Saturday, February 27, 2010

I don't believe a hero is going to save us

At STAPLE last year I had a conversation with Will Terrell. He picked up a comic he was selling and said he'd drawn the whole thing in under 8 hours. He'd started a 24 hour comic, got 16 hours into it, and decided it wasn't what he wanted to do. So he did this one in the remaining time. He said he can draw a comic he sells for $3 in less than a day, but writing one takes him months.

And that got me thinking. I'm a designer of roleplaying and storytelling games; I'm good at engineering structures that inspire storytelling (see Bacchanal for an example). What if I designed something that helped artists create stories for webcomics?

And so I am. It's a deck of cards called The Well of Else. And I'll have my in-progress prototype at STAPLE to show off (we're at table 59, Half Meme Press & Cream Alien Games).

Here's how it works. You turn over a card and it tells you how to advance your story based on the cards you've already played out, based on the characters you've created, their personalities, and their relationships. If certain conditions aren't satisfied, you move down to the next instruction. There are several levels on each card. You'll either hit one with conditions you've satisfied, or you'll discard and draw another card. Maybe you create a new character. Maybe something transpires among characters you created previously. Have it happen in your webcomic. Trust the cards. They've got your back.

And they know the truth and lies of heroism. They set the monomyth aside, as a pattern in fiction with no relevance to how, say, America achieved independence, and create stories of epic cultural change that feel more like history than like Hollywood.

Anyway, here are some reasons to stop by table 59 for conversation:
  • The prototype cards are really really text heavy.

    My goal for the next prototype is to have a vocabulary of iconic cartoons instead of text. If you're good at creating iconic graphics from text, I want to talk to you.

  • If you have creative energy from frustrations working under corporate leadership, I want to talk to you.

  • If you know anything about the relationship between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, I want to talk to you.

  • If you aspire to having an ongoing webcomic, and you think you might want to help me understand how well the cards are working by giving them a try, I definitely want to talk to you.



Pseudo said...

I do webcomicking and I am interested.

Courtny said...

Hi Paul,

Adam Dray sent me this link, and I'm glad he did - this sounds like something I'd really enjoy talking with you about, and perhaps I can help you with your cards. I used Microscope to plot out a graphic novel, and found it pretty helpful.

You can check out my webcomic here:
and my site here: Shoot me an email, tweet, etc. if you'd like to chat!


Paul Czege said...

Bret, Courtny,

Cool. I'll get in touch next week, after I'm back from Texas.


Remi said...

I do a webcomic (or will be continuing to do one soon) and I'm interested in iconography (although perhaps not at the depth you are), please be in touch. Very exciting.

foresightreviews said...


i'd be really interested in getting a set and trying it out for my comic book.