This blog is dedicated to Rich Burlew's epic fantasy webcomic; The Order of the Stick. Here you will find everything you will never need about greedy rogues, grumpy dwarves, snarky fighters, psychopathic halflings, ditzy bards and androgynous elves; from Dorukan's dungeon to the Windy Canyon; from Team Evil to the Linear guild; if it's Ootsverse, it's here.
Normally I try to grab a funny panel when I post OotS updates, but this strip wasn’t really all that funny. It was talking heads pushing plot forward, followed by talking heads notifying us of character development. Which isn’t necessarily bad: it’s fast, the characters still manage to be true to themselves, it’s still light-hearted and fun to read.
I think this is the first time I noticed that the Giant is working from a new computer. Or at least, I think I can tell. Please tell me I’m not the only one who noticed the font seems different.
I grabbed this particular panel because Julio calls Tarquin a “B-list villain.” Elan and the rest of the Order never calls Tarquin a B-list villain, but that is still exactly what he is to them. Xykon is the A-lister, as the tiff with Vaarsuvius and O-Chul reminded us. Tarquin’s characterization firmly establishes that he thinks of himself as an A-lister. Certainly he has the empire for it. Certainly he has the coolness and the cleverness for it.
What does this say for Tarquin overall? What does this say for the world overall? Here is this empire, run by a tyrannical Man-behind-the-Dragon, begging to be overthrown. And overthrown he has been, yet he always manages to rise up. But he’s a B-lister. He has always been the B-lister. Who are the other A-listers to be overthrown by parties as powerful as the Order?
When it comes to characters I have a type and my type is pissy arrogant elves with failed marriages who take the self-destructive train to crazytown and think it’s an a++ flawless idea to try to take the dark lord down all by themselves (committing genocide along the way) and wind up getting smashed into a paste as a result.
At least V got some character development for their troubles.
As we close the chapter on Haley’s character development and tie up some loose plot points, before we head to the Battle of Sapphire City and Vaarsuvius’ major character development arc, I wanted to point out this little transitional piece. Vaarsuvius, Haley, and Elan are discussing what to do with the defeated Nale, Thog, and Sabine.
I was thinking about Vaarsuvius’ alignment during lunch, which is probably why this particular exchange stuck out to me so much (I’ve removed most of this conversation, focusing just on the important bits here). TV Tropes refers to V as Arrogant Neutral. Rich Burlew has stated that Vaarsuvius is True Neutral. That forum post was made in 2011; I don’t know the exact dates that updates are released. This particular comic appeared way before 2011, I imagine. In my interpretation, which I hashed out today over lunch, Vaarsuvius began as a Neutral Good adventurer, and then switched to True Neutral in the Arc that we are not studying right now.
I had forgotten about this exchange though. Vaarsuvius always plays the superiority card in interactions, discussions, and exchanges, particularly when duking it out with Belkar. If there is one person Vaarsuvius always claims to be better than, it is Belkar Bitterleaf, the proto-brained, thuggish, violent, and outwardly evil Belkar Bitterleaf. Yet here, as soon as Belkar is gone, Vaarsuvius is voicing a Belkar-like suggestion and even claiming it as Belkar-like. When Haley and Elan express shock and call it Evil, Vaarsuvius pushes the blame away, back onto Belkar, but does not deny its Evil…just enforces its practicality. Vaarsuvius argues this Evil perspective with more logic and rationality than any actual Evil character.
This exchange foreshadows a few aspects of Vaarsuvius’ personality that will get more play in the future:
1) Vaarsuvius’ impatience (“we have no options that will not result in near-immediate freedom…”) 2) Vaarsuvius’ means-to-an-end outlook on actions (“Maybe we could get a few of our recurring villains to fight each other, thin the herd?”) 3) Vaarsuvius having no problem with Evil (“And what, exactly, would the problem with that be?”). The two Chaotic Good members of the party are immediately shocked with such an Evil suggestion. This comfort outside the boundaries of Good and Evil is a smaller, understated version of Tarquin’s “Above Good and Evil" speech.
Anyone who’s read through Order of the Stick knows where these personality traits are going. Vaarsuvius will get slapped in the face by these character traits (flaws?). I’m continuing to see Vaarsuvius as someone who projects V’s own ideals onto other people (as stated in this post). I never realized that Vaarsuvius was so very blind to these flaws.
It seems like a reasonable response to me. As the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero.
*beat while Blackwing whispers to V*
And that would be wrong.