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. :)
This is Mrs. Giant writing (AKA Rich's Wife). He wanted me to let you guys know some stuff that's been going on. Rich had an accident earlier this week; he injured his right hand pretty badly on broken glass and was rushed in to have emergency surgery. They repaired some severed tendons in his thumb and he's home now and recovering. But he won't be able to draw for at least six weeks (maybe longer, depending on how quickly the nerves in his thumb heal). And he didn't want to keep you guys in the dark for all that time.
He is planning on writing a more detailed post himself once he's able to sit at the computer and type with his left hand, but right now he's on some pretty strong painkillers. When he feels up to it, he'll be able to let you know when to expect the comic strip to return, as well as the timeframes for getting out the remaining autographed packages and crayon drawings from the Kickstarter Drive. I'll be helping him answer the backlog of emails from that next week sometime, but I don't really know his address-change system yet so it might take a little longer than normal while I learn it. The last few remaining packages that are set to ship from Ookoodook won't be affected by this, so they'll keep going out at the same rate.
Don't worry, OOTS will definitely return; the doctor is really confident that this is going to heal well, we just don't know yet how long it will take.
You guys have been so supportive and patient all year and Rich is really frustrated that he's letting you down by making you wait even longer for the stories he's been trying to bring to you. Just know that he is as eager to get back to creating the strip as you are to reading it. Thanks in advance for understanding, and hopefully you'll be hearing directly from Rich really soon.
Until then, think healing thoughts :)
For those of you who missed the Kickstarter (or missed getting all the books they needed) and have been waiting patiently for the Order of the Stick books to be back in stock at Ookoodook, they're now available. The turnaround time may be a bit longer than usual for the next two weeks while they finish up their end of the Kickstarter rewards, but at least you can place your order now. If you were looking to get a leftover coloring book, those won't be available until the very last of the non-autographed packages are shipped; I'll make an announcement much like this one when that happens.
The Kickstarter fulfillment continues, which has unfortunately kept me away from this News page for a while. It seems like everything I have to say is about my progress on the giant heap of stuff I promised back then, which means there's not much to say here. But I do have one thing: in order to speed up the website, Giant in the Playground will soon be making use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to store its stuff on various servers in multiple locations. The idea is that then when you call up the site, you'll get the pages and images served to you directly from the nearest location rather than from our one set of servers. This should speed things up across the board, especially for our readers outside the United States.
Ideally, this will be an invisible change, unless it messes up somehow—in which case it will be a highly visible change for a very short period of time before we pull the plug on it. The switchover will start in the next few days, but even once it starts, it could take up to 48 hours before any given reader is getting served by the CDN. In the (hopefully) unlikely event that you have an issue accessing the site during the trial period, try the alternate URL of http://alt.giantitp.com. But only if you can't get through to the site normally. With luck, no one will notice anything is different except for getting faster service.
Most of you who are invested in the reprint progress are reading the Kickstarter updates as they come out, right? But just in case there are any of you who didn't see it, the printer has informed me that the coloring book and the reprinted OOTS books will not be shipped out from them until the first week of May, rather than before the end of April as originally hoped. When you add in the time for them to get from the printer to Ookoodook and the time for Ookoodook to pack them, that means that no unsigned book packages will go into the mail before the second week of May (and it will take a while after that to get the last one out). For those of you waiting for the books to show up in the Ookoodook storefront (or in game stores nationwide), you shouldn't expect them before the end of May.
If you are going to need to change your shipping address as a result of this delay, you should contact me with your new address through the Kickstarter messaging system (you'll have to be logged into your KS account to use it, though).
I've gone ahead and signed up for a Twitter account despite having resisted it for so long (@RichBurlew). The Kickstarter drive has just created so much stuff to keep everyone updated on that I needed a place to make quick announcements without resorting to a big long KS update. As a bonus, I will also be using it to announce new comics, News posts, or whatever else is happening. What I won't be using it for is updating you on my inane daily activities or endlessly retweeting other people's comments. I've had this account for less than a week and that already bugs me.
So if you have a Twitter account, you can follow me. If you don't have a Twitter account, you don't need to get one. Just bookmark the page and check in on it from time to time. If it's really important, I'll mention it in the News of the KS updates anyway, so no pressure.
Well, the OOTS Kickstarter is over, and we did OK for ourselves. The final total was $1,254,120 pledged. You can see my closing thoughts on this accomplishment here.
Everyone should expect there to be changes (for the positive) around here, so keep an eye on this spot for further announcements. And of course, the updates on the Kickstarter site will continue as I keep everyone apprised of the status of the rewards and when they will be shipping. Still lots to talk about and lots to do. This will be a very busy year.
Special thanks to all the fans and readers who weren't able to contribute but wanted to. Money isn't the only metric of success in this industry, and knowing there are thousands more of you out there who desperately wanted to buy a book or a patch but couldn't (because you didn't have the money to spare or because Kickstarter doesn't accept all payment options) still means a lot to me, personally. Whether or not someone contributed financially does not mean anything about how much they love the comic and the GITP community, and many of the people who did contribute may never have heard of OOTS if they hadn't been introduced to it by someone else. So thanks to everyone who's reading this. We couldn't have done any of this without all of you.
Finally, this got a fair amount of media attention, so there are more articles and interviews to drop on you, but rather than fill up the News page with them, I've started a media thread on the message board for it.
Just five days left for The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive at Kickstarter, which is still breaking records and fulfilling dreams (mine, mostly, but other people's too, as long as their dreams involve free OOTS coloring books or embroidered patches or something). The drive ends at 12:03 pm (EST) on Tuesday, February 21, so there's still time to get in on the fun.
I've also had a few media interviews over the whole thing. Last week, Comics Alliance interviewed me via chat about the Kickstarter, and I recorded a more wide-ranging interview with the GeekAdemia podcast that you can listen to or download here. It's about an hour of me babbling away in a self-important manner and stumbling over my words, but it covers such topics as the pledge drive, the comic strip, and some of the history of the D&D game. And probably more that I've forgotten since it was recorded. There will be at least one more interview coming this week, but I haven't heard word of when it will be posted yet.
Also, if you hadn't noticed, I'm posting a new OOTS comic every day until the end of the drive. Three down, five to go. Enjoy.
If you're not following the project update page at the Kickstarter site, you're not only missing out on daily mini-cartoons with each new progress graph. You're missing out on 4000+ Order of the Stick fans demolishing the previous record-holder for most funds raised in the Comics category. And you probably don't know that I've added two more exclusive stories to the reward PDDF that will be delivered to all pledges over $10: A Julio Scoundrel tale, and an OOTS spoof of a certain classic campaign setting. And we've still got three weeks left on this thing. Who knows where it's going to end up. It's crazy.
In an effort to service the reader demand for reprints of the older The Order of the Stick books, I'm thrilled to announce The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive at Kickstarter. For the next 30 days, we'll be accepting pledges at the Kickstarter website toward the goal of sending War and XPs, the book that has been out-of-print the longest, back to the presses. If the project meets its goal by the deadline, everyone who pledges gets some awesome rewards. It's sort of like a PBS pledge drive, but with cool OOTS swag instead of tote bags.
You can read more about how it works (and what you can get) at the Kickstarter site, but I would be remiss to not highlight the offer of a brand-new never-before-seen OOTS prequel story that will be delivered as a PDF file to everyone who pledges $10 or more. Called, "How the Paladin Got His Scar," it's the original backstory of O-Chul, Azurite soldier turned paladin, and how he joined the Sapphire Guard. You can see the cover, in authentic Azure-O-Vision bluescale, to the left. Originally, I was going to include this tale as part of last year's Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, but the plot outline ended up running at least 20 pages, making it too long for that book. If the pledge drive succeeds, I'll go back, finish writing and drawing the story, and deliver it to all backers at the minimum level and above.
But that's only the tip of the reward iceberg, because we're also offering a new Roy Greenhilt magnet (also pictured left), exclusive to this pledge drive. Plus copies of the to-be-reprinted War and XPs, crayon drawings of your favorite OOTS character, and even a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have your D&D character score a walk-on cameo in The Order of the Stick! So if you already own a copy of War and XPs, there are plenty of reasons to check out the site and see the rewards.
Finally, if you don't want to pledge to the OOTS drive, I still encourage everyone who's not already familiar with Kickstarter to check the site out. There are literally hundreds of small creative projects looking for funding right now, and you can help them out with a small donation. With Kickstarter, you never have to pay unless a project makes its goal. Browse around, find some stuff that excites you, and make a pledge to support the creative arts.