The story is manifest out of building previous one-off gags into stable pillars of the game world. From the FAQ:
For instance, the seemingly idiotic and highly ignorable command "Build fort out of desk" lead not only to a short-term humorous payoff, but to an entire imaginary universe paradigm, and in a way, a whole gaming system which appeared to exist from the beginning, but only became manifest through the command.
You desperately bargain with Death, challenging him to any game you can think of for the fair damsel's life. CLUE, CONNECT FOUR, UNO, BATTLESHIP, SUDOKU, well ok not SUDOKU, but how about SNAKES AND LADDERS, that's fun, or what about HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS god you LOVE HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Five separate times Problem Sleuth tried to call forth the "righteous fires of charisma" of Sepulchritude, and everytimehewasstopped. After it is finally used, he turns grey and beaten and, greatly weakened, falls into BHMK's Event Horizon.
Dissimile: "the candy mecha's legs scramble around like a chicken whose head decapitated itself and flew into the sky to fight a demonic mob boss."
Distaff Counterpart: Both played straight and played with: Each of the three detectives eventually had spirit quests, where they were psychically linked with female counterparts of themselves. They later meet the counterparts.
Directly as described on the site:
PS, AD and PI each have a lady counterpart, in accordance with deep seated mythology that dictates that any man secretly wishes to have sex with a female version of himself (re: Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mickey/Minnie, etc.) HD is PS's counterpart, NB is PI's, while AD is his own counterpart because he has a very poor imagination. So that's one duplicate AD, the one with the wig/helmet.
Dividing By Zero: All the damn time. Their favorite method seems to be ramming a window through itself.
Earn Your Happy Ending: All the boys wanted was to escape their offices and get on with their sleuthing. To do so, they had to journey through fantastic worlds a hundred times over, die a few times, solve a perplexing number of preposterous puzzles, subject themselves to reality-warping shenanigans of a profound nature and engage in an entirely too long and highly difficult and complex fight against a demonic mobster. But in the end, they get their reward. The world is real.
Later, the key becomes a gun, double subverting the command to retrieve the gun-it happens, just not right away. It could could also be more Foreshadowing concerning the plot. Think about it-the key turning into gun could parallel shit getting real to shit IS real.
The Gods Must Be Lazy: GPI will only respond to the command "Fondly regard creation." He actually does do two things, but those things are create the universe via Stable Time Loop with the help of the temporally replicating Pickle Inspectors and sewing the universe back together when it is torn apart. Never once does he directly help the protagonists.
Surely you mean "only once", since this is a thing that happened.
Good Bad Bugs: Every real weapon has a tendency to not be a weapon. invoked
The Infinite Summation Honeybee Professor peppers his speech with bee-related puns ("Avoid 1:1 duplications which will lead to unwelcome 100% matter accretions, and you'll keep hiving a honey of a time!") until he gets muted.
Very well, bee that way!
And then he gets right back at it once he gets unmuted.
Once we have completed building your Impetus Comb, and all of its Jocose Honey has ripened and is sweet as can bee, that is when the fun beegins!!!
Interdimensional Travel Device: There are two ways to travel between the real world and the world of imagination: Either climbing through a window, or entering a fort and imagining really hard (booze helps with the latter).
Interface Screw: The whole keys/gun thing mentioned above in Gas Lighting. Each of the three main characters and their female counterparts have a similar problematic weapon. It's supposedly a bug in the game that gets exploited for laughs and frustration. See also You Can't Get Ye Flask below.
Also, some characters share a common limit break bar.
Locked Door: Almost all of them, except, ironically, Death's door.
Locked in a Room: Problem Sleuth and Ace Dick start out bitterly hating each other and both locked in their respective offices and the game ends when they finally escape.
Magikarp Power: Ace Dick has a special attack called the Truffle Shuffle, which has absolutely no effect and usually ends with him being killed. However, if he combines his Truffle Shuffle with one or more additional Ace Dicks, it can turn into an incredibly devastating attack.
Marathon Boss: The battle with DMK lasts for about half the duration of Problem Sleuth.
The Merch: For a $20 donation, Andrew Hussie would draw a short comic of any command the donator wished (until increasing demand forced him to stop.) Past ones can be seen here. Also, there are several prints and shirts, and a Sepulchritude hoodie, still available at Topatoco.
Mighty Glacier: Pickle Inspector's "Tootsie Roll Frankenstein" transformation. Twice as strong as an actual glacier, but twice as slow, too!
Mind Screw: It can become increasingly difficult to tell where (and when) everybody is. Summed up in this line: "You're not totally sure, but you think this means there are now three Ace Dicks running around."
Ontological Mystery: When you boil down the plot, the characters are trapped in their office buildingnote and the imaginary world, which together form a very large Closed Circle and need to learn how to use their environmentnote Despite being trapped in his own office, Problem Sleuth knows remarkably little about it. in order to escape.
This is what being a hard boiled problem sleuth is all about. It's about being a strong, silent type, oozing with confidence, charisma, and other fine qualities such as not being trapped in your own office. It's about having a working phone. A real desk. Not one, but two steak dinners. And some hysterical broad on the line, yackin' about some fella she's got troubles with. It's always the same thing with dames. You comfort yourself in your sublime fantasy by now and then saying things into the phone such as, "Now calm down a second, toots..." and "Hey, take it easy, sweetheart. I can barely understand a word you're sayin'..."
Red Herring: Several items are presented to the reader as possible scopes for the SNIPER RIFLE before Pickle Inspector finally gets one.
The Swain makes a valiant play for his eyepiece, which in no way shape or form could ever be used in conjunction with a sniper rifle, and possibly could serve as one of numerous red herrings to this effect.
Role-Playing Game Verse: All of the detectives and the Mobster Kingpin have (weirdly named) stats and hitpoints — towards the end more and more bizarre bonus powers also appear.
Imagination: Magic, intelligence, and bonus to power in Imaginary areas.
Pulchritude: Evasion and Diplomacy/Charisma.
Vim: Strength and Health.
Each also has a expendable item that temporarily boosts it much in the manner of potions. Imagination is boosted by alcohol, Pulchritude is boosted by candy, and Vim is boosted by hotsauce.
Early in the game Vim is boosted by coffee, so really any hot drink will do.
Rube Goldberg Device: A puzzle so particularly difficult that it's solved by loading a save state from a point after the puzzle is solved. It is later revealed that a time traveling Pickle Inspector did it.)
Running Gag: Items switching back and forth between weapons and completely unrelated objects (e.g. a revolver becoming keys or a chainsaw becoming lipstick), responding to characters attempting to ride something like a mechanical bull (at times something about to explode) with "Wow, what a fucking waste of time!" and weasels "flipping the fuck out".
Ace Dick punches X in the snout to establish superiority. Xhearst is particularly enamored by your rowdy, no-nonsense brand of ruffianism.
And of course: "Quickly retrieve arms from [X]." "You've already got arms, [another word for idiot]!"
"Throw hat down in disgust."
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Complain that the MASS of the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE is only thought to be 3x10^52kg. DMMK, at 100x10^100kg, weighs about thirty trillion trillion trillion trillion times MORE than the MASS of the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE."
The bottom line is I just started rattling off numbers without even realizing how big I was making them.
A while ago I went back and changed the volume exponent, just so the number wouldn't indicate that he was almost infinitely tiny. I left the mass as it was, because I didn't think it mattered too much if it was just indicated as "VERY BIG".
Theme Table: Each detective has a certain body type (which in turn are each associated with a type of food, a truck carrying that food, and a district of the city that is named after the makers of that food, a gentleman with some sort of optical accessory, and a room in the Sleazy Brothel in the sky), an office, something keeping them from escaping their office, a different kind of window/portal to the World of Imagination, a stat in which they excel, a standard weapon/key, a candy weapon, a type of candy armor, a Super Mode based on both a classic movie monster and type of candy, a Distaff Counterpart (each of which have their own weapon/other object, two of which get a weapon/object used in painting and a undergarment that warps their physical properties, and one of which is just a clone of one of the detectives wearing a wig), an ultimate move, and a non-human race they go on a quest for (each of which terrorizes another of the races somehow, and each of which has some kind of emissary and a champion that represents a Fantasy Character Class). Mobster Kingpin gets in on most of this as well.
The Treachery of Images: The window on Problem Sleuth's front door quickly turns out to just be a piece of paper taped to it. Inverted with Ace Dick, when the piece of paper taped to his door turns out to be an actual window.
Weaksauce Weakness: Mobster Kingpin is completely invulnerable to all harm... until his Emotions or Blood Sugar are raised.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The (Zombie) Hired Muscle stops appearing after his death, not even in the afterlife like many of the other deceased characters. Though the character Higgs Bonehead bears a resemblance to him, and the gentlemen encounter a mustachioed new gentleman who looks a lot like the HM at the end.