Guilded Age is a Heroic Fantasy webcomic, in which six fairly competent adventurers conveniently meet and form a group to make a living of... well... adventuring. It's written by Phil Kahn and T Campbell, with art by Erica Henderson (Chapters 1 through 7) and John Waltrip (Chapter 8 onward).
The meat of the story deals with our heroes getting hired to do various jobs for the growing human nation of Gastonia. Gastonia is in the middle of a technological revolution, and its rapid border expansion has earned it much ire from the "savage races," as well as older magical societies, like those of the elves. On top of that, each of the six characters has their own issues to deal with, and as a group the multicultural, multiracial band tends to face as much personal conflict as they do political conflict. At least, that's how it starts...
Each chapter begins with a mini adventure taking place sometime after the main story arc. Word of God says that it was to give the beloved audience the guarantee of a future full of gang-asskicking. The main story arc begins by relating how each of the protagonists met to finally form a party and deliver said asskicking.
- Action Girl: Frigg. Syr'Nj, too, although she's not as obviously female.
- Affably Evil: Iver, Savasi Warlord.
- Anachronic Order: Each chapter is divided in two parts: The first one follows the party in one of their many adventures, the other one forms a regular story arc showing the party's first meeting.
- Anachronism Stew: Somehow Syr'Nj invented dynamite.
- Art Evolution: When the comic's artist changed from Erica Henderson to John Waltrip.
- Awesome McCoolname: Gravedust Deserthammer is probably the guiltiest of this, with Frigg even asking him if she can have his name after he dies.
- Big No: Parodied when Payet mourns the loss of his faithful
Payet: "Keirnas! NOOOOOOOOOO-*gasp*-OOOOOOOOO!!!"
- Bandage Babe: Frigg, when held prisoner. It seems to be her underwear though, making it more of a western Sarashi.
- Bag of Holding: Syr'Nj. How she got it is apparently a Noodle Incident for now.
- Barbarian Hero: Frigg. Less in terms of the culture that raised her than her crass & violent attitude.
- The Berserker: Byron, though it takes a lot to push his Berserk Button, and pushing it has consequences. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Frigg.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: End of Chapter 8. Which was also the end of act one.
- Boomerang Bigot: This Wood Elf comedian's act is used to cast light on Gastonia's racism.
- Break the Haughty: Payet. He was shocked (but not hammed) and dismayed that the core group was shocked that he saved Byron and after a small confession, he decided to be a better ally and since he is suppossed to found a basin that would tell him his destiny, this seems to be the flavor of the new chapter.
- And then there was a much more significant breakdown after finding the basin and seeing his death.
- Buffy-Speak: Frigg in general. Highlighted in her daydream during her attempts at diplomacy (without violence) with the gnomes.
Frigg: Sorry Ardaic! I tried my best, but someone accidentally killed them to death.
Ardaic: You're fired. Without you to protect them, your friends with totally die and stuff. And deep down you will know it was your fault, because you suck at life.
Frigg: Well shit.
- Byronic Hero: Byron, of course.
- Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: Syr'Nj has plant-based names for body parts. Toes = Taproots, Hair = Foliage, etc.
- This is not entirely just a question of nomenclature: she can, for instance, absorb water through her taproots, and is surprised to learn that her human friends cannot.
- Catch Phrase: Frigg frequently uses the word "dope" in many ways.
Frigg, proving her valor: "It’s because I’m the dopest."
- Church Militant: Our Lady of the Perpetual Bloodshot Eyeball. May also count as Religion of Evil.
- Code Word Coitus: Payet somehow knows how to do this. It might be because everyone believes he's an Epic Hero.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: To be fair, both Payet and Frigg should know better than to do it in the middle of a rescue mission, as pointed down by Byron.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the tanks seem to be a different colour which is associated with one of the main characters.
- Also during the interviews, several accessories on their person are highlighted to give us an idea of their personalities/hobbies as well as who they are in the game.
- The there's the enigma of why Mr. Daedalus' tie is in Bandit's colors.
- The Comically Serious: GRAVEDUST . Seriously. Keynes herself states that she finds his serious facial expressions hilarious. Case in point: The People's Eyebrow
- Cutting the Knot: Frigg rescues kidnapped children. With her mace.
- Frigg tops herself there when she applies this trope to chess.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Payet. He can't quite understand Sky Elves wisdom but sure knows how to kick pirate ass.
- Dance Battler: Payet and Frigg, in the pirate cave.
- Death Trap: Some sort of Drowning Pit.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: Taken to its logical conclusion.
- Deconstructor Fleet: A level-headed berserker, a thuggish "crusader," an elven scientist, a dwarven shaman/archer, and an elf mistaken for the chosen one go on adventurers in a setting that paints a harsh and almost historical light on Fantastic Racism.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Scenes set outside the game are sepia toned, with a few splashes of color. Such as the People Jars and Mr. Daedalus' tie.
- Dodge the Bullet: Payet's guitar: kills bad guys and deflects bullets.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Inverted. Gravedust, easily the member of the cast most lacking in comedic ability, ends up having to pretend to be a comedian on a stage. He tells a mediocre joke about misfortune which the audience finds increasingly hilarious as he begins to explain how the joke actually depicts a very tragic situation and questions the audience's mirth.
- Douchebag: Payet Best. He even unlocks an achievement for it.
- Enfant Terrible: Taro Iwataki.
- Everything's Even Worse With Land Sharks
- Eye Scream: Von Carnaj is killed this way by Gravedust.
- Facing The Arrows One Liner: End of Chapter 8:
Syr'nj: You all have a choice. Remember that.
- Fantastic Racism: Gastonia starts their kids on it early.
- A Father to His Men: Byron. Though he has not yet been officially acknowledged as The Leader, he's usually the team's tactical planner, and he's the one who is most prone to showing concern for the fate of his fellow adventurers. May also qualify as the Team Dad.
- Five-Man Band:
- Floating Continent: The city of Asallah En-Qu'Lara.
- Freudian Excuse: Every member of the team and some of the villains seems to have one.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Syr'Nj can do science to anybody, in the most dire situations.
- Genius Bruiser: Byron.
- Give Me Back My Wallet: Syr'Nj and Bandit.
- Heroic BSOD: Byron gets into a bit of a funk after he berserks and kills or incapacitates his entire team.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Averted. Nobody on the team uses Swords. The closest is Bandit with her daggers. The Hero, Byron, uses two hand-axes.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Induced by Missed the Call.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Gastonia is pretty much a hive of racists out to conquer and plunder the planet in much the same vein as 17th-19th century colonialists.
- Sort of Subverted later. It has shown that no one, not a single race could be considered good or all that nice. Either they are: xenophobic, condescendent, tyrannical, downright genocidial or all of the above. Really, the only reason why Humans are labeled like this (at first), was because they where the only ones shown.
- Hurricane of Puns: Not so much in the comic itself, but the reader comments thereof will pick a pertinent topic in a given comic and string out every pun possible from it.
- I Call It Vera: Bayen and Brayen, Byron's hatchets.
- I See Dead People: Gravedust does.
- I Thought Everyone Could Do That: Syr'Nj does not see the point in one having toes if one can't pump water with them.
- If It Swims, It Flies: The pirate ship. Designed by a kid nonetheless.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: For Frigg this scene is bizarrely a Pet the Dog moment where we learn she really does care about her companions and isn't as satisfied with being a thug as she acts.
- Inner Monologue: Byron does this whenever he is alone. Usually it's tactical planning and combat advice, to the point that the Alt Text has called him "the Michael Weston of Arkerra]]."
- Intercontinuity Crossover: The likenesses of the characters from Hijinks Ensue show up in chapter 9.
- It's All About Me: Payet really, truly believes himself the only one that matters in the group. So when his destiny is revealed to him...
- Jive Turkey: Frigg is basically a /b/tard playing a Paladin with no magic. Well, no magic she can control...
- Last of His Kind: Gravedust finds out he is the last remaining Mystic of his people. Their leader killed the rest.
- Les Yay: According to the commenters, it's fuckin' palpable. Look at them. They're palping.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Payet, when fighting the huge pirate.
- Life Energy: Gravedust can count enemies through walls by sensing it.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: A single epic spell effectively managed to kill mountains of kobolds as well as unbalance the supply and demand of kobold hides.
Sundar: "Just because they got unbelievable mental self-discipline and control powers that would drive an ordinary person insane, they think they’re better than us."
- Made of Iron: Frigg, all the way. Not only is she the party's designated "meatshield", but after being captured by the Sisters of the Bloodshot Eye and beaten and tortured so badly her face looks like bloody hamburger, she's still talking trash and making jokes.
- Martial Pacifist: Syr'Nj left her nature-loving, isolationist home to join the military of expansionist Gastonia in hopes of finding a way for Wood Elves and Humans to live in harmony.
- Meaningful Name: All of the party. Seriously, how are you supposed not to become a criminal when you're called Bandit Keynes?
- Word of God says that Bandit is her job title in the recent Q&A
- The Medic: Syr'Nj.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Played with.
Sundar, getting a shot of truth serum: "SHE'S TORTURING MEEEEEE!"
After the shot took effect: "ACTUALLY, IT WAS ONLY A MINOR PINCHING SENSAAAAATION!"
- Missed the Call: Payet fulfills almost all the requirements of a prophecy made by a mad woman in the town and is declared the "Epic Hero". The real Epic Hero (who fulfils the one requirement Payet missed) shows up after a few days, but the mad woman has a heart attack right after, due to the strain of shouting "THE PROPHECY!" over and over.
- Musical Assassin: Payet, if you can call fighting with a half-instrument half-axe killing with music.
- Noodle Incident: The events leading up to the Flooding Prison Incident seem to have turned into this.
- Nuns Are Spooky: The Sisters of the Bloodshot Eye are Lawful Evil nuns that wield rulers with razors on them.
- Obvious Pregnancy: Payet leaves behind many women in this condition. Jerkass.
- One-Hit Polykill: One arrow, two cultists.
- One-Man Army: While a complete douchebag and all around Jerkass, Payet had taken on literally hordes of enemies single-handedly without so much as a split end.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: At first, seemingly played straight by Gravedust. Something-hammer last name? Check. Big beard? Check. The Comically Serious? Check. Standard dwarf.
- However, later we learn that dwarves are desert nomads who have been driven from their mountains. Furthermore, their women are lustful, their children don't respect authority, and, most atypical of all, some of them DON'T HAVE BEARDS!
- Gravedust isn't your typical armored hammer/axe warrior either. He's some kind of shaman/archer who can speak with the dead and ask them to lend their strength to his arrows. However, the impression he gives of much the rest of his race is that of more traditional dwarf warriors.
- Our Elves Are Better: Sky elves, Winter elves, Shit elves (although that's just the colloquial name) and Wood Elves
- Also, Wood Elves supposedly have root-like feet viewed as awkward by other races (if they know it exists at all).
- People Jars
- Plant Person: Syr'Nj and other Wood Elves.
- Punctuation Shaker: Wood Elves fall under the "apostrophe as a universal stand-in for vowels" version.
- Product Displacement:
- Religion of Evil: They are kind of lousy and some were forced by their parents to become cultists.
- Our Lady of the Perpetual Bloodshot Eyeball may also count.
- The Reveal: Following the Bolivian Army Cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 8, Chapter 9 begins with a shift of focus to Payet, summoned to a new quest. Then the perspective zooms out to reveal a man watching him on a computer monitor. The watcher turns out to be the CEO of a MMORPG company.
- Science Hero: Syr'Nj is the party's Combat Medic—not through traditional holy/nature powers, but through an array of drug-filled needles and good old-fashioned paramedic training. Her goal is to show humans (and her father) that science and nature can work in harmony.
- The Scream: Syr'Nj pulls this twice, once at the end of the side adventure in the first chapter and again in the guest comic linked as Ship Tease on the YMMV page.
- Screw You, Elves: While supposed an ancient, powerful and all advanced civilization, the Sky Elves where easily cowed by Frigg after she had enough of their pretentiousness. Even Syr'Nj told them that it would be better to get in a good relationship with Gastonia before... they get diplomatic.
- Shout-Out: Frigg is an expert at spouting them.
Frigg, smashing a door: "OH, YEAHHH!"
Frigg, blocking a mace hit:"FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU--"
Frigg: "This is a fight. Hits or GTFO."
Payet, Singing: "Share the bird song with you friends then! Please-retweet."
Byron: "Our motto is, Can we break it? Yes, we can!"
- The title of the comic itself is a reference to the Gilded Age of American history.
- Sir Swearsalot: Frigg.
- Sky Pirate: Aerial Piracy. Couldn't be more proud.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence The world of "Kingdoms of Arkerra" seems to be between Level II (Background NPC) and Level III (for the foreground NPC)... unless its a typical mmorpg which would make them Level I that look like level III.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Big time, when Payet Best is hailed as a hero in a small town in which he tried to get work. Given the sheer randomness of his origin, he's a surprisingly competent adventurer, not that this makes him any humbler.
- So Long, Suckers!:
- Talking Weapon: "I swear, not even my own sword appreciates me."
- Title Drop: In the Alt Text of this strip.
- Tomato Surprise: The beginning of chapter 9 let us know that none of the adventures are "real" but its an extremely advanced experiment in virtual simulation for the online Game "Kingdoms of Arkerra" and the adventure group to be volunteers that are incapable of turning it off.
- Tomato in the Mirror Bandit, Gastonia... pretty much everybody except the core group.
- Troubled Backstory Flashback: Byron, upon seeing the ruins of Leafport.
- Troubled Fetal Position: Byron, in the aftermath of ch. 8. Complete with bird pecking his head.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: You're my bitches, bitches!
- Unsound Effect: After Best's fight with Byron, the "sound effect" for Frigg's shrug was "INDIFFERENCE".
- Earlier, after Bandit proves Byron right: "SMUG"
- Syr'Nj's smile, after she and her cohorts receive a diplomatic appointment, has the "sound effect" of "KA-PEACE!"
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Payet seemed like a pretty nice kid before a whole town convinced him he was the The Chosen One and showered him with gifts and easy women.
- We Need a Distraction: Turns out killing the entire crew is an efficient distraction.
- Wham! Episode: Chapter 8. Looks like a Total Party Kill.
- And just four pages into Chapter 9, we learn it's all a MMORPG...Or is it?
- What the Hell, Hero?: Byron to Payet.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: "Adventurers?! That's why we can't have evil things!"
- The Worf Effect: Byron.