Accidental Aesop: There are two types of half-orcs you encounter in the kingdom: drunken, belligerent frat boys and dirt-poor alcoholic hobos. Focus on your schoolwork and keep the partying to a minimum, kids!
Alternative Character Interpretation: The Council of Loathing. Are they just the simple standins for the king who give you your quests or an evil group of individuals in league with the Naughty Sorceress. They start off simply getting you to do some of their dirty work (What do they use that mosquito larva for?) and as you get stronger try to send you to your death. (I mean come on go and start and finish a war all by yourself, bonus points if you kill both sides.) And when your finally defeat the Sorceress and free the King they pretty much outright tell you to go kill yourself, as soon as you oblige the Sorceress suspiciously comes back and steals the King again.
Actually, the "evil" interpretation seems to be canon. See The History of the Penguin Mafia, where the Mafia at one point actually looked like the preferable alternative. At the very least, if they aren't evil, they're incredibly incompetent.
The 2015 revamp of the Naughty Sorceress quest seems to have fully canonized this interpretation:
"Wait a second," you reply, astonished. "The Council said the king was imprismed right before I got here. How can the Sorceress have been here for four thousand years?" "The Council?" exclaims Frank. "That corrupt buncha clowns is runnin' the show now? Jeez, no wonder nobody survives this."
Anticlimax Boss: The one major disappointment players have with the Avatar of Jarlsberg path is that the final boss, the Avatar of Boris, is far too weak. You're actually more likely to be killed by Clancy!
Also of note is that Unlike the other Avatar paths, the final battles have the final boss giving their reason as to why they are trying to kill you, and then the touching scene where the two spirits reconcile. However, the Avatar of Boris has no dialog and the battle ends with Trusty falling onto his foot..
Done intentionally with the final boss of the License to Adventure path, "Blofeld" (quotes included), a cowardly man with pathetically low stats compared to even the game's normal enemies at that point, whose attacks consist almost entirely of trying to run away. He's so pathetic that players immediately started speculating about the existence of a True Final Boss of the path.
Anvilicious: The 2013 Crimbo final boss turned what was up to that point a fairly amusing string of battles into a lecture on climate change.
The Level 9 revamp (see That One Level below). Some players found the new content hilarious and original; others, however, found it tedious, the Smut Orcs area puerile, and the peaks boring and full of spiteful bashing of the Star Wars prequels and re-edits. Speedrunners are generally united in their hatred of the revamp, meanwhile, as an area that could (with proper preparation) be completed in one turn has given way to one that cannot be solved in less than several dozen.
Same deal with Hidden City revamp (part of the Level 11 quest), being turned from a simple "explore, beat up protector spirits, get stone spheres, turn them for triangular pieces at the altars, open a smallish temple and beat up the boss" into a long ordeal of figuring out what you have to do to get each of the four spheres, which arguably takes longer than the pre-revamp version. Non-speedrunners, however, generally like how the tedious square-searching was replaced with content that has more player involvement.
And again with the Spookyraven revamp, which can no longer be done completely on autopilot, introduces multiple real-time delays of short but unpredictable length, and replaces the delay in the pantry with a more irritating one in the kitchen. The whining was strong until someone figured out that the new Spookyraven was actually faster — just more complicated.
The latest base breaker comes in the form of "Type 69". First, a bit of elaboration: Challenge paths were introduced into the game as a fun, free content vector that allows people to spice up the game in any number of ways that they wish. Additionally, one is released every real world season (so four a year) and doing one during the three month "season" block in which it's introduced gives bonus karma which is a great way to perm skills and advance your characer. The summer 2014 path, however, came with a bonus stipulation known as Type 69 or "Trendy". With this stipulation in place, you cannot use any limited time item that is more than one year old. This includes items purchased from the Mr. Store. Trendy was promised to be included and mandatory on all future challenge paths but only during their "season" (which is once again the only time you can earn bonus karma for doing them). The playerbase quickly became split between people who see the need for Trendy (it breaks up stagnant play, allows the developers to get more creative with future content, and it brings more challenge to 'challenge' paths), and those who abhor it (they see it as anti-fun, depriving them of items they bought with real currency, and locks most players out of competitively or even casually playing challenge paths while they're at their most valuable).
The New Year's 2015 update introduced the new "Standard" path: the regular game, but with the Trendy restrictions in place in exchange for extra karma and new equipment. It also buried no-path without Trendy at the bottom of a drop-down list and removed the leaderboards for all non-Trendy runs. Cue the outcry: besides the above objections to Trendy, many players were upset that Jick appeared to be putting down their playstyle.
A trend in recent challenge paths that has come under significant scrutiny is their tendency to artificially slow down play in one manner or another, whether by arbitrarily reducing the player's food and booze limits or, as in the Source, denying them stat gains in one way or another. Players are divided into those thinking these put the "challenge" in "challenge paths" and those thinking this is an incredibly lazy way to make paths harder.
Breather Boss: Despite being the boss of the final Hobopolis sub-zone unlocked, Chester is actually quite a bit easier than the others. His only real gimmick (Not being allowed to use combat items) doesn't really make the fight any harder, and only one of his attacks actually deals sleaze damage.
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: One has to feel sorry for Jick and Skullhead. They put so much time and effort into designing the Bugbear Invasion path, and the response from most of the playerbase? "It's not Boris 2.0? Screw it."
Some people hated the Boris path and refused to play it because it was too different from the normal game. And when the Boris season ended, many people who had been playing Boris a lot found that the normal game had become confusing and unfamiliar. The problem wasn't that Bugbear Invasion was too different... it was that it wasn't different enough to seem familiar.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Ed the Undying is easily the most popular boss in the game, both due to his Large Ham mannerisms and the fact that his boss fight is one of the most memorable (and hilarious) in the game. He's so popular that he eventually got his very own Challenge Path!
Tammy the elf from Crimbo 2015 was quite popular due to her infectiously cheerful and friendly nature. She has since returned to play a sizable role in Crimbos '16 and '17.
"As the only member of the Asymmetric staff without any marketable skills, I humbly thank you from the bottom of my heart for your donation, which will help keep me employed and off the streets." "...because of donors like you, the last decade of my life has been spent doing a creatively fulfilling job as part of a great community. So thank you, from the sub-cockular regions of my heart."
Arguably, the Hodgman's imaginary hamster. It's an off-hand item raises all your attributes by 20% and converts Hobo Power to more Meat drops, item drops and HP/MP regeneration. You get it from beating Hodgman, The Hoboverlord, but only if Hobopolis (a clan-only dungeon) was cleared in a single day using no more than 1100 adventures (and even then only if your clan leader feels like giving it to you), making it a bit of an Infinity +1 Sword as well. (Of course, it requires that you actually have Hobo Power to convert, which means you need other Hodgman items, and it has very high equip requirements so it's only useful after the main quests are long since completed)
Less arguably, the Smith's Tome. What does it do? It lets you, up to 3 times a day, summon a Lump of Brituminous Coal, a handful of Smithereens, and a Flaskfull of Hollow. The Brituminous Coal can be smithed into equipment that gives you a few small boosts, including +5 to a new stat called Smithsness... and one very large boost that scales with your current Smithsness. Yes, Smithsness is essentially a redo of Hobo Power, but much more accessible. As for the other two, the Flaskfull of Hollow adds +25 Smithsness and a Smith-scaled boost to all stats for a whopping 150 turns. And the Smithereens can be crafted into fairly useful combat items, or fairly good consumable items which (Rule of Three, everyone) can grant a buff adding to your Smithsness. More annoyingly, the Smiths equipment can be pulverized into more Smithereens, adding even more value to the turn-free smithing from Degrassi Knoll moon signs that were already regarded as too good. Until it expired from Standard, nearly every discussion by "Stop Having Fun" Guys on the forums included some form of the question "how the hell are Jick and co going to make the game stop centering around Smithsness without just making a new even breakier Game-Breaker?" Jick has stated that a new Tome item won't be available until Smith's type69s out for exactly this reason. (Though he seems to have decided on just not having Tomes at all anymore.)
Goddamned Bats: The Irritating Series of Random Encounters are a homage to the annoying bats of yore, as can be told by their name, and their annoyingness. Not to mention the irritating adventuring you have to do in lower-level regions to find an adventure or item you missed or didn't know of earlier.
Also, played literally in an early area of the game, the Bat Hole. As you may guess the place is full of the annoying beasts, in any flavor and shape.
Ho Yay: It's extremely easy to interpret Boris and his minstrel Clancy as being in a relationship, especially given Clancy's various compliments given when addressing Boris. Though, if this is the case, Clancy is a Yandere.
Memetic Mutation: In the game's forums, "X makes hardcore easier" was a meme regarding the Mr. Store familiars. This was, of course, before the addition of a "Bad Moon" option which prevented the use of such items.
Also, killing the hermit. For the record, it's impossible, despite many rumours. Nowadays, "killing the hermit" is a euphemism among players of the game for masturbation.
"Stupid complicated game," coined by Jick when he accidentally made a source of meat that's usable in Fist (where you're supposed to be a penniless martial arts monk). This is often quoted when someone forgets about one of the innumerable fiddly details of the game.
The "cornbeefadon" is a recurring meme, sparked ages ago when someone jokingly suggested that Mr. Store sell a familiar that's just a dinosaur with a corned beef sandwich taped to its face.
"You can't get the same semirare twice in a row." An oft-forgotten mechanic of the game, when a player comes into the forums asking why their semirare didn't work, they'll usually get several variants of the phrase.
Nintendo Hard: A common criticism leveled at the 2013 Christmas content. To get the good limited-time items it was necessary to fight monsters that scaled to your level while under a massive debuff, and it essentially wasn't doable for players who didn't have access to a lot of Mr. Store content or millions of meat to blow on items.
delay() was an obnoxiously complex function that would prevent you from receiving important encounters for a certain number of turns. It originally did this by taking a set number of total delay adventures and distributing them randomly among all relevant areas, but with some weird caveats (most infamously, two ascension-relevant areas would have the same delay() number, but only subtract that many turns from the total pool once). Jick eventually started phasing out usage of delay() by building that directly into the relevant quests, which made the whole thing a lot swingier (since areas that no longer actually used delay() would still be assigned a number) until he just replaced the complex math with "return 5".
Ronin is a period of 1,000 turns in a Softcore run when you can only pull 20 items per day and can't receive anything from other players. Complaints about remaining turns of Ronin were one of the most common sights in chat, until the Casual ascension type was introduced and players could opt out of it. Noting that Ronin also ends when you break the prism actually encouraged casual players to Speed Run just to get out of it early. Unlike nearly every other Scrappy Mechanic, Ronin is probably never going to get removed, since it's the only thing other than rewards that distinguishes Softcore from Casual, and using pulls wisely is a vital part of the Speed RunMeta Game.
The old version of the adventure queue. Simply put, the adventure queue smooths out the RNG by remembering the last 5 combat and non-combat adventures you've had in each area and making them less likely to occur. The old version was the same, minus the phrase "in each area", meaning that to play optimally you would have to juggle as many different tasks as possible and rotate through them each time you made the tiniest bit of progress. The new version can't be manipulated this way, removing the obligation to do it for all high-level Speed Runs. Ironically, the new adventure queue heralded cries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks, precisely because it couldn't be manipulated, even though the actual method of manipulating the old one was a total pain in the ass.
The "much-maligned, super-secret hidden interaction between +Monster Level and +Noncombat Chance", where every 5 +ML would cancel out 1% +NC. It was an attempt to curb a Player-Preferred Pattern of always pumping both of those stats as high as possible, since they were both extremely useful, but it ended up just being an unfun Guide Dang It! that made +ML worse than useless, and got scrapped a year and a half after its introduction.
Standard restrictions were seen this way when first introduced. No limited-time content more than two calendar years old may be used under Standard restrictions, and when first introduced, they applied only to the latest challenge path, which caused a fair amount of outcry by itself. Then, when the Standard path was introduced (ordinary ascension, but with Standard restrictions applied), and the old unrestricted paths buried behind an extra menu, players who had a large stock of older donation items felt as though they were being snubbed. While many players still don't like Standard, the realization that it allows donation items to be developed without worry of "what if this is too much of a Game-Breaker" or having to re-issue older mechanics that had become inaccessible to newer players has placated some. The Chateau Mantegna and Deck of Every Card are often cited as things that could not have been released as they were without Standard restrictions, since they don't compete for a "slot" like the Mystical Bookshelf and Garden items do.
Serious Business: The Mall of Loathing is one of the ways players can interact, buying and selling items to each other via the easier difficulty modes. Millions are made and lost via the market. Many people are very vehement that the mall should not be Serious Business ("the mall is not the game" is a common catchphrase in the forums). That just clinches it.
Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: Money Making Game. Also any kind of one-time special content (such as the Crimbo events), partly because everyone wants to grind as much of the limited-issue items as possible before they are gone forever.
The introduction of the Rogue Program familiar, and the Game Grid Arcade, added even more mini-games that are even more time-consuming. Essentially added turn-based versions of Sinistar, Metroid, Street Fighter, Gauntlet, and Star Control II. Partially averted as you can just turn your tokens into tickets for prizes at a steady rate that doesn't take much time... but you don't get nearly as many tickets that way.
"Stop Having Fun" Guys: Lord help us, but even this comedy-based MMORPG has developed a core of hardcore speed/powerrunners who have all the traits of the SHFG. You can recognize them by their use of the word "optimal" and their hatred of anything they view as frivolous, even though frivolity is the point of the game. Jick doesn't seem to mind them, but Mr. Skullhead fucking hates these guys, to the point the O.A.F. familiar was made to give them the finger.
Fun fact: Jick once made a comment that some players "would rather get eleven points stabbing themselves in the dick than ten points fucking the prom queen". Henceforth, super-optimal players were affectionately known as "dickstabbers".
That One Boss: The Goblin King is far more powerful than he should be for the Level Five quest boss.
The Orc Chasm quest. Just about every step ranges from Guide Dang It! to Insane Troll Logic. The quest itself isn't hard to do if you know WHAT to do, but for someone trying to figure it out on their own, it's crazy. Most notably, to complete the quest you need to find a way across the Orc Chasm, your only hint being that the pirates might be able to help you somehow (As a sidenote, you might not actually have access to the Obligatory Pirate Cove, and the game offers no hint on how to get there.) The pirates can help you by selling you an Abridged Dictionary. You take this to the Untinkerer (who you may not have visited at all before this), and have him untinker it into a dictionary and a bridge.
And how do you get access to the Pirate Cove? The one on the island that no one tells you about? You must go on five "vacations" (costing you 2,500 meat and 15 adventures) to get the blueprints for a boat, then build it using planks from the hermit. The travel agency mentions a reward for going on 5 vacations... after you take the first one. They also don't tell you what the prize is, and you don't get much out of the first 4 vacations. In mid-2012 this was made a bit simpler, as you no longer need to visit the Hermit.
On November 14, 2012, the Level 9 quest was entirely replaced, making the old Orc Chasm quest optional... and in the minds of many players, the new one is even worse. Now you no longer need any outside items to complete it, but it's much longer, consisting of four mini-quests. Much of the fan ire centered on the Twin Peak sub-quest: see That One Puzzle, below. And (YMMV) in a rare case for Jick and Skullhead, a lot of the jokes are less funny and more fanboy whining.
The quest is somehow even more frustrating in Bees Hate You. It's impossible to complete Twin Peak the fast way, since you cannot obtain a key item (it's a quest item and thus untradable, and you can't use the items that make it). Oil Peak is just as bad, as almost every monster-level-increasing item has at least one B in its name, forcing you to suffer damage each fight. Mysticality classes (which don't have Muscle's HP or Moxie's high dodge rate) are in for a rough time. As of February 18th, 2013, A-Boo Clues, which help speed up A-Boo Peak, are now also unusuable in this challenge run (they were changed from automatically triggering their adventures into needing to be used first), meaning that all three peaks are especially hard in Bees Hate You.
The Quest for the Holy MacGuffin. An exceptionally long quest made up of five mini-quests. As a reward, you get a ticker-tape parade in your honor, and some confetti. Also, before you can complete one of the mini-quests you have to unlock the aforementioned Pirate's Cove and do a couple sub-quests there. The February 19th, 2014 update, thankfully, gave an alternate way to complete one section that made the pirates optional.
The pyramid portion is extra-nasty. You have to get a certain noncombat adventure (or farm or buy a particular item) several times to change the contents of the lower floors, so that you can get a token, buy a bomb with the token, and blow up a pile of rocks with the bomb. If you go to the bottom area at the wrong time, rats will steal your token before you get to use it, or the bomb will be wasted on the wrong rubble pile. Once you finally blow up the correct rock pile, you can fight the boss...seven times, using up an adventure for each iteration. The boss has less health each time, but always has full attack power; if he beats you up, you have to go through all seven forms of him again.
Twin Peak. The level of stat boosts required can be difficult for new or Hardcore players to achieve, and you aren't told how to make the item you need for the third part of the puzzle. There is an Anti-Frustration Feature in the form of an adventure that skips the section, but it only triggers after fifty adventures in the zone- more than the base amount you receive at rollover.
Building the Misshapen Animal Skeleton. It's not so much that it's long, but that the only way to get all the bones for it without spending meat is to quest for a long time in an area where the monsters drop weak items and are so weak themselves that you get almost no XP for beating them. The item that you get the bones from frequently gives you nothing.
The Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot familiar. Prepare to spend a lot of time and/or Meat assembling the parts.
All the antique map quests will cost you a huge hunk of dough, largely because rich Monster Manuel addicts used up three of each one to get boss factoids.
Or getting the Silver Wossname. To get it, you have to kill exactly 999 hippies and 999 frat boys during the Hippy vs. Frat Boy war until there's only one warrior of each side left. And use an item that drops in a different area entirely in the ensuing boss fight. Which is inaccessible during the war. The process has its own strategy guide. Yes, there are side-sidequests to kill more warriors per adventure, but if you do that wrong...
The ever-dreaded "Kittycore" mode, a run where the player must use the Black Cat familiar (which, as opposed to helping out in some way like most familiars, will instead hinder you at nearly every opportunity) for almost the entire run. The point of this is to allow you to do a Bad Moon run whenever you want (ordinarily, you need to have not used a single ten leaf clover in the previous run to do a BM run). Fight a single battle without the cat at your side, and you can kiss your reward goodbye.
The running joke: nobody has a 99.9% Black Cat run because they all drop Bad Moon as soon as they realize what they did.
The dwarven factory puzzle. Dear God. You have to translate dwarven runes, then convert numbers from base seven.
Hobopolis. If you want a shot at "beating" it, you'll need to join a clan, and some clans additionally require you to donate meat and items just to get access to their basement. Then, you have to spend large amounts of meat to get the practically necessary adventure turn increasers and optimal gear, and unless you have permed several skills really well-suited for that purpose or levelled up a lot, healing items and buff potions. If you somehow manage to do all this, you'll likely still have to organize several other players to assist, approve said request with a clan leader and (if you're going for Hodgman's best loot) coordinate your actions with near-pinpoint accuracy. Mess it up? You're be out millions for the cost of reflooding the area. All of the prior steps don't even take into account the fact that you need to collect "hobo glyphs" (special signs) over several ascensions just to read the signs in the zone.
The Accordion Thief Tropical Island. Search a hacienda for several keys to the boss's room. One of these must be pickpocketed from mariachis - and if you don't get it in one try, you must one-shot the mariachi or you will be killed. Accordion Thieves aren't good at one-shotting enemies, the mariachis are a lot stronger than the enemies you're prepared to fight at the level you can get to the Tropical Island, and the pickpocket rate is REALLY low.
Seal Clubber's Tropical Island. You need to make a disguise that will allow you to get past the guards at the volcano. In order to do so, you need six each of three specific items dropped only by the mother hellseals at the beach. How to make them appear in the first place? You have to injure (not kill) a hellseal pup so it will wail for help. And here's where the hardest part comes in - the chance of a mother hellseal appearing are equally proportional to how many times a hellseal pup wailed... but so is their strength. Putting it simply, you have to choose between fighting a pretty tough enemy with a ridiculously low chance of appearing in the first place or a ridiculously powerful foe that will kill you unless you one-shot it. Oh, and don't forget to have a club as your main weapon and absolutely no other sources of damage, or the parts they drop will be damaged and thus useless. Fortunately, the mother hellseals' HP doesn't scale with their other stats, and your Nemesis is ridiculously easy in comparison.
The newly expanded Sea quest has a sneaky problem. It has two final bosses, and you can only fight one each ascension, and the reward depends on your class and the boss. So, to get everything, you must ascend 12 times (twice as each class) and complete it 12 times. Then it turns out you can combine the 12 items into a 6-piece outfit, fight a secret third boss, and get the last item to complete the Clothing of Loathing. But now your 12 original items are gone, and the Clothing isn't a straight upgrade, so you must do 12 ascensions and 12 sea quests again to get them back. That's 25 ascensions, and 25 run-throughs of a long, expensive quest.
Fernswarthy's Basement. 500 grueling, repetitious levels of tough monsters and "tests" that mainly test your ability to spend tons of meat on potions. Actually, there's infinite levels, but most people stop at 500 because that's when you finally get the telescope. No, sorry, one-seventh of the telescope. You've got to do 500 levels of the basement six more times to finish upgrading it, or it won't be very useful. Have "fun!". After the Tower revamp, you can stop at a rank five telescope and see all the Lair previews, but it still goes to seven, in case you want that extra 10% to all stats for 10 turns a day.
For completionists, the "Bees Hate You" challenge path. Updates occasionally add a reason for going back (most notably, the introduction of Monster Manuel a year after the path meant factoid hunters had to dive in for at least long enough to fight all the wandering bees three times each), and often add a hurdle to make the path much harder. Some players actually like this, surprisingly enough.
Eroquin: BHY is the champion of "make completionists do it again and again and again". And it's great because it keeps getting suckier!
Ugly Cute: The Pet Cheezling, a disgustingly adorable grinning blob of cheese, which makes disgustingly adorable burbly noises, and heals you by melting your enemies and pumping you full of an unknown substance, which is pretty disgustingly... disgusting.