The Order of the Stick is a long-running fantasy webcomic by Rich Burlew. Started in 2003 as a gag-a-day spoof of 3.5ed Dungeons and Dragons, it soon underwent Cerebus syndrome and turned into an epic fantasy plot, though it still retains its comedy underpinnings. The comics are published on the Giant in the Playground website with no set schedule, though Burlew has described it as "three a week on average" -- one month might have eight updates, but then the next will have sixteen, so it averages out in the long run. Each story arc (usually 150-200 comics) is published on the sister Ookoodook site in book form, with bonus comics, author commentary, and other fun extras. There are also two prequel books that are only available in book form on Ookoodook.
The story concerns the eponymous adventuring group, the Order of the Stick. The Order has six members: Roy, the snarky Fighter; Vaarsuvius, the impatient scholarly Wizard; Elan, the comic relief; Haley, the greedy Rogue; Durkon, the dwarf; and Belkar, the unabashed sociopath. The group follows Roy on his quest to destroy the evil lich Xykon, which (of course) gets them entangled in the fate of the entire world. Also on Team Evil with the lich is Redcloak, a prejudiced goblin who follows Xykon to fulfill a quest given to him by his deity. Outside the primary antagonists are various minor villains who come and go, including an overzealous paladin that thinks the Order is evil, a power-hungry noble, an evil identical twin, and many more.
The published volumes of the Order of the Stick are:
- Dungeon Crawlin' Fools, the first compilation book, covering comics 1-120.
- On the Origin of PCs, a purchase-necessary prequel that gives some backstory on the heroes, but nothing really important.
- No Cure for the Paladin Blues, covering comics 121-301. This one introduces one of the more controversial characters amongst fans, Miko Miyazaki.
- Start of Darkness, the other purchase-necessary prequel that fleshes out the main villains. Notably darker in tone than the rest of the series; considered by many to be the best of the whole series.
- War and XPs, the compilation of comics 302-484. The war mentioned in the title has been called "a battle worthy of Peter Jackson."
- Don't Split the Party, the compilation of comics 485-672. This one is more about character development and doesn't affect the main plot much.
- Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, the newest book released. This one is totally non-canon and contains goofy bonus strips from when the comic was printed in Dragon.