While mileage varies on whether the first 120 strips (Dungeon Crawlin' Fools) are considered 100% canon, due to Rich Burlew writing them before he realized how long the series would last and how much emphasis would have to be placed on development and backstory, some fans take issue with how Redcloak's characterization apparently alternates between passive lackey (DCF) and competent evil champion of his maligned species and his vindictive faith (before and after DCF, but not during). However, as this comment recently pointed out: "The events at the end of Start of Darkness so badly shook up Recloak as to make him mentally subservient to Xykon. Redcloak murdering his brother in cold blood AND having Xykon rub his face in it shattered his worldview to such a degree that he regressed into a Mister Smithers-like lackey role while he attempted to process what he did. Only when Xykon was defeated the first time and when he got in charge of the hobgoblins did he start to come out of his shell and act like he did before."
Redcloak's lost eye gives several.
In this comic, Redcloak is really talking to his brother, Right-Eye.
Which also explains Tuskiko's insult of "Wrong-eye", as she was told by Xykon that it would annoy him.
The kicker? When Blackwing drops the phylactery, it bounces off a statue of Redcloak, on its right eye.
Ever wonder why all ninjas from Azure City wears a uniform with a blue or purple shade? Aside from the obvious being that everyone from that city wears clothes with such shades of color, their government is a lawful good society right? Well since ninjas are quite often dressed in black, the unique shade of color worn by the Azure city ninjas show affiliation with the city. Otherwise anyone that might get their spot check and see these guys would probably try to get them killed by anyone who can fight who's nearby. Honestly what person would actually trust someone in clothes that completely cover their body, the unique shade means they aren't supposed to be the enemy, and using color to show affiliation is extremely common pretty much everywhere. Even the Empire of Blood's "Death Squad" ninjas don't dress in pitch black clothing, they wear shades of color that are unique to them. Also wearing shades of blue and purple mix in really well with the background in Azure city.
Elan and Nale are meant to be evil twin counterparts:
Elan's a Bard, while Nale's a fighter/rogue/sorceror hybrid, (basically a less optimized bard). So far so good. Nale's specialises in Enchantment, mind-control spells, which bards can also cast, but don't rely on exclusively. With a few exceptions (the healing spells he's picked up since leaving the Azure Fleet behind, one use of mending, one use of lesser confusion,) almost all Elan's spells come from the other school bards rely heavily on — Illusion, and suddenly the "Evil opposites" aspect of Elan & Nale's relationship gets deeper.
Nale's plans require a certain level of brilliance to even conceive of them, but as Elan calls the multiclassing example above, are needlessly complicated. In contrast, Elan's as sharp as a sack of wet mice, but he's also usually correct about the storyline. Nale has high Intelligence and low Wisdom, while Elan has the reverse.
On a related note: Zz'dtri's back. But why is his hair short? Well, we all know Nale has deliberately set up his team to be The Psycho Rangers to the Order. So obviously, he had Zz'dtri cut his hair just so that it would be opposite to V's now longer hair. Now that's sticking to a theme!
Elan's slowly been leaning towards Lawfulness thanks to the influence of Lawful types like Roy and Hinjo. When Nale reappears in Empire of Blood arc, he starts becoming more and more Chaotic.
Z's Parody Retcon actually makes a lot of sense. Yeah, like Drizzt, he's a dark elf who wields twin scimitars and presents himself as a Defector from Decadence, but he's different in several respects. Unlike Drizzt, who is a Ranger and fights with his scimitars, Z is basically a Squishy Wizard (albeit slightly more athletic than V), and only uses his weapons for channeling spells. There's also the fact that Z is a typical dark elf and not a Defector from Decadence. Thus, it couldn't have been too hard to prove he was a parody rather than a plagiarism.
It's probably no coincidence that the people of Azure City have blue hair. Azure City is to some degree a parody of the Far East civilizations found in tabletop games that involve a very cursory knowledge of Japan or China and tend to incorporate whatever the creator thinks is cool. Well, in such circumstances, anime is more than likely one source of knowledge, and a signature/stereotypical anime trope is You Gotta Have Blue Hair.
According to Races of the Dragon, a Kobold's favorite toiletry is Bitterleaf oil.
Vaarsuvius (and O-Chul) manage to hoist Xykon with his own petard; Xykon points out to V that power can take many forms...including something as simple as a class feature or a fairly low-level spell...
When Xykon punished Redclock by not letting him recover his eye is a bad punishment in it of itself, but it's a lot worse when you read Start of Darkness.
Spoiler heavy: after Miko's death, she asks if she can visit her Paladin mount in the afterlife, since she no longer qualifies for the Lawful Good one. This takes on a whole new meaning when you realise her mount was most likely her only real friend on the world, as everyone else finds her too crazy or insufferable to get along with. Alas, Poor Scrappy indeed.
Tarquin and Tarquin's buddy Malack are counterparts to Xykon and Redclack. In both groups, the first is a goofy Evil Overlord and the second is their Lawful Evil cleric partner who tends to facepalm at their goofiness. Rich expected Tarquin and Malack to get the Draco in Leather Pants treatment and was doing a deliberate Bait the Dog. With Tarquin and Malack, it's like he took Xykon and Redcloak and filled them with likable traits.
Xykon's epic speech about how power equals power harkens back to a scene in Start Of Darkness. Namely, the scene where he bludgeons to death master Fyron after losing in a spell duel, indicating that Xykon knows that spells don't win battles, you use the best tool for the job.
For someone who has never played D&D, the prismatic spray spell V used on the devil was pretty cool. But if you look it up and learn its exact effects, you can go back and look at V's successful attempts at the spell. The color corresponding to the resulting effect manifests in a bigger beam than the other six (so when V petrifies the demon, the blue light is much more prominent).
In Start of Darkness, when Redcloak kills Right-eye, the latter calls the former "Redcloak" instead of "Brother". This is not just a rejection of Redcloak being his brother, it's also calling him Xykon's stooge, because Redcloak is what the lich always calls him
In strip 753, when Tarquin visits Roy and Belkar in prison and takes off his helmet, he responds to their reactions with "What? Do I have something on my face?". This seemed like just a standard joke, until you go back to strip 141, where Elan responds to the look Haley and V are giving him with the exact same line. Like father, like son.
This line by Girard: "Give a man enough power, and he's bound to abuse it, no matter how noble he thinks he is.”
The IFCC gave V power, and s/he abused it, killing Girard's entire family line.Damn, Girard, you were right on the money.
His contempt for paladins leads him to be absolutely convinced that Soon will break his oath to not seek out and interfere with the other gates. Not only does Soon not break his oath, but Girard's lying about the location of his own gate has done more to jeopardize the heroes than anything the Sapphire Guard did. It seems Girard was right about the ability for power to corrupt, but wrong about who it was affecting.
The line by Girard is actually rather prophetic regarding himself and his family. They go out and seduce strangers and then run off with the children and their spouses' money back to their ridiculously scry-proof pyramid, leaving the grieving parents behind to wonder what happened to their baby. Abuse of power indeed.
Keeping in mind that warlocks in most D&D settings get their powers from contracts with demons, V's anger at being called one in the marketplace suddenly takes on a much more personal tone.
All of the Gates (or at least, their defenses) have so far suffered a Death by Irony:
Lirian's Gate—so besotted with the power of Nature to guard it, it had no real defences against the unnatural lich Xykon or even a simple forest fire.
Dorukan's Gate—guarded with the idea that arcane power was the ultimate defence, which fails when you face an enormously powerful arcane caster who is specifically built to take down other arcane casters; plus, Dorukan clearly valued the intelligence of wizards, and the gate was inadvertently destroyed by Elan who is, simply put, a buffoon.
Soon's Gate—Guarded with the idea that the honour of a paladin was unbreakable, and Shojo's decision to not follow the Paladin's code - along with a fallen Paladin - set off the chain of events leading to the gate being destroyed (not to mention that almost all of the other paladins were turned against one another by the Symbol of Insanity).
Girard's Gate—the idea here is that you can't trust anyone outside your family, so you need to guard the gate entirely with members of it. Works well until someone lets off a loose cannon spell that obliterates your entire family!
When V casts Vaarsuvius' Greater Animal Messenger to contact Belkar and Haley, he/she shields it from all magical methods of attack, but doesn't shield it from normal arrows. It gets shot and eaten by Belkar and Haley. A the time, V was a believer in the Almighty Superiority of Magic, so of course he/she wouldn't even consider that the spell could be defeated by normal weapons.
When Daigo gets knocked out by his family's would-be assailants (multiple times), whereas Kazumi goes Mama Bear/Pregnant Badass on everyone, one might assume it's because Daigo has suffered from Chickification, while Kazumi hasn't. This sudden imbalance in competence makes more sense, however, when you realize Kazumi has revealed her full name... While Daigo hasn't. Not revealing his full name is working like a sort of Power Limiter on Daigo, and he'll remain underpowered compared to his wife until his full name is made clear.
It may seems strange that an undead abomination like Xykon can be so funny and entertaining even as he's committing horrible acts, until you remember that Xykon is a powerful undead lich... and a sorcerer. Sorcerers' most important stat is charisma; being epic level and incredibly powerful, Xykon's charisma must be through the roof! No wonder he's so likable.
Likewise why Roy initially found Miko so attractive. As a paladin she likely has a good Charisma score, which is generally a combination of force of personality, interpersonal skills, charm, and general physical attractiveness. Miko has a strong force of personality but the charm and interpersonal skills of a wolverine, so to keep with her Charisma score she'd have to be quite attractive.
It's a bit odd that the Azurites didn't try to take advantage of Elan's magical singing during the war. Elan could arguably be more powerful than V during that sequence, since his song would add a great deal of both attack and damage to every single soldier that can hear it, greatly enhancing their chances of killing hobgoblins. However, he can't: He didn't have his lute with him, making it impossible for him to use the perform skill he had ranks in. Not a huge one, but a nice way to explain why one of the overpowerful abilities the Order wasn't used.
In comic 390, Elan's mentor comments that he's better off not knowing what a "padawan" is. Considering that the Star Wars references come thick and fast when his evil dad Tarquin enters the story, he's right.
Elan hangs on to the Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity because he thinks it might come in handy (and he was curious). Why did he think such a random, impractical item might be useful at some point? Because it was mentioned. He's Genre Savvy enough to know a Chekhov's Gun when he sees one — he makes sure to keep it because a) he considers it bad storytelling to draw attention to something and then just leave it there, never to come up again, and b) he know that the fact that attention was drawn to it guarantees that a situation will come up where it's necessary.
Roy is The Unfavourite to Eugene, always passed over in favour of Julia. While this does have something to do with Roy being a fighter and Julia being a mage, keep in mind what Roy said to Eric: "I was just a kid. It wasn't my job to watch the grown-up. But... I still should have done something. I knew it wasn't safe. Dad just shushed me. He never listened to me at all when Mom wasn't around." It's quite plausible that Eugene has always blamed Roy for Eric's death.
Tarquin's three Empires are the Empire of Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Entire nations have been named after the sheer effort he and his team have put into managing and controlling the constantly warring states of the continent.
Tarquin being fairly dismissive of Malack mourning for his children seems like a pure Kick the Dog moment from him...and then it turns out that Malack is a vampire, and his "children" are the people he's turned. Tarquin literally doesn't see what the big deal is, seeing as how he can just create more spawn.
The "ghost-paladins of the Sapphire Guard" from comic #449 are this mixed with Hilarious in Hindsight. As Redcloak notes in comic #459, they're some kind of weird "positive-energy spirits". Before Rich Burlew really began working on The Order of the Stick, he submitted a campaign setting to Wizards of the Coast. He lost, and another submitter's entry won instead — that entry became the campaign setting of Eberron... which has, as an enemy type, the Deathless — entities like the Undead, but fuelled by positive energy instead of negative energy. In other words, the comic's creator cribbed Soon Kim and his ghostly guardians from the very campaign setting that beat his out — Soon Kim and his Ghost-Paladins are actually incorporeal Deathless Paladins.
In #885, Roy insists that the party start walking in silence in response to Durkon's death. Having reread the comic recently I immediately thought of how Soon Kim always walked in stoic silence with his party. This is yet another parallel between the Orders of the Stick and Scribble.
Nale's overly-complicated multiclass setup is a joke that works on two levels. On the surface, it just goes along with his love for complexity. But as explained by someone who understands D&D better than I do - his skillsets mean he's essentially a glorified bard.
In the illusion Roy managed to kill Xykon while he was begging for mercy using Roy's name. Now, considering that Xykon can never remember Roy even 5 minutes after fighting him and the illusion was designed to show everyone what they desire most- then Roy secretly wants Xykon to know who he is as an adversary. The thing here is that when you devote your life to someone in any way—loving them, killing them, guarding them—you want recognition, regardless of the relationship's nature. Roy wants to prove that he's not the Red Shirt his dad believes he is, the mere precursor of a greater hero. This makes the illusion all the more brilliant when you realize Xykon's recognition of Roy when he comes through the door gives the whole thing away in the first line.
Tarquin's dismissal of Nale as a superfluous plot point after he kills Nale serves to underline another important difference between Tarquin and (post Character Development) Elan. Tarquin is so obsessed with how reality and fantasy intertwine in their world that he believes they're the same thing. Elan is similar, judging reality by the standards of fantasy- but the difference is that he knows when to turn away from that. As we see with Nale and the incinerated slaves, he does take death very seriously, and he understands that people are more than chess pieces. As the comic shifts into Cerebus Syndrome and Reality Ensues more and more, this turns out to be the wise option.
It's pretty brilliant how Girard, the most paranoid member of the entire Order of the Scribble, completely fails at protecting his fortress from the true threat, Xykon. The one person he trusts and who knows the actual coordinates writes them down (inadvertently giving them to Xykon) while the person who he gave the false coordinates to never gave them up or pursued his Gate. Additionally, his epic-level uber-illusion is a mind-affecting effect, which the undead Xykon is immune to. Not to mention all those low-level Draketooth family members Xykon could have reaped like wheat even if they had been alive. For all his paranoia, the person who presented the most danger to the gate is the only person who would not be inconvenienced by his defenses at all. Of course, Team Evil being the last group to get there made it all a moot point.
Reflecting on it, there's a second layer of Fridge Brilliance here that would make Girard's ghost explode with rage—Soon Kim won their argument. Everything Girard did to secure his Gate only slowed down the heroes but wouldn't have delayed Team Evil much at all (Fortunately for the Order, Redcloak did that instead). On the other hand, Soon's method of defending the Gate required pretty much every resource Team Evil could muster and still took an entire plot arc to fall. It would have been entirely successful, too, if not for a certain delusional ex-paladin.
The comic "Second Chance" doesn't just refer to O-Chul getting back up and giving him and Vaarsuvius a second wind against Xykon. It's a direct parallel to this comic, where we see V's guilt at turning invisible and abandoning the Azurite soldiers to die. Even before the full ramifications of Familicide sink in, V makes an active choice to stay and do something, despite the risk. Even though it's a small gesture, it's a powerful sign that V does have what it takes to start turning things around.
Take a look at comic #50. Take a look at Nale's shocked expression when Elan goes Genre Savvy unexpectedly. At the time the comic was made, it was probably just shock at Elan's sudden competence (and leaning on the fourth wall). But years later, with that family's backstory made clear? Nale's so shocked because he looked at his brother and just saw a younger version of his father. Which goes a long way towards explaining why Nale hated Elan so much for so little reason. It was really more about beating his father all along.
Rich's twitter icon is of Elan. Why? Because Rich is like a bard himself, telling the story of the Order of the Stick!
On the ymmv page, the desert arc is getting into Arc Fatigue territory. Which is exactly how the Order feels about it too. They had a grueling battle to get to the gate, then a rumble with Team Evil, and now Tarquin is hunting them like animals too. Rich hasgotten the reader to be as sick and tired of this as the Order would be.
Tarquin is Dangerously Genre Savvy, and flaunts this. He knows he's in a story, and wants to stick to that story as much as possible. If events unfold that don't follow the story, he will break down. However, his definition of "following the story" usually involves him and his immediate relatives taking center stage, and the other characters being forgotten about. If the story focuses on somebody else, he will unceremoniously kill them, and will stubbornly work his way into the story even if it no longer involves him. Just listen to some of his quotes listed in his entry under Control Freak:
Tarquin: As I've said before, procedure matters. Elan: But the safety of the world — Tarquin: — is meaningless if everyone is going to run around doing whatever they feel like, without regard for proper story structure. There must be some sense of order — personal, political, or dramatic — and if no one else is going to bring it to this world, I will.
Tarquin: I'm sorry, Elan, but you brought this all on yourself. I tried to give you a dramatically significant death scene to swear vengeance over, but you seem to prefer this... this disjoined anarchy. There's no unity of theme here at all! Elan: Didn't we... already do the scene... where you try to convince me to do things your way? Tarquin: (grabbing Elan, face twisted with rage) Yes, and it didn't go right, so we are DOING IT AGAIN. And we will CONTINUE to do it until you understand that it is in your best interest to...
When Xykon imprisons Dorukan and Lirian in the little black gem in Start Of Darkness, does he still have it on him when Roy throws Xykon's body into the rift?
Think about all the stupid things Elan has done and how much trouble they have caused. Now look at the explanation for why he is so dumb in this comic. Nale caused Elan to be the way he is. Assume that Elan would have high intelligence like both of his parents had Nale not prevented it. We already know Elan has high charisma. We can assume he also has high wisdom, from his genre savviness and his practical use of it while going against his bardic sensibilities to avert the Rule of Drama. His strength and dexterity, while not as high as his charisma, are probably in the 12-13 range. His constitution can't be too bad on account of his not dying yet. So if not for Nale, Elan would have been an awesome character.
In The Order of the Stick, blowing up Dorukan's dungeon was done so the party wouldn't loot and XP farm the population of said dungeon, with Elan doing it out of dramatic necessity. Well, that's fine and all, until you remember 3 things: 1. There were those rebellious goblin teens inside that dungeon. 2. Redcloak declared them all dead, and 3. If you've read Start Of Darkness, you'd know that Xykon gang-pressed a lot of innocent goblins to work for him.
The arc with the mother black dragon seeking vengeance on Vaarsuvius was inspired by a moment of Fridge Horror that creator Rich Burlew had when he noticed that of all of the races in D&D, dragons are the only ones with character stats for every stage of their lives, including childhood, and therefore the only race whose children the game effectively condoned killing.
Related to the above entry; Vaarsuvius later discovers that one of the Black Dragons killed by the Familicide spell he/she cast was an ancestor of the entire Draketooth family, and thus the entire family was wiped out by the spell. That's not the Fridge Horror. Vaarsuvius then realizes that several other families were also wiped out by the spell due to being related to the Draketooths (because of the Draketooth family's practice of seducing strangers and absconding with the resulting offspring). That's not the Fridge Horror. But who says the Black Dragon that sired the Draketooth bloodline was the only dragon in his family to mate outside his species? Vaarsuvius is already aware that his/her actions caused the deaths of a lot of innocents, but the death toll may be a lot higher than he/she realizes.
This comic. Sure, the news anchor getting killed and replaced by a member of the death squad is a pretty funny piece of Black Comedy. But remember a few panels earlier, when they show the "Sanguine Street" characters, she mentions "her three-year-old". Yeah...
Before they formed the Order of the Stick, Roy and Durkon were in another party and the other members were all complete dicks, and if it wasn't for Roy, they would've killed a bunch of innocent orcs who just wanted to watch a concert. The last we see of this party is when Roy tells them to go fuck themselves before leaving. They could still be somewhere out there, killing harmless non-humanoids just because it's easier than talking to them. Furthermore, note that this is Dungeons & Dragons. There are many adventuring groups exactly like that.