Order of the Stick - Past Strips Discussion Thread

This is a discussion thread for past strips of the webcomic The Order of the Stick, which I’ve created because of the murderous rage that followers of the Current Discussion Thread seem to fly into whenever someone bumps the thread without a new strip being added.

Since we’ve gone more than two weeks since the most recent update of The Order of the Stick, it’s probably wise to have a thread that people can post to where the homicidal tendencies are recognized to be a moot point.

(Upon the next update, I’ll post a link to this thread in the other OOTS thread.)

So: The first topic of discussion is something that occurred to me while re-reading Vaarsuvivus’s epic battle against Xykon.

Many people in the other thread have speculated that V’s only assuming the IFCC will lay claim over V’s soul after he dies-- and that in reality, the IFCC will probably do it at a critical point, forcing V to turn on the Order when one of the Gates is in play.

When I re-read the battle, I suddenly realized that they’ve already explicitly said that’s exactly their intention.

OOTS #656: “If the elf dies here, this whole thing was a huge waste of time.”

I’m also eager to learn what V’s guilt over the Familicide spell will cause her to do. We already know she does not handle guilt well; hell, her lingering guilt over being powerless to prevent the fall of Azure City and the deaths of the city’s defenders (and Roy) caused her to get all crackly-skinned and obsessed with finding the rest of the party, and directly led to the encounter with the black dragon that resulted in the Familicide spell to begin with.

And at least then, V’s guilt wasn’t justified. She was limited by her abilities. Here-- she is directly responsible for the deaths of untold hundreds, possibly thousands, of innocent people, not to mention all the black dragons. Will she go completely insane as a result?

She got all crackly-skinned because she wasn’t resting. Apparently, elves don’t sleep, but they do need some regular down time, and if they don’t get it, they’ll suffer for it. I think that her obsession was mostly guilt, but it was compounded by not resting. V has very high expectations of herself, and is in agony if she fails to meet those expectations. She is also greatly offended when a mindflayer wants to eat Roy’s brain rather than hers.

Well, yeah, but I mean, she wasn’t resting because she was guilty and obsessed.

I thought it was funny when the Mind Flayer tried to eat Roy’s brain instead of hers.

“Would you feel better if one of us ate your brain?”
“No, it just wouldn’t be the same.”

Good idea for a thread. I feel the main thread often gets too focused on the current strip and we lose sight of the big story.

On a somewhat related note to the OP, what’s Qarr’s background? When Qarr was first introduced, he said “our plans shall proceed” for when Kubota took over (484). It wasn’t just Kubota’s plan to rule the fleet because even after Kubota’s death, Qarr said he had a “certain project” he was working on (625). He then said he was looking for “some evil chalice that my supervisor won’t shut up about” (631).

Now whatever this mission was, it had nothing to do with the IFCC (the three fiends). Qarr hadn’t even met them at this point. So who was Qarr working for and what was their goal? And who is he working for now when he’s with the Linear Guild - his original supervisor or the IFCC? Is this perhaps a hint at one of the unaccounted-for factions that are interested in the Snarl?

That’s a good question. My guess is that, based on what we know about Qarr, he’s working for whichever of those factions is the most powerful. (“Find the most powerful person around, and glue your lips to their ass” is a standard imp survival technique). Or perhaps he’s gone into business for himself. He did, after all, immediately offer his services to V after Kubota was… cough dusted.

I find myself wondering how many strips ahead RB is thinking.

The thing about Hell (the domain of devils like Qarr) is that it’s the worst bureaucracy you can imagine. You’ve got untold tiers of hierarchy (or lowerarchy, as the case may be). Qarr starts off as just some low-end flunky working for a boss… But his boss, too, is just some low-end flunky, in the grand scheme of things, because there are still untold levels bossing him around. So Qarr is just muddling around doing his dead-end Hellhole job, when all of a sudden, a trio of Big Kahunas offer him a job working directly under them. He’s still a lackey, but now he’s a lackey to someone really important-- It’s a huge promotion for him.

(as an aside, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to spell “bureaucracy” right on the first try. Yay me!)

It could be that Qarr’s initial plan, whatever it was, was dependent upon Kubota staying alive, second-stringer though he was, and when Kubota was killed, Qarr bounced from V to the IFCC in search of someone more important to glue his lips to. (I’m not sure how likely that is: Kubota was very much a Big Bad wannabe.)

And of course, let’s not forget that Sabine is working for the IFCC as well, as demonstrated in the strip when she returns to the underworld briefly for “feminine hygiene products”, or so she claimed to Nale at the time. The fact that Qarr’s currently serving as Zz’dtri’s familiar could also mean that Z’s working for the IFCC, or Qarr’s simply using Z to stay where the action is. (My guess is the latter.)

Something that just occurred to me about the current strip: By now, you’d guess that Durkon probably knows that he’s fighting Tarquin. Just judging by the sound of his voice, and the fact that he’s got a pretty large sample size by this point.

You get a lot of insight into how Burlew writes the strips in the commentary sections of the books. It’s mostly retroactive - he tells you how he developed the stories that have already been published (although he does give hints about upcoming events).

The thing you can see is that he puts a lot of work into plotting the story. It’s not a haphazard process. He has the entire story all the way to its end plotted out at this point and he plots out what he’s specifically going to write a couple hundred strips ahead. He’s admitted that occasionally he wanders a bit when he gets to the point of actually making the strips - he’ll think of a joke or something and throw a couple of extra strips. But overall, the story is very tightly planned out.

As an example, look at 331 where the Oracle gives Vaarsuvius his prophecy. That prophecy referred to an event that would happen just over three hundred strips later in 634. Or look at the hostility between members of the Order of the Scribble, which the group is currently dealing with. It was first mentioned back in 276.

True, but my point was that Qarr obviously had some mission going on that was bigger than just putting Kubota in power. To Qarr, putting Kubota in power was not an end in itself - it was a means to some as yet unidentified goal.

It’s like Xykon’s plan to capture Azure City. He launched a major war and conquered an entire kingdom. Normally, that would have been a major goal for a villain. But Xykon didn’t give a damn about conquering Azure City - he did it all just so he could have a few hours uninterrupted access to the Rift in one room inside Azure City. He was perfectly willing to abandon Azure City within an hour of conquering it (although Redcloak, who has an agenda of his own, convinced him to change his mind).

My point is that if we didn’t know about Xykon’s real goal of capturing the Rifts, his actions would seem inexplicable. We’d be asking why he went to all that trouble to capture a city if he was just going to walk away from it on the day of its fall. And I think that’s the situation we may be in with Qarr - we can see what he’s doing but we don’t know the real reason why he’s doing it.

He has the entire story plotted out right to the end.

634 fulfill’s the Oracle’s prediction for V in 331? Really? Were the “four words” the ones in the final panel? Including the stutter as two words? That V seemly said to herself? I must be missing something here.

Yeah; I read somewhere that that’s the Word of God on the subject.

It’s also right there in the strip. The prophecy was that Vaarsuvius would say “the right four words to the right being at the right time for all the wrong reasons”. And the title of 634 is “The Wrong Reasons”.

And when that wasn’t enough to clue readers in, Burlew confirmed that this was indeed the incident the Oracle was talking about.

Well, if RB says so, then that’s that. I guess the Oracle meant to say V would be lent an incomplete, cobbled-together approximation of total ultimate arcane power - that would start unraveling almost immediately - just after (but not because) she said three words (one of them twice) at the right time to nobody in particular.

But I guess considering the accuracy of the Oracle’s prediction for Belkar, V’s prediction’s follows that pattern.

The Oracle was correct on that point, too: There’s a difference between “total” and “ultimate”. Nobody else had more arcane power than V; ergo, V’s power was ultimate.

And there’s no quibble at all with the Oracle’s prediction for Belkar. He asked if he would cause the death of any of those characters, and he absolutely and unquestionably did cause the death of one of them.

And on that note, what was the Oracle about to say when Belkar interrupted him in 567?

To recap, Belkar had asked “Do I get to cause the death of any of the following: Miko, Miko’s stupid horse, Roy, Vaarsuvius, or you?” Which the Oracle answered, “Yes.”

When Belkar later complained, the Oracle was trying to argue that his answer had been correct. Belkar had cause Roy’s death by lending him the Ring of Jumping, And Belkar had caused Miko’s death by having an evil alignment. And Belkar caused Windstrider’s death “if we choose to define “death” as our spirit being trapped in the Afterlife.”

“And as for the elf-”

What about the elf? What was the Oracle going to say about Vaarsuvius? Going from the context, it appears it would have been some implausible reason why Belkar was the cause of Vaarsuvius’ death.

Or V would wind up in a state/situation that’s even more ludicrous to count as “dead” than Windstriker getting stuck in the Celestial realm. Either one.

He’s already written the last panel of the last strip.