Take the High Concept of a gigantic castle at the center of The Multiverse, where every door or window can lead to another world; add in numerous characters from those worlds, each withhis own special talent he develops just by being there; and then throw them into various wacky hijinks and screwball comedy, and you get John DeChancie's Castle Perilous series.Novels in the series are:
Join Gene, Linda, Snowclaw, Sheila, Thaxton and Dalton, Kwip, Jeremy, and many, many more as they search for a way home, learn to adapt, and have incredible adventures both ridiculous and frightening, all while Lord Incarnadine and his family work to keep the castle and its 144,000 worlds stable and safe (though not always sane). It's thought-provoking, it's crazy, it's weird, and it's unexpected, but it's almost always hilarious. Sadly, the author seems to have abandoned the series, leaving it on quite the Cliff Hanger, but it is still worth a read for its entertainment value alone.
Aborted Arc: Upon arriving in Castle Perilous, the rakish barbarian lord Rance of Corcindor shows an inordinate amount of interest in Linda; at the same time, Melanie seemed rather interested in him, suggesting the beginnings of a Love Dodecahedron. Luckily, thanks to No Ending for the series, this never gets pursued, though even if the series had been continued this arc might not have been, since at the end of Bride of the Castle Gene was well on his way to convincing Rance to take over as Emperor of Orem for him.
Action Girl: Vaya, since she is a warrior queen and, in the two scenes where she gets to fight, she effortlessly kills Yerga and learns to use the Umoi weapon with surprising skill, taking out a number of Annau's robots. Appropriate, considering her source.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played with. The cities of the Umoi were perfectly and properly designed—it is just that after centuries of abandonment and neglect, some of them have either deteriorated to the point of it affecting their AIs as well, or their isolation has caused them to have mental breakdowns. In any event, the end result is a Split Personality for one, and a creative reinterpretation of its prime directive…
Alas, Poor Villain: Melydia, despite her sympathetic backstory, is pretty much depicted as an insane Rich Bitch for most of Castle Perilous; however, as soon as she and Incarnadine actually face each other, she becomes a lot more sympathetic, and pitiable, and once she recovers her sanity and regrets her actions, it isn't very hard at all to feel sorry for her fate—although she'll always be with Incarnadine in a sense, she also gets to remain a disembodied voice, combined with a transmogrified demon, forever. Ferne's fate is even worse, since she ends up put through horrible cruel Cold-Blooded Torture by the Hosts of Hell, to the point that when Incarnadine finally finds her he can't remove her from the devices without leaving pieces of her flesh still in them; she gets a chance to make one last Dying Declaration of Lovefor her brother and then dies in his arms. This last is even an in-story example, since the heroes, despite having faced her as an antagonist, are all very sympathetic to Incarnadine and go to her Meaningful Funeral.
Alice Allusion: More subtle than most examples, but the woman Alice whom Gene meets in the Big Brother Is Watching world of Castle War! is one of the rare few for whom InnerVoice does not work due to some natural immunity to the nanotech—i.e., she is one of the few who has not bought into (or been forced to accept) the status quo, retaining sanity among a form of madness.
All Just a Dream: What the entirety of Castle Dreams turns out to be. Made more complex by the fact that nothing which happens in the book is mentioned again, or even happened at all, since Osmirik claims the book is a work of fiction within the 'real' fictional world but perhaps happened in an Alternate Universe or Mirror Universe. So not only a dream but a What If?. However, there are hints that it does have bearing upon, or is a reflection of, the real world: Trent wakes from a dream at the start of Castle Spellbound that is implied to be the same events as those in Castle Dreams (complete with a Meaningful Echo of Incarnadine's last line of the book), and the feelings which Linda has for Inky that are first revealed in Castle Dreams are referenced again in Castle Spellbound when Gene guesses she has feelings for someone in the castle; it comes to a head in Bride of the Castle. In the end, though, things are left rather mysterious and unresolved.
All Myths Are True: The Hosts of Hell possibly inspired Earth's concept of Demon Lords and Archdevils. Castle Perilous itself is reminiscent of or even a Trope Namer for a place/tale in Arthurian Canon. Incarnadine theorizes to Trent that their father, who had a strong interest in Earth and Western European culture especially and gave them all British names, was Merlin. (And his name, as revealed in Castle Dreams, was Cawdor.) Thanks to stories of Castle Perilous told in Kwip's world, and legends of a "Castle of the Gods" in Vaya's, this may be true for the myths of all Aspects.
Alternate Universe: Every world accessed by an Aspect (including our own) is this, but the castle itself is in another world, and sometimes unstable Aspects or the destabilizing of The Multiverse itself creates strange variant alternates as well. Castle War! concerns a whole series of them that duplicate the castle itself, each slightly more different and off than the last; that same book includes an Aspect which Gene notes as having the same stars as Earth (and in many ways being an Homage to 1984 and Brave New World), and another where Jeremy meets Luster and Dolbert who mention the poets "Sheats and Kelley". Meanwhile, the golfing world turns into a Hell (and mythical creature) -themed variant.
Incarnadine claims there are an infinite number of possible worlds out there which are only given reality by the castle, and Bride of the Castle proves that even thinking about those possibilities in the real world can make them become "real" in an Alternate Universe. This same book also provides the example of the world Gene and Snowclaw become trapped in which, to judge by comments made by Gene about the empire he ends up attacking, is yet another alternate Earth—it allows slavery and bullies foreign lands but also has much culture and civilization worth preserving, is in danger of being destroyed by barbarians thus heralding a dark age, and its capital (which Gene says is "eternal" according to legend) is even named Orem.
Ambition Is Evil: Ferne, Jamin, and Tragg and Ruthven, though in Tragg's case he tries vainly to conceal it behind Revenge for supposed slights and insults committed by Incarnadine. Trent starts off seeming this way in his quest for the throne, but his motive is actually fairly pure—not wanting power for its own sake or what he can do with it, but simply believing he's the right man for the job and that it should have been his to begin with. Once he finds out what the job actually entails, he abandons his goal and goes back to a normal life.
Anachronism Stew: By its very nature the castle and all its worlds are this, particularly when residents of different aspects mingle and interact, but Gene is fond of making Earth references Snowclaw and others don't get while Trent and Incarnadine do the same thanks to their long years spent there. The "Afterlife" Incarnadine goes to in Castle Dreams is also this, since it crosses and alters several eschatologies, and the very nature of the spell in Castle Spellbound (wishing for anything and everything under the sun) creates a huge amount of this.
And I Must Scream: Ramthonodox's fate. Melydia's too, though she seems to either have resigned herself to it or even welcomes it as a fitting punishment, since there isn't any screaming.
And You Were There: In one of Linda's dreams in Castle Dreams, it is revealed that her boyfriend on Earth was (or at least looked like) Incarnadine. Because this dream, like all others in the book (and the book itself) never happened, this is never mentioned again, but it does explain why Linda fell for Incarnadine and why she ends up sleeping with his clone in Bride of the Castle. Things get more complex, though, when her boyfriend mentions dreaming that he died (which had also happened to Incarnadine himself), and his name, John, is the same as Incarnadine's Sue Donym. Even taking into account that the events of the book supposedly never happened, something is a bit off there...
Antiquated Linguistics: Used in spell casting, when speaking to the dead, and also by Incarnadine's nobles, Osmirik, and Kwip. Otherwise, it's all modern speak (or at least translated as such). In the case of the dead it seems to be merely a traditional affectation.
As You Know: Unavoidable when one of the main conceits is that new random characters will continually show up and need to be apprised of the nature of Castle Perilous, but it does show up a great deal in Castle for Rent. Particularly true for Gene and Linda's initial chapter as well as Snowclaw's (essentially recapping how they came to the castle and became friends), and Incarnadine's talk with Trent where he retold the entire plot of the first book, as well as introduced the rest of their family, of which the reader had no inkling until that moment. Justified, however, since Trent had been out of the loop for a very long while.
Badass Bookworm: Both Trent and Incarnadine are this. The former is Played for Laughs when, after spouting off a great deal of natural and survival knowledge to Sheila, he deadpans that he's "had a subscription to Reader’s Digest for fifty years".
Baleful Polymorph: On a larger, cosmic scale: the demon Ramthonodox was transformed into Castle Perilous by Ervoldt, Incarnadine's ancestor, centuries ago.
Batman Gambit: Ferne's plot in Castle for Rent. It has the basic framework of a Xanatos Gambit but has too many moving parts and unknown variables to truly be an 'all reasonable options benefit' plan. The best she can do is plan for the most likely outcome. In detail: If Incarnadine goes along with her and Deems, they join forces to remove the Blue Meanies, then they take out the Hosts of Hell, and then she turns on her brothers. If he doesn't, she uses the Hosts of Hell to get rid of the Blue Meanies, turns on Deems, uses the Hosts' powers to control Castle Perilous, and uses Incarnadine as her ace against them if they become too troublesome. Even not taking the assistance of Trent or the Guests into account, things didn't go as she planned thanks to her underestimating the Hosts and overestimating herself...
Shout-Out: FREEDOM IS RESPONSIBILITY/FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, PEACE IS CONSTANT STRUGGLE/WAR IS PEACE
Big Damn Heroes: Happens in the very first book, where all the main characters converge on the Hall of the Brain to try and stop Melydia; despite some killer action scenes and Linda fighting off incredible magic to get this close to getting her hands on Melydia, they fail by that much. An awesomely successful version, however, occurs in Castle for Rent at Ferne's estate on Earth.
Big Eater: Snowclaw. Not just huge amounts of food either, but strange ones—like poisonous substances and other things never meant to be eaten. This reaches its peak when, while stranded on Earth, he ends up making a giant vat of hundreds of ingredients, eats it all, and gets sick...though whether this is due to the nature of the 'food' or overeating is never made clear.
Big Screwed-Up Family: While not all the suspects are related, in every other respect the tangled web of relationships, backstabbing, cutthroat dealings, adultery, and other criminal acts amongst those gathered at Hawkingsmere in Bride of the Castle is otherwise this trope taken Up to Eleven.
Bilingual Bonus: The world in which Incarnadine seems to die, and from which news of this is sent, is called Malnovia, pseudo-Latin for "bad news".
Booze-Based Buff: How Incarnadine gains the powers to stop the dengs—by getting drunk with an extremely powerful, magical bottle of "spirits".
Brick Joke: In the preface for Castle Murders, Osmirik complains about the improper use of "portfolio" in place of "folio" back in book one. Much later in the book, during The Summation that ends the Mystery Arc, a folio is again produced...with a footnote saying, "Up yours, Osmirik!" Another Brick Joke, also related to the footnotes, appears in the form of an essay question on Tierra del Fuego in Castle Dreams, referencing the previous footnotes on the subject.
A third appears in Bride of the Castle, calling back to Castle Murders: in the latter book, Gene had jokingly claimed he was a medium who channeled a mystic spirit from the other side named...Murray. This also turns out to be the name of the dead king's ghost who curses Rance.
Bring My Brown Pants: Kwip gets to experience this in his very first scene, thanks to the seeming horror of the disembodied feet. Happens again later when encountering the Hosts of Hell's demons.
Brother-Sister Incest: Incarnadine and Ferne, though never consummated, and apparently all one-sided on her part.
The Bus Came Back: Following his assisting the rest of the heroes in facing the Hosts of Hell in Castle for Rent, Kwip disappeared from the series with no explanation; similarly, Barnaby Walsh also vanished, even though his sometime-girlfriend Deena Williams appeared briefly at the end of both Castle Kidnapped and Castle War!, and had larger roles in Castle Murders and Castle Dreams. Both Kwip and Barnaby, however, reappear in Castle Spellbound, the latter without any explanation but the former’s absence justified in-story by him having been off exploring the distant parts of the castle (and other Aspects) in his endless quest to be the greatest thief with the most loot. Their reappearance is yet another indication that Castle Spellbound may have been meant to be the last novel in the series before Bride of the Castle was added.
Cast Speciation/Superhero Speciation: The very nature of the plot (everyone getting their own unique power) combined with a little judicious Personality Powers means there tends to be no duplication between the Guests. Even the mages like Incarnadine and Trent have their own styles, or schools of magic they are better at, or Aspects in whose magic they are more experienced, so that they can perform different roles or be useful in different situations. (Examples: Trent is better at Earth magic, but Incarnadine is better at more arcane and obscure magical systems and is generally a Jack-of-All-Trades when it comes to combining magic and technology; Ferne is one of the few who can tap into the interstitial etherium; she and Mordecai are the only ones who can burrow from one Aspect to another.) The one time when this rule is not followed is with Sheila, whose ability to understand and tap into any magical system in order to summon portals enables her to perform the same exact kinds of conjuration and magical tricks as Linda. This is likely why she gets shipped off to the ocean Aspect with Trent and disappears from the narrative, so as to keep from stealing the limelight (or breaking the story) and letting Linda still be relevant and a hero.
Chekhov's Volcano: When Trent and Sheila are trapped on the Deserted Island in Castle Kidnapped, they see another island nearby with a volcano on it. Sheila proclaims, optimistically, that it's dormant, but Trent, noting the lack of vegetation on it, isn't sure. Naturally enough, it does erupt later, forcing them to flee a tsunami.
Clone Switch: Incarnadine pulls this magically in Bride of the Castle in order to escape the stresses and responsibilities of ruling. Unfortunately said clone is not his exact duplicate after all—while there is no degeneration, Empty Shell, soullessness, or any other negative repercussion of cloning, his personality and decision-making are different enough to allow his retainers and nobles to manipulate him for their own ends a little...and leads to him declaring his love for Linda, offering her the chance to be his official mistress, and sleeping with her.
Commitment Issues: Gene. It particularly becomes apparent, and a driving conflict, in Bride of the Castle where it causes him to seek out an Aspect to become lost in and danger to be caught up in just so as to avoid marrying Linda and being tied down. But it also appears before then—not only in his relationship with Linda, but in how his wanderlust compels him to wander other Aspects (and acquire a new Girl of the Week every book) rather than settle down or stay in the relative safety of the castle.
Gene and Vaya happen to be inside the Sidewise Voyager when Incarnadine summons it to help save The Multiverse and stop the Hosts of Hell. Lampshaded by Incarnadine himself.
The book containing the spells which were the inspiration for Oren's murder happened to be written by the same man whom Melanie encounters in the "Robin Hood" Aspect. This one really is just a meaningless coincidence (and perhaps an attempt to tie her plot to the rest of the book) since this knowledge has nothing to do with the plot or solving the mystery. It does establish, however, that the Aspect Melanie was trapped in must somehow have been the past of the Garden Aspect (since it was stated the book of magic was not only the only one which dealt with the magic of that Aspect but originated within it); this may explain the time differential between the one Melanie was in (but not the present-day Garden Aspect) and the castle which Linda observed.
Trent also indulges in this in the Greek Aspect thanks to being aware of the original events in The Iliad, including remarking on (and snarking at) the unbelievable nature of the Trojans falling for the wooden horse gambit...then subverting it by being more clever about it, instead using himself and his men in the form of actual horses to get inside Troas.
Incarnadine's punishment for Ferne: to be cast into a random Aspect until its gate closes and, if she ever manages to find her way back to the castle, to be sent into another, and so on for the rest of her life.
Cool Gate: Castle Perilous has 144,000 doors, each leading to an Alternate Universe, and they don't just wait for you to walk through—the portals wander, and actively seek out those who want to travel or get away.
Cosmic Keystone: Castle Perilous, since all of existence, and the reality of the various universes, depends on its existence. Played with, however, in that the castle cannot be taken or destroyed like most keystones; instead it can only be unmade, whether by undoing the spell upon Ramthonodox or by destabilizing the universes and the magic which holds them together. So while theoretically The Multiverse could be destroyed by unmaking Castle Perilous, none of the Big Bad's plans ever relate to this goal, it never actually gets carried out, and the few times it comes close to happening are as an unintended consequence of the Evil Plan of the week (or simple chaos and entropy).
Covers Always Lie: Castle Kidnapped featured on its paperback cover the primary characters, tied up and being borne away on the back of a huge blue turtle-like creature which nowhere appeared in the book. On Fidonet's old SF_LIT echo this spawned the acronym FBT, for "Friggin' Blue Turtloid".
Who are all those people, aside from Snowclaw, on the cover of Castle Dreams? It's possible that's Osmirik and Tyrene on the right of the coffin, the man in red and gold might be Gene (which isn't accurate if so, since he was off in Sativa's world at the time), and the woman and child are probably Incarnadine's wife Zafra and their son Brandon (who have only appeared once or twice in the series), but...
Creator Provincialism/Write What You Know: Several Earth Guests who appear at the start of the series, including The Hero, are from Pennsylvania (justified in-story by Ferne having a mansion there where she would periodically bring the portal before letting it wander) and quite a bit of time is spent there during Trent and Incarnadine's assault on the mansion as well as Snowclaw's Trapped in Another World subplot from Castle Kidnapped. The city of the Big Brother Is Watching Aspect is stated to be where Pittsburgh would be in reality. Pennsylvania is where John DeChancie resides (Pittsburgh, to be precise).
Curse: Aside from the one Cawdor cast on Trent to keep him from staying in Perilous any appreciable time, there's the one of bad luck which Rance gets for tomb-robbing. It is possible this Curse is responsible for things going wrong in the castle, like Gene's misadventures in Orem, the cancellation of his and Linda's wedding, and Linda sleeping with Incarnadine's clone since it always strikes those around him—meaning that being transported to another world didn't break it after all...except Gene and Snowclaw getting in trouble happened long before he ever appeared in the castle.
Die or Fly: Or in this case, drown: Sheila figures out the magic of the water world so as to save her and Trent Just in Time when the volcano's tsunami is about to hit. Learning a world's magic at the last second so as to save the day seems to be what she does.
Divorce Assets Conflict: Sheila's ex pulled this on her, to the point of breaking into her house and trashing all her possessions after he was served the divorce papers; whether he did this because he knew she'd never let him have them, or simply out of petty spite, isn't known, but considering he'd been an adulterer, a drunk, and an extravagant spender, the latter is more likely.
Doppelgänger Attack: Occurs in the first book during the confrontation with the Big Bad, when Linda conjures up numerous doubles of Gene, Snowclaw, and Osmirik to fight the duplicate zombie soldiers and servants. This later becomes Linda's favorite tactic in every book thereafter. However, in one Call Back to this, Evil!Gene of Castle War! convinces Linda to duplicate Snowclaw to fight the forces of Evil!Incarnadine...only things go horribly wrong when a funnel cloud starts producing endless clones of him. The multiple copies of Incarnadine and his soldiers also count, though the former end up settling in to try and solve the problem of the multiple castles and end up becoming a hilarious Me's a Crowd instead.
This also occurs in Castle Spellbound, since a number of the manifestations (belly dancers, gladiators, comedians, minstrels) are duplicates of each other.
Drama-Preserving Handicap: Thanks to the great powers possessed by Incarnadine, this almost always applies to him during the various crises and issues that arise. Sometimes his absence is actually engineered by the Big Bad or their minions (his being trapped on Earth in Castle for Rent, the zombie spell in Castle Dreams), sometimes it's an indirect result of what is going on (the Hosts of Hell's tinkering in Castle Kidnapped kept him busy trying to stop them and unable to help rescue the missing Guests, and the breakdown of The Multiverse in Castle War! shrank the portal from Merydion so he had to find another way home so he could deal with the issue), and sometimes it's a completely unrelated event that has him away (dealing with the dengs of Necropolis keeps him from being on-hand for the Mystery Arc; playing real-life war games with Trent keeps him away during the Literal Genie spell). Coming up with one excuse after another to keep him occupied/away (and thus straining the Willing Suspension of Disbelief) may be partly why DeChancie quit writing the series. A lesser example of this also applies to keeping Sheila and her Story Breaker Power from always saving the day.
Dramatic Irony: Osmirik, in researching Aspects to find the one which released the Blue Meanies, discovers information about the Hosts of Hell and, assuming them to be the Blue Meanies, pursues and eventually locates a spell to contain them. This then comes in handy for sealing off the Hosts of Hell when they actually do invade the castle.
Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Subverted in Castle Murders—not because it isn't the center (the castle is) but because Thaxton discovers to his chagrin that the castle doctor's nanotechnology and DNA identification do not, in fact, come from being in close contact with Earth developments in modern police methods.
Tyrene: Earth is hardly the most advanced aspect in the field of forensic medicine. Or anything else, for that matter. Not only can we positively identify the victim by the blood sample, but we can identify the murderer if he left any dead skin cells on the handle.
Enemy Civil War: In Castle for Rent, the Blue Meanies versus the Hosts of Hell, with Ferne and Deems's forces later thrown into the mix. In Castle War!, all of the Mirror Universe Incarnadines and their guardsmen versus each other.
Enemy Mine: Part of how Trent changes his tune, and how Inky comes to trust him, happens because they are trapped together on Earth and have to work together to get back to the castle.
Epigraph: Every book except the first has at least one literary reference quoted at the start. Castle for Rent quotes Tennyson's "Blow, Bugle, Blow", Castle Kidnapped quotes Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale", Castle War! quotes Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Castle Murders quotes Wordsworth's "Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm" (and Peele Castle further appears as a place in the narrative), Castle Dreams quotes Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life", Castle Spellbound quotes Nora Archibald Smith's "The Christmas Child and Other Verse", and Bride of the Castle quotes The Taming of the Shrew and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". While these last two are wedding themed, the rest tend to reference castles, portals, and windows, by no coincidence.
Even Evil Has Standards: Not precisely evil, but after joining Ferne in her takeover attempt, not only does Deems have second thoughts but he makes it very clear that if he had known ahead of time of her deal with the Hosts of Hell, he would have joined Incarnadine and never helped her. In the end it is these standards which cause him to die in battle against the Hosts' demons. Ferne too could be said to have limits, since the assistance she gives the Hosts in Castle Kidnapped is only obtained under duress, and in Castle for Rent she shows true remorse for her actions, particularly Deems' death.
Evil Is Not a Toy: What Prince Vorn (and Jacoby) learn all too well, when Ramthonodox is released. Also, Ferne's lesson after she makes a deal with and releases the Hosts of Hell, and Tragg and Ruthven's after their zombie-spell for Incarnadine is broken.
Evil Is Petty: Tragg, whose main grievances with Incarnadine are that he (supposedly) cuckolded him and that he once sued his estate for back taxes.
Expendable Alternate Universe: The infinite number of variants of Earth found for Max by Jeremy's Evil Twin explores this in many permutations—some are For Want of a Nail where one simple thing having changed (his boss Herb Fenton having died in a car accident, him going into partnership with different men, whether or not he proposed to his beloved Andrea) changed his entire life; at the same time In Spite of a Nail the rest of the world is always identical save small things such as who the president is, and Max's overall personality and past are the same, as is everyone's in his life. Still others are complete Alternate Universes with versions of himself (and Jeremy) from the far past or the future. As soon as Max discovers the flaw in a particular universe, he immediately wants out and dismisses it, its denizens, and his alternate self from there as having any value. In the end, though, it turns out that no matter how many variants he finds, he can never find the original again—and in every one, whether due to his choice in partners, a ruined marriage with Andrea, or financial hardships with his company, Max will never, ever be able to find true happiness or the life that he wants. The trope is also played with (and somewhatPlayed for Laughs) in that all those alternate selves he dismissed as having any value show up at once at the end, clamoring for the right to have a world of their own to live in, to the point the alternate Jeremys have an auction where they can bid on the "best" world.
Faux Affably Evil: The Hosts of Hell adopt such an attitude in their dealings, but it's all just a mask.
Felony Misdemeanor: In Thaxton's own words, he is able to put up with volcanoes, earthquakes, acid hazards, and mythological beasts in the Golfhell Aspect, but when supernatural creatures start propositioning him for blood (or actively trying to trick him into falling prey to their Deadly Gaze), then It's Personal. (He proves this by maliciously ordering basilisk steak for dinner.)
Five-Man Band: Most of the time the Guests of Castle Perilous are either on their own or divide up into pairs for their adventures, save for the trio of Gene, Linda, and Snowclaw. But when they do team up...
Flanderization: Poor, poor Snowclaw. While never very bright, he certainly wasn't stupid, yet later installments play up his dumbness far more than earlier ones. His Big Eater status also gets worse as time goes on.
Forgotten Phlebotinum: Dalton's ability to levitate is demonstrated once in the first book, mentioned once in Castle Murders, but otherwise never brought up again. The same is true for Osmirik's scent ability. Snowclaw can teleport (which is discovered right when they need it), but his power doesn't appear again either. The latter might seem justified in that Snowclaw is hardly the magical sort, more prone to thinking with his axe and wading in to attack, plus his usage of it in the first book is described as rather taxing and difficult for him and he later finds himself unable to perform it without running into a wall. But then in Bride of the Castle Gene speaks of Snowy "never having had magic" and theorizes about his talent relating to disguising himself instead; apparently DeChancie did forget.
Functional Magic: While mages need to attune themselves to each world they are in before they can perform spells properly, every world's magic seems to work in generally the same way with Ley Lines and nodes of force. While the Guests can tap into these to perform their talents, mages such as Incarnadine and Trent access them through incantations and other paraphernalia. Each magician also has their own style or signature to their spellwork that can be identified by others in the field.
Gender Bender: Unless either the laptop or the mainframe is gay, this trope has happened to one of the computers by the time of Castle War!—in Castle Kidnapped the two computers were romancing each other, but after the mainframe is destroyed and rebuilt, it "had the hots for" Jeremy, and this only becomes intensified when he boots up Isis. Further evidence: the laptop, which continues to call Jeremy "baby" or "sweetie", is used as the OS template for the mainframe. Its OS? MS-DOS.
Genius Loci: Castle Perilous is a vastly powerful interdimensional demon torn from primal chaos, who happens to get trapped in the form of a city-sized castle. The whole "chaos" deal means it frequently changes its internal layout and contains portals to thousands of universes.
God Guise: Played with and inverted. Upon learning that the king of Mykos intends to sacrifice one of his daughters to the gods to alleviate the bad weather assaulting his fleet, Trent puts a stop to it by using magic for Divine Intervention...except instead of making himself seem like a god, he makes it seem as if the gods are showing their disapproval through a Bolt of Divine Retribution which also strikes him for interfering. This takes suspicion off himself as the cause and convinces the king the whole sacrifice was merely a Secret Test of Character a la Abraham and Isaac.
Played straight (but still played with) in the very first book when Incarnadine poses as God (or the Devil, or a God Is Evil situation) in order to manipulate Jacoby.
Grass Is Greener/Wanting Is Better Than Having: What Max discovers after trying to find a better life in an Alternate Universe—not only is he a failure no matter where he looks, but he can't even get his old, normal life back. Summed up best by his ruminating on his crummy, roach-infested apartment: "He'd sign a ninety-nine-year lease and never leave."
Grey and Gray Morality: What Trent discovers is true of the Arkadians and Troadeans—both are barbaric pirates.
Trent, who was once a Rebel Prince and determined to claim Castle Perilous for himself to the point of being portrayed as dark, sinister, and not to be trusted, and who self-describes as amoral, ends up becoming one of Incarnadine's most faithful and loyal supporters, as well as a source of great help to the Guests when danger threatens. At least partly comes to pass thanks to his love for Sheila, although he does have a momentary relapse and hunger for power when Incarnadine seemingly dies—until he finds out a) his brother isn't really dead and b) ruling isn't what it cracks up to be.
Jeremy was an illegal hacker, drug-user, and criminal on the run from the law when he came to the castle, but quickly becomes one of the more powerful Guests, helping rescue others from various magical mishaps and becoming indispensable to Incarnadine and Osmirik as a redesigner of the castle's 'operating program' and incorporating both magic and technology in rewriting reality and restoring stability.
And speaking of Osmirik, he started off working for Big Bad Melydia, but a case could be made he was The Mole all along, since it seemed his whole intent in serving her was to get into the castle—since as soon as he did so, he made a beeline for the library, researched the spell Melydia was using to destroy the castle, and then did all he could to help Incarnadine stop her.
Hidden Agenda Villain: Ruthven. Unbeknownst to his cat's-paw Tragg, the Con Man mage only used him to get Incarnadine out of the way, and once it was revealed he'd be lying in state for ten days (and could possibly wake up from the spell during that time), he deliberately went behind Tragg's back by bribing his undertaker friend into claiming the preservation spell wouldn't work, thus shortening the time lying in state and getting Trent's attention...all so he could make Trent his offer to rule together.
Hilarity Ensues: Both the original intention of this phrase, and what this trope has actually become, show up. Genuine humor and silliness during Castle Spellbound, but genuine danger, fear, and dire straits during any of the various invasions, attacks, and magical mishaps. (The Mirror Universe's Evil Twins of Castle War! come to mind.)
Hinduism: Dorcas's education and religious beliefs seem to stem from this, or a fantasy counterpart. (Samra, soul-substance; bramhara, a contemplative and sleeping position; the Internal Eye.)
Historical In-Joke: In Castle War!, when Incarnadine meets his uncle Mordecai in an attempt to get back to the castle and fix The Multiverse, he learns that the cosmic disturbance had caused a quake on Earth: in San Francisco. (The book was published in 1990.)
Hoist by His Own Petard: Kwip never would have lost his thief's stash to the spell-summoned crowds in Castle Spellbound if he'd just left it in his room, instead of assuming the cleaning homunculi were thieves come to steal it.
Hollywood Hacking: Averted for the most part; Jeremy can do incredible, amazing things with his hacking, but it is generally the sort of thing hackers in real life are known to do, nor is he shown to be able to access devices he shouldn’t be able to or create effects which are impossible. It isn't until he gets to Castle Perilous that he starts doing the jaw-dropping, crazy hacking...and this is justified since he has become a literal Techno Wizard.
Hordes from the East: The army of Vorn from the first book, which is said to come from Hunra, capital of the Eastern Empire. The army which sacks Orem in Bride of the Castle is also this, by no coincidence.
How We Got Here: The first book begins with the main Five-Man Band meeting up and becoming acquainted, telling their backstories and how they arrived at the castle in retrospect. At the end of the book, when time is reversed and the castle is restored, the reader finally gets to see those moments before the Aspect opened, revealing some meaningful and thought-provoking details which prior to then had been conspicuously left out.
Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: Nine times out of ten, chapters are named after locations, particularly very specific locations in the castle by wing, tower, room, even stairwell. Or they are other Aspects or places found therein. Things get interesting when the characters don't know where they are so that the chapter names become vague epithets instead.
I Know You Know I Know/I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You: The master of the local mages' guild in Malnovia has a conversation like this with Trent—and he manages to reveal the motive for Incarnadine's "murder", that the spell responsible is still working and he would look the other way if it were broken, what Trent will be up against, and the musical harmonics of the spell so Trent can locate its source...all without breaking any guild rules or giving himself away.
I Know Your True Name: Knowing Ramthonodox's true name gives a mage power over him, and allows him to be released. In the process his Laser-Guided Amnesia is reversed—in fact it is the very recollection of his name that releases him, so his true name allows him to have power over himself.
Informed Ability: We are told every Guest in the castle develops a talent if they stay there long enough, but there are a number of Guests whose talents we never see or even learn—Deena, Barnaby, DuQuesne. Thaxton hews even more to the trope, since he claims to not even have a talent but Dorcas says he has "great untapped potential"...which, other than his intellectual ability to solve crimes, we never see either.
Insistent Terminology: The 144,000 portals to other worlds, and the worlds themselves, are always called Aspects (because, as it turns out, they are natural aspects of the demonic magic which composes Ramthonodox). Travelers from these worlds, even before they stay at the castle for good or decide if they will, are called Guests by Incarnadine and his staff and fellow nobles, due to his noblesse oblige and medieval sense of hospitality. Incarnadine always calls himself lord, not king, because his ancestor had originally been vassal to a king, only gaining rulership after a war and in any event mostly ruling only an unpopulated desert.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Castle Murders opens on a college campus, with the line "It was a stark and dormy night..." He also later uses the line "It was a dark night of Sturm und Drang."
It Was His Sled/Late-Arrival Spoiler: The fact that Castle Perilous is actually the transmogrified demon, Ramthonodox, is referenced casually, albeit indirectly, in-universe in several books after the first and stated outright in Osmirik's first preface to Castle Murders and therefore treated as something the reader should know already, despite being a mystery and the big reveal of the first book. For anyone who missed the first book or read them out of order, however...
Jack-of-All-Trades: Gene, who self-describes as a dilettante; he has several masters degrees (one in philosophy), went to law school, and wrote when not performing various odd jobs.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Ramthonodox himself suffers from this as part of the transformation spell, forgetting his name and identity so as to become the castle. Only this amnesia keeps him locked in his inanimate form.
This also happens to Incarnadine in the "Afterlife".
Lineage Comes from the Father: Railing against this trope (and how it keeps women from having any power or authority) is Melydia's excuse for leading a siege against the castle; in truth, it's more about Revenge and insanely wanting to Take Over the World. It's also Ferne's motivation, in response to being denied the Seat Perilous in favor of her younger brother.
In both a Stealth Pun and Genius Bonus, the supposed "castle editions" of the series found in the library by Osmirik are published under the overarching title Eidolons of the King. Not only is this entirely appropriate for a work whose central location comes from Arthurian Canon, but an eidolon, being a ghost or phantasm, could aptly describe what the events of the books, being fictional, would be to DeChancie and the readers here in the real world.
The Load: Thaxton and Dalton, Deena and Barnaby, Jeremy (at first).
Loads and Loads of Characters: As might be expected in a setting where there are 144,000 possible worlds. We never even meet all the Guests (the non-human ones other than Snowclaw, and the humans who aren't from Earth, even have their own separate dining halls and never mingle with the main cast), and among the ones specifically introduced to the reader, there are a number who act only as window dressing and get little Character Development.
Long List: Of nautical terms known by the sailors on Incarnadine's ship in the "Afterlife".
Magic A Is Magic A: Played with. The rules of Functional Magic themselves remain consistent and reliable, even when the castle itself isn't due to its chaotic, entropic nature...but magic can act differently from Aspect to Aspect, causing spells to behave weirdly, having the opposite or no effect, and talents to go awry. Even Sheila summoning a portal can become next to impossible in certain worlds. On the other hand, once enough time is spent in a world, talents adapt and mages can make their spells work again; Sheila eventually attunes herself enough to draw portals wherever she goes.
The Magic Versus Technology War: Science, particularly electricity and mechanical constructs, does not work within Castle Perilous, though it can work in certain Aspects. Justified by the castle actually being a transmogrified demon whose very nature could suppress or run counter to technology. This rule can be creatively gotten around: an elevator which has no mechanical parts and runs on magic, or a computer which is built entirely by magical means.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Gene gets a great deal of sex, with every one of his Girls of the Week and, eventually, with Linda. At least one time, however, is actually important and plot-relevant—his ability to have sex with Alice proves he is no longer under the control of InnerVoice.
Thanks to Classical Mythology, the "good" half of Annau's Split Personality is this: Dis, the alternate Roman name for Pluto/Hades. Thanks to his questionable (if unfair) reputation, any place named after him is sure to make one wary, though in this case it could also be a reference to the wealth Annau once possessed, and the fact the sane portion of the city was underground.
Metaphorgotten/Sidetracked by the Analogy: From the ending of Castle Kidnapped: "This particular tale is almost done, but for the wrapping up. It's been a long concerto, and the soloist has one more cadenza in him, if the audience will allow, in which the theme is restated for the benefit of those who've drowsed, wonder-weary, through the third movement—"
Mobile Maze: The entire castle acts this way. The outer regions are especially chaotic and unstable, quite Escher-like, while the Guest areas are relatively safe with only a few minor gravity and perspective shifts every so often. Since the castle is also a massive Portal Network to 144,000 worldsnote For those unfamiliar with religious numerology, this is the number of the tribes of Judah sealed by God for protection in Revelation, the number of the faithful to be saved in Jehovah's Witness beliefs, the number of prophets in Islam (possibly), and more, a trip to the bathroom can lead to adventure, terror, or the bathroom.
Monster of the Week: Aside from the threats which manifest in each book (the Blue Meanies, the Hosts of Hell, the doppelgangers), random monsters often appear around every corner or through every door whenever an Aspect is crossed.
Most Writers Are Human: Despite the fact there are 144,000 worlds, many of them alien and nonhuman, and that nonhuman Guests are mentioned in the background, all the main characters are from Earth or a similar world, and are human. Except Snowclaw.
Mr. Smith: Variation—Incarnadine's author pseudonym on Earth is "C. Wainwright Smithton".
The Multiverse: And Castle Perilous is at the center. And thus maintains all of existence.
Asshole Victim: Viscount Oren. Not only does hardly anyone like him, he is guilty of spousal abuse (verbal and physical); openly flirting and making out with Lady Rowena right in front of her husband the Earl of Belgard; making a pass at Sheila that almost became more; and betraying various friends for political or financial gain. In fact it ends up being revealed that several of the suspects actually did intend to kill him, had gone so far as to prepare a dagger with the proper spells, but were either beaten to it (Trent), had problems with the spells (Belgard), or came to their senses at the last moment (Lady Rilma). Ironically, though, the motive for his death turns out to have nothing to do with any of this, though his murderer is someone who didn't like him.
Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: Played with, and also enforced: Lord Arl doesn't hold onto the murder weapon himself, but he isn't able to find and remove it as evidence against him either because it's invisible even to him. Thus, Thaxton is able to find it first.
Closed Circle: The party guests are not allowed to leave the Garden Aspect until the murder of Viscount Oren is solved. Justified since otherwise the killer could escape into any of the 144,000 Aspects.
The Corpse Stops Here: Averted; despite Thaxton being found with the viscount's body, and a brief moment of suspicion from Lord Arl, neither he nor Dalton are ever accused of doing the deed, possibly because Oren was a fairly proficient magician while they, as Guests, were not. A bit surprising though, since one would think Arl, the real murderer, would have been eager to pin the crime on someone else and so used this as a pretext. Then again, him being a Sympathetic Murderer and Oren being an Asshole Victim may have made him wish to not involve or blame anyone else.
Eureka Moment: Thaxton has one, after reading the book of spells and getting a good night's sleep.
Everyone Is a Suspect: At least, everyone who is a powerful magic-user. Although before magic is conclusively proven to have been involved in the murder, everyone at the party is indeed held on suspicion just in case. Also, everyone who is a powerful magic-user is a suspect because everyone hated the victim.
Fair Play Whodunnit: Although the specific spells which were required to commit the murder have no real way of being guessed by the reader (though it becomes clear fairly early on that invisibility must have been involved somehow), the clues as to who the murderer was were indeed in the text all along. Not only was Arl the actual first suspect met in the narrative, and revealed in that conversation to not be close to his brother, but he is mentioned in passing during Linda and Melanie's visit to the library as having been there that morning, and Lady Rilma remembers him touching Oren just before the viscount left the party.
He Knows Too Much/Saying Too Much: Seems to be the motive for killing Count Damik since he had previously been going around telling everyone in Peele Castle that he had seen one of the suspects buying the murder weapon, and trying to decide if he should tell the authorities what he knew. (This would seem to be a Too Dumb to Live moment, except that he was counting on noblesse oblige to protect him and was in fact using his obvious attention-grabbing move to try and warn the killer he was on to him, thus giving him time to either hide the evidence or come clean.) However this is all a Red Herring: not only was the person he saw not the killer, but he wasn't even the target and was in fact a friend of the real murderer. (The actual target was, in fact, slated for killing due to this trope.)
Needle in a Stack of Needles: The murder weapon is chosen precisely because it is a plain, very common, and easily procured knife and thus easy to confuse with others of its kind, as well as easy to find sold anywhere (thus proving nothing about where the purchaser came from).
Never One Murder/Suspect Existence Failure: Knowing that Dorcas had discerned his guilt, Lord Arl tries to kill her as well. In the process, however, he accidentally killsCount Damik instead—which also happens to exonerate him, since prior to this he'd been a strong suspect due to his fascination and skill with knives.
Old Dark Castle: Peele Castle, complete with seacoast cliff, crashing waves, and a thunderstorm.
Red Herring: A number of them, and lampshaded when Thaxton interrogates each suspect in turn during The Summation, but particular emphasis goes to Trent being a suspect.
Sympathetic Murderer: Lord Arl. Aside from disliking Oren and believing he deserved to die for all the various sins, cruelties, and appalling habits the viscount had committed, he only wished to ensure a good future for his son by making sure Oren died childless instead of divorcing Rilma, thus causing the peerage to devolve to him, and then to his son. Despite this motive, and the fact everyone wished Oren dead, he does in fact still get taken to prison, his scheme abrogated, partly because murder is still unjustified but mostly because of the accidental death of Damik and attempted murder of the princess.
Narnia Time/Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time varies widely between the castle and its many Aspects. In some you emerge exactly the moment you left; in others, you come out after being gone for what you think is months or even years, only to find it was just a few hours. (This is quite helpful for Gene on the one hand, and Trent and Sheila on the other, in Castle Kidnapped, and again for Trent and Incarnadine in Castle Spellbound.) For still others, it's the reverse.
Negative Space Wedgie: Happens a lot early on in the series. One of the most memorable would be the weird time dilation/Timey-Wimey Ball effect that happens at Ferne's mansion on Earth. Another is the breakdown of the castle's magic caused by the Hosts of Hell's tinkering in Castle Kidnapped.
Never Split the Party: A constant danger when wandering through a Mobile Maze, and always leading to trouble throughout the series. Osmirik learns it in the very first book.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Literally, as every person who comes to the castle develops a talent which may just happen to be exactly what is needed at that moment to save the day. (I'm looking at you, Sheila.) Or not; but the nature of the plot still causes such magic to show up, regardless of its usefulness.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The whole frickin' battle between Trent, Incarnadine, and the Hosts of Hell. Dinosaurs and fighter jets and missiles and horror movie monsters and demons, oh my! Helped along by the ability to summon working technology, once Earth magic has been mastered.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: The armorer, who seems to take great pleasure in taking as long as possible to describe every type of weapon he possesses, at least until Snowclaw simplifies things—although in his defense Gene's newbie status did make his requests quite vague.
Incarnadine also runs into a demonic form of this when going to rescue Ferne from the Hosts of Hell. Like Snowclaw, he gets his way through threat of violence; unlike Snowclaw, he actually carries it out.
And Trent encounters this when made regent, to the point he realizes he can't handle the quotidian aspects of ruling and that being king isn't really worth it in the end, so he drops his ambitions.
An Offer You Can't Refuse: Trent makes one to the Privy Council after Incarnadine’s "death": make him Regent for Life, or until he gets tired of the job and steps down to allow Brandon to rule, or he'll pursue his claim to being the rightful heir through the courts and wrest the throne from Brandon. The Council takes option one, partly because they are sure he'll win his case, but mostly to spare their pocketbooks the litigation fees.
Once per Episode: At first, it was "an army/host of evil/crazed mob invades or attacks the castle". Then it became "something weird/strange/silly happens with the castle’s magic that nearly overwhelms the heroes". The end result of both was that the characters end up having to flee, hop in and out of Aspects, and have ridiculous random adventures. Eventually the trope becomes "Gene gets stranded/lost/goes off to get the juices flowing and find himself and the others worry/try to rescue him".
Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolf encountered in Golfhell is apparently more on the vampiric side, since he's interested in Thaxton's blood. When Thaxton claims "Everybody Knows That werewolves don’t drink blood", the creature quips, "Everyone’s wrong, I’m AC/DC."
Out of Focus: While this could be said of any character who becomes less important or common in later installments, this is particularly true of Sheila: undergoing Character Development from The Ditz to a smart, competent sorceress, she is a key character in both Castle for Rent and Castle Kidnapped, but after this her Happily Married bliss with Trent coupled with her insistence on staying in the ocean Aspect to run her resort makes her vanish from the narrative, only having brief appearances in Castle War!, Castle Murders and Castle Spellbound (the latter consisting only of waiting around for Trent to return and then showing up with everybody else at the end).
Overly Long Gag: The inscription in the Zinnite tomb detailing the nature of the curse, which ends up rambling on and on about the rudeness of robbing a tomb and the unfairness of stealing from a long-suffering king—to the point that it covers all the walls and runs down numerous passages.
Parody: Of a number of genres, tropes, and specific writers or tales. One Aspect Gene ends up stuck in resembles an Italian romance, another where he and Snowclaw lead a revolution resembles a Dumas novel, still another comes right out of a pulp novel like those of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, while Incarnadine gets a Noir Episode and plays out an Expy of the Trojan War with Trent.
Bride of the Castle contains a Parody of the Mystery Arc in which Thaxton, believing he can solve the murders because of his experiences three books previously, valiantly tries to gather facts and formulate theories. Not only do the bodies keep piling up while the numerous suspects, alibis, motives, and lies make it next to impossible to figure out anything, while it all takes place in a microcosm of upper-crust England perfectly mimicking Christie Time (complete with class warfare and racism), but in the end it all dissolves into utter nonsense with the Summation Gathering turning into a convoluted mess of accusations and confessions worthy of Murder by Death followed by a literal bloodbath while the inspector merely stands around and lets it happen to 'sort itself out'. About the only mystery trope it doesn't mock or play with is The Butler Did It, although the butler in question actually seems to be quite Genre Savvy to the whole business as being a regular occurrence in this insane Aspect; whether people are just murdered constantly, or if they actually come back to life and play it out again the next day, is unknown.
Plot Magnet: Castle Perilous itself, besieged by no less than four armies or takeover attempts during the series. Justified because any number of powerful people, armies, or mages would love to have access to 144,000 worlds, or just to its immense magical power.
The Guests wonder, twice, why it is that despite this the castle has not been invaded before or ever fallen. The conclusions are that because it is a Genius Loci, it makes sure to open only to unpopulated worlds or ones where civilization has collapsed and thus there is no imminent threat of invading armies; or that only those who are at Rock Bottom and thus wish to abandon their life and world can ever even see the portals. This last would seem to be undermined by the Bluefaces and the Hosts of Hell except that the latter, at least, do indeed hate their own world (and themselves, and all of creation) while the Bluefaces, as aggressive as they are, do seem to at least hate each other as well as what they consider lower life forms. And, as Dalton points out, the castle doesn't have hard and fast rules. (I.e., wishing to leave one's world, but only for the purpose of conquering another, still counts in making an Aspect open.)
Portal Network: Variation. Like the Wood Between the Worlds of Narnia, each of the 144,000 worlds is connected to Castle Perilous as the nexus, but none of them connect directly with each other. Certain powerful mages can 'burrow' from one Aspect to another, but this is rare and difficult.
Portal Slam: Happens much more frequently early on, when the instability of the castle causes Aspects to move ("wander"), close, or otherwise change their nature. (Some are even "orbiting", not staying within the confines of the castle!) Becomes less of a problem when Sheila appears with her ability to control them, and less still when Incarnadine finally gets the castle and its magic under control...but every once in a while it still happens. Comes from the chaotic nature of the demon Ramthonodox and its magic.
The Power of Creation: Linda's conjuration (and by extension, Sheila's when her understanding of magical systems lets her mimic this). Generally considered to be done through No Conservation of Energy, though the things summoned can be either permanent or temporary (the latter starts off being accidental on her part, but she later can create weak versions of things that will fizzle out on their own). It is possible, however, that she is actually summoning them from somewhere else; the possible moral ramifications of this are briefly explored in the case of Goofus and also when they consider summoning Incarnadine and Melanie (i.e., is it the real person or merely a clone). In any event, whether summoned for real or formed out of nothing, she is able to conjure things she's never seen before based solely on descriptions or the thoughts of others.
Power Floats: What Dalton can do, though only on a very limited level, and only objects.
(after they have figured out how to get the Sidewise Voyager back to the castle)
Jeremy: Great! Isis, I love you.
Isis: Jeremy, darling!
Melanie: We are going to fucking crash if you people don’t get on the stick!
Pre-Climax Climax: With neither of them being any good in a fight, Deena and Barnaby take refuge in a bedroom during the climax of Castle for Rent...and then, since they think it might well be The End of the World as We Know It, one thing leads to another and...
A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Subverted in the world of the Umoi—Gene rises from humble beginnings as the Queen's concubine, only to become her captain of the guards and king who does lead the tribe to the glory of the Old Gods...except The Native Rival comes back for Revenge, the tribe is almost entirely slaughtered save those who will join other tribes, and Vaya loses her throne so that she and Gene are forced to go to Annau alone in order to escape that world. Played straight, however in Alice's world where Gene's magical gift (and ability to resist InnerVoice) inspires him to begin a rebellion—and when he leaves, he passes on his gifts to her so that she can lead it in his place.
Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Melydia to Incarnadine. Played with, however, in that even before their break-up she was mad, or had the potential for it, and that the break-up acts as merely a Freudian Excuse which doesn't in fact excuse her villainy at all.
Put on a Bus: Vaya. First she learns English and goes to Earth to attend UCLA off-screen sometime between Castle Kidnapped and Castle War!, then (as we are told in Castle Dreams) she drops out of college to join a biker gang some time before Castle Murders.
Reality Is Out to Lunch: What happens when spells go awry, the castle's transformative magic is being picked apart, or invaders unleash their own spells. Particularly memorable moments would be the final stages of the castle's transformation back into Ramthonodox, the breakdown of the castle in Castle Kidnapped, and the entirety of Castle Spellbound, which everyone remarks is really weird, even for Castle Perilous.
Reality Warper: Both Linda and Sheila, and to a fair extent the castle itself. And the minitranslator from Bride of the Castle that can banish things or people from one reality to another.
Record Needle Scratch: Occurs when Incarnadine interrupts Mordecai's impressive display of "godhood" in Castle War! Justified since there really was a background soundtrack—in this case, a magical one of a chanting chorus.
Required Secondary Powers: In order to summon portals, Sheila is able to understand and harness any world's magical system. This also lets her conjure and perform other magical tricks similar to Linda's.
Reset Button: The main heroes receive this at the end of the first book when the castle is first restored to its original demonic form, then transformed back again by Incarnadine. Despite all knowledge of the castle and the events of the book being wiped out, they all meet up again, become close friends, and gain savvy knowledge of the castle since apparently You Can't Fight Fate. Unfortunately one of the things forgotten is Gene's Anguished Declaration of Love, resulting in a Will They or Won't They? for the rest of the series. It is later revealed in Castle Murders that perhaps not everything was forgotten, as Linda has memories of Ramthonodox and the castle breaking down, though it all seems like a hazy dream to her.
Revenge: Melydia's motivation, and to some degree the Hosts of Hell's as well.
Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Thanks to the fact he spends most of his time moonlighting in other dimensions (including a stint as a fantasy writer here on Earth), Incarnadine often comes across as this. Has been called on it a number of times, by both Ferne and his enemy plotters, but when he does pay attention and act like a king, it is always awesome and badass. And he does in fact directly and decisively rule in many of the Aspects he lives in, though at least once he abrogates his huge load of responsibilities to go jogging while letting his clone run things...which does prove to be a mistake.
Rock Bottom: The situations of most Guests, prior to coming to the castle. Gene was unemployed with no prospects for the future. Kwip was on death row, to be hung for his thievery. Snowclaw had gotten buried in a crevasse of ice and intended to kill himself. Linda, although wary of doing so, was also contemplating suicide; so was Thaxton after being divorced by his cheating wife. Jacoby had been arrested for embezzlement and was about to be put away for his crimes. Jeremy was on the run from the law for his hacking. Dalton was lonely and depressed after suffering a heart attack. Deena was from Bed-Sty—'nuff said. Sheila was stuck in worthless, piddling Wilmerding. (And, admittedly, was upset by the way her last marriage had ended.)
Melanie's is a special case since she was actually approached and befriended online by Linda before being offered a way into the castle via Jeremy’s magical computer. However, it is still played straight in that the reason Linda brings her there is to save her from suicide after she is left by her boyfriend, flunking college, and soon to be a single mother.
Even Rance, who doesn't come to the castle the normal way, counts thanks to the Curse of ill-fortune he was suffering from. If Max had ever made it to the real castle, he certainly would have counted too.
Running Gag: Not as many as you might expect, but a few. Gene continually compares Linda to Samantha from Bewitched (and himself to Darin). Thaxton perennially complains about Dalton always wanting to play golf all the time instead of his game of choice, tennis, yet always goes along with him and enjoys it anyway. Much more hilarious is the bizarre fixation on Tierra del Fuego that runs through the footnotes and quizzes/tests in Castle Dreams. There's also one related to the poor Land Surveyor in Castle Murders.
Science Fiction Versus Fantasy: The series unabashedly and gleefully picks no sides or favorites, throwing in whatever audacity, coolness, and fun will allow, so that very little makes sense and the books defy classification. There are Aspects of High and Low Fantasy, as well as Hard and Soft Sci Fi. Dragons, mages, mythical creatures, deity-class beings, ruined cities and medieval citizenry appear alongside time machines, computers, fighter planes, spaceships, laser weapons, lost colonies, and robotics. And then there's Earth.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Subverted. At first it appears Lord Tragg is the only member of the Privy Council who will stand up to Trent's Blackmail and refuse his offer, that he won't compromise his principles or the realm for money or expediency. But then it turns out he was so adamantly opposed to Trent taking over because he was one of those behind Incarnadine's "death", and he wanted to rule instead.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Ramthonodox himself, but also the Hosts of Hell (courtesy of Incarnadine's ancestor).
Seers: Melanie's talent seems to be seeing the immediate future, though whether only for herself, or only in relation to her pregnancy and children, is never fully explained.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness/Buffy Speak: DeChancie isn't afraid to show off his vocabulary, nor does he underestimate the intelligence of his readers. At the same time, there is a deliberate dissonance between this and modern colloquial speech, thanks to Incarnadine and Trent having lived on Earth for so long. The switch between the two is also deliberately invoked by Incarnadine (and Trent) to annoy or confuse his enemies (Castle Dreams), and vice versa (the Hosts of Hells' "used car salesman" shtick).
Sherlock Scan: Parodied in Castle Murders when Incarnadine pretends to deduce all manner of things about Father Sealey's niece, then reveals he knows everything he does because "your uncle talks about you a lot".
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Gene's jaunt into Sativa's world ends up being this. While it's true the rebel munitions dump does get blown apart by nuclear grenades, and this presumably kills the rebels who were after her, Sativa herself also dies in the process, leaving Gene to return to the castle with nothing to show for it, and knowing that the rebel movement will likely still continue on to cause trouble for the galactic government—perhaps even strengthened thanks to her death. So the whole adventure and her death are indeed all for nothing.
Shaggy Dog Story: The whole episode on Hellas is this, since there is no point to the story—Trent is put through the grueling campaign for no reason except to give Incarnadine another strategist to face since he couldn't duplicate himself, and although his favored city Troas is saved, he reveals that in time the bay will silt up and the valueless citadel will be abandoned. Its only point was for him to play out real-life war games (and, admittedly, give Trent something to do to keep him occupied and his blood flowing); no wonder, then, that Trent believes Revenge is a dish Best Served Cold.
Max's jaunt through Alternate Universes turns out all to be for nothing, since he can never find one that is exactly perfect and the way he wants it, he can never find his original home, in every world he is a failure no matter how successful he appears on the surface, and in the end he's left stuck in a Me's a Crowd situation, hoping that one of the Jeremys can eventually help him find a home again...though with the number of duplicates versus 'good' worlds, his chances are bleak.
In Castle Murders, one of Those Two Guys, Thaxton (whose first name happens to be Peter), solves a magical murder mystery among the castle nobles. In appreciation, Incarnadine grants him a title...which entitles him to be known as Lord Peter.
Shown Their Work: The scene in the conservatory in Castle Murders, where Incarnadine plays the Rachmaninoff concerto. Also, all the detail given to golf when Thaxton and Dalton are trapped in Golfhell in Castle War! is lampshaded in a footnote in Castle Dreams, along with mocking the fact that doing so much work and research keeps the author trapped inside without a social life.
When Trent visits the Greek-like Aspect Hellas, he remarks on how all the massive marble buildings are painted in bright, garish colors instead of being the plain unadorned white of modern buildings in that style.
Single-Biome Planet: A few Aspects are this, or at least appear to be; for example, the ocean Aspect that is eventually called Sheila's World. A variation is what everyone calls the "golfing world", an Aspect known not for having only one climate but existing for only one purpose, having been deliberately created with golfing in mind but superimposed on a tropical dinosaur world.
Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: The first book is fairly balanced, with the zaniness and weirdness of learning about and becoming accustomed to the world of the castle offset by the genuine danger of the siege, Melydia's spell work, and the true terror and desperation of trying to maneuver through the castle and stop its destruction even as it is changing back into a demon. The invasions by the Blue Meanies and the Hosts of Hell, and the destabilization of the castle, are also treated seriously, albeit with much levity and comic relief at the appropriate moments. The longer the series goes on, however, the sillier it gets, though moments of seriousness do still creep up.
Spanner in the Works: How Incarnadine defeats Melydia and restores the castle: because Kwip had broken a piece off of Ramthonodox’s brain, it was missing an Aspect. Demons must have all their Aspects to feel complete, so without it he was vulnerable to manipulation and control. Particularly because Incarnadine, Chessmaster that he was, had gotten said shard away from Jacoby and could use it to bargain with.
In Castle for Rent, Sheila's portal-summoning power allows her and the others to escape to Ferne's mansion on Earth right as Trent and Incarnadine are trying to break into the estate. This, and the others fighting the Hosts' forces, provides the distraction (and uses up the Hosts' spell power) for the brothers to save the day.
Speaks Fluent Animal/Friend to All Living Things: In Castle for Rent Barnaby is implied, but never confirmed, to have the ability to speak to animals; the strange feline beasts he and Deena encounter are able to communicate empathically with both of them, but only he hears the actual thoughts of one when they flee the Aspect. Since they've never encountered beasts or bestial sapients since then, this point is never pursued later on.
Special Object, Normal Name: In an amusing subversion of Named Weapons, Rance's sword is named...Bruce. Made worse when it turns out he can't change the name, since it was given to the sword when it was made and must be used to activate its magic. Then Double Subverted when, after the demons mock him, he proceeds to kill their avenging champion with it and escapes.
Status Quo Is God: Despite the fact that with the reinstitution of the transformation spell, Castle Perilous is more stable and reasonable than it has been in years, and that between Incarnadine, Trent, Sheila, and Jeremy the Aspects become much more manageable and Earth is made accessible again after years of wandering, something still always manages to happen to make the castle unsafe and cause the characters to go haring off into dangerous, unstable Aspects. As proof Tropes Are Not Bad, this is half the fun of the series!
Stealth Pun: When dining in Golfhell, Dalton drolly makes note of the cockatrice au vin on the menu—"breast of cockatrice sautéed with wild mushrooms and fresh tender roots in a light wine sauce". Between the other elements of the dish and the fact a cockatrice (another name for/variation of basilisk) is often depicted as part-bird due to its unusual origin, this would seem to be a reference to the joke that "everything Tastes Like Chicken".
Story Arc: Most of the novels in the series are stand-alone adventures, including the very first, and while newcomers to the series might be confused as to who all the characters are and their relationships (aided by helpful bits of As You Know and the occasional footnote here and there), they can mostly be read in any order and without any need for continuity. However, Castle for Rent, Castle Kidnapped, and Castle War! could be said to form one arc revolving around Ferne and the Hosts of Hell—from the first book, where Ferne attempts to use them to gain control of the castle, to the second where they turn the tables and use her for the same purpose, to the last where The Multiverse is endangered due to all the magical and spatiotemporal tinkering going on in the previous two.
Story Breaker Power: Sheila. She can conjure portals. Granted, there is a great deal of How Do I Shot Web? at first, but once she figures it out, there is no more danger of characters being trapped anywhere, the wandering portal to Earth can be easily located and tied down, and characters can travel wherever and whenever they want. Luckily the author manages to consistently have her get cut off from the others, her magic is blocked, or she's simply not available.
Strange Minds Think Alike: Not only does Trent make the exact same comment as Incarnadine when he wakes up from a bad dream, but he even tells the same jokes and stories.
Superpower Lottery: It's anyone's guess what talent a given Guest will end up with, with some being awesome and badass and others complaining (or not) about how lame their heart is. Linda and Sheila have to take the cake though for most powerful and versatile talents ever. Lampshaded by both Incarnadine and Trent, who note they are two of the most powerful magicians in generations who are not members of the royal family.
Take That: A number of these appear throughout the series, usually at other authors (Foundation's Robots, I Remember Rama), genres ("What's 'cyberpunk'?"), or the literary world in general (see Incarnadine's meeting with the book editor in Castle for Rent), but a particularly epic (and mean-spirited) one occurs in Castle Dreams, complete with explanatory footnote:
Techno Babble: Naturally, much of Jeremy's descriptions of the castle computers and how they work is this, much to the bafflement of Osmirik—which is Played for Laughs since the way the scribe spoke of spells and historical texts was really Not So Different. Which, aside from their both being at the tops of their fields, is why they were paired up together.
Techno Wizard: Jeremy's computers and AIs don't even need batteries, they run on pure magical phlebotinum!
Teleporters and Transporters: Snowclaw's power (at least originally). Interestingly, while it can be done mid-run, it generally seems to work as a reverse Call On Me, where he is able to teleport to a person he cares for whom he knows is in danger, simply by homing in on their feelings or thoughts of him.
Tempting Fate: Gene really shouldn’t have talked about Aspects closing on them in Castle for Rent...
Theme Naming: In Castle Murders several chapters are named after rooms which appear in Clue. The tagline for the book is also in the form of a Suggestion ("Was is it the Royal Scribe? In the library? With a broadax?").
Three Lines Some Waiting: In most books there are only one or two main plot threads, and in the ones where the many Guests split up and have separate mini-adventures, the reader tends to get to visit them equally and find out what happens to everyone in a timely manner. Sometimes though minor plots get delayed for the major ones, and others get forgotten altogether. Exhibit A: anything with Deena and Barnaby, sometimes Kwip or Thaxton and Dalton. Exhibit B: Melanie's plot with the "Robin Hood" Expy, forgotten entirely until near the end of the book thanks to Gene's wanderlust, yet another mishap with the Sidewise Voyager, and the murder mystery taking center stage.
Those Two Guys: Thaxton and Dalton; Thorsby and Fetchen; Luster and Dolbert.
Translator Microbes: Within the castle only. Shown off in a very well done scene when DuQuesne gets Linda to actually listen carefully, and hear the French he is speaking beneath the English. It can be turned off at will, and in other Aspects characters can get the general gist of other languages if they concentrate or have been exposed to them enough. Sometimes the translation lacks precision ("Elizabethan couplets" sounds to Snowclaw like "snow queen poetry"), but other times it is intriguingly accurate (as when "medieval" comes out as "middle ages").
Trapped in Another World: Technically this is true for all the Guests who come to Castle Perilous, but the specific plot of someone being trapped in an Aspect also recurs throughout the series. Incarnadine gets stuck on Earth while Gene, Linda, Snowclaw, and Sheila get stranded in a jungle world with ruined temples in Castle for Rent; Gene, Thaxton, and Dalton get stuck in dangerous alternate variants in Castle War!; and Melanie gets stuck in a "Robin Hood" Aspect (while Gene, Linda, and Snowclaw get stuck on a dying future world while looking for her) in Castle Murders. This type of plot is also the whole point of Castle Kidnapped, where it happens to almost everybody as part of the Hosts of Hell's takeover attempt.
Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Incarnadine, His Serene and Transcendent Majesty of the House of Haplodite, Lord of the Western Pale, Liege Lord, Imperator and Gatekeeper, King of the Realms Perilous, Sovereign Ruler of Ylium, Zephorea, Halmudia, Grekoran, and West Thurlangia, Protector of...
Also, His Royal Highness Trent, Prince of the House of Haplodie, Protector of Zilonesia, Vice-regent of Ulontha, Beloved of the Gods, Holy Warrior, Keeper of the Stone of Truth-telling... Though this may not all be true, since his introduction came from Incarnadine.
Two-Fisted Tales/Pastiche: Gene's solo adventures seem to be made of these, to the point of seeming like Author Appeal. The very first, the world of the Umoi, their ruined AI cities, and their Servant Races which have degenerated into barbarian tribes seems like a cross between Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard—Gene even compares his first sight of Zond to the "cover of Astounding Stories" and refers to Edmund Hamilton, and the world's name is later revealed to be New Barsoom. The episode plays out as a Mighty WhiteyPlanetary Romance. Meanwhile, Alice's world could be 1984 or Brave New World while Sativa's could be any Physics PlusSpace Opera out there.
The Unreveal: Kwip is a thief. But this fact is never actually revealed to the majority of the characters. Jacoby figures it out...but the secret dies with him. Gene is understandably suspicious of him...but this is all forgotten when the Reset Button is pushed. And Deena and Barnaby, other than a moment of disbelief and derision for him chasing after valuables he claims are his in Castle Spellbound, never seem to think ill of him or distrust him. Even Incarnadine, who retains his memories of the first book, does not act in any untrusting manner when they are introduced in Castle for Rent, but then he tends to be forgiving of any transgressions which may lie in a Guest’s past (see Jeremy), probably because he isn't exactly squeaky clean himself. The rest never learn or care, even when such a revelation might possibly have been dramatic or at least interesting.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Vorn, if you squint right. Although a conquering warlord, he also fully believed he was doing a right and holy thing by capturing and destroying Castle Perilous, that it was a fortress of evil ruled by the Devil himself and only by doing as Melydia directed would the world be saved. What he didn't know was that she was only using him, and that instead of destroying the evil, her plan for the castle would actually free it.
Ferne was one as well, since she fully believed she should rule, or co-rule, Perilous and was thus willing to open up dangerous Aspects (and use the power of the Hosts of Hell) to get what she wanted, but never truly intended to harm her brother, the castle, or any of its inhabitants if she could help it.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Happens often to the bit players when their plots are mere amusing hijinks or are simply not deemed important when compared to the main plot. Sometimes their stories are resolved with a quick Hand Wave or a brief narration of what happened off-screen; other times it's forgotten entirely yet the characters still show up just fine in the next book.
A very specific example, however: unless she was merely mistaken, Vaya claims to be pregnant by Gene, yet no mention of this or the baby is ever made after she comes to the castle and goes to Earth. It is possible she lost the baby either due to the injuries she suffers in Annau or the explosion and healing in the lab, but again this is never actually mentioned or addressed—until Bride of the Castle, when Linda finally mentions that Gene believes she aborted it but doesn't actually know.
What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: While some Guests get to have incredible powers (like Linda and Sheila) or ones clearly meant for heroics (like Gene's), others have to contend with nearly useless abilities. A case could be made that most of the Guests whose talents we never learn have talents like this. And a very good example of such a talent would be Osmirik's: an enhanced sense of smell, which comes in handy exactly once in the series, is never mentioned again, and almost as soon as he develops it becomes a hindrance since he managed to find himself in the castle's Water Works...
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Averted, discussed, and otherwise explored and deconstructed in a surprisingly serious, contemplative, and sympathetic manner with Incarnadine and the sphinx statue he temporarily brings to life.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Ferne, apparently, and certainly Melydia. Lampshaded in the latter's case when, having used up all her power to release Ramthonodox, she is suddenly sane again.
A Wizard Did It: Literally, in the case of Ervoldt, Incarnadine's ancestor, who cast the spell to change Ramthonodox into Castle Perilous. But a number of times, when something strange happens in the castle, whether a part of its usual idiosyncratic quirks or something actually going wrong, it's always blamed on/explained by "magic".
He encountered more humans, and these sang as well as danced. The males carried black canes and wore black suits and black cylindrical hats, and the females wore little. The males picked the females up and threw them around. More music played. Well, good.
World of Pun: The series is actually rife with puns and wordplay, especially from Gene, but one which has to take the cake due to the set-up and the long wait before DeChancie finally drops the other shoe would be this extreme groaner from Castle Murders:
Helen Dardanian, after Incarnadine asked her where she used to work and noted she was from Illinois: I worked in a cracker factory. Nights, I sang in speaks. Real dives. In one of them the dancers went bare-breasted.
Incarnadine: What did you do?
Helen: I was a taste tester. But I quit to come here.
You Can't Thwart Stage One: While this is generally true for all the villainous schemes in the series, it is especially notable in Castle Perilous and Castle for Rent.
Despite all of his magical (and mundane) defenses, Incarnadine can't stop Vorn's armies from winning their siege, despite all of his research and study (and Osmirik's) they can't find any way to stop Melydia's spellwork, and despite the Big Damn Heroes moment wherein the main characters take out all of her guards (zombies and duplicates included) and Linda almost gets her hands on Melydia, the castle still gets changed back into Ramthonodox. Partly this is due to the fact prophecysaid it would happen, but it's also because Incarnadine ends up letting it happen as part of a Batman Gambit—on the one hand, Ramthonodox's release eliminated the besieging armies, drained Melydia of her powers, and made her sane again so she could help him re-cast the Baleful Polymorph; on the other hand, he allowed it to come to pass because he knew of the broken shard of the Brain and how this loss would weaken the demon and allow him to regain control of it again.
You Keep Telling Yourself That: Gene is rather determined to convince himself the worlds beyond the portals aren't real, just lifelike holograms or movies he can step into...to keep from having to think about Sativa.