12/5/2016 - |
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
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.
So, obviously, The Order of the Stick is back. I've gotten a few emails from...let's call them, "passionately concerned readers"...who were under the mistaken impression that once my vacation was over, OOTS would return to a regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. Just to clear everything up, no, OOTS's update schedule will remain random for the foreseeable future. Taking three weeks off was very good for me, but it doesn't actually change any of the facts that caused me to switch to a random schedule in the first place.
The goal is still to have three comics a week, every week, but that may not be possible. The next best thing, therefore, is to "catch up" afterwards when circumstances force me to miss. I only produced one comic last week, so now I have posted four this week—putting me only one comic "in the hole". So during some future week when the stars align more favorably (maybe next week, maybe not), I will again post four comics to bring me up to a three-a-week average since the comic's return from hiatus. And once I "zero out" my late comic balance, any additional comics beyond three that I do in any given week will go into a hypothetical buffer to guard against future absences. Or at least, that's the plan. We'll see how it plays out in reality.
First, for those who didn't see the notice at the bottom of the latest OOTS, my hiatus is beginning now and lasting until September 17th. I've decided not to use guest comics in the interim, if only because I want to step back from the site entirely while I rest and thus I don't want to have to format and post something every few days.
Some post-GenCon news, too. I am honored and thrilled that No Cure for the Paladin Blues did indeed win the Gold ENnie for Best RPG Regalia of 2007. Thanks to everyone who voted; this is the first award OOTS has won where I actually get a medal. I wonder if it would be gauche to wear it around the house? Probably.
In other news, Rob Balder and Tarol Hunt were selling some great t-shirts that them and I collaborated on, extolling the goal of universal goblin solidarity. They had a few leftover from the convention, so if you didn't make it to Indianapolis and you'd like one, they've set up a page from which you can order them (and some other Erfworld merch).
This news post is all about GenCon and the events therein, so if you're not going to GenCon, feel free to stop reading right now. There won't be anything here that interests you. OK? OK.
Ever since my announcement that I would not be attending, I've been trying to Officially Cancel certain events that GITP was sponsoring, to no avail. So far, no one from GenCon event registration has answered my emails requesting that they be taken off the schedule. Now, here, on the very eve of the convention, I am forced to admit the probability that at least some gamers will be showing up to events that are still listed as happening but, in fact, are not. I therefore will attempt to inform anyone who isn't already on a plane to the convention what events have been canceled, what events have been altered, and what events are full steam ahead.
The following events have been canceled:
- Return to Redmountain Hills (RPG00607 and RPG00608) If you purchased tickets, you should try to get a refund when you get to GenCon.
- The Order of the Stick Rides Again (SEM00065) Obviously, since I won't be there, the seminar in which I sit on stage and answer questions will be somewhat less interesting.
The following events are not canceled:
- Erfworld: The Seminaw (SEM00067) Rob Balder will be in attendance, though Jamie has bowed out. Location: Embassy Suites Hotel, Chancellor I.
- Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Shortening! (BGM00121, BGM00122, BGM00125, and BGM00126) Kevin from APE Games will be on hand to showcase our first OOTS board game expansion (more details on that later in the week). Location: Indiana Convention Center, 500 Ballroom, Board Game HQ.
The following events are significantly changed:
- Ultra-Mega-Superstars of Gaming Webcomics (SEM00083) This panel features Rob Balder of Erfworld, Tarol Hunt of Goblins, Aaron Williams of Nodwick, and Phil Foglio of Girl Genius, but alas, not Rich Burlew of OOTS. I strongly urge you to go listen anyway if you have any interest in comics whatsoever. Location: Westin Hotel, Grand I.
- Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Linear Guild (BGM00123 and BGM00124) APE will still be on hand to run these events, but the planned Linear Guild expansion is still in early playtesting phase, without a scrap of art to its name (thanks largely to my illness). As a result, these events are being spontaneously converted to The Shortening! sessions, allowing more people to get a preview of the new set. Location: Indiana Convention Center, 500 Ballroom, Board Game HQ.
Also, Rob Balder will be sharing a booth with Tarol Hunt in the Exhibitor Hall, where they will have a variety of merchandise from their respective comics as well as a nice pile of OOTS books that I've sent along. If you're having trouble finding Start of Darkness (or, for that matter, any of the OOTS books) in your local gaming store, Rob will have them on sale there. Look for the booth assigned simply to "Goblins".
Thanks again, and I hope to see all of you fans next year at the convention.
I'm proud to announce that No Cure for the Paladin Blues has been nominated for the ENnie Award for "RPG Regalia," which is essentially a category for all the stuff that people who play roleplaying games like, but isn't actually a roleplaying game itself. For those unfamiliar, the ENnies are awards given out by EN World in recognition of roleplaying game excellence. If you're interested in voting for the ENnies, you can do so here (the Regalia category is the 13th on the list).
Those of you who have been readers a long time know that I tend to go in cycles with the strip: a few weeks on time, followed by a few weeks where most of the comics are late (and some days are missed altogether). Oftentimes, I’ll make an announcement afterwards that I was sick. The thing is, I get sick a lot, and that’s not likely to change in the future. For more than two years, I’ve been experiencing a medical condition that often leaves me unable to work (or even sit at the computer) for 2-3 days at a time, and the symptoms tend to come and go in clumps. I’ll be fine for a few weeks, then have a few really bad weeks where I struggle to get any work done. This is part of the reason I never can manage to create a “buffer” of strips in advance: I spend all of my working time catching up on stuff I was supposed to finish while I was sick. (No, I’m not going to tell you exactly what is wrong with me; it’s nobody’s business. Suffice to say that it is nonfatal and my significant other takes good care of me.)
My job here at Giant in the Playground has been much more forgiving than my old Day Job in that it allows me a greater degree of freedom to work around my health problems. But over the years I’ve kept trying to grow the business bigger, take on more projects, keep more plates spinning in the air at the same time. And that’s really not a good idea. My symptoms have been getting progressively worse since the first of the year, with new and (frankly) scary ones developing alongside them. Therefore, as part of a deliberate effort to lighten the load on myself, we have made the decision to cut back on a number of aspects of my business that may impact you, the fan.
- The schedule for updating OOTS will return to “at random”. There will be three comics a week, most weeks, but the exact day and time those comics will appear will be random—or rather, will seem random. Basically, when I’m doing well, I will post comics, and when I am not, I won’t. If I fall behind by a comic, it will be made up at a later date. Honestly, this is sort of what I’ve been doing for weeks now, I’m just making it official. As of right now, the schedule is, “There is no schedule.” Getting the comic updated is a top priority, but getting it updated at a specific time is just too difficult for me, since I can’t predict when I will be sick. Removing the official schedule probably won’t affect the comic’s frequency much, but it will remove the additional stress when I’m unable to meet the three-times-a-week deadline (and removing stress is a good thing, according to my doctor). Plus, you guys will all know in advance not to expect the comic until it gets here, so you won’t waste time staying up late for an update that won’t arrive for two days. You might want to subscribe to our RSS feed in order to be alerted near-instantly when a new comic is posted.
- No more conventions for at least a year. I’ve already cut my personal appearances way back, turning down many smaller conventions that graciously invited me to attend. The travel is too draining, not to mention the logistical difficulties. However, the big news here is that I am canceling my attendance to GenCon Indianapolis this year. GenCon has been a great event for us, where I get to meet and sign autographs for thousands of fans, so this was not a decision that was made lightly. In the end, though, we decided that it would be too difficult for me to attend and run a booth, not to mention certain scheduling conflicts with my doctor appointments. This will be a financial loss for us, but being as healthy as I can be is more important to us than making money. Note that not all of the events scheduled by GITP will be canceled, however; we’ll announce at a not-too-far-in-the-future date which ones will still be happening.
- No more new projects. The thing is, most of what I do, you guys don’t see until its finished. I didn’t announce Start of Darkness until it was completed, so no one knew that I had been working around the clock for five months on it. So while I will be taking on no new merchandise projects for a while, you should be aware that there are 4-5 existing projects that are mostly done (some of which would have been available for GenCon). These will still come out as intended, so you should expect to see some new book and board game announcements in the next few months, after which it will taper back a bit. Of course, even then, regular compilations of the online strip will continue for as long as OOTS itself does.
- When the current story arc ends, I will be taking a few weeks off. The story is quickly approaching the conclusion of what will be the third book. When it gets there, I will be taking at least two weeks off before continuing. I may look into getting a guest artist for that time, I haven’t decided yet. When the hiatus begins, I will inform you all exactly how long it will be and what (if anything) will appear in OOTS’s place for those weeks. Erfworld will be unaffected (since all I do for that comic is post it).
I want to emphasize that this is NOT a plea for monetary aid; I have very good health insurance these days for exactly this reason. Donating money is not going to change anything about this situation. If anything about my message spurs you to want to donate money, here are a few of my favorite charities that could use your dollars more.
Thank you for taking the time to read this; talking about my personal issues is not the sort of thing that comes easy to me. I make this announcement in hopes that it will help you understand these decisions and some of the context in which we have made them. With luck, these efforts will result in a healthier me that can continue to produce the comic strip that so many of you have come to love (and others have come to tolerate because everyone else in your gaming group loves it).
So, I had sort of a health flare-up this weekend, and I had wanted to get a strip out today because I missed it yesterday, but that's not going to happen, I think. I need to rest. I wouldn't expect an OOTS comic before Monday.
EDIT: Oh, forgot to mention. Start of Darkness has finally finished printing. APE Games is mailing out preorders this week, and it should be in stores some time after that.
Hmmm. According to my watch, it's plug o'clock. Tome of Artifacts is a new d20 book from White Wolf (by way of Necromancer Games and Lion's Den Press) that details more than 100 major artifacts. I don't mean "magic items," I mean "artifacts". Like the ones with massive campaign-altering power but come with some sort of Terrible Price that must be paid as standard equipment. Real old school First Edition stuff. Each artifact has at least 2 pages of description, background, plot hooks, and extra goodies associated with it. I wrote a few of them, while my nefarious counterpart Keith Baker also penned a number. Anyway, if it's your cup of horribly cursed tea, you can get it at your local gaming store or order direct from White Wolf Online.
So, you may have noticed that it's past May 15th, and those of you who have preordered haven't gotten your copies of Start of Darkness. Or that they aren't showing up on store shelves. It's not just you; the printer made a mistake and printed the special "color insert" in black-and-white, so we have to go back and print those pages again. (Don't worry, it's not costing me anything.) Right now, the ETA for the book is June 13th, but as always, don't hold me to that.
OK, so I'm sure you all noticed that illness knocked me out of commission for a few days, but I'm back home and trying to make up for lost time. OOTS #447 is up now, this is Wednesday's comic, even though it's just past midnight on Friday. There will be ANOTHER comic later today, probably around midnight, so there will still be the full three comics this week. I have it on good authority that tonight's will be a double comic, too.
As far as Erfworld, I missed posting the klog page for Thursday on time, but it, too, is up now. I've been informed that whether there is any sort of update on Saturday is to-be-determined, seeing as how the artist, Jamie Noguchi, is getting married that day. Mazel tov, Jamie! Anyway, updates might be a little sporadic for a week therefore, with Rob possibly filling in with additional klogs if needed.
In the world of big news in gaming, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo announced that Dragon and Dungeon magazines will no longer be published. (You can read the full story here or here.) Wizards has apparently decided to shift its content delivery to an online model (for which I can hardly fault them, since that's pretty much what we do here, though not with any regularity). Obviously, this affects almost everyone who plays D&D; even if you weren't a regular Dragon reader, chances are you've had one in your hands at one point in your gaming career. I got my start in the hobby by picking up a copy of Dragon when I was like 11; I chose it for the cover art, and only found out it was about a game of some sort when I got home. I had less connection to Dungeon, since I was never much for prepublished adventures when I was younger, but still, both magazines had a long, rich tradition in the D&D community, from their TSR days through their sale to Wizards of the Coast and finally to their licensing to Paizo Publishing. As an institution of the D&D culture, they will be missed.
Now, I got this news only about an hour before anyone else did, but as far as I have been told, Order of the Stick will continue to run in all the remaining issues of Dragon. Right now, it's too early for any plans on when or how I might make the 22 OOTS strips I created for Dragon available. I was originally going to wait until I had about 60-70 Dragon OOTS before collecting them, but obviously that just ain't gonna happen now. But don't worry, obsessive completists, I'll find a way to get them into your hands somehow.