“Jar-Jar, you’re a genius!”
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a pair of Jedi knights are sent to negotiate a trade agreement. In the course of their investigations orbiting a small planet called Naboo (probably not landing there), they’ll discover the Lost Orb of Phantascoria, and will have to decide whether to allow the Galactic Empire to continue using it as a power source, or return it to the Gungans, its original owners.
Welcome to Darths and Droids, a webcomic by the creators of Irregular Webcomic and following in the footsteps of DM of the Rings. In their own words, “the essential conceit of this comic is that Star Wars as we know it does not exist. The whole thing is the invented campaign of the GameMaster, and the players don’t know anything about the story or the setting in which it happens, until it arises in the course of the game.” In other words, the course of the Star Wars saga, played out as some group’s DnD Game, complete with manic fighting, in-group jokes, and inventive new ways to piss off the GM.
Aside from being a wonderfully fun send-up of the Star Wars movies themselves, Darths and Droids plays with conventions of tabletop gaming and makes loving fun of the basic player archetypes. The comic has only reached the start of Episode Two as of this writing, but the players are well-defined:
Jim (Qui-Gon Jinn): An impulsive gamer who fights before the enemy can get a word in edge-wise to tell him he’s an important NPC. Jim prioritizes combat over roleplaying, but has been shown to enjoy his power as an influential Jedi Knight. He is also the player who acts as if he knows everything about the GM’s setting, even when he obviously does not. (In an early strip, he identifies “Jedi” as “a type of cheese”).
Ben (Obi-wan Kenobi): A more methodical gamer, Ben keeps a strict separation of in- and out-of character knowledge and personality. He still enjoys a good fight, but is less likely to run screaming into combat, and more likely to wait for a plan. Ben is better at “fast-talking the GM”, and justifying in the setting ridiculous feats and tricks, such as a lightsabre’s being able to deflect blaster bullets. “Either this works, or we die and your campaign ends.” Harsh.
Sally (Jar-Jar Binks): Ben’s 9-year-old sister, Sally is playing her very first game of DnD. She has trouble separating the fiction from her reality, but her wild imagination has been invaluable to the game so far, by inventing such silliness as a 14-year-old elected queen, an underwater bubble city, and the Gungans’ strange appearance (“I’ve run Call of Cthulhu with less ghastly sounding monsters”).
Pete (R2-D2): the ultimate min-max gamer, Pete has designed a short, mute character in order to boost his technological skills. He’s managed to get around the “mute” part by programming his PDA with varied beeps and whistles, coded for such things as “yes”, “no”, and “totally awesome”. Pete is also the game’s resident dice enthusiast; he subscribes to the mathematical theory of “rolling the ones” out of a die, and has his own custom-made dice for playing R2—made of titanium, and labeled in binary.
Annie (Shmi/Anakin): A drama student also playing her first DnD game, Annie is focused almost entirely on roleplaying and character interaction, to a few of the others’ chagrin. She’s still getting the hang of the dice, but her RP skills are unparalleled and a frequent pleasure for the GM. Of course, her failure to follow traditional gaming paths throws the other players for a loop.
Darths and Droids follows the Star Wars movies visually, mapping fully new characters, plots and jokes onto familiar material. The humor is always there, and is definitely a higher priority than the story. It’s possible to get a bit lost in the plot of the game, but then, that’s just another part of the comic that captures the feel of being at a DnD session. The story that’s actually shown is secondary to the fun that the players are having and the ridiculous actions of their characters. The cast is both small and sprawling at the same time; the hundreds of characters in Episode One are all portrayed between six people. It’s really fascinating to see the way the players’ personalities come out through their characters’ actions.
It isn’t a deep, engaging storyline, but Darths and Droids is a huge amount of fun. Be warned—if you’re only a fan of one of the two elements in this comic, you’re going to miss at least a few jokes. If you aren’t a fan of either Star Wars or Dungeons and Dragons, this isn’t the comic for you. But anyone with that overlapping geekery should do themselves a favor and check this comic out.