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The RPG Cliches Game
Back in the day (1998 or thereabouts — after Final Fantasy VII and the deluge of copycats it inspired, but before Final Fantasy VIII) the cult video game review site the GIA (Gaming Intelligence Agency) published its classic "RPG cliches game", basically a Drinking Game with the console RPG tropes of the time. It is the predecessor of The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés and other, similar lists and was compiled by Fritz Fraundorf and numerous other contributors.

It is very much a product of its time (pay no attention to the shots against American RPGs, for example), in that it lists many tropes that are the result of technological limitations and no longer occur today. However, it was still influential enough to name some of the tropes on this very wiki, such as Fake King, Fetch Quest, Broken Bridge, and Trauma Inn.

A mirror of the original site can be found here, but the entire list is reproduced here for your edification:

Contains many spoilers, but they're all for older games. Buyer beware.

Note to Tropers — The list item text and order should not be changed. Adding links to tropes should be fine, as long as they don't change the displayed text. Please follow the established pattern of blue-shifting just the title when a complete match is found.
  • 7-11 Rule. Shops never close. At the least, they close very rarely and only during certain major events.
  • 8-bit plot. Oldest RPG plot. You are the legendary hero. Kill the Big Bad Demon. Most 8-bit RPGs (and some 16- and 32-bit ones) use this plot.
  • 16-bit plot. Standard RPG plot. The Corrupt Empire rules the world. You're the leader of a small rebel band. Overthrow the Empire. Usually the hero is a soldier for the Empire at the start of the game (as in Suikoden, Vandal Hearts, or Final Fantasy VI), but soon realizes that the Empire is evil and joins the fight against them. General standard for RPG plots.
  • 32-bit plot. Similar to a 16-bit plot, but somehow religion is involved.
  • 64-bit plot. (Quest 64). See 8-bit plot.
  • American RPG plot. Similar to 8-bit plots, with personality-less characters, but gothic, medieval, or Sci-Fi themes are involved.
  • 99. Maximum number of units of any item of type you can carry, often leading to peculiar situations in which you could carry 99 Potions and 99 Hi-Potions, but not 100 Potions and 0 Hi-Potions.
  • 1000 years. Frequently-occuring date in RPGs. The evil demon (or demons) shows up every 1000 years, or was sealed by the Ancients for 1000 years. Why can't they just kill them off permanently?
  • Ability Loss. Whenever you fight a character before they join you, they have abilities that they can't use once they actually join, and more HP. (see young Rydia, Yuffie, Sonya in Suikoden, Katt in Breath of Fire II)
  • About Face. Characters can be walking right and instantly start walking left, without having to turn around (exception: Wild ARMs).
  • Accelerated Sleep. A full night's sleep never takes more than three seconds.
  • Airship. Every RPG has a flying vehicle, usually an airship or a flying dragon, which is obtained near the very end of the game. (Although in Final Fantasy games, you tend to get the airship sooner).
  • All-Terrain Party. The party is immune to extreme temperatures or other hostile conditions — fighting in a volcano or running through an ice field is no big deal.
  • Ambidextrous. All non-polygon characters are ambidextrous. This is to save time by just flipping the character's image for both the left and right facings. Exception: Dragon Quest
  • Amnesia rule. Whenever there is a good character with amnesia, they were always a bad guy before they got amnesia (see Shining Force II and Lufia)(exception: Final Fantasy V) . In addition, everybody with amnesia is cured at some point in the game.
  • Ancients, The. Ubiquitous race that vanished long ago (typically 1000 years ago), but left behind advanced technology. Usually, however, one of your party members is a female magic-user who is the last Ancient or a member of some other special race. (Rydia in Final Fantasy IV, Terra in Final Fantasy VI, Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, Eleni in Vandal Hearts, Asellus in SaGa Frontier, Lorenza in Last Scenario, etc.)
  • Ancient Flying Castle. Generic final dungeon.
  • And Behind Door #2... When in you are in a dungeon, and you come into a room with two doors, you generally want to go through the door further away from you, as it will have a switch or something that opens a passage behind the closer door.
  • Anonymous Hero Rule. Up until recently, the main character never had a name and you had to enter one. (You can still usually enter a name, but there's also a default one.)
  • Anorexia Rule. RPG characters never seem to need to eat. (aversions: Chrono Trigger, Wild ARMs and EarthBound.) This may explain Brave Fencer Musashi's appearance.
  • Army rule. No matter how big the armies of both sides are, the final battle always inevitably comes down to a few chosen heroes versus a Big Bad evil monster. Particularly ridiculous in Suikoden.
  • Asbestos Rule. If something is burning as part of the storyline, it will not burn down until whatever you have to do there is accomplished, yet it stays burning. (See the burning house in Final Fantasy VI or any burning town.)
  • Atheist rule. All priests and churches are up to no good. (The same with rich guys.) Religions that do not involve priests and/or churches are okay (Wild ARMs) and in fact are always on your side.
  • Backwards Day. Whenever somebody tells you not to do something or go someplace, you should.
  • Bad Guy Speech. Must include the following lines: "You're too late, fools", "You're just in time to witness my triumph", "You did well to get this far", "Your journey ends here", "I've been expecting you", "Now I will show you my power", and an offer to join them.
  • Bad Trip Rule. A hero with amnesia or mental problems always has bizarre and/or undecipherable flashbacks.
  • Basic Hygiene. The heroes never bathe or brush their teeth after sleeping at an inn or outside. Given that slumber is often mandatory to restore HP and MP in most RPG's, it's a wonder the inevitable foul stench of the heroes doesn't in and of itself drive their foes away. Lampshaded in the first Baldur's Gate, where some NPC's will complain that your party (literally) stinks.
  • Beat You To It. Whenever the heroes go to stop the bad guys from getting something/somewhere, the bad guys are always there when the heroes arrive at the end, but they apparently didn't have to go through the dungeon because all the puzzles weren't solved, switches not flipped, etc.
  • Big Bad. The bad guy behind the happenings.
  • Block Home. Towns are always completely safe — those wandering monsters just don't feel like coming inside for some reason.
  • Block Home Rule #2. Nobody cares if you just walk into their house and start talking to them as if they were family and not some strangers with weapons.
  • Blues Brothers Rule. The heroes are always right, no matter what they do. Whatever side the heroes are on is the good side.
  • Bonus Boss. Feature of many recent RPGs. Extremely tough boss that you don't have to beat to win the game and is just there as an added challenge. (Weapons, Elidibs, EarthDragon, ArchMage, Ragu Ragla, etc.) Usually, you get some really powerful item for winning that isn't at all useful because if you're tough enough to beat the boss, you don't need it. (Like the Sheriff Star in Wild ARMs or the Master Materia from the Weapons.)
  • Broken Bridge. Adjunct to a Fetch Quest. An obstacle, frequently a broken bridge, prevents you from progressing to the next town. Once you complete the Fetch Quest, however, the bridge is fixed. What a coincidence!
  • Broken Record. Townspeople will continually repeat the same message over and over, even if you revisit the town later in the game and the message doesn't make sense anymore. (Exceptions: Final Fantasy VII and Wild ARMs.)
  • Buddy rule. Whenever the hero has a more experienced buddy or leader, that character always dies, leaving the hero to fend for themself. (Suikoden [Odessa], Phantasy Star IV, etc.)
  • Building Ordinance. All enemy castles, towers, etc. are all designed as a maze, which must make it really hard for the people living in the castle.
  • Cait Sith's Rule. Whenever a character permanently leaves the party (due to death or otherwise), all their items and equipment are usually returned to you. So named for the absurdity of Cait Sith No. 2 (a Backup Twin) inheriting all of No. 1's experience, equipment, and Materia, even though No. 1 was crushed in the temple.
  • Call For Help. Annoying enemy move in which an enemy summons other members of its kind (see Phantasy Star games and Shining the Holy Ark). Can lead to frustratingly long battles.
  • Carrot On A Stick. Most shops have chests behind the counter. Frustrating as it is, there's no way to reach them.
  • Chancellor rule. Chancellors or other advisors to kings are always up to no good.
  • Charades Law. Whenever a character performs an action such as handing something to somebody else, they usually hold out their hand, but you do not actually see the item in question. For example, when Celes attacks Kefka on the Floating Continent in Final Fantasy VI, her sword cannot be seen. (Exception: The Zodiac Stones in Final Fantasy Tactics.)
  • Chicken In Every Pot. People in games keep stuff in weird places, i.e. valuable heal potions inside pots, powerful equipment just sitting around caves in chests, etc.
  • Clown Car rule. All buildings, towns, vehicles, etc. appear tiny on the overworld map in relation to your character, but when you are inside them, they are much bigger.
  • Clown Car rule #2. All vehicles have infinite seating capacity. Can all nine Final Fantasy VII characters really fit in the buggy?
  • Coliseum Rule. Every recent RPG has included some sort of coliseum or arena location where you fight battles. Usually an optional event that you can do to win prizes.
  • Collapsing Castle Law. Major enemy hideouts (especially the final dungeon) always collapse when you beat the dungeon, even though there is absolutely no physical force that would cause them to collapse.
  • Communist Choice. A situation in a game where you are presented with a choice, but if you choose one of the choices, you just have to choose again until you choose the choice the game wants you to choose.
  • Confidential Information. You can never see how much HP a boss has — spells that normally show enemy's HP don't work.
  • Confusion Rule. When characters are confused, they somehow start attacking themselves, which usually involves swinging their weapon normally and mysteriously taking damage.
  • Conservation of Death. In most RPGs, one major good character dies, but only one (Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, Wild ARMs, etc.). There are a few games (Suikoden, for example) where more than one major good character dies.
  • Countdown Rule. Whenever you have to escape from a place within a time limit, the location will blow up/collapse as soon as you leave, no matter how much time is left on your timer. (See the Mako No. 1 Reactor.)
  • Cowardice Rule. The major bad guys keep running away, leaving flunkies for you to fight, until you finally fight them near the end of the game.
  • Crono's rule. Except in Final Fantasy games, the main character never talks (unless you are choosing the response), although other characters react as if the character was talking.
  • Currency Name Convention. All currencies in games start with the letter G. (gil, gella, goth, gilder, gold, gald, etc.) (Exceptions: Luc/Lucre, Meseta, Macca, Fol, Zenny, Potch, Arn)
  • Cute Animal Character. Stereotypical cute and furry animal character. Usually worthless in battle and just intended for comedic relief, but is sometimes really smart (e.g. Hanpan). Sometimes speaks in weird words ("Kupo", "Wark", "Pukyu", etc.)
  • Daravon's Law. Bad translations are always funnier than the "jokes" in good translations.
  • Dead or Alive. Characters and enemies can have 1 out of 2500 HP and be perfectly healthy, but as soon as they drop to 0 HP, they suddenly die. (Exception: Kartia.)
  • Deja Vu Dungeon. Cliched plot device in which a dungeon you visit in the beginning of a game (generally in the game's opening sequence) later is the last dungeon or a dungeon near the end of the game (see Breath of Fire II, Super Mario RPG, Shining the Holy Ark, Shining Force 2, Suikoden, and others).
  • Dekar's Rule. If you don't actually see a character die (or are explicitly told so by somebody who did), they're not dead.
  • Desperation Rule. At certain parts of the storyline, characters that are about to be defeated (as part of the story) will suddenly use some ultimate attack (that they can't normally use) to obliterate the enemy. However, after the battle, you still can't use that ability until you get it later. See Ryu turning into the Kaiser Dragon in Breath of Fire III, Fei uses his Infinite Attack Level ability in Xenogears, etc.
  • Dibs Rule. In most cases, your party are the only ones trying to save the world. Nobody else ever beats you to it or even tries. Anybody that is trying to save the world on their own ends up either joining you, or dying.
  • Dilbert Rule. Mid-level officers of the bad guys' army are always incompetent and cowardly.
  • Double Agent Rule. Whenever there is a spy for the bad guys in your party, that spy always up turning good and staying in your party after being unmasked (see Cait Sith, Kira in Vandal Hearts, and Sanchez in Suikoden). Similar to the Party Compulsion Rule.
  • Disappearing Act #1. Any overpowered Crutch Character that joins your party soon leaves your party for any number of reasons (killed, is actually a bad guy, etc.)
  • Disappearing Act #2. Semi-important characters often vanish near the end of the game. Witness Jane's total disappearance in Wild ARMs after the Sweet Candy sinks, Palmer vanishing after the rocket launch in Final Fantasy VII, etc.
  • Dissection Rule. Every game has a boss with several body parts (head and arms, or several heads), each of which can be attacked and destroyed separately.
  • Distant Noise. Whenever you solve some sort of puzzle to open a door elsewhere in the dungeon, you get a message like "Heard a distant noise" or "That sounded like a door opening".
  • Dolly's Rule. All enemies of the same type are completely identical clones of each other (you never see a Slime that happens to be a bit stronger than your average Slime, for example). In addition, many enemy types closely resemble each other with just a variation in color.
  • Doubt Rule. In many games, the hero doubts whether to continue fighting or not. Any such scene is completely uninteresting, because we all know the hero will or there would be no game.
  • Dronejam. When annoying townspeople stand in front of a door or passage and won't move.
  • Duel Boss. Most games have a boss that you have to fight as just the main character.
  • Durability Rule. Unless it is being directly replaced by a better one, controllable vehicles are rarely lost — despite whatever happens to them, they are always repairable (see the comeback of the Sweet Candy in Wild ARMs, or the Yggdrasil in Xenogears). An exception, of course, are the buggy and Tiny Bronco in Final Fantasy VII, which just sorta vanish on Disc 2...
  • Eager Beaver Rule. In a 16-bit plot, towns and people join the rebellion without hesitation and have no fear of The Empire attacking/killing/destroying them. Exception: Narshe in Final Fantasy VI.
  • EarthBound Rule. All final bosses have some special super duper dimension background that you fight in, frequently out in space. So named because EarthBound has these in every battle.
  • Earthquake Rule. Most earthquakes spells generally involve the ground simply shaking, which somehow damages people.
  • Eccentric Inventor. Stereotypical character in most RPGs; usually builds your airship. See Momo, Cid IV, Lucca, Lexus, Emma, and many others.
  • Ectoplasm Rule. Despite having no physical shape, ghosts and other spirit-like creatures can be physically damaged (by swords, lightning bolts, etc.).
  • Emperor's Clothes. RPG armor is apparently invisible; none of the characters ever look like they're wearing armor, just their normal outfits.
  • Ending rule. All endings are considered poor by the majority of players.
  • Ending Song. Lately it has become fashionable for a song (with actual lyrics) to play during a game's credits. See Breath of Fire III, Xenogears, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Wild ARMs (the Japanese version), Tales of Destiny (Japanese version), Parasite Eve, etc.
  • Endless Fount of Items. Stores never run out of items.
  • Endurance rule. Both party members and bosses can survive an incredible amount of damage (shot repeatedly, hit with meteor, electrocuted by lightning, attacked with 15-hit sword techniques).
  • Energizer Rule. Lights (torches, campfires, lamps, whatever) never burn out or run out of electricity — unless, of course, the story requires them too.
  • Equal Opportunity Dialogue. Generally, townspeople never seem to notice the various weird critters (moogle, mutated onion, mole, fish merchant, phoenix, etc.) you have in your party and treat them as if they were just totally normal people.
  • Equipment Progression Rule. The farther you get away from the starting point of the game, the better equipment the stores have. This is true even when there is no reason for it. (Why does a podunk place like Icicle Inn have better weapons than Junon?)
  • Evil unleashed. Frequently in a Deja Vu Dungeon, the hero accidentally unleashes the big bad evil monster, which was sealed there (this can sometimes be an Unbeatable Boss). The hero is then sometimes exiled or punished for doing so, but in the end defeats the monster, and all ends well.
  • Evil Laugh. Most games have a bad guy with a weird laugh ("Mwah ha ha!", "Gyaa haa haa!" [Heidegger], "Khhk khhk khhk!" [Alhazad], etc.). Of course, none of them can beat Kefka.
  • Fake King Plot. Oldest RPG subplot known. A town has a fake king that is really a monster, while the real king is imprisoned. Sure signs you're dealing with a Fake King Plot are messages like "The king has been acting strange lately" or "The king hasn't been himself since ...". References to this plot have even been found in primitive cave paintings.
  • False Endgame. Transparent attempt to make you believe you are at the end of the game when you aren't. (Photosphere in Wild ARMs, battle with Zog in Breath of Fire I, Floating Continent in Final Fantasy VI, etc.) Believed by no one because there is still a lot of the map you haven't explored, items you don't have, etc.
  • Family Feud. One of the major bad guys is always related to one of the major good guys.
  • Feeling of Impending Doom. Save Points and healing items inexplicably congregate just before a dangerous area or boss.
  • Fetch Quest. Any subquest unimporant to the plot, in which you are sent to find a key/rescue a lost kid/save the workers in the mine/otherwise resolve a town's problem. Lufia 2 is filled with these.
  • Fire! Fire! All materials in RPGs are flammable, including metal, stone, and even ectoplasm. ("Mommy, look at the burning ghost!")
  • Fish Out of Water. In almost all games, you fight fish-like enemies when on land, and the fish just float in the air.
  • Flea Market Rule. All shops will buy any type of item, even if they have no use for it. Want to sell bazooka ammo to a fishing goods shop? No problem!
  • Flea Market Rule #2. All shops will buy any item, no matter how expensive it is. You can sell stuff for 100,000 gil in poor item shops in the slums of Midgar. Where do they get the money?
  • Flunky Boss. A boss that keeps summoning a group of flunky enemies; if you kill all of them, it will just resummon them. Thus, your strategy is always to kill all but one of them. (See Hidon in Final Fantasy VI, Mack in Super Mario RPG, etc.)
  • Free Inn Rule. When an inn is free for no reason, don't stay there. Somebody will steal your money during the night. Does not apply to inns that are free for a reason (i.e., you saved the town, main character's hometown, etc.).
  • Freud Rule. All characters' psychological problems can be cured by defeating the demon or monster in their mind.
  • Gas Shortage? There is usually one airship in the world. Despite the bad guys usually being a big empire/company that rules the world, they apparently can't build another airship. Perhaps this is due to a gas shortage... on the other hand, airships never seem to run out of gas.
  • Gates' Rule. In almost every game, you accumulate a huge amount of money by the end of the game, due to the fact there are usually no new shops in the last third or so, and you have nothing to spend your money on.
  • Glass Ceiling of Magic. Most (but not all) female characters are magic-users.
  • Gold Saucer Rule. The price of items does not seemed to be based on their actual value — one play of an arcade game at the Gold Saucer costs more than a stay at an inn.
  • Government Rule. There are no democratic governments — all large towns or cities have a monarch or dictator, and all small towns are communist.
  • Granstream Rule. Except when characters have their mouths opens, they never appear to have mouths.
  • Gratuitous Flashback Sequence. The name says it all. Especially annoying because these are usually extremely linear, change scenes frequently, and have no fighting. They also frequently appear in gray or yellowish tones.
  • Graveyard Rule. All graveyards have a secret passage revealed by pushing one of the tombstones.
  • Groundhog Day Rule. Townspeople remain in the same place, doing the same thing, the whole game.
  • Hands Off Rule. Nobody ever opens chests except you. In rare occasions, another important character will open them. (Like when Locke opens all the chests in the Phoenix Cave.)
  • Hardboiled Rule. Characters who have never had any previous combat experience have no problem killing anybody in their path.
  • Healing Items Rule. In an effort to avoid using the standard herbs, every series has its own type of healing items, which are usually pretty weird (Vitamins — Breath of Fire, Berries — Wild ARMs, and the weirdest of them all, Gummy candies — Tales Series, later explained in Vesperia to be flavoured medicine so kids would eat it)
  • Heat-Seeking Magic. Magic never misses. In addition, it will never harm people on your side (even if a huge tidal wave just swept across the battlefield, only the opposing side is damaged).
  • Hometown rule. The hero's hometown, or other town where you start, is usually destroyed, or the hero is somehow otherwise prevented from returning (being exiled in Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VII, or Wild ARMs, for example)
  • How Many People You Got In There? In the majority of RPGs, only the main character is seen walking around. When an important event appears, the other characters come out of the main character.
  • HP Imbalance. The enemies always have far more HP than your characters do, but inflict less damage than your party does, so it all comes out even. I guess they don't want your party's HP numbers to get too big...
  • Ingratitude Rule. Despite the fact that you're Saving the World, shops still make you buy items and inns charge the normal price.
  • Inn Inflation Rule. Each inn in the game gets progressively more expensive for no logical reason.
  • Inn rule. Whenever the characters go to the inn without you controlling them, something important happens during the night (such as a Nighttime Chat).
  • Inn Accommodation Rule. There is always vacancy at any inn. The inns apparently reserve a room for the party just in case they happen to show up.
  • Innocent Bystander. Townspeople that wander dungeons and caves (i.e., to give you hints and stuff) are never attacked by monsters. Only the heroes have to fight them.
  • Internic Rule. Apparently all characters own the exclusive rights to their name, because no two people ever have the same name. (The only exception: The two Lanses in Tactics Ogre.
  • Invisible Cooler. Food never goes stale, unless it is stale to begin with.
  • Invisible Guardrail. Except in action-RPGs, you can never walk off a pit or into water. You can only walk off ledges in certain circumstances, when there is a need for you to be able to jump off ledges.
  • Item Duplication. Almost every recent RPG has had a glitch that lets you duplicate items. (Final Fantasy VII, Wild ARMs, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc.)
  • It's A Small World After All. If you think about it, most RPGs take place in an incredibly tiny world with only a few cities and a surface area less than the moon. The same applies for towns -- they have about six houses, tops.
  • Jewelry Rule. Whenever a character has some sort of jewelry that is mentioned (usually a pendant), it inevitably is some ancient relic that becomes important later on.
  • Kain (or Kane). Most common name in RPGs. Used in: Final Fantasy IV, Shining Force 1, Phantasy Star 2, Vandal Hearts, Persona, Xenogears, Legacy of Kain (duh), and the old Sega Master System game Spellcaster.
  • Kartia Rule. All monsters behave completely randomly and act without logic — i.e., healing themselves when they're at full HP, attacking your most useless characters, using fire spells on characters that have armor that absorbs fire, etc.
  • Key Items. Special category of items that you can't sell or use, and have their own items screen. Called something different in every game (Rare Items, Key Items, Valuables, etc.)
  • King's Treasure Room. After you somehow help a king, he gives you access to his entire treasure room and lets you just loot the place — which is weird on its own, but gets weirder when all these kingdoms have in their treasure room is a couple of herbs, a sword, and some money.
  • Kleptomaniac Rule. In most games, you can just walk into houses and loot people's cabinets, chests, and pots; and nobody cares, even though they are standing right in the room as you are ripping them off.
  • Knights of the Round Rule. Most recent games have some ultra-powerful spell, item, or character that does absurd amounts of damage and makes the game incredibly easy once you acquire it. (Knights of the Round, Thunder God Cid, DSC, etc.)
  • Lame Duck Rule. In any recent RPG, the last boss is always really easy to beat. invoked
  • Last Breath Rule. Whenever you find somebody dead, they are not quite dead yet, and live just long enough to give you one last message before they die. (See just about any RPG in existence.)
  • Last Moment. The heroes always arrive just as the bad guys are about to execute their plan. The bad guys always wait patiently for the heroes to arrive, even if you go off and spend several days building up levels.
  • Lava Rule. The obligatory volcano dungeon always includes patches of lava that will damage you if you walk through them.
  • Law of Foreshadowing. Whenever there is any mention that a character might die, that character always does. (For example, Gremio in Suikoden, Aeris from Final Fantasy VII or Crono in Chrono Trigger). In general, whenever there is a hint that something might happen or be true, it always happens or is true.
  • Law of Geometric Impossibility. All RPG world maps wrap around on both sides of the map (east/west and north/south). This is physically impossible [on a sphere].
  • Law of Magical Incompetence. A character's physical strength is always inversely proportional to their magical abilities.
  • Law of Sequels. In most RPG series (Suikoden and Arc The Lad excepted), each sequel has nothing to do with any of the previous games, but a few characters and locations inexplicably appear in every game in the series.
  • Law of Unnecessary Stealth. Your characters often have to sneak into some bad guy headquarters, even though they are powerful enough to just walk in the front gate and slaughter anybody in their way.
  • Laws of Monarchy. There are never ever queens in games, nor are there any princes (okay, okay, besides in Final Fantasy IV). Any princess in a game is always important to the storyline.
  • Laws of Parents. Similar to the Laws of Monarchy. The only living parent of male characters is the mother; for female characters, only the father is living. See Final Fantasy VII (Cloud's mother is living, but not his father; Tifa's and Yuffie's father are seen but not their mothers) or Chrono Trigger (Crono's and Magus's fathers are never mentioned, Marle's mother is dead).
  • Laws of Programming. Programmers do not want to expend extra effort on characters and artwork that aren't essential to the game. Thus, any character that joins your party for any length of time (in a game where you can choose which characters you want to use) is not going to die, because the artists don't want to spend time on a character that isn't going to be used much. (Final Fantasy VII is a notable exception here.) Also, any character (such as Mina in Breath of Fire II) with their own unique sprite is important, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time, because otherwise the artists would not waste their time drawing a different sprite.
  • Legendary Sword. Obligatory weapon that can only be drawn by the hero. Needed to kill the big bad evil demon.
  • Leo's rule. Any bad guy that turns good dies, except for characters (Kain, Magus, the generals in Suikoden) that were possessed by or under the control of one of the truly evil characters.
  • Leo's rule #2. No rumor is ever true.
  • Leo's rule #3. All characters named Leo die. (Final Fantasy VI, SoulBlazer, Y's IV). Okay, except for the one in Lunar.
  • Level Equality Law. All characters join the party at a level about equal to what the rest of the party is at, regardless of how much training they have. Occasionally, though, you get a character who starts at level 1 and must be brought up to a normal level.
  • Life's A Sport... Mad Scientists like to turn themselves into a monster (by drinking something or injecting something into themsleves) when you fight them (see Cort in Breath of Fire I, Hojo in Final Fantasy VII, Palet in Breath of Fire III, etc.)
  • Little Shop of Horrors. RPGs are frequently populated by plants that wander around and attack people. This is not common in the real world.
  • Locked Door Rule. To open any locked door, you must have the key. You can never just break the door down, despite having spells that could take out a small village.
  • Lost Kid Plot. Fetch Quest plot second-most common to the Fake King Plot. A kid from the village has gotten lost in the cave. Go find him.
  • Lunar Rule. Every cliche has an exception. (So named because of all the messages I got telling me that the Leo in Lunar didn't die.)
  • Machavelli Rule. Every villain will give a speech about power is the only thing that matters at some point in the game.
  • Magic Loophole Rule. Every RPG must have some type of magic, so the developers find a way to weasel it in even when it makes no sense (Parasite Eve, for example).
  • Magic Ship Rule. Characters seem to be able to run away from sea battles and still keep their ship. The monsters magically disappear from it.
  • Main character. With the exception of Suikoden (uh, and Super Mario RPG), the main character invariably wields a giant sword. A large majority of main characters also have spiky hair, generally blue.
  • Main Character Intermission. Segment of a game, usually about three-fourths of the way through, in which the main character leaves the party briefly due to some physical ailment (dead, missing arm, Mako poisoning, etc.), leaving the other party members to take over. Occurs only in recent games.
  • Malak's Rule. Every RPG has at least one completely useless character.
  • Max's Rule. Characters carry their weapons in an invisible space until battle comes, then they appear out of nowhere without being drawn. (Exceptions: Chrono Trigger and Breath of Fire III) So named for Max of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, who pulls out of gun out of nowhere.
  • Metal Babble Rule. Monster with a very high defense (you can usually only take 1 HP off it with each hit) that runs after a few turns. Difficult to kill, but you get a lot of experience if you do. So named for the first such monster, in Dragon Quest. Other examples include Cores (Lufia 2), Gold Eggs (Breath of Fire III), Movers and Sabotenders (Final Fantasy), and Acid Bunnies (Wild ARMs).
  • Mimic Rule. Formerly, almost all games included a Mimic enemy that masqueraded as a chest. Now almost nonexistent because all that thinking involved on whether or not to risk opening a chest might make our heads hurt.
  • Missing Family Member Rule. Most main characters must have a dead or lost family member.
  • Mithril. Usually, you have to find some sort of rare or precious mineral (generally mithril) to repair or upgrade something.
  • Modesty Rule. Whenever anybody asks if you want a reward for helping them, say no and you get a better reward than if you had asked for one. Teaches that the only reason to be modest is to get money.
  • Moebius Rule. Most RPGs have exactly one major plot twist.
  • Monopoly Rule. There is usually only one item shop, inn, weapon shop, etc. in each town. However, there is almost always one town that has a huge number of shops (Knaya in Final Fantasy Legend III, Neuestadt in Tales of Destiny, Cantlin in Dragon Quest I, etc.)
  • Monster Money. For some reason, all monsters carry money to give you after battle, even though wolves, slimes, dragons, etc. have absolutely no use for money.
  • Monster Progression Rule. All monsters gradually get tougher as you go through the game, no matter what circumstances would normally lead them to be otherwise. (i.e, If you go into a flashback, the monsters will be stronger there, which makes no sense.)
  • Moon Law. All planets have exactly one moon, which appears identical to Earth's moon. (Averted in Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Cross)
  • Mop Rule. The attack power of a weapon in a game is completely independent to how strong that weapon would actually be. Witness Tales of Destiny, where a lute is more powerful than a bastard sword.
  • Moron Rule. Science progresses extremely slowly in RPG worlds — usually the war 1000 years ago destroyed all technology, but since that time, they haven't rediscovered gunpowder, let alone anything more advanced.
  • Mother of All Cliches, the. In every single RPG, without exception, you are trying to save the world.
  • Grandmother of All Cliches, the. In absolutely every single RPG (except Breath of Fire III), you are trying to defeat a bad guy.
  • Natural Ability. All party members are already trained fighters and/or magic users, even when there is no reason for them to be so. (Look at Chrono Trigger... Why would Crono, who's just some random kid, be a trained swordsman? Why would the princess know how to use a bow?, etc.)
  • Niche Market. Despite the fact that nobody except the heroes is off fighting monsters, you can find plenty of stores selling weapons and armor (see the ARMsmeisters in Wild ARMs).
  • Nighttime Chat. Obligatory scene in which the hero and love interest talk outside the inn and resolve their problem (see Wild ARMs and Final Fantasy VI).
  • Nomad Rule. Parties never get tired, no matter how far you walk on the map or in a dungeon.
  • NRA Law. No guns ever run out of ammo. Even in SaGa Frontier, where guns have ammo, they magically reload after battle.
  • Null and Void. Most enemies that can inflict some kind of status change (poison, silence, etc.) usually drop the item that cures that change (antidote, echo screen, whatever) when killed.
  • Numerical Rationialization. All damage inflicted can be expressed as a number, which helpfully appear over the target's head.
  • Obligatory Dungeons. Every game has a mountain, at least one cave, some type of icy dungeon, a tower, a volcano, a castle, a high-tech dungeon, a forest, and a shrine.
  • Obligatory Items. Every RPG has some healing items, some MP-restoring items, an item that restores both HP and MP, an item to boost a stat permanently, and an item that cures any status change.
  • Obligatory Status Changes. All RPGs have the following status changes: poison, blindness, sleep, confusion, and paralysis.
  • Obligatory Tool Rule. Every action-RPG, or game with action-RPG style puzzles (like Wild ARMs or Lufia 2), has bombs and a hookshot.
  • Obstacle Course Rule. Simple objects such as pots and chairs serve as major obstacles, forcing you to walk around them, rather than just step over them.
  • Old Guy Rule. All old men are powerful magic-users.
  • Ominous Ring of Land. Any ring of land has something evil (usually the Ancient Flying Castle) underwater inside (Lufia, ActRaiser, Wild ARMs). Said rings of land frequently do not appear on the map (as in Wild ARMs).
  • Omniscience. Before any new characters introduce themselves, you know their name because it appears before their dialogue (i.e. "BOB: Be afraid, heroes!" "BILL: Who are you?")
  • One Size Fits All. Self Explanatory — all equipment fits all characters. Relm wears the same size armor as Sabin.
  • OPEC Rule. No vehicles ever run out of gas.
  • Packrat Law. Most RPGs have you collecting some type of shiny magical object throughout the game (Crystals, Mana Seeds, Huge Materia, Zodiac Stones, etc.).
  • Parallel Universe Rule. With the exception of Wild ARMs and Phantasy Star, every game takes place on what the characters refer to as "Earth", except that the planet bears no resemblance to Earth. Particularly silly in Final Fantasy VII, where Sephiroth blows up the actual outer planets of the solar system when he casts Super Nova.
  • Party Compulsion Rule. After a character joins the party, they never permanently leave (unless they are killed) even if their storyline would cause them to part ways at some point. Through some silly plot device, the character decides to come with the party anyway. (For example, in Final Fantasy VII, Red XIII is about to leave the party when you get to Cosmo Canyon, but Bugenhagen tells him to go with Cloud.)
  • Pawn Shop Rule. If you sell something to a shop that the shop doens't normally stock, there is no way to buy the item back, even though the shopkeeper still has it.
  • Potty Emergency. Aside from Breath of Fire II, Final Fantasy VII and Tales of Destiny, there are no toilets or bathrooms in games. (also averted in EarthBound)
  • Preview Rule. In games where you can name all the characters, you can tell that a character will join you by the fact that you get to name them when they first appear. (Like in Final Fantasy VI... you meet Shadow in South Figaro. He doesn't join you, but you get to name him, so you know he joins later.)
  • Preview Rule #2. Usually you can start buying or finding weapons for a character before they join you. (Scythes for Magus, rods for Philia, claws for Doyle, etc.)
  • Primary Elements. All games have fire, ice, lightning, light, and darkness as elements. Most have earth as well.
  • Prison Rescue. Whenever the party is thrown in prison, somebody immediately shows up to rescue them.
  • Prison Rule #2. When you're thrown in prison, your captors never bother to take your weapons and other equipment. (Except Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy XII.)
    • Although Chrono found all of his stuff very close by after getting out of the cell.
  • Prophecy, the. Your heroes are usually prophecied to save the world, sometimes by some old guy who shows up in the game to give you advice.
  • Punctuation. RPG characters have the unique ability to pronounce punctuation marks, as in "....", "...!", or "???".
  • Pyrotechnics Rule. All bosses have extra-spiffy death effects that normal monsters are not worthy enough to have.
  • Rags to Riches. Your initial characters (and frequently even your later recruits) always start out with horrible equipment, frequently worse than even the weakest stuff you can find in stores. You also almost begin the game penniless... don't any of these heroes have money?
  • Rain on the Parade. Whenever there is a celebration, something bad happens. (Ruin Festival in Wild ARMs, the Millenial Fair, etc.)
  • Rambo Rule. Having a higher Strength statistic increases the amount of damage guns do. (Exception: Chrono Trigger.) This makes no sense whatsoever.
  • Randomly Drops. Words every gamer dreads. Means you have to spend countless hours fighting an enemy over and over so it will drop the super-duper piece of equipment that you have a 1-in-127 chance in getting. See Final Fantasy IV, EarthBound, and the Breath of Fire games.
  • Rebellious Princess. Stereotypical character in many RPGs. Rebellious princess escapes from castle and joins party (Marle, Cecilia, Nina, etc.).
  • Remote Control Rule. Whenever you use a spell to teleport to a town, any vehicles you have magically appear there too. (Like the Jetski in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker.)
  • Repeating Boss. Many games have a boss that you fight over and over again throughout the game (Final Fantasy VII: the Turks, Wild ARMs: Boomerang and Zed, Super Mario RPG: Croco, etc.).
  • Reject Room. Any RPG where you can switch characters has a room where all the unused characters hang out and demand to be added to the party.
  • Required Character Sequence. Annoying part of a game where you progress partway through a dungeon, only to discover that you need a certain character to complete it and have to leave, put that character in your party, and return. (See Breath of Fire games in particular.)
  • Resale Anomaly. Really strong/rare items usually have a resale value of 1 for some reason (perhaps to dissuade you from selling them).
  • Revival Law. Logical loophole that allows you to revive dead characters in battle with items and magic, but keeps characters dead that are killed for plot purposes. See also Soft-Hard Rule.
  • Reznor Rule. Every RPG has enough teen angst to fill an entire Nine Inch Nails album. invoked
  • Right-Hand Man rule. Whenever the Emperor in a 16-bit plot has a "right-hand man" character, that character always kills the Emperor (or helps you kill the Emperor) and ends up being the Final Boss. Frequently, the Emperor just wants to rule the world, but the "right-hand man" character wants to destroy the world. (See Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Breath of Fire I, Wild ARMs, etc.). Probably the most common cliche; just about every game uses it.
  • Ross Perot Rule. When you defeat a major boss (one that's a character) in battle, it will usually disappear, but once you're back in the normal non-fight screen, the boss will reappear and start talking.
  • Roster Rule. The manual always lists all the playable characters, thus spoiling any surprise as to who joins your party.
  • Safety Net. Characters can jump or fall unlimited heights without ever getting hurt.
  • Satellite Photography. All maps show the entire world (even the "unexplored" parts) and are totally accurate. The only exception is the Ominous Ring of Land, which usually doesn't show up on the map.
  • Second Banana Rule. The main character is rarely the strongest character in the game; there's always somebody else who's better. (Exception: Breath of Fire III.)
  • Second Fiddle Rule. The obligatory Legendary Sword is never the strongest weapon; there's always another sword that's stronger. (Goo King Sword is stronger than Dragon Sword in Breath of Fire III, Ragnarok is stronger than Excalibur in the Final Fantasy games, etc.)
  • Self-Awareness Rule. In totally dark rooms, you can always see yourself perfectly. This is not true in real life.
  • Self-Help Booklet. Sequence right before the Final Boss (sometimes occurs elsewhere in addition) in which every character proclaims their reason for fighting against evil and what they've learned on their journey in an excess of melodrama. Named after Kefka's classic "This is pathetic! You sound like chapters from a self-help booklet! Prepare yourselves!" line in Final Fantasy VI after such a sequence.
  • Setzer's rule. Any character with a carefree attitude has a tragic event in their background (see also Locke, Jack, and Gen).
  • Sequel Rule. In RPGs that continue a storyline with the same hero in the second game, Your hero fights some all-powerful enemy that you don't quiet beat, but he destroys all your stats, equipment, and etc... OR you find anicent relic/evil/dungeon that destroys all stats, equipment, and etc...
  • Shadowboxing Rule. In the majority of RPGs, characters fight by simply swinging their weapons in the air and not coming at all close the enemies. (This is not true for games with polygonal battles.)
  • Share and Share Alike. All items carried by your party (except in EarthBound) are carried in some sort of void that can be accessed by any member of your party no matter how spread out your party is.
  • Shooting Blanks. Guns are always weaker than swords.
  • Sidequest Rule. There are never any sidequests until near the very end of the game, when a whole bunch of them appear. See Wild ARMs, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre...)
  • Singled Out. Almost all party members are single. If they are married, their spouse either dies or is already dead. (Exception: ''Lufia 2.)
  • Size Doesn't Matter. Characters can perform martial arts moves on enemies many times larger than they are. Want to have Sabin do a suplex on a train? No problem!
  • Skepticism Rule. Nobody ever believes you are the legendary hero at first. You have to perform some Fetch Quest (defeat a monster plaguing the town, retrive an item from a tower, etc.) before they believe you. "I'm not a bum, I'm just like drethed like one!"
  • Slime. The easiest enemy in most RPGs is some type of slime.
  • Smokey's Rule. Fire spells do not start fires; they can be used in thick forests with no repercussions. (Exception: Kartia and Bahamut Lagoon.)
  • Soft / Hard rule. Characters can get hit with all sorts of attacks (lightning bolts, earthquakes, meteors, etc.) during battle and still be standing, but for purposes of the storyline, they can be killed by a lowly dagger or sword.
  • Somnia Rule. Characters never have any problems getting to sleep. You can stay at an inn, wake up, and go right back to sleep, or go to sleep in broad daylight.
  • Sound Sleeper. Characters put to sleep during battle can sleep through the various sounds of battles, including meteor strikes, summoned dragons, exploding bombs, and never wake up — not to mention being actually attacked and not waking up. In addition, almost all RPG characters either sleep kneeling or standing up. (Chrono Trigger is the only game where your characters actually lay down when they're put to sleep.)
  • SST Rule. Flying vehicles are extremely fast; they can cross the planet in a few seconds. Of course, the fact that all the planets are tiny doesn't hurt...
  • Stahn's Rule. All RPG heroes oversleep, leading to scenes in which they are woken up by another character, usually the main female character (see Tales of Destiny, Terranigma, Chrono Trigger, etc.).
  • Stat Death. If any of your stats falls to 0, you die.
  • Status Change rule. All bosses are immune to status changes (poison, sleep, etc.) and instant death spells.
  • Stealing. In a trend began by Final Fantasy VI, nearly every recent RPG has included a spell or ability that lets you steal items from enemies. (Final Fantasy V and beyond, Wild ARMs, Breath of Fire III, Tales of Destiny, etc.)
  • Sudden Growth. Until recently, all bad guys would always grow much larger or transform into a different form when you fought them. In most recent games (Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, Wild ARMs, Suikoden), however, this is not the case, except on the Final Boss.
  • Superweapon Rule. In most recent RPGs, the bad guys have some sort of super weapon (usually a big cannon) that they use to destroy entire towns (Sister Ray, Belcrant, Light of Judgment, etc.). Luckily, they only fire it when the story dictates it, or everybody would be dead by now.
  • Swiss Cheese Room. Common type of dungeon room in which there are many pits. Falling in one puts you in a large, empty room with a single staircase that leads back up to the room with all the pits.
  • Symmetric Building Law. Almost all castles in games are symmetric, and most towns are as well.
  • Taking Turns. Combatants will always move one at a time, then sit back and wait patiently while others take their turns. (Exception: Suikoden)
  • Telepathy Rule. Whenever you are giving permission to go through a pass/gate/whatever, you can go there immediately and they know to let you through, even though you just got permission a minute ago.
  • Tellah's rule. Old men usually get killed (Tellah, Bugenhagen, Galuf, etc.)
  • Temporal Battle Shift. Whenever encountering an unfriendly personage, one usually experiences a psychedelic effect, followed by a transition to a background that does not match where you are standing. (Exceptions: Breath of Fire III and Chrono Trigger.)
  • That's Enough, Sir. All character statistics (HP, level, attack power) have a limit, which is either a power of 2 (256, 512, etc.) or a bunch of 9s (999, 9999, etc.).
  • Tide Law. Tides never change.
  • Titanic rule. Whenever the characters get on a ship, it sinks. The exception is ships that you control, but even these sink frequently.
  • Too Many Cooks. You can never have more than three or four characters in your party for a time. For reasons that are never explained (except in Chrono Trigger), you always have to leave the other characters behind.
  • Training Rule. It used to be that every RPG had a room/building with people that told you how to play the game (EarthBound, all the Final Fantasies, etc.). Now usually replaced with a tutorial mode.
  • Trauma Inns. For sword impalements, dragon attacks, meteor strikes, gunshots, and even death, nothing beats a nice, refreshing stay at an inn — guaranteed to cure all your wounds!
  • True Form. The final boss always has several forms (usually three) that you fight in sequence. The transformation is often accompanied by a message like "______ reveals his true form!"
  • Unbeatable Boss. Obligatory boss that wipes you out easily, but you don't lose the game when you die. Generally a major bad guy fought again later in the game, and often appears in a Deja Vu Dungeon .
  • Unfinished Business. You must defeat all the enemies to get experience/money for killing them. If you kill some of the enemies, and then run away, you get no credit (i.e., experience) for killing the ones you did. Obviously does not apply to action-RPGs.
  • Universal System Rule. All game worlds (er, except Evermore) have a universal currency system, and a universal language (except Final Fantasy I). This is despite most worlds having lost cities, remote elf villages, warring kingdoms, obscure islands, etc.
  • Unlimited Warranty. Weapons and armor never break.
  • Untamed Wilderness Rule. There are never any roads (paved or otherwise) between towns, even in games like Final Fantasy VII where you would expect them to be.
  • Underwater Vacancy Rule. In games with submarines, there is almost nothing of note underwater. (See Final Fantasy VII and Lufia 2). Usually there is just a cave or two, and a place where you have to dive to get under some shoals.
  • Vanity Rule. In addition to characters being available to survive floods, lightning bolts, meteor strikes, etc., their clothing, hair, and appearance are never affected.
  • Vegas Law. Many games have a place for you to gamble away your money (Suikoden, Final Fantasy VII, Lufia 2). Most of these gambling games require no skill, but a very few of them do. They are also usually impossible to win, and/or the prizes cost so many "coins" that you could never afford them.
  • Vegas Law Corrollary. Saving and resetting negates the difficulty in winning with the above law.
  • Vehicle Progression Law. Each new vehicle you get allows you to get to some new place which the designers didn't want you to go to before. Used to force you to visit locations in the right sequence.
  • Venus Rule. It is eternally daytime in games (Breath of Fire 1 and 2 excepted), which is weird enough, but it also will suddenly become nighttime during certain scenes. (So named because one day on Venus is as long as 118 Earth days.)
  • Villager Level. Annoying level in strategy-RPGs in which you must defeat the bad guys without harming the villagers that are in your way. (See Shining Force III, Vandal Hearts, etc.)
  • Villainous Disbelief Law. When defeated, all major bad guys are amazed that you beat them and usually make some remark along the lines of "You're stronger than I thought."
  • Wandering Mercenary. Another stereotypical character in almost every RPG. A wandering ninja or mercenary that is helping the party, but doesn't really care about what they are fighting for. Frequently a popular character. (See Shadow, Magus, Boomerang, etc.). Usually wants revenge on one of the main bad guys (as in Magus or Vincent's case), and rarely talks.
  • Warm-up Battle. Rather than just have you wander around town talking to people, many games start with a really easy dungeon or battle (sometimes a Deja Vu Dungeon). See the bombing mission in Final Fantasy VII, attack on Narshe in Final Fantasy VI, opening battle against Zoot in Vandal Hearts.
  • Waterfall Rule. All waterfalls have caves behind them.
  • Weapon Specialization Rule. Each character is very limited in the type of weapons they can use, usually only having one type (swords, axes, staffs, etc.) that they can use. (Exceptions include Final Fantasy VI and the SaGa series.)
  • Wild Goose Chase. Annoying part in RPGs where you have to chase some character (sometimes a villain, sometimes an ally) around the globe, being informed you "just missed" the person at every stop. Final Fantasy VII and Tales of Destiny are the biggest offenders here.
  • Xenogears Rule. Whenever a character is unconscious and then wakes up, another character invariably says "You're finally awake", or something to that extent. Named after Xenogears because it happens all the time there.

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