Who dares stand between a mother and her daughter's life? Precia will do anything to achieve her goals. Even if it means accepting Fate. — Opening Words
Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Nanoha who found a magical ferret...... except in this universe, Precia Testarossa went slightly less crazy trying to bring back her daughter. And although still obsessed and driven, she realised that the failed clone she'd made is her sole mobile asset, and there are better ways of keeping her under control other than physical abuse. And with that small simple change, the entire story changes.Game Theory is the first of a series of fanfiction re-writes of the first three seasons of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise. Game Theory coincides with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The sequel, Power Games, covers Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. The series plays up the fact that Nanoha is a sci-fi series that just happens to have magical girls in it, rather than a magical girl show, with the aim of exploring this concept more deeply than canon managed. Aleph, the author, has also promised to write up to eight stories in the series, covering MGLN, A's, Strikers and in-between.note Though some of the short stories will apparently be written by Earth Scorpion.As of January 1st, 2013, Game Theory is complete. The sequel began March 31st, 2013.The story and its various side installments can be found in the following places:
Another Way, Alternate Universe sidestory. Currently a oneshot, but it has been stated there will be another chapter. Takes place before Game Theory, and describes the meeting of two girls, Testarossa and Takamachi.
The Bitter End, another Alternate Universe sidestory one-shot, which takes place several decades in the future. Takes place in the GamesVerse World Building compliant universe where the story went on the rails of canon, and delves into consequences of Nanoha being Nanoha.
Aleph is co-writing the story with Earth Scorpion.note Arguably, Aleph writes, while Earth Scorpion is the editor, although he has contributed much of the world building.Now has a Characters page!It also has a wiki.NOTE: The Power Games folder will have unmarked spoilers for Game TheoryNot to be confused with Game Theory, a web series which analyses video games and attempts to draw scientific conclusions from them.
Abusive Precursors: The Priest-Kings of Alhazred and later the Dawn States, who designed all kinds of magical superweapons for the express purpose of destroying their rivals, and used their advanced tech to conquer more primitive human civilizations.
Some of the softer elements of the series have been altered to work in different ways, while still achieving the same general effect. For example, instead of actually seeing the future, Carim's "prophecies" are really a subconscious data analysis ability that predicts probable outcomes. It's all still magic; it just has more clearly defined rules.
After After The End: All of Dimensional Space is a post-apocalypse place, in that it's still recovering from the end of the Warring States Era and the death of Sankt Kaiser Olivie. Of course, that was recovering from the fall of Ancient Belka. Which was formed from the chaos after the destruction of Alhazred...
Author Appeal: It seems probable that the author likes cats. Especially kittens. And possibly busty women as well.
Background Magic Field: Ambient mana is drawn to planets from the dimensional sea by their gravity, more so on some world types than others, which led to the evolution of life that can make use of that mana.
Black Box: Alhazredian magic is this by the standards of modern mages. Note that this doesn't mean it's better; to use a Powers as Programs analogy, Alhazredian magic was the equivalent of computer programs done in the days of punch cards and vacuum tubes. They pretty much took spell bits that worked and put them together without regard to anyone being able to understand it (and as the Alhazredian priest-kings guarded their knowledge jealously, they wouldn't want anyone to understand it anyway). Of course, it can also pull off some ridiculously powerful and specific things that couldn't be duplicated by modern magic in a million years, like the Familiar uplift or completely nullifying catastrophic mana-exposure damage.
Competence Zone: It's been shifted notably upwards. While children in this story are no less capable in terms of fighting abilities, they tend to lack the maturity that comes with experience, and consequently make errors in judgement. The adults, on the other hand, get handed far fewer Idiot Balls than they did in canon.
Darker and Edgier: It plays a lot of the elements of the series more seriously. And dangerously.
In Nanoha A's, the Wolkenritter begin their campaign to restore the book of darkness by attacking TSAB Red Shirts - trained professionals who knew what they were in for. In Power Games, they attack Nanoha's mother, Suzuka and Arisa, innocent civilians. Oh, and just to make things worsethe Mariage have awoken.
Elemental Powers: Some people have affinities for converting mana to a specific type of energy and vice versa. Heat and electricity are the most common, but there are also cold affinities, which are essentially half a heat affinity that only allows for converting heat into mana, and there are also affinities for things like light and sound as well. And unlike most individual abilities in the Gamesverse, affinities are naturally occurring rather than the product of genetic engineering.
Although an affinity just makes one better at using that type of energy; it's possible for any mage to produce lightning or fire with reduced efficiency, as demonstrated by Yuuno at one point.
In Another Way, the change is Alicia not dying in the reactor explosion.
Footnote Fever: In the infodumps.note Both Earth Scorpion and Aleph are very fond of footnotes.
Hard Work Hardly Works: Deconstructed in side material. Word Of God is that anybody is capable of reaching at least an A-Rank mage level if they put the work in, but then you get a few weirdos who are born with unusual natural talent. These prodigies tend to cause more harm than good, both through being over-promoted at young ages, and by dissuading others from trying to put the effort in, because "they don't have the genetics".
Impossibly Cool Clothes: Justified with Jackets, constructs formed from mana that can be shaped according to the wearer's whim in ways that are quite literally impossible with mundane materials.
Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Unadministered World 97 (called by natives "Earth") is a backwater Type-1a world which is only really notable for its low average magic level, and the fact that it's a Type-1a.
Lineage Comes from the Father: Completely inverted. Magical talent is mostly determined by the mother. Consequentially, most places in dimensional space have matrilinear inheritance. Justified, due to a lot of the engineered inherited traits passed on not purely via DNA, but by the mother's body duplicating them in the child's body during pregnancy.
Notably, the Garden of Time is of Alhazredian creation in this story, and possesses incredibly powerful weapons and internal defense systems that can be activated with the additional Jewel Seeds Precia has acquired.
Made of Magic: Summons, Familiars, Unison Devices, the Wolkenritter, and a shapeshifter's alternate form are all mana constructs. And those are just the sentient beings. Mana constructs are also used for a lot of other things.
Minovsky Physics: Magic is basically just a branch of physics unknown to Earth science.
Mundane Utility: In addition to being used to fly and shoot giant beams of destruction at people, magic is used to create clothes on Administrated Worlds. A Jacket is a construct made of mana that can be shaped by the user, which allows for all kinds of bizarre getups, even some things that would be outright impossible. Which explains why Precia's outfit doesn't fall off.
Early in Power Games, Arf and Vesta use their unique abilities to help Aliciasteal pudding at lunch.
Vesta uses lasers to hunt- and cook- birds.
Non-Lethal Warfare: Played with. It holds true in greater Dimensional Space due to deliberate design intentions in magic, but it's clear that it's really less-lethal warfare, and as we see in the first chapter of Game Theory, just because you're not killed doesn't mean you're not injured.
And that's only with modern magic systems. The Ancient Belkan system has no such safeguards.
Oh My Gods!: Not overt, but TSAB characters occasionally swear by references to the Kaisers.
Older Is Better: Played with. While Alhazredian magic was incredibly complex and could work wonders, it was also very inefficient and slow to cast. The magic systems that followed it, while not capable of the miraculous achievements of Alhazred, were far more practical, especially in combat.
Operator Incompatibility: The glyphs on the Garden of Time give anyone who looks at them headaches, which Yuuno theorizes is the result of them being intended to interface with engineered mental structures that the Alhazredians would have had but no one else does.
Ragnarok-Proofing: The absence of weather and other deteriorating effects in dimensional barriers means that structures within them will last much longer than they would otherwise, with the Garden of Time serving as an example within the story, having survived largely intact all the way from the Alhazredian era almost four thousand years ago.
Running Gag: Two of them- people poking fun at Yuuno's ferret form, and Hayate's fear of zombies.
Schizo Tech: Alhazred was mind bogglingly advanced in some ways, but very primitive in others. For example, they used tribal markings to denote lineage, but they did so by implanting things like unusual hair colors into the genetic code.
Space Cold War: In the backstory, this state of affairs existed between the major powers of the Dawn States era, with none of them willing to commit their forces for fear that another superpower would take advantage of the opportunity. And then one of the Belkan Saint Kings touched off a civil war during a Succession Crisis, and things went straight to hell in a handbasket, leading to the aptly named Warring States era.
Summon Magic: A variation. Rather than actually conjuring up magical entities, the summoner creates mana constructs based on designs hardcoded into their linker core.
Super Breeding Program: May be overstating the case a bit, but the TSAB does provide incentives for people with Rare Skills to have children in order to propagate their abilities.
Superpowerful Genetics: Rare Skills, True Summons, and other abilities such as Yuuno becoming a ferret are all the results of Alhazredians and the Dawn States doing a lot of genetic tampering, which is passed onto descendants.
Translator Microbes: One of the functions of Devices. It's even mentioned that someone looking closely can see that the lips aren't in sync with the words.
Uplifted Animal: The Familiar Uplift, which is explored in greater depth than in canon.
Utility Magic: The Myedoan magic style, which was designed for construction and mass production.
Weak, but Skilled: There's an entire magic style built around this principle, designed to allow weaker mages to fight people far more powerful than them on a more even footing. Mei, one of the original characters, uses it.
Universe Bible: There apparently is one, but we won't be seeing it for awhile due to implicit spoilers.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Justified. The reason people have funny hair colours is that the Alhazredians encoded tribal markings and lineages into their genetics, and so they're "natural" results of genetic tampering. The reason they exist on Earth (like with Suzuka) is evidence of genetic contamination from Dimensional Space at some point in the past.
Tropes specific to Game Theory, first part of the story
Accidental Murder: Narrowly avoided when Nanoha inadvertently activated the Garden's automatic defense system, which targeted the TSAB ships with lethal force and refused to shut down. She destroyed it as soon as she realized this, but she was too late to stop it from badly damaging one of the ships and severely injuring several TSAB personnel. Fortunately, they all survived.
Adaptational Badass: The Jewel Seeds. One erases the landscape, while another creates zombies. And then there's the paper dragon which seems almost unstoppable until Zest cleaves it in one hit. The submarine from chapter ten is the baddest of them all. It's justified by the changes in the timeline that have delayed their activation, giving them more time to absorb ambient mana.
Advancing Wall of Doom: During the TSAB raid on Fate and Nanoha's apartment, Arf uses barriers to this effect in order to buy the group time to escape. It mostly fails, since the attacking parties choose to go through the walls to avoid them.
Always a Bigger Fish: The paper dragon Jewel Seed is more than Nanoha and Fate can handle, but then Zest arrives and kills it in one hit.
Amazon Brigade: Precia's faction is entirely composed of female characters. This doesn't change even when she gains new additions in Nanoha and Vesta.
Anti-Magic: Anti-magilink fields which are part of the defenses of the Garden of Time. In this setting, AMF was derived from studying the naturally occurring antimagic properties of Imaginary Space.
Aerial Canyon Chase: While fleeing from Zest, Fate makes a beeline for the forest, as it provides cover to prevent him from sniping her from the air and her agility will mean she can lose him in the foliage if he does chose to give chase. Unfortunately, he realizes her aims and goes to great lengths to stop her. She makes it.
Armor Is Useless: Averted. Barrier Jackets are essential in magical combat, and when Nanoha detonates hers as a surprise attack, she receives injuries much worse than she would have if her protection had been intact.
Badass Family: The Takamachi family. Nanoha is the obvious one, but Shiro, Kyouya and Miyuki are all trained fighters and are implied to have an instinctual and crude form of Full-Contact Magic. Momoko on the other hand appears to be where Nanoha got her magic talent from, though Momoko herself is untrained and can't control it.
Bamboo Technology: The Garden of Time has murals that change to display information. It's like a computer monitor carved in stone.
Beam Spam: Of course, but Nanoha's Divine Barret spell deserves special mention.
A hundred blazing rays of pink light shone in every direction, curving around the forms of Fate and Nanoha. Where they touched the thorny tendrils, brighter motes within crackled and burst, scorching and purifying the Jewel Seed tainted plant matter. Multiplying as they radiated outward, the soft violet radiance raced through the squirming mass of vines towards the light of day, bursting out from every dark shadow within as if a sun had been ignited inside it.
The Berserker: Original Character Mei is a descendent of a berserker lineage, which gives her a decreased fear response and greater power under stress. Quint hypothesizes that Nanoha may also be a descendent of one, though this is in-universe Wild Mass Guessing.
Blessed with Suck: As Megane puts it "Those ancient gene-meddlers never seemed to put enough thought into what 'reduced fear response' does to someone’s life."
Beware the Nice Ones: Seems to be a common trend among mothers or otherwise motherly characters. Lindy and Momoko both give rather intimidating Death Glares when angry, and Nanoha suspects Linith may have this trait as well. She's right.
Big Brother Is Watching: Sort of, the TSAB begins spying on Nanoha's family and friends and locations Nanoha was known to visit after confirming that Nanoha had joined with Fate. Justified though; they have no idea what Precia is going to do with the Jewel Seeds but it's obvious to everyone that it would be dangerous.
Fate breaks down in her mother's arms after finding out that Precia has mere months left to live.
Losing Nanoha takes a major toll on Yuuno. Whatever was left of the psyche after that is then completely shattered after she ignores his frantic pleas for her to come back to him and seemingly follows Precia to her death, which puts him into a temporary Heroic BSOD.
...shock, grief, and a numb, hurt confusion grew minute by minute into a tangled ache in his chest that eclipsed the gashes on his face and arms left by flying chips of rubble and steel.
Bridal Carry: Fate does this with Nanoha after the dimensional quake incapacitated her.
Broken Masquerade: Nanoha's family are let in on the existence of magic considerably earlier when Chrono attacks Nanoha in her home.
Cerebus Retcon: Several elements from Lyrical Nanoha that were played for laughs are given a much more serious spin in this story, particularly Yuuno forgetting to tell Nanoha that he was human.
Child Prodigy: Nanoha, almost freakishly so, and lampshaded in-universe. She grasps magic freakishly quickly, competing at the same level as Fate when she has years of experience compared to Nanoha's months. And up against the TSAB back-up squad, we see that Fate is like that to them. So Nanoha is the Child Prodigy of Child Prodigies, then.
Child Soldiers: The TSAB, viewed objectively. Nanoha refused to believe that Chrono was a real policeman partly because he was too young. Also, Fate.
Though one of the infodumps states that while the TSAB recruits children with great magical talent out of necessity, they try to assign those below the age of about fourteen or so to non-combat roles, freeing up older mages for other tasks.
Chekhov's Gun: Miyuki finds an orb created by one of the Jewel Seeds, which is ultimately passed to Nanoha. When the TSAB group attack Fate's apartment base, the orb goes off at a critical moment, allowing Nanoha and company to escape. And this isn't the only one.
Aleph: When I said, way back in the first thread somewhere, that I was already laying foreshadowing for events that are not going to take place until almost the end of the series? I wasn't kidding. There are already several other things lurking in the shadows like that orb. Hiding. Watching. Waiting for their time.
Nanoha's recklessness with magic screws things up in a big way during the TSAB's assault on the Garden.
Also, Vesta's possession by a Jewel Seed turns out to be crucial to Precia's plan to revive Alicia.
Chekhov's Boomerang: The Night of the Living Mooks Jewel Seed is what inspired Precia to create her temporary life-support system for Alicia to use when they travel to Alhazred. And then it turns out that Precia actually used that very Jewel Seed to revive Alicia fully.
Cliffhanger: Chapter twelve has a particularly nasty one. Partially because it was supposed to be the last chapter, but got split into two parts.
The following chapter has an even worse cliffhanger.
Combat Pragmatist: Pretty much everyone to some extent, but special mention goes to Fate, during the TSAB assault on the Garden of Time. She uses ambushes, Anti-Magic Fields to weaken them and scramble their sensors, shuts off the lights to blind them, Mecha-Mooks to even the numbers, and seals the doors and rearranges the corridors to isolate small groups of enemies and prevent them from reaching their objectives.
Combat Tentacles: The weed jewel seed monster uses both its stems and roots to attack. The submarine jewel seeds also grows these.
Continuity Nod: Alicia places a wreath of garland around Precia's neck, the same way Precia did for Alicia in Fate's flashbacks in the canon series.
Convection Schmonvection: Averted. One of Precia's attacks is a concentrated beam that superheats the air around it to the point that it burns Arf's fur even through a shield spell.
Cool Boat: The final Jewel Seed monster is a magically animated submarine, and it's the most powerful of them all by far.
Culture Clash: The standards of dimensional space, compared to Earth.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Nanoha's first couple fights with Fate are even more one-sided than in canon.
Later, Nanoha and Fate are way outmatched by Zest and Quint. Nanoha has to resort to using Starlight Breaker as a distraction just so they can get away.
Tiida's squad tends to get hit with these a lot; Fate and Nanoha have a tendency to dispatch them rather casually when they fight. It actually well demonstrates how depressingly out of their league the group is.
Dark Is Evil: Played with. Nanoha is innately prejudiced against Chrono for the fact that he's too young to be a "real policeman", and his appearance.
Nanoha: The TSAB are bad. They call their policemen 'Enforcers' and they wear black and have spikes on their shoulders.
Nanoha: This is nice, It's a pity Arf couldn't come. I hope she's not lonely back at the penthouse all by herself. (Cut to the penthouse, where Arf is having the time of her life taking advantage of having the house to herself to eat Ramen.) Fate: I'm sure she'll be fine.
Another example later in the same chapter sees Vesta chasing Yuuno in the middle of a fight. Chrono decides to let Yuuno hold out on his own, confident that Yuuno will endure. Cut to Yuuno, who's barely holding off Vesta, who is treating the whole thing like a game.
Disaster Dominoes: Nanoha accidentally touches off a rather spectacular chain of destruction on the Garden of Time in chapter twelve.
Discard and Draw: In a manner of speaking, Nanoha loses Yuuno's aid after she changes sides and helps Fate, but makes up for it by creating Vesta as her Familiar.
Dramatic Dislocation: Nanoha has her shoulder dislocated by Quint, and Fate pops it back into place.
Dramatic Irony: Miyuki giving the same exact advice on conflict resolution to Nanoha and Fate, without knowing that the conflict was between each other. Becomes plain old situational irony when Miyuki learns this.
During the Epilogue when Lindy is speaking with Graham, he implies that the Jewel Seed incident is making him think about the Book of Darkness. Lindy is unaware of his plans involving the Book.
Dramatic Thunder: In chapter ten, Vesta's worry about how things seem to be going too well is immediately followed by thunder, which is particularly alarming because they're inside a barrier, which doesn't have any natural weather. This is of course because a Jewel Seed did it.
Dungeon Bypass: Done by Quint when attacking Nanoha and Fate's apartment. They put up barriers to try to block her path. She goes through the walls.
And she does it again in the next chapter, smashing her way inside the submarine monster so that she can go through the interior to get beneath a Jewel Seed without having to break through its protective shell.
Instead of trying to get to Precia by going through the corridors of the Garden of Time, Zest just smashes straight through the ceilings.
And in a very similar scene to the one in StrikerS in which Nanoha used a bombardment spell to clear a path out of a burning building, here she uses a Starlight Breaker to blow a hole through a hangar wall so that the backup squad can escape the collapsing Garden of Time.
Nanoha: We can do this the easy way, or… or the also-easy way.
Enemy Mine: Nanoha and Fate work with the TSAB to fight the Jewel Seed monster in chapter ten.
Again in the final chapter, where Fate and Arf work with Chrono and Yuuno to deal with the rampaging robots. To a lesser extent, Nanoha and Tiida's squad against the robot monkey - although Nanoha genuinely wants to save them.
The paper dragon Jewel Seed is inspired by Charlotte. The description of the transformation is what gives it away.
Epic Fail: The Vesta Pounce has a tendency to fail, but Vesta's attempt to use it on Linith backfired in a particularly hilarious fashion.
Everyone Lives: In Game Theory. Barring the victims at the hospital, the death count among the named characters is actually negative thanks to Alicia's revival. Let that sink in; this Darker and Edgier fic ends, in a way, with fewer deaths than the original work.
Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Nanoha and Fate encounter a dinosaur-descended creature which resembles a hippo a little bit on a divergent Type-1 world which apparently had a lot of dinosaur-like things survive. They run away, and manage to stop Arf attacking it. There's also a little almost ape-like bird-dinosaur with teeth and whisker-like feathers on the same world.
Face-Heel Turn: Nanoha. To be fair, she doesn't realize Precia is the villain.
Hazy Feel Turn: There aren't really "good guys" and "bad guys" in this story.
Finagle's Law: Plans have a tendency not to stay on track for very long in this story. Except for Precia's final plan.
Gone Horribly Right: To scare off the TSAB, Nanoha activates the biggest gun that the Garden of Time has. It turns out to be much more than a big gun.
Good Versus Good: Nanoha and Fate against the TSAB. Both sides are sympathetic and happen to have mutually exclusive goals, although the former are being manipulated by Precia, who is a bit grayer, but even she is ultimately sympathetic.
Heroes Gone Fishing: There are several moments where the characters relax and unwind in between the fights. Mei drags Heidi and Rizu to a bar, and later watches Star Wars with Quint. At another point, Nanoha, Fate, Arf, and Vesta have a picnic and play an aerial game of frisbee.
Hollywood Tactics: Masterfully averted on both sides during the battle of the Garden of Time; The TSAB had planned to send in multiple waves of support for the forces inside, but a powerful jamming field prevents this in addition to cutting off their transmissions inside. Fate is left in charge of the internal fighting, where she employs pragmatic combat to a glorious degree, while Nanoha is left in charge of laying suppressing fire on the TSAB cruisers to prevent them aiding their troops or bombarding the Garden.
Improbable Age: Deconstructed. Nanoha doesn't recognize Chrono's authority because he looks too young, and while many of the characters are very capable for their age, they still lack maturity in noticeable ways. One of the more extreme cases, Lindy being an Admiral in her early thirties, has been retconned by making her ten years older.
Insane Troll Logic: Nanoha unintentionally resorts to this when trying to defend Precia's goals to the TSAB. While its presence is lampshaded to hell and back, her doing this also serves as a cold reminder to the TSAB that, at the end of the day, their enemy is just a nine year old girl.
Little Miss Badass: Fate, and especially Nanoha, who has started to disturb Yuuno with how fast she's picking things up.
Look Behind You: This was the purpose of Nanoha's first use of Starlight Breaker. Yes, her most powerful spell was first used as a distraction.
On a larger level the entire battle at the Garden of Time was a distraction meant to fool the TSAB into thinking Precia was still planning on going to Alhazred.
Magic Music: There are apparently magic styles that use music to form the spells, and the magitech weapon systems on the Garden of Time are controlled via song.
Singing in order to control the Garden's magitech really screws Nanoha over, as she after she causes the Garden's defenses to go haywire, she discovers that her voice is too sore to sing the emergency shutdown codes.
Magic Versus Science: Nanoha thinks that magic is magic. This worries Yuuno rather a lot, because it means she does things because that's how she thinks magic should work, rather than following the clearly defined scientific principles, and has enough raw power to be sloppy when she does it.
Mecha-Mooks: They're part of the Garden's defenses, but unlike in canon, they are actually a serious threat because they are used with proper tactics and empowered by a Jewel Seed, which causes them to go berserk when Nanoha screws up the Garden's defense system.
Mood Whiplash: Happens in chapter twelve when the tense fight scenes are followed by Vesta complaining about hurting herself by chasing her own tail.
My God, What Have I Done?: Chrono gets a low-level version of this when he realizes that Nanoha is actually from Earth...and he attacked her in her house.
Earlier, Nanoha and Fate both felt guilty when they realized that several people were killed by a Jewel Seed because they were too busy fighting each other to put up a barrier.
Nanoha gets another one when her recklessness with magic causes the Garden's defense systems to activate out of her control, possibly killing several TSAB personnel. (It didn't.)
Mythology Gag: From the final chapter: "I wish things could have been different. Maybe… maybe in another life…" The context? Nanoha apologizing to Yuuno for choosing to go with Fate into Imaginary Space.
The Needs of the Many: The core of the conflict is that Precia and Nanoha wants to use the Jewel Seeds to revive Alicia, which the TSAB considers an unacceptable risk as doing so puts billions of lives on the line.
It's somewhat ironic that Precia ultimately used a much less risky procedure to revive Alicia.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Chrono had no idea he was attacking Nanoha in her house...which is the catalyst for her joining Precia.
Then there's Nanoha giving Precia the Jewel Seeds she needs to complete her plan.
Later on, Arisa and Suzuka's attempt to find Nanoha allow Megane's bugs to track down her location.
And Nanoha's plan to grab one of the Jewel Seeds before the TSAB can get to it causes the remaining four to activate all at once and absorb all the magic they threw around, creating the most powerful monster yet.
Nanoha does it again in chapter twelve, when her recklessness with magic leads to the Garden's defenses activating out of her control and targeting the TSAB with lethal force. She is forced to destroy the control construct to prevent it from destroying the TSAB ships, which causes the drones to shut down, giving the TSAB the opening they need to start closing in on Precia. And then one of Jewel Seeds that was tied into the defense system activates.
Night of the Living Mooks: One of the Jewel Seed animates corpses in a morgue, and another does the same with the bodies of dead sailors. Precia's study of this effect turns out to be crucial to reviving Alicia.
By the end of Game Theory everyone thinks Precia, Nanoha, Fate and their familiars are dead after their attempt to defend the Garden of Time against an attack from the TSAB, which included Zest Grangeitz, Quint Nakajima and Lotte Lieze (filling in for Megane Alpine, who gave birth to Lutecia early). As it turns out Precia and company had actually escaped and are in hiding along with a revived Alicia. That's not even the half of it. Back on Earth, Arisa, Suzuka, and Nanoha's mother Momoko all discovered they can do magic, while Hayate has a friend, learned magic exists, and has encountered Nanoha and Fate all before the summoning of the Wolkenritter (who are summoned at the very end of the story).
Oh, Crap: Nanoha and Fate's reaction when Zest makes his appearance by killing the paper dragon in one hit.
Megane, after Quint broaches her theory that Nanoha is of Berserker lineage to her.
Older Than They Look: Lindy's age has been raised by ten years to make her position as an Admiral slightly less absurd, but she still apparently looks quite youthful. Precia also counts, as in canon.
Our Monsters Are Weird: A submarine, courtesy of the Jewel Seeds, grows acid spewing tentacles, eyes, guns made of organic matter, and animates corpses to attack.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Tiida's squad are basically average mages, which is used to highlight just how absurdly powerful characters like Zest and Nanoha are.
Lampshaded by Heidi.
Heidi: I'm still aching from where that damn blonde caught me… honestly, someone that powerful and that young? It's ridiculous, I'm telling you. We're working against two AA-rank mages, and they're both nine, it's like the universe is being deliberately unfair.
Poltergeist: One of the Jewel Seeds manifests like this in a supermarket.
Poor Communication Kills: Remember how Yuuno didn't tell Nanoha he was really a human? Well it's not Played for Laughs in this story. Also happens to Chrono in a big way when he mistakenly assumes Nanoha was working with Fate and attacks her in her home, driving her into actually deciding to help Fate.
Power Copying: Nanoha's Divine Barret is an adapted version of Fate's Photon Barret. During the TSAB raid on Fate and Nanoha's apartment, Mei uses barriers to copy the effect of Quint's Wing Road. Unlike the previous example, this backfires badly on her.
Pregnant Badass: Megane calls up her most powerful summon despite being eight months pregnant. Doing so causes her to enter labor.
Also, most of the time when someone (usually Nanoha) tries something crazy and reckless, it either fails or has severe consequences.
And then there's what happens when Nanoha tries to improvise with Alhazredian weapon systems.
Red Herring: Alhazred. Somewhere between chapters 6 and 11, Precia decides to abandon her attempt to go to Alhazred and instead researches how to use a Jewel Seed to revive Alicia. The Promethean Metabolic Auxillary Mechanism, seemingly created to allow Alicia to survive her trip into Anti-Magic Imaginary Space, was actually created to revive Alicia fully. What made the latter revelation particularly effective is that before the Promethean mechanism was created, Precia was testing the effect of anti-magilink fields (based on the natural properties of Imaginary Space) on the Jewel Seeds - the reader was fooled into thinking Precia was telling the truth about the mechanism.
The Stations of the Canon: The first few fights between Nanoha and Fate play out more or less the same. Things get a bit different when one of the Jewel Seeds triggers a Night of the Living Mooks. And then the canon gets nuked from orbit when Nanoha decides to help Precia. And then what's left is firebombed when Precia actually succeeds in reviving Alicia.
Stealth Pun: In chapter thirteen, the fight between Linith and Lotte is a cat fight.
The Stinger: The Final Words is a short scene following the epilogue of Game Theoryfrom Gil Graham's perspective, as he puts his plan for the Book of Darkness into motion.
Super Window Jump: During the TSAB raid on their apartment Fate and Nanoha plan to escape by smashing through the bay windows. Then, after a stray shot accidentally activates a ball of mana left behind by a jewel seed, everyone else follows their lead.
Surprisingly Happy Ending: All thanks to some quick re-planning on Precia's part. She, Fate, Nanoha and their familiars make it out of the battle of the Garden of Time alive and relatively well, and even more important, Alicia is successfully brought back to life.
It was amazing how scary kind, gentle, maternal people could become if they found evidence of crockery being broken or mud being tracked into the house... not that Nanoha would know anything about that sort of thing. Of course.
Vesta was a brave kitten. Great sagas would have been written about her deeds, had any of the humans been intelligent enough to recognise and acknowledge them for what they were. So it would be wrong to say that she froze in mute, petrified terror at the sight of the evil dark human of evil. Rather, she stood her ground defiantly in the face of adversity, and met the fearsome aura that wreathed the void-black figure with a contemptuous silence.
Take My Hand: In chapter 13, Yuuno desperately reaches a hand out to Nanoha, while trying to persuade her not to follow Precia and Fate into dimensional space. She doesn't take it.
Talking the Monster to Death: Twice, members of the TSAB have tried to talk Nanoha into abandoning Precia and peacefully handing herself in. She hears them out, but rejects them both times.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Lindy and Megane don't get along due to a personality clash and a bad first impression, and Yuuno and Chrono also started off on the wrong foot due to Chrono's mishandling of the situation, which was largely responsible for driving Nanoha into joining Precia. They're still all working together to stop Precia, though.
By Chapter 11, Yuuno and Chrono seem to have formed something of a truce.
Mei: You know, this kind of creepy tunnel place with a load of dead bodies in it – well, dead robots, but it's the same sort of thing – you'd expect them to, like, get up and start attacking when someone poked one.
Trauma Conga Line: Nanoha gets hit with a lot of bad stuff over the course of the story. First, she's caught up in several dramatically one sided fights with Fate. Then she causes a rift between her and her friends when she's forced to keep up the Masquerade. After that, the TSAB attack her in her home, putting her mother right in the line of fire. During all of this, she's then forced to choose sides between Fate and the Yuuno. Her decision turns her into a fugitive and forces her to go on the run, which causes her to suffer from a heavy bout of homesickness. If that wasn't enough, the TSAB absolutely terrify her when they threaten to seal her powers and take away Raising Heart if she doesn't comply with their goals. Throw in dealing with some absolutely horrific jewel seed monsters, wrestling with the guilt of possibly causing the deaths of several TSAB personnel, being forced to chose between two of her closest magical friends and being indefinitely separated from her family after making said choice, and it's a wonder that she hasn't broken down already.
...her life had seemed like one long string of hardships lately.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Invoked; Precia keeps her true plan to revive Alicia to herself so that Nanoha and Fate can't accidentally spill it to the TSAB.
The Worf Effect: The paper dragon Jewel Seed is built up as incredibly strong and dangerous, and almost outmatches Fate and Nanoha. Then Zest takes it out in one cleave.
The submarine monster from chapter ten is able to match everything the TSAB team can dish out even with Nanoha and Fate helping them, but Precia kills it in one hit and disables the Asuraat the same time, from another dimension.
You Are Too Late: The TSAB is not able to stop Precia from completing her spell. And then later, it turns out that it was all a distraction - Precia had already used the Promethean mechanism to revive Alicia.
Tropes specific to Another Way, an alternate continuity to the main series
Tomato Surprise: In Another Way the ending reveals that the Takamachi and Testarossa in the story are actually Momoko and Alicia. (Admittedly Alicia's identity is fairly obvious, but Momoko's identity isn't).
Tropes specific to "Teatime With Tea", an Omake recap of Game Theory
Comical Overreacting: Alicia gets particularly upset when describing the TSAB's night raid on Nanoha and Fate's hideout in Game Theory.
"... So the TSAB found them, and then they attacked them!" The slide advances again, to show a tall building with the top floor engulfed in an explosion. "In their home! At night, when they were meant to be asleep!" Alicia's tone is one of outrage and horror, and though Teana makes a feeble protest, the blonde girl glares her into submission.
Foreshadowing: It was posted a bit before the first chapter of Power Games on the Spacebattles thread, so it hints at some elements in the story's first chapter.
Lightning Glare: Happens when Tea and Alicia argue about whether Nanoha and Fate's plan to force-activate the last of the Jewel Seeds in Game Theory was a good plan or not.
Relax-o-Vision: Vesta appears to talk about the weather when Alicia and Tea get into a long squabble about who was bad or good in Game Theory. Amusingly, her "weather report" was mostly her complaining about how snow is just water in disguise, and to not go outside.
Curb Stomp Cushion: Though Nanoha did manage to break Vita's jaw, she broke her own hand doing it.
We later learn one of these occurred between Momoko and Signum.
In the fifth chapter, Shamal and Zafira effortlessly take down a TSAB squad of twenty mages.
Diabolus Ex Machina: It turned out that the two girls Quint was trying to adopt were abducted while she was on Earth in Game Theory. Poor Quint. Poor Subaru and Ginga.
Dramatic Irony: In Chapter 2 we see Alicia has become a Child Prodigy, doing a maintenance check on her civilian Device (admittedly by following the instructions of a book, but it's still something even Precia couldn't do at her age). Precia worries the Jewel Seed mechanism might be affecting Alica, but she lacks decisive evidence...and she doesn't want to believe that Alicia was a "failure" the way Fate was. However, the reader has access to the Alternate Universe story Another Way where Alicia never died in the reactor accident. In that world, Alicia's only talent of note is lockpicking...
Early-Bird Cameo: In Chapter 4 a few characters discuss the Shutran Hegemony. There's also the Masked Men, even though technically they were seen earlier in Game Theory.
On the "Good" side we have the TSAB, again. We also have Nanoha and Fate, although Precia's influence means they're not as good as they'd like to be.
On the "Bad" side there's Precia, who's only trying to protect Earth to keep Nanoha's loyalty. There's also the Well Intentioned Extremists of the Wolkenritter (who are trying to save Hayate) and Gil Graham (who's trying to destroy the Book of Darkness).
On the "Ugly" side we have the Mariage, who are little more than unliving machines following old programming. There's also the as-yet unrevealed defense program of the Book of Darkness.
Mêlée à Trois: Chapter 6 has a six way battle that might charitably be described as an utter clusterfuck.
Metaphorically True: Signum uses this to avoid offending Hayate. When Hayate is looking to Signum for approval about her zombie defense plans, Signum replies that it was much better than what many of her previous masters could have done ... without mentioning which masters she was talking about.
Putting the Band Back Together: Lindy decides to do this early on, requesting the aid of Zest and Tiida's teams in dealing with the Book of Darkness. Chapter 4 shows that she also asked Yuuno for help.
Rake Take: One of Hayate's plans for fighting off zombies.
Razor Floss: Shamal uses Klarwind's threads to decapitate one of the Mariage.
The Rest Shall Pass: Near the end of the battle in chapter 6, Nanoha and her companions are confronted by multiple opponents and only Nanoha and Vesta are able to fight. Nanoha asks Vesta to get the others to safety, but Vesta refusesto leave Nanoha. Then Yuuno steps in to help the others escape.
Shout-Out: The Testarossa's choose the last name "Daytona" for their family's assumed identity. A reference to Lyrical Nanoha's automobile Theme Naming.
Vesta's assumed name is "Vittoria Ceres". While both Vesta and Ceres were Roman gods, it's really a reference to the character Vesta's human form was patterned after, Seras Victoria.
It's also a reference to NASA's Dawn mission, which has visited the asteroid Vesta and is scheduled to visit the dwarf planet Ceres.
The Fanfiction.net summary of the fic references a quote by writer Elbert Hubbard ("Nothing unmasks a man like his use of power.")
In Chapter 2, Raising Heart mentions a Lost Logia known as the Lucrezian Hammer, which reanimates corpses. The name and powers refer to Lucrezia Mongfish of Girl Genius.
Later in the chapter, Alicia is seen with a doll that has red eyesand blue hair. (Both authors have written fanfics for the fandom in question).
In Chapter 6, the construct that manifests from Alicia's Jewel Seed bears a suspicious resemblance to Charlotte. Lampshaded by the fact that it reminds Arisa and Suzuka of the paper dragon Jewel Seed, also inspired by Charlotte.
Sick and Wrong: Hayate has this reaction to the idea of Signum as a mother.
Spanner in the Works: The Book of Darkness is this for Precia. Also, Precia initially plans to conceal the presence of the Book from her daughters to keep Alicia out of danger, but Nanoha unintentionally derails that plan before she can even try.
A huge monkey wrench is thrown in everyone's plans when the Mariage show up.
Alicia gets bored and teleports to Earth, touching off a massive fight and revealing Precia's survival to the TSAB.
The Stations of the Canon: It's a testament to the power of this trope that many fans still believed Nanoha would fight Vita at the beginning of Power Games despite all the prior changes. Indeed, the fight still happens, though for different reasons.
Anything that remained of the original canon gets vaporized on the subatomic level with the appearance of the Mariage, of all things.
Time Skip: Same as A's (Six months since the end of Game Theory).
Tomato Surprise: The prologue isn't from Hayate's perspective. It's from Ixpellia's.
Tongue Tied: To help keep up their assumed identities, the Devices of Fate, Nanoha, and Alicia (using a civilian Device) have settings to replace their real names (as well as those of Precia, Arf and Vesta) with their assumed ones when they speak them.
The Virus: The third chapter introduces a character with Polyam-Ladradun Syndrome, a Dawn States era bioweapon intended to convert people into living weapons.
Visible Silence: Signum's response to Hayate's professed desire to use her as a dress up doll.
Wham Episode: The end of Chapter 3 reveals Subaru and Ginga were kidnapped at some point during Game Theory.