The turtle moves!
Stories are important. People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way round. Stories... have evolved... The strongest have survived, and they have grown fat... Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow... A thousand wolves have eaten grandmother, a thousand princesses have been kissed... Stories don't care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the story gets told, that the story repeats.A world, and a mirror of worlds.
The Discworld, a flat planet carried by four elephants standing on the back of a gigantic space-turtle (sex unkown), is the venue for Sir Terry Pratchett
's long running fantasy series.
The first few books were a straightforward parody of Heroic Fantasy
tropes, but later books have subverted, played with, and hung lampshades on
practically every trope on this site, in every genre, and many not yet covered, as well as parodying (and in some cases, deconstructing
) many well known films, books, and TV series. The humour ranges from simple wordplay to wry reflections on the absurdities of life.
While all of the Discworld books exist in the same Constructed World
, with the same continuity (and roughly in chronological order, with a few exceptions), many can be loosely grouped into different series, following some of Pratchett's recurring characters. These include Rincewind the incompetent "wizzard," the Ankh-Morpork City Watch (which are usually mystery novels), the Lancre witches (which lend themselves well to Shakespeare), and Death
. Some books follow one-off protagonists who may or may not appear in supporting roles in other books.
In addition to the main characters, there is a large cast of recurring characters, including dodgy street trader Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler
and benevolent tyrant
Havelock Vetinari ("benevolent" in the sense that he's a much nicer
tyrant than his predecessors, actually concerned with the welfare of the city and its inhabitants). Villains have included sociopathic geniuses, Eldritch Abominations
, and the Auditors of Reality, cosmic bureaucrats
who consider life too untidy to be tolerated.
As of November 2013, there are forty books in the series, five of them young adult, as well as several short stories. There are also Discworld calendars, diaries, maps
, three Video Gamesnote
, three Board Gamesnote
, and a pen and paper RPG
, each with additional background information
about the Disc. All the books have been adapted for the stage, two have become animated series, and three (technically four, as The Colour of Magic
and The Light Fantastic
were filmed as a single story under the former title, but the second is a direct follow-on) have become live-action Made For TV Movies
. A police procedural based around the Ankh-Morpork Watch is in the works, and discussions are underway for cinema films of Mort
and The Wee Free Men
Because of his failing health, in a November 2012 interview
, Terry Pratchett revealed plans for his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett
, to take over the Discworld series in the event of his eventual Author Existence Failure
. She has since clarified
that this doesn't mean writing more books, but protecting his legacy. She is currently working on the TV series The Watch
and the film of Wee Free Men
See also the character sheet
for details on the more major of the series' Loads and Loads of Characters
, and the fan-run L-Space Web
(which unfortunately hasn't been updated since Going Postal
, from 2004). There is a reading order guide◊
for those who would like to go through the books by internal series chronology.
The work of collecting book annotations has been continued on the L-Space Wiki
, who have picked up the baton and assembled a catalogue of annotations for all Discworld novels since Going Postal
, in the hoped-for event that the L-Space Web proper resumes full operations again. New contributors are always welcome!
series was pre-dated by a science-fiction novel entitled Strata
. While this isn't a Discworld
book per se
, it does prominently feature a flat Earth, and it does seem to contain the seeds of many ideas that would feature in the Discworld
books later on.Warning: Some of the summaries contain spoilers.
List of Discworld media
The main Discworld novels, in order of release. Brackets denote date of UK publication and main character(s) - standalone indicates that it is not currently part of a series.
- The Colour of Magic (1983 - Rincewind the wizard)
- The Light Fantastic (1986 - Rincewind)
- Equal Rites (1987 - Granny Weatherwax the witch)
- Mort (1987 - Death)
- Sourcery (1988 - Rincewind)
- Wyrd Sisters (1988 - The Lancre witches, inc. Granny Weatherwax)
- Pyramids (1989 - standalone)
- Guards! Guards! (1989 - The City Watch)
- Eric (or "̶F̶a̶u̶s̶t̶ Eric") (1990 - Rincewind; originally published as an illustrated novel)
- Moving Pictures (1990- standalone, Wizards subplot)
- Reaper Man (1991 - Death, Wizards subplot)
- Witches Abroad (1991 - The Lancre witches)
- Small Gods (1992 - standalone, History Monks cameo)
- Lords and Ladies (1992 - The Lancre witches, Wizards cameo)
- Men at Arms (1993 - The City Watch)
- Soul Music (1994 - Death, Susan, Wizards subplot)
- Interesting Times (1994 - Rincewind, Heroes)
- Maskerade (1995 - The Lancre witches)
- Feet of Clay (1996 - The City Watch)
- Hogfather (1996 - Death, Susan, Wizards subplot)
- Jingo (1997 - The City Watch)
- The Last Continent (1998 - Rincewind/Wizards)
- Carpe Jugulum (1998- The Lancre witches, Uberwald)
- The Fifth Elephant (1999 - The City Watch, Uberwald)
- The Truth (2000 - standalone, The City Watch cameo)
- Thief of Time (2001 - History Monks, Death, Susan)
- Night Watch (2002 - History Monks, The City Watch)
- Monstrous Regiment (2003 - standalone/The City Watch cameo, Uberwald)
- Going Postal (2004 - Moist von Lipwig)
- Thud! (2005 - The City Watch)
- Making Money (2007 - Moist von Lipwig)
- Unseen Academicals (2009 - Wizards and new characters)
- Snuff (2011 - The City Watch)
- Raising Steam (2013 - Moist von Lipwig, The City Watch cameo)
- ̶F̶a̶u̶s̶t̶ Eric (illustrated by Josh Kirby) (1990 - Rincewind; also available in paperback novel format)
- The Last Hero (illustrated by Paul Kidby) (2001 - Rincewind, bits of The City Watch and Wizards, Heroes; republished with more illustrations)
The young-adult Discworld novels:
- The Streets of Ankh-Morpork (with Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Stephen Player) (1993)
- The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide (with Discworld Emporium staff, illustrated by Peter Dennis) (updated version of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, 2012)
- The Ankh-Morpork Map for iPad (fully zoomable with narrated walking tours)
- The Discworld Mapp (with Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Stephen Player) (1995)
- The Compleat Discworld Atlas (updated version of The Discworld Mapp, forthcoming 2015)
- A Tourist's Guide To Lancre (with Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Paul Kidby) (1998)
- Death's Domain (with Stephen Briggs, illustrated by Paul Kidby) (1999)
- Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (2006), an adaptation of Hogfather.
- The Colour of Magic (2008), an adaptation of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic
- Going Postal (2010), an adaptation of Going Postal
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Soul Music (1996)
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Wyrd Sisters (1997)
- Thud (2006)
- Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (2011)
- Guards! Guards! (2011)
- Discworld: The Witches (2013)
- From the Discworld, Dave Greenslade (1994)
- Soul Music Soundtrack, Keith Hopwood and Phil Bush (1996)
- Soul Harmonics, Lavington Bound (2011)
- Wintersmith, Steeleye Span (October 2013)
- The Discworld Companion (with Stephen Briggs) (1994). Universe Compendium. Second edition as The Discworld Companion Updated (1997); third edition as The New Discworld Companion (2003), fourth edition as Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion ... So Far (2012).
- GURPS Discworld RPG (1998), and one supplement for it, GURPS Discworld Also (2001) (both with Phil Masters); the first book was later repackaged as The Discworld Roleplaying Game (2002). A new edition, incorporating material from both the earlier books and other sources, and updated to GURPS Fourth Edition, is upcoming.
- The Science of Discworld I-IV (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) (1999, 2002, 2005, 2013)
- Nanny Ogg's Cookbook (with Tina Hannan and Stephen Briggs) (2002)
- The Discworld Almanack (with Bernard Pearson) (2004)
- The Folklore of Discworld (with Jaqueline Simpson) (2008)
- The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld (quotations; compiled by Stephen Briggs) (2009)
- Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook to Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway (with Discworld Emporium staff, illustrated by Peter Dennis) (2014)
Tropes that are not specific to one character (or group of characters) and appeared in three or more books (anything else should go in those pages, since otherwise five sevenths of the tropes on this site would be listed):
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- Absurdly Dedicated Worker: If not attended, golems will continue carrying out their last order indefinitely, potentially causing huge property damage. Other characters have mused that this is their approach to protest.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade:
- Death's scythe and sword, Carrot's sword, and Inigo Skimmer's palm knife. Especially Death's scythe, which is described as "proverbially sharp" and can cut the dialog in the book when it's swung. It exudes an aura of sharpness that extends several inches from the actual blade - because it is that sharp.
- Carrot's sword is also very interesting. It is one of the very few swords on the Disc without a single hint of magic in it, making it more real than anything it tries to cut. Instead, it is a long and very sharp piece of metal designed specifically to cut through man, horse, and armour. It is also an extremely old sword. This makes sense, given its implied origin.
- Academy of Adventure: If the Unseen University doesn't have adventure happen to it, the wizards will make one (usually by accident).
- Addiction Displacement: All Black Ribboner vampires turn to a particular obsession (coffee, photography, politics, et cetera) as a psychological substitute for craving human blood. Sam Vimes also replaces alcohol with cigars.
- On the more psychological level, Vimes has channeled his obsessive tendencies into policing and detective work. He's even lampshaded this, saying that what he needs is a support group where he can stand up and say, "My name is Sam and I'm a really suspicious bastard."
- Alien Geometries:
- This is common among wizarding edifices - In addition to the Library's dome (mentioned below), the Tower of Bugarup University is about 20 feet tall on the inside, or as seen from the bottom — but at the top, it's about half a mile tall.
- Bloody Stupid Johnson has this as his stock in trade, due mainly to his utter inability to perform basic math (when combined with the Disc's shaky reality). He has designed flat triangles with three right angles, a circle for which pi was precisely 3 (breaking space-time in the process), and laid out an apartment complex for which the various doorways and windows don't necessarily open out onto the garden of the same building in which they're set.
- All Witches Have Cats: Nanny Ogg has Greebo; Granny Weatherwax eventually has You. Tiffany's family has the cat Ratbag, although it loathes her (and the feeling is mutual).
- All Theories Are True: Especially the morphogenic field, and anything involving the word "quantum".
- All Trolls Are Different: The trolls are actually made of stone, instead of turning to stone. They sometimes go dormant for long periods of time and are mistaken for rocks.
- The legend of trolls turning into stone during the day is based on the fact that trolls are nocturnal: their brains are silicon-based and easily overheat, leading both to torpor and stupidity and startling intelligence under the right circumstances.
- To wit, Detritus is once trapped in a freezer and slowly freezes to death. Just before he loses consciousness, he writes an equation in the condensation which explains the origin of life in its entirety. However, when the door is opened, the rush of warm air gets rid of the condensation and the formula. He is also once taken to the Klatchian desert and can barely move during the day.
- Diamond trolls are capable of regulating their own internal temperature and are known for being extremely bright. Mr. Shine is an example of this.
- Also a major reason for the conflict between trolls and dwarfs: "Dwarfs are beings who spend most of their time digging through rock to find precious minerals. Trolls are essentially metamorphic rock wrapped around valuable minerals."
- Gargoyles are a subspecies of Troll. Their jaws are permanently stuck open, and they like to hang out on tall buildings as their primary foodstuff is pigeons (unlike regular trolls, who eat rocks). They're perfectly at home spending days on end staring at nothing. See also the entry below for Our Gargoyles Rock.
- A troll's physiology also seems to represent the place it was born. Though most trolls have solid mountainous physiques, there's also Chalky (implied to come from chalk plains) and Brick (who was born in the city.
- Alternative Number System: Trolls apparently have a "base Many" system (actually base four). As in, "one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two...
- In one book, Detritus appears to be counting in base-2 (binary). This makes sense, given that a troll's brain is made of silicon (like a computer chip).
- Aluminium Christmas Trees: Weirdly, a Senior Wrangler is a real thing. It is the student who gains the highest overall mark in mathematics at Cambridge University. (People who get Firsts are just Wranglers.)
- In fact, most of the bizarre practices and terminology at Unseen University are based on real Oxbridge examples.
- Amusing Alien: The Luggage.
- Angels, Devils and Squid: Gods, demons, and the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions. The first two groups are more similar than they'd like to admit ("the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters"), while the Things just want the light and shape of our reality and would kill us without even noticing if they ever got through. That's without mentioning the Auditors and other weirdness.
- Thief of Time has a scene where pictures of particularly dangerous entities are shown. The picture of the most feared of all shows... an empty, hooded robe, hanging in mid-air. That's how Auditors appear. Angels and Demons have uses for humans. The Things From The Dungeon Dimensions would eradicate humans without noticing. Auditors are the only ones who are actually malevolent: they not only actively want to eradicate life, they want it to never have existed.
- Arc Number: 8. The Discworld has eight seasons and eight-day weeks, and its spectrum has eight colours (though only magically gifted people can see octarine). An eighth son of an eighth son becomes a wizard. There are eight Muses and eight circles of Hell. The Tower of Art at the Unseen University has 8,888 steps (more or less).
- Aristocrats Are Evil: While there a few good ones in the books, the aristocrats of Ankh-Morpork are generally a bunch of blithering idiots who are as incompetent in politics as they are in military matters.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
- Artistic License – Chemistry: Driftwood fires are mentioned as burning with blue flames ("because of the salt" in at least one case). Either Discworld combustion spectra are different, or the salt in its oceans is not a sodium salt, because here on Roundworld driftwood burns with a bright yellow flame.
- Bad Ass: Many of the heros and villains are one variety or another of Bad Ass, including the Magical Nanny and the nine-year-old farm girl.
- Not related to the trope is the home village of Eskarina Smith that was named after an ill-behaved donkey, which is also where one of the most Bad Ass characters happens to live.
- Badass Normal: Besides the non-normal, like the powerful wizards and witches, or the granddaughter of Death, you have major threats like watchman Sam Vimes or Chessmaster Havelock Vetinari.
- Bad-Guy Bar: The Mended Drum (originally the Broken Drum - "you can't beat it"). Originally a seedy bar in the mould of the Wild West, and as such a favoured haunt of the Disc's many Heroes. In today's more congenial age, barfights at the Mended Drum are staged contests and severed limbs are carefully numbered so they can be surgically reattached.
- Also Biers, the bar for the differently-alive, including vampires, zombies, werewolves, bogie-men, ghouls, and various others too weird to fit in anywhere else. Also Mrs Gammage: a nearly blind old woman who no-one has the heart to tell her the bar is no longer the Crown and Axe.
- Battle Butler: Quite literally, with Sam Vimes' butler Willikins. Both in the sense that he temporarily leaves the household for military service in Jingo (and proved quite ferocious as a sergeant, both in and out of battle), and in Thud! he turns up as a Special Constable, and takes down two of the three Dwarf assassins without thinking about it, despite the fact that they surprised him by coming directly through the wall. Sam thinks how comforting it is at times like that to have a butler who can throw a common fish knife so hard it is extremely difficult to remove from the wall. He's also glad that the different street gangs they were in as kids had a treaty, so he never had to face Willikins in a rumble.
Willikins: A cap with sharpened pennies sewn to the brim.
Vimes: You could take an eye out with that!
Willikins: With care, sir, yes.
- Battle Interrupting Shout: By several characters.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Like many Police Procedurals, the City Watch stories never make it easy to collect information.
- Begone Bribe: The modus operandi of the Beggar's Guild.
- Sometimes literally; Coffin Henry wanders around with a sign that reads "for sum muny I wunt folo you home".
- Being Human Sucks: The orangutan Librarian of the Unseen University is much happier with his form after a magical accident and has taken precautions to prevent the wizards from making him human again.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Mustrum Ridcully and the wizards of UU may look like harmless, slightly overweight, cheerful old men. The entire purpose of UU is to keep them that way so they don't destroy the world. Before the University made magic and academic life pleasant, the plural of "wizard" was "war".
- Nanny Ogg is generally much nicer than Granny Weatherwax, which is why people tend to seek her out for help when they need it. She is, however, every bit as cunning and manipulative as Granny, if not more so. Pratchett himself hinted that Nanny may be even more powerful than Granny, but is smart enough not to show it.
- Subverted in short story "The Sea and Little Fishes"; Granny Weatherwax suddenly starts being nice to everyone — which, naturally, makes them deeply suspicious.
- Death is pretty congenial, and does his job sensibly while trying to understand humanity as much as possible (even if most of the time he doesn't really get it). But if you threaten the nature of reality, seriously threaten his granddaughter Susan (which is pretty hard to do in the first place), or try to mess up his part of the universe, you had better start running like Rincewind and never stop running! He gets emotional over kittens as well.
- And then, of course, there's Rule One: "Do not act incautiously when dealing with small, bald, smiling, wrinkled, apparently harmless old men!"
- The Librarian also seems like a genial and harmless half-deflated inner tube, until someone says the M-word...
- Carrot Ironfounderson. More than once the poster boy of goodness to the point you imagine him with baby smooth skin and living in the 1950s US at times has made others realize this about him.
- Berserk Button: For the love of God, don't
call the Librarian a say monkey the M-word near the Librarian.
- Or call Granny Weatherwax a Crone, a Hag...
- Or try to take Rincewind's hat away. Or any other wizard's.
- Or mispronounce Teatime. "Teh-ah-tim-eh"
- Or say "garlic" to Chef Aimsbury. It's not that it makes him angry, but it's still not a good idea to cause someone whose job more or less requires that he be carrying or at least have ready access to knives, cleavers, etc. to lose control of himself.
- Or threaten Sam Vimes' family. Or his city.
- Definitely do not threaten Vimes' family. Even the king of the dwarfs knew he'd made a mistake and he was lucky that Vimes decided not to do anything about it.
- Chrysophrase, undisputed mob boss of the toughest city on the Disc, made it extremely clear how displeased he was with a subordinate who made an obliquely implied threat to Sam Vimes' family. Later when Chrysophrase asks Sam if he'd like some rocks for a rock garden, Sam thinks that the box cannot possibly contain a whole troll...
- Beta Couple: Played with sometimes in the City Watch books, where there are two Official Couples: Vimes/Sybil and Carrot/Angua. Exactly which is the Beta Couple depends on the book: Vimes/Sybil are pretty clearly the Betas in Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant, but Thud! sees a reversal of the situation that's looking pretty permanent.
- Bewitched Amphibians: Nodded to many times, by both witches and wizards.
- BFG: Detritus of the Watch wields a siege crossbow, converted to fire bundles of arrows which burst into tiny projectiles at high speed. It can remove doors from their frames, their houses, and the world of objects larger than a matchstick. The only safe place to be when Detritus fires it is a hundred feet or more behind him.
- Bilingual Conversation: Any conversation with the Unseen University's librarian (an orangutan). His vocabulary is limited to "Oook" with varying punctuation, but everyone seems to know exactly what he means.
- Bizarre Alien Senses: Golems, or at least Mr. Pump, are sensitive to something called "Karmic Signature", which Pump did not see fit to explain. They can also detect one another "singing" underground, through thousands of feet of soil.
- In Lords and Ladies, elves are sensitive to magnetic fields, thus explaining their aversion to iron which distorts and "blinds" such senses.
- Bolt of Divine Retribution: Gods tend to throw these at people who annoy them, particularly atheists.
A bolt of lighting lanced through the clouds and hit Dorfl's helmet. There was a sheet of flame and then a trickling noise. Dorfl's molten armor formed puddles around his white-hot feet.
"I Don't Call That Much Of An Argument"
- Brainless Beauty: Laddie, Christine, Tawneee, and Juliet. Perhaps surprisingly, with the slight exception of Christine, they are portrayed sympathetically as good-natured innocents.
- Brawn Hilda: Vimes' wife Sybil in The Fifth Elephant; the valkyrie in Soul Music. To a lesser extent, Agnes Nitt in Maskerade.
- Sybil Ramkin right from her first appearance in Guards! Guards! In that one, some Palace Guards come to take her to be eaten by the dragon. She takes exception to being dragged off by a load of guards... with a broadsword. It doesn't work out for her, but two of her pets (Sam Vimes and a most peculiar young male swamp dragon) rescue her later on.
- It is noted on several occasions, as recently as Snuff, that Sybil is descended from the kind of old aristocracy that kept its place by being more than able to defend themselves. Hence why even in Night Watch a younger Sybil grabs a ornamental sword (or something else long and metal?) to defend herself when (stranger to her at that time) Vimes comes to the door.
- There were previous references to the martial activities of Sybil's male ancestors, usually in the context of her even tougher female ancestors looking after everything else, including caring for whatever portions of their male relatives made it back from battle. As well, given the later references to the family apparently never throwing anything away if it could possibly have any use, there's no reason to think that sword wasn't entirely functional. (Given how badly she handles a sword in the chronologically later events of Guards! Guards! she probably didn't know how to use it, but that's not important when you consider the kind of help the family tends to hire and the fact that her father might well have been home.)
- Brick Joke: Happens quite often, even across books in the form of Continuity Nods. As one example, in The Truth, there's mention of someone trying to pass a parrot off as a dog by teaching it to bark and writing "DoG" on its feathers. In The Last Hero, Leonard of Quirm is shown feeding a bunch of birds, one of which is that parrot.
- Also, a bar called The Broken Drum (You Can't Beat It!) burns down in the first book. It appears rebuilt subsequently throughout later books as The Mended Drum (You Can Get Beaten).
- Bloody Stupid Johnson's handiwork constantly appears around Ankh-Morpork. See Bungling Inventor for more.
- In Soul Music, it's detailed that the Klatchian Foreign Legion is where people go to forget their lives (in the literal sense). This is mentioned again as a throwaway line in Going Postal, 12 books later.
- In Men at Arms, Angua mentions in passing that Big Fido thinks that all wolves have names like Quickfang and Silverback, and laughs it off. We find out in Feet of Clay that the full names of her parents are Baron Guye von Uberwald, aka (Silvertail), and Seraphine Soxe-Blumberg, aka (Yellowfang). Of course, they are family of (werewolves), so....
- Though in The Fifth Elephant, we're told that most true wolves don't have names, so much as descriptions. Gaspode attempts to translate one of these for the rather prudish Captain Carrot. They eventually settle on "Bum", which Carrot can choose to interpret in the way common in the US (vagrant, tramp, hobo) while remaining at least somewhat similar to the more precise translation "Arsehole".
- Another one crops up in Night Watch. In The Truth, one of the newspaper headlines is "CITTY's BIGGEST CAKE MIX-Up!!!". It's a story about a cart carrying several tons of flour overturning and causing a cart carrying a cartload of eggs to overturn, which in turn causes a cart carrying 30 churns of milk to overturn... Anyway, in Night Watch, after Vimes destroys a certain siege engine, we find out that it is not the biggest cake mix-up after all. As one of people who ordered the siege engine sent against Vimes: "Those oxen were really feisty, sir."
- There's a passing mention of some cheeses having put up a fight when the elves attacked an inn in Lords and Ladies. This sounds like a joke, until Wintersmith introduces Horace the Cheese...
- Bungling Inventor: Bloody Stupid Johnson, whose works tend to warp reality when they're not outright useless. It is suggested that he possessed a form of inverse genius; not stupidity, but a form of intelligence that equated to genius in the opposite direction. His works include the Colossus of Ankh-Morpork, which fits in a pocket, an exploding sundial, a Portal Network apartment complex, a tower built with quicksand (it'd be built faster), several pipe organs, a shower that combines with a pipe organ and a geyser, a mail-sorting machine that receives letters from alternate universes...
- A particularly good example being that garden of Patrician's palace, which includes:
- A trout pond that, due to a mix up with measurements, is 150 feet long and an inch wide and home to just the one trout.
- A chiming sundial that explodes around noon.
- A fountain that when turned on fired a cherub a thousand feet into the air.
- Cast iron garden furniture that has been known to melt on hot days.
- A maze so small that people get lost looking for it.
- Crazy paving that has committed suicide.
- The "Ho-Ho", which is like a Ha-ha (a ditch that hides a fence) but much much deeper, and has to date claimed three gardeners.
"To Bloody Stupid Johnson, scale was something that happened to other people."
"If you wanted a small ground-to-air missile, you just asked him to make an ornamental fountain."
- Quite impressively, he managed to create an explosive out of nothing but sand and water.
- Completely inverted with:
- Leonard of Quirm, who invents, among other things, incredibly destructive siege engines as intellectual exercises, including cutting instructions and parts lists, a working submarine and spacecraft and what is hinted to be an atomic bomb.
- Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos: One client tore out his eyes to prevent him from making any works greater for anyone else. Another had his hand cut off. He replaced both and was still the Discworld's greatest engineer...until he died near the end of the first book, killed by his last client, for the same reason.
- Butt Monkey: Rincewind, obviously.
- Less obviously, Lord Vetinari, although to a lesser extent. He has his throne taken away by a dragon and he is thrown into his own cells, gets shot, is turned into a lizard, gets poisoned, has to spend time in a submarine with Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs and pretends to be a street performer before being arrested, is knocked into a coma to be replaced by a fake version of himself, and on top of all this has to make sure that the city runs as it should while defeating the woman who writes the crossword for the Times.
- Canis Latinicus: Latatian, most of the time.
- Cannot Cross Running Water: Occasionally discussed, with regard to witches and wizards, but apparently averted in truth. Supposedly true for the undead, though Windle Poons manages it in Reaper Man. It's noted, however, that the Ankh river barely qualifies as "running" or "water" after passing through the city.
- Subverted by the de Magpyrs at the start of Carpe Jugulum, and lampshaded by the Count when he lectures his kids about it.
- Catch Phrase:
- Death: There is no justice. Just me.
- Rincewind: "Oh shit I'm going to die!"
- Moist: "Trust me."
- all Igors: "Yeth, marthtar."
- The Death of Rats: Squeak.
- The Librarian: "Oook."
- Vetinari: "Don't let me detain you."
- Granny Weatherwax: "I aten't dead."
- LampShaded and Inverted by Vimes in Jingo:
‘You know what I always say,’ he said.
Carrot removed his helmet and polished it with his sleeve. ‘Yes, sir. “Everyone’s guilty of something, especially the ones that aren’t,” sir.’
‘No, not that one . . .’
‘Er . . . “Always take into consideration the fact that you might be dead wrong,” sir?’
‘No, nor that one either.’
‘Er . . . “How come Nobby ever got a job as a watchman?”, sir? You say that a lot.’
‘No! I meant “Always act stupid,” Carrot.’
‘Ah, right, sir. From now on I shall remember that you always said that, sir.’
- Commander Vimes is fond of noting that in criminal cases, the motive is easier to find if you "follow the money".
- Cats Are Magic: Death is very fond of cats and gives them all nine lives. That said, the only cat who is really magical is Maurice, from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. He gained sapience and speech by eating a rat who had, in turn, also eaten some magical garbage.
- Cat Stereotype: Granny Weatherwax's cat You is a pure white kitten, full of purity and innocence. Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo, on the other hand, is grey, and is older, wiser, and pure malevolent evil.
- Inverted: Greebo is actually afraid of You since their first meeting. Note well, the only other creatures that Greebo has ever feared were a Nac mac Feegle and a voodoo deity in the shape of a cockerel.
- The Omni-scopes have the power to do this, although true to form the wizards spend a great deal of time and effort trying to eliminate that capacity, treating it as a bug instead of a feature. It seems all they wanted was an expensive version of a webcam.
- The problem, it is revealed, is in STEERING the damn things. They tend to start out with random viewing coordinates, so it's very hard to see anything in particular with them. Most of them end up being used as shaving mirrors because almost everywhere they might look is effectively featureless space.
- Also from the Science of Discworld books, Hex is able to treat our entire universe as one of these. Fast fowarding, or rewinding to see specific spots in human history (our universe canonically exists in a snowglobe on a shelf in the Unseen University, a wobbly shelf).
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: The series has gotten darker and more mature over the years, all without quite losing its sense of humor. And yes, Pratchett even plays with this trope, contrasting the dark Monstrous Regiment with the moderately lighthearted Going Postal followed by the dark Thud! followed by the moderately lighthearted Making Money followed by the even more lighthearted Unseen Academicals followed by the pitch black I Shall Wear Midnight...
- Chalk Outline: Invoked rarely, and only for laughs. For example, the Ankh is the only river in the world you can draw a chalk outline on. Also, one of the previous postmasters spied into the sorting machine, and his outline was all over the sorting office.
- In The Truth, the probably human Corporal Nobbs drew a chalk outline of a victim, which is all fine and normal for a copper, except he did it in colored chalk, and felt the need to add a pipe and draw some clouds and flowers.
- Chameleon Camouflage: Susan Sto Helit, Granny Weatherwax, and Granny's apprentice Tiffany Aching have powers to do this. The young Vetinari learns this in Night Watch (to the point that he nearly fails his Camouflage class for non-attendance), and Vimes has an uncanny ability to blend neatly into the shadows.
- The Wizards of UU can do this so well that they look more like what they're pretending to be than the real thing does. Granny, on the other hand, merely fades into the foreground.
- Characterization Marches On: Remember when the The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork was obese? Or when Death seemed to actively cause people to die rather than merely collect their souls? Both have gotten excuses, one of which is that Death changed character after Mort, the other that it was a different Patrician. Pratchett denies the latter, admitting it is this trope.
Pratchett: "How about: maybe he was Vetinari, but written by a more stupid writer?"
- Remember when Granny Weatherwax was just a simple village witch?
- Or when Vimes was a depressive alcoholic?
- Or when most wizards were as skinny as Rincewind?
- Or when Willikins was just a butler?
- Character Development: Or rather, setting development. Over the course of the series, Ankh-Morpork goes from a Wretched Hive locked in Medieval Stasis to a bustling Steam Punk City of Adventure.
- It's still a pretty much a Wretched Hive, it's just that everyone is more civilized about it.
- Somehow the Senior Wrangler became the romantic of the UU faculty, while averting this trope enough to still be interchangeable with the Chair and Lecturer.
- Chekhov's Gun: Pterry is evidently a huge fan of these. If it's not in a footnote, then you can put good money on that aside bit of characterization, world-building, rule, or so forth to become vitally important near the end of the book.
- Chess with Death: Although he can never remember the rules.
Remind me again how the little horse-shaped ones move.
- The Chosen Zero: Nobby Nobbs is almost certainly falsely revealed to be the Earl of Ankh and the successor to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. The rich and powerful citizens who want to dispose of Lord Vetinari see Nobby's claim to the throne as a stroke of luck (he is a useful idiot and will make a good puppet ruler). The nobility of Ankh-Morpork couldn't accept Carrot because he was intelligent and a good person. The Big Bad couldn't accept Carrot because he's dating a werewolf.
- And Nobby wouldn't accept the job because "Vimes'd go spare!"
- Circle of Standing Stones: The druids use stone circles as computers, flying them into place (the metaphor is extended by them having to build new ones every few months because the old ones are now obsolete). This causes some friction with trolls (who are giant sentient rocks), who are often picked and dropped off miles away from where they were living.
- City of Adventure: Ankh-Morpork.
- The City Narrows: The Shades within Ankh-Morpork, where the cops (and criminals) never go for fear of not coming out alive. (Of course that makes it okay for those members of the Watch who aren't technically alive.)
- Classical Movie Vampire: Usually subverted, but played straight sometimes.
- Clever Crows: Ravens living around the High-Energy Magic building at Unseen University have developed intelligence beyond their already-clever limits, and view the city panorama below as a sort of daytime entertainment. A couple of them bother gnome constable Buggy Swires on a stakeout, constantly pestering him for details. Also, Quoth the Raven (yeah...) who starts off as a wizard's familiar in Mort, and ends up becoming the steed for the Death of Rats in later books. He advises a number of protagonists and is clearly more level-headed than most characters on the disc.
- Clown School: The Fool's Guild, where young men are apprenticed to become court jesters and the like. Depicted as a terrible place where comedy is Serious Business. A Running Gag is to compare the Fools' Guild to the Assassins' Guild, which it is directly next to, and make the Fools' Guild sound worse.
- Common Tongue: Morporkian, fitting the city's cosmopolitan influence.
- Comically Inept Healing: The Guild of Barber-Surgeons seem to mostly be this, at least until former Back-Alley Doctor Dr Lawn rises high enough in the profession to make some changes.
- Concept Album: Steeleye Span's musical version of Wintersmith.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Narrativium pretty much guarantees this. For example, in Guards! Guards!! the palace guard are afraid of Vimes because there is only one of him and he is smiling at them.
- Pratchett explains this phenomenon by reasoning that the side with numbers has to think before hitting, whereas the hopelessly outnumbered side can just attack anything nearby and be pretty much sure it is an enemy, thus giving them an advantage. This makes sense in Discworld logic.
- In Interesting Times, where 7 very old barbarians decided to face off against 700,000 enemy troops. Guess which side is afraid.
- These same barbarians back off when faced by the single threat of Carrot in The Last Hero. You just don't mess with a hero and his big (magic?) sword when you outnumber him. They're very old heroes, which means they have a lot of experience doing extremely dangerous things without dying, and they know the odds.
- The Nac Mac Feegle take a mass-based rather than numbers-based approach: they are described as having all the strength of a normal-sized person compressed into six inches... and like most things when compressed, they have a tendency to explode. They like big enemies because there's more of them to hit, and they're so small and fast it's almost impossible for said enemies to hit them back.
- Comically Missing the Point: After saving a woman, Carrot is invited to stay with her at Mrs. Palms'. "She kept waking me up and asking me if I wanted anything but she didn't have any apples." Dwarves in general are extremely literal minded.
- Continuity Nod: Pterry generally tries to acknowledge continuity. The events in Thief of Time are used to explain many remaining continuity problems.
- Corrupt Politician: Subverted by Ephebe. They have the only elected politician on the disc, a new one is elected every five years on the basis of honesty, and they call him The Tyrant. It's his actual title.
- The residents of Fourecks always throw their politicians in prison immediately after they're elected, to save time.
- Crazy-Prepared: Commander Samuel Vimes has set up numerous traps at his home and office to deal with those pesky Assassins, to the point that some of the more mean-spirited instructors have begun sending out students to do "mock assassinations". If they can draw a bead on him with a crossbow, they pass. Good luck.
- More importantly, his name has been taken off the register for real assassinations, meaning they're no longer accepting contracts on him. This means two things: First, it means that he's made himself more trouble than any amount of money the city's rich and influential are willing to pay is worth, and second, it means that the Guild reckons that killing him would be a really bad idea for all involved. The only other person for this to ever happen to is Lord Vetinari himself.
- Sam Vimes explains it to himself as the Guild deciding that killing him or Vetinari wouldn't just spoil the game, it would smash the board.
- Creator Cameo: Pratchett has cameos in all three of the TV movie adaptations to date. Not only that, he speaks the final line of dialogue in all of them.
- Counting to Potato: Trolls have a counting system based on fours, rather than tens (apart from Detritus, who ends up counting in binary). As a result a troll counting "one, two, three, many"note comes across this way (leading to an In-Universe stereotype that trolls can't count past three).
- Culture Chop Suey: Numerous examples, one of them lampshaded by a discussion amongst the gods about the empires on the Counterweight Continent:
"Very old, established family."
- This has been explained as a Shout-Out to James Clavell's epics of the inscrutable Orient, especially Noble House, which deals with the first Westerners to settle in Hong Kong. One of the "noble houses", which over the years has become Anglo-Chinese (perhaps more Chinese than Anglo) has a suspiciously Scottish name...
- Death from Above: Don't go into wherever the Librarian has chosen as his base of operations if he considers you an enemy. He will generally drop down onto your shoulders and try to unscrew your head.
- A favored tactic of wild banshees like Mr. Grylle.
- Don't make camp under a eucalyptus tree in Fourecks, or the Drop-Bears will attack you. But if you're a wizard, you're probably safe, on account of your pointy hat.
- De Fictionalization: A number of board/card games appear in the novels, and several of them have been given real life versions, Thud! being one example. Stealth Chess, for example, is a chess variant; Thud! is based on the ancient Norse game of hnefatafl, as befits a game of dwarfs and trolls.
- For trivia fans: The dwarf name for Thud is Hnaflbaflsniflwhifltafl (pronounced Hur-naffle-baffle-sniffle-wiffle-taffle) a rather more obvious connection to the Norse game.
- There are also rules for Cripple Mr. Onion.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Pterry seems fond of this one. In quite a few books, a relationship will be teased between the male and female lead, only for them to go their separate ways at the end.
- Divine Conflict: In the early novels, the gods of Cori Celesti are engaged in an aeons-long feud with the Ice Giants, who play their radio too loud and have refused to return the lawnmower.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: So many examples, in so many books.
- Parallels are drawn between magic and nuclear power: borne out the structure of the universe, it's immensely powerful and can be employed for much benefit but has to be handled with great care. Places where it went wrong are left barren and toxic and may simply be craters, the waste products are dangerous and damaging for centuries afterwards, but generally it's perfectly safe to be around right up until the moment when it very much isn't. (Terry Pratchett was once a press officer for Britain's nuclear energy providers.)
- The wizards are a contentious group, clashing, talking over each other, getting distracted, going off on tangents and arguing over details, but they always figure out what kind of magical trouble is happening, what it means and what they need to do about it. Pratchett has quite a lot of scientist fans who say that this is very similar to the way scientific research really works, and is true for academia in general.
- One that sticks to the forefront is everything to do with female dwarfs seems to be just like gay people in the real world. It Makes Sense in Context, as female dwarfs look so much like male dwarfs that a large part of the Dwarfish mating ritual involves figuring out if the other person is actually a different sex from yourself. Recent attempts by some female dwarfs to assert their femininity haven't been met kindly by the more conservative factions.
- A closer allegory may be Transgender people's plight in the real world. Since the Dwarfs are (at least on the surface) a One-Gender Race, any Dwarf identifying as the "wrong" gender gets about the same reaction as people beginning transitioning do in real life. There's even a case of "self-trans panic" in the books, wherein the villain turns out to be a closeted "female Dwarf" who had a mental breakdown due to a combination of stress and cognitive dissonance - she was a prim and proper dwarf, but prim and proper dwarfs don't have dreams of wearing leather skirts and flowing chainmail dresses - brought on by the growing Dwarf Femininity movement.
- Double Entendre: The novels make fairly heavy usage of innuendo and oblique references to disguise more adult subjects, either for humor (drinking songs like "A Wizard's Staff Has A Knob On The End" and "The Hedgehog Song"note ) or for delicacy (King Lorenzo the Kind is only described as being "very fond of children" in the series itself - this is plainly doubletalk for "sadistic pedophile").
- And the seamstresses!
- Which is doubly effective in Dutch: the Dutch word for "sewing" also means "screwing", and as a result "seamstress" has always been a somewhat uncommon, but very recognisable euphemism for a you-know-what in the Netherlands.
- This may also be a reference to Medieval and Renaissance literature. At that time, "seamstress" was such a common term for "prostitute" that it hardly counted as a euphemism. Lazarillo de Tormes is one example.
- Not just in medieval times — up until the 19th century, at least, in some places.
- The Don: "Legitimate Businessman" Chrysophrase the troll. Naturally, Pterry can't help but pun—high level troll gangsters are referred to as "Tons". Harry King fits the type as well, but he's not a criminal (though ironically, he is literally in the recycling business, which could also be called waste management, a stereotype for American Dons' "legitimate" businesses).
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Lord, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the reaper man?
- Also the motto on Sto Helit's coat of arms, befitting a house that passed to Death's apprentice and his and adopted daughter - "Non Timetis Messor".
- Also the subject of Darktan's speech as he assumes leadership of the Changelings in Amazing Maurice.
- The Igor: An entire family of them that does henching and Mad Science professionally. They also pioneer surgical techniques and do it almost recreationally; when an Igor is said to have his father's eyes, it's probably not a figure of speech. They may have been handed down through the generations (a good pair of hands are worth hanging onto as well). One of them has a pet dog made up of the pieces of many other pet dogs; though he's very upset when Scraps gets killed off, he consoles himself that it's only a matter of time until the next thunderstorm.
- It's important to also note that the male Igors are Kavorka Men and considered quite the prize for young women, whereas the Igorinas are cute monster girls mixed with Hello, Nurse! - in lieu of scarred up bodies, they are mind-bogglingly attractive except for a bit of cute stitching for show, for example around a wrist like a tattoo, or in a celtic-like pattern on their cheeks.
- When we finally get an on-screen Igorina (in Monstrous Regiment) she makes an off-hand remark that the scars from the stitching can be gotten rid of in 15 minutes with the right ointment. That means that Igors go around covered in scars because that's how Igors want to look.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Susan Sto Helit desperately wants to lead an ordinary life, which is complicated by the fact that she's the daughter of Death's adopted daughter and his former apprentice. And she's a duchess. Rincewind also hates being forced into dangerous quests to save the world, and would like nothing more than to be bored the rest of his life. Carrot Ironfoundersson may also qualify, as despite the fact that he
is probably is the heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork, he prefers to be a copper.
- Incredibly Lame Fun: Trolls gamble by tossing something up and then betting on whether or not it will come down. (This is the Discworld. It might not.)
- Incredibly Lame Pune, or Play on Words: Common, though often subtle.
- Instant Book Deal: Although in this case, it appears to be an aspect of the universe itself.
- Interspecies Romance: A few cases, here and there.
- Throughout the City Watch cycle we have Carrot (male human) and Angua (female werewolf).
- Towards the end of Snuff, Nobby Nobbs (horrifically ugly male human...probably) gets involved with Shine of the Rainbow (female goblin).
- The same novel also mentions a heavily implied dwarf/troll relationship, much to the bemusement of Sam Vimes.
- Raising Steam has: a male human/female dwarf couple who get married before extremist dwarves kill her for marrying a human, a heavily implied romantic elopement between Dopey Docson (male dwarf) and Crackle (female troll), and confirmation that Nobby and Shine of the Rainbow are still together.
- In The Local Tongue: Discussed several times. For example, Mount Oolskunrahod in Skund, which translates as "Who is this fool who doesn't know what a mountain is?"
- The above is found in a forest named "Your finger, you fool," after an explorer pointed and asked a native "What's this?"
- Jerkass Gods: Most of the gods are fairly weak and mundane, but some of the more powerful ones view human life as a game for them to manipulate.
- And some of the less powerful ones too, Nuggan f.e.
- Just Following Orders: Subverted, inverted, played with, deconstructed, and generally given hell from (at the very latest) Guards! Guards!! onwards.
- The Fifth Elephant probably attacked it most viciously, when Vimes encounters a man who let the enemies take his wife, Lady Sybil, because of "orders". He ordered Detritus to shoot the man on the spot, which the troll refused to do, proving why Vimes works with him at all. Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for both Detritus, and for Vimes, who trusts his officers not to take bad orders even from him.
- Invented Invalid: In later city watch books, the City Watch gives an allowance of days off for three grandmother's funerals per year.
- Karma Houdini: It is practically stated in the books that Mustrum Ridcully brought poor Bursar to madness. And he never gets his comeuppance for this!
- Killed Off for Real: While secondary and one-shot characters have got a pretty good chance of snuffing it should the plot demand, few main and/or recurring characters have died, either in their own books or later in the series. However, it happens just often enough to remind you that the Discworld is an evolving universe where Anyone Can Die, even if Narrative Causality usually protects the protagonists. Examples include: Galder Weatherwax, the Deuteragonist of The Light Fantastic, Mort and Ysabelle, the Title Character and his wife from Mort, who die when their carriage crashes at the beginning of Soul Music and Brother Brutha, who dies of old age at the end of his story in Small Gods. Cohen the Barbarian and most of the other members of the Silver Horde are killed off for real at the end of The Last Hero, although it's strongly implied that this won't have much of an impact on their lifestyles.
- Klingon Promotion: Standard practice at Unseen University until Ridcully arrives.
- Lady Legionnaire Wear: The ladies of the Watch wear armor with this - in Men At Arms it's said that Angua, the first female to join the Watch, will need the blacksmith to hammer out her breastplate (which was the same issue as the male watchmen's) by quite a bit before she can wear it.
- Lampshade Hanging: Just about every book not only includes a lot of Trope Play, but a lot of Genre Savvy characters who will know just what's going on, and will be in no way shy about stating it.
- Literal-Minded: Most, if not all, books will have one or more of these characters, useful for hanging lampshades on metaphors and similes.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Pops up in quite a few books, including The Light Fantastic and Soul Music.
- Living Crashpad: Multiple examples.
- In Wyrd Sisters, Magrat falls on "something soft" from a great height, which turns out to be the Fool.
- Vimes believes it doesn't really count as killing someone when both you and your target fall off a roof and it's even odds who ends up on bottom when you land.
- The Bursar's been a target for this once or twice.
- Living Legend: The Discworld runs on narrative causality and its characters are all archetypal, so it's no surprise that there are many living legends.
- Granny Weatherwax, whose name among the trolls is Aaoograha hoa ("She Who Must Be Avoided") and among the dwarfs is K'ez'rek d'b'duz ("Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain"). She has taught respect to vampires and elves as well.
- His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is known throughout his city as scrupulously honest and a man who, when upset, tends to spread his discontent around with a big shovel. So well known generally for inventing the first capable and honest police force of the city of Ankh-Morpork that cops throughout the plains are known as Sammies.
Vetinari: "People know about you, commander. Descendant of a watchman who believed that if a corrupted court will not behead an evil king, then the watchman should do it himself [...] Sam Vimes once arrested me for treason. And Sam Vimes once arrested a dragon. Sam Vimes stopped a war between nations by arresting two high commands. He's an arresting fellow, Sam Vimes. Sam Vimes killed a werewolf with his bare hands, and carries law with him like a lamp [...] Watchmen across half the continent will say that Sam Vimes is as straight as an arrow, can't be corrupted, won't be turned, never took a bribe..."
- Similarly, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork (who just happens to like being a guard). His charisma is so strong it warps reality. Also, he has a punch that trolls respect.
- Rincewind (a Wizzard) is famous among some communities for his ability to run away from anything. And scream in 27 languages. He's also saved the Disc multiple times when running was no longer an option. At one point, after two head wizards almost go nuclear, another realizes that the last time that happened, the Disc was almost destroyed and Rincewind stopped it with a half-brick in a sock. He looks around and sees Rincewind putting his sock back on.
- Tiffany Aching is rapidly building herself a fearsome reputation.
- Sergeant Jackrum of the Borogravian army has fought in every single war for forty years. The Sergeant knows everyone. Everyone knows the Sergeant. The Sergeant's reputation is such that generals will leave the room at the Sergeant's request.
- Cohen the Barbarian. Look up his description to see why.
- Miss Treason (from Wintersmith is in line for this, albeit for a few people.
- Lu Tze among the history monks.
- Long-Running Book Series
- Low Fantasy: Increasingly - starting around "Men at Arms", the focus shifts away from reality-warping threats and towards how a city like Ankh-Morpork would actually work. By "Going Postal" and "Making Money", we've got books about corrupt executives, bank fraud and the power of good press...that happen to also involve golems, wizards and banshees.
- Loyal Phlebotinum: Wizards' staffs, and the Luggage. Both are made from sapient pearwood, a strange, sapient kind of magic lumber that is extremely loyal to its owner.
- Unlucky Eight: eight makes many appearances as an occult number, most of them bad. Has a much stronger presence in the first two books, though.
- The reduction in bad references to either may have to do with Two-Flower accidentally destroying the Temple of the Sender of Eight. He only wanted a picture...
- Made of Phlebotinum: This 'verse can seem ordinary enough at first glance, until it's pointed out that, without heavy duty magic involved, a flat world on the back of a giant turtle that swims through space should be utterly impossible.
- The magic is so thick that it slows down light to create timezones on the Disc. Magic-heavy areas also completely and utterly play with the laws of physics, making the entire world plausible.
- In one passage in Jingo, the narrative recounts the winds of change literally blowing through the city, and the various weather-cocks turning to follow it. Except the one on the wizards' tower, which is running slow and doesn't show the change for twenty minutes.
- Magic A Is Magic A: As Moist von Lipwig observes in Going Postal, the eventual cost of doing everything by magic (magic having a very steep bill even for little things) is the reason that life on the Disc evolved steampunk technologies for the advancement of society, rather than Functional Magic.
- Whenever there needs to be a reason why the large number of highly skilled wizards of Unseen University cannot counter a problem with magic, one of the standard limitations is that it takes precisely the same amount of work (in the physics sense) to do something by magic as by any other means, and all the other mundane limitations (like action-reaction) as well. The result is that a wizard trying to pick a lock by magic expends most of his effort to keep his brain from squirting out of his ears.
- Moreso flying without aides (ie, a carpet or broomstick) is theoretically impossible for the same reason, although knocking a big weight off a high place and going up when it goes down is possible.
- Magical Camera: Iconographs are little more than boxes containing a very tiny imp with a sketchpad and set of paints. Because the imps have no imagination whatsoever, the images they create are accepted as objective. The flash works by frightening a captive Salamander, a magical lizard which absorbs light and can release it suddenly.
- Magic Is a Monster Magnet: Wizards tend to attract Eldritch Abominations.
- Magical Library: The library of Unseen University leads to other dimensions thanks to the sheer weight of accumulated knowledge distorting the space-time continuum. This is known as L-Space. The library itself is pretty much a universe of its own with all the magical books, library creatures such as the thesaurus and lost tribes of research students inside.
- One of the more disturbing features of the Library is the way the dome of the Library is always overhead, no matter how far you seem to move on the floor in any direction. This is compounded by the fact that shelves of books, and occasional people among the shelves of books, are also clearly visible on the ceiling around the dome.
- Magical Seventh Son: Except on Discworld, the magical number is eight, and the eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard.
- Magical Society: Unseen University serves this function, and is implied to be responsible for the fact that there aren't any magical wars any more, since all the wizards are busy with bureaucratic politics and enjoying the comforts of their station. (It is noted that in the bad old days, "the plural of 'wizard' was 'war'".) Witches, on the other hand, are much less organised, and many of them seem to like it that way.
The basic unit of wizardry is the Order or the College or, of course, the University. The basic unit of witchcraft is the witch, but the basic contiguous
unit, as has already been indicated, is the cottage. — Lords and Ladies
- Magitek: Due to his job before writing, Pratchett likes to compare magic to nuclear physics, hence the High Energy Magic Building and Ponder's staff talking of splitting the thaum. And then there's... Hex.
- Known flavours of the thaum are: up, down, sideways, sex appeal and peppermint.
- Master Poisoner: Lord Downey, head of the Assassins' Guild, is rumoured to be this. There is no record of anyone Lord Downey may have wanted to inhume ever being poisoned, however. Which may just indicate that he's really good at it.
- Meatgrinder Surgery: Standard medical practice in Ankh-Morpork is hitting the patient over the head with a hammer. The only real doctor in the city is seen as crazy; when Vetinari is poisoned in Feet Of Clay, Vimes calls in a horse vet to treat him, because many of Doughnut Jimmy's patients survive.
- When asked how good a doctor Doughnut Jimmy is, Vimes mentions that a horse he had treated just before a race didn't fall over until the last furlong. When someone says that doesn't seem very good, Vimes points out that what the horse was treated for was dropping dead on the way to the starting gate.
- Later on in the series, the Igors can provide effective medical treatment, but they're likely to return to claim payment in the form of body parts once the patient is no longer using them.
- Dr. Lawn also seems to be subverting this trope in the city post-Night Watch. Of course, his methods come from Klatch, not the Sto Plains.
- Men Can't Keep House: Suggested several times to be the case with the City Watch, particularly the canteen. The arrival of female Watchmen didn't seem to have any effect.
- Subverted in the case of dwarfs, as they tend to keep tidy homes no matter what sex (if any) they admit to being. Nor do you ever find rats or cockroaches infesting their houses, so long as the residents can hold a frying pan.
- Micro Monarchy: Lancre, and some of its neighboring kingdoms which are even smaller.
- Just about every flat spot in the Ramtops (of which there are precious few) is a kingdom. This has led to generational wars over getting hold of somewhere to store the coal.
- Million-to-One Chance: Invoked whenever someone needs a long shot to happen. Most notable in Guards! Guards!, where the Watch is trying to make an impossibly difficult shot, then deliberately makes things even harder to raise the odds to exactly 1,000,000 to 1.
- They miss because any attempt to purposely invoke this trope results in only a 987,000 to one chance, not attracting The Lady's favor.
- That, and they had a 0% chance to hit the very specific target, due to reasons discovered later.
- Fortunately, surviving the ensuing chaos was an exact Million-to-One Chance.
- Miraculous Malfunction: The best-case scenario of allowing Bloody Stupid Johnson to build anything. Except organs, those he can seem to do, although the UU one is a bit, powerful.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: The reformation of the
Night City Watch, particularly in Men-At-Arms.
- Any story with the wizards will see one.
- Nanny Ogg's family is mentioned to do this if someone makes an unkind comment about any othem, even if it's a person they've been making comments about not minutes before.
- Mother Nature, Father Science: It's technically magic for both sides, but male (wizard) magic is shown in a more scientific light and tends to be about bending the forces of nature to the spellcaster's will. Female (witch) magic, on the other hand, tends to be more psychological and more about attuning yourself to nature.
- Those attitudes can also be seen as the exact opposite: while wizardry is about learning and using that which has already been known for thousands of years, witchcraft is about intimidating magic into doing whatever the witch damn well pleases.
- Modest Royalty: Carrot is the last living descendent of the royal line. He denies it to anyone who asks, perhaps due in large part to Vimes's influence, but he does make use of near-supernatural royal charisma and occasionally drops by Vetinari's office to make gentle suggestions that are surprisingly often accepted.
- Monster Modesty: Trolls (except Detritus, who wears Watch uniform, and Chrysophrase, who wears a suit) mostly just wear a loincloth "to conceal whatever it was that trolls found it necessary to conceal". This is so much a part of their culture that male trolls will go to clubs to watch female trolls put on clothing. There's usually a riot by the second overcoat.
- Morphic Resonance: Discworld has played a big part in popularising the phrase. Probably its most significant example is the law of magic that no shape-shifter, not even gods, can transform how their eyes look — so their eyes always provide a clue to their real identity or nature.
- Mugging the Monster: Usually Angua, but has happened to others enough that the robber at the beginning of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents had to go through a little checklist before he'd try to attack the coach.
- Also, Casanunda makes a cameo in Carpe Jugulum just to witness a highwayman getting killed by the Magpyrs.
- Members of the Assassin's Guild also get this in a book or two.
- Zebbo Mooty, Thief Third Class.
- Wee Mad Arthur (in Feet of Clay). He will not join the rat-catcher's guild, or pay their dues, and he will tell you that by breaking your kneecaps. It should be mentioned that Wee Mad Arthur is a gnome by adoption - he was born a Feegle, and is therefore eight inches high apparently a giant Feegle, or someone's Wild Mass Guess.
- Invoked at Mightily Oats in Carpe Jugulum when he tries to rally the people of Lancre to go rescue Granny Weatherwax. He tells them she's out there with monsters. Bestiality Carter asks "What do we care what happens to monsters?"
- Mundane Utility: Wizards. All the time. It goes hand in hand with their disdain for work.
- Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom:
- Omian names; which are half name, half psalm. Most go by the first word in their name, though.
- Most Goblins. It's also a grave insult to give them a nickname, although some of the younger ones don't mind.
- National Weapon: Dwarfs consider their battleaxes cultural artifacts, and will not part with them even when circumstances require them to relinquish all other weapons (at a diplomatic function, for instance). In Thud!, we are introduced to a more liberal sect of dwarfs who do not carry them, believing that the axe is "a state of mind". One of said revolutionaries wins a duel against an armed opponent... with kung-fu.
- We also get to meet some of the Low King's most elite soldiers. While some soldiers bristle with weapons, they bristle with one weapon.
- Never Mess with Granny: It can be safely said that Terry likes his women strong. For every three women introduced in this vast series, two and a half are old ladies (whether little or otherwise) that can stop a running bull, and the rest are just like them, but younger. Of particular note are Granny Weatherwax, who put a demon in his place with a few threats, and Mrs. Cake (a medium, bordering on small), whom High Priest Ridcully compares to the things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
- Nice Hat: Wizards, witches, and various other professionals have to have one. Much is made of the importance of having the right hat for any job, as assuring people that you are a real witch/wizard/postmaster/whatever is half the battle. Sir Terry always wears one in real life, too.
- Mustrum Ridcully, Moist von Lipwig and Nanny Ogg have practically made careers of it.
- Nice Shoes: A recurring theme.
- Nobody Poops: Averted; night-soil wagons provide an important clue in Thud!, and The World of Poo takes the aversion to extremes. Mort can also testify that Binky subverts this trope a lot.
- Noodle Incident: Several Ankh-Morpork-based books make references to "what happened to Mr. Hong when he opened the Three Jolly Luck Take-Away Fish Bar on the site of the old fish-god temple in Dagon Street on the night of the full moon." (The implication is something very nasty involving an Eldritch Abomination.)
- He also left very quickly. The type of quickly that involves leaving behind a kidney and an ear hole.
- No Pronunciation Guide: It's a running gag that nobody on the disc seems to get the hang of silent letters, so you'll have an upper-class father declare that Susan's method of beating up bogeymen is very "persikological" (psychological), or Shawn Ogg wanting to tell a Rousing Speech to the townspeople to encourage them to fight the elves and "pussike" (psyche) them up.
- No Sense of Humor: Several characters exhibit this trope, most notably Granny Weatherwax. She understands humor on a conceptual level, but has absolutely no sense of humor and has no understanding of how or why jokes work.
- Death also has No Sense of Humor, being an anthropomorphic personification who doesn't understand human emotions. His brief attempts to inject humor into his work failed spectacularly.
- Although he is getting better at it. "Since you believe in reincarnation, you'll be Bjorn again" was pretty good.
- No Social Skills: A number of characters fail spectacularly at relating to people. Among them:
- Jeremy Clockson. He's sane. He has a piece of paper that says so.
- Not So Extinct: A lot of standard fantasy creatures are extinct, though that's often synonymous with "trapped in a parallel dimension".
- Giant, flying, fire-breathing dragons are shunted off in a dimension of their own. Their improbable biology requires magic to sustain, and the Discworld generally doesn't have enough magical energy around for them to exist anymore. There are exceptions, small pockets of high magic where dragons survive, and individual dragons can be summoned if enough magical energy is pumped into them.
- Elves are similarly stuck in their own dimension(s), although there are weak points where travel is possible - lots of them in the Ramtop mountains.
- Orks were the foot soldiers of the defunct Evil Empire, and it's revealed in Unseen Academicals that the people of Uberwald have been exterminating the few survivors. They haven't been entirely successful.
- Nude Nature Dance: Alluded to, and then firmly averted more than once in the Discworld novels starring the three witches. Nanny Ogg is probably game, but... no. Just no.
- Official Couple: Since Discworld is mercifully short on romantic drama, any couple whose initial courtship forms a sub-plot in one book are likely to follow this trope for the remainder of the series. Prominent examples include Vimes/Sybil and Carrot/Angua in the City Watch books, Magrat/Verence in the Witches books, Moist/Adora in the Moist von Lipwig books and Mort/Ysabelle in the Death books (although the latter were Killed Off for Real in Soul Music, they counted as this before their deaths and are still alluded to in this way by other characters). It's hinted that Susan/Lobsang may end up following this trope - it's hard to say since their 'perfect moment' together occurred on the last page of the last Death book to date.
- While Tiffany and Roland were a bit young to start in with a romance right off the bat, later Tiffany Aching books see a touch of Will They or Won't They? develop between them, until eventually Official Couple status goes to Roland/Letitia and Tiffany/Preston instead.
- While this trope is rarer in the standalone novels, Tonker/Lofty, a.k.a. Magda/Tilda are quickly recognised by the other characters to be the Official Couple of Monstrous Regiment.
- Oh Look, More Rooms!: Death's Domain. The initial hallway is intimidating enough, but several of the rooms along it open up into cavernous chambers filled with books or hourglasses.
- Some get it worse than others. Entirely mundane people just see the entirely mundane bits. Those who see what's really there notice that the mundane bits in most rooms are tiny islands surrounded by vast oceans of empty floor...
- The Omnipresent: Death, as should be expected, considering that he's one entity responsible for everyone on the Disc. It doesn't come up too much, though.
- One-Gender Race: The dwarfs were literally a one-gender race, as they culturally made no distinction between the sexes. Later books show some dwarf women liking the idea of being female.
- One-Hour Work Week: William de Worde before starting The Times. Also seems to be all the wizards get up to these days, which is a pity since that would be Victor Tugelbend's dream job. Colon and Nobby are technically on duty as much as the next watch officer but often call it quits sooner rather than later.
- One Steve Limit: Played oddly with the Unseen University head faculty introduced in Moving Pictures: because they're known only by their titles, the first part of the title is effectively their first name, and so the Dean of Pentacles is the only Dean, the Lecturer in Recent Runes is the only Lecturer, the Chair of Indefinite Studies is the only Chair, and so on.
- Taken outside and given a good kicking by the Feegles: "No'-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-than-Wee-Jock Jock."
- The One Who Made It Out: Lancre is "the place people come from to become successful somewhere else" (usually Ankh-Morpork). Opera singer Enrico Basilica grew up in Rookery Yard, in the Shades, where "you could fight your way out, or you could sing your way out" (or you could get out by going through an alley into Shamlegger Street, but no-one came to anything going that way).
- Notably, Lancre has produced a quite disproportionate number of notable (and not so notable) wizards. There's not usually a whole lot of entertainment in the evenings, particularly in the winter...
- Only Sane Man: Most protagonists have moments of this, but special mention should go to Ponder Stibbons.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- Death is generally a calm and collected speaker, so whenever he loses his temper (at, say, New Death in Reaper Man), you know shit just got real.
- Vetinari plays Sam Vimes like a fiddle and gets him to do the best job possible, but mainly by pissing him off first. Usually after such a meeting, Vimes would punch the wall outside Vetinari's office. Until one day he doesn't...
- An upset Nanny Ogg is bad to see, as Agnes notes in Carpe Jugulum. A Nanny Ogg that misses a chance to mock Agnes' Accidental Innuendo, on the other hand, is rather dread-inducing, because then something is seriously wrong.
- Original Man: The first humans to live on the disk were much more powerful than the ones that currently live on the disk. The gods remade mankind to be easier to deal with.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Swamp dragons are unstable, Ugly Cute little runts that manufacture volatile chemicals in their insides for firebreathing purposes and are prone to exploding violently. Noble dragons are your typical fantasy dragon, but have all disappeared for some reason.
- They seem to have retreated to fantasy but can show up under certain circumstances which always involve a lot of belief and/or magic. Examples are the Wyrmberg and Guards! Guards!!
- Though never stated, the implication seems to be that the dragons left due to the lessening of magical energy on Discworld, possibly due to the lack of Sourcerors.
- Our Better Is Different: The dwarfs use "lower" as a synonym for "better" where humans & co would use "higher". For example, their ruler is known as the "Low King". They also invert light and dark in terms of their desirability and descriptive uses.
"The first Brother walked toward the light, and stood under the open sky. Thus he became too tall. He was the first Man. He found no Laws and he was enlightened. The second Brother walked toward the darkness, and stood under a roof of stone. Thus he achieved the correct height. He was the first Dwarf. He found the Laws Tak had written, and he was endarkened." - from the Discworld dwarf Creation Myth
- Our Dwarfs Are All The Same: Discworld dwarfs started out as an intentionally Flanderized parody of this trope. Later books subverted it by introducing Yiddish elements to their culture, among other things.
- Becomes a Deconstructed Trope with the introduction of Dwarf counter-culture (openly female dwarfs who wear leather skirts and braids in their beards) as well as Dwarf fundamentalists who violently oppose anything non-dwarfish.
- Our Elves Are Different: And a race of Always Chaotic Evil fantastical sociopaths. They live in a parallel universe to the Disc called Fairyland and serve as a contrast to the Auditors. The Auditors are dull, bureaucratic demons who wanted everything to be orderly; elves are magical alien monsters that, unable to understand basic concepts like love or empathy, can only relate to other beings by causing them misery and spreading chaos.
- Our Gargoyles Rock: Living statues that eat pigeons and can stare down anything, used as watchmen and clacks operators.
- Our Vampires Are Different: All vampire myths are true in Discworld, but don't necessarily apply to any given vampire.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: They have great regenerative capabilities, are only truly vulnerable to silver and fire, can switch freely between wolf and human form unless they are in the light of the full moon (which renders them wolves), and they struggle with conflicting sets of instincts and thought processes after changing. (Being effectively a human/wolf mix, they also have a nagging tendency to compromise and think like dogs.) They're considered undead on the basis of "They're big and scary, they come from Überwald, and they don't die when you stick them with a sword, what more do you want?"
- There are distinct varieties, too, within the traditional variety and without. There are yennorks, who are naturally born werewolves who are stuck permanently in one shape or the other. In Reaper Man we're introduced to a pair of werewolves who more fit the Hollywood 'big humanoid mound of fur and muscle' stereotype, with an additional twist that one of them is a regular wolf most of the time, the other a beautiful girl, and they meet one another half-way one week a month.
- The werewolves of Discworld also illustrate a rarely-considered point: Humans hate werewolves. Wolves hate werewolves so much more. (This is because humans use werewolves as an excuse to kill wolves, and the opposite never occurs.) A lone werewolf is relatively safe mixing in a human community. A lone werewolf who stumbles into a pack of wolves has a very short life expectancy.
- Not always the case, as Angua ran with real wolves in a real wolfpack, and knew quite well how rubbish Big Fido's notions of wolves were. (Big Fido seemed to think of a wolf pack as something like a poorly-run street gang of dogs.)
- Angua was only accepted by the wolves because that pack was run by Gavin, Carrot's lupine equivalent. Werewolves can at least hide among humans, but a real wolf (not ruled by a furry messiah) will smell them straight away.
- Outscare the Enemy: A frequently recurring joke, showing up independently in Interesting Times, Lords and Ladies, and Jingo, among others.
- Overly Long Name: Sir Pterry is fond of these. Vampires, Nac Mac Feegle, and a number of others can have very long names. Even Nobby. And, eventually, His Grace, His Excellency, the Duke of Ankh Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, Blackboard Monitor and King of the River.
- Painting the Medium: Death who talks like this has his own font, as do Golems in some books; Carrot's letters and their "ballistic approach to grammar"; the Auditors talk outside of dialogue (One thinks, one speaks like this); particularly odd looking signs might actually appear in the books as poorly drawn handwriting; etc etc. Pratchett doesn't as much paint the fourth wall as much as he uses a nice wallpaper and hangs an attractive painting off it.
- Parodied Trope
- Phrase Catcher: The Auditors tend to provoke talk of "malignity".
- Pimped Out Cape: The wizards wear very fancy robes.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Naturally, ladies of stature will wear one when appropriate. Four notable examples are the vermine-trimmed coronation dress Princess Keli Sto Lat wears in Mort, the dress Granny Weatherwax steals to infiltrate the ball in Witches Abroad and the one she wears to infiltrate the opera in Maskerade, the gaudy dress Cheery Littlebottom wears in The Fifth Elephant to show she was embracing her gender, and Tiffany Aching in I Shall Wear Midnight continues the tradition rather well based on how Prachett describes her as looking "damn good" wearing midnight. Lady Sybil inverts this by having the rank suitable to wear such dresses, and clumping around in tweed and galoshes.
- Wizards in full regalia probably count, as well. They are likened to what would happen if you found a way to inflate a Bird of Paradise covered in glitter.
- Playing with a Trope: The creator's entire body of work does this.
- Power Limiter: The Unseen University of the Wizards is full of bureaucracy, bickering, eating, lazing around, and pointless activities in general - all of which are found to have been very necessary when the system is temporarily overturned in Sourcery and the entire wizarding population goes into all-out destruction-mode. It turns out that the base instinct of a wizard is to build a magic tower and obliterate all other wizards until they're the last one (in fact, the the ancient plural of "wizard" was "war"). The current comforts, luxuries, and politics of the Unseen University act as checks to keep that instinct suppressed.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Vetinari does not actually rule his realm with an iron fist. He has the novel idea of maintaining control by making people actually want to keep him in charge, or at the very least, make removing him from power an unsavory prospect. See Vetinari Job Security.
- The problem is that the Guild leaders and nobility all hate each other too much to support any other candidate. There's also the fact that virtually every other Patrician before Vetinari has turned out to be insane, or has become insane once they've taken the position.
- Pretty in Mink: When some characters want to glam up their appearance.
- Professional Killer: Played with. Ankh-Morpork has an Assassin's Guild, but assassins have a certain style and code, involving wearing lots of black. There are plenty of Psychos For Hire, and if they're titled at all, they're just plain old "killers".
- Though since the Assassins Guild is not fond of freelancers, in a very short time most of them wind up as plain old dead. The Assassins seem more or less indifferent to those who are Axe Crazy for free, but if they start making money from it...
- There is also indications that the Guild may only take a dim view of hired killers taking down people of certain classes, specifically those that conventionally hire Assassins. They don't take commissions on just anyone, or just from anyone.
- Assassins are also loath to kill unless paid to. Their guild motto translates to "Never kill without payment". In his youth, Lord Vetinari once told his Aunt that if she kept on a particular direction of action, he might have to find someone to pay him to kill her.
- Psycho for Hire: Some of the villains, especially Mr Teatime.
- Public Execution: Occurs in Witches Abroad, Going Postal, and The Last Continent.
- Puny Humans: If anything, this is played straighter in the Discworld books than in most fantasy. Most sapient races are flat out better than humans: dwarfs are tougher, stronger, and live longer (though Carrot, a human raised by dwarfs, has his described as a dwarf scaled to 200%, so the strength bit is not inherent but more due to them working out by constantly mining), trolls and golems are near indestructable and incredibly strong (and trolls are incredibly intelligent when in cooler temperatures), vampires have all their standard strengths and can even learn to replace their lust for blood, werewolves are extremely capable in combat and have fantastic regenerative capabilities, pictsies are unbelivably strong and ferocious (gnomes are described as being as strong as a human despite being the size of a Barbie doll), Igors (if they count as non-human) are all brilliant surgeons and also great healers, and orcs can only be called superbeings.
- Humans do, however, seem to be the only race that produces wizards, witches, or sourcerers. Even one of the latter can potentially invert this trope.
- They're also the most numerous and gregarious, and have the most infections culture. They're also the most innovative.
- A brief mention of how the "first men" all but destroyed the Disc in a fit of pique immediately after their creation suggests that the Puny Humans trope was subsequently invoked by their divine makers so that they wouldn't do it again. Among other things they were made considerably smaller.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn:
- It's been tried several times in Ankh-Morpork's past. The two standard results are: A) The invaders find themselves leaving the city several days later with confused expressions, armloads of tacky souveniers, and suspiciously light wallets, or B) The city gains a new ethnic neighborhood and, eventually, some really interesting restaurants.
- Being old school barbarian heroes, Cohen and his Silver Horde have this as their MO. Being really old school barbarian heroes, they occasionally forget what order to do it in and Cohen has to remind the rest of the Horde which things to rape, and which to burn down.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: A stock joke, appearing in Hogfather, Eric, and Small Gods at least.
- Recruiters Always Lie: Touched upon anytime armed forces jobs come up, most obviously in Monstrous Regiment where one of the markers that the war is going so poorly is that the recruiting party can't even be bothered to try.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The eyes of golems glow an unnerving red. A subversion since they're not evil, but people sure take it like they are.
- Red Herring: Pratchett uses this trope a LOT. You see it at least once in every Watch book, and in some of the others as well.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Dwarf cuisine, which the occasional human will sample. Probably just once.
- Probably thanks to dwarf bread, which exists as a weapon first and emergency food second.
- Reference Overdosed
- Resurrective Immortality: Vampires can be killed in a number of different ways, but will always regenerate when they eventually come into contact with blood. Careful slayers can keep them locked up for hundreds or thousands of years, but sooner or later they'll be back. Thus far, there is no known way to permanently dispatch them.
- Except for siccing Greebo on one that's in bat-form.
- Also applies to werewolves unless killed with silver or fire.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Mentioned many times, but especially in Interesting Times and Night Watch; a revolution only leaves blood and death in its wake, and changes nothing in the long run.
- "Risk"-Style Map: Used in the board game Ankh-Morpork.
- Rock Monster: Trolls are definitely made of rock, although their personalities are not particularly monstrous.
- Rubber-Band History: There are some instances of time travel: Dios in Pyramids, Eric, the wizards in The Last Continent, Vimes in Night Watch, and Death and Susan use it on occasion (Thief of Time is more time manipulation than time travel). In these cases, history in the Discworld is surprisingly resilient (see Mort). Or maybe because of quantum, we only see the universe where the Discworld equivalent of Hitler winning (Ankh-Morpork being conquered in Jingo, the coming of the ice giants, the Apocralypse, etc.) does not happen.
- But also averted in Small Gods. Lu-Tze converts a century of war and a vicious, totalitarian religion into a century of peace and a religious debate society by simply sweeping dung into a pile in just the right place.
- Rule of Funny: Explicitly mentioned several times - one footnote makes reference to the "new rules of comedy" which state that the droll results of wild shots in the air must be told to the public.
- Running Gag: "Tiffany Aching was Aching all over", among lots of others.
- Including aside references to Leonard of Quirm's painting of the "Mona Ogg", whose teeth follow you around the room.
- Vetinari will often tell whoever he's talking to to look out a nearby window at what Ankh-Morpork has to offer, in the hopes that they will see Ankh-Morpork the way he sees it, as a great city all things considered, but usually they get sidetracked by fog obscuring the view or a dog peeing in an alley or something equally pointless.
- A variety of the deliberately-spaced phrase, "that was a pune, or play on words," often appear in the books whenever someone feels the need to emphasize said Incredibly Lame Puns, particularly when they are already quite blatant to the audience and people around them.
- Any book with Nanny (and a few other books) will have someone tricked into drinking scumble, made from apples. Well, mostly apples.
- Anything that can be seen as shadow puppets draws the comment "Do deformed rabbit, it's my favorite."
- The Unseen University has a new Archchancellor in every book until Ridcully arrives in Moving Pictures and proves unkillable. Wizards believe strongly in Klingon Promotion.
- Occasionally, someone will say (usually to a wizard) "you can't [do X], there's a rule -" only for the character to do it anyway and say "actually, it's more of a guideline". (This may be a Call Back to Usenet, where pedantic idiots would often flame others for "breaking the rule" that signatures "must" be no more than four lines; in vain would more sensible people point out that this was actually a guideline, drawn up in and for the days when there was no high-speed broadband, and the modems were slow enough that an extra line or two actually made a noticeable difference.)
- Sacred Scripture: There are many: The Book of Om, The Vengeful Testament of Offler, The Cenotine Book of Truth, The Scrolls of Wen the Eternally Surprised, and The Living Testament of Nuggan (the only holy book to be published in a ring binder for frequent updates).
- Sand Is Water:
- The Dehydrated Ocean. Technically not sand but a fourth state of water that occurs in a high density magical field.
- In Jingo, a D'reg refers to ships as a camel of the water.
- In The Last Continent, set in EcksEcksEcksEcks where it never rains, the capital city of Bugarup has an annual regatta; the "boats" are on wheels because the riverbed is always dry, and always has been.
- Sanity Ball: Let's just say there are only a few bouncing around.
- Saving The World With Art: Generally in the form of music, which can sway a court or preserve the entire universe.
- Second Verse Curse: Parodied - the second verse of We Can Rule You Wholesale, the anthem of Ankh-Morpork, purposely contains a bunch of mumbling since nobody will know it anyway.
- Security Blanket: Weapon of choice against bogeymen. Because of the nature of belief, if you pull the covers over your head the bogeyman thinks you cease to exist... so if you put a bogeyman under a blanket it causes severe, crippling existential questions.
- Sent Off To Work For Relatives: This is standard practice for dwarfs, who are sent to their already-established relatives in (usually) Anhk-Morpork, learning a trade and sending money home. Others stay in the mines, but there's little connotation of punishment. Carrot Ironfoundersson was sent to join the Watch as he was a human raised by dwarfs.
- Self-Proclaimed Liar: Casanunda.
- Serious Business: Humor, as far as the Fools' Guild is concerned. They have incredibly strict and severe guidelines for telling jokes and being funny. Unauthorized joke-telling is severely punished, and the Guild is almost completely devoid of warmth and happiness (and, ironically, humor). Graduates tend to be emotionally scarred for life.
- In contrast, the cheerful students of the Assassins' Guild (just next door). Some things are still Serious Business over there, but at least they can laugh.
- Members of the Assassins Guild know that there are things that are serious (and they deal with some of the most serious things people who don't have to deal with magic deal with) and things that are not, how to tell the difference, and when each is in play. The Fools Guild doesn't know these things. This has unfunny results in a universe held together by magic and driven by stories.
- Seriously Scruffy: Samuel Vimes prefers to conform to this trope, although his wife is quite insistent that he maintain appearances after he marries her. One of his monologues even notes his disgust at a palace guard's sword, since it didn't show any nicks and dents and clearly never saw any use (as opposed to a well maintained sword which still showed wear and tear). Lord Vetinari is a downplayed example, since he dresses in plain black clothes to avoid having to worry about his appearance in the first place.
- Shameful Strip: Done to the captured soldiers in both Jingo and Monstrous Regiment.
- Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: It has a few examples.
- Commander Vimes. Nobles assume (or just like to think) he's a jumped up copper who married his wife for money. Since he's a perspective character in several books, it's very clear that he loves his wife and hates the money.
- Vimes's subordinate Captain Carrot also has people wonder if his Incorruptible Pure Pureness isn't just a front ( it isn't, to the point where it's actually quite annoying to some characters).
- Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the city, often frustrates the ruling classes by honestly having no vices they can use to exploit him (although unlike Carrot, he's much more of a Magnificent Bastard, just not a selfish one).
- Shout-Out: So very many that the fandom collected them into The Annotated Pratchett File. (Written before wikis.)
- The APF annotations list appears to have been discontinued after about two-thirds of the books. The torch has been carried on by the Terry Pratchett Wiki who have faithfully annotated the later books as well as adding extra detail to the earlier ones.
- Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Somewhat common, especially with Rincewind. The guy would be so obviously right in his cynicism... but Twoflower would come out fine anyway, leaving Rincewind looking like an idiot.
- Slasher Smile: Carcer. Mr Teatime. Vimes. The werewolves in Überwald. Death (by dint of having no other option while using the scythe).
- Sliding Scale of Continuity: Most of the books are level 4 (Arc-Based Episodic).
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Played with. The tone of the books and most of the characters are definitely on the cynical side — the idealistic ones tend to be portrayed as naive, dumb, or putting up a front. However, the universe itself is idealistic: the good guys do triumph, almost always in a Big Damn Heroes way. This is explicitly due to narrativium.
- In fact, a big thing amongst all of the Discworld heroes is that they use cynical means to achieve idealistic ends.
- Smart People Play Chess: In the early novels, Vetinari plays chess. Later, when "Thud" is introduced and made out to be the Disc's chess analogue, Vetinari keeps a rare board in his viewing room and plays a friend via clacks.
- Society-on-Edge Episode
- Sparse List of Rules: We only ever find out the sections of the Assassin's Guild School rulebook dealing with "no keeping a crocodile in your dorm room" and "no boys in the girls' dorm and vice versa".
- Spontaneous Crowd Formation: This is often called the official pastime of Ankh-Morpork. No matter what the citizenry are doing, if something interesting is going on, they WILL stop to watch it.
- Squirrels in My Pants: It's mentioned in a few books that putting Ferrets (or Weasels) down your trousers is a popular rural entertainment. In I Shall Wear Midnight there is much disappointment when the man who does it doesn't show up for a fair. This is actually a real "sport".
- Played somewhat more straight with the Feegles, and in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents when the clan fight off a highwayman.
- Stable Time Loop: A couple passages imply the entire universe is one. In Eric, Death watches the final end of the universe and is about to hang up his scythe when he notices matter spontaneously popping into existence and has a Here We Go Again realization. Also, at the end of Reaper Man, Azrael comments "I REMEMBER WHEN ALL THIS WILL BE AGAIN."
- Stop Worshipping Me:
- The Lady. One of the few examples of this trope in a universe where Gods Need Prayer Badly. Explained by the fact that everyone believes in luck, even if no one worships it.
- There is a passing mention of an attempt by a group of gamblers to worship The Lady. They all died in a series of sudden, improbable events.
- The Duchess from Monstrous Regiment. All the prayers to her have actually turned her into a deity, but as much as she wants to help she's powerless to do anything and just wants to be let off the hook.
- The god of Hangovers doesn't seem too happy that he was created due to prayers from hungover people until his hangover gets sent to the god of wine instead of him.
- Squishy Wizard: All wizards on the disc are this by default. They love food, get winded rather easily, and many of them are also rather old. All of these traits are actually encouraged by wizard culture, and Mustrum Ridcully (Archancellor of the the Unseen University) is considered extremely eccentric for his enjoyment of exercise-heavy activities.
- Averted by Rincewind and the Librarian. The former has spent the majority of his life running away from things, and the latter is an orangutan. Possibly also by Bengo Macaronanote , who is athletic enough to be the backbone of the University's football team.
- Although he isn't technically a wizard (as he keeps deliberately failing his final exams), Victor Tugelbend also avoids this out of sheer laziness. (He finds it easier not to carry all that extra weight around.)
- Subverted Trope: One of the major themes of the series. Not only for jokes, but people and situations often go in unexpected directions.
- Super Doc: See The Igor above.
- Supernatural Sensitivity: Strong magic leaves strong residue, to the point that especially strong magic can leave magical fields behind that warp reality and last for centuries. Wizards (and cats) have the ability to see octarine.
- Super Strength: The Nac Mac Feegle are strong enough to pick people up and throw them through the air. While being six inches high. If we had their proportionate strength, human could pick up buildings.
- Take Over the City: Many villains desire to conquer Ankh-Morpork.
- Training The Gift Of Magic: This trope is at least strongly implied to be highly active in the series:
- In the earliest books, wizards (and presumably witches) are said to be able to see "octarine", the eighth color of the spectrum, the "color of magic". This isn't mentioned much in later books, but it still seems in those that magic is some sort of innate gift.
- It also seems that people with strong magical gifts, such as Eskarina Smith, can be dangerous to everyone around them if not properly trained. Even partly-trained but powerful casters can be dangerous to themselves; for example, "borrowing" an animal's mind can lead to a witch becoming lost in the animal's senses. Unseen University has a gymnasium lined with magic-proof materials where students are required to practice.
- The one attempt we see by untrained characters to work significant magic, in Guards! Guards!, involves lengthy rituals and external sources of power. It sort of works, very spectacularly, but does not end at all well.
- T-Word Euphemism: Lots, from the vampires' refrain of "the B-vord", Mr. Tulip's repeated use of "—-ing", Quoth the Raven's "N-word"note .
- The K-word, the L-word, the T-word, both S-words, the V-word and the Y-word.
- "Murdering conniving bastard of a weasel" is acceptable, however.
- Don't forget to NEVER, EVER use the M-word near the Librarian of the Unseen University.
- Talking Animal: Usually due to the magical equivalent of radioactive waste.
- Notable examples include Gaspode the wonder dog, the eponymous Amazing Maurice, and the puntastically named Quoth the raven.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin, out of The Truth, are fairly archetypal examples.
- Those Two Guys: Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs.
- Title Drop: Several of the books contain their title phrases at least once.
- Too Dumb to Fool: Vimes describes Detritus as this in Feet of Clay, almost word for word.
- Brought up in Making Money when Vimes sends troll guards to the bank. Moist comments that they're not too smart, but you can't talk them over to your side either.
- Also Fred Colon, acting in his role as cell warden. He's stupid, but he's not an idiot. He keeps the keys in a tin box in the bottom drawer of his desk. He also ends up wandering into investigating the key to one of the mysteries in Thud.
- Due to this, Colon is one of the few people Lord Vetinari finds hard to deal with. Vetinari is so used to dealing with people who treat words as a form of warfare that virtually everything he says carries multiple connotations, implications, innuendo, traps, and suggestions. All of which reach escape velocity over Colon's head, making him nigh invulnerable to being played, tricked, warned, or helped.
- Too Dumb to Live
- To the degree that the Watch in Ankh-Morpork now consider entering the Mended Drum and calling yourself "Vincent the Invulnerable" a form of suicide. Needless to say, there are quite a few means of committing suicide in the city. Many of them involve typical Ankh-Morporkian stupidity and Berserk Buttons, or just entering the Shades.
- Some soldiers come very close to this after being ordered to dig up the burial mound home of the local Nac Mac Feegle tribe in I Shall Wear Midnight. Only the timely intervention of Tiffany Aching prevents a massacre...
- Tribal Face Paint: The Nac Mac Feegle have elaborate clan tattoos, to the extent that the books sometimes seem contradictory as to whether they actually have blue skin or not.
- Translation By Volume: In the Discworld GURPS sourcebook, this is a skill called "Shouting At Foreigners". It is an actual skill that can be used instead of a foreign language. Mental/Hard, defaults to Linguistics-4, IQ-6 or HT-6: Many people think that they can get by in any language by speaking loudly, slowly and clearly in their own, or by dredging up a few half-remembered words from old stories and books. On the Disc, this sometimes works.
- Trope Overdosed: So very, very much.
- Troperiffic: Most likely the best example on the entire site.
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: Most heroes are not physical exemplars.
- A young Granny Weatherwax "might have been called handsome by a good-natured liar".
- Vimes is described in Guards! Guards! as a "skinny, unshaven collection of bad habits marinated in alcohol".
- True Sight: Wizards and witches can see what's really there, on account of them having no Weirdness Censor. Susan also teaches this in her class in Thief of Time.
- Children seem to have this. Even when Death makes himself known, most adults won't even notice that he's a skeleton, because everybody knows that skeletons can't walk around and talk. Children don't know that, though, and they see Death as he really looks. Not that it bothers them at all. One of the few times he's openly seen by adults is during the performance of a play featuring the character of Death — since they are expecting to see "Death", they see Death — and he promptly gets stage fright, as he's unused to being seen by so many people at once.
- Unreliable Canon: Early novels often contained contradictory elements, because Pratchett was more concerned with the quality of the story than with consistency. Later, he adopted a more consistent canon, but those early stories have still have a hard time fitting with it.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: If you're a major character with a potential love interest in a Discworld novel this is pretty much the only alternative to becoming an Official Couple after your first book. Usually involves the Wizards and/or the older Witches and usually Played for Laughs. Prominent examples include Nanny Ogg/Casanunda and Senior Wrangler/Mrs Whitlow. Granny Weatherwax/Mustrum Ridcully probably qualify under Belligerent Sexual Tension, with a slightly more serious tone invoking What Could Have Been.
- One-sided between Carrot and Reet in Guards! Guards!. Nothing comes of it, since Reet gets Chuck Cunningham Syndrome once Angua is introduced in Men At Arms. It's heavily implied that Reet isn't the only female acquaintance of Carrot's who ends up feeling this way.
- Victorian London: Ankh-Morpokh of the later books seems to be this due to a functional modern police force, vibrant minority communities, telegraph analogue (clacks), newspapers, postal system, and paper money off the gold standard, except that the last is based off the golem standard.
- Word of God states that the city is a pastiche of Tallinn, Prague, London, Seattle, and New York City.
- The running joke about the river being nearly solid is only barely an exaggeration.
- Vow of Celibacy:
- Wizards of Unseen University are generally expected to stay celibate. The common/official explanation is that it interferes with their magic, but as per the book Sourcery, it's more likely to be a measure to prevent wizards from having descendants, because the eighth son of the eighth son of a wizard (himself an eighth son) is a dangerous super-wizard, and it's considered better to prevent wizards from having kids at all than to risk it. In later Discworld novels the UU vow of celibacy seems to have shifted in the same way as Oxford and Cambridge Universities (see Real Life), in that wizards can have relations with women, but can't get married.
- Esmerelda Weatherwax never had any (non-witchcraft) relations with men after Mustrum Ridcully left for Unseen University, which becomes a plot point when a unicorn shows up. In her case it wasn't really a vow, since she found it easier being the scary witch.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: The witches don't really let spelling apply to them and Carrot's approach to punctuation is basically a pin the tail on the donkey game. And the head of the Grocer's guild makes Carrot look like a grammatical genius.
- Watering Down: Several jokes about this.
- We All Die Someday: It's widely acknowledged that Death meets everyone, sooner or later. But to note:
- In Night Watch the conversation between Vimes and Lu-Tze:
Vimes: I've been talking to people who are going to die today. Do you have any idea how that feels like?
Lu-Tze: Of course. Everyone I talk to is going to die. Everyone you talk to is going to die. Everybody dies.
- In Lords And Ladies, after Magrat charges off to fight the Elves, Ponder hesitates going after her.
Ponder: Graveyards are full of people who rushed in bravely but unwisely.
The Librarian: Ooknote .
Granny Weatherwax: Am I dyin'?
Granny Weatherwax: Will I die?
Granny Weatherwax: But from your point of view, everyone is dying and everyone will die, right?
Granny Weatherwax: So you aren't actually bein' a lot of help, strictly speakin'.
- Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Lord Vetinari, a product of the Assassins' Guild School where every graduate is expected to demonstrate lethal proficiency in at least one weapon, uses language to deadly effect.
Do not let me detain you.
No great rush!
- Weirdness Censor: It's pretty ironclad, as when anything that doesn't fit into what people consider "normal" (such as Death walking among them) is actively ignored. Check the trope page for examples.
- Additionally, especially savvy characters can exploit this to their benefit. One example comes up in Soul Music when a group of musicians hide themselves in a piano and walk out the front door in full view of a Watchman saying they, as a piano, are on break.
- The complete lack of a Weirdness Censor is one of the abilities of wizards and witches.
- Wiki Walk: Leonard of Quirm, the wizards of the university, and some many other characters are fond of these.
- Wizard Classic: Most of the wizards in the series conform to this image, no doubt out of professional pride. Many avert it in some respects, however, such as in their method of Klingon Promotion or the fact that they intentionally avoid doing more magic than they have to. Rincewind is a classic wizard despite being hopelessly incompetent when it comes to spells.
- Wizarding School: Unseen University, which exists as much to keep the current wizards out of trouble as it does to raise the next generation of them. There's also Bugarup University in XXXX and, just recently, Brazeneck University in Quirm, with references at least one more in Pseudopolis and possibly many others.
- Wizards Live Longer: Barring fatal accidents, most wizards live well past their nineties, even with their horrible Big Eater habits. A wizard who lives past fifty can expect to live past one hundred. Witches are also pretty long-lasting. That said, they still age at the same rate. This is explicitly why so many of them are old men and women: they are old for most of their lives.
- The Wonderland: Not just different, but Prachett often takes time in the narration to explain just how different everything is, from how time flows to the shape of the world.
- World of Badass: If you intend to mess with someone here, make sure they're not witches, wizards, watchmen, werewolves, dwarfs, trolls, Mrs. Cake, demons, gods, gnomes, Mrs. Cake, vampires, pictsies, heroes, assassins, the Luggage, Mrs. Cake or, last but not least, the Librarian. It's a wonder that anyone else is left in the place.
- In fact, attempting to mess with Death is probably your safest bet on this world. The most he'll likely do is act confused/amused at your antics and walk away. (Note that this covers messing with Death himself. Mess with anything he cares about, and regret it.)
- If you think that you can take down a watchman, make sure they're not Vimes, Carrot, Angua, Detritus, or Dorfl. note
- World of Pun: Pratchett likes to include at least one silly pun, or play on words, per book.
- There's the "Oh God of Hangovers" in Hogfather — not a god, or the god, but Oh, GOD of Hangovers.
- Night Watch:
- The book contains a sequence describing the ornamental armour Sam Vimes has to wear, and how it makes him feel like a class traitor. The pune-chline: "It was gilt by association."
- And the Fat Mines contained BCBs (Burnt Crusty Bits) that Vimes said died because they were battered to death.
- There's also an example of him being entirely unable to stop himself with the story of Fingers Mazda, who stole the secret of fire from the gods. He was unable to fence it, it was too hot. He really got burned on that deal.
- Granny Weatherwax's lodgings in the Shades are made are all the better for being next door to a notorious reseller of stolen items. Because good fences make good neighbours.
- Magrat believes that broomsticks are sexual metaphors when witches ride them. But this is a phallusy.
- The name of the countries Djelibeybi and Hersheba. Terry Pratchett's realization that American audiences weren't getting the Djelibeybi pun inspired the creation of nearby Hersheba, which most audiences in general aren't getting. (If you've heard of the candy, the Djelibeybi pun is criminally easy to get, due to it being mentally pronounced the same way, and lampshaded when we're told Djelibeybi literally means "Child of the Djel." Hersheba is not as easy — this is due to variation in pronunciation (the most obvious pronunciation rhymes with Bethsheba), the fact that it doesn't have a lampshade, and it doesn't have a book focused on it.)
- The Ramtop Mountains are named after RAMTOP, the ZX Spectrum system variable which points to the top of user memory. Bhrian Bloodaxe, the first dwarf according to Discworld legend, is named after ZX Spectrum game Brian Bloodaxe.
- X Makes Anything Cool:
- Agnes Nitt desperately tries to acquire some cool by (briefly) assuming the name Perdita X Dream.
"But everyone just ended up calling her 'That girl Agnes who calls herself Perditax.'"
- "You!" Squared: The bar brawl version is known as the "Double Andrew", and is worth quite a lot of points. Bar brawls in Ankh-Morpork have become somewhat formalized. There are formal scoring rules, judging, official teams, and extensive brawl planning. They even have an Igor on standby to stitch back on anything that happens to get cut off (and they recommended having your name tattooed on extremities to make sure he stitches the right bits back on you). The impression is more of sport or folk dancing, or particularly stylised martial arts.
- Your Vampires Suck: An entire book on this trope, before it ends with "Classic vampires are awesome". Mostly because they intentionally form a symbiotic relationship with their villages — they get blood and a mostly safe place to live, tourism (one is even mentioned as having a gift shop) and give the local community something to feel good about. Every now and then, the lads form a posse, storm the Haunted Castle and use the convenient wooden furniture to make stakes, "kill" the Count and go home feeling like heroes (or, in the case of the ladies, being beautiful enough to be kidnapped by one).