Keychain of Creation

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Keychain of Creation was (see Painting the Fourth Wall, below) a Stick Figure Comic set in Creation, the world of the Exalted roleplaying game. It follows the adventures of a quartet of Exalted as they quest to retrieve five magical keys that hold the evil Primordials sealed away: Misho, a Twilight Caste Solar, who has all of his Exaltation's memories dating back to the First Age, but no memory of his current mortal life, which can't possibly be suspicious; Marena, a Changing Moon Caste Lunar with a fox totem, a flirtatious, fun-loving, confident woman... who's quite possibly the most terrifying of the group; Secret, a renegade Day Caste Abyssal with some major self-esteem problems; and Ten Winds, an elderly Air Aspect Terrestrial, formerly a monk in the Immaculate Order, who left because he grew disillusioned with the Order, and because he enjoyed the pleasures of the world a bit too much.

Genre Savvy and awareness of game mechanics is universal, and a source of much of the humor. The art style and premise were inspired by the The Order of the Stick, but Keychain spends less time lampshading the conventions of the RPGs and fantasy stories and more time on the over-the-top action that made Exalted famous.

Unfortunately, the webcomic is on hiatus as the author is recovering from tendonitis. Even so, he has been devoting the time he would have otherwise spent on the comic to writing homebrew material for the Exalted setting, which is worth a look at. It is currently not known when (or unfortunately "if") it will begin updating again, as tendonitis can take a long time to heal (and also has the possibility of turning chronic, hence the "if").

Has a character sheet.

Tropes used in Keychain of Creation include:

Ten Winds: "Astounding. I can actually feel you swearing."

  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: On the very first page, Secret collapses out of breath in the process of saying her Overly Long Name.
  • Confusion Fu: Nemen Yi is able to judo throw people across time and space. And it is awesome.
  • Cool Sword: The Keys, of course, but also Misho's other sword, the Blade of Vitality. It makes its wielder immortal—immortal even compared to the Exalted.
  • Cure for Cancer: Misho can apparently do this at will ("It's so easy when you know how to do it!") but it kinda breaks their cover.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Marena and Secret, occasionally. Marena because she's a Lunar, and sometimes takes on animal features, especially when she's angry or agitated; and Secret because she's an Abyssal, with the added ability to grow full not-so-cute vampire fangs, because she regains Essence through consuming blood. (Among other things, if the author's staying close to the source.)
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The Fae deliberately attack the party, knowing they'll be defeated, because:

"If we hadn't come to fight you, there'd be no reason to have us in this comic. And then we wouldn't exist."

    • It needs to be noted that this perfectly fits the portrayal of the Fair Folk in Exalted. They live stories, and the more powerful ones are stories.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Secret. She's an Abyssal who's manipulated the system enough to ensure she only has to kill evil people.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Marena, Karen, Four the fire aspect lady.
  • Deal with the Devil: Canonically, most Abyssals get their Start of Darkness this way. Like Secret, for example.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Don't ever tell a god that what is going on isn't their concern. Otherwise, even if it isn't, they'll MAKE IT their concern, just to spite you.
    • Although, considering the relative positions of the Exalted and lesser gods, it's as much C'thulhu flipping YOU off.
  • Disability Superpower: Subverted with Resonance Ben, who is blind and uses inhumanly acute hearing to 'see' because he thinks it's cool, but who constantly has it turned against him in various ways.
    • Ben also has an Exalt-specific Disability Superpower that's the reason for his name (on multiple levels): he intentionally cultivates Resonance, the Abyssal form of Limit that stems from his Eldritch Abomination patrons getting pissy with him, to channel it into devastating necrotic attacks. This is pretty much a complete Game Breaker though—the entire point of Resonance is that you don't want it (you don't want Eldritch Abominations mad at you).
  • Dual-Wielding: Nemen Yi, the Sidereal of Mars. Bonus points for dual wielding BFSes.
  • Dynamic Entry: Done by Ten Winds early on. JUSTICE!
    • Karen later pulls off the same thing, complete with the same cry as an Unsound Effect.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The primordials, as per Exalted canon.

Secret: What are these, Misho?
Misho: Mostly, they're images of the primordials, as they were before the war. The gods felt it important we be reminded who we were fighting...thought we would feel a bit more confidence if we knew the nature of our foes.
Secret: Who's that?
Misho: That would be Adrián, the River of All Torments. The gods weren't...used to humans, at that point.

  • Exact Time to Failure: Subverted. Mew Cai announces that the Soaring Manse will self destruct in 47 seconds, but waits until the evil Abyssals attacking the party have left before she mentions how to stop it.
    • Double Subverted, as something else caused the catastrophic chain reaction that killed her a few minutes later.
  • Exact Words: The Terrestrial bandits have no objection to someone driving on to the bridge. Getting off of it, however...
  • Exposed to the Elements: Marena, here.
  • Eyeless Face: Ghosts have these, along with a black-and-white color palette, to distinguish them from mortals.
  • The Fair Folk: The Fae. While everyone in the comic knows the mechanics on which the universe runs and is Genre Savvy, only the Fae realize they are in a comic strip. This is done in order to portray an alternate worldview that, to everyone else, seems like insanity.
  • Fan Nickname: Notably, Secret's Overly Long Name was initially going to be shortened as 'Sorrowful Herald'. 'Secret' was coined by a fan before a practical-sized name was established, however, and the author liked it, so it was taken up in the comic as well.
  • Fantastic Arousal: Marena has very sensitive ears...
  • Fastball Special: Much to her surprise, Ten Winds throws Secret at the door to break it down when flying out of the manse.
  • Fearless Fool: Fury has Valor 5. It shows.
    • Also here. Compare her reaction with that of the others.
  • Finger-Poke of Doom: Secret vs. pig.
  • Five-Bad Band: Resonance Ben's "band".
  • Five-Man Band: There are 5 major types of Exalted and 5 keys. However, the current group doesn't quite fit:
  • Follow the Leader: Shamelessly admitted on the links page: "Here's the Order of the Stick, the comic that inspired me to write Keychain of Creation. And by 'inspired,' I mean 'the same, but with Exalted.'"
  • For the Lulz: Nova attacks, kidnaps, and harasses members of the party, largely because she's bored.
  • Fourth Wall Mail Slot: As explained by the author, it sorta makes some sense, since the characters who do it know they're in a comic anyway.
  • Freudian Excuse: Marena has a lot of issues regarding her mother. After we find out what Aria's idea of "parenting" seems to be, it's suddenly a lot less surprising.
    • Take a look, and pay close attention to Misho. You can actually watch his faith in the world slowly dying.
  • Funbag Airbag: Take note of the first and last panel.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Mew Cai = Manse of the Ever Watchful Custodian Artificial Intelligence.
  • Gender Bender: Marena's "Twin-Faced Hero" Knack.
  • Genre Savvy: All of them to an extent, but Ten especially. Watch as he shoots down the potential for at least one standard MacGuffin plot.
    • Nova is too. She seems to have read the Evil Overlord's list, despite not actually being an Evil Overlord. When Misho saves her life, she promptly stops fighting him, returns Secret, and states that it's just good sense to not attack someone who has helped you. Very, very smart. And keeps her likable.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Secret and Marena seem like this at times, with Secret being more the Smart Sister and Marena being the Popular Sister.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom
  • Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Misho suggests the Primordial War-era murals in the tunnels had this effect.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Misho uses his glasses for triage purposes, while Nemen Yi has glasses that are some sort of artifact.
  • Gonna Need More Trope:
  • Hero Antagonist: Elegant Nova of Progression. Sure, she's a Mad Scientist, but it's clear from the point where we actually meet her that she's a charitable and kind person who just happens to be really stubborn about test subjects. The fact that she happily surrenders when Misho saves her from being badly injured helps too.
  • Heroic Bastard: Secret. As far as the character archetype goes, she had a pretty sweet deal (she was fortunate enough to have both parents in her life), but given that she lived in the Coral Archipelago...
  • Heroic BSOD: Misho in #220, when faced with giving Ben the key and saving countless innocent lives (while simultaneously dooming all of Creation), or keeping it and effectively condemning them to death at the hands of countless undead troops.
    • This is actually a rule in Exalted—what you see is the Heart of Tears Limit Break, where a Compassionate Solar becomes literally catatonic with indecision and guilt over every decision he's made.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mew Cai
  • Humongous Mecha: Misho's God-Forged Champion of War.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Misho fights with a keyblade. And is in denial about it.
    • First And Forsaken Lion seems to be going the keyblade route as well, as opposed to the soul-sucking BFS he wields in canon.
      • Misho mentioned early on that the First And Forsaken Lion had forged the Key of Soulsteel. And when considering what the Keys are capable of, it's not surprising that he'd trade his old sword in for the Key of Soulsteel.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Misho seems this way. Whether or not his status as a Stern Teacher negates or reinforces this trait is a matter for the reader.
  • Instrument of Murder: Resonance Ben's soulsteel guitar. His Five-Bad Band also has similar instruments, except for Flame who considers the whole thing silly.

Flame: I'm really not affiliated with this...

  • I Take Offense to That Last One: in an early strip, Secret calls Marena a "bossy overweight oversexed shapeshifting cow" and gets pushed down a long fall for it. The title of the comic is "I am not a cow!".
  • Jossed: The author has a neat way about handling this: He insists, constantly, that every single Epileptic Tree is completely true, as sincerely as possible. No matter what context, IM, forum, in actual discussion, he insists they are always correct, so that in the end, everyone, including him, is proven wrong. It's absolutely hilarious.
  • Just As Planned: While every Sidereal, everywhere, can be presumed to be running at least one Plan if not more, Nemen Yi goes out of her way to remind us of the fact.
  • Kawaiiko: Secret is so adorable she inspired Marena to take her along with the party. As a child she was even more adorable, probably because she hadn't yet undergone the horrible experience that would eventually kill her and drive her to become an Abyssal.
  • Kick the Dog: Nemen Yi launches an unprovoked attack on Secret just to get what she wants. Admittedly, she's apparently under a mandate to rescue the Orichalcum Key from Abyssals, but given Secret's history this is a bit of a stretch.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Apparently, everyone but a sorcerer-initiate sees stick figure characters. This "fact" is used to hang a lampshade on the Art Evolution in comic #319.
  • Les Yay: Occurs frequently between Marena and Secret, although it might be more accurate to state that Marena is such a living embodiment of sexy that anybody and everybody is likely to get shipped with her. This was recently heavily hinted to be canon. (See Fantastic Arousal above.)
  • Look Behind You!: Marena distracts a group of guards by shouting that the Kukla - a legendary Earth Dragon larger than a mountain range - is behind them. The ensuing conversation between the guards reveals they've fallen for this one before (you don't want to take chances with the Kukla). Of course, Marena was probably using a Charm on them.
    • One fan comic showed the one time when they finally didn't fall for it. Guess what was sneaking up on them?
  • Lost Technology: Subverted. Most remnants of the First Age are broken or malfunctioning. Anything still working is hard to maintain.
  • Magikarp Power: Implied with Secret. As a Deathknight, her power is potentially equal to Misho's or Karen's, but she has too much of a conscience and too little self-confidence to wield it. It remains to be seen if this changes or if successfully becoming a Solar will unlock her full power.
  • Magitek: The Nova arc features tons of it: Alchemical Exalted, magitek cybernetics, and more.
  • Meaningful Name: Resonance Ben (Resonance being a side effect of an Abyssal not following the path set for them by the Neverborn).
    • Of course, all Exalted get names like that, but only with some of them is it obvious why they're named so.
  • Medium Awareness: The Fae and the Sidereals. Nemen Yi uses this to her advantage in combat: leaping from one panel to another, abusing perspective to hit multiple targets with a single slash, and breaking off one of the comic's gutters and throwing it at Ben. Then reaching across panels to smack the heads of two enemies together, and then throwing one of them across panel lines into another. As you can expect, this is a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • Interestingly enough, Ten Winds has it too - the only "lucky number" here is the comic number. Fertiliser for Epileptic Trees right there...
    • Also note that such Sidereal Shenanigans are not exaggerations. Their martial arts allow, among other things, retconning your position in the battlefield...
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Mew has felt like this, it seems.
  • Munchkin: Encouraged in the Exalted universe and exemplified by several characters.
    • Resonance Ben is a wonderful character with lots of depth and some truly amazing moments. However, anyone who attempts to create a character in a real-life Exalted game who does anything like what Ben does with Resonance should be shot, as the whole point of Resonance is to penalize the Abyssal for defying the rules of their masters.
    • Misho took a lot of flaws to pay for his badass abilities. Atypically, these flaws cause him a great deal of trouble.
    • Secret appears to have optimized herself for Dodge charms. Because they solve everything.
  • Mundane Utility: Misho uses his divine power to create items from nothingness to make... a desk. A Glorious Solar Desk. Later, a hammer.
    • A bit of Memetic Mutation there too. GLORIOUS SOLAR <OBJECT> is fairly common in the rulebooks. For fun, replace <object> with anything. Desk. Chair. Pen. Hammer. Pig. You get the idea.
    • Ten Winds using his anima flux as a cold shower for Marena.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: But of course. The Conductor of the Cacophonic Steel Chorus, Fifth Man Born In Readiness, Elegant Nova of Progression... you get the idea.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Exalted tend to have these sorts of names as a general rule. Specific mentions include the King of Uncloaked Steel, First and Forsaken Lion, Misho Thrice-Radiant. Secret's would be, if she could say it all in one breath.

Misho: "When you find someone's name, it's often a good idea to find out why they were named so."

Nova: You are a worthy adversary, Misho! But even you could not anticipate that I would invert the photon charge of the deflector array... AGAIN.
Nova: Ha! You just don't think the same way I do!

  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Elegant Nova of Progression and her fellow Alchemical Exalted are all examples. To be fair, the Alchemical Exalted have human souls, like their fellow Exalted, and are closer to being cyborgs than true robots due to their artificial flesh. And at higher Essence levels, they're the foundation and central part of entire cities.
    • The Alchemicals here are "houseruled", and seem much more machine-like than normal Alchemical Exalted (being broken to pieces without any lasting harm, for example)... although interestingly, once the second edition Alchemicals book came out, much of those "houseruled" effects became canon—and Nova herself became a canon character, if only through a name drop!
  • Right Behind Me: #357. Unusual in that the person in question is not overheard.
  • RPG Mechanics Verse: With Exalted being the RPG.
  • Rule of Cool: As with Exalted, a lot of things are handwaved with "We're Exalted! We're just that awesome!"

Alchemical: You''re blocking my smell with your own? That doesn't make any sense!
Mareena: I'm Exalted! I just smell that good.

Mysterious cigarette-smoking figure: "Gentlemen."

Mew Cai: Aharr yarr, harr <Seatongue> yarr?
Secret: Avast! Yo ho yaharr harr yarr, matey!
Mew Cai: Aharr yarr yo ho, scurvy dog bilges.
Marena: Are you sure you're sane?

  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The webcomic starts off with one of these, as Misho and Marena try to find two more adventurers to go along with them.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Ben and Flame. Recently upgraded to a full Quirky Miniboss Squad by the addition of several more Exalts.
  • Time Passes Montage: Parodied. What looks like a seasons changing sequence is really just Misho playing around with a weather machine.
  • Training from Hell: Ten Winds and Marena decide to "help" Secret out when they find out how abysmal her Stamina and Manipulation abilities are.

"You can run or we'll go through the bee training again!"

    • Recently, Karen has gotten in on the act. How does she let Secret know what to do?

Karen's grand daiklaive: WH-THUNK!
Secret: EEYAAH!!

Marena: I keep forgetting some people just have green hair.

  1. Mexican mummy/sorcerer wielding soul-encrusted chainsaw katars, A blind Musical Assassin rockstar, A pheromone-emitting hippy android, a cyborg bandito/raptor transformer, a five-armed patchwork giant drummer, a shape-shifting cowboy martial artist...