Word of the Titans

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This is a collection of posts made by Rob Balder and Jamie Noguchi relating to Erfworld on the Giant in the Playground Forums. It is copied here for easier reference and to save the valuable information. It is... well, the Word of the Titans. Word of the Titans is considered canon, while not in comic it comes from those who shaped that world.

Newer posts first. References to forum posts are mandatory.

How to reference
Put a post's ID into {{WoT}} and it will be linked – e.g. {{WoT|6012585}} gives:WoT-6012585



"Scarlet" is the Jek Tono Porkins of Erfworld.  :smallwink:[1]


We'll get this and other details codified and canon-ized in the wiki. Short answer: Cities have a limited menu of unit types they can produce. Gobwin Knob can pop most dwagon types, but couldn't produce, say, a gwiffon.

Many types of units also pop randomly in the wild as barbarians, and that's complicated. We did not see it happen in Book 1 at all, and it is fairly rare (can you imagine the cries of "deus ex machina" if we had seen it happen?)

Warlords can pop randomly in the wild, even more rarely. This is why Ansom would not necessarily think Jillian was a Royal, as randomly-popped barbarians are way more common than heirs and rulers who lost their capitals.

Natural allies pop more of their kind via moneymancy, converting Schmuckers directly to units. This is why they typically ally with a strong side that can pay them for their alliance, and/or they mine and farm and hunt and do various other money-making things in the wild.

Part of the fun in Book 1 has been revealing many of the facts of the world as Parson learned them, or as they served the story. But for Book 2, we'll have a more comprehensive world knowledgebase for readers to draw on. So it's time we can definitively answer some of these questions.[2]


You have to understand that the denizens of Erfworld don't see a lot of what a player would see in a game. Including XP. Leveling is a surprise to them, and XP (or the equivalent) is a theory (albeit a pretty solid one). The people are in the dark and guessing, and it's kind of hard to build an XP table by actually finding 10 new level 1 Marbits to croak, discovering that you level, then discovering through experimentation that you need to croak 50 to level again.

From a narrative perspective, the fudge factor is high. But that does not mean there is not one consistent mathematical system governing leveling. It's just opaque to the characters and readers at this time.

The general answer to your question is that power gains are linear and level requirements are exponential. It's not perfectly simple as all that, but to generalize, yes.[3]


The relative combat power by level is NOT logarithmic or exponential.[4]


Higher levels cost more, on a kind of exponential scale that may vary by a large number of factors including the type of unit leveling, the type and number and levels of units croaked, and other activities involving the leveling unit's special abilities that may not even constitute combat. But the main thing is that you should imagine something like a logarithmic curve (not saying it literally is logarithmic), whereby low levels are achievable with a little combat, but levels above 10 or 11 become extremely difficult to obtain, and something like a level 20 unit is completely unheard of. Also notable is that not all of the numbers are available to the units and commanders to calculate, and so the existence of a predicable system of leveling at all is in the realm of the theoretical Mathamancers. Units cannot actually predict when they are going to level (Jillian is being flippant when she tells the Archons, "Cmon, it'll be fun. You'll level." but it would be a reasonable bet they might if they took out a stack of dwagons.)[5]


p64Erf-b1-p064-p3Same-site.PNG panel 3 seems to be a major hangup. Wasn't intentional and I agree that it's misleading. We'll clarify that for the book.

For the record, the rule is actually pretty simple and I am amazed it's been such a sticking point for people.

  • You can move only on your turn, and you can cast only on your turn.
  • When an enemy comes to you on their turn, you can engage, and you can cast. This includes when they are attacking your city.

Why could Parson not have ordered a veil to be cast, even if the Foolamancer had been in the group with the wounded dwagons? It was not his turn, and they were not under attack. Once Jillian entered the hex, a theoretical Foolamancer within that hex could have veiled, but it wouldn't have been very effective at fooling her.

Why could Parson have his casters cast on the Coalition's turn, later in the story? His city was being attacked.

Why could the Archons cast the DDR spell? They were part of the Coalition and it was now technically their turn. But they could not move because all of Charlescomm's units' move went to zero when Charlie ended turn. Move and hits are restored to full at the beginning of a side's turn, and (re)forming an alliance does not count as starting a new turn.

Why could the Archons "cast" the contract, when it was not their turn? Well, why could they still fly? It's not a spell, it's a natural magic. There's also a heavy dose of "talking is a free action" in that scene, another thing about turn based games that is silly but almost universally true. It's no sillier than food popping at the start of a turn.[6]


p129 panel 1Erf-b1-p129-p1Same-site.PNG, change "leading" to "guiding" or possibly "directing."[7]


Courtyard refers to the portion of the Garrison that is above ground, within the walls, and not in or on the Tower. Wanda is not in the Garrison zone at all in page 122Erf-b1-p122Same-site.PNG. She's in the Outer Walls zone.

We've been attempting to avoid confusion by keeping it simple and avoiding unnecessary detail (like, for example, the fact that the Outer Walls zone also has parts to it, or that Parson's klog was referring specifically to attacks on the Garrison and that there are other sets of rules regarding movement by friendlies within the city).[8]


Note: p120Erf-b1-p120Same-site.PNG, Jamie did not draw the uncroaked Jaclyn in Wanda's stack and should have. It will be fixed for the book. She'll be in there in p121 and was in in p119. Just an oversight.[9]


Originally Posted by Godskook
If she is in the Airspace, how can she get close enough to a non-flier to make a contract?

I'll answer this one question as an example of "yes, we did think about this stuff before we started writing." And then I'll stop before I get any farther into the tar pit of explaining the rules while we are telling the story.

Do you remember when Ansom was getting word passed along through the column about the results of Parson's attack? That was not on the Coalition's turn, but physical notes were still being passed between hexes. Did we specifically show a note passed across a hex? No. The story didn't need it. Compared to showing the abortive celebrations of the Coalition's leadership corps, it's dramatically trivial.

But that's what happened. I thought about it. I knew about it. We didn't show it.

Now, if you are seriously hung up on whether or not Ansom could touch a magical button projected in the air by an Archon hovering just above the city wall, then you are not really granting us any license at all for a joke, you know? There's occasionally some humor in this comic. The EULA joke is meant to make you laugh.

But yes, okay. It is absolutely physically possible for the Archons to project an image into the air, which Ansom, standing on the wall top, can see and touch.

We are telling a story set in a whole alien universe here. We have mythologies and character histories and world mechanics backing this up, but it's the story that matters. I care ten times more about Sizemore's emotional state in the heat of battle than I do about whether or not a sourmander could spit acid across a hex boundary. (But I still know the answer.)

As this goes along, some mechanics are going to be unclear at times. Please trust that we've thought about these things to the extent needed to support the story. We're not going to pull any major cheapness in how we tell the tale, and we have not written ourselves into a corner. [10]


Okay, I know it's bad policy to explain as the narrative is going on. Maybe a sign of bad storytelling that I feel like I have to. My fault, if so. But I can't watch you guys squirm any more. Future pages will touch on some of this, but it's very, very simple.

  • You can only move when it is your turn.
  • When it is not your turn, and someone moves into the space you're on (meaning hex or city zone), then you can engage them.
  • Every side gets exactly one turn a day.
  • There is a natural turn order. When sides ally, their next turn is shared at the latest slot in the day of any of the allied sides.

On this day, Charlescomm has had their turn. The Archons ended that turn in Gobwin Knob's airspace. If they ally with Jetstone (I am not saying they will), then they do not get another turn until tomorrow, after Gobwin Knob's next turn. If they don't ally, they'll go before Gobwin Knob. Either way, until their next turn, the Archons can only engage units that enter Gobwin Knob's airspace.

I think the main thing that's confusing people is this:

  • If you own the city, you can move around in it without move cost.

That means even zone to zone, and even when it is not your turn, so the constraint does not apply to the defenders. Sorry if that's confusing, but it was more or less explained in a Klog.

I promise there is no long, complicated set of rules being made up to satisfy plot conditions. It's a simple list, and the plot will play out without breaking them, or inventing new ones.[11]


In Erfworld 39Erf-b1-p038Same-site.PNG Jillian heals at dawn, while Erfworld 52/Parson's Klog 6Erf-b1-p046aSame-site.PNG states that Ansom's forces heal at noon.

Ah, that one's not a blooper. Jillian is captured at that point and shares "turns" with her captors' side. Eats prison meals that pop on Gobwin Knob's expense, etc. [12]


I want to know something a little more mundane from Rob/Jami:

What software did you use to bend the text and tables down toward the spine of the eyebook? That's a really nice touch, but I would think it would be a real bear to accomplish in something like Photoshop. Was it done in Illustrator or some other more vector-based program?

I letter the comic in Paint Shop Pro X, and for the eyebook pages I generally use the Mesh Warp tool. PSPX is way better than Photoshop (the versions I have used) for vector manipulation, so I use it for all the balloons, speech, and SFX words. PSP is cheap and powerful, and has a free downloadable demo. I recommend it highly, and I have done PartiallyClips entirely in it for years.

The only drawback to the Mesh Warp tool is that it's got to be the worst memory hog in the toolbox. Close all other programs![13]


I encourage and appreciate the feedback. I did post something about the pacing a few strips ago, on the order of "I feel your pain but this is the way the story needs to be told to get it across the way I imagine it."

Believe me, I agonize over this issue, but it's a problem with the whole medium of story webcomics. Telling an 80 to 90-page story at the rate of 2 pages a week is just bound to leave a lot of people frustrated, but there's no real way to adjust for it.

Since we're talking about craft, though, I'm willing to open up and talk a bit about the choices I made on this particular page.Erf-b1-p037Same-site.PNG Potential spoiler follows, but not so bad. Mostly a sausage-making lesson you might not want to watch.


Yes, I did sit there and stare at that last panel for a long time. "This has no punchline," I said to myself. "This page has some funny stuff on it, but it ends with nothing. Is that what I want?" I considered two possible changes. I could force a punch on the last panel, but any little throwaway I came up with just didn't have as much oomph as the stuff that came earlier. It would have felt forced. Anticlimactic.

I could also have dropped a drama point there, by having Bogroll explicitly point out that if Parson failed to show up in the Situation Room at dawn, he'd have disobeyed Stanley's order and would die. I almost did that, but in the end I decided not to. Reason: Parson already knew it (and isn't really taking it seriously), Bogroll certainly knew it (and is taking it seriously, which shows), and the reader should know it already, too (and should be withholding judgement).

It would be a heavy-handed mood change in what was meant to be a light and personal scene. It would also be petty drama for nothing, since I had every intention of having Parson show up on time. We've got enough "DUM, dum, dummmmmmmmm!" in this story for now, relating to real plot points. No need for pointless foot-dangling when the whole story is set on a cliff edge.

So, in the end, I went with the natural "more to follow" panel that I think will flow quite well in a few months, when the story is one complete block. It wasn't exciting, but it did the job and it was exactly what Bogroll would say and do.

Sorry it wasn't fireworks, but this page really did a lot of necessary stuff. It established the Bogroll/Parson dynamic, did the costume change, began to answer some of the basics of daily life, and helped set a mood/tone we're working hard to establish. We want the comic to have that mundane feel of reality, even against a setting as bizarre and surreal as Erfworld. Jamie, I think, is doing a fantastic job at conveying that with his color choices (orange firelight before, and now ashen pre-dawn chill) and little visual details (the crumpled golem-skin on the bed).

I think I managed to do all of that, and still throw in three pretty decent gags. It just happened that none of them came at the very end. I really don't intend to make the whole Erfworld writing process transparent like I do with PartiallyClips. But I hope you guys can see that I'm actually giving a lot of thought to these choices, and I'm making the best calls I can.[14]


Re: What about Parson's friends?

True spoiler, from the author. Think before clicking, please. Seriously.


I was glad to see this thread, because there are some plans to involve Parson's gaming buddies in the future of Erfworld. If everything goes as we hope it will, then you have not seen the last of those guys.[15]


Sizemore Rockwell, eh? Nice one, Rob. References to obscure yet awesome local bands can only add to the intrigue of the comic. I can see the where the earnest dweeb look comes from, but you could have at least given him a fu manchu.

Heh, I borrowed only your names. I could never hope to capture the quintessence of Durt Sizemore and Riff Rockwell in the same character. The character comes from another source entirely.[16]



Hey hey, friendly neighborhood art monkey here. Most of these will be answered by the end of the first chapter here, some will be left unanswered for future stories, and a few will be answered right now!

I'll answer the ones I can and leave the others out.

3) What are the wiener dog/goat things viewable in the first panels of these pages?

Cute, ain't they! I won't tell you what they are, but we will get to see them again before the Battle for Gobwin Knob is through.

10) Can units willingly leave sides and become Barbarian units?

There's enough information in the comic now that you could make an educated guess about this one.

12) Do the ... extracurricular activities ... of Erfworld's characters have any bearing on royals and nobles "popping" from cities?

Again, you can make an educated guess regarding this one. Remember Wanda's surprise when Parson mentions "children."

16) What's the deal with items just disappearing? Does Erfworld have a Hammerspace? Is this some kind of natural magic? Is it that Jamie doesn't want to keep drawing them?

In some instances, they're honest mistakes on my part. Parson's watch is a good example of this. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. We've demonstrated that magical items like the EyeBooks are resize able. So you can shrink them down and put them in your pocket.

23) What's with those floating balls of light?

They light stuff. And they float.

25) Do Erfworlders bleed... at all?

Seen any spurting blood yet?

27) Do magic items and artifacts dematerialize like garbage? (For instance, would Manpower's sword, if it is magical at all, still be at the bottom of that lake where it fell?)

Remember when Jillian was first nabbed and she dropper her hat and sword? Those were recovered by Webinar's group.

That's probably all I can get away with answering now without spoiling too much. [17]


Yes indeed, the Battle for Gobwin Knob has a definite ending.

We started long ago just throwing some ideas around, some initial character descriptions and designs, some plot points. Rob then took all that brainstorming and created an overall outline broken down per page of the whole first arc. He has some notes on where we'll take Erfworld once this first bit is done.

Then comes the actual scripting. Rob takes his outline and starts filling in the blanks. The scripts are very detailed giving me dialog, page break downs, panel shots, action description, everything a comic artist needs. Every once in a while, Rob will ask if we can expand and add another page or two to give me some room to draw cool things and to give him some room to script. The Dwagon air battle is a perfect example of this.

As he continues scripting things out, I get started with small thumbnail sketches of the page I'm working on. I get scripts a few pages at a time which allows me to work on a few pages at once. Once I'm happy with my thumbnails, I break out my boards and start lining the borders.

I'm using Strathmore 300 series smooth bristol at 9X12. Not quite the standard 11x17 boards that the comic industry uses, but it serves my purposes. I use a variety of microns and other felt time pigment pens. They're permanent and don't smudge often. I use HB leads out of a Sumo Grip mechanical pencil. And of course, my gummy and Mars erasers.

After I line my borders, I sketch in my forms very lightly with my mechanical pencil. I concentrate mostly on the characters since a lot of the backgrounds will get painted in Photoshop, but every once in a while I throw in some detailed background work (Stanley's office for example). I use a thicker line to outline the characters. It's an old animation trick to pop the characters up a bit and push the backgrounds back. Then I scan.

I scan in at 600dpi and reduce to 300dpi. Reducing by half makes the lines look cleaner. Then I go ahead and paint the backgrounds first. This helps make some lighting decisions which become important when I go to color the characters. The characters all get the cell shaded look which actually takes the least amount of time in the whole process.

Once I'm done, I send the full resolution file off to Rob for lettering. Rob uses an archaic program to letter that is incompatible with my Mac which will offer us new challenges when we go to get this thing in print. Lettering each page himself gives Rob a chance to change some bits of dialog and add some sound effects or other touches that he thinks will work. "Boop" was originally supposed to be "meep."

Once he's done, he sends it off to Rich who uploads the page for all to see.

And that's it in a nut shell!

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