5/18/2015 - |
Order of the Stick |
by Amber E. Scott|
by Amber E. Scott
by Amber E. Scott
by Rich Burlew|
by Rich Burlew
by Rich Burlew
Back when I ran the Kickstarter campaign, the top reward was a walk-on cameo for a D&D character of your creation. It's taken a while, but today I fulfilled that reward in strip #986. Veldrina the elven priestess is the creation of one of my loyal backers and has been included here at their request. In fact, upon hearing the character's description for the first time, I immediately decided to slot her into an existing spot in the upcoming story where a divine caster would make the most sense, so she will be sticking around a bit more than the one page that was paid for. It just took a long time to get to this specific point in the narrative, though luckily the backer has been very gracious and patient for this entire time. So enjoy the first-ever fan-created OOTS character for however long she's here.
I also fulfilled another promise with today's strip, if a less joyous one. Mark Monack, who went by the screen name "Wrecan," was a pillar of the message board community for many years. He was, among his other roles, the founder of one of the forum's odder traditions: counting the number of strips each character appears in, a project that continues many years after he began it. When he passed in 2013, I asked his wife Jodie if there was anything I could do to help out. She told me he would have loved nothing more than to have a walk-on character named Wrecan in OOTS. Now, there is one.
Just a quick update on the books and calendars. All items arrived in the Ookoodook warehouse late last week and they've been packing them up ever since. Many of them will get where they're going before Christmas; many will not (including most international orders). If you ordered the book and/or calendar as a present for someone, I've designed a fold-up card PDF that you can download and print to give to the person to let them know that their package is on the way.
This year's OOTS Holiday Ornaments are now up at CafePress, along with the now-traditional new selection of t-shirt designs. This year's main ornament features Thor enjoying a refreshing nog beverage, while the battle ornament has Haley vs. Sabine. We also have new designs featuring gnomes, steampunk, rainbows, and healing potion endorsements, among others. If you want to see close-ups of all the new designs, I started a thread with all of them on the message board.
Last news update, I said I was going to answer any questions in a day or two, and there didn't end up being as many as I thought there would be, so I didn't. But I will now!
Q: Are the books printed yet?
A: They're being printed right now. I tweeted an image of the book proofs on November 18th, and I approved them the next day. The printer said that it would take three weeks from proof approval for delivery, which would put the books arriving on December 10th. I do know that the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed may mess with that by a day or two, but the upshot is that books should start shipping by the end of that week, which would put them in the hands of all US customers and many international customers before December 24th. Calendar proofs are still on the way, but that should have a much quicker turnaround than three weeks so I expect everything to ship together.
Q: Is the reduced cost shipping option still available?
A: Yes. It will be available until the books arrive in the warehouse.
Q: Will there be tracking on the reduced pre-order shipping option?
A: There will be tracking numbers available in case your package gets lost, yes. But they won't be sent out en masse when the orders are mailed; the Ookoodook staff will have a list that they'll be able to look up with the bulk shipping company, and if your package is overdue you'll be able to contact them and they'll contact the shipper about it. But there won't be real-time internet tracking like you might be used to from USPS. For that, you'll have to select one of the more expensive options.
Q: Will there be books or calendars still available later if I don't pre-order?
A: The book should be in print from now on, yes. For the calendar, we will only be printing about 100-200 extra from what we pre-sell, and when those run out, that will be it.
Q: Can I order the book and ornament (or any of the t-shirts) from the same place to save on shipping?
A: Unfortunately, no. All of the stuff produced by CafePress is made print-on-demand, and needs to be manufactured by them wherever their facilities are, while the books are shipping from the Ookoodook warehouse in Houston, TX. Neither one can ship the other's products.
We've been teasing this all weekend on the Twitter so here goes: The fifth book in the Order of the Stick story is now available for pre-order. Titled Blood Runs in the Family, this is a huge book that covers everything from the point where they first arrive on the Western Continent to the first look inside Durkon's eyes. I've set up a product page that can give you more details on what bonus material the book covers. You should go read it, it's much funnier than this announcement, because I wrote it when I was better rested. The book will also be available through all the regular channels that OOTS books are sold, including your local game shop.
I'm also happy to announce our second OOTS calendar, the 2015 Heroes Calendar. This time, each month will feature a different OOTS hero battling monsters or doing something else suitably heroic. Like the book, this is now available for pre-order; unlike the book, this is an Ookoodook-exclusive. That means you can only order it here. Like last year's calendar, I'm really trying to push the edges of my art style on this one and I'm excited for how well it's turning out.
Also, for the duration of the pre-order, Ookoodook is offering reduced shipping costs on all orders that include one or both of the above items. And we're also repeating the charity donation thing from last year—we'll donate $2.00 for every calendar sold.
OK, that's the big announcement. I expect there to be 734 questions about the book; rather than try in vain to predict them, you can just ask them on the message board or Twitter, and I'll update this News page with some answers in a day or two. Cool?
The folks at Morland Miniatures have asked me to mention that they're releasing a new batch of OOTS miniatures, and this time, there are four different characters—or seven, depending on how you want to count them. First up is O-Chul, then Redcloak (or "Hobgoblin Cleric," depending on how you want to paint him), then a Hobgoblin Warrior (or again, "Goblin Warrior," if you prefer green to orange), and finally The Monster in the Darkness—who comes with a set of his own Demon Roaches. That's a lot of miniatures right there, and some of them even don't draw attention to my lazy palette-swap character designs. You can get them at Morland's website via those links above, but if you're headed to GenCon, you can also pick them up at Morland Miniature's convention booth. I don't have the booth number, sorry, but it should be in the guide booklet. Also, if you happen to be a Kickstarter backer, that super-secret free-domestic-shipping code I gave you waaaay back when the first Roy miniature was still released? It's still valid, so use it.
Also, I apparently never mentioned the last set of miniatures to be released: a stand-alone Xykon and an alternate sculpt of Vaarsuvius with original hair. So if you missed those, you can toss them in now. Oh, and they also wanted me to mention that due to a bunch of production reasons that I don't pretend to really understand, they've been able to permanently lower the price of the giant Xykon on a Zombie Dragon miniature, so that's cool.
So, the Order of the Stick has been appearing quarterly in Gygax Magazine. If you don't know what Gygax Magazine is, it's an ongoing "old school" roleplaying game magazine, in print and PDF, that attempts to capture the feeling of the old Dragon Magazines—specifically, the late 80's, which coincidentally is when I was first discovering them. For three issues, I've provided an all-new one-page OOTS comic to the magazine, sort of continuing the adventures of the alternate versions of the characters that appeared in the actual Dragon Magazine (and then encountered their Fourth Edition counterparts in Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales). Issue #4 of Gygax Magazine is on sale now.
If you're wondering why I haven't managed to announce this before now, it's because I never seem to know when, exactly, a new issue is being released. I know I provide my comic, and then three months later I hear that the issue has been on sale for over a month. I think they make all their announcements on Facebook, or something, but whatever. The point is, it's on sale now—as are subscriptions, if you'd rather not rely on my impeccable track record for timely notifications for some reason.
It's the end of this (very long) story arc, so that means it's time for me to take a break from the regular updates in order to prepare for the next (probably also very long) arc. The main comic here on the site will return on March 31st, with a whole new story far away from the desert and Elan's family and all that. Downside: Less dinosaurs. Sorry. As for what I'll be doing for those six weeks, I wish I could say, "tropical vacation," but no such luck. Here are the highlights:
- Planning the new story. I have the broad strokes outlined, but I need to develop it further before I can start writing dialogue.
- Working on Kickstarter PDFs. I really want to get at least one more long-overdue Kickstarter story out before the end of the break, because this has taken way too long already.
- Finishing crayon drawings. Again for the Kickstarter backers, I've been hard at work on the custom drawings some of you ordered. I'd like to finish a lot more, and get the ones I've already finished mailed out.
- Upgrading the forum. We'll be upgrading the message board software during the next few weeks to a new version with substantial differences. That will require the boards being turned off for a few days while we all work behind-the-scenes. Exact dates and details will be discussed on the message board, so watch for announcements there.
- Getting a root canal. Three visits to the dentist expected. I'm planning on not working those days.
- Other life stuff. A few multi-day tasks I've been putting off since I got back from my injury.
The thing I'm not going to be working on that might be expected is the preparation for the next compilation book, even though this strip (#946) was definitely the last that will be included therein. There's too much other stuff for me to get done right now, and prepping that book will be a lot of extra work. I'd rather spend my limited time away from the regular strip getting old work off my plate than putting new work onto it. As far as when that book might make it to print, I'm aiming toward later this year, though beyond that I'd prefer not to make any (more) commitments I might have trouble keeping.
Anyway, the bottom line is I'll still be around the forums and Twitter during my "break," at least as much as normal. I'll just be working on different stuff than normal. As always, thanks to all the readers that have supported the comic through this section of the story and I hope you enjoy everything I have in store for the next one.
Things have not been going too well for the process of actually getting the calendars printed, as shown by this image, but they are definitely now en route to the Ookoodook warehouse. That does mean that it's highly unlikely that they will arrive in any customer's hands in time for Christmas, however, for which I apologize. If you were planning on giving the calendar as a gift to someone, I've whipped up a quick printable card for you to give them explaining the situation. Just download it from that link, print it, fold it in quarters, and give it to the intended recipient.
In other (bad) news, those who have been following my Twitter feed know that my longtime computing companion has decided to pursue a new career direction as an extremely heavy metal box. That is to say, my main computer melted down Monday morning, and the whole week has been spent trying to retrieve data and switch everything over to my laptop. I lost a few recent original files, but overall I had pretty good backups. But if you notice some minor art inconsistencies in the next few weeks with the strip, that's me ironing out the various settings and preferences of the new set-up.
It's that time of year—the time when I announce a bunch of new OOTS products two weeks later than I would have liked. This year, we're kicking off with a celebration of ten years of OOTS in paper form—the 2014 Tenth Anniversary Order of the Stick Wall Calendar, featuring twelve scenes from the comic's history re-imagined in stunning Moderate Definition™. It's available only from Ookoodook, and we're taking pre-orders for mid-December delivery now. You can find out more details (including a second sample page) on this thread on the message board.
As always, we also have the 2014 OOTS holiday ornaments. We're back to having two this year after last year's slight snag: Tarquin vs. Julio in one, and Elan vs. Nale in the other. There is also a whole slew of new t-shirt designs, based both on the comic and the Monster for Every Season set of paper miniatures I've been making for Kickstarter backers. There are some pictured below, but if you want to see them up close, you can check out that same thread on the message board.
Finally, I wanted to mention that, in association with Ookoodook, Giant in the Playground will be donating $2.00 from every calendar and $1.00 from every ornament to help with ongoing disaster relief in the Phillippines after the typhoon that struck on November 8. Of course, if you don't want a calendar or an ornament (or even if you do), I urge you to donate directly.
Today is the Tenth Anniversary of The Order of the Stick. Which is pretty amazing, considering that when I started it, I had no intention of it being anything more than a momentary diversion. The comic has officially outlasted the game system that it was originally making fun of, and is on the verge of outlasting its replacement, too. There have been 921 strips so far, but somewhere north of 1400 pages of comic when you take into account multi-page strips and bonus stuff like the prequel books. It ran in Dragon Magazine until the end and now runs in Gygax Magazine. All in all, it’s been a pretty good run so far.
Normally, this would be where I would say that I’m just getting started, but that’s not really true. There’s still a lot of story to go, but we’re definitely on the back nine. My best guess on how much is left is about four years. When you factor in my scheduling deficiencies and my tendency to run long, though, who knows? What I do know is that there is a set amount of story that needs to be told, and I’ll continue to tell it until I’m done. I hope you all stay with me to see it to the end, too. And then maybe stick around for whatever’s next.
Thanks to all those who have supported OOTS over the last decade, regardless of the format that support may have taken. It is only because of the response from you that this story ever grew beyond a bunch of lame jokes about skill points. So if you like reading the story as it is now, pat yourself on the back for making it happen. Or pat each other on your respective backs, since that’s probably easier.
The last two members of the Order are being released in miniature form. Durkon and Vaarsuvius will be up for sale on August 15th, both at Morland's GenCon booth (#1449) in Indianapolis and in their webstore. You'll also be able to order the whole Order now, which is fun to say if nothing else. Durkon features a shield that can be worn on his arm or fastened to his back, while Vaarsuvius has two different Blackwings: one that perches on the elf's arm and one that is mounted on his own base for unfettered raven familiar exploration.
But they're not the only new sculptures from Morland. The absolutely incredible "Xykon riding the zombie dragon" miniature pictured will also be on sale. I'm totally blown away by their sculpting on this one; I've been checking my mailbox every day waiting for my sample just so I can stare at it. This thing is big—Xykon is in scale with the existing miniatures—and only being cast in one limited production run. Unlike the members of the Order, it won't be re-ordered when it runs out. Like Durkon and V, it will be on sale (online and at GenCon) starting on the 15th. You can see more pictures of it here on the forum.
In addition to these goodies at Morland's GenCon booth, the other spot you might want to hit if you're going to the convention is the APE Games/Ookoodook booth (#1509). They'll have all the OOTS books and the OOTS board game on sale—plus lots of the remaining Kickstarter swag, like the Order of the Stick coloring book, hit point pads, stickers, and the Sticky Shticks mini-expansion to the board game. They'll also have their new not-OOTS-but-still-looks-cool board game Island Siege for sale for (I think) the first time.
One of the rewards that was promised during the Kickstarter campaign was a set of ten all-new wallpaper images that would be available to everyone—not just those who pledged. The first of these is now available here, and there will be nine more released sporadically over the rest of the year.
I also should mention that if you've been collecting the Morland Miniatures figures, last month saw the release of Haley and Elan, bringing us two steps closer to the full Order in resin and metal.
The GITP server was compromised last night for a little over two hours. After our last brush with server problems a few weeks ago, the system software needed to be reloaded, and apparently the hosting company did not configure something properly. So last night, someone got in and put a bunch of bad code in our website. It's gone now, but if you accessed the site between 12:30 am and 3:00 am Eastern US time (4:30 to 7:00 am GMT), you may have seen a weird pop-up or had your security software issue an alert. We don't think that any malware was installed on anyone's computer because our system administrator (known on the forums as Rawhide) caught the intruders before they were able to upload everything. He shut the whole thing down and closed the hole in our defenses, which took a few hours.
However, for your own protection, we recommend that anyone who visited the site during that time period clear the cache for any browser used and then run whatever sort of virus scans or other security you might normally use. Here's a post with some suggested options, if you need them. No forum passwords were downloaded, but it's never a bad idea to change yours once in a while anyway, so feel free to do so.
One of the downsides of now having a Twitter account is that it seems I'm forgetting to make announcements over here, too. So let's play catch-up:
You've almost certainly noticed that I've been posting new comics every day, and some people have asked me if this is intended to fulfill my Kickstarter promise of nine comics in a row at some point. And the answer is: Maybe. I haven't actually finished all nine comics yet, and it's possible my thumb might tell me, "No way, buddy," before I do. If that happens, then this is just a nice little bonus run of comics for you, and the real nine-in-a-row will happen some other time this year.
As far as my thumb's progress, it's been doing well. I'm not 100% yet—I still need to take frequent breaks, and my lines don't always go where I want them to go—but it's been getting better. My doctor recently told me that my tendon has healed enough that I'm no more likely to snap it during regular activity than anyone else is, so I've been trying to work every day in order to get some of this enormous backlog off of my plate. I know the tendency is for people to tell me to take it easy and not push too hard, but I just wanted to assure everyone that I'm keeping a close eye on it and will stop work for the day at the first sign of trouble.
And since I forgot to mention it here: The Belkar Bitterleaf (and Mr. Scruffy) miniatures came out last month.
OK, so, there's a new Order of the Stick. My thumb has been making a lot of progress, and I had set myself the goal of updating the comic before the end of the year. Which I have now done.
The important thing to keep in mind, though, is that no one should expect me to start churning out new strips particularly quickly. My thumb is still not 100%—or even 80%, really—and it requires a lot of rest between activities in order to keep from swelling up. I finished this comic over the course of three days, and it was relatively simple (since I was able to lift three panels directly from older strips). So there's no telling how long it will take for each new strip to appear—much less the backlog of Kickstarter stories that a lot of you are waiting on. I'm just going to take it slowly and pace myself so I don't end up straining anything.
A lot of people who have been collecting the holiday ornaments for the past eight years have asked whether there would be a 2012 edition, and the answer has changed over the weeks. In late October, the answer was, "Sure!" because I was hopeful I'd be back to work. Then by the beginning of this month, it was, "No," because I wasn't. But now, it's, "Surprisingly, yes," and it's all because of a forgotten file.
See, back in 2007, I had intended for the yearly ornament to feature everyone's least-favorite paladin, Miko Miyazaki—but there were problems. She had met her final fate that year, and speculation was rampant that she would return in one form or another. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that releasing the ornament with her (back in blue, no less) would fuel rumors that she would be back. I didn't really want to send that message. Plus, I was afraid that a Miko ornament wouldn't sell very well; she was never the most popular character, and my finances were particularly tight that year. So I changed my mind and decided to go with the Linear Guild instead...
...but not before drawing the Miko ornament! I suddenly remembered over the weekend and spent hours searching old backup CDs in order to find it: a perfectly usable ornament design from five years in the past. All I had to do was change the date and resave it. So I'm proud to announce that yes, there IS a 2012 OOTS holiday ornament featuring Miko in her one-horse open sleigh. Of course, usually this announcement comes with a slew of new shirt designs, and this year, that ain't happening. It's just the ornament, or the ornament design loaded onto a shirt.
In unrelated news, Giant in the Playground is proud to announce that it is a corporate sponsor of Child's Play for the upcoming year. If you're not familiar with Child's Play, it's a great charity founded by fellow webcomic creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik that provides games and toys to children undergoing medical treatment in hospitals worldwide. They've raised an all-time high of $3 million this year, but can always use more. If you'd like to make a donation, you can do so here. I'd originally planned on providing some crayon art for their charity auction, too, but obviously that didn't work out.
And finally, the Thumb Report: Encouraging, with a 20% chance of pen-holding. More soon.
First, here's the latest on my thumb: I still have the splint, but I'm mostly wearing it when I sleep or go out. I can move my thumb roughly and even bend it a little, but what I really lack right now is strength. Everything basically slips through my grip, making it hard to pick up objects or even move them around with any precision. Holding a pencil or click-and-dragging a mouse are literally beyond my grasp. My physical therapist has me working on exercises for that, though, so hopefully it will get better soon. All in all, things are progressing, even if only at a very slow pace.
Second, for anyone who missed the Kickstarter drive back in February, Ookoodook has finally put up some of the leftover "swag" that they had sitting around now that 99.5% of the packages for which they were responsible have shipped. This includes the Order of the Stick Coloring Book, the OOTS hit point pad, the OOTS sticker sheet, and the mini-expansion to the OOTS board game, Sticky Shticks. It does not include some of the items that were deemed exclusive to the drive. They have a lot of leftovers, but supplies are not infinite; when these run out, they're just gone. Also, they inform me that they're getting to the end of their stock of the original Good Guys / Bad Guys mega poster set, which is not going to be reprinted when it sells out. So if you wanted that, I recommend getting it now.
Third, there's a list of Kickstarter backers who MUST contact me in order to get the stuff they ordered. I posted it over on the Kickstarter site as an update, but on the off-chance that one of these 40 people reads this post and not that one...go read that one if you're a Kickstarter backer who has not yet provided me with their address.
One of the unexpected benefits of the Kickstarter drive getting so much attention is that I had a few companies approach me after it was done with ideas about licensing new OOTS products. The first of these went on sale yesterday: Morland Studios will be producing a line of officially licensed The Order of the Stick gaming miniatures. They're 35 mm metal-and-resin figures for you to assemble, paint, and then send to their doom against your other more fearsome miniatures. The first in the series is Roy Greenhilt, naturally. One of the things I like best about this sculpt is that it includes two different eyebrows, letting you customize Roy's facial expression from "calm" to "angry" to "Elan is nearby." Morland is planning on bringing the rest of the Order (and some of their villains) to three dimensions as well over the coming months.
Right now, Roy is available only at the Morland Studios webstore, but they're teaming up with Ookoodook to run a special cross-promotion: If you're buying at least $50 of stuff at Ookoodook.com between now and December 1st, they'll send you a coupon code for free shipping on a Morland order that includes Roy. So your shipping cost will be the same as if Ookoodook was carrying it directly.
Before anyone gets mad about me putting out a new product when I can't do any work, studio owner Maya Morland contacted me back in April about this and has been working on it in secret all year—all I really did was give notes and approve the end result. She was already considerate enough to hold off on releasing back in September because I was hurt; I couldn't ask her to continue to sit on her thumbs until mine gets better. Me getting hurt shouldn't have to impact her company's well-being. I know we're still working to get the last few customers their Kickstarter packages and everyone wants to see the regular comic come back, but please, don't take it out on Tiny Metal Roy. He just wants to fight tiny metal monsters for you.
I got my cast taken off on Friday—the hurricane pushed my appointment back a few days—and had my first physical therapy appointment Monday. I have a splint now, but I can take it off for a few times a day to stretch my hand. The surface wound is healing well, but right now I have almost no mobility in my thumb. I can slightly wiggle the tip, and that's about it. It's going to take some time to get back to the point where I can hold a pencil or use a mouse with that hand (and I don't have enough control with my left hand to draw). I can type normally again for short bursts, if I'm careful, though my wrist on that hand is now very weak from being immobilized for so long. So I'll be getting some work done, even if it will be all behind-the-scenes work for the time being. And I'll be able to return to more frequent status updates on my condition and what's going on around here. Will I get to update the comic before the end of the year? I really don't know. It depends on how therapy goes, but I'm trying my hardest. Right now, therapy is my full-time job and I'll be working only when it doesn't interfere with that. All I ask is for your continued patience as I relearn the process of moving my hand.
On an unrelated note: I grew up in NJ and lived most of my adult life in NY, so I would be remiss not to point you to the American Red Cross and ask you to donate to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, if you haven't already done so through other means (or even if you have). Or consider a donation to the efforts of the Humane Society to help care for the stranded pets of evacuated residents and reunite them with their owners. Or give to the Community Food Bank of NJ, if you want. Whatever makes you most comfortable. But they're getting hit by a winter storm again tonight, so there's going to be more need before this is over.
Hey gang, this is Rich again. Thanks to everyone for the hundreds of supportive messages and kind thoughts that you've all expressed through various channels. They've really helped me keep my spirits up during what has been a decidedly crappy time in my life. The vast majority of you have told me to take as much time as I need to heal up—which I will. But I still thought it would be good to update everyone on my status when I can, and when my wonderfully caring wife can type for me, as she's doing right now. (I'm down to one-finger hunt-and-peck typing otherwise, which is not good for much more than a tweet.)
I had a doctor's appointment Friday, and I'm happy to report that he was pleased with the way everything is healing. I'll have a cast on my hand until the beginning of November or so, after which I'll start physical therapy and we'll see how much control I have over my thumb. I don't know whether I will be able to draw on the computer right away or not—and even if I can, it may proceed a lot more slowly than normal until I get accustomed to it. Output will therefore definitely be low from me for the rest of this year, unfortunately. The regular strip is a high priority, but I'll also need to balance it with the digital stories that the Kickstarter backers paid me for back in March. Crayon drawings will probably need to wait until I'm done with therapy, however long that takes.
For Kickstarter backers, I talked to the folks at Ookoodook recently and they reported that they were expecting to be done with all shipping by today or tomorrow, not counting orders with some sort of problem with the address or whatever. And of course, not counting my autographed packages, which will have to wait until I can sign my name again. I still have to sit down with my wife and go through all the emails about orders that have piled up, so please be patient with us. If you wrote me with a last-minute address change, your package may have mailed without it being processed; we'll figure out a way to make sure your box gets to you anyway, even if it means shipping out a replacement.
Thanks again for all of your patience, and I'll be sure to pop up to let you know what's happening from time to time...at least when anything is happening, which isn't most days. I'm pretty much just laying in bed and reading, watching TV, and sleeping now. And thinking of ideas for future strips, when they come to me. Hopefully I'll get enough good ideas so that when I'm able to draw again, the comics will flow right out of me.
P.S. from Mrs. Giant: I just want to take a moment to personally thank everyone who has sent well-wishes not only to Rich but to me as well. Your kind and caring nature never fails to amaze me. And don't worry, I'm not letting him do anything the doctor tells him to avoid. :)