Comptoniae #1: Order of the Stick


“Order of the Stick” is a weekly web comic that’s so bursting with instantly recognizable gamer humor that any upstanding roleplaying nerd can’t afford to miss it.

The uniqueness of Order of the Stick (OoTS for insiders) is the sheer amount of gamemaster know-how possessed by the writer, Rich Burlew; and that he uses that knowledge to mercilessly bash the illogic and idiosyncrasies of RPGs. Burlew does this with a dry wit and he manages to pull it off weekly. The comic isn’t just bashing nor is it just tomfoolery. It’s a well-paced, clever parody of the archetypal Dungeons & Dragons setting.
Actually, this comic is not so much a parody of D&D as it is a parody of gamemasters, their plots, and also the players and the characters that they choose to play on a regular basis. The heroes of OoTS are one such band of adventurers, and it quickly becomes clear that they are aware that they live in an arbitrary, partially abstract world. This works so well because the reader is pulled into the “half in-character, half out-of-character” mode that all roleplayers will be familiar with.
The zany adventures take place in a fantasy world of Burlew’s own design. It is a world that is intentionally generic (for example, a group of druids hails from “Wooden Forest”), and is filled with anachronisms (the villainous undead wizard will kill time watching TV on his widescreen crystal ball). This has the effect of making the world recognizable as a typical “lame” GM creation.
The comic is at its funniest when you’re able to follow all its oblique references and little winks, but rest assured: even if you’re not a hardcore D&D gamer, you can appreciate most of it because it is so relevant to any heroic-fantasy roleplaying game.
Depending on what you think of archive binging, Order of the Stick is either a pure delight or a disastrous time sink. The comic is best read from its Issue #1. From there you soon will be tempted to read “just one more.” At the moment there are 747 pages, each comparable to a paper comic page. If that seems like a huge daunting task, let me assure you that you don’t even need to read a lot before you arrive at some pretty interesting and even tense plot arcs!
A short who’s who of the “heroes”:
Roy Greenhilt seems like the stereotypical fighter carrying a huge sword around. Until you realize that Roy has a very high Intelligence score, and add to this that of the group, he is perhaps the most savvy in politics.
Haley Starshine is an athletic, stunning redheaded lady thief with an obsession for gold and riches. She has a “secret quest”she keeps hidden from everyone. I won’t spoiler more than to say that Haley’s quest is *not* about money.
Belkar Bitterleaf is a psychotic hobbit (has to be called “halfling” for copyright reasons). Despite being of a very chaotic evil alignment –and often has sex on the brain- Belkar is arguably better to have on your side as a very effective warrior than he would be running around unsupervised. Oh and he’s also a very practical person. Brutally practical even.
Vaarsuvius is a control freak, highly competent battle mage, and arrogant purple-haired elf of ambiguous gender. His/her life mate and children remain at home in the elven land and are just as androgynous.
Durkon Thundershield is the stern dwarven priest of Thor (don’t ask) with exaggerated Scottish accent and a heart of gold. The law is the law, but is also difficult to follow to the letter in this chaotic group of adventurers…
Elan is the Young bard with a merry, happy-go-lucky personaltiy, a very high Charisma score and a rakish blonde hair. We could call him “impressionable” but if were honest we would have to come out and say that Elan is too stupid to open an iron ration. He absolutely loves romantic and comedic drama, and he’s so driven to find it –and so impractical- that he regularly needs to be rescued by his group mates.
“Order of the Stick” can be read starting from page 1 here;
Or, if you insist on checking out the last installment first, here’s the current issue.

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