The country of Arkerra is in turmoil. Trolls, goblins, gnolls and other “savage races” have banded together against the human empire of Gastonia and their allies. It’s to a band of adventurers who work to keep the peace. Do the Peacekeepers – Byron Hackenslasher the human berserker, Syr’nj the science-minded tree elf, Frigg Akerfeldt the crude warrior, Gravedust Deserthammer the dwarf mystic, Payet Best the obnoxious elf musician and Bandit Keynes the Gnome Thief – Reunite and Save Their World? And is their world the only one in danger?
golden age is a fantasy webcomic written by T. Campbell (webcomic veteran of Penny and Aggie and Fans) and Phil Kahn. The first seven chapters are drawn by Erica Henderson (you may know her now for her work on Squirrel Girl and Jughead) before John Waltrip took over as artist. golden age tells the story of seven adventurers. It wisely divides its early chapters between the current story of the team already established on a mission and the story of how they came together. It’s a “take your cake and eat it too” start, where you can see all the presentations without waiting for the fun to begin. Early, golden age seems like a very standard fantasy comic playing with familiar tropes. It is specifically inspired by D&D and MMORPG culture. You probably guessed this from reading the “Human Berserker” and “Dwarf Mystic” cast descriptors. The comic delves into this, with Frigg particularly reading as a specific type of gamer, saying things like “Hits or GTFO”.
RPG-inspired comics are a fairly popular genre in webcomics. comics like Goblins, Order of the Staff, Erfmonde, Darkenand cucumber quest are all related to the tropes of the game. They all have different levels of “meta”, Order of the Staff where the characters will say “I failed my bardic knowledge roll” or Darken, while drawing inspiration from a campaign, plays straight into history. It makes perfect sense that RPGs should inspire so many comics, since role-playing games are designed to simulate and gamify fiction. You can even hear Molly Ostertag talk about how the protagonist of Strong feminine character took some inspiration from a role-playing game here. From the beginning, golden age play with it. The banter of certain elements (Syr’ng is their doctor, Hakenslash is their berserker) contrasts with the increasing depth of the characters and the world, especially the complicated racial politics of the world. Then the relationship between comics and “meta-ness” becomes much more complicated.
SPOILERS YOU ALL
In Chapter 8, our adventurers are apparently all killed. Then the camera pulls back to see someone watching Arkerra on a screen, someone in “our world”. This person is HR Dedalus, lead designer of the MMORPG from Hurricane Software. Kingdoms of Arkerra. It turns out that six of the seven Peacekeepers are actually normal human players who have had the chance to test a new game system in deep immersion, and have gone so far that they have forgotten their past lives and cannot be woke up. What this means for Dedalus is that he has six people missing in vats in his basement and a huge potential public relations disaster. However, it turns out that Dedalus has much bigger ambitions than dominating the gaming world and it’s all part of a bigger plan. Beginning with Chapter 9, the story is divided into Arkerra’s story and the “real world” story.
golden age manages to get audiences interested in the fantasy world he created (Who will win the war? What will happen to the “savage races?” Will the plague of beserkers be stopped? real is this world. Even though Arkerra is somehow ‘real’, are our protagonists really ‘Byron’, ‘Frigg’ and ‘Syr’nj’?
golden age is a fun fantasy adventure that plays with familiar tropes and their relationship to RPGs to create a unique and interesting sci-fi/fantasy story. It reliably updates MWF.