Left to right: Bandit, Byron, Syr'Nj, Gravedust, Payet, and Frigg.Guilded Age
is a Heroic Fantasy
webcomic, in which six fairly competent adventurers conveniently meet and form a group to make a living of... well... adventuring. It's written by Phil Kahn and T Campbell
, with art by Erica Henderson (Chapters 1 through 7) and John Waltrip (Chapter 8 onward).
The meat of the story deals with our heroes getting hired to do various jobs for the growing human nation of Gastonia. Gastonia is in the middle of a technological revolution, and its rapid border expansion has earned it much ire from the "savage races," as well as older magical societies, like those of the elves. On top of that, each of the six characters has their own issues to deal with, and as a group the multicultural, multiracial band tends to face as much personal conflict as they do political conflict. At least, that's how it starts...
The first six chapters began with a mini adventure taking place sometime
after the main story arc. Word of God
says that it was to give the beloved audience the guarantee of a future full of gang-asskicking. The main story arc begins by relating how each of the protagonists met to finally form a party and deliver said asskicking. From the seventh chapter on, however, the storyline has taken on a more linear format.
Guilded Age provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Frigg. Syr'Nj, too, although she's not as obviously female.
- Affably Evil: Iver, Savasi Warlord.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Simultaneously played straight and inverted. From the ninth chapter onwards It is revealed that the characters are actually living in a Magitek People Jars video game described as a cross between The Matrix and a Kinect. The creator, H.R. Dedalus can't get them out, and everything within the game seems to be taking a mind of its own.
- All Trolls Are Different: Trolls have regenerative abilities. Syr'Nj even mentions that troll blood can be used to treat minor wounds.
- Alt Text: All the comics have this, mainly for jokes. For chapter openings, though, it's instead "The one where [something related to the chapter contents]."
- Anachronic Order: Each of the first six chapters is divided in two parts: The first one follows the party in one of their many adventures, the other one forms a regular story arc showing the party's meeting and eventual banding together.
- Anachronism Stew: Somehow Syr'Nj invented dynamite. And called them "boom sticks."
- Arc Words:
"You don't have to see eye to eye to stand shoulder to shoulder." -Syr'Nj
- Art Evolution: When the comic's artist changed from Erica Henderson to John Waltrip.
- Awesome McCoolname: Gravedust Deserthammer is probably the guiltiest of this, with Frigg even asking him if she can have his name after he dies.
- Back from the Dead: The entire party during chapter 10.
- Badass Boast: Priestlord Gigundus gets a good one, and Byron has a pretty good response to it.
Gigundus: "I am the Priestlord Gigundus! There is no authority here but mine, elf. My word is the blood that flows through this world and washes out its disobedience."
Byron: "Yeah, well. I'm Byron the Berserker. Mine are the axes that thirst for blood."
- Bandage Babe: Frigg, when held prisoner. It seems to be her underwear though, making it more of a western Sarashi.
- Bag of Holding: Syr'Nj. How she got it is apparently a Noodle Incident for now.
- Barbarian Hero: Frigg. Less in terms of the culture that raised her than her crass & violent attitude.
- The Berserker: Byron, though it takes a lot to push his Berserk Button, and pushing it has consequences. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
- Big Damn Heroes: When they find Penk and Magda trying to stop the otherworldly beast from reaching innocents, the Peacemakers decide they can't stand by and watch, so Frigg and Rachel ride Wav's Cool Bike down the cliff and crash into it. Could also be considered a Villainous Rescue, at least from the Champions' point of view.
- Big "NO!": Parodied when Payet mourns the loss of his faithful
Payet: "Keirnas! NOOOOOOOOOO-*gasp*-OOOOOOOOO!!!"
- Body Horror: The Ur-Animals. Even wood elves are disturbed by them. The most recognizable appears to be a cross between a gorilla and a spider.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Frigg.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: End of Chapter 8. Which was also the end of act one.
- Boomerang Bigot: This Wood Elf comedian's act is used to cast light on Gastonia's racism.
- Break the Haughty: Payet. He was shocked (but not hammed) and dismayed that the core group was shocked that he saved Byron and after a small confession, he decided to be a better ally and since he is suppossed to found a basin that would tell him his destiny, this seems to be the flavor of the new chapter.
- And then there was a much more significant breakdown after finding the basin and seeing his death.
- Buffy Speak: Frigg in general. Highlighted in her daydream during her attempts at diplomacy (without violence) with the gnomes.
Frigg: Sorry Ardaic! I tried my best, but someone accidentally killed them to death.
You're fired. Without you to protect them, your friends with totally die and stuff. And deep down you will know it was your fault, because you suck at life.
Frigg: Well shit.
- Byronic Hero: Byron, of course.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Syr'Nj has plant-based names for body parts. Toes = Taproots, Hair = Foliage, etc.
- This is not entirely just a question of nomenclature: she can, for instance, absorb water through her taproots, and is surprised to learn that her human friends cannot.
- Catch Phrase: Frigg frequently uses the word "dope" in many ways.
Frigg, proving her valor: "Itís because Iím the dopest."
- Church Militant: Our Lady of the Perpetual Bloodshot Eyeball. May also count as Religion of Evil.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: To be fair, both Payet and Frigg should know better than to do it in the middle of a rescue mission, as pointed down by Byron.
- Colour Coded Characters: Each of the tanks seem to be a different colour which is associated with one of the main characters.
- Also during the interviews, several accessories on their person are highlighted to give us an idea of their personalities/hobbies as well as who they are in the game.
- Then there's the enigma of why Mr. Daedalus' tie is in Bandit's colors.
- The Comically Serious: GRAVEDUST . Seriously. Keynes herself states that she finds his serious facial expressions hilarious. Case in point: The People's Eyebrow
- Cutting the Knot: Frigg rescues kidnapped children. With her mace.
- Frigg tops herself there when she applies this trope to chess.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Payet. He can't quite understand Sky Elves' wisdom but sure knows how to kick pirate ass.
- Dance Battler: Payet and Frigg, in the pirate cave.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gravedust, paradoxically. He's almost completely lacking in humor, so on the rare occasions when he does crack wise, he does it with such a straight face that it's hard to tell whether he's actually joking or not. Case in point.
- Death Trap: Some sort of Drowning Pit.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: Taken to its logical conclusion.
- Deconstructor Fleet: A level-headed berserker, a thuggish "crusader," an elven scientist, a dwarven shaman/archer, and an elf mistaken for the chosen one go on adventurers in a setting that paints a harsh and almost historical light on Fantastic Racism.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Scenes set outside the game are sepia toned, with a few splashes of color. Such as the People Jars and Mr. Daedalus' tie.
- Dodge the Bullet: Payet's guitar: kills bad guys and deflects bullets.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Inverted. Gravedust, easily the member of the cast most lacking in comedic ability, ends up having to pretend to be a comedian on a stage. He tells a mediocre joke about misfortune which the audience finds increasingly hilarious as he begins to explain how the joke actually depicts a very tragic situation and questions the audience's mirth.
- Douchebag: Payet Best. He even unlocks an achievement for it.
- Eldritch Abomination: The beast the cultists let into the world. It appears to be able to destroy people completely, in a way that appears to involve their nature as video game characters.
- Enemy Mine: When the corrupting beast attacks the World's Rebellion, the Peacemakers join forces with Penk and Magda to fight it.
- Enfant Terrible: Taro Iwataki.
- Everything's Even Worse With Land Sharks
- Eye Scream: Von Carnaj is killed this way by Gravedust.
- Face Palm: When a band of "adventurer's-rights enforcers" sets up their own nation on Gastonian soil, Syr'nj and Field Marshal Ardaic react in the only possible way.
- Facing The Arrows One Liner: End of Chapter 8:
Syr'nj: You all have a choice. Remember that.
- Fantastic Racism: Gastonia starts their kids on it early.
- Orcs are lowest on the ladder, used as slave labor by all sides and seemingly universally considered to be incredibly stupid.
- A Father to His Men: Byron. Though he has not yet been officially acknowledged as The Leader, he's usually the team's tactical planner, and he's the one who is most prone to showing concern for the fate of his fellow adventurers. May also qualify as the Team Dad.
- Five-Man Band:
- Floating Continent: The city of Asallah En-Qu'Lara.
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: On Saturdays, there are Ask an Adventurer comics, in which the characters respond to reader-submitted questions. They often provide interesting information about the Guilded Age universe.
- Freudian Excuse: Every member of the team and some of the villains seems to have one.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Syr'Nj can do science to anybody, in the most dire situations.
- Genius Bruiser: Byron.
- Give Me Back My Wallet: Syr'Nj and Bandit.
- Go Out with a Smile: Rachel smiles as she is about to be killed by the cultists' monster after saving Frigg from it.
- Hate Sink: Everything Payet does is calculated to make the reader hate him.
- He Knows Too Much: An employee finds out about the players trapped in Deep-Immersion Gaming hidden in the basement. HR finds him there and kills him.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Averted. Nobody on the team uses Swords. The closest is Bandit with her daggers. The Hero, Byron, uses two hand-axes.
- Actually, whenever Syr'Nj ends up fighting she uses a shortsword-and-buckler style (which was historically popular with scholars), and new team member Scipio is a traditional sword-and-board tank.
- Heroic BSOD: Byron gets into a bit of a funk after he berserks and kills or incapacitates his entire team.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Rachel pushes a half-conscious Frigg out of the cultists' monster's path, allowing it to kill her instead.
- His Name Really Is Barkeep: All gnome first names. Bandit's name used to be "Carrier" Keynes back before she became a thief, when she hauled ore from the mines to the smelters.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Induced by Missed the Call.
- Humans Are Bastards: Gastonia is pretty much a hive of racists out to conquer and plunder the planet in much the same vein as 17th-19th century colonialists.
- Sort of Subverted later. It has shown that no one, not a single race could be considered good or all that nice. Either they are: xenophobic, condescendent, tyrannical, downright genocidial or all of the above. Really, the only reason why Humans are labeled like this (at first), was because they were the only ones shown.
- Hurricane of Puns: Not so much in the comic itself, but the reader comments thereof will pick a pertinent topic in a given comic and string out every pun possible from it.
- I Call It "Vera": Bayen and Brayen, Byron's hatchets. Named after his dead brothers whom he killed while berserk.
- Idea Bulb: Lightbulbs not being common in Arkerra, Frigg's is actually her mace.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. One of the troll children Penk sends to get his drum gets caught by the monster.
- I See Dead People: Gravedust does.
- I Surrender, Suckers: Scipio doesn't buy it.
- I Thought Everyone Could Do That: Syr'Nj does not see the point in one having toes if one can't pump water with them.
- If It Swims, It Flies: The pirate ship. Designed by a kid nonetheless.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Byron is really good with those axes
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: For Frigg this scene is bizarrely a Pet the Dog moment where we learn she really does care about her companions and isn't as satisfied with being a thug as she acts.
- Inner Monologue: Byron does this whenever he is alone. Usually it's tactical planning and combat advice, to the point that the Alt Text has called him "the Michael Weston of Arkerra."
- Instant Seduction: Payet somehow knows how to do this. It might be because everyone believes he's an Epic Hero.
- Instrument of Murder: Penk uses his drum as a weapon. Wav can also use his keytar in combat, at least against the Eldritch Abomination summoned by cultists, since its form is disrupted by rhythmic harmonies
- Intercontinuity Crossover: The likenesses of the characters from Hijinks Ensue show up in chapter 9.
- It's All About Me: Payet really, truly believes himself the only one that matters in the group. So when his destiny is revealed to him...
- Jive Turkey: Frigg is basically a /b/tard playing a Paladin with no magic. Well, no magic she can control...
- Killed Off for Real: The cultists' monster seems to be able to do this, since we see Rachel's player trying to get the Kingdoms of Arkerra tech support to restore her mysteriously deleted character.
- Kraken and Leviathan: An attack on Gastonia involves calling one to the port with a horn that apparently sounds like a kraken mating call. Fortunately, Bandit gets the horn that called it and sends it back out to sea before it can do much damage.
- Last of His Kind: Gravedust finds out he is the last remaining Mystic of his people. Their leader killed the rest.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Payet, when fighting the huge pirate.
- Life Energy: Gravedust can count enemies through walls by sensing it.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: A single epic spell effectively managed to kill mountains of kobolds as well as unbalance the supply and demand of kobold hides.
Sundar: "Just because they got unbelievable mental self-discipline and control powers that would drive an ordinary person insane, they think theyíre better than us."
- Lost in Character: Byron, Syr'Nj, Frigg, Gravedust, and Payet are all really five online gamers who are so immersed in the virtual game they're playing in that they actually think they are their charcters.
- Made of Iron: Frigg, all the way. Not only is she the party's designated "meatshield", but after being captured by the Sisters of the Bloodshot Eye and beaten and tortured so badly her face looks like bloody hamburger, she's still talking trash and making jokes.
- Martial Pacifist: Syr'Nj left her nature-loving, isolationist home to join the military of expansionist Gastonia in hopes of finding a way for Wood Elves and Humans to live in harmony.
- Meaningful Echo: "You have a choice." Syr'Nj says it first when trying to calm a berserk Byron. He later repeats it to her to get her to release Graiya's Bough.
- Meaningful Name: All of the party. Seriously, how are you supposed not to become a criminal when you're called Bandit Keynes?
- Word of God says that Bandit is her job title in the recent Q&A
- The Medic: Syr'Nj.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Played with.
Sundar, getting a shot of truth serum: "SHE'S TORTURING MEEEEEE!"
After the shot took effect: "ACTUALLY, IT WAS ONLY A MINOR PINCHING SENSAAAAATION!"
- Missed the Call: Payet fulfills almost all the requirements of a prophecy made by a mad woman in the town and is declared the "Epic Hero". The real Epic Hero (who fulfils the one requirement Payet missed) shows up after a few days, but the mad woman has a heart attack right after, due to the strain of shouting "THE PROPHECY!" over and over.
- Musical Assassin: Payet, if you can call fighting with a half-instrument half-axe killing with music.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The final stop on the party's guided tour of the World's Rebellion camp is the "death pit."
- Noodle Incident: The events leading up to the Flooding Prison Incident seem to have turned into this.
- Nuns Are Spooky: The Sisters of the Bloodshot Eye are Lawful Evil nuns that wield rulers with razors on them.
- Obvious Pregnancy: Payet leaves behind many women in this condition. Jerk Ass.
- Oh, Crap: Harky goes from laughing and mocking the party to panicking and screaming for someone to get him out of the death pit when Byron starts berserking.
- One-Hit Polykill: One arrow, two cultists.
- One-Man Army: While a complete douchebag and all around jerkass, Payet had taken on literally hordes of enemies single-handedly without so much as a split end.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: At first, seemingly played straight by Gravedust. Something-hammer last name? Check. Big beard? Check. The Comically Serious? Check. Standard dwarf.
- However, later we learn that dwarves are desert nomads who have been driven from their mountains. Furthermore, their women are lustful, their children don't respect authority, and, most atypical of all, some of them DON'T HAVE BEARDS!
- Gravedust isn't your typical armored hammer/axe warrior either. He's some kind of shaman/archer who can speak with the dead and ask them to lend their strength to his arrows. However, the impression he gives of much the rest of his race is that of more traditional dwarf warriors.
- Our Elves Are Better: Sky elves, Winter elves, Shit elves (although that's just the colloquial name) and Wood Elves
- Also, Wood Elves supposedly have root-like feet viewed as awkward by other races (if they know it exists at all).
- Our Orcs Are Different: They're very apelike and seem to be viewed as on close to the same level as animals, to the point where even the people rebelling against Gastonia's Fantastic Racism treat orcs as slave labor. Whether or not the perception is accurate, however, is still unclear. At the very least, they're smart enough to comprehend the idea of working hard in exchange for not being beaten.
- People Jars: The players controlling the main party(minus Bandit, plus Best) are on life support in these.
- Plant Person: Syr'Nj and other Wood Elves.
- Punctuation Shaker: Wood Elves fall under the "apostrophe as a universal stand-in for vowels" version.
- Product Displacement:
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:Rachel gets one from Scipio when she fails to give it her all to protect her friends from her former sisters, resulting in E-merl being kidnapped and Frigg being poisoned.
Scipio: Faith's your strength, but your prayers are lacking muscle lately.[...]Which endangers us all. Didn't know you cared so little about us.
Rachel: I care everything for you! You are my broth- comrades! You let me do works of good and greatness!
Scipio: And yet we mean no more to you than anyone else.
Rachel: Of course you do!
So "loving all others equally" is actually impossible. Sounds good on parchment, but you never practiced that doctrine. Ever. You just made it an excuse when kissing E-merl got too scary. And now he's about to be hunted to death. I can't save him on my own. You love us? Fuckin' prove it.
- Religion of Evil: They are kind of lousy and some were forced by their parents to become cultists.
- Our Lady of the Perpetual Bloodshot Eyeball may also count.
- The Reveal: Following the Bolivian Army Cliffhanger at the end of Chapter 8, Chapter 9 begins with a shift of focus to Payet, summoned to a new quest. Then the perspective zooms out to reveal a man watching him on a computer monitor. The watcher turns out to be the CEO of a MMORPG company.
- Running Gag: The Alt Text makes a lot of "But can X see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?" jokes.
- Save the Villain: When the Champions are attacked by the corrupting beast, several of the Peacemakers have just tracked it to them. They find themselves up on a cliff overlooking Penk and Magda's attempts to fight it. Sundar is all for leaving them for it, but everyone else insists on intervening. Even Frigg points out that no one deserves that fate.
- Science Hero: Syr'Nj is the party's Combat Medic — not through traditional holy/nature powers, but through an array of drug-filled needles and good old-fashioned paramedic training. Her goal is to show humans (and her father) that science and nature can work in harmony.
- The Scream: Syr'Nj pulls this twice, once at the end of the side adventure in the first chapter and again in the guest comic linked as Ship Tease on the YMMV page.
- Screw You, Elves!: While supposed an ancient, powerful and all advanced civilization, the Sky Elves where easily cowed by Frigg after she had enough of their pretentiousness. Even Syr'Nj told them that it would be better to get in a good relationship with Gastonia before... they get diplomatic.
- Shout-Out: Frigg is an expert at spouting them.
Frigg, smashing a door: "OH, YEAHHH!"
Frigg, blocking a mace hit:"FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU—"
Frigg: "This is a fight. Hits or GTFO."
Payet, Singing: "Share the bird song with you friends then! Please-retweet."
Byron: "Our motto is, Can we break it? Yes, we can!"
Frigg: "Come at me ho"
Bandit: "Whoop whoop whoop whoop-" (Ch2 pg12)
- The title of the comic itself is a reference to the Gilded Age of American history.
- The alt-text on this page quotes one of Alfred's lines in The Dark Knight: "Some men just want to watch the world burn."
- Sir Swearsalot: Frigg.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Big time, when Payet Best is hailed as a hero in a small town in which he tried to get work. Given the sheer randomness of his origin, he's a surprisingly competent adventurer, not that this makes him any humbler.
- Sky Pirate: Aerial Piracy. Couldn't be more proud.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence The world of "Kingdoms of Arkerra" seems to be between Level II (Background NPC) and Level III (for the foreground NPC)... unless its a typical mmorpg which would make them Level I that look like level III.
- So Long, Suckers!: Bandit.
- Stealth Pun: here. Read the Alt Text to get it.
- Super Window Jump: Byron makes a dramatic entrance to draw the attention of the Sisterhood of the Perpetual Bloodshot Eyeball when the party comes to break Frigg out. Apparently Byron is familiar with the move, calling it a "simple yet impressive maneuver" to throw your enemies and build your confidence up. However, that is merely a diversion which allows the team to sneak in through a side door.
- Talking Weapon: "I swear, not even my own sword appreciates me."
- Title Drop: In the Alt Text of this strip.
- Tomato in the Mirror: "The Five," Byron, Syr'Nj, Gravedust, Frigg, and Payet, may be heading for this as they are the only players of Kingdoms of Arkerra who are so immersed in the game that they believe it's their reality. The other player characters are a bit weirded out that "The Big Four" never break character or seem to understand that there is life outside of Arkerra.
- Tomato Surprise: The beginning of chapter 9 let us know that none of the adventures are "real" but its an extremely advanced experiment in virtual simulation for the online Game "Kingdoms of Arkerra" and the adventure group to be volunteers that are incapable of turning it off.
- Troubled Backstory Flashback: Byron, upon seeing the ruins of Leafport.
- Troubled Fetal Position: Byron, in the aftermath of ch. 8. Complete with bird pecking his head.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: You're my bitches, bitches!
- Unsound Effect: After Best's fight with Byron, the "sound effect" for Frigg's shrug was "INDIFFERENCE".
- Earlier, after Bandit proves Byron right: "SMUG"
- Syr'Nj's smile, after she and her cohorts receive a diplomatic appointment, has the "sound effect" of "KA-PEACE!"
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Payet seemed like a pretty nice kid before a whole town convinced him he was the The Chosen One and showered him with gifts and easy women.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Twice, once when Carol disposes of a body and once when Frigg is poisoned.
- We Need a Distraction: Turns out killing the entire crew is an efficient distraction.
- Wham Episode: Chapter 8. Looks like a Total Party Kill.
- And just four pages into Chapter 9, we learn it's all a MMORPG...Or is it?
- What the Hell, Hero?: Byron to Payet.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: "Adventurers?! That's why we can't have evil things!"
- The Worf Effect: Byron.