Homebrewing Asia: How D&D in Singapore is remaking Western fantasy

I talked to two DMs of homebrewed worlds in Singapore about how they’re remaking D&D from its Tolkien/American midwest origins. I thought I’d get answers about how we make D&D Asian, but I was spellbound instead as we stalled on questions of what being Asian even means. This article was published on both The Homeground Asia and The Anthropolitan.

“D&D isn’t a history lecture. There’s something magical when things are mundane. Like, it’s not special that there are temples or shrines: it’s just another thing between you and where you’re going. Or it’s not special that everyone in this world is a mongrel, and that very few characters are ‘pure-blooded’. It’s reflective of our world, where we are defined by generation upon generation of migration.”

Ramji Venkateswaran, DM of The 4th Culture

The rise of the professional Dungeon Master in Singapore

Getting paid to run Dungeons & Dragons games! It is a thing, and it is growing fast in Singapore. I love that storytellers and community organisers are being valued in this way, but I also wonder about this shift from hobby to business, and about the understanding of what a Dungeon Master’s skills are (as rule-enforcer, shared-space-maker, world-builder, keeper-of-secrets, and softcore mathematician).

In case you missed the first link above, I talked to professional DMs from Tinker Tales Studios and TableMinis, as well as Melvyn Sin, a freelance DM, here. We discussed safe spaces, the terrors of improv, and D&D for kids, among a thousand other things I wasn’t able to put into the piece but which I hope to transcribe and publish on the internet sometime soon.

Come talk to me on Twitter @KellynnWee or Instagram @braided or email me (kellynn.wee [at] gmail [dot] com) if you have any interest in collaborating or also if you want to discuss favourite D&D classes or recommend good one-shots to run as a DM.

Narrativity, contingency and play in Dungeons and Dragons

I presented on my PhD project for University College London’s Material Culture Presentation Day on June 10. My supervisor thought there was not enough theory, but I felt there were not enough dragons (I am kidding, Danny!).

Slides as follows. There were lots of things I wanted to talk about (like solarpunk and wuxia D&D universes set in Singapore! Folks in New Zealand who take a ferry out to an island to play D&D in a lighthouse DM’d by a teenager!) but I was unable to do so, so it will just have to come out elsewhere.

Ang Mo Kio under lockdown

I’ve shared this widely and had it widely shared by my very supportive and beloved academic and friend community (thank you, thank you, thank you), many of whom read it carefully and wrote to me with their own reflections, but I want to archive it here, too.

Here’s an essay about everyday life during lockdown in Singapore, what walking Chai has taught me about my neighbourhood, and how people challenge surveillance by building new community spaces, published on anthrocovid.com.

I miss smiling at people unmasked; I miss the civil inattention we practise in trains and lifts and bus stops; I miss being alone in a sea of strangers while feeling cosseted and amused and calmed by the very many quirks of a crowd. I miss being an observer of the populated city.

Lockdown diaries

If unchallenged, I tend to fall into routine. I like to do things over and over again, laying down time and experience like a mille crepe cake. I am very good at the deep-dive, the excavation and the marvel of the everyday, the plumbing of the depths.

The lockdown is throwing this into relief, like the sun setting at an off-angle, the shadows cast differently. I walk the dog and buy vegetables, same as always. But there is something discordant in the air.

Continue reading “Lockdown diaries”

We’ll all be old one day

We saw her at the same time as we got off the bus: an older auntie with her legs bent inwards, about to heft a trolley bag up the overhead bridge. The woman in front of me, short-cropped hair, maybe in her late 40’s, beat me to it.

“Auntie, where you going?” she said efficiently, and without waiting to hear the answer, continued. “I carry for you. Come. Never mind.” She swung the trolley up and strode up the stairs like a conqueror, leaving the auntie in the dust. I admired the muscles in her calves.

The bag-carrier ripped her way to the end of the overhead bridge like a CrossFit trainer and set it down to wait patiently. The bow-legged auntie was in her late 70s and moved with placid slowness. I hovered between them both as she limped across the bridge.

Continue reading “We’ll all be old one day”

Ang Mo Kio St. 42

Three girls, legs thick, hair tangled, walking down the street in staggered formation. Two of them eating milky popsicles. A third nosing a bar of ice-cream out of a plastic cup. Shoes white. They are still babyish-short, waiting to unfold, like promise crammed into a flower bud. I look for the ice-cream cart. There it is, parked outside Deyi, crimson and inviting, uncle’s umbrella folded away like a swan wing. A group of boys buzzes around it. I’m suddenly fifteen again, or maybe eight, where bubble tea isn’t Koi but is nameless syrup from nameless HDB shops, a loyalty card tired-out in my velcro wallet, every stamp inching me closer to a heavenly free cup; where after-school snacks were fried chicken and chocolate milkshakes and ice-cream, yes, and hours before dinner-time.