D&D Interview

 By Shamus Feb 24, 2009 40 comments

Fantasy Magazine has a great interview with the Comic Irregulars, the team behind Darths & Droids.

David Karlov comments that making the comics has given him a new appreciation for Star Wars Episodes I & II. That’s interesting, since the opposite happened to me in making DM of the Rings. I can’t see the movies without thinking of the jokes connected to each scene.

The one question I would have asked them is how in the name of Yoda’s tiny lightsaber do they divide up the work between seven people? Most webcomic teams max out at two. I suppose you can divide this sort of comic into a few distinct jobs:

  1. Plotting, story arc. D&D is obviously much more elaborate in this regard than DMotR ever was.
  2. Coming up with individual jokes and writing dialog.
  3. Gathering up the required screenshots.
  4. Comic layout.

If these were stand-alone gag strips then I could see how they could all contribute jokes, but D&D is carefully plotted and each strip leads directly to the next. I can’t imagine how you could balance the workload without people getting in each other’s way. It would be like seven guys trying to move a single end table. I think D&D in wholly unique in this regard. I can’t think of another webcomic with such a large team or ambitious plan.

EDIT: Last time I talked about D&D, Henebry left the following comment, which nicely heads off arguments over which comic is “better”:

Daimbert: I’ve had the same thought (Shamus would have done it funnier) more than once while reading Darths and Droids, but as they rounded out the first movie I had a new thought: they’re not really aiming to do what Shamus accomplished. Shamus’ take on LoR is, at bottom, parodic, theirs not.

Both start with the same premise: given that this narrative has played such a seminal role in the consciousness of gamers, how would these narrratives have played out if current tabletop rpgs had given rise to them rather than the other way round? They differ, though, in their responses.

Shamus answers the question with the cynicism of a great satirist. His GM is a self-important fool who has crafted a campaign of unplayable complexity; his players are too engaged in petty rivalries and private obsessions to be interested in the epic story set before them. This produces a wonderful tension between the gorgeous screencaps taken from Peter Jackson’s movies (in which the scenery and actions really are epic) and the low-comedy dialogue spoken by the players. We readers are led to expect that these images record what’s going on in the imaginations of the GM and players, but this expectation is defeated, again and again. In this way the comic pokes fun at the grandiosity of tabletop rpgs, the notion (endemic among us) that in our raucous sessions we can achieve a narrative scope akin to the great work of Tolkien or Robert E. Howard. And we gamers laugh because we’re geeks and we’ve learned to take joy in laughing at ourselves. That is our great strength, the thing that separates us from the jocks.

By contrast, the Comic Irregulars answer the question with the idealism of true believers in the promise of tabletop rpgs to elevate poorly conceived plotting through occasional flashes of insight. Sure, in Jim (Qui-Gon) and in Pete (R2D2) we get satirical portraits (the gung-ho treasure-seeker and the superstitious min-maxer). But with the others (and even sometimes with Jim and Pete) the outcome is a story with moments of dramatic tension far more interesting than the original movie. Case in point: Sally’s Jar-Jar, who (far from Lucas’s oafish Stepin Fetchit) exhibits the wild inventiveness of a child’s imagination. The Phantom Menace storyline in Darths isn’t a preconceived epic crafted by an overambitious GM, but rather something produced organically by a group of people working interactively, and often with surprising but brilliant results. True, the story which emerges is too convoluted to make a good movie — but we already knew that, right? :) And the storyline that matters is at least as much the story of Sally and Ben and Jim as it is of Jar-Jar and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. As if in response to Shamus’ satire on tabletop rpgs in DM of the Rings, the Comic Irregulars demonstrate that the real aim of tabletop gaming is not the simulation of cinematic epic, but rather the collaborative enactment of epic action.

202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)


  1. My problem with D&D – which was never true with DMotR – is that it is just too damn long. I just read episode 223 and they are still in the senatorial apartments at the start of Episode 2. Ambitious, sure, but I think with so many heads they have lost their core purpose.

  2. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I read D&D every day. I even re-read it a few times a month.
    I still think DMotR is more comedic.

  3. Kameron says:

    The job distinctions could be cut down more technical lines: a couple guys co-write the script, 2-3 guys pull screenshots, someone does lettering, someone does layout. That’s seven right there.

    I have to agree that I think the pacing is a bit slow compared to DMotR, the humor in the strip isn’t as strong, and the OOC game-related commentary at the end doesn’t always tie-in very well.

  4. Groboclown says:

    Now, I don’t claim to have insight into DMM’s group, but, from what it sounds like, the co-workers get together during lunch and draft out the story / plot. Then, they each take a comic and write it, possibly with help from the others.

    Now, DMM has put together other comics that have a much larger contributor base (here is just one example), and even had a community-driven one with a story (Infinity on 30 Credits a Day), but this one definitely takes the cake.

  5. Yeah, I think I remember reading something about corroborating over the story during lunch breaks in one of their “below the comic” blurbs.

    So I think Groboclow is right – they use parallel processing. They brainstorm together, draft out a story for the next 7 strips, then divide it up amongst themselves and each person writes a strip individually. This way no one gets in the way of other persons work, and they can produce to comic at astonishing pace of 7 strips at a time. I have no clue what the turnaround time per strip is (Shamus, how long does it take you?) but that means they can probably output a week’s worth of comics each week or so.

    This is of course just a speculation. I have no clue how they really work.

    • Shamus says:

      As for how long it takes me to make comics these days, that’s highly variable.

      Once in a long while I can hammer out a comic in just a couple of hours, but often it can take two or three time that. It depends on the game, and how hard it is to get the shots I need. The problem is that it’s a lot easier to fast forward or rewind a movie than a game. Example: I have a couple of GTA IV comics written, but they’re based on parts of the game I’ve already completed. I need to go back to a really old save and play for a couple of hours to get the shots I need.

      Overlord is particularly tricky right now, because you can’t control the camera directly. I’ll finally nudge the camera into place with my evil dude facing an NPC, and at that point the NPC will turn around or walk away. Then I have to kill them for their insolence and find another one.

      Some games (like Crackdown) are nearly comic-proof because of the lack of cutscenes and the difficulty of making it look like people are having a conversation.

  6. lebkin says:

    I might be wrong, but can’t you control the camera in Overlord? I know that by default, the right stick controls the minions. But isn’t there a button you can hold down (LB maybe?) that maps the camera to the right stick temporarily? A quick google search is coming up empty, and my copy isn’t nearby for me to check.

  7. albval says:

    Somehow I’ve failed to spot the Funny in D&D most of the times I’ve stumbled upon it, compared to your DMotR or Morgan-Mar’s solo project, Irregular Webcomic (which I check every day).

    Maybe the failure lies in me, or maybe a larger group necessitates compromises that weed out both the failures and the perhaps more better (absurd?) jokes. For me at least group work and brainstorming is just a pain, since I am usually always right, but convincing others takes a lot of time…

  8. Shinjin says:

    albval: You aren’t alone. I found the first couple dozen D&D strips to be good overall. But somewhere after that they seemed to lapse into too may inside jokes (among the D&D team) and I lost interest.

  9. Noggy says:

    I don’t know what their process actually is, but I suspect that once you get that many people working on a strip then you start parralleizing the work. Two co writers, and while 3 people are making strip 130 the other two are putting together strip 131. It would require a lot of planning but you could get a lot more work strips done if you only had to do screen captures or panel layout for every other strip.

  10. Henebry says:

    I commented in a prior blog posting that I don’t think the Comics irregulars have anything like the same goals as Shamus did when he was working on DMoTR. Shamus’s work was a satire on role-playing (in the form of a parody of LoTR): his goal was to expose the follies common to many tabletop rpg campaigns.

    By contrast the Irregulars seem much of the time to be celebrating the transformative power of role-playing. The comic’s great insight is that these players despite their foibles can transform the dross that is episodes I and II into something like gold.

  11. Henebry says:

    Here’s my earlier post. Yes, I realize it’s a bit long for a comment. One of these days, I’ll get my own blog.

  12. Anaphyis says:

    albval: You aren’t alone but that doesn’t change the fact it’s still a matter of taste. The strips for the second movie have been extremely slow so far, but so was the movie. Before that, there werse some really great strips, some nice, some “meh” and a few utterly boring ones.

    Speaking of taste, I really despise Irregular Webcomic (though I can appreciate the amount of time that goes into the project) and many many people dig that. My favorite is still 8bit Theater and I know enough people who can’t stand it. So yeah.

  13. TA says:

    Given their consistency and breadth of characterization, I really wonder whether a significant portion of D&D’s crew is just individual writers for each character, under the supervision of a head story writer (who probably also writes the GM). It feels a little too … natural to be just one person writing everything.

  14. Randolpho says:

    Although I will agree with the others that DMotR was superior to D&D, I still loves me some D&D and I think it’s a very fitting successor, both in terms of spirit and execution.

  15. albval says:

    Anaphyis: Yes, it is most definitely a taste thing. D&D just fails to attract me like IWC fails to attract you – and I was merely trying to find a reason why D&D feels bland to me.

    I have to check out 8-bit Theater, maybe there is something in this world we both like:-) (For some reason I’ve never stumbled upon that one)

  16. Strangeite says:

    It is interesting to hear someone state that they found it interesting earlier but lost interest. It was the opposite for me. I struggled at first getting into the strip but stuck it out. Now I am hooked.

  17. Shinan says:

    I love D&D. Though I’ve found that I’m more interested in the story than the actual punchlines lately. In fact I forgot about it and had about twenty strips to read a month or so ago and it really shined brightly then.

    If I had the patience I’d wait, but I still end up checking it every day they release (twice on the days they release usually since it’s often not up in the morning when I first check :D)

  18. Okay, I suppose I can answer the main question here. :-)
    Our production process is basically as follows:

    We have what is essentially a private wiki on which we store all ideas for future strips. Everything from character notes, to grand plot arcs lasting through all six movies, to ideas for how a particular scene should work, to snippets of dialogue. We’ve actually written some of the dialogue for Episode VI already.

    At any time when one of us gets an idea, we jot it down in the wiki. Others can see what we’ve written and add their own notes, comments, alternative takes.

    When we get together at lunchtimes, sometimes we discuss the grand plot stretching before us, sometimes we discuss how particular scenes will play out, sometimes we discuss how to characterise particular characters to make them interesting and memorable. And sometimes we get right down to the nitty gritty and write final dialogue for the next few individual strips.

    Some of the dialogue is already written ahead of time through the wiki-magic. Sometimes we just sit around and brainstorm the dialogue needed to accomplish what we want in the scene, then polish it by criticising, suggesting, redrafting, and so on around a single table. Sometimes we get stuck and let a script sit on the back-burner for a week, and then come back to it. Eventually we get each script completed.

    So at any given time, we have final dialogue written for about the next dozen or so strips, plus a pretty solid idea of what will happen in the next dozen beyond that. At any point, any one of us can raise a suggestion to change some of the dialogue to make it snappier, funnier, less confusing, or tie together better with the overall plotting and characterisation. And we discuss all suggestions and come to consensus – sometimes after some really quite intense arguments. So as far as the writing goes, it’s truly collaborative, in that everyone has creative and approval input. Some of us are a bit more active than others, but everyone has input into the writing.

    Once scripts are finalised, a single person can claim any completed script and assemble the comic. All the screencapping and layout is a one-person job (though five of us have performed this task on various strips). Once competed, the strip is passed around to everyone for review. More often than not there are tweaks made to dialogue and layout at this stage – usually minor. Eventually the comic is accepted as final and goes into the posting queue.

    So that’s how we do it. On the question of whether DMoTR or D&D is a better comic, we’re of the opinion that it’s like comparing apples and oranges. You were going for flat-out humour. We’ve always aimed at a coherent story, with a dose of humour.

    People after laughs will prefer DMoTR. We hope that people after plotting and characterisation will prefer D&D. It may take a bit longer to get into – and it’s true that the serial nature of publication can make D&D feel “too slow”. We want D&D to stand up well when archive-binged, more like a graphic novel than a 3-a-week comic strip.

    Anyway, the point here is that we’ve never seen it as a rivalry between us and DMoTR. We’re not after exactly the same audience. So the constant comparisons strike us as people not quite understanding that we’re not trying to just copy DMoTR and failing, but to do something different. I think Henebry’s analysis is very good.

  19. Yar Kramer says:

    Hmm. I personally like D&D better (I’ve read through all of it), though I haven’t read very much of DMotR. I’ll reserve a more thorough analysis until I have read much of DMotR.

    I will say, though, that the “nobody gets along” dynamic in DMotR which relentlessly drives things toward the negative … well, it Pointedly Doesn’t Do It For Me. I mean, I can barely stand Jim in D&D, and Pete’s kind of hit and miss depending on what exactly is going on, but I don’t mind as much since they aren’t the entire cast, and they’re mostly mitigated by the other players, GM included, instead of having a cast consisting entirely of a bunch of obnoxious, uninterested players and an inflexible railroading GM who can’t even understand why he’s failing to keep his players interested.

    I will say, though, that I broke into giggles at “INSIPID MORTALS! CAN’T YOU STAY IN CHARACTER FOR, LIKE, FIVE MINUTES?” “Sorry … Eat it … um … Knave!” “LOOK, I’M SORRY I BROUGHT IT UP.

  20. Hey, Just want to thank you for linking ;) I wrote most of the interview questions hoping for more humorous answers

  21. UnknownGuy says:

    “how in the name of Yoda’s tiny lightsaber do they divide up the work between seven people?” is a great expression!

  22. Hawk says:

    “real aim of tabletop gaming is not the simulation of cinematic epic, but rather the collaborative enactment of epic action.”

    Win.

    Yet frankly I think both strips capture tabletop gaming well — I’ve caught glimpses of my gaming groups in both strips from time to time.

    Why are they funny? They’re funny because they’re true.

  23. Irandrura says:

    While I challenge the assertion that the plot and setting of the Jackson LotR movies are ‘epic’, I have to say that that was indeed what made DMotR amusing. It was an utter trainwreck of a campaign, and in a realistic world the players and DM would have split up long ago. In that sense it reminds me of something like Flintlocke or 8-Bit Theatre in that these characters only stay together because the narrative demands it. Most of the humour comes from their conflicting personalities. DMotR is a story about four gamers stuck on a desert island with nothing but a few d20s to entertain themselves.

    D&D, on the other hand, is clearly going for a plot. I admit that I don’t find D&D as funny most of the time. It has had some strips I think are quite hilarious (e.g. this one: http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0020.html). If D&D has a weakness, it’s that it occasionally seems to get caught up in self-indulgence and sacrifices humour or indeed plot coherence. It was noted in the footnotes to one of the early strips that, unlike DMotR, D&D was not aiming to follow the plot of the original media, but instead to create a sort of ‘alternate track’ that you could play over the original. It would be a different plot, but still one that makes sense.

    Unfortunately, I think that that idea is sometimes taken out of proportion. Take the four or so Darth Maul strips. While the idea of making the iconically taciturn Maul a blabbermouth is to a degree amusing, it was dragged out far too long and ended up simply distracting the reader with ancillary details. Like Ben and Jim, we’re left bored during all the exposition, hoping that the DM will shut up and the action will start again. I get the impression that the writers were too busy saying ‘wow, this new plot we’ve created is cool, how can we shoehorn an explanation in for the readers?’ than to actually consider whether or not that explanation SHOULD have been in the strip. It should have been left out, if only for the sake of the pacing of the strip. Strips 180-188 or so should have been turned into one or two strips. We, like the players, don’t want to hear the DM monologuing about his own backstory for that long.

    It’s true that the emphasis of D&D will overall be on drama more than comedy, but I think that those strips don’t really work from a dramatic perspective either. Brevity is a virtue, in comics just as much if not moreso than in other media. Most importantly, a comic is a visual media and the storytelling must be primarily visual. In strips like this (http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0187.html) D&D uses far too much dialogue, and creates the ‘wall of text’ effect. Whereas the strip I praised above, about Sally creating Jar Jar, worked for me because the dialogue supported the visuals, and went hand-in-hand with it. The whole ‘alternate track’ idea of D&D has the danger that you’re going to start thinking in terms of that plot instead of the visuals, you’ll try to compensate for the visuals, and in the end there will be a dissonance between the images of the comic itself and the dialogue. DMotR, I thought, usually got this right. Take a DMotR strip like this one – http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=962 – and I find that half the joke is in Aragorn’s expression in the second last panel. Or, say, this one. (http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1042) There’s effective use of silence, and the images are just as key to the story and the joke as the dialogue.

    Now, none of these flaws are enough to stop me reading D&D entirely, but I do often look at it and think ‘gah! These people know nothing about how to craft a comic!’. The core concept is good, but the execution is sloppy. Sometimes D&D simply DOESN’T WORK. Another example (I promise this the last one): http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0060.html I’m sure you might find the concept amusing, but the comic is overloaded. There’s too much going on, it’s too distracting; in short, the strip is crowded. (Amd ‘Third base!’ is a non sequitur; while I knew the A&C skit and think it’s hilarious, that response has nothing to do with the strip. It comes out of nowhere.)

    Simple things. DMotR had a simple formula and stuck with it. D&D has more potential for brilliance that DMotR did, but most of the time doesn’t live up to it. The Irregulars have good ideas but they can do better.

  24. Kaeltik says:

    Have I ever mentioned how much I love this forum? How many fora can maintain intelligent, congenial conversations, and even draw in experts on the subject from outside? Props to Shamus. Props to the community.

  25. Ben N. says:

    Reply to Irandrura: While I can’t comment on your whole argument for lack of time, I enjoyed the entire sequence of Darth Maul personally.

  26. Hi Irandrura – thanks for the constructive criticism. I really hope that our plot *is* coherent. There’s nothing we love more than plotting. Plotting and scheming. Plotting, scheming, and really prolax writing. And avoid Monty Python references, ’cause DMM really hates ‘em.
    Um, anyway, I suppose I should point out that one major reason this strip is still going is that we indulge ourselves. Since we’re doing it for love, and we’re in it for the long haul (we’ll finish somewhere between 2014 and 2016, if we complete everything) the quality will go up and down.
    With us, when quality and timeliness fight, quality always loses ’cause we’ve learned that ever increasing quality and procrastination and unfinished projects and sadness are all good buddies. Not to say we hate quality! Quality is nice. But its friends are not invited to our lunchtime sessions. So you’ll almost certainly continue to see bits that don’t work. Brevity is awesome, but it takes a lot of work and polish to do, and we often don’t have the time.
    I guess I’m just pointing out that we’re amateurs. This is not to invalidate any of your criticisms! Your criticisms are excellent. We *do* try to write with brevity. We *do* try to show rather than tell, when we can. But I think we’re less likely to throw out a gag or bit of plot than a professional, and we’re more likely to indulge ourselves. That’s the reality of reading stuff by us amateurs.

    By the way – do you create a comic yourself?

  27. Mavis says:

    SOmething that interests me is the switch in style from the films 1 to 3, to 4-6. Which I suspect means we’ve got a change in GM coming since how things look has been indentified as coming from the GM (the sunset scene).

    Oh and I love the way the plot seems so much more co-herant then the original films depsite being back filled….#

    EDIT – oh I like my new icon….

  28. Irandrura says:

    Andrew Shellshear: Firstly, thanks for reading. It’s always great when comic writers engage with fans and listen to criticism. I hope most of my criticisms were somewhat justified. I don’t want to be randomly bashing D&D, for it is a comic I’ve obtained some enjoyment from, so thank you for that at least.

    As you say, you are amateurs. That’s fine. Sometimes I think not all the jokes work (the ‘bigger fish’ running gag got to be a bit lame, I thought, but I can see how it could become an amusing in-joke in a circle of friends!), but I don’t expect every gag in a humour comic to fit my personal tastes. Certainly since you’re doing all the work on the strip and putting it up for free, I’m not in much position to complain.

    What I’m saying, in essence, is that while I think D&D is great in concept and has had a few absolutely brilliant strips, overall I’m not sure it’s everything it could be. When I say ‘you can do better’, take that as encouragement; I like what you’re doing, but you can top yourself again.

    As to the plot… ‘coherence’ may not have been the best word to use. ‘Pacing’ would be a better term, or perhaps ‘presentation’. The Maul backstory may had merit in itself, but the timing of its presentation meant that it tied up a long action scene in order to give us some ponderous backstory. Both players in that scene were saying ‘get on with it!’ (incidentally, that’s a Monty Python reference, just to bug whoever may be reading), and contextually the DM has actually set up events to incapacitate both players and make them listen to it. It sounds more like something the DMotR DM would do than the D&D DM. Because that interval takes the wind out of an extended combat scene, and, since it was inflating a few seconds in the film into a long monologue, very similar visuals were repeated several times, I felt that the five or so strips of backstory were very tedious.

    I hope you can see where I’m coming from, even if you don’t agree. If it helps, I have found some of the more recent strips quite humorous. #220 was very amusing. (Though I admit I did groan when you mentioned ‘Peace Moon’; you’re building up to that one shot of the Death Star plans in AotC, aren’t you? I hope it’s not just a Macguffin again, like the Lost Orb. By ANH the Death Star will have to appear, so I’m guessing you’ve got something up your sleeve there…?) I just think that on the whole there’s room for improvement. The strips can be tightened up somewhat, made punchier and more visually effective. Keep at it, I suppose I’m saying. DMotR never really hit its stride until Shamus got to ‘The Two Towers’ and perfected the formula. The group dynamic didn’t really work until it was down to Aragorn-Gimli-Legolas-DM; once that was hammered out, DMotR really started to shine. Like Shamus, as you keep going, you’ll probably improve. By the time you get to the OT all these early kinks should have been worked out.

    Anyway, I’d better leave off. To answer your final question, no, I don’t make any comics myself. I can’t draw and I have no skills in graphics editing. I toyed with the idea once but that graphical incompetence proved my downfall.

  29. Ben says:

    The Maul backstory may had merit in itself, but the timing of its presentation meant that it tied up a long action scene in order to give us some ponderous backstory. Both players in that scene were saying ‘get on with it!’ (incidentally, that’s a Monty Python reference, just to bug whoever may be reading), and contextually the DM has actually set up events to incapacitate both players and make them listen to it. It sounds more like something the DMotR DM would do than the D&D DM. Because that interval takes the wind out of an extended combat scene, and, since it was inflating a few seconds in the film into a long monologue, very similar visuals were repeated several times, I felt that the five or so strips of backstory were very tedious.

    Personally, I thought that was the point and found it hilarious. In the movie, Mail walks around menacing a helpless Kenobi for what seemed like an interminable amount of time (for an action sequence.) It seems to me D&D used that scene to 1) make fun of the ridiculous scene itself 2) flip Darth Maul’s character around 3) Illustrate how pointless the Maul character was in the movie, and the series 4)Mock flow-breaking RPG gameplay. Not necessarily in that order, and maybe I missed some…but that’s generally what I got out of that set of strips. Every day that ended with Maul still blabbing on made me laugh again.

  30. Daimbert says:

    Well, since I was directly referenced in the quote from Henebry, let me reproduce my reply:

    “Henebry,

    Mostly, I’m judging the comic on the entertainment value, and so keep thinking that it would be more entertaining if Shamus had been doing it. I like Darths and Droids, but somehow it just doesn’t click for me. And partly it might be because of the mixed types of players; it seems to me that there’s more potential there than has been realized so far with the conflicts amongst the player personalities.

    I also liked it better earlier on than towards the end; maybe things seemed a bit rushed to me in the newer comics that kind of dropped the personalities out a bit …”

    What I was really getting at here was that even taking into account the different focus, things seem to have more potential than is actually realized. A good late example is when Annie and Pete are in the fighter battle. They have diametrically opposed views on how the game should work, and my impression from that entire scene is more that they get a little snippy with each other than that either the two of them get together to make something great or they end up fighting with each other. So far, having Jim be Senator Amidala is having me more cringe than laugh OR think “Cool plot advancement!”.

    Again, I LIKED D&D, but still …

    At any rate, I understand that there is more of a focus on plot in this one. But let’s face it, the plot is — in a real sense — kinda ridiculous. It isn’t Tolkien or a really, really serious fantasy work. A large part of the fun is really that the plot DOES work out better and make more sense than Lucas’ version, and the strips that hammer that home are some of the best and certainly some of my favorites. But if we weren’t taking this as a humour strip, the plot WOULDN’T be good enough. It’s simply not strong enough to be a drama plot. And that’s perfectly okay; I’m not READING it expecting to find a dramatic plot. A cool one with some neat little parodies of anything that makes sense to parody (and even some things that don’t)? Yes, please!

    And finally, as for comparisons to DMotR, yeah, well, you have to expect that. After all, as DMotR was winding down, a lot of people were hoping that Shamus would continue, even possibly with Star Wars (I was one of them). And when you guys started the project, you did reference DMotR as an inspiration. Yeah, people are going to compare the two.

    And as I said in the first round of comments (you can follow Heneby’s link and scroll up for mine) I really like Irregular Webcomic (I’ve read all of the strips at least once and it’s only the latest ones that I haven’t read two or three times), and do like D&D. When I make comments about “would have done it better”, it’s precisely on “entertaining to me”. And that in itself both builds in a consideration for different focusses — since I can find two different things equally entertaining in different ways — and is impacted by focus — if you hit one I don’t like. I’m sure there are people who disagree with me over which one they prefer, and I’m okay with that.

  31. Mari says:

    Maybe I’m the odd man out here, but I keep coming at both comics from a literary perspective. Blame my theatre/English dual major. But it seems to me that while both DMotR and D&D are works of satire, they achieve it in fundamentally different ways. Shamus went for the parody. His characters are all caricatures of gamer stereotypes bumbling through this epic sprawl of a story. The Comic Irregulars seem to be going for a more ironic approach. Every argument is inevitably reduced to its most essential ridiculousness (for me, part of the humour is that I’m reminded constantly throughout the narrative of how ridiculous George Lucas has made his own creation) and readers find themselves laughing more at the accidental genius of the “narrative” than the players themselves. It’s almost as if DMotR is poking fun at tabletop gamers while D&D is poking fun at Lucas himself and his Frankenstein’s monster-like creation.

    Of course, the great failing of literary analysis is that sometimes in trying to divine what a work is saying you inadvertently incorrectly put words into the head of the author. I don’t claim to speak for anyone here; this is just how I take what I’m reading.

    • Shamus says:

      Building on what Mari said above: My favorite parts of D&D are when they find a more sensible route into Lucas’ madness. Sally’s invention of Jar-Jar and the explanation of Naboo’s absurd political system are prime examples of the the team’s inventiveness. I also love that the entirety of Naboo itself was the GM just winging it when the players jumped the tracks. Cleverness is often just as satisfying as laughter.

  32. Daimbert says:

    I agree with both Mari and Shamus that those are the best parts. I guess that my main issue is that those things aren’t done enough for my liking.

    Shamus, you just basically listed all of my favorite scenes in D&D … and they’re all in the first half of the first movie.

    (I also liked Annie’s take on what Jim was saying. I’d like more of that sort of thing.)

  33. Henebry says:

    Wow, and I agree with you, then, Daimbert, because those are my favorite strips from Darths & Droids as well.

    What a great conversation! This is just the discussion I’d hoped to generate with my original post. As Kaeltik said, props to the community for in-depth discussion of disagreement without the whole thing devolving into a flame war.

  34. Daimbert says:

    albval, I’ll recommend 8-bit Theatre as well. It’s also one of my favourites.

    So now you have someone who feels the same way about D&D as you do recommending it. You have no excuses now [grin].

  35. Mari says:

    Count me in for recommending 8-bit as well. It was the first webcomic I read and I’m still faithfully chugging along all these years later. It’s so awesome that “stabbity death” has entered my every-day vocabulary.

  36. Irandrura says:

    I have to praise 8-Bit too. One point I have to make in its favour is that Brian Clevinger is a professionally published comic writer as well (Atomic Robo). The earlier strips not so much, but his current strips display excellent comic-craft. You can compare it to, say, Order of the Stick, and 8-Bit is considerably superior if only because Clevinger is a comic writer and is coming at it from that perspective, with a solid knowledge of the theory behind comic writing, while Burlew is a game designer and doesn’t quite understand how comics work; and consequently a while back I just gave up on OotS, as it ceased to be funny or to have a worthwhile plot.

    I mentioned Flintlocke above as well, and I’d add that as another example of a webcomic written by someone who really understands the form. I still can’t read this strip (http://au.pc.gamespy.com/flintlocke-vs-the-horde/episode-2-a-horrific-interruption/908657p1.html) without chuckling uncontrollably, for example. Flintlocke is a great example of how to carry a plot along without sacrificing humour.

  37. Ramble follows.

    I should emphasise that I’m finding the constructive criticism in this thread to be excellent. With most Darths criticism, it’s easy for me to merely note that They’re Just Not That Into Us, and leave it at that. We’re delving deeper here, and I enjoy that.
    I’d like to elaborate on what I mean when I say that we’re amateurs. I think from the reader’s perspective, it means that the quality will go up and down more than other comics you read, because if we stop for a breather, we might not start again. Better to keep going through less-funny material than to get obsessed with pushing the quality up. As Irandrura mentions, people get better through practice, and we have faith that even when we’re in a just-OK phase that we’ll hit more highlights.
    Darths & Droids: The Shark That Repeatedly Jumps Over Itself.
    Um. I’m reminded that the criticism about verbosity has a corresponding debate within the Darths team. I’m afraid to admit that I often push to include more, while DMM and Mr McLeish push to streamline. You have given them more rope. I shall have to be more cunning to push in the extra jokes that appeal to me. Curse you, Irandrura!
    Ben – certainly, our intent with the Maul bit was as you mention, but another factor was that we like to touch on as many scenes in the movie as we can. When we watch through each film, we record each scene and note how we’re going to do it. All the scenes without PCs get thrown away. It’s nice to bring some of them back, even though they’re out of order. And I really wanted to redeem the character of Nute, and that was the only place to do it.
    Finally, a note on pacing. There’s a very fine tension when writing an ongoing serial as to how the reader perceives the pace. It is, of course, wildly different for people reading it three times a week, compared with those doing an archive binge. We know from our stats that more people do archive binges, so we definitely want to pace things to be right for them – this inclines us towards jokes and plot points that pay off between multiple strips. However, it would definitely suck to be a devoted reader and miss out on things because they happened a week ago. It’s a difficult tension. We put a lot of thought into the first line of each strip, making sure it brings people back into the action, and doesn’t rely *too* much on the context of the previous strips. Sometimes we lean on the likelihood that people will remember details from the movies themselves to set the scene, but we also recognise that a small proportion are having their first ever Star Wars: Ep 2 experience with the strip, and boy do we want *those* people to have an enjoyable time.
    Just to reiterate on the “wall of text” point – we recognise that our strips can be quite dense, and it’s a deliberate choice because we think that they reward re-reading (and re-examining too – I can say without ego coming into it that there’s some lovely visual inventiveness going into the layouts. I can say this because I don’t do much of the layout myself.) Certainly we’re against walls of text – DMM and DMc in particular – but I get a thrill when I read the annotation for translaters and note that it’s longer than the strip itself. I know that quite a few readers also read the translater annotations too, just to make sure they don’t miss some of the jokes.
    Um, finally – I think – I’ll point out that we read every bit of feedback we can find, and often discuss it. Everything feeds into the mill, except stuff that makes recommendations for the next ten strips or so. They’re almost always already done.

  38. Bard says:

    I didn’t click that link for the longest time, convinced that it would be another freaking podcast. It isn’t, and I can finish it quickly and my mind won’t drift away when they start goofing around. Thank them for me.

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