Gaming Clichés

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 29, 2007

Filed under: Tabletop Games 92 comments

Jay is soliciting suggestions for common (humorous) gaming clichés. This can apply to tabletop RPG’s or the computer-assisted variety. He’s looking for common tropes like these. Here are my suggestions:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a village of two houses and a barn, the blacksmith has enough cash on hand to buy your $10,000,000 enchanted mithril sword.
  2. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere: Backpacks are soundproof and distribute the weight of its contents evenly over the body of the wearer. The item desired is always on top. The backpack ITSELF has no weight. And that’s just the NON MAGICAL backpacks.
  3. Bandits are fearless: You may be the legendary hero of the land, riding by in your suit of +10 mithril armor with your staff of gattling gun fireballs, but the bandits will always look at you and think, “Bah. I can take him.”
  4. Bandits always fight to the death.
  5. Actually, everybody fights to the death.
  6. Prophesy comes from innocent doe-eyed children or cryptic old hags. Prophets are never normal people like blacksmiths or barkeeps who can just give you a straight answer.
  7. The job of “running a village” or “being a blacksmith” requires you to stand in place night and day, just in case the hero stops by to talk.
  8. Sleep cures all wounds. Poisoned? Stabbed? Horribly burned? Arrow in your gizzard? Just sleep it off.
  9. Horses are just hairy motorcycles: Fearless, tireless, needless.
  10. Unlike modern mines, shafts dug in the middle ages are always nice, neat, square corridors where you never have to stoop. Miners tend to dig random, meandering tunnels until they unearth some horror, at which point they lock all of their valuables into scattered chests, board the place up, and go look for someplace to dig a new shaft.
  11. Crypts and tombs are usually huge, multi-level underground complexes that dwarf the size of the associated town. They are always haunted by the reanimated folks buried there.
  12. The ecosystem consists entirely of large carnivores. No small mamals. No docile creatures.

So how about it? What absurd things do we take for granted in RPG gameworlds?


From The Archives:

92 thoughts on “Gaming Clichés

  1. Mikorlias says:

    13.) An alarmingly large number of people are more than happy to welcome a group of strange, heavily armed intruders into their home, and will often ask them to perform personal errands for them.

    14.) Every building has been designed by the Time Lords- waaaay bigger on the inside than the outside.

    15.) Messengers and the like must be really high level. If the heroes have to fight through forests containing bandits, jungles containing lizard monsters and dungeons full of demons/undead/other nameless horrors, just to get to the next town, then so must anyone popping over to visit their relatives.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    #10 is definitely my favorite. And luckily I’ve always played with people with enough common sense that 1-9 never really happened in a game.

  3. Greg says:

    16. You can beat a chest to pieces, yet somehow the contents will remain intact.

    17. Every graveyard is haunted. Normal people visiting dead relatives becomes a whole new experience.

  4. Browncoat says:

    Corollary to 10: These dungeons always seem to be constructed with, almost exclusively, right angles Every now and again, a 45-degree angle is thrown in for fun.

    Corollary 2 to 10: If you put the entrance to the dungeon in the right place, it’s amazing how often they fill up one sheet of graph paper without overflowing it.

    Corollary 3 to 10: (Shamus has discussed this before as well): Dungeons contain rooms with creatures just waiting for adventurers to stop by so they can attack them. Different room contain different creatures who have no business living in a dungeon or even near any of the other creatures in that dungeon. In some dungeons, the strength of these creatures is inversely proportional to their distance from the entrance, leading up to the boss at then end.

  5. EpeeBill says:

    In addition to be able to buy any magic item you find, any villiage will have an alchemist/herbalist/something that can sell you healing potions for the exact same price as every other village in the world.

  6. baac says:

    18. Everyone hates you and your party (for no really good reason), and is constantly trying to rob/kill/maim both you and them. They will be surly to you in bars, attempt to kill you in your sleep, and will generally ask huge amounts of money (1,000 to 1 million times their normal annual wage) for any small bits of information you ask them for. This especially applies if you are an enchanted race, such as an Elf, who are otherwise treated with enormous respect in all fiction they appear in.

  7. Steve says:

    If you sell a potion/weapon/bit of armour, then come back six months later, no-one will have bought it, and it will be in exactly the same condition it was when you sold it.

    NPCs can’t leave the house without losing their priceless family heirloom in a nearby forest/dungeon.

  8. ZzzzSleep says:

    “Phophets are never normal people like blacksmiths or barkeeps”

  9. Glumly says:

    If i want a rare top spec car i may have to wait weeks or months…

    If i want a legendary one of a kind Magic sword the blacksmith/magic dealer just happens to have one for sale.

    or if your really lucky he knows of an old story where one can be found for nothing!

  10. Ingvar says:

    #n: No building, ever, has toilet facilities. If in a modern-ish world, it has a complete llack of bathrooms, showers and baths (note, may have a swimming-pool). If in a fantasy setting, lacks outhouse.

  11. Robert says:

    Property rights apply only to player characters. Lawful good PCs invading the home of an (allegedly) evil wizard to kill his pets, loot his possessions, and slaughter his family are not burglars or thugs; they are heroes.

  12. The Gneech says:

    Your employer/mentor is the main villain, and you are a patsy.

    People who have lost everything they have will pay you 50 gold pieces to go get it back … or to kill the people who took it.

    People have 1 – 5 things to say to you, and once they’ve said them have nothing else to say (or just one thing: “Go do what I told you!”).

    No matter how powerful you are, everyone sneers at you when you arrive. Now matter how much of a jerk you are, everyone loves you by the time you’re ready to leave.

    -The Gneech

  13. The Gneech says:

    Also, any woman who is not a hag or a plump matron, is a supermodel.

    -The Gneech

  14. Otters34 says:

    Then again, neither are your average “realistically neutral”
    types, either.

  15. blizzardwolf1 says:

    19. Chests are made of alien technology that renders them indestructible and cleverly disguises them as fragile wooden boxes. Do not be fooled. Not even the nuclear-powered rail gun that killed a bionic Tyrannosaurus Rex, and which that in the wrong hands could obliterate the universe, can open these.

    But your foot can.

    20. The isolation of an area is directly proportional to its tidal influence. This effect is better known as the “Why doesn’t the creepy full moon ever go away?” law.

    21. It’s a little-known fact that Potions are actually nanotechnology imported from the future. This explains why they are able to heal injuries of any extent. Cleaved? Potion. Scalped? Potion. Lopped off leg with a hint of poison? Hi-Potion. Do not underestimate the versatility of these little vials. And apparently they taste great.

  16. Tango says:

    * Every weapon shop will always have a large variety of pre-made non-standard weapons available in case a group of adventurers stops by.

    * Towns and villages will have more people wandering them that would fit in the houses in them. Cities will have a distinct lack of people compared to the residential facilities.

    * There is always room at the inn.

    * If a character has a named home town, there will be a reason to visit there eventually.

  17. Chilango2 says:

    This discussion forces me to turn this over to the people who have done it the msot extensivily, and therefore, the best:

  18. Spiral says:

    Here’s an old list of JRPG cliches. I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap.

  19. Spiral says:

    Curses, foiled again! This teaches me to be slow pressing submit in the morning.

  20. Ping says:

    * All characters are orphans. If they don’t start out that way, they will be by the time the DM is through with them. Note: This may involve the PCs having to kill the evil parent, but in the end, it will happen. Trust me.

    * All dreams are visions. Nobody ever just dreams that they can’t find a bathroom that’s not really dirty or out in the open.

    * People are willing to trust anybody they meet in a bar, from the NPCs trust a bunch of rag-tag PCs to do a job they’re giving to complete strangers to the PCs trusting everybody in the bar to be completely honest and the barmaids to be free of disease.

  21. Tachevert says:

    My personal favorite has always been:

    – Random strangers welcome you into their home, and have no comment as you rummage through chests, drawers, closets, boxes, and as you smash their crockery looking for loot.

  22. Cradok says: is a good place to find things like this for just about every form of storytelling. Although it seems to be down right at the minute…

  23. Telas says:

    Some of these reasons drove me from CRPGs back to pencil and paper.

    * No matter how small or insignificant, the little cave or ruin you are investigating will inevitably lead to someone threatening to destroy/subjugate/rule the world.

  24. smilydeth says:

    All love interests are either rewards at the end of the adventure or Die just when things start to get interesting.

    Adventurers are never allowed to be happy for more than a couple of days.

    Local lords are either impossibly powerful benefactors who live in easily accessable, bright cheery castles that hand out epic quests for unbelievable rewards….or impossibly powerful evil tyrants with an army of loyal followers that live in an impregnable fortress in the middle of death-central that want you dead!

    You walk into a town wearing Full Platemail Armor, cloak, backpack, five beltpouchs, three bandoliers, two slingbags, lantern, sword, axe, six daggers, 120 foot coil of rope, waterskin, bow, quiver of arrows, shield, and at least half of it is glowing or possibly on fire. But for some reason nobody seems to care or notice… especially the local farmers and peasants.

    The town’s Clerics can raise the Dead, its Apothacary sells potions that Cure all wounds and any disease or illness, its Merchants are Weathy and have almost every possible personal need in stock, its Guards are nigh-invulnerable, its Buildings and Walls are Strong, Well-built and Clean, its Inhabitants are Healthy and Well-fed. Yet for some reason its graveyard stretchs for miles!!!!

    1. thumper69 says:

      And, in spite of all of this, they always need YOU to solve some problem that has recently arisen.

  25. gomi no sensei says:

    The world is on a five foot grid. Buildings and the rooms in them are measured in multiples of five feet. Even pieces of furniture are quantized like this.

  26. AngiePen says:

    Corollary to #2: Any food in your backpack (including that steak you carved off a bear last fall) will last forever without spoiling.

    #N: No matter how much money you accumulate, you can never just go out and buy a (normal) gun or car or anything else useful (but considered “cool” or “powerful” in the game) until you’ve also accumulated the requisite number of experience points.

    #N+1: Target practice (shooting your gun or bow or throwing your knives at a bull’s eye or a tree) doesn’t make you any better with your weapon no matter how much you do it. Unless something dies, you don’t learn squat.


  27. Anwyn says:

    Four foot dwarves can competantly fight with five foot great swords.
    Pikes, spears and halberds are handy weapons in dungeons, never get in the way, and never hit the walls.
    Weapons and armour never need cleaning, never get rusty (even when they get wet), never need re-strapping, and never get taken off, even to sleep (or, ahem, **sleep**).
    No one ever needs to shower, use deodorant, or brush their hair.
    No one ever brushes their teeth, yet no one ever needs to goo to the dentist.
    Blood doesn’t stain.
    Weapons damage flesh, but not clothing.

  28. I’m suprized noone has mentioned this yet:

    A woman in a bikini is better prepaired to face the big nasty than the rogue wearing full leather armor. And at least as well prepaired if not more so than the warrior in full plate armor.

  29. bruce says:

    4 Browncoat Says:
    August 29th, 2007 at 7:26 am

    Corollary 3 to 10: (Shamus has discussed this before as well): Dungeons contain rooms with creatures just waiting for adventurers to stop by so they can attack them. Different room contain different creatures who have no business living in a dungeon or even near any of the other creatures in that dungeon. In some dungeons, the strength of these creatures is inversely proportional to their distance from the entrance, leading up to the boss at then end.


    Some of these creatures will be bigger than the door to the room they are in, yet there will be no other visable entrance/exit. They must have been brought in as eggs/babies and spent their entire life there. No wonder they’re so p*ssed…

  30. Owlpete says:

    #n+2: Money has no mass, whether it is fantasy genre coins or real world cash. Apparently, all RPG realms have developed a debit card system.

  31. Curt says:

    You encounter a person/creature. You:

    a) determine that this is his home and so attack/kill him/it and take his/it’s stuff; or

    b) determine that it is an individual travelling alone, far from home and so therefore ask him/it to join your party?

  32. Melfina the Blue says:

    from tabletop groups I’ve been in….

    The party will inevitably forget something important, food, chalk, rope, a party member. The DM will then be forced to figure out how to insert said item into the Dungeon of DOOM without destroying continuity. This is impossible.

    The following figures exist for mocking…
    Monks, paladins, dwarves, druids, and elves. Bards in funny clothing may also be mocked, but at your own risk. They speak many languages and just because you think they’re saying “We come in peace,” does not mean they are not saying “Yes, please feed that one to the dire tarasque.”

    1. The Scrabbler says:

      Druids can only be mocked until they hit somewhere around level eight. When you’ve got a hawk flying out of bow range, throwing down aoe spells, then we’ll see who’s laughing.

  33. kat laurange says:

    This reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones’ book, “The Tough Guide to Fantasyland”, in which she skewers all the cliches that haunt today’s fantasy novels, tongue firmly in cheek. Great stuff.

  34. Luke says:

    – If a heavily armed person walks into someone’s house and prods them, the owner of said house will know exactly what said heavily armed person wants, and will often ask them to go and perform some menial task – no matter how powerful the warrior looks.

    – If the warrior then walks out without a word, the person will assume that he or she will perform the task, rather than asking for some sort of confirmation.

    – The person will be very grateful when the task is performed, even if it takes the warrior 6 months to get around to it.

  35. Cat Skyfire says:

    Things will happen simply because nothing has happened for a while. And it will be something significant. Most travelers on the Oregon Trail only faced rivers, personal deprivation, dead animals, hunger, and exhaustion. A party will be unable to go three days without a monster showing up, just to have something happen.
    -Corollary to the above – If too much has happened, the party will be able to go huge distances with nothing whatsoever happening.

    Cat’s Truism:
    If you have a cleric with the spell Call Lightning, the weather will always be clear and sunny. If the DM discovers that you do not have that spell that day, the weather will be wet and rainy.

  36. Cat Skyfire says:

    OH, almost forgot my favorite:

    Regardless of levels achieved or abilities or items available, characters will magically teleport in and out of the dungeons OR be ‘perfectly safe somewhere nearby’ based on the absence of an actual player. Their character does not become an NPC or is not taken over by someone else, but the character is just ‘somewhere’ until the player returns to the game.

  37. Daktylo says:

    In regards to 12, has anyone ever released the percentages of non-hostile evil creatures in the monstrous manuals? I swear everything that could be considered normal like squirrels or rabbits are all feral. And Chaotic Evil.

  38. Taelus says:

    – No matter how disgusting in appearance, insulting in conversation, statistically incapable of even basic observational skills, or viscous and cruel to the point of being nearly villainous, the PC in lead is always the most beloved by the NPC’s, always gets the girls, and will always manage to find the coolest stuff.

    – Also, the random people with information are always just as willing, if not more willing, to talk with that unlikeable PC as they are the noble, shining, heroic paladin whose player is not as talkative.

    – Death mechanics apply only to characters that aren’t critical to the plot the guy running the game. Any critical character will, instead of dying, mystically end up just at death’s door and stop there. Alternatively, they can die and be sent back by some otherworldly power that says something cryptic about how important they are to the world and then boots them out of heaven. Oh yeah, and the hero won’t for a second mind being tossed out of paradise back into a horrible, dark, messy world where their life sucks.

  39. lplimac says:

    There are rarely, if ever, children on the streets of cities, towns or villages unless they give quests.

    The lack of toilet facilities eliminates the need for anyone, PC’s or NPC’s, to ever need to use them.

    Female PC’s never have a problem with “that time of the month”… must correlate with the lack of toilet facilities… (my ex-wife at one time had a Hero’s system character that used deabilitating menstrual cramps as a 1/4 disability, giving extra points to build with. Hero’s system was so interesting)

  40. John says:

    x: Evil creatures never use the powerful magic weapons they possess, they just leave them in a nearby horde to be claimed by whoever is able to defeat them

    x+1: Any evil creatures engaged by the party are just powerful enough to give the party a good fight. They are rarely far weaker than the party, and almost never far more powerful than the party.

  41. smilydeth says:

    About rope…

    In Console and Comp games: Once you find rope in will sit in your inventory completely un-usable while your character struggles past hundreds of situations where a bit of rope would’ve made all the difference…. Once you find that one spot where you can use the rope..the rope will be the only thing that you can use. Once it has been used the rope will either become part of the scenery and thus completely unrecoverable or else it will somehow become Lost, Stolen or Destroyed in some unstoppable fashion.

    Rope in Table-top RPGs: A party never remembers to bring along rope until just before they need it…then they suddenly possess a few “thousand” feet or so… Also, even though the PCs have to use rope all the time to deal with various situations in RPGs, NPCs and Monsters never have any!!

  42. DrunkenPrayer says:

    The main character will always go for the less appealing (or more obviously jailbate) supporting character. This is known as Final Fantasy syndrome. Examples: Cloud going for Aeris instead of Tifa, Tidus going for Yuna instead of the goth dominatrix Lulu.

  43. Morgue says:

    Despite the fact that clerics can cure disease, the dreaded plot-plague will always defy them.

    Despite the fact that clerics can raise the dead, only evil clerics will ever raise NPCs, and then only so that they can use them as undead minions.

    Every town has one, and only one guild per profession. There are never two rival merchants’ guilds, for instance. There is usually only one thieves’ guild as well, and their headquarters are always in the sewers.

    Every town has at least one inn whose basement is infested with either kobolds or dire rats.

    PCs will never submit to capture or arrest, always preferring to fight to the death whether or not they are guilty and regardless of their alignment. Anytime the DM intends to take the PCs alive, he will signal this by making them face an obviously overwhelming force.

    All swamps are infested with lizardmen and one black dragon.

    No matter how many mines the party explores, they will never see anything but gems or piles of raw ore. This is because raw ore is sent directly to blacksmiths (by invisible courier), and blacksmiths smelt it directly into sword blanks and horseshoes, which they will always be banging on when the PCs stop by.

    Every blacksmith is a retired adventurer.

    Any seemingly-benign animal is actually a predator/monster in disguise.

    Doppelgangers always fail to impersonate PCs in front of other PCs, but can convincingly portray any NPC for days on end.

    Any mission involving underwater exploration will always include a free supply of water breathing potions.

    Water does not damage bowstrings, spellbooks, or powdery material components in the slightest.

    Every rogue wears leather armor, even pickpockets.

    Picking pockets, by the way, is always nearly impossible for any rogue for whom it would be a viable source of income.

    An inordinate percentage of creatures speak common and have darkvision.

    Every dungeon contains at least one mimic, roper, or rust monster, despite the fact that they are no fun for anybody but the DM.

    All traps are made of indestructible material that never ages. Even non-magical traps will work perfectly hundreds or even thousands of years after they were constructed.

    No matter how well-known a ruin’s location, none of its traps have ever been sprung, except those that can somehow reset themselves.

    Any party consisting only of NPCs that is sent to a dangerous location will never be seen alive again.

  44. Dev Null says:

    All characters are orphans. If they don't start out that way, they will be by the time the DM is through with them. Note: This may involve the PCs having to kill the evil parent, but in the end, it will happen. Trust me.

    Corollary: All orphans are really: a) the children of gods or godlike beings, b) the children of the head badguy, or c) otherwise possessed of unknown and mysterious powers which they do not know how to control.

    My other favorites? Arrows may occasionally take up some space and/or weight, but the average human can still carry several thousand – all of which will be readily accessible at all times – and remain unencumbered.

    Prophecies are always true, and will always come true in your lifetime, even (especially!) if they were made thousands of years ago.

    Illiterate savage man-beasts wearing loincloths and fighting with clubs, nonetheless carry money, scrolls, and magic swords to be looted.

  45. Al Shiney says:

    Just two that I haven’t seen yet …

    1. No matter how ridiculously rare a material component is, every wizard always carries a supply on his person to cast the spell an unlimited number of times.

    2. In every town, regardless of size, there is at least one tavern that doubles as a brothel and at which the barmaids moonlight as … well, you know.

  46. Hal says:

    Oh, I just finished Zelda: Twilight Princess, and it’s guilty of a bunch of these.

    My own contribution?

    – You may have a mountain dwelling civilization, an undersea kingdom, land-dwelling elves, or shadow people from another dimension. Wherever you go, everyone uses the same pottery.

    – The lord of the land has a massive army at his disposal. However, he still needs YOU, the intrepid adventurer, to go rescue his daughter, defeat his rival, or perform some other mundane task for him.

    – If there is some obstacle in a dungeon you can’t get around, you’re likely to find a tool somewhere in there that will solve that problem.

    – A town may consist of two people who don’t work, there will still be a merchant who somehow does robust business in their midst.

    – Fun side-quests are always located where no normal person would conceivably be able to reach them.

  47. Strangeite says:

    #N: Education and training is a series of vertical rises followed by plateaus. You never get steadily more skilled at anything. Rather your ability remains constant until you become immediately more proficient and then remains constant until the next jump.

  48. Woot Spitum says:

    -The land is always filled with sheer cliffs, impassable mountains, unfordable rivers, inpenetrable forests, and other random obstacles that prevent anyone from roaming freely, thus restricting movement to small, narrow, quest-related areas.

    -Fences, even ones barely six inches high, are indestructable and cannot be climbed over.

    -All containers, down to the lowliest crate, are trapped with enough explosive or magical ordinance to wipe out everyone within a one hundred foot radius, regardless how mundane or worthless the contents happen to be.

  49. Matt` says:

    Bad guys and monsters always appear in ascending order of difficulty, and to get to the Fortress of Impenetrable Evil it is necessary to go through the Forest of Great Danger, the Town of Considerable Evil-Taint, the Cave of Moderate Peril, across the Lake of Mild Nastiness and spend a night in the Village of Relative Safety, after setting out from your home in the Meadows of Unending Tranquility

    Corollary: The Death-Forces of Ultimate Evil can evidently cross this distance without passing through the intervening places to destroy your home town since the Dread Lord appears to not notice their absence.

  50. Jason says:

    No matter how important the task you’ve been given, even if the entire kingdom is at stake from forces of unimaginable evil, and it’s well-known you’re the one destined to take on this evil… everyone still charges you full rates for anything, no matter how mundane. “Thank you for being the only one courageous enough to fight the evil horde! Oh, that’ll be 750 gold pieces for the sword, thank you.”

    Despite the obvious utility of having such a magical weapon or piece of armor beforehand, everyone will wait until you’ve defeated the evil force before giving it to you. “Thank you for defeating the foul dragon that plagued our land for so long. It was a mighty battle that nearly cost you your life. Now, I give unto you a shield that makes you proof against dragon-fire as your reward. Bet that would have come in handy, eh?”

  51. Rolld20 says:

    Humanity has a rich history and a many-faceted culture, which often leads to international clashes and civil wars.

    Non-humans have a simple philosophy which describes the entire race, and feel instant trust and kinship with each other whenever they meet outside their (well-defined) homelands.

    Non-human PCs who have utterly rejected their native culture and have minimal social skills are still expected to act as party diplomats should the need to interact with others of their race arise.

  52. Rick says:

    * No matter how much time you are given to achieve a certain task or reach a certain destination, you will always do so either just in time. It doesn’t matter if, in the intervening time, you stop to perform every mundane side quest/treasure hunt the game offers you. The only exceptions are when the game requires you to arrive too late, in which case you will be just too late, or when the game offers a countdown clock.

    * (Corollary) Even if you are given an extremely long time limit and do everything quickly, you will never have to stand around and wait for the next plot point.

    * If you are able to choose your character’s name, characters in the game will have some other way of referring to you. If this is a title that does not obviously refer to you, you (either in character or out of character) will learn of its existence before you learn who it refers to.

    * The character who continually casts doubts on your motives and information is himself a traitor to whatever cause you’re trying to support.

  53. Starsong says:

    No matter how mismatched in size the PCs are – from halflings to half-orcs – the entire group group can stay together while travelling on foot for days, until there are bandits nearby to pick off the stragglers.

  54. RodeoClown says:

    1. It doesn't matter if you're in a village of two houses and a barn, the blacksmith has enough cash on hand to buy your $10,000,000 enchanted mithril sword.

    Corollary to #1 -> If you kill said blacksmith, searching his body will only ever result in three gold pieces and a rusty sword.

  55. RodeoClown says:

    (ooh, part 2)
    … even if you just sold him your enchanted mithril sword. Or bought one. For 10,000,000 gold pieces.

  56. Zaghadka says:

    (I don’t know if any of these are repeats. I didn’t read all the comments. If so, I apologize.)

    1. No matter how long you’ve been carrying your dead companion looking for a resurrection/raise, he never smells bad (nor reeks). Conversely, a Stinking Cloud spell can easily incapacitate your toughest enemies. At ten days since the noble Paladin met his demise, I figure most parties (and the monsters they encounter) should be making a fortitude save vs. the smell of the corpse.

    2. No matter how long you have been dragging said corpse, it never rots, nor will the party attract any small carrion feeders when it rests (such as rats). If you’re dragging him around, his leg or arm will never come out of its socket.

    3. Flies will not notice a deceased adventurer, unless the remains are part of a planned encounter.

    4. (From an old campaign where a Paladin was literally pureed by a trapper) “Ladle that into the bodybag of holding!”

    5. Temples always welcome with open arms heavily armed, bleeding, dirty scoundrels dragging reeking corpses as an opportunity, never as a potential threat.

    6. Animating your dead character with an animate dead spell is sick and wrong. Don’t ever do that. Even if the person who has to drag him has a strength of 6!

    As you can tell, my gaming groups have always had fun with corpse management… ;^)

  57. Zaghadka says:

    (old school) The ancient Red Dragon will always breathe on the elven PC’s first, as they can’t be raised.

  58. eloj says:

    #12 is at least not true in Baldur’s Gate, where there are quite a few places with docile animals (cows, squirrels, chickens as I recall).

    Or “Mobile Healing Stations”, as a mage with Larloch’s Minor Drain would call them.

  59. Maddyanne says:

    Addition to post 43. Somehow, despite weather, battles, general trauma, and no instrument cases whatsoever, a bard’s instruments never need tuning and the strings, if it’s an instrument that uses them, never break or need to be replaced.

  60. Jason says:

    Light, in the form of lanterns or torches:

    – will always provide adequate light no matter what the condition
    – is always steady, smoke-free, and constantly bright, no matter what the weather
    – will only interest the GM if a fight is about to break out
    – will never, ever set the user afire
    – can never be extinguished by an enemy as a tactic
    – will always automatically set a foe afire if required

  61. bruce says:

    1. Shamus Says:

    It doesn't matter if you're in a village of two houses and a barn, the blacksmith has enough cash on hand to buy your $10,000,000 enchanted mithril sword.

    43 Morgue Says:

    Every blacksmith is a retired adventurer.

    Ah, this explains the wads of cash and the desire to collect enchanted mithril swords…

  62. Avaz says:

    The town’s sole tavern only employs two types of people: 1) Hideously ugly/obese/generally undesirable women or 2) Lithe, shapely hotties.

    Corollary: If the tavern has a hottie employed the night that the PC group goes there, she will either join the party, or carry some critical piece of information.

    ..Or end up the love interest of the main character.

  63. RHJunior says:

    No matter how your mission, or even your team, is orchestrated around intelligence, craft, cunning, stealth and skill— like, for instance, an entire party of rogues— before the end of the campaign session you will end up going at it hammer and tongs with some impossibly large, powerful, monstrous foe.

    No matter how stealthy you are, you will never manage to sneak past this lone, pre-ordained obstacle. Yet paradoxically, no matter how much yelling, screaming, roaring, firing of spells that light up the night and smashing of things occurs, nobody in the entire city, least of all the city guard, will come to see what the ruckus is all about.

    Nobody, and I mean nobody in the stinkin’ universe, not even trained military commandoes, is competent at their jobs… unless said job directly involves harassing the PCs. You can have an entire fortified city inhabited by nothing but white wizards and high-ranking paladins, and a crap army of goblins will still manage to overrun them.

    If the Big Bad shows up, the city guard/police won’t— until five seconds after the Big Bad bites it, in which case they will show up, en mass, heavily armed, and take the PCs who just mopped the floor with the Big Bad prisoner. If they show up BEFORE the Big Bad bites it, it will be just to get off one or two utterly useless volleys before the Big Bad squishes them like grapes.

    The more time the NPC populace has been preparing for the invading Big Bad, the more impotent those preparations will be. (Remember all those Godzilla movies? Remember all those super-missiles and superjets and giant tank-propelled ray guns that obviously cost billions of government dollars and years of time to engineer and build, yet were no more effective against the Kaiju than the mundane planes and tanks? Ever wonder why they wasted their time??)

  64. icekatze says:

    hi hi

    I love *not* following these clichés in my campaigns, I still laugh when I remember the time I gave my players a chest filled with gold bars and someone said “I pick up the chest.” ho ho ho!

    Here’s a few of my own.

    “¢ Whenever the player characters kill someone the local law enforcement automatically knows it was a villain, no investigation necessary, and the player characters are rewarded.

    “¢ You can always hide in shadows, even in a empty room and even if you are carrying a light source.

    “¢ Armor never needs to be taken off, even while sleeping and will never cause bruising, sores or exhaustion.

    “¢ Horses can take care of themselves outside a dungeon and theives are too honorable to steal them.

    “¢ Player characters may be subject to death, but they never need pay taxes to the local lord.

  65. Allan says:

    Whatever home the hero finds himself in at the beggining of story, it will always end up being destroyed or the hero will somehow be forced to leave and then barred from returning.

  66. MaxEd says:

    > Bandits are fearless: You may be the legendary hero of the
    > land, riding by in your suit of +10 mithril armor with your
    > staff of gattling gun fireballs, but the bandits will always
    > look at you and think, “Bah. I can take him.”

    I liked how some bandits in Avernum 4 (one of the nicest CRPG for me in a long time) reacted to hero’s threatening phrases. It was kinda like that: “Yeah, you’re the most powerful group of heroes in this land, and we’re puny bandits, but, you know, we just HAVE to try. Can’t be helped, really”

  67. wildweasel says:

    One I notice in most computer RPG’s: Staying in an inn usually entails just talking to the innkeeper and instantly being healed. The game usually glosses over the fact that you even go to your hotel room, or even sleep. My hypothesis: the PC’s are sleeping, standing up, in the middle of the lobby.

  68. Corsair says:

    In reply to Greg’s (16), KOTOR 2 – if you bash something to open it you will damage the items inside it.

  69. Lord of Fools says:

    I don’t roleplay myself, but a lot of these apply to fantasy novels in general. The stuff about orphans made me wonder about a character constantly having to write letters to his mother… or in a modern setting, constantly getting phone calls.

  70. Anonymous Botch says:

    The priesthood of pretty much all religions everywhere is made up of warrior monk type clerics who wear platemail and have an unexplained aversion to edged weapons.

    Despite this, the religions never disagree or fight holy wars against each other.

    In computer RPGs the amazingly well stocked blacksmith/village shop will only have daggers short swords etc when you first visit. Go up a level and they have magically restocked.

    Villagers living near graveyards full of the undead, near dragon-haunted moors and forests full of wildlife it takes a high level knight to kill, are all lvl 1, generally unarmed and remain so until dying in their old age.

    Every NPC and PC has an encyclopedic knowledge of Monty Python, especially the aforementioned villagers.

    The repeated use of a single skill (e.g. killing stuff with swords) makes you much better at a whole range of unrelated abilities (cookery, latin, riding etc).

    Killing your 100th troll in exactly the same way is a massive learning experience. You gain nothing from outwitting it with skill and guile.

    Magic items are easy to procure, every PC has loads of them, but no-one else but shopkeepers and the baddies have any and they usually never use them. Also despite the commonplace nature of magic, bystanders are amazed by the simplest display of magic.

    Magic is actually real, yet no-one things witchcraft is a bad thing. No-one gets accused of sorcery. No-one burns magic users for cursing their cow, bewitching their sister etc.

    1. The Scrabbler says:

      It’s a lot harder to burn someone at the stake if they’re capable of burning you back.

  71. Zaxares says:

    No matter the game your intrepid heroes start out in, there will ALWAYS be one quest that involves you killing all the rats in some guy’s basement. (And if not rats, then some equivalently weak pest that infests that world.)

  72. Nerdlinger says:

    This is mostly for computer RPGs but some of them are applicable to the tabletop kind:

    0) The probability of a claim being true is inversely proportional to the authority of the person making the claim. All conspiracy theories, heresies and fairy tales that noone believes in anymore are true, however the official story given by the Emperor is guaranteed to be a lie.

    -1) The King’s most trusted advisor is invariably a traitor, a fact that anyone else would notice immediately upon meeting him but is inexplicably overlooked by the King himself.

    -2) No matter how urgent a quest is, there is always time to check in at an inn for the night and still get there just in the nick of time/ a fraction of a second too late.

    -3) Everywhere in the world uses the same currency, even mysterious lost civilisations who have no contact with the outside world.

    -4) Monsters are cursed to wander the lands carrying items and money that they have no possible use for.

    -5) Your character will instantly possess at least average skills in any weapon or item he picks up, regardless of whether or not he has ever used such a thing before.

    -6) If someone mentions the N Legendary Nouns of Adjective, you must collect the N Legendary Nouns of Adjective.

    Corollary to -6: Even if the villain needs all N Legendary Nouns of Adjective and you have N-1 of them, you will still take all of them to his castle in an attempt to get the one he has. This inevitably leads to the villain stealing the rest and putting the final part of his plan into operation.

  73. Namfoodle says:

    Explanation for #12:

    Solyent Green is People!

    You only think the peasents near the dragons lair live unmolested. Actually, the overabundance of brothels and lack of need for hygiene gives folks plenty of time for creating hordes of identical peasants.

    “Hi, I’m Earl, and this is my brother Earl. And this is my other brother Earl.”

    And don’t forget the healing magic. If the huge carniovres don’t have an extremly efficient digestive system, Mr. Peasant will probably recover.

    When the cleric runs out of firewood he just casts true resurection on the nearest pile of owl bear dung and asks whoever pops up to chop him so more wood.

    Because it’s hard to chop wood with a mace.

  74. TheBladeRoden says:

    Villainous sorcerers that wish to conquer the world are recluses, oddly enough. Sure, they may venture out to taunt the hero on occassion, but they will always be found waiting in their throne room whenever the hero shows up. Never will your party break into the throne room only to have a page tell you that he’s away on business until next Monday.

    Said throne room is his preferred battle location, because he’s never added two and two together regarding dismembered body parts and flying weapons coupled with expensive carpeting and valuable paintings.

    In similar respects, be wary of large rooms, often circular in nature, that are clear of any clutter that could impede movement, that serve no obvious function toward the running of the household, and yet still require a huge key to access.

  75. Rick says:

    * It doesn’t matter how implausible it is, if there’s no body, they’re not dead.

    * At some point, someone believed dad will reappear, very much alive. Some common variations:
    – A villain who has been believed dead since before the game started is revealed to be the true evil mastermind. If the game is a sequel, this is inevitably the evil mastermind from an earlier game.
    – An enemy who you’ve defeated returns, tougher than before.
    – A former ally returns as an enemy. This may be due to misguided bitterness, in which case you must convince him you didn’t mean to let him nearly die/leave him to die. Otherwise, he was working against you before his apparent death.
    – An ally is revealed to have been captured by the enemy.

  76. Mari says:

    The funny thing to me about a lot of these cliches is that there are items in the PHB and DMG that avoid them. Heward’s Handy Haversack isn’t the limitless bag of holding that most PCs turn their packs into, but it’s a lot closer (even has a spell to make what you’re looking for turn up at the top of the pack) and everburning torches really don’t go out. I know this because I try to avoid cliches wherever possible so I do my darndest to buy things like that when I can afford it and the DM makes them available. The last time I had a D&D group going, I actually tried to follow “da rules” about packs and what happened? My DM got pissed and griped at me about being nitpicky and slowing things down.

    As for actual cliches:

    – The less clothing a PC wears, the more likely he or she is a magic user. Makes things easier for enemies, y’know, they just aim for the half-naked chick first.

    – Standard fighter classes are dumb as rocks unless they’re party leaders. Otherwise, you have to get paladins and archers to have an intelligent conversation with somebody that hits things.

    – All halfling PCs are either chaotic evil or chaotic idiot full of childlike innocence in alignment.

    – Corollary: It is darned creepy to be hit on by somebody 3 feet tall but your entire party will hate you and never forgive you for killing the halfling after his umpteenth unwanted advance from crotch height. Sometimes, though, it’s worth the hatred of friends and even the need for the atonement spell.

    – If there is a paladin in the party, your chances of being sucked through a wormhole in space-time to Ravenloft increases exponentially with each step the party takes.

    – Elven paladins have major sticks up their butts. Always. Even when they don’t start out that way, they’ll wind up that way after ten sessions of being treated like they do by the rest of the party.

    – The best place to start a quest or set up a headquarters is always a bar. It will never occur to anyone to question the number of shady people hanging around in that bar or be concerned that any of them will overhear plans that could be sensitive in nature.

    – No matter how seemingly useless the ability to talk to animals is, you’ll need it at some point.

    – No matter how seemingly cool the ability to conjure or enchant normal weapons is or how early you can get it, it will be abso-frickin-lutely useless below tenth or twelfth level. Similarly, low-level summoned allies or creatures will NEVER be able to actually HIT an enemy.

    – In paper and dice games with real human DMs, it is to your advantage to make it look difficult to kill low-level enemies thrown your way. If you make it look too easy, the DM will get tired of being beaten and will start throwing truly nasty things at you.

    – The answer to any riddle can be obtained by spending enough action points to cast the “summon enigmatic old man” spell. Why waste valuable ability points in intelligence when you have the summon enigmatic old man spell at the ready?

  77. Lune says:

    – Every new town/village/city you visit will have more powerful equipment than the previous one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny backwater village and you’re coming from a bustling city, the swords *will* be sharper.

    – Even if a meteor is crashing down on your head or you have an audience with the king, everyone and everything will wait for you to complete your errands.

    – Phoenix down or any of its equivalents only work in battle.

    – If a character joins your party and starts with high stats and awesome skills, that character will A) die B) turn traitor (either voluntarily or brainwashed) C) inexplicably get cursed and lose their powers.

    – If a PC is female and can be connected to any particular fandom, you can almost guarantee she’ll be the child of X character with uber powers and is so hawt and awesome that you want to bash her head in with a brick.

    – Katana and black leather are the staple for any hero. So is brooding and generally anti-social behaviour. Despite said unwelcoming demeanor, people still flock to him for help.

    – If you don’t have a huge facial graphic, you’re screwed.

  78. Marty says:

    I’m surprised this one hasn’t come up before…

    No one will hear you loudly and unmercifully slaughter people one room over. Doesn’t matter how much gunfire or sword clashing occurs, no one comes to investigate and no alarm is raised, allowing you to still sneak up and kill foes in the next room.

    The exception to this (in computer games) is occasionally someone trips an alarm, but all that serves to do is make it harder to sneak up on other people nearby. It doesn’t actually create a plan of action by the people being attacked. Once you find the switch to turn it off, your adversaries will once again be asleep at the wheel.

  79. Lysander says:

    Dear lord, after reading this, I’ve discovered that the majority of towns are designed with their main industry to serve adventurers. I know this is the reason they were designed by the DM, but it shouldn’t be so obvious within the game itself. It’s like the whole of Ferun is a big tourist trap. Or like Florida, where the majority of cities seem to be support for the various tourist attractions. Just what’s going to happen when a land runs out of places for adventurers to explore? Does it become a ghost-town like Tombstone or Detroit? Who’s going to think about those poor NPCs, that’ll have to pack up and move to a new city or outskirts of a new mysterious ruin? Actually that might be a bit entertaining if someone were re-use characters from their previous campaigns.

    Heck, there’s even an entire D&D module/campaign about cities built for the adventure-industry — Undermountain!

  80. deadlytoque says:

    When you consider the sheer volume of currency being toted around by adventuring parties, it makes sense that towns exist to serve their needs.

    People in my group often ask “if the average income of a D&D peasant is 1 sp per day, and I can make a thousand times that much in a single low-level adventure, why doesn’t everyone become an adventurer?”

    My answer has always been “because they are smarter than you: they just make goods and provide services to you and over-charge you for it. You just tipped that innkeeper 5 gp? That’s fifty person-days worth of cash, and he earned it puring a glass. Hell of a lot easier than gutting a goblin.”

  81. Burning says:

    Underground dungeons are constructed in the middle of nowhere.

    No matter what the local geography, it will be possible to build a complex dungeon without worrying about it flooding or collapsing.

    Parts of the dungeon will be blocked by a trap that can’t be bypassed. Nonetheless, these areas will contain (a) minions that have no trouble getting food and/or (b) an item of power that the chief Baddy will want easy access to.

    Parts of the dungeon will be blocked by puzzles that can be solved by reasonably intelligent passers-by who have no particular inside information.

  82. Wtrmute says:

    I know I’m late, and I know it’s French, but this is the most awesome parody of Old D&D tropes I’ve ever seen:

    Quoting (translated):

    “The Player Characters embody adventurers in in a world composed entirely of villages and underground military-financial complexes — more commonly called ‘dungeons’.”

    “The inns serve to store the treasures obtained in the dungeons. The innkeepers in this universe are invincibly honest — the adventurers will find always all the same things in their rooms as they left them in between two adventures.”

    “The dungeons are always build in superposed strata called levels, linked among them by a system of staircases (…) Each level is populated with creatures (called ‘monsters’) whose combat or magic characteristics (the others are irrelevant) are homogeneous and of increasing strength across levels.”

    And so on…

  83. The Gremlin says:

    The adventure starts in a bar. There must be either a bar fight, or a cloaked guy in a corner. Any who question this will be executed.

  84. Baruch says:

    In video games were you spend the entire time in one city, all of the shopkeepers have the magical ability to tell what level your character is and keep all higher level items off the shelf until you are appropriately powerful.

    In game worlds where there is no specific sequence of events, shops will all sell useless mish-mash that only serves the purpose of supplementing or enhancing your badass gear that you made or found.

  85. Anton+ says:

    Someone who has lived in a town for years without incidence can be higher level than you, the handfull of people who do the work of an army.

  86. Oldwargamer says:

    If its a small, cute and friendly, it can still kill you. And, it will attempt to do so when you least expect it.

    All doors, especially those in dungeons, are magical. You cannot hear the monsters in the room, but they can hear you and your party. Once inside the room, you cannot hear things outside the door, even if its open. But things out there can hear you just fine.

    Barmaids are either buxom or plain.
    Bartenders are either friendly or surly.
    Taverns are always dimly lit and smoke filled.

    Just a few that come to mind.

  87. Chris says:

    Current DM had some fun with that carnivore assumption. Our group spent 15 minutes debating the proper response to a some noises in the water during the night. Following a complex series of flanking and preparation, we discovered it was … a manatee. Very fun (and funny) because we’d geared up like we were preping to fight the BBEG.

  88. Roninsoul7 says:

    #N: No matter where you go, you will never run into a random encounter any higher than one or two points above your challenge rating. (Except in my campaigns, which seem to be more town and area based than world based…)

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