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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Miko, the biggest Base-Breaking Character in the entire comic — Knight Templar or Knight in Shining Armor?note 
    • Vaarsuvius — Jerk with a Heart of Gold or Sociopathic Hero?
    • Belkar — Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral (Word of the Giant be damned)? Other fans debate how much of his Character Development is fake, and whether the amount changed. Note that an early strip strongly implies that his constant anger and aggressiveness is a consequence of his low Wisdom; being temporarily wiser turns him into a non-violent nice guy.
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    • Girard Draketooth — Chaotic version of a Knight Templar or Properly Paranoid?
    • Malack. Exactly how evil he really is has been up for debate since the very beginning. How much he cared for his children, how much he does or does not genuinely respects Durkon, and a lot of other parts of his personality are up for debate. It was partly settled when Malack was revealed to be a vampire who planned an endless campaign of human sacrifice when he took over the kingdom, perhaps employing a special chamber. Then again, it was also made clear he did genuinely respect Durkon. He raised him as a vampire after all, and honored his last request to protect the Order of the Stick.
    • Does Tarquin really care for Elan as his son, or does he just think of him as a plot device? Given how dedicated Tarquin is to narrative tropes, a possible answer is both. This can be expanded to question the entire character's motivations and relationships — how far do Tarquin's The End Justifies The Means tendencies in relation to his Evil Plan extend? Does he really care about his relationship with colleagues like Malack, or is his seemingly reasonable and emotionally intelligent response to Malack's fury about Tarquin's actions during the battle for Girard's Gate merely a continuation of his willingness to manipulate everyone around him in order to achieve his, Tarquin's, desired goals? Malack's status as a divine caster of equal level relative to Tarquin's Crazy-Prepared melee fighter, in a world in which Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards is in full effect, leaves the question open-ended; it's in Tarquin's interests to make it seem to Malack that Tarquin understands that his actions are selfish and unreasonable, regardless of whether he actually does recognise this. As Tarquin is a skilled manipulator and peerless liar who is demonstrated multiple times to perceive everything in terms of its impact on his desires, it's entirely plausible that his relationship with the entire Vector Legion is, to him, a purely transactional one. Equally however his apology to Malack above appears entirely genuine, and does cause him to change his approach to tackling the Order.
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    • The Snarl, as a result of Epileptic Trees, has several. One notable one is that the planet within its realm is its effort to create life and an orderly world, unlike the chaotic nonsense which lead to its formation.
    • The Oracle is read by the majority fans as a simple Chessmaster, but a subset of fanfic writers have taken to a rather tricky interpretation of the whole "Lickmyorangeballshalfling" thing. The theory goes that the Oracle, being totally omniscient and thus unable to be surprised by anything, is some kind of sociopath who manipulates people just to have some form of entertainment. After all, Belkar's prophecy was entirely self-fulfilling: he did end up "causing the death of" the Oracle (by, y'know... directly murdering him), but only after being goaded into doing so by the Oracle, who claimed that Miko's and Windstriker's deaths were indirectly his fault. The cyclic nature of the prophecy has been extrapolated by some to create a truly terrifying character that.... frankly doesn't really appear in the comic as such.
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    • How ignorant Elan was of Haley's attraction to him and how much was Contractual Genre Blindness. These strips seem to indicate the later as well as the fact that he generally seems to care a lot about her in general before they hook up.
  • Anvilicious: Strip #1068 has a female frost giant claiming she was holding back her true strength in the presence of some male giants, and could cut loose now those giants were dead. A lot of people on the forum thought that the delivery was ham-fisted, unnecessary, and downright insulting.
  • Arc Fatigue:
    • Started to set in for some fans towards the end of Book 5 as Tarquin obsessively pursues the Order attempting to force Elan to follow the "correct" narrative structure. From his reappearance in comic #910, coming after the destruction of the Gate and a pointless battle with a monster summoned by Redcloak, there were a further 26 strips of this, released over 4 and a bit months, before they finally managed to shake him off.
    • In Book 6, the Order of the Stick first gets redirected by the High Priest of Hel to the Godsmoot in hopes of finding someone to resurrect Durkon. Then it turns out there's a vote there by the gods on whether to end the world. Then the vote goes to a tiebreaker, and Roy tries to fight the High Priest of Hel to stop a vote, then the tiebreaker requires a tiebreaker when the final tiebreaker voter needs to convene a council far away, which results in another detour by the Order to prevent the final tiebreaker vote from being manipulated. Fans got so vocal that Word of God eventually addressed it here.
  • Archive Panic: Over 1000 strips — and the "strips" are at least an A4 page's worth each, and sometimes more than one. In dead tree format, there are five books in print, plus two prequels, with another one nearly completed which will be longer than any of them.
  • Artist Disillusionment: Not total disillusionment, but interactions between the Giant and his fans can be rather surly, especially if he's being forced to explain himself to fans regarding plot holes, alignment concerns, and the creepy worship of certain characters, like Miko. Even things that might bear discussion get rather blunt shutdowns from the author.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Even after the tragic circumstances of her death, Miko was still a highly-disliked character for many readers, although the Giant was always clear that she wasn't supposed to be likable. Years later, "How the Paladin Got His Scar" revealed that much of the Knight Templar and Black and White Insanity traits which made her so annoying can be traced back to her tutelage under the poor example of Gin-Jun, a paladin who was just as fanatical (and arguably even more unpleasant) than her. As an added bonus, said story ended with Miko killing him.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Miko is a... polarizing character to say the least. Fans of the comic generally either love Miko or hate her. They started arguing about her back after being revealed at comic #200, and it's now over seven hundred strips later — and she's been dead since #464 — and no end in sight. (The author is not entirely happy about this.) And then there's those who Take a Third Option and love her as a character because they dislike her so much.
    • There is a bit of a divide among fans regarding how Word of the Giant states that Tarquin is not necessarily a Chessmaster, and is more of a high-functioning / extremely lucky Big Bad Wannabe. Specifically the Giant's claim that we only had Tarquin's word for how awesome Tarquin was and that he hoped Genre Savvy fans would have picked up on this. For some, this was a welcome bit of canon and substantiated the implications they perceived that he was Wrong Genre Savvy, whereas others appreciated it because they viewed him as a borderline Villain Sue who needed to be knocked down a peg. Still others view this as spoiling one of their favorite villains, and claim it makes no sense with what Tarquin actually achieves in-story, citing how various unbiased characters have commented on how powerful and dangerous he is, the successful long-con on the Western Continent was his idea (unless that was a result of Unreliable Expositor too), and his demonstrable battle prowess against the Order. Another minor split along these lines is whether or not his tendency to adhere to story tropes means he's a strategic genius on a meta level, as he really is in a story, or whether it means he's severely hampered for when the story doesn't go the way he thinks it will, as the plot has outright defied several of these tropes in the past.
    • Belkar has always been one of the more divisive main characters but has become even more so in later strips with his 'fake' Character Development. Some fans welcome the possibility that he will be redeemed and possibly die a hero. Others are less thrilled, either because they prefer him as an amusing, completely amoral Chaotic Evil Heroic Comedic Sociopath or because they don't believe that any amount of good deeds can make up for the actions he's performed and therefore any redemption would be unearned.
    • In Book 6, Bandana and Andi, the acting captain and the chief engineer of the Mechane, both of whom are intensely polarizing characters. Andi (as well as some of the rest of the crew) don't take to Bandana's leadership well. Some readers insist that Bandana is reckless, incompetent, and egotistical, getting the ship into increasingly dangerous situations without adequately preparing for them, and trusting her crew to keep saving her bacon even as everything crumbles around her, and that Andi is the Only Sane Man desperately trying to take control of a bad situation to get the ship to safety. Others argue that Bandana is a skilled and capable captain, and Andi is a petty, egomaniac lunatic who seized the ship out of sheer jealous rage and then immediately delved into Commander Contrarian, proving why she shouldn't be in charge of the ship like she desires. And then, there are those who Take a Third Option and think neither woman has the talent to be a captain.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Elan distracts an oncoming swarm of angry monsters with, out of absolutely friggin' nowhere, Fruit Pie the Sorcerer's Fruit Pies (a parody of Delicious Fruit Pies). Most chalk this one up to Early Installment Weirdness.
  • Broken Base:
  • Canon Fodder: See the Wild Mass Guessing entry. Also, anything involving Miko that isn't Canon already can be this.
  • Cargo Ship: Elan×Banjo Puppet, Haley×Sack of Gold and possibly Roy×His Sword.
  • Complete Monster: The silly-seeming but utterly ruthless Xykon plans to unleash the destructive Snarl to obliterate his enemies, uncaring of warnings that it is a beast with the potential to destroy the world. Sacking Azure City to claim their gate which will help him control the Snarl, Xykon gleefully uses a Symbol of Insanity to cause their entire guard to kill each other, deeming it to be the most fun way to wipe them out. In his backstory, when a then-child Xykon's dog dies and he resurrects it, he happily watches it devour a bird, showing he was twisted from the start. As a teenager, Xykon kills and zombifies anyone who bothers him in any way, including a man offering to train him as a sorcerer and his own parents for having let the man into their house at all. In the present, now a Sorcerous Overlord, Xykon carries out horrific acts solely for his own amusement and abuses his goblin henchmen to the point one tries to assassinate him. Allowing the brother of his would-be assailant to kill his brother, Xykon binds him to his service, then mocks him and forces him to bring his brother back as a zombie. Trapping the souls of two mages within a gem where they are doomed to suffer for eternity, Xykon is a Psychopathic Manchild of a ruler devoted only to hurting others to entertain himself.
  • Crack Pairing:
  • Crazy Awesome: Thog solo-killed a Stone Giant — a Stone Giant with class levels, no less. Plus, watch out when he starts raging.
  • Creator Worship: The fanbase for Rich Burlew, a.k.a. the Giant. There are entire threads devoted to archiving his every word and all discussion or dissension on a storyline or plot element usually ceases as soon as he posts in a topic. (There's also the fact that he's the chief forum moderator and regularly locks threads which cross a fairly strict list of "banned" topics, such as "morally justified behavior" in the fictional world, real-world religion, and several others.)
  • Creepy Awesome: Malack; when he lets on his full vampire side he is frightening, a bit disgusting (blood sure but he adds warts in his tea too) and really intimidating.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Xykon does this constantly as part of his villainous humor. For instance...
    • Thog, as a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant, is prone to this as well.
    • In one early strip, Elan takes his clothes off and starts running around naked. Even Belkar is traumatized.
    • The Snarl's brutal murder of the Greek Pantheon... since you cannot normally kill the gods, and they helped create it.
    • In his attempts to get information out of O-Chul, Redcloak threatens to throw a group of civilians off a tower and towards the Gate rift in the hopes that one of them will yell something relevant to their attempts to understand the Snarl... and throw another group off the other side "as a control".
    • The reason Hilgya didn't leave her child in the care of someone at Loki's church. We cut to a priestess of Loki playing cards with the Greysky City thieves, placing a baby on the betting table.
    • The first thing to happen after Durkon's resurrection is Hilgya killing him again with a Flame Strike because he proposed to her. Then she shuts down the outraged Order by pointing out that she's rich and can just resurrect him again.
  • Cry for the Devil: The rest of the comic carefully establishes that Hel is an evil jackass who is not only cruel and mean to the souls in her power, but takes both the worship she used to receive and her very small number of friends for granted. Yet, her Villainous Breakdown reveals just how badly the long-term consequences of being stripped of mortal worship has affected her, and even her prankster father walks away miserable at how deeply his own daughter has come to hate him.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Belkar. Thanks to his "fake character development", some insist he's Chaotic Neutral, despite Word of the Giant. Note that an early strip strongly implies that his constant anger and aggressivness is a consequence of his low Wisdom, being temporarily wiser turns him into a non-violent nice guy.
    • Redcloak. His dry wit and fairly sympathetic backstory has won him a lot of popularity — though there are those who see him as a Complete Monster with a Misaimed Fandom.
    • In-universe, Tsukiko sees Xykon this way. Out of universe, he's a Love to Hate villain to the fandom.
    • Around the time Tarquin burned thirty escaped slaves alive as a present to Elan and some people argued he wasn't evil, and the person morally responsible for this was Haley for freeing them and "forcing" Tarquin to do this, it became apparent that Tarquin has a pair of pants so tight he had been sewn into them. Possibly because he looks like Elan.
    • Thog. Being lovably dim doesn't eliminate the fact that he's a brute and a bully who works with the bad guys.
    • After the reveal, Malack has gotten this. Despite the fact that he openly plans to sacrifice a thousand people per day to his god.
    • Miko is considered by many to be a knight in shining armor who is unfairly treated by everyone around her, despite her personal failings (such as Never My Fault and self-righteousness) and killing her liege lord because she's decided that he needs to be executed based on scant circumstantial evidence, and again, dooming Soon Kim's attempt at killing Xyon and Red Cloak.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Thog, who was kept in the comic because of his unexpected popularity with fans. Which is lampshaded in the comic, naturally. It's worth mentioning that Rich Burlew also really likes Thog due to his endless potential for comedy; the Lampshading was simply him expressing confusion about how people felt the need to think he wasn't evil on the basis he was lovable (when in Burlew's mind, the two are not mutually exclusive).
    • O-Chul, aptly described as "everything right about paladins".
    • The "bandana paladin" also gets more than a few mentions here and there. His reappearance in the afterlife was noted with much excitement. It helps that he seemed to be on very good terms with O-Chul and died fighting his brethren that Xykon drove temporarily insane.
    • The Booted Wight, who unfortunately won't be appearing in the comic anymore.
    • That Guy with a Halberd. Over a year after his appearance, an OotS fan decides to mount a campaign demanding his return.
    • Tarquin was being compared favorably to Xykon before his first featured arc was even over. Again, possibly because he looks like an older Elan.
    • Malack is also very well-liked, though the bulk of that came before the readers knew the depths of his monstrosity.
    • For someone who originated as a Contest Winner Cameo, Veldrina has proven to be very popular.
  • Epileptic Trees: The Snarl has become the subject of these ever since Blackwing's vision of a world inside its prison.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • Sabine. Considering she's a succubus, this applies both in and out of universe.
    • Both Nale and Tarquin have this going too, considering they are evil equivalents of Elan and share his 18 Charisma.
  • Fandom-Enraging Misconception:
    • The misspelling "Zykon the sorcerer" remains a bone of contention not just for the forums, but even in-universe for the dread lich himself, who can even spot his name being mangled in a speech bubble.
    • Other (traditional) examples in the forums: Hailie/Hayley/etc. for Haley, and Shinjo (portmanteau of Shojo and Hinjo).
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • V says it would be great if some of their enemies fought each other for their amusement in a gladiator match. This does happen later on, but in a much more cruel and sad way. Made worse when you consider that, Vaarsuvius being at least a Heroic Schizoid if not a full-blown Sociopathic Hero, V may have actually enjoyed the spectacle; we didn't get to see his/her reaction.
    • There's also an early strip where Durkon demonstrates the typical cleric reaction to the slightest hint that there may be any undead about. 860 strips later Durkon disliking the undead becomes a lot less funny.
    • In this strip V asks what the problem with binding someone's souls with dark magic is. Cut to a few hundred strips later, and a certain angry dragon...
    • The gag panels with Hel arguing with Thor once it is revealed she plans to wage war on the dwarvern homelands.
    • When V describes his/her happy marriage, considering that it has now fallen apart.
    • In "Crayons of Time #3", Thor taunts the Snarl as the latter is trapped. In "To Remember Them By", Thor is the one to reveal the second world didn't keep the Snarl trapped. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth...
    • "A Brief Intermission", a parody of mid-20th century movie intermission cartoons, was nothing more than a humorous Big-Lipped Alligator Moment at first. Twelve years and over 800 pages later, it's revealed that one of the worlds that the Snarl destroyed was populated with sentient theatre snacks, which is pretty clearly the same world that "A Brief Intermission" takes place in — it even features the same characters and makes a direct callback.
    • In Strip 1012, in response to Hel's Evil Gloating, Loki exasperatedly says, "Really? The premature villain gloat? I'm a failure as a parent." Strip 1176 seems to imply that Loki regrets how Hel turned out as a result of his wager with Thor.
  • Genius Bonus: When Haley is rendered unintelligible from seeing a large amount of treasure destroyed, she only speaks in cryptograms until cured. Not only can all the cryptograms be translated, but the translation keys themselves occasionally have hidden messages.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
  • He's Just Hiding!: Some fans suspect Thog is still alive; the truth of the matter remains unclear, but the fact that they Never Found the Body and Rich Burlew declined to confirm his fate one way or the other lends fuel to the fire.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In On the Origin of PCs, one of the party members he tries to recruit is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As it turns out, one of their foes does turn out to be a vampire... and he ends up being slain by another blond.
    • In "The Return of Mail Call", Belkar says that Barbarians suck. Belkar takes levels in Barbarian in later comics.
    • In "The Body Snatcher", Haley wonders if the hobgoblin clerics turned dead Roy into a vampire. Around 400 comics later...
    • When Roy's dad is mocking him in the afterlife, he says, "Ooooo, yes! And while your friends collect the seven magic spheres to wish you back to life, you can train with the secret martial arts master who lives here in the afterlife!" Although it's a Dragon Ball Z reference, it doesn't change the fact that Roy learns a new feat from his grandfather while training with him in the afterlife.
    • In "Stopping for Direction", Belkar's observation that people who spend all their time cooped up in a hideout in the desert would probably head to a brothel first chance they get becomes even more spot-on when we learn that everyone who guarded Girard's Gate was family.
    • In "Brief and to the Point", Nale rhetorically asks "who can get anything really meaningful said in 25 frickin' words?" As it turns out, Elan can.
    • In "And It Will Never Work Again", Tarquin says that his most recent wife (his ninth) recently died from "mysterious circumstances." The fact that he's been acting pretty suspicious up to this point (plus it being his ninth wife) means that most readers probably assume that he killed her. However, once we learn the truth — that she was killed by Vaarsuvius's Familicide spell — "mysterious circumstances" turns out to be a pretty accurate description of her death, at least to anyone outside the very limited group that know what V did.
    • When Haley and Ian reunite in the Empire of Blood's prison, Ian says (while explaining why his plan to recruit fellow prisoners to his rebellion didn't work) that "smart people aren't cut out to be gladiators". Around forty strips later, Roy defeats Thog in the arena... using his smarts.
    • Loki caps off his speech to the Norse Pantheon with "Vote Loki 2016". This is now the title of an actual comic starring the Marvel version of Loki.
    • Someone at Square Enix must be a fan of the comic, because in Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015), Locke Cole seemingly channels Elan by shouting "I'm a wizard!" for his only magical attack. The same Locke who Elan has been cosplaying as for the better part of the strip.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient:
    • Strips #823 to #830: The "Team Evil getting ready to leave Gobbotopia" arc. It includes (within seven strips) the recovery of the phylactery by the resistance, the summary total annihilation of the resistance (save one member) and recovery of the phylactery by Team Evil, the outing of Redcloak's plan by Tsukiko and Tsukiko's subsequent (gruesome) death at Redcloak's hands. Holy Shit.
    • How about strips #868 through #879? Belkar meets Malack! Malack easily beats Belkar! Malack is a vampire and he just bit Belkar, intending to make more "children"! Oh wait, Durkon's here and he's actually fighing Malack on even terms — oh crap, Malack has a workaround for Mass Death Ward! And now he's bitten Durkon! Durkon's dead! And now Durkon is a vampire! The HSQ was raised dramatically by many of these strips being posted on subsequent days, which in contrast to the usual update schedule effectively turned the whole thing into a single feature-length Wham Episode.
    • #899 to #916: Xykon arrives just in time for the entire pyramid to explode, the Order glimpses the mysterious world through the broken gate, the Monster in the Darkness saves the Order from a premature final boss fight, a few strips to rest, then (in rapid fire) Malack's death, Durkon is no longer a Thrall, Zz'dtri's death, Durkon is working with the Order again, Redcloak's elemental is destroyed, Tarquin has brought one colossal army to the party and THEN, when everyone thought the shit had stopped hitting the fan, Tarquin kills Nale. then, as Tarquin seems hellbent on piling the HSQ on, he decides to order Elan's party dead on the spot to force him to become the main protagonist.
    • #1105 to #1144: This set of strips contains a barrage of epic twists and Wham moments which a) outdo anything the strip has managed to pile on so far, and b) have HUGE significance for the final resolution of the story as a whole. To wit, and not that there wasn't a fair bit of HSQ in the build-up: The Order are rescued from a cunning trap laid by Vampire Durkon by the return of Hilgya, a character not seen for over a decade of real-world time, with Durkon's son. During the confrontation with Durkon, we learn that years ago Durkon's mother gave up a fortune in diamonds to save a group of dwarves who died from a gas leak (i.e. not in battle, meaning they were doomed to Hel's clutches for eternity) whom she had never met before. Thanks to Evil Cannot Comprehend Good and residual baggage from occupying Durkon's body, this so completely baffles Vampire Durkon that he asks Durkon for the rest of his memories allowing him to process this knowledge — and in the process becomes Durkon himself and lets Belkar stake him to death. Durkon and Minrah, now in the dwarf afterlife, meet Thor, who reveals that this world is not the second, third or fourth, but somewhere around the billionth or so world the Gods have made, the Snarl having destroyed every other one. Thor then reveals that the Snarl cannot be contained by the remaining gods because it contains the essence of all four pantheons, while the gods only have the power of three available due to the destruction of the Eastern pantheon when the Snarl first emerged. However, he then reveals the Dark One carries a new essence — which could put an end to the threat of the Snarl for good — and charges Durkon with finding a way to convince Redcloak to listen to their plan.
  • Ho Yay:
  • Jerkass Dissonance: You could argue that Therkla was treated very sympathetically considering her actions. This is obviously meant as an example of Love Redeems, but she didn't exactly know Elan to any depth and on a closer reading it comes across more like "Unrequited Lust Somehow Redeems". She was happy to kill other Azurites or members of the Order unless he asked her not to, out of loyalty for an ambitious and clearly evil aristocrat. Wanting Elan to leave Haley to be with her wasn't a particularly noble motivation; one wonders if her attraction would be seen as more romantic or creepy if the genders were reversed.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Vaarsuvius. S/He is arrogant, selfish and at times uses his/her spells just to screw with people s/he doesn't like. At the same time, s/he is humbled at the Battle for Azure City and haunted by the memory of it, gets sued for divorce by his/her mate and discovers that s/he is responsible for the deaths of countless innocents because of one epic spell s/he cast. Not exactly pleasant fates.
    • Yukyuk when Belkar decides to get back at him for injuring Mr. Scruffy. Gross.
    • Nale spent most of the comic as an unrepentant mass-murderer. But the we get to meet his father, and realize what sort of childhood he must have had and how it formed him to the man he became, placing him in this trope. On the other hand, he is shown being cruel as a baby even when his parents were (presumably) together, so it's not all on Tarquin.
    • Miko Miyazaki is everything wrong with a paladin, but one of the bonus strips shows her trying to socialize with other paladins to celebrate New Year's only for her own Knight Templar tendencies to alienate them, forcing her to celebrate New Year's alone with Windstriker. It is implied this occurs every year. Miko's own zealousness causes her to be alone. Miko's subsequent fall from grace is also her own fault, but it means that when she dies, she is denied the only thing that still matters to her — being a paladin. Not to mention following on the heels of a nasty Broken Pedestal moment. At least she'll have the chance to see Windstriker again in the afterlife.
    • Thog. His mass-murder aside, the half-orc is little more than a child mentally and it's up for debate whether he even realizes he's evil. He thinks that he and the rest of the Linear Guild are friends having a big adventure, when really Nale and Sabine only keep him around because they need a frontline fighter and consider him a burden and an annoyance. The only mutually respectful relationship he has, not coincidentally, is with Elan. Even his final fate is left deliberately ambiguous.
    • Crystal. Since coming back from the dead as a self-aware flesh golem, she claims to be in a state of constant agony. The forum-goers' hearts went out to her almost immediately; no-one, they felt, deserves that — not even Crystal.
    • This is deliberately averted with Belkar according to the foreword that Rich wrote for On the Origin of PCs. While Belkar's evilness may be a result of a horrible childhood, Rich doesn't want to reveal anything like that because it would make all of his hilarious sociopathic scenes just look sad and tearjerky.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Vaarsuvius; being of ambiguous sex and sexuality lends itself to that.
  • Love to Hate:
    • Xykon's completely unsympathetic, but also highly entertaining. His misdeeds are the worst in the comic, but he also makes some of the best jokes in the comic.
    • Tarquin's Savviness, collected nature, and intelligence also places him here in the eyes of fans.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • "That Guy with a Halberd", as a result of the campaign demanding his return.
    • O-Chul. The fandom tends to treat him as the OotS answer to Chuck Norris. This is not unjustified, as it's been determined that he has a hitpoint total well over 150, putting him on par with creatures two size categories larger than himself. He's been immersed in a tank of acid for almost a full minute, escaping after being launched out by a shark-bite; he's tanked a disintegrate spell from Redcloak, followed by a Meteor Swarm from Xykon, without going down, and he beat Redcloak in a one-on-one fight while half-naked and with nothing but a metal bar.
    • Julio Scoundrèl is Obi-Wan plus Han Solo. Think about that.
    • Meanwhile, Tarquin is Darth Vader as a troper. Currently the theory that these three men between them fathered most of the OotS cast is doing the rounds on the forums.
    • Belkar. Despite Roy pointing out to him (and us) that he's bad at taking hits and has some weaknesses, he's still known as the SEXY SHOELESS GOD OF WAR! for a reason.
    • Kazumi Kato after she became a Pregnant Badass, the "make more in my tummy" line below was put on a shirt thanks to her.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Evil! It's a growth industry!"
    • "I am a sexy shoeless god of war!"
    • "Who cares how many people I kill? I can just make more in my tummy!"
    • Someone on the OOTS forums referred to Bandana as "Banana" by accident. Then someone else posted a drawing of an anthropomorphic banana commanding the Mechane. No getting rid of the Banana after that!
    • Thog Edits, born from an anon in /tg/ trying to shorten particularly verbose comics by removing letters and whole words from the speech balloons and mutating into what's essentially Comic Pooping through the same manipulative letter removal.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Disturbingly, the times Xykon crosses it tend to be Moments of Awesome in that they are so evil you can't help but be impressed with which the style he pulls them off, even as you are appalled.
    • Miko crosses this when she takes the law into her own hands and kills Lord Shojo and the gods themselves take notice. By contrast, ''Start of Darkness' goes out of its way to demonstrate that there was never really a point where Xykon was not balls-out evil.
    • Nale crosses the line in the first story arc when he stabbed his brother Elan through the back simply for refusing to be part of his group (literally).
    • The end of Start of Darkness for Redcloak. Engineered by Xykon, who happily explains that he can now trust Redcloak to do any despicable action Xykon asks of Redcloak because otherwise he'd have to face that he crossed the horizon for nothing.
      Xykon: You'll obey me forever now, because I give you an excuse for your inexcusable behavior.
    • Malack crosses it when he states his plans to continue Tarquin's empire... and kill 1000 people every day. And if that didn't convince you, he follows this up by killing Durkon and turning him into one of his children (though he states he will see him as a brother). Not to mention when he reveals that he killed his own seven brothers in the past.
    • Although his villainy was always horrific, it was generally played with some kind of humor, or at least some reader respect. However, Tarquin calmly telling Elan that he is going to murder Haley, then murder everyone else on the Mechane, then top it off by cutting off Elan's hand with a completely calm, straight face cements him as a monster at worst, and extremely frightening at best.
    • Earlier, any possible claim he might have had to be a force for good in the Western Continent evaporated when it was revealed that he was cognizant of and okay with Malack's plan to inherit the Empire and institute industrial-scale sentient sacrifice after his death.
    • Golem Crystal cheerfully admits that she plans to go on a killing spree among the gnomes since killing helps her cope with the pain of her new form. She doesn't even consider Haley's suggestion to turn over a new leaf and go on a quest for an actual solution to her condition. In-universe, this convinces Haley that Crystal is an unrepentant murderer who needs to be destroyed.
    • It was long up to debate on the forums just how evil Hilgya was, and just how morally justified her actions against her ex-husband and her clan were, and whether she was Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral. The ranks of her defenders thinned considerably after she resurrected Durkon only to immediately kill him again, with the prevailing judgment being "yeah, that's Evil, all right".
  • Not So Crazy Anymore: Vaarsuvius's Ambiguous Gender was originally just a gag that originated from reader confusion about the art. Come 5th edition, non-binary elves have appeared in official D&D material, said to be reflections of the elven god Corellon, who is now described as ambiguously gendered.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
  • Ron the Death Eater: For a time, directed at Lord Shojo. Some of Miko's more die-hard fans claimed that executing him could be justified at first. The comic went on to show that no, it could not, and this went away rather quickly.
  • Saved by the Fans: Invoked by Word of God. Thog was originally going to be killed off, but the fans loved the big galoot so much that he rewrote the script and let him live. This wasn't done begrudgingly, though — at first, it was because there had been little to no major plans for the comic so it made little difference, but Burlew later admitted that he really liked Thog too, since he's a comedy goldmine.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Eugene Greenhilt. Passed down a Blood Oath to his son, Roy, forcing him to either kill an epic lich sorcerer or be Barred from the Afterlife when he dies — and it was later confirmed he barely tried to fulfil it. On top of that, he pointlessly antagonizes Roy, who's actively working on fulfilling the oath, because he disapproves of his class selection — and because he knows he can get away with it, since Roy will try and stop Xykon because it's the right thing to do. It's also offhandedly mentioned that he's responsible for Roy's little brother Eric's death, caused by one of his botched experiments. And unlike the actual villains, he's not powerful, a complex character, or entertaining — he's just a bitter old prick.
    • Roy's Love Interest Celia was quite popular at first being a funny and competent lawyer in the setting and a pretty neat romantic foil to Roy. When she was made into a major character many soured on her because of her sudden reversal to Stupid Good tendencies. Word of God was that he tried to pit Celia's Naive yet good nature against Haley and Belkar's more pragmatic and darker natures to try and show a contrast in ideals, something the comic has done many times before. Unfortunately nearly all of Celia's points just ended up failing and a number of fans who liked her smarter moments felt she fell hard into Too Dumb to Live.
    • Girard Draketooth. All the flashbacks and visions of him so far have shown him as acerbic and arrogant, and as his main contribution to the ongoing plot sabotages the heroes' attempt to save the world as part of a personal revenge scheme to get back at someone for something that never even ended up happening.
  • Shipping:
    • The "Crack pairings" threads are among the most popular on the forums.
    • When O-Chul and new character Oona were revealed to be in the same geographical location (although they haven't met except in a single brief and inconclusive fight), out of nowhere came the new ship O-Choona, in a thread that ran for several weeks and will no doubt start up again as soon as either character reappears in a new strip.
  • Squick:
    • Tsukiko's "tastes" (i.e. Necrophilia) tend to inspire that. Even to Xykon, who isn't "one of those disgusting biophiliacs".
    • "If I ever see you with more eyes than assholes, I'm going to shove one into the other and then give your cloak to that hobgoblin."
    • Tarquin's banquet serves phoenix pâté. Since phoenixes explode when they die, the liver has to be cut out while the bird is alive.
    • As revenge for Yukyuk hurting Mr Scruffy (and to continue with his theme of utilizing kobolds' heads for various purposes), Belkar has Mr Scruffy use Yukyuk's mouth as a litterbox. While he's still alive. Bonus points for mentioning that "dairy just is NOT good for a cat's digestion".
  • Strawman Has a Point: Eugene arguing that the dwarves should throw themselves into mass suicidal charges against dragons or even each other seems to be a jab at the commenters that suggested that very thing. Except the problem is that many dwarves have been shown to do that exact thing. They are so dedicated to dying honorably that even one member of Durkon's family was seriously considering picking a fight with one of his elderly friends "so that he would at least die with an axe in his hands". Yes, dwarves are willing to kill their friends in a duel just to ensure that they go to Valhalla. While a lot of people in and out of universe argue that the dwarves have a raw deal, it doesn't change the fact that they HAVE to die honorably and they've long ago accepted that and have it culturally ingrained. Thor can only do so much to argue their souls away from Hel who vents all her frustrations out on her captured souls.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The reaction by a subset of the audience to the latest art upgrade, in which the stick figure limbs are now colored in to denote skin and pants, who nicknamed it "The Order of the Noodle".
  • Too Cool to Live: Lord Shojo. Even Belkar likes him so it passed that he was murdered and then refused resurrection because he was already old and frail.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: The frost giants arc, going on for close to a year, turned into this for many fans. It amounts to a glorified random encounter and focuses heavily on two incredibly divisive characters with very little character to them, despite the main characters supposedly being on a time-crunch to reach dwarf territory before the apocalyptic deadline. Numerous threads complaining about this have appeared on the forum only to be put down by locking. And unlike other side arcs or lulls in the storyline, it's not all that humorous and has virtually no Character Development to go around.
  • Unfortunate Implications: In an early strip, Belkar lampshades the unfortunate implications of the standard Dungeon Crawling adventure plot:
    Belkar: We have a goal?
    Roy: Sure. Why did you think we were here?
    Belkar: Well, I just figured we'd wander around, kill some sentient creatures because they had green skin and fangs and we don't, and then take their stuff. [everyone else in the party glares at him] What?
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Celia and Haley have an argument over Belkar's murderous tendencies when he kills a nameless hobgoblin soldier and Solt Lorkyurg, an innocent gnome merchant. Celia feels that both murders were wrong and accuses Haley of falling under What Measure Is a Non-Human? by justifying the hobgoblin's death over Solt's, whilst Haley argues that the hobgoblin was an enemy soldier and not comparable. It's supposed to be one of the times the comic deconstructs common fantasy tropes and gives a balanced argument, but most fans sided with Haley's pragmatism and thought Celia was just being naive. Unlike other examples of What Measure Is a Mook? or Non-Human, this hobgoblin was an armed enemy soldier and part of the occupation of a conquered city instead of some random monster Belkar decided to pick on.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Despite being a fan favorite, Belkar is disliked by 99% of the cast (the remaining one percent is composted of Lord Shojo, Mr. Scruffy and a female Greysky rogue he seduced). The fact that he's a Heroic Comedic Sociopath explains both reactions.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • The usual Wild Mass Guessers wanted the white-haired guy who's locked up in Bloodstone Correctional Facility to be Ian Starshine. For once, they were right.
    • Inverted, so many people considered Malack being a vampire to be too obvious to actually be true that they were surprised when it turned out that way.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion:
    • The Running Gag of V's mysterious gender was initially caused by the fact that no-one in the audience could agree on what it was.
    • According to the forum, Bandana has caused this for several people, including, initially, her character entry on This Very Wiki.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: The comic lampoons the 3.5 rules of Dungeons & Dragons, but has remained popular for years past when that ruleset was retired. It even outlasted the ruleset that replaced it!
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Tsukiko may have been smart enough to figure out Redcloak was lying to Xykon about the Gate ritual, but by bringing everything into the open, straight to Redcloak's face, she fatally underestimated the high priest of the Dark One.
    • If Nale thought his father was going to just let his killing of Malack slide, especially after he boasted about making the cleric suffer while dying straight to his face, he didn't know Tarquin at all, and deserved everything coming to him afterwards just for being that stupid. Even if Tarquin wouldn't have given him what he had coming, Laurin most definitely would have, making this doubly stupid.
    • Oh yes, Bozzok, call the flesh golem Crystal an idiot and do exactly what she was calling you on while you're totally and completely unarmed and have no way to defend yourself. See how long you last.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
    • In the Empire of Blood arc, Roy and Belkar got imprisoned for life for not having entrance papers. Apparently illegal immigration is Serious Business in a Lawful Evil nation...
    • In the commentary for book 5, the Giant acknowledges that it's no coincidence that the villain is an older white guy who just naturally assumes that the leader of the Order (and overall protagonist of the whole story) is Elan rather than Roy, and can't wrap his head around that not being the case.
    • There's a lot of this relating to Redcloak, particularly during the founding of Gobbotopia. Pretty inevitable when you've got a character fighting for the liberation of an oppressed people using evil methods; The Giant says no direct allusions are intended.
    • The council of dwarven clans decides to investigate whether half of them are being mind controlled by vampires after holding an important vote. Many forum goers started wondering if this was an allusion to the president of the USA at the time, who has often been accused by the opposition of being a traitor working for a foreign power.

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