The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Cliches
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 are challenged 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.
Note that the list is closed to new entries -- this is as cliche-ridden as it's going to get. But other than that, if you have something to say about the list, [email="email@example.com"]this[/email] is the address to write to.
- Sleepyhead Rule
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 girlfriend.
- "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.
- 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 destroying it.
- 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 story.
- Nominal Rule
Any character who actually has a name is important in some way and must be sought out. However, if you are referred to as a part of a posessive noun ("Crono's Mom") then you are superfluous.
- 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 (Yuna 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 equipment.
- Poor Little Rich Hero (Meis Rule)
If the hero comes from a rich and powerful family, it will have fallen on hard times and be broke and destitute by the time the game actually starts.
- The Higher The Hair, The Closer To God (Cloud Rule)
The more outrageous his hairstyle, the more important a male character is to the story.
- 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 members:
- The spunky princess who is rebelling against her 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 tragedy.
- The big, tough, angry guy who, deep down, is a total softy.
- The hero's best friend, who is actually much cooler than the hero.
- The grim, selfish mercenary who over the course of the game learns what it means to really care about other people.
- The character who is actually a spy for the bad guys but will instantly switch to your side when you find out about it.
- 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.
- The spunky princess who is rebelling against her royal parent and is in love with the hero.
You will also confront/be confronted by at least three of these obligatory antagonists:
- The amazingly good-looking and amazingly evil long-haired prettyboy who may or may not be the ultimate villain.
- 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.
- Your former ally who supposedly "died" and was forgotten about, until much later in the game when he/she shows up again on the villain's side and full of bitterness.
- 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 insane clown or jester who will turn out to be surprisingly difficult to subdue.
- 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.
- Hey, I Know You, Three!
Furthermore, expect to encounter most of the following obligatory non-player chararcters (NPCs):
- The townsperson or crewmember who wanders aimlessly in circles and never quite gets where he is going.
- Hilariously incompetent or cowardly soldiers.
- The NPC who has a crush on another NPC and can't quite work up the nerve to tell him or her, so instead tells every other person who wanders by about it at great length.
- A group of small children playing hide-and-seek.
- The wise and noble captain/king/high priest.
- The wise and noble captain/king/high priest's splutteringly evil second-in-command. Nobody, including the hero, will notice the second's constant, crazed scheming until the moment when he betrays everyone to the forces of badness.
- The NPC who is obsessed with his completely mundane job and witters on endlessly about how great it is. He's so thrilled by it that he wants to share it with everyone he sees, so given a quarter of a chance he'll make you do his job for him.
- The (adult) NPC who has nothing better to do than play kids' games with passersby.
- The group of young women who have formed a scarily obsessive fan club for one of your female party members.
- Crono's Complaint
The less the main character talks, the more words are put into his mouth, and therefore the more trouble he gets into through no fault of his own.
- "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?
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Melfice Rule)
If the male hero has an older sibling, the sibling will also be male and will turn out to be one of the major villains. If the hero has a younger sibling, the sibling will be female and will be kidnapped and held hostage by the villains.
- Capitalism Is A Harsh Mistress
Once you sell something to a shopkeeper, he instantly sells it to somebody else and you will never see the item again no matter what.
- Dimensional Transcendence Principle
Buildings are much, much larger on the inside than on the outside, and that doesn't even count the secret maze of tunnels behind the clock in the basement.
- Local Control Rule
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.
- Nostradamus Rule
All legends are 100% accurate. All rumors are entirely factual. All prophecies will come true, and not just someday but almost immediately.
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.
- 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.
- Bed Bed Bed
A good night's sleep will cure all wounds, diseases, and disabilities, up to and including death in battle.
- 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.)
Most villains in RPGs possess some form of teleportation. They generally use it to materialize in front of the adventurers when they reach the Obligatory Legendary Relic Room and seize the goodies just before you can. The question "if the bad guy can teleport anywhere at any time, then why doesn't (s)he just zip in, grab the artifact, and leave before the adventurers have even finished the nerve-wracking puzzle on the third floor?" is never answered.
- 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.
- Clockwork Universe Rule
No matter how hard you try to stop it, that comet or meteor will always hit the earth.
- 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 clockwork city, one martial arts-based community, one thieves' slum, one lost city and one sci-fi utopia. On the way you'll also get a chance to see the cave with rocks that glow from a natural energy source, the village populated with nonhuman characters, the peaceful village where everyone knows the latest news about the hero's quest (see Guy in the Street Rule), the snow village, the magical forest/lake/mountain, the shop in the middle of nowhere, the fantastic-looking place with lots of FMVs just showing your entrance, the subtropical jungle island populated by friendly natives, the annoying cavern maze, and a place -- any place -- that was destroyed in some past disaster.
- 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.
- Not Invented Here
Trade of technology will not exist. One place in the world will have all the techno-gadgets while all the others will be harvesting dirt.
- Law of Cartographical Elegance
The world map always cleanly fits into a rectangular shape with no land masses that cross an edge.
- ?Quien 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.
- 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 ground.
- 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 arrives.
- Maginot Line Rule
It is easy to tell which city/nation is the next conquest of the Evil Empire: its streets are filled with citizens who brag that the Empire would never dare attack them, and would be easily defeated if it tried. (This smug nationalism always fails to take into account the Empire's new superweapon.)
- Short Attention Span Principle
All bookshelves contain exactly one book, which only has enough text on it to fill up half a page.
- Planet of the Apes Rule
All cities and countries have ancestors that were wiped out by their technological advances.
- Insomnia Rule
A "free stay at the inn" is never really free. Expect to be woken up in the middle of the night for a mandatory plot event.
- The Bling-Bling Thing (Lemina Rule)
No matter how much money and treasure you acquire, the greedy member of your party will never be satisfied and won't stop griping about the sorry state of the party's finances.
- I Don't Like Gears Or Fighting
There are always giant robots. Always.
- Houdini's Postulate
Anyone, whether they are in the player's party or not, who is placed in any kind of prison, fortress, cell, or detention block will escape immediately. Party members will be freed either by a small child they just happened to befriend earlier in the day or by an unexpected disaster that overcomes the enemy base, NPCs will be freed by the released party members, and villains will break out all by themselves because they're such badasses. Once a person has escaped from jail, no attempt will be made by the police to recapture them in the future.
- Zeigfried's Contradiction
Just because someone is weird doesn't mean they're important.
- Natural Monopoly Rule
No city will have more than two shops, unless it is crucial to the story that there be a hundred vendors which you must visit in order (see You Always Travel In The Right Circles.) All of these shops will sell the same goods for the same price.
- 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.
- Apathy Principle
Your group is the only bunch of people trying to save the world. All other would-be heroes will either join your party or else turn out to be cowards and/or con men.
- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Rule
a. 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.
b. 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.
c. 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 Your Audience.
- 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 any more.
- 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.
- Principle of Narrative Efficiency
If the main villain (or the enemy you've been trying to kill for most of the game before he summons the real final villain) was ever defeated in the past by another group of adventurers, one of them will secretly be in your party and one of them will be the hero's father.
- 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.
- 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
All vehicles can be driven or piloted by anyone. The main character just needs to find out where the bridge or steering wheel is, as he already knows all of the controls.
- Sixth Law of Travel
Nobody gets to own a cooler ride than you. If you ever do see a cooler vehicle than the one you've got now, at some point before the end of the game you will either take over this vehicle, get something even bigger and better, or else see it destroyed in a glorious blaze.
- Seventh Law of Travel
When on a voyage to another continent, the journey will last only as long as it takes you to talk to all the other passengers and the captain.
- Eighth Law of Travel
There are no shortcuts, ever -- unless you are forced to take them, in which case they will be much longer and more dangerous than your original route.
- Last 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 notice.
- 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 Garrett's Principle.)
- 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.
- 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 anyway.
- Magical Inequality Corollary
When the enemy uses Petrify, Silence, Instant Death, et cetera spells on you, they will be effective 100% of the time.
- Pretty Line Syndrome (or, Crash Bandicoot: The RPG)
Seen in most modern RPGs. The key to completing your quest is to walk forward in a straight line for fifty hours, stopping along the way to look at, kill, and/or have meaningful conversations with various pretty things.
- Xenobiology Rule
The predatory species of the world will include representatives of all of the following: giant spiders, giant scorpions, giant snakes, giant beetles, wolves, squid, fish that float in midair, gargoyles, golems, carnivorous plants, chimeras, griffons, cockatrices, hydras, minotaurs, burrowing things with big claws, things that can paralyse you, things that can put you to sleep, things that can petrify you, at least twenty different creatures with poisonous tentacles, and dragons. Always dragons.
- Friendly Fire Principle (or, Final Fantasy Tactics Rule)
Any attack that can target both allies and enemies will hit half of your allies and none of your enemies.
- Dungeon Design 101
There's always goodies hidden behind the waterfall.
- Dungeon Design 102
When you are confronted by two doors, the closer one will be locked and its key will be hidden behind the farther-away one.
- Dungeon Design 103 (or, Wallpaper Warning)
Your progress through a dungeon will be indicated by a sudden change in decor: different wall color, different torches on the wall, et cetera.
- Dungeon Design 201 (or, The Interior Decorators Anticipated Your Out-Of-Body Experience)
Most dungeons will include "hidden" passages which are nearly impossible to see from a bird's-eye view, yet would be blaringly obvious from the party's perspective.
- Dungeon Design 301
All "puzzles" in RPG dungeons can be sorted into one of the following types:
- finding some small item and sticking it into a slot;
- pushing blocks (rocks, statues) onto switches;
- pulling switches or levers to open and close doors;
- learning the correct order/position of a group of objects;
- entering a certain combination of doors;
- something involving a clock or elevator;
- something that is unsolvable because a vital clue in the dialogue was mistranslated out of Japanese.
- 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.
- Supply and Demand Axiom
Killing a powerful enemy will usually yield an item or weapon that would've been extremely useful if you had gotten it before killing that enemy.
- Edison's Lament
No switch is ever in the right position.
- Well, That About Wraps It Up For God
All major deities, assuming they actually exist and weren't just made up by the Church to delude its followers, are in reality malevolent and will have to be destroyed. The only exception to this rule is the four nature spirits who have preserved the land since time immemorial, but now due to the folly of mankind have lost virtually all of their power and need you to accomplish some ludicrous task to save them.
- 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. The stories of your past experiences will spread even if no witnesses were around to see them.
- 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!)
- 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.
- Franklin Covey Was Wrong, Wrong, 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.
- Selective Invulnerability Principle
RPG characters are immune from such mundane hazards as intense heat, freezing cold, or poison gas... except when they're suddenly not. Surprise!
- 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.
- Three Females Rule
There will always be either one or three female characters in the hero's party, no matter how many male characters there are.
- Experience Not Required
When the main character is forced to do some complex or dangerous task for the first time, even though he has never done it before he will still always be better than the oldest veteran.
- Law of Reverse Evolution (Zeboim Principle)
Any ancient civilizations are inexplicably much more advanced than the current one.
- Science-Magic Equivalence (Citan Rule)
Although mages' specialty is magic and scientists' specialty is technology, these skills are completely interchangeable.
- 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.
- Near-Death Epiphany (Fei Rule)
If the party is not dealing damage to a boss character, then there's a better-than-even chance that someone in the party will suddenly become enlightened and instantly acquire the offensive skill that can blow the creature away in a matter of seconds.
- Wutai Rule
Most RPGs, no matter what their mythology, include a land based on ancient Japan. Full of pagodas, shrines, shoguns, kitsune, and sushi, this completely anachronistic place is the source of the entire world's supply of ninja and samurai characters.
- Law of Mooks
Soldiers and guards working for the Evil Empire are, as a rule, sloppy, cowardly and incompetent. Members of the heroic Resistance Faction are, as a rule, dreadfully weak and undertrained and will be wiped out to the last man the moment they come in contact with the enemy.
- Law of Traps
No matter how obvious the trap, you can't complete the game unless you fall into it.
- Arbor Day Rule
At some point, you're going to have to talk to a tree and do what it says.
- 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.
- 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 staff.
- 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.
- They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To (Cid Rule)
Modern-day machinery, by contrast, will always break down at the worst possible moment (for example, when you only need one more shot from the giant cannon to defeat the final boss.)
- Place Transvestite Joke Here (Miss Cloud Rule)
If the male lead is required to dress up like a girl for any reason, he will be regarded by everyone as much more attractive than any "real" girl. If the female lead cross-dresses as a man, she will be immediately recognized as who she is by everyone except the male lead and the main villain.
- Make Room! Make Room!
There are always more people in a town or village than there are houses for them to live in. Most of the village is made up of shops, temples, bars, secret passages, inns, and the mansion that belongs to the richest man in town.
- Law of Scientific Gratification
If the hero needs a new invention to progress, he will find out that somewhere in the world someone has spent his or her entire life perfecting this invention, and usually just needs one more key item located in a monster-infested dungeon before it is completed.
- 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.
- Don't Stand Out
Any townsperson who is dressed oddly or otherwise doesn't fit in with the rest of the townsfolk will either:
- Join your party after you complete some task,
- Be in the employ of your enemy, or
- Befriend any female member of the party, and then be immediately captured and held hostage by the villains.
- Join your party after you complete some task,
- Little Nemo Law
If any sleeping character has a dream, that dream will be either a 100% accurate memory of the past, a 100% accurate psychic sending from the present, a 100% accurate prophetic vision of the future, or a combination of two or all three of these.
- Child Protection Act (Rydia Rule)
Children 12 and under are exempt from death. They will emerge alive from cataclysms that slaughter hundreds of sturdily-built adults, often with barely a scratch. Further protection is afforded if the catastrophe will orphan the child.
- Missing Master Hypothesis
Almost every strong physical fighter learned everything he/she knows from some old master or friend. Invariably, the master or friend has since turned evil, been killed, or disappeared without a trace.
- Missing Master Corollary (Sabin Rule)
If a fighter's master merely disappeared, you will undoubtedly find him/her at some point in your travels. The master will challenge the student to a duel, after which the student will be taught one final skill that the master had been holding back for years.
- Gojira Axiom
Giant monsters capable of leveling cities all have the following traits:
- Low intelligence
- Enormous strength
- Projectile attacks
- Gigantic teeth and claws, designed, presumably, to eat other giant monsters
- Vulnerable to weapons 1/10,000th its size
- Ecologically sensitive
- "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.
- Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely (Althena Rule)
If a good guy is manipulated to the side of evil, they will suddenly find a new inner strength that will enable them to wipe out your whole party with a wave of their hand.
- All Is Forgiven (Nash Rule)
However, when the trusted member of your party turns against you, do not give it a second thought. They will return to your side after they're done with their amnesia/mind control/hidden noble goal that caused them to give away all your omnipotent mystical artifacts.
- 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 character's costume, no matter how skimpy, complicated, or simply outlandish, is always completely suitable to wear when climbing around in caves, hiking across the desert, and slogging through the sewers. It will continue to be completely suitable right afterwards when said character goes to meet the King.
- Third Law of Fashion
In any futuristic setting, the standard uniform for female soldiers and special agents will include a miniskirt and thigh-high stockings. The standard uniform for all male characters, military or not, will include an extraordinarily silly and enormous hat.
- First Rule of Politics (Chancellor's Axiom)
Any advisor of a major ruler has been scheming after his throne for quite a while. Thanks to the miracle of timing, you will arrive at the king's inner sanctum just in time for the coup.
- Second Rule of Politics (Scapegoat's Axiom)
If the advisor works for an evil ruler, the advisor is as bad or even worse, and there's a good chance he's the final villain. (See Fake Ending Rule.) If the advisor works for a good ruler, he usually has the good of the kingdom at heart; not that that helps, because your party will invariably be made the scapegoat for all that's wrong with the nation and immediately thrown in the dungeon.
- Last Rule of Politics
Kingdoms are good. Empires are evil.
- Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (Ramus Rule)
Twenty-three generations may pass, but any person's direct descendant will still look and act just like him.
- Pinch Hitter Rule
Whenever a member of the hero's team is killed or retires, no matter how unique or special he or she was there is a good chance someone will show up to replace them that has exactly the same abilities and can use the same weapons with the same proficiency.
- Dealing With Beautiful Women, Part 1 (Yuffie Rule)
All good-looking young females are there to help you. This rule holds even when the girl in question is annoying, useless, or clearly evil.
- Dealing With Beautiful Women, Part 2 (Rouge Rule)
All good-looking middle-aged females are out to kill you. This rule holds even when the woman in question has attained your unwavering trust and respect.
- Well, So Much For That
After you have completed your mighty quest to find the object that will save the known universe, it will either a) get lost, b) get stolen, or c) not work.
- 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 self-destruct mechanism.
- 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.)
- Seventh Inning Stretch (Elc Rule)
At some point in the game the main hero will receive a deadly story-driven injury and will be put in a hospital instead of having a mage heal him. This will leave him out of commission for at least the length of two sidequests; the female lead will also be temporarily out of commission as she steadfastly refuses to leave the hero's side. Ultimately a simple vision quest is all that will be required to bring the hero back to normal.
- Vivi's Spellbook Principle
Over the course of the game, you will spend countless hours learning between twenty and one hundred skills and/or spells, approximately three of which will still be useful by the end of the game.
- Gender Equality, Part 1 (Feena Rule)
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 (Tifa 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.
- Gender Equality Addendum (Rynn Rule)
In the unlikely event that the main character of the game is female, she will not be involved in any romantic subplot whatsoever beyond getting hit on by shopkeepers.
- 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."
- Gold Saucer Rule
The strongest weapons/items/spells in the entire game can only be found by doing things like racing birds.
- Evil May Live Forever, But It Doesn't Age Well
Even though it took the greatest armies in the world and all of the world's greatest magicians to seal away an ancient evil in an apocalyptic war, once said ancient evil breaks free three fairly inexperienced warriors can destroy it.
- Sephiroth Memorial Escape Clause
Any misdeed up to and including multiple genocide is forgiveable if you're cool enough.
- Doomed Utopia Theorem (Law of Zeal)
All seemingly ideal, utopian societies are powered by some dark force and are therefore doomed to swift, flashy destruction.
- 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.
- Key Item Rule
Never discard, sell, or otherwise remove permamently from your possession any items you begin the game with or acquire within the first town. This is especially true for items that seem to have no practical use, because of...
- The Law of Inverse Practicality (Key Item Corollary)
Any item that you can acquire will have some sort of purpose. Those that seem to be useless and have no practical value at all, always tend to have great power later on. The earlier you get the item, the later in the game it will be used. The longer the span of time between acquisition and use, the more powerful the item is.
- 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%. The clear implication is that it would have been better to not get involved in the first place.
- 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, though.
- 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.
- World of Mild Inconvenience
The devastating plague, noxious gas, planet-obliterating meteor or other large-scale disaster that led to the death of millions will affect your party (and your party's friends and family members) in no way whatsoever, save that a few party members may become lost and you can find them later.
- 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.
- Flow of Goods Rule
The quality of goods in the world is dependent upon the shop's distance from the final dungeon. It doesn't matter if the town you start in has a huge thriving economy and is the center of world trade, it will always have the game's worst equipment; and even if that village near the end is isolated and has only three people in it, it will have the game's best equipment.
- Master Key Rule
Any and all locked doors that the characters encounter will be unlocked by the end of the game.
- "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.
- Dark Helmet's Corollary
After you give up the medallions to save your friend/parent/lover/other miscellaneous party member, don't expect to actually get that person back. Sucker!
- 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.
- The Best-Laid Schemes
The final villain's grand scheme will have involved the deaths of thousands or even millions of innocent people, the clever manipulation of governments, armies, and entire populations, and will have taken anywhere from five to five thousand years to come to fruition. The hero will come up with a method of undoing this plan forever in less than five minutes.
- 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 remaining one-tenth.
- Poetic Villain Principle (Kefka Rule)
All villains will suddenly become poets, philisophers, and/or dramatic actors when a) they first meet the hero, b) they are about to win or their evil plan is finally ready, c) some major event in the game is about to begin, d) right before the final battle, and e) right before they die, when they will frequently be feeling generous enough to reward you with some homespun wisdom about making the most of life while you have it.
- 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 minute.
- 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 happened.
- The Long Arm of the Plot
Any bad guys, no matter how far they run, will always end up in one of two ways by the end of the game: obviously dead, or on your side. There is no in-between.
- Apocalypse Any Time Now
The best time to do side quests is while the huge meteor hovers in the sky above the planet, waiting to fall and destroy the world.
- "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.
- 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 more.
- 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 attractive.
- Low intelligence
- finding some small item and sticking it into a slot;
- The townsperson or crewmember who wanders aimlessly in circles and never quite gets where he is going.