There was a time when I felt that I wasn’t nerd enough to read The Order of the Stick. It’s a webcomic about a party of adventurers in a fantasy role playing game. There are a lot of in jokes about 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I mean, I barely made it to 2nd Edition.
But it’s actually funny anyway. The characters are profiled here, which saves me explaining who they all are; my favorite is probably Belkar Bitterleaf, an evil halfling ranger who really, really likes to stab. Part of the fun of the strip is that it has a lot of meta-level jokes, wherein the characters get confused about various bonuses and spell rules and dice rolls and whatnot, often while they’re in the middle of a melee.
What makes it work, though, besides the charming, at times surprisingly expressive art (which gets much better over the strip’s lifetime — they’re on #407 right now), is the shrewd writing. Characters actually surprise you, and each other. Plots twist unexpectedly, and sometimes totally randomly. There are curious mixtures of tenderness and cruelty. Yeah, it’s kinda goofy and sentimental in places. What, like you’re so cool all the time.
Plus I’m really warming to The Order of the Stick’s companion comic Erfworld, which was sort of a slow burn at first (it has an elaborately worked-out internal mythology that took me a while to piece together), but which now seems to be about a wargame fanatic who gets magically projected inside an actual RTS game and becomes a mighty warlord there. What with his mad strategy skillz and all.