Archive for May, 2009

Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools

“Clearly, you must be the leader of this team. Perhaps we could compare tactical notes.”
thog like breaking stuff.
“… Never mind.”

 “We’re magical knights!”
“No, we’re lawyers.”

“She’s wearing red leather. I mean, red leather?? Of course she’s evil!”

 Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools is the first compilation of the webcomic The Order of the Stick (www.giantitp.com). It features the comic strips 1-121, as well as a load of author commentary and bonus strips. The Order of the Stick is a webcomic, as I already mentioned. A webcomic is a comic strip where new strips are posted, usually frequently, on the internet. (These strips vary in size. In Order of the Stick, strips are usually page length. In other webcomics, such as The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom), strips are usually the size of a regular newspaper comic strip, i.e. one line. Some others, such as XKCD, have no standard size and simply vary.) There are generally considered to be two main types of webcomics, gag-a-day and plot-driven. Gag-a-day comics have no real plot. They usually have a set of main characters, but follow no plotline, instead just trying to earn laughs from the audience. Plot-driven comics have a plot, and a strong cast of characters. They may be funny, but humor is not the only goal. The Order of the Stick is interesting due to the fact that it metamorphisized from a gag-a-day comic into a plot-driven comic. And we can see the start of that in this book.

The premise of The Order of the Stick is that the protagonists are a group of adventurers in a world which follows the rules of 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons. The catch is that everyone (or at least everyone intelligent) knows that those are the rules that govern the world. So, of course, they make references to them. The characters are a mixture of your stereotypical group of dungeon-crawlers and subversions of the stereotypical dungeon-crawlers. There’s the cuckoo bard, Elan, the devious female thief, Haley, the verbose ambiguously gendered elven wizard, Vaarsuvius, and the dwarven cleric, Durkon, complete with heinous Scottish accent. And there’s also Roy, the smart fighter, and Belkar, the psychopathic violent halfling.

The first 40 strips are pretty clearly gag-a-day comedy. There’s a couple quick mini-plots, but it’s still gag-a-day. And while it’s funny, it’s only funny to the sort of people who know Dungeons & Dragons, and have played it. In other words, it’s pure nerd humor. Then comes the Linear Guild. To quote the author: What seems to be a quick joke about evil twins turns out to be The Order of the Stick’s  first true plotline. And it’s true. This strip begins the transition.

And from there on out, it’s pretty straightforward. Betrayal, another brief plotline, and onto the big bad himself! Xykon, evil lich sorcerer and b*stard, and his accomplices, Redcloak, goblin cleric, and the mysterious (and childish) Monster in the Darkness. Once they’re beaten, it’s out of the dungeon. (After activating the self-destruct rune to blow the whole place sky-high.) A little bit of foreshadowing the greater forces out there (My blades will be bathed in the blood of those responsible,) and there’s the book.

It’s definitely not the high point of The Order of the Stick, but it’s still funny. With limited money, this is not the book to buy. As of now, with the commentary is near useless and the bonus comics funny but not that funny, you’d be better off spending your money on the later books and read strips 1-121 on the web at giantitp.com. Unless, of course, you’re an obsessive fan. In which case, buy the book!

My Rating: 66/100

Next Up In Order of the Stick Reviews: On The Origin of the PCs

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May 17, 2009 at 6:42 PM 1 comment

Fair VII

And here’s another poem. This one’s called Fair VII.

I. Fair
the metal cups aligned against one another
both connected on a ledge
up and down they tilt
finally they stop
balanced
the scales of justice
II. Fair
could be compared to a summers day
if i thought i was a poet
could have a dazzling portrait
if i thought i was a painter
could have a novel
if i thought i was a writer
could have diamonds
if i thought i was rich
III. Fair
the wheel spins
the circle turns
the flying machines rush through the sky
the coaster dips up and down
the house bounces gelatinously in the wind
I. Fair
figures of fairness
reside at the front of the room
calmly presiding
calmly in power
in their well-oiled metal minds we hear a tick
and some can see clearly
instead of a head
the scales of the justice
II. Fair
yes you could have had this all
but i am not a poet or a painter or a writer or rich
i am none of these
and if you cant understand
i will let you go
for this fair is but on the outside
my dear
whats inside
matters more
far more
III. Fair
inside a house i creep
loud clangs i hear
i wander in
then darkness
a woosh a noise a bark a cackle
then i hear
“daddy this house isnt very fun”
IV. Fair
fair is the balance
fair is the beauty
fair is the carnival
fair is the justice
fair is the outer layer
fair is the circus
fair is rare
fair is common
fair is in between
fair is as fair does
fair is a house of darkness
fair is a scale in judgement
fair is the bestowed of favors
fair is the tangle of this braided poem
fair is a cheater
fair is a just man
fair is fair is fair
Fair…

(Edit: New spacing format!)

May 10, 2009 at 9:02 PM 2 comments

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England

From a Professor’s Letter: In summary, then, I wish for you to burn down the Mark Twain House because Professor Ardor believes Mr. Twain to be something of a [and here you could sense the ashamed pause, lurking between the lines] female pudendum.

Then s/he pulled out a lighter, flicked it, and grabbed a clump of his/her hair. *** was setting her/himself on fire, not starting at the feet the way people at Salem did with their supposed witches, but starting with his/her hair. With his/her hair.

The Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England is a brilliant work of literary fiction, as well as being incredibly funny and suspenseful. The book is a first-person narrative from the point of view of  Sam Pulsifier, a resident of Amherst who burnt down the Emily Dickinson House, one of Amherst’s most famous attractions, and in the process killed two people. He served time in a minimum-security prison in Holyoke, and then after ten years was allowed to leave. He made himself a new life, went to college, and found a wife, Anne Marie. He had two kids. But then it all came back at him.

I suppose I should tell you something of Sam’s past. When he was in prison, many people were sending him letters. There were two kinds of letters sent to him. The first kind were the predictable, “you will burn in hell for this” letters. From literary scholars, professors, and citizens of Amherst, they told him how awful everything he did was. But the second kind of letter was more interesting. They wanted him to burn down other houses. The Frost Residence, the Stowe House, the Twain House, and the lot. For most of the writer’s homes in New England, at least one person wanted them gone.

Anyway, back to the plot. Sam’s life slowly begins to fall down around him. He receives a visit from an old enemy, Thomas Coleman. Thomas’ mother was a tour guide at the Dickinson House. She was there after-hours one night, having sex with Thomas’ father on Emily’s bed. That was the night that Sam burned down the House. They didn’t survive the fire. Thomas visits Sam, vowing revenge on him. Next, a group of bond analysts who were in prison with Sam come along. They want his help burning down other writer’s houses, so they can write memoirs about it. He refuses, and they say he’ll regret it. Then, they leave. A few days later, Anne Marie kicks him out of the house. Thomas told her Sam was having an affair with his wife. He goes back to live with his parents, a dysfunctional couple. His father is a drunkard, and his mother “goes to her job” each day despite having been fired. To make matters worse, someone(s begins burning down other writer’s homes in New England. He begins to try to find out who, trying to remove suspicion from himself. This is all chock-full of twists, red herrings, and suspenseful fun. (And someone sets fire to themself!)

This book is stellar. I could barely tear myself away from it. It was both humorous and tragic. Although it’s a reviewer’s cliche, I think I’d even say It made me laugh! It made me cry! It’s a rare book that can truly do both at once. This book especially resonates if you live or have lived in Massachusetts. I live in Massachusetts, and having been to most of the book’s locations, it’s both funnier and feels more realistic. Sam is a brilliant character, entertaining, snarky, and sad. I highly recommend this. However, make sure you don’t have anything important to do the day after you start reading this. You’ll probably be up all night reading this. I was.

My Rating: 83/100

(Edit: Offensive quote removed, new quote added.)

May 10, 2009 at 8:47 PM 1 comment

News In Webcomics: 5/3/09

This is the start of a new feature, News in Webcomics. It’ll basically just tell what’s happening currently in a few webcomics, as well as linking to them. It’ll probably show up about once a month. Yes, spoilers are contained! (And before you ask, I will be getting back to book reviews shortly…)

XKCD: (First Strip: xkcd.com/1, First Good Strip: xkcd.com/10) The Current Strip is #576, PACKAGES. The last truly amusing strip was #574, SWINE FLU. At the top of the strip, it states “Twitter is great for watching uninformed panics unfold live,” and then it shows some examples. I burst out laughing. XKCD is good for a laugh, although sometimes the jokes fall flat. It follows no plotline, but sometimes characters recur, including the iconic Black Hat Guy.

Order of the Stick: (First Strip: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0001.html) The Current Strip is #650, A Lot Can Happen in Ten Minutes. I won’t comment too much on this, as it is extraordinarily plot critical and a BIG spoiler, but it’s getting VERY dramatic around here! The humor hasn’t been lost, though, and Belkar continues to give us the jokes we want. I’m looking forward to seeing Team Evil again…

Erfworld: (First Strip: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/erf0001.html) The current strip is #158. The end of Book 1 appears to be near, and things are drawing to a close. Ansom has been decrypted by Wanda, as has the whole army. I sense some struggle ahead, especially when Wanda, Stanley, Ansom, and Jillian reunite.

Irregular Webcomic: (First Strip: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1.html, First Good Strip: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/5.html) The current strip is #2289. Well, the whole universe has been destroyed and then brought back, and everything’s starting from the beginning again. But a bit … different. Steve wants to shoot the Allosaurus?

Darths and Droids: (First Strip: http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0001.html) The current strip is #252, Dex Role.  Sally, having stopped playing Jar Jar, is now playing a new character. And he’s just as ridiculous as the first. I wonder how long this will last?

May 3, 2009 at 6:50 PM Leave a comment

The Coming of Death

Hello, everyone! This is a poem I wrote. I’m not that much of a poet, but I decided poetry might make a good post occasionally. This one’s called The Coming of Death.

a small shadow
the air seems to move
you don’t turn around
don’t move
can’t move
death comes
death comes for everyone

a dark figure with a veil and cloak
a skeleton with a scythe
a shadow
a raven
or nothing visible at all
just a feeling
we know death is here 

a mewling squeal of a baby
the slamming sound and resounding crash of a collision
a shot rings out
or maybe several shots
the small slunk of a knife in flesh
the hacking horrific gasping of choking
the sound of the last tiny breath of a sleeping man in bed
death comes for everyone 

no one knows
what happens
in death
after death
all we know
is that there is death
death
all we can count on
death
comes for everyone 

Inevitable.

May 3, 2009 at 6:16 PM 4 comments


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