Literature: Tales of MU

"The way I heard it, the founders felt that being forced to kill random monsters would somehow give the students a valuable experience...you know, help us build character? How getting into fights is supposed to make somebody a better sorcerer or bard is beyond me..."
Steff

Tales of MU is an online erotic prose fiction series. Originally described by the author as an experiment in using LiveJournal to promote her stories, it has since taken on a life of its own. The first four plotlines have been collected into self-published print editions.

The story revolves around the life of Mackenzie "Mack" Blaise, a self-hating half-demon student at Magisterius University, a college of enchantment in an alternate universe where Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy and magic exist in place of modern technology. While not quite a deconstruction, it makes frequent joking allusions to common tropes of fantasy gaming.

The story, at least for the first half or so of the first year's chapters, frequently veers off into sexual territory, arguably at the expense of the plot, but usually by offering a different take on a difficult or sensitive topic. For instance, the second book offered Mackenzie's attempt to describe in first-person narrative her first orgasm, without her realizing that's what she was having. Overall, the sexual content has become much less frequent, but when it shows up, it does so with gusto.

Chapter 496, plus a number of side stories, concluded Mack's first year at MU. The second year has reset the chapter numbering; so far, 287 chapters of the second year have been released, along with more side stories, so many of the tropes below and on the YMMV page are contained in the first year's stories. Specific chapters will be referred to with the Y__-__ format; first blank is the year, second is the chapter number.

The story can be found here. Definitely Not Safe for Work!


This story provides examples of:

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    A - E 
  • Aerith and Bob: Justified given the setting of multiple D&D species of intelligent beings with wildly different cultures mashing up.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked by the author.
  • The Alternet: The Magitek ethernet, not like real world ethernets at all. Forums are known as tapestries (threads, get it?).
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted for many traditional "monster races", especially the subterranean elves (don't call them "Dark Elves", and "Drow" is a serious racial slur, up there with "spider jockey" and "cowl head") who simply have a bad reputation due to cultural misunderstandings. Played more straight with demons, ogres, and mermaids.
  • And Call Him George: Used with Sooni and her "Baby Kai-Kai." Usually funny in a Crosses the Line Twice way, until she crossed the line a third time and refused to get Kai treatment for a cracked skull until it was almost too late.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Cereal nymphs like Amaranth and Barley are this for their fields.
  • Anti-Climax: The story spent a few years in real time (a few months in-story) using backstory snippets to set up Mackenzie's grandmother as a very complex character who genuinely loves Mack even though she sometimes has an odd way of expressing it. When we finally actually meet her in-story, however, she's an obnoxious one-dimensional obstructionist combining all the worst traits of a Straw Conservative and a Beloved Grandsmother, who gives the audience (and the characters!) absolutely no reason to sympathize with her viewpoint.
  • Anything That Moves: Or nearly so, for the nymphs; justified by the fact that they live on sexual energy, which in turn fertilizes their fields.
  • April Fools' Day: An update was posted in 2009, announcing production plans for a SyFy channel spin-off TV show, of which the author claimed pride but apparently had little creative control, resulting in significant deviations from the core themes of the novel. It linked to the writer's Livejournal crossposting, where comments revealed the prank. A few commenters disbelieved the announcement because it referenced "the newly branded SyFy channel" at the end, and were double-pranked to discover Sci-Fi's renaming on April 1st, though it was widely known earlier.
  • Artifact of Doom: The pitchfork, which induces rage in its bearer.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The nekoyokai from Japan-like "Yokan" fall into this category, with names like "Maliko" that almost sound Japanese but not quite. However, a bit of plot indicates that all Yokano names are originally Japanese-derived, but that there is a story-related reason why all four of the characters introduced from that region have jarringly un-Japanese nicknames.
  • Author Appeal: Pretty much every major character is turned on by one aspect or another of BDSM.
  • Author Filibuster: When Mackenzie finally learns Steff's "secret", the readers are suddenly subjected to a long and jarring explanation about what being a trans woman is really like, drawn mostly from the author's own childhood experiences.
  • Axes at School: Justified; the grounds around the school are sometimes anything but safe.
  • Badass Boast: Callahan gets off a doozy in Y1-421:
    If you [insult my intelligence], I will kick your ass so hard your attorney will have to invent a new tort to seek redress [...] They will call it ‘megassault’. The law that defines it will be longer than the combined works of the living elven masters. It will take longer to perform the actions described therein than it will to read aloud. I will do it twice.
  • Badass Normal: Callahan is an dwarf/elf/ogre/orc mongrel, which probably gives her an edge relative to humans, but she's still normal relative to the dragons and demons in the world. And we never see her using magic. But, among other feats of badassery, she once killed a god. This makes her a good foil for Mack, who as a half-demon has a host of racial advantages (strength, partial invulnerability, flamethrowing) but is a woefully incompetent fighter.
  • Battle Butler: Both Maliko and Suzi to Sooni.
  • Berserk Button: Don't insult a gnome's parents; that gnome will jack you right up.
  • Big Bad: It's not entirely certain that the overall story will have one, but so far, Mercy, Mack Daddy, and Chancellor Embries have been the most likely candidates for various reasons, with Mercy's plans to enslave Mack and use her to breed an army of demonspawn as the most obvious plan.
  • Big Eater: The hobbit-like burrow gnomes have multiple meals throughout the day.
  • Black Magic: Played with. On the one hand, necromancy is considered a legitimate specialty for aspiring wizards as long as they follow the rules. On the other hand, the only necromancy student we ever meet is Steff, who hates most of the world and plans on going off to live with an ogre prince, where she won't have to follow any regulations and will also act as his official torturer. At one point, she mentions the possibility of having sex with Mackenzie's reanimated corpse should Mackenzie die prematurely. On the gripping hand, in many other ways Steff is given a very sympathetic portrayal.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Martha Blaise's mindset is far more appropriate for someone from a time much before hers, in Glory's opinion.
    Mack: I was...partly raised...by a woman who didn't think much better of women than she did demons.
    Glory: [...] Brimstone Blaise. From what I know of her, her way of thinking was old-fashioned when she was born, and old before that.
  • Broken Aesop: A few times characters stop to Author Filibuster about how important it is to follow certain rules, methodology, and so on in a dom/sub relationship. These same characters, and others, then go on to bend or break nearly all those rules, with no apparent backlash from the story or other characters.
    • The author did point out in the FAQ that the excessive-harm aspect of this is countered by various characters being invulnerable, possessed of regeneration powers, or just having easy access to magical healing.
  • The Bully: Tara Leighton, especially before being fused with her twin.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Hazel went through some severe denial, even claiming that it was impossible because she was on top. It's not until Y2-86 that she can finally talk to everyone else about her struggle with the issue. Of course, at that point it's irrelevant; see Good Girls Avoid Abortion below.
  • Butt Monkey: Mackenzie and Two both in the early chapters, mainly due to Mack's various personal issues and Two's lack of ability to function outside her "programming." Both have since moved beyond this.
  • Buxom Is Better: Inverted by elves. Elven women tend to be modestly endowed, and thus their standard for "buxom" is lower than human, which makes Amaranth, who by human standards is very buxom, comically oversized. The point comes up in Y2-262 during the brief three-way conversation between Amaranath, Glory, and Mack, when Glory flat-out says that Amaranth's breasts are "a bit much". Shortly thereafter:
    Glory: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bag on your owner’s tits, [...] I know by human standards they’re awesome and I try to embrace that, I really do...
  • Call Back: A slavery-related incident in Y2-85 involving Mack and Two is one to a similar incident much earlier in the story, with the roles reversed.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Of the core cast, only Ian and Two are not either gay, bisexual, or Steff.
  • Character Development:
    • This happens gradually with several characters, with Mack being the most prominent. A large chunk of Y2-130 is a conversation between Mack and Chessa, an RA from another dorm, in which Mack discusses both her development and the potential for Chessa to do the same.
    • Several chapters feature Mack noting this in-story about other characters.
    • In the second-year OT story "The Healing Process", Barley, of all people, shows a remarkable improvement in maturity and self-awareness.
  • Character Shilling: After one chapter reintroduced fan un-favorite Jamie in the second year and he started acting like he might want to hang out with Mackenzie (or maybe do more than just hang out with her), the readers' reaction in the comments was predictable. In the chapters immediately afterwards, a bunch of characters had a big conversation about how Jamie really isn't all that bad, honest.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Pretty much a way of life for elven middlings in Treehome (and, it's implied, for middlings in general), as Steff lays out in Y2-151. It's really not a nice way to live, for anyone there, which is why Glory's so keen to remove her court from there and establish their own space.
    Steff: I mean, that’s the real secret of Treehome: the whole place would be a lot more livable for almost everyone who’s there if they’d stop competing for power, but nobody’s going to do that because first they’d have to admit they’re personally losing the competition. There are poor fuckers there who are going to spend the next quarter-century being some dude’s spittoon or footrest and thinking to themselves that they’re working their way to the top or just biding their time until the moment is right. They’d be the first ones to turn on someone who suggests upending the whole system.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Sooni. It's not Played for Laughs, but it can sometimes be pretty funny.
  • Combat Pragmatist: This is the essence of Callahan's teaching style, and also how she defines her own methods. She reveals to Mack Daddy (and the reader) in the side story "Splish, Splash" that she keeps her thumbnails much longer and sharper than the others for gouging purposes, and then she dissuades Mack Daddy from trying to attack her by pointing out that she is wearing magic press-on nails so she doesn't have to use a separate weapon against him.
  • Continuity Overlap: When Mackenzie's clothes, hospital bed, and knife disappeared in a botched teleportation spell, they all appeared in other stories by the author. Her bra went missing for quite some time, until it was returned to Mack in a second-year OT story.
  • Could Say It But: Sooni assures the Harlowe residents that she isn't going to use Mack's demonic heritage against her in their floor's election for school Senate. Just a few seconds earlier, she had implied that Mack wanted to eat their relatives.
  • Crossover:
    • Jamie, the lead character from More Tales of MU, shows up in the second year and appears to want to try to patch up his relationship with Mack.
    • In Y2-249, when Mack goes into the Inn of the Black Door, she meets Lily Binder and Morgenstern from Star Harbor Nights, another of Alexandra Erin's works.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: What we've seen of the worship of Khersis is very much like Christianity, except in a world where gods are known to speak to mortals, demons are real, and exorcism works. Considering the one passage from the Khersian holy book that's been referenced parallels the gospels directly, and one creation myth says he was born of a great dragon from a crystal egg, he may be a literal "Crystal Dragon Jesus". We don't know if he has any dark secrets yet, but some of his followers are assholes. There's also the "Mechans".
  • Cultural Posturing: Dee gives the others a glowing picture of her subterranean elven culture as a "structured meritocracy" where everyone has a place and all contribute to the common good. Side stories that show what's happening while she's on the surface indicate that she has a very one-sided view of her culture.
  • Curse: The Bane of Khersis, placed by Lord Khersis on humans who had mated with demons after casting the demons into hell. See In the Blood and Living Aphrodisiac below for more details.
    And your tainted generations shall consume each other in gluttonous lust
  • Cute Monster Girl: Several. Subverted with the half-ogres, as Victor is described as better looking than Belinda.
  • Dancing Pants: In Y2-197, Steff enchants Mack's jeans with an undead animation spell in an attempt at magical bondage. It goes hilarious awry because they didn't account for her belt and boots. Once off her, the jeans try to wrap around Mack's head and eventually have to be destroyed.
  • Deadly Euphemism: The immortal elves don't like to talk about dying. The pale-skinned surface elves "take leave" when ennui sets in. Their dark-skinned cousins "greet the goddess".
  • Dead Man Writing: The OT story "The Centre Cannot Hold" is a letter written by one of the inhabitants of the island cluster of Malbus, who are tasked to monitor the "evil star" Malbus and repel the monstrosities that try to come through it. The letter is written with the knowledge that its author is most likely dead, and in the hopes that its reader will take up the task of the watch on Malbus or find people who can.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dee's stoic nature makes pretty much any jibe of hers run in this direction.
    Amaranth: One of [Steff's] friends is a virgin! What are the odds?
    Dee: I would say abysmal. But apparently they were high enough.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Y2 side story "Splish, Splash" reveals that Mack Daddy has made deals with Callahan and one other of Mack's teachersnote  regarding Mack's instruction over the course of the second year. The reasons for this are as of yet unrevealed. Callahan's reward was for Mack Daddy to give truthful answers to three questions. He ducked out on the third one rather than answer.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Maliko's attempt to get Mackenzie to help her figure something out:
    Maliko: You have to help me because you are a... a helpful helper person! Who helps people!
  • Devil in Disguise: The Man looks like a normal human but is anything but.
  • Diary: Two keeps one, as shown in the "Diary of a Golem Girl" side stories during the first year. They give a look into Two's take on her world and her relationships with her friends that isn't always seen in the main story, as well as her mindset and the struggles she deals with trying to expand past her initial "programming."
  • Didn't See That Coming: When The Man faces off with Samuel at the tower, The Man's plan falls apart when he's seen holding a pitchfork after Samuel falls off the tower, screaming, with a cut from the pitchfork on his face. "The half-demon is seen as a killer" theory (which is what The Man was aiming for) seems rather unlikely when there's a stranger holding the murder weapon still up on the tower.
  • Dissimile: Mack has gotten off a couple of doozies:
    Slow-dancing in the water with Steff was just like a dream... only, instead of having people walking on my face and calling me filth, I was slow-dancing in the water with Steff.
    ...

    You ever play one of those fighting games where there's always the one guy who's like seventeen tons of walking muscle, and if he manages to hit you it does massive damage but it's laughably easy to avoid his attacks because they move so slowly? That's almost exactly what getting suckerpunched by a fucking ogre isn't like.
  • The Ditz: Keri LaBelle. While she does have the occasional insightful or worthwhile question, most of the time she's a complete moron. Problem is, her (well-deserved) reputation for ditziness gets a bit Flanderized in the mind of the teacher that she and Mackenzie have together, to the point where he's verbally abusive to her even on the rare occasions when she actually says something worthwhile in class.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Once a month, Mack turns into a murderous psychopath, and the only cure is bleeding. The difference being that it's somebody else's blood, not hers. It doesn't save her from having to do the real thing, either. Also, see Fantastic Racism below.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Kai hates how Sooni treats her, but she doesn't take efforts by Mack and friends to assist her very well. A side story reveals that Kai comes from an extremely impoverished background and always dreamed of getting an education, and although Sooni as good as kidnapped her (with an implied reward to her family), Kai is willing to accept anything as long as it means she can continue going to university.
  • Double Entendre: The chapter titles and subtitles sometimes are these.
  • The Dreaded: According to Glory, Callahan is this to elves.
    Glory: I’m not sure what she is, but she also...well, this will sound silly and it probably is, but she bears a strong resemblance to an elven, uh...I’ll say ‘bogeyman’.
    Mack: I’m pretty sure she’s a lot of people’s bogey...person.
    Glory: I meant a specific one [...] It’s a new figure who popped up sometime in the last half millennium or so, an avatar of death who slays immortals...the least gods and the greatest dragons, elves, demons...anything without a lifespan. We call it thanato ton athanton...death of the undying.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Callahan as a teacher. It's either because she was traumatized by the sight of an untrained mage caught by ogres during the last big war or because she likes being able to legally inflict pain and injuries on college kids. Possibly both.
  • Dungeon Punk: Advanced magic and historical resemblances makes life in the Imperial Republic seem to resemble contemporary America...except when it doesn't.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Harlowe Dorm, full stop. For most of the first year, in one building, and mostly on one floor, you have in communion: the sexually repressed and socially stunted Mack, the inferiority complex-laden Steff; the socially incompetent and very easily manipulated Two; the seriously deluded Alpha Bitch Sooni; the violent, thuggish Puddy; the bullying Leighton twins; and other characters who are just as out of sorts with everyone else.
  • Easy Sex Change: Played with. Dee gives Steff a draught of the "halfkind" potion to help resolve some of her body issues. The potion knocks Steff out for several chapters worth of story time, and the eventual result is that just as it does with dark elves, Steff now has a much more obviously feminine body, including breasts, but also has a noticeably bigger penis.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Eyeless Fish-Beast is a mild version. It doesn't drive anyone to madness, but it looks really creepy, hovers through the air without wings or any visible means of support, has odd telepathic/psychic abilities, and is explicitly described as "something that’s not supported by the laws of this reality, so it carries its own laws around with it." All that, and it's not even an antagonist; it's more like one character's extraplanar guard dog.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Played with; as a fire-aligned half-demon, Mack is weak to ice and cold, but instead of being hurt more by ice attacks, this manifests as a complete intolerance for temperatures below 60 degrees or so, and having to read the fine print on any medical Magitek that might use cold.
  • Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Suzi, when speaking in her native Yokano; see You No Take Candle below for the converse.
    I do not see why we are forced to converse in the barbarous idiom of the coarse westerners even among ourselves. Why must we suffer the indignity of mangling our mouths with their disharmonious syllables simply because they have never taken the time to learn a proper language?
  • Elves Versus Dwarves: A gnomish folk tale depicts elves and dwarves as the descendants of quarreling twin brothers, who grew into their current forms by attempting to emphasize their imagined differences.
  • Emotion Eater:
    • Samuel, a part-demon student introduced in a side story that takes place some time before the main story, feeds on children's laughter.
      It’s a bit metaphysical, if you mean the workings of it, [but] if you mean the logistics… I operate a puppet theater on the weekends. The children go home a bit more serious-minded than before they saw me, but they soon recover.
    • The moss that Mack collects in the forest with Amaranth combines this with Empathic Environment. It's revealed to be passion’s flame moss, which apparently feeds off sexual energy. It grows best in "trysting spots", and its glow and heat increase when exposed to lovemaking.
  • Erotic Eating: Iona and Feejee's first taste of Mackenzie.
  • Ethical Slut: Amaranth personifies this trope. Nymphs are naturally extremely promiscuous, but she also spends a lot of time strengthening her girlfriends' polyamorous relationships and encouraging safe sexual exploration among her friends. She's naturally opposed to the concept of "sexual shaming" and believes that the world would be a much better place if people allowed themselves to admit and (consensually) explore their sexual desires.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Starting with the nymphs and working one's way down the cast sheet. The list of characters to whom this trope does not apply is very short.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Dogs can detect demonic ancestry and are utterly hostile to Mack. This naturally results in her being afraid of them.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: When Mack has to visit her lawyer in his office and discovers the elevator is warded against infernal entry, this comes into play in the form of a joke regarding how long a law firm could last if infernal beings weren't permitted to enter its offices.
  • Expospeak: Lots...and lots...and lots of it in chapters featuring Mackenzie's classes. In those parts the reader is treated to many paragraphs of world-building and other details.
  • Extreme Doormat: The Lizard Folk use communal decision making, so Hissy holds no strong opinions of her own. Human missionaries decided she should go to school, the school decided she should join the skirmish team. Her response to all of it is simply that she has no objection. As a background character, her Extreme Doormat status wasn't even apparent until she got some Character Development.

    F - J 
  • The Fair Folk: Elves historically fall into this trope, and some wild adolescent elves still live there. Faeries exist, too, and are the only thing that the Badass elven hunter is afraid of (apart from bears).
  • Fan Fic:
    • Subject of a story-within-a-story parody.
    • The author used to "forbid" people to write fanfiction for the series. Now, Fan Fic is allowed, but proper credit must be given to the author for the world and characters and the author does not want to know about it under any circumstances.
  • Fantastic Racism: A recurring theme:
    • Harlowe Dorm is where most of the non-human students are housed and is generally looked down upon by the rest of the campus.
    • Several races have analogues to real ethnic groups, like the Dark Elves to Middle Easterners, complete with corresponding ethnic slurs; see Fantastic Slurs below.
    • The half-naga Celia never misses a chance to snark about the more mammalian members of the cast.
    • "Halfling" is a subtly racist nickname for gnomes.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Several, including "pinkskins" for humans and "treefuckers" for elves. Unconventionally, "drow" is a slur for dark elves, along with "cowl head" and "spider jockey". The inhabitants of the non-human dorm, Harlowe Hall, are collectively referred to as "harlots".
  • Fantasy Contraception: "Rings of Protection From Pregnancy", which are single-use, and are packaged in foil packets. Unfortunately most of them use cold magic, which Mack is vulnerable to.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Appliance: Magical TVs and refrigerators are mentioned by name, crystal balls are used as computers (complete with "aethernet") and mirrors are like phones (including pocket-sized "smart" mirrors).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Imperial Republic of Magisteria is America mixed with the Roman Empire in a Dungeon Punk world. The island of Yokan is a version of Japan populated by Petting Zoo People. Members of a totally original race of little people who live in cozy holes in shires have a rural English-type culture. The forest-dwelling elves have Ancient Greek names and culture. The dwarves are basically German. Early discussions of the ideas outsiders have of subterranean elves mirror American ideas of the Muslim world. When we see the culture up close, though, there's no resemblance whatever. Pointedly, the "European" cultures don't seem to have colonized nearly as much of the world at any point.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Played with. Rather than form a unified pantheon, most of the gods deny each others' divinity, and all teach contradictory theology/mythology. Mack Daddy even asserts that a god is just anyone who is powerful enough to smite anyone who claims otherwise.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Every devout Khersian thinks this way about Mack. Considering she's half-demon and Khersis exists to purge the world of demons, and demons feed on humans, there is some justification. However, since she's the protagonist, we are sympathetic to her situation. It doesn't help that the characters who most dehumanize demons in the setting are either Jerkasses like Gloria and Ariadne or the bastard Mercy.
  • Filler/Filler Strips: The series attempts to present a close-to-real-time story, which makes some parts seem written just to make the deadline. For example: one of the early chapters was devoted to Amaranth and Mack walking a few streets, getting on a subway-equivalent, getting out, and walking into a building.
  • Flanderization:
    • Mack and her submissiveness/love of abuse.
    • Sooni's spoiled and increasingly bizarre antics.
    • Steff's general cluelessness. All of the main characters—including Sooni—get some major character development in one way or another, actually learning and growing... but Steff just becomes more and more of a dumbass as the series progresses.
  • Flat Earth Atheist:
    • The Arkhanites - more like Flat Earth Solipsists, but close enough.
    • The Mechans.
  • Flat "What."
    Two: Steff has a penis. And she is a girl.
    Ian: Wait, what?
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Puddy is this while she's Mack's roommate. Her behavior and personality offend everyone but her violent streak and temper have them too cowed to stand up to her.
  • Friend to All Living Things (With Benefits): Amaranth, because of what she is, is both a loving and nurturing companion, especially to those she knows personally (or, at least, what she tries to be) and extremely promiscuous. Barley is initially the same way, but her jealousy of and frustration with Amaranth cause her to rebel against everything a nymph should be.
  • Friends with Benefits: While on the airship cruise with Glory and her court, Mack's friendship with Nicki upgrades to this.
  • Genius Loci: The Emily Center is gradually revealed to be alive, and frightened of Mack for some reason. They eventually come to an understanding, and Mack is permitted entry again.
  • Gladiator Games: Due to wound-simulating weapons and cheap healing magic to cover actual injuries, straight-out combat takes the place of tamer sports. "Skirmish" is the team sport in the Imperial Republic. One-on-one gladiatorial bouts are a runner-up in popularity.
  • God Emperor:
    • The rulers of the counterparts to Japan and Britain.
    • Averted by the Emperor of the Imperial Republic of Magisterion, who is constitutionally limited so that he can't be one. He is unique in being a mere mortal, while the Nameless One that the founder of his dynasty rebelled against is still alive.
  • Golem: In the MUniverse, golems are created as living tools who must obey orders. Their level of sentience varies; some have more developed personalities than others. They can be "emancipated" by ordering them to consider themselves free beings. Two is one such golem, with a rather uniquely constructed personality.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted; Hazel reveals in Y2-86 that she did indeed have an abortion. Her being in a place to have one at all is just one more in a long list of black marks her mother's family has against her.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Barley is deeply envious of Amaranth, not only because of her popularity in their hometown but because she only went to college because Barley did, but ended up being more popular than Barley. This jealousy has been the driving force behind all of her objectionable actions, but the second-year side story involving her indicates that she's making strides toward dealing with it.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It takes very little for Puddy to explosively snap; even the mildest of criticisms will have her fighting mad.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Several characters are only part-human, with Mack being half demon as the most significant story-wise.
  • Hammer Space: Amaranth. Especially overt in her case, as unlike most Hammer Space users, Amaranth doesn't even have clothing as a supposed hiding place for items she puts "away". Also, lampshaded early in the series when Mack keeps trying to catch her bringing something Out or putting it Away.
  • Heinz Hybrid: Coach Callahan is a Dwelgrorc (quarter each dwarf, elf, ogre, and orc). The dwarf and elf quarters are from different parents, of course.
  • Hellish Pupils: In More Tales of MU, a dragon is described as having "jagged diagonal pupils".
  • Her Code Name Was Mary Sue:
    • One bonus story is a piece of fanfiction written ages ago by Mack. She manages to insert herself into it... after switching the gender, so there can be a romance with a canon character. It manages to show up a few of her issues...
    • Meanwhile, just down the corridor from her, Sooni is busy churning out a far more extreme fanfic on her favourite anime, Pretty Neko Science Princess, with herself in the title role.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Many, many examples.
  • Huge Schoolgirl:
    • Amaranth is over six feet tall.
    • Pala, despite being a college student, comes off as a mixture of this trope and Statuesque Stunner. Of course, her own perspective is the inverse of this trope; as a storm giant, she is rather small in her own estimation, even as she awkwardly towers over everyone else at MU.
  • Human Mom Nonhuman Dad: Gender-flipped with Steff's half-ogre boyfriend, Viktor.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Quoth Mack:
    "I couldn’t help but notice that he did things like use “fight” twice in the same sentence… and “underprivileged underclass?” It also seemed like he just dropped commas in wherever he felt like it… like there was no actual rules regarding their use… like he was just in love with them as a punctuation mark, or something." (Note that Mack, at another point, remarked in passing that she had once been marked down on an essay for using too many ellipses.)
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Several of the characters cannot or will not eat certain types of food, often due to restrictions of their race or religion.
  • Identical Grandson: Due to a narrow selection of male partners, Dee's mother is the spitting image of her great-great-grandmother, the family's current matriarch. Not one to waste an opportunity, the matriarch uses her descendant as assassin bait.
  • I Feel Angry: Two is absolutely adorable when she's (briefly) under the influence of a Boundless Rage Curse.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Crops up occasionally between Mackenzie and Amaranth or Mackenzie and Sooni. Mack most certainly does not want to worship at their feet. Nope. Not at all.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: This shows up frequently:
    • Several races are known maneaters, including mermaids and ogres.
    • The "gray" elf Mercy runs a shop catering specifically to races who feed on humans and other intelligent races.
    • Dragons face no legal repercussions for feeding on humans.
    • Chancellor Embries is strongly implied to have eaten several of his secretaries, and Y1-488 all but says outright that he did the same to Iona, although the story has set things up so that the latter may never be known for sure.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Prevalent in Elven culture, due to increased sexual potency. Among the more disciplined underground variety, it seems more common among the "halfkind" as they are not expected to show responsibility or constraint.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Mack brings Nicki to one in Y2-264.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Nae in Y2-126, as a result of smashing the mocking cabinet in Callahan's class via a kick from Mack. She turns out to be all right as a result of her strange anatomy.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Glory hits Steff, Amaranth, and Ian with this in Y2-231 when they're discussing the potential issues of Mack spending the night with Glory alone.
    Just as long as we can actually move things along and stop talking about everyone as though they’re not here, including people with really good hearing who are standing two feet away.
  • Inn Between the Worlds: The Inn of the Black Door, which serves as a meeting place for characters from several of Alexandra Erin's stories and which Pala likes to frequent.
  • In the Blood:
    • Hilariously, The Man himself, the only full-blooded demon to have appeared in the series as of yet, is the practical living example that half-demons do NOT behave like demons; he said so himself. He is anything but beastly.
    • The second-year OT story "Methods, Motivations, and Meetings" reveals that in the distant past, Lord Khersis cursed female part-demonsnote  so that it is very difficult for them to successfully breed with other demonbloods. See Living Aphrodisiac below for the side effect.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: A subversion in that the descriptions are misleading...except a few times when they're not, and you spend the whole chapter looking for the twist...
    • When they visit town for the first time, the town's name is revealed at the end of one chapter to be "Enwich." The subtitle for that chapter? "In which the town is named."
    • The chapter title "Girly Fight", in conjunction with the subtitle "In Which Mackenzie Gets The Finger", implies that Mack is in a word fight. However, in one of the most hillaristurbing scenes in the world, she Mind Rapes one of the adversaries to the point that her corrupted memory had to be removed, and she rips the other's fingers off with her teeth. Perfectly logical. Mack gets the finger, and all of the participating parties are girls.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Subverted. In the final chapter of Volume I, Mack's therapist suggests that she write about her experiences at MU in order to help work out her issues. The final paragraph of that chapter mentions that she got 17 pages into said autobiographic writing, and then got bored and gave up.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: Two is like this when under the influence of the cursed pitchfork, which induces rage in its bearer.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: The OT story about the events that led to the razing of MU decades prior to the main story reveal that Mack Daddy can subtly influence people's thoughts. He does this to Jennifer and Eugene to try to maneuver Samuel into a trap. Professor Ariadne Einhorn may also have been under his influence, and might still be to the story's present day.
  • Jerk Jock: Mack hates Skirmish players, though Amaranth of course is more understanding. Belinda is one, though this seems more tragic in her case, or at least something unfortunate she's trying to move beyond, when we see her later.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: One of the more charitable interpretations of Steff, especially in regards to her relationship with Mack. She never stops being creepy, but it's very clear that she cares a lot about Mack and is glad to have her as a friend and source of emotional support.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Callahan appears to belong in this category. You start to like her once she shows genuine interest in helping Mack learn to fight, but if Mack Daddy is to be believed, she's also writing weekly letters to the administration asking permission to kill Mack. Also, her commitment to teaching is arguably ego-driven: "If I can make this wimp a good fighter, how awesome would that make me?" And then "Splish, Splash" reveals that Callahan's half of her deal with Mack Daddy was training Mack to fight, in return for answers to three questions.
  • Jerkass:
    • The Leighton twins are bullies and jackasses, especially Tara. It was worse before they were merged.
    • In the first year, Mackenzie drifted into this territory whenever she got into an argument...which was fairly frequently. She's gotten much better in the second year.
    • Celia, partly because of her generally surly attitude and partly because of her contempt for anything mammalian.
    • The delving students who Mack encounters after the botched teleport spell (see Continuity Overlap above). One wants to kill her for XP, another (Seth) is ambivalent about whether she lives or dies, and another (Lacey) half-heartedly argues to let her live. This gets reinforced even more by Seth's petulant attitude when he's caught by Eloise after he and Lacey mess with a dwarven sword as a prank in a second-year side story.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Celia's snarky comments are often tactless, intolerant and insensitive... but that doesn't mean they're not accurate. She is, for example, the first one to explicitly point out Puddy's abusive tendencies.
    You’re fucking blind if you think there’s anything healthy going on here!

    K - O 
  • Karma Houdini: Amaranth feels that Barley hasn't been appropriately handled by their goddess, Mother Khaele, for what amounts to blasphemy for a nymph.
  • Kayfabe: Apparently it's an open secret that all the "soap opera for men" drama in professional gladiator leagues is scripted.
  • Kill the God: Coach Callahan was at one point charged with three counts of deicide, but only one was successful.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Both holy symbols/gestures for any demonblood.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Seth and Lacey are polymorphed into mice by magic wards as a punishment for trying to take the dwarven sword in one of Mack's classes off its stand. Shortly afterwards, Lacey is eaten by a cat. Eloise catches Seth before he can suffer the same fate.
  • Late to the Punchline: A harpy character says that in the badlands, "thunder means someone told a giant a joke three days ago." The giantess who's appeared in the story bears this out, not realizing she was at the center of a hurricane of Double Entendres until much later.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Subverted. Mackenzie's lawyer is named Lee Jenkins, an obvious Shout-Out, but he's a calm, competent Good Lawyer.
  • Like a Badass out of Hell: Callahan has apparently willed herself into and out of hell at least once after dying, if the conversation between herself and Mack Daddy can be taken at face value...and it most likely can.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: During their fight in Y2-126, Nae bites Mack on the ass.
  • Living Weapon: Callahan's conversation with Mack Daddy in the Y2 side story "Splish, Splash" indicates that she was created to be the Death of the Undying, rather than having simply become it.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The story, to date, has featured several dozen characters, although only a fraction of those are truly central to the plot.
  • Lolicon:
    • Implied to be a motive for Two's creator designing her to be completely hairless except for her head, although Two does later deny that he used her sexually.
    • Played with by Mack Daddy, who feeds on innocence.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: One of the minor second year subplots is Nicki (and the rest of the crew) learning she has a elven secret admirer via being slipped a thong and veil in Y2-125. In Y2-146, we finally learn that it's Grace.
  • Love You and Everybody: Both used and averted. It's the well-known nymph belief system, so the first time Amaranth tells Mack that she loves her, Mack objects that Amy loves everyone, which Amy readily admits before telling Mack that she loves her specifically and deeply. That being said, Amaranth does at times find it hard to love everybody, especially those who mean ill towards Mack, and Barley seems to have thrown this idea to the wind.
  • Luke Nounverber:
    • Elves take epithet names that are often in this form, but are disappointed that Jamie Bowman, a quarter-elf raised in human society, does not have any archery skill.
    • Dwarves have clan names that are either of the "Oakenshield" variety or are Dwarvish equivalents like "Sternbauer".
  • Luminescent Blush: Mack gets the text equivalent from a suggestive comment from Steff in Y2-2.
  • Made of Phlebotinum: The MUniverse is driven by Magitek, the physics are based on A Wizard Did It, and from the point of view of people in other worlds, a knife that was said to be "barely enchanted" is made out of magic.
  • Magical Computer: Played with: students use crystal balls to "gaze the ethernet".
  • Magical Girlfriend: Sort of sadly subverted with the bonus story "A Boy's Prayer", which implies that Amaranth manifested the way she is (as a buxom, nerdy, glasses-wearing Love Freak) because one lonely, geeky twelve-year-old boy, uh, fertilized her field with fantasies and desires of such a woman. The subversion (and sadness) is that after she manifested exactly according to his desires, he never even got to meet her.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Explicitly averted. The laws of magic don't like it when mortals start poking around; see Magic Versus Science and Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum below.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Sooni tries to invoke this law by telling Mack to draw first. It kind of works; Mack draws a king and Sooni draws an ace, but with a shout of "Nobody did ever say aces were high" from the audience, all hell breaks loose.
  • Magitek: The aforementioned crystal balls, as well as pretty much all the technology you'd expect in a modern university, only powered by magic.
  • Magic Versus Science: While magic works and is commonplace, belief in the power of scientific thinking is generally regarded as either dangerously deluded or childish fantasy. The Mechans are treated as the counterpart to Wiccans in our universe. See also Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum below.
  • Make Up or Break Up: One of the minor plot points since the time that Ian and Mack got together is the two of them trying to work around the unique hurdles of their relationship, since they're in a poly relationship that includes Steff and Amaranth. Over time, this takes an increasing toll on Ian, and it comes to a head after Mack and Glory sleep together, a situation neither he nor Steff were pleased at all about possibly happening. In Y2-235, while they don't completely break up, Ian does give Mack the "I need some space so I can figure things out" decision.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Mack Daddy takes this even further than normal, as he'll manipulate both your emotions and your logic to try to get what he wants.
  • Medieval Stasis: Explicitly averted, as the story is in a "medieval fantasy setting, five hundred years later," with Magitek in place of modern technology. A side story set two hundred years earlier resembled America's colonial period.
  • Medium Awareness: Lily Binder has apparently become aware that she's a character in a story and is not happy about it, since it's not her storynote  and she's apparently been stuck in a kind of stagnation for almost seven years...which happens to be how old Tales of MU is.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Official policy of the subterranean elves.
  • Mermaid Problem: Feejee and Iona, the two mermaid characters, can shapeshift between a fish-tailed form and human legs. This is played straight by Feejee having a human boyfriend, and subverted by the mermaids revealing that humans are a delicacy and Feejee repeatedly mock-eating Mack while emphatically denying that she is gay.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: In the "Veil murder" arc, several students died that night, but Leda is the only one who gets much attention, specifically because she was foreign royalty.
  • Mirror Match: In Y2, Callahan's final test in her class is for each student to fight multiple mocked duplicates of themselves. Mack's fight ends with her letting her demonic side out and trying to attack one duplicate, only to be shocked back to herself by the duplicate's reaction to seeing "herself" in that state, which opens Mack up to be knocked out.
  • Missing Episode: Y1-489. invoked It would cover the time in Embries’ office where he deals with the matter of Leda’s death, magically forcing Mack to bear witness, while preventing her from passing on the experience to anyone else, including those who are viewing the world through her thoughts and perceptions (i.e. the readers). Accordingly, the entire narrative (including chapter heading and link) cannot be seen.
  • Monster Mash: The story initially appears to be based on this to most readers, though it is not exactly on a voluntary basis. Magisterius University has graciously established a separate dorm for the non- and part-humans, supposedly to make them feel less pressured to conform to human ways but in actuality at least in part to keep the freaks out of sight. The characters' foibles, both personal and racial, make up a significant part of the series.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Used in an odd fashion with Mariel. She has four arms, and is browbeaten by Puddy into spying on Mack.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Used as an alternative to All Myths Are True, as seen in the myths of different races.
  • Multiple Head Case: The Leighton twins, as a result of a teleportation accident.
  • Mundane Utility: These crop up frequently. Mackenzie even lampshades one of the more unusual ones:
    Mackenzie: Who even came up with the idea of using a living death potion for birth control?
    Roger: Alchemists, I guess. They had to find a bigger market for it than adventurers, vampire slayers, and zombie hunters...
  • My Beloved Smother: Sooni's cosplay with Kai is all over this...until she nearly kills Kai.
  • My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Here.
    Sooni: When I was younger, my father told me that he could ask his valet for the smallest pinfeather of a bird sitting on a certain branch of a certain tree on the other side of the world, and it would be on his desk by the afternoon. Can your father do that?
    Mack: My father is a soulless killer abomination, Sooni.
    Sooni: But could he do that?
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Quoth Mack:
    While it had led to my pleasant morning with Ian, having classes with people who knew me seemed fraught with complications, and it didn’t seem to matter if they were friends, enemies, lovers, or Sooni.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Malbus, one of the planets in the celestial sphere of the MU-niverse, which is unusual in that it doesn't behave like the other planets, remaining at a fixed point constantly and not matching the other planets' appearance. It's actually a tear in the "material" of the celestial sphere through which the monstrous beings that inhabit the chaos beyond occasionally attempt to come through.
  • Nerds Are Sexy:
    • Taken to an extreme: the "nerd" character is a gorgeous nymph, naked except for her nerd-glasses.
    • Mack is an introverted geek strongly hinted to be better-looking than she considers herself to be (even Belinda calls her "cute", and she's got serious issues with Mack).
  • Never Found the Body: After the riots that destroyed MU in the backstory, Melanie reveals in a letter that Samuel's body was one of many that was never recovered from the rubble that was left over from the halted excavations. Whether or not he's actually dead is unknown.
  • No Name Given:
    • The ruler of the old empire is always referred to as The Unnameable One. Justfied in-story; MUniverse tradition has it that the sound denoted by "kh" is reserved for the names of the gods, and that it is blasphemy for anyone who is not a god to have it in their name. As an immortal vampire, the Unnameable One is old enough to predate this tradition, and is named Khulrakh. It is blasphemy to call him by his name, and an insult to a sitting emperor to call him anything but his name. Thus, he is Unnameable.
    • One of Mackenzie's professors has never been named in canon, but that's more of a subtle Running Gag.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Parodied by the mermaids. They have breasts but are ignorant of lactation. Instead, they are used to get free beer and lure sailors to their doom.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted; Mackenzies period is not only mentioned, but becomes a plot point. It turns out any female can overdraw magic on their period - leading to potential disaster.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Grace, as a result of her youth and lack of experience with human interaction, which she admits to Mack after groping her to see if she's pierced.
    Mack:I’ve had very bad experiences with people who didn’t respect my boundaries.
    Grace: Eep! [...] Sorry, I’m...okay, I’m not a kid anymore, and you’re not elves, but elven children are a lot more hands-on with each other, and I...I haven’t fully adjusted to not-childhood yet.
  • Noble Demon: Played with by Vice-Chancellor Embries. He's a "noble" dragon, employed by MU as their ace in the hole against the campus being razed to the ground again. He does, however, have an unfortunate habit of eating his secretaries.
    Professor Hall: Few people mistake a noble dragon for a nice one more than once.
  • Nominal Hero: Callahan, an amoral murderer who was pardoned for her crimes because the Empire needed her skills that badly.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Callahan. She reveals to Mack Daddy that she's killed herself several times, and has no fear whatsoever of either death, or even hell.
  • Not Quite Dead: Laurel Ann, Mack's mother, as revealed in a handful of side stories.
  • Odd Friendship: Many would qualify, but the most eyebrow-lifting so far is between Caron and Nae, a dwarf and kobold who are lovers, although their races are blood enemies.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: Glory's bed is nothing but a deep pile of pillows in a hollow frame.
  • Oh, Crap: Nicki and Grace's reaction in Y2-146 to Mack telling them that, because of the dreary weather and the curtains being covered, they missed a day of classes while shacked up in Nicki's room...getting to know each other.
  • Omniglot: Hissy speaks just about every language that's been mentioned in the story and can apparently pick up new ones very easily, as they're all simpler than her native Lizardfolk language.
  • One Degree of Separation: Not everyone's been connected yet, but a lot of the backstory chapters seem to be pointing in this direction.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Iason, of all people, seems like this compared to other young elves.
    • In the early parts of the story, Celia is this to the rest of the Harlowe girls, and she's not nice about it.
  • Our Better Is Different: The dark elves use "lower" as a synonym for "better" where humans would use "higher", which can lead to some very convoluted metaphors.
    Dee:If I thought [we] could do it immediately, I would insist upon it. This should be your absolute lowest, deepest, blackest priority.
    Mackenzie (narrating): She'd just let out what would probably qualify as a deep, dark secret, or a shallow, bright one or whatever they'd call it where she was from...
  • Our Demons Are Different: MUniverse demons need to feed from humans to survive, and they have a craving for human flesh well beyond said need... and most of the rest is hearsay. They have a strong association with fire, and have been shown to possess humans and tempt them.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Vice-Chancellor Edmund Embries. A silver-scaled classical Western dragon capable of taking on human form, he is sexy, charming, and very creepy.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same:
    • Generally speaking: MUniverse dwarves mostly follow the standard model, with a few additions. Their names have a Germanic flavor, they count in base seven, and while they seem like a One-Gender Race, it's been explained that male and female dwarves just don't get along. The one full-blooded female dwarf who appeared was not described with a beard. Dwarves have a strong disposition for secrecy and privacy, though the college-going ones are willing to make exceptions for attractive women of other races. One recurring minor character, Gebhard, shows a somewhat fussy and fastidious nature.
    • More specifically: One-sixty-fourth dwarf Puddy has a special license to booze it up on the normally dry campus of MU.
  • Our Elves Are Better:
    • The professor of Pre-Republic History sums it up very succinctly. Evidently they can um... make love for 15 hours straight. That's right, fifteen hours. This also has elements of a deconstruction, as the perfection of the elves takes a toll on their ability to enjoy life, and most end their lives by suicide.
    • Shown the downside of with Steff the half-elf, who considers her own lifelike drawings to be crude doodles and her boyfriend's skillful harpsichord playing to be terrible. This is besides Steff's many crippling psychological problems, many of which have to do with her feeling inadequate compared to her elven relatives.
    • Subverted in the spinoff More Tales of MU, when the main character and his elven boyfriend Iason visit Treehome, the place where the elven "middlings" (essentially the elven equivalents of twenty somethings) live. Every single middling is a creep and/or violent pervert (like the elven woman who seduces Jamie, then tries to castrate him to spite Iason). There's also the fact that every single elf, upon learning that Jamie has put on a magical bracelet that lets Iason turn him into a stag any time he wants to, up to and including Jamie's own elven grandfather, have stopped treating Jamie like a separate being and instead seem to view him as a sort of extension of Iason. Truly, in the MUniverse, Our Elves are More Fucked Up.
    • Also possibly deconstructed with the revelation that Elves don't even need to breathe, and do so only rarely; this is played for as much sheer creepiness factor as possible.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Ghouls are vicious undead predators who arise "when a waterlogged corpse is exposed to the light of the new moon", but unlike skeletons or zombies they can breed and form colonies. Other than that they fit the model of zombie ghouls.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Giants are a mixture of the Dungeons & Dragons version and various mythological influences, as most MU races are. They're apparently primordial beings who warred with the forces of chaos, the gods, and the dragons in some combination before leaving the world for another plane, possibly by climbing a stalk or a trunk. Only one of them has been seen in the main story, a badly undersized storm giant named Pala (Icelandic for "small") who "commutes" to Magisterius University.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Gnomes are the same as halflings in older Dungeons & Dragons and Tolkien's Hobbits, but with typical MU-twists. The natural stealth associated with halflings and gnomes works like a combined Perception Filter and Weirdness Censor, and it gets stronger the more of them are standing in one place. A gnomish professor has to remind her class she's there and is completely ignored by the administration. In a setting where Word of God is that technology doesn't work, they get away with clocks and pianos, but nobody notices. The gnomes themselves don't appear to have noticed they have this power.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: "Goblinoids", an order of humanoids that aren't mammalian or reptile. They aren't Always Chaotic Evil, but that hasn't stopped them from occupying the "adventurer fodder" role in times past. They often exhibit an extremely patriarchal culture while their method of reproduction can put just about anybody off the idea of kids forever.
    • Goblins are short marsh-dwellers who worship/live in fear of sleeping Eldritch Abominations. Before becoming civilized by the human empire, they favored direct forms of problem solving, like throwing people into bogs or biting them to death.
    • Kobolds resemble goblins, but with red skin instead of green. They live in mines beneath mountains and fight dwarves for territory while trying to protect their wealth from human looters. Their society is rigid and more stratified than goblins.
    • Hobgoblins follow the "larger, stronger goblin" stereotype, but instead of being wicked and cruel they're slow and methodical, being seen by humans as reliable workers.
      • In the goblins' own language 'Hobgoblin' roughly translates as 'House-boy'. Hobgoblins make up the majority of the labor pool in goblin society, until the humans came and started mucking things up, filling the poor impressionable hobgoblins' heads with such fantastic notions as being paid for their work.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Mermaids can change at will between three forms: standard lady-half/fishie-half mermaid, an intermediate form with a distinctly humanoid lower half covered in scales, and fully human-like. They can also assume a sort of fighting form by growing scale-armor all over their bodies and claws on their hands. It's implied they can also change their faces to a...less appealing form. They're also fond of eating people; their mythology says that their goddess inspired the land-dwellers to build ships for the express purpose of providing them with food. While it's possible for them to mate with humans, they normally reproduce by spawning.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: A nymph's divine beauty is meant to be seen, and the act of wearing clothes in public, denying others the pleasure of seeing (and holding) such beauty, is indecent by nymph standards. Mack learns about this upon walking in on Amaranth trying on a bathrobe in her own room.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Orcs have not been seen so far, perhaps because they're not native to the continent on which the story takes place, but they form part of the cultural backdrop. "Going orcshit" is a common expression, and a history class revealed that orcs occupied the role of Hessian mercenaries in the equivalent of the American Revolution: mooks for hire with a vicious rep. The same class revealed their racial Berserk Button: attacking orc women and children. Callahan is also part orc.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Trolls are said to have been made by the gods out of leftovers, as they come in many different heights, limb arrangements, and numbers of heads.

    P - T 
  • People Puppets: One of Embries' many talents.
  • Perception Filter: This is implied to be a natural ability of gnomes.
  • Petting Zoo People: Maliko, Suzi, and Kai are anthropomorphized cats, unlike Sooni.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: This forms an ongoing argument between Feejee the mermaid, who spends a lot of time more fish than human and sees breasts as entirely non-sexual, and her human boyfriend Rick, who doesn't want to be dating the Innocent Fanservice Girl.
  • Polyamory: Extremely common among main characters. It is mentioned that this kind relationship is significantly more common among non humans - though while the story seems to confirm this, the source is of questionable credibility.
  • Porn with Plot: Roughly half of the first "year" of the story was either pure sex or sexually-themed material. The sexual content has drastically decreased in the second "year" but still comes up every now and then.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Healing magic, Mack's invulnerability - and how.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Of the three nekos, Maliko is by far the most obvious in her kissing up to Sooni, always agreeing with and flattering her.
  • Property of Love: Ogres have a strict chain of people-ownership, romantic and otherwise, which leads to Victor treating Mackenzie like a simple object because she's too far down the chain of sexual dominance.
  • Punny Name:
    • A mermaid named Feejee.Reference: 
    • A swan princess named Leda.Reference: 
    • A transgender half-elf named Steff Johnson.
    • The chapter titles and subtitles often go this route.
  • Rage Against the Author: Lily is very angry about having been neglected by her creator for seven years. She also seems to blame Mack for this, implying that this stagnation is directly tied to her...which it is, since Tales of MU has supplanted Star Harbor Nights as Alex Erin's primary work.
    I didn’t ask to be in this story...I didn’t ask to be in any story, but she wrote me anyway, and that comes with responsibilities!
  • Rape as Drama: Multiple occurrences, played with frightening realism.
  • Really 700 Years Old: It's a D&D-influenced fantasy world, immortal beings abound.
  • Retired Badass:
    • It's hinted early on that Mackenzie's grandmother might have once been a famous demon-slaying paladin. Mackenzie, of course, has never heard of any of it and finds the whole thing ridiculous, even as the evidence continues to mount, until it's finally confirmed in Y1-422.
    • Coach Jillian "Jilly" Callahan has retired from being a mercenary and a successful dragon-slayer to teaching in the combat-athletics department of MU, but has not in any way retired from being Badass.
      • Callahan gets even more ridiculous when you find out more of her past. She is also known as Gillian Gottmörder and she received an imperial pardon for three counts of attempted deicide (one of which succeeded, but they don't have a law to cover that), two counts of genocide, five counts of high treason against the Imperial Republic (which normally merits summary execution), and her various "petty" murders and property destructions. She also apparently stopped at least two attempts by the giants to retake the world. She has also killed seven greater dragons. Possibly eight. One loses track.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Played with. While not true robots, golems tend to be the magical equivalent, complete with all the associated Magical Computer tropes.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: It's briefly suggested that Sooni, the local representative of the story's Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Japan, has this as part of her cultural psyche.
  • RPG Mechanics Verse: Done very subtly, but played completely straight and not for laughs. Specifically, it's a Tabletop RPG Mechanics Verse, with gods and other extremely powerful entities in the role of Game Master. For example, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies is a known and well-understood phenomenon in adventuring circles, and No Fair Cheating is a codified fundamental principle of magic, on par with the Laws of Thermodynamics.
  • Rules Lawyering: Hazel does this to justify her wargaming strategy and gets called on it.
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum: Want to scientifically analyse the world of Tales Of MU? "Well, this is where a lot of the unique undead, cursed artifacts, and tainted lands come from. This is how magical abominations are created." Plus, space isn't always orthogonal: distances can shift between points, and some areas are bigger inside than when measured without. The faery realm exists alongside the mundane world, the realm of giants exists "above" it, and there are gods aplenty. Elves don't need to breathe. And the world itself may be sitting in a magical pocket universe rather than orbiting a star...
  • Science Is Wrong — The conflict of science vs. fantasy in the MUniverse is first shown when Amaranth brings Mack to a Mechan gathering in the first year, and is exhaustively discussed/argued between Mack and someone from a science-based plane in the second-year OT story "Magisterius University and the Methods of Obstinancy".
  • Screw Yourself: Acantha makes out with her mockboxed replica of herself in Y2-166.
  • Semantic Superpower: Fairy gifts:
    • One character is blessed with the gift of "is always the strongest person in the room". When a dragon enters the same room as her, things start going out of hand.
    • Another character has the gift "divine laughter", a sparkling laughter which is appreciated by everyone except demonbloods, who react unfavorably to the "divine" part.
  • Set Swords to Stun: Justified in Callahan's classes, as the roster would be drastically reduced after each class if they used their real weapons instead of the nonlethal "mocked" versions they use.
  • Sexiled: Mack and her various partners use a sock on the doorknob. Her roommate Two is very rule-oriented, and doesn't mind as long as they remember to take the sock down afterward. Amaranth (who normally doesn't wear clothes at all) recently bought an entire pack of socks for the purpose of hanging on the doorknob... or so she claims.
  • Sex Is Violence: The aforementioned fight between Mack and Sooni:
    Stop having orgasms while I'm defeating you!
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Invoked when, after spending the night with Ian, Mackenzie calls Law Agent Arthur Kent, expecting to get his "echo trap" (i.e., answering machine). When Kent answers and asks Mack whether she's aware that she's naked, her response is that she borrowed her girlfriend's shirt (said girlfriend being Amaranth).
    Kent: You're witty for five in the morning. I don't do witty before six.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Mack even protests that the nymph she's having sex with isn't her girlfriend, she's her owner. Apparently that's better...somehow. This does set the stage for someone else to become her acknowledged girlfriend once she's less terrified of the term.
  • Shipper on Deck: Glory is one for Mack and Nicki. This also becomes a Stealth Pun, as the exploration of this particular hookup happens on an airship.
  • Slice of Life: The story is Mackenzie's college life in first-person.
  • Sliding Scale of Divine Intervention:
    • Lord Khersis and Mother Khaele are strongly type 4.note 
    • Khersians also believe in the Great Star Drake, a type 2note .
    • The Elven Gods are either type 3note  or 1Anote , depending on who you talk to.
  • Smug Snake: Vice-Chancellor Embries, nearly literally.
  • Some Call Me Tim: Dee.
    "I am Delia Daella d'Wyr, daughter of Daella Degra d'Wyr, daughter of Degra Daura d'Wyr..." and on, through a whole score of generations of matriarchs. She concluded with, "Those who style themselves as my friends call me Dee."
  • Soul Jar: A rare non-sinister variety: if a nymph is killed, she reappears in the field she's bound to. To truly kill her would require destroying her field first.
  • Spectral Weapon Copy: The mockbox in Coach Callahan's classes produces a magical copy of whatever's placed inside it; this is used to create duplicates of weapons that can deal blows and cause pain but not actually injure the students.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Subverted in Y1-473, when Mack stops Puddy from grabbing her arm simply by telling her that she'll start screaming.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Pala looks like this, but because of her awkwardness comes off as a Huge Schoolgirl as well. She is, however, a storm giant, if a small one.
  • Stealth Pun: These show up every now and then.
    • One was a comment from Hazel in Y2-82 about her wargaming strategy:
      Mack: Wait, your strategy is to hide most of your army and just move them around until your opponent gives up?
      Hazel: It’s an acceptable military strategy! It’s called ‘going ape’, I think.
    • In one story, we hear that law enforcement declared the victim of a certain murder to be a person of Non-Primary Concern.
  • Strawman Political: Generally averted. Plenty of characters with different viewpoints on any number of topics are portrayed quite realistically:
    • Mackenzie, a sheltered girl who spent most of her life living with a very parochial Knight Templar grandmother, gets the "fun" of being both a victim of discrimination and bigotry and occasionally making ignorant remarks that offend and horrify her friends. That being said, she will allow herself to be proven wrong, unlike your garden-variety bigot.
    • Played straighter in a non-canon filler story by a guest author, with anthropology students treated as patronizing jackasses who need killin' because they're just so darn annoying that even all-loving pacifists will countenance their murder.
    • Played comedically straight by the newspaper editor and the unnamed feminist who objected to a bake sale by the school's equivalent of a Gay/Straight Alliance.
  • Stripperiffic: Grace is introduced to Mack and the audience wearing only a set of elaborately-tied (and very sheer) scarves that leaves nothing to the imagination.
  • Stupid Good: Early on, Maliko seems to assume this about Mack.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: While some magic "just works", such as divine healing, much of the mechanics of magic are explained, in excruciating detail. For example: enchantment works somewhat differently for each caster, but the methods of figuring out those variations is highly formalized. Though if you poke too hard at how the universe works, it will poke back.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: The side of Mackenzie that some fans have taken to calling Kenzie is two details off from being a textbook example of this. Kenzie is triggered by hunger instead of desperation in battle, and the closest thing to a superpower Kenzie has over normal Mack is being willing to hurt people that are trying to kill her.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    • Mack does not want to worship at Sooni's feet...or kiss her ass...or lick her pussy while being called filth...
    • A simultaneous use and inversion: For the first year and part of the second, whenever anyone asked about her mother's death, all Mack would say is "It wasn't my fault." Not very specific, but no one called her on how suspicious that sounded...until the ridiculous owl-turtle thing did so, which got her wondering about how her mother really did die.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: At then end of Y2-85, Two gives a two-star review to the shop whose owner wanted Mack for Mercy because it was very clean.
  • Taken for Granite: A gorgon is among the Harlowe Hall residents. Though normally a background character, she got a spotlight story where she described her culture. She has the traditional Medusa gaze, which is normally restrained by a shimmery membrane over her eyes. The effect wears off, though one seeing her own uncovered eyes in a mirror could lead to an endless cycle of petrifying and thawing.
  • Take That: Sums up approximately 68% of the Q&A responses quite accurately.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Subverted. Multiple paragraphs are often devoted to Mack's thoughts and observations to what's going on around her, but she is constantly being called out by those around her for "spacing out" when she does this.
  • Talking to the Dead: Melanie's letter to Samuel in the final chapter of the OT story about the razing of MU.
  • Tempting Fate/What Could Possibly Go Wrong? — Lampshaded in "Brimstone?".
  • Theme Twin Naming: Lara and Sara Leighton.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Female human students are customarily addressed as "Ms. (Last Name)", while other races are referred to as "Miss (Given Name)", as modern-style surnames are mostly used by humans. Half-human Mackenzie eventually insists on being addressed as "Ms. Mackenzie".
  • This Is Reality: For example, in the "Mask" chapter.
  • Time Dissonance: Averted for long-lived races, used for the Fragile Speedster sylphs. Mariel makes a reference to "that time of the week", and perceives everyone else as moving at a snail's pace.
  • To Serve Man: Demons are required to feed on humans, either something physical or intangible, depending on the individual. Even ones who feed on blood apparently find human flesh tasty, as do other races such as ogres and mermaids...why did you think they were so attracted to sailors?. With members of these races integrated at a human university, it can lead to culture clash.
  • Transgender: The culture of the subterranean elves features an "ornamental" third gender of MtFs called "halfkind," who undergo a magical transformation that enhances both breasts and male organs, and who serve mostly as a status symbol for their families. Dee eventually gives Steff the halfkind potion to try to help her with some of her issues.
  • Translation Convention:
    • Though it's never made explicit in the narrative, Word of God has it that Tales of MU is "translated" from Pax, the fictional language Mackenzie speaks.
    • More Tales of MU also translates elvish into English, since that narrator is bilingual.
    • The rotating viewpoint side stories tend to translate all dialogue into English, regardless of what language is actually being spoken.
  • Transparent Closet: Mack, at first.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Owl-Turtle Thing to Mack in the second year.
  • Troll Bridge: Played entirely straight; it's in The Campus Labyrinth. The troll doesn't let anyone pass unless they can exact change.
    Most folks who isn't shapeshifters just change clothes with each other.
  • Twin Maker: The mockboxes used in Callahan's fighting classes not only create spectral duplicates of weapons but of people. The mocked versions think and behave exactly like the original but their "lifespan" only lasts as long as the box is active.

    U - Z 
  • Uncanny Valley:invoked
    • Elves can induce this in others, especially with the whole "not needing to breathe" thing. When Mack and Glory have their first night together, Mack notes how Glory moves through a bed that's nothing but stacked pillows like she's walking through water, and describes the way elves walk as "so unnaturally fluid, so unearthly graceful."
    • Mack's descriptions in Y1-488 indicate that Chancellor Embries can cause this, on account of his being a dragon shapeshifted to human form.
  • The Unpronounceable:
    • Lizardwoman "Hissy" has a real name that's a combination of hisses and rattles.
    • The nymphs are identified by sensory impressions of sun and wind; the pair who elect to go to college name themselves after their fields, becoming Amaranth and Barley.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • The story is told from Mack's first-person perspective, and she's often clearly less than honest with herself, let alone the reader. Subjectivity creeps in even when it's not obvious.
    • Barley telling her version of her most evil moment takes a hard left turn at "unreliable" and heads straight on into Delusionalville. What makes this example even more interesting is that she told it to a character who is a mind-reader; therefore Barley clearly believes her version of the story.
    • Any time Puddy opens her mouth.
    • The Q&A session, in which the author invited readers to post questions for certain characters, who then answered them, takes this trope to extremes. Some characters are more unreliable than others, of course...
  • Unusual Euphemism: Played with. Actual swearing is rendered in the familiar English, but local variants exist to replace such things as "gee" and "gosh."
  • The Verse: The "MUniverse" is the setting of Tales of MU and its spin-off and side stories. Part of a multiverse, as artifacts lost in a teleport mishap showed up in the author's other stories.
  • Weapons Kitchen Sink: Comes into play in Callahan's class, Mixed Melee, in which the main character, variously armed with a dagger, a pitchfork, and a quarterstaff, has to spar against Gloria, a Knight Templar with a sword. The lack of parity is at times remarked upon as well.
  • Webcomic Time: Tales of MU has been going since June of 2007. The story is now at some point in the early part of the second year of Mackenzie's college term.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A plot point that Mackenzie occasionally has to deal with, especially when she's trapped in the Labyrinth and runs across the adventuring party, including a priestess of the goddess of peace and is shot in the shoulder. The resulting argument among the party isn't whether they should save Mack, but whether they should kill her now or let her bleed to death after they abandon her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Dee's pretty good at this when necessary, but has also been on the receiving end.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Immortality coupled with their physical perfection takes a toll on elven psyches, and suicide is a common escape. Many elves have spoken at their own funerals, and "taking elven leave" is a dwarf euphemism for suicide.
  • Wicked Cultured: Vice-Chancellor Embries has a gloriously-decorated office and snazzy attire, a silver tongue, and a tea set of which he is very fond. He is also an ancient dragon with a taste for human flesh.
  • Wizarding School: One of the best in the country!
  • Wutai: The island nation of Youkan is a direct equivalent of Feudal Japan, but modernized in the same way that the main setting is, including an equivalent of anime that Sooni is very fond of.
  • Yaoi Fangirl: Missy, one of the characters in More Tales of MU is very clearly one of these. What makes it funny is that previously, the gay sex itself spawned a conversation in the comments concerning the existence of such fangirls.
  • You Keep Telling Yourself That: Mack does this a lot to Puddy in Y1-472 and 473, trying to make Puddy see that she's deluded herself about her importance in Mack's life. It doesn't work.
  • You Mean Xmas: Khersentide, a winter solstice feast that celebrates important events in the life of Lord Khersis and involves ornaments and presents.
  • You No Take Candle: A Running Gag in the series is that the nekoyokai Suzi is only marginally fluent in Pax, and usually ends up speaking in LOLcat phrases. When she speaks her own language...she's a self-centered bitch who considers anyone unable or unwilling to speak her own language to be barbarians. Of course.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo:
    • Played for Blue and Orange Morality, most notably with nymphs, who have been granted their humanoid bodies as a gift to those who created them from the great Mother Khaele. What this means is that they must expose themselves at all times, and wearing clothing is their taboo. They also are given these bodies (as opposed to their "other body," that is, the field that is also a physical part of them) to engage in frequent sexual activity with others, which causes both their field and humanoid form to become healthier and sustained.
    • Implying that an elf enjoys heterosexual intercourse is apparently a dire insult.
    • Played with regarding Dee's (dark) elf culture as well, where the heavily-matriarchal society in which she was raised gives Dee some less-than-humanizing views of men, resulting in some Deliberate Values Dissonance when she talks with surface-dwellers about their "fathers," a concept with significantly diminished importance in her society.