Writer/Artist: Arthur Goodman
Release Date: Summer 2013
No matter our levels of geekery, most of us have some sort of experience or knowledge of the world of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’. The concept of people reimagining themselves as fantasy characters complete with bonus-applying equipment, in-depth character classes and all-too-frequent dice rolls is a fairly well-established one, and has gradually evolved from the realm of pen and paper to the world of computer games with the likes of Skyrim, Diablo and World of Warcraft.
This book serves as a collection of web comics originally published online at favouritecrayon.co.uk. Boasting no less than seventeen strips, ranging from between four panels and four pages in length, they all take great delight in poking gentle fun at the fantasy gaming world and the unusual situations that arise with alarming regularity while venturing through it.
The strips all feature two main characters, representing the two most typical personalities that one frequently encounters when playing online or offline fantasy roleplaying games. Fili (Abby) is your more casual gamer, focused on loot, having fun and boasting a blissful ignorance of many of the game’s mechanics. She’s the type of girl whose eyes glaze over when faced with the confusing bonus system on weaponry, and who will gladly pass up skills like Shield and Armour Proficiency in order to pick up Play Instrument: Marimba. Noli (Sara) is the more hardcore gamer, with a deeper understanding of the rules and stats and a more seasoned approach to questing; she is also prone to bouts of rage, something that anyone who’s ever played an online RPG will be more than familiar with.
As with most anthology comics, the quality does vary somewhat from strip to strip. While some are undeniably hilarious, others merely raise a faint smile or, in a few cases, an eye-rolling groan. However, I’m happy to say that the vast majority of the strips in “The Players Handbook” are of a high quality, and provide a lovingly humorous look at the world of online gaming.
All manner of fantasy gaming tropes are satirised here, from the indecisive player who constantly feels the need to re-roll their character to the bafflingly confusing ‘bonus and modifier’ system that applies to weapons. Goodman portrays it all in good humour without ever appearing mean-spirited, something that can always be a risk when poking fun at such a distinct group of people.
Goodman’s artwork is solid and satisfyingly cartoony. Everything is over-exaggerated, from facial expressions to combat situations, and rightfully so. The approach also feels very much like a newspaper cartoon strip, which is clearly the style that Goodman has gone for here, with sparse, nonexistent backgrounds and emotive,well-defined characters.
For anyone who’s every played a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ type game, or lost themselves in an online RPG, this book hits all the key notes. Familiar people and situations can’t help but raise a smile, and Goodman’s clear affection for the subject matter shines through with every panel.
Sadly, one of my few niggling problems with the book came from the lack of clarity when it came to breaking up the strips. Aside from a small, easily-missable ‘full stop’ at the end of the relevant pages, there’s no real way to tell when one strip ends and the next begins, leading to the occasional confusing moment when I found myself wondering what the heck was going on. A minor problem, sure, but also an easily fixable one.
Overall though, Experience the Magic of the Legend! Volume 1 is a witty, intelligent look at the often absurd word of fantasy gaming, and provides more than a few smiles and chuckles throughout its 26 pages. And with the digital version currently available for just a quid, it’s well worth taking a look at if you have a spare ten minutes and fancy a giggle.
Arthur Goodman has definitely scored a critical hit here, and I’m definitely going to be keeping up to date with favouritecrayon.co.uk to see the latest strips from this series.
As I mentioned, you can catch the latest strips from the series over at www.favouritecrayon.co.uk
Also, both digital and printed copies of this comic are available at the Square Eyed Stories Comicsy store
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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