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Webcomic / Keychain of Creation

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Keychain of Creation was (see Orphaned Series, below) a Stick-Figure Comic set in Creation, the world of the Exalted roleplaying game. It follows the adventures of a quartet of Exalted as they quest to retrieve five magical keys that hold the evil Primordials sealed away: Misho, a Twilight Caste Solar, who has all of his Exaltation's memories dating back to the First Age, but no memory of his current mortal life, which can't possibly be suspicious; Marena, a Changing Moon Caste Lunar with a fox totem, a flirtatious, fun-loving, confident woman... who's quite possibly the most terrifying of the group; Secret, a renegade Day Caste Abyssal with some major self-esteem problems; and Ten Winds, an elderly Air Aspect Terrestrial, formerly a monk in the Immaculate Order, who left because he grew disillusioned with the Order, and because he enjoyed the pleasures of the world a bit too much.

Genre Savvy and awareness of game mechanics is universal, and a source of much of the humor. The art style and premise were inspired by the The Order of the Stick, but Keychain spends less time lampshading the conventions of the RPGs and fantasy stories and more time on the over-the-top action that's made Exalted famous.

Unfortunately, the webcomic is on apparently-permament hiatus as the author developed tendonitis, and the most recent update was back in April of 2011. Even so, he has been devoting the time he would have otherwise spent on the comic to writing homebrew material for the Exalted setting, which is worth a look at.

Has a character sheet.

A mirror of the comic exists here.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Marena reveals that Aria was one hell of a lot nastier to her than had been previously let on.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity:
    • It might be possible to find a drug or toxin that will incapacitate Ten Winds. You'll have to look for a long time (and commandeer the help of a few gods and/or demons) before you find it.
    • Marena's mother fed her tiny doses of poison during her childhood to protect her from assassinations... which never happened anyway.
  • Action Girl: Pretty much every female in this comic worth mentioning can kick ass with all of the boys, and then some. Sort of comes with the Exalted territory, but even by Exalted standards some of the ladies (especially Nova and Nemen Yi) are incredibly skilled.
  • Actual Pacifist: Blossom of Harmonious Aethers. And she works for Nova, the poor thing.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. Though tainted with abyssal essence and abandoned for thousands of years, Mew Cai remains true to her original purpose.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Karen starts carrying a torch for Ten Winds after practicing martial arts with him. Squee!
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Karen, despite being mute:
    Ten Winds: "Astounding. I can actually feel you swearing."
  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: On the very first page, Secret collapses out of breath in the process of saying her Overly Long Name.
  • Confusion Fu: Nemen Yi is able to judo throw people across time and space. And it is awesome.
  • Contractual Genre Blindness: The Fae deliberately attack the party, knowing they'll be defeated, because:
    "If we hadn't come to fight you, there'd be no reason to have us in this comic. And then we wouldn't exist."
  • Cool Sword: The Keys, of course, but also Misho's other sword, the Blade of Vitality. It supposedly makes its wielder physically immortal, as opposed to just spiritually immortal as the Exalted are.
  • Cure for Cancer: Misho can apparently do this at will ("It's so easy when you know how to do it!") but it kinda breaks their cover.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Marena and Secret, occasionally. Marena because she's a Lunar, and sometimes takes on animal features, especially when she's angry or agitated; and Secret because she's an Abyssal, with the added ability to grow full not-so-cute vampire fangs, because she regains Essence through consuming blood. (Among other things, if the author's staying close to the source.)
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Secret. She's an Abyssal who's manipulated the system enough to ensure she only has to kill evil people.
  • Deal with the Devil: Canonically, most Abyssals get their Start of Darkness this way. Like Secret, for example.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Don't ever tell a god that what is going on isn't their concern. Otherwise, even if it isn't, they'll MAKE IT their concern, just to spite you. (Although, considering the relative positions of the Exalted and lesser gods, it's as much C'thulhu flipping YOU off.)
  • Disability Superpower:
    • Subverted with Resonance Ben, who is blind and uses inhumanly acute hearing to 'see' because he thinks it's cool, but who constantly has it turned against him in various ways.
    • Ben also has an Exalt-specific Disability Superpower that's the reason for his name (on multiple levels): he intentionally cultivates Resonance, the Abyssal form of Limit that stems from his Eldritch Abomination patrons getting pissy with him, to channel it into devastating necrotic attacks. This is pretty much a complete Game-Breaker though — the entire point of Resonance is that you don't want it (you don't want Eldritch Abominations mad at you).
  • Dual Wielding: Nemen Yi, the Sidereal of Mars. Bonus points for dual wielding BFSes.
  • Dynamic Entry:
    • Done by Ten Winds early on. JUSTICE!
    • Karen later pulls off the same thing, complete with the same cry as an Unsound Effect.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The primordials, as per Exalted canon.
    Secret: What are these, Misho?
    Misho: Mostly, they're images of the primordials, as they were before the war. The gods felt it important we be reminded who we were fighting... thought we would feel a bit more confidence if we knew the nature of our foes.
    Secret: Who's that?
    Misho: That would be Adrián, the River of All Torments. The gods weren't... used to humans, at that point.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Subverted. Mew Cai announces that the Soaring Manse will self destruct in 47 seconds, but waits until the evil Abyssals attacking the party have left before she mentions how to stop it. Later Double Subverted, as something else caused the catastrophic chain reaction that killed her a few minutes later.
  • Exact Words: The Terrestrial bandits have no objection to someone driving on to the bridge. Getting off of it, however...
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: Nemen Yi weaponizes the fourth wall by grabbing people out of different panels, climbing into a new panel to ambush someone, and stabbing people with chunks of panel border. Justified in that she's one of the Sidereal Exalted, who fiddle with the laws of Creation as a daytime job.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Marena, here.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Marena.
  • Eyeless Face: Ghosts have these, along with a black-and-white color palette, to distinguish them from mortals.
  • The Fair Folk: The Fae. While everyone in the comic knows the mechanics on which the universe runs and is Genre Savvy, only the Fae realize they are in a comic strip. This is done in order to portray an alternate worldview that, to everyone else, seems like insanity.
  • Fantastic Arousal: Marena has very sensitive ears...
  • Fastball Special: Much to her surprise, Ten Winds throws Secret at the door to break it down when flying out of the manse.
  • Fearless Fool: Fury has Valor 5. It shows. Also here; compare her reaction with that of the others.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Secret vs. pig.
  • Follow the Leader: Shamelessly admitted on the links page: "Here's the Order of the Stick, the comic that inspired me to write Keychain of Creation. And by 'inspired,' I mean 'the same, but with Exalted.'"
  • For the Lulz: Nova attacks, kidnaps, and harasses members of the party, largely because she's bored.
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: As explained by the author, it sorta makes some sense, since the Fair Folk characters who do it know they're in a comic anyway.
  • Free-Sample Plot Coupon: Misho already possesses Eternal Dawn, the Key of the Sun.
  • Freudian Excuse: Marena has a lot of issues regarding her mother. After we find out what Aria's idea of "parenting" seems to be, it's suddenly a lot less surprising. Take a look, and pay close attention to Misho. You can actually watch his faith in humanity slowly dying.
  • Funbag Airbag: Take note of the first and last panel. Also counts as Funny Background Event.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Mew Cai = Manse of the Ever Watchful Custodian Artificial Intelligence.
  • Gender Bender: Marena's "Twin-Faced Hero" Knack.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • All of them to an extent, but Ten especially. Watch as he shoots down the potential for at least one standard MacGuffin plot.
    • Nova is too. She seems to have read the Evil Overlord's list, despite not actually being an Evil Overlord. When Misho saves her life, she promptly stops fighting him, returns Secret, and states that it's just good sense to not attack someone who has helped you. Very, very smart. And keeps her likable.
    • The Fair Folk are actually aware they're in a comic strip, which makes them seem insane to everybody else.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Secret and Marena seem like this at times, with Secret being more the Smart Sister and Marena being the Popular Sister.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom
  • Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Misho suggests the Primordial War-era murals in the tunnels had this effect.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Nemen Yi's glasses seem to give her x-ray vision, with extra highlights for artefacts and the like. She uses them to keep track of Secret despite her attempts to evade pursuit.
  • Gonna Need More X:
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The God of Lock's power is nothing to be sneezed at. Besides the whole "keeping the Yozis imprisoned" thing, it has a number of other uses, like when Nemen Yi uses the key's power to make a stitched together zombie's stitches all come undone. See Semantic Superpower for more information.
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • Elegant Nova of Progression. Sure, she's a Mad Scientist, but it's clear from the point where we actually meet her that she's a charitable and kind person who just happens to be really stubborn about test subjects. The fact that she happily surrenders when Misho saves her from being badly injured helps too.
    • Nemen Yi is a staunch defender of Creation, but she seriously questions the party's qualifications to defend the Keys. There's probably more to it than that.
  • Heroic Bastard: Secret. As far as the character archetype goes, she had a pretty sweet deal (she was fortunate enough to have both parents in her life), but given that she lived in the Coral Archipelago...
  • Heroic BSoD: Misho in #220, when faced with giving Ben the key and saving countless innocent lives (while simultaneously dooming all of Creation), or keeping it and effectively condemning them to death at the hands of countless undead troops. This is an actual rule in Exalted — what you see is the Heart of Tears Limit Break, where a Compassionate Solar becomes literally catatonic with indecision and guilt over every decision he's made.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mew Cai *Sniff*
  • Humongous Mecha: Misho's God-Forged Champion of War.
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • Misho fights with a keyblade. And is in denial about it.
    • First And Forsaken Lion seems to be going the keyblade route as well, as opposed to the soul-sucking BFS he wields in canon. Misho mentioned early on that the First And Forsaken Lion had forged the Key of Soulsteel. And when considering what the Keys are capable of, it's not surprising that he'd trade his old sword in for the Key of Soulsteel. It would be hilarious, though, if he only wants to escape his armor instead of taking over/destroying the world.
      • It's noted later in the comics that the gods are actually incapable of even wielding the keys of creation. This means that Lion is just holding onto it until he can find someone worth giving it to. Unless, of course, there's something we don't know yet...
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Misho seems this way.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Nova somehow knows Misho's name despite having never been told it, but refuses to say how when he asks her.
  • Instrument of Murder: Resonance Ben's soulsteel guitar. His Five-Man Band also has similar instruments, except for Flame who considers the whole thing silly.
    Flame: I'm really not affiliated with this...
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: In an early strip, Secret calls Marena a "bossy overweight oversexed shapeshifting cow" and gets pushed down a long fall for it. The title of the comic is "I am not a cow!"
  • Just as Planned: While every Sidereal, everywhere, can be presumed to be running at least one plan if not more, Nemen Yi goes out of her way to remind us of the fact.
  • Kawaiiko: Secret is so adorable she inspired Marena to take her along with the party. As a child she was even more adorable, probably because she hadn't yet undergone the horrible experience that would eventually kill her and drive her to become an Abyssal.
  • Kick the Dog: Nemen Yi launches an unprovoked attack on Secret just to get what she wants. Admittedly, she's apparently under a mandate to rescue the Orichalcum Key from Abyssals, but given Secret's history this is a bit of a stretch.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: ...he just sort of... fell to pieces. Even the dismantled clawstrider, who can't hear the pun, is disgusted.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Apparently, everyone but a sorcerer-initiate sees stick figure characters. This "fact" is used to hang a lampshade on the Art Evolution in comic #319. Earlier, some characters lampshade it by commenting that they can't tell when somebody is wearing pants.
  • Look Behind You: Marena distracts a group of guards by shouting that the Kukla — a legendary Earth Dragon larger than a mountain range — is behind them. The ensuing conversation between the guards reveals they've fallen for this one before (you don't want to take chances with the Kukla). Of course, Marena was probably using a Charm on them. (One fan comic showed the one time when they finally didn't fall for it. Guess what was sneaking up on them?)
  • Lost Technology: Subverted. Most remnants of the First Age are broken or malfunctioning. Anything still working is hard to maintain.
  • Loving a Shadow: Marena won't entertain the notion of getting serious with Misho until she's sure he's seeing her as she is now, not as she was in the First Age.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: see Finger Poke of Doom
  • Magikarp Power: Implied with Secret. As a Deathknight, her power is potentially equal to Misho's or Karen's, but she has too much of a conscience and too little self-confidence to wield it. It remains to be seen if this changes or if successfully becoming a Solar will unlock her full power.
  • Magitek: The Nova arc features tons of it: Alchemical Exalted, magitek cybernetics, and more.
  • Mailman vs. Dog: Nemen Yi claims to be the reason dogs hate mailmen, apparently due to some feud she has with the messenger gods.
  • Meaningful Name: Resonance Ben (Resonance being a side effect of an Abyssal not following the path set for them by the Neverborn). Of course, most Exalted get names like that, but only with some of them is it obvious why they're named so.
  • Medium Awareness:
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Mew has felt like this, it seems.
  • Morph Weapon: Secret's soulsteel weapon, courtesy of the entity that has dominated the other souls sealed inside. Besides a sword and bow, she usually keeps it as a belt.
  • Munchkin: Encouraged in the Exalted universe and exemplified by several characters.
    • Resonance Ben is a wonderful character with lots of depth and some truly amazing moments. However, anyone who attempts to create a character in an actual Exalted game who does anything like what Ben does with Resonance should be shot, as the whole point of Resonance is to penalize the Abyssal for defying the rules of their masters.
    • Misho took a lot of flaws to pay for his badass abilities. Atypically, these flaws cause him a great deal of trouble.
    • Secret appears to have optimized herself for Dodge charms. Because they solve everything.
    • Karen paid for her Moonsilver Tattoos by taking the Mute flaw, in-universe by giving her voice to a goddess to be made into a war banner to be given to the Lunar Elders for membership in the Silver Pact.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Misho uses his divine power to create items from nothingness to make... a desk. A Glorious Solar Desk. Later, a hammer. A bit of Memetic Mutation there too. GLORIOUS SOLAR <OBJECT> is fairly common in the rulebooks. For fun, replace <object> with anything. Desk. Chair. Pen. Hammer. Pig. You get the idea.
    • Ten Winds using his anima flux as a cold shower for Marena.
    • Marena using (indeed, abusing) a shapeshifting knack to change clothes, complete with a naked transformation scene. In public.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: But of course. The Conductor of the Cacophonic Steel Chorus, Fifth Man Born In Readiness, Elegant Nova of Progression... you get the idea. Secret's full name parodies the trend.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Exalted tend to have these sorts of names as a general rule. Specific mentions include the King of Uncloaked Steel, the First and Forsaken Lion, and Misho Thrice-Radiant. Secret's would be one, if she could say it all in one breath.
    Misho: "When you find someone's name, it's often a good idea to find out why they were named so."
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In the inimitable Exalted tradition.
  • Ninja Prop: Nemen Yi breaks the panel dividers (gutters) and uses the pieces as throwing weapons.
  • No Fourth Wall: While the main characters have occasionally spoken of being in a comic, the Fae take this trope all the way. This complies with the source material, as it's actually a power of the Fae to do so according to their rulebook, Graceful Wicked Masques.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Ten Winds wanted to kill a pair of bandits out of fear that they may reveal their location to hostiles. Misho insists they be spared... and the first being they meet is a hostile to whom they reveal their encounter with Ten Winds.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Misho, of all people, seems to have this attitude about Marena's advances. He refuses a relationship with her because he thinks she won't treat it seriously.
  • Noodle Incident: Involving a beach god
    Misho: ...We're going to need more coconuts.
    Ten Winds: No, he doesn't do that anymore.
  • No OSHA Compliance: From the annotation to comic 52: "You know, it strikes me that the health and safety people in the First Age must have had somewhat different standards from what we would expect."
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Five Waves Fury frequently glomps Straight Man Flame.
  • N-Word Privileges: Parodied with the derogatory "'nathema."
  • Odd Job Gods: comes with the territory of being set in the Exalted 'verse. Examples so far include Kuka-Rem, god of political manipulation, and Costora, god of the beach.
  • Oh, Crap!: It is, in fact, not beyond the old man's business.
  • One-Way Visor: "Sarge," one of Nova's cyborgs.
  • One-Winged Angel: Would you settle for a nearly-defeated Elegant Nova turning into a thirty-foot-tall robotic sphinx?
  • Orphaned Punchline: "...into a banana! I was amazed."
  • Orphaned Series: It's been on "hiatus" for a full decade now. Even the forum is completely dead.
  • Overly Long Name: Poor Secret nearly passes out just from trying to say her full title, in a parody of the overly long and poetic titles that tend to get used by Abyssal Exalted. It's actually over seventy words.
  • Over-the-Top Secret: When Secret asks Misho about the broken locator crystals:
    Misho: I'd tell you, but I'm not even allowed to tell you why I can't tell you.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • Speech Bubbles change color and border depending on the type of character talking and sometimes the Charms they are using, similar to OOTS, as well as the Fae (and Gods) being drawn differently.
    • Even languages reflect this, when the characters are using magic. Necromancy, High Realm used by Ten Winds and Old Realm, used for Sorcery..
    • That's how this comic shows that a phrase is said by one person in two connected bodies.
    • When Marena and Secret are initiated to sorcery in #319 (an event they have been told will "change how [they] perceive reality itself"), the strip suddenly stops being a Stick-Figure Comic.
  • Pass the Popcorn: The leader of the Genre Savvy Fae that attack the group does this in the middle of battle.
  • Perky Female Minion: Five Waves Fury, a Full Moon-caste Lunar in the service of the First and Forsaken Lion. Ridiculously Genki, constantly trying to snuggle Flame, and yes, that kind of perky.
  • Puff of Logic: Marena's Essence cannon disappears in a puff when she tells Secret that she can only carry four items in Elsewhere at a time (the cannon being item #5). She blames the Pattern Spiders.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Averted when Marena attempts to use a pheromonal Charm against a robot who happens to be gay (or possibly asexual). And currently in a sexless form anyway.
  • Really Gets Around: Marena.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Marena won't enter into a serious relationship with Misho because she is afraid of being this. Reincarnation Romance is funny like that.
  • Reverse the Polarity: Subverted and lampshaded in a fight between Nova and Misho:
    Nova: You are a worthy adversary, Misho! But even you could not anticipate that I would invert the photon charge of the deflector array... AGAIN.
    Nova: Ha! You just don't think the same way I do!
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Elegant Nova of Progression and her fellow Alchemical Exalted are all examples. To be fair, the Alchemicals have human souls, like their fellow Exalted, and are closer to being cyborgs than true robots due to their artificial flesh. At higher Essence levels, they're the foundation and central part of entire cities.

    Further, the Alchemicals here are "houseruled," and seem much more machine-like than normal Alchemical Exalted (being broken to pieces without any lasting harm, for example)... although interestingly, once the 2nd Edition Alchemicals book came out, much of those "houseruled" effects became canon — and Nova herself became a canon character, if only through a name drop!
  • Right Behind Me: #357. Unusual in that the person in question is not overheard.
  • RPG Mechanics 'Verse: With Exalted being the RPG.
  • Rule of Cool: As with Exalted, a lot of things are handwaved with "We're Exalted! We're just that awesome!"
    Alchemical: You're blocking my scent with yours!? Th- that doesn't even make sense!
    Marena: I'm Exalted! I just smell that good.
  • Rule of Three: Subverted and lampshaded. Three goblins attack the party. The first two are flipped into a tree, but Secret stabs the last to death, remarking "Oh, was I supposed to flip it into the tree? Sorry."
  • Rule 34:
  • Sadistic Choice: Flame offers Misho one, either give up his Key to save the town they're in from a zombie attack letting Flame's Deathlord boss get it, putting Creation in danger, or let the town be slaughtered. Misho is paralyzed by indecision and ends up in a Heroic BSoD for a while.