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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 blue dwagon and Hamstard.
One world’s game rules can be another world’s physics. One world’s “cuddly” can be another world’s “deadly”. And one world’s misfit, misshapen loser can be another world’s perfect warlord. At least... he’d better be. The enemy’s on their way.
— Book 1, The Battle for Gobwin Knob (back cover)
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. The third book, Hamsterdance vs. the Charlie Foxtrot, has been announced and will be illustrated by David Hahn.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 Referenced page.
Provides examples of:
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Tropes A to I
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, since all injuries in Erfworld heal at dawn (and she suspects he's overestimating his "damage bonus", anyway and even if he isn't, the archon would probably remember the experience forever).
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.
An Aesop: In many of the stories, "outsiders" of a group should generally be brought in to provide a new prospective. Basically, uniqueness can help destroy common knowledge and improve tactics, strategy, etc.
Parson was summoned to Erf partially to help destroy the status quo and remove Creative Sterility. His ideas and prospective often lead to unusual discoveries that natives of Erf either never think of or dismiss as being impractical or underhanded. These are often described as loopholes.
Many units find these loopholes or exploit or manipulate resources in a way that others didn't think of. In the story of Digdoug, King Posbrake found new uses for dirtamancy that Digdoug's home kingdom of Follywood did not think of. Posbrake traded his heir (an unusual move) for a dirtamancer in order to have trapped and upgraded cities without having to spend Shmuckers on actual improvements, thus allowing them to build up an army instead. This is similar to how Parson utilizes Sizemore's ability to make traps in book 1, but uses his ability for a much wider strategic goal. This novel idea allows Homekey to build horizontally instead of vertically.
In the story of Duke Forecastle, non-seafaring warlords are used by Anchorbar, Seaworld's major naval rival, as first mates or second officers on their ships. The implication is that the "land lubbers" provide a unique perspective on naval combat that dyed-in-the-wool sailors don't and can't have, thus making their units more effective despite minor penalties to movement and attack. How this is achieved has yet to be seen, though it has been hinted at with Forecastle's decoy/ramming approach to sea dwagons, plus the revelation of non-seafaring warlords being able to tame sea monsters.
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 bring the unit Back from the Dead, but loyal to her rather than to the unit's original side.
Apocalyptic Log: A rule of Erfworld. Whenever a side ends, a book is automagically written and published telling the story of its downfall.
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.
Arc Words: "It's the little things which make a difference sometimes."
Rather more notably, either Parson is shrinking or the entire world is growing. When he first arrived, most of the "human" Erfworlders barely came up to his stomach (Stanley didn't even reach his waist); now he stands barely a head above some of the taller ones (such as Ace).
The in-story explanation is that this is the normal effect of a branch of magic called Signamancy.
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.
Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: One of the rules of Erfworld. Signamancy is a branch of magic that causes units to appear in a way that reflects what they are and their personality. As a unit's personality changes, their appearance will change with them.
Though this seems to have been broken with Olive Branch who remains youthful and gorgeous after in-universe centuries of betrayal, murder, insanity and outright sociopathy. Which is probably the point. She would look like femme fatale despite all the treachery.
Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: Casters can join into a "Caster Link", a type of Mental Fusion initiated by a Thinkamancer. If two casters participate in addition to the Thinkamancer then the resulting gestalt can create whole new spells or effects no single caster could even attempt. After such fusions, the individuals retain only vague memories of how they did it, but usually gain greater insight into their own discipline in general.
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.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: When Maggie and Wanda form a caster link to use a special type of Thinkagram, their appearance in the mental space shows them unclothed, but they completely lack certain features.
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: Hah! 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.
In addition, possibly the two most beneficent classes of mage are the Florists (make units unable to fight each other) and the Healomancers (Exactly What It Says on the Tin). Then we meet Olive Branch and Sister Betsy, a Florist and Healomancer respectively, and both masters of Mind Rape.
Beyond the Impossible: Justified Trope. Thinkamancers can link up to three casters (including themselves) into a sort of uber-caster that can do things flat-out impossible for normal casters. The Summon Perfect Warlord spell that brought Parson to Erfworld, for instance, is one of these 'supposedly impossible spells' but was accomplished in this manner.
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 appears to be so. 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. Everything is "simplified", happening automatically via natural magic. The actual mechanisms on which the world goes round are behind the scenes and visible only to casters. Even they only have their own narrow insights afforded to them by their disciplines. And despite this, most of them 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. The Thinkamancers, led in part by a man named Isaac (an obvious reference to Isaac Newton), has set up many devices whose main purpose is to observe how the world works. It is unknown how much they have actually discovered.
Black Comedy: When leading an attack against a Haffaton outpost in the prequel, Wanda briefly wonders if she can control the uncroaked well enough to make them sing or dance, leading to a prompt Shout-Out to Young Frankenstein with her and her own rotting brother mimicking the scene of Freddy and the Monster singing "Putting on the Ritz." Also a Call Forward to her leading a Thriller-themed dance fight in Book 1.
Erfworlders do not bleed. 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.
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.
In spite of the above, Caeser threatens to drink Jillian's blood if she doesn't behave, so Erfworlders technically do have blood. There might be an exception to the no bleeding rule for when Erfworld vampires feed.
Parson himself, being a native resident of a world like ours, of course, does bleed.
Weirdly enough, a blinded decrypted purple dwagon shows a stream of what looks an awful lot like blood streaming out of one of its eye sockets, though that could just be the remains of its torn eye.
Blue and Orange Morality: Apparently it is perfectly fine to order a unit to bed you despite the fact that they have no way to resist. Given that units can turn based on a hidden loyalty stat, this has probably led to a few assassinations, however... In fact, units can actively do something bad to someone on their side if they believe it will help their side. If they happen to believe that mind-controlling, poisoning, or killing their leader or a warlord will help their side, they can do it.
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.
Card-Carrying Villain: Explicitly averted. Parson assumes Stanley is one, but Stanley is not at all amused by the suggestion that he's the bad guy.
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.
Early in book 2, Wanda suggests killing and decrypting Jack. While her request is denied, it does bring up the very important question of whether or not decrypted casters can still cast, and it becomes clear that they need to test the theory eventually. Once Jack is killed and decrypted, however, it becomes apparent that the real reason was because Jack and Wanda were under a non-disclosure agreement from Charlie, and she hoped a decryption would free him of that. It did, and she instructed Jack to talk to Parson about it as soon as possible.
In the Digdoug print comics, King Posbrake has Lady Barstool place a Carnymancy spell on him, rendering it impossible to hit him with ranged attacks for one turn. Though this is intended as a precaution against treachery from Charlescomm, it saves King Posbrake when his brother, Prince Creen, breaks their alliance and hits Posbrake with a massive arrow volley.
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...
While Jillian is exploring the ruins of Goodminton, Haffaton is alerted to her presence by a mannequin, animated by Dollamancy and used as a security camera by Wanda. She can do this with Archons as well, as she relays to Parson in the Book 2 epilogue.
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.
Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In-universe. The Magic Kingdom◊ is separated into eight equal parts and each one represents a class of magic. Each part is a different color and continues out into the sea where the sea itself has different colors for each class. The Glade of the hippiemancers, ie., is dark green and the sea is a mellow green compared the extreme shades of the other sea greens.
Conflicting Loyalty: All non-barbarian Thinkamancers are subject to this. Thinkamancy is one of the most common and useful of all magical disciplines, so they're greatly in demand by rulers who they're then required to be loyal to. But all Thinkamancers are also loyal to Thinkamancy itself, and to their own leaders, 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.
Parson's journal: ...everything is cute. Like it's been made safe for children. The people even look like children. Except that then they die. What is that?
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.
Jojo: Well friends? Is he (Parson) in there? Isaac: I'm not inclined to say, given that you tried to assassinate him.
Death by Falling Over: One aspect of Erfworld physics is that even the smallest fall from airspace to the ground has a significant chance to incapacitate or croak a unit. Fall distance does have some bearing on it, but mostly it's just random.
Death Glare: Don King's expression◊ at his Warlords' rebellion against him is scary. Not helped by the fact Don may have tried to have gotten Caesar killed already.
Deconstruction: Explores what would happen if there was really a world based around fantasy wargaming principles.
Defeat Means Friendship: In the Lord Crush side story, an alliance of four sides is almost wiped out when a fifth side, Bullyclub, convinces one of them to betray the others. When Bullyclub is inevitably defeated, the alliance ends up letting Bullyclub join them (as well as the side that betrayed the alliance to Bullyclub).
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...
Deuteragonist: In the main plot, Parson is the Protagonist with Wanda as the Deuteragonist and half a dozen characters who could be considered for the role of tritagonist including Ansom (in book 1 at least), Jillian, Charlie, and Tramennis.
In the prequel, Wanda is the Protagonist with Jillian as the Deuteragonist.
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).
Many kingdoms act in similar ways to real world empires. The So-Be-It Union is the Soviet Union without the purges. Homekey could the colonial United States without the revolution. Seaworld is most likely Portugal when it was a sea power but without the papacy or it could be the British Empire. Faq is some type of far east country, etc etc. None of them are perfect matches but there's enough references there to place them. Lord Crush, ie., may be a reference to Nikita Khrushchev (Crush, Chief), the Premier of the Soviet Union (So-be-it Union) and First Secretary of the Communist Party (First Post) during the Cold War.
Dramatic Irony: King Posbrake of Homekey in the Dig Doug side story says of Charlie:
Posbrake: He may indeed be a treacherous schemer, but he has no idea what a little Carnymancy can do to one's best-laid plans.
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.
The Dwagon: A Chief Warlord is this for their side's Overlord.
It's not always the Chief Warlord. In many sides the chief caster takes this role instead. We've also seen at least two sides (Haffaton and Gobwin Knob) where an over-mighty chief caster effectively runs the side as Dragon-in-Chief.
Entertainingly Wrong: A lot of erfworlders simply fail to understand Parson because he is so outside their frame of reference. For example, many people (including several of Parson's allies) assume that Parson's low chief warlord bonus means he is a bad commander (or at best, mediocre). And while this may be true for as far as they've known it, they are completely wrong and are often punished for it.
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.
Stanley angrily gives Parson a magically binding order not to speak until he's ordered to speak. Parson, quickly realizing that the order didn't specify that only Stanley could order him to speak, starts using written messages asking others to order him.
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.
Fantastic Drug: Pink flowers ("heroine buds"), as grown by Hippiemancers. (They may literally be magic versions of opium poppies.)
Fantastic Honorifics: Although the term "Tool" was originally a Stealth Insult Parson gave Stanley, Stanley took to it so well that it is now a general honorific for any wielder of an Arkentool.
Fate Worse Than Death: Jillian experienced one when Charlie invaded her mind and destroyed her very being.
Wanda and Jillian have their own, strange, BDSM-esque relationship.
Wanda and Olive Branch have a good amount going, too. Which turns Olive's drugging of Wanda with the heroine buds into a terrifying comment on abusive relationships.
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-off 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.
Parson ends one of his eyebook notes with, "How did Dorothy get out of Oz? Short answer: by killing." Book 0 reveals Dorothy, the Wicked Witch and the Wizard were all Erfworld figures, and the Wizard is still around.
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.
Book Two only makes things worse. It's revealed that there are three major plans Parson's summoning was arranged to enact note Janis wants him to end the eternal war, the Thinkamancers want him to kill Charlie, and Marie is suspected of using him to address some unfinished business with Wanda. Charlie is still working against Gobwin Knob with a variety of different pawns in play and Wanda's pursuit of her Fate have begun to diverge from Gobwin Knob's aims. Add in Haggar's planned betrayal, Jojo's possible trap and Jillian doing whatever the hell she wants and things have gotten very complicated in Erfworld.
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 game-breaking exploit at the battle of Spacerock 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 initially dismissed it as a useless posture.
The Arkendish grants Charlie a couple of really potent abilities.
He can cast spells remotely by using Archons as a relay. Combined with the Thinkamancy power it appears to grant him, this makes link-ups far easier for him than is normal.
The reason the Thinkamancers want him dead; he can intercept and jam Thinkamancy. The fact that he can do this is a closely guarded secret of the Thinkamancers, as if it were to get out, Thinkamancers wouldn't be seen as nearly as valuable as they are for communications.
God Mode: Referenced in one of Parson's klogs. He hasn't found an actual cheat code yet, but the whole "ultimate warlord" thing is about as close as he's going to get.
Godzilla Threshold: When Charlie realizes Parson has decided to come after him, he starts bringing out secret weapons he's never had to use before, because he wanted them kept secret. Such as guns. From assault rifles to anti-air artillery.
Good Powers, Bad People: Olive Branch showcases the martial abilities of Hippiemancy and is a treacherous, manipulative sociopath. Betsy is a Healomancer, and when she is given the opportunity to, tries to "heal" Jillian of her aggressive tendencies.
Grey and Black Morality: The villains in the prequel text (Olive Branch and Charlie) are more clearly evil than any of the sides in the Royals vs. Stanley conflict.
Grey and Gray Morality: In Book One, both sides are presented sympathetically to a degree, but both are also very flawed. Stanley and his side are more overtly evil in appearance and methods, but are notionally striking a blow for freedom from the tyrannical mandates of the "royals"; whereas Ansom looks like a Knight in Shining Armor, but is a ruthless bigot under the surface. The mechanics of Erfworld are such that constant warfare is the norm, and morality plays second fiddle.
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.
It is in the hands of a Sociopathic Manipulative Bitch. There's a reason Olive Branch is far and away the scariest villain in canon.
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 thus making the sacrifice his own. Rather a senseless sacrifice as he failed to kill Parson and is now decrypted.
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.
A very strange example, in that Erfworlders aren't actually reacting to anything in our world. But - specifically in the text updates - they will describe things in decent amount of detail, and then there will be a picture of the scene at the bottom of the page, showing that what was described actually looks almost exactly like something from Earth. Just one example; a drugged Jillian describes a perverted Shockamancer as a "little daemon-like creature". He then mounts a Gwiffon, and she sees the two shapes merge into one bigger version of the Shockamancer. He fights the Big Bad, described as a lizard-flower hybrid, using a jagged light attack of some kind, while shouting "Peeeep at... you!". Later, at the very bottom of the page, there is a picture of this scene, depicted as a Pikachu launching a thunderbolt at a Venusaur.
Also shows up in the post-Book 1 summer updates to an extent. Parson, in his interactions with the Casters, describes things from his world that don't exist in Erfworld, such as constant universal flow of time, and the concept of planets. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around what he describes.
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.
Ironic Hell: According to the Book of Canon, a religious scripture written by the Titans themselves, those who do something exceptionally wrong, betray their side, or willfully shirk their duty end up in a place of infinite wrongness, where everything clashes against who you are and what you want.
I Surrender, Suckers: Parson pulls this twice, first to jump Ansom with a veiled Bogroll and second when he plays along with Jetstone's negotiation demands to get his counter attack into position.
Kamehame Hadoken: The "Hoboken" spell, which all casters know from the moment they're popped.
Keystone Army: This trope is enforced on every army in Erfworld, with the ruler as the keystone. If a side's ruler has no heir, and that ruler croaks, the entire side is immediately eliminated, no matter what. Field units are disbanded, city units are frozen in time. A side that does have an heir simply has a backup keystone.
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.
Knight Templar: Betsy the Healomancer so abhors Jillian's nature as a Warlord that she Mind Rapes Jillian in an attempt to change her basic personality.
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.
After being Decrypted, Ansom offers each opponent a chance to ally rather than be conquered, apparently out of zealous belief that attunement to an Arkentool represent the true mandate of the Titans. To be fair to him, this is also what Parson wants due to the fact they are severely outnumbered without allies. As of the developments at Spacerock, Parson is putting a bigger emphasis on getting help.
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. It's not too surprising that she is Charlie's daughter.
Light Novel: Whether by accident or design, the text updates are in this format.
Carnymancy is the magic of loophole abuse. Among other things, it can Take a Third Option as far as prophecies are concerned, allowing Fate to resolve its karmic debts in a more harmless fashion.
A side's units cannot cross city zones in a non-allied city unless it is their turn. The only known exception is for a unit mounted on a flying unit to jump off or for their mount to be croaked, which results in a fall likely to injure or croak said unit no matter how close to the ground they already were. Parson discovers that Heavy units cannot ride mounts, but certain units that can be promoted to Heavy can. If you promote a unit riding a flying unit to Heavy, the flying unit safely drops to the ground. He is able to use this to make Gobwin Knob's Hobgobwin units land safely with their dwagons.
Only casters can enter the Magic Kingdom. This is enforced by the portals used to enter the Magic Kingdom. There might be an exception for some small animals, but any other non-caster unit that enters one of these portals is destroyed on contact. An object doesn't count as a unit, and a dead body counts as an object. Parson uses this to smuggle in an entire army by decrypting a bunch of corpses once on the other side of the portal.
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.
Mage Tower: A standard feature of cities. They offer a spellcasting bonus to any caster that resides within. The bigger the tower, the bigger the bonus.
Magically Binding Contract: Signamancy can create these. It is capable of judging adherence to a contract. While ordinary Signamancy spells do not seem able to magically compel a unit to obey all of a contract's terms, it can inflict penalties for breach of contract, such as by forcibly transferring cities, schmuckers, and even units. And when combined with the right disciplines via caster links, it can enforce contracts by other means.
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"◊.
Medieval Stasis: Erfworld's magic and culture have remained largely the same since Erfworld's creation thanks to Creative Sterility and various limitations Inherent in the System. Those rare people who do risk threatening the status quo, such as King Posbrake, tend to be accused by the Royals of heresy and end up being quashed by them. A conspiracy in the Magic Kingdom aims to change this by summoning a warlord so powerful, that said system will collapse under the strain. Also, Charlie has had some success developing technology with clever use of Thinkamancy links. His capital boasts anti-air artillery among its defenses, and modern guns wielded by his Archons.
Men Can't Keep House: The apartment Parson Gotti lived in prior to his summoning was, by his own description, a complete mess.
Parson: This place is a hole. A condemned hole. For squatter hobbits.
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.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Inverted. A unit's natural signamancy reflects their inner nature. Slately, who never fights, slowly changed into a portly, short, balding monarch. Wanda goes from Ms. Fanservice to an emaciated husk under Olive Branch's command and recovers after being removed from her service.
Mind Rape: What Charlie and Betsy do to Jillian in order to cure her from her flower addiction. The thing is, they also have other goals in mind...
Missing Steps Plan: A rare justified variant. Wanda admits she doesn't know what the missing step is but also firmly believes You Can't Fight Fate so she is going through with the plan anyway.
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.
Decryption seems to work like this on the target's mind, convincing them that there is a new Titanic mandate and that Gobwin Knob, or more specifically Wanda, are the extension of the Titan's will. However, this leaves an opening used when Ossomer rationalizes that Gobwin Knob's cruelty and treachery mean they are failing the new mandate and turns back to Jetstone. Whether he was able to do so because he was just that disgusted or because Wanda was no longer in the Hex is left a mystery even in-universe.
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.
The Arkenhammer is a good weapon to use in dance fighting. It can also be used for just having a rock concert given that it provides ALL the instruments to a band. One can see Stanley as a traveling musician if it wasn't for his bigger plans.
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.
A rare non-video-game usage. Dead bodies disappear at the end of the day, unless they have been uncroaked or Decrypted.
This rule can be bent by moving the body across hexes, which delays the decay.
Nobody Poops: Averted. One function of a dirtamancer is turning crap into crap golems.
The Nothing After Death: According to the Book of Canon, most Erfworlders, who haven't done exceptionally well or poorly, will "rejoin with the spirit of the world" or "go back into the box" when they croak. Most Erfworlders interpret this to mean their identity and sense of self will dissolve, possibly into eternal bliss.
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: Tramennis is highly intelligent and insightful, but tends to act like a shallow ditz during parleys.
Also, in the Lord Crush side-story, Axe is a lot smarter than he seems, although it's unclear whether he's hiding it deliberately.
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 eleven, rather specific, types: Altruist, Eager, Lofty, Luckless, Schlemiel, Shady, Superfluous, Tardy, Woodsy, High, and Bawdy Elves. 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).
The Peter Principle: Stanley is an excellent front-line fighter and squad leader. This got him promoted to directing strategy for his whole side, which he was not so good at. Then he became Overlord and was even worse at that.
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: Has an In-Universe explanation. There are certain units that Fate doesn't want croaked until a prophecy is fulfilled. And it will use Carnymancy to ensure they survive by rigging the game, albeit at the expense of other units.
Jillian fights with reckless disregard for the odds and has gotten her entire company save herself killed on at least one occasion. Nevertheless, Jillian herself always survives to stir up trouble, since she plays the role of Fate's Wild Card.
When several members of Faq were trying to croak Olive Branch, Wanda assured them that though hitting Olive would be unlikely under normal circumstances, they would succeed because Fate wants them to. But when they try to target Olive, Marie's Predictamancy indicates that there is zero chance of hitting her, because Fate doesn't want her to croak in this way and is intervening to protect her. However, Fate does allow them to hit Olive's flying broomstick, allowing them to capture her and put her on trial first.
Stanley can tame wild dwagons using the Arkenhammer. Under normal circumstances, he can only find an average of one dwagon every two or three turns when he goes hunting. Stanley should have been croaked when he tried to conquer Faq, because he didn't start out with nearly enough units to defeat them. He didn't, and in fact won, because dozens of feral dwagons just happened to appear in his path to tame.
At one point, Ansom has Wanda at his mercy. But a few strange words from her are enough to rattle him, causing him to hold long enough for Sizemore to rescue her.
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... She is. A carnymancer named Jojo rigged the game in her favor. In a similiar way to a luckamancer, others around her suffer misfortune while she stays safe. It can't protect in every situation, though.
When Parson is trapped in an inferno and about to die, he yields to Charlie and attempts to use a scroll that would have sent him back home. Fate intervenes by causing a burning beam to fall on his head, knocking him out. And a rescue just so happens to be arranged at the last minute, thanks to an awkward troll finally gaining the courage to speak with and persuade his ruler.
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 rein 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. Gobwin Knob is also forced to transfer its capital to an extremely vulnerable location. Parson furthermore manages to infuriate most of the Magic Kingdom by violating their neutrality, earning Gobwin Knob some very powerful enemies. 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.
All black/brown dwagons were retconned to purple. According to its wiki, this change happened about the same time that the Familicide spell was cast in The Order of the Stick, so it wiped out all of Erfworld's black dwagons to boot.
Epilogue 8 with Wanda was retconned when a bunch of people pointed out Parson was already told about Ossomer turning. In the original, he was surprised by this for some reason.
The description of Faq (city) shown in the 2009 Summer Update #37 was retconned to fit the image that appears in Epilogue 21.
Epilogue 25, the Archons were glowing blue, not red.
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.
Revival Loophole: Some time before the start of the comic, both Wanda and Jack made a promise, enforced by magic, that they wouldn't reveal a secret of Charlie's that they had stumbled across. However, when Jack is croaked and decrypted, the contract no longer applies.
Required Secondary Powers: Dirtamancers can instantly sense (without using juice) the physical composition of anything around them; this was demonstrated in a Kickstarter story when the Dirtamancer main character scanned the molecular composition of his coffee and lamented that he couldn't figure out which compound in it gave him stomach trouble.
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.
Sizemore, during the updates between books 1 and 2, mentions Stuffamancers in a way that makes it seem he isn't one, even though being a Dirtamancer makes him a Stuffamancer. This has since been Retconjured.
In a Book 2 text update, Slately comes across a table on which are several accessories made by Dollamancer Ace Hardware. He picks one up in particular, and describes it, so readers can tell it's a grenade. Come book 3, Charlie sends a grenade to Ace, who has no idea what it is, only surviving because Parson (who recognized it) told him to throw it away. Perhaps justified as the two grenades were different varieties and Ace didn't have a lot time to examine it.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sizemore is much more withdrawn and world-weary than at the beginning of the comic. He was never really happy with his life, but he has a lot of thousand yard stares nowadays. You can first see it when the Coalition attack Gobwin Knob through the tunnels and he uses traps to single-handedly kill dozens of warriors while the troops perform hit and run tactics.
Ship Tease: Fans are starting to notice a certain degree of... something between Parson and Maggie.
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.
Suddenly Always Knew That: When she hears Judy say the word year, despite never having heard of it before, Jillian knows instantly that it equals three-hundred and thirty-five turns. The word "kill" also inspires a similar reaction in Erfworlders - they recognize it as a vulgar synonym for "croak".
Sugar Apocalypse: Partially thanks to Stanley demanding during Parson's summoning that they find a warlord for whom "everything should seem familiar and safe."
Summon Everyman Hero: Parson. Also, Judy. And Charlie seems awful savvy about Earth terminology, but he did know Judy long ago.
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.
Unequal Rites: There can be friction between casters of different disciplines due to the differing philosophies behind each discipline. For specifics:
Most seem to look down on Croakamancers in particular, citing the magic as unclean and abominable.
Carnymancers are also disliked, especially by Thinkamancers, for being more or less "cheaters" of Erfworld's physics.
Predictamancers are the only kind of casters ashamed to live in the Magic Kingdom, as they are considered to have failed to prevent their side's fall. Their natural caginess when it comes to talking about their discipline doesn't help much.
Dirtamancers, while considered nothing more than glorified janitors by most Warlords, are loved in the Magic Kingdom for quick, effortless construction talents. Sizemore intentionally works for dirt cheap but is still filthy rich among casters. Dirtamancer Digdoug in one of the side stories recalls the previous side he worked for, whose Chief Caster forbade him from entering the Magic Kingdom, and made a point of looking down his nose at Dirtamancy. Digdoug became convinced his discipline was regarded similarly to Croakamancy or Carnymancy, but astute readers will realize the Chief Caster didn't want Digdoug to discover he would be more respected than himself in the Magic Kingdom. According to Dove Barstool, however, Dirtamancers are often viewed as creeps. Probably due to social tensions outside of the Magic Kingdom that isolated them and because they live underground in the Magic Kingdom where no one but Dirtamancers can reach them. She is an Unreliable Narrator, though.
Date-a-mancers are especially susceptible. Their role is to read the cold, hard facts about people's relationships. Most sides get rid of them after a while because, according to Duncan, "knowing the cold truth behind our interpersonal relationships only causes grief."
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. (As explained under "Never Say "Die"" above, the word "kill" isn't magically censored, but native Erfworlders react to its use as though it were an obscenity.)
In-universe, the word 'year' is considered this by a native Erfworlder, who instinctively knows its meaning but can't understand why someone would have a word for 365 turns.
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.
Weaksauce Weakness: Lord Stanley can shoot lightning from the Arkenhammer, control dwagons, fight pretty well apparently, give significant bonuses to all his nearby units, and is the leader of one of the most powerful sides out there... and, like all rulers, would die instantly if he touched his side's portal.
We Are as Mayflies: Erfworlders both subvert and play this straight. There are no indications that Erfworlders can die of old age, or even age at all beyond their natural Signamancy changing note Signamancy reflects personality and how they view themselves rather than their actual age . However, the nature of Erfworld means that most don't live that long. Within eighty thousand turns, or a little under 220 years, there have been eighteen kings of Jetstone. That means that even some of the people least likely to croak note Rulers don't take the field of battle with any other choice and losing a ruler is exceedingly rare are only averaging around twelve years of rule. They probably live as long as 15-20 if lucky. Slately, himself, has lost 22 children (one was never even born and another died in his first battle) and has ruled at least 3 thousand of those 80,000 turns making him at least 8 years old. By that standard, Parson is practically ancient. The only known exceptions are the most powerful casters in the Magic Kingdom, such as as Roger Victor Clarence, who is over 78 years old.
We Can Rule Together: At the beginning of the Love is a Battlefield story arc, Jillian and Wanda both try this on each other. Both have their own reasons for refusing.
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.
Whatevermancy: Everywhere. Only a handful of schools fail to use this form. It even provides the picture for the trope. The exceptions are Flower Power, Hat Magic, and Retconjuration (formerly Deletionism). The other 21 disciplines all end in "mancy".
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.
Wingding Eyes: Whenever an Erfworlder croaks, their eyes literally squeeze into Xs.
Winged Unicorn: Unipegataurs which have humanoid torsos, horses bodies, wings of an eagle, etc etc.
With Due Respect: People are forced to shut up if ordered to do so by their superiors. This trope is the only way units can contradict their rulers without risking being silenced. This means that a lot of sarcasm is thrown around instead.
World of Pun: Pretty much every other object in Erfworld is based on or named after some real-world equivalent. Listing examples would take up the entire page.
World of Symbolism: The nature of Signamancy and Erfworld's puns. Carnymancy is implied to be able to manipulate this. And ultimately, since Parson can recognize tropes and puns, that makes him a master at natural Signamancy - he can see a pun or trope and instantly recognize the symbolic connection that it implies the actual entity performing the pun or trope to have. Example: King Haggar looks like President Nixon, which means that he's untrustworthy and shrewd.
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.