That looks like a very awesome and badass +4 dagger. Belkar's weapons look pretty plain and can't be very heavily enchanted. So why didn't he pick it up?
A sexy shoeless god of war doesn't need magic.
Because in 3.5 D&D Halfling weapons don't work that way. Not to mention that just because Belkar's Dagger looks plain doesn't mean it is.
Probably because it's some form of exotic weapon, not a regular dagger. Haley herself says it's a "weird-looking" weapon.
Correct. A barbed dagger (Complete Adventurer p. 115) is functionally identical to a dagger unless its wielder has 5 ranks in Sleight Of Hand, and we all know Belkar's opinion on non-combat skills.
Because it's a girly color and it already has holes in it.
Belkar, being Small, takes a penalty to attack rolls for wielding inappropriately sized weapons. A Medium dagger is designed to be wielded by a Medium creature, so assuming he already uses +3 daggers (this isn't canonical but it's consistent with the weapons we do know about), he'd be trading +1 damage for -1 to hit, not a worthwhile upgrade. Combine that with the fact that (a) Crystal is not dead and therefore needs a weapon (Rule of Drama) and (b) the dagger is undoubtedly difficult to draw, and Belkar is most definitely not getting it.
Worth pointing out: His daggers are explicitly magical; the Oracle refers to them as such after he's stabbed. No idea just what magical effect they have, though.
No, the Oracle said Belkar dulls his daggers so they hurt more when he gets stabby. There was no mention of magic.
The daggers are magical, he says this to Roy the next comic.
No, he says Belkar made him a "temporary magic dagger depository". "Magic" modifies "depository" in the sentence, not "dagger". It's the Oracle that's magical, not Belkar's daggers.
I beg to differ. It makes no sense for "magic" to modify "depository" here. The Oracle calling himself magic in this context conveys no information to either Roy or the audience. Conservation of Detail.
Hell, it makes no sense from the standpoint of basic sentence structure and reading comprehension. If I were to call a garbage can a "biological waste depository," would you really assume I meant the can itself was biological?
Haley calls Crystal's weapon a funny-looking sword. It's not a dagger, Crystal is an idiot.
Redcloak and the Oracle
So why doesn't Redcloak visit the Oracle? It seems to me that knowledge of the Oracle's location and abilities must be not uncommon, if he maintains a business sufficient to entice adventurers to visit him on a semi-regular basis. Since Redcloak is so intent on getting as much information about the next gate before he and Xykon attempt to seize it, wouldn't it behoove Team Evil to pay a visit to Lickmyorangeballshalfling and consult our reptilian plot device?
Common sense, perhaps? Redcloak probably won't waste time and money on what is a simple single question/cryptic answer when he wants hard information. Roy has already tried to get useful information out of the Oracle twice, and failed for different reasons (the first time the question was too simple, the second time it was too complex). Oracles aren't there to make life easy...
Redcloak probably wouldn't get much help from The Oracle, and is fully aware of this. That kobold is as Chaotic Neutral as he is orange, but his attempts to give Roy hints when the hero messed up the Xykon location question suggests he's against the villains' evil agenda.
Does Redcloak even know the Oracle exists in the first place?
Redcloak is a high level cleric. As such he has just as good divination as the Oracle.
I'm pretty sure you don't get divination just for being a cleric. Even so, if he did have the powers the Oracle does, he'd be invincible because he'd be able to find out the answer to everything.
Yes you do.
In AD&D 3.5, the system in which the comic is based, clerics get plenty of divination spells just for being clerics. However, the 5th level spell Commune is as good as the spells get, and it requires the phrasing of simple yes or no questions that will be answered by the deity (or a representative thereof) to the best of the diety's knowledge and in accordance with any agenda it has. As such, while Redcloak certainly has access to powerful divinatory magic of his own, the Oracle is still obviously a special case, as that's definitely not Commune he's using. Redcloak has an intelligent and over-analytical mind; those don't do well with overly-simple answers and obvious solutions. If I were Redcloak, I wouldn't stake my attempts at harnessing a world-devouring horror on the Oracle's answers, either.
Well, as of comic #737, Xykon at least knows about the Oracle. But it seems the Oracle doesn't want to help Xykon. Given how he tried to help Roy last time he was there, it seems he's picked a side, inasmuch as he's willing to help one side more than the other.
It is likely that Tiamat would specifically instruct the Oracle not to provide any assistence to Xykon or Redcloak, considering the danger that they pose to reality. As Start of Darkness showed, Tiamat was the Evil deity who was initially against informing the Dark One about the Snarl.
Two things. One, that is very likely. Two, GO TIAMAT! In your platinum-plated Holier Than Thou face, Bahamut!
Bahamut doesn't exist in the OOTS world. The closest analog is Dragon from the Southern Pantheon.
Durkon and the Oracle
So what did Durkon ask the Oracle during his and Roy's first visit to him?
Nothing, maybe? Every question costs money, maybe they only had the cash for a single question on their first visit, or wanted to keep spending to a minimum. They hadn't just raided a dungeon full of treasure by then, after all.
Except Roy had to dangle the Oracle out of the window to get him to let them ask a third question, which implies Durkon did ask a question.
My guess? The oracle's tricky answers are to blame. Roy asks about Xykon, Oracle answers "In his throne room." They groan, but roll with it and Durkon asks the question again, phrased differently, and they get a similarly useless answer. Then they dangle him out the window to make sure that this time they get a good answer.
Okay, well one of when the things that Headscratchers is about Fyron's "son". In comic #110, Roy says "You needed some sort of magical doodad that he owned, so you killed him and his son in cold blood." Yet, in Start of Darkness where we see Fyron and Xykon's fight and no son was there. No son was ever mentioned. So... what's with that?
In the first volume, Rich didn't have the backstory entirely straightened out. Eugene's first appearance, wherein he apparently has contact with Roy's mother and expresses a desire to communicate with his son, would be a prime illustration. Still, Fyron's son could be retconned in somewhere.
I'm not so sure about that... I mean, I can understand it if the son had only been mentioned once in the early strips, but Roy mentions it again in 434.
What if he's *cue Elan dun dun duuuunnn* not dead? All powerful Lich kills your papa, you're not exactly about to hang around are you? It'd be easy for someone like Roy or his pop to think they were killed as well.
His corpse could have been out of frame.
I'm not so sure... I mean, if Xykon had just killed Fyron's son then wouldn't Fyron be pretty pissed off at him? And he was willing to let Xykon go after he defeated him with magic so I don't think he knew. But there was no mention of any son anywhere in So D...
No, Fyron would only be pissed about it if he knew Xykon killed his son. Even if Xykon killed the boy, that doesn't mean Fyron was aware of this fact at the time of the duel. Nor does it imply that the son was killed before the father.
I believe Word of God is that it's a continuity error. If so, my in-story interpretation is that Roy has the story wrong—he misunderstood something his dad said, or his dad added in a son to make the story more relevant to Roy, to manipulate him better. Ditz Xykon's hardly going to correct him, if he even remembers that much of the details.
All right, that makes sense. But do you know specifically where Rich said it? Because I'd be interested in seeing that.
My own in-story explanation would be that Xykon killed the son while coming in the back door, and Fyron just never found out because he came in the front, fought Xykon, and died.
Miko not knowing Belkar's alignment
According to Word of God, Miko found out Belkar was evil when she successfully used Smite Evil on him prior to the "stupid railroad plot" event. Then why did she take him to Azure City instead of killing him on the spot?
Miko did not know he was evil. As recently as strip 281 she was still attempting to detect evil on Belkar. Ergo, she did not know he was evil after the "stupid railroad plot" event.
She probably Detected Evil on Belkar to make sure it was Belkar and not, say, a dummy designed to distract her so he could set her on fire again.
There is no rule that says that you find out whether a creature is evil when you use smite evil. Miko used smite evil because of her suspicions about Belkar, but she'd have no way of knowing if it had an effect. She can presume it did. But she can not know for certain that he is evil.
In this particular instance, the Giant likely made a mistake when posting in the thread and optimized the battle. Since he knows all details about all characters, this is the likeliest scenario as opposed to Miko actually knowing Belkar was evil in the comic.
Honor of a Paladin... she was ordered to capture the Order of the Stick for trial. Even though she's pretty Lawful Stupid, I don't think she'd disobey a direct order.
But she did attempt to execute Roy right away when she ambushed the party and thought he was evil.
She would have had to subdue the rest of the Order of the Stick after Roy to bring them to trial. Possibly she thought it'd be worth killing Roy if it made capturing the rest more likely.
Roy's fake evil Lich aura was probably less than Belkar's aura of evil. She probably thought at the time that Roy was waaaaay too dangerous to be kept alive if he didn't surrender immediately, whereas she knew Belkar was a lower level humanoid evil, so she could more easily take him alive and fulfill her duty.
Hm? Pretty sure she didn't use Smite Evil on him until he escaped the Azure City prison. Unless it was offscreen?
Offscreen, according to the Giant's description of the battle that led to Miko chaining them: see this thread.
She had known them for a while by that point, and she hadn't completely gone off the deep end just yet. She might not like Belkar but it's not beyond the realms of possibility for her to hesitate to kill him.
I just reread some of the older comics and in 202, Miko says she just used Detect Evil on Roy, Durkon and Elan.
Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity and V
What effect, if any, would the Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity have if used by Vaarsuvius?
Oh man, I remember a couple of topics on the forums where everyone speculated on that. Some of the popular theories were that the universe would simply explode (ha ha), or that V would change from an androgynous male or female to an equally androgynous female or male. Some others said that the opposite of androgyny is a clearly defined gender, so that's what V would be. Logical people pointed out that the belt loses it's powers after it's been removed so it wouldn't do a thing... Personally, I don't have a clue. I may dig up the thread for you at a later date though.
Given that we've seen V's spouse and he/she is similarly androgynous - and we assume V isn't gay - then the 'V looking almost no different' theory is probably true.
Except V very well might be homosexual. Hir children are adopted, as mentioned below, and s/he didn't seem to make much of a reaction when seeing Nale and Male-cop-Sabine making out. We have little idea how same-sex couples are fit inside of the Oots world, but it seems to me a heterosexual character would have been more alarmed at "Elan"s sudden closet-departure.
Inkyrius (the spouse) seems fairly male to me—the hips of female characters are curved, while those of male characters are boxy. OTOH, there's a scene in the prequel book Start of Darkness where there's a line of (apparently female) archers—they all had curvy hips, but only some of them had breasts. So either some male elves are curvy, or (more likely) some female elves are really flat. As for homosexuality, one of the collections (Paladin Blues, IIRC) had a bonus strip with a couple of female paladins making out, so apparently it's OK. At least in Azure City.
Inkyrius always seemed pretty male to me as well. I mean, yeah, he's got a ponytail, but Inkyrius uses the male body type. There's not a lot of variation in Oo T's body design; there are two types of figure, male and female. V gets away with the ambiguity on account of wearing robes that obscure which figure he or she has, but Inkyrius appears to be wearing a tunic, with an open collar, no less. He has no such excuse.
Those two female paladins told Miko they were a couple as an excuse to not have her join them for dinner, and Miko nonchalantly accepted that. If there was even a slight strain of homophobia in the culture, surely she would have gotten pompously judgmental about it (considering that "pompously judgmental" is her default state when given the slightest excuse).
It's a good way to slow down your mega loot-spree party. And as it doesn't technicaly exist in 3rd edition, it could be multi-use just fine. The Remove Curse is for the person, not the item.
Or... they could just find another belt...
It would magically refuse to stay on.
My theory is that Vaarsuvius has Schrodinger's Gender: one of two possibilities is determined when observed, like when V was transformed into a lizard. The Girdle might stabilize it... or not.
The troper towards the top says that the opposite of androgyny might be clearly defined gender. But if V has no clearly defined gender, might the opposite be both clearly defined genders? In combination with the Schrodinger's Gender, might V's gender when subject to the girdle then become ambiguous only after it is discovered, and it would thus be impossible to know V's sex since the information would be cancelled once it was know? Like the Ultimate Answer to the ultimate Question?
Or, if V put the belt on, his/her hairstyle would change to the hiarstyle of his spouse. That way we could clearly tell that the gender had changed.
They might be a same-sex couple...
This has now happened in the comic, so hairstyle can't be an indicator of gender.
One thing to add, anyone else notice how all High Elves seem to be androgynous? Look at the others we've seen, can anyone tell me how obvious their gender is? Therefore, if the rest of the high elves look androgynous, I'm guessing she'll/he'll stay androgynous.
Roy has a clearly defined gender. When he put on the belt, he didn't become androgynous. Thus, V wouldn't go from androgynous to clearly-defined gender. Q.E.D.
There's a WMG that guesses he's the victim of a stray Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity. 10% of those item remove all sex from the user. This sounds very plausible (how many D&D characters have no defined gender? Like 0.1%). So, I think he would randomly become a female or male.
Vaarsuvius isn't Androgynous High elves are a different species and thus have different secondary sexual characteristics so if V were to put on the girdle he/she would change to look more like his/her partner (unless same sex of course) so there would be a visible change but it would only be visible to other high elves
Exactly: V's gender would change, from whatever it is to the other one, but we still won't be told.
Skeletons' Eye Sockets
How do Xykon and other skeletons change the width of their eye sockets? Sometimes they are completely round, and sometimes more flattened.
...magic? Yes. Magic. The same magic that animates (and on occasion regrows) their skeleton from nothing.
That kind of reminds me of the Expressive Mask trope.
In Start of Darkness, Redcloak makes a comment about Druids putting out natural forest fires and it creating enough dry underbrush that the entire forest burns down. I'm sorry, but how does a Cleric of Evil and Destruction know more about the natural world than an entire grove of elven druids led by an EPIC LEVEL elven druid, with at least 24+ ranks in Knowledge Nature? Why weren't the elves making controlled fires?
Epic level hippies are still hippies. Rich was making fun of touchy-feely enviromentalism, and Redcloak was showing off how much of a nerd he is.
Further noted, this is Truth in Television. Those massive fires out in California? this is precisely what happened.
Another possibility might be that the druids assumed they would always be around to stop any fires that got started (provided they didn't have to repel an invading goblin army at the same time). Magic would be much more effective at firefighting than the means we use in RL. Control Weather, anyone? That way, they could keep their forest without having to periodically loose some of their precious fluffy animals.
I know it was meant for humour, it still bugs me...
Keep in mind that she probably wasn't putting out fires JUST to preserve the environment; she's probably well aware that it's not necessarily a good thing. She's putting out fires to protect the Gate, which, remember, is held in place by two treants which are highly vulnerable to fire. I bet she figured that she would be able to take care of them by putting out fires even if it was at the expense of biodiversity in the forest in question. That said, it's probably just Rule of Funny
Note that Redcloak is apparently intelligent enough to have anachronistic knowledge far beyond that of his contemporaries (titantium elementals, anyone?), so this is likely just another example of that.
Makes perfect sense to me. Druids are often all about balance and maintenance of nature, believing everything can live in equilibrium. Redcloak is a cleric of Evil and DESTRUCTION, and arguments like "sometimes you just have to burn down part of the forest" are the sorts of arguments Clerics of Destruction use to legitimize the wisdom of their calling.
But forest fires are a part of the natural order. By preventing them, the druids were disrupting the equilibrium, resulting in some nasty consequences (like a massive fire that destroys an entire forest, as opposed to a minor one that fertilizes the soil and kills of old growth, giving new plants a chance to grow.
Redcloak received the best alignment-appropriate educaton that his people had to offer. Since goblins are something found in forests that tends to be put out with extreme predjudice for the greater "Good," it seems feasible that they might see things from a sufficiently different angle to notice pros and cons that the druids miss. Especially if they tend to gravitate toward low-population areas that do not even have a residant druid. And of course, not all druids are necessarily in agreement on the subject, any more than modern ecologists agree about every single policy. he could have merely been commenting on Lirian and her allies.
The problem is is that he's got more knowledge than the epic-level elven druid. That's what strains credibility. Druid typically max out their Knowledge Nature, and given that Lirian is epic level, that is a lot of knowledge. And yet, they make that joke, which really just like forcing the Idiot Ball down her throat. Also, "notice the pros and cons of what the druids miss"? By your own claim they get booted out of the forests post-haste. What capacity would they have to amass knowledge of this nature?
All druids observe is, by definition, land that has at least one druid there. If goblins are sticking to the backwater, more "real-world" natural areas, then they're observing fire cycles in lands that are free of druidic intervention. People from different backgrounds/viewpoints do tend to learn different things. The druids' overall knowledge of nature may be greater, but it is still slanted and incomplete, and anything which is incomplete may be partially and situationally surpassed by someone else. Druids deal with small fires by putting them out immediately. Goblins can't necessarily do that, so they learn to survive them and view them as part of life.
Maybe Redcloak just said that to displace blame. There is no evidence the druids didn't allow natural burns besides the fact he yelled that in panic during a battle while there was a fire blazing. A fire he caused. Redcloak has often proven unwilling to admit his mistakes.
That's an explanation I accept. In fact, I just reread the passage. He makes the claim on the druids, and then adds that Right-Eye was the one who suggested it.
Goblins being Medium-sized
D&D goblins are about three feet tall, so why are all the goblins in the comic about the same size as human characters? Shouldn't Redcloak be about the same size as Belkar instead of Roy?
Sylphs are also medium, if I remember correctly it gives goblins a way to look more threatening and is much easier to draw.
Also, the part about sylphs is lampshaded: when Roy is looking for Celia, he describes her as "Inexplicably medium-size."
While we're at it, why is Durkon drawn small? Dwarves are medium.
Dwarves are medium due to their stocky, wide builds. They are, indeed, short.
Word of God- Burlew said he designed them that way intentionally to make them more fearsome an enemy.
Never quite understood why he didn't just call them Orcs instead... same green skin, taller, and we have plenty of examples of half-orcs.
Most likely because Redcloak's whole issue is that his species was created to be cannon fodder, and goblins are about as low on that totem pole as you can get.
Goblin Dan and the Hydra
Given that everyone forgets what happens in Sunken Valley (except for the questions they asked), how did Goblin Dan remember how to properly exploit the unconscious hydra? Did he ask the Oracle "What possible use is an unconscious hydra?"... might explain why kobolds eat free on certain days at certain times.
He saw an unconscious hydra, realized he could sell the heads, and dragged it out of Sunken Valley. He then saw an unconscious hydra, realized he could sell the heads, and dragged it to wherever he lives. What's the problem?
I always thought he operated IN the Sunken Valley.
I assumed that the memory loss only activates if you've actually visited the Oracle. Goblin Dan didn't visit the Oracle, simple as.
Goblin Familial Relations
So, for all those who like to talk about how Start of Darkness showed why you shouldn't kill species just for being different... you DO realize that goblins aren't that familial in actual D&D settings, right? A family member gets promoted up the religious heirarchy, they aren't going to say "I'm so proud of you!". They're going to say "Hmm, now how can I benefit from this?"
As Burlew has said repeatedly, the comic isn't in an actual D&D setting.
That is true, but I get the impression that people think the deconstruction applies to regular D&D too.
Well...the deconstruction still applies to regular D&D in a slightly different, more "meta" way, in that it rejects the automatic assumption, found in D&D and most other Tolkienesque fantasy settings that "inhuman" races (goblins, orcs, lizardmen, etc.) are automatically evil and unfamilial due to their inhumanity.
Note that Tolkien rejected the concept of an always evil race and for years wrestled with the implications that the orcs brought to the table. Later fantasy authors just ignored this. Also, D&D works however the players and DM wants it to work. I don't recall any Monster Manuals going into detail about Goblin family life, but even if they did it would just be guidelines. The fact is that sentience and free will is incompatible with Always Chaotic Evil.
Even Always Chaotic Evil isn't AlwaysChaotic Evil. The books explicitly say that there are exceptions, just that they are so rare as to make little statistical difference. Sort of like how the PHB lists the range for human heights, but doesn't take into account that there have been humans who are as small as halflings or as tall as ogres. It's just not common enough to really have any impact. Maybe one in every 10,000 demons isn't CE, but even those are generally only one step away, which could just as easily mean Neutral Evil.
According to some of the more in depth articles written about goblin life, they are actually quite "familial", or more accurately "tribal". They have little to no concept of personal space or privacy, and basically evaluate every one on the concept of "in-tribe" or "outsider" first and foremost. Now, they ARE a conniving, back stabbing culture, but they can also be smart enough to know Cousin Gertek becoming a shaman is a net good thing for the tribe, just as long as he doesn't try to take over.
Why has updates been so sparse lately? I mean that as an actual question, not a gripe. I don't expect him to devote himself full time to the comic, but if I remember right he's successful enough that he doesn't have a job, and if so it seems odd to only have one update per week, or two updates at the start and end of the week.
Health concerns for the author. He's planning to take a break from the comic after this current arc ends as well.
What are his health concerns, exactly?
A chronic, non-life-threatening condition that occasionally leaves him bedridden. Beyond that, he hasn't said.
A chronic condition that does, occasionally, require hospital attention. Wanting to keep his private life private, he has been rather cryptic about early on and straight up mute later on.
...Does that sound like the Mark of Justice's effects to anyone else?
So the Giant... is Belkar?
Drawing/Writing The Order of the Stick is his job. He's successful enough at it that he doesn't need a second one.
Actually, he does some freelance/contract games design work in addition to writing the comic. Not to mention, he usually seems to be burned out/sick by the time the various books are released.
As I can attest, drawing in Burlew's style is hard. It takes me upwards of three days (not including drawing out a script, designing characters, and such) to draw a 9-panel comic with 2-4 speech bubbles in each panel, and minimal, if any detail. Positioning the characters like dolls, making sure speech bubbles point in the right places, adding effects, and such is a ton of work. And that's assuming I remember to save every 5 minutes, lest the program crash and I lose my last hour of work. Now imagine Burlew's scale of effects, with actual backgrounds and Walls of Text for each comic, not to mention comics like this, where you have 20 characters that will never come up again, but you still have to make look unique.
In his FAQ, he says that it takes him 2-to-3 hours to make a strip.
The FAQ is way WAY old, from back when the comics were a a lot simpler.
To be fair, as a sprite comicer myself, I seriously doubt he draws every character out each time; that's just not a time or effort efficient way of doing things. It's much more likely, by this point and given the graphical style, he has a set of templates that he puts together for characters. In the one you linked, for example, all the male heads are the same exact shape. All the mouths of a given type are the same shape. All bodies of anyone are the same shape. I imagine he has a whole set of ready-to-use poses for recurring and main characters. For group scenes, the biggest part is customization, which probably amounts to picking out a few stock pieces of equipment, armor, and weapons to put on. Not to decry his abilities, but that would significantly cut down on production time.
If I had such templates ready to go, I could put together something that looks quite a bit like an Order of the Stick strip in Flash in a couple hours, give or take, effects and all (keep in mind, most of the in-comic effects amount to a semi-transparent blob of color, and backgrounds are made of fairly simple shapes). The real time consuming part of making a comic, provided you've got stock graphics to work from, is editing custom poses, blocking, and dialogue.
Look at that second to last panel, even with the same face, they each have a different color scheme/weapon/hairstyle combo. I have a base template for Male/Female Human, Male/Female Orc, Male/female Halfling, etc, but the sheer amount of work that goes into making everyone unique is time-consuming. As noted before, Rich gets sick pretty often. And over the run of 700+ comics, whatever program Rich uses statistically speaking, had to have crashed at least once.
I don't know what program you guys are using, but The Giant says in his FAQ that he uses a vector graphics program, can't remember of the top of my head, maybe it was Adobe Illustrator? Whatever, from his FAQ and other things he's said I've deduced that he uses vector graphics and keeps templates of everything he does. It's not easy by any means, but not as time consuming as some people here seem to think. Before his health concerns The Giant had a regular schedule of 3 updates a week, and he admitted he could do an update every day if he wanted, though he worried that if he did that he would make mistakes. So the poor update schedule (which has alleviated somewhat recently) is almost certainly due to health reasons (which he has admitted to, but doesn't want to share what specifically those health issues are).
Scrying to dodge the memory charm
Wouldn't it be a good idea to have Durkon or Vaarsuvius (or whomever the given adventuring party has with a scry ability of sufficient duration) remain outside of the Oracle's valley, and either write down anything important or record everything? One question fewer should be well worth knowing what happened. It's not like they didn't know about the memory spell the first time they went in, and (admittedly in hindsight) it sure would have helped them after the event at the Kobold village.
Except that the spell makes them forget everything that happened there apart from their individual prophecies, including the fact that there's a spell around the place that makes you forget everything that happened there.
Now, on the other hand, why don't they write down relevant information once they are informed of the effect? The Oracle is quite public about its existence.
If they did that, the Oracle would know that they were going to do it, so he wouldn't tell them about it.
Besides, the spell would make you forget you'd written it down. And then it would make you forget where you'd stashed the paper/book for safekeeping, or make you forget not to drop it while climbing if you don't stash it.
Except they could easily get around this without needing to scry or anything. The valley operates off a "You are now leaving..." territorial mark, right? It's even clearly marked by a sign IIRC. Why don't they just have one person stand on one side of the line, the rest of the party goes and asks their questions, and then come back and tell the other party member everything they want to remember, and then cross the line? After they're all on the outside, the one party member that stayed behind can tell them everything they wanted to know, and now the whole party has that knowledge.
Except they don't know about the charm until they see the Oracle. Nobody would plan for it because they don't know about it until it's already too late.
How hard would it be to, after they ask the oracle the questions and begin to leave, say, "Okay, you stay on this side of the line, and tell us the crucial information before you cross, so that way we'll all know all the important stuff?" It doesn't require planning, especially because the Oricle tells you about the charm.
Save that if the Oracle knew that you'd do that, he wouldn't tell you about the charm, would he? :P
Why bother with any of that? The memory effect doesn't remove knowledge of your question, it just clouds your memory of what the oracle is. They still remember the question and the answer. Roy even remembered that he got two questions one time. So why go to all that work. As far as they know, their questions are answered fully and truthfully.
True. I guess if they knew what happened in there (such as the Kobold making off-hours references to the future and accidentally screwing up the answers due to overly-specific questions, or being mad at Belkar because he killed the Orale) they would be more likely to do so. But aren't they curious about what the Oracle looks like? For that matter, what if he was doing some horrible thing to them they couldn't remember?
Then it wouldn't matter anyway, they wouldn't remember anything that would happen to them, and as soon as they left, they would forget what he did and looked like, making it so that pretty much nothing really ever happened.
Roy, who bypassed the memory charm, knows about it post-resurrection, as well as all the other details about the Sunken Valley and the Oracle's identity. However, they have more important things to do than scry on the Sunken Valley, such as, you know, the Race Against the Clock versus Team Evil. And indeed, it's likely protected against scrying. The Oracle is Crazy-Prepared like that.
Belkar's Prophecy Twist
Why did Belkar think he was so cheated out of his prophecy? All Belkar asked was "Do I cause the death of any of the following: ..." He never got an answer on who, and he never asked how long it would take.
Because Belkar's a selfish jerk who sees anything other than complete and total gratification of his every impulse with telepathic accuracy as cheating him of something? "No, I didn't bring you a sandwich. They're both for me."
It helps to think of Belkar as though he's six, since he kind of fits a rather cynical view of the psychological profile. Six year olds think killing and violence is the awesomest thing ever and should be undertaken at every opportunity. Six year olds hold a lot of grudges for a long time (well, long by six year old standards and memory capabilities, so about a month if they're REALLY pissed off) over incredibly petty things. And six year olds think of a situation as "fair" when the odds are stacked heavily in their favor; the fairest thing of all is if they're declared the winner of everything before anything even happens.
This dragon is going through WAY too much considering the afterlife is literally a revolving door...
Maybe only humanoids can be resurrected from the dead?
"Where can I find someone able and willing to cast true resurrection to revive my son" isn't that hard to ask the Oracle... Can't you also use wish and a lesser spell anyway?
She is a Chaotic Evil creature... who would be willing to have a deal with her?
Someone who doesn't want to be eaten for saying, "No, I won't resurrect your son"?
The Oracle probably shares the same racism against humans and demi-humans that the goblins do, but he'd probably be much more helpful and forthcoming to other dragonborn races.
Someone who doesn't bother to cast true seeing on every customer? Someone who isn't powerful enough to resist suggestion?
Well, True Resurrection is a high-level spell, and threatening to eat someone who is at least close to epic level may be something to be careful. "Can you cast True Resurrection on my dead son?" "No." "If you don't, I'll eat you." "ORLY NAO?" (Hits Black Dragon with an offensive high-level cleric spell)
Redcloak is more or less confirmed as being able to cast it. If the black dragon would harass the OoTS (likely) after it, he has little reason not too. (granted, Xykon might hinder an attempt...) and it doesn't exactly hurt to ask.
She said that, after killing V's children, she would have left that plane of existence. Also, she may have power to rival Xykon's (she is a black dragon strong enough to create an anti-magic field). And you are putting her with a Complete Monster, a goblin who seems to have lots of problem with accepting other races (he had problems with the hobgoblins, remember) and a psycho necromancer with some Starscream tendencies. Add to that the fact that those guys are causing the release of an Omnicidal Cosmic Horror... it DOES hurt to ask them. If you meant to ask the Oracle, remember she had both her husband and child slaughtered by adventurers: This plus a malevolent nature makes you think no oracles would try to help you. Furthermore... we have to see if she survives and/or succeed in her attempted murder.
Except for the fact that it was oracle who helped her locate V and her/his family. Also, other plane of existence could mean that she is willing to reunite with her family in the afterlife. And if that wouldn't work, she would try to resurrect them.
"Starcream tendencies"? Unless you're referring to Starscream's perceived Foe Yay tendencies, she's more Soundwave or Shockwave.
Just a thought... if your child was slaughtered by someone who you know felt absolutely no emotion about the act, wouldn't you want revenge? Even if you knew there was a chance that your child's soul might be resurrected (with the memory of its horrible death still fresh in its mind?) This is pure rage, baby.
Word of God has it that True Resurrection is narrative-breaking and silly - and, in-universe, that the only beings that could resurrect her son would have demanded her life in exchange.
V and Contact Other Plane
Why doesn't Vaarsuvius know Contact Other Plane by now. He's been researching divinations left and right, but doesn't actually choose the one that would apply perfectly to his situation (because there's very little that you can't find out when you can just ask a god about it)? Isn't he supposed to have, like, an 18 int or something? It kinda makes the most recent arc into an Idiot Plot.
Vaarsuvius hasn't tranced in months, and is steadily going very crazy. Frankly, I'm shocked he can still cast spells at all, humans who are deprived of sleep tend to lose the ability to do basic arithmetic within a few days.
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. This is pretty much just a myth, repeated over and over again by soccer moms (and soccer moms' magazines). Your cognitive abilities remains pretty much the same through sleep deprivation itself (reaction speed to light stimuli is pretty much the only thing to really take longer).
In my personal experience with sleep deprivation (never more than 48 hours awake), I never lost the ability to do basic arithmetic, but my cognitive abilities sure went to hell. I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing, I would do all sort of stupid mistakes when completing academic or physical tasks, and I would "space out" so that I pretty much had little idea of what was happening around me for short periods of time.
Elves don't need to trance as much as humans need to sleep. Are there even any penalties to not trancing?
That guy who stayed up for 11 or something days had no serious problem with basic math until, IIRC, day 9 or so. Then things got BAD.
From personal experience, round about day 4 you start having minor perception problems. Colors don't look right, your eyes focus wrong, stuff looks like it vibrates. It becomes difficult to form complex sentences on day five. Day six, doing more than one thing at a time becomes almost prohibitively difficult. Basic math never went for me, but I doubt I could have done calculus.
It's been bugging me for weeks that Vaarsuvius is still able to cast spells, if he hasn't tranced (or at least hasn't tranced more than a couple of minutes every so often, considering the strip with his nightmare). I thought elves had to trance for a full four hours before they regained their used spell slots.
That's the joke. By the Rules As Written, an elf technically just needs "restful calm" in order to replenish his/her spells. Trancing has nothing to do with it:
D20 SRD: To prepare her daily spells, a wizard must first sleep for 8 hours. The wizard does not have to slumber for every minute of the time, but she must refrain from movement, combat, spellcasting, skill use, conversation, or any other fairly demanding physical or mental task during the rest period. If her rest is interrupted, each interruption adds 1 hour to the total amount of time she has to rest in order to clear her mind, and she must have at least 1 hour of uninterrupted rest immediately prior to preparing her spells. If the character does not need to sleep for some reason, she still must have 8 hours of restful calm before preparing any spells.
I assumed that the gods feel like they have more important things to do then to answer the questions of every pestering mortal who uses a certain ritual.
An important facet & motivation of V is that he wants to be all powerful, or failing that at least self-sufficient. He's pretty typically the prideful, "asking for help is weakness" kind of guy, even more so with his judgment fuzzied by PTSD and lack of sleep. Which, beyond the whole soul-damning, obvious con aspect was why it was so hard for him to accept help from the Fiends (even more so when their power nudge was external (giving him magical underlings) rather than internal (boosting him 70 levels)).
Who's going to deliver Kazumi's baby? I mean, V's not there, I'd doubt she'd want Durkon to do it, maybe Lien? Not super important, but still...
Why wouldn't she want Durkon to do it? She seems to trust him and they get along well enough. Though I'm not sure if Durkon knows how to deliver a baby...
Would you want a short hairy man staring at your privates?
No, but he is a trained medical professional, and the reality is that childbirth requires a certain surrender of dignity anyway. She's going to be screaming, pushing a human being out of her vagina (which some medical professional is going to have to have access to), and odds are good that she's going to lose control of certain bodily functions regardless. When you're pooping on yourself in front of friends and family, you really don't care about the dwarf.
Don't forget that they're traveling with, effectively, the entire civilian population of Azure City. There's bound to be plenty of doctors and more than a few midwives who are available to help with the delivery.
If humans have no racial hit dice, will Kazumi's baby be born with a class level?
When Roy meets up with his little brother, he speculates about what class the kid would have grown up to take, so presumably not. No point in deciding on a class before you're old enough to even move around by yourself, right?
It's generally assumed most races get a stand-in 1HP until they get their first class HD. This 1HP is considered to be part of the 'maximum health' a PC race gets with their first HD.
Humans do have racial hit dice. One of them. Creatures with one racial HD replace it with class levels, rather than adding to it. It's also possible to have a fraction of a hit die - take cats, for example. One assumes children have 1/4 humanoid HD until adulthood, or something, when they take their first class level.
Isn't Durkon a level 17+ cleric? He seems to have Miracle as one of his spells.
No he's not. The rules reconstruction thread on the forum pegs the Order at level 13-14. Back in that comic, he's level 10 or so, and it refers to "a miracle" as in, any divine spell, not the "miracle" spell.
I was under the impression he was just praying for a miracle. Kind of like you might do if you're religious and someone you know got hurt, except with faster results.
Dwarf Riding a Pony
In strip 141, how can a dwarf (in full plate, no less) ride a pony?
Pony with a very high Str score.
Lightning Bolt Collateral Damage
If the lightning bolt Durkon summoned dealt enough Sonic damage to destroy animated trees 4 miles away, wouldn't it have killed pretty much every commoner in Cliffport? A giant thunderclap isn't exactly a precision attack.
Aren't you forgetting that Thor bent the laws of reality to make that work?
Aren't you forgetting that Thor is basically the norse divine equivalent of a drunken soccer hooligan? Especially in OotS?
Thor has the Sculpt Spell metamagic feat, obviously.
Haley falling into Our Dwarves Are All The Same
Why is it that Haley, despite the various conversations she's had with Durkon that proves he's insightful, something of a therapist, etc. only able to give a generic dwarven description when the Cleric of Loki asks for it?
None of that's visible and it isn't especially evident unless you've spoken with him fairly extensively. Also, it's to make a joke, so Rule of Funny applies.
Well, the guy asked for "unusual personality traits", that would have been a good time to provide it. And I'm pretty sure Haley has spoken with him extensively. Yeah, Rule of Funny, but it still rankles because it makes it sound like that's all there is to Durkon, and considering his lack of character focus that's so close to being true that the loss of any opportunity to acknowledge there's more to him than a stereotype makes me :(
Fiends' Alternate Plan
I've gathered that Vaarsuvius' whole Moral Event Horizon is the result of nothing other than his/her own pride, and refusal to admit defeat, hence the Oracle's prophesy and the alternative solution offered by the demons. However, the demons' alternative plan wouldn't work, as it's stated that Elan and Durkon left the fleet days ago. So the Soul Splice was the only way to save V's family, unless alot of time passes between Familicide and returning to the fleet.
It wasn't meant to work. It was meant to make V do it for reasons of pride. Whether it would actually work is irrelevant, what matters is that V (in her crazed state) thinks it might work and therefore goes along with the deal for, as the Oracle says, the wrong reason.
Where's V's familiar during the recent strips? Wouldn't the crow have been useful as a messenger to the fleet or elsewhere? Did it get killed and eaten in some strip which I cannot remember?
V's familiar testified against the order during the trial in the Azure City. I just assumed the crow/raven/whatever found a new line of employment after that.
No, he also appeared after the trial in comic 440. But since V almost never remembers the crow's existence, much less its name, (Which was given to it by Haley anyways) it's not odd for Blackwing to not show up at all. Besides, V wants to do everything hirself. I also can't see how it would have been that useful. What would V be sending messages for?
To the boats where he thought Durkon and Elan were. So they could help.
Except V didn't want their help.
Before the demons came and offered him a pledge.
You're not getting it. V left the fleet specifically to get away from Durkon and Elan because he thought they were distractions. He didn't want their help, and didn't think they could help. If you mean between the Dragon leaving and the fiends showing up, that was all of about a minute or so, during which he had something he thought could grant him the power instantly. Do you have any idea how long it would take a bird to fly out to a fleet of ships in the middle of nowhere when it has no idea where said fleet is? Far longer than it would've taken for the Dragon to do her thing and leave.
There he is in 658. Looks like he's about to do something important too.
V's raven runs purely off of Rule of Funny it seems. Having actually played a D&D campaign with a character using a familiar, it's really like they don't exist until the player encounters a situation where the familiar would be useful and the player suddenly remembers that he or she has an animal that's supposed to be following them around. The strip uses that as a gag, making the raven next to Vaarsuvius when it can come in handy (such as serving as a recurring gag in previous appearances), as the characters only now remember that V actually has a familiar in the first place.
Vaarsuvius could have easily won the battle against Xykon in a matter of rounds, tops, had he did a few simple things like buffing against Necromancy and Death magic before hand, and not wasted rounds on ranged touch attacks, avoided using his own spells and rely on the splice spells instead. And did not forget to use quickened spells in conjunction with normal spells. The Idiot Ball award goes to V. More info on the forums.
Well, the best buffs against Necromacy and Death Magic are Cleric spells, spells V can't replicate, and ze would refuse to get from Durkon, since ze wants to prove Arcane Power trumps all. As well, from what I saw, all this theoretical power V should have is based on unknowns, namely the actual power and abilities of the spliced souls. "If they didn't pick that, they're too stupid to be mages." Yes, because every character in The Order of the Stick has been perfectly optimized for maximum effectiveness.
The strip is ABOUT the trouble these characters get in; if a tactic would result in an effortless solution to their latest problem, there would be little point in showing it, see? The characters are woefully inefficient as a result, and often take actions that are rarely seen in a real D&D game, like running away from moderate danger or .forgetting. major abilities for the sake of a joke. But their foibles are what fuel the humor.
"The Idiot Ball award goes to V." Well yeah, that was kinda the point. V was drunk on power and trying to batter Xykon to death (well, redeath) with the most powerful spells he/she had on hand. Xykon himself says so in his Hannibal Lecture immediately after crushing V.
Remember, V's first attempted spell after teleporting in was "Time Stop," which he'd used in the battle with the dragon to give himself time for spell buffs and a little trap work. He was probably planning to do the same here, before he got zapped by the magic traps. So he certainly should have done it BEFORE teleporting in, but that's not the same thing as not planning for it. It's still a screwup, but a smaller one.
How did Xykon managed to Ass Pull the strength to crush V with a giant rock DURING the middle of V's turn?
Liches gain a Strength boost when they transform. Also, magic items. According to D&D strength rules and carrying capacity, a character with a solid strength score (14 or so) can lift several hundred pounds directly over their head. With a decent strength-boosting magic item, it's not going to be hard for Xykon to lift a large chunk of stone over his head, hold it (he's not going to suffer muscle fatigue, after all) and then use it as an improvised weapon to drop it on V.
Magic items are a valid claim, but not the Lich template. Purely mental increases with that one.
Alternately, something else that is answered by the FAQ:
Q: Hey, in Panel X, the character is doing Y, but in Panel X+1, the character is doing Z. What happened?
A: Between panels, the character moved/cast a spell/had a spell cast on him/etc. There are limited panels in each strip, and I give priority to panels that tell jokes first, then advance the plot, and then, only if I have extra room, do I show transitional panels that are not strictly necessary. Use your imagination when it comes to exactly how it happened.
Plus: Telekinesis while holding onto it.
Wall of Text Comics
I know this is verging on Complaining About Shows You Don't Like (though it's really more perplexed by a comic I want to like) but: why is this comic so well-regarded when almost every comic is a giant wall of text? I stuck with it on an Archive Binge for a while before it became too much, and even in isolation the amount of text to image per comic is insane. 8-bit Theater, for the sake of contrast, is as equally constrained by its art style, but has far greater economy of language when doing both gags and fairly complex wheels-within-wheels plots. I find it a little confusing.
Because walls of text aren't necessarily bad, or at least bad enough to damn a good comic on their own. If they're well written, as the ones in The Order of the Stick tend to be, they can be as good as any quick gag.
I like the comic's text-heavy tendencies, which gives it a lot more depth.
I, who read Order of the Stick before any other webcomic, find my view of what constitutes a wall of text skewed. I actually find other webcomics to not be wordy enough.
Vaarsuvius? That you?!
Walls of text don't have to be bad. A lot of people feel Rich uses them very well to give life to his complex plots, characters, and character interactions.
Some of us happen to like books but hate reading descriptions of what's happening.
That's what closet dramas are for! Actually, pretty much any script can be read like that... for instance, Shakespeare.
I love 8-Bit, personally, but the characters and story were a lot simpler in 8-Bit than Order of the Stick. Most of the cast were shallow, amoral people with remarkably simple characterization, and much of the humor was drawn from slapstick comedy and extremely dark humor, and didn't require much dialogue to tell its verbal gags, as most of those gags revolved around the characters finding different ways to express their hatred for each other. Order of the Stick has more complex characters and a more complicated story woven through it, and spends more time in its dialogue because its characters have actual conversations, instead of verbal hate mail. Now, verbal hate mail can be hilarious, and in 8 Bit, it often was, but that's just not the kind of story Order of the Stick is trying to tell.
Poor Strategy in Battle of Azure City
During the battle of Azure city, Hinjo sent the Sapphire Guard to defend the gate while the Order of the Stick remained near the walls, intending to engage Xykon when he came forward but mostly stuck around to fighting and killing lower level enemies. This just bugs me. They all knew that Xykon's actual objective was the gate. They knew that he was going to come for it eventually, and would probably do so in force so as to penetrate whatever defenses it had and be able to stop its desperate destruction. So why not make the Order of the Stick, the only ones with an actual chance of beating Xykon, guard the throne room? The Sapphire Guard could then have been put to good use elsewhere, instead of being slaugthered like rabbits when Xykon showed up. They could have defended the breach in the wall, or they could have held the port until Haley and Belkar came back, what with their immunity to fear and what not. Hell, even if they had just escaped they could have lived on to defend the fleet against the subsequent monster attacks that continuously plagued them. In short, It Just Bugs Me! that Azure City's best fighting force was wasted like that.
Yes, I know, but it just bugs me even more that they were sacrificed so they could become undead reinforcements tied forevermore to the gate (which exploded soon afterward). If the Order of the Stick had been placed in defense of the gate, they could have likely made nicer reinforcements to the ghosts than the paladins, and without the need to die in the process of doing so. I really doubt a few more paladins amongst the masses of ghost made a real difference, and PCs would have made a bigger difference anyways. On the other hand, an alive and well force of paladins would have been a very useful unit during and after the battle.
Their sacrifice wasn't the plan, it was the back-up plan. If it weren't for the ball with the Symbol of Insanity, I think a whole legion of Paladins would've had more than a fair shot of actually beating Xykon. Hell, the four or five that the ball missed were beating him pretty soundly until he got their attention and pointed out what he'd done. The Order of the Stick were on the walls to prevent Xykon from ever getting to the Gate. There's also the fact that while the Gate was Xykon's goal, you think the Hobgoblin soldiers were just going to ignore the rest of the city? Or that their army wasn't as big a threat as Xykon was? Yes, they had to defend the gate, but if you're going into a war, you don't throw all your best resources on the last line of defense. You try your damnedest to make sure it doesn't get to that.
Actually, Hinjo makes it very clear in this comic that he didn't have a realistic hope of the Paladins overcoming Xykon: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0449.html He responds to the claim that they don't stand a chance with "I know," and keeps implying in panel 5 that he expected the paladins to die. In http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0448.html Xykon also says that even without the symbol of insanity, he could have just flown and nuked the whole of them with his powerful spells. The paladins were very clearly thrown into the meat grinder. There was no need to prevent Xykon from getting to the gate; that was the only place Soon and his legion could materialize and it was definitely the best place for fighting Xykon. As for the hogoblin army, sicking the Order of the Stick on Xykon would have freed the Azure Guard to fight them instead (which is exactly what bugs me, the way the paladin order was wasted instead of put to good use). Besides, as Hinjo says here http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0422.html "A sorcerer that powerful doesn't engage opponents, he alters the course of entire battles."
The Sapphire Guard's sworn duty is to defend the gate. While Hinjo was quickly made their leader, it's quite clear that their first and last duty is to defend the gate. They'd probably refuse to leave the throne room if Hinjo said "No, no, you lot just go kill hobgoblins. I'm going to let a bunch of foreigners I just met defend the gate." Also, they were expecing Xykon to blast his way to the throne room, not bypass his way there. If the Order didn't deal with him outside, he would have devastated any defenders that tried to stand against him, and thus it'd be the Order against Xykon and an entire Hobgoblin army.
Xykon can't do that. He doesn't have the luxury of devastating the enemy army before taking the throne room because the moment it becomes clear the city (and, by extension, the gate) cannot be held, the sapphire will be destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. That means Xykon has got no choice but to try to capture the throne room while the battle is undecided and hope his hogoblins can win afterwards; he can't wait until it becomes clear he has won the battle and the city will fall because then somebody will simply smash the gate. You may have a point about the paladins, though... they seem like the type of Honor Before Reason guys who would do that.
Xykon can't, but they were expecting him too. Note how they had a Xykon decoy leading different armies, with the intention of splitting up the party? They didn't think (at first) "Hey, they have to be duplicates, because he'd just head directly to the throne." Certainly, once they realized the bluff, they clued in that Xykon was likely making a beeline for the throne. But until that time, it seems they were expecting him to lead an assault, perhaps blast his way to the throne with nothing capable of stopping him, and thus no interruptions. Hinjo had them on the walls, ready to move to intercept Xykon. The way Hinjo talked about high-level spellcasters changing the course of the battle, he was likely thinking Xykon would blast his way directly to the throne. As for the Paladins, like I said, their lives are dedicated to the gate first and foremost. Being told that some foreigners of questionable morals were going to take over your duty would probably incite a rebellion. Note what Hinjo said to O-Chul in #413 "The rest... you know where they should make their stand."
Uh, I'm pretty sure that Hinjo says that only paladins can be "resurrected". Xykon would have just ended up trashing the Order of the Stick and gaining control of the gate.
http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0449.html Quote: "Arise, my children," says the ghostly paladin leading them. "Only the honor of a paladin is unbreakable..." Cut to Hinjo saying: "There's a reason we only stationed paladins there today..." Cut back to the ghost-voice. "...even by death itself." It was explicit that only the paladins could be raised by the death-trap.
Also We've seen Xykon deal with V channeling the power of the three greatest casters that ever lived easily. The Order of the Stick wouldn't have been any problem whatsoever, Soon was really their only chance to win it.
Epic-levels not withstanding, I think you mean three of the deadest casters that ever lived, as Xykon so kindly explained.
You also mean two. Haerta was mentioned to be by far the strongest of the three, and she booked several minutes beforehand.
I'd like to point out that had a certain Treasure Type O-deprived ex-paladin not stuck her irritating nose into things, this plan would have worked perfectly.
What bugs me about that whole episode is this: why did no one think to tell the Sapphire Guard that the reason they and no one else were stationed in the throne room during the Siege of Azure City was to act as soon-to-be ghostly reinforcements for Soon Kim? It's not as if the paladins spoiler: are afraid of death, after all; their code of honour demands they be ready for it at any time. So surely it would've been a good idea to inform them of the plan just in case, when it became clear that they were not going to survive, one of them decided to try and destroy the Gate, thus rendering them unable to come back from the grave and face Xykon, not to mention blowing up a good portion of the caste. As did indeed happen, after all, albeit in a slightly roundabout manner...
Whose to say they didn't? Hinjo was explaining to Durkon, who wouldn't have known the Paladin's-Ultimate-Secret Defense-of-Honor-and-Awesomeness anyway.
Hinjo said it. He specifies that it's a secret known only to the ruling family.
Hinjo also states that all the paladins knew they would probably die defending the throne room.
Furthermore, Miko enters the throne room and sees the following: A pile of corpses, O-Chul paralyzed with his sword raised against the Gate sapphire, Soon dueling Xykon, and most of the remaining ghost-paladins being eliminated by Redcloak. Her decision to destroy the Gate at this point is sound enough. What she fails to notice is that Soon actually wins the duel in the few seconds it takes for her to approach the throne, and Miko's standing behind it so that she can't see either. Had she just hid right there and waited to see who won the caster fight, the ghost martyr plan would have worked and the Big Bad would have died. Even the "killed" ghosts would have returned after a few days to guard the throne room again, at least if the martyr spirits are based upon the same rules as regular ghosts in D&D.
I thought it was obvious that, without her paladin powers, the fallen Miko Could Not see Soon or the ghost martyrs. As far as she knew, she was the only one left to save the day.
That makes no sense. If that was the case, Redcloak and Xykon wouldn't have been able to see them either.
Why not? Xykon and Redcloak are both magically adept, and Soon revealed himself specifically to fight them. Miko couldn't because she'd been stripped of her powers, and stripped of any connection to Soon that would have made him visible to her (by default, anyway).
Are you also forgetting that the non-magical goblins could see them, and that Miko herself sees them afterward? And the shot from her point of view shows Soon as visible, and there is nothing in the comic indicating she can't see them?
In comic #448, O-Chul says that he needs to destroy the Gate before it falls to the hands of Xykon. However, in comic #467, Durkon and Hinjo implies that O-Chul wouldn't have done that if Xykon hadn't defeated Soon's ghost. Note that when O-Chul attempted to destroy the Gate, there weren't any paladin ghosts yet. So... did O-Chul not know about the secret? Did Hinjo know that O-Chul didn't know? Confusing.
It's probably that Hinjo knew but O-Chul wouldn't, but O-Chul would be able to figure it out once the Ghost Martyrs manifested. However, if O-Chul watched Xykon defeat Soon and his small army of ghost paladins, he'd probably destroy the Gate to prevent it from falling into Xykon's hands, and maybe take Xykon out along with it.
Xykon and Coffee
Something that's been bugging me about in So D: one of the reasons Xykon stepped up his sadism was because he could no longer taste coffee, and since it was the only thing he took pleasure in aside from killing things, he now fell back on casual slaughter. But Liches, while immune to Polymorphing from other sources, are expressly allowed to Polymorph themselves. So why doesn't Redcloak tell him that if he wants to taste things again, he can just polymorph himself into a human again? Redcloak's Knowledge Religion should be high enough while a lich's ability to polymorph himself is mentioned in the Monster Manual. And he likely does have Polymorph since Xykon did threaten Redcloak and his brother with it.
The threat seemed more like a Cut Your Heart Out With A Spoon thing. Alternatively, since Sorcerers don't know very many spells (and what we've seen of his selection is rather sub-optimal), it's possible he would have used a scroll to carry it out. Either way, he probably wouldn't have been assuaged by the fact that he'd have to cast a spell every time he wanted to drink something (it might not have inconvenienced him that much, but neither would, say, coming up with a nickname for the troglodyte). There's also the possibility that the Lich transformation is deeper than polymorphing can erase, as much a spiritual thing as a physical, and so even if he was polymorphed he wouldn't be able to enjoy it (this might even tie in with Right-Eye's debate with Redcloak near the end; Xykon is no longer subject to mortality, so he wouldn't be able to appreciate coffee in the particular way that he used to).
He has polymorph, he threatened to polymorph Redcloak and Right-Eye if they didn't shut up at one point. Plus, Polymorph is a very useful and versatile spell. But I'll buy the "deeper aspect" thing.
No one can see Ghost Roy, but Roy can somehow see the ghost of his father. So how can he be seen, but Roy can't?
Roy's sword is his ancestral weapon, which made it possible for him to see his dad. This is why dad stopped showing up until the sword was reforged.
Roy was just a ghost doing what ghosts do. Eugene was actively contacting Roy via divine sending.
Why is Xykon so bothered by the phylactery being dropped into the ocean? Nothing down there is going to hurt it, and the last time his body was destroyed (in the opening arc), we saw him regenerating AT HIS PHYLACTERY. Simple solution for a powerful lich—have your body destroyed on purpose, regenerate at your phylactery, walk back to land. Less of a pain than searching through the sewers, and safer, too, since leaving it alone that long allows others to search for it at the same time.
Yes, it's always a good idea to leave your hobgoblin army and your conquered city without a leader for a length of time while you regenerate (no, Tsukiko wouldn't qualify,) a) giving your enemies time to fortify the Cosmic Keystones you're after, b) letting them retake the city, c) giving them the one-in-a-million chance to find the McGuffin before you're done regenerating (which would be quite a bother if you're nothing but a mean voice and a pair of eyes peeking out from it while it's in their possession.) Any way you look at it, losing the phylactery incapacitates Xykon because he either has to look for it to keep it from falling in his enemies' hands, or is subject to the whims of the universe if he's destroyed and has to reform at its location, whatever it is.
So? He's Xykon. If he's been swallowed by a sea monster, he can just blast his way out of it when he regenerates. Or, alternatively, once his body's destroyed, have Redcloak just cast Sending or some sorta Scry on Xykon to figure out where it is, and go pick him up.
Because while he regenerates he's quite helpless, and if the sea monster ate him, he's taking a lot of damage per round that his DR may not be able to completely negate. Plus, he won't be able to use his spells or buffs since he needs to cast them, which he lacks the ability to while regenerating. Plus digestive fluids deal acid damage, and Liches don't get immunities to them. The moment he regenerates in something's stomach, he'll get destroyed. Granted, the phylactery will likely be passed through the digestive track eventually, but Xykon will likely wait a bit before he starts becoming that desperate.
There's also the fact that something might have happened to the phylactery itself. It's made explicit that they put a lot of protective magic on the thing (O-Chul certainly has trouble when he tries to break it), but it can't be completely industructible. Maybe in a normal ocean it wouldn't have anything to worry about, but this is a D&D ocean. There are creatures down there who are every bit as intelligent, deadly, and magical as the ones on the surface. All it would take is a Bronze Dragon to stumble across it, and Xykon is in trouble.
Audience reaction to Cutting the Knot
Why do so many tropers condemn V for solving the Kubota problem properly instead of giving V props for doing what that naive chump Elan should have done to begin with?
Because V did not know Kubota did anything worth vaporizing. Look at the very next comic: V didn't even know who Kubota was. He killed Kubota simply because he was probably a villain solely on the basis that Elan had tied him up.
Even worse, now Elan can't do BDSM with Haley.
To put it simply, it wasn't what s/he did, it was why s/he did it.
Young Xykon and Animate Dead components
Why was young Xykon able to animate corpses as a child? You need to have material components to raise any sort of undead, namely at least 25 GP worth of Onyx gems per HD.
What edition was that rule written? It's possible he simply zombified the dog before that rule was imposed. And he seems to zombify things left and right nowadays, so maybe that rule just doesn't apply in Order of the Stick land.
There are some feats that let you get around the need for the gems, though I can't remember them off the top of my head. That explains the present zombies; the ones from when he was a kid can, as pointed out, be explained as it being a different edition.
Sorcerers did not exist in previous editions, they always needed a spell book. Xykon being a sorcerer makes this a 3rd Ed hybrid.
Prehaps he has used some variant to spend five times the GP in XP.
How many times does it need to be explained that the comic goes by Rule of Funny over and above all else?
There was a 1st level spell in 2E, Animate Dead Animals, which didn't require costly material components. It's possible that Rich let Xykon acquire an updated version of this as his first spell.
As yet another note, sorcerers first attempts at magic tend to have some highly unpredictable results. Who's to say Xykon's first spell didn't happen to be vastly more powerful than he should have been able to do.
Where are the pirates? We have zombies, ninjas, robots (Iron Golems in Origin of PCs), yet no pirates? The Azurites were at sea for months, where are the pirates?
Pirates aren't likely to attack an entire fleet of ships, for one thing.
Well, there was Haley's imagine spot, and Julio Scoundrel also counts (despite being benevolent, and a sky pirate instead of a sea pirate)
What's with the no-remdemption rule? Every character who has ever been portrayed as bad has died because they did some act of good. Miko, Therkla, Right-Eye... Does Rich Burlew just hate people who change their minds or something?
Were you not listening to Soon? He laid it straight out: Redemption is a rare and special thing, and it doesn't work out for everyone. Also, Redemption Equals Death, dude.
But to literally have EVERYONE who gets redeemed die?
Miko wasn't redeemed. That was the point of Soon's whole speech. Therkla didn't have a full "redemption" either; she might have done something good by not going with Kubota's plan, but she did it entirely for selfish reasons, i.e., she wanted to boink Elan, and she was still trying to let the clear villain, who was fully intending to kill an unborn child get away. I haven't read Start Of Darkness, but given that Right-Eye was Redcloak's brother, that likely means he was still in on the Plan, which isn't exactly a "good" pursuit. So in short, not one of the characters you mentioned was "redeemed" at all. Redemption isn't just "does something vaguely in opposition to the villain," it's a total turnaround of a character from bad to good, for good reasons.
Right-Eye abandoned the plan. He tried to settle down, build a life for goblins that didn't involve raiding, only for Xykon to gang-press him back via threats to him, his family, and everyone in the goblin villages he tried to help. and then when he tries to defeat Xykon by backstabbing him in his fight with Dorukon, Redcloak shoots him in the back because he invested too much into Xykon for him to back down now.
Okay, so there's the case for Right-Eye...but really, dying after trying to backstab, alone, someone like Xykon is only the natural sequence of events. It probably would've taken a considerable Deus ex Machina to get him out of there alive.
To be fair, I think the point is that Right-Eye shouldn't have tried to backstab Xykon in the first place; he should have just run. Personally, I think it was completely within his character, he just put it off for too long.
Actually, the point was to show Redcloak's defining flaw. If Redcloak had helped his brother and blasted Xykon, they could have gotten rid of Xykon finally.
He wouldn't have, actually. As Xykon explicitly makes clear in the conversation that follows, he was well aware of the backstab attempt, was shielded against the attempt, and it ultimately still would have been pointless had Redcloak not killed Right-Eye. Right-Eye tried to run earlier; Xykon found him. When running ceased to be an option, he tried to assassinate Xykon, and had Redcloak not killed him, Xykon would have. Right-Eye was closer to redemption than any other character, but redemption alone does not demand success. Miko wasn't redeemed, Therkla wasn't redeemed, and Right-Eye WAS redeemed and actually got to have a good life for a couple decades, but ultimately lost it all and died as an unfortunate consequence of the mistakes he made in the first place. Just because you found redemption doesn't mean your crimes never happened.
Right-Eye was the most heroic character for at least half of SOD, and he could be said to have died a heroes' death. Bad things don't just happen to bad people, and frankly I don't think Right-Eye cared if he died or not at that point (Remember Right-Eye was pretty old). Frankly he's undoubtedly going to be a big part of Xykon's downfall eventually (along with hopefully his brothers redemption), so I bet he will consider his sacrifice worth it in the long run.
OK. We've seen the Lawful Good Afterlife. But what are the afterlifes for the other alignments like? Also, where did Miko go after she died?
Purgatory? Does that even exist? Soon's dialogue to her as she dies seems to suggest she'll be reincarnated, in my opinion.
I like the notion of "wandering ghost" myself.
Since we know that Mount Celestia, Pandemonium & Mechanus (outsourcing), and Limbo (slaad) exist, it seems likely that he's using the "Great Ring" default cosmology. Therefore, Miko is almost certainly in Arcadia, the Plane of Lots of Law, Some Good, where the trees and grass grow in nice geometric patterns and night and day progress evenly without anything so untidy as twilight.
Like the above troper said, Rich seems to be using the normal game cosmology. Check the other wiki for details on the planes, or read the "outer planes" section of the Planewalker Guidebook on this site.
The fact that Miko lost her paladin powers does not mean that her actual alignment shifted. She could still have been lawful good upon her death, even though she fell as a paladin. Paladins have a very strict "never commit an evil act or violate the paladin code" rule, but just being lawful good is a looser requirement. As such, she could be eligible for the standard LG afterlife, like Roy. (This seems to be what Soon suggests when he says that Miko will see Windstriker again in #464.)
Soon says Windstriker will visit her in the afterlife. That makes it sound like she'll be in Arcadia and Windstriker will have to go there from Mount Celestia to see her, not like they'll actually be cohabiting the same plane.
I read that more as, they might be in the same heaven, but Paladins and their mounts, being directly divine troops, might have access to certain VIP locations WITHIN the heaven.
All up to the Order
Why are the Order of the Stick apparently the only band of adventurers trying to stop Xykon? You'd think with the sheer number of people he killed there'd be more than one lousy blood oath against him. They should be a major industry of the campaign setting by now.
I doubt they are the only ones trying. Xykon and Redcloak have dealt with numerous bands of adventurers, Right-Eye's family got killed by adventurers attacking the goblin camp while they were camped outside Dorukon's Dungeon.
When Roy meets Xykon, doesn't he say he can't remember Roy's father or Master Fyron at all because he did that so often? I think he mentions other blood oaths, as well.
There are; we just never see them because the comic's focus is on the Order. In this strip, Redcloak mentions that he is used to people popping in and trying to kill Xykon. Also, it seems most people he messes with don't bother to try; in this strip he comment "Y'know, I've destroyed entire towns, and the most I got from the surviving families were a few snarky comments. You, sir, have a serious problem with overreaction."
Order not knowing about Phylacteries
Okay, maybe this has already been mentioned somewhere and I just can't find it, but how is it that none of the Order knew that liches have a phylactery??? I suppose it makes a bit of sense—Knowledge (religion) is only a class skill for clerics (at least of classes that the Order of the Stick have), and Durkon mentioned previously that he had a low bonus for that, but still... you'd think that if Roy was spending all that time preparing to fight a lich, he would have at one point picked up a book that said "BTW, after you kill the lich, there's this thing called a phylactery you need to look for..." But the Order just left, assuming all was over and done with.
They didn't just leave. Redcloak ran away after Xykon was destroyed. At that point, they had no way of knowing he had the phylactery, and were too preoccupied with running away themselves to do much of a thorough search. I imagined they assumed it was destroyed in the subsequent explosion.
V should also have the ability to have K. Religion (having access to Knowledge (Any)).
Yeah, but V would never have taken it. He only cares really about arcane power, so what use to him is knowledge of religion beyond his own Elven god of Knowledge?
On another point, Xykon's the only Lich we've seen in the world, and near as I can tell, nobody's mentioned any others, so while it's unlikely that Xykon's the only Lich in the setting, it's possible that they're pretty darn rare, enough so that the whole phylactery thing isn't widely known unless you're the sort of person who's looking to become or create a Lich, like, say, an Evil aligned Cleric.
No. Redcloak knew about liches on a purely academic level in Start of Darkness. There have been enough liches in this world. (Consider also, that Elan knew enough at least to call Xykon a lich. How would he know this if Xykon is unique?)
Perhaps because "lich" is an existing, although archaic, word for corpse (Hence the lich-gate in a church).
I acknowledged that it was very likely there were other Liches in the setting. Also, I did mention that Evil aligned Clerics would probably know about it, and hey, that's what Redcloak is. As for Elan, knowing enough to call a skeletal sorceror a Lich doesn't mean he knows everything about them.
That's mostly what I was thinking; I guess specifically what I meant when I said it Just Bugs Me is that I wish they had at least said "What about the phylactery?" "I'm sure it was destroyed in the explosion," followed by some of the inevitable lampshading about Never Found the Body.
In one of the earliest comics, V claimed that his knowledge of the undead was unparalleled. Specifically in #16. So it's likely that V does have Knowledge (Religion) among many others. Why doesn't he know about the phylactery? Rolled a 1 on his knowledge check, I guess.
V and Sleep
In the early strip Why Roy Is Always Tired, why did Vaarsuvius have to sleep all night? V's an elf, so all spell slots should have recovered after four hours. If Roy's reasoning was that V couldn't prepare spells and watch at the same time, couldn't he have put Elan on the watch and asked V to keep an eye out for him since, being Chaotic Incompetent in Roy's eyes, Elan probably wouldn't have been able to do anything really stupid and keep away from the elf? Having a Fighter who got not sleep seems like a much worse idea than having an elven wizard who hasn't got the full night's sleep requirement of a human.
In 3.5, elves needed eight hours of rest before preparing spells, just like everyone else. The big difference is that where other races slept the full eight, elves slept four and then basically sat around with their thumbs up their asses for the other four.
Unless they were in Eberron, where they could talk to the warforged... but we all know exactly why that isn't an option for V, don't we...
If V didn't have to sleep all night, he/she could watch at night, which would resolve Roy's dilemma, which would violate the Rule of Funny.
Bottom line: Stopping Elan every time he's on the verge of doing something stupid and experiencing sufficient "restful calm" to replenish spells are mutually exclusive.
If Roy doesn't remember anything he did past the golden gates (and said so), how is he still traumatized by his mother's newfound... youthfulness?
When he said he didn't remember everything, I took that to mean he didn't have detailed memories, but some elements here and there still stood out, like a dream. So while most of the afterlife was a beautiful bliss, that one traumatizing element of seeing his mother all sexed up and promiscuous stuck in his head as a disgusting part of an otherwise blissful haze.
He also remembers the oracle making cracks about it.
Is Eugene Greenhilte really Lawful Good? As far as we know, he has lied to his son, usurped the place of a Celestial (and tied, and gagged him) during a summoning, participated to a mockery of a trial, all of what seems a Chaotic course of action (and he edited his own article on The Other Wiki). As for the "Good" part: he berates or insults his son on a regular basis (granted: Good Is Not Nice, but even so...), doesn't show benevolence towards anyone, and is mostly self-centered . Everyone of his acts only tends to his own interest: he isn't concerned about Xykons's destruction because X is a threat to the world, but only because the Blood Oath prevents him to enter Celestia. Everything in his attitude and actions spells True Neutral to me.
It doesn't explain all of it, but part of me is thinking he's gotten very bitter and jaded with his time spent on cloud limbo outside the gates of Celestia, and thus is willing to do more and more to fufill the blood oath. Also, since he apparently has already been pre-approved for entry into Celestia, he probably feels he's no longer bound by old morals, and the ends justify the means. Would be interesting if the celestial bureaucracy 'reviews' his files after the oath has been fufilled and found him severly lacking.
Start of Darkness ends with a scene where a recently dead Eugene is being evaluated in the afterlife. His Blood Oath prevented him from going to Celestia, but the only bad things on his record were "poor manners, mild swearing, and editing his own Wikipedia article", none of which are even misdeamors, let alone capital crimes. He was certainly LG when living; it's only after he wanders around in limbo does he start acting more Chaotic. But for all we know, actions committed in limbo might not neccessarily count in alignment determination. After all, when Roy wishes Eugene would go to hell in one strip, his Archon says that they were "beyond the point when that would be a realistic possibility".
Besides anything else, your points against him being Lawful Good makes him seem more like a jerk than anything. He was admittedly a horrible father, but he apparently spent much of his life as an adventurer crusading for good. Also in Start of Darkness we see that his decision to not try to fulfill the blood oath was actually made so he could spend time with his family, so he wasn't even all that bad in the family department.
Why didn't Durkon cast Disruption on Roy's sword before he threw down with Xykon at Azure City? A one-hit kill would've been all kinds of handy there.
I asked this same question somewhere else on here, and the answer I got was from the site's FAQ (which is up above. Ctrl+F for "The strip is ABOUT the trouble these characters get in" and read from there).
Alternatively, they might have read up on the spell (nearest one is Disrupting Weapon), and since that spell needs the target to have less HD than the caster, they might have realized the Epic Lich had more HD than them. The Order isn't the most competent group of people out there y'know. Though a panel about how it wouldn't have worked would have been nice.
Elan's reaction to murder
Was I the only one annoyed that Elan, who has been portrayed as the most good of the Order, had a response of "oh okay" to Haley's confession of murdering a defenseless woman in cold blood?
Haley distracted him with the sexy. Plus Crystal was kind of a bitch, and I doubt Elan is really that happy about it. He's just chosen to accept it for now, since Haley has some reasonable points.
Also, "murdering a defenseless woman in cold blood" oversimplifies things a bit. This same "defenseless woman" had A. very nearly killed Haley "in cold blood" a few strips back, and B. had every intention of trying it again. It's not like Haley snapped and killed some random person on the street. She killed someone who had every intention of killing her right back. Recall when V zapped Kubota. Elan was able to come to the conclusion that it might have been for the best; he was only really put off that V killed him without even knowing who it was. He loves and trusts Haley, and with that comes trusting that Haley had her own very good reasons for killing Crystal.
Remember, Elan's Good, but he's an adventurer. He knows as well as the others that, hey, sometimes you gotta kill people and things.
Elan knows that the (temporarily) defenseless woman that Haley killed was a mass murderer who would've continued to kill more innocent people if left alive. Elan lives in a D&D world, and knows it. Killing clearly Evil-aligned characters is generally considered acceptable.
First, this is perfectly in-character for Elan, given his earlier behavior with the Kubota incident. His first response is to admit that it was probably for the best that he was killed, and only starts berating V when he finds out V didn't know about the circumstances that made Kubota a long-term danger, thus having killed him for the sake of convenience (and even then he doesn't REALLY get mad until the elf in question disrespects both Therkla and his love for Haley). Second, killing Crystal wasn't really evil, it was neutral (evil people kill for fun and profit, neutral people kill based on personal relationships).
Also don't forget, "murder" in the OOTS-verse isn't exactly like murder in ours, particularly when you have someone like Crystal with plenty of wealthy allies and access to reasonably high level clerics. Most likely, Crystal got raised within hours.
Lack of paladins Falling as a defense
Know what bugs me? The "paladin didn't fall, therefore these people are guilty" defence. (I'll acknowledge that the individuals using it were basically a team of an Amoral Attorney and The Ditz, and I know it isn't meant seriously). There is, to the best of my knowledge, nothing in the paladin's code that states that arresting a person who all the evidence fits but who just happens to be innocent, and bringing them to a trial you believe to be fair, leads to be falling. Indeed, it could be argued that letting the courts handle it is moreLawful Good than the traditional "kill them and take their stuff" of RPG campaigns. So... why was the prosecution using it on a room filled with people who should know this, being paladins themselves?
1) Lawyers everywhere use arguments that are obviously spurious if you know what you're talking about but still sound good, all the time. 2) Those particular lawyers aren't very bright.
I always thought of it as poking fun of "Paladin-based Morality" that gets around some D&D groups, where a Paladin (usually an NPC, or worse, a DMPC) functions as the moral barometer for everyone else just by virtue of his class— the idea that the Paladin wouldn't do it if it wasn't Lawful Good. That said, in a jury full of Paladins, it was probably the best (if still lame) argument they could have made— after all, what better way to get a bunch of Knight Templars on your side than to convince them that their gods are already there? At least if they disagree it would look like they thought their judgment was superior to that of the Twelve Gods, since the jury wouldn't be allowed to argue the point.
Xykon's Power levels
Okay, how did Xykon get so powerful since Roy last fought him? He really hasn't been doing all that much except maybe killing a handful of good-aligned monsters in his old tower. If anything, one would think that a lich dying and regenerating would leave him slightly weakened (though I don't know the rules on that). Was it because when the Order first fought him he underestimated them and didn't bust out his major spells, or what?
Xykon in the first battle wasn't trying to outright destroy the Order. He wanted them to activate the gate, and was playing around with them to that end. Roy's "killing" blow caught him completely by surprise. Xykon was as powerful then as he is now.
Charming a mook for his sword
It may be old, but how was Nale able to use Charm Person to get a mook to give up a sword mid-battle, when you can't make a person do something that they would object to? I'm pretty sure Suggestion would have been batter. And he used it on Elan once, so you can't say he didn't have it.
It's not so much that you can't make a person do something they would object to, as you can't make them do something that's fundamentally against his or her character.
Think of Thahn's domination: He certainly would have objected to killing Haley, as she was his leader and friend, so Tsukiko phrased it as "kill the thief" since, as a Paladin, he would be predisposed to punish lawbreakers.
So apparently that one random mook was secretly suicidal, as he would give up his sword and leave himself defenseless when the enemy was about to attack him.
Not necessarily. Charm Person makes you regard the caster as a trusted friend. He had the armour and shield, and his 'friend' was defenseless, so giving his friend a sword to defend himself seems fairly reasonable.
The whole "losing all the treasure broke Haley's mind" thing just bugs me. Gold's a solid metal that doesn't burn, nor does it melt particularly easily. Even if the entire inn burned down, the treasure which was stored inside a security vault wouldn't have been even damaged all that badly, much less destroyed completely. Fire does not work that way.
I think because Haley panicked and went into the vault and left the door open probably made it much more vulnerable. Which would make its loss so ironic.
The inn didn't just burn down - it exploded Scattering the gold over a wide area in the process. Making it difficult to recover.
Worse. Haley had been keeping a lot of her treasure in bags of holding. When the inn blew up, so did the bags, destroying them and all their precious contents.
Miko killing the bandits
Miko killing the bandits. Okay, Samantha threatened (however feebly) to enslave her with magic and kill her if she didn't comply, and Miko chopped her in half; cool, still with you there. Samantha's father, on the other hand, was nothing but helpful, and only objected to being asked for his help a second time after his daughter was killed in front of him before Miko cut him down as well. She didn't even know their alignment! Miko even recognizes the pointlessness of the whole thing, but doesn't show any remorse or concern for their lives; plot-based immunity aside, if that's how she typically operated up til that point, how did she even last that long as a Paladin to begin with? Shouldn't she have fallen ages ago?
The bandit father attacked her (you'll notice the whoosh indicating he missed). In response to that she jammed a katana into him.
This is assuming that a paladin's fall happens automatically. This may be true in D&D, but may not be true in the Stickverse; the scene of Miko's fall suggests the gods have to get directly involved. Considering the paladins' actions in Start of Darkness (which they didn't fall for)... The Gods Must Be Lazy. And corrupt.
But that was against goblins. The fact that the sentient goblins were specifically created by the gods to be slaugthered for XP indicates that the gods are racists (or, like Redcloack would say, speciests). It's another thing entirely for them not to react when Miko killed another human being. That being said, as was mentioned above, Samantha's father attacked her first, which technically puts the whole thing under self-defense (and Paladins are lawful; technicalities matter).
"considering the paladins' actions in Start of Darkness" God, how often does this have to be pointed out? The events in Start Of Darkness are deliberately skewed into the villains' POV. Rich Burlew said that explicitly.
No, he stated that the fall of Azure City was Karma biting them in the ass for their rampant slaughter of monstrous humanoid villages in War and XPs.
Then he was wrong. To elaborate, Good Is Not Nice is a major theme of OotS (and especially of Start of Darkness). The events of Start Of Darkness still happened, but in SOD they're shown from the perspective of the the goblins. Take a look at any strip (especially the earlier ones) where the Order is killing NPC enemies. Is that evil? Is karma going to "bite them in the ass" for it? The paladins attacked the goblins to kill the bearer of the Crimson Mantle, and they killed the others to prevent one of them from taking up the Mantle again. Lo and behold, that's what ended up happening anyway. The elephant in the living room in Start Of Darkness (whether Rich intended it or not) is that while the humanoids make big noises about speciesism, what they really seem to be after is a license to be Always Chaotic Evil. If they'd just become Good then paladins who attacked them would fall.
Death of the Author my ass. What those Paladins did was wrong, they killed freaking children, how did you miss that? The majority of the Goblins don't seem to have actually done anything wrong, and Right Eye and his village actually lived in peace for years before Xykon fucked that up. I mean, where are you even getting that Good Is Not Nice is a theme of OotS? And it most certainly is not shown from the perspective of the Goblins, I have no idea where you got that, just as it always has been in The Order of the Stick we see it from an omniscient third person view.
First and foremost, Death of the Author does not mean that the opinion of the author is wrong. It means that his viewpoint is no more or less valid than that of any particular reader. It puts all interpretations on the same level; it doesn't make yours right. Secondly, what happened to Redcloak's village was wrong. It doesn't mean that his subsequent actions were right, it means that wiping out a small village of unarmed non-combatants while they begged for mercy is not a good thing to do, even if it is a Good thing to do. And finally, the paladins' attack on the entire goblin village, where the goal is ostensibly to kill the bearer of the Crimson Mantle and prevent anyone else from taking it over, could have been accomplished by focusing their attacks on the Mantle and only killing anyone stupid enough to come near. Instead, they opted for genocide.
First and foremost, I never said that Death of the Author meant he was wrong, I said that he was wrong, and potholed it to a trope that covers disagreement with Word of God. If I had thought that was proof enough I wouldn't have then said "To elaborate...". Apart from that, you apparently basically agree with me that Redcloak's subsequent actions were not justified and most importantly that the fall of Azure city is not karmic justice by any measure. To the previous troper, where are you even getting that Good Is Nice in Order of the Stick? You just spent the first half of your post detailing exactly how not-nice the forces of Good have been. Sounds like a pretty strong theme to me. And yeah, it is from the goblins' perspective, the fact that we aren't literally looking through the eyes of a goblin doesn't change that. You say that "The majority of the Goblins don't seem to have actually done anything wrong" but you don't realise that this is a function of seeing it through the goblins' eyes (again, not literally). How do you know they haven't done anything wrong? Compare how casually the citizens of Gobbotopia approach the subject of slavery later on in the strip proper. The paladins may not have been justified, but they weren't Evil.
No he didn't agree with you, and Karma doesn't work that way. Karma doesn't have to bite with good-actions. It just has to bite. And the fact that Azure City is destroyed by the very evil they created via self-fulfilling prophecy makes it even more Karma-tastic (and Rich said that). What the paladin did was wrong. Therefore Karma bit them. What Red Cloak did in "Carrying out Karma" is also wrong. And in time Karma will bite him (barring the unlikely Downer Ending). Also showing something in one POV doesn't mean what's shown is necessarily wrong or even biased. It just means it's shown through the villain's eyes.
Or if it makes you feel better, you can pretend it was shown, just without the special effects (which may be reserved for particularly serious cases)- you simply can't tell that their cloaks have turned grey because the book's monochrome so they looked that way all along.
In the above link, he says we don't see whether they fall or not (and explains his choice not to show it) and that's all he says. He doesn't say for definite "many of them did fall". He leaves it up to the readers.
The Big Bad and the Dragon
It's clear that the two main villains are Redcloak and Xykon, but which one is the Big Bad and which is The Dragon? It's kinda hard to tell sometimes.
Seems more like a Big Bad Duumvirate, at least from Redcloak's POV. Redcloak only allies with Xykon out of necessity, and while he does generally follow his orders, pretty much only does so because he needs his metaphysical muscle to complete his own plan. While Xykon pretty much does think of himself as the Big Bad and Redcloak as The Dragon and keeps Redcloak around due to the above mention hyper competence.
That's more or less the point. It's near impossible to tell whether Redcloak or Xykon is really The Man Behind the Man, to the extent that seeing Xykon as the Big Bad with Redcloak as his bitch is no more or less accurate as seeing Redcloak as the Big Bad with Xykon as his subtly manipulated tool. Xykon sees it as the former, Redcloak sees it as the latter, and only time will really tell.
Acting out of class
Minor complaint: Belkar acts more like a Rogue than a Ranger and Hayley acts more like a Ranger than a Rogue. It's always annoyed me in the back of my mind.
No. Belkar acts like a stealth-oriented ranger, and Haley acts like a ranged-focused rogue. There's more to the ranger class than "shoots stuff" and there's more to the rogue class than "sneaky stuff."
Stealth ? What stealth ? It's pretty clear he picked Ranger for the free dual wield feats : twice more stabbity action! :)
I invite you to re-read the scene where he tries to get Miko to kill him by nearly killing her first. He specifically chose that location because of all the stealth and cover it provided, and then used throwing daggers to ding her instead of getting close and stabby. While he doesn't always, Belkar is capable of planning a situation to utilise stealth to be brutally effective.
So... about the gates. Does anyone else think there were some dubious decisions when at least two of them were constructed? Soon's Gate was ok, I would've put the Sapphire inside the stone walls, but it's no biggie. However, Dorukan's Gate actually had a fricken door on it. Why not use something simpler and more secure like a magically fortified block of solid stone? Did he actually want occasional access to a world destroying, soul obliterating abomination? And of course there's Lirian's Gate, which was made up of trees so afraid of fire, that they ran and broke the protection keeping the rift from spreading on the first sign of fire. The Gates ideally need to last until the end of time. Surely an epic druid and wizard could've crafted a Gate that wouldn't flee when hit by oh... say a random forest fire, a bunch of kids having a cookout, etc.
Oh it's worse than that. The door? That was put on by Xykon so the zombies wouldn't keep wandering in.
In the case of both Soon's gate and Dorukan's Gate, anything powerful enough to be able to both use the gates and defeat them would probably not be seriously inconvenienced by having to remove a bit of stone; it would buy a day or so of time, at most, and the would-be users can be assumed to have virtually unlimited time if they have taken out the Gate's protection and will be using the time-intensive rituals to make use of it (remember that is why Xykon and Redcloack wanted to capture Azure City). Dorukan's gate also has the nifty property of killing whatever evil thing touches it (that's how Roy defeat Xykon the first time), so maybe Durokan left it as a trap for evil beings, or else as an ace in the hole to use in a fight against them (since he always figured he would fight in his terms, and never expected having to fight within a moment's notice, in his opponent's terms, to save Lirian's soul).
Any magical protection on Dorukan's gate could be placed on a block of stone. After all a gate is just two blocks of stone (or some material) with hinges and a locking mechanism. Problem with a gate of course is that the locking mechanism is always the weak point. Since I'm assuming Dorukan never wanted to open his literal gate, he shouldn't have built one.
Uhhmm... they aren't "gates" in the traditional sense; that's just what they call them for lack of a better word. They are actually magical artifacts which prevent the rifts from expanding; read this strip.
Go back a bit farther to here. You'll see that Dorukan had an actual Gate.
Why was there a door on Dorukan's Gate? So Dorukan could study it of course. Presumably in the hopes of finding a way to seal it permanently.
Why not encase it in stone? Simple: Transmute Rock to Mud.
Wait, what gate?!
The Shout Outs
The explicit pop-culture references. Yeah, yeah, I know, Rule of Funny, but when a bard living in a magical fantasy world quotes Christopher Walken by name, or a goblin makes reference to McDonald's Happy Meals... it bugs me. If we were watching an "actual" D&D session, with real-worldish people playing the characters, I wouldn't mind nearly as much, but evidently that possibility's been Jossed.
Given what we know about the setting, there's quite probably an in-universe Christopher Walken and McDonald's. Walken presumably being some Prestige Class of NPC Bard, and McDonalds likely being a restaurant confined to a single region with a comically modified menu and decor relative to the one in the real world.
.....you're complaining about pop culture references in a comic that literally broke the fourth wall at one point, and where Haley stole a diamond from the character page. There is No Fourth Wall in this comic.
Azure City geography
In this strip, Redcloak's map of Azure city seems to show it is landlocked. So how come it has a dock with with sea access? Did Redcloak just get stingy with the watercolors and that blue outline represents the sea's edge, like the gray ones represents the mountains?
Yeah, probably. It is a rather lame map.
The bottom blue line, judging by its shape, seems to be representing the Goblin forces. The blue line at the top, given its wavy quality and position, is likely meant to represent the sea itself, and he just didn't feel like coloring it in.
Looks more like to me that the line at the bottom is the city's defenses, while the big blue thingy is the castle (which Redcloak specifically mentions in the plan) while the wavy line up top is definitely the ocean.
Celia's rapid characterization flip-flop. In Azure City, she's a fairly slick defense attorney who justifies what is basically flat-out lying by saying "I don't make the rules, I just twist them to my purpose", but in Greysky City, she's a naive moron who scolds Haley from an inflexible moral high ground.
You're dealing with two different situations. The main difference is she's talking to Haley about killing people, rather than legal defense. Sure, your lawyer may be sleazy and bend the rules to get you off for a crime you're guilty of, but that doesn't mean she's going to endorse you going around shooting people right in front of her.
There's a big difference between "endorsing" and "not throwing high-nosed hissy-fits about" something. She's smart enough to get the Order found Not Guilty by spinning the Gate's explosion (which destroyed an entire inhabited mountain) as a preventative measure (which was a lie), but she can't understand killing people in self-defense (and likens it to a random murder on the street), or that Greysky City is full of killers even after talking to one, or that Grubwiggler was not a cleric when he offered to pay her for Roy's body...? To an extent, that can be explained by "High INT, low WIS, with few ranks in Sense Motive", but again, she started out a slick defense attorney who was totally on the ball for the entire trial and willing to ask questions about things she didn't understand, and in her second appearance, she's an idiot who thinks she knows better than the PC who's been dealing with this problem for months and lived most of her life in Greysky City and gets 8+Int skill points a level for things like local knowledge and sense motive? It's inconsistent, and it bugs me.
Not really. Being able to legally defend someone in a courtroom is MUCH different than standing there in the thick of danger. Law & Order notwithstanding, lawyers and paralegals aren't exactly known for being in consistent life-or-death situations. Furthermore, Celia is one of the few characters thus far who has not let their moral constitution slip because of convenience or mortal danger (not even Roy or Miko can make that claim), so throwing "hissy fits" is pretty much in line with "not condoning". You have to remember that, for her, death is a PERMANENT experience, and not only that, she has no afterlife. Next, she makes a solid point just outside of Azure City when she asks Haley if painting a human orange (to make them less human) makes them more okay to kill. Belkar himself is currently using this to his advantage by killing only those EVERYONE ELSE SAYS IS OKAY. Now, as for Grubwiggler, you have to admit that she did ask several questions which, through process of a elimination, made it seem as though he was going to do what she wanted. She directly asked him if Roy would be undead, which is right in order with the "asking questions" you mentioned before. Only difference is, rather than being an attorney, this time she's a woman who's emotionally invested in getting her boyfriend back.
Being a woman trying to get her boyfriend back isn't an excuse for suddenly turning stupid; he wasn't getting more dead, Celia was just being snooty and ignorant— which would just make her snooty and ignorant and that just be character flaws of hers, if her first appearance hadn't already established her as intelligent enough to incorporate new information she acquired into her thought processes when she heard it. From the time Haley summons her up until she leaves, she's only smart when she's wording an argument that will give her the moral high ground if she wins. I'm not complaining about her motives or her flaws, I'm complaining about how inconsistent she's been portrayed.
It doesn't seem all that inconsistent. Just about every single character in The Order of the Stick, including the "smart" ones such as Redcloak and Roy, have had moments of stupidity that fit within the parameters of their character. From the beginning, Celia's major flaw was rushing to get in over her head. She wasn't cut out to be a guardian, and you have to remember that her first (and to date ONLY) trial was basically stacked in her favor. (Shojo himself admits that there was no way she could actually lose.) Celia's fatal flaw has ALWAYS been a tendency to rush into something with little more than optimism and belief in the Heart of the Cards.
Roy just being dead was sort of freaking Celia out. And as a creature who not only suffers permadeath, but usually doesn't even leave behind a body, how the heck was SHE supposed to know us mortals would occasionally use bodies to make golems? And Sense Motive wouldn't have helped her much. Grubwiggler never LIED, he just stated the facts in a comicly vague manner (That's what the Innuendo skill is meant to do).
For that matter, how does a lawyer get through life without Sense Motive?
She wasn't a lawyer yet. Just a paralegal. She was studying to become a lawyer.
Shouldn't studying to become a lawyer entail getting some ranks in Sense Motive?
Maybe she hadn't taken that class yet?
She was only shown acting as a defense attorney. Even if she knows the defendant is lying, she still has to defend him.
She wouldn't need to use it on her client, and she wouldn't necessarily need to use it to detect lies. Sense Motive would be very useful for an attorney cross-examining a witness, as it could give hints on what lines of questioning would yield favourable answers.
The worst part is not that she starts being incredibly inflexible, it's that she starts nagging Haley for stupid things. The nadir is when she lectures Haley for throwing a chocolate bar off a cliff because a dog might eat it and get sick. I think the author realized he couldn't have easy humor without conflict in the party, so he made Celia Stupid Good so she'd argue with Haley more.
The bit which bothers me the most is when Roy basically agrees with her about Haley in #669, despite everything Celia says being fundamentally wrong. "She does whatever's convenient for her, and if it happens to help the mission, hey, bonus!" - Since Celia joined the party, Haley didn't do a single thing which could count as personal gain, if you think about it. Instead she was just trying to protect Celia's boyfriend's body and get him resurrected. That was even why she stole money, why she put up with Belkar, and why she left her resistance work in Azure City. "I just can't fathom caring more about gold then about another person's very existence" - um, excuse me? Since Celia got there, Haley's given all her money to the resistance and is working to get more to pay for Roy's resurrection! And even when she wants to keep some of HER OWN MONEY, it's to save her father's life. So why doesn't Roy pull Celia up on the incredibly nasty, inaccurate digs at Haley's personality? Where's his party loyalty? We haven't exactly seen Celia help people, instead she spends all her time endangering them by ignoring Haley!
So, Girard lied to Soon about the location of his gate...how did that work? The gates weren't mobile. They were anchored in space, and the whole Order of the Scribble visited each one. Soon, you'd think, would have known where each gate was without having to hear it secondhand; if not the exact location, then the general area at least, and therefore the other Paladins ought to have known.
Soon knows the general area is somewhere in the desert, which Girard describes as "the world's largest desert." That's not nearly enough to narrow down the gate location, specially when it is hidden by an epic illusionist. I mean, what is Soon going to guide himself on? Deserts are notoriously devoid of significant landmarks, and they are in a politically chaotic region where nation borders get redrawn all the time. Plus, it was Girard doing all the navigation.
That's what we were led to believe. The gate is actually in Windy Canyon, which is a pretty good landmark for finding it. Girard's assumption was that Soon would somehow be stupid enough to blindly follow the coordinates that Girard gave him even though it would have been blatantly obvious that the gate wasn't there. Admittedly, that does seem to fit Girard's view of Soon and paladins in general, but still seems pretty stupid.
Unless Windy Canyon itself is an illusion.
Soon delegated all mapmaking duties to Girard, so he probably was counting on Girard for navigation too. Soon knew that the gate was in the Windy Canyon, and the Windy Canyon in turn was in the desert, but he didn't know the exact map coordinates of Windy Canyon because Girard was the one doing navigation. So Girard tells him that these coordinates in the desert are the Windy Canyon, and given that Soon is a paladin, he just took Girard's word for it and never checked (when they were a party, there was no need to, afterwards checking would be a breach of the oath).
Order of the Scribble age
Why exactly does the Order of the Stick keep assuming the Scribblers are still alive? Okay, one was an elf, but Shojo told them that it's been long enough that Soon died of old age while Shojo was a small child. It has to have been at least 70 years, if not a century, since they went on their quest, and most of them were human.
How long was Xykon at Dorukan's gate again? Dorukan lived till then, and as for Soon, maybe he was just older than the other humans in the Order.
Just checked again, and Shojo says it was 66 years previous that the Order of the Scribble began their journey. I'm aware that they certainly could be alive, I'm just wondering why the Order of the Stick takes it as such a certainty. You figure any of the Scribblers have to be in their 80s if not 90s by now. Durukan at least was a wizard, so living a long time is pretty much a given for them.
Uhm, magic? Going by D&D books, it isn't that hard to get eternal life (one of the reasons why the aforementioned feat really, really, sucks). High level D&D characters(and especially epic ones) are somewhere between extremely powerful and obscenely powerful - cheating death, one way or another, isn't a big deal for them. When you're talking about characters like these it's more reasonable and logical to assume that they are still alive rather than that they died of old age.
The main problem with that is the only one they're sure of did die of old age. You can't assume that they all took Eternal Life feats when A. nobody else in the comic's world seems to have and B. the only Scribbler whose condition they know for certain is the one who is dead from old age.
Except, to a certain extent, Soon WASN'T dead. His ghost brigade was more effective. Also, Paladins and Good aligned Clerics tend to get a bit iffy with that whole "violating the natural order" life extension stuff.
Soon isn't the only one they know of, they know from Celia that Dorukon was alive about a month before they got to his dungeon, and given that a week later Xykon showed up, it's pretty easy to assume (correctly) that Xycon killed him. So they know at least one was still alive just weeks ago, so It's not to hard for them to accept the other magical person from there group is also still alive.
I said the only one they were sure about.
Soon was also a widower when the Order of the Scribble was formed, and we don't know exactly how much time it took him to join the group; it's very likely that he was the oldest in the party to begin with by a fair margin.
Remember this is D&D, and most nonhuman races have average lifespans longer than humans.
How have so many people gotten so high level so quickly? Miko was 13 and was an estimated level 2-4 monk, Samantha was a 12th level sorcerer before the age of 20, Xykon was 12 when he could cast Lightning Bolts, how do these people get so powerful so quickly?
V thinks eliminating every living relative to the Ancient Black Dragon means no-one will come to take revenge. Wouldn't an act of partial GENOCIDE maybe give an entire race a very good reason to come after him/her?
V is high on power and not thinking all that logically. In fact, Tiamat's angry phonecall to the IFCC suggests that it wasn't a particularly good idea.
Moreover, s/he wasn't doing it to protect him/herself, at least not entirely. S/he was doing it because the dragon went after his/her family.
No, V did it because V was drunk on power and because V could. The family bit was just an excuse.
Alternate Character Interpretations ftw.
Let's face it; wiping out two thirds of an entire race in one fell swoop would also be a pretty good incentive to stay as far as possible away from the perpetrator as well; that's clearly someone with access to great power that you don't want to mess with if at all possible.
More importantly, it doesn't leave much traces. It could have been cast on any lineage member all over the world. Normal investigation has literally no chances to track V.
Does Elan really have 18 Charisma? Going by the root of the word, he seems much less charismatic than Roy, who as a human gets no racial Charisma bonus and as a fighter has little reason to boost the stat.
It's a sorta injoke among D&D players that the Charisma score just governs looks, so that's how it seems to manifest with Elan.
Actually, Elan has a lot of Charisma (even more than Roy) going by the definition of the word. He can influence almost anyone, to the point that rational people will ignore his flaws just because he is so charming. Yes, he is painfully naive and more than a little stupid, but he can certainly get people to do what he wants them to.
You could argue his naivete and stupidity is part of his charm, as people feel the need to help and protect him or feel bad about hurting him.
The Fourth Wall
What is this comic's relationship to the fourth wall? Are the characters Animated Actors? Do they have Medium Awareness and sometimes pretend not to, or do they lack Medium Awareness and sometimes display it in out-of-character, non-canonical jokes? Do they gain and lose Medium Awareness, and if so, is there an in-universe reason for it (Rule of Funny not counting?) This wouldn't be so bad in a gag-a-day strip, but post-Cerebus Syndrome it's becoming hard to tell how to react emotionally to events that may or may not be "staged" in-universe.
The comic where Haley steals the diamond from the Cast page is entitled It's a Shame She Didn't Grab That Script While She Was There. Judging from this, most to all of the characters know that they're in a comic, but they don't know what the author has in mind for them or the story. This amounts to some strange sort of Enforced Method Acting.
It always seemed to me that the know they're in a world that runs on a combination of D&D rules and narrative conventions, but I certainly wouldn't say that they consider themselves actors or that the events are "staged" in-universe.
IMO, the most likely setup is similar to a documentary with manipulative editors- the cast are real adventurers on a real quest, but they're being followed around by a 'production team' who will occasionally try to influence events on a smaller scale, either by arranging a particular encounter or giving people instructions on how to act. Maybe.
Or you could think of them as PC in an actual tabletop RPG game, only with extremely, shall we say, special players (and GM), who are able to alternate between excellent roleplaying and hijacking the GM's notes (that would be stealing the diamond from the cast page), with all the nuances between, like making pop culture references. I know there is probably a Word of God somewhere about how they are not "played" by anyone, but we are talking crazy theories here.
Strip #433, Panel 3
From #703: "Hobgoblin Warrior from Strip #433, Panel 3." #433 only has Roy in it, and totals two panels. Did the Giant screw up, or did I just get Trolled?
Why, exactly did O-Chul try to destroy Soon's Gate during the battle when he must have known about Soon's Ghost Legion reinforcements? Given that the Paladins are all willing to defend the gate with their lives, wouldn't it have made more sense to charge Xykon, try do as much damage as possible, and then be revived as a Ghost-Martyr? I guess this one bugs me because Soon criticizes Miko for destroying the Gate when O-Chul was about to do the exact same thing. Destroying the Gate is an act of desperation; it didn't make sense for O-Chul to do it when he still knew about their ace in the hole that was the best, most realistic chance of defeating Xykon.
What makes you think he did know about the ghost legion? Only Hinjo knew about that. He said so himself in #449:
Hinjo: "There are some secrets that are only known to the ruling family of Azure City... until now."
Ah, okay. Never mind, I'd forgotten what that line was, I thought Hinjo had referred to the Sapphire Guard rather than the ruling family, implying that all of the Paladins knew about the Ghosts. Well then, wouldn't it have been a good idea to tell the Paladins about it going into the battle? Possibly Hinjo didn't want to mention to them the possibility of getting killed, regardless of how they'd rise afterwards...
Probably so they'd fight better, so they'd have a better chance to survive. When you're making a last stand, you're not going to hold anything back.
Well, they are called the ghost-martyrs of the Sapphire Guard...
It needs to be said: this "10+ days between strips" thing has become unbearable. That's, like, Megatokyo bad.
And it needs to be answered: Chronic medical condition that leaves him bedridden. Be thankful he keeps it going at all.
This. The man has a condition and still does his best to provide for his fans. I'm much happier with 1 high quality strip a week than if he did 2-3 crap ones.
Frankly, after the most recent such stunt, I was worried about Rich being dead, especially since the then-current comic's title was "Dead Men Give No Speeches" and I hadn't read most of the current book, let alone that comic.
Well he's updated two days in a row. Perhaps he wanted to make up for it.
During Haley's first date with Elan, Haley's Self-Loathing attempts to get her to open up to him in the name of getting her voice back, but Haley's scared and doesn't want to stop "hiding". When Nale "Elan" offers to go on another date, now it's Self-Loathing who thinks something's "fishy" and Haley who doesn't want to be distrustful anymore. It seems like Haley's Self-Loathing is being slipped notes from the author on what the situation actually is, though not the right course of action, instead of being particularly consistent.
I figured Haley's Self-Loathing was the little part of her that goes "You're WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, STUPID, WRONG, YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" (but more eloquently).
Haley later said that the Oracle's prophesy convinced her not to "look a gift horse in the mouth" when "Elan" shows interest in her. Also, both of them are Haley, Self-Loathing isn't really a separate character.
Empire of Blood Demographics
Why would a Dragon have an entirely-human guard, when everyone else but the slaves are reptilians? So that Malachar, if he's human, would have an easier time having her killed and taking over the palace so that civilians and administrators are the only ones who would fight him? If that is the case, why would the Kobolds stand for it?
Maybe cuz there were only humans available? Remember what the cartographer said. Kingdoms, 'empires', etc. change hands all the time on the western continent. Every new conquering warlord isn't necessarily going to bring in his or her own full staff of guards, mages, etc. It's more likely that they just kill the ruler, and take over the place wholesale, keeping most of the staff onhand out of convenience.
Makes sense. I just figured, since most if not all of the non-slave civilians were lizards... But if they're sort of the Old Retainers of the castle (for a given value of "old"), the might have been kept on because they have loyalty to the castle and not to any particular being or species.
It appears that the entirely human guard is because its commanding officer Elan and Nale's father Tarquin, is a human himself.
The last panel of this strip seems extremely out of character for Roy, who has at this point already been established to be tactically savvy. His plan involves sending the party's wizard against a drow with SR out the wazoo, his good aligned cleric vs another good aligned cleric, the only other hard hitting melee fighter against the weakest member of the opposition, and his stupidest and weakest member against the cleverest member of the enemy party. WTF.
And the enemy cleric is Evil. Just pointing that out...
Both clerics were out of commission, as evidenced by what Roy said in the second to last panel. Roy is potentially the only person on his team who can take Thog in one-on-one combat. Nale may be clever, but he's physically and magically on par with Elan. Belkar is going to do what he wants anyway, he might as well be directed properly. And it's good strategy to put your ranged attacker against the flying enemy. As for the drow... who else would you put the wizard up against?
Redcloak's entire plan is the definition of idiocy. From what I've gathered (I stopped reading shortly after Kubata's death; see Dethroning Moment of Suck), he wants to release the Snarl to destroy the world so that the Dark One can blackmail the gods into giving goblins a better role in the next world. Setting aside that he's killing everything alive - including goblins - for this... According to the backstory, when the Snarl was created, it killed what we would call the Greco-Roman pantheon. What happens to Redcloak's plan if it kills the Dark One on its next escape? Even if everything goes as planned, the gods in the Stickverse are generally portrayed as petty and not all too bright. Their first response isn't going to be "Wow, we better listen to the goblin god", it's going to be "A goblin destroyed the world?!? No more goblins!" Assuming they still allow them, absolutely nothing guarantees they wouldn't just shove the Dark One aside and still have goblins as a mook race. That Rich Burlew expects us to take such a stupid, ill-thought plan seriously and view Redcloak with sympathy is just fail.
First thing's first: That's not Redcloak's plan. He doesn't want to release the Snarl. He wants to threaten to release it to blackmail the gods; hold a gun to their head and make them give Goblins a fair shake. If he wanted to just release the Snarl, he'd just go around destroying the gates, not capturing them and trying to work a special ritual with Xykon.
Actually releasing the Snarl isn't his Plan A. The only "plan" he's made for doing so amounts to, "If I fuck up, and the Snarl gets released accidentally, then at least when they try to remake the world again, there's already a Goblin god to speak for us."
Have you actually read the Start of Darkness book? Please go read it before you actually start to complain, no less complaining in a place where you are not supposed to.
You stopped reading years ago and have had to surmise the driving motivation of one of the bad guys, so why are you here?
Also, Redcloak's plan isn't *supposed* to be a very good one, especially not at this point. The tragic part of Redcloak's character is that he's continuing with a plan that, deep down, he probably realized was going to cause more harm than good a long time ago but can't bring himself to admit it. The whole "If the world is destroyed, maybe the next one will be better for Goblins" was Redcloak trying to rationalize his continuing the plan, even though it was becoming increasingly likely that it would just kill them all.
Once again, it is not Redcloak plan, but the plan of the Dark One, transferred by mind controlling Red Mantle. And Dark One's agenda does not necessarily include helping goblins.
As it turns out, Redcloak doesn't plan to use the Snarl to destroy the world - he plans to threaten to use it to kill the gods.
Death and Contests
If you can beat Death in a wet t-shirt contest, are you immortal?
Because he could just refuse. Nothing indicates that he MUST go along with any challenge that a person makes up on the spot.
The colours for the first book and the prequels feel messed up. Dungeon Crawlin' Fools has Elan and a red theme; red has absolutely nothing to do with Elan beyond the fact that his evil twin brother wears red pants. On the Origin of PCs has Durkon and a yellow border; yellow has absolutely nothing to do with Durkon. Start of Darkness has Redcloak and a grey border; the only connection I can make is that it is in greyscale and arguably because it is the most serious OOTS book to date. Yellow would have made more sense for Volume 1 (Elan and Nale are blonds), grey for Volume 0 (Durkon's armour, his so-called "blandness", and being the first and thus far only entirely greyscale OOTS book), and red for Volume -1 for obvious reasons. Now, of course the most likely reason for this is that Mr. Burlew was just picking random colours for Volume 1 and possibly 0, but it still stands out when Volumes 2-4 fit perfectly and red would fit perfectly for Volume -1.
Shutting down forum threads
Why did they shut down the Crack Pairings, Fanservice, and Shipping threads? Yeah, I get that there was some 'board innapropriate stuff' going on, but then they can slap a warning on. Some of that stuff was good! And if they really didn't want to have that stuff on, why can't they let people put in links to where they ended up? (I know that the crack pairings are on FF now, not sure about anyone else.) It turned me off the forums, that's for sure.
Speaking as a former regular of the crack pairings thread, we had numerous warnings prior to that. Good though it may have been, we crossed a line (and had done so several times before the thread was finally locked). All things considered, I'm amazed we lasted as long as we did. We could have been locked numerous times before we actually were. The mods were exceptionally generous with us, but enough was enough.
Haley's Adventuring Motivation
Haley's motivation for adventuring is to collect 200,000 GP to pay off a ransom for her father who is being held captive in a tyrannical police state. Given that recent strips have shown Haley (with a little help from Vaarsuvius) has had no trouble freeing about 23 slaves from a heavily guarded palace, why doesn't she organize a prison break rather than try to raise the exorbitant amount of GP to actually pay the ransom?
Haley wouldn't be at the level she is now without adventuring. So whether she could actually manage an attempt if she did otherwise is doubtful in itself. Not to mention that sneaking out a few slaves is much easier when you're a guest and can pull an inside job. Pissing off an entire country is probably not a good idea either.
Plus, she doesn't know where he is. She'd never been to the Western Continent before the current arc, and the first thing she does when she gets there is try to find the place on a map, only to be told it no longer exists. She can't break him out if she can't find him.
You may get your wish soon enough.
Original poster of this JBM here: A new comic confirms Haley never meant to part with the money in the first place. My impression of Haley's character has gone up now.
Despite Belkar's wisdom score being apparently very low he could cast cure serious wounds with owls wisdoms (+4 to wisdom) cast on him, that would put his normal wisdom level at ten, about average level.
Once again Rule of Funny! D&D rules have always and will always take a back seat to jokes.
10 is some awfully low score for a ranger that is supposed to cast divine spells and track stuff. Also, Elan's 12 strength is considered near worthless in combat, despite being above average.
There's an argument that he's using the scroll's wisdom requirement instead of the standard ranger's. It was implicitly a cleric scroll since it was on Durkon, and clerics get CSW at spell level 3, which requires a 13 wisdom. Hence allowing for Belkar's wisdom penalty.
A meta-Headscratchers moment: Why is the missspelling "Zykon" so popular? I mean, X and Z don't nearly sound the same. You don't say "Siz" instead of "Six", so I don't really know what's up with that.
I'm sorry, I really am. I'd correct your minor error myself, but I can't bring myself to destroy a misspelled "misspelling", not even counting one being inside of a complaint about spelling itself. Two "s"s, my friend.
I've never seen anyone mispell it. It's kind of hard considering this is a written story.
X and Z are pronounced the same if they start a word.
Really? I mean, really? Wow, English is a weird language.
Yes, really. There are about three dozen words starting with X (nearly all from Greek) and it's always pronounced Z.
It's pronounced differently depending on context in a number of other languages, as well. For example, in Spanish it can be the [ks] sound (like it is in "six" in English), an [s] sound, or (less commonly) a [sh] sound. That said, yes, English is a weird language. Comes from borrowing words and spellings from pretty much every other language it encountered (sometimes mixing them up in the process, resulting in things like "colonel" being pronounced "kernel").
If you don't know that, how do you pronounce Xylophone, Xerox, and Xenon? I find it hard to believe that you've never encountered any those words, thus you've given me a meta-headscratcher.
That, and Xykon can detect when a person "pronounces" it (read: spells it in their speech bubble) as Zykon, and really hates it. So, it could be just people metaphorically flipping Xykon off for being, ya know, evil. Or just for fun.
If you actually try to pronounce it as an X out loud it sounds really awkward. It'd be something like Kus-eye-con.
Elan's Family and Darkseid
Am I the only one who thinks that Tarquin, Elan's and Nale's relationship is similar to the dynamic between Darkseid, Orion, and Kalibak? In both cases the Lawful Evil father favors the Chaotic Good son who opposes him over his other Lawful Evil son. And yes, I did just compare Tarquin to Darkseid.
You seem to be under the impression that Darkseid, Orion, and Kalibak eiither operate within a D&D context or has been confirmed to be the alignment you claim they are. Neither is true.
So you're saying Darkseid isn't a ruthless tyrant or that Orion is a loose cannon of a hero who usually does things his way? I'll admit the Kalibak <-> Nale comparison is weak — Kalibak never turned against his father. I was just thinking that both are cool examples of "evil parent respects the good kid more than he/she does the also evil kid."
Ruthless tyrant, yes. Lawful Evil, no. Darkseid wants control, not order. It's a subtle but important difference and a good example of why D&D alignments can't be applied to every situation or character.
No I am saying that there is no real purpose , applying alignments to characters that operate outside of a D&D context or haven't been confirmed to be that.
Fair enough. Most characters outside of D&D — come to think of it, many in D&D — don't fit that well into specific alignments anyway.
Well at least Redcloak and Tarquin seems to fit their alignment.
The Dashing Swordsman PrC says you gain the "Too Pretty to Die" feat at 5th level; any idea what that is, or how one should go about simulating it for use (along with the class) in a game? It's not like there's an Appearance stat for it to depend on; would being able to describe/draw your character as really, really ridiculously good-looking be necessary?
The Giant made the Dashing Swordsman class up from thin air. Some fans made a few homebrews, most of them are somewhere in the forum. I have never seen the "Too Pretty to Die" feat, through.
Neither have I, hence the asking (I did check the forums). Will probably just homebrew one, probably one that forces the opponent to make a Will save against the Swordsman's CHA/CHA bonus/Dashing Swordsman levels/ect if their next attack would reduce the Swordsman to 0HP or lower.
It's a homebrew somebody made up based on the little info we have from the comic. I had come across it a few years back and enjoyed it enough to print out. Here's the exact wording under Too Pretty to Die. "At 5th level, you can dodge unavoidable blows through sheer force of will and luck. As an immediate action, you may grant yourself a luck bonus to AC equal to your CHA modifier until the beginning of your next round. You may only use this ability a number of times per day equal to your CHA modifier."
Xykon vs Dorukan
The fight between Xykon and Dorukan in Start of Darkness. Xykon was camped outside Dorukan's front door for a freaking year, and we know the latter was scrying on him the whole time. An epic wizard who knows his opponent and has that kind of time to prepare should have every advantage in that fight. He can optimize his daily spell selection. He can craft custom magic items. He can research brand new custom spells. On the day he finally came out to fight, he knew Xykon wasn't going anywhere, so there's no reason Dorukan couldn't have spent a few rounds buffing up before he went out for the duel. I can almost buy that he threw caution to the wind in a fit of rage after seeing Lirian, but his behavior doesn't reflect that. He doesn't appear until Xykon shows him where her soul is hidden. Furthermore, this is an epic level wizard. His intelligence is through the roof. Even if he did respond to Xykon's taunts recklessly and emotionally on the day in question, he still should have been far better prepared due to the aforementioned YEAR of prep time. The spell that did him in, Energy Drain, can be countered by a 4th-level divine spell, Death Ward. Are we really to believe that Dorukan didn't know any druids or clerics capable of casting it, or couldn't develop an arcane spell to duplicate its effects? I know, Rule of Drama and all that, but handing the Idiot Ball to someone who should be one of the most intelligent beings in the world just strains credibility.
Remember, Xykon's not a complete idiot. I wouldn't be suprised if he had wards against scrying up, and even if he didn't, sorcerers have a decent number of spells they never use. Energy drain, for example, would have been completely useless against pretty much anyone but Dorukan, so it makes sense that he wouldn't cast it, and thus Dorukan wouldn't have thought to have a death ward up. He was doing pretty well until Xykon started pounding him with those.
As well, maybe Dorukan did prepare quite a bit beforehand, and Xykon dealt with those protections. (Dispel Magic is quite handy.) Rich didn't show the entire battle, and has said that if something doesn't make sense, it's because of something done off-panel. In this case, Xykon dispelling whatever negative energy wards Dorukan had.
OP here. I don't buy that he just didn't think to cast Death Ward. It protects against all level drain and instant death effects, and it's in the standard arsenal for fighting a lich (or any powerful undead), even if you don't know his spell list. As for the second explanation... I guess that makes some sense, though it feels like a cop-out. That only addresses the Energy Drain, though. It still doesn't do anything for Dorukan's terrible battle tactics. I know it's a fool's errand trying to decide after the fact what spells he should have had prepared, but it... well... bugs me.
If it was dispelled, then he wouldn't have it, would he? That being said, why he doesn't have an item of Death Ward doesn't make sense, because Xykon somehow managed to find a ring that protected him from Positive Energy Attacks, Death Ward protects against Negative Energy Attacks in the same way, and Death Ward is a Core Spell. Also, what was Dorukan doing while Xykon was busy with the angels?
But Dorukan didn't have a year of prep time. He was waiting for Xykon's forces to enter the dungeon, at which point he could have prepped for whatever Xykon sent in. I would assume he had enough magical thingamabobs in place that even with his entire army + magical power, Xykon couldn't break into his inner sanctum within 24 hours. He only came out to fight because of a rashful, love-motivated outburst which he certainly couldn't have planned for since he didn't know what had happened to Lirian's soul in the first place. Bottomline: he wasn't planning on fighting Xykon that day.
^ Exactly. Had Xykon found a way to enter the castle, he would've gotten his butt kicked within microseconds. Xykon knew that, which was why he was trying to get Dorukan to come out and play rather than going in to fight him. Dory spent literally over half a century preparing the castle, but he had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision on what to do about his lover's soul — at that moment, it was right there in the open (except for the crystal, of course), but if he let the ogre eat Lirian's zombie, what would Xykon have done with the gem? Also, Xykon did explain that thanks to the shield ring, he was in no danger anyway, so whatever spells Dorukan thought up wouldn't have mattered. Xykon killed him with Energy Drain because it worked as soon as he used it, but he had plenty of time to find something that would get through Dorukan's defenses.
The ring only protected against positive energy attacks like Right-Eye's encnanted dagger, and probably Turn Undead and Cure spells.
A Sorcerer who knows Dispel Magic and has spell slots to burn can be a Wizard's worst nightmare. Remember, it can also be used as a general counter-spell. And with his Quickened Spell metamagic feat, he could play offense and defense, slinging fireballs, but keeping a counter up his sleeve if he didn't like the next spell Dorukon was about to cast. And most Wizards will diversify their spell list, so he only has one or two copies of his big spells. Keep messing up his combos, and the Wizard gets a lot less effective.
Divine Protection of the Gates
The question why the deities don't personally close the rifts is explained well: in doing so they would need to undo creation and create everything from scratch, possibly freeing the snarl while they try to resew the threads of reality. All well. However, this still does not explain why they don't intervene in protecting the gates. They could just put some impenetrable barriers around them, or at least be able to use higher level traps and monsters to guard them, as what those five mortals were capable.
The deities seem to have decided that the best way to keep anyone from freeing the Snarl is to prevent anyone from knowing it exists in the first place. Not even the powers of Hell had any clue about its existence until Nale blew it by telling Sabine. While it's certain that the gods could do a better job of protecting the rifts than mortals could, the problem with that is that there is a whole lot of nasty beings who would notice if the gods started overtly messing around in the mortal world for apparently no reason. They'd look into it, the secret would get out, and then you'd have every Evil aligned creature and villain wannabe going after the rifts. Heck, that's the reason they haven't just stomped on Xykon despite him going after the gates at full speed. It's no good stopping someone like Xykon if you're only going to have fifty people like him doing the same thing next week. There's a limit to what the gods can be seen doing concerning the Snarl, so they watch and help The Order of the Stick from behind the scenes when they can.
Besides, if someone does start abusing the Snarl, there's nothing to stop the gods from hitting the cosmic reset button again.
I always thought part of it was also that Divine meddling is sort of what caused the Snarl in the first place. This is why the gods have retreated so much from direct interaction with the world, and just use their "divine instruments", like Paladins and Clerics.
Why do people say Girard is Chaotic Stupid? Chaotic Stupid refers to insanity and randomness. Girard, while paranoid, is not random. Chaotic Stupid in no way defines itself as a belligerent rejection of authority (unless you count sanity as such). I honestly see Girard as what happens when someone too used to playing Lawful Stupid characters decides to try and play a chaotic character.
Well what would you call him then? He's certainly not Lawful or Neutral, ergo he's Chaotic. And he's pretty stupid for risking the safety of the universe just for a petty grudge against someone who died years ago. Hence, Chaotic Stupid.
Well here on the site, we define Chaotic Stupid as being crazy and unpredictable even when it's a detriment to yourself. However, I would argue that characters of the Chaotic alignment in general are defined, not only by their unpredictability, but by their resistance to structure and authority. Thus, if someone purposely does something stupid or unethical just to spite an authority figure, I would consider that Chaotic Stupid. Let's look at it from that context. Girard obviously has a strong dislike of authority, and that caused him do do something really stupid. He purposefully gave Soon and the paladins false coordinates to his gate, and set a booby trap for them, just to spite them. It never occurred to him that someone else might seek him out to warn him of a coming danger, or that as a paladin, Soon would never break his promise unless he had a very, very good reason for it. And despite the disagreement on how best to protect the gates, an order of paladins providing extra protection in addition to Girard's defenses would be nothing but helpful if the gate really was threatened. Now Girard's gate might be in danger of falling to Xykon because he decided to throw logic away and screw over the paladins. He potentially endangered his entire plane of existence and the lives of everyone on it, for no other reason than to give the middle finger to a group of Lawful Good authority figures. I would then submit that Girard is Chaotic Stupid.
But Chaotic Stupid does not mean that. Chaotic Stupid is and always has meant to describe the characters of players who think Chaotic Neutral means "buckfug insane." Just because the words that make up the trope are applicable does not mean they are the trope. Thog is stupid, and he's evil, but he's not Stupid Evil, because Thog's self-destructive tendencies come from the fact that he's Too Dumb to Live, not because he'd rather murderape than eat. Chaotic Stupid describes characters who are completely random, not characters who resist authority to their detriment. I went and submitted a ykttw advocating the creation of the trope Anarchic Stupid, which would describe Girard better.
Girard takes a Chaotic personality trait, and exacerbates it to the point of stupidity. That sounds like perfectly reasonable for the title of "Chaotic Stupid". If anything, the trope is too narrow in defining what is "Chaotic". The Thog analogy doesn't work because he's stupid regardless of being evil.
Haley's bow on her back
I'm no expert on slinging bows across one's back, but shouldn't Haley be orienting it in a way so that all the weight isn't on the string?
Bows typically have a pull weight of something like 20-30 lbs, possibly up to 50 or more. The bow itself isn't going to weigh more than a few pounds, 10 on the outside. It's not going to hurt a bow for someone to hold it or sling it by the string like that.
Erm, that's actually pretty much completely wrong. A bow, especially a traditional wooden longbow, should be carried unstrung whenever it's not in use. Better for the bow, and far better for the string. There is a substantial amount of tension involved, even when the bow is at rest. So everything about how she carries the bow is wrong, but traditionally wrong, in the fantasy artwork sense.
Haley and the Cleric of Loki
Why didn't Haley let the Cleric of Loki cure Belkar, when she found out it's an effect of his curse? They were in desperate situation and needed all help they could get, teaching Belkar a lesson wasn't reason to keep him inactive and defenseless against army of rogues Haley knew, she had no chance.
Haley gave the instruction to leave Belkar alone before they knew they were under attack. Once she realized it, she panicked and probably just didn't think about rescinding the order.
Belkar's Mark, and the Gnome Merchant
When Haley, Belkar and Celia left Azure City, Belkar still had the inactive Mark of Justice cast on him. Belkar goes on to kill two people, a hobgoblin and a gnome merchant. The Mark does not activate. Did Rich briefly forget about it?
OP posting to correct the above statement. Did not take in to account the 'Only within city limits' restriction of the Mark.
Deconstructing Always Chaotic Evil and Necromancy
Given the deconstruction of Always Chaotic Evil and its implications with regards to the monstrous races, how come undead and necromancers seem to be just evil full stop?
An undead creature is a whole different beast from a member of a monstrous race (like goblins). The latter are natural creatures (or as natural as things get in a world like OOTS-verse), and as such have the full range of behaviors that implies, while an undead creature is literally charged full of negative energy and as such is inherently hostile to all life, whether it likes it or not. Might as well as why all fiends we've seen have been evil. In fact, Redcloak points this out explicitly to Tsukiko in Strip #830 to explain just why she's so deluded. immediately prior to feeding her to her own wights.
However, now that Durkon is a vampire, we may be in for a more in-depth exploration of this concept. Note that upon regaining his free will, Durkon seems close to his original personality, but with a noticeable ruthless streak he didn't have before.
Or not, since Durkon isn't controlling his own body. Of course, the High Priest of Hel is made of negative energy and seems inherently evil, so there is that.
If Celia's a pacifist, then why did she shoot lightning at Nale and Thog here?
Even a pacifist feels the urge to hurt people who treat them like shit. Plus, that was early in the comic series, so her character wasn't as fleshed out.
In the notes of Don't Split the Party, Burlew addresses this. In citing Celia's numerous blunders and flaws, he points out that she's not a Deva - a being of pure law and good. Sometimes she reacts emotionally and fails to live up to her own ideals.
Roy in the arena
The last fight with Thog, while badass, doesn't make too much sense to me. Roy hits his Berserk Button and Thog turns green, so Roy gets him to snap out of his berserker rage by... taunting him? How does that work?
He was taunting Thog to get him to smash the pillars. The rage itself is a game mechanic (Barbarian Rage). It only lasts a certain number of rounds (3+ con modifier), which have presumably passed by then.
Ah, I see. I thought the taunting was to somehow make his rage wear off, which didn't make sense. I'm not familiar enough with D&D to recognize the game mechanic. Thanks for the clearing that up.
Goblins still alive?
Where did the green goblins come from? As Seen here  I didn't think there were any left. If some moved to Gobotopia or whatever, Shouldn't there be more? It just bugs me.
The goblins from the old dungeon all died, excepting Redcloak. The greenies in Gobbotopia are immigrants, like the kind this guy got locked up for harassing. The textbook claims that Gobbotpia's borders are open to all "disenfranchised humanoids", but since the nation was founded by a massive and exclusively hobgoblin army they still represent 93% of the population. It'd probably take a huge mass exodus for them to reach levels above "visible minority" in only a year's time.
Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tails chronology
Where do the comics from Snips, Snails and Dragon Tales fit in the overall chronology of the series?
I think Belkar mentioned that he's pretty sure the Dragon Magazine comics are supposed to be outside continuity.
The Dragon strips and Invaders from the 4th Dimension take place in their own continuity. The Julio Scoundrel comic exists in the main continuity, so we can assume the story is loosely canon (albeit a fictionalised account of what actually happened) and took place some time before Origin of PCs. The Stick Tales are, of course, entirely non-canonical, but the framing device of the Order telling them takes place between the end of Don't Split the Party and the start of the current arc.
Ritual spell school
Okay, more just a D&D question than a Headscratcher, but in 829, Tsukiko says the big secret is out of the bag because the ritual involves Conjuration instead of Enchantment or Transmutation. As someone whose only familiarity with D&D comes from reading the comic, what does this mean or imply?
From what I can tell from the comics and the forums, Enchantment magic contains the abilities to control the Snarl, whilst Transmutation would allow them to change its form. If the spell isn't based around either of these, then it would seem it doesn't control the Snarl at all, and has another purpose. It also implies (at least as far as Tsukiko knows - Xykon may simply have not told her everything) that Redcloak lied about what the ritual did, bringing his loyalty to Xykon into question.
Ah, I see. And now I realize that the very next comic explains the whole reasoning explicitly. Guess I should've seen that coming.
Redcloak playing Xykon
Just how sure is Redcloak when he says that he's been playing Xykon from the start? Given the things he's done, it seems more than a little implausible that Redcloak's been in control the whole time, especially considering the leadup to his speech.
You could say that Redcloak has a very optimistic view of his relationship with Xykon. It is true that Redcloak has been deceiving Xykon for decades and in doing so tricked him into working towards a plan that will give Redcloak everything he desires while not benefiting Xykon at all. However, it is also true that Redcloak has to follow Xykon's orders or be killed, and that he will likely die once Xykon learns of the deception. So, whether it's accurate to say that Redcloak "controls" Xykon depends on how you want to interpret things, really.
Redcloak does say that playing Xykon is very complex; it's presumably a trickier, more delicate and intricate process than Xykon simply being Redcloak's puppet and Redcloak directly controlling his every action, as with other zombies. Since as a lich Xykon clearly has an autonomy most undead creatures lack, it's probably more like a game of chess where the first player (in this case Redcloak) is playing a gambit where they're subtly trying to get the second player (Xykon) to move in a way which is most advantageous to them while still letting the second player think they're in charge of the board and their own moves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but looked at in those terms it's not so implausible. Xykon, for all that he's brilliant and evil, isn't exactly much of a long-term planner or forward thinker or Chessmaster; he gets bored easily and doesn't really have the patience for grand stratagems, so it's not hard to believe that he wouldn't see if he was being played unless it was brought directly to his attention. Redcloak, on the other hand, is all about the long game, so it's plausible that Redcloak would be able to subtly manipulate Xykon while still coming undone every so often by Xykon's unpredictable nature — it's unlikely, for example, that he planned to lose his eye and be unable to restore it. At this point, he's also gloating to someone he doesn't like very much who he's finally going to get rid of, so he's probably not going to underplay his control of Xykon.
Redcloak says that Undead are basically weapons that people create and aim them at their enemies. Xykon is pretty much that to Redcloak. However, Xykon is like a huge case of unstable ordinance. Redcloak overstates his control over Xykon probably to gloat over Tsukiko, because he knows a misstep will result in his utter destruction. Honestly, if Redcloak didn't stop Tsukiko, then Xykon would have force-fed Redcloak's spike to him right then and there and burned Gobbotopia to the ground. Probably freeing the humans just to add that extra level of spite against Redcloak (though he'd likely kill any that catch his attention or was in the general are of a goblin).
Unstable ordinance can still be manipulated and controlled, though; it just takes a lot of care and practice. Both of which Redcloak has acquired over a long period of time thanks to his lengthy association with Xykon. Like I said above, it's about carefully manipulating Xykon without making him aware that he's being manipulated, which is difficult — but not impossible. Although it does help that as of #831 Redcloak's acquired Xykon's phylactery.
Command Undead requires a verbal component. Redcloak is talking while he casts the spell—how could he make the incantation at the same time? Also he still seems to be casting as he approaches Tsukiko; she doesn't notice the somatic component, which she would be sure to recognize. Can you skip spell components when you're high enough level?
It's better to assume Redcloak Rebuked (evil version of Turn Undead) the Wights, and knows he's a capable enough cleric that he'll trash the checks needed to Command (evil version of Destroy Undead) them. Rebuke Undead is a Supernatural Ability granted to clerics and as such do not require any components at all. Besides, Command Undead is a sorcerer/wizard spell so it's not likely the effect he used. And Tsukiko may not have noticed Redcloak using the power because she was looking away at the moment he did.
Makes sense. He probably had Redcloak call it "Command Undead" for the sake of readers (like me) who aren't that familiar with D&D and thought Rebuke Undead can only make undead cower and flee.
Or the Giant is ignoring the strict interpretation of the D&D rules-as-written for the sake of the plot. As has been pointed out before, the D&D rules are more or less the last thing he considers these days when making the comic.
Nah, in this case it fits with how Rebuke Undead works. At sufficiently high level, it grants Evil Clerics control of the undead and is a Supernatural Ability and thus does not requires verbal or somatic components.
Additionally, rebuke and its control effect has its own line of feats boosting its effectiveness, caster level, and control dice just like turn/destroy does, and it would make sense that Redcloak would have taken pretty much all of them in case he needed a last-ditch defense against his partner, who has a lot of turn resistance. If you've specced up your rebuke to have even a chance of hitting a lich at your level or higher, some garden-variety wights are pretty much an auto-success, so this is very consistent with the storyline as well as mechanics.
Also, you can, using Silent Spell feat. In similar fashion, Xykon used Still Spell feat to cast Meteor Swarm on himself when held by V's Hand.
What did Redcloak's coverup at The Resistance's base accomplish? He told Xykon he got the phylactery there, then he gave it to him; the only difference between that and reality was the short detour to get it swapped out for a replica. Seems like that could have been done without blowing up a mountain and leaving a loyal goblin spy dead.
I think the coverup wasn't his destruction of the Resistance, but the situation that led to them getting their hands on the phylactery at all. Redcloak already had a spy in place, knew the location of their hideout, and was aware that they had their own polymorphed spy. Why the heck hadn't he wiped them out already, given that they continue to kill his people and want to take back control of the city? The answer is that he was planning to use them to his own ends. Since he knew about the spy, it was easy to Feed the Mole and set the resistance up to take the phylactery — sabotaging his own side — then personally take it back. Why? In this manner he was able to get his hands on the phylactery alone for long enough to make the swap, but in a way that makes handing it back to Xykon look loyal and efficient instead of suspicious as hell, which is what it would have been if he'd tried to take it back from the hobgoblins themselves. (Assuming he'd even have gotten the chance, considering that Xykon teleported back in only moments after hearing his phylactery had been found.) Anyone who knew how much Redcloak knew about the Resistance is dead, which by necessity had to include the guy who allowed him to have that information in the first place. So as far as anyone alive can testify, the Resistance got lucky but Redcloak tracked them down and killed them. If it were made public how much he'd known beforehand, it becomes obvious that the initial phylactery-nabbing ambush should never have been successful and likely only was because Redcloak intentionally set it up to be. Notice how several characters comment on how uncannily surprising and lucky it was for the Resistance to have pulled it off without a hitch? Yeah.
Tsukiko mentions several times that Xykon gave her half of the ritual as an important assignment, and that she's working hard to do well with it to gain Xykon's approval. But after Redcloak tells Xykon that he killed Tsukiko, he asks Xykon if he knew why Tsukiko had the ritual, and Xykon says no, saying that he didn't expect her to try to form a coup. So one of them must be lying. But who? If Xykon's lying, why lie about it to Redcloak? And if Tsukiko's lying, where did she get the ritual from?
Tsukiko has had basically no reason to lie about where she got the ritual, she told Redcloak the same story as the monster in the darkness. Xykon would have reason to lie to Redcloak about whether or not he did. Either he gave it to her because he's suspicious it doesn't do what Redcloak claimed, in which case he wouldn't want to tip his hand before getting confirmation, or he wanted her to replace Redcloak as the divine caster, which is one of the very few things that might provoke Redcloak into breaking their alliance. Since Redcloak's thus far the only person who knows both halves of the ritual, that would be the end of Xykon's plans for the Gates.
Yeah, Xykon's pause before saying no is very telling. It's pretty clear he's the one lying about it.
(OP here) Yeah, I figured it was Xykon that was lying (the pause makes his answer very suspicious), but I couldn't really figure out why. But that's a good point, that by admitting that he did give it to Tsukiko, Xykon would have to explain why, and any possible reason would still point to Xykon not trusting Redcloak fully. That explanation works for me.
I figured it was more that he was just embarrassed that he had given the ritual to someone who wanted to use it to betray him, though I'm probably wrong.
Nale's baby beard
Why did Nale have a beard even when he was a baby?
According to http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0267.html, the paladins had the right to arrest them based on them having to guard the gates in the name of the gods and the gods not having any jurisdiction. Except, well, they're the gods of the south. And is explained later, they really only have jurisdiction in the southern lands.
Start of Darkness spoiler: Divine casters are the agents by which gods enact their will in lands not their own, in cases when things that would affect their lands would happen in other lands. The gods agreed to this. However, they can't do special things for them when not in their own lands, so Durkon couldn't use his Thor's Might to increase his speed in the Southern Lands.
Durkon did use Thor's Might in the Southern Lands for all it was worth, including size and strength boost. It was just a spoof on how increase in size didn't mean increase in movement speed, obviously making fun on inconsistence of game mechanics.
Thor had previously shown a willingness to make Durkon's Control Weather spell do something that by the rules should be impossible (creating a Sonic-based attack via thunder). The geographical jurisdictions of the gods were used to explain why Thor didn't bend the rules on his priest's behalf again.
O-Chul and Hold Person
In http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0661.html, O-Chul easily shrugs off the Mass Hold Person that Xykon casts minutes before. So how come back during the fall of Azure City, he was hit with a Hold Person in the throne room and couldn't break free for ages, causing him to get left behind with the Mot D when Belkar abandoned him? Shouldn't have been able to break free then?
In the first one, O-Chul was hit by the Lich's Paralytic Touch ability, which is permanent until dispelled. Mass Hold Person on the other hand, allows a saving throw every round.
Oh, I thought he hit him with a Hold Person. That makes more sense then.
Xykon flat out says what he's using on O-Chul. "Paralyzing Touch. Heh."
Is it me, or is Girard Draketooth a bit human-y for someone who is a quarter-dragon? And, judging by Belkar, his smell is also human or a very close approximation.
He is/was an illusionist. Perhaps he looked more dragon-y, but used his illusions to cover it up in order to blend in better. Might've been able to change his smell, too.
Alternatively the genetics of cross-breeds in D&D is always a bit weird. It's plausible that quarter-dragons express very few overt draconic traits. In particular his siblings and cousins are also depicted as being fully human and presumably they were not all illusionists.
There is no such thing as a "quarter dragon" in D&D, and apparently, neither in the comics. "Half dragon" that can be applied to almost anything (with the Draketooth clan apparently originating from three half dragon humans), and is not inherited by their children. So, a half dragon's child has no special characteristics in general. It's worth noting, however, that many sorcerers (people who cast arcane magic by their own power, rather than studying magic formulae) explain their powers by claiming to be related to dragons, so Girard's magic was probably inherited that way.
According to some sources, ALL sorcerers and bards draw their powers from the dragon blood. Yeah, remember familicide.
Girard Family Tree
This is rather minor and probably easy to explain, but why is there a family tree etched into the wall of what looks like the Draketooth family's dining room? It's not necessarily too out there for them to have a family tree somewhere in the pyramid, but to have it in that particular room is a little odd.
The family tree was likely set up to help promote the idea that the family was special and that its members should all stay loyal to Girard's cause. The family dining room is the one place everyone will go everyday, so putting it there makes it a constant reminder.
Maybe it's a family custom to use it like a seating chart. Everyone sits in order of generation and seniority, and the genealogical chart serves to reinforce this structure.
Considering their method of propagating the clan, it might have been used to help keep everything straight, as well as reminders to pick up the next batch of kids when the time is right.
Where's V's evidence that Familicide killed everyone who shared the dragon's bloodline and anyone who shares a bloodline with any of the previous categoryand anyone who shared a bloodline with them? The only people living at the compound were, I thought, Girard's direct family and descendants, and not their mates (with the explicit point that they did not bring their marks home to meet the grandparents-to-be). What made V think that Elan's mother-in-law died from the spell, or that Tarquin would have also been killed had he impregnated his wife? Was it just heroic guilt, or was there evidence that I'm just not seeing? Following that logic, there's no reason for V to have assumed that it takes as many steps as is necessary to kill Tarquin, and especially not Tarquin but not Elan and Nale, or Elan and Nale and their mother, since eventually it would have just eliminated pretty much everyone on earth unless a sufficiently powerful counter-effect or target or too many targets caused it to dissipate or backlash.
[unmarked spoiler-y paragraph] You've misunderstood how the spell works. It kills everyone directly related to the dragon, and then everyone directly related to any of those people. That's it. Girard and his family were directly related to the dragon, so the spell kills them, and then the spell branched out and killed anyone directly related to any of them. V never said that Tarquin, Nale and Elan were in danger at all. He said that Penelope died because of the spell, and that if she and Tarquin had a child, the child would have died as well. This is because both Penelope and the child would be related by blood to Penelope's first child. Tarquin is not related to her first child, and so he was never in danger from the spell.
[unmarked spoiler-y paragraph] Ah, okay. I went back and read that page on a full-sized monitor, and V said that had she had a child with Tarquin, it would have died as well. It looked like "he" on the smaller screen, by which I thought V meant Tarquin. I'm still not sure why the Draketooth child's half-sibling, the child of Penelope and Tarquin, would have died had it existed, since it wouldn't have been directly related to the Draketooth child or its descendants (only Penelope would have been). Edit: About the kills-everyone-one-or-zero-steps-removed part: Never mind, I found it.
The Tarquin/Penelope child WOULD be related to the Draketooth, by being a half-sibling to Penelope's other child.
But Tarquin would be related to the child that was killed so he would die... unless there's some sort of limit on how many bloodlines it can go through.
There is. Two. The spell kills Group A (everyone related to the dragon) and Group B (anyone related to Group A). Tarquin is in neither group, so he's safe.
When did Haley figure out which type of arrow wounds Sabine?
Are you sure? They start referring to Sabine as a Demoness, and Haley was able to fight her off with an arrow. Forgot when, but it was one single arrow. I think. I'll look for some pages and report back.
She didn't. She dual-wielded the arrows against Sabine. However, Sabine was confirmed as a Succubus and therefore demoness by one of the IFCC.
Haley bluffing Ian
Why doesn't Haley bluff Ian in #774 by telling him a made-up story about how, I don't know, his unwillingness to leave is actually a magical side-effect of the prison that imbues all prisoners with a subconscious desire to stay, like on the Outer Planes of Elysium and Hades, being projected into the cells via miniature long-term gates or something, which also caused his earlier escapes to fail, and he would only be able to escape by coming with her. You know, if the only problem was that the story has to be a lie.
By its very definition, an anti-magic prison cannot have magical effects within it, side effect or no. Ian knows fully well that the prison is anti-magic and thus has full confidence that he is not under any kind of magical compulsion, as any such compulsion is impossible within the cell. The DC on a Bluff like that may well have been beyond even Haley's potion-boosted abilities.
Another bluff check on adding that the epic planar-ambient magic created by the deities themselves does not care for mere anti-magic fields. The story doesn't have to be sound, only sound sound. Also, insert a reference to "Now is not the time to start being entirely reasonable" from #139.
The real problem wasn't that Haley's dad was refusing to leave, it's that he was refusing to trust her judgement about Elan. Even if she could have temporarily Bluffed Ian into leaving the prison, she knew they'd only wind up fighting over the issue again and again, potentially to a point where neither could ever forgive the other. Better to part ways until both their tempers have had a chance to cool off, and hope that he'll see reason once the current crisis is over and Elan's failure to betray the Order has proven her right about him.
Am I the only one slightly annoyed by how things went with Girard's family? While the twist of being accidently murdered by V was great, all the other Gates were undone by their own flaws to some extent, as pointed out in a section in the Fridge brilliance section. Lirian's gate relying on nature and having no defence something as unnatural as Xykon; Dorukan believing in Arcane power, only to be out-powered by someone with greater Arcane power; and Soon, who believed in the honour of a Paladin over all, only to have his gate undone by a Paladin who refused to recognize that she had fallen and lost her honour. And what happens to Girard's gate that is guarded by his family? The only people he trusts? Are they undone by their own paranoia and refusal to trust anyone else? Nope. Instead they are killed by a random spell that happens to target them due to a vague blood tie to a dragon. ...No sir. I don't like it. I wanted to see someone lay into them over their paranoia, and call Girard out(even if post humously) on his attitude and all, especially since he broke his own rule by telling the location of the gate to Serini, which is why Xykon could arrive at any moment.
Er, no. He didn't break his own rule. The entire agreement between everyone was that Serini would be the only person with the knowledge of all five gates. Further, I would argue that Gerard was very much Hoist by His Own Petard. His entire problem was that he was paranoid of any authority figure except himself. Thus, he isolated himself and his entire family from the world and propagated the lineage by seduction and baby theft. This bit him in the ass since everyone who's protecting the gate was in his own family and thus subject to the Familicide spell. That's entirely what you just said: they were undone by the fact that there was no one else but them trusted to guard the gate.
Huh. You're right. I didn't think of it that way. I guess it's because we see the other characters acknowledging their mistakes(well I'm assuming we see as much for Lyrian and Dorukan). Such as Soon's final words to Miko, which I always sensed were coming from experience. But Girard is already dead by the time of the series, and is never forced to confront that he may have been wrong. He honestly never even considered that Soon might genuinely follow his oath not to interfere. It's just annoying to me. I was hoping that the Order would at least confront his family over following such a paranoid ass, but I guess what happened does work.
Soon's the only one we see actually acknowledge his mistakes thus far. Lirian has them thrust in her face in the form of Xykon becoming a lich, and Dorukan's only real mistake that I can think of was the standard arrogance of a wizard, assuming that victory in a duel with a lich sorcerer is guaranteed because wizards are automatically better than sorcerers.
Wait. I just realized something else about the whole thing that bothers me: It would have worked better if Girard's Family was undone by a traitor within their midst (I don't know why that would happen but work with me), because that would have been a better breaking of Girard's belief that only Family could be trusted than Random spell from an outsider. Sure, it seems like Rich is going in that direction with Haley's dad and her Uncle Geoff (implying the latter is working for Bozzok), but I think it would have fit with the Draketooths much better.
The thing is, it's not "only family can be trusted" so much as "you should trust only family." It's a subtle distinction, but important—the problem with Girard's strategy wasn't that he trusted his family, it's that he didn't trust anyone else.
Does anyone have any idea what the character classes of Tarquin's original adventuring party were? Tarquin is obviously a Warlord/Fighter, and he's got Malack as the Cleric, but the others aren't specified much. Any thoughts?
Going by this picture,my best guesses are thus: from left to right it is another fighter, Malack, a Rogue, a wizard, and either another wizard or a druid.
The one on the far right has been revealed to be a psion.
Afterlives by Religion
Roy's Archon tells Roy that Roy's LG afterlife isn't clogged with dead Azurites because they worship the Twelve Gods of the Southern pantheon, rather than the Northern Gods. However, when Roy is beginning to climb the mountain, one of the background characters is a man in Azurite armor with an Archon urging him on with, "Eye of the Tiger!", to which he responds, "But I was born in the Year of the Pig!" Since the Chinese Zodiac were adapted to be the Twelve Gods, following the Zodiac would imply their worship. So, shouldn't he be in the Azurite afterlife?
That's for processing. Apparently everyone goes up the same mountain after they're initially processed.
I just assumed he was either an Azurite who converted to Northernism (or whatever they call the religion of the Northern Gods) or he was himself a Northerner who emigrated to Azure City but kept his old Gods. Which I guess opens up another line of questions...
I'm curious about the full implications of the Gods having to limit their influence to certain continents. For instance, consider immigration. We saw that the Twelve Gods wouldn't let Thor intercede on Durkon's behalf (at least, not too much) while he was in the South. If a human cleric of Thor decided to move permanently from the North to the South, would he be obligated to give up his old faith and become a cleric of the Twelve Gods in order to retain his full cleric powers? And what exactly constitutes a God's "sphere of influence" exactly? Is it based on the presence of worshippers? If a large group of Northerners resettled in a Southern city (or vice-versa) would their Gods be allowed to expand their influence into the Southern continent?
A cleric would not be required to give up their gods. The entire point of clerics in this universe is to let the gods affect things outside their own lands. Likewise, the Northern gods' lands are defined as the Northern continent, and that's the end of it. If a bunch of clerics tried to convert another continent, their gods would probably stop them one way or another, since that kind of thing would piss off the other gods.
Clerics retain full spell casting and class features outside of their gods home domains. In Start Of Darkness, that was the purpose of the divine classes, to function as their emissaries outside their domain. What gods can't do is cheat on foreign soil. In Cliffport, Durkon was able to get a lot more out of Control Weather than what is specified in the rules, because they were in Northern lands, thus Thor could intercede. In the Southern lands, however, Durkon could only use Thor's Might as per the written rules, i.e.: with no speed bonus, which you expect from someone 15 feet tall compared to someone 4 feet tall. I'm guessing with immigration, they couldn't get the rule-breaking done on another continent. And if they don't like it, either suck it up or convert. The gods put these rules in place so they wouldn't end up fighting each other and create another Snarl. What I'm curious is with the Dark One, who doesn't have a geographic limitation.
The Dark One's home domain probably consists of the goblinoid lands — that is, a bunch of wastelands on the edges of other races' territories. No clue what the founding of Gobbotopia implies, though.
Does Malack have legs?
Honestly. At Malack's introduction, we are told he is a lizard-folk. After the reveal about Malack's other condition, Malack strangles Durkon with his tail. During this time, it looks like he has no legs. Is he in fact a snake-man, or does becoming a vampire involve Body Horror for Lizardfolk?
He's a snake man. When he was introduced, we were clearly misinformed.
How on earth is heSTANDING, supporting what looks like 5-6 feet of body on what looks like 2-3 feet of tail?
Lots of practice.
The Grand Illusion
When the illusory Team Evil turns up at Girard's Gate, why does the illusion of Redcloak have his eyepatch on the left eye instead of the right?
Probably because nobody who's there actually knows which eye Redcloak lost.
You're right — the illusory Redcloak also has his original holy symbol instead of the backup he wears now, which our heroes have not seen.
The Blood Oath
Is Roy's sister even Bound by the oath? As a true neutral character she shouldn't have to do it.
The oath is irrelevant to alignment. She might ignore it due to her alignment, but she'll still be bound by it.
I agree with V from 278: Why DID Dorukan booby-trap his gate? I read Shojo’s explanation, and I STILL don’t get it. And why do the good guys destroy Soon's gate? Wouldn't the BAD guys want the gates destroyed to release the snarl?
The bad guys don't want the Gates destroyed. They need the Gates intact in order to use them to control the Snarl. Think of the Gates as the doors on a cage, and the bad guys are planning on just opening the door near people they don't like. They can't do anything with an un-Gated rift. Therefore, the good guys sometimes choose to destroy the Gates when the only other choice is to let it fall into the hands of the villains.
Ah, so with the Gates intact the Snarl could be released, but under their control, while an un-gated Snarl would destroy everything?
The Snarl (Spoiler)
When Blackwing looked into the rift and saw a planet, this was implied to be some kind of twist. They know the Snarl is the remains of the god's first attempt to make a world. It wouldn't be surprising for the world to start to look more monstrous as falls into chaos, but it also doesn't seem that surprising for it not to. Is there a particular reason the Snarl shouldn't look like a planet?
Unknown. Recent strips have suggested there is a lot more to this "Gate" business than the characters realized. In fact it seems the original story they were told may not be entirely accurate.
Belkar's Ring of Jumping
So what happened to it after Roy died? Did Belkar take it off his corpse, or does Roy still have it post-resurrection? Or did it just get lost?
He probably took it off Roy's corpse, given that shortly after finding said corpse, Belkar had to kill a vulture for stew.
Blood from the IFCC's Couch and TV
After Sabine threw the former into the latter. Whose blood could that be? It doesn't look like it would be V's.
It's a "plasma" tv. The blood is from the tv itself.
I know, I know, Rule of Cool and adherence to evil aesthetic guidelines and all that, but what's with Tarquin's big spiky shoulderpads? Wouldn't the spikes slam into his head whenever he raises his arms?
Well, he does wear a helmet a lot of the time.
Tarquin is probably the individual in the comic who is most explicitly a character in a narrative. He would be most likely to get a Rule of Cool pass on things like his outfit.
"That's not Durkon!"
Is Belkar right about vampire!Durkon not actually being Durkon? Is Durkon's soul in the afterlife now? My knowledge on how vampires and such work in D&D is a little lacking...
Durkon has free will after Malack's death and his soul is still bound to his undead body, so no, it's not in the afterlife. It does need to depart his body before he can be resurrected, so he would need to be put to rest first (and they'd need to find another cleric, as he can't resurrect himself). He is now Lawful Evil (evidenced by him summoning a barbed devil, a planar ally associated with that alignment; the rules require vampires to be Evil), so he's still not exactly the same Durkon personality-wise.
The D&D rules are shaky on this, but one way or another, Durkon's soul is definitely not in the afterlife (unless The Giant isn't really following the D&D rules on this one, as he does every once in a while). It might be "trapped" within the undead body, with a dark spirit that has access to his memories in control, or it might have turned evil and be in complete control.
Partially clarified: An evil spirit created by/subservient to Hel has hijacked Durkon's body, with Durkon's soul being held prisoner within. Whether this is how vampirism always works in the OOTSverse, or this is a special case, is not yet clear.
During his fight with Malack, Durkon tells Malack that he wants to resurrect him to cure his vampirism, but Malack tells him that that would only kill the Malack that he knows and bring back the lizard shaman that's been dead for 200 years. So that would suggest to me that vampirism does always work that way.
Elan's coupon from Shojo
I was just rereading the end of the "Nale and Elan swapping places" arc. Once the Order's discussing how to deal with the captured Linear Guild, Elan pulls out his coupon good for one favor from Shojo. But when he was arrested in Cliffport, they apparently confiscated all of his belongings... so how did he still have the coupon?
"Hey Lord Shojo, you remember offering me a favor with a coupon? Well I lost the coupon but I would like to cash in on that offer right now anyway. Since we're both not exactly paragons of Lawfulness I thought it would be ok to not need the paperwork for an offer we both clearly remember anyway."
Or he might have been keeping it in his luggage back at Azure City.
Probably this. The Order would have no reason to bring non-mission-critical belongings to Cliffport instead of leaving them secured in Azure City.
But in #399, Elan pulls out the coupon, right after the fight with the Linear Guild, having had no time to retrieve it from his luggage. So he has had it on him the entire time, even when he was in prison.
Hints of Julio coming back
In this strip Elan states that there were a ton of hints that Julio would appear as The Cavalry. What the hell were those hints?!
In order: First, there was the hint that Elan's mother knew him, what with her Porn Stash that he wasn't supposed to know about (weak evidence, I know, but I'm doing this in order). Second, Julio was a father-figure to Elan (more on that in a moment). Third, Julio and Tarquin both share a strong belief in Theory of Narrative Causality, especially in regards to Star Wars references. Fourth, Tarquin deflects Elan's puns, and mentions it's been a while since he had to defend himself in a pun-duel. Fifth, Roy tells Elan to look for family among good people rather than look for good among his family—at which point Elan realizes how to foil his evil father: Have Durkon use a sending spell to contact Elan's good father figure. Then, it was just a matter of Julio waiting for the most dramatic moment to appear. Obviously, a lot of those are narrative hints rather than more obvious "real-world" hints, which is one of the reasons Roy is so confused (also, it's not clear if he ever even heard about Julio in the first place).
We also do get to see the moment that Elan does the initial Sending: between 836 and 837. He doesn't say what exactly he did because of the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
Inconsistencies about Resurrection in "Don't Split the Party"
When presenting the Soul Splice deal to V, the IFCC mention in the (ridiculously far-fetched) alternate plan for saving V's family that Resurrection has a long cast time, but Durkon has a quickened cast scroll prepared for an emergency. But when the party is reunited and Durkon begins resurrecting Roy, V is for some reason surprised at the ten-minute cast time, claiming not to know about it, and Durkon doesn't use the previously mentioned scroll. In fact, the scroll is never brought up again (even in Girard's pyramid, where they would have every reason to hurry), which looks like a Chekhov's Gun that never fired. I realize that the cast time was used as a plot point to give V a motivation to fight Xykon, but still...
It wasn't a scroll of resurrection, it was a scroll of sending. The point was that V would pop over, get resurrected, and then Durkon would use sending to call his/her master to take care of the dragon.
Ah, got it. Sending also has a 10-minute cast time, and the IFCC meant that it was that cast time that Durkon could quicken with the scroll. This resolves both my questions.
Belkar's Mark of Justice
In strips #538 and #539, Belkar kills a hobgoblin and a gnome despite being under the mark of justice. How?
Exactly how did Shojo know all that stuff about the previous world, the fourth pantheon of gods and the Snarl, considering that the gods have "a blackout on information regarding the Snarl"?
Did you miss the bit when Shojo said that he was there when Soon told the whole story to his grandfather?
There is still the question of where Soon found all this out, though. Considering the events of the Empire of Blood arc, it might be a good time for the characters to start asking this question as well.
Spending a whole lifetime adventuring specifically to seal the gates and fight the Snarl, and doing research for all that time, isn't already a good answer for how Soon found it out?
Why don't the gods stop Xykon themselves?
I get why the gods have rules that limit their involvement in the lands of other pantheons, but when Xykon was in the Northern Lands or attacking Azure City why didn't the gods of those lands take a more active role in stopping him. Yeah, normal liches or mortal wars might be beneath their concern, but if The Snarl is so bad then surely they would want to prevent it from falling in the hands of a lich or worse The Dark One. I can't see the The Dark One being powerful enough to stand against the combined might of the other gods or his few allies siding with him when they know how dangerous the Snarl is or even putting up with his attempts to seize control of it. So why didn't Odin send Thor down to turn Xykon into dust or the Southern gods destroy the goblin army along with Xykon. Sure, they might not have known what was going on at first, but surely the destruction of two gates was enough to get their attention.
They appear to be waiting for the Order of the Stick to try and stop it before they cross the line and get directly involved. Also, if the gods get directly involved, the most likely result would involve the words "everything" and "explosion."
Burlew explicitly states that the Dark One is now powerful enough that it is impossible for the Gods to kill him directly, even if they all ganged up.
B list villains?
Why does Julio consider the Vector Legion to be low key villains when they control three whole kingdoms? For all we know, the only action that Julio has done against them is rescuing Tarquin's brides from forced marriages since Laurin didn't even know that he was an enemy. Does that mean that Julio has A Million Is a Statistic problem?
No, Julio has a "the world is a story" problem. His primary interaction with Tarquin is rescuing his brides, which is simply not Arch-Nemesis material. Tarquin might be someone's A-List villain, but it's not Julio. Or Elan, for that matter, which was the point of the arc.
Lord Shojo's alignment
Belkar guesses that Shojo's alignment was Chaotic Good because he didn't really care about Azure City's laws or Soon Kim's oath. But Shojo served as the enforcer of law and order for a major city for decades. He didn't come across as someone who believed in freedom is itself a huge virtue the way I understand Chaotic Good character do. Instead, he came across more as Neutral Good since his only concern was the good of his people whether it meant following the law or disobeying it. During Roy's afterlife exam the Deva nearly chunked him into the Neutral Good afterlife because he used chaotic means to achieve lawful ends. That strikes me as a lot of what Shojo did. He supported law and order, but was willing to subvert it for the greater good. So why wouldn't he be considered Neutral Good?
Maybe he was, but Belkar's an idiot anyway. On the other hand, Belkar also theorized that in the Chaotic Good afterlife they smoke cigars rolled from poorly-worded legal documents. Maybe being a Rules Lawyer and using the law against itself counts as chaotic? Or maybe intent is important; Shojo wanted to protect the people of his city, and he didn't care that some of the means he used were lawful. It's really hard to tell, because alignment is difficult to determine both in and out of universe.