10/31/2016 - |
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
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.
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.