Welcome to the table,
Every once in a while I get a chance to sit across the table from someone whose love for storytelling, gaming, and humanity at large is so life-affirming that even in the turbulent world we live in it leaves me hopeful for a brighter future.
Star of stage, screen, and behind the scenes, Anjali Bhimani has been delighting audiences across film, video games, and the written word for years with a range of voices and a depth of character both on screen and off that more than shows why she is such a powerhouse of media.
Photo Credit: AnjaliBhimani.com
I recently had the opportunity to sit at the table with Anjali and talk about one of her upcoming projects, Dimension 20‘s The Ravening War, the dark and twisty prequel miniseries to the wildly popular Dimension 20: A Crown of Candy.
For those who are not familiar with the series, A Crown of Candy was the fifth season of Dropout’s Dimension 20 and explored the world of Calorum, where each kingdom is based around a different food group from the American food pyramid. The story follows the members of House Rocks, who rule over the kingdom of the candy kingdom of, Candia.
The Ravening War starts two decades before the events of A Crown of Candy, where Anjali will be playing The Lady Amangeaux Epicée Du Peche. I was so excited for the opportunity to sit down and speak with Anjali about gaming, life, and The Ravening War. You can find the interview below.
Anton Kromoff: I’m so excited you are taking a chance to talk to us today.
Anjali Bhimani: I am very excited to be talking to you because we are going to be talking about one of my favorite topics.
Kromoff: Now as I understand it, you have had this wonderful on-again-off-again player experience in regards to TTRPGs having played all of your life, going all the way back to your childhood. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Bhimani: Yes! I started playing D&D when I was eight because my brother, who is a magnificent human being and the best brother I could ask for, got me the D&D set for one of the gift-giving holidays and I fell in love with the basic set. I devoured the AD&D set and that was it, I was off to the races. I was playing with friends after school. I can still remember the exact house and all the names of the kids I use to play with.
But then, as computer games became more prevalent, I started to spend more time playing the D&D games that were on the computer. Baulders Gate, Neverwinter Knights, all those games. But little did I know back then that Jen (Jennifer) Hale, who was in Baulders Gate, would eventually become one of my best friends.
Kromoff: That is so cool!
Bhimani: So when I moved to New York, it was during my first Broadway show, I would come home between shows and I would game. And somewhere I got this crazy idea in my mind that having fun in your life is not important so I stopped gaming and thus began what I like to call “the dark days of gaming in my life.”
Because I missed it and I didn’t really know how much I missed it, or what I missed about it. Until the opportunity came for me to approach it from this side of the screen, from this new medium that has been created by D20 and Critical Role and all the other streamers who are doing amazing work.
So I came back to it from Matt (Matthew Mercer) and Marisha (Ray) because I met them through Overwatch and the first time I met them we talked about their show and the love of D&D and Marisha brought me into Geek and Sundry to do the first RPG show we did which WAS We’re Alive: Frontier with Ivan van Norman, and that was it, it all came back, all of a sudden I remembered why I loved it so much. And that was it, I was hooked. Any chance I could get to do something involving role-playing games, I was in.
So I am incredibly lucky that my best friends, who I would want to be playing with anyways, also happen to be people who are doing this in this industry.
Kromoff: That makes me so happy and it’s such an important hobby, such an equalizing hobby. As someone who’s disabled, who can’t engage in some of the other things, we are all equal at the table.
Bhimani: We are equal because it’s all about what we come up with in our imagination.
Bhimani: And it’s all about collaboration. Which means, even if you have a different set of skills than the person next to you because it’s about what comes together and makes the party, not about every single person being the best in every single lane, that makes not only a great equalizer but it also really encourages us to find out, both in-game and outside-game, what are the things that make us unique?
What are the unique skills that we are really good at? What are our weaknesses? So we can better navigate them, it’s such a great game for learning so much about yourself. It’s one of the things that is so lovely about acting to, the two are so close to each other TTRPGs are just long-form improv.
Kromoff: You hit on so many key points. Something I really want to ask about is how your experience influenced your approach to role-playing and finding your character at the table with others.
Bhimani: It hasn’t influenced it so much as solidified what I know to be true. Which is it does not matter what medium you are telling the story in. Nothing matters more than the story.
It’s all storytelling. I always describe this as my career is a tree, right? The trunk of that tree is storytelling. Every branch is just a different medium you get to tell it in. Every time a new branch opens to you, hop on it because that’s just another growth of this beautiful tree you have.
There are so many ways to tell stories. You don’t have to tell it in all the different ways, but you certainly have options, so many options. We tell stories in our day-to-day lives, and in our families, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to do it in all these other mediums.
Kromoff: I love it, I have been running games since I was writing on those blank dice with oil pencil.
Bhimani: Yep! Exactly, my basic set.
Kromoff: And I have never gravitated towards “Game Master”, because I prefer Storyteller. It’s my tag on all my socials, it’s because I feel like my job is to simulate the universe and provide for the players. I think storytelling is so important and it makes me so happy to hear you say that, it’s just so wonderful.
Bhimani: I can’t imagine it being anything else. It’s not a game you “win.” It’s not a game you are competing against the people you are playing with. You are creating something together.
Kromoff: That’s such a powerful thought and opens the door for me to ask this. How do you think TTRPGs can craft the conversation for the better? Telling stories and sharing one’s experiences, where everyone gets to tell part of the story.
Bhimani: One of the things I love about it that get forgotten in other media, particularly in media where there is a lot of money and a lot of equipment, I think people forget that every single person on that set is a cog in a wheel. Even in video games, you see and hear voice actors, but there’s a giant team of developers who made this character before I showed up. I just came in and offered this one piece.
So when we see people playing TTRPGs on these shows, and when we see the magnitude of what they are doing, and we see a table where everyone is equal, a table where everyone is telling the story, a table where the dungeon master is even with the players, they are not better or worse or more important, they are the MC. They are still in the story. Probably more than anyone.
I don’t know how you do it. I’m terrified. Marsisha tells me I would be really good at it. I say ya’ know what I stage-manage my life and I don’t know if I would be able to do that without blowing a gasket.
But there is a personal project I have been putting together and it would involve me having to DM so it is on the horizon, but I am going to have to work through a series of fears before I can do that.
Kromoff: Life is short
Bhimani: Life is short, you are absolutely right. I always say every day I do one thing that scares me. Every month one thing that really scares me. And one year I do something that absolutely terrifies me and that might be my thing for the year.
Kromoff: You would be wonderful at it.
Bhimani: Thank you. We shall see, we shall see. It’s happening one way or another.
But, I think that is the most important part of the conversation that is out there for these shows.
Also, just in terms of the viability of the industry, I think it’s so clearly a testament to how much people want these TTRPG shows and how much they care about them, and how much they are willing to put their hearts into them on screen and from the people who are watching them, I think it’s great for the entertainment industry to see how viable that is.
Amazon picking up Critical Role was a giant door kicked open for so many people.
I know that people think of them as this big thing that we should put on a pedestal and they are absolutely extraordinary but they are living by my personal philosophy in life and that’s if you are high up on the ladder and you have one hand on the rung above you, you have one hand reaching down to pull others up.
Those guys have kicked open the door and they are inviting us all in and they are trying to get as much of us in there as possible. I don’t see any other industry where not only are the performers and the players and the creators supporting each other, but the companies are supporting each other. That comes from no one being afraid that there is not enough.
It’s not competition it’s elevation. It’s raising the bar. It’s such a beautiful thing to see in the succeeding in the modern age, in front of people’s eyes, for people to see those numbers. That’s real stuff.
Photo Credit: Dropout.tv
Kromoff: Now Dropouts The Ravenings War is a prequel to The Crown of Candy campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect or what we can know now going into the show.
Bhimani: Although A Crown of Candy is set in a rather absurdist world, yes this is Candyland Game of Thrones and we are all food-based. Even though that is happening, (stuff) gets real. It is dark, it is twisted, and we are dealing with major human issues, social issues, and political issues, and that theme is definitely being carried on in The Ravening War.
Having Matt take on this world gives the whole thing a different, pardon the pun, flavor. If you watch Matt DM you see a lot of the stuff he does gets really dark, it’s fun, it’s extremely fun, but it can get dark and heartbreaking and beautiful.
That to me is one of the many things I love about TTRPGs and storytelling in general if you can combine those two things, not in an equal way but in a way that can blend your comedy and drama that maintains a sense of pathos that is where a great story lives.
I’m excited for the spark of recognition that people are going to have as things are coming together. This is something I can not spoil but there are things where you can clock and go “Oh my god that is what this is.” That is so unique and so satisfying.
Every character is so unique and not necessarily the best at what they do and that is so unlike A Crown of Candy and I think that is very special about this particular campaign. My character, who is royalty, is mourning the death of her husband, the king. That very starting point means that she is taken out of the world where she has some kind of agency and she has to navigate the world with the she learned in court when (she doesn’t) even know what (her) status is.
And I think that is what is exciting about this too, watching much less lofty characters navigate their way through the realities they are facing.
Kromoff: It’s so exciting! I am so happy to hear The Ravening War is coming and to know you are in it. I just want to thank you for all you have done for the community.
Bhimani: Thank you! You have no idea how much the community has done for me and my art. Because as much as it may seem we want to do for them, the love and support, and certainty of purpose that I get from this community is invaluable.
Acting can be a very solitary and very self-centered field and you can get really lost in that. And getting to look at this community, and care more about them than anything I am doing, to me is my passion and purpose coming together in a beautiful way and I am just so grateful for it.
You can catch the first episode of The Ravening War on Dropout today!
Until next time, sometimes it’s absolutely amazing to meet your heroes.
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