Follow TV Tropes


The Order Of The Stick / Tropes A to C

Go To

Tropes A to C | Tropes D to F | Tropes G to I | Tropes J to L | Tropes M to O | Tropes P to R | Tropes S to U | Tropes V to Z

The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    # - A 
  • 20% More Awesome: An angel shows Roy a graph of Belkar's evil against time, measured in kilonazis (as in, one unit equaling 1000 nazis; meaning Belkar at his worst was as evil as 3 thousand Nazis). The graph's baseline is based on a hypothetical lovechild of Sauron and Cruella De Vil. (In a Dungeons & Dragons-based universe, "evil" really is that quantifiable.)
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The "Obligatory Sewer-Themed Labyrinth". It takes an army of hobgoblins weeks to find anything in there.
  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Xykon can't remember Roy's name. Really, he doesn't remember Roy at all.
    • Vaarsuvius had trouble remembering the... "Bird-That-Miss-Starshine-Named"... that is, Blackwing. No wonder the familiar wasn't so keen on helping his wizard or even talking to the elf, until V made amends.
  • Accidental Murder: Or in this case, Accidental Mass-Murder — Familicide. In addition to the intentional deaths of one quarter of the world's black dragons, Vaarsuvius accidentally wiped out the entire Draketooth family (being descended from the union of a human and a black dragon), and everyone connected to the Draketooth clan (including Tarquin's ninth wife).
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Bugbear Oona assigns wildest dreams of seeing monsters to eating remorhaz kebab too close to bed. Though being a beastmistress, she admires monsters and thus doesn't consider these bad dreams.
  • Action Girl: Haley, Kazumi, Therkla, Miko, and Lien are most notable. (There's a T-shirt.)
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Explained. If rich adventurers are in town, the merchants take advantage.
  • Adult Fear: The Ancient Black Dragon invokes this when she tries to eat V's children. V already unknowingly invoked this trope on her. She left her teenage son alone for a few months, and returned to discover he had been killed.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: As to be accepted with any setting inspired to a certain extent or not on Dungeons and Dragons. However, it's also deconstructed to a certain extent, as certain characters learn that the world exists for mortals to collect XP, level up, and ultimately provide the gods who created the world with what they need to survive. The highest level characters are typically adventurers who go around killing other creatures, both monsters and other humanoids. Goblins were not singled out as XP fodder for the clerics of other gods, like the Dark One and Redcloak believe. That just sort of happened after Fenris lost interest in them, and no other god stepped in fill his place, leaving the goblins without a divine patron.
  • Aerith and Bob: "My name is Kodrog the Slayer, and this is my buddy Jim." (See Fourth-Wall Mail Slot.)
  • An Aesop: There are many messages delivered by many characters, but the most recurrent theme is that single-mindedly obsessing over one thing can destroy you and make you lose sight of what's really important. Various characters including Roy, Eugene, Miko, Haley, Vaarsuvius, Elan, Nale, Therkla, Redcloak, Tsukiko, Tarquin, Vampire Durkon, Hel, and many more have recklessly pursued a goal, ideal or other thing while neglecting the big picture, which bites them hard.
  • Affably Evil:
    • General Tarquin and Minister Malack are both Lawful Evil invoked and power-hungry, but they're also enjoyable company and gracious hosts.
    • The directors of the IFCC are friendly and fair in their dealings.
    • Thog is so cheerful and friendly, it's easy to forget that he'll kill hundreds of innocent people for little (if any) reason.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The Lawful Good afterlife has several layers of this. Eugene Greenhilt is stuck waiting outside the pearly gates due to giving up on his Blood Oath. Once you're through the gates, there's a mountain arranged in different levels of increasingly-abstract pleasure. The lowest level (and the only one we see) is basically a fancy resort where you can sort out the urges "having your soul stuck in a glorified sausage" leaves you with. "True perfect enlightenment" is at the very top. The "outside cloud" seems to be depicted for all afterlifes. We see it when Durkon dies after the fake-out that he was originally walking on Thor's boot. Dwarves and other Northern gods worshipers travel to Valhalla via a Rainbow Bridge.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Start of Darkness spoilers: This is how The Dark One was murdered while attempting to negotiate a peace settlement with the human kings. Rather than ending the war, it made things far worse, as the goblins swarmed upon their enemies inflicting huge losses in vengeance for their fallen warlord.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Tsukiko is an unsympathetic character, certainly, but when Redcloak takes control of her wights, she loses the only thing she loves due to her crippling loneliness. Redcloak then feeds her to them while the whole time she's crying out that she loves them. The Monster in the Darkness is the only one who feels badly about it, and this makes him feel even worse about it.
      Demon-roach: So what? Who cares?
      MitD: (sighs) Exactly. That's why I'm sad.
    • Sure, Malack is a vampire that drinks the blood from the innocent (including Durkon), but considering that Nale murdered three of his vampire spawn, one could feel sorry for him... especially after Nale brutally murders him and tells him that he had been planning it for years.
    • Of all people, Nale. His brother grieves him and laments the fact he could have been a good guy if he hadn't been in Tarquin's custody.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: The Empire of Blood takes this view.
    • Roy and Belkar are sentenced to life in prison for not having paperwork; the reptilian bounty hunters soon suffer the same fate even though they have their paperwork, because the chancellor was ordered to "misplace" it after they attempted to blackmail General Tarquin.
    • A few strips later, while Durkon is in a library, a sign is posted that says the Dewey Decimal System is strictly enforced. (One can only imagine.)
    • Thog was thrown into prison for public urination, even though he was already wanted for treason at the time.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Inverted/Parodied in "We Recommend Tsukiko". It seems All Bad Girls Want Good Boys.
    Sabine: Sure, women like me swoon for a hero, but that's only because deep down, we think we can change them. But me, I'm done with that now. I want a nice, safe, reliable mass-murderer I can depend on. Like you.
  • Alliterative Name: Belkar Bitterleaf; Miko Miyazaki; Kazumi Kato; Daigo Da—
  • all lowercase letters:
    • most orcs talk like this. It seems to be related to the INT score. Lampshaded in the last panel of this page where the orcs look forward to grammar lessons:
      Mungu: capital letters intrigue mungu.
    • Eric Greenhilt too, as he's quite young.
  • All There in the Manual: How did the Order of the Stick team up? Why do they suffer Belkar's presence? How and why did Redcloak align himself with Xykon? Just what did happen to that first Gate? To find out, you have to buy the prequel books, most of which are available via Ookoodook.
  • All Trolls Are Different: While the comic itself uses standard D&D trolls, this trope is lampshaded with the debates over the creation of the world.
    Thor: I think trolls should be hardworking blacksmiths, toiling away underground forging magical weapons.
    Hades: No! Trolls should be vile monsters, living under bridges and harassing goats!
    Pig: You're both wrong! Trolls should be tiny wrinkled men with big poofy hair that are collected by old women!
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Multiple cases:
    • Xykon attacks Azure City and takes over.
    • Redcloak infiltrates the base of the Azure City Resistance thanks to a polymorphed spy.
  • All Your Powers Combined: The effect of Soul Splice; a number of souls are spliced to the user and the user then acquires all the powers of each one.
  • Alternate Continuity: The Dragon Magazine strips are not canon in the main storyline. This causes in-universe confusion when Belkar and Haley are trying to figure out if he has cooking skills that had only been mentioned there.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
  • Ambiguous Gender: This applies to most elves seen. It's a running gag how Belkar keeps trying to figure out V's gender. Also, V's spouse is referred to as a "spouse", and V's children refer to both of their parents as "parent".
  • Amplifier Artifact: Most common magic items are of this kind, like Roy's Belt of Giant Strength, Elan's Belt of Charisma or V's Ring of Wizardry. This is Lampshaded by Haley with a Potion of Glibness: she takes it from Elan to use herself, because while it would make him a good liar, she's already a good liar so it will make her an utterly amazing liar.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Roy Greenhilt's green-hilted greatsword was handed down from his grandfather (skipping his father). Hence the name. Now that it was reforged with starmetal it glows green when slaying undead, and so qualifies as a pretty Cool Sword too.
  • And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: The hobgoblin horde gets shirts that say "I killed a PC and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!" after supposedly killing the Order and Hinjo.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • After being killed by Xykon, both Dorukan and Lirian's souls were trapped in a gemstone. They're actually pretty okay with it, since they are lovers trapped in the same gem.
    • How vampires work: The soul of the person is trapped in their own body, which is controlled by a spirit of negative energy that assimilates their memories to best emulate them... and when they're done, the soul goes into eternal dormancy. Malack, Durkon and the Creed of the Stone have all been victim of this.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Spoofed.
    Elan: Ohhhh. Thanks, Vaarsuvius. Now I know.
    Vaarsuvius: And knowing is half the battle.
    G.I. Joe: G.I. Joe!
  • Androcles' Lion: The Allosaurus Belkar released from its cage in the Empire of Blood's arena is later used as a steed by one of the soldiers in Tarquin's army during a battle against the Order. It recognises Belkar — a flashback panel shows him soothing it while Ian picks the lock on its cage — and follows his command to drop Roy, and assist the Order.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: In the kickstarter story "How the Paladin Got His Scar", this is played with. O-Chul tells a story to Saha about a sergeant who saved a little boy. Saha assumes he was the sergeant, but actually he was the boy.
  • ...And That Would Be Wrong: Invoked by V to reassure the Order that V would not resolve their arguments with explosions or rain death on others in retaliation of social indignities. Sometimes V's familiar has to remind the elf.
  • And Then What?: In the last book, starting at strip 1208 "Grievances", Durkon (a priest of Thor) and Redcloak (High Priest of the Dark One) negotiate for the end of the Dark One's plan, which involves using the Snarl (a deific Omnicidal Maniac) to threaten destroying the other gods unless they get what they want. Durkon opens up the discussion by asking what Redcloak wants, what a successful outcome of the Plan would look like, and they discuss details. Then Redcloak attacks, so Minrah (another priest of Thor) takes over negotiating. She begins hammering Redcloak with the hard questions, pointing out that his actions show that he cares more about the lives of "imaginary goblins in the future" than he does about the goblins who currently exist. The scene emphasizes how, despite the Dark One's High Priest (and likely the Dark One himself) claim to care about goblin equality, they are too invested in threatening the gods as revenge for the injustices they've personally suffered to envision what a world with goblin equality would actually look like. It doesn't help that their fallback plan (that as a god the Dark One could force Goblin equality from the beginning in the next world if it all goes wrong) is based on incomplete information and totally wrong for reasons that sound like outright lies with the information they do have.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!:
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Played with. After slaying the evil black dragon, Elan says that he got a new clasp for his cloak, and Roy got snazzy new boots. (It was actually an art upgrade; they were supposed to pretend they were always drawn that way.)
  • Angels Pose: Used in "Roy's Angels". Granted, Roy is temporarily female at the time due to a Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity, and Vaarsuvius's gender is unclear.
  • Angrish:
    • When Haley's looted dragon treasure gets blown up, she becomes aphasic, and spends a whole arc speaking gibberish.
    • When Nale realizes the sign in Girard's Pyramid saying that the Gate is in another pyramid was a ruse, and that the Order beat them to the Gate (and destroyed it along with the Pyramid), he is temporarily stricken with this. "I can't believe— how did he— so the Gate was in the— GREENHILT!!"
  • Animated Actors: Used for a throwaway gag. After the "Crayons of Time" flashback strips, the main characters are shown "offstage," sitting in folding chairs and waiting for their cue.
  • Animated World Hypotheses: One of the creator gods outright refers to the world as a "self-aware stick figure fantasy parody". The cartoon style is sometimes referenced for gags, like when a sketch artist's Fourth-Wall Portrait is panned for including noses, and becomes a plot point when a Shadowdancer's powers are stymied by the art style's lack of shadows.
  • Annoying Arrows: Three arrows is, like, one healing potion.
  • Answer Cut: When Tarquin says that anyone except Elan would have wanted Nale dead, the comic cuts to Nale's lover Sabine, who has smashed Lee's scrying TV in anger.
  • Answering Echo: A slight variant is used in "The Pit of Despair" to pile yet more guilt on Vaarsuvius. Nothing like a corpse accusing you to make you freak out.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: "A Brief Intermission" shows a battle between the traditional movie snack foods and a set of challengers.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • Remarked upon in "Teenage Boys Are CR 1", the 100th strip. After headbutting a goblin teenager unconcious and escaping her ropes, Haley remarks that she thought there would be something special for the 100th comic.
    • Done intentionally and hilariously in "Headed Down", the 600th comic. Roy and his grandfather talk about the effect; nothing exciting for the 600th page. It's just the two of them having an awkward conversation about the lack of a climax.
      Horace: Hey, I bet everyone was expecting a big battle for strip #600, eh? Ha HA!
      Roy: Heh, yeah.
      Roy: Funny thing. We, uh, we actually made that exact joke, five hundred strips ago.
      Horace: Oh?
      Roy: Yeah. What are the odds?
      Horace: I didn't know, 'cause I'm up there in—
      Roy: Oh! No, of course. I mean, how could you have known?
      Horace: Right.
      Roy: Exactly.
    • An angry Tsukiko plots to create an uber-powerful undead warrior from the first corpse she finds (which just so happens to be Miko's) to use against Redcloak. "It'll be free-willed and evil and mean, with cool black and red armor..." Then she notices that the body is cut in half, and gives up on the plan altogether.
    • In "Prophecy Fulfilled", Xykon finally teleports to Girard's pyramid (for real)... and it blows up five seconds after he arrives.
    • At the end of Blood Runs in the Family, the party invokes this on Tarquin by denying him the epic climax that he wanted, leaving him stranded in the desert. Tarquin doesn't take this well.
  • Anti-Climax Cut: "The Test of the Heart": After having passed the Tests of the Body and Mind, one guarded by a hydra and the other a riddle, the Order finds themselves face-to-face with the guardian of the final Test of the Heart.
    Wight: Pray to what gods you serve that you will be deemed worthy of this rare honor! Find your reserves of courage, warriors, for the Test of the Heart begins — NOW!!
    [cut to Roy in a chair at a doctor's clinic, a stethoscope over his heart]
    Doctor Wight: Pulse rate is 60... blood pressure is 85 over 60... You pass. Next!
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The forces under Redcloak are united by their hatred of and oppression by humans.
  • Anti-Magic: Some examples inspired by Dungeons & Dragons are unsurprisingly featured.
    • The anti-magic field spell is naturally making an appearance, much to V's misfortune as they're fighting a freakin' dragon.
      Black Dragon: You are as skilled as my information led me to believe. I must admit, I too have a passion for the arcane arts... even moreso than others of my kind. I am curious however... What would happen if we turned the magic off? Anti-magic Field.
      [the Forcecage that V had cast disappears where the anti-magic field touches it, and V falls to the ground as their flight spell is cancelled]
      Black Dragon: Fascinating. It appears that you cease to be a mighty wizard and become a fragile pointy-eared monkey. While I? I am still a dragon.
    • The Empire of Blood's Bloodstone Correctional Facility (a prison for gladiators) features anti-magic cells.
    • Whenever Zz'dtri — a drow with natural spell resistance — turns up, life gets harder for Vaarsuvius.
      Vaarsuvius: It's almost as if the universe is trying to deliberately force some kind of arbitrary equality between those of us who can reshape matter with our thoughts and those who cannot.
    • Inside Kraagor's tomb, the party is confronted with a beholder, the iconic monster which central eye emit an anti-magic cone. They can't say the name, though, because it isn't open content.
      Durkon: It's one o' those... uh... whatchamacallits. Tha monsters with all tha magic eyeballs!
      Vaarsuvius: Ah! That would comport with my theory that we are currently experiencing a field of anti-magic. Such creatures emanate the effect from their central ocular organ.
      Haley: OK, cool. We know what's going on. Can we fix it?
      Durkon: Normally, ye'd wanna move outta tha area, but I think it's high up enuff tha it's coverin' tha whole room.
  • Anyone Can Die: Given that people can be resurrected this is a given, but ever since Roy was killed, V committed accidental and purposeful genocide, and Elan's father was introduced, the death toll has been steadily increasing. Even a main character has joined the ranks of the undead (Durkon), and a main antagonist (Nale) is Killed Off for Real.note 
  • Apocalypse How:
    • (Planetary/Physical Annihilation): At the dawn of time, the Snarl unmade the creation of the planet and destroyed a whole pantheon of gods. And more planets have been destroyed ever since.
    • (Close to Planetary/Species Extinction): A single epic-level necromantic spell caused the extinction of a large extended family. Since the victim is a dragon, and dragons live a long time and don't breed much, this one spell killed a quarter of all the black dragons in the world as well as at least one extended line of demihumans who are the result of an Interspecies Romance with said black dragons, including the entire Draketooth clan.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Discussed and almost invoked. Tarquin at first warns Elan that if he tries to force a confrontation before it's dramatically appropriate, he's going to fail and "probably end up losing a hand or an eye or something"; he later coldly sets out to do exactly that to "motivate" his son to take him seriously as a main villain.
  • Arc Villain:
    • Daimyo Kubota and Bozzok are both this for Don't Split the Party, with Kubota being the main antagonist of Durkon and Elan's story arc while Bozzok is the primary foe for Haley, Celia, and Belkar after they're forced to go to Greysky City.
    • General Tarquin in Blood Runs in the Family is a notable deconstruction of this trope. While he's the Big Bad of the eponymous story arc, his Fatal Flaw is that he's delusional enough to think that he's the Greater-Scope Villain for the whole story, and he suffers a massive Villainous Breakdown when Elan spells out to him in no uncertain terms that he's not the "real" villain.
  • Arrogant God vs. Raging Monster: This trope describes the rivalry between main hero and leader of the titular Order, Roy, and his evil half-orc counterpart from the Linear Guild, Thog. Roy is an extremely skillful and intelligent warrior, having trained at "Fighter College" for years and also being an experienced and savvy adventurer. He is designed as a subversion of the typical Dumb Muscle fighter Player Character which has Min Maxed all brute strength and no Intelligence while Thog is the embodiment of that stereotype. Roy despises Thog for this as well for being a monstrous individual who kills when bored. Thog meanwhile is really too dumb to hate Roy, calling him "talky man." During a colosseum match between the two, Roy brags about having Intelligence on his side and Thog runs down the list of the potential advantages Roy could gain from Intelligence, but doesn't (prestige class, damage rolls, armor class, saving rolls) before chiding him that Thog is smarter for his approach. Additionally, after Roy breaks his tusk, Thog enters into an Unstoppable Rage that he beats Roy almost motionless and only continues to beat him for "talking" when Roy tries to surrender. If not for the intervention of his teammates, Roy would have been killed. Fortunately for him, however, the battle spills into the lower levels of the Colosseum, where Roy uses his intelligence to trick Thog into damaging the pillars supporting the ceiling, which then crumble and crush Thog. Exhausted and bruised, but victorious, Roy screams at his fallen adversary: "THAT'S how I use my Intelligence score in combat, DUMBASS!"
  • Arrow Catch: Tarquin proves he's good enough to catch Haley's arrows out of the air. He does it again a few strips later, and Nale has just enough time to gloat before POOOF. Much later, Haley takes advantage of this with two arrows aimed at Tarquin's face while he is hanging onto the side of a flying ship.
  • Arrow Gram: Haley combines this with Passing Notes in Class as a gag during the Azure city battle, the arrow hitting a hobgoblin mook about to attack Elan. Said arrow had a cute romantic note on notebook paper. Hinjo plays up the role of the exasperated teacher who takes the note and requests to see Elan after class, er, battle.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Nale and Sabine's relationship contains a fair amount of this. When they genuinely do fight, it's usually out of a failure to Do Wrong, Right.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • 26 unpleasant things that happen (or nearly happen) in Start of Darkness: Murder, Kidnapping, Trespassing, Zombification, Maiming, Foul Language, Defenestration, Squishy Hugs, Cannibalism, Blasphemy, Inebriation, Verbal Abuse, Blind Dating, Extortion, Fraud, Lies (and statistics), Depilation, Brain Damage, Arson, Betrayal, False Advertising, Running Gags, Rules Lawyering, Disintegration, Tampering with the Fabric of Reality, Taco Night.
    • Guild arena used for ritual combat, coming-of-age sacrifices, and as mosh pit for local alternative rock bands.
    • Belkar's cover story:
      Belkar: We're wanted in several other nations for racketeering, jury tampering, and interfering with a mail carrier.
    • As part of the Bilingual Bonus in strip #309, Haley's attempted confessions to cure her aphasia include "My dad is being held ransom by an evil dictator", "I'm not really in the Thieves' Guild anymore", and "I cheat at solitaire".
    • In the retail version of War and XPs, Miko asks the Twelve Gods in a bonus strip to aid her in ridding Azure City of all undesirables: Criminals, adventurers, vagrants and independant singer-songwriters.
  • Art Evolution:
    • Midway through No Cure for the Paladin Blues, the characters undergo a little art upgrade after a brief hiatus. Roy got some new boots, Vaarsuvius' cloak gained bright red runes, Elan got a clasp for his cloak, Durkon got a buckle for his belt and Belkar's cloak clasp became centered on his body. Like most of the things in the comic, the art upgrade is Lampshaded.
      Haley: Psst! Elan! It's an art upgrade, we're supposed to pretend we've always been drawn this way.
    • There's another significant upgrade at the beginning of Utterly Dwarfed, though unlike the example above the characters don't comment on it. Arms and legs became flesh-colored, sleeves and pant legs appear on the clothes of the characters and the shoes of characters flex while they walk. According to Rich Burlew, this art upgrade was deliberately done because it had been increasingly difficult to draw complex backgrounds and crowd scenes without the limbs of the characters getting jumbled and lost in the backgrounds or in other characters.
    • invoked The early comics have odd curved panel edges. Not only did these go away eventually, they were removed from the printed version with an author's note saying he didn't know what the hell he was thinking with those.
    • In general, the art style got better as the comic progressed, not just in regards to getting costume upgrades, but in the way the characters were positioned. Backgrounds became more elaborate, posing became more dynamic, and certain body parts (such as mouths or Elan's hair) were drawn more consistently after the group got out of Dorukan's Dungeon. Even animals saw the effects of this improvement. Compare a drawing of Windstriker from 2005 to a drawing of Windstriker created for the yearly calendars in 2013.
  • Artistic License: The comic is based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but it sometimes plays fast and loose with the game rules for the sake of a good story. For example, Redcloak should not be able to create a Huecuva, Death Knight and Eye of Fear and Flame as a sub-epic spellcaster.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: While Lord Shojo might be good with cats, his carelessness with his nephew's wolf led to some serious dental work. (Though that might have been on purpose, given that said wolf's silver fillings now make his bite extra-effective against devils.)
    Hinjo: A 20-lb. tub of strawberry cake frosting does not qualify as a "table scrap"!
    Shojo: Then you obviously haven't been eating at the right tables!
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: The Silicon elemental is depicted as a sand golem, while sand consists mainly of silica dioxide (SiO2).
  • Artistic License – Economics: Subverted in strip 135, Potionomics. Although Vaarsuvius tries to explain to the two shopkeepers why they need to sell their potions for more than they cost to make instead of less, they don't understand V's point and no long-term consequences are shown. Eventually, Vaarsuvius gives up.
    Vaarsuvius: My conscience is now appeased. 27 Heroism potions, please.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Or "Bow Safety" in this case, Played for Laughs: When O-Chul uses the word "initiative", Haley mistakes it for the start of a combat round and aims her +5 Icy Burst Bow straight at him, while looking wildly around in other directions at the same time.
    O-Chul: He may have all the strength, but we have the initiative.
    Haley: [panicking] Initiative?!? Where? I got a 23! I make a sneak attack! And a Spot check!
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The "Test of the Heart" gives Roy a pass with blood pressure of 85 over 60 — this is actually slightly low for a healthy person and would warrant further investigation in Real Life. A more realistic answer would be 100 over 60 or so. Notably, the print version changes Roy's blood pressure to being 100 over 70, correcting this mistake.
  • Art Shift:
    • "The Crayons of Time" Flashback Effects look like well-done crayon drawings.
    • Lampshaded on "C.P.P.D. Blues" when the police sketch artist draws composite realistic pictures of Nale and Thog.
      Rookie: What are these weird bumpy things between their eyes?
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Daigo and Kazumi Kato. Their progression from Red Shirts to Mauve Shirts is lampshaded when they invoke the trope Nominal Importance, and they continue to gain importance from there, both in-universe (being risen to nobility) and in the narrative.
    • Celia's case is especially glorious. She started as a mere gate guardian NPC and became the main character's girlfriend.
    • O-Chul first appears in strip #403 as the nameless paladin outside Shojo's audience chamber. He is named in the next strip. His importance doesn't become clear until #422, and finally in "Don't Split the Party" he becomes more of a major player.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • It's a running joke among Dungeons & Dragons fans that, due to a quirk of the 3.x Edition ruleset, a housecat will more often than not kill a Level 1 Commoner in a straight-up fightnote . One strip is even called, "The Duel Everyone's Been Waiting For".
    • In "Naming Names", Roy asks for names to come up with for Vampire Durkon. Some of the responses he gets are actual nicknames from fans in the forums and elsewhere (i.e. "Count Durkula"). Crosses over with Aerith and Bob as one of the nicknames is "Greg".
    • #1154 contains a nod to "Thog Edits", which involve phasing away dialogue and leaving only a few separate letters that together form an entirely different (and often low-brow) sentence than what the original context said: making one is how to open a secret cache under Thor's statue.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    • Elan asks a lot of stupid questions to which Roy gives snarky answers.
    • In the prequel book Start of Darkness, when Redcloak and the Monster in the Darkness meet for the first time:
      Redcloak: They call me "Redcloak".
      MitD: Really? Why?
      Redcloak: ... Because I wear black armor.
    • When the High Priest of Hel asks why Durkon hadn't provided him with a helpful memory earlier...
      Durkon: Ye dinnae ask for it. Also, I hate ye an' I want ye ta fail.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Standard Azure City naming protocol. Miko claims she doesn't know what "Japan" is but all the names sound like it.
  • Asshole Victim: The Thieves' Guild's members, according to Haley. She states one runs a dog-fighting ring, while another beats his wife.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • Why Qarr the imp tries to attach itself to V; in the lower planes, everyone glues their lips to the ass of someone stronger than they are.
    • Averted with the Sapphire Guard, though not at the time of their founding. Soon was a mighty paladin but his successors follow bloodline. Unfortunately, it's not even his bloodline.
  • Ass Shove: Belkar, after having been hypnotized via the High Priest of Hel's vampiric gaze into jumping off the Mechane, threatens along these lines.
    Belkar: I am going to shove the sunshine so far up where the sun don't shine that you will vomit nothing but warm summer days!!
  • Assurance Backfire: After Haley's been left behind in (the now overrun by goblins) Azure City, Elan tries to jump out of the boat and swim to her until everyone reminds him that she has a much better chance of survival than him. Then one of the minor characters points out that she has Belkar watching her back, causing him to panic again.
  • As You Know...:
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Belkar celebrates creating such a pile of mooks with the following quote:
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!:
    • The paladins have an aversion to retreating because of their honor combined with their inability to feel fear, which lands them in trouble often.
    • Thieves eventually realize this isn't working and defy it in "Flank Cut".
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: "Cursing the Darkness". "Back into the darkness! BACK INTO THE DARKNESS!!"
  • Author Appeal: Rich Burlew is a vegetarian, which may have some role in his fondness for cute, sympathetic animal characters. So far, two characters (Vaarsuvius and Celia) are explicitly vegetarians.
  • Automaton Horses:
    • After the events of Wooden Forest, it's revealed that all the horses spent the time in a nearby stable.
      Elan: So this is where the horses went while you guys were rescuing me? I kinda figured they had just disappeared when you didn't need them, kind of like V's familiar.
      Roy: Don't be silly, that would be completely unrealistic.
    • Parodied when crossing the desert, as the Order stop at an oasis and the camels are seen drinking water from fuel-station style pumps, complete with price boards. Seen here.
  • Avengers, Assemble!: Towards the end of "Blood Runs in the Family", once it's become clear Elan and the Order are not going to defeat Tarquin, we see Amun-Zora (the captain from the Free City of Doom) assembling a rebel alliance out of Tarquin's other enemies.
  • Avenging the Villain:
    • Yokyok only joined the Linear Guild to kill Belkar for killing his father.
    • The Ancient Black Dragon hunts V down for killing her son.
    • Tarquin kills Nale for murdering his best friend.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Many of Nale's plans. His draft plan to kill Elan in Cliffport involved Sabine flying over carrying an anvil on a string and Thog on rocket skates. Their final plan kept the rocket skates.

  • Back for the Dead: Julio Scoundrél sincerely hoped never to cross paths with Elan again for precisely this reason, and later refuses a call to adventure from Elan on this basis. When he does show up again he makes it out alive while calling out the trope.
  • Back from the Dead: Pretty much anyone who's got a friendly cleric with a Raise Dead spell nearby, including the Oracle, Roy, and Jirix.
  • Bad to the Last Drop:
    • In Start of Darkness, Xykon (who at this point is still a human) mentions that drinking a really horrible cup of coffee reminds him of all the good coffee he can compare it to. When he becomes a lich, he becomes enraged that he can no longer taste coffee because becoming a lich caused him to lose his sense of taste (alongside nearly all of his other senses as well).
    • In one strip, V filters Belkar's coffee with Roy's sweaty socks as a way to get back at him for "The Event". And then they use explosive runes on the coffee can for good measure.
  • Badass Normal: Many characters who kick ass without any intrinsic magical ability.
    • Roy refused to become a wizard despite his father's urging and became a fighter instead.
    • Haley is an archer with non-magical "SNEAK ATTACK!"
    • Thog is pure orcish strength.
    • Kazumi and Daigo are ordinary City Guards; they're not even paladins and yet they survive The Siege of Azure City.
    • Belkar counts despite the fact that as a ranger he could theoretically use spells. Because he has a Wisdom score normally reserved for lemmings, he doesn't.
    • Tarquin fights most of the Order of the Stick and is only stopped by Malack because his companion is sick of him toying with them.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Saved by the Belt", Blackwing picks up Roy's Belt of Giant Strength while announcing his intent to help the rest of the Order, just as Roy is locked in a death match with Thog. Several panels are shown, alternating between the bird flying with the belt and Thog and Roy dishing out at each other. Until finally, Blackwing drops the belt on... Mr. Scruffy, Belkar's cat companion. Who proceeds to utterly wreck the dog menacing him.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: One does not simply walk away after wrecking Tarquin's arena. At least, not before receiving praise for awesome fight, signing some autographs and discussing job opportunities.
  • Bar Brawl:
    • Check. Rowdy patrons and everything.
    • Both Belkar and Tarquin's backstories include an incident of them murdering all of the patrons in a bar in a more "one-sided" version of this.
  • The Bard on Board:
    • Snips, Snails and Dragon Tales includes a re-telling of Hamlet with Roy as the title prince and Xykon as King Xlaudius, titled The Tragedy of Greenhilt.
    • A bonus comic produced for Kickstarter backers retells Romeo and Juliet with the roles Gender Flipped for "Haleo" and "Julelan".
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • Haley (for most of the comic, save for the arc immediately after "Blood Runs in the Family" and while with La Résistance) sports this look. She later thinks it is silly.
    • Julia wears this to school and both Roy and Durkon tell her to Please Put Some Clothes On.
    • Crystal wears this in place of armor.
    • Sabine (during two story arcs) because she's a succubus.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Eugene Greenhilt cannot go to the true afterlife until one of his descendants kills Xykon because of a Blood Oath. This is the general fate of people bound by a Blood Oath of Vengeance who die with it unfulfilled. An exception is made for those who died actively trying to fulfill their oaths, as Roy finds out.
  • Bathtub Scene: Haley lampshades the Fanservice nature of this in On the Origin of PCs, also referring to it as "my gratuitous bath scene."
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The Three Fiends give Vaarsuvius supreme power, expecting that the elf will attack Xykon and "knock him out of his comfort zone." It works beautifully.
    • Elan, when Sending to Scoundrél to request help against Tarquin tells him in advance to look for the giant explosion, which would only be there if the Order managed to completely screw up the plan.
    • Durkon uses one to defeat the vampiric spirit possessing his body. Durkon early on realizes that the spirit does not comprehend empathy or charity and specifically withholds these factors from his own memories, so that in the most important moment, he can show the spirit the memory of his mother sacrificing everything for a bunch of strangers. The spirit, desperate to understand, allows Durkon to flood his mind with all of his memories at once as described below in Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Durkon and his vampiric spirit engage in one for control over his body. Durkon weaponizes his most emotionally powerful memory to force the spirit to accept all his other memories and emotions, effectively becoming him. It works long enough for Durkon to permit Belkar to stake him, which temporarily kills him, but destroys the vampire spirit.
  • Battle Trophy:
    • Belkar has a habit of doing this with the heads of kobolds he killed, though he never keeps them for long.
    • Roy takes Xykon's crown and wears it on a string around his neck after "setting him back a bit". This turns out to be a problem when the residual evil on it causes Miko to try and smite him. Xykon takes it back in their next encounter.
    • Crystal takes Haley's ponytail as a trophy after nearly killing her during the Greysky City arc.
    • Haley returns the favor by killing Crystal and taking her dagger as a trophy.
    • Later, Gannji concocts a plan that requires his partner Enor to kill him, cut off his tail, and keep it so that Gannji can be resurrected later. He tells Enor:
      Gannji: Tell the guards it's a trophy of your victory. They won't question it 'cause you're part ogre. They do stuff like that all the time.
  • Beach Episode: A non-canon one in the "Beach Party" wallpaper.
  • Beam-O-War: Dark Vaarsuvius and Xykon have a brief one during their magical duel.
  • Bearer of Bad News: Belkar in "Getting the Message", regarding Durkon being vamped. Roy... does not take it well.
  • Bear Hug: Enor gives one to Gannji upon receiving the "Lizardfolk Victory String".
    Gannji: Gah! Save the grappling attacks for the ring, Enor!
  • Beastly Bloodsports:
    • The Thieves Guild runs a dogfighting ring.
    • Tarquin has an Allosaurus, and indications that he has other creatures, including lions, that he'll throw in the ring.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • So you want to protect yourself and your family from a vendetta by obliterating the whole adverse lineage? Just be sure some part of it doesn't guard a place critical for the survival of the world you and your companions are trying to save. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.
    • Nale wishes to be free from Tarquin's nepotism. After granting his wish, Tarquin points out that anyone other than his son would have been executed for killing Malack, and proceeds to fatally stab Nale.
    • After Durkon is thrown out of dwarven lands, he yells, "Ta Hel wit e'ry last one o' ye!!". The High Priest of Hel/vampire spirit controlling Durkon reminds him of this as he tries to defeat Roy, which would allow the priests of the demigods to votes yes to destroying the world, which would mean that all the dwarves would literally go to Hel.
      High Priest of Hel: Well. Let it never be said that the multiverse doesn't grant wishes.
    • The High Priest of Hel wanted to absorb all of Durkon's memories as part of his Assimilation Plot. After he sees the memory that fuels Durkon's drive to be what he is in spite of his worse days, Durkon tricks him into absorbing all of Durkon's memories before he can truly process them — turning the High Priest into Durkon.
  • Because I'm Good at It:
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge:
    • Early on, in "Deep Thoughts", when Nale pretends that the Linear Guild had been sent to retrieve the Talisman of Dorukan by their "wise and benevolent king," he has to elbow Sabine when she starts saying "King? What ki—OWW!"
    • In "It's Just Aphasia She's Going Through", Haley is struck with aphasia and so can't talk Belkar into shutting it as he's about to tell Elan her feelings. However, a boot sole to the face is enough to convey the message more clearly.
      Belkar: Objection noted.
    • In "Perform IS on the Aristocrat's Skill List", Roy kicks Belkar so that the halfling doesn't join the already-embarrassing conversation.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Lampshade Hanging is used constantly in the comic. Which is itself lampshaded in "O-Chul's Razor".
  • Better Than Sex: Belkar describes a certain Spice thusly;
    Belkar: It's like you crystallized the best sex you've ever had with a woman and put it in a tiny bottle on your spice rack. No, wait, it's like you took that spice and snorted it while screwing her hotter sister. In front of her.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Destroying the gates, which are the only things holding back the Snarl, is considered better than allowing their power to fall into evil hands. The implication being that the world would be better off destroyed and remade (again) than falling into the hands of the forces of darkness with the focused power of the Snarl at their disposal. Either that, or a gate would grant great power to anyone willing and able to harness it, especially an Evil person, but a destroyed gate could simply be remade.
  • Beyond the Impossible:
    • Talking strategy to Xykon can put the undead sorcerer to sleep.
      Xykon: Oh, sorry, I just fell asleep right in the middle of that.
      Redcloak: You're a lich, you're actually physically incapable of sleeping.
      Xykon: Which should just emphasize how boring that was.
    • In strip #794, Elan seduces a succubus. As in demon who is, by her own admission, an evil incarnation of illicit sex.
    • Talking Is a Free Action in the OOTS world. This is the basis for jokes. However, Vaarsuvius once manages to take up a turn by saying something particularly verbose.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Xykon, the Dark One as represented by his Dragon Redcloak, who pretends to be Xykon's Dragon and the IFCC Directors are the main players, along with Daimyo Kubota, Nale, and General Tarquin in the role of Big Bad Wannabes and the Snarl as a Greater-Scope Villain. Xykon's the one the protagonists are most concerned with, though, because he's the most active and they don't know about some of these. The end of Book 5 adds yet another major villain, in the "they don't know about them" category — the Northern goddess Hel, who is manipulating the Order via the spirit controlling Vampire Durkon.
    • For specific story arcs:
      • Dungeon Crawling Fools, No Cure For the Paladin Blues, and War and XPs: Xykon as the Big Bad, with the Snarl first introduced in the second story arc as a Greater-Scope Villain.
      • Don't Split the Party: Daimyo Kubota for the Azure City refugees plotline, Bozzok for the Greysky City plotline, and the Black Dragon Mother for Vaarsuvius' plotline. The IFCC are also first introduced here and shown to be one of the greater Big Bads of the whole story.
      • Blood Runs in the Family: General Tarquin of the Empire of Blood, with him technically being partners with Minister Malack and the rest of the Vector Legion but him overall calling the shots most of the time. The Dark One is also revealed to be one of the greater Big Bads after it turns out that Redcloak has been manipulating Xykon the entire time.
      • Utterly Dwarfed: The Northern goddess of death Hel, with her High Priest ("Durkula," a.k.a. the vampiric spirit possessing Durkon) and "Gontor Hammerfell" (the vampiric spirit possessing Hammerfell) as her main agents in the plot.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Nale tries to be a Chessmaster, but events have repeatedly shown that while he's pretty good at putting plans together, they ultimately tend not to work out. His first scheme would have succeeded if not for Haley making an almost impossible shot with her bow. His second scheme, in which he impersonates Elan, would have also succeeded if Elan has remained as dumb and incompetent as ever, rather than suddenly taking a level in badass. And, more generally, if Nale doesn't constantly trip over his megalomania. Later, he finally manages to actually kill Malack and proceeds to taunt his father about it, right in the middle of his father's army and in the presence of one of Tarquin's powerful companions. Tarquin tries to offer Nale the chance to reconcile, but Nale brags about how he managed to kill Malack without Tarquin's help, complains about how much he resents his father, and rejects his Last-Second Chance. Tarquin finally proceeds to show Nale just how quickly he would have died without his protection by stabbing him without a second thought.
    • Daimyo Kubota tries to usurp Hinjo's postion, culminating in him ordering the assassination of a pair of former commoners who were promoted to nobility. The wife is pregnant. When the plan fails, he murders Therkla, his own number two, with poison just to give himself time to escape and frame her. He then surrenders to go on trial and use his aristocrat talents to turn around and slander Hinjo, but Vaarsuvius simply disintegrates him. His status as this is cemented by the fact that he just doesn't stack up against Xykon and Redcloak, and is naïve enough to think that taking the city back from Xykon will be a trivial matter.
    • Elan and Nale's father General Tarquin truly believes he is the real Big Bad, that Xykon is just the end-goal of some minor sidequest, and that Elan, not Roy is the main protagonist. In their final confrontation, after Tarquin kills Nale (mainly because he was a distraction in the conflict between himself and Elan), Elan flat-out refuses to fight, capture or engage with Tarquin in any way and just left him in the desert without any sort of climactic confrontation, which is probably the worst thing he could have done to him. Tarquin is left screaming after a departing Elan to come back and "finish the story". Even among his own party, Tarquin is not the leader. Neither Malack, Laurin, or Miron have any interest in doing what he says, they mostly just put up with it because Tarquin's narrative logic assists in their own personal motives and is quite profitable to boot. He has to cajole and run on a system of favors in order to get them to do anything for him, and his military prowess is stated to come from elsewhere in the party. Heck, even Julio Scoundrél only considers him one of his "B-list villains".
  • Big Brother Mentor: Elan sees Roy as this, with a little bit more emphasis on the "brother" aspect of it. When faced with uncertain situations, he wonders what Roy would do. An Imagine Spot Elan has during Book 5 involves Tarquin adopting Roy so they can be "for real brothers".
  • Big Damn Fire Exit: Lampshaded in Dorukan's Dungeon.
    EXIT. Use in case of imminent explosion.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Literally, as it gets a splash panel all to itself.
  • Big Damn Villains: Nale kills off Malack just when the Order most lacks a means to do so.
  • Big Good:
    • The Order of the Scribble, as led by Soon Kim, are the Greater Scope Paragons who in the comic's backstory created the Gates to seal in the Snarl's prison.
    • For the residents of Azure City, Lord Shojo is the one holding things together and is also the actual quest-giver for the comic's main narrative of the Gates. He is shortly followed by his heir Hinjo after Shojo's death.
    • Thor, the Northern god of thunder and Durkon's patron god. He is one of the few gods willing to give the mortals a chance to save their world and has an actual plan to stop the Snarl after billions of years of it destroying worlds. There may be others such as Odin, Loki, Tiamat, and Rat who may be in on his plan or even have started it before him, but he is the main mover by telling Durkon the gods' secrets.
  • Big "NEVER!": Vaarsuvius when asked to renounce their chosen god, and then repeats it when a bribe is insufficient.
  • Big "NO!":
  • Bigot with a Crush: Humans towards orcs, apparently. In a debate with Durkon, Redcloak states that he would be killed on sight if entered any town or city because he's green and has fangs. He supplements this by adding that orcs would get the same treatment if humans weren't always having babies with them.
  • Big "WHAT?!":
    • From Eugene.
      Roy: Wait, what? What about the Blood Oath of Vengeance?
      Bureaucratic Deva: It's not a problem for us. Go on up.
      Eugene: WHAT?!?!?!
      Roy: In lieu of Paradise, can I just get a picture of the exact expression on his face?
    • Jirix reacts this way when he finds out that his master killed Tsukiko.
    • Nale is utterly flummoxed that his father never considered Girard's Gate to be that much of a prize.
      Tarquin: I was probably going to destroy it myself anyway.
      Nale: WHAT?!?
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The gibberish that Haley says while she has aphasia brought on by keeping too many secrets is actually a simple substitution cipher, where each letter represents a different letter of the alphabet (although the code changes with each strip).
      Belkar: Good news for fans of cryptograms.
    • The magic letters in Dark V's accession translate to "BET YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD FOUND A SECRET MESSAGE IN THIS DIDN'T YOU?"
    • The runes on the walls of Girard's temple translate to "NO SECRET MESSAGE".
  • Black Bead Eyes: Standard, although some characters do have colored eyes.
  • Black Comedy: Since the comic has an overall humorous tone even with its Cerebus Syndrome taken into account, the various atrocities committed by Belkar, Xykon, Nale, Tarquin/the Empire of Blood, and other villains tend to be depicted this way, including some jokes in these scenes, but not downplaying the cruelty being displayed.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: Not shown, but Fenrir's high priest mentions it.
    High Priestess of Odin: So we've got Sunna casting Create Food and Water for lunch, and Freya casting Heroes' Feast for dinner.
    High Priest of Fenrir: Ugh, more mass-conjured pseudo-packed food with artificial ingredients! I only eat all-natural organic meals, such as human children that wander into the woods alone, or the occasional limping elf.
  • Blah Blah Blah:
  • Blatant Lies: Get your Bluff rank high enough (or get lucky with a natural 20), and people will believe anything. Note that this is completely internally consistent: In D&D 3.5, if your Bluff roll beats your opponent's Sense Motive by 20 or more, you can get them to believe things that are literally impossible.
  • Blessed with Suck: The gods have perfect memory, which sucks when they can remember the billions of worlds that came before the current one, and all of the inhabitants who ever lived on them.
  • Blind Shoulder Toss:
    • In strip #32, a pair of lawyers for Wizards of the Coast show up to drag away the monster, as it isn't open D&D content and thus copyright infringement. As a result, on the next page Roy is seen tossing away the script for strip #33 while saying they're finding themselves with no plot for today.
    • In strip #1215, Xykon tosses the beheaded head of Kraagor's statue in the chasm behind him with one hand, while firing an energy drain at Durkon with the other.
  • Blob Monster: In a bonus strip, the party fights a gelatinous cube. It gives Haley and Roy an urge for fruit gelatin, although they can't tell why...
  • Blood Oath: Eugene Greenhilt swearing one against Xykon on a drunken night, for the murder of his mentor Fyron Pucebuckle, is what started the whole vendetta against the lich sorcerer, and what motivateed Roy to found the Order of the Stick. The rest is history. It is also what keeps Eugene from being admitted into the Afterlife (though not Roy, because Roy's death occurred while trying to fulfill that oath).
  • Blowing a Raspberry:
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: To a dwarf, seeing a fellow dwarf — even family member — die in battle is a cause to rejoice, as their spot in Valhalla is guaranteed. They are particularly relieved if the dwarf in question was growing old, as dying of old age is considered dishonorable and gets you sent to Hel. After witnessing a life-long, elderly friend get eaten during a fight, one dwarf mentions offhand he'd been planning to pick a fight with the older dwarf just so he could die with an axe in hand, and they refer to his death the way one might discuss a buzzer-beating, last-second score in a sporting event. Lampshaded by Haley and Blackwing, who are thoroughly confused by their actions and declare, "Dwarves are weird."
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: The founders of the Godsmoot never foresaw this possibility, so while there are strict rules against clerics or bodyguards attacking each other, there's no rule against a bodyguard attacking his own cleric. This is what allows Roy to fight the vampirized Durkon after discovering the apocalyptic nature of his goddess's secret plan.
  • Booby Trap: One of Vaarsuvius's favorite spells? Explosive runes! It even gives a defeated Vaarsuvius one last laugh against Xykon — "Guess what spell I cast before giving this to the bird" in "Flight of the Phylactery".
  • Boogie Knights: "Dancing Knights", more like. It wasn't as funny for the Goblin Cleric who cast it by mistake.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Belkar borrows Roy's usual catchphrase by yelling "NOT REALLY THE POINT!" after Bloodfeast the Extreme-inator gets turned into a lizard, and Haley starts questioning the name.
  • Bound and Gagged:
    • Nale and Thog ends up bound the first time the Order of the Stick captures them. A gag soon follows for Nale after he tells a cruel joke to Celia.
    • Vaarsuvius' soul, as well as Blackwing's, get tied up on a table in Hell for 20min 35s after Cedrik claims his part of the deal. Then he gags them both, as the Fiends don't want to hear the elf's rampant speculation.
  • Box-and-Stick Trap: In the book Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the Order sets this sort of trap for a ninja. As none of them can actually see the ninja and an unreliable poison gets thrown into the mix, the party proceeds to make a Schrödinger's Cat joke when the trap goes off.
  • Brain Bleach:
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • Nale does this to Belkar at one point... then again, he is crazy already. The brainwashing is more of a redirection.
    • He tries it again later, but it backfires because Belkar had been deafened by Durkon's holy word, and couldn't hear Nale's orders.
      Roy: It's not a bug, it's a feature.
    • Tsukiko dominating Thanh the paladin. No, not that kind of domination.
    • Belkar (again!) due to Malack's vampiric gaze.
    • Belkar (yet again!) due to Vampire Durkon's vampiric gaze. Because of this, he's told to merrily jump off the airship twice.
    • Vampire Durkon then uses Dominate against Belkar (again), Haley, Elan, and Helga to attack Roy, Varsuvius, and Minrah, who made their Will saves.
  • Brass Balls:
  • Breaching the Wall: Redcloak summons Titanium elementals and fires them from catapults to breach Azure City's walls for his goblin army. Not only do they get better range than boulders, they do a number on the Azure City troops before they're banished.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • "And It Will Never Work Again"
      Tarquin: I think we'll have a feast — no, a festival! In your honor! Three days and nights of merriment in the streets to welcome my long-lost son!
      Elan: With clowns?
      Tarquin: And jugglers!
      Elan: And clown-jugglers, who juggle tiny clowns?
      Tarquin: Of course!
    • What Roy thinks Belkar's "perfect world" dream was about. It's actually about living with Lord Shojo and his cat.
      Roy: I'm sure it involved a lot of stabbing, and whores, and whores stabbing whores who stab whores.
    • "Hard Pass":
      Roy: Elan tells me many things, the majority of which I allow to pass through my brain unhindered.
      Elan: Like a ghost! Or a phase spider! Or the ghost of a phase spider!
    • Strip 1140 reveals that other worlds previously created by the gods included a gritty cyberpunk world, a world with talking animals, and gritty cyperpunk talking animals. RIP Laser-Snail.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • In "The Path to Victory", as the Order goes through a secret tunnel, they pass through The Hall of Mysterious Runes, The Cavern of Very Easy Encounters, The Room with All the Spikes, The Chasm of Unnecessary Cliffs, The Tunnel with the Sort of Reddish Floor, The Passageway of Horrible Death for Other People... and The Corridor of Very Toxic Sulfur Fumes (which the team shakes off).
    • Tsukiko in "No Scry Zone".
      Tsukiko: I know all about paladins, trust me. All they do is boss you around and tell you what you can't do. "Don't walk on the grass, don't litter, don't rape the cycle of life with your unclean power." Blah, blah, blah.
    • Tarquin's Keoghtum Extra Strength ointment uses magic as the active ingredient, and pretroleum jelly, glycerin, heart of a virgin collected on his/her wedding night, and fragrance as the inactive ingredients.
  • Break Them by Talking:
    • Shortly followed by one for Redcloak at the very end of Start of Darkness. It breaks him enough that he accepts the role of Xykon's Number Two.
    • O-Chul then tries a heroic version on the Monster in the Darkness. In other words, a You Are Better Than You Think You Are! speech delivered in the same manner and for the same purpose (break them out of a certain mindset).
    • Xykon delivers one to V in "Second Chance" about how he remains weak despite his recent upgrade to convince him to give up. It has opposite the intended effect; Xykon tells Vaarsuvius exactly what the elf needs to hear at that moment to cause a moment of redemption — that power is not only found in spells, and that Vaarsuvius can still oppose Xykon despite not having any spells that could help. During all that talking, V decides to nab some healing potions and patch up the paladin O-Chul.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Has possibly the most complex relationship with this trope of any franchise going. The comic effectively functions as if it doesn't have a fourth wall a lot of the time, with characters seemingly well aware that they are simultaneously in a webcomic and a fiction story set in a world operated using Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e rules (which are now two editions out of date, but still in place in the setting). At the same time, they are also fully participating and invested in the story in which they are participants. At one point a character finds herself in need of a large gem, and is reminded by another character that she is holding one in the picture of her on the "Cast" page of the website their story is hosted on, so she goes to said cast page and steals the gemstone. This is then used to fuel a Raise Dead spell which they need to cast so they can revive the party's leader and go off to defeat the Ultimate Evil. Basically everybody is in on the conceit, but also takes it entirely in stride as part of the life they live.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: Following the battle of Azure City, the party is split, and one is dead. They finally reunite over a hundred chapters (and several in-universe months) later.
  • Brick Joke:
  • Bring It:
  • Broken Heel: Discussed by Haley when she finds herself uncomfortably in the role of "fleeing horror-movie bimbo" after being caught unawares in a fight with Tsukiko. "I swear, if I randomly fall down and break the heel of my boot, I'm going to find Wes Craven and kick his ass."
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The first time Roy fought Xykon and won, it cost him his sword.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
    • Attempted in Start of Darkness when Lirian infects Xykon and his minions with a disease that robs them of their magic abilities. Unfortunately for her, Redcloak is immune thanks to the effects of the Crimson Mantle, and has just enough resources to transform Xykon in an undead, disease-immune lich.
    • A temporary instance of this trope occurs when a dragon uses an anti-magic field. It turns Vaarsuvius from a wizard into what the former describes as "a fragile, pointy-eared monkey" while the dragon is "...still a dragon."
  • Brown Note: Certain magical spells are capable of this — for example, Xykon used a "Symbol of Insanity" (on a super-bouncy ball) to turn an entire squad of paladin warriors against each other.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Monster in the Darkness: ...everyone here tells me that I'm as dumb as things that are really dumb.

    Redcloak: ...we didn't know the gate was guarded by a legion of ghost... things.

    Haley: My brain feels like a psion... did some psiony stuff.

    Miron: Oh, that reminds me: the Weeping King loves that splashy butt-washing thing she installed for him.
    Tarquin: A bidet, Miron. It's called a bidet.
  • Bullfight Boss: Roy vs. Thog — while due to the mechanics of the plan he has to leave out the "dodging" bit, he uses Thog's strength to bring the ceiling down on him.
  • Buried Alive: Lirian seals Xykon and his forces in an airtight cave following their defeat in her forest.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Xykon only remembers the day he killed Roy's dad's mentor as a really bad Laundry Night.
      Xykon: Do you have any idea how many people I have killed in front of their loved ones? Could you narrow it down?
      Roy: Grrrr. His master's name was Fyron. He was a wizard who lived in Cliffport. You needed some sort of magical doodad that he owned, so you killed him and his son in cold blood.
      Xykon: Hmmm... more specific.
      MitD: You killed more than one guy named Fyron in Cliffport?
      Xykon: Five, actually.
      Roy: Gah! It was forty years ago!
      Xykon: More specific.
      Roy: In the spring?
      Xykon: More specific.
      Roy: On a Wednesday?
      Xykon: Oh! Right! Now I remember. Because it was Laundry Night, and I had trouble getting the blood out of my robes.
      Roy: Oh, that is IT!!
    • Or, as Xykon puts it later:
      Xykon: Y'know, I've destroyed entire towns, and the worst I got from the surviving families were a few snarky comments. You, sir, have a serious problem with overreaction.
    • He is definitely trying to get a rise out of someone in "Negative Feelings":
      Xykon: Hey! Paladin dude! Do you know what the best part about killing the entire Sapphire Guard was? Neither do I. I wasn't actually paying attention when I did it.
    • Thog also doesn't care much about the people he kills, although that might be simple stupidity on his part.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: Known to indulge in this:
    • Belkar, disguised as a fellow medium-sized creature.
    • Nale, disguised as Elan, and complimenting himself.

  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": The adventure game based on the comic uses the term "wound", but the comic uses "HP".
  • Call-Back: Has its own page.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
  • Calling Your Attacks: Almost every combat ability other than moving and basic attacks.
  • Canis Latinicus:
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Haley's attraction to Elan is subject to much hesitation and take-back on her part. Until "Truth", where it becomes the cure to her aphasia..
  • Can't Default to Murder: The Token Evil Teammate Belkar is at one point placed under a curse that inflicts a debilitating and potentially deadly affliction on him if he ever deals lethal damage. This forces him to abstain from his usual murderous ways for an arc or two until the curse gets lifted.
  • Captain Oblivious: Ivan, Hilgya Firehelm's husband, is oblivious to an extreme degree. As seen in flashbacks, he clearly had no clue that Hilgya was forced to marry him at crossbow-point against her wishes, that she obviously hates his guts and repeatedly tried to poison him. When she escapes from home and comes back after months of adventuring while heavily pregnant to boot, he believes she just spent an unusually long time in the bathroom. Hilgya theorizes an undiagnosed brain injury.
  • Captured on Purpose: General Tarquin lampshades this trope by saying villains letting themselves get captured to manipulate the heroes is popular these days.
  • Cardboard Prison: Rule of thumb: if a prison is shown, someone will break out of it.
    • Roy is aware of this trope and that's why he doesn't want to chance leaving Belkar in one. After all, he escaped from Azure City's jail.
    • Miko, Nale, Sabine and Thog escape from the Azure City dungeon thanks to the invasion.
    • Elan and Thog escape from Cliffport with little difficulty.
    • In a more literal example, most of the time while in Azure City, the Monster in the Darkness is seen within a prison cell, literally made from a cardboard box with a small window (with bars) cut into one side. Considering his strength, of course, it would make no difference whether the prison was steel or cardboard; he's just staying inside because doing otherwise would be rude.
  • Card-Carrying Jerkass: While the comic has many Card Carrying Villains, only one character is a self-proclaimed Jerkass; Belkar Bitterleaf. Even when he's trying to help his team, he has to do it the nastiest way possible. In his own words, "Hurting people is the only thing I am good at."
  • Card-Carrying Villain:
    • Xykon is proud to be "Capital E evil".
    • The Linear Guild, literally.
    • Tarquin counts too; he's conscious as his role of villain, even though he expresses contempt for the concept of "Good" and "Evil".
  • Cargo Cult: The orcs on the island worship... Elan's hand-puppet, Banjo the Clown. So does he. Also one worshiper is enough for a said worshipper to request the ability to shoot out a small bolt of lightning to smite heathens (Elan does it to Roy; it does absolutely nothing).

    They later worship Giggles the Clown, Banjo's equally fictional brother and God of Slapstick. This leads to the refugee fleet, as "Champions of Banjo", and the new worshippers of Giggles having a pie-eating contest, the "traditional" challenge that must be enacted between followers of the two hand-puppet gods. Given how deific ascension works in the world (which is why Elan came up with Banjo in the first place), then there very likely is a genuine (if very weak) Giggles the Clown deity now.
  • Carpet of Virility:
    • Enriqué, Roy's mother's Latin Lover, as a hairy chest as part of the stereotype.
    • Also Tarquin, when we see him out of bed dressed in a robe, happens to have gray hair on the chest.
  • Carrying the Antidote: Elan assumes this is the case, and is mocked. Why would anyone do that instead of taking it themselves? note 
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Tarquin tells Elan that his late(st) wife died of "mysterious circumstances". Sure, Elan takes it at face value, but the audience certainly didn't. Except Tarquin is telling the truth; he has no part in Penelope's death, and no clue how it could have happened.
    • Belkar's tendency to screw with people gets him disbelieved at first when he bears the bad news of Durkon's vampirization.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: It's very common for the players and NPCs alike to exchange casual comments and witty banter in battle. Mixed with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness for V:
    Vaarsuvius: Fascinating, Durkon. I have just now formulated a theory that encompasses both Nale's likely method of engagement and the most suitable response on our part.
    Vaarsuvius: Ah, I see you have already grasped the core principles of my theory.
  • Catapult Nightmare: "Running Away" reveals the true reason V hasn't tranced for months: they're plagued by nightmares about all the people from Azure City that died because they lacked the power to save them.
  • Catapult to Glory: Instead of rocks, Redcloak uses Titanium elementals.
  • Catch and Return: Roy throws a boulder at a female frost giant. As she points out, this is a bad idea since catching boulders is a main ability of D&D giants. She then tosses it back at the Fighter, flattening him.
  • Cat Fight: Or Caster Fight, between Laurin and the Elfeminate Vaarsuvius in #934, with Blackwing egging it on.
  • Cat Folk: One of Tarquin's adventuring partners, Jacinda. Per the usual Animal Stereotypes, she seems to be the team's rogue.
  • The Cavalry: Julio Scoundrél, and his airship crew, appears out of nowhere to rescue the heroes from Tarquin.
  • Cavalry of the Dead: During the Battle of Azure City, Xykon slaughters all the paladins defending the throne room... only to watch them rise up and oppose him as spirits, led by the spirit of legendary paladin Soon Kim, founder of the Sapphire Guard!
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The job of a bureaucratic deva at Mount Celestia is to evaluate the recently-dead to see if they qualify for the Lawful Good afterlife.
  • Central Theme:
    • The primary theme of the entire comic is change — or, to be more precise, Character Development. To really oversimplify it all, the most heroic members of the comic's cast are more often than not those who are willing to change and adapt over time, while the most villainous ones are literal In-Universe Static Characters who either refuse to or are outright unable to adapt and change with the times.
      • To be more specific, the main protagonists — the titular Order of the Stick — are all deeply characterized by how much they've developed and improved as people. Vaarsuvius has become significantly more empathetic, learning to treat others with more respect and that it is okay to rely on them, and that power for the sake of power is not a good thing. Belkar has faked being a decent person long enough that it's starting to wear off on him, and has softened from a homicidal sociopath into the beginnings of an actually decent person. Roy has learned, much like V, that he doesn't have to do everything himself and he can let his relationships mature with other people — he can rely on others and trust them. More detail is given to Durkon's emotional maturity, faith, and wisdom, along with him firmly eschewing his former Bystander Syndrome and becoming more of a directly active member of the Order. Elan has also significantly matured, going from a ditzy Millstone to being a Genius Ditz whose Genre Savviness is a valuable and important asset for the Order. And Haley has learned to not only be more responsible (going from becoming Roy's second-in-command only for the greater share of loot to actually managing the Order's budget), but has gained more empathy for others and no longer tries to reflexively drive people away so she doesn't have to fear them leaving her. Heck, even Blackwing, Vaarsuvius’ Familiar who was previously just a minor Running Gag, has developed into becoming an ersatz conscience for V along with developing legitimate loyalty towards his wizard and the rest of the Order.
      • In contrast, the main antagonists — Team Evil — are almost all characterized as being Static Characters who refuse to evolve. Xykon is an undead lich, and so is literally described as being a Flat Character who will never be anything beyond the one-dimensional murderous jackass he really is. Despite being an Anti-Villain, Redcloak's adherence to the Sunk Cost Fallacy has increasingly made him more selfish and monstrous, at one point trying to implode Durkon because the realistic and beneficial solution Durkon offers doesn't satisfy Redcloak's need to be proven right. Furthermore, the Monster in the Darkness is the group's Token Good Teammate and after learning in ethics and philosophy from O-Chul, he eventually realizes that he can't just coast by on his immaturity and foolishness like he used to. Meanwhile, Tsukiko is Killed Off for Real by Redcloak due to her stubborn adherence to Think Like A Romance Novel regarding The Undead in a world where zombies are literally soulless automatons. Finally, Oona and Greyview are, while Affably Evil, Dumb Muscle and The Hedonist respectively, willingly participating in Team Evil's plans more or less because they have nothing better to do with their time.
      • It also goes into the comic's backstory — the world-devouring Snarl was only created in the first place because the divine pantheons were all acting like obstinate jerks and unwilling to compromise their individual visions for each other. This theme can also be seen in the comic's side characters — O-Chul became an Internal Reformist for the Sapphire Guard along with helping incentivize the Monster in the Darkness' Character Development, Eugene's refusal to actively pursue his Blood Oath of Vengeance against Xykon gets him near-permanently stuck in the entryway to Mount Celestia, Miko's unwillingness to consider that she might be wrong along with jumping to conclusions results in her becoming a Fallen Hero, Hinjo realizes that he must abandon Azure City for the benefit of his people along with acknowledging that he might never be able to have his people return home, Kubota's refusal to let go of his foolish dream to take the now-virtually worthless throne of Azure City for his own ultimately results in his death, Jirix is lead by Redcloak and the Dark One into establishing the first ever completely goblinoid state in the ruins of Azure City, Malack gets killed by Nale because of his need to constantly present himself as "proper" and "civilized" is exploited as a Logical Weakness, Zz'dtri is only able to return to the comic after proving that he's not just a Captain Ersatz of Drizzt, Nale's Complexity Addiction and inability to taper down his ego results in Tarquin killing him because he's no longer any asset of potential value and is a proven liability, Tarquin is defeated by Elan in large part because of the former’s refusal to acknowledge that the fantasy genre has evolved past where it was from when he was adventuring, and the High Priest of Hel is ultimately undone by Durkon capitalizing on his inability to understand Character Development.
      • The theme of change goes even farther: Over the course of the comic, it's revealed that the current iteration of the comic's world is the first world where a god ascended to divinity without tapping into the quiddity of a pre-existing pantheon (namely, the Dark One ascending with purple quiddity), giving hope to gods like Thor, Loki, Rat, and Tiamat for finally breaking their Vicious Cycle of Eternal Recurrence regarding the Snarl.
    • Another major theme is how teamwork and trust are the keys to victory — the more people trust each other and are willing to cooperate, the more effective they are, even the bad guys. People who cannot afford to trust their allies, such as Lord Shojo, think they don't need others to help solve their problems, like Miko or V in the Don't Split the Party arc, or just want to do what they want, not thinking about their teammates like Belkar, and perhaps Xykon, will get in trouble.
    • Additionally, there's a common theme of the threats of the past coming back to haunt the present. First and foremost, the Order of the Stick's entire journey starts because of Roy wanting/needing to fulfill his father's Blood Oath of Vengeance against Xykon, and Eugene's own refusal to fulfill the oath gets him stuck on a cloud in the afterlife. The Snarl is literally the product of the gods' arrogance and inability to play nice with each other. The current Divided We Fall situation facing the Gates is because of the Greater Scope Paragons — the Order of the Scribble — having self-destructed after their final adventure together. Start of Darkness reveals that Redcloak's titular Start of Darkness was caused by the Sapphire Guard's purges of innocent goblinoid villages. High Priest Hurak's terrible handling of Odin's prophecy regarding Durkon is what ultimately created the High Priest of Hel's psychology and motivation for aiding Hel. And finally, the Dark One and Redcloak's Rage Against the Heavens Evil Plan against the other gods is due to righteous anger over how the goblinoid races were designed as a Cosmic Plaything (which in turn is ultimately revealed to be due to the actions of both Fenris and problems Inherent in the System rather than genuine malice).
    • Finally, there's the nature of power, and what it means to use this effectively and wisely. A recurring thread through the plot is characters who are supposedly more powerful being undone by their supposedly weaker opponents, often because the powerful get overconfident and/or limit themselves to brute force where the less powerful are forced to apply creativity and intelligence and exploit unforeseen flaws and weaknesses to solve their problems.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The comic makes extensive use of this, often overlapping with Chekhov's Gun — things that seemed like one-off gags early in the comic's run come back later as serious plot elements. Notable examples:
    • In the first couple of arcs, Redcloak appears to be nothing more than Xykon's snarky right-hand goblin. In Start of Darkness, it's revealed that Redcloak killed his own brother to protect Xykon, and their apparently lighthearted relationship only seems that way because Xykon promised never to remind Redcloak of what he did, as long as he follows orders. The same arc established that the random Goblin mooks from Book 1 that the Order cuts through without a backwards glance were mostly forcibly conscripted families from peaceful villages, including Right-Eye's wife and children.
    • Haley's greed was used for jokes about the rogue conning her party out of extra treasure. It's eventually revealed that her father is being held for ransom, and she needs 200,000 gp to spring him. However, On the Origin of PCs partially reverses this retcon by revealing Haley was always pretty greedy to begin with.
    • Vaarsuvius's raven familiar, Blackwing. Originally invisible most of the time and more of a plot device than a character; used for jokes about how D&D players tend to ignore their familiars until they can get some usage out of them. He plays a crucial role in a temporary victory over the Big Bad, and becomes a fully realized character. Afterward he's always visible as a major part of V's Character Development, and this in turn throws their earlier treatment of him into a harsher light.
    • Speaking of Vaarsuvius, their amusing showcasing of Hidden Depths regarding romance becomes rather depressing after it's revealed that they were Innocently Insensitive and neglectful towards their spouse Inkyrius and adopted children, and following them getting Drunk on the Dark Side, Inkyrius files for divorce and a now thoroughly-humbled Vaarsuvius chooses not to contest it out of guilt upon realizing how actually clueless and selfish they really were.
    • Taken to the point of self-parody when even the Weapons Shop Guy, a throwaway gag character featured in a one-strip Monty Python reference early on in the comic, turns out to be the son of Geoff, who agreed to betray his allies in order to buy his only child a chance to leave the Thieves Guild.
    • Durkon being thrown unceremoniously out into the human world has been Played for Laughs every time the comic flashed back to it ...until "Your Worst", where we see Durkon's incredibly tragic and painful memory of pleading with the guards carrying him out to let him say goodbye to his mother. His memory then culminates in him angrily weeping and cursing Hurak and the rest of his church for exiling him, which in turn became the catalyst that formed the High Priest of Hel's desire for Revenge.
    • When Hel is revealing the bet between her and Loki that made it so she's unable to have living clerics in the current world, Thor's brief cameo is Played for Laughs, with him getting roped into the bet by Loki since he's presented as being too drunk to point out how bad of an idea it is. Later on, it's all but stated that Thor was drunk because he was immensely depressed over having had to destroy yet another one of the countless worlds the gods have built in trying to seal away the Snarl, and he was grieving for his dead followers.
    • Odin, the Top God of the Northern Pantheon, is consistently portrayed as a goofy and lovable Cloudcuckoolander akin to an absent-minded grandfather during the first several story arcs. Utterly Dwarfed eventually reveals that he's like this because he's suffering from the divine equivalent of dementia, as the Northerners in the previous iteration of the world were primarily barbarians who disliked magic. Thanks to Gods Need Prayer Badly and him being the god of magic, he's become a Scatterbrained Senior who's also a Mad Prophet that can't interpret or even remember his own prophecies (such as those involving the Snarl and the world within the rifts). At least Thor indicates that given a few centuries, he'll naturally heal and be "back to normal".
    • A Brief Intermission" just seemed like some strange non sequitur comic using absurdist humor about sapient movie snacks trying to kill each other, only for "Better Left in the Past" to reveal that it was a previous iteration of the world that was either lost to the Snarl or destroyed by the gods.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Lampshaded and played with. Plot lines get more complex and darker as the series continues, but the awesome one-liners and constant lampshading never stop. Characters are aware of this and complain about it, with V blaming Cerebus himself.
  • Chainmail Bikini: In "It Costs an Armor Leg", Durkon argues with a salesman about what constitutes "leather armor". He's told, "Women's leather armor pretty much amounts to any attractive outfit that has one or more leather items in it. I once sold a winsome young lass a leather headband that was more effective than plate."
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In the cast page, Belkar is introduced as "the world's best tracker under four feet tall." As the strip moves on, his Stupid Evil nature is played up to the point where he becomes an incompetent tracker, having spent all his skill points and feats on combat abilities (and gourmet cooking). It's not until he goes through both faked and legitimate Character Development during Don't Split the Party that he starts to show competence in other non-combat activities.
    • The Monster in the Darkness starts out as evil (barely), but has evolved into a good (or at least neutral) character being tricked and manipulated by his evil "friends".
    • Redcloak in his first couple of appearances is basically a regular goblin with a fancy cloak, who kowtows endlessly to Xykon and whose unlevel eyes don't scream intelligence. Fast forward a few hundred strips, and Redcloak is the quintessential Dragon with an Agenda, as well as the resident Only Sane Employee and Hypercompetent Sidekick, who claims to have been expertly manipulating Xykon from the beginning. Makes invoked a bit more sense after Start of Darkness, which ends with Xykon brutally breaking Redcloak to his will and forcing him to abandon his holy mission, neatly explaining his period of dull subservience.
    • During the starmetal sidequest, Roy is perfectly willing to abandon Elan to a bandit party without so much as a second glance, only being talked around by the others' unilateral insistence on rescuing The Heart. Including Belkar ("he makes me laugh") and Vaarsuvius, both of whom will later become the go-to advocates for Shoot the Dog.
    • Thor is portrayed as little more than a goofy, reckless oaf/frat boy during the first few arcs. By Utterly Dwarfed, he's an intelligent, wise and honorable Nice Guy who also one of the Greater Scope Paragons of the entire comic. Hints at his future development are given in Blood Runs in the Family, where both he and Hel make a cameo appearance arguing over the fate of a dwarf's soul and Thor's presented as being a deceptively skillful Rules Lawyer. invoked Word of God states Thor is taking things seriously now, hence the shift in personality.
    • In the first arc, Celia blasts Nale and Thog with her lightning powers because Nale tricked her into thinking her family was dead. Later on, Celia is portrayed as an Actual Pacifist, though her outburst of violence towards Nale is explained by her not always being able to live up to her own ideals.
    • The early strips have several smaller moments involving characterization that doesn't fit with how these characters are portrayed later on, such as Roy killing a bunch of goblins in their sleep and Haley giggling like a schoolgirl.
  • Character Death:
    • Several characters (major and minor) die during the course of the story, but resurrection spells mean that someone could be revived every day of the week provided a sufficiently powerful cleric and enough diamond dust. However, there are still a number of ways to make death permanent.
    • When Celia was a Guest-Star Party Member in the Order of the Stick, this trope was the source of conflict with her and Haley, because of the differing views humans and sylphs have about death.
  • Charm Person: It's a D&D-based trope, so of course this is here.
    • Striking general example is Nale hypnotizing Belkar; he can't make Belkar kill the Order and give their magic items to him, but Nale is able to make Belkar try to kill the Order and keep their magic items for himself... while singing showtunes...
    • Domination is a nastier version, where the characters will even violate their alignment. Dialogue from Elan (and others) confirmed that it is still functionally charm person, where they actively want to help the person dominating them.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: During the exile of the Azurites, several of them are violently chased off by the orcs of an island they visit hoping to trade at.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
  • Chekhov's Gun: All over the place. More of a Chekhov's Armoury, really.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
  • Chekhov's Skill:
  • Cherry Tapping:
    • Xykon does it to O-Chul, knocking him below zero hit points with a Ray of Frost (a cantrip that does 1d3 points of damage).
    • Belkar does it to Crystal, first toying with her, then leaving her alive but humiliated, not wanting to steal Haley's kill.
    • Vaarsuvius forces Laurin Shattersmith, a powerful psion, to retreat with this strategy: provoking her to burn her power points dispelling frustrating but non-offensive spells until she was unable to continue the fight.
  • Chess with Death: Or rather, Wet T-shirt Contest with Death.
    Death: ... I'll get the hose.
  • Da Chief:
    • The Chief, of Cliffport fame, who gets decapitated by Nale.
    • Tarquin tries to invoke this by offering to put Roy in the role for Elan, thus making his son the main character, when it becomes obvious he won't let him kill his party leader. But by that point Elan has given up on granting his father second chances.
  • Cigar Chomper: The CPPD Chief, because it's what someone in his role does.
  • Circling Birdies:
  • Citadel City: Azure City was the capital of a wealthy and strategically-placed nation. Therefore, significant investment was made to make it a tough nut to crack. The ruling body shored up the defences even more, particularly with that big honking castle, when a hole in reality leading to a god-killing abomination was discovered over the city.
  • Clean Cut: Many attacks with slashing weapons against Mooks result in this.
  • Clever Crows: Vaarsuvius's familiar, Blackwing. Though there was originally a Running Gag that he'd only appear when V remembered him (and he didn't even have a name until Haley named him), after a certain series of events, Blackwing is present all the time, mostly serving as The Conscience to V.
  • Cliffhanger: Most major story arcs or books have ended with one:
    • No Cure for the Paladin Blues: The Order now know the importance of the Gates and are preparing to track down and protect the others; meanwhile, Xykon (who the heroes have only just learned is still alive) has assembled an army of hobgoblins and is preparing to march on Azure City (where the Order currently is) and take their Gate by force, while Nale and the Guild plot their revenge against the Order.
    • War and XPs: In what may be the largest cliffhanger yet, the hobgoblins have overrun Azure City, Roy is dead, and the Order has been scattered. And on top of that, we see Kubota plotting against Hinjo with the aid of a mysterious figure standing off panel; this new antagonist's identity Qarr the imp isn't revealed until well into the next arc.
    • Blood Runs in the Family: Aside from the fact that the Snarl has began to emerge from its prison, there's the fact that the Order is completely unaware of the fact that Durkon's vampire body has been taken over by the High Priest of Hel.
    • Utterly Dwarfed: The Order is en route to the North Pole to stop Xykon from finding and taking control of Kraagor's Gate, but Lien and O'Chul are attacked and knocked out with poison by two unseen assailants and literally lowered down a cliff.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Played rather darkly when the party's cleric Durkon is murdered and raised as a vampire. Token Evil Teammate Belkar (who Durkon died protecting) objects that the vampire isn't the real Durkon, but party leader Roy accepts the vampire into the party on the premise that he's the closest thing they've got to Durkon ("Durkon enough for our purposes"), and they need a high-level cleric to survive the coming battles. He is wrong; "vampire Durkon" is an evil spirit puppeteering Durkon's corpse, while the real Durkon can only watch in horror. Roy ends up leading the vampire to an important meeting that lets the vampire bring the world much closer to destruction.
  • Clothing Damage: During his battle with The High Priest of Hel, Roy ends up slicing a massive gash into his armor. The High Priest later replaces his armor with a simple robe.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Elan's genre savvy usually comes off as inane babbling, and even putting that aside has odd ideas like "naked=invisible".
    • The Monster in the Darkness enjoys Power Rangers, tea parties and eating adventurers whole.
    • Thog, a half-orc barbarian with low intelligence who helps Elan's Evil Twin Nale murder innocents by the dozens — but loves nothing in life more than ice cream, rocket skates, and puppies. Probably because of this, he and Elan get along really well.
    • Also Odin, the leader of the Northern Pantheon. He likes puppets (and thus was ready to ascend Banjo) and puppies.
      Odin: Ooooo, doggie!
      Thor: Dad, don't pet it, you don't know where it's been.
    • Thor shows this occasionally, though mainly when he is drunk or about to be — which for a long while was about every time we see him.
  • Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun: Tarquin explains how he knows Nale hasn't fled the castle. Nale is cautious, and won't leave until he's recruited replacements. Nale is egotistical, and won't leave without hearing what Elan and Tarquin had to say about him after his latest shenanigans. Nale doesn't know what magical item Penelope gave Tarquin for his birthday last year.
    Malack: You mean... your Ring of True Seeing?
    Nale: [invisible Oh, Crap!]
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Redcloak to O-Chul, ostensibly for information.
    • Xykon to O-Chul, just for fun.
    • When his winning personality isn't enough, this appears to be how Tarquin "convinces" women to marry him.
    • After finding out that Yukyuk shot Mr. Scruffy, Belkar decides to turn him into the cat's new litter box but without killing him first.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Lampshaded in regards to dragons; also the Trope Namer.
    • Everything related to Azure City. The city itself is blue, including most of the buildings, the town wall and even the ships in the port. The regulars in the army wear silver and blue armor, and the paladins, white and blue. Many characters, e.g. Hinjo, even have blue hair. If a paladin falls from grace, his or her clothes immediately change color from blue to brown, due to them being magical items that lose power when not on a paladin in good standing.
      MitD: I know! Murky and Lurky must have stolen her colors!
    • Despite being an Azure City noble, Kubota is wearing purple. So are all his retainers, and his junk is colored purple too. This represents both his wealth and power, and his detachment from the regime of the Sapphire Guard.
    • It's implied (particularly in Start of Darkness) that the hierarchical ranks of the Dark One's clerics are indicated by cloak color. For instance, white cloaks are issued to the newly-ordained.
    • Each god has a colored aura when they manifest that is determined by the pantheon they belong to; yellow for the Northern gods, blue for the Southern, red for the Western, green for the Eastern, and purple for the Dark One. As Thor later reveals, this is the color of that pantheon's divine quiddity, the essences that, when combined, allow the gods to make beings who are independent and "more real" than they are.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry:
    • All spellcasters have a distinctive colored aura when casting spells:
      • Vaarsuvius — pink;
      • Durkon — white; (turns to red once he becomes a vampire)
      • Elan — blue;
      • Redcloak — dark red;
      • Xykon — dark grey;
      • Nale — yellow;
      • Zz'dtri — green;
      • Hilgya — orange;
      • Leeky — brown;
      • Pompey — violet;
      • Julia — green;
      • Eugene — pale green;
      • Samantha — purple;
      • Celia — white;
      • Tsukiko — indigo and blue (due to her being able to, as a Mystic Theurge, cast both arcane and divine spells);
      • Sapphire Guard members and Azurite clerics — standardized light blue;
      • Malack — grey;
      • Laurin — yellow;
      • Miron — dirt brown.
    • And approriately enough, Mind-Control Eyes match the color of the controller's aura.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Haley has no issues with ambushing and killing her arch-enemy Crystal, the assassin, while she's in the shower, unarmed and not wearing any armor or magic items. Followed, naturally, by looting all of said equipment. This scene comes off a lot less cold-blooded if you have read the prequel On the Origin of the PCs and the supplemental pages in Don't Split the Party that were cut out of the online comic for reasons of pacing but put back in for the printed edition. The extra strips reveal that Crystal was more than eager to hurt and kill Haley, and she and Bozzok were still planning to secretly murder Haley, despite the truce.
  • Combat Tentacles: Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion.
    Trigak: Wait, what?
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: Jenny, the bard in the Rogue's Guild, to Belkar.
    Jenny: [draped in a Modesty Bedsheet] Hurry back to bed, I'm feeling rested for another encounter.
    Belkar: Go ahead and start a solo adventure, I'll be in to join the quest when I'm done eating.
  • Comfort the Dying: Downplayed after the fallen Paladin Miko is fatally injured in an explosion of her own doing. The spirit of her order's founder can only manage faint praise for her efforts and doesn't pretend that she's redeemed herself, but concedes that she'll see her celestial horse in the afterlife.
    Miko: OK... OK, then... I can live with that. [dies]
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the Godsmoot, the priest of Balder mentions that he managed to call the demigod priests' attention by shouting about free cake (because everyone loves cake). Roy is naturally horrified (because if the demigod priests arrive, they will vote to destroy the world) and the priest of Balder asks if Roy is more of a pie man.
  • Compelling Voice: Haley gets this when she consumes a potion of glibness, giving her already huge bluff score an extra +30. She tells a human guard that he's actually a yellow-footed rock wallaby, and he immediately hops off to find a wizard to polymorph him "back".
  • Complexity Addiction: Nale suffers from an acute case of making things "needlessly complicated" such as taking as many as three separate classes in order get the same skill set as a bard, but not be chaotic (which bards have to be). He gets it from his mother, who provided the page image (in this comic).
  • Conflict Ball: Andi, the Mechane engineer, certainly seems to be gripping one of these tightly with regard to her ever-present resentment, jealousy and insubordination towards Bandana, with no real reasoning beyond Andi feeling that she has more of a "claim" to the position than Bandana on the basis of longer service time aboard the ship. This is despite the fact that Julio, who the whole crew still respects and admires, explicitly left orders naming Bandana as The Captain of the Mechane while Julio took a leave of absence.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: "There's only one ninja left, that means I'm death incarnate!"
  • Constructed World: The comic takes place on an unnamed Adventure-Friendly World ruled over by three (four, but one was destroyed) pantheons corresponding to a cardinal direction and associated continent — Northern, Southern, Western, and Eastern. Each pantheon exactly corresponds to a Real Life pantheon/set of beliefs: Northern = Norse, Western = Babylonian, Southern = the Chinese Zodiac, and Eastern = Greek (and deceased). The world is in a generally medieval setting, although Rich Burlew the author takes inspiration from not only Europe, but also the Middle East and Asia, and certain areas (such as Cliffport and Tinkertown) are noticeably technologically advanced via magic and a Steampunk flair respectively (both of which are pointed out and lampshaded In-Universe). In addition to standard non-magic fighters, there are a plethora of magic, psionic, and holy warriors in the world, as befitting its Dungeons & Dragons-inspired setting.
  • Contemplative Boss: Xykon assumes this posture when coldly ordering Redcloak not to restore his eye as a punishment for letting Xykon's phylactery be lost.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: #1230 "That's His Bad" references:
    1. #4 (Roy telling Elan he hated him)
    2. #124 (Belkar chasing Elan to kill/defeat him for XP)
    3. #127 (V berating Elan for trying to be a wizard)
    4. #128 (V apologizing to Elan)
  • Continuity Nod: Full of them. Of particular note is the Test of the Mind when Haley returns to the Oracle's valley; the "truth and lie" creatures immediately tell her the correct path rather than face another arrow to the foot. The continuity of OotS is generally very well kept.
  • Continuity Snarl: invoked While the comic doesn't contradict itself, the gods did. This is the underpinning of the comic's plot.
  • Contractual Genre Blindness: Elan displays a rare heroic example: he's Genre Savvy enough to realize that when the villain dies offscreen, he's not really dead, but he's also genre-savvy enough to realize that the hero is supposed to think the villain is dead. Consequently, when he next encounters Nale, he's genuinely surprised to find him alive. Trying to make sense of this gives Nale a migraine.
  • Contrived Coincidence
    • Elan bumping into Julio Scoundrél, who just happens to have an airship that just happens to be going exactly the way he wants to go. Elan points out how unlikely it is, which Julio counters with the Law of Conservation of Detail — if it hadn't progressed the plot, their conversation wouldn't be included in the strip.
    • Another example concerns Girard's Gate. MAJOR SPOILERS for Books 4 and 5: While Vaarsuvius is isolated, they and their family are attacked by an ancient black dragon out of revenge for V killing her son. V kills the dragon with "Familicide," an epic-level spell that kills everyone directly related to the target, as well as everyone related to the first tier of victims. It turns out the Draketooth family happened to be related to that very same black dragon, and they are all killed by the spell, by accident. What makes this a contrived coincidence is that neither the ancient dragon nor her son have anything to do with the main plot, nor did anyone know of their relation to the Draketooths. The latter was killed in a sidequest to get Roy some starmetal, and the former was killed because they threatened V's family while seeking vengeance.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Justified with the Lava Pit used as a waste incinerator in Tinkertown; the caldera is surrounded by runes which translate to "this spell blocks the heat".
  • Cool Sword:
    • Roy's sword has been handed down from his grandfather, and may be older than that. After it was broken, Roy is told it's made of starmetal and can't be reforged without it. Turns out that was a Snipe Hunt, but once it is reforged note  with starmetal alloy, it is magical and does greater damage to undead, such as Xykon, and it glows green whenever this power activates. Later still, Roy learns to channel its inherent magic as an ancestral heirloom to unlock even cooler powers.
    • Elan is given a keen silver rapier by Julio Scoundrél, and later on the dashing hero's own Chaos Sabre.
  • Cool Teacher: Fyron was this to Eugene Greenhilt, which is why he was so devastated when Xykon killed him.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Therkla the half-orc Ninja tries to find a compromise between Hinjo (or rather Elan; she's still happy to assassinate Hinjo) and her master Daimyo Kubota's agendas (albeit because she had a crush on Elan). Kubota kills her so he can use her as a scapegoat.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Tarquin's ninth wife died of "mysterious circumstances". ("Not another one! When will they find a cure!?") This turns out to be a subversionTarquin really has no idea how she died, although he's confident she was murdered by somebody. She was caught up in the effect of V's Familicide.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The revelation of Strip #1139. This world that the protagonists are fighting tooth and nail to save from the Eldritch Abomination leaking from its can? Not the second, third, or even fourth world. Try the thousandth, if not the millionth of similar worlds created as a seal to the Snarl's prison. And every time it got out and devoured the world, despite the gods' efforts.
  • Cosmic Horror Reveal: The first arc of the story concerns the titular Order on a dungeon crawl to stop Xykon, an evil lich and his undead and goblin minions. Then it turns out that within the lich's old lair, there is a portal to a dimension where an Eldritch Abomination with world-destroying power is imprisoned, and the rest of the story becomes a quest to stop the abomination from being released, while the lich and his minions (and several other evil forces) try to use the abomination for their own purposes.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: When the Order find out exactly why Durkon was thrown out of the Dwarven Homeland and forbidden from returning — High Priest Hurak was told a prophecy that "when next [Durkon] returns home, he will bring death and destruction for us all" — Roy despairingly points out that if Durkon had just been told about the prophecy, he'd have done everything in his power to make sure it never came true. The result: Durkon's vampire-hijacked body is coming home, against his will.
  • Coup de Grâce:
    • Roy delivers several of these to goblins V put to sleep with an overly long and boring boast about how they were much more powerful than anything they could imagine. It was so long and boring that it put Elan and Belkar to sleep as well.
    • Crystal attempts to do one to an unconscious Haley, but she's interrupted.
    • Vampire Durkon finishes off Zz'dtri by Neck Snap.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: In #1119, Hilgya covers her child's eyes when casting a destructive spell on a group of enemies.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover for Start of Darkness shows Xykon as a lich killing a paladin before his first encounter with Redcloak — while in the story proper, he wasn't yet undead when this happened. This is lampshaded on the last page of the book:
    MitD: Wait — the scene on the cover didn't happen that way.
    Demon-roach: Welcome to show business, kid.
  • Crack in the Sky: The rifts, holes in reality which lead to a prison dimension built by the gods to imprison the Snarl. One particularly impressive example, which can be seen in this strip, opens above Azure City and grows much larger than any of the others, looming in the skies of the city like a colossal wound where the fabric of the universe is very literally and visibly unraveling.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Vaarsuvius: "I am a wizard. Being prepared comes naturally" V always seems to have the appropriate "Bugsby's _____-ing hand" spell prepared. Even for cat retrieval.
    • Tarquin learned to defend against pun-dueling. As boss of an evil empire, you're bound to come up against some wise-cracking hero or other. It makes even more sense when we later learn he fought against Captain Scoundrél back in the day.
  • Creepy Souvenir:
    • Belkar beheads Yikyik the kobold and wears his head as a hat. He later uses the head of Yokyok, the son of the first kobold, as a tortilla bowl.
    • Roy initially wanted to wear Xykon's teeth as a necklace in case of a victory, but after the lich was blown to bits, he settled on Xykon's crown.
    • Gannji the lizardfolk mentions that keeping a Creepy Souvenir is common amongst ogres. When his friend Enor (an ogre/dragon hybrid) is forced to fight him, Gannji suggests that Enor kill him and keep his tail as a trophy in order to resurrect him later.
    • Malack tells Elan he would pay handsomely for Nale's skull to adorn his study.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles:
    • "Belkar Unleashed" and "Belkar Leashed".
    • "The Semi-Secret Origin of Elan and Nale" and "The Significantly-More-Secret Origin of Tarquin and Nale".
  • Crown of Power: Subverted. The reason Roy is going after Xykon in the first place is that he killed the mage Fyron to steal a crown from him. Roy assumes the crown must be a magical artifact, but when he finally confronts Xykon, he says it's not magic and he just stole it because it looks cool.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Implosion. Brr. Also on that page, someone getting torn in half by a devil.
    • Tsukiko's death. Life-drained by her own wights, followed by being eaten, bones and all by those same wights. They then ate each other in order of creation, and the last one incinerated itself. Killed Off for Real indeed.
  • Crying Wolf:
    • Inverted and parodied in "The Elf Who Cried Raven" — when V finally remembers the familiar and claims that Blackwing was "there all along" in their past adventures, none of the others believe it. This is despite previously being the ones who had to remind V of its existence. It's revealed later that Haley was just pulling V's leg.
    • Played straight in "Getting the Message". As Belkar reports Durkon's death and being turned into a vampire, Roy almost immediately calls him out on it being one of his sick jokes. This is combined with Roy simply not wanting to believe it.
    • Played straight in "Little Empathy". Blackwing tries to warn Vaarsuvius that a vampire is trying to steal V's teleport orb through their empathic link, but V just thinks Blackwing is being paranoid about someone stealing his bracelet — again.
  • Cosmic Flaw: The Snarl, which was created due to the gods' disagreement of how the world should be. After the Snarl destroyed their world, they created another world to contain it, but this new world was not perfect either, and over time cracks ("rifts") started to appear in the fabric of reality. This has happened billions of times, because the gods who created the Snarl had four "quiddities" between them, but it immediately slaughtered the Eastern Pantheon, the only source of green quiddity — meaning that it is literally the realest thing in existence, as every world created to contain it since then only had three.
  • Cue the Falling Object: Happens after Team Evil wins the Battle of Azure City.
    Redcloak: As of right now, we own this city!
    [they look at the ruined city; one of the castle's towers collapses]
    Xykon: ...I don't suppose we kept the receipt?
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: In Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, to lampshade "the power of abandoned verisimilitude".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Minor one in "Standardized Testing". The three barbarians can taste the concrete.
    • "Smash" is a good example for why you shouldn't piss off the barbarian half-orc.
    • Vaarsuvius gives a thorough one to the parent of the black dragon they killed earlier, and a quarter of all the black dragons in the world, with one spell.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: It certainly didn't do Mijung any good when she poked her nose (figuratively) into a rift in reality. However, had she not, Soon and the Order of the Scribble would have been unable to do more careful examinations and discover the truth about the Snarl. Similarly, as portrayed in Start of Darkness, the Dark One only found out about the Snarl when a goblin got too close and was killed.
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: Ever since his Mark of Justice-induced Vision Quest in which Lord Shojo convinced him to play along with other people's moral codes in order to seem like a functional member of society, Belkar has been very gradually Becoming the Mask: actually feeling the empathy for other people he was at first just faking. He found it extremely confusing at first and is still defensive and hostile about it.
  • Curse Cut Short:
  • Cursed Item: The Order finds a Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity, which inflicts a Gender Bender curse on the wearer and can only be removed by a Dispel Magic spell. Roy, much to his annoyance, has to use it to bluff his way out of an ambush, and is glad that Durkon has the necessary magic to undo it.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Deliberately invoked by the IFCC with their disclaimers for their Deal with the Devil.
    Cedrik: Although, as providers, it would be remiss not to warn you that the Soul Splice has been known to trigger feelings of pure omnipotence.
    Nero: You may also experience some slight dizziness from the rush of unprecedented arcane power.
  • Curse That Cures: Xykon. It is revealed in the prequel Start of Darkness that he became a lich, under Redcloak's suggestion, to escape a magical disease that was preventing him from using his sorcerer magic. Also, they were prisoners of a powerful druid and had few other options for escaping.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Automatically by drawing style. Although nine of them lining up before the female loo probably counts as Fan Disservice...
  • Cuteness Proximity: Exploited by Roy in "A Man, a Dwarf, and a Kitty" to take out the guards of a bandit camp.
  • Cutting the Knot: Lampshaded in "The Test of the Mind". Instead of unraveling the riddle, Haley simply shoots one in the foot and watches what happens.
    Vaarsuvius: Gordium called — they have a knot that you may want to take a look at.
  • Cycle of Revenge:
    • What started as a killing of a young adult black dragon escalated when the black dragon's parent tried to torture Vaarsuvius' family to death, which led directly to V killing one quarter of the world's population of black dragons, which seems to have irked Tiamat (the Goddess of chromatic dragons).
    • The ongoing war between humans and goblins. As stated in the third book's commentary (partial paraphrase), "Each side only remembers their last defeat at the hands of the other."


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: