The comic follows the events in a roleplaying chatroom, which often deviate from the intended roleplaying, and parodies some personality types one's likely to find online, from the uptight moderator to the annoying and oblivious newbie. Later on, the characters move to a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, which slightly changes the previous character dynamics - for example, some actions can no longer simply be ignored as they were in the text-based chatroom.
The comic seems to have been set into an infinite hiatus on Monday, May 5, 2008 and has been discontinued since.
This webcomic provides examples of:
- Art Shift: Eventually the author stopped using variations on the standard avatar images, and started drawing new strips completely from scratch.
- Cut Short: It seemed to have ended a few times, one of the latest times to remake itself to change the setting. It has now not since been updated since 2008, in the midst of a storyline dealing with multiple character interactions, including Duke and his father.
- Did They or Didn't They?: Though of course by the very nature of the premise nothing did happen, but just what exactly went on between Nimoy and Sweet_grrrl in the private chatroom is a mystery.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?? There's plenty in the chatroom stuff, and then of course there's Barbivine railing against the Mods:Hah! The mods? The mods have abandoned us! Where were the mods when the demon burned down the forest? Where were the mods when the Dorum brothers sacked their own city? The mods don't care. Do the mods ever even answer when you call them?
- Strawman Political:
- Megan can come across as a Straw Liberal at times. Her friend King Herman is also liberal, but more down-to-earth.
- Woot uses one to confuse people by claiming he's the victim of Republican propaganda.
- The Roleplayer: Lord Elf in a nutshell. He routinely criticizes the others for not being elves or properly roleplaying their characters, tries to enforce roleplaying (with threats of banning) and routinely sets up odd scenarios, usually for the purpose of cybering with M'Lady. After the genre change, he ignores most of the game in favor of roleplaying as an innkeeper, and, when killed, refuses to talk to people until properly rezzed. He also calls Lilith out (and congratulates her) on the same thing after she deliberately switches to a badly battered avatar after taking a beating (since hitpoint damage by default doesn't affect your appearance).
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Twice. slave (lack of capitalization intentional), one of the annoying vampire fanboys, gets to think he beat Lord of Dorkness by dressing up like Tuxedo Mask and throwing a rose at him. Later, Lord Elf actually ends up marginally useful during the "Necromrun.icon" arc.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Throughout the entire series it is made very clear that Duke and Megan have a thing for each other, though nothing ever comes of it.
- Word of God: According to some back-and-forth on the author's Livejournal account:Fan: Before the rude and the ungrateful chime in, may I simply pass on the desires of a longtime fan? An ending. Just let us know where they went from there. NONE of the characters were happy, and most of them deserved to be. Yeah.. they aren't real people, but they made me, and many others, happy for a while. Could you do your fans a favor and lay them to ease, if not rest?Sortelli: Well... April and Percey never get together. Duke and Megan do, but only after a lot of nonsense and Gothgrrl getting in the middle. Duke and his dad come to an understanding. Woot and Barbi have nasty sex. That's about as far as things got in my head.
Tropes before the Genre Shift:
- Animesque: When the chatroom gets the sponsoring of foreign company, the avatars all change to this style, with the exception of Goku666 and Hambonetaru-Chan (who already fit).
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: One comic references the shrink in strip size, along with the Cut and Paste Comic style.
- Demoted to Extra: By the time the comic stopped being cut and paste, Lord Elf had all but vanished from his own chat board for the longest time.
- Fantastic Racism: Although the titular inn is meant to be only for elves, this is the most often broken rule - human characters often drop by, although the Vulcan Nimoy goes around unidentified for quite some time.
- Hell, of all the characters in the entire comic, there are only three-and-a-half elves, one of them being an elf (half).
- Gratuitous Japanese: For humor in a few strips. Parodied here, when Duke thinks that Japanese for "no" is "bye."
- Hypocritical Humor: Lord Elf has a long list of reasons to ban people, but frequently breaks them himself (no out-of-character chat, for instance).
- Insult Backfire: When Lilith is dating Duke to make Megan angry (and also happens to be wearing an exact copy of Megan's outfit), Lilith smugly tells Duke that Megan is just jealous Lilith happens to fill out her outfit better than she does. It backfires when Megan retorts that when a girl brags about her chest online, it means she's really fat in real life, which judging by the look of shock and embarrassment on Lilith's face, may be close to the truth in this case.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: When Milady has babies with everyone, none of the babies look like their putative fathers.
- Official Couple: The closest thing to a official couple the comic ever had was Megan and Woot. Though once he visited her offline and saw she wasn't exactly a nubile elven damsel, they broke up.
- Note that Woot says this in response to Megan being the first to shout "He is nothing like his character!" They do continue to meet offline several times after that, it's implied their personalities meant they made decent friends but clashed when trying to be romantic.
- Otaku: Lord Wootsayediditagyn goes beyond fanboy to this with his creepy obsession with Britney Spears.
- Our Elves Are Different: Aside from Lord Elf and Megan Ayrwyn, Lady is a star elf (half). Then there's Geoph, who's a dark elf (though everyone treats him like he's Black).
- Our Vampires Are Different: Lady is a ~vampyre~ (half). There's also the Vampire Chat.
- And this. It's possible to take vampire "immunities" too far...
- Straw Hypocrite: Lord Elf's stint as Reverend Strawman who eventually tries to ban God — actually the SysOp — from the chat. Megan sometimes come off as this, as well.
- Super-Deformed: Hambonetaru-Chan bought the chat room when they were running out of funds to run it. As a new rule, everyone got new Super-Deformed avatars, except Goku, who was already anime, and Megan, who rebelled against it.
- Lord of Dorkness was ruining the fun of the Elf Only Inn room, with permission from Lord Elf. Duke and Nimoy went to Demon Citadel to try to recruit a demon to fight Lord of Dorkness. When they were laughed at, they decided to ruin the dark mood by being silly for as long as it took to get someone. One of their stunts was Duke bringing back his Super-Deformed avatar.
- Take That!: There's jabs at a number of things.
- One could argue that the primary Take That! jab is the existence of the webcomic itself (pre-genre shift, at least), mocking roleplaying chatrooms at large. In particular, the comic takes a shot at Illusionary Minds Chat, a chat site dedicated to roleplaying. Sortelli used to host a room on this site and various issues with the site's management led him to create a website called "We hate IMC," (now defunct and 404) summing up his issues with the site's administrators. Many of the early gags used in Elf Only Inn first made their appearance on this website.
- The above-mentioned Reverend Strawman was a pretty blatant Take That at Preacher, being a holy man who claims to be in search of God to "grab him by the balls" and demand to know why he hasn't fixed the world and made everything perfect. God shows up and points out that fixing mortal problems is supposed to be the Reverend's job.
- The Faceless: Sys Op and users with no clearly defined avatar appear as blocky, featureless dummies. The various NPCs Lord of Dorkness victimize does as well, although they only exist in his imagination since everyone real ignores him.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Nimoy tells Geoff he's very well spoken for a dark elf. Geoff does not approve, less for the insult and more for getting fed up with the whole race issue.
Tropes after the Genre Shift:
- Cerebus Syndrome: The comic's got longer plot arcs, which tend to be much more serious, than it had when it was set in the Elf Only Inn. Goku 666 and Lady are still idiots, though.
- Diplomatic Impunity: Paladins in Marauders of Gaia get the ability to turn combat on and off at will as "diplomatic immunity mode." It's supposed to be used for negotiation, but instead it made paladins into the ultimate griefer class.
- Gambit Pileup: Barbivine's plan causes her opponents to start counterplanning, a couple of demons left over from the Beta Days get involved, and a GM is brought in to clean everything up.
- The Load: Lord Elf is about as useless as ever—even more so now that he has no mod powers. He's only level 2, because he never does anything beyond sitting around in his inn, roleplaying being an innkeeper.
- Out-of-Character Alert: April is the first to figure out that Barbivine isn't Woot because Barbivine thinks she has a crush on Megan. Woot had previously met Megan and April offline and would know better.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: GM_Percey arranges a fake account termination in the wake of Barbivine's plan going off the rails. He admits that it's corrupt and an abuse of his authority, but by the rules, the only ones who wouldn't get banned for it would be the demons, who were trying.