Transplanar Role-Playing Game

TransplanarRPG in action. Photo courtesy Connie Chang

This winter, Springboard for the Arts launched Artists Respond: Combating Social Isolation. With support from Springboard through funding from the Kresge Foundation and the Blandin Foundation, 89 artists from around Minnesota created projects that connect those most vulnerable in the pandemic. Minnesota Women’s Press spoke with four of these creatives about the inspiration behind their projects, and how they are hoping to transform a difficult situation with art and community.

We are an all-transgender, people of color- led, 100 percent home-brewed, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) livestreamed campaign set in an original noncolonial, anti- orientalist world. Basically, we are a theatrical production — a blend of improv-based play and D&D for a live-streamed audience. I am the Game Master, the person who runs the game and the executive producer behind the show.

Like any other creative or artistic practice, the world of tabletop actual play livestreaming is dominated by white, cisgender, and male voices. When people who are not in the community think of D&D, there is still a stereotypical image of the nerdy white boy in his mom’s basement. I believe the world of gaming is diversifying. That means the faces of players and those behind the scenes are changing, as well as the kinds of stories people are interested in telling.

The normative narrative in D&D is that a group of skilled adventurers go out into the “uncharted wilderness” and kill monsters, grabbing treasure from their dead bodies and conquering an area for their lord’s domain. Modern D&D audiences are less interested in that narrative. We are interested in interrogating what it means to inflict violence on other people in a gaming setting and thinking critically about the setting we are playing in — so it is not a generic Western-European Game of Thrones situation.

My community was very intentional about building a world together that is rooted in Asian American and Pacific Islander mythology. I am drawing on my own experiences as a Chinese American person to build certain parts of this world.

We are not going out into the wilderness and killing evil races. [Rather] something is happening in this world that is causing our players to want to go out and fight back against forces of violence that seek to harm those they care about.

It is rare to see trans characters and players in this medium, so we are trying to tell stories that resonate with trans people. We recently did a fundraising drive for TIGERRS, which provides resources for trans and intersex youth and adults, with a 12-hour marathon stream.

We are isolated right now, but even without the pandemic it can be hard for trans people and people of color to find community, especially within a gaming context. The game gives us something to look forward to with creativity to collaborate together. It has been good for our mental and emotional health to tell a story with other people.