Monthly Archives: April 2016

Dungeons & Dragons has a detailed canon, why not use it?

I had a series of posts here going through all the D&D-related comics I could find in order to understand why they take the approach they do. Most of these comics are 5-part series that tie in with a new game or novel release. I’ve no problem with corporate synergy, and I hope they’re successful, but there doesn’t seem to be much integration between the comics and the games, and from what I understand, it’s intended that way. The comics seem to resemble other comics more than their game products. You’d have no idea there’s a world of enormously detailed descriptions of creatures, characters, environments, conflict scenarios, histories, maps, etc., they could draw on for their stories (which the Pathfinder comics make good use of). Instead, they come across as rather generic fantasy, once you remove the gaming details (entertaining as these comics may otherwise be). In fact, they seem to be portraying not the game itself, but the people who play the game; the characters seem more like player avatars than beings who live in a very different world than us. I guess this is to increase their appeal to readers not familiar with D&D. But what’s the point of that? If readers aren’t going find such details absorbing, why would they be drawn further into the world of role-playing? Wouldn’t it be better to dramatize what it’s like to operate in a role-playing game, with all the twists and tricks, pitfalls and setbacks they entail?

I got rid of those posts which seemed to have no end because I realized I could just some up my views in this one conclusion: anyone who’s ever played D&D has used it to tell a story. It’s fool-proof: the reference books are basically story bibles, and the more you rely on them, the deeper your story. I’m sure a majority of mainstream comics writers have experienced this personally. So instead of all these 5-issue series scattered here and there that just vanish without comment by the time they’re done, why not have one long-running D&D series that can build a real presence in the market, and uses the reference books to inform their stories. Having ready-made “story bibles” means it’s a great place for new writers and artists to get up to speed in the series, and it will provide readers a good working demo of how the game is played. After all, that’s how Gary Gygax first publicized his game: by presenting his games as fictionalized narratives done in character.

That seems like an obvious strategy, so why isn’t it being done? The books have been coming out on a regular basis, so why not the comics? If they had these resources back during the age of pulp comics, there would be a whole studio of rank-and-file artists cranking out issues, for the comics and the strips. It’s D&D, after all: a planned-yet-improvised combination of art, craft, and sporting event. It’s perfect for spinning quick, reliable yarns, so it’s win-win-win. Why aren’t they doing that? I dunno, maybe it’s strategy that works for all involved, but it seems odd to me.