In The Last Session, written by Jasmine Walls, illustrated by Dozerdraws, and with lettering by Micah Myers, a group of friends has been playing Dice & Deathtraps since their high school years… but now, on the eve of their graduation from college, they’re going their separate ways and bringing their long-running tabletop role playing game campaign to a conclusion! With the first issue arriving from Mad Cave Studios on December 1st, 2021, The Last Session is a story that places equal emphasis on the in-game tale and the “real world” story, creating a narrative that that is utterly irresistible.
To find out more about the exciting upcoming comic, The Beat caught up with Walls and Dozerdraws over email to ask all about designing costumes for characters both in- and out-of-game, to find out what went into balancing the group’s complicated relationship dynamics, and to find out what the ultimate TTRPG snack might be!
AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the genesis of this story? How did you each come to be involved?
JASMINE WALLS: I was incredibly flattered to have Mad Cave approach me about this project. Michael Moccio, our editor, reached out to me because I wrote a short D&D comic a few years ago that got pretty popular, largely thanks to the amazing artwork by Amy Phillips. For The Last Session, I was given a rough outline of a story by Mad Cave andthen they were kind enough to let me go absolutely bananas with it. The core of the story has remained the same, but I had a lot of freedom to play with it and that was really fun. Once I saw Dozer’s art and character designs I immediately fell in love with their style.
DOZERDRAWS: I’ve almost worked with editor Michael Moccio before in 2018 but unfortunately the project wascancelled before it really started. Then two years later I was asked to team up with him and Jasmine on The Last Session, which I immediately agreed to! (And as soon as I received the first of Jasmine’s scripts and got to design the characters I was 100% emotionally involved).
KAPLAN: What is your personal history with TTRPGs? Do you have any favorite personal experiences, or a favorite character to play?
DOZERDRAWS: To be honest, I hadn’t played any tabletop games before working on The Last Session. I’d seen it on TV or social media, heard from friends who had tried it or been in groups for years and when I mentioned that I wanted to join a group but didn’t know where to start they were like “why don’t we make our own group?”, so now I’m playing as a Swamp Goblin with a pet dinosaur and loving it!
WALLS: I’ve been playing tabletop games since high school, much like these characters! Anything from D&D, to White Wolf, to Pathfinder, and all sorts of indie games in between. I love really getting to dive deep into a character, making friends around a game, and just having fun. I often play bards, and if given half a chance, I will always pick something monstrous to play.
KAPLAN: What is the perfect TTRPG snack? Alternatively, is there any food to keep as far away from the D20s as possible?
WALLS: I’m about to show my age and the fact that I’m the “mom friend” because I have to say that you should always have a glass of water with your snacks. You’ll be talking and laughing for a few hours, so stay hydrated. I personally have a bad habit of eating the crunchiest snacks possible, like carrot sticks and chips, so it’s a good thing
I can mute my mic with my current group. As for what not to have, I’m a terrible person to ask, honestly. I’ve eaten every kind of food around a game table, and my character sheets usually survived it. Probably best to make sure you don’t eat anything spillable near your keyboard though.
DOZERDRAWS: I baked cupcakes for my last session that were amazing taste-wise but the frosting ended up a little too runny which was … not ideal, haha. I bet there’s still sugar on my dice and character sheets.
KAPLAN: What went into designing both “in game” and “out of game” costumes for the characters? Was one more challenging than the other?
DOZERDRAWS: I feel like I need to start this answer with a shout-out to Jasmine for making the character designprocess most delightful by including a large amount of reference pictures of each character and their class. I did have free hand with the designs but knowing what Jasmine had in mind while she was writing the story was a great help to me, as my goal is to bring the characters to life just how the author imagined them.
As for the design process, I think making both in-game and real world characters (plus everyone’s younger versions in the flashbacks) recognizable was a big challenge. We did that using colors, which I think works pretty well. The most fun part for me was designing the in-game costumes. In a fantasy world anything is possible and I loved playing around with different shapes and sizes (like the big spikes on Omen’s shoulders or Kezz’s lanky lizard body) but wealso wanted to appreciate our characters’ origins in all the designs, so adding traditional weapons and armor to everyone’s outfits was very important to us.
KAPLAN: What was it like balancing the “in game” and “out of game” elements of The Last Session? Did one come together before the other, or was it an integrated process?
WALLS: It was very integrated, and the hardest part was not letting one or the other take up too much of the story time. There’s so much about these characters and their adventures I wanted to add in, they’re just such a fun cast! Thankfully I had an excellent editor, Michael Moccio, to keep me on track. We drafted the “in game” adventure to line up with the drama of the “real life” storyline. What really made it work was Dozer’s art, they managed to create two completely different looking worlds with a similar enough style that it never feels jarring. That’s some real magic.
KAPLAN: In this series, you draw both scenes that are set in both our world and in a fantasy realm. How did you approach designing both worlds?
DOZERDRAWS: We really wanted to give both settings their very own look so the reader would know immediately where they are in the story, even if they flipped the comic open at a random page.
For the in-game scenes I used a rough and textured brush and a more angular and cartoony drawing style. The colors are usually very saturated and to add an extra old-timey feel I added a paper texture to those pages. To create a nice contrast between the two worlds I decided on a cleaner style for the real world parts of the story with more natural colors and fluid lines.
KAPLAN: One of the most engaging aspects of The Last Session is the interpersonal character dynamics, which play out in both levels of narrative. How did you approach this aspect of the story? Are there “archetypical friend groups” just like there are “archetypical adventuring parties”?
WALLS: Absolutely. In any friend group, there’s often a few introverts and extroverts, some who know exactly what they want in life and some who are just going with the flow as best they can. Being the new kid in a friend group is tough, just like trying to join an established game, because everyone already seems to fit so seamlessly that it’simpossible not to feel a little like the odd one out, at least at first. I really wanted to capture that energy for this story.
KAPLAN: Were there any comics (or any other kind of stories) that were especially influential for you when making The Last Session?
WALLS: While this story was heavily inspired by my own gaming experiences and my love of comics, my writing in general was inspired by a lot of fantasy and sci-fi that’s self-aware and a little cheeky about it, such as the Discworldseries by Terry Pratchett, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, and the Murderbot series by Martha Wells.
DOZERDRAWS: My all time influence for comic making are Gabriel Bá‘s Umbrella Academy comics. I just love this man’s style and with the funky fantasy setting I found a lot of inspiration in his work.
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to be sure and include?
WALLS: I hope folks love this comic as much as I do! It was a blast to write this story, and I got a chance to work with such an incredible team, it really was a dream project come to life.
DOZERDRAWS: I’m just really excited for people to get their hands on this comic. I want everyone to meet these amazing characters and find parts of themselves in them (like I did while working on the series).
Thanks so much for this interview!
The Last Session #1 will arrive at your local comic shop on December 1st, 2021, but you can pre-order today, from the Mad Cave website or through your LCS using Diamond code OCT211571.