Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Knights Of The Dinner Table #76 - A Review

Written by: Jolly Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson and David S. Kenzer
Penciled by: Jolly Blackburn
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: N/A
Editor: Jolly Blackburn
Publisher: Kenzer And Company

For those unfamiliar with the pedigree, “Knights of the Dinner Table” is a now legendary comic, the first to tackle the field of role-playing humor in the comic book realm. Centering around a group of gamers in the town of Muncie Indiana, the book has since inspired two spin-offs, a host of specials and tie-ins and more than a fair number of imitators. It has even inspired the creation of Hackmaster: a real role-playing game based upon the favored game of the players in “Knights”, which one the Best Game of the Year Award at last years Origins Awards (the gamers equivalent of the Eisners)

It is no surprise then that as the fame and reputation of the book has grown, the book itself has grown with it in terms of physicality and maturity. Once a collection of simple gag strips, the book has matured to having multiple-issue stories and subplots. It has also grown to a whopping 96-pages and been renamed “Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine.” Magazine? Oh yes. No mere comic, this one, though the comics are still here.

I can’t really discuss the plots or the artwork of the comic. The artwork is static and very rarely consists of more than a few talking heads… literally. And it would be hard for me to describe the inherit humor in a party of adventurers being accused of murder and taken before the King, in a party of adventurers creating a bank of questionable virtue to fleece one of their own or the humorous complexities of min/maxing a character. (Or what min/maxing is for that matter!) Suffice to say, anyone who has ever played an RPG on a computer of in a group will probably find much to chuckle at here.

There is more than gamer humor, though that is likely to be the major draw to this book. There are a number of sci-fi based humor strips. The humorous Spacehack, for example, which recently got a limited miniseries and will hopefully progress to a full series. And new to this issue is a strip called Heroes of The Hackleague, based upon the superheroic characters created by The Knights for a Superhero RPG campaign. All fans of superheroic action should buy this issue just for this strip, which deals with a nature goddess going amok and a third-rate hero team being called into action because “all the big name teams either have druids on them or are made up mostly of young Democrats.”
The magazine portion of the book has a number or articles on various topics of interest, including various articles about playing the real Hackmaster RPG and other games. There’s reviews of other games, novels, video games… and even other comics! There’s also a number of puzzles, debate forums that readers can write into… and occasional song parodies and joke ads. (My favorite to this day is the ad for Russian Role-Playing Mail-Order Brides.) All in all, you get a lot of bang for your four bucks

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