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.
I've gotten word that the posters are now in stock and shipping. If you pre-ordered your poster, it should already be on its way to your door. And if you were waiting for the product to actually arrive before ordering it, well, that time has come.
I should also point out that we still have some magnets left, if you were looking to score one. We ran out so fast that we ordered another box, so if you want one, the sale is still good.
Now at the Ookoodook site, I've created a pair of exclusive giant-sized posters featuring almost every character in the OOTS story. The Order and all the good guys live on the left poster while Xykon and the bad guys inhabit the right one. They're big—24" x 36"—and combine together to form a huge panorama. Best of all, they're printed on heavy recycled cardstock, so no trees were killed to decorate your wall. They're only available at Ookoodook, naturally, and should ship in late September...but you can pre-order the set right now.
And there's plenty of reason to do so, because we've added the three shirt designs that we brought to GenCon (pictured just below, in the previous news post) to the t-shirt store. So if you were unable to get a sweet Durkon-and-Thor t-shirt on account of not living within driving distance of Indianapolis, go order one now. We've also cut prices on many of our older t-shirts to make room in the warehouse for all this new stuff, so be sure to check them out.
But wait! That's not all! We've also brought the remaining Vaarsuvius magnets to the site. Any order from Ookoodook that includes at least one t-shirt and adds up to $40 or more before shipping will get a free V magnet added to their package (click here for details). But order quickly, because we don't have that many magnets left and this order expires as soon as we run out.
If you're going to GenCon Indianapolis next week, you have a chance to score yourself the Vaarsuvius fridge magnet pictured to the left, mate of the Elan and Belkar magnets we gave out at the convention in 2008 and 2006. All you need to do is stop by the Ookoodook booth on the dealer's floor and purchase $40 or more (before sales tax) of Giant in the Playground merchandise. And bam! Free magnet.
To sweeten the deal, we also have three new convention-exclusive OOTS-themed t-shirts, pictured below. (The third one, while not featuring an OOTS character, shows the graphic relationship between the size of explosions and the solving of social situations, as first put forth by Vaarusvius in this strip.) These shirts, plus all the ones we sell at the Oookoodook.com t-shirt store, will be on sale at the con—and, since they're GITP products, will count towards the above deal.
Edited to add: I just got word that the booth is actually listed under APE Games/Giant in the Playground, not Ookoodook. It's booth #1507 on your dealer room map.
Just a quick note to say that CafePress is running a Father's Day sale this weekend that will apply to all Order of the Stick merchandise in our CafePress t-shirt store. Just use the code STORE25 during checkout to take 25% off of your total order, now through the end of the day (Thursday, June 10th).
The folks at CafePress want me to also link to these terms and conditions, so...I did.
After almost a year out of print, I'm thrilled to be able to announce that the first The Order of the Stick book, Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, is available again. This is our fourth print run of the first book we ever did, so thanks to all the readers who keep buying it. And if you're just starting to collect the books, well, you should probably start with this one. Since it's first and all. You can order it today from Ookoodook, or you can buy it from your local game store...it should be on store shelves within the next two weeks.
Start of Darkness also got a third printing, for the record, but that one has only been out of stock for a month or two. Still, if you've been unable to find it on store shelves, your wait is over.
I'm happy to announce that Don't Split the Party arrived at the Ookoodook warehouse yesterday and the shipping of pre-orders has already begun. The folks there wanted me to remind those of you who pre-ordered of three things:
- You should get an email with tracking information in it about 24 hours before your package leaves their hands and enters the mail.
- Check these emails carefully and make sure the shipping address is correct. A surprising number of people enter the wrong shipping address by accident. If it isn't correct, contact Ookoodook immediately in order to have it changed before the box is in the mail. (That's why they're sending the emails out a day before the packages!)
- International customers should closely track their packages once they get this email to make sure that the box doesn't sit in their country's customs department or get returned to the States.
If you didn't pre-order, the book is now in stock and can be ordered regularly. There might be a two- or three-day delay while the staff handles all the pre-orders first, but after that, books should ship as soon as they are ordered. And if you're waiting to pick up the book from your local game or comic shop, those shipments are speeding their way through the distribution chain even as you read this.
Despite the launch of Ookoodook.com, we're still using CafePress for some items that either wouldn't be efficient to produce ourselves or we're not sure will be popular enough to justify the expense (but that we liked the idea for so much, we had to make anyway). And, of course, the yearly holiday ornament. We've been doing them since 2004, so it's important that they all match. This year's design features the Monster in the Darkness and his buddy O-Chul, plus a few dozen Christmas lights. It's not the only new product, though; CafePress has recently started offering high-quality Sigg water bottles, and I've created seven new designs especially for them featuring the main characters. And for the mothers in our lives, Kazumi Kato expresses her thoughts on one of the hidden perks of fertility. Throw in the IFCC and O-Chul's rebuttal to last year's EVIL: A Growth Industry! shirt, and we've got ourselves a nice new batch of stuff.
As previously hinted, the new The Order of the Stick book is coming. Volume 4, titled Don't Split the Party, will compile all of the OOTS strips from #485 to #672--basically, the entire "OOTS divided" story arc. The book clocks in at a chunky 272 pages and will be available in local comic and game stores in late November, just in time to serve as a gift for whatever winter-themed festivities you and/or your family choose to celebrate.
If you want to pre-order it right now, however, you can do so directly from Ookoodook.com. Because Ookoodook is the direct source for all OOTS products, your book will be shipped around the same time that distributors get their copies (which should mean that you get it quicker from Ookoodook than from any other online store).
And If you want more information on what's in the new book, you can learn more here.
For a long time, I've been selling my books and games through the good people at APE Games. But it's always been a little awkward in some ways, because APE was primarily a game manufacturer who was just doing me a favor by retailing my stuff. Well, it will be awkward no more. I've joined APE in creating a new website devoted to bringing you products both from Giant in the Playground as well as other independent and self-publishing creators: Ookoodook.com.
Why "Ookoodook"? Well, it seemed logical to us that when you put apes and playgrounds together, you get monkeys having fun. And "ookoodook" sort of sounds like a monkey, you know, having fun. Look, all the other .com website names we could think of that would imply monkeys and fun were taken, OK? So anyway, Ookoodook represents a coming together of our two companies, but also a whole lot more than that. We hope this new venture will allow us to spotlight other self-published products that you may not be aware of yet by working with their creators directly. Plus, it's a great outlet for some new short-run OOTS products I've been working on that simply won't be big enough for distribution through stores.
The site itself is still in the fledgling stages; we have many more products from several companies to add over the coming few weeks, as well as a few cool ideas that are taking just a little bit longer to implement than we had thought. So check back often for more news...especially around, say, Monday, October 26. No reason, I'm just saying it might be beneficial. If you like books.
It can't have escaped the keen notice of my longtime fans that my irregular update rate has become a little more irregular lately. Or rather, it has become quite regularly infrequent. Since I have reached the natural conclusion of this segment of the story, I have decided to try what worked for me back in 2007 when life last conspired to impair me: take a break. So, OOTS will not update at all for the next three weeks, allowing me to rest and recharge my batteries in preparation for the next story. When it returns on August 31st, we'll have a new story arc with new challenges and (with a little luck) a more favorable update frequency.
Pages 149-50 are the last updates of Erfworld to appear on the Giant in the Playground website and represent the completion of the first book of the Erfworld story. I asked Erfworld scribe Rob Balder to say a few words on this occasion on behalf of himself and Jamie. Here's what he wrote:
Here we are, finally, at the end of Erfworld: The Battle for Gobwin Knob. At launch, we thought we were putting up an 80- or 90-page story, which would wrap up in a year. Unfortunately, life changes happen, and we couldn't stick with the kind of updates we had hoped for. Also, (fortunately or unfortunately) the characters stood up and came to life and demanded to be written larger. The story almost doubled in the telling.
But now, it's complete.
When we started in December 2006, we weren't sure if there would be a Book 2. And early on, when some of the tough feedback we were getting got to be too much, we weren't even sure about finishing Book 1. But the fans really came together as the story started to. And now we know that the support is out there to keep this universe and these characters going for a long time. So we will!
We'd first like to thank all of the Erfworld readers here at Giant in the Playground, from the casual to the obsessed, who stuck with us through the first 15 or 30 (or 50) pages, when it was hard to tell what was even going on. Story webcomics are hard to do. They take so much time to unfold, and every page gets magnified as it's discussed for days before the next one. The Erfworld forum eventually turned into the kind of fun and positive community I was hoping for, and it's continuing beautifully over at the new Erfworld.com forums and wiki. You guys make us very happy. Thanks.
But of course, our most gigantic thanks are owed to The Giant. He made some webcomics history here, by bringing us on. He didn't need to, and we're sure it would have been easier on him (and the server) if he hadn't. But he took a massive readership that he'd built by being awesome, and let us do our thing where you could all see it. It gave us a chance that no other story webcomic ever had, and damned if it didn't actually work. :)
So Rich, you have our eternal gratitude, and some shards of our souls. Erfworld.com will forever carry a link in the header of every page to The Order of the Stick, your ongoing masterpiece. Thank you for your patience, your generosity, and your friendship. We owe you more than we can ever express.
Now everybody get over to Erfworld.com. Smaller summer updates twice a week start on June 4, and Book 2 begins in the fall!
-Rob Balder and Jamie Noguchi, May 22, 2009
Thanks to both of you, Rob and Jamie, for giving us all a new story that at once is completely different from OOTS and yet, in my opinion, complimented it perfectly. It's been fun watching it grow these past two and a half years, and I think I speak for a sizable portion of the site's readers when I say that we can't wait to see what comes next for both of you, and your characters.
Sometime this upcoming week, Giant in the Playground will be moving to a new server. Before the dancing in the streets and cries of unbridled joy begin, let me make it clear that this will not eliminate all of our slowness problems. The only way we will truly master those issues is with some sort of multi-server solution, and this is not that. This is simply a move from the best single server our hosting company offered a year ago up to the best single server they offer now. There will hopefully be some improvement, but it will remain an ongoing issue.
So, you may be asking yourself, "Then why not just switch to a multi-server solution now?" The answer to that is that we were about to do so--we had even ordered the servers--but due to some miscommunications with the hosting support staff, it turns out that there are some technical hurdles that require rewriting the website scripts. And that process may take awhile. So rather than wait to make any upgrade until we have worked all the kinks out, we're making a stop-gap move in the hopes that in a few months, everything will be ready to roll out and our server problems will finally be a thing of the past.
Note that none of these issues are contingent on money at this time, so as always, if you have money you wish to donate, pick a charity and send it there.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that there may be some disruptions this week when the website actually begins to transition over, and there may be a point when some of you are looking at the old server and some of you are looking at the new server. If I can, I will update any new comics during this period to both servers.
The first Erfworld book, The Battle for Gobwin Knob is swiftly coming to a close. It has always been the plan between Rob, Jamie, and myself that after Book 1 was completed, Erfworld would set course for its own website--and now that website is officially up and running. Erfworld.com will be the home of all further Erfworld stories for Book 2 and beyond, as well as new Erfworld forums, an Erfworld store, an Erfworld world-building wiki, and a supporter's program called "The Toolbox." The current Book 1 strips are already online there as well, though they will also continue to be updated here on GiantITP.com until the last page. (We'll likely keep the archives here online as well, at least for the next year or so.)
Rob advises me that the new site is brand new and you should expect it to definitely have glitches and possibly break altogether if there's a rush of traffic, so please be patient during its shakedown cruise.
After some confusing rumors and retractions, it has been confirmed by multiple sources that Dave Arneson passed away late on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.
Many of our younger readers may not know who Mr. Arneson was, but he was a pivotal part of the birth of the hobby we all play. By most accounts, he literally invented the very concept of role-playing games. While he would share official credit for the original Dungeons & Dragons rules with the late Mr. Gygax, Mr. Arneson was the first to take the Chainmail wargaming rules and run a game where players controlled a single character, rather than an army, and described that character's actions to a judge who would determine how the environment reacted to them. Pretty much every roleplaying game (and many computer games) can trace their lineage to this single idea. He also invented the first campaign world, Blackmoor, which is hardly surprising considering he invented the concept of campaign worlds in the first place. It is impossible for me to overstate the impact his games had on what would become our mutual hobby.
Sadly, there won't be the outpouring of mainstream condolences for Mr. Arneson that we all saw for Mr. Gygax. There won't be an AP obituary or celebrity commentaries. For better or worse, Mr. Gygax was always identified as the creator of the game in the eyes of the media. But while I never met Mr. Arneson, I hope you will all join me in remembering a man from whose mind sprung the critical innovations that led to the birth of role-playing games. D&D may never have become popular without the work of Mr. Gygax, but it never would have existed at all without that of Mr. Arneson.
EDIT: After some time to think about it (and find my crayons), I've posted a Dave Arneson tribute comic. Also, I've found a few media mentions after all, here and here, as well as another tribute from fellow cartoonist John Kovalic.
The Erfworld Boys asked me to pass along an important convention appearance to the larger reading public. Rob and Jamie will both be at Katsucon 15 in Arlington, VA, on February 13-15. They will be speaking at a few panels about webcomics, and Jamie (who I am told only rarely attends conventions) will be doing sketches for fans. So if you're an Erfworld fan anywhere within driving distance of Arlington, you should stop in and say, "Hi."
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.