Darth Wiki / Half-Life: World Line

Genre(s):Science Fiction, Thriller
Half-Life: World Line, or simply World Line for short, is an extensive Half-Life fan fiction being written by NoriMori. It covers the events of the franchise proper, as well as adding the arcs Half-Life: Aftermath, which covers events occurring between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and Half-Life 3: Aftermath 2, which covers everything occurring after Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It also explores some events occurring before Half-Life (i.e. backstory). For reference, in World Line, the Black Mesa Incident begins on May 16th, 2011, and Half-Life 2 begins on September 21st, 2031.

World Line is intended to be in the form of a webcomic, but I don't have an artist. (Any takers? PM me!)

To quote the page for The Bedroom Kingdom, "Basically the main purpose of this page/its subpages is for the author to sit here and trololololol when the work actually does become published and a subsequent real TV Tropes page will be made..."

Character sheet is here.

Note that while most spoilers for the fan fiction are tagged, spoilers for the series proper are not. This article was written on the assumption that the reader is already intimately familiar with the source material, so keep that in mind.

World Line contains examples of:

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  • Abandoned Laboratory: Aperture Science.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: A sniper aiming for Chell's head ends up getting her in the abdomen because she stood up at the last second. Because of the position she's in, and the angle he fires from, the bullet just happens to pass through her right wrist, break at least one rib, and puncture her stomach and even her goddamn kidney. No one can get a shot that good on purpose. Yes, she would have been dead instantly if he'd gotten the headshot he was intending, but if he'd been going for the most painful and debilitating gunshot wound possible, he couldn't have done a better job if he'd tried.
  • Accidentally Correct Writing: The moats in Portal. I did some research trying to figure out what real thing to have them filled with. More important than its color would be its ability to sit inert in a test chamber without having a noticeable odor or giving off toxic fumes that would harm you before you fell in it; but still able to kill a person who did fall in. After a while, I gave up. Then, while researching something unrelated, I found out that lye solution, once fully dissolved, is colorless and odorless, harmless as long as you don't touch it, and dissolves soft tissues — and in fact is used for this very purpose to dispose of human remains in a process called resomation. That's all very nice, but the real kicker is that the resulting liquid is greenish-brown or coffee-colored — rather like the substance in the games. Which means that in World Line, the moats are actually worse than Chell realizes. They're that color because GLaDOS filled them with all the dead bodies she accrued from the Black Friday Incident to Chell's testing. It's lye and dead body soup. Old family recipe.
  • Action Girl: Alyx Vance, Isabel Teasley, and the Aguiar girls (Chell, Toyoko, and Kiyomi). And Stephanie.
  • Action Mom: Toyoko Aguiar. Joined the Resistance at 55, still an active fighter at age 70.
  • Action Survivor:
    • Gordon Freeman in Half-Life.
    • Barney Calhoun in Blue Shift.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: One of the reasons I started writing World Line was because I felt the video games didn't adequately explore the ramifications of certain events on the characters and their emotions — i.e. it wasn't angsty enough.
  • Affably Evil: Hugh Mullins. Compare and contrast with the Faux Affably Evil Wallace Breen.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Toyoko has two. Before the Seven Hour War she was often called "Toy" for short (like her real life namesake, Alésia Toyoko Glidewell). After she lost her hand to a grenade, and got a prosthetic to replace it, she gained the nickname "Captain Hook".
  • After the End: When most of World Line takes place.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: There are a handful of characters of Jewish extraction, and so far the only one who isn't Ashkenazi is Gordon, who is Mizrahi.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Played straight with Inge, averted with Mel. Inge wanted kids and had at least three with her husband, while Mel likes kids but doesn't want any.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Kiyomi's behaviour sometimes makes her peers, particularly her mother and sister, wonder if there is something actually wrong with her. The list of theories as to what that "something" might be is LONG.
  • Amicable Exes: Gordon and Käthe.
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Alyx most of the time, in contrast to Gordon, to emphasize that Alyx is used to all the horrible things that surround her every day, while Gordon is not. However, Alyx does get a bit angsty about more personal issues that she's not as equipped to deal with, like her father's death.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics:
    • Any post-occupation human settlement expends most of its time and energy maintaining itself.
    • The Seaway, possibly the largest group of interconnected and interdependent post-occupation settlements in the world, expends a lot of its time, energy, and resources on the various systems required for trade and communication (which is complicated by having to avoid detection by the Combine). And the Laurentian settlements that rely on gasoline and oil have to wait for an oil platform off the East coast to obtain it and get it to them. And the oil platform itself has to have a system in place to maintain the platform and the people who work on it.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Anything in World Line that hasn't been Hand Waved in canon with technobabble (e.g. portal guns, anything relying on "dark energy") and can't be explained by existing or plausibly attainable technology is explained by either nanotechnology (e.g. medkits) or the vortesssence. Hell, 90% of the bullshit in World Line is explained by the vortessence. How does telepathy work? Vortessence. Healing Hands? Vortessence. Genetic Memory? Vortessence. Teleportation? All forms involve the vortessence in some way, even those that rely on dark energy. Simurghese Reality Warping abilities? Vortessence. Time Mastery? Vortessence. Pocket Dimensions? Vortessence.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Doug starts to wonder if what he kept hearing on the radio about the Combine was just his schizophrenia, because it sounds so crazy. In a world where portal guns, cryonic storage, sentient computers, and nanotechnology had been public knowledge for at least a couple years in some cases, and decades in others, this seems rather arbitrary. But Doug is perhaps justified by the fact that the public had no notion of alternate dimensions, and that it's hard to be certain of anything when you're an unmedicated schizophrenic who's just lucid enough to know you're prone to delusions and hallucinations.
    • Alyx initially has trouble believing that she has manifested thermokinetic powers, despite the fact that she has had a Psychic Link with Gordon for several months by this point. Gordon immediately points this out, while Alyx counters that telepathy seemed somewhat more mundane to begin with, since the vortigaunts, the Advisors, and the Simurghs have it as an innate ability. They both have a point.
  • Arcadia: The Seaway — a bunch of interconnected villages along the Saint Lawrence River living like a cross between aboriginals and pioneers.
  • Arcadian Interlude: The Borealis arc chapters Olive Branch and Exodus are this, since they take place on the Seaway.
  • Artificial Limbs:
    • Eli lost his left calf to a bullsquid and had it replaced with a prosthesis.
    • Toyoko lost her right hand to a grenade and eventually had it replaced with a prosthetic hook.
  • Asexuality:
    • Lindsay (the G-Man) is not asexual, but makes it clear that even while in human form, he would never do anything sexual with a human, for the same reason that a human, even in Simurgh form, would never do anything sexual with a Simurgh (he finds the idea repulsive). Most (but not all) Simurghs feel the same way — Madison has considered "experimenting", but she always ends up feeling too grossed out to actually go through with it.
    • Chris Ward is aromantic (though not asexual), which is why he adopted Owen (he wanted a kid but was uninterested in getting married).
    • All personality constructs are asexual by definition, but not necessarily aromantic.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Averted. As much as I can, I try to make sure that anything appearing in a foreign language, whether it's writing, a conversation, or a name, is actually in that language and makes sense.
  • Ate Her Gun: Karen Storm.
  • Badass Crew: Gordon, Alyx, Barney, Chell, Doug, Toyoko, Kiyomi, Isabel, and Adrian. Katherine, Stephanie, Curtis, and Dog are often with the group. Atlas, P-body, and Wheatley are sometimes included.
  • Badass Family:
    • Toyoko, Kiyomi, and Chell are all badass Action Girls in their own right. I like to think it runs in the family.
    • At least three surviving members of the British Royal Family joined the Resistance (leading to at least one Pretty Princess Powerhouse).
  • Badass in Distress: Chell, after being taken prisoner by GLaDOS and tortured. This time there's no way for her to free herself, with or without a portal gun, so she has to hope and pray that someone will rescue her. Or that she'll die.
  • Bash Brothers:
    • Alyx and Gordon, sometimes switched up with Chell and Doug.
    • Chell and Doug, sometimes switched up with Atlas and P-body.
    • Atlas and P-body.
    • Isabel and Curtis.
    • Toyoko and Chris.
    • Toyoko and Kiyomi.
    • Toyoko and Chell.
    • Kiyomi and Adrian.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Alyx and Gordon.
    • Isabel and Curtis.
  • Bearer of Bad News:
    • After the events of Portal, Daniel is the one who has to find out what happened and then inform all the other cores that all of the humans are either dead or in stasis, and that the world's been taken over by aliens.
    • In Aftermath 2, Katherine is the first to find out that her husband and mother have died, and has to tell Gordon and Isabel.
  • Bee People: The Antlions, who have two castes, workers and soldiers, and a "queen" for each caste. See Hive Caste System.
  • Berserk Button: Dog's is anyone threatening someone he cares about, especially Alyx.
  • Better Living Through Evil: The result of Hugh Mullins being a Benevolent Boss. And even under Breen's regime, CPs at least had much higher standards of living than the general population.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Gordon is a Nice Guy who is not easily angered, but if you do manage to piss him off, he can be scary. And when he feels wronged, he can even be surprisingly hurtful.
  • Big Bad:
    • Wallace Breen.
    • Hugh Mullins.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Wheatley, all the other personality constructs, Atlas, P-body, and Gordon and company, are so much this during their Roaring Rampage of Rescue to save Chell, resulting in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: There are a fair number of examples, since many languages are represented in the series.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: See Someone to Remember Him By.
  • Blind Without 'Em:
    • Played with for Gordon. He's very far-sighted; if he's not wearing glasses, people and objects that are close to him will appear very blurry; but he can make out faraway things just fine. Unusually for the condition, Gordon has been very far-sighted from a young age (possibly since birth), enough that before they had his eyes checked, his parents thought he had a learning disability because he couldn't read even the simplest words. Luckily, the real problem was discovered before he started school.
    • Averted with Katherine. She's far-sighted like her brother, but only somewhat. She needs only over-the-counter reading glasses for near work; the rest of the time, she can and does go without.
  • Blood from the Mouth: One of the characters, after being shot in the abdomen by a sniper. Totally justified, as the bullet pierced her stomach (which makes sense, considering where it entered, and that, being a .79 caliber bullet, it probably could have ripped open her stomach without even technically touching it).
  • Bloody Handprint: All of Chell's handprints are this after she gets shot in the abdomen by a sniper, since the bullet also passed through her right wrist, soaking her right hand in blood; her left hand also gets bloody because she uses it to stem the flow of blood from her abdomen.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: Toyoko and Chris bond over missing children. Gordon and Alyx end up bonding over missing parents in Aftermath 2.
  • Boss Battle: Get ready for a different kind of Bullet Hell.
    • Attack Its Weak Point: The Gene Worm's weak point is the "portal compartment" on its belly, which it uses to teleport in a Shock Trooper if you blind it.
      • Go for the Eye: While it doesn't do any damage, the Gene Worm and Pit Worm will both react unfavorably to being shot in the eye — and nowhere else. And in the case of the Gene Worm, this is the only way to expose its actual weak point.
    • Boss Room: GLaDOS and Wheatley both use the Central AI Chamber as one. Though it's different each time, it's always a very large, roughly circular room with the boss hanging from the ceiling, serving its purpose very well. Wheatley even lampshades it at one point:
      "I'll be honest: The death traps have been a bit of a failure so far, for both of us. I think you'll agree. And you are getting very close to my lair. 'Lair' — heh, it's weird, isn't it? First time I've said that out loud. Sounds a bit ridiculous, really. But, uh, I can assure you it is one, it is a proper lair. Deadly lair."
    • Enemy Summoner:
      • The Nihilanth.
      • The Gene Worm.
    • Final Boss
      • The Nihilanth in Half-Life.
      • The Gene Worm in Opposing Force.
      • GLaDOS in Portal.
      • Wheatley in Portal 2.
      • Breen's reactor in Half-Life 2.
      • The train station Strider in Episode One.
      • The Strider battle in Episode Two.
    • Final Boss, New Dimension: The Nihilanth.
    • Flunky Boss
      • The Nihilanth.
      • The Striders in the Episode Two battle, who are escorted by Hunters.
    • Mini-Boss
      • The Gargantuas and the Tentacle in Half-Life.
      • The Pit Worm in Opposing Force.
      • The turret ambush in Portal.
      • Pretty much any Strider battle, though sometimes they're more like Giant Mooks. Ditto with Antlion Guards.
      • The gunship battle in Episode One.
      • The couple of Hunter battles in Episode Two.
    • Mook Bouncer: The Nihilanth.
    • Pivotal Boss
      • The Pit Worm.
      • The train station Strider in Episode One.
      • Wheatley.
    • Puzzle Boss:
      • The Gargantuas.
      • The Tentacle.
      • The Nihilanth.
      • The Pit Worm.
      • GLaDOS.
      • Wheatley.
    • Reactor Boss: Breen.
    • Stationary Boss:
      • The Tentacle.
      • The Pit Worm.
      • The Gene Worm.
      • Breen and his reactor.
      • GLaDOS.
      • Wheatley.
    • Time-Limit Boss:
      • GLaDOS helpfully displays a timer demonstrating exactly how long it will take for her neurotoxin to kill Chell (or at least incapacitate her).
      • Wheatley's example is a bit more interesting, since his timer is actually an Exact Time to Failure, showing how long until the neurotoxin reaches capacity (six minutes). Once that gets destroyed, the timer instead shows how long until the nuclear reactor explodes (four minutes). Then THAT gets destroyed, and it creates a new timer for when the building self-destructs: "Reactor Explosion Timer destroyed. Reactor Explosion Uncertainty Emergency Preemption Protocol initiated. This facility will self-destruct in TWO minutes."
      • Breen. Gordon has to take out his teleporter/dark fusion reactor before he can get away.
      • The Strider battle at White Forest. There's no actual timer, but the Resistance has to keep the Striders away from the silo.
    • Wolfpack Boss:
      • The Lambda Core battle that occurs while you're waiting for the teleporter, in which pretty much every kind of non-boss level alien you've seen (and even a kind you haven't) suddenly teleports into the room in numbers of at least half a dozen each.
      • The turret ambush in Portal.
      • Hunters in Episode Two, which aside from their first appearance never appear in groups less than three.
      • The Striders in the Episode Two battle. Not only are they escorted by Hunters, there's a fuck-ton of them. There are also a few Strider battles in Half-Life 2 where there are more than one.
  • Brain Uploading:
    • Caroline had her consciousness uploaded into GLaDOS. As did Cave before her.
    • The Willing Channelers who give up their bodies to the Simurghs for use as Living Bodysuits have their consciousness uploaded into AIs so they don't have to die.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Dreamwalkers.
  • Break Them by Talking: GLaDOS does this to Chell as part of her torture.
  • Break the Haughty: See Parting Words Regret.
  • Broken Tears: Chris's breakdown when he tries to tell Toyoko that he's hesitant to give her his crib, because it has bloodstains on it that won't come out (from his 2-year-old son who was killed by a headcrab zombie eating most of his flesh and organs). He barely manages to finish the explanation (sans the part in parentheses) before he starts sobbing uncontrollably.
  • Celebrity Paradox: For obvious reasons, Valve doesn't exist in this universe. See Different World, Different Movies below.
  • Chekhov's Skill: On their way to White Forest, Alyx teaches Gordon how to perform a handbrake turn, a bootleg turn, and an opposite lock, all of which come in very handy during the Strider battle at White Forest, and in other situations later in the story.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Robert van der Linde.
    • Holly Ross.
  • Childless Dystopia: The result of human reproduction being suppressed for almost twenty years. When the gang goes to Aperture to rescue everyone still being stored there, Alyx is fascinated by Meeshka's baby because she's never seen a baby in person before.
  • Clever Crows: Daniel and GLaDOS have each independently trained crows to do their bidding.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: When Chell comes back with friends to rescue the rest of the test subjects, GLaDOS keeps her prisoner and stoops to this.
  • Convulsive Seizures: Doug Rattmann once had one as a side effect of taking his medication at far too high a dosage.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Aside from the fact that it's not the main characters that this happens to, this trope (at least, the "band together to recreate a humble yet sustainable pretechnological society" part) is in effect in many post-occupation human settlements, notably the Seaway.
  • Crazy Awesome / Crazy Enough to Work: The Borealis voyage.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The other personality constructs. And Atlas and P-body.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Sherri dies from fatal familial insomnia, an extremely rare and invariably fatal hereditary prion disease characterized by increasing insomnia leading to paranoia, panic attacks, phobias, and hallucinations, eventually culminating in a complete inability to sleep followed by a rapid loss of weight, and ending with dementia, complete unresponsiveness, and then death. Imagine the most awful you've ever felt from lack of sleep, and then imagine that feeling getting progressively worse for several months until you die.
    • Chell is threatened with horrific deaths on numerous occasions by GLaDOS. She never actually follows through — they're all Fake Kill Scares used to torture her.
  • Cute Bruiser:
    • Kiyomi Aguiar.
    • Ana Tavares, as a result of spending 18 years surviving in the harsh and alien-infested wastelands.


  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Mullins.
    • Daniel.
    • Caroline.
    • Barbara.
  • Death by Childbirth: Elbie van der Linde hemorrhages to death after giving birth to her son.
  • Death Course: If the testing courses Chell was put through in the first two games didn't qualify as this, the ones GLaDOS puts her through as torture when she comes back a third time certainly do. Except this time she doesn't plan on letting her die.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Averted. Many children whose parents died during the Seven Hour War either ended up feral or were killed due to lack of protection (or both). Those who didn't fall through the cracks were relocated just like adults, but they were often placed with random people who weren't screened for their ability (or willingness) to care for a child, so many of them were abused or neglected. Even willing and able Parental Substitutes were often hindered by things they had no control over, such as living conditions and police brutality.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: One of many techniques GLaDOS uses to torture Chell. Sometimes she's denied both food and water, sometimes just food, and sometimes just water until she is too dehydrated to eat, either. On a least one occasion, she goes without water long enough that she becomes delirious and then loses consciousness, and has to be rehydrated intravenously. GLaDOS eventually stops using this technique because she wants to avoid permanent organ damage.
  • Depowered: GLaDOS, by being forcibly transferred back into Caroline's body. The results are not pretty.
  • Determinator: Several characters qualify.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Anyone meeting a Simurgh feels like this. Simurghs aren't Eldritch Abominations, strictly speaking, but that doesn't count for much when you're face-to-face with one, especially if it's "humming" at you.
  • Die or Fly: This is how the first Ragana discover they have Psychic Powers that go beyond just having a Psychic Link.
  • Different World, Different Movies:
    • Since Valve Software doesn't exist in this universe, none of their video games were created; and nor were Gold Src, Source, or anything that's been created with them real life.
    • Marc Laidlaw still exists though, and he still wrote all the same novels. Two of which (The 37th Mandala and The Orchid Eater) appear in Gordon's locker in Half-Life — seems he was a fan. Gonna give at least one Shout-Out.
  • Disposable Woman: Lauren, Barney's girlfriend. This wasn't the reason I created her character (as is the case for a few other characters, it was to expand on an Easter egg found in the game), but I decided pretty early on that Lauren would die — not for the sake of angst or drama, but simply because she clearly is no longer relevant in the Half-Life 2 video game, therefore, logically, she's probably dead.
  • Ditto Aliens: If I ever get an artist, I'm gonna try to have them avert this.
  • The Dividual: Atlas and P-body.
  • The Dulcinea Effect:
    • Doug's commitment to saving Chell kind of seems like this, until you remember that he feels guilty about the situation he put her in, and indebted to her (and maybe a little amazed by her) for defeating GLaDOS. Not to mention that in World Line, she wasn't a total stranger — he had known of her, and her father, before the Black Friday Incident. They also clicked during the incident itself, enough that both had anticipated becoming good friends if they escaped.
    • Adrian going to such lengths to help rescue Chell also seems like this, but isn't, because he's just as trapped as she is and has nothing better to do. Not to mention that he's a Marine, so he can't just abandon someone who needs help if there's anything he can realistically do for them.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Sometimes characters actually get through what was an Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence in the games, allowing them to bypass whatever area they would otherwise have been forced through. In the games, some locked doors, rather than just forcing you to go another way entirely, will force you to go through another area so you can unlock them from the other side. They almost serve as the opposite of No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom, by forcing you down a pointless sidepath just to pad the game with more puzzles to solve and more things to fight before continuing the exact same way the locked door would have led you. In World Line, the following areas are bypassednote :
    • Half-Life: Decay: Colette, Gina, and Rosenberg come to a locked door in "Surface Call".
      • What happens in the game:
        Rosenberg: [tries the door] Inside is the control room for the satellite dish, but this door is locked. If you can find a way into that warehouse, you should be able to make your way around to the other side of this door to let me in. I'll wait here.
        [Gina and Colette enter the warehouse, fight through vortigaunts and headcrabs, do a puzzle to cross a puddle of radioactive waste, fight a few more vortigaunts, find the door, and let Rosenberg in]
      • What happens in World Line:
        Rosenberg: [tries the door] Inside is the control room for the satellite dish, but this door is locked. If you can find a way into that warehouse, you should be able to –
        Colette: [shoves him out of the way]
        [puts on her helmet]
        [shoots a circle around the lock with a shotgun]
        [kicks the door open]
    • Half-Life 2: Gordon and his squad come to a locked door in "Anticitizen One".
      • What happens in the game:
        Squadmate: That door's locked from the other side, Dr. Freeman. Maybe you can find a way around.
        [Gordon has to platform across a room of radioactive waste, killing zombies along the way, to find his way to the other side of the door and unlock it for the squad]
      • What happens in World Line:
        Squadmate: That door's locked from the other side, Dr. Freeman. Maybe you can find a way around.
        Gordon: ... [blasts the door off its hinges with the gravity gun]
  • Electric Torture: Another torture technique GLaDOS uses on Chell. She deploys a high-energy pellet that has enough power to cause pain, but not enough to kill or vaporize like the previous ones, and makes the room smaller and smaller until Chell can no longer avoid the pellet — and, eventually, until the room is only big enough for her to sit in the Troubled Fetal Position, and the pellet, only having to travel a few inches from her to the wall, keeps hitting her in a different place several times a second.
  • Eloquent In His Native Tongue:
    • When he first moved to Austria, Gordon wasn't yet fluent enough in German to talk about physics in German, and he often struggled to translate things, so it wasn't immediately obvious to people he talks to that he's not only quite smart, he's a physicist with a Ph.D.
    • Back when Hugh's English was still patchy, people didn't necessarily think he was stupid, but nor did anyone suspect he was actually quite intelligent.
  • Emotion Suppression: Initially, Mullins is against incorporating this into dreamwashing (for practical rather than moral reasons), but he is later convinced to do it after an experiment shows some potential benefits.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Käthe Österreich, Gordon's ex-girlfriend from when he lived in Austria, sort of qualifies. I usually avoid tropes having to do with stereotypes like these, but I characterized Käthe this way before I ever heard of the trope, and by the time I discovered it was a trope, I didn't feel comfortable changing the character.
  • Fake Defector: According to my interpretation, Judith is this, rather than the Welcome Back, Traitor.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: Breen starts enforcing a curfew, and other oppressive regulations, a few years into his regime.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Breen.
  • Flawed Prototype: At the time of the Black Friday Incident, Aperture was in the middle of developing a new line of relaxation vaults. The prototypes were known to cause severe (but temporary) retrograde amnesia. These vaults were still in development and not ready for use, but GLaDOS's hostages were desperate. Chell ended up in one of these vaults, which is why she initially doesn't remember anything about herself or her whereabouts when she awakes in Portal. Her memories don't start returning as any more than vague notions at the edge of her mind until Portal 2.
  • Forced to Watch: At the end of Episode Two, Alyx and Gordon are telekinetically pinned to a wall by a Combine Advisor while a second Advisor kills Eli in front of them.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Toyoko sometimes curses in Portuguese; Chell does the same but less frequently. Bonnie sometimes swears in Spanish, Dr. Puk̦e in Latvian, Hugh in Afrikaans, and Gordon in Hebrew. And of course, Stephanie and Curtis do it in ASL (as does Chell, during the time period where she can't speak).
  • Foreign-Looking Font: Averted. I do use a different font for each language, but the text is kept in its original language. The use of different fonts is to differentiate between them just as much as to make them look foreign. For each language, I chose a font that I felt evoked the "feel" of that language, so as soon as the reader saw that font, they'd know, "Oh, they're speaking language X now".
  • Foreshadowing: Gordon, commenting on the fact that he hasn't seen his now ten-month-old niece in a while: "I need to visit more often, or Isabel will be twenty the next time I see her." Then Half-Life happens, he gets put in a twenty-year stasis, and the next time he sees Isabel, she's 21.
  • Forgot About His Powers / Remembered I Could Fly: Both of these happen to Alyx and Gordon sometimes, especially when they've only recently discovered the ability in question. For instance, they often forget how trivially easy it now is for them to escape any situation, or not get shot. Or redirect projectiles at entirely different targets, even.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Simurgh liaisons such as the G-Man take a human form partly for this reason.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Chell, Doug, Atlas, and P-body respectively being choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, and melancholic.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Alyx has to resort to this when another character is shot in the stomach.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Hugh Mullins. Part of the reason Barney was so shocked to see he'd become the new administrator — he seemed so innocuous.
  • Funetik Aksent: The Austrians Gordon meets in Innsbruck have a mild case of this when they speak English. I thought about evening out the trope by giving Gordon a Funetik Aksent when he spoke German, to show that he's still a novice, but realized that the average reader wouldn't know the difference between real German and German that's been deliberately spelled wrong to evoke a foreign accent, and that German-speakers might think I had spelled them wrong by accident — so in the end, no one would get it, and some would take me for a moron.


  • Game-Breaking Injury: The worst one being Chell being shot by a sniper. The (very large) bullet goes through her right wrist, enters her abdomen, breaks at least one rib, and pierces her stomach and her left kidney before exiting through her lower back. In real life, a shot in the abdomen alone can be incredibly debilitating, as the muscles there are used in literally everything you do. And it's pretty much impossible to use your hand when half your wrist is blown off. Not to mention the internal bleeding, acid leaking from a punctured stomach, and coughing up blood would slow a person down considerably. And wrist, abdomen, and kidney injuries are all incredibly painful. Needless to say, this injury leaves her barely able to move on her own.
  • Genetic Memory: The Simurghs and the Advisors both have this. The severe distortion of the Advisors' memories is the primary cause of their current state.
  • Good Parents: Most of the parents shown in the series (especially in flashbacks, before all the families were broken).
  • Graceful in Their Element:
    • Stephanie can speak English out loud (like Sue Thomas), and Curtis can say some words, but Stephanie is just as lispy as Sue Thomas, and Curtis is even worse. But watch them sign, and you may find yourself mesmerized.
    • Some Simurgh liaisons, such as the G-Man, may move and speak awkwardly in human form, but in their original bird-like form they are majestic.
  • Gun Stripping: All Resistance members are taught how to do this.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Toyoko, after she loses her right hand to a grenade. And, if you consider age to be a handicap (she doesn't), she qualifies for this right from day one (especially considering that she's 63 when she loses her hand, and continues fighting actively in the Resistance for years, including The Battle of City 17, at which point she's 70 years old.)
    • Curtis and Stephanie, who are both deaf.
  • Happily Married: Most of the married characters have had their spouse die by now, but in flashbacks they are all shown to be Happily Married: Azian and Eli, Toyoko and João, Stephanie and Alan, Magnusson and Rachele, and (though not married) Barney and Lauren. All the ones who had children are also shown to have been Good Parents.
  • Happy Rain: After escaping Aperture, Chell is so ecstatic the first time it rains that she makes a "rain angel". (The "[blank] angel" thing becomes a running gag — first she makes a "wheat angel" immediately after escaping Aperture, then a "rain angel" as mentioned, then finally an actual snow angel once it snows at White Forest.)
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Opposing Force.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: World Line gives GLaDOS a case of this.
  • Heel–Face Turn: GLaDOS, in the end.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Gordon has this problem for a while, but improves over time.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: The three British royals who are in the Resistance have no idea if they have any surviving relatives to serve this function, and operate on the assumption that they don't. At least one or two are alive out there somewhere, but they haven't made contact by Half-Life 2, and may or may not even come into the fold at all.
  • Hive Caste System: The Antlions have a worker caste (the "acidlions") and a soldier caste, and a "queen" for each caste — the Guardian of the worker caste, and the Guard of the soldier caste. Considering that the Guardian is the reproductive one, you could think of the Guardian as the "queen" and the Guard as the "king".
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Gordon and Alyx have this problem when they are given a Psychic Link. Some abilities develop naturally over time as their minds adapt, but they still have to learn how to control them. And it takes months for them to even realize the extent of what they can do with their Psychic Powers, let alone master it all.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The vortigaunts and Simurghs give some humans access to the vortessence, starting with Alyx and Gordon, and since the link is hereditary, things proceed naturally from there.
  • Icon of Rebellion: The lambda symbol is the primary one, but there are a few others:
  • Ideal Illness Immunity: Averted. The socioeconomic environment of the current human population doesn't seem very conducive to good health, so you can expect characters to get sick at least every once in a while.
  • If I Can Only Move: During the boss fight in Portal, Chell only barely manages to get the last core into the incinerator before passing out.
  • Impaled Palm: Impaled wrist, actually; when a character is shot in the abdomen by a sniper, the bullet first goes through her wrist, making her injuries extra debilitating.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Aperture Science.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Adrian was one of the HECU Marines! Le gasp!
      • And he knows the G-Man!
  • Interspecies Friendship: Many exist between humans and vortigaunts. Some people (such as Kleiner) also take certain aliens as pets; usually headcrabs, houndeyes, or chumtoads.
  • In Working Order: Averted with the Project on Borealis. After finding it, Judith and quite a few uninjured Resistance members took several hours to figure out how the Project worked and get to working on it, and then it malfunctioned and teleported them right outside Aperture Science. They had to work on it tirelessly at White Forest for several weeks before it was totally working again.
  • Ironic Echo: "You have destroyed so much. What is it, exactly, that you have created?" This is first said by Dr. Breen to Gordon, intended as an Armor-Piercing Question, but it falls flat, since Gordon sees right through the question's underlying assumptions and realizes immediately how fallacious they are. Later, Gordon throws it back in their face, but while they used the question to imply that Gordon had created nothing, Gordon uses it to imply the opposite — that Breen has created a lot. That is, a lot of misery, suffering, corruption, cruelty, and oppression. The point of the question is not for Dr. Breen to consider whether he has created anything, but to consider whether his creations are anything to be proud of. This simultaneously demonstrates why the question didn't work on Gordon when Dr. Breen used it — because Gordon recognizes that creation is not always a good thing, and destruction is not always a bad thing.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: When Breen is addressing the Combine forces in Nova Prospekt, Gordon listens in stony silence as he brings up the possibility of Eli's capture turning the Resistance against him, and generally speaks of him in a highly negative tone. Though miffed, he has nothing to say about any of it, either out loud or in his head. Until Breen implies he hasn't "earned the distinction" of his PhD.
  • It's All My Fault: Gordon feels this way about the Black Mesa Incident, and by extension pretty much everything that followed it. He logically knows that's taking it a bit far, but since when do our feelings listen to logic?
  • It Won't Turn Off:
    • First with the Anti-Mass Spectrometer:
      "Shutting down... [alarmed] Attempting shutdown... [panicking] It's not – it's not shutting down!"
    • And then with the TV Gordon encounters when he hears that creepy music. After it shuts off on its own, he realizes it wasn't even plugged in.
  • Just Before the End: Aftermath is this after the Depopulation Bomb.
  • King Incognito: Three Resistance members (Mary, Jenny, and Sam) are British princesses using pseudonyms. Only their spouses and the inner circle of the Resistance (e.g. Eli, Kleiner, Alyx, Barney, and later Gordon) know who they actually are.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Ubiquitous in both Black Mesa and Aperture Science. They are also nearly ubiquitous among scientists and doctors of the Resistance, since they function as shorthand for picking them out from regular Resistance members, and because many of the scientists/doctors, especially the ones who worked at Black Mesa, enjoy wearing labcoats out of habit/nostalgia.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Sometimes used as an affectionate Take That! against the developers for an unrealistic aspect of the video games, such as Combine soldiers just leaving medkits lying around, and the Combine doing nothing to address the fact that the Resistance can use them too (Gordon points out a very simple way they could make this impossible, and Mullins ends up implementing a very similar idea).
  • Last-Name Basis: Alyx refers to Gordon and other Resistance members by their first names, but Dr. Kleiner and Dr. Magnusson she refers to as such. Everyone calls Magnusson and Kleiner by their last names, but everyone refers to Eli by his first name regardless of context. Eli, meanwhile, refers to Kleiner by either first or last name, depending on the context (he tends to reserve "Kleiner" for when he's stressed or upset), and sometimes calls him "Izzy". Magnusson invariably uses "Kleiner" or "Freeman" without the title. Most people call Gordon "Freeman" or "Dr. Freeman".
    • The G-Man invariably refers to everyone by their title and surname: "Dr. Freeman", "Cpl. Shephard", even "Miss Vance".
  • Late to the Party: See Slept Through the Apocalypse.
  • The Leader: As far as the Resistance goes, it was originally Eli, who was almost exclusively a type 4 (Charismatic). Once he's gone, Gordon, Alyx, and Barney form a triad, collectively becoming the new leader. Gordon and Alyx contribute most of the triad's type 3 (Headstrong) and type 4 (Charismatic) traits, while Barney initially provides most of the type 1 (Mastermind) and type 2 (Levelheaded) traits. However, all three display traits of all four types almost equally, and become even more balanced as time passes, producing a very rounded triad that the Resistance trusts and looks up to.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Go look at the character page. I dare you.


  • Marriage of Convenience: After her first husband dies during or shortly after Episode Two, Sam is anxious to remarry, because she's one of the last known heirs to the British throne (and possibly the only one who can bear children, as the other two are around 40), so she wants to produce a (legal) heir as soon as possible, since they don't know how long the suppression field will be down, which leads to her half-comical, half-depressing search for someone at White Forest who's willing to marry her immediately. She and Nick marry shortly thereafter. Might end up being a Marriage Before Romance.
  • May–December Romance: 58-year-old Diana and 31-year-old Hugh — just a few years outside of the "half-your-age-plus-seven" range. You can kinda see where the attraction comes from, though, considering their respective backgrounds.
  • Meaningful Name: I really cannot help myself:
    • Wallace Philip Breen. "Philip" was the name of literally dozens of rulers and monarchs.
    • Käthe's surname (Österreich) means "Austria" in German. (Note, however, that Österreich is a real last name, and is common enough to be held by a handful of famous Austrians and Germans.) I initially used it as a placeholder, precisely because I didn't want to use such a transparent name, but in the end I settled on it because I thought it sounded better than any other name I could have chosen, and the fact it meant "Austria" amused me. It's lampshaded by Gordon when he is first introduced to Käthe.
    • Caroline's surname is inspired by the title of a play called R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), which is famous for first coining the word "robot". I considered it appropriate to use this play as a namesake for the following reasons:
      1. The play is about robots.
      2. The word "robot" is an allusion to the Czech word robota, referring to forced labor that serfs had to perform on their masters' lands, and is derived from rab, meaning "slave".
      3. The word "Rossum" in the title is apparently an allusion to the Czech word rozum, meaning "reason", "wisdom", "intellect", or "common sense".
      4. Ironically, the robots in Čapek's play are actually more like clones and are not always immediately distinguishable from humans, which can also be considered a nod to GLaDOS on several levels.
    • Many of the ASL sign names are this by their nature.
    • Ana Tavares' first surname is Magro, which means "thin", referencing her emaciated frame.
    • Tetsuya Yuukichi, an archer, is named after Juna Ariyoshi ("Yuukichi" being written with the same kanji as "Ariyoshi"), the protagonist of Earth Maiden Arjuna who practises kyuudou, and Tetsuya, a kyuudou master and the protagonist of "The way of the bow", a short story by Paulo Coelho. The name Tetsuya (貫矢) itself means "pierce" and "arrow".
      • His daughter Megumi is also named after a famous fictional archer. Her first name is written with the kanji for "mercy" (慈), which is also the first kanji in the Japanese word for the katniss plant (慈姑). Again, the name is meaningful in itself, since the leaves of the katniss plant are shaped kind of like arrowheads (this being the reason that "arrowhead" is one if the plant's names).
    • Liesma Pu#311;e, a Latvian character, was originally going to be Liepa Sarfas. Liepa means "linden tree" in Latvian; the linden is the national tree of Latvia and is also a symbol of love.
    • The vortigaunt Kózha (Ко́жа), whose name means "leather" in Russian. Kíra Tausheva, who met him as a child and had never met a vortigaunt before, named him for his leathery skin.
    • Averted with the vortigaunt Houichi, whom Tetsuya named after Houichi the Earless for no particular reason.
  • Meaningful Rename: Diana. Diana is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis, who is goddess of the moon (among other things), and holds deer sacred. Obvious nod to Portal 2 is obvious. Artemis also swore never to marry, which is a nod to Caroline, who also chose not to marry (though for a totally different reason). And Artemis also killed out of revenge.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Hugh and Diana discuss and contemplate doing this, but wait until it's all over before deciding whether to do it or not.
  • Mind-Control Device: The brain pacemaker used in dreamwashing.
  • Mindlink Mates: First-generation Ragana with their partners.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: Wheatley mobilizes all the other personality constructs into a group to help save Chell.
  • More Than Meets the Eye: Hugh Mullins. The G-Man.
  • Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls: …Hi.
  • The Mourning After: In the twenty years since their significant others' deaths, neither Toyoko, Magnusson, nor Eli have been in another relationship (though Eli may have entered into a relationship with Judith had he not been killed).
    • Averted with Barney, who by Half-Life 2 has had at least one.
  • Multinational Team: The Resistance in general. Considering all the relocations over the past twenty years, and the fact that the bulk of the remaining human population is now concentrated in Eastern Europe, it makes sense.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • After GLaDOS captures Chell, and the others teleport back to White Forest, the former sabotages the Project so that it can no longer establish a reference point from which to determine where it (or anything else) is in space — and thus cannot teleport — leaving them struggling to come up with another way to get back to Aperture (which is now on another continent). Gordon is quick to suggest that they actually use Borealis as a regular ship. Revolutionary! And they solve the problem of how to get past points where there is no water (or not enough water) as follows: The Project's "selection bubble" still works fine, and when the bubble moves, whatever's inside moves with it — so they just fly Borealis (very slowly) over land to the next body of water.
      • The Project's selection bubble can also be used for many fairly mundane tasks, like cutting down a tree instantaneously. Not that this isn't amazing and doesn't make life a lot easier in some ways, but compared to teleportation it's pretty small potatoes.
    • Diana uses her Photographic Memory for various purposes, including "reading" Hugh books from memory. Of course, she uses it for much more practical purposes as well.
  • Must Make Amends: Wheatley and Doug, to Chell.
  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • Käthe's middle name is Augusta, after Maria Augusta von Trapp (née Kutschera), and Hermann's surname is Kutschera, after the same.
    • Funnily enough, there was an Austrian architect named Hermann Kutschera, but I didn't know this when I named the character and now I don't feel like changing it.
    • Morgan Kim's birth name is Kim Tae-hee, which is the name of a famous Korean actress. Justified in that he was born long before she became famous, and "Tae-hee" is a unisex name.
  • Near Misses: A particularly lucky case when a character is shot in the stomach, and survives. It turns out the sniper was aiming for her head, but she was squatting on the ground and stood up just as he took his shot. If she'd stayed in position for even a fraction of a second longer it would have been an Instant Death Bullet, seeing as it was a .79 caliber bullet and the rifle used was a Denel NTW-20, which is primarily an anti-materiel rifle (i.e. intended for military equipment). Even luckier is that she managed to fall behind a wall; otherwise the sniper could have had another go. As it is she already almost died from massive blood loss and organ damage — if she'd been caught in the head by a bullet of that caliber, from a rifle of that power, she'd have been a goner.
  • The Needs of the Many: Even if GLaDOS had given them a choice...they wouldn't really have had one. (i.e., even if GLaDOS had let them do a swap, in the end they would've had to leave someone behind in order to escape with the dozens of other people.)
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Gordon to his parents and brother-in-law.
    • Averted with the Aperture Science hostages, who all called their friends and loved ones to say farewell (several of them even used their phones, or the computer, to post their farewells on Facebook in lieu of calling every single one of their friends).
  • Never Mess with Granny: Toyoko Aguiar, who in Half-Life 2 is still able to hold her own in the Battle of City 17...at age seventy. And with a prosthetic hook.
  • New Eden: Several chunks of each sparsely-inhabited continent are turning into this due to being mostly ignored by the Combine ever since they moved almost all the humans to Europe.
  • No Loves Intersect: They really don't. I don't like complicated romance and I'm not good at writing it. I might change this later, but then again I might not.
  • Noodle Incident: So, Gordon, what exactly did happen in Chile?
  • No Social Skills:
    • The G-Man — not that he minds. If anything it's deliberate.
    • And Kiyomi has...eccentric social skills.
  • Not So Different: Aperture Science and Black Mesa, in the end. And in some respects, Cave Johnson and David Harlan themselves, though being foils they are also Not So Similar.
  • Ocean Madness: During the Borealis arc, some — like Kiyomi — find they're not terribly well-suited to being stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean for days at a time.
  • Odd Friendship: Toyoko and Chris. Also counts as an Intergenerational Friendship, since Toyoko is old enough to be Chris's mother and has a daughter who's only six years younger than him.
    • Any friendship involving a human and a vortigaunt also counts, such as Alexander and Jackson being friends with Toyoko, Chris, Opal, and Sherri, as well as the other vortigaunts in the Kales Building being friends with the occupants.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • When GLaDOS is transferred back into Caroline's body, she's chronologically 101 years old and inhabiting a 58-year-old body.
    • Ana Tavares is 25 years old when found by Gordon and company, but looks like a young teen due to 18 years of malnutrition and harsh living conditions.
  • One-Gender Race: The Advisors are hermaphroditic, and hermaphroditism is fairly common on their home planet.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted: We have Alyx Vance, Alexander (a vortigaunt), Lexi (an Aperture employee's daughter), and Alix (another Aperture employee's daughter), plus I had Caroline's middle name be Alexandra. Then there's a Katherine (Gordon's sister) and a Katharine (an Aperture employee's daughter), and a Käthe. Then there's Robert van der Linde (Elbie's son), Robert Parente (CTO of Aperture Science) and Robert (a personality construct). There are three Jacksons: One is an HECU Marine, one is a Black Mesa security guard, and the other is a vortigaunt. The similarly-named characters are so far removed from each other that this never becomes an issue, and most people probably wouldn't even notice. It helps that the "Alexandra"-based names are all quite different from each other.
    • Isaac and Isabel share the nickname "Izzy". Once they find themselves often sharing the same vicinity, Isabel's nickname is shortened to "Iz" to avoid confusion with Kleiner.
  • Only One Name: Almost any vortigaunt who makes use of a human name. Same with Salus Populi agents.
  • Opposites Attract: Chell and Doug, who are very much a Red Oni, Blue Oni pairing. They do share a lot of interests, but their personalities are fairly opposed, with Doug usually being reserved, quiet, and shy (and in Aftermath 2 this is exacerbated by his schizophrenia), and Chell being more gregarious and spirited (though her personality is closer to middle of the road in terms of extraversion vs. introversion). Chell brings Doug out of his shell a little bit, and Doug reigns in Chell's feistiness.
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: Aperture Science and Black Mesa both, seemingly, though Aperture did go through a period of financial hardship, and some parts of Black Mesa's infrastructure (both architectural and technological) are starting to look rather neglected at the time of the Black Mesa Incident, to the point that most of the facility looks like it hasn't been updated since the late 80s or early 90s, and it's doubtful it could have gone much longer without needing a complete overhaul.
  • Overly Long Name: All the Portuguese and Brazilian characters have long names, because Brazilian and Portuguese names usually have two given names and two surnames, the first surname being from the mother's side, and the second one being from the father's side:
    • João's full name is João Luiz Moraes Aguiar.
    • Ana's full name is Ana Lúcia Magro Tavares, and her brother's full name is Demétrio Pascoal Magro Tavares.
    • Hashim's full name is Hashim bin Haji Omar.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Toyoko and Chris become this to Opal after her mother dies.
    • Chell becomes this to Ana, who has also had other substitutes in her life, like Demétrio and Jacinta.
  • Parting Words Regret:
    • After Eli dies, Magnusson is remorseful that his last words to him were insensitive and disrespectful. This results in mild Break the Haughty, motivating him to try, with some success, to treat his friends and colleagues with a bit more respect and due regard.
    • An aversion: Mere minutes before his unexpected death, Eli thanks Gordon for what he's done, and says, "I couldn't be prouder if you were my own son." Moved, Gordon takes the opportunity to tell Eli how much he means to him. Later, he is supremely thankful that he didn't let the moment pass him by.
    • Another aversion: Though Gordon is upset that he never got to see his mother again before she died, Katherine reminds him that at least his last words to her were good ones, since the last time he saw her was on Mother's Day, only a day before the Black Mesa Incident.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Toyoko and Chris.
  • Plausible Deniability: The reason that Eli and Kleiner didn't tell Gordon what they knew about what a resonance cascade was truly capable of, or about the excursions to Xen that had already been taking place.
  • Police Brutality: Ubiquitous under Breen's regime.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
    • This happens a lot between Gordon and Alyx, because life as Gordon knew it ended for Alyx when she was nearly five, so she doesn't know or remember a lot of things about what life was like before the Black Mesa Incident:
      Alyx: Hmm, a Combine zombie, that's...that's like a – um – a "Zombine". Right? Heheh, "Zombine", get it?
      Gordon: [laughs] Sounds kind of like "Zamboni".
      Alyx: [puzzled] What's a Zamboni?

      Alyx: Ugh! Good thing you have that hazard suit on — this water's nasty. Got room for two in there?
      Gordon: [laughing] I'm afraid not. Maybe the Mark VI suit will have that feature.
      Alyx: [laughing] I'd be interested to see how that would work. It'd be kinda weird.
      Gordon: Yeah, imagine trying to walk in that. It'd be like having a conjoined twin or being in a three-legged race.
      Alyx: ...What's that?
      Gordon: ...What's what? A three-legged race? Or a conjoined twin?
      Alyx: Both.
      • In a Joke/Commentary scene:
        Gordon: Are you wearing anything under the gray sweater?
        Alyx: ...An undershirt. Why?
        Gordon: That's it? [Alyx nods] What about a bra?
        Alyx: What's a bra?
        Gordon: [facepalm]
    • Conversely, Gordon, being a Fish out of Temporal Water, doesn't know a lot of references Alyx makes to current affairs or military tactics and terms:
      Alyx: Uh oh, they've got the street fortified up ahead. You run point, okay?
      Gordon: [puzzled] "Run point"?
      • After Gordon takes out a gunship:
        Alyx: Think it's dead? Maybe you should whack it with the crowbar, just in case.
        Gordon: [glancing at the gunship] That thing was alive?
        Alyx: Yeah, it's a Synth.
        Gordon: A Synth?
    • On a broader scale, this happens a lot between people of Alyx's generation, like Kiyomi, Curtis, and Isabel, and people of Gordon's generation and older, like Barney, Chell, Doug, Katherine, Toyoko, Judith, Kleiner, and Magnusson. However, it comes up most often in interactions with those who were in stasis, like Gordon, Chell, Doug, Meeshka, Mel, and Harriet, because they're still not used to all the changes that have occurred, and keep making references to things from their old lives.
  • Power Source: The vortessence is a power source and medium for all "supernatural abilities" shown in World Line, such as telepathy, or vortigaunts shooting electricity from their hands. It has at least some involvement (however minor) in all modes of teleportation, and most methods of portal creation (Aperture Science portal guns being a notable exception). The vortessence is basically a Void Between the Worlds and a hyperspace of Pure Energy, and is thus effectively infinite. The user's own biology and the physics of their universe are the only real limits on how much of the vortessence they can use in a given time span — or indeed, on how they can use it. The abilities a being can manifest using the vortessence are a function of how their body and mind converts and focuses the energy drawn from it into some kind of useable form, such as electricity. That's why vortigaunts can shoot electricity from their hands and heal injuries, while other beings who use the vortessence may not be able to do that, but can do other things.
  • Psychic Link: The G-Man gives Alyx and Gordon one, and the nature of the link means they get Psychic Powers as part of the package, though this doesn't become apparent until later.
  • Psychic Powers
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Salus Populi liaisons take human form by using Willing Channelers as Living Bodysuits.


  • Rags to Royalty: Snow White Style. Three British princesses are in the Resistance, but they keep quiet about who they are to all but the inner circle (e.g. Eli, Kleiner, Alyx, Barney, etc.), and use pseudonyms. Political rivals barely even rank on the Combine's list of things to worry about, but they won't pass up an opportunity to kill any they find.

  • Recognition Failure: Everyone in the Resistance knows who Gordon Freeman is, but they don't all know what he looks like. Even those who have some idea will not have seen an exact portrait, and thus won't necessarily assume that this guy with a beard and glasses is Gordon Freeman. When he finally gets to ditch the HEV suit and put on some normal Resistance clothes after Episode Two, he starts to discover just how amusing it can be to strike up a conversation with someone who doesn't realize who he is, and then see them find out. He often deliberately doesn't introduce himself to people just so he doesn't destroy the chance of this happening.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Barney and Gordon, to an extent. While you can't categorically say that Gordon's introverted, he's definitely the more reserved of the two, and (obviously) more of an intellectual.
    • Madison and the G-Man.
    • Chell and Doug.
  • Reign of Terror: As the war between the Resistance and the Combine goes on, Gordon starts to worry about this happening once it's all over. Not because there are any particular signs this will happen, but because it's something that simply tends to happen.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Kiyomi sometimes feels that she is this for Toyoko and Chris (replacing Chell and Owen, respectively). YMMV on whether she's right or not.
  • Rescue Arc: The entire first half of the Borealis arc is this.
  • Residual Self-Image: When Gordon and Alyx talk in their dreams, their appearance often reflects their mental state — i.e., if they're stressed, they will appear haggard; though this often corresponds equally to their real life appearance, so it rarely counts. Usually the greatest difference will be their clothes — theoretically, they can be wearing anything. Often they'll be wearing whatever they were wearing that day, or whatever they were wearing when they fell asleep, but sometimes they'll be wearing whatever they wear most often or mostly associate themselves with, regardless of whether they're wearing it right now — usually this is a sign that they are particularly needing comfort and familiarity for whatever reason, i.e. stress. As they gain more control over their Psychic Powers, they find they can change other aspects of their appearance, such as hair length, but they can't change themselves so much as to be totally unrecognizable.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Discussed at more than one point, such as by Gordon and Alyx immediately after Episode Two, because Gordon worries that this could be an end result of the destabilization caused by Eli's death. But for the most part, this trope is averted. (See next trope.)
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Resistance is not without its questionable practices and infighting, but for the most part it's kept in check by effectual risk management. The Resistance has devised codes of conduct that are carefully designed to prevent the least savory of its policies from being abused or misused to the point that they cross the Moral Event Horizon. These rules are necessary to solving thorny, no-win problems that don't have ethical solutions, without being pure evil, and they're also necessary to prevent infighting over said solutions.
    For instance, in its early years the Resistance began encountering what I like to call "The Lilly Problem" (and which they nowadays call "The Jack Merridew Problem") — namely, what they were supposed to do with members who were so unmanageable and inimical  — e.g. violent, unstable, psychopathic, or dependent — that they simply could not be part of the Resistance anymore. There are basically four options here, and each one is problematic. The least repugnant solution is to take the person back to a Combine city; this is an unthinkable risk to information security. The next least repugnant is to keep the person restrained, which is a huge waste of resources and almost never feasible (it also doesn't solve the real problem, which boils down to the person being more trouble than they're worth). The third is to abandon the person in the wasteland, which is basically a death sentence without the gun. The last one is to kill them. Before this dilemma was addressed by the Resistance collectively, case-by-case solutions ranged the gamut from restraint to execution. There is now an established system for how to deal with these situations, and killing the person is absolutely not allowed except where it would already be allowed (e.g. self-defense, approved execution of a mole or traitor).
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Simurghs. Though this ability is basically incidental to their Time Mastery, and isn't even remotely relevant to any situation...in their universe.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: At least three of Queen Elizabeth II's surviving descendants are Resistance members.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: During the Borealis arc, they catch a glimpse of the (partially destroyed) CN Tower.
  • Sacrificial Lamb:
    • Lauren Briggs.
    • Elbie van der Linde and Robert van der Linde.
    • Warren Ross Jr., Louis Ross, Barbara Ross, and Geoffrey Patterson.
  • Scars Are Forever: Toyoko has some burn scars on her arm, shoulder, face, and neck from a grenade destroying her hand, but she had nearly immediate treatment for them and it's been years since the injury, so they aren't very noticeable.
  • Scavenger World: Any inhabited urban area that the Combine isn't overseeing. And the non-urban inhabited areas too, if the residents want to do anything more ambitious than maintaining their existence.
  • Schizo Tech: The Laurentians have adopted a lifestyle which, technologically speaking, mostly resembles that of the aboriginals; but they also have plenty of appropriate technology from other countries or time periods — whatever is available and suits their needs. Many also have and use things like computers, televisions, video game consoles, music players, video players, storage media, motor vehicles, and modern weapons, all either salvaged from urban environments or stolen from the Combine.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Aside from being used in a lot of original scenes, these are also inserted into a lot of scenes taken from the game where Gordon is alone with Alyx. Since in the episodes these scenes take up most of the gameplay time and there is no conversation aside from Alyx's occasional lines, I have to make up dialogue, and this is usually the result.
  • Self-Made Man:
    • Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Science.
    • David Harlan, founder of Black Mesa.
  • Separated by a Common Language:
    • Gordon learned some German/Austro-Bavarian from the German side of his family, but upon moving to Innsbruck he is very quickly thrown off by the differences between German Standard German and Austrian Standard German, and the differences between Austro-Bavarian as spoken in Bavaria and Southern Austro-Bavarian (spoken in Tyrol, Austria). Which is to say nothing of the differences brought on by the passage of time, as he learned what German he knew from people who hadn't lived in Germany since the 40s.
    • Käthe runs into the same problem with her boyfriend Danya, who is from Baden-Württemburg and therefore speaks Alemannic German.
    • While Chell and Ana usually understand each other just fine, they sometimes run into problems because of the differences between Brazilian Portuguese (what Chell speaks) and European Portuguse (what Ana speaks). There's also the fact that Ana doesn't have a very great vocabulary, having learned no new Portuguese since she was a child, so she sometimes does not understand relatively simple words that the average Portuguese adult would know.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: Human, for the Salus Populi liaisons.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Toyoko's name is from Alésia Toyoko Glidewell, Chell's face model in the video games.
    • Michael, the Voice Core (who provides the recordings of "the Announcer"), is named after Joe Michaels, who voices the Announcer in Portal 2.
    • I feel like I named Daniel after the protagonist of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but I'm not sure why. Maybe it was just the first thing that came to mind.
    • Pemberley, a standoffish core with a British accent, is named after the estate owned by a certain standoffish Brit in a certain novel by Jane Austen.
  • Sibling Team: Chell and Kiyomi.
  • Sixth Ranger: Adrian Shephard.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Gordon, and everyone who was trapped in Aperture Science, including Chell, Doug, Mel, and Harriet. See Fish out of Temporal Water.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Most of the HECU Marines were the first or second flavour of this. Adrian was one exception. Another exception is that guy who says, "I didn't sign on for this shit. Monsters, sure — but civilians?" There are probably a few others, but you don't see them in the games proper. You might in World Line.
  • So Crazy, It Must Be True: One of the reasons Mimori ends up believing, despite her initial skepticism, that Gordon and company really are just crossing the ocean on Borealis to rescue Chell, and not secretly Combine agents there for some nefarious purpose. Ultimately though, this ends up being only a very minor reason among much better ones.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Toyoko discovers she's pregnant the day before the Black Friday Incident. She was going to tell João and Chell on Mother's Day, which was a few days later, but when they were held hostage, she decided to wait until they came home. When everything went to hell, she decided it was best not to tell them — who wants to spend their last moments knowing that they're leaving behind a wife/mother and her unborn child?
  • Something Only They Would Say: Gordon recognizes Advisor!Breen when he uses the word "Simurgh", since the G-Man had told him once before that Breen was the one who chose that name for them, while the Advisors simply refer to them by generic, derogatory terms, and have not given them a title because they view titles as a sign of respect). If not for this information, Gordon never would have figured out that Breen had even become an Advisor, let alone recognized him.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Though he is not the only person they ask and it's not as a reward for his accomplishments, Gordon is one (of many) who is asked to marry Sam, who is a princess. See Marriage of Convenience.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Simurghs.
  • Start of Darkness: One for GLaDOS and one for Hugh Mullins.
  • STD Immunity: Averted. It occurs to me that implementing a reproductive suppression field is basically asking people to have all the recreational sex they can manage; and Breen doesn't seem the type to provide barrier contraception to the masses. However, this doesn't apply to most of the main characters, who are (mostly) educated and disciplined enough to know better. It is going to come up, though, or at least be discussed.
  • Sterility Plague: The reproductive suppression field.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Gordon is pretty reserved and serious with people he doesn't know well, but opens up as he gets to know them. Around people he's comfortable with, he sometimes even acts like a Cloudcuckoolander or engages in Mai-like trolling because the mood simply strikes him from time to time. If you've ever watched Persona 4: The Animation, picture Yu Narukami's sense of humour (when he's not being a Deadpan Snarker, he's being a Cloudcuckoolander, often coupled with a poker face just to keep people guessing as to which it is), and you've pretty much got Gordon's sense of humour, too.aside 
    • One example: At one point, he decides to do a Salad Fingers impression just to mess with Alyx (and whoever else comes along).
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Toyoko's pregnancy with Kiyomi was definitely this, since she was 49 years old (it's hard to get pregnant even when you're 40 and trying). But women over 50 have indeed gotten pregnant naturally and unexpectedly, and subsequently given birth naturally to a healthy child — see this page for plenty of examples, and particularly Morgan Zantua for a case where the pregnancy was both natural and unexpected.
    • Toyoko's (lack of) periods did play a role in her discovery, although at first she thought it was menopause because of her age. What really triggered the "Aha!" moment was when she couldn't fit into her pants or bra, and had a flashback to a similar moment she had when she was pregnant with Chell — but she did think about her period, and it's really the only reason that her tight-fitting pants made her think of pregnancy at all. A tightening waistband by itself wouldn't have made pregnancy cross her mind until several weeks later.
  • Survivor Guilt: Gordon has a lot of this. As do (or did) many other survivors of the Black Mesa Incident. As does almost everyone who survived the Black Friday Incident, including Doug.


  • Talking in Your Dreams: This is initially the only way that Alyx and Gordon can use their Psychic Link.
  • Tears of Fear: Several characters on occasion.
  • Technical Virgin: Gordon insists he lost his virginity at 18, not 17, because of this trope. And the reason he invokes this trope in the first place is that we don't talk about Chile.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: The Advisors and the Simurghs both have telepathy, though the nature of their telepathy is different, and the extent to which they can use it to communicate with species other than their own is limited.
  • There Are No Therapists: Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other qualified mental health profesionals are a rare entity, and good ones rarer still, but they do exist. Lucky for a lot of characters that Katherine is still alive.
  • 13 Is Unlucky:
    • Played straight with the Black Friday Incident, which occurs on Friday the 13th (thus the name — Black Friday can refer to a Friday the 13th, or to a catastrophe occurring on a Friday, so in this case it's doubly appropriate).
    • Subverted with the Black Mesa Incident — at first it seems that it's going to occur on Friday the 13th, but then it gets bumped up to Monday the 16th.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Gordon gets this when he goes into mental shock, which happens once after he's woken up by the G-Man in Half-Life 2, and once after Eli dies.
  • Time-Delayed Death: Hugh's father dies days after a plane crash from a delayed cerebral hemorrhage.
  • Token Minority: Averted. There are plenty of minorities. Aside from two of the series proper's major characters being minorities, I added quite a few:
    • Ethnic minorities (especially African-Americans) make up a huge majority of Detroit's demographic, so most original characters from there are black or people of color.
    • Toyoko is a Sansei Japanese Brazilian and João is a pardo (mixed-race) Brazilian, making Kiyomi and Chell not only of mixed race, but a mixture composed entirely of minorities. I chose these ethnicities because Alésia Glidewell, Chell's face model, has a Japanese mother and a Brazilian father.
    • Eli is African-American, and his late wife, Azian, was Malaysian, making Alyx another (major) character who is of mixed race with all races being minorities.
      • In World Line, even Azian herself was of mixed race, being half Malaysian Chinese and half Malay (making Alyx half African-American, 1/4 Malay, and 1/4 Chinese).
    • Kleiner is gay. Mel Robertson is a lesbian.
    • Doug is schizophrenic.
    • Curtis and his mother are deaf.
    • David Harlan is disabled (paraplegic) and his wife is Native American.
  • Tomboy Princess: Mary, Jenny, and Sam. Sam is actually less tomboyish and often more "princess-like" than her older cousins, which is somewhat ironic given that they were raised under the auspices of the royal family and she wasn't.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Toyoko Aguiar, upon joining the Resistance. She always had a badass lurking in there, it's just that she never had an outlet for it until she joined the Resistance. But she's always had that kind of inner strength, and that stubbornness and refusal to give up that the Aguiar girls are notorious for. Chell and Kiyomi probably get it from her, and I mean in a nature way, not in a nurture way.
    • Wheatley, after resolving to save Chell.
    • Even Chell, who is already badass, manages to take another level in it after joining the Resistance.
    • Atlas and P-body, after joining the Resistance.
    • Seems kind of like joining the Resistance is synonymous with taking a level in badass. Which makes sense, seeing as when you join the Resistance, you get access to lethal weapons and are given plenty of opportunities to use them.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Alyx's prayer box necklace, which belonged to her mother (and, if you go all the way back, originally belonged to her great-great-grandmother). The box contains a written prayer wishing for the safety of the family, and the wearer in particular — it's basically meant to be a Protective Charm. It doesn't actually work, obviously, as Azian can attest to, but you might have trouble convincing pretty much everyone else in the line, seeing as they've all been saved from at least one seemingly hopeless situation at the last second while wearing the necklace. Azian's actually the only one who died while still wearing it; instead of her, it was her daughter, Alyx, who was saved at the last second.
    • Chell's book, The Alchemist, that her parents gave her for her quinceañera.
    • Toyoko's Mother's Day present from Chell. (I haven't decided what it is yet.)
    • Caroline's red and white scarf, given to her by her fiancé.
    • Holly inherited her mother's massive Barbie collection when she died.
  • Tranquil Fury: Wheatley and the rest of the Big Damn Heroes when they show up to rescue Chell.
    • Alyx when she rescues Gordon from a pair of attacking Hunters during the Strider Boss Battle in Episode Two.
  • Underground Railroad: The Resistance had at least one, which lead from City 17 to Black Mesa East.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Hugh and Diana.
  • The Unpronounceable: Any Simurgh or Advisor name is this by nature, since their languages cannot be pronounced with human biology, and Advisors don't even really have a language.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Alyx and Gordon would have gotten together a lot sooner if Eli's death hadn't been a giant, weeks-or-months-long Moment Killer. There were other factors, but it basically came down to the fact that sometimes things need time.
    • Chell and Doug, for a while.
    • Can personality cores even have sexual tension? Well, for its equivalent, there are a few examples, such as Virgil and Roy.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Hugh Mullins. Yeaaaahhhhhhh...
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Alyx is this to Gordon even before they become an Official Couple.
  • Watching Troy Burn:
    • Anyone who escaped Black Mesa soon enough before the explosion to see it blow up for themselves.
    • Anyone who was watching the news coverage of the incident at the time got to watch "Troy" burn for about a split second before the news crew was consumed by the blast.
    • Barney, when Nova Prospekt blows up.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Chell hasn't forgotten that Wheatley tried to blow her up.
  • What Could Have Been: I get a lot of my ideas from What Could Have Been, which means that in World Line, a lot of what could have been...is. This is why we have Betty. Hell, this is why we have any personality cores aside from the ones in the games. This is why Aftermath has Cremators, why the Stalkers and CP officers look so different early in Aftermath, and why some of the houndeyes look a lot different by Aftermath 2. This is why Wheatley used to be Pendleton before he had his memory wiped. This is all stuff that was cut or changed prior to the games' release. World Line also has a lot of Development Gags as a result of this.
  • Wild Child: Ana Tavares, who was feral from age 7 to age 25. After being mistreated or downright abused by more or less everyone she had known since the Seven Hour War, she decided that she couldn't trust anyone, and that the best thing to do was go where there weren't any people at all. So she ran away from the city and into the surrounding wasteland, and managed to scrape by for 18 years. She is then found by the Badass Crew and rehabilitated.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: Gordon is brought into the Resistance fold by Barney, a friend, and teams up with Alyx, a stranger.
  • Woobie Species: The Simurghs, and even the Advisors. The humans have been, too, ever since the Seven Hour War. The vortigaunts are as well, though perhaps not as much as they were before the Nihilanth's demise.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: I avert this like the plague. I'm not good at math, but I'm good at internet and calculator. TimeAndDate.com is a frigging godsend.

    Sorting Algorithm of Tropes 

Where World Line falls on relevant scales.

  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: The series proper is Type III/IV; I try to bump things a bit towards II when I can.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Mostly Arc-Based Episodic, though at some points in Aftermath and Aftermath 2 it shifts towards Full Lockout.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Moves around between Level 4 ("Men Are More Equal"), Level 5 ("Almost Perfect Equality"), and Level 6 ("Women Are Better Than Men"), depending on what part of the story you're looking at. Anything that happens during or before the events of Half-Life is likely to be Level 4 simply because it's set in a world and society very similar to ours; while later points in the story are more likely to be Level 5 or Level 6, though Level 4 can still be present.
  • Sliding Scale of Leadership Responsibility: Eli was firmly The Hammond. The leader triad of Gordon, Alyx, and Barney is midway between The Superman and The Théoden, though Gordon in particular is always striving to be The Superman, with mixed results.
  • Sliding Scale of Like Reality Unless Noted: The pre-Combine world is Modern In Setting Only/Semirealistic. The backstory of the Half-Life franchise, for all its similarities to the real world, clearly left reality several decades ago, and depicts advances in biotechnology, chemical engineering, computer science, and quantum physics that in real life were achieved much later or have not yet been achieved at all. As a result of this and other things I've written into the world's history, pre-Combine society, though in many ways indistinguishable from ours, has some glaring differences, ranging from minor, everyday stuff to massive deviations.
  • Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: I'm...working on it. Going for equal focus, with some sliding between "More Plot" and "Less Plot" depending on the arc. Right now it's generally on the higher end of "Less Plot Than Characters".
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic: Fluctuates between "Unrealistic" and "Fantastic", depending on the arc and setting.
  • Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness: Ranges from Low/Credible/Inadvertent (Breen has been all of these over the course of his regime) to Inadvertent/High (Mullins, and the Combine as a whole).