Monday, January 11, 2016

Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble Volume 1

This comic is awesome to me. It follows the antics of a gaming group calling themselves the Knights of the Dinner Table. They play Hackmaster (a riff on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition). Our cast of characters at this point include B.A. Felton (the gamemaster), Bob Herzog (a high-strung power player), Dave Bozwell (a more relaxed power player), Brian VanHoose (rules lawyer), and Sara Felton (cousin to B.A. and a roleplayer; that is, she's the one that would rather converse with NPC's rather than kill them, as the rest of the group tend to do). 

What I intend to do is to review the entire series, It has been in print (and now PDF) for 25 years, and in the process the writers have turned these characters from gaming tropes into fully realized characters. This comic started in Shadis (a gaming magazine) and was created by Jolly R. Blackburn. The art is really basic, just talking heads in front of a static background. But as the series goes on, other writers help out, and more artwork is placed in the background. More characters are created over time, and a whole world is fleshed out. 

For now, we will start with issues 1 - 3, which was collected and printed in Bundle of Trouble Volume 1. In the first issue we are introduced to the characters and their personalities, which are stock gaming tropes, but the jokes are really funny. In one story the players (Dave, Bob & Brian) are fighting a gazebo, thinking it's a creature. In another story the Knights are playing Farmer: the RPG, where the players are medieval farmers trying (and failing) to grow crops. It's here where we first see Brian's tendency to grief the other players to get ahead. 

In issue 2, we meet Sara and find out she would rather roleplay than fight. Dave, seeing her success at parlaying, tries the same thing on a dragon, parlaying this way: give us half your hoard and I won't kill you. The result is predictably hilarious. In another story Dave gets easily sidetracked into thinking a cow is magical (mostly thanks to B.A. getting frustrated with Dave's actions). The group also plays Spell-Jacked (a Magic the Gathering riff) and get sucked into a vortex of addiction.

In issue 3, B.A. goes to a GM conference, leaving the group to play with Victor "Nitro" Furgeson, who takes them through an adventure based on the movie Deliverence. In another story, B.A. uses a home-brewed critical hit/miss table that results in the whole party being killed from Dave's character trying to hit a monster and missing. The group reacts negatively, to say the least. A couple of more stories revolve around Brian hilariously rules-lawyering his way out of tough situations.

The jokes used in this first Bundle of Trouble are predictable, but done differently enough to remain fresh and funny. Do they all land successfully? Definitely not, but enough personality is injected into the characters that you begin to feel for B.A. as the players roll right over him, or for the group as B.A. tries unsuccessfully to try new systems of roleplaying and it blows up in Brian, Dave, Sara & Bob's faces simply because of gamemaster incompetence. 

Best Line(s): 

Bob: Five bucks, Brian. Don't kill B.A. or anything, just make his legs bend the wrong way.
Dave: I'll throw in an extra ten dollars if you make B.A. sound like Carol Channing.


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