Thanks to its roots in pulp fiction, the fantasy gaming genre goes very well with comic books. Sure, the mechanics and the fiction don’t always line up, and yes there are a fair share of duds out there. But overall, comics based on popular role-playing games is a consistent, if not high-profile, part of the industry.
There have been a lot of good fantasy RPG comics, from the fun albeit rough in quality Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series of the 1980s to 2016’s extremely fun Pathfinder: Worldscape, which mashed up the Pathfinder RPG with classic heroes such as Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Red Sonja. But my personal favorite RPG-based comic is the series that ran in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition days.
Titled simply Dungeons & Dragons, the adventures of the group known as Fell’s Five hit shelves in 2010 and lasted just over a year before getting canceled. It might have fallen into a void in the popular consciousness due to its association with D&D’s much-maligned 4th edition, but in my opinion it’s the comic that most closely captures the feel of an actual RPG adventure – or at least the kind I run.
Basically, the adventures of Fell’s Five is what happens when you’ve got a whole group of wise asses at the table. Everybody gets their snark in, which makes even the typical dwarf/elf bickering a fun time rather than a tired cliché.
The series has a little bit of everything. It’s got inter-party conflict:
It’s got fighters who constantly fail their Perception checks:
It’s got a halfling thief who’s only in it for herself (and who’s fast enough to act in a surprise round):
And it’s got my favorite one-on-one duel of all time:
The leader of the group, Adric Fell, makes his name based on the fact that he’s really good at coming up with plans. Unfortunately, all his plans tend to be bad ones. These guys do save the world, but only after stumbling through a zombie apocalypse, accidentally falling into another dimension, and disturbing ancient evils within the Underdark. The series runs less like a chapter of Lord of the Rings and more like a heist movie. In other words, it’s a lot like a typical game of D&D with your friends.
Hidden beneath all the snark is the fact that this series caught a lot of the stuff that makes 4th edition D&D stand out from other versions of the game. The first issue has a tiefling, which made its Player’s Handbook debut in 4th edition, joining the group. Adric, despite being an archetypal fighter, has a smattering of many different skills, including some spellcraft – a nod to the fact that adventurers in 4th edition got a bonus of +½ their level to all skills, meaning you picked up a little bit of everything as you adventured. And there’s no cleric or any sign at all of magic healing in the comic – a demonstration of the fact that 4th edition allowed non-magical hit point recovery.
4th edition D&D is sort of verboten among a lot of gamers because it changed what people considered familiar about the game. While the mechanics were never my cup of tea, I appreciated that the edition tried to focus on action-packed fun. This comic is a good example of how 4th edition should feel when you play it.
Over the years, D&D has become its own genre – something akin to Guardians of the Galaxy meets Conan the Barbarian. Despite that, a lot of fiction based on the game tries to tell a typical heroic fantasy story using the veneer of game rules. Fell’s Five decided to go all-in on embracing D&D as a genre, and the results were glorious.
- Wonder Woman in No Man’s Land: Anatomy of a Great Scene - 23rd January 2018
- Conspiracist: A Review THEY Don’t Want You To Read - 28th September 2017
- Gaming with Kids: One of the Best Parenting Perks - 14th September 2017
- The Wikipedia Problem - 19th July 2017
- What is the Most Important RPG Rule? - 30th June 2017