Fantasy pen-and-paper role-playing games left the supposed dungeon of public perception – and pop culture anyway – quite some time ago. Today, the sessions of some role-playing groups are even streamed for a huge live audience, some of which have been developed into franchises and also adapted for multimedia.
The most famous example of this development is probably “Critical Role” from the USA: The “Dungeons & Dragons” game sessions by well-known voice actors such as Matthew Mercer or Ashley Johnson, which have been broadcast on the Internet since 2015, became a huge hit, and there are now all sorts of adaptations and merchandise , including comics, novels, and the Amazon animated series The Legend of Vox Machina.
In Germany, a crime role-playing game called “Letzte Beute” was recently placed in the ARD media library. Also, getting back to fantasy, since 2021 we have the “HORDE” project from bestselling fantasy author Liza Grimm (“Talus”, “Through the Mirror”), Let’s Play streaming stars Gronkh, Pandorya and PhunkRoyal and the Berlin comic artist Marvin Clifford, who also worked for the Tagesspiegel for a while. They reach tens of thousands of viewers via YouTube and Twitch with the video live streams and recordings of their fantasy role-playing games, which use their own RPG rule system and their own fictional world as a setting.
From the character creation of the genre-typical game characters to the individual stages of the pre-packaged campaign that the players have to react to, everything is followed by a commenting community. There is a lot of joking and laughing at the table, the fun factor is always the top priority for everyone involved. This also applies to the first volume of the comic adaptation, which has just been published and has already become an online bestseller through pre-orders.
Fantasy with humor
“HORDE – The First Age Volume 1: Queste vor dem Feste” uses the content of the first season, the first round of the game, and processes it in comic form. The healer Lysatrya and the warrior known as Bronko the Brachiale are an unlikely pair of lovers – and are about to open an inn that they received as a gift from the bailiff for their heroic deeds. They invite their old friends, the sleek thief Snarph and the clumsy wizard Willibert, to the inauguration of the tavern.
But then the tranquil village suddenly finds itself under a shielding spell. To break him, the young village witch Verina sends the reunited troupe on a quest. Between the harbor and the graveyard, the small horde of heroes must obtain a recipe for the counterspell. It’s, of course, the beginning of a dangerous adventure, in the course of which Lysatrya, Bronko, Snarph and Willibert will be babbled almost to death, but also splatter the blood of goblins and the goo of undead…
To have for every gag
Set in the world imagined by Liza Grimm, this story is classic sword-and-magic fantasy, traditional role-playing fantasy – with a sense of action and humor that outweighs the epic in this subject. It’s correspondingly light-hearted and funny, for example when the witch Verina can only give the group a chamber pot as a miracle weapon from her fund. This captures the spirit of the underlying role-playing sessions, shows the tongue-in-cheek approach to the entire genre and its proven patterns.
The artwork, by Berlin artist Marvin Clifford, who co-wrote the comic book adaptation with Grimm, stylistically fits well with this type of funny fantasy, and with this approach: quite cartoony, yet realistic enough, exaggerated and expressive at the right moments , and ultimately available for every gag. The strong colors are also bright and the look is clearly digital. Meanwhile, splatter and slapstick offer another contrast that is reflected visually.
Clifford once made a name for himself with the similarly ticking fantasy series “Shakes and Fidget”, which was also linked to the video game and role-playing scene, followed by the semi-autobiographical web comic “, which was awarded the Max and Moritz Prize. Schisslaweng”, the city story series “Mittenmang” on the pages of the “Tagesspiegel” and the current video game webcomic parody “Lootboy”. Incidentally, Clifford immortalized his friend and studio neighbor Flix in a macabre-witty way in “HORDE – The First Age Vol. 1.: Queste vor dem Feste”. So to speak, set in stone. Just pay attention to it while reading, hard to miss.
Sequel follows …
The comic book prelude Quest vor dem Feste only shows the beginning of the first RPG adventure and the original HORDE game round. The volume ends with the more-or-less heroic troupe confronted by a menacing shadow – a tried and true “Sequel follows ...”-Cliffhanger, before some information about the characters and their players or the creative people comes. More volumes are in the works for 2023, according to Gronkh on Twitter, there are likely to be four comics for the first age and the first round.
Because the adventure, as we know so much thanks to the video streams, goes on. Those who want a bit of plot spoilers can do so online in the archive of whimsical role-playing sessions, or in the animated short synopsis of the first age released just before the comic, which even uses Clifford’s artwork.
This fantasy role-playing horde, which has now also successfully advanced into the realm of comics, is and remains a difficult multimedia phenomenon.
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