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surly and unpleasant" shortly after ye met me. [...] Maybe all these folks need is a good strong leader like ye ta whip 'em into shape.—The Order of the Stick 0: On the Origin of PCs
The Order of the Stick is a Stick Figure Comic by Rich Burlew set in a world based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition rules (an original world, rather than an established setting) centering around 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, a treasure-loving Action Girl rogue; Vaarsuvius, a condescending elf wizard whose unknown gender is a Running Gag; Durkon Thundershield, a straight-laced dwarf cleric of Thor; Elan, a happy-go-lucky and none-too-bright bard with a flair for the dramatic; and 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 have also been 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)
The physical volumes of the main comic also contain extra sideplots and gag-strips as incentive for readers to buy them. They're even referenced in the comic when a character will say something like, "I wonder if we could get the scene of us rescuing Roy's corpse added in as bonus content to the next book?"
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)
- Snips, Snails and Dragon Tales (a collection of strips published in Dragon magazine and about eighty pages of other humorous fluff).
- An as-yet-unnamed book which will likely contain material from a successful Kickstarter drive. The book will probably be several stories about minor but popular characters and a couple of non-canon stories involving the main characters.
- Please note: the above is by no means assured. Rich mentioned in the Kickstarter Comments that, once work has finished on everything for the Drive, and his pending official books are out of the way, then maybe he'll get around to this book. Until then, it is only very lightly pencilled in the diary.
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).