When you wander around a book shop you will often see it divided into easily understood areas. Science Fiction and Fantasy. Horror. True Crime. Travel. I would like to propose another: Books For People Who You Need to Buy Gifts For But Don’t Know What to Get Them.
The section title may need a little work, but it’s a good starting point. These are the books full of facts, easy laughs, and simple to digest sections. With titles like ‘More Funniest Street Names In The World’ or ‘101 Things Everyone Should Know About Chewing Gum’, they are particularly prevalent around Christmas and often end up in bathrooms or, these days, with the prevalence of smart phones, left on a shelf after one read.
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It’s within this book type that Campaigns and Companions sits. That’s not to say it isn’t a good book, because it is, but it’s very much of a type. What the authors have done is take a bunch of animal stereotypes and mash them with a bunch of role play stereotypes.
The resulting humour is of a kind that will be instantly recognisable to any gaming group who enjoy laughing with each other as much as playing. Andi Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett have managed to create a wide variety of jokes that work, page after page. Inoffensive, easy to grasp, and each one has a good chance of making you smile.
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What sets this book apart from other competitors is the art. Calum Alexander Watt has beautifully illustrated each page with a richness and honesty that’s utterly beguiling. Rather than the simple cartoons those of us who have picked these kinds of books up while sat on the loo are used to, instead each comic situation is presented with a gorgeous work of art that adds a truthfulness that makes it even funnier; there is no nudging elbow to the audience, this is a serious attempt by animals to role play. They’re just also animals. It’s a delight.
The real issue with this book is that it is a book. As enjoyable as the art is, and as much as one might smile at the gags, it does not feel like something that will be returned to time after time nor linger in the mind for long. Instead, this is likely to be bought for the person you know who role plays and also has cats. Or dogs. Or, as one page suggests, a chameleon.
They’ll read it, they’ll enjoy it, they’ll put it on a shelf and it’s done. What would be wonderful to see is prints made available, perhaps with a themed font, that could be purchased, framed, and hung proudly. That would give these jokes and art the chance to really shine.
Having said all of that, a book entitled ‘Campaigns and Companions: 2nd Edition’ needs to happen.
Campaigns & Companions: The Complete Role-Playing Guide for Pets is out on 16th September from Rebellion Publishing.