|YMMV • Radar • Quotes • (Funny • Heartwarming • Awesome) • Fridge • Characters • Fanfic Recs • Nightmare Fuel • Shout Out • Plot • Tear Jerker • Headscratchers • Trivia • WMG • Recap • Ho Yay • Image Links • Memes • Haiku • Laconic|
The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:
- 20% More Awesome: An angel shows Roy a graph of Belkar's evil against time, measured in kilonazis. The standard unit is based on a hypothetical lovechild of Sauron and Cruella DeVille. Of course, in a Dungeons & Dragons-based universe, "evil" really might be quantifiable...
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The "Obligatory Sewer-Themed Labyrinth".
- Accidental Innuendo: In-universe parody.
- Action Girl: Haley; Kazumi; Therkla; Miko; Lien
- Aerith and Bob: "My name is Kodrog the Slayer, and this is my buddy Jim." (See Fourth Wall Mail Slot.)
- Affably Evil: Several kinds.
- Xykon is a Chaotic Evil lich who also happens to have some serious style and a rich sense of humor.
- General Tarquin and Minister Malack are both Lawful Evil and power-hungry (and Tarquin will get revenge for any perceived insult), but they're also enjoyable company and very gracious hosts. Malack implied to Durkon that he's actually True Neutral, though this could've just been a lie to put the very Lawful Good Durkon more at ease with him.
- Thog is so cheerful and friendly, it's easy to forget that he'll kill hundreds of innocent NPCs for little (if any) reason.
- Aggressive Negotiations: Start of Darkness spoilers: This is how The Dark One ultimately met his end -- he was murdered while attempting to negotiate a peace settlement with the humans kings. Rather than ending the war, it made things far worse, as the goblins swarmed upon their enemies inflicting huge losses in vengeance for their fallen warlord.
- All Crimes Are Equal: The Empire of Blood personifies this trope.
- Roy and Belkar are sentenced to life in prison for not having paperwork; the reptilian bounty hunters soon suffer the same fate even though they have their paperwork, because the chancellor was ordered to lose it after they attempted to blackmail General Tarquin.
- A few strips later, while Durkon is in a library, a sign is posted that says the Dewey Decimal System is strictly enforced. (One can only imagine.)
- Thog was thrown into prison for public urination, even though he was already wanted for treason at the time.
- Alliterative Name: Belkar Bitterleaf; Miko Miyazaki; Kazumi Kato; Daigo Da--
- All Lowercase Letters
- most orcs talk like this. It seems to be related to the INT score. Lampshaded in the last panel of this page.
- Eric Greenhilt too, as he's quite young.
- All There in the Manual: How did the Order of the Stick team up? Why do they suffer Belkar's presence? How and why did Redcloak align himself with Xykon? Just what did happen to that first Gate? To find out, you have to buy the prequel books, most of which are available via Ookoodook.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Redcloak manages to successfully invade the base of the Azure City resistance thanks to a polymorphed spy.
- All Your Powers Combined: The effect of Soul Splice.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Gets averted, subverted, inverted, doubly inverted, perverted, extraverted, and, just occasionally, played straight. Most often doubly inverted when a villain delivers a Break Them by Talking on how the hero is Not So Different and then immediately Kicks a Dog.
Deconstructed, too: Goblins and other evil humanoids were declared by the gods to be Always Chaotic Evil, designed only to be killed by player races. As sentient beings with their own society, they naturally feel persecuted by being forced into this role, and are now executing a massive Rage Against the Heavens in order to change things. Though the deconstruction is more aimed at players who treat these races as such, despite the fact that most of their Monster Manual entries only list them as "Usually X Evil"
- Ambiguous Gender: Vaarsuvius, and now his/her mate too... and their kids.... and his/her master... ah screw it: with a few exceptions, elves in general. Word of the Giant is that any gender identification of Vaarsuvius (and other ambiguous elves) is strictly their own perception. And V's children are adopted. Make no assumptions; for all we know they could be a same-sex couple.
- Amplifier Artifact: Most common magic items are of this kind, like Roy's Belt of Giant Strength, Elan's Belt of Charisma or V's Ring of Wizardry. Lampshaded by Haley with a Potion of Glibness: she takes it from Elan to use herself, because while it would make him a good liar, she's already a good liar so it will make her an utterly amazing liar.
- Ancestral Weapon: Roy's greatsword is handed down from his grandfather (though it skipped his father). The family is actually named after its green hilt, and now that it was reforged with starmetal it glows green when slaying undead, and so qualifies as a pretty Cool Sword too.
- And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: The hobgoblin horde gets shirts that say "I killed a PC and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!" when they kill the illusion of the Order of the Stick and Hinjo.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Spoofed.
- And Your Little Dog, Too
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: Played with. After slaying the evil black dragon, Elan says that he got a new clasp for his cloak, and Roy got snazzy new boots. (But it was actually an art upgrade, and they were supposed to pretend they were always drawn that way).
- Angels Pose: Used in "Roy's Angels". Note that Haley is the only one of the three who we know to be really a woman -- Roy was temporarily female at the time due to a Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity, and Vaarsuvius' gender is unclear at best.
- Annoying Arrows: Three arrows is, like, one healing potion.
- Anticlimax: Done intentionally and hilariously in #600 ("Headed Down") (forum). (Read the previous comic immediately beforehand for the full effect.)
- Anticlimax Cut: "The Test of the Heart": After having passed the Tests of the Body and Mind, one guarded by a hydra and the other a riddle, the Order finds themselves face-to-face with the guardian of the final Test of the Heart.
"Pray to what gods you serve that you will be deemed worthy of this rare honor! Find your reserves of courage, warriors, for the Test of the Heart begins -- NOW!!"
(cut to: Roy in a chair at a doctor's clinic, a stethoscope over his heart)
"Pulse rate is 60... blood pressure is 85 over 60... You pass. Next!"
- Anti-Human Alliance: The forces under Redcloak.
- Apocalypse How
- (Planetary/Physical Annihilation): At the dawn of time, the Snarl unmade the creation of the planet and destroyed a whole pantheon of gods.
- (close to Planetary/Species Extinction): A single epic-level necromantic spell seems to have caused the extinction of a large extended family. Since the victim is a dragon, and dragons don't breed much, this one spell killed a quarter of all the black dragons in the world.
- Army of the Dead
- During the battle of Azure City, Xykon slaughters all the paladins defending the throne room... only to watch them rise up and oppose him as spirits, led by the spirit of legendary paladin Soon, no less.
- Not to mention that he led an Army of the Dead against Azure City in the first place. Undead Dragon and all.
- Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Nale and Sabine's relationship contains a fair amount of this.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
- 26 unpleasant things that happen (or nearly happen) in Start of Darkness: Murder, Kidnapping, Trespassing, Zombification, Maiming, Foul Language, Defenestration, Squishy Hugs, Cannibalism, Blasphemy, Inebriation, Verbal Abuse, Blind Dating, Extortion, Fraud, Lies (and statistics), Depilation, Brain Damage, Arson, Betrayal, False Advertising, Running Gags, Rules Lawyering, Disintegration, Tampering with the Fabric of Reality, Taco Night.
- Guild arena used for ritual combat, coming-of-age sacrifices, and as mosh pit for local alternative rock bands.
- Turns out the gladiatorial champion of the Empire of Blood, who is built up as some kind of insane monster who mercilessly slaughtered dozens of fighters and guards, was originally locked up for peeing on the sidewalk. And then it turns out that that's because he's none other than Thog.
- Belkar's cover story:
Belkar: We're wanted in several other nations for racketeering, jury tampering, and interfering with a mail carrier.
- Art Evolution: Lampshaded. "Psst! Elan! It's an art upgrade, we're supposed to pretend we've always been drawn this way."
- Art Shift
- Ascended Meme: It's a running joke among Dungeons & Dragons fans that, due to a quirk of the 3.x Edition ruleset, a housecat will more often than not kill a Level 1 Commoner in a straight-up fight. One strip is even called, "The Duel Everyone's Been Waiting For".
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Azure city naming schemes.
- Asskicking Equals Authority
- Why Qarr the imp tries to attach itself to V.
- Averted with the Sapphire Guard, though not at the time of their founding.
- As You Know
- Atop a Mountain of Corpses:
Belkar: I am a Sexy, Shoeless, GOD OF WAR!
- Attack! Attack! Attack!
- The paladins have an aversion to retreat because of their honor combined with their inability to feel fear, which, obviously, lands them up in trouble quite a bit.
- Lasts almost to the end in strip #618.
- Attack! Attack! Retreat! Retreat!: Strip #181. "Back into the darkness! BACK INTO THE DARKNESS!!"
- Avenging the Villain
- The Ancient Black Dragon
- Awesome but Impractical: Many of Nale's plans. His draft plan to kill Elan in Cliffport involved Sabine flying over carrying an anvil on a string. And Thog on rocket skates. Their final plan kept the rocket skates.
- Back for the Dead: Julio Scoundrél sincerely hopes never to cross paths with Elan again for precisely this reason.
- Back From the Dead: Pretty much anyone who's got a friendly cleric with a Raise Dead spell nearby, including the Oracle, Roy, and Jirix.
- Badass Normal: Many characters who kick ass without any intrinsic magical ability. This includes Roy, Haley, Thog, Kazumi, Daigo and more. Belkar as well, despite the fact that as a ranger he could use spells. Theoretically. If he didn't have a Wisdom score normally reserved for lemmings.
- Bar Brawl
- Also probably worth knowing is that both Belkar and Tarquin's backstories include an incident of them murdering all of the patrons in a bar in a more "one-sided" version of this.
- Bare Your Midriff: Haley (for most of the comic, save for the latest arc and while with La Résistance); Julia; Crystal; Sabine (during two story arcs).
- Batman Gambit
- The Three Fiends gave Vaarsuvius supreme power, expecting that the elf would attack Xykon and "knock him out of his comfort zone." And it worked. Beautifully.
- Tarquin seems to be made of this, too.
- Battle Trophy
- Belkar has a habit of doing this with the heads of kobolds he killed, though he never keeps them for long.
- Roy takes Xykon's crown and wears it on a string around his neck after "setting him back a bit". This turns out to be a problem when the residual evil on it causes Miko to try and smite him. Xykon takes it back in their next encounter.
- Later, Gannji concocts a plan that requires his partner Enor to kill him, cut of his tail, and keep it so that Gannji can be resurrected later. He tells Enor:
Gannji: Tell the guards it's a trophy of your victory. They won't question it 'cause you're part ogre. They do stuff like that all the time.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: So you want to protect yourself and your family from a vendetta by obliterating the whole adverse lineage? Why not? Just be sure some part of it doesn't guard a place critical for the survival of the world you and your companions are trying to save. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, indeed.
- Beastly Bloodsports: The Thieves Guild runs a dogfighting ring.
- The Bechdel Test: Passes the test easily, thanks mostly to Haley and Celia. Passes even earlier (first panel) if it turns out Vaarsuvius is female.
- Be Quiet Nudge: Happens a few times to Belkar.
- In strip #247, Haley is struck with aphasia and so can't talk Belkar into shutting it as he's about to tell Elan her feelings. However, a boot to the face is enough to convey the message more clearly.
Belkar: Objection noted.
- Also in strip #379, Roy kicks Belkar so that the halfling doesn't join the already-embarrassing conversation.
- Berserk Button
- Not that Belkar really needs one, but making comments about his height is likely to lead to unpleasant results. Lampshaded in this comic. Also, whatever you do, if you value your life, do not threaten Mr. Scruffy. Or tease Belkar about his relationship with the cat.
- "YOU... BROKE... MY... SWORD!!"
- It's probably best not to doubt V's magic skills.
- Or tell Haley that treasure isn't really that important.
- Or hurt Hinjo's dog.
- Xykon has so many it's almost a Running Gag. At first, it's denigrating the intelligence or power of sorcerers as compared to wizards. Later, he's fine with being a lich until it turns out he can no longer taste coffee, at which point he goes ballistic. Whatever you do, do not cause Xykon to lose his phylactery. And to boot, don't steal his kills.
- Speaking of Xykon, Roy has a pet peeve about villains who cannot remember the bad things they have done, and the Lich is one of the top offenders of that.
- "Malack. How's the family?"
- Durkon is too level-headed to really go "berserk", but showing disrespect or making fun of godly worship (like by worshipping a hand puppet, or converting to Thor on the spot when convenient) and he will threaten you with violence, and even had to be physically restrained in some cases.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Lampshade Hanging is used constantly in the comic. Which is itself lampshaded in this comic.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Destroying the gates, which are the only things holding back the Snarl, is considered better than allowing their power to fall into evil hands. The implication being that the world would be better off destroyed and remade than falling into the hands of the forces of darkness with the focused power of the Snarl at their disposal. Either that, or a gate would grant great power to anyone willing and able to harness it, especially an Evil person, but a destroyed gate could simply be remade somehow.
- Big Damn Fire Exit
- Big Damn Heroes
- Bigger Bad
- Xykon is the human-scale bad guy and the one really driving the main story, but the most powerful evil presence in the comic is the Snarl, hands down. Though Blackwing's vision of the inside of the rift shows that things may be a little more complicated...
- The IFCC is somewhere above Xykon and below the Snarl.
- Big "Never!": Vaarsuvius when asked to renounce his/her chosen god, and then repeats it when a bribe is insufficient.
- Big No
- Big "What?": From Eugene.
Roy: Wait, what? What about the Blood Oath of Vengeance?
Bureaucratic Deva: It's not a problem for us. Go on up.
Roy: In lieu of Paradise, can I just get a picture of the exact expression on his face?
- Bilingual Bonus: Sort of. Haley's aphasic gibberish is a cipher; solving it reveals a few good lines. On occasion, the encryption key, too, will reveal a secret message.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Well, Dwarven Biology anyway. Apparently Dwarves have two livers.
- Black Bead Eyes: Standard, although some characters do have colored eyes.
- Black Comedy: Since the comic has an overall humorous tone, the various atrocities committed by Belkar, Xykon, Nale, Tarquin/The Empire of Blood, and other villains tend to be depicted this way, including some jokes in these scenes, but not downplaying the cruelty being displayed.
- Black Dude Dies First: Roy is the first main character to actually die. He got ressurected though, even if it did take 206 strips before Durkon could start casting Resurrection.
- Blatant Lies: Get your Bluff rank high enough, and people will believe anything.
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: The hobgoblins and gouda.
- Blood Oath: Eugene Greenhilt swearing one against Xykon on a drunken night, for the murder of his mentor Fyron Pucebuckle, is what start the whole vendetta against the lich sorcerer, and pretty much motivate Roy to found the Order of the Stick. The rest is history. It is also what keeps Eugene from being admitted into the Afterlife (though not Roy, because Roy's death occured while trying to fulfill that oath).
- Bob Haircut
- Vaarsuvius and Zz'dtri, at least initially.
- The standard for female soldiers in Azure City, like Kazumi. (The males are shaven.)
- Booby Trap: One of Vaarsuvius's favorite spells? Explosive Runes! It even gives a defeated Vaarsuvius one last laugh against Xykon -- "Guess what spell I cast before giving this to the bird" in "Flight of the Phylactery".
- Boogie Knights: "Dancing Knights", more like.
- Brain Bleach
- Brainwashed and Crazy
- Nale does this to Belkar at one point... then again, he is crazy already. The brainwashing is more of a redirection.
- Tsukiko dominating Thanh the paladin. No, not that kind of domination.
- Brass Balls
- Xykon, to an injured and unarmed O-Chul charging him: "Wow. You got some +5 Holy Cojones on you, paladin, I'll give you that."
- Ian Starshine to Roy Greenhilt: "You've got gumption, kid, I'll say that much."
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick
- In "The Path to Victory", as the Order goes through a secret tunnel, they pass through The Hall of Mysterious Runes, The Cavern of Very Easy Encounters, The Room With All the Spikes, The Chasm of Unnecessary Cliffs, The Tunnel With the Sort of Reddish Floor, The Passageway of Horrible Death for Other People... and The Corridor of Very Toxic Sulfur Fumes. (Which the team shakes off, anyway.)
- Tsukiko in "No Scry Zone".
- Break Them by Talking
- In Start of Darkness, Xykon delivers one to Dorukan all while he Energy Drains the wizard to death.
- Shortly followed by one for Redcloak at the very end of Start of Darkness.
- Redcloak to Miko in the main comic.
- Later, Redcloak to O-Chul.
- O-Chul then tries a heroic version on the Monster in the Darkness.
- Xykon delivers an awesome one to V in "Second Chance". It has opposite the intended effect; Xykon tells Vaarsuvius exactly what the elf needs to hear at that moment to cause a moment of redemption -- that power is not only found in spells, and that Vaarsuvius can still oppose Xykon despite not having any spells that could help. During all that talking, V decides to nab some healing potions and patch up the paladin O'Chul.
- Breaking the Fellowship: Following the battle of Azure City, the party is split, and one is dead. They finally reunite over a hundred chapters (and several in-universe months) later.
- Brick Joke
- The Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity.
- Related to this, turns out that Roy has boobies.
- Hydra Burgers (with gouda!).
- When searching for the starmetal to get Roy's sword reforged, V gets polymorphed into a purple lizard, which V's familiar tries to catch. Blackwing (V's familiar) figures it out in strip #714, more than 500 strips later. The strip title implies that it was intentional.
- "Wait a minute, I had a 22!"
- "How did you ever get so many potions of heroism?" "Do not ask."
- The comic "Yes, apparently" actually flashes back to the brick that the episode title is a joke off. The actual punchline here isn't much of a joke, but a pretty big punch.
- In the 90th strip, Elan famously ROLLED A 4! This is brought up again waaaaay later, in #766. This time, Elan ROLLED A 9! (because the boots he's wearing adds a 5 to his Move Silently check).
- "Stop opressing my culture, you ethnocentric bitch!"
- "Aren't you a violation of a certain popular fantasy author's intellectual property?!?" "Parody is protected speech."
- Everyone's a future psychic!
- Looks like Roy lost that argument... Oh, wait, never mind.
- A blink-and-you'll-miss-it one: he found his keys, and now he's lost them again.
- "Thor's aching bunions!" "I need to go soak my feet."
- When Belkar killed the Oracle, he attempted to turn his head into a litter box for Mr. Scruffy. Haley stops him, but he eventually does it to Yukyuk.
- Early in the comic Vaarsuvius tells Elan that since s/he's an elf s/he only needs to take bathroom breaks every few weeks or so and Elan, being Elan, interprets that as V being a camel. It's referenced again, about 600 strips later.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The first time Roy fought Xykon and won.
- Brought Down to Normal
- Attempted in Start of Darkness when Lirian inflicts Xykon and his minions with a disease that robs them of their magic abilities. Unfortunately for her, Redcloak is immune thanks to the effects of the Crimson Mantle, and has just enough resources to transform Xykon in an undead, disease-immune lich.
- A more temporary instance of this trope occurs when a dragon uses an anti-magic field against Vaarsuvius, turning him/her from a wizard into what the former describes as "a fragile, pointy-eared monkey" while the dragon is "... still a dragon."
- Brown Note: Certain magical spells are perfectly capable of this -- for example, Xykon used a "Symbol of Insanity" (on a super-bouncy ball) to turn an entire squad of paladin warriors against each other.
Monster in the Darkness: ... everyone here tells me that I'm as dumb as things that are really dumb.
Redcloak: ... we didn't know the gate was guarded by a legion of ghost... things.
Haley: My brain feels like a psion... did some psiony stuff.
- Buried Alive: Lirian seals Xykon and his forces in an airtight cave following their defeat in her forest.
- Busman's Holiday: Lampshaded in [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0536.html "A Brief Tribute", in memory of Gary Gygax.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday
- Xykon only remembers the day he killed Roy's dad's mentor as a really bad Laundry Night.
Xykon: Do you have any idea how many people I have killed in front of their loved ones? Could you narrow it down?
Roy: Grrrr. His master's name was Fyron. He was a wizard who lived in Cliffport. You needed some sort of magical doodad that he owned, so you killed him and his son in cold blood.
Xykon: Hmmm... more specific.
MitD: You killed more than one guy named Fyron in Cliffport?
Xykon: Five, actually.
Roy: Gah! It was forty years ago!
Xykon: More specific.
Roy: In the spring?
Xykon: More specific.
Roy: On a Wednesday?
Xykon: Oh! Right! Now I remember. Because it was Laundry Night, and I had trouble getting the blood out of my robes.
Roy: Oh, that is IT!!
- Or, as Xykon puts it later:
Xykon: Y'know, I've destroyed entire towns, and the worst I got from the surviving families were a few snarky comments. You, sir, have a serious problem with overreaction.
- He is definitely trying to get a rise out of someone in "Negative Feelings":
Xykon: Hey! Paladin dude! Do you know what the best part about killing the entire Sapphire Guard was? Neither do I. I wasn't actually paying attention when I did it.
- Apparently, Thog also doesn't care much about the people he kills, although that might be simple stupidity on his part.
- But He Sounds Handsome: Belkar, disguised as a fellow medium-sized, and Nale, disguised as Elan, both indulge into this.
- Call a Hit Point a Smeerp: The adventure game based on the comic uses the term "wound". The comic uses "HP", though.
- Call Back
- #449 to #277. "Only the honor of a paladin is unbreakable."
- #486 to #39 and #456.
- In #535 villains from a filler arc make a cameo.
- In #3, Haley mentions how she dislikes the colour of her lime green Boots of Speed. These Boots are also spoken of in #573, feature in a flashback in #608, and in #675, she has them dyed brown.
- From #683 all the way to #87.
- Also, #685 to #171.
- Another extremely long Call Back -- from #705 all the way back to #326 with hydra-burgers.
- Belkar knows a guy who knows a guy.
- #714 to #178.
- "Do you need, like, 200-foot-tall flaming letters or something?" Apparently so. Double-example considering what was being used for the fire.
- When Elan meets his father, note the Star Wars references. When Elan calls out the old man, note the Star Wars parallels.
- From #766 to #90 ("I've got a 4!") and to #130 with the "elveny boots".
- One would be a sort of Call Forward, since it shows up in a prequel book. In this comic, Roy makes a throwaway comment about only getting a C- in his Attacks of Opportunity class. In On the Origin of PCs, that's the class Roy is studying for when his dad shows up to tell him about the Blood Oath against Xykon.
- From #779 to #202. Watch out for what the people with the lead sheet say!
- The comic tops itself yet again as of #789 to #43, with the return of Zz'dtri.
- From #795 to #114.
- "I may be in error, but I believe the appropriate proclamation is, 'Sneak Attack, bitch.'"
- #478 has V teaching Elan to create illusions of celestial creatures. In #805, Elan demonstrates what he's learned with an illusionary celestial tree sloth.
- A shorter one, but in #727, Roy's hunch back in #691 pays off...
- Redcloak's confrontation with Tsukiko in #830 is similar to Xykon's confrontation with Dorukan in Start of Darkness, with a one character exploiting a seemingly powerful one's weaknesses, giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to them, and then killing them ignominiously.
- From #841 all the way back to #12:
Haley: Do you want to go up a level, or down a level?
Roy: Don't start with that.
- Calling the Old Man Out
- Calling Your Attacks: Almost every combat ability other than moving and basic attacks. Spoofed often, especially in a Running Gag where anybody who uses a sneak attack actually yells "Sneak Attack!" when they do it.
- Which is subverted and lampshaded when Nale kills the CPPD Chief.
Nale: Oops, I think I was supposed to yell "sneak attack" just there.
- "Oh my gods, Yor, I swear, you do NOT need to keep shouting out your attacks! This isn't manga!"
- Also subverted in "He Invented the Magic System", where Vaarsuvius calls the name of a spell that he doesn't actually have to no effect.
- And Roy has some great cleavage...
- As a corollary, The only thing you have to say when you cast a spell is the name of the spell, leading to the incantation for Resurrection, which has a ten-minute casting time, being the word "resurrection!" repeated over and over for ten minutes.
- Canis Latinicus
- Cannot Spit It Out: Haley's attraction to Elan. At least until "Truth".
- Cardboard Prison
- Rule of thumb: if a prison is shown, someone will break out of it.
- In a more literal example, most of the time while in Azure City, the Monster in the Darkness is seen within a prison cell, literally made from a cardboard box with a small window (with bars) cut into one side.
- Cargo Cult: The orcs on the island worship... uh, Elan's hand-puppet, Banjo the Clown. And so does he. Also apparently one worshiper is enough for a said worshipper to request the ability to shoot out a small bolt of lightning to smite heathens (Elan does it to Roy; it does absolutely nothing).
Though they later worship Giggles the Clown, Banjo's equally fictional brother and God of Slapstick. This leads to the refugee fleet, as "Champions of Banjo", and the new worshippers of Giggles having a pie-eating contest, the "traditional" challenge that must be enacted between followers of the two hand-puppet gods. Of course, given how deific ascension works in the world (which is why Elan came up with Banjo in the first place), then there very likely is an actual (if very weak) Giggles the Clown deity now.
- Carpet of Virility: Enriqué; Tarquin
- Carrying the Antidote: Elan assumes this is the case, and is mocked.
- Catapult Nightmare: "Running Away"
- Catapult to Glory: With Titanium elementals.
- Catgirl: One of Tarquin's adventuring partners seems to be such a creature.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Like you wouldn't believe. And lampshaded. Also subverted. Plot lines get more complex and darker as the series continues, but the awesome one-liners and constant lampshading never stop.
- Characterization Marches On
- In the cast page, Belkar is introduced as "the world's best tracker under four feet tall." As the strip moved on, his Stupid Evil nature was played up to the point where it turns out that he is a completely incompetent tracker, having spent all his skill points and feats on combat abilities (and gourmet cooking). Changing his alignment from Stupid Evil to Chaotic Evil also caused an enormous amount of Fan Dumb, as many believe the two to be the same.
- The Monster in the Darkness started out as evil (just not very good at it), but has evolved into a good (or at least neutral) character being tricked and manipulated by his evil "friends."
- Redcloak in his first couple of appearances was basically just a regular goblin with a fancy cloak, who kowtowed endlessly to Xykon and whose unlevel eyes didn't exactly scream intelligence. Fast forward a few hundred strips, and Redcloak is the quintessential Dragon with an Agenda, as well as the resident Only Sane Employee and Hypercompetent Sidekick, who claims to have been expertly manipulating Xykon from the beginning.
- Charm Person: It's a D&D-based trope, so of course this is here.
- Striking general example is Nale hypnotizing Belkar; he can't make Belkar kill the Order and give their magic items to him, but Nale is able to make Belkar try to kill the Order and keep their magic items for himself... while singing showtunes...
- Chased by Angry Natives: During the exile of the Azurites.
- Chekhov's Gag: In "The Prisoner Dilemma", Belkar claims to "know a guy who knows a guy" in the slave trades. 500 comics later...
- Chekhov's Gun: All over the place. More of a Chekhov's Armoury, really.
- The pendant Celia gives to Roy. Double Subverted: it first appears to be a Red Herring, but it turned out to be a Chekhov's Gun for Celia's appearance in the fourth arc.
- Vaarsuvius' familiar. A curious example where a pre-existing character and Running Gag is intentionally shelved to give his future reappearance more impact.
- Not to mention the Boots of Elvenkind and the Bag of Tricks.
- From the same series, but even more plot-important than the boots or the bag, Belkar's Ring of Jumping +20. It helps him escape from Azure City prison and indirectly causes Roy's death.
- And Xykon's headband allowing him to Cloister Azure City.
- The Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity that Elan takes from a defeated ogre.
- The Ylang-Ylang moisturizer Haley purchased earlier from Aton helps Belkar lead Roy to her kidnapper. The moment of purchase might also qualify as an Innocuously Important Episode due to leading Roy, Belkar, and Durkon to Elan's relative, and possibly Draketooth.
- In comic #422, Vaarsuvius uses Protection from Arrows on hirself. In comic #436 it gets put to use.
- Redcloak's unspecified spell as he walks in his room, which you might not even notice he used? Command Undead.
- Vaarsuvius' Familicide while with supreme arcane power comes back to haunt him/her when the entire Draketooth family was killed through the spell. One of the dragon's family members crossbred with a human.
- The ritual (or rather, half-ritual) that Tsukiko confronted Redcloak about and got herself killed over is in fact first seen in strip #700.
- Chekhov's Gunman
- Apparently, the Three Fiends that have given Vaarsuvius supreme arcane power have been seen in "While the Fiend's Away...". They outright state they have a succubus working for them, too, in "It Only Shows Reality Programming".
- Also Tarquin was shown in a waaay back strip, "The Semi-Secret Origin of Elan & Nale". He is also apparently the one who conquered the kingdom seen in "That's Why It's Called a Running Gag".
- The two old gladiators imprisoned along with Roy and Belkar turn out to be Haley's missing father and uncle.
- Apparently, parody is protected speech.
- And we get another in "Bound to Happen" when Elan happens upon Captain Amun-Zora's cell while running from Nale.
- Chekhov's Skill
- Cherry Tapping
- Xykon does it to O-Chul, knocking him below zero hit points with a Ray of Frost (a cantrip that does 1d3 points of damage).
- Belkar plays this straight with Crystal, first toying with her, then leaving her alive but humiliated.
- Chess with Death: Or rather, Wet T-shirt Contest with Death.
- Circling Birdies
- Clean Cut: Many attacks with slashing weapons against Mooks result in this.
- The Monster in the Darkness, which enjoys Power Rangers, tea parties and eating adventurers whole.
- Thog, a half-orc barbarian with low intelligence who helps Elan's Evil Twin Nale murder innocents by the dozens -- but loves nothing in life more than ice cream, rocket skates, and puppies. Probably because of this, he and Elan get along really well.
- Also Odin, the leader of the Northern Pantheon.
- Thor shows this occasionally as well, though mainly when he is drunk or about to. Which is about everytime we see him.
- Cold-Blooded Torture
- Redcloak to O-Chul, ostensibly for information.
- Xykon to O-Chul, just for fun.
- When his winning personality isn't enough, this appears to be how Tarquin "convinces" women to marry him.
- After finding out that Yukyuk shot Mr. Scruffy, Belkar decides to turn him into the cat's new litter box. Without killing him first.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience
- Lampshaded in regards to dragons; also the Trope Namer.
- Everything related to Azure City. The city itself is completely blue, including most of the buildings, the town wall and even the ships in the port. The regulars in the army wear silver and blue armor, and the paladins, white and blue. Many characters, e.g. Hinjo, even have blue hair. And anything related to Kubota is purple.
- It's to the point where if a paladin falls from grace, his or her clothes immediately change color from blue to brown, due to them being magical items that lose power when not on a paladin in good standing.
MitD: I know! Murky and Lurky must have stolen her colors!
- Additionally, all spellcasters have a distinctive colored aura when casting spells:
- Vaarsuvius -- pink;
- Durkon -- white;
- Elan -- blue;
- Redcloak -- dark red;
- Xykon -- dark grey;
- Nale -- yellow;
- Zz'dtri -- green;
- Hilgya -- orange;
- Leeky -- brown;
- Pompey -- violet;
- Eugene -- pale green;
- Samantha -- purple;
- Tsukiko -- indigo and blue (due to her being able to, as a Mystic Theurge, cast both arcane and divine spells);
- Sapphire Guard members and Azurite clerics -- standardized light blue;
- Malack -- grey.
- It's implied (particularly in Start of Darkness) that the hierarchal ranks of the Dark One's clerics are indicated by cloak color. For instance, white cloaks are issued to the newly-ordained.
- Additionally, all spellcasters have a distinctive colored aura when casting spells:
- Combat Pragmatist: Haley has no issues with ambushing and killing her arch-enemy Crystal, the assassin, while she's in the shower, unarmed and not wearing any armor or magic items. Followed, naturally, by looting all of said equipment. This scene comes off a lot less cold-blooded if you have read the prequel On the Origin of the PCs and the supplemental pages in Don't Split the Party that were cut out of the online comic for reasons of pacing but put back in for the printed edition. The extra strips in Don't Split the Party reveal that Crystal was more than eager to hurt and kill Haley, and she and Bozzok were still planning to secretly murder Haley, despite the truce.
- Compelling Voice: Haley gets this when she consumes a potion a glibness, giving her already huge bluff score an extra +30. She tells a guard that he's actually a yellow-footed rock wallaby, and he immediately hops off to find a wizard to polymorph him "back".
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: "There's only one ninja left, that means I'm death incarnate!"
- Continuity Nod: Full of them. Of particular note is the Test of the Mind when Haley returns to the Oracle's valley. The continuity of OOTS is generally very well kept.
- Continuity Snarl: While the comic doesn't contradict itself, the gods did.
- Cool Horse: Windstriker
- Cool Sword: Roy's sword has been handed down from his grandfather, and may be older than that. After it was broken, Roy is told it's made of starmetal and can't be reforged without it. Turns out that's not true, but now that it is reforged as starmetal alloy it is magical and does greater damage to undead, such as Xykon, and it glows green whenever this power activates.
- Cool Teacher: Fyron was this to Eugene Greenhilt.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Tarquin's ninth wife died of "mysterious circumstances". Which turns out to be a subversion -- Tarquin really has no idea how she died, although he's confident she was murdered by somebody.
- Coup De Grace
- Roy delivers several of these to goblins V put to sleep with an overly long and boring
incantationboast about how s/he was much more powerful than anything they could imagine. It was so long and boring that it put Elan and Belkar to sleep as well.
- Crystal attempts to do one to an unconscious Haley, but she's interrupted.
- Roy delivers several of these to goblins V put to sleep with an overly long and boring
- Covers Always Lie: The cover for Start of Darkness shows Xykon as a lich killing a paladin before his first encounter with Redcloak -- while in the story proper, he wasn't yet undead when this happened. Lampshaded on the last page of the book:
MitD: Wait-- The scene on the cover didn't happen that way.
Demon-Roach: Welcome to show business, kid.
- Crack Fic: Lampshaded by Xykon in "Villainy Afoot".
- Crazy Prepared
- Redcloak's plan of installing magic traps that zap anyone casting arcane spells other than Xykon and Tsukiko definitely wasn't a waste of an afternoon. Sure, V destroyed them later, but it was time and money well spent to stop a surprise turn. Then again, when you're hatching some evil scheme, you must expect to be attacked by heroes at any time.
- Tarquin learned to defend against pun-dueling. Not that surprising -- as boss of an evil empire you're bound to come up against some wise-cracking hero or other.
- Creepy Souvenir
- At one point, Belkar beheads Yikyik the kobold and wears his head as a hat. He later uses the head of Yokyok, the son of the first kobold, as a tortilla bowl.
- Gannji the lizardfolk mentions that keeping a Creepy Souvenir is common amongst ogres. So, when his friend Enor (an ogre/blue dragon hybrid) is forced to kill him, Gannji suggest he'd keep his tail as trophy in order to resurrect him later.
- Also, Malack tells Elan he would pay handsomely for Nale's skull to adorn his study.
- Cruel and Unusual Death
- Crying Wolf: Inverted and parodied in "The Elf Who Cried Raven" -- when V finally remembers his/her familiar and claims that Blackwing was "there all along" in their past adventures, none of the others believe it. Despite previously being the ones who had to remind V of its existence.
- Curb Stomp Battle
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot
- Cuteness Proximity: Exploited by Roy in strip #163 to take out the guards of a bandit camp.
- Cutting the Knot: Lampshaded.
- Cycle of Revenge
- What started as a killing of a young adult black dragon escalated when the black dragon's parent tried to torture Vaarsuvius' family to death, which led directly to V killing one quarter of the world's population of black dragons, which seems to have irked Tiamat (the Goddess of chromatic dragons).
- Also, the ongoing war between humans and goblins. As stated in the third book's commentary (partial paraphrase), "Each side only remembers their last defeat at the hands of the other."