Within this comic, Kaspall is the name of the unusual city in which the story takes place. This city is remarkable for two things:
- First, the network of gates leading into and out of a world formed entirely of places thought about and imagined by the people of this world, called the Skein.
- Second, the many individuals from other worlds who have accidentally found themselves in Kaspall by mistakenly wandering through a gate of this kind in their own world.
Around the time this story begins, several events are occurring in tandem: a new off-worlder by the name of Alex Gray is being processed by the O.W.R. ("Off-Worlder Registration"); a student psychomantic (mind-mage) named Caroline is doing a field project at the Skein Institute for Professor Jaiva; the Captain and Lieutenant de Montfort ("Call me Harry. Please.") are investigating a curious series of murders; and, in Hazel Karswell's small Greenacre Street apartment building, Sam Goldbourne has fallen behind on paying his rent. Oh, and something odd is happening at a certain mysterious estate.
These facts are, of course, connected.
We recommend starting at the beginning.
The artist has a second webcomic titled Spare Keys for Strange Doors.
Contains examples of:
- Alternate Universe: Kaspall is filled with people from alternate universes, a lot of humans for some reason, though the only one who might be from Earth is Alex.
- Alt Text: Starting in Scene 20, pg. 228.
- Ambiguous Gender: The Captain is an androgynous bipedal rat, and has never found it necessary to specify plumbing or pronouns on-screen. (As the author put it in the comments: "Feel free to assign [the Captain's gender/sex] as you like, as it has no bearing on this story whatsoever.")
- Anti-Magic: And being in a no magic zone makes people ill or at the very least, queasy.
- Art Evolution: Less so than in many webcomics, but quite visible between, say, Scene 1 and Scene 28. (Note: Latter page is essentially non-spoilery but embedded in a sea of major spoilers.)
- Ax-Crazy: Katherine Ulfor, who feels no compunctions about committing murder, kidnapping, or assault on the slightest (or even no) provocation.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Caroline can't bring herself to finish off Katherine, even after what the latter did to Caroline's parents. Once Caroline decides to spare her enemy's life, along comes the Veritarc, who has its own beef with Katherine, to do the job instead.
- Bad Liar: Professor Jaiva is merely bad at lying — Avril is full-out this trope.Captain: [writing on a notepad] Could you tell me your name, please?
Avril: Ahhh ... ummm ... mmMary?
Captain: [skeptically] Mary.
Captain: Mary what?
Avril: Mary ... Watts...?
Captain: [incredulously] What?
Avril: Mary Watts! My name is Mary Watts. Yes.
[The Captain looks at Avril, who is grinning nervously.]
- Beast Man: A major fraction of the Kaspall population, including most of the main characters.
- Deadpan Snarker:
Jaiva [to Hazel, just coming in]: Don't you ever lock your door?
- Hazel, the landlady. For example, when she arrives home to meet Jaiva, whom she'd asked to come visit:
Hazel: Every day.
Jaiva: It wasn't locked just now.
Hazel: Really? I must be an idiot then.
Sam: Huh. Well, would you look at this. Horribly uncomfortable 'bed' ... bare floorboards ... no curtains ... don't know about you, but I feel at home already.
- Sam Goldborne, Hazel's least favorite tenant. For example, when he wakes up with Alex locked in a room by the Ulfor:
- Also, Captain Jenner, as demonstrated when the initial assault on the Ulfor residence has failed.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Beatrice Ulfor sees herself as one.
- Electronic Eyes: One of Sam's eyes is a removable prosthetic, that occasionally bugs him about renewing his subscription. Useful for peering around corners though.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Captain. The only thing that hints at as much as gender is half a not-telephone conversation between Hazel and Avril — and even that got the Shrug of God before the end of the comic:4LS: The fact that the Captain's gender / sex was undefined kind of became a character point in my head. Which is not to say that Captain doesn't HAVE one. Just that I hadn't been given that information - much like I don't know what Claudia's Mum's name is, or exactly which part of the UK Alex is actually from.
- Fantastic Racism: Apparently many worlds had this problem, judging by Sam's reaction to the idea of a human-only one.Sam: I can just imagine. Everyone equal. No-one looking down on you all the time. You could just be satisfied, you know? It must have been amazing.
Alex: Oh. Um. ...yes.
Alt Text: Yes. It's just like that. Also, sometimes it rains free money and kittens - though it's best to stay indoors when that happens.
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: Character Q&A.
- Funny Background Event:
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: Not gods, but stories — in the Skein, those tales which are widely remembered and retold exist strongly, and those which are less recalled more weakly.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Unusually, the one person they told was the entirely trustworthy police lieutenant. Who thinks they're all idiots for not telling anyone.
- I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Caroline hates Katherine Ulfor, who turned her parents into werewolves who went crazy from it and infected her in turn.Caroline: How about it, Grandma? I think you owe me some blood.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: After Caroline and Claudia tell their story of visiting the study site:Jaiva: What's wrong? You're untrained and you've got no talent! You're a bloody civilian!
Claudia: ... I'm not civil.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Sam Gouldborne, to the astonishment of people who know of him as "the jerk who never pays his rent" — although as a Non-Action Cafe Pot-wash he can't actually accomplish much more than getting himself beat up.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Kaspall takes place in a world that's mostly populated by anthropomorphic characters, but humans (and other species) frequently get transported there by accident and have to try to integrate into its society.
- Love Makes You Evil: To be precise, the death of her husband drove Katherine Ulfor over the edge into the aforementioned Ax-Crazy territory.
- Mirrors are used like phones, with operators.
- Sam's Glass Eye has a night-vision mode and a subscription service to unlock additional features.
- Medium Awareness: Sir Haydon realizes he's fictional.
- Nonverbal Miscommunication: Discussed on page 238, with some Alt Text lampshading.
- Not So Stoic: The Captain is pretty much unfazed by everything that occurs — right up to the point in Scene 26 where the police discover that the Ulfor have started kidnapping people by the dozen right off the streets.
- Oh, Crap!: On this page, quite a few of the Ulfor have this reaction to the appearance of Caroline and Claudia.
- Oh, My Gods!: "Circle!" and "God's shape!", as explained here.
- Ominous Walk: the Veritarc follows its victims at a slow, relentless stroll, accompanied by the tap! tap! tap! of its gnarled walking stick.
- Playing Possum: The Captain resorts to this to see how Avril reacts.
- Portal Crossroad World: The city of Kaspall, unfortunately the portals that lead to other worlds are too unstable for the Off-Worlders to find a way home. There is however a Portal Network through the Skein that goes within the city.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Excepting Katherine, Beatrice, and Beron, the Ulfor are basically just following orders. Eventually Beatrice convinces them to surrender to the police.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Beatrice delivers one to her insane sister, to distract her long enough for Sam to free Hazel and allow their escape.
- Recursive Reality: The Skein.
- Replacement Goldfish: The original Joseph Haydon was Katherine Ulfor's husband.
- Scare 'Em Straight: The purpose of the story of the Veritarc.
- Shout-Out: A couple in the alt text:
- On this page, when Claudia says "Go on" while badgering Caroline into bringing her along into the Skein, the alt-text mentions Mrs. Doyle.
- On this page, in which Sam is yelling a lot: "MY HEAD HURTS!"note
- On this page, in which Katherine Ulfor is convinced that everyone is conspiring against her together: "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!"note
- Spanner in the Works: More than one:
- Sam, doing his job as Alex's guide — when Hazel only forged his signature on the paperwork because she didn't want a stranger hanging around the house.
- The OWR, which handed a dangerous artifact back to Alex rather than put it in their safe because they had no clue about it.Beatrice: But now I find the place is run by imbeciles.
Sam: Well, yeah.
- Splash Panel: Page 353.Alt Text: Wait, what's this? A big confusing fight page?! That can only mean one thing ... yes, at last, I am a Proper Comics Artist!
- Story Within a Story: The Skein is composed of the stories thought about by the inhabitants of Kaspall. Jaiva suggests that stories within the Skein might reach a point where they could dream stories themselves.
- Tempting Fate: Sam, reassuring Alex, as noted by the Alt Text.
- Trapped in Another World: Many, many characters — the OWR is specifically tasked to help these people deal with being displaced to the city Kaspall.
- Webcomic Time: Noted in the Alt Text of this page.
- Wham Episode:
- Scene 24: A Housecall, three times over:
- Scene 25: Detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure — where we discover Lady Beatrice is working against Lady Ulfor.