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While somewhat niche, tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPG) have continued to have a lasting grip on pop culture. From the 2023 movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, to popular game shows like Dropout’s Dimension 20 and Critical Role, there’s clearly a sizeable market who play these games.

And a crucial part of these games are the dice.

Compared to your usual six-face dice, tabletop games’ dice can go up to 20 faces, making them rather specialised. And with this specialisation comes many artisanal and custom options in the market.  

Among these is Sambal & Mages, a Singaporean brand that’s putting its own local twist to their dice.

Coming together as a ragtag group of D&D lovers

Behind Sambal & Mages is a group of four—Amanda Tam, Iffah Rakinah, Wan Nur Fadhillah, and Yvonne Lee. Fittingly, they met through a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign.  

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

“Our buy-ins to the game were all slightly different, but it can be summarised by general geekdom,” the Sambal & Mages team explained.

For those who have never played, D&D is a highly customisable game, not just from a gameplay standpoint but also the game accessories that come with it.

“Being a game that has been around for so long, there are plenty of artisanal accessories available on the market, especially dice,” they said. “Players cherish their dice and will go to large extents to get sets that they feel represent their different characters.”

Mid-2021, Yvonne and Iffah thought of creating their own dice for Amanda and Wan’s birthdays.

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

They turned to online tutorials, but ended up essentially learning from scratch. This was because they couldn’t find anyone in Singapore, or Southeast Asia, really making artisanal dice.

Realising a gap in the market for artisan dice in the region, they decided to start Sambal & Mages.

Most dice-makers are based in the Western hemisphere, resulting in exorbitant shipping fees. And beyond offering a more economical option, they also wanted to put a local spin to their offering.

“The dice and our brand became a medium for sharing with D&D’s predominantly Caucasian community what we had to offer,” they explained.

“From dice inspired by Singapore’s fishing village history to coming up with prompts for Hari Raya-related D&D adventures, we knew that the space we were occupying could pave the way for even more Southeast Asian representation in D&D.”

Throwing the dice

As far as they’re aware, Sambal & Mages is Singapore’s first handmade dice maker.

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

They started out by bootstrapping, but later met a fellow D&D player who believed in their mission, and generously provided them a bit of startup capital.

Looking at the resin dice, you might think the process is relatively simplistic—at least I did. But I was sorely mistaken.

“Making dice isn’t like those hobby resin projects you see online,” the team said. “The 3D nature of dice required a whole different approach, and different moulds to boot. We couldn’t just pour resin into an open mould and leave it to cure. “

Instead of using a generic set of moulds bought online, they created masters to cast their unique dice. And after that, they had to battle with Singapore’s humidity to ensure the dice cured properly. 

“Typically, the entire process from start to finish takes about a week or so, depending on whether or not the resin decides to behave during the curing process,” they said.

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

Unable to find a pressure pot in Singapore, they ended up making one, sourcing components like valves and compressors one by one. Pressure pots are used to remove air bubbles in resin, leading to a clear result.

Balance and accuracy must also be considered to ensure the dice roll fair. For one, they must make sure the sanding and polishing is done evenly.

Sambal & Mages’ handmade dice sets go for S$150, while a single 50mm D20 die is S$80.

“The profit margins are unfortunately not very high seeing that our materials and resources are expensive to begin with,” they opened up.

However, the team struggles with increasing price points as accessibility and affordability are important to them.

Finding and fostering a global community

“The TTRPG community in Singapore is small but strong,” Sambal & Mages shared. “Just like the different races and classes in D&D, it’s also very, very diverse.”

Sambal & Mages further taps into this community at in-person events like SG Comic Con.

“As a ballpark, we see around 250% more profit at the con than any launch we would have done online,” they said.

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

Interestingly, team has received a lot of the demand and support not just locally, but from around the world.

As the community grows, though, so might competition. While Sambal & Mages claims to be the first artisan dice maker locally, they may very well not be the last.  

The team said that there are a few suppliers locally that offer factory-made dice, but when it comes to having a premium, artisanal product at the game table, they are the go-to brand.

“On a global level, with heaps of dice makers around the world, we offer the Southeast Asian perspective to the D&D universe,” they expressed. “We offer our grandmother’s stories, the flavours at our dinner table, and the colours on our streets.”

A one-stop hobby shop

Starting with dice, Sambal & Mages has now expanded to more offerings including earrings, necklaces, stickers, T-shirts, and more.

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

These expansions arose out of demand from friends and followers of the brand.

“Dice are really the ‘main character’ at the table when it comes to TTRPG, but there are so many products that a player can have that enriches their game for them,” the team said.

Going forward, the team is considering the possibility of becoming a one-stop shop for adventurers everywhere looking for a Southeast Asian spin on their TTRPG experience.

They elaborated, “This could extend beyond physical products into something like lore-writing, where we expand the D&D universe as we know it to include references from the region and offer a taste of what actual dungeons and mythical dragons look like on this side of the world.”

Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

However, obstacles that stand in their way are time and energy—or the lack thereof.  

“Our main challenge so far has been to avoid burnout honestly. We’re in very rigorous industries outside of Sambal & Mages so it can be tough trying to find balance between paying the bills, working on what we love, and sleep.”

Still, the team persists, believing in the vision of Sambal & Mages. As the business grows, they might just be able to turn it into their full-time commitments.  

  • Learn more about Sambal & Mages here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Singaporean startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Sambal & Mages

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)