Durkon Thundershield: As I recall, ye called me "surly and unpleasant" shortly after ye met me. [...] Maybe all these folks need is a good strong leader like ye ta whip 'em inta shape.
The Order of the Stick is a Stick Figure Webcomic by Rich Burlew set in a world based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition rules (an original world, rather than an established setting) centering on the adventures of the eponymous party. The comic is well-loved for its complicated plot (with storylines planned years in advance by Burlew), its well-executed Mood Whiplash moments, and its own brand of humor, often relying on sarcastic pop culture references.
The main cast consists of:
- Roy Greenhilt, the fighter, leader, and Only Sane Man;
- Haley Starshine, an Action Girl rogue who's obsessed with treasure;
- Vaarsuvius, a condescending elf wizard whose unknown gender is a Running Gag;
- Durkon Thundershield, a straitlaced dwarf cleric of Thor;
- Elan, a strange and none-too-bright bard with a flair for the dramatic;
- Belkar Bitterleaf, a hot-headed halfling ranger/barbarian who kills and/or threatens people at the slightest provocation.
The comic started off as a gag-a-day strip, often mocking D&D rules, but things quickly took a turn for the dramatic: their journey to defeat the evil Xykon entangled them in the lich's plot to harness the power of The Snarl, a sinister reality-eating... thing formed at the dawn of creation from literal tangles in the fabric of reality. Along the way, they butted heads with hordes of monsters, plot complications, an overzealous paladin or two, and the Linear Guild, a group of Evil Counterparts led by Elan's Evil Twin brother, Nale.
Of course, even with all that going on, it's still covered with plenty of humor. Also notable is the fact that all of the main characters and quite a few of the minor characters are extremely Genre Savvy, not just about the D&D rules and gameplay mechanics by which their world operates, but general storytelling tropes as well. This tends to lead to a lot of Lampshade Hanging (including, at one point, lampshading the act of lampshading — with a literal lampshade).
The Order of the Stick was one of the original reasons for the "Giant in the Playground" gaming site, which also hosted the first volume of Erfworld. The GitP forums are almost an unofficial troper forum, thanks in part to the webcomic's distinct appeal to tropers.
The webcomic pages are also sold in hardcopy in the following books:
- Dungeon Crawlin' Fools (1-121)
- No Cure for the Paladin Blues (122-301)
- War and XPs (302-484)
- Don't Split the Party (485-672)
- Blood Runs in the Family (673-946)
- Utterly Dwarfed (947-1189)
- As-yet-unnamed seventh and final book (1190-)
The physical volumes of the main comic also contain extra sideplots and gag-strips as incentives for readers to buy them. As is typical of the comic, these books are referenced in the story, usually when a character wonders if a particular sideplot will be expanded there.
There are also several print-only books that are tied into the comic:
- On the Origin of PCs (a prequel to Dungeon Crawlin' Fools which focuses on how Roy and Durkon founded the Order of the Stick)
- Start of Darkness (a prequel focusing on Xykon and Redcloak)
- Good Deeds Gone Unpunished (a prequel/sidequel with five stories from Azure City, including the O-Chul and Therkla stories below)
- Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales (a collection of strips published in Dragon magazine and about eighty pages of other humorous fluff).
- The Order of the Stick Coloring Book (a Kickstarter-exclusive featuring the Order and several other characters in monochrome lineart scenes waiting to be coloured in)
- The Kickstarter rewards also include a number of exclusive digital comics, mostly focused on minor characters or reimagined settings, which may be collated into books at some point in the future. Stories released to date:
- Uncivil Servant (Belkar's introduction to the adventuring life)
- Haleo and Julelan (a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, starring Haley and Elan)
- Spoiler Alert (Therkla is sent on a mission by Daimyo Kubota; later collected in Good Deeds Gone Unpunished)
- How the Paladin Got His Scar (a prequel telling how O-Chul joined the Sapphire Guard; later collected in Good Deeds Gone Unpunished)
The print-only books are not necessary for following the main plot of the comic. In fact, it's usually lampshaded whenever material from a print-only book is recapped (sometimes with a character checking an actual copy of the book just to make sure they got everything).
In December 2019, Burlew announced that the next volume of the comic would be the last as he wrapped the story up, but reassured his readers that both previous volumes had taken around five years each to be published so there was still a lot to look forward to.
A board game based on the comic called The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Dungeon of Dorukan was published in partnership with APE Games. Another game called The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Linear Guild was announced but has been stuck in Development Hell.
The Order of the Stick subpages:
- Tropes A to C
- Tropes D to F
- Tropes G to I
- Tropes J to L
- Tropes M to O
- Tropes P to R
- Tropes S to U
- Tropes V to Z
- Recap Page
- Referenced by...
- Wham Episodes