I’m afraid that’s it, my friends. We’ve reached the end of the Handbook of Heroes / Rusty and Co. crossover. Like Gunslinger waking from his alt-text dream, we must bid adieu to our webcomic colleagues, waving farewell to the cheerful land of comic-mashup reverie. Deprived of all these fun guest characters, it looks like we’ll be back to making “Fighter is a jerk” strips for the foreseeable future. Happily, there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

How about we get on to the topic at hand though? As I look at poor Gunslinger, so overjoyed to finally find a partymate willing to adventure with him, I can’t help but think back on my earliest gaming memories. Is it time for a precious childhood anecdote? You bet your bag of beans it is.

So no shit there I was, up bright and early for the most exciting Christmas morning of my young life. That was the year I got a new bike. A gently-used Atari. A sweet-ass plastic ornithopter which immediately drowned in the neighbor’s pool. None of these lesser treasures mattered though, because my eyes were only for the magnificent jewel gleaming atop the treasure hoard. It was a copy of DragonStrike, the RPG-in-a-box which was destined to become my gateway to a lifelong passion for adventure games.

I spent that Christmas morning pouring over the double-sided game boards. The 38 magical treasure cards. The 24 plastic figurines (the dragon was by far the coolest). But it was the VHS tape that did me in. You can still watch it on YouTube in all its cheesy glory, and seven-year-old Colin was instantly hooked.

Unfortunately, there was a problem. This wasn’t the kind of game that you could just pick up and play. You needed something called a DRAGON MASTER™. And being slightly shy of “Ages 10 to Adult” at the time, becoming a DRAGON MASTER™ wasn’t something my friends or I could cope with. The horror! The agony! Without this obscure and semi-mystical figure (presumably a floating head if the VHS was anything to go by), there would be no game!

“Hey Mom? Could you read several dozen pages of game rules so that I can pretend to be Malibu from American Gladiator?”


At least I’m pretty sure that’s how the conversation went. She did it though. She read the rules, prepped the scenarios, and ran me and the neighborhood kids through at least half a dozen sessions. My mom was my first dungeon master, and it’s something I’ll always be grateful for. Of course, I’m slightly less grateful that my copy of DragonStrike was somehow “lost” during a move. I can only presume that Mom was suffering from an acute bout of DRAGON MASTER™ burnout. Either that or she was tired of entertaining a roomful of shrieking seven-year-olds shouting “magic missile” at one another.

The point is that, like Gunslinger in today’s comic, I know the feeling of jonesing for a game. It was actually my first experience in the hobby. Wanting to play, but not having that group to play with, is straight up torture for a geek. So for today’s discussion, why don’t we share stories of our dry spells? How do you cope when your gaming group is MIA? Do you start prepping your own campaign and recruit new players? Find an actual play podcast? Disappear into genre fiction? Sound off in the comments for your strategies to survive a gaming drought!


ARE YOU AN IMPATIENT GAMER? If so, you should check out the “Henchman” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. For just one buck a month, you can get each and every Handbook of Heroes comic a day earlier than the rest of your party members. That’s bragging rights right there!