In order to try to help our once-again flailing server, we're instituting some changes to the message boards. For the most part, we are going to streamline the number of forums and purge old threads, but you can look for more specific details in this announcement and in each affected forum. The message board is the most server-intensive part of the website, I'm told, so we're hoping some of these changes will help alleviate the slowdown during peak hours (with peak hours being defined as, "Whenever one of us posts a comic"). Thanks in advance for your patience and cooperation.
The 2008 Order of the Stick Holiday Ornament is here, featuring Xykon, Redcloak, and a guy whose cheeks aren't looking as rosy as they once did. Remember, the holiday design is available only until the end of the year. We've also added a variety of new t-shirt designs to the CafePress store, including a series of art-only designs, as well as the well-nigh demanded "EVIL: A Growth Industry!" shirt. Those of you of an earth-friendly persuasion might want to check out the zombie shirt, too. You can see a little preview of some of the designs at the bottom of this post.
Unfortunately, it looks like CafePress is not having any major sales this year; part of the reason this is so late is that I was waiting to see if they would offer another $15 off coupon, like last year. All signs point to "No," however. But there is good news for anyone living in Canada, the UK, or Australia: CafePress has opened local production facilities in these countries, so you can now pay for OOTS shirts in your local currency--and get faster shipping, since they don't have to travel all the way from the US. All you need to do to switch to one of the international versions is look for the little drop down menu with the flag on it at the top of the CafePress store screen and change it to the country of your choice.
The story I relayed in my last News post has provoked quite a reaction from the gaming world. I've gotten a few hundred responses to my own email box—many of them cc's of emails sent to the charity or responses received from them. According to one source, CCF (the charity discussed last time) has been swamped with over 1200 emails on the subject. As a result of this intense public interest, the details of what really happened have been coming to light...and while not everything lines up, it now seems that CCF did not knowingly refuse the charity money raised at GenCon 2008, as was originally reported. Jeannette LeGault, GenCon's Director of Events, has issued a statement on their forums regarding what happened. I'm going to pull the most relevant part of it out here:
"Gen Con contacted CCF about our intentions and asked for a logo and some promotional materials that we could use on our website. We were informed by a person at CCF that they would not be able to provide us with these materials, apparently due to our association with D&D. We were not comfortable with this position, considering Gary’s role as co-founder of D&D, and founder of Gen Con, and therefore we decided to pick a different charity...We later found out that we had been misinformed as to CCF’s position in regards to D&D and Gen Con, but by then we had already chosen Fisher House as our charity."
CCF itself has been sending out a canned response to this controversy; here's the important part:
"When Gen Con contacted CCF about its auction, we were pleased to accept donations. However, we couldn’t lend our name for publication because our policies have specific criteria for endorsements. We were unaware that this had caused any problem or concern for Gen Con until we began receiving emails. This decision was in no way intended to be a reflection on Mr. Gygax, gaming enthusiasts or the game Dungeon and Dragons. We have the utmost respect for the gaming community and were touched by the generosity expressed through your auction."
These statements are slightly at odds with one another; GenCon says that they were simply misinformed as to CCF's position, but CCF themselves claim that they have "specific criteria" for endorsements that GenCon apparently did not meet. What criteria are those? Unknown. Would they still be in effect for, say, next year's GenCon auction? Again, unknown. And CCF does not acknowledge that someone on their end did tell GenCon that it was a no-go at one point. But if I had to parse these statements together, I think someone at CCF "went rogue" when GenCon first contacted them and followed their personal philosophical belief over that of their organization...and that CCF's public relations department is trying to make the best of it without admitting that one of their people blew it in the first place. I also think it is highly probable that whoever updated the website for Live Game Auctions (the people who run the charity for GenCon) with the initial statement that started this story may well have never heard about CCF's retraction of their initial position.
But if you were one of the people who wrote a scathing email, rest assured that it did not go in vain: One intrepid reader forwarded me an email they received from Ms. LeGault that says she has been in direct touch with the communications director of CCF and that they have informed her that they are readdressing the way they handle requests for their publicity materials to avoid further misunderstandings. Any change that helps a charity organization become more efficient and more open to donations is a worthwhile change, even if we had to clog a few email servers to do it. I'd also bet money that whoever issued the initial denial of GenCon's request is out of a job, and rightfully so. One can hope that this situation will cause all of the organization's employees to think twice before putting their own beliefs ahead of their goal of helping children. It's my further hope that if this really was simply a case of miscommunication, GenCon 2009 will be able to feature the charity auction for CCF that was originally intended, and that those attending are able to raise more than last year's $17,000.
Anyway, this will be my last word on the issue. Despite this one-time situation, I don't think of myself as a news reporter, much less a community organizer (though I hear it's a good day to be one of those). I'm thrilled that so many members of our community felt strongly enough about the issue to write an email, whether they were fans of this site or one of the others that reported the story. It's good to know that when even just the semblance of prejudice against our mutual pastime rears its head, there are so many good people willing to defend it.
As has been reported by a few other gaming blogs and news sites, the Charity Auction at this year's GenCon Indianapolis was held to benefit Gary Gygax's favorite charity, which I will not name here for reasons that will soon become obvious. The fine folks at GenCon raised over $17,000 for this charity, which helps starving children in impovershed areas of the world--only to have that money actually turned down by the charity. The charity refused due to the fact that the money was raised partly by the sales of Dungeons and Dragons materials, which as we all know, puts an irrevocable taint of evil on the filthy lucre that us demon-worshipping gamers might want to use to, say, donate to starving children. Not only is this a slap in the face to every gamer, but it is especially insulting to Mr. Gygax himself, who I understand donated to their cause many times over the years. Plus, I'm sure the children who would have gotten food or clean drinking water with that money would be sort of upset, too.
I bring this story to your attention not simply so that you might let the people at this charity know how you feel (especially if you have donated to it before, as many did in the wake of Mr. Gygax's passing), but so that you would be aware that there is an alternative charity that I would personally recommend (based on our own charitable giving) if you have a desire to donate money to help starving children. Plan USA is a worldwide charity aimed at helping those who live in poverty and/or have suffered from a natural disaster, particularly with monthly sponsorships of individual children. Since the money of D&D players is clearly not welcome at this other charity, I can't recommend Plan USA highly enough to those interested in giving anyway. At least if you choose to donate through them, there's no chance your generous gifts to the starving children of the world will be rejected due to your weekend hobby.
(Incidentally, GenCon was also able to find another worthy charity with an entirely different focus, the Fisher House Foundation, that was willing to accept the money given in good faith by GenCon attendees.)
For those who aren't aware, the APE Games warehouse is located in Houston, TX, which means it was directly in the path of Hurricane Ike last week. APE owner Kevin Brusky has informed me that none of his employees were injured and there was no damage to the building, but they still do not have power, in either the warehouse or their homes. He has asked me to relay that all shipping from APE is on hold until such time as they get the electricity restored. This affects any book that was not already in the mail by September 12th, as well as the extra magnets mentioned in the previous news post. Once everything is back to normal, he tells me that they will work overtime to clear any backlog.
Note that this will have no effect on books that are shipping to local game stores or other retail outlets.
As of this past week, all copies of War and XPs have been shipped from the printer.
APE Games now has the book in stock. If you pre-ordered from APE Games in the month of August, your order has already shipped. They are currently working on the orders from the first few days of September. That means that as of right now, all orders from APE are no longer pre-orders, merely orders, and will ship within a couple days.
For other retailers (including brick-and-mortar stores), the book is on its way to distributors. I'm not 100% certain on the timetable for getting into stores once it gets to the distributors, but I would expect it to start showing up on store shelves this week or next.
I have gotten a few emails about whether or not OOTS books will be in stores in a specific country. The answer to that is, "Yes--if you request them." OOTS books are available from all major distributors to the hobby game market both here in the USA and overseas, so if you want to buy War and XPs from your local gaming store, ask them to order it! And if, for some reason, they tell you that their distributor doesn't carry it...tell them to have that distributor contact Impressions Marketing so they can START carrying it! We can't force the book into distribution chains that don't come to us and ask to order it, so this is the only way for our products to come to your local store.
Finally, a note about the magnets: First, there's been some confusion over who gets the magnets and who doesn't. Only orders placed before midnight on August 13th will be getting magnets, NOT all pre-orders. Second, due to a miscount by APE, we ended up 144 magnets short after GenCon. As a result, we are making a second print run of exactly that many. However, rather than hold up 144 book orders, APE has chosen to ship the books now and send them the magnet later. if you are one of the affected customers, you will get a letter to this effect with your book.
See this lovely refrigerator magnet to the left here? This will be a free gift (while supplies last) with the purchase of every copy of War and XPs from the APE Games booth at this year's GenCon Indy. So not only will you get the book in your hands weeks before anyone else, you'll have an exclusive magnet to boot (one that matches the Belkar magnet we did two years ago, I might add).
"But wait," I hear some of you say, because I have excellent hearing,"I pre-ordered the book from APE Games when I could have bought it at the convention, and now I don't get a magnet!" And that is why every customer who has pre-ordered War and XPs from APE Games since it went on sale July 17, 2008, will get a free magnet, too. Note that this offer is exclusive to APE Games' web store; if you pre-ordered the book from any other retailer, you won't get a magnet. However, the offer from APE is still open until midnight (Central Time) on August 13, 2008. Pre-order from APE between now and the night before GenCon, and Elan's thoughts on rule revisions and ice cream can adorn your kitchen.
There are a couple of other announcements that I should make for GenCon. First, and most importantly, it appears that my last News post generated some confusion over whether or not I would be at GenCon. Let me clear this up: I will not personally be in attendance at GenCon Indy. The folks from APE and a few of my own people will be on hand to run our booth, but I will not be there. As a result, there won't be any autographing, obviously. I tried to work it out so that I could sign a few hundred copies ahead of time, but the first books are rolling out of the bindery too late for them to be diverted to my home and back out to Indianapolis in time for the show. Our apologies to all the fans, but all convention appearances by me are still on an indefinite moratorium.
Second, APE's GenCon booth will be running a sale on the previous four Order of the Stick books. While supplies last, purchase On the Origin of PCs, Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, and No Cure for the Paladin Blues and you will get a copy of Start of Darkness free! It's the perfect way to catch up on the entire OOTS saga in glorious print format. (Unlike the magnet offer, this sale is ONLY available at the actual convention.)
Well, wounded server or not, I'm going ahead with this. Giant in the Playground is proud to announce the publication of the third compilation of The Order of the Stick comic strips, War and XPs, covering strips #302-#484. This book will premiere at GenCon Indy, at the APE Games/Giant in the Playground booth, then show up on hobby shop shelves before the end of August. I'm shooting for August 27th, but once the books leave my hands this won't be directly under my control. You can also order it directly from our friends at APE; they're taking preorders here right now.
Detailed information on the book—including what bonus materials are included—can be found here.
Of the things of which we're most proud, we were able to find a recycled paper that matches the high quality of the previous volumes, something for which I've been asking my printer for a long time. Webcomics have the benefit of not killing trees in order to reach the masses, and it always bugged me that I needed to start just to put the strip in a permanent format. It's not 100% recycled, yet, but hopefully such a paper will become available for a future book. I realize this is not something that matters to everyone, but it matters to me, so there it is.
Server Update: If you're thinking to yourself, "Hey, this is a long time for the message boards to still be down," well, you're right. The reason it's taking so long is that we didn't know we had to move to a new server until after the forum was taken down the first time. So rather than us making preparation for several days, then taking it down and moving everything over quickly, we pretty much had to start from the very beginning of the process after the board was shut off on Thursday. I don't know anything more technical than that, sorry. The latest I've heard from my people is that the message board will probably be active by the weekend, but I can't promise anything.
EDIT: If you can read this, you're looking at the new server already!
Due to some emergency software problems, we've been forced to shut the message board down while we make an unplanned move to a new server. We hope to have the message boards back up in a few days. While this problem has also been preventing the posting of new comics, we've solved that part of it now. Comics will continue to appear while the boards are down.
Finally, I hope to be making a completely non-server-related announcement this week (that this problem may utterly screw up the timing of) regarding the latest OOTS book offering. Stay tuned.
So, we got an RSS feed for each of the two comics, what, like a year ago? But apparently a lot of people have had trouble finding them, as indicated by the recurring emails and forum posts about it, so I've finally put a shiny new link for them into the sidebar. One for OOTS, one for Erfworld, and one that covers both in one feed.
Those of you not currently involved in playing Dungeons & Dragons may or may not be aware that Wizards of the Coast is set to release a new version of the rules—the “Fourth Edition” rules—in less than a month. If the details of such things are of little interest to you, feel free to skip reading this overly verbose news post. You won’t miss much.
Ever since the announcement was made last August, I have gotten roughly 1.3 billion emails asking about whether The Order of the Stick will “convert” to the new system. It is a question I have deliberately avoided answering, much to the consternation of those who like to ask such questions. I will be answering it now: No.
But not in the way you might think. I’m not making some ideological stand about how the current 3.5 Edition is superior or any such thing. I’m simply saying that there will not be a conscious and visible change in the comic strip, wherein the characters convert to a new set of rules as they did in the very first strip. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the purpose of the comic has shifted away from its original goal of simply poking fun at a game to an actual story, and it is that story on which I would like to focus.
Equally important is the fact that the new edition departs radically from prior versions of the game in terms of what classes and races are initially described. Whether or not this is good for the game isn’t really my concern; I’m more interested in the fact that converting would introduce dozens of unnecessary changes in my story. At the very least, I would need to devote many strips to showing off the ways that characters have been changed by the new rules, strips I would rather devote to advancing the story. This sort of thing isn’t as crucial a problem for a gaming group considering the new game, but when switching would force several of my main characters to significantly change their powers and abilities—and some wouldn’t even have their new abilities defined yet for at least another year!—it becomes less palatable. Again, though, to be crystal clear: This is not a condemnation of the new rules by me. I have not read them yet, having failed to get my hands on an advance copy some time ago. They may well be the finest fantasy roleplaying rules ever written. I wouldn’t know. What I DO know is that they are not suited to my needs as a storyteller at this time.
However, this does NOT mean that I will stop making jokes about the fact that the characters exist within a world that operates like a roleplaying game. Nor will I limit myself to either jokes about 3.5 Edition or 4th Edition. I’ll go where the humor takes me, and if that happens to create gross inconsistencies, then so be it. As an added benefit, I expect it will drive the fans who try to figure out exactly what is occurring in each strip from a strict D&D rules perspective absolutely nuts. If it really bothers anyone, simply imagine that the OOTS world follows someone’s homebrewed hybridization of 3.5 and 4th Editions, using bits and pieces from whichever ruleset they think works better.
Ultimately, as I alluded to in my first paragraph, many (maybe even most) of my readers are not actively involved in playing the current D&D game. Many were players of older editions in their youth who simply enjoy following a story that reminds them of their own past experiences. Others have no interest in roleplaying at all, and just like reading a comedic fantasy comic. My job as an author is not to reflect the current trends, but to deliver the most entertaining story, and I feel I can best do that by continuing on as I have been. Besides, the difference between those playing one version of the rules and another is not really that important in the final analysis. We all either play the same game, or at least appreciate it, and it is to that sense of unity between those who enjoy the hobby (and the genre that it inhabits) that I hope The Order of the Stick will continue to speak.
I'm proud to announce that The Order of the Stick was named Favourite Web-Based Comic of 2007 at Saturday night's Eagle Award ceremony. While I wasn't in attendance (it's held in Bristol, England), the full results have been posted here. I wonder if I get a statuette for this? Probably not. Anyway, my thanks to all the fans that voted for me, especially over stiff competition from such strips as The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.
As expected, I lost the Favourite Original Graphic Novel of 2007 award to Alan Moore. Which is a GOOD thing; I don't think I want to live in a world were a parody stick figure comic beats one of the comic industry's top writers. Although I probably could have had a contract writing for DC or Marvel within an hour, had it happened. C'est la vie...my idea for an Aquaman reboot must continue to languish in obscurity, it seems.
I've been informed by my server hosting company that the server will need to be taken down Saturday night, from 12:00 midnight Eastern time (that's 4:00 am Sunday, GMT). They don't know how long it will be down—they're doing some sort of server maintence/upgrade thingamajobber—but they're estimating at least seven hours. Not much I can do about this; sorry if it overly inconveniences anyone.
Well, it appears what passes for an awards season in webcomics is in full swing, as The Order of the Stick has been nominated for two 2008 Eagle Awards, in the categories of Favourite Web-Based Comic and Favourite Original Graphic Novel, the latter for Start of Darkness. (Since the Eagle Awards are British, they come with bonus "U's".) Unlike the WCCA's, the Eagle is a fan-selected award that covers the entire comic book industry; some of you may remember Marvel putting their Eagle Award wins on the covers of their books back in the day. The upshot of this is that I'm actually directly competing with Alan Moore on one of these. And let me tell you, that's a strange feeling.
Anyway, the awards are entirely based on online votes, so anyone with an email address can head to this page and place votes for OOTS if you so desire. Thanks in advance to anyone who spares the 30 seconds to vote.
I never got the chance to actually meet Gary Gygax. Despite both of us being in the same convention center several Augusts in a row, I never managed to figure out where he would be and how I could get myself in front of him so that I could tell him how much his creation has meant to me and my life. I'm sure he got that all the time, actually, but it wouldn't have deterred me.
Knowing that I won't ever get that chance now is hard. For those of you who have not heard, Mr. Gygax died today. I've decided that since I have a character hanging around in the afterlife anyway, I would let him say the things that I no longer have the opportunity to express (at least not on this side of -10 hit points).
I don't know if he even knew The Order of the Stick existed, much less how he felt about it if he did. But it doesn't matter if he thought it was derivative slop, ultimately, because when you help create something as big as D&D, you're changing the world in a billion tiny ways that are out of your control—including inspiring a graphic designer to start drawing a bunch of silly stick figures on ridiculous adventures. For all my mocking of the current rules (a point on which I strongly suspect Mr. Gygax had many things to say), OOTS is still a loving tribute to a game that hasn't just changed my life, personally, but has given us all a new way to tell stories going forward into the new century.
Wherever he is, I hope he rolls good stats on his next incarnation.
In a weird cosmic convergence of minds, today's editions of both Erfworld and The Order of the Stick feature parodies of the same corporate restaurant logo—with neither Rob nor myself knowing the other was using it until he sent me his strip for today. I don't know what it means, exactly; either great minds think alike, or we're both hacks who mine the same material in a predictable manner.
But I do know that I recognize an omen when I see one, and I'm headed down the block for a chicken teryaki sub later today.
Hold on a moment, I need to blow the dust off this News page...
The Order of the Stick has been nominated for two 2008 Webcomic's Choice Awards, in the categories of Best Long-Form Comic and Best Comedic Comic. (Two categories that I've won in previous years, Best Gaming Comic and Best Fantasy Comic, have been eliminated, apparently). For those not in the know, the WCCAs are voted on by other webcomic artists, at least those that choose to participate. So if you happen to have your own webcomic, feel free to register to vote. You don't have to vote for me, of course. Vote as your aesthetic conscience demands.
Interestingly, the aesthetic conscience takes the form of a tiny Michaelangelo sitting on one shoulder, arguing with a tiny Jackson Pollock sitting on the other. (The slaad sides with Pollock.)
So, CafePress sometimes surprises me with spontaneous sales, and today, they emailed me a coupon for $30 off any purchase of $100 or more: Just input the coupon code Holiday30. It's only good until tonight at midnight (Pacific Time), so if you were thinking of buying that much stuff, you should jump on it. The previous coupon code still works until the 28th, if you can't buy today or don't have $100 of stuff.
My apologies to anyone who already ordered stuff; I had no idea they were going to have such a sale until it showed up in my inbox twenty minutes ago.
The 2007 Order of the Stick Holiday Ornament is here, featuring the Linear Guild. Available only until the end of the year, the ceramic disk ornament is the fourth in the series going back to 2004. We've also added a variety of new t-shirt designs to the CafePress store, including often-requested "I GOT A 4!", "I killed a PC and all I got was this lousy t-shirt," and "Sexy Shoeless God of War" designs. Plus a nice design of the Twelve Gods in full about-to-slap-a-paladin-down action pose. (Which makes a great clock, incidentally. I'm getting one myself just so I can look up and see that it's Dragon o'clock.)
And from now until November 28, we can offer a special discount of $15 off if you order $50 or more of merchandise. Just type in the coupon code FRFAM2007 when you check out to get the savings. If you want to order in time for the winter holiday of your choice, make sure to allow 3-4 days in addition to the shipping times CafePress lists, to account for the time it takes for them to print the item.
EDIT: Oops, someone pointed out that I mistyped the coupon code earlier. This has now been fixed, and the code above does work (I just tested it myself).
Kevin at APE Games has asked me to pass along a link concerning his holiday shipping schedule. In a nutshell, if you want to enjoy the pure joy that only giving someone an Order of the Stick trade paperback can bring, he recommends that you place your order by a certain date (December 20th, if you're in the USA, earlier if you're ordering from fans abroad).
In other news, I slipped on a patch of too-early-in-the-season-for-me-to-have-expected-it ice two days ago and whacked the everloving crap out of my right elbow; it's a lovely shade of purple. I'll be fine, but I probably won't try to draw a comic for a day or two more. Check back sometime after Thanksgiving (that's Thursday, for the aforementioned fans abroad).
Oh, and we will have another news post regarding some new CafePress t-shirts later (say, tomorrow or so). They're already on sale, but I figure a flashier announcement never hurts.