The Witcher franchise started off as a collection of loosely connecteddarkLow/Heroic Fantasy short stories that deconstructed classic Fairy Tales, before evolving into a five novel-long series with a strong Myth Arc. Written by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski during The Nineties, the books were translated into multiple languages (including Russian and German) and adapted into comics, Live-Action TV series The Hexer and tabletop RPG. However, the franchise first gained widespread attention in the English-speaking world with the release of The Witcher, a video game adaptation-slash-sequel by a then-unknown Polish developer studio, CD Projekt RED. Since then, English translations of the original books began to appear. As of February 2013, only three of the then-seven books have received an official English translation, but the other five have been fan translated, and are freely available at The Witcher Forum (Video Game) Community "Our Community Fan Translations" Page.The original books were:
Season of Storms (Sezon burz, 2013) - an interquel set around the time of short stories.
The five novels are collectively known as the Witcher Saga. In addition to these, there were two loosely related short stories: Droga, z której się nie wraca (Road of no return, a prequel telling the tale of Geralt's parents) and Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna (Something ends, something begins, a non-canonical story of Geralt's and Yennefer's wedding).
Please add installment- and character-specific examples directly to their respective pages.
The world of The Witcher provides examples of:
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Nilfgaard Empire. Totalitarian state with world dominance ambitions (with Lebensraum gist), disdain for other nations as uncivilized subhumans, troops with black uniforms and lightning emblem (aka Sig rune) and so on.
The conquering of Aedirn kingdom follows to the smallest details the history of the Poland Campaign, including: false-flag operation as a cause, Blitzkrieg-like deep raids of cavalry (in the place of tanks) and backstab from former ally, who make a pact with aggresor to get territories they claim are indigenously theirs.
All Women Are Lustful: If the female characters aren't propositioning Geralt for sex, they're talking about it with other characters.
Arguably, played with. Some of them just act like that to manipulate men.
Alternate Continuity: Sapkowski has stated that while he fully trusts the developers' skill at storytelling, the game is not a part of the books' canon — arguably, a high-budget fan sequel. He compares their canonicity to a relation between a novel and a Film of the Book. However, the basic assumption of the games' plot (the fact that Geralt and Yennefer as such survived the events of the books) is canon.
Sapkowski himself wrote a short story 'Something ends, Something begins' that presents an alternate happy ending where Geralt and Yennefer have married at last. The story is not canon either, therefore being something of an example of fan fiction by the creator.
Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: On one hand, Witchers have it good. Their mutations make them resistant to most poisons and diseases (which allows them to ingest normally toxic potions), they have superior strength and reflexes, and can see well in the dark, among other things. On the other hand, they're social pariahs, widely regarded as freaks and monsters by the masses, are seldom treated or even paid well and they are sterile.
Ciri can arguably qualify. Being a princess of a politically important kingdom is nothing when compared with the ability to travel through time and universes. Thanks to that she is hunted by virtually everyone, for a dozen different schemes.
Code of Honour: Geralt often quotes The Witcher Code as a reason why he can't accept a certain contract or why he can't get involved with whatever problems someone else wants him to resolve. He made the whole thing up in order to be able to avoid accepting contracts he doesn't want to do and to protect himself from the potential backlash of refusing to help someone. It also helps with his personal rep, since people believe he is bound by the Witcher Code and therefore not going to do his own thing and muck things up because he feels he should.
Crapsack World: Where do we begin... the world is mired in conflict, people eke out a living amongst the ruins of ancient civilizations, monsters and elven guerillas prowl the forests, Fantastic Racism rules the streets, nobles oppress commoners (that is, when they're not busy backstabbing each other), kings lead armies to war in the name of hollow-sounding ideals which do little to mask the monarchs' greed and hubris, the ominous shadow of The Empire hangs over all, and (if that wasn't enough) the world is prophesized to soon be engulfed by an ice age which will obliterate everything... and Black Death-like epidemic starts when the saga ends.
Creature Hunter Organization: The eponymous witchers hunt all kinds of monsters, but specifically those who invaded the world after the Conjunction of the Spheres. They would fall under the phlebotinum-powered subtype, since they are genetically enhanced since childhood and have number of supernatural traits to complement their Training from Hell.
Dark and Troubled Past: Practically everyone. It's easier to list the characters who were not terribly traumatised at some point in their past.
Dying Race: Elves, though it's partly their own goddamn fault.
Elves VS Dwarves: Subverted. The Elves and Dwarves had been at war a long time ago, but are now allies against the humans who treat both as second-class-citizens at best.
Though Elves have more at stake in this conflict, while representatives of other races will sometimes say "oh, look, now it turns out 'we are all older races'. Until humans kicked them out, Elves weren't so nice."
Encyclopedia Exposita: Encyclopaedia Maxima Mundi by Effenberg and Talbot, which is wrong on almost every detail, either as future Nilfgaardian propaganda or simply due to Future Imperfect.
Everybody Lives/Everybody Dies: Played with and zigzagged severely; on the Everybody Lives end, a lot of characters a Wrong Genre Savvy reader might have pegged as Redshirts walk away alive, and they're relatively safe as long as they only encounter the main cast episodically. But travelling with one of them if they weren't introduced back in the short stories? Put on your Mauve Shirt already. Geralt himself dies in the end.
It's also been said that Everybody Dies — but later. It's used in the books to establish a feeling that Geralt is no just add boiling water instant superhero, is a part of a living world, has really been doing his thing for a damn long time, and knows people everywhere. This is also Played for Laughs somewhat, such as when a Chekhov's Gun drops the anvil 2000 pages later on some poor sod.
A random messenger that stumbles upon Ciri and Yennefer? Dead by the end of the chapter. That female merchant who stopped to listen to Dandelion's song? Dead two books later. One of the witchers? Died near the end of the saga.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Skellige Islanders are shameless Viking expies. Nilfgaard seems to be some cross of Ancient Rome and the bad side of Germany. The Elves seem to be inspired by something, but the fandom is not sure whether it's the Celts conquered by Rome, Rome conquered by barbarians, or Native Americans conquered by the White Man.
Flower Pot Drop: Dandelion was flower-bombed by his current mistress breaking with him, after she threw all his possessions out of the window.
Gambit Pileup: The final book, where it is revealed that all that crap around Geralt and his group was just a fallout from severalgambits chewing at each other, with an additional prophecy actively trying to fulfill itself.
Gold Colored Superiority: Golden dragons are considered a myth, but they actually exist and are the most powerful (and rarest) kind of dragon, preferring to disguise themselves as humans, as the Limit of Possibility short story demonstrates.
Grimmification: The saga itself, but most of short stories are simply grimmer versions of classical fairy tales. To name few: Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen, Little Mermaid, Snow White and many more.
He Who Fights Monsters: Discussed repeatedly by Geralt. He never stops dwelling on his role in society as a Witcher and killer.
Hopeless War: Elves (and other old races) against humans in the past; and the conflict between the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaard looks increasingly like this for the former, as the games advance the universe's storyline - each successive war ends with Nordlings losing more territory to Nilfgaard or its puppet states, barely holding the rest by winning a desperate victory in the field, then succumbing further to internal strife (much of which is incited or sponsored by Nilfgaard ans its agents), as soon as a temporary peace agreement is brokered, while the enemy prepares for the next round. Northern kings even draw comparisons between the fates of elves and their own on their council in the books (and the plan to reverse the trend they create in response fails badly).
The Hunter: A Witcher's job is to hunt down and destroy monsters.
Illegal Religion: Coram Agh Ter, the Cult of the Lionhead Spider, is a forbidden religion in many of the civilized nations due to its practice of Human Sacrifice, and while the persecution is not as intense as it has been in the past, very few places will allow Coram Agh Tera cultists to preach openly. The government of Temeria is particularly keen to suppress the cult within their borders, and membership of the Lionhead Spider cult is a crime akin to murder.
Line-of-Sight Name: Sapkowski likes this trope. One character shares her name with a city in France. Another one with a mountain in Iran. Yet another one is named after a town in Ireland. Vilgefortz of Roggeveen is a more complicated case — Roggeveen was the surname of the captain who discovered Easter Island. There's a whole long list of such "creative" names.
Magic Knight: Witchers use simple spells ("signs") in combat, and magicians often have some level of combat ability.
Medieval European Fantasy: Subverted countless times; more specifically, the architecture, fashions, and technology in general suggests a Late Medieval-like setting, but characters talk about concepts like racism, drug addiction, and genetics.
Actually, it is more a planned aversion of this trope. Sapkowski on numerous occasions commented that he tried to include things like existence of monsters and magic into the mindset of the characters. In his vision, wizards (who actually know how the world operates on a very low level) are more scientists than sages or flamboyant combat specialists.
In fact, responding to numerous accusations that his stories are not "period-accurate", Sapkowski has pointed out that fantasy takes place in an entirely fictional world, with a history, geography, culture etc. unlike our own. Nothing, not even individual words of a language can "realistically" be the same, as fantasy is not necessarily a recreation of anything "real" - by definition. Sapkowski has used the Polish word for "king" as an example, the word being originally derived from Charlemagne's name, and thus impossible to exist in a fantasy world where Charlemagne never lived. Yet no-one seems to complain that fantasy works use the word "king". While fantasy is often inspired by Middle Ages, Sapkowski reasons that there's no "requirement" for it to follow any real-world logic. It can be as close or as distant from the real world as desired, and there's nothing "unrealistic" about, say, a peasant girl wearing underwear in the modern sense.
Mythology Gag: Sapkowski created a simple RPG called Oko Yrrhedesa (The Eye of Yrrhedes). In one of two scenarios the PCs were trying to traverse Death World of a river called Yarra. Jaruga, a river that's on the beginning the border between Nilfgaard and North kingdoms is called Yarra in Elven.
Witchers age slower than normal humans. Geralt is more than eighty years old — Cair Muirehen was destroyed some sixty or seventy years before, and there weren't any new witchers since. Those who remained alive (including him) were out of the castle at the time of attack, which means that he already was a full-fledged witcher at the time.
Elves live hundreds of years, and mages are effectively immortal, with a resistance to most diseases.
Nobody's truly immortal; some are just "very" long-lived. The average Elven lifespan is stated as around 300 years in the first novel, and as for mages, one of the oldest of them is over 500 years old. Despite his power, he has the appearance and health of a 100 year old man, and looks like he could keel over any time. He eventually dies of a heart attack.
Said wizard, as is stated moments later in the same book, was already that health an appearance when he invented the immortality serum, anyone younger can be killed, but will not age. Adittionaly, the elven witch and self-appointed queen of elves, Francesca Findabair, is well over a thousand. Both she and her extra-dimensional brethren lived before the first human people arrived in that world.
While we're going into individual examples, the oldest witcher, Vesemir, is said to be even older than the castle where the witchers were trained, yet despite his age, he's still in excellent physical condition and many a (human) youth would envy his health.
Our Dragons Are Different: At least one of them, a golden dragon who actually likes humans, is a shapeshifter. Shapeshifting dragons are common in Asian mythology, but the difference is that these are Western-type dragons, not Asian ones.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: They're also bankers. Dwarven bankers may be undwarvenly polite in public, but in privacy they're the same as any other dwarf.
Our Elves Are Better: They are long-lived, pretty, and skillful, and have developed a sophisticated culture, but they're not that much better in terms of morality. Basically, they suffered the fate of Rome, with humans playing the role of barbarians adapting their culture, or perhaps Celts ran over by the Romans (with Boudicca and all).
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: they're good craftsmen, possibly better than dwarves at certain precise and complicated tasks, or those requiring theoretical expertise. Dwarves make excellent swords, but best swords in the world were gnomish.
Our Trolls Are Different: They repair bridges, love drinking, and ask for tolls from travelers who cross their bridges. They are also one of the very few monsters that humans are willing to have around, since paying the toll is cheaper than maintenance of the bridge.
There is also a clear difference between the 'low' and 'high' vampires. The lowly ones are no different from monsters and basically look like giant humanoid bats, while the high ones are the more familiar vampires, who can happen to be quite nice and friendly folks like Regis. Also, most of the 'high' vampires easily tolerate sunlight, and holy water, crucifixes, and garlic pose no threat to them. They also do not need blood to survive, although drinking it increases their strength and gets them drunk. It appears that there is some sort of middle ground, as creatures like Bruxa are intelligent, but concentrate on sucking blood.
Although, Bonhart's lifeway includes killing wanted criminals, collecting bounties, bying new equipment from weapon smiths etc, making him look suspiciously similar to the token hero of an RPG / Heroic Fantasy book. Knowing the author, this could be an intent to show how these guys outside of their own P.O.V. actually look like.
Well, what would you do if you were immune to all human diseases, incapable of getting someone pregnant, unlikely to ever come to this village again, and considered a big damn hero for a few hours after killing the monster before you go back to being generally despised and alone? Dandelion is just Dandelion, though.
Scars Are Forever: Happens despite regeneration and transformation magic. It's that not everyone can afford magic, and not everyone who can afford magic considers it worthwhile. In one case the scarring was so unreceptive to therapy that it was substituted with an extraordinarily strong illusion.
Twang Hello: The Dryads used to be fond of this. Nowadays, they will simply shoot you.
Vain Sorceress: Sorceresses in general. They use their magic to preserve their youth and beauty. And sometimes to make themselves look beautiful. It's a matter of both professional prestige and the result of many of them being born as commoners or even cripples.
In many cases, the girls who train to become sorceresses are the ones who have no hope of attracting suitors. Even after magic fixes their appearance, many of them still bear the emotional scars of their past as ugly people and resent the humiliation of having to wear a mask of fake beauty for the sake of their profession. The author describes them as "pseudo-pretty women with the cold, bitter eyes of ugly girls".
Virgin Power: Inverted; a virgin cannot summon magical power with any form of control.
Or averted, since when it is mentioned, it's played as a sort of not-necessarily-true Urban Legend.
The Wild Hunt: It's a kind of annual astronomical/celestial phenomenon happening on Midsummer. Some consider it a natural occurrence, but the others point out that people tend to disappear when it's around. It turns out to be something far more sinister.
Whole Plot Reference: Sapkowski is a big fan of King Arthur myth, which he credits to be original inspiration to The Lord of the Rings and generally, to all fantasy literature. Thus, there is a ton of homage to it in the series, both obvious (especially in the last book), and more obscure. Geralt can be considered an expy of Lancelot, Yennefer - of Guinevere (it's actually two different forms of the same name) and Ciri - both Galahad and The Grail.
Word of Dante: Since the author has a rather Shrug of God-style attitude, many world-building details were filled out by the fandom, the tabletop game, and finally the video games. The world map is probably the best example, as no map has ever been included in the novels. Even then it's just one of several versions circulating in the fandom.