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Literature / The Dark Profit Saga

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Orconomics: A Satire cover
Son of a Liche cover
The Dark Profit Saga is a series of satirical fantasy novels by J. Zachary Pike, currently consisting of Orconomics: A Satire (2014) and Son of a Liche (2018). In preparation for the release of Son of a Liche, the author has also sent the short story "The Monster Below", which is also a part of this setting, to everyone pre-ordering the second novel.

The novels' setting is the fantasy world of Arth, which is described as "a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels." It's a mostly standard fantasy setting with a modern understanding of economics. A sizable chunk (as in 40%) of the economy of the Freedlands is based on the activities of the Heroes' Guild, who send out adventurers on quests and bring back loot from slain foes (or rather, F.O.E.'s, which stands for "Forces of Evil"). The loot is then assessed and split up between the interested parties (i.e. investors). Additionally, shares of the loot are bundled with shares of other loots and repackaged as new commodities to be sold on the market. There's also a bustling service industry catering to adventurers, including gear suppliers, innkeepers, healers, enchanters, potion merchants, etc. There is, of course, a large dose of risk, both personal (for adventurers) and financial (for investors). After all, no one knows for sure the value of loot a particular F.O.E. might possess. And, of course, a good percentage of adventurers don't survive their first year on the job, and many veterans burn out or become salve-heads (people addicted to healing salves, and who deliberately injure themselves just to get more). The various races of Arth are typically divided into the races of Man (the standard "good" races: humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes), the Shadowkin (the "cursed" races: Orcs, Goblins, Nagas, Trolls, etc.), and a myriad of monster races (e.g. Ogres, Lizardmen).

Gorm Ingerson is a Dwarf and a former adventurer, spending his days passed out drunk in one ditch or another. Then he saves the life of a Goblin he names Gleebek and gets "strongly encouraged" to join a holy quest by the followers of the goddess Al'Matra along with a group of misfits in order to wipe his slate clean. The alternative is to have the Heroes' Guild hang him for desertion (Guild rules say that all of their adventurers succeed or die trying; the rule is strictly enforced, even if they have to ensure the "die trying" portion by hanging any deserters) with Gleebek's status as an NPC (Noncombatant Paper Carrier) revoked through guilt by association. So, Gorm (along with Gleebek as his squire) has to become one of the Seven Heroes, along with an Al'Matran scribe who thinks he's the Seventh Hero, a thief-turned-bard/skirt-chaser, a pair of wizards who constantly bicker and engage in destructive duels, an Elective Mute former adventurer with PTSD, and a has-been Elf ranger who, like Gorm, likes to spend her days passed-out drunk.

The first book, Orconomics, was published in 2014. A sequel, Son of Liche, was published in 2018 and features Gorm and his band of disgraced heroes trying to win back the trust of the orcs they betrayed while trying to sell an effective counter-pitch against a liche's attempts to sell a city-state on the benefits of becoming an undead thrall. The author is currently working on the third and final novel titled Dragonfired.

As part of a promotion for Son of a Liche, the author has offered a free short story titled "The Monster Below" (as well as other goodies, such as a detailed map of Andarun), set in the same world, to anyone pre-ordering the book.

There is also A Song of Three Spirits, which is the Arth version of A Christmas Carol with Fenrir Goldson playing the part of Scrooge.

The author's website features a section on the world of Arth, written by the people he cooperated with on Worldbuilding the setting, which includes blog entries describing some of the races, clans, and organizations. There are also some pictures of the protagonist, Corrupt Corporate Executives, and others.

The series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Stone drakes, being massive ravenous beasts made of stone, don't tend to turn very well. Experienced adventurers know to leap out of its path when a stone drake is charging them. Most novices instead make the mistake of trying to outrun a stone drake though, which never works since stone drakes can actually move pretty fast in a straight line.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Orc tribe has a factory dedicated to producing Vorpal Swords. Everyone is disappointed, since the marketing for the blades pretends that they're actually forged by an old sword master on top of a secluded mountain. In fact, the whole process is done on the assembly line with even the rare ingredients supplied by efficient means. They also produce their own weapons, which are, apparently, superior to those sold by the races of Man. It's just that they don't yet have enough of a market penetration to really capitalize on it, so they sell them dirt-cheap.
  • Accidental Misnaming: After first saving the Goblin, Gorm asks for his name. The first word he hears in reply is "Gleebek", and he decides to call the Goblin by this name. Much later, they end up in an Orc city, and Gleebek starts speaking to the Orc chief in the Shadowtongue (which no one else in the party understands), while Gorm shouts for Gleebek to stop. The Orc idly wonders why the Dwarf is calling the Goblin "Hello". The Goblin, whose real name is Tib'rin, explains that Gorm doesn't speak Shadowtongue, so he's just been treating "Gleebek" like a name instead of a greeting. Gorm feels a little foolish when another bilingual Orc clears up the misunderstanding. Earlier, Tib'rin is shown slowly learning some Imperial and actually tries to correct Gorm on the name, telling him that "Gleebek is 'hello'", only for Gorm to assume his grammar needs work. In fact, it becomes clear why he keeps repeating "Gleebek" every time someone mentions his (mistaken) name: he assumes they're greeting him, so he says "hello" back.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: A major part of the premise is deconstructing this. The world's entire economy seems to revolve around the Heroes' Guild, where adventurers are hired to kill monsters and take their stuff for profit. The problem is that there aren't actually that many giant dragon hoards out there for the taking (especially not after the Guild's been operating for centuries) since unlike in games, gold doesn't magically grow on giant spiders. Most monsters don't have anything worth the trouble of taking, and when they do, it's generally because they stole it from someone else, who won't be happy with adventurers just taking it.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Kaitha signs up for the quest while being drunk. The next morning, she tries to get her agent to pull her out of the contract, only for the agent to drop her because this is only the latest in a long line of such incidents.
  • All Are Equal in Death:
    • Mordo Ogg gives no special treatment for anyone (hence his shortage of clerics) and everybody gets one visit from the god of Death.
    • The Head of Marketing workshops this as a recruiting slogan, but the focus group points out that it's blatantly untrue for undead who are anything but created equal. It also gets them wondering what kind of undead Tyren, Detarr Ur'Mayan's right-hand-skeleton, really is.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: They are if you're an NPC. One can lose their noncombatant papers for the slightest offence. In the second book, a Gnoll is mentioned to have his taken away for jaywalking. As soon as they lose their papers, Shadowkin and monsters automatically become fair game to anyone who wants to take their property as loot or kill them for points. It's not uncommon for the same bannermen who take away a Shadowkin's papers to kill them on the spot.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Trolls are large ape-like Shadowkin who, despite their size, are incredibly stealthy. They can also compress themselves into the size and shape of an ordinary boulder. According to legend, Trolls are Sten, who were corrupted by Mannon into a shadow of their former selves.
  • Alternative Calendar: The world of Arth goes by a different (although similar) calendar than we do. A year on Arth is not a perfect 361 days. It consists of twelve months of 30 days each plus Mordo Ogg's day - first day of winter (or summer in the South). All months are officially named after gods, but most people use common names, typically associated with farming (for example, the eighth month is formally called Maeneth, while its common name is Harvestgild). Every three or four years, Agekeepers declare a Dark Year (sort of like our leap year), which extends Mordo Ogg to a whole week (weeks are still seven days) to correct the calendar. Additionally, the history of Arth is divided into Ages. They're marked by significant events rather than length. Orconomics is set in year 373 of the seventh age, called the Age of Heroes. A year is typically written as [age].[year] (e.g. 7.373). For more details, visit here.
  • Anti-Magic: One of the products sold by Creative Destruction, Inc., is an anti-magic rune, which appears to be a small piece of paper. Reading the paper triggers the rune. It's a single-use item and has a fairly short range. It does, however, completely negate any spell, enchantment, or shapeshifter disguise in the area. The effect wears off in less than a minute but can prove crucial in battle. Heraldin uses one during the fight with Flynn's assassins, resulting in the partly learning that Gaist is a Doppelganger. When Heraldin surrenders himself to Benny Hookhand, he uses sleight of hand to hold one of the runes in the hand not gripping the hook. When the confused Benny glances at the piece of paper, it triggers the rune and temporarily knocks Benny out, allowing Heraldin to toss the hook into the river.
  • The Apprentice: Laruna is still ranked as an apprentice, although most of the members of the Academic Council of Mages have already voted to make her a full mage. Jynn is the only one who thinks she needs more control before becoming a mage. He is eventually impressed enough with her skills to give her his vote, causing her robes to instantly grow more ornate, signifying her new status.
  • Arch-Enemy: Both Johan and Detarr Ur'Mayan see each other as their arch-nemesis, what with Johan already killing Ur'Mayan once. They have a climactic duel near the end of the second book, although Johan ends up losing that one. The only reason he survives is because of Jynn's interference. It's implied that Gorm and Johan are heading in that direction and will come to a head in the third and final book.
  • The Archmage: The top wizards of both the Order of the Sun (solamancy) and Order of the Moon (noctomancy) are classified as archmages, and their robes automatically reflect their status. At the end of the second novel, Jynn fully embraces his omnimancy and defeats his father Detarr Ur'Mayan, becoming an omnimancer archmage in the process. He resolves to rebuild the long-extinct Order of the Twilight.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Jynn faces off against his father, the liche Detarr Ur'Mayan, during the climax of the second novel. While Detarr is initially the stronger and nearly kill Jynn, intending to turn him into his undead assistant, Jynn makes full use of his omnimancy power, long denied to him, and utterly curb-stomps his father, becoming an omnimancer archmage in the process.
  • Army of Lawyers: The Lawyer-monks of the Order of Adchul are so good at their job that they once saved a town from flooding by "drafting a cease-and-desist letter" to a river. There are also rumors of them successfully filing a motion with the gods to claim a sizable chunk of a dead priest's eternal reward. They're feared since even death will not keep someone from having to pay the piper.
  • Arranged Marriage: The marriage between King Handor and Queen Marja. It's not clear if the marriage has ever been consummated, but neither spouse particularly likes the other. Handor deals with the loveless marriage by throwing himself into running the kingdom and, occasionally, into a chambermaid's bed. Marja has chosen to fill the hole in her heart with teacakes, making Handor want to be with her even less. It's not a secret that Marja would much rather be married to Sir Johan, her rescuer. Frankly speaking, Handor would have liked that as well. After Johan kills Handor in the second book, he woos Marja and convinces her to marry him, thus becoming the new king.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The description for Son of a Liche lists that the novel pits the heroes against "dark magics, the risen dead, and — worst of all — marketing."
  • Ascended Extra: Burt the purse Kobold is present in only a few scenes in the first novel. In the second novel, he joins the main cast and travels with them, usually in Gorm's sack (Kobolds don't move particularly fast, given their short stature). Also Duine Poldo, who only appears a few times in the first novel but has his own Story Arc in the second book, intersecting with the main protagonists twice.
  • The Atoner: Duine Poldo becomes a philanthropist after leaving Goldson Baggs and starting his own investment firm Silver Guard Securities. It starts with letting Wood Gnomes live in his office, even though most consider them pests and typically call for an exterminator. Then he invites a Gnoll widow and her three cubs to live with him (he remembers her late husband from Goldson Baggs) and she becomes his invaluable assistant, while the Wood Gnomes also prove extremely useful. Eventually, he starts making plenty of money and buys up a number of apartment buildings, where the Gnoll widow settles those displaced by the recent events, who would otherwise have nowhere to turn to. Why is he The Atoner then? Because Duine realizes that many of them are in this position partly because of his actions at Goldson Baggs.
  • Battle Couple: On and off. Jynn and Laruna are, at first, at each other's throats, before they get together romantically. Then, once Jynn's secret comes to light, she breaks it off for about a year. Eventually, she comes to terms with it, and they're together again. But then his even greater secret is revealed, causing her to temporarily leave the party. While she does come back, she makes it clear that the "couple" part of this is over. Despite this, their magic complements one another: Laruna's raw power and Jynn's skill with spell-weaving. For example, during a battle, Laruna channels her fire at an enemy holding a shield. Jynn weaves a magical lens that sends Laruna's fire stream over the top of the shield and back down at the enemy holding it.
  • Beast Man: Most breeds of Gnoll look like canine halflings, Fennekin are a Demi-gnoll breed with more fox-like features and large ears, while Kobolds are Demi-gnolls small enough to fit in a rich elven lady's purse.
  • The Berserker: Gorm's former specialty during his glory days. As a member of the elite Brotherhood of Flame, Pyrebeard (as he used to be known) drove himself into a frenzy and attacked with abandon, able to slaughter entire armies in his fury. A side effect is that he remembers little of the battles. He's no longer a berserker at the start of the first book, since he's lost all reason to care enough about something to go mad fighting for it. During the final battle in Orconomics, Gorm becomes a berserker once again, easily curb-stomping Brunt and then pouncing on the Silver Talon battalions.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Garold Flinn is a Gnome of Clan Kendrin (who are often called Tinderkin) and looks like an Elf shrunken to the size of a Dwarf (slightly shorter than a Dwarf, actually). He is a mercenary commander, who always travels with an Ogre named Brunt, who is known for his temper and strength. Flinn almost never harms anyone, preferring to let Brunt do all the maiming, which the latter does gladly. At the end, though, it's revealed that Brunt is tired of always being The Brute and has always wanted to fight for justice. See them here.
  • Big Friendly Dog: In the orc village, the heroes pass by a kennel full of massive, slavering wargs. The orcs laugh and say that the wargs can "have their fun" once the chief is done with them. After the misunderstanding is cleared up and the heroes realize they're not prisoners, they come back the same way and are assaulted by the wargs, which refuse to leave them alone until they get belly scratches.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of Orconomics, Most of the heroes survive and continue their adventures, but Niln and Gleebek/Tib'rin are dead, an entire tribe of peaceful Orcs are slaughtered (although some manage to escape), most peaceful Shadowkin lose their NPC papers and are declared F.O.E.'s and the lives of those Shadowkin who avoid this are effectively hanging on a thread, and the heroes are hunted by the Heroes' Guild.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Jynn belittles omnimancers many times, claiming they're dangerous. In book 2, it's revealed that Jynn is an omnimancer himself and has been hiding it all his life. He gets over this by the end of book 2, resolving to rebuild the Order of the Twilight.
  • Bottomless Quiver: A Poor Man's Quiver always has an enchanted arrow in it, regardless of how many have been pulled out. Why is it called "Poor Man's Quiver"? Because buying it is certain to turn one poor given its exorbitant cost. Kaitha has one.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: The entire holy quest was orchestrated by Corrupt Corporate Executives in order to provide a pretext to wipe out the peaceful Orc tribe that has dared to start a competing business and then use the whole mess to revoke NPC status from most of the peaceful Shadowkin in order to start a "golden age of professional heroics"... i.e. renew sources of loot by killing Shadowkin and taking their stuff. As soon as the "Seven Heroes" are done, the execs have contingency plans to eliminate them as unnecessary witnesses.
  • Canine Companion: Jynn's childhood dog Patches joins the party midway through the second novel. Detarr killed Patches and merged it with the soul of a hellhound, creating an abomination under his command. After the abomination was killed, it split back into Patches and the hellhound. Strangely, Patches is now a full-grown dog instead of a puppy, but he still remembers Jynn and doesn't mind serving as a mount for the diminutive Burt (according to Burt, ancient Kobolds rode dogs into battle).
  • The Caper: In the second book, the party has to rob the Museum of Andarun in order to obtain the Wyrmwood Staff of Geffyn, a powerful omnimancer artifact, in order to stop Detarr Ur'Mayan's undead army.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Heraldin goes after pretty much anything female. His attempt at getting into Kaitha's pants results a few broken fingers, when he doesn't get the hint and release her hand. He's smart enough to avoid trying anything with Laruna, though... again, after losing his eyebrows the first time.
  • Cavalry of the Dead: In the second book, necromancer-turned-liche Detarr Ur'Mayan raises an army of various kinds of undead and starts moving through Ruskan and the Freedlands, destroying towns and cities, while the dead join their ranks. By the time the army is on approach to Andarun, it's a veritable horde. Even worse, a sizable percentage of town and city defenders are convinced to defect via the use of clever marketing and advertising by the undead. See here for the artwork. After Detarr's defeat, all the remaining undead now follow Detarr's second-in-command - Knight-Commander Tyren Ur'Thos. Tyren resolves to lead the undead out of the city and into a distant marsh, where his ancestral home is located.
  • The Chosen One: The followers of Al'Matra believe The Prophecy of the Seventh Hero, who is destined to complete a great quest for the glory of Al'Matra. There have been multiple candidates in the past, but all of them have either died or spent their lives waiting for their quest to start. Now, Niln believes himself to be the Seventh Hero, except he has zero combat skills and no adventuring experience.
  • Common Tongue: Imperial is the human language used by pretty much all races of Man. While Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes have their own languages, they tend to use Imperial in mixed company as it's fairly simple and concise. Elves, naturally, scoff at such a primitive tongue, but their own language is far too flowery for normal use, especially in business dealings. The Shadowkin races use their own common language called Shadowtongue.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In the second book, Knight-Commander Tyren Ur'Thos is killed and brought back as a death knight. He ends up one of Detarr Ur'Mayan's generals. However, just before the siege of Arth, he has second thoughts about what they're doing. Detarr uses the Crown of Iron Thorns to impose his will on Tyren, turning him into little more than a puppet, while Tyren's mind is forced to watch without being able to resist. Then he tries to strike down a girl and recognizes her as his daughter Aubren, whom he hasn't seen since she was a baby. This gives him enough strength to resist Detarr's control.
  • Cool Gate: The scientist at Creative Destruction Inc. are working on waygates that allow instantaneous passage between two arches, regardless of the distance, using a rare mineral called thaumite. Unfortunately, actually using a waygate weakens the thaumite until it eventually cracks, rendering it useless. So far, the scientists are trying to overcome that problem. The other problem? Thaumite is very expensive, so no mass-production of waygates in the near future. Near the end of the second novel, waygates are used to transport the Dwarven/Shadowkin army to Andarun, but the crystal breaks partway, resulting in only half of the army making it through.
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: All adventurers work for the Heroes' Guild. The more famous adventurers become cultural icons and are often contracted to sponsor merchandise of them.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Fenrir Goldson and Bolbi Baggs, who will do anything to ensure a steady profit for themselves and their shareholders, including slaughtering a tribe of peaceful Orcs, who were only trying to ensure their financial independence, and doom all Shadowkin to ensure a steady flow of loot.
  • Crown of Power: Detarr Ur'mayan uses an artifact called the Crown of Iron to create and command a massive undead horde.
  • Disciplines of Magic: "High" magic is divided into Solamancy (fire, water, light, and life) and Noctamancy (air, earth, shadow and death). Most mages can only channel one or the other; the rare "Omnimancers" are commonly stereotyped as insane, and not without reason.
  • Distressed Damsel: The story recounted at the beginning tells of the Evil Sorcerer Detarr Ur'Mayan, who kidnapped Princess Marja in order to force her to marry his son, and of the brave knight Johan, who slew Detarr and saved the princess. As later revealed by Detarr's son, the princess wasn't a prisoner. Her father voluntarily sent her to Detarr, then turned around and claimed kidnapping in order to have Detarr declared an F.O.E., so that a quest could be put out on him. This has something to do with the Leviathan Project, a secret work a number of noctomancers were doing for the king of the Freedlands in order to create a perfect Hero.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The collapsing adventuring bubble (huge, frenzied investments in expected loot with repeated low returns) is a clear fantasy stand-in for the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. A key player in the financial market is Goldson Baggs Group, Inc. (parody of Goldman Sachs). The parallel is even more obvious in the second book, where Collateralized Threat Obligations are the hottest new thing on the Wall, until the bubble bursts, of course.
    • The Elven/Orcish Marbles are a likely reference to the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: At the end of the second novel, Laruna introduces her new boyfriend to Heraldin and Gaist, whom she used to beat the crap out of in the street fighting ring. The guy clearly looks like he doesn't want to be there, but he seems to be too afraid of Laruna to resist.
  • Dream Weaver: Noros was the Gnomish god of dreams. He was convinced by Mannon to join him by promising him unrestricted freedom to create anything he can imagine, no matter how twisted. Noros became known as the Nightmare King and was responsible for some of the worst monsters of the War of Betrayal, including the creation of the monster races. The Agekeepers are still arguing on whether it was Noros who corrupted the Lightlings loyal to Mannon into the Shadowkin or Mannon himself.
  • Duality Motif: Niln has eyes of different color, which is a common indication of being a Half-Human Hybrid or an Elf-Gnome hybrid.
  • Dungeon-Based Economy: Combined with venture capitalism, this comprises about 40% of the economy.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Wyrmwood staff is rather choosy about who wields it, while Benny Hookhand goes so far as to possess his wielders. Gorm expresses the opinion that sentient weaponry was a bad idea multiple times.
  • Exact Words: When Gorm visits Andarun, he sees a street vendor, who sign says "Ten Cent Beef Rolls". So he orders two (for him and for Gleebek), only to be shocked, when the hawker asks for three giltin instead of twenty cents. When Golm points at the sign, the guy explains that they're a franchise of the Ten Cent Transportable Edibles Company, so the sign really says that they're Ten Cent-brand beef rolls, not that they actually cost ten cents.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Shadowkin are seen as this to the races of Man. According to legend, they were a product of Mannons attempt to create warriors for his army by corrupting those races loyal to him into a shadow of their former selves. For example, Gnolls, Gremlins, and Naga are former Gnomes (Clans Galden, Remlon, and Nagata, respectively), Goblins were once Dwarves of the Lost Clan, Orcs used to be Elves, and Trolls are the corrupted remains of the extinct Sten.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The novel starts with a story of how a knight named Johan rescued Princess Marja from an evil wizard named Detarr Ur'Mayan, who was trying to force her to marry his son. It was a Curb-Stomp Battle, with Detarr unable to hit the nimble knight with his spells, that ended with Detarr's head on the ground. Detarr eventually comes back as a liche. In fact, Detarr's son claims that it was all orchestrated by Marja's father, the King of Ruskan, who sent his daughter to Detarr as a gift and then turned around and claimed she was kidnapped. Other big names are mentioned in relation to the Leviathan Project: Teldir of Umbrax, Aya of Blades, Win Cinder, and Az'Anon the Spider King (he went by Az'Anon the Black at the time).
  • Fallen Hero:
    • Gorm used to be a well-known adventurer, known for slaying many dangerous F.O.E.'s. Then he ran from a dungeon, being the first Berserker in history to run from a fight. Since then, he's been running from the Heroes' Guild's justice, robbing adventurers for money, and drowning his sorrows in a bottle with said money. The Al'Matran quest represents his one chance to wipe the slate clean and become an adventurer again.
    • Kaitha used to be legendary as the Jade Wind, then her performance started to slide, as she started to heavily drink booze and abuse healing salves. Apparently, she hasn't completed a quest in 40 years.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: There's some indication that the nation of Ruskan is a fantasy stand-in for Russia, given that it's located to the east of the Freedlands, and a key Ruskan character is a werebear, who speaks in a characteristic Russian manner (e.g. dropping articles, saying phrases like "is good idea"). Other Ruskan characters don't speak the same way, possibly implying a regional dialect. There's also the Ruskan name for Wood Gnomes - "Domovoy" (supposedly means "rat men"). In Russian tradition, Domovoy are household gods/spirits.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Arth has multiple gods, all of whom revealed themselves to the mortal races at one point. Al'Matra is the mother goddess, who has gone mad after her lover betrayed her and started a war, which was only ended when Al'Matra's son killed her lover. The author periodically updates his blog to list various gods. There's usually one god in each category per the original races of Man, although all Stennish gods were banished after the War of Betrayal, and many of their names have been forgotten. The exception is Mordo Ogg, the God of Death, who is one for all mortal creatures. So far, the blog includes the gods of hearth, dominion, beasts, love, war, earth, night, air, trade, light, water, fire, as well as some minor gods.
  • Fantasy World Map: You can find it at the end of the book and on the author's website here.
  • Fictional Currency: Giltin are used as the currency of the Freedlands. At one point, Gorm complains that he liked it more when people used actual gold coins, demonstrating by biting and easily bending a giltin coin. A mage then explains that giltin are merely a symbol of power: the more giltin a person has, the more power he or she possesses. Gorm admits he has never thought about it this way before. Smaller coins are silver shillings (1G = 10 shillings) and copper cents (1 shilling = 10 cents).
    • The second book explains that the giltin were introduced after Dwarven alchemists perfected their craft and started producing mountains of gold, tanking their economy. Thus, the giltin are detached from the gold standard, preventing such a disaster from repeating. The Dwarven Empire still hasn't recovered.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Johan single-handedly carves a path through the Cavalry of the Dead to get to Detarr Ur'Mayan in the second book. Detarr notes how predictable Johan is.
  • The Fog of Ages: Since the Elves are The Ageless, some of the oldest are over a thousand years old, maybe several thousand. Over time, old memories fade to be replaced by new memories, and this explicitly is why an Elf from a thousand years ago is no longer the same person. Some of them fear this loss of identity and resort to following a strict adherence to rituals; the entire idea is to prevent themselves from forming new memories in the first place. A "particularly tragic" case involves an Elven couple living on the edge of poverty for decades... so they can save enough money to have the same wedding again, just to repeat the cycle anew.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Apparently, whenever an Elven princess (even a disowned one) sings in a forest, all the living creatures run to the song, even if the only living creatures are scary monstrosities.
    Ragged chipmunks and venomous snakes alike followed in Kaitha's footsteps, swaying with the melody of her song. She gently patted the nose of a savage-looking deer, the kind of grizzled doe that a soft puma from the foothills wouldn't stand a chance against.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Professional heroes are only allowed to go after F.O.E.'s, which stands for "Forces of Evil", a label that is assigned by the Heroes' Guild and typically applies to any non-NPC Shadowkin and any monstrous creature. It can also apply to any Man, who has committed heinous crimes (e.g. dabbling in necromancy). Also, NPC stands for Noncombatant Paper Carrier, a status given to those Shadowkin, who seek to live peacefully among the races of Man.
  • God of Evil: Mannon, the Dark Lord, responsible for the War of Betrayal and the creation of the Shadowkin.
  • Great Offscreen War: The War of Betrayal happened long ago in Arth's history. It started, when Al'Thadan (the All Father), the king of the gods, betrayed his lover Al'Matra (the All Mother), revealing himself and the Sten (humanoid giants with great raw magical power) to be agents of Mannon. They unleashed Trolls on the races of Man, who slaughtered them left and right, until Tandos, one of Al'Matra and Al'Thadan's sons, rallied mankind against the forces of Mannon. The war ended, when Tandos's armies wiped out the Sten and he personally killed Al'Thadan. The war had far-reaching consequences for the world of Arth, with Mannon and some of the other gods on his side creating the Shadowkin and the monster races to fight the Children of the Light. It also reshaped the world's Fantasy Pantheon, with the traitor gods being cast aside, and Tandos becoming the regent, as Al'Matra has gone mad after Al'Thadan's betrayal and is in no condition to rule.
  • The Grim Reaper: Mordo Ogg is the god of death. His priests are few in number, as there aren't many perks to being one. When a priest of Mordo Ogg dies, he doesn't get any special treatment in the afterlife. That said, when Detarr Ur'Mayan starts raising an undead army, the priests of Mordo Ogg get extremely annoyed, since souls are supposed to go from the mortal realm to the dominion of their god, not the other way around. The priest in Andarun ends up going out onto the streets during the attack on the city and uses the power granted by Mordo Ogg to destroy the undead in the vicinity in order to restore the natural balance.
  • Healing Factor: Trolls have incredible self-healing abilities and are almost unkillable as a result. Their wounds, even those that would be mortal to anyone else, close within seconds. This can be inconvenient if there is a foreign object still stuck in the wound, though, as the Troll then has to cut the wound open again in order to get the object out.
  • Healing Hands: Solamancers can learn to weave healing spells, especially those that specialize in the "life" discipline. Unfortunately for the party, all Laruna knows how to do is make fire, which is only good for cauterizing wounds as far as healing goes.
    • In the second novel, Jynn reveals himself to be an omnimancer by using solamancy to cure Laruna's poison.
  • Healing Potion: Healing salves are a must for any hero as injuries, both life-threatening and not so much, are common. Applying a salve to a wound heals it in a matter of seconds. The healing potions are accordingly treated as particularly necessary for professional heroics, and also as dangerous as a legally-controlled narcotic in the real world: the rush of healing, the "good feeling" that comes with drinking a potion and it healing the body is potentially addictive. Many heroes become "salveheads" as a result, doing anything for another healing salve so they can injure themselves and feel the rush again. Kaitha's real addiction is healing potions, not booze.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After being soundly beaten by the beserk Gorm and healed by the troll Thane, Brunt decides he no longer wants to be a bad guy. He shows up in two scenes in the second book, the second of which has him in line to get his Hero license.
  • Hobbits: Halflings are Gnomes of Clan Haughlin. They're short, rotund, and have hairy feet. They don't like to work and only value wealth and comfort. Their homeland is Hollinsher (formerly Haughlin-Shire), full of rolling hills. The most famous Halfling of all is Bolbi Baggs, a successful businessman and co-founder of Goldson Baggs Group, Inc.
  • The Horde: In the second novel, many Shadowkin have banded together into the Red Horde, which attacks and pillages Lightling settlements.
  • Hub City: Andarun is the capital of the Freedlands and the largest city on Arth, rivaling the old Imperial City. It's a huge, multi-tiered city, built into the side of a mountain. Tiers are used as part of addresses for locations in Andarun. According to legend, it used to be the capital of the Sten kingdom until they betrayed the other races of Man and were wiped out. In fact, the original Sten walls are vastly superior to what the others have been able to build next to them.
  • Humans Are Average: Humans are the baseline race of Man, the so-called "default". Any Elf/Gnome/Stenn hybrids generally end up human, as well as any Half Human Hybrids. Humans also reproduce much faster than any other race of Man.
  • Hungry Jungle: The Myrewood, a swamp so savage that the even chipmunks are battle-scarred and a harmless-looking little weaselnote  gives the party pause.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Niln once refers to Gorm Ingerson as "Gorm, son of Inger", implying that all Dwarven surnames are really patronymics. By that same logic, Fenrir Goldson is really "Fenrir, son of Gold".
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Thane the Troll explains that he has saved many people in Mirewood, but every time he shows them what he is, they all either run or try to attack him. The worst thing to him is seeing "that face" in the people he has rescued, which is why he no longer shows himself to others, preferring to be seen as the mythical King in the Wood. When asked if maybe all Trolls are just misunderstood, Thane is quick to point out that most of the Trolls he's met really are Jerk Asses. In the second book's epilogue, he ends up saving Duine Poldo from being robbed and killed by a carriage driver. Poldo is the first person in Thane's memory not to react to him as a monster. In fact, Duine offers him a job as his bodyguard.
  • Impossible Thief: Heraldin has magic fingers when it comes to locks. To others, it looks like he barely even taps a lock, and it opens.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: The gazer (a flying mechanical construct animated by sprites) Gorm gets from an assassin eventually breaks down, starts wandering around and saying things like "It looks like this item doesn't work here."
  • Insistent Terminology: Heraldin is very insistent on not using the term "thief" for his former profession, lest one Benny Hookhand find out.
  • Jerkass Hero: The adventurer at the beginning of the novel, who ruins the farmer's crops and buildings, sleeps with his daughter, while clearing out a Goblin infestation and then demands payment in spite of the damages. Whenever the farmer brings up the collateral damage, the adventurer simply shrugs and says "Standard procedure." Luckily for the farmer, one Goblin survives and runs off, so the farmer forces the adventurer to stick to the letter of the contract and kill every single Goblin in the area.
  • Living Weapon: Most Heroes know to stay clear of these, as they tend to do whatever they feel like. In the second novel, the protagonists need to obtain the ancient Wyrmwood Staff of Geffyn, a powerful omnimancer artifact. Detarr Ur'Mayan convinces it to switch sides. Later, the protagonists are surprised to learn that the infamous crime lord Benny Hookhand is a hook, who takes control over the body of any person touching him. Heraldin knew, and was actually Benny's host body for a time, but never specified Benny's nature.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the second book, Gorm figures out a way to stop the undead army, while also keeping Johan from profiting from it. He convinces the king of the Old Dwarven Kingdom to give the Red Horde Dwarven citizenship, as well as membership in the Dwarven branch of the Heroes' Guild. After the combined Dwarf-Shadowkin army helps to drive the undead away from Andarun, the Dwarven king tells Johan that the Freedlands has no claim on the recovered loot. Why? Because the Dwarven Heroes were fulfilling a quest originally submitted by the Ruskans, not the nearly identical quest submitted by the Freedlands. Saving the capital of the Freedlands was just a side benefit. Thus, the only parties with a claim on the loot are the Dwarves and Ruskan.
  • The Lost Lenore: According to Jynn, it was his mother's death that kicked off Detarr's Star Of Darkness. Prior to that, he was a loving father and husband.
  • Mad God: Well, "mad goddess". After the War of Betrayal, Al'Matra has gone mad and is no longer fit to rule the Fantasy Pantheon. Her son Tandos rules as her regent. High scribes of Al'Matra get daily insights from her and write them down into holy books... but these usually read like a typical madwoman's stream of consciousness. For example, the latest high scribe's writings mostly feature musings on a mind-boggling variety of olives. He's gotten used to just ignoring his right hand, which is under the goddess's control, and doesn't even bother reading the scripture.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: In the world of Arth, high magic is composed of two elements: the warp and the weft, which represent the moon (air, earth, shadow, death) and the sun (fire, water, light, life), respectively. Mages (called noctomancers and solamancers, respectively) tend to be masters of either one or the other. There used to be a third group of mages called omnimancers, capable of weaving both warp and weft spells, but they tended not to have much control over it and were seen as an abomination by the other two orders. There is also low magic, known only to the extinct Sten, which can control the most basic elements in the world: life and death, love and hatred, blood and bone. The Leviathan Project was a secret attempt by top noctomancers to use low magic to discover the secret of immortality.
  • Magic Compass: In the second book, Gorm gets a gazer from an assassin. A gazer is a mechanical construct animated by various sprites, including search sprites. The directions given by the gazer sound almost exactly like those of a GPS navigator: "make a U-turn", "take the next available left". It's also prone to the same problems as a GPS, such as claiming that their destination is located in the middle of a lake.
  • Magical Society: The wizards of Arth are divided into two groups: the Order of the Sun for solamancers and the Order of the Moon for notcomancers. Due to financial constraints, both orders typically pool their resources and occupy the same buildings in cities. There also used to be a third group called the Order of the Twilight, but after the omnimancers sided with Mannon during the War of Betrayal, their order is all but extinct, with the few remaining omnimancers treated as the magical equivalent of lepers. At the end of the second novel, Jynn becomes an omnimancy archmage and resolved to rebuild the Order of the Twilight.
  • Magic Staff: The Wyrmwood Staff of Geffyn is an ancient and powerful omnimancer artifact that can multiply the power of one's spells. Being a Living Weapon, it has a mind of its own and may refuse to obey a wielder it doesn't like. Generally, though, mages don't use staffs.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first book has both humorous and serious moments up until Gorm realizes they've all been played from the get-go. The rest of the book is decidedly more somber.
  • Mooks: Thugs are trained professionals of the Thugs' Union, who are typically hired to "take care of" adventurers by interested parties. Adventurer deaths tend to be investigated, and forensics may reveal Thug involvement (which generates a lot of paperwork). As a result, Thugs prefer to ambush adventurers in areas where dead adventurers won't be investigated, such as woods full of F.O.E.'s. The Silver Talons are a well-known thug organization. There is also the League of Goons, which are ranked lower than thugs.
  • Mugging the Monster: When Gorm is introduced, he wakes up in a ditch, covered in dirt, and has a bad hangover. An adventurer tries to kill a goblin, which has seemingly picked Gorm as its protector. Gorm decides not only to protect the creature on a whim but also to liberate the adventurer from his possessions. The adventurer, incensed at being threatened by some drunk, tries to attack. Even hungover, though, Gorm easily beats the adventurer.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: A recurring problem for elves, as they inevitably end up forgetting little things, one after another, until they're for all intents and purposes a different elf than they were a hundred years ago, let alone five hundred.
  • Mysterious Past: Jynn is reluctant to be open about his past. This is because he is the son of the Evil Sorcerer Detarr Ur'Mayan, and he'd rather that remain a secret. In the second novel, it turns out he has an even bigger secret — he's an omnimancer.
  • Necromancer: Some noctomancers drift into the forbidden parts of their magic and start meddling with life and death itself, becoming necromancers.
  • Never Split the Party:
    • This is Gorm's number one rule, and one generally known to successful (i.e. alive) adventurers. He knows from years of adventuring that splitting the party usually ends badly. When one member ends up slipping away in the Mirewood to get her salve fix, he's furious and later chews her out for it, especially since she should know better, being a legendary hero herself.
    • Proven true later, when Niln leaves the group after the quest is complete to go back to the temple, only to be betrayed and stabbed by the people he thought were supposed to protect him. Likewise, Gorm decides to leave Gleebek/Tib'rin at the Orc city, figuring he'll be safer there than as a hero's squire (and a terrible squire at that). When the Orc city is raided by swarms of heroes, the entire population is slaughtered, including Tib'rin. Naturally, Gorm blames himself.
    • Near the end of the second book, the party splits up, but not for long, as Gorm manages to get them back together. During the final battle of the book, the others have to split up again, with Gorm pointing out how bad of an idea that is. The others explain that they've tried splitting up, that doesn't work. So they're merely "tactically reconfiguring their proximity".
  • Nom de Guerre:
    • Gorm used to be known as Pyrebeard in his glory days.
    • Kaitha's former nickname was the Jade Wind.
    • Gaist used to go by Iheen the Red. The second book reveals that Iheen the Red died years ago. Gaist is a Doppelganger, who secretly worked with Iheen in order to make it seem like the Hero could be in multiple places at the same time. After Iheen's death, Gaist became a Death Seeker.
  • Nonhuman Sidekick:
    • Gleebek, a Goblin that Gorm saves from an adventurer, who opts to stay close to the Dwarf. In order to provide a job for Gleebek (a legal requirement to maintain the Goblin's NPC status), Gorm hires him on as his squire. Gleebek only speaks Shadowtongue, which Gorm doesn't know, so the Dwarf frequently just guesses at Gleebek's meaning.
    • In the second book, that role goes to a Kobold named Burt, who appears in the first book a few times. Unlike Gleebek, Burt is fluent in both Imperial and Shadowtongue and has connections everywhere, frequently through other Kobolds.
  • Nonindicative Name: A bugbear is described as "neither a bug nor a bear, but instead a rather large breed of Demi-gnoll."
  • Notorious Parent: Jynn is the son of the infamous necromancer Detarr Ur'Mayan, and he's been trying to put it past him since his father's death at the hands of the kingdom's greatest hero. In the first book, the Temple of Al'Matra uses his parentage to blackmail him into joining their "Seventh Hero" quest, but the rest of the party figures it out when they run into a liche who recognizes him (hence the second book's title, Son of a Liche).
  • Off with His Head!: This is how Johan the Mighty dealt with Detarr Ur'Mayan. Detarr later comes back as a liche with a bleached skull floating in a pillar of amethyst flame. When Gorm later repeats Johan's feat, Detarr is more annoyed than dead, picking up the skull and complaining about how difficult it is to properly align it again.
  • One-Gender Race: No one has ever seen a female Dwarf. In fact, the author states that they don't exist. This doesn't stop the Dwarves from reproducing, but no one outside this race knows how that happens. One day, a Dwarf just starts walking around with a little bearded boy on his back, swinging a toy hammer. Attempts to ask them where the little ones come from have resulted in beatings. This also explains why Dwarves really hate when people start talking to them about their romantic relationships and feelings, reacting to it in a way a modern person might react about someone's graphic description of a sex act.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Averted with Garold Flynn. When his team of assassins assumes that he wants to be the one to struck the final blow on Gorm, Flynn just gives them a confused look and clarifies that anyone who has an opening to kill the Dwarf should most definitely do it. While he undoubtedly holds a grudge for Gorm chopping off one of his arms, thus forcing him to replace it with an animated prosthetic, he isn't stupid enough to fight a berserker one-on-one. Instead, he's planning on hiding in the distance and taking potshots at the party with his crossbow.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When the protagonists are trying to warn a knight-commander about the approaching undead horde, he wearily points to to a stack of forms they have to fill out, figuring they're simply trying to cash in on a possible threat. During the argument with him, they tell him that they don't care about registering a claim to the threat, which would entitle them to a share of the loot. This is the knight-commander's clue that they're serious. What adventurer in their right mind would refuse loot, unless there was a deadly threat?
  • Our Dragons Are Different: While dragons exist on Arth, most heroes steer clear of them, knowing that it's better to let sleeping dragons lie rather than try to make a go at their hoards. Drakes are various kinds of dragon-like creatures, who typically lack the brains of the dragons. All are collectively known as Dragonkin.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted. There are multiple clans of Dwarves. The main thing all of them share is that no one has even seen any female Dwarf. Dwarves themselves are sensitive about the subject of their reproduction, so no one brings it up. Gorm tends to speak with the "standard" Scotirish accent Dwarves have in fiction with aye's, ye's, and a brogue, although the same can't be said for Fenrir Goldson.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Par for the course of this trope, the Elves on Arth believe themselves to be superior to all other races. They appear to be The Ageless. Elves are split into houses, dominated by Great Houses. Most busy themselves with intrigue and power games, mainly to enrich themselves and to pass the time. One popular fad amongst the high Elven ladies is to have purse Kobolds. To the Kobolds, it's the cushiest gig ever.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Gnomes are one of the original four races of Man. Over the ages, though, the various clans have changed, both mentally and physically, and are now considered subraces, although the general term "Gnome" is the PC way of referring to them. Of note are the Halflings (see Hobbits above), the Scribkin (Clan Tinkrin), and the Tinderkin (Clan Kaedrin).
    • The Scribkin are often seen as the quintessential Gnomes due to their appearance, work ethic, and curiosity, and they won't argue the point. They are hard workers (although they prefer intellectual labors to physical ones), and their natural curiosity drives them to advance the science of Arth. They are the only ones to use flying machines for transportation. After being driven from their home of Essenpi by the Kobolds during the War of Betrayal, they have managed to retake Essenpi, but much of the ancestral knowledge was lost, and they are only scratching at the surface of their forebears' advances. Click here for an artwork of a Scribkin named Duine Poldo (working with Wood Gnomes, see below).
    • The Tinderkin are the tallest of the Gnomes, only about a head shorter than an average human. They have Elf-like features and their nomadic culture is reminiscent of Gypsies (in fact, on Arth, it's Gypsies who are often called Tinderchildren). Being the physically strongest Gnomes, they often work as professional heroes and mercenaries. They are quick on their feet and prefer the outdoors.
    • The Wood Gnomes of Clan Fengeld (called Domovoy by Ruskans) are only a few inches tall. Most consider them pests, as they frequently move into a property. If they're disrespected (which includes not following certain rituals, such as knocking three times and spinning in place when entering), they show off their capacity for property destruction. On the other hand, they also can be a boon to anyone they respect, as they are quick and hard workers.
    • The Hill Gnomes of Clan Erdin (also known as Dwerrow) have many similarities with Dwarves, with the major difference being the existence of Dwerrow women. Don't call them "Hill Dwarves" though. Neither they nor Dwarves like that.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins are widely regarded as Shadowkin pests, who are ugly as sin and are only really dangerous in large packs. Adventurers typically slay them in droves to bulk up their career records. They only speak their language, not that anyone is interested in speaking with them. Orconomics starts with an adventurer clearing out a Goblin infestation in a farmer's basement (obliterating half the farm and sleeping with the farmer's daughter along the way). One Goblin manages to survive and flees. He happens upon the sleeping Gorm, who protects the Goblin from the adventurer and later helps him obtain his NPC papers and hires him on as his squire (all NPCs need to have a job for the papers to be valid).
  • Our Humans Are Different: Humans arose when the original four races started to interbreed, as any interracial mixing results in a human, as will any human/human pairing.
  • Our Kobolds Are Different: Dog-like kobolds exist as a sub-clan of gnolls. There's a bit of a fashion among elven ladies for "purse kobolds", and it's considered a cushy job for NPCs (Non-Combatant Paper Carriers) to take.
  • Our Liches Are Different: After being slain by the great Hero Johan decades prior, the noctomancer/necromancer Detarr Ur'Mayan makes his return as an undead liche, using the Crown of Iron Thorns to raise and control a Cavalry of the Dead.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Mr. Stearn, the financier who gets Duine Poldo into Collateralized Threat Obligations, is a werebear. He claims that they don’t hunt people for sport like werewolves. He is killed with silver arrows in the post-crash riot, and raised as an undead bear-man when the Horde arrives. During the retreat he proposes starting an undead-run bank to Tyren.
  • Overly Long Name: Kaitha's full name includes "Kaitha te'Althuanasa Malaheasi Leelana Ter'ethe", "Liliea Musanatila Bae Iluvia", "Yi'Nailn Loela Toranga Migracie", and "Asanti Tilalala nil Tyrieth". There may be more in-between those parts, as Kaitha and Gorm were talking, while her agent was angrily listing all her names in a single breath.
  • Pardon My Klingon: "Bones" is a common curse word on Arth. Its origins aren't mentioned. For all we know, they might really not like doctors or anthropologists.
  • Playing with Fire: Solamancers can manipulate and produce fire, although that's just one of their abilities. Pyromancers are solamancers that specialize in fire.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Garold Flynn is fond of dipping his crossbow bolts into poison in order to make sure that even a glancing hit ends up being fatal. Laruna ends up being hit with one of the bolts. Without any anti-poison potions, Jynn is forced to use solamancy to heal her for the first time since he was a child, thus revealing him to be an omnimancer.
  • Poor Communication Kills: This nearly happens when the party encounters an Orc tribe. The leader of the Orcs sent to get them comes off as overtly threatening, demands they hand over their weapons, boasts about the number and sharpness of his warriors' weapons while insulting theirs, separates them, and takes them to his chief. The chief then threatens to "honor" them with his axe, which is, quite obviously, taken as a threat.
    • Luckily, it's eventually made clear that the Orcs were actually being friendly and mercantile, but their manner didn't come off as anything but hostile. The leader of the Orc group (the chief's son) has actually adopted the "Aggressive Salesman" posture, trying to entice the potential customers to buy the Orcs' wares (namely, weapons) by boasting about the goods, while insulting the competition (the party's weapons). As for forcibly marching them to see the chief, they were just providing an honor guard to the visitors. Being separated? Well, that's just personal service. As for how the Men were supposed to know the Orcs were friends, well, the chief's son did wear his beads in a way clearly indicative of friendship, it's just that most Lightlings don't know much about Orc customs. The chief's offer to honor them with his axe was actually supposed to have been taken as an offer to give said weapon to Gorm as a gesture of goodwill. When the whole mess is cleared up, the party suddenly starts to see the Orcs in a new light and far less threatening. When Gorm later asks Thane why he didn't intervene, the Troll points out that the Orcs were clearly not hostile (they were wearing those pattern of beads, why didn't you see it), so he didn't see a reason to.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Gremlins are extremely good at biomancy and they tend to use it, first and foremost, on themselves. This is why no Gremlin looks quite like another, and they tend to like it that way.
  • Proud Merchant Race: The Guz'Varda Tribe of the Orcs have become this under the leadership of Chief Zurthraka. When his son Char fails in the "path of the aggressive seller", resulting in the party thinking that they've been taken prisoner, he roars at him in anger.
    Zurthraka: You failed to establish your value proposition! You have fallen from the way of aggressive selling! One must always announce one's purpose in the market to the potential customer!
    • In the second book, Char and Darak wish to return the tribe to its warlike origins, while their wiser sister Asherzu wants to follow in their father's footsteps.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Orcs tend to be this, even those with NPC status. Smart tribes have managed to turn themselves into a Proud Merchant Race. Gorm notes that "honor races" like the Orcs tend to be less about doing good and following a set of moral principles and more about attacking others for real or perceived slights.
  • Purple Prose: It's stated that the Elven language is extremely flowery and full of nuances. By contrast, Imperial is direct and concise, typically resulting in the Elves scoffing at it. On the other hand, the "floweriness" of the Elven language makes it impractical to use in business dealings, so they frequently conduct their deals in Imperial. In some ways, Elvish is likely a stand-in for French in the setting. The similarity is reinforced even more by the phrase "il'ne se la" meaning exactly the same thing as "je ne sais quoi". Cue the typical question from a less-educated character about the meaning and not understanding the answer.
    Burt: It's got a certain il'ne se la.
    Gorm: A what?
    Burt: You know, il'ne se la. It's Elven.
    Gorm: What's it mean?
    Burt: "I don't know what."
    Gorm: Well, if ye don't know what it means, why are ye sayin' it?
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The so-called "Seven Heroes", assembled by the Temple of Al'Matra for a holy quest.
    • Gorm Ingerson, Dwarf of the Khazad'im Clan, a cynical has-been and a drunk, who sees the quest as a way to wipe the slate clean and become a hero again. Was called "Pyrebeard" in his heyday. Click here for his picture.
      • Gleebek, a Goblin and Gorm's (quite terrible) squire. Only speaks Shadowtongue, which no one else in the party understands. His real name is eventually revealed to be Tib'rin of the River Turtle Clan. To be fair, he constantly tries to correct Gorm on his name ("Gleebek" is Shadowtongue for "hello"), but Gorm doesn't speak Shadowtongue, and Tib'rin doesn't speak Imperial.
      • In the second book, Tib'rin's role is taken by a Kobold named Burt. Unlike Tib'rin, Burt is worldly and speaks both Imperial and Shadowtongue. He also has connections everywhere, frequently through other Kobolds. See his picture here.
    • Heraldin Strummons, the party's bard, who is fairly good with a sword, much better than he is with a lute. A Casanova Wannabe, whose Double Entendres annoy pretty much everyone. Has a former past as a thie... acquisition specialist.
    • Jynn Ur'Gored of the Order of the Moon, High Councilor of the Circle of the Red Hawk, a high-ranking noctomancer, well known for the intricacy of his spell-weaving. Later revealed to be the son of the Evil Sorcerer Detarr Ur'Mayan and starts going by his real last name. Looks down on Laruna and has learned to quickly put up magical shields, when she goes ballistic and starts blasting everything in sight.
    • Laruna Trullon of the Order of the Sun, an apprentice solamancer, Unskilled, but Strong in the art of fire magic, able to throw powerful blasts but lacking sufficient control to weave complex spells. Has field experience working as a hero. Her personality matches her abilities, and she frequently goes into meltdowns that result in something catching fire.
    • Gaist, an Elective Mute with a death wish, a former companion of Gorm's, although he went by Iheen the Red back then. Very good at throwing daggers.
    • Kaitha, an Elf ranger, known as the Jade Wind in her glory days. Has since become a drunk and a salve-head. She hasn't completed a quest in 40 years. A former Elven princess of House Tyrieth. See Overly Long Name for parts of her full name.
    • Niln il'Devin, a high scribe of the goddess Al'Matra, and self-prophesied Seventh Hero. Has heterochromia due to being a first-generation human (a result of a union between any two races of Man, which is always a human). Has zero skills as an adventurer and can barely hold a blade.
    • Partway through, a Troll named Thane secretly joins the party, with only Gorm knowing about him. He has a crush on Kaitha, but prefers to remain as her unseen guardian spirit, knowing that an Elf could never love a Troll. However, by the end of the second book, the entire party is aware of Thane and accepts him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Chief Zurthraka of the Orcish Guz'Vada Tribe. While, at first, he seems to be a typical aggressive Shadowkin, he turns out to be quite friendly and only wants what's best for his tribe, while turning them into a Proud Merchant Race to adapt and thrive. His eldest son Char tries to usurp power and go back to Orcs' Proud Warrior Race Guy ways, only for the chief to thoroughly trounce him and then cut off his beard (a symbol of maturity and power). He then points out that, had he been following the old ways, he would have killed his challenger... and lost a son. When the Heroes' Guild declares the tribe F.O.E.'s and sends a massive number of adventurers to storm the city, the chief is later found dead with dozens of dead heroes around him.
    • Zurthraka's daughter Asherzu in the second book. After Char is killed on a raid against the Lightlings, Asherzu's other brother Darak becomes chief. However, Darak's inexperience allows him to be easily manipulated by Grignot Gabuk'mug, who convinces Darak to ignore his wise sister's advice. Unlike Char or Darak, Asherzu firmly believes in their father's "path of the aggressive seller". Eventually, Asherzu challenges Darak for leadership, forcing him to choose between killing her and surrendering the position he doesn't really want. He opts for the latter, making her the new chief. Darak then offers to be her champion, when Grignot challenges Asherzu for leadership, and easily kills his former advisor, when no one in the entire Red Horde steps up to defend latter.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: In the second book Kaitha is making a suspiciously grey stew from what she scavenged of a destroyed garrison's larder after the Red Horde took the crates and barrels, explaining that it left nowhere for the rats to hide.
    Gorm: I've eaten worse.
    Kaitha: There's worse in here.
  • Rescue Sex: Implied in the opening story, after Johan the Mighty rescues Princess Marja from the Evil Sorcerer Detarr Ur'Mayan's attempts to forcibly marry her to his son. He tells her that he's taking her back to her father to be properly married. Her reaction is that she's much rather thank the brave paladin properly.
    "Johan!" The princess threw her arms around him. "You came!"
    "Indeed, Milady." He gently lifted her into his muscular arms. "And now, I shall return you to your father's palace."
    Princess Marja gave a little laugh and tossed her curly auburn locks. "Oh, no rush."
    "And you shall be married to your good prince!"
    "Or not," said Marja suggestively.
    "Ha haaa!" Johan trumpeted once more.
  • Retcon: An in-universe example with the Retconomicon, the "most powerful magical tome never written". Apparently, it was the most comprehensive magical text on chronomancy, but it was so dangerous it could unmake reality itself, so the book ended up retroactively preventing its own writing, so every page is blank.
  • Retirony:
    • Near the end of Orconomics, Brunt is lying in a ditch, badly wounded in his fight with Gorm in his Berserker mode. When Thane approaches him, Brunt tells him that he was going to retire in two weeks. Thane heals him with a potion, though, telling Brunt that he doesn't have to be a bad man anymore.
    • Nove's second principle of universal irony draws a correlation between the anticipation of something and the likelihood of a tragic event preventing it. Thus, bannermen know not to be too happy about their upcoming retirement, lest a crossbow bolt strike them instead of, say, a younger, more rebellious partner.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Elf rangers tend to have this as one of their traits. At one point, Kaitha separates from the rest, so Gorm starts leaving clearly-visible axe marks on trees to allow her to track them. When another party member wonders if it's going to work, Gorm points out that a drunken Ogre would be able to follow them, much less a trained Elf ranger.
  • Self-Harm: Salve-heads are Arth's equivalent to drug addicts, except they're addicted to healing salves. They deliberately cut themselves (usually on their arms) and then apply a salve to get their fix. Many former heroes get addicted and end up losing everything, wasting away on the streets, cutting themselves in the hopes that a passerby gives them a salve. Many bleed to death instead.
  • Sherlock Scan: Averted. When finding a dead body in the Mirewood, everyone starts trying to figure out the person's identity, until Gorm lists off a number of very specific facts about him. He then shows the dead guy's Thugs' Union card he found on him.
  • Shock and Awe: Noctomancers are able to throw lightning bolts, among other things.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Thrones is a popular chess-like game in Arth, so it doesn't take long before someone talks about playing a Game of Thrones.
    • One of the two founders of Goldson Baggs Group, Inc., is a Halfling named Bolbi Baggs. The company itself is a shout-out to Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
      • The series has a number of shout-outs to Real Life companies, such as Lamia Sisters (Lehman Brothers), Citistate (Citibank), and J.P. Gorgon (J.P. Morgan).
      • Duine Poldo also deals with a certain Samel Fitch, who develops a methodology for rating Collateralized Threat Obligations, who is an obvious reference to Fitch Ratings, Inc. while a Mr. Stearns who trades the CT Os is a werebear, referring to Bear Stearns.
    • A weapon salesman offers Gorm a Sword of Truth that glows white, whenever the wielder has an epiphany. Gorm points out that it's not very useful in a heated battle and then claims the blade is overpriced, causing the sword to blaze white.
    • Garold Flinn might be a reference to Errol Flynn.
    • The second book features a company called Yutani Arms Traders Incorporated. Then it's revealed that "YUTANI ARM TRADERS" is an anagram of "IT'S DETARR UR'MAYAN".
    • During a conversation between Kaitha and Gorm about the dangers of heroes doing stupid things for glory, Gorm recalls a story about a well-known and highly-skilled group of heroes that were killed to a man when an inexperienced member of the crew charged into a drake roost and angered all the Acid Drakes inside.
  • Shown Their Work: While obviously taking place in a world of High Fantasy, the actual economic theories and issues presented are accurate to Real Life. The "collateralized threat obligations" are perfect copies of "collateralized debt obligations"note , and the practice of over-investing in poorly-paying quests mirrors the practice of overleveraging and overvaluationnote , all of which lead to the Great Recession in the late 2000's. The book can be considered a primer on economic theories and failures of the 2000's.
  • Skewed Priorities: Detarr Ur'Mayan can't help but belittle his son Jynn, even in the middle of a heated battle with heroes. It's a little odd to be hearing "stop slouching. You look like a peasant." in those moments. This proves to be his undoing during the second book's climax, as Jynn suddenly recalls all the times Detarr has said that to him over the years and angrily questions his father why appearances matter more to him than his son's well-being and happiness. This finally gives Jynn the resolve he needs to fully embrace his omnimancy nature and defeat the lich.
  • Skull for a Head: Some types of undead come back as bare skeletons or revenants. Detarr Ur'Mayan's Head of Marketing is nothing but a floating skull, completed with Midair Bobbing. Detarr himself, being a liche, has a skull that floats over a beam of unarthly (typo intentional, given that this is Arth, not Earth) light.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Jynn and Laruna spend most of the trip bickering and, occasionally, fighting. As per this trope, they eventually resolve their differences and get together, although The Reveal that Jynn is the son of Detarr Ur'Mayan puts a damper on their relationship. They get back together in the following novel (which takes place after a 1-year Time Skip), but then break up once more when Jynn reveals that he's an omnimancer and don't get back together this time (but they do part as friends).
  • Smart People Play Chess: Gorm has Heraldin play Thrones with Gaist to teach him strategy.
  • Snake People: The Naga are the corrupted Gnomes of Clan Nagata. The most famous Naga are the Lamia Sisters (Pradessa and Maliss), a thinly-veiled jab at Lehman Brothers. They are the first to be declared F.O.E.s and torn apart by Heroes, after the collateralized threat obligation crisis strikes.
  • Soul Jar: A liche's essence is kept is a phylactery in his skull. Technically, a liche isn't completely gone until the phylactery is destroyed. At the end of the second novel, Jynn removes the phylactery from his father's skull and keeps it, despite the demands from the other wizards that he destroy it.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Naga speak this way. Gorm meets a Naga barkeep named Angusss. When he speaks his name, the barkeep corrects him that it's pronounced "Anguss", adding that "the middle 's' is silent." As expected, he tends to hiss his "s"'s.
  • The Stinger:
    • An unusual printed variant involving Detarr Ur'Mayan and a possessed rat. It can be found after the Fantasy World Map, the glossary, and the author's thanks in the first book.
    • Continuing the trend, the second book has a remote Ruskan village being razed by what appears to be a dragon.
  • Take That!:
    • The second novel takes a jab at The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. When King Handor flies to a fortress on a giant eagle, he remarks on how easy and quick the trip is, with none of the hazards of overland travel. He asks why the Heroes' Guild doesn't use the eagles all the time, such as to shorten a long journey or to rescue trapped Heroes. The Guild Master replies that they'd love to... but the eagles have unionized, and the Guild simply can't afford their rates for extensive usage.
    • Dannel Clubs, a boisterous heavyset businessman with all the subtlety of a board with a nail driven through it, appears to be an Expy of Donald Trump. Clubs inherited his business empire and made several high-profile forays into side businesses, most of which ended up being spectacular failures.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Captain Jones, a hired assassin, is dedicated to his pirate persona to the point of annoyance. He is capable of speaking normally, but his publicist spent a long time developing his personal brand and he has no intention of dropping it for anyone.
  • Tempting Fate: Nove's first principle of universal irony specifically warns people to avoid this trope, using mathematical proofs and Nove's Constant to show the likelihood of something bad happening as a result of a spoken phrase.
  • Time Skip: The second novel takes place a year after the end of the first one.
  • Time Stands Still: A chronobomb (no, it's not a time bomb) creates a bubble of accelerated time, making it seem as if everything outside is frozen (it's actually moving at an imperceptible speed). Throwing something outside the bubble is dangerous, as some of the momentum is retained during the passage, resulting in that object traveling at a huge speed. The effect lasts only a few minutes and is used by the party to steal the Wyrmwood Staff of Geffyn from a museum.
  • Token Human: The majority of the party are humans. Gorm, the book's protagonist, is a Dwarf, so the story is told from his viewpoint.
  • Too Much Information: Like any Dwarf, Gorm doesn't want to hear about anyone's romantic feelings for anyone else, and is accordingly annoyed when someone tries to vent to him about romance.
  • Translation Convention: The conversation between Chief Zurthraka, his son Char, and Gleebek/Tib'rin. For bonus points, the audiobook actually has them speaking over their speech in Shadowtongue, as if the conversation is dubbed:
    • For hilarity, an astute listener might also hear that some terms, especially business terms, have been borrowed from Imperial, such as "aggressive seller" (even though, you'd think there would be a word in Shadowtongue for "aggressive").
    • Shadowtongue words for "chief" and "failure" are "poobah" and "fubar", respectively.
  • Turn Undead: As it turns out, a priest of Mordo Ogg is capable of destroying the undead. Given that people coming back to life as the undead goes against everything Mordo Ogg stands for, this makes sense.
  • The Undead: There are many different kinds of undead. A person's form after death depends on his or her desires and/or sins. Ironically, those who led blameless and unambitious lives end up as the lowest of the low - skeletons. An undead person retains his or her mental faculties and is able to communicate just as well as before dying and rising up, so it can be fun to read about skeletons and zombies engaging in philosophical discussions about their new condition.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Laruna has incredible reserves of magic. However, she is terrible at actually weaving spells, preferring to unleash raw fire energy on her enemies. She starts to get better under the noctomancer's tutelage.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Subverted. They're just a type of undead, which doesn't stop a teenage girl from wanting to be one, so she can sneak into boys' windows at night and seduce them. However, she ends up unknowingly looking into the eyes of a wight and gets incinerated as a result. She comes back as a shade instead of a vampire and laments not having a body with which to seduce boys.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Southern (or Desert) Empire, originally called the Empire of Man. It used to be the most powerful nation on Arth, until the Freedlands and the other provinces rose up. Now the Freedlands are more powerful than the Southern Empire.
  • Vision Quest: Kaitha wanders off following a glowing green tortoise one night, thinking at first that it's one of those vision quests she heard about in elven legend. But, she eventually figures out it's a hallucination from elixir withdrawal.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Doppelgangers are a race of shapeshifters, who excel as spies and assassins. A Doppelganger known as the Mask is featured several times in Orconomics. In the second novel, Gaist is revealed to have been a Doppelgänger all along. Gorm figures that Iheen the Red and the Doppelgänger pretended to be the same person in order to raise Iheen's status within the Guild. After Iheen's death, the Doppelgänger became him full-time, but also became a Death Seeker. The latter is problematic because Gaist is too good to die easily. Gorm soecultes that Gaist doesn't speak because he has forgotten Iheen's voice and does not want to be exposed.
  • Warrior Undead: In Son of a Liche knight-commander Tyren Ur'Thos is killed in the titular Liche's attack on his town and raised as a skeleton still clad in his armor, he quickly becomes a high-ranking commander in the Liche's army and takes over after his defeat.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Jynn is a high-ranking mage, able to weave intricate spells. He later admits, though, that the reason he has trained himself to weave that well is because his actual magical power is pretty low by mage standards, so he had to be efficient and do more with less.
  • Weird Trade Union: Thugsnote  have a union, as do the less-certified Goonsnote , and giant eagles.
  • Wicked Weasel:
    • One scene in the Myrewood has the party stopped in their tracks trying to figure out if what looks like a perfectly normal weasel is actually some horrific monster. It is.
    • The most dreaded of the animals Detarr Ur'Mayan bonded to demons was the weasel.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Played with. While all conversations are using perfectly normal Imperial/English, writing is intentionally done in an antiquated manner, with extra vowels and THs. For example, a deceased hoard adjuster's notebook contains just a single entry: "The beaste hath nothing."

Alternative Title(s): Orconomics, Orconomics A Satire, Son Of A Liche, Dragonfired