During my review of Sore Thumbs I was poking around the internet looking for something actually entertaining to distract myself with while trawling through its obnoxiously huge archive. When not checking up with Kotaku or checking out Your Mom’s foot fetish site I managed to bump into DM of the Rings: a comic re-interpretation of The Lord of the Rings films by Shamus Young (now on The Escapist). The concept was fascinating: What if a group of friends somehow didn’t know anything about the Lord of the Rings series, and instead found themselves playing through all three movies as a campaign. I say “movies” and not “books” because the comic is actually created by taking screenshots from the Peter Jackson films, with dialogue overlaid.
Unfortunately, while I was reading through the whole thing I didn’t really keep a good “log” of my thoughts. I was too caught up working on my other review to realize I could talk about the other comic as well. Luckily, there’s a spinoff!
Darths and Droids by The Comic Irregulars IS. THAT. SPINOFF!
Ahem, anyway, the comic takes the basic premise of DM of the Rings, only applies it to Star Wars instead, starting with Episode 1. The big difference between the two, though, is that DM of the Rings is about a DM desperately trying to get his friends to follow the plotline of the LOTR films, whereas D and D is about a DM who wrote his own story, but the intervention of the players keeps changing it to be like the Star Wars films. The story basically starts with the unnamed DM and his friends, Jim and Ben (who play as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan, respectively). Jim is an action-oriented player, with a tendency to kill everything in the room and search for loot. He also has this odd habit of explaining what’s happening at any given moment even when he has no idea what’s going on.
On the other side of the coin we have Ben, who’s very goal-oriented and more level-headed. His major flaw is that he tends to get caught up in the little things, often getting caught up in the minutiae of the rules even to the detriment of him and others. Later they’re joined by Ben’s sister, who he’s stuck babysitting. Things really take a turn at this point, because Sally is called upon to create her own character, and the best her wild, adolescent imagination can come up with is Jar Jar Binks. The crazy thing about this is it works. Really, really well. Suddenly all the ridiculousness of the character is entirely justified, because it’s some guys kid sister who just wants to play make-believe getting caught up in her brother’s game. Also, whenever she suggest some kind of plot element, no matter how ridiculous, they’re kind of forced to just run with it to avoid hurting her feelings.
Rounding out the group we get another pair of opposites: really more extreme versions of Ben and Jim. Pete is Jim’s friend, and something of a Munchkin (basically someone who focuses on having great stats, at the cost of anything useful for actual roleplaying). As a result, he ends up creating R2-D2 because he gets a few stat bonuses for being a non-anthropomorphic droid. He’s not the least bit concerned with the actual plot of the game, and just likes to show off all the skills and stats he’s got with him. He even ends up with a drinking game whenever the plot gets too cliché. On the opposite end we have Annie, a fellow student in Ben’s drama class who’s only really interested in the game mechanics so much as just the chance to play out a character.
The comic takes me back to my rant about popularity, most importantly the bit about Niche Appeal. Even though the comic is largely based on the Star Wars Roleplaying game, it’s pretty accessible to anyone remotely familiar with the roleplaying concept. I myself have only briefly played any kind of tabletop RPG, but I could keep up with the jokes just fine, even as it got into some of the more obscure rules and references. I’d imagine the comic would be quite enjoyable even if you didn’t know the Star Wars universe very well, even if you did lose some of the inherent humor in seeing the characters act completely different. The creators also do a very good job of taking screenshots at just the right moment to really punctuate an awkward moment in a scene, or to take someone’s expression completely out of context by catching them “between emotions”, in a sense. There’s more I would like to talk about, but this is really more of a recommendation than anything else. Be careful, though, because some of the humor gets pretty heavy in Roleplay speak, though I can see not understanding it making some parts actually funnier.
If there’s one major complaint I could make, it’s that the DM can really go off on a rant when explaining back story. There’s quite a few flashback sequences peppered throughout, which largely amounts to the DM talking to himself for several pages. They have their entertaining parts, but without the conflict of personalities and playing styles it really loses the meat of what makes this series so entertaining.