This week I’m focusing on comedic fantasy, a subgenre of fantasy that will leave you in stitches (or leave you bursting stitches- maybe don’t read comedic fantasy right after a surgery). I’m grateful to be chatting with Andi Ewington, coauthor of Campaigns and Companions.
Hi, Andi! Thank you for stopping by to chat about comedic fantasy!
Will you introduce yourself to the readers a little and talk about your writing?
I’m Andi Ewington, a writer (of sorts) based in Surrey. I’m probably better known for writing graphic novels having worked on comics such as Forty-Five45, Freeway Fighter, Just Cause 3, Dark Souls 2, Vikings, Sunflower and S6X. But recently, I’ve moved away from the panel-by-panel medium to release Campaigns & Companions, which is a step towards traditional book publishing.
In Campaigns and Companions, you show a love of Dungeons and Dragons (as well as an uncanny understanding of how pets of all sorts act). What was the genesis of Campaigns and Companions?
It sprang from a funny meme of a cat playing Dungeons & Dragons I happened across while doomscrolling through Twitter. It immediately had me roaring with laughter and ignited my imagination; I decided to switch my Twitter focus away from complaints about the daily grind of commuting and embrace pets in funny roleplaying game scenarios to the full. After that, I curated a colossal thread that went viral and quickly realised this could make a really fun book. I brought Rhianna Pratchett, Calum Alexander Watt and Alex de Campi to the project, and we all pitched it to Rebellion Publishing (who gave it the thumbs up).
What was your process in bringing that humor to life?
For me, it’s looking at the stereotypical traits that pets have and trying to put a roleplaying twist on it. For example, dogs LOVE chasing after balls—so what would be the equivalent ‘ball’ in a fantasy world? My brain usually settles on a suitably humorous answer—like a fireball. Now, we have a highly amusing scenario of a dog chasing after a fireball. From that idea, I create dialogue to fit the scene and complete the joke. It then goes to Calum, who illustrates a beautiful image that captures it all to perfection.
Do you have any pets?
Growing up, I always had cats and dogs, but it has never quite been the right time with my own family. My wife is a childminder, so it’s pretty tough to have anything with babies and toddlers running around the house too. She’s looking to change career in 2022, so who knows, maybe we’ll be able to get our first dog to join our family—I know the kids are desperate for one!
What are some obstacles to writing comedic fantasy?
Remembering that humour is subjective, and what I find funny won’t always be funny to other people—accepting that is okay. I tend to focus on the idea and stay true to it. The other thing is knowing when to give up on a joke—sometimes you have an image or gif that just doesn’t spark anything; if that happens, I stop and give up trying to make something humorous out of it. I like my jokes to be explosive and immediate—if I’m not feeling it, I usually cut it.
What are some triumphs?
Having Campaigns & Companions published is a huge triumph, especially when someone takes the time to get in touch. Hearing how the jokes made them laugh is a superb feeling that’s hard to beat. Receiving pictures of the book with a cherished pet is fantastic and something that never grows old. Seeing the reviews and the book’s popularity also gives me a real buzz. Beyond this, I think seeing a posted tweet suddenly go further than my intended audience is a huge win!
How do you get into the ‘zone’, so to speak?
I will paraphrase Bruce Banner here and say—that’s my secret, Jodie… I’m always in the zone. In all seriousness, my brain is wired to constantly search for the funny in everything (just ask my long-suffering family). Honestly, I find it really hard to switch off (which comes with its own problems, especially at funerals).
I’ve had the privilege of reading some of your next project, which is both clever and hilarious. Will you talk about it a little bit?
Sure! My next project is called ‘The Hero Interviews’, a full-on 160,000-word novel that follows the adventures of Elburn Barr, a Loremaster who is trying to find out what it’s like to be a ‘hero’ (and his missing ‘heroic’ brother at the same time). Elburn is travelling the realm, interviewing a smorgasbord of characters from fireball-loving Wizards who accidentally incinerated the rest of their adventuring party to stoic Paladins who are desperate to unleash a flurry of swearwords. I like to think of it as the Dungeons & Dragons world that has gone through a high spin cycle before being let loose. There’s almost limitless potential for fun where the rules are ripped up and merged with contemporary situations to create something that should be familiar to everyone.
Thank you so much, Andi!
Andi has graciously allowed me to share the first interview from ‘The Hero Interviews’ below. It had me rolling on the floor. Enjoy!
Dorn (Human Barbarian)
Whisper the word ‘Barbarian’, and I’d wager your imagination would instantly picture a rage-filled, muscle-bound warrior clad only in a fur loincloth fuelled by a love of spleen removal whilst drinking the nearest tavern dry. You can imagine my disappointment as I sit opposite a muscle-shy, pasty-looking individual; ‘Dorn’ is the latest ‘hero’ to step out of the Heroes Guild, a polite man who seems eager to make a name for himself within the adventuring sphere. We’ve agreed to meet at Dorn’s local tavern, the Spit & Spear, a favourite watering hole of heroes, situated in the lively city of Tronte, a settlement plagued by wannabe-adventurers hoping to be spotted by one of the Heroes Guild’s numerous ‘Scouts’.
The Spit & Spear is mercifully quiet, although I suspect the evening is still too young to attract the hardened drinker questing for the only elixir that matters in their life. The only other patrons of note are a nearby Dwarven Fighter working his way through a flagon-orgy, and a Paladin, who seems to be regaling the barmaid with his tales of adventure. The young lady is so enraptured by the Holy Warrior’s words she’s failed to notice both the Barbarian and I have been without a drink for some considerable time.
Me: “Thanks for meeting me—”
Dorn: “My pleasure, it’s not every day I get interviewed by a bona fide Loremaster—I suppose it’s something I’m going to have to get accustomed to…”
Me: “Accustomed to?”
Dorn grins proudly as he turns the collar of his jerkin over; I catch sight of a flash of silver—a badge sits snugly underneath, I can just make out a sword hilt etched into the circle design neatly bisecting a large ‘H’ and ‘G’.
Dorn: “I’m now officially a hero. Finally, I can follow in the footsteps of the greats, like Arin Darkblade1 and Gilva Flamebeard2!”
Me: “Erm… I guess congratulations are in order?”
1Renowned for being the meanest adventurer in the entire realm—and I don’t mean in the ‘never buys a round of drinks’ kind of way, although I suspect he’s never bought a round of drinks in his life either. No, Arin is an eye-patch wearing hero who has completed more quests and despatched more monsters than any adventurer in living memory.
2Gilva Flamebeard is a legendary Dwarven Cleric who has stepped back from adventuring to become a hermit. As her name suggests, she sports a fiery red beard, which, by all accounts, contrasts sharply with an unusually calm demeanour for a Dwarf. Whether her given Dwarven clan name really is Flamebeard or not has been debated and argued in every tavern at some point or another.
Dorn: “Thanks! To be honest, I’m still in shock; I have to punch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
Me: “Don’t you mean pinch?”
Dorn: “Rogues pinch. Barbarians punch3.”
Me: “Got it—”
As if to emphasise the point, the Barbarian hits himself fully in the face—he shakes his head and looks around as if he’s just woken up.
Dorn: “Nope, it’s still real!”
Me: “You okay?”
Dorn: “Nothing a drink won’t sort out—”
The Barbarian waves trying to catch the eye of the barmaid stood behind the bar—without success.
Me: “Forgive me for saying, but you don’t look how I’d imagine a Barbarian would look.”
Dorn: “Really? What were you expecting?”
Dorn: “Perhaps you’d prefer it if I were wearing a fur loincloth?”
My cheeks flush red in embarrassment.
Dorn: “Sorry to dispel that particular myth, but the truth is adventuring can get awfully cold. While I’m sure it has its place, a fur loincloth is impractical on so many levels4. If you want to survive on a quest, you need to be wearing layers, lots of layers—and I don’t mean armour either.”
Me: “Forgive me, I was just expected a bit more flesh on show5.”
3Not strictly true, some Rogues have been known to punch, although I’m sure they’d prefer not to let their opponent know it was incoming. While ‘some’ Barbarians have a bad reputation of unwanted pinching, usually of barmaids’ behinds.
4I guess on a frozen adventure, the loins would be nice and warm, while the rest of the Barbarian’s extremities would undoubtedly be frozen solid—still, a warm groin is something not to be sniffed at (quite literally).
5Just to be clear, and as much as this may appear to the contrary, I wasn’t trying to encourage the Barbarian into stripping for me here.
The Barbarian gives me the strangest of looks.
Dorn: “Are you okay? Fighting while wearing just a tight-fitting loincloth is… is a little bit weird, isn’t it?”
Me: “I thought that’s the whole point of being a Barbarian? Attacking your enemies half-naked while lost in a furious battle-rage6?”
Dorn: “You’ve been hanging around with the wrong type of people if you think that’s how Barbarians dress these days.”
Me: “I’m only going by the legendary warriors from days of yore.”
I point to the wall of hero paintings on the far wall, several of which are of muscle-mountains wearing only the tiniest fur loincloths.7
Dorn: “Ha! Those old Barbarians are so out of touch with the modern Barbarians of today. Nobody wears fur loincloths anymore—anyway, I prefer to leave my family jewels to the imagination, if it’s all the same to you…”
He tries to catch the barmaid’s eye but misses once again—the Barbarian thumps the table in frustration.
I feel the need to quickly change the subject away from the Barbarian’s nether regions.
Me: “Did you always want to be a Barbarian?”
The anger-prone warrior laughs at the absurdity of my question.
Dorn: “Me? No—never in my wildest dreams! I actually thought I was going to become a Wizard.”
Me: “A Wizard?”
Dorn: “I know, it’s really odd—but I was convinced to switch my focus to the Barbarian class rather than follow a wizardry one. Besides, Wizards are generally frowned upon at the Heroes Guild.”
6A rage brought on by discovering that someone had just stolen their clothes.
7At least I ‘hoped’ they were wearing loincloths. From where I was sitting it could be mistaken for loin hair.
Me: “Frowned upon—I thought the Heroes Guild would welcome Wizards with open arms8?”
Dorn: “Seems there’s a long-running rivalry between the Heroes Guild and the Wizards Guild—in truth, they hate each other, but recently they’ve begrudgingly agreed on an uneasy peace…”
Me: “How did the feud come about?”
Dorn: “I don’t think the Wizards Guild liked it when the Heroes Guild started recruiting Wizards to their cause—it resulted in the Battle of the Blind Bowman.”
Me: “I’ve never heard of this battle?”
Dorn: “That’s because it happened one fateful afternoon in the middle of a tavern—The Blind Bowman9.”
Me: “They had a battle in a tavern?”
Dorn: “I think I may have oversold the ‘battle’ part of this story—it was more of a untidy brawl with an lot of pushing and accusatory pointing.”
Me: “Who won?”
Dorn: “Nobody, when the dust settled The Blind Bowman was no more—the entire place had either been burnt down by a spell or smashed into tiny pieces by the fist. The warring guilds realised their mistake when they couldn’t order another round of drinks—and immediately held emergency talks in the ashes of the former privy. The Heroes Guild agreed they would not add any more Wizards to their numbers; in exchange, the Wizards Guild agreed to help them recruit more non-Wizard heroes to their ranks.”
Me: “So Wizards only come from the Wizards Guild?”
8As long as they had been patted down for any concealed Fireballs first.
9Named after a legendary blind archer who could hit any Goblin with unerring accuracy, a remarkable feat rendered useless if no actual Goblins were around to shoot in the first place.
10I bet my family’s estate it was a fireball.
Dorn: “I’ve seen a few robe-wearing, book reading types walking around the Heroes Guild—but they could be Loremasters, I suppose11.”
Me: “How does a Loremaster join the Heroes Guild?”
Dorn: “If you get us a couple more ales, I’ll put to good word in for you12.”
I laugh at the boldness of the Barbarian.
Me: “Fair enough—so the Heroes Guild made you a Barbarian instead? I mean no offence by this, but you don’t look the angry-warrior type. Why do you think they wanted you to become a Barbarian?”
The Barbarian narrows his eyes at me.
The Barbarian narrows his eyes at me.
Dorn: “Isn’t it obvious?”
The Barbarian narrows his eyes at me.
Me: “Not really…”
Dorn: “They want me to revamp a Barbarian’s stereotypical image, usher in a new age of warriors who don’t go around smashing up taverns just because they’re a bit angry about poor bar service. They want me to be the face of tomorrow’s Barbarian—a thoughtful, calm Barbarian who has a bit of a sensitive side too.”
The Barbarian flexes an arm muscle. I can’t quite see it, but I don’t want to ruin Dorn’s moment.
Dorn: “Yup, I’m the first in a new wave of approachable Barbarians; less rage—more brains.”
Me: “The thinking man’s warrior14?”
The young hero slams the table with his hand before pointing at me excitedly.
11 I seriously doubt any of my profession would be interested in joining the Heroes Guild—the closest a Loremaster usually gets to danger is drinking a hot cup of tea too quickly and burning the roof of their mouth.
12If we could ‘actually’ get any service that is—the barmaid still hadn’t managed to drag herself away from the Paladin’s vicinity; if I were the Landlord I’d be asking some serious questions about her work ethic.
13It always pays to tell a Barbarian what they want to hear—even if your whole being is screaming at you to do otherwise.
14Although I suspect Paladins will feel as if they have something to say about this.
Dorn: “The Barbarian with a heart of gold!”
Me: “Catchy. So, have you been on any adventures yet?”
Dorn: “Only the training dungeons. They’re pretty tough and can hurt if you’re not careful—I mean, really hurt. I passed with flying colours, of course. Even resisted sitting on that bloody trapped throne too, unlike the Ranger I was with.”
Me: “What happened to the Ranger?”
Dorn: “He insisted on sitting down and got his backside frozen to it as a consequence.”
Me: “That’s terrible.”
Dorn: “I know, took me ages to pull him free from it—when I finally did he had a huge hole ripped in his breeches.”
Me: “That must have been a bit awkward—?”
Dorn: “Yeah, I had to keep him behind me for the remainder of the adventure—there are some things not even a Barbarian should have to bare witness to.15”
The Barbarian looks again for the barmaid, but she’s too still busy, lost in her Paladin-filled daze to notice him—I sense Dorn clenching and unclenching his fists as he slowly boils with anger.
Me: “How did you first get involved with the Heroes Guild?”
Dorn: “I was spotted.”
Dorn: “Yes, you know, seen—in this place actually, which is ironic if you think about it.”
Me: “Why’s that?”
The Barbarian grinds his teeth and throws imaginary daggers in the Paladin’s direction.
Dorn: “Because I can’t seem to be seen right now, can I?! SERVICE!!”
The Barbarian shouts at the top of his voice, but he is still ignored by the barmaid currently draped over the Holy Warrior.
Me: “Who spotted you?”
Dorn: “A representative of the Heroes Guild—a Scout.”
Me: “Where were you sat?“
I look around the bar try to picture an excitable and nervous Dorn standing around waiting to be spotted by the Heroes Guild Scout.
I point to the table we’re currently sat at.
Dorn: “Well, not here exactly, more like over there.”
The Barbarian motions to a table next to us, occupied by a Dwarven Fighter polishing off his tenth flagon of ale—judging by the nine empty flagons sat in front of him17.
I find myself staring at the inebriated Dwarf as he spills more beer on the table than into his mouth.
Dorn: “That’s not the Scout, just in case you were wondering.”
I nod and turn my attention back to the Barbarian.
Me: “How did you find out about this place?”
Dorn: “I heard about the Spit & Spear from a friend. He told me the Heroes Guild Scouts frequented it—and if I wanted to be spotted, I could do a lot worse than hang around the tavern.”
Me: “What happens if you’re lucky enough to be spotted?”
Dorn: “If a Scout thinks you have potential to join the Heroes Guild, they employ a test—”
Me: “Test? What sort of test? Written18?”
16To be fair the Paladin seems to be happily encouraging this.
17I have no idea how this Dwarf has managed to get served not once, but ten times—it is a miraculous feat that should be compared to dragon slaying with only one arm…
18Which would be an overly cruel thing to do to a would-be Barbarian.
Dorn: “No—practical. Sometimes it’s a stolen purse, other times it’s a spontaneous bar-fight—whatever it is, it is always designed to test a specific attribute.”
Me: “What attribute did they test of yours?”
Dorn: “Why, my strength, of course19. Anyway, it so happened that I had struck up a conversation with the very Scout who had taken a keen interest in me.”
Me: “What are the odds? So, what did you two talk about?”
Dorn: “Oh, this and that—he seemed especially interested in my family’s estate on the far side of the Evergreen Forest. That seemed to give him confidence I had the right stuff to join the Guild. He even said he saw in me the potential to be one of the realm’s greatest heroes!”
Me: “What did you say to that?”
Dorn: “It was Bardic music to my ears20—everything I wanted was being promised to me. But at the same time, I had to make an impromptu call to the privy, so I excused myself for a moment to tend to my pressing need. When I returned, I found this brute of a Half-Orc sat at my table, drinking my ale!”
Me: “Who was he? What did you do?”
Dorn: “A stranger, it seemed, who wanted a free drink. Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing to mention this, but—”
Me: “Go on…”
Dorn: “I barely hit him. I guess I didn’t realise I possessed such strength!”
Me: “You hit him?”
Dorn: “I knocked him straight out of my seat and across the tavern—which immediately started a mass brawl with some Gnomes21 sat at the table in the corner. Once I had dealt with the Gnomes, the impressed Scout clapped me on the back and signed me up, there and then!”
Me: “And that’s when you became a Barbarian?”
20This depends greatly on the Bard doing the ‘singing’ in the first place, of course.
21As much as this sounds unimpressive, fighting something that stands at waist height is fraught with danger for any tall combatants.
Dorn: “He said I was a natural—that I had untapped raw power in my fists!”
Me: “—And you believed him?”
Dorn: “Why wouldn’t I? I had just seen what I could do with my own eyes! But I still held a strong desire to be a Wizard…”
Me: “I guess he explained the problem with being a Wizard?”
Dorn: “Indeed he did—we had a good chat about it, and I agreed to give up my dream of wielding magic in favour of wielding an oversized axe22. Anyway, Barbarians have better perks in the long run. Sure, there’s a clause in the contract, but the Scout said that it was just a standard—”
Me: “Wait a moment—a clause? What clause?”
Dorn: “He promised me it was all just legal mumbo-jumbo—the Scout called it a ‘Death in Service’ clause. If you want to join the Heroes Guild, you have to sign the clause—no exceptions.”
Me: “What does the clause do?”
Dorn: “For me? —Nothing… but for the Heroes Guild—they end up owning my family’s estate in the event of my death.”
Me: “That sounds a tad unfair.”
Dorn: “Apparently, it’s standard stuff that every hero signs—it won’t ever happen, not to me. The Scout explained that there’s a sizeable risk in retrieving a hero’s fallen body from a failed quest, not to mention all the funeral arrangements and lost equipment, some of which are magical and very expensive—the Death in Service clause covers for all damage or any loss to property. It’s pretty thoughtful, if you think about it.”
Me: “I see—what else did the Scout say?”
Dorn: “He said he had never seen such a natural athlete—the complete hero he called me! Said he wanted to send me on a category five23 adventure after I had completed all my training dungeons!”
Me: “What’s a category five adventure?”
22The weapon of choice for any self-respecting Barbarian—closely followed by a heavy fist…
23I’m not sure what this means, but the fact there are four categories before it cannot be a good thing.
Dorn: “Only a quest meant for the hardiest of adventurers—certain death assured24!”
Me: “Aren’t you worried? You might, you know—die?”
Dorn: “Nah, you’re talking to the realm’s next greatest Barbarian25, I laugh in the face of death—”
Laughter breaks out from the barmaid sits in the Paladin’s lap; Dorn suddenly kicks back from the table and stands with purpose and drive.
Dorn: “Although the Guild’s next greatest Barbarian is STILL thirsty. Time I finally got that drink—wait here, I’ll be right back.”
I watch as Dorn the Barbarian storms over to the Paladin and the barmaid to make his displeasure known. Not wanting to be caught in the middle of the approaching Battle of the Spit & Spear, I decide to leave this interview post-haste26.
24See, I was right!
25The realm’s last greatest Barbarian was Thrull the Bitter, who expired after a fight with a group of drunken Gnomes and ended up ironically bitten in the groin and bleeding to death—perhaps not quite the glorious way he had imagined moving on to the Great Beyond.
26I did leave a polite note explaining my sudden departure, blaming it on a sudden urge to drink elsewhere—specifically, a place with good bar service and less chance of seeing spilt blood…
About the author:
Andi Ewington is a writer who has written numerous titles including Campaigns & Companions, Forty-Five45, S6X, Sunflower, Red Dog, Dark Souls II, Just Cause 3, Freeway Fighter, and Vikings. Andi lives in Surrey, England with his wife, two children and a plethora of childhood RPGs and ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ gamebooks he refuses to part with. He’s usually found on Twitter as @AndiEwington
Andi is querying right now. Interested publishers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter as @AndiEwington.