|This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. (January 2016)|
September 1, 1974
|Pseudonym(s)||The Giant or Giant in the Playground|
|The Order of the Stick|
|Awards||Eagle Award, Gold ENnie, Five WCCA awards|
Rich Burlew (born September 1, 1974) is an author, game designer, and graphic designer. He is best known for The Order of the Stick webcomic, for which he was ranked fifth on ComixTalk's list of the Top 25 People in Webcomics for 2007. He has also written several works for Wizards of the Coast's game Dungeons & Dragons. He owns and operates a small press publishing company, Giant in the Playground, which he formed to publish his comic work.
Early life and education
Burlew developed the basic elements of his stick figure art style at the age of twelve while drawing a comic called Mr. Demon for his lunchroom friends. Burlew first began playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school. He frequently assumed the role of the Game Master, a role he has likened to writing a webcomic, but his interest in the hobby lapsed until 2000 when Wizards of the Coast released the third edition ruleset for the game. Upon running his first adventure with the new rules, Burlew found that he needed several identical miniatures to represent a group of bandits. Instead of purchasing lead miniatures, he used graphic design software to draw simple stick figure cutouts in the style he had developed as a youth. He continued to use stick figure monsters for years in his D&D sessions.
Burlew attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he earned a degree in illustration. He has noted that, "everything [I] learned about color use or panel composition... [I] picked up at Pratt." After leaving college, Burlew worked for several years as a professional graphic designer in New York, primarily working on elementary school textbook designs and layouts.
In 2002, Wizards of the Coast announced a contest to find a new campaign setting for their D&D game, dubbed the Fantasy Setting Search. From a field of over eleven thousand gamers who sent in one-page descriptions of their worlds, one of Burlew's four entries was chosen as a finalist. He was asked by Wizards of the Coast to produce a one hundred-page setting bible for his world to compete against two other designers. The contest was won by Keith Baker's Eberron setting, with Burlew and P. Nathan Toomey as the other two finalists. Although he did not win the contest, the experience encouraged Burlew to pursue a career in game design. As his entry in the competition remains the unpublished property of Wizards of the Coast, Burlew is prohibited from discussing it by a non-disclosure agreement. However, he was offered additional writing work from Wizards of the Coast the following year in which he contributed monsters such as the "battle titan" and the "shade steel golem" to the Monster Manual III rulebook.
Burlew was able to leverage the attention and popularity he got from the Setting Search contest into real success by launching his website "Giant in the Playground" and the comic The Order of the Stick. In June 2003, Burlew launched the website GiantITP.com in hopes of "turning [his] paltry name recognition into something resembling a job." He dubbed his new site, Giant in the Playground, after his screen name on the Wizards.com forums in order to capitalize on his reputation as a knowledgeable gamer.
GiantITP.com languished for several months until Burlew added a webcomic to bring in recurring traffic. He started The Order of the Stick, a stick figure fantasy webcomic, in September 2003 by transferring the images from the stick figure miniatures he had produced for his D&D game into a page-long comic. The Order of the Stick gained heavy popularity through 2004. Burlew realized that he had created a successful story when several friends in an online D&D game spent an entire session berating him for writing a scene in which a villain impales a main character. He announced the publication of the first strip compilation in December 2004. Shortly thereafter, he reported that pre-orders for the book had been so successful that he was prepared to quit his job as a graphic designer and commit himself full-time to comic and game writing. Since then, he has produced four additional compilations and two black-and-white prequels for The Order of the Stick that are not featured on the website.
In November 2005, new strips of The Order of the Stick began appearing in Dragon Magazine, significantly extending the potential reach of the comic. Burlew described the feeling of seeing his work on the same page that once held the comic What's New with Phil & Dixie as "awe-inspiring" and "weird". The comic ran in the magazine until its final print issue. These strips were later published in the compilation book called Snips, Snails and Dragon Tales.
Burlew also drew a short-lived webcomic for the Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA) website, Five Foot Steps, that featured more traditional cartoon art instead of stick figures. These depicted a diverse role-playing game group at the fictional Rollmoore College. The strip only lasted for five installments for reasons that have not been made public.
Minorities in his work
Burlew, through his webcomic, is trying to raise greater awareness about minorities. He has recently introduced a lesbian character and has adapted some of the newer comic dialogues in order to better represent such minorities.
This promotion has generated some controversy among long time fans of the comic because, according to a number of readers, the writing of these dialogues seemed out of tune with the usual style and pacing of the narrative, as well to diminish some of the characterization by forcibly inserting references displaying aforementioned representation of these minorities.
Burlew stressed the fact that he will not be put off by this kind of issue and will continue to pass on the teachings through his webcomic, addressing further criticism with the following statement: "You don't like me teaching you? Then stop showing up to my class."
Burlew also explained, by answering to readers, that one of the main purposes of raising awareness about minorities and avoiding sexism (as he unintentionally displayed before) is that he is worried about being thought as a closet misogynist and that, having passed the age of 40, wishes his work to have impact beyond momentary distractions.
He also explained that he failed to include an obiviously gay character for more than 900 strips so he needed to compensate as soon as possible by inserting a new LGBT character.
Burlew has an undisclosed chronic illness which sometimes impedes his ability to draw comics, and causes periodic delays in schedule. Due to his illness, Burlew reiterated on his website on July 10, 2011 that The Order of the Stick webcomic is produced on "a random schedule ... depending on [his] ability to work."
In September 2012, Burlew seriously injured his right hand in an accident that required emergency surgery and prevented him from drawing for an extended period. Despite physiotherapy, he has said that he does not expect to fully recover from the injury.
Game design credits
- Monster Manual III, Contributed. (September 2004, ISBN 0-7869-3430-1)
- Explorer's Handbook, w/Frank Brunner and David Noonan. (August 2005, ISBN 0-7869-3691-6)
- Spell Compendium, Contributed. (December 2005, ISBN 0-7869-3702-5)
- The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Dungeon of Dorukan, w/Kevin Brusky. (October 2006, ASIN 0966347641)
- Dungeonscape, w/Jason Buhlman. (February 2007, ISBN 978-0-7869-4118-6)
- Tome of Artifacts, Contributed. (June 2007, ISBN 978-1-58846-935-9)
The Order of the Stick trade paperbacks
- The Order of the Stick: Dungeon Crawlin' Fools (February 2005, ISBN 0-9766580-0-3)
- The Order of the Stick: On the Origin of PCs (August 2005, ISBN 0-9766580-1-1)
- The Order of the Stick: No Cure for the Paladin Blues (November 2006, ISBN 0-9766580-3-8)
- The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness (June 2007, ISBN 978-0-9766580-4-7)
- The Order of the Stick: War and XPs (August 2008, ISBN 978-0-9766580-5-4)
- The Order of the Stick: Don't Split the Party (November 2009, ISBN 978-0-9766580-6-1)
- The Order of the Stick: Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tails (July 2011 ISBN 978-0-9766580-7-8)
- The Order of the Stick: Blood Runs in the Family (December 2014, 978-0-9766580-8-5)
- "Eagle Awards". The Eagle Awards. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- "2007 ENnie Award Archives". ennieawards.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- "Outstanding Gaming Comic 2007". ryanestrada.com. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- "Outstanding Long Form Comic 2007". ryanestrada.com. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- "Outstanding Fantasy Comic 2005". www.ccawards.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- "Outstanding Fantasy Comic 2006". www.ccawards.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- "HERE ARE YOUR 2008 WCCA WINNERS!". The Webcartoonist's Choice Awards. March 8, 2008. Retrieved March 9, 2008.
- "ComixTalk's People of Webcomics List For 2007". ComixTalkdate=December 20, 2007. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
- Burlew, Rich. Dungeon Crawlin' Fools. Giant in the Playground. p. 5.
- Israel, Cecil (March 1, 2007). "Order of the Interview: Rich Burlew". Sequential Tart. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- "Fantasy Setting Search Closes in on Finalists: Rich Burlew". December 9, 2002. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- "Wizards of the Coast Announcement!". GamingReport.com. June 14, 2002. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- "Participants in Next Round of Fantasy Setting Search Announced". Wizards.com. October 15, 2002. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- "Fantasy Setting Search Winner Selected". Wizards.com. February 3, 2002. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 292. ISBN 978-1-907702- 58-7.
- Burlew, Rich. "What was your setting like? Will it ever be published?". Giant in the Playground Site FAQ.
- "Monster Manual III: Design Team Interview". Wizards.com. September 3, 2004. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- Burlew, Rich. "What is "Giant in the Playground"?". Giant in the Playground Site FAQ.
- Burlew, Rich. Dungeon Crawlin' Fools. Giant in the Playground. p. 66.
- "News for 1/2/2006".
- "Paizo.com". September 30, 2005. Retrieved November 10, 2007.
- Burlew, Rich (November 14, 2005). "Giant in the Playground News". Retrieved March 9, 2008.
- "Five Foot Steps #1". Retrieved February 10, 2008.
- "Quote of Rich Burlew explaining the nature of the delays".
- "Rich Burlew talking about future delays".
- Burlew, Rich. "Rumblings in the Playground". Giant In The Playground forums. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
Interviews with Rich Burlew
- "Fantasy Setting Search Closes in on Finalists", December 9, 2002.
- "Geeklabel Radio Podcast: Unedited Interview with Rich Burlew", October 25, 2006.
- "The Order of the Stick: Rich Burlew", March 1, 2007.
- Geekademia interview, February 2012.