Knights of the Dinner Table #217 (KenzerCo)

KoDT 217

Rating: 4.5/5 – An RPGers Delight That Non-Gamers May Not Get at All.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

This comic has been going on for a long time.  It debuted in 1994 and that was after having appeared in the games magazine Shadis starting in 1990.  It even ran in the legendary Dragon Magazine from Feb 1996 through March 2000.  It’s quite an anomaly because while comics are a synthesis of art and story, I have an irrational love for this comic even though it sports some of the most undeniably crude artwork I’ve ever seen in a comic book.  That’s part of its charm.  But I do love it and it has spawned quite an RPG (Role Playing Game) empire.  The game the Knights primarily play (Hackmaster, a D&D analog) was created and published by KenzerCo as an RPG that boasts 1000s of players in it’s own right.  The creators are staples at gaming conventions.  There is even a live action KoDT episode that was recently funded via Kickstarter and it’s awesome (I backed the Kickstarter and have seen the 1st part).

If you’re not an RPGer you’ve likely never picked this up, and even if you did you would likely be scratching your head and wondering what all the fuss was about.  If you are an RPGer and have somehow never heard of this comic you should seek it out and try it.  You’re going to need to forgive the art, but the characterizations and stories more than make up for the deficiencies in the art department, at least in my eyes.  The main characters: BA (the gamemaster) and his players Bob, Dave, Sara, and Brian are archetypes for the kinds of gamers all RPGers should be familiar with.  The sympathetic player, the rules lawyer, the munchkin who just wants that +12 sword, etc.  Over the years the series (set in Muncie, Indiana and occupying what creator Jolly Blackburn refers to as the Muncieverse) has grown to include other local gaming groups like The Black Hands and Patty’s Perps.  We’ve grown to know and love the crew down at the local shop The Games Pit, run by Weird Pete Ashton, and the colorful crews at local biker bar Hawg Wallers and the office of Hard 8 Enterprises (manufacturers of the Hackmaster games) all contribute to a massive universe that have kept this comic running up to issue #217 while almost every mainstream super-hero comic has had to resort to reboots and re-numbering to hold on to readership and market share.  This is a comic that likely sells way more copies via game shops than out of comic shops (and thus does not have anywhere near its true sales numbers reported by Diamond).  And they step outside the box of fantasy RPGs to play different genres of RPGs on occasion hitting old west, space, espionage, super-heroes and more, while always coming back to the cornerstone fantasy RPG setting of Hackmaster.

Back to Issue 217.  Jolly Blackburn has been teasing us with an epic storyline that has been slowly building for over a year.  He masterfully cuts between different scenes dropping breadcrumbs of information from every conceivable angle while keeping fans on the edge of their seat.  The basic storyline is a relic-level sentient sword named Carvin’ Marvin that has latched onto half of the Knights (Brian and Sara) causing them to run rough-shod over BA’s Garweeze Wurld campaign setting (a nod to D&D co-creator Gary Gygax).  The other half of the Knights (Bob and Dave) are opposing them and we have been witness to both sides gathering their forces and formulating battle strategies over many months.  This finally came to a head last issue as the two sides finally met in epic conflict before the game session ended for the evening.  This issue is a bit of a breather as we see the players working out strategies and laying plans for next weeks games.  The ending of this issue had me highly anticipatory for what is going to come next.  A storm is brewing and the forces gathering on both sides lead me to believe this will ultimately be the most epic KoDT saga ever told.

If you want a taste of this on-line, check out the web-strip storyline set in an espionage RPG campaign of the game Hacknoia.  You can also check out a variety of collected editions branded as “Bundles of Trouble” or “Tales from the Vault” by KenzerCo.   Check out the “Bag Wurld Saga”, which I felt was the most epic continued tale of the Knights ever until the current tales which is eclipsing my previous favorite tale and looks to be building to an epic conclusion.  That said, Jolly Blackburn seems to have a way of dropping in breathers in the action and drawing things out, so I have no idea how much longer it’s going to take to get to the end of this story arc.  But I’m going to be along enjoying the ride every issue while it lasts.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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