Knights of the Dinner Table (often abbreviated KoDT) is a long-running comic series by Jolly Blackburn about a group of Tabletop RPGers, composed of:
B.A. Felton: The disgruntled Game Master, always attempting to be one step ahead of the group; always winding up one step behind, due to either Brian's scheming or Bob and Dave's bumbling violence.
Bob Herzog: A seasoned gamer who believes that "monsters are there to be killed". Often causes massive plot derailments by slaying important characters in-game (or even his fellow teammates). His main character in B.A.'s campaign is Knuckles, a dwarven thief who carries a crossbow.
Dave Bozwell: Something of a starry-eyed newbie, but has become more and more like Bob in his love of violence. He plays El Ravager, a human fighter who is a thinly veiled excuse to wield a Hackmaster +12 magic sword.
Brian Van Hoose: The textbook definition of a Rules Lawyer. Frequently manipulates his less-intelligent allies into doing his bidding, and is able to cite obscure rules to wriggle his way out of just about any situation. When provoked, however, he can become violent, often flipping tables. His iconic characters are a series of wizards with the word "Lotus" in their names; most famously, Black Lotus, better known as Teflon Billy for Brian's skills as a Karma Houdini. He was the original GM of the group until a Noodle Incident drove him into retirement.
There are several additional gaming groups in the KoDT universe, including the Black Hands, a group of oddballs and outcasts who game together because no one else will have them. The Black Hands roster includes:
Newt Forager, who began as a picked-on newbie but quickly became a sneaky player. Prone to whining and brown-nosing. Plays dark, angsty characters with pages of backstory.
Stevil Van Hostle, a cubicle drone who uses gaming to get out pent up aggression. Bitter and mean, with a mad-on for Newt. Enjoys playing grel (Grunge Elves, a drow-analogue).
Gordo Sheckberry, a sensitive, odd sort prone to playing (female) pixie fairies above all other character. Probably the nicest of the Hands. Wheelchair-bound in all his appearances; some years before the comic's beginning, he apparently provided help with a "chemical" experiment that earned Nitro his nickname and almost killed both of them. The incident also granted Gordo near-unlimited free time to game, as he lives primarily off his disability benefits and an apparently generous damage settlement.
"Weird" Pete Ashton, a grumpy old-time gamer who runs the local gaming shop. Fills in for Nitro when he can't make it — a fate the other Hands dread, as Pete is a brutally fair Game Master who demands his players earn every new turn. Also enjoys playing grel. Keep in mind that grel eat pixies...
In addition, there are Loads and Loads of recurring minor characters.It is also the name of the magazine in which it currently runs, and has run since departing the pages of Shadis and later Dragon magazines. The magazine also features other gaming and fantasy comics, such as Snarfquest, reviews, and various RPG-related content. Blackburn also did a series of shorts for the first thirteen issues of Palladium Books' magazine The Rifter.KODT has a spin-off strip called Java Joint that runs in the fantasy magazine Black Gate. Java Joint centers on the (mis)adventures of a book club consisting of Sara, Patty and Tank.A live-action adaptation is currently in the works. A Kickstarter fundraiser was successfully completed on February 5th, 2014. Whether it will be a webseries or a movie (or both) remains to be seen.
Knights of the Dinner Table provides examples of the following tropes:
Brian: Whooooah, dude. Yer dad shot 'im in the face. Bob's Dad: I wasn't going for the face. He walked into it. That's all. The damn fool. Those were warning shots I was firing.
Actual Pacifist: Reese. An ER nurse, she refuses to condone violence in any way and so plays a cleric of a pacifist god.
Aerosol Flamethrower: Bob claims to have improvised one to drive off a feral dog (or possibly a coyote) in the strip "A Fish Story".
Affectionate Parody: Of Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition in particular) and tabletop gaming culture. (The published Hackmaster 4th Edition RPG, though, is a licensed version of 1st Edition AD&D.)
After Action Report: Knights of the Dinner Table: Illustrated, which attempts to make a story loosely based on the Knights' campaigns. Naturally, most of the table banter is repeated in-character. Though it's translated into in game terms with in-game motivations to explain the OOC actions (i.e. you don't have Lotus asking for a Grape Faygo.)
All Bikers Are Hells Angels: But the tabletop gaming community of Muncie's come to an understanding with them anyway, especially since the GMs (and some players) routinely gather for drinks at the local biker bar, Hawg Waller's, and the proprietor is more than willing to tolerate the eccentricities of paying customers (most of the gamers being more reliable about paying their tabs than some of the bikers).
The Alleged Computer: B.A. had a Trash 80 nicknamed Molly whose slowness made it the butt of many jokes.
Ambiguous Disorder: Brian. He has a job that involves running an online service from his home (which he is said to not clean) and painting model figurines. He has a savant-like memory of obscure roleplaying game rules, yet sometimes forgets his own phone number. He is stated to become very uncomfortable when any social group exceeds four to six people, especially when it happens away from the context of a shared interest. He rarely speaks unless dealing with gaming, and has a face and body language that is usually unreadable. And finally, some things that would annoy other people seem to have no effect on him at all, while something that others would take in stride can send him into a sudden and brutal fury, typically involving flipping over the gaming table in rage.
He's also prone to withdrawing into his fantasies in social situations and once made up a girlfriend.
Analogy Backfire: In Java Joint, Tank says that he is "as serious as Garrison Keillor", apparently not realizing that Garrison Keillor is a humorist.
Anal Probing: The Black Hands 2011 Special ends with the Black Hands characters being anally probed by aliens after Weird Pete decides to combine his Cattlepunk campaign with Scream of Kachoolu.
Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: B.A. and Nitro occasionally attempt to nudge their players away from doing something particularly stupid. It generally doesn't work.
Art Evolution: When KODT debuted in SHADIS magazine, the artwork was, frankly, hideous. Even when it got its own magazine it wasn't much better - the characters were usually just staring out into space, their mouths hanging wide open to disgorge their speech balloons. The positions of the characters were also extremely limited, due to its nature as a Cut and Paste Comic. Now, the art has improved enormously. The basic character models are still the same, but the expressions look far more natural and varied, the environments and objects have more depth, and they have a far more flexible range of motion, from standing to driving to Table Flipping.
Artifact of Doom: Flak Jack Monty's infamous twenty-sider, "Fitz". Cursed with vampiric luck (pretty much useless to a player, but a Doomsday weapon in the hands of a GM), this die goes through quite the history after the Knights swipe it.
Art Shift: In "Hounded" in #183, Sara has a dream about the Untouchable Trio Plus One. The dream is illustrated using art from Knights of the Dinner Table: Illustrated by the Fraim Brothers.
Artistic License - Chemistry: During a Sci-Fi game, the Knights find their ship's hydrogen fuel cells in need of a refill while in orbit around an oceanic planet. Brian suggests that they fly down to the surface, use the ship's ram scoops to collect water, and extract the hydrogen from it there — but B.A. insists that it won't work because hydrogen is an exceedingly rare element. Even Dave knew this was dead wrong — hydrogen is the most common element in the universe.
This was poking fun at Star Trek: Voyager's earliest seasons, in which the characters were somehow having trouble finding deuterium (a hydrogen isotope).
Ascended Extra: This has twice happened to the Knights with their NPCs:
First, they sent Sara's henchman Gilead into a heavily trapped room to try on an item they'd feared cursed. It turned out to be a Helm of Lordship, leading to Gilead being a benevolent monarch for years of storyline.
The second instance is the Bag Wars. The Knights stored a massive list of supplies and NPCs in a Bag of Holding and forgot about them. When they finally checked on the NPCs again, they'd built a fortress inside the extra dimensional space and were living off the provisions. The Knights had to deal with their leader, Sergeant Barringer, in order to store and retrieve loot from the bag. The fortress he built has become a permanent fixture of the landscape of Bag World for centuries of game time.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: In Nitro's campaign setting, deceased real life celebrities become deities with the most frequently mentioned being Andy Warhol. Bob managed to successfully argue for the promotion of one of his former characters to deity status to serve as the basis of the religion for his new Player Character, a priest.
Autocannibalism: While playing Weird Pete's new game "Fairy Meat", Brian has his character eat its own arm to demonstrate that the rule for recovering hit points via cannibalism is broken.
Bad Liar: Dave has no poker face whatsoever. This actually becomes a plot point when Bob and Dave want to conceal their in-game plans from Brian and Sara - Dave actually has to wear a paper bag on his head so they can't glean anything from his expression.
Bathroom Break-Out: Bob does it to escape from Nitro's game when sitting in for Weird Pete in "A Man Out Standing In His Field".
Break the Haughty: Stevil being forced to dance for 36 hours straight in prison. When he finally gets back to his game, Newt plays ABBA's "Dancing Queen" through a pair of portable speakers attached to his walkman. Newt is promptly wasted and is made to wear "the Hubcap of Shame".
And considering that Stevil was left in prison for that extra 36 hours because Newt chose to bail out everyone but him, Newt got off easy.
And let's be clear about this. It wasn't some game they were playing. Stevil was actually in jail and Newt deliberately chose not to bail him out. Imagine if one of your game buddies did that to you.
Brown Bag Mask: B.A. sometimes forces his players to wear paper bag masks if he's worried that their facial expressions will give away information the other players shouldn't know.
Brutal Honesty: Moe of Patty's Perps never lies or candy-coats her words. Stevil has also been called out on this, but most of the time his "honesty" is just his inner Jerk Ass speaking.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Brian is a socially awkward man with a made-up girlfriend, but is incredibly good at being a Rules Lawyer and is a skilled tactician having won regional war game tournaments.
Can't Hold His Liquor: Brian. He is the reason why the Knights no longer allow alcohol at the gaming table. Any time this rule is relaxed, his behaviour quickly reminds them why it was instigated in the first place.
Character Alignment: Seeing as how Hackmaster is a homage/parody of D&D, it has a standard axis. Of course, the Knights (with the exception of Sara) aren't known for actually playing their listed alignment.
Very common in the games. The Killer Gamemaster expects you to and there's no hard feelings on anyone's part for being bastards.
The Knights' characters mostly exhibits this towards various NPCs and hirelings and only occasionally towards each other.
The Black Hands, on the other side, are very prone to inter-group backstabbing.
Sara has had her objections to it at times, and when Bob's dad tried Cattlepunk, this element of it bothered him immensely and he lectured everyone present.
Doing this outside the game or in-game to the point of making people genuinely upset is a very good way to get shunned, as Stevil and Crutch have found out.
Brian has some tendencies to this outside of the game as well: he can be quite manipulative and is not above exploiting his friends for monetary gain, but he doesn't intentionally cause any actual harm. Most people tend to forgive him, since he can be quite a good friend as well. The exception is Sheila, who seems to hate his guts.
Then there was the time that Newt was in a position to have to bail the Black Hands out of jail and chose to bail out ex-con Crutch instead of Stevil. And this was a real-life jail, not a game.
Comic Trio (plus One): Bob's the navigator with the half-baked schemes; Dave's the clueless driver; Sara's the Only Sane Woman who's ultimately powerless to do more than avoid ground zero; and Brian's the scheming backseat driver who either makes things worse or turns the disaster to his advantage.
Averted with Sara, who frequently plays new kinds of characters. Though usually she will hover around the "fighter with benefits" archetype due to party composition, with her iconic character being a Noble Savage ranger.
Crack Is Cheaper: invoked Part of the reason why B.A. and Bob are perpetually broke is because they use what little money they earn from their minimum wage jobs to support their hobby.
Crying Wolf: Brian once made up a Girlfriend in Canada. After the Knights confronted him and they all got past that incident, Brian mentions another girlfriend who he insists is real, but the Knights don't believe him. Turns out he met someone online and is dating her through the internet.
Chad: Awwwwh, c'mon Patty! When I said girl gamers were lame I wasn't referring to you! You're just like one of the guys. Patty: Like one of the guys? Your character suddenly hears a rustling in the underbrush. Roll for initiative. Tank: Careful, Chad. You're digging that hole deeper and deeper.
Driving Stick: Weird Pete discovers that Gordo can't drive stick during a road trip to GaryCon when he wakes up to to find Gordo is still driving in first gear. By the end of the trip, Gordo has mastered driving stick (with the aid of Squirrely) and is ecstatic.
Discussed. The male players often accuse B.A. of showing favoritism to Sara who is his cousin, though he actually runs the game fairly for all and cuts Sara no slack.
At worst, when B.A. does favor Sara its because he prefers her play style, not because of their relationship. He likes it when one of his players doesn't start a pitched battle during a diplomatic dinner.
A straighter example is Chad's girlfriend. She's a pacifist and plays her cleric that way (in fact she can't even heal the party from their injuries because that would enable their violence so she's just an observer.)
Early Installment Weirdness: The Knights had much less distinctive personalities in the early episodes and you'd sometimes see the characters exhibiting traits you'd now associate with other characters. They were whatever was needed for the gag in that particular strip. The self contained format of the early strips is itself a form of early installment weirdness.
Egopolis: Newt's campaign world is called "Newtonia".
Even Evil Has Standards : In one issue of KODT Illustrated, Knuckles captures a member of the cult that tortured Thorina. Knowing that Knuckles intended to kill him, and knowing also the Untouchable Trio's notorious reputation for greed and selfishness, the cultist tries to persuade Knuckles to join his cult instead, offering lavish rewards. Knuckles mentally pictures himself torturing Thorina, and then promptly kills the cultist, saying, "Sorry, bud, but even I've got standards."
Everything Trying to Kill You: The Knights assume this about B.A.'s dungeons and his NPCs. This partly justifies their Comedic Sociopathy. More often actually the case when Weird Pete GMs — his whole campaign setting is made of this trope. Nobody has made it above 3rd level in that setting.
Evil Weapon: Carvin' Marvin has existed in B.A.'s campaign world for close to ten years. Nobody in the party could control it, and every attempt at trying failed horribly, resulting in the deaths of over forty party members. Eventually, they kicked it into a ditch along with the last NPC to die wielding it, buried it, and called it a day. This became a Chekhov's Gun when the party needed to find an intelligent sword to match against another intelligent sword, Tremble, who had taken control of Dave's character.
Dealing with Carvin' Marvin is considered to be terrifying among the party members who've dealt with it. When they retrieved it in order to deal with Tremble and the Doomsday Pack, Sara (the only player not to have seen Marvin before) complained afterwards that the others should have told her what she was in for. Not only was her character inflicted with chronic nightmares and a nervous tic, but she herself said that she wouldn't be able to sleep for a week on account of nerves.
Speaking of Tremble, while he doesn't carry the same kind of ominous mystique that Marvin has, the fact that B.A. recruited Nitro to guest-play as Tremble's personality more than makes up for it.
The Faceless: "Hawg" Waller, who is only ever seen from behind (justified, since he is a bartender and the focus is on the patrons on the other side of the counter).
Brian himself counts, not to mention the many characters and schemes he cooks up.
A notable mention goes to when Brian manipulated B.A. into handing out a hammer that could duplicate spells, and then let Brian get ahold of a scroll of Wishes, to which Brian pulled out an ironclad legal document so B.A. couldn't screw up his wish to become a god.
Played to the hilt with the legendary Jackson Document which formed the basis for the Bagworld campaign storyline; managing to be a game breaker not once, but twice in the course of the campaign.
B.A. brings it on himself sometimes such as when he invoked obscure mob overbearing rules to rein his players back in over the objections and warnings of Brian himself. After the Humiliation Conga, Brian simply had the party hire their own beggar mobs to overbear monsters, including a dragon.
During a Hackmaster campaign, a particular bar requires first-time patrons to order Gut Busters. They use it to weed out low-level characters; drinking a drink of it does 1d10 damage, which is more than most first-level characters have. Bob's character, after being assaulted by certain patrons, gets a double, forgetting both that he's been injured and that each shot does 1d10 damage. He dies from the drink, to the shame of his party members.
And Mojo Dave's "mojo juice". Sipping it causes "Hawg" Waller to pass out.
Gas Mask, Longcoat: Newt wears this outfit when playing his character Corporal Punishment in Heroes of Hackleague.
Generation Xerox: The male Knights continually abuse the offscreen training rules so that when their characters die they can easily introduce identical clones of their previous ones with the level adjusted a little bit.
Geodesic Cast: The various gaming groups and the Hard 8 staff provide distinct story casts who occasionally interact with one another.
God-Mode Sue: invoked Timmy Jackson GMs his campaigns this way, throwing damage every which way without even rolling. It doesn't help that his father created Hackmaster. The Knights "defeat" him by playing by his rules.
Timmy: Baalzebul and thurdy devils appear awound you!
Also, "god" is usually spelled "gawd". The latter is a reference to Dungeons & Dragons changing the names of some of their monsters to dodge heat from Moral Guardians. More directly referenced when Hard 8 remembers the time they were pressured into renaming their Demons and Devils as "Ne'er Do Wells."
Go-to Alias: "Weird" Pete's go-to alias is John Mephisto; the name of an old HackNoia character of his.
Groupie Brigade: Knuckles acquires one in the "Sing For the Moment" storyline.
A Handful for an Eye: Bob once defeated Nitro by blinding him with a salt cellar before coldcocking him with a dinner tray (a trick he claimed to have learned from watching B.A's infamous fistfight with Sheila Horowitz). The man touched his dice!
Hand in the Hole: One of these traps results in Knuckles and El Ravager losing three arms between the two of them.
Hanging Judge: Weird Pete when he is presiding over "Gamer's Court".
The Hard Hat: A throwaway gag in a filler strip has Newt claiming his character is crouching real low and taking cover behind his "Kevlar watch cap".
Hat of Authority: In the Hackbeard campaign, a pirate's hat size is directly linked to their level of authority. Sara gets in trouble when she turns up wearing a larger hat than the captain.
Heart Is an Awesome Power: Brian once scammed Bob into selling him a rare, expensive mini dirt cheap. To settle the score, Brian gave Bob an IOU for in-game gold... and a thimble that fixes sails and nets. B.A. counters by steering the party into a seaside town, making Bob the leader of a massive economical empire.
Hit Me, Dammit!: In one strip Newt Forager insists on giving only an in-universe description of his character, refusing to provide any game-mechanics stats. Stevil decides to scope out this information by getting Newt's character to attack his. It ends with Stevil's character getting knocked out with one blow.
Holodeck Malfunction: Weird Pete's 'Virtual Dungeon' turns into this, when a malfunction of the VR headsets results in the players attacking each other and one player jumping out of the window in an attempt to get away from giant spiders.
Honest John's Dealership: Weird Pete's Games Pit, where B.A. is frequently fast-talked into buying whatever Weird Pete is trying to unload.
Hard 8 Enterprises is not above using sleazy tactics to profit at the expense of game store owners and customers.
Brian also shows these tendencies, charging for character sheets and miniatures painting (for an extra charge, he'll use an actual paintbrush instead of a Q-tip).
Pixie runes of shame being tattooed on the party's buttocks are a common occurrence (along with the one point of damage that comes along with it).
People on the wrong end of Bob's or Stevil's wrath will often end up going through one of these, as well.
Don't forget "Dancing Queen" Newt. He & Stevil keep trying to one-up each other as revenge for the last one.
The Knights did this to a rival group after Sara found out her boyfriend dated her just to get her into his gaming group for extra points in a tournament. The humiliation conga the gang put them through on her behalf (complete with pictures) proves they've accepted her as a Knight.
I Ate WHAT?: Weird Pete's reaction on discovering that his character drank two pints of owl bear urine.
Subverted once by a bouncer at GaryCon. She'd previously turned him down for a date and he wasn't going for her charms twice.
Inverted by Sara Felton, the strip's foremost female character. Although she has a certain level of attractiveness (Informed Attractiveness thanks to the quality of the art), she reacts very poorly to efforts to objectify her. Even most of her characters don't play those games.
On the very rare occasions where the male Knights play female characters, they tend to exploit this trope.
The storyline in which Bob unwittingly helps plan a successful warehouse burglary based on his gaming experience.
They've done this on several occasions, especially Bob, employing his in game roleplaying experience in the real world, dealing with his dad by hiding and bluffing.
In Issue 162:
Brian: We have to find [B.A.'s cat's] hoard [of dice] and we know from past history that this can be a challenge. So, for that I need your eyes and know how. I need athief.
Improvised Golem: One strip had the players complaining about to the GM (Jonnny Kizinski) about the villain being able to assemble a golem out of components he found in a broom closet.
Infinity+1 Sword: Dave's Hackmaster +12. Subverted in that he had this weapon since almost the beginning, becoming a mild Game Breaker.
I Resemble That Remark: Bob ranting about how he'd like to kill all those media pundits who claim gaming promotes violent behaviour.
Jerkass: Every character has held the "Jerkass ball" at some point or another, with Bob, Stevil, and Pete being the most common. Brian often falls into this trope as well though less frequently in later issues.
Jump the Shark: invoked The title of issue #151, which features Gary Jackson coming Back from the Dead. What's funny is, they included this as an example of when you know they're jumping the shark in an earlier "Parting Shots" feature (a humor section on the back page.) The explanation they put forth actually makes a lot of sense given the character He was in deep to the mob due to his compulsive gambling which had long since been an established character trait, so he turned states evidence and they faked his death with old airplane wreckage and forged reports to protect him. The evidence of the writers setting up Gary's return pretty much goes back to his "death." The only thing they haven't explained yet was how Gary faked his open casket funeral though they hung a lampshade on that in issue #152.
Most of the trials the Untouchable Trio faces (although they usually bring these on themselves).
And are not above staging one themselves when they find themselves in a position of authority.
Karma Houdini: Whether or not Brian is one of these is one of the more contentious points among the fans. Some feel that the fact that many of his schemes end up backfiring and blowing up in his face is punishment enough for his dickish behavior. Others feel that the mere fact that the other players continue to tolerate his presence at all solidifies his position as one of these.
Killer Game Master: B.A., Nitro and Weird Pete all share the philosophy that the GM is the enemy of the players.
B.A. only exemplifies this trope partway. While he does not believe in giving the smallest amount of mercy to players, his weakness is that he plays ridiculously straight; if the players find a way to derail the plot or come up with a cheese loop of power, B.A. lets them get away with it without invoking Rule Zero. Oftentimes because he has a Batman Gambit or a Humiliation Conga prepared.
Even when B.A. is not out to get the player characters (that is, most of the time), his players are convinced that every dice roll that goes against them is part of an evil GM plot.
Subverted once with Weird Pete's Temple of Horrendous Doom which no-one has ever survived and which the Black Hands have to sign a waiver just to play. Turns out dying is the first thing you do in this dungeon. The point is to navigate your spirit through the dungeon to reclaim your body. Also, Stevil learns at the end that his party is not the first to beat the dungeon — but the waiver they all signed at the beginning has a non disclosure clause forbidding bragging, in order to maintain the mystique.
Subverted in the Yaderwald arc. After exploring a dungeon, the party sets off a trap that will cause them to face three random encounters back-to-back. B.A. had intended this to be just a fun extra, but the dice had other plans: B.A. rolls up three absurdly powerful and improbable monsters. To make matters worse, the first of the three is a blithering rust monster, which promptly destroys most of the party's armor and weapons. The second is a swarm of pixie grells, which drain everyone to near-zero health. Only Sara escapes the third encounter, a pair of Yaderwalds, and even she only escapes by accidentally turning herself into a bilge rat, which the Yaderwalds are uninterested in killing. Everyone except Sara and B.A. think that B.A. picked those three on purpose as a plot for revenge.
Crutch's Crime Nation game has an incredibly high mortality rate, yet is very popular with players.
The squirrel as fifth level monster from "The Most Dangerous (Small) Game".
Also B.A. seems to believe that llamas have antlers and gore people and his campaign reflects this. The magazine has occasionally published reprints of newspaper articles about people being injured in llama attacks further confusing matters.
Lava is Boiling Kool-Aid: Played with. When the GM tells Bob, "You've been skewered by a spear, you've fallen off a cliff, and you're swimming in lava," Bob asks, "Do I get a saving throw? I've got +1 with swimming."
In a typical encounter, Bob and/or Dave start hacking immediately, Brian is a bit more analytical about it but readily joins in, and Sara tries in vain to get them to think things through first.
Literally Shattered Lives: After a long, long rules debate over who got turned to stone by a gorgon, B.A. decides it's Brian. The gorgon has a morning star. Piece it together. Also, it got worse when all of the flesh-to-stone transformations were reversed.
Locked in a Room: Brian, Dave, and Bob once locked themselves in Brian's basement. This gave some insight into Brian's previously nebulous back-story.
Long List: Happens twice in the Bag Wars saga when someone reads off the list of things in the Bag of Holding. Dave makes note of a perfectly ordinary sausage grinder both times ("Mmm, fresh sausage!").
MacGuffin: The Lyre of Hound Slaying, the Conch of Aarnd, the Feather of Victory...The list goes on. It is an RPG comic book, after all.
Medal of Dishonor: Black Hands who sully the honor of either the group, or the hobby as a whole are forced to wear the "Hubcap of Shame".
Mercy Kill: Subverted in one strip. After Windel the hireling is wounded by a dragon, Bob thinks he's begging him for this, and kills him.
Sara: “Actually, I think Windel was pleading for you not to kill him, Bob. His wounds weren’t really that serious.”
Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: One of the GMs is a kindergarten teacher and has difficulties turning the attitude off. She treats her gaming group like a bunch of preschoolers, including a "Time Out Corner" with "5 points to ponder". Sadly, sometimes these steps are necessary.
Mistaken for Badass: A series of misunderstandings has Switch convinced that Tank is a cold-blooded killer you would not want to mess with.
Mistaken for Terrorist: Happens in the November 2011 issue when the group plays a real-life based Zombie Apocalypse game of Screams of Kachuloo. Brian's frequent Internet searches for bomb-making and the layout for the local mall (for the game) throws up red flags with Homeland Security. A more experienced member of the department sees that the address is in gamer-heavy Muncie, Indiana and calls off the team. They've been burned there before many times...
A Running Gag is for one of the characters, usually Dave or Bob, to show up to the game with some expensive extravagance, like a $75 electronic GM screen "player advantage screen", or drop everything to spend a week at GaryCon, with long-suffering B.A. or Sara pointing out that he still owes money or that his car has urgent repair needs he's been putting off.
One strip deals with all five characters dealing with an tangled web of World War I alliance-proportions' worth of owed money between them. The equally complex solution ("Take the money you owe me, pay it back to him", etc.) clears up everyone's accounts except for Bob, who now owes money to everybody.
The New Rock & Roll: Many times, in reference to the roleplaying game genre's long history of being accused of corrupting and/or mentally unbalancing its players. Characters have been arrested being mistaken for criminals (dicebags look like drug paraphernalia, plotting an in game robbery in public gets taken out of context etc). A long running subplot is Bob's dad's disapproval of the game first requiring Bob to hide his gaming, then get a job, then get kicked out of the house.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Sheila's unwitting purchase of "Doomsday" dice to use against the Knights in the grudge match tournament. She didn't realise that the Knights dice were actually cursed and, by using the same dice, she exposed her own team to the curse and leveled the playing field.
Noodle Incident: The unspecified incident that caused Brian to swear off ever GMing Hackmaster again.
When Bob is complaining bitterly about the miserable stats of his new character, Dave tries to console him by reminding him about “Lenny the Brave.” Bob freaks out and tells him Lenny has nothing to do with this. When Sara asks who Lenny the Brave is, Brian tells her he was one of Bob’s characters from before her time – and that “we don’t talk about him.”
Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Official Hard 8 policy is that any rule in one of their games stands as written unless an official erratum regarding it has been issued. Playtesters sometimes insert deliberate errors into games to create broken rules for players to take advantage of, until Hard 8 catches on and issues an erratum. One storyline centers on Bob acquiring a marked copy of Cattlepunk that identifies all these "special rules", and then badly overplaying his hand.
Bob really should have known better than to pull this stunt when the guy behind the GM Screen was the champion Rules Lawyer himself, Brian. But Bob can't help it.
Particularly harsh example when Sara takes the screen for a couple of strips, running a campaign she created as her masterpiece work at a GMing camp. Naturally, the players completely ignore the plot, running off into the woods to chase squirrels (literally), before she can even give them the quest hook.
Only Sane Man: Sara. B.A. takes over this role when she takes the role as DM.
Out-Gambitted: B.A. and Brian are in a life-and-death struggle with this trope. While Brian usually gets the better of B.A., when the campaign is on the line the gamemaster does pull through.
Parking Payback: Dave claims that Sheila once kidney punched him for parking in the disabled spot next to the Games Pit.
Perfectly Cromulent Word: The strip "Lair of the Gazebo" has the Knights mistaking a gazebo for a savage beast. Which is based on a true story originating from the exact same misunderstanding, that had been on the internet for years. Jolly Blackburn printed an updated account in the first Bundle of Trouble.
Persona Non Grata: Nitro Ferguson got banned from GaryCon after his D-Day game ran amok even more spectacularly than games in KoDT usually do.
Pick Up Babes With Babes: Johnny Kizinski comments on how his infant son is a chick magnet. Of course, the effect is somewhat mitigated by him smoking like a chimney around the kid, which usually provokes rebukes from the women the child attracts.
Pig Latin: In the issue #170 segment "Channeling Gary".
Planning with Props: The Bag Wars Saga demonstrates why you shouldn't use snack foods in place of proper miniatures.
Platonic Prostitution: Chad initially hires Trish to pose as his fiancée. Tank later hires her to play Battleship with him.
Powder Trail: The cover of Knights of the Dinner Table Special Edition #1 shows the Knights' Cattlepunk characters using one to blow open a bank vault.
All of the players pay out the wazoo for special dice in an attempt to appease the Random Number God, with varying results (still erring on uselessness).
The trope then literally happened in an zany attempt by gamers to bless their dice by rubbing it on Gary Jackson's dead body. Any such die not only become ridiculously cursed but also infected other dice in the batch, too. Mainly because that wasn't Gary Jackson's body they rubbed the dice on... Before the reveal that Gary faked his own death, Sara pointed out another fallacy in that plan: how lucky could a guy who died in a plane crash be?
Protagonist-Centered Morality: In universe. The Untouchable Trio will not suffer even the slightest offense against their own characters but treat everyone else like garbage.
Proud to Be a Geek: Bob, Dave, Brian, Weird Pete, and the Hard 8 staff (if they can be considered geeks).
Rage Quit: When the "Loan Contract" story-arc comes to its climax and Stevil realizes that he has been thoroughly outwitted by Newt, he promptly uses a powerful magic item to off himself as well as the entire party. Nobody is pleased.
The Knights' "Hacknoia" game ended in a fiasco that drove Sara to rage quit after B.A. carelessly gave away the fact that her character was an Internal Affairs agent and then allowed the rest of the players to take revenge based on out-of-character knowledge.
Random Number God: Acts more like the Shinto spirits of individual dice. At the same time, occasionally combated, like when Bob rolled one unlucky d10 and one lucky d10 to get a 01-05.
The Yaderwald arc presents an epic example of the Random Number God pouring out its wrath. The party accidentally trigger a spell-trap, causing three random encounters back to back. B.A. had intended this to basically be a bit of extra xp for the Knights, but when he rolls to see what they face, the dice produce three ridiculously lethal monsters which seem to have been specifically chosen to have the biggest chance of a TPK. Indeed, the first two encounters leave the party with no chance against the third other than to play dead and hope the monsters leave one of the alive to resurrect the rest.
Real Men Wear Pink: Gordo likes fairies and unicorns. He also knows how to make nitroglycerin and may have done so for use in Nitro's steamtunnel capers. In fact that's hinted to be the reason he is on disability.
Reassigned to Antarctica: When Hard 8 reinstates Nitro's GM credentials, it is with the provisio that he is only allowed to GM the Pee Wee Hackleague. This leads to a...
Reassignment Backfire: ... as Nitro takes his Pee Wee team 'The Forge of Heroes' all the way to the Garycon finals.
Red Baron: Nitro (named for a gaming session involving C4), Crutch (named for... well... the crutches he wore when he broke his legs).
The Remnant: Colonel Quantrill (a.k.a. Juan Trail) and his men in B.A.'s Cattlepunk campaign.
Sara once defected and played with a group of college students named Troy's Boys for a while. After her character's forced to metaphorically Stay in the Kitchen while the other (male) characters live it up, under the pretense of a festival that bans the presence of women, she quits in a huff. She goes back to the Knights, who begin to play in the same area. The festival in question? It actually banned farm animals, not women.
Sara: I WASTE HIM WITH MY LONGBOW!!
Immediately topped by the Humiliation Conga the Knights put Troy's Boys through for treating Sara like that. It was bloodless, but after being kidnapped, having one of their heads badly shaved, and dumped in the labyrinthine steam tunnels with a map that led them to an exit outside a bikers' bar, where the bartender had been paid to take pictures of them after they emerged, they might've preferred death.
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Once played literally when Bob kept wasting B.A.'s carefully planned adventures in favor of "a cave".
The Roleplayer: Sara at the Knights' table is a positive example of this trope. Cody, a local community theater actor, is a more over-the-top negative example.
Rules Lawyer: Brian, for whom it works both ways. He will use the rules to legally worm his way through any loophole and to break the game any way he can, but if the rules speak against him, or a higher gaming authority judges against him, he will abide by them, and if he sees someone ELSE breaking the rules or cheating, he WILL call them on it.
Rule Zero: B.A. gave up trying to invoke this which is part of the reason the Knights got away with so much in the early strips. He's since gotten a backbone.
The Scrooge: Brian. It's how he stays afloat, but its also leads to him shamelessly pumping cash out of his friends when he can get away with it.
Second Face Smoke: Gary Jackson, being a Jerkass, smokes at the gaming table and sometimes blows smoke into the faces of his players; usually to emphasise some point.
Brian: “Then Kreed the Second had an –ahem- unfortunate mishap after entering that fire walking contest down at Blind Man’s Pavilion…”
Sara: “I’m not sure dousing yourself with lamp oil beforehand is really considered a ‘mishap.’”
Brian: “Hey, they were giving points for ‘Most Entertaining.’”
Self Stitching: Characters sewing up their own wounds (and whether you get XP for it) is a running gag.
Serious Business: Gaming in Muncie is very serious business. There are codes of honor. Their gaming association, the HPMA, issues binding judgments. The playtesting is done in "gulags" with the Hard 8 staff occasionally having to put down rebellions. The players take extensive pains to document their games to keep their groups official with the HPMA.
Weird Pete is the Muncie representative for the HackMaster Gamer's Court, which handles player and GM infractions that extend beyond the bounds of a regular campaign. He comes to these sessions dressed in a judge's robe and wig. He can impose penalties (experience loss, treasure suspension, etc.) on the characters of players who violate HMPA guidelines. He can legally arbitrate payment of money for a character between one player and another . He also has first say in judging GM qualifications and other serious cases; those brought before his court are at perfect liberty to bring along their local HMPA representative and/or legal counsel as they see fit.
Brian once hired an attorney to review a pages long and carefully worded (using no punctuation, so as to keep it within the "one sentence" limit) Wish. When a panicked B.A. calls an emergency council of gamemasters to review the document, one of them consults a Hackmaster legal dictionary.
Hard 8's service hotline offers an "ancient riddle service" for GMs who need a suitably hard riddle for their campaign on the fly for sphinx, cleverly-opened doors, and so forth. Conversely, they can also offer the solutions to such riddles to desperate players. After being stumped by one, Brian tries to find out the answer to one of B.A.'s riddles, only to find out that he paid extra for the "No Easy Answers" premium deluxe package.
When we get to peek behind the curtain during Nitro's epic World War II wargame, there are at least two other GaryCon sister games in Europe being coordinated with his, together across at least eleven time zones and with the kind of dedication and attention to detail one would expect in a real world command center.
To run a game, you need a Game Master license, for which you must take numerous tests demonstrating your mastery of the rules, ability to provide fair challenges, etc. Speaking of the rules, the rules as written are absolute and house-ruling is considered a shocking perversion that no decent person would indulge in.
See Hand in the Hole above. Also common in general at any game table as the GMs tend to exploit player's desires for loot and experience to screw with their characters.
In B.A.'s case, it happened more than once unintentionally. He stuck a sphere of annihilation at the bottom of a waste disposal chute and, knowing his players, put up grates, plenty of warnings of danger and made the chute long enough so that they couldn't get a rope to the bottom, in order to protect them. They took it as a sign that he was hoarding the really good treasure down there and B.A. got a Total Party Kill out of the deal.
Another appeared during Blackburn's shorts in The Rifter, with the infamous "Portal of Death" Both incidents even had the same setup: B.A.'s attempts to keep the party away from a dangerous place only convinces Brian, Dave, and Bob that the warnings are there to screw them out of a pile of treasure.
In the "I Believe" arc, Patty's Perps stumble across a magical symbol. When Eddie touches it, he is telepathically contacted by a "magical princess" who informs him that she has been kidnapped by a demon and they must rescue her before he comes back and sacrifices her. She also explains that the entrance to his lair is protected by an illusion that makes it look like a pool of molten lava, but if they "believe", it can't hurt them. One by one, every member of the party jumps...and then we cut to Patty at a bar with the other GMs, explaining how she successfully got her entire party to jump into a pool of molten lava, thus winning a bet (B.A. could only get Dave to jump before the rest caught on, Nitro only got Newt and Gordo.)
The Knights go through one of the hardest dungeons ever, lose a favored NPC guide, and come out with the Lyre of Hound Slaying, trailing their vital organs... only for Dave to get taken over by a magic sword and smash it.
See also B.A.'s Shmuck Bait entry above. The story started with showing just how much time and care went into making that dungeon, only for those three fools to kill the whole party right off the bat on the waste disposal system.
Slapstick Knows No Gender: Sara usually avoids the physical brawls at the table that often break out, either by being smart enough to avoid getting drawn in or by being scary enough that none of the guys want to mess with her. But sometimes she'll join in, and she'll be on both the giving and receiving ends. At least once, she was subjected to the "ultimate punishment" of being hung upside-down and left for B.A.'s cat to torment.
Speech-Impaired Animal: Squirrely, possibly. He can't speak, but smokes, drives, handles the till at The Games Pit, and plays video games and poker.
Spit Take: Weird Pete does one - spraying his beer into Stevil's face - after learning that his character had been drinking owl bear urine.
Spoiler Title: When B.A. called one of his adventures "The Doppler effect", Brian immediately know it'd feature a doppelganger. So it was no surprise to him when B.A. told Bob under four eyes that his character wasn't himself anymore.
Bob has a very dim view of women playing RPGs (to say nothing of DMing them), and was prone to being very condescending to Sara, particularly in the early days of her membership in the Knights. (Dave and Brian have also shown signs of this attitude, but to a much lesser extent.) Thanks to Sara's general skill, this view has been mostly overcome. (Or at least Bob has learned not to be so vocal about it. See Berserk Button above.)
Finally inverted with Bob. He's so dedicated to game that he lost his job as a claims adjuster, got kicked out of his father's house and now lives with his girlfriend while working at a game shop for surplus product. So he is frequently shown wearing an apron while she sits and reads the paper.
Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: When the party managed to get a ridiculous loot haul, B.A. put the Hackmaster campaign on hold to play Space Hack, but tricked the Space Hack characters into visiting Garweeze Wurld and attacking their own Hackmaster characters, destroying their loot. The Knights realized this too late but B.A. made the mistake of essentially saying the Space characters' sensors could detect magic as a form of background radiation. This led to Brian teaming up his engineer character with his mage to make it so that the ship could analyze and then reproduce any spell at will using the ship's power. They eventually blew up the planet.
Dave: El Ravager dips his sword in tribute to Garweeze Wur—
Sara: SHUT UP!!!
The Swear Jar: Patty, a kindergarten teacher, maintains one for her gaming group Patty's Perps.
Taken for Granite: Brian's character is turned to stone by a medusa in "The Stone Menagerie".
Talking to the Dead: Gary Jackson's funeral scene ends with Waco Bob talking to his body about what a friend he'd been and what he'd meant to gamers generally. The scene is concluded with a comical moment in which Waco checks that the coast is clear and rubs some dice on the body to infuse them with luck (an act for which the Hard Eight staff had previously chased out several fans, including Bob and Brian).
Talking Weapon: Carvin' Marvin and Tremble. And all the PCs really wish they couldn't.
Title Confusion: The label for stories set prior to the current ongoing story was changed from "Retro KoDT" to "Lost Tales of the Knights of the Dinner Table" because some fans misinterpreted the former label as an indication that the story was a reprint from a previous issue.
Tranquil Fury: B.A. gets like this when his players go too far with mistreating NPCs or derailing his campaign.
In what doubles as a Crowning Momentof Awesome for B.A., after his group lost a paintball war with the Black Hands which he had timidly opted out of, he kidnaps Gordo, steals his Dalek costume and infiltrates the Black Hands victory celebration to take them out Guns Akimbo at point blank range. He earns the respect of his group after that incident.
"Will 'The Character Formerly Known as the Man with No Name' and now associated with this symbol please be advised that he has inexplicably attracted the unbridled wrath of the Gawds and has just been turned into a newt!!"
The Knights may bicker and fight with each other, but heaven help you if you humiliate one of them.
Averted by the Black Hands; they're just that dysfunctional.
They almost play it straight once. When voting for a replacement GM when Nitro is forced to step down, they decide to write in Nitro's name as a symbolic show of solidarity. Except Newt votes for himself hoping that the other votes will be invalidated and he'll win unopposed.
Tsundere: Sheila Horowitz. Sara is a more subdued version.
Tyrant Takes the Helm: When Heidi Jackson comes to power. She rushes a new edition of Hackmaster out the door that incites riots, firing half of the original Hard Eight team while she works. Essentially it's an attempt at satirizing Lorraine Williams and the last days of TSR.
Unnecessary Combat Roll: The Black Hands try charging a heavily armed enemy fortification in the open. As Nitro is getting ready to mow them down, Newt asks if he remembered to factor in the series of evasive Kirk shoulder rolls they were performing.
A more straight example comes when Brian is called out for exploiting Bob's addiction to tabletop gaming even when he's in a bad financial situation.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Johnny Kizinski names his youngest son Frodo after convincing his wife that it was the name of a relative of his from "the old country" who died fighting the Russians.
His other son is named Sarek. And recently, Chad and Reese named their son Peeta.
Women Are Wiser: Sara throughout the series (though B.A. is not far behind her). Especially pronounced in Sheila's relationship with Bob.
Worthless Treasure Twist: Attempted by B.A. in the Lyrion's Academy adventure, where the Untouchable Trio (plus one) followed rumors of "the ultimate treasure" to the site of an ancient library (motto: knowledge is the ultimate treasure). Brian turns it around on him — B.A. established that the places is several centuries old, which means that the library's antique parchments and furnishings are worth over a million gold pieces.
Worthy Opponent: Despite the combative relationship between players and DM, the Knights ultimately see B.A. as one of the few gamemasters who will push them to their limits without being unfair or tyrannical. Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming whenever Pete has to remind B.A. of such.
Xanatos Gambit: Brian's 10-page wish: Even though his character was killed anyway, the contract rewound time, voided the wish, and gave Teflon Billy 10,000 gold.
Xenofiction: B.A. designs an RPG in which players assume the roles of dogs.
You Can Leave Your Hat On: Both Sara and Bob's characters end up stripping in an attempt to earn cash to continue the mission in Dave's game in #201.
Your Costume Needs Work: Gary Jackson gets third place in a Gary Jackson lookalike contest. Of course, he was supposed to be dead at the time.
Zorro Mark: The cover of Knights of the Dinner Table #26 "The Mask of El Ravager" show what happens when the Knights attempt this stunt.