With so many great Web comics out there, how to pick the ones to follow? Well, plenty of Web artists are also RPG lovers, and they've been inspired to include their gaming in their comics. This column offers up a few of the best of those that I've found.
RPG-oriented comics fall along a continuum, depending on how deeply they fall into the real world or into a game world -- are they about players or are they about characters?
The gamer-end of the spectrum often shows players doing what they do best -- sitting around a table playing games. Characters are not drawn; they may not even be referred to much; and the games played from comic to comic may vary. Some of the best of these include:
The next step along the continuum includes both players and characters in the same strip. The model for this would be the traditional Calvin and Hobbes strips, for example: An entire strip might Spaceman Spiff or Calvin-As-Rampaging-Dinosaur, but the last panel usually revealed Calvin in the real life context of his play. Similarly, the way Hobbes transitioned from "real" tiger to stuffed toy kind of fits this idea. I haven't found any current Web comic that follows this pattern, though.
Something that comes close, however, is the Elf Only Inn, by Josh Sortelli. In it, the dialog is taken exactly from the chatroom typing of the players in the game, but the visuals are what the characters look like. This results in the extremely funny mis-match-ups of out-of-character teen hax0risms and mis-typings coming out of elder wizards' mouths!
For the next step along the continuum, the comic deals entirely with the characters -- players are never shown -- but these characters seem to know that they are PCs in a game, because they refer to game mechanics with comic effect. The character who fails to see the enemy is urged to put more ranks into spot next time he goes up a level. The king of this category is the deservedly popular Order of the Stick, by game designer and artist Rich Burlew, The Giant in the Playground. (Also check out his insightful essays on D&D rules as well as a very active forum community.)
Finally, we get to Web comics that are utterly based in a fantasy world without any out-of-character dialog at all. These can be called game-related, rather than just pure fantasy, because they are set in a game world. They follow the tropes of a game setting, including game monsters, magic, and races. Here are a couple of these:
- Nodwick, by Aaron Williams, the same talented guy who does Full Frontal Nerdity at the other end of the continuum.
- Atland, by Nate Piekos.
- The Wotch, by Anne Onymous and Robin Ericson.
Lord knows that this is not a comprehensive list -- and I'd love to hear about other good gaming comics. So get out there and start reading!