The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:
- MacGuffin: The Gates. Xykon even refers to them as such. Redcloak discusses this trope in "I Think I Left It in the Bag..." (spoilers!), noting that the MacGuffins aren't the only things that matter in a battle.
- MacGuffin Delivery Service: Discussed.Tarquin: In any race for hidden treasure, it is always the protagonists who sweat and bleed and die to overcome the many challenges inherent in finding it, only for the antagonists to seize it from them at the last minute.
- MacGuffin Guardian:
- The outdated monsters guarding Dorukan's Talisman. Justified, since it's the Talisman itself which lured them there.
- The Black Dragon guarding the Starmetal fragment in the Wooden Forest.
- Kraagor's Gate is said to be protected by a bunch of dangerous monsters.
- Made from Real Girl Scouts:
- Madness Mantra: Sir François in On the Origins of PCs.Sir François: Don't break the Paladin Code by strangling Elan, don't break the Paladin Code by strangling Elan, don't break the Paladin Code by strangling Elan...
- Mage Killer: Zz'dtri is minmaxed to be the perfect counter to other arcane casters (specifically Vaarsuvius), which leaves him in trouble against pretty much any other class. V wins a fight with him by Dominating a kobold to shoot him full of arrows, and later a vampirized Durkon is able to knock him out with a single punch and then kill him with a Neck Snap.
- Magic A Is Magic A: "Truly, more wizards have been laid low by the writings of Jack Vance than by any single villain."
- Magic Feather: Enor, the blue ogre/dragon hybrid, is given a piece of lizardfolk Victory String by Gannji to give him courage in battle (it's just a piece of string, of course). Roy lampshades this trope when Belkar points it out. Belkar tries to give him a "halfling Courage Rock", but Roy won't take it, and instead suggests Belkar keep it someplace safe. And dark.
- Magical Sensory Effect: Spellcasters get a brief moment of Phosphor-Essence when they're in the process of casting a spell. This is often localized to their hands, but they might get a full-body aura and Glowing Eyes if they're using powerful magic or are particularly worked up.
- Magic Knight: Durkon, and the paladins of Azure City.
- Magic Misfire: Exploited by Blackwing, who deliberately misfires a scroll of Locate Creature when he and Mr. Scruffy are being overwhelmed by rats.
- Mainlining the Monster: A head-regenerating hydra which was incapacitated by the Order has become the source of meat for an enterprising goblin's hydra-head sandwich franchise.
- Make Me Wanna Shout:
- Make-Out Kids: Once they get together, Elan and Haley tend to have difficulty keeping their hands off of each other, so much so that announcing they are going to have sex is actually a quite believable excuse. After the siege of Azure City, what was meant to be a see-you-soon kiss quickly devolves into tearing each other's clothes off in front of everyone, before they're reminded that they have jobs to do.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places:
- Mama Bear:
- Kazumi, despite not having given birth yet. She goes to town on some ninjas. Using two swords. She killed the first one with his own sword by disarming him with a pillow.
- The ancient black dragon. Even though V already killed her child, so she wants to avenge, not protect him.
- Vaarsuvius, defending their children and spouse from the aforementioned ancient black dragon. Maybe, possibly a Papa Wolf instead.
- Tsukiko to her wights.Tsukiko: (while blasting Thanh) You big bully! He's just a child! I only made him four weeks ago.
- Durkon's ma, Sigdi. On meeting Hilgya and Durkon's son, Kudzu, Sigdi fawns over the boy and very sweetly informs the mother that Sigdi knows all about taking care of kids, so the child will be fine in the event the mother harms Durkon again and Sigdi has to end her. Later on, she says that sometimes, as a mother, you have to go out into the world and destroy anything that might indirectly harm your kids.
- The Man Behind the Man:
- Redcloak has been subtly manipulating Xykon for his own ends.
- The Dark One is the goblin god behind the goblin high priest.
- Hel is the death goddess behind the vampire spirit hijacking Durkon's body.
- The Man in Front of the Man: Malack and Tarquin are the ones truly in charge of the Empire of Blood — which isn't too hard to guess after one glance at the Empress.
- Man on Fire:
- Belkar douses Miko in sake and tosses a match at her.
- Tarquin has Elan's name spelled out in burning escaped slaves.
- Martial Arts for Mundane Purposes: In one strip, a waitress, upon sneaking up on her customers and startling one, admits that she's waiting tables to pay for ninja school.
- Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: Males have box-shaped bodies, while females have bean-shaped ones.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!":
- Strip #688, the Order's reaction to the giant worm bursting out of the desert.
- Strips #825 and #826, when the Resistance party discovers that the enemy found their hideout, and that Redcloak himself is there to welcome them, with several high-level summoned creatures at his side, and all but one member of the Resistance dead.
- In #833, a demon cockroach manages to give off this vibe despite lacking a face, upon realizing that Jirix is about to stomp on it.
- Roy, Haley and Elan in #885, when Xykon appears out of nowhere. Ironically, Xykon says the phrase, but the protagonists are the ones who fit the spirit of the trope.
- In strips #997 and #998, this is the general reaction to the high priests' bodyguards, including Roy and Wrecan, at the announce the gods are planning to unmake the world.
- Master Forger: Though he's not a forger by trade, Redcloak commissions a master goblin craftsman to produce a forgery of Lord Xykon's phylactery. Despite not having the original at hand as a reference, he recreates it perfectly down to "every detail, every scratch" and passes it off as the original.
- Mauve Shirt:
- Kazumi and Daigo were Red Herring Shirts until they revealed their names. Daigo still keeps his last name unknown, "in case of an emergency".
- Jirix is a villainous Mauve Shirt. His name had been mentioned on multiple occasions before O-Chul killed him during his escape from Xykon's imprisonment, and he was deemed important enough that Redcloak resurrected him (at Xykon's demand). Redcloak then appointed Jirix the prime minister of the sovereign nation of Gobbotopia (built on the former site of Azure City).
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The deceased Lord Shojo appears to Belkar when the halfling falls into a coma, as a result of triggering his Mark of Justice. Shojo says he could be either the real deal's spirit, appearing to Belkar from beyond the grave, a personification of the Mark of Justice (which makes sense since when it was first activated it also produced an image of Shojo), or simply a fever-induced hallucination.
- Meaningful Background Event: Nobody notices Elan and Haley discussing something important in "Small Talk", and merely assume they ran off to make out somewhere.
- Meaningful Echo: "What the heck is it going to take for you to see that your dad is bad news? Do you need, like, 200-foot-tall flaming letters or something??"
- Meaningful Name:
- Of course, we have Roy Greenhilt with his signature ancestral sword — which still doesn't help Xykon remember Roy's name.
- Elan has a lot of élan.
- Suitably for an air elemental, Celia's name means "heavenly" in Latin.
- Blink and you'll miss the etymology behind the chimera Trigak's name. It is the sound he makes when Belkar slays him: all three heads crying "GAK!"
- Argent the wolf is named after the French word for "silver", and he has silver-lined fangs that make his attacks more deadly towards devils. Lampshaded: the strip this fact is introduced in is called "His Name Probably Helps, Too".
- Tarquin is named after Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, two legendary kings of Rome. The former was a foreign commoner who charmed his way into power and ruled as a benevolent dictator, while the latter was a scheming and malevolent despot whose overthrowing heralded the beginning of the Roman Republic.
- The gladiator that Belkar fights in "The Duel Everyone's Been Waiting For" gets eviscerated rather nastily. His name was Evisceratus. Along with the aptly-named Notseenicus and Offpanelo.
- It turns out the Draketooth clan has dragon ancestry. Specifically, they're of the lineage that V's familicide spell wiped out.
- Medium Awareness:
- Virtually every character in the strip is (to some extent) aware that they exist in a webcomic; they are able to notice cutaway panels, compare Webcomic Time to "real" time, and on one occasion, Haley even left the strip for one panel to steal a diamond from the website's cast page (leaving an I.O.Me behind in its place).
- Characters are also explicitly aware that their setting operates on Dungeons & Dragons rules and mechanics; even the comic's first strip depicted their reactions to being upgraded from the 3rd to 3.5 edition ruleset mid-battle. (Word of the Giant has it that the comic will not be upgraded to 4th edition rules, although a brief story in Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales features the Order face their 4th edition counterparts.) References to Hit Points, skill checks, dice rolls, experience and class levels, spell slots, etc. are ubiquitous throughout the comic.
- To combine the two above examples, a dwarven assassin points out to his Shadowdancer companion that his "shadow jump" ability is useless because this is a stick figure comic with no shadowing.
- Thor outright states that the world was created as a "self-aware stick figure fantasy parody."
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: The hobgoblin cannon fodder is exclusively male.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Julio Scoundrél defies the trope by intending to stay away from Elan. Then he double-defies it, by deciding to come back anyway specifically so he could thwart this trope.
- Mercury's Wings: One of the paladins guarding the Azure City throne room has winged boots allowing flight.
- Milholland Relationship Moment: Sort of played with in a villainous example in "Not Much Chance of That". After Malack blasted Tarquin and the rest of the Order with a Flamestrike spell when he grew impatient of Tarquin toying with them, he delivers a blistering tirade about how Tarquin demanded he put his personal vendetta against Nale aside, but Tarquin was wasting time in order to assess Elan's growth in battle. Sabine even lampshades to Qarr about how Malack and Tarquin are about to "get into it". But after Malack has finished ranting, Tarquin takes a moment to think and sincerely apologises to him, admitting Malack is completely right and he didn't know what he was thinking.
- Million Mook March: Tarquin's army, complete with dino-cavalry and pterosaur air force, in a Wham Panel at the end of "Marching On".
- Million-to-One Chance: Spoofed in "The Longshot" and "Improbable Causes".Vaarsuvius: [sigh] And once again, Probability proves itself willing to sneak into a back alley and service Drama as would a copper-piece harlot.
- Mind-Control Eyes: As seen regularly for mind-affecting spells like Suggestion, Charm Person, Symbol of Insanity or Dominate Person. Lampshaded in the first example.
- Mind Rape: Durkon, of all people, actually manages to weaponize the full extent of his memories and cause this! Also blends with My Skull Runneth Over.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The (comparatively) minor crime in the backstory was Xykon's murder of Roy's father's mentor Fyron, which he did for no other reason than he wanted Fyron's gold crown. The crown itself wasn't even that special; Xykon just liked the way it looked. This led to Eugene swearing a Blood Oath to destroy Xykon, which then passed to Roy when Eugene died without fulfilling it. It turns out Xykon and several other factions are involved in a multiverse-spanning plot to gain control of an abomination that could potentially destroy the world and kill all of the gods.
- Minor Insult Meltdown: V to Elan.
- Mission from God:
- Redcloak is on a mission from the Dark One to use the Snarl to force the gods to give goblins standing in the world.
- The dark spirit inhabiting vampire Durkon's body is on a mission from Hel.
- Then from the end of Book 6, Durkon is on mission from Thor to parlay with Redcloak so that he'd help close the Gate once and for all with the Dark One's divine magic.
- Mix-and-Match Critters:
- The absurdity of the owlbear (a bear with the head of an owl) is discussed, as it was apparently created by mixing a bear with a less deadly creature, thus defeating the purpose.
- Also discussed in "The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind".Roy: Isn't a "brontosaurus" really just an apatosaurus with the head of a different dinosaur?
Tarquin: And a hippogriff is really just a horse with the head and wings of a bird, but I've still got eight squadrons mounted on the damn things.
Roy: Hmm. Fair enough.
- The Mole: Redcloak manages to infiltrate the Azure City Resistance by polymorphing a hobgoblin into a human.
- Mondegreen: Roy mistakes the High Priest of Hel saying "Go Hel! Know? Thor won't!" as "Hell No! Thor won't go!" This is exactly as the High Priest of Hel intended; he chose the rather awkward syntax so he could be saying something that technically counts as praying to Hel but would sound like praise of Thor to anybody listening in... and as a vampire his +8 bonus to Listen mean he certainly was aware of Roy's approach well before Roy could put his ear to the door.
- Money Dumb: Haley knows to pad the adventuring party's budget to account for The Ditz Elan's poor financial sense, which includes a completely backwards understanding of how haggling works.Haley: ...Though I did expect him to spend most of it purchasing local bridges.
- Monster from Beyond the Veil:
- Invoked and subverted. An angry Tsukiko plans to create an uber-powerful undead warrior from the first corpse she finds (which just so happens to be Miko's). "It'll be free-willed and evil and mean, with cool black and red armor..." Then she notices that the body is Half the Woman She Used to Be, and gives up on the plan altogether.
- Later played straight with Golem Roy and Golem Crystal, although the former is created more or less accidentally and is essentially a skeleton, while the latter was done to intentionally retain all of Crystal's memories and emotions, so that all the direction it would need to kill Haley was being pointed in the right direction.
- Mood Whiplash:
- The prize goes to Start of Darkness: while Right-Eye is blasted from the sky and Xykon literally drains Dorukan's life-force away, the Monster in the Darkness decides to hold a taco fiesta. The well-executed switches are often cited as one of the comic's main sources of appeal.
- One small example: Miko and Redcloak are fighting in one of the towers at the Azure City borders. Redcloak has managed to hit Miko hard enough to make her drop her katana, and he asks for Xykon's help... upon which we see Xykon placing a bet on the fight's outcome with the Demon-Roaches — he bets on Miko winning — while the MitD has a popcorn bucket and a giant hand, supporting Redcloak as one would support his football team.
- "PLANE SHIFT!"
- The comic titled "Yes, Apparently" pulls off a rather jarring one. It takes five panels for Elan to go from hugging his dad in a heartwarming moment to realizing that his dad is burning thirty people alive.
- After a while, one gets used to Xykon being an affable, lazy tyrant content to crack jokes and lounge about while Redcloak runs his army. Then Soul-Spliced Vaarsuvius pushes his Berserk Button. The immediate change in attitude is jarring, to say the least.
- After Tarquin orders his giant army to kill the whole Order of the stick minus Elan and Haley in "Executive Order":Belkar: Can't we go back to dealing with [Roy's] daddy issues?
- A mild but hilarious example in "Heading Out" where Durkon finishes saying a long and emotional goodbye to his family, including Hilgya and his son Kudzu and departs with the Order on their quest to save the world... only for a drunken Roy to step back into the room to return the beer stein he'd forgotten he was holding when he left.
- Mooks: One of the comic's themes seems to be to deconstruct the concept. Gods Need Prayer Badly, so goblins were explicitly created to be low-level fodder for their clerics to gain XP. The comic's main plot is driven by the goblins (especially their High Priest) rebelling against the gods who forced them into this role.
- Moral Dissonance: Intentionally. Moments like the slaughter of Redcloak's village and the brutal execution of a hobgoblin prisoner from Azure City by the Elvish liberation forces remind us why Redcloak is on his crusade, and lead us to wonder if he might not have a bit of a point.
- Morality Kitchen Sink
- Morality Pet:
- Mr. Scruffy, for Belkar.Belkar: Stupid cat. A ranger is supposed to influence an animal's behavior. You're doing it backwards!
- O-Chul for the Monster in the Darkness. It did help him escape, after all.
- Blackwing invokes this. He now works as a sort of conscience for V.
- Mr. Scruffy, for Belkar.
- Moral Myopia: A vicious cycle: the gods consider the goblins nothing more than XP fodder; this leads the goblins (and hence Redcloak) to decide that humans are fair game to kill also, leading to a Cycle of Revenge.
- More Criminals Than Targets: Parodied with Greysky City, which is so crime-ridden as to seemingly consist of nothing but criminals.
- Morphic Resonance: Shapeshifters keep their overall color scheme.
- Most Common Card Game: Check.
- Most Definitely Not a Villain:
- Belkar gets on stilts to disguise himself as a human.Belkar: Hello, fellow Medium-sized creature! How are you enjoying being Medium-sized, like me, on this lovely day?
Paladin: Just fine, thanks for asking!
- Nale disguising himself as his twin brother Elan. Though his repeated statements of "I'm Elan" don't raise any eyebrows since that is deemed in character for Elan.Nale-as-Elan: I'm Elan!
Vaarsuvius: Yes, so you have told me no less than seven times in the last hour.
- Celia as Darkblood Gloomgloom qualifies too, though in this case it's "Most Definitely a Villain".Celia: My Dark power? Right! Right. Because I'm totally a necromancer, and not a sorcerer who didn't happen to take any necromancy spells...
- Haley pretending to be a Thor worshiper.
- Belkar gets on stilts to disguise himself as a human.
- Motivational Lie: Elan uses one on Thog so that Thog will break them both out of jail.
- Motivation on a Stick: Roy does this with a spice-infused Belkar to use a sandworm as transport.
- Mr. Exposition:
- Lord Shojo, first and foremost.
- Later the IFCC, lampshaded in "Moving the Pieces".
- Mugging the Monster: Repeatedly mocked. Crime does not pay in this 'verse — inevitably, a low-level thug will try to take on a high-level adventurer and end up reduced to a meager handful of XP and GP.
- Parodied in "The Economics of Banditry".
- Directly referenced at the end of that arc:Durkon: One a' these days, yer just gonna end up trying ta rob like a level 16 fighter by accident and get massacred.
- Played straight after the end of the bandit arc in "Tied Up Nicely", where the former leaders of the bandits get killed picking on a much higher-level character.
- Played straight (albeit more mildly) in "Too Slow"; Pickpocketing the Rogue if you will.
- Xykon once tried to steal a cool crown from a librarian.Xykon: ...and it turned out oops! He was also an archmage! Needless to say, hilarity ensued.
- Multiple Choice Form Letter: In Start of Darkness, although Eugene Greenhilt correctly switches the part of the Blood Oath saying "Insert Target Name Here" with Xykon's name, the halfling tattoo artist carving said oath clearly implies it isn't always the case.
- Mummies at the Dinner Table:
- Played for Laughs with the MitD hosting a tea party with Roy's corpse and a paralyzed O-Chul (or, as he calls them, Flopsy and Mr. Stiffly.)
- Played decidly less for laughs when the Order arrives at Girards Gate and finds the entire Draketooth family dead at their dinner tables. Bonus points for being actual mummies.
- Munchkin: The half-ogre spiked-chain-wielding mook.
- Mundane Utility:
- V mentions using the invisibility spell whenever going to the bathroom. According to them, it's a habit they developed purely to annoy Belkar.
- Durkon uses the sending spell to check in with his mom.
- The High Priests, sequestered for an unknown duration at the Godsmoot, use their spells to create food to eat, and water to drink and wash.
- Murder Is the Best Solution:
- Belkar's modus operandi. He apparently works on the definition "Enemy combatant: anyone worth XP."Belkar: When in doubt, set something on fire!
Belkar: I have an idea. It starts with "s" and ends with "litting their throats."
- Vaarsuvius' has a few of these moments too, as illustrated by the following quote:Vaarsuvius: As the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of resolving approaches zero.
- Miko Miyazaki, for a paladin, is always prompt to decide that any evildoer is better off killed by her own hand rather than brought to justice. It takes very specific orders from her liege to dissuade her to apply violence first. Orders she'd obey, but reluctantly. It comes to the point where she murders said liege rather than risk putting him through trial for his deceptions.
- Belkar's modus operandi. He apparently works on the definition "Enemy combatant: anyone worth XP."
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: Belkar gets this treatment a few times.
- In "The Heavens Moved", Durkon says that the rest of the Order is a fine enough group, for humans. And an elf.Hilgya: And a halfing.
Durkon: No, I left 'im out on purpose.
- In "From the Mouths of Babes", while Roy is mistaken for the King of Nowhere:Roy: Hey, you know, we're all enjoying this luxury, but we should at least share it with the others. We should get Vaarsuvius and Belkar up here.
Roy: We should get Vaarsuvius up here.
Elan: Yeah, definitely!
Haley: Sure, let's get V in here.
- In "We Can Do This the Easy Way...", Roy talks to Xykon about why he has to take him down now, instead of taking the lich up on his offer to be released from the battle and level up for a few years to make it a better fight:Roy: You may not be out to destroy the physical planet, but living under the heel of a walking villain cliché like you will destroy its soul. If I don't beat you here and now, then soon this nonsensical screwed-up world won't exist anymore. There won't be any place left for introverted dwarves. Or androgynous elves. Or idiotic bards or greedy rogues... or sexy sylphs. Or hell, even raging narcissistic paladins. Bloodthirsty halflings will probably get along fine, though.
- In "The Great(ish) Escape", Durkon informs Haley that Roy and Belkar have been locked up in prison:Haley: Crap! We need to break Roy out of there! And then decide what to do about Belkar!
- In "The Heavens Moved", Durkon says that the rest of the Order is a fine enough group, for humans. And an elf.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Redcloak gets to do this twice: once when he realizes how stupid his bigotry towards hobgoblins is, and once in the prequel Start of Darkness, after he kills his brother Right-Eye.
- Vaarsuvius, after the Soul Splice. Subverted at first — since V considers the black dragons to be Always Chaotic Evil, the elf is more remorseful about the Deal with the Devil itself, and the wasteful use made of it, than the Familicide spell itself. However, upon discovering how the Draketooth Family died — and further realising that countless other humans could have been killed by the spell — V goes into a full-blown Heroic BSoD.
- Roy has this reaction at the Godsmoot, when he realizes that his decision to destroy Girard's Gate has precipitated the gods' vote on whether to destroy the world or not, and that by helping vampire Durkon reach the meeting, he may also have brought there the one decisive vote for the "yes" faction to win. He doesn't wallow on it for long, though, and immediately acts to correct his mistake.
- My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: The entire Godsmoot arc is a war between Roy and the High Priest of Hel, with other clerics running side arguments, to manipulate the rules of the Godsmoot (both the rules for the voting, the conditions surrounding the vote, and the rules and loopholes regarding violence at the Godsmoot) so that the results will ultimately end up favoring one side or the other. It's ultimately won by Durkon, who'd been reading the same rules through his vampire-self's eyes and found a loophole he could use to shut down the whole process of voting by the dwarf representatives.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling:
- Elan sometimes, as a result of his Genre Savviness.Elan: ... Hey, did anyone else get that foreboding feeling just now?
- Spoofed by Belkar in Hinjo's Junk strip.Belkar: I sense a great disturbance... as if a thousand double entendres cried out, and were suddenly silenced...
- Elan sometimes, as a result of his Genre Savviness.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much:
- Zz'dtri uses this to justify his presence, claiming (through Nale) that due to imitation of a certain Dark Elf ranger his entire race is like this now. He's lying, but the Order buys it.
- There are trees around Valhalla and Thor's attempts to explain to Durkon and Minrah that trees aren't really enemies of the Dwarven people don't sell, so he gives up and tells them that these trees are rebels who turned against their evil kin to join the side of righteousness.
- Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: Miko is introduced as one of these before she catches up to the Order.
- Myth Arc: Roy and the Order's quest to destroy Xykon once and for all — and, once they discover their significance, to secure the Gates if possible. Villains other than Xykon (for example, Nale and Kubota) are actually referred to in dialogue as "side quests".
- Mythology Gag: Being based on Dungeons & Dragons, the comic is chock-full of these.
- In comic #954, the blackboard behind the theology professor sports the original alignment diagram◊ from the early days of D&D, as well as the "Great Wheel" diagram of the Outer Planes.
- Another good example would be comic #970, which refers to a piece of artwork from one of the 3.5e rulebooks (specifically, one showing a failed Use Magic Device check).
- A flashback Durkon experiences shows him and Roy fighting off a giant frog, which attempts to eat Roy. The resulting image is a close approximation to a picture◊ from an early rulebook.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Xykon" sounds like "Zyklon," the poison used in Nazi gas chambers. (Tarquin even absentmindedly calls him "that sub-boss Zyklon.")
- Narrator: Spoofed in the prologue to the print volume of the first arc.
- Roy takes this view — despite having the stats to be a capable Cleric, he became a pure Fighter in part because he's not keen on being a "Fetching Boy" for a god who never does things for himself. The fact that he's saying this to an angel, while dead and standing outside the gates of Paradise, serves to demonstrate his commitment.Roy: Well, this is kind of awkward to say, given where I am, but I've never been all that religious. I mean, I guess my mom raised me to worship the Northern Gods, but I always just figured that as long as I didn't actively offend any of them, they'd leave me alone.
- In the prequel Start of Darkness, Right-Eye eventually grows disillusioned with the Dark One and his Plan. Believing that the Dark One cares more about revenge than aiding the Goblin race (citing the many Goblins who died for the sake of the Plan as evidence), Right-Eye wants nothing to do with the Plan anymore. This doesn't sit well with his brother Redcloak.
- Roy takes this view — despite having the stats to be a capable Cleric, he became a pure Fighter in part because he's not keen on being a "Fetching Boy" for a god who never does things for himself. The fact that he's saying this to an angel, while dead and standing outside the gates of Paradise, serves to demonstrate his commitment.
- Neck Lift:
- Roy Greenhilt seems to like this as an intimidation method for interrogating mooks. He does it to a goblin teen in "Man-to-Man Chat", and then to Pompey of the Linear Guild in "Knight Takes Pawn".
- Xykon can do it too when pissed off, notably to Vaarsuvius and Jirix. And don't try to change the subject with trivial concerns, like breathing.
- Crystal as a flesh golem lifts Haley by the neck in the process of giving her a thorough beat-down.
- Neck Snap:
- Xykon does this to Lirian in Start of Darkness.
- Miko does this to Sabine on her first day in jail as a fallen paladin. Of course, since Sabine is an Outsider, it just annoys her.
- Durkon, post vampirization does this (one-handed) to Zz'dtri.
- Xykon; Redcloak; Tsukiko; Haerta Bloodsoak
- Celia as Darkblood Gloomgloom briefly pretends to be one.
- Hieronymus Grubwiggler may protest that he isn't creating undead, but he's still animating dead bodies as flesh or bone golems.
- Neglectful Precursors: The gods definitely come across as such in the creation story of the Snarl. Start of Darkness really doesn't help their case, and by the time they get speaking roles in the Godsmoot arc it's clear that humanity is more of a natural resource to them than anything else; they talk about the end of the world the way we talk about overfishing.
- Neutrality Backlash: Poor Therkla...
- Neutral No Longer: The Elvish war party.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Deconstructed, and then reconstructed. Haley Starshine essentially has her father to thank and to blame for everything in her life; he taught her to be a fantastic thief by teaching her to mistrust everyone, and the only reason she joined an adventuring party in the first place was to raise money to pay his ransom. By the time she resolves her issues with her father, by realizing that Ian's paranoia and trust issues are poisonous and that she needs to move on, because it made it impossible to open up to the man she loves, she's already in a relationship with Elan, and now her personal issues revolve around learning to open up to people (naturally, with Elan's help).
- Never Heard That One Before: From Belkar's Sarcasm Mode reaction to Andi making a stepladder crack, the halfling already heard it all.Belkar: Hilarious and original. Sure you're not head comedian here, too?
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: On "Or Mention That He's Getting Too Old for This", O-Chul takes partial responsibility for the destruction of the gate. He's not telling the whole story to avoid further dishonoring Miko Miyazaki.Hinjo: I see. Then you were the one who made the decision to destroy the Gate rather than let it fall into Xykon's clutches.
O-Chul: I did make that decision, and it was my blade that did the deed. (I shall say no more about it, lest I speak ill of the dead.)
- Never Split the Party:
- Basically, the whole point of the fourth completed arc. Some bad things happened. The compilation book, containing said arc, is titled Don't Split the Party.
- And then they did it again, resulting in Vaarsuvius, Haley, and Elan getting captured by bounty hunters.
- When Belkar dealing with a hellhound pulls him off-panel, Roy points out that "we had a whole book about this!"Elan: Snips, Snails, and—
Haley: Not that book, honey.
- New Year's Kiss: The Order experiences New Year's in Azure City. As the clock approaches midnight, Haley contemplates using this time to kiss Elan and finally show him her feelings for him, but she chickens out and he kisses a random woman instead. Roy and Celia share a New Year's kiss in the sky, while a very drunk Belkar kisses V., who is not happy about this at all.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- Julio Scoundrél once: when he is bringing Elan to Azure City, he has the city's defenses destroyed to prevent them from further attacking the Mechane. Unfortunately, this is just a few days before the Hobgoblin/Undead army led by Xykon reaches the city, and those defenses might have been able to help stop the attack.
- In Start of Darkness, when Xykon is confronting Lirian, he doesn't know that there are four other gates until...Lirian: Even if you locate them, my friends will stop you from conquering the other four Gates.
Xykon: Did you— Did you just say, "the other four Gates"?
- In "All in the Family", we get to see the ramification of V's (or rather, Haerta's) Familicide: The death of the entire Draketooth bloodline, who've been defending Girard's Gate all this while.
- Girard Draketooth's obsessive paranoia around paladins led him to rig his gate with several traps to prevent them from interfering — which only serve to make the job of the heroes much more difficult.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
- Nale's claim that Haley has been working with him spurs Haley to overcome her speech impediment and confess her love for Elan.
- Redcloak, after holding a group of Azurites hostage during one of his interrogations of O-Chul, decides to let them live, hoping that they'll spread word of how the (seemingly) last Sapphire Guard was willing to let them die, which will break the will of the other prisoners. However, this backfires big time, as they instead interpret events as a member of the Sapphire Guard having survived the battle and still heroically resisting the enemy's attempts to break him (which is true), which raises the hopes of the prisoners.
- Xykon attempts to give Vaarsuvius a Breaking Speech about the reasons that V is inferior to him. Rather than break V, however, the speech inspires V to change for the better, and to start using their abilities more creatively... starting right then and there. Case in point: V manages to escape Xykon's lair with O-Chul in tow, using a very limited selection of spells, very nearly destroying Xykon's phylactery in the process.
- Vampire Durkon attempts a Breaking Speech against Roy, bringing up his inability to save his baby brother. It backfires because Roy knows it's Something He Would Never Say. It also has the double effect of pissing Roy off.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: The talking wolf companion of Oona, the bugbear beastmaster.
- Night of the Living Mooks: Xykon led an Army of the Dead against Azure City in the first place. Undead Dragon and all. Then he re-animates the dead of both sides to increase his numbers.
- Ninja Log:
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
- An allusion on the trope is found in "Meanwhile, His Teammate Was in Rhodes".
- Also, "Separate Ways":Elan: They were dire halfdragon bone-eating saltwater werepiranhas. OK???
- The vampiric half-dragon half-troll lycanthropic fiendish snail from Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales. He's also a phrenic snail, giving him psionic powers.
- Ninja Prop:
- The best example would probably be the diamond from the cast page, which Haley stole from herself in order to pay for a spell in the main comic.
- In one strip, a mute Haley holds a mental argument with herself while on the road, drowning out Elan's Blah Blah Blah dialogue. In the final panel, it's revealed that he's literally been saying "blah blah blah" the entire time, hoping to set a new world record in consecutive use of the word.
- In the comic book compendium of this webcomic, the party uses the narrator to distract the monster guarding the entrance to the dungeon.
- Lien knew that Qarr was up to no good from his sinister-looking Speech Bubbles (red text on a black background).
- It's possible to feign death by drawing X marks over one's eyes and lying very still.
- No Adequate Punishment: Vaarsuvius eventually confesses to Roy that V had killed a quarter of all black dragons, and everyone related to them, including innumerable humans, including the entire Draketooth family. Roy tells V that he's incapable of either counseling or judging the elf, and he doesn't know who would be capable.
- Roy: This is way over my head. It's too big. [...] Legally, I can't make heads or tails of it. You may have killed an unknown number of unidentified victims in indeterminate jurisdictions. I wouldn't know to whom to turn you over.
- Noble Demon: Malack is polite and civil to the protagonists all the way through, and even respects Durkon's final wish after killing him.
- No Body Left Behind:
- Why illusions have to fall over the wall.
- The Demon-Roaches disappear when killed, as seen in "Cages (Steel and Otherwise)", since they are extraplanar creatures from the Abysses.
- Vampires that are killed turn to their Gaseous Form, or to ashes if they are burned under the sun. At the Godsmoot, several destroyed vampires turn to smoke, preventing corpses from piling around Roy.
- Nobody Poops:
- No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: When they fight over Azure City, Xykon tells Roy to go away, level up a few times, and come back when he's tough enough to be a challenging opponent.
- No-Dialogue Episode:
- No Eye in Magic: Or No Ear in this case — Durkon casts Holy Word on the Linear guild, which attacks anyone not Good-aligned, and usually results in deafness. It interferes with Zz'dtri's casting as he can't hear his own spells, and when Nale tries to use a Suggestion spell on Belkar, the latter can't hear it.
- No Fourth Wall:
- Most of the characters seem aware that their world works on RPG rules and occasionally refer to the fact that they're in a comic, but Roy seems thoroughly confused when the Oracle goes even further and directly addresses the readers.
- Reaches new heights when Haley uses the giant diamond from the cast page to pay for a spell. She leaves her otherwise non-canonical self a note reading I.O. Me One Big-Ass Diamond.
- And in "At Least It Wasn't the Fourth Wall Again", the third wall takes a beating, too.
- Roy is really tired of this trope, so much he calls a kibosh.
- Roy can't finish explaining to Elan how blimps work because "it involves a lot of speech balloons, and the splash panel already used up half the page." On the next page he says there's now enough room for an explanation, but gets interrupted.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
- Xykon, beating the crap out of Vaarsuvius in a mage duel, and then literally beating V with a giant chunk of debris to break the Soul Splice. Then he gets serious.
- And then there's the arena fight.
- Crystal pounds Bozzok to the ground, eventually killing him, after Haley pointed out that he stabbed her in the back.
- No Honor Among Thieves: In "Blood Runs in the Family", several of the villains end up being slain by other villains, rather than the heroes.
- No Kill Like Overkill:
- The Vaarsuvius Double-tap: "Disintegrate. Gust of Wind." Designed to ensure there's no piece of the enemy's body left from which to reanimate them. (Evidently this device is as much for the author's peace of mind as for the heroes'.)
- Tsukiko is level-drained to death by wights, who are commanded to devour her, and then to eat each other one by one until the last remaining one sets itself on fire. This is partly to make absolutely sure of the death and Leave No Witnesses, and partly to illustrate just how different Redcloak's opinions of the undead are to those of Tsukiko, who goes out begging her "babies" to stop "hurting Mommy".
- Nominal Importance:
I should also mention that as far as NPCs go, I'm one of the lucky ones. I've had a name since OOTS #95, which is more than I can say for most. Before that, I was just another goblin in a long time of disposable goblins. For a moment, imagine the inconvenience of going through life as Goblin #341. You can't vote, you can't get a driver's license, and your letters are always ending up in Goblin #314's mailbox, which is awkward because you used to date his cousin, Goblin #734, but it didn't work out because she needed to "find out who she really is", whatever that means.
- Mentioned as early as strip #21, where Haley complains that the fact that they killed a named chimera implied it should have become a recurring villain.
- Lampshaded by Kazumi and Daigo, two Azurite soldiers, who go from Red Shirts to Mauve Shirts just by revealing their names. (Daigo, observing the power of this effect, wisely decides to save his last name for a future emergency.)
- Lampshaded again.Elan: Hooray! The people whose names I know are saved!
- Played with when Jirix is made prime-minister of Gobbotopia. One of the other hobgoblin clerics complains that he could've gotten that Mook Promotion too if his mother hadn't named him "Hobgoblin Cleric #2". (Still better than his brother, "Hobgoblin Warrior from Strip #433, Panel 3".)
- However, Rich Burlew is also quite willing to subvert the trope, by having characters introduced by name and then killed in the very same strip. Case in point: Kodrog the Slayer & Jim; the three barbarians; Shelby the Dragonslayer; Solt Lorkyurg; Buggy Lou... (Yep, it happens a lot around Belkar or Xykon.)
- And in the prequel book Start of Darkness, Nominal Importance is plain and simply inverted. Actually saying his name is what really gets a lizardman killed: it was too complex for Xykon to remember.
- Deconstructed by Redcloak in the preface of On the Origin of PCs:
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The Monster in the Darkness's tea party.
- No Name Given: The Monster in the Darkness; the Oracle; the Chief; the Rookie; the Cleric of Loki
- Non-Combat EXP: The first time the Order levels up on-screen, Belkar, their psychotic evil halfling ranger, is a mere handful of XP shy from leveling up with everyone else. When killing rats proves to not grant XP and party kills are banned from him, he resorts to pulling out a sob story for roleplaying XP.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Lampshaded, of course: when seen on a female lizardfolk, they happen to be fake.
- Non Sequitur, *Thud*:
- "The wheels on the bus go round and round..." — a black dragon after surviving one Disintegrate spell, before being vaporized by another.
- Haley sings "I'm Henry the 8th, I am, Henry the 8th, I am, I am..." after receiving a stunning kick from Miko in "The Confrontation".
- Happens to Belkar in "Top of the List":Belkar: 'mfine. Halfings may only be able to advance to level 8, but I've got Attack Rank G.
Guard: That boy got his ass knocked back to Basic!
- Noodle Implements: Elan and Thog's plan to get back into Azure City apparently involved a corkscrew, skis, a basketball, a box of soap, a traffic cone, a leprechaun costume, and a giant wooden alpaca full of potato salad. It should be mentioned that the costume was, for several comics, all we saw. The rest of it showed up in a comic titled "As Good an Explanation as is Forthcoming" which, of course, only raised further questions.
- Noodle Incident: So many that the trope itself has become a Running Gag.Eugene Greenhilt: What happened during my time in the valley remains a mystery, as does why Mr. Belvedere was following me when I departed.
Elan: Are—are you hitting on me? Because, whatever you heard about what happened at Summer Camp—
Serini: We don't want a repeat of the Roc Incident.
Hinjo: Unnhhh... I'm sorry, Uncle. I'll never swipe a drink from your private stash again...
Roy: It was just a joke! We didn't know Mrs. McNulty was allergic to weasels!
Elan: It's exciting being part of a family where they DON'T try to frame you for murder!
Haley: Oooo, I probably shouldn't tell you about Cousin Sheila, then...
MitD: Uh, hi. I know I'm not allowed in your room since the thing with the peanut butter...
Tarquin: I still haven't figured out how [Thog] managed to flood the palace with lemon pudding that time...
Malack: You always have gone that extra mile for the punchline. Remember the Rajah?
Tarquin: HA! And you said there was no way I'd hold that much creamed spinach in my mouth for the whole coronation!
Miron: This isn't going to be like that time with the marids, is it?
Elan: ...and that's why Banjo's holy water is made with seltzer!
- No Periods, Period: Averted, though Sabine's example is an excuse.Sabine: It's, uh... that time of the century. You know... the Red Knight is requesting lodging.
Haley: Think how testy I can get, and I'm only the "Empress of Blood" a few days each month.
- No Peripheral Vision: Vermillius, Ceruleaus and a guard in the arena; lampshaded by Tarquin.
- No-Sell: Happens often. Such as when Malak tries to Poison Durkon ("Tastes like me mum's crabapple pie!") or Slay Living Nale ("Please, my lover drains levels with her lips. I purchase elixirs of Negative Energy Protection in bulk.") Or when Vaaruvius attempts to cast Prismatic Spray on a dragon. ("No.")
- The Noseless: All characters, due to the art style. With Lampshade Hanging, naturally:Rookie: What are those weird bumpy things between their eyes?
- Not a Game: O-Chul to Haley before the Azure City battle.
- Not Hyperbole:
- Named for Lien's little speech:Lien: My parents were fishermen. When I was a little girl, I stood right here and learned how to clean the fish that they caught. I'm telling you this so that you know that when I say that if you take one more step, I will gut you like the catch of the day — IT IS NOT HYPERBOLE!
- In "Rapier Wit", Belkar states that he could sunder Elan's rapier by speaking too loudly.Belkar: DAMN IT!
- In "On Friendship", when Belkar says, "I am going to rip off your stupid bug head and piss down your neck hole!", he happens to be serious.
- It appears that one of these was the last straw in the marriage of Elan's parents.Tarquin: You sound like your mother. "Oh Tarquin, you jerk! When you said that you would liquefy every man in the tavern if one of them grabbed my butt again during my shift, I didn't think you meant it!"
- Named for Lien's little speech:
- Not Right in the Bed: The evil twin variant is used when Elan, a good-natured naïve bard, is framed and swapped with his evil twin brother Nale, who proceeds to attempt to woo Haley (with aims to murder her at the height of passion), since she had up to this point had a hidden crush on Elan. Haley notices the startling change in behaviour, including the initiative he takes in arranging a romantic date, but ignores her instincts (and that of her inner personalities).
- Not So Different:
- V and Belkar have always opted for a brute force style in facing their problems, but thanks to Character Development, they've also seen other ways of looking at the world. To drive the point even further, they both have dark fates in store. Belkar is slated to die before the end of the year, while V is indebted to the service of the IFCC for 44 minutes and 16 seconds.
- Nale and Tarquin. When rejected by family members, they both react by stabbing the rejecter. They also think that anything that happens near them is about them.
- Not That Kind of Mage:
- Xykon is mistaken for a wizard early in Start of Darkness's narrative. He doesn't take as much offense here as one might expect, given his distaste for wizards.
- In a later strip, a bit character intentionally mislabels Vaarsuvius as a warlock to draw the elf into battle.
- The Oracle of Sunken Valley has sometimes been mistaken for a cleric, when in fact he's just been blessed by Tiamat.
- Not the Intended Use: In "Wasn't Going to Listen to Orders Anyway", when Durkon uses Holy Word (that only affects non-good characters), Belkar is also deafened, rendering Nale's Suggestion useless.Roy: It's not a bug, it's a feature.
- Not What It Looks Like:
- Played with in "A Familiar Face", when Celia recalls finding out her boyfriend "slipping the wood" to a dryad. He says it's not what it looks, but it's unclear what it looks like in the first place....
- Subverted when Nale seduces Haley in order to betray and kill her, only to be stopped when his enraged girlfriend Sabine arrives. She realizes what's going on immediately, but wanted to kill Haley herself:Nale: It's not what it looks like.
Nale: (simultaneous) I was going to KILL her.
Sabine: (simultaneous) YOU WERE GOING TO KILL HER!
- The Nudifier: In one of the Dragon Magazine strips, Belkar takes delivery of a Wand of Dispel Clothing.
- Number of the Beast:
- According to Qarr, the application form for a Deal with the Devil is 666 pages long.
- "Inverted" with the IFCC's adress, which is "9 Hells Plaza, Lower Planes 00999".
- If it weren't for the memorial strips dedicated to Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, the strip where the IFCC discuss their evil plans would be strip #666.
- Number Two: Haley is briefly mentioned as being Roy's second-in-command during the battle of Azure city. She's not too confident about her abilities in this regard, having suckered Roy into naming her second-in-command in the first place in On the Origins of PCs only for a bigger share of treasure.
- Occam's Razor: Redcloak and O-Chul disagree over the application of this principle in a strip entitled "O-Chul's Razor". While not brought up, Redcloak is also defying Hanlon's Razor in assuming that the Sapphire Guard were being devious geniuses rather than blinkered fools.
- Odd-Shaped Panel:
- In the web version of "Alignment Differences", Haley is drawn with three arms in the first panel. This error is corrected in the retail version of Dungeon Crawlin' Fools.
- In "Q & A", V is missing their right arm in the second-to-last panel. This error is not corrected in the retail version of War and XPs.
- Offhand Backhand:
- Xykon uses the magical equivalent on a nameless Azurite soldier, while taking a break in the middle of a battle to conduct a job interview.
- Belkar kills a rogue with two thrown daggers without looking up from the bard he's in the middle of smooching.
- Off with His Head!:
- Oh, Crap!: Several times.
- Yokyok's is interrupted in "Pen Beat Sword"
- Most notably "Land of the Rising...", when Xykon has to face a legion of unkillable Sapphire Guard ghosts.
- And again in "Good Idea, Bad Idea", when Xykon realizes that he's facing the prospect of permanent death, not merely waiting until he grows a new body.
- Qarr says it out loud when V cast see invisibility in "This Happens to Telemarketers All the Time"
- The expression on Elan's face at the end of "Yes, Apparently".
- Haley says it too in "A Vexation or Irritation".
- When Nale finds out what magic item Tarquin recently got.
- Redcloak when Tsukiko reveals she's on to him.
- Tsukiko when Redcloak then promptly turns her beloved Wights against her.
- Vaarsuvius found out they inadvertently annihilated the entire Draketooth clan. Whoops.
- Hinjo when he realizes that the Resistance has been destroyed and that Xykon has recovered his phylactery meaning that he's once again on the move.
- Roy when Xykon appears right in front of him in Girard's pyramid, out of nowhere.
- Haley when she receives Hinjo's message about the defeat of the Resistance.
- Malack when Zz'dtri dispels his Protection from Daylight spell.
- Tarquin twice in "End of the Line".
- Miron's whole expression when witnessing something eldritch burst through the rift in "Jumbled Up".
- The High Priest of Hel, when everyone realizes that the storm is being caused by Thor in "Weather or Not".
- Gnome Engineer: NO! Use the harpoons, not the lightning gun! You're just going charge her... up."
- Bozzok's expression when he hears "YOU DID THIS TO ME!" from an enraged, supercharged flesh golem assassin turning against him is a thing of beauty.
- Roy and Wrecan in the final panel of "Plan B", where they learn that the purpose of the Godsmoot is to vote on whether the three remaining pantheons should destroy the world.
- Roy in the final panel of "Rising Suspicion", when he realizes Haley has a very good point about that the spell Vampire Durkon was learning from the magical staff might not have been the assumed "Protection from Daylight" spell but the "Accelerate the Rising of Drained Bodies as Vampire Thralls" spell...
- Durkon when he sees Xykon himself emerge from the ravine.
- Oh My Gods!:
- Often done with Azurites, whose civilization is based on East Asia, saying, "Twelve Gods damn you!"
- Durkon the Dwarven cleric also invokes Thor's various body parts as exclamations. "Thor's Beard!" "Thor's Teeth!" "Thor's Duodenum!"
- At one point, the undead Card-Carrying Villain Xykon exclaims, "Unholy crap!"
- Most of the other characters just say "Oh my gods." (Or "Great elven gods.") Though for some reason, they usually use the singular when followed by "damn it!"
- Interestingly, Julio Scoundrél once says, "How in the name of Gygax..."
- Oh, No... Not Again!:
- Not infrequent in the webcomic:
- And in the prequel book On the Origin of PCs, when Sir François the paladin can't stand his herald's stupidity any longer and ditches him... guess how Elan reacts.Elan: Awww, not again.
- Oh, the Humanity!: Said by Surtur's victims.
- Ominous Floating Castle: In "Villainy Afoot", Xykon is shown to have built a "fortress-tomb-thingy" in the Astral Plane as a safe hiding place for his phylactery.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Spoofed in "I See a Red Robe and I Want to Paint it Black". Apparently the IFCC has a ghostly choir composed entirely of freshly "snipped" dead pedophiles that sings fake Latin whenever they complete a deal. You can sing the fake Latin in place of the lyrics of Sephiroth's "One-Winged Angel" or "Ave Satani" from The Omen (1976).
- Once Done, Never Forgotten:
- Vaarsuvius over, uh, "time sharing" their soul.Vaarsuvius: I have a plan.
Blackwing: Does it involve selling your soul?
Vaarsuvius: No! I mean, yes, really. It involves coordination.
Blackwing: Coordinated soul-selling?
Blackwing: Is that a "maybe"?
- Also, the destruction of Lirian's Gate in a forest fire seems to be this for Redcloak.Redcloak: Look, it was an accident! OK? Let it drop already. Geez!
- Vaarsuvius over, uh, "time sharing" their soul.
- One Dose Fits All: The poison aspect of this trope is inverted and lampshaded a few times:
- Miko tells her summoned warhorse Windstriker that it's fortunate that healing potions don't need to be adjusted for body mass.
- Vaarsuvius, when giving defense-boosting potions to an Allosaurus, remarks that they're blocking out all thoughts about how body size should affect dosage.
- Only Good People May Pass: Very close to the beginning, the heroes are fooled into helping The Psycho Rangers claim a powerful magic talisman. The final layer of protection for the talisman is a group of runes that won't activate and reveal the room where the talisman is kept unless all three runes are touched by someone of pure heart. Naturally, the good-aligned members of the Order are convinced or tricked into touching these runes.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You:
- Invoked by Belkar, once he resolves to be more of a team player. He has Haley's nemesis Crystal at his mercy, but leaves her alive at zero hit points because he doesn't want to be a kill-stealer.
- Genre Savvy Tarquin accepts that Elan will be the one to defeat him. He takes pleasure from the idea it can only be Elan.
- Only Sane Man: Most of the main characters are in this position vis-à-vis the others at one point or another, but the role most often falls to Roy, Hinjo, and, on the villains' side, Redcloak.
- On Second Thought:
- Shortly before their first confrontation with the heroes, Xykon rehearses the Monster in the Darkness's big reveal.MitD: Order of the Stick! Your broken corpses will taste delicious lightly seasoned with nutmeg!
Xykon: That's... that's what you are going with?
Xykon: As your big line? As your first impression?
MitD: It's not scary enough?
Xykon: It's a little less scary, a little more... domestic.
MitD: Oh, well, I had another idea, too.
Xykon: Alright, well, it's got to be better than your first choice.
Ahem. "Not when I have the power of THIS on my side!"
MitD: Order of the Stick! I will bathe in your blood with lavender bath gel and a good loofa!
Xykon: You know what? My bad. You stick with the first one.
- When Roy discovers that the man presiding over their trial is a senile old man taking orders from his cat:Roy: We're not really going to have our fate decided by this guy, are we?
Hinjo: Oh, no. Lord Shojo will be managing the trial, but he will not be rendering the verdict.
Hinjo: For that, our clerics have summoned a being of pure Law and Good from the Upper Planes to render judgment.
Being of Pure Law and Good: Vengeance shall be brought upon the guilty! There shall be no excuses! A cleansing fire will burn them!
Roy: Yeah, y'know, on second thought, is it too late to go with the old guy and the cat?
- A flashback shows a young Durkon visit his Honorary Uncle in hope to get the answer to a question to which his mother refuses to answer. His "uncle" panics and hopes he's not about to ask him about sex. Durkon, being a Someone to Remember Him By baby, asks him how his father died and how his mother lost her arm. His "uncle" immediately diverts the conversation to sex.
- Shortly before their first confrontation with the heroes, Xykon rehearses the Monster in the Darkness's big reveal.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- Roy's reaction to his Wrecked Weapon. "YOU. BROKE. MY. SWORD." The usually stoic leader of the OotS flipping out does startle the rest of the party, including Belkar.
- The first time Elan proves he can actually be useful, it comes as a shock to his teammates.
- Vaarsuvius passing on a perfect opportunity to say "I Told You So" can get Durkon really worried.
- Belkar is a Heroic Comedic Sociopath and Blood Knight at all times, so when he suddenly starts advocating the most peaceful solution to a conflict to reduce the bloodshed... it seriously freaks out Haley and Celia. (Which was of course his intention all along.)
- Roy at last complimenting Elan for doing a good job (after snapping the party out of Girard's phantasm) and apologizing for having yelled at him earlier makes Elan think they are still trapped in an illusion where his fondest dreams are coming true.
- Roy is rather unnerved when Belkar, Constitution-drained and fragile, starts behaving like an actual ranger in their battle with Tarquin, using Wild Empathy to control the enemy's battle dinosaur instead of just leaping into hand-to-hand combat.Roy: Okay, now I know we're doomed. Belkar is acting like a ranger.
- During their fight at the Godsmoot, Roy is still thinking that Durkon is still Durkon, but with an alignment change. When the High Priest of Hel says he had always wondered about how many pieces Roy's brother's body was in after the accident that claimed his life, Roy realizes that the vampire had never been the kind-hearted Durkon at all.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Durkon, once he becomes a vampire. Lampshaded in his first conversation with Hel: his vampiric self is deliberately putting the accent on in order to seem more like his old self.
- Opponent Switch: Done by the villains in the first Order-vs.-Linear Guild fight: Nale and Thog swap opponents (Elan and Roy) to avoid the Fearful Symmetry of fighting their own opposite numbers. It doesn't work, since Elan's magic actually works on Thog and Roy's ecstatic at the chance to whale on someone who looks like Elan, since he was still The Load then.
- Opposites Attract: Thoroughly discussed (and contrasted with Birds of a Feather) by Vaarsuvius in "Love, in the Abstract".
- Orcus on His Throne:
- One of the few cases in which it is satisfactorily explained. When the main characters first encounter Xykon, he is sitting around his throne room doing nothing much. We come to find out that this is purely because the Gate he wished to access can only be opened by "one who is pure of heart," so he has literally been held up by a lack of adventurers.
- Later, after he conquers Azure City, he spends the entire "Don't Split the Party" storyline sitting on his butt in his castle torturing a captured paladin. Turns out, this was all Redcloak's doing: he's been deceiving Xykon into not leaving until the hobgoblins have solidified their hold on the city. Xykon loses patience with this when his phylactery gets lost, taking Redcloak's eye (or rather forbidding him to regenerate it) and commanding that they leave immediately after finding the phylactery. Now Redcloak appears to have no intention of giving it back, using a substitute.
- Orphaned Punchline: On Hinjo's introduction.Hinjo: —and so he said, "Rectum? I darn near KILLED 'im!"
Hinjo: And that's the story of how I became a paladin.
- Ostentatious Secret:
- The gender of Vaarsuvius, V's mate and their (adopted) children. However, this "secret" was semi-resolved late into the series' run, where the Giant confirms in a Patreon Q&A that V is genderqueer.
- What is the Monster in the Darkness, anyway?
- Our Archons Are Different: They stick to the D&D model, being lantern archons who give exposition for people who reach the Lawful Good afterlife.
- Our Dragons Are Different:
- The classic D&D chromatic and metallic dragons are all present in the world, and are of course Color-Coded for Your Convenience. This means that adventurers can feel free to kill dragons whose scales aren't "all bright and shiny" with no moral qualms, as they are creatures of evil whose deaths are obviously necessary. This comes to bite Vaarsuvius in the posterior when the grieving mother of a juvenile black dragon they killed without a second thought comes looking for revenge. Dragons are also some of the few non-humanoid creatures to have a god of their own, as they are under the patronage of the dragon goddess Tiamat.
- Insofar as actual types of dragon go, only black and red dragons have been seen on-panel, although green dragons have also been mentioned.
- Dragons are also capable of breeding with humanoids to created half-dragons and thereafter dragon-blooded descendants, including the entire Draketooth clan, which was utterly wiped out by the familicide curse Vaarsuvius cast on a black dragon.
- In addition to mortal dragons, there is also Dragon, one of the Twelve Gods of the southern lands, each of which is one of the creatures of the eastern zodiac, who resembles the wingless, whiskered and serpentine Chinese kind.
- The classic D&D chromatic and metallic dragons are all present in the world, and are of course Color-Coded for Your Convenience. This means that adventurers can feel free to kill dragons whose scales aren't "all bright and shiny" with no moral qualms, as they are creatures of evil whose deaths are obviously necessary. This comes to bite Vaarsuvius in the posterior when the grieving mother of a juvenile black dragon they killed without a second thought comes looking for revenge. Dragons are also some of the few non-humanoid creatures to have a god of their own, as they are under the patronage of the dragon goddess Tiamat.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Lampshaded in "Clerical Temp". Durkon Thundershield fits the stereotype perfectly, including the combination of Norse Mythology and Scottish accent. When the party is split and one half hires a cleric to magically contact Durkon, the cleric gets an accurate description and then asks what sets Durkon apart from every other dwarf in existence. However, they are known to have odd anatomical features such as two livers. (Though that may be just natural selection in action.)
On the other hand, it should be noted that Durkon is calm, introverted, mild-mannered, and makes use of his spellcaster abilities as often as his weapons. He takes his job as a healer very seriously, not limiting it to use of magic (he has significant medical knowledge, as seen when he's examining Haley and giving advice to a pregnant woman). All this sets him very much apart the usual drunken, axe-throwing and curse-spewing stereotype, making this more of a Zig-Zagging Trope instead.
- Our Elves Are Different: There are few of the usual D&D elves.
- Vaarsuvius is an Insufferable Genius with a sensitive ego and a penchant for speechifying whose pursuit of arcane knowledge consumes much of their life. Though initially only occasionally callous but nevertheless good, their morals deteriorate as time goes on until they're forced to reassess everything and make a conscious effort to change.
- The elves aiding the Azurite resistance, with their "the only good goblin is a dead one" policy, are walking justifications for Redcloak's behaviour.
- Aarindarius, V's master, is apparently powerful enough to take on a full adult black dragon without looking away from the book they're reading, though this was according to Vaarsuvius in the middle of an arc throughout which V's judgement was severely impaired.
- Our Founder:
- Our Kobolds Are Different: Kobolds resemble short, orange, reptilian humanoids and, like their D&D inspirations, are distant relatives of dragons and worship the dragon goddess Tiamat.
- Our Orcs Are Different: They use Hulk Speak and all lowercase letters. On the Origin of PCs also features orc fans of Heavy Metal.
- Our Goblins Are Different: In typical D&D settings, goblins are Small in size (not unlike halflings, dwarves or gnomes) and low in intelligence, while hobgoblins are Medium (human) in size, more intelligent and quite militaristic. Here, goblins and hobgoblins are both Medium-sized and the only difference between the two species is that goblins are green and hobgoblins are orange. (There are some hints that hobgoblin culture has a slight militaristic edge even in this setting, such as Redcloak expressing his distaste for hobgoblin "efficiency and warrior's codes" among other things, but this verges on Informed Attribute.)
- Our Hydras Are Different: Early in the comic, the party encounters a hydra that keeps growing heads past the normal limit of twice its starting number. Elan and Belkar keep chopping off heads until it grows too many for its blood supply to support and passes out, and an enterprising goblin starts selling barbecued hydra heads.
- Our Vampires Are Different:
- The first vampire we are introduced to is Malack. Unusual in that he's a Snake Person rather than a humanoid. Also, he demonstrates the ability to bend D&D rules for vampires — he can talk in his vapor form and, when creating another vampire, use his staff to shorten the reanimation process so the whole "buried for 3 days" rule doesn't apply. He also has a custom-made Protection from daylight spell.
- Strip #946 reveals that vampiresnote are controlled by a foreign evil spirit while the original spirit is trapped helpless in the same body.
- Out-of-Character Alert: Belkar thinks that Durkon having the right spell to solve the problem at hand is further proof that he's not the real Durkon.
- Outrun the Fireball: Spoofed at the climax of Dungeon Crawling Fools. Elan actually insists he and Roy wait for the fireball to better outrun it by jumping away.Elan: Wow! Just like a Vin Diesel movie!
- Outscare the Enemy: Tarquin combines this with I Have Your Wife in order to keep his army in line; his soldiers know that while the enemy might kill them, Tarquin will slaughter their families if they displease him.
- Overused Copycat Character
- Spoofed when Nale claims that every drow in this world is like Drizzt Do'Urden now. This is soon shown to be untrue when it's revealed that the Linear Guild members are evil, and the only other drow we ever see* is also evil. V takes advantage by getting Zz'dtri hauled away by copyright lawyers.
- In Invaders from the Fourth Dimension, Belkar makes the rather bold claim that 4th Edition rangers are all overused copycat characters of him.
- Overzealous Underling: Lord Shojo orders Miko to arrest the titular band of adventurers supposedly for a great offense they inadvertently committed, but really because Shojo wants to recruit them for a secret, vitally important mission he can't assign to his own forces. Miko, not knowing this and being a Knight Templar with a big dose of Black-and-White Insanity, decides midway through tracking them that, considering their offense, she will act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner should they not surrender immediately, even without her giving them an explanation. By the time Durkon gets her to see reason, she could have easily killed several members of the group.
- Out of Focus: Team Evil gets a drastically reduced presence in book five, and in six they're barely a cameo.
- Ow, My Body Part!:Blackwing: (faintly) My feathers hurt. How come my feathers hurt?