Cersei Lannister is very disliked by the "sparrows", religious smallfolk who are dissatisfied with the Lannister regime after the war. The new High Septon, nicknamed the High Sparrow, is able to manipulate Cersei into rearming the Faith in part by claiming it will make her more popular with them. However, once she does so, they gain the power to arrest her for her crimes.
Despite her intent to make things better, Daenerys is so despised in Slaver's Bay that chaos reigns more than she does. Innocent people who support her are murdered at night by the Sons of the Harpy and there is an attempt made on her life. She can barely control her own court and is forced to marry a possible enemy to placate her opponents.
Tyrion's demonisation by the commons in Kings Landing wouldn't have helped his case with his father after Blackwater when Cersei was able to convince Tywin that most of the defensive work was her doing. Had the blame for most of the Lannister mistakes been applied to the correct people in the popular mind instead of reaching for the easy "Demon Monkey" scapegoat role they loaded him with, Tywin might have actually taken note. Well, maybe. At the very least, Cersei would not have come out of it quite so glowingly.
Roose Bolton ponders the pitfalls having such a negative public image can plague a whole House with if even only one member pushes the envelope. If Ramsay continues being gratuitously Stupid Evil in front of people's faces, the whole House, not to mention the population of the Dreadfort, could be exterminated by the combined effort of the unhappy Northern Houses in less time than it took them both to work their way into holding Winterfell's lands and titles in the first place. And, that whole speculation was made before the revelations of House Bolton being actively involved in the Red Wedding had even started to leak through various sources. If that one member of the House is loathed enough, the rest might get off by throwing them to the wolves and blaming most of the collective monstrosities on them, and citing whatever can be proved of as their own doing as, "We were just trying to protect our own — even if he was an unpredictable, Axe Crazy idiot — but, he's gone way too far now. So, you can have him and we'll make reparation for his deeds. Please spare the rest of us." Maybe.
The Tyrells demonstrate that aiming for widespread, positive publicity on this scale is a constant battle of time, energy, resources and some exceedingly calculated and, occasionally, very dirty dealing behind the scenes; from cheating while dressed spectacularly at tourneys, to being able to manipulate food supplies for "fortuitous" timing, to murdering bumps in the road undetected, to calculating when to walk away from people who could be too damaging to associate with. And there's the risk of a misstep the whole time.
Baelor the Blessed is fondly remembered by the faithful and has been put on an enormous pedestal for decades. But, it's rather easy for readers (and Tyrion as well as others in-universe) to come to the alternate conclusion that he might just have been taking the Targaryen family nuttiness to new, religious places when reading of his exploits. His uncle, Viserys, may have had a large part to do with the positive spin and damage limitation placed on Baelor's actions at the time, to boot, as one of the more successful Hands before taking the throne himself. And, he's considered pretty much an Evil Chancellor in folklore for his pains.
By not working to maintain and consolidate what she had pragmatically and politically, Daenerys lost quite a bit of the adoration she started out with among her freed "children". Though her legend is still alive across Essos, and in Volantis, a city filled with slaves, she's regarded as The Messiah with even cynics like Vogarro's Whore praying for her arrival.
Asha Greyjoy's failures makes her afraid she might be set aside for new leadership. Even though she's proven time and again that she can rough it with the boys and throw an axe like nobody's business, she has no more social or political power than most other highborn women, badass or not.
Brienne of Tarth is sneered at and considered a freak. No amount of openly blatant badassery with a sword and shield will get a girl general acceptance for what she's actually good at in Westeros, because it's the wrong area for her to be good in. Oh, the odd individual will acknowledge her, but... she'll still get used by others as a "knight", though, even if they openly doubt her skills to her face, laugh at her behind her back and never actually hand over any of the perks of the position without some form of irony or outright mockery. She also averts the Lady of War archetype. Fighting has damaged her already homely face.
Historically, "Brave Danny Flint" — going Sweet Polly Oliver to be badass gets you a very sticky end.
Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon, and Aerion Brightflame die because their penchant for the bottle leads them to commit life-threateningly stupid acts.
Cersei spends most of Feast drinking or drunk to deal with the stress of ruling, the loss of her firstborn and father, and her severe paranoia. Not only does her drunkenness affect her ability to function, it drives away people that could help her, most notably Jaime.
Daeron the Drunken drinks to drown out his "dragon dreams".
Tyrion is a high-functioning case. He does drink way too much when given the opportunity to, and openly admits this, but the drink itself rarely seems to affect him much. However, his detractors are easily able to use it to smear his reputation. When he sinks into depression in A Dance With Dragons, he shows his potential to be a wretched and vicious drunk.
All Animals Are Dogs: At first, Dany's dragons do behave in a puppylike manner, while they're still small enough to ride on her shoulder and generally do exactly as she asks. As they grow, though, they become far more aggressive and dangerous to be around. As of A Dance With Dragons they have become so out of control that Dany is forced to chain them up (which doesn't help matters) after Drogon eats a human child. Drogon even attacks Dany, and she is forced to use a whip ( "A dragon is no slave!") to make him obey her.
Despite signs that Joffrey wasn't the kind person she should be marrying, Sansa didn't realize how psychotic he was until it was too late.
Daenerys falls for Daario but his less than sterling behavior becomes a liability to her regime.
Cersei falls for Aurane Waters, despite her terrible experiences being married to Robert, and heaps undeserved praise and favor on him. Once she's out of power, he abandons her by stealing her fleet and sailing away to the Stepstones.
Tyrion: A wrong word, an ill-timed jest, a look, that's all it will take, and our noble allies will be at one another's throats.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Theon Greyjoy's occupation of Winterfell turns into a nightmare. He has too few men to properly garrison the place and Winterfell is too far from reinforcements, but Theon refuses to abandon it. It demoralizes the enemy, but his refusal to sack it and leave leads him to ruin.
Ancestral Weapon: Valyrian steel weapons are treasures often handed from generation to generation and it is said the most impoverished family would rather sell their children rather than give up one of theirs.
Tywin Lannister's youngest brother Gerion got himself lost in his quest to find his family's precious Brightroar. Tywin later melts down the Stark greatsword Ice and has it reforged into Oathkeeper and Widow's Wail. He did it both to give his family Valyrian steel swords and to spite the Starks.
Aegon IV handed his baseborn son Daemon the Targaryen sword Blackfyre, which many interpreted as a sign that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. This, among other factors, eventually sparked the Blackfyre Rebellion.
Angst? What Angst?: If a character doesn't seem to be overtly affected by a traumatic event you know they're in for some serious psychological problems further down the road. Just ask Littlefinger, whose curb-stomping led him to start a civil war, or Arya, who becomes a ruthless killer, or Tyrion, with whom a lifetime of family abuse and neglect caused him to murder his own father.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Stannis Baratheon's blunt manners and tendency to speak nothing but the truth makes him seem like a Jerk Ass but it also makes him more relatable to the common folk. His talk about how people owe him their allegiance makes him seem like a glory seeker but his little moments behind closed doors show his empathy for the less fortunate which he can't show openly for fear of being seen as weak.
Armies Are Evil: The "good" armies like the Starks and Baratheons aren't immune to doing things like rape and plunder. Daenerys buys the Unsullied especially to prevent this trope but Jorah still points out that they will still kill and ravage, earning the hatred of the Seven Kingdom's people.
Arranged Marriage: Among the nobility, marriage is an institution meant to facilitate alliances and land exchanges, so personal happiness means almost nothing to the people setting them up. It's also extremely politically charged and could mean the difference between war and peace or life and death.
Cersei was given to Robert for the power he could grant her family. Unfortunately, Robert also married for political reasons and neither of them have any love for the other. Robert becomes an abusive drunk who spends their entire marriage grieving for Lyanna Stark, and Cersei is cold, hostile, and unloving because she dreamed of marrying Rhaegar Targaryen. As well as being mutually abusive, they are both notoriously adulterous, with far-reaching consequences for the entire continent.
Tyrek Lannister is married to Ermesande Hayford, an infant who isn't even weaned, so his family can take the land she inherited. Then he goes missing without trace, and the young girl is made a widow to a boy she never knew.
Aerys' refusal to betroth his son Rhaegar to Tywin's daughter Cersei, among other things, led Tywin to betray him.
The Freys carried out a massacre when Robb married someone from another House, breaking his promise to marry one of them.
Sansa's betrothal to Joffrey is exploited so he can hold her hostage in King's Landing. When he sets her aside for Margaery, she's quickly married off to Tyrion so the Lannisters can preempt a Tyrell attempt to take control of her through marriage. She laments the fact that people only want to marry her or have her marry their relatives because they hope to gain a political advantage in doing so, not because they love or care about her.
Asha Greyjoy was married off by proxy, meaning she wasn't even at the wedding but she's still considered married, consent be damned. If she returns home, she'll be forced to submit to her new husband, which is why she stays at Deepwood Motte knowing she's likely to be captured or killed by Stannis. The marriage wasn't even for political reasons; her uncle just wanted her out of the way.
Arianne Martell wasn't told of her betrothal to Viserys Targaryen and how it would make her queen, so she assumed her father's comments about Quentyn ruling Dorne meant she was being passed over as his heir.
Prince Duncan's decision to break his arranged marriage to marry a commoner and abdicate the crown led to his and his father's deaths in the Tragedy at Summerhall.
Robert killed Rhaegar for taking his betrothed, Lyanna, away from him. However, its hinted that Lyanna didn't even want to marry Robert.
Alys Karstark flees to the Wall so her cousin Cregan can't force her to marry him. She correctly believes that Cregan and his father are pushing for her brother's death so that whoever Alys marries will be Lord of Karhold. She throws a wrench in their scheme by marrying a wildling.
Daeron the Good brought Dorne into the realm by marrying Myriah Martell and having his sister Daenerys marry Maron Martell. This brought unwanted Dornish influence into court. Daeron's half-brother Daemon was in love with Daenerys, and her marriage was the reason he allied with Daeron's detractors to start the Blackfyre Rebellion.
Authority Equals Asskicking: As noted by the Night's Watch, the only reason highborn lords and knights tend to be better swordsmen is because they've had formal training in it. Skill and training with a blade is much more important than raw strength.
Asskicking Equals Authority: The Dothraki way. Initially, this is believed to make them an incredibly dangerous threat to Westeros and a highly advantageous ally to Viserys Targaryen. However, the series also demonstrates that this philosophy doesn't make them the threat Robert and Viserys imagine them to be.
Firstly, because they only respect strength, their culture makes them largely uninterested in ambitions of pursuing wealth or conquering nations, as none of these things indicate authority to them. This also makes them far more difficult to ally with than Viserys anticipated, given his lack of understanding for their culture.
Secondly, even though Khal Drogo was convinced to set his sights towards an invasion of Westeros, that ambition only lasted as long as his life, and the khalasar fragmented and turned away from this goal the moment a new Khal took over.
The Bad Guy Wins: The series points how playing fair too much could get you outmaneuvered but the opposite is also true. The North is defeated by treacherous means but the Lannisters, Freys and Boltons lose what's left of their "nobility". Their enemies refuse to bend the knee and are almost immediately siding with other contenders to the throne like Stannis Baratheon. Their bannermen stop trusting them and begin plotting to get rid of them or replacing their leaders with more sympathetic men.
Khal Drogo's people only obey him because of his strength, and they abandon him when he falls ill.
Victarion Greyjoy is an honorable and straightforward man, but he has done some terrible things (an example: after his brother Euron rapes his wife, Victarion was bound by Ironmen custom to kill her). In A Dance With Dragons, he accepts some sorcerous help from a priest of R'hllor, Moqorro, in contrast to the typical Barbarian Hero who usually has little use or respect for magic users.
Bastard Bastard: It is widely believed that bastards, being born of lust and lies, are lawless and untrustworthy by nature. It is also feared that they might try to usurp their half-siblings' inheritance. The result is that all bastards get grief for the circumstances of their birth whether they're bad people or not. Some chose to embrace the sentiment as revenge for their treatment. Partly because of his bastardy, many brothers of the Night's Watch misinterpret Jon Snow's actions and intentions, and thus become convinced that he is a Turncoat.
Aerys I neglects fathering an heir knowing The Prince will not be born from his line but from his brother Maekar's.
Aegon V makes his grandchildren marry each other even though they were in love with different people, which made the future Mad King Aerys II bitter.
The Berserker: Ramsay Snow's fighting style is described as vicious and highly aggressive, more like a hacking with a butcher's cleaver than a sword, as a result of his lack of formal training. Several characters note that this leaves him open and ill equipped to fighting anyone who has formal training.
Robert Baratheon only excelled in battle and he went into decline when he became king. He eventually dies killing a boar despite being too out of shape and drunk to fight.
Sandor Clegane professes to love killing, but it is really just his way of lashing out at the world for rewarding his actual Blood Knight brother (who as a teenager burnt half of his little brother's face off for playing with his old toys).
By that same token, Gregor Clegane, the "actual Blood Knight brother", doesn't particularly care about the quality of battle. He just likes hurting, killing, and raping people. However he over does it when he professes his crimes, while killing Oberyn Martell, which sours the already poor relations of the Martells with the Lannisters, and the Lannisters need to kill him to get them back on their side.
Bodyguard Crush: Romance between highborns and those who protect them never seem to work out.
Everyone knew Brienne loved Renly so when he got killed, she was blamed because it was easy to see her as a Woman Scorned.
Jorah Mormont falls for Daenerys Targaryen but he couldn't take back the fact that he had previously betrayed her for a royal pardon. It comes back to bite him and he is exiled.
Daenerys' and Daario Naharis' relationship is intensely romantic but his reputation as her hatchet man is one of the things hated about Dany's regime. Daario is currently in captivity and it's unknown whether she will even bother to pay his ransom.
Robert Baratheon's drinking, eating and whoring is symptomatic of depression caused by the loss of the woman he loved.
Aeron Greyjoy's former bruiser qualities are just a cover for how miserable he feels because of a number of childhood traumas (molested by one brother and partly responsible for the death of another).
Book Worm: Aerys I's love of reading made him ignore his royal responsibilities like ruling the realm or even fathering an heir, though its possible he discovered that the Prince That Was Promised will not be born from his line.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Robert Baratheon had all the traditionally accepted traits of the perfect king. He was both ruthless to his enemies and had a knack for making allies. But he found that Victory Is Boring and preferred letting others rule in his stead. His inattentiveness ruins the stability of the realm.
The Brute: The Mountain, Amory Lorch and Ramsay Bolton are all useful in putting fear in the hearts of their liege lord's enemies but their violence borders on Stupid Evil and they soon become liabilities better to be gotten rid off.
Byronic Hero: Broody loner Jon Snow puts his inner sense of right and wrong ahead of tradition and popular opinion, and because he has resigned himself to being a misunderstood outsider, he often doesn't even bother to try and dispel others' misconceptions about his character. Instead of making him an effective hero, this maverick attitude repeatedly gets Jon into trouble and alienates the people he needs on his side to make his plans as Lord Commander work.
Gendry is not that far behind his uncle, being more a Cape-in-training. He hasn't completely solidified his code of honour or sense of justice, yet, but has distinct ideas and lines he won't cross, both traits that lean Cape-wards (while also having that Baratheon chiseled physique). He is also prone to selecting Chronic Hero Syndrome as a default response to what he decides is unjust treatment of somebody who didn't deserve it. The problem is he is just as likely to fall into Knight Templar-dom as grow fully into The Cape: the people he's surrounded himself with are all too likely to push him in that direction. And, if it happens, he will go into it with the best of intentions.
The Chessmaster: The series' main manipulators can't control everything, and sometimes their plans almost fall apart because they take too long to make decisive action.
Prince Doran is unable to control his hot-headed relatives, who throw caution to the wind when it comes to getting what they want. His daughter also plots a coup against him because he tells no one of his plan to restore the Targaryens to power and get revenge for his sister and her children.
Illyrio's plan kept getting delayed because Viserys dies and Dany is bogged down in Meereen. Aegon VI convinces the Golden Company to invade Westeros without Dany's support.
Childhood Friend Romance: When this trope goes wrong, the emotional fallout of losing someone you grew up with haunts the losers well into their adult years. Their inability to move on leads them down dark paths.
Petyr Baelish couldn't marry his childhood crush because he wasn't highborn enough for her. So, he orchestrated a civil war to get back at the world for Catelyn's Arranged Marriage.
Lysa's obsession over Petyr, compounded with a loveless marriage and resentment about his feelings toward her sister, left her vulnerable to his manipulation. Not only does she murder her husband and lay the groundwork for a war, she also tries to murder her niece from fear that she might take Petyr away from her.
Childhood Friends: Robert chose Ned as his new Hand of the King for this reason. Ned does Robert a favor by breaking up his family to go to King's Landing. Unfortunately, they've grown so different over the years and ended up in such different circumstances that Ned can't integrate into Robert's new life and pays for it with both their lives.
Rickon Stark is relatively overlooked by his parents, and has something of a savage streak. He is currently staying with a wildling who has no qualms about killing people on an island full of cannibals.
Joffrey is seen as a nuisance and its thought he will be easily manipulated. That changes when he has Eddard Stark executed.
Arya is easily trusted or dismissed by the people around her because she's a little girl. They don't realize that she also has a disturbingly high body count. No one looks at her twice while she's being trained as an assassin.
Bran Stark openly flirts with Obliviously Evil when he innocently commits Mind Rape on poor Hodor when skinchanging into him, even though he is aware that the guy doesn't like it. And he's broken other skinchanging tenets out of both ignorance and necessity.
Robert "Sweetrobin" Arryn really likes to watch people get thrown off a mountain or duel to the death as a form of entertainment, but doesn't seem to really get what death means or how the world doesn't revolve around his needs. As self-centred and bonkers as Joffrey, if just a bit sweeter because he really doesn't know any better and is a lot frailer. There is no actual, overt malice in him, just childish glee, tantrums, and an epic-class My Beloved Smother to pin much of the problem on.
The Chosen Many: The Night's Watch disillusions Jon because they have become an Army of Thieves and Whores who are mocked for guarding the realm from a threat most think is mythical. When he becomes Lord Commander, his attempts to shake them up into an effective force and form a peace with the wildlings cause distrust and hatred. Just when it seems that they will finally be in a position to save the realm, they turn against him because they want to stay True Neutral.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Walder Frey didn't bring his troops when ordered to by his liege lord, only showing up after the war had become a one-sided power grab, which to many signifies disloyalty. For this he became known as the Late Lord Frey and his family's reputation took at hit. When the Freys betray Robb at the Red Wedding they figured it would be for the best, as they had a bunch of people to stand by them. But because everyone knows they're involved, it taints their reputation basically beyond repair, to the point where even their allies are taking swipes at them. And its not just their reputation at stake — some members of House Frey are in fact being murdered because their betrayal broke one of the most fundamental elements of pre-modern society, guest right. The effect extends far beyond the Twins; now, no one can trust anyone not to murder them at dinner.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Dany could not bear the oppression and suffering of the slaves in Slaver's Bay, so she decided to liberate them, even though it diverted her from her aim of claiming the Iron Throne. The result? Astapor is taken over by a dictator and then depopulated by war, famine, and plague; Yunkai reverts to business as usual as soon as she leaves; and Meereen descends into a political and economic quagmire. Even then, she refuses to let go of her need to help her "children," to the point where it starts to look less like idealism and more like a neurotic compulsion.
Cincinnatus: Ned Stark is chosen to be Hand of the King because he is a simple honorable man who does not really want power, and so can be trusted not to abuse it. Unfortunately, the royal court is so corrupt and full of intrigues that he effectively has no authority to abuse even if he wanted to. And because he is a simple honorable man who has never stooped to playing politics, he has no practice at it. When the time comes that he has no choice but to play the Game of Thrones, he loses big time.
Cool Sword: Oathkeeper, given to Brienne by Jaime is an expensively jeweled weapon with a uniquely multi-colored Valyrian steel blade. Unfortunately, it has some real downsides. In itself, it is so gaudy that it attracts unwanted attention. Even worse, the blade was reforged from Ned's sword Ice, and is recognizable as such, with the effect that having the weapon makes Brienne a walking target in the eyes of Stark supporters.
Courtly Love: It is possible Aemon the Dragonknight and Queen Naerys' relationship was platonic but this didn't stop wagging tongues from twisting their relationship into something more. It got to the point where Aegon IV himself believed the rumors and came to question the paternity of his son and heir Daeron, with terrible consequences.
The Targaryens were of Essos and brought with them practices Westerosi find detestable, like Royal Inbreeding and slavery. They eventually abandoned the latter but kept the former, which caused the Faith Militant to rise up in rebellion. It was quashed and the Targaryens were accepted but the incest always remained taboo among non-Targaryens. Jaime Lannister even naively thought that incest should be legal since its been tolerated so long.
Daenerys detests slavery and tries to stamp it out in Essos which leads to economic and political unrest. Because she finds so many aspects of Ghiscari culture repulsive, she has difficulty compromising with the people of Slaver's Bay. On the flip side, they see her as an oppressive foreigner who's out to destroy their way of life.
Theon demonstrates the culture clash between the Iron Islands and the North quite starkly. He winds up dithering between the two, unable to fully choose between the "raid and pillage" ethos of the one and the "hold and steward" pattern of the other. The result is a bloody mess for him and all those remotely near him — particularly the Starks, but also the Greyjoys.
Lyanna Stark is often talked about as such but the real story is implied to be very different.
Sansa never gets saved by her family and is instead forced to run and hide from court and taken under the wing of Littlefinger, who grooms her and molests her because she looks like her semi-dead mother. So not so much of a rescue.
Dangerous Deserter: Septon Meribald explains to a group of highborn knights that most "broken men" are peasants who were dragged far away from home, watched their friends and family be killed in battle for some lord they've never met, and now are lost hundreds of miles from home with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their weapons and are suffering from some serious PTSD. Not really surprising many turn to banditry.
Deadly Decadent Court: Nearly everyone capable of protecting the realm is too wrapped up in politics to deal with the wilding invasion or even realize that there is upcoming Zombie Apocalypse at their door, despite repeated warnings from the Night's Watch. Stannis is the only one who took those warnings seriously.
As well as this, such a set-up proves itself not exactly a good model of governance, generally. The reason those in high positions still have a kingdom to rule is because at least some of them are sane enough to try running things properly. With them gone, the only ones left are too busy being needlessly cruel to people and otherwise neglecting their day-to-day duties, which churns out nothing but misery and ruin for the realm as a whole... which further forces people to realise they may need to actively remove them from power. Deadly decadence breeds more deadliness... and marks you as a tool to be used in your own downfall, in short.
Tyrion Lannister's smart mouth keeps getting him in trouble.
Jaime would like to point out that this smart mouth may be genetic and it bites him, too.
Littlefinger tends to talk himself into trouble though he talks himself out of it easily. Far as we know, unlike Tyrion, he is unaware of this failing.
Theon Greyjoy's snarkery has also bitten him in numerous ways over the series, even though it's probably one of the reasons why Robb actually likes him in the beginning. The way he learns to stop doing it at any opportunity that presents itself is beyond horrific.
Deceased Parents Are the Best: Viserys tries to invoke this trope for Daenerys throughout her childhood; not just about their parents, but their older brother as well. Unfortunately, his tales involved a lot of whitewashing that crashed horribly against the dark and complex reality Daenerys learns actually exists when Ser Barristan, a firsthand source, alludes as to the very real madness of her father, the very human limitations of her mother, and the failings of the supposedly perfect Rhaegar (who he, nonetheless, still admires). Not to mention the fact that Viserys was a terrible example of a parental-sibling-potential-husband figure, so he was not exactly the best advertisement for the caring side of the Targaryen family dynamic he tried to portray, himself. But Daenerys is so emotionally invested in the idea that her family had always been just, gifted, beloved and wrongfully usurped that she has acute difficulty accepting the nuances of their history, even though she now knows it's not entirely how Viserys painted it as.
Defeat Means Friendship: King Robert was known for making enemies into friends but he never truly forgave them, and had no interest in the kind of diplomacy that could have consolidated such alliances. He kept a tight rein on the minor Crownlands houses (including many strong Targaryen loyalists) by appointing his ruthless brother Stannis to control the fleet from Dragonstone, but he did little to appease those who had bent the knee more readily. His court is filled with men like Pycelle and Varys who have their own ideas of who the rightful ruler should be.
Hoster Tully was afraid his daughter would not be able to marry well if people knew she was pregnant-by a boy from a lower class no less. So he deceived her into taking abortifacients. The loss of her child left Lysa so bitter and traumatized that she refused to see her father while he was dying.
Robb Stark married Jeyne Westerling after having sex with her to keep her honor and to not repeat his father's mistake of having an illegitimate child. By doing this, he broke his marriage pact with the Freys, which lead to his death and ended the Northern rising at a stroke.
According to Ironborn custom, Victorian Greyjoy had to kill his wife after she was raped/seduced by his brother Euron. He still loved her and didn't want to kill her, but he had to and it was the most painful experience of his life. Now he's trying to steal the woman Euron wants to marry as revenge.
Cersei, fearing that Margaery Tyrell is becoming more popular and powerful than herself, has her framed for adultery. Because Margaery swore she was a maiden when she married Tommen, a child, if Margaery is found to not be a maiden, her marriage will be annulled, she will lose her crown, and she will be sent back to Highgarden in disgrace. However, Cersei's accusations infuriated the Tyrells, who refuse to be shamed and deprived of the throne. The most powerful alliance in Westeros is being stretched to its breaking point, threatening to drag the realm into yet more chaos because of the uncertainty over one girl's virginity.
Depraved Dwarf: Tyrion is, if anything, the White Sheep of the Lannister clan, but that doesn't stop everyone from his father downwards seeing him as this. It creates aspects of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy — his inability to trust women leads him to visit prostitutes all the time, which gives him a reputation as a lech; his Black Sheep treatment forces him to struggle with his own family for the power any other man would be afforded by birthright, which gives him a reputation as disloyal; his having to fall back on Every Man Has His Price gives him a reputation as profligate. When he serves as Hand of the King to Cersei and Joffrey, he single-handedly keeps the city from collapsing into chaos, but the populace target him as a Scapegoat for all the regime's injustices. He's also the number one suspect in the attacks on both Bran and Joffrey, despite having nothing to do with either, and his reaction to the latter is to further ruin his reputation by killing his father.
The Baratheons refuse to compromise, which just makes things needlessly more difficult for themselves and the people around them. Stannis and Renly's inability to reconcile leads to the former killing the latter.
Brienne never, ever gives up, not when she's trying to protect Jaime and not when she's sent out to find Sansa; not because they're what she wants to do, but because she promised to do them. She takes any failures very hard, even small or inevitable ones or ones she couldn't prevent (such as Jaime losing his hand), and by the midpoint of AFFC she flat-out admits that what she really wants is to go back to Tarth, and oaths be damned... but she can't, and she won't, because she swore an oath. She's increasingly psychologically drained and traumatized, and as of ADWD her obsession with doing the right thing and damning the costs almost lead to her death, because she couldn't lie to an undead crazy lady. Now she might be leading one of the only people who likes her into a trap because of same.
Quentyn Martell's refusal to give up his mission directly led to his death because he didn't Know When to Fold 'Em.
The Dog Was the Mastermind: Doran Martell hides a brilliant scheme by pretending to be weak and appeasing. Unfortunately this means his allies as well as his enemies believe he's useless and they make plans of their own without telling him. Not only do these plans fail, they interfere with Doran's much better thought out ones.
Dogged Nice Guy: Aemon the Dragonknight was hopelessly in love with his sister Naerys and pursued her no matter how hopeless he was. He even joined the Kingsguard to stay close to her, despite his vow of celibacy. His crush became an open secret and gossip spread that she loved him back. This "forbidden romance" helped spread the rumor that King Daeron II is illegitimate and led to a rebellion led by is half-brother.
Ramsay Snow is quite proud of his fearsome reputation in the North, but its actually detrimental to his position as Lord of Winterfell and heir of the Dreadfort because absolutely no one wants him in power. His father worries that rather than just accept it, the Northerners will try to overthrow their house, and he might be right.
Tywin Lannister is greatly feared for his power, ruthlessness, and prodigious mind. However, his death starts a number of conspirators thinking they can now take on the Lannisters, even though they'd just won the War of the Five Kings, and the atrocities Tywin committed over his lifetime start to haunt his family as his victims or their loved ones decide they want revenge.
Dumb Is Good: Westeros values martial strength over intelligence and views The Smart Guy (both Guile Hero and Manipulative Bastard flavors) as dishonorable and untrustworthy, no matter how useful they are. But with winter coming, it is also shown that brute force probably won't work with The Others.
Dying Moment of Awesome: One minor character in A Dance With Dragons suggests that focusing on heroism in death can lead to a lack of respect for life—and the behavior of many Westerosi knights seems to bear this criticism out. Despite the belief that kings, lords, and warriors should die in a heroic or dignified manner, they are not so great that they can't die pointless, humiliating deaths like the peasants they care so little about.
Ned Stark is a simple man caught up in a massive power grab beyond his comprehension and his effort to prevent a major upheaval that would tear the realm apart using fair, direct methods gets him killed and starts a war.
Tywin Lannister's atrocities are the result of Pragmatic Villainy and being haunted by the memory of his father nearly ruining House Lannister through ineffectual leadership. Additionally, when he served as Hand of the King, his Pragmatic Villainy helped counterbalance a mad king and gave the realm twenty years of peace. It made him, at least in relative terms, The Good Chancellor.
You can find other deconstructions of Man Behind the Man, Evil Chancellor and Evil Overlord examples in the history of Westeros. Maegor the Cruel, Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers and Viserys II Targaryen were Hands that had horrible reputations for villainy, but kept things ticking, as well. Pragmatism wins out, even if people hate you for it in this series.
The Mad King Aerys is a good demonstration of what happens when you try to act like a Dark Lord without the requisite magical powers. He gets stabbed by his own bodyguard when he decides to torch his capital city in a fire that will kill everyone within it.
Most of Westeros sees Stannis Baratheon as an Evil Overlord and a song at Joffrey's wedding even calls him a "Dark Lord". He has a exotic fortress, association with unsavory persons, association with dark magic and a reputation for burning disbelievers and lack of mercy, all of which make him seem the worst candidate to be king. Yet all these also make him the only practical choice not just to be king but to be the one who will save the world from The Others.
Euron "Crow's Eye" Greyjoy seems to deliberately cultivate this image among the Ironborn, promising them fresh conquests, proving himself to be The Corrupter and seeking to build a power base with magic and promising to build a kingdom where the Ironborn will be free to practice "the Old Way" of Rape, Pillage, and Burn with impunity.
Evil Tower of Ominousness: The exotic fortress of Dragonstone was deliberately built to look scary but its design is impractical. Its towers are shaped like dragons and it is said they will come to life when The Prince Who Was Promised returns.
Salladhor Saan: If the red woman brings them to life, the castle will come crashing down, I am thinking. What kind of dragons are full of rooms and stairs and furniture? And windows. And chimneys. And privy shafts.
The Federation: The Northmen's diversity shows that they need firm but reasonable leadership lest they turn against their liege lords. This is shown when a minor land dispute snowballs into a coup against the Starks spearheaded by House Bolton. This is in contrast to the tight-laced Westerlands.
Fish out of Water: Eddard Stark, Viserys Targaryen and Janos Slynt's inability to adapt to their new environments gets them all killed.
Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Cersei actually resents being the responsible one, neglecting her needs for the good of the family. As she gets closer to the Iron Throne, she loses people who can counsel and guide her ( Jaime, Tyrion, Tywin, Kevan and even Pycelle) and her disregard for the needs of others eventually gets her dethroned. Jaime on the other hand, sticking too much to his family's credo of not caring what the "sheep" might say will get him in trouble.
Catelyn is always responsible, but she gets tired of obeying other people's orders and being strong all the time for her family in light of all the bad stuff that's happened. Her sister Lysa seems to be the prodigal child gone straight, married Jon Arryn and had his child, as is her duty. But it turned out she never stopped loving Littlefinger and even had her husband killed at his behest. Then Littlefinger killed her when she served her purpose.
Catelyn and Edmure are each suffocated by their mantle of "responsible" and "foolish" respectively. Catelyn's various responsibilities end up in conflict with one another, and force her to be separated from her family, and lead her to make some highly questionable decisions, effectively showing how the mantle of "the responsible one" is nearly impossible to live up to in practice, or when one's many duties and responsibilities are in conflict with one another. Edmure, meanwhile, highly resents his designation as the foolish sibling (having a reputation for being 'hot-headed but good hearted') and he does everything in his power to try and disprove his "foolish sibling" status by taking on actions that seem to be what the "responsible sibling" would do, and always trying to do what he thinks is right for the family or what he thinks Robb needs him to do, but his actions actually make him something of a liability. There is reason to think that they would each be happier in the other role. But, ultimately, Responsible and Foolish are each taken Up to Eleven with Lady Stoneheart becoming the leader of the Brotherhood and ruthlessly eliminating anyone associated with the enemies of her family, while Edmure is repeatedly humiliated and embarrassed as a hostage to the Freys and Lannisters.
Robert & Renly Baratheon dislike Stannis for being a Principles Zealot while Stannis hates Robert and Renly for wasting their time in useless luxury. Stannis finds too late how much he misses them both after they die.
Robb Stark is a great tactician, but a poor strategist. He does not create alliances (all his troops were either his own bannermen or his Tully grandfather's), he wins battles but has no grand vision on winning the war and his Honor Before Reason philosophy costs him allies and his life.
The same can be said of Daeron the Young Dragon. He charged headfirst into Dorne without realizing what he was up against. Not only did his invasion ultimately fail, it took many years to undo all the damage.
After her father's death, Arya Stark ends up in the company of criminals and assassins. Her chapters are also filled with graphic depictions of the hardships of being homeless in an epic fantasy world.
Bran and Rickon Stark are only able to go on an adventure of their own because their home is destroyed and they are presumed dead.
Viserys and Daenerys lost their home, their parents, and any access to the benefits of their titles, meaning Viserys had to turn into a Parental Substitute for his baby sister in exile at a young age while selling everything they had that connected them to the past in a bid to make do as well as steadily losing support by attrition. When they ran out of both, they were stuck having to allow themselves to be used by others for their own ends while moving between pillar and post hoping to get lucky. It heaped strain on both and the result hasn't been that pleasant for either. On the plus-side, they did get a premier opportunity to see many sights and learn a few languages. The price, however...
Freudian Excuse: Cersei justifies her mistreatment of others by believing that she has been unfairly treated herself, or that she is merely protecting herself and her family, or that she taking what she is owed. However, most of her excuses are paranoid delusions or distortions of the truth. When her claims of victimization are legitimate, she continues the cycle by victimizing others for her own gain.
Freudian Trio: The Baratheon brothers. Rather than balancing out each others' weaknesses and maximizing their strengths, this is why they can't get along with each other.
Robert (id) has the most dominant personality when he bothers to use it.
Renly (ego) is more interested in amusing himself than anything else. He then tries to usurp the throne just because he thinks he can and excuses himself by claiming he is merely emulating his big bro.
Stannis (superego) believes in always doing what is right for the realm but can't get along with anybody because his moral standards are too high and unrealistic.
When Ramsay Snow locked Lady Hornwood in a tower, she died from starvation, but not before eating four of her own fingers.
Ned Stark lost five of his friends before he could rescue his sister Lyanna from the Tower of Joy. Its also implied she wanted to be there.
Sometimes a girl gets herself locked in the tower, wishing for rescue she doesn't really need, for a very good set of reasons. Arianne Martell found that out the hard way when she decided to try a little plotting of her own and truly messed with her father's long-term strategy. House arrest wasn't so much a punishment as it was an attempt at kick-starting the learning curve with a bucket of cold water over hot-headed impatience.
The Good Chancellor: A stated intention in the series is to subvert the principle of a "good man" automatically being good at ruling. For all the good they tried to do for the realm, Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark couldn't control King Robert simply because both believed that the king can do what he wants, and never managed to prevent poor decisions on his part. Also, Ned's honorable and just nature leaves him completely unable to handle the political machinations of people like Cersei and Littlefinger.
The Good King: The rule of many "good" kings are actually run by ruthless backstage players who use whatever means necessary to keep the realm stable. A theme in later books is the idea, expressed by some Wildlings, how good a person can possibly still be if they still want others to see themselves as Kings and Queens.
Half-Identical Twins: As children, Cersei and Jaime were so alike that not even their father could tell them apart. They would dress up each other's clothes and pretend to be each other without anyone noticing the difference. But because they lived in a sexist society, Jaime was raised to be a leader and warrior while Cersei was raised to be a wife and mother. Cersei, having tasted the kind of freedom boys are allowed by posing as her brother, grows up to be resentful of her expected role and desperate for the power that she is denied.
Handicapped Badass: Often played straight, due to the series' fondness for "cripples and bastards and broken things". However, it's not portrayed as easy;
Being dead is considered preferable to being handicapped in Westeros; Bran overhears people muttering that if he had any courage, he'd kill himself. He's also forced, despite Tyrion designing him a special saddle, to give up his dreams of knighthood and focus on developing other strengths.
Although dwarfism isn't exactly a handicap in quite the same way losing a hand or lower leg is, in battle, it's certainly not much help. Yet, Tyrion shows that, given the right armour, equipment (not always easy to come by) and calibre of enemy, he can hold his own at a pinch — much like any newbie Child Soldier with gait issues would. But, surprise, being a smaller target with an unexpected angle of attack can only get you so far: after a while, the differences in reach, weight, equipment, stamina and training become a distinct problem. He loses much of his nose and any remote hope of his father's esteem as a result.
Heel-Faith Turn: Although played straight in a few cases (i.e. The Elder Brother and Septon Meribald), characters "finding religion" generally does not come with an overall improvement in personality and behavior:
Following a grievous injury at the Blackwater, Lancel Lannister becomes fervently religious, but no more likable, and his newly found asceticism furthers the damage to his health and looks wrought by his injury.
Ser Bonifer Hasty known as "Bonifer the Good" is renowned as a Knight in Shining Armor turned champion of the Faith who embodies the virtues of the Seven. However, at least in Jaime's POV, he largely comes across as a humorless, self-righteous prig.
Formerly a lovable Boisterous Bruiser, Aeron Greyjoy's embrace of religion turned him into a stern, humorless fanatic. More importantly, both his earlier recklessness and current fervor are implied to stem from deep-seated emotional issues tied to implied sexual abuse by his brother Euron as a child.
Thoros of Myr went from a skirt-chasing Boisterous Bruiser who was nominally a Red Priest into a true believer in Rh'llor after his religious observances suddenly came with magical powers. In this new state, Thoros belongs to a band of righteous outlaws, who over time, go from somewhat ruthless defenders of justice to outright knight templars. While Thoros isn't happy about this shift, the effect is that he is involved with much worse behavior following his religious conversion than before it.
With the rise of the Faith Militant, many an outlaw, ruffian (male or female), and hedge knight is likely to join up. If only for the promise of a regular meal and a stable mode of living that won't get them hanged. They'll still be doing pretty much the same old things only now its sanctioned by the clergy.
Most of Westeros, except the Dornish, practices agnetic-cognetic successionnote The eldest son of the deceased is first in line to inherited, followed by the deceased's other sons, then daughters, then brothers, then sisters; all in line according to birth order., which is responsible for putting many evil, insane, or incompetent men in power instead of more suitable female candidates.
The bloody civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons began when Aegon II rose against his older sister Rhaenyra, their father's chosen heir. When Rhaenyra lost the war, the Targaryen line of succession became even more strictly biased against women, wherein a more distant male claim can override a closer female one.
Cersei is incredibly bitter about the fact that she is the last choice for Tywin's heir despite being his eldest child and the one most interested in ruling. Even after Jaime gives up his claim to Casterly Rock by joining the Kingsguard, he's still held in higher regard than her.
Sansa Stark, Alys Karstark, and Donella Hornwood are considered relatively unimportant while the male heirs of their houses are alive. When their family members die, other men try to marry them to take control of their inheritance without even giving them the chance to grieve.
Even though Dorne averts this by not showing preference to either gender, Princess Arianne fears being cast aside in favour of her younger brother Quentyn. She plots a coup to stop her father from denying her birthright, only to have it fail and learn that her father had been planning to make her queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
The High Queen / Women Are Wiser: This is the image Cersei and Daenerys project, but it takes more than the force of will to rule. By the end of Danceboth are ousted from power due to the substandard handling of their authority.
Honor Before Reason: Many characters that place value on honor instead of money, power or the family name often end up betrayed and dead, as people who do value those things see them as obstructive to their ambitions and have them removed. This is even lampshaded by Varys, who notes he's met few men with a sense of honor as strong as Ned's, and understands why when he sees what it gets them.
Inversely, characters that are considered dishonorable become pariahs, however well-meaning their actions. People refuse to trust them, ally with them, or utilize their valuable skills. Thus, people like Tyrion and Jaime become bitter and disillusioned.
Ned's older brother, Brandon, unwisely threatened Mad King Aerys and got himself and his father killed. Ned also blames the "wolf blood" for the death of his sister Lyanna but the reason is still unknown.
The Sand Snakes' and Arianne Martell's attempts to rush into revenge plots of their own without careful hedging cause merry hell to Doran Martell's carefully constructed (and, perhaps, over-convoluted) attempts of same over decades. Having said that, his brother was no help, either, for all he was supposed to throw up concealing smoke with his actions. His hot-headed insistence on playing with The Mountain instead of just ending him triggered the mess in the first place.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Tywin Lannister did such a good job of being Hand that King Aerys grew jealous of him, which drove a wedge into an otherwise effective regime.
Jaime Lannister points out that the many vows knights are made to take eventually contradict each other, so expecting a knight to keep all his promises is ridiculous. He also notes that many times those vows are swore to terrible people because those are the ones in power, meaning knights are expected to go along with their lieges' atrocities but are also condemned for committing them or letting them happen.
Brienne gives her word several times, and does her utmost to keep it for each one. Shame the world around her has absolutely no interest in letting her manage to do so. The more she fights to stay loyal, the harder it gets and the more she faces conflicting loyalties.
The Starks try to live by this as a general rule. Then things happen and they can't fulfil their promises, either due to circumstances outside their control or because another set of promises clashed. It rarely goes well. The more adaptable Starks have since quit trying to do this quite so much or started learning Exact Words.
House Stark is basically a family of traditional fantasy heroes dropped into a Medieval Crapsack World. They're known for their integrity, honor, and sense of duty. They hold themselves to a relatively high moral standard and refuse to compromise their virtues or play politics. And they genuinely love each other rather than see family members as pawns or bargaining chips. In any other fantasy setting, these would be good qualities to have. Here, they're the very things that get nearly all of them killed.
Daenerys Targaryen is balancing being an ideal hero and an ideal ruler, to dispel her family's terrible reputation. It doesn't always go well.
Stannis Baratheon's high moral standards seem ideal for a more optimistic fantasy setting, but in Westeros its just unrealistic.
Just Like Robin Hood: The Brotherhood Without Banners started out as a peacekeeping force driven primarily to aid and protect the smallfolk during the War of Five Kings. When their leader, Beric Dondarrion, gives up his life force to resurrect Catelyn Tully Stark, now known as Lady Stoneheart, they make a change for the worse. Lady Stoneheart took the reins of the band and used them to carry out vengeance against the people that killed her and her son (who stayed dead). Over time, the Brotherhood became a bunch of Knight Templars, no better that the people they fight against yet claiming moral superiority. A few characters, including one of their own, call them out on their hypocrisy.
Kick the Son of a Bitch: Oberyn Martell not only wanted to kill Gregor Clegane, he wanted to humiliate him too. He succeeds but not before getting killed first for excessive showboating.
Arya and Bran Stark are now without guidance and resort to things they never thought they'd do to survive. The powers they gain along the way are actually harmful to others. And God knows what Rickon is up to, but it can't be good.
Robb Stark proves a capable leader and dangerous enemy, in part due to his lack of experience, which results in him taking risks that more experienced leaders would know better than to take. Eventually, his recklessness and lack of forethought cause him to break a marriage vow, leading to his eventual betrayal and death.
Kingmaker Scenario: Pray you're not the linchpin in one of these. If the regrets don't get to you, the consequences will.
The Lannisters side against the Mad King as a ploy to make themselves powerful backroom players and everybody knows it. That's why Jaime doesn't tell anyone he killed Aerys to save the kingdom because no one would believe him anyway.
Ned Stark supported Stannis' claim to the throne and expected both his opposing contenders, Joffrey and Renly, to bend the knee. He is betrayed and eventually beheaded for treason, sparking a five-way civil war.
Any bets on how badly Samwell Tarly is going to regret having angled his best mate into the position of Lord Commander of the Night's Watch when he hears about the stabbing, let alone the probable undoing of half the much-needed reforms he tried to push through?
Arianne Martell fancied herself a Queenmaker and hatched a plan to put Myrcella Baratheon on the Iron Throne as per Dornish inheritance customs. She was woefully unprepared to stand against her own father, who had someone else in mind for the throne, let alone the Lannisters. She was imprisoned, Myrcella was maimed, and her co-conspirators were killed, scattered, or punished.
Varys is playing a long game to get a Targaryen on the throne (be it possibly Viserys to start with, Daenerys when he goes bust or, maybe his prime choice of Aegon Targaryen... whichever). Which is much, much more complicated than saying "I think X should rule" because he has no steadfast allies in Westeros. He relies on stealth, manipulation, and precise timing. However, his plans are so elaborate, they're extremely fragile and could tear apart if certain people don't play their expected roles — and, have had plenty of setbacks as well as unexpected boosts. All needing him to very, very quickly adapt.
Petyr Baelish elevates the worst candidates for wielding power specifically so he can exploit the ensuing chaos. He aims to get revenge on the great lords because he couldn't marry the highborn woman he loved, but his actions lead to her death.
Jon Connington's failure in trying to keep Rhaegar in place as heir to the throne is now fuelling his attempts to put who he considers his real King's son solidly on it. He's already been paying the price for years, having lost practically everything that was dear to him when he lost his bid at king-preserver the first time. Having to flee into exile, to then pretend to be disgracefully dead to raise a young Pretender under the radar? Will do that. And, the grayscale suggests he's likely to lose his life with this attempt at actual kingmaking this time. Sure as little apples are green, it's not going to be Varys' or Illyrio's names to be put forward as the primary instigators of Aegon's arm of the Targaryen comeback should things go south, whatever happens.
Knight Errant: The wandering warrior stereotype is shown to be very rare and the ones who take this choice do so for selfish reasons. And, those who do not take it up for purely selfish reasons have had to for social, economic or political ones... Either they and/or their liege lord messed up or they didn't have sufficient social standing anymore and no alternative was forthcoming when they lost their backing. With the rise of the Faith Militant, more of them will come out of the woodwork to join it as a means of getting by. So much for the romantic view of the trope.
Jorah Mormont is only wandering because he is a fugitive. He sold some poachers into slavery and fled to escape his liege lord's justice.
Sandor Clegane is a Shell-Shocked Veteran. He starts wandering when he goes AWOL during a battle and becomes a fugitive hunted by his former employers.
Robert Baratheon considered abdicating to be the "Sellsword King" and thereby abandoning the throne he took after lots of bloodshed.
Ser Duncan the Tall was probably not actually officially knighted, but was very errant at the start of his career for social and economic reasons: his mentor (and adopted father in all but name) had been a hedge knight himself without the funds or standing to see right by his common-born squire before he died. He got a rather important sponsor and dropped the "errant" bit as soon as was practical to eventually become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Although a lot of what he gets up to in his own adventures with Egg during his wandering phase can meet the trope, the "righting of wrongs" and "fighting monsters" bits are usually all part and parcel of just trying to get by day to day, rather than aiming to actually do any of that at all. Worse, the "monsters" are rarely straightforwardly bad or the "wrongs" all that easy to work out as being significantly worse than the "rights".
Knight in Shining Armor: Most knights buy their title. The most shining knight in the series, Brienne, isn't a knight at all because she's a woman. The Kingsguard, which is supposed to be made up of only the shiniest of knights, is a shadow of its former self. A number of knights who play this trope straight end up paying for it, due to putting Honor Before Reason or facing off against a Combat Pragmatist and assuming they'll stick to the unwritten rules of battle. We're also constantly reminded that, one way or another, knights exist to kill, and the people they kill are notAlways Chaotic Evil.
Sandor Clegane is charged with protecting Sansa and immediately it goes wrong. She sees him as a violent drunken killer and he sees her as another spoiled highborn. Sansa later gets another "champion" in the disgraced knight turned jester Ser Dontos Hollard. He is actually in Littlefinger's employ.
Brienne becomes Catelyn's knight but the latter turns against her when she refuses to join her and the Brotherhood Without Banners in trying to kill the reformed Jaime Lannister.
Arys Oakheart loved Arianne Martell and she convinced him to help in a coup that resulted in his death and the maiming of his charge, Princess Myrcella.
Ladykiller in Love: Robert Baratheon fathered a lot of illegitimate kids despite professing undying love for Lyanna Stark. She apparently didn't believe he really loved her and had little hope that he would be the kind of husband she wanted.
Ned also expresses that Robert didn't know Lyanna as well as he believes he did. Despite how sincere Robert perceives his love to be and how genuinely heartbroken he was by Lyanna's death, it's implied that Robert might have ended up just as unhappy with Lyanna as he was with Cersei if they had gotten married and Lyanna failed to conform to the image he had of her. See The Lost Lenore below.
Robert professed his love of Lyanna Stark to his dying day, but he didn't really know her well as a person. He was in love with an idealized version of Lyanna, one that represented the joy, freedom, and vigor of his youth. His marriage to Cersei failed miserably in part because she couldn't live up to his fantasy.
Tywin's beloved wife Joanna died giving birth to their youngest child, Tyrion. He never forgave Tyrion for it, even though the poor boy could hardly help being born. As a result, Tywin was extremely abusive, to the point that Tyrion couldn't stand it anymore and murdered him.
Rhaegar Targaryen is this both to Cersei and Jon Connington. Cersei appoints the untrustworthy Auranne Waters as Admiral of the fleet because he looks like Rhaegar. Jon Connington is obsessed with helping Rhaegar's son Aegon become king, even if it kills him.
Some of the Brotherhood Without Banners, especially Tom O'Sevens and Lem Lemoncloak. Their justice while serving in Beric Dondarrion's outlaw band is swift and brutal, and that's before Beric dies and the much more ruthless Lady Stoneheart takes over the group.
Jorah Mormont and Uptown Girl Lynesse Hightower fall in love and get married right way but their personalities and lifestyles don't mesh. Jorah is exiled for selling slaves to finance his high-maintenance wife's needs, but she abandons him for a richer man.
The Magic Comes Back: Most fantasy portrays the return of magic as heralding the return of a golden age. Here, its making an already bad situation worse. Because of the loss of knowledge over time, very few people can understand, control, or protect against this powerful, and in many cases dangerous, force. No wonder the Maesters of the Citadel are trying to replace it with science.
Hoster Tully forced Lysa into having an abortion, as having a baby out of wedlock would make her ineligible for marriage to a nobleman (not to mention it would cause a scandal).
Lysa Tully-Arryn murdered her husband because he wanted to send their sickly young son to foster with another house, likely to toughen him up.
Cersei Lannister has her husband and almost all of his bastards murdered and frames three innocent girls for adultery. The former was to ensure there was no physical comparison to challenge her children's legitimacy; the latter was an effort to prevent an unwanted outside influence on her son from fear that they turn him into their Puppet King.
Tywin Lannister orders the pillaging of the Riverlands and later organizes a massacre that kills thousands of people. The former was because a noblewoman from those lands arrested his younger son; the latter was because that same woman's son held his other son hostage.
Rickard Karstark murders two young hostages, as vengeance for his own sons' deaths.
Walder Frey participates in a massacre that violates the rules of Sacred Hospitality, to avenge a slight against his family.
Sybell Spicer-Westerling helps arrange the murder of her son-in-law, Robb Stark, because his rebellion put her family at risk of retaliation from the Lannisters.
Olenna Redwyne-Tyrell participates in a plot to assassinate Joffrey and frames Tyrion for it. Based on Sansa's experience, she was afraid that Joffrey would abuse her granddaughter once they were married. Although according to Littlefinger, her concern was not so much for Margaery's well-being as it was that Loras might become a Kingslayer by killing Joffery in retaliation.
Lady Stoneheart has hanged at least three men for their complicity in her son's murder, and so far shows no sign of stopping.
Wyman Manderly kills three Frey men and probably feeds them to their kinsmen because of their involvement in a massacre that killed his son Wendel.
Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Having questionable paternity leads to trouble among highborns because the line of succession may be called in question. Highborns will start devastating wars to protect their own claims and bolster their family name. In such cases, the true heir is whoever wins.
Much like in real medieval England, the potential consequences of uncertain paternity in the line of royal succession make it an act akin to treason to lie with the Queen or for the Queen to have extramarital affairs, as this is a direct threat to the royal bloodline and potentially undermines the legitimacy of heirs if there is even a possibility that their father was not the King.
The Man Behind the Man: Cersei tries to be this when Joffrey is on the throne, but she has very little control over Joffrey's cruelty, which sparks the War of Five Kings. As much as she tries to do this she falls flat to people like Tywin who know how to manage things properly, and Margaery Tyrell who know how to please people and win their trust.
Aegon V did this and it becomes a model for his descendants, with catastrophic results as they often ignored their duties to follow their selfish desires.
Robb Stark breaks his marriage vow to marry Jeyne which becomes a perfect excuse for the Red Wedding.
Messianic Archetype: Baelor Targaryen's fervor may have been motivated by the Targaryen mental instability.
Might Makes Right: Several characters gain power by right of conquest, only to find that conquering and ruling are two very different things.
Robert was an excellent warrior, but useless in peacetime. He gives up trying to be a good leader because he finds kingship less exciting than battle, meaning injustice and corruption are rampant in his court.
Daenerys tries to be a good queen in Meereen, but her conquest left wounds in the city's social, economic, and political infrastructure, many of her new subjects hate her for disrupting their lives, and she has to sacrifice her personal morals and desires to fix the mess she caused.
The Lannisters won the Iron Throne in the War of Five Kings, but personal issues brought up by war and politics bring them to the brink of destroying themselves almost immediately afterwards.
Mighty Whitey: Daenerys becomes something like this after freeing the slaves of Yunkai, but this ends up biting her in the ass later in the series when her insistence on viewing her subjects as her "children" leaves her wide open to manipulation, and eventually the cities she "liberated" rise against her in rebellion. In Yunkai, the slaves she freed are back under the heel of their old masters, and Astapor has collapsed into bloody anarchy after an outbreak of the "pale mare" (dysentery) causes the attacking Yunkai'i to quarantine the city; this leaves the slaves of Astapor even worse off than before Daenerys' coup.
Momma's Boy: On the face of it, Joffrey is the head-strong, pugnacious (if Dirty Coward) antithesis of the trope; it only seems unlikely that Cersei pulls his strings since nobody can tell exactly what Joffrey will do from moment to moment. Then you look closer and see that he manages to be exactly what she made him to be. She can find no wrong in many of his excesses — beyond being annoyed that they mean she can't actually control him — to the point she actively went all-out to prevent others trying to correct his behaviour as a child. On top of this, he actually shows more genuine emotion beyond sadistic cruelty towards her than he does to most others in the series. His beliefs often closely mirror her own, and his actions are her kind of cruel deal, just larger, more obvious and a lot less cunning. She likes and is proud of his "boldness" on many levels even when it becomes a serious liability. The result is an uncontrollable boy-king willing to destabilize entire countries because he never learned any impulse control or respect for other people.
Moses in the Bullrushes: Aegon VI Targaryen, believed to have been killed as a baby, is alive and was raised abroad by allies of his family. In an attempt to invoke how this trope usually plays out, Aegon is given a broad range of education and experiences so that he will be ideally suited for ultimately reclaiming the throne a la The Once And Future King. There are hints that Aegon may not be the perfect hidden prince his protectors hoped for, and he may not even be the real Aegon at all (even if he himself doesn't know that)
Near Villain Victory: In the early course of the war, the Starks act, or appear as, the traditional heroes while the Lannisters are the traditional villains. However, this trope is inverted since the Starks and the Tullys win all their battles, the Lannisters are on the defensive and Tywin Lannister is reluctant to take the field against Robb Stark. In other words, it's a near hero victory. Despite weak military performance, the Lannisters resources and strengths ensure that they can take any number of defeats while a single massacre at a wedding reception finishes off Robb Stark and his cause. Turns out that a numerically superior and resourceful villain has better resources to recover than a fragmentary weak alliance that grows progressively bitter and demoralized during the war.
Viserys and Daenerys are both on the run from Robert Baratheon's assassins. Viserys dreams of one day reclaiming the throne, but the constant running and living in fear and poverty turn him bitter and hateful. The life of a fugitive destroys whatever kindness he had to start with and leaves him less than noble. Daenerys, on the other hand, cares nothing for the throne (until her fortunes change later) and only wants to go "home" to Braavos, to the house where they stayed with Ser Willem Darry until he succumbed to illness.
Arya Stark doesn't even have the Targaryen advantage of having allies and she resorts to stealing and killing to survive.
Tyrion tries to pull this and reach Daenerys. Instead, he ends up a maltreated slave.
Non-Action Guy: Men with no fighting prowess are disdained in this world that values strength over intelligence. Vocations that don't involve fighting like maesters, septons or mummery are seen as less than manly. It is considered shameful for a firstborn son of a lord (like Samwell Tarly) to choose a life dedicated to education and learning. Non-action guys who become lords are often the subject of ridicule (like Tywin's father Tytos) or are seen as weaklings (like Daeron II, brother of Daemon Blackfyre).
Cersei is still considered a valuable hand in marriage despite her age and previous marriage; less so than she was, but still the daughter of a wealthy and powerful Lord who is widely known to hate his only inheritable son, not to mention the mother of the King. However, she adamantly refuses to remarry, having hated being forced into an abusive Arranged Marriage years ago and now finally having the power to refuse.
Lady Hornwood is even older than Cersei, and a number of men pursue her after her husband and heir's deaths simply to obtain her land. She ends up forced into marriage by the sadistic Ramsay Snow, who then locks in a tower and simply lets her to starve to death.
Only a Flesh Wound: Khal Drogo and Vargo Hoat found out the hard way that wounds, no matter how small, have to be dressed so they will heal properly.
Only Sane Man: In a world where short-tempered and heavily-armed sociopaths hold all the political power, the few who are reasonable and competent do not do well. In fact, they're often the primary targets for their families' enemies, since they're the ones holding things together. Such was the case of Kevan Lannister, assassinated specifically because he's a stabilizing influence on the shaky Lannister regime. It's generally implied that such men do well in peacetime, but their skills don't transfer to times of war, upheaval and betrayal - and peacetime is rare in Westeros.
In addition to the Only Sane Man being perceived as a threat to enemies, they may also be suspected by the rest of their own faction. The attempts of an Only Sane Man to restore reason and order often put him at odds with the short-sighted goals of others on their side, and they may have to spend so much time controlling others within their own faction that it actually makes them ineffectual or results in them being seen as a threat or a saboteur among their own people. Both Tyrion and Davos experience this to different degrees. And, in both their cases, it's also not clear if they really are the Only Sane Man as they each believe themselves to be.
Order Reborn: Attempted by Jon Snow, who believes the Night's Watch needs to be whipped back into shape in order to face the return of the Others. He pisses too many people off by trying to change things too drastically and too quickly, and eventually gets several knives in the back for his trouble.
Our Elves Are Better: The Targaryens have qualities not unlike that of typical epic fantasy High Elves.
Inhumanly Beautiful Race: They all have the stereotypically Valyrian traits of purple eyes and silver hair due to generations of incest, which resulted in unstable personalities more than once.
Knowledge of forgotten arts: Wars and disasters have destroyed knowledge like Valyrian architecture, metal work and dragon taming. The scorn on education means many of these will stay forever lost.
The Remnant: Targaryens use incest to keep the royal bloodline pure. Targaryens sired from other families are considered illegitimate. This really messes up family relations not to mention getting the disapproval of decent Westerosi.
Out of the Inferno: Daenerys survives walking directly into a roaring blaze unscathed except for losing all her hair (though this detail was changed for the TV series), but this happens under very unusual, supernatural circumstances. Much later, after Drogon returns to Meereen and burns down the fighting pits, she once again loses her hair walking through fire, and this time suffers burns as well.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn are always praised for defeating the Mad King but Stannis Baratheon, who weathered the Siege of Storm's End and took Dragonstone, is frequently left out. This makes him bitter and motivates him to get the Iron Throne no matter the cost.
Tywin Lannister wants Jaime to become Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West despite the fact he is Kingsguard, thus can never inherit, and that Tyrion has a better mind for politics and administration.
Randyll Tarly forced his son Samwell to take the black because his brother Dickon fits his ideal of a warrior leader. Its only when Samwell is on The Wall does he show his superior political skills.
Viserys I appointed his daughter Rhaenyra as heir over her younger brother Aegon despite the fact that Westerosi custom dictates only males can inherit. The resulting confusion regarding who was truly heir polarized the kingdom and resulted in a bloody Succession Crisis.
Aegon IV favored his baseborn son Daemon over his trueborn son Daeron, one of the many factors that would lead to a rebellion; people began to believe that Daemon was the true heir to the Iron Throne. Arys Oakheart for one did not believe the rumors and chalked up the whole mess to Aegon playing favorites just because Daeron didn't meet his father's standards.
Praetorian Guard: The Kingsguard are supposedly the most morally upright knights of the realm but its clear that a knight's killing ability is the only thing that matters; very few of them live up to the order's pristine reputation. Their duty is to their king, and they often take that to mean the king can do whatever he pleases, even at the expense of others, and the Kingsguard have to obey. Jaime Lannister hopes to reform it as a force that will protect a ruler worth serving.
Rhaegar Targaryen, supposedly a wise and thoughtful young man, kidnaps Lyanna Stark, who is betrothed to Robert Baratheon (and in contrast to a lot of arranged marriages in this universe, Robert is deeply in love with Lyanna, though she doesn't return his feelings). This sets off a chain of events that leads to Robert's Rebellion.
Quentyn Martell believed himself to be this and got dragon roasted for his trouble.
Joffrey is taught to act like a prince just like Sansa is taught to act like a princess. He's actually a sadistic idiot. The idiot part isn't an exaggeration, he can't count past 6. And the sadistic part is an understatement; he orders the Kingsguard to beat and strip Sansa whenever she displeases him, or just when he's generally pissed off.
The Dothraki only care about strength so it's easy for them to bounce from one Khal to another. The Khal's Bloodriders are his only truly loyal troops and they are expected to die when he does, whether they want to or not.
The Ironborn believe in doing things the hard way ("pay the iron price"). Things like alliances and fealty are considered cowardly, despite being the rational choice. Hence why they never really got a piece of the political action on the mainland and have to eke out a living on islands that are barely more than rocks.
The Northmen, ostensibly the "good guys" as they are the vassals of one group of protagonists, the Starks, do some less than honorable things. The Umbers supposedly still practice Droit du Seigneur, and the Boltons' ancient rivalry with the Starks is one reason why Roose betrays Robb Stark.
The Wildlings/Free Folk's motto is "You take what you can get and you keep what you can hold". Sounds cool until you realize that beyond the Wall, only a handful of tribes (like the Thenn) have any semblance of law or order.
Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Many characters dream of the future but few listen to it or know how to cope. Targaryens who can't deal with their "dragon dreams" either go mad or turn to drink.
Joffrey is one of these at the beginning of his reign. Unfortunately, he is still officially the king, and soon comes to realise that whatever his advisors tell him to do, they have to obey any public proclamations he makes or the illusion will be broken — his first demonstration of this is particularly dramatic.
Robert never wanted to be king, so he abnegates most of his power to his Small Council and spends money until the realm is deeply in debt. When he dies, the treasonous schemes and secrets that occurred under his nose boil over into a civil war.
The Hero's Journey: Prince Quentyn Martell sets off with his loyal band of friends to find and woo the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Half of them get killed in a minor skirmish before we even get to their story. By the time Quentyn reaches his beautiful princess, Daenerys is already set up for an Arranged Marriage, while sleeping with a lowborn sellsword who's much more handsome and dangerously exciting than Quentyn. Believing that The Hero can't be killed, Quentyn then tries to steal a dragon to prove himself worthy of her, only to be roasted alive for his trouble.
The Homeward Journey: Arya Stark spends most of the second and third books trying to get back to Winterfell, a journey through the war-torn Riverlands with the threat of death (or worse) at every turn. Just staying alive from day to day is a challenge and all the trauma she faces damages her psyche. Eventually she's forced to abandon the notion of going back to Winterfell because there's nothing left for her: nearly all her family is presumed dead, Winterfell is a ruin occupied by the Boltons and Freys, and the longer she stays in Lannister-controlled Westeros, the more likely it is she'll be captured.
I Will Find You: Brienne of Tarth's search for Sansa Stark is nothing like the amazing, daring exploits that are often sung about. It consists of roaming the Crownlands and Riverlands asking people if they've seen her and looking for signs of her presence or movements. The task is arduous, dangerous, and tedious, especially for a woman with few concrete plans and little help. When she actually finds a lead, it turns out to be a Shaggy Dog Story and she has to fight her way out.
Save the Princess: Brandon & Rickard Stark were killed when they go to the Mad King directly, marking the beginning of Robert's Rebellion. Lyanna's captors were smart enough to move her around instead of keeping her in one place. She was already dying by the time Ned got to her.
Walk into Mordor: Gerion Lannister's quest to find the Valyrian steel sword Brightroar ended abruptly when his crew abandoned him in the Free Cities because he wanted to sail past The Smoking Sea. He forgot that "The Doom still rules in Valyria".
Lowborns who rise to prominence through their business acumen would be inspiring in a modern setting. But in the deeply class-ridden society of Westeros, Littlefinger and the Frey family are seen as upstarts who made their fortune through "dishonorable" means (prostitution and toll-raising, respectively). Walder Frey is still seen as a Nouveau Riche despite his house being some six hundred years old, and as a result a lot of his actions are driven by his desire to make prestigious marriage matches for his children.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord Protector of Stokeworth (formerly: Bronn), is also viewed with suspicion, partially justified in that his wife inherited her title when he killed her brother-in-law (in a duel the other man demanded) and expelled her elder sister from the castle.
People may be elevated to nobility or rewarded with lands and titles, and all the wealth that comes from that position, for acts in service to their liege lord or to the King, with Davos Seaworth being a straight example. However, much of what we see in the series is cronyism, elevating people who are loyal to your House, or as a reward for committing horrible acts in support of your House. The prospect of this Rags to Riches story can also be used to entice people to do horrible things, be it a bribe to the likes of Janos Slynt, or a reward to anybody who manages to bring Cersei the corpse of her brother Tyrion after he escapes King's Landing. Being elevated to a higher position through these means also often backfires on the people involved, by making them stick out as potential threats, or by granting them far too much attention as people loyal to a particular house. Both Bronn and Janos Slynt are targeted as potential threats not long after they receive their higher position, swiftly nullifying their Rags to Riches story.
Ramsay Bolton is the son of a noble father and despite being raised by peasants, shares the traits of his father. Through his skills, Ramsay improves upon his situation and is ultimately recognized as the son and heir of his noble father. Ramsay is also one of the most vile and evil characters in the series (which is saying something), and he is like his father in being sadistically evil (although Roose is a lot better at hiding it), and got himself into the position of heir by murdering his trueborn brother. Interesting, Ramsay himself is apparently somewhat Wrong Genre Savvy in that according to Roose, Ramsay thinks Roose and his mother had a great romance that transcended their classes, whereas in actuality, Roose raped her.
Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole is told she can never marry a Lord because she is a commoner. Be Careful What You Wish For — she is sold to Ramsay Bolton and is passed off as Arya Stark as part of his plan to marry her and legitimize himself as Lord of Winterfell.
Robert Baratheon sires a lot of illegitimate kids only to abandon them. Most of them are later killed by his widow because of the threat they might pose to her children.
Aegon IV's voracious sexual appetite disrupted the already complicated relationships of the noble families by leading him to father kids from rival families.
Pia the buttery girl is raped many times during the occupation of Harrenhal. One of her rapists tries to justify his actions by saying that because nearly everyone has already slept with her, her consent shouldn't matter anymore.
Eddard Stark and Jon Arryn are killed when they underestimate the self-serving nature of the people around them.
Kevan Lannister is killed specifically because he might have actually succeeded in keeping the peace.
Tywin Lannister's father Tytos was so generous that he almost bankrupted the House and his kindness was repaid with a revolt among his bannermen.
Reassigned to Antarctica: The Night's Watch is both a dumping ground for criminals and a place where some go to serve the realm honorably. Unfortunately, by the time of the series, the former have overtaken the latter to the point where the few good men are unable to restrain the bad and a mass desertion happens.
Rebel Prince: Stannis Baratheon and Oberyn Martell are disliked for their lack of manners and consorting with unsavory persons. They are also more relatable to the common man at times.
Rebellious Princess: Many female characters in this series come to regret their decision to break free of the constraints their noble births put on them.
Arya Stark gets her wish to be normal but only because she becomes a fugitive forced to live in the street and consort with the wrong people.
Sansa attempts to resist the Lannister's ploys and tries to help Margaery, who is set to marry Joffrey. Instead, she ends up married to Tyrion, who disgusts her, and has to run away from King's Landing with Littlefinger to escape the blame for Joffrey's death.
Arianne Martell believes she has been passed over as ruler of Dorne so she hatches a scheme that gets her imprisoned.
If the Targaryen version of the story is true, then Lyanna Stark's defiance of her arranged marriage sparks Robert's Rebellion, which gets her and countless others killed.
Redemption Quest: The world of Westeros is so harsh and judgmental, places such a high value on honor, that regardless of religious notions of forgiveness, stains are hard to rub away, as noted by Jorah Mormont, Jaime Lannister and others. Even when Jaime Lannister makes a genuine attempt to be true to his vows to "never take arms against a Stark and a Tully", the fact that he fulfills it while serving as a conquering army to enable the hostile takeover of people who betrayed Sacred Hospitality makes it hard for others to see his actions as anything other than self-serving or self-delusional.
Redshirt Army: Most of the Stark household guard who joined the Brotherhood without Banners refuse to help Arya because they'd rather die for themselves instead of in the name of some lord they used to serve. She grew up with some of these men and only now noticed how her family should have cared about their welfare.
Replacement Goldfish: Cersei sexually exploited her teenage cousin Lancel while Jaime was away, causing the kid a world of guilt after his religious conversion. Jaime is furious when he learns this, and its part of the reason why he didn't come to help her when she was arrested.
Stannis Baratheon is the rightful heir of his late brother, King Robert I, who won his throne by conquest as a descendent of Aegon V.
Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen are the heirs of Aerys II (the king Robert deposed) and the royal line that ruled Westeros for nearly three centuries. Their nephew, Aegon VI, is Aerys' grandson and direct heir, thought to have been killed as a baby. The Targaryens are thoroughly swept up by this trope, believing their return will inevitably unite the people and restore peace to the realm. However, it's frequently shown throughout the series that there's not necessarily any correlation between right to rule, ability to rule, ability to win a civil war, or public reputation.
In addition, the Targaryens themselves overthrew the previous rightful kings, including King Torrhen Stark, whose direct descendent Robb Stark is proclaimed King in the North when his bannermen decide to re-establish their independence.
In A Dance with Dragons, Wyman Manderly no longer cares who the rightful king is, but agrees to submit to King Stannis so long as a Stark remains his liege lord.
Screw Destiny: Cersei desperately attempts to avert a prophecy made when she was a child: that she would outlive all her children, who would die as kings and queens, and that after everything she had was taken away by a younger and more beautiful queen, the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) would come to end her life. Her manner of doing so involves murder, torture, and treason. When the prophecy seemed to be coming true anyway, her fear caused her to unravel. Over the course of the A Feast For Crows, she becomes increasingly unstable and irresponsible, her paranoia causes her to alienate her most valuable allies, and she gets herself into huge amount of political and religious trouble.
Jaime Lannister, sworn bodyguard to the Mad King, finally realized just how dangerously insane Aerys had become and put him down. Everyone tacitly agrees that he did what needed to be done, but he's still almost universally reviled as an Oathbreaker. It doesn't matter that he did the right thing (or as right a thing as could be done under the circumstances); he broke his sacred vow, so in Westerosi society he's a pariah. Worse still, Jaime had been something of a callous Jerk Jock until that moment, and he regards the Kingslaying as the one good thing he's ever done. But everyone else considers it a Moral Event Horizon and Jaime eventually becomes as amoral as people think he is.
Same can be said about Eddard Stark and his doomed mission to put Stannis on the throne even though its a bad idea. Varys points out to Ned that the court is like a stage and they are all actors and they must all play their parts if they are to survive. Ned puts himself and his loved ones in danger for the sake of doing what is right.
Daeron II vs. Daemon Blackfyre: Many lords and knights rebelled against Daeron on Daemon's behalf because they'd rather have a warrior on the throne. Daeron and the loyalists won, but they had to deal with the Blackfyres staking claims to the throne for five generations.
Edwyn Frey vs. Black Walder Frey: They are on the brink of fighting over who will be heir of the Twins because their father is dead and The Patriarch of House Frey is incredibly old.
Samwell Tarly vs. Dickon Tarly: Their father told Sam, a cowardlybookworm, that he will either take the black or have an "accident", because he wanted his second son to be his heir.
Tommen Baratheon vs. Joffrey Baratheon: The Tyrells assassinate the cruel and idiotic Joffrey so that Margaery can marry his kind, gentle younger brother Tommen and still be queen.
Sheltered Aristocrat: Sansa wanted to leave Winterfell and go to the royal court. She finds it both dazzling and dangerous. Unfortunately, she starts off hopelessly over her head regarding the politics of royal court because she's never had to worry about anyone trying to harm or use her. She's easily manipulated into undermining her father's plans and unintentionally plays a role in his death.
As Catelyn's internal monologues show, being strong for everyone else while maintaining the image of a Proper Lady is emotionally exhausting. Eventually it starts to take a toll on her mental health and decision-making.
Sansa develops this trait as a coping method for all the abuse and manipulation she suffered. She wears her courtesy like armor but secretly engages in small defiances and plots against her captors. Even so, her success is limited because she's still a young, inexperienced girl at the mercy of a volatile royal court.
Slave Liberation: Daenerys used force to end the slave trade in Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen, but in doing so, she actually made conditions worse for the people she tried to help- to the point where they start trying to sell themselves back into slavery. Not to mention, the far-reaching economic consequences of her decision forced various slave-dependent city-states to plot war against her in order to regain their lost revenue.
Viserys Targaryen is agonisingly murdered for being demanding and superior.
Janos Slynt is sent to the Wall for pissing off one superior, and beheaded for being insubordinate to another.
Ryman Frey is dismissed for his incompetence and he ends up murdered by outlaws. No one really cares, even his own sons.
What Theon Greyjoy goes through on account of being a Smug Smiler of a Smug Snake as the "guest" of a family that doesn't like the Smiling? You wouldn't even wish this ironic Fate Worse than Death on Jack the Ripper.
When Cersei Lannister becomes queen regent, she starts alienating her allies (the Tyrells, her uncle Kevan, and even Jaime), and continues to piss off powerful people she needs (the Iron Bank, and the Faith of the Seven). Her actions continue to bring ruin to the kingdom, causing everyone around her to turn against her. She is later imprisoned with most of her authority stripped from her (along with her clothes).
The Starscream: Janos Slynt's effort to take power on the Wall and open dislike of Lord Commander Jon Snow gets him executed.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: Theon's fellow ironborn reject him for living on the mainland the past ten years. The ironborn, being extremely contemptuous of different lifestyles and ethnic groups, say he's gone soft and forgotten the Old Way. He goes to great lengths to prove he's one of them but it only eats away at his sanity and ruins his life.
The Squire: It's not glamorous or even remarkable in the least for Westeros and is examined in all shades.
Boys can squire from a very young age to a lord or landed knight who basically uses them as a messenger boy, a dollied-up chambermaid, or whatever else they might be good for. The squire might be assigned to a certain man as a political appointment; the appointment itself might serve as a gesture of friendship or as a thinly veiled hostage situation.
They can wind up as a squire to a Knight Errant and not know where their next meal is coming from and fight for every crumb. If he's lowborn, the squire might latch onto a hedge knight because he is an orphan and needs an adult figure.
Arya is forced to pose as a boy when joining Yoren's band of recruits headed for the Night's Watch because being a girl in that situation is just too dangerous. Gendry sees through Arya's disguise when he notices she always goes to the woods to pee. Hot Pie only finds out when she has no choice but to pee in front of him and a dozen other captives at Harrenhal.
The story of Brave Danny Flint, who joined the Night's Watch in disguise only to be raped and killed when her secret was discovered.
Team Switzerland: The Night's Watch is far more politicized than most people realize, only it is internalized into a destructive force that threatens what little stability the order has. The brothers of the Watch have to stand back as their homelands and families are ravaged because of their vows while the Game goes on in their own halls.
Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Sansa was raised on idealistic songs and stories, all of which she took at face value. But when she entered the real world, many traditional Fairy Tale tropes were thrown back in her face in the worst way. Believing that things would work out like they did in the stories only made things worse and further crushed her spirit when her hopes fell through.
The Lannister's betrayal of The Targayens allowed them to help win Robert's Rebellion without damaging Robert's reputation. It made them powerful backroom players but also made them a lot of enemies.
The Boltons represent the realistic dangers of The Hero having one among his bannerman. They betray the Starks once they see a weakness that can benefit themselves.
Tomboy Princess: Arya was unpopular among her peers because she didn't fit society's expectation of a highborn girl. She was constantly compared to her traditionally feminine sister Sansa, which hurt her self-esteem.
The Tourney: To noobs like Sansa, tourneys are dazzling events complete with food, games and dazzling displays of chivalry. To men like her father Lord Eddard, tourneys are wasteful expenditures better to be avoided. More pragmatic members of the small council use these Bread and Circuses events to distract the smallfolk from their hardships and to raise needed revenue, though the money they get is worth less than the money they borrow to arrange these events.
Seen as a sure way of deciding who is right and who is wrong because the gods favor the winner. Two of the three we've seen in the main books have given false verdicts. The other one acquitted an innocent man, but the victory was won by using dishonourable tactics (though the result was respected anyway).
The Trial of Seven, an old tradition seen in "The Hedge Knight", pits two teams of seven champions against each other in a mini-battle. Dunk is acquitted, but feels incredibly guilty that some of the men who fought for him died — particularly since one of them was The Wise Prince and would in Dunk's opinion have made a great king when his time came.
True Neutral: The Night's Watch try so hard to be this despite the realm falling to pieces all around them, men like Yoren getting killed in the crossfire and the abundance of people like Ramsay Bolton who don't respect the Watch's vow of neutrality. When Jon Snow finally decides to mobilize it to save the realm from itself before it can save it from the Others he gets stabbed.
Say what you will about Pycelle but he is loyal to the Lannisters. He remains so even after losing Cersei's favor. This causes Varys to finally kill him to destabilize the regime even though he's technically no longer a threat.
Brienne's loyalty to Catelyn Stark (and her search for the two girls) is without question and she continued to try living up to it even after Catelyn's death. Except...Lady Stoneheart doesn't quite agree with her interpretation or methods. And, is putting her through one of the cruellest tests of loyalty to be found in all the books combined by making her go directly against her loyalty to Jaime.
The Unfavorite: Tyrion Lannister is blamed for the death of his mother, something he has no control over. His father and sister do all they can to alienate him without any thought that he is the best they have. Eventually, he is accused for murder he did not commit, and they stage a show trial just to get rid of him, then he escapes kills his father and runs for it. With those two out of the picture, the Lannister regime slowly collapses.
The Unfettered: Nothing prevents Tywin Lannister from pursuing his goals, and he believes that having this image and attitude is his strength. However, his willingness to do absolutely anything to pursue his ambition of controlling the Seven Kingdoms and founding a family dynasty irrespective of morality and without concern for the emotions of others ultimately results in a multitude of factions viewing him and his House as enemies who must be destroyed rather than cowing to him out of fear. It has also resulted in all of his children being deeply screwed up and resentful towards him because he insists on controlling them and using them as pieces in his game, with no regard to their emotional needs or desires, and this ultimately leads Tyrion to kill him for what Tywin did to Tysha.
Varys the Spider's plans for a Targaryen Restoration is unrevealed until Book 5, right after the Golden Company finally land in Westeros, he covers all the angles, included a Hidden Backup Prince and a retainer who was friends with the boy's father but his plan becomes complicated thanks to Littlefinger engineering the War of the Five Kings.
The Usurper: The whole concept of "rightful rule" is explored from all angles.
Robert usurped the throne from an utter maniac... but there are signs that Rhaegar had been planning to quietly remove his father from power if he hadn't been killed in the Rebellion, which would have prevented a terrible war.
Stannis attempts to usurp the throne from Joffrey because he's not truly Robert's son, but there is a healthy dose of personal ambition spurring him on as well. Renly attempts to usurp Stannis, but raises the question of why bloodline should be more important than popularity or fitness to rule.
Daenerys thinks of all the post-Targaryen claimants as "Usurpers", despite the fact that she herself is planning to invade Westeros with dragons and sellswords and seize the throne by force.
Cersei uses sex as a way of getting men to do her bidding. However, she places far too much faith in the loyalty this inspires in them, and fails to consider how tenuous a position she's putting herself in: all her power being derived from her marriage, any public revelation of her infidelity risks it all. It really comes back to bite her when the High Septon finds out and forces her to walk through the city naked and shaved. This destroys all the power she has gained; no one will respect her now that everyone has seen her in such a vulnerable state. Even Jaime is unsympathetic and abandons her in her time of need. He thought she was cheating on her husband with him because he was her true love, and the discovery that she's sleeping with other people to win their allegiance makes him question their entire relationship.
Arianne Martell uses her feminine wiles to seduce Arys Oakheart into taking part in her coup but she has little else in her arsenal - few allies, little resources, and a poor strategy. After the coup fails miserably, Arianne is stricken with guilt over her manipulation of Arys and how it lead to his death.
We Have Reserves: There are certainly a lot of Freys. So many, that the rapidly accelerating number of character deaths that have occurred to the House have yet to raise alarm bells within it. This is partly thanks to 1) nobody particularly irreplaceable (even in other Freys' eyes) getting offed to draw the attention... yet, 2) the (as it turns out, false) sense of security they have in their safety in numbers and 3) nobody being able to communicate enough to work out that there is more than normal attrition going on, thanks to their wide dispersal to keep their fingers in various important political factions' pies. The latter seems a fairly sound strategy, when you have a lot of bodies to throw at your priority of keeping your influence visible (but, that has its own downsides when most hate your guts and, yet, are being reminded that there are a lot of you that can be used as Cannon Fodder ahead of their own troops). The main problem in all this is... you can count the hard-working, practised and able Freys who are fully willing to and capable of working with each other (and chivvy others into moving their butts) on about one hand — if that. They lose those key players, and it's Game Over for the House as a whole, regardless of the numbers they started with, as they'll either splinter and kill themselves off rather directly. And/or, be even easier to pick off thanks to uncertain chains of command and leadership leading to even stupider strategic decisions than normal.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Several "villainous" characters are really just troubled young men or women trying to win the approval of their monstrous fathers, and they lose themselves in the process.
Theon Greyjoy winds up doing terrible things (and having terrible things done to him) in the course of doing what he thinks would please Balon. In the end it's all for nothing, and Theon realizes much too late that he's been trying to please the wrong father figure.
Cersei Lannister is tears herself up trying to be what her father (and the rest of Westeros) respects and wanting to outright upstage him without having the required ability to.
Both Jaime and Tyrion wind up trying to move away from Tywin Lannister's shadow, to outright defy him on many points and, yet, to please him in some way at the same time, too. The inherent contradictions prove both difficult and messy for everybody.
Samwell Tarly might hate his father's guts (with good cause), but he still wants to impress him, regardless of the fact he probably never would be able to impress the grown-up Jerk Jock that Randyll is in a month of Sundays.
Who's Laughing Now?: The Freys were among the least respected houses in Westeros, and Robb Stark's breaking of a marriage pact was The Last Straw in a long string of humiliations. So they killed him, his mother, and his bannerman during a wedding to show that they meant business. While the Lannisters gave them new honors and good marriages, the Freys are actually worse off than before. Rather than merely being mocked, they're now loathed by everyone, even their allies, for breaking Sacred Hospitality. More Freys were killed in retaliation for this event than died in the war but no one bothers to help them.
Cersei is certainly wicked, however you wish to define it, and, she puts every bastard child of Robert's she could find to death. The thing is, most of Westeros wouldn't find what she attempted to do all that surprising. Defending your "trueborn" children against their unrecognised bastard siblings makes sense in the public consciousness, and isn't considered as deplorable as other actions like defying Sacred Hospitality or killing family members by blood. Cersei also isn't a standard "stepmother". She neither brought any of them up, nor did Robert marry any of those mothers
Catelyn Stark isn't the stereotypical kind of wicked. She's sincere, she's sympathetic and, by the Westerosi standards, she went beyond the call of duty by letting her husband raise a bastard under the same roof as his trueborn children without outright trying to kill the lad. And she didn't outright abuse Jon Snow either, even though she certainly froze him out enough times in many little ways and tried her best to make sure he couldn't threaten her kids' futures. From his point of view, it's not too hard painting her as a version of the trope, but as far as the rest of Westeros goes, she was a saint to him.
Stannis castrates rapists, but it's presented as yet another way his principles lose him the good will of his followers.
Daenerys tries to stop the Dothraki warriors from raping the women of defeated tribes. Since they view those women as spoils of war, she's seen as simply being greedy by claiming them for herself, so she only succeeds in protecting a handful. Later, one of those women rebukes Daenerys for seeing herself as a hero who "saved" her, when she'd already seen her temple burned, her people murdered, and indeed been raped several times already.
Wrong Genre Savvy: If you don't know how to play the game, there will be dangerous consequences for you and your loved ones.
Eddard Stark trusted the wrong people and believed that honorable conduct would prevail. What he didn't realize was the other players don't give a damn about honor and will do anything to win. He ended up losing his head because he chose honor over pragmatism in a place where you have to compromise certain morals to stay alive.
The fate of Ned's father and brother is a virtuoso exercise in genre blindness. It is a bad idea to demand anything from someone called The Mad King.
Sansa believed that King's Landing was a paradise when in reality it was Deadly Decadent Court. Her naivety and rose-colored glasses get her into tight spots because she's barely able to outmaneuver people who would kill her in a heartbeat. At this point she's only alive by the skin of her teeth.
Quentyn Martell thought he was The Hero of an epic quest and thus could not die. Because of this he took a stupid risk that only earned him an agonizing death.
Petyr Baelish though he would win Catelyn's hand in a duel because he was the underdog. Brandon Stark gave him a painful and near deadly lesson: passion doesn't mean much if you don't have any skill and if you enter fights you're not equipped to win, you will die.
Ser Patrek saw himself as a knight errant trying to win Val's affection, and sought to rescue her from a giant. Besides Val not at all being a Damsel in Distress, the giant was her friend and Ser Patrek gets torn apart as a result.
Robert Baratheon was a great warrior in his youth and got the Standard Hero Reward but the woman he loves is dead and he is forced to marry a Lannister woman he hates, while the job of actually ruling doesn't suit him nearly so well as warfare. He soon becomes a Puppet King of the Lannisters, who makes every effort to avoid his responsibilities (he rarely ever attended meetings of his own royal council, leaving most of the work to Jon Arryn and later Eddard Stark).
Robb Stark is never beaten in battle but sucks at diplomacy (witness his breaking of an important marriage pact) and is a Horrible Judge of Character. Has parallels with his namesake Robert, as he ignores cooler counsel and allows himself to be surrounded by moles and traitors in league with the Lannisters.
Daeron the Young Dragon conquered Dorne as a teenager but suffered massive casualties trying to hold it. He was ultimately killed trying to suppress Dornish guerrillas and within weeks of his death the Dornish had kicked the occupiers out.
Daenerys gets completely sidetracked from her ultimate mission by constantly trying to solve every problem she encounters in Essos. Not to mention that her stubbornly idealistic attempts to radically overthrow and reform local customs she finds abhorrent (such as the slave trade) have made her dozens of new enemies and after the end of book 3 most of the continent is intent on crushing her before she can become a threat to their own countries or city-states.
Zombie Apocalypse: Absolutely no one has any idea how to counter the return of the White Walkers because the kingdoms are fighting for supremacy. Most people in Westeros don't even believe they are still around, if they believe they existed at all outside of myth.
They are also reeeeally slow, and after five books they still haven't made it to the very wall that was built to keep them away.
Yes-no: they're having to wait until the most logical point to cross south freezes solid enough for them to do so in any great number. When that happens, they won't have to bother with getting over or under the Wall by becoming able to totally bypass it instead. And, there's nobody much covering that gap, due to the humans being so intent on internal political shenanigans. Including the humans on the actual Wall itself, in part thanks to the wave of emigration their confirmed return locally has stirred up. In the meantime, the number of their recruits? Just keeps growing. The weather is against Westeros, and most of it doesn't even realise it's on the clock and hasn't started moving to guard the sea ice. They might be Blue and Orange to the point of being Bad News, but... so much for being simply the Night of the Living Mooks of doom. Even the apocalypse is somewhat in question: even before the Wall, the Others happened and people somehow survived. But, the culture of Westeros is probably doomed.