Posts tagged ‘Book I’

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

May 17, 2009 at 6:42 PM 1 comment

The Colour of Magic

“It is forbidden to fight on the Killing Ground,” he said, and paused while he considered the sense of this. “You know what I mean, anyway.”

“I wish to be directed to an hotel, tavern, lodging house, inn, hospice, caravanserai,” he said. “What, all of them?” said Hugh, taken aback.

The Colour of Magic is the first of Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed Discworld series. The book’s main character is the inept wizard Rincewind, a master at languages, running away from things, and survival and a failure at most else. Rincewind lives (at least at the book’s start) in the city of Ankh-Morpork, a loosely defined fantasy city full of thieves, assassins, barbarian heroes and the rest of the fantasy stock types. The book begins (after a brief introduction) with a pair of heroes, parodies of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, watching the city of Ankh-Morpork burn down. They see Rincewind gallop out of the city, followed by a mysterious figure attempting to ride a horse. The two heroes accost him, and ask who the figure is. Rincewind explains to them, in exchange for food. The person is Twoflower, a visitor to Ankh-Morpork. He comes from a seemingly more modern land, as he himself is a clerk for an insurance company. (Although in Rincewind’s tongue, this is pronounced. reflected-sounds-of-underground-spirits.) Twoflower thinks he is poor, but his money is gold, which is common in Twoflower’s home but valuable in Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind becomes his tour guide, and helps him survive in a city where even the cockroaches had an unerring instinct for gold. Twoflower tours the city, taking pictures with his demon-operated camera and having a good time. It begins to go downhill when Twoflower offers the owner of the tavern/inn that he is staying in a fire insurance policy. The owner decides to burn down the inn, and the city burns as a result. When this story ends, the heroes ride away, leaving Rincewind and Twoflower to explore.

From here on, Rincewind and Twoflower explore the continent. The book is really more like a set of chronological novellas than it is a single united story. Rincewind and Twoflower are playing pieces in an intensely complicated game run by the Gods which is suspiciously like the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. They tangle with a Lovecraftian horror from beyond the boundaries of space and time. (Twoflower kills it with his camera.) They get involved with a parody of the famous Dragonriders of Pern series. They even take a brief journey into our world!

This is not one of Pratchett’s best works, at least in my opinion. Most of it is purely a parody of other famous fantasies, with very little of the originality of his later works. It does introduce Rincewind, one of his most beloved protagonists whom often appears. Nevertheless, it does not possess the same degree of plot or humor as even its immediate successor, The Light Fantastic. If you enjoy starting at the beginning of a series, this is the place to start. If you want a representative sample of Pratchett’s work, a better place to start would be Guards, Guards, the ninth book and the start of the City Watch subseries. This, merged with The Light Fantastic was recently made into a movie.

My Rating: 73/100

Next Up In Pratchett Reviews: The Light Fantastic

April 20, 2009 at 7:18 AM 2 comments


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