The weather is turning and you are stuck indoors. Your favourite game is down for yet another patch or maybe you are just standing around waiting for the rest of the raid to finally turn up so you can start. A comic strip is the perfect antidote: just a bookmark away, quick to read and easy to put down (for a little while, at least).
There are so many online comics no one could hope to catalog them all and even limiting them down to comics about gaming leaves us with an excess to deal with. But my very favorite comic strips are just that little bit old school: modern online comics about traditional tabletop gaming.
Here are my favorites: a quick taste of the very best tabletop comic strips online today.
In true epic tradition, all of these comic strips are heavy on plot so you’ll want to start from the beginning and work your way forward. It may look like a lot of catching up but I bet you find yourself sighing unhappily when you realise that you’ve reached the end.
No collection of online gaming comics would be complete without mentioning the finest adventurers in the land, The Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew. I can’t help but be entranced by a comic strip that describes itself as being about role playing games, comedy and hot dwarf-on-dwarf action.
Six brave stick-figure adventurers embark on a semi-epic journey to overcome hardship, villainy, and the rules of their favorite fantasy roleplaying game in The Order of the Stick. Read as Roy, Elan, Belkar, and the rest of the OOTS cast face off against power-mad liches, snippy goblin’s henchmen, rebellious teenagers, clown puppets, and their own crushing incompetence.
A hysterical tale of gamers trapped in an epic, DM of the Rings is created from stills (in order) from the Lord of the Rings films. The author describes the scenario more eloquently than I could:
Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign.
When DM of the Rings ended, a group of users decided to carry on in the same tradition and thus Darths and Droids was born. Still in progress, this strip is a similar concept (a group of RPG players thrown into an epic plot shown by still frames of the actors) but based on the Star Wars movies.
(One) of our goals is to explain how some of the stranger elements of the canonical Star Wars setting and story might have come to be. The comic takes place in an alternate universe, where Star Wars does not exist. The players don’t know anything at all about Jedi, or Tatooine, or Anakin Skywalker before the game begins. The GM has some sort of storyline and setting details in mind, but not fully detailed. He creates the setting in response to what the players do. If the players make some (not patently ridiculous) assumption, or improvise something in order to explain what they’re doing, then the GM adopts it and adds it to the setting.
A view from the other side of the gaming table can be found in Goblins a long-running comic strip about the trials and tribulations of NPC goblins trying to hold their own against pesky D&D adventurers.
A warcamp of goblins prepare for an attack from a party of adventurers; however, their planning is in vain and the adventurers manage to wipe out the majority of the goblin clan, though at the cost of more than half their own party. In the midst of battle with some of the last survivors, Forgath, the cleric of the adventuring party, realizes that the goblins are not evil and spares their lives, while Minmax, the party’s fighter, gets in a losing battle with Complains-Of-Names, a cunning goblin who broke with tradition to gain the upper hand in the fight. The battle is ended by the intercession of the goblins and Forgath, and the goblins flee their camp.
Now an online comic, the initial strips of What’s New with Phil and Dixie are scanned in. The strip follows Phil and Dixie’s attempts to offer a monthly review of what’s new in the D&D world, with chaotic results.
What’s New ran in Dragon Magazine from 1980-1983. We didn’t have the Web back then, but if we had, we would have put What’s New online. What the heck. Better late than never.
Caveat: This strip contains occasional sexual innuendo.
Unforgotten Realms is a flash series (requires sound) about Mike and Rob, two nerds who want to be heros. The original series starts with Mike trying to explain character creation to Rob.
Unforgotten Realms is the epic tale of Sir Schmoopy of Awesometon, the dual nunchuk-wielding sorcerer and Eluamous Nailo, Master Wizard in training (AKA Rob and Mike) and their animated adventures in the Unforgotten Realms (AKA, Mike’s homebrew role playing game).
Dork Tower is much more of a traditional comic and unlike the others you can dip in and out rather than reading the entire strip in order. However, starting from the beginning allows you to really appreciate the character development and what the hell, you weren’t getting anything done today anyway.
DORK TOWER is for anybody who’s ever played Dungeons and Dragons, who’s ever gone to a Star Trek convention, anyone who suspects that Anime is more than just a passing fad, or anyone who KNOWS one of these people. But it’s really for people who know what saving rolls you need to make against a level III Demon, which Classic Trek episodes involved the Prime Directive (and who were the directors), and the names of six minor characters and a dog in the Bubblegum Crisis.