The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:
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- Sand Worm: A purple worm in the desert, complete with very blatant shout-outs to Dune.
- Sarcasm Mode: Vaarsuvius acts openly sarcastic when Belkar tries to convince V that the Vampire Durkon is evil because he tried to kill Belkar.Belkar: I just told you that he tried to kill me!
Vaarsuvius: Oh my, what a completely unprecedented reaction to spending more than ten minutes in your company.
- "Save the World" Climax: The first arc of the story concerns the Order carrying out a standard dungeon crawl in order to defeat a lich. Then the next arc reveals that within the dungeon was a gate to a prison dimension where a world-destroying Eldritch Abomination is kept, and the lich was planning to use the gate for nefarious ends. The rest of the story concerns the Order's efforts to keep the other gates from being used for evil, so that the abomination isn't set free to destroy the world.
- Save the Villain:
- Elan to Nale.
- Much later, Tarquin assumes Elan will do it for him. Elan tells him all about what happened with Nale, and why he's not going to fall for the same thing again... and leaves Tarquin to fall (knowing it won't be fatal anyway).
- Saved by the Coffin: The heroes use the coffin of Girard Draketooth to survive the explosion created by Girard's Gate being destroyed
- Schizo Tech: Although the general technological level of the world is supposed to fit with the average D&D medieval campaign (with sometimes a bit of Steampunk, like with the airships), you see plenty of anachronistic modern appliances, usually for a one-panel joke. Some examples:
- Xykon's crystal ball has picture in picture.
- cell phones
- coffee maker
- vinyl disk
- video games
- hair dryer
- rocket skates, and later business cards (these are everywhere)
- computer (though this one is in the afterlife...)
- A package from Amazon with the D&D Fourth Edition core books.
- A limousine. With a minibar. (Also in the afterlife.)
- Gas stations for camels, and shortly thereafter a metal detector.
- Conspicuously averted when they're navigating the sandworm — Roy has a quadrant, but Durkon has to magically conjure an image of a pocketwatch. Suggests, as do many of the other examples, that magic is allowed to do anachronistic things but mundane technology isn't (unless it's funny).
- THERMAL DETONATOR... or can of tomato soup
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- Blackwing pulls this when Vaarsuvius tries to use him as a distraction against a Death Knight.
- Most of the Azurite soldiers guarding the breach decide to desert when they see that the whole hobgoblin army, led by Redcloak, is charging at them. As does Vaarsuvius, due to running out of spells (with the exception of Invisibility).
- It later dawns on a thief that Attack! Attack! Attack! has its limits.Female Thief: Screw this! I've only got 14 hit points!
- The Piscodaemon summoned by Zzd'tri to fight the Order of the Stick calls it a day when hit by the drow's corpse. Along with a comment using the "Miskatonic" font.Piscodaemon: If the boss is dead, I'm punching out early.
- Miron Shewdanker has a perpetual Screw This, I'm Outta Here! contingency spell cast on himself; any time his health is depleted below a certain level, he's automatically teleported away whether he wants to or not.
- His colleague Laurin follows his lead after Vaarsuvius calmly points out just how much more magic they have at their disposal than she does.
- Screw You, Elves!: Laurin Shattersmith has some choice words on the subject.
- Sdrawkcab Name:
- Nale and Elan, of course. This causes problems whenever Elan tries to avoid getting blamed for Nale's actions; people don't tend to buy the argument, "My evil twin with a name that resembles mine did it."
- Also Roy and another single-class fighter, Yor. Roy takes pains to avoid the Dumb Muscle stereotype, favoring skill over simple pummeling, whereas Yor plays it straight and milks it for all it's worth.
- Among the many nickname suggestions for the vampire that was once Durkon is "Nokrud".
- Secret Test of Character: #981 has Haley asking what Golem Crystal what she intends to do now that Bozzok is dead. Haley gives not-so-subtle hints that she should leave Gnometown and find a quest or something to do. Golem Crystal states she'll stick around and just kill gnomes. Despite despising her, Haley was giving Crystal a chance to live, but she utterly failed that test, ending with her taking a fatal lava bath.
- Seduction-Proof Marriage: Elan tries to escape from prison by creating an illusion of a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, one of his guards is gay and the other one is married.
- Seldom-Seen Species:
- How the Paladin Got His Scar features binturongs and a river dolphin.
- In one of the bonus comics for Blood Runs in the Family, the Monster in the Darkness requests a "half-dragon kabomani tapir" as a balloon animal.
- Elan about the good twin saying, "Shoot us both". "That's such a cliché, even for this comic!" Fortunately, Nale can't take insults to his ego.
- Start of Darkness has two prefaces. One by the author who laments that the story ends with the bad guys winning (it's a prequel, foregone conclusion) and the other by Miko, who says, despite never having read the story, that because Evil creatures are presented as being more than just their alignment and don't get punished in the end, the author must be a depraved monster himself.
- The preface for On the Origin of PCs has Redcloak calling the punny title "dreadful".
- The acid-breathing shark in strip #541 causes one of the demon roaches to quip "They'll let any old hack write a sourcebook these days." Rich created an Acidborn Shark as part of a D&D sourcebook called Dungeonscape.
- #959:Bandana: But hey, I for-reals appreciate you tryin' to do the big-sister-bonding thing anyway.
Haley: Well, historically speaking, it was either that, or we try to murder each other while hurling offensively gender-charged insults.
Bandana: Geez, that sounds terrible.
Haley: Like dungeon delving with a bare midriff, all I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- In #1138:Minrah: Oh, sorry, I don't really read comics.
Thor: He, you're not missing much.
- And #1140:Thor: I mean, obviously we were scraping the bottom of the idea barrel when we came up with "self-aware stick figure fantasy parody."
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
- The one given to Belkar. To wit: he wanted to know if he would end up causing the death of any of the following: Roy, Miko, Miko's horse, Vaarsuvius or the Oracle himself. The answer is "Yes", because, as we see later, the Oracle pulls a questionable Exact Words interpretation on him so Belkar kills the Oracle out of pure annoyance.
- Durkon is unknowingly the target of an SFP. After receiving a prophecy that Durkon returning home would lead to "death and destruction," the High Priest of Odin told the High Priest of Thor to exile Durkon. If he hadn't done so, then Durkon would never have been turned into a vampire, whereupon he returns to the Dwarven homeland bringing death and potentially the destruction of the world.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Discussed in #1022. Roy suggests attacking the High Priestess of Hel, knowing it would probably get him killed by Hel's allies, because it would stop Hel's plan, then immediately rejects it because even if the world is saved from Hel, without Roy the Order of the Stick would fall apart and Xykon's plan would continue unhindered.Roy: Recent lesson connected to that "dying" thing: Noble sacrifices only make sense when they solve the problem at hand.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Vaarsuvius, such as in "A Walk in the Park". In On the Origin of PCs, we have this exchange between Vaarsuvius and Roy:Vaarsuvius: Bah!! You are clearly only hiring me because I intimidated you intellectually, to the point where your masculine pride requires you to establish your dominance over my superior mind.
Roy: Maybe. Or maybe I'm hiring you because I require the creation of a managed spherical energy release with a thermal signature no less than 1850° Kelvin, which can be manifested at specific X, Y, and Z coordinates from verbal cues. I require this specific temperature because it is the minimum level at which necrotized epidermis has been proven to combust and I have reason to believe that my mission will require the incapacitation of multiple post-organic hostiles.
Vaarsuvius: So... you need Fireball spells to toast the undead you expect to fight?
Roy: Did I stutter?
Vaarsuvius: A pleasure to serve under you, sir.
Roy: Welcome aboard. Now get me a new table.
- Sequel Hook: Played with in strip #938. Tellingly, the title of the strip is "This is Not a Thing That Is Going to Happen."
- Servile Snarker: Tarquin, of all people, when he agrees to let Nale lead the team as a test of his ability.Tarquin: [bowing] As you command, fair leader!
Nale: And cut out the fake servility.
Tarquin: By your will, it shall be so!
- Severed Head Sports: Belkar shoots... he scores!
- Sexy Backless Outfit: Sabine's usual outfit, and Celia's dress for the new year in Azure City. In both cases, this allows them to unfurl their wings.
- Shadow Walker: Parodied. When a Shadowdancer shows up, his powers are mostly useless because the comic doesn't have shading. He and his partner are later able to escape because an explosion is dramatic enough to warrant a shadow as they flee from it.
- Shameful Source of Knowledge: Vaarsuvius learned how to defeat Laurin while bound and gagged in hell. They were in hell because they "rented" their soul to three fiends.
- Shaped Like Itself:
- Most place names in the comic are either this trope or Exactly What It Says on the Tin, if not both:
- The Wooden Forest
- The Sunken Valley
- The Zenith Peak
- The Rupture Ravine
- Fissure Gap & Passage Pass
- Elan tells Haley he would like to see her come back from a dangerous fight "in one big Haley-shaped piece."
- When Xykon gives a lecture about the nature of true power, he says that spells don't equal power, but: "You know what does equal power? Power. Power equals power. Crazy, huh?" The point is about the difference between having real power and only pretending to. ("But the type of power? Doesn't matter as much as you'd think.")
- A line from the mentally unstable Crystal:Crystal: Our thieves are only allowed to steal from the people that our thieves are allowed to steal from!
Bozzok: My employee's circular logic notwithstanding, she is correct.
- Most place names in the comic are either this trope or Exactly What It Says on the Tin, if not both:
- Shapeshifting Squick: Nale and Sabine.
- Shock and Awe:
- Thor, of course.
- Lightning spells are favored by Vaarsuvius, Durkon, Zz'dtri and Xykon.
- Also a natural power for Celia.
- Enor, being half-blue dragon, can breathe lightning.
- Shoo Out the Clowns:
- The departure of Team Evil to the Astral Plane has Jirix the hobgoblin casually stepping on one of the Demon-Roaches. They come back, but it made a clear point.
- After Tarquin kills Nale, he lampshades this; "He was never more than a B-list recurring villain and frankly, Elan's outgrown him."
- Shoot the Builder: Downplayed example — the craftsman who made a perfect duplicate of Xykon's phylactery for Redcloak is actually killed by Tsukiko as unrelated collateral damage. However, after Redcloak sincerely pays his respects to the dead hobgoblin for doing such a masterful job, he... disintegrates the corpse rather than raising him from the dead as he easily could. It's left ambiguous whether he would have kept the guy alive if he'd found him that way — he would be the only other person to know about an extremely delicate and dangerous secret, after all, and Redcloak had commented only minutes earlier that he was glad another goblin who Knew Too Much had died at someone else's hands instead of his.
- Shout-Out: Lots of them, now having their own subpage.
- Shown Their Work: Rich Burlew shows his Go research in "Two Eyes in the Dark".
- Shut Up and Save Me!:
- Early on, when Roy is assaulted by a mind flayer, the other party members just stand there dumbfounded while Vaarsuvius rants furiously that they should be the one attacked, having the highest intelligence score.Roy: A little help here? No, seriously, guys.
- In a filler strip, Belkar (while floating inside a Gelatinous Cube) to Roy and Haley.Belkar: Less talk, more slashing damage.
- Early on, when Roy is assaulted by a mind flayer, the other party members just stand there dumbfounded while Vaarsuvius rants furiously that they should be the one attacked, having the highest intelligence score.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Durkon tells the High Priest of Hel that, while it is true the worst day of his life sucked, he did not let it define him.Durkon: Thar's na much ta explain. Ye told me b'fore tha ye are who ye are on tha worst day o' yer life. An' tha's true. Tha's 100% true. But ye know who else ye are? Ye are who ye are on tha next day. [...] My mother turned tha worst thing tha could ev'r happen ta anyone inta the best thing tha could happen ta anyone. Ta five anyones. An' I turned tha worst thing ta happen ta me inta savin' tha world from people like ye.
- Shut Up, Kirk!:
- The newly lichified Xykon from The Order of the Stick -1: Start of Darkness delivers a most glorious one to the elven druid Lirian at the climax of their battle:Lirian: You may defeat me, you may even kill me, but you will never succeed in releasing the Snarl.
Xykon: Blah blah blah evil will never win blah blah.
- And then there's Thog vs. Roy.Roy: I surrender...
Thog: STOP TALKING! *thud!*
- The newly lichified Xykon from The Order of the Stick -1: Start of Darkness delivers a most glorious one to the elven druid Lirian at the climax of their battle:
- Side Bet:
- During Xykon and Redcloak's invasion of Azure City, Belkar cuts a side bet with one of the archers that Roy will be stupid enough to jump off the castle parapet to get to Xykon and his zombie dragon mount. Belkar being Belkar, he then proceeds to rig the outcome by loaning Roy his Ring of Jumping +20.
- Haley and Roy have a lot of 10 gp bets over the course of the adventure. This may apply to the Order as a whole, as Haley at one point tries to make a bet with Durkon.
- Side-Effects Include...: Part of the magic mouth's spiel at the Sunken Valley's entrance.
- Siege Engines:
- Notably with Redcloak flinging a bunch of humans. Or Titanium Elementals.
- Belkar later suggest throwing themselves via catapult to reach another tower, and first using the Red Shirts (Daigo and Kazumi) to adjust the aim.
- Significant Anagram:
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Elan heroically defies this — even though Tarquin had not actually meant it.
- Single-Minded Twins: A pair of identical twin dwarves from Durkon's extended family are seen sneak-attacking and talking in unison.
- Single-Palette Town: Azure City. Blue.
- Sinister Shiv: Geoff is holding one to Elan's throat when they first meet.
- Slasher Smile: "I am pointy death incarnate."
- Small Reference Pools: Averted. Among other things, the prequel book titles Start of Darkness and On the Origin of PCs are plays on the classic book titles Heart of Darkness and On the Origin of Species. Never let it be said that Rich Burlew isn't well-read.
- Smug Snake:
- Kubota thinks he's quite the Chessmaster, but he's far too reliant on his minions to really be effective and his plots are too fragile under pressure.
- Similarly, Nale isn't quite the evil genius he likes to think he is either.
- Nor is Tsukiko even close to the perfect Mary Sue she believes herself to be.
- The Smurfette Principle:
- The main group consists of four guys, one girl and Vaarsuvius. The supporting cast is somewhat more balanced.
- The Linear guild initially has two women, thanks to Hilgya. After they loses her, the entire guild is invariably male, except for Sabine.
- Team Evil has Tsukiko as their only female character, unless you count the zombie angels.
- Snowlem: The Order is seen fighting a giant, murderous one in the Winter Wallpaper◊.
- Snub by Omission: Durkon tells Hilgya that the rest of the Order are "a fine group, for humans. And an elf." Hilgya points out there's also a halfling, but Durkon left him out on purpose.
- Sole Survivor: As of strip #827, Niu is the only surviving member of the Azure City Resistance.
- Solomon Divorce: Elan and Nale. The former went with their mother (who shares Elan's optimism and Nale's Complexity Addiction), the latter with their father (who shares Nale's ruthlessness and Elan's extensive knowledge of storytelling tropes).
- Someone's Touching My Butt: Because of the Invisibility Sphere (3 feet 9 inches). When Vaarsuvius casts the spell, one of the party members exclaims, "Someone is squeezing my butt!" Two voices clearly belonging to Durkon and Vaarsuvius deny responsibility, leading the gropee to ask if Belkar or Roy is the groper. The final panel subverts our expectations by revealing that Elan is the one whose backside is being groped... by Haley.
- Something Blues: No Cure for the Paladin Blues
- Something That Begins with "Boring": Done by Elan in "The Time Killers".
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Elan tries to use an alluring policewoman illusion to distract the cops. One says, "Sorry, I'm in a committed relationship," and the other, "Sorry, I'm gay."
- Spanner in the Works: As of strip #1041, the Monster in the Darkness is deliberately sabotaging Xykon's search for the final gate.
- Spare Body Parts:
- Speech-Bubble Censoring: Happens in a panel when Roy and Durkon yelling "NO" briefly covers Elan's Genitals.
- Speech Bubbles: Numerous variations in their shape or color for specific characters.
- Undead have black speech bubbles with white text. When Xykon becomes a lich in Start of Darkness and his speech bubbles change to the undead format, he comments on his dramatic, echoey voice. Redcloak clarifies that this is because Xykon no longer has a functional larynx, so his voice is magically powered by negative energy.
- Diverse colored speech bubbles for outsiders such as gods, celestials, infernals, and ghosts. Infernals usually have black speech bubbles with colored text inside (lampshaded with Qarr the imp, who is recognized by his red-on-black speech bubbles). Celestials have brightly colored bubbles with black text. Elemental spirits like Celia have a color related to their plane of origin.
- Dragons and half-dragons also have colored speech bubbles linked to their species. Giants too, it seems.
- Being under some magical effect can alter the color of a character's speech bubbles, like with the Oracle doing a prophecy, Vaarsuvius under the Soul Splice, or Haley having imbibed a Potion of Glibness.
- The shape is sometimes significant too, like with Lawful Neutral Modrons having rectangular bubbles.
- The connectors pointing to which character is speaking also give indications. They are straight when the speaker is healthy, but become irregular for a sick, stunned, drunk, confused, wounded or dying character, to represent shaky speech. Malack's are always this way until he shows his Game Face, hinting of a raspy or hissy voice.
- More classically, bubbles with dotted borders and grey text indicate whispering. Zz'dtri's bubbles always have grey text, since he's The Quiet One and hardly ever raises his voice.
- Early in the comic, mumbling to oneself or aside comments by the characters were texts without bubbles and just a connector. But this became rarer and rarer and has phased out by book 3 — except for the Demon-Roaches, who only ever talk this way.
- Speech-Bubbles Interruption: Sometimes.
- Speed Echoes:
- After being struck by a lightning gun, the flesh golem that Crystal has become gets supercharged and moves fast enough to leave after-images.
- Shortly thereafter, Haley gets the same visual effect once she activates her Boots of Speed.
- Spectator Casualty: Thog kills an audience member(ironically his biggest fan) by kicking Roy's Sword into the stands, decapitating the fan.
- Species-Specific Afterlife:
- Celia is a sylph, and as such her soul will merge with the Elemental Plane of Air rather than going to one of the Outer Planes.
- Downplayed by the Dwarves, whose souls are subject to slightly different rules when deciding which afterlife they will end up in because of a bet between the Dwarven gods Thor, Loki and Hel. An honorable death earns them a place in the Outer Plane which matches their alignment, the same as other sentient species, but a dishonorable death causes their soul to become Hel's property.
- Square Race, Round Class:
- Belkar, a halfling melee ranger/barbarian.
- Therkla, a half-orc ninja.
- Stab the Scorpion: Just as it looks like Therkla has turned on Elan for rejecting her, she instead attacks Qarr the imp, who was trying to set her up to flank him.
- Start of Darkness: The Prequel print-only graphic novel Start of Darkness, detailing the backstories of Xykon and Redcloak, is the Trope Namer.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Belkar tells this to Miko. Naturally, it comes back to bite him in the ass almost immediately.
- Stealth Pun:
- Leeky Windstaff's hawk is named Kitty. As in kitty hawk.
- While desperately trying to come up with any way to "weasel out" of falling to his death, Roy literally exhausts his Bag of Tricks. (For a bonus stealth pun, there wasn't even a weasel in there.)
- Malack spell-checking Durkon's scroll. Spell-checking. Got it?
- The three empires on the Western continent are never mentioned together in the same sentence. They're the Empires of Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
- The title of strip #914, "Last in the Coffin". This strip is the one confirming that Nale is not coming back from the dead. The title is from the expression "putting the last nail in the coffin".
- The arc involving Golem Crystal ends with her falling into a volcano — just like Gollum. Also note that the Crystal Golem is an actual yet obscure type of golem from the Psionics Handbook.
- Stepping-Stone Sword: While fighting Vampire Durkon, Roy borrows the High Priestess of Odin's spear. He misses his foe when throwing it, but it stays stuck in the wall and Roy then uses it as perch to reach the upper walkway of the temple.
- Stick-Figure Comic: But don't let that fool you into thinking it's not a well-drawn comic. Despite the style, characters are complex enough to be easily recognized and backgrounds are lush and detailed. The characters, of course, are well-aware of their art style.Merchant: You're wearing long pants?
Haley: Yeah, I know. The way we're drawn makes it sort of hard to tell.
Elan: For the first 100 strips, I thought I was barefoot.
- Sticks to the Back: Roy's greatsword; Haley's longbow; Thog's greataxe. Mostly the result of the simplified art style. (Other weapons tends to simply disappear when not in use.) After the first bout of Art Evolution, Roy has straps on the back of his armor to hold the sword, although they work better than they should. Haley's bow still sticks, though.
- Stock "Yuck!": Babies for the Monster in the Darkness; squids (and babies) for O-Chul.
- Stone Wall: O-Chul has taken every possible feat to be as tough as he can be. It comes in handy as he's tortured to the brink of death for months.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: In strip #917, Tarquin points out that Elan would easily find replacement adventurers for his party, offering the name "Rob Redblade" as an alternative to Roy Greenhilt. Way back in strip #112, one of the silly names Xykon used for Roy was "Mr. Redblade".
- Street Smart:
- Among the Order, Haley is the most.
- Among Azure City's resistance, Niu was singled out by Haley for having similar skills.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Nale and Elan look exactly like Tarquin, except he has grey hair (light brown when younger). Oh, and Nale having an evil goatee.
- Stupid Evil: Almost entirely averted, particularly for a storyline with dozens of villains.
- Belkar qualifies before his Character Development, until he finally figures out that he can get away with a lot more evilness by pretending to follow society's rules.
- Xykon sometimes does things that would be Stupid Evil in other contexts, but as he has no true goals beyond power and is very aware of the consequences of his actions, he doesn't really qualify.
- Moreover, Tarquin and the Fiends actively deny it. Tarquin is Genre Savvy, knows that letting the Snarl destroy the world he wants to rule would be idiotic, and is happy to play The Man Behind the Man to maintain his power. The Fiends, on the other hand, both deny and play straight Evil Is One Big, Happy Family, by uniting their warring factions to do something with the Sealed Evil in a Can.
- Stupid Good:
- Celia will not stand murder or theft regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't matter that they're a guild of thieves; you have to pay them back.
- Notably averted by Elan, who is both stupid and good but not Stupid Good. He absolutely refuses to kill a helpless opponent however, be it his treacherous, backstabbing (literally) brother or the smug, evil aristocrat who surrenders to Elan and tells him to his face that he's doing it so he can manipulate the courts into acquitting him and embarrassing his rival.
- Ian Starshine cannot let the opportunity to insult a tyrant pass him by, even though said tyrant is offering him the rare chance of an official pardon thanks to Roy's actions. Insulting him doesn't even offer Ian any beneficial results other than catharsis, which would probably prove less useful in the long run than no prison sentence. Although Ian noted shortly after that he didn't believe the tyrant would ever actually honor the pardon. Comes back to bite him when Tarquin frames Ian for murdering an ambassador, because Tarquin didn't like the way Ian spoke to him.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: Not by name, but Roy was obviously uncomfortable with seeing his mother as she was at 19.
- Suggestive Collision: Haley tackles Elan from above to stop him from touching a magical gate — inadvertently putting the two of them in a suggestive position.
- Super Identikit: Subverted with an Art Shift showing Thog and Nale in a more realistic style.
- Super Window Jump: An inherent ability of the Dashing Swordsman Prestige Class.
- Supernatural Team: Played for Laughs when Durkon and Hilgya briefly form "Team Cleric", whose main strategy is to heal each other of all injuries until their attackers get fed up and leave.
- Supporting Leader: Discussed. When Tarquin finally realises that Elan isn't going to let Roy be killed off to leave room for him the become The Hero, he offers instead to give Roy command of a legion of soldiers, occasionally playing Da Chief to a party led by Elan which would be the real focus of the story.
- Surrogate Soliloquy:
- "Don't Hate the Player Character" is mostly Belkar talking to Mr Scruffy. When another human does enter the scene (Jenny the thief saying Come Back to Bed, Honey), she's promptly dismissed.
- "You Bet" shows Hel watching and commentating on a Pensieve Flashback to the Inciting Incident of her current scheme to end the world. It would be just Hel indulging in some villainous brooding if her Ignored Enamored Underling Thrym weren't in the room listening patiently.
- Survivor Guilt:
- Vaarsuvius has this really bad for a while after the Battle for Azure City. They turned invisible after they ran out of spells during the fight for Azure City. Some fleeing and desperate soldiers noticed the elf despite the invisibility and begged for help. V stood there silently and watched them all be slaughtered. Months later they weren't sleeping very much at all due to nightmares.
- It seems Belkar had a touch of this after Durkon gets vampirized while saving him from the same fate.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Discussed when Tarquin claims that after he kills Roy Greenhilt and Durkon Thundershield, Elan will have a Terrible Interviewees Montage and end up hiring "Rob Redblade" and "Murkon Lightninghammer". This references the tendency in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns where a lost party member will be quickly replaced by another character with the same class and level (to maintain party balance), and because they're played by the same person, often the same personality too.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
- When Elan joins up with Roy in On the Origin of PCs, he pulls one of these, which makes Roy question his decision to let Elan in. He probably regrets this a lot later.
- When the Order first run into Miko:
- The songs Elan uses to try to lead people out of the hotel to safety are full of this.
- While Belkar is supposed to be locked in a cell in Azure City, Roy apparently took an appointment with Lord Shojo under "Order of the Stick and mysterious cloaked stranger who is totally NOT a halfling on stilts".
- Swallowed Whole:
- Haley, by the young Black Dragon. V Suggests that it vomit her up. "And aim for the halfling."
- Vaarsuvius, by an Owlbear Belkar pushes them in front of as a prank.
- Vaarsuvius again, at the climax of their duel with the Ancient Black Dragon. V simply Shapechanges into a dragon, killing the other dragon instantly.
- Swarm of Rats: The Mechane happens to have a sizable rat population, since when a vampire uses his "Children of the Night" power inside, it summons a swarm of rodents big enough to overwhelm the Order's animal companions.
- Take My Hand:
- Elan saves Nale this way shortly after he first reveals his true motives.Elan: OK, I'll help you up, if you promise to surrender.
Nale: Fine! Whatever! Just be careful, my hands are still slippery with your blood.
Elan: You're not making me feel better about this decision.
- Tarquin tries to get Elan to do this when he's dangling from the Mechane. Elan has learned his lessons about both this trope and Tarquin, though, and lets him slip and fall (at least in part because he realizes it will not kill him).
- Elan saves Nale this way shortly after he first reveals his true motives.
- Taken for Granite:
- In her first appearance, Celia is victim of a Flesh to Stone spell. She is later restored by a scroll of Break Enchantment.
- A greater devil is turned to stone by Vaarsuvius with a Prismatic Spray. He certainly makes a kickass tombstone.
- Haley is also the victim of Flesh to Stone with the surprise return of Zz'dtri.
- Take That!:
- Redcloak thinks very poorly of the Incarnum system, preferring fortune cookies and eight balls to a high-level Incarnum user.
- Tsukiko's attitude in "They Would Likely Both Disagree with That Sentiment" sounds awfully familiar...
- "C.P.P.D. Blues" is one strip against people who criticize Rich for choosing stick figure comics as his medium, thinking that he can't draw anything more realistic.
- "Larry Gardener and the Angry Half-Orc", toward Harry Potter.
- A subtle one in "Hey! You! Get off my Cloud!" when, in response to his father claiming that this wasn't Dragon Ball Z, Roy remarks, "Could have fooled me; that last battle took long enough..."
- "Well There Is That 'Saint' Prestige Class" mocks Fox News... which turns out to be an actual fox who only speaks in yips and yowls.
- "Just Think How Many Times He's Seen Himself Naked" has one against the people who blamed the August 2014 nude leaks on the celebrities, in the form of the title and this line:High Priest of Hel: And frankly, if you didn't want your private memories ransacked, you shouldn't have formed them in the first place!
- In "That's Jack's Fault", Thor complains that he "used to be a ginger until that damn superhero comic book came out".
- Take That, Audience!:
- "No-one Like a Tattletale" sets up and immediately subverts the WMG that Tsukiko would resurrect Miko as a Death Knight, confirming her as Killed Off for Real in the process.
- "A Vexation or Irritation" has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it dig towards the fanbase, regarding either Thog or Tarquin's persistent popularity in spite of their monstrous deeds:Tarquin: It's weird, no matter how many people he kills the audience still thinks he's lovable.
- "Up In The Air" seems to be a poke at the old fan argument over whether the Order's actions against the Young Black Dragon qualified as murder. One side argued that the Order was breaking and entering, meaning the dragon had a right to attack first and the Order's actions couldn't be justified as self-defence; the other side argued that the Order couldn't have reasonably known they were breaking into a monster's home. The strip depicts a gang of adventurers getting into the same argument with a paladin over some dead goblins.
- Take Your Time: Lampshaded to hell and back.Elan: Oh! That reminds me! I've been meaning to ask—
Bandanna: No, just 'cause you have an airship now does NOT mean that the main plot will stand still while y'all fly around and finish up all the sidequests you missed. Why does somebody always ask that?
- Taking the Bullet:
- Roy takes a couple arrows for Elan. Belkar lampshades that from a purely mechanical perspective, this is pointless, as the damage was nonlethal — he's just changed who needs to drink a healing potion. All he saved Elan from was the pain of the injury. This becomes a lot less cute when Roy later reflects that that healing potion could have potentially saved him from imminent death by falling.
- Later, a hobgoblin intercepts a catapult stone for Redcloak.
- A Tale Told by an Idiot: Thog (a Dumb Muscle orc fighter) explains the situation involving Elan's Evil Twin Nale to a police officer. Unfortunately, not only is Thog not very bright, he also doesn't know the other twin's name, so he has to refer to Nale and Not-Nale (along with lots of Fun with Homophones), leading to the cop being completely confused.
- The Talk: Subverted when (in a flashback) young Durkon goes to his Honorary Uncle to ask about something his mother refuses to talk about.Uncle Thirden: Is this about sex? Please let it be about anything other than sex.
Durkon: How did Ma get hurt? And how did me Pa die?
Uncle Thirden: So how about that sex, huh?
- Talking Is a Free Action:
- Lampshaded, and mentioned once by name. Arguably justified, in that, by the rules of the world, talking is a free action.note Haley: Relax, speaking is a free action.
- Averted in #186 where V's excessive talking uses up one of the two rounds before the dragon attacks.
- Similarly averted in On the Origin of PCs, when V's filibustering to the presenter in the middle of a wizards' Cooking Duel uses up most of his 60 minutes' time limit.
- Taken to ridiculous lengths yet again in "A Touch of Death". Nale, Sabine and Elan exchange several dozen words during the first few milliseconds of Malack's arm swing.
- Lampshaded, and mentioned once by name. Arguably justified, in that, by the rules of the world, talking is a free action.note
- Talk to the Fist:
- Tantrum Throwing: Sabine hurls a couch through a demonic television screen after watching Nale's death on said TV.
- Tastes Like Chicken: After Dark Vaarsuvius polymorphs into a dragon and tears apart the Black Dragon Mother from the inside out, one of the souls bound to them makes this remark.
- The Team: The series centers around a group of six adventurers and eventually two Team Pets. Some of the roles are distributed among several characters, notably by having two or three major damage-dealers and two people capable of outsmarting the leader.
- Teeth Flying:
- In strip #907, when Vampire Durkon hits Zz'dtri in the face with Malack's staff, a couple of teeth are flying.
- As recalled by Sigdi Thundershield, the first time her friend Hoskin proposed to her, she responded by punching him in the face. He's still missing a tooth to this day.
- Teleport Interdiction:
- The Cloister spell, invented by Dorukan and used by Xykon on Azure City. It doesn't prevent teleportation from spots within its limit, but block those coming from outside (with a specific loophole for Summoning magic). Vaarsuvius breaks through with an Epic Teleport spell granted by the Soul Splice.
- Redcloak has his private study completely protected from teleportation, in or out, as Tsukiko untimely discovers.
- Vaarsuvius has also used the Dimensional Anchor spell a few times to lock down a teleporting character. It's even a minor plot point in the strip "Pop Goes Pop", where the villains can escape an ambush only because V is not with the heroes to lock them down.
- In the dwarven council chamber in Firmament, past the orange barrier any planar travel coming from the outside is blocked. (Not initiated from the inside, though, which makes Plane Shift still an offensive option.)
- Teleport Spam:
- Qarr can do this as a natural power, and he points out to Blackwing that it's useless trying to outrun him.
- How Tarquin & co. catches up to the fleeing Order of the Stick, thanks to Laurin Shattersmith.
- Tempting Fate: Regularly. Too many examples to count. Often lampshaded as well.
- "Exit Strategy":Old Prisoner: HA! I knew I made the right call staying in prison. That Tsukiko chick is getting her ass kicked by an elemental! It's so much safer up here!
[cell crumbles; a slab of stone falls and crushes the old man to death]
Nale: Well, now, really, what did you expect after a line like that?
- "On Usefulness"Belkar: Hopefully, the— ah, crap! CRAP!
Haley: What? What is it?
Belkar: I just had the urge to say, "Hopefully the others have had an easier time than we have!"
Haley: Damn it! You know what that means, right?
Belkar: Yeah, that they're almost certainly in deep sh—
- The fourth panel of strip #611.Low-level rogue: I don't expect any trouble.
Partially obscured wall writings: in danger... with... Belkar...
- Inverted in On the Origins of PCs: Belkar breaks out of prison, murders a guard and exclaims, "Things can't get any better!" He promptly stumbles upon a 2-for-1 deal on whores.
- And now Yukyuk gets "his lucky day", with a hostile wizard floating right behind him.
- In strip #997, Roy says that nothing anyone can say will stop him from looking for Belkar. The Priestess of Odin promptly announces that the gods must vote on whether the world is to be destroyed or not. Roy shuts up.
- In strip #1016, Roy asserts that there is no way the dwarves council would vote to hand their people's souls to Hel. Cue Gontor materializing close by with a teleport orb and stating that he and the High Priest of Hel can now leave and dominate the dwarven elders to skew their votes.
- "Exit Strategy":
- Terrible Interviewees Montage:
- Inverted in On The Origin of PCs; there's a montage of wacky adventurers (including a couple visual Shout-Outs), but all of them turn down Roy's attempts to hire them.
- Discussed by Tarquin, claiming that if he kills Roy and Durkon, the others will just have one of these at the next inn they come across and end up hiring some guys called Rob Redblade and Murkon Lightninghammer.
- That Man Is Dead: Malack's reaction when given the offer to escape undeath by being destroyed and resurrected is that he's lived in his current form for centuries, far longer than he was truly alive, and that over that time he's developed into an entirely different person who barely even remembers his past life. That Man is quite literally dead. Vampires are actually different persons than their past selves.
- That's No Moon!:
- Minrah and Durkon, when reaching the afterlife, believe at first to be walking on some Fluffy Cloud Heaven with a dark sky, and spot a tower in the distance. Except said tower is actually the god Thor's leg, the fluffy ground is the fur of his boot, and the sky background is his cape. Yes, the Stickverse gods are huge compared to mortals.
- Theme Naming:
- Most named elves thus far have pseudo-Latin monickers ending in "-ius": Aarindarius, Inkyrius, Polozius, Vaarsuvius.... Veldrina is an exception, but her character didn't originate within the comic.
- Most named kobolds have a twin-syllable name: Yikyik, Yokyok, Kilkil, Yukyuk. The only known exception is among the gag names from the Gladiator Games: Notseenicus, who fought Offpanelio, off-panel and unseen.
- Durkon and his opposite numbers share a "Name ElementItem" naming pattern (Hilgya Firehelm, Leeky Windstaff), until Malack comes along that is. Although his real name hasn't been revealed yet, and could easily fit the theme too.
- Lord Shojo, his nephew Hinjo, and Shojo's late father Lord Ronjo (name given in War and XPs).
- The Empire of Blood is very big on hemo-themed names. For that matter, the three competing Empires of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: And they know the world works that way. Especially Elan. Tarquin takes it Up to Eleven and in the most horrifying way possible, being perfectly willing to die at his son's hands as long as it will cement his place in history. Even worse, he comes to the conclusion that if he kills Roy and Durkon, than Elan will have to become the "true" hero of the story.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Vaarsuvius disintegrates a black dragon in "Return of the Elf". Much later, the dragon's mother wants to avenge its death... but not by killing Vaarsuvius. And not just by eating V's family alive, either, but by then using a necromancy spell to bind their dead souls to itself. How does Vaarsuvius react? After agreeing to a "Soul Splice", Vaarsuvius not only defeats the dragon in combat, but re-animates the dragon's head just so it can watch V cast an epic necromancy spell that kills off each and every last one of the dragon's relatives — an estimated one-quarter of the world's entire black dragon population, before disintegrating the dragon's head off to finish it off for good.
- There Was a Door:
- "They Still Belong to Us" Lecture: Nale almost succeeds in convincing Elan that Haley has been evil all along, but then she overcomes her mental block against speaking and tells him the truth.
- Thicker Than Water:
- Elan has a huge blind spot for this trope, determined that his brother and father are redeemable when all the evidence is to the contrary. Nale clearly has no such qualms, and is determined to destroy his brother.
- Nale apparently expects his father to be as forgiving as Elan, but is proved wrong. Tarquin jumped through hoops to shield his Evil son from his own mistakes, but when Nale furiously demands that he wants no special treatment, Tarquin kills him.
- Thieves' Guild: They practically own Greysky City.
- Third-Person Person: thog talk like this. In fact, most orcs do; it's a function of a low Int score — and most orcs being barbarian types, it tends to be a dump stat. This is eventually lampshaded when one orc abandons a chase to attend grammar class, hoping to learn personal pronouns.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
- This Is Gonna Suck: Lee's reaction to a phone call from a Ms. Tiamat. Doesn't help that the phone is spewing forth elemental energy and she's apparently waiting on Lines 2, 3, 5, 8 and 11.
- This Is Not a Drill: Haley's Self-Loathing Alter Ego, calling all hands on deck.
- This Is Not My Life to Take: Belkar, of all people, does this here and here.
- Three... Two... One...: In "Unfinished Business", Roy counts down from three while the party rests, fully expecting a visit from the ghost of his dead father.Eugene Greenhilt: What, I'm that predictable now?
- Threshold Guardians: The Tests of the Body, Mind and Heart on the way to the Oracle in the Sunken Valley. The Order outsmarts the Test of the Body, solves the Test of the Mind with violence, and the Test of the Heart is literally testing your pulse and blood pressure to see if you'll have a heart attack after hearing the Oracle's prophecy or not.
- Throat Light:
- In the prequel book Start of Darkness, Redcloak has light pouring from his eyes, throat and holy symbol the very first time he puts on the Crimson Mantle.
- In strip, #1148, the Deva processing Durkon's resurrection has yellow light pouring from his eyes and throat. It's bright enough that Durkon and Minrah have to close their eyes when he briefly talks to them.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works:
- Combined with Shoot the Rope. Zig-zagged actually, because Roy chucks his broken sword at the nooses of his allies, severing V's, Elan's, and Haley's ropes but missing Belkar's... however, the sword instead kills the executioner, and he falls over dead, activating Belkar's gallows... but again, Belkar is too light for the gallows to work. Though if Roy hadn't shown up at that point, the rogues could have easily pincushioned him when they realized the noose wasn't made for halflings.
- Averted in "Withdrawn". Though the sword might have hit had the target not teleported at that exact moment.
- Thunderbolt Iron: Roy's reforged sword. But it's alloyed with it rather than made of the stuff.
- Time Abyss: The gods are stated to be older than the world, but that doesn't really show the scale of their lifespans. The gods have been trying to contain the Snarl for a long time. How long? Every time the Snarl escapes and destroys a world they have created, the gods erect a monument in a sealed-off demi-plane. They make gradual improvements. But the number of monuments still blots out the sky, and that doesn't count whatever is off-panel.
- Time for Plan B:
- Belkar has a tendency to comment on this trope; in one strip he says "Run like hell" has always struck him as plan A, and later he spends a series of strips announcing the letter of every new plan his teammates came up with.Belkar: Didn't we go through this already? We're on like plan Q.... And plan R starts to take form.
- When Roy, Durkon and Belkar are attacked by a whole squadron of troops from the Empire of Blood, and Durkon points out that he's out of spells until he can pray at dusk, Roy says "Let's call surviving until dusk, 'Plan A.'" He's clearly implying that there's no way they can as such, outnumbered as they are, and that it's more than time for a plan B.
- Belkar has a tendency to comment on this trope; in one strip he says "Run like hell" has always struck him as plan A, and later he spends a series of strips announcing the letter of every new plan his teammates came up with.
- Time Skip: When Roy is in heaven, he loses track of time, and as a result the narrative sticks with him for three months before we find out what the scattered party members have been doing in the meantime.
- Time Stands Still:
- The Time Stop spell.
- From the moment the IFCC steps on the island to offer Vaarsuvius a Deal with the Devil, time is stopped for the rest of the world, as they don't like to rush this kind of transaction.
- Time to Step Up, Commander:
- A panicked Haley is told to pull it together by Durkon after Roy is put out of action during the battle of Azure City, Durkon reminding her that she's Roy's second-in-command.
- She later delivers one herself to Thanh when she leaves the Azure City resistance.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Both Roy and Miko run into this one. Roy manages to navigate his way around it with some clever talking and genuinely Lawful Good intentions. Miko, on the other hand...
- Token Minority: Borderline, in that half the party isn't even human, but Roy's still the only black guy. In the party at least — there's still a fairly liberal spread of skin pigmentation in the rest of the world, Azure City notwithstanding.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Nale seems genuinely surprised when Tarquin kills him, but he had provoked his father quite sorely up to that point with absolutely nothing to back it up; after disappointing Tarquin yet again and irritating him by confusing Tarquin's attempts to play a long game with weakness, Nale spitefully brags about how he killed Malack, Tarquin's best friend, and furiously rebuffs all of Tarquin's attempts to smooth things out. When Nale exclaims he wants nothing from his father, Tarquin sighs, says he understands... and stabs Nale in the chest, killing him almost instantly.Tarquin: Really, Nale, you would have been dead years ago if it weren't for my protection.
- The gnomes of Tinkertown really should know better than to stand around gawking at a rampaging golem. Meanwhile, their security force tries to arrest the PCs fighting the golem, and inadvertently heal it with a Lightning Gun.
- At the Godsmoot, Gontor quickly learns that getting himself alone with a vampire cleric — whom he knows has a vested interest in making more vampire clerics — and then admitting both that he's out of powerful magic and doesn't receive the Godsmoot's protection is a terminally bad idea.
- Nale seems genuinely surprised when Tarquin kills him, but he had provoked his father quite sorely up to that point with absolutely nothing to back it up; after disappointing Tarquin yet again and irritating him by confusing Tarquin's attempts to play a long game with weakness, Nale spitefully brags about how he killed Malack, Tarquin's best friend, and furiously rebuffs all of Tarquin's attempts to smooth things out. When Nale exclaims he wants nothing from his father, Tarquin sighs, says he understands... and stabs Nale in the chest, killing him almost instantly.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- Elan, literally. Well, he took a level in Dashing Swordsman, which is Badass with puns and Flynning. If looked at from a mechanical perspective, it becomes even more badass as it makes him the most optimized character in the party (in contrast to a group that includes a fighter with high Intelligence, a wizard who bans the most useful schools of magic while focusing on the worst and a cleric who uses healing spells instead of shutting down encounters), allowing all his abilities to work off a single high attribute.
- Mr. Scruffy went from the pampered pet of a noble ruler to a ranger's animal companion, i.e. a walking cat-shaped weapon. He still longs for the times he was pampered, but is nonetheless entirely loyal to Belkar.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Or rather, too insipid a brain for a mind flayer to consider eating.
- Torture Is Ineffective: Redcloak and Xykon torture the captured Azure City paladin O'Chul for weeks to try and get information on Girard's Gate from him. O'Chul sincerely doesn't know squat, and despite the torture he retains the presence of mind to memorize Xykon's entire spell list, which he passes on to the Order of the Stick after he's freed.
- Total Party Kill: With the sole exception of Niu, the Azure City Resistance is completely wiped out by Redcloak.
- To the Pain: Elan has a rather... unconventional version of this, but it works anyway.Elan: But me, I have a different method of persuasion. Tell us what we need to know, OR—
Goblin teen: Do your worst!
Elan: —I'll cry. You heard me. I'll start bawling like a toddler who dropped their ice cream on the sidewalk. In front of your friends, your teachers, any girls you like. And I'll tell them it's because YOU won't be my friend.
Goblin teen: You wouldn't.
Elan: I think I'm misting up already.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Hobgoblins love gouda.
- The Monster in the Darkness loves stew.
- Training Montage: Subverted, parodied and invoked in "Eye of the Tiger, Baby".
- Translation: "Yes": The bonus art "Common Drow Hand Signs"◊ veers into this. A single gesture can mean "literally dripping in poison", and a female drow pointing at her chest is "If we live in a matriarchy, why do we always dress like this?" On the other hand, "soup" require several full-body moves.
- Teleportation Misfire: When the party gets teleported by a drunk wizard, they end up in a giant bird's nest instead of Azure City.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Julio's ship, The Mechane does this. He tells Roy he can get to the North in ten days, eight if the world's in danger, saying outright the ship flies faster if the stakes are higher.Julio Scoundrèl: ...I've been doing this more than 30 years and I've never arrived anywhere earlier than the nick of time.
- Treants: Durkon does not like trees, viewing them as Combat Tentacles-equipped Stone Wall Giant Mooks that just aren't moving yet. However, when he faces actual treants animated by a crazed druid that sent them on a rampage against civilization (and that had been made resistant to everything but Sonic damage) he figures out a way to deal with them.
- Treebuchet: Belkar sets one off on Durkon after the dwarf had already climbed a palm tree (to fight it, of course).
- Tricked Into Escaping: Miko Miyazaki thinks she's escaping from Xykon, but in fact, Xykon wants her to return to Azure City so that he can magically track her to the thing he's after.Xykon: So? Did she escape yet or what?
Redcloak: She's riding off into the proverbial sunset as we speak.
Xykon: Well it's about time! I was starting to think that I'd researched that "Xykon's Moderately-Escapable Forcecage" spell for nothing.
- Trigger Happy: Vaarsuvius is this by their own self-diagnosis, provided we can equate magic to gunplay. They get better.Vaarsuvius: I have been such a fool, and yet I have learned nothing! I still evoke first and make inquiries afterward!
- Trivially Obvious: Tarquin to Sabine.Tarquin: Sabine! It's been too long. You're looking lovely.
Sabine: That's a meaningless compliment to a shapechanger, Tarquin.
Tarquin: Yes, I know.
- Trojan Prisoner:
- The Trope Formerly Known as X: Among the suggested In-Series Nicknames for a vampire is "The Corpse Formerly Known as Durkon."
- Trope Overdosed: The comic has 8 different pages for just the standard tropes appearing in the strip. Plus 11 characters pages and a subpage just for the Shout-Outs
- True Companions: The Order, despite their issues and quarrels.
- Trust Password: Haley and her dad have one they use when contacting each other via Sending.
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Done by name in "Black and Blue".Miko: I am Miko Miyazaki, samurai of the Sapphire Guard, loyal vassal of Lord Shojo, daughter of Eyko, and paladin of the Twelve Gods of the South.
Monster in the Darkness: Neat! It must be hard to fit that on your business cards, though.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: The revelation of the secret behind the three empires of Blood, Sweat and Tears happens in two spots at the same time: on the celebration balcony between Elan and Tarquin, and in a Bloodstone prison cell between Ian, Geoff and Roy.
- Two Words: Added Emphasis: A few times.
- Early on, Xykon states:Xykon Well, I've got two words for goblin morale: Goblin zombies.
- Its regularity is lampshaded:Bozzok: I only have two words to say to you anyway — Sneak Att—
Haley: [kills Bozzok's flanker] Oh my gods. I've done that "two words" gag like 9 times already! You're going to need to get some fresher material if you want to be a villain in this story.
Bozzok: Damn it!
Haley: Ooo, I take it back! Those are a different two words.
- Early on, Xykon states:
- Tyrannosaurus rex:
- Well, Allosaurus. Tasked to entertain the arena crowd when the gladiators aren't enough.
- Also part of Tarquin's dinosaurs-riding strike force. Later, one is commandeered by Belkar, for once doing his job as a ranger.
- Umbrella Drink: Sabine enjoys one in "Linear Storytelling". And several more in "A Sympathetic Ear" while trying to get drunk.
- Underground Monkey:
- Belkar mentions an instance in which he randomly encountered Dire Camels in a Swamp of all places.
- The picture on the main page also has a Shout-Out to this trope.
- Undying Loyalty: Quite literally in the case of the Sapphire Guard, whose loyalty to their vows to the Order last past death, enabling them to come back as deadly ghosts.
- Unequal Rites: A minor but important part of the setting is that, much as many wizards look down on everyone else, they particularly look down on other arcane magic-using classes. Xykon mentions being regarded as a moron by other wizards for being a sorcerer, while in "This Never Happens to Jiminy Cricket", Vaarsuvius finally blows their stack for being referred to as a warlock. A post from the resultant forum query over why being called a warlock is an even worse insult to a wizard than being called a sorcerer is the page quote. In V's case, the implication that warlocks have probably made a Deal with the Devil likely hit particularly close to home, since they had done that very thing not too long ago.
- Uneven Hybrid: The Draketooths were descended from a black dragon and a human. Which meant that Vaarsuvius's familicide spell that killed off roughly a quarter of the black dragon species got them too.
- The Unfettered: Both Redcloak and Xykon are Unfettered, although completely different variants.
- Xykon simply doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything except himself.
- Redcloak, meanwhile, is utterly devoted to The Plan, to the point of murdering his own brother.
- Unlikely Hero: In "Friend of a Friend", the Monster in the Darkness asks Xykon which one is the more worthy opponent: the never-broken paladin that survived his capital city's demise and is one of the last remaining defenders of Soon's Gate, or the random guy with a generic revenge backstory? When put like that, Roy Greenhilt doesn't look much like a protagonist.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: By an Allosaurus, no less. Justified, in that it's the result of overbalancing after a leaping attack, but still very much played for awesomeness.
- Unreliable Expositor: The witnesses that explain what the Order of the Stick had been doing when they saw them to Miko Miyazaki always make them look villainous. One even confuses them with their evil counterpart the Linear Guild.
- Unreliable Voiceover: The story Hilgya tells of her "unhappy marriage" doesn't quite match the flashbacks that are shown simultaneously.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Lampshaded, then beaten remorselessly into the ground with a large blunt object in one of the "deleted scenes" in the Don't Split the Party collection. Elan decides that there is UST between Lien and Hinjo and sets out to play matchmaker. The results are not what he expected...
- The Un-Reveal:
- The Monster in the Darkness has yet to step out of the shadows to reveal what he is.
- A mask behind a mask in "Under the Helmet". Once again Tarquin displays his genre savvyness.
- There's one in the coloring book, of all things. Is Vaarsuvius a boy or a girl? Circle your answer. According to the answer in the back, that's very interesting, and probably says a lot about how you view gender roles.
- Unsound Effect: Among others: "Sunder!", "sneak sneak", "Deflect!", "AOO!" (Attack of Opportunity), "swinganamiss!", "Nuts!" and "snapoutta".
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee:
- Invoked (and defied) in "Best Laid Plans", with Elan's plan for dealing with Tarquin.
- Tarquin naturally knows of this rule too, as demonstrated in "It's a Boy".
- Malack explains to Durkon in detail his plan to inherit the three empires after Tarquin and the rest of his group have died of old age so he can sacrifice a thousand people a day to his god. A few dozen strips later, Malack is destroyed, so this will never happen.
- Elan invokes it again in regards to Haley's newly-purchased wands.Elan: If you don't say out loud what you got, then there's a better chance that they'll be exactly the spell you need later.
- Belkar spends most of a strip mentally planning how to defeat a Goliath, only for the fight to go very differently.
- Unusual Chapter Numbers: The two prequel books are numbered volume 0 and volume -1. The book about major NPC backstories and current events is volume 1/2, while the book full of non-canon stories is volume D.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- Belkar just loves these.Belkar: Hey, Sweet Thing, wanna hold my Rod of Lordly Might? If you push the right button, it might extend!
Belkar: Go ahead and start a solo adventure. I'll be in to join the quest when I'm done eating.
- Also Roy's "Treasure Type O".
- Xykon, with a modicum of ironic respect, acknowledges that O'Chul has +5 Holy Cojones.
- Most of strip #710.
- Tarquin gets accused of being a Slime Mold.
- "You were just playtesting the grapple rules with my brother's tongue!"
- Belkar just loves these.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
- Winged Girl Celia walking (and flying) around Azure City.
- When Elan and Tarquin are discussing Tarquin's governing methods and eventually swordfighting when Elan disagrees with his father's political philosophy, the Empress of Blood is sitting nearby on her throne. There's no indication that she notices or cares about any of it.
- Unwitting Pawn:
- Vaarsuvius, The Linear Guild, and Xykon all play prominent roles in the Fiends' ultimate plan. With the possible exception of Sabine, no-one is aware they're being used.
- On top of that, "Tidying Up" reveals that Redcloak has been manipulating Xykon from the beginning.
- Uriah Gambit: Cynically resorted to by General Tarquin.Amun-Zora: I am already married!!
Tarquin: Yes, you mentioned that. To a pikeman on the... south wall, was it? I assure you that your marital status is no longer an obstacle as of around midday today.
- Utopia Justifies the Means:
- When Elan calls Tarquin out for deceiving the people of the Western Continent, Tarquin reasons that his plan might someday bring an end to the wars that kill tens of thousands of people every year. Of course, since he planned to hand over power to Minister Malack, who would sacrifice hundreds of thousands a year, all that will end is the chaotic fighting, not the deaths.
- Redcloak is willing to do anything, including murder his own little brother, or let the world be destroyed so The Dark One could help rebuild it to carry out The Plan and create a goblin utopia.