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YMMV: The Order of the Stick
  • Artist Disillusionment: Nearly every interaction between the Giant and his fans seems rather...surly. He is constantly forced to explain himself to fans regarding plot holes, alignment concerns, and the creepy worship of certain characters, like Miko.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Miko, the biggest Base Breaker in the entire comic — Knight Templar or Knight in Shining Armor?
    • Vaarsuvius — Jerk with a Heart of Gold or Sociopathic Hero?
    • Belkar — Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral (Word of the Giant be damned)? Other fans debate how much of his Character Development is fake, and whether the amount changed. Note that an early strip strongly implies that his constant anger and aggressiveness is a consequence of his low Wisdom; being temporarily wiser turns him into a non-violent nice guy.
    • Girard Draketooth — Chaotic version of a Knight Templar or Properly Paranoid?
    • Malack. Exactly how evil he really is has been up for debate since the very beginning. How much he cared for his children, how much he does or does not genuinely respects Durkon, and a lot of other parts of his personality are up for debate. It was partly settled when Malack was revealed to be a vampire who planned an endless campaign of human sacrifice when he took over the kingdom, perhaps employing a special chamber.
    • Does Tarquin really care for Elan as his son, or does he just think of him as a plot device? Given how dedicated Tarquin is to narrative tropes, a possible answer is both.
    • The Snarl, as a result of Epileptic Trees, has several. One notable one is that the planet within its realm is its effort to create life and an orderly world, unlike the chaotic nonsense which lead to its formation.
  • Arc Fatigue: Started to set in for some fans towards the end of the desert plotline as Tarquin obsessively pursues the Order attempting to force Elan to follow the "correct" narrative structure. From his reappearance in comic #910, coming after the destruction of the Gate and a pointless battle with a monster summoned by Redcloak, there were a further 26 strips of this, released over 4 and a bit months, before they finally managed to shake him off.
  • Archive Panic: Over 900 strips — and the "strips" are at least an A4 page's worth each, and sometimes more than one. In dead tree format, there are five books in print (not counting prequels) with another one nearly completed which will be longer than any of them.
  • Base Breaker:
    • Miko is a... polarizing character to say the least. Fans of the comic generally either love Miko or hate her. They started arguing about her back after being revealed at comic #200, and it's now over seven hundred strips later — and she's been dead since #464 — and no end in sight. (The author is not entirely happy about this.) And then there's those who Take a Third Option and love her as a character because they dislike her so much.
    • Word of the Giant states that Tarquin is not necessarily a Magnificent Bastard, and is more of a high-functioning / extremely lucky Big Bad Wannabe, is this to some. Specifically the Giant's claim that we only had Tarquin's word for how awesome Tarquin was and Genre Savvy fans would have picked up on this... except, other characters, such as Haley's dad and Malack, had also attested to how dangerous Tarquin was (such as confirming that it took half a continent to defeat him the first time he tried being a conqueror), and all of Tarquin's accomplishments and conquests are legitimate, even if he exaggerates his importance slightly (eg. he is not the leader of his team, as he claimed to be; on the other hand, the long-con they are pulling on the empires on the Western Continent really was his idea). He is also quite clearly shown to be a genuine Badass, or at least a high-level fighter who outclasses the entire Order sans V combined. The other issue was that Tarquin is not so much a military or political genius as merely Genre Savvy and he just lives in a world where that happens to work well for him... leading to much debating as to whether that constitutes Tarquin actually being wrong, if the world he lives in really does run on Genre (especially since, in practice, he is merely Wrong Genre Savvy about his role in the story, not that he's actually living in a story). Overall the idea that Tarquin was not the hypercompetent mastermind he appeared to be just rubbed people the wrong way, since they felt it spoilt one of the stories' coolest bad guys; some welcomed this, however, since they felt that Tarquin had started to look too much like a Villain Sue by that point when the Giant revealed his true thoughts on the character. This however can also cause problems since it's entirely possible that The Giant had written himself into a corner at that point and couldn't think of a way to have Tarquin lose without rapidly degrading him into a Smug Snake. The fact that the Tarquin arc was suffering from Arc Fatigue also lends credence to this theory as it's entirely possible that The Giant wanted to end it as quickly as possible and ended up with a rushed result.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment:
  • Broken Base:
    • Sadly, like most stories of sufficiently lengthy length, The Order of the Stick has succumbed to this, with fans unsure whether they prefer the series pre-Cerebus Syndrome or post. Fortunately, most seem to be civil about this, but it has resulted in a few engaging in minor acts of Fan Dumb.
    • There's another controversy about which fans aren't civil. Miko Miyazaki: The Fettered Lawful Good Knight in Shining Armor, or Lawful Evil Knight Templar Jerkass? Pick one or the other; as Miko herself would be the first to insist in either interpretation, you are not allowed to compromise.
  • Canon Fodder: See the Wild Mass Guessing entry. Also, anything involving Miko that isn't Canon already can be this.
  • Cargo Ship: Elan×Banjo Puppet, Haley×Sack of Gold and possibly Roy×His Sword.
  • Complete Monster: The evil lich Xykon is funny, charming, easily bored, and probably the sickest character in the comic. His ultimate plan is to unleash the Snarl so he can control it and use it against his enemies, uncaring that the monster is what everyone believes to be an evil, god-murdering abomination which has the power to destroy the world.In the present story Xykon seeks to capture the gates that would allow him to command the Snarl, and has been going to any measure to do so. He sacked Azure City to claim their gate, and made the entire Sapphire Guard kill each other with a Symbol of Insanity. He even admits that he could have just used fire and lightning from above, but wanted to go "that extra mile". His full monstrousness is revealed in the prequel comic Start of Darkness. As a young boy, his dog dies, but in a deliberate subversion of a Freudian Excuse, he accidentally raises it as a zombie and exults as it kills and eats a bird. As a teenager, he keeps his zombified grandmother in his closet, kills and zombifies a man who offers to train him as a sorcerer, then kills and zombifies his own parents for letting the man in. As a would-be Evil Overlord, he chooses actions solely on the basis of their potential to amuse him versus the effort required. When Redcloak and his brother Right-Eye started working with Xykon, Right-Eye tried to assassinate Xykon for his evil and callousness with the lives of his goblin underlings. Xykon allowed Redcloak to kill Right-Eye just to permanently bind Redcloak to Xykon's service, accuses him of being a wimp because of his principled stance, and then forced him to raise his brother as a zombie. He also trapped the souls of two mages, Lirian and Dorukan, in a gem in order to make them suffer forever.
  • Crack Pairing:
  • Creator Worship: The fanbase for Rich Burlew, aka the Giant. There are entire threads devoted to archiving his every word and all discussion or dissension on a storyline or plot element usually ceases as soon as he posts in a topic.
  • Creepy Awesome: Malack
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Xykon. Generally, more than twice. For instance...
    • Thog, both out of and in universe.
    • In one early strip, Elan takes his clothes off and starts running around naked. Even Belkar is traumatized.
    • The Snarl's brutal murder of the Greek Pantheon... since you cannot normally kill the gods, and they helped create it.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Belkar. Thanks to his "fake character development", some insist he's Chaotic Neutral, despite Word of the Giant. Note that an early strip strongly implies that his constant anger and aggressivness is a consequence of his low Wisdom, being temporary wiser turns him into a non-violent nice guy.
    • Redcloak. His dry wit and fairly sympathetic backstory has won him a lot of popularity — though there are those who see him as a Complete Monster with a Misaimed Fandom.
    • In-universe, Tsukiko sees Xykon this way.
    • Around the time Tarquin burned thirty escaped slaves alive as a present to Elan and some people argued he wasn't evil, and the person morally responsible for this was Haley for freeing them and "forcing" Tarquin to do this, it became apparent that Tarquin has a pair of pants so tight he had been sewn into them. Possibly because he looks like Elan.
    • Thog. Being lovably dim doesn't eliminate the fact that he's a brute and a bully who works with the bad guys.
    • After the reveal, Malack has gotten this. Despite the fact that he openly plans to sacrifice a thousand people per day to his god.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Thog: Kept in the comic because of his unexpected popularity with fans. Which is lampshaded in the comic, naturally.
    • O-Chul;
    • The Booted Wight; who unfortunately won't be appearing in the comic anymore.
    • That Guy with a Halberd: over a year after his appearance, an OotS fan decides to mount a campaign demanding his return.
    • Tarquin was being compared favorably to Xykon before his first featured arc was even over. Again, possibly because he looks like an older Elan.
    • Malack is also very well-liked, though the bulk of that came before the readers knew the depths of his monstrosity.
  • Epileptic Trees: The Snarl has become the subject of these ever since Blackwing's vision of a world inside its prison.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • Sabine. Considering she's a succubus, this applies both in and out of universe.
    • Both Nale and Tarquin have this going too, considering they are evil equivalents of Elan and share his 18 Charisma.
  • Fandom Berserk Button:
    • In-Universe example. The misspelling "Zykon the sorcerer" remains a bone of contention not just for the forums, but for the dread lich himself, who can even spot his name being mangled in a speech bubble.
    • Other (traditional) examples in the forums: Hailie/Hayley/etc. for Haley, and Shinjo (portmanteau of Shojo and Hinjo).
  • Foe Yay: Malack and Durkon.
  • Freud Was Right:
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • V says it would be great if some of their enemies fought each other for their amusement in a gladiator match. This does happen later on, but in a much more cruel and sad way. Made worse when you consider that, Vaarsuvius being at least a Heroic Schizoid if not a full-blown Sociopathic Hero, V may have actually enjoyed the spectacle; we didn't get to see his/her reaction.
    • There's also an early strip where Durkon demonstrates the typical cleric reaction to the slightest hint that there may be any undead about. 860 strips later Durkon disliking the undead becomes a lot less funny.
    • In this strip V asks what the problem with binding someone's souls with dark magic is. Cut to a few hundred strips later, and a certain angry dragon...
    • When V describes his/her happy marriage, considering that It has now fallen apart.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Everything about Malack before The Reveal. Including what some readers probably felt was a typo in the name of a tea...
    • The gag panels with Hel arguing with Thor once it is revealed she plans to wage war on the dwarvern homelands.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In On the Origin of PCs, one of the party members he tries to recruit is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As it turns out, one of their foes does turn out to be a vampire... and he ends up being slain by another blond.
    • In "The Return of Mail Call", Belkar says that Barbarians suck. Belkar takes levels in Barbarian in later comics.
    • In "The Body Snatcher", Haley wonders if the hobgoblin clerics turned dead Roy into a vampire. Around 400 comics later...
    • When Roy's dad is mocking him in the afterlife, he says, "Ooooo, yes! And while your friends collect the seven magic spheres to wish you back to life, you can train with the secret martial arts master who lives here in the afterlife!" — but even if this is a Dragon Ball Z reference, it doesn't change the fact that Roy learns a new feat from his grandfather while training with him in the afterlife.
  • Holy Shit Quotient:
    • Strips #823 to #830: The "Team Evil getting ready to leave Gobbotopia" arc. It includes (within seven strips) the recovery of the phylactery by the resistance, the summary total annihilation of the resistance (save one member) and recovery of the phylactery by Team Evil, the outing of Redcloak's plan by Tsukiko and Tsukiko's subsequent (gruesome) death at Redcloak's hands. Holy Shit.
    • How about strips #868 through #879? Belkar meets Malack! Malack easily beats Belkar! Malack is a vampire and he just bit Belkar, intending to make more "children"! Oh wait, Durkon's here and he's actually fighing Malack on even terms — oh crap, Malack has a workaround for Mass Death Ward! And now he's bitten Durkon! Durkon's dead! And now Durkon is a vampire! The HSQ was raised dramatically by many of these strips being posted on subsequent days.
    • #899 to #916: Xykon arrives just in time for the entire pyramid to explode, the Order glimpses the mysterious world through the broken gate, the Monster in the Darkness saves the Order from a premature final boss fight, a few strips to rest, then (in rapid fire) Malack's death, Durkon is no longer a Thrall, Zz'dtri's death, Durkon is working with the Order again, Redcloak's elemental is destroyed, Tarquin has brought one colossal army to the party and THEN, when everyone thought the shit had stopped hitting the fan, Tarquin kills Nale.THEN, as Tarquin seems hellbent on piling the HSQ on, he decides to order Elan's party dead on the spot to force him to become the main protagonist.
  • Ho Yay:
  • Internet Backdraft:
    • For a good time, mention Miko Miyazaki on the forums — or on This Very Wiki. This, despite how she's been dead for two thirds of the run of the comic. Reportedly, the Giant is disgusted.
    • Fans also began developing a hatedom for Haley's father Ian for his inaccurate assumptions on the Order of the Stick and his daughter's role in it.
  • Jerkass Dissonance: You could argue that Therkla was treated very sympathetically considering her actions. This is obviously meant as an example of Love Redeems, but she didn't exactly know Elan to any depth and on a closer reading it comes across more like "Unrequited Lust Somehow Redeems". She was happy to kill other Azurites or members of the Order unless he asked her not to, out of loyalty for an ambitious and clearly evil aristocrat. Wanting Elan to leave Haley to be with her wasn't a particularly noble motivation; one wonders if her attraction would be seen as more romantic or creepy if the genders were reversed.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Vaarsuvius; Yukyuk
    • Nale spent most of the comic as an unrepentant mass-murderer. But the we get to met his father, and realises what sort of childhood he must have had and how it formed him to the man he became, placing him in this trope.
    • Miko Miyazaki is everything wrong with a paladin, but one of the bonus strips shows her trying to socialize with other paladins to celebrate New Year's only for her own Knight Templar tendencies to alienate them forcing her to celebrate New Year's alone with only Windstalker. It is implied this occurs every year. Miko's own zealousness causes her to be alone.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Vaarsuvius
  • Les Yay:
  • Love to Hate:
    • Xykon's completely unsympathetic, and he's also enormously entertaining.
    • Tarquin's Savviness, collected nature, and intelligence also places him here in the eyes of fans.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Lord Shojo. He Obfuscated Senility so that he could play the nobles off against each other and bypass the tedious problem of avoiding assassination squads. He did it so well that not only did he keep the entire city running smoothly for nearly half a century (which is a quite a feat when you've got Templar Paladins mixing with your duplicitous noble gentry), but after he was gone, despite the fact that the ex-inhabitants of Azure City nearly descended into civil war trying to take power for themselves and assign blame, his authority (in the form of his cat) is still unquestioned. He almost achieved Vetinari Job Security... almost. In addition, when he died he chose to stay dead, which sent the "Haha! Suck it, losers..." message back to the world of the living.
    • The Oracle plan his resurrection spells in advance.
    • The three IFCC fiends play a longer game than anyone else on this list. For example, Deal with the Devil they offer V is so persuasive and tempting that V falls for it despite the existence of an alternative solution that didn't involve hellish dealing. They make use of it to great effect.
    • General Tarquin, who along with his confederates rules three desert empires from the shadows, playing them all against each other (and every group not aligned with their empires) with their patsies none the wiser. He is also Dangerously Genre Savvy and thus is perfectly and explicitly aware of the costs and consequences of the role he has chosen to play in "the story" — he simply weighed the pros and cons, and saw that by his definition, he will "win" no matter what happens. Except not really. In truth, he's a deranged psychopath who has an overinflated ego, and as the Giant points out in the forum, his tactical brilliance and role as a Big Bad are all just exaggerated claims he made. All of this is highlighted when we see his adventuring buddies, and they treat him more like Elan is treated by the Order than the Magnificent Bastard he claims to be.
    • Xykon may be immature and unfocused, but he can be this. The best example is in Start of Darkness, when he manipulates Redcloak into murdering and reanimating his own brother (and thereby removing any hope of the goblins being free from him in the process), all to protect Xykon from an attack he was aware of and immune to anyway, and then delivers what may be the best "The Reason You Suck" Speech in webcomic history to explain that now he has guaranteed that Redcloak will loyally serve him forever, protect his phylactery, and perform any atrocious deed he commands. Because otherwise his sacrifice would be for nothing.
    • As of Strip #830, Redcloak solidified himself as this, by revealing that he's been manipulating Xykon for as long as he's been in "service" to him, revealed spectacularly with the following lines.
      Redcloak: See, the undead are tools. Powerful, dangerous tools. From the lowliest zombie to Xykon himself, the undead are just complex weapons that we make and aim at other people. All that differs is how direct or subtle our control of them is... for our so-called master, more creative strategies are required.
      Tsukiko: You don't control Xykon, he controls you!
      Redcloak: Like I said: subtle.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • "That Guy with a Halberd", as a result of the campaign demanding his return.
    • O-Chul. The fandom tends to treat him as the OotS answer to Chuck Norris.
    • Julio Scoundrčl is Obi-Wan plus Han Solo. Think about that.
    • Meanwhile, Tarquin is Darth Vader as a troper.
      • Currently the theory that these three men between them fathered most of the OotS cast is doing the rounds on the forums.
    • Kazumi Kato. Just take a look around this wiki.
    • Belkar. Despite Roy pointing out to him (and us) that he's bad at taking hits and has some weaknesses, he's still known as the SEXY SHOELESS GOD OF WAR! for a reason.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Evil! It's a growth industry!"
    • "I am a sexy shoeless god of war!"
    • "Who cares how many people I kill? I can just make more in my tummy!"
    • Someone on the OOTS forums referred to Bandana as "Banana" by accident. Then someone else posted a drawing of an anthromorphic banana commanding the Mechane. No getting rid of the Banana after that!
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Disturbingly, the times Xykon crosses it tend to be Moments of Awesome in that they are so evil you can't help but be impressed with which the style he pulls them off, even as you are appalled.
    • Miko crosses this when she takes the law into her own hands and kills Lord Shojo and the gods themselves take notice. By contrast, ''Start of Darkness' goes out of its way to demonstrate that there was never really a point where Xykon was not balls-out evil.
    • Nale crosses the line in the first story arc when he stabbed his brother Elan through the back simply for refusing to be part of his group (literally).
    • While under the effects of the soul-splice, Vaarsuvius brutally dispatches an Ancient Black Dragon threatening his/her family. Then s/he reanimates her head and, in order to protect his/her family, casts Familicide - an epic level spell that wipes out the targets entire family line. Vaarsuvius offhandedly mentions that s/he probably killed 1/4 of the black dragon population as a result. This is considered an extremely questionable act, despite the fact that black dragons are Always Chaotic Evil (maybe). This moral quandary is definitively answered here and here.
    • The end of Start of Darkness for Redcloak. Engineered by Xykon, who happily explains that he can now trust Redcloak to do any despicable action Xykon asks of Redcloak because otherwise he'd have to face that he crossed the horizon for nothing.
      Xykon: You'll obey me forever now, because I give you an excuse for your inexcusable behavior.
    • Malack crosses it when he states his plans to continue Tarquin's empire... and kill 1000 people every day. And if that didn't convince you, he follows this up by killing Durkon and turning him into one of his children (though he states he will see him as a brother). Not to mention when he reveals that he killed his own seven brothers in the past.
    • Although his villainy was always horrific, it was generally played with some kind of humor, or at least some reader respect. However, Tarquin calmly telling Elan that he is going to murder Haley, then murder everyone else on the Mechane, then top it off by cutting off Elan's hand with a completely calm, straight face cements him as a monster at worst, and extremely frightening at best.
  • Painful Rhyme: Elan gets one in the strip incidentally titled "You Try Rhyming 'Assassin'".
    Elan: You should follow me out onto the grass'n
    It's not so you can avoid the assassins
  • Rewatch Bonus:
  • Ron the Death Eater: Directed at Lord Shojo. Some of Miko's more die-hard fans claimed that executing him could be justified at first. The comic went on to show that no, it could not, and this went away rather quickly.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Miko, intentionally.
    • Roy's dad is also likely intentional.
    • Celia to many after certain Too Dumb to Live moments.
    • Tsukiko, In-Universe certainly. Lampshaded somewhat when Redcloak gets tired of her attitude towards him and kills her, and almost no-one in Team Evil cares.
    • Girard Draketooth is viewed as one by some fans, even though he doesn't actually appear, being dead. Granted, all the flashbacks and visions of him so far have shown him as a douche.
  • Shipping: The "Crack pairings" threads are among the most popular on the forums.
  • Squick:
    • Tsukiko's "tastes" (i.e. Necrophilia) tend to inspire that. Even to Xykon, who isn't "one of those disgusting biophiliacs".
    • "If I ever see you with more eyes than assholes, I'm going to shove one into the other and then give your cloak to that hobgoblin."
    • Tarquin's banquet serves phoenix pâté. Since phoenixes explode when they die, the liver has to be cut out while the bird is alive.
    • As revenge for Yukyuk hurting Mr Scruffy (and to continue with his theme of utilizing kobolds' heads for various purposes), Belkar has Mr Scruffy use Yukyuk's mouth as a litterbox. While he's still alive. Bonus points for mentioning that "dairy just is NOT good for a cat's digestion".
  • Stoic Woobie: Vaarsuvius

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