[MUD-Dev] DGN: The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clichés
talien at toast.net
Thu Apr 11 19:56:35 New Zealand Standard Time 2002
This is amusing.
However, it also manages to almost single-handedly point out a
majority of the flaws in CRPG design -- a lot of the cliches have
very good design reasons for not working logically. By logically, I
mean logical to the player.
I wish I could say RetroMUD has all of these beat. We did manage to
address #17 at least. I bet a game that addresses the majority of
these humorous jabs is probably a better game for it.
Very funny though.
Mike "Talien" Tresca
<EdNote: Appended and many formatting errors fixed>
The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clich s
There are few people who love a good console RPG more than I. Games
like Final Fantasy, Grandia, and Skies of Arcadia set a standard of
majesty and wonder and immersion that American game designers
struggle, and usually fail, to match. And yet, as I play the latest
masterpiece to come out of Japan I sometimes can't help the feeling
that, somehow, I've seen it all before... WARNING! There are
spoilers in here for many popular CRPGs. I mean, duh.
Last updated July 2001.
-- Sleepyhead Rule
Typically, the teenaged male lead will begin the first day of the
game by oversleeping, being woken up by his mother, and being
reminded that he's slept in so late he missed meeting his
-- "No! My beloved peasant village!"
The hero's home town, city, slum, or planet will usually be
annihilated in a spectacular fashion before the end of the game,
and often before the end of the opening scene.
-- Carl Macek's Revenge
The English voice acting is always embarrassingly bad, and the
more VA there is in the game, the worse it gets.
-- Silent Movie Rule
Nobody ever talks during an full-motion-video
sequence... thankfully, given Carl Macek's Revenge.
-- Thinking With The Wrong Head (Hiro Rule)
No matter what she's accused of doing or how mysterious her
origins are, the hero will always be ready to fight to the death
for any girl he met three seconds ago.
-- Cubic Zirconium Corollary
The aforementioned mysterious girl will be wearing a pendant that
will ultimately prove to be the key to either saving the world or
-- Logan's Run Rule
RPG characters are young. Very young. The average age seems to be
15, unless the character is a decorated and battle-hardened
soldier, in which case he might even be as old as 18. Such
teenagers often have skills with multiple weapons and magic, years
of experience, and never ever worry about their parents telling
them to come home from adventuring before bedtime. By contrast,
characters more than twenty-two years old will cheerfully refer to
themselves as washed-up old fogies and be eager to make room for
the younger generation.
-- Single Parent Rule
RPG characters with two living parents are almost unheard of. As a
general rule, male characters will only have a mother, and female
characters will only have a father. The missing parent either
vanished mysteriously and traumatically several years ago or is
never referred to at all. Frequently the main character's
surviving parent will also meet an awkward end just after the
story begins, thus freeing him of inconvenient filial obligations.
-- Some Call Me... Tim?
Good guys will only have first names, and bad guys will only have
last names. Any bad guy who only has a first name will become a
good guy at some point in the game. Good guys' last names may be
mentioned in the manual but they will never be referred to in the
-- The Compulsories
There's always a fire dungeon, an ice dungeon, a sewer maze, a
misty forest, a derelict ghost ship, a mine, a glowing crystal
maze, an ancient temple full of traps, a magic floating castle,
and a technological dungeon.
-- Luddite Rule (or, George Lucas Rule)
Speaking of which, technology is inherently evil and is the
exclusive province of the Bad Guys. They're the ones with the
robots, factories, cyberpunk megalopolises and floating battle
stations, while the Good Guys live in small villages in peaceful
harmony with nature. (Although somehow your guns and/or heavily
armed airships are exempted from this.)
-- Let's Start From The Very Beginning (Megaman Rule)
Whenever there is a sequel to an RPG that features the same main
character as the previous game, that character will always start
with beginner skills. Everything that they learned in the previous
game will be gone, as will all their ultra-powerful weapons and
-- Garrett's Principle
Let's not mince words: you're a thief. You can walk into just
about anybody's house like the door wasn't even locked. You just
barge right in and start looking for stuff. Anything you can find
that's not nailed down is yours to keep. You will often walk into
perfect strangers' houses, lift their precious artifacts, and then
chat with them like you were old neighbors as you head back out
with their family heirlooms under your arm. Unfortunately, this
never works in stores.
-- Hey, I Know You!
You will accumulate at least three of these obligatory party
- The spunky princess who is rebelling against her (single)
royal parent and is in love with the hero.
- The demure, soft-spoken female mage and healing magic
specialist who is not only in love with the hero, but is also
the last survivor of an ancient race.
- The tough-as-nails female warrior who is not in love with the
hero (note that this is the only female character in the game
who is not in love with the hero and will therefore be indicated
as such by having a spectacular scar, a missing eye, cyborg
limbs or some other physical deformity -- see The Good, The Bad,
And The Ugly Rule.)
- The achingly beautiful gothy swordsman who is riven by inner
- The big, tough, angry guy who, deep down, is a total softy.
- The grim, selfish mercenary who over the course of the game
learns what it means to really care about other people.
- The weird bonus character who requires a bizarre series of
side quests to make them effective (with the ultimate result
that no player ever uses this character if it can be avoided.)
- The nauseatingly cute mascot who is useless in all battles.
-- Hey, I Know You, Too!
You will also confront/be confronted by at least three of these
- The amazingly good-looking and amazingly evil bishounen
(Japanese for "long-haired prettyboy") who may or may not be the
- The villain's loyal right-hand man, who comes in two versions:
humorously incompetent or annoyingly persistent.
- The villain's attractive female henchman, who is the strongest
and most competent soldier in the army but always lets the party
escape because she's, yes, fallen in love with the hero.
- The irritatingly honorable foe whom you never get to kill
because, upon discovering the true nature of his superiors, he
either nobly sacrifices himself or joins your party.
- The mad scientist who likes creating mutated creatures and
powerful weapons 'cause it's fun (and also handy if uninvited
adventurers show up.)
- The adorably cute li'l creature or six year old child who
fights you and, inexplicably, kicks your butt time after time.
-- "Silly Squall, bringing a sword to a gunfight..."
No matter what timeframe the game is set in -- past, present, or
future -- the main hero and his antagonist will both use a sword
for a weapon. (Therefore, you can identify your antagonist pretty
easily right from the start of the game just by looking for the
other guy who uses a sword.) These swords will be far more
powerful than any gun and often capable of distance attacks.
-- Just Nod Your Head And Smile
And no matter how big that big-ass sword is, you won't stand out
in a crowd. Nobody ever crosses the street to avoid you or seems
to be especially shocked or alarmed when a heavily armed gang
bursts into their house during dinner, rummages through their
posessions, and demands to know if they've seen a black-caped
man. People can get used to anything, apparently.
-- Aeris's Corollary
Just as the main male character will always use a sword or a
variant of a sword, the main female character will always use a
rod or a staff of some sort.
-- MacGyver Rule
Other than for the protagonists, your choice of weapons is not
limited to the prosaic guns, clubs, or swords. Given appropriate
skills, you can cut a bloody swath across the continent using
gloves, combs, umbrellas, megaphones, dictionaries, sketching
tablets -- you name it, you can kill with it. Even better, no
matter how surreal your choice of armament, every store you pass
will just happen to stock an even better model of it for a very
reasonable price. Who else is running around the world killing
people with an umbrella?
-- uien Es Mas Macho? (Fargo Rule)
Every powerful character you attempt to seek aid from will first
insist upon "testing your strength" in a battle to the death.
-- Everyday Object Rule
When an everyday object is useful, it will be fantastically
expensive and difficult to find. For instance, if vitamins are
used to heal, they'll cost $500.00 each and never ever be in
bottles of fifty at the drugstore.
-- We Had To Destroy The Village In Order To, Well, You Know The
Rest (Selene Rule)
No matter what happens, never call on the government, the church,
or any other massive controlling authority for help. They'll just
send a brigade of soldiers to burn your entire village to the
-- Zidane's Curse (or, Dirty Pair Rule)
An unlucky condition in which every major city in the game will
coincidentally wind up being destroyed just after the hero
-- Local Control Principle
Although the boss monster terrorizing the first city in the game
is less powerful than the non-boss monsters that are only casual
nuisances to cities later in the game, nobody from the first city
ever thinks of hiring a few mercenaries from the later cities to
kill the monster.
The basic ammunition for any firearms your characters have is
either unlimited or very, very easy to obtain. This will apply
even if firearms are extremely rare.
-- Indestructible Weapon Rule
No matter how many times you use that sword to strike armored
targets or fire that gun on full auto mode it will never break,
jam or need any form of maintenance unless it is critical to the
story that the weapon breaks, jams or needs maintenance.
-- Painted-On Equipment Rule
Enemy equipment doesn't exist. Even if your enemy is a knight in
armor wielding a sword, chances are next to nothing that you'll
get his armor or sword by the end of the battle. Instead, you'll
get some object that (even if it is a gigantic weapon or
accessory) was completely invisible during the fight.
-- Selective Paralysis
Your characters must always keep both feet on the ground and will
be unable to climb over low rock ledges, railings, chairs, cats,
slightly differently-colored ground, or any other trivial objects
which may happen to be in their way. Note that this condition will
not prevent your characters from jumping from railroad car to
railroad car later in the game.
-- You Can't Kill Me, I Quit (Seifer Rule)
The good guys never seem to get the hang of actually arresting or
killing the bad guys. Minor villains are always permitted to go
free so they can rest up and menace you again later -- sometimes
five minutes later. Knowing this rule, you can deduce that if you
do manage to kill (or force the surrender of) a bad guy, you must
be getting near the end of the game.
-- And Now You Die, Mr. Bond! (Beatrix Rule)
Fortunately for you, the previous rule also applies in
reverse. Rather than kill you when they have you at their mercy,
the villains will settle for merely blasting you down to 1 hit
point and leaving you in a crumpled heap while they stroll off,
laughing. (This is, of course, because they're already planning
ahead how they'll manipulate you into doing their bidding later in
the game -- see Way To Go, Serge.)
-- Heads I Win, Tails You Lose (Grahf Rule)
It doesn't matter that you won the fight with the boss monster;
the evil task he was trying to carry out will still get
accomplished somehow. Really, you might as well not have bothered.
-- Fake Ending
There will be a sequence which pretends to be the end of the game
but obviously isn't -- if for no other reason than because you're
still on Disk 1 of 4.
-- You Die, And We All Move Up In Rank
During that fake ending, the true villain of the story will kill
the guy you'd thought was the villain, just to demonstrate what a
badass he (the true villain) really is. You never get to kill the
fake villain yourself.
-- "What are we going to do tonight, Vinsfeld?"
The goal of every game (as revealed during the Fake Ending) is to
Save the World from an evil figure who's trying to take it over or
destroy it. There is no way to escape from this formidable
task. No matter whether the protagonist's goal in life is to pay
off a debt, to explore distant lands, or just to make time with
that cute girl in the blue dress, it will be necessary for him to
Save the World in order to accomplish it. Take heart, though --
once the world gets sorted out, everything else will fall into
place almost immediately.
-- Zelda's Axiom
Whenever somebody tells you about "the five ancient talismans" or
"the nine legendary crystals" or whatever, you can be quite
confident that Saving the World will require you to go out and
find every last one of them.
-- George W. Bush Geography Simplification Initiative
Every country in the world will have exactly one town in it,
except for the country you start out in, which will have three.
-- Fodor's Guide Rule
In the course of your adventure you will visit one desert city,
one port town, one mining town, one casino city, one magic city
(usually flying), one medieval castle kingdom, one martial
arts-based community, one thieves' slum, one lost city and one
sci-fi utopia. Midgar Principle
The capital of the evil empire is always divided into two
sections: a lower city slum filled with slaves and supporters of
the rebellion, and an upper city filled with loyal fanatics and
corrupt aristocrats. Short Attention Span Principle
All bookshelves contain exactly one book, which only has enough
text on it to fill up half a page.
-- Invisible Bureaucracy Rule
Other than the royal family, its shifty advisor, and the odd mad
scientist, the only government employees you will ever encounter
in the course of your adventure are either guards or kitchen
-- The Miracle Of Automation
Similarily, any factory, power plant, or other facility that you
visit during the course of the game will be devoid of any human
life except for the occasional guards. There will not be a single
line worker or maintenance person in sight.
-- Principle of Archaeological Convenience
Every ancient machine you find will work perfectly the first time
you try to use it and every time thereafter. Even if its city got
blasted into ruins and the machine was then sunk to the bottom of
the sea and buried in mud for ten thousand years, it'll still work
fine. The unfortunate corollary to this rule is that ancient
guardian creatures will also turn out to be working perfectly when
you try to filch their stuff.
-- Kefka's Conclusion
The loopiest guy in the game will become either your strongest
character or your worst enemy.
-- I Don't Like Gears Or Fighting
There are always giant robots. Always.
-- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Rule
Any male character who is ugly, malformed, or misshapen is either
evil or so moral, spiritual, and/or wise that it's a wonder no
one's proposed him for sainthood yet.
Any male character who has a physical disfiguration that doesn't
seem to impede him (i.e. a prominent scar across the face or a bad
eye) is evil, unless he is the male lead, since scars are cool and
no other good guy can be as cool as the hero. An exception is made
for characters who are clearly ancient, and therefore
automatically not as cool as the young hero.
Any female character who is ugly, malformed, mishapen, or
physically disfigured is evil, since all good female characters
are there to be potentially seduced by the male lead -- see Know
-- Henchman Quota (Nana, Saki, and Mio Rule)
One of your antagonists will have three lovably incompetent
stooges whom you fight over and over again. Although they're
trusted with their boss's most important plans and equipment, they
will screw up repeatedly, argue incessantly among themselves, blab
secret information, and generally only come out victorious when
their job was to be a diversion or a delaying tactic. A high point
of the game will come when the True Villain reveals himself and
you're able to convince the stooges you're all on the same
side. They won't help you out any more successfully than they
helped the antagonist, but at least you won't have to fight them
-- Thousand Year Rule
The Ancient Evil returns to savage the land every thousand years
on the dot, and the last time it showed up was just about 999.9875
years ago. Despite their best efforts, heroes of the past were
never able to do more than seal the Evil away again for the future
to deal with (which brings up the question of just how exactly
does this "sealing away" work anyway, but never mind.) The good
news is that this time, the Evil will get destroyed
permanently. The bad news is that you're the one who's going to
have to do it.
-- Ayn Rand's Revenge
Outside the major cities, there is no government whatsoever. Of
course, perhaps that explains why it's so difficult and dangerous
to get anywhere outside the major cities.
-- Law of Productive Gullibility (Ruby Rule)
Whenever anybody comes up to you with a patently ludicrous claim
(such as, "I'm not a cat, I'm really an ancient Red Dragon")
there's an at least two-thirds chance they're telling the
truth. Therefore, it pays to humor everyone you meet; odds are
you'll be glad you did later on.
-- Perversity Principle
If you're unsure about what to do next, ask all the townspeople
nearby. They will either all strongly urge you to do something, in
which case you must immediately go out and do that thing, or else
they will all strongly warn you against doing something, in which
case you must immediately go out and do that thing.
-- Mundane Medical Miracle Rule
In every populated area and several unpopulated ones, you will be
able to buy items (usually potions) that instantly heal any
wound. Despite their amazing, impossible power, these healing
items are conveniently cheap and light, allowing you to purchase
and carry at least 99 of them at one time. Note that there will be
just as many hospitals and doctors as ever despite the
obsolescence of their profession.
-- First Law of Travel
Anything can become a vehicle -- castles, cities, military
academies, you name it -- so do not be alarmed when the stones of
the ancient fortress you are visiting shake underfoot and the
whole thing lifts off into the sky. As a corollary, anything is
capable of flight if it would be cool, aeronautics or even basic
physics be damned.
-- Second Law of Travel
There will be only one of any non-trivial type of vehicle in the
entire world. Thus, only one ocean-capable steamboat, only one
airship, and so forth. Massive facilities will have been
constructed all over the world to service this one vehicle.
-- Third Law of Travel
The only way to travel by land between different areas of a
continent will always be through a single narrow pass in a range
of otherwise impenetrable mountains. Usually a palace or monastery
will have been constructed in the pass, entirely filling it, so
that all intracontinental traffic is apparently required to
abandon their vehicles and go on foot up stairs and through the
barracks, library and throne room to get to the other side. This
may explain why most people just stay home. (In some cases a cave
or underground tunnel may be substituted for the palace or
monastery, but it will still be just as inconvenient with the
added bonuses of cave-ins and nonsensical elevator puzzles.)
-- Fourth Law of Travel
Three out of every four vehicles you ride on will eventually sink,
derail or crash in some spectacular manner.
-- Fifth Law of Travel (Big Joe Rule)
As has been described, you must endure great trials just to get
from town to town: locating different vehicles, operating ancient
transport mechanisms, evading military blockades, the list goes
on. But that's just you. Every other character in the game seems
to have no trouble getting to any place in the world on a moment's
-- If You Meet The Buddha In A Random Encounter, Kill Him!
When you're out wandering around the world, you must kill
everything you meet. People, animals, plants, insects, fire
hydrants, small cottages, anything and everything is just plain
out to get you. It may be because of your rampant kleptomania (see
-- Guy in the Street Rule
No matter how fast you travel, rumors of world events always
travel faster. When you get to anywhere, the people on the street
are already talking about where you've been.
-- Wherever You Go, There They Are
Wherever the characters go, the villains can always find
them. Chances are they're asking the guy in the street (see
above). But don't worry -- despite being able to find the
characters with ease anytime they want to, the bad guys never get
rid of them by simply blowing up the tent or hotel they're
spending the night in. (Just think of it: the screen dims, the
peaceful going-to-sleep-now music plays, then BOOM! Game Over!)
-- You Do Not Talk About Fight Club
Any fighting tournament or contest of skill you hear about, you
will eventually be forced to enter and win.
-- Figurehead Rule
Whenever someone asks you a question to decide what to do, it's
just to be polite. He or she will ask the question again and again
until you answer "correctly."
-- Puddin' Tame Rule
The average passer-by will always say the same thing no matter how
many times you talk to them, and they certainly won't clarify any
of the vaguely worded warnings or cryptic half-sentences they
threw at you the previous time.
-- But They Don't Take American Express
Every merchant in the world -- even those living in far-off
villages or hidden floating cities cut off from the outside world
for centuries, even those who speak different languages or are of
an entirely different species -- accepts the same currency.
-- Nostradamus Rule
All legends are 100% accurate. All rumors are entirely
factual. All prophecies will come true, and not just someday but
-- You Always Travel In The Right Circles
Whenever you meet a villager or other such incidental character
who promises to give you some great piece of needed knowledge or a
required object in exchange for a seemingly simple item, such as a
bar of soap or a nice straw mat, be prepared to spend at least an
hour chasing around the world exchanging useless innocuous item
after item with bizarre strangers until you can get that elusive
first item you were asked for.
-- Talk Is Cheap Rule
Nothing is ever solved by diplomacy or politics in the world of
RPGs. Any declarations of peace, summits and treaty negotiations
are traps to fool the ever so gullible Good Guys into thinking the
war is over, or to brainwash the remaining leaders of the world.
-- Stop Your Life (Setzer Rule)
No matter what kind of exciting, dynamic life a character was
leading before joining your party, once there they will be
perfectly content to sit and wait on the airship until you choose
to use them.
-- "You Couldn't Get To Sleep Either, Huh?"
If any character in the game ever meets any other character
standing alone at night looking at the moon, those two will
eventually fall in love. Selective Invulnerability Principle
RPG characters are immune from such mundane hazards as intense
heat, freezing cold, or poison gas... except when they're suddenly
-- Law of Numbers
There will be several items or effects which depend on the
numerical value of your hit points, level, etc., which makes no
sense unless the characters can see all the numbers in their world
and find it perfectly normal that a spell only works on a monster
whose level is a multiple of 5.
-- I'm the NRA (Billy Lee Black Rule)
Opposition to gun control is probably the only thing you could get
all RPG characters to agree upon. Even deep religious faith and
heartfelt pacifism can't compete with the allure of guns.
-- First Law of Fashion
All characters wear a single costume which does not change over
the course of the game. The only exception is when characters
dress up in enemy uniforms to infiltrate their base.
-- Second Law of Fashion
Any female character's costume, no matter how outlandish, is
always completely suitable to wear when climbing around in caves,
hiking across the desert, and slogging through the sewers.
-- Last Rule of Politics
Kingdoms are good. Empires are evil. Franklin Covey Was Wrong,
Sticking to the task at hand and going directly from place to
place and goal to goal is always a bad idea, and may even prevent
you from being able to finish the game. It's by dawdling around,
completing side quests and giving money to derelicts that you come
into your real power.
-- Wait! That Was A Load-Bearing Boss!
Defeating a dungeon's boss creature will frequently cause the
dungeon to collapse, which is nonsensical but does make for
thrilling escape scenes.
-- Magical Inequality Theorem
In the course of your travels you may find useful-sounding spells
such as Petrify, Silence, and Instant Death. However, you will end
up never using these spells in combat because a) all ordinary
enemies can be killed with a few normal attacks, making fancy
attacks unneccessary, b) all bosses and other
stronger-than-average monsters are immune to those effects so
there's no point in using them for long fights where they'd
actually come in handy, and c) the spells usually don't work
-- Magical Inequality Corollary
When the enemy uses Petrify, Silence, Instant Death, et cetera
spells on you, they will be effective 100% of the time.
-- The Ominous Ring of Land
The classic Ominous Ring of Land is a popular terrain feature that
frequently doesn't show up on your world map. Just when you think
things are going really well and you've got the Forces of Evil on
the run, monsters, demons and mad gods will pour out of the center
of the ring and the situation will get ten times worse. The main
villain also usually hangs out in one of these after attaining
godhood. If there are several Ominous Rings of Land or the entire
world map is one big ring, you are just screwed.
-- Law of NPC Relativity (Magus Rule)
Characters can accomplish superhuman physical feats, defeat
enemies with one hand tied behind their back and use incredible
abilities -- until they join your party and you can control
them. Then these wonderful powers all vanish, along with most of
their hit points.
-- Guards! Guards! (or, Lindblum Full Employment Act)
Everything will be guarded and gated (elevators, docks, old
rickety bridges, random stretches of roadway deep in the forest)
except for the stuff that actually needs to be.
-- Thank You For Pressing The Self-Destruct Button
All enemy installations and city-sized military vehicles will be
equipped with a conveniently located, easy-to-operate
-- Harmless Looking Monster Law (Tonberry Rule)
If you encounter a monster that looks odd, harmless, and cute, run
away! It is insanely strong and will easily decimate your party.
-- Falling Rule
An RPG character can fall any distance onto anything without
suffering anything worse than brief unconsciousness. In fact,
falling a huge distance is an excellent cure for otherwise fatal
wounds -- anyone who you see shot, stabbed, or mangled and then
tossed off a cliff is guaranteed to return later in the game with
barely a scratch.
-- Materials Science 101
Gold, silver, and other precious metals make excellent weapons and
armor even though in the real world they are too soft and heavy to
use for that purpose. In fact, they work so well that nobody ever
melts their solid gold suit of armor down into bullion, sells it,
and retires to a tropical isle on the proceeds.
-- Materials Science 201
Everyone you meet will talk enthusiastically about how some
fantastically rare metal (iron, say) would make the best possible
armor and weapons. Oh, if only you could get your hands on some!
However, once you actually obtain iron -- at great personal risk,
of course -- everyone will dismiss it as yesterday's news and
instead start talking about some even more fantastically rare
metal, such as gold. Repeat until you get to the metal after
"mythril" (see The Ultimate Rule.)
-- Gender Equality, Part 1
Your average female RPG character carries a variety of deadly
weapons and can effortlessly hack or magic her way through armies
of monsters, killer cyborgs, and mutated boss creatures without
breaking a sweat. She may be an accomplished ninja, a superpowered
secret agent, or the world's greatest adventurer. However, if one
of the game's villains manages to sneak up and grab her by the
Standard Female Character Grab Area (her upper arm) she will be
rendered utterly helpless until rescued by the hero.
-- Gender Equality, Part 2 (Feena Rule)
If any female character, in a burst of anger or enthusiasm,
decides to go off and accomplish something on her own without the
hero, she will fail miserably and again have to be rescued.
-- Gender Equality, Part 3 (Luna Rule)
All of the effort you put into maxing out the female lead's
statistics and special abilities will turn out to be for naught
when she spends the final confrontation with the villain dead,
ensorcelled, or held hostage.
-- Stealing The Spotlight (Edea Rule)
The characters who join your party only briefly tend to be much
cooler than your regular party members.
-- "Mommy, why didn't they just use a Phoenix Down on Aeris?"
Don't expect battle mechanics to carry over into the "real world."
-- Sephiroth Memorial Escape Clause
Any misdeed up to and including multiple genocide is forgiveable
if you're cool enough.
-- Party Guidance Rule
Somewhere in the last third of the story, the hero will make a
stupid decision and the rest of the party must remind him of all
that they have learned from being with him in order to return the
hero to normal.
-- Bad Is Good, Baby!
The heroes can always count on the support of good-hearted
vampires, dragons, thieves, demons, and chainsaw murderers in
their quest to save the world from evil. And on the other hand...
-- Good Is Bad, Baby!
Watch out for generous priests, loyal military officers, and
basically anyone in a position of authority who agrees to help you
out, especially if they save your life and prove their sincerity
innumerable times -- they're usually plotting your demise in
secret (at least when they can fit it into their busy schedule of
betraying their country, sponsoring international terrorism, and
stealing candy from small children) and will stab you in the back
at the most inconvenient moment, unless they fall under...
-- General Leo's Exception
Honorable and sympathetic people who work for the Other Side are
always the genuine article. Of course they'll be busily stabbing
you in the front, so either way you lose. Eventually though,
they'll fall prey to...
-- The Ineffectual Ex-Villain Theorem (Col. Mullen Rule)
No matter how tough and bad-ass one of the Other Side's henchmen
is, if he bails to the side of Good he'll turn out to be not quite
tough and bad-ass enough. The main villain will defeat him
easily. But don't weep -- usually he'll manage to escape just in
time, leaving you to deal with the fate that was meant for him.
-- All The Time In The World (Rinoa Rule)
Unless there's a running countdown clock right there on the
screen, you have as long as you want to complete any task -- such
as, say, rescuing a friend who's hanging by one hand from a
slippery cliff edge thousands of feet in the air -- no matter how
incredibly urgent it is. Dawdle or hurry as you will, you'll
always make it just in the nick of time.
-- Ladies First (Belleza Rule)
When things really start falling apart, the villain's attractive
female henchman will be the first to jump ship and switch to the
side of Good. Sadly, she still won't survive until the end
credits, because later she will sacrifice her life out of
unrequited love for the villain.
-- Trial By Fire (Cecil Rule)
Any dark and brooding main characters will ultimately be redeemed
by a long, ardous, quasi-spiritual quest that seems difficult at
the time, but in the great scheme of things just wasn't that big
of a deal after all. Way To Go, Serge
It will eventually turn out that, for a minimum of the first sixty
percent of the game, you were actually being manipulated by the
forces of evil into doing their sinister bidding for them. In
extreme cases this may go as high as 90%.
-- They Never Learn
Nevertheless, no matter how in-your-face clear it becomes that the
villain is playing the hero, and no matter how many times the hero
gets burned, he will never realize that he's being suckered and
decide to change his plans (or just abandon the quest and go get
drunk, presumably foiling the villain's manipulative schemes that
-- Gilligan's Prescription
Any character who has amnesia will be cured before the end of the
game. They usually won't like what they find out about themselves,
-- Luke, I Am Your Tedious, Overused Plot Device (Lynx Rule)
If there is any chance whatsoever that major villain X could be
the male lead's father, then it will turn out that major villain X
is the male lead's father.
-- Golden Chocobo Principle
There will be at least one supremely ultimate improvement for your
weapon or some way to make your trusted steed capable of going
anywhere and doing anything, requiring hours and hours of hard
work to acquire. Once you do achieve this, you will use it once,
and it will be completely useless for the rest of the game.
-- Golden Chocobo Corollary
The magic formula for acquiring this supreme upgrade will be only
vaguely alluded to in the game itself. Ideally, you're supposed to
shell out $19.95 for the strategy guide instead.
-- "Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb!"
If the villain needs all ten legendary medallions to attain world
domination and you have nine of them, everybody in your party
still thinks it is neccessary to bring the nine to the villain's
castle and get the final one, instead of hiding the ones they've
already got and spoiling his plans that way. After you foolishly
bring the legendary medallions to the villain's hideout, he will
kidnap one of your companions (usually the main love interest) and
you will trade the world away to rescue your friend.
-- It's Not My Department, Says Wernher Von Braun
All space stations, flying cities, floating continents and so
forth will without exception either be blown up or crash violently
to earth before the end of the game.
-- Pyrrhic Victory
By the time you've gotten it in gear, dealt with your
miscellaneous personal crises and are finally ready to go Save the
World once and for all, nine-tenths of it will already have been
destroyed. Still, you've got to give your all to save the
-- Compression of Time
As you approach the final confrontation with the villain, events
will become increasingly awkward, contrived and disconnected from
one another -- almost as if some cosmic Author was running up
against a deadline and had to slap together the ending at the last
-- Adam Smith's Revenge
By the end of the game you are renowned everywhere as the
Legendary Heroes, every surviving government and authority figure
has rallied behind you, the fate of the world is obviously hanging
in the balance, and out of nowhere random passers-by give you a
pat on the back and heartfelt good luck wishes. However,
shopkeepers won't even give you a discount, much less free
supplies for the final battle with evil.
-- Adam Smith's Corollary
No matter how thoroughly devastated the continent/planet/universe
is, there's always some shopkeeper who survived the end of the
world and sits outside the gates of the villain's castle, selling
the most powerful equipment in the game, like nothing ever
-- "So, Andross, you reveal your true form!"
You will have to kill the evil villain at least twice at the end
of the game. First the villain will look like a person or some
creature and be rather easy to kill. Then he will grow to about 50
times the hero's size and be much harder to kill.
-- In Your Face, Jesus!
Even if you manage to deal with him that time, you're not done --
the villain will then transform into his final form, which is
always an angelic winged figure with background music remixed for
ecstatic chorus and pipe organ.
-- If I Cannot Rule The World, There Will Be No World To Rule
During the last battle, the villain may destroy the world or even
the entire solar system just to get you. Do not be alarmed: since
the world is generally none the worse for wear afterwards, these
attacks seem to be largely illusionary. They still hurt like the
-- The Moral Of The Story (Ghaleon Rule)
Every problem in the universe can be solved by finding the right
long-haired prettyboy and beating the crap out of him.
-- Weapon Rule
There's always a hidden creature who is much harder to defeat than
even the ultimate bad guy's final, world-annihilating form. It's
lucky for all concerned that this hidden creature prefers to stay
hidden rather than trying to take over the world himself, because
he'd probably win. As a corollary, whatever reward you get for
killing the hidden creature is basically worthless because by the
time you're powerful enough to defeat him, you don't need it any
-- The Ultimate Rule
Anything called "Ultima (whatever)" or "Ultimate (whatever)"
isn't. There's always at least one thing somewhere in the world
which is even more.
-- Know Your Audience (Vyse Rule)
Every woman in the game will find the male lead incredibly
The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Cliches is a
collaborative effort. The next time I'm invading the North Cave, the
following people get to be in the primary party instead of cooling
their heels in the waiting room with Barrett and Cait Sith:
* Jon Acheson
* Rich Aldrich
* Ken Arromdee
* A. Cairns
* Gail Canam
* A E Ekermo
* Aaron Ferguson
* Tason Ferrick
* Neil Foster
* Stephen Gatti
* General Failure
* Paula Kuhl
* Mike LoPrete
* Daniel Steven Polca
* Eric Post
* Spork Prophet
* Red Baron
* Robert Rhoades
* Mike Sarcone
* Sarah Turi
* Mike Varischetti
* Dot Warner
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