TNB Night Owl – Xxxenophile the Game

Xxxenophile the CCG, photo by AlienMotives

Once upon a time, in the realm of geekery known as role playing games, there was a magazine. Its name was Dragon, and as one might expect from its name the magazine was primarily devoted to the most influential of all rpgs, Dungeons and Dragons.

In the back pages of the magazine, monthly comic strips were run. Some of them were single-page items, some took up two or more. All focused on some aspect of gaming, and were produced by experienced cartoonists. Among the most popular was a strip called What’s New?, and it was produced by Phil Foglio. Foglio had an advantage over the other Dragon cartoonists because of his extensive knowledge of science fiction and fantasy stories. He had a disadvantage, too: he wasn’t a gamer. Not only didn’t he play Dungeons and Dragons, but he didn’t play any roleplaying games at all. He rarely even played board games.

He focused on the humor he found while reading through rule books and mixed it with jabs at familiar fantasy tropes. He also included a running joke through the entire series, of a “sex and D&D” strip which was always going to be run in upcoming months or would begin only to be stopped by a power outage, an emergency rewrite because of a new game release or something else.

After the strip finally ended, he’d become popular enough to launch his own small comic company. After a few science fiction comics, fans began to pester him about producing a comic for Sex and D&D. He took them up on the offer, in a way; he produced an “adult” (read: sexual) comic called Xxxenophile that featured small stories with bizarre science fiction and fantasy themes. Time travel, love potions, cloning… anything and everything was fair game, with the only rule being that there would be no hate, no violence, no cruelty. If he was going to produce a sex comic, it would at least be upbeat and positive.

Then, Magic: The Gathering happened. It was a collectible card game; players started with a deck apiece, and they could buy booster packs which would allow them to customize those decks and increase their chances of winning the game. Magic was a massive success, using professional fantasy artists to produce original art for each card. One of the artists was a woman named Kaja Foglio… Phil’s wife.

So, Magic was effectively printing money. Kaja knew how the industry worked and had connections with other card game artists. Phil had many connections in science fiction and fantasy illustration and in cartooning. And they had a friend by the name of James Ernst, who had created a company called Cheapass Games and needed some capital.

Enter what may be the strangest CCG ever produced: Xxxenophile, the card game. Based on the comic to which Phil had full rights, the three of them convinced many professionals to produce card art – PG to soft R rated only – for the game, which came in fairly nondescript deck boxes and booster packs designed to look like red velvet.

The contributing artists read like a who’s who of the 1990s: Bob Eggleton, Frank Kelly Freas, Vincent DiFate, Colleen Doran, Mark E. Rogers, Susan Van Camp, Brom, Alicia Austin, Fastner & Larson, Lubov, Todd Lockwood, Brian Snoddy, Robert DeJesus… cartoonists and painters, manga artists and photorealists, they were all represented. And, of course, plenty of pieces from Phil and Kaja Foglio.

The game never really caught on, in part because the subject matter was highly questionable and in part because the game mechanic was not enhanced by customizable play. Due to the artists and the oddity, though, the 1996 release is still highly sought and commands high prices on the secondary market; it’s a great example of something becoming a success despite itself.

As to what they’re doing now? Phil and Kaja produce the multiple award-winning (and very much G to PG rated) Girl Genius webcomic which has now had two distinct releases of card games based on it, games designed by James Ernst and using the same play mechanics as Xxxenophile… but this time with absolutely no nudity.

Question of the night: What’s a comic strip you enjoy?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.