About Ambition
       As told by Sly.

The Prime of Ambition is not a Dungeons & Dragons story, nor is it set in a D&D world. It did, however, come about in part because of dissatisfaction with D&D-style world settings and narrative. Ambition's earliest conception began with a drow that I designed to be run in a friend's campaign. At the time, I had something of an obsession with trying to make "evil" characters that actually worked. This particular friend was allowing me to try to make an evil character when all other GMs were not allowing that "alignment" (oh, how I hate you, alignment system that makes no sense...grr). Thaddeus, as I called him, was a character of very questionable morals (although he was quite comfortable with them, and had no idea what my problem was) who, I felt, would still function within and as a part of a "good" party. Long story made short, the GM was too busy and the campaign never got off the ground.

So there I was with a perfectly good character and nothing to do with him. For a while, I toyed with story ideas for him, but eventually put him away in favor of trying to work on stories for school. Oh, but he came back. He was persistent. He was insistent. He had a story to tell. And after a bit, I realized something: He wasn't Thaddeus at all, but an entirely new character that I had not consciously created. Which made him even better. I called him Thanatos. (On a side note, Thaddeus would later return - his personality, at least, with a different backstory.  His name is now Shihab.You'll see him in chapter nine.)

Than fleshed himself out for me, and with him, my own concept of the drow. At this time, I'd never heard of Forgotten Realms or anything; all I knew about the drow was in my then-boyfriend's monster-manual. The appealing factor for me in there was actually the subterranean elf idea. I like that idea a lot. 'cause caves are cool. The dark skin/light hair was also appealing, and I've always been a sucker for red eyes. But you will find I had my own ideas on what "matriarchal" and "theocratic" meant. More on that later. It was here that I picked up the other four characters, Audriel, Jerome, Eloise, and Kevlin in that order. These were "niche" characters - arbitrarily stuck in for what roles I felt I needed. They would eventually flesh out as well, lengthening one book well into three, until I would go back and crop some very cool scenes and ideas (and a lot of crappy scenes and ideas) so I didn't end up with The Fellowship of the Ring all over again. Especially since these five are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

But I'm getting ahead. Shortly after there were five, there was also Luth'rai. And Luth'rai had Kryxxt. I don't remember why, but I was telling Luth about Than, and how he'd come to be. Well, she turned that around to tell me about her darling (well, I think he's darling) Kryxxtemordekai, a black dragon cursed into a half-elf form, who had also missed his chance to be played in the same campaign that Thaddeus was supposed to be in. The more we talked, the more we realized how well Kryxxt and Than would've gotten along. So when a different GM started talking about starting up an all-evil party campaign, we looked at each other and hopped in. We took Than and Kryxxt's respective back-stories and linked them, so they already had a relationship heading into the campaign. Fitting Than in was, at first, easy. The GM took the entirety of the Maurn and dropped it into her world. In practice, however, this was a frickin' bad idea. Than was not a D&D character. He did not belong in the D&D setting. And as we'd find out, neither did Kryxxt.

However, the campaign was to have a serious (and good) impact on Ambition as a whole, and we would think of it in D&D terms for a long time afterwards. (Another note - Bashirah came into existence as a result of the campaign, seeing that Than, as a monk/wizard, got a familiar. I kept Bashirah, but she's no longer a familiar.) First of all, the campaign forced me to take all the ideas bouncing around in my head and write them down. For the first time, I had a tangible Than. I could read over him. I could edit (whoa). Second, the campaign failed dramatically, once again leaving me with a character that I really wanted to use, and, with a tangible copy of him, a focus with which to start using him. No more ideas bouncing around in my head - I had a physical project. Third...Luth'rai and I now had the monster known as "Evil Nights."

This calls for an explanation. It's actually quite simple. It began with AIM. We were talking over AIM one night. Without warning, she was Kryxxt, and I was Than, and they were holding a philosophical conversation. Out of the blue. It was the most fun we'd had all semester. They kept talking, and talking, and before we knew it, it was dawn. Oops. This would happen the next night. And the next. And soon enough, we had multiple AIM windows - one for the character role-play, and one for us to discuss what was happening around them. It was running story-telling, and it is the best way ever to flesh out characters. We still do this, and we have 5 or 6 storylines with different characters running at this time. At some point, I dubbed it "Evil Nights," in reference to "1001 Arabian Nights," because we'd tell the story all night, and then the sun would rise, and we'd be like "...craaap." We haven't actually run 1001 of them, yet, but I'm sure we'll get there sometime in 2008. On another side-note, one of the characters is named Shahrazaad in honor of this process.

The Evil Nights began in the D&D Campaign, but we would soon move it to the world that would later be dubbed Oris. We had more freedom in Oris, the magic worked differently in Oris, the world made more sense in Oris. So, while we had done a fair bit of research in the D&D Draconomicon and I had been reading the Forgotten Realms series, compliments of the GM, we were soon realizing that we didn't want to make D&D better. We just wanted to be what we were. And that wasn't D&D. So we sarted cutting back to originality. The first thing to change entirely was the dragons. As it is, we still have ten kinds of dragons, because ten worked well, but they're not the metallic dragons and the chromatic dragons you'll see elsewhere. We rebuilt our dragons, some of them by revamping the ideas we already had, and some by building from the ground up. We're very proud of our dragons. Although astute viewers will likely notice that mud dragons still have horns like black dragons. Luth'rai loves those horns. Similarly, embers have similar facial structure to the reds... 'cause I like that horn/frill set-up. So bite me.

No need to revamp the magic, as I never changed it to D&D style, so the next step was deities and races. Well, for the deities, it was just the matter of changing the names of a few of them, as they were already quite different from any of the D&D ones. The elves were already way different (and I'm still working on them...I'm always working on them) - I just needed to actually do something with the dwarves...hadn't touched the dwarves yet. Bad, bad authoress. There're actually many things I still haven't really touched yet. And many more I have, but haven't fleshed out. Lalala. Well, that's roughly where we still are now. I have solid ideas of most everything, actually now. I'm still finishing them up.

So why did I keep the drow? Aren't they strictly D&D? Well, yes and no. I think drow are to D&D as orcs are to The Lord of the Rings: They certainly started there, but they just as certainly didn't stay there. Today, drow are a fantasy staple, and why shouldn't they be? After all, they're just adaptions of the Norse Black Elves, just as Tolkien's elves were mostly based on the White Elves. If D&D wanted to hang onto ownership of the drow, they shouldn't have called them "drow" - after all, King Arthur was convincing a drow to let him and his knights pass through its cave long before the d20 was invented. Lolth, however, is D&D, so we have Krukjenjai instead who, while "she" (she's actually gender neutral - a fact that will be revealed only in the third book, if we ever do that, so might as well say it) does the whole snakes and spiders thing (couldn't get away from the hidden ambush predators...was too powerful an image to let go), is more systematic and, I daresay, more sinister in her method of entrapping the orphaned dark elves, after the Moon Wars. Ah, but that's a story saved for the story. I think we have enough of the generic staples to still be drow, but enough of a new take to be more interesting (and snobbishly make more sense). Everything in moderation, you know.

So what is Ambition, if not a D&D or gaming comic? It's an original fantasy drama/epic - too much character-driven drama to be an epic, and too much action and sweeping plot to be just a drama, and fantasy because we've got magic, although we push for science fiction style realism. We realize, of course, that the dragons could not actually fly, that our explanation for why elves can live so long is a bit far-fetched, that our reasons for drow being able to see without light just less than laughable from the scientific standpoint, that we can't expect people to accept active deities as less than fantastical, and the explanation for magic is...well, magic. But our goal is to bridge the gap so you have to suspend your disbelief as little as possible, so not to distract or distance you from the otherwise real people the story is about, but at the same time, leaving the fantastic elements there for you to enjoy. That's our ambition, at least.

Now. The comic. I had realized for a long time that Ambition was to be best served as sequential art. I also discovered the best way to learn it was to do it. So, after I scribbled out the short-story comic "Fire" for school, I was ready to take time on this one and do a good job of it. Fortunately, I have the anal-realistic artist Luth'rai to do the backgrounds, as I'm a gestural artist and therefore very, very bad at inanimate things. I think our art melds very well to create a typical Japanese masking effect. We started up on January 8, 2006, and our art continues to improve with practice. As for the script, actually only chapter one and two are page-by-page scripted right now, but the outline and scene break-down for The Prime of Ambition is more or less finalized. Some of the later chapters are still a bit fuzzy as to what will be kept, and what may need to be added. The second book (which will both be somewhat of a sequel and a stand-alone story), The Price of Ambition, is in drafting stages, and the third book, The Prince of Ambition, is merely in concept stages, and we don't know if we'll bother to continue through the third book.

Well, that's all I can think of, for now. Hopefully I can pressure Luth'rai into adding her side of the story soon enough. Feel free to e-mail me any questions, or drop a question thread into the forum.