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The Order of the Stick provides examples of the following tropes:
- Sand Worm: Complete with very blatant shout outs to Dune, as well as more than a fair amount of Freud Was Right.
- Save the Villain: Elan to Nale.
- Schizo-Tech: Although the general technological level of the world is supposed to fit with the average D&D medieval campaign (with sometimes a bit of Steampunk, like with the airships), you see plenty of anachronistic modern appliances, usually for a one-panel joke. Some examples:
- Xykon's crystal ball has picture in picture.
- cell phone
- coffee maker
- vinyl disk
- video games
- hair dryer
- rocket skates
- computer (though this one is in the afterlife...)
- A limousine. With a minibar. (Also in the afterlife.)
- Gas stations for camels, and shortly thereafter a metal detector.
- THERMAL DETONATOR... or can of tomato soup
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here
- Blackwing pulls this when Vaarsuvius tries to use him as a distraction against a Death Knight.
- Most of the Azurite soldiers guarding the breach decide to desert when they see that the whole hobgoblin army, lead by Redcloak, is charging at them.
- It dawns later on a thief that Attack! Attack! Attack! has its limits.
Female Thief: Screw this! I've only got 14 hit points!
- Sdrawkcab Name
- Nale and Elan, of course. This causes problems whenever Elan tries to avoid getting blamed for Nale's actions; people don't tend to buy the argument, "My evil twin with a name that resembles mine did it."
- Also Roy and another single-class fighter, Yor. Roy takes pains to avoid the Dumb Muscle stereotype, favoring skill over simple pummeling, whereas Yor plays it straight and milks it for all it's worth.
- "That's such a cliché, even for this comic!"
- Start of Darkness has two prefaces. One by the author who laments that the story ends with the bad guys winning (it's a prequel, foregone conclusion) and the other by Miko, who says, despite never having read the story, that because Evil creatures are presented as being more than just their alignment and don't get punished in the end, the author must be a depraved monster himself.
- The preface for On the Origin of PCs has Redcloak calling the punny title "dreadful".
- "They'll let any old hack write a sourcebook these days." Rich created an Acidborn Shark as part of a D&D sourcebook called Dungeonscape.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The one given to Belkar. To wit: he wanted to know if he would end up causing the death of any of the following: Roy, Miko, Miko's horse, Vaarsuvius or the Oracle himself. The answer is "Yes", because, as we see later, if he didn't get to kill any of the first four, that was all it took for Belkar to kill the Oracle out of pure annoyance.
It should be pointed out that Belkar did contribute indirectly to some of those deaths: he lends Roy the Ring of Jumping that precedes his fall and contributes to Miko's Face Heel Turn, which in turn led to Windstriker being permanently trapped in the Celestial Realm which is totally comparable to death. V has escaped thus far. Of course, because the keyword in those involvements is "indirect", Belkar gets ticked off, and...
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Vaarsuvius, such as in "A Walk in the Park". In On the Origin of PCs, we have this exchange between Vaarsuvius and Roy:
Vaarsuvius: Bah!! You are clearly only hiring me because I intimidated you intellectually, to the point where your masculine pride requires you to establish your dominance over my superior mind.
Roy: Maybe. Or maybe I'm hiring you because I require the creation of a managed spherical energy release with a thermal signature no less than 1850° Kelvin, which can be manifested at specific X, Y, and Z coordinates from verbal cues. I require this specific temperature because it is the minimum level at which necrotized epidermis has been proven to combust and I have reason to believe that my mission will require the incapacitation of multiple post-organic hostiles.
Vaarsuvius: So... you need Fireball spells to toast the undead you expect to fight?
Roy: Did I stutter?
Vaarsuvius: A pleasure to serve under you, sir.
Roy: Welcome aboard. Now get me a new table.
- Sexy Backless Outfit: Sabine's usual outfit, and Celia's dress for the new year in Azure City. In both cases, this allows them to unfurl their wings.
- Shaped Like Itself: The Wooden Forest; the Sunken Valley
- Shapeshifting Squick: Nale and Sabine.
- Shock and Awe
- Thor, of course.
- Lightning spells are favored by Vaarsuvius, Durkon, Zz'dtri and Xykon.
- Also a natural power for Celia.
- Enor, being half-blue dragon, can breath lightning.
- Shout-Out: Lots of them, now having their own subpage.
- Shown Their Work: Rich Burlew shows his Go research in "Two Eyes in the Dark".
- Shut Up, Kirk
- The newly lichified Xykon from The Order of the Stick -1: Start of Darkness delivers a most glorious one to the elven druid Lirian at the climax of their battle:
Lirian: You may defeat me, you may even kill me, but you will never succeed in releasing the Snarl.
Xykon: Blah blah blah evil will never win blah blah.
- And then there's Thog vs. Roy.
Roy: I surrender...
Thog: STOP TALKING! *thud!*
- Side Bet: During Xykon and Redcloak's invasion of the Azure City, Belkar cuts a side bet with one of the archers that Roy will be stupid enough to jump off the castle parapet to get to Xykon and his zombie dragon mount. Belkar being Belkar, he then proceeds to rig the outcome by loaning Roy his Ring of Jumping +20.
- Siege Engines: Notably with Redcloak flinging a bunch of humans. Or Titanium Elementals.
- Signed Up for the Dental
- Significant Anagram: Zz'dtri; Giro
- Single Palette Town: Azure City. Blue.
- Single Tear
- Small Reference Pools: Averted. Among other things, the prequel book titles Start of Darkness and On the Origin of PCs are plays on the classic book titles Heart of Darkness and On the Origin of Species. Never let it be said that Rich Burlew isn't well-read.
- Smug Snake
- Kubota thinks he's quite the Chessmaster, but he's far too reliant on his minions to really be effective and his plots are far too fragile under pressure.
- Similarly, Nale isn't quite the evil genius he likes to think he is either.
- Nor is Tsukiko even close to the perfect Mary Sue she believes to be.
- The Smurfette Principle
- The main group consists of four guys, one girl and Vaarsuvius. The supporting cast is somewhat more balanced.
- The Linear guild initially had two women, thanks to Hilgya. After they lost her, the entire guild is invariably male, except for Sabine.
- Team Evil has Tsukiko as their only female character, unless you count the zombie angels.
- Snub By Omission: Durkon tells Hilgya that the rest of the Order are "a fine group, for humans. And an elf." Hilgya points out there's also a halfling, but Durkon left him out on purpose.
- Sole Survivor: As of strip #827, Niu is the only surviving member of the Azure City Resistance.
- Solomon Divorce: Elan & Nale
- Someone's Touching My Butt: Invisibility Sphere (3 feet 9 inches)
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Elan tries to use an alluring policewoman illusion to distract the cops. One says, "Sorry, I'm in a committed relationship," and the other, "Sorry, I'm gay."
- Sorry That I'm Dying: A one-off character, of the Heroic Sacrifice variety.
- Speech Bubble Censoring: Happens in a panel when Roy and Durkon yelling "NO" briefly covers Elan's Genitals.
- Speech Bubbles: Numerous variations in their shape or color for specific characters.
- Undead have black speech bubbles with white text. When Xykon becomes a lich in Start of Darkness and his speech bubbles change to the undead format, he comments on his dramatic, echoey voice.
- Diverse colored speech bubbles for outsiders such as gods, celestials, infernals, and ghosts. Infernals usually have black speech bubbles with colored text inside (lampshaded with Qarr the imp, who is recognized by his red-on-black speech bubbles). Celestials have brightly colored bubbles with black text. Elemental spirits like Celia have a color related to their plane of origin.
- Dragons and half-dragons also have colored speech bubbles linked to their species.
- Being under some magical effect can alter the color of a character's speech bubbles, like with the Oracle doing a prophecy, Vaarsuvius under the Soul Splice, or Haley having imbibed a Potion of Glibness.
- The shape is sometimes significant too, like with modrons having rectangular bubbles.
- The connectors pointing to which character is speaking also give indications. They are straight when the speaker is healthy, but become irregular for a sick, stunned, drunk, confused, wounded or dying character, to represent shaky speech. Malack's are always this way, hinting of a raspy or hissy voice.
- More classically, bubbles with dotted borders and grey text indicate whispering. Zz'dtri's bubbles always have grey text, since he's The Quiet One and never raises his voice.
- Early in the comic, mumbling to oneself or aside comments by the characters were texts without bubbles and just a connector. But this became rarer and rarer and by now has phased out -- except for the Demon-Roaches, who only ever talk this way.
- Speechbubbles Interruption: Sometimes.
- Spot the Imposter: Double Subversion.
- Start of Darkness: The Prequel print-only graphic novel Start of Darkness, detailing the backstories of Xykon and Redcloak, is the Trope Namer.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Belkar tells this to Miko. Naturally, it comes back to bite him in the ass almost immediately.
- Stealth Pun
- Stick Figure Comic: But don't let that fool you into thinking it's not a well-drawn comic. Despite the style, characters are complex enough to be easily recognized and backgrounds are lush and detailed.
- Sticks to the Back: Roy's greatsword; Haley's longbow; Thog's greataxe. Mostly the result of the simplified art style. (Other weapons tends to simply disappear when not in use.) After the Art Evolution, Roy has straps on the back of his armor to hold the sword, although they work better than they should. Hayley's bow still sticks, though.
- Stock Yuck: Babies for the Monster in the Darkness; squids (and babies) for O-Chul.
- Street Smart
- Among the Order, Haley is the most.
- Among Azure City's resistance, Niu was singled out by Haley for having similar skills.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Nale and Elan look exactly like Tarquin, except he has grey hair (light brown when younger). Oh, and Nale having an evil goatee.
- Stupid Evil: Almost entirely averted, particularly for a storyline with dozens of villains.
- Belkar qualifies before his Character Development, until he finally figures out that he can get away with a lot more evilness by pretending to follow society's rules.
- Xykon sometimes does things that would be Stupid Evil in other contexts, but as he has no true goals beyond power and is very aware of the consequences of his actions, he doesn't really qualify.
- Moreover, Tarquin, and the Fiends actively deny it. Tarquin is Dangerously Genre Savvy, knows that letting the Snarl destroy the world he wants to rule would be idiotic, and is happy to play The Man Behind the Man to maintain his power. The Fiends, on the other hand, both deny and play straight Evil Is One Big Happy Family, by uniting their warring factions to do something with the Sealed Evil in a Can.
- Stupid Good
- Celia will not stand murder or theft regardless of the circumstances. It doesn't matter that they're a guild of thieves; you have to pay them back.
- Notably averted by Elan, who is both stupid and good but not Stupid Good. He absolutely refuses to kill a helpless opponent however, be it his treacherous, backstabbing (literally) brother or the smug, evil aristocrat who surrenders to Elan and tells him to his face that he's doing it so he can manipulate the courts into acquitting him and embarrassing his rival.
- Ian Starshine cannot let the opportunity to insult a tyrant pass him by, even though said tyrant is offering him the rare chance of an official pardon thanks to Roy's actions. Insulting him doesn't even offer Ian any beneficial results other than catharsis, which would probably prove less useful in the long run than no prison sentence. Although Ian noted shortly after that he didn't believe the tyrant would ever actually honour the pardon.
- Stylistic Suck: The creator actually spends hours making the comics, and tries to find the perfect way to balance between narration and action and simplicity and stick figures. It only looks easy because he wants us to think it looks easy. There is also the time when he made a flashback sequence in the story where the art was drawn in crayon. It's still very well drawn, though.
- Suggestive Collision: Haley tackles Elan from above to stop him from touching a magical gate -- inadvertently putting the two of them in a suggestive position.
- Super Identikit: Subverted.
- Super Window Jump: An inherent ability of the Dashing Swordsman Prestige Class.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial
- When Elan joins up with Roy in On the Origin of PCs, he pulls one of these, which makes Roy question his decision to let Elan in. He probably regrets this a lot later.
- When asked, Haley's blind NPC friend said, no, he hadn't seen her.
- The songs Elan uses to try to lead people out of the hotel to safety are full of this.
- Taken for Granite
- In her first appearance, Celia is victim of a Flesh to Stone spell. She is later restored by a scroll of Break Enchantment.
- A greater devil is turned to stone by Vaarsuvius with a Prismatic Spray. He certainly makes a kickass tombstone.
- Haley is also the victim of Flesh to Stone with the surprise return of Zz'dtri.
- Take That
- Has a pretty clever one to both 4th edition D&D detractors and fans.
- Seems to happen against wild mass guessers, too.
- Redcloak thinks very poorly of the Incarnum system, preferring fortune cookies and eight balls to a high-level Incarnum user.
- Tsukiko's attitude in "They Would Likely Both Disagree with That Sentiment" sounds awfully familiar...
- "C.P.P.D. Blues" is one strip against people who criticize Rich for choosing stick figure comics as his medium, thinking that he can't draw anything more realistic.
- "Larry Gardener and the Angry Half-Orc", toward Harry Potter.
- Page #539 hits Fox News, in what might be an inversion, since the "newscaster" is an actual fox who only speaks in yips and yowls.
- "Also, His Popularity Has Waned" has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it dig towards the fanbase, regarding either Thog or Tarquin's persistent popularity in spite of their monstrous deeds:
Tarquin: It's weird, no matter how many people he kills the audience still thinks he's lovable!
- This line is actually referring to the first time the party defeats a parody of a popular Wizards of the Coast character by having him arrested by copyright lawyers.
- Taking the Bullet: Roy, for Elan.
- Talking Is a Free Action
Haley: Relax, speaking is a free action.
Belkar: Would you be interested in participating in a scientific experiment I am currently conducting?
Rogue: Hey, who the hell...
Belkar: (trisects the rogue) Glad to hear it. Thank you for your part in increasing the sum of halfling knowledge.
- Taken to ridiculous lengths yet again in strip #811. Nale, Sabine, and Elan exchange several dozen words during the first few milliseconds of Malack's arm swing.
- Talk to the Fist
- Teleport Interdiction
- The Cloister spell, invented by Dorukan and used by Xykon on Azure City. It doesn't prevent teleportation from spots within its limit, but block those coming from outside. Celia uses a specific loophole Dorukan left in the spell, and Vaarsuvius break through with an epic spell granted by the Soul Splice.
- Redcloak has his private study completely protected from teleportation, in or out, as Tsukiko untimely discovers.
- Tempting Fate: Regularly. Too many examples to count. Often lampshaded as well.
Old Prisoner: HA! I knew I made the right call staying in prison. That Tsukiko chick is getting her ass kicked by an elemental! It's so much safer up here!
(cell crumbles; a slab of stone falls and crushes the old man to death)
Nale: Well, now, really, what did you expect after a line like that?
- Theme Naming
- Most named elves thus far have pseudo-Latin monickers ending in "-ius": Aarindarius, Inkyrius, Polozius, Vaarsuvius...
- Most named kobolds have a twin-syllable name: Yikyik, Yokyok, Kilkil, Yukyuk. The only known exception is among the gag names from the Gladiator Games: Notseenicus, who fought Offpanelio, off-panel and unseen.
- Lord Shojo, his nephew Hinjo, and Shojo's late father Lord Ronjo (name given in War and XPs).
- The Empire of Blood is very big on hemo-themed names. For that matter, the three competing Empires of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: And they know the world works that way. Especially Elan.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Vaarsuvius disintegrated a black dragon in "Return of the Elf". Much later, the dragon's mother wants to avenge its death... but not by killing Vaarsuvius. And not just by eating V's family alive, either, but by then using a necromancy spell to bind their dead souls to itself. How does Vaarsuvius react? After agreeing to a "soul splice", Vaarsuvius not only defeats the dragon in combat, but re-animates the dragon's head just so it can watch V cast an epic necromancy spell that kills off each and every last one of the dragon's descendants -- an estimated one-quarter of the world's entire black dragon population, before disintegrating the dragon's head off to finish it off for good.
- They Still Belong to Us Lecture: Nale almost succeeds in convincing Elan that Haley has been evil all along, but then she overcomes her mental block against speaking and tells him the truth.
- Thieves' Guild: They practically own Greysky City.
- Third Person Person: "thog talk like this." In fact, most orcs do; it also seems to be a class feature of barbarians (except Belkar). This is eventually lampshaded when one orc abandons a chase to attend grammar class, hoping to learn personal pronouns.
- The Thirty-Six Stratagems: Lord Shojo is a successful example of #27.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch
- A memorable one given by Xykon to Redcloak in Start of Darkness.
- Haley in "The Door Knocks on YOU".
Haley: SNEAK ATTACK -- BITCH!
- Vaarsuvius in "Right Tool for the Job".
Vaarsuvius: I may be in error, but I believe the appropriate proclamation is, "Sneak Attack, bitch."]]
- This Is Not a Drill: Haley's Self-Loathing Alter Ego, calling all hands on deck.
- Threshold Guardians: The Tests of the Body, Mind and Heart on the way to the Oracle in the Sunken Valley.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Combined with Shoot the Rope. Zig-zagged actually, because Roy chucks his broken sword at the nooses of his allies, severing V's, Elan's, and Haley's ropes but missing Belkar's... however, the sword instead kills the executioner, and he falls over dead, activating Belkar's gallows... but again, Belkar is too light for the gallows to work. Though if Roy hadn't shown up at that point, the rogues could have easily pincushioned him when they realized the noose wasn't made for halflings.
- Thunderbolt Iron: Roy's reforged sword. But it's alloyed with it rather than made of the stuff.
- Time Skip: When Roy is in heaven.
- Time Stands Still
- The Time Stop spell.
- From the moment the IFCC steps on the island to offer Vaarsuvius a Deal with the Devil, time is stopped for the rest of the world, as they don't like to rush this kind of transaction.
- Time to Step Up Commander
- A panicked Haley is told to pull it together by Durkon after Roy is put out of action during the battle of Azure City, Durkon reminding her that she's Roy's second-in-command.
- She later delivers one herself to Thanh when she leaves the Azure City resistance.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Both Roy and Miko run into this one. Roy manages to navigate his way around it with some clever talking and genuinely Lawful Good intentions. Miko, on the other hand...
- Token Minority: Borderline, in that half the party isn't even human, but Roy's still the only black guy. In the party at least -- there's still a fairly liberal spread of skin pigmentation in the rest of the world, Azure City notwithstanding.
- Too Dumb to Fool: Happens to Elan and Thog once in a while. Averted just as often, though.
- Took a Level In Badass: Elan, literally. Well, he took a level in Dashing Swordsman, which is Badass with puns and Flynning. If looked at from a mechanical prospective, it becomes even more badass as it makes him the most optimized character in the party , allowing all his abilities to work off a single high attribute.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Or rather, too bland.
- Total Party Kill: With the sole exception of Niu, the Azure City Resistance was completely wiped out by Redcloak.
- Tree Buchet: Belkar sets one off on Durkon after the dwarf had already climbed a palm tree (to fight it, of course).
- Trivially Obvious: Tarquin to Sabine.
Tarquin: Sabine! It's been too long. You're looking lovely.
Sabine: That's a meaningless compliment to a shapechanger, Tarquin.
Tarquin: Yes, I know.
- Trojan Prisoner
- Trope Overloaded: Only webcomic to ring up two kilowicks thus far.
- Troper Critical Mass: See the above.
- True Companions: The Order, possibly. As the fourth book shows, they have their issues.
- Try to Fit That on A Business Card: Done by name in the 374th strip.
Miko: I am Miko Miyazaki, samurai of the Sapphire Guard, loyal vassal of Lord Shojo, daughter of Eyko, and paladin of the Twelve Gods of the South.
Monster in the Darkness: Neat! It must be hard to fit that on your business cards, though.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex: Well, Allosaurus. Tasked to entertain the arena crowd when the gladiators aren't enough.
- Umbrella Drink: Sabine enjoys one in strip #252.
- Underground Monkey: Belkar mentions an instance in which he randomly encountered Dire Camels in a Swamp of all places.
- Un-Equal Rites: A minor but important part of the setting is that, much as many wizards look down on everyone else, they particularly look down on other arcane magic-using classes. Xykon mentions being regarded as a moron by other wizards for being a sorcerer, while in comic #677, Vaarsuvius finally blows his stack for being referred to as a warlock. A post from the resultant forum query over why being called a warlock is an even worse insult to a wizard than being called a sorcerer is the page quote.
- Unreliable Voiceover: The story Hilgya tells of her "unhappy marriage" doesn't quite match the flashbacks that are shown simultaneously.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Lampshaded, then beaten remorselessly into the ground with a large blunt object in one of the "deleted scenes" in the Don't Split the Party collection. Elan decides that there is UST between Lien and Hinjo and sets out to play matchmaker. The results are not what he expected...
- The Un-Reveal
- The Monster in the Darkness
- A mask behind a mask in [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0852.html "Under the Helmet". Once again Tarquin displays his genre savvyness.
- Unsound Effect: Among others: "Sunder!", "sneak sneak", "Deflect!", "AOO!" (Attack of Opportunity), and "Nuts!"
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Invoked (and defied) in "Best Laid Plans".
- Unusual Chapter Numbers: The two prequel books are numbered volume 0 and volume -1.
- Unusual Euphemism
- Belkar just loves these.
"Hey, Sweet Thing, wanna hold my Rod of Lordly Might? If you push the right button, it might extend!"
"Go ahead and start a solo adventure. I'll be in to join the quest when I'm done eating."
- Also Roy's "Treasure Type O".
- Xykon, with a modicum of ironic respect, acknowledges that O'Chul has +5 Holy Cajones.
- Most of this page.
- After the Last-Second Word Swap seen above, Blackwing is more than happy to make a joke about Haley's "perky round eyes".
- Tarquin gets accused of being a Slime Mold.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight
- Winged Girl Celia walking (and flying) around Azure City.
- When Elan and Tarquin are discussing Tarquin's governing methods and eventually swordfighting when Elan disagrees with his father's political philosophy, the Empress of Blood is sitting nearby on her throne. There's no indication that she notices or cares about any of it.
- Unwitting Pawn
- Vaarsuvius, The Linear Guild, and Xykon all play prominent roles in the Fiends' ultimate plan. With the possible exception of Sabine, no-one is aware they're being used.
- On top of that, "Tidying Up" reveals that Redcloak has been manipulating Xykon from the beginning.
- Uriah Gambit: Cynically resorted to by General Tarquin.
Amun-Zora: I am already married!!
Tarquin: Yes, you mentioned that. To a pikeman on the... south wall, was it? I assure you that your marital status is no longer an obstacle as of around midday today.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: When Elan calls Tarquin out for deceiving the people of the Western Continent, Tarquin reasons that his plan might someday bring an end to the wars that kill tens of thousands of people every year. Of course, it is likely that he is lying. And even if not, it's at best a side benefit to Tarquin's overall goal, obtaining power for its own sake.
- ↑ in contrast to a group that includes a fighter with high Intelligence, a wizard who bans the most useful schools of magic while focusing on the worst and a cleric who uses healing spells instead of shutting down encounters