Darths & Droids - Webcomic Review

Created by Andrew Coker, Andrew Shellshear, David Karlov, David Mcleish, David Morgan-Mar and Steven Irrgang.

I've reviewed a lot of webcomics over the past few months, but this one is something completely different. Inspired by Shamus Young's Lord of the Rings spoof DM of the Rings, Darths and Droids is the story of Star Wars told by a group of sceptical and mocking RPG players . Have I done a good job of describing it to you? Probably not, and the concept does require some explaining if you're to get the most out of reading it.

The set up is that a few friends are playing a Star Wars-themed role playing game. An unseen narrator guides the players through a campaign (the plot of Episode One) whilst the players grumble their way from one stage to the next. To enjoy this comic it will help if you love Star Wars or RPGs because you'll understand and laugh at all of the in jokes, but if you're a fan of neither you might find it tough to follow along at first.

A case in point would be the narrator's frustration over the tendency of the players to constantly add things to the list of uses a lightsabre has. What starts off as a rather pathetic laser sword is soon being used to cut through metre-thick blast doors, making light work of any obstacle the narrator can put in the players' path. The narrator starts to get annoyed with it and this is funny, but if you haven't had to act as a dungeon master while a group of players run riot with the rules or played alongside someone with an overactive imagination, you might not get the most out of this joke.

If you've read any of my other webcomic reviews then you'll know that I really appreciate impressive artwork in a graphic novel, but it is because of Darth & Droids great comedy and in-joke littered RPG banter that I can forgive its lack of original visuals. I can't praise the artwork of this comic because it consists entirely of screen caps of the movie with dialogue pasted on top, but it is important to understand that the creators aren't trying to make a visual masterpiece. Instead they're trying to make a funny comic that RPG and Star Wars fans will read and have a good laugh at.

There are some pitfalls to basing an entire webcomic around the most famous series in movie history - namely copyright issues. Whilst I doubt any readers care about the use of images from one of the most profitable films in history, it does mean that the Darths & Droids team can't monetise their site or even release their comic as a book. If they did, Lucasfilm (now Disney) would likely kick up a stink.

Despite that, I do feel the team deserve a reward for all their hard work and I wouldn't begrudge them receiving donations from fans of their webcomic. To their massive credit though, the Darth and Droids team won't accept personal donations. Instead, they ask any generous readers to donate money to the Jane Goodall Institute, a charity focused on environmental awareness and wildlife habitat preservation. So not only do they pour their time into creating something funny and entertaining to read, but they also give any monetary benefit to a worthy charity. Are they nice guys or what?

How nice the creators are doesn't make any difference to whether a comic is good or not though, which is why I'm happy to be able to say that despite the minefield it walks in parodying one of the most hallowed of science fiction movies, Darth and Droids is hilarious all the way through. A large part of the humour comes from the fact that the players - the main characters of the series - have never heard of Star Wars before. The films never existed in this universe; George Lucas never became obsessed with furry creatures called Ewoks and Luke Skywalker never, ever used the force. To them the Star Wars universe is just another weird Dungeons and Dragons RPG game with its own boring backstory and its own weird alien races. The humour, then, comes from their mockery of the story as the narrator steers them along. There are hilarious exchanges like:

"So what weapons can we afford?"

"There's laser swords. We can get one of those each."

"I suppose they'll have to do."

"They sound lame. If this is a space game we should have blasters."

The players gleefully grumble their way through and criticise the game as the narrator becomes more and more exasperated. He tries to clamp down on them and make them follow the rules, but they just aren't interested. It becomes apparent that half the time they don't even care about the game itself, they just take delight in winding up their narrator friend and making him ever regret starting the game in the first place. As someone who has tried playing RPGs with friends in the past I completely understand the narrator's frustration, and this made it all the funnier to me.

This is a webcomic completely unlike a lot of what's out there on the net, and if you like Sci-Fi, Star Wars or if you and your mates ever tried playing a table top RPG then you will love it. Just in case you're not persuaded to check it out, here's another exchange from early in the webcomic that had me laughing:

Narrator (speaking as a droid): "It's an honour to have two such illustrious Jedi ambassadors on board."

Player 1: "Jedi?"

Player 2: "It's a type of cheese."