Lightheart



Adventures

055: Bringing TTRPGs & dice with Indrani of Desis & Dragons

T

 I am really excited about this one, as today features Indrani, an absolutely amazing and kind creator from India. She is the co-founder of Desis & Dragons, India’s largest TTRPG community. Indrani is also the creator behind Nonagon Dice, which they started because handmade dice weren’t easily accessible in India. Indrani has been doing some truly incredible work over the last year, and it was a privilege to get to speak to them.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Time Stamps

  • 00:00:00 Introduction & Updates
  • 00:02:51 Indrani Introduction
  • 00:10:20 How Indrani got into dice making
  • 00:12:24 How Desis & Dragons got started
  • 00:17:02 What does Desis & Dragons do?
  • 00:23:35 Big Bad Con scholarship
  • 00:32:08 Lessons learned from growing a Discord community
  • 00:39:19 The journey that led to Nonagon Dice
  • 00:48:24 What has been the most challenging part?
  • 00:50:58 What has been the most rewarding part?
  •  00:54:01 Upcoming projects/Where can people find you?
  • 00:55:12 Wrap-up

Find Indrani at Nonagon Dice:

Find Desis & Dragons:

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Transcript

Courtney:

Hello & Welcome to Episode 55 of Roll Play Grow, the podcast for tabletop entrepreneurs, creators, and fans. I am Courtney Stover of Lightheart Adventures, and in this podcast, we talk to the creators behind the brands in the tabletop roleplay gaming space about who they are and how they are turning their passion for gaming into a career. 

Hello friends! If you’re keeping up with the show on a weekly basis, first off, you’re my favorite, and second, you may be wondering why there was no episode last week. Life’s been getting pretty busy these days, and for the sake of my mental health and to keep up with the backlog, I’ve decided that, at least for the foreseeable future, I’m going to take one week off every month. I kicked that off last weekend because it was also my birthday! I went camping for 4 days with my friends from Oregon, and it was really nice to literally unplug for a long weekend. So don’t worry–we are back on track today. We’re just going to take one week off a month. And hey, if you’ve got a bunch of episodes to catch up on, this will help you have some buffer time too!

Now then, for our guest today. I am really excited about this one, as today features Indrani, an absolutely amazing and kind creator from India. She is the co-founder of Desis & Dragons, India’s largest TTRPG community. Indrani is also the creator behind Nonagon Dice, which they started because handmade dice weren’t easily accessible in India. Indrani has been doing some truly incredible work over the last year, and it was a privilege to get to speak to them. 

If this is your first time tuning in to Roll Play Grow, hello! This podcast is a part of Lightheart Adventures, which is a small company I co-founded with my husband. We also do blogs, one-shots, and maps that you’ll find over on our website, lightheartadventures.com.

Lastly, If you’d like to support the show, you can find me on Patreon at Roll Play Grow and Twitter at either KetraRPG or LightheartAdv. Another way you can support the show is by checking out our affiliate links, like the creator behind the most delicious and nerdy tea, Friday Afternoon Tea. Friday makes some truly amazing blends inspired by so many different books, movies, shows, and more. To learn more about Friday Afternoon Tea and our other affiliates, go to lightheartadventures.com/ourfavoritetrinkets, where you’ll find discount codes for 10% off. 

That’s all for now, so please enjoy this conversation with Indrani.

Courtney: 

Today we are chatting with Indrani, the founder of Nonagon Dice, and the co-founder of Desis Dragons. Indrani, I am so excited to have you here today. How are you?

Indrani: 

hi, Courtney. I am really happy to be here and I’m doing pretty good. It’s it’s nine in the morning, which is earlier than usual for me, like I told you earlier, but I’m doing this, so it’s a good morning. this is great. I’m so glad that you decided to have me here. How are you doing?

Courtney: 

I definitely appreciate the early start for you. I know that mornings are never fun, but it’s, it’s super fun because we have a 12 and a half hour long difference.

Indrani: 

Yes, we do. And that led to a little bit of a hiccup yesterday, won’t happen again.

Courtney: 

we are all good. So to start us off, would you please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you got into gaming?

Indrani: 

Yes. I’ll start with a little bit about myself. My name is Indrani, like Courtney just mentioned, and I can’t do introductions about myself without saying my name, which is a weird thing, but I’m a handmade dice maker and I’m a TTRPG streamer. And I’m the co-founder of Desis Dragons. Desis Dragons is India’s sort of largest TTRPG community. But it’s a place for people to come in, play games with each other, meet other like-minded people and nerds, I suppose. And a Nonagon Dice is where I make pretty handmade dice. And I stream around the internet. That’s what I do. I’m from Mumbai, India, and my day job is in marketing. I do social media stuff and digital marketing stuff for a bunch of different places, but that’s me. That’s, that’s who I am. I, I suppose. It’s a fascinating question. Like, you know, tell me what about somebody? Where do I begin? I’ve got nothing interesting, interesting to say about myself, but yeah,

Courtney: 

I am kind of the same where I’m like, well, okay, this person may have just said my name, but I’m Courtney and uh,

Indrani: 

it just feels incomplete without reintroducing yourself. I don’t know why that is, but it happens all the time.

Courtney: 

nah, I totally get it. So how did you get into gaming?

Indrani: 

I was a very lonely kid who lived in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Mumbai, who was into a lot of nerd stuff, but didn’t have other people to share that with. So of course, as any sane person, does, who has unrestricted access to the internet, even though they shouldn’t? I looked up virtual like worlds on, on Google. And I came across a couple and I signed up for one and that had a Harry Potter role playing community. It was this text-based sort of world where you would create your own characters based on the Harry Potter world and interact with other people. And I spent like a really long, an embarrassingly long time. Which is to say like almost 10 years of my life at that place. And that’s, that was my introduction to role-playing. And somewhere between that time I got into playing video games, like, you know, I was playing RPGs and that was sort of my introduction to role-playing and nerd culture and gaming in general. We had a couple of people there who wanted to try D&D and stuff, but we never really got around to doing it. And then a friend of mine who came down from South Africa who had been playing there for a long time, was like, Hey, do you folks want to play? And we were like, yeah, that sounds right up our alley. Let’s do it. And that’s basically how we got started. It was a very simple story of like someone who knows it was like, do you want to give it a shot? And I’d always been into role-playing. It was always just this thing that I’d done. So. So transition from, from internet role playing, which had sort of outgrown by that point, I was like, okay, really need to let this go. And so I took the best, most fun parts from that experience. And I was like, oh, I can just do that through tabletop role-playing games. Great. Perfect. Done and dusted. That’s basically how we ended up here. Yeah.

Courtney: 

That’s awesome. What was your first game?

Indrani: 

I’m sorry, but it was Dungeons and Dragons 5E.

Courtney: 

Oh, you don’t have to apologize.

Indrani: 

I think with their sort of recent wave of just, you know, indie games exploring, and it’s so good that they are, I’ve started exploring so many other in the tabletop role-playing games that I kind of just like, man, I wish I’d known about all these before. It’s fascinating to me because it, it’s obviously the normal sort of entry point, the gateway into tabletop role-playing games for a lot of people. But what I’ve noticed is that in, in the Indian TTRPG community, where we’re seeing a lot of first-time tabletop role playing players because the community is fostered by people who are into indie games, a lot of people, their first exposure to tabletop role-playing games is indie stuff. So like, there are a lot of people I know who play like Wanderhome or campaigns of Masks or Monster Hearts. And that’s what their main focus is as opposed to D&D 5E And it makes me really happy, but that was not my experience. Mine was like, I played daily for like two or three years before I was like, oh, let me try this stuff out. I’m not mad about it, but yeah,

Courtney: 

Yeah, I totally understand that. It’s been really cool and interesting the last few years, how much, not only tabletop in general has exploded, but how much the indie scene has really started to come out and be a lot more prevalent. And I mean, I know that those games are always going to have to fight against the big guys of the field, like D&D and Pathfinder, but it’s just been really cool. Like even in the last year, I want to say, I think I backed like eight to 10 different TTRPGS on Kickstarter.

Indrani: 

that’s great.

Courtney: 

it’s just, it’s so cool that I know I’ll make my shelf is getting so expanded. It’s so pretty.

Indrani: 

I love that. I would love to see a photo of that.

Courtney: 

Yes, I can definitely send that over.

Indrani: 

Well, what TTRPGs have you backed?

Courtney: 

Huh. Okay. So I mean, definitely Wanderhome and then Yazeba’s for the latest Possum Creek Game. I’ve literally had like five episodes where I’ve interviewed Possum Creek people. Like, I just, I love them. I want to be their best friend. It’s fine. Yeah, so definitely those. And then Motherlands RPG. I just backed Emerald Templars by De’Angelo Murillo.

Indrani: 

Hey, my friends on that.

Courtney: 

Oh, that’s awesome.

Indrani: 

Yeah.

Courtney: 

Let’s see. Oh Kalymba, I just backed that, but that’s this year? What did I back last year? There was so much. I don’t know. It’s a lot. I could definitely send you a picture of what’s arrived.

Indrani: 

Great. And I, and I love those sort of just vast variety of genres and everything you just mentioned, which is my favorite part. Like there’s so much to explore and I’m glad that folks are finally doing it.

Courtney: 

Yeah,

Indrani: 

It makes me really happy.

Courtney: 

it is. It’s so cool. I love how much is getting published. I love that people are being more accepting of other games, so it’s, it’s a good time to be in this industry.

Indrani: 

Absolutely.

Courtney: 

I would love to know at what point it went from, oh, let’s try out D&D that your friend has suggested, and you started playing that. And then, you know, now you fast forward to this point and you’ve got a dice making business, and you’re part of this amazing community. So please tell me the story.

Indrani: 

Okay. I’ll start with a dice making one and then I’ll move onto Desis Dragons, but with dice making, I’m going to cut back to like again, nine or 10 year old Indrani. And I always had this fascination, with people who collected things. Like, you know, the eccentric person who has a collection of seashells or coins or stamps, I’ve always wanted to like collect something. And I didn’t know what it was. I never found the thing that I was like, I want multiple versions of this until I came across dice. My friend gifted me that first set of days and I was like, oh, these are really pretty. And they were just like standard mass manufactured dice, which are great. I have so many of them. I saw that and I was like, I really want more, but India, because tabletop role-playing games, haven’t sort of exploded here the way they have in the states or any Western country. The choice of designs, I suppose, that was available to me was fairly limited. So I was like stuck with like opaque colors of dice or like glitter and transparent dice. And I was like, yeah, these are nice, but have you looked at Instagram? And I was like, what if I just make them myself? How hard could it possibly be? And it turns out it’s pretty hard, but but I’m sort of like headstrong in a sense. And I’m like, I’m going to do it. And then I just committed to it and you know, struggled through it for the first couple of months, but figured out a way of making dice on my own. And the weird thing is now that I’ve started doing it, I don’t make as many sets for myself as I was hoping to when I started. But that I’m a collector now of dice and that’s how the dice making thing got started. The Desis and Dragons side of things that was more of a group effort between me Shubham Mehta and Chirag Asnani. Shubham is the person who writing on Emerald Templars. And the one who introduced me to D&D. We have been playing together in the same sort of circle for awhile. And you have to understand that the D&D community was so small that literally everybody who played TTRPGs knew each other. So if you’ve ever played games with someone and you’re like, oh, I was playing with this person, they would probably be like, oh yeah, Hey, I know that guy. And that’s kind of how tiny the community was. And we were like, there should be more people playing this, right? Like, this is, this is fun and more people need to know about it. And that sort of what the core of the Desis Dragons was; that’s where we began. We were like, why don’t we play games of D&D and other TTRPGs on the internet. And maybe people will see it and maybe they’ll want to play, and maybe they’ll get together with their friends to do it. And then as we were doing that, we were like, okay, this isn’t enough. We need to create a space for people to find other people to play with. Because the initiative of like seeing something, enjoying it, and then finding five other people to go do it with, that’s a lot of expectation on someone. And we wanted to make that process a little bit easier. So we set up a discord server and that blew up like in, in its first year, we, we ended up with like 700 people on there and that’s the largest TTRPG space in India. So That’s where the server came in, which was basically a way for us to connect people together and create a safe space for anybody who was interested in this hobby. And those are the two things that have sort of taken over my life for the last couple of years.

Courtney: 

When did, each of these start?

Indrani: 

So Desis Dragons started last year. It’s been a little over a year. I think we started in March, 2021. And that’s been its own thing, but Nonagon Dice has a bit more of a complicated history because I think I started Nonagon Dice in 2020, late January, 2020. But I was, I am. I correct myself. I am struggling with Mental health issues. Like I have clinical depression and anxiety, and even though I’d started then, I had this massive sort of period of time. I think it was like a whole year almost where I just didn’t commit to it. I would make it like maybe once or twice a month or even less than that. it would just, all the equipment would just sit in my house, taking up a lot of space. But I think I started Nonagon Dice in earnest in I think January 2021. Yeah. So I think it’s been around a year since I’ve been doing it actively and around two and a half years since I first got into it.

Courtney: 

That’s a lot all at once.

Indrani: 

it is, it is. I have this habit of delving into things, headfirst, and it, sometimes I’ll, I’ll, I’ll come up swimming and I’ll be fine. But sometimes I just am in over my head and it’s a habit that I’ve been trying to break. Like I’ve been trying to sort of like dip my toes and get into things in moderation. It worked out with these things. And I’m really glad that I did, you know. There are things that I’ll try and I’ll get overzealous about, oh, this is going to be my new thing that I’m going to get into. And then it doesn’t work out and I feel bad about it. But with Nonagon Dice and Desis Dragons, I think because of how passionate I am about creating safe community spaces, which also weirdly came from that Harry Potter role playing place that I ran for a couple of years after I joined– just the need to create a good community space sort of fuels this desire to keep doing it. And it feels very different than all my other personal endeavors because of that. So I’m very grateful that I got to do it, that I keep getting to do it.

Courtney: 

Yeah, definitely. So I want to spend some time, cause I know we’ve been going back and forth between both of these endeavors. So I think I want to spend a little bit of time on Desis Dragons and just asking you some questions around that and then we’ll switch gears at some point. So with Desis Dragons, it’s been going on for a little over a year. And so I know that you mentioned that you’ve got the discord server and that grew pretty big, like with in this first year, and that that’s been a really good community source, but I would just love to dive into all the other things that y’all have been doing. So I know you’ve got the actual play. I think you’ve been starting to interview some people, but just, yeah, for our listeners, if you can give us a bit more detail around all of the different initiatives that y’all have been taking on over this last year.

Indrani: 

Absolutely. Yeah. so we have the actual play stream. It’s a weekly stream that we do. We used to do everything on YouTube, but we’ve sort of transitioned over to Twitch, but the AP is a 5E Eberron based campaign. It’s called a Broken 12. I’m a player in that. And my friends Shabaam and Alika play alongside me and Chriag who’s our DM and our co-founder runs the show. And that’s great, but it’s what people who already love and enjoy D&D come in for, I think we have like a dedicated group of people who watch and occasionally we’ll have new people come in and that makes us really happy. But the other side of things where we wanted to explore, for tabletop role players do with their time, and the people creating these things for us that sort of led us to start interviewing people. And we started the series back when we started called Cast Friendship, and we interview a bunch of different, amazing creators for that series. And we started with folks like Satine Phoenix, Anjali Bhimani. Recently we had Jay Dragon on the show. We also had a Momatoes and Hannah Rose. So we’ve got a bunch of like incredible creators. Who’ve been willing to come speak with us and take questions from our community about the work that they do talk about their journeys. And it’s been a really incredible experience to be able to do that. And it also seems to give our community an insight into what goes into making the stuff that we love so much, which is always a nice perspective to have. It always, I think. Makes us feel grateful for the games that we get to play, knowing where they come from. 

So that’s Cast Friendship, and we also are sort of like dipping our toes into merch. Alika Guppta, who plays on our actual play is an incredible artist and was willing to like create some really great graphics and illustrations that combined being desi or being Indian specifically with D&D or tabletop roleplaying games, generally. And that intersection of, of merchandise or representation through physical goods does not yet exist. At least not that we could find anywhere on the internet. So it seemed like the obvious extension of what we were doing. And we created a couple of different designs. They’re beautiful. And for, you know, figuring out how to get them to people right now. And hopefully soon folks should have it and we’re not like big there’s nobody funding or bankrolling us. So we put up a poll on our, so we were like, Hey, would anybody be interested in buying these? And, and, you know, we got a couple of responses, so we were like, yeah, sure. Let’s, let’s do it. We’ll see how it goes. So that’s another thing we’re getting up to. And the most exciting thing that’s happening recently with Desis & Dragons is that one of our goals is to bridge the gap between the Indian TTRPG community and the international TTRPG community. And one of the best things that’s happened because of this endeavor is we have introduced the Big Bad Con people of color scholarship to the Indian communities creators. So I’m on the leadership team for Big Bad Con, which is a great convention that happens in Oakland, California. 

Yesterday the online version of it ended, but basically it’s a scholarship for a couple of people who are creators, writers, designers to be flown out to the actual convention and be a part of their POC programming, which allows them to sort of interface with industry leaders and, and, you know, network to find work. And it’s a very structured thing. It’s not just going to a room and talk to people sort of thing. But that, and it has a bunch of other great things for POC to network and sort of find their space in the community in terms of like actual working professionals. So that’s something we’re getting up to recently, and there’s obviously the Discord, server which we already covered a little bit, but that space is important because it’s an extremely safe space for queer people and people from marginalized communities in India. And that’s really important to us because we’re all queer neurodivergent and we wanted to make sure that we created a space that allows everybody to feel safe in their skin because that’s not something you find often in India because of how, you know, the current political power is and general cultural biases. So that’s the Discord space.

Courtney: 

That’s a lot of different things that y’all are doing and a lot of really important work.

Indrani: 

I would hope so. I mean, it does feel important and in the sense that I feel like it’s doing something big for this really fledgling community, I like to call it. Like, we’re just we’re babies where, you know, it’s not nearly as big as other places. So hopefully what we do sort of sets the tone of what the community looks like as it grows. Yeah, which is why I think it does feel important in that regard for sure. And thank you for saying that.

Courtney: 

I believe it a hundred percent. And I think that, that what you said about trying to set the tone for how the community is going to grow and as tabletop becomes even more popular in India, like I think that it’s really important. And it’s really cool that to have a group that cares this much and is so focused on trying to make a positive experience for everybody that does find you guys. I wanna ask a bit more about the scholarship and how you became involved with being one of the, I think you said leaders of that.

Indrani: 

Yeah. So the scholarship is an initiative, of Big Bad Con. They’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. And one of my mentors Ajit George. He works closely with Big Bad Con for developing the POC programming at the convention. Ajit, for people who don’t know is the cool lead of the upcoming Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel book by Wizards of the Coast. He also came up with the whole thing, which is awesome, but he was, is very interested in uplifting voices of people, of color from different countries and reached out to us about, you know, potentially facilitating this for him because they don’t have the resources to vet people and to find the right creators to take on board. So they sort of were like, would you be able to handle this process for us? And we were more than happy to. The actual programming isn’t, isn’t something that we came up with. It’s just, we’re finding people who are, you know, who fit Big Bad Cons community standards who have created work that is, is inspiring worthy of like, you know, well, I don’t want to say that I judge anybody’s work or whether it’s being worthy or not, but people who have a definite interest in, in working in TTRPGs, as opposed to just enjoying it as a hobby, cause those are two very different things. 

So just helping them find the people who are interested in what payback on is open to providing is, is what we’ve been getting up to. It’s been a really fun experience. The applications haven’t closed yet. So we haven’t gotten into the sort of meat of things so far, but I’m looking forward to how it plays out. I think this is going to be big for the community because a lot of people of color who I know and see around on Twitter, talk about how the POC programming at Big Bad Con was their break into the international sort of industry and, and how a lot of their work contacts came from that convention. So it feels like a really important thing for people to be able to experience. So yeah, I, I hope it works out, you know, with, with the pandemic. Honestly I’m not holding my breath about anything being set in stone these days. I’m like, we’ll see if it happens when I set foot in the door. Do you know what I mean? Like I’ll put until the very last moment, I’m like, something’s going to go wrong. I think that’s just a, become a cynic the last couple of years, but yeah, that’s what we’re getting up to.

Courtney: 

That is really cool. And I also completely understand. It feels like we can’t take anything for granted. And it, I mean, I even, I’m supposed to see some friends in a couple of weeks where it’s just going to be a couple of hour drive and I’m like, but is it really going to happen? We’ll see.

Indrani: 

Right?! It’s oh Yeah. We could get into the whole pandemic and not stop talking about that, but yeah, it sucks, but it is how it is. Yeah.

Courtney: 

Indeed.

Indrani: 

I can hear us laughing, but there’s like a tear rolling down both our cheeks.

Courtney: 

isn’t that normal? Don’t you always cry when you laugh?

Indrani: 

Oh, my God. Where’s therapy?

Courtney: 

It’s it’s been a great couple of years. It’s fine.

Indrani: 

This is fine. Now I actually need a handkerchief, hold on. I’m joking. I’m joking.

Courtney: 

Okay. So yes, Big Bad Con sounds really awesome. And it’s really cool that you were able to get involved with that. And it’s funny. I had seen, I think, retweets from your account or the Desis account about it happening. And it was just like, oh, what is this? This looks really cool for the virtual one that just happened.

Indrani: 

Oh yeah.

Courtney: 

I appreciate too, that it just, like, there were so many panels and that it was across like such a broad spectrum of time zones. Cause I feel like it’s so common for even virtual events to be taking place. Like, you know, either, you know, on one side of the world or the other, but not spreading like a whole kind of 24 hour period.

Indrani: 

Absolutely. And I think one of the genuine positives of being shoved into our homes and being forced to use the internet to socialize is that we’ve sort of realized how much more there is out there. And the fact that accommodating for people who aren’t in your geographical location can lead to such diverse and such interesting conversations and panels. And my hope really. with not just Big Bad Con, but every convention is to adapt this hybrid model where you have an online version where people who aren’t in your country, who aren’t in a Western country, or who can’t afford to be flying out to a Western country can still participate and still, you know, add to the conversation. I think that’s so important and I, which is why I really loved big, bad online. We got to do a panel: me and Shubbam and a couple of the friends from Panic Not, which is another D&D publishing company here in India. So it was, it was not a chance that would have been afforded to us had it been in like Oakland? Do you know what I mean? We would not have been able to go out there and do this panel for the most part. So It’s great. And you’re right. Like the fact that it was spread out over 24 hours and it allowed for so many different people to come in and talk about interesting perspectives that, that, that we wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. And I think there’s so much value in that.

Courtney: 

Yeah, absolutely. I just, I really hope that virtual conventions stay. Cause I think that we’ve really been able to benefit a lot from them. Just like you said.

Indrani: 

Yeah. I see all these big conventions, like PAX and Gen Con and this and that. And I’m like, damn, I really want to go. But I can’t and I mean, I’m happy for all the people having fun there, but you know, give us a little slice of the pie, do something on the internet. And hopefully, you know, this is a widely adapted and normalized part of conventions going ahead.

Courtney: 

okay. But now also I’m imagining that in a few years time, there’s going to be like a Desis Dragons convention.

Indrani: 

Oh, my God. It, you know what, I didn’t mention this earlier when you asked what we’re getting up to. Cause this has been sort of like a slow inertia ridden thing that we’re trying to get off the floor, but it is something we’re working on. It is a it requires a lot more effort than we currently have the spoons for, for various reasons. But it is in the works as they say. And hopefully sometime this year, if I’m being ambitious, it is something we can do. Yeah.

Courtney: 

Okay.

Indrani: 

Yeah.

Courtney: 

Virtually or in person?

Indrani: 

I’ll send you an invite. Oh. Probably virtually. Again, India is also a really vast country and a lot of our community members are like from different states and to expect them to come through where we’re based out of, which is Mumbai is… again, I feel like that would be hypocritical of us for us to be like, oh, international convention should do a hybrid model or, or do online stuff and then go and be like, okay, this is just for people in Mumbai or who can come to Mumbai seems a bit yeah, it’d probably be online or a hybrid version, but definitely online. Yeah.

Courtney: 

yes. If it was going to happen as soon as this year, I would definitely think so, but I know it was just, you’re talking about like, oh, the PAXes, and the GenCons, it’s like, well maybe, maybe there could be one that all of us are like, crap. We want to go over to India and go to this convention.

Indrani: 

wouldn’t that be great? Hopefully, man, I hope, I hope that we’re able to do something as interesting. We have some ideas. We’ll see how it goes.

Courtney: 

Amazing. 

Courtney: 

I’m curious about like, what are some different things that you’ve seen come up in, maybe within the discord, or just as you’ve started to grow your presence and like bring in more people that are maybe learning about this game for the first time. Just, are there any things that you’ve maybe learned about creating a community or a welcoming space?

Indrani: 

Yeah, I absolutely have. And there’s the good, and then there’s the ugly. The good side of things is that people who come in and experienced tabletop role-playing games for the first time tend to then want to create stuff for their own selves, whether it’s running their own game or creating literally a game from scratch. And putting that out into the world or creating five-year adventures, whatever it is. Right. I’ve seen a lot of creators come in and just make amazing things for this medium, which is always a joy and the second great thing about, you know, running this community is seeing queer people or marginalized people come in and they’ll have, for example, a rainbow flag in their name. Right. And, and when they come into chat, they see someone else spamming rainbow emojis because we’re talking about some, something like, I don’t know, like Our Flag Means Death or something. I don’t know. And they’ll be a little surprised or they’ll be like, wait, what? This is, this is a queer friendly space? And, and the sad thing is that it, it is that unheard of, in a way. Right. That you can feel safe and be yourself and in a group space. So facilitating that for people and seeing the responses to it and seeing them ease into being in a space like that has been amazing. But on sort of the uglier side of things, which is related to what I just talked about is, is knowing that a space that’s for everyone is not safer if it isn’t safe for anyone. Does that make sense? Like if I’m allowing every single person into my space, then it becomes unsafe for people who need it the most. And that’s been, the hardest part is, is dealing with people who are thinly veiled, bigots, or outright, just, you know, homophobic or whose values don’t align with the kind of community we’re trying to create. So that’s been an interesting challenge is, is knowing that there will always be people like this and that it will come down to us to, in that moment gatekeep and be like, Hey, you’re not welcome here. You’re free to go do your own thing wherever else you want, but this is not for you. So those have, I think been the two sides of the same coin in a way that we’ve had to deal with primarily me, because I handle the community management side of things for Desis Dragons, but Yeah.

Courtney: 

Yeah, that can definitely be a lot. And regardless of where you are in the world, it seems like gaming industries are full of all kinds of people and you’re right. Not all of them are going to be safe. In fact, a lot of them are not going to be safe.

Indrani: 

Yeah. And, and the fascinating thing is that in the international perspective, we’re all minorities. Like people who are also brown or also locals of India come in and they’re being bigots and they’re being, you know, not welcoming. And it’s funny because they’re the same people who go online and talk about how hard it is to be a person of color. And I’m like, it takes a sort of certain level of dissonance from your own behavior to, A: acknowledge that there are hardships that come with you being a minority and then inflict similar pain upon people who are a different kind of minority, but still a minority. And I just wish I could talk to these people and sometimes I try, but now I’m like, you know what? I don’t have the mental bandwidth to be able to reason with people. And in my experience, it almost never goes well. So yeah, I’ve just resorted to being like, Hey, go do your own thing. Not here.

Courtney: 

Yeah. So tell me about being the community manager. What all does that involve?

Indrani: 

So primarily it is basically, it is making sure that our community standards are being followed by members of our community. I usually interface with our moderation team who are a bunch of really incredible volunteers who are also part of our community, making sure that we’re constantly doing better when it comes to making the space feel safe, and also, you know organizing events or organizing like anything that people need on our community. So, An example I can give you is when we started Desis Dragons’ Discord server, we have we created this looking for games channel where people could post announcements about games they’re running or want to play in. And one of the people who signed up for these games later came to me and was like, Hey, I felt a little unsafe at the table because you know, certain topics were being discussed and I didn’t really have a heads up about it. Or we didn’t really have a way of like, communicating that this was crossing a boundary for us. And we were like, oh, okay, we’re really sorry that happened. And we will do everything in our power to make sure there are contingencies in place for something like this to not happen because we can’t physically moderate every game that goes on. So what we decided to do, me and my, you know, mod team was basically making sure that content warnings and safety tools are a mandatory part of any game that is being advertised or announced on our server. So if you want to post something on our server, you’re going to have to tell us what kind of content is going to be in the game and specify which safety tools, not if you’re using safety tools, but which safety tools will be used in your game. And that, you know, then I reached out to the person again, I was like, Hey, does this make it feel more comfortable for you to engage in more games? And they were like, yeah, this is great, and there was a positive response to what we did. So that was also good. But you know, just making sure that the community is welcoming, safe, and I keep using the word safe a lot, but it really matters. And, and just has the tools. It needs to be self sufficient without too much handholding, I suppose, is sort of my day-to-day role.

Courtney: 

Yeah, that makes sense. I think that that’s really like a good way to navigate that situation and just really nice to take that feedback and make it better for everybody.

Indrani: 

Yeah. I feel like that’s the best way of, you know, doing these things.

Courtney: 

So I do want to switch gears a bit and make sure that we have some time to talk about your dice. So Nonagon Dice: we’ve obviously talked about it a little bit at the beginning, and you started experimenting with making dice a little over two years ago and the business really started about a year ago. I think.

Indrani: 

Yeah. You could say that. Yeah. Yeah.

Courtney: 

Okay. So talk to me about the transition from, Hmm. Maybe I’ll make myself some dice to I’m going to start a store.

Indrani: 

Yeah. Oh, oh boy, this, see, I struggled with this a lot, like a lot, a lot, because some context into Indian parents or Indian aunts or uncles or Indian families, is that when they see something they’ll be like, oh, have you thought about selling this? Or have you thought about you know, making money off of this because we’ve sort of been raised in a culture where success or something being valuable comes from how much you can gain out of it and not what that inherently means to you. And I was very, very, very careful of monetizing a hobby because I was scared that it would make me eventually resent the hobby itself. And that’s probably not the fun sort of, oh yeah. I loved it so much, I made a business out of it story that people expect, but I really struggled with it. And the leap from hobbyist to business was a slow sort of transition. It was first like someone being like, Hey, can I please commission a set from you, me turning down a lot of people and eventually being like, you know what, fine, I’ll make you a set. How about you pay me this much? And they were like, yeah, sure. I’ll do it. And it was fun. And it didn’t take away from the experience of creating, but I was acutely aware of the change in equation now, you know, I’m like, okay, I’ve taken someone’s money. Which means that this has to be up to their standards, which means that there’s another human being involved in this process suddenly in, in this process, that was all mine for so long. And, and I had to come to terms with that equation by slowly doing commissions every now and then being like, oh Yeah, I’ll, I’ll make you a set of dice. Sure. I’ll make you another set of dice. 

And eventually it got to the point where I was comfortable with that change in dynamic. And when that happened, it, it also was at the point where I was obviously, you know, posting on social media, because if you’ve got something that you’re selling, you gotta post it on social media. And had grown a bit of a following there. And, and I was like, okay, this seems to be going certain places. But again, it was never my main source of income. And then I was and kind of still am a freelancer. And the big gig that I was doing was like, okay, Hey, I don’t think we’ll be able to continue doing this for the next couple of months, because we don’t have the kind of work that you do anymore. And I’m like, you know what, that’s fair, but holy shit, the safety net is gone. And what can I do while I, while I look for other work and it was Nonagon Dice I was like, you know what, let me just commit to selling some dice and we’ll see how that goes. And without that safety net, without being like, oh, just a thing that I do every now and then, and the fact that I was now comfortable with that equation, I started enjoying the process. 

What was new was this element of setting up and running a small business and oh my God, India does not make it easy for you to run a business. It. It is, there’s so many bureaucratic loopholes and not loopholes, but like hoops that you need to jump through in order to like legally sell stuff. So did all of that. And the whole time I was like, why am I doing this? This is stupid. I shouldn’t be. But when all of that was behind me, when I finally was like, you know what, I have everything I need in order to sell dice and not have the police come knocking my door. I was like, okay, this is fun. I was able to focus on creating and creating things for other people and getting some money out of it. And that was great. It certainly, wasn’t something that I went into thinking I’m going to make a business out of it, or, or this is going to be a source of livelihood for me. But now that I’m here, I’m really grateful for it. And I really enjoy it. And I think a big part of why I enjoy it is because I, I didn’t let money become a driving factor in why I do it. Do you know what I mean? Like I still enjoy it as a hobby and if I wasn’t getting paid to do it, I would still do it. And as long as that remains true, I think I’ll enjoy running a business.

Courtney: 

I think that’s really special.

Indrani: 

Do you think? I, it always, it always feels like a little bit of a negative story. It’s really not. Like, I love what I do. I love Nonagon Dice and everything I create. And I’m so glad that people are willing to pay me for it. It’s just, I feel like I have to be honest about it because often I’ll see on social media. I turned my hobby into my livelihood and there’s this very girl boss moment that comes out of it. And I love that, and I love that for them. And I love that for me, but I feel the need to be honest about sort of what really went down in my head when it came to doing this.

Courtney: 

No, I completely understand that hesitation of, you know, I love doing this thing. I love creating this product and I’m doing it for myself and maybe my friends, but, I think it, it takes a lot of bravery, I think honestly, to admit that like, no, I enjoy doing this, but I know that if I turn it into something that it’s just for the purpose of making money, I’m not going to enjoy it anymore. It takes a lot of self-awareness to realize that.

Indrani: 

Yeah, you’re right. It does take a lot of self awareness, and it’s also like nerve wracking. Right. Because imagine you’ve put all this time into it and then suddenly you don’t love it anymore. That, that’s heartbreaking. So I feel like it needs to be treated with a lot of consideration and it’s one of the few things in my life where I haven’t been like, yeah, fuck it. Let’s just do it. And I’ve been like, okay, let me really think about this.

Courtney: 

So since, you know, like you are being by respectful of yourself and wanting to make sure that you still love what you’re doing and enjoy. I guess like how many dice sets are you normally making?

Indrani: 

Right. So my process currently allows me to may force us of dice in one sitting. And that’s, I think at almost at the capacity of what I enjoy cause any more. I think I just get anxious of like, just making sure everything is right. So I do four in one go, and it takes about eight to 10 hours for me to be able to do it again. So in a day, if I bust my ass, I can do eight sets a day. But if I take it easy, I can do four. And that’s usually how I approach it. And my process for making dice is that I’ll, if I have any commissions, I’ll get those out of the way first. And then I’ll spend the rest of my time just making, coming up with new designs or, you know, trying out new methods. I’m gearing up .For my first shop update, which is going to happen later this month, which is going to be the first official time where people aren’t commissioning me. I just have dice in my store for people to buy. And it took me two years to do this. So it’s, it’s been a long time coming in that regard, but yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been focusing on, but four sets of dice in one go, and then the rest of the time is spent, you know, polishing and finishing and inking and all of that. So it’s a longer process than that, but yeah,

Courtney: 

Definitely. Honestly, if we had more time, I would be digging into the specifics of all of those processes-

Indrani: 

that’s another podcast.

Courtney: 

Yes. I feel like part two, we’ll talk more in detail about all of the dice making processes.

Indrani: 

I would love that.

Courtney: 

Amazing. You have had a lot going on in the last couple of years of just getting into D&D and then other tabletop games and starting this community, and really working to bring this just cool game and love of these products and these stories that come out of them, to your community. And now you’re making dice, you’ve moved from commissions to now a storefront where you just have dice for sale, which is super exciting. Like, yeah, there’s been a lot going on, but when you look back over all of this, is there anything that you would say has been just particularly challenging that, you know, you would say has maybe just been like the hardest part of all of it?

Indrani: 

Yeah. I think the most challenging thing has been being kind to myself through the whole thing. But what I mean by that is that I have a tendency of just working all the time and there’s obviously the active work hours, and then I realized what I was doing is that I was passively working well at all times. At any point when my phone was in my hand, which was a lot, I was working. And I realized that. While the intention in my brain was good that I was like, oh, I could be doing this for Desis Dragons. Or I could be doing that for Nonagon Dice or any of those reasons I wasn’t giving myself time. And that was sort of, the biggest challenge was, overcoming… not was– is honestly, I’m still struggling with it– was overcoming that sort of chronic need to just do something with either of these things. So yeah, I think that’s been the biggest struggle, but in terms of the community itself, Desis Dragons, yeah. Just dealing with bad actors and with Nonagon Dice, it’s, it’s the bureaucracy of running a business, man. Holy shit. It’s not fun sometimes, but yeah.

Courtney: 

Okay. To your first point I’m feeling attacked right now….[Laughs]

Indrani: 

[Laughs] You know, whenever I say that people are like side eye, be like, are you coming for me right now? I’m sorry, it’s just the truth.

Courtney: 

Let’s just say, I am really looking forward to June right now. I have so many deadlines at the end of May.

Indrani: 

Oh my God. I really hope that after the fact, you really just focus on taking care of yourself for a bit. I’ll bother you on Twitter about it.

Courtney: 

please do. Amazing. Okay. But yeah, like I, I think that’s definitely a very important point that a lot of us are still learning and need to constantly remind ourselves of is that yes, our mental health is important, and we need to take breaks and I can definitely empathize that that is a struggle.

Indrani: 

Ah, it’s so hard, but what are you going to do?

Courtney: 

Well, let’s flip it around. So again, when you look back at just over everything that you’ve built and been building, what would you say has been the most rewarding part of it all?

Indrani: 

Hm. There’s so much. Well, okay. For Nonagon Dice specifically, I think it’s just being able to meet other creators who do this very niche specific thing, and, and just being able to find a community that is both intersectional to all my other interests, but so removed from it in that way, like the conversations I have with other dice makers, I with no one else in my life because they’re just very specific things that we talk about. And I’m really grateful for being able to meet like minded people on that front. But Desis Dragons. I think it, the sheer joy I feel when I see our community grow. And when, when I see people realize the kind of space it is and, and truly find a part of themselves in it, that is just, there’s no words to explain how, how it makes me feel. When I see that sort of extending to them being so invested in the community, that they’re taking time out of their days to run games or help other people out on the server, or just do anything to make the community a better place, because they believe in it? Man that is like, Ooh, I, I can’t explain how amazing that feeling is. As a third part of the answer, I think is like my personal sort of growth in the space. It’s unexpected. Like I don’t expect to be on a podcast with you talking about what I do. It just doesn’t seem like something anybody would want to do. And the fact that I get to talk about my community and I get to talk about what we do and why it’s important that people are willing to listen and they want us here. And that I’m able to sort of, I don’t want to say, be at the forefront of it, but be one of the people helping facilitate that. I think that makes me really happy.

Courtney: 

I just want to say, you’re doing amazing work and like, I’ve been following you for awhile and I’m just like watching different episodes, like the actual play and just admiring your pretty dice pictures. And I just, I think it’s really cool what you’re doing and like, I’m just really happy you agreed to come on my show. Like I’m

Indrani: 

Thank you for having No, are you kidding me?. I I’m so glad that I got to do this and I really appreciate you reaching out for it. And on the flip side, I would love to have you on Desis Dragons at some point to maybe talk about everything that you get up to, because it’s a lot from what I can see.

Courtney: 

I would love to. That’d be awesome.

Indrani: 

yeah, let’s make it happen.

Courtney: 

Amazing. We will talk in a moment. So are there any upcoming projects or goals that we haven’t talked about yet that you are excited about and able to talk about?

Indrani: 

Yeah. So I mentioned the shop update. It’s going to happen later this month, I’ll have at least ten sets of dice available on my store front at NonagonDice.com. And if anybody who’s listening is interested in purchasing handmade dice. Please go sign up for my newsletter, which you’ll find at Nonagondice.com or just follow me on social media. You can find me online at Nonagon Dice, like on Instagram, Twitter, whatever your social media, poison of choice is. That’s one thing that’s coming up. I, I mean, there’s the general plugging, which is like Desis Dragons: we stream on Twitch every week. If folks are interested in watching us we’re on twitch.tv/DesisNDragons.

Courtney: 

I’ll make sure to have those links in the show notes

Indrani: 

Thank you. Appreciate that.

Courtney: 

Indrani, thank you for coming on today. This has been really, really fun.

Indrani: 

I’m glad. Thank you for having me and it’s been so much fun. I’m like smiling so widely and for so long that my cheeks are like hurting a little bit, but this has been great. Courtney. Thank you for having me here.

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