fateful roll of the dice.
Bhimani says that sitting at the table together creates a connection that’s difficult to find in other media. The players come from unique cultures and background but their experiences comes together to tell a unique story. She hopes the audience will enjoy the story they’re telling while also opening their own horizons to embrace a diverse set of performers.
The Quest For More DesiQuest
While the first few episodes have been produced, support for the show is ongoing. The Patreon offers fans to donate a monthy sum for more access to materials, behind the scenes glimpses and more. Fans can also buy mechandise or even a custom Dungeon Master experience with the cast should they have deep pockets and someone that might appreciate the experience.
Episodes of DesiQuest premiere every Tuesday at 6 PM PST on the EffinFunny YouTube channel. The first four episodes will be out by the end of the year. The second half of Season 1 will be out in January 2024.