Friday, November 19, 2010

Fantasy Webcomic Lessons

There are some great webcomics out there on the underwebs.  In addition to being entertaining and cool to read, they can be a great source for DM inspiration.  Here are some of my favorite gaming webcomics, along with a cool gaming lesson I got from reading the comic:

Order of the Stick: The classic gaming webcomic.  OotS teaches us, above all, the value of the villain.  Xykon the Lich is exactly the kind of bad guy that the whole party can really love to hate.  Better yet, he presents a real threat.  Xykon is a capable adversary and comes back to (un)life, so you can use him over and over!

Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: The name says it all.  This is a long-running fantasy comic that has run a number of plotlines over the years.  Starting off as a Dungeon-Keeper-esque monster comic, it's since evolved into an interesting collection of fantasy stories.

There are a ton of different ideas you can get from this comic, but the one that really jumped out at me is the way that the adventures have large-scale impact on the world.  Kingdoms rise and fall, village and cities are destroyed and the world changes.  Making sure that the actions of the players have an impact on the world is a great way to keep them engaged in the game.

Erfworld: What if you lived in a turn-based strategy game?  Erfworld is funny, violent and all-around great.  The funny aspect of Erfworld really caught my attention.  My best memories of gaming are the funny moments, intentional or, more often, unintentional.  The best lesson I got from Erfworld is that you can tell an awesome story AND keep your party snickering at the same time.

Goblins: Goblin PC's, lots of violence, and a character called Minmax.  What's not to like?  A couple of things from the Goblins comic really stand out for me.  The first is that a little metagaming is not a bad thing.  The characters in this comic (and OotS for that matter) discuss game rules the way we discuss things like gravity or oxygen - they represent the natural laws of the world, and therefore, must be talked about.  So let the players chat about rules and metagame - no need to even assume it's out of character...

The other really cool thing about Goblins, is the reminder that random tables are AWESOME.  Complains the goblin has a magical shield that causes a random effect when it is struck by a weapon.  It creates the most excellent fight scene in the comic so far, and random effects can have equally awesome impacts on your game, if you can let them (but then, I played a Wild Mage when Tome of Magic came out).

Challenges of Zona: This is a bit of a weird one.  It's got sex, violence and classic rock and roll, though!  The best lesson I learned from Zona is that heroes should be heroic.  There needs to be something that sets the characters apart from the common ruck of humanity - something that makes focusing on their adventures exciting and worthwhile.  Zona, Mentl, Tula and even Yatta-Ta (of Ir Anis) are capital-H heroes, which is what I think that characters in RPG's should be.

Girl Genius: Setting, setting, setting.  The three rules of fantasy real-estate!  The great characters, cool art and generally excellent steampunk/mad science story notwithstanding, it's the setting that really sets (hehe) Girl Genius apart from other webcomics.

 Alternative history/fantasy Europe, ruled by a powerful, ruthless Baron?  Check.

Crawling with monsters and worse, mad scientists?  Check.

Huge castle built by generations of the most insane and villainous of all the mad scientists?  Check.

Castle AI fragmented, homicidal and insane, with thousands of death traps at it's command?  Check.

Awesome?  Check and double check.

Anything I missed?  What are your favorite fantasy webcomics, and what gaming lessons did they teach you?