Who are you and why are you famous?
Colin: Well I once had a wizard who used disguise self to sneak over to the women’s side of the local hot springs. That PC is still remembered as a legend at Clearwater High. As for myself, I’ve had a hand in The Veranthea Codex, wrote the AaW modules Death & Taxes and For Rent, Lease or Conquest, and am the writing half of The Handbook of Heroes.
Laurel: I’m not nearly as funny as Colin, so I’m happy to handle the art part of Handbook and leave the jokes to him. I’ve done illustrations for White Wolf, Adventure a Week, and some small RPG publications, as well as a graphic novel and webcomic called Olive Peril with Arcana Comics. I’ve got another gaming themed webcomic called Chorus of the Neverborn that I continue out of the hope that someone will see it and offer to run an Exalted campaign for me. It’s been years since I’ve gotten to play.
The comic is called Handbook of Heroes. Does that mean it’s a useful read for adventurers in training?
Colin: NO! Very no. It’s more of a guide in how not to be an adventurer. The shtick of the comic is that this imbecile of an adventurer somehow got hold of a genre savvy self-help book. Together they become the living embodiment of the chaotic stupid alignment.
Laurel: Colin and I played in a campaign together where I had a warrior who referred to the Handbook from time to time as a joke about how to interact with other party members, and it was always tongue-in-cheek. When we set about creating it for real, I think we made an effort to be as horrible as possible and I thoroughly enjoy it, even if I’d be mortified to play that character at a real table.
Your main character if named Fighter. He seems like a “That Guy” kind of player. Is he based on anyone you’ve actually gamed with?
Colin: I think we’ve all had run-ins with That Guy. I’ve played with dudes who insist on running monstrous characters in heroic games, then get upset when the NPCs frown on their murder sprees. I’ve had guys inflict their awful significant others on the table (“I want to play a fairy. What do you mean I can’t fly? This game is stupid.”) There’s been body odor and rules lawyering and, on one particularly memorable occasion, a campaign ending hissy fit when the plot called for the party to infiltrate a fancy soiree without our weapons. “There’s no way he would consent to hand over Blood Drinker. It’s just not what my character would do!” Thankfully though, I’ve never gamed with anybody quite as bad as Fighter.
Laurel: Fighter is basically the Eric Cartmann of rpg characters. He’s a terrible role model, and the rest of his party is forever cleaning up his messes. I think we’ve all played at a table with a Fighter, and it speaks to a lot of players’ early experiences with gaming. I’ve had plenty of times where players have derailed my plots for incomprehensible reasons, attacked NPCs with no provocation, and have generally lived up to the name ‘murder-hobos.’ It’s fun to reminisce about, even if it was torturous at the time.
What tools do you use to create the comic? What is your process like?
Colin: Google Docs is great for collaboration. Since this is a joke-a-day style comic, I’ll write as many jokes as I can and ask Laurel to cherry-pick the good ones. We only use about a third of what I actually write. As for collaboration, being a husband and wife team is great. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to throw ideas around face-to-face rather than relying on phone or email.
Laurel: I do my preliminary sketches on paper the old fashioned way, then finish everything up in photoshop on my tablet. Since the layout is simple and the style is cartoonish, it’s easy to make changes even after everything is put together, so it’s not too frustrating when Colin looks over my shoulder and lets me know that he’d like changes.
What are your hopes for Handbook of Heroes creatively, professionally and personally?
Colin: My main group has kept a “quotes scroll” for years now, writing out our best one liners and most absurd out-of-context quotes. It’s just this big piece of butcher paper covered in nearly illegible sharpie, but I love that thing. Humor is a big piece of gaming for me, and this comic is an attempt to share those amazing, stupid moments with all the other gamers out there. Speaking as a writer type though, it’s been a lot of fun having space to write a bite-sized blog beneath the comics. That’s turned out to be a great format for organizing my game design thoughts.
Laurel: I’m really enjoying the opportunity to work in a style that’s very different from my usual illustrations, and I like that we’re using a single-panel format. I am a huge Far Side fan and I think that the layout forces us to really create a short, concise message. After working in the graphic-novel style of storytelling for so long, it’s refreshing to be able to do joke after joke without worrying about pacing or continuity. My biggest hope for Handbook is to make people laugh inappropriately at their desks at work. I’ve put in my share of suffering confused looks from my colleagues, and it’s time for some payback.
Your main cast is the classic adventuring party: Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Thief. Any plans to expand on that repertoire?
Colin: We’re only 50 pages into this thing, and I think the ‘classic party’ has a lot of mileage left. That said, every class has its own quirks and inside jokes. Plus I’d really like to see Fighter go toe to toe with somebody named Paladin.
Laurel: I actually sat down and designed a character for about 20 more classes, so it’s safe to say that there are plenty more waiting in the wings for their time to shine. I’m also planning on reusing the few who have already made appearances. This world only has the one Bard, for instance, and Fighter will have no other mount than the noble unicorn, Lumberjack Explosion.
You’ve both done some work for AAW, most recently in For Rent, Lease or Conquest. Can we expect any new adventures in the near future?
Colin: Yeah actually. We’re in edits for a module called Young Minds right now. If you’ve ever seen the movie 21 Jump Street then you already know the schtick. Just replace undercover cops with undercover adventurers and drug dealers with an intellect devourer.
Laurel: I’m doing some fun ‘sketches on notebook paper’ style illustrations to match the school theme of the module, so it’s going to be a challenge to work out exactly what monstrous teenagers would doodle on their tests when their teacher isn’t looking.
Check out this webcomic here: handbookofheroes.com