Category Archives: History

About the past.

Friendship is Dragons Is Ending, Here’s Why

I still remember when FireEsper improved my incredibly crappy initial logo. Thanks, FireEsper.

The short version:

  • Friendship is Dragons will be ending sometime mid-2024, or in roughly 6-7 months. That’s a rough estimate since the rest of the comic isn’t written yet at this time, and the ending could arrive sooner or later than that.
  • I know that I could have chosen to continue the story into Epic tier and the source material would have made that more or less feasible, but I’ve chosen not to.
  • Mental health, waning interest in both webcomics and tabletop gaming, and desires to explore new projects are the main reasons why I’ve chosen to plan the ending.
  • When FiD ends, I will probably temporarily suspend the Patreon for a month or two, either restructuring and coming back after or finding a crowdsourcing alternative that suits me better.

The long version:

Friendship is Dragons has been going on for over 12 years now, and it’s been a wonderful experience. I couldn’t ask for a better project to keep my writing instincts sharp and prove to myself that I have a semi-decent work ethic. It’s been balanced right on that perfect edge between simple and challenging, taking a small amount of time three days a week each week while still pushing me to handle some narrative curveballs. It’s been a crutch of stability during some of the worst parts of my life so far, giving me something to do and focus on while other parts of my life collapse around my ears.

If you’ve followed Friendship is Dragons for a very long time – or just me, Newbiespud, in particular – you’ve probably been around for a good chunk of my mental health journey. But just to recap: I’ve got crippling social anxiety and self-care issues stemming from lifelong repressed PTSD, and my current living situation is more keeping me in stasis than actually giving me space and time to heal.

As part of what little I’ve been able to do during my healing process, I’ve tried to commit to the path of a recovering workaholic. And that’s meant cutting down on the overload of projects I’ve subjected myself to – podcasting, streaming, video editing, writing for webcomics, writing for novels, building a social media brand, game design and development, all that jazz. For a huge chunk of my life, work has been a form of martyrdom, sacrificing myself for the sake of trying to build works that will eclipse me and stand worthy on their own, separate from me. Part of my healing process has turned out to be cutting down the amount of work I do and reestablishing boundaries with myself, trying to put the human being here first.

If I WASN’T honest with myself, I could keep the comic going. I could come up with a half-baked idea for an arc to take the characters into Epic tier and arrive at a major climax at Level 30. I had a few such ideas kicking around. This would allow me to keep using Friendship is Dragons as my creative, professional, and financial crutch for many more years.

But if I AM honest with myself, the spark’s not just there anymore. I haven’t played tabletop roleplaying games like D&D since I put Spudventures on hiatus nearly two years ago. I don’t have a lot more to say authentically about TTRPGs, whether as jokes or as dramatic themes. I’m still not in a safe place emotionally where I can responsibly and reliably share the spotlight with my fellow players and DMs, so I haven’t gained any new tabletop experiences lately. And just on a practical level, the thought of spending another 8-10 years clipping screencaps three times a week fills me with the kind of dread that makes you feel like your body is turning into dust.

And thanks to modding projects like Arint’s Last Day and Grift the Spire, I’ve rediscovered my love for other kinds of projects and have learned how to establish the kind of work-life balance that allows larger solo projects to get done. My capabilities have changed, and I want to keep exploring and adapting further. Heck, there’s a self-insert Kingdom Hearts fanfiction series that could use some real love after all this time…

All of that together means that, for me, the time has come. Friendship is Dragons has been a great project, but it’s time to end it on its own terms and reclaim my three days a week.

My current estimates put the ending sometime mid-2024, but the truth is that, as ever, “it’ll be done when it’s done.” The ending will arrive at the pace I write it at, and it’s not written yet, so I can’t know with total confidence. It could arrive sooner… though given the languid pace of the comic so far, it seems far more likely the ending is actually further away than I realize.

When Friendship is Dragons finally does officially end, I’ll also probably be suspending my Patreon for a month or two, since FiD is the main source of content-per-month that really justifies it. I want to give everyone an off-ramp if that’s the main reason they’ve been supporting me. I will be continuing to work on other narrative projects (gaming and storytelling are my lifeblood, y’all), and I’d love it if people still want to support me through those processes, but considering that I tend to keep to myself when I’m working and I find it socially difficult to share things that aren’t finished, I’m not sure what kind of crowdfunding will really work for me going forward.

I know it kind of feels a bit sudden. It was a bit of a sudden realization for me, too, to realize that I’d rather reach an ending than keep going forever. Heck, when it comes to webcomics, you either fizzle out in three months or keep going until the end of time, and very few webcomics seem to reach an ending on their own terms.

Well, I’ve come this far but I don’t want to keep doing it forever, so I guess Actual Ending it is. I feel like I’ve more than completed my bucket-list desire to make a webcomic like my dad did back in the day.

Thank you all for supporting Friendship is Dragons and me, Newbiespud, for so many years, and I hope you’ll continue to stick around for these last few months.

Taking Responsibility for the Fallout is Dragons Breakup

What a crew, huh?

Fallout is Dragons was an actual-play RPG podcast / livestream show I ran from January 2014 to June 2016. It used my friend’s homebrew Pony Tales RPG system and was set in the Fallout: Equestria fanfiction setting. Looking back over my body of RPG work, it’s still probably the best campaign I’ve ever run overall.

Towards the end, though, there was a schism in the group, one person was forced out, and the show continued.

I’m not going to make this about naming names or pointing fingers or creating a thorough account of what happened. I don’t have the Skype chat logs (and have little desire to hunt them down even if they did still exist). I can hardly recall anything that was said; all I can vaguely recall is that some unforgivable things were said as things blew up.

Only now, after my emotional and mental breakdown back in 2019 and months of struggle and therapy, do I begin to have a grasp of my own role in what happened, how I let it happen through neglect. Because I wasn’t even conscious of what I was doing at the time.

Some background, though.

I was emotionally traumatized by my (very stressed-out due to other factors) parents at a young age. I was yelled at a lot as a baby and as a prepubescent child – the worst times being totally at random, going from 0 to 100% in-trouble with no ability to comprehend anything other than that I dun fucked up somehow. I developed hypervigilant personality traits and avoided conflict at all costs, and whenever conflict broke out around me, I always assumed it was my fault somehow, fled to my room to hide, and spent the next few hours blaming myself and trying to figure out what I did wrong.

That probably spells out most of the story right there, but I have a little more to add.

Between 2014 and 2016, I was on my prolonged, steady decline at my dream college. The hypervigilance I’d developed both as a child – and as a teenager having to take care of my newborn baby half-brother – made homework and teamwork impossible for me to complete with any rigor. Furthermore, I was struggling with undiagnosed sleep apnea, stealing away all my deep REM sleep and slowly driving me insane.

And yet, pretty much between the middle of my teenage years and 2019, I was in the mindset of pretending nothing was wrong with me. At all times. Putting everyone else ahead of myself and my needs. Except that my needs and traumas and fears still controlled me, unconsciously. I just pretended that I wasn’t feeling it so that the delusion of success could continue.

Knowing all that now, what happened during the complete breakdown of the Dragon Mawlers’ group cohesion – and specifically, what I did to enable it, let it fester, and let it blow up out of control – becomes so painfully, obviously clear to me. Every time people yelled during a call, I froze up like a deer in the headlights. When the yelling turned into prolonged arguments, I avoided them and stayed out of it as much as I could, maybe throwing in a judgment call or two here and there because I was the leader and I was expected to do something. When it finally blew up, I took the path of least resistance that made the conflict stop so that we could all pretend that things were fine and move on again.

It was neglect born out of fear. Deep, traumatic, unresolved fear. The fear of a 3-year-old, 6-year-old, 11-year-old, 14-year-old, all simultaneously flashing back and wanting nothing else than for Mom and Dad to stop yelling.

It’s not an excuse. A group’s behavior trickles down from the top, and I was the leader, both as the DM and the showrunner. Not only did I neglect and avoid problems, that became hard unspoken policy for everyone else too, until it couldn’t be avoided anymore. And when the worst of it broke out into flames, I basically didn’t support anybody. I hid, I dodged, I muttered indecisively, I attacked whoever seemed to have the weakest position and the most to answer for when easy opportunities arrived. I was the worst kind of boss.

And knowing what I know now… if we turned back the clock, I would not be able to act any differently. Is it theoretically possible that the conflict could have been avoided, that some adult, mature compromise could have been reached if we had tackled the problems sooner? That’s a big maybe, but this isn’t a maybe: I wasn’t capable of doing any of that. I wasn’t able to be a mature adult about anything, because I was a teen in arrested development treading water to pretend otherwise, neglecting everything – including myself – that needed attention.

My players deserved better. Fallout is Dragons deserved better. I was a bad leader and a bad DM in the long run, and its shortcomings rest at my feet.

I’m still paying for that neglect. It all came to a head in the summer of 2019, where I couldn’t deny the pain I was ignoring anymore and everything broke down. I’m now in a purgatory where I can’t even go outside and be around strangers without having a panic attack within an hour, which means I can’t find gainful employment. Patreon and the patient kindness of the handful of friends and family members who believe that what I’m going through is real are the only things that have kept me alive and afloat the last few years. And even then, that arrangement still means I’m stuck with someone who regularly and uncontrollably triggers my post-traumatic stress buttons.

I don’t bring that up – any of this up – to gain pity points in the context of Fallout is Dragons. I’m mainly pointing it out 1) for the possibility of slight schadenfreude for those I’ve wronged with my neglect, and 2) to demonstrate that what I’d done was a pattern of behavior that I later paid (and am still paying) inevitable consequences for.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my counseling and therapy, it’s that we are all, as individuals, the sum of one unbroken and interconnected chain of events. Pretending that parts of that chain didn’t happen or don’t exist is just taking an emotional loan out from the future. Eventually you have to reckon with it somehow or go mad.

Just needed to get all of that off my chest at 3:30 AM, I guess.

10 Years of Friendship is Dragons

July 28, 2011—…

Looking back on the last 10 years has kind of depressed me, to be honest.

I started this silly little screencap webcomic where people play Dungeons & Dragons in the My Little Pony G4 setting in an alternate universe where no one’s heard of this setting when I was almost 19, on summer break between my first and second year of college.

I remember lamenting not being able to play with my D&D group from my hometown, the ones I’d first ever played D&D at all with. I wanted some way of maintaining and capturing that feeling of enjoying the fun of a D&D group while I went to college, because I knew I probably wouldn’t have the time to find a new group to play with there. (I was right.) Of course I am nothing if not a copycat of better ideas, and I had enjoyed both DM of the Rings and Darths and Droids. Plus my dad was working on a webcomic of his own that I found very amusing (because we share a dry, wry sense of humor), so making a webcomic had officially landed on my bucket list. Then, as I was beginning to realize what a surprisingly great show My Little Pony was, I came across a series of blog posts mapping the main ensemble cast each to a class from D&D. All the pieces fell into place.

I have never been much of an artist, but I had been writing fanfiction and editing/ripping video files for pretty much my entire adolescence. With the help of a program specifically designed to make the panel and word-bubble thing as simple as possible, I had just enough skill to make it happen.

Twice a week seemed reasonable at the start. I got a major boost from the fansite Equestria Daily on my second update, and I loved the rush of validation that came from updates and comments, so on the 10th page I made it double-length to celebrate and updated the schedule to thrice weekly.

And then I just kept going.

And going.

And going.

A lot of it, I don’t mind telling you now, has consistently been written, assembled, and uploaded the night before an update. Very rarely would I put in a buffer ahead of time; most of the time I’d procrastinate every page to the last minute. (I’ve gotten a little better now. A little.) But this has always been a relatively safe project to procrastinate on. Making one page can take an hour at most, and most of that comes down to writer’s block or scrolling through episodes looking for the right shot. It’s a very easy product to make, all things considered. At best, I can pat myself on the back for knowing my limits and having a streamlined production pipeline on the word go. At worst, I can’t really take much credit for the work because it’s a miniscule fraction compared to most other webcomic creators.

But hey, it’s been updating for 10 straight years now. I took a few hiatuses here and there, and I invited guests to submit pages to keep the update schedule consistent. Goodness knows I wouldn’t have survived this long without that. Gratitude isn’t really enough, but it’s all I have.

I wouldn’t have survived without the support via Patreon either. And every time generous people answered the call when I’ve had to beg for more help because it wasn’t really a living wage and I only had barebones support elsewhere.

…It’s been a rough 10 years.

I dropped out of college because I was going insane from undiagnosed sleep apnea, which also led to me walking out of my first job in a panic attack. I couldn’t afford rent, so I was eventually evicted and had to move back home with my mother, where I promptly sat in a self-pitying fugue state for about half a decade. Eventually I got another job at a thrift store, went on a grand jury, decided to take online classes to become a paralegal, crashed and burned out again, decided to start going to counseling, realized that I’d been ignoring years of old scars, and slowly processed that until it all came out in August 2019 and I had the biggest emotional breakdown of my life, whereupon I had to stop working entirely. I couldn’t cohabit with my little brother in that state, so we sought help from our extended family, who ultimately didn’t take our problems seriously and brokered secret deals to try and solve our issues ‘their’ way, which inevitably became a clusterfuck but by then we’d already moved so it was too late. Then I moved again, this time in a much quieter place, but there was a ticking clock of misunderstanding about how long I needed to recover. When I was pushed to return to work, even when I knew that I would just break down again, I couldn’t step up, and was promptly evicted. So I had to move back in with my mom again.

Only in the last year have things started looking back up. Counseling has been going really well. I’m on a medication that works well for me. My relationship with my immediate family has significantly improved. I’m working on a game modding project, when game dev is something I had wholly given up on because I dropped out of my dream college. I’m learning to value my work and my skills, little by little.

I still have a long way to go, too. I still have massive social anxiety. (In a darkly hilarious way, the pandemic has been a boon for me, removing the expectation of going outside for a nice long while.) I’m starting to think that a ‘normal’ path through life just isn’t going to happen for me. Whatever my new ‘normal’ is going to be, I’m going to have to stake it out for myself.

And through ALL of that…!

I’ve been updating Friendship is Dragons.

I said in the past that the comic’s been a point of stability for me, but that’s kind of understating it in retrospect. Friendship is Dragons has been the one consistently good thing going… despite it just being an easy screencap webcomic about ponies doing nerdy things. It’s been, at the very least, something to keep the days going by, two by two (three on the weekends).

It’s hard to look back on in the context of a decade. At the start of it, I had all my dreams and aspirations ahead of me. I’ve lost and given up so much along the way. And most of what I’ve gained is a better understanding, through the slow and painful autopsy of my life, of why I was doomed to crash and burn in the first place, and why that has to be okay.

I’m sorry if this is upsetting for a 10-year anniversary celebration post. This webcomic is so heavily entwined into my life that I haven’t really been able to separate it. And when I looked back over those 10 years, I couldn’t pretend I felt a lot of joy in the retrospective. So I decided to be honest instead.

The most positive thing I can say about Friendship is Dragons from my perspective is that it’s been undoubtedly a lifeline. And it’s hard to be ‘proud’ of a lifeline. It’s hard to be proud of the thing keeping you above water. Endlessly grateful, certainly, but proud?

At the very least – for the second most positive thing I can say about Friendship is Dragons – it’s helped me keep my writing skills sharp and in practice on a constant regular basis for 10 years, which is why I can say that writing is one of my best skills today.

So here’s to 10 years of the best project of my life, which both isn’t saying much and is saying a whole lot. I’m just continuously surprised and humbled that anyone is still reading it.