As huge fans of Chris Baldie’s Space Captain series (thanks to its perfect blend of emotive story telling, stunning art and awesome mustachioed hero) we very excited to discover Chris was producing a new series – I Rolled A One – this time set in the world of table top role-playing games. We warm up our 20 sided dice in anticipation of some epic questing!
Publisher: Never Ever Press
Writer: Chris Baldie
Artist: Chris Baldie
Price: £4.00 from Chris’ Etsy Store
Our story starts with a fantasy style quest in the woods of Eldahar, involving a dwarf, a bard and cleric, who are encountering an elf on the road side for the first time. It soon transpires that this is the the role play on game of a group of teenager geeks in a basement, and the elf is being played by newcomer Alice – who is both new to role playing but also he group as a whole. As the story develops,and Alice is brought into the game, she is also brought into the group and we learn more about the individuals as well as the quest as a whole.
With a central theme of friendship and acceptance through shared hobbies, I Rolled A One is a really wonderful, yet quite subtle piece of story telling. It’s split narrative shifts between the real world and the game and tells a sweet, funny story about a group of friends getting to know each other. While the fantasy strand allows Baldie room to flex his creative muscles and add in some fantastical flights of fancy it is the real world relationships between the characters which is the real highlight and the true focus of the story. It reminded us a bit of 4 Kids Walk In To A Bank in this respect (but with less bank heists!) especially with the mix of fantasy and reality in the opening chapters. However it’s main similarity for us was the wonderful Giant Days with it’s quirky characters and effortless dialogue.
As a result of this emphasis on character, the story is rather light, and lacks any big moments of drama or excitement – unless you include the infamous dice roll referred to in the title. But that’s not what this book is all about. Just as Space Captain was about more than the Captain’s search for home, this is a book a about friendships and relationships. It makes it another piece of very subtle story telling which is all the more engaging as a result of it’s more considered approach.
Just like Space Captain, I Rolled A One features more stunning art from Baldie. His work is incredibly detailed and beautifully realised, reminding us of classic Euro comics like Asterisk and also more modern exponents like the Etherington Brothers. With a rich level detail and expressive characters, Baldie seems to revel in creating wondrous fantasy characters as well as really fun and enjoyable real world counterparts – making the dice throws as exciting as escaping quick sand. It feels like he enjoys telling this story as much as we enjoy reading it and so his characters leap off the page with enthusiasm, while his densely panelled pages reward repeat reading as you see hidden depths in every corner.
Our only negative on the artwork is that the pages can sometime be too dense, with small lowercase lettering that can feel a bit cramped in places – which could be even more prevalent if I Rolled A One has the same small printed page size of Space Captain.
But these are minor issue, as I Rolled A One is another tour de force from Baldie and a reminder of what an exciting talent he is – we can even forgive him doing this ahead of another Space Captain adventure. This book showcases the diversity of his work that is available and does so via a warm, engaging, funny and touching story about friendship and common bonds that should resonate with gamers and non-gamers alike. If this book were a dice throw it would be a ‘Natural 20’!