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

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  • Damned by Faint Praise: Blackwing pulls this, seemingly by accident, when attempting to defend Vaarsuvius's actions during the Soul Splice.
    Qarr: Check it out! It's history's worst mass-murderer and his dim-witted bird!
    Blackwing: HEY! History isn't over yet, mister!!
    Vaarsuvius: sob!
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Discussed in "Leaving Azure City": Haley is in trouble and Elan wants to rush off to rescue her. However, Durkon stops him, explaining that she is able to take care of herself. And that he is not. If he tries to rescue her, he will just get himself killed, and that would make her very sad once she gets back on her own. Elan is forced to leave Haley to her fate. And yes, she does save herself. And Belkar. And Roy's corpse, so it can be resurrected later.
    • When fleeing an ambush by Tsukiko's wights, Haley angrily notes how irritating it is to find herself in the role of "the bimbo who runs down the alley away from the monsters."
    • Roy also calls Celia his Damsel in Distress when noting this is getting frequent for her.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Cleric down, wizard missing, leader starting to crumble. What does Belkar do? The thing the party keeps him around for.
  • Dark Action Girl: Sabine; Tsukiko; Crystal; Samantha... Haley notes a pattern of her fighting "airborne tramps".
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Not that the comic is exactly "light and fluffy", but prequel book Start of Darkness is significantly darker than the online comic's average tone.
    • Things have gotten a turn for the dark starting around comic #823. First, The Resistance falls arc. Then, the race between three teams for Girard's Gate: Team Evil, the Order of the Stick and The Linear Guild. And then the entire Draketooth family turns out to be dead, and one of the Order is responsible for it. And now Nale is dead (killed by his father), another gate is destroyed, Durkon has been turned into a vampire, Tarquin is now obsessed with his son killing him and making him into a story, and V now knows that the entities they rented their soul to can take control of them at any time.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Invoked by Belkar after Haley assumes that V's new black robes, glowing eyes, and evil whispers mean that they've turned evil. Belkar, too, is convinced of that, but defends Vaarsuvius with this argument just to mess with everyone's heads.
  • "Darkness von Gothick" Name:
    • When she was a gloomy goth teenager, Haley called herself Dark Mistress Shadowgale.
    • When Celia disguises herself as an evil necromancer, she uses the name Darkblood Gloomgloom.
    • There's also one authentic necromancer, Haerta Bloodsoak, the most powerful of the mages involved in the Soul Splice.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Mentioned by of Eugene Greenhilt.
    Eugene: You know, last time I interrupted you sitting alone in the dark trying to figure out how your sword works, your mother made me install a lock on the bathroom door the next day.
  • Daywalking Vampire: Justified with Malack and the vampirized Durkon due to Malack's Protection from Daylight spell. He doesn't last half a minute in direct sunlight without it.
  • Deader Than Dead:
    • The fate of everyone killed by the Snarl is to be so dead that they don't appear in the afterlife because their soul has been destroyed.
    • Nale is killed, disintegrated, and his ashes scattered to the wind to make sure that nobody can ever ressurect him.
    • Similarly, Redcloak has Tsukiko's ghouls eat her body, then eat each other, then the final remaining one burn himself to death, to make sure there's no way Tsukiko can be resurrected to rat him out to Xykon.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Lord Shojo uses the skeleton of one of his wizards as a macabre puppet, in order to make a point that it's the heroes' fault that the wizard is dead. He is planning to bring the dude back to life.
    Roy: Okay, fine! You're right, we'll head to Girard's Gate right now.
    Lord Shojo: Great idea! Here, I'll have my best wizard teleport you! [with the skeleton "puppet"] "Sure thing, Lord Shojo! Teleport!" [throws skeleton at Roy]
    Roy: Gah!
    Lord Shojo: Oh, look at that. It didn't work. I guess you'll have to wait until we're done resurrecting him. Come back tomorrow.
  • Deadly Dodging:
    • Inverted when Roy confronts a half-ogre who uses ainvoked Game-Breaker from the 3.5 rules to attack him twice a round while dodging backwards. The half-ogre eventually falls off a cliff.
    • Roy dodges an eldritch blast from an annoyed warlock by leaning down, and it ends up hitting Ganji in the back, precipitating the already-brewing Bar Brawl.
    • In "Five Rows Down, Three Columns Over", Roy tricks his Dumb Muscle Evil Counterpart Thog into crashing into a series of columns in order to bring part of the roof down on him. Although it's not exactly dodging, since the D&D rules of Thog's attack specify that it cannot do any arena damage unless the attack works.
      Roy: That's how I use my Intelligence score in combat, dumbass!
    • Attempted, but averted, when Belkar is fighting a Goliath vampire without weapon: he's planning on tripping it and sending it tumbling down the mountain; even if it's unlikely to kill it, it would get it out of the way for Belkar to enter the temple. But Roy just shows up without warning and cleaves the vampire in half.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters fall into this at some point.
    • Vaarsuvius comes only second to Roy in the snark and, being The Spock, is even more deadpan.
    • And V's raven familiar seems to take after his wizard.
    • As quoted above, Lord Shojo has Roy easily beaten in Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Death Is Cheap: Not literally; coming Back from the Dead is actually rather expensive, requiring 5000 GP in diamonds as a material component — plus whatever mark-up the priest casting the spell might charge you for to make a profit. But price asidenote , it's usually not all that difficult, except when the plot requires it to be, as in Roy Greenhilt's case, or in special situations like being killed by the Snarl or dying of old age. One of the gateways to the Afterlife is a revolving door.
    • This is lampshaded to the extent that a character calling for reinforcements (Haley in Old Blind Pete's cellar) suggests they bring the wherewithal to resurrect her and her friends.
    • Also, you can apparently do the old "challenge Death to a game for your life" thing. And you can pick Wet T-Shirt Contest as your game.
    • In Durkon's case, not only does he come back from the dead within a week or so in-universe — about 5 years of real world time — but he's immediately killed again, with the killer responding to the angry and incredulous looks of the others with, "Oh calm down. I'm rich now, I can just raise him again." In other words, Death Is Expensive.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Attempted in #783: Gannji and Enor are being forced to duel with each other as part of a gladiator tournament. Gannji decides there's no way out until there's a definite victor in the fight, so he tells Enor to kill him, cut off his tail and use it to resurrect him later on. However, Belkar provides them with another option, allowing them to escape without killing each other.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit:
    • Kubota announces his intention to do this to Therkla. V, of course, interrupts by disintegrating him.
    • Redcloak frames Tsukiko for treachery as an excuse for why he killed her — when in fact, he killed her for knowing that he is the one betraying Xykon.
  • Deception Noncompliance: After Durkon's became a vampire he tried to do this to the spirit impersonating him by being vague with the memories he lets him see (with little success, since it can review them almost instantly).
  • Declarative Finger: Both Elan and Vaarsuvius are fond of this, for being dramatic or explaining something (respectively); even Blackwing has been known to raise a Declarative Feather Finger.
  • Deconstructed Trope:
    • The idea of a predetermined Character Alignment is thoroughly deconstructed in Start of Darkness and some of the later strips, particularly with the characters of Belkar, Redcloak, Miko, the Monster in the Darkness and Malack. Redcloak is especially offended by the concept of his entire race being Always Chaotic Evil whether they like it or not.
    • Miko, as she develops, touches on what a Lawful Stupid Knight Templar would be like realistically.
    • Token Evil Teammate is also deconstructed with Belkar, showing why a mostly good party would put up with someone like him and occasionally exploring the kind of tensions it can create.
    • Tarquin is turning into a deconstruction of Genre Savvy. While it means he can plan very well and follows the plot and its intricacies as easily as Elan does, he can chillingly treat people like plot devices and cannot see beyond his own story to where he does not see the larger narrative of the world being at stake (which he assumes is a "sidequest").
  • Defector from Decadence: Parodied. Thor, unable to convince his Dwarven worshippers that trees aren't evil, resorts to explaining the presence of trees in Valhalla with this trope.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: Ganji chucking a spear at Tarquin. It's debatable whether or not he thought the move would have had any chance of scoring a killing blow, but Tarquin using the attack as the denouement of another The Bad Guy Wins speech still makes it fall under this trope.
  • Defied Trope:
  • Deity of Human Origin: Well, humanoid origin at least:
    • The elven gods and Dvalin the dwarf demigod were once ordinary mortals who ascended through the sponsorship of the Western and Northern pantheons, respectively.
    • The Dark One was The Paragon of the Goblinoid races, who ascended to godhood through the devotion of his followers after he was assassinated in a peace conference. He's cosmically unique in having ascended without help from other gods, which technically makes him his own new pantheon.
  • Delayed Reaction: When Roy announces that they can resume stopping the forces of Evil from bringing the apocalypse, Nale (disguised as Elan) at first just approves by reflex, before ticking.
    Nale-as-Elan: I couldn't agree more, Roy!
    Wizard Guy: TELEPORT!
    Nale-as-Elan: Wait, what did you just—
    POP!
  • Deliberately Monochrome:
    • The prequel books are fully in greyscale. According to the author, this is to give them a "nostalgic" feeling, since these are the "home movie" of the OotS characters. Which is mostly a joking explanation, the primary reason being costs.
    • Dwarven Darkvision is also rendered in greyscale.
    • As well as the Fiends' hypothetical scenario.
  • Dénouement: Several examples at the end of the Don't Split the Party arc, starting from around "But Seriously, She Won't".
  • Department of Redundancy Department: A staple of geographic features of the OOTS world, such as Wooden Forest, Gulf Bay, Port Harborage, Marine Ocean, and Rainforest Jungle. This pokes fun at the intentionally generic nature of the setting.
  • Depth Deception: In "A Matter of Perspective", the starmetal appears huge at first but is really smaller than a fist.
  • Description Cut: Many, many times. This is a popular trope in the comic.
    • "Thog like breaking stuff."
    • Lampshaded and Exploited here; the very fact that they noticed a cutaway panel after the cleric's Tempting Fate previous line puts them on the defensive against an inevitable betrayal.
    • Lampshaded and subverted in "And They Got Extra Credit For It, Too", where the team all get a distinct feeling that there's going to be a cutaway panel after something Roy says, but there's just a Beat Panel instead. In the strips previous to this, there were several such cutaways to an unconscious V lying at the bottom of a pit trap every time something relating to the elf was said.
    • After Tarquin kills Nale, he mentions that he can't think of anyone else who wouldn't have at least considered it. The very next panel shows Sabine, extremely cheesed off that her boyfriend was just murdered.
  • Designated Girl Fight: At one point Haley lampshades her tendency to get shackled with slutty (and flying) Dark Chick rivals. "I should take a level of ranger so I can choose Favored Enemy (Airborne Tramp)". And that's before we meet her (thankfully non-flying) arch-rival Crystal (in the main series: she'd been around since On the Origin of PCs).
  • Designated Villain: Invoked. In the side stories from Snips, Snails and Dragon Tails, the wolf from their retelling of Little Red Riding Hood gets nearly blasted, beat up, and eventually bound without his permission to be a druid's animal companion, all because he tried to steal some muffins (said muffins did have stolen goods smuggled in them, but the wolf neither knew nor would care about such things). He did tie up a wizard in the process, but only after the wizard tried to blast him. Belkar of all people is the only one who sympathizes with him.
  • Destination Defenestration:
    • In the prequel book Start of Darkness, Xykon is strangling Right-Eye, but after Redcloak stands up to him, he merely throws him into Redcloak, who is standing in front of a window. They fall out, covered in cuts from the glass.
    • In "Sore Loser", Roy is fighting Sabine when all her magical enhancements wear off. She surrenders and attempts to seduce him instead, telling him he can do anything he wants with her now, so he cheerfully uses the privilege to toss her out of the warehouse to the street below.
    • Haley gets knocked out of a window by Tarquin in "Block and Tackle... who later apologizes for her defenestration.
  • Destructive Saviour: Dorukan's Dungeon, the Weary Travelers Inn and Tavern, Azure City... few places seem to survive contact with the Order of the Stick. And now Girard's Pyramid can be added to the list; this time it is fully intentional, though, the Order having no other choice.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • In an early strip, the Order is totally surrounded by goblins, when Elan suddenly summons the one-shot Joke Character Fruitpie the Sorcerer, who distracts the goblins, allowing the Order to escape.
    • During the siege of Azure City, Roy beheads Xykon's undead dragon. The head crushes a Death Knight that is overwhelming Vaarsuvius; V later complains that it was a lame "deus ex machina".
    • During one arc, Elan is stuck in Cliffport after Nale frames him for his (Nale's) crimes, but is able to get from Cliffport back to Azure City, where the rest of the Party is, after fortuitously meeting the Sky Pirate Julio Scoundrél, who offers to take Elan there in his Cool Airship (and gives him some off-the-cuff mentoring into the bargain).invoked Word of the Giant is that the author needed a way to get Elan out of Cliffport, and the strip itself humorously lampshades this. For good measure, Scoundrél's ship is named the Mechane.
    • When V cast Familicide on an ancient black dragon in "If They Pull a Knife...", the first victim is a black dragon currently battling against a pair of adventurers — who are left wondering just what the heck caused their opponent to inexplicably drop dead in front of them.
    • The MitD plays this role in "The Path of Least Expectation", teleporting Vaarsuvius and O-chul to safety.
    • Roy gives Elan a skeptical look when he reveals that he'd arranged (in a conspicuously secretive manner, to invoke the Unspoken Plan Guarantee) for Julio Scoundrél to arrive at the last possible second and rescue them from Tarquin. He replies "Don't look at me like that, there was a ton of foreshadowing on this one."
  • Didn't See That Coming:
  • Didn't We Use This Joke Already?: Horace in #600 jokes that the readers were probably expecting a big climax to mark the occasion when in fact it was a very mundane progress strip. Roy points out they used that exact joke 500 strips ago when #100 also turned out to be an anticlimax.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?:
    • O-Chul and the Monster in the Darkness.
    • Also Haley, Belkar and the MitD.
    • Durkon with Malack.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The well-oiled machine bit from the On the Origin of PCs book.
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: Durkon with the bloodwart tea.
  • Disintegrator Ray:
    • The Disintegrate spell. A favorite of Vaarsuvius.
    • Also used by Redcloak thanks to the clerical domain Destruction.
    • Laurin Shattersmith masters a psionic version.
  • Dispel Magic:
    • As the comic is based on Dungeons & Dragons, several dispelling spells are seen used: "Dispel Magic", "Disjunction", "Superb Dispelling" and "Greater Dispel Magic". Usually done to negate ongoing buffs, covering the Status-Buff Dispel Sub-Trope as well.
    • Elan also gets to use a bardic ability, the "Song of Freedom", to free Belkar and Mr. Scruffy from Girard Draketooth's most powerful illusion.
    • Zz'dtri demonstrates that "Greater Dispel Magic" can be deadly if the subject is a vampire and the spell dispelled is the one that protects it from the rays of the sun.
    • In "Dispelling Misconceptions", a volley of "Dispel Magic" and "Greater Dispel Magic" is used to shut down all the magic buffs of the Order of the Stick. Although the vampire spawns they were fighting are caught in the wave, and are promptly fireballed since they no longer resist fire, for the heroes it means they lose all of their protection against the master vampires' Hypnotic Eyes. This turns the tide of the battle very fast.
  • Disposing of a Body:
    • Redcloak is thorough.
    • Vaarsuvius as well, using the aforementioned Disintegrator Ray.
    • Laurin Shattersmith does the same on Nale's corpse.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • This is the main motto of Nale and the Linear Guild, even mentioned on their business cards.
    • Vaarsuvius. Ancient Black Dragon. "Familicide!"
    • Tiamat is promised five good dragons dead for every black dragon killed by V.
    • General Tarquin offers to give the pair of bounty hunters 8,000 gp for their trouble in accidentally bringing in Elan instead of Nale. Gannji then demands 50,000 instead because he has a thermal detonator (which is actually a soup can — he was just keeping up a Running Gag). Tarquin then "misplaces" some court paperwork, leaving the bounty hunters sentenced to die in the arena for attempting to extort him in front of his son.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: It's usually the first idea of Elan when it comes to using illusions. It usually doesn't work.
  • Distracting Disambiguation: Very common, since Talking Is a Free Action is in full force.
    • Roy trying to remind Xykon of the murder he's actually pursuing him for...
    • There are frequent inane discussions in the middle of fights about D&D rules (like with the half-ogre munchkin).
    • Even outside of melee, a dramatic revelation can easily wander into Distracting Disambiguation and just spoil the effect:
      Eugene: Xykon is alive!!
      Roy: What??
      Eugene: Well, I don't mean actually alive. Technically, he's still dead, just not, you know, DEAD-dead.
      He's undead, right, so he's up and moving around, even though he's still life signs: negative. But it's not like he just spontaneously came back to life.
      I mean, he DID come back spontaneously, but back to, uh, undeath, I suppose.
      Roy: Just curious, do you get XP for killing this dramatic moment?
    • While Tarquin blames their helmets that offer No Peripheral Vision, a pair of gladiators and a guard are also distracted by arguing whether or not his hand gesture is a historically accurate signal for "Finish Him!", too much so to notice the Allosaurus he was in fact siccing on them.
    • Even a pun-fight isn't safe from this.
      Elan: —and I'll foil your evil plans!
      Tarquin: Then I wonder what I've begotten into.
      Also, "foil" is less of a pun than it is a word derivation. We say someone "foiled" a plan because they defeated them — as with a foil.
      Elan: Really?
      Tarquin: No. The etymologies are unrelated. *kaTANG!* [disarms Elan]
  • The Ditz:
    • Elan, when he's not The Fool, or both simultaneously.
    • Thog; the first comment we get concerning him is that Intelligence was his Dump Stat.
    • Celia has her moments, explained in part by her status as an Outsider and therefore someone not familiar with the customs of the Material Plane. She's also from the Elemental Plane of Air, making her an "airhead".
    • Crystal. She once asks a blind ex-rogue (one whom she had blinded, no less) if he has seen who she's looking for.
  • Diving Save:
  • Does Not Like Shoes: A character point for Belkar ("Sexy, shoeless god of war!"), but also common among many other characters and species, such as kobolds (like the Oracle), lizarfolk (like Gannji), or half-dragons (like Enor). In the case of the latter two, their footprints give them away, as their feet match the tracks Belkar found earlier.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Malack's plans to make the process of human sacrifices more efficient and orderly by developing "some sort of special chamber" is meant to evoke Soylent Green. However, plenty of readers saw a different parallel.
    • Start of Darkness features Redcloak's village being brutally destroyed, complete with Death of a Child and this line:
      Paladin: Exterminate the rest.
    • A more innocent example: most comics that deal with the gods have them discuss the OotS universe as though it were a tabletop game campaign, with them trying not to bicker over which elements should be included or debating whether or not they've gotten enough fun out of it to just end the whole thing.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Two for the price of one for Bozzok. For starters he gets a Betrayal by Inaction from Grubwiggler, who's never liked the way the Guild treats him under Bozzok's leadership; mostly, however, applies to Crystal, who he's constantly undermined and abused, has recently brought back as a flesh golem which he specifically requested would retain her mind to make it more vicious, and then continues to berate, even specifically calling her a rabid dog. Bad idea.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: After locking up the Snarl inside the new world, Thor taunts it, even kicking the new world-prison for good measure. To which Loki says:
    Loki: Dude, don't taunt the god-killing abomination.
Gets a callback in Start of Darkness when Redcloak is explaining the Plan to Xykon.
Thor: Crap! Loki was right about not taunting it after all!
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Belkar in "Incoming!"
    Hobgoblin priest: FIRE!
    Belkar: Don't mind if I do! [fireballs the hobgoblins]
    Get it? Because he said, "Fire!", and then you used a "Fire"-ball, and now they're all dead!
    Skullsy: Yes, sir, very funny, sir. Please don't hurt me.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop:
    CPPD Chief: I have NEVER seen so many cops standing around doing nothing since that time the Donut Chariot was an hour late!
  • Door Fu: Thog breaks through a door and immediately uses it as an improvised weapon.
  • The Door Slams You:
  • Dope Slap:
    • In the prequel book On the Origins of PCs, after a fair warning to Vaarsuvius (who was getting annoying), Haley performs a "Sneak Attack Upside the Head".
    • Nale dope-slaps his twin brother Elan in "The Semi-Secret Origin of Elan & Nale". Apparently, that's a reflex from early childhood.
    • "Invisibility: The Lazy Artist's Friend" features a rare aversion of the dope-slap.
      Roy: [probably — he's invisible] ...You're lucky attacking ends the spell, or I would smack the crap out of all of you.
  • Double Entendre:
    • "It's a Type of Boat"
      Lien: This is your junk.
      Hinjo: But why aren't there any citizens aboard it yet?
      Lien: Your uncle was a very private person, sir. He forbade anyone from touching his junk.
      Hinjo: Well, that ends now. My uncle may have kept his junk to himself, but my junk will be for the people!
      Are there still evacuees waiting to board a ship?
      Lien: Oh, yes, sir, I imagine I'll have no trouble finding people willing to get aboard your junk.
      It should be able to hold many passengers.
      Hinjo: I agree, my junk appears to be quite long...
      Roy: Wider than I would have expected, too.
      Hinjo: Very well, Lien, you hold my junk here until it is fully loaded.
      Lien: That could take some time, Lord Hinjo...
      Hinjo: I don't care how long it takes, I don't want my junk to launch prematurely.
    • Also, the hotel room scene in "Double Your Entendre, Double Your Fun".
    • And the scene between Roy, Belkar, and Tarquin in "Slash Attack".
    • Bandana commenting that she never felt the need for a Magic Wand would be innocuous if not for the little detail that she's a lesbian.
  • Double Meaning: Wrecan's line "SNEAK ATTACK FROM BEHIND — is a thing I absolutely cannot do, because it would be against the rules." He can't directly attack vampire Durkon because it would break the Godsmoot's rules and allow other priests to help him. But also, he's probably not a rogue, so he can't make sneak attacks at all by D&D rules, and even if he could, vampires, as undead, are immune to sneak attack damage.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Almost every title for the individual strips have a double meaning.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Start of Darkness ends pretty badly for Redcloak. Also, The Monster in the Dark loses his tacos!
    • The Azure City arc ends with Roy, Lord Shojo, and Miko dead, the party separated, and Azure City itself in flames.
  • Down the Drain: "Obligatory Sewer-Themed Labyrinth."
  • Draco in Leather Pants: invoked Given a Take That! in "A Vexation or Irritation".
    Tarquin: It's weird, no matter how many people he kills, the audience still thinks he's lovable.
  • Dracolich: Xykon rides an undead silver dragon.
  • Draconic Humanoid:
    • Enor the bounty hunter is an hybrid of ogre and blue dragon, giving him wings, breath weapon and largely draconic appearance.
    • The illustrated family tree of Girard Draketooth shows three individuals of this type being the result of a coupling between a human and a black dragon (presumably one with the power of Voluntary Shapeshifting). This second generation all possessed varying combinations of human and dragon features. However, from the third generation onward, family members appear completely human.
  • Dragon Ancestry: The Draketooth illusionist clan has a black dragon in a distant point in their ancestry. Revealed in horrifying fashion when the Order arrives at their stronghold to find the entire clan dropped dead, and Vaarsuvius realizes it's because of the the "Familicide" arch-spell they cast on the ancient black dragon, which apparently was a relative.
  • Dragon-in-Chief:
    • Within the Empire of Blood, General Tarquin holds this position: the Empress (an actual dragon) is more concerned about where her next meal is coming from.
    • Tarquin's band of six adventurers fills this in various places all over the western continent. Each of them prop up governments and switch around as the situation demands.
    • Also deconstructed in the prequel book Start of Darkness, which shows what happens when a villain is nominally subservient to a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Xykon is initially The Dragon to Redcloak: despite being more brutish and less intelligent than his "boss", over the course of the story he evolves from The Dragon to Dragon-in-Chief to Big Bad, by virtue of his total lack of moral compunction. Except Redcloak revealed that he's been manipulating Xykon for years, so this trope still appears to be in effect.

      They have a complicated relationship: Redcloak is the one Xykon's hobgoblin army recognizes as their leader, despite Xykon being more powerful and the de facto boss. And there are definitely hints that Redcloak will turn into The Starscream once their goals irreconcilably diverge. On the flip-side, Xykon is far more powerful, dangerous and evil, and might be more intelligent than Redcloak gives him credit. Further, Redcloak is visibly horrifed when he realizes he's becoming more like Xykon, and regards working with him an extremely unpleasant necessary evil. Also, Redcloak himself is The Heavy for The Dark One, his God of Evil, so he is technically The Dragon to somebody else.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap
    • As Roy points out in "A Seasoned Woodsman", the Order is usually at some disadvantage when they fight their Evil Counterparts. Despite Roy's caution, it happens again when Vaarsuvius gets themself incapacitated by a trap right before the Linear Guild attacks.
    • Ultra-powerful soul-spliced Vaarsuvius is literally the most powerful mage to have ever existed... as long as they hold on to the splices. Good thing the most powerful one slips away before the elf goes to fight the Big Bad, Xykon, or else the series could have ended in a curb stomp.
  • Drama Queen: Blackwing, when he thinks he's dying:
    Vaarsuvius: You are not injured. You have a slight smudge of dirt on three of your feathers.
    Blackwing: LO, THE ICY TALONS OF DEATH APPROACH!
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: At the end of his plot arc, Tarquin complains that Elan hasn't lost anything and hasn't changed. Of course, we've seen that this isn't true — he lost his brother (literally), his father (symbolically), and a great deal of his idealism, as he just demonstrated by letting Tarquin fall.
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: Somewhat parodied in "Curtains for You", where the Monster in the Darkness is tasked to pull a curtain.
  • Dramatic Drop:
    • Malack drops the tray with bloodwart tea he was carrying at the sight of Nale.
    • Firuk Blackore, upon hearing that the the lead vampire besieging the Firmament Temple of Thor is/was Durkon Thundershield, drops a tray of beers in shock. For a dwarven brewmaster to waste perfectly good beer, that certainly means the situation is serious.
    • In a memory of Durkon's first day as a cleric, his mother Sigdi drops her spoon when her son reveals he saw her name on Thor's temple's Wall of Donors.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal:
    • Xykon retrieving the crown that Roy has been wearing around his neck.
    • O-Chul removing Redcloak's holy symbol, thus in a single stroke crippling the cleric's magical abilities and forcing his retreat, and taking possession of Xykon's phylactery.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Very heavily lampshaded in "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night".
  • Dream Within a Dream: Elan refers to an illusion-induced Dream Sequence as a "double-fantasy": a fantasy-within-a-fantasy-comic. When Roy thanks Elan for breaking them out of the illusion, Elan is convinced they're trapped in another level of dreamworld — "TRIPLE FANTASY!!"
  • Dr. Genericius: Vaarsuvius, Aarindarius. And then subverted by Inkyrius, an apprentice baker. Parodied early on when Elan plays with the idea of taking a level of wizard, and dubs himself "Elanicalicus."
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The gladiator warden is a particularly Genre Savvy one, who drops hints for the prisoner's experiences during a Gladiator Games plot.
  • *Drool* Hello: Although it's not technically drool in "Good to the Last Drip" (just salt water from the ocean), it's still Vaarsuvius's first clue that a monster has approached from behind.
  • Duality Motif: Tsukiko has a blue eye and an indigo eye. This reflects her dual-caster prestige class, the color of her aura when casting spells being blue for divine magic and indigo for arcane. As a joke, it carries over as a theme to her slippers too.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Elan's lament over Roy's death.
    • Not to mention the rather impressive gravestone he gave to Therkla.
    • Durkon cries for joy on hearing that his dead body shall be returned home for proper burial.
    • The gods made a monument, an unmarked grave for the first world destroyed by the Snarl, also to serve as a reminder of what is at stake if they don't play nice. As well for the second, third, fourth, up to the millionth world, if not more.
  • Dumb Blonde:
    • Elan
    • Xykon accuses Lirian of being one in Start of Darkness.
  • Dumb Is Good:
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Elan points out to Haley that it's unfair to assume Tarquin is evil just because he's ignoring that people are in danger, considering she's insisted they not tell him that (because she doesn't trust him, because she thinks he's evil).note 
    Haley: Am I drunk enough yet that later, I won't remember getting out-logicked by Elan?
  • Dungeon-Based Economy: A town gets wind of adventurers about to arrive and hurries to put inflated price stickers on everything they might be interested in buying (including on an old guy in a rocking chair offering "cryptic ramblings from an old man").
  • Dungeon Bypass:
    • Early in the comic, the Order uses a service stairwell to skip two levels of the Dungeon of Dorukan.
    • Invoked again in comics #649-651, where Haley breaks through the Fourth Wall for a spell component and Vaarsuvius teleports directly into Xykon's throne room.
  • Dying as Yourself: Defied, if not outright inverted, when Durkon offers to cure Malack's vampirism.
    Malack: Bringing me back to life is just a complicated way of annihilating the person I am today. Save your diamond dust and stake me instead.
  • Dying Declaration of Hate:
    • An unusually subtle example in Start of Darkness. Redcloak's brother considers being called by the title of "Redcloak" rather than his real name demeaning. So when he dies and refuses to call Redcloak his brother, only calling him "Redcloak"... well...
    • A more overt example when Haley kills Golem Crystal, who screams as she falls into a lava pool: "Hate you Starshine! Hate you forever!"
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    E 
  • Early Installment Weirdness: A lot of things weren't yet well-established when the comic was still a gag-a-day strip, and some details may clash with the later story.
    • In #10, the first comic in which we see goblins talk, they're speaking what appears to be their own language. In all subsequent appearances, goblins speak Common.
    • For example, the decision that conjuration was one of V's barred schools came after the wizard casting "Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion", which would be a conjuration spell.invoked The Giant has stated that this spell won't ever show up again (although for a variety of reasons, the above being the least of them).
    • Another example is Roy defeating Xykon at the end of Book 1 by picking him up with his bare hands and tossing him into Dorukan's Gate. This appears to be a bit far-fetched given that Roy is a mid-level fighter at this point, and the prequel book Start of Darkness establishes that Xykon has been epic level for some time. However, the author does a good job explaining this one: Xykon wasn't going all-out on the Order, because he was trying to manipulate them into touching the Gate and unlocking it for him. The Gate itself was crafted by an epic wizard, and probably has epic spells defending it.
    • Another early strip has Roy and Haley dividing up the group as they split up to explore the dungeon, and Haley picks Belkar over Elan. In nearly the entire rest of the comic's run, not only can the rest of the order barely stand Belkar, but Haley turns out to have been in love with Elan, making this part very strange.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
  • Eastern Zodiac: The Twelve Gods of the South.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way:
    • In Cliffport City:
      Roy: Hey gnome! There are two ways this can go down: the easy way or the hard way.
      Leeky: Druids always pick the hard way; it encourages natural selection.
    • Later, the final pages of the second confrontation between Roy and Xykon are titled "We Can Do This the Easy Way..."
  • Eats Babies:
    • Defied by the Monster in the Darkness. Xykon still tries to feed him some every so often, but he just kinda pushes them around on his plate before dumping them in the trash (don't worry, the kids survive).
      MitD: I'll eat pretty much anything they feed me anyway. Except babies.
      O-Chul: Excuse me??
      MitD: Oh, I don't eat babies or kids. That includes veal. It just feels weird.
    • According to the over-templated snail from Snips, Snails and Dragon Tails, a blackguard can be made to resist a domination effect if he's made to eat babies... without mustard.
  • Elemental Embodiment:
    • Parodied when Redcloak starts summoning elemental spirits based on the modern periodic table; Titanium — "just as strong [as Earth], and 40% lighter." —, Chlorine, Osmium (one of the hardest natural metals, twice as heavy as lead) and Silicon.
      Redcloak: I mean, fire shouldn't even count. It's a chemical reaction!

      Vaarsuvius: Does he not know that the classical elements are classics for a reason??
    • It gets weirder: Embodiments of salad dressing, apparently the native inhabitants of the Semi-Elemental Plane of Ranch Dressing.
  • Elemental Plane:
  • Elfeminate: A large part of the reason Vaarsuvius and kin get stuck with the Ambiguous Gender gag.
  • Embarrassing but Empowering Outfit: Haley's boots of speed, which she is reluctant to wear because they are lime green, and don't match her skin tone. She gets around the problem by finding a merchant who dyes them brown to match the rest of her armor, but they still glow green whenever she uses them to trigger a "haste" effect.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The final Dragon magazine strips.
  • Enemy Mine: Cliffport decides to support Gobbotopia's claim to nationhood, because Cliffport has a long-standing trade war with the elves, who in turn oppose Gobbotopia.
  • Enemy Summoner: Popular with lots of divine casters, but Summon Monster is a particular Signature Spell of Redcloak's (especially his unorthodox habit of using periodic table Elementals). Exaggerated when he takes on the Azure City Resistance — in order to keep the details a secret from Xykon, he attacks with nothing but summoned fiends and elementals, and then expresses relief that the only other goblin present died in the fight so he didn't have to kill him himself.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: Of the scam artist kind. The IFCC takes on the role of Enigmatic Empowering Entities when making their deal with Vaarsuvius, but subverts the role to snare the wizard. V is manipulated into accepting a price they don't understand and is tricked to believe that they have an excuse to let their more destructive tendencies run wild without accepting true responsibility for the havoc. Also, the power they give is tainted and fatally flawed in itself, not at all what V had imagined "Ultimate Arcane Power" to be.
  • Episode 0: The Beginning: The first prequel released, On the Origin of PCs, is numbered zero on the spine to show it takes place before the main series compilations. Then when Start of Darkness came out, it was given the number -1 to show it covers events going back even further than the previous prequel.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Lawful Evil Empire of Blood employs humans, lizardfolks and kobolds indiscriminately, from the lowliest foot soldiers or slave drivers to the upper echelons of society, including the Empress' main counselors (with a human general, a lizardfolk high priest and a winged-kobold chancellor).
  • Escalating Brawl: The argument between Roy, Gannji and Enor ends up in a serious pub brawl.
  • Eternal Recurrence: If the Order fails to stop Team Evil, then the Snarl could be set loose and destroy their world, just like it did to the very first world. And the second world. And the third, and over and over and over again.
  • Ethnic God: The world was created as a joint effort by the Norse Gods, the Mesopotamian pantheon, and the Zodiac animals, who claimed dominion over the Northern, Western, and Southern continents and their peoples. However, the elves worship a pantheon of ascended mortals and goblinoids worship the Dark One, who was a goblin warlord who managed to unite the assorted goblin races in life. Also, despite being one of the Western Gods, Tiamat is revered by dragons and kobolds worldwide.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • "It's Battlicious!", where Redcloak gets the idea as to how to distribute his soldiers for The Siege of Azure City from Xykon's "March up to the walls and blast away" attitude.
    • Elan has one during the Lotus-Eater Machine in #889, when Nale refuses to interrupt the ceremony.
      Nale: This is what you want, right?
      Elan: Yeah... this is what I've always wanted. But that... that doesn't make it right.
    • Wrecan has one when he realizes that, while Roy cannot attack any of the other priests, there's nothing preventing him from attacking his own priest (the High Priest of Hel) and halt Hel's plans.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Redcloak loved his brother — just not quite enough. More broadly, his entire motivation stems from seeing his parents and baby sister slaughtered by paladins when he was a youth.
    • Sabine may be an evil personification of pure lust, but her relationship with Nale is quite solid.
    • That black dragon was pretty pissed that Vaarsuvius disintegrated her son.
    • Tarquin's teammates are similar — Laurin mentions that her daughter thinks she has a mundane job as an interior designer, so that she doesn't have to deal with the life she leads.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The two hired assassins after who they think is the King of Nowhere (but is Roy, due to a mix-up) could have simply blown up the inn killing everyone including the King/Roy, and when they threaten to do so, are unable to actually do it.
    • There are things that not even Nale is willing to consider doing to Elan.
    • Xykon is known to mock Redcloak for having standards about whom they can crush and how much evil they can do in their efforts to conquer the world and bring equality to goblinkind.
    • Although even Xykon does have some small standards — namely, he's not a "disgusting biophiliac" and is squicked by Tsukiko's crackfic-worthy fantasies.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep":
    • The Monster in the Darkness; the Oracle of Sunken Valley; the Chief; the Rookie...
    • Having no name of his own to use, the High Priest of Hel is referred to as such even when he's technically abdicated that position.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Apparently there's some Author Appeal here.
    • Elan dreams of being transformed into an "Elanosaurus rex".
    • The Empire of Blood is shown to use dinosaurs as mounts.
      Vaarsuvius: Not surprisingly, ethical concerns cannot overcome the siren's lure of a triceratops ride.
    • There's an Allosaurus which feeds on gladiators who've lost in the arena.
    • Blackwing prefers to think of himself (and birds in general) as a "super-advanced flying stealth dinosaur", and feels a certain kinship with his "theropod cousins".
    • It appears that Belkar really likes this trope.
      Belkar: Flee! Flee before me, worms!
    • The whole of "Breakthrough", the highlight of which is the aforementioned Allosaurus performing an Unnecessary Combat Roll.
      Elan: See? SEE?? I told you dinosaur rides were awesome!!
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • Played straight by several characters, especially Xykon and Nale.
    • Discussed when Roy accuses Belkar of Crying Wolf regarding Durkon's vampirisation. When he says that Durkon's last words were a plea for his friends' safety, Haley believes him because "I don't think Belkar's capable of inventing someone doing that."
    • Tarquin can't understand why Elan feels so bad about the fact that Tarquin killed Nale right in front of him.
    • In "End of the Line", as he hangs from the edge of the Mechane, Tarquin thinks that Elan will save him to prove the hero is better than the villain. Elan refuses and abandons his father, turning this trope into Evil Cannot Comprehend Good Is Not Dumb.
    • In "Giving Up Hope", the High Priest of Hel's inability to comprehend Character Development leads him to think he can break Roy's spirit by blaming him for the death of his brother, Eric. This completely backfires because he mentions having "always wondered" how many pieces Eric's body was in — something Durkon would never think of while Good — which blows his cover to Roy.
      Roy: Oh... I understand. YOU'RE NOT DURKON AT ALL!! [breaks free of the High Priest's grip and crits him across the chest]
    • In "Better Days", the High Priest of Hel's inability to understand Character Development, total shock over how Sigdi (Durkon's mother) used her worst day to fuel her best days and how Durkon learned from that bites him in the ass when Durkon floods him with all the happy memories of his life with his mother and their Family of Choice, turning the High Priest of Hel into Durkon (doing to him what he was planning to do to Durkon).
  • Evil Counterpart: The Linear Guild's main purpose; this is actually mentioned in-universe when The Order of the Stick and the Linear Guild first meet. Justified as Nale specifically recruited his guild members to fit the "evil opposites" theme.
    • Roy/Thog (and later, Tarquin)
    • Elan/Nale
    • Haley/Sabine
    • Belkar/Yikyik — replaced by his son Yokyok and then Yukyuk after the deaths of the first two.
    • Vaarsuvius/Zz'dtri (and later, Pompey)
    • Durkon/Hilgya — replaced by Leeky, and Malack, though Hilgya and Malack are Affably Evil.
    • Furthermore, Tarquin has Elan's obsession with narrative events turned to Genre Savvy behavior.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy:
    • Vaarsuvius was already aware of this, chose to ignore it, and is beginning to pay the consequences in the Girard's Pyramid arc.
    • As revealed in the Start of Darkness prequel, Redcloak's plan, hatched by the god of goblinoids, the Dark One, to have a powerful divine and a powerful arcane caster manipulate the Gates to control the Snarl without completely releasing it, and then use the Snarl to force the other divine pantheons to give equal rights to the goblinoids and other humanoid "monsters" solely created to be experience point sword fodder for fighters and adventurers of the other, older races. Redcloak is well aware that this might end with the death and unmaking of himself and Xykon, but is still determined to go through with the Plan.
    • Similarly, in Start of Darkness, Redcloak learns the hard way that Xykon is not a toy, or even a tool. Subverted, as it turns out; Redcloak still thinks of Xykon as a tool, just one which takes a little more skill than most to use. Whether or not this assumption will come back to bite him in the arse again, time alone will tell.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Even though it's the Trope Namer, subverted constantly. Evil characters don't care about the alignment of other characters, only whether or not they will help or hinder them in achieving their goals.
    Lee: Don't be silly, why would we want the lich to win?
    Qarr: Because we're evil?
    Cedrik: And that makes us all one big happy family? Screw that!
Though the IFCC, despite defying the trope in the above quote, also play it completely straight, since their long-term goal is to forge a truce which will unite the warring fiends in an alliance against the forces of Good.
  • Redcloak reacts similarly when his lieutenant, Jirix, expresses surprise that Redcloak would hide things from Xykon, since Xykon is on their side. Redcloak makes it clear that while Xykon might be an important ally, he doesn't give half a damn about the goblin people and would joyfully slaughter them all without a second thought if he felt like it.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids:
    • Tarquin's psion colleague Laurin has kept her true line of work a secret from her daughter, who's a plumber and believes her mother is an interior designer for Queen Shvitzer.
    • Tarquin is a bizarre case. He's delighted that his son is a big hero... but only because it means he'll inevitably have a dramatic confrontation with his Archnemesis Dad. He was also proud of his Evil son, to begin with, and only lost patience with Nale when he proved on too many occasions to be Stupid Evil.
  • Evil Plan: The Dark One's scheme for Redcloak is literally called The Plan.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: Defied; Celia convinces Haley not to kill Bozzok, leader of Greysky's thieves guild, in order to stop a power vacuum from being created.
  • Evil Sorcerer:
    • Xykon, the main villain of the comic and a lich who wants to rule the world, at least until he gets bored.
    • Nale, Elan's twin brother, who multiclassed as fighter/rogue/sorcerer specializing in enchantments (instead of being a bard like Elan... though his multiclassing gives him the same abilities as his brother);
    • Samantha, the spoiled sorceress daughter of the leader of the bandits of Wooden Forest;
    • Tsukiko, the evil mystic theurge (technically she is both a divine and arcane caster);
    • Qarr the Imp, a Lawful Evil manipulator who can use sorcerer spells.
    • Jephton the Unholy, one of the evil mages used for Vaarsuvius's Soul Splice, is identified as a sorcerer and brags, "I don't need to prepare spell slots!"
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness:
    • Xykon has one in the Redmountain Hills, previously belonging to the wizard Dorukan.
    • Xykon also has a backup tower in the Southern Mountains — which is infested with Good-aligned creatures by the time he gets back to it.
  • Evil vs. Evil:
    • As noted above, the bad guys are not "one big happy family" and often have vastly different goals. This is Roy's justification for keeping Belkar on the team — at least this way, he's pointed at people even worse than himself.
    • Mentioned and defied by Tarquin — while he, too, wants to prevent Xykon from taking over the world, he intends to sit back and let Elan take care of it because everyone knows when villains fight villains, it's always a toss-up.
  • Evil Weapon: It is revealed in a bonus strip from the printed version of book 5 that Tarquin's axe is an evil, intelligent weapon named Soul Muncher. It causes pain to the good-aligned member of the Order when they try picking it up, and immediately dominates Belkar when he picks it up (Tarquin was too strong-willed to fall victim to it). Roy gets rid of it down a pit trap.
  • Exact Words:
    • Elan tries to appeal to Thog's better nature and Thog admits he wants all his friends to just have fun together getting ice cream. He then proceeds to clobber Haley with a door, since she isn't one of his friends.
    • Hieronymus Grubbwiggler promises he's not creating undead — which flesh and bone golems are not under D&D rules.
    • O-Chul employs this in order to Never Speak Ill of the Dead in "Or Mention That He's Getting Too Old for This".
    • Durkon also uses this occasionally to avoid lying.
    • Haley employs this to hide her connection with Durkon when the latter refuses to lie to Malack.
    • Everything Redcloak says when explaining to Xykon why he brutally killed Tsukiko is true — he just neglects to mention the part where she figured out that Redcloak has been deceiving Xykon about the purpose of the "Snarl Control" ritual.
    • Tarquin is very fond of this too.
      • For example, he offers to send 500 of his troops to "join the battle" between the Free City of Doom and the Empire of Tears. He avoids mentioning which side his troops will be on. He even lampshades later that he was worried the envoy from the Free City of Doom would catch on too soon from how he phrased it.
      • On another occasion, he re-assures Elan that a stolen magic carpet belonged to a very rich man who owned six others, adding that he didn't miss it for very long. The art, however, shows that Tarquin's rogue swiped it while the rich man was riding it at considerable altitude.
    • While watching the Order struggling to fight a Silicon elemental and a pair of fiends, Nale makes a comment about how much he's going to enjoy watching his most hated enemies die shortly. He's actually referring to Malack, who burns to ash a few rounds later when Nale disarms him of his staff and Zz'dtri uses Greater Dispel Magic to rob him of his Protection from Daylight effect.
    • Said Silicon elemental also suffers from this, as it is ordered to kill "The human with the green-hilted greatsword." Haley takes advantage of this and gets the golem to attack her instead of Roy, as she is now the human holding said sword.
    • Nale orders Vampire Durkon not to drink Zz'dtri's blood. Vampire Durkon decides to break Zz'dtri's neck.
    • Vaarsuvius attributes being able to defeat the psion Laurin Shattersmith to "a combination of observations, calculations, and superior intelligence" — not mentioning that "superior intelligence" in this case refers to "having been given a full briefing on her abilities by Sabine".
    • When the High Priest of Hel is in the middle of his Villainous Breakdown after seeing the memory of how Durkon's mother sacrificed a fortune to save five strangers and being completely incapable of understanding it or dealing with the resulting emotions, Durkon offers to give him the memories that will help him with that. What Durkon neglects to mention is that those memories are all of his memories, which overwhelms the High Priest and turns the vampire spirit into another Durkon.
    • Durkon asks the Oracle whether he'll ever return to the dwarven lands, and the Oracle responds that he'll do so posthumously. Durkon is content with this, assuming he'll die with honor and be buried with his ancestors there. However, this being a setting where resurrections are just a diamond and a cleric away, you can die and be brought back to life, making all your subsequent actions technically posthumous. There's also the matter of Durkon returning as an undead; specifically, a vampire.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At:
    • Haley, throwing her (or rather Crystal's) distinctive knife into a wanted poster instead of the guy holding it. Finding her knife in a bounty poster with Nale's face on it told Roy all he needed to know to find them.
    • Elan fires a ballista bolt into the ground next to his father, who jumps to the obvious conclusion. As Julio Scoundrél cuts the rope and gets pulled out of the fight to safety, he calls back "I think that's half your problem, T — You always think everything that happens is about you!"
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask:
    • Xykon conducts a job interview while storming the Azure City castle.
    • In the hypothetical scenario the archfiends suggest to Vaarsuvius instead of accepting their offer, V's master Aarindarius is shown defeating a powerful dragon while reading a book, not even bothering to look in its direction. Earlier, when ruling out V sending a message to Aarindarius via Qarr, it's pointed out that Aarindarius would do the same thing to Qarr.
  • Exotic Entree: The banquet that Elan's father Tarquin holds in his honor. Poor Elan, not being the sort to enjoy such dishes, loses his appetite rather quickly.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • In "They've Had Time to Train, Too", Haley is about to fight a hobgoblin spellcaster, whose choice of spell is...
      Haley: "Dancing Lights"? That's like a 0th-level spell! Geez, what kind of low-level, lame-ass spellcaster are you? You've got one chance before I perforate you, and you choose... Dancing... Lights.
      [hobgoblin points upward; Haley looks up at the bright red signal alerting evil forces all over the city of their position]
    • In "The Comics Must Flow", Belkar is chugging spice in the middle of the desert. Seeing his eyes change color, Haley insists he read the warning label to avoid getting sick.
      Belkar: No, it doesn't say anything about eye color change. Just a disclaimer that the distributor is not liable for any gruesome violent deaths resulting from consuming this product in an open desert. So, see? It's perfectly safe for— ...Ah, crap.
      [cue giant sandworm bursting from sand]
    • In "Collect Call", when Roy and Belkar get arrested for not having proper entry papers, Durkon contacts them with Sending. After three Sending discussions, Roy tells Durkon to find the others, saying that he hopes Durkon has enough Sending spells. Durkon Sends again, telling Roy not to worry as he had prepared four Sending spells... before he realizes that he just used them all up.
      Belkar: [to Roy] I don't know what just happened, but I feel a sudden urge to help you come up with 25 synonyms for "buffoon".
    • In "Rising Suspicion", when the Order is walking around a bunch of fresh corpses that have been killed by vampires, Belkar comments that he hopes they don't turn into more vampires, but Roy tells him that it won't be a problem as a person doesn't become a vampire until three days after they died and he had broken the staff that had the spell to speed up the process. It's then that Haley realizes that Vampire Durkon's time spent researching the Protection from Daylight spell wouldn't make sense if he was going to be invading a subterranean city and that he had actually been learning the spell to speed up a vampire's rise.
  • Exploited Immunity:
    • Xykon has no problem using his area-of-effect Meteor Swarm spell at point-blank range because he has a magic item that makes him immune to fire damage.
    • During a fight between Vaarsuvius and a Black Dragon, the dragon deploys an Anti-Magic field which robs them both of their spellcasting. Vaarsuvius, being a Squishy Wizard, becomes completely useless within the field, while the dragon retains all of her brute strength.
    • A minor example occurs in "Rock the Boat", when Elan attempts to sink Kubota's rowboat. When Kubota complains that he's going to drown both of them, Elan reminds him that he isn't wearing any movement-hindering armor (unlike Kubota, who's wearing a breastplate), so he has a better chance of swimming to safety.
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: The cast page shows Haley Starshine (the party thief) holding a huge diamond. When in need of a diamond in the strip, Haley steals it from herself there. And then the cast page got updated, too: now instead of a diamond Haley holds a note that reads "I.O. me one big-ass diamond".
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Crystal inflicts this on her boss Bozzok after realizing that he had used her for his own gain and paid a wizard to reanimate her into a hellish existence as a flesh golem. She's furious enough to punch through his chest — and doesn't stop there.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Redcloak has a point that the non-PC races really were set up for suffering, death and an utter lack of opportunities, and the Jerkass Gods probably won't bother to rectify the matter without a serious fire being lit under their backsides.
  • Eye Colour Change: Happens to Durkon after he is turned into a vampire; his eyes change from black to red.
  • Eyepatch After Time Skip: Elan tries to invoke the trope.
  • Eyepatch of Power:
    • Right-Eye in Start of Darkness;
    • Redcloak as of comic #699.
      Xykon: I like you this way. It's like we have a grumpy pirate on the team.
    • One nameless member of the Azurite Resistance. The eyepatch obviously makes an impression on the others, since she reappears in the fantasy sequence in Girard's pyramid.
  • Eye Scream:
    • "Smite -- Evil." O'Chul hits Redcloak with an improvised spear.
    • Not to forget:
      Hobgoblin cleric: *sniff* I think... I think there's something in my eye.
      *SPLORTCH!* AAAH!
      Belkar: Got it out for you.
    • This is the reason why Old Blind Pete is known as such. The worse part is that he used to be called "Eagle-Eye Pete". The even-worse part is that he got his eyes stabbed out again as soon as he paid a cleric to heal them after the first stabbing!
      Old Blind Pete: A word of advice; if you're gonna do business with criminals, don't pick a nickname based on any body part you can't afford to lose. *sigh* I shoulda listened to Appendix Steve when he tried to warn me...
    • Roy giving Thog a faceful of broken glass. *keeysh!* "RRAWWRR!!"

    F 
  • Face Death with Dignity: Miko, Thanh, and Durkon.
  • Face Doodling: Elan and Belkar do it to Roy when he's paralyzed by a poison trap.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Averted in "The Power of Immediate Gratification", where Belkar, of all people, gives up the chance to join a cause that'll let him do all the killing he wants. Admittedly, Belkar leaves something to be desired as a "face", but the other side is even worse, so....
  • The Faceless: The Monster in the Darkness, as well as the fiends of the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission.
  • Faceless Masses: Sometimes used, especially in Azure City, on Hinjo's Junk, during the parade in Bleedingham, and in the Empire of Blood's arena. Lampshaded, naturally:
    Elan: Excuse me, huddled masses! Pardon me! PC coming through! PC coming—
  • Face Palm: "The Great Roy Greenhilt & Everybody Else Facepalm Count"
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Tarquin has ordered his army to kill Roy, Durkon and Belkar. The latter (already a scratch away from death) has something to say.
    Belkar: [to Roy] Can't we go back to dealing with your daddy issues?
  • Failed Attempt at Drama:
    • In "The Future Is Forged in the Fires of Today", after a lengthy Forging Scene, Roy is handled his reforged ancestral sword, good as new, and he takes the opportunity to solemnly renew his oath of destroying Xykon. But then he drops it while yelling in pain, because the sword is still damn hot.
    • An Azure City officer is dramatically stating that he and his men might die today, but with HONOR... only to be vomited upon by an airsick Roy.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Belkar does this so often it's become a Running Gag, which the characters hang lampshades on.
    • He's missed armies of ninjas while they were talking to him. To his credit Haley and V failed their spot checks as well, and Belkar is alerted to the presence of something because while he's not aware of the ninjas, he's aware of his own failed spot checks.
      Belkar: Wait! I think I just failed a Listen check!
    • By the rules, ninja are hard to spot (and automatically considered hiding regardless of circumstances). Belkar can't even spot the ninja panel in the bonus page about the Pirates vs. Ninjas controversy.
    • And shortly after Belkar finally succeeds on a spot check, the bad guys fail.
    • Then Celia takes her turn.
  • Fake High: In "Madness", a being from the Lower Planes explains why Vaarsuvius (under the effects of a "Soul Splice") appears to have shifted more towards Evil on the character-alignment scale by presenting a college-university analogy: "It's like if you were at a party where someone has been drinking beer that they didn't know was non-alcoholic: They might seem drunk anyway, just because they were expecting it."
  • False Flag Operation: Tarquin places his allies as advisers and uses them to manipulate rulers into conquering the western continent.
  • Family Extermination: Vaarsuvius uses their borrowed epic magic to cast "Familicide" to wipe out an entire bloodline of black dragons, on the basis that since the current one attacked them to avenge the death of her child, someone else from the family would try to avenge her death unless V wiped them all out in one fell swoop. The victims turns out to include the dragon-blooded Draketooth clan of humans, who would otherwise have been allies (if uneasy) of the Order.
  • Family of Choice: The five dwarves Sigdi Thundershield helped resurrect became this for her and her son Durkon.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The comic's simple art style allows for some really gruesome deaths that would otherwise have readers reaching for the barf bags.
    • Miko gets torn in half.
    • ...And an ancient black dragon gets torn into much smaller pieces from the inside.
    • A first-level commoner gets disemboweled by a housecat.
    • Commander and Lieutenant of Team Peregrine get Imploded by Redcloak; the Resistance leader with the topknot and kimono gets ripped in half by a diabolic being. All in one convenient comic!
  • Famous Last Words: Though given the nature of the setting, some of them aren't truly last words.
    • "Goodbye... Redcloak." — Right-Eye, when his brother kills him.
    • "It appears... not everyone... agrees with your analysis." — Lord Shojo, after Miko falls from paladinhood for killing him.
    • "You'll never take this city while I'm alive, monster!" — General Chang, just before the Death Knight accepts his terms.
    • "Maybe if I—" *SPLAT* — Roy, coming up with so many ways to survive a fall that he doesn't notice the ground coming up beneath him.
    • "I regret to report than I am no longer fit for duty... Supreme Leader..." — Hobgoblin commander, right before triggering Redcloak's My God, What Have I Done? moment.
    • "I—I can live with that..." — Miko
    • "I'll take my chances... that the Afterlife... won't have any punishment worse... than not being with you..." — Therkla
    • "Now come along, bring me to your master so we can begin the Trial of the Century." — Kubota, right before V disintegrates him.
    • "No! No! You... you MONSTER!" — Black Dragon Mom, when V slaughters her entire family for attempting to slaughter their family.
    • "No! NO! I'm sorry! I'm sorry, it was all a—" — Eagle-Eye a.k.a. Old Blind a.k.a. Brainy Pete.
    • "You double-crossing whore, when Bozzok raises me—" — Crystal
    • "Why don't... you love... me?" — Tsukiko, being killed by her own undead minions.
    • "I get ta go home." — Durkon, being killed by Malack, dying with a smile on his face.
    • "NERRRGHHALL! SSAVE MEEE!" — Minister Malack dying by (Nale-administered) sun exposure.
    • "I want NOTHING from you! I am my own man, not some cog in your latest oh-so-clever scheme! I don't want your nepotism or your charity or your pity! I want NOTHING!" — Nale, though the very last thing he says is "YES!" after Tarquin asks if that's what he really feels.
    • "I don't know what lies Starshine told you to get you all twisted around, but stop being such a gullible moron and get back out there and—" — Bozzok
    • "STARRRSHINE! HATE YOU— SO— MUCH— HATE—" — Golem Crystal
    • "... yes..." — High Priest of Hel.
    • "Shut yer geggie an' fight, ye howlin' dobber!" — Kandro talking his way into Valhalla, to the relief of the whole family
  • Fanservice: Lampshaded during Haley's bath sequence in On the Origin of PCs.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: The room filled with outdated monsters in Dorukan's dungeon.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Basically Redcloak's motivation both ways. His family was slaughtered because paladins don't consider his kind to have the right to exist, so he blames all humans for the actions of that group and kills them freely. Except they actually attacked his village because it was hiding the Crimson Mantle, which the Paladins knew contained knowledge of the Gates.
    • Classism: Wizards in general and Vaarsuvius in particular seem to look down on the other magic-using classes. Sorcerers are usually the targets, but being called a warlock is a dire insult. At one point, V denigrates Durkon's divine spell casting as not "real magic."
  • Far East: (Or Far South, as the case may be.) Azure City would be a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Japan, if it were at all consistent. Instead, names like "Miko Miyazaki" stand side by side with names like "O-Chul", and the people worship the Twelve Gods, the animals from the Chinese zodiac. This, naturally, is a pastiche of D&D's Oriental mishmash settings, most specifically the Oriental Adventures sourcebook.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: All characters can do this, to express either fascination or puzzlement.
  • Fastball Special:
    • Well, "Tetherball Special", anyhow. That one's even called "Wolverine, Eat Your Heart Out".
    • Also, what happens when you sit on Durkon's head as he casts Thor's Might.
  • Fast-Forward Mechanic: Invoked in "Time Is on My Side".
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • The pride and inability to admit that their magic can't do everything of Vaarsuvius, as pointed out by the fiends in "The Wrong Reasons". See also "First Step in the Process":
      Blackwing: Mistakes were made all around, but the important thing is that this needless conflict is now over WITHOUT the loser's entire family line getting totally eradicated. So, you know. Progress.
    • On the Origin of PCs has Roy claiming that belief in the complete supremacy of arcane magic is a common flaw among spellcasters.
    • Thinking he knows more about a situation than he actually does is Roy's flaw. If Roy had known that liches can regenerate from a phylactery from the very beginning, he could have made sure Xykon was Deader Than Dead and wouldn't have been able to return, so he has to kill him again. This also lead to Miko becoming wrongfully suspicious of Roy, with disastrous consequences. In a Too Clever by Half moment, he also believed he had outsmarted the Oracle, when the latter was more than happy to just tell him which Gate Xykon was headed towards next. Later, he dismisses the Celestial's warnings about V's Deal with the Devil because he thinks she's talking about Belkar.
    • Redcloak mentally locks himself onto a single course of action and then refuses to deviate from it, no matter what changing circumstances intervene. His end goal is "get the goblin races a stable power base, land that isn't worthless, and diplomatic recognition so that we can have a level playing field". He got that hundreds of strips ago, but because his original plan involved using Xykon and the Gates to get it, he's still fixated on doing that. Because that is The Plan, and if he deviates from it then all the sacrifices he's made were pointless, and it can't be pointless.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • The Ancient Black Dragon intended to bind Vaarsuvius' children souls to her forever, and Xykon has a fondness for trapping the souls of important enemies in gems. This is subverted when he imprisons Dorukan in the same gem as Lirian.
    • A slightly more humorous example: after willingly being abused and used as a weapon by Belkar in order to not be destroyed, the head of the "Eye of Fear and Flame" (one of Xykon's three decoys) finally draws the line when the latter announces his intentions to eventually use him as an "emergency chamber pot".
    • Another humorous example: Kobold Kitty Litter.
      Durkon: Uh... wait. Aren't ye gonna, y'know, kill the kobold first?
      Vaarsuvius & Belkar: No.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Xykon. Redcloak even lampshades it in a conversation with a hobgoblin goon.
    • Tarquin is so affable that a few people think that even after kicking a few dogs he's only True Neutral.
    • The Giant seems to enjoy playing with the Faux Affably Evil trope in general: Redcloak averts it, both before and after his My God, What Have I Done? (before it, he doesn't bother to show the slightest concern for the hobgoblins, and after he genuinely does care about them), and Miko inverts it via Good Is Not Nice.
  • Faux Horrific: Elan is appalled at the terrible choreography of the opening act of the gladiator games.
  • Faux Yay: "Slash Attack" — by Belkar and Roy, after seeing Tarquin's face for the first time, to explain their surprise as they recognized Elan's traits on him.
  • Favouritism Flip Flop: Inverted in "The Prisoner Dilemma".
  • Feather Fingers: While he rarely uses them as hands (though he's seen once doing it with a scroll), Blackwing is fond of Giving Someone the Pointer Finger with his wingtips.
  • Fetch Quest: Begins the second arc. Subject to lots of lampshading (but of course).
  • Field Power Effect: The Azure City throne room is consecrated. Notably, it makes any attempt by an evil cleric at "turning" the Ghost-Martyrs of the Sapphire Guard more difficult. It takes one as powerful as Redcloak to have any chance of succeeding.
  • Fighting Fingerprint: Roy is familiar enough with Thog's fighting style to correctly guess that the warrior the Order is fighting in strip #852 is actually an impostor.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Redcloak sees claiming a goblinoid homeland as a secondary goal to his service of Xykon. Once Azure City is taken, he founds the nation of Gobbotopia and appoints one of his lieutenants as its leader.
  • Forging Scene: Appears with the reforging of Roy's greatsword intercut with shots of other characters preparing for the upcoming story arc. Although some of the dramatic power is reduced when Roy is handed the sword just after it is finished... and promptly drops it screaming, because, well, it's just been forged and it's still really hot.
  • Forgot to Gag Him:
    • Haley, the party's rogue, manages to talk down some bandits by pointing out the economic issues with their chosen profession.
    • Averted when the Order is dragged off to face trial in Azure City in chains: Miko has the sense to gag Vaarsuvius, the party's wizard, so they can't cast spells.
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": "Hello! And Welcome to ThorPrayerTM."
  • Fourth Wall: Broken, smashed, and plowed under by a steamroller.
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot:
  • Friendly War: We have three desert empires that always struggle against each other. However, they are secretly allied with each other. The conflict between them is merely an excuse to take over other nations, as well as a safeguard to keep the other peoples from uniting against them.
  • From a Single Cell:
    • Xykon can resurrect from nothing as long as his phylactery is intact.
    • Roy is Resurrected from just a skull, being the biggest bit of him left after the Bone Golem made from his corpse is destroyed. Resurrection could possibly bring someone back from the dead with just a single drop of blood, as noted in "Operation Desert Inform".
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • Things get continually worse throughout the prequel book Start of Darkness, especially for Redcloak. And considering that the book starts with his mother, uncle, mentor, older brother and younger sister being massacred by paladins, you know it's going to get pretty bad.
    • When the Order reaches Girard's pyramid, they find everyone is dead. Then, Vaarsuvius realizes it was them that killed them with Familicide. Later, the Linear Guild arrives. Then, it turns out that Malack is a vampire and turns Durkon into one. Next thing, Roy destroys the Gate to prevent it from falling into someone else's hands, while V gets pulled out of action by the IFCC. Then, after Nale kills Malack, Tarquin appears with a large army, bent on killing most of the Order. And finally, when we thought everything would be OK, Durkon's body is actually being controlled by the High Priest of Hel, who intends to destroy the dwarves.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: In a flashback, Durkon gets one from his mother, in which the reader learns his middle name: Durkon Allotrope Thundershield!
  • Funetik Aksent: To the point that there is a spell in-universe (Comprehend Inconsistent Languages) to translate the speech bubbles written this way. Durkon is the poster child for this.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In "Saved Game": The Hobgoblin general falling after Redcloak dismisses the summoned hell-mammoth.
    • Panel 4 of "It's Where the Cool Kids Swim". Look at the text of the "Safety a Close Second!" poster.
    • In #1149, the first three panels shows Kudzu totally entranced by the diamond his mother is using as a casting component, then being disappointed when it's obliterated.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Book of Odad
  • Fun with Homophones:
    • Hulk Speak delivered by Thog: it makes perfect sense written down while being utterly incomprehensible when spoken. Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo etc.
      Thog: not nale, not-nale. thog help nale nail not-nale, not nale. and thog knot not-nale while nale nail not-nale. nale, not not-nale, now nail not-nale by leaving not-nale, not nale, in jail.
    • In "The Name of the Windy", Durkon omitted to prepare Control Winds although they were going to the WINDY Canyon, because he thought it was called the Windy Canyon, as in full of winding passages. Vaarsuvius lampshades the fact that it shouldn't have happened because the words are heteronyms with different pronunciation.
    • Belkar learns that vampires are vulnerable to stakes, so he rustles up some T-bones.
      Belkar: No, you're a homophone!
    • The entrance to Passage Pass has signs warning against "Falling Rocks" as well as "Falling Rocs".

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