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Webcomic / Erfworld

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Front: creator Rob Balder, artists Jamie Noguchi on the left and Xin Ye on the right. Right: King Slately at the top, pushing down Vinny over princes Ansom, Tramennis, and Ossomer. Center: Parson Gotti, a gobwin, Stanley The Tool, and Bogroll. Left: Maggie and Sizemore behind Wanda, Jillian, and Jack Snipe. Back: a blue dwagon and Hamstard.

One world's game rules can be another world's physics.
One world's "cuddly" can be another world's "deadly".
And one world's misfit, misshapen loser can be another world's perfect warlord.
At least... he'd better be.
The enemy's on their way.
Book 1, The Battle for Gobwin Knob (back cover)

Erfworld is a Webcomic written by Rob Balder (of Partially Clips, and The FuMP), with the first book The Battle for Gobwin Knob illustrated by Jamie Noguchi (of Angry Zen Master and Yellow Peril), and the second book, Love is a Battlefield, illustrated by Xin Ye. The incomplete third book, Hamsterdance vs. the Charlie Foxtrot, was being illustrated by David Hahn until Xin Ye returned with Lauri Ahonen doing inking and colors. There were also various short stories and novels posted as filler and crowdfunding rewards between pages of the comic.

As of October 12, 2019, the comic has been cancelled due to a series of tragedies in the author's life over the last year and a half of its run. Archives are still available online. One of these archives is available here

A fanatical, obsessed gamer geek named Parson Gottinote  gets magically summoned to another world to be the "Perfect Warlord" for a city that's losing a war, in a world that seems to be one giant Turn-Based Strategy wargame. (For instance, nobody can move beyond the immediate vicinity when it's not their side's turn.) Plays with many different strategy game tropes. Includes cutesy, Super-Deformed art and dark characterization, landing DEEP in the territory of Grotesque Cute. Many features of Erfworld are references to real-world popular culture and Internet memes.

Before Erfworld had its own site, it was hosted on the Giant in the Playground website, but it is otherwise unassociated with Rich Burlew (of The Order of the Stick).

Now has a Referenced page.

Provides examples of:

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     Tropes # to I 
  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The Arkentools are very obvious CG images, making them stand apart from the rest of the art. This highlights their otherworldly nature.
    • Much later, aspects of the awakened Towers/Temples use this effect too
  • Ability Mixing: Thinkamancers can form a Mental Fusion called a Caster Link with other Casters. While linking users of the same magical discipline lets them take that discipline's powers up to eleven, joining different disciplines lets them create entirely new effects, like synthesizing Necromancy and Dishing Out Dirt to reawaken an extinct volcano.
  • Above the Influence: Parson is informed that, as a warlord, he can order the Archons or any other unit under his command to do any perverted thing he wants. And more, thanks to Deliberate Values Dissonance, this not only wouldn't be seen as wrong but is actually expected of a commander. He also realizes that there's no way he could bring himself to do something like that.
  • Abstract Scale: The nature of Date-a-mancy, which attempts to quantify intangible things such as leadership, loyalty, and even love.
  • Adventures in Comaland:
    • Parson Gotti considers the idea that his trip to Erfworld is just a coma-induced hallucination. There's evidence both for and against this theory.
    • In the "Inner Peace Through Superior Firepower" prequel series, an enemy sets her garden of magical drugs on fire, flooding the hex with toxic gasses that induce a Mushroom Samba. Jillian must try to hunt down the fleeing enemy while in a drugged dream.
  • Age Without Youth: Erfworlders do not die directly of old age. However, when a unit's talents are inevitably wasted, or if they betray their side, it puts a strain on them, which manifests as old age or other detrimental Signamancy. When a regular unit becomes too weak, they are ultimately disbanded by their ruler. When a ruler becomes too weak, they grow weak minded and leave their side open to conquest. It's believed that no Erfworlder alive is more than 100,000 turns old, or 273 years. Most likely not even that.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: One of Parson's favorite tactics is "attack during negotiations". In the more diplomacy-based Book 3 his reputation for it bites his side in the ass hard.
  • All Deaths Final: Scripture, a series of writings created by the Titans themselves, claims this to be the case, stating that coming back from Erfworld's afterlife is impossible. Yet in a contradiction noted by Don King, it also forbids Erfworlders from coming back.
  • The Alliance: Ansom's forces.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: A recurring theme.
    • Jack was in love with Jillian, and part of the reason he refuses to leave Gobwin Knob for Faq is that he has no desire to be a Romantic Runner-Up.
    • Wanda is also in love with Jillian, who loves her back but ultimately chooses Ansom over her.
    • Jillian herself runs afoul of Ansom's decryption changing him to the point he no longer romantically desires her. In conversation with Jack on the matter, Ansom reveals he finds Jillian rejecting him to be less troubling than the news of Ossomer's turning.
    • Maggie comes to fall desperately in love with Parson, who acknowledges the situation sucks and that he'd like to love her back, but he doesn't.
  • All-Natural Gem Polish: Mined gems, which also glow and are diamond shaped.
  • All There in the Manual: In the time between book 1 and book 2, several text-only "updates" detailing the aftermath of the Battle For Gobwin Knob were released. They were so popular that the second book was changed to a webcomic/text hybrid format. Whether they are necessary or not to actually understanding the story is a matter of debate, but the authors are doing their best so that technically you can ignore the text updates and still know what's going on. The other reason they gave for Book 2's text updates is that drawing comic pages takes a lot longer than writing text, so they'll be able to update more frequently this way.
    • As of Book 4, the text updates are not only critical to understanding the story, they are so numerous that the work has arguably shifted from webcomic to illustrated novel.
  • All Trolls Are Different: See Retcon, below.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It’s left deliberately unclear whether the Loyalty stat is any different from the real life sense of loyalty. Unlike most Erfworld stats it isn’t quantified and can change during a unit’s life depending on events and it’s specifically mentioned that a Ruler making unpopular choices will hurt the Loyalty of a side’s units, just like how real life loyalty can shift depending on circumstances.
    • As Decryption is a never before seen power, much of the finer points of how it functions are left up in the air. Whether Decrypteds count as people or are just incredibly advanced uncroaked units is debated in-universe, and one of the big concerns Gobwin Knob has is the possibility that Wanda croaking will disband all Decrypted.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Parson is constantly learning the laws of physics in Erfworld and more than once has to clarify whether someone says he can’t do something because he physically can’t or that he shouldn’t.
  • An Aesop: In many of the stories, "outsiders" of a group should generally be brought in to provide a new perspective. Basically, uniqueness can help destroy common knowledge and improve tactics, strategy, etc.
    • Parson was summoned to Erfworld partially to help destroy the status quo and remove Creative Sterility. His ideas and perspective often lead to unusual discoveries that natives of Erfworld either never think of or dismiss as being impractical or underhanded. These are often described as loopholes.
      • Trannsylvito's Moneymancer turns this around on Parson by toying with his Mathamancy bracer in ways he never thought to, showing that even someone summoned to think outside the box can be held back by their own thought processes.
    • Many units find these loopholes or exploit or manipulate resources in a way that others didn't think of. In the story of Digdoug, King Posbrake found new uses for dirtamancy that Digdoug's home kingdom of Follywood did not think of. Posbrake traded his heir (an unusual move) for a dirtamancer in order to have trapped and upgraded cities without having to spend Shmuckers on actual improvements, thus allowing them to build up an army instead. This is similar to how Parson utilizes Sizemore's ability to make traps in book 1, but uses his ability for a much wider strategic goal. This novel idea allows Homekey to build horizontally instead of vertically.
    • In the story of Duke Forecastle, non-seafaring warlords are used by Anchorbar, Seaworld's major naval rival, as first mates or second officers on their ships. The implication is that the "land lubbers" provide a unique perspective on naval combat that dyed-in-the-wool sailors don't and can't have, thus making their units more effective despite minor penalties to movement and attack. Notably, Seaworld hates and refuses to accept the actual moral of the story, rewriting Duke Forecastle as a Dirty Coward and changing the Aesop into "Fate protects a fool".
  • And I Must Scream: Jillian when her mind is invaded by Charlie.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: After four books focusing on Parson and co, Book 5's prologue abruptly switches to some new characters- Byrne, Fumo, Paige and Noah- in new sides.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Doombats for Transylvito, which can also be used for diversions, and with the right bonuses even more than that.
  • Angels Pose: Charlie's Archons, which are a direct Shout-Out to the Trope Namer.
  • Animate Dead:
    • Uncroaking a corpse creates a zombie controlled by the caster.
    • In book 2, Wanda gets an upgraded version of this (called Decrypting), which appears to actually bring the unit Back from the Dead, but loyal to her rather than to the unit's original side. When they get killed again, they turn to dust.
  • Apocalyptic Log: A rule of Erfworld. Whenever a side ends, a book is "automagically" written and published telling the story of its downfall. It is only raw stats and ruler actions such as disbanding units though, leaving drawing conclusions an exercise for the reader.
  • Arch-Enemy: Charlie and Parson. As far as Charlie's concerned, Parson is the most dangerous being in all of Erfworld. When he realizes that Parson has been made Chief Warlord again, he immediately realizes the situation has become dire. He even starts providing extra support and advice to Stanley's enemies at cost, or even gratis. He is that worried about Parson. The feeling is mutual; Parson seems to believe that Charlie is his most cunning opponent. According to Wanda, Charlie is this to the Thinkamancers, possibly even the entire Magic Kingdom.
  • Arc Words: "It's the little things which make a difference sometimes."
  • Armor-Piercing Response: In Book Four, Caesar tells Jack to shut up, leading Parson to tell Caesar not to talk to his people like that, since Parson doesn't do the same to Caesar's people. Caesar makes a light-hearted quip about how his side doesn't have anyone annoying as Jack, to which Parson flatly replies, "And I don't have any rapists," which floors Caesar and Benjamin.
  • Art Evolution:
    • The longer Parson stays in Erfworld, the more realistic-looking the natives seem - though still super-deformed, of course. There's at least one Epileptic Tree to be had there...
    • In a similar vein, Parson eventually loses his pupils, despite clearly showing them during his summoning. This implies the changes aren't a one-way street.
    • Rather more notably, either Parson is shrinking or the entire world is growing. When he first arrived, most of the "human" Erfworlders barely came up to his stomach (Stanley didn't even reach his waist); now he stands barely a head above some of the taller ones (such as Ace).
    • The in-story explanation is that this is the normal effect of a branch of magic called Signamancy.
    • Out-of-universe, several different artists have drawn the comic over the years and the style has shifted considerably.
  • Artifact Title:
    • The City and Faction of Gobwin Knob, as both the Gobwins and Hobgobwins no longer work for Stanley due to Charlie's interference. As of late Book 3 the side no longer controls the city.
    • Jetstone's capital is Spacerock, the previous capital of a side of the same name that they conquered long before. After book 2 they're back to Jetstone city and Spacerock is Gobwin Knob's capital.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Parson.
  • Aside Glance: Jojo. Canonically he's just looking over his shoulder at Parson, but knowing this comic...
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership:
    • The general hierarchy among units is the higher level unit has authority over lower level units. Parson being the Chief Warlord yet one of his side’s lowest level warlords is noted to be highly unconventional.
    • Stanley is a minor Deconstruction: He earned his spot as Overlord due to his fighting prowess, and he is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) units on his side, (maybe strongest in the world given attunement). Unfortunately, it's also a Keystone Army, and if he croaks, so does his entire side. He's also a bit dim as an actual leader.
    • The world is learning from Parson that the leadership stat isn't really a good gauge of tactical ability as had always been assumed. Parson is Level 2 and is noted to have only led one major battle, leaving people not familiar with him confused as to why the people that HAVE seen him in action consider him to be so important.
    • The advent of modern guns changes the equation further. Skyy Appletini, Transvylto's newest warlord who is only a few turns old, croaks enough enemy units in a single turn to rocket up in levels, meaning she's suddenly the highest authority in the city despite having absolutely no experience.
  • Association Fallacy: After Ansom and Wanda start spreading the Toolism gospel, everyone who knows about Charlie having the Arkendish assume this means he's Toolist as well, even people who know about Charlie take it as writ when Charlie's only cause is himself.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: One of the rules of Erfworld. Signamancy is a branch of magic that causes units to appear in a way that reflects what they are and their personality. As a unit's personality changes, their appearance will change with them.
    • Though this seems to have been broken with Olive Branch who remains youthful and gorgeous after in-universe centuries of betrayal, murder, insanity and outright sociopathy. Presumably a powerful Signamancer would be able to read the Signs in her appearance, and knowing the comic they would be a reference to a Femme Fatale in our culture, but none of the viewpoint characters have that perspective.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Nobles and royals have higher stats and level faster than others.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The Magic Kingdom is a place for barbarian casters and has a stance of neutrality towards all of Erfworld's wars. Since they wouldn't let Parson in, Parson decides that he has no problem with breaking their rules, and antagonizes them by breaching their neutrality and smuggling in an army of decrypted. After the fighting between Gobwin Knob and Charlescomm croaks several free casters in the crossfire, and Jojo successfully pins all the blame on Gobwin Knob, all of the free casters go to war with Gobwin Knob. The result is a Curb-Stomp Battle that rapidly obliterates Gobwin Knob's forces.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Parson.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: Casters can join into a "Caster Link", a type of Mental Fusion initiated by a Thinkamancer. If two casters participate in addition to the Thinkamancer then the resulting gestalt can create whole new spells or effects no single caster could even attempt. After such fusions the individuals retain only vague memories of how they did it, but usually gain greater insight into their own discipline from seeing game mechanics that are normally hidden from them. This seems to be another example of An Aesop (above) of the benefits of bringing in outside thinking.
  • Back from the Dead: The attuned Arkenpliers can apparently resurrect ("decrypt") dead units, when before, all anyone could do was reanimate ("uncroak") them as undead units. The implications of this power are mind-boggling. The first unit raised this way was Ansom.
  • Badass Boast: As you'd expect in a war story, there are a few of these.
    Parson: I am not here to fight. These troops and warlords are my personal guard. Just... relax. Okay? I'm not gonna try and take over the Magic Kingdom or anything. But if anybody takes a shot at me, or gets in my way again, then you can expect to join my personal guard.
  • Badass Fingersnap: A variation. A ruler can disband any unit at will, which is yet another reason treachery is almost impossible. But the act requires them to physically clap their hands together.
  • Bad Boss: In one of his Klogs, Parson explicitly says that Stanley reminds him of the most terrible boss he ever had back on earth. He's steadily improving as the story progresses, though, to the stage where he's capable of actually being quite reasonable, even pleasant.
  • Ban on A.I.: Creating standard golems, which are only capable of doing what was already programmed into them is fine, but the Great Minds consider creating a learning golem to be strictly heretical. They execute any Thinkamancer that contributes towards making one.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: When Maggie and Wanda form a caster link to use a special type of Thinkagram, their appearance in the mental space shows them unclothed, but they completely lack certain features.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: It is rarely ever seen, since it is considered to be a foul corruption of Thinkamancy, but psychic combat takes place in Thinkspace, a World of Symbolism where aspects of the combatants' minds are manifested into symbolic form.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Stanley gets everything he wants to the letter when summoning Parson with unexpected results. It works out, though:
      Stanley: I want someone who eats marbits [a creature] for breakfast!
      Parson: Yeah. Marbits... Marshmallow bits. They come in some breakfast cereals.
    • Parson himself has expressed this attitude, given that he has found leading an army according to wargame rules (as he wished for just before being summoned) is a lot more harrowing than expected. Subverted in Parson's case, though, as evidenced in this conversation with Wanda:
      Parson: This isn't what I wished for.
      Wanda: Hah! You didn't wish for this world, Parson Gotti. It wished for you.
    • Sizemore initially wanted to serve under a ruler who viewed him as having more uses than just making crap golems. Unfortunately for him, he got Parson, who views him as very useful- when it comes to killing enemy units.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Bea, Queen of Unaroyal, chooses to commit suicide by going through the portal to the Magic Kingdom, thus ending her side and disbanding all her units, rather than fight a futile battle against Gobwin Knob and be Decrypted.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Charlie. He is calm, polite, and consummately professional. But as Prince Sammy found out in Book 2, Charlie takes exactly no shit from anyone.
    • In addition, possibly the two most beneficent classes of mage are the Florists (make units unable to fight each other) and the Healomancers (Exactly What It Says on the Tin). Then we meet Olive Branch and Sister Betsy, a Florist and Healomancer respectively, and both masters of Mind Rape.
  • Beware the Silly Ones:
    • Part of what makes Parson so dangerous is that he finds ways to enforce this, weaponizing things no one else would think of.
    • The Juggle Elves are a horde of elves who spend most of their time partying and freeloading, and are generally seen as a nuisance by everyone, what with the rampant foraging required to sustain them all. But since they adopt strays from every Elf tribe that means they have units with ALL the Elf specials. They also know how to block Shockamancy attacks.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Justified Trope. Thinkamancers can link up to three casters (including themselves) into a sort of uber-caster that can do things flat-out impossible for normal casters. The Summon Perfect Warlord spell that brought Parson to Erfworld, for instance, is one of these 'supposedly impossible spells' but was accomplished in this manner. Then it turns out that there is a secret cabal of Thinkamancers who are able to form even larger links, allowing them to do things that violate even the rules on three-person links.
  • Big Bad: Stanley isn't bad, per se, he's just extremely immature and slightly stupid - basically a Jerk Jock who happens to run an empire. (A wee little Jerk Jock at that - but don't mention that to him!) Similarly, the leaders of the Royal Crown Coalition, the faction Stanley's empire is fighting against, don't seem to qualify, either, because they embody too many Hero Tropes. The real Big Bad of the setting is Charlie, who seems to be controlling everything from behind the scenes, sowing conflict so his mercenaries will always be in demand, presently devoting all his resources to killing Parson personally, and shows signs of being motivated by Immortality Immorality.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Units are created in cities, by cities. People still have sex, but it's purely a recreational activity and the social structures around it are very different. New heirs and potential heirs tend to have signamancy that clearly shows their relationship to their "parent" ruler and any "siblings". When Faq pops a new heir he clearly resembles the man his ruler was sleeping with at the time; there's in-universe religious debate on whether this counts as fatherhood.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Right as Jillian is about to be stabbed by Manpower, Ansom swoops in and crushes Manpower's head with the Arkenpliers.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The villains in the prequel text (Olive Branch and Charlie) are more clearly evil than any of the sides in the Royals vs. Stanley conflict.
  • Black Box: Most of Erfworld's mechanics are treated this way. Everything is "simplified", happening automatically via natural magic. The actual mechanisms on which the world goes round are behind the scenes and visible only to casters. Even they only have their own narrow insights afforded to them by their disciplines. And despite this, most of them do not bother experimenting with the hows and whys of how Erfworld's laws work and merely hold discussions. This is why Erfworld lies in a form of Medieval Stasis. Changing that is why Parson was summoned into Erfworld. The Thinkamancers, led in part by a man named Isaac (an obvious reference to Isaac Newton), has set up many devices whose main purpose is to observe how the world works. It is unknown how much they have actually discovered.
  • Black Comedy: When leading an attack against a Haffaton outpost in the prequel, Wanda briefly wonders if she can control the uncroaked well enough to make them sing or dance, leading to a prompt Shout-Out to Young Frankenstein with her and her own rotting brother mimicking the scene of Freddy and the Monster singing "Putting on the Ritz." Also a Call-Forward to her leading a Thriller-themed dance fight in Book 1.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Poor, poor Manpower.
  • Blood Knight:
    • What Stanley expected Parson to be. And he comes very close to this in Book 1.
      Stanley: I want him to be obsessed with war. Somebody who plans wars and kills his foes for fun.
    • At one point during the summer updates, he also ruminates on having been in Erfworld for about a week and spending that time automatically considering the military applications of everything.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • Erfworlders have blood, but they do not bleed. At all. Even after taking blows that expose several ribs, tear off multiple limbs, jaws, or even the entire head; and even after a good dozen elves are ripped limb from limb, and a couple marbits are eaten alive, not a drop of blood is to be seen. At most, you'll see some red decals, but someone impaled multiple times by spears going through them won't have a drop of blood. Any blood that leaves a body will vanish upon contact with air.
    • Erfworld vampires feed on blood. But if they take a pause, any blood in their mouth will vanish quickly.
    • There is a reference (in the first block of text updates) to it "raining something other than water" as the Transylvitans let their swarm of bats out to feed on the local small animals one night. It sounds like it's meant to be blood, but it's most likely guano: While blood does exist in Erfworld, it depops when it exits the body. Most people don't seem to even know what it is.
    • Parson himself, being a native resident of a world like ours, of course, does bleed. When he takes some minor damage in the Magic Kingdom he comments on it and Marie, similarly injured but with no blood, calls it gross.
    • Weirdly enough, a blinded decrypted purple dwagon shows a stream of what looks an awful lot like blood streaming out of one of its eye sockets, though that could just be the remains of its torn eye.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Apparently it is perfectly fine to order a unit to bed you despite the fact that they have no way to resist. Given that units can turn based on a hidden loyalty stat, this has probably led to a few assassinations, however... In fact, even Loyal units can actively do something bad to someone on their side if they believe it will help their side. If they happen to believe that mind-controlling, poisoning, or killing their leader or a warlord will help their side, they can do it.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Jetstone's combat philosophy; lots of stacks of basic infantry with warlord boosts and a few specialist units mixed in. Transylvito's bats are also this trope; they're very weak and cheap units mostly used for scouting, but when stacked directly with vampire warlords they get so many bonuses that they're like light infantry. With the chief warlord, they're like heavies or knights.
  • Born Lucky:
    • Ansom got dramatically lucky at several points before he was defeated.
    • Stanley was also one of these in the backstory. His invasion of Faq, which was actually an attempt by Wanda to get him killed and claim the Arkenhammer, would have failed if he hadn't discovered dozens of wild dwagons to tame nearby. He takes it as a sign of divine providence. He may be right: Parson suspects that Erfworld cheats in order to force people to think outside the box in order to win.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Book 3 - Page 297:
    Vanna was really pretty, nice, and really pretty nice.
  • Brick Joke:
  • Broken Bird: Wanda as seen in her Start of Darkness "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)."
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Dragons? Trolls? Earth? That's just ridiculous!
  • Call-Back: In the Epilogue of Book 2, Jack tells Parson about the fall of Haffaton, which happened in book 0.
    Jack: It was a strange day; I spent much of it as a bird.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Book 0 was written somewhere between chapters 2 and 3 of book 2, but is set long before the story began. So there are a few of these here and there.
    • Wanda stylizes her clothes with a skull and flower emblem, like what her decrypted units wear in the present.
    • Jillian and Wanda's first encounter involves Wanda torturing Jillian, demanding to be called "Mistress". This is almost exactly how their first shown interaction went in book 1, except here Wanda is actually torturing her. Right down to the "Prisoner is alert?" opening query.
  • The Call Has Bad Reception: Parson wasn't exactly what Lord Stanley was expecting as a "perfect warlord".
  • Calvinball: Lady Dove in uses a card game like this to demonstrate the rudiments of Carnymancy. The basic rules are simple, but after the cards are dealt, everyone gets to make a new rule. The twist is that no player can use a rule he made himself to win a trick.
  • Cap: There is no theoretical limit to Character Levels, but you are unlikely to see anyone get beyond 12. There is a limit on city levels, which cap out at 5.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Explicitly averted. Parson assumes Stanley is one, but Stanley is not at all amused by the suggestion that he's the bad guy.
  • The Cassandra: Delphie Temple of Goodminton. Though her advice was always correct, she did a very bad job of convincing those that needed to heed it. While Wanda eventually realized that You Can't Fight Fate, it happened too late for the survival of her side. And Delphie's final prophecy was completely disregarded by Jillian, who holds such things in contempt, sealing the eventual end of FAQ.
  • Celibate Hero: Parson, which Maggie apparently takes plenty of fun in ribbing him on. In this case, Parson is celibate because Erfworld is so alien to him, and as a warlord, nearly every female unit on his side would obey his orders without hesitation, even in the bedroom, which creeps him out considerably.
  • The Chains of Commanding
  • Character Blog: The Klogs, the news portion of the "Hamstard" page.
  • Character Development: A lot, actually, but in the physical sense, Parson seems to have dropped quite a few pounds lately.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • In the last panel of this strip (spoiler warning) you see a wall of arrows hanging in mid-air. It is later revealed that this is what happens when you fire out of a hex off turn.
    • One of the problems with book 1 is an aversion of this trope: The author didn't make it very clear that any non-caster who tries to enter the Magic Kingdom is disbanded, so a climactic scene became confusing.
    • Early in book 2, Wanda suggests killing and decrypting Jack in an apparent bid to get one of Gobwin Knob's casters under her absolute control. While her request is denied, it does bring up the very important question of whether or not decrypted casters can still cast, and it becomes clear that they need to test the theory eventually. Once Jack is killed and decrypted, however, it becomes apparent that the real reason was because Jack and Wanda were under a non-disclosure agreement from Charlie, and she hoped a decryption would free him of that. It did, and she instructed Jack to talk to Parson about it as soon as possible.
    • In the Digdoug print comics, King Posbrake has Lady Barstool place a Carnymancy spell on him, rendering it impossible to hit him with ranged attacks for one turn. Though this is intended as a precaution against treachery from Charlescomm, it saves King Posbrake when his brother, Prince Creen, breaks their alliance and hits Posbrake with a massive arrow volley.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • In this strip and this strip Parson studies the physics of Erfworld flight, gravity, and some more about hex boundaries. He later uses this knowledge to attempt to drop an immobilized army onto the ground hexes below where it can engage an enemy in full while it's not his side's turn..
    • When she was with Goodminton, Wanda was present to see how a Predictamancer fights; each attack always hits, because the Predictamancer knows where the target will be when the spells get there. Later, Jillian needs to kill Olive Branch before she leaves the city. They can only cast one spell, but they don't know where the target is. Fortunately, there is a Predictamancer present...
    • While Jillian is exploring a city they captured, Haffaton is alerted to her presence by a mannequin, animated by Dollamancy and used as a security camera by Wanda. She can do this with Archons as well, as she relays to Parson in the Book 2 epilogue.
  • Chekhov's Volcano
  • The Chosen Zero: Done a lot to Parson.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Three casters, all of them Expies of characters played by the same actor who often plays characters doomed to die, get killed. Twice in a row in fact, due to Decryption.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: According to Janis, the "rules" of Erfworld are defined by what a unit believes. For example, units with the flying special can fly because they believe they can. Carnymancy is basically the magic of putting on a show to manipulate this belief. By magically influencing a unit's sense of reality, a Carnymancer can make reality work a little bit differently for them. However, Parson doubts this explanation, largely because he believed that going through the portal to the Magic Kingdom would kill him (or send him home), and it didn't.
  • Cleavage Window: Dolly wears a bat-shaped one.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Parson speculates that the equipment that popped for him when he was summoned would somehow find its way back to him if he were ever to lose any of it (as long as they aren't destroyed).
  • Co-Dragons: A ruler will typically have a Chief Warlord and a Chief Caster, the former overseeing a side’s military matters and the latter doing the same for magical affairs.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Wanda is an expert at this, but it's conducted off-screen up until the "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" text-only episodes, where we get to see some of the actual methods, which include inflicting a prisoner with starvation, thirst, sensory deprivation, itching, and various other distresses, then leaving them alone for days.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In-universe. The Magic Kingdom is separated into eight equal parts and each one represents a class of magic. Each part is a different color and continues out into the sea where the sea itself has different colors for each class. The Glade of the Hippiemancers, for example, is dark green and the sea is a mellow green compared the extreme shades of the other sea greens.
    • Overlapping with Palette Swap, dwagons have different special abilities depending on their color. For example, red dwagons breathe fire, but pink dwagons blow sticky bubbles.
  • A Commander Is You: Given the world's basis various Sides fit into the roles outlined under this trope. Traditionally, the Ruler of the Side decides on the Grand Strategy (unit production, etc), and the Chief Warlord chooses how to fulfill their goals using the provided units. Sides gennerally have a wider selection of units then are generally fielded and certain cities produce certain units based on the side they were founded under.
    • Gobwin Knob: Before they summoned Parson, they were something of an incompetent version of the Elite faction. They preferred specialty units, making use of their surprisingly large number of casters. Their Dirtamancer made golems, their Croakamancer made uncroaked. Their Ruler had the divine Arkenhammer, which allowed for easily taming dwagons. However, this was not working, largely because their Ruler was an idiot and his Chief Warlords incompetent. After they summoned Parson, he switched to a Generalist style, using absolutely anything at his disposal to win. He prefers guerrilla tactics and specialist units, but he can switch tactics on the fly as necessary.
    • Jetstone: They prefer infantry above all else, but balance them with siege and some golems made by their Dollamancer. While they prefer to act like an Elitist faction, when all else fails they revert to a Spammer mindset, throwing waves of men at the enemy.
    • Transilvito: Unit Specialist and Spammer. They have two major advantages over other factions: Their warlords all have the otherwise quite rare Flight special, and they have a nigh-unlimited number of weak scouting bats. While bats are normally weak, you can put a ridiculous number of bats in a stack with a warlord to gain the warlord's bonus, which both makes them surprisingly dangerous and screens for the warlord. Furthermore, since they have a Thinkamancer, they can extend a bat's normally short scouting range infinitely, giving them a vast spy network.
    • FAQ: Unit Specialist/Guerrilla. They produce as many gwiffons and megalowiffs as possible to gain unmatched aerial superiority. Jillian eventually makes up for her otherwise lacking ground units by allying with the Western Giants.
    • Charlescomm: Diplomat/Espionage, with some Unit Specialist on the side. Charlescomm only uses archons, flying units with a variety of special abilities that make them suited for spying and surprising the enemy with unexpected tactics. Any archon can also open up a line to Charlie at any time, allowing him more diplomatic options than most Rulers. More than anything else, Charlescomm relies on deals, loopholes, and unique magic items Charlie created by hiring casters from the Magic Kingdom.
  • Combo Platter Powers:
    • The Arkenhammer tames dwagons, produces thunder and lightning, can levitate, glows, turns about 20% of all walnuts that it cracks into pigeons, turns some of the Orlies it hits into walnuts, functions as a magical guitar, and is not too shabby of a weapon.
    • Turnamancy is the magic of rotary motion (wagons, mills), time (time on Erfworld being measured in turns), and aligment changes.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: All non-barbarian Thinkamancers are subject to this. Thinkamancy is one of the most common and useful of all magical disciplines, so they're greatly in demand by rulers who they're then required to be loyal to. But all Thinkamancers are also loyal to Thinkamancy itself, and to their own leaders, called The Great Minds that Think Alike. While mostly dutiful to their side, Thinkamancers intentionally misdirect their sides as to the full capabilities of Thinkamancy in order to protect their secrets. Also, their organization is involved in a number of conspiracies, the most important of which is their plan to take out Charlie, since he knows too many of their secrets and refuses to join them. Parson lambastes Maggie for mind controlling their ruler into making him Chief Warlord again, not for the good of the side, but to support said conspiracy. This also likely to be an issue for Thinkamancers on Royal sides, since their sides are enemies of the side they are sponsoring to support their scheme.
  • Compelling Voice: Everyone can be said to have this, as any order given by a higher ranking unit must be obeyed. Any order.
    • The Leadership special also comes into this some are listened to more than others.
  • Convenient Color Change: Whenever a unit is turned, croaked or decrypted.
  • Cool Shades: Parodied with Parson's 3D viewing shades.
  • Cosmic Retcon: Retconjuration allows the Titans to do this. And it turns out that they once did it In-Universe on a massive scale, changing the very nature of Erfworld from a worker-placement Sugar Bowl to the wargame Crapsaccharine World it is today.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Wanda does this in her Start of Darkness after her brother Tommy dies. She raises his body, but despite doing a fantastic job on it, she realizes that it'll never be the same as having her brother. She then orders it to hold her while she cries.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Discussed Trope by Parson.
    Parson's journal: ...everything is cute. Like it's been made safe for children. The people even look like children. Except that then they die. What is that?
  • Creative Sterility: Likely a consequence of the fact that Erfworlders pop into being fully grown with preprogrammed knowledge and end up taking far too many things for granted. Warlords understand tactics at only a very basic level. When it comes to understanding magic, Isaac is one of the very few casters to use the scientific method. The vast majority of casters spend all their time debating the merits and flaws of their own theories rather than experimenting and testing them. As a result, Erfworld lies in a sort of Medieval Stasis, even though its magic could conceivably be developed much in the same way our world develops technology. Since Parson comes from a more sophisticated universe, he is able to see Game Breakers in the most mundane of things and several sides are already starting to adopt his style of tactics. The titans likely caused Parson to be summoned for the specific purpose of teaching Erfworlders "lateral thinking" and shattering the status quo.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Stanley may venture into Too Dumb to Live territory when it comes to strategy especially given his god complex, but he did legitimately become a warlord from common infantry even before finding the Arkenhammer, and as a tactician, combatant and wielder of an artifact level weapon he is not someone to be ignored.
  • Culture Blind: King Banhammer of Faq and several of his casters treated peace as the norm and fighting as something disgusting and barely tolerable, and scorned Jillian for her love of fighting. They did this despite the fact that A, the entire world was perpetually at war, and B, Jillian going out and fighting for money was the only thing keeping Faq going.
  • Cut Short: The death of Rob's stepson caused the series to be spontaneously cancelled (or put on indefinite hiatus, "indefinite" in this case presumably meaning "permanent unless Rob changes his mind") in late 2019, just as the series was in the middle of expounding on the origins of its Myth Arc.
  • The Dark Arts:
    • There is a classification of magic known as OP. Such magic is considered so powerful and dangerous that it's heretical and as such is strictly forbidden by the Magic Kingdom. However, the threshold is actually quite low; one example given is Dirtomancers who can dig a layer deeper than the commonly believed limit. The people enforcing the rules actually come off as scrubs
    • Naughtymancy includes the classical dark arts, including Croakmancy, Shockamancy, Retconjuration, and originally, Deletionism. Unlike OP magic, they are not illegal, but they are widely frowned upon.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Transylvito is a side of vampires, but they're fighting on the (mostly) good side, and no one minds. And while they look trashy and can be underhanded, they are fairly noble, respectful and even kind.
    • To a somewhat lesser degree, most of Stanley's side.
  • Deader than Dead: Bogroll, thanks to being burnt to ash. According to Wanda, even the attuned Arkenpliers can't restore him. This also applies to any Uncroaked or Decrypted units who are killed, as they turn to dust.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Prince Tramennis.
    • Also the Gobwin Knob Foolamancer, Jack Snipe.
    • Don't forget Hamstard! And Parson himself.
    • Isaac shows signs of it.
      Jojo: Well friends? Is he (Parson) in there?
      Isaac: I'm not inclined to say, given that you tried to assassinate him.
  • Death by Falling Over: One aspect of Erfworld physics is that anything considered a "fall" has a significant chance to incapacitate or croak a unit. A fall is a transition from the airspace of a hex to the ground without actually landing. This means that dismounting from a flying unit (by getting knocked out of the saddle, having the mount killed underneath you, or just jumping off) is always considered a fall, no matter how high up you are at the time. Fall distance does have some bearing on it, but mostly it's just random — a unit has roughly the same chance of instantly croaking from falling two feet as they do from falling two hundred.
  • Death Glare:
  • Deconstruction: Explores what would happen if there was really a world based around fantasy wargaming principles.
    • Or more specifically, what would happen if a pantheon of gods literally created a living board-game world for their own amusement, but let it run on auto-play for thousands of years with no player input.
  • Decapitated Army: Exaggerated To quote Parson on the subject of the death of the leader of a faction:
    Field units disband, and this city becomes 'neutral', which is not as nice as it sounds. Units here freeze in time. We can do nothing until attacked. Ansom takes a few turns to get his ducks aligned and then curb stomps us.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In the Lord Crush side story, an alliance of four sides is almost wiped out when a fifth side, Bullyclub, convinces one of them to betray the others. When Bullyclub is inevitably defeated, the alliance ends up letting Bullyclub join them (as well as the side that betrayed the alliance to Bullyclub).
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The Dwagon Doughnut.
  • Defiant to the End: As Charlie is ready to barge in the room in which Lilith is hiding in her thinkspace, she seems ready to accept her fate, but takes the time to tell him how much she hates him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Erfworld is at, and designed for, constant warfare. Parson struggles with the casual attitudes towards violence and death more than once. The idea of giving someone a burial is bizarre and when Parson watches someone die and says “I’m sorry” he has to explain that’s not an admission of guilt, he’s just trying to give condolences.
    • Sex has nothing to do with reproduction and so has little of the significance it does in real life beyond being a pleasant form of recreation. There’s nothing in the way of discrimination based on gender or sexuality and Parson not having sex with attractive units on his side is odd enough that Maggie asks him outright if he’s celibate. Rape, on the other hand, is considered a heinous crime so much so that the concept horrifies Erfworlders and at one point a Ruler contemplates disbanding a caster when told the guy is a rapist.
    • There is an innate acceptance of the unequal social order among Erfworlders. Both sides of the exchange think nothing of commander units giving orders, which can’t be disobeyed, to lesser ranked units. Parson treating line infantry the same as casters is considered very strange and even archons, who are among the more independent units, struggle with the concept of volunteering. Related to the above, Parson’s reason for not having sex with his units being that they can’t meaningfully consent is considered amusingly quaint.
    • The Decrypted see themselves as fully alive and so consider Decryption to be a great gift and blessing that should be given to everyone. After one battle, a Decrypted officer feels more sad about the enemy casualties than Gobwin Knob's. His men got another chance at life but without 'Mistress Wanda' nearby the enemy will despawn only having lived once, which is a great waste of life.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Parson hasn't been quite the same since his victory over the Royal Army. See What Measure Is a Mook?. Queen Bea as well, after seeing her decrypted daughter among the ranks of the Gobwin Knob invasion force. She takes the time to pass on what intelligence she was able to gather on Decryption to the rest of the Royal Coalition and then...
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Why Parson takes so well to Erfworld. His interests and passion were largely useless on earth, but is extremely important on Erfworld, leaving him little reason to want to go back. During book 3, Ansom reveals that he's afraid he's lost his own purpose and is only going through the motions.
  • Deuteragonist:
    • In the main plot, Parson is the Protagonist with Wanda as the Deuteragonist and half a dozen characters who could be considered for the role of tritagonist including Ansom (in book 1 at least), Jillian, Charlie, and Tramennis.
    • In the prequel, Wanda is the Protagonist with Jillian as the Deuteragonist.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Parson planned to enter the city of Spacerock through its portal to the Magic Kingdom. They can't take the city before he gets there, since it wouldn't be a capital anymore, and the portal would disappear. The same exact thing happens when they take down the tower—which was why it wasn't part of Parson's original plan. Whoops.
  • Disciplines of Magic: there are eight major magic classes defined by their combination of the three elements of Life, Motion, and Matter. Those eight classes are subdivided into three disciplines, based on their alignment to one of three axes: Erf, Fate, and Numbers.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Weaponized.
  • Divine Right of Kings: Royals are an actual type of unit, who have slightly higher stats and level faster than regular units. They insist that the Titans created them to rule Erfworld. Stanley the Tool, a commoner Overlord who is widely thought to have committed regicide to earn his thronenote , claims that the fact that he has attuned to one of the greatest Titanic artifacts means that there is now a new Titanic mandate. This does little more than unite all the Royal sides against him, and his side is quickly whittled down to one city, soon to be conquered. And then the comic starts with the summoning of Parson Gotti, the Perfect Warlord, who immediately turns the tide in Stanley's favor.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Parson notes how pretty much everything in Erfworld is vaguely familiar from our world in one way or another, especially lots of pop culture references keep popping up. At first it lent weight to his theory that he was dreaming or in a coma or something, but eventually he wonders if there is some connection between the two worlds, or if it is just an effect of him being there to observe the occurrences and creating the associations himself. Alternately, since the instructions Stanley gave in the summoning included "finding everything familiar", the spell may have simply found the one universe out of infinite possibilities whose inhabitants would consider everything in Erfworld a reference to something in theirs. (Parson is somewhat disturbed to hear that the former king of Gobwin Knob was King Saline the Fourth, because at that point he's half convinced that Erfworld is a stroke-induced hallucination, and he realizes that, among phrases one might be likely to hear in a hospital emergency room, "Saline IV" is pretty far up there.)
    • Ossomer may not realize why he feels so upset for that little broken tile being knocked out of the place where it used to belong, but the subtext is pretty clear that he is absolutely breaking inside about having been decrypted (and thus turned against his will to fight his home, family, and everything he ever believed in).
    • Many kingdoms act in similar ways to real world empires. The So-Be-It Union is the Soviet Union without the purges. Homekey could the colonial United States without the revolution. Seaworld is most likely Portugal when it was a sea power but without the papacy or it could be the British Empire. Faq is some type of far east country, etc etc. None of them are perfect matches but there's enough references there to place them. Lord Crush, for example, may be a reference to Nikita Khrushchev (Crush, Chief), the Premier of the Soviet Union (So-be-it Union) and First Secretary of the Communist Party (First Post) during the Cold War.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Jillian is focused on destroying Gobwin's Knob and killing Stanley for destroying Faq when he took the Arkenhammer. She's utterly unaware Wanda was the one who led Stanley to Faq, all so she could get a chance at claiming the hammer for herself.
    • King Posbrake of Homekey in the Dig Doug side story says of Charlie (who is in fact the world's greatest Carnymancer):
    Posbrake: He may indeed be a treacherous schemer, but he has no idea what a little Carnymancy can do to one's best-laid plans.
  • Driven to Suicide: Queen Bea of Unaroyal committed suicide via portal to prevent Gobwin Knob from Decrypting her and the remnants of the Unaroyal army.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Arkenhammer tames dwagons, produces thunder and lightning, can levitate, glows, turns about 20% of all walnuts that it cracks into pigeons, some of the Orlies it hits into walnuts, functions as a magical guitar, and is not too shabby of a weapon. By now, it's well into Green Rocks territory.
  • The Dragon: A Chief Warlord is this for their side's Overlord. It's not always the Chief Warlord. In many sides the chief caster takes this role instead. We've also seen at least two sides (Haffaton and Gobwin Knob) where an over-mighty chief caster effectively runs the side as Dragon-in-Chief.
  • Dragon Rider: Stanley mostly, but other characters have been seen on Dwagonback.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Wanda may be fighting on Stanley's side, but she's only in it for the Arkentools.
  • Dying Curse: One of the powers of natural Croakamancy (any unit might be able to, but a caster could do it intentionally and apply juice to the effect). If a unit intends to die fulfilling their goals and actually does so, it generates a form of Fate magic that tries to fulfill said goal. It is heavily implied that Queen Bea managed to leave behind a curse against Gobwin Knob in such a fashion, and outright stated that Caesar's suicide did the same against Charlie.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In Book 1, Royalism is implied to be somewhat unique to Jetstone. The other members of the coalition are attacking Gobwin Knob for entirely practical reasons and Ansom going off on his innate Royal supremacy is treated like an embarrassing display on his part, with Vinny calling him out for it being a case of him being close enough to Ansom to point out his failings. In subsequent books, Ansom’s stance is fairly standard for Royals and Vinny’s disapproval is because Transylvito is unusually unconcerned with Royal status.
  • Easy Communication: One of the privileges of being a ruler is a form of natural Thinkamancy that allows them to telepathically order units and check their current status. However, this form of communication only works in one direction, from ruler to unit.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Arkentools possess primitive minds of their own, and the Great Minds end up awakening the Arkenpliers into sapience with unexpected results.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: What unit types a city will produce is decided by the current Signamancy note  of the owning side's capital when that city site is built up into a higher level city. If that city gets captured by a different side, they can raze it back to level zero for schmuckers, or keep it in its current shape to produce the same unit types it did before.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: A lot of Erfworlders simply fail to understand Parson because he is so outside their frame of reference. For example, many people (including several of Parson's allies) assume that Parson's low chief warlord bonus means he is a bad commander (or at best, mediocre). And while this may be true for as far as they've known it, they are completely wrong and are often punished for it.
  • Equivalent Exchange: How Luckamancy, and possibly other number magics work. Luckamancy can cause units to "roll higher" for a while, but at the cost of lower "rolls" later, or lower rolls from other units on their side. There are indications that there are ways to cheat the system a little such as by only affecting the luck of mounted air units when your side isn't using any, but there isn't much time to explore the concept before the only Luckamancer to appear in the story so far is croaked.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Claud Gauntlet uses Game-Breaker magic considered to be The Dark Arts on a regular basis. When he learns that the Great Minds and Ivan Poe have uncovered a hack that allows for unlimited juice, Erfworld's version of Mana, even he is absolutely horrified at just how dangerously game breaking this is.
  • Evil Costume Switch: All of the Decrypted get one. So does Parson when he's forced to turn to Charlescomm.
  • Evil Laugh: Wanda can be very scary.
  • Evil Overlord: Stanley, as noted by Parson; in all fairness, Stanley's actual position is "overlord", but he strongly disagrees with the "evil" part.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Inverted, Parson wants to take down the power of Fate to allow people more free will.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Wanda, the Croakamancer.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Charlie's one and only city is a massive, reinforced castle, nestled in-between some mountains.
  • Exact Words:
    • While Stanley is debating an issue, Maggie asks if she can give him a suggestion. Stanley says "sure" and immediately takes a Suggestion spell in the face.
    • See also Be Careful What You Wish For above. Stanley got everything he asked for in Parson. Just not what he meant.
    • Stanley angrily gives Parson a magically binding order not to speak until he's ordered to speak. Parson, quickly realizing that the order didn't specify that only Stanley could order him to speak, starts using written messages asking others to order him.
    • Defied by Signamancy contracts, which take the signer’s intentions into account when creating binding pacts. If the two parties have different ideas about what the contract entails, they won’t be able to Sign it. Since the awakened Towers speak to each other in Signs, this also applies to them. Huehue explains that if he tries to word a contract in such a way as to cheat Shirley, his words will include an explanation of how he’s trying to deceive her. So Skyy has the idea that even if Huehue can’t lie to Shirley, they can lie to Huehue.
    • Orders can work like this, with the unit doing exactly and only what the order says. However, experienced commanders know how to project their intentions and will into the order that make misunderstandings impossible. For example, when Artemis says "Hey, flying knights!" the nearby Archons know she means them, wants them to muster for battle, and expects their leader to come to her for more instructions.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Crap Golems, Shockmancy.
  • Expendable Clone: In the fight between King Slately and the Archons, the King is heartened when he sees his magically created double go down fighting, and while he cheers how great it is to be alive we get a closeup of the other King's body. Gets an extra kicker a little later.
    Archon: We weren't defeated. We won! Your body lies in state upon the rooftop. There. See it?
    Slately: Be at ease. That is only my double. Lloyd Elliot created it, and it expended itself nobly in the fight.
    Tramennis: Father... doubles don't leave a body.
  • Expy:
  • Fair-Weather Friend: Haggar, thanks to the opportunistic policies of King Dickie, and Jetsone knows it. They only help out because Charlie threatens to level their capital in one go.
  • Fantastic Drug: Pink flowers ("heroine buds"), as grown by Hippiemancers. (They may literally be magic versions of opium poppies.)
  • Fantastic Honorifics: Although the term "Tool" was originally a Stealth Insult Parson gave Stanley, Stanley took to it so well that it is now a general honorific for any wielder of an Arkentool.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Jillian experienced one when Charlie invaded her mind and destroyed her very being.
  • Feel No Pain: Implied for Erfworlders as one of the ways their world is designed for war. Though they can feel pain, it seems reduced compared to humans, with Erfworlders losing limbs and taking other serious injuries without much reaction. For comparison, when Parson takes a similar wound he starts screaming in pain, a reaction no one else in the comic shows to injury.
  • Feghoot: This page is one
  • Final First Hug: Trammenis and his father King Slately, or rather his Dittomancy dupe, share their first and last hug in the second book after Trammenis is promoted to Heir, and just before the duplicate goes off to make a doomed final stand against Parson Gotti.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: Charlescomm has secretly developed firearms in preparation for an inevitable war that will shatter the Erf. When Parson, The Chosen One summoned to kill Charlie, declares open war with Charlescomm, Charlie starts to deploy them. All sides that become aware of them treat them as a complete game changer, and figuring out how to reverse engineer them becomes one of Parson's top priorities.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Delphie in Book 0 left a note where she knew Jillian would find it long after Goodminton fell.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Wanda seems to be a magnet for this.
    • Wanda and Jillian have their own, strange, BDSM-esque relationship.
    • Wanda and Olive Branch have a good amount going, too. Which turns Olive's drugging of Wanda with the heroine buds into a terrifying comment on abusive relationships.
  • Fountain of Memes: invoked Lord Hamster notices the world as implementing Internet memes (e.g. O rlys being owls), or things similar to trademarked organizations (e.g. Thinked In using the logo of Linked In).
  • Foregone Conclusion: There's a 'book 0' prequel starring Wanda. Obviously, anyone who read the main comic knows that she's going to end up in Faq, and that her 'screw destiny' philosophy in the prequel is going to turn into the absolute fatalism she shows normally sometime along the line.
  • Formal Full Array of Cutlery: Briefly brought up in a conversation between Jillian and Prince Ansom where Jillian elaborates to Ansom how was the princess of a hidden nation big on class and culture, and that her father wanted a son like himself instead of her...
    Jillian: Only instead of a perfect philosopher-prince like he wanted? ... He got a swordswinging madwoman, who knows exactly which fork to use to pluck out an eyeball... but not for the salad.
    Ansom: Far left.
    Jillian: What?
    Ansom: The smaller fork, with the one stronger tine. That's for the salad.
    Jillian: Oh it is the eyeball one.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Quite literally; when Charlie communicates with others via Thinkamancy, he only shows himself as a sequence of soothing colours and images... many of which are Shout Outs that Break The Fourth Wall. Of course, with the way Erfworld works in the first place, what seem like blatant fourth-wall-breaking shout outs to us may easily have some in-universe meaning that we're unaware of.
  • Foreshadowing: Often, one-off casual lines introduce ideas that won't pay off until much later.
    • Two casters remarking on their opposite yet complementary strengths, the vague resemblance of certain characters, even the limits on mining in the city's hex all play a role later.
      Wanda: He looks like a pink you, but with depth perception.
    • The line, "We have harvested three Sourmanders we can scarce afford to spare," subtly introduced a mechanic that would later become very important strategically. It introduced harvesting heavy mounts for rations for upkeep, a mechanic integral to Parson's plan to cross zones off-turn, along with the aforementioned use of heavies on flyers.
    • Parson ends one of his eyebook notes with, "How did Dorothy get out of Oz? Short answer: by killing." Book 0 reveals Dorothy, the Wicked Witch and the Wizard were all Erfworld figures, and the Wizard is still around.
    • In the prologue book, Betsy is at one point offended by Jillian asking if she'll heal Wanda of her heroine bud addiction. She says she would heal anyone of anything, including Jillian's "desire" to kill. Before long, we find out that she means it. Even if there's nothing actually wrong with Jillian and "fixing" her would be the equivalent of a lobotomy.
    • Book two starts with Parson getting drunk with the casters and trying to see if he can mount a dwagon. They tell him no, since he's probably a heavy unit. He tries and the dwagon slowly falls to the ground, allowing him to land (mostly) uninjured. This is a crucial part of the plan to take Jetstone's capital by promoting all the hobgobwins they can to heavy units, allowing them use the gravity mechanic to move from the airspace to the city proper without having to take fall damage when it isn't their turn.
    • When Parson sends a Thinkagram to Jack to try and get him to recover, Jack tells him that "...a wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends." Sure enough, immediately afterwards, Parson gets the reinforcements he needs by uncroaking his enemies, while Jack's mind ultimately recovers due to his name being said by Jillian, an enemy.
    • Wanda's personal livery is a skull with a pretty pink flower attached to the top. Cute, but that flower is actually a Heroine Bud. The prequel story wasn't even out yet when that was made, making it easy to miss the significance of her emblem, the design of which is rarely focused on.
    • The stealth golem must have discovered that it could reach its destination quicker by going back through Charlescomm's portal.
    • It has been said that the Titans created 99 original sides. Doesn't that seem like an unusual starting number? The 100th side was Ret-Gonned, but evidence that they once existed was preserved via some special records subject to Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The entire series of events is kicked off by The Titans of Ark leaving one extra gemstone in the Minty Mountains, allowing the Marbits to afford one extra squad of axemen, which pierced through Stanley's troops at the right moment, which allowed them to kill one of Stanley's last warlords, which caused him to send for Parson in the first place.
  • Fridge Horror:
    • An in-universe example for Parson, when he realizes that the decrypted Archons literally couldn't resist any advances he cared to make.
    • A more traditional version: Wanda doesn't laugh.
  • Friendly Enemy: Charlie is happy to chat with Parson via Thinkamancy and is uniformly polite while doing so.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: While it's unpleasant at best to be an enemy of Translyvito, they're actually surprisingly reasonable and easy to get along with. It helps that while have a Drain Life special that works by drinking blood, they don't seem to have to feed on it, nor are they contagious.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Stanley's elite guard, the Knights In Stanley's Service, look just like their namesakes.
  • The Gadfly: Jack Snipe loves poking holes in peoples' positions or ways of thinking. His treatment of Wanda during the siege of the Royal Capital had a Breaking Speech feel to it.
  • Gambit Index
    • Batman Gambit:
      • Parson pulls a couple on Ansom in Book 1, made easier because of the latter's predictability. One is explained here.
      • Ansom gathers a bunch of flying units — Archons and mounted Dwagons — and has a mass veil cast over them to make them appear to be his usual choice of units, infantry and siege. He approaches Spacerock with this army, knowing Ossomer will commit most of his forces to holding the only bridge into Spacerock by land. Ansom simply dispels the veil and flies over them.
    • The Chessmaster:
      • Charlie
      • Parson shows signs of it.
    • Gambit Pileup: The end of Chapter One. Too many plans, too many people and too many Gambit Roulettes for one little mountain. In the end, Parson subverts it by Taking a Third Option: "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies."
      • Book Two only makes things worse. It's revealed that there are three major plans Parson's summoning was arranged to enact note  Charlie is still working against Gobwin Knob with a variety of different pawns in play and Wanda's pursuit of her Fate have begun to diverge from Gobwin Knob's aims. Add in Haggar's planned betrayal, Jojo's possible trap and Jillian doing whatever the hell she wants and things have gotten very complicated in Erfworld.
      • Book Three sees this happen mostly between Parson and Charlie, as the motivations of certain Sides become clearer.
    • Gambit Roulette: Decrypted master-class Predictamancer Marie pulls a beautiful one right after being resurrected. She runs to where I'm Coming For You Stanley's (formerly the city of Gobwin Knob) portal used to be and stands there while being shot at by another caster aiming to recroak her, and the portal opens just in time to block the shot and let her step through. Why did it open right then? Because a just-formed alliance between Gobwin Knob and Transylvito prompted Vinny Doombats to break alliance with Faq and conquer their capital with a repatriated Ansom, necessitating Jillian, Queen of Faq, to designate I'm Coming For You Stanley, which she'd been intending to raze that very turn, as the new capital.
    • Impersonation Gambit: Bogroll takes out Ansom by pretending to be Parson and pulling an I Surrender, Suckers, then tackling him off his flying mount.
    • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Ansom delivers the Arkenpliers to Wanda.
    • The Man Behind the Man: Wanda, to Stanley.
    • Manipulative Bastard/Playing Both Sides:
      • Wanda again. She sold out Faq to Stanley in a bid to obtain his Arkenhammer. When he ended up winning, she acted as a "loyal" subordinate while goading him into searching for more Arkentools. All to facilitate her own bid for an Arkentool.
      • Charlie loves to do this as well.
    • The Strategist: Parson, but as shown here his allies are a little resentful of him early on for not living up to his Perfect Warlord name, and he has to explain to them that "perfect strategy" does not mean you never lose.
    • Unwitting Pawn: Wanda believes this of Parson, and seems to pity him somewhat for it.
      Wanda: You, too, are an instrument of Fate. You will suffer, as you pursue your path. You will grieve. And lose. As you have lost here.
      Parson: I didn't lose, Wanda.
      Wanda: You did! And it has just begun for you.
    • Xanatos Gambit:
      Charlie: We prefer to play games that don't even contain a losing outcome. You see?
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: Parson and Charlie toward the end of the first volume. Parson even explains the concept here.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • The absolute, most powerful and dangerous spells are classified as OP. OP spells are considered heretical and the Magic Kingdom forbids all casters from using them.
    • In-universe, Wanda's attuned Arkenpliers can resurrect their enemies' corpses. These units retain original skills, cost nothing to run and are loyal to Wanda. Small wonder her side is toppling cities left and right.
    • Parson himself has been referred to as someone who will break the rules of war. Moreover, the Hippiemancers want this to happen.
    • Linking casters can have some game-breaking effects as well. Book 1 ended with Wanda and Sizemore linking to "uncroak" an extinct volcano that wiped out everything. Charlie later arranged for a Turnamancer-based link, and made Stanley's side lose a turn — a very big deal in this universe.
    • Even earlier than that, a foolamancer plus a lookamancer plus a thinkamancer equals a map presenting Stanley's side with complete and seamless tactical data, while the enemy busies themselves with scouts who must survey everything in person and relay information in person or with magic items.
    • Parson is exploring the mechanics of Erfworld's rules, and is actively experimenting on exploits to create one of these, such as forming upkeep-free armies in cities, or using individual dwagons' movement as a relay system to transport riders across the vast distances of Erfworld in a single turn.
    • Parson's game-breaking exploit at the battle of Spacerock actually violates the fundamental physics of Erfworld: allowing units to move between city zones off-turn through a combination of obscure rule interactions. Far from being merely unconventional, this was previously thought utterly impossible, to the point where people watching the initial stages of the plan initially dismissed it as a useless posture. (However, if not for luck and Fate, it would have been an exceptionally stupid maneuver, as if Wanda died, they would have delievered an Arkentool to their enemies and had their forces completely wiped out)
    • The Arkendish grants Charlie a couple of really potent abilities.
      • He can cast spells remotely by using Archons as a relay. Combined with the Thinkamancy power it appears to grant him, this makes link-ups far easier for him than is normal.
      • The reason the Thinkamancers want him dead; he can intercept and jam Thinkamancy. The fact that he can do this is a closely guarded secret of the Thinkamancers, as if it were to get out, Thinkamancers wouldn't be seen as nearly as valuable as they are for communications.
      • From his own perspective, we see that it gives him an incredibly amplified version of the already-potent senses a ruler possesses about their side and units. It also grants him complete knowledge of all channels of communication between units, including magical ones: even the secret ones like Intuition and body language.
    • Using a high level Trancefusion, it is possible for the Thinkamancers to combine their powers to severe g-strings from range and at scale, meaning that if they so desired, they could make everyone else drop dead.
  • Game Changer: While it's not immediately apparent, what Parson has Maggie, Sizemore and Ace do in this strip may possibly be the single most-significant event in Erfworld history since the Titans created it— awakening the first Tutelary, the living temples. This would later be replicated by the Great Minds to apparently awaken every capital tower, reshaping the nature of every side where it happens and and moving the conflict of Erfworld to a possibly cosmic level.
  • Genius Loci: At play on several scales:
    • The world as a whole is heavily implied to be one, and is likely connected to how Fate operates.
    • Cities quite definitely are. After some experimentation with a caster link, Maggie discovers that cities actually have primitive minds of their own, and enjoy being owned and fought over. She is then able to awaken the city of Spacerock into a sapient being loyal to Gobwin Knob.
    • More interestingly, now that Spacerock has awoken, the towers of a handful of other sides have spontaneously woken up.
  • Gloomy Gray: Characters who have suffered a terrible trauma and not yet recovered turn ash-grey; in Wanda's Darkest Hour, she also becomes withered and emaciated.
  • God Mode: Referenced in one of Parson's klogs. He hasn't found an actual cheat code yet, but the whole "ultimate warlord" thing is about as close as he's going to get.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • When Charlie realizes Parson has decided to come after him, he starts bringing out weapons he's never had to use before, because he wanted them kept secret. Such as guns. From assault rifles to anti-air artillery. He even proves willing to spend hundreds of millions of schmuckers and to declare open war with the Magic Kingdom to deal with Parson.
    • Parson himself crosses this when, due to a treaty violation that cost Gobwin Knob its entire treasury and faced with another claim due to damages, he is forced to turn to Charlescomm in order to save the side and the people he cares about from being claimed as collateral.
    • When Gobwin Knob manages to acquire several of Charlescomm's guns and rescue Lilith, Charlie effectively declares war on the Magic Kingdom.
    • Charlie does not trust any type of units other than archons and golems on his side. When his city is heavily damaged and the Magic Kingdom censures him from any further magical services, he actually accepts two who are critical to his infrastructure, and even gives the notoriously disloyal Wanda an offer to join.
    • Caster links are a type of Mental Fusion with a total of 11 theoretical levels. For a long time, Thinkamancers did not dare go past level 7. But when Charlie destroys their temple and croaks most of the Great Minds, the dead Great Minds are forced to join with one of the survivors into a level 8 for the first time, dooming them to die when they run out of juice or upon the next start of turn reset.
  • Golem: Multiple golems have appeared, with names indicating what they are made of: Soft Rock, Hard Rock, Acid Rock, and Metal Golems are based on musical genres, and Cloth Golems are literal giant animated stuffed animals, while Crap Golems are... well...
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Maggie and Wanda (respectively) take these roles for Lilith, when they link up with her (and each other) to help her resist Charlie's Arkendish-powered interrogation, complete with Maggie decked out in white with feathery wings and a flowing robe, while Wanda is red with devil horns and demonic wings. Playing with the stereotypes, after they bring the fight from thinkspace into worldspace, it's Maggie who ends up insisting Lilith try to kill Charlie, and Wanda who tells her to stop. Maggie is ultimately shown to have been entirely correct.
  • Good Colours, Evil Colours (and how!): For starters, Stanley's forces consist of stereotypical "bad guy" units such as Gobwins, Hobgobwins, Twolls, Uncroaked, Spidews, and Dwagons; and they tend to wear red and blacks. Ansom's stereotypical "good guy" units include Elves, giant stuffed animals, and Gumps, and his units tend to wear gold and silver. It is also subverted in Transylvito's forces: Vinny Doombats is a count, in black, who controls bats, who looks like a vampire. And, in all appearances, is Ansom's best friend, right-hand man, and close confidant. He (and the other members of his force) also talks like something between The Fonz, the Jets from West Side Story and The Mafia.
  • Good Powers, Bad People: Olive Branch showcases the martial abilities of Hippiemancy and is a treacherous, manipulative sociopath. Betsy is a Healomancer, and when she is given the opportunity to, tries to "heal" Jillian of her aggressive tendencies.
  • Gorn: A particularly shocking example, especially after so much Bloodless Carnage: after Parson gets knocked back through the portal back into the Magic Kingdom while being perforated by heavy machine gun fire from Charlie's Archons we get a lovely clear look at the bloody pulpy mess of mangled muscle, shredded tendon and shattered bone that is now his left shin- just as another round tears half his left foot off.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: "Wow. Um... good job, guys."
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Fate appears to have some form of intelligence, but it isn't a person and functions more like a Sentient Cosmic Force. Charlie is the Big Bad and responsible for many reprehensible acts, but he doesn't actually wish Parson any personal harm. He simply wants to Screw Destiny and stop a prophecy that involves his demise. But as long as Fate continues to manipulate events and enforce the prophecy, conflict between him and Parson is inevitable.
    • As the story unfold, it becomes clear that the "Great Minds that Think Alike", as a group, are one. They may help Parson against Charlie, but they are only acting in their best interests, and are perfectly willing to dispose of their "tools" once they are no longer of use to them. They are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to keep their secrets, and any Thinkamancer who violate their arbitrary rules is branded a "Baddie" and stripped of parts of their powers, if not killed outright. They are the de facto rulers of the Magic Kingdom, and perfectly able to neutralize both friends and foes if that means they can keep some of their chess pieces under their control. They are not above assassination either. Overall, they work behind the scenes to ensure that their pawns focus on the target they want eliminated, and manipulate everything and everyone to suit their needs.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: In Book One, both sides are presented sympathetically to a degree, but both are also very flawed. Stanley and his side are more overtly evil in appearance and methods, but are notionally striking a blow for freedom from the tyrannical mandates of the "royals"; whereas Ansom looks like a Knight in Shining Armor, but is a ruthless bigot under the surface. Charlie, the Big Bad, is responsible for some of the worst deeds in the comic, but he is motivated by an understandable desire not to die. The mechanics of Erfworld are such that constant warfare is the norm, and morality plays second fiddle.
  • Grid Puzzle: Axe Bodyspray's king passes along a coded message in the form of a sudoku puzzle that he solves easily.
  • Gut Punch: The series stops being a jolly fun little war played with tiny toy people when Misty is pointlessly and callously killed and Parson is left holding her corpse.
    Parson: This is hardball, man... This is booping hard core.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Part of the reasoning for Jillian's part of the More than Mind Control.
  • Hazy-Feel Turn
    • After his Decryption, Ansom willingly switches alliances to side with Parson, whose earlier anti-royalty jibes he now accepts as truth. It's debatable how much of this is Mind Control and how much is simply taking up another fanatical worldview after his earlier one fell apart.
    • After Stanley's gobwins and hobgobwins are Turned away from him, he goes and recruits the Juggle Elves, a neutral faction shunned by the other sides who normally embrace elves. Though normally weak and implied to get by on minor raids since no one will hire them, they did get a lot of new recruits after three elf tribes abandoned the battle for Gobwin Knob when they saw how it was going to end. Not only that, but they then went and absorbed several other groups who were forced to fend for themselves by broke royal factions who could no longer afford their upkeep.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • It is in the hands of a Sociopathic Manipulative Bitch. There's a reason Olive Branch is far and away the scariest villain in canon.
    • Aptitude for finding things like this is part of why Parson is so terrifyingly effective as a warlord. Dirtamancy only good for construction and latrine duties? Construct traps and make crap golems for combat. He even had it done to himself once, learning that his mathamancy bracer can determine probabilities of future events.
    • "It's the little things which make a difference sometimes."
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: GÖLEM
  • Heavy Mithril: Stanley's rocking out with the Arkenhammer sounds specifically like heavy stadium rock, and is used in a fantasy setting. Quoth the tool, "Course it was good. It was Titanic. Rock is the highest music there is."
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Jillian, and then Wanda after Jillian snaps out of it, because Jillian snapped out of it.
    • Janis has a mild one when Parson questions her about mustard gas and similar things, then has to explain what that is. She quietly answers his question and then takes a long walk.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • Bogroll dies taking out Ansom.
    • Queen Bea of Unaroyal empties her side's treasury, disbands her entire side, and commits suicide to prevent Gobwin Knob from using most of Unaroyal's resources against her allies. It also overlaps with Senseless Sacrifice, since Gobwin Knob had offered her the chance to simply ally with them and she rejected it for ideological reasons. To the surviving Royalists she's seen as a martyr and her sacrifice is a rallying cry.
    • Also Cubbins who passes up two rides out of the falling Jenga Tower so he can use the last bit of juice to attack all of Gobwin Knob's Archons. Luckily for Cubbins, Ace manages to save him.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Gobwin Knob is the side of the protagonists, and is the most hated faction in the entire world. This horrible reputation is mostly well deserved.
    • Duke Forecastle saved his entire side, but ends up a pariah because he disgraced its traditions in doing so. The only reason he wasn't disbanded was because he managed to form a colony side.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Charlie is only shown presenting avatars of himself in various Thinkagrams. His actual physical presence is never felt. However, when GK's last surviving Archon is taken to Charlescomm, he finally does appear in person as a crippled, obese adult version of Charlie Brown, unable to so much as move his hands without assistance. Lilith says that no one who sees him could ever love him, though that doesn't stop the likes of Tondelayo.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Wanda appears to be completely ruthless and singleminded in her pursuit of power, and she's not above a good Evil Laugh, but at times she displays hints of sadness at all the destruction she has caused, and on some level she has genuine affection for Jillian.
    • Subverted by Anson. Jack notes that he was a boring individual despite probably being a competent commander because he never said anything he didn't mean and he never did anything that couldn't be explained in a single sentence. This only changes when he starts having an identity crisis about whether or not he "already gone".
  • Hidden Elf Village: Faq.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Parson directs a strike force in a strategy of destroying enemy siege units and then breaking off the engagement. This means that his side technically "loses" each battle, but deprives the enemy of a key resource they'll need to win the war.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard
    • Anchorbar discovers how to make a type of sea-monster friendly to their ships and uses them to sink the otherwise superior Seaworld forces. Duke Forecastle eventually learns how to turn Anchorbar's seamonsters right back on them.
    • After Charlie attacks Wanda and Parson's group in the Magic World the Carniemancers successfully bring in a mob and decimate them leaving less than a dozen survivors, only one of whom evaded capture. They even manage to pin most of the blame on Gobwin Knob. However, while Carnies are great at stirring up crowds, they're not so good at controlling them, resulting in Gobwin Knob and Charlie being banned from hiring free Casters so long as they continue to use Arkentools, which is devastating to Carnies since almost no one else is willing to hire them.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: "Titans-disbanded" (goddamned), "croak time" (kill time), etc.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Parson attempts initially to avert this, but is frustrated by the constraints of Erfworld's rules. When he becomes more familiar with the rules, he becomes quite adapt at using (and exploiting) them.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: One of the reasons Parson gives for not sleeping with his troops (normal behavior for Erfworld leaders) that the women are so small that he may hurt them. Maggie mocks him with multiple jokes since all injuries in Erfworld heal at dawn. She also suspects he's overestimating his "damage bonus" anyway, and even if he isn't, she says the archon would probably remember the experience forever.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Ansom, at least, thinks that Parson's genius is unsettling. Stanley is disturbed that Parson can actually ''disobey'' him sometimes (something that the rules of Erfworld shouldn't allow). And Maggie and Sizemore are completely shocked that Parson comes from a reality where special relativity is a thing. Parson looks very different from the average Erfworld "human", thinks on an entirely different level, and hails from a different dimension with radically different rules that govern reality. To the people of Erfworld he's pretty much Nyarlathotep. And now that he's breaking the law of Boop left and right, who knows what he's going to do next? See also Quotes.Erfworld. He also bleeds and gets tired from "redeploying" in the same hex. Erfworld people don't get tired from moving around unless they leave a hex.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes:
    • A very strange example, in that Erfworlders aren't actually reacting to anything in our world. But - specifically in the text updates - they will describe things in decent amount of detail, and then there will be a picture of the scene at the bottom of the page, showing that what was described actually looks almost exactly like something from Earth. Just one example; a drugged Jillian describes a perverted Shockamancer as a "little daemon-like creature". He then mounts a Gwiffon, and she sees the two shapes merge into one bigger version of the Shockamancer. He fights the Big Bad, described as a lizard-flower hybrid, using a jagged light attack of some kind, while shouting "Peeeep at... you!". Later, at the very bottom of the page, there is a picture of this scene, depicted as a Pikachu launching a thunderbolt at a Venusaur.
    • Also shows up in the post-Book 1 summer updates to an extent. Parson, in his interactions with the Casters, describes things from his world that don't exist in Erfworld, such as constant universal flow of time, and the concept of planets. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around what he describes.
  • Humiliation Conga: What Transylvito goes through after the Battle for Gobwin Knob. They lose several cities, and seven warlords by the time Wanda's army reaches Jetstone. On top of other difficulties, they've been investing too heavily in an unpredictable side that at best cannot pay them back in either Shmuckers or military strength yet.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Wanda and Parson to Stanley.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Slately refers to his clone as an 'it', though he does praise the clone for sacrificing himself for Jetstone like anyone else. Slately doesn't realize that he was the clone, as doubles don't leave behind bodies.

     Tropes J to Q 
  • Ignored Expert: Ansom and Ossomer, both experts on tactical matters, try to tell Wanda that Jillian isn't at Jetstone for her and her alone. Ossomer even tells her outright it isn't the case, and Wanda ignores both of them. As a result, things very quickly go downhill for Gobwin Knob's forces.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Parson's dealings with Charlie often take this form.
  • Image Song: Stanley, "Quest for the Arkentools"
  • Informed Ability: This pops up regarding leadership and how Erfworlders don't distinguish between actual military leadership and the innate Leadership skill commanders have. Ansom, for example, is seen as a great leader partially because his warlord bonuses are so high that units fighting alongside him are vastly more effective. So even though his tactics are somewhat pedestrian, he's still a great leader because the men under his command hit like a truck.
  • In Its Hour of Need: Defied with Don King and Slately. Slately begs Don to "lend" him the money he needs to designate Tramennis heir and thus keep Slately's side alive if the city falls, but Don's poor fiscal policies in the past cause his leadership to band together and prevent Don from doing so.
  • Instant Death Bullet: When used as projectiles, miniature Dirtamancy traps function as these.
  • I Shall Taunt You:
    • Parson's needling Thinkagram to Ansom.
    • Not to mention the filthy songs the troops sing around the campfire at night.
    • The scary part? Ansom now agrees with Parson.
    • "Me, I'm just talking."
    • Decrypted Ossomer attempts this to the Chief Warlord of Faq, but inexperience (plus his lack of conviction for what he's saying) combined with the Warlord having no regard for Royalty one way or the other means he makes a complete mess of it.
  • Ironic Hell: According to the Book of Canon, a religious scripture written by the Titans themselves, those who do something exceptionally wrong, betray their side, or willfully shirk their duty end up in a place of infinite wrongness, where everything clashes against who you are and what you want.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Parson pulls this twice, first to jump Ansom with a veiled Bogroll and second when he plays along with Jetstone's negotiation demands to get his counter attack into position.
  • It Gets Easier: Parson's command decisions.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Antium delivers this line to Parson after they are all trapped in the city of Spacerock as it burns. Parson isn't having any of it, however.
    "Don't start that shit. I'm not done here. I'm not."
  • Jerkass: Stanley, although he's showing signs of gradually developing into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or at least a Jerkass-with-occasional-Pet the Dog-moments.
  • Jerkass Gods: The Titans did far worse than create the divine equivelant to a tabletop wargame. They established behind the scenes mechanisms intended to make it Unwinnable by Design. They also warped the original Sugar Bowl Erfworld once was into the Crapsaccharine World it is today and Ret-Gonned one of the original sides out of existence in order to cover it up.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Those with expertise in Stageamancy, especially Carnymancy, have been known to play a Jerk with a Heart of Gold while actually being a jerk through and through. It is true that Carnymancers have it hard, are poorly understood, and are good to one another. It is also true that they manipulate and scheme against those outside their circles. Punk Elves, a tribe of elves that specialize in natural Carnymancy, use this strategy on a regular basis.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Wanda, after attuning to the Arkenpliers. Even Stanley is starting to feel disturbed about how cruel she's become.
  • Just Following Orders: Units are unfortunately stuck with this trope- if a unit's Ruler or Chief Warlord gives them an order, they have to follow it. If a unit doesn't follow an order, they'll likely get disbanded.
  • Kamehame Hadoken: The "Hoboken" spell, which all casters know from the moment they're popped.
  • Kangaroo Court: After Gobwin Knob fights a battle in the portal park and loses to the barbarian casters of the Magic Kingdom, their Chief Caster is captured and then put on trial. Ultimately, no one actually cares whether or not they are technically guilty of anything. The faction using Gobwin Knob for their own agenda attempts to preserve their life. The rest of the Magic Kingdom is either in Charlie's pocket or views the Caster as a monster and their Side as a world ending threat. Janis eventually concludes that the entire trial is a lost cause and entirely procedural. They ultimately sentence the Caster to death for using forbidden magic, despite it not having been forbidden at the time, with an ex post facto law.
  • Keystone Army: This trope is enforced on every army in Erfworld, with the ruler as the keystone. If a side's ruler has no heir, and that ruler croaks, the entire side is immediately eliminated, no matter what. Field units are disbanded, city units are frozen in time. A side that does have an heir simply has a backup keystone.
    • Gobwin Knob has two different keystones: the obvious one is Stanley, since they have no heir, but the other is Wanda. Nobody knows what will happen to the Decrypted if she croaks, but it's not impossible that if Wanda croaks, the Decrypted will go with her. Since the Decrypted make up most of their forces, Parson is pretty worried about this possibility, especially since Wanda regularly goes into battle. They're gonna have to find out, because the last major event to happen before the comic ended was Wanda being croaked; it didn't take the Decrypted with her, but they were all struck down by an overwhelming feeling of crushing despair.
  • Killed Off for Real: Bogroll and Misty. Interestingly, both subverted the Forgotten Fallen Friend trope.
  • Killer Game Master: The Battle of Gobwin Knob mirrors the game Parson had set up for his friends, which he admits was designed to be unwinnable - unlike most killer GMs, however, he was actually hoping they'd find a way to break the system and surprise him.
  • Kill It with Fire: Erfworld's rules governing fire have now been explained, such as how one can essentially capture a city space by burning it and everyone in it to the ground.
  • King of All Cosmos: The world was made by Elvis impersonators, two of whom look suspiciously like the comic's creators.
  • Knight in Shining Armor (deconstructed): Ansom looks like one of these, he cares deeply about the troops under his command, and he can swoop in at just the nick of time to rescue Jillian. Then we get to see his main reason for trying to slaughter Stanley and the Plaid Tribe: Stanley's not a Royal. Ansom does not like non-Royals taking charge.
  • Knight Templar: Betsy the Healomancer so abhors Jillian's nature as a Warlord that she Mind Rapes Jillian in an attempt to change her basic personality.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Yes, there is such a thing as a pun too lame for Erfworld. "The doll's in your court now!":
    King: Ace? [...] Just close your mouth when you fight.
  • Land Poor: The overview of CharlesComm provided between Books 1 and 2 hints at this. Charlie apparently generates only archons (meaning no "commoners" or noncombatants); thus his lands produce no crops, resources, or trade goods. Archons aren't cheap to maintain, so Charlie needs a constant influx of money to keep them alive, fed and healthy. His choice of profession may say as much about the world climate as about him.
  • Language of Truth: Awakened towers speak to one another in pure Signamancy, in which it is impossible to lie or deceive.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A positive case in the Duke Forecastle story. To exploit the double eagle's luck manipulation, Forecastle ropes a crewman into a game of dice with him. The idea is that the bird curses one player with incredible bad luck so it can stock up on good luck to use it in battle. Forecastle has it curse himself. The crewman died shortly after in a barrage that Forecastle was largely unharmed by. Cat Harping, looking back, comments on how Forecastle could have had the bird curse the crewman so Forecastle would have won the game, but didn't because he felt it wouldn't have been fair. And so his bad luck in the game was balanced out by his survival, and in turn Forecastle was able to save the rest of his force.
    Cat Harping: See I always thought, that I was alive because you are a clever man. But now I think it’s also because you’re a good one.
  • Last-Second Chance:
    • Thinking that Wanda is under a loyalty spell, Jillian tries to salvage their relationship. Wanda, in no uncertain terms, shows that she is not under a loyalty spell.
    • After being Decrypted, Ansom offers each opponent a chance to ally rather than be conquered, apparently out of zealous belief that attunement to an Arkentool represent the true mandate of the Titans. To be fair to him, this is also what Parson wants due to the fact they are severely outnumbered without allies. As of the developments at Spacerock, Parson is putting a bigger emphasis on getting help.
  • Leet Lingo: Orlies.
    Orly: ORLY?

    Orly: [being roasted by dwagon] OMGWTFBBQ!

    Tramennis: Now here is my battle plan. If you don't care for it, then you can find another Chief Warlord.
    Orly: [during beat panel] OSNAP!
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Wanda.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Ansom isn't quite this trope because although his desire to exterminate Stanley is less than sympathetic, he still cares for the people under him and respects his equals. Charlie on the other hand surrounds himself with glowing blue ladies that are the closest thing to angels in the setting that we've seen, and he's an unrepentant opportunistic mercenary who's officially in the business of solving problems for his clients, but secretly creates more problems down the line to make more money.
    • Charlie's Rule #3: We are in the business of solving problems for our clients. Corollary: Creating problems for our clients creates business.
    • Also Olive Branch in Book 0. It's not too surprising that she is Charlie's daughter.
  • Light Novel: Whether by accident or design, the text updates are in this format.
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Scrolls in Erfworld appear to be single use. It's here in the caster's hands, then it's gone.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Parson. See this page.
  • Loophole Abuse: Erfworld is an RPG Mechanicsverse. Erfworlders, the native residents of this world, are oblivious to them, but an enterprising Munchkin (like a human) can exploit all sorts of oversights in Erfworld's rules, just like in a real game.
    • Carnymancy is the magic of loophole abuse. Among other things, it can Take a Third Option as far as prophecies are concerned, allowing Fate to resolve its karmic debts in a more harmless fashion. If you trust the Carnymancer, that is.
    • A side's units cannot cross city zones in a non-allied city unless it is their turn. The only known exception is for a unit mounted on a flying unit to jump off or for their mount to be croaked, which results in a fall likely to injure or croak said unit no matter how close to the ground they already were. Parson discovers that Heavy units cannot ride mounts, but certain units that can be promoted to Heavy can. If you promote a unit riding a flying unit to Heavy, the flying unit safely drops to the ground. He is able to use this to make Gobwin Knob's Hobgobwin units land safely with their dwagons.
    • Only casters can enter the Magic Kingdom. This is enforced by the portals used to enter the Magic Kingdom. There might be an exception for some small animals, but any other non-caster unit that enters one of these portals is destroyed on contact. An object doesn't count as a unit, and a dead body counts as an object. Parson uses this to smuggle in an entire army by decrypting a bunch of corpses once on the other side of the portal.
    • Wanda is oddly eager to croak and decrypyt Jack, something Parson and Stanley consider to be an attempt to expand her power. Many turns ago, Jack, Jillian and Wanda signed a confidentiality contract with Charlie. The information is crucial, but so long as they live they are unable to speak of it. Once Jack accidentally gets himself croaked, she raises him and the agreement is no longer binding.
    • Charlescomm and Gobwin Knob sign a truce that inflicts heavy penalties for attacking one another directly or via 3rd parties. But since Lilith was already a Jetstone prisoner at the time, he is able to have her tortured and experimented on at no penalty. He also supplies Jillian with a massive number of resources to overwhelm Gobwin Knob with, knowing that even without telling her to attack, she will inevitably do so.
    • The scroll Charlie gave to Parson to send him home only works if Parson willingly casts it on himself or if the spell is cast by a Carnymancer. Lacking a Carnymancer and Parson's consent, Roger gets around this by tricking Parson into forming a Mental Fusion with him, allowing him to activate the spell himself despite Parson not wanting to.
    • Charlescomm gives Transylvito an ultimatum, forcing them to agree to Charlescomm's terms or get wiped out. The Transylvitans consider deceiving Charlescomm, but they are negotiating via awakened towers, and it is impossible for an awakened tower to trick or deceive another awakened tower when speaking in their own language. So they decide to deceive their own tower.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Alright, let's see; Jack is in love with Jillian (Jack and Jillian, heh), who is in love with Wanda — and with Ansom, who used to be in love with Jillian but is now in love with Wanda but might still have feelings for Jillian, and was also best friends with Vinny who became Jillian's lover after Ansom died, and may be in love with her.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: The nature of Luckamancy, which allows "boosting" one or more units. Luckamancer Clay compares it to being able to ensure a die will always roll the highest possible number. It operates on Equivalent Exchange however, meaning that Luckamancers typically only use it for important engagements at the expense of less important ones, preferably with the help of a Predictamancer or Mathamancer. This mechanic is also used by Fate in order to enforce its prophecies.
  • Mage Tower: A standard feature of cities. They offer a spellcasting bonus to any caster that resides within. The bigger the tower, the bigger the bonus.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The basic mechanics of Erfworld. Magic itself averts this trope: when three or more casters are linked together, they are able to do combine their disciplines in ways previously thought to be impossible. Book 4 gives us some insight into how magic works under the hood, but not enough to give the audience a concrete idea of what is and isn't possible. It is enough to prove that in-universe ideas of the rules are massively off-base; the different disciplines all have a very good understanding of one mechanic and think it's the only one that really matters, but none of them actually use only one mechanic and nobody understands more than one well enough to grasp how they interact.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: Signamancy can create these. It is capable of judging adherence to a contract. While ordinary Signamancy spells do not seem able to magically compel a unit to obey all of a contract's terms, it can inflict penalties for breach of contract, such as by forcibly transferring cities, schmuckers, and even units. And when combined with the right disciplines via caster links, it can enforce contracts by other means.
  • Magical Profanity Filter: Erfworld magically censors profanity. When Parson, who is from Earth, tries swearing, it comes out as "boop".
    Parson: What the boop is going on? Wait...what is this "booping" boop? I can't say "boop?"
  • Magic Dance: Dance-Fighting is a special ability certain units have that gives them a bonus in combat. So far we've seen Caesar lead his Transylvito forces in a song-and-dance number straight out of West Side Story, Wanda leading a horde of uncroaked in a giant Thriller dance, and Charlie's Archons setting up a spell that allowed Ansom and his forces to play DanceDanceRevolution. There's also the ostensibly more powerful "Rocking Out", practiced by Haggar's forces (all of whom can, at least, headbang) and Stanley's elite hobgobwin knights, the Knights In Stanley's Service. There is also reference to a "Safety Dance". Rhymeamancers can apparently lead any unit in a dance fight, even those that lack the ability like Parson.
  • Male Gaze: Happens frequently around Wanda.
    • And Prince Ansom's royal kiester makes it into the frame every time he mounts or dismounts.
  • Malicious Slander: Something Carnymancers are pretty good at, and they have at times taken advantage of Gobwin Knob's already well deserved bad reputation to pin Charlie's own crimes on them.
  • Mana: Usually called juice, but occasionally referred to as mana. It is a special form of Shockmancy from another state of existence called "the source", and Erfworld's behind the scenes mechanics use schmuckers to pay for pulling juice out of it. All units have a juice stat, but only casters are conscious of it. It is most commonly referenced in terms of expending it to cast spells.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The main reason everybody loathes and distrusts Carnymancers. Carnymancy is the magic of belief, and its practitioners are masters at manipulating other peoples' biases and perspectives to con them. Even knowing Carnymancers are untrustworthy is only a limited defense against it.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone around Parson is shocked to discover he switched sides to join Charlescomm. Decrypted units look betrayed, Jack immediately requests Parson to come back to Gobwin Knob, and Marie drops her accent and threatens to shoot him on the spot, pointing out that Wanda could decrypt him.
  • Mauve Shirt: Misty, Jaclyn, Webinar and Dora
  • Meaningful Rename: When Jillian takes Gobwin's Knob, she renames it "I'm Coming For You, Stanley".
  • Medieval Stasis: Erfworld's magic and culture have remained largely the same since Erfworld's creation thanks to Creative Sterility and various limitations Inherent in the System. Those rare people who do risk threatening the status quo, such as King Posbrake and the occasional caster, tend to be accused by the Royals or the various magic guilds of heresy and end up being quashed by them. A conspiracy in the Magic Kingdom aims to change this by summoning a warlord so powerful, that said system will collapse under the strain. Also, Charlie has had some success developing technology with clever use of Thinkamancy links. His capital boasts anti-air artillery among its defenses, and modern guns wielded by his Archons.
  • Men Can't Keep House: The apartment Parson Gotti lived in prior to his summoning was, by his own description, a complete mess.
    Parson: This place is a hole. A condemned hole. For squatter hobbits.
  • Metaphorgotten: Prince Tramennis gives us this:
    Tramennis: You seem bent on spending your last moments in this world with your thumbs jammed into the thumbscrews of guilt, and turning them as hard as you can... which is impossible, I realize... but that analogy had a lot more promise when I started this sentence, and it seemed likely to end with a witty bon mot about screwing yourself. That didn't work out, did it? Nothing has, today.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Inverted. A unit's natural signamancy reflects their inner nature. Slately, who never fights, slowly changed into a portly, short, balding monarch. Wanda goes from Ms. Fanservice to an emaciated husk under Olive Branch's command and recovers after being removed from her service.
  • Mind Rape: What Charlie and Betsy do to Jillian in order to cure her from her flower addiction. The thing is, they also have other goals in mind...
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: One of the easiest ways to annoy your casters is to make them do simple boring jobs below their level of ability or contrary to how they actually want to use their craft. Ace Hardware loves working for Gobwin Knob because he can do more than make boring golems like his predecessor. Digdoug in the backer stories was wasted throughout most of his career just building rock golems, but Homekey put him to good use upgrading their cities and allowed them to make use of strategies completely unheard of in Erfworld. Dirtamancers in general don't seem to be valued the way they should be, really.
  • Missing Steps Plan:
    • A rare justified variant. Wanda admits she doesn't know what the missing step is, but also firmly believes You Can't Fight Fate so she is going through with the plan anyway.
    • A much less justified plan in book 2, when Parson decides to travel through the Magic Kingdom (which threatens to bring every free caster down on their head) simply because his people need his Chief Warlord bonus. That's it. He has no plan beyond that. note 
      Maggie: [to Isaac] I concede that this action is reckless, hasty, possibly unnecessary... arguably quite foolhardy...
      Parson: Keep digging. There's a "but" in there somewhere.
  • Mission from God: Stanley believes himself to be favored by the Titans, evidenced by his attunement to the Arkenhammer; Ansom believes that royal rulership is part of the proper order of things as established by the Titans. The very first comic page shows both are wrong, and the Titan's plan went off the rails before the siege even began.
  • Mood Whiplash: Several. One notable instance here. Everyone is gearing up for a vicious conflict, perhaps even a regicide, doesn't work out like that.
  • Mook Commander: Because its fantasy setting is based on Strategy Games, commander units have a Leadership special that bolsters nearby allies. Normal Erfworld strategy is just to pile up as many of these bonuses as possible. For example, stacking Wanda's Decryption bonus on top of warlord bonuses and so on theoretically makes Ansom strong enough to take a moderately defended city single handed.
  • Morality Pet: Jack serves this role for Wanda, since he's a constant reminder of her betrayal of Faq. Were it not for this, she probably would have killed and decrypted him already.
  • More than Mind Control
    • At the beginning of book one, Wanda has a level of subtle control over Jillian. She can't make her do anything she really wants to do, and the moment the control becomes too overt, it breaks.
    • Carnymancy provides even better mind control than Thinkamancy. Everyone has their own internal story describing how they think the world works and is. If something doesn't match that story, it will either be rationalized or ignored. Carnymancers are experts at narratives and can take advantage of holes in a person's internal story to manipulate them, and by mixing their magic in, their persuasiveness improves further.
    • Decryption, in addition to bringing back a croaked unit under Wanda's control, also seems to modify the unit's Loyalty, both by making them worshipful of Wanda and by modifying their personality. Parson's taunts to Ansom about the will of the Titans and the Arkentools got to him on some level, for example, making him a strong believer in the cause even as he detests Wanda's methods. Sylvia was popped as a Stabber before becoming a Warlord and thus her personality was naturally inclined to link violence with fulfillment. Wanda and Parson certainly gave her that opportunity. Ace is extremely pleased to work with Gobwin Knob because the side respects him more, uses his talents more, and allows him to experiment and play around. Presumably, it goes like this for most of the units decrypted. When it's not enough, you might end up having the unit turn back, like with Ossomer's disgust for Gobwin Knob's lack of honor and indifference to the ideas of toolism.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Wanda, again. Openly acknowledged in this spectacular piece of bonus art from Xin. Merry Christmas indeed.
    Xin: I made you a Wanda and was successful in not eating her. Enjoy!
  • Munchkin: Parson, more or less. He spends his free time trying to find loopholes within the very laws of physics themselves. The campaign he himself made for his friends was pretty much designed so that only a Munchkin would have been able to win.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Parson can now climb stairs more easily. (Note that that page is spoiler-y.)
    • Also Dirtamancy is the magic of Mundane Utility. Key abilities include building and upgrading cities faster and cheaper and producing units from common materials. Sizemore is a "filthy rich rock star" in the Magic Kingdom solely because he can quickly and effortlessly build structures and roads.
    • The Arkenhammer is a good weapon to use in dance fighting. It can also be used for just having a rock concert given that it provides ALL the instruments to a band. One can see Stanley as a traveling musician if it wasn't for his bigger plans.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Parson's reaction to the aftermath of his final plan for Gobwin Knob's victory. It leads to a Rage Against the Heavens and a 10-Minute Retirement.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Parson refrains from a joke about this to Janis; after all, he had just explained pregnancy to her.
  • Mystery Cult: All the different spellcasting disciplines keep secrets, but the Great Minds that Think Alike fit the trope best. They keep their knowledge esoteric and deliberately encourage misconceptions among those outside their group. They also have many occult practices that are reserved from even lesser Thinkamancers.
  • Namedworld and Namedland: Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Erfworld" naming convention.
  • The Napoleon: Stanley is rather short, and sensitive about it: he threatened to croak Parson if he mentioned it again after the first time, even though from Parson's perspective, everyone's short.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Wanda's take on Michael Jackson's red shirt from "Thriller" has a plunging neckline.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: As with any good Role playing Pastiche Erfworld has a few.
    • Neutrals are essentially heirless sides and ruins that dot the land. The leaderless (heirless) sides tend to be those closeted in old cities under a lock.
    • Critters includes game (as in animals hunted for food) and beasts (animals that would normally be used in siege or otherwise). These can also be "tamed" if the warlord in question has an adequate leadership stat.
    • Creeps are Barabrians, either those randomly popped or those created through heirs fleeing their enemies. Any unit can suddenly pop as a barbarian including casters and royals.
  • Never Say "Die": As an in universe example, Erfworlders do not have the words kill or die as part of their vocabularynote  despite the brutality of the world, a juxtaposition that disturbs Parson. The word rape is equally unknown in Erfworld and equally repellent to any who hear it. Caesar is so bothered by these words and even curse words that he makes a deal with Parson where he'll stop smoking in Parson's presence if he'll please please stop saying those things.
  • New Era Speech: Parson delivers one of these to Ansom early on, although he doesn't really believe any of it and is mostly just trying to get Ansom off his game.
  • No Body Left Behind: A rare non-video-game usage. Dead bodies disappear at the end of the day, unless they are claimed as property or moved. This is useful if the body can't be uncroaked or decrypted immediately.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. One function of a dirtamancer is turning crap into crap golems.
  • Non-Answer: Parson has Maggie, Ace, and Sizemore use a caster link to upgrade the tower into a golem. The result is a giant Moai statue. Parson's Stat-O-Vision glasses describe the tower in archetypal words, and when he asks them what it can do, they just tell him it can "be", doing little to explain its practical implications.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • Discussed. One of the biggest questions surrounding the decrypted is whether they will survive if Wanda gets croaked. As people begin seeing them more as people instead of puppets, the consensus slowly spirals over to "they'd probably survive," but there are still no guarantees.
    • Most magical effects fade at the beginning of the next turn, most notably Dittomancer doubles.
  • The Nothing After Death: According to the Book of Canon, most Erfworlders, who haven't done exceptionally well or poorly, will "rejoin with the spirit of the world" or "go back into the box" when they croak. Most Erfworlders interpret this to mean their identity and sense of self will dissolve, possibly into eternal bliss.
  • Nothing but Skulls: After being "decrypted", Ansom's outfit's radish decorations turned into skulls.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Actually, it is the fall that kills you. Anything considered a fall by the world's rules has a high chance of croaking a unit, even if it's just a short drop.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Tramennis is highly intelligent and insightful, but tends to act like a shallow ditz during parleys.
    • Also, in the Lord Crush side-story, Axe is a lot smarter than he seems, although it's unclear whether he's hiding it deliberately.
    • The side of Nestly, which consists of a single level 1 city and has exactly two units. That's just begging to get the side destroyed and the city conquered, right? Not exactly. As explained by Noah, the Chief Caster, their strength lies in covert operations and subtlety. The city is hidden and can't be seen from afar (at least not until their tower awakens), and nobody seems to know where it is. Noah is a Grand Abbie Hippiemancer, which means he is a master of Date-a-mancy, and thus can talk to animals- which means that Nestly has a small army of sea creatures that aren't their units (and thus aren't identifiable as such and don't require upkeep) defending it, and nobody knows this, so whenever the whales attack another side, it's interpreted not as an act of war, but as a tragic accident. And finally, Nestly cut a deal with the Hippiemancers that if either the Magic Kingdom becomes unsafe or Noah is in danger, the Hippiemancers will come to Nestly, so in a pinch, they could have a large part of the Magic Kingdom at their disposal.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: At some point between ''Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" and book 4 the Titans issued a patch to change the rules on what happens when a ruler is captured.
  • Obviously Evil: Played with. Stanley's side has "all the classic evil creatures", and the antagonist sides tend to have classic good creatures and designs, but the actual motivations and morality followed by the various sides are... hazy at best. Certainly Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil, at least not necessarily.
  • Odd Name Out: A stack of archers popped in Jetstone (the Sagittari CXIV stack). Their names were Mary, Carrie, Terry, Jerry, Perry, Harry, Gary, and Rudolfo Sagittari (meaning archer in Latin).
  • Off the Rails: From the very first page. The Titans accidentally left one extra gem in the wrong place, which meant the Marbits were able to build an extra unit of stabbers, which was instrumental in winning a crucial battle, which turned the war so far against Gobwin Knob that they were willing to try the Perfect Warlord spell and launch the plot. This provides a lot of Dramatic Irony, since religious characters on all sides are convinced they're fulfilling the Titans' will. It much later turns out that several factions were manipulating events behind the scenes to get the spell cast and there were several prophesies about it; it's entirely possible that only the details were changed but the broad strokes are Just as Planned.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Tramennis's expression as he realizes that the enemy's force has air-dropped itself into his garrison.
    • Jetstone's forces all look alarmed when Prince Sammy mentions Charlie's gotten involved in the battle.
    • Jillian seeing Sammy killed because she distracted him. Her eyes have a distinct look of horror.
    • Wanda realizing Decrypted can turn.
    • Maggie has an understated one when Parson admits to her that he doesn't have a genius plan to save the day and she actually completely screwed up by forcing Stanley to designate him Chief Warlord again. She's literally struck dumb and simply can't believe that Parson doesn't have a plan.
      Maggie: Oh dear.
    • Of all people, Charlie utters a "Oh. That's not good" during the battle for Castle Lilith when he realizes that Wanda entered her thinkspace and is eager to kick his ass out of her decrypted unit.
    • The court of Transylvito (consisting at that point of Don, Caeser, Bunny and Benny) has one when Benny reveals Parson's bracer gives the odds of Jillian attacking them at over sixty-one percent. It takes a moment for that to sink in, but when it does...
    • Benny, Moneymancer of Transylvito has one when he uses Parson's bracer to see the chances of something bad happening to him to make sure it returned to Parson. We don't see what odds they gave, but it's pretty clear they're higher than he wanted.
    • When Shirley finds out how much power Charlescomm is siphoning off The Source via the portal on a constant basis compared to the amount Jed is freaking out because he used it in an emergency, she panics and shuts the whole operation down.
  • Oh, My Gods!: "Titans' testes!"
  • Only Sane Man: Parson Gotti, aka Lord Hamster, in a somewhat justified example since he was summoned in a world where physics follow the rules of a turn-based wargame. Lampshaded by Jack Snipe in book 2 :
    Lord Hamster: Yet the enemy hasn't attacked her yet. And that's because...?
    Jack Snipe: Because... it wouldn't be Noble.
    Lord Hamster: Right, because the enemy is crazy too. Got it.
    Jack Snipe: Indeed. As a sane man, you are badly outnumbered again, my good Lord. Perhapes you should defect, and join us all.
    Jack Snipe: Bravo, lord, 'twas a splendidly speedy defection.
    • He generally seems to be the only person on Erfworld who really understands strategy at all. No-one else seems able to cope if their initial plan fails or plan much more than stacking bonuses, with the possible exception of Charlie.
      • Although Jack has seemed to take to the idea like a boat to water.
      Jack: "Lateral Thinking." For that wonderful phrase alone he was forever in his Lord Hamster's debt.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When aloof and detached Marie drops her creole accent and threatens to shoot you, coldly adding that she can decrypt you, you know that things got very serious.
  • Orcus on His Throne:
    • More or less enforced; since all sides are Keystone Armies, with the ruler as the keystone, the most prudent course of action is for the ruler to stay in the capital where they'll see no combat. There are exceptions, but most sides play it safe.
    • Furthermore, there's Jillian, who used to be a Princess, then a Barbarian, and is now a Ruler of her own side. She's a sword-swinging Blood Knight, and to her, her barbarian days were the best for her. Even though she's now the Ruler of her own side, she hasn't given up her fighting ways— she's still out raiding, and is buzzing several of Gobwin Knob's cities. Parson is too busy with the Battle of Spacerock to do anything about it, but he's made it clear that as soon as the battle's over, he's going to put all his focus on taking her out. He even told Maggie that if he doesn't make it, tell his replacement to do just that.
    • Lastly, we have the ruler Slately for the Jetstone side. Once the crap hits the fan for Jetstone and Gobwin Knob forces enter the city, Tramennis says, in explicit terms, that Slately is now their single point of failure and their highest priority is getting him away from the battle. This is then subverted when Slately decides that Tramennis should be promoted to heir. When that occurs, then Tramennis should flee to the old capital where he will set up a last stand. Slately would stay behind to buy some time. Slately then has his Hat Magician and his Dollamancer make him the best war gear that they could. He then prepared to earn the money he need for his son's promotion by destroying the archons and getting paid by Charlie. If that didn't work, he was going to make a last stand with his men.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Boy howdy!
  • Our Demons Are Different: "Daemons" are a tribe of natural ally. There have been few references to them so far, but the things that have shown up appear to be references to Pokémon.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dwagons look like plush toys, and are colored blue, brown, green, yellow, purple, red, and pink. With breath weapons ranging from fire to taffy, disregarding the yellows' caustic battlecrap. Their scales are ceramic.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Parodied. So far, we've seen more than twenty rather specific, types: Altruist, Eager, Lofty, Luckless, Schlemiel, Shady, Superfluous, Tardy, Woodsy, High, and Bawdy Elves. The Eager Elves, for example, are all recoloured Links, and High Elves use "natural Hippiemancy, mostly Flower Power", which apparently causes them to act like a Cheech & Chong routine. Book 3 adds Juggle Elves, a faction that has few of its own members but accepts all converts who follow their code. The other types of elves allied with Jetstone and the other Royal forces flocked to their banner for survival after the various sides could no longer afford their upkeep.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Western Giants are based on baseball players, even with a reference to steroid use.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Gwiffons look like marshmallow peeps. Which sounds cute, until their front splits open into a terrible gummy maw. They eat marrow, horns, and hoovesnote .
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vinny Doombats and the other warlords of Transylvito. They're a combination of vampire, Italian, and 50s Greaser stereotypes. Vinny on occasion acts a lot like The Fonz.
  • Outside-Context Problem: From the perspective of his enemies, at least, Parson fits this trope to a tee for all the same reasons he fits Humans Are Cthulhu above. He comes out of nowhere to fight for a side that shouldn't have had any great (or even good) strategists left, and yet consistently invents strategies and tactics that are almost literally unthinkable to any unit popped in context of Erfworld.
  • Perception Filter: Carnymancers make themselves "invisible" by magically magnifying everyone's desire to ignore and avoid them.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: A recurrent theme, Parson doesn't want to be one of these, but he's damn good at it. Incredible resourcefulness + magical compulsion to try to win battles = lots of dead enemies.
  • The Peter Principle: Stanley is an excellent front-line fighter and squad leader. This got him promoted to Chief Warlord and heir designate to his king, and ultimately to Overlord of his entire side. He's... not so great at running it.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Stanley may be a bit of a Jerkass, but after Jack manages to save his life (and a fair number of their dwagons) he does seem genuinely grateful and makes a concerted effort to remember Jack's name thereafter.
    • When his side falls, Digdoug is saved by Dove Barstool, who also heals him up and takes care of his initial upkeep. However, it's also very possible that she was just motivated by the desire to get on the good side of a valuable Dirtamancer, especially one who looked like an easy mark. Or, more likely, both.
  • Playing Both Sides: Wanda has been playing both sides for a chance to get her hands on the Arkenpliers.
  • Pietà Plagiarism:
    • Parson and Misty the Lookamancer.
    • Also, Sizemore and the self-destructing Crap Golem - God and Adam, anyone? Inverted as Sizemore is the "Adam".
  • Pillar of Light: The massive attack Wanda unleashes on Jillian's incursion group.
  • Pinky Swear: A way to form a minor Magically-Binding Contract. It takes a lot of willpower to break one unless the pinky swear endangers the swearer's life.
  • Plot Armor: Actually justified; units that Fate has a particular plan for are extremely difficult to croak before they fulfill it. Completely overwhelming odds are needed to accomplish this, else some lucky break or contrivance will ensure they survive.
    • Sylvia is absolutely assured that the Titans insure her side's inevitable victory. Three perfect headshots from the archer blocked by utterly improbable coincidence later, and you've got to wonder if she might be onto something... She is. A carnymancer named Jojo rigged the game in her favor. In a similar way to a luckamancer, others around her suffer misfortune while she stays safe. It can't protect in every situation, though.
    • When Parson is trapped in an inferno and about to die, he yields to Charlie and attempts to use a scroll that would have sent him back home. Fate intervenes by causing a burning beam to fall on his head, knocking him out. And a rescue just so happens to be arranged at the last minute, thanks to an awkward troll finally gaining the courage to speak with and persuade his ruler.
    • When involved in a link, several casters can even see the plot armor as protective bubbles.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Stanley; a perfect case of The Peter Principle.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • A minor case occurs during the Battle for Gobwin Knob, in that Wanda doesn't tell Parson about all the scrolls she has cached up because she underestimated him and he didn't ask. Far more egregious examples occur during the fight for Jetstone, where everyone overestimates Parson and misunderstands his plans.
    • Charlie also suffers from this when his connection to the Arkendish is weakened. He launches an operation to croak Parson, ordering his archons to set up machine guns and croak or capture him if and when he comes through his portal. But then, a contract violation results in Parson offering himself up as payment for a contract violation. Charlie orders Parson to go through his portal to join his side, but his order to the archons in the portal room to stand down is received too late, causing his archons to fire upon Parson and croaking Innocent Bystanders in the Magic Kingdom in the cross fire.
  • Portal Cut: Possibly happens to any unit unfortunate enough to be halfway through a portal when it closes, though the only example of this happening turned out to be an illusion. Ivan Poe, a Dirtamancer hired to use forbidden magic by Charlie, says that he only narrowly avoided croaking once when he experimented with a portal and caused it to splatter the portal projection. On the other hand, it notably doesn't seem to be a threat when a portal opens, with Marie apparently being pulled right into a newly formed portal she was standing in. Ivan Poe says that portals aren't sharp, you simply fit or don't.
  • Portal Network: The portals in Portal Park of the Magic Kingdom qualify as this, though they are rarely used that way since Erfworld is constantly at war and it is against convention to weaponize them.
  • Position of Literal Power: All over the place, called a "Special". They can all seemingly be created or appointed but this costs money.
    • Heir: only unit that can found a new side and exist and sustain other units without a capital city unless the unit had poped as a barbarian.
    • Chief Warlord: leads the whole side in war all units get their leadership bonus,
    • Commander: leadership bonus to stack, can save a city money by checking up on production areas.
    • Knights: Better stats better armor better all around abilities
    • Field unit: Can move around easier both within a garrison and outside in the world.
    • Archer: Can actually do damage when they throw or shoot things, anyone else who tries either fails or does negligible damage.
    • And many more.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • Commanders issue commands to their troops, and all commands must be obeyed. Including, as Parson so elegantly put it: "I could just like, order an Archon to take off her clothes and drop to her knees. And she'd do it, right?". Fortunately, Parson considers this abhorrent, but unfortunately, he is not the norm. "What an utterly alien thing to think."
    • Everyone gets healed and cleaned, fully, with no marks, at dawn if they weren't croaked - BDSM fans would have free rein to do almost anything. Wanda shows us how.
    • In a Start of Darkness text update, Wanda is in a city where an enemy Hippiemancer used her flower power to make it impossible for anyone to attack one another, however the enemy soldiers are free to try and grope Wanda (free loving is allowed), which Wanda can't defend herself against since she can't attack them. She solves that problem by ordering her rotting uncroaked soldiers to similarly molest anyone who tries it.
  • The Power of Friendship: The nature of Date-a-mancy. It is even possible to use Date-a-mancy to summon a unit you have a strong enough bond with, and this gets used to save Parson from getting banished back to Earth by Charlie.
  • The Power of Rock:
    • The entire concept of dance-fighting. Also, the Knights In Stanley's Service.
    • "How do I love it? I love it... LOUD!"
    • No, Rocking Out is not Dance-Fighting. "Rocking Out is better than Dance Fighting."
  • Precision F-Strike: The first time Parson's obscenity is readable.
  • Prescience by Analysis: Erfworld has two completely different methods of predicting the future. Carnymancers and Predictamancers do it by interpreting the will of a Sentient Cosmic Force that enforces that will upon the universe. Mathamancers and Thinkamancers do it via this trope, analyzing variables and how they will most likely play out.
  • Private Military Contractors: Charlescomm does not wage its own wars; instead it hires out its units to fight as mercenaries for other sides.
  • Properly Paranoid: After all the underhanded schemes Parson did (attacking while surrendering, attacking during a parley, violating the neutrality of the Magic Kingdom), many Sides refuse to negotiate with his Side, considering them underhanded. They're right. When asking a decrypted Ansom if Parson ordered him to assassinate Trammennis during their negotiation, Ansom replied that it was considered, but admitted that he would probably only get a Dittomancied clone. It's heavily implied Ansom was talking to said clone.
  • Prophecy Armor: Some units who fate has a plan for. It takes a lot to kill or incapacitate them. In certain types of Fusion it's even visible as a protective bubble.
  • Prophecy Twist: Predictamancy seems to be based more on peering into the Titan's great plan than literally predicting the future. Fated events are inevitable short of a Carnymancer's interference, since the world will arrange events to prevent or even punish attempts to defy Fate, but the way they can occur tends to be optional.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Thinkamancers when they're sending or receiving thinkagrams.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Royalty. Is. Obsolete". I think not.
  • Punny Name: Nearly everything in Erfworld has a name that is a pun of some sort, if it's not just cutesy. Some are more obvious than others. Prince Ansom is quite handsome, and Prince Ossomer better be awesomer than Ansom if he wants to beat his brother, but his brother Tramennis is hardly tremendous compared to him. And while Wanda Firebaugh hasn't been seen with a wand of fireball yet, Jillian Zamussels' jillions of muscles help her wield that BFS against the minions of our Protagonist, Parson Gotti.
  • Puppet King: Normally, this is near impossible to manage (unless of course, the Ruler willingly goes along for whatever reason), thanks to the rules of Erfworld forcing units to obey and have some degree of loyalty to their rulers. But there has been a terrifying exception. The Chief Hippiemancer of Haffaton made her ruler into a flower addicted puppet and imprisoned her in one of her own cities.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: A unit's gender affects their appearance, and presumably the mechanics of sex, but it doesn't seem to have any bearing on their stats. It does, however, have ultimately minor Signamantic effects. A female ruler who is 'pregnant' (with a city producing an heir) has sore feet and morning sickness, for example.
  • Purple Is the New Black: Printing problems are why Black Dwagons were retconjured into Purple Dragons.
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • When Parson takes out Ansom's siege units, it goes unnoticed for a while because the rules of Erfworld count every battle as a "victory" for Ansom because his opponents fled—unfortunately for the Royal Crown Coalition, Parson's troops only fled after destroying the entire hex's siege units and before taking any losses.
    • Subverted at the end of Book One; while it appears Parson has lost virtually his entire army and only city in the process of fighting off the invaders, they soon discover an artifact that allows them to reanimate the fallen from both sides to build a new army, and a large cache of gems to help them rebuild the city. Parson still considers the victory this, however, since he had to brutally kill hundreds, of not thousands of people in order to save his friends.
    • In book 2, Gobwin Knob manages to capture Spacerock, but it's at the cost of most of their forces on the scene. Furthermore, they alienated the entire Magic Kingdom in the process, and didn't manage to end Jetstone as a side, which was the entire point of attacking the city.
  • Quip to Black: Call it the last... of the ''last'' of the last stands. Complete with YyyyeeEAAAAhhhh!

     Tropes R to Z 
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Parson does this at the end of Book 1. 'Erf' responds by letting him swear.
    • Wifequeen Paige Turner rages against the Titans' sadistic jokes by writing books about various people whose lives came to nothing, just so their existence can mean something, even if they never knew it. She's also working on a book about Archezoa and what the Titans did to it.
  • Railroading: Erfworld is an unusual example in that the GM is the world itself. Erfworld is heavily implied to be a Genius Loci, that uses a Luck Manipulation Mechanic and many other things to enforce certain outcomes in the form of Fate. According to the Carnymancers Erfworld is horribly rigged, and all indications are that they're right.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Erfworld doesn't actually have the word 'rape' as part of their normal vocabulary, but instinctively understand what the word means. When Caesar hears Parson describe what Bill did to Maggie as rape Caesar suddenly grasps just how badly they have wronged both her and her side and makes a mental note that they have a huge debt to clear thanks to that. Transylvito might have brutal interrogations and they may only go into battles they're guaranteed to win if they can help it, but they're better than that. He finds the word itself incredibly vulgar, but also an undeniable explanation of the situation.
  • Rebellious Princess: Jillian, at least until Book 2.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Subverted with Vinny Doombats, and Transylvito in general, all of whom seem to be the vampiric equivalent of Fonzie and/or The Mafia. Played straight with Parson: Ruthlessness.
  • Reference Overdosed: The whole of Erfworld. Parson notices this and wonders if it's not a sign he's lying on a hospital bed in a coma. He eventually realizes that, whatever the reason for it, it gives him unique insight into Signamancy.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Stash spell allows its caster to carry something through a security check by wearing it on their face.
  • Regional Redecoration: The Dirtamancer Sizemore gets to do this through a powerful Mental Fusion that lets him awaken a dormant volcano. Once the rush wears off he's both horrified and awed.
    Sizemore: It was magnificent, Warlord. Horrifying, but... I can't describe it. I actually modified the terrain type, like a Titan.
  • Remix Comic: The lolerfs and demotivators.
  • Retcon:
    • Twolls were supposed to be crafters, but the author realized too late that he had put "Regeneration" as Bogroll's special. Now, there's a whole new school of magic replacing "Deletionism" with "Retconjuration". Word of God states Retconjuration is so far solely in the domain of the Titans, and is seldom used.
    • All Trolls Are Different: Twolls are capable of fabricating any non-magical item, such as armour or baskets. And that is how it has always been.
    • All black/brown dwagons were retconned to purple. According to its wiki, this change happened about the same time that the Familicide spell was cast in The Order of the Stick, so it wiped out all of Erfworld's black dwagons to boot.
    • Epilogue 8 with Wanda was retconned when a bunch of people pointed out Parson was already told about Ossomer turning. In the original, he was surprised by this for some reason.
    • The description of Faq (city) shown in the 2009 Summer Update #37 was retconned to fit the image that appears in Epilogue 21.
    • Epilogue 25, the Archons were glowing blue, not red.
  • Retconjuration: The Trope Namer.
  • Ret-Gone: According to Scripture, Erfworld's main religion, there were 99 original sides. It ultimately turns out that the Titans retconned the one hundredth side out of existence In-Universe. But the erasing was less than perfect, and they were still able to leave records of their existence behind, allowing a very small number of people to still know that they once existed.
  • The Reveal: After Book 1, conspiracies start coming out of the woodwork, enabling this trope.
    • Parson was summoned by multiple factions, for various reasons.
      • The Great Minds That Think Alike want him to defeat Charlie.
      • Janis Atlantis and Marie Lavraie want him to completely break war, by making the biggest war Erfworld has ever seen.
    • Charlie is not a Thinkamancer. He is a Carnymancer. Various characters already knew this, but it was a surprise for the reader.
    • While it was foreshadowed when Lilith hurled herself through the portal with Parson while making her Diving Save and survived, page 123 of book 3 makes it explicit that Charlie's Archons can freely enter the Magic Kingdom.
    • Book 3 chapter 249 has Rodger Victor Clarence's inner monologue reveal Jojo is royal.
  • Revival Loophole: Sometime before the start of the comic, both Wanda and Jack made a promise, enforced by magic, that they wouldn't reveal a secret of Charlie's that they had stumbled across. However, it's explicitly called "the Deal of a Lifetime". When Jack is croaked and decrypted, the contract no longer applies.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Most types of casters have some sort of sixth sense or automatic ability that helps them practice their discipline more effectively. Dirtamancers can sense the composition of the terrain, Thinkamancers have extremely ordered and logical minds, Carnymancers can tell what others' disposition towards them is, etc...
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Part of the game-like mechanics of the universe.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies and Total Party Kill: This strip. By name.
  • Role-Playing Game 'Verse and RPG Mechanics 'Verse: Erfworld the world. One of the few instances of this being played semi-seriously.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Signamancers know that deep down most people consider themselves heroes, or at least they would be if they had the chance. They also know that these people are usually right.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The rule rather than the exception. Justified by Authority Equals Asskicking being an actual rule of the world. Although generally, once you become a Ruling Royal, you stay in your capital and appoint a different Royal as Chief Warlord while you stay to run the kingdom. There are a number of practical reasons behind this (such as how cities are more efficient if being directly run by the Ruler, and the danger of a Ruler being croaked, which could end the Side). In this regard Jillian is still exceptional as a Queen who still goes into battle.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A thinly veiled case when Ossomer feels annoyed at a tile being out of place at Spacerock Tower's roof and hurt when it fell off the roof when the tower came under siege. The tile is him, he is now out of place due to being decrypted, and the real Ossomer will die (fall) with the destruction of Jetsone (the tower).
  • Sacred Scripture: All libraries pop with several books written by the Titans themselves which the more devout Erfworlders try to live by. While we've only seen a few lines quoted in the comic, according to the characters they are quite vague and filled with contradictions. For example, communicating with or resurrecting the dead are said to be impossible, but doing such things or even suggesting the dead can affect the world are also expressly forbidden as though they were easy. A few are more straightforward and explain pure game mechanics; one Obvious Rule Patch we're told about is described in "The Book of Patches."
  • Schmuck Bait: Wanda's brother Tommy fell for it in "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)". He led his troops, including Wanda, into what seemed to be very lightly defended enemy city, despite being advised against it. Once they got in, the enemy caster stationed there started playing her chillaxe, preventing any combat in the hex. He and a fellow warlord comment on how it seems too good to be true, but the alternative is to turn around and run away with their tails between their legs from not being attacked.
  • Screw Destiny: Parson, unlike Wanda, refuses to be a game piece of Fate.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Parson's specialty is Loophole Abuse, which first requires he ignore all the implicit rules of what fighting a war looks like.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Superfluous Elves have the racial ability to know when it's time to leave, usually because they're not wanted. However, when Ansom croaked at the battle of Gobwin Knob, the chief of the elven forces instantly knew it was time to pack their bags and get out of there. He and the few elves that followed him were the only elves to survive the battle. They show up much later as a major subgroup of the Juggle Elves.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
    • Fighting Fate is possible, but hard. A Predictamancer, Marie, asserts that you don't fight Fate, you help it.
    • Parson is Fated to defeat Charlie. Until the events of Book 2 however, he was content to manage a city and study tactics with Jack and Sizemore. But in order to defeat the prophecy, Charlie sabotages Gobwin Knob, causing them severe losses and putting Parson back in charge of the war effort. Eventually, Charlie reveals his hand to Parson and makes things personal, ensuring that Parson will go after him. As Parson put it through the eyebook:
      LordHamster: Chuck you, Farley. Why are you so afraid of me?
      LordHamster: Cause you know I'm gonna find a way out and come after you now.
    • In Digdoug's story, it is predicted that the city of Homekey will experience a major air attack. A Carnymancer proposes making it a self-fulfilling prophecy so that Fate can be satisfied under controlled conditions. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned.
    • The Great Minds theorize that this is actually how Predictamancy works. The act of casting a Prediction spell actually creates a magical entity that enforces the prophecy. It should be noted, though, that the Great Minds have been shown to be deeply over-impressed with their understanding of the world.
  • Semantic Superpower: Played with. The various magic disciplines seem to work mostly off of wordplay sometimes, but this is generally because the casters give only misleading information about their craft.
    • Turnamancers pretend that they just do stuff like making rotating wheels and turning prisoners and such basically because it's all using the word turn. Not to mention talk of 'winding people up' and 'grinding their gears.' But the actually underlying concept of Turnamancy is more like the magic of motivation and progression. Thus, they can effectively move time forward, affect what motivates a unit, power moving objects and so on.
    • Thinkamancers act as though their abilities affect the mind, but this is only part of what they can do. It might be more accurate to say that Thinkamancy is like the magic of the soul as governed by 'strings' that each unit possesses. This makes it a lot more powerful and flexible than people realize and to keep this secret they don't even have words for most of what they can do. Maggie eventually works out that they've fallen for this trap themselves; they're so focused on the magics of conscious thought (g-strings) that they've completely disregarded that a lot of even their basic spells make as much use of emotion (h-strings). The result is that their theoretical models of their own discipline, to say nothing of other disciplines which use different but overlapping mechanics, are catastrophically wrong.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: There are several different interpretations as to exactly how Fate works, but casters along the Fate axis essentially agree that Fate functions as one, manipulating events like a Railroading Game Master to enforce prophecies.
  • Series Continuity Error: The author sometimes forgets what he's established, and contradicts it later. He uses Retconjuration to go back and fix it when he finds out.
    • Sizemore, during the updates between books 1 and 2, mentions Stuffamancers in a way that makes it seem he isn't one, even though being a Dirtamancer makes him a Stuffamancer. This has since been Retconjured.
    • In a Book 2 text update, Slately comes across a table on which are several accessories made by Dollamancer Ace Hardware. He picks one up in particular, and describes it, so readers can tell it's a grenade. Come book 3, Charlie sends a grenade to Ace, who has no idea what it is, only surviving because Parson (who recognized it) told him to throw it away.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sizemore is much more withdrawn and world-weary than at the beginning of the comic. He was never really happy with his life, but he has a lot of thousand yard stares nowadays. You can first see it when the Coalition attack Gobwin Knob through the tunnels and he uses traps to single-handedly kill dozens of warriors while the troops perform hit and run tactics.
  • Ship Tease: Fans are starting to notice a certain degree of... something between Parson and Maggie. It was eventually both confirmed on Maggie's end and sunk from Parson's when Janis (a Date-a-Mancer) told him that Maggie had feelings for him and Parson made it clear he doesn't reciprocate them. Although the longer the series goes on, the more his feelings for her seem to become ever deeper (and her signamancy becomes more appealing to him as well)...
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Show Some Leg: The "Flash Mob" tactic.
  • Shown Their Work: Everything from throwaway jokes to side characters contain multilayered references across many fields, including history, biology, music, politics and literature. Rob Balder once stated that he put 30 hours of research into creating one specific character who as yet hasn't had one on-panel line. The art by Xin Ye is similarly impressive, containing advanced uses of perspective and filling the backgrounds with rich detail.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Parson.
    Ossomer: This new Chief Warlord, he is only Level 2. How can he—
    Sylvia: He is Level 20. He is Level Thousand. He is Level Million. It does not matter.
  • Siege Engines. Siege units. The battle for Gobwin's Knob included siege towers pushed by 20m tall Cloth Golems and Wiener Rammers: living Battering Rams in the shape of elongated wiener dogs with rams horns.
  • Significant Anagram: Parson Gotti —> Protagonist. Even more Significant Anagram: Parson A. Gotti — A Protagonist. As in, there are others. Like Judy Gale.
  • Single Specimen Species: Most feral animals pop randomly from a list of species programmed into Erfworld by the Titans themselves. But the Dread Naughtilus is, as far as it knows, the only one of its kind. It is one of Erfworld's oldest creatures, possibly even as old as Erfworld itself.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Parson, particularly in Book 1. For a fun Drinking Game, take a shot every time he says "Boop." (It may kill you though).
  • Sleeping with the Boss: This is a fundamental part of Erfworld culture, since a commander can give his units any order, including "take off all your clothes", and they'll obey it. This really Squicks Parson out.
  • Sliding Scale Of Fate Vs Free Will: The world in general lies somewhere between types two and three, as "Fate" is an explicit force and even has its own axis in the world's magic system. Though not even a Predictamancer can foresee the entire future in absolute certainty. Wanda and her forces believe it's a type one, and that she is a driving force in fulfilling fate. Parson and those concerning him, however, such as Grand Hippiemancer Janis, appear to be agents of Screw Destiny.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Most uncroaked are either Type I or Type III, depending on how much power a given Croakamancer has put into the body. Decrypted, however, are always Type IV.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Part of the whole conflict with Royalty. Whenever a non-royal side gains too much power, the Royal sides tend to gang up against them. The fact that Stanley claims that the Titanic Mandate has been transferred from the Royals to the Attuned wielders of the Arkentools just makes things a lot worse. Lately, this issue has begun to affect Transvylto. A long time ago, the king replaced the old system with a merit based one. But thanks to the war over the Arkentools, he has begun to rethink it and has become very snobby indeed with his Chief Warlord, since he is barely even Noble. Neither side is really that good, since while the Royals enforce their perceived superiority with ruthless abandon, Stanley got such a large coalition fighting against him because he was attacking so many people.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Stanley.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Queen Bea and her side only existed briefly in the story before quickly being wiped out. Bea herself appeared in a single scene in a text-only update. And yet, her legacy continues to have a disproportionately massive impact in thwarting Gobwin Knob. Roger implies that her final, suicidal act of spite actually generated a Croakamancy curse that continues to haunt them.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Axe Bodyspray, chief warlord of Squashcourt, is a huge hulking man with no patience for books or the other more intellectual pursuits of his predecessor, Prince Racket. However, that's out of disinterest, not stupidity. When his king passes along a "coded message" that's actually just a Sudoku puzzle, he realizes that it's just a game, solves it and then goes to see Lord Crush in the dungeon. After hearing Crush's plan to save their side and their alliance against a larger, more powerful side, he recognizes that it'll work and is their only chance, even though he had intended to come down and laugh at the infeasibility of whatever plan Crush had come up with.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Scripture is often this, with the passages a mix of serious sounding doctrine and casual, informal speech.
    "18. Resist the temptation, remain penitent, return to your Number, and you shall be redeemed. 19. Embrace the temptation, flee the foul consequence, and you shall be destroyed. 20. Seriously."
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Boop!
  • Spam Attack: Literally for Charlie; when the decrypted Gobwin Knob Archon Lilith is about to describe what he looks like to some of his other Archons (while protected from direct attack by a treaty that will empty Charlie's treasury if he or any of his units harms a Gobwin Knob unit) Charlie proceeds to send hundreds of parley requests to her in the space of a few seconds, completely obscuring her vision with a massive cloud of message pop-ups faster than she can dismiss them, leaving her blinded and dazed.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The story was set off from the Titans accidentally leaving an extra gem in the Minty Mountains.
    • In Book One, Stanley is several times the Gilligan to Parson's plans. Jillian does this to the anti-Gobwin Knob coalition in Book Two thanks to her relationship issues. Hell, Parson even said Stanley fell somewhere between Gilligan and Starscream at one point.
  • Speech Bubbles: Using different fonts for real-world and Erfworld characters.
  • Sprint Shoes: Arkenshoes, which grant unlimited movement and allow teleporting "home".
  • Start of Darkness: The "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" series of text updates details Wanda's backstory.
  • Start X to Stop X: Janis the Hippiemancer, who wants to see Erfworld at peace. She's become convinced that this won't happen until things get broken even worse than usual.
  • Stealth Insult: Parson convinces Stanley to require that everyone address him as the Tool instead of Lord.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The walking, talking trees are called "Gumps." And that's not the end of it.
    • Wanda (a Croakamancer) is leading a horde of Uncroaked against the Coalition forces to the tune of Thriller while dressed as Michael Jackson. Ansom replies by setting up a dance-fight of his own. What tune can we assume he is dancing to, based on his moves? The Bee Gees' Staying Alive.
    • Charlie's flying chicks, named "Archons"...
    • Jack suggests casting the Flash on the enemy hex, so that they can't see anything else in Wanda's hex. Look at the last panel. What are the decrypted archons doing? They're flashing the enemy.
      Jetstone Dittomancer: Double your pleasure, double your fun. That's a winning pair if I'd ever seen one.
    • In this Summer update, Jillian kills a fish. A Fish Called Wanda. Bitter, ironic, and oddly funny.
    • In a rather dark version of this, the flowers that Olive Branch uses to control everyone are called "hero buds", or, with women, "heroine buds"note .
  • The Strategist: A side's Chief Warlord is expected to play this role. Charlie and Parson do it too, even when they don't hold the Chief Warlord position.
  • Strategy Versus Tactics: Discussed by Parson partway through Book 3, when he gets all the major figures of Gobwin's Knob together to explain the two to them.
  • Stripperiffic:
  • Stylistic Suck: Hamstard.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: When she hears Judy say the word year, despite never having heard of it before, Jillian knows instantly that it equals three-hundred and sixty-five turns. The word "kill" also inspires a similar reaction in Erfworlders - they recognize it as a vulgar synonym for "croak".
  • Sugar Apocalypse: Partially thanks to Stanley demanding during Parson's summoning that they find a warlord for whom "everything should seem familiar and safe."
  • Sugar Bowl: It is implied that in the ancient past, war was basically just a competitive party, but the Titans used a Cosmic Retcon to rewrite it into the Crapsaccharine World it is today and make it seem as if it had always been that way.
  • Summon Binding: The spell that brings the protagonist to the RPG Mechanics 'Verse of Erfworld also subjects him to its rules. As such, he becomes a unit under his Overlord's control, and will die if he refuses an order. However, he sometimes has a lot of room for creative interpretation.
  • Summon Everyman Hero: Parson. Also, Judy. And Charlie seems awful savvy about Earth terminology, but he did know Judy long ago.
  • Summon Magic: a great deal of hat magic is this, pulling things out of hats from messages to a Killer Rabbit.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: Transylvito has put a lot of Shmuckers into building up Faq; Caesar, not thinking highly of them, thinks his ruler has fallen victim to this trope.
  • Superstitious Sailors: Units with the Seafarer special are extremely superstitious, to the point that they won't even attack a feral animal out of fear that it will curse them. Forecastle, the only non-sailor on the ship, is keelhauled for accidentally taming the animal in question; this animal ends up saving the entire fleet due to its Luck Manipulation Mechanic and the insights this gives into the enemy strategy.
  • Support Party Member: Casters are frailer and more valuable than other units, so they're generally kept away from battles as much as possible. Their skill sets generally support this, such as Luckamancers tweaking battle odds to let you pick winnable engagements, Predictamancers foreseeing future problems or Rhymeamancers applying buffs to the side. However, they do also have some direct combat potential, such as Rhymeamancers being able to lead any any units in a dance fight by playing music or Predictamancers having perfect accuracy due to knowing the exact right time to shoot.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After all the dirty underhanded tricks Parson pulled in the first two books the other sides are extremely reluctant to negotiate with Gobwin Knob, considering them dishonorable and untrustworthynote . It doesn't help that they're right. Parson seriously considered having Ansom assassinate Tremmannis during their negotiations, and was only was dissuaded when he realized that he'd probably only get a Dittomancy clone.
    • Parson spends a good deal of the first and second books simply learning more about how Erfworld works, because not only does none of it make sense to him, he's very aware that he needs to know as much as he can to have any chance of success.
    • At the beginning of the comic, Sizemore is relatively happy- sure, his side sucks and his Ruler doesn't care about him, but he hasn't been directly involved in the war and everyone in the Magic Kingdom likes him. As the comic rolls on, Sizemore becomes more and more unhappy- his side is now one of the most strong and formidable, but Parson is making him use his magic to kill people and the Magic Kingdom hates Gobwin Knob and him by association. He is not happy with Parson after all of this.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Parson's specialty. Jack in particular admires his skill at it, noting when he hears Parson's plan after they are stranded above Jetstone that while the rest of them had done a decent job coming up with a plan to survive the battle despite their obvious sitting duck status, Parson had come up with an even better plan on how to WIN the battle instead.
    • We see Ansom do this at least once too, when Vinny presents him with two options to escape one of Parson's traps and he takes a third.
  • Take That!:
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Parson and Maggie in the beginning, because Parson was a little peeved over Maggie's indirect role in Misty's death. They've since reconciled. Parson and Stanley still don't really get along, although it's not as bad as it was in the first book.
  • Tempting Fate
    Tramennis: What's the worst that could happen?
    King Slately: The worst? The Titans could hear you ask such a question.
    Slately: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.
    Tramennis: I tempt the Titans?
    • King Posbrake comes up with a counter strategy in case Charlie betrays a contract: He has a hired Carnymancer cast a spell on him to make him immune to ranged attacks for one turn. That's all well and good, quite clever, but then he ends the chapter saying that Charlie has no idea what a clever Carnymancer can do. Charlie is a Carnymancer, quite an old one and almost certainly the most powerful seen in the story.
  • Talking Poo: Crap Golems.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: The Magic Kingdom declares all but the basic spells from every discipline "OP", and essentially heretical (thus grounds for banishment for any caster that uses it and a ban on all free casters doing business with their side). This means every school of magic is significantly less powerful than it should be. The exception is the Thinkamancers who secretly enforce these rules, who make damn sure that nobody outside their ruling body realizes how powerful they really are.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Jojo calls the people he just attacked "friends."
  • Textplosion: The writer started doing text updates to cover the gap between the strip's first and second artists. The updates were accompanied by a single panel of fan art and generally followed the comic's main story. When the second artist started to have personal issues, the text updates returned and were eventually announced as becoming a permanent part of the strip. Between the second and third artists, text updates returned full-time to flesh out the backstories of some secondary characters. With a new artist on board, the comic now alternates panels and text in the main storyline, and there are now weekly updates to text-only stories inspired by the strip's Kickstarter backers.
  • Thanatos Gambit: According to Roger, if you enact a plan while intending to die carrying it out, it generates a dark form of magical power that makes you significantly more effective. While it doesn't guarantee the success of your goals, actually dying with such intentions is theorized to leave behind a magical entity that tries to fulfill them. Units dying for vengeance can in effect leave behind a sort of curse against their enemies.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: All of them, because any job not related to fighting just gets done automatically.
  • Tongue-Tied: Anyone under Charlie's magical non-disclosure agreement literally cannot speak of the bound subject.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Casters in a combat situation. Since casters usually form the backbone of a side and are so hard to replace if lost, they are almost never sent into direct combat. The deployment of Jetstone’s casters outside the capital at the start of Book 2 is directly said to be because they expect that battle to decide the fate of their entire side.
  • Too Clever by Half: Charlie's clever bit of maneuvering to get Benny into the Magic Kingdom to overheard a bounty offer for Parson is uncovered almost immediately, which only convinces the Moneymancer that Charlie is every bit as dangerous as Parson has been telling them. It also does a lot to convince Don King.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Stanley displays some level of this at times, on the strategic level anyway. Oddly, he occasionally shows brief flashes of genius through all the stupid.
  • Took a Level in Badass This. Bottom-left panel.
  • To Win Without Fighting:
    • Parson places an emphasis on that in his strategy lecture.
    • Frequently used by Haffaton. For example, Uncroaked decay after a certain number of turns. The only way to get new Uncroaked is to croak living units. By simply waiting until all of Wanda's Uncroaked decay, Haffaton deprives Goodminton of a sizeable chunk of its forces without risking any of its own in the process.
  • Translator Microbes: English words Parson uses are immediately understood by erfworlders as soon as they hear them, but cultural references are not.
    • This seems to be part of the Perfect Warlord spell. Stanley specifically requested someone who was good with Erfworld's Language. It seems to be a two-way thing, Parson is censored whenever he tries to swear in Book 1.
      • On the other hand, Erfworld is full of Earth cultural references and the Titans who crafted it look like Elvis impersonators, so it's anyone's guess why it works this way.
    • Erfworlders seem to get an immediate mental dictionary definition of words from Earth. Some are confusing (why would someone need a word for precisely 365 turns?) Some are horrifying, such as concepts like death and rape (which exist and are normal, common, and unremarkable, but get described by euphemisms if they have words at all). Some cause actual physical pain, like profanities that are supposed to be censored by the very fabric of reality. To some natives, these words make Parson seem like an Eldritch Abomination from a realm where Erfworld's laws of reality do not apply (which is more or less true).
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Parson asks Marie if either Jetstone's remaining forces or fate itself have set up a trap on the other side of the portal. She answers that of course there's a trap on the other side, but that he'll go anyway. Sure enough, the city is on fire, and the portal closes behind him; he is physically trapped within the burning city.
  • Trapped in Another World: Parson.
  • Tron Lines: These appear while Wanda is casting the Summon Perfect Warlord spell. Even the "PLOT" Unsound Effect when Parson appears in Gobwin Knob (not the earlier one when he disappears from his apartment) somewhat resembles the TRON logo.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Casters have this by virtue of being incredibly useful to their side and being extremely hard to replace. At one point it’s mentioned that a Ruler is more likely to disband his Chief Warlord for advising a caster to disobey an order than he is the caster for refusing to obey the order.
  • Unequal Rites: There can be friction between casters of different disciplines due to the differing philosophies behind each discipline. For specifics:
    • Most seem to look down on Croakamancers in particular, citing the magic as unclean and abominable.
    • Carnymancers are also disliked, especially by Thinkamancers, for being more or less "cheaters" of Erfworld's physics.
    • Predictamancers are the only kind of casters ashamed to live in the Magic Kingdom, as a barbarian Predictamancer would be one who failed to prevent their side's fall. Their natural caginess when it comes to talking about their discipline doesn't help much.
    • Dirtamancers, while considered nothing more than glorified janitors by most Warlords, are loved in the Magic Kingdom for quick, effortless construction talents. Sizemore intentionally works for "dirt" cheap but is still "filthy rich" among casters. Dirtamancer Digdoug in one of the side stories recalls the previous side he worked for, whose Chief Caster forbade him from entering the Magic Kingdom, and made a point of looking down his nose at Dirtamancy. Digdoug became convinced his discipline was regarded similarly to Croakamancy or Carnymancy, but astute readers will realize the Chief Caster didn't want Digdoug to discover he would be more respected than himself in the Magic Kingdom. According to Dove Barstool, however, Dirtamancers are often viewed as creeps. Probably due to social tensions outside of the Magic Kingdom that isolated them and because they live underground in the Magic Kingdom where no one but Dirtamancers can reach themnote . She is an Unreliable Expositor, though.
    • Date-a-mancers are especially susceptible. Their role is to read the cold, hard facts about people's relationships. Most sides get rid of them after a while because, according to Duncan, "knowing the cold truth behind our interpersonal relationships only causes grief."
  • Treants: Gumps are a type of forest-capable unit note  used by the Royal Crown Coalition, shaped like giant, humanoid trees. There are also Tannenbaums, which seem to be pine tree-shaped, Christmas-themed Gumps.
  • Underestimating Badassery: In Book 3 Gobwin Knob and allies are so focused on their political games that they don't notice Faq building an assault force on their doorstep. Even after they find out that it exists and has left, they completely ignore it other than using it as a tool in their negotiations with Transylvito (with the information they have available Jillian could technically be attacking either faction, but everyone seems oddly convinced that she's betraying her ally instead of engaging her sworn enemy). Gobwin Knob itself, which had previously held off one of the largest armies ever assembled for several days with a tiny garrison, falls in a single turn.
  • Unfortunate Names: Sofa King, Mount Mofo, Countess Hedda Splode, Warlord Ranger Ford which wouldn't have been a problem, if he wasn't attacked by an elephant named irony, Stanley the Tool turns out to be a subversion (sorta, his last name is Plaid as in "played" and he is easy to fool, but this does make him a good Tool for the Titans, so...), Lady Sylvia Lazarus, the suicidal poet, Lord Manpower the Temporary who is killed in the second strip, as well as a few others.
  • Uniqueness Decay: When the sentient tower Jed was awakened it was a special effort requiring a caster linkup. But since then, the Great Minds have awakened every single active tower on Erf, effectively making it a new standard feature.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Wanda's Wardrobe has its own entry at Erfwiki.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Casters tend to have theories and insights into the nature of Erfworld, but those ideas inevitably feature the caster's personal discipline as the most important element of Erfworld. For example, the Thinkamancer Great Minds have discovered that most of Thinkamancy involves manipulating a unit's magical G-string. They therefore assume all other magics also work via manipulation of G-strings. For example, Predictamancers don't predict the future, they subconciously work their G-string to create a magical entity that will cause their prediction to occur. When Maggie describes Dateamancy within the Great Minds' framework, she compares it to defining the sea by how much a cork bobs up and down.
  • Unsound Effect: "PLOT!", "Redox!", 4CHAN! YTMND!, NSFW!, FUNKENSTEIN!, and lots more.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Parson's unpleasant arrival is followed by a string of profanity, whereupon Parson realizes all of his swear words are automagically censored as "boop". Croak is universally used for kill, dead or death. (As explained under "Never Say "Die"" above, the word "kill" isn't magically censored, but native Erfworlders react to its use as though it were an obscenity.)
    • In-universe, the word 'year' is considered this by a native Erfworlder, who instinctively knows its meaning but can't understand why someone would have a word for 365 turns.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • The world's economic system is designed so that expanding beyond a dozen or so cities starts to drain money faster than it generates it, blunting any successful conqueror's momentum unless they're willing to spread themselves ludicrously thin. We see the result of this in the side of Haffaton in the prequel story; they had conquered at least 50 cities, but other than a powerful border army expanding the frontier and some magical traps those cities are empty and they can't afford defenses even in the capital.
    • As seen in some of the side stories, a Side can effectively have more cities by spinning off a new allied Side with a strict Signamancy contract to prevent betrayal. The fact that Haffaton refused to do so is likely a result of Olive's Control Freak tendencies.
    • According to a caster named Noah, the circumstances under which Archezoa, one of the original sides of Erfworld fell, proves that the Titans deliberately designed the war game of Erfworld to be unwinnable on a fundamental level.
  • The Vamp: Wanda's not above using sex to manipulate Stanley.
  • Verbal Tic: Lloyd, the Dittomancer (multiplication mage), almost always talks in paired sentences ("Yeah yeah, I know, I know"), or repeats what people say back to them before he answers ("Double 'em? Double 'em! I'll quadruple them!").
  • Villain Protagonist: Parson, technically.
  • Visual Pun: Lloyd, the Jetstone Dittomancer (a caster that creates copies of things like soldiers and arrows), has a staff with a copyright symbol on the end of it. He's a copywright. Or alternately, he has the right to copy.
  • War Has Never Been So Much Fun: Deconstructed — the world is full of superficial cuteness which serves as a backdrop for a relentless series of unending wars.
  • War Is Hell: Parson seems to flip-flop somewhere between this and apathy about the plot.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Parson after winning the Battle of Gobwin Knob. See My God, What Have I Done??
    • In the grand strategy meeting Parson holds after the Battle of Spacerock, Parson weighs up the costs of the whole fiasco and is quite clear that "It. Was not. Worth it."
  • Watching Troy Burn: Something Tramennis has to watch as he departs from the soon to be lost capital of Jetstone.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Erfworlders both subvert and play this straight. There are no indications that Erfworlders can die of old age, or even age at all beyond their natural Signamancy changing note . However, the nature of Erfworld means that most don't live that long. Within eighty thousand turns, or a little under 220 years, there have been eighteen kings of Jetstone. That means that even some of the people least likely to croak note  are only averaging around twelve years of rule. They probably live as long as 15-20 if lucky. Slately, himself, has lost 22 children (one was never even born and another died in his first battle) and has ruled at least 3 thousand of those 80,000 turns making him at least 8 years old. By that standard, Parson is practically ancient. The only known exceptions are the most powerful casters in the Magic Kingdom, such as Roger Victor Clarence, who is over 78 years old.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Just about everyone in the Magic Kingdom can agree that Wanda is a world shattering threat they need croaked. But when several Gobwin Knob units come to rescue her from their prison, the lack of coordination and outright infighting causes the casters guarding Wanda to lose what should have been an easy fight.
  • We Can Rule Together: At the beginning of the Love is a Battlefield story arc, Jillian and Wanda both try this on each other. Both have their own reasons for refusing.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: This is an ability of Master Signomancers. They can see what words and concepts are in a unit's repertoire (especially if they just popped and haven't expanded their initial list yet) and custom-design an argument to absolutely crush that unit's self esteem.
  • Welcome to Hell: "You are in what may be the worst, most Titans-forsaken place in all of Erfworld. This is the Olive Garden."
  • Wham Episode:
  • Wham Line:
    Stanley the "Worm": Fine, draw it up.
    • One at the end of the short-but-shocking Wham Episode where the power of the Arkenpliers blows Big Think apart, notable mostly for who is saying it:
    The Arkenpliers: *sigh* Inconvenient.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Over 100 pages into Book 3, we finally get to see Charlie in the flesh. He's a combination of Charles Xavier and Charlie Brown.
    • That's nothing compared to the shot that comes a few pages later when we see the result of Parson's Parley with Charlie: Parson dressed in Charlescom livery.
    • At the end of chapter 242 of Book 3, Claud and Ivan wonder what the golem they've caught was doing underground. The following picture shows what it was doing. Collapsing the foundation of the Great Mind's temple.
    • At the end of book 4, it shows the Dirtamancers celebrating Wanda's dead body.
  • Whatevermancy: Everywhere. Only a handful of schools fail to use this form. It even provides the picture for the trope. The exceptions are Flower Power, Hat Magic, and Retconjuration (formerly Deletionism). The other 21 disciplines all end in "mancy".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Gobwin Knob's human forces are mentioned once at the beginning, and never seen or mentioned again.
    • Also, in an in-story instance, the Gobwins of Gobwin Knob's namesake - not a single one can be found after the Volcano Uncroaking event. Though there is speculation that Charlie's machinations are behind this. By notable exception, Hobgobwins (a variant) have not vanished.
    • The Marbits get an offhand mention of having some colonies around in the mountains, but otherwise disappear entirely after the tunnel fight in the first book.
  • What Is Evil?: Stanley's reaction to Parson labeling him an Evil Overlord. He starts a tirade in which he declares that the sides in war are not distinguished as "Good" and "Evil", that the "Nobility" likes to put on airs but they still rule through violence and fear. What there is is "Holy" and "Unholy" (i.e. the chosen of the Titans and those who try to defy their will) and their side happens to be the "Holy" one, which means destiny (or the plot) is on their side.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Most types of elves are proficient in Healomancy or various kinds of gathering skills. All Superfluous elves get is the ability to know when they aren't needed or should just go, and an ability to blend into the background. However, this ''did'' save their forces during the battle for Gobwin Knob, along with the other elves who listened to their warning.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In Erfworld? Not much. Commander units are the only ones to get treated like people, with grunts being treated more like furniture or equipment. A text post follows the creation of a squad of Jetstone archers. They pop into being atop the wall with an understanding that they are to shoot an enemies that get near, stand there all day, and retire to their bunks without anyone speaking to them. The viewpoint character guesses that they just aren't important enough for someone to bother talking to them. Parson makes a point of talking to them like equals and is seen as bizarre for doing so.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This trope is a very important part of the story with regard to the Decrypted. The Decrypted are resurrected units, who come back virtually identical to their alive selves, except that they are unfailingly loyal to Wanda and the Arkenpliers. The majority of the setting regard them as abominations unto nature who are mockeries of the people they used to be, and this attitude gives the Decrypted a lot of problems.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Parson calls out Maggie for her (albeit indirect) part in Misty's death towards the end of Book 1.
    • Ansom calls out Jillian for casually executing every decrypted she captures. He's especially appalled because she's doing so because she believes them to be empty shells, even though she knows Ansom is also decrypted and she seems to hope to turn him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Stanley has a decision to make. Will he save Parson not knowing what his plan is, or will he let him die?
  • When Dimensions Collide: Parsons lack of stats points to him still working by some of the laws of Earth, despite being bound by many of Erfworld's rules.
  • Whip of Dominance: At first, the reader is led to believe Wanda's "hobbies" is simply playing the role of a Torture Technician when she visits the captured Jillian in the dungeon, and Stanley seems to believe the same. But it's soon made clear that Wanda and Jillian just have an odd BDSM-fueled relationship, which just happens to involve Wanda dressing in a bondage-themed outfit and whipping the submissive and captive Jillian with a cat-o-nine-tails while faux interrogating her and their dialogue implies these whipping sessions are a regular thing. The Mook guarding the door outside even notes that the screams he heard were not pleas for mercy. It's later revealed that Wanda is using these whipping sessions to secretly manipulate and control Jillian via More than Mind Control methods.
  • Wingding Eyes: Whenever an Erfworlder croaks, their eyes literally squeeze into Xs.
  • Winged Unicorn: Unipegataurs which have humanoid torsos, horse's bodies, wings of an eagle, etc etc.
  • With Due Respect: People are forced to shut up if ordered to do so by their superiors. This trope is the only way units can contradict their rulers without risking being silenced. This means that a lot of sarcasm is thrown around instead.
  • World of Pun: Pretty much every other object in Erfworld is based on or named after some real-world equivalent. Listing examples would take up the entire page.
    • World of Symbolism: The nature of Signamancy and Erfworld's puns. Carnymancy is implied to be able to manipulate this. And ultimately, since Parson can recognize tropes and puns, that makes him a master at natural Signamancy - he can see a pun or trope and instantly recognize the symbolic connection that it implies the actual entity performing the pun or trope to have. Example: King Haggar looks like President Nixon, which means that he's untrustworthy and shrewd.
  • Written Roar: In comic a dwagon's roar gets rendered as a loop of text ("RRROOOOOOOAAAAAAA" with the final "A" leading back to the block of "R"s).

  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Downplayed in that scout's can spend subjective hours searching a given hex for enemy units then report back in what seems like minutes after they left to other units. Only the order of actions is important so everyone is in the same turn if the scout encounters enemy units who aren't having their turn. Only the order of actions is important.
  • You and What Army?: Inverted.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Wanda and Predictamancers in general believe this. They have good reasons too, since Fate is a Sentient Cosmic Force that will enforce a prophecy until it is fulfilled. But it can be stalled by thwarting its current plans, forcing it to setup the board all over again. The Carnymancers vigorously disagree with this generalization.
    • Wanda actually has a very detailed, nuanced view of Fate which arguably counts as a deconstruction of the trope. While ultimately a fatalist, she also believes that the existence of Fate does not mean the future is set and everything is inevitable. When the decrypted Antium asks why they don't just attack immediately instead of waiting for Parson if they're fated to triumph, Wanda expounds on her beliefs:
      Wanda: Fate is inevitable, Warlord. But our path to it is not. We must first divine, and then enact our destinies. To live is to suffer. Our Fate is our only release. So if we fight against Fate, or fail to act in support of it when the way is clear, then we only worsen and prolong our misery. Our choices do matter. Wise choices ease the way, and foolish ones cause suffering.
      Jack: In other words don't be a Fool. It hurts.
      Wanda: As it should.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Several of Parson's gambits in the first book would have ended the attack outright if they hadn't been thwarted by increasingly ludicrous coincidences.
  • You Didn't Ask: Parson does not consider this an adequate response.
    • The Great Minds, however, have formalised this, the next level of secrecy above Need To Know being described as Need To Ask.
  • Younger Than They Look: Occurs by default given that Erfworld has no children and everyone pops as young adults. Even so, one turn is equal to one day, though spread out in a rather odd fashion between the various sides. So when units talk about something having happened thousands of turns ago, they only mean a few years. As a result a unit like the old looking King Slately has been king for less than ten years. On the other side of things, Thinkamancers Isaac and Clarence look significantly younger than they are. The difference between an Isaac and a Slately is that Isaac has remained a useful, clever unit and thus maintained his Signamancy while a Ruler like Slately who does little and isn't particularly capable has deteriorating Signamancy. We've also seen Maggie get noticeably younger looking over time as her power and importance to her side increase.
  • You Get What You Pay For: This gets the ball rolling in story as the spell to summon "the perfect warlord" ends up being a Summon Everyman Hero spell because the overlord running the show refused to purchase the spell's support plan. Possibly subverted: later events suggest that, while Parson is hardly the warlord that Stanley wanted, he is the warlord that Stanley needs.
    • Subverted further when Parson gets upgrade artifacts that in story materials are meant to help the spell "fix its goof."
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Except for Overlords who command a faction, basically no one on Erfworld has true free will due to a hidden "loyalty" factor built into the world. As Overlords go, Stanley the Tool is the biggest idiot you could hope to find. Maggie, his Chief Thinkamancer, finally gets fed up with his bad decisions and asks, "May I give you a suggestion, Lord?" ("Sure." *FOOF*) It was established early on that units can bend or break orders when necessary to their overlord's survival:
    Stanley: Are you refusing an order, officer?
    Wanda: I'm allowed. I'm convinced it will lead to your destruction.