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Publisher Diary: Dungeon Alliance: A Webcomic Adventure, or Exploring Game Characters in a Whole New Way

Andrew Parks
United States
Somerset
New Jersey
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Dungeon Alliance Champions (October 2019)
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Dungeon Alliance Champions (October 2019)
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Microbadge: Quixotic Games fanMicrobadge: Dungeon Alliance fanMicrobadge: 15 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level II - If I have seen further, it's only by standing on the apex of other's dice.Microbadge: Level 17 BGG poster
Board Game: Dungeon Alliance
Dungeon Alliance was always going to be a deeply personal project for me. Although the Quixotic Games team has been designing games for over fifteen years for other publishers, this was only our second self-published game after launching Canterbury in 2013. As I wrote in an earlier article, when approaching the design of Dungeon Alliance, my initial player experience goal was to have each character feel distinctly different from the others so that each game would require its own challenge of coordinating the actions of a group of disparate individuals.

To help me design so many different personalities, I drew upon the fantasy role-playing characters that my friends and I had created over thirty years ago. We had spent years developing this quirky mix of individuals for our own personal amusement, and now our old heroes lay dormant as little scraps of paper collecting dust in attics and basements. These characters would become the foundation for the 21 characters featured in Dungeon Alliance and its first expansion, Dungeon Alliance: Champions.

Board Game: Dungeon Alliance: Champions
During our two successful Kickstarter campaigns for Dungeon Alliance, we focused more and more on the game's storyline, especially with the new Adventure Packs that became available in January 2020. We thought of new ways to market the game and to introduce players to the unique characters and the kinds of adventures they would embark on.

As a kid, I wanted to create comic books almost as much as I wanted to create board games, so when thinking of new ways to bring players into the world of Dungeon Alliance, it seemed natural to consider webcomics. It was important to me that these be free comics that anyone could view online and that we wouldn't subject the readers to distracting advertisements. If readers enjoyed the comics, they could learn about the board game by reading a brief article on the front page of the website and clicking "Learn More". That was it. The webcomic had to be able to stand on its own for readers.

From gallery of Andrew Parks
"Kastrom's Tomb" — art by EJ Dela Cruz

Assembling the Team

I approached my brother Jim Parks, who's done art for several of my games and who used to create comics with me when we were teenagers trying to break into the comics industry. Jim was also part of our old role-playing gang, so he had created some of the characters that found their way into Dungeon Alliance.

Jim had recently created a drawing of his old character Taio that I admired very much, so when I approached him with the idea for the comic, I asked him to use this picture as the first panel of the webcomic, which he did:

From gallery of Andrew Parks
"Lair of the Basilisk" — art by Jim Parks

Taio was a great character to start with since he had an intriguing backstory laid out in the card game:

From gallery of Andrew Parks

After choosing some companions to join Taio, we were on our way with the first script, entitled "Lair of the Basilisk". I plotted the full storyline first so that I knew how the story would end, then I scripted the first few pages for Jim to get started on.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

I was worried, however, that players might get a singular view of the types of characters who exist in Dungeon Alliance, so I got ambitious and decided to work on a second comic with an entirely new set of characters that would launch at the same time as "Lair of the Basilisk".

At this stage, I had also been in the middle of art directing the Adventure Packs for Dungeon Alliance, and I encountered many talented artists in the process. Most of the artists were actually discovered right here on BGG through the Board Game Art and Graphic Design Forum. One artist whom I hadn't had the chance to work with yet was EJ Dela Cruz, and when I visited his ArtStation page, I was blown away by the comic artwork that he had on display. I contacted EJ right away, and since he was available to work, I set about creating a script for him immediately, entitled "Kastrom's Tomb".

Several characters had a strange backstory relationship in the card game, so I thought it would be fun to explore these characters in depth. For example, Holgar the paladin hung around with a mad fire wizard named Mysterios, so we thought readers would enjoy reading about their eccentric friendship.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

The game's character cards also reveal that Holgar has a brother named Krom who is a half-orc assassin. As you can imagine, they don't always get along.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

Now I had two talented artists to get things started, but the team wasn't finished. Since the comic pages would be developed weekly, I had the luxury of taking my time to write each panel, but I needed someone to look over my shoulder to ensure that each character's voice was unique and that each character stayed true to their purpose. I enlisted my daughter Sarah Parks, a recent college graduate who loves fantasy writing as much as I do, to be the webcomic editor. Sarah has been an invaluable resource to me throughout the process, helping me parse every single word of dialogue and every scripted action so that we could get things just right and be true to our cast of characters.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

In order to maintain the demanding art schedule, I also enlisted my niece Emma Parks to help with coloring the "Lair of the Basilisk" storyline. At first, she simply worked on the flat colors, but soon after she showed us her talents and took over as the main colorist for the "Basilisk" storyline.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

The Process

Each page begins with a scripted page derived from the original story outline. After I write a set of pages, Sarah reviews them and provides feedback. After we settle on the final wording, we send the script pages to the artists.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

After reviewing the scripts, the artists send sketches that allow me to suggest adjustments before the artists move on to the full inks and colors. Since the artists are using a digital medium, they are able to make changes quickly.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

After receiving the finished art, I add the letters and word balloons in Photoshop. Sometimes we make small adjustments to the script after seeing the finished art.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

The Readers

A popular webcomic tradition allows readers to provide online commentary as the story progresses. I love this idea because it allows us to get a sense of what the readers are enjoying as the story unfolds and also allows us to make adjustments based on what they are saying. We've enjoyed the comments we've received so far, and we hope that providing comments on the individual comic pages keeps the readers immersed in the action.

From gallery of Andrew Parks

The Future

As of writing this article, 74 comic pages have been posted for both stories. Both storylines should wrap up in the first half of 2020, and we have plenty of new storyline concepts coming down the pipeline.

In the future, we plan to sell PDF and hard copies of the first two storylines as a way of funding future stories down the road. These stories will draw upon characters we've already seen and add new ones from the growing universe of Dungeon Alliance.

If you're interested in enjoying the comics yourself, please visit the Dungeon Alliance: A Webcomic Adventure site to begin your journey!

From gallery of Andrew Parks
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