Flavor Text

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Players that don't read flavor text aren't too bright, sorta smell, and dress funny. But let's just keep this between us, okay? They can get kind of violent.
Double Header, Magic: The Gathering, in the Flavor Text

Flavor text is any text in a game that is completely unrelated to actual rules or gameplay, and is included merely for effect. Common in almost all Collectible Card Games, as well as Role-Playing Game rulebooks; but it is not limited to Tabletop Games, and also occurs in Video Games. For instance, the description of a Healing Potion in an RPG can include Flavor Text if it digresses beyond what the item actually does when a party member quaffs it. In RPGs, flavor text is often known as "fluff", as opposed to the "crunch" of the actual rules.

Often, flavor text includes quotes, either from real-world sources (such as in Magic: The Gathering core sets), attributed to characters in the game, or from a Fictional Document. It may also include narratives, poems, sayings, or jokes.

Flavor Text is regularly found in Monster Compendia, Pamphlet Shelves and inventory items, they sometimes take the form of an Encyclopedia Exposita. See also Expanded Universe, where the flavor text forms entire works, and Day Old Legend, where the flavor text contradicts the fact that the item was recently made.


Examples:

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     Collectible Card Games  

  • Magic: The Gathering has a lot of Flavor Text, usually tied to each set's story. A number of cards stand out for their flavor text because it's unusually cool (e.g. Dark Confidant: "Greatness, at any cost") or funny (e.g. Canyon Minotaur); flavor texts are also used to link together a series of cards like the cycle of Temples in the Theros set, or as part of some meta-joke (e.g. Deep Analysis vs. Masticore, Lotus Petal vs. Black Lotus).
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, flavor text appears only on Normal Monster cards, which are virtually non-existent in competitive play, so the lore is rarely cared about and mostly forgotten.
  • The Naruto CCG has flavor text below the illustration for each card, oftentimes a quote from the show. Hilariously, one of Kurenai's cards has text that is talking about Sasuke being the only surviving member of the Uchiha clan, potentially misleading some to think that she's part of the clan.
  • Appears at times in Duel Masters. Partway through the game's English release, Wizards of the Coast began to change some of the cards' text to match the Gag Dub nature of the show.
  • Pokémon cards contain Pokédex text generally taken from the most recent games. Averted during the E-reader and EX-sets from the second and third generations (the text instead appears on your GBA when you scan the card's bottom dot code into the E-reader).
  • Every card in the Babylon 5 CCG had flavour text, containing either an in-universe quote from the series, information from official guides and associated info texts, or (in some rare Alternate Universe cards) postulations on how things could have gone different.
  • Star Wars Customizable Card Game had flavor text, called "lore" on every card. Unlike most other card games, the lore often contained bolded keywords that other cards could play off of. For example, characters may be a bounty hunter or spy, and other cards would specifically target characters that were bounty hunters or spies. Some vehicles were enclosed while unmarked others left their pilots in the open. This was done to avoid having to create new icons for every keyword, as with "warrior" or "pilot" (there were enough icons already), and unlike many card games, the flavor text and the game text were not in the same text box, but in separate text boxes of a (generally) standardized size. Placing keywords in the lore box left more room for game text.
  • Twilight Sparkle's Secret Shipfic Folder has flavor text that almost universally is derived from one of Twilight's supposed fics. The exceptions are either from her own diary, or Cheerilee desperately trying to get out of a shipping card game.

     Tabletop Games  
  • The rulebook of each Dominion set begins with a drily humorous description of the situation that is thematically represented in the new cards. For example, the Dominion: Dark Ages flavor text begins:
    Times have been hard. To save on money, you've moved out of your old castle, and into a luxurious ravine. You didn't like that castle anyway; it was always getting looted, and never at a reasonable hour....
  • In Cosmic Encounter each alien card has both crunch (what the alien's power actually does in game terms) and fluff (usually a statement about the history or philosophy of each race that attempts to explain either why or how it breaks the rules in that particular way).
  • In Grave Robbers from Outer Space many cards have flavor text, often a Lampshade Hanging of the trope the card is based on ("Why does the king even trust this guy" on an Evil Vizier) or at least a Pun about it. ("What's a crossbow? Like a regular bow, but angrier.")
  • James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game (formerly known as Before I Kill You Mr. Bond) features color text on every card, but the Taunt cards are particularly notable. For game purposes, only the lettered type of each card matters, but each Taunt card features a different example of Bond Villain Stupidity, such as: "Before I kill you, Mister Spy... I shall force you to draft a confession of your own incompetence using that ordinary-looking pen."

     Video Games  
  • MetalGear consists of flavor text for the most part. Most games can be finished in under two hours, but feature far longer mandatory and optional dialogues on real-life politics, history, science and culture. The gameplay-sections basically do serve the purpose of connecting all the pieces of flavor text.
  • Borderlands and Borderlands2 have multiple items with red flavor text, which are usually an indicator that the item is some of the game's better loot. All items with flavor text also have at least one unique effect or property, as well. For example, a sniper rifle with "I can see my house from here!" means that rifle has a particularly long-ranged scope. How long-ranged? Most sniper rifles have a zoom of between 4x and 6x zoom. "I can see my house from here!" has a zoom of 11x.
  • Brave Frontier has Flavor Text for every unit, sphere, and item in the game, and provides lore outside of the main Quest storyline for every unit (even Burny and friends).
  • For every Pokémon a player captures in the wild, their Pokédex adds one or two sentences of in-universe description for their species. Later games add such details as the creature's footprint (if applicable), a Sound Test ability to play the creature's vocal cry, a size/weight comparison to the player character, and a comparison of form or gender differences between the species's different members (where applicable). The species's weight actually does have some gameplay consequences, but those are very few and far between.

    Additionally, since Generation IV, each Pokemon's status screen includes text documenting when and where it was caught, and a one-sentence remark about the individual creature's personality. The line about personality is actually a hint as to that particular Pokemon's hidden IV scores, but you'd never know that without doing some research, and you'd never care unless you were playing competitively.
  • In Star Ocean: The Second Story, there are a huge number of items that are raw materials for crafting and items that can be crafted. Many of them contain flavor text not related to what the object does, such as describing the texture or taste of food items.
  • The Homeworld series has in-universe descriptions for all of its units in the manual of the game.
  • Vindictus has flavor text for all items. Oddly, it often describes effects that ought to have an effect on the gameplay but don't, notably curses.
  • Disgaea has humorous Flavor Text for its item and skill descriptions, which also tends to be laden with shout-outs.
  • MOTHER 3: The in-game Battle Memory has flavor text descriptions of each enemy you've met.
  • Paper Mario: Using the Tattle ability gets you the statistics of enemies, as well as some off-the-cuff remarks by the tattler (Goombario or Goombella).
  • In Super Paper Mario Tippi handles this role as well, coming off as a bit snarky after giving the description. After she and Blumiere (A.K.A Count Bleck) possibly sacrifice themselves to create yet another set of Pure Hearts, you can get a replacement: Tiptron. She will make all the exact same tattles as Tippi on enemies, being a robotic counterpart. Sound a bit creepy? It's expressed in game that Tiptron is programmed to think like Tippi and even call herself that, but is smart enough to realize she isn't the real deal.
  • All of the items in Recettear have humorous descriptions, in keeping with the Woolseyised script.
  • In NetHack the "tell what a symbol represents" command will optionally give a quote from a real life source.
  • Some of the Team Fortress 2 unlockable weapons and hats have flavor text in their description. Japanese-themed items have haikus. The Description Tag item also lets players write their own flavor text to apply to their weapons and headgear.
  • The player character's library bookshelf in Legend of Mana includes not only their Monster Compendium, but encyclopedias discussing gameworld locations, artifacts, weapon types and raw materials.
  • The Bestiary of Final Fantasy XII provides a lot of flavor text, along with a lot of backstory, for everything from the land of Ivalice to the Bazaar to the Espers.
  • Etrian Odyssey and its sequels have a description for each monster and item.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic 3 has a small text describing the acquisition of a new artefact, Heroes Of Might And Magic V and 6 has description of every unit in the game.
  • In the X-Universe series, just about everything in the entire game has its own little tale to tell. Sometimes ships give you historical details, sometimes weapons tell you of their designers' money problems, and of course you get political details by looking at the races' entries in the in-game encyclopedia.
  • This is one of the primary storytelling mechanics in Dark Souls. Every item has some sort of flavor text revealing key information about the game's world and lore.
  • Parasite Eve 2 has an enormous amount of flavor text when you examine every part of the environment—multiple times! The protagonist Aya reveals quite a lot of her own inner thoughts and the backstory when you do this. Visually, the environments are hyper-detailed and gorgeous, especially for the time in which this game was made. The designer cared about the level design.
  • In the Halo series, the multiplayer modes from Halo 3 onward feature numerous customizable armor variants, with associated flavor text descriptions detailing their place of manufacture and intended specialized role - information that has no effect on their gameplay effectiveness. Halo 5: Guardians also has flavor text for all its REQ weapon variants, several of which provide deeper insight into the universe.
  • In addition to descriptions of inventory items, right-clicking on certain parts of the environment in Penumbra will give brief descriptions that (excepting hints) have little to do with their use in the game.
  • Used in the Facebook game MouseHunt for everything, ranging from mice to collectable items.
  • The Silent Hill series features this, with the disturbing environments lending themselves to very terrifying, or disturbing descriptions. A few of the protagonists develop a little, personality-wise, through this, but Heather from Silent Hill 3 really takes the cake. She has a snarky personality as it is, being a 17-year-old girl. The story's events further help shape the insight she provides, and she even shows this attitude in the item descriptions.
  • Appears throughout Eternal Darkness, with perhaps the best example being the titular Tome of Eternal Darkness: "Cradled in what appears to be a leathery hand lies a mysterious book. It is bound in human skin and intricately decorated with shrunken bones. It beckons and yearns to be possesed."
  • Dawn of War 2 had these for its wargear. Due to a few indicating they'd belonged to other chapters, the "Blood Magpies" meme was born, where the Blood Ravens are depicted as unrepentant kleptomaniacs that live only to steal weapons and vehicles from their allies and enemies.
  • In Fable III once again the flavour texts are pretty hilarious. But in one of the quests you encounter some tabletop game players, and while the DM says writing the flavour texts are one of his favourite bits one of the players retorts that no-one reads them.
  • In Path of Exile, every single thing that's marked at a Unique (items, abilities, etc.) and Divination Card have a flavor text attributing to it. Some of the texts give insight on lore, while other accentuate the main features of the subject. Many supported-made unique items created their own unique flavor texts, such as Notch's item referencing his own work and words dedicated to a deceased loved one.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles has the Collectopaedia in which you can register items scattered throughout the gameworld. With how weird some of the collectible names are, this is the only hint as to what a lot of them even are in the first place. This feature returns in Xenoblade Chronicles X along with the new Enemy Index which contains a short bio for each type of enemy giving some insight into the life-cycle of many of Mira's indigenous species and the culture of some of the alien races.
  • The Sims series has ample examples of Flavor Text; because most items in Buy mode are self-explanatory, the text is usually something silly. The Sims 1 has an "Oval Glass Sconce" whose text reads "It's Oval! It's Glass! It's a Sconce!!!" and a huge story about ancient Sim City llama worship on llama topiaries.
    • The Sims Medieval follows the tradition with your inventory and descriptions of food and drink you can create. Like "Wine: There are two kinds of wine, red and white. This is neither" and "Weak Health Salve: Hey! Just because I'm weak doesn't mean I'm not useful!" Also the delightful Lampshade Hanging of "Boiled Goo: Boiled residue from that attack on the Reception Hall. Eating this is a great idea!"
  • Most Kirby games show a short blurb describing Kirby's current Copy Ability when the game is paused. More recent entries also give a description of each boss if you pause while fighting them, often providing some interesting plot details.

     Other  

  • An Order of the Stick strip in Dragon featured a character who claimed that ignoring flavor text was the key to true peace. He didn't do anything that wasn't required by the rules; so since dirt didn't have any mechanical effect he didn't bathe, since there were no rules specifying that characters got sleepy, he only slept when hit by a magical effect (if he'd been a magic user, he'd also have done so when he wanted to recharge his spells), and he ate a revolting gruel once every two weeks, because the rules said that if he didn't he'd starve but didn't specify any other effects of not eating.
  • Log Horizon introduced an interesting spin to this trope. Originally, flavor text in Elder Tales items were strictly decorative with no effects on normal gameplay but when the game became reality:
    • Raid background material became essential data to identify attacks against Eastal nations, which adventurers hadn't realized would activate while they learned how to adapt to their new reality.
    • People of the Land also took on personalities. One Lander, noted only in flavor text, is the Sage of Miral Lake, who invited Shiroe to discuss the Apocalypse, giving Shiroe vital information about magic, death and dying, and world processes. Shiroe describes his encounter by using this term, verbatim.
    • All items gradually took on attributes as described by their flavor text which created havoc in Akihabara in volume 6 after a City Guard came into possession of a cursed sword that was a rare drop from a raid boss. The sword's curse as mentioned in its flavor text became real, possessing the City Guard and causing him to begin a killing spree in Akihabara which could not be stopped by conventional means.

Alternative Title(s): Flavour Text

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