What is Darths & Droids?
Darths & Droids is an "RPG screencap comic".
- RPG - The characters in our comic are roleplaying game (RPG) players. The Game-Master (GM) guides the players as they take the roles of characters on a quest in a science-fiction universe.
- Screencap - Our visuals come from screencaps (still frames) of Star Wars movies.
- Comic - This means it's funny. We hope.
Inspired by. When Shamus Young completed his strip based on the Lord of the Rings as a roleplaying campaign, he expressed surprise that nobody else had begun one on another movie. We were surprised too. A gap needed to be filled.
Although this is "another RPG screencap comic", we are deliberately approaching things from a different angle than Shamus did. Firstly, he did the "barely competent, railroading GM with players who hate the game" thing so well, and explored so much of that territory, that we wanted to do something different. Our GM is an easy-going guy who most of all wants his players to have fun. He's not straitjacketing them into his preconceived story; he gives them free rein to do pretty much anything they want, and then builds (more or less) logical consequences on top of that. He allows his players to improvise and invent some of the details of the setting, so long as they don't conflict too badly with what he'd originally planned, and that it can be worked into the story somehow.
We're not trying to produce DM of the Rings, Mark II. Shamus' comic was side-splittingly hilarious, but with little attempt to adapt the source material into a coherent overarching story. We're aiming for funny, but our primary goal is different. Story and characterisation are our raison d'être.
How much do the players know about Star Wars?
Another of our goals is to explain how some of the stranger elements of the canonical Star Wars setting and story might have come to be. The comic takes place in an alternate universe, where Star Wars does not exist. The players don't know anything at all about Jedi, or Tatooine, or Anakin Skywalker before the game begins. The GM has some sort of storyline and setting details in mind, but not fully detailed. He creates the setting in response to what the players do. If the players make some (not patently ridiculous) assumption, or improvise something in order to explain what they're doing, then the GM adopts it and adds it to the setting.
For example: If Obi-Wan comes up with an explanation for why something as stupid-sounding as laser swords are actually really useful, it's not because Ben (Obi-Wan's player) knows how badass lightsabres are, it's that he's making it up to achieve some immediate goal within the game, and the GM then adds that fact to his game universe.
How old are the players? In particular, Sally?
We haven't said how old any of them are. There are some clues in the strips, and you will learn more as time goes by, but we don't want to give specific numbers just yet.
What's the GM's name?
We haven't said what his name is.
What game system are they using?
It's deliberately vague and unspecified. There are elements of several different games in it, plus some stuff that we just plain made up. So either imagine it's some fictional commercially available system, or call it a home-brew system. Either way, it's definitely not either one of the two Star Wars roleplaying games, since they (nor Star Wars itself) don't exist in the Darths & Droids universe.
So, does Star Trek exist in the Darths & Droids universe? What about Aliens? American Graffiti? Blade Runner? ... Zulu Dawn?
The only things that should be considered canon in Darths & Droids are things that appear in, or are deducible from, the comic strips themselves, plus the fact that Star Wars does not exist. Things stated in below-comic annotations - or in bonus strips about other movies - we do not consider part of the story's canon. The answer to this question is: We haven't said.
What movies are you going to do?
We plan to do all six Star Wars movies. We'll think about life after that when we get there - that's a long way off yet. In particular, we haven't decided if we will ever do anything with the Star Wars Christmas Special, or anything more with Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Which version of the Original Trilogy are you using?
We have the 2004 boxed set Special Edition DVDs, so that's what we'll be using to grab our screencaps. This has several advantages over the original version: (1) The prints are cleaner, so the comic will look better. (2) In some cases the extra scenes add stuff we actually want to use in our story. (3) As usual, we can just cut around any shots we don't want to show in the comic. (4) It'll save us having to track down a set of the 2008 theatrical release DVDs, which are lower in image quality anyway.
We're well aware of the passion some fans have for the theatrical release, but for Darths & Droids, it's simply not appropriate. We are not using the Blu-ray version, as we don't have the tools to screencap from that.
Why didn't you start with Episode IV?
Most roleplaying campaigns run chronologically, so it made the most sense to start at the beginning of the story.
Will you be publishing the comic as a book?
We'd love to, but there are serious legal issues to be taken into account. We do not want to infringe on Lucasfilm's copyrights or trademarks. We believe a webcomic parody is fair use, but we are not willing to sell anything that contains Lucasfilm's intellectual property. At some point we may approach Lucasfilm and see if we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial agreement, but first we'd simply like to complete the comics.
I have a cool idea! I'll get a bunch of friends and record the comic dialogue over the movies and release them as videos! Is that okay with you?
You know what? This is such a good idea that we actually had it a long time ago. In fact, we'd like to give it a try ourselves. However, there are a couple of serious issues involved:
- The movies are copyright property of Lucasfilm. Using a few stills to make a parody comic is one thing, but releasing the movie video with an altered soundtrack would be, to the best of our knowledge, illegal. For this reason, our plan is to record audio-only tracks that people can play in synch with the muted movie (like RiffTrax does). We do not condone anyone releasing the Star Wars movies with altered soundtracks.
- The comic dialogue is way, way too long to fit into the running time of the films. We'll need to edit it down to something usable. This editing will take a considerable amount of work to distil the essence of our story without missing important details. In fact, at this point we're the only ones who know what details are cuttable, and what will in fact turn out to be extremely important later. Any readers attempting to do this will most likely change the story to the point where it isn't really our story any more.
Will you accept donations to support your comic?
No, we don't accept donations. We do, however, support the Jane Goodall Institute, an internationally registered charity dedicated to environmental awareness, habitat preservation, non-invasive wildlife studies, and third world health and education initiatives. If you feel inspired to donate, please consider giving to the JGI in the name of Darths & Droids. Please also let us know, so we can keep a record of money raised. So far, Darths & Droids readers have contributed a total of US$182.50 to the JGI.
"Darths & Droids"??
Yeah. Give us a break. We had to come up with a name within a lunch hour - the same lunch hour where we discussed the idea, decided to do it, plotted out a metaplot involving the players and GM through the first three movies, and wrote the first strip.
When does the strip update?
Three times a week! On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Update time is 10:11 GMT, the same as Irregular Webcomic! Why those days? Because most other 3-a-week comics update Monday/Wednesday/Friday. We like to be different. And it gives you something new to read on the days many other comics don't update.
Is the RSS feed available through LiveJournal?
Yes, here: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/darthsanddroids/.
So how did this come together?
Less than 24 hours passed between my idea to do this, and the first comic being posted. I dithered a bit, worried about the time commitment. Then at lunch at work the next day I shared my thoughts with some of my workmates. They immediately said, "Yes!! We must do this!!" So this comic is a collaborative effort with a hard-working team of 6 or 7 people behind the scenes, cooperating on the writing, the screengrabbing, and the compositing.
Who are the Comic Irregulars?
The creators of Darths & Droids are Andrew Coker, Andrew Shellshear, David Karlov, David McLeish, David Morgan-Mar, Steven Irrgang. Some material for Episodes I to III was contributed by Ian Boreham and Loki Patrick.
What software do you use to make the strips?
The font used for dialogue is Gosmick Sans. The sound effects are Damn Noisy Kids. The DVD was ripped to file using DVD Decrypter, from which we do frame-by-frame viewing and screencaps using VirtualDubMod. Well, that's what most of us do. One of the other Comic Irregulars does it all with Mac software. Two of us assemble the comics using Photoshop. Three of the other guys use Inkscape. And the Mac guy uses Comic Life. Yes, the strips have been assembled by a total of six different people, using three different graphics editors, on three different operating systems.
More questions? Praise? Abuse? Use the forum, Luke.