The Order of the Stick/Tropes G-O

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Tropes used in The Order of the Stick include:

Hobgoblin wizard: Oh, right. Forgot to mention. Whenever you start to whip an elderly slave, there's about a 60% chance that some sort of hero will show up to stop you.

Horace: ROY! Heads up!

  • Gladiator Games: A main source of entertainment in the Empire of Blood, and part of the judicial system.
  • "Glad to Be Alive" Sex: Roy and Celia, though it is more Glad to Be Alive Again Sex.
  • The Gloves Come Off
    • Notably done by Vaarsuvius, who reaches this point when unleashing a Super-Powered Evil Side by making a literal Deal with the Devil. As expected for this trope, the results are not exactly what anyone hoped for, and leads to some solid Character Development for all involved parties.
    • Also shortly after played straight by Xykon when Vaarsuvius arrives in the middle of his Evil Tower of Ominousness. As "a challenge to his rep", Xykon meets him/her with everything he has, including taking advice from his minions.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Sufficient belief can elevate anything to godhood, as first seen here, but -- as far as we know -- the world was created by gods who existed before mankind, and thus seem to be exempt from that rule.
  • Godwin's Law: Evil is measured in kilonazis.
  • Going to Give It More Energy: The party comes across a hydra on the way to the oracle. Belkar starts happily chopping heads off left and right. Vaarsuvius wants to just blast it with magic, but Roy says to wait, without explaining why. Just as V is about to let loose anyway, the hydra collapses due to its heart no longer being able to pump enough blood to all of its heads.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Discussed in "Welcome to the Arena".

Elan: I know that sometimes the hero has to play baccarat with the enemy, even though logically it would make more sense for them to just be trying to kill each other. What I don't know is how to play baccarat.

Lien: Seriously, how many times do I need to go over the, "Good, not dumb," thing?

  • Good Is Not Nice
    • Roy, while Lawful Good, enjoys verbally lambasting both his friends and enemies a bit too much. He's prone to some moments of cruelty, for example, after bandits kidnap Elan during their quest for the Starmetal, he wants to leave him with them and continue on. Naturally, the rest of the Order (even the Chaotic Evil Belkar) disagrees. Although he changes his mind later and is shown to regret having done it.
    • For a guy who's waiting for a place in the Lawful Good heaven, Roy's dad Eugene is a pretty sarcastic, selfish Jerkass. It's widely speculated among fans that Eugene has been shifting more and more toward Neutral over the years he's been stuck in the waiting area. But since he's been told by one of the Devas (who are, for the record, incabable of lying) that the only thing keeping him out of the Lawful Good heaven is his unfulfilled blood oath, it seems that actions taken after you die can't alter your afterlife destination.
    • Miko Miyazaki is made of this trope.
    • Most of the Sapphire Guard practically embody this trope, at least in Start of Darkness.
    • The elven commander also says this about him(her?)self
  • Good News, Bad News
  • Good Powers, Bad People
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Celia, Sabine, and the Celestials and Devils seen from time to time.
  • Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Elan's Rousing Speech prior to the Battle of Azure City.
  • Grapes of Luxury: While "Checking In", Miko sarcastically suggests that the gang take in the luxury of being fanned and fed grapes. Haley tries to get that arranged, and is a bit annoyed to find that Roy gets the treatment later.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress
    • In "Block and Tackle", Tarquin and Vaarsuvius can exchange a few words before V decides to use Feather Fall on Haley, and she has yet to hit the ground.
    • In "Holy Enunciation", Elan has the time to rejoice having found Durkon, and then notice Sabine isn't holding him anymore ("Uh oh"), before falling.
  • Green Around the Gills
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Roy breaks a potion vial in Thog's face during the gladiator match.
  • Groin Attack
    • Most noticeably in the "pin Roy's corpse" comic.
    • Lampshaded, naturally:

Belkar: How about nut shots? Crowds love nut shots. Saget was on the air for like 8 years.

Elan: Uh, Dad? Haley and I need to go... uh... have sex.
Tarquin: Well, you'll miss the big fight, but you do what you need to do.
Haley: Come on, V. And bring the cat, just in case.
Tarquin: ... Huh.

Tsukiko: "Gate"? What gate?
MitD: Hey, that's my line!

Roy: Excuse me. I just wanted to let you you know that this in no way reflects my views on the differently-abled.

  • High Altitude Interrogation: Roy and Durkon dangling the kobold oracle upside-down by a window to get a third prediction, the first two being less than helpful.
  • High-Class Glass: Ambassador Gourntonk is a lizardfolk with a monocle.
  • Highly Visible Ninjas: The Goblin Ninjas are wearing black against a white background, but the atrocious spot and listen checks of the main characters cause them not to notice them. Even when the ninjas say things like "We're standing right here."
  • Hilarity Ensues: Played straight most of the time, but also subverted. When Xykon describes how he got his crown, he says "I stole it from a librarian in Cliffport who -- oops! -- also turned out to be an archmage. Needless to say, hilarity ensued."
  • Sued for Superheroics
    • Used when lawyers abduct a squid-thingy for breaching copyright.
    • Later invoked by V to deal with a troublesome opponent who was also a ripoff of Drizzt.
    • Afterward, Belkar sues Miko to prevent her from trying to Detect Evil on him. Since she's Lawful Stupid, she cannot help but comply to the restraining order.
    • Rodriguez then tries to serve another restraining order... on Belkar. It goes about as well as you could expect.
  • Hit and Run Tactics
    • A half-ogre with a flail tries this against high-level fighter Roy. Unfortunately for the half-ogre, Roy manages to take advantage of his predictability.
    • Belkar wisely takes this approach to fighting Miko after breaking out of jail. Bear in mind that Miko had successfully taken the entire party alive when they attacked her head-on.
  • Hitman with a Heart: As seen here, Female!Roy calls out the dwarven hitman on his threat to blow up the inn, noting that all of his behavior so far indicates a Never Hurt an Innocent mindset. He backs down and admit he would never cause the death of innocents. Unfortunately, the inn gets blown up anyway after Belkar, intent on some mindless slaughter, bumps into the hitman.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Used every now and then.

Tarquin: There's no need to run around like a cockatrice with its head cut off.

Ninja: HEY! You got your hatred of all that's good and pure in my contract killing!
Huecuva: Well, you got your contract killing in my hatred of all that's good and pure!

  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Well, a post-death version, anyway, in Start of Darkness. The previous bearer of the Crimson Mantle manifests in spirit form to his newly-minted acolyte, asking him to wear it and learn from it. The acolyte is reluctant to do so at first, because he's not qualified, but his master says (amid the carnage of scores of goblins being wiped out by the Sapphire Guard) that the acolyte is rapidly moving up in the church's hierarchy. The acolyte takes it, and gains powerful knowledge from it. He later adopts the nickname, Redcloak.
  • Improvised Weapon
    • Xykon kills the wizard Fyron Pucebuckle by beating the man to death with his own Wizzie Award.
    • "thog improvise!"
    • O-Chul takes out a Demon-Roach, Jirix, and Redcloak's right eye with a bar of his cage.
    • Belkar makes an angry mob back away from him... while armed with a pebble.
    • Potions aren't just for drinking.
  • I'm Thinking It Over: In the second strip, the party is split into two teams, by the traditional method of Roy and Haley taking turns choosing someone. Eventually, Elan is the only one left, and it's Roy's turn to choose.

Elan: Ooh! C'mon! Pick me!
Durkon: Are ye gonna...
Roy: I'm thinking.

Crystal: You little twit, I'm gonna kill you!
Belkar: Yeah, and I'm gonna drop a house on you and sing about how I represent the Lollipop Guild. C'mon, let's keep our threats realistic, shall we?
I mean, if you said, "You little twit, I'm going to temporarily inconvenience you!" I'd think, hey, she might really mean it!

  • Inferred Holocaust: Invoked. Vaarsuvius uses "Familicide" on an Obviously Evil Black Dragon. This spell kills everyone who shares the blood of the subject, regardless of their distance from the subject, along with all who share their blood. Dragons are Color Coded for Your Convenience, so nobody really cares about the death of about 1/4th of the planet's black dragon population. The problem is, "the propensity for both dragons and humans to breed outside their species is well-documented." Order Of The Scribble illusionist Girard's surname is Draketooth for a reason. V's Familicide spell killed every one of the Draketooth family. And as the Draketooths propagated by seducing random bystanders and absconding with the resulting children, all those bystanders, along with their families, are dead as well. And there's no reason to believe Draketooth was an isolated case...
  • Infinite Canvas: Occasionally.
  • Informed Attribute: A few, due to the art style.
    • For example, Samantha or Haley are supposed to be very beautiful, despite having the same basic design as every other human character.
    • Similarly, Elan has an 18 charisma in a system where an 18 represents the peak of human perfection. He is incredibly attractive. Not that we can tell.
    • Also, nobody is aware that Haley is wearing long pants until she points it out.
  • In Its Hour of Need
  • Innocent Innuendo:

MitD: Your screws have thumbs on them? Neat! I wonder if they can screw themselves...

  • Insane Troll Logic
    • Tsukiko.
    • The Empress of Blood also gives a good example of Cum hoc fallacy.
    • And of the Artistic License Economics variety: The couple that owns the potions store where V goes to buy once doesn't understand how economy works... they always charge less for one potion than what it costs. They believe that, by selling in volume, they compensate, but since the only thing they sell is potions, all of them at a loss, they do nothing but lose money. And when V points this out... they start a sale.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: When the gods were rebuilding the world, guess what the Monkey god wanted in.
  • Instant Ice, Just Add Cold
  • Instant Runes: "I See a Red Robe and I Want to Paint it Black". (Über spoilers!)
  • Internal Retcon: Forms the conclusion to the Greysky City arc, though how long it will last is unknown.
  • Interrogated for Nothing: Redcloak tortures O-Chul for weeks after the capture of Azure City to get him to reveal details of the guardianship of the remaining Gates, details that O-Chul doesn't have because his order put Honor Before Reason and never violated their oaths to find out. Later, it is revealed that Redcloak has known for a long time that O-Chul really didn't know anything, but has been continuing the torture anyway as a ruse to keep Xykon in Azure City long enough to solidify the hobgoblin regime.
  • Interrogating the Dead
    • Played for laughs; Xykon needs Redcloak to cast Speak with Dead so he can ask a dead goblin where his keys are.
    • Later, the Order of the Stick tries the same spell on a deceased Draketooth clan member. Just as Durkon warned, though, corpses are rather poor informants.
  • I Resemble That Remark: In the prequel On the Origin of PCs, after Roy claims that wizards put too much faith in magic, his father Eugene immediately proves his point by asserting loudly that magic is perfect and all-powerful.
  • Ironic Echo

Xykon: Meh. As last words go, I've heard better.
[...]
Miko: Meh. As indignant speeches go, I've heard better.

Roy: Well I hate to break it to you dad, but this isn't the end of the line. More like half-time.
Eugene: What? How can you halve time itself?
Roy: *Sigh* I should have known a sports metaphor would be wasted on you.

Hobgoblin: (kills the guard Nale just disarmed) Hey thanks! I guess I'm lucky you really needed a katana!
Nale: I prefer longswords, actually. (kills the hobgoblin and takes his sword)

  • Kick the Dog
    • Invoked posthumously in regard to Crystal. Elan says he's not mad at Haley for it, as long as she's sure Crystal was "really, REALLY bad." Haley responds that she once saw Crystal headbutt an elderly gnome woman into a coma, which makes Elan feel better about it.
    • Elves are mean.
    • Yukyuk in "Animal Instincts".
    • "A Touch of Death" Wow. Really, Nale?
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch
    • V's murder of Kubota certainly showed just how much more of an Anti-Hero V had become, but if there was any antagonist that deserved to be unceremoniously disintegrated and scattered to the winds, it was him.
    • Similarly, Haley's murder of Crystal is commonly seen as this, though a few still found it a bit unsettling. At least until you buy the fourth book, then read the scenes where Crystal tries to kill Haley several times while they're retrieving Roy's body.
    • Also Miko pursuing Belkar, especially if you consider what Belkar's conduct looks like from inside the comic's world.
    • Redcloak killing Tsukiko is thoroughly cold, callous and brutal and serves as a defining character moment for the former as a villain... and yet, given the latter is a villain with a skewed perception of morality, and an idiot for threatening to ruin Redcloak's plans, she really had it coming.
  • Kid with the Leash: Roy and Belkar, especially when Roy has the command word for Belkar's mark of justice. After Roy dies, the leash passes to Haley. She isn't as good at keeping him under control.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence
    • When Belkar kills the Chimera at the very beginning.

Trigak: You may have won this round, Order of the Stick, but we swear our revenge on you! When you least expect--! GAK! GAK! GAK!

    • Xykon does this to a group of mercenary ogres who are complaining about not being paid very early in the comic's run, (and then he zombifies their corpses so he can still get some use out of them), perhaps giving the first hint that he's not a harmless cliché storm of a villain, despite appearances.
    • This is also how Roy Greenhilt dies, mid-pondering in freefall.
    • And in Cliffport, "I'm getting too old for--"
    • Haley gets petrified mid-sentence by Zz'dtri.
  • Killed Off for Real
    • Lord Shojo, Therkla and Miko. The first two have reasons to deny resurrection, and as for the third, she was given a very final-looking death scene, and the only person who seemed interested in her corpse (to make an intelligent undead, not resurrect her) passed up on the chance because it was an incomplete body. (Also, Word of the Giant.)
    • It appears we can now add Thanh and Tsukiko to this list as well.
    • He's not actually dead yet, but according to the Oracle, Belkar has a place on this list.
  • Kill It with Fire
    • Belkar's mantra.
    • Vaarsuvius is fond of it too through is spells.

Durkon: (gagged) Mmph mrph mmmph mmf mrf mrrrph mrph!
Roy: I'm going to choose to attribute that comment to stress and not hold it against you in the future.

  • Kissing Under the Influence: Belkar to V. Not that s/he's about to say anything to him.
  • Kiss of Death: Succubi (such as Sabine) can energy-drain someone by kissing them. Sabine does that to Elan in "Critical Thinking".
  • Klingon Promotion
    • Parodied: Therkla gets to be the valedictorian of her ninja class by killing the original.
    • Also how Redcloak became supreme leader of the hobgoblins, by killing the one he assumes is their leader. The real leader wisely keeps his mouth shut and lets Red take over.
  • Knights and Knaves: The Test of the Mind in the Sunken Valley. Solved in a non-traditional manner.
  • La Résistance: No longer exists, thanks to Redcloak and a bunch of his summoned minions.
  • Lamarck Was Right

Vaarsuvius: Heredity is a cruel mistress.

    • Also, Nale got the convoluted planning ideas and general "smarts" from their mother.
    • Ian seems to believe family members have everything in common, and refuses to admit that the son of Tarquin could be not as evil as his father.
  • Lampshaded the Obscure Reference
    • A comic ends with gladiators being torn apart by a giant Ollie of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame. The comic's title is "Ask Your Grandparents".
    • Not as old nor as obscure, but the Sudden Videogame Moment featuring Video Game/Centipede is lampshaded too.

Chief: Man, that brought back memories.
Rookie: I don't get it.
Chief: Before your time, kid. Before your time.

  • Lampshade Hanging: The comic practically runs on this trope. (At one point we even see an actual lampshade during a lampshade hanging).
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia
    • The memory charm around the Oracle that makes you forget everything about your visit except your questions and their answers as soon as you leave.
    • The same thing is going for the afterlife. Roy can remember the time spent on the clouds with his father and the scrying they've done, but past the big gate his memories are fuzzy, though he remembers some bits.
  • Laser-Guided Karma
    • Redcloak's right eye. You can tell that he's actually screaming at the irony, as opposed to the pain from the stabbing of his eye.
    • Also, Elan and Nale's first fight.

Elan: Nale! There's nowhere to go. Surrender!
Nale: Surrender? Never, you moronic little twit. I'd rather die than--
(bridge crumbles underneath his feet, leaving him dangling by one hand)
Nale: Help me, brother!
Elan: Karma-riffic!

Haley: Elan... I think I'm in love with y--
Durkon: Cure Critical Wounds!
Haley: --ukuleles.

Tarquin: ... she had the most magnificent set of perky round--
Haley: Eyes. Let's both pretend you were about to say, "eyes".

  • Laughably Evil: Many villains (and one protagonist): Burlew is very good at writing characters who are both likeable (funny, awesome, etc.) and yet definitely villainous and unsympathetic. Examples include:
    • Xykon. All over the place.
    • Belkar. And he knows it.

Belkar: I'm comedy gold! I'm the only funny thing left in this damn comic strip!

Xykon: Actually, ever since I became a lich, I haven't been able to get the same volume in my evil laughter. Since I technically don't have lungs.

Roy: You're not Good, at least not any definition of Good that I would want to follow. You follow the letter of the alignment description while ignoring its intent. Sure, you fight Evil, but when was the last time you showed a "concern for the dignity of sentient beings"? You're just a mean, socially inept bully who hides behind a badge and her holier-than-thou morality as excuses to treat other people like crap.

Haley: A ruse that relies on the target's innate acceptance on the rules presented to him? Against a league of paladins? Easy money.

  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Less common than Breaking the Fourth Wall moments, but in one strip, Tarquin comments about Thog "It's weird, no matter how many people he kills, the audience still thinks he's lovable". Meaning the audience in the arena, not the readers, obviously.
  • Leave No Witnesses: When Redcloak wipes out the Resistance and gets Xykon's phylactery back, he only uses summoned monsters (who he then dismisses) and lets the only other goblin involved stay dead.

Redcloak: The exact details here need to stay between me and our god. I just thank the Dark One that I didn't need to execute you myself.

Roy: Where's Xykon?
Oracle: In his throne room.

Sabine: It's hard, but sometimes, I need to make a sacrifice in order to maintain our love.
Roy: Like dressing up for him?
Sabine: No, I meant a literal sacrifice. I have a desecrated altar waiting for your corpse in the next room.

Roy: Hu... I always thought the "revolving door afterlife" was just a metaphor...

Bureaucratic Deva: Mr. Greenhilt, we do things "by the book" around here -- and it just so happens that the book in question is 100 feet tall and alight with holy fire --

Nale: Oh really? Why don't you chase after him, then?
Sabine: Nale, you know I love you. I didn't--
Nale: No, I mean literally. Go chase after him. He's escaping.

Belkar: Also, everyone here could use a little less loin and a lot more cloth.

  • Long Speech Tea Time: The whole party, during the scribble-art backstory.
  • Look Behind You!: In "Good to the Last Drip", Vaarsuvius is so busy attempting to Disintegrate Qarr that only the small imp notices an ancient black dragon with a personal vendetta approaching from behind.
  • Loud of War: At one point, Thog suggests using a rather well-known Canadian singer as a torture device, but Nale thinks that particular choice is uncivilized.
  • Luckily, My Powers Will Protect Me: In Start of Darkness, the rematch between Lirian and just-turned-lich Xykon is basically Lirian using all the wrong spells and abilities so Xykon can explain why none of them work anymore. Admittedly, it isn't out of character for Xykon to taunt his opponent by pointing out why his opponent can't beat him, even if that essentially means giving tips on how he or she could.
  • Luke Nounverber: The Greenhilt family doesn't count since it's actually named from the ancestral sword, but we have plenty others: Haley & Ian Starshine; Belkar Bitterleaf; Durkon Thundershield; Hilgya Firehelm; Leeky Windstaff; Girard Draketooth; Fyron Pucebuckle; Miron Shewdanker; Hieronymus Grubwiggler; Reegon Mithrilspear; Hiran Sinkeye; Clang Killitchy; Deergar Bluehawk; Firuk Blackore; Darren Leafsword...
  • Luke, You Are My Father: The opportunity is used to spoof a well-known blood relation reveal.

Tarquin: Elan... I am your father!
Elan: Gasp!
(Tarquin removes his helmet)
Tarquin: Oh MAN! I've always wanted to say that line!
Elan: That was... that was a PERFECT delivery!
Tarquin: I know, right? Wasn't it awesome? I've been waiting, like, FOREVER for that.
Elan: Growing up without a father was totally worth it just for that reveal.
Vaarsuvius: Heredity is a cruel mistress.

  • MacGuffin: The Gates. Xykon even refers to them as such. Redcloak discusses this trope here (spoilers!), noting that the MacGuffins aren't the only things that matter in a battle.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Discussed.

Tarquin: In any race for hidden treasure, it is always the protagonists who sweat and bleed and die to overcome the many challenges inherent in finding it, only for the antagonists to seize it from them at the last minute.

  • MacGuffin Guardian
    • The outdated monsters guarding Dorukan's Talisman. Justified, since it's the Talisman itself which lured them there.
    • The Black Dragon guarding the Starmetal fragment in the Wooden Forest.
    • Kraagor's Gate is said to be protected by a bunch of dangerous monsters.
  • Made From Real Girl Scouts: The "Kid's Meal" in "Delayed Gratification", hilariously revisited in "Grueling Ordeal".
  • Magic A Is Magic A: "Truly, more wizards have been laid low by the writings of Jack Vance than by any single villain."
  • Magic Feather: Enor, the blue ogre/dragon hybrid, is given a piece of lizardfolk Victory String by Gannji to give him courage in battle (it's just a piece of string, of course). Roy lampshades this trope when Belkar points it out. Belkar tries to give him a "halfling Courage Rock", but Roy won't take it, and instead suggests Belkar keep it someplace safe. And dark.
  • Magic Knight: Durkon, Miko, and the other paladins.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout
  • Make-Out Kids: Once they get together, Elan and Haley tend to have difficulty keeping their hands off of each other, so much so that announcing they are going to have sex is actually a quite believable excuse.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places
    • Well, first of all, we have Roy and Celia while they're flying, which isn't that wrong, though it's still weird.
    • But then, this is easily topped in "Riders on the Worm", where Elan and Haley make out on the back of a giant, purple worm no more than several yards from the rest of the party! Haley notes the Freudian imagery as a major turn-on.
  • Mama Bear
    • Kazumi goes to town on some ninjas. Using two swords. She killed the first one with his own sword by disarming him with a pillow.
    • The ancient black dragon. Even if V has already killed her child, so she wants to avenge, not protect him.
    • Vaarsuvius, defending his/her children and spouse from aforementioned ancient black dragon. May count as Papa Wolf or Mama Bear, depending on his/her gender.
    • And now, it seems Tiamat is angry that Vaarsuvius killed a quarter of the black dragon population in the process.
    • Tsukiko is a Mama to her wights.

Tsukiko: (while blasting Thahn) You big bully! He's just a child! I only made him four weeks ago.

  • The Man Behind the Man
    • Redcloak has been subtly manipulating Xykon for his own ends.
    • The Dark One is the goblin god behind the goblin high priest.
    • Malack and Tarquin are the ones truly in charge of the Empire of Blood -- which isn't too hard to guess after one glance at the Empress.
  • Man On Fire
    • Belkar douses Miko in sake and tosses a match at her.
    • Played for drama later on when Tarquin does this to a bunch of escaped slaves shaped in Elan's name.
  • Mass "Oh Crap": Strips 825 and 826, when the Resistance party discovers that the enemy found their hideout, and that Redcloak himself is there to welcome them, with several high-level summoned creatures at his side, and all the other members of the Resistance dead.
  • Matter of Life and Death
  • Mauve Shirt
    • Kazumi and Daigo were Red Herring Shirts until they revealed their names. Daigo still keeps his last name unknown, "in case of an emergency".
    • Jirix is a villainous Mauve Shirt. His name had been mentioned on multiple occasions before O-Chul killed him during his escape from Xykon's imprisonment, and he was deemed important enough that Redcloak resurrected him (at Xykon's demand). Redcloak then appointed Jirix the prime minister of the sovereign nation of Gobbotopia (built on the former site of Azure City).
  • Meaningful Background Event: Nobody notices Elan and Haley discussing something important in "Small Talk", and merely assume they ran off to make out somewhere.
  • Meaningful Echo: "What the heck is it going to take for you to see that your dad is bad news? Do you need, like, 200-foot-tall flaming letters or something??"
  • Meaningful Name
    • Of course, we have Roy Greenhilt with his signature ancestral sword -- which still doesn't help Xykon remember Roy's name.
    • Elan has a lot of élan
    • Blink and you'll miss the etymology behind the chimera Trigak's name. It is the sound he makes when Belkar slays him: all three heads crying "gak!"
    • The gladiator that Belkar fights in strip #780 gets eviscerated rather nastily. His name was Evisceratus. Along with the aptly-named Notseenicus and Offpanelo.
    • Tarquin is named after Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, two legendary kings of Rome. The former was a foreign commoner who charmed his way into power and ruled as a benevolent dictator, while the latter was a scheming and malevolent despot whose overthrowing heralded the beginning of the Roman Republic.
    • Argent the wolf is named after the French word for "silver", and he has silver-lined fangs that make his attacks more deadly towards devils. Lampshaded: the strip this fact is introduced in is called "His Name Probably Helps, Too".
    • It turns out the Draketooth clan has dragon ancestry. Specifically, they're of the lineage that V's familicide spell wiped out.
  • Medium Awareness: Virtually every character in the strip is (to some extent) aware that this is a webcomic; they are able to notice cutaway panels, compare Webcomic Time to "real" time, and on one occasion, Haley even left the strip for one panel to steal a diamond from the website's cast page (leaving an I.O.U. behind in its place).
    Characters are also explicitly aware that their setting operates on Dungeons & Dragons rules and mechanics; even the comic's first strip depicted their reactions to being upgraded from the 3rd to 3.5 edition ruleset mid-battle (Word of the Giant has it that the comic will not be upgraded to 4th edition rules). References to Hit Points, skill checks, dice rolls, experience and class levels, spell slots, etc. are ubiquitous throughout the comic.
    To combine the two above examples, a dwarven assassin points out to his Shadowdancer companion that his "shadow jump" ability is useless because this is a stick figure comic with no shadowing.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Inverted with Haley (who is physically capable) and Elan (who is pretty).
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The hobgoblin cannon fodder is exclusively male.
  • Mercury's Wings: One of the paladin guarding the Azure City throne room has winged boots.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: Sort of played with in a villainous example in "Not Much Chance of That". After Malack blasted Tarquin and the rest of the Order with a Flamestrike spell when he grew impatient of Tarquin toying with them, he delivers a blistering tirade about how Tarquin demanded he put his personal vendetta against Nale aside, but Tarquin was wasting time in order to assess Elan's growth in battle. Sabine even lampshades to Qaar about how Malack and Tarquin are about to "get into it". But after Malack has finished ranting, Tarquin takes a moment to think and sincerely apologises to him, admitting Malack is completely right and he didn't know what he was thinking.
  • Million-to-One Chance: Spoofed in "The Longshot" and "Improbable Causes".
  • Mind Control Eyes: As seen in strips #183, #383, and #448. Lampshaded in the first example.
  • Minor Insult Meltdown: V to Elan.
  • Mismatched Eyes
    • Tsukiko has a blue eye and an indigo eye. This reflects her dual-caster prestige class, the color of her aura when casting spells being blue for divine magic and indigo for arcane. As a joke, it carries over as a theme to her slippers too.
    • Also Keith Baker in Start of Darkness.
  • Mission from God: Redcloak is on a mission from the Dark One to use the Snarl to force the gods to give goblins standing in the world.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters

Roy: Isn't a "brontosaurus" really just an apatosaurus with the head of a different dinosaur?
Tarquin: And a hippogriff is really just a horse with the head and wings of a bird, but I've still got eight squadrons mounted on the damn things.
Roy: Hmm. Fair enough.

  • The Mole: Redcloak manages to infiltrate the Azure City Resistance by polymorphing a hobgoblin into a human.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • The prize goes to Start of Darkness: while Right-Eye is blasted from the sky and Xykon literally drains Dorukan's life-force away, the Monster in the Darkness decides to hold a taco fiesta. The well-executed switches are often cited as one of the comic's main sources of appeal.
    • Latest book alternate between V condemning him/herself to hell to save V's family and the Three Archfiends making college jokes.
    • One small example: Miko and Redcloak are fighting in one of the towers at the Azure City borders. Redcloak has managed to hit Miko hard enough to make her drop her katana, and he asks for Xykon's help... upon which we see Xykon placing a bet on the fight's outcome with the Demon-Roaches -- he bets on Miko winning -- while the MitD has a popcorn bucket and a giant hand, supporting Redcloak as one would support his football team.
    • "PLANE SHIFT!"
    • The comic titled "Yes, Apparently" pulls off a rather jarring one. It takes five panels for Elan to go from hugging his dad in a heartwarming moment to realizing that his dad is burning thirty people alive.
    • After a while, one gets used to Xykon being an affable, lazy tyrant content to crack jokes and lounge about while Redcloak runs his army. Then Soul-Spliced Vaarsuvius pushes his Berserk Button. The immediate change in attitude is jarring, to say the least.
  • Mook Chivalry: Subverted.
  • Mooks: One of the comic's themes seems to be to Deconstructed Trope the concept. Gods Need Prayer Badly, so goblins were explicitly created to be low-level fodder for their clerics to gain XP. The comic's main plot is driven by the goblins (especially their High Priest) rebelling against the gods who forced them into this role.
  • Moral Dissonance: Intentionally. Moments like the slaughter of Redcloak's village and the brutal execution of a hobgoblin prisoner from Azure City by the Elvish liberation forces remind us why Redcloak is on his crusade, and lead us to wonder if he might not have a bit of a point.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink
  • Morality Pet
    • Mr. Scruffy, for Belkar.

Belkar: Stupid cat. A ranger is supposed to influence an animal's behavior. You're doing it backwards!

Belkar: Hello, fellow Medium-sized creature! How are you enjoying being Medium-sized, like me, on this lovely day?
Paladin: Just fine, thanks for asking!

    • Nale disguising himself as his twin brother Elan. Though his repeated statements of "I'm Elan" don't raise any eyebrows since that is deemed in character for Elan.

Nale-as-Elan: I'm Elan!
Vaarsuvius: Yes, so you have told me no less than seven times in the last hour.

Celia: My Dark power? Right! Right. Because I'm totally a necromancer, and not a sorcerer who didn't happen to take any necromancy spells...

Vaarsuvius: As the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of resolving approaches zero.

    • Miko would rather kill those she sees as evil rather than bring them to justice.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: Belkar gets this treatment a few times.
    • In "The Heavens Moved", Durkon says that the rest of the Order is a fine enough group, for humans. And an elf.

Hilgya: And a halfing.
Durkon: No, I left 'im out on purpose.

Roy: Hey, you know, we're all enjoying this luxury, but we should at least share it with the others. We should get Vaarsuvius and Belkar up here.
(Beat Panel)
Roy: We should get Vaarsuvius up here.
Elan: Yeah, definitely!
Haley: Sure, let's get V in here.
Durkon: Aye.

    • In "We Can Do This the Easy Way...", Roy talks to Xykon about why he has to take him down now, instead of taking the lich up on his offer to be released from the battle and level up for a few years to make it a better fight:

Roy: You may not be out to destroy the physical planet, but living under the heel of a walking villain cliché like you will destroy its soul. If I don't beat you here and now, then soon this nonsensical screwed-up world won't exist anymore. There won't be any place left for introverted dwarves. Or androgynous elves. Or idiotic bards or greedy rogues... or sexy sylphs. Or hell, even raging narcissistic paladins. Bloodthirsty halflings will probably get along fine, though.

Haley: Crap! We need to break Roy out of there! And then decide what to do about Belkar!

  • My God, What Have I Done?
    • Redcloak gets to do this twice: once when he realizes how stupid his bigotry towards hobgoblins is, and once in the prequel Start of Darkness, after he kills his brother Right-Eye.
    • Vaarsuvius, upon discovering how the Draketooth Family died.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood
    • Xykon can't remember Roy's name. Really, he doesn't remember Roy at all.
    • Vaarsuvius also had trouble remembering about... "Bird-That-Miss-Starshine-Named"... that is, Blackwing. No wonder the familiar wasn't so keen on helping his/her master or even talking to him/her, until V made amends.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling
    • Elan sometimes, as a result of his Genre Savviness.

Elan: ... Hey, did anyone else get that foreboding feeling just now?

Belkar: I sense a great disturbance... as if a thousand double entendres cried out, and were suddenly silenced...

  • Myth Arc: Roy and the Order's quest to destroy Xykon once and for all, secure the Gates, and restore Azure City. Villains other than Xykon (for example, Nale and Kubota) are actually referred to in dialogue as "side quests".
  • Narrator: Spoofed in the prologue to the print volume of the first arc.
  • Naughty Tentacles: Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion[2], a reference to Evard's Black Tentacles from Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Neck Lift
    • Roy Greenhilt seems to like this as an intimidation method for interrogating mooks. He does it to a goblin teen in "Man-to-Man Chat", and then to Pompey of the Linear Guild in "Knight Takes Pawn".
    • Xykon can do it too when pissed. And don't try to change the subject with trivial concerns, like breathing.
  • Neck Snap
    • Xykon does this to Lirian in Start of Darkness.
    • Miko does this to Sabine on her first day in jail as a fallen paladin. Of course, since Sabine is an Outsider, it just annoys her.
  • Necromancers: Xykon; Tsukiko; Haerta Bloodsoak
    • Celia as Darkblood Gloomgloom briefly pretends to be one.
    • Hieronymus Grubwiggler may protest that he isn't creating undead, but he's still animating dead bodies as flesh or bone golems.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The gods definitely come across as such in the creation story of the Snarl. Start of Darkness... really doesn't help their case.
  • Neutral No Longer: The Elvish war party.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Averted. Haley Starshine was trained by her father, the notorious Ian Starshine, who got her into the Rogue's Guild, and his ransom is the reason she joined an adventuring party. However, this is merely her backstory. He rarely comes up, never outshines her, and after their encounter in the story, she has decided that she has grown beyond him. Similarly, she hooks up with Elan, who is beneath her on the power/capability scale, and their relationship is considered a perk, but never supplants her primary reasons for being on the team.
  • Never Live It Down: In-universe examples.
    • Vaarsuvius over, uh, "time sharing" his/her soul.

Vaarsuvius: I have a plan.
Blackwing: Does it involve selling your soul?
Vaarsuvius: No.
Blackwing: Really?
Vaarsuvius: No! I mean, yes, really. It involves coordination.
Blackwing: Coordinated soul-selling?
Vaarsuvius: NO!
Blackwing: Is that a "maybe"?

    • Also, the destruction of Lirian's Gate in a forest fire seems to be this for Redcloak.

Redcloak: Look, it was an accident! OK? Let it drop already. Geez!

Hinjo: I see. Then you were the one who made the decision to destroy the Gate rather than let it fall into Xykon's clutches.
O-Chul: I did make that decision, and it was my blade that did the deed. (I shall say no more about it, lest I speak ill of the dead.)

  • Never Split the Party
    • Basically, the whole point of the fourth completed arc. Some bad things happened. The compilation book, containing said arc, is titled Don't Split the Party.
    • And then they did it again, resulting in Vaarsuvius, Haley, and Elan getting captured by bounty hunters.
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands: Rich Burlew claims to follow this pattern, but he's usually actually very good about replicating D&D's rule system in a believable way. Some of the few straight examples are the fact that goblins and sprites are medium-sized and Exclusively Evil races are more Punch Clock Villains. As one might expect, it doesn't exactly hurt the comic.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
    • Miko actually does this twice. Once when she kills Shojo, resulting in her being stripped of her status as a paladin (and all the benefits that go along with it) and creating a power vacuum that results in Daimyo Kubota's forces spending more time trying to assassinate Hinjo than defend the city. And, again, by destroying the sapphire in the throne (and Soon's gate trapped within it) as Xykon is about to be re-killed by the ghosts of the Sapphire Guard, thus causing the ghosts to dissipate.
    • In Start of Darkness, when Xykon is confronting Lirian, he doesn't know that there are four other gates until...

Lirian: Even if you locate them, my friends will stop you from conquering the other four Gates.
(Beat Panel)
(beat panel)
Xykon: Did you-- Did you just say, "the other four Gates"?
(beat panel)
Lirian: Crap.

  • Ninja Prop
    • The best example would probably be the diamond from the cast page, which Haley stole from herself in order to pay for a spell in the main comic.
    • In one strip, a mute Haley holds a mental argument with herself while on the road, drowning out Elan's Blah Blah Blah dialogue. In the final panel, it's revealed that he's literally been saying "blah blah blah" the entire time, hoping to set a new world record in consecutive use of the word.
    • In the comic book compendium of this webcomic, the party uses the narrator to distract the monster guarding the entrance to the dungeon.
    • Lien knew that Qarr was up to no good from his sinister-looking Speech Bubbles (red text on a black background).
    • It's possible to feign death by drawing X marks over one's eyes and lying very still.
  • Nobody Poops: Played with when Qarr the imp notices that V uses invisibility before going to piss. Also, humorously averted in "The Most Important Quest".
  • No Dialogue Episode: "Words Fail" and again in "Making Up for Lost Time" (except for the final panel).
  • No Fourth Wall
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
    • Xykon, beating the crap out of Vaarsuvius in a mage duel, and then literally beating V with a giant chunk of debris to break the Soul Splice. Then he gets serious.
    • And then there's the arena fight.
  • Nominal Importance
    • Mentioned as early as strip #21, where Haley complains that the fact that they killed a named chimera implied it should have become a recurring villain.
    • Lampshaded by Kazumi and Daigo, two Azurite soldiers, who go from Red Shirts to Mauve Shirts just by revealing their names. (Daigo, observing the power of this effect, wisely decides to save his last name for a future emergency.)
    • Lampshaded again.

Elan: Hooray! The people whose names I know are saved!

Belkar: 'mfine. Halfings may only be able to advance to level 8, but I've got Attack Rank G.
Guard: That boy got his ass knocked back to Basic!

  • Noodle Implements: Elan and Thog's plan to get back into Azure City apparently involved a corkscrew, skis, a basketball, a box of soap, a traffic cone, a leprechaun costume, and a giant wooden alpaca full of potato salad. It should be mentioned that the costume was, for several comics, all we saw. The rest of it showed up in a comic titled "As Good an Explanation as is Forthcoming" which, of course, only raised further questions.
  • Noodle Incidents: Several.

Elan: Are--are you hitting on me? Because, whatever you heard about what happened at Summer Camp--
Mistress Shadowgale: Yeah, seriously, this is the dullest excuse for a date since you went with Darren Leafsword back in 8th grade.
Hinjo: Unnhhh... I'm sorry, Uncle. I'll never swipe a drink for your private stash again...
Roy: It was just a joke! We didn't know Mrs. McNulty was allergic to weasels!
Elan: It's exciting being part of a family where they DON'T try to frame you for murder!
Haley: Oooo, I probably shouldn't tell you about Cousin Sheila, then...
MitD: Uh, hi. I know I'm not allowed in your room since the thing with the peanut butter...
Tarquin: I still haven't figured out how [Thog] managed to flood the palace with lemon pudding that time...
Ranch Dressing Elemental: Thank you, [Vaarsuvius]! You have restored Prince Oozalot to the throne of the Hidden Valley and rescued his true love, Gertrude, from the evil sauce dragon!
Malack: You always have gone that extra mile for the punchline. Remember the Rajah?
Tarquin: HA! And you said there was no way I'd hold that much creamed spinach in my mouth for the whole coronation!

Sabine: It's, uh... that time of the century. You know... the Red Knight is requesting lodging.
Haley: Think how testy I can get, and I'm only the "Empress of Blood" a few days each month.

Rookie: What are those weird bumpy things between their eyes?

Lien: My parents were fishermen. When I was a little girl, I stood right here and learned how to clean the fish that they caught. I'm telling you this so that you know that when I say that if you take one more step, I will gut you like the catch of the day -- IT IS NOT HYPERBOLE!

    • In "Rapier Wit", Balker states that he could sunder Elan's rapier by speeking too loudly.

Belkar: DAMN IT!
(sunder!)

    • In another strip, "On Friendship", when Belkar says, "I am going to rip off your stupid bug head and piss down your neck hole!", he happens to be serious.
    • It appears that one of these was the last straw in the marriage of Elan's parents.

Tarquin: You sound like your mother. "Oh Tarquin, you jerk! When you said that you would liquefy every man in the tavern if one of them grabbed my butt again during my shift, I didn't think you meant it!"

  • Not So Different: V and Belkar have always opted for a brute force style in facing their problems, but thanks to Character Development, they've also seen other ways of looking at the world. To drive the point even further, they both have dark fates in store. Belkar is slated to die before the end of the year, while V is indebted to the service of the IFCC for 44 minutes and 16 seconds.
  • Not That Kind of Mage
    • Xykon is mistaken for a wizard early in Start of Darkness's narrative. He doesn't take as much offense here as one might expect, given his distaste for wizards.
    • In a later strip, a bit character intentionally mislabels Vaarsuvius as a warlock to draw him/her into battle.
  • Not What It Looks Like
    • Played with in "A Familiar Face", when Celia recalls finding out her boyfriend "slipping the wood" to a dryad. He says it's not what it looks, but it's unclear what it looks like in the first place....
    • Subverted when Nale seduces Haley in order to betray and kill her, only to be stopped when his enraged girlfriend Sabine arrives. She realizes what's going on immediately, but wanted to kill Haley herself:

Nale: It's not what it looks like.
Nale: (simultaneous) I was going to KILL her.
Sabine: (simultaneous) YOU WERE GOING TO KILL HER!

    • And in the prequel book On the Origin of PCs, when Sir Francois the paladin can't stand any longer his herald's stupidity and ditch him... guess what's the reaction.

Elan: Awww, not again.

  • Oh, the Humanity!: Surtur's victims.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: In "Villainy Afoot", Xykon is shown to have built a "fortress-tomb-thingy" in the Astral Plane as a safe hiding place for his phylactery.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Spoofed in "I See a Red Robe and I Want to Paint it Black". Apparently the IFCC has a ghostly choir composed entirely of freshly "snipped" dead pedophiles that sings fake Latin whenever they complete a deal. You can sing the fake Latin in place of the lyrics of Sephiroth's "One-Winged Angel" or "Ave Satani" from The Omen.
  • Only Sane Man: Most of the main characters are in this position vis-à-vis the others at one point or another, but the role most often falls to Roy, Hinjo, and, on the villains' side, Redcloak.
  • OOC Is Serious Business
  • Operation Blank: Spoofed.
  • Opponent Switch: Done by the villains in the first Order-vs.-Linear Guild fight: Nale and Thog swap opponents (Elan and Roy). It doesn't work, since Elan's magic actually works on Thog and Roy's ecstatic at the chance to whale on someone who looks like Elan, since he was still The Load then.
  • Orcus on His Throne
    • One of the few cases in which it is satisfactorily explained. When the main characters first encounter Xykon, he is sitting around his throne room doing nothing much. We come to find out that this is purely because the Gate he wished to access can only be opened by "one who is pure of heart," so he has literally been held up by a lack of adventurers.
    • Later, after he conquers Azure City, he spends the entire Don't Split the Party storyline sitting on his butt in his castle torturing a captured paladin. Turns out, this was all Redcloak's doing: he's been deceiving Xykon into not leaving until the hobgoblins have solidified their hold on the city. Xykon lost patience with this when his phylactery got lost, taking Redcloak's eye (or rather forbidding him to regenerate it) and commanding that they leave immediately after finding the phylactery. Now Redcloak appears to have no intention of giving it back, using a substitute.
  • Ostentatious Secret
    • The gender of Vaarsuvius and Vaarsuvius' mate and (adopted) children.
    • The Monster in the Darkness' identity.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Lampshaded in "Clerical Temp". Durkon Thundershield fits the stereotype perfectly, including the combination of Norse Mythology and Scottish accent. When the party is split and one half hires a cleric to magically contact Durkon, the cleric gets an accurate description and then asks what sets Durkon apart from every other dwarf in existence. However, they are known to have odd anatomical features such as two livers. (Though that may be just natural selection in action.)
    On the other hand, it should be noted that Durkon is calm, introverted, mild-mannered, makes use of his spellcaster abilities as often as his weapons, and never swears. He takes his job as a healer very seriously, not limiting it to use of magic (he has significant medical knowledge, as seen when he's examining Haley and giving advice to a pregnant woman). All this sets him very much apart the usual drunken, axe-throwing and curse-spewing stereotype, making this more of a Zig-Zagging Trope instead.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Averted.
    • The most commonly seen elf, Vaarsuvius, is an Insufferable Genius who committed a genocidal act. V, at least, appears to be getting better thanks to Character Development.
    • The elves aiding the Azurite resistance are, with their "the only good goblin is a dead one" policy, walking justifications for Redcloak's behavior.
    • Aarindarius, V's master, is apparently powerful enough to take on a full adult black dragon without looking away from the book s/he's reading, though this was according to Vaarsuvius in the middle of an arc throughout which V's judgement was severely impaired.
  • Our Founder
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They use Hulk Speak and All Lowercase Letters. On the Origin of PCs also features orc fans of Heavy Metal.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Spoofed.
  • Overused Copycat Character: Spoofed. Apparently, every drow in this land is like Drizzt now. This trope is soon subverted because both drow that have appeared in the main comic are evil.
  1. For those who don't know the rules: The penalty to a Bluff check for a lie that is literally impossible to believe is -20. Glibness, again, gives +30. A character under its effects and with even a single rank in Bluff can claim to be the moon and will, more often than not, be believed. Haley has a lot of ranks in Bluff.
  2. "Wait, what?"