2/18/2014 - |
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
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.
So, Wizards of the Coast announced on Monday that they are working on a new edition of D&D which will almost certainly not be titled "5th Edition," but is functionally 5th Edition. (Actually, I guess it's really like 9th or 10th Edition, if you count the original boxed set and the "basic" line and 3.5 and Essentials and...) And almost immediately, I started getting emails asking me whether I was going to switch the OOTS story to this new edition when it comes out. Just so I can get ahead of this thing and not be dodging this question for a year and a half like I did when 4th Edition was announced: No, I won't.
The reason I can say that with confidence is that my decision has nothing to do with the content of that still-unwritten ruleset. Everything I said about my decision not to make a wholesale switch to 4th Edition still stands: It would be an enormous amount of exposition for very little benefit, and it would likely change some of the characters in ways that would be difficult to reconcile with the story I've been planning. Further, this story is now three and a half years closer to its conclusion than it was when 4E was released, and it will be yet another year and a half before these new rules are widely available. The halfway point of OOTS is in the rearview mirror, and at a certain point, it just becomes an issue of not changing horses midstream (or at the very least, dancing with who brought you).
Plus I barely even reference the 3.5 rules anymore, using them just to determine what sort of spells or class abilities a character might have and then ignoring them the rest of the time. I'm certainly not looking to drive this narrative backwards to a point where I'm more chained to a ruleset over which I have no control. No, as an author, I'm more interested in deciding what happens in my world than I am in ceding that power to others.
Of course, the issue of whether or not I use any new rules in the comic is wholly separate from the issue of whether or not I use any new rules at the gaming table. If anything, I am encouraged by a lot of the language in the press release. Trying to bring gamers together again after the divisions of the last few years is a worthy goal, one I hope they can accomplish (but is fraught with certain pitfalls). Listening to their fans is probably a good start, though if I've learned anything here on my site, it's that there are always fans who have diametrically opposed views from each other. Their best bet would be to forge some sort of consensus on what all D&D must be, and then build a simple well-designed game that allows that core experience but can then be seasoned to taste by each gaming group. What they shouldn't do is attempt to craft One Game to Rule Them All in the hopes of co-opting/exterminating all previous editions. Because if you make that game, and the fans throw it in the volcano anyway, where do you go next?
(Oh, and for those waiting for the reprinting announcement: It's still coming, I just wanted to comment on this right away.)
A slightly-belated Happy New Year to all my readers, forum-goers, and assorted community members. Normally, this would be the place where I would talk about all the big plans I have for the coming year, but since I've had some of the same big plans for 3-4 years in a row, I'll bite my tongue until I can actually enact some of them. Suffice to say, there will be some changes to the website if I have any power at all, which I may not.
One thing that is coming along is the dream of a separate server for the forum. While the ad revenue has been rocky, we've also come up with some ideas that may lower the cost (but require additional technical research). Our hope is to meet somewhere in the middle over the next few months, so that the forum can finally have the server that it so sorely needs. Don't worry, we'll let you know well in advance before we have any forum downtime.
Finally, for two years, people have been asking me when War and XPs will be back in print. And I will finally have an answer...in the next week or so. But it will need the full support of everyone who wants to have the book in their hands, and maybe even a little bit more than that. So if you've been patiently waiting for reprints, get ready and keep an eye on this space for more information.
Those of you who have been following the comic for a long time don't need to be told what time of year it is. The rest of you may or may not, I'm not certain, but keep reading anyway. It's time of year when
I clog up the News page with images the annual OOTS Christmas ornament is revealed, followed by a new round of OOTS t-shirts, all manufactured by our partners at CafePress. This year, we're trying two ornaments; those of you that have been collecting the existing "snowfall" theme will want to take a look at the new Celia ornament, featuring scoring by Julia Greenhilt, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Rodriguez. Those who haven't gotten the chance to get the previous ornaments may want to check out our new second theme, featuring Roy and Xykon locked in battle.
As far as new shirt designs, we've got some good ones, in my highly biased opinion. If you're a fan of a certain series of vampire movies (or perhaps even more if you are not a fan), we have Durkon showing us how to deal with the sparkly undead. We also have a templated snail shirt, a new Banjo design, Enor and Gannji's take on the alignment debate, and more, some of which are pictured below. My personal favorite, though, is the Fantasy fantasy shirt
to the left; if you're having trouble reading the text on that or any other image, I've started a thread on the message board with larger images for each new design. (EDIT: I've removed the Fantasy Fantasy image as of 1/7/2012 to keep the page from being too cluttered. You can still see it at either of the links provided, though.)
One item that I've gotten dozens of requests for over the last year from people who see those "stick figure family" decals on cars all over the country. You can now respond by displaying your own favorite stick figures on your car window, though I sincerely hope that they will not actually be indicative of your family if you do. Especially if you buy the Team Evil or Linear Guild variations.
So if you're looking for gifts this holiday season for the OOTS fan in your life, or you are the OOTS fan in your life and you're looking to pester someone into buying you something, there's sure to be something for everyone (as long as they fit into one of those two categories). And if you're the sort of person who's interested in saving money, check out the first post in that aforementioned thread for the latest money-saving coupon code. CafePress usually runs special sales throughout the holiday season, so make sure to take a look before placing your order.
Back in 2009, we migrated to a new server for the website in order to alleviate some crippling lag issues. One of the most important moves we made at that time was to isolate the message boards from the main comic. While less than 10% of our reading audience makes regular use of the forum, it was consuming the majority of our total bandwidth and processing power. Every time a new comic went up, the whole site crashed within an hour as people overloaded the system trying to get to the forum in order to discuss it. Since we've split the two halves of the site, that problem had vanished; the comic is always visible now, even when the forum grinds to a halt.
And it has been grinding to a halt more frequently recently. The number of server errors, delays, and lost posts (or accidental double posts) has been steadily growing over the last few months. The problem is, the current server costs are at the absolute limit of what I can financially support, and most of that cost is a result of the forum. I haven't been able to justify taking on a higher monthly bill solely to support the message board, which only indirectly supports my book sales and other actual revenue streams. As a result, we've all been forced to deal with the intermittent service on the message board. But today, I'm starting an experiment that will hopefully lead to the message board supporting itself: I've added two advertising banners to the forums, courtesy of webcomic advertising specialists Project Wonderful.
These two forum adboxes are here strictly as a test for now, to see whether they can consistently generate enough revenue to justify paying for a more expensive server. If they perform well enough, we'll be able to begin plans to upgrade so that the message board runs more smoothly and efficiently. If, after a few months, they don't perform particularly well, we'll drop them—I have no interest in running ads if they can't help improve service.
This won't affect the comic page at all; no paid advertising will be put on the Order of the Stick page for the foreseeable future. I'm a firm believer that it would be wrong for me (or anyone) to accept money to run third-party advertisements on a page that cannot provide new content consistently. Since we all know that I'm not very good at putting out OOTS on a predictable schedule, putting ads on that page would represent me being paid for drawing in eyeballs while delivering nothing. It would be no better than those ad-ridden pages put up by domain squatters. The message board, on the other hand, has new content every minute of every day, whether or not I have updated the comic, and has many regular users who don't even read OOTS at all (much less buy books). The upshot of this is that only the people actually using the message board will see the current ads—not the readers who come to the site, read the comic, and leave. If, at some later point, I prove to myself (and my readers) that I can keep a regular schedule over a sustained period of time, I may revisit the issue then.
And if you want to see your ad on the forum, you should sign up for Project Wonderful and place a bid.
The shipping people at Ookoodook have asked me to remind people that the new OOTS games (The Shortening or the Deluxe Edition) have not yet arrived in the Ookoodook warehouse from China. If you ordered the book and either one of the games, your order is being held until the games actually arrive. Likewise, if your order is to an APO address, contains unicode characters in the address, or placed your order after August 3, then your order has not shipped yet either. All other pre-orders of the book should have shipped by this point, so if you do not fall into any of these categories and have not yet gotten a shipping email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conversely, if you do fall into one of these categories or you have received a shipping email, please do not email Ookoodook asking where your order is. The volume of emails is making it more difficult to find those orders that slipped through the cracks and need special attention.
Just a quick update to remind everyone that the new OOTS book will be on sale at the Ookoodook booth at GenCon. This will be one of the only times the book will be on sale to just pick up and buy, so if you want a copy and don't want to pay shipping, head over to booth #1649. They will also have a limited number of the new OOTS board game releases, The Shortening and the Deluxe Edition, so you'll want to pick them up as well (especially The Shortening, because like the book, it won't be available in stores).
Also, I've gotten a few emails asking if I would be in attendance to sign products, and unfortunately I will not be.
In shipping news, Kevin from Ookoodook informs me that most (if not all) pre-orders will have shipped by this upcoming Saturday, three days ahead of his original ten-day estimate. So everyone who pre-ordered a book should thank him and his staff for their near-Herculean (Iolausan?) effort in getting everything out the door after the absurd production delays.
At long last, The Order of the Stick: Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales arrived in the Ookoodook warehouse Friday night and began shipping the following morning. By now, many of you who pre-ordered have likely gotten your shipping emails, and the rest of you will be getting them over the course of this week. Shipping will not be interrupted by GenCon, so books will continue to go in the mail until all have been sent.
As of Friday, therefore, all new orders are just plain orders, not pre-orders, which means they will not be eligible to receive GenCon pre-order pick-up service. (We don't want anyone ordering a book now as a way to "reserve" a copy at GenCon.) Orders will begin shipping once all pre-orders have left the building, so there will be a slight delay from Ookoodook's normal speedy turnaround if you order today while the staff finishes working on the existing backlog.
First, I wanted to pass along the news that we have concrete dates for the books: They will leave the printer Wednesday night, July 27th, 2011, and arrive at Ookoodook's warehouse sometime between the 29th and August 1st. They will then begin shipping out to pre-order customers the same day, probably taking around ten days total to complete all outstanding orders. You will get an email from Ookoodook when your book ships with a tracking number on it, so keep an eye out for that.
Second, if you are going to GenCon Indy from August 4-7 and would prefer to pick up your book at the show rather than wait for it in the mail, send an email to email@example.com before Tuesday, August 2nd with your order information and they'll put a copy aside for you. Just make sure to bring a printout of your information with you to the Ookoodook/APE Games booth, #1649, and you'll be able to pick them up. They'll even refund your shipping for you! (Obviously, if your book ships before you send an email, then you won't be able to pick it up, so respond ASAP if you want to take advantage of this offer!)
Some of you may have noticed that I was unexpectedly indisposed for a while there, but I'm back now. For those of you who are waiting on the book, I direct your attention to the image to the left, which shows the final approved photo proof, signed off by me, which is being mailed back tomorrow. From there, printing should be fairly swift and I'm sure the folks at Ookoodook (who were kind enough to post updates on the status of the book to the message board while I was unavailable) will get it out the door as quickly as they are able. The good news is that my absence really didn't affect the book's printing schedule much, since at this point I mostly am only approving (or in some cases, disapproving) press proofs. I just had greatly underestimated how long that process would take when I wrote my last news post. That was solely my mistake, for which I apologize.
For those just worried about the comic, rest assured that I am back for the foreseeable future (which is not very foreseeable, but still). Thanks to those of you who expressed concern for me. I did want to emphasize to those of you who asked, however, that OOTS is still officially on a random schedule. I might post once a day, once a week, or once a month, depending on my ability to work, and that there will usually be no warning on my part beyond those explanations that are already on the record. Obviously, I'd like to post a few per week, but I wanted to stress that if I can't, please don't be surprised or expect additional notification. Let this serve as prior notice for all future absences: there won't be any prior notice of future absences.
That being said, I want to reiterate that I appreciated the well-wishes that I received in email from everyone, and am hopeful that I will be able to put out a lengthy string of comics before the next unplanned hiatus. I'm happy to finally get back to the story, and I hope you're still happy to be reading it.
In case there were any of you who missed my message board post about it two weeks ago, there have been some unexpected production difficulties on the book that have pushed it back a fair bit. They're basically solved now—well, more like circumvented than solved—so I'm pretty confident that the book will be in people's hands before the end of June. One month later than expected, for which I apologize to everyone who has pre-ordered already. One of the difficulties in being a business as small as mine is that I have very little cushion, either in time or money, when something goes off the rails. Bigger companies could afford to super double top-secret rush a print job if something delayed it, but I can't do that without putting myself significantly in the red on the whole project.
One special note that I mentioned on the boards: If you are a student and your semester is ending, and you ordered the book to come to an address that you won't be at in June, you can email Ookoodook at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to update your order to your new address.
In other long-awaited book shipping news, those of you who've been paying attention to Erfworld.com know that the first book of Erfworld, The Battle for Gobwin Knob, that ran here at Giant in the Playground is finally in Rob's hands and is shipping out the door as we speak. If you liked what you read here and would like to have it in paper in the event of the apocalypse or some other technological failure, you can go order one today. And rest assured that I don't see a dime of that, either, so this isn't me plugging more of my merch when I can't deliver my own. This is me plugging someone else's merch when I can't deliver my own.
I'm thrilled to announce that GITP and APE Games will be making a donation of over $3200.00 US to the Japanese Red Cross in the next week or so, thanks to all of you who purchased stuff over the last two weeks. This includes the money donated for books and games, and an extra donation from each of the two companies to bring it to a nice round number.
But if you missed out, don't worry. I'm extending the donation drive for a little bit longer. Why? Well, because the Ookoodook staff found four boxes of No Cure for the Paladin Blues in the back of the warehouse last week. Some of you have been waiting for this to come back into print, and while I can't say when that will happen, you can snag one of about 75 copies of the First Printing we've now put on sale at Ookoodook. And to sweeten the deal, we'll extend the tsunami relief drive until the last copy is sold. (Though honestly, I expect them to all go in a day or two, so if you want one, hurry!)
EDIT: As expected, the copies of Paladin Blues sold out late Thursday night, April 7th, less than 48 hours after I made the announcement here. That brings the relief drive to an official close. Thanks to everyone who bought a book and made this donation possible.
After some growing pains last night, I'm happy to announce that we have a new organizational plan for our roleplaying games forum. We've split our main roleplaying forum into one for general and three system-specific forums, to better enable discussions about whatever games you like to play without the conversation being dragged one way or the other. And we've created a new world-building forum to discuss one of my favorite roleplaying topics, the creation of custom campaign settings. Finally, we've instituted some reforms in the way we warn and infract posters who violate our forum rules, so you may want to check those out.
On an unrelated topic, Kevin at APE Games wanted me to make it clear that the stand-alone box of The Shortening is also an Ookoodook-exclusive, but the full Deluxe Edition is not, and will be available in all the regular comic and game shops.
Starting in late 2005, The Order of the Stick appeared in the print version of Dragon® magazine. Those strips, created especially for the magazine, have never been available to anyone who didn't get the original issues. Until now, that is.
The lovely cover you see to your left is the new OOTS book, titled The Order of the Stick: Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales. It contains all the strips that ran in the magazine, up to and including the one that was on the last page of the last issue. But that would hardly be enough to fill a book, right? Which is why I've created more than 80 pages of original, all-new, never-before-seen content to go along with them. From the strips that would have run if the magazine hadn't been canceled to an attack by invaders from the 4th..."Dimension," this book is crammed with comedy. And this book is an Ookoodook exclusive, meaning you'll only be able to buy it through our direct retail partner, Ookoodook.com. You can learn more about it on this page here.
But wait! There's more! A while back, APE Games (our board game partner) announced the release of The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Shortening, the first expansion set for the best-selling OOTS Adventure Game. This 150-card expansion deck adds new rules to let you play a game in half the time with twice the fun. If you already have the basic game, you can now pre-order the expansion pack from Ookoodook here. If you don't have the basic game, APE will be reprinting it as a new Deluxe Edition which will include The Shortening inside—and that's now available to order, too.
Now, there's one last thing I want to tell you about this stuff. Kevin from APE and I have decided that for the rest of the month, we're going to donate $1 for every OOTS book bought (including the pre-orders of the one here) and $2 for every copy of the board game's Deluxe Edition to the Japanese Red Cross, to help with earthquake and tsunami relief. It's not much, but I'm hoping that the fact that people have been asking for the comics from the magazine for so long will let me pull in more little donations than I could afford to give on my own. Of course, I strongly encourage anyone who has the money to donate directly as well.
So, those are the big announcements. Keep an eye on this spot for more information.
This is going to be a big week with a lot of News posts (unlike, say, those three month stretches when I have nothing new to say). There will be a few changes announced and a few new products, but we're going to start with something small: Many of the "crunch-based" D&D 3.5 articles on this website, located in the sidebar to the left, are going to be moving to the site's message board, specifically to a thread in our busy "Homebrew" forum. The only ones that won't be making the move are those written by authors other than me, and the pre-made NPCs...because those two types of articles will be going away for good by the end of this week.
See you later tonight for the next announcement. What? I said it was going to be a busy week.
Ever since I started offering the holiday ornaments, I've had people asking to be able to get the ones from years they had missed. After all, I started putting them out in 2004, when my readership was a very small fraction of what it is now. So, since CafePress decided not to have much of Black Friday sale, I decided that I would: Starting today and lasting through midnight, Monday, all six of the retired OOTS holiday ornaments are back on sale. This is your chance to get that hard-to-find Elan and Belkar ornament from 2004, or the Roy and DUrkon one from 2005, or any of the other four. Once Monday is over, though, they'll disappear, so if you have been trying to collect these, now's the time. And if you haven't been trying to collect them, well, sorry you had to read through this paragraph.
UPDATE: CafePress sent me a one-day-only "Cyber Monday" coupon for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more from the OOTS shop. Just use coupon code CYBER10 at checkout. Good until midnight tonight, 11/29/10, Pacific Standard Time.
UPDATE 2: The Updatinging: Due to huge demand, I'm extending the ornament sale for one more day, though the end of Tuesday. Unfortunately, the coupon has expired, but it's your very last chance to get all six past ornaments.
It's just about that time of year again, by which I mean time to unveil this year's holiday ornament. For this, our seventh annual ornament, we're featuring the two newest members of the Order of the Stick: Blackwing and Mr. Scruffy. Remember, the holiday ornament is only available until some indeterminate point in the first quarter of next year, so get it while you can (especially if you've been collecting the whole set).
As has become traditional, I've also introduced several new lines of OOTS-wear to our CafePress store to go along with it. We have a new series of quote shirts, including an oft-requested shirt of Darth Vaarsuvius just after his/her transformation. Also by fan demand, a fun series of "For Kids" t-shirts for children, toddlers, and even infants featuring the Order of the Stick. You wouldn't believe how many requests I've gotten from parents who want to
indoctrinate introduce their children to gaming. I personally like the Belkar baby clothes, but I'm biased. Back for the adults, we've added a Macebook design, one for Chaos, and one based on the popular posters we're selling. Finally, CafePress recently added iPhone cases to their inventory, and I've wasted no time slapping the Order of the Stick on them.
The best part is, now through November 20th, CafePress is offering $5 off any order of $45 or more if you input coupon code PRETG5. (Obligitory link to terms and conditions.) I also have it on good authority that there will be similar sales later in the shopping season, so keep an eye on either the News here or the top of the shop's main page for any current coupons.
UPDATE: As of right now, the sale has changed to $10 off purchase of $50 or more, with a coupon code of THANKSTEN. This sale lasts until midnight on 11/25 (Pacific Standard Time) and has pretty much the same terms and conditions as above.
In a less-than-shocking turn of events, The Order of the Stick was prevented from repeating as Eagle Award winner for Favourite Webcomic by Warren Ellis' Freakangels. In my version of events, he narrowly defeated me solely through the use of legendary British guile. Thought the fact that Munroe and I split the "crappy stick figure" vote likely played a key role as well.
For those keeping score, that puts us at OOTS: 1, Established Veterans of the Comic Book Industry: 2.