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The Order of the Stick
Image:Orderofthestick Newer.gif
From Left to Right: Belkar, Vaarsuvius, Elan, Haley, Durkon and Roy.
Author(s) Rich Burlew
Website http://www.giantitp.com/comics/ootslatest.html
Current status / schedule Three-a-week (on average) [1]
Launch date September 30, 2003[2]
Publisher(s) Giant in the Playground
Genre(s) Fantasy, Comedy, Parody

The Order of the Stick is a comedic webcomic that satirizes tabletop roleplaying games and medieval fantasy through the ongoing tale of the titular fellowship of heroes. The comic, whose name is often abbreviated OOTS by fans, is written and illustrated by Rich Burlew, who creates the comic in a colorful stick figure style.

Taking place in a magical world that operates primarily according to the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition ruleset, the comic follows the farcical exploits of six flawed adventurers as they strive to save the world from an evil undead sorcerer. Much of the comic's humor stems from these characters either being aware of the game rules that affect their lives or having anachronistic knowledge of modern culture, which in turn is often used by the author to parody various aspects of roleplaying games and fantasy fiction. While primarily comedic in nature, The Order of the Stick features a continuing storyline serialized in one- to four-page episodes, with over 500 such episodes released so far.

The award-winning comic is both a critical and popular success, having received strong praise from reviewers in the comic and roleplaying press on the basis of its plotting and character development while maintaining a place as one of the most widely-read of all webcomics. Although it is principally distributed online at the website Giant in the Playground [1], four book collections have been published, including two print-only stories (On the Origin of PCs and Start of Darkness). An alternate version of the strip also appeared monthly in Dragon Magazine for 22 issues. [[Template:Disney GOALS]]

History[edit]

The Order of the Stick began its run in September 30, 2003 on what was (at the time) Rich Burlew's personal site for gaming articles. Initially, the strip was intended to feature no plot whatsoever—depicting an endless series of gags drawn from the D&D rules instead—but Burlew quickly changed his mind, laying down the earliest hints of a storyline as early as strip #13.[3] The strip was originally produced simply to entertain those who arrived at the site for his articles, but it quickly became the most popular feature on the site (leading him to eventually abandon writing articles entirely).

There have been several upgrades to the comic's art style, which is created directly on a computer using vector-based illustration software.[4] In strip #101, the curved and crooked panel borders (which Burlew has since questioned how he could ever have thought were acceptable) are replaced with straight—though still slanted—black lines.[5][6] After he sprained his wrist in 2005, Burlew used some of the time he took off from the comic to improve the character designs of the main cast, straightening their lines and adding tiny details like the runes stitched along the edge of Vaarsuvius' cloak.[7] These changes were humorously acknowledged by the characters themselves when they premiered.[8] Burlew also adjusted a number of the colors to reflect changes he had needed to make to the comics when they were first compiled for printing.[7] The comic also features more frequent double- and even triple-page strips than in its early days, where longer strips were once reserved for special occasions (such as reaching #200). In addition to these permanent improvements to the art, there have been two variant art styles used, in both cases to distinguish the events of certain comics from those taking place in the story's present. Historical events relating to the plot have been portrayed in a hand-drawn crayon style both in the online comic and in Start of Darkness,[9][10] while events in both the "prequel" print-exclusive stories have been shown in black-and-white.

thumb|right|The cover to Dragon #339 promotes the inclusion of The Order of the Stick by featuring Elan's head in the top left corner of the cover. The Order of the Stick has held several different update schedules through the years, beginning as a twice-weekly comic that debuted new strips on Mondays and Thursdays. When presales of the first OOTS compilation book allowed Burlew to make writing his full-time job, he increased the number to three-per-week.[11] Currently, however, the comic updates on a random schedule due to the author's ongoing health concerns.[12]

Dragon Magazine[edit]

On September 30 2005, Burlew announced that The Order of the Stick would begin appearing in Dragon, the long-running official D&D magazine.[13] The strip debuted in the December 2005 issue on the last page of the magazine.[14] The following issue, OOTS appeared only in a four-panel strip in the magazine's interior,[14] but by the February 2006 issue, it had returned to a full-page strip on the last page, a position it would hold until the magazine's cancellation in September 2007.[15][16]

The Dragon version of OOTS featured the same main cast of six adventurers, but saw them adventuring in an unspecified underground location. None of the villains or supporting characters from the online strip appeared, with the sole exceptions of Mr. Jones and Mr. Rodriguez, who appeared together twice.[17][18] Burlew has stated that the events of the Dragon strips take place in an alternate universe from the online strip, and events in one do not affect the other.[19] This status quo was broken for the sake of a joke, however, when one character in the online strip referred to the July 2006 Dragon strip by claiming that he had told another character something "in one of the Dragon Magazine strips, so [he's] not even sure that's the same continuity!"[20][21]

Characters[edit]

The comic's central protagonists, known collectively as "The Order of the Stick," or simply The Order, are a party of adventurers who are questing to destroy an evil lich and save the world from his plan to conquer it. Though they have many allies, the official members of the Order of the Stick are:

  • Roy Greenhilt (Human Fighter, Lawful Good[22][23]): The Order's leader and founder, Roy is highly competent—in sharp contrast to his fellow party members.[24] He inherits a Blood Oath to defeat the lich, Xykon, from his dead father and hires the remaining members of the Order of the Stick to assist him.[25] Roy is noted for his sense of personal responsibility, taking it upon himself as his duty to try to save the world simply because no one else is around to try.[26] He is a reversal of the common "dumb fighter" cliché,[27] possessing an MBA (Masters of Battle Administration) from Fighter College.[28] He fights with a two-handed greatsword and heavy armor.
  • Durkon Thundershield (Dwarven Cleric of Thor, Lawful and non-Evil[29]): Durkon is the trustworthy and stoic healer of the party, and often serves as Roy's principal advisor. The two have a friendship that goes back further than the founding of the Order, having worked together for several years.[30] Durkon travels through human lands on the orders of the high priest of Thor, who has essentially exiled him as a result of a prophecy.[31] He employs a warhammer, shield, and heavy armor when engaging in hand-to-hand combat, but more frequently uses divine magic granted him by his patron god, with which he has been seen to call lightning from the heavens or grow to many times his normal height.
  • Vaarsuvius (Elven Wizard, Non-evil[29]): The Order's wizard and most powerful member,[32] Vaarsuvius's gender is deliberately ambiguous, causing those he/she meets (and even his/her own teammates) to guess as to whether he/she is male or female.[33][34] Vaarsuvius is noted for his/her unnecessarily verbose manner of expressing him/herself—even to the point of interfering with his/her effectiveness[35]—and is arrogant and condescending to those he/she considers beneath his/her intellectual level. He/she is motivated by the need to gain "ultimate arcane power" as an end unto itself, having left the tutelage of his/her master and become an adventurer solely to seek it out.[36] He/she carries no visible weapons or armor, fighting instead with a wide variety of powerful magic effects, such as fireballs, lightning bolts, and disintegration beams.
  • Haley Starshine (Human Rogue, "Chaotic Good-ish"[37]): The Order's second-in-command is skilled in stealth and deception, often serving as a scout for the party. Haley is highly materialistic, valuing gold above most things, but is capable of putting aside her lust for money in order to help her friends. As a former member of the Thieves' Guild, Haley learned that her father is being held ransom by a dictator in a foreign land and joins the Order to raise the money necessary to rescue him.[38] She develops a romantic crush on fellow member Elan, which she struggles to hide for much of their time together. Haley fights using a longbow, often making surprise attacks during which she yells, "Sneak Attack!".
  • Elan (Human Bard/Dashing Swordsman, Chaotic Good[39]): Elan is the happy-go-lucky, childlike bard of the Order. While he tries his hardest to be a contributing member of the team, he is forced to rely on his considerable charm and fool's luck to get him through the Order's adventures. He is often oblivious to the motives of those around him, such as Haley's long-concealed attraction to him.[40] Raised solely by his mother, Elan discovers his absent warlord father raised his twin brother, Nale, to be an evil mastermind.[41] Despite his ineffectualness, Elan's zeal for adventuring is largely undiminished. He fights with a rapier, bad puns that are literally painful, and poorly-planned illusion magic.
  • Belkar Bitterleaf (Halfling Ranger/Barbarian, Chaotic Evil[42][43]): An erratic and casual killer driven by a variety of selfish impulses, Belkar adventures for the love of battle. While ostensibly the party's tracker, he is astoundingly bad at any of his class skills (including tracking).[44] He joins the Order so that he may escape justice from a deadly bar fight in which he knifed 15 people,[45] and the Order does not abandon him (despite his bloodthirsty tendencies) due to Roy's belief that he must keep the violent halfling under control.[43] Belkar's loyalty to the Order fluctuates with his mood, though he never actually betrays them (despite thinking of it often).[46][47] Belkar's most common style of fighting is to leap on a foe from above and stab it with his twin daggers.

The comic's central antagonists include:

  • Xykon (Formerly-human Lich Sorcerer, unspecified Evil[48]): The archvillain of the story,[49] engaged in a plot to conquer the world by controlling a world-destroying beast known as the Snarl. Xykon is well aware that he is a villain, and actively pursues the cause of Evil with a capital "E".[50] While he has a notoriously short attention span and requires near-constant amusement, he is capable of truly horrific acts of evil when it suits him.[51] Xykon is overwhelmingly powerful compared to the protagonists,[52][26] fighting with a variety of potent arcane magic, including meteor swarms, energy drains, and insanity runes.
  • Redcloak (Goblin Cleric of the Dark One, Lawful Evil[53]): Xykon's main ally is high priest of his deity and commander of the goblinoids that serve as the lich's minions. He is motivated by concern for the goblin people and their