#1 The Nightmarish Legend of Deuse Baaj

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 22, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 63 comments

This is awkward, I know, but this comic now has three layers of commentary. The word bubble text below comes from the original posting back in 2007. The additional commentary from myself and Shawn came from the re-post we did back in 2010. The text you’re reading right now is from the perspective of 2019.

Note to would-be adventure authors: When making up names, note that the apostrophe is not some sort of universal stand-in for vowels. Stop doing that.

Shamus Says:

Here it is at last.  Er, again.  Thus begins the re-publishing of my Second Great Webcomic Venture. Just so you know going into this:  This comic was never completed.  It originally ran at Fear the Boot, and – for reasons that I have never fully understood – vanished from the site and directly into the bit bucket during some sort of overhaul / housecleaning effort.  There were three parties involved in Chainmail Bikini.  I wrote it, Shawn drew it, and Fear the Boot hosted it.  This wound up with the situation where nobody was clearly in charge and everyone sort of assumed everyone else was in charge of keeping safe the final product.  When it went poof, nobody had a backup of the whole thing.  This is why it took so long for the thing to find a new home.  Both Shawn and I are creative types, and it’s just way more fun to work on new stuff than to re-make old stuff.

So, we’re lazy and apathetic, is what I’m saying.  Shawn put in most of the work in bringing the thing back to life. We’ll be posting the old archives MWF, with new comments added at the end of each one.

(Shawn Butts In To Say: Once we reach the end of the old strips, we’ll post Shamus’s notes on how the comic was going to end, and we’re going to do one all new bonus Chainmail Bikini comic.  After that there will be no new updates, but at least this site will be here for all of eternity.)

Each comic will have the original commentary immediately following the comic (in cases where I was able to recover it) and will then be followed by additional commentary from Shawn and I looking back at the comic, or the idea, or the stuff we were doing at the time, or whatever.

Shawn Says:

Yay!  Welcome back!

Here’s the first thing I’d like to make 100% clear: Shamus and I never had any sort of falling out.  If you’re here for all the exciting webcomic creator dramas to finally unfold, you will be sadly disappointed.  I think if you look at the comics we both did before and after Chainmail Bikini that we have some pretty different styles and goals with our comics, but I still think he’s an awesome guy and I’m fairly sure the feeling is mutual.  Looking back at CB as we compiled this relaunch, I was struck by how enjoyable these strips are, and how all the nitpicky flaws I obsessed over have vanished with time.

My goal for the new commentary is to look back and talk about the fun stuff and the crappy stuff and a bit about the process behind the comic, and also to pass on some wisdom for young webcomic artists.  So many webcomics die out, and I think it will be interesting for you the future webcomic creators of America to see the behind the scenes of why this one was never finished.

Here’s my first protip: Do not create a webcomic with three parties involved and no one clearly in charge.

Second protip for artists:  As the comic progresses, you will naturally become more at ease and more practiced at drawing your characters.  This means that without fail, your first strip will not look nearly as good as your 25th.  Take the time to counter act this a bit, and spend twice as long, at least, drawing the first comic as you normally would.  Make it look as great as humanly possible, so that when it looks like crap compared to your later strips, it will look a bit less like crap.  (I have no idea how applicable this advice is to writers.)


From The Archives:

63 thoughts on “#1 The Nightmarish Legend of Deuse Baaj

  1. The advice isn’t terribly applicable to writers, because your later stuff won’t necessarily be better than what you’ve written now. It may, in fact, DETERIORATE in quality pretty savagely, or go back and forth. Your art quality is HUGELY related to your technique and skill level, but even perfect technique and skill (if there is such a thing when it comes to writing) is less than half of what makes good writing. A still life of oranges can be a magnificent painting, but you can’t write about a bowl of oranges.

    So, the recommendation for writers is basically don’t fixate on your past work. Don’t go back and “edit” it or do what J.K. Rowling does where she keeps tweeting little “addendums”. Treat a finished work as a FINISHED work. Do NOT write fanfiction of YOUR OWN WORK.

    And if you plan to write a series, either make each work in the series a stand-alone story (they can share setting/characters/etc, but you don’t have to read the earlier books to understand what’s going on and read the later ones to actually see the conclusion) OR have an ENDPOINT in mind WHEN YOU START so that you don’t write yourself into a hole from which you can never escape.

    As far as I’m concerned, you haven’t actually written something until you’ve FINISHED it. It may be fascinating, but until it’s DONE, nobody can evaluate you as a writer. They can say a lot of things about your style/technique, but nothing, ultimately, about your story.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      To be fair Rowling is in the enviable position where she can probably live comfortably off what she’s already written till the end of her days, so she can afford to just tweet whenever she figures out what wizards do with their (literal) poop. Though I do realise you’re probably protesting this more on principle and I will admit that it’d probably be better for the setting if she didn’t…

    2. LCF says:

      I beg to differ. You can write on a bowl of oranges, even if it is a short read.

      “The most conspicuous thing about that damn bowl was its absence. I lacked it something fierce, as my oranges were all over the floor. I had never seen such a bowl-less bowl, generations of buddhist philosopher would be delighted at the vacuity and the non-being of it. Oh, the rest of the house was thrashed and wrecked, too. But the non-bowl, yep, first thing I saw, and it struck me. I really, reaaalllyyyyy had a bowl here, I kid you not, and now it’s missing.”

  2. Lino says:

    Wow, that 3-way commentary really is kinda confusing. Which is why I love it! Especially the old commentary!

  3. Mephane says:

    Shamus, the comic is stretched to fill the full with of the content area. The problem is, the actual image is smaller, and thus becomes a bit blurry and smeared in the process, extremely noticable in the speech bubbles.

    This change to the element makes it centered while allowing any image larger than the available area to be scaled down:

    <img src=”https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/cb1.jpg” alt=”” title=”” max-width=”100%” style=”margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;display:block”>

    1. Shamus says:

      I know. I’ve got these shorthand tags that embed images, but they were designed with my usual “Everything is fine” sized images in mind. I need to alter the tags to allow for different widths. Or I suppose use raw HTML instead of my tags. But if I use raw HTML then it won’t re-scale for other screen sizes like everything else.

      I dunno. It’s on my list of things to fuss over.

      1. Shamus says:

        Also these things are too big for the front page, but if I hide the comic behind the “read more” tag then the post will be EMPTY on the front page and that’s weird too.

        So… need to figure that out.

    2. Shamus says:

      Wait wait wait. I’ve never seen that that max-width attribute. I mean, I’ve seen it in CSS, but not HTML. It’s apparently aware of the image size and expands to THAT size, rather than the container size. That’s super-useful. Thanks!

      EDIT: Okay, I’m now using raw HTML directly in the post. I don’t usually do that because I prefer to use shortcode. But these comics are a finite run and I think this HTML ought to be more or less future-proof. Fingers crossed.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        10 years later, Shamus upgrades the site to XTML 7, and all the CSS converts absolutely fine but the Chainmail Bikini posts are not just broken by it. The site database crashes burns, and takes the entire server with it.

        …yay, another rerun!

        1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          Then we can comment on the comments on the commentary after the commenting on the writers comments!

          And then the wordt “comment” will lose all meaning!

          1. BlueCommen - I mean Horus says:

            All these comments regarding confusion over previous comments are creating quite the commentary. Are these comments current comments, past comments, or the original comments? Which should I believe? I don’t know which comment you’re referring to in your comment! Is it the ‘comment’ comment, the comment about the ‘comment’ comment, or is it about the other comment? But what about the comments on the other comment that refer to the original comments regarding the ‘comment’ comment?
            Maybe Shamus could comment on the matter? Is my dedication to using the word ‘comment’ as much as possible commendable, or is it dumb and thus unworthy of further comment?

            If you find the above paragraph confusing, perhaps these comments would be of help: the initial comment has some commentary, then the next comment was made later and is longer. The comment made last is actually the first comment you see. Now in the comments section, there are comments commenting on all the comments. We call it commentception, when we’re called to comment on it.

              1. decius says:

                No, Comment!

            1. Scampi says:


            2. Syal says:

              To clarify further; you’ve got your classic comic comment content, then your comic commitment comment content, then your common concomitant comment content, and finally your concomitant comic commitment comment content. And then there’s your occasional concomitant ‘condiment’ comment content, although that’s more a class of common concomitant comment than a complete comment category.

              1. BlueHorus says:

                I’m glad you put the time in and mustard all those categories together – particularly the condiment comment content that’s peppered throughout the thread. You’re a good sauce of information!

                …I’ll stop now. One can only make so many puns before your actions ketchup with you; people can get very salty about them.

  4. Mattias42 says:

    One of the best advice I got for my (so far fan-fics only) writing, is that most people give a book only about 100 words or so before passing judgement. Either moving on, or continuing reading.

    So… yeah. Nailing that first impression with one great scene, or snappy one-liner? Pretty important in writing, too, so I’d say spending three times the time on getting that one right works in this context too.

    1. Dan Efran says:

      Yes, the first sentences are vital. But for a book, the solution is to rewrite the beginning after the rest of the book is done, not to agonize over it at the outset. This advice is for a webcomic, where you release the first page long before the work is complete. It would apply to writing a serialized novel, but not a regular all-at-once book.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        Eh… can see what you mean, but again, coming mostly from fan-fiction where you publish one chapter at a time as the norm that sort of rewrite is a rare luxury.

        I mean, I’ve followed a few authors that do the whole ‘write the whole book first, then publish’ thing, but they’re a fraction of a fraction online.

        Besides, treating your opening like the make or break moment it is? Personally I think that’s a good habit to get into, no matter how many drafts you plan on doing.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Years ago, my favourite epic fantasy author was Raymond E. Feist. He used to start every chapter with a simple noun-verb phrase that immediately set up the action. “A bell sounded midnight”, “Somebody screamed”, “[Character] yawned. These council meetings were so dull…”, “[Character] shivered. It was cold in the castle…”, etc. Really simple but effective.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        The one-liner is indeed a potent tool if used right. Even more so if you keep it inside your character’s heads, sometimes. One of my own personal favs being Jim Butcher, and his Dresden Files.

        “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” ~First darn line in White Night.

        I mean, doesn’t that get you pumped to go read the book, or what?

  5. Ronan says:

    Who was in charge of the terrible font choice ?

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Which one? I believe everyone has their own typeface so you can tell who’s who when their faces aren’t visible.

      1. Boobah says:

        I’m amused that the Narrator speaks with small caps while the GM, using the same font, speaks with lower case.

        I don’t recall noticing that when it was new.

  6. decius says:

    You are mistaken. There are four levels of commentary, this being the fourth.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      But what about comments below the comments?

      1. decius says:

        Still fourth level commentariat.

        1. Syal says:

          Fourth Level Once Removed.

  7. Hector says:

    the apostrophe-as-vowel thing is a writer’s tic that used to annoy me and I find hilarious. I have no idea where it got started, but that’s laughably common in fantasy witings, particularly if there’s some “ancient elven” person/place/thing involved. It always seemed “off” to me but I never realized why until I learned a bit more about language structure and could see that this was deliberately silly and not something an organic cultural would produce on its own.

    1. John says:

      I don’t know if it’s deliberately silly. I think that it’s supposed to be exotic. When some foreign languages are written in English (i.e., with the English alphabet) sounds that aren’t part of English are sometimes rendered as apostrophes. In Arabic words, for example, apostrophes are used to represent glottal stops. I suspect that the first fantasy authors to use mid-word apostrophes did it to emphasize the foreign-ness or alien-ness of the people, settings, and cultures they were writing about.

      And then a bunch of hacks copied them.

      I agree that it’s extremely unlikely that any actual culture would go down the punctuation-as-sound road with its own language and alphabet. The invention of letters usually comes well before the invention of punctuation.

    2. Lachlan the Sane says:

      I’ve been having interesting thoughts on apostrophes in some fantasy writing that I’ve been doing lately. See, my word bible is mostly pulling from Meriam Mir, the language spoken in the eastern Torres Strait, and Meriam uses a lot of really long compliated diphthongs. So my protagonist is called “Koiri”, his village is called “Waier”, and another village is called “Dauar”. I was kind of tempted to add apostrophes to these as a pronounciation guide, to show which vowels should and shouldn’t be blended — so “Ko’iri”, “Wai’er”, and “Dau’ar”, — but I decided against it precisely because of the terrible cliches associated with apostrophic writing.

      1. decius says:

        You should transliterate your foreign names so that the reader pronounces them intuitively. Even if that causes you to conflict with other transliterations.

  8. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    One funny comic page followed by three verbose commentaries is the most Twenty Sided thing ever, I love it!

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Agreed. Have you considered writing a few words regarding your original comments, Shamus?

      1. Lino says:

        That’s actually a good idea. It would br nice to have some comments about your current comments, as well.

  9. Kammerer says:

    Why it’s filed under DM of the Rings category? Why not created a new one for this comic?

    1. Hal says:

      It’s technically a sequel. The players are (mostly) the same players behind the scenes of the DM of the Rings comic.

  10. OldOak says:

    Once we reach the end of the old strips, we’ll post Shamus’s notes on how the comic was going to end, and we’re going to do one all new bonus Chainmail Bikini comic.

    … why does this sound familiar (Firefly/Serenity, Farscape/The Peacekeeper Wars, anybody)?
    May I suggest the title for the bonus to be “Fixed With Spikes”, or “Pinned On You”, even better “Nailed On” (although this might require a 18+ rating :) )

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Shit. Does anyone know an artist? If we get someone now, they might be able to draw the rest in time for Shamus to finally end the story with pictures!

      I mean, I’d do it, but who wants to see Chainmail Bikini: The Badly-Proportioned Stickman version? No-one, that’s who.

      Also, you reminded me of Farscape, the Peacekeeper Wars and the way that show went downhill. Damn you, OldOak.

      1. Lino says:

        Too bad most of the readers of this site are either programmers or engineers :(

        1. Sartharina says:

          Now I feel like a failure of a furry, because I lack the drawing skills to illustrate this comic.

      2. Scampi says:

        Well, I know a german mangaka, but I don’t think her style will really mesh with the original strip. Also, I don’t know whether she’d be interested.

  11. Douglas Sundseth says:

    The apostrophe is used as in English as a standard transliteration of a glottal stop, which is probably best conceived of as a consonant. See, for instance, ‘a’a, which is a type of lava flow, from Hawaiian* — and really hard to search for. 8-)

    Which is to say that, like diacritical marks (heavy-metal umlaut, anyone?), they actually affect the sound of the written letters.

    This does not make using them better, since the result is that anyone who actually does know what they’re supposed to sound like is going to be annoyed and everyone else confused. (A similar thing happens when people use Cyrillic script to represent Latin characters that have a similar appearance: “?” is a vowel, not an “n”, for instance.)

    * Glottal stops omitted, since they’re only necessary in the Hawaiian spelling of the word. “Hawaiian” is a fine English word with this spelling.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      And technically Hawaiian has its own letter to represent the glottal stop, called ?okina (?), which looks kinda like an apostrophe but isn’t. (It has its own Unicode point, U+02BB.) It’s often transliterated in English as an apostrophe or backtick, but that’s incorrect (though convenient).

      Glottal stops omitted, since they’re only necessary in the Hawaiian spelling of the word. “Hawaiian” is a fine English word with this spelling.

      Agreed, “Hawaiian” is a purely English adjective and noun (much like “German” is the English word for what German-speakers call “Deutsch”); the Hawaiian equivalent is “Hawai?i”, as in “ka ??lelo Hawai?i,” “the Hawaiian language.”

      Edit: Ouch. My lovely digression on technical accuracy in orthography got mangled into a bunch of question marks by the comment form. (As in, editing this comment brings up all my Unicode letters literally replaced with question marks, so it’s not just a display issue; the actual symbols have been replaced and lost.)

    2. Scampi says:

      (A similar thing happens when people use Cyrillic script to represent Latin characters that have a similar appearance: “?” is a vowel, not an “n”, for instance.)

      Please elaborate. I don’t get this part about the question mark being a vowel in cyrillic. I’ve not seen it in any cyrillic language I’ve seen yet.

      1. Droid says:

        I don’t know Cyrillic, but it’s probably a similar situation to the Greek Small Letter Eta (U+03B7).

      2. Philadelphus says:

        I’m guessing it’s the same problem that happened to me with a Unicode character (that was actually a Cyrillic letter) being replaced by the comment code with a question mark.

        1. Scampi says:

          Let’s put this hypothesis to the test:
          ???? ????? ??? ???????
          Btw: that last letter there (in case it can be read)? It’s transcribed as an apostrophe.

      3. Douglas Sundseth says:

        How annoying. Showed up fine when I wrote it (of course).

        Apologies for the confusion.

        (And yes, it was the Cyrillic “i”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_(Cyrillic) )

    3. Scampi says:

      I assume you had written a cyrillic “I” (spoken as the english “E”)?

  12. Veylon says:

    I love how this thing is dated only twelve years later. The nerdy guy is fiddling with a big, chunky gaming device with a joystick instead a sleek, slim smartphone like he would be today.

    1. Jason says:

      Maybe it’s a Switch now?

    2. Daimbert says:

      Josh wouldn’t be gaming on a smartphone. He’d definitely have a dedicated gaming system, like a Switch or a Vita or a DS.

  13. Sniffnoy says:

    Wait, so the commentaries are in the order of 2019, then 2007, then 2010? That’s kind of confusing. Shouldn’t it be 2007, then 2010, then 2019? Especially as the 2007 commentaries are (IIRC) often an extra joke or second punchline rather than actual commentary, so you’d think it should be directly next to the comic. And then I suppose 2010 and 2019 could go in either order after that…

    1. Lino says:

      Ooor, we could have the 2010 comment, then a 2019 comment commenting on the 2010 comment, follwed by the 2007 comment, followed by a 2019 comment commenting on the 2007 comment, and then finally, a 2019 comment to summarise all four comments.
      After all, the last thing we’d want is to confuse people :D

    2. Syal says:

      Or put the new 2019 comments above the comic, with the old ones below.

  14. evileeyore says:

    Shamus, I have but one humble request…

    Can you put a date header in with the comments? So like…

    This is awkward, I know, but this comic now has three layers of commentary.

    Note to would-be adventure authors:

    Shamus Says:

    I might be a bit of work… but it would help some of us keep the timelines from crossing…

  15. Mako says:

    Is it just me, or are the players in the comic Campster, Rutskarn and Josh? (from left to right, not counting the DM).

    Great stuff, haven’t seen it before (CB was before I knew the site)!

  16. eldomtom2 says:

    After that there will be no new updates, but at least this site will be here for all of eternity.


  17. Peter says:

    My mind is a bit foggy these days, but is this the webcomic featuring the rape / grope joke, and the weird ending?

    1. evileeyore says:

      Yup. It was hilarious until the No-Fun Cops showed up.

      1. Cuthalion says:

        I wouldn’t really call people objecting to a “rape joke” the “No-Fun Cops”. But of course, that interpretation would be a misunderstanding anyway. It was still one player having his character get handsy with another player’s character to annoy the other player, which is bad, but it was also bad in-universe and not quite to the degree some people might have assumed. Personally, I think it’s fair to question whether making a joke about RPG players acting like that is in good taste or not, but it pretty clearly wasn’t intended to make light of real-life incidents or troll people upset by them.

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