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The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:
- Paint It Black: This happens at least three times in the comic. Vaarsuvius and Miko each receive one of these, while Belkar gets an inversion when given a temporary Wisdom boost. The title of the strip which has Vaarsuvius' transformation actually references the song/trope title as well, as V's robe is, in fact, painted black.
- Parody Magic Spell: The Harry Potter parody character uses "Stopus Badguyus!" when trying to repel Thog.
- Pass the Popcorn
Belkar: Do you think I have time to get popcorn??
- While the three fiends watch Vaarsuvius fight a dragon, one of them actually eats popcorn.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: People's Democratic Dictatorship.
- Percussive Pickpocket: Some kids try to pull this on Durkon in "Too Slow".
- Pet the Dog
- Belkar may happily kill people at the drop of a hat, but he sure does like that little cat.
- Tsukiko seems to be getting a rather twisted, if still tragic, one of these starting from #700. She seems to have come to identify more with the dead she commands than with the living she's still a part of, coming to believe that Humans Are Bastards and that the undead, as the opposite to the living, must therefore be nice. Poor deluded soul...
- Even though Tarquin is a mighty warlord, he's still willing to dedicate a day to bonding with his estranged son. Except that every place they went to reminded the reader of how terrible of a person he is.
- When we see Xykon pet the dog, he presents it as a slap in the face to Redcloak, although it's entirely possible he really did think Jirix had at least earned a Raise Dead spell.
- Pie in the Face: Redcloak barters ten minutes of Xykon's attention to discuss strategy with this old gag, spicing it up by having acid-spitting beetles in the banana cream pie to fit better with the lich's taste.
Redcloak: Don't go anywhere, I've still got a coconut custard that has "siege engine disposition" written all over it.
- Pieta Plagiarism: Therkla's death.
- Pinball Projectile: Lucky shot variant, subverted.
- Pirate Girl: Given the choice between pirate and ninja, Haley declares this suited her better.
- Humorously used to hide the genitals of naked characters (mostly Elan). Because, you know, stick figures...
- Used in a flashback in one of the prequel books. Eugene casts an illusion spell, which pixilates the frame. His teacher Fyron decides it's time to teach him about image resolution.
- Placebo Eureka Moment: Seen in "It's Battlicious!", where Redcloak gets the idea to distribute his soldiers for The Siege of Azure City from Xykon's "March up the walls and blast away" attitude.
- Playing with a Trope: Hoooooo boy.
- Please Select New City Name
- After nearly one year of occupation by the hobgoblins, Azure City is renamed Gobbotopia City.
- Names of towns and countries change regularly in the volatile Western Continent. For example, Bleedingham (capital of the Empire of Blood) was formerly known as Terrorburg (capital of Tyrinaria).
- Please Vote for Our Comic: The incentive comics to encourage people to vote for them on Buzzcomics.
- Point That Somewhere Else: During Elan's first encounter with General Tarquin, the latter bends Elan's silver rapier away from his face with the tip of a finger.
- Pokémon-Speak: "TEEVO!"
- Poor Communication Kills
- Literally. If Celia had explained that magic was required to break her talisman and summon her, Roy's death could have been avoided altogether. She assumed everyone could shoot lightning from their fingers.
- Lampshaded (of course) and Defied Trope in a later strip, where Elan specifically tells Haley the whole story about Therkla, despite the fact that bardic tradition demands he "withhold it all so that at some later point, you can accidentally learn an incomplete version and jump to all the wrong conclusions, thus leading to entertaining dramatic conflict later in our relationship."
- Girard Draketooth concealed the location of his gate from everybody and told them it was at a random spot in the desert, as explained in this strip. It really bites him in the butt when he failed to foresee that people who weren't Soon Kim might go looking for the Gate.
- In "Cold Blooded", it's almost literal.
- Porn Stash: Draconic porn stash.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: One or two of Tarquin's magic items.
Elan: Yeah right. Like I would use your crazy evil ring that you probably, like, tortured somebody to death or something to give it magic.
Tarquin: Now, that is quite enough, young man. I am frankly offended that you would even suggest I would do such a thing to-- Wait, who do you consider a "somebody"?
Tarquin: Fine, fine, I'll keep the ring then.
- The Power of Legacy: O-Chul allows himself to be blamed for the destruction of Soon's gate to prevent further tarnishing of Miko's legacy.
- The Power of Love: Elan telling Haley, "I believe in you," provides her with a circumstance bonus on her Open Locks roll sufficient to open a difficult lock, allowing the party to (momentarily) escape the Azure City prison.
- Power Perversion Potential
- Haley takes advantage of V's invisibility sphere to grope Elan.
Haley: I have 8 ranks in Use Rope!
Haley: Shut up.
- To say nothing of Sabine's shapeshifting and her relationship with Nale.
- Powers Via Possession: Sort of; the Soul Splice leaves the host in control.
- Pragmatic Villainy
- In Start of Darkness, Xykon refuses to do any villainous scheme involving deflowering virgins. Because it's like giving a guy who doesn't know carpentry a hammer and expecting him to build you a house.
- Belkar, amazingly enough, manages an instance of this, after one of his shoulder demons convinces him that saving Hinjo's life will work out better for him in the long run than letting him be killed by an assassin.
- Tarquin is The Man Behind the Man, plans on defacto ruling till he gets too old, in such a manner that no one realizes he controls a massive amount of resources, is ruthless in his goals and means, but is Genre Savvy enough to try and help his son. (Mostly since his goal is to rule like a king, then get immortalized in story form when his son offs him for being a tyrant.) And if Xykon flattens the world... well, there would be nothing left to rule, now would there? The sad part? Before he showed up, many more people where dying horribly due to constant chaotic warfare. His plan, while ruthless and underhanded as hell, will probably save many lives. He knows this and thinks it will add another layer to the "story" if Elan realizes this and has to cope with it when he decides what to do about Tarquin.
- Precision F-Strike
- Xykon using "Shit." in Start of Darkness.
- And "Nuts." when he finds that "the Oracle is OUT".
- Precursor Heroes: The Order of the Scribble
- Prematurely Bald
- Durkon has been bald since he was fifteen years old.
- Eugene Greenhilt lost his hair as a young man, and his son Roy shaved his to "beat genetics to the punch".
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Redcloak gives the Resistance one of these, right before he wipes them out completely.
- Pressure Plate: A stapple of the traps encoutered by the Order. Vaarsuvius falls victim to a nasty one in "Lack of Foresight".
- Pride: Vaarsuvius; Daimyo Kubota; Nale to some degree, and a few others.
- Pronoun Trouble: When talking about Vaarsuvius, others intentionally construct sentences to avoid pronouns, or use the nickname "V" in places where one would expect "he" or "she". V does get referred to by various genders, but Word of the Giant is that that's what the person believes. Taken even further with the brief look at V's mate and children, who refer to V exclusively as "Other Parent" as translated from Elven.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Lampshaded by Elan, when a dinosaur intervenes at the right time to prevent the grisly death of two of their rivals, while chomping several unnamed guards.
Elan: Hooray, the people whose names we know are saved!
- Psycho Strings: Parodied "Mean Girls".
- Ptero-Soarer: A pteranodon is big and strong enough to be used as flying mount by a man in armor. Standard for the genre, really.
- Puff of Logic
- An example occurs at the end of "Q & A", when Elan realizes that the horses (and Belkar's dog) they are riding aren't really there.
- Attempted by Vaarsuvius in "Immaterial Components", when the wizard uses his/her Common Sense (caps included) to aid in the Banishment of an enormous devil which is in clear violation of the Square-Cube Law. Doesn't work.
- Pun-Based Title: Four of the six books published so far. On the Origin of PCs (Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species), Start of Darkness (Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness), No Cure for the Paladin Blues (the song, "Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues") and War and XPs (Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace).
- Punctuated for Emphasis
- Pyrrhic Victory: "Took a Level in Sauceror" "Plane Shift!"
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Linear Guild, who are also Evil Counterparts.
- Quit Your Whining: A rare villain to villain example, very much the heartless bastard kind.
- Ravens and Crows
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Roy to Miko, Vaarsuvius to both Miko and Belkar at the same time, Redcloak to Miko, and Hinjo to Miko (she really gets a lot of these, doesn't she?). Xykon delivered a particularly nasty one to Vaarsuvius on the nature of true power. In general, this is Xykon's specialty. And in #830, Redcloak to Tsukiko.
- Recursive Reality: Possibly. Inside the rift, there is a planet. What is on the planet is unknown. Common theories are that it's the original world supposedly destroyed by the Snarl, it's the Snarl itself, it's a new planet created by the Snarl, and many other theories. In the fourth book's commentary, Rich Burlew Josses the idea that it's our Earth.
- Red Shirt: Played with, subverted, lampshaded, and played straight, sometimes within mere strips of one another. Redcloak, as hinted by his name, was originally supposed to be one, before being more heavily developed.
- Redshirt Army: Azure City's army, and most of the Sapphire Guard. Except for members whose names are known.
- Redemption Equals Death
- Subverted with Miko.
- Played tragically straight with Therkla.
- Reference Overdosed
- Reforged Blade: The hereditary Greenhilt Sword, which got broken by Xykon during their first confrontation. Reforged with Starmetal, it's now a Plus Five Sword, with extra bonuses and neat glowy effects against Undead.
- Refuge in Audacity: With the help of a Potion of Glibness (which adds 30 points to her already substantial Bluff skill), Haley basically uses lying to bend reality according to her will.
Haley: You don't see us.
Guard 1: Huh, must be a trick of the light.
Haley: You don't work here anymore.
Guard 2: Crap! How am I gonna pay my mortgage?!
Haley: You are actually a yellow-footed rock wallaby.
Guard 3: Screw this guard stuff, then. I'm gonna go find a wizard to polymorph me back.
- Remembered Too Late: Roy asked the Oracle a question, and then realizes his question was poorly worded, and worse, that he will forget even that the question was poorly worded, due to a memory spell in the oracle's home.
- La Résistance: Best called just that, since they argue over the name. Which is a moot point, now that Redcloak's wiped them out.
- Happens to an as-of-that-point-unnamed sylph in "See, They're Flying, Because It's an Air Sigil", though she comes back.
- Also happens at one point in Cliffport. Right as the CPPD chief is complaining he's getting too old for this, Nale comes along and kills him before he finishes his sentence.
- Lampshaded when Elan warns O-Chul not to announce that he's retiring tomorrow.
- Retroactive Wish: Haley in "Hey, It Was Worth a Shot".
- Revenge by Proxy
- Reverse Psychology
- Xykon uses it early in the comic, to lure the adventurers into touching Dorukan's Gate. And it works.
Xykon: See? Never bet against the gullibility of the good guys, Redcloack.
Redcloak: I had no idea you had put so many skill ranks in Reverse Psychology.
MitD: Wait, what gate?
- Roy manages to convince his father to help scrying the mortal realm from the afterlife... by renouncing to beg him or even to get angry about his refusal. Eugene even calls it "reverse psychology" at one point... but he still falls for it. It's unintentional on Roy's part; he really no longer wanted his dad's help at that point. It's absolutely brilliant, too. Only a minute or two after Eugene tells Roy to screw off and go back the mountain to cry to his mother, he's scrying for him.
Eugene Greenhilt: Listen to me, young man, you will stand there and watch as I scry for you and like it, because I am your father!
Roy Greenhilt: You do know that doesn't make any sense, right?
Vaarsuvius: She is, naturally, directly behind me.
- Right-Hand-Cat: Mr. Scruffy to Lord Shojo. And later, to Belkar.
- Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: When Vaarsuvius asks the Oracle how to obtain "ultimate arcane power", this is the answer given almost word-for-word. V sells a timeshare on his/her soul to three fiends in exchange for a temporary epic-level power boost. Although the stated motive was to save his/her family, V later admits that the only reason s/he did it was because s/he didn't want to ask anyone for help, and suffers (and will yet suffer) the consequences. The prophecy is fulfilled exactly as given.
- Ring of Power
- Vaarsuvius' Ring of Wizardry;
- Belkar's Ring of Jumping +20;
- Tarquin's Rings of Regeneration and True Seeing;
- Tsukiko has a ring protecting her from energy drains, an obvious safeguard for one dealing regularly with wights. It didn't save her, though.
- The Rival: Crystal the Assassin for Haley. She's clearly not the smartest pickle in the jar, but dramatic conventions demand that Crystal at least matched to Haley's experience level -- and they both know it.
Haley: ...she's a personal rival. She's ALWAYS gonna be the same level as I am when we meet, if not higher.
(cutaway panel; Crystal is playing cards when a "DING!" appears overhead)
Crystal: Sweet! Starshine gained another level!
- Rock-Paper-Scissors: Alluded with two strip titles -- "Paper Beats Rock" and "It Does Beat Scissors".
- Rocky Roll Call: There.
Sam's father: Samantha!
Belkar: Hot chick!
- Role Playing Game Verse: It's based on D&D 3.5, and most of the characters are fully aware of the mechanics -- some more than others, of course.
- Rouge Angles of Satin
- In On the Origin of PCs, Roy comments about Haley's class on her resume (i.e. character sheet) being misspelled as "Rouge".
- Lampshaded/parodied in strip #711 when Haley, due to a misreading, joins the "Sisterhood of Aton", the local Rouge's Guild.
- RPG Mechanics Verse
- Rule of Cool: Durkon needs to destroy a group of trees whose only weakness is sonic damage, so he uses a control weather scroll to summon a thunderstorm which shatters the trees with the noise of the thunderclap. Thor thinks this is such an awesome idea that he bends the rules of reality to make sure it works, much to the annoyance of his Planetar assistant.
- Rule of Drama: Beautifully averted when Elan decides to be honest with Haley because their relationship is worth more to him than that.
- Rule of Funny
- Rule of Three: The Empires of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
- Running Gags
- Elan's bard songs;
- V's creative application of explosive runes;
- Daigo's last name;
- "MAD!" is V's favorite way to end a rant.
- The fact that no-one seems to know V's true gender. The author goes to ridiculous lengths to keep it hidden. In the arc where the Black Dragon attacks V's family, the children ask V's mate the following question in elvish:
Elf Child: Parent? When is Other Parent coming home?
- People falling on the flumphs. It's subverted, then lampshaded, when Roy dies from a several-hundred-foot drop. It is also parodied in strips #526, #695, and most gloriously in #805.
- Durkon never has the spell the party needs from him prepared when they need it.
- Also Durkon's fear of trees.
- Hobgoblins and gouda.
Haley: --and then Elan and I knock on the front door dressed as wandering cheese sellers.
Elan: Everyone knows hobgoblins can't resist a fine gouda.
- The Monster in the Darnkess not knowing about any gates... ever. No matter what.
- "... the whole kobold-head-into-an-object thing is sort of a running gag with me."
- The 25-word limit on Sending spells. Used to hilarious effect in "Brief and to the Point".
- Haley and Roy making bets for 10 gold.
- The title of the strip is a definition of a word prominent in the punchline.