I remember discovering James Stowe’s illustrations for the first time. I was looking for some family friendly and geeky things to share on Facebook. I got lucky. I found these brilliant character sheets Stowe created for his son’s eighth birthday celebration. They would inspire his work on the Sidekick Quests webcomic.
Two hundred comics later Stowe is looking for a critical hit with his first Kickstarter campaign.
Q: I wanted to know if your son is still a source of
inspiration for the webcomic? If not, where else do you draw inspiration?
A: Yes, initially I created a simplified version of 4th Ed. DnD for my then
6 year old son’s birthday party. I had been toying around with some long
form comic ideas and once people really started responding to the work I
did for that party I decided to expand upon it. My son is still involved as
is my daughter, who has a vested interest is several characters she has
adopted as hers. I try out future storylines on them, gauge their reactions
to reveals and gags and even let them write for the comic and game from
time to time. They also help me out at conventions. My son demos the game
for passers by and my daughter is a great at convention sales.
Q: I know that the character sheets you created were a viral hit. What was it like channeling that momentum into the webcomic? Did you find that it give you an audience early on? Or
was it a struggle to build a following?
that I developed Sidekick Quests, both as a comic and as a stand alone
roleplaying game for kids. Two of the characters from the sheets, the
ranger and the bard, actually converted directly into characters in the
comic (those being Benton the Scout and Dalea the Amateur Minstrel
respectively. I have always enjoyed world building, so taking those sheets
and creating an entire world around them was one of my favorite parts of
the process. I have pages and pages of notes and thumbnail sketches about
the World of Adventur (the setting of Sidekick Quests) and its denizens and
lore. I do believe the core of Sidekick Quests fanbase has been with me
since those DnD for Dads sheets went viral. Since then I have tried my best
to reach out to cartoonists and gamers alike.
Q: Did you have an initial goal for the webcomic?
A: I really wanted Sidekick Quests to be a living roleplaying game. I find
the idea of a comic that can be played as an ever changing and expanding
roleplaying game setting is something I’ve always wanted. And if it is also
a way to introduce a new generation to tabletop RPGs, all the better.
Unfortunately for me, as a one man operation, the reality of Sidekick
Quests as the living roleplaying game has taken longer I anticipated. There
is a small piece of captioned dialog on page 31 that tells readers to learn
more in the Secret of the Sewer Wizards module. That was four years ago. I
am just now running a Kickstarter campaign that very adventure. I found
that making comics was easier for me than keeping up with the game design.
So while there are print to play rules and expansions and quests online I
haven’t achieved my initial goal quite yet.
Q: Have you had any happy surprises when it comes to characters or plotlines?
Quests the comic is included many tropes from Sidekick Quests the
roleplaying game. The characters use the powers that players of that role
in the game would also be using. They move around on maps from time to
time, they record damage and they roll dice. One of the things not many
people know about how I write the comics is that I actually do roll dice.
Every time a character does something I roll dice to see if they succeed.
For me this keeps my storytelling spontaneous and more in line with the
often random nature of the games it is trying to emulate. It has backfired
on me a lot though. I’ve had to rewrite entire storylines because of a bad
roll of the dice. My main character, Janice the Squire, nearly died because
of a bad roll. I had to do some GM fudging to keep her alive.
Q: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter? Why now?
A: I think it all goes back to that initial goal of making Sidekick Quests
into a comic the whole family can play along with. This April I reached my
fourth anniversary making the comic and my 200th page and I realized I
never had made that first adventure I always planned. Now I am seven
complete storylines in. If I am ever going to have seven corresponding
roleplaying game adventures I need to finally start at the beginning. So
this Kickstarter not only acts as the first collection of Sidekick Quests
the comic but also doubles as the first campaign length adventure for the
game as well. I also should add that I recently brought on an assistant to
help promote the comic and work on the website. She really motivated me to
finally get this ball rolling. She deserves a lot of the credit.
Q: What have gained in your experience as a roleplayer? What have you
learned about yourself because you play?
In general I think skills learned through playing roleplaying games helps
in a lot of social situations. They help promote teamwork, creative
thinking, storytelling, math usage, problem solving, public speaking and
the development of silly accents. More people, especially younger people,
should be encouraged to play and run roleplaying games. If given the choice
to play with a seasoned RPG vet and someone who has never played before I
will always choose to introduce these games to someone new. I think the
most important thing I’ve learned about myself through roleplaying games is
that they will always be a life long passion of mine. Most of my
professional career has been inside the roleplaying industry. It is a niche
and community I hope I will always be a part of.