Front: creator Rob Balder, artists Jamie Noguchi on the left and Xin Ye on the right. Right: King Slately at the top, pushing down Vinny over princes Ansom, Tramennis, and Ossomer. Center: Parson Gotti, a gobwin, Stanley The Tool, and Bogroll. Left: Maggie and Sizemore behind Wanda, Jillian, and Jack Snipe. Back: a purple dwagon and Hamstard.
Erfworld is a webcomic written by Rob Balder (of Partially Clips, and The FuMP), with the first book The Battle for Gobwin Knob illustrated by Jamie Noguchi (of Angry Zen Master and Yellow Peril), and the second book, Love is a Battlefield, illustrated by Xin Ye.A fanatical, obsessed gamer geek named Parson Gottinote an anagram for "protagonist" gets magically summoned to another world to be the "Perfect Warlord" for a city that's losing a war, in a world that seems to be one giant Turn-Based Strategy wargame. (For instance, nobody can move beyond the immediate vicinity when it's not their side's turn.) Plays with many different strategy game tropes. Includes cutesy, Super-Deformed art and dark characterization, landing DEEP in the territory of Grotesque Cute. Many features of Erfworld are references to real-world popular culture and Internet memes.Before Erfworld had its own site, it was hosted on the Giant in the Playground website, but it is otherwise unassociated with Rich Burlew (of The Order of the Stick).Now has a Character Sheet in need of a lot of work.
Provides examples of:
Above the Influence: Parson is informed that, as a warlord, he can order the Archons or any other unit under his command to do any perverted thing he wants. He also realizes that there's no way he could bring himself to do something like that. One of the reasons he gives is that the women are so small that he may hurt them. Maggie mocks him with multiple jokes.
All There in the Manual: In the time between book 1 and book 2, several text-only "updates" detailing the aftermath of the Battle For Gobwin Knob were released. They were so popular that the second book was changed to a webcomic/text hybrid format. Whether they are necessary or not to actually understanding the story is a matter of debate, but the authors are doing their best so that technically you can ignore the text updates and still know what's going on. The other reason they gave for Book 2's text updates is that drawing comic pages takes a lot longer than writing text, so they'll be able to update more frequently this way.
Uncroaking a corpse creates a zombie controlled by the caster.
In book 2, Wanda gets an upgraded version of this (called Decrypting), which appears to actually brings the unit Back from the Dead, but loyal to her rather than to the unit's original side.
Arch-Enemy: Charlie and Parson. As far as Charlie's concerned, Parson is the most dangerous being in all of Erfworld. When he realizes that Parson has been made Chief Warlord again, he immediately realizes the situation has become dire. He even starts providing extra support and advice to Stanley's enemies at cost, or even gratis. He is that worried about Parson. The feeling is mutual; Parson seems to believe that Charlie is his most cunning opponent. According to Wanda, Charlie is this to the Thinkamancers, possibly even the entire Magic Kingdom.
Higher level units are assumed to be better strategists, which is sometimes true.
Stanley is a minor Deconstruction: He earned his spot as Overlord due to his fighting prowess, and he is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) units on his side. Unfortunately, it's also a Keystone Army, and if he croaks, so does his entire side. He's also a bit dim as an actual leader.
The world is learning from Parson that the leadership stat isn't really a good gauge of tactical ability as had always been assumed. Parson is Level 2 and is noted to have only led one major battle, leaving people not familiar with him confused as to why the people that HAVE seen him in action consider him to be so important.
Back from the Dead: The attuned Arkenpliers can apparently resurrect ("decrypt") dead units, when before, all anyone could do was reanimate ("uncroak") them as undead units. The implications of this power are mind-boggling. The first unit raised this way was Ansom.
Bad Boss: In one of his Klogs, Parson explicitly says that Stanley reminds him of the most terrible boss he ever had back on earth.
Badass: Wanda. Stanley when he's on the battlefield.
Stanley: I want someone who eats marbits [a creature] for breakfast! (later) Parson: Yeah. Marbits... Marshmallow bits. They come in some breakfast cereals.
Parson himself has expressed this attitude, given that he has found leading an army according to wargame rules (as he wished for just before being summoned) is a lot more harrowing than expected. Subverted in Parson's case, though, as evidenced in this conversation with Wanda:
Parson: This isn't what I wished for. Wanda: You didn't wish for this world, Parson Gotti. It wished for you.
Better to Die than Be Killed: Bea, Queen of Unaroyal, chooses to commit suicide by going through the portal to the Magic Kingdom, thus ending her side and disbanding all her units, rather than fight a futile battle against Gobwin Knob and be Decrypted.
Beware the Nice Ones: Charlie. He is calm, polite, and consummately professional. But as Prince Sammy found out in Book 2, Charlie takes exactly no shit from anyone.
Big Damn Heroes: Right as Jillian is about to be stabbed by Manpower, Ansom swoops in and crushes Manpower's head with the Arkenpliers.
Bi the Way: Wanda. She's very nonchalant about it, too. Also Jillian. Since sex is completely unconnected to procreation in Erfworld, however, it's quite possible that sexuality is just not that big an issue.
Black Box: Most of Erfworld's mechanics are treated this way. Most people, even casters, who have the strongest insight into how things work, do not bother experimenting with the hows and whys of how Erfworld's laws work and merely hold discussions. This is why Erfworld lies in a form of Medieval Stasis. Changing that is why Parson was summoned into Erfworld.
Nobody in Erfworld bleeds. At all. Even after taking blows that expose several ribs, tear off multiple limbs, jaws, or even the entire head; and even after a good dozen elves are ripped limb from limb, and a couple marbits are eaten alive, not a drop of blood is to be seen. At most, you'll see some red decals, but someone impaled multiple times by spears going through them won't have a drop of blood.
However, Caeser threatens to drink Jillian's blood if she doesn't behave.
There is a reference (in the first block of text updates) to it "raining something other than water" as the Transylvitans let their swarm of bats out to feed on the local small animals one night. It sounds like it's meant to be blood, but it's most likely guano.
Book 0 was written somewhere between chapters 2 and 3 of book 2, but is set long before the story began. So there are a few of these here and there.
Wanda stylizes her clothes with a skull and flower emblem, like what her decrypted units wear in the present.
Jillian and Wanda's first encounter involves Wanda torturing Jillian, demanding to be called "Mistress". This is almost exactly how their first shown interaction went in book 1, except here Wanda is actually torturing her. Right down to the "Prisoner is alert?" opening query.
The Cassandra: Delphie Temple of Goodminton. Though her advice was always correct, she did a very bad job of convincing those that needed to heed it. While Wanda eventually realized that You Can't Fight Fate, it happened too late for the survival of her side. And Delphie's final prophecy was completely disregarded by Jillian, who holds such things in contempt, sealing the eventual end of FAQ.
Celibate Hero: Parson, which Maggie apparently takes plenty of fun in ribbing him on. In this case, Parson is celibate because Erfworld is so alien to him, and as a warlord, nearly every female unit on his side would obey his orders without hesitation, even in the bedroom, which creeps him out considerably.
In the last panel of this strip◊ (spoiler warning) you see a wall of arrows hanging in mid-air. It is later revealed that this is what happens when you fire out of a hex off turn.
One of the problems with book 1 is an aversion of this trope: The author didn't make it very clear that any non-caster who tries to enter the Magic Kingdom is disbanded, so a climactic scene became confusing.
In this strip◊ and this strip◊ Parson studies the physics of Erfworld flight, gravity, and some more about hex boundaries. He later uses this knowledge to attempt to drop an immobilized army onto the ground hexes below where it can engage an enemy in full while it's not his side's turn. Results are pending, but the army was otherwise a sitting duck.
When she was with Goodminton, Wanda was present to see how a Predictamancer fights; each attack always hits, because the Predictamancer knows where the target will be when the spells get there. Later, Jillian needs to kill Olive Branch before she leaves the city. They can only cast one spell, but they don't know where the target is. Fortunately, there is a Predictamancer present...
Cold-Blooded Torture: Wanda is an expert at this, but it's conducted off-screen up until the "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" text-only episodes, where we get to see some of the actual methods, which include inflicting a prisoner with starvation, thirst, sensory deprivation, itching, and various other distresses, then leaving them alone for days.
Conflicting Loyalty: All non-barbarian Thinkamancers are subject to this. Thinkamancy is one of the most common and useful of all magical disciplines, and all Thinkamancers are members of an organization called The Great Minds that Think Alike. While mostly dutiful to their side, Thinkamancers intentionally misdirect their sides as to the full capabilities of Thinkamancy in order to protect their secrets. Also, their organization is involved in a number of conspiracies, the most important of which is their plan to take out Charlie, since he knows too many of their secrets and refuses to join them. Parson lambastes Maggie for mind controlling their ruler into making him Chief Warlord again, not for the good of the side, but to support said conspiracy. This also likely to be an issue for Thinkamancers on Royal sides, since their sides are enemies of the side they are sponsoring to support their scheme.
The Arkentools are very obvious CG images, making them stand apart from the rest of the art. This highlights their otherworldly nature.
A similar effect happens in the monochrome images that accompany the text updates. Portals, such as the ones to and from the Magic Kingdom, are always in color, even if nothing else is. Speculation over the meaning of this abounds.
Cradle of Loneliness: Wanda does this in her Start of Darkness after her brother Tommy dies. She raises his body, but despite doing a fantastic job on it, she realizes that it'll never be the same as having her brother. She then orders it to hold her while she cries.
Creative Sterility: Likely a consequence of the fact that Erfworlders pop into being fully grown with preprogrammed knowledge and end up taking far too many things for granted. Warlords understand tactics at only a very basic level. When it comes to understanding magic, Isaac is one of the very few casters to use the scientific method. The vast majority of casters spend all their time debating the merits and flaws of their own theories rather than experimenting and testing them. As a result, Erfworld lies in a sort of Medieval Stasis, even though its magic could conceivably be developed much in the same way our world develops technology. Since Parson comes from a more sophisticated universe, he is able to see Game Breakers in the most mundane of things and several sides are already starting to adopt his style of tactics. The titans likely caused Parson to be summoned for the specific purpose of teaching Erfworlders "lateral thinking" and shattering the status quo.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Stanley may venture into Too Dumb to Live territory when it comes to strategy especially given his god complex, but he did legitimately become a warlord from common infantry even before finding the Arkenhammer, and as a tactician, combatant and wielder of an artifact level weapon he is not someone to be ignored.
Transylvito is a side of vampires, but they're fighting on the (mostly) good side, and no one minds.
To a somewhat lesser degree, most of Stanley's side.
Deader Than Dead: Bogroll, thanks to being burnt to ash. According to Wanda, even the attuned Arkenpliers can't restore him. This also applies to any Uncroaked or Decrypted units who are killed, as they turn to dust.
Despair Event Horizon: Parson hasn't been quite the same since his victory over the Royal Army. See What Measure Is a Mook?. Queen Bea as well, after seeing her decrypted daughter among the ranks of the Gobwin Knob invasion force. She takes the time to pass on what intelligence she was able to gather on Decryption to the rest of the Royal Coalition and then...
Did Not Think This Through: Parson planned to enter the city of Spacerock through its portal to the Magic Kingdom. They can't take the city before he gets there, since it wouldn't be a capital any more, and the portal would disappear. The same exact thing happens when they take down the tower—which was why it wasn't part of Parson's original plan. Whoops.
Parson notes how pretty much everything in Erfworld is vaguely familiar from our world in one way or another, especially lots of pop culture references keep popping up. At first it lent weight to his theory that he was dreaming or in a coma or something, but eventually he wonders if there is some connection between the two worlds, or if it is just an effect of him being there to observe the occurrences and creating the associations himself. Alternately, since the instructions Stanley gave in the summoning included "finding everything familiar", the spell may have simply found the one universe out of infinite possibilities whose inhabitants would consider everything in Erfworld a reference to something in theirs.
Ossomer may not realize why he feels so upset for that little broken tile being knocked out of the place where it used to belong, but the subtext is pretty clear that he is absolutely breaking inside about having been decrypted (and thus turned against his will to fight his home, family, and everything he ever believed in).
Driven to Suicide: Queen Bea of Unaroyal committed suicide via portal to prevent Gobwin Knob from Decrypting her and the remnants of the Unaroyal army.
Drop the Hammer: The Arkenhammer tames dwagons, produces thunder and lightning, can levitate, glows, turns about 20% of all walnuts that it cracks into pigeons, some of the Orlies it hits into walnuts, functions as a magical guitar, and is not too shabby of a weapon. By now, it's well into Green Rocks territory.
Equivalent Exchange: How Luckamancy, and possibly other number magics work. Luckamancy can cause units to "roll higher" for a while, but at the cost of lower "rolls" later, or lower rolls from other units on their side.
Expendable Clone: In the fight between King Slately and the Archons, the King is heartened when he sees his magically created double go down fighting, and while he cheers how great it is to be alive we get a closeup of the other King's body. Gets an extra kicker a little later.
Archon: We weren't defeated. We won! Your body lies in state upon the rooftop. There. See it? Slately: Be at ease. That is only my double. Lloyd Elliot created it, and it expended itself nobly in the fight. Tramennis: Father...doubles don't leave a body.
Many mooks and less-than-tertiary characters appear to be this, though due to a literal lack of character it's more a case of straight-up cameos. Example: most Casters in The Magic Kingdom, Charlie's Archons, etc.
Foregone Conclusion: There's a 'book 0' prequel starring Wanda. Obviously, anyone who read the main comic knows that she's going to end up in Faq, and that her 'screw destiny' philosophy in the prequel is going to turn into the absolute fatalism she shows normally sometime along the line.
A Form You Are Comfortable With: Quite literally; when Charlie communicates with others via Thinkamancy, he only shows himself as a sequence of soothing colours and images... many of which are Shout Outs that Break The Fourth Wall. Of course, with the way Erfworld works in the first place, what seem like blatant fourth-wall-breaking shout outs to us may easily have some in-universe meaning that we're unaware of.
Foreshadowing: Often, one-of casual lines introduce ideas that won't pay off until much later.
Two casters remarking on their opposite yet complementary strengths, the vague resemblance of certain characters, even the limits on mining in the city's hex all play a role later.
Wanda:He looks like a pink you, but with depth perception.
More recently, the line, "We have harvested three Sourmanders we can scarce afford to spare," subtly introduced a mechanic that would later become very important strategically. It introduced harvesting heavy mounts for rations for upkeep, a mechanic integral to Parson's plan to cross zones off-turn, along with the aforementioned use of heavies on flyers.
For Want of a Nail: The entire series of events is kicked off by The Titans of Ark leaving one extra gemstone in the Minty Mountains, allowing the Marbits to afford one extra squad of axemen, which pierced through Stanley's troops at the right moment, which allowed them to kill one of Stanley's last warlords, which caused him to send for Parson in the first place.
Parson pulls a couple on Ansom in Book 1, made easier because of the latter's predictability. One is explained here◊.
Ansom gathers a bunch of flying units - Archons and mounted Dwagons - and has a mass veil cast over them to make them appear to be his usual choice of units, infantry and siege. He approaches Spacerock with this army, knowing Ossomer will commit most of his forces to holding the only bridge into Spacerock by land. Ansom simply dispels the veil and flies over them.
Wanda again. She sold out Faq to Stanley in a bid to obtain his Arkenhammer. When he ended up winning, she acted as a "loyal" subordinate while goading him into searching for more Arkentools. All to facilitate her own bid for an Arkentool.
Charlie loves to do this as well.
The Strategist: Parson, but as shown here◊ his allies are a little resentful of him early on for not living up to his Perfect Warlord name, and he has to explain to them that "perfect strategy" does not mean you never lose.
Unwitting Pawn: Wanda believes this of Parson, and seems to pity him somewhat for it.
Wanda: You, too, are an instrument of Fate. You will suffer, as you pursue your path. You will grieve. And lose. As you have lost here. Parson: I didn't lose, Wanda. Wanda: You did! And it has just begun for you.
In-universe, Wanda's attuned Arkenpliers can resurrect their enemies' corpses. These units retain original skills, cost nothing to run and are loyal to Wanda. Small wonder her side is toppling cities left and right. Parson himself has been referred to as someone who will break the rules of war. Moreover, the Hippiemancers want this to happen.
Linking casters can have some gamebreaking effects as well. Book 1 ended with Wanda and Sizemore linking to "uncroak" an extinct volcano that wiped out everything. Charlie later arranged for a Turnamancer-based link, and made Stanley's side lose a turn — a very big deal in this universe.
Even earlier than that, a foolamancer plus a lookamancer plus a thinkamancer equals a map presenting Stanley's side with complete and seamless tactical data (it's not clear if this is simply the location of every unit anyone on their side knows about, or every unit period, since at one point Parson realizes that the enemy doesn't know where his units are because they lack this), while the enemy busies themselves with scouts who must survey everything in person and relay information in person or with magic items.
Parson is exploring the mechanics of Erfworld's rules, and is actively experimenting on exploits to create one of these, such as forming upkeep-free armies in cities, or using individual dwagons' movement as a relay system to transport riders across the vast distances of Erfworld in a single turn.
Parson's latest game-breaking exploit actually violates the fundamental physics of Erfworld: allowing units to move between city zones off-turn through a combination of obscure rule interactions. Far from being merely unconventional, this was previously thought utterly impossible, to the point where people watching the initial stages of the plan immediately dismissed it as a useless posture.
Grey and Gray Morality: Certainly has elements of this. While it can be said that one side certainly has an unsympathetic leader, as a whole both sides receive equal attention and sympathy. This is one of their reasons their back-and-forth conflicts are so gripping. The Battle of Gobwin Knob is basically a conflict between two Lawful Neutral factions (Stanley and Ansom) with one True Neutral faction (Charlie) playing both sides.
Hazy Feel Turn: After his Decryption, Ansom willingly switches alliances to side with Parson, whose earlier anti-royalty jibes he now accepts as truth. It's debatable how much of this is Mind Control and how much is simply taking up another fanatical worldview after his earlier one fell apart.
Aptitude for finding things like this is part of why Parson is so terrifyingly effective as a warlord. Dirtamancy only good for construction and latrine duties? Construct traps and make crap golems for combat. He even had it done to himself once, learning that his mathamancy bracer can determine probabilities of future events.
"It's the little things which make a difference sometimes."
Heavy Mithril: Stanley's rocking out with the Arkenhammer sounds specifically like heavy stadium rock, and is used in a fantasy setting. Quoth the tool, "Course it was good. It was Titanic. Rock is the highest music there is."
Heroic BSOD: Jillian, and then Wanda after Jillian snaps out of it, because Jillian snapped out of it.
Queen Bea of Unaroyal empties her side's treasury, disbands her entire side, and commits suicide to prevent Gobwin Knob from using most of Unaroyal's resources against her allies. It also overlaps with Senseless Sacrifice, since Gobwin Knob had offered her the chance to simply ally with them and she rejected it for ideological reasons.
Also Cubbins who passes up two rides out of the falling Jenga Tower so he can use the last bit of juice to attack all of Gobwin Knob's Archons. Cubbins didn't actually die in this sacrifice, ending up incapacitated under rubble. Since he's still in the garrison, this ends up buying enough time for Jetstone to declare an heir and shift the capital site so that Jetstone doesn't get completely destroyed or captured when Stanley's troops try to eliminate everyone in the garrison. Ace Hardware then pulls Cubbins from the rubble and uses a jetpack autopilot to get Cubbins to a healer.
Wanda appears to be completely ruthless and singleminded in her pursuit of power, and she's not above a good Evil Laugh, but at times she displays hints of sadness at all the destruction she has caused, and on some level she has genuine affection for Jillian.
Hit-and-Run Tactics: Parson directs a strike force in a strategy of destroying enemy siege units and then breaking off the engagement. This means that his side technically "loses" each battle, but deprives the enemy of a key resource they'll need to win the war.
Hollywood Tactics: Parson attempts initially to avert this, but is frustrated by the constraints of Erfworld's rules. When he becomes more familiar with the rules, he becomes quite adapt at using (and exploiting) them.
Ansom's portrayed as a Knight in Shining Armor, leading a fractious coalition to deal decisively with a hated common foe. But for all his reputation as a legendary warlord, his plans for the war at large betray a severe "lack of tactical imagination" (according to Ossomer). Part of this may be his status as an Unreliable Narrator regarding his own tactical genius.
It should be noted here that Ossomer believed Ansom was unimaginative for bringing infantry and siege to fight Jetstone as they predicted. But...
Ossomer: You made it easy! Bringing your usual siege-heavy infantry assault? Come now, Ansom. Someday you must develop some tactical imagination! Ansom:Dispel the veil.
Also, for his post-decryption performance, it's implied at several points that Decrypted leaders are less flexible than they were before due to the ironclad obsession that has been imposed on them — several of Ansom's larger big-picture mistakes come from his fanatical devotion to Toolism (refusing to seek allies, parlaying with Queen Bea, etc.)
In Its Hour of Need: defied with Don King and Slately. Slately begs Don to "lend" him the money he needs to designate Tramennis heir and thus keep Slately's side alive if the city falls, but Don's poor fiscal policies in the past cause his leadership to band together and prevent Don from doing so.
Decrypted Ossomer attempts this to the Chief Warlord of Faq, but inexperience (plus his lack of conviction for what he's saying) combined with the Warlord having no regard for Royalty one way or the other means he makes a complete mess of it.
Killer Game Master: The Battle of Gobwin Knob mirrors the game Parson had set up for his friends, which he admits was designed to be unwinnable - unlike most killer GMs, however, he was actually hoping they'd find a way to break the system and surprise him.
Land Poor: The overview of CharlesComm provided between Books 1 and 2 hints at this. Charlie apparently generates only archons (meaning no "commoners" or noncombatants); thus his lands produce no crops, resources, or trade goods. Archons aren't cheap to maintain, so Charlie needs a constant influx of money to keep them alive, fed and healthy. His choice of profession may say as much about the world climate as about him.
Ansom isn't quite this trope because although his desire to exterminate Stanley is less than sympathetic, he still cares for the people under him and respects his equals. Charlie on the other hand surrounds himself with glowing blue ladies that are the closest thing to angels in the setting that we've seen, and he's an unrepentant opportunistic mercenary who's officially in the business of solving problems for his clients, but secretly creates more problems down the line to make more money.
Charlie's Rule #3: We are in the business of solving problems for our clients. Corollary: Creating problems for our clients creates business.
Also Olive Branch in Book 0.
Light Novel: Whether by accident or design, the text updates are in this format.
Love Dodecahedron: Alright, let's see; Jack is in love with Jillian (Jack and Jillian, heh), who is in love with Wanda — and with Ansom, who used to be in love with Jillian but is now in love with Wanda but might still have feelings for Jillian, and was also best friends with Vinny who became Jillian's lover after Ansom died, and may be in love with her.
Ansom got dramatically lucky at several points before he was defeated.
Stanley was also one of these in the backstory. His invasion of Faq would have failed if he hadn't discovered dozens of wild dwagons to tame nearby. He takes it as a sign of divine providence. He may be right: Parson suspects that Erfworld cheats in order to force people to think outside the box in order to win.
MacGuffin: The Arkentools. There are at least four: Arkenhammer, Arkenpliers, the Arkendish, and the Arkenshoes.
Magic Dance: Dance-Fighting is a special ability certain units have that gives them a bonus in combat. So far we've seen Caesar lead his Transylvito forces in a song-and-dance number straight out of West Side Story, Wanda leading a horde of uncroaked in a giant Thriller dance, and Charlie's Archons setting up a spell that allowed Ansom and his forces to play Dance Dance Revolution. There's also the ostensibly more powerful "Rocking Out", practiced by Haggar's forces (all of whom can, at least, headbang) and Stanley's elite hobgobwin knights, the Knights In Stanley's Service. There is also reference to a "Safety Dance"◊.
Tramennis: You seem bent on spending your last moments in this world with your thumbs jammed into the thumbscrews of guilt, and turning them as hard as you can...which is impossible, I realize...but that analogy had a lot more promise when I started this sentence, and it seemed likely to end with a witty bon mot about screwing yourself. That didn't work out, did it? Nothing has, today.
Mission from God: Stanley believes himself to be favored by the Titans, evidenced by his attunement to the Arkenhammer; Ansom believes that royal rulership is part of the proper order of things as established by the Titans. The very first comic page shows both are wrong, and the Titan's plan went off the rails before the siege even began.
Xin: I made you a Wanda and was successful in not eating her. Enjoy!
Munchkin: Parson, more or less. He spends his free time trying to find loopholes within the very laws of physics themselves. The campaign he himself made for his friends was pretty much designed so that only a Munchkin would have been able to win.
Also Dirtamancy is the magic of Mundane Utility. Key abilities include building and upgrading cities faster and cheaper and producing units from common materials. Sizemore is a "filthy rich rock star" in the Magic Kingdom solely because he can quickly and effortlessly build structures and roads.
My Name Is Not Durwood: Stanley doesn't really commit the names of anyone to memory, with the exceptions of Wanda and his current Chief Warlord. As of Chapter 2, he's apparently trying to be better about that.
The Napoleon: Stanley is rather short, and sensitive about it: he threatened to croak Parson if he mentioned it again after the first time, even though from Parson's perspective, everyone's short.
Never Say "Die": Parodied; the word "croak" is used instead. Only a tiny number of Erfworlders have ever used non-euphemisms. As is later revealed, Erfworld units are instinctively aware of what the word "kill" means, but it isn't a normal part of their vocabulary and they find the word vulgar if they hear it spoken by one of the few people that do use it.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Parson speaks to one of the three spellcasters, known as "Misty" before she lost her individuality, that Stanley has mindlinked to monitor the battle, and uses her advice to plan an assault on Ansom. He later learns that treating linked casters as individuals damages the link and that caster. When Stanley orders the link broken in disgust when the assault fails, Misty dies.
Not the Fall That Kills You: Or rather, it is. More precisely, it's dropping from whatever counts as airspace to whatever counts as solid ground without first landing appropriately. Even hopping off your flying mount, a scant few inches above the ground, may hurt, incapacitate, or outright kill you.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Trammenis is highly intelligent and insightful, but tends to act like a shallow ditz during parleys.
Due to in-universe mechanics, averted with Warlords, but enforced for all Rulers, who have to send their Warlords to do all their work for them. Stanley, for example, is the in-universe Big Bad. The aforementioned mechanics are that every single side is a Keystone Army, with the Ruler as the keystone. As a Ruler, Stanley can't risk leaving his capital to fight in battles; everyone would be gunning for him, and if he croaks, it's game over. Unusually enough for this trope, he doesn't like this. He started out as a common infantry unit, and he misses taking part in battles and is resenting that Wanda is doing all the work and getting all the glory for him.
Furtheremore, there's Jillian, who used to be a Princess, then a Barbarian, and is now a Ruler of her own side. She's a sword-swinging Blood Knight, and to her, her babarian days were the best for her. Even though she's now the Ruler of her own side, she hasn't given up her fighting ways—she's still out raiding, and is buzzing several of Gobwin Knob's cities. Parson is too busy with the Battle of Spacerock to do anything about it, but he's made it clear that as soon as the battle's over, he's going to put all his focus on taking her out. He even told Maggie that if he doesn't make it, tell his replacement to do just that.
Lastly, we have the ruler Slately for the Jetstone side. Once the crap hits the fan for Jetstone and Gobwin Knob forces enter the city, Tramennis says, in explicit terms, that Slately is now their single point of failure and their highest priority is getting him away from the battle. This is then subverted when Slately decides that Tramennis should be promoted to heir. When that occurs, then Tramennis should flee to the old capital where he will set up a last stand. Slately would stay behind to buy some time. Slately then has his Hat Magician and his Dollamancer make him the best war gear that they could. He then prepared to earn the money he need for his son's promotion by destroying the archons and getting paid by Charlie. If that didn't work, he was going to make a last stand with his men.
Our Elves Are Better (parodied): So far, we've seen ten, rather specific, types: Altruist, Eager, Lofty, Luckless, Schlemiel, Shady, Superfluous, Tardy, Woodsy, and High. The Eager Elves, for example, are all recolouredLinks, and High Elves use "natural Hippiemancy, mostly Flower Power", which apparently causes them to act like a Cheech And Chong routine.
Our Gwiffons Are Different: And look like marshmallow peeps. Which sounds cute, until their front splits open into a terrible gummy maw. They eat marrow, horns, and hoovesnote ingredients for gelatin.
Golem: Multiple golems have appeared, with names indicating what they are made of: Soft Rock, Hard Rock, Acid Rock, and Metal Golems are based on musical genres, and Cloth Golems are literal giant animated stuffed animals, while Crap Golems are... well...
Out of Focus: Since his side is only peripherally involved in the fight at hand, Vinny disappears completely for the second and third books, despite being a major supporting character in book one.
Outside Context Villain: From the perspective of his enemies, at least, Parson fits this trope to a tee for all the same reasons he fits Humans Are Cthulhu above. He comes out of nowhere to fight for a side that shouldn't have had any great (or even good) strategists left, and yet consistently invents strategies and tactics that are almost literally unthinkable to any unit popped in context of Erf
Perpetual Motion Monster: Normally a unit costs money to keep (upkeep) that is represented as a ration of food popping at the start of a turn. Decrypted have zero upkeep, which basically makes them not need to eat (though it's not been shown if rations of some sort still pop for them).
Pet the Dog: Stanley may be a bit of a Jerk Ass, but after Jack manages to save his life (and a fair number of their dwagons) he does seem genuinely grateful and makes a concerted effort to remember Jack's name thereafter.
Playing Both Sides: Wanda has been playing both sides for a chance to get her hands on the Arkenpliers.
Also, Sizemore◊ and the self-destructing Crap Golem - God and Adam, anyone? Inverted as Sizemore is the "Adam".
Pillar of Light: The massive attack Wanda unleashes on Jillian's incursion group.
Plot Armor: Sylvia is absolutely assured that the Titans insure her side's inevitable victory. Threeperfect headshots from the archer blocked by utterly improbable coincidence later, and you've got to wonder if she might be onto something...
Poor Communication Kills: A minor case occurs during the Battle for Gobwin Knob, in that Wanda doesn't tell Parson about all the scrolls she has cached up because she underestimated him and he didn't ask. Far more egregious examples occur during the fight for Jetstone, because Parson forgets to give Ossomer any orders, everyone overestimates Parson and everyone misunderstands his plans.
Portal Cut: Happens to Jack here. Fortunately, it was just an illusion he set up to freak everyone out.
Portal Network: The portals in Portal Park of the Magic Kingdom qualify as this, though they are rarely used that way since Erf is constantly at war and it is against convention to weaponize them.
Commanders issue commands to their troops, and all commands must be obeyed. Including, as Parson so elegantly put it: "I could just like, order an Archon to take off her clothes and drop to her knees. And she'd do it, right?". Fortunately, Parson considers this abhorrent, but unfortunately, he is not the norm. "What an utterly alien thing to think."
Everyone gets healed and cleaned, fully, with no marks, at dawn if they weren't croaked - BDSM fans would have free reign to do almost anything. Wanda shows◊ us◊ how◊.
In a Start of Darkness text update, Wanda is in a city where an enemy Hippiemancer used her flower power to make it impossible for anyone to attack one another, however the enemy soldiers are free to try and grope Wanda (free loving is allowed), which Wanda can't defend herself against since she can't attack them. She solves that problem by ordering her rotting uncroaked soldiers to similarly molest anyone who tries it.
Private Military Contractors: CharlesComm operates as a multi-purpose mercenary/consultancy outfit and communications network, the latter of which would be significant if people in this setting went beyond the gunboat variety of diplomacy or had peacetime occupations. The latter is significant anyway; the Decrypted Archons told Parson that the telecommunications part of Charlescomm service probably provided more income than the mercenary part.
Prophecy Twist: Predictamancy seems to be based more on peering into the Titan's great plan than literally predicting the future. Fated events are inevitable short of a Carnymancer's interference, since the world will arrange events to prevent or even punish attempts to defy Fate, but the way they can occur tends to be optional.
Every Erfworld native and race has a name that is a pun. Some are more obvious than others. Prince Ansom is quite handsome, and Prince Ossomer better be awesomer than Ansom if he wants to beat his brother, but his brother Tramennis is hardly tremendous compared to him. And while Wanda Firebaugh hasn't been seen with a wand of fireball yet, Jillian Zamussels' jillions of muscles help her wield that BFS against the minions of our Protagonist, Parson Gotti.
Adderall (add them all) Hawk, a Mathamancer in Faq is a good one.
Puppet King: Normally, this is near impossible to manage (unless of course, the Ruler willingly goes along for whatever reason), thanks to the rules of Erfworld forcing units to obey and have some degree of loyalty to their rulers. But there has been a terrifying exception. The Chief Hippiemancer of Haffaton made her ruler into a flower addicted puppet and imprisoned her in one of her own cities.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: A unit's gender affects their appearance, their personality, and their ability to sleep with someone. But it doesn't seem to have any meaningful bearing on any of Erfworld's mechanics.
Putting on the Reich: Stanley's new logo and banners look a lot like the emblem and propaganda posters from the old Soviet Union. This was intentional, given that Maggie suspected that Stanley might be developing a bit of a self-esteem problem after suffering one too many defeats while his subordinates win all his victories for him.
When Parson takes out Ansom's siege units, it goes unnoticed for a while because the rules of Erfworld count every battle as a "victory" for Ansom because his opponents fled—unfortunately for the Royal Crown Coalition, Parson's troops only fled after destroying the entire hex's siege units and before taking any losses.
Also subverted at the end of book one — it looks like Parson's last gambit at defending Gobwin Knob succeeded but left them with absolutely no resources to defend themselves with, but a few pages later he discovers that the Arkenpliers recovered from Ansom allow them to restore their entire army stronger than it was before instantly, and the gems obtained from the earth-moving allow them to instantly rebuild their capital city even stronger and still be the richest side in the world. Not so Pyrrhic after all.
In book 2, Gobwin Knob manages to win Spacerock, but their losses are massive. Thanks to Charlie's manipulations, they lose half of their army, most of their dwagons, nearly all of their high level warlords, every single one of their archons, and even a caster, Jack. Jetstone takes a heavy blow, but their losses are comparatively minor.
Twolls were supposed to be crafters, but the author realized too late that he had put "Regeneration" as Bogroll's special. Now, there's a whole new school of magic replacing "Deletionism" with "Retconjuration". Word Of God states Retconjuration is so far solely in the domain of the Titans, and is seldom used.
The Reveal: After Book 1, conspiracies start coming out of the woodwork, enabling this trope.
Parson was summoned by multiple factions, for various reasons.
The Great Minds That Think Alike want him to defeat Charlie.
Janis Atlantis and Marie Lavraie want him to completely break war, by making the biggest war Erfworld has ever seen.
Charlie is not a Thinkamancer. He is a Carnymancer. Various characters already knew this, but it was a surprise for the reader.
Parson is not just a warlord, but also a caster! And some unknown force, possibly the Titans themselves, didn't want him to know that he is indeed capable of casting the Carnymancy scroll that would return him home. Said force tried to prevent him from figuring it out by tampering with his Mathamancy Bracer and knocked him unconscious when he tried it anyways.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The rule rather than the exception. Justified by Authority Equals Asskicking being an actual rule of the world. Although generally, once you become a Ruling Royal, you stay in your capital and appoint a different Royal as Chief Warlord while you stay to run the kingdom. There are a number of practical reasons behind this (such as how cities are more efficient if being directly run by the Ruler, and the danger of a Ruler being croaked, which could end the Side). In this regard Jillian is still exceptional as a Queen who still goes into battle.
Schmuck Bait: Wanda's brother Tommy fell for it in "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)". He led his troops, including Wanda, into what seemed to be very lightly defended enemy city, despite being advised against it. Once they got in, the enemy caster stationed there started playing her chillaxe, preventing any combat in the hex.
Screw Destiny: Parson, unlike Wanda, refuses to be a gamepiece of Fate.
Fighting Fate is possible, but hard. A Predictamancer, Marie, asserts that you don't fight Fate, you help it.
Parson is Fated to defeat Charlie. Until the events of Book 2 however, he was content to manage a city and study tactics with Jack and Sizemore. But in order to defeat the prophecy, Charlie sabotages Gobwin Knob, causing them severe losses and putting Parson back in charge of the war effort. Eventually, Charlie reveals his hand to Parson and makes things personal, ensuring that Parson will go after him. As Parson put it through the eyebook:
LordHamster: Chuck you, Farley. Why are you so afraid of me? LordHamster: Cause you know I'm gonna find a way out and come after you now.
Series Hiatus: In November 2011, Xin took time off to deal with her dying mother. During this time, the site was updated with the text only "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)", which details Wanda's first few turns of life. The main story resumed June 4th 2012.
Shown Their Work: Everything from throwaway jokes to side characters contain multilayered references across many fields, including history, biology, music, politics and literature. Rob Balder once stated that he put 30 hours of research into creating one specific character who as yet hasn't had one on-panel line. The art by Xin Ye is similarly impressive, containing advanced uses of perspective and filling the backgrounds with rich detail.
Ossomer: This new Chief Warlord, he is only Level 2. How can he— Sylvia: He is Level 20. He is Level Thousand. He is Level Million. It does not matter.
Siege Engines. Siege units. The battle for Gobwin's Knob included siege towers pushed by 20m tall Cloth Golems and Wiener Rammers: living Battering Rams in the shape of elongated wiener dogs with rams horns. Upon striking the gates of Gobwin's Knob they invoke "YTMND!": they are drawing their striking power from the "You're The Man Now, Dog" meme.
Significant Anagram: Parson Gotti —> Protagonist. Even more Significant Anagram: Parson A. Gotti — A Protagonist. As in, there are others.
Sliding Scale Of Fate Vs Free Will: The world in general lies somewhere between types two and three, as "Fate" is an explicit force and even has its own axis in the world's magic system. Though not even a predictamancer can foresee the entire future in absolute certainty. Wanda and her forces believe it's a type one, and that she is a driving force in fulfilling fate. Parson and those concerning him, however, such as Grand Hippiemancer Janis, appear to be agents of Screw Destiny. The Titans control Fate with Carnymancy. Carnymancy works like a Railroading or even cheating Game Master. It manipulates behind the scenes mechanics, like Luckamancy or the design of a newly popped unit. It has even been shown to be capable of tampering with Parson's Mathamancy Bracer in an attempt to dissuade him from taking a certain course of action. Carnymancers, like Charlie, are capable of using their own Carnymancy to Screw Destiny. This effectively results in a conflict between two Railroading GMs. The Titans' Carnymancy tried to make Parson's Mathamancy Bracer show zero odds of success for taking an action they didn't like, but Charlie's Carnymancy allowed the true odds of success to appear for a brief flash.
Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Most uncroaked are either Type I or Type III, depending on how much power a given Croakamancer has put into the body. Decrypted, however, are always Type IV.
Slobs Versus Snobs: Part of the whole conflict with Royalty. Whenever a non-royal side gains too much power, the Royal sides tend to gang up against them. The fact that Stanley claims that the Titanic Mandate has been transfered from the Royals to the Attuned wielders of the Arkentools just makes things a lot worse. Lately, this issue has begun to affect Transvylto. A long time ago, the king replaced the old system with a merit based one. But thanks to the war over the Arkentools, he has begun to rethink it and has become very snobby indeed with his Chief Warlord, since he is barely even Noble. Neither side is really that good, since while the Royals enforce their perceived superiority with ruthless abandon, Stanley got such a large coalition fighting against him because he was attacking so many people.
The story was set off from the Titans accidentally leaving an extra gem in the Minty Mountains.
In Book One, Stanley is several times the Gilligan to Parson's plans. Jillian does this to the anti-Gobwin Knob coalition in Book Two thanks to her relationship issues. Hell, Parson even said Stanley fell somewhere between Gilligan and Starscream at one point.
Speech Bubbles: Using different fonts for real-world and Erfworld characters.
Sprint Shoes: Arkenshoes, which grant unlimited movement and allow teleporting "home".
Start of Darkness: The "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" series of text updates details Wanda's backstory.
Start X to Stop X: Janis the Hippiemancer, who wants to see Erfworld at peace. She's become convinced that this won't happen until things get broken even worse than usual.
Stealth Insult: Parson convinces Stanley to require that everyone address him as the Tool instead of Lord.
The walking, talking trees are called "Gumps." And that's not the end of it.
Wanda (a Croakamancer) is leading a horde of Uncroaked against the Coalition forces to the tune of Thriller while dressed as Michael Jackson. Ansom replies by setting up a dance-fight of his own. What tune can we assume he is dancing to, based on his moves? The Bee Gees' Staying Alive.
Parson's specialty. Jack in particular admires his skill at it, noting when he hears Parson's plan after they are stranded above Jetstone that while the rest of them had done a decent job coming up with a plan to survive the battle despite their obvious sitting duck status, Parson had come up with an even better plan on how to WIN the battle instead.
We see Ansom do this at least once too, when Vinny presents him with two options to escape one of Parson's traps and he takes a third.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Parson and Maggie in the beginning, because Parson was a little peeved over Maggie's indirect role in Misty's death. They've since reconciled. Parson and Stanley still don't really get along, although it's not as bad as it was in the first book.
Frequently used by Haffaton. For example, Uncroaked decay after a certain number of turns. The only way to get new Uncroaked is to croak living units. By simply waiting until all of Wanda's Uncroaked decay, Haffaton deprives Goodminton of a sizeable chunk of its forces without risking any of its own in the process.
Tron Lines: These appear while Wanda is casting the Summon Perfect Warlord spell. Even the "PLOT" Unsound Effect when Parson appears in Gobwin Knob (not the earlier one when he disappears from his apartment) somewhat resembles the TRON logo.
Unusual Euphemism: Parson's unpleasant arrival is followed by a string of profanity, whereupon Parson realizes all of his swear words are automagically censored as "boop". Croak is universally used for kill, dead or death.
The Vamp: Wanda's not above using sex to manipulate Stanley.
Visual Pun: Lloyd, the Jetstone Dittomancer (a caster that creates copies of things like soldiers and arrows), has a staff with a copyright symbol on the end of it. He's a copywright. Or alternately, he has the right to copy.
War Is Glorious: A warlord on Jetston's side named Artemis fought for this. After some political complications, she ended up having "administer" a city (which basically just involves walking from building to building), something she found dull. When she finally gets to fight again, she is unable to find glory. Especially since every arrow she aims at Sylvia is miraculously deflected and finds herself questioning her motives before she dies.
War Is Hell: Parson seems to flip-flop somewhere between this and apathy about the plot.
Shortly before that, Bogroll killing Ansom and dying immediately after.
Ossomer pulling a Hazy Feel Turn. And it was preceded by a fake-out wham episode when Jack fakes his own decapitation via Portal Cut.
Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower), Episode 66. Not only is Charlie a Carnymancer, but Judy Gale was, in fact, a human from Earth (or at least was summoned to Erfworld via a similar method to Parson), and on top of that, the story's Big Bad Olive Branch is Charlie's daughter.
Gobwin Knob's human forces are mentioned once at the beginning, and never seen or mentioned again.
Also, in an in-story instance, the Gobwins of Gobwin Knob's namesake - not a single one can be found after the Volcano Uncroaking event. Though there is speculation that Charlie's machinations are behind this. By notable exception, Hobgobwins (a variant) have not vanished.
Parson calls out Maggie for her (albeit indirect) part in Misty's death towards the end of Book 1.
Taking the position that Stanley is the bad guy and the allied forces the good guys, then Ansom calls out Jillian for her hypocritical treatment of the Decrypted. She captured him, but she brutally kills any other Decrypted despite capturing normal enemy troops. Ansom states that despite being Decrypted they are alive, and if this is the kind of example she's setting she's sure not going to be able to make him do a 'Heel Face Turn' back like she intends. Oddly enough, Ossomer appears to have actually been turned while Decrypted, albeit in the absence of the Arkenpliers and Wanda. Range apparently being a factor in whether Turnamancy and its Natural Magic variety are successful on any unit (mentioned earlier when Vanna failed to turn Ansom from a distance), this leads to speculation that the Arkenpliers' mock-Turnamancy effect on the Decrypted also is limited. Turnamancy being the magic of 'Heel Face Turn', this casts doubt on Ansom's statement just mentioned above.
You Can't Fight Fate: Seems to be one of the "rules" of Erfworld. Fighting fate just seems to cause pain and suffering for whoever tries it, and they never manage anything more than delaying the inevitable.
Wanda came to accept this as her core philosophy in her backstory, and uses it to justify her actions.
Sylvia seems to relish the idea with a cold, fanatical zeal, after joining Gobwin Knob.
The attitude of Predictamancy in general. While most people, units, and even sides have no particular Fate or inescapable destiny, those that do have one are bound by/to it absolutely. Trying to fight against it or defy it only ends up increasing the pain and suffering for everyone involved as it comes true anyway.
Carnymancy is a branch of magic intended to fight against fate, and win; basically known as rigging the game.