For those not in the know, DM of the Rings is a webcomic, of sorts, that attempts to answer the question “What if The Lord of the Rings was a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, populated by some standard stereotypical gamers?”
Hijinks, as you can imagine, ensue.
The comic isn’t drawn, but instead consists of exceptionally well-chosen screen shots from the movies, with appropriate dialogue added. But fair warning given – certain bits of dialogue may be forever altered in your memory, and watching the movies, or even reading the books, may never be the same.
This is a strip that is, in many ways, the king of in-jokes, being based on poking fun at obscure references to D&D rules, or reoccuring trends in roleplaying games, or merely specific cliches that developed from Tolkien’s stories. Some aspects might be funny even if you aren’t a gamer, but there is definitely many jokes that will be hard to get. On the other hand, the fact that they are so specific to certain situations means that if you have been through those circumstances yourself, the jokes hit even more close to home.
Order of the Stick started out on a similar level, admittedly, and certainly proved there is an audience for this – but it also eventually transitioned into a story driven webcomic, which isn’t really an option here. There is a level of plot revolving around the players of the game and their actions and personalities – but it largely has to give way to the plot of the game that the characters are being run through, which it self is merely a delivery mechanism for the jokes.
Still, Shamus Young has been managing to successfully deliver those laughs for well over a hundred strips – and while this is unfortunately a comic with a finite life span, it is one that has managed to do a remarkable job of keeping its initial momentum going strong.
Even with all the other webcomics out there, I can’t really think of any other quite like this one. Irregular Webcomic is the closest that comes to mind, but while it has a lot of similarities, it comes in smaller and more general doses that don’t have the same impact. When DM of the Rings does wrap up, I can already see the void it will leave behind – which is a pretty good sign of a legacy right there.
Once, Wapsi Square held a prime spot among my favorite webcomics – but my interest in it has waned in recent years, largely with the rise in strange mythological mysteries over the down to earth character development drew me into it in the first place.
This isn’t to say the comic has gotten bad – just that it has gone in a different direction than I would have liked to see. That’s the creator’s prerogative, and that’s fine – and if nothing else, the appearance of various mythological and spiritual beings has given Taylor a chance to really stretch his artistic skills, and he’s done so with style.
But that said, I am loving the latest arc, wherein Katherine – who is introverted, isolated, shy and a tad unintentionally creepy – decides she should go to the beach. (With, of course, her pet fish Oscar.)
Katherine’s evolution over the course of the comic has been, at least in my opinion, one of the most genuine developments. And it just might be that I find myself more interested in the more unusual characters – Hannelore from Questionable Content is another character who has grown in confidence and social capability, and the development these characters has gone through strikes me as a much more profound journey – or at least a much more recognizable one – than many of the changes others undergo in most webcomics.
Katherine’s current expedition isn’t one she would have embarked upon when she first entered the comic. It isn’t one she would have even considered. Monica, the strip’s main character, may have served as the spark that began the change… but it is one that has been fully realized by Katherine herself.
And that’s a pretty cool thing indeed.