The Chief, of Cliffport fame, who gets decapitated by Nale.
Tarquin tries to invoke this by offering to put Roy in the role for Elan, thus making his son the main character, when it becomes obvious he won't let him kill his party leader. But by that point Elan has given up on granting his father second chances.
Damned by Faint Praise: Blackwing pulls this, seemingly by accident, when attempting to defend Vaarsuvius's actions during the Soul Splice.
Qarr: Check it out! It's history's worst mass-murderer and his dim-witted bird! Blackwing: HEY! History isn't over yet, mister!! Vaarsuvius: sob!
Discussed in "Leaving Azure City": Haley is in trouble and Elan wants to rush off to rescue her. However, Durkon stops him, explaining that she is able to take care of herself. And that he is not. If he tries to rescue her, he will just get himself killed, and that would make her very sad once she gets back on her own. Elan is forced to leave Haley to her fate. And yes, she does save herself. And Belkar. And Roy's corpse, so it can be resurrected later.
When fleeing an ambush by Tsukiko's wights, Haley angrily notes how irritating it is to find herself in the role of "the bimbo who runs down the alley away from the monsters."
Roy also calls Celia his Damsel in Distress when noting this is getting frequent for her.
Not that the comic is exactly "light and fluffy", but prequel book Start of Darkness is significantly darker than the online comic's average tone.
Things have gotten a turn for the dark starting around comic #823. First, The Resistance falls arc. Then, the race between three teams for Girard's Gate: Team Evil, the Order of the Stick and The Linear Guild. And then the entire Draketooth family turns out to be dead, and one of the Order is responsible for it. And now Nale is dead (killed by his father), another gate is destroyed, Durkon has been turned into a vampire, Tarquin is now obsessed with his son killing him and making him into a story, and V now knows that the entities he rented his soul to can take control of him at any time.
Dark Is Not Evil: Invoked by Belkar after Haley assumes that V's new black robes, glowing eyes, and evil whispers mean that s/he's turned evil. Belkar, too, is convinced of that, but defends Vaarsuvius with this argument just to mess with everyone's heads.
Death Is Cheap: Not literally; coming Back from the Dead is actually rather expensive. But price aside, it's usually not all that difficult, except when the plot requires it to be, as in Roy Greenhilt's case, or in special situations like being killed by the Snarl or dying of old age. One of the gateways to the Afterlife is a revolving door. This is lampshaded to the extent that a character calling for reinforcements (Haley in Old Blind Pete's cellar) suggests they bring the wherewithal to resurrect her and her friends. Also, you can apparently do the old "challenge Death to a game for your life" thing. And you can pick Wet T-Shirt Contest as your game.
The idea of a predetermined Character Alignment is thoroughly deconstructed in Start of Darkness and some of the later strips, particularly with the characters of Belkar, Redcloak, Miko, the Monster in the Darkness and Malack. Redcloak is especially offended by the concept of his entire race being Always Chaotic Evil whether they like it or not.
Token Evil Teammate is also deconstructed with Belkar, showing why a mostly good party would put up with someone like him and occasionally exploring the kind of tensions it can create.
Tarquin is turning into a deconstruction of Dangerously Genre Savvy. While it means he can plan very well and follows the plot and its intricacies as easily as Elan does, he can chillingly treat people like plot devices and cannot see beyond his own story to where he does not see the larger narrative of the world being at stake (which he assumes is a "sidequest").
The prequel books are fully in greyscale. According to the author, this is to give them a "nostalgic" feeling, since these are the "home movie" of the OotS characters. Which is mostly a joking explanation, the primary reason being costs.
After Tarquin kills Nale, he mentions that he can't think of anyone else who wouldn't have at least considered it. The very next panel shows Sabine, extremely cheesed off that her boyfriend was just murdered.
Designated Girl Fight: At one point Haley lampshades her tendency to get shackled with slutty (and flying) Dark Chick rivals. "I should take a level of ranger so I can choose Favored Enemy (Airborne Tramp)". And that's before we meet her (thankfully non-flying) arch-rival Crystal.
Destructive Saviours: Dorukan's Dungeon, the Weary Travelers Inn and Tavern, Azure City... few places seem to survive contact with the Order of the Stick. And now Girard's Pyramid can be added to the list; this time it is fully intentional, though, the Order having no other choice.
In an early strip, the Order is totally surrounded by goblins, when Elan suddenly summons the one-shot Joke CharacterFruitpie the Sorcerer, who distracts the goblins, allowing the Order to escape.
During the siege of Azure City, Roy beheads Xykon's undead dragon. The head crushes a Death Knight that is overwhelming Vaarsuvius; V later complains that it was a lame "deus ex machina".
During one arc, Elan is stuck in Cliffport after Nale frames him for his (Nale's) crimes, but is able to get from Cliffport back to Azure City, where the rest of the Party is, after fortuitously meeting the Sky Pirate Julio Scoundrél, who offers to take Elan there in his Cool Airship (and gives him some off-the-cuff mentoring into the bargain). Word of the Giant is that the author needed a way to get Elan out of Cliffport, and the strip itself humorously lampshades this. For good measure, Scoundrél's ship is named the Mechane.
When V cast Familicide on an ancient black dragon in "If They Pull a Knife...", the first victim is a black dragon currently battling against a pair of adventurers — who are left wondering just what the heck caused their opponent to inexplicably drop dead in front of them.
Didn't We Use This Joke Already?: Horace in #600 jokes that the readers were probably expecting a big climax to mark the occasion when in fact it was a very mundane progress strip. Roy points out they used that exact joke 500 strips ago when #100 also turned out to be an anticlimax.
This is the main motto of Nale and the Linear Guild, even mentioned on their business cards.
Vaarsuvius. Ancient Black Dragon. "Familicide!"
Tiamat is promised five good dragons dead for every black dragon killed by V.
General Tarquin offers to give the pair of bounty hunters 8,000 gp for their trouble in accidentally bringing in Elan instead of Nale. Gannji then demands 50,000 instead because he has a thermal detonator (which is actually a soup can — he was just keeping up a Running Gag). Tarquin then "misplaces" some court paperwork, leaving the bounty hunters sentenced to die in the arena for attempting to extort him in front of his son.
Eugene:Xykon is alive!! Roy: What?? Eugene: Well, I don't mean actually alive. Technically, he's still dead, just not, you know, DEAD-dead. He's undead, right, so he's up and moving around, even though he's still life signs: negative. But it's not like he just spontaneously came back to life. I mean, he DID come back spontaneously, but back to, uh, undeath, I suppose. Roy: Just curious, do you get XP for killing this dramatic moment?
Elan: —and I'll foil your evil plans! Tarquin: Then I wonder what I've begotten into. Also, "foil" is less of a pun than it is a word derivation. We say someone "foiled" a plan because they defeated them — as with a foil. Elan: Really? Tarquin: No. The etymologies are unrelated. *kaTANG!* (disarms Elan)
Elan, when he's not The Fool, or both simultaneously.
Thog; the first comment we get concerning him is that Intelligence was his Dump Stat.
Celia has her moments, explained in part by her status as an Outsider and therefore someone not familiar with the customs of the Material Plane. She's also from the Elemental Plane of Air, making her an "airhead".
Malack's plans to make the process of human sacrifices more efficient and orderly by developing "some sort of special chamber" is meant to evoke Soylent Green. However, plenty of readers saw a different parallel.
Start of Darkness features Redcloak's village being brutally destroyed, complete with on screen adversion of Infant Immortality and this line:
Paladin: Exterminate the rest.
Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: After locking up the Snarl inside the new world, Thor taunts it, even kicking the new world-prison for good measure. To which Loki says:
Loki: Dude, don't taunt the god-killing abomination.
Gets a callback in Start of Darkness when Redcloak is explaining the Plan to Xykon.
Thor: Crap! Loki was right about not taunting it after all!
Hobgoblin priest: FIRE! Belkar: Don't mind if I do! (fireballs the hobgoblins) Get it? Because he said, "Fire!", and then you used a "Fire"-ball, and now they're all dead! Skullsy: Yes, sir, very funny, sir. Please don't hurt me.
Enor the bounty hunter is an hybrid of ogre and blue dragon, giving him wings, breath weapon and largely draconic appearance.
The illustrated family tree of Girard Draketooth shows three individuals of this type being the result of a coupling between a human and a black dragon (presumably one with the power of Voluntary Shapeshifting). This second generation all possessed varying combinations of human and dragon features. However, from the third generation onward, family members appear completely human.
They have a complicated relationship: Redcloak is the one Xykon's hobgoblin army recognizes as their leader, despite Xykon being more powerful and the de facto boss. And there are definitely hints that Redcloak will turn into The Starscream once their goals irreconcilably diverge. On the flip-side, Xykon is far more powerful, dangerous and evil, and might be more intelligent than Redcloak gives him credit. Further, Redcloak is visibly horrifed when he realizes he's becoming more like Xykon, and regards working with him an extremely unpleasant necessary evil. Also, Redcloak himself is The Heavy for The Dark One, his Bigger BadGod of Evil, so he is technically The Dragon to somebody else.
Ultra-powerful soul-spliced Vaarsuvius is literally the most powerful mage to have ever existed... as long as he/she holds on to the splices. Good thing the most powerful one slips away before the elf goes to fight the Big Bad, Xykon, or else the series could have ended in a curb stomp.
Dream Within a Dream: Elan refers to an illusion-induced Dream Sequence as a "double-fantasy": a fantasy-within-a-fantasy-comic. When Roy thanks Elan for breaking them out of the illusion, Elan is convinced they're trapped in another level of dreamworld — "TRIPLE FANTASY!!"
Drool Hello: Although it's not technically drool in "Good to the Last Drip" (just salt water from the ocean), it's still Vaarsuvius's first clue that a monster has approached from behind.
Duality Motif: Tsukiko has a blue eye and an indigo eye. This reflects her dual-caster prestige class, the color of her aura when casting spells being blue for divine magic and indigo for arcane. As a joke, it carries over as a theme to her slippers too.
Early in the comic, the Order uses a service stairwell to skip two levels of the Dungeon of Dorukan.
Invoked again in comics #649-651, where Haley breaks through the Fourth Wall for a spell component and Vaarsuvius teleports directly into Xykon's throne room.
Dying as Yourself: Defied, if not outright inverted, when Durkon offers to cure Malack's vampirism.
Malack: Bringing me back to life is just a complicated way of annihilating the person I am today. Save your diamond dust and stake me instead.
Dying Declaration Of Hate: An unusually subtle example in Start of Darkness. Redcloak's brother considers being called by the title of "Redcloak" rather than his real name demeaning. So when he dies and refuses to call Redcloak his brother, only calling him "Redcloak"... well...
Early-Installment Weirdness: A lot of things weren't yet well-established when the comic was still a gag-a-day strip, and some details may clash with the later story. For example, the decision that conjuration was one of V's barred schools came after the wizard casting Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion, which would be a conjuration spell. The Giant has stated that this spell won't ever show up again (although for a variety of reasons, the above being the least of them).
Defied by the Monster in the Darkness. Xykon still tries to feed him some every so often, but he just kinda pushes them around on his plate before dumping them in the trash (don't worry, the kids survive).
MitD: I'll eat pretty much anything they feed me anyway. Except babies. O-Chul:Excuse me?? MitD: Oh, I don't eat babies or kids. That includes veal. It just feels weird.
According to the over-templated snail from Snips, Snails and Dragon Tails, a blackguard can be made to resist a domination effect if he's made to eat babies... without mustard.
Parodied when Redcloak starts summoning elemental spirits based on the modern periodic table; Titanium — "just as strong [as Earth], and 40% lighter." —, Chlorine, Osmium (one of the hardest natural metals, twice as heavy as lead) and Silicon.
Redcloak: I mean, fire shouldn't even count. It's a chemical reaction!
Vaarsuvius: Does he not know that the classical elements are classics for a reason??
Embarrassing but Empowering Outfit: Haley's boots of speed, which she is reluctant to wear because they are lime green, and don't match her skin tone. She gets around the problem by finding a merchant who dyes them brown to match the rest of her armor, but they still glow green whenever she uses them to trigger a 'haste' effect.
Enemy Mine: Cliffport decides to support Gobbotopia's claim to nationhood, based on the fact that both nations are at war with the elves.
An Angel "of pure Good and Law" clears the heroes' names, making them innocent of a very serious crime in the eyes of an order of paladins. However, the trial is just a Sham Ceremony, and the "angel" is just a manipulative ghost disguised as an angel.
The evil trio who tempts V takes on the role of Enigmatic Empowering Entities, but subverts the role to snare the wizard. V is manipulated into accepting a price s/he doesn't understand and is tricked to believe that s/he has an excuse to let her more destructive tendencies run wild without accepting true responsibility for the havoc. Also, the power they give is tainted and fatally flawed in itself, not at all what V had imagined "Ultimate Arcane Power" to be.
Episode 0: The Beginning: The first prequel released, On the Origin of PCs, is numbered zero on the spine to show it takes place before the main series compilations. Then when Start of Darkness came out, it was given the number -1 to show it covers events going back even further than the previous prequel.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Lawful Evil Empire of Blood employs humans, lizardfolks and kobolds indiscriminately, from the lowliest foot soldiers or slave drivers to the upper echelons of society, including the Empress' main counselors (with a human general, a lizardfolk high priest and a winged-kobold chancellor).
Escalating Brawl: The argument between Roy, Gannji and Enor ends up in a serious pub brawl.
Played straight by several characters, especially Xykon and Nale.
Discussed when Roy accuses Belkar of Crying Wolf regarding Durkon's vampirisation. When he says that Durkon's last words were a plea for his friends' safety, Haley believes him because "I don't think Belkar's capable of inventing someone doing that."
Tarquin can't understand why Elan feels so bad about the fact that Tarquin killed Nale right in front of him.
In "End of the Line", as he hangs from the edge of the Mechane, Tarquin thinks that Elan will save him to prove the hero is better than the villain. Elan refuses and abandons his father, turning this trope into Evil Cannot Comprehend Good Is Not Dumb.
Evil Counterpart: The Linear Guild's main purpose; this is actually mentioned in-universe when The Order of the Stick and the Linear Guild first meet. Justified as Nale specifically recruited his guild members to fit the "evil opposites" theme.
Roy/Thog (and later, Tarquin)
Belkar/Yikyik — replaced by his son Yokyok and then Yukyuk after the deaths of the first two.
Vaarsuvius/Zz'dtri (and later, Pompey)
Durkon/Hilgya — replaced by Leeky, and Malack, though Hilgya and Malack are Affably Evil.
Vaarsuvius was already aware of this, chose to ignore it, and is beginning to pay the consequences in the Girard's Pyramid arc.
As revealed in the Start of Darkness prequel, Redcloak's plan, hatched by the god of goblinoids, the Dark One, to have a powerful divine and a powerful arcane caster manipulate the Gates to control the Snarl without completely releasing it, and then use the Snarl to force the other divine pantheons to give equal rights to the goblinoids and other humanoid "monsters" solely created to be experience point sword fodder for fighters and adventurers of the other, older races. Redcloak is well aware that this might end with the death and unmaking of himself and Xykon, but is still determined to go through with the Plan.
Similarly, in Start of Darkness, Redcloak learns the hard way that Xykon is not a toy, or even a tool. Subverted, as it turns out; Redcloak still thinks of Xykon as a tool, just one which takes a little more skill than most to use. Whether or not this assumption will come back to bite him in the arse again, time alone will tell.
Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Even though it's the Trope Namer, subverted constantly. Evil characters don't care about the alignment of other characters, only whether or not they will help or hinder them in achieving their goals.
Though the IFCC, despite defying the trope in the above quote, also play it completely straight, since their long-term goal is to forge a truce which will unite the warring fiends in an alliance against the forces of Good.
Tarquin's psion colleague Laurin has kept her true line of work a secret from her daughter, who's a plumber and believes her mother is an interior designer for Queen Shvitzer.
Tarquin is a bizarre case. He's delighted that his son is a big hero... but only because it means he'll inevitably have a dramatic confrontation with his Archnemesis Dad. He was also proud of his Evil son, to begin with, and only lost patience with Nale when he proved on too many occasions to be Stupid Evil.
Evil Power Vacuum: Defied; Celia convinces Haley not to kill Bozzok, leader of Greysky's thieves guild, in order to stop a power vacuum from being created.
Nale, Elan's twin brother, who multiclassed as fighter/rogue/sorcerer specializing in enchantments (instead of being a bard like Elan... though his multiclassing gives him the same abilities as his brother);
Samantha, the spoiled sorceress daughter of the leader of the bandits of Wooden Forest;
Tsukiko, the evil mystic theurge (technically she is both a divine and arcane caster);
Qarr the Imp;
The three evil mages (Ganonron, Haerta Bloodsoak and Jephton the Unholy) used for Vaarsuvius's soul splice.
Xykon has one in the Redmountain Hills, previously belonging to the wizard Dorukan.
Xykon also has a backup tower in the Southern Mountains.
Evil Versus Evil: As noted above, the bad guys are not "one big happy family" and often have vastly different goals. This is Roy's justification for keeping Belkar on the team — at least this way, he's pointed at people even worse than himself.
Durkon also uses this occasionally to avoid lying.
Haley employs this to hide her connection with Durkon when the latter refuses to lie to Malack.
Everything Redcloak says when explaining to Xykon why he brutally killed Tsukiko is true — he just neglects to mention the part where she figured out that Redcloak has been deceiving Xykon about the purpose of the "Snarl Control" ritual.
Tarquin is very fond of this too.
For example, he offers to send 500 of his troops to "join the battle" between the Free City of Doom and the Empire of Tears. He avoids mentioning which side his troops will be on.
On another occasion, he re-assures Elan that a stolen magic carpet belonged to a very rich man who owned six others. But it's a shame then that he didn't have any spares when he had his transportation pulled out from under him...
While watching the Order struggling to fight a Silicon elemental and a pair of fiends, Nale makes a comment about how much he's going to enjoy watching his most hated enemies die shortly. He's actually referring to Malack, who burns to ash a few rounds later when Nale disarms him of his staff and Zz'dtri uses Greater Dispel Magic to rob him of his Protection from Daylight effect.
Said Silicon elemental also suffers from this, as it is ordered to kill "The human with the green-hilted greatsword." Haley takes advantage of this and gets the golem to attack her instead of Roy, as she is now the human holding said sword.
Nale orders Vampire Durkon not to drink Zz'dtri's blood. Vampire Durkon decides to break Zz'dtri's neck.
Vaarsuvius attributes being able to defeatthe psion Laurin Shattersmith to "a combination of observations, calculations, and superior intelligence" — not mentioning that "superior intelligence" in this case refers to "having been given a full briefing on her abilities by Sabine".
Haley, throwing her (or rather Crystal's) distinctive knife into a wanted poster instead of the guy holding it. Finding her knife in a bounty poster with Nale's face on it told Roy all he needed to know to find them.
Elan fires a ballista bolt into the ground next to his father, who jumps to the obvious conclusion. As Julio Scoundrél cuts the rope and gets pulled out of the fight to safety, he calls back "I think that's half your problem, T — You always think everything that happens is about you!"
Xykon conducts a job interview while storming the Azure City castle.
In the hypothetical scenario the archfiends suggest to Vaarsuvius instead of accepting their offer, V's master Aarindarius is shown defeating a powerful dragon while reading a book, not even bothering to look in its direction.
Exotic Entree: The banquet that Elan's father Tarquin holds in his honor. Poor Elan, not being the sort to enjoy such dishes, loses his appetite rather quickly.
Xykon has no problem using his area-of-effect Meteor Swarm spell at point-blank range because he has a magic item that makes him immune to fire damage.
During a fight between Vaarsuvius and a Black Dragon, the dragon deploys an Anti-Magic field which robs them both of their spellcasting. Vaarsuvius, being a Squishy Wizard, becomes completely useless within the field, while the dragon retains all of her brute strength.
A minor example occurs in "Rock the Boat", when Elan attempts to sink Kubota's rowboat. When Kubota complains that he's going to drown both of them, Elan reminds him that he isn't wearing any movement-hindering armor (unlike Kubota, who's wearing a breastplate), so he has a better chance of swimming to safety.
The Extremist Was Right: Redcloak has a point that the non-PC races really were set up for suffering, death and an utter lack of opportunities, and the Jerkass Gods probably won't bother to rectify the matter without a serious fire being lit under their backsides.
Eye Colour Change: Happens to Durkon after he is turned into a vampire; his eyes change from black to red.
Hobgoblin cleric: *sniff* I think... I think there's something in my eye. *SPLORTCH!* AAAH! Belkar: Got it out for you.
This is the reason why Old Blind Pete is known as such. The worse part is that he used to be called "Eagle-Eye Pete". The even-worse part is that he got his eyes stabbed out again as soon as he paid a cleric to heal them after the first stabbing!
Old Blind Pete: A word of advice; if you're gonna do business with criminals, don't pick a nickname based on any body part you can't afford to lose. *sigh* I shoulda listened to Appendix Steve when he tried to warn me...
Face Doodling: Elan and Belkar do it to Roy when he's paralyzed by a poison trap.
Face-Heel Turn: Averted in "The Power of Immediate Gratification", where Belkar, of all people, gives up the chance to join a cause that'll let him do all the killing he wants. Admittedly, Belkar leaves something to be desired as a "face", but the other side is even worse, so....
In "The Future Is Forged in the Fires of Today", after a lengthy Forging Scene, Roy is handled his reforged ancestral sword, good as new, and he takes the opportunity to solemnly renew his oath of destroying Xykon. But then he drops it while yelling in pain, because the sword is still damn hot.
An Azure City officer is dramatically stating that he and his men might die today, but with HONOR... only to be vomited upon by an airsick Roy.
Belkar: Wait! I think I just failed a Listen check!
By the rules, ninja are hard to spot (and automatically considered hiding regardless of circumstances). Belkar can't even spot the ninja panel in the bonus page about the Pirates vs. Ninjas controversy.
Fake High: In "Madness", a being from the Lower Planes explains why Vaarsuvius (under the effects of a "soul splice") appears to have shifted more towards Evil on the character-alignment scale by presenting a college-university analogy: "It's like if you were at a party where someone has been drinking beer that they didn't know was non-alcoholic: They might seem drunk anyway, just because they were expecting it."
False Flag Operation: Tarquin places his allies as advisers and uses them to manipulate rulers into conquering the western continent.
Family-Unfriendly Death: The comic's simple artstyle allows for some really gruesome deaths that would otherwise have readers reaching for the barf bags.
Miko gets torn in half.
...And an ancient black dragon gets torn into much smaller pieces from the inside.
A first-level commoner gets disemboweled by a housecat.
Commander and Lieutenant of Team Peregrine get Imploded by Redcloak; the Resistance leader with the topknot and kimono gets ripped in half by a diabolic being. All in one convenient comic!
"Goodbye... Redcloak." — Right-Eye, when his brother kills him.
"It appears... not everyone... agrees with your analysis." — Lord Shojo, after Miko falls from paladinhood for killing him.
"You'll never take this city while I'm alive, monster!" — General Chang, just before the Death Knight accepts his terms.
"Maybe if I—" *SPLAT* — Roy, coming up with so many ways to survive a fall that he doesn't notice the ground coming up beneath him.
"I regret to report than I am no longer fit for duty... Supreme Leader..." — Hobgoblin commander, right before triggering Redcloak's My God, What Have I Done? moment.
"I—I can live with that..." — Miko
"I'll take my chances... that the Afterlife... won't have any punishment worse... than not being with you..." — Therkla
"Now come along, bring me to your master so we can begin the Trial of the Century." — Kubota, right before V disintegrates him.
"No! No! You... you MONSTER!" — Black Dragon Mom, when V slaughters her entire family for attempting to slaughter his or her family.
"You double-crossing whore, when Bozzok raises me—" — Crystal
"Why don't... you love... me?" — Tsukiko, being killed by her own undead minions.
"I get ta go home." — Durkon, being killed by Malack, dying with a smile on his face.
"NERRRGHHALL! SSAVE MEEE!" — Minister Malack dying by (Nale-administered) sun exposure.
"I want NOTHING from you! I am my own man, not some cog in your latest oh-so-clever scheme! I don't want your nepotism or your charity or your pity! I want NOTHING!" — Nale, though the very last thing he says is "YES!" after Tarquin asks if that's what he really feels.
Fanservice: Lampshaded during Haley's bath sequence in On the Origin of PCs.
Basically Redcloak's motivation both ways. His family was slaughtered because paladins don't consider his kind to have the right to exist, so he blames all humans for the actions of that group and kills them freely.
Classism: Wizards in general and Vaarsuvius in particular seem to look down on the other magic-using classes. Sorcerers are usually the targets, but being called a warlock is a dire insult.
Far East: (Or Far South, as the case may be.) Azure City would be a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Japan, if it were at all consistent. Instead, names like "Miko Miyazaki" stand side by side with names like "O-Chul", and the people worship the Twelve Gods, the animals from the Chinese zodiac. This, naturally, is a pastiche of D&D's Oriental mishmash settings, most specifically the Oriental Adventuressourcebook.
Blackwing: Mistakes were made all around, but the important thing is that this needless conflict is now over WITHOUT the loser's entire family line getting totally eradicated. So, you know. Progress.
On the Origin of PCs has Roy claiming that belief in the complete supremacy of arcane magic is a common flaw among spellcasters.
Thinking he knows more about a situation than he actually does is Roy's flaw. If Roy had known that liches can regenerate from a phylactery from the very beginning, he could have made sure Xykon was Deader than Dead and wouldn't have been able to return, so he has kill him again. This also lead to Miko becoming wrongfully suspicious of Roy, with disastrous consequences. In a Too Clever by Half moment, he also believed he had outsmarted the Oracle, when the latter was more than happy to just tell him which Gate Xykon was headed towards next. Later, he dismisses the Celestial's warnings about V's Deal with the Devil because he thinks she's talking about Belkar.
Redcloak mentally locks himself onto a single course of action and then refuses to deviate from it, no matter what changing circumstances intervene. His end goal is "get the goblin races a stable power base, land that isn't worthless, and diplomatic recognition so that we can have a level playing field". He got that hundreds of strips ago, but because his original plan involved using Xykon and the Gates to get it, he's still fixated on doing that. Because that is The Plan, and if he deviates from it then all the sacrifices he's made were pointless, and it can't be pointless.
The Ancient Black Dragon intended to bind Vaarsuvius' children souls to it forever, and Xykon has a fondness for trapping the souls of important enemies in gems. This is subverted when he imprisons Dorukan in the same gem as Lirian.
A slightly more humorous example: after willingly being abused and used as a weapon by Belkar in order to not be destroyed, the head of the "Eye of Fear and Flame" (one of Xykon's three decoys) finally draws the line when the latter announces his intentions to eventually use him as an "emergency chamber pot".
The Giant seems to enjoy playing with the Faux Affably Evil trope in general: Redcloak averts it, both before and after his My God, What Have I Done? (before it, he doesn't bother to show the slightest concern for the hobgoblins, and after he genuinely does care about them), and Miko inverts it via Good Is Not Nice.
Faux Horrific: Elan is appalled at the terrible choreography of the opening act of the gladiator games.
Faux Yay: "Slash Attack" — by Belkar and Roy, after seeing Tarquin's face for the first time, to explain their surprise as they recognized Elan's traits on him.
Fetch Quest: Begins the second arc. Subject to lots of lampshading (but of course).
Field Power Effect: The Azure City throne room is consecrated. Notably, it makes any attempt by an evil cleric at "turning" the Ghost-Martyrs of the Sapphire Guard more difficult. It takes one as powerful as Redcloak to have any chance of succeding.
Fighting Fingerprint: Roy is familiar enough with Thog's fighting style to correctly guess that the warrior the Order is fighting in strip #852 is actually an imposter.
Final Boss Preview: Both Xykon (to Roy) and Tarquin (to Elan) lampshade the fact that if they attack them too early, they'll only be defeated and forced to retreat so they can train for the real final battle.
Tarquin: We just met. The tension needs to build more. [...] So, you go finish up your little plot and come back in, say, ten years? Elan: Dad, I can't let you hurt all these people for ten years! Tarquin: Well, if you want, you can force the confrontation early... but the way these things go, you'll probably end up losing a hand or an eye or something.
Final Solution: Vaarsuvius's partner and children are threatened by a vengeful dragon. Channeling the magical power of the three most powerful mages in the Lower Planes, Vaarsuvius finds a solution to the problem: Vaarsuvius kills not only this dragon, but also any dragon that is in any way related to it — a quarter of the Black Dragon population — to stop any threat to his/her family.
Fire-Forged Friends: Blackwing resents being Vaarsuvius's familiar, due to V's neglectful behavior towards him for most of the comic. But when they're forced to work together in an attempt to destroy Xykon, they put aside their differences and learn mutual respect for one another.
Five Stages of Grief: The immediate reaction of Roy to the news of Durkon being Turned is Denial and Anger aimed squarely at the Bearer of Bad News (at swordpoint, no less). He seems to have at least accepted the truth of the message by the end of the strip, but whether that corresponds to Acceptance of the loss remains to be seen. Durkon is soon back and walking around as a vampire, reunited with the Order, and at this point Roy seems to be in denial regarding how much of his former friend is left inhabiting his undead body.
Foil: The relationship of Tarquin and Malack mirrors that of Roy and Durkon. Both sets are fighters whose Number Two and best friend is the team's cleric, and to drive the mirror further Durkon is now a vampire too.
The visual representation of the Wind Walk spell is for the characters' legs to be replaced with vapour trails.
Follow the Chaos: When Elan has Durkon Send a call for help to an ally, he phrases it with this trope in mind:
Durkon: (in flashback) If'n ye wanna fight an evil villain bent on conquest, go ta Windy Canyon an' look fer tha big explosion. Roy: (in present) The explosion? Elan, there was only going to be an explosion if we totally screwed up defending the Gate! Elan:Well, yeah.
Fool's Map: The co-ordinates the Sapphire Guard have for Girard's Rift lead to a completely random spot in the desert, with a magical message that Girard programmed to activate and mock Soon Kim if detected him at those co-ordinates trying to find the rift.
After defeating a black dragon, the party realizes he was just an underling of the real guardian of the cave. The real guardian of the cave? His mom. Uh oh. Plus, the black dragon in the cave mentions his mother while talking to V. For extra fun, read V's dialogue in "Tactical Priorities". Spoilers, ahoy!
Malack doesn't eat at the welcoming banquet for Elan because he requires "a special diet". Also earlier, when drinking tea with Durkon, the latter finds it to taste foul and he wonders what's in it. It eventually turns out his "special diet" is revealed to be blood.
Tarquin has fought dashing swordsmen before he reunited with Elan...
Forging Scene: Appears with the reforging of Roy's greatsword intercut with shots of other characters preparing for the upcoming story arc. Although some of the dramatic power is reduced when Roy is handed the sword just after it is finished... and promptly drops it screaming, because, well, it's just been forged and it's still really hot.
Fox News: Referenced briefly as the horrible method Gnomes get information. At first it looks like Burlew is taking a shot at the news outlet... until the panel cuts away to a bunch of gnomes listening to an actual fox, red, white-tipped tail, yipping noises and everything. Let's face it, if you got all your news from a small furry animal, some things would slip through the cracks.
Friendly War: We have three desert empires that always struggle against each other. However, they are secretly allied with each other. The conflict between them is merely an excuse to take over other nations, as well as a safeguard to keep the other peoples from uniting against them.
Xykon can resurrect from nothing as long as his phylactery is intact.
Roy is Resurrected from just a skull, being the biggest bit of him left after the Bone Golem made from his corpse is destroyed. Resurrection could possibly bring someone back from the dead with just a single drop of blood, as noted in "Operation Desert Inform".
Things get continually worse throughout the prequel book Start of Darkness, especially for Redcloak. And considering that the book starts with his mother, uncle, mentor, older brother and younger sister being massacred by paladins, you know it's going to get pretty bad.
When the Order reaches Girard's pyramid, they find everyone is dead. Then, Vaarsuvius realizes it was hir that killed them with Familicide. Later, the Linear Guild arrives. Then, it turns out that Malack is a vampire and turns Durkon into one. Next thing, Roy destroys the Gate to prevent it from falling into someone else's hands, while V gets pulled out of action by the IFCC. Then, after Nale kills Malack, Tarquin appears with a large army, bent on killing most of the Order. And finally, when we thought everything would be OK, Durkon is actually being controlled by a High Priest of Hel, and intends to destroy the dwarves by controlling Kraagor's Gate.
Funetik Aksent: To the point that there is a spell in-universe (Comprehend Inconsistent Languages) to translate the speech bubbles written this way. Durkon is the poster child for this.
Lien: This is your junk. Hinjo: But why aren't there any citizens aboard it yet? Lien: Your uncle was a very private person, sir. He forbade anyone from touching his junk. Hinjo: Well, that ends now. My uncle may have kept his junk to himself, but my junk will be for the people! Are there still evacuees waiting to board a ship? Lien: Oh, yes, sir, I imagine I'll have no trouble finding people willing to get aboard your junk. It should be able to hold many passengers. Hinjo: I agree, my junk appears to be quite long... Roy: Wider than I would have expected, too. Hinjo: Very well, Lien, you hold my junk here until it is fully loaded. Lien: That could take some time, Lord Hinjo... Hinjo: I don't care how long it takes, I don't want my junk to launch prematurely.
In "The Name of the Windy", Durkon omitted to prepare Control Winds although they were going to the WINDY Canyon, because he thought it was called the Windy Canyon, as in full of winding passages. Vaarsuvius lampshades the fact that it shouldn't have happened because the words are heteronyms with different pronunciation.