Xykon can't remember Roy's name. Really, he doesn't remember Roy at all.
Vaarsuvius had trouble remembering the... "Bird-That-Miss-Starshine-Named"... that is, Blackwing. No wonder the familiar wasn't so keen on helping his wizard or even talking to the elf, until V made amends.
Accidental Murder: Or in this case, Accidental Mass-Murder — Familicide. In addition to the intentional deaths of one quarter of the world's black dragons, Vaarsuvius accidentally wiped out the entire Draketooth family (being descended from the union of a human and a black dragon), and everyone connected to the Draketooth clan (including Tarquin's ninth wife).
Adult Fear: The Ancient Black Dragon invokes this when she tries to eat V's children. V already unknowingly invoked this trope on her. She left her teenage son alone for a few months, and returned to discover he had been killed.
General Tarquin and Minister Malack are both Lawful Evilinvoked and power-hungry, but they're also enjoyable company and gracious hosts.
The directors of the IFCC are friendly and fair in their dealings.
Thog is so cheerful and friendly, it's easy to forget that he'll kill hundreds of innocent NPCs for little (if any) reason.
Afterlife Antechamber: The Lawful Good afterlife has several layers of this. Eugene Greenhilt is stuck waiting outside the pearly gates due to giving up on his Blood Oath. Once you're through the gates, there's a mountain arranged in different levels of increasingly-abstract pleasure. The lowest level (and the only one we see) is basically a fancy resort where you can sort out the urges "having your soul stuck in a glorified sausage" leaves you with. "True perfect enlightenment" is at the very top.
Aggressive Negotiations: Start of Darkness spoilers: This is how The Dark One was murdered while attempting to negotiate a peace settlement with the human kings. Rather than ending the war, it made things far worse, as the goblins swarmed upon their enemies inflicting huge losses in vengeance for their fallen warlord.
Tsukiko is an unsympathetic character, but when Redcloak takes control of her wights, she loses the only thing she loves. Redcloak then feeds her to them while the whole time she's screaming that she loves them. The Monster in the Darkness is the only one who feels badly about it, and this makes him feel even worse about it.
Demon-roach: So what? Who cares? MitD: Exactly. That's why I'm sad.
Sure, Malack was a vampire that drank the blood from the innocent (including Durkon), but considering that Nale murdered three of his vampire spawn, one could feel sorry for him... especially after Nale brutally murders him and tells him that he had been planning it for years.
Of all people, Nale. His brother grieves him and laments the fact he could have been a good guy if he hadn't been in Tarquin's custody.
Roy and Belkar are sentenced to life in prison for not having paperwork; the reptilian bounty hunters soon suffer the same fate even though they have their paperwork, because the chancellor was ordered to lose it after they attempted to blackmail General Tarquin.
A few strips later, while Durkon is in a library, a sign is posted that says the Dewey Decimal System is strictly enforced. (One can only imagine.)
Thog was thrown into prison for public urination, even though he was already wanted for treason at the time.
Sabine: Sure, women like me swoon for a hero, but that's only because deep down, we think we can change them. But me, I'm done with that now. I want a nice, safe, reliable mass-murderer I can depend on. Like you.
most orcs talk like this. It seems to be related to the INT score. Lampshaded in the last panel of this page where the orcs look forward to grammar lessons.
Eric Greenhilt too, as he's quite young.
All There in the Manual: How did the Order of the Stick team up? Why do they suffer Belkar's presence? How and why did Redcloak align himself with Xykon? Just what did happen to that first Gate? To find out, you have to buy the prequel books, most of which are available via Ookoodook.
Thor: I think trolls should be hardworking blacksmiths, toiling away underground forging magical weapons. Hades: No! Trolls should be vile monsters, living under bridges and harassing goats! Pig: You're both wrong! Trolls should be tiny wrinkled men with big poofy hair that are collected by old women!
Deconstructed, too: Goblins and other evil humanoids were declared by the gods to be Always Chaotic Evil, designed only to be killed by player races. As sentient beings with their own society, they naturally feel persecuted by being forced into this role, and are now executing a Rage Against the Heavens in order to change things. Though the deconstruction is more aimed at players who treat these races as such, despite the fact that most of their Monster Manual entries only list them as "Usually X Evil"
It is played straight with fiends and The Undead, as the former are literally evil incarnate and the latter are unnatural abominations.
Ambiguous Gender: Most notably Vaarsuvius, though this applies to most elves seen. Word of the Giant is that any gender identification of Vaarsuvius (and other ambiguous elves) is strictly their own perception. V's children are adopted. Make no assumptions; for all we know they could be a same-sex couple. This is Mocked, when Belkar tries to check what V, as a lizard, has down there, but to no avail.
Amplifier Artifact: Most common magic items are of this kind, like Roy's Belt of Giant Strength, Elan's Belt of Charisma or V's Ring of Wizardry. This is Lampshaded by Haley with a Potion of Glibness: she takes it from Elan to use herself, because while it would make him a good liar, she's already a good liar so it will make her an utterly amazing liar.
Ancestral Weapon: Roy Greenhilt's green-hilted greatsword was handed down from his grandfather (skipping his father). Hence the name. Now that it was reforged with starmetal it glows green when slaying undead, and so qualifies as a pretty Cool Sword too.
Androcles Lion: The Allosaurus Belkar released from its cage in the Empire of Blood's arena is later used as a steed by one of the soldiers in Tarquin's army during a battle against the Order. It recognises Belkar — a flashback panel shows him soothing it while Ian picks the lock on its cage — and follows his command to drop Roy, and assist the Order.
And That Would Be Wrong: Invoked by V a to reassure the Order that he would not resolve his arguments with explosions or rain death on others in retaliation of social indignities. Sometimes her familiar has to remind her.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: Played with. After slaying the evil black dragon, Elan says that he got a new clasp for his cloak, and Roy got snazzy new boots. (It was actually an art upgrade; they were supposed to pretend they were always drawn that way.)
When Nale realizes the sign in Girard's Pyramid saying that the Gate is in another pyramid was a ruse, and that the Order beat them to the Gate (and destroyed it along with the Pyramid), he is temporarily stricken with this. "I can't believe— how did he— so the Gate was in the— GREENHILT!!"
Animated Actors: Used for a throwaway gag. After the "Crayons of Time" flashback strips, the main characters are shown "offstage," sitting in folding chairs and waiting for their cue.
Done intentionally and hilariously in "Headed Down", the 600th comic (forum). Roy and his grandfather talk about the effect; nothing exciting for the 600th page. (Read the previous comic immediately beforehand for the full effect.)
An angry Tsukiko plots to create an uber-powerful undead warrior from the first corpse she finds (which just so happens to be Miko's) to use against Redcloak. "It'll be free-willed and evil and mean, with cool black and red armor..." Then she notices that the body is cut in half, and gives up on the plan altogether.
In "Prophecy Fulfilled", Xykon finally teleports to Girard's pyramid (for real)... and it blows up five seconds after he arrives.
Played for drama with the end of the Tarquin arc. Tarquin and his party are defeated, but live, and he rages uselessly at the lack of narrative closure.
Anticlimax Cut: "The Test of the Heart": After having passed the Tests of the Body and Mind, one guarded by a hydra and the other a riddle, the Order finds themselves face-to-face with the guardian of the final Test of the Heart.
Wight: Pray to what gods you serve that you will be deemed worthy of this rare honor! Find your reserves of courage, warriors, for the Test of the Heart begins — NOW!! [cut to Roy in a chair at a doctor's clinic, a stethoscope over his heart] Doctor Wight: Pulse rate is 60... blood pressure is 85 over 60... You pass. Next!
Anti-Human Alliance: The forces under Redcloak are united by their hatred of and oppression by humans.
Anyone Can Die: Given that people can be resurrected this is a given, but ever since Roy was killed, V committed accidental and purposeful genocide, and Elan's father was introduced, the death toll has been steadily increasing. Even a main character has joined the ranks of the undead, and a main antagonist is Deader than Dead.
(Planetary/Physical Annihilation): At the dawn of time, the Snarl unmade the creation of the planet and destroyed a whole pantheon of gods.
(Close to Planetary/Species Extinction): A single epic-level necromantic spell caused the extinction of a large extended family. Since the victim is a dragon, and dragons live a long time and don't breed much, this one spell killed a quarter of all the black dragons in the world as well as at least one extended line of demihumans who are the result of Interspecies Romance with said black dragons, including the entire Draketooth clan.
Xykon led an Army of the Dead against Azure City in the first place. Undead Dragon and all. Then he re-animates the dead of both sides to increase his numbers.
During the battle of Azure City, Xykon slaughters all the paladins defending the throne room... only to watch them rise up and oppose him as spirits, led by the spirit of legendary paladin Soon, founder of the Sapphire Guard!
Arrow Gram: Haley combines this with Passing Notes in Class as a gag during the Azure city battle, the arrow hitting a hobgoblin mook about to attack Elan. Said arrow had a cute romantic note on notebook paper. Hinjo plays up the role of the exasperated teacher who takes the note and requests to see Elan after class, er, battle.
Belkar: We're wanted in several other nations for racketeering, jury tampering, and interfering with a mail carrier.
As part of the Bilingual Bonus in strip #309, Haley's attempted confessions to cure her aphasia include "My dad is being held ransom by an evil dictator", "I'm not really in the Thieves' Guild anymore", and "I cheat at solitaire".
Lampshaded. "Psst! Elan! It's an art upgrade, we're supposed to pretend we've always been drawn this way."
There's another significant upgrade at the beginning of the sixth arc, although the characters haven't commented on that one. Compare Roy and Durkon from #946 to Roy and Durkon from #948 For example, their hands are no longer black line drawings - instead, they're filled-out with flesh tone (while retaining their stick figure nature.)
Celia's case is especially glorious. She started as a mere gate guardian NPC and became the main character's girlfriend.
O'Chul first appears in strip 403 as the nameless paladin outside Shojo's audience chamber. He is named in the next strip. His importance doesn't become clear until 422, and finally in "Don't Splt The Party" he becomes a Memetic Badass.
Why Qarr the imp tries to attach itself to V; in the lower planes, everyone glues their lips to someone stronger than they are.
Averted with the Sapphire Guard, though not at the time of their founding. Soon was a mighty paladin but his successors follow bloodline.
Assurance Backfire: After Haley's been left behind in (the now overrun by goblins) Azure City, Elan tries to jump out of the boat and swim to her until everyone reminds him that she has a much better chance of survival than him. Then one of the minor characters points out that she has Belkar watching her back, causing him to panic again.
After the events of Wooden Forest, it's revealed that all the horses spent the time in a nearby stable.
Elan: So this is where the horses went while you guys were rescuing me? I kinda figured they had just disappeared when you didn't need them, kind of like V's familiar. Roy: Don't be silly, that would be completely unrealistic.
Parodied when crossing the desert, as the Order stop at an oasis and the camels are seen drinking water from fuel-station style pumps, complete with price boards. See the trope's page image.
Avengers Assemble: Towards the end of "Blood Runs in the Family", once it's become clear Elan and the Order are not going to defeat Tarquin, we see Amun-Zora (the captain from the Free City of Doom) assembling a rebel alliance out of Tarquin's other enemies.
Yokyok only joined the Linear Guild to kill Belkar for killing his father.
The Ancient Black Dragon hunts V down for killing her son.
Tarquin kills Nale for murdering his best friend.
Awesome, but Impractical: Many of Nale's plans. His draft plan to kill Elan in Cliffport involved Sabine flying over carrying an anvil on a string and Thog on rocket skates. Their final plan kept the rocket skates.
Bare Your Midriff: Haley (for most of the comic, save for the latest arc and while with La Résistance); Julia; Crystal; Sabine (during two story arcs).
Barred from the Afterlife: Eugene Greenhilt cannot go to the true afterlife until one of his descendants kills Xykon because of a Blood Oath. This is the general fate of people bound by a Blood Oath of Vengeance and die with it unfulfilled. An exception is made for those who died actively trying to fulfill their oaths, as Roy found out.
Bathtub Scene: Haley lampshades the Fanservice nature of this in On the Origin of PCs, also referring to it as "my gratuitous bath scene."
Batman Gambit: The Three Fiends gave Vaarsuvius supreme power, expecting that the elf would attack Xykon and "knock him out of his comfort zone." It worked beautifully.
Belkar has a habit of doing this with the heads of kobolds he killed, though he never keeps them for long.
Roy takes Xykon's crown and wears it on a string around his neck after "setting him back a bit". This turns out to be a problem when the residual evil on it causes Miko to try and smite him. Xykon takes it back in their next encounter.
Crystal takes Haley's ponytail as a trophy after nearly killing her during the Greysky City arc.
Later, Gannji concocts a plan that requires his partner Enor to kill him, cut off his tail, and keep it so that Gannji can be resurrected later. He tells Enor:
Gannji: Tell the guards it's a trophy of your victory. They won't question it 'cause you're part ogre. They do stuff like that all the time.
Durkon is too level-headed to really go "berserk", but making fun or showing disrespect toward godly worship (like by worshipping a hand puppet, or converting to Thor on the spot when convenient) and he will threaten you with violence, and even has to be physically restrained in some cases.
Better to Die than Be Killed: Destroying the gates, which are the only things holding back the Snarl, is considered better than allowing their power to fall into evil hands. The implication being that the world would be better off destroyed and remade (again) than falling into the hands of the forces of darkness with the focused power of the Snarl at their disposal. Either that, or a gate would grant great power to anyone willing and able to harness it, especially an Evil person, but a destroyed gate could simply be remade.
Nale tries to be a Chessmaster, but events have repeatedly shown that while he's pretty good at putting plans together, they ultimately tend not to work out. His first scheme would have succeeded if not for Haley making an almost impossible shot with her bow. His second scheme, in which he impersonated Elan, would have also succeeded if Elan had remained as dumb and incompetent as ever, rather than suddenly taking a level in badass. And, more generally, if Nale didn't constantly trip over his megalomania. Later, he finally manages to actually kill Malack and proceeds to taunt his father about it, right in the middle of his father's army and in the presence of one of Tarquin's powerful companions. Tarquin tries to offer Nale the chance to reconcile, but Nale brags about how he managed to kill Malack without Tarquin's help, complains about how much he resents his father, and rejects his Last-Second Chance. Tarquin finally proceeds to show Nale just how quickly he would have died without his protection, by stabbing him without a second thought.
Daimyo Kubota trys to usurp Hinjo's postion, culminating in him ordering the assassination of a pair of former commoners who were promoted to nobility. The wife is pregnant. When the plan fails, he murders, Therkla, his own number two with poison just to give himself time to escape and frame her. He then surrenders to go on trial and use his aristocrat talents to turn around and slander Hinjo, but Vaarsuvius simply disintegrates him. His status as a this is cemented by the fact that he just doesn't stack up against Xykon and Redcloak, and is naive enough to think that taking the city back from Xykon will be a trivial matter.
Elan and Nale's father Tarquin truly believes he is the real Big Bad, and that Xykon is just the end-goal of some minor sidequest, and that Elan, not Roy is the main protagonist. In their final confrontation, after Tarquin killed Nale (mainly because he was a distraction in the conflict between himself and Elan), Elan flat-out refused to fight, capture or engage with Tarquin in any way and just left him in the desert without any sort of climactic confrontation, which was probably the worst thing he could have done to him. Tarquin is left screaming after a departing Elan to come back and "finish the story". Even among his own party, Tarquin is not the leader. Neither Malack, Laurin, or Miron have any interest in doing what he says, they mostly just put up with it because Tarquin's narrative logic assists in their own personal motives, and is quite profitable to boot. He has to cajole and run on a system of favors in order to get them to do anything for him. His military prowess is stated to come from elsewhere in the party. Even Julio Scoundrél only considers him one of his "B-list villains".
Xykon is the human-scale bad guy and the one really driving the main story, but the most powerful evil presence in the comic is the Snarl, hands down. Blackwing's vision of the inside of the rift shows that things may be more complicated...
The IFCC is somewhere above Xykon and below the Snarl. They're playing a much longer game that will ultimately result in storming the Good aligment planes and are less interested in the "Snarl Gate" plotline then the conflict that it generates.
The Dark One started most of the plot by creating the Crimson Mantle. We have yet to see how involved he'll be in the climax.
Big "NEVER!": Vaarsuvius when asked to renounce his/her chosen god, and then repeats it when a bribe is insufficient.
Roy: Wait, what? What about the Blood Oath of Vengeance? Bureaucratic Deva: It's not a problem for us. Go on up. Eugene: WHAT?!?!?! Roy: In lieu of Paradise, can I just get a picture of the exact expression on his face?
Jirix reacts this way when he finds out that his master killed Tsukiko.
The gibberish that Haley says while she has aphasia brought on by keeping too many secrets is actually a simple substitution cipher, where each letter represents a different letter of the alphabet (although the code changes with each strip).
Belkar: Good news for fans of cryptograms.
The magic letters in Dark V's accession translate to "BET YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD FOUND A SECRET MESSAGE IN THIS DIDN'T YOU?"
The runes on the walls of Girard's temple translate to "NO SECRET MESSAGE".
Black Comedy: Since the comic has an overall humorous tone, the various atrocities committed by Belkar, Xykon, Nale, Tarquin/The Empire of Blood, and other villains tend to be depicted this way, including some jokes in these scenes, but not downplaying the cruelty being displayed.
Subverted in "Goth Advice"; Elan's speech appears to be faded out with blahs so we can focus on Haley's internal monologue. Turns out he's trying to set a record for the number of times someone's said "blah" in a row.
Blatant Lies: Get your Bluff rank high enough (or get lucky with a natural 20), and people will believe anything. Note that this is completely internally consistent: In D&D 3.5, if your Bluff roll beats your opponent's Sense Motive by 20 or more, you can get them to believe things that are literally impossible.
Blob Monster: In a filler strip, the party fights a gelatinous cube. It gives Haley and Roy an urge for fruit gelatin, although they can't tell why...
Blood Oath: Eugene Greenhilt swearing one against Xykon on a drunken night, for the murder of his mentor Fyron Pucebuckle, is what started the whole vendetta against the lich sorcerer, and what motivateed Roy to found the Order of the Stick. The rest is history. It is also what keeps Eugene from being admitted into the Afterlife (though not Roy, because Roy's death occurred while trying to fulfill that oath).
Nale and Thog ends up bound the first time the Order of the Stick captures them. A gag soon follows for Nale after he tells a cruel joke to Celia.
Both Durkon and Belkar get the Kind Restraints treatment at one point; see this tropes's entry.
Vaarsuvius' soul, as well as Blackwing's, get tied up on a table in Hell for 20min 35s after Cedrik claims his part of the deal. Then he gags them both, as the Fiends don't want to hear the elf's rampant speculation.
Box-and-Stick Trap: In the book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the Order sets this sort of trap for a ninja. As none of them can actually see the ninja and an unreliable poison gets thrown into the mix, the party proceeds to make a Schrodingers Cat joke when the trap goes off.
Tarquin: I think we'll have a feast — no, a festival! In your honor! Three days and nights of merriment in the streets to welcome my long-lost son! Elan: With clowns? Tarquin: And jugglers! Elan: And clown-jugglers, who juggle tiny clowns? Tarquin: Of course!
In "The Path to Victory", as the Order goes through a secret tunnel, they pass through The Hall of Mysterious Runes, The Cavern of Very Easy Encounters, The Room with All the Spikes, The Chasm of Unnecessary Cliffs, The Tunnel with the Sort of Reddish Floor, The Passageway of Horrible Death for Other People... and The Corridor of Very Toxic Sulfur Fumes. (Which the team shakes off.)
Tsukiko: I know all about paladins, trust me. All they do is boss you around and tell you what you can't do. "Don't walk on the grass, don't litter, don't rape the cycle of life with your unclean power." Blah, blah, blah.
Tarquin's Keoghtum Extra Strength ointment uses magic as the active ingredient, and pretroleum jelly, glycerin, heart of a virgin collected on his/her wedding night, and fragrance as the inactive ingredients.
In Start of Darkness, Xykon delivers one to Dorukan all while he Energy Drains the wizard to death.
Shortly followed by one for Redcloak at the very end of Start of Darkness. It broke him enough that he accepted the role of Xkyon's Number Two.
Redcloak to Miko in the main comic.
Later, Redcloak to O-Chul.
O-Chul then tries a heroic version on the Monster in the Darkness. In other words, a You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech delivered in th same manner and for the same purpose (break them out of a certain mindset).
Xykon delivers one to V in "Second Chance". It has opposite the intended effect; Xykon tells Vaarsuvius exactly what the elf needs to hear at that moment to cause a moment of redemption — that power is not only found in spells, and that Vaarsuvius can still oppose Xykon despite not having any spells that could help. During all that talking, V decides to nab some healing potions and patch up the paladin O'Chul.
Breaking the Fellowship: Following the battle of Azure City, the party is split, and one is dead. They finally reunite over a hundred chapters (and several in-universe months) later.
Hydra Burgers (with gouda!). Bet you forgot about the dead hydra.
When searching for the starmetal to get Roy's sword reforged, V is polymorphed into a purple lizard, which V's familiar tries to catch. Blackwing (V's familiar) figures it out in comic #714, more than 500 strips later. The title implies that it was intentional.
Early in the comic Vaarsuvius tells Elan that as an elf, V only needs to take bathroom breaks every few weeks or so and Elan, being Elan, interprets that as V being a camel. It's referenced again, about 600 strips later.
At the end of comic #516, a wight asks if he can have the hypnotized Thanh's shoes. If you're paying entirely too much attention, you may notice that the wight is wearing his shoes in the next strip... and several strips later: "Where did my shoes go?"
Broken Heel: Discussed by Haley when she finds herself uncomfortably in the role of "fleeing horror-movie bimbo" after being caught unawares in a fight with Tsukiko. "I swear, if I randomly fall down and break the heel of my boot, I'm going to find Wes Craven and kick his ass."
Attempted in Start of Darkness when Lirian infects Xykon and his minions with a disease that robs them of their magic abilities. Unfortunately for her, Redcloak is immune thanks to the effects of the Crimson Mantle, and has just enough resources to transform Xykon in an undead, disease-immune lich.
Xykon only remembers the day he killed Roy's dad's mentor as a really bad Laundry Night.
Xykon: Do you have any idea how many people I have killed in front of their loved ones? Could you narrow it down? Roy: Grrrr. His master's name was Fyron. He was a wizard who lived in Cliffport. You needed some sort of magical doodad that he owned, so you killed him and his son in cold blood. Xykon: Hmmm... more specific. MitD: You killed more than one guy named Fyron in Cliffport? Xykon: Five, actually. Roy: Gah! It was forty years ago! Xykon: More specific. Roy: In the spring? Xykon: More specific. Roy: On a Wednesday? Xykon: Oh! Right! Now I remember. Because it was Laundry Night, and I had trouble getting the blood out of my robes. Roy: Oh, that is IT!!
Or, as Xykon puts it later:
Xykon: Y'know, I've destroyed entire towns, and the worst I got from the surviving families were a few snarky comments. You, sir, have a serious problem with overreaction.
Double one from the prequel book Start of Darkness, when we see Redcloak's family visiting the Monster in the Darkness. Redcloak's youngest nephew has a Julio Scoundrél toy, and the MitD has a plush dragon.
One of the longest Call Backs: in #25, Elan assumes that since the less armor you wear, the less able enemies are to see you, if you're naked, you must be invisible. Years later in #665, Roy is resurrected and is completely naked — Elan exclaims, "You're invisible!"
From #766 to #90 ("I've got a 4!") and to #130 with the "elveny boots".
One would be a sort of Call Forward, since it shows up in a prequel book. In this comic, Roy makes a throwaway comment about only getting a C- in his Attacks of Opportunity class. In On the Origin of PCs, that's the class Roy is studying for when his dad shows up to tell him about the Blood Oath against Xykon.
From #779 to #202. Watch out for what the people with the lead sheet say!
#478 has V teaching Elan to create illusions of celestial creatures. In #805, Elan demonstrates what he's learned with an illusionary celestial tree sloth.
A shorter one, but in #727, Roy's hunch back in #691 pays off...
Redcloak's confrontation with Tsukiko in #830 is similar to Xykon's confrontation with Dorukan in Start of Darkness, with a one character exploiting a seemingly powerful one's weaknesses, giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to them, and then killing them ignominiously.
As a corollary, the only thing you have to say when you cast a spell is the name of the spell, leading to the incantation for Resurrection, which has a ten-minute casting time, being the word "resurrection!" repeated over and over for ten minutes.
Cardboard Prison: Rule of thumb: if a prison is shown, someone will break out of it.
Roy is aware of this trope and that's why he doesn't want to chance leaving Belkar in one. After all, he escaped from Azure City's jail.
Miko, Nale, Sabine and Thog escape from the Azure City dungeon thanks to the invasion.
Elan and Thog escape from Cliffport with little difficulty.
In a more literal example, most of the time while in Azure City, the Monster in the Darkness is seen within a prison cell, literally made from a cardboard box with a small window (with bars) cut into one side. Considering his strength, of course, it would make no difference whether the prison was steel or cardboard; he's just staying inside because doing otherwise would be rude.
Tarquin counts too; he's conscious as his role of villain, even though he expresses contempt for the concept of "Good" and "Evil".
Cargo Cult: The orcs on the island worship... Elan's hand-puppet, Banjo the Clown. So does he. Also one worshiper is enough for a said worshipper to request the ability to shoot out a small bolt of lightning to smite heathens (Elan does it to Roy; it does absolutely nothing).
Though they later worship Giggles the Clown, Banjo's equally fictional brother and God of Slapstick. This leads to the refugee fleet, as "Champions of Banjo", and the new worshippers of Giggles having a pie-eating contest, the "traditional" challenge that must be enacted between followers of the two hand-puppet gods. Given how deific ascension works in the world (which is why Elan came up with Banjo in the first place), then there very likely is a genuine (if very weak) Giggles the Clown deity now.
#545 has O-Chul saying that Girard's Gate is protected by illusions and mazes. Redcloak thinks it's an obvious lie — and O-Chul encourages him to think that. We later find out O-Chul wasn't technically lying (while O-Chul didn't know what was protecting Girard's Gate, it's a logical conclusion based on what the Sapphire Guard knew of Girard's MO).
Tarquin tells Elan that his late(st) wife died of "mysterious circumstances". Sure, Elan takes it at face value, but the audience certainly didn't. Except Tarquin is telling the truth; he has no part in Penelope's death, and no clue how it could have happened.
Belkar's tendency to screw with people got him disbelieved at first when he bore the bad news of Durkon's vampirization.
Vaarsuvius: Fascinating, Durkon. I have just now formulated a theory that encompasses both Nale's likely method of engagement and the most suitable response on our part. Durkon: THA TREES BE ATTACKIN'!! RUN FER YER LIVES!!! Vaarsuvius: Ah, I see you have already grasped the core principles of my theory.
The Cavalry: Julio Scoundrél, and his airship crew, appears out of nowhere to rescue the heroes from Tarquin.
Cerebus Retcon: The comic makes extensive use of this, often overlapping with Chekhov's Gun — things that seemed like one-off gags early in the comic's run come back later as serious plot elements. Notable examples:
Haley's greed. Originally used for jokes about the rogue conning her party out of extra treasure. It's eventually revealed that her father is being held for ransom, and she needs 200,000 gp to spring him.
Vaarsuvius' raven familiar, Blackwing. Originally invisible most of the time and more of a plot device than a character; used for jokes about how D&D mages ignore their familiars until they need them. He plays a crucial role in a temporary victory over the Big Bad, and becomes a fully realized character. Afterward he's always visible as part of V's Character Development, and this throws V's earlier treatment of him into a harsher light.
In the first couple of arcs, Redcloak appears to be nothing more than Xykon's snarky right-hand goblin. In Start of Darkness, it's revealed that Redcloak killed his own brother to protect Xykon, and their apparently lighthearted relationship only seems that way because Xykon promised never to remind Redcloak of what he did, as long as he follows orders.
Cerebus Syndrome: Lampshaded and played with. Plot lines get more complex and darker as the series continues, but the awesome one-liners and constant lampshading never stop. Characters are aware of this and complain about it, with V blaming Cerebus himself.
Chainmail Bikini: In "It Costs an Armor Leg", Durkon argues with a salesman about what constitutes "leather armor". He's told, "Women's leather armor pretty much amounts to any attractive outfit that has one or more leather items in it. I once sold a winsome young lass a leather headband that was more effective than plate."
In the cast page, Belkar is introduced as "the world's best tracker under four feet tall." As the strip moved on, his Stupid Evil nature was played up to the point where he became an incompetent tracker, having spent all his skill points and feats on combat abilities (and gourmet cooking).
The Monster in the Darkness started out as evil (barely), but has evolved into a good (or at least neutral) character being tricked and manipulated by his evil "friends".
Redcloak in his first couple of appearances was basically a regular goblin with a fancy cloak, who kowtowed endlessly to Xykon and whose unlevel eyes didn't scream intelligence. Fast forward a few hundred strips, and Redcloak is the quintessential Dragon with an Agenda, as well as the resident Only Sane Employee and Hypercompetent Sidekick, who claims to have been expertly manipulating Xykon from the beginning. Makes a bit more sense after Start of Darkness, which ends with Xykon brutally breaking Redcloak to his will and forcing him to abandon his holy mission, neatly explaining his period of dull subservience.
During the starmetal sidequest, Roy was perfectly willing to abandon Elan to a bandit party without so much as a second glance, only being talked around by the others' unilateral insistence on rescuing The Heart. Including Belkar ("he makes me laugh") and Vaarsuvius, who would later become the go-to advocate of Shoot the Dog.
Several characters (major and minor) die during the course of the story, but resurrection spells mean that someone could be revived every day of the week provided a sufficiently powerful cleric and enough diamond dust. However, there are still a number of ways to make death permanent.
When Celia was a Guest Star Party Member in the Order of the Stick, this trope was the source of conflict with her and Haley, because of the differing views humans and slyphs have about death.
Charm Person: It's a D&D-based trope, so of course this is here. Striking general example is Nale hypnotizing Belkar; he can't make Belkar kill the Order and give their magic items to him, but Nale is able to make Belkar try to kill the Order and keep their magic items for himself... while singing showtunes...
In "Potionomics", Vaarsuvius attempts to explain to some potion sellers why they shouldn't sell their stock at a loss, but ultimately gives up and takes advantage of their stupidity by buying 27 Potions of Heroism. 300 comics later, they show up again, and come into play several strips after that.
V's Exploding Runes are a running gag in his prank war with Belkar, but in "Flight of the Phylactery" they are exactly the spell he needs at a crucial moment.
Blackwing goes from a minor character who only appears when a joke needs to be made about arcane spellcasters neglecting or abusing their familiars, to playing a vital role in O-Chul and Vaarsuvius' plan to destroy Xykon's phylactery, to a fully-fledged member of the main cast.
And we get another in "Bound to Happen" when Elan happens upon Captain Amun-Zora's cell while running from Nale. And then...Amun-Zora shows up with bounty hunters Gannji and Enor, to recruit Ian in their scheme against their common enemy, Tarquin.
It's a Running Gag that Belkar is the worst ranger ever, and his supposed class ability to influence the behaviour of animals (Wild Empathy) is mentioned twice as just such gags. Much later, he gets an Androcles Lion moment with the Allosaurus he'd earlier released into the gladiator pit.
Citadel City: Azure City was the capital of a wealthy and strategically-placed nation. Therefore, significant investment was made to make it a tough nut to crack. The ruling body shored up the defences even more, particularly with that big honking castle, when a hole in reality leading to a god-killing abomination was discovered over the city.
Clean Cut: Many attacks with slashing weapons against Mooks result in this.
Clever Crows: Vaarsuvius's familiar, Blackwing. Though there was originally a Running Gag that he'd only appear when V remembered him (and he didn't even have a name until Haley named him), after a certain series of events, Blackwing is present all the time, mostly serving as The Conscience to V.
Elan's genre savvy comes off as inane babbling, and he has odd ideas like "naked=invisible".
The Monster in the Darkness enjoys Power Rangers, tea parties and eating adventurers whole.
Thog, a half-orc barbarian with low intelligence who helps Elan's Evil Twin Nale murder innocents by the dozens — but loves nothing in life more than ice cream, rocket skates, and puppies. Probably because of this, he and Elan get along really well.
Also Odin, the leader of the Northern Pantheon. He likes puppets (and thus was ready to ascend Banjo) and puppies.
Odin: Ooooo, doggie! Thor: Dad, don't pet it, you don't know where it's been.
Thor shows this occasionally, though mainly when he is drunk or about to be — which is about everytime we see him.
Lampshaded in regards to dragons; also the Trope Namer.
Everything related to Azure City. The city itself is blue, including most of the buildings, the town wall and even the ships in the port. The regulars in the army wear silver and blue armor, and the paladins, white and blue. Many characters, e.g. Hinjo, even have blue hair. If a paladin falls from grace, his or her clothes immediately change color from blue to brown, due to them being magical items that lose power when not on a paladin in good standing.
Durkon — white; (turns to red once he becomes a vampire)
Elan — blue;
Redcloak — dark red;
Xykon — dark grey;
Nale — yellow;
Zz'dtri — green;
Hilgya — orange;
Leeky — brown;
Pompey — violet;
Julia — green;
Eugene — pale green;
Samantha — purple;
Celia — white;
Tsukiko — indigo and blue (due to her being able to, as a Mystic Theurge, cast both arcane and divine spells);
Sapphire Guard members and Azurite clerics — standardized light blue;
Malack — grey;
Laurin — yellow;
Miron — dirt brown.
Combat Pragmatist: Haley has no issues with ambushing and killing her arch-enemy Crystal, the assassin, while she's in the shower, unarmed and not wearing any armor or magic items. Followed, naturally, by looting all of said equipment. This scene comes off a lot less cold-blooded if you have read the prequel On the Origin of the PCs and the supplemental pages in Don't Split the Party that were cut out of the online comic for reasons of pacing but put back in for the printed edition. The extra strips reveal that Crystal was more than eager to hurt and kill Haley, and she and Bozzok were still planning to secretly murder Haley, despite the truce.
Jenny:[draped in a Modesty Bedsheet] Hurry back to bed, I'm feeling rested for another encounter. Belkar: Go ahead and start a solo adventure, I'll be in to join the quest when I'm done eating.
Compelling Voice: Haley gets this when she consumes a potion of glibness, giving her already huge bluff score an extra +30. She tells a human guard that he's actually a yellow-footed rock wallaby, and he immediately hops off to find a wizard to polymorph him "back".
Continuity Nod: Full of them. Of particular note is the Test of the Mind when Haley returns to the Oracle's valley; the "truth and lie" creatures immediately tell her the correct path rather than face another arrow to the foot. The continuity of OotS is generally very well kept.
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Tarquin's ninth wife died of "mysterious circumstances". ("Not another one! When will they find a cure!?") This turns out to be a subversion — Tarquin really has no idea how she died, although he's confident she was murdered by somebody. She was caught up in the effect of V's Familicide.
Roy delivers several of these to goblins V put to sleep with an overly long and boring boast about how s/he was much more powerful than anything they could imagine. It was so long and boring that it put Elan and Belkar to sleep as well.
Crystal attempts to do one to an unconscious Haley, but she's interrupted.
Covers Always Lie: The cover for Start of Darkness shows Xykon as a lich killing a paladin before his first encounter with Redcloak — while in the story proper, he wasn't yet undead when this happened. This is lampshaded on the last page of the book:
MitD: Wait — the scene on the cover didn't happen that way. Demon-roach: Welcome to show business, kid.
Belkar beheads Yikyik the kobold and wears his head as a hat. He later uses the head of Yokyok, the son of the first kobold, as a tortilla bowl.
Roy initially wanted to wear Xykon's teeth as a necklace in case of a victory, but after the lich was blown to bits, he settled on Xykon's crown.
Gannji the lizardfolk mentions that keeping a Creepy Souvenir is common amongst ogres. When his friend Enor (an ogre/dragon hybrid) is forced to fight him, Gannji suggests that Enor kill him and keep his tail as a trophy in order to resurrect him later.
Malack tells Elan he would pay handsomely for Nale's skull to adorn his study.
Tsukiko's death. Life-drained by her own wights, followed by being eaten, bones and all by those same wights. They then ate each other in order of creation, and the last one incinerate itself.Killed Off for Real indeed.
Inverted and parodied in "The Elf Who Cried Raven" — when V finally remembers the familiar and claims that Blackwing was "there all along" in their past adventures, none of the others believe it. This is despite previously being the ones who had to remind V of its existence.
Played straight in "Getting the Message". As Belkar reports Durkon's death and being turned into a vampire, Roy almost immediately calls him out on it being one of his sick jokes. This is combined with Roy simply not wanting to believe it.
Cue the Flying Pigs: In Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, to lampshade "the power of abandoned verisimiltude".
"Smash" is a good example for why you shouldn't piss off the barbarian half-orc.
Vaarsuvius gives a thorough one to the parent of the black dragon he killed earlier, and a quarter of all the black dragons in the world, with one spell.
Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: It certainly didn't do Mijung any good when she poked her nose (figuratively) into a rift in reality. However, had she not, Soon and the Order of the Scribble would have been unable to do more careful examinations and discover the truth about the Snarl. Similarly, as portrayed in Start of Darkness, the Dark One only found out about the Snarl when a goblin got too close and was killed.
Cedrik: Although, as providers, it would be remiss not to warn you that the Soul Splice has been known to trigger feelings of pure omnipotence. Nero: You may also experience some slight dizziness from the rush of unprecedented arcane power.
Curse That Cures: Xykon. It is revealed in the prequel Start of Darkness that he became a lich, under Redcloak's suggestion, to escape a magical disease that was preventing him from using his sorcerer magic. Also, they were prisoners of a powerful druid and had few other options for escaping.
What started as a killing of a young adult black dragon escalated when the black dragon's parent tried to torture Vaarsuvius' family to death, which led directly to V killing one quarter of the world's population of black dragons, which seems to have irked Tiamat (the Goddess of chromatic dragons).
The ongoing war between humans and goblins. As stated in the third book's commentary (partial paraphrase), "Each side only remembers their last defeat at the hands of the other."